Laura Rios grew up Catholic, dancing in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and a symbol of Mexican identity.
Now, at 32, dancing is still her main expression of the sacred in her life, though now she does it to honor her ancestors.
Rios' Aztec dancing is part of her spiritual life, like the ritual tattoos she has on her arms and the poems she reads by the Sufi mystic Rumi. She's one of an estimated 30 percent of Americans who refer to themselves as "spiritual, not religious" according to a 2009 Newsweek poll — up from 24 percent in 2005. A Gallup Poll released in May showed that now 16 percent of Americans don't have a religious identity, which is up from about 2 percent in 1968.
As most mainline Protestant churches have continued to report membership declines because of what the Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, editor of the annual Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, has called "an increasing secularization of American postmodern society," there has been increasing attention on what it means to have a spiritual life outside of a church, mosque or synagogue.
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