I once asked my Aunt Mary what her beliefs were on the subject of life after death. She said: "Whatever Jews believe, that's what I believe."
Aunt Mary's view was that there were people whose job it was to consider such things. She was not such a person herself, but she was completely confident that the guys assigned that task were doing their job, and it was all written down in a book somewhere. If you were sufficiently interested, you could look it up.
This view is in decline. A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life concludes: "Large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts."
What is striking about the Pew study is not the prevalence of superstition and hocus-pocus, alarming as that is. It is the feeling that we are free to choose from a broad, cafeteria-style menu of superstitious hocus-pocus. Charles Blow in the New York Times called it the construction of "Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities."
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