The United States today is undergoing a spiritual crisis and transition similar to that of the 1920s. The growing interest in Islam, Buddhism, Zen, Kabbala, Gnosticism, Scientology, Wicca, and a well-nigh unsurveyable congeries of neopagan and New Age fads challenges traditional Christian beliefs and calls forth in response a new fundamentalism. The situation in the United States differs conspicuously from that in Western Europe. According to a Gallup survey of spirituality in the early twenty-first century, 96 percent of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit. Moreover, a Gallup Millennium Survey of religious attitudes around the world indicates that a growing secularism prevails among contemporary Europeans. As was the case in Greek antiquity, in early Christianity, in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Age of Enlightenment, the situation of decline and loss followed by the search for a new faith produced a wave of often outstanding and always revealing literary documents. Whether we look back as believers seeking to counter non-religious modes of faith or as skeptics considering alternatives to religious belief, the comparison can be illuminating.
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