Over the past few years, the number of Americans pursuing meditation and yoga as part of a spiritual practice, usually as an alternative to engaging with a formal religion, has risen sharply.

But is there a downside to this increase in alternative spirituality? According to some critics, focusing on practices that emphasize self-care, such as mindfulness, can keep people away from engaging with neighbors and religious congregations. Some say it may even decrease political engagement.

Sociologists Evan Stewart of UMass Boston and Jaime Kucinskas compared how spiritual and religious Americans vote, volunteer or get involved in their communities and came up with surprising findings on what being an “engaged citizen” means in the 21st century.

Also today:

Kalpana Jain

Senior Religion + Ethics Editor

For some, yoga is a spiritual practice that may substitute for religion. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Yoga versus democracy? What survey data says about spiritual Americans’ political behavior

Evan Stewart, UMass Boston; Jaime Kucinskas, Hamilton College

As the US gets less religious, some thinkers warn that it may get more selfish as people engage less with their communities. A team of scholars decided to investigate that concern.

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