More Americans Practice a Mix of Religions

Father Ken Deasy leads a service at St. Agatha's Catholic Church in Los Angeles
Father Ken Deasy leads a service at St. Agatha's Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Deasy welcomes all worshippers to his church at a time when a growing number of Americans say they have a mix of religious beliefs, according to a new poll.

When Americans were asked about their religious beliefs recently, the message came up mixed. More and more, people are "grazing" - their beliefs a sampling of mystical, a touch of traditional, maybe a bit of astrology. And there's more, as CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

At St. Agatha's Catholic Church in inner-city Los Angeles, Father Ken Deasy has an open door policy. All who seek the love of God are welcome.

Jeff Goldstein, born and raised a Jew, felt the tug of Father Ken's message and became a regular at the church.

"It was the one hour of my week in Los Angeles that was far and away above any happiness that I felt the rest of the week," Goldstein said.

More and more, Americans' religious experiences resemble Jeff Goldstein's.

According to the Pew poll, while almost three-quarters of Americans say they regularly attend religious services, more than a third say they go to more than one place of worship. And about one in four adults attend services of different faiths.

The congregation at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena comes from many religious traditions.

"Religion shopping is intrinsically good," said Father Ed Bacon. "People are seeking something that is deep and holy and sacred and transformative."

Richard Flory of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture points out that "with an increasingly diverse population, even in the suburbs, where people see lots of different people all the time, you're exposed to a lot more options."

The chanting of Nichiren Buddhism drew Kat Paterno away from the Catholic Church.

"I really had an inner transformation. I went from sort of an insecure, sad person into a happy, vibrant, optimistic person," Paterno said.

In fact, a growing number of Americans now blend some aspect of Eastern religion into their beliefs. Almost one-quarter believe in reincarnation. The same fraction embraces new age spiritualism and mysticism. One fourth believes in astrology. And almost 20 percent believe they have been in the presence of a ghost.

Jeff Goldstein's journey from Judaism to Catholicism was a revelation.

"My initial response was, 'Am I being a traitor? Am I being unfaithful to my religion,'" he recalled.

But as Father Ken Deasy sees it, it's not so much a leap of faith - more like finding a second home.

"People are looking to be fed and you go where you are fed," he said.