Americans turn to religion after attacks
From Elina Fuhrman
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The weekend after the September 11 attacks, churches, synagogues and mosques around the United States were suddenly packed with large crowds of people.
Some were there to grieve the thousands who died.
"You know all the emotions that were built up. ... I know I just put my head in my hands and cried, and it was very helpful," Atlanta churchgoer Barbara Smalley said.
Others went looking for reassurance.
"The attacks have really scared people, and it just makes them think if something did happen to them, at least they know where they're going when they die," said another churchgoer, Christy Robinson.
And some just wanted to be with others and pray.
"What was really going on the weeks immediately following is people were taking advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with communities and people, to share the experience of grief," religious scholar William Lawrence said.
The week of the tragedy, many Americans prayed or attended religious services, encouraged by President Bush's declaration that the Friday after the attacks be a national day of prayer.
But religious scholars say that doesn't necessarily mean that all those people have suddenly decided to become regularly observant.
There's no doubt that Americans consider themselves religious, with various surveys showing that as many as 95 percent say they believe in God or another higher power.
But in recent years, the American perspective on religion has changed in a way that often favors private worship over organized religious services. September 11 may have swung the pendulum back.
"People who in good times want to keep it private, probably are just copping out a little bit," said Don Harp, senior minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta. "But in times of crisis, you want to go where someone else is and have your beliefs reassured by the presence of others."
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