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When Faced with Death, Fewer Look to the Clergy

While many Americans long for spiritual support as they face death, few would look to clergy to provide it, according to a Gallup survey cited by Religion News Service.

"A lot of people have deep spiritual needs that are not being met," said pollster George H. Gallup Jr., chairman of the George H. Gallup International Institute in Princeton, N.J. "That is being said over and over again in the results."

According to the RNS article, the survey found 50 percent of Americans consider prayer important at life's end and 44 percent said they would like to receive counseling to reach spiritual peace in their dying days.

But only 36 percent said a member of the clergy would be the most comforting person to them at that time. Family and friends were far more likely to be cited as the most trusted comforters. Eighty-one percent of respondents chose family and 61 percent chose close friends.

Gallup, in an interview with Religion News Service, said it is "not terribly surprising" people would choose family and friends.

"Nevertheless, I think the point remains that clergy are pretty low on the list," he added.

Gallup said he attributes the responses about clergy to a trend in American society of people separating their spiritual development from an organized religious congregation.

"There's been a lot of decoupling the faith and church," he said. "The majority of Americans believe that it's possible to be a good Christian or Jew without going to church or synagogue."

He said the latest survey seems to reflect a feeling that spirituality is "a private matter between me and my God and I don't need the clergy."

The survey also found 56 percent of those polled were worried about a lack of medical technology to save their lives, not reconciling with other people, and not being forgiven by God.

"People are just as worried about spiritual matters as they are medical technology," Gallup said.

The survey also indicated spiritual concerns related to the end of life were troubling to those under thirty-five as well as older respondents.

"Young people have the same deep concerns," said Gallup. "They may not be dying but they see death all around them."

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