Religious retreats are traditionally focused on strengthening a particular faith, but a new type is cropping up where believers of a variety of faiths are worshipping together. Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, Judaic, Christian and Islamic texts are read aloud during the same Sunday service at a Muslim Sufi religious retreat in New York, according to The Associated Press. The Sufi Muslim retreat leader speaks about Jesus and the peace that he has inside.
This is the scene at Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York, about 25 miles southeast of Albany. At this retreat center, guests are invited to deepen their faith without converting. There is a woman who even described herself as a Sufi Christian.
Nearby, the Buddhists at Zen Mountain Monastery say they see no conflict with Buddhist practice and a person's search for God.
During instruction, guests are taught how to sit, breathe, and meditate. Buddhist leaders at the temple consider the mind a sense organ and believe people spend their lives daydreaming or worrying about the same thing instead of living in the moment.
Likewise Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut, welcomes "seekers who have walked other spiritual paths" and those with no Jewish eduction.
Perhaps the multi-faith retreats are part of the increasing openness Americans have towards their personal faith. A landmark survey released in June found that although America remains a deeply religious nation, most Americans don't believe their religion is the only way to eternal life.
"There's a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance and that is having theological consequences," he said.
Eighty-three percent of mainline Protestants, 59 percent of those at historic black Protestant churches, 79 percent of Roman Catholics, 82 percent of Jews, and 56 percent of Muslims said many religions can lead to eternal life.