Wellington, Apr 5: The researchers at New Zealand-based Massey University claims that people have started to show more faith in soothsayers and faith healers than God.
The researchers came to this conclusion after conducting a poll of 1027 people, which reflected an 11 per cent rise in the number of people having no religious affiliation as compared to a decade ago.
They said that only 27 per cent of the people polled reported strongly believing in the existence of God, while 39 per cent in fortune-tellers and faith healers.
According to them, 40 per cent of the people did not have any religious affiliation, up 29 points from surveys in 1991 and 1998.
However, 60 per cent of the respondents did say that they would want their children to have religious education in state primary schools, with most support for teaching about all faiths.
The survey even showed that 70 per cent of the people were in favour of assisted suicides for those suffering from any painful, incurable disease.
Jillian Whyte, who uses tarot cards and the zodiac to forecast people's futures, thinks the number of people seeking alternatives to the church is probably even higher.
According to her, most of the thousands of clients she has see in the past 20 years wanted to understand themselves better.
Lead researcher Prof. Philip Gendall said that people were still thinking about their spirituality, even if they no longer went to church.
"People are turning away from organised religion but they have an idea of what's out there," he said.
Highlighting the fact that the number of those believing in the supernatural has been steady over the last 18 years, Prof. Gendall said that it could possibly be tracked back to the inherited Celtic folklore of Ireland and Scotland.
"Perhaps the apparent decline in religiosity reflects a decline in traditional religious loyalties, rather than a decline in spirituality as such," he said.
The Rev Chris Carey-Smith, ministry leader of St Matthew's Church in Palmerston North, said that many people with Christian beliefs did not want to be tied to a particular church.
"It's not about people not believing in God, it's about not being able to articulate what that means. There's a huge overlap between religion and superstition," Carey-Smith said.