There are 2.2 billion Christians today, says the Pew Research Center.
And 1.6 billion Muslims. A billion Hindus. Nearly half-a-billion Buddhists. Almost 14 million Jews. Roughly half-a-billion adherents of sundry other faiths.
Yet could many of us say what a truly spiritual person looks like?
Would you really recognize one if you saw her?
My personal religious experience is limited to Christianity, so I'll confine my observations to that faith.
It seems very often Christians tend to think a spiritual person is, well, somebody else. Not them, but some paragon from the Bible or of contemporary acclaim.
Too often we behold titanic church figures and, in our own feeble — and largely unsuccessful — ways, attempt to imitate them.
For instance, when I was growing up as a Southern Baptist, our greatest living church hero was the Rev. Billy Graham. We referred to him as "the Baptist pope."
Graham, as you know, reigned for decades as the planet's most visible evangelist. (Evangelists preach to the unchurched and lead them to conversion.)
He presided at massive crusades held in packed football stadiums. When at the end of a service he gave an invitation for sinners to repent, they flocked to the altar by the thousands.
We watched him on television. We loved him, and in our own less exalted ways strived to imitate him.
Even after I'd left the Baptists, I assumed it was my duty to evangelize relentlessly. After all, that's what Billy did. That's what it meant to be a real Christian.
Only here's what I discovered: I didn't possess the evangelism gift. I just didn't.
I could shout and rail, beg and cajole, but I couldn't persuade a man in a burning house to step outside on the porch, much less talk him into accepting my faith.
So I felt like a failure.
True story. I knew a well-spoken, self-confident pastor. He was witty and occasionally profound, a captivating speaker. He became a regional star.
He was handsome, tall, lean, with dark hair and a dapper mustache, and he wore cool-looking black turtlenecks instead of ties.
I happened to be at a multi-church gathering where this guy spoke. That night, a file of men from his congregation followed him into the sanctuary.
The entourage all — to an extent that was statistically unlikely — sported hair as dark as the pastor's and styled the same way. They all wore mustaches. They all had on black shirts. They even carried huge honking Bibles like his.
Except the others couldn't quite pull off that persona. One was short and dumpy, and one was jerky and awkward. One scowled grimly, whereas the pastor smiled.
It was comical, really.
These guys wanted very badly to be him. But they weren't. Only he was him.
I remembered all this recently after reading a devotion by the late Henri Nouwen.
Nouwen wrote about St. Paul's metaphor of Christians as the body of Christ. Just as an individual human body has many parts, Paul famously said, so the church is comprised of different types of people with differing functions.
Commenting on this analogy, Nouwen observed dryly: "Often we ask one member of the body to fulfill a task that belongs to others. But the hand cannot be asked to see nor the eye to hear."
In my own case, after trying to be Billy Graham, and the founder of a megachurch, too, and several other types of Christian exemplars besides, I at last admitted I was none of the above. I only possessed two modest talents.
First, I was a fair-to-middling newspaper scribbler about religion topics.
Second, I was significantly better, if I do say so, at leading small-group Bible studies. I couldn't fill a football stadium or run a 10,000-member congregation, but I could teach the heck out of 10 people. I heard repeatedly, "Studying the Bible with you changed my life."
Those are the things God built me for.
In fulfilling those modest duties, I experienced joy, and I also helped a few people in their journeys. I felt at peace.
It's far preferable, I've learned, to be in sync with the spirit in a tiny matter than to be out-of-sync in some grand gesture.
You might almost say that's what it means to be spiritual (not that I consider myself terribly spiritual, or that anyone else does): You do what God called you to do, instead of trying to do what he created another disciple for.
You want to see what a spiritual person looks like?
It might be as simple as looking in a mirror rather that staring at an icon.
You might discover your true destiny is something small, but something only you can accomplish, at least at that moment, at least in your tiny corner of the world.