Spiritual, Not Religious

Спайс в Минеральном Воде John Lennon once urged us to imagine how our lives would be with no religion. Today we don’t have to imagine it, because the answer is clear: we would be less happy.

For users of Facebook and numerous other social media, the expression, “spiritual, not religious” is pretty well known. It is a self-descriptive phrase especially common among 18-29 year-olds. But according to a new study, those who identify with this expression are generally less happy than those who define themselves as religious.

Переход по внешней ссылке It’s interesting that those who wish to find greater happiness by separating themselves from organized religion, actually put that happiness at risk.

I understand why many people are turned off to the idea of organized religion, particularly with all of the recent infighting and outrage over subjects such as abortion, homosexuality and pedophilia. It seems reasonable to run away from all of this drama. But still, “spiritual, not religious” people are less happy than those who are religious. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

It’s not.

People who describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious” do have a personal awareness of the importance of spirituality – whatever their particular faith tradition or belief set. They typically eschew the strictures of religion, though, and have a tendency to define spirituality in a way that suits themselves. The concept of organized religion is not a part of that definition.

Some may say this is overtly self-serving. Others say it is a form of self-indulgent humanism. And those who identify themselves “spiritual, not religious” often respond by saying, “whatEVerrrr.” But at least two social scientists have determined that those who are religious – people who attend religious services at least once a week – define themselves as nearly twice as happy as those who do not.

Анталия купить иней And here’s a warning: don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re happier just because they have a good social network. That’s not it. It’s also not necessarily because they think about God, feel his presence or pray more frequently. Religious people are happier because religion is a significant part of their sense of self, and worshiping regularly with others enhances their happiness significantly.

Hey, don’t give me that look… give it to Chaeyoon Lim and Robert Putnam, of Harvard University. They’re the ones who did the study. Not enough for you? A recent edition of Scientific American Mind refers to another study by the National Opinion Research Center which queried over 43,000 Americans; their research showed the same results.

Look, I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t be “spiritual, not religious.” But I am asking you to consider the facts: people who identify themselves as religious – who attend worship with their friends at least weekly – are nearly twice as happy as those who do not.

It’s one place in which independence or even skepticism can be hurtful.

Please be assured that I am in favor of your search, as long as you are actively searching. I look forward to your success, as long as you continue to grow. And I do hope for your happiness, no strings attached. But all I can do from this side of the iPad is urge you to reconsider your definition of religion. Hold on to your spirituality, but find others with whom to share it, and share it regularly.

Spirituality, faith and religion are all parts of what make us human. Just be aware of the fact that being fully human is not something you can do on your own.


This entry was posted in 5. The Power of Spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Spiritual, Not Religious

  1. The Dread Pirate Roberts says:

    I do not disagree with these observations, because they represent the “sweet spot” of three key requirements of human existance. When these all overlap, we are happy:

    Interaction with people who have similiar beliefs as you;
    Regular, habitualized routine;
    Hope – The belief that there is something better, and that it is achievable

    The flip side of this is that people who go to the same bar every Friday, and buy lottery tickets, are probably not as happy. So my theory needs a little work.

  2. Jeffrey Tobin says:

    Actually, Jonathan, you are right on the mark with your comments. The study emphasized the difference between those who merely had social connections, and those who had social connections through a religious organization.

    And there are those who enjoy having a drink while they discuss their theology. Perhaps that’s the middle ground!

  3. Alvin Scott says:

    Children have imaginary friends because they make them feel better. Religion does the same thing for adults, so the results of this survey are hardly shocking to me.

    The capacity of the human mind to imagine, create and convince itself of whatever it wants to hold true is beyond that of any other living creature. It is also why you don’t see dogs and cats opening churches.

    Lennon was right. All one needs to do is study the history of wars, oppression and death on the planet perpetrated in the name of religion to see it. “My god can beat up your god” is all too often the root cause, and it continues to this day.

    • Jeffrey Tobin says:

      Thank you, Alvin, for your thoughts! I agree with you that Lennon saw religion as divisive. We also have to conclude that racism, politics, social strata, moral issues and others can be as divisive.

      Where I believe Lennon gets it wrong is that religion itself is not evil. It’s what people do in the name of their religion that can be. The arts, music, even the sciences and philosophy would be nothing without religion as their catalyst.

      I cannot imagine a world without religion, as we would be compelled to throw out too much of what makes our lives not only bearable, but significant and fulfilling for so many.

      To throw away religion because of its history is to throw away humanity because of how we are as humans, regardless of religion.

      Are we a perfect species? No. But whether one believes in God or not, one can hardly argue the topic of religion without also considering all of the wonderful things that it has also brought to our world. It’s the yin and yang we find in everything. One AND the other.

      I can hardly imagine it.

  4. Hi live in the light, and fear the darkness — I believe one cannot flood a room or life with darkness, because darkness does not exist — however, a room and life can be flooded with light and joy — this is my path…

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