How Do “Religion” and “Spirituality” Differ?

Lay Definitions Among Older Adults

Research and public interest in religion and spirituality is on the rise. Consequently, there is an increasing need for rigorously obtained information on what individuals mean when they use these terms. This study examined how 64 older adults living in three retirement communities (including one Christian-based community), a relatively understudied population, conceptualize religion and spirituality. Participants defined “religion” and “spirituality,” and their narrative definitions were coded and compared using a framework derived from Hill et al.’s (2000) conceptualization of religion and spirituality. Despite considerable overlap, participants’ definitions differed on several dimensions. Participants were more likely to associate religion than spirituality with personal beliefs, community affiliation, and organized practices. Moreover, spirituality appeared to be a more abstract concept than religion, and included nontheistic notions of a higher power.

Since the 1980s, interest in the scientific study of religion has grown tremendously among researchers from nearly all branches of the social sciences (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003; Moberg 2002; Moore, Kloos, and Rasmussen 2001; Seybold and Hill 2001; Wink and Dillon 2003). American public opinion suggests why this topic has gained prominence as a research endeavor: religion and spirituality are important components in people’s lives (Adler et al. 2005), and may even be essential to human nature (Moberg 2001). According to a recent Newsweek poll, 64 percent of the general American public describe themselves as religious in some way, and 79 percent describe themselves as spiritual (Adler et al. 2005). Further, many people—between 55 percent and 74 percent—likely identify with both of these terms (Adler et al. 2005; Marler and Hadaway 2002; Zinnbauer et al. 1997). Given this interest, it is important for social science researchers to understand what members of the general public and different segments of the population mean when they speak of “religion” and “spirituality.” How do lay people define religion? How do they define spirituality? And, to what extent do individuals differentiate between these two concepts? The answers to these questions have important implications both for understanding the role of religion and spirituality in people’s lives, as well as for how social scientists measure and interpret research findings on these constructs. Research Definitions of Religion and Spirituality Psychologists and theologians agree that societal and scholarly definitions of “religion” and “spirituality” are changing. At one time seen as equivalent, the concepts are becoming increasingly distinct (Hill et al. 2000; Pargament 1999; Turner et al. 1995). And, these concepts will likely become further delineated as attitudes toward religion and spirituality continue to

Mich` le M. Schlehofer is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD. e Allen M. Omoto is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. E-mail: Janice R. Adelman is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. E-mail: Correspondence should be addressed to Mich` le M. Schlehofer, Department of Psychology, Salisbury University, 1101 e Camden Ave., Salisbury, MD 21801. E-mail: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2008) 47(3):411–425 C 2008 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

members of the general public appear to view religion and spirituality as having many similarities. encompasses two additional components that spirituality does not: (3) a search for the nonsacred (e. whereas spirituality is more personal. hope. a not insubstantial minority (10 percent) made references to “nontraditional” concepts. For instance. or the Divine.. focusing on nature and being. . Zinnbauer and colleagues (1999) used three major dimensions in their description of these constructs: negative-positive. emotions. and practices relate to diverse life events like death. For example. a majority of respondents (70 percent) invoked what they deemed “traditional” concepts of the sacred. transcendental reality. it is unclear if or how references to a “higher power” are relevant to spirituality.g. scientific. the articulation—at least to oneself— of understanding and maintaining a relationship with one’s own personal god).e.g. religion is often associated with negative qualities (e. researchers have suggested that strong and clear operational definitions of these constructs are needed to gain deeper understanding of what it means to be religious or spiritual (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003. Moberg 2001). organized-personal. such as beliefs in God or Christ. and emotions... whereas spirituality is considered more functional. Zinnbauer. However. Gorsuch 1984. but that spirituality also encompasses beliefs in New Age concepts such as astrology or the supernatural (Koenig 1997). consisting of a “lived consciousness” of relating to a higher power.. Zinnbauer and Pargament 2005. and organized prayers). Tsang and McCullough 2003. religious rituals such as baptism. This conceptual framework is novel in that it presents a nonpolarized approach to defining and understanding religion and spirituality. particularly spirituality. Hill et al. Christ. religious wedding ceremonies.412 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION evolve (Cimino and Lattin 1998).. Contrary to polarized conceptualizations posited by researchers. it remains to be seen whether lay people see religion and spirituality as overlapping in the ways suggested by this framework. Pargament. 1999). 2001). a perception of some source of ultimate reality or divine being/object) and (2) a search for what is sacred (i. Thus. In this conceptualization. Moberg 2002). and substantive-functional. Miller and Thoresen 2003. Zinnbauer and colleagues (1997) found among a sample of individuals of varying backgrounds and religious convictions that. such as a belief in God. Specifically. or ground of being. feelings of safety. whereas spirituality is typically associated with positive or “good” qualities (e. Moberg 2002. suffering. Religion. Despite extensive theoretical discourse and empirical research. both religion and spirituality encompass two main components: (1) a concept of the sacred (i. Hill 2005. Not surprisingly. Indeed. there is still no overarching or agreed-upon definition or standard operationalization of either term (Moore et al.. and Scott 1999).e.g. Hill and colleagues (2000) proposed a different. expanding self-awareness). 2000.. however. Religion holds a substantive focus on its practices.g. Along these lines. and injustice (Zinnbauer et al. and whether “higher power” is conceptualized and means the same thing in descriptions of religion. such as nature. and (4) a prescription of legitimate means and methods by which to search for the sacred (e. nonpolarized conceptualization of religion and spirituality. and theological circles (Hyman and Handal 2006. or affiliation arising out of a sense of community within a religious group). when describing spirituality. Some argue that both religion and spirituality entail theistic concepts of the sacred. being dogmatic or encouraging cult and fundamentalist behavior). although the number and content of those dimensions is a topic of some debate. and how beliefs. a construct considered difficult to comprehend across popular. beliefs. Linking Empirical Work and Lay Definitions Some empirical work has attempted to fill the gaps between scholarly and lay definitions of religion and spirituality. Some researchers suggest that religion and spirituality fall on several polarized dimensions (e.g. social science researchers have offered multiple and expanding definitions for these terms. However. religion represents a set of organized practices established by tradition and conducted in a central place of worship.

Thus. church services. volunteerism. The few published studies on this topic have relied on research protocols in which respondents must define themselves as being either religious or spiritual. 1997). Zinnbauer et al. yet closely related.g. It may include reference to an inner guide or “moral compass. In one study. in contrast to the descriptions of spirituality.g. this information is needed in order to provide empirical bolstering for theoretical conceptualizations of these terms. Thus. . the way in which a substantial proportion of Americans define religion and spirituality remains largely unknown. but they would more often associate concepts relating to a search for the nonsacred with religion than with spirituality (2b). meditation) with religion and spirituality (3a). Wink and Dillon 2002. church membership and attendance) provides additional evidence for perceived distinctions between religion and spirituality. longitudinal research suggests that whereas religious beliefs and practices follow patterns set in early adulthood and remain relatively stable with age. 3c) more with religion than with spirituality.. such as “nature” and “transcendental reality” (see Zinnbauer et al. but that both concepts would be associated with theistic imagery. very few people (less than 1 percent) in one study associated religion with nontheistic concepts of the sacred. Religion and spirituality are important aspects of life for about 85 percent of older adults (Lewis 2001). 1997). 2003). participants would associate both organizationally-based practices (e. Additionally. some insight has been gained into what “religion” and “spirituality” mean to lay people. Based on this and other research. in fact.g. Clearly. and one-third reported that they found the terms to be nearly one and the same (Marler and Hadaway 2002). The fact that individuals in some of these studies reported that religion but not spirituality also encompasses organizational or institutional beliefs (e.g. That is.g.. longevity.g.. 1997). However. we explored three primary hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: Participants would equally associate theistic concepts of the sacred with religion and spirituality (1a). such as having a relationship with a higher power (Zinnbauer et al. Understanding people’s lay definitions of these terms has the potential to shed light on how religion and spirituality influence a myriad of personal outcomes.” and can exist within or independent of a religious context (e. and political activism. then.’s (2000) conceptual definitions of religion and spirituality as a theoretical guide and an initial starting point for our research. 63 percent of participants saw religion and spirituality as two distinct.. these studies have generally overlooked the responses of roughly 55 percent to 74 percent of the American population who identify with both terms (Adler et al. The current research sought to explore some of these issues through a qualitative study with a sample of older adults living in retirement communities.. Furthermore. 3b) and codes of conduct (e. Similarly. spirituality increases from late middle age to older adulthood (Moberg 1997. Therefore. Marler and Hadaway 2002. Hypothesis 2: Participants would equally associate a search for the sacred with religion and spirituality (2a). prayer. using data from a sample of older adults provides an opportunity to understand how individuals who are likely to be both highly religious and highly spiritual define the terms. we expected that older adults would define religion as a more elaborate and complex construct than spirituality. Krause and Wulff 2005). despite research indicating that being both religious and spiritual is related to better well-being in older adults (e.. questions still remain. Hypothesis 3: Participants would equally associate nonorganizationally-based practices (e. concepts. relatively little research to date has focused specifically on older adults. Marler and Hadaway 2002). But.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 413 Spirituality is often described in personal or experiential terms. principles or laws. Specifically. 2005. however. such as mental health. they would associate nontheistic concepts of the sacred with spirituality more than with religion (1b). We incorporated Hill et al.

. SD = 6. One of these communities (30 participants) self-identifies as a “Christian” community.” The Christian community and one of the nonaffiliated communities are located across the street from each other. a resident of the Christian-based retirement community recommended potential respondents to the research team. Jewish. Procedure Organizers of the larger study made presentations about the project at each of the retirement communities’ monthly town hall/community-wide meetings. On average. χ 2 (1) = 7. In line with their longer residency. Participants from the Christian-based community (N = 27. 4. transdenominational). with 10. p < 0. and 3 percent reported more than one religious affiliation.6 percent) currently lived in independent living arrangements. or YMCA director).2 Most participants (89. pastor.. All three communities are roughly the same size.8 percent) were currently married. 9 percent were Catholic. Most participants (83.4 percent were widowed. and income is the only entry requirement.01. and has a residency requirement of a minimum of 20 years of employment in a Christian-based organization (e. Participants were predominately female (71. Participants from the Christian-based community reported living longer in their community (M = 10. .g.68) completed interviews as part of a larger study on religion. and as a set. All individuals who indicated interest in the study were contacted by phone and. provided they were still interested. and 1.73.8 percent) were more likely than participants from the other communities (N = 17. t(61) = 3. leaving a final N = 64.001). all participants (N = 7) living in assisted living arrangements were from the Christian-based retirement community. Immediately following the presentation. χ 2 (1) = 6.g. and the other nonaffiliated community is in an adjacent town approximately 15 minutes away. 26. 81.61. SD = 6.9 percent had never been married.5 percent listed an “other” religion (e.45) than those from the nonaffiliated communities (M = 4..33. p < 0. 22.53.6 percent) were Protestant (e.21 years. the participants were highly educated: the modal maximum educational attainment was a master’s degree (26. and all three provide a continuum of care for residents ranging from independent living in on-site apartments or houses to long-term custodial care in a designated health center.01.5 percent were divorced or separated.7 years. range 1 week to 30 years). participants had lived in their retirement community just under eight years (M = 7. p < 0.5 percent reported an “other” marital status. Data were unavailable for three participants due to early termination of interviews (N = 2) or voice recorder malfunction (N = 1).4 percent held a doctoral-level degree. We specifically sought to include participants from this Christian-based community in order to ensure that the sample would have a range of views on religion and spirituality.22 years. 50 percent) to report having a postbaccalaureate education. SD = 7.4 percent living in assisted living arrangements in which staff assisted them with some of their daily care. and community participation. SD = 0. We hereafter refer to these two communities as “nonaffiliated. Methodist. These individuals were then contacted and invited to take part. as a missionary.6 percent) and white (91 percent). scheduled for an interview at their convenience. they circulated a sign-up sheet to recruit interested participants.9 percent) and 13. Participants from three different retirement communities in Los Angeles County. 4.1 Many participants (44.414 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION METHOD Participants Sixty-seven older adults aged 61 to 93 (M = 78.52. Presbyterian). volunteerism.05.g. California took part. There were no other demographic differences across the communities. Additionally. The remaining two retirement communities (total of 34 participants) are not affiliated with any particular religion.

Political Mobilization. defined as using knowledge of the sacred as a force for political change. Search for the Non-Sacred. all participants used their own words to define religion and spirituality and to describe the importance of each construct in their lives.’s (1997) coding scheme as guides.g. and also checked the transcriptions against the original voice recording for accuracy. First. Specifically.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 415 One member of a team of five trained interviewers conducted semi-structured interviews containing closed. Other No concept. First. Political Mobilization. content codes in Zinnbauer and associates’ coding scheme were grouped as referring to a Concept of the Sacred.. God. Trained members of the research team or professional transcribers later transcribed all of the interviews. and there were ongoing checks on completed interviews and regular interviewer meetings during the data collection phase to ensure interview quality and consistency. The analyses reported here are based on portions of these transcripts. TABLE 1 CODING SCHEME: CONCEPT OF THE SACRED Concept Theistic Key Features Explicitly refers to theistic concept of the sacred (e. Refers to something sacred. and using Hill et al. the Church). because four participants described political mobilization as important in their definition of religion. Prior to data collection.and open-ended questions with each participant. nature. was classified as a Search for the Non-Sacred because it encompasses using religion as a transformational agent.’s theoretical definitions. Nontheistic Explicitly refers to nontheistic concept of the sacred (e. Note: Each participant’s response was coded as being only one of the above three categories..and open-ended items about religion and spirituality. Uses both theistic and nontheistic concepts of the sacred in his or her definition. Christ. Measures During their interview. All interviews were voicerecorded. See Tables 1 and 2 for a full list of the coding scheme. Each participant received $30 compensation. Higher Power. participants answered a series of closed. transcendental reality. interviewers asked: “What does religion (spirituality) mean to you?” An in-depth response was sought by asking three additional follow-up questions. ground of being. Holy. and later.’s (2000) theoretical definitions and Zinnbauer et al. no conceptualization.g. We created one additional content code. Holy Ghost. emotions). inner-self. a hand-written letter from their interviewer thanking them for their time. or Methods of Searching for the Sacred based on key phrases from Hill et al. but doesn’t specify if it is a theistic or nontheistic power. participants used a four-point Likert scale (1 = not at all to 4 = very much) to separately rate “How religious are you?” and “How spiritual are you?” Later. . interviewers conducted practice interviews. All interviews were conducted either in participants’ homes or in quiet rooms at the retirement communities. as needed: “What individuals or events in your life have influenced the way you think about religion (spirituality)?” “How important is religion (spirituality) to yourself and your sense of who you are?” and “What role does religion (spirituality) play in your life?” Code Development and Coding Participants’ responses were coded using both inductive and deductive approaches. Divine. Search for the Sacred.

(continued) . Negative means Using knowledge of sacred for negative means or ends such as: feeling superior to others. sense of community. etc. Search for the non-sacred Good feelings Aimed at attaining a desirable inner affective state such as comfort. God working to guide or control your life. Questioning beliefs Doubting religious or spiritual beliefs. etc. NON-SACRED. aimed at obtaining a better world. using knowledge of the sacred to provide solace and comfort.416 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION TABLE 2 CODING SCHEME: SEARCH FOR THE SACRED. either now or after death. Oneness Feeling or experience of connectedness/relationship/ oneness with God/Christ/Higher Power. security.g. social support. etc. an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. Affiliation Finding affiliation. mystery and uncertainty surrounding beliefs. in response to self-discovery. experiencing sacred. Integration Integrating one’s own values or beliefs about the sacred with behavior in daily life. putting religious beliefs into practice by helping others. social identification. control over problems or ability to solve problems in one’s life. view of God. friendship. Self-esteem Hope and positive self-outlook. safety. path to God. church communities organizing together in protest). AND METHODS OF SEARCHING FOR THE SACRED Category Code Search for the sacred Subcategory Code Personal beliefs Key Features Spiritual or religious beliefs mentioned. Self-discovery Adapting meaning of God/Higher Power. Religious meaning Having or striving to gain meaning or maintaining meaning of God/Higher Power. commitment to following God’s plan. enjoyment in life. defining who you are. or striving to gain. such as belief or faith in God/Higher Power/the divine/personal values. improving yourself from having contact with the sacred. self-esteem. altruistic motives embedded in a sacred context. Growth Aimed at obtaining personal growth. etc.. care for others. anxiety reduction. demonstrating God’s love to others. Concern A form of integration manifesting itself in concern for others. religious-based conflict. etc. with other followers of one’s faith. Life meaning Religion as a source of meaning in one’s life. etc. Control Having. making choices as to beliefs. Political mobilization Using knowledge of the sacred as a force of political mobilization (e. following the divine’s will in one’s life.

such as mentioning both “God” and “nature.” or “Christ”).. with each subcategory theme dichotomously coded as “present” or “not present” in the transcript. To assess the clarity and reliability of the coding scheme.” “Lord. or teachings. OrganizationallyBased Practices.g. 1997).g. Nonorganizationally-Based Practices. Bible reading. based on if and how participants referred to a higher power in their responses. their definitions were separately coded into one of three subcategories reflecting their Concept of the Sacred: Theistic (e. this coding method of only scoring the presence or absence of each subcategory helped control for transcript length and repetition. NonTheistic (e. etc. As shown in Table 2. if a participant mentioned two organizationallybased practices. either private or public (unorganized) worship or practices such as prayer. Transcripts were coded three ways. We created a total category score by summing across subcategory codes. First. rituals.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 417 TABLE 2 Continued Category Code Method of searching for the sacred Subcategory Code Nonorganizationally based Key Features Personal.. Finally. following a code of conduct. a score of zero for Nonorganizationally-Based Practices. watching religious TV programming. Nonorganizationally-Based Practices. and a score of one for Code of Conduct. That is.” see Zinnbauer et al. and referred to a code of conduct. these dichotomously coded subcategories were then summed. rules. or activities such as attendance at services. Because some participants gave longer answers to the open-ended questions than others. or Codes of Conduct) was dichotomously coded as “present” or “not present. performance of rituals (including marriages. we did not create an overall score for this dimension. etc. and an overall score of two for the Search for the Non-Sacred category. participants’ descriptions of religion and spirituality each received one code. listening to religious music on the radio. references to a Search for the Sacred and a Search for the Non-Sacred were separately noted and coded. baptisms. if a narrative definition mentioned Affiliation twice and Good Feelings once (both subcategories of Search for the Non-Sacred). Within categories.” For instance. mentions “God. each of the different Methods of Searching for the Sacred (Organizationally-Based Practices. two coders separately coded the same randomly chosen 13 transcripts (20 percent of the total transcripts) at the sentence or phrase . several subcategories were used within each category. Organizational practices. Commitment to organizational beliefs or adherence to institutionally-based belief systems or dogma. meditation. Second. that individual received a score of one for Organizationally-Based Practices. therefore.). For example. organizational form of faith. Organizationally based Codes of conduct Note: The presence of each of the above subcategories were separately noted and coded. characterizing that participant’s Concept of the Sacred. no nonorganizationally-based practice. 2000). a score of one for Good Feelings. mentions “nature.” “transcendental reality”). and Codes of Conduct are conceptually distinct (Hill et al. that person received a score of one for Affiliation. or Other (no mention of the sacred or mixed definitions.

33). p < 0. 14 percent (N = 9) used such terms when defining spirituality (see Table 3). or changes in topic). mentioned a spiritual group she belonged to in which members “tried to get in touch with [their] inner selves by various physical exercises.42. A sentence or phrase was identified by breaks in speech as indicated on the transcript (e. No significant differences in the pattern of results were found unless otherwise noted. Mdn = 3).64. we conducted a series of dependent sample t-tests comparing the number of times a code was applied across terms (religion and spirituality) using data from the entire sample. RESULTS Responses to the Likert scale questions in which participants rated how religious and how spiritual they were revealed high self-ratings for both religious (M = 3.090 (0. Thus. and whether they were more likely to associate Nontheistic Concepts with spirituality than with religion (1b). on Concept of the Sacred.g.33) 0. no participant rated their religiousness or spirituality as “1 (not at all). we found that participants equally used Nontheistic Concepts when describing religion (M = 0.14∗∗∗ 0. N = 52) used such theistic concepts as “belief in God” or “Christ” when discussing religion.29) 0.” when defining religion.29) and spirituality (M = 0. it is plausible that participants from the Christian-based retirement community. therefore.812 (0. In fact. SD = 0. who all have extensive records of service in the Christian church.86. For Hypothesis 1b.50) 0. Thus.” This reference to her “inner self” indicates a nontheistic concept of the sacred. SD = 0. .438 (0.2 percent (N = 27) used such terms when discussing spirituality. p < (0. might conceptualize religion and spirituality differently than participants recruited from the unaffiliated communities.29) Spirituality M (SD) 0.14.140 ( 5. such as “divine being” or “nature.39) than with spirituality (M = 0. n. SD = 0.81.50).09. we also compared the pattern of findings between these two types of communities. SD = 0. However. one coder coded all remaining transcripts. when defining spirituality. TABLE 3 PROPORTION OF PARTICIPANTS MENTIONING EACH CONCEPT OF THE SACRED IN THEIR DESCRIPTIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY Concept Theistic Nontheistic Other ∗∗∗ Religion M (SD) 0. we conclude that the participants in this sample identify themselves as being both religious and spiritual.418 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION level. The raters had an overall agreement of 91 percent across all coding categories. most participants (81. For example.422 (0. Hypothesis 1. Mdn = 4) and spiritual (M = 3. but only 42. t(63) = 5. the presence of fillers in speech.001.. t(61) = 3.2 percent. SD = 0. Although participants were significantly more religious than spiritual.50) t for Difference 5.” There were no differences in the ratings of religiousness and spirituality between participants from the Christian-based community and participants from the nonaffiliated communities.08∗∗∗ p < 0. though.63. As shown in Table 3.53 out of a range of 1–4. both mean ratings were relatively high. pauses.49. Participants associated Theistic Concepts more with religion (M = 0.39) 0. one participant.s. Tests of Hypotheses To test our hypotheses. In addition. only a minority of our older adult sample mentioned such concepts: 9 percent of participants (N = 6) mentioned nontheistic concepts. SD = 0. tested whether participants were equally likely to associate Theistic Concepts with religion as with spirituality (1a). t(63) = 0.

“I don’t separate the two (religion and spirituality).001.17 (0.007. statistically significant at p < 0. Almost half of participants holding an Other concept.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 419 TABLE 4 MEAN MENTIONS OF CATEGORIES OF SEARCH FOR THE SACRED AND SEARCH FOR THE NONSACRED Religion M (SD) Total: search for the sacred Personal beliefsa Questioning beliefsa Religious meaninga Self-discoverya Onenessa Integrationa Concerna Life meaninga Total: Search for the non-sacred Good feelingsb Controlb Negative meansb Growthb Self-esteemb Affiliationb Political mobilizationb ∗ a Spirituality M (SD) 1.33) 0. .” The remaining participants defined religion and spirituality as one and the same.24) 0.38) 0. SD = 1.24) 0.42..41) 0.06 (0. With this procedure.24) p < 0.05.19 (0.66 1. We found that participants’ descriptions referenced a Search for the Sacred more frequently when discussing religion (M = 2.45) 0.17.90) 0. both theistic and nontheistic concepts) or Unknown (e.05∗ 2.90 −0.13) 0.47 (0.48) 0. For instance. To further explore this difference.16 (0. .27) 0.37) 0.45) 0..08 (0.29) and spirituality (M = 0.09. “I don’t know . we implemented a Bonferroni procedure to control for inflated alpha. t(63) = 5. expressing ambiguity when describing spirituality.73) 0.21) 0.13 (0. fell into the latter category.01∗∗ 2.05 (0.01.05 (0. b With a Bonferroni correction.43 0.” or “I don’t know”).27) 0. t(63) = 5. Additional analyses further explored this finding. we used a series of dependent samples t-tests to test for differences in individual subcategories that may have been obscured in the aggregated Search for the Sacred measure. I’d have to go look it up and think about it.” Hypothesis 2a posited that participants would equally associate a Search for the Sacred with religion and spirituality.50).11 (0.44 (0.4 percent) participants used Other concepts when defining religion. For instance. Specifically. Note: Statistically significant codes are italicized. as shown in Table 4.77 1.44.36 (0. we used dependent samples t-tests to compare the total number of subcategories referencing this search in participants’ definitions of religion and spirituality.e.001 (see Table 3). one participant replied.8 percent) used Other concepts when discussing spirituality. SD = 0.17 (1.08 (0.47) 0. or 18.8 percent of the total sample.508∗∗∗ 0.28 (0.08 (0. Because we were conducting multiple tests.55∗ 0.27) 0.50) 0.53 3.16 (0. p < 0. stated. one person.13 (0.45) 0.08. p < 0.32) 0.27) 0.006.27 (0.16) than spirituality (M = 1.01∗∗ 2. First.273∗∗ 0. Specifically. SD = 1.43) 0.06 (0.006).02 (0. we divided the Other responses into Mixed Concept of the Sacred (i. “a hard one to define.61∗ −1.27) No codes applied t for Differences 0.76 −0.39) No codes applied 0. The proportion of participants with an Other Concept of the Sacred differed between descriptions of religion (M = 0.33) 0.06 (0. the overall desired alpha (0.05) is divided by the number of tests (8).08 (0.05 (0. only six (9. With a Bonferroni correction.g.08. We explored this two ways.08 (0.21) 0.42 (1. .69 (0.66 −0. when asked to define spirituality.16) 0.424∗∗∗ 2.88 (0.21) 0. SD = 0.50 (0.001.21) 0. and the resultant number is taken as the critical p-value level (0. but 28 (43. ∗∗∗ p < 0. ∗∗ p < 0.23 (0.21).20 (0.50) 0.37) 0.33 −1.38 3.27 (0. statistically significant at p < 0.

05. p < 0. religion served as a source of fellowship. SD = 0. . t(63) = 3. religion was more than having a belief in God.45) than with spirituality (M = 0.88.” When discussing religion. SD = 0. t(63) = 3.420 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION For hypothesis tests using the subcategory codes. The mean number of times participants mentioned each Method of Searching for the Sacred (i.28. but associated Organizationally-Based Practices (3b) and Codes of Conduct (3c) more with religion than with spirituality. t(63) = 4.” Others indicated that religion encompasses “a relationship to the other people in the church . the means reported (see Table 4) reflect the proportion of participants who used each subcategory code in defining religion and spirituality. Organizationally-Based Practices.82). a supportive group.88.. SD = 0. Hypothesis 2b suggested that the proportion of codes categorized as Search for the NonSacred would be greater for definitions of religion than spirituality.01. but only five mentioned similar themes when defining spirituality. SD = 0. These participants associated a Search for the Non-Sacred more frequently with religion (M = 0. We conducted analyses of each subcategory in an attempt to determine the source of this difference between communities.01. A common response illustrating the personal beliefs subcategory was.98) and spirituality (M = 0.” “[going to church is] my identity. The only comparison to reach significance was for the subcategory of Affiliation. the domain of integration approached significance.” This affiliation with a religious group seemed to be an important part of definitions of religion. SD = 0.24. The findings for Search for the Non-Sacred differed across the two types of retirement communities.27). 18 people mentioned themes of affiliation when describing religion.004. which was associated more frequently with religion (M = 0.005.82) than spirituality (M = 0. With a desired alpha of 0. only ps < 0.73). and Life Meaning. p < 0.007 (0.87.” and “fellowship.90) referenced a Search for the Non-Sacred significantly more than their descriptions of spirituality (M = 0. each subcategory within this category was tested using a Bonferroni procedure.05/7 tests) were considered statistically significant. definitions of religion more often included references to each of these subcategories.25.73.001. participants’ descriptions of religion (M = 0. in describing religion. For example.26. SD = 0.50.e.” This pattern of findings indicates that.01. “you . the findings for Hypothesis 2b held for participants from the Christianbased retirement community. Here. “it tells me who I am and why I’m here and where I’m going. . feel like it’s religion that makes you live the way you do. it also included a framework by which to live one’s life and derive meaning. Again.008. Nonorganizationally-Based Practices. this relationship was not found among participants from the nonaffiliated communities. community. references to a Search for the Non-Sacred were statistically equivalent across definitions of religion (M = 0. For example. p < 0.s. one participant shared. Hypothesis 3. However. we assessed whether participants equally associated Nonorganizationally-Based Practices with religion and spirituality (3a).08. SD = 0.05 (see Table 4). and belonging.55. t(33) = 1. many participants stressed that it provides a “framework” or “guide” by which to live one’s life. Specifically. . was also tested with a series of dependent samples t-tests. Overall. p < 0. As expected. “I believe that the most fundamental community that I am a part of is the church. t(29) = 2. . t(63) = 2.” Another noted that religion is “the absolute basis of being. Compared to definitions of spirituality. n. Indeed. No subcategory was associated more strongly with religion than with spirituality in either type of community. Two subcategories reached significance: Personal Beliefs. it appears that people associated religion with a community and a place in which to socialize and connect with friends. although it seems likely that the failure to find statistically significant differences is due to lack of statistical power because of the relatively small sample size and the fact that the mean differences for participants from the nonaffiliated communities are in the predicted direction. p < 0.40. Specifically. one participant said. on Methods of Searching for the Sacred.62). t(63) = 2. As these statements highlight. p < 0. to most individuals in our sample. and Codes of Conduct) when discussing religion and spirituality were separately compared (see Table 5).59. SD = 0. .

35). 22 participants mentioned these types of activities in their descriptions of religion. Table 5 shows that Nonorganizationally-Based Practices were mentioned with only slightly greater frequency for spirituality (M = 0.” and another described religion as a “contract [of behaviors] with the group [of other religious people].35. p < 0.001. who defined himself as moderately religious but held negative attitudes about religion.” Similarly. “I haven’t really been too active in a church. “the Pope.. you are good people (sic).50). but with me and in our own family church was what you did on Sunday . suggesting that official rules are part of this concept. and I never thought about it being an imposition. when discussing religion (M = 0. Overall. as I did when I was a child. . ∗∗∗ p < 0.14. I would probably feel less energized—less something. but we made sure that the children grew up in a church.” Another said: “As I was growing up people talked about dragging their kids to church.” Another person. but only nine mentioned codes when describing spirituality.001. As one participant remarked. As illustrated in one person’s response: “If I would go a day without praying.g.” Other references to organizational-based methods included participating in Sunday School or the choir.08. “if I don’t go to church I almost don’t know what day it is. .14 (0. SD = 0.” Another described religion as being the “rules. many participants actually used the term “code” or “code of conduct” when defining religion.80. p < 0. church services or study groups).49) than spirituality (M = 0. t(63) = 3.64) than spirituality (M = 0.001.24. t(63) = 1.34 (0.” As expected. one participant stated. with one exception: participants from the nonaffiliated retirement communities equally associated Codes of Conduct with religion (M = 0. .43) 0.38 (0.50. there was no alternative unless somebody was sick.24∗∗∗ 3. one individual said. When defining religion. saw religion as “the attempt of other people to impose upon you their way of thinking. participants mentioned Organizationally-Based Practices quite often and more frequently.48) 0. reading the Bible and other forms of religious literature. many participants referred to it as an “institutional construct” and mentioned the importance of engaging in organized religious activities (e. the primary concepts. t(63) = 4.80+ 4. SD = 0. For instance. SD = 0.35) t for Differences 1. I would feel I need to do this. In fact.38. . p < 0. the difference was marginally significant. and consistent with Hypothesis 3c. if you practice it.50) than for religion (M = 0. “it’s the code . and praying—all nonorganizational activities.10. Many participants also stressed the importance of participating in organizationally-based practices as a family tradition.44. and all those official things that those officials say” when discussing religion. on average.44 (0.” Like organized religious practices.50) 0. When describing religion. we explored Hypotheses 3a–3c within the two types of retirement communities.37∗∗∗ 0. These same nonorganizational forms of searching for the sacred were also part of many participants’ (N = 32) conceptualizations of spirituality. For instance. a Roman Catholic respondent specifically mentioned.50) 0. . As with our previous analyses. SD = 0.49) p < 0.34. participants mentioned behaviors such as meditation.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 421 TABLE 5 MEAN MENTIONS OF CATEGORIES OF METHODS OF SEARCHING FOR THE SACRED Religion M (SD) Nonorganizationally-based practices Organizationally-based practices Code of conduct + Spirituality M (SD) 0.77. These forms of organized methods of searching almost seemed to be a ritual or a habit with some participants. SD = 0.48).50 (0. The findings held.77 (0. SD = 0.37. 24 participants mentioned such codes when describing religion. participants referenced Codes of Conduct proportionately more frequently when discussing religion (M = 0.

participants in this study were more likely to use this domain when defining religion than when defining spirituality.41. Because both religion and spirituality are highly important to many older adults. but primarily theistic references to a higher power when defining religion. or faith leaders. multifaceted look at how older adults who are both religious and spiritual define these two terms. It is feasible that some participants were primed with their own thoughts and definitions on religion when it came to defining spirituality. 1997) in addressing the question: “How do religion and spirituality differ?” We sought to provide an illustrative. participants held less concrete definitions of spirituality than religion. Individuals who identify as only spiritual may have a more thorough and less abstract concept of spirituality than those who identify as both religious and spiritual. This contradiction may be due to generational differences. providing a different understanding of the sacred than the participants in this study. Additionally. In fact. participants mentioned both theistic and nontheistic concepts of the sacred when defining spirituality. In conducting a Search for the Sacred. 1997). Had the order of questioning been reversed. DISCUSSION The current study built on prior theoretical (Hill et al. 1997). participants saw religion as being associated with a sense of community. It is possible that these findings are by-products of the method of search and the meaning that religion provides the participants in this study. and in line with other research. people may seek guidance from religious agencies and affiliates. SD = 0. Nonetheless. and as a source of personal identity. that is. as fostering connections with others. the results as a whole suggest that this population has a less clear view of spirituality than religion (see Miller and Thoresen 2003. different conceptualizations of spirituality may have been obtained. and thus may hold a broader view of spirituality. may be due to a lack of statistical power. Moreover. or to the fact that participants in this study were both religious and spiritual. these same tactics may be used when individuals “search for the non-sacred” as well.3 It is also possible that these findings are simply due to the research protocol itself. feelings of affiliation or personal comfort. Participants defined religion. but not among the total sample. This latter finding is inconsistent with prior work on nonelderly populations (see Zinnbauer et al.49) and spirituality (M = 0. the difference was not statistically significant. suggesting that the failure to replicate the findings among these participants. The interviews were conducted following a standard outline and order of questions in which participants were consistently asked to define religion immediately before defining spirituality. We found several noteworthy patterns. However. seeking to articulate what God means. Moberg 2002). n. Search for the Non-Sacred was more strongly associated with religion than spirituality. examining their conceptions of these constructs is an appropriate starting point for understanding what people mean when they use these terms. Similarly. t(33) = 1. Specifically.422 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION SD = 0. as comprising a strongly felt and followed belief system for relating to a higher power.21.’s theorizing. such as ministers or rabbis. a finding consistent with research on younger adults who identify as both religious and spiritual (Zinnbauer et al. in contrast to the proposition that a Search for the Sacred is a component of both religion and spirituality (Hill et al. in line with Hill et al. Indeed. Within this category. First. Second. religion was more strongly related to subcategories reflecting personal belief systems and life meaning. both components of a Search for the Non-Sacred. we found that religion was more strongly associated with feelings of community affiliation than . such as churches or synagogues. are likely attained through interaction with the same religious agencies and personnel.41). 2000) and empirical work (Zinnbauer et al. 2000). some participants were not able to define spirituality at all.s. despite the fact that participants defined themselves as highly religious and spiritual. Although the means were in the expected direction. in contrast to spirituality.

our findings suggest that older adults may not view these constructs as strictly polarized concepts. Our sample was also primarily Protestant. all participants were likely aware of Protestant teachings. To summarize.. These findings support the theorizing of Hill and colleagues (2000). organizationally-based practices and codes of conduct were more often associated with religion than with spirituality. Our findings support this idea. “any scientific operational definition of spirituality is likely to differ from what a believer means when speaking of the spiritual. Zinnbauer et al. and identified as both highly religious and highly spiritual. Moberg 2001). Thus.” Our results suggest several implications for measuring religion and spirituality. The fact that older adults in our sample have a more abstract understanding of spirituality than of religion has additional implications for operationalizing and measuring these constructs.g. is warranted in order to determine more completely how the general public defines religion and spirituality and to assess the extent to which lay definitions map onto theoretically derived ones. First. Tsang and McCullough 2003). Implications Our findings have important implications for both future work on religion and spirituality and for work with older adult populations. when looking at Methods of Searching for the Sacred. We cannot assume that our findings generalize to other samples of younger adults or nonretirees. their residence in Southern California is noteworthy given the area’s reputation for progressive political and religious views.. Similarly. thus. the findings suggest that multidimensional measurement of these constructs is warranted. Although one-dimensional measures of spirituality and religion might be simpler to use. definitions of religion and spirituality clearly shared more commonalities than differences among our sample of older adults. while nonorganizationally-based practices were not differently associated with religion and spirituality. individuals may strongly associate religion with both of these searches. and are also consistent with prior research (e.g. the fact that our findings were largely consistent across the nonaffiliated and Christian-based retirement communities. the findings demonstrate that no existing theoretical framework can fully explain older adults’ definitions of religion and spirituality. several facets of our sample warrant comment. our sample was composed entirely of older adults. In fact. as well as the need for future psychometric and measurement work on these concepts. 1999). Thus. including the inclusion of those who are secular or who practice non-Christian religions. highlighting the need for further construct refinement when working with this population. to the extent that the search for the sacred and the search for the non-sacred are performed in the same way. Finally. There is ongoing debate among researchers on how these terms should be defined and measured (Gorsuch 1984. yet overlapping. In addition. scales that purport to assess spirituality are unlikely to tap fully the totality of people’s spiritual experiences (e. rather than independent living. in contrast to most recent scholarly theorizing (see Zinnbauer et al. suggests that our findings may not be due to differential life experiences. the definitions of religion and spirituality were distinct. despite the fact that respondents from the latter communities had substantial service in Christian-based organizations. Any study of religion and spirituality is inherently complex due to the lack of definitional consensus among researchers and laypersons. we found that. However.DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY 423 spirituality. In interpreting these findings. our sample of older adults might not be representative of older adults in general for various reasons. such measures do not appear to tap effectively how people define these constructs in the real world. Our findings inform this debate by suggesting that it might be fruitful to ground scientific definitions and measurement of these constructs at least partially in the lay definitions from the population of interest. Additional research on adults of all ages and religious preferences. First. such as their residence in retirement communities. As Miller and Thoresen (2003:27) note. Second. Further. 1997). .

In conclusion. it is likely inappropriate to simply adapt existing scales of religiousness to refer to spirituality in lieu of developing separate measures. such as might be afforded through contact with a religious community. n. SD = 0. when unaccompanied by community affiliation. this remains a topic for future research.. with one exception: among those high in spirituality. In an attempt to test this notion. likely offers numerous benefits—members can serve as sources of social support for one another and may facilitate better coping and problem-solving abilities (e. Additional exploration of the different influence these concepts have in the lives of not only older adults. we speculate that there may not be enough variability in our sample to fully test these suggestions. despite the convenience of this tactic for researchers. Additionally.56). in general. Search for the Non-Sacred did not differ between religion (M = 0. We thank the . have implications for work with. Krause and Wulff 2005). however. instrumental. the findings suggest that these two constructs may impact the well-being and possibly the daily lives and lived experiences of older adults very differently. Those who merely identify as spiritual (but not religious) may miss the benefits of receiving greater. they may not be able to articulate this concept sufficiently in response to complex questions about it. Although potentially of interest. more easily accessible assistance (be it financial. These findings should not be taken as a lack of support for our interpretation of the data. do not differ from those reported. while spirituality does not. our findings suggest that older adults largely view the concepts of religion and spirituality not as polarized. and measurement of. t(29) = 1. spiritual self-expansion might be negatively related to health and wellbeing is an important avenue for future research. and tested the hypotheses separately within the two groups. Moreover.424 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION If participants have an abstract understanding of spirituality.14. Omoto from the National Institutes of Mental Health and funding from the Fetzer Institute and the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. or emotional) in times of need. but of individuals of different religions and age groups. as most participants were highly spiritual to begin with.s. we were unable to compare participants claiming different religious denominations due to small sample size. it may be difficult to encourage their spiritual development. NOTES 1. the social support garnered from participation in religious organizations can provide older adults with mental and physical health benefits. these constructs. If older adults are not deriving feelings of community or affiliation from spirituality. being religious and a part of a religious community might help solidify personal belief systems. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This research and preparation of this article was supported by a grant to Allen M. SD = 0. but rather as distinct concepts that nonetheless share considerable overlap. The findings that religion is seen as providing a guiding framework by which to live one’s life and a sense of community. is an exciting avenue for future and focused research in religion and spirituality.60. This is not surprising because the Christian-based community requires residents to enter the community before the age of 75. additionally.85) and spirituality (M = 0. our finding that spirituality was not associated with affiliation suggests that religion and spirituality might have different implications for health and well-being. Thus. Additionally. 3. The possibility that. Additionally. whereas the nonaffiliated communities have no age entry limit or requirement. Our findings that religion more than spirituality was associated with both personal belief systems and community affiliation also have implications for working with older adults. 2. Rather. Seybold and Hill 2001).80. including increased longevity (Krause 2006. we divided participants based on a median split into groups of “high” or “low” spirituality.g. The findings. Individuals may increase their participation in organizationally-based activities when in need of community support and affiliation. Affiliation with like-minded others. These findings should encourage further research pursuits.

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