Social Shift from Religion to Spirituality Essay

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Religion and Spirituality in a Broad Sense

Spirituality and religion are two terms that have rather unstable, historically changing definitions, characterized by numerous implied and explicit theological considerations. Further, the general contention is that these definitions are either overly specific or overly generic. A more astonishing fact is, possibly, these researches' level of concurrence that spirituality represents a private, budding, personal and emotional sphere, whilst religion is more public, group-based and fairly stable. Interviews and questionnaire tools arising out of these definitions characteristically undertake measurements of the spirituality element by posing questions with regard to people's self-identity, psychological experiences, and psychological health. By contrast, the element of religion is measured using questions that relate to religious participation, events and undertakings, observance of community or religious code. (Bender 1).

The ideal approach to spirituality would be considering it as a means to know the divine. Individual means to do so are, to a certain extent, based on and manifested through religious customs, principles, and groups. It is asserted by some that spirituality constitutes a personal and practical component of religion; given this idea, these individuals propose four means by which religious bodies teach and convey this, as highlighted by four key U.S. spirituality forms: know via the body (encompassing individual and group customs and rites); know via the heart (which focuses on experiences and emotions); know via the will (concentrates on the prophetic stand and social fairness), and know via the mind (encourages followers to seek a metaphysical bond with divinity) (Bender 3).

The aforementioned perspective brings to light a number of important points. Firstly, whilst spirituality may be linked to people and the worldviews they maintain, they chiefly convey it through their behavior (knowing); for instance, reading the rosary, seeking perfection by meditating, meeting with religious others, or supporting racial justice (Bender 3). Briefly, spirituality entails kinds of action, theology and devotion. Secondly, it indicates spiritual approaches' diversity of distribution over religious customs, such that a few religious customs will more likely stress on knowing via one's heart instead of via the mind. Further, religious bodies and customs create and communicate the above styles. Every religious community and tradition will probably have symbols and figures to epitomize diverse styles; for instance, spiritual movements in followers of the Roman Catholic Church are as varied as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and Catholic Worker movement. Lastly, the approach centers on Americans' continued pursuit of spirituality both individually and collectively (Bender 3).

Considering the above, the differences between, and limits in, religiousness and spirituality do not, however, become clear in any way. A number of Americans maintain a spiritual but not religious (SBNR) stance, besides not taking part in regular religious organizations. They aren't religious but seem to display a sort of individually-developed spiritual perspective or orientation facilitated by means of what may be called a free "spiritual bazaar" and not by means of religious authority (Bender 3). Researchers occasionally label spirituality seekers as proofs of the presence of a clearer division between individual spirituality and organized religion, as well as of self-produced spirituality (Bender 3-4).

Factors for Decline in Religiousness in People

During the 90s, the share of U.S. citizens who indicated a lack of personal religious preference increased twofold (from 7-14%). The above shift will likely startle the vast crowd of authors who believe America is a particularly religious country, even going so far as to consider religiosity an "American exceptionalism" component, in addition to the numerous observers who believed the 90s to be an era wherein American religiosity was on the rise (Hout and Claude 165). The doubling of the inclination towards a no-religion stance within a decade represents both an alarmingly swift societal transformation as well as contests the commonly-maintained beliefs regarding the American culture. Moreover, it might be a sign of the century-old secularization-related prophecies coming true. Such a drastic shift could have various underlying factors, including growing religious skepticism, the 90's blend of religion and politics, and demographic movements (Hout and Claude 165).

No religious preference might be on the rise because of demographic transformations. Religion goes along the traditional family lifecycle. Individuals often get disconnected from their organized religion at the time of leaving the home they were raised in and end up reattaching themselves to religion when they contemplate starting their own family. Present-day individuals' protracted education and late family formation might have a role to play in the growing non-preference statistics witnessed nationwide. Youngsters will more likely have experienced a less-religious or totally non-religious upbringing as compared to individuals born six or seven decades ago. With the replacement of the religious elderly by less- or non- religious youth, the overall society's religious attachment declines.

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A second demographic aspect is generation succession; the share of adults raised by a family without any religious preference grew from two to six percent. Late matrimony and parenthood is another factor. But, demography cannot possibly be the sole contributor. The religious shift witnessed has been more abrupt as compared to the slow, long-running demographic trends. Hence, cohort succession and familial factors cannot completely explain the unexpected growth (Hout and Claude 167).

Additionally, the growth might echo an abruptly augmented historical tendency towards secularization. The sociological argument regarding whether secularization has been brought forth by modernization is several decades old. Secularization has apparently come considerably late to America, as compared to other English-speaking, largely-Protestant societies. The "no-religion" surge of the nineties possibly and finally heralded American secularization. The word "secularization," by itself, has sparked considerable debate, with some asking for distinctions to be made, particularly between private and public religious expressions (Hout and Claude 167). This is perhaps a reversible shift. The U.S., Brazil, Spain, and Poland displayed substantial proof of a private-public religious move, with clear proofs of religion's retreat to the realm of the private. But religious skepticism was an unlikely justification: A majority of individuals indicating no religious preference held traditional religious views in spite of separating from their organized religious groups. Such unchurched believers accounted for a major part of the growth in the no religious preference trend.

The paper would be incomplete without a look at celebrity effects, especially Oprah Winfrey's influence, on spirituality and religion. Latest Oprah Winfrey Show episodes publicize means of awakening one's spirit. This subject has also made the headlines of "0, The Oprah Magazine" which has advocated prayer and meditation techniques, as well as her "Oprah Book Club" books, where she is seen regularly urging her readers to seek truths for personal revolution (Lofton 599). All Oprah products merge practical inspiration and support with spiritual advice, and capitalist rationality with spiritual awakening. The famous talk-show host's website recommends the maintenance of 6 different journals: besides a journal that one can create and name on one's own, she defines: a Daily journal wherein one ought to record one's general everyday thoughts; a Spa Girl journal to record one's exercise regime; a Gratitude journal to record 5 things one loved about the day; a Discovery journal that aims at getting to know oneself through retrospection, and a Health journal. Clearly, to her, the maintenance of a journal ought to be a key spiritual practice. In the end, how these records will benefit a person have been proved in the form of bullet points on the very same webpage: decreased stress levels, self-discovery, more peace, general "awareness," the audacity to follow one's dreams and an understanding of one's past (Lofton 611).

Writing occupies center stage in Oprah's self- and spirit- related commentaries. She believes writing marks the foremost step in an overall self-actualization, renewal, and change process. It forms the fundamental way by which her audience practices faith (Lofton 611). Therefore, her religious principles and renunciation of religion may be considered a sleight of hand: Oprah accepts and supports only a few theological existence modes and dislikes a large number of them. In her opinion, religion fails to justify oppression and domination, as well as the inability of cataloging shop. To her, religion only works when made carefully in line with capitalist liking; hence, her shift towards spirituality: a non-dogmatic code fostering vague theism and exuberant consumerism combined. According to Oprah, every religion has spiritual elements which will become evident if one looks closely. Therefore, to her, Buddhism deals with aromatic incense and beaded bracelets rather than abandonment of the world and meditation. Likewise, Christianity is about the friendly Jesus's democratic message rather than his memorization of doctrines or apocalyptic visions. So long as one spends on oneself, looks and feels good, she will accept one's religious beliefs. This religious principle of Oprah's is actually what's been adopted by the late capitalist USA (Lofton 618).

A significant role is played by the political domain. The growing "no religion" preference was earlier limited to the political liberals and moderates, whilst conservatives retained their religious choice. The political contribution….....

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Works Cited

Bender, Courtney. "Religion and spirituality: History, discourse, measurement." SSRC Web Forum. 2007.

Carrette, Jeremy R., and Richard King. Selling spirituality: The silent takeover of religion. Psychology Press, 2005.

Drescher, Elizabeth. "News Media Creation and Recreation of the Spiritual-But-Not-Religious."

Hout, Michael, and Claude S. Fischer. "Why more Americans have no religious preference: Politics and generations." American Sociological Review (2002): 165-190.

Lofton, Kathryn. "Practicing Oprah; or, the prescriptive compulsion of a spiritual capitalism." The journal of popular culture 39.4 (2006): 599-621.

Putnam, Robert D., David E. Campbell, and Shaylyn Romney Garrett. American grace: How religion divides and unites us. Simon and Schuster, 2012.

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