Differentiating Spirituality From Religion

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The comment made by the discussant after having already addressed the concern in the paper reiterated to me this significant challenge of doing work involving the spiritual development of college students.  New research by a Baylor University professor shows that licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), who account for the largest number of clinically trained helping professionals, believe that discussions about their clients` religion and spirituality can often lead to improved health and mental health, but practitioners are not integrating these conversations into their counseling sessions.A lot of times, this question comes to me as a direct or indirect question.  The survey revealed that the vast majority of LCSWs, with more than 80 percent responding favorably on most of the survey items, have positive attitudes regarding the integration of their clients` religion and spirituality into their discussions; are confident in their abilities to assess and discuss their clients` beliefs; and find it feasible to do so. But they`re not doing it.This two-volume handbook presents the most comprehensive coverage of the current state of the psychology of religion and spirituality.  Drawing on diverse religious and spiritual perspectives and traditions, this new volume provides exciting and enriching examples of theory, research and practice that directly contribute to our understanding of how religion and spirituality promote and facilitate social justice and equity in diverse social and cultural contexts - with a particular focus on educational settings, contexts, processes and outcomes.Licensed clinical social workers, who account for the largest number of clinically trained helping professionals, believe that discussions about their clients` religion and spirituality can often lead to improved health and mental health, but practitioners are not integrating these conversations into their counseling sessions. Looking beyond the individual to family, community, and support networks, the concept of spirituality as defined by Kaiser (2000) can be applied to helping systems.” For example, Wolff (2008) states that the current model of clinical service delivery is deliberately disconnected from issues of social justice and he calls for greater reliance on such spiritual principles” as acceptance, appreciation, compassion, and interdependence.Religion and spirituality make critical contributions to an inclusive vision for the welfare of minorities, the marginalized and other disadvantaged groups in societies and cultures around the globe.  In very practical terms, we could say that the difference between an exoteric religion and an esoteric spiritual group (or religion) is that the exoteric religion focuses on believing certain things and behaving in approved ways, while the esoteric religion or group focuses on engaging certain transformative practices, such as meditation for example.
 
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Less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer , less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to be agnostic, more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and nonoverlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences.To judge from A Religion of One`s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World” (Gotham, 2014), by Thomas Moore, whose Care of the Soul” is one of the best-selling self-help books ever, spirituality can be whatever one makes it. In his guide to developing a custom spirituality, he encourages people to draw on religion, antireligion — whatever works for them.Almost all of these studies involve self-reported disability and many were cross-sectional, making it impossible to determine order of causation—that is, (1) does R/S prevent the development of disability, (2) does disability prevent R/S activity, (3) does R/S promote disability, or (4) does disability cause people to turn to religion to cope with disability.This study presents, in light of Stein`s anthropological philosophy(1-2), a way to understand how health professionals (dentists, physicians, resident physicians, nurses, nursing auxiliaries and psychologists) perceive the religiosity and spirituality of their patients under cancer treatment and how these professionals experience their own spirituality.Of course you should feel free to use whatever terms you want in your conversation with your friends and family about these issues, but these distinctions can be helpful in discussions with people who wonder why so-and-so doesn`t have the gift of faith” or what it really means when someone says they are spiritual but not religious” or any number of other exchanges that can get bogged down when people use words in poorly-defined, little understood ways.

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