Conceptualizing Religion and Spirituality: Points of Commonality, Points of Departure

Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 30 (1):51-77 (2000)
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Abstract

Psychologists' emerging interest in spirituality and religion as well as the relevance of each phenomenon to issues of psychological importance requires an understanding of the fundamental characteristics of each construct. On the basis of both historical considerations and a limited but growing empirical literature, we caution against viewing spirituality and religiousness as incompatible and suggest that the common tendency to polarize the terms simply as individual vs. institutional or ′good′ vs. ′bad′ is not fruitful for future research. Also cautioning against the use of restrictive, narrow definitions or overly broad definitions that can rob either construct of its distinctive characteristics, we propose a set of criteria that recognizes the constructs' conceptual similarities and dissimilarities. Rather than trying to force new and likely unsuccessful definitions, we offer these criteria as benchmarks for judging the value of existing definitions.

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