In Chapter one of McGuire’s book “Religion: The Social Context”, they discuss how different definitions of religion shapes one’s explanation of its role in society. Religion is difficult to put in a box of words when there is a large and varying understanding as to what religion is. Some definitions can be misleading and construe the view of religion in society with a negative connotation when used carelessly. Furthermore, religion is commonly paired with spirituality, in which many argue that they are different or the same.
This point from McGuire reminded me of a discussion I had in my African American Religion and Spirituality class regarding the difference, and if there is one, between religion and spirituality. In my discussion we attempted to come up with key words under each category that would help define and create an understanding of that category. For instance, under “Religion” we came up with words such as: God/Creator, Common belief system, Set of Rules, Formal, and Traditions/Rituals. On the other hand, under “Spirituality” we wrote words such as: Individualized understanding, Less strict, different approach, Choice, and Higher power. We went back and forth on whether these two words have different meanings, how much their meanings overlap, or whether one was a subcategory of the other. In my opinion and understanding of the words, the two overlap more than they are separate. I believe that there is a sense of spirituality in religion, but not necessarily a sense of religion in spirituality. Meaning that someone can subscribe to a certain religion and be spiritual but someone being spiritual does not necessarily mean they subscribe to a certain religion.
I think looking at these definitions through a sociological lenses creates an interesting conversation due to the different interpretations that can be presented while doing so.