In the last half of chapter 3, Chaves assets that while the number of Americans who identify as religious has gone down, the number of Americans who identify as “spiritual” has gone up. It’s interesting to see the stats on this because this is a sentiment that I can confirm I have heard often in my interpersonal interactions. The term “spiritual” seems ambiguous to me, and I’m not quite certain what people mean when they say it, but I would agree with Chaves’ generalization that the term spiritual, when used by people who don’t also identify as religious, seems to describe those people who may not participate in organized religion by going to church or practicing traditional religious customs, but that still believe in a higher power and practice their spirituality in different, non-traditional ways.
Chaves makes a remark in the last sentence of the chapter that I find highly insightful. Chaves claims, “The spiritual-but-not-religious phenomenon…is best seen as one aspect of American’s overall softening involvement in religious tradition…and as a part and parcel of a growing skepticism in American society about the value of organizations and institutions in many spheres of life, including religion,” (page 40). He suggests that this growing demographic of spiritual non-religious people is a reflection of a shift in American society to de-emphazing the role and importance of institutions in regulating people’s lives, which I would for-see as having many interesting ramification for future generations if this trend continues. It seems to me that many young Americans are embracing a new society in which there is a higher tolerance for grey-areas, including in religion, and are re-defining what it means to be a spiritual person.