As I was reading chapter 4 of McGuire’s book, I was drawing a few parallels to the book my group has been reading, “Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes”. The participants in Ammerman’s study vary from religious to nonreligious, religious but not spiritual, spiritual but not religious, both, or neither. I think that overall, Ammerman’s research showed that religion has become more and more individualistic in American society, which may be the reason for the rise in those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious”. Sure, those who are religious may feel a strong sense of connection to their congregation/community, but even among the most religious, each individual expresses his/her religiosity in different ways outside of the congregation. It is also apparent that of those who are affiliated with a certain religious group, they have become increasingly likely to disagree with certain teachings, and they are increasingly likely to admit to it. McGuire discusses how the religious institution will hold a model of the individual and the socialization the person must be exposed to in order to be considered a part of the organization. Conformity to this model has been changing; it seems that, overall, people have been conforming less. It would make sense that the less a person conforms to this model of his/her religion, the more he/she may wish to identify as “spiritual but not religious”.
I believe that this is exactly what happened in my own life. I used to be religious and attend church regularly. I also read the Bible, prayed daily, and pretty much accepted all the rules and beliefs of the church. However, as I got older, I stopped going to church, prayed and read the Bible less, and questioned the teachings of the church more. Since I did this, I thought of myself as no longer being able to call myself a Christian because I no longer conformed to the model of what it means to be one. I really enjoyed reading this chapter because I feel like McGuire described my own experience to me in a way which I haven’t been able to. It now makes perfect sense as to why I have become one of the many Americans who claim to be “spiritual but not religious”.