Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Frequently used, but ill-defined, term in the social sciences of religion; most generally understood as a quality of an individual whose inner life is oriented toward God, the supernatural, or the sacred. Recalling William James's distinction between personal experience and inherited tradition, it is increasingly common to contrast "spirituality" with "religion."

Spirituality is considered primary, more pure, more directly related to the soul in its relation to the divine, while religion is secondary, dogmatic and stifling, often distorted by oppressive sociopolitical and socioeconomic forces. In A Generation of Seekers (Harper 1993), Wade Clark Roof found that American baby boomers frequently rejected organized "religion" in favor of individual "spirituality." The return to or recovery of spirituality was central to the cultural ferment of the 1960s in America, and the term spirituality is therefore often modified by adjectives associated with some of the major cultural movements of the 1960s and post-1960s era, including New Age spirituality, postmodern spirituality , and most notably, feminist spirituality .

David Yamane


C. Eller, Living in the Lap of the Goddess (New York: Crossroad, 1993).

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500