Understanding Rather Than Categorizing

Distinctions between what constitutes religion and what constitutes spirituality are topics that have become increasingly relevant and discussed in the field of sociology of religion. In a case study headed by Brian J. Zimbauer, et al. “several questions regarding the ways in which individuals characterized themselves and their beliefs with regard to religiousness and spirituality were investigated.”(Zimbauer, Religiousness and Spirituality: Unfuzzying the Fuzzy, pg. 551-552). Through different methods of study, Zimbauer gathered data on how individuals identified: spiritual but not religious, religious but not spiritual, neither spiritual or religious, or spiritual and religious. From these data, the social scientists of the study came to two significant conclusions. The first conclusion went with the idea that religiousness and spirituality are different concepts–a belief held by many who look to constructs that make religion a religion. However, the second conclusion presented the idea that although religiousness and spirituality appear to make of very different concepts, “they are not fully independent.”(Zimbauer, Religiousness and Spirituality: Unfuzzying the Fuzzy, pg. 561). For a case study published in 1997, it seems that the same issues of distinguishing the two concepts of religiousness and spirituality remain today. The problem with attempting to understand the complexities and differences–or similarities–between the two concepts remains that both are such subjective experiences. As I have undoubtedly stated before, I find it hard to make such distinctions between the two concepts in an empirical manner when they may be individualized and carried out in countless different ways. Perhaps differences between the two concepts will never be finalized or agreed upon; but the ability to understand individual experiences rather than define and categorize them are just as well.