Am I Really Not Religious? Or Do I Not Fit The Popular American Definition of “Religious”?

Throughout chapter 1, McGuire discusses how sociologists may define religion and explores the challenges in doing so. A part of the chapter that really stuck out to me was the “Official Religion” paragraph on page 14. This reminded me of what I stated in my religious autobiography and provided me with a potential reason for my thoughts. I had stated that I “now consider myself spiritual rather than religious for fear of judgment…”. I have throughout my life felt like “not a proper Christian” for various reasons and would rather not even claim to be one anymore.

I grew up in a very conservative state and it’s a bit of an unspoken rule that Christianity (especially Protestant) gives the basis for human experience and understanding in the small community. On page 14, McGuire describes the changes in definition which further separated acts which were considered “religious” versus “nonreligious” and created rigid boundaries between the two. She states that these definitions created by the Christian churches are culturally accepted in the United States. I suspect that this may be even more true in small, tight-knit communities which are conservative and view religion and belief as highly important aspects of life.

Although I have not changed too much from when I was a child going to the Methodist church every week, I have fallen victim to the “accepted definition” of what it means to be a religious person. I feel that because I no longer attend church services and because I am interested in religion as a topic and study multiple religious texts, I would no longer be considered “religious” in the cultural definition of the word. I feel that gaining a higher education may have added to this feeling of uncertainty regarding my own experience and rather it would be considered “religious” or not.  I have gained a wider understanding of the world and now recognize how much gray area there really is. Placing a definition on anything can be quite difficult, and once you understand that, the world becomes much more abstract.