Religion is a set of beliefs and practices which are based on a deity. Religious institutions typically contain an undercurrent of fear and condemnation. But these aspects are not exclusive to religious systems.
In fact, religion can be very positive and spiritual. It can help people connect to a deeper sense of meaning in their lives. And many of us are in a constant quest for meaning.
Religion has been around for centuries. Many religions are rooted in oral traditions, historical figures and creeds. This makes them distinct from other social and cultural institutions.
Religion often includes rituals, a sacred scripture, specific beliefs and morals, and designated practices. These can be individual or collective. The practice of meditation or prayer is often done in solitude.
While religion is a system of beliefs, spirituality is a method of relating to the sacred. Some groups prefer to consider themselves spiritual and others are not. Those who are not in a religion often make use of informal spiritual practices.
Many American religious groups are composed of members of the Baby Boom generation. Besides religious institutions, there are also a number of secular groups. One in 10 Americans believe in a creator of the universe, while 85% disagree. Secular groups are just as likely to think in terms of a higher consciousness, a state of being beyond traditional religion.
Historically, religion and spirituality have been the foundations for our search for a meaningful life. But today’s religious and spirituality groups are more ambivalent than secular groups.