Religion is the study of life’s spiritual nature. While many people follow the teachings of the same religion, others have their own beliefs and practices. Some people choose to follow a particular religion out of personal conviction. Some people choose to practice a particular religion because of the social benefits that it can provide. While religion can be a powerful force for good, it can also be a source of great harm.
The number of Americans who follow a religion varies by age and gender. Practicing Christians attend religious services at least monthly. Nonpracticing Christians may attend religious services only occasionally, but are not considered nonreligious. Those who identify as’spiritual but not religious’ hold ambivalent views on religion.
Research has shown that people with an intrinsic religious orientation exhibit lower physiological reactivity to stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. People with an intrinsic religious orientation have a sense of meaning in their lives, and they are more likely to feel supported in times of distress. People with an extrinsic religious orientation, on the other hand, are more likely to turn to religion for external ends.
Ultimately, religion and spirituality are related. While religion is a social means of relating to the sacred, spirituality is a personal, private way of connecting to the sacred. These two ideas are often confused, but they are related.