What spirituality is

In a twin study on religion and mental health, psychiatric genetic-epidemiologist Kenneth Kendler and his colleagues looked at “religion” as compared with “spirituality” in nearly two thousand adult twins. It was shown statistically that in people’s lived experience, personal spirituality is a different concept from adherence to religion or choice of religious denomination.

Instead, spirituality was shown to be a sense of a close personal relationship to God (or nature or the universe or whatever term each person used for higher power) and a vital source of daily guidance. The degree to which the subjects adhered to a religious denomination was shown to be a distinct set of beliefs and experiences. This isn’t to say that spirituality and religion are always unrelated. For many people, it’s through the beliefs and practice of their own religion that they build and foster a relationship with God. But for others, the two sets of experience are totally unrelated and strong spirituality can still exist separately from religion. In the general population, personal spirituality and participating in a specific religion correlate only moderately, which means that some people find spirituality in religion, while other people find it in other ways. In Kendler’s study, spirituality did not meaningfully correlate with one specific religious denomination: there are highly spiritual people in all denominations, and highly spiritual people who don’t adhere to any specific religious denomination. With these distinctions established, science had identified a crucial and valuable dimension of “spirituality,” and researchers could get busy exploring spirituality’s contributions to good health, mental well-being, fulfillment, and success. 

From “The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving” By Lisa Miller, PhD