Religion is a social-cultural system that involves beliefs, ethics, worldviews, organizations, rituals, and designated behaviors. Its purpose is to facilitate communication with a Higher Power.
While religion has its own merits, it can also create fear and worry. For example, concepts of divine wrath and original sin can generate anxiety and stress. These beliefs can justify the exclusion of individuals who are deemed unworthy of God’s favor.
Another problem with religion is that its critics often focus on extremism and abuse. For example, a church member’s fear of judgment can make suffering in the community worse. Likewise, some professional and lay preachers live sordid lives behind closed doors.
Despite this criticism, some researchers find that religion can have tangible benefits. For example, research suggests that combining spiritual/religious strategies with conventional treatment can alleviate the effects of HIV/AIDS. The combination of these strategies has helped the women in this study cope with their lives.
Some groups define themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or SBNR. They hold ambivalent views about religion and tend to diverge from traditional viewpoints. Their spiritual practices are usually eclectic, and they are not likely to attend regular church services. In fact, one third of these individuals identifies as “spiritual,” while the rest agnostic.
SBNR is a term coined by Barna Research. They studied a representative sample of U.S. adults, using 1281 web-based surveys. Using a 95% confidence level, the sampling error was minus 3 percentage points.