Spirituality is a state of being that goes beyond religious affiliation to encompass feelings of inspiration, reverence and awe as well as meaning and purpose. It is a quest to know the infinite and often comes into focus during times of emotional stress, physical (and mental) illness or in the face of death and loss. A sense of spirituality transcends religious beliefs and can be experienced by atheists, agnostics and believers alike.
Most people who describe themselves as spiritual report a strong belief in something greater than themselves. While 27% of Americans give answers that are tied to organized religion, many of those who describe themselves as spiritual say they do not have a specific religion and can incorporate aspects of multiple different religions into their own beliefs. These beliefs often include connections with God (12%), nature (4%) or themselves (4%).
It is important to note that a person can be both religious and spiritual at the same time. However, the majority of people who describe themselves as spiritual also describe themselves as agnostic or atheist. They believe that the ultimate truth is a universal one that can be found in all of the different stories of religions and they take the best elements from each.
Another aspect of spirituality that often involves the aforementioned feelings as well as the concept of connectedness is a form of self-transcendence. This type of emotion is a powerful force that can lead to positive changes in a person’s life, but it can be difficult to measure scientifically and can vary widely among individuals.