Understanding “Spirituality”—Conceptual Considerations

  • Heinz StreibEmail author
  • Ralph W. HoodJr.


Since the enormous shift in the everyday semantic from “religion” to “spirituality” has also affected the terminology of the scientific study of religion, it appears necessary to explain the position taken in the Bielefeld-based Cross-cultural Study on “Spirituality” to the question: Should ‘spirituality’ be used as scientific concept? Attempts to substitute religion with spirituality are critically discussed in this chapter. To ground and inspire reflection and suggest a conceptual framework for the chapters of this book, we refer to classics in philosophy, psychology and sociology of religion such as Schleiermacher , James , Troeltsch , Tillich and Luckmann . Thus the conclusion of this chapter is twofold: first, we call into question the necessity of establishing ‘spirituality’ as scientific concept (etic term) in contrast to or as substitute for ‘religion’; instead, we argue that the concept of religion is sufficient, because spirituality can be understood as privatized, experience-oriented religion. Second, we strongly suggest taking the self-attribution as “spiritual” very seriously as emic term and thus open the perspective for the chapters to follow, which are committed to the thoroughgoing empirical study of “spirituality” as self-description of the persons who identify themselves by that term, whether in conjunction with religion or not.


Spiritualilty Religion Concept of religion Luckmann Tillich Troeltsch James Schleiermacher 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.University of TennesseeChattanoogaUSA

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