Six Understandings of the Word ‘Spirituality’ in a Secular Country

In: Archive for the Psychology of Religion
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  • 1 a Cross-Disciplinary Pain Center, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark E-mail: b University of Copenhagen and University Hospital of Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark E-mail: c Associate Professor, Research Unit of Health, Man and Society, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark E-mail:
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Spirituality is a growing research theme, especially in relation to health issues. The term is often poorly defined and one’s understanding is often so broad that it becomes a mere frame word devoid of meaning. In this study, we asked 514 adult Danes about their understanding of the word ‘spirituality’. Factor analysis of the answers resulted in six different understandings of spirituality: (1) positive dimensions in human life and well-being; (2) New Age ideology; (3) an integrated part of established religious life; (4) a vague striving, opposed to religion; (5) selfishness; and (6) ordinary inspiration in human activities. It is concluded that a common understanding of the term spirituality does not exist, at least in a modern secular setting. Suggestion for future research is that the term spirituality is not used without an indication, notions or keywords of what is meant by the term in a specific context.

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