Religion is the set of beliefs, practices, and structures that are aimed at guiding human behavior. Religions are generally based on the belief in a deity. In addition to the deity, religion also involves ethics, worldviews, and other aspects of the social and cultural system.
There are many negative connotations associated with religion, including abuse, hypocrisy, and extremism. These are not always associated with all religions. However, large-scale acts of terrorism, such as bombings, racist rallies, and spousal abuse, give religion a bad name.
While many people may reject religion, others may prefer spirituality to it. Spirituality, for example, involves a personal quest for meaning in life. It involves the belief in the existence of a god, the pursuit of spiritual experiences, and the quest to understand oneself and the universe. Religious institutions can help facilitate this quest, providing guidance and organizing the best of humanity.
Many religions are ambivalent about spirituality. For instance, Christians and evangelicals disagree about its role in society. Practicing Christians, on the other hand, have a positive view of spirituality. They feel that the practice of Christianity is designed to help people become more like Christ. The Sermon on the Mount amplifies the Ten Commandments message. A third of the general population identifies as “spiritual,” but not religious.
While there is a wide range of views on religion in Europe, the overall picture is ambivalent. Although a majority of adults in Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Austria report positive views of religion, a significant proportion of adults have a negative view. In Spain, Sweden, and Denmark, a significant proportion of adults affirm spiritual beliefs, but not religion. Meanwhile, in Belgium and Denmark, fewer respondents believe that religious institutions have a positive effect on society.
This ambivalence reflects the complexity of the term. Religion includes not only a social and cultural system, but also designated behaviors, worldviews, morals, and texts. Religion can be an individual or collective phenomenon, and is often used interchangeably with the terms spirituality and religiosity.
People who consider themselves spiritual but not religious are likely to agree that there is no divine force or power in the universe. They also are more likely to say that they have no belief in a higher power, and they are less likely to say that they have a soul. Moreover, these Europeans disagree about whether religion does more harm than good.
Religious groups include the Boomers, primarily women, and Gen Xers. Unlike secular groups, these religious groups have more ambivalent views. Some believe that religious institutions can be harmful, while others believe that they can help organize the best of humanity. Compared to secular groups, these religious groups have more ambiguous views about the influence of religion.
Several surveys have been conducted in the United States. Results have shown that the majority of people under 35 years old have a positive view of religion, while older adults have a negative view. College graduates tend to have more negative attitudes towards religion than other generations. Similarly, respondents who are unaffiliated with any religious group or do not identify as religious have a negative view of religion.