Students choose spirituality vs religion



A new state law allows students at Ohio universities to take 3 days off for religious accommodations.

Amelia Roberts, Reporter

College students across America have been plagued with a mental health crisis over the past few years. More than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem during the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the American Psychological Association.

Many college students are turning to spirituality and religion as a way to cope with life and find meaning in it as COVID-19, gun violence and reproductive rights issues are at the forefront of many young people’s minds.

Experts like Annette Mahoney, the co-founder of BGSU’s SPiRiT (Spirituality and Psychology Research Team), said spirituality and religion are both a means for coping with life and finding meaning in it, but they differ in major ways.

“Most people, especially in the U.S., likely view being religious as involvement in an organized religious group and/or belief in God, whereas being spiritual (i.e., spirituality) is much more difficult to define and may or may not involve being religious,” Mahoney said.

According to Mahoney, the main difference between religion and spirituality is the organization and belief of God within religion, whereas spirituality is more personal and unique to the person.

“Spiritual” can be defined as “connected with the human spirit, rather than the body or physical things,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Amy Schacht, the owner of Soul Sister Healing Arts Studio, a holistic boutique that facilitates “soul healing, soul self-discovery and fellowship with kindred souls,” was able to give a clearer definition of spirituality.

“My definition of spirituality is developing a relationship with the divine within ourselves. It’s not a group thing; it’s entirely personal between me and the divine,” she said.

Schacht, who describes herself as a tarot reader, healing arts/metaphysical retail shop owner and a practicing solitary “eclectic neo pagan,” opened her store in 2019 where she sells everything from crystals to herbs and talismans.

Since opening her business near the beginning of the pandemic, Schacht has noticed a “huge upswing” in people seeking out spirituality as a way to cope with life.

“It’s going more mainstream because people need it and society is becoming more open-minded to seek it out,” Schacht said.

As society becomes more and more accepting of spirituality and its respective practices, more and more young people are flocking to spirituality rather than religion.

Mahoney suggested that the shift from religion to spirituality may partially be due to the “socially and politically conservative teachings or beliefs within many monotheistic and polytheistic religious groups.”

“In the modern world, many young Americans are also rejecting belief in God of the Bible or other religious scriptures in favor of a looser sense of transcendent divine forces,” Mahoney said.

Because young people are more invested in better understanding themselves and the world around them as opposed to determining what’s right from wrong through holy books, many are finding that spirituality is a better fit for them rather than religion.

However, the fact that many people are flocking to spirituality over religion overall doesn’t negate that religion in many forms has been growing in popularity in the previous years as college students look for anything they can to make sense of the world. Lauren Ballard, the Executive Director at the H20 Church in Bowling Green was able to give a broad definition of religion.

“I think in the broadest sense when I think of religion, I view it as a worldview or a system of ethics. As a Christian, I find a lot of peace in the fact there isn’t some ladder of advancement to be the perfectly religious person,” Ballard said.

She continued, highlighting one of the main differences between spirituality and religion.

“The opportunity of Christianity is to have a close and glorifying relationship with the Savior of the world,” Ballard said. “We can then respond by representing God to those around us, although it will never be a perfect representation.”

Religion can be useful to those hoping to better understand who they are, and what their purpose is, which can provide a sense of peace.

“I think religion provides wisdom to those questions. As bold as it may sound, I do think some of those questions are answered with religion,” Ballard said.

If you’re finding yourself struggling to make sense of the world around you, consider visiting Schacht at the Soul Sister Healing Arts Studio located at 121 E. Main St. in Woodville, Ohio or Ballard at the H20 church located at 252 S. Main St. in Bowling Green, Ohio.