Spirituality and religious tolerance
Equinox Publishing Ltd
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science/Social Justice Research Centre
Claims of exclusive possession of the truth within Western Christianity have often been associated with intolerance of other religions. Over the past 40 years, an increased number of people around the world have described themselves as "spiritual" rather than as "religious". As some forms of spirituality do not involve the acceptance of particular doctrines as truths, it might be expected that the spiritual might be more tolerant of various religious perspectives than those committed to a particular religion. An analysis of data from 40 countries around the globe, gathered in the International Social Survey Program (2008), shows that whether those who described themselves as spiritual were more tolerant than those who described themselves as religious, or those who said they were neither spiritual nor religious were more tolerant, varied from one country to another. The data shows that "spirituality" is sometimes associated with belief in God, sometimes not. In a number of countries where spirituality was not widely associated with belief in God, spirituality was associated with greater religious tolerance. However, in several countries where spirituality was associated with belief in God, those who described themselves as neither religious nor spiritual were the most tolerant. The data demonstrates the varied nature of "spirituality" and "religion" and suggests that the level of tolerance is partly dependent on the contexts in which the expressions of religion and spirituality have been developed.