Spirituality in a World of Skeptics

Part 1 in a conversation about modern trends in spirituality & organized religion.  


If you ask 10 people what spirituality means, you’ll likely get 10 different answers. A quick Google search led us to this very broad definition from the University of Minnesota: 

[Spirituality is] a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.

According to a 2019 article in The Atlantic, Americans reporting that they believe in God and belong to an organized religion stayed steady through most of the 20th century. Even through the sexual revolution of the 60s, the political upheaval of the 70s, and the rise in consumerism in the 80s, 9 out of 10 Americans consistently identified as “religious” and believing in God. 

But then…. 

Beginning in the 1990s, the share of Americans who reported not belonging to an organized religion dramatically increased, and it has continued to increase throughout the 2010s. 

“The rise of religious non-affiliation in America looks like one of those rare historical moments that is neither slow, nor subtle, nor cyclical. You might call it exceptional.”


This raises many questions — too many for just this article. Why are Americans less religious now than ever before? How does religious affiliation (or the lack thereof) relate to spirituality? What generational differences exist in religious identity? What happened in the 1990s to cause such a shift? 

Let’s start with a clarification: spirituality and organized religion are not one and the same. For some of us, organized religion brings deep spiritual connection. For others of us, religion is more about connecting to our community, or participating in important rituals. 

In 2017, Pew reported that Americans identifying as “spiritual but not religious” increased 8% over a 5 year period. This number has continued to increase as less and less people identify with organized religion. 


In today’s world, we are constantly overloaded with information. Any argument has a counterargument waiting to be found with a quick Google search. “Devil’s advocates” and skeptics abound. In this climate, where we all need answers immediately, a rise in spirituality could seem confusing or surprising. Or maybe it’s quite the opposite: maybe we are so overwhelmed with information that we are more likely than ever to seek deeper and more lasting clarity. 

This week in Joy Society, the theme is Personal Well-Being, which includes emotional and spiritual well-being. Here are some questions related to this topic that we invite you to reflect on:

  • What does spirituality mean to you?
  • How has your connection to organized religion and/or spirituality shifted or changed throughout your life?
  • When (or where) do you feel the most connected to something bigger than yourself?
  • How do these trends affect organizations and the workforce as a whole?

As always, we welcome you to share your Wednesday Wisdom and reflections on this topic in the comments!👇🏽

And stay tuned for Part 2, a continuation of this conversation,coming the week of June 20th.

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