In the early 1970’s, Betty Neuman created a holistically based, open-system theory to aid nurses in organizing the voluminous information needed to deal with complex client situations (Meleis, 2007, p.307). One component of the Neuman Systems Model is spirituality, which is described as being related to beliefs and influences that are spiritual. It should be noted that this was absent in her initial conceptualization and was developed later (Meleis, 2007, p.307). While utilizing the Neuman framework for client assessment, religion is often applied as a spiritual factor. Using this theory as basis one might conclude that religion and spirituality are synonymous in concept. This begs the question: Are they, in fact, equal in meaning or at the very least required of each other for synergistic forward movement? I am not certain that the answer is clear-cut and I believe that personal observations will allow for objective thought for argument – pro or con.
In order to develop my personal philosophy of the relationship between religion and spirituality I had to do some research. I found that there are many definitions, often in direct contradiction of each other. In studying concepts of spirituality, one observation that I found intriguing was offered by Rabbi Adat Shalom (2011) who states, “…spirituality, which takes it’s character from individuality.” In 1997, Dr. John K Testerman, an Associate Professor for the Department of Family Medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine presented his thoughts on the subject, stating:
The most fundamental concept of spirituality is that there is a transcendent dimension to life, something or someone beyond our own ego and sense of experience. The experience of connection to this larger, sacred reality is what gives our lives ultimate meaning.
I agree with both Shalom and Testerman. I believe that spirituality is an individualized and personal connection outside of our own sense of self. It is internally manifested through experience and belief and may be internally or externally triggered by a need for peace within oneself.
Religion might be described as organizational, structured and with a degree of expectation or preference outside of oneself. Rabbi Shalom (2011) describes religion as incorporating generations of learning and helping us to understand life. I believe that these generations of learning have assisted with my definition of religion as a science of tradition, traditions built with the goal of serving God. I disagree with the theory provided by Kenneth Pargament, Ph.D., who argues that the term spirituality describes the central function of religion (as cited by Testerman, 1997). I believe that the central function of organized religion is to show faith and find comfort by acting upon learned traditional means and fellowship. That said, I am also certain that a willingness to embrace spiritual moments facilitates the goal of religious practices – to empower...