Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Definitions Used in this Report


Before considering how conceptual models propose that religiosity and spirituality affect positive behaviors, it is important to define these two concepts as well as several other terms that will be used consistently throughout the report:

  • Religion is characterized by a set of particular beliefs, shared by a group, about God or a higher power and by the practices that define how those beliefs are expressed (Miller, 1998).
  • Religious denomination or affiliation refers to a specific religion, such as Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, or Muslim, to name a few.
  • Spirituality is characterized by a deeply personal and individualized response to God or a higher power (NIAAA & the Fetzer Institute, 1999).

The concepts of religion and spirituality differ in that one does not have to be religious to be spiritual.

Researchers generally measure any involvement in religious activities, religious beliefs, and the importance of religion using the general term religiosity. Some scholars further distinguish two components of religiosity:

  • Organizational religiosity, also termed public or extrinsic religiosity, refers to participation or involvement with religious institutions. Examples of organizational religiosity measures include frequency of attendance of services at churches, mosques or temples, and participation in youth activities or bible study at a religious organization.
  • Nonorganizational religiosity, also termed private, individual, or internal religiosity, refers to individual practices or religious beliefs practiced. Examples of nonorganizational religiosity measures include the importance of God in a persons daily life or how often an individual engages in prayer.

These five general definitions are used throughout this report. However, because the definitions of religiosity and spirituality vary across research studies, religiosity will be defined by the specific language used in a research study when it differs from these general definitions.

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