How do you view and comprehend the unexpected events that life throws at you? God’s plan, coincidence, fate or just random destined moments passing through space and time? In 2012, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious and Public Life survey revealed that, of the 46 million unaffiliated (no religious affiliation) American adults surveyed, more than half reported a deep connection with nature and earth, and 37 percent claimed they were “spiritual but not religious.” In the same survey, 34 percent said they were spiritual and 38 percent said they believe in “God or a universal spirit.” In short, a substantial portion of atheists and nonreligious report spiritual feelings (Cragun, 2014).
Spirituality can be believing you have a spiritual connection with other people, believing there is some form of higher power or believing that there is some form of afterlife; all of these beliefs can be held without any institutional affiliation with a religion. A growing wave of research suggests that religion and spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress. Several medical studies show a connection between religious beliefs or practices and a decreased risk of self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse and suicide. Perhaps the reasoning behind these findings is that feeling connected with nature and the world around you helps you find inner peace and appreciate quality of life in a world of unpredicted chaos. Spirituality and religion then, can be seen as strong predictors of and provide valuable insight into a person’s or society’s state of mental health.
If reality is defined through the individual’s eyes, cultures, personal values, beliefs and life experiences, we are creating billions of intertwining collective realities that all somehow affect each other. Our own reality greatly shapes choices and options we see available for taking or avoiding. If every person on this planet could put aside their differences and pre-existing notions to think about the meaning of life from this perspective, world peace might be more possible than ever before. Humans could learn to be codependent on each other and the natural world instead of constantly competing for resources and individual success. When are we all going to realize that every living thing on this planet came from one common ancestor? Theory or not, evolution makes more sense than all the world’s religions combined.