European Perspectives on Religion and Spirituality


Generally defined, religion is a social-cultural system of belief and practice. It includes doctrines, texts, practices, and worldviews. Throughout history, religions have made significant impacts on culture and politics. Many pieces of art, music, dress codes, and literature have been drawn from religions.

Religions are often founded upon the teachings of archetypal figures or historical figures. These beliefs, or scriptures, are often transmitted through oral tradition. Religious institutions guard these practices and maintain strict interpretations of the founder’s teachings. Some religions include an undercurrent of fear or intolerance.

There are many different types of religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. These different types have varied histories, but all have a common goal: to preserve the essential teachings of their religions. These teachings often teach the faith in God, and surrender to that faith. The religions also give their followers moral guidance and purpose.

There are also differences in how people consider themselves spiritual. Some may feel that they are spiritual, but are not religious. This is particularly true of Europeans. More than four in ten of these Europeans believe that they have a soul. While some Europeans view religion positively, others see it as having a negative influence. In some countries, such as Ireland, Italy, and Portugal, a plurality of adults have a positive outlook on religion. However, in other countries, such as Sweden, Norway, and Finland, a much larger percentage of respondents have a negative attitude toward religion.

The differences between the types of religion and the ways they are practiced are reflected in politics and culture. For example, in Portugal, more than half of adult respondents say religion helps them determine right from wrong. In Denmark, more than half of adult respondents agree that religion causes harm. In Austria, roughly a third of adult respondents have a negative outlook on religion. In Belgium, less than a quarter of adult respondents have a negative attitude. In Spain, nearly one in five adult respondents have a negative attitude. In Ireland, slightly more than a quarter of adult respondents have ambivalent or negative attitudes.

Despite the different views, the majority of adults in all of the countries where the survey was conducted agree that religion does not cause more harm than good. Most disagree with statements that religion leads to evil, that it causes people to suffer, or that science does not provide evidence for religious claims.

Religions usually include a range of ethical and moral codes, as well as rituals, beliefs, organizations, texts, and designated behaviors. A few examples are the Christian faith, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and Buddhist traditions. These religious teachings have helped give society a sense of purpose and hope during times of uncertainty. During times of illness, 90% of hospitalized patients use their religion as a means of coping with their condition.

For many, spirituality is a means of relating to others, eradicating sources of unhappiness, and loving the world. Some may feel that religion is the answer to these questions, but there is a vast array of religious concepts and practices to choose from. Some of these are considered to be traditional religions, while other religions are considered to be modern or experimental.

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