How do we categorize someone’s religiosity? It seems easy enough when people choose their affiliation, but even that category can contain many different types of spirituality: not all Methodists are the same. This complexity gets even trickier when it comes to categorizing the large group of people who are not affiliated. The “nones” (a moniker for those who answer “unaffiliated” on survey questions about their religion) encompass everyone from atheists to agnostics to the simply uninterested. And of course, each of these groups contains an even wider array of personalities. The complexity is staggering and poses a difficult challenge to anyone studying religion.
On a more basic level, it’s quite difficult to even distinguish between spirituality and religiosity. In everyday conversation, people readily make this distinction by identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” but new research by Boston University sociologist Nancy Ammerman shows just how blurry the distinction actually is.