Religion is a set of belief systems that are shared by a group. These beliefs may include worldviews, texts, organizations, ethics, and designated behaviors. The purpose of religion is to give a sense of structure, purpose, and identity to human life. In addition, it is a way to connect with others and God.
It is important to understand the difference between religion and spirituality. Many people mistake the two, but they are not the same. While both are believed to have a positive effect on the mental and physical health of a person, the benefits and effects of each vary.
For instance, a high level of spirituality is thought to increase the chances of surviving HIV/AIDS. However, the impact of high spirituality on adherence to treatment varies. People with high levels of spirituality can be reluctant to take a medication or follow a treatment plan. They also report feeling less anxious about death. Some studies suggest that spirituality may reduce the likelihood of suicide.
On the other hand, religious participation can be a low-accountability practice. This can lead to deceptive behaviors or a shallow understanding of the core tenets of a faith.
While there are many differences between religion and spirituality, both are associated with a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Being spiritual can help a person cope with serious medical conditions or stressful life events. Spirituality is a personal and subjective experience.
Religious participation consists of individual and communal meditation, prayer, and other outward expressions of reverence. Often, religion is formed around a cultural or traditional religious practice. When a person joins a religious institution, they will base their values on the shared beliefs of the community. If the individual believes that divorce is wrong, for example, they may be hesitant to discuss the matter with others. Similarly, if a member of a church does not disclose their status to the organization, they may feel like they do not receive vital support during a difficult time.
A number of studies have examined the relationship between religious participation and physical illness. Although all participants considered themselves to be spiritual, only a few participants disclosed their HIV status. Among these were one Christian woman and two Muslims. One of the women converted from Islam to Christianity. She said that surviving genocide gave her a second chance to connect with God. Neither of the other two women contacted a church or their spiritual leaders to inform them of their status.
Several people with HIV/AIDS have reported feeling a strong sense of connection to a Higher Power. Participants viewed this connection as a source of strength. During difficult times, such as the death of a loved one, a spiritual perception can provide hope and guidance.
A study published in the Journal of Nursing Studies suggests that spirituality can help people with chronic illnesses. Patients with high levels of spirituality report lower rates of depression and anxiety. Additionally, they report that they are better able to cope with illness. Moreover, a strong sense of spirituality can reduce the incidence of alcoholism and suicide.