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To be "spiritual," in contrast, connotes personal practice and personal empowerment having to do with the deepest motivations of life.
Owen Thomas highlights the fact that spirituality movements tend to be localized to English and North American cultures.
The meaning of the term "spirit" is more narrow in English than that of other languages, referring to all of the uniquely human capacities and cultural functions.
However, religion is a highly contested term with scholars such as Russell Mc Cutcheon arguing that the term "religion" is used as a way to name a "seemingly distinct domain of diverse items of human activity and production".
According to the authors of the studies included in the edited volume Social Identities Between the Secular and the Sacred, some of those who are critical of religion see it as rigid and pushy, leading them to use terms such as atheist, agnostic to describe themselves.
Many of those studied who identify as SBNR feel a tension between their personal spirituality and membership in a conventional religious organization.