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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The spiritual beliefs of non-religiously affiliated young adults Rideout, Betty


This qualitative study describes the spiritual beliefs of young adults who have no religious affiliation, and examines how they assess and critically reflect upon their beliefs. An interpretative phenomenological analysis research method was used to describe and thematically organize their spiritual beliefs. Three themes emerged from this analysis: a description of spirituality, the narrative process of creating spiritual beliefs, and the outcomes of possessing spiritual beliefs. Participants describe and define spirituality in diverse ways. The more common definitions include a hopeful and benevolent perspective on life, a tentative acceptance of a higher power, belief in karma and a reverence for nature. One of the most consistent findings is the rejection of institutional religion. Participants choose spirituality to avoid the problems they perceive as being typical to institutional religion and utilize a type of marketplace approach to select spiritual beliefs. Spirituality is construed as a highly individualized narrative process which is related to identity. Spirituality also helps to provide a sense of meaning and purpose. A second level of analysis examined how participants think about and critically reflect upon their beliefs. Elaborative coding, based upon King and Kitchener’s (1994) reflective judgment model, was used to group participants’ assessment of their beliefs into stages, and then interpreted using the reflective judgment model. The findings show that participants’ personal epistemology influence their spiritual beliefs. Moving up the reflective judgment model, spiritual beliefs in the lower stages are explicit, relatively simple beliefs created largely from a dogmatic opposition to religion. Justification for beliefs is based upon unjustified opinion or description, and spirituality is not a central part of their lived experiences. Higher staged participants describe a greater understanding of and appreciation for a constructivist nature of knowledge which contributes to spiritual beliefs that are more complex and grounded in their understanding of epistemology. This study demonstrates the importance of encouraging critical thinking skills in relation to spirituality.

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