In the last several decades, especially among clinical psychologists, a preference for the terms "spirituality" and "spiritual" has emerged, along with efforts to distinguish them from "religion" and "religious." Especially in the United States, "religion" has for many become associated with sectarian institutions and their obligatory creeds and rituals, thus giving the word a negative cast; "spirituality," in contrast, is positively constructed as deeply individual and subjective, as a universal capacity to apprehend and accord one's life with higher realities.
Pargament (1997) suggests that rather than limiting the usage of “religion” to functional terms, a search for meaning, or substantive terms, anything related to the sacred, we can consider the interplay of these two vantage points.
William James' hypothesis of pragmatism stems from the efficacy of religion.
If an individual believes in and performs religious activities, and those actions happen to work, then that practice appears the proper choice for the individual.
Schnitker and Emmons theorized that the understanding of religion as a search for meaning makes implications in the three psychological areas of motivation, cognition and social relationships.
It attempts to accurately describe the details, origins, and uses of religious beliefs and behaviors.
Many areas of religion remain unexplored by psychology.
While religion and spirituality play a role in many people’s lives, it is uncertain how they lead to outcomes that are at times positive, and at other times negative.
His Varieties of Religious Experience is considered to be the classic work in the field, and references to James' ideas are common at professional conferences.
James distinguished between institutional religion and personal religion.