Spirituality, Religion and Palliative Care Nursing Other chapter (not listed above)

Excerpt from Other chapter (not listed above) :

Religion and Spirituality

According to Ferrell & Coyle (2010), religion and spirituality both fall under the rubric of "experiencing transcendence," (p. 14). The difference between religion and spirituality is in the ways transcendence is codified. Religions offer specific languages and modes of discourse, whereas spirituality remains more nebulous because of the lack of the need to share or express ideas with others. Religion has a social function, and can even be conceived of as a means of social control. As a sociological phenomenon, religion serves a totally different purpose and function in a person's life. Spirituality is more of a psychological than a sociological phenomenon, but unlike religion, has no bearing on community. As Judy Labonte states in her blog post, spirituality is much "broader" than religion, and it is important that nurses working in palliative care be sensitive to the personal beliefs of people, even when those beliefs do not fit neatly into a religious rubric. Just because a person does not identify with being Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or any other organized religion, it does not mean that the individual denies some type of "transcendence," as Ferrell & Coyle (2010) put it or, as Matzo & Sherman (2015) put it, the need to heal and be "whole," (cited by Labonte, 2015).

I appreciate the way Labonte analyzed the difference between religion and spirituality. While this difference may seem superficial to some people, I have witnessed the importance of spirituality in the lives of people who do not attend church or feel that religion matters in their lives. To the staunchly religious, spirituality might seem like a copout. It is not up to the nurse to make judgments about a person's needs, values, or beliefs. The nurse, even if atheist or devoutly religious, needs to understand what spirituality means. Ferrell & Coyle (2010) state that spirituality is "not connected to religion or belief in deity," (p. 41). Thus, a person can be an atheist and still be spiritual, even if that seems contradictory. One can believe, for example, in alternative forms of healing and the use of meditation as part of a healthy lifestyle, and still not believe in God. I would also like to add that from what I understand, Buddhism is a perfect example of an atheist religion. Buddhism is about cultivating awareness and not about prayer or an actual "God," as conceived of in other religions. Nurses might need to read about alternative spiritualties and atheist religions like Buddhism if they have trouble understanding patients who do not ascribe either to a religion or are atheist themselves.


Ferrell, B.R. & Coyle, N. (2010). Oxford Textbook of…

Sources Used in Document:


Ferrell, B.R. & Coyle, N. (2010). Oxford Textbook of Palliative Nursing. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wolpe, D. (2013). Viewpoint: The limitations of being spiritual but not religions. Time. March 21, 2013. Retrieved online: http://ideas.time.com/2013/03/21/viewpoint-the-problem-with-being-spiritual-but-not-religious/

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