Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds by Harriet Sherwood for The Guardian
If this study is accurate, and religious children are less compassionate, what about spiritual children? If we put people into four categories:
1. religious and spiritual
2. religious and NOT spiritual
3. non religious and spiritual, and
4. non religious and not spiritual
Years of studies by Lisa Miller, director of clinical psychology at Columbia Teacher’s College, reveal that the traits of spiritual children, whether in the religious or non religious category, are far more positive than children who were not spiritual. There we 80% less likely to suffer from depression and far less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Miller defines spirituality as having a sense of some unifying force, whether that force is thought of as God, nature, the universe, or any other term/concept. Spiritual children had higher self-esteems and displayed far greater compassion and happiness.
So if spirituality raises healthier, happier, wiser, more responsible children, the question is “How do we promote spirituality?” And we ask this question regardless of whether they are religious or not. Since 1977 Rainbow Community School has made spiritual development a core part of our holistic program. (See The Spiritual Domain for an explanation of how it is implemented.)
What about religious children? It is interesting to note that religiosity does not inherently generate spirituality. While the children who were religious and spiritual conveyed all the benefits of spirituality, of the four categories, the children who were religious and NOT spiritual were at the highest risk for substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and depression. It is important that people don’t read this article by the Guardian and draw the conclusion that religion is bad. Religion is perhaps more about customs and ethnicity–nothing wrong with that! Religion is only a problem if it gets in the way of compassionate spirituality.