New ways of believing or belonging: Is religion giving way to spirituality?

David Voas, Tony Glendinning, Steve Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, the presence of alternative spirituality and practices within the general culture and their relationship to institutional religion are examined using national survey data collected as part of the 2001 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. Alternative practices are found to divide into two groups of interests: concerns with personal well-being and interest in divination. Better-educated women are much more likely to engage with holistic practices associated with well-being; a minority of younger, less well-educated women are more likely to have found horoscopes, astrology, fortune-telling and tarot 'important in their lives'. Church-goers find divination antithetical to religion while the use and salience of a range of holistic practices is as acceptable among churchgoers as it is among non-attenders and the secular (once allowance has been made for the connections between putatively alternative practices, gender, age and education). This under-scores a focus on personal well-being rather than alternative spirituality in the consumption of holistic products and practices within the general culture. The study findings are used to assess claims for a spiritual revolution in modern Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-414
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


  • Alternative practices
  • Divination and well-being
  • Religious practice
  • Spirituality


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