Religious Discrimination At Workplace-Law

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Religious Discrimination at Workplace-Law

Religious Discrimination at Workplace-Law

Research Analysis

The very dichotomy of spirituality and religion helps reinforce the view that spirituality is unifying, and how that opposition leads some advocates of spiritual belief to offer inconsistent grounds for admitting employees' spirituality, but not religion, into the workplace. But what is spirituality? Some of the scholars of and “experts” on spirituality and belief choose not to provide a definition of spirituality for, as they claim, it might create conflict. In such a view, providing a definition could imply the very kind of dogmatic rigidity that spirituality is meant to transcend. This section asserts, however, that the failure of belief scholars to define spirituality with precision not only avoids creating division but also overlooks tensions, ambiguities, and diversity that already exist.

Mitroff and Denton (1999a), drawing from their surveys and interviews, provide an 11-point definition of spirituality. They begin, not surprisingly, with three points in opposition to religion: First, “[i]n contrast to conventional religion, spirituality is not formal, structured, or organized.” Second, “[s]pirituality is not denominational.” And third, as opposed to the partisan nature of religion, “[s]pirituality is broadly inclusive; it embraces everyone.” The claims the authors make in their subsequent points are wide-ranging. Spirituality is defined as being “universal and timeless,” “the ultimate source and provider of meaning and purpose,” “the sacredness of everything,” and “the deep feeling of interconnectedness of everything,” among other descriptions (pp. 23-25).

Mitroff and Denton go to great lengths to assert that many or most people in the workplace hold such views. Yet to claim that spirituality is a source of common ground is simply to overlook the deeply contested nature of some of these statements. Is spirituality itself a personal agent—as in “[s]pirituality is the ultimate source and provider of meaning and purpose” (p. 24)? This is just one place in which the term “spirituality” seems to stand in as a term for “God.” Many Christians, Jews, and Muslims, at least, would maintain that God, not an abstract notion of spirituality, is “the ultimate source and provider of meaning and purpose.”

Another statement in the Mitroff-Denton definition raises a related issue: “[Spirituality] was there prior to and subsequent to creation” (p. 25). Jews, Muslims, and Christians would make this claim about God, but not necessarily about spirituality. If spirituality is not simply a polite (i.e., nondivisive) way of saying “God,” what would it mean to assert that spirituality existed prior to creation, a time at which, presumably, no humans and no earth existed? If “spirituality” does mean “God,” then the spirituality-religion opposition does not hold.

A person might reply that “spirituality” can mean “God” for some people but not for others; in that approach, then, unity is being sought by simply redefining potential conflicts as common beliefs. It is possible to reply, alternatively, that these questions do not need to be answered in order for spirituality to be important in people's lives. (This author happens to agree on that point). But to assert without further discussion that these ...
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