In recent years many people have come to distinguish between "religious" and "spiritual". When describing their views, people may say something along the lines of "I am not religious, I'm spiritual" to convey their ongoing engagement with spirituality despite their disaffection with organized religion. This distinction brings up the issue of just what we mean by the term "religion" and how broadly or narrowly we use it. Does religion refer any attempt to engage existential questions? Or does it refer only to organized, institutional expressions of spirituality? This question was the focus of a vote by the Psychology of Religion division (Division 36) of the American Psychological Association, when its members voted on changing its name to explicitly include spirituality. The vote was close, with the membership almost evenly divided. Although the vote fell short of the 2/3rds majority needed to change the name, the fact that a majority voted in favor of the change suggests that many psychologists agree with others who see spirituality as distinct from religion.
Another way that the issue arises comes in the form of groups such as The Brights, who are interested in existential questions but find naturalistic answers more compelling than traditional religious ones. Go to this link where you can read a statement by The Brights and consider whether you would include brights as relevant to the psychology of religion. Do you think that psychologists have something to gain by studying individuals who take the brights' viewpoint? If so, what? If not, why not?