Discussion Guide

Study Guide

Page v

Which of the short quotations

– do you agree with?
– make(s) you angry?
– have you heard people say (or something like it) ?
– who was that, when and where?



Page ix

Do you understand “convenience sampling, a non propbability….”

Do you understand “snowball sampling”

At one presentation of the book, a member of the audience suggested that the research technique resembled good evangelism… starting with relationships, listening, friends getting other friends involved… non judgemental acceptance…

The book is rich in quotations and the patterns among the 722 respondents are quite clear; but what are some of the limitations of the study?

Do you have questions that you would like to address to Tom Sherwood?

If so, you can do so simply by emailing him at Carleton University in Ottawa: tom.sherwood@carleton.ca

In public presentations, Tom Sherwood has suggested that he thinks the participants from United Church  and Jewish family backgrounds “sound” a little alike in their respect for their formation and the ethical engagement of their religious traditions. He also suggests that participants from Roman Catholic and Muslim backgrounds resemble each other in their anger and passion, although their specific references are quite different.

Do you agree or would you challenge him on this?



“new terms for new phenomena” – are these terms new, if not when did you first hear them, which ones strike you….


For each chapter

Choose the one quotation that

– you most agree with – it could be something that you would say.
– you most disagree with – you have a strong feeling that it is wrong. Why?
– most surprised you.
– least understand – ask other people how they interpret it.



Pages 19-21
The numbering of the 12 points of distinction was confused in the editing. It should read as follows:

The Listening to The Echo participants make enthusiastic positive statements about spirituality, but their negative comments about religion are also significant. They make twelve significant points of distinction.

  1. Religion is patriarchal. It is constructed by men to maintain their own power. It oppresses women and undermines their authority.
            Spirituality is free of patriarchy.
  2. Religion is homophobic, and fails to celebrate the full range of human sexuality and gender identity.
            Spirituality is free of homophobia.
  3. Religion is otherworldly and transcendentalist. It does not have enough to say about the experience of the sacred in creation. It does not teach us how to live harmoniously with nature; rather, it mandates the human species to have power and “dominion” over the earth.
            In our time of ecological crisis, spirituality asks, “What can a human-centred/human-exclusive religion contribute to the survival of the planet?”
  4. Religion is about salvation from Sin, which is understood as doing wrong.
            Spirituality is about saving the planet.
  5. Religion seeks perfection as its goal, but the contemporary era has found perfection to be unrealistic.
            Spirituality seeks wholeness.
  6. Religion is dualistic and instructs the spirit to triumph over the body and its vital desires.
            Spirituality seeks to bring spirit and body, sacredness and sexuality together in a redemptive experience.
  7. Religion is hierarchical and elitist. It rules from above, and excludes the voice of the people and democratic understanding.
    Spirituality is for people who do not trust authority figures.
  8. Religion is dogmatic and external to our lives. It imposes laws and rules upon us and demands that a person conform to devotional practices, without enquiring into the nature of the self that is to be transformed or offering a psychology or pathway by which the individual can be transformed.
    Spirituality allows for individual personal growth and self-actualization.
  9. Religion imposes the Big Story of theology upon our experience without exploring the Little Stories of our individual biographies which might give a theology a foothold in our lives.
    Spiritual people reject religion not because they do not believe, but because they are not believed.
  10. Religion is fused with the social establishment and too identified with business, government, and commerce to be able to offer a critique of the world. Religion does not provide enough challenge to society but simply reinforces and supports its basic values and as such cannot represent the life of the spirit.
    Spirituality is secular in the American sense of separation of church and state, in the Canadian sense of separating religion from public life. Young adults value secular society in which individual private spiritual expression is freely possible.
  11. Religion is monolithic, frozen, fixed, historic.
    Spirituality is dynamic.
  12. Religion is a destination.        Spirituality is a journey.

Page 55
The reference is to Thomas Merton.