By Tiffany Melanis
Edited by Johnny Dickerson
Tegan Plock, Walid Yaghy and Erin Weeks were each raised differently, but the three University of South Carolina students share one fundamental thing – their spirituality.
The spiritual but not religious movement has some people turning inward for answers. In a recent Pew survey, 16 percent of Americans said they were unaffiliated with a particular religion.
Plock, who says, "I'm just a hippie," finds her spirituality in nature. Yaghy finds it in art, and Weeks, who says "I practice it everyday," reaches spirituality in ethics and morality.
Susan Galvan, psychotherapist, spiritual mentor and advice columnist for a spiritual but not religious website, SBNR.org, says spirituality is becoming more appealing, especially to college-age people, because it exemplifies freedom of thought and action.
Hal French, a religion teacher at USC and author of "Zen and the Art of Anything," says that over the past 15 years he has seen a significant increase in the students who choose to be spiritual but not religious. For many, it's the first time they've been on their own and are able to make unpressured decisions, he says.
A recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles found that even though student attendance at religious services decreased between freshman and junior years, the students' level of spirituality increased.
"I think, for students, spirituality means less structure, less dogma, less identification," French says. "The downside of it is that some people unfortunately claim it when they are lazy in their religious practices."
But there also is a lot of integrity in students trying to reach a spiritual path on their own, he says.
The Rev. Michael Platanis of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral disagrees."One really can discover things on their own," he says, "but they can just as easily get lost in their own devices."
Though Platanis doesn't feel his church risks losing members, he does think people trying to reach spirituality outside of church may be putting themselves in danger.
"Making things up as you go doesn't really work well because people are very self-absorbed and selfish creatures," he says.