Exploring How Spirituality Shapes Conceptualizations of and Feelings About Disability
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Disability is a common theme among many religious texts. The Christian Bible in particular displays disability in a negative way. In spite of this, Christian people with disabilities often use their spirituality as a tool to deal positively with issues and feelings related to their disability. Additionally, little is known about atheist people with disabilities regarding their conceptualizations and feelings about disability. The current study explores two research questions: 1) How do people with disabilities’ spiritual beliefs affect their conceptualizations of disability?; and 2) How do people with disabilities’ spiritual beliefs affect how they feel about disability? Data for this study were gathered from email interviews of five individuals with disabilities who identified as Christian and five individuals with disabilities who identified as atheist/agnostic. Email interviews were used to explore the research questions. The results of the study indicated that there are more intra-group differences than there are inter-group differences in the ways that Christians and atheists/agnostics think and feel about disability. In terms of conceptualizations of disability, both groups saw disability as inherently negative. Atheist/agnostics reported that their spiritual beliefs did not interact with their conceptualizations of disability and used medical model-like ways of thinking about disability. Christian participants used the medical model, moral model, and the charity model in their conceptualizations of disability. In terms of their feelings about disability, both Christians and atheists/agnostics used similar ways of dealing with problems related to their disabilities. Overall, people from both spiritual groups relied on developing a sense of connection with others to deal with problems related to disability.