Higher levels of religious involvement are modestly associated with better health, after taking account of other influences, such as age, sex and social support. However, little account is taken of spiritual beliefs that are not tied to personal or public religious practice. Our objective was to develop a standardized measure of spirituality for use in clinical research. We characterized the core components of spirituality using narrative data from a purposive sample of people, some of whom were near the end of their lives. These data were developed into statements in a scale to measure strength of spiritual beliefs and its reliability, validity and factor structure were evaluated in order to reach a final version. Thirty-nine people took part in the qualitative study to define the nature of spirituality in their lives. These data were used to construct a 47-item instrument that was evaluated in 372 people recruited in medical and non-medical settings. Analysis of these statements led to a 24-item version that was evaluated in a further sample of 284 people recruited in similar settings. The final 20-item questionnaire performed with high test-retest and internal reliability and measures spirituality across a broad religious and non-religious perspective. A measure of spiritual belief that is not limited to religious thought, may contribute to research in psychiatry and medicine.