In this blog, we will discuss the “Difference between Religion and Spirituality”
What is the difference between Religion and Spirituality?
Although we’ve heard the word religion and spirituality together, they aren’t the same thing. For thousands of years, humanity has been searching for the Truth (the answers to life and the universe).
What is Religion?
Religion is a social-cultural system of identified behaviours and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that associates humanity to supernatural or spiritual elements. Different religions have different faiths, sacred things, or divine. Religious practices include rituals, sermons, saints or deities, festivals, sacrifices, feasts, trances, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture.
Religions have sacred histories that may be preserved in scripts and holy places. The biggest religions of the world, regarding followers, are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and others.
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality refers to a religious process of reformation. In ancient times, this referred to life orientated towards the Holy Spirit and the mental aspects of life. In modern times it refers to the experience of a sacred dimension and the meaning of life. Spirituality is recognizing the feeling, sense, or belief that there is an existence superior to us. The opening of the heart is a basic aspect of true spirituality. Our lives have importance in a context that’s beyond human existence.
It involves exploring universal themes like love, compassion, altruism, life after death, wisdom and truth, with knowing that some people like enlightened individuals have achieved higher levels of development than the ordinary person.
Here are some things that differentiate Religion from Spirituality.
Origins of Religion and Spirituality
Religion is based on the lives, teachings, and beliefs of a historical figure (e.g., Christ, Muhammed, Krishna, Buddha, Moses). The details of their lives as holy or highly developed beings have made us travel across time through oral tradition and written scriptures. These figures are a subject of worship and form a foundation of religious practices and rituals in the community.
Spirituality is based on the practical application of the founder’s teachings. Spiritual aspirants use the advice of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, “Don’t seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”
Some people consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. Similarly, some people are religious, but not deeply spiritual.
Objective vs Subjective Experience
Religion, on the whole, is an objective experience. There is a great focus on:
- House of Worship e.g., Church, Mosque, Temples.
- The Holy Books e.g., Bible, Quran, Psalms, Torah
- Eternal rituals
Spirituality leans towards the internalization of your awareness of your soul. It is an inward journey of a shift in awareness rather than a form of external activity. It is more inner understanding than outer worship. The devotion is dedicated to:
- To the practice or figurehead
- To your soul or divinity within
Organized vs Formless
One of the hallmarks of religion is its organization. It is a structured, rule-based construct that governs the behaviors of its members. Moral rules, laws, doctrines, specific codes and criteria,
Create an organized structure that contains the religion’s specific belief system. These rules give society a sense of certainty and guided and comforted those who lacked faith. Religion aims to build one’s character. It shapes one’s beliefs, attitudes, and actions by giving importance to the obedience of rules. This unites the people who share the same religion.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is free form the restrictions associated with religion. The spiritual aspirant realizes he/she is on a path of self-discovery. They do not follow a set of rules but on their inner call to spirit. It can feel like a rebellious act of going on a solo path, leaving behind the tribe. It focuses more on each person’s soul. It focuses more on the quality of the message that is being offered.
Exclusive vs Inclusive
Traditional religious beliefs, create an exclusive worldview that isolates those who do not share the same views or interceptions. Religion is solely based on worshipping the Almighty and following the right path. This sometimes isolates the minorities or those who seem unworthy of God’s favor.
Spirituality doesn’t make such distinctions. It favors an inclusive approach. The pure spirit is a unifying force, so no one is left out. It says that you’re part of a universal hologram, as gods and goddesses in disguise. In this perspective, everyone is welcome in God’s eyes.
Belief vs Spiritual Experience
Religion is all about faith. It is based upon the unconditional acceptance of the religion’s teachings. This does not require evidence to validate their claims. You are taught to have faith in God and the scriptures as the ultimate truth of reality. Acceptance and surrender to the divine are taught as the paths that lead to ultimate salvation. It requires you to be obedient with their beliefs, keeping them fixed to scriptures or what is taught by the religious leaders.
Spirituality leans heavily on direct experience of the soul or divinity but it doesn’t dismiss faith. Practices such as meditation, yoga, silence, and contemplation allow you to make contact with the expanded states of consciousness, thus helping to invalidate the teachings. You have to taste the experience and allow it to resonate, rather than taking the word of another. It tells them to listen to their inner voice and use it as a guide to living a good life. Due to this,
spiritual people may change their beliefs throughout their life.
Fear vs Love
Religion can sometimes have subtle undercurrents of fear intertwined into their teachings. The concept of original sin, divine judgment, God’s wrath, or eternal punishment can create a mental environment filled with worry and anxiety about your worthiness and whether your actions will result in divine retribution or karmic punishment. Your fate in the afterlife will influence your thoughts and behavior.
Spirituality favors a more lovable and compassionate approach to life and death. It supports all beings to go on their path to awaken their love and kindness. Your choices and behaviors are not guided by fear of punishment, rather by a desire to end all your sufferings and create a peaceful and loving world for everyone.
Truth Discovered vs Truth Defined
When a person subscribes to a certain religion, it defines the spiritual truths for the members. These truths are documented in a tangible document for all members to reference and share with the general public as well.
A person discovers their truths when they find their spirituality. These tend to evolve, change, and expand over time. Through these practices, an individual defines their truth. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “One’s everyday life is never capable of being separated from his spiritual being.”
Either or Both
It is possible to be spiritual but not religious, where one has a personal practice but does not belong to an organized religious group. Or be religious but not spiritual, where one belongs to and practices with a certain religion but does not have a spiritual connection. Most people who are spiritual with personal beliefs and a connection to something greater than them are also religious, practicing a certain religion. Religion supports the development of a person’s spirituality by providing a foundation within which one can seek knowledge. For many people, it is difficult to separate them both resulting in a holistic approach to religion and spirituality.
Spiritual Leaders and Religious Leaders
A religious leader is one who is recognised by a religious body as having authority within that body. He gives religious orders and makes someone learn the words or teachings of God. He has little power over religious people but he is their guide and ensures that they live a life following God’s path. Like Buddhist monks and nuns, imams, pastors, priests, punjaris, and leaders of other faith communities. They play a powerful role in shaping attitudes, opinions, and behaviours because their members trust them. Community members and political leaders also listen to them. At the community level, they raise awareness and influence people. They can shape social values following faith-based teachings.
A spiritual leader is someone who guides or inspires others to follow their spiritual path. They rule sacred affairs. This leadership comes out from our life force or spirit. This is rooted in communities and histories so one person or group cannot define it for another. Spiritual leadership is the use of the power of our deepest vision, values, and hopes as a creative force to strengthen ourselves and our communities and to work for justice. This is about taking the lead and having others follow. E.g., Ibn e Arabi was a spiritual leader who inspired and supported Ertugrul Bey.
Life After Death
There is a concept of life after death in both religion and spirituality. The Afterlife is an existence that continues the stream of a person’s consciousness after the death of their physical body.
In Religion, this method is used to make a person do good deeds in their life. The concept of Heaven and Hell is used to keep humans away from sins. It’s a simple ideology that if a person sins in his life, he’ll go to Hell but if he does all the good deeds, then he will go to Heaven.
In spirituality, there is more focus on the concept of the Afterlife. They believe that there is a place where a person goes after he dies but the concept of Heaven and Hell is not clear. The concept of reincarnation is more prevalent.
What’s the best way to heal the world?
We heal the world, by healing ourselves. That’s where our faith in religion and spirituality comes from. We have to first heal our souls before healing someone else. Spiritualism and Religion, both have the power to lift your spirits, to bring joy, and give you hope. We need to share the hope for a better tomorrow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to distinguish between religion and spirituality?
Religion aims to build one’s character. It shapes one’s beliefs, attitudes, and actions by giving importance to the adherence of rules. It unites people who share the same religion. Spirituality whereas concentrates more on each person’s soul.
How are spirituality and religion related?
Religion and Spirituality are both rooted in trying to understand the meaning of life and how a relationship with higher power may influence that meaning. Religion is an organized, community-based system of beliefs, while spirituality resides within the individual and what they believe in.
Do you need religion to be spiritual?
Religion is not important to be spiritual. Being spiritual but not religious means you do not need a church or community. People don’t need an organized religion to live a life of faith.
Can I believe in God without religion?
Agnosticism is the doctrine of agnostics about the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena or God and is not a religion. An Atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of God or gods or a spiritual force of any kind.
Is spirituality related to God?
Spirituality is the term used to talk about a person’s relation with God. How some people think about religion and spirituality is guided by what they see and do in their congregations.
Titles to Read
- Fingerprints of God: What Science Is Learning About the Brain and Spiritual Experience by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
- God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter by Stephen Prothero
- What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual? by J.-M. Kuczynski
- The Re-Enchantment: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder by Hank Wesselman
- What is the DIFFERENCE between your SOUL and SPIRIT? (Christian Lifestyle Book 1) by Krasimir Ganchev
- Putting Joy Into Practice: Seven Ways to Lift Your Spirit from the Early Church by Phoebe Farag Mikhail