Some people use spirituality and religion interchangeably, but the fact is, while they are not opposite, they aren’t the same either. So, what is the connection between the two?
Life and the universe have for thousands of years, had human beings searching for answers to what are also referred to as “soul questions,” namely:
- Who am I?
- What exactly do I want from life?
- What is my purpose for being here?
- What is the meaning of life?
Spirituality and religion have throughout history, been the ways for humans, from the viewpoint of the soul, to discover these truths. Even though religion and spirituality are similar in many ways, and there is a connection between the two, they do differ in several ways.
Spirituality – this is the experience that some people have of being connected to something that’s bigger than them and live their lives in sacred and worshipful ways. Christina Puchalski MD, who is trying to integrate spirituality into health care, believes that spirituality is that part of human life that explains the way each person looks for and expresses the way they feel connected to themselves, others, nature, and to the sacred or significant, at any given moment.
Religion – on the other hand, religion is a system of institutionalized or personal set of religious beliefs, practices, and attitudes – the worship and service of God or the supernatural.
Origins Of Spirituality And Religion
Spirituality is based mainly on practicing what the founder teaches. For example, spiritualists will take the advice of Matsuo Basho, Japanese poet, who says that, rather than follow in the footsteps of a wise person, pursue what they looked for.
Religion is based primarily on the teachings, beliefs, and lives of historical role models like Muhammad, Christ, Buddha, Krishna, and Moses. Everything holy or significant in their lives has been carried down through time via written scriptures and oral traditions. The basis of religious rituals and practices in communities are based on the worship of these historical figures.
When The Lines Between Religion And Spiritualism Are Blurred
Sometimes, the lines between religion and spiritualism become somewhat blurred and cause people to become confused as to which is which. For instance, there are people who will tell you that they are religious but not spiritual, and others, who believe themselves to be spiritual but not religious.
Studying the most defining differences between the two could help to clear things up. It is best to remember that the distinctions between religion and spiritualism are not set in stone, but simply general ideas to help people to determine the qualities between two equally effective ways to finding the truth.
Organised As Opposed To Unstructured
Organisation is one of the trademarks of religion. It is primarily structured and with many rules that to a certain degree, oversees the behaviour of its religious members. Laws, ethical rules, doctrines, and specific criteria and codes are all part of the organised structure that makes up the specific religious belief system, and this is not really a bad thing. The rules and creed of organised religion was extremely helpful in uncertain times in giving society the feeling that everything was okay and helped to comfort and guide those who lacked any form of faith.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is free from any of the rigid rules and regulations associated with religion. Spiritualists know when they are veering off the path of self-discovery, and rather than follow a set of rules, will follow their inner call to lead the way. This act of doing things solo can sometimes give the feeling of rebellion, of leaving the tribe. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American philosopher, it is a great accomplishment to simply be yourself when everyone else is trying to shape you into someone you are not.
Objective As Opposed To A Subjective Experience
Formal religion is generally an objective experience that usually focuses on externals like observances, books of scripture, rituals, and houses of worship like churches and temples. This is the same as object-referral, where your attention is on the objects of your religious experience.
With spirituality, on the other hand, the awareness of your soul leans more toward internalisation or self-referral. It is an inward journey where a shift in awareness is involved, instead of some type of external activity. Therefore, instead of outer worship, spirituality is significantly more about understanding your inner self. This doesn’t mean that worship is not a part of spirituality however, but more of where the worship and devotion are focussed – on an external figurehead, object, or practice, or to the soul, divinity within, or the higher self.
Evolutionary As Opposed To The Evolutionary Approach
Spirituality – most times, spirituality focusses less on the rigid, traditional approach of religion, and leans more toward the evolutionary approach. This gives spiritualists a more adaptive and flexible mindset toward the central teachings of great wisdom traditions, but at the same time, makes them understand the evolutionary process of spiritual growth. With spirituality, change and evolution are embraced, so interpretations and ideas change with societies, individuals, and the world as they move forward.
Religion – because religion has been around for thousands of years, its roots by nature, are deeply rooted in doctrine, tradition, creed, and ritual. Religious institutions cling rigidly to the past and the original versions of their founder’s teachings and guard their values and practices conservatively. This is quite understandable, seeing that all religions want to preserve the core of their teachings to enable them to transmit them accurately through the years in future.
Belief As Opposed To Spiritual Experience
Religion – religion is all about faith, where religious individuals believe in something created on the unconditional acceptance of their religious teachings. Religion doesn’t need evidence to prove its claims, unlike the scientific views of others. Religious individuals learn to have faith in the scriptures or God, and that it is the flawless and final truth of reality. According to religion, acceptance and surrender to God are the main and only path that will lead to salvation.
Spirituality – although spirituality leans more toward direct experience of divinity or the soul, it does not dismiss religion altogether. Yoga, medication, silence, and contemplation are spiritual activities that let you make contact consciously, with an extended state of consciousness. It is an experience that helps you to prove teachings, instead of simply accepting them on faith alone. You don’t have to accept the word of others, because you have actually lived the experience, which is why you know it and let it resonate.
Fear Versus Love
Religion sometimes contains a certain amount of fear intertwined in their teachings. The idea of the wrath of God, Divine judgement, or punishment for the rest of eternity, can result in a mentality full of anxiety and worry about your worthiness or whether your activities will cause you to experience karmic punishment or divine retribution. Thoughts of drowning in the rivers of fire in hell, can result in you continuously worrying about your fate in the afterlife.
Spirituality alternatively, eliminates thoughts of worry and fear, and instead, gives one a more compassionate and loving approach to both life and death. It embraces an awareness that supports all humans with unconditional love and kindness, on their path to awakening The choices you make are guided by a yearning to end suffering and to do what you can to create a loving, peaceful world for humankind, and not through fear of being punished for our actions.
Obviously, there are definite similarities between religion and spirituality, but these are not absolutes or there to put the one against the other. Spiritual beliefs and religious beliefs are different because of the way they are practiced, with each practice serving to guide you closer to the truth you are looking for.
Whether you choose religion, spirituality, or a combination of both, it is the way you want to experience your journey of awakening.
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