Spirituality vs Religion

So, just what is the difference between Spirituality and Religion? Some people ask, so I thought I would give you my take on things. I recently saw a post on Facebook that said “Religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there!” Without being derogatory to Religion, there is probably some truth in there.

Please understand that I am not anti-Religion. I appreciate the many benefits that it offers, and I believe that the world is a better place for having Religion in it. Another quote springs to mind here –  “[insert religion here]’s are not better than other people, they are just better people than they would have been if they were not [insert religion here].” You could actually insert the word Spirituality in there too, to be fair!

I just feel that I have outgrown Religion. I feel it has its limitations, for me, and I’ve chosen something else. I’ve tried lots of different flavours of ice-cream too. Some I like and some are not for me. It doesn’t make the other flavours ‘wrong’. I wouldn’t hold an intervention to say that other people shouldn’t eat those flavours. They are all valid choices.

So, what’s the difference, for those that want to know? (Please understand that some generalisation will be made here. This is a blog post, not a research paper.) One of the main differences, as I see it, is that Religion tends to offer one particular path to salvation (or union with the Divine) and Spirituality offers many ways. In the most common Religions, we are born tainted or impure and must spend our lives becoming ‘good enough’, through service, suffering or certain codes of behaviour. Sometimes dispensations are made on our behalf to become ‘worthy’. Certain Religions also believe themselves to be the only ones who are ‘right’ or ‘chosen’. A bit of bad luck for everyone else, then.

With Spirituality (at least the way I have been exposed to it), we are all inherently worthy, because the Divine is already a part of us. We are each individual sparks of Creative force. There is no particular ‘way’, but many experiences that we may choose for ourselves. As darkness enhances the light, these experiences allow us to discover our true selves, by first exploring what we are not. There is no good or bad, no wrong or right, there is just learning. Some of our choices are more destructive, certainly. Our choices have consequences, but these ultimately only mean that our journey towards wholeness becomes longer or shorter, more messy or more graceful. With Religion, the wrong choices can get you sent to Hell, or at least see your name scratched off the guest list in Heaven!

Most Religions also see Heaven and Hell as places. Spirituality perceives them more as states of being (and you don’t need to wait until you die to experience either!). Most (though not all) Religions see death as fairly permanent. Unless, of course you make the right choices (that one path). Spirituality embraces the eternal journey of the Soul. The end of this life means the beginning of the next one. Certainly the choices in this life set you up for the type of experiences you will have in the next, but there is no ‘punishment’ other than that which you dish out to yourself. You will always be given the opportunity to clean up any mess that you make, to redress the balance. However long it takes. There are no ‘three strikes and you’re out of the game’.

Another difference is that Religion tends to place an intermediary between you and ‘God’. Some people are more ‘special’ or ‘holy’, and you will need their help or guidance to get to where you are going (the ‘Holy encounter’). You will never outgrow your need for their intervention. Spiritual people (at least aim to) see the Holy encounter in everything. That’s what Namaste means, pretty much. ‘the God in me, greets the God in you.’

This is not a comprehensive answer. I am certainly not an expert on the many Religions in the world or even on the many and varied ways that fellow travellers express their own Spirituality. It is, however, a good enough answer to express why I personally choose one label over the other. It is my understanding of the journey I’m on. That journey is constantly evolving and deepening, so.. let’s say this is my nutshell for now.

And what about Atheists? ..Oh, those guys are crazy!! (Joke!!) That’s another valid place to be at, given certain ones’ experiences of life. I’ve been there too. I get it. Sometimes you need to turn away from something for a while, in order to ultimately move closer. I’m sure they’ll get as many lifetimes to work it out as they need. We never know what someone else’s journey is. I applaud them for not blindly believing in something they haven’t experienced for themselves. Discernment is an important value for us all to employ. Not everyone is who they say they are. There are deceitful and there are good hearted people in all walks and persuasions. One’s beliefs don’t limit the amount of good or the amount of damage one can do.

Please understand that I am not anti-Religion. I appreciate the many benefits that it offers, and I believe that the world is a better place for having Religion in it. Another quote springs to mind here –  “[insert religion here]’s are not better than other people, they are just better people than they would have been if they were not [insert religion here].” You could actually insert the word Spirituality in there too, to be fair!

I just feel that I have outgrown Religion. I feel it has its limitations, for me, and I’ve chosen something else. I’ve tried lots of different flavours of ice-cream too. Some I like and some are not for me. It doesn’t make the other flavours ‘wrong’. I wouldn’t hold an intervention to say that other people shouldn’t eat those flavours. They are all valid choices.

So, what’s the difference, for those that want to know? (Please understand that some generalisation will be made here. This is a blog post, not a research paper.) One of the main differences, as I see it, is that Religion tends to offer one particular path to salvation (or union with the Divine) and Spirituality offers many ways. In the most common Religions, we are born tainted or impure and must spend our lives becoming ‘good enough’, through service, suffering or certain codes of behaviour. Sometimes dispensations are made on our behalf to become ‘worthy’. Certain Religions also believe themselves to be the only ones who are ‘right’ or ‘chosen’. A bit of bad luck for everyone else, then.

With Spirituality (at least the way I have been exposed to it), we are all inherently worthy, because the Divine is already a part of us. We are each individual sparks of Creative force. There is no particular ‘way’, but many experiences that we may choose for ourselves. As darkness enhances the light, these experiences allow us to discover our true selves, by first exploring what we are not. There is no good or bad, no wrong or right, there is just learning. Some of our choices are more destructive, certainly. Our choices have consequences, but these ultimately only mean that our journey towards wholeness becomes longer or shorter, more messy or more graceful. With Religion, the wrong choices can get you sent to Hell, or at least see your name scratched off the guest list in Heaven!

Most Religions also see Heaven and Hell as places. Spirituality perceives them more as states of being (and you don’t need to wait until you die to experience either!). Most (though not all) Religions see death as fairly permanent. Unless, of course you make the right choices (that one path). Spirituality embraces the eternal journey of the Soul. The end of this life means the beginning of the next one. Certainly the choices in this life set you up for the type of experiences you will have in the next, but there is no ‘punishment’ other than that which you dish out to yourself. You will always be given the opportunity to clean up any mess that you make, to redress the balance. However long it takes. There are no ‘three strikes and you’re out of the game’.

Another difference is that Religion tends to place an intermediary between you and ‘God’. Some people are more ‘special’ or ‘holy’, and you will need their help or guidance to get to where you are going (the ‘Holy encounter’). You will never outgrow your need for their intervention. Spiritual people (at least aim to) see the Holy encounter in everything. That’s what Namaste means, pretty much. ‘the God in me, greets the God in you.’

This is not a comprehensive answer. I am certainly not an expert on the many Religions in the world or even on the many and varied ways that fellow travellers express their own Spirituality. It is, however, a good enough answer to express why I personally choose one label over the other. It is my understanding of the journey I’m on. That journey is constantly evolving and deepening, so.. let’s say this is my nutshell for now.

And what about Atheists? ..Oh, those guys are crazy!! (Joke!!) That’s another valid place to be at, given certain ones’ experiences of life. I’ve been there too. I get it. Sometimes you need to turn away from something for a while, in order to ultimately move closer. I’m sure they’ll get as many lifetimes to work it out as they need. We never know what someone else’s journey is. I applaud them for not blindly believing in something they haven’t experienced for themselves. Discernment is an important value for us all to employ. Not everyone is who they say they are. There are deceitful and there are good hearted people in all walks and persuasions. One’s beliefs don’t limit the amount of good or the amount of damage one can do.

*Photo from Pexels – Pixabay.

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