Religion and Spiritual Studies
Key Differences between Religion and Spirituality
Key Differences between Religion and Spirituality
When we talk about faith, there are two terms that readily come to mind—religion and spirituality. Most of the times, these two terms are mistakenly interchanged or even used as synonymous to each other. Religion and spirituality may be closely associated but they are actually different and distinct from each other.
Religion denotes a set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas, and practices that define the relationship between human beings and to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual or divine. On the other hand, spirituality is a broad concept which leaves room for many possible interpretations. But generally, spirituality encompasses a sense of connection to something bigger than one’s self which typically involves a search for meaning in life.
To have a clearer and better understanding of the two, we must first establish a line between them. How is spirituality actually different from religion?
- Religion divides but spirituality unites.
In our world, there are many religions and all of them claim that the story they preach is the right one. This sometimes result to arguments among people in different religions because of their varying views—which is really which? Spirituality sees the truth in all of these stories and it unites them. Despite our differences and uniqueness, spirituality believes that the truth is the same for all. It focuses on the quality of the divine message they share instead of on the differences in the details of the story they speak.
- Religion shows you fear but spirituality teaches you to be brave. Attached with religion is fear. You fear of being judged by other people in your religion and you fear of the consequences of your actions. “If I do this, what would happen to me when I die?” is what you based your actions to. Spirituality makes you mindful of the possible consequences, but it doesn’t want you to focus on the fear. Instead, it encourages you to base your actions on love. Actions based on love empower you—making you feel brave. Despite being afraid of the possible outcomes, you learn to take a stand on your decisions.
- Religion wants you to be dependent but spirituality makes you independent. (by attending religious activity, you’d be happier; happiness is from within and not from others) Religion makes you believe that you are only worthy of happiness if you are seen as a religious person—that is, by participating in religious activities. It makes you see that your happiness depends on what you contribute to religion. Spirituality shows you that your happiness does not need to depend on anything as happiness can always be found deep within you and as such, only you are responsible for your happiness.
- Religion applies punishment but spirituality believes in karma. We are always reminded in our religion that if we disobey certain rules that are set, punishment follows. Our beliefs lie not because we believe what religion says but rather to avoid punishments in not doing what religion demands. Spirituality lets us understand that every action has its own reaction. It lets us realize that the punishment of our actions is based from the reactions coming from the actions we set in motion. Simply put, you get what you give.
- Religion invents but spirituality discovers. Religion has always fed us with what we should believe. It tells us how the universe came to be and what brings us here. It does not throw us questions but rather answers. Spirituality lets you question things and discover the answers for yourself. It always encourages you to find your own truth in all things and gives you unlimited time to absorb the gathered information in order for you to have a deep understanding.
- Religion speaks of conformity but spirituality sets you free.
In religion, there are always certain rules to be obeyed and ideologies to be followed. You are not allowed to question those rules and ideologies. You are told to do it because that is what others are doing—end of conversation. Spirituality sets you free. It does not let you conform to the others. It lets you make choices as to what you want to be without having to imitate others.
- Religion dwells on the past but spirituality encourages living in the present. (religion makes you regret the mistakes you made and constantly reminds you of your sins but spirituality lets you learn from your mistake and to focus on the now.)
Religion constantly reminds you of the mistakes you did in the past. It relentlessly does not forget to tell you about the sins you have done and that you should make repentance. Religion makes you want to feel guilty. Spirituality encourages you to not dwell on your mistakes and to focus on the present. It does not make you regret the mistakes you did so as not to let you get stuck on them. Instead, spirituality lets you learn from your mistakes so you can be better.
There you go! You already know some of the most basic differences between spirituality and religion. To sum this up, just remember what Deepak Chopra said: “Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.”