What’s the difference?
Religion and spirituality contain similar concepts. Religion is the practice of giving one’s life to God through faith and devotion. Spirituality offers the freedom to discover God within yourself. Below we will help take apart these notions so that there is comprehensive language around these concepts and you can decide for yourself.
Religion can revolve around books, churches, temples , mosques , priests, pastors or bishops that mediate the messages of “God”. The purpose of serving one higher being and in some religions many higher beings, serves in shepherding followers toward a common functionality and purpose. Spirituality is a toolkit of multiple alchemical practices that initiate a self-understanding of the concept of the Universal Divine. This "knowing" is derived from personal internal experiences rather than the external practice of proselytizing.
While religion and spirituality have similarities, they may differ on an individual level. What it means to be religious or spiritual is a personal journey. This perspective offers some comfort for the mind of a person questioning whether they could be religious or more spiritual in nature.
What is the purpose of religion?
The purpose of religion is to unite a group or community toward a common theme or goal, that is of higher mind and toward a singular ideology. Religion can give a rich inner knowledge that above all, everything is for a greater purpose and in the hands of a higher power- the notion that God works through you, helping you, guiding you towards a better life. It also encourages that to know God is to know yourself and that by giving yourself over to something larger, you will be cared for. The quandary some find with religion is that the knowing of self has been intercepted and replaced with the dogma of unquestioning submission, and distorted by religious leaders.
“Religion that teaches or encourages judgment of self and the other is often very disturbing to the psyche...”, Psychology Today’s, Andrea Mathews, LPC, NCC.
This can mean that we may be held back by beliefs that do not encourage growth, and keep us frozen in time with antiquated rules, approaches and judgments..
What is the purpose of spirituality
The purpose of spirituality is to connect to the higher centers of the mind and to the spirit of life that works with you and guides you toward knowing the self while knowing “God” at the same time. Spirituality is an individual connection to an ethereal world through logical reasoning and personal judgement. It allows one to experience the Divine without the intervention of a mediator prescribing what it should look and feel like. Spirituality recognizes that religion is one of many ways to connect to our inner truth so long as the freedom of discernment is present.
“...spirituality on the other hand, would encourage compassion for self and the other. Judgment not only diminishes self-esteem and a sense of well-being, but also often causes us to repress aspects of self that we might deem to be unworthy of approval”. Andrea Mathews, LPC, NCC.
Is one better than the other?
While religion and spirituality really do go hand in hand, one can be religious without being spiritual and spiritual without believing in or accepting organized religion. What is desirable is to have both religion and spirituality be incorporated into a single practice; the relationship to a higher power is externally supported by the knowledgeable guidance of a shepherd and then reinforced by personal connection and inner authority. The idea is that neither one is the only path to God.
Research Study: Are Americans religious, spiritual, or neither?
- 27% of Americans say they are more spiritual than religious, up 19 percent in 2012, according to a Pew Research study done in 2017.
- 44% of Americans don’t believe in biblical God, Pew 2017.
- 59% of adults feel a sense of spiritual peace and wellbeing at least once a week--a majority of these people are between the ages of 30-49.
Ultimately, we all hope to achieve a way to find a sense of wellbeing. Whether Religion or Spirituality is "better" comes down to which one is better for you personally. The choice to blend, borrow and meld practices should be done compassionately and respectfully. In today's world with access to so many customs, we can embrace varied viewpoints, bring understanding and acceptance of one another and come to a place of inviting conversation. We are all living different experiences and bring personal perspectives due to demographics, race, ancestral ties and lineages. Keep an open mind.