You may often hear people saying I’m spiritual but not religious. What exactly does that mean?
Religion and spirituality have always been a hot topic of discussion. But have you ever thought what could be the difference between the two?
Simply put, spirituality is personal, whereas religion is institutional. When you say you’re religious, you accept belongingness. You believe in a certain deity or religious institute. But spirituality is a connection with yourself and your soul.
Well, it’s not that simple. Religion and spirituality are pretty sensible subjects, and a superficial knowledge about them isn’t enough. Hence, here is a detailed guide on the same; keep reading to learn further.
What Is Being Religious?
As stated earlier, being religious means when you’re completely devoted to a religious institution and accept the norms of a particular religion.
You acknowledge the presence of an ultimate universal power when you claim to be religious. People regard religion as holy, divine, sacred and absolute. Religion is something that requires special reverence from us.
Being present in religion means providing your prayers to your believed deity as per the institution says. For example, Christians believe in God, Muslims believe in Allah, Hindus have their deities and likewise.
Similarly, there is a sacred Holy book for each religion. The Bible is the scripture for Christians, Muslims read the Quran, and Hindus read the Bhagavad Gita.
Religious participation means attending church, mandir or mosque and offering your prayers regularly. Again, if you’re truly devoted to religious practices, you must follow the institution’s rules.
What Is Being Spiritual?
Spirituality is a broader concept than religion. It’s the acceptance that there is something greater than yourself but not limited to an institute.
Spirituality is the belief that there is a greater power that is beyond our sensory experience, but we’re a part of it. That unseen power is greater than yourself and is divine in nature.
Spirituality makes you realize that there is something greater than our everyday lives. We have a bigger purpose in life; it is the journey to delve into that bigger purpose.
Being spiritual means exploring the universal components like- peace, love, truth, wisdom, the desire to know about the afterlife, altruism, etc. Spiritual people understand, and some may even thrive to achieve the higher self, which saints or Yogis have achieved through years of meditation and different devoted practices.
Spirituality is about developing self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and believing in yourself. When a person becomes completely spiritual, they no longer feel bothered by mundane things like ego, selfishness, jealousy, etc.
Spirituality is much above such petty things. But achieving such a higher state isn’t easy. It requires complete devotion and a lot of work. This is the reason spirituality is much above religion.
A religious person has a somewhat narrow perspective about the higher self. It’s mostly limited to following the customs of a single deity or the norms of a particular religion. But spirituality, as I said, believes in the broader universe.
The Primary Difference Between Religion And Spirituality
Now that you’re clear about the difference between Spirituality and Religion let me take you through the primary differences between the two-
- Spirituality Has No Rules, But Religion Has
Spirituality is the belief in intuition and forming a deeper connection with yourself. In contrast, religion follows a dedicated set of rules or ideologies.
When you’re spiritual, you don’t have the pressure of being good or devoted to your God. Spirituality sets you free from the fear of any punishment or repercussions if you break any rule.
Whereas a religious person always fears the angst of God and of higher authorities. Religion asks you to visit the church, offer prayers in the temple, or read the Bible or Namaz five times a day. There is no such pressure in spirituality; in another sense, it completely sets you free.
In simple words, we can say, spirituality is formless whereas religion is organized. Religion has a proper structure of morality, doctrines, rules, and even specific dress codes, etc.
There is no such thing as spirituality. There is no rigid structure in spirituality, and you actually go on a structureless path of self-discovery.
- Religion Is Objective While Spirituality Is Not
If you’ve noticed, religion is always objective. Any formal religion puts greater importance on external things like the holy scriptures, religious institutes, different rituals in different festivals, etc.
But there is no such thing as spirituality. As I mentioned above, spirituality is more about being aware of yourself. It focuses more on the internal truth and forming a deeper relationship with your inner self.
Therefore, spirituality is always subjective. It may vary from person to person. Your belief system may not match that of another spiritual person, and that’s perfectly fine.
- The Core of Spirituality Is Love, While The Core Of Religion Is Usually Fear
All these differences are pretty interconnected. Again, I have mentioned already that your connection with a specific religion is always based on fear.
You’re always scared about what if you don’t follow the customs of your religion. Or what if you haven’t lived your life as per your Holy scripture? Christians fear the eternal torments they might face in their afterlife, etc.
Spirituality takes this fear off your shoulders. Spirituality always begins with love. It focuses on the positive energies around you. It teaches you to be positive and courageous even in the darkest times of your life.
- Religion Divides You While Spirituality Does Not
Have you seen anyone following two or more religions at the same time? No right. Different religions have different beliefs, and they interpret them in their own way.
Likewise, all religions have their customs, rules, and different ways to offer prayers to their God. This creates differences among people.
But spirituality is beyond that. Spirituality sees the ultimate truth and the divine message. It does not care about how the message is delivered or does not care in what form that ultimate truth is shared.
Hence, spirituality does not create any institutional disparity among people.
- Spirituality Believes In Karma, Not Punishment
All religions, Hinduism, Christianity, or Islam, believe in punishment in the afterlife. But spirituality does not. It instead believes in the Karma or law of attraction.
Spirituality says you get what you give. You’re liable for your actions and believe in the reaction mechanism of the universe. You’ll get the results of your actions in this life; as the saying goes, “you reap what you sow.”
- Religion Is Traditional, While Spirituality Is Evolutionary
Religious practices, customs, rituals, norms, etc. have been practiced for years. These are deeply rooted in our culture, and religious institutes are pretty protective of them. They have been preserving the commands of their religious authorities.
Spirituality isn’t that rigid when it comes to religious practices. It keeps a flexible approach and believes spiritual growth is an evolutionary process. Hence, the rituals and customs may change or evolve as time passes.
Spirituality is not so much about following the ancient stories of saints and angels. It’s about creating your own path in the journey of self-discovery. Since spirituality is about discovering their truth, people develop their beliefs on the journey.
- Inclusivity And Exclusivity
Religion is, at times, exclusive. Different religions create their exclusive belief system per their holy scriptures and the saying of their religious deities or saints.
Spirituality is inclusive, considering it does not believe in any specific religion. The core belief of spirituality is that you’re a part of the bigger whole, just like everybody else.
The above-mentioned are core differences between religion and spirituality. If I have to conclude the difference between them in one word, I would say religion is orthodox, while spirituality is flexible and evolving.
So Are You Religious Or Spiritual?
After seeing the above distinctions, I’m sure it’s pretty easy for you to decide whether you’re religious or spiritual. If you’re a true follower of any religious beliefs, you’re religious, and if you want to form a deeper belief system and want to develop a strong connection with your inner self, you’re spiritual.
But religiosity and spirituality are not always stagnant. People may transform. People may no longer want to continue their religious practices, such as following a predetermined concept of God and religious customs.
The time you take a bigger insight into understanding who you’re or your truest self, you become a spiritual person. The orthodoxical approach will no longer affect you, and you will set yourself free from everything.
Final Thoughts! Difference Between Religion And Spirituality
Being religious or spiritual is a great thing. It helps you lead a peaceful and powerful life. I hope this guide on spirituality and religiousness has made it clear whether you’re religious or spiritual.
The primary difference between the two is when you’re religious, you believe in a certain deity or institute and participate in religious practices. But when you’re spiritual, you believe in forming a deeper connection with yourself and the superior being.