Religion and spirituality are often mistaken to be the same concept, though there is much difference between them. Their mysterious connection with each other confuses people. The difference between religion and spirituality is rather ambiguous and can have different answers depending on a person’s perspective.
Our point of view is a by-product of the combined point of view of the society we live in. For example, people from Nepal would answer this question differently from people from America, or Arab states.
In order to understand the true meaning, we must put our biased perspective aside and form a neutral viewpoint. Before we dig deep into the difference between Religion and Spirituality, we must define certain key terms.
Religion is the belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality has your experience.” – Deepak Chopra
Religion vs. Spirituality: Definitions
According to Mariam-Webster dictionary, “religion” is defined as, “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods” or, “interest, belief, or activity that is very important to a person or group.” Similarly, it defines “spirituality” as, “the quality of being spiritual”.
In simple words, religion is a set of beliefs that is designed to be a source of moral guidelines for a particular community (believers of that faith) that tells them how to live their lives together and individually. Though religion is believed to be a source of peace and spiritual awakening, it is not universal. Different people believe in different faiths. Some even believe that religion leads to negative outcomes such as war and oppression.
Most organized religions are control systems to enslave humans mentally and spiritually and deprive them of free will.” – Montauk
Religion has caused the most violence and wars throughout the history. Politicians and kings have used religion for their purposes. Spirituality, on another hand, instead of just teaching you the rituals to have a relationship with God, shows you the basic qualities of humanity.
Spirituality teaches you how to be kind, how to help and love fellow human beings despite their religious beliefs or political ideologies. In other words, spirituality is a way of understanding your inner being.
I believe that man must get rid of illusions that enslave and paralyze him; that he must become aware of the reality inside and outside of him to create the world which needs no illusions. Freedom and independence can be achieved only when the chains of illusion are broken”. – Erich Fromm
In accordance with the definitions above, the significant difference between religion and spirituality is in the way you see things. Religion provides you with a set of beliefs to follow and answers your metaphysical questions about the universe, yourself and God, while spirituality gives you freedom to find your answers.
We have compiled a list of differences to help you understand the actual difference between Religion and Spirituality.
Difference between Religion and Spirituality
1. Belief System
Every systematic religion has a certain set of beliefs that one needs to follow to recognize himself as a follower of that particular religion. Christians believe Jesus is a son of God while Muslims believe that since God is a supernatural being, Jesus cannot be his son. Instead, Muslims believe that Jesus was a Prophet sent to spread the message of God.
However, spirituality is different. Instead of placing an emphasis on a pre-defined set of rituals, spirituality gives you freedom to experience things however you like. The purpose of Spirituality is to teach you a set of morals and how to live your life in accordance with those morals, such as kindness and compassion, and it understands your inner-self.
2. Spirituality is flexible
Spirituality is more flexible than religion. Faith gives you a pre-defined set of rules and rituals that you have to follow; spirituality, on the other hand, does not have a pre-defined code. Different people experience different spiritual awakenings. Because of this flexibility, most of the modern cultures think spirituality is better than religion since it gives you more freedom to be yourself.
3. Existence of GOD
Different religions have a different understanding of the existence of GOD; some religions believe in multiple gods, others in one God. Some religions believe God lives in a metaphysical place called Heaven while others believe he lives beyond the sky.
Similarly, Spirituality also tends to answer this question but in a rather philosophical way. Spirituality teaches that since God is the creator of the whole universe, his essence is present in each of his creations. He lives in everything, humans, plants, animals, even in mountains. Hence, being kind to and having a love for his creations is having love for him.
4. Spirituality is Universal
Interestingly, different communities living in different geographical locations on earth believe in different religions. People living in the Middle East believe in Islam, people living in Europe mostly believe in Christianity, and people living in Asia and Africa believe in various religions.
However, people following spirituality share universal experiences. This flexibility and universality of spirituality make it ideal for everyone.
5. Nature of Worship
Religion in its collective form places an emphasis on the rituals of worship that are external and usually physical in nature. Religion teaches you to pray in a certain way, say certain words and perform certain rituals physically.
Spirituality, on the other hand, places an emphasis on personal religion that in a certain way teaches you to find peace, serenity, and God inside of your heart and soul. Spirituality is more concerned about your attitude rather than external rituals. It’s more concerned about your purpose behind a particular action rather than the actual action itself.
6. “Fear vs. love” Doctrine
Although not always true, a general view of religion is a God, who created you to worship Him. Many religions are based on a doctrine of fear of God. Spirituality teaches you that the only way to reach GOD is love.
Spiritual people believe that since God created everything, how he could dislike or punish his creations? If He wanted robots to worship Him, He wouldn’t have given us “will” or the ability to think and deduce certain things.
7. Concept of Punishment
As I mentioned earlier, religion can be considered a moral guideline; it differentiates between what is right and what is wrong. Though the concept of right and wrong varies from religion to religion, there is the idea of sin in every religion. The general theory is that people who commit sins in this world will be punished sent to hell. Similarly, individuals who do good deeds will be rewarded and sent to heaven.
Contradictory to this belief, spirituality teaches you a rather different concept. It shows you the concept of Karma or “every action has a reaction.” It emphasizes that you reap what you sow, if you are doing good deeds, good will happen to you and if you are doing wrong deeds, bad will happen.
8. Spirituality Unites People
Many religious people believe that only their religion is true while all other religions are false. This attitude creates the divide among people and ironically, this division is not only among individuals who follow different religions but also among people who follow two different sects of the same religion. Religion tends to develop an attitude among people that divide them.
Since spirituality is a universal concept and rather than defining a particular set of rules to follow it, emphasis on experiencing everything yourself, it unites people. Spirituality lets you develop an attitude equipped with qualities such as kindness, compassion, love and acceptance.
Although the purpose of religion was to set moral guidelines, since there are many religions and religion is naturally rigid, people who believe in different religions are generally against other religions. Spirituality gives you more freedom as it helps you build qualities such as kindness, compassion, love and equality. Spirituality is universal and does not depend on what your religious beliefs are or what faith you belong to.
If we have missed any difference between religion and spirituality in the list above, please let us know in comments section.