Just Thinking Blog

Spirituality vs. Religion
6/13/2022 9:24:21 AM by: Carol

Many Americans today say they are “spiritual but not religious.” Spirituality is something that’s often debated and commonly misunderstood. When spirituality is confused with religion, that brings pre–existing beliefs about the impact of religion to discussions about spirituality.

Though all religions emphasize spirituality as being an important part of faith, it’s possible to be ‘spiritual’ without necessarily being a part of an organized religious community.

Some who say “I’m spiritual but not religious,” mean they believe themselves spiritually attuned to God or the Divine Principle in the Universe, but are not members of a religious organization. Others mean they are committed to specific spiritual practices, typically coming from a religious tradition, but are not formally members of that religion. Others mean, although they do not participate in religious practices, neither do they consider themselves atheists.

Scholars and religious leaders alike often recognize that the “spiritual but not religious” posture sometimes reflects a principled intellectual stance against religious dogma or institutional dysfunction.

What’s the difference between religion and spirituality?

Spirituality and religion can be hard to tell apart but there are some pretty defined differences between the two. Recognizing the difference can be a great way to begin to understand what spirituality means to different people. There are many types of spirituality around which people sometimes base their beliefs. I’ll mention a few further down.

  • Religion is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group.
  • Spirituality is more of an individual practice and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others.

One way that might help you to understand the relationship between spirituality and religion is imagine a game of football. The rules, referees, other players, and field markings help guide you as you play the game in a similar way that religion might guide you to find your spirituality.

Kicking the ball around a park, without having to play on the field or with all the rules and regulations, can also give you fulfilment and fun and still expresses the essence of the game, similar to spirituality in life.

People may identify as being any combination of religious and spiritual, but to be religious does not automatically make you spiritual or vice–versa.

Different types of spirituality?

  • Mystical spirituality is based around a desire to move beyond the material world, beyond the senses, ego and even beyond time. This approach centers on personal relationships and a sense of unity with all things.
  • Authoritarian spirituality is a particularly strong form of spirituality based around a need for definition and rules. This type of spirituality is particularly common in specific religious practices.
  • Intellectual spirituality focuses on building knowledge and understanding of spirituality through analyzing history and spiritual theories. This approach can be found in the study of religion, also known as theology.
  • Service spirituality is a common form of spirituality in many religious faiths. This is predominantly built around serving others as a form of spiritual expression.
  • Social spirituality is often practiced by people who experience a spiritual feeling in the company of others. Social support is often seen as one of the important aspects of spirituality in general.

Why do people practice spirituality?

Many people see spirituality as a great way of seeking solace and peace in their life. It can often be practiced alongside things like yoga, which ultimately focus on stress relief and release of emotion.

Spirituality is also used as a way of gaining perspective, recognizing that our role in life has a greater value than just what we do every day. It can separate a person from dependence on material things and establish a greater purpose. Some people also see spirituality as a way of coping with change or uncertainty.

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