What's the difference between Spirituality and Religion?
An astonishing 84% of the world identify themselves with a religion; the largest being Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. These 4 alone comprise 78% of the total, but it's estimated there are over 4,000 different religions, faiths, groups, and denominations which currently exist.
It could be said Spirituality is inherent in Religion, and some Spiritual groups certainly show aspects of Religions. So, what exactly is the difference? Can you be both Spiritual and Religious? Can you be one without the other?
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Anna Lubelska's Advice
"I am not for or against religion. I just say - be cautious! You may have grown up in a religion that has had some benefits and some difficulties - that's to be expected! Things are never all good or all bad. People and life are complex and so are religions.
The main thing is to be aware. Look out for indoctrination - does the religion allow for doubt and questioning? Are you free to explore ideas? Does the religion offer simplistic solutions to life's complex challenges? Watch out for cults and dodgy people who might be religious leaders or gurus of some kind. In fact, experience has taught me that just because someone is an acclaimed and wealthy guru, that doesn't mean that they are automatically OK. Leadership in religions is a potentially dangerous thing and can be a way in which people with big egos or personal and power issues can get access to vulnerable children, young people and adults. So, keep your eyes open and don't worship or idolise the leader. All leaders are human and fallible.
Also watch out if your religion or group is cutting you off from your family and friends or asking you to do things that just aren't right or even legal...that is always a BAD sign. I'm not going to name names, but there are secretive churches, esoteric cults and also elements within mainstream religions that do that. And also watch out if they are always asking you for money and not accounting for how it is spent - your money might do more good if you gave it to a reputable and well-run charity that does helpful things in the world. Money won't buy you a place in heaven or on a higher spiritual plane. You have been warned! And all this advice also applies to more modern or alternative forms of spiritual stuff. If anything, they can be more suspect as there's few checks and balances.
Having said all of that - I have tried various religions over the years and there is much beauty and wisdom to be found. You may find different things suit you at different times of your life, and we are all different. Some of us have more of a psychological need to believe in something than others. Some people are naturally explorers and questioners. Others just want to have a good set of values to live by and then just get on and do good in the world.
These days there is so much information about spirituality and religion - it's a fascinating area - so many books and so much on the internet. But always check out who is writing it and research a range of authors and information sources."
Here are some quotes to get you thinking...
"Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; anything but live for it."
- Charles Caleb Colton
"All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there."
- Jalal ad-Din Rumi
"Faith is the force of life."
- Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
"The tears of faithfulness to your beliefs cleanse your spirit to envision the road ahead. Everything is possible for the person who believes."
- Adlin Sinclair
"Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters."
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."
- Richard Dawkins
"Alone… the world is life endured and known. It is the stillness where our spirits walk. And all but inmost faith is overthrow."
- Siegfried Sassoon
"Religion is the opium of the people."
- Karl Marx
"Sadly the word ‘religion’ has so many negative connotations that it has now lost its original meaning. It has become a man-made concept that, however well intentioned, can be manipulated by unscrupulous people to exercise control over others. By contrast ‘spirituality’ is personal and outside the control of others. It is our inner voice, our consciousness, our soul, our true identity. It forms the basis of our connection with the earth and all its inhabitants and it is our spirituality that recognises the good in everything and encourages us to strive to become the best we can be."
- Carole McEntee-Taylor (Policy Director, the Spiritual Workers Association)
"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
- Jonathan Swift
"One religion is as true as another."
- Robert Burton
"Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there."
- Bonnie Raitt
"God has no religion."
- Mahatma Gandhi
"Religion encompasses aspects of spirituality, usually in the context of belief in a transcendent being or beings. Religious faiths can provie a 'world view', which is acted out in narrative, creeds, symbols, rites, rituals, sacraments and gatherings and the promotion of ties of mutal obligation. It creates a framework within which people seek to understand and interpret and make sense of themselves, their lives and daily experiences."
- Peter Gilbert (Emeritus Professor of Social Work and Spirituality, Staffordshire University)
"I'm always surprised when people say that they think that religion and spirituality are completely separate things. I think it’s important to remember that it was someone's spiritual experience that was at the source of the creation of all religions! It's probably the adherance to doctrine and institutionalised practices and rituals, as well as the religious conflicts throughout the centuries and in the present time, that have turned so many people away from religions. But at the heart of most religions there are beautiful teachings and spiritual practices which have so much to offer us."
-Anna Lubelska (Founder of Spiritual England)
"When religion closes people up in their own particular group, it puts belonging to the group, and its success and growth, above love and vulnerability towards others; it no longer nourished and opens the heart. When this happens, religion becomes an ideology, that is to say, a series of ideas that we impose on ourselves, as well as on others; it closes us up behind walls. When religion helps us to open our hearts in love and compassion to those who are not of our faith so as to help them find a source of freedom within their own hearts and to grow in compassion and love of others, then this religion is a source of life."
- Jean Vanier (In his book Becoming Human)