religion vs. spirituality


In an attempt to understand what the question of “religion vs. spirituality” is all about, I went to beliefnet.com, probably the foremost internet site on things spiritual. According to their test “What’s your spiritual type?”, I am a “spiritual straddler”. The only explanation for that strange term is that supposedly I have “One foot in traditional religion, one foot in free-form spirituality.”

I’m not jumping up and down with joy about receiving this label although, come to think of it, it’s at least not inaccurate.

The obvious truth is that it’s not easy to talk about spirituality. It is easier to talk about religion. I can immediately think of all kinds of things to say about religion. That it has created great problems, how it’s connected to politics, how it is often a source of comfort, how similar the so-called “great religions” are, etc. It’s a topic that everyone has much to say about.

Let’s compare that to spirituality. In a way, it is a word like “fog” – you can recognize it but you can’t catch it.

Robert C. Fuller says this:

A large number of Americans identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” It is likely that perhaps one in every five persons (roughly half of all the unchurched) could describe themselves in this way. This phrase probably means different things to different people. The confusion stems from the fact that the words “spiritual” and “religious” are really synonyms. Both connote belief in a Higher Power of some kind. Both also imply a desire to connect, or enter into a more intense relationship, with this Higher Power. And, finally, both connote interest in rituals, practices, and daily moral behaviors that foster such a connection or relationship.

These are interesting ideas, although I would not agree with all of them, or with the conviction with which Fuller says them.

For example, I think one can be spiritual without that emphasis on a higher power. While I personally have grown accustomed to that term, I think there are other ways to look at the guiding good principles that are important to people who are spiritual.

These principles do not necessarily need to be “higher” and they do not have to be a “power”. Also, this emphasis would leave out many Buddhists. While there are numerous forms of Buddhism that allow for the idea of a higher power – Pure Land Buddhism, for example – there are also many, Zen Buddhists among them, who reject the idea of a higher power. Are they not spiritual?

It also seems to me that some atheists are spiritual, in a certain way. If being spiritual means following good, life-affirming principles, then any atheist would be a spiritual person who passionately believes in, and lives, a life that includes helping others, being honest, and sharing oneself. I am thinking of a few university professors I had who were outspokenly and openly atheist and yet lived just such a life.

A higher power, a god, a supreme being, is just not everyone’s cup of tea. I also remember a pastor I once knew who was a fervent human rights and social activist and who had a really hard time talking about more esoteric matters such as prayer, life after death, etc. Maybe at heart he was a spiritual atheist, too – who knows.

Let’s see what else Mr. Fuller has to say:

A group of social scientists studied 346 people representing a wide range of religious backgrounds in an attempt to clarify what is implied when individuals describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Religiousness, they found, was associated with higher levels of interest in church attendance and commitment to orthodox beliefs. Spirituality, in contrast, was associated with higher levels of interest in mysticism, experimentation with unorthodox beliefs and practices, and negative feelings toward both clergy and churches. Most respondents in the study tried to integrate elements of religiousness and spirituality. Yet 19 percent of their sample constituted a separate category best described as “spiritual, not religious.” Compared with those who connected interest in private spirituality with membership in a public religious group, the “spiritual, but not religious” group was less likely to

– evaluate religiousness positively
– engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer
– engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth

and more likely to
– be agnostic
– characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and non-overlapping concepts
– hold nontraditional beliefs
– have had mystical experiences.

Those who see themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” reject traditional organized religion as the sole ” or even the most valuable ” means of furthering their spiritual growth. Many have had negative experiences with churches or church leaders.

For example, they may have perceived church leaders as more concerned with building an organization than promoting spirituality, as hypocritical, or as narrow-minded. Some may have experienced various forms of emotional or even sexual abuse.

It looks like I am in the company of at least 346 people who do not like spirituality to be equated with religion. What about you?

And if you find that spirituality is a foggy concept to you, what do you do about it? I personally have struggled with this for many years, going through a number of – should I say it: “incarnations”. Today I feel relatively comfortable, walking a path that is informed by my liberal Lutheran roots, Christian Mysticism, the Buddhism I have been drawn to since I was a teenager, Pagan approaches, the principles inherent in the 12 steps – and all this mixed in with a healthy dose of the skepticism. For today, this works for me.

I have been able to help a number of people sort through some of the questions in their spiritual quest. Let me know if I can help you with that, too.

Isabella Mori
moritherapy
Counselling in Vancouver

54 thoughts on “religion vs. spirituality

  1. Marc Olmsted

    For me, spritituality is when you have faith; religion is when you have faith IN something.
    I consider myself a spiritual person because I am willing for there to be a God or not–there’s a humility in “I don’t know” that for me is divine. Relgious people seem much more preoccupied with certainty. that want hard and firm answers. For me, that slides rather easily into dogmatism, which ends up being the antithesis of spirituality.

  2. Lee Down

    Hi Isabella

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I quite agree – it is rather poetic and inspiring. 🙂

    I was delighted to drop by and see what you are doing also. Naturally, with my irked search of years into the topics of spirituality and religion, I was very pleased and encouraged to see you tackling some of this heady subject matter too.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just learnt what Love really is in all its’ encompassing nature, nuances, and contradictions. That, to me, is far closer to Spiritual than anything.

    So much more I’d like to express and explore with you but time is a crunch at the moment. Glad to stop by and connect with another like-minded spirit.

    Best wishes, Lee

    Lee Down’s last blog post..Freedom Promotes Growth | Boundaries Accelerate Focus

  3. Debbie Cannatella

    Could it be that some who say they are spiritual but not religious reject aspects of a creedal faith with a set of beleifs? For me, spirituality is about a “personal”, individual experience of the heart and senses and mind, something I cannot often put words to. Religion is about my “communal” experience, the coming together with a similar purpose. The overwhelming percentage of ‘one type’ of religion in America should not be allowed to dictate the very nature of what religion is. Many non-Christian are religious as well, though some hesitate to define themselves as religious in order to separate from the conformity of a dogma or a closed system of beliefs.

  4. Lee Down

    I saw your comment come to my Inbox Debbie and I had to come for a visit to reply.

    I love the inclusiveness that your analysis brings to your point-of-view. I couldn’t agree with you more. No matter how we slice and dice it, people are doing the best they can with what they got amidst a bunch of bits of pieces of information, culture, conflict, and so on. So really, as you said, we’re all doing the same thing in different ways.

    Lee Down’s last blog post..IMG_4966 [Flickr]

  5. isabella mori

    lee – sorry it took me a while to reply to this.

    what you said reminded me a bit of what i explored in this post, i don’t believe in god. maybe what i call “goodness” there is similar to love?

    debbie, thanks for coming to visit here! i wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying here:

    “the overwhelming percentage of ‘one type’ of religion in america should not be allowed to dictate the very nature of what religion is.”

    it shouldn’t dictate what religion is, and it shouldn’t dictate what christianity is.

    i also think that the communal experience of spirituality is very important, and it’s a real challenge in our times, for so many reasons. perhaps something to write a post about one day …

  6. P. J.

    For me, Fuller’s comments were dead on when he said, “Many have had negative experiences with churches…” Even as a teenager attending church–at my parents insistence–there seemed to be something very “wrong with that picture” and I couldn’t understand why all the adults couldn’t see the hypocrisy that was present.

    As soon as I left home and got out on my own, I also left the church. Then after having several spontaneous experiences of precognition, the exploration into the phenomenon behind them lead me to my present beliefs. Now I’m very comfortable when I tell people that I’m “spiritual but not religious” and am a strong proponent of “live and let live.”

    Wish more people were.

  7. garry

    I am so glad I discovered this Blog! My life has been a spiritual journey from unthinking protestantism (through my parents’ insistence) to perplexed catholicism (converted when I got married) to bewildered spirituality!

    I’m a retired college teacher who is creating a website about healing “toxic energy”. One of my series of pages will discuss “toxic spiritual energy”, and a major point will be that organized religion is too often a toxic energy source for people.

    Interestingly enough, the energy-based healing system I practise seems to be able to address the trauma of toxic religiosity even though I (the supposed healer) am not terribly clear or congruent on religion and spirituality. These and similar posts, plus the work of Bishop John Spong are helping me clarify my thinking around this dilemma.

    I’ll return to this Blog and this thread often to see if I can clarify my thinking on the matter of bewildered spirituality. Then I’ll try to reflect my newfound “intelligence” in my webpages.

    Garry Worger from
    toxic-energy-healing-therapy.com

  8. Wanda

    Religion is God explained, varies teachings – which are mind things, outward signs and practices – such as rituals, and create diveristy and prejudice among people. Now spirituality on the other hand is God experienced, a feeling – a heart thing, the presence of inner peace and grace, and it creates simplicity and harmony in ones life.

  9. Larry L. McFall

    The subject of being Spiritual or Religious can be mind boggling. I feel to be Spiritual you believe that there is in-deed a supreme being and forces that not only created life as we know it but, play a part in our daily activities. In relation to Spiritual belief, you can be religious if you systematical worship that supreme being and truely believe that you will get eternal results. Being Spiritual usally does not give you the same results in inner peace or satisfaction as being religious where as, you believe that your religion provides the path and/or the answer to eternal life. Spirituality is the belief that there is a higher power and being Religious is to connect with that higher power.

  10. ClinicallyClueless

    Interesting article. I agree and disagree with some points, but a couple stood out. I disagree with Robert Fuller equating spirituality with religion, somewhat. I think that spirituality is different now and had a broader meaning. However, I look at religion as a subcatagory of spirituality.

    To me with out a higher power, it becomes more of a try to live a good moral upstanding life which is great, but it is not necessarity spiritual.

    To me spirituality, implies an acknowledgement of forces outside of ourselves.

    I hope I made sense.

    ClinicallyClueless’s last blog post..Fun, Humorous & Healing Continued ~ Slide Show II

  11. backgammon

    religion seems a strict, rules and structure type thing that if you don’t fit a certain mold, you won’t get X whether it’s heaven or bliss or whatever religions give.

    spirituality is kind of finding the divine on a personal level, instead of having a priest feed it to you, which usually leaves you starving. I’ve been to a couple different churches and found nothing of interest in either of them, though I do like the architecture of the Catholic church, they sing songs and talk about whatever and I didn’t feel anything.

  12. Stretch Mark

    As a “spiritual dabbler” (according to the test at least) I have long held the belief that if religion and worship (be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc) was removed from church, then it would become a far wider reaching organisation.

    The benefits of love, belonging and fellowship within an organisation such as a Church, provide an excellent background for developing well rounded and “spiritual” individuals.

  13. Deb

    Religion vs spirituality ….. such a hard topic!

    I liked Wanda’s comment about Religion as explanation and Spirituality as experience.

    My biggest satruggle right now is that I can no longer embrace an idea of God as “out there” or as a “higher power”. I undertsand this works for some, but not for me.

    As I have grown in my understanding of Buddhism and the idea of nonduality, I keep coming to some unconfirmed, non-thought out idea of God as simple creative existence … an existence that I am free to cooperate with … I know that may not make sense, but I am still working on it!!!

  14. Lee Down

    Deb, I like the path you’re on. I’ve been down this road a long time and where I came to yielded something truly beautiful and unique about this thing everyone likes to call God, Creator, Source, Existence, Nothingness.. etc… you see what I’m doing with all belief systems? Then science and what we learn about our nature, cooperating with it, and also dancing with the laws of nature (god?) we find that it is not all easy. The tension we feel is the duality, the physical and non-physical, yet in the physical realm, all things must “push through” the pains / obstacles etc. to reach their development potential. And in all of this, we are supported by the very nature of that which creates – God – Life – Love – Creator – Source – Existence – Nothingness – One. So as I see from your comment, it would seem that you are experiencing something along similar lines.

    Lee Down’s last blog post..Cheeky – Yes, I said it

  15. Marlon

    For me religion and spirituality are connected. We learn all the kinds of spiritualities from the light of religious books. These spiritualities are the following: unconditional love, detachment from earthly desires, courage, faith, hope, sincerity, truthfulness, generosity, etc.

    In my research, we cannot learn these spiritualities from scientific books although many authors are now using the word that is called ETHICS to sometimes refer to these spiritualities.

  16. fat loss for idiots

    Good post, and when I try to find exactly what it is that I think separates those words for me, it is quite elusive.

    I guess I believe there is a common element to what many of the religions move towards (yes even Buddhism that denies a higher power). The notion of spiritual implies to me that someone under whatever belief system, recognizes something else and attempts to move toward that.

    Maybe the idea of religious is that same attempt, governed by a more formalized and established set of views and methods underlying the movement, by whatever religious doctrine the person is attempting to follow.

    That’s probably an initial guess at a distinction for me, but it is a hard one.

    fat loss for idiots’s last blog post..By: Gary McElwain

  17. Dr Andrew Power @ Hypnotherapy Melbourne

    From time to time I have clients that are fundamentally spiritual (as in the believe in the existence of a higher power and acting true to yourself) however not religious (attend church and live by doctrine).

    Ive also seen many religious people move away from religion and accept a more spiritual role with helping in the community and becoming better people.

    Regardless of where a person is spiritually or religiously, I take them at face value. Afterall, whatever it is they believe, whether its god, jesus, buddha, mohammed, alf or mister T, its their belief and their right to believe in such.
    If “religion” encourages a person to be better to their fellow humankind, then great!

  18. Alicia

    After attending church for 31 years, I was voted out of membership (for getting a divorce and allowing the ex to live in my house—he eventually left).

    I’d never heard the term spiritual abuse until it happened to me. I fought the system for 18 months to try and stop the pastor (of disaster, LOL) from “counseling” any more women, because 2 of them wanted to commit suicide.

    In the end, on my birthday, my name was put up on a big screen, followed by the words, “Conduct Unbecoming a Child of God.”

    I was called to a meeting of deacons (17 “men’), not allowed to have a woman with me, and asked: “Are you having sex with your ex?!”

    Something beautiful/positive came from the church debacle: My above-mentioned website. I have over 15,000 hits, and Elie Wiesel (survivor of Auschwitz) has written to me regarding my poetry; I am humbled and honored.

    Feel free to e-mail me. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go to a church for the past 5 years; I am triggered and I cry. Not only did I lose my marriage, but a whole church family.

    Love to all…..Alicia

  19. NLP Practitioner

    I think religion is about what you believe and spirituality is about what’s greater than yourself. It’s interesting that even people’s spiritualities are just maps of ourselves. Think about it, your brain runs on 5 senses. Without the 5 senses your brain receives, you would experience absolutely nothing. Thus, the universe and even God, oneness, or a higher power is really made up of maps of your brain in your mind. But spirituality is about, I believe, overcoming the limitations of only having 5 senses.

  20. Adrian Cooper from Ultimate Reality

    I think that spirituality is more about what you want to believe and what you choose to believe. It’s more free, as it represents your interpretations of all things spiritual. On the other hand, the religion represents one belief system and is quite rigid. When accepting a certain religion, you’ll learn exactly what you need to believe in and how you need to act. There will usually be little to none room for personal interpretation. So if you choose to accept certain aspects of a religion, but not the others, well, in my opinion that would make you a spiritual person, but no longer a religious one.

  21. Andre

    I was raised Lutheran and we went into 3 mergers thru out my childhood years. They did things a little different in the rural communities. I became very liberal over the years and consider a great deal of things to encompass spirituality.

    In my fathers house there are many many rooms. I’m starting to find comfort in a creator persona or spiritual guide. I can’t rely on human contact to fill my spiritual needs and Buddhism will never fill the void.

    Someone told me it was just another idea I had to let go of. There are no atheist in fox holes.

    How do I leave my feelings and culture attitudes behind? I don’t know if I can obtain enlightenment by I find studying the Christian bible more boring the Sufism or Eastern thought. I might go with the kabalah or mythology for answers.

  22. S-LJ

    I stumbled upon your site while seeking fodder for a sermon. Lots of really great thoughts here, and I’ll return just for the joy of finding more creative ways of expressing the spiritual.

    I’ve always tended to get caught up in “organized” religion when thinking of being religious. So in order to get past that image, I asked myself if one might be “religious” about his or her spirituality in terms of being conscientious?

    I guess one could by way of giving lip service to it– saying as often as possible, “I’m a spiritual person.” But can one actually “practice” spirituality—religiously or not?

    The answer, for me, is a resounding “NO!” because spirituality is, I believe, a serendipitous thing. While I can recognize the spiritual in many ways and see it in many things, it’s not something I can deliberately seek. Nor is it something I can deliberately be. I can’t force spirituality on externals or internals. It’s there or it’s not. Everyone has the potential to be spiritual, but not everyone realizes his or her potential.

    I like your image of fog in that spirituality is difficult to catch hold of.

    Before finding that image, I compared it to Associate Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart’s 1964 remarks about hard-core pornography being hard to define but “I know it when I see it.” But that’s wildly inadequate, because Stewart’s remark (and my initial impression of it) showed an expectation that everyone should to be able to come to the same common sense conclusion.

    The huge fault in that stance–in talking of pornography or spirituality or anything else– is simply that, the more we come to know and accept about diversity has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what’s common to one person is not necessarily common to another.

    Spirituality can be found in just about anything from tantric sex to a puppy’s wet nose to the Alps–from the commonplace to the complex, from the mindblowing to the mundane. In this way, I think that spirituality is far more intimate and individualized than religion.

    Wanda expressed this very well (March of 2008) in saying that “Religion is God explained” and “spirituality . . . is God experienced.”

    God is, of course, whatever one chooses “god” to be.

    Before embarking on this current odyssey, I described myself as a “spiritual” person without giving it much thought–any label was better than being “religious” in the organized sense. But with this sermon looming on the horizon (tomorrow), I’ve had to make myself think deeper. And what I’ve decided I need to do is simply to stop struggling with definitions, to forget the semantics, and to allow the spiritual to come to me instead of seeking it. And when it does open itself to me, to receive and appreciate it for what it is–a glimpse of the divine (whatever I choose that to be) in the ordinary.

    This doesn’t preclude any effort on my part, however. I also think it’s possible to position myself to receive these glimpses simply by employing my senses more conscientiously. In driving on the interstate yesterday, I realized how often I only concentrate on the road ahead, eager to get where I’m going, without actually noticing everything surrounding the road. And I looked up to see the most gorgeous blue sky with the puffiest white clouds I’d seen in a long time. Talk about a spiritual experience! (Particularly after several grey rainy days.) It didn’t take any time away from the drive–I didn’t even have to stop and smell the flowers in order to experience that breathtaking “wow” spiritual moment. What a concept!

    Didn’t mean to go on for so long. Guess I’ve written a nice chunk of sermon, so thanks for the opportunity to explore.

  23. mazen

    When you are religious , you are refering your spiritual experience to somebody’s else spiritual experience through religion, a scripture , a bible or a religious book . When you are spiritual, the experience is yours and yours alone, nobody’s else.
    There lies the difference between religiosity and spirituality. It’s between SELF’s spiritual experiences vs OTHERS’ spiritual experiences. Both are original, which do you trust?

  24. oscar wright

    Hi Isi, the older I get the more I move towards that white light in the distance which is God. Recently I was in Istanbul and prayed in a mosque while there was a ceremony. I think to find God one must seek him in his various manifestations….in everywhere and in everything; perhaps in a beautiful porcelain tea cup. Here is my new tango video in which I combine my daughter, Tango Child, with tango. Please rate and comment on the video if you have time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX1CnDygTWM

  25. Carrie

    I think what we may not have considered is that religion and spirituality can be quite compatable. I can seek out and experience God in the beauty of my flower garden, becoming engrossed in the magic and grace that surrounds me; then go to mass, becoming equally engrossed in a ceremony that honors God through song and age-old literature where perhaps hundreds or thousands of people have come to experience Him together for years. And when I leave mass I can see those puffy white clouds that are so God inspiring!

    Over time I found that my heart wasn’t satisfied on one side or the other…but when I finally put the two together it was a beautiful moment.

  26. Teddy T.

    Hello,I was just reading some of the letters that were sent about spirituality. for myself and I speak for myself only.I quit trying to analize things.I dont try to run things (control)things in my life anymore.People,places,things,situations .Anything thats happening around me.If something good happens in my life I hang on to it as long and as hard as I can .If something bad happens bad in my life I process it and get rid of it as soon as possible. Every day, I pray and ask God to run my day for me, and I stay out of my own way.

  27. Kyle Reynolds

    I think spirtuality lets you think outside the box, whereas religion seems to be rigid no room for growth either you believe black and white or you are going somewhere bad. I think of myself as lil of both too.

  28. Ryan

    Spirituality, as conceived by most (and as referred to in almost all of the comments above) is a set of practices pursued by individuals for the growth of the individual as an individual.

    Religion is a spirituality that takes seriously the fact that relationship is part of the very expression and fabric of being human. How can I have a deep relationship with God, if I do not care to join a community around God?

    “Dogma” is not restrictive, but freeing. Dogma is the basis of the conversation that we are to enjoy with one another–it is the field in which we meet. And dogma is not as rigid as people think. Once, in religion, you have a basis of agreement, you are freed to discuss the various points and details and come to an ever more refined understanding. Dogma is a work of the Holy Spirit that unifies us and brings us closer to God–together.

    Spirituality–as conceived by our contemporaries–is a leaving of that field, a shutting down of the conversation. To pursue spirituality over against religion is to say MY way is better for ME.

    Meditate in the garden. Do yoga. Read the Bible by yourself. Pray your own prayer. Worship at home and on the hiking trail. But seek grounding in a community that wants to put God in the center. Seek a community that strives, albeit in a very messy and roundabout way, to see God for who God is (and not for who they, individually, want God to be).

    I am nothing without my relationships. I am nothing without God. I am nothing without the people God sends into my life. I am nothing without the people that discuss God with me. I am nothing without the people that worship God with me. Without all of these relationships, my God–and my life–would be tragically small.

    My freedom and my open-mindedness come from my faith, which can only be lived out with others.

    Spirituality vs. Religion–it all comes down to a power struggle: am I right/in charge or must I suffer the opinions and plans of other faithful people? Am I right/in charge or is God?

    If religion has hurt you, I will not deny that. Churches can be abusive and those churches have lost sight of their Center. But there are other communities out there waiting to accept you….to show penitence, to seek reconciliation and to help you find healing. It is no good to suffer alone.

  29. Judy

    Having just read all of these blog messages, written over the course of 2 years, I conclude that “spirituality “and “religious” have multiple meanings based on one’s own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. It seems we mostly agree, however, that “religious” tends to refer to something which is more practice-oriented and less contemplative and introspective, while “spirituality” is almost the reverse. Very interesting and thought-provoking blog. Thank you all.

  30. haverson

    But, you can’t discount the hundreds of millions who find great comfort in their religion. To say only those who profess to be anti organized religion are enlightened is very short sighted. Many great humanitarians have or had in their time on earth, deep grounding in their faith. Humans are thinkers by nature, that doesn’t mean every thought has good grounding. And most are somewhat products of their surroundings, if you associated with people who share a belief, it can rub off on you. It is also human nature to try and stand out, going against the grain is an excellent way to stand out.
    That alone doesn’t make you right. it just means you think differently.

  31. Judy

    Indeed. I wouldn’t discount anyone’s spirituality or religion. (Although, I have had my spirituality discounted because I am not firmly planted in Christianity.) To the contrary, “practiced-oriented” is not meant as a demeaning phrase. When I attended Lutheran services on a regular basis, I was comforted by the singing of the litany at the beginning of each service. It was comforting to have company in professing my failth and love for all that was good. It was reassuring to have some sameness each week. Your points are very well taken. I concur.
    But…with that said…introspection and contemplation does take one to a deeper level, whether or not you are involve in organized religion. Thinking deeply about your practice AND your beliefs is mind-opening and induces spiritual growth. Thanks for responding to my message. Your message made me think!!

  32. Albert Sullivan

    Hi’ the subject of spirituality vs. religion is quite deeper than most people would like to put it the fact is people are going to believe in a religion but not everyone feels that they have been givin the spirituallity it’s like the bible said in Hebrews: 11v.1 now faith is the substance of the things hoped for the evidence of the things not seen.If only our brothers and sisters would know that we do everything by faith on a daily basis i will be taking through more steps on Faith in the upcoming days Thank you!!

  33. Lloyd Drako

    Here it is in a nutshell:
    Religion is hard, spirituality is easy.
    That’s why so many people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.

  34. Mark Olmsted

    Bullshit. Religion is easy. All the rules are laid out for you, you don’t have to think for yourself. Religion is full of certainty. It’s for the fearful and the lazy.
    Spirituality requires doubt, true leaps of faith, uncertainty. The truly spiritual have the humility to understand they cannot know the mind of God, they can only seek to understand it.

  35. Judy

    I respectfully disagree with Lloyd D. about religion and spirituality. I don’t think one or the other is easier. A person does not chose one or the other based on whimsy. One doesn’t necessarily decide to be religious or spiritual. They are simply words one chooses to define their beliefs. But “religion” is clearly connected to a set of principals and specifics.

  36. Lee Down

    Such a damn shame that it even matters, doesn’t it? Brothers, sisters, human flesh, blood, love, laughter, tears, disaster… we all feel and struggle with similar things. Some need structure, some need room to stretch their wings and fly free. Thanks to these differences, we’ve come a long way.

  37. Judy

    Structure is the word I was looking for. Thanks. Lee. Some need it, or want it, or like it, or even see it as an essential factor for themselves and others. I agree with Lee’s comments….

  38. Afi

    Wow. I feel relieved. I come from a family of devout muslims and I in no way believe in religion. I consider myself a spiritual being and see religious people as followers of Holy books and prophets and such. How accurate is that?

  39. Jon Canas

    Short answers to complex questions are pratical but generally incomplete. If this subject is important to you, take the time to read my book The Great Spiritual Robbery. Yes, I know it sounds self-serving, but Ihave been told that there is a lot of good stuff in it! Jon

  40. John King

    Some observations on spirituality and religion:

    1) I do not think that either necessarily has anything to do with God or a Higher Power.
    2) There are MANY different definitions of both religion and spirituality.
    3) Some people tend to group everything that they do not like about religion, leave that behind, and call whatever is left over as spirituality.
    4) I have read that people in Europe do not generally have a category of “spirituality”. They see themselves either as religious or irreligious.
    5) Some use spirituality as a way to retreat from the messiness of religion and the difficulty of relationships and interactions with other people. Their spirituality is an inward journey of subjectivity without any actual, concrete actions that benefit other people.

    I offer the following definition of religion:

    Religion is man’s total experience of that which is considered the most important in all of life, is characterized by devotion and commitment to, love and fear of, and joy over this ultimate value, is expressed through private and/or social, symbolic rites, and provides a way of responding to and of understanding the whole of life

    Another similar definition is offered by Geddes Maggregor:

    Religion is chararacterized by

    1) interest in,
    2) concern for,
    3) encounter with,
    4) sense of absence from,
    5) sacrificial ove of,
    6) commitment to, and
    7) joy over,

    that which is judged to be more important than anything else in one’s experience and which, so conceptualized, is taken to be a symbol of that which lies at the heart of all possible experience.

  41. Bob McCluskey

    I’ll give it a shot: There are (at least) two realms in existence, the physical and the spiritual. Any phenomenon that has no physical component is entirely spiritual. This idea has no value judgements, though. Common usage lends a positive connotation to the word. If you are spiritual, you are somehow good. My definition would just say that if you are spiritual you are experiencing the non-physical phenomena of existence.

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