At first glance, religion and spirituality may appear to be at odds with one another.
People declare themselves “spiritual, but not religious” or the other way around. They are so set in their ways and unwilling to hear the “opposing” side.
Naturally, there are some major differences between the two. Religion is way more organized and carries institutional capacities. It also has a structured belief system, as well as sets of practices and rituals.
Spirituality operates on an individual level and encompasses the broadest range of beliefs.
But, one could argue they are two sides of the same medal, as they share the appreciation for the divine. Can they perhaps balance each other out? The answer, in our opinion, is a resounding yes.
We deem religion without the life of the spirit is shallow and cannot blossom. On the other hand, spirituality divorced from religion can turn into a self-centered indulgence.
Only together can they promote happiness and enable us to lead a meaningful life.
Religion and Spirituality 101
We often overlook just how intertwined spirituality and religion they are.
Spirituality is a deep-seated human need and it laid the groundwork for virtually every religion’s rise. Over time, it also accumulated many religious principles and tenets. That’s why spiritual and religious people share many inclinations, values, and creeds.
Sometimes, differences are so insignificant it’s hard to detect them. Nevertheless, we still know what the main lines of distinction are in theory.
The first one is the level of structural rigidity.
With religion, everything from group membership to moral codes is strictly organized. You know exactly what’s expected of you as a believer. Rules, guidelines, and practices are defined and in some cases trace back to the time immemorial.
Contrary to that, spirituality is all about the inner self, the mind, and the soul. It preoccupies itself with self-improvement and pursuit of the meaning of life. As such, spiritual experience is solitary, unique, and personalized.
It’s quite common for spiritualists often have their own definitions of spirituality. On a broader scope, this makes spirituality more abstract and fluid than religion.
The Common Divine Thread
What unites many spiritualists is proclivity to look down on religion.
There are several reasons for this and behind them are some legitimate concerns. For instance, spiritualists may say being a member of a church doesn’t guarantee moral virtue.
Indeed, you can give donations in an attempt to clear your conscious. Or, you may put too much emphasis on external gestures and lose sight of the spiritual realm within.
This is to say religion without spirituality can be hollow, a set of dogmatic tenets far removed from genuine faith. But, spiritualists shouldn’t be too quick to discard religion.
There’s this misleading notion that spirituality is fashionable and current, while religion is all but.
Yet, we see religions around the world evolving and embracing believers from diverse backgrounds. Do you think churches are too traditional for you? Well, just check out this church, which is the epitome of modern and casual religious experience.
Furthermore, spiritual individuals frown upon “ancient dogmas”, zealotry, and intolerance. They seek freedom and avoid subscribing to any one church.
In other words, spiritualism sees faith as something personal. It tolerates no mediators between people and God.
Fall from Grace
Let’s now examine how some of these arguments hold up.
Historically, it’s true that many evils were committed in the name of various religions.
They are organizations created by humans, who bring the baggage of their sins. But, what about all the good deeds such as charity? We cannot just brush over them and focus on the negatives.
And it’s not like atheism has a peerless track record in our history— quite the opposite!
We should also take into account great people like Martin Luther King. They challenged the status quo and questionable religious practices. We can do the same and call out wrongdoings on the part of institutions.
As for wanting to have a personal, unmediated relationship with God, it’s somewhat problematic. First off, it can give you a tunnel vision. You’re not part of a religious community and never transcend the limitations of your beliefs.
There’s nobody else to course-correct, challenge, and guide you.
Some spiritual people do convince themselves they have the moral high ground. They focus on the self too much and forgo responsibility for the world around them.
A Match Made in Heaven
A community is a system of support, as well as checks and balances.
It reminds us we aren’t the center of the universe and encourages self-critique. Religion is rooted precisely in the social side of our nature.
The bottom line is both it and spirituality can lead to human flourishing. They help us lead a moral, fulfilled and righteous life.
Religion in its essence is pristine and divine, welcoming and forgiving. Spirituality is linked to similar values and benefits. And whether you ultimately want to worship alone or in the group, it’s your choice.
Just remember that being at peace with oneself is fine, as long as it doesn’t sever your ties to others. Self-improvement is commendable, but it mustn’t make us selfish and complacent.
Interaction with fellow people can give your precious perspective and insights. It certainly doesn’t prevent you from having your intimate moments of spiritual contemplation.
So, try to find balance and remain humble.
Spirituality and religion both profoundly shape how we think, act, and feel. They ought to can act as complementary forces transforming the world for the better.
The Best of Both Worlds
Religion and spirituality are both integral to a relationship with God.
They are the only safe pathways to the sacred, eternal, and transcendent. If there’s tension, then it’s a healthy and beneficial one. Signs are everywhere for those willing to open their eyes and look.
We showed you there are many points of overlap and synergy. They prove one cannot survive let alone fully realize without the other.
What you need to consider is going out there instead of digging in your heels. Nobody has all the answers and humans aren’t lone islands.
So, open yourself to the community and the divine. Form bonds and reflect on your own faith and beliefs. It’s time to enrich your life and sow the seeds of a better world.
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