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The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

Religion vs. Spirituality; this has become a hot debate over the past decade.

The problem I see is that these are two ideas that cannot be debated because they really cannot be compared on equal ground. Apples and oranges anyone?

Maybe they are not that far apart in essence, but there are fundamental differences which make them difficult to judge against one another.

The problem comes when we try to define what Religion and Spirituality are.

According to Webster’s New Dictionary:
Religion - A specific system of beliefs, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics.
Spirituality - pertaining to the spirit or soul, the life, will, or thought regarded as separate from matter.

In other words, religion applies to a group, spirituality applies to the individual.

The argument against religion is that it is rigid, with rules that set a person up to fail. That it does not allow for individuality. It focuses more on the outside than within.

Of course spirituality is all about the individual. It is about finding our own direction, seeking self-control and enlightenment.

However, religion should not be summarily dismissed and those that follow a religion should not be put down as “weaker” in spirit as those that follow a solitary path.

For one thing, “religion” covers many denominations: Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Druidism, Christianity, etc. And even within these main groups there are smaller differences; in Christianity there is Catholicism, Mormonism, Baptist, Church of God, etc. So just because you disagree with the way one religion teaches, doesn’t mean every religion is going to be offensive to you.

Also, many people find a path to their own spirituality through religion. By studying the teachings of Buddhism or the Tao or the parables of the Bible, many find inspiration or examples of how to lead a better life. Praying to a god can lead a person to deeper contemplations of their own thoughts. The Catholic tradition of confession (while abused by some) can make people really look at their lives and take responsibility for their actions.

“Rules” like the 10 Commandments in Christianity and the 5 Precepts in Buddhism do not have to be restricting. They are to be used to guide a person’s life, a sort of checklist to compare against. A person’s decisions still have to be made individually. As adults, blindly following a set of rules (any rules) without a deeper understanding of why they make us better people is as bad as breaking the rules altogether. But when we question what makes a commandment like “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) a good moral guideline and how we feel about it, then we start to define who we are as individuals.

Religion is not for everyone. Some people just do not want or need the group direction. For some people however, it is a comfort and a way to find their own Spirituality.

Spirituality is for everyone. It is a deeply personal voyage, and each person must find their own path and answers in their own unique way. The only wrong answer is to follow blindly and never look within yourself to see what you truly believe. Another person cannot tell you what your heart feels.

Spirituality is personal. Don’t spend so much time knocking someone else’s that you forget to develop your own.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Michelle Taylor. All rights reserved.
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