Guest Author - Michelle Taylor
Before we delve into the differing (and sometimes similar) traits of each religion, let’s look at a couple of definitions.
Religion is the set of beliefs of a group of people. It is the rules and customs by which people practice their belief.
Spirituality is a personal set of beliefs. It is the personal relationship that one feels. It is one’s own set of morals and how they judge themselves, rather than being judged by someone else.
Gaye Crispin is a friend and writer on the topic of atheism. Some people would wonder why an atheist’s view would be in this article, but just because someone doesn’t believe in a deity, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a spiritual person.
“I believe there are two kinds of spirituality. There's the first kind that's bought or borrowed from another person or religion where we receive our spirituality vicariously through or from them. Then there's the other kind, the one I believe is of greater value, which manifests in refined and noble-spirited individuals who dedicated their lives to enhancing the world in which they live. History overflows with individuals who produced totally inspirational and magnificent works of literature, art, architecture, music, science, philosophy and even works of charity. In my opinion, mankind's greatest contributors are the ones with the highest form of spirituality.
In embarking on a purposeful journey to self-actualization, and achieving it, they've shown the way to higher consciousness. Every human being needs a magnificent obsession as the vehicle to achieve full potential, and every individual has the capacity to achieve full potential. By committing to and embarking upon a life's journey of self-awareness, where we consciously and deliberately take the little that we are, and make the very most out of ourselves - this is the essence of true spirituality.”
Another religion that does not have a traditional deity is Buddhism. Jeanette Stingley is our Buddhism Site editor.
“The main "goal" of Buddhist Spirituality is to end all suffering; suffering of every being. Spiritual practices of Buddhists vary as greatly as the walks of life we all come from. Because of this and our beliefs, there is a lot of freedom in Buddhism that isn't available in other religions. We all celebrate the same holy days but we may all do it differently. We all meditate but we may do it differently. There is no central "God" or "God-head". We do not worship a supernatural being. This is confusing to many people. We don't have a dogma, we don't have rituals we have to do, and we do not have a "good" place or a "bad" place that we go to when die. Instead of answering to a Higher Power, we answer to ourselves and our own karma. In Buddhism, you are responsible to reach your own enlightenment. No one can do it for you by praying for you, anointing you with special oils or have you eat special foods. And we can't blame our immoral actions on anyone but ourselves. This is what appealed to me when first learning about Buddhism. If you lie to get ahead in life then get caught, it is your own fault. If you kill someone then get caught, it is your own fault. You are responsible for you.”
Two of the more misunderstood religions in today’s society are Wicca and Paganism. Even in this day and age people still envision evil spells and dancing naked with the devil in the moonlight. But as Amelia Jeanroy our Wicca Site editor and Trish Deneen of the Pagan Site will tell you, these are very natural and peaceful religions.
Amelia states, "As a solitary wiccan, I feel that my spirituality is the sense that I am in tune with the energy that is life. I am not just a single person. I am a person, living and caring for my part of the earth. I perform rituals and create moments in my everyday life, to remind me of how special life is and how important it is to stay aware of what is happening all around me. By this, I mean the passage of time and my effect on it.
For me, it is just as important to remember the history of my faith as it is to be thinking of the changes that are about to come. Balance is very important to me and I need to remind myself of my place in the world every day”
Trish’s Pagan beliefs are even more closely tied with nature. “I actually consider myself more of an eclectic Pagan with a leaning towards Druidry, which can be different for many people. Since the Druids were believed to have handed down their spiritual traditions orally, there aren't written rituals to guide us on our path. We do our best to piece together remnants from history and archeology to apply to our modern practices which sometimes borrow from other traditions.
Each Druid will have a different preference for things such as making offerings to the gods, magic, shamanic work, etc. Magic and meditation are a big part of my spirituality as well as honoring the gods with offerings as I believe in a reciprocal relationship with them.
Personally, I believe in a creative force that is personified in many deities. My spirituality, like many people, is driven by a desire to connect with that force. Neopagan Druids revere nature, deities, nature spirits, and ancestors as all part of that creative force and therefore allies in our communion with the divine. We don't see ourselves apart from or above nature but in partnership with nature as part of the circle of life. Druids, like other Pagans, like to celebrate holidays in tune with nature's cycles to remind us that we are part of that circle.”
In Judaism, there is a very distinct deity worshipped, G-d. (Note: I looked this up on Yahoo. “Q: Why do Jewish people use the word G-d instead of God?" A: Since Jews are forbidden from destroying, erasing or dishonoring the name of G-d, they refrain from writing it out in full.) It is also one of the most difficult to separate spirituality from religion; because the following of the code of God helps to define the relationship. BellaOnline’s Judaism Site editor Lisa Plinkus explains.
“Spirituality runs rampant within Judaism. There is a code (the commandments) that governs every aspect of our lives.Often, we cannot comprehend this code, but its intention is to elevate everyday acts into extraordinary ones.
When one is able to maintain the discipline of following the commandments, one experiences a level of freedom that cannot be anticipated.
Spirituality within Judaism requires that an individual keep the bigger picture in the forefront of his or her mind, that he or she remain focused on the deeper purpose of life.
Spirituality can be obtained through many different avenues including: discovering the way you best connect with G-d, praying, meditation, learning, or participation in religious-specific retreats.
When one throws a pebble into the water, it ripples out and onward. We do not know how long or how far the ripples travel. Likewise, our actions have the same effect. Judaism asks that we ensure that our actions travel on spreading good as far as they may reach.”
Finally, I’ll speak for the Christians, although Jenna Robinson is our official Bible Basics Site editor.
As a Christian, I believe not only in God, but also in His Son, Jesus Christ. The basics of my belief system hinge on the fact that I am a sinner and that Jesus came and was a perfect sacrifice for me and all other sinners for all time. All we need to do is believe in Him and accept Him as our Lord, our Father, our Leader – I guess you’d say. So what does that mean on a daily basis? It means that I try to pattern myself after Jesus, whom we consider to be perfect. To the outside world, I attempt to love, forgive, be kind, and inspire others to want to know my Lord.
On the inside it is a different matter. I have a very personal relationship with my Lord. Some people would be shocked at how personal. When others imagine Christians praying they picture us on our knees giving thanks, or asking forgiveness, or praying for the sick to be healed. And admittedly I do that – although rarely on my knees. Usually it is at my table. And quite often my prayers go along the lines of “What are you doing up there?!?” When I say God is my Father, I mean it. And sometimes I act like a spoiled teen yelling at him, but I can do that – because I know He loves me, and He is raising me. One day, maybe – I’ll be the grownup Christian that can completely trust everything, but I’m not there yet, I’m still growing. My spirituality is still maturing, still evolving.
But one thing I learned from this article, is that no matter the flavor of the religion – every person has a spirit, and so develops spirituality; whether that is what they call it or not. And most spirituality is based on being good, being balanced, doing no harm. Even if we can’t agree on a deity – I believe the world is not in such bad shape if we all have those same goals in mind.