In recent years, people have begun distinguishing between religion and spirituality. The question of separating the two has been a contentious one as people seeking to make this distinction have been seen to question mainstream religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism and attribute negative qualities to them, in favor of spirituality. Debate has sparked over the place of other religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, which to a large extent incorporate spirituality.
What truly is the true difference between the two? Religion is defined as an institution established by man with organized structures, doctrines and elaborate public rituals such as regular attendance of houses of worship. Spirituality on the other hand is a state of being, a state of experiencing the True Divinity in our consciousness now. Spirituality develops in a person and extends to all facets of his life, appealing to mind, body and soul. To be fair, spirituality may be sparked by religion, but it may also be started by an epiphany.
Some would argue that spirituality is chosen while religion is imposed. It is true that most of us adopt the religious beliefs of our parents without question, and any form of questioning is met with often hostile opposition. For this reason, most people follow religious practices for most of their lives without gaining any true understanding of God or even the world around them. Spirituality encourages us to question, reason and decide for ourselves.
This is the purpose of free will.
Religious people rely heavily upon guidance from others – clerics, rabbis and priests, but spirituality encourages us to look within and follow the guidance of our own inner voice. Christianity believes that there’s a portion of God in each one of us, we being the branches of the vine. This little portion is perhaps that inner guiding voice that spirituality relies upon for answers.
Perhaps the most critiqued aspect of religion is the use of fear to instill morality, a tool which is then used to exert control and take advantage of the masses. This is done through the highlighting of fault and condemnation of sin, sometimes with threats of excommunication, harsh atonement practices such as whipping being inflicted upon those whose sins come to light and the most popular – burning in the never-ending flames of hell. In contrast, spirituality transcends all the formalities and dogma that remove us from God. It emphasizes life’s journey of growth and learning, encouraging us to shed all remorse for past mistakes and seek to find inner peace and experience love in the world around us instead.
There are several contradictions in religion, most of them the result of false teachings and scriptures manipulated to fit the purpose of the user. However, there is no question that religion and spirituality borrow from each other in many ways.0