Are Religion and Spirituality Different?

Battle of opposites

When having a conversation with people about religion and spirituality, most simply assume that both are one and the same.

The truth is, however, that they’re not.

There is a definition of the word religion which has been given by one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time, and I’ll share it with you around the end of this video because it will wrap up the subject beautifully.

Most of us are familiar with religions, whenever the word pops up in our lives, we recall either Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on. And each one of us has a unique experience with religion.

For those of us who have felt supported by religion, we became attached to our religious views. And for those of us who have felt oppressed by religions, we rebelled. And while both seems to be going in opposite directions, they make us biased in how we approach the world.

Before we continue, let’s make this point clear.

Religions have mostly been started by enlightened teachers with great compassion for their fellow human beings. The way things turned out to be however (division, suffering, conflict) not for all religions, but for most, is due to the lower human self — which is directly linked to spirituality, more on that very soon.

Fuel has become unprofitable

Controversy fuels engagement. Engagement is profitable, not necessary for the parties engaged unfortunately. The more opposing forces fight each other, the more justified the fight feels like. And this is exactly what happens when you have two groups of people fighting over religious matters.

Both parties are biased by the same mechanism, the lower human self, but believe to be “right.”

It’s true that some religions, and to be more precise, some people among those religions do their best, and most of the time accomplish their goal of bringing comfort, love and assistance to those in need of guidance. It’s also true that some religions, and to be more precise, some people among those religions do their best, and most of the time accomplish their goal of making people feel miserable, humiliated and confused.

Encouraging or blaming religions is therefore a useless pursuit. Religion has its place in the world, it has a role in the dimension we find ourselves in, plus, we created this situation as a species so it’s up to us to figure it out, which is what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Defining Religion

The word religion can be defined as a set of well-defined beliefs. What do we do with beliefs? Beliefs guide and shape our behavior; how we respond to events from an emotional, mental and physical standpoints.

Human beings function by using their memory library. Throughout our lives, we’re always processing and storing information which we gather from our experiences. With time, this information, which can be called the “past” or the “known” becomes our guiding compass in life. When we’re younger, we have less restrictions on ourselves, we are still learning and adapting to the information we take in. That’s why we’re more open to trying new things and being bolder. As we age however, we rely more and more on the information we’ve acquired.

The human life wasn’t meant to be mechanical, repetitive and boring. We don’t like to live mechanically, most people are frustrated because their lives are one giant routine. We may adapt to those routines, and even become attached to them, but internally we’ll resent living in such a way because we’re meant to explore our potential, and grow.

Coming back to the subject of religion; being a set of defined beliefs, we use them as our guiding compass in our daily lives. Those beliefs have been given to us by human beings just like us. Some of those beliefs are healthy, most of them are not.

As we keep living according to beliefs, which we have not examined for ourselves because we fear we may be “sinning,” we rely more and more on the “known.” And no growth can occur from only living according to the “known,” growth being our very purpose.

The size doesn’t matter

What is growth? Growth is going beyond the “known.” If we were shy and it prevented us from initiating a conversation with the love of our life as an example, growth is going beyond that shyness we’re all too familiar with, and behaving in newer ways. This act of growth makes living worth it. If our financial situation was chaotic; perhaps all the money we made was spent on basic necessities, growth is learning how money is made and putting what we learned into practice.

Now this act of growth is a process of self-discovery. Whenever we’re presented with a new situation, we don’t know what lies ahead but we do know that we have two options:

  1. Act according to the known and come up with a synthesis from our memory library
  2. Be spontaneous, take a leap of faith, throw ourselves in the experience

Most people choose option 1.

And that’s because we often underestimate our own abilities to deal with challenges as they come up. We’re so attached to what we know that it makes us fearful of letting go, and discover what we’re capable of accomplishing when we trust ourselves.

Now choosing option 2this act of rewriting the script of our lives is what the spiritual path is all about. It’s about discovering who we are beyond the veil of all the assumptions we have about our real nature, the nature of reality and our purpose as souls having a human experience.

While most people assume that spirituality and religion are either one and the same thing, or that they’re completely different — the truth is much simpler. Whatever we’re doing and wherever we’re finding ourselves, we are walking our spiritual path. It’s just that some people do want to take their time while others have grown a bit tired of all the suffering, violence and disharmony they witnessed, which made them more proactive about their spiritual growth.

One of the greatest spiritual teachers to have walked the Earth

Now, what does it mean to be “religious”? What does it mean to have a “religious” approach to life, to have a “religious mind” in the words of J. Krishnamurti, the spiritual teacher’s definition I promised I would share with you by the end of this piece? For most people, being religious means being in the church, preaching religious quotes/books, or praying regularly. All good as long as it doesn’t make us biased in our approach to Life, thereby creating division in the world. Anyhow. J. Krishnamurti defined being “religious,” or as he terms it, “having a religious mind,” as follows: A religious mind is a sane, healthy factual mind, faces facts, not ideas.

Obviously, perceiving reality based on facts instead of ideas happens organically as the spiritual seeker keeps working on herself. Take it as it comes. Handle what you can. Keep pushing your boundaries. Everything, like coming into contact with this content happens exactly when it should. Blessings.

As a final note.

If you’ve been praying, meditating and trying different spiritual practices to grow spiritually, without necessarily experiencing long-lasting results even though you understand everything intellectually — I’ve started a newsletter where I share weekly teachings to help you heal yourself, and grow spiritually. Join the newsletter here (it’s free by the way).

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