“I’m not religious. I like to think of myself as spiritual.”
I’ve heard this often and I’ve always wanted to ask people what they mean when they say that. And I always wonder, is it possible to be one without the other?
Here’s my take on this “spiritual, not religious” debate.
We can all agree that religion is just an organized set of beliefs and practices shared by a group or community. A religious person follows certain rules – goes to a place of worship, participates in individual or group prayer services, and believes in divine power.
At the core of religion is faith – a belief in something invisible, and fully surrendering to that invisible power.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is individualized – things each of us does to find peace or a sense of purpose in our lives.
The quest for spirituality comes when questions arise within us, questions such as “Who am I?”, “What is my life’s purpose?”, “What makes me happy?” Spirituality does not dismiss faith per se; it simply seeks a direct experience.
During our spiritual journey, in an effort to seek answers to these questions, we begin to engage in reading & trying to understand philosophy; meditation; deep breathing, and chanting – all in an effort to make contact with our higher consciousness. Meaning, we try to validate the teachings rather than accepting them purely on faith like religion expects us to. Thus, the spiritual awakening we seek comes from learning more about our own self.
However, aren’t religious activities such as praying and chanting also designed to help us tap into our higher plane of consciousness? Don’t religious doctrines teach us to do the right thing, become [more] selfless, offer ourselves & our resources for the greater good, and live an exemplary, moral life?
To me, it seems that there’s a lot of spirituality involved in being religious. And conversely, when we embark on the quest to become spiritual, we also, to some extent, involve religion.
And so although there are obvious differences between the two, religion and spirituality are more intertwined and an effort to separate the two may be like trying to split hair? 🙂