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Contrasting Religion and Spirituality

June 11, 2013

I know that many religious people like to think they provide us with a spiritual understanding of the world, and I know that many spiritual people like to pay respects and homage at times to religious beliefs. But there are some definite distinctions between the two things that make them pretty much irreconcilable.

SpiritualIt comes down to this central point: Religions always in one guise or another require the submission of ourselves to other human beings, or to a human authority. Spirituality requires no such thing. Religions disguise this requirement of submission well, behind their various beliefs. But the belief ultimately is about getting a person to submit to another person. Belief in God is submission to some person who tells you that God exists despite the lack of evidence, or in submission to the divinity and miracles of Jesus Christ, or in submission to the prophet status of Noah or Moses or Muhammed. To believe these things is to submit to the authority of the person telling you these stories. It’s as simple as that. Of course, in many cases people outwardly exhibit these beliefs as a submissiveness, a way to get peace, when inwardly they just use those beliefs as a vehicle for their own sense of spirituality. But, however you look at it, ultimately religion requires submission of one man/woman to another. In this sense it is in its very source and essence, anti-spiritual. Where spirituality provides freedom, in this very area, religion controls and binds.

Now this can be viewed in many ways. It is easy to see it as a negative diatribe against religion. But the fact is for many people, if not all of us, often control is more important to us than freedom. Nevertheless, I personally believe in the goal of freedom, both spiritually and physically. And as such I don’t believe in Religion. Notice here that I state quite clearly that my belief is against religion, against human submission of one man by another. It is not about not believing in God. I am not committed to spiritual poverty by my rejection of religion, as much as certain religions may like it this way. For as I have clarified religion and spirituality, in this key area, are in fact in stark contrast with each other.

  1. Very well said. Religion is a man made system to try to control others into a set of doctrines. Spirituality is recognizing our real place in this universe and embracing it.

  2. I am in the same boat, man. It’s difficult, because I love discussing belief, but there are so few in the world who speak about their beliefs if they are not part of a socially accepted religion, and when you try to have a spiritual discussion with a religious person, it ultimately devolves into the religious person not comprehending spiritual belief outside of a religion. It basically ends up with them demeaning my beliefs because I don’t have a mass of other people to back up my beliefs.

    • I can appreciate where you are coming from there. Yes, it is made very difficult for people to just express their own spiritual beliefs at times. There are so many groups of people, it seems, pressuring us to “submit” to one belief or another. I have found that difficulty speaking with jehovah’s witnesses. They seem like nice and friendly people, and you begin to get into a spiritual discussion, but you feel all they are looking for is you to believe whole-heartedly in some arbitrary thing about which we know so little, such as the divinity of Jesus, or the existence of god and heaven. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Nice post and I enjoyed reading it. It reminded me of an early conflict I had with submitting to spirituality; I had been brought in a church where I thought that I was taught that religion, spirituality, and faith are ingredients in one pot. That I could not have any one component from the pot without accepting the other two. As I started on my spiritual rediscovery this presented a daunting quandry – because I did not want to reassume my previous religious practices. It was not that I held anything against the religion and even less the church that I attended but rather that upon my reawakening I found I wanted to celebrate my spirituality in a different way.

    The most wondrous epiphany that was bestowed upon me was this; that the three ingredients are not in the same pot. They are actually on the range being prepared in three separate pots and I could, at any time, replace what I was cooking on the stove as I saw fit. That it is up to me to determine what I need to fulfill my spiritual needs.

    Thank you for reminding me of that lesson. It is one I have thoroughly enjoyed and have not thought about in a while.

    Much gratitude,

    • Your welcome, thank you also for your interesting comments of your own personal story. I can sympathize due to having a similar conflict. I have always felt intuitively there was something not quite right about religion asking me to believe in such arbitrary and specific things as are mentioned in the bible. But this is maybe the first time I have clarified to my liking the rationale behind that intuition. It is quite a liberating feeling really to separate religion and spirituality in this way.

  4. I think your distinction between “religion” and “spirituality” is a rather idiosyncratic and arbitrary separation, since spirituality is defined as the state or quality of being dedicated to God/gods, religion, or spiritual (i.e. supernatural) things or values. In essence, what you’re saying is, “Wash me, but don’t get me wet in the process.”

    • Is it? I think you are misunderstanding things here. We are free to come to new understandings of things. Spirituality is belief in something beyond physical matter in motion and cause and effect as the explanation of everything. I have never heard or imagined anyone to think spirituality is defined as dedication to a god. Dedication to a beyond, a spiritual domain, an unknown domain beyond human control, yes. But this is very different from talk of submission to gods, let alone submission to historical and vengeful gods in books written by human beings. I think you are being very insincerely naive here to not pick up on these distinctions.

      What I’m saying is what I’m saying, I don’t know what washing has got to do with anything. I have made a very clear effort to distinguish and be concise here, it is a shame you couldn’t make a similar effort in your response.

  5. “I have never heard or imagined anyone to think spirituality is defined as dedication to a god.”

    You might want to check any decent dictionary. You are, of course, free to ignore accepted definitions and give concepts your very personal meanings. Unfortunately, that usually makes communicating even more difficult than it already is.

    Why you felt that you had to accuse me of being “insincerely naive” and attack me on a rather personal level is beyond me. You seem to be very young and apparently still have to learn both, to disagree more respectfully and to accept disagreement with your positions without resorting to personal attacks. Good luck with that.

    • I am attacking your poor quality arguments in relation to the issue that was under discussion, and your lack of interest in recognising what the post was about, and who it was directed at. How you feel personally attacked here is beyond me. You are the one who decided to respond to my post. You could just happily have ignored it in the first place, if all you were going to do was argue about washing and getting wet. In regards to your suggestion then, if you want a discussion about getting wet. I am happy to get wet, I am just unsure that I asked you, or anyone else to wash me. Was my post asking for people to wash me? It is irrelevant side comments like this, which you class as an argument, but has no content, and it was this I was responding to, or attacking. Not you personally.

    • God or no god, spirituality is referring generically to a beyond, an unknown and unknowable domain. Many spiritualists find it to be a misunderstanding of their position to label it as god or a god, because this has many other misleading connotations, regarding specific historical gods and anthropomorphized gods and submission. Where submission, the lack of, was the key point in which I was distinguishing spirituality from religion which you either ignored or missed. I have read deeply on the subject and know these things from the people concerned and my personal experience. It never crossed my mind that I needed to consult a dictionary. I would consider this a step back to a much more basic understanding. It is similar with other things. We study to get knowledge, we don’t just look for dictionary definitions of isolated terms.

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