spirituality and religion - what are the differences?

by soft+gentle 68 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Etude

    I'm pretty sure, after reading several dictionary definitions, that the term "spirituality" has a fundamental undercurrent of being "spritiural" in the sense of having a feeling or idea of "more" and of a relation of one's consciousness with a greater aim or purpose and of a connection with other things in the universe, a oneness with the cosmos.

    Unlike many other comments I've seen here and elsewhere, sprituality is real and pervasive in almost any culture. From the perspective of evolution, it is one of the things that creates contention while evolutionists try to explain something for which we apparently have no need for. The work of many scientists point to a special place in our brain (the "G" spot) that is significantly associated with "spirituality".

    But, spirituality has nothing to do with religion because one can be spiritual and not be afilliated with any particular organization or institutionalized rites. Someone "communing" with nature in a deep and silent forrest or overlooking a vast ocean would experience the kind of spirituality that brings a kind of awe and even inspiration. God need not be present.

    Religion, on the other hand, can usurp spirituality and often manipulates our spiritual tendencies for its own benefit. While religion sees spirituality as its venue, the opposite is not true. There are religious people with very little spirituality (they just need a label to walk around in life) and there are very spiritual people without any religion.


  • 00DAD

    Cofty: I get the impression that "spirituality" is religion devoid of all content.

    Not necessarily "content" but certainly an organized, hierarchical structure.

    This essentially lines up with Jeffro's amusing and sarcastic bullet point assessment:

    • Spirituality is coming up with your own irrational beliefs based on superstitions to explain things you don't understand.
    • Religion is buying into someone else's.

    Of course that reveals his personal bias regarding superstition.

    I used to believe and would still like to believe that a person can approach the questions of meaning rationally, but I've come to know that we humans even at our best are not as rational as we would like to think. It's a work in process.

    Thought provoking thread, particularly noteworthy is how vague and weak the definitions of "spirituality" that have been put forward are!

    That being said, I really appreciated Etude's contribution. Regardless of our belief or non-belief, the fact that "spirituality" is universal in the human experience across diverse cultures is significant.


  • poppers

    Poppers has provided a classic illustration...

    "Spirituality comes from within and is a natural flowering forth of one's inner essence into the world around you."

    In what way does this statement, which Loz endorsed, have any actual meaning in the real world?

    It means that your world has become more inclusive of others in a natural way because you see and realize that others are an extension of yourself. This is because a spiritual person's perception of the world comes from deep within themselves and is not clouded by the distortions that religious blinders induce. Those distortions are often the source of strife between people, the kind of strife that can lead to families being torn apart or nations to going to war. Think of the disfellowshipping practices of the WT and the Middle East - is that real world enough for you?

    In other words, through spirituality you learn to see the world as it is rather than how you are taught to believe it is via religion. It means that spirtuality helps to remove the walls that keep people apart, the walls that religions tend to construct - the walls that say "your religion isn't the right one, and if you want to be saved or go to heaven then you should believe as I do." I would say a spiritual person doesn't want to convert anyone to anything, but would prefer that others learn to see clearly for themselves instead of being fed someone else's ideas, ideas that keep walls in place.

  • cofty

    poppers - I understand you don't like religion but I still have no idea how you are defining spirituality.

    I have utter contempt for all things supernatural - is it still possible I am spiritual?

  • bohm

    Cofty: According to Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, yes:


    I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens—no enemy of the lexicographer—didn’t share them either. Hitch believed that “spiritual” was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years.

    It is true that Hitch didn’t think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him—without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms “numinous” and “transcendent” to mark occasions of great beauty or significance—and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I’m sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well.

    We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.

    Of course, “spiritual” and its cognates have some unfortunate associations unrelated to their etymology—and I will do my best to cut those ties as well. But there seems to be no other term (apart from the even more problematic “mystical” or the more restrictive “contemplative”) with which to discuss the deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness—through meditation, psychedelics, or other means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. And I find neologisms pretentious and annoying. Hence, I appear to have no choice: “Spiritual” it is.

  • poppers

    poppers - I understand you don't like religion but I still have no idea how you are defining spirituality

    I have utter contempt for all things supernatural - is it still possible I am spiritual?

    Of course.

    My view of spirituality has nothing to do with the supernatural. It has to do with acting and perceiving from the core of your being rather than from the viewpoint of thinking and belief, things that religions and philosophies cater to. I know that sounds "airy fairy", so let me try to put it this way. When you say the word "I" or "me" you are referencing that core. Beneath the ideas you have about who or what you are there is a very tangible sense that you exist, and those words point to that sense of existence. Just stop a moment and get in touch with that. You are here right now existing, right? You can sense that, right? There's noting supernatural about that, is there? When you stop everything else and simply get in touch with that what do you find? A deep sense of peace and unity. Being "spiritual" is acting and perceiving from that sense of existence, and when you do that the walls of separation that have been constructed in the mind begin to become dismantled.

    Everyone else has that exact same sense of existence, and when that is seen for yourself your world becomes more inclusive of others. Then you can see for yourself how ideas and beliefs are what keep people separated from one another. One very large player in the field of ideas and beliefs is the religious one, and that's why my view of religion is a dim one, because it can be so divisive, and because it rarely leads people to that core of existence that lies within. Instead, it tends to keep you locked into a set of ideas about the world and the people in it since it keeps you in the thinking mind.

    Beliefs are such a powerful thing, but they get in the way of seeing and experiencing the world as it truly is. Living life without the constrictions of religious beliefs is a huge step in living a spiritual life. Then you are free to dive more deeply into yourself and find that sense of existence, and let that be the guiding force of your life - that is the beginning of living a spiritual life.

  • Star tiger
    Star tiger


    The one religion I have ever been or am likely to be involved with had such a detrimental effect in my personal life is the witnesses, and so I believe that some form of spirituality is the way to go, whatever that is!


    Star Tiger

  • cofty

    Poppers - thank you for taking the time to explain your thoughts so clearly.

    bohm - thanks for Harris' quote as well.

    I actually believe I am a very spiritual person in that sense but it is impossible to use the word without it being misunderstood as showing agreement with the super-shallow "spirituality = love christ" platitude. IMO that is the antithesis of spirituality.

  • poppers

    I actually believe I am a very spiritual person in that sense but it is impossible to use the word without it being misunderstood as showing agreement with the super-shallow "spirituality = love christ" platitude. IMO that is the antithesis of spirituality.

    I agree that the word carries a lot of baggage because of religion, and it's a word I prefer not to use because of that. Perhaps a better way of saying it is to live an authentic life, a life that is free from the contaminating influence of others' ideas.

  • dog is god
    dog is god

    they are opposites. AND what Jeffro said.

Share this