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  • Laurie Teixeira and Jari de Jesus

Religion vs. Spirituality: What’s the Difference?

The vast majority of us tend to use the terms "religion" and "spirituality" interchangeably, even though they refer to two very distinct ideas. Religion and spirituality are two essential primary paths humans have taken throughout history in their search for answers to life's most fundamental questions. There are certain differences between religion and spirituality, even though they have many similarities and are related.

What Is Religion?

The term "religion" refers to a collection of institutionalized ideas, customs, and institutions that frequently center on the belief in and adoration of a supreme power, such as a personal god or other supernatural beings.

Religion generally promotes communication between a group of people and a Higher Power or philosophical system. It brings people together around shared values and beliefs.

What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is concerned with one's inner self and soul. Holding one's beliefs and practices while looking for the meaning of life is what it means to be spiritual. True spirituality connects a person to their true selves. It is how you relate to the world and its people and how you love, accept, and interact with them.

That being said, it must be acknowledged that it is possible to be very religious and still wholly disconnected from spirituality and its central relationship to a true Self. You could also be spiritual and receptive to many religious practices.

Differences Between Religion and Spirituality

1. Origination of Beliefs

Most frequently, a historical or archetypal individual's lives, teachings, and beliefs serve as the foundation for religions (e.g., Christ, Buddha, Muhammad). Through oral tradition and written texts, the specifics of their lives as holy or highly evolved beings have been transmitted to us across time.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is more frequently found in applying the founder's teachings.

2. Religion is communal. Spirituality is personal.

Religion is the collective belief confirmed by religious scriptures and involves significant numbers of people worshiping the same God. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a personal journey that you may travel on your own or with a guide. Religious beliefs are optional for those who identify as spiritual.

3. Religion is taught. Spirituality dawns by itself.

Most people are influenced by religious systems from an early age. Teachings on religion have been gleaned from others or handed down over the years. As opposed to this, spirituality typically begins as a journey inspired by a life-changing experience that causes the seeker to reflect on their reality and higher purpose.

4. Progression of Beliefs

Usually, religion has a predetermined belief system. When it comes to the ideas that adherents of the religious organization should adopt, the recognized authorities of the religious community either reinforce them or transmit changes to them. Religion demands that followers be faithful to their convictions.

Since spiritual thoughts frequently push the bounds of accepted belief to explore ideas and viewpoints, spirituality is more open. It encourages individuals to continually pay attention to their inner voice and use it as a compass to lead fulfilling lives.

To forge their own path and journey in life, people are encouraged by spirituality to break free from submission or conformity. As a result, a spiritual person may have a lifelong tendency to shift their beliefs. The "correct" or "wrong" things that one may believe to be true today may change in the future as a result of fresh experiences in life because nothing is fixed in stone.

5. Religion is organized. Spirituality is formless.

As a shared worldview with deep historical roots, religion has permeated every aspect of human existence, from how we run our governments to how we worship. Its repercussions are felt on multiple levels, from the individual to the community. The organized framework containing the particular belief system of religion comprises moral principles, regulations, and doctrines, as well as unique codes and criteria.

In and of itself, this is not a negative thing. In times past when social stability was more precarious, people turned to the rules and theology of organized religion for guidance and solace.

In contrast, spirituality is more flexible; one can begin practicing at any time and grow in their spirituality as they do. The seeker of enlightenment is aware that their journey is "pathless." They are responding to an internal prompting rather than an external code.

6. Religion is rigid and has a set of rules. Spirituality is more open.

Religion is an authority on what constitutes a desirable way of life. It prohibits many things and indulgences that people otherwise enjoy. Spirituality is an unrestricted internal quest.

No one will judge you if you go against the rules or take a path others consider wrong.

7. Religion is objective. Spirituality is subjective.

Since the religious route has been paved for its adherents, the spiritual practices and ideals passed down through the generations are generally objective. The externals of religion—its rituals, texts, place of worship, etc.—tend to receive more emphasis.

Spiritual practice requires introspection and the use of one's own perceptions. While many searchers turn to the literature on spirituality for guidance, only some are prepared for the raw emotions they will experience along the way. Rather than focusing on doing something, spirituality is about making an inward adjustment in perspective. So, spirituality isn't so much about external rituals as it is about inward growth and understanding.

8. Religion is inclusive. Spirituality is exclusive.

Religions vary widely in their levels of religious intolerance. Although spirituality lacks the rigid structure of religion, religious adherents cannot follow both. Spirituality is not limited to any religion, and those practicing it can draw inspiration from various traditions. To rephrase, no person or group may claim exclusive access to spiritual truth.

9. Religion is more about faith and beliefs. Spirituality focuses more on spiritual experience.

Faith is the foundation of all religions. Acceptance of something without question; faith in the teachings of a religion. In contrast to the scientific worldview, religions do not call for proof before accepting something as accurate. Religion teaches its followers to put their faith in God or the scriptures as though they were absolute truth and sources of knowledge about the world. It is preached that one must accept and surrender to the divine to achieve true salvation.

Spirituality upholds the importance of faith. Instead, it emphasizes personal encounters with the divine or higher self. Rather than taking the teachings on faith, spiritual practices like meditation, solitude, yoga, stillness, reading, learning, and contemplation can help you make conscious contact with higher levels of awareness.


Religion and spirituality are very different in many ways. Still, they are both pursued by people looking for answers to life's big questions. The two shared traits that characterize the two groups are the belief in and pursuit of divine or higher authority.

Despite the apparent differences between spirituality and religion, this comparison does not intend to pit one against the other or cast doubt on either. How people implement their faiths varies widely between the various beliefs and spiritual traditions.

Every method is a means to the truth you seek. Your awakening journey is a unique and individual representation of how you choose to express your awakening and engage with the world.


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