Are religion and spirituality the same thing?
Not really. Religion is a subset of spirituality.
Just as Wicca is part of Paganism, and Anglicanism is part of Christianity, religion is contained within spirituality.
Of course, that's not the only distinction. There are fundamental differences between religion and spirituality.
In the next article, we'll compare the two point by point. For now, let's look at the biggest difference.
The Main Difference Between Religion And Spirituality
Spirituality is direct communion, or the seeking of direct communion, with the Divine.
What does that really mean? Com means with, union means joining into one. Spiritual communication is merging into One with the Divine.
Or more accurately, realising that you are already One with the Divine, indivisible and eternal.
That is the entire purpose of spirituality. However, the purpose of religion is somewhat different.
The Purpose of Religion
Religion was created by people who wanted to pursue spiritual evolution. It is meant to point the way to enlightenment, that is, union with the Divine.
The trick is, you can't understand -- let alone explain -- spiritual enlightenment unless you've been there yourself.
So religion tried to explain spirituality, without understanding the crucial bits!
What we're left with, after you remove all the important bits of spirituality, is religion.
Religion is an attempt to point the way to spirituality.
Where Religion Went Wrong
Unfortunately, this doppelganger was mistaken for the real thing, thus becoming like the evil twin of spirituality. And nothing good can come of devotion to a fraud.
This is why they say, "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him." Because the Buddha you can see and understand is NOT the real Buddha. The true Buddha lives inside of each of us.
That is . . . the Divine is within you, not outside of you.
This is where religion has gone wrong. It has mistaken the image for the truth.
This is like going to a restaurant and eating the picture of pasta rather than the real thing.
When Moses raged against the worshipping of idols, this is what he was talking about. Religious people commonly mistake their idea of God for the actual God.
This is a complex issue. But we could sum it up as: we paint a face on the All, and then forget the All and worship the face.
Thus a gulf is created between those who pursue spirituality (the All) and those who follow a religion (one face of the All).
The Religion / Spirituality Conflict
Religion eventually comes into direct opposition to spirituality.
Such conflict is inevitable. If you tell people that their "literal word of God" is only a metaphor, their hackles are going to go up. It's a challenge to their beliefs, which feels like an attack at the very core of their self-image.
Religion insists that there is only one Right And True. Spirituality knows that it's all Right And True.
So spirituality can encompass religion with no distress, but it rarely happens the other way.
Religion Can Be A Container For Spirituality
For many people, religion serves as the container for their spirituality. This is the purest use of religion.
For others, religion acts as a pseudo-spirituality, relieving them of the responsibility to actually live a spiritual life.
Religion at its worst reinforces ego, self-righteousness, tyranny, prejudice, hatred, etc.
But at its best, it can be the gateway to spiritual enlightenment.
It's a Continuum
In fact, you could see it not so much as a difference between religion and spirituality as they are two points on a continuum.
The continuum is the level of experience of the Divine. Religion is the starting point for most of us. And spirituality is just advanced religion.
Religion and spirituality are not really contradictory ideas. They can complement each other, in the search for inner peace.
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