Religion and Spirituality

I hear a lot of people pontificating about how “religion” is bad, but “spirituality” is good. That they’re not “religious,” they’re “spiritual.”

I’m not too sure what all that means.

The implication there seems to be that if you are “religious” then you cannot be “spiritual.” So you if affiliate with any particular religion, then apparently it is detrimental to your spiritual growth, whatever that is.

As a religious individual, I take some issue with this.

So what’s the difference between religions and spirituality?

A person who is a very well-respected figure in the local Pagan community told me that I am a mystic. I dislike this term because of certain connotations it has for me, and told her so. She clarified: “You want to go directly to the source.”

And she’s right, to a degree. I like to have personal experiences. But I also like shared experiences, as they strengthen and add context for my personal ones.

And that’s what I came up with.

Religion is a community affair. It is a group practice. (Even for solitary practitioners like myself — the rituals I perform alone connect me to others who perform similar or the same rituals.) Religious practices serve to connect you somehow to a group identity, that  itself is connected to a particular set or practices or traditions (or deities).

Spirituality, on the other hand, seems to be necessarily personal. Spirituality cannot readily be shared. It is a kind of personal development based on private experiences and personal insights.

Sometimes religion can stifle spiritual experiences. If a tradition restricts or denies certain experiences or insights, then it can invalidate your own spirituality. But more often — at least from what I have seen — religion provides a context and background that can be used to makes sense of spiritual experiences. (And I think this is why so many in the newage community talk about “spirituality” in very Christian terms — it’s a shared framework that they know.)

I’d love to hear anyone else’s take on this.

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One response to “Religion and Spirituality

  1. Pingback: Materialists and Spiritualists | The Digital Ambler

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