Spirtuality and Religion
World Religions and Spirituality
Religion and Spirituality
Religion is an accepted and agreed upon ritualistic practice of spirituality. Spirituality in itself is personal, what is in your heart, between you and the divine. It can be an outward expression in a religious practice or it can be privately practiced in your home and daily living. I know there are millions of people who would disagree with me on this, and this is just my opinion.
I have studied religions and spirituality – and not just one – A LOT of
religion and spirituality - until I had
it coming into my dreams and out of my ears – until I came to the personal
conclusion that they are not the same thing. I came to the conclusion that religion is the practice of spirituality, the label of what you practice and what group you associate yourself with. Spirituality is something living, growing and it can be practiced deep in your heart or with others. But being religious does not exclude you from being spiritual and vice versa.
According to the Encarta Dictionary[i], religion is a noun meaning:
1. People’s beliefs and worship concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life.
2. the institution or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine.
3. Personal values relating to a set of strongly held set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that someone lives by
4. An obsession over an object, practice, cause, or activity that someone is completely devoted to or obsessed by
While the same source describes spirituality as a noun meaning
1. A spiritual quality or condition of being spiritual
2. Property or revenue belonging to a church or church official??
And spiritual? Well, that’s an adjective meaning
1. Relating to the soul or spirit, usually in contrast to material things
2. Relating to religious or sacred things rather than worldly things
3. Connected by an affinity of the mind, spirit, or temperament
4. Showing great refinement and concern with the higher things in life
In my humble opinion, this is how I see it. The world according to Erin…Religion is a label used to describe a group of people who all prescribe to the same set of beliefs. They all read the same books, believe the same things and generally agree that - the story of creation, their G/god, G/goddess, D/diety/ies, Divine power, Higher Power, Science, Energy, Nature Any name that is agreed on by the majority – had a hand in their creation, intervenes in their daily living, or can be called on to intervene, and will meet them in their afterlife be it a place or a stepping stone in reincarnation. They agree on this/these Deity/ies for worship. The group will have a name and put their hope and faith and love and energy into what they truly believe to be the One Truth, A Truth, or Their Truth. These people gather together, whenever their belief calls them to gather; be it Sunday, Saturday, Full Moon, Dark Moon, Sundown, Sunup, Holidays, Feast Days, Days of Mourning, Days of Fasting, Nights of Celebration, for a ritual, mass, prayer, feast, fast, dance, silence, re-enactment, journey, fire, ceremony, music, drumming, dancing, or any matter of observation of their obligation to the calling.
Generally, Religion is governed by a book written by man, or men, believed to be prophets who lived long ago although some religions maintain living prophets to keep up with modern times while retaining historical records. Some religions revere women as the founders and central figures in their faith. Matriarchal religions or rule was not uncommon in the pre-Roman Celtic Europe nor in other parts of the world, even today.
In each religion there seem to be rules, rites of passage, some challenges, elders, a hierarchy and stories of great men and women who emulate what it mean to be a “Chosen One” or leader in that religion. Many religions I have also read include a story of a great leader or Exalted One who had a human experience for the sake of the love of humanity, died and then ascended into the realm of the God/god/s . The Son or Sun figure desires humanity to emulate his life and has left rules or examples for all men/women to live by in order to be saved and join him in the afterlife – or prepare for his coming again as a prophet. There are consequences for those who do not follow the rules.
Most religions, but not all, also teach of a bad place for those who do not accept their God/god Goddess/goddess/s or go against the laws that were left for them. Those who have forsaken the laws of the Earth, its people, the Chosen Ones, the prophets, and the deities themselves shall suffer a fate far worse than death in a place of eternal suffering and damnation. Hell or Hades is the most widely used term.
Some followers of religions become radicalized. What does it mean to become a radical? And does it really have to do with religious beliefs? Not in my opinion, it becomes more about power and less about religion. So we won’t go into it here. But feel free to comment.
Now let’s talk about Spirituality. I believe spirituality is more personal than religion. No matter what anyone else believes or tells you, or what stories you’ve read - Spirituality is what you believe in your heart when the rubber meets the road. It’s how you treat other people when no one is around to see. It’s what you think in your head when you see someone less fortunate walking in your direction when you are sitting on a park bench eating your lunch on a spring day. Obviously, they are homeless and could use a meal and a shower, what is your first instinct?
Spirituality is how you act when you have been up all night with a sick child - you have an early meeting and you are the key note speaker. Your secretary calls at 0600 just as you are leaving the house and says she is running fifteen minutes late due to traffic. You are on the phone with her and have the nanny on hold on the other line, your child is doing better but still sick. How do you respond?
Spirituality is not what you believe; it’s not what names you have for your God/god; it’s how you live your life. It’s giving of yourself whenever you can; not rushing to judgment; Being as honest as you can be with yourself and others. It’s counting to ten and breathing before you react to something that someone you love did that really upset you. Being the best person you can be, promising what you can deliver, loving with your whole heart, admitting your mistakes and trying harder next time. It’s asking for help when you need it, accepting life as it is, making life better when you can, giving people your full attention and letting go when you need to. It’s holding on when someone really needs you, being there when it really counts, and loving with your whole heart. It’s not counting rights and wrongs, sometimes it’s not fair, but it’s always smiling in the end because you know that someone loves you and respects you and really does appreciate you. It’s teaching someone else how to fly, and knowing that someone who loves you is really proud of you right now because you can feel it, even if you can’t see it, It’s having faith when it seems there’s nothing to believe in, hope when all seems lost and loving more than seems fair or possible sometimes. It’s respecting life and really living in the moment. It’s not wasting time and loving every minute of it whether it’s a good moment or a bad moment that you have to learn a hard lesson, being grateful that you still have the capacity to learn and grow. Spirituality is so many different things to so many different people. It’s all of this, and none of it. It’s all in one book or you may not find it in any books at all. You may find it in a million songs or the music may not speak to you at all. You may find its wonder in science, math, yoga, dancing, astronomy, tarot, architecture, your child’s eyes or laugh, your cat’s purr, the softness of your woman’s skin, the strength of your man’s embrace, the earth falling from beneath you as you point your plane to the sky, the blue water as you kick your legs down to the bottom of the sea. When you close your eyes, or open them in the morning, afternoon , or evening and think how lucky you are to have whatever it is that you have instead of thinking of what you don’t have: that’s spirituality.
If only that spirit could find a way to unite us all…
One simple way I found to distinguish the two: I think of religion as “man-made” and Spirituality as “in your heart” – at that crucial moment – you don’t need to reach for something you memorized – it’s already there. <3
[i] Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P) 1998-2007 Microsoft Corporation. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.