Religion vs. Spirituality: The Difference Between Them

Religion vs. Spirituality: The Difference Between Them

The terms religion and spirituality are sometimes used as synonyms, but in reality, they are quite different. They aren’t completely unrelated, but they do have more differences than similarities. 

People have wondered about the meaning of the universe and other existential questions since the beginning of time. Religion and spirituality tie into these questions in many ways. To answer these questions, however, first, we must look at what these terms mean. 

In this article:

What Is Religion?

Religion is defined as a particular system of faith and worship. This is usually classified as the worship of a superhuman force, particularly God or gods. It also involves certain attitudes, practices, and services. Religion is also based on the lives and teachings of a historical figure. 

Historical figures that are most commonly followed were Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammed, and Krishna. These people’s lives were deemed as holy, and they were therefore worshipped by the people around them. These people formed the foundation of their beliefs through rituals and practices in their community. 

People derive morality, ethics, and laws based on these religions. Many types of religions have organized behaviors that can constitute what adheres to the specific scriptures. When people practice religion, it also generally involves sermons, veneration, initiations, prayer, and even sacrifices. About 59% of the world’s population is religious, and 36% are not. 

Some of the questions people ask themselves concerning religion:

  • What rituals should I be following?
  • What is right and wrong?
  • What is true and not true?

What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is an experience in connection to something bigger than just one person. It involves living life in a sacred way. It’s considered an aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals find purposes and connections to others, nature, and themselves. 

People often describe spirituality as a transcendent experience that connects to the sense of being alive. Being spiritual doesn’t have to involve a place of worship like a temple. This could be achieved through their connection with art or literature. Finding your sense of spirituality can change throughout the phases of your life as you learn and grow. 

Some of the questions people ask themselves involving spirituality:

  • Where do I find my meaning?
  • How do I feel connected?
  • How am I supposed to live?

Can You Be Spiritual Without Being Religious?

There are a lot of people who believe that spirituality is more important than religion. Of course, this is a matter of opinion and can vary depending on several outside factors. This includes how you were raised and your life experiences up until now. 

It is very possible to be spiritual and not be religious. Religion has more to do with ethics and rules, whereas spirituality has to do with the connection to the universe and finding a purpose. Some people find purpose in their religion, but this isn’t the path for everyone. 

Spiritual people are often mistaken as whimsical or fanatic. This is quite the opposite in most cases because people who believe in spirituality are often trying to change the world for the better by manifesting their natural talents. 




A lot of people find religion to be too rigid for their liking. There are often a lot of rules to follow and judgment that goes along with it. This is why a lot of people who were raised in a religious household grow out of it as they come of age. 

Examples Of Common Religions

There are countless religions from all over the world, but the three most common are Christianity. Judaism, and Islam. However, there is also Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and many more. Here is a brief breakdown of the top three. 

Christianity is a monotheistic religion that is based on the life of Jesus. This religion teaches that Jesus was the son of God and the Messiah of the world. The Bible is the central text of this faith, and it outlines the history of the world according to God and a prediction of the days to come. Christians believed that Jesus died on a cross for all of their sins and rose from the dead three days later. 

Judaism is another monotheistic religion that follows a text called the Torah. Jewish people believe that God revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and other Hebrew prophets. Jews also believe in collective participation of rituals and traditions as a dialogue with God. They reject the Christian human form of God known as Jesus. 

Islam teaches of Allah and Muhammed, who was his messenger. Their holy text is the Quran, and it informs on every aspect of their lives. They believe that good behavior leads to an afterlife in paradise. Islam is popular in the Middle East, especially near Mecca, which is regarded as the holiest city in the Islamic faith. 

There are also several polytheistic faiths that still exist today, including Taoism and Japanese Shinto. Religion is such a broad and varied topic that it cannot be boiled down to one specific style of belief. 

Types Of Spirituality

There are many different spiritual paths that you can follow in life. It’s a complicated topic and an extremely personal experience. Here are a few of the most common types of spirituality that people follow in life. 

  • Mystical spirituality is concerned with the intuitional part of your soul. These people believe there is unity in everything you experience in life. 
  • Authoritarian spirituality beliefs are rooted in a structure of authority that has a set of rules. This type of spirituality is the closest one to religion. 
  • Intellectual spirituality has a core belief of knowledge being the ultimate power. They like to theorize and analyze everything. 
  • Service spirituality believes in serving other people as a way to find peace. They expect nothing in return for their work. 
  • Social spirituality looks to other people around them for their purpose in life. 

Main Differences

One of the main differences between religion and spirituality is objective experiences versus subjective ones. Religion focuses on scriptures and rituals, whereas spirituality leans more on awareness of your inner self. Spirituality can be directed at a higher being or to a higher self. 

Religion is also extremely structured in the way it works. There are codes and guidelines to follow at all times. Spirituality breaks away from those structures and relies on self ambition. This sometimes means not following a specific set of external rules. 

Another key difference between the two concepts is their differing ideas of inclusivity. A lot of religions create isolation for people who don’t share the same views. This is sometimes used as an excuse to treat people poorly. Spirituality takes a more inclusive approach and tends to be more unifying than dividing. 

Finally, a lot of religions have woven fear into their cores. The idea of judgment and sin that provoke wrath from an angry God is worrying to many people. Spirituality focuses more on love and kindness in the grand scheme of things. People who follow spirituality are looking to end people’s suffering by helping those in need, not condemning them to hell.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, no one can tell you what to believe or not believe. It’s up to you and where your path is leading you. Whatever higher being you do or don’t believe in gave us the free will to live as we please. So don’t waste the time you’ve got left!

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