What is Spirituality?

Is it like religion? How is spirituality different than religion?

To put it very simply, religion is living vicariously through someone else’s experience of “God” (or whatever you want to call it, Source, Universe, The Big Everything, whatevs)—and spirituality is having your very own transcendent experience. (They’re for everyone, not just the “special”.)

So, there are religious people who are also very spiritual, but not all religious people are spiritual. It’s about making the connection on your own, your heart and mind meeting with something bigger. It’s an internal journey, it’s a “you had to be there” experience, whereas with religion you can hand someone a book and say, “This is it, basically.”

Spirituality is filled with nuance and subtlety. A memory flashes through your mind as you read another’s spiritual writings and a deep understanding occurs, like a small piece of a hugely important puzzle has been tapped into place. Or a song plays and the lyrics are the same as the thought running through your head and you know that you best pay attention. Or you dream up a dream that means more to you than you have words to explain. Or the sudden feeling that you are loved beyond belief, combined with goosebumps on your neck and warmth in your heart.

Religion has rules.  Religion tends to be pretty black and white, it throws around judgy concepts like “sin” and “hell”, or tells you that your shitty place in life is determined by your karma—and is, therefore, immovable. Religion’s pretty good a keeping people in their places. Especially people with vaginas and people without money.

Not that it’s all bad! Religion is the bridge to spirituality for many, and has, without a doubt, changed many people’s lives for the better. It also has the advantage of an organization, and while that can lead to judgy-wudgy boxes, it can also lead to a strong community and the ability to bring people together. (Unitarian Universalist churches are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth, but not by any sort of creed or set of beliefs. I’ve been meaning to check one out for ages…)

So, to sum it up—spirituality happens within, and religion happens on the outside. One’s an internal experience and the other’s external.  Religion can also be a way to share your internal spiritual experience with others who relate—if your religion’s cool like that. (It might also tell you that internal spiritual experiences are sacrilegious, a bunch of shinola. RUN if you hear that.) Both are based in a yearning for truth and meaning, but they offer different avenues of finding it.

spirituality