What Is The Distinction Between 'Religion' and 'Spirituality'?

I have a big interest in the Religion/Spirituality topic on GAG, but every so often, I'll come across replies that make this seemingly arbitrary distinction between the two or that a particular religion, isn't actually a religion at all, with no more explanation given.

One example, I saw a guy say 'Oh, Christianity isn't a religion - it's a revelation through Christ'.
Like, what on Earth is that supposed to mean? Is a belief based on a 'Revelation' somehow mutually exclusive with being a religion? Why?
I'm interested in anyone's input on what the difference between religion and spirituality is, but I'm even more interested in hopefully hearing from one of these people who makes a distinction between the faith they belong to, and why it's not actually a religion -

How do you define religion?
How do you define spirituality / your non-religious idea of Faith X?

My understanding is that 'Spirituality' is just a catch-all for a variety of supernatural beliefs that frequently appear outside of specific faiths, or across a range of faiths - For example, 'Karma' or souls/ghosts. These beliefs are often held by people, regardless of whether or not they fit with or conflict with their religion/lack thereof. Is Spirituality just a choose-your-own adventure religion?

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Most Helpful Guys

  • Religion is basically organised spirituality. Besides the fact that one of them is individualistic and the other is a group of people, there really isn't a difference.

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    • That is incorrect.
      Religion is man made. It could be completely false and based on nothing more than ones imagination.
      Spirituality is worshipping the creator of the universe.

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    • Rigorous? Jesus dying on the cross for all our sins wasn't rigorous enough for you?
      If you have already made your decision about faith after it first appeared in you like I was talking about, what do you want from me? Why are you arguing or debating depending what your view is?
      Science is now realizing that fossils and formation of geology is more consistent with a flood than anything else.
      Look up in the history books where there were over 500 wittenesses who saw Jesus alive after her was buried. It's there if you want it

    • @penguin1965 Yeah, but here's the thing, we only have anecdotal evidence, not to mention these anecdotes were made decades later. I mean that is very very unreliable.

      Funny you should say that. We can actually calculate using logarithmic functions how old fossils are. Yeah, the flood was a myth.

  • "Is Spirituality just a choose-your-own adventure religion?"

    I agree with your take on it.

    I'd separate them most based on organization, commit and the effect on everyday life. A religion can require a lot of commitment and really change how your daily life operates, while spirituality is just clinging to the ideas of the supernatural without any real commitment to it.. it's vague and pretty much whatever the believer wants it to be.

    It's difficult to classify "spirituality" though, since beliefs concerning the supernatural is of course nonsense and doesn't really follow much, if any logical patterns or structure.

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    • Thanks for mho cutie.

    • You're welcome.

      I must admit, I'm disappointed by most of the answers from theists/'spiritualists'. Too many try to explain an ambiguous concept, by appealing to meaningless gibberish and one liners.

Most Helpful Girls

  • To me, religion is a group of people who believe strongly on their God/Gods. Spirituality, (I think) is where you believe in Spirits/Ghosts, maybe even Angels and a God, but are not Religiously following some bible.

    I think Religion can go too far sometimes. There's believing in a God/Gods, then there's being obsessed with it and sounding crazy when they quote the bible all the time.

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  • I think religion is essentially just more specialized form of spirituality but somehow religion intrinsically implies to me that there’s some focus on one or multiple deities.

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    • Like there’s some belief in the divine or sacred, totemism is a good example for that believe in more primitive religions

    • Spirituality just implies that you have an open mind in a way - spirituality can also encompass beliefs in magic and/or ghosts

    • Neat picture, I just love the way you capture yourself fantastic job.

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Have an opinion?

What Guys Said 39

  • Of course, any distinction is going to be subjective and arbitrary.

    But at a very broad level I'd say Religion is about following a bunch of externally derived doctrines, whereas spirituality is more about the relationship you have with yourself and the world. Yes, I know this will be too vague for most people, but tough. Spirituality doesn't particularly have to embody a particular set of beliefs. Take Karma for instance. A totally meaningless concept. In terms of populist thought, or in terms of religion, it's usually defined as some kind of punishment for bad behaviour, and ascendance into the upper realms for good. You could also define karma, more reasonably, as being aware of, and working with the shit you have been given (suppressed trauma, the subconscious). You can define it in perfectly materialistic and scientific terms if you like. For example, not something I'm particularly an expert on, but I do know it's not considered particularly out there nowadays, in scientific circles, to believe that traumas remain trapped in cells, tissues in some sense.

    A spiritualist would come in myriad different forms, because we're dealing with people, but for me personally, I don't get caught up in supernatural beliefs. I don't believe in anything harshly or rigidly, I might have certain ideas or notions, which have been shaped by my experience, but I take them to be subjective, and always recognise I could be under a delusion.

    In short, a spiritualist is a seeker. There is no easy answer to life. He doesn't cut himself off with preconceived ideas, religious or scientific ones. He works with everything he is given, as dynamically as he can. He understands the purposes of art and lets it shape his outlook.

    "You know, indeed, what a great difference there is between the way a man felt himself to be within the whole cosmos in the Egyptian age, let us say, and even in the time of Greece, and how he feels since the beginning of the modern age, since the close of the Middle Ages. Picture to yourselves a well-instructed ancient Egyptian. He knew that his body was constituted not merely of the ingredients which exist here on earth and are embodied in the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, mineral kingdom. He knew that the forces which he saw in the stars above, worked into his being as man; he felt himself a member of the whole cosmos.

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    • "He felt the whole cosmos not only quick with life, but ensouled and imbued with spirit; in his consciousness there lived something of the spiritual beings of the cosmos, of the soul-nature of the cosmos and its life. All this has been lost in the course of later human history. Today man gazes from his earth up to the star-world and to him it is filled with fixed stars, suns, planets, comets, and so on. But with what means does he examine all that looks down to him out of cosmic space? He examines it with mathematics, with the science of mechanics. What lies around the earth is robbed of spirit, robbed of soul, even of life. It is a great mechanism, in fact, only to be grasped by the aid of mathematical, mechanistic laws. With the help of these mathematical, mechanistic laws we grasp it magnificently! A student of spiritual science is undoubtedly just the one to value the achievements of a Galileo, a Kepler, and others, but what penetrates human understanding and consciousness"

    • " through the tenets of these great spirits in human evolution merely shows the universe as a great mechanism." Rudolf Steiner.

  • Religion is stuff like Christianity or Islam. Structured believe systems many of whose followers don't really care about it. You certainly know what I mean. My father says he believes in God but he doesn't go to church and I never saw him praying.
    Spirituality is what you actually believe in. Like zodiac signs. If you believe in them you must be a person who thinks a lot about grater meaning of life and stuff ( and j mean really believe in it and to just read it of the newspaper)

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  • I believe religion has a being at the top of their belief. And spirituality has no specific being just a belief in something greater than humans. As far as faith that would go as fearing the being or lack thereof at the head of your belief. For example I'm a Christian born again and things of that nature believe in God but I don't believe in the church establishment.

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  • Spirituality-

    Karma,
    *Dharma*
    Yoga
    Nirvana
    Moksha
    Tyaga, etc

    A spiritual Guru =

    Deepakbhai - one of my favorites

    What Is The Distinction Between 'Religion' and 'Spirituality'?

    Religion=

    Heaven
    Hell
    God
    Devil
    Monsters
    Fairies, etc

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  • I consider religion as man-made and spirituality as natural. No religion has ever made sense to me. I think it has always divided people. I believe in spirituality because of the existence of everything. I can't believe that life was just born out of nothing. I have reasons to believe in a higher power, not in the gods who could actually just be the results of imagination.

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  • Religion is organized and demands indoctrination. A person who has never experienced religion can experience spirituality quite naturally. There is a great deal of compelling observation that suggests it's inherent for us to search for meaning where there may or may not be any. This is the reason researchers are actively looking for the God gene. Every known human civilization has had a couple things in common, religion and music. That's not for nothing, methinks.

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  • spirituality is believing that you're a part of a whole and you're connecting with anyone in the world. including people you don't like!!!
    Religion is believing that an almighty wizzard in the cosmos drive all the universe on purpose and he got a plan... and he doesn't want you to masturbate... because some reasons!!!

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  • It is a relationship with Jesus Christ and faith is believing in something God does exist God said a fool says in his Heart there is no God Christ died on the cross and rose the third day.. Christ was God in the flesh the Great I AM

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  • I don't know, but I saw this and thought of you...
    What Is The Distinction Between 'Religion' and 'Spirituality'?

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  • I’m going to be honest here.

    Spirituality is about connecting with your energetic self and learning to ignore the ego. It’s about finding your true self in any way that works and to become enlightened.

    Religion is a singled out path of spirituality (except Buddhism which is all about how there are multiple paths and paganism which has a similar philosophy as well as spiritualism and a few other religions)

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  • Religion - participating in sacred rites that are hundreds if not thousands of years old as your parents and grandparents did and as your children will (maybe)
    Spirituality - telling your facebook friends you don't go to church anymore because its too judgmental

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  • Hmmm. Great question. Religion seems to usually be based on a god of some sort and is often organised for many people to follow.
    Spiritually doesn’t require a god or have the nees to be shared in a group. It could be a way of believing the universe works and human’s role in the world. Yeah, I pulled that out of my bum so it’s probably waaaay off.

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  • spirituality is your individual believe in something supernatural. religion is a group organized regular practice to follow a group believe in something supernatural.

    so the difference is: individual superstition, vs united superstition xD

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  • I usually take that to mean religious is "I'm specifically Christian/Muslim/Jewish" where spiritual basically means agnostic (genuinely agnostic, not the "it's retarded but I can't prove it wrong so I'll call myself agnostic")

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  • Religion is seeking peace through the relief in a higher power that will bring you paradise should it seem you worthy.
    Spirituality is finding peace within yourself and the world around you.

    That's my personal interpretation.

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  • Maybe you would know of you weren't such a dumb cunt and did a simple Google search

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    • ... It's a subjective distinction. You can't just argumentum-ad-dictionary such an open question. Clearly this subject is over your head.

  • both are real

    spirituality is just forcing or not forcing the spiritual experience
    religion is the story and warning of what is gonna happen in the future

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  • Religion means you believe in some kind of deity. That isn’t necessarily the case with spirituality, like Buddhists are spiritual but don’t believe in a god

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  • With spirituality you know there's a god. and it's you're soul. and the dude next door and the little old lady on the street we are all gods in a spiritual world

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  • Religion is mans attempt to cover themselves while spiritualism is mans attempt to perceive spiritual things without god, I don’t believe they believe in sin

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  • Well i would say religion can send you to Hell.. not all religions are with Gods Will... Spirituality is those who have Gods Spirit within. Thise people walk with God in a Spiritual sense

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  • To me, spirituality is the belief of practice of what is needed paranormal or. supernatural.

    Religion is defined as the belief of a superior being (s) with organized doctrine, codes or dogma

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  • Simple. Religion is for people afraid of going to hell and spirituality is for people that have been there and don’t want to go back

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    • That seems... maddeningly unhelpful. Spiritualists who believe in heaven/hell are also scared of their own afterlife beliefs, so the first distinction doesn't clarify anything, and I'm sure I've talked to plenty of people why had claims about having experienced an afterlife, who happily accept the 'religious' label.

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    • Surely you agree that that's just a colloquialism and not a literal case of having seen a 'hell'. The commonly accepted 'Hell' isn't just an awful experience, it's a specific supernatural location.

    • Only for those that believe it exists. I personally believe hell is here on earth now

  • Spirituality is beliveing in the Earth. Religion is beliveing in that there is something higher than the Earth.

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  • Religion is the belief , your spirituality is the degree of your faith and hope in that said religion...….

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  • Religion is organized. Spirituality isn't. Spirituality is basically a smorgasbord. A buffet, if u will.

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  • Maybe religious people find peace outside while spiritual people find it inside

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  • Religion is organized, spirituality is not. It's literally that simple

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    • Like, I trust my religion because every part of it has been studied for thousands of years by people who know a lot more about it than me. Except I live in a time where we are starting to understand the methods God used to create everything from the stars in distant galaxies, to life itself. Although we still don't know anything about life before rna, hopefully one day we'll have a better idea. It's entirely possible that well never know how the first organisms passed on genetic codes, or even how genetic codes came to be, since what we understand of God's universal laws as of right now, prohibit reverse time travel

  • Spirituality is like STAR WARS while Religion is like JEDI...

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  • In a nutshell, a religion refers to an earthly practice or representation of something bigger than us. They worship but get so caught up in the rituals, that it becomes more about them and their practice than about whatever they are worshiping. Ex: Jehovas wittenesses worship the church instead of worshipping God. It becomes about them. Religion can be prideful because it more like. Ha! My faith is superior to yours.
    Christianity is not a religion. Why? Because it's about following Christ who is the son of God. You don't have to believe that. But it's not about themselves. It's all about God. We become small do God can become big. Religion is prideful. Spirituality is the opposite. It's about humility. Although there are Christians who do not represent God or Christ well at all. There are false Christians. It's important to recognize the difference. False Christians are very judgmental and seem to hate anything that's not like them. That's more like a religion when it's like that.

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What Girls Said 6

  • This is what I learned in AA.

    Religion is for people who don't want to go to Hell.
    Spirituality is for people who've already been there.

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  • For me I’m spiritual meaning I believe in something. But I don't know what and I don’t follow any religion. Religion is more specific

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  • Religion is practised and is a shared practice. It belongs to everyone. Spirituality is of our own design and belongs to each person individuaalluly

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  • Religion is for people who fear hell,
    Spirituality is for people who have been there.

    -David Bowie

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  • I believe in my power and my god is inside me and i believe in that all of my thoughts and dreams will be my destiny good and bad

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  • God is in the details.

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