Religion vs. Spirituality

the-eye-of-god-hubbleHistorically, the belief that we are separate from God was the chief differentiator between spirituality and most of the world’s major religions. Over the last few decades, however, many faiths have embraced a more spiritual point of view.

Organized religion typically represents God as an external entity while spirituality portrays the Divine as an integral aspect of our humanity.

Both paths offer rich rewards. Some religious followers find deep meaning in celebrating and paying homage to their family heritage. Some spiritual seekers find peace and purpose in celebrating and honoring their Divine heritage.

Both paths have pitfalls. Organized religion plays a vital role in building community yet often positions itself as an indispensable intermediary between worshipers and God.

Spirituality encourages direct contact with God; yet, without a disciplined commitment to self-awareness, seekers on the road to truth may miss the turn for humility and veer off toward arrogance.

Traditionally, religion has been sociological and institutional while spirituality is individual and personal.

Many organized religions demand that you follow an external set of rules based on the experience of others, while spirituality encourages you to seek your own experiences through inner exploration and discovery.

Organized religion is all about the depths of your beliefs. Spirituality is all about the depths of your consciousness.

Dogma preaches to us about God while spirituality teaches us to achieve God consciousness.

While religious dogma may stifle self-expression, spiritual devotees often take great truths such as “God and I are one” out of context, misinterpret them, and apply them in ways that honor their ego rather than their spirit.

Organized religion has often been presented as a closed, hierarchical system. In such a structure, all questions lead to official explanations and individual interpretation is discouraged.

Spirituality is an open, multifarious path with many questions leading to answers that cannot be fully grasped in the questioner’s current state of consciousness. Individual evolvement is mandatory.

Religion and spirituality complement each other when religion is positioned not as a filter for rigidly interpreting God, but as a foundation for reaching out to God.

Many organized religions assert that their method of worship is the only true path to God while ancient spiritual wisdom maintains that all rivers lead to the same ocean. Thus, when conflict arises, religion tends to divide while spirituality typically unites.

Enlightened seekers honor differing religious or spiritual views and celebrate the similarities in the core teachings of the world’s major faiths.

As we leave this world, no matter what our beliefs may be, we must all pass over the same bridge to whatever awaits us on the other side.

God made Truth with many doors to welcome every believer who knocks on them.
Kahlil Gibran


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10 Responses to “Religion vs. Spirituality”

  1. Susan Hanshaw Says:

    Phil, that’s one of the best discussions about the difference between spirituality and religion that I’ve read. There are so many mysteries about how the Universe works. When I stop to think about death, that is one thing I look forward to–understanding more of the truth.


  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Susan. Yes, it’s exhilarating to think of one day pulling aside the veil and gaining access to the mysteries of the universe. But if it’s all the same to you, I’m willing to be patient for another 68 years or so!

  3. Ray Baskerville Says:

    I’m not sure that your premise “The belief that we are separate from God is the chief differentiator between spirituality and most of the world’s major religions” is correct. It is certainly a part of the difference in most cases.

    If I were to sum it up in one line I would say the difference is that spirituality is a direct relationship with the Divine and Religion is a man made system to mediate and control that relationship. A bhakti oriented spirituality would still hold the worshiped as separate from the worshiper.

    Look at the founders of the major religions and what those religions have become and it seems pretty clear. Each had a direct relationship with the Mystery that is hard to find in the book law of the religions that grew in their name.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Well, yes, you’re right, but that’s pretty much saying the same thing, isn’t it?

  5. Ray Baskerville Says:

    Hi Phil
    not really, as a direct relationship with the Divine can, and often does still place God outside of oneself, that relationship doesn’t have to be within the confines of a religion though.

    Take nature for example, being in it is a spiritual experience for many, they feel God in nature and the experience of that is outside themselves, which is why back in the city they don’t have it and seek to be in nature.

    I hope this makes it clearer

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I disagree, Ray. While the physical manifestation of nature may be outside ourselves, the divine consciousness behind it is also in us, which is why such beauty resonates within us. We feel the connection because everything is connected. When we are aligned with the Divine Mind, there is no separateness. Rumi said it best:

    For those who realize that everything is from God, everything is the same.

  7. Ray Baskerville Says:

    I’m not saying that God is separate from nature, I have had direct experience of the truth of Unity, it isn’t my everyday lived experience so my spirituality embraces times of direct knowing of Unity and times of separation

    Your premise was “The belief that we are separate from God is the chief differentiator between spirituality and most of the world’s major religions” I am suggesting that spirituality can and does exist in the experience of separateness from God.


  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I understand what you’re saying. It’s all a matter of how we frame what we’re looking at. Ultimately, separateness from God is an illusion. When the soul identifies with the mind and body, it unconsciously manifests as ego; when the soul realizes its divine nature, it abandons ego and consciously and joyously merges with spirit.

    If we’re speaking from ego, it seems to make sense to talk about the experience of separateness from God. At the same time, however, we are one with God, and will always be so. I think we’re in agreement on all this, it’s just a matter of what perspective we’re coming from.

  9. Jake Says:


    Dispositionism is a religion that I recently came up with! The local newspaper did an article on it, and it has 50-60 local members. (I have only shown it to about 75 people)

    If you agree or disagree or have any questions or comments, please email me at


    Dispositionists believe that a being capable of creating a universe (or whatever he/she/it did) would be intelligent, insightful, and understanding enough to judge one not based on one’s BELIEFS, but rather on one’s CHARACTER.

    Thus the way to obtain any reward that a god might offer (be it heaven, reincarnation, self-enlightenment, peace, or whatever) is to practice and promote PEACE, KINDNESS, AND UNDERSTANDING.

    Think about it! Do you honestly believe that a god would send Ghandi to burn in hell simply because Ghandi had the “wrong” beliefs?!


    All other religions (to my knowledge) either promote one set of ideas over another, require “faith,” or claim to know the past acts of their god.

    Not to attack Christianity, but I get a lot of Christians who claim that God judges you based on your character. However, Jesus said “the only way to the Father is through Me.” This is just one example. Please understand that I am not attacking Christianity. Most true Christians satisfy the guidelines of Dispositionism.

    Consider the possibility that a god would want you to be a good person more than he would want you to make the right guess about religion.

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m sure your ideas will appeal to some, Jake. We need to have different takes on the same core messages to ensure that people can find what resonates best for them. As long as people keep moving in the right direction, it’s all good!

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