Has anyone ever told you that they are spiritual but not religious? Or perhaps you’re on the other side of the spectrum and you often feel obligated to explain the differences between the two?
No matter which side you’re on, it’s undeniably challenging to differentiate religion and spirituality. Both concepts are so deeply intertwined with one another that a lot of people mistake them to be one and the same.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people who are keen on truly understanding non-physical concepts; they find it difficult to grasp ideas which they cannot see or touch.
But as you develop yourself spiritually, you might want some answers in order to continue your spiritual growth.
And one of the questions you might have right now is, what is the difference between spiritual and religious needs?
You’ll be surprised to know that spiritual and religious needs have quite a lot of differences.
Although they are somewhat similar on the surface, there is still yet a lot to learn about them.
Find out what their main differences are by reading down below.
The Main Differences between Spiritual and Religious Needs
Existence of Rules
When one thinks of religion, certain rituals, customs, and tradition also come to mind. Take a look at the various types of religion around you and observe those who practice it faithfully.
As you may have already noticed, each of them has their own distinct rituals. Some may seem similar to another, while others have their own unique differences.
Sadly, these differences are often the culprits behind the conflicts of mankind. For a very long time, some religious groups are too busy trying to prove that their religion is superior to the rest.
But what most of those people don’t realize is that all these religions still function in the same way, no matter how different they may seem.
Rituals and other practices are enforced mainly because of the existence of rules within each religion. And those who share the same beliefs of a particular religious group would willingly adhere to these rules.
For some people, the existence of rules may feel limiting or even oppressing. But for many others who feel the need for guidance, these rules actually help them understand their spirituality.
It is what they use to justify their beliefs and actions.
Our religious needs require guidance and comfort. The rules in each religion serve as a guideline which people can utilize or get advice from.
Others use it as a kind of compass to help them move forward. And without a compass, it is difficult to judge the morality and the meaning of the things and occurrences around us.
Spirituality, on the other hand, does not have such distinct rituals, practices or customs.
It grants every individual freedom, unbounded by any rules. It allows people to use their own intuition to judge whether something is right or wrong for them.
After all, each of us has their own lives to live and what may seem right for us may not be the right choice for them.
Unlike religion, spirituality does not reward goodness or punish acts of evil. This is not to say that there is no consequence to doing evil or that there is nothing good that will come out of kindness.
It simply takes away the expectation of being rewarded or punished. Spirituality does not want to use the concept of reward and punishment but instead, it offers people the choice to decide whether or not they want to be good and kind towards others.
Our spiritual needs call for freedom – being free to think for oneself and to be able to rationalize right from wrong by ourselves.
Belief in the Divine Power
Religion puts a face or employs a character to a divine source of power. This great divinity is commonly referred to as God across many different religions.
Depending on which type of religion, God may have different other names but all of which is used to refer to an omnipresent, all-powerful force that governs all there is in the Universe.
In relation to having rules, religion also introduces the idea of God. Of course, there is nothing wrong about putting a name to the divine but you may realize that God’s personality and beliefs may differ among various religions.
Our religious needs require a familiarity with the divine. It is easier for some of us to relate to religion that can truly understand us as human beings. In almost all religions, the divine is often presented as having human-like features.
The concept of such a God feels more approachable than an ominous, powerful force which we cannot see.
Meanwhile, spirituality acknowledges the divine power as something that is beyond what we can perceive. Spirituality raises the idea that this power is the universe in itself and that it is a force that is present in everything, no matter how big or small.
Our spiritual needs do not necessarily entail a need for familiarity or connection. Instead, it yearns for a deeper personal understanding of what is happening around us.
Spirituality does not require a governing figure to realize that the divine has great power. But rather, it believes that the divine is everywhere – even amongst ourselves.
Our spiritual needs are all about gaining access to our higher power and finding our place in the universe.
Method of Practice
As mentioned above, religion is riddled with various rituals and practices. Of course, there is nothing wrong about partaking in such activities, especially if it helps you grow spiritually.
But no matter which religion you are in, you may be required to participate in some or even all of such rituals.
Unfortunately, religion inevitably binds individuals into thinking that every ritual is correct and mandatory. After all, these are the rules one must follow when choosing to commit to a certain religion.
And when this happens, the ritual or religious practice begins to lose its meaning.
Since individuals are simply obliged to participate and there may be no need to further understand its purpose in one’s life.
This is when religion becomes a chore instead of something that is being sought after. However, this is not to say that religious practices are unnecessary.
The difference between spiritual and religious needs is that our religious needs require community. Having such rituals and practices brings people of the same religion together.
Prayer then becomes communal and these rituals become something that is shared between others.
This can be a good thing because it means that you are looking to build relationships or even a community governed by the same set of beliefs.
Spirituality, on the other hand, does not have any pre-arranged customs and traditions.
Each person has their own way of connecting themselves with the Universe. Whether it’s through the act of meditation or simply sending personal messages to the Universe, each person must find their own way of accessing their higher power.
The great thing about this is that this method allows one’s practice to become very personalized.
One must truly understand themselves in order to create their own practice. And in order to gain such an understanding, there is a lot of self-discovery that must be done.
When something is personal, it is ten times more meaningful and powerful than something that is done out of obligation. There is a deeper meaning behind why they do the things they do.
Obedience vs Self-Discovery
As you have already read above, every religion has a set of rules to follow. Those who choose to commit themselves to such religions are obliged to follow them.
And when rules exist, obedience is expected.
While this may sound strict or harsh for some people, there are actually some good points that come out of having rules.
Rules can be utilized as a guideline, a place where people can always look back to when they are in need of answers.
While there’s nothing bad about creating rules to gain order, there is also a downside to it.
Because most religions believe that every act of evil will be punished, an individual’s obedience is more often than not a reaction of their own fear.
They are afraid of getting punished and so they have no other choice but to obey the rules.
On the other side of the coin, spirituality embraces the idea of self-discovery. It pushes people to let go of their fears and to go on a journey to find oneself.
Spirituality does not operate in a reward or punishment system.
But rather, it goes by a simple law: whatever you put out to the Universe will be returned to you.
Because of this, individuals are able to learn from their mistakes and they are given a chance to improve their own lives.
Our spiritual needs address our yearning for knowledge. There is so much we still do not know about the divine; all we know is that it exists amongst us.
What we can do, however, is to learn how to harness its powers. And this can only be done by getting to know ourselves more spiritually and by building a strong connection with the Universe.
Religion is all about communal practice. Religious groups exist because of its participants.
Although one can pray alone and communication with God is personal, religion needs a community in order to hold rituals and customs.
There is a form of governance through churches and other religious institutions. Religion is aimed at building relationships with God and with others.
It is concerned about the well-being of a whole community and not just the self.
Meanwhile, spirituality can be considered mainly as a solo adventure. It is all about building a relationship with yourself, discovering who you really are and achieving inner peace.
Spirituality believes that one must work within himself in order to truly make a connection with others and the Universe.
Without self-discovery, it is impossible to build relationships with others as well.
One big difference between religious and spiritual needs is that spiritual needs are fulfilled only by ourselves.
Nobody else can do it for us.
Compared to religious needs, we can seek comfort in the prayers and company of other people.
Seeking Out the Truth
As you are growing spiritually, you are constantly asking yourself some of life’s most difficult questions such as “what is the meaning of life?” or “what is my purpose here on earth?”
If you are someone who is constantly looking for answers, you might take comfort in the solutions religion has to offer.
Religion does not only have a predefined set of rules, they also have concepts and ideas that can be used to answer such tough questions.
Our religious needs are addressed whenever we find the truth through the teachings of religion.
Although we do not have a first-hand experience to justify it, religion teaches us that faith will set us free. Because the truth is already presented to you, all you need is faith.
Meanwhile, those who are on the spiritual route are all about gaining first-hand experiences.
Although they believe in an intangible divine power, they must first experience it in order to develop and grow spiritually.
Rather than faith, spirituality gives importance to knowledge and understanding. Your spiritual needs are telling you to go find those answers by yourself because only then will you believe it to be true.
In relation to all those mentioned above, religion is also about developing spiritual growth by learning from the experiences of other people.
You hear about stories of the people before your and how they were able to seek out the truth.
Or perhaps you may also be reading the experiences of people who have been in the presence of God.
In religion, one’s faith is built by the beliefs and encounters of other people.
Those who practice such religions begin to believe that those stories are the truth and that they can apply it to their own lives.
Meanwhile, spirituality has no stories to tell except your own.
You are the writer of your own experiences and whatever you experience or discover in your journey is the truth. Your encounters with the divine may not be shared with millions of others.
But you know that it is a strong personal connection between you and the Universe.
It’s very easy to mistake religion and spirituality. In fact, many people still believe that they are no different from the other.
But if you take a look at the differences between spiritual and religious needs, you will begin to understand how widely different they are from the other.
However, this is not to say that one concept is correct while the other is wrong.
We are all human beings with plenty of needs. Just because spiritual and religious needs may seem different, it does not mean that we should eliminate the other in order to be fulfilled.
Allen Wei is someone who believes in living his best life, focusing on balance, happiness, and relaxation. He fosters a positive lifestyle in terms of his body, mind, and environment, and he is a huge proponent of learning to be balanced via relaxation techniques integrated into our busy lives.