Spiritual or Religious?

Life has a strange way of showing us our paths, of shaking our beliefs. Believe it or not – before Alex’s death I was very closed minded. Just a couple of months before he died we sat at the kitchen table; Alex, me and Emily, my eight year old daughter. Alex said to me: “Mom, I’m not religious. I don’t believe in going to Church.” And I got defensive.

Alex`s First Communion

Alex`s First Communion

If I had known what I know now I would have opened the conversation, I would have talked with him.  But I shot him down. My daughter was in the room and I told Alex not to speak like that, because she was sitting right there. I thought it might have a bad influence on Emily, I didn’t want her to feel negatively towards religion.

Alex told me he was spiritual, but not religious. I didn’t know what he meant then. I was raised Catholic, and we raised Alex and Emily Catholic. I was religious, but I wasn’t necessarily spiritual. It took my son taking his life for me to become spiritual.

The distinction between religion and spirituality can be confusing for people. Non-believers sometimes see them as one, but most of us are not religious and spiritual, we are one or the other. Then what is the difference?

By many religion is seen as some kind of organized faith, worshiping a God, or several Gods, usually within a strong community. Religious individuals are usually part of a bigger group, sharing their faith and doing good for their neighbors.

A spiritual individual is pictured as more of a lone wolf. A spiritual journey entails an inner search, that should result in our own truth, perhaps based on a few religions, but not bound by their rules.  It’s quite the fashionable statement: ‘I am Spiritual but not Religious’ – there is an entire movement based on this principle.

Yet the religious and spiritual often judge each other. The religious call the spiritual lazy, egotistic, unwilling to connect with a community and help the world. The spiritual call the religious closed minded and say they lost their spirituality within the strict rules of religion. It seems religion and spirituality do not often go hand in hand.

But let’s look at what they both have, using the words of Swami Brahmananda: “There is no true religion or spirituality without kindness and love”.

Alex, young as he was, understood this. By telling me he was spiritual, he meant that he was on a journey within himself, searching for his own truth. I wish I would have listened to him then, talked with him. We might have been able to make part of the journey together. But I am grateful that I have now embarked on a spiritual journey of my own, even if his passing triggered it.

I am still religious, but I am also spiritual. And they are at their best going hand in hand, as one. Because we must search within ourselves, but not forget that there is more out there, something bigger than us. And to share our spiritual truths with others, to help others, to always be kind, compassionate and loving. I am happy Alex taught me this and grateful to continue with my son’s Spirit beside me, within me, on this beautiful journey.

6 thoughts on “Spiritual or Religious?

  1. Hi! I highly recommend reading the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. You can find more at his website by searching “Center for Action and Contemplation”.
    Peace and blessings on your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, religion involves looking outward for answers. Looking for an outside authority to tell me I’m okay and to keep me safe. Being spiritual means looking inward and finding love, comfort and safety in the core of my own soul, which comes straight from and is intimately connected to our Source.

    Religion feels restrictive and exclusive (yes I was raised in church) to me….ie if you don’t believe this and follow these rules and rituals, you’re wrong, on the wrong path, aren’t loved, and won’t go to “Heaven.” Spirituality tells me, you ARE Love, and are Loved. Always. With or without rituals and rules.

    Humans no longer get to tell me how to feel or what to believe. My inner being directs my life and since it’s never not connected to Source, I have a great guidance system! Once I realized the love and direction within, everything changed. It had to come from the inside of me, not from the outside. That was what turned my life inside out and sent me on the path of love, both for myself and others.

    Spirituality allows (not tolerates, for that implies judgment) everyone to follow their own path and honors each one, for like the spokes of a wheel, they all end up in the same place eventually. Being spiritual has allowed me to love and honor myself minus the self-criticism and judgments I used to carry around, not only about myself but the world.

    However, it’s a continual work in progress. Thank you for following my blog! Nice to meet you there!

    Liked by 1 person

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