If you have a facebook account, chances are you have seen the image on the left or a similar one. It states: Religion is for people afraid of hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there. I've seen this image more times than I can count but I never really gave it much thought. Just another one of those cute meme's going around in internet.
In a similar fashion I have also seen and heard people who described them self as "spiritual but not religious" and I can hear myself asking "but what does that mean exactly?" And if you can be spiritual but not religious, can you be religious but not spiritual?
Then this morning I was flipping through channels on television and happened to stop on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) because something that was being said pricked up my ears. Oprah was interviewing Reverend Ed Bacon the rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. She was explaining how in the early 90's she was interviewing an author about their book which touched on Spirituality and at one point she had to stop the show because she sense the audience wasn't participating as they should. It was then that Oprah discovered that people didn't understand the concept of "Spirituality". People did not understand that they are comprised in part, by spirit and that part of them that is spirit is connected to that part of everyone else that is spirit and connected to God. Spirituality smacked too much of religion and dogma.
My first thought was this would be a great question to explore in any number of forums available to me, but then I thought if someone asked me to define Religion and Spirituality, what would be my answer? After giving it some thought, I think this is the best answer I can come up with.
"Religion is what has been spoon-fed to us (the masses) by the media, the church, evangelist, and various spiritual leaders from different paths. Spirituality is the divine-truth that you have discovered for yourself through your own experiences along life's journey. The "truth" that you discovered may come from within the religion / belief system in which you were raised, another religion, or your truth may be a combination of both."
This is why I have said so many times, "I do not claim to be an authority on these subjects nor would I expect anyone to take anything that they read within these pages at face value. I encourage each one of you to think about what you read here, do your own research and find your own truth."
Exercises for You to Try
Here are a few exercises that you can try that, hopefully, will help you learn a little bit more about yourself or at least get you to think about these concepts in more depth. You don't have to be Christian to do them, in face, you can be Wiccan, Pagan, Buddhist, or a member of any religious or spiritual practice.
- Take out a sheet of paper. At the top of the paper write the word RELIGION. About midway down, write the world SPIRITUALITY. Under the word religion, write your own definition of the word "religion". What does "religion" mean to you? What does it entail. Under the word spirituality, write your own definition of the word "spirituality". Take all the time that you need to get your thoughts out and use separate pieces of paper if necessary.
- Take out a sheet of paper and fold it down the middle lengthwise. On the left side of the paper, write the word RELIGIOUS and on the right write the world SPIRITUAL. Under the word religion, write the characteristics of people who are religious. Under the word spiritual, write the characteristics of people who are spiritual. What does your list say about you? Do your characteristics describe you as religious or spiritual? How does that make you feel about your chosen religion or spiritual path?