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Spirituality vs. Religion: Understanding the Key Differences

Humans have developed all types of beliefs throughout history. Some of these beliefs are attached to a specific religion while others just practice their beliefs outside of organized groups. This isn’t anything new since it has been human nature for millennia.

No matter what you choose to believe or however you decide to practice it, you’ll likely find a definition or a standard explanation about what you practice. Whether you believe it or not, religion has certain practices that are common behavior.

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In addition to religion, there’s something defined as spirituality. Those who lean more towards spirituality rather than religion also display certain customs or habits that can be somewhat defined. Don’t worry though, there’s nothing wrong with either of the two.

Religion and Spirituality are not exactly the same. They both have to do with higher knowledge and mystical beliefs, but they don’t center around the same objective. Some people might say they go hand in hand, and others might say they are completely different.

In this article, we’ve gathered the info on whether these two convictions are different. You’ll be able to free yourself from all doubts. Let’s go!

What’s Spirituality?

What is spirituality

When it comes to spirituality, we can say that it focuses on the inner self and soul. If you choose spirituality, you should expect to hold your personal set of practices and beliefs to search for the purpose of life. It’s also not confined to just one definition.

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For every person, the interpretation of what spirituality is will change throughout their lives. This is because the definition will adapt accordingly to your life experiences thanks to the self-reflection you do after certain events.

Additionally, spirituality offers you the objective to realize what’s your innate ability to face and fight through all the challenges that life throws at you. This way you’ll develop the ability to connect with the energy and beings higher than yourself.

Spirituality, then, is a deeply personal and objective experience. As a consequence, each experience is unique to each person. One person might try to describe a spiritual experience as feeling interconnected and grateful, while another person would describe it as being sacred and having a true sense of vitality.

Some will also state that spirituality’s definitely related to religion. You can be spiritual and practice a religion and vice versa. But there are also those who have their own personal relationship with what they say are higher beings, nature or art.

What is Religion?

People holding boos up

In the case of religion, this term refers to an institution that has well-established traditions and practices. Aside from that, religion also has a systematized belief structure that its members share without any difference. It’s something they all share.

The members of any religion have the duty to pass down the beliefs to people who’ll convert to it. In addition to this, their beliefs go in accordance with established cultural practices or with an officially documented set of dogmas.

Within religions, there’s always the necessity for a prepared person to act as a leader. They also need professionals that can take care of the formal aspects of the institution. These leaders perform ceremonies and rituals that attest to the core message of their religion, where they preach how you should live and carry out your life.

Religion can work as a social support group too. People who have shared beliefs will be able to understand and support each other in times of need. Added to the fact that they also frequent the same places which they use to adhere to their religion’s beliefs.

Religious people follow whatever rules the religion they practice sets, from their moral code and actions to their dress code. Plus, they religiously (pun intended) go out of their way to fulfill their religious duties. These duties might entail fasting, praying at certain hours or instances of the day, or attending church services.

What Are the Differences Between Spirituality and Religion?

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If you’re wondering about what the key differences between spirituality and religion are, you’re not alone. What’s important to know from the get-go is that neither’s better nor worse. Religion has an established set of beliefs and code of ethics, while spirituality’s extremely hard to define.

We’ve picked apart four of the most important differences between these two so you can learn how to differentiate them. Read on next to find out about all of them!

1. The Rules

As we stated previously, when it comes to spirituality, you can find the truths or enlightenment on your own. This is how you are able to develop your own spirituality, while also being allowed to wander through your intuition and your own interpretation of things and concepts.

Aside from the personal and intimate nature of spirituality, there’s also the fact that some spiritual rituals have documented practices or notions. People can use these so as to not feel overwhelmed on how to start their journey. Though, they are not strictly necessary, just optional tools.

However, religious people reach their interpretation of the truth by listening to what their religion defines. This is possible as a result of the documented information that the institutions and leaders share with their members.

Religion often has defined punishments and rewards if you disobey or comply with the rules that their faith has set. On the other hand, spirituality carries neither punishment nor reward if you practice it. The only one who can decide if you’re satisfied with your spirituality is yourself.

Spirituality makes you aware of karma though, where the principle is cause and effect. It teaches that you should act and focus your energy on love and good things. This way you’ll get those things directed towards you tenfold. If you do the opposite, you’ll receive that, but worse.

Meanwhile, religious people might not act within these parameters, but rather adhere to what their religion’s moral code dictates. While it might seem a little bit crazy, it’s perfectly normal since most religions also teach to perform merciful acts.

2. Origin of Their Beliefs

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People who practice spirituality commonly learn and develop their beliefs through trial and error. Since it’s something only you can experience, it empowers you and pushes you to reach an understanding of your deepest truths.

In the case of people who practice religions, they study their written dogma, which comes from a long line of tales about experiences the founding leaders or their lord had, to know what they should believe. Usually, this leads to them practicing and preaching what they have already learned for any and every situation imagined.

As a consequence, we have the fact that spirituality encourages those who practice it to create or find their own path to wisdom. Self-discovery doesn’t have any boundaries, and it inspires people to know and trust their guts. All thanks to allowing them to see themselves beyond their physical forms.

In change, religion highlights looking toward its predetermined teachings, and what their god would approve of before acting. Making it a search for guidance within their community rather than acting in what they consider selfishness.

3. How Their Beliefs Evolve

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Spiritual people develop their set of beliefs while they gain more knowledge in their journey to full spirituality. This way, if you practice spirituality, you’ll be the only one in control of how you evolve within your own self and belief.

On the other hand, the religious belief system is predefined, and it has its authorities or leaders as a form to enforce and reinforce these predefined aspects whenever it is necessary. Plus, they also are in charge of communicating any changes that the belief system may have over time.

Therefore, religion needs you to be obedient to its rules. If you practice any kind of religion, you’ll agree that there’s a necessity to act according to what your guides and teachings tell you. You will often choose counsel from the scriptures, rather than follow your own instincts.

Spirituality, unlike religion, encourages you to avoid obedience to outer regulations. It’s of utmost importance for you to trust whatever you may feel in any given situation. Be it issues, or life-changing decisions, you should look for guidance within yourself.

As a consequence, spirituality allows you to change your views on what spirituality is throughout your life. It doesn’t restrict you from questioning it or redefining it. This way, spirituality goes against the very principle of religion.

4. Individual or Shared Beliefs?


It’s clear that religion’s a practice that congregates a group of people that share their common faith or beliefs about what they consider to be a higher being. In the case of spirituality, it’s an individual and solitary experience that only you can define.

The reason why religion unites people comes down to its ability to be shared and practiced in a place that they consider a meeting point. They have leaders that guide them and shape their actions and attitudes. Offering direction when everything becomes too overwhelming.

Religions all around the world also offer the fact that their story and their god must be the right one. This checks what drives most people, their ego. While many might not accept it, a lot of religions have the same set of elements that allowed them to be as spread as they are now.

In the case of spiritual people, they concentrate on their own journey to reach their own conclusions about what it means for us to exist. In addition, the quality of the message and the thought process behind it is highlighted in spirituality.

Spiritual beliefs are unique to the person who practices them, despite the fact that it also teaches that everyone is equal. But that equality is what allows those that choose spirituality to open their minds and really consider why and how they are who they are.

Wrapping Up

As you have seen in this article, religious people see the concept of God as something set in stone, with no room for change or improvement because he and his teachings are perfect. On the other hand, a spiritual person would likely tell you to look within yourself to find all the answers to the questions that you have.

Religion and spirituality are very different.

They both have their own objectives, and neither is right or wrong. They are just ways for people to try and make sense of humanity’s existence. After reading all this, would you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person?

Affiliate Disclosures

Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.