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Religion vs Spirituality: What are the differences?!

March 1, 2017 149 7 No Comments

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Religion vs Spirituality: What are the differences?!

There has been a history of debate regarding the relationship between spirituality and religion. Do elements of spirituality reside in religion? What about the other way around? The number of questions can seem endless. For some, there is a sharp boundary between these two concepts. For others, this boundary is shared. There are also others that simply do not subscribe to any of these ideas.
However, in this article, I’d like to talk about some of the differences between what it means to be spiritual and religious. It is not to say that there aren’t any similarities between the two. As you may already know, the topic of religion and spirituality can be a sensitive idea for many to discuss. The contents of this article is served to promote discussion between those in the TherapyCable community.


This article is aimed at providing a perspective that you may or may not have been exposed to. Regardless of the following content, your opinions are welcome! As stated previously, while many can say that there are similarities between spirituality and religion, for purposes of this particular section, I would like to reify both concepts so that we understand some of the fundamental differences between what it means to be spiritual or religious.

The Idea of Unity.
In most religions, unity between people is gained/earned through first accepting the narratives of a particular being(s) and their path to enlightenment, freedom, love, etc. These narratives are open to interpretation by their followers. Their followers can then claim that the only “right way” achieve these positive feelings is to follow their god(s). In spirituality, one can see multiple truths that lie within multiple religions, philosophies, etc- rather than heavily relying on the context/content of the narrative associated with these different religions.
The Practice of Faith.
While this article aims to talk about differences, there are parts of this reading that can’t deny the similarities that these two ideas harbor. One of these ideas include the notion of faith. Faith drives both spirituality and religion. However, the way in which faith is practiced differentiates spirituality and religion. Spirituality acknowledges the idea of faith. Religion is associated with a more active representation of the practice of faith.
The Use of Rules.
The practice of religion implies that there is a certain set of rules/laws to abide by and apply in many aspects of daily living. Certain days are dedicated to religious holidays to comprehensively practice and appreciate our deities of choice and the lifestyle that accompanies it. Spirituality refers to a state of being where the appreciation of certain aspects of our lives reside more within ourselves. Spirituality doesn’t necessarily imply that there is a higher being to worship. Our place of solace, happiness, and gratitude is manifested within ourselves.
The Group vs the Individual.
As stated previously, spirituality may rest upon the notion that the individual would rely on themselves in order to achieve a sense of peace. While it hasn’t been ruled out that fostering spirituality can be completed in a group setting, often times spirituality may be involved with a higher sense of individualism, rather than group culture. Religion can do both- however in religious settings, the active practice of worship can more often be identified in group settings.
Our Levels of Dependence.
In religion, we look to the idea of divine being(s) that can help to alleviate our pain, worries, fears, etc. Considering this, what would happen if these deities were to have not existed? Who would they rely on in order to aid them as time passes? For those who subscribe to a particular religion, this may be the question to consider when learning more about their dependence on the concept of a god. Your faith is predicated on one or more beings, while with spirituality, the level of dependence would most likely stem from oneself. An individual can perhaps draw their sense of peace/happiness from the everyday workings of our current world. Perhaps they can draw their sense of peace from the ocean, forest, or other elements of nature. Perhaps they can practice gratitude that imbues a new dimension into practicing spirituality. An individual who is spiritual can draw upon many sources to achieve their state of mind.

Both spirituality and religion are constructs. Constructs are another term used to measure complex psychological ideas/concepts. While one can not numerically measure spirituality vs religionvague ideas such as spirituality or religion, the operationalization of these variables can make this ambiguous idea more concrete. Through operationalization, one can assign more definitive areas of measurement that can potentially gauge the “levels” of spirituality, religion, or any other abstract construct. Research has been conducted heavily in defining some of these universal concepts. For the purposes of this article, simply acknowledge that there are more scientific approaches that attempt to represent these ideas in a more concrete light. There are scientific definitions that will be mentioned briefly through the rest of this article.
For those who do not necessarily rely on purely metrics to define the boundaries between spirituality and religion, you can also consider that there is not necessarily a definitive set of rules that constitute spirituality and religion. The perception of spirituality and religion can vary from person to person with different interpretations of each.
However, psychologists and sociologists have attempted to create a more visible measurement of these two ideas. As mentioned previously regarding spirituality and religion measuring different depths of faith, scholars from diverse backgrounds look at spirituality through a culmination of an individual’s experience, outlook, and feelings. Religion can be measured through which an individual practices and participation.
Regardless of these differences, it is important to see both religion and spirituality as an instrument for inner peace. Many ask what an individual can gain from exercising religion/spirituality. While we all may know what the answer is (happiness, peace, love, etc), I ask you to consider what you can lose as well. In the process of believing in a greater entity, you can relinquish stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and potentially many more of these negative moods. Religion and spirituality can serve as the crux to nurturing your health in many aspects. We all need something or somebody that we can rely on and confide on in tough times. For those who may seem or feel like we do not have anybody to rely on, aspects of religion and/or spirituality can serve as these confidants.
Given this statement, while this list does mention differences between both spirituality and religion, consider the similarities as well. As I stated previously, just because this article focuses on the differences between religion and spirituality, does not eliminate the commonalities between both ideas. Both concepts can promote a sense of identity. Being religious or spiritual can mend relationships. It can provide us with the strength we need in difficult times. At the end of the day, it is your decision, and nobody elses. Understand that it is not a contest to see whether being religious or spiritual is better. Whichever you may choose (you can also choose to not do either!), do not shy away from the decision that will bring you the most peace and sense of fulfillment.

We encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts on the subject of religion and spirituality, all opinions are welcome!

To learn more and watch videos on religion and spirituality, please visit: https://therapycable.com/spirituality-videos.html

By: Brian Tran

There has been a history of debate regarding the relationship between spirituality and religion. Do elements of spirituality reside in religion? What about the other way around? The number of questions can seem endless. For some, there is a sharp boundary between these two concepts. For others, this boundary is shared. There are also others that simply do not subscribe to any of these ideas.
However, in this article, I’d like to talk about some of the differences between what it means to be spiritual and religious. It is not to say that there aren’t any similarities between the two. As you may already know, the topic of religion and spirituality can be a sensitive idea for many to discuss. The contents of this article is served to promote discussion between those in the TherapyCable community.


This article is aimed at providing a perspective that you may or may not have been exposed to. Regardless of the following content, your opinions are welcome! As stated previously, while many can say that there are similarities between spirituality and religion, for purposes of this particular section, I would like to reify both concepts so that we understand some of the fundamental differences between what it means to be spiritual or religious.

The Idea of Unity.
In most religions, unity between people is gained/earned through first accepting the narratives of a particular being(s) and their path to enlightenment, freedom, love, etc. These narratives are open to interpretation by their followers. Their followers can then claim that the only “right way” achieve these positive feelings is to follow their god(s). In spirituality, one can see multiple truths that lie within multiple religions, philosophies, etc- rather than heavily relying on the context/content of the narrative associated with these different religions.
The Practice of Faith.
While this article aims to talk about differences, there are parts of this reading that can’t deny the similarities that these two ideas harbor. One of these ideas include the notion of faith. Faith drives both spirituality and religion. However, the way in which faith is practiced differentiates spirituality and religion. Spirituality acknowledges the idea of faith. Religion is associated with a more active representation of the practice of faith.
The Use of Rules.
The practice of religion implies that there is a certain set of rules/laws to abide by and apply in many aspects of daily living. Certain days are dedicated to religious holidays to comprehensively practice and appreciate our deities of choice and the lifestyle that accompanies it. Spirituality refers to a state of being where the appreciation of certain aspects of our lives reside more within ourselves. Spirituality doesn’t necessarily imply that there is a higher being to worship. Our place of solace, happiness, and gratitude is manifested within ourselves.
The Group vs the Individual.
As stated previously, spirituality may rest upon the notion that the individual would rely on themselves in order to achieve a sense of peace. While it hasn’t been ruled out that fostering spirituality can be completed in a group setting, often times spirituality may be involved with a higher sense of individualism, rather than group culture. Religion can do both- however in religious settings, the active practice of worship can more often be identified in group settings.
Our Levels of Dependence.
In religion, we look to the idea of divine being(s) that can help to alleviate our pain, worries, fears, etc. Considering this, what would happen if these deities were to have not existed? Who would they rely on in order to aid them as time passes? For those who subscribe to a particular religion, this may be the question to consider when learning more about their dependence on the concept of a god. Your faith is predicated on one or more beings, while with spirituality, the level of dependence would most likely stem from oneself. An individual can perhaps draw their sense of peace/happiness from the everyday workings of our current world. Perhaps they can draw their sense of peace from the ocean, forest, or other elements of nature. Perhaps they can practice gratitude that imbues a new dimension into practicing spirituality. An individual who is spiritual can draw upon many sources to achieve their state of mind.

Both spirituality and religion are constructs. Constructs are another term used to measure complex psychological ideas/concepts. While one can not numerically measure spirituality vs religionvague ideas such as spirituality or religion, the operationalization of these variables can make this ambiguous idea more concrete. Through operationalization, one can assign more definitive areas of measurement that can potentially gauge the “levels” of spirituality, religion, or any other abstract construct. Research has been conducted heavily in defining some of these universal concepts. For the purposes of this article, simply acknowledge that there are more scientific approaches that attempt to represent these ideas in a more concrete light. There are scientific definitions that will be mentioned briefly through the rest of this article.
For those who do not necessarily rely on purely metrics to define the boundaries between spirituality and religion, you can also consider that there is not necessarily a definitive set of rules that constitute spirituality and religion. The perception of spirituality and religion can vary from person to person with different interpretations of each.
However, psychologists and sociologists have attempted to create a more visible measurement of these two ideas. As mentioned previously regarding spirituality and religion measuring different depths of faith, scholars from diverse backgrounds look at spirituality through a culmination of an individual’s experience, outlook, and feelings. Religion can be measured through which an individual practices and participation.
Regardless of these differences, it is important to see both religion and spirituality as an instrument for inner peace. Many ask what an individual can gain from exercising religion/spirituality. While we all may know what the answer is (happiness, peace, love, etc), I ask you to consider what you can lose as well. In the process of believing in a greater entity, you can relinquish stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and potentially many more of these negative moods. Religion and spirituality can serve as the crux to nurturing your health in many aspects. We all need something or somebody that we can rely on and confide on in tough times. For those who may seem or feel like we do not have anybody to rely on, aspects of religion and/or spirituality can serve as these confidants.
Given this statement, while this list does mention differences between both spirituality and religion, consider the similarities as well. As I stated previously, just because this article focuses on the differences between religion and spirituality, does not eliminate the commonalities between both ideas. Both concepts can promote a sense of identity. Being religious or spiritual can mend relationships. It can provide us with the strength we need in difficult times. At the end of the day, it is your decision, and nobody elses. Understand that it is not a contest to see whether being religious or spiritual is better. Whichever you may choose (you can also choose to not do either!), do not shy away from the decision that will bring you the most peace and sense of fulfillment.

We encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts on the subject of religion and spirituality, all opinions are welcome!

To learn more and watch videos on religion and spirituality, please visit: https://therapycable.com/spirituality-videos.html

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