In the 39 years of my existence on this earth, I spent about 35 of those years assuming I was a religious person – I was raised (and later confirmed) as a Catholic. I attended bible school and went to Mass on Sundays. I was part of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) organization in high school. I even graduated from a Lutheran college and read books on Christianity for leisure. How very religious of me, right?

Then five years ago, something changed. I started questioning. Doubting. Wondering. Is there really a God? Am I God? Is church evil? Is Satan real? That’s when I went down the rabbit hole and never came back.

Instead of attending mass regularly, I found myself seeking wisdom from clairvoyant spirit guides. Rather than remitting a tithe to the church, I was spending money on raw gemstone jewelry, oracle cards, and healing candles. Instead of reading books on Christianity, I was knee-deep in literature about crystal healing, dream interpretation and even, dare I say, Wiccan culture.

Today if someone asks me if I’m religious, I confidently respond with, “No, but I am very spiritual.” But what does that mean, to be spiritual or to be religious? I asked around, and it turns out there are quite a few differences between the two. Here are just a few of them:

 

Religion is a belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience. 

– Deepak Chopra

Being religious means belonging to an established religious order (such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism) and believing in a higher being (like God). Being spiritual means relying on the power of your own self and that YOU are ultimately in charge of your destiny.

Those who identify as religious are generally affiliated with a church (or synagogue or other location of worship) and typically attend a service or group gathering regularly. Most go to church at least once a week to honor their higher being, and others engage in praise in other ways (like religious acts of service or prayer).

Those who claim to be spiritual typically engage in self-reflection (or medication) for affirmation and/or praise. So, rather than participating in mass worship or group prayer, spiritual people tend to look inward to give thanks. Or search for answers. Or find the truth.

I asked social media strategist and former west Georgia native Candy Hogue what her take was on religion versus spirituality. She says, “I guess I see religion as more of a label and that it’s taught to us. Spirituality comes from within us.”

 

Religion emphasizes punishment. Spirituality believes in karma. 

In most cases, religious people are taught that positive behavior is ultimately rewarded with the most unimaginable, beautiful gifts (like access to Heaven or being reincarnated) and that ungodlike behavior results in the most undesirable consequences (such suffering for eternity in the bowels of Hell or not being granted eternal life).

Real estate mogul Lonnie Hand says, “Religion is the set of manmade rules and best practices crafted at a given time to help others … or give them exactly what they deserve in the end!”

Spiritual beings, on the other hand, believe the universe will take care of our destinies via karma. This means if we put out good energy and behave out of love we will, in turn, be provided with the same. If our actions in life are rooted in toxic nature or negativity, however, our fates will also be met with that same poisonous energy in the end.

 

Religion is based on fear. Spirituality is based on love.

Churches and many other religious organizations emphasize acts of good service and obedience to avoid being harshly punished in the afterlife. On the flipside, spiritual individuals continue to stand behind that “Make love, not war” mindset.

Zach Walker, Community Director of the luxury residences of 675 North Highland, says, “Spirituality for me is my own experience with the universe or God. It’s what guides me personally and touches my heart to help others or to work on personal areas of my life that need a little more attention than others. It’s how I seek and express myself and my purpose, and ultimately it’s my connectedness in the moment.”

The list of differences between religion and spirituality goes on, but unfortunately, my word limit for this article does not. In a nutshell, it appears that ‘religion’ is the umbrella for which things like church, worship, and prayer fall under, and ‘spirituality’ is the folder where things such as the universe, meditation, and karma are filed.

Georgia attorney Ciro Mestres had this to say: “People who are spiritual are usually more about being immersed in nature and being grateful or spreading love and things like that. Those more on the religious side are devoted to the church and the community, and worshipping their God or a different higher being.”

 

PRO TIPS

There’s a new place of worship on the block that combines religion with spirituality, called Trinity Center for Spiritual Living. For more info visit: https://trinitycenteratlanta.org

There’s also a hidden gem in Atlanta (the Hoot Owl Attic) where you can foster your spirituality, invest in healing crystals or even stop in for a reading with a clairvoyant guide. For additional details check out: http://theinnerspace.com.

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