It took me a very long time before I could get behind something I now call spirituality. I was not forced into or brought up in any single religion. My parents did not force a belief upon me and always told me that I could choose to believe what I wanted to believe. I was taken to different churches and allowed to talk to people of many different religions. I’ve even briefly attended Christian church and completed some Bible studies. I have friends from almost every mainstream religion that have been open to sharing their experiences within their own religions. I have always been open to exploring different religions in the hopes that maybe someday I would find exactly the one I could follow that encompassed what I believed. I used to be scared to talk about this subject because I thought people would judge me and that I would offend others with my beliefs. I might lose readers for this kind of post, but I am staying true to myself and finally being authentic and hopefully those readers can look past their own beliefs and ponder some interesting points.
It finally dawned on me one day that religion and spirituality are two different things. I had been searching for something that was always within myself. Once I realized this, I finally found a label I could identify with, which is “agnostic.” The dictionary definition of agnostic is “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” For me “agnostic” was the closest label I could identify with, but I am on the end of belief in a creator or spirit or energy or whatever IT is.
This journey got me looking very closely at different religions and what people call being spiritual. I found that so many religions are actually quite similar. Many of the stories and morals are based on the same things, they are just culturally different and tweaked based on the needs of the demographics and people. I will go more into that in a future blog post. For now I want to point out some significant differences between what we call spirituality and religion.
As always I strongly encourage you to do your own homework, as you should never take a single person’s viewpoint as complete truth. Some of the things I came across while learning about religions and spirituality weren’t exactly true or well-intentioned. All you need is an open mind, a curiosity for truth and critical thinking/free thinking skills.
Religion separates, Spirituality embraces all
It seems that many religions preach that their beliefs are the one and only way and that everyone else is wrong. If you don’t follow such and such religion or such and such rule, you are damned. Many horrible things have been carried out in the name of religion for many, many years and horrendous acts have been done to individuals because certain religions allow certain people more rights, freedoms and control over others. How does that make any since if we are all created by one God? I recently attended a service, where the priest spoke about having a career that would possibly entail you killing someone, but that it was not considered a sin if it were a part of your job. Really, that’s ok? I guess I’m just confused and I don’t fully understand the concepts completely.
Spirituality lets you explore many ways of living and being, essentially seeing the truth in all of them. Spirituality allows you to choose what you believe is right and wrong and allows for the notion that every religion is right and wrong. It focuses on the love and shared divinity and not on the differences in details of the stories, rules or morals. I would never presume to enforce my beliefs on others nor would I begin tell anyone how they ought to live their own lives or judge them, so long as they are not hurting themselves or others. I remain open to hearing what everyone has to say about their beliefs and could adjust mine as needed, I am not limited to a set of beliefs and rules.
Religion punishes, Spirituality allows you to learn from mistakes
Examining many religions I found that another common tread is that they make it clear that if you do not follow the “rules” of the religion you are going to go to hell or even be punished in your current life. Religion provides a list of what is considered right and what is considered wrong. Religions tend to base this on texts like the Quran, Bible or the Torah. Some religions allow for human beings to punish each other if these rules are not obeyed. These texts are interpreted by human beings and translated by human beings. We cannot say for sure that these texts are truly the word of God, we are required to have faith and follow along regardless of proof. So if we follow religion, we are to follow rules written by human beings, which tells us that if we do not follow the rules we will spend eternity burning.
To me that does not sound logical or spiritual. I am to follow these rules that have been in place for many centuries, that have nothing to do with how things work today, that can belittle my gender and make me submissive, as well as limit my life in order to attain a ticket to Heaven? To me, a creator who supposedly has given us free will, would not need to impose so many rules to get into his kingdom and not allow us to punish others for breaking the rules. Personally, I feel that many of the texts were tweaked by humans over time to fit the current government and societal needs to keep people in line and prevent everyone from acting on their darkest desires. Additionally, why are women given such a bad wrap and made to be subservient to men and required to follow a different set of standards, morals and rules? These are probably debates or topics for another post. I will also hold off going into depth about the recent legal and money issues some religions have recently been faced with.
Spirituality, on the other hand deals more with “karma.” Meaning, what I do, can cause a natural consequence and possible future repercussions…good or bad. So it would behoove me to try my best to do my best in order for good things to flow back to me. Most human beings have an innate sense for right and wrong. Spirituality lets you decide what is right and wrong for yourself in alignment with the natural world. Essentially we live by the laws of the universe itself. Spirituality does not force you to impose your will on others and shame, judge or punish them if they do not believe in the same things as you. Spirituality allows you to make mistakes and learn naturally from them and grow as a human being. I don’t need to have other people or organizations to tell me what is “bad” or not good. Most spiritual people genuinely try to do good overall.
Religion is fear-based, Spirituality is love-based
As mentioned above, you have to follow the rules or guidelines in order to reserve a place in Heaven and if you don’t , you will face the per-determined consequences. Many have been raised in a religion, are taught these teachings from a young age and therefore are never given a chance to truly decide for themselves. People are conditioned and told to blindly follow these rules on faith or else…thus living in fear that if you do not follow, you are not worthy of God’s love and salvation. Some religions will allow you to “sin” so long as you confess and repent. So are you telling me that I can do whatever I want as long as I confess and repent? How does that work?
Some religions can change the rules…again if it was right for so long, what makes it not right now? Also, why do some religions pick and choose what to focus on out of the texts? Shouldn’t it be all or nothing? How could anyone know exactly what they are supposed to do? Oh wait, they have special buildings (built by human beings) and religious officials (human beings) to tell them instead of searching for their own truth. People have been scared to even think about looking for their own answers because of the fear that is instilled. I don’t think I need to go into the destruction religious extremists have caused.
Spirituality allows individuals to connect with a higher purpose and spirit in any way that they like. The notion is that the more you can be aligned with the universe by way of positive energy and love, the more you enlightened you will feel. There are no “rules” to follow, only what you decide is best for yourself. It focuses on the good in people and a drive to do what feels good for yourself and others. Spiritual people are big on spreading love, openness, support and understanding not fear, hate, rules and separation. You don’t need to limit every aspect of your life to appease God, you are aware that God is in you and truly wants you to live and enjoy the life that has been given to you.
By loving yourself and others means that you love your creator as well. Doing what brings you joy and happiness so long as you are not hurting yourself or others is what I truly believe our creators wants for us. I do not believe the creator wants to test and punish is to see who is worthy of spending eternity in a magical place. If there is a magical place, it would make sense to me that our creator would want us all to return and thrive. The things about spirituality is that I may not be right, but I am free to believe that and also keep searching for more truth and answers, which would also possibly impact my future beliefs.
How can you be more spiritual?
- Decide what is right and wrong for you. Describe your ‘authentic‘ or ‘true’ self. Think about the values you want to live by and those that bring you down.
- Forgive yourself for past indiscretions or “sins.”
- Accept that everyone will not like you being spiritual.
- Learn, ask questions and be curious.
- Travel and seek out new experiences and people.
- Listen to your body and feelings. What makes you feel sad, angry or happy? When do you feel ill or the most healthy?
- Practice mindfulness.
- Try to see and love yourself and others as if you would see and love our creator.
- Be positive and mindful with your thoughts and intentions. This book can help you with these things.
- Acknowledge that you are a spiritual being in a physical body.
- Pray, yes pray! In whatever way you like.
- Read more and read things about different religions and spirituality. Even spiritual sayings can lead you down the the spiritual path. Try starting with Tao Te Ching to get your spiritual juices flowing.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Check something off that bucket list.
- Work on being self-aware and your emotional intelligence.
- Ponder things like, what is the purpose of life, what is consciousness, what am I meant to do in this life, and other difficult questions.
- Look for signs; angel numbers, feathers, coincidences, etc. Learn about what they signify.
- Learn about the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking.
- Learn about chakras and meridians.
- Learn about frequencies, vibrations and energy.
- Pay attention to your dreams, instincts and intuitions. Trust your instincts always, you have them for a reason.
- Connect with animals and nature. Try grounding today…it’s free!
- Learn about holistic and more natural ways of living, then try a few things.
- Binge on YouTube documentaries and videos about spirituality. Spirit Science has some easy to follow videos.
- Learn about alternative practices like acupuncture and floating.
- Explore ancient ways, traditions and practices that can still be used today.
- Research philosophers and deep thinkers. Some, like Terence McKenna, even have far out ideas worth considering.
- Be alone with you thoughts.
- Align yourself with other like-minded beings.
Is religion wrong? What is religion getting right?
No, religion is not wrong. Who knows, maybe one single religion is getting it completely right. I am in no way saying people who follow religions are wrong or bad. There are many positive aspects of religion. There are many, many people who are extremely caring, understanding and non-judgmental that follow their religions very stringently. Religion helps to bring people together, provides positive guidelines to live a meaningful and happy life, and provides charity around the world. Religion also helps families, those in despair and the elderly, as well as those in crisis.
Following a religion may actually good for your health as is has been shown to improve blood pressure, improve immunity, helps people to manage depression and reduces stress. I would assume being spiritual on any level would actually improve both your mental and physical health. Luckily with both religion and spirituality you will have a sense of belonging and a higher power watching over your and guiding you. Additionally, religion and spirituality encourages people to give their problems to their creator and allow things to work out the way they are supposed to. In essence we are not alone and can trust that something has got our back. Either way you go, having a religion and being spiritual are both good for your mind, body and soul, so long as you stay true to your own beliefs and aren’t just following somebody else’s way of being just because they told you that is the only way to live. You can be religious and spiritual at the same time.
My goal is always to provide information and ideas with the hopes that you will do your own research and learning going forward. I’d love to hear how being religious or spiritual has made a difference in your life. Now let’s all just love one another regardless of our beliefs already!