Medium-Sized Faith Questions: Are Religious and Spiritual the Same?

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say the phrase, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” People respond differently to those who say the phrase. And honestly, that phrase can mean so many different things. I mean, what is spiritual and what is religious? Is there a difference? To some, the answer is no. To others, the answer is yes. Many more are unsure.

I’ve noticed that when people talk about being spiritual, they tend to mean that they are in tune with their higher power or are aware that there is a force greater than his- or herself at work. And what they mean by religious is that they don’t subscribe to traditional religion. Often the distance they create between themselves and organized religion is due to the negative news that seems to surface about various religions or doctrine that appears to be strict and non-inclusive.

Spirituality is dealing with the state of your spirit. It’s more of an internal process. It could be seen as communing with nature, meditating, or prayer, to name a few examples. Religion tends to be based more on the rules and regulations associated with a faith body.  It’s typically what is external regarding your beliefs.

The statement of being spiritual, but not religious makes it seem that it’s an either-or choice, instead of it being both that makes the best relationship with your higher power. I believe that a relationship with God isn’t one that is solely based on religion or solely based on spirituality. You need both.

Being spiritual, you might build a relationship with God, but would you really know who He is and what he has done? You would be able to experience Him in the world around you, but without the Bible would you understand it or truly appreciate it?

Being religious, you understand the history and promises associated with the faith, but do you feel His presence? Do you get so caught up in the commandments that you don’t cultivate an actual relationship with God?

The biggest problem with the religious is when their faith becomes nothing more than a checklist. The biggest problem with the spiritual is when they think the text is outdated and irrelevant, picking and choosing what applies to them. In my opinion, religion isn’t about a checklist. It’s about having faith, a belief in something without having to see it. It is a relationship with God that grows through our experiences and what the Bible says.

My faith is a relationship. Most of the Christians I know build their faith through having a relationship with God and a relationship with other believers. It’s not about throwing the book at people who don’t believe in Him. Instead, it is about showing our faith in how we live. It combines the good qualities of what people view as religious and spiritual.

I am religious. I am spiritual. I focus on the internal and external matching in my life. I feed my spirit and not let the practices associated with my faith be an act. I do not let the rites and rituals determine my faith but let them be an outward expression of what is happening internally.

So, which are you? Spiritual, religious, both, or neither? 

It’s been a while. I could write a reason for not writing, but honestly, it would be an excuse and I don’t want to give you an excuse.  I’m on vacation from work, so hopefully I will get to rest and write. I hope every one has a happy Thanksgiving.

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