Spiritual and Religious

As I plan for my upcoming Camino, I’ve been checking in periodically on a Camino forum, which has much useful information from people who have already been in pilgrimage. The other day, I noticed a question on the forum that asked how those who had already done the Camino would define the difference between a spiritual or a religious experience on the Camino. The question resulted in many people sharing their understanding of the difference between spiritual and religious.

Given the rise of the increasing numbers of people who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious,” I was interested in how different people distinguish between spirituality and religion.

One person wrote,

A religous experience would be one that brings you to feel closer to God.
A spiritual experience would be one that makes you grow as a person.

Another suggested that

Religious [is an] action , experience, or motivation that is related in some way to a particular faith, be it Christian, Muslim, Jew,…[and] Spiritual – An action, experience or motivation that is metaphysical and about the spirit world, not of a particular faith tradition.

A third opined that

A Religion is an organisation of like-minded worshippers, engaging in various activities organised around the commonality of their beliefs. A Spirituality is any mystical sense of either transcendental or immanent direct connection between the soul or spirit and either the presence of a sublimated reality or manifestatioons of a higher (or different) plane of existence. All religions include a Spirituality, but not every Spirituality is religious.

The second and third say largely the same thing and have some truth to them. The first strikes me as not helpful, as I would argue that any religious experience that brings one closer to God also helps one grow as a person and that, by definition a spiritual experience brings one closer to God (although the person experiencing it may not use the term “God”).

Do others think of the terms in differnt ways?


One thought on “Spiritual and Religious

  1. I see spirituality as the undercurrent of religion. The images of streams in the desert, the water that flows from the temple in Ezekiel and Revelation. That exists in the mystical traditions of Christianity and in other “religions”. Religion is the surface, a garment of holiness to steal a phrase from a rabbi. Religion is institutional (for me a necessary evil most of the time). To touch on scripture I’ve been thinking about Korah in Numbers 16 and 17 I don’t see them so much as being rebellious against Moses and Aaron so much as demanding more from them. Alas their fate is written by the winners of history. This event reminds me of the tension which exists in religion and spirituality. Spirit is not the property of the religious. It cannot be contained or manipulated by dogma or doctrine though these can be a necessary filter or conduit. Religion is from humans. Spirit is from God.

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