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Religion vs. Spirituality: stop overthinking

November 9, 2014

The most important thing I could do while writing about the concept or thoughts behind religion and its many differences or similarities to spirituality is to remember a core philosophy central to each.

They are (or should be) personal.

There is no way to avoid the influence of religion upon people, cultures, societies, countries and, whether we like to see it or not, governments. Religion and its teachings are everywhere and in everything.  Even for those refuting their meaning or purpose they are, some could say, in our face.

It might be best to try and understand what religion truly is and how it has (some could say always) provided a need and shelter to humans on this Earth.  The word itself connotes the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

God, Goddess, Allah, Brahman, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Higher Power, Holy Spirit, Jehovah, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, or any other supreme being are examples of the gods of religion.  It is, however, more important to understand the lines drawn between these beliefs and the idea in that definition of control put forth by the definition’s controlling power.

I consider myself a spiritual man.  What is the difference?  Spirituality indicates a personal “inward” way of feeling or believing.  It is not “organized” as most religions tend to be and doesn’t prescribe to validation or instruction from others or the requirement to be spread and issued beyond the personal holder of the beliefs.

My spirituality comes from many sources but it is not something that I need to make sure you agree with.  It does not require anyone’s approval.  It does not exist for me to be right and you to be wrong.  It evolves within me to keep me on track, to focus, to help me be of service to others, to strive for happiness and a personal sense of right.

Sometimes religion can offer that as well, but the tendencies in weaker minds seeking a structure and fearing the loss of their own supposed integrity or moral situation is that it needs to be forced on others as a correct or only way to think and believe.  It is not enough that the need for individual belief is held, but that all that becomes fearful is forced as a threat to the individual thinker.  In some religion is becomes necessary to tear down others in order to justify one’s beliefs.  A primary difference I see between religion and spirituality is some religion’s belief that everything other way of thinking is wrong.

It is important to note that this is not black and white.  Not all who follow religion do so the way described above.  Some use it as I use my spirituality.  We will, however, always hear more about those who do not.

When practiced with fear religion becomes dangerous.  It provokes war, bigotry, hatred and more fear.  It drives the thinker from the core “spirituality” it could provide and into the need for control that the definition seems to describe of the being “in charge.”  Perhaps the word control is a core issue within the world of organized religion.  Is it not based for most on power and money?  It does not seem to be enough for some religions or religious people within those religions to require that the way they think or believe be the law of whatever land it is they live in.  You will think as they do or you will suffer the consequence through the law, through the hatred or through the threat of fire and brimstone in whatever form their particular deity may suggest is set for whatever it is you are doing “wrong.”

In spirituality, practiced as it is meant to be, the user is taking care of themselves and passing on their peace as a result.  Attraction, not promotion. Peace comes in forms of non-judgment and service.  Non-judgment is one of the ironies involved in remembering that we should not condemn those who condemn us.  It doesn’t fit spiritually and does not solve anything.  Those who would suggest that I need to live a different way or I might be less of a “special soul” in their God’s eyes would know as much about this as they’ve been taught by other men.  It is no more true than what we would accept in our own minds.  It is a suggestion that is often screamed or taunted.

But my ultimate irony is in how I believe personally in my spiritual program for living.  It has prospered through repetition, and routine.  I am happier when I connect and do whatever it is that has helped me to evolve on this path.  The fact is it could be said I live my spirituality “religiously” in that I am scrupulously faithful or devout to my thinking (and a God of my own understanding.)  The difference is that I don’t want to assign the bigger meaning and compare myself to others to justify or validate who I am or how I think.  In the truest sense of spirituality I am no different than anyone else.

It just is what it is.  I am a better and happier being as a result.  I choose to live and let live.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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