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Spirituality vs Religion

Page history last edited by PBworks 11 years, 5 months ago

by Morninghawk Apollo (quoted with permission from Hawk's Cry)

 

Many witches (and non-witches) say they are spiritual but not religious. They think that being religious locks them into an unchanging set of rules that serves only to bind them. I disagree with their understanding, though many are correct in their self-description.

 

What is really the difference between being spiritual and being religious?

To be spiritual is to have a personal connection with the Divine. It is spiritual to walk outside and admire the beauty around and feel the intimate connection with the local spirits. It is spiritual to take a moment to privately pray for something or someone. It is spiritual to meditate and work toward transcendence.

 

On the other hand, to be religious is to apply your spirituality into your daily living and your moral choices. It is religious to decide not to seek revenge against someone who has wronged you because you believe in “If it harm none.” It is religious to rise each day in time to greet the sunrise. It is religious to treat others with respect, even when you disagree because you believe that everyone has the spark of the Divine within them.

 

Spirituality is mostly about the spontaneous, revelatory experiences that connect us with the Gods. Religion is the application of that connection with the Gods into our daily lives. It is important to have both.

 

Spirituality Without Religion

If you are spiritual but not religious, it does not mean that you are free of dogma that is dictated to you by others. Most people think that religion is equal to mindless dogma that is brainwashed into parishioners. To be spiritual but not religious instead means that you have a connection with the Divine, but not every day, hour, minute or second. You know how to connect with the Divine, but you don’t do it continuously. You do it when it is convenient or when you remember. The danger of this is that it is easy to forget this connection and lose it. Like any path, it takes repetition and practice to turn it from a meandering in the woods of life into a path you can follow easily in the darkest times. It is the repetition of religion that develops a set of footprints into a navigable path.

 

There are many consequences for being spiritual but not religious. One is a lack of a moral compass. If you simply connect with the Divine on occasion and without practice and repetition, when a difficult moral decision comes along, as they sometimes do, you won’t know what to do. How does your spirituality tell you to respond? What if it tells you to respond in a way that is not apparently favorable to you? Do you even remember to ask?

 

Another consequence is the loss of faith. If you forget your way through the woods of life because you did not develop a solid path, when the darkness comes, you will lose your connection. You might think the Gods have neglected you or are punishing you. Or you might think that the Gods have no power in your life. This can lead to the most dire consequences, including suicide.

 

Religion Without Spirituality

If you are religious but not spiritual, you practice on a daily basis, but you do not have the intimate connection with the Divine that spirituality brings. Your practices are meaningless superstition. You might say your prayers, do your meditations, and rise to greet the sun, but you don’t have any particular reason to do so. If someone asked you why you do those practices, you wouldn’t be able to give them an honest answer other than because it is a habit or some other canned response.

 

This is frequently the condition people see in others when they decide to reject religion. They see people go to church every Sunday and talk about their savior wherever they go. But they also see these religious people judge others very harshly against a moral code that was dictated to them and who never questioned it enough to truly understand it for themselves.

Having religion without spirituality has consequences just as severe as having spirituality without religion. You take the letter of the moral code so literally that you might completely misunderstand the intentions of the Gods involved with creating the moral code. It becomes very easy to see everything in black and white. It either follows the Law or it breaks the Law. There is no middle ground, no room for learning. This fundamentalism ends up separating you from everyone else. It separates you from those who do not follow the same moral code as you and it separates you from those who do, because everyone falls short at some time.

 

Another consequence of having religion without spirituality is that you cannot handle situations that are not predefined in your path. The universe is infinite in the variety of experiences it can present. Moral codes and rules to live by only cover a portion of that. A situation you are faced with might cause you to break the letter of the rules of your moral code, no matter how you respond. You truly are caught in between a rock and a hard place with nobody to ask for a ladder.

 

A third consequence frequently follows the situation of being between a rock and a hard place without a ladder. This is the loss of faith. It is the inverse of the problem you would have if you had spirituality without religion. If you are in the woods of life during the darkest of times, you have a strong path to follow because of your religion. The problem is that you think it’s the only way through the woods. You would blindly follow it off a cliff because you cannot see any possibility of changing the path. You would lose your faith because one day, you might realize you are in the woods walking a circular path going nowhere.

 

Balance of the Two

If you have both spirituality and religion, you will avoid the consequences of missing one. You are able, through your spirituality, to develop a personal moral code that is in accordance with the Divine. You know it is right because of this connection. You also are able to practice your moral code on a daily basis and express it through your life. You can handle moral and ethical situations with confidence because of your religion.

 

You also are able to adjust or add to your moral code as new experiences happen. You are not locked into the rules without a way out. You can use your spiritual connection to the Gods as a ladder out from between the rock and the hard place. This is similar to finding that your path in the woods is going in a direction that is contrary to the way you want your life to go. By having both spirituality and religion, you can step off the established path, find a new way through the woods using the Gods as your guide, and then practice it enough to develop it into a strong path.

 

This does not mean that you should change the direction of your path on a whim. That is spirituality without religion. You need to thoroughly understand your path and have practiced it enough to know it with your eyes closed. Only then would you have the depth of understanding needed to consider a change in its direction. Changing your path has long-term consequences for your destiny. It may be desirable, but must be done with the greatest of care. Having both spirituality and religion in your life allows you to do this.

 

Both spirituality and religion are not things that you either have or don’t have. They are not black or white. You can have more spirituality than religion or vice versa (and probably do). The important thing is to realize what you are lacking in and work toward building that up in your life. The key is to have both of them in equal proportion. When you achieve this, you will have balance.

 

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