Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Religion vs. Spirituality

  1. Apr 15, 2003 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I personally think that many people get these two ideas mixed up. Can one be religious and spiritual? I don't believe so, and that is because they both contradict one another. Spirituality is the idea that one applies their inner most morals to only their life, where as religion is a mini-society and has a tendency to critisize others outside their belief circle. Individual Spirituality, in my opinion, is the only true way that will do away with wars based from religious beliefs.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2003 #2
    I am neither, not religious or spiritual. But I do love spring flowers, animals, wild places, football, reading, mountain streams, my kids, my parents, my wife, beer and wine, good food, the midnight sun, snow. I don't worship anything and have no desire to get spiritual, though I understand that many folks swear by it.
  4. Apr 15, 2003 #3
    Both are obviously related, except the one is more the "external aspect" (religion) of that which is "internal" (spiritual). It follows along the same lines of knowledge versus wisdom, as well as essence (interior) versus form (exterior). It's the form that it takes, subject to "its interpretation," which gives rise to all the problems.
  5. Apr 16, 2003 #4
    The Pharisees were very religious, but not spiritual (for an example). My mother's Pastor just recently discussed this topic, and said he is not religious, he's spiritual, but he did not elaborate like Kerrie did. He simply said they [the congregation] should not be religious, but spiritual.

    That story was just to say that, at least some, people do know they should be spiritual and not religious, but they don't make the distinction between them, thank you Kerrie:smile: This was certainly a good topic that rarely is explained, but is important.
  6. Apr 18, 2003 #5
    I am surprised that not many have responded to this thread so far, because you make a very valid point. But then again maybe we would have less to argue about? ...
  7. Apr 19, 2003 #6
    Yeah, I know what you mean Kerrie. Being spiritual is about experience; whereas, being religous is about abiding by rules.

    In conclusion, if you wish to find religion, go to church. However, if you wish to find spirituality, experience life! Meditate, relflect, get high, have orgasms, have orgasms while getting high... but above, just find yourself right where you exist!

    Just be!

  8. Apr 29, 2003 #7
    I think Kerrie said something right about spirituality being more about one's own internal experiences and morality, while religion is about conforming to the morality of others.

    I have spoken to quite a few people and asked them about their own sense of morality - the 'religious' ones are those who allow the morality of others to override their own, and they end up subscribing to moral views simply based on faith even when their rationality and personal morality is skeptical about such views. When they sense a conflict between what they think and what the church elders think, they automatically assume that their own views are the wrong ones and make every effort to bring them 'in line' with the official view, uncomfortable to them as it may be. Such individuals are religious but not spiritual.

    On the other hand, spiritual people are those who create their own morality based on constant reflection, and don't hold any believes with which they are not totally comfortable with.

    What bothers me sometimes is how the 'religious' ones criticise the 'spiritual' ones for being conceited and selfish to think that individual views can possibly be more correct than the official religious one.
  9. Apr 29, 2003 #8


    User Avatar

    My thoughts in response...

    I know I almost always seem to be dissenting. <can’t help myself> IMHO, spirituality is both within and without, meaning internal and external. Kerrie is on to something “Spirituality is the idea that one applies their inner most morals…” but I think it doesn’t stop there but extends to those outside ones own life and to society as a whole and it’s not just a morality issue. In fact IMO, spirituality is something that can be felt. Nquire “But I do love spring flowers, animals, wild places, <snip>, mountain streams, my kids, my parents, my wife, <snip>, the midnight sun, snow.” Those things I included in the quotes are what one feels which affects the feeling of spirituality in our individual spirit (still my opinion). Religion, on the other hand is an organized way (or used to be) of collectively recognizing the essence of spirituality which is the spirit of the ‘Creator’. The calling of religion has changed from that and become governed by secular motives in large part because of greed. Spirituality and religion should blend harmoniously; sadly now-a-days that’s not true.
  10. May 2, 2003 #9
    I have to agree with amp, but take it a bit further. Spirituality is one of the more loosely defined words today and has only been widely used in the last hundred years. Spirituality need not include morality at all or even feelings or thoughts of worship.

    Religion by definition involves worship and, almost universally, morality, but spirituality need not due to its vague definition. For example, a pantheist might admire nature and feel a supernatural "spiritual" connection to nature, but otherwise not associate any particular worship or morality connected with the experience. Instead, they might associate situational ethics with the laws of nature and a sense of gratitude and appreciation with being an integral part of the divinity.
  11. May 2, 2003 #10
    I doubt that religion involves morality. At least, right morality. "Jihad and death for infidels" - is this morality? Sounds to me more like absense of morality: "Who is not with us, is against us and shall be exterminated". And it seems that religion is always intolerant to differences (see crusaders, inquizition, etc) unless its power is confined (by government, competition with other religions, atheism, etc).
  12. May 3, 2003 #11
    That's hypocracy which, imo, goes hand in hand with with morality whether God given or otherwise.
  13. May 5, 2003 #12
    What is a hypocracy? Is it hypocricy or something else?
  14. May 6, 2003 #13
    Spirituality is more than just admiring nature or feeling some sort of warm fuzzy feeling towards your nearest tree . . .

    What's just as important is that an appreciation of the world and life has an impact on what we do and what we think we should do. This is morality derived from 'spiritual' self-reflection.

    Afterall, what's the point of a 'spiritual experience' if it doesn't change a person's life at all? The experience urges people to value certain things more than before, and to do things differently - that's what morality should be (instead of a person following a set of rules without understanding).
  15. May 6, 2003 #14


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    for me the definition of spirituality is a concept that rings true with your inner logic...

    religion is a man made ritual (whether it be orthodox christianity to paganism) that has more of a social base for people to feel as if they belong to a group of other individuals who share similar interests...

    also, religion is for those who fear going to hell, spirituality is for those who have been there...:wink:
  16. May 6, 2003 #15
    You must decide for yourself as far as I am concerned, but hypocracy is saying one thing and doing another.

    Why do we exist at all? Why would a God exist at all? Ultimately, what is the point of love or happiness? Bottom line, there is no point that can be proven or clearly articulated and thus we have distinctive definitions of spirituality and religion. The laws of cause and effect simply do not apply to the supernatural which is what spirituality focuses on.

    For Pantheists, to follow your example, warm fuzzy feelings for trees can be an indication of their spiritual connection with the universe itself. Instead of depending upon a cut-n-dry morality to guide their actions, they rely on their feelings. Should we cut the tree down and build a house, or provide the tree with tender loving care? Often if we take a moralistic stance on the issue we axiomatically ignore our own feelings in favor of abstract principles which may or may not be relevent.

    This is not morality, but ethics which can be situational. Saying it is wrong to kill is a moralistic statement while saying that it depends upon the situation is an ethical statement.
  17. May 6, 2003 #16
    Moral = acceptable behavior.

    If something is acceptable for individual, then that is moral for that individual.

    If something is acceptable for society (= members of society agreed upon), then it is moral to this society (tribe, clan, religion group, corporation, team, etc).
  18. May 7, 2003 #17
    My pet mouse finds cheese to be an acceptable meal, but this is not the definition of morality. More pointedly, morality focuses on what is unacceptable. The ten commandments do not tell what is acceptable, but what is unacceptable. Thou shalt not kill, etc.
  19. May 8, 2003 #18
    So, what would you do if, say, your chicken eats your last meal (and you know that you won't survive without it)?

    Would you die or eat your chicken then?

    (Side question: how would you eat your chicken without hurting it?)
  20. May 9, 2003 #19
    IMO, I think Kerrie that we are considering a very limited definition of spiritality and religion. From what I've read so far in this thread we are all equating religion with Organized Religion, i.e. churches. It may be right but I think that being religious does necessarily include Organized religion, but ones own beliefs and practices. As to spirituality, I think that within my thinking they go hand in hand. If one believes in and worships a supernatural being in any way they are religious and spiritual. Can one be spiritual without believing in a spiritual being such as God? Can one be religious with out being spiritual? I don't know but I don't think so.
  21. May 9, 2003 #20
    When Kerrie made the point that only through Individual Spirituality can we avoid wars based on religion i felt that it was a very good point. However, let us look at how religious wars start out and who they involve. Do feel free to call my bluff and brand me a bias guy but this is what i feel:

    Wars based on religion always tend to involve the christians and the muslims. I live in multi-racial Singapore and this has allowed me to be able to observe both sides of the story, without being biased myself (as far as my own ability permits me) as I am a Buddhist.

    Nowadays we make jokes about these holy wars as both christians and muslims dub them. For the muslims it is jihad, malay for holy war and for the christians it is the holy war. Tracing the roots of the religion i see many similarities, with prophet Muhammad and God's son Jesus Christ. Most actions and events which took place in the koran, the muslim bible and the christian bible are similar, leaving an outsider like me to debate whether they were essentially the same, branching off at a certain point. Even during the Crusades they were fighting each other already, but why? COuld all this have been prevented if not for religion? I think so.

    Yet not all religions have caused followers to wage war in name. I dont sing my own praises but Buddhism, i feel, is the one religion that explains most stuff clearly, and does not contradict anything you can name, and practices not a strict set of laws but studies instead the intent of the person. Like say one of the ealier posts included the Ten Commandments: Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not kill even to save an innocent from being murdered? The intent here is good but following rigidly the Ten commandments does not help the follower. Before i ramble on more like a preacher, I'd like to take a breather and let others respond to this.. =P sry for the long post guys....
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook