Religion and Spirituality
By Phil Bolsta
Historically, the belief that we are separate from God was the chief differentiator between spirituality and most of the world’s major religions. Over the last few decades, however, many faiths have embraced a more spiritual point of view.
If you don’t have a temple in your heart, you’ll never find your heart in a temple.
Organized religion typically represents God as an external entity while spirituality portrays the Divine as an integral aspect of our humanity.
The world is filled with hungry souls who famish in the
very presence of the bread of life; men die searching
for the very God who lives within them. Men seek for
the treasures of the kingdom with yearning hearts and
weary feet when they are all within the immediate
grasp of living faith.
— The Urantia Book 159:3.8
Both paths offer rich rewards. Some religious followers find deep meaning in celebrating and paying homage to their family heritage. Some spiritual seekers find peace and purpose in celebrating and honoring their Divine heritage.
Religion is a house; spirit is the air that flows through
and around it.
— Tom Gegax
Both paths have pitfalls. Organized religion plays a vital role in building community yet often positions itself as an indispensable intermediary between worshipers and God.
The religious community is essential, for alone our
vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and
our power too limited to do all that must be done. But
together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed.
— Mark Morrison-Reed
Spirituality encourages direct contact with God; yet, without a disciplined commitment to self-awareness, seekers on the road to truth may miss the turn for humility and veer off toward arrogance.
Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.
— Italian proverb
Traditionally, religion has been sociological and institutional while spirituality is individual and personal.
People in the West don’t understand that a path of
spirituality is not the same as professing a religion.
One is built on experience, the other is accepted
— Swami Rama
Many organized religions demand that you follow an external set of rules based on the experiences of others, while spirituality encourages you to seek your own experiences through inner exploration and discovery.
Men substitute tradition for the living experience of the
love of God. They talk and think as though walking with
God was attained by walking in the footsteps of men
who walked with God.
— William Charles Braithwaite
Organized religion is all about the depths of your beliefs. Spirituality is all about the depths of your consciousness.
Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that
spirituality is a separate department of life, the
penthouse of our existence. But rightly understood,
it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of
— Brother David Steindl-Rast
Dogma preaches to us about God while spirituality teaches us to achieve God consciousness.
Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth
through it but it divides us from truth.
— Kahlil Gibran
While religious dogma may stifle self-expression, spiritual devotees often take great truths such as “God and I are one” out of context, misinterpret them, and apply them in ways that honor their ego rather than their spirit.
The world is a kind of spiritual kindergarten where
millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell
God with the wrong blocks.
— Edwin Arlington Robinson
Organized religion has often been presented as a closed, hierarchical system. In such a structure, all questions lead to official explanations and individual interpretation is discouraged.
Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those
who find it.
— André Gide
Spirituality is an open, multifarious path with many questions leading to answers that cannot be fully grasped in the questioner’s current state of consciousness. Individual evolvement is mandatory.
It is impossible for a man to begin to learn that which
he thinks that he knows.
Religion and spirituality complement each other when religion is positioned not as a filter for rigidly interpreting God, but as a foundation for reaching out to God.
One of the main functions of formalized religion is to
protect people against a direct experience of God.
— Carl Jung
Many organized religions assert that their method of worship is the only true path to God while ancient spiritual wisdom maintains that all rivers lead to the same ocean. Thus, when conflict arises, religion tends to divide while spirituality unites.
God made Truth with many doors to welcome every believer who knocks on them.
— Kahlil Gibran
Enlightened seekers honor differing religious or spiritual views and celebrate the similarities in the core teachings of the world’s major faiths.
Truth is a river that is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between the arms, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the main river.
— Cyril Connolly
As we leave this world, no matter what our beliefs may be, we must all pass over the same bridge to whatever awaits us on the other side.
Faith does not change your destination.
— Duane Alan Hahn
This excerpt is from Phil Bolsta’s book, Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World. To order your copy, click here.
To request a free sample chapter from the author, email Phil at GodsEyes@me.com.
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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 25: Perspectives on Spirituality