Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Religion Versus Spirituality: Ego Versus God

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

“Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell.
Spirituality is for people who have already been there.”

--Vine Deloria Jr.

My experience of religion and spirituality has been varied. I’ve gone from ~25 years of restless and "choiceless" Roman Catholic involvement, to leaving religion and thinking maybe God just made stuff and then walked away, to having an unexpected spiritual awakening after which insights such as the truths of existence and the optimal paths I need to take in life began spontaneously popping into my awareness.

With this experience plus research, hearing accounts from others, and a notice both intuitive and plain-to-see, I’ve been able to compile a list of differences frequently found between religion and spirituality.

Be aware that this list is primarily regarding Western religion and spirituality, but Eastern religions are not wholly excluded.

Also be aware of this simple truth:

Being a religious adherent and being spiritual are not the same. Religion doesn’t inherently bring spirituality, and spirituality doesn’t require religion.

This is for the reason that religion is by its nature an external device and one that’s very often outward-looking, whereas spirituality is an intrinsic aspect of all existence and requires conscious in-looking for development. The two can be intertwined if done correctly, but such is typically not the case.

That said, without getting too comprehensive or intense, here’s my list of differences between religion and spirituality when religion, a collective, outward structure, is not designed to nourish the inner, spiritual nature of groups and individuals alike.

Religion versus Spirituality

Note that for each category religion is denoted with an “R” and spirituality is denoted with an “S”.

  • R: Based on concepts of hierarchy, separation, and better-than/lesser-than.
  • S: Based in oneness, equality.

  • R: Adherents are powerless victims in need of a savior of whom each religion says they have the only one.
  • S: “The kingdom of God is within you.” Each discovers the empowerment within to overcome life hardship and to become their greatest version.

  • R: Religion says that God gently says: “Do this or be a sinner,” and forcefully if angered says, “You’re going to hell.”
  • S: God “him”-self says, “Do whatever you want. You’ll have to make up for it if you hurt yourself or someone else, but you’re here to learn. I love you always and you’ll always have my forgiveness. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

  • R: God is an old man in the sky.
  • S: God is All: form and formless, nothing and everything, seen and unseen, known and unknown.

  • R: Outward-looking: Intellectualized; focused on history, written word, and preaching; avoidance (if not outright rejection) of heart/feelings and intuition.
  • S: Inward-looking: Acknowledgement that outer is a reflection of the inner; honoring of intuition (gut, heart, third eye), feeling, and unique soul expression.

  • R: Avoidance/denial of emotions, creativity, individuality, etc.
  • S: Feel, heal, flow, and be what you are innately.

  • R: Patriarchal.
  • S: Universal. Equal. Divine Mother and Divine Father union.

  • R: Guilt-inducing. Labeling humanity as inherently flawed. Adherents admonished to “repent and be saved.”
  • S: “You currently have some mental-emotional troubles—everyone does—but don’t be too hard on yourself. Seek healing and see that you are perfect as is, that God has never seen you as otherwise.”

  • R: Unworthiness; pay-to-play (e.g.: indulgences, tithing).
  • S: Unconditional acceptance as is. “The poor man’s penny is worth more than the rich man’s millions.”

  • R: “Do what we tell you to do.”
  • S: “What feels right to you in this moment?”

  • R: Focus is consistently bent toward uncleansable sins, fear of punishment, etc. and so positives are overwhelmed and thus unseen.
  • S: Fears, false beliefs, etc. are only focused on in order to heal them, with no guilt or blame attached. Physical, mental, and emotional disposition increasingly shifts toward the positive and spiritual life thrives.

  • R: Passed through family and culture, by door-to-door “salesmen,” by force, and so on.
  • S: You “get” it—effortlessly. You just know at the core of your being (i.e.: non-intellectually).

  • R: Cause of suffering, fear, guilt, shame, poverty, unhappiness.
  • S: Effecting as freedom, peace, joy, love, creativity, spontaneity.

  • R: Endless searching, reaching, wanting.
  • S: Peace. Here. Now.


Having put forth this list, be aware that my words are not, as it may be interpreted, an attempt to condemn religion. I don’t align with religion, but I can accept that it’s a part of life that others do align with.

What people must face, however, is the obscene degree of ages-long misguidance, corruption, and countless other distortions going on within most of organized religion. This desperately needs to be acknowledged for what it is and cleaned up.

All the while, to those whom it concerns, see that just because there are aspects of your religion that are garbage doesn’t mean that everything is garbage and to get rid of anything means that you must get rid of everything. As the saying goes, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Granted, some foundational tenets will have to change. But aside from any fat-mouthed ego-mind yelling that change is bad and it’s going to be unbearable to be happy rather than guilty and in fear all the time, who the hell cares if you change what has been no more than a suffering-inducing lie?

In revitalization, I would suggest taking a hint from those involved in Christian mysticism, Kabbalah (Judaism), and Sufism (Islam). Honestly, I can’t say much about them because I don’t know much about them. But what I see as important is that, in spite of the overwhelming distortions of the mainstream, each of these are small sects within the major Western religions that continue to be profoundly spiritual.

The point being: Mystics begin with the premise of a given religion and they integrate the outer with the inner, they align religious practice and spiritual attainment. And they’ve been amazingly successful in doing so.

So, if you want religion, have at it. But realize that currently your religion is probably more like a guidepost as to what not to do rather than one toward what you would do well to do. Because if you’re truly moving inward, onward, and upward as is the flow of the spiritual path, you likely wouldn’t even be here reading this right now. You’d already “get” it, and life would be guiding you elsewhere—perhaps to your religion where’d you’d be busy working on making the positive changes you’ve been waiting for someone else to enact.

After all, true change has to start somewhere, and it’s almost always at “the bottom.” Why not with you?

Heaven Is Only As Close As You Make It

By the way… here’s one other religion versus spirituality point:

Religion has long carried ideas such as heaven being an actual place to go (assuming you don’t screw it up by having a sexual thought about your neighbor and going to hell for eternity), as holiness being possible by the average person but more realistically reserved for the clergy and the rare saint, and so on.

And in these ideas there exists the sense of a hopefully hopeless, airy-fairy type of spirituality that is reached for but can never be attained.

Folks… no.

Being spiritual is being free of (or at least working toward being free of) internal distortions and thus living in integrity with one’s true self and doing whatever naturally flows freely. It has nothing to do with all the airy-fairy ideas such as those just mentioned. It has nothing to do with, “This is what I have to do to be spiritual because this is what they say I have to do, because this is what I believe I have to do, because this is what I feel gung-ho and happy about doing because it gets me my church-going mother’s love and approval.”

If it’s your soul path to be an ascetic or the next pope, that’s fine, and I wish you the best. But truth is, you can still be amazingly spiritual as Average Joe FamilyMan, by having a career playing rock ‘n’ roll music, or in make a billion dollars per year breeding horses (must be some horses!). You can basically do whatever you want so long as you’re doing no harm and it feels right to you.

True spirituality, or “wholiness” as I’d once termed it, is realizing wholeness within yourself and being true to your soul purpose; it’s being true to your innate, human and intuitive drives as your egoic mind is overcome and your physical, mental, emotional, and energetic bodies are balanced.

Heaven is then where you are, as you are.

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