Recently, a friend mentioned she is “spiritual, but not religious.” This prompted a discussion in our group as to whether or not there is even a difference. I contend that there certainly is.
Follow the Instructions
Religion is about rules and structure, while faith is something that anyone can experience. Everyone is a spiritual being — even if they are agnostic. This may be why so many people consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” Sometimes the rules create strife between people/groups. In that case, it’s better to do away with the religion, but keep the faith.
You Just Have to Believe
Faith is eternal, while religion is largely bound by time and place. Part of faith is the idea of progressive revelation (one God, many paths). Or — to play off on friend’s suggestion — many flavors of ice cream, but only one cone. The ‘flavors’ may change based on humankind’s mental/emotional/spiritual development, but the cone is everlasting — with no beginning or end. This is why Christ assured the early believers He would “not leave you comfortless.”
No one likes being told what to do, so religion is unappealing for many. I ‘found’ religion in college. I knew the rules/structure would be difficult, especially in that setting (parties, dating, etc.). But I also knew that there was more to life than chasing girls and acting out.
Because of past personal experiences, part of me felt somehow obligated to embrace my parents’ traditions. But no one is “born” into any religion. Everyone has to do their own independent investigation, in search for the truth. And the learning/deepening never ends. That’s why meditation/prayer/revivals are so important.
So Be You
In the end, spirituality is a sort of trident of faith, hope, and love. You don’t embrace faith because your parents adhered to a certain religion, or your boyfriend said you have to convert, or because anyone is pressuring you. Instead, faith represents a deeply personal relationship between the individual and the Divine. As C.S. Lewis said:
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
by Gordon T. Elliott
Residential Life Magazine