Spirituality vs. religion: What’s the difference?

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

For centuries, organized religion’s presence played a significant role in society’s social constructs, laws and beliefs. Now, more people are separating themselves from religion and are practicing spirituality.

Spirituality is the concentration on the human soul or spirit rather than physical things. 

This distinction created a debate among both communities, not about which one is better than the other, but about the two belief systems’ similarities and differences. 

Senior Mamadou Diallo practices Islam and credits the religion for making him the man he is today. 

“Islam is the religion I grew up practicing, and it has taught me the meaning of being humble as well as other things that make me the person I am today,” he said.

Diallo strongly values practicing the five pillars of Islam: Shahada is declaring faith in Islam, Salat means to make the five obligatory prayers, Zakat means giving to charity, Ramadan is fasting during the month of Ramadan and Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Diallo feels that his faith in Islam not only strong but also decisive. 

“I can truly say because I am a Muslim, I am a true believer in Allah,” he said. 

Unlike Diallo, Georgia State alumni Kenneya Westbrook chose to practice spirituality and not religion. Westbrook has a life-long spiritual practice that she finds to be her haven. 

“Spirituality ties humans to the nature surrounding us and the natural flow of energy,” she said. 

Westbrook feels that spirituality is the glue that holds up the foundation of religion and that there would be no religion without spirituality. 

“I think that spirituality is the basis for all religions,” she said. “Having any theories or beliefs relates [directly] in regard to one’s soul.” 

Westbrook believes that while spirituality connects humans to nature, religion serves as a map that guides people through life. 

Although she notices the significant differences between the two, Westbrook agrees that both spirituality and religion show that with intention and dedication comes real power. As time goes by, she says that her spiritual practice grows much stronger. 

“When it comes to my spirituality, I am very faithful,” she said. “With the help of all my knowledge and understanding about the way things work, I feel that I can get through any situation I encounter.”

Senior Grace Davenport follows Christianity but feels that she has a spiritual connection with Jesus. She grew up in the church, and she chose to continue her worship of Jesus Christ in her adult years. 

“I think the idea of sufficient grace in Jesus is what I love that most,” she said. “I have a lot of mercy on people because Jesus does, and that’s what I love.”

Davenport says because of Christianity, she tries hard to make sure that she forgives people, uplifts others and stays consistent with God’s word by reading the Bible. 

Davenport feels that her faith is devoted to Jesus Christ and his divinity. 

“I trust that Jesus always has a plan for me and my life,” she said. “I feel that God is both truth and grace, which is why I will always trust him.”

Religion and spirituality have their differences, but each indeed serves as a tool to aid people in making decisions that best fit their lives.