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What Are the Differences Between Religion and Spirituality?

Wisdom on How to Live Life Book 4

The following article is extracted from
the book "Wisdom on How to Live Life (Book 4)"
by Dr. Tommy S. W. Wong

Guru: Tom, you know there are many people don’t know the differences between religion and spirituality.

Tom: You are right, Guru Harry. So, can you enlighten us?

Guru: Sure. First, do you know what causes the confusion?

Tom: No, I am confused.

Guru: Because the terms used in religion are also used in spirituality, and yet they have different meanings.

Tom: So, they are talking about different things?

Guru: So, they are talking about the same things with different meanings.

Tom: That is really confusing.

Guru: Let’s see if I can make it clearer.

Tom: As clear as mud?

Guru: Okay, when we talk about religion here, we are mainly referring to organized religion.

Tom: So religious.

Guru: So, religion tends to be practiced in a group and within an organization.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: You can practice it on your own.

Tom: Wow, this is a big difference!

Guru: And since religion is practiced within an organization, the followers tend to follow an organizational truth.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: You are encouraged to follow your own truth.

Tom: But what is the basis of these truths?

Guru: In religion, it is largely based on some doctrine passed down by some earlier masters.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: It is based on your own experience.

Tom: So, what happens when my own experience differs from those stated in the doctrine?

Guru: In religion, you are asked to reject your own experience as truth.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: You are encouraged to accept your own experience as truth.

Tom: Wow, this is another big difference!

Guru: Indeed. This is also why many people are not comfortable with religion.

Tom: Of course, because what they read and hear from religion is not what they experience.

Guru: Right, and this is how spirituality came about.

Tom: How did it come about?

Guru: Spirituality offers a way to people to practice their own truth.

Tom: Their own truth through their own experience.

Guru: This is where they feel comfortable.

Tom: So, people feel comfortable practicing their own truth.

Guru: Since there are many organizations within religion and they may adopt different doctrines, so they tend to be divided.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: Since nobody is forced to follow any particular doctrine, so they cannot be divided.

Tom: Are they united?

Guru: Well, the practice is to encourage everyone to follow his or her own truth, in that sense, they are united.

Tom: So, we are all one.

Guru: Indeed. In religion, it tends to be we are all one hundred and one.

Tom: Or even one thousand and one.

Guru: This is, of course, the source of religious conflicts.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: As the practice allows everyone to follow his or her own truth, differences are accepted as part of spirituality.

Tom: Like the different colors of our bodies.

Guru: Yet, we are all one.

Tom: Are there other differences between religion and spirituality?

Guru: Religion tends to be very ritualistic.

Tom: Why is it?

Guru: This is a way for the senior followers to assert their “seniority”.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: There is little or no ritual.

Tom: Why is it?

Guru: Since everyone is on his or her own path, so there is no such thing as “seniority”.

Tom: How about God?

Guru: Religion tends to teach a judgmental, outer God.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: They tend to teach a non-judgmental, inner God.

Tom: God and I are one.

Guru: This is also why religion tends to be fear-based.

Tom: What is fear-based?

Guru: They use fear to motivate people to do good.

Tom: Is it wrong to use fear to motivate people to do good?

Guru: Well, if God is love, and fear is opposite to love, how can fear-based teachings be God’s teachings?

Tom: What an enlightened observation!

Guru: But many people are not able to see this.

Tom: Why is this so?

Guru: Because they are misguided.

Tom: So, they instill fear by telling us we are no good.

Guru: Like we are born in sin.

Tom: And we are not good enough to go to Heaven.

Guru: Like we may end up in Hell.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: Since the belief is that we are God, and God is love, spirituality is love-based.

Tom: So, it tends to use love to motivate people to do good.

Guru: That’s right. If you are no good, how can you be God?

Tom: But are we good enough to go to Heaven?

Guru: But there is no Heaven.

Tom: Oh yes, that’s what you said in an earlier conversation.

Guru: There is another difference in the teaching of God between religion and spirituality.

Tom: What is the difference?

Guru: In religion, you may make contact with God but there are many intermediaries.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: It is the essence of spirituality that you should make direct contact with God without an intermediary.

Tom: Wow, this is another big difference!

Guru: Oh yes, and there is another major difference between religion and spirituality regarding the sources of income.

Tom: What is the major difference?

Guru: With religion, their income usually comes from donations or tithes.

Tom: Is this why religious organizations can give away their products or services for free?

Guru: Sure, because they have already been paid for by donations or tithes.

Tom: How about spirituality?

Guru: They may ask for donation but usually they don’t get much.

Tom: So, how do they get their income?

Guru: They usually have to sell their products or services at commercial prices.

Tom: Is this why spiritual products or services are not free?

Guru: If they give away their products or services for free, where is their income coming from?

Tom: Wow, this is a real major difference!

Guru: Okay Tom, are you now clear about the differences between religion and spirituality?

Tom: Yes, Guru Harry, it’s as clear as a crystal!

Dr. Tommy S. W. Wong

Tommy Wong As a bestselling author on Amazon, Dr. Tommy Wong is the author of the book series “Wisdom on How to Live Life,” and other philosophical, spiritual, and self-help books. Since 2009, his books have been available on Amazon and many other online bookstores worldwide. More articles are available here and further information about Dr. Wong’s work can be found on his website and FB page.


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