Religion Vs. Spirituality: What Are The Main Differences?

Many people use these two terms interchangeably, but there’s a difference between religion and spirituality. While the concepts are related and may have been even more so in the past, there are subtle, but important qualities that tell them apart, especially considering the way they are generally defined in modern times.

To get a better grasp of the issue at hand, let’s analyse both terms more closely and see what they entail exactly.




Religion is a cultural system of beliefs, practices, values, ethics and philosophies, social organisation and sacred texts that relate humanity to the divine, transcendence, or an order of existence. While each different religion has specific characteristics and elements, they generally all include some forms of rituals, sacred narratives and histories, strong symbolism, holy texts and holy places.

Religious beliefs have as main purpose giving a meaning to life, but they also usually aim at explaining the Universe, the origin of life, and what happens after death.




Spirituality, in its initial sense, had its roots in early Christianity and referred to a life lived in the name of the Holy Spirit. However, over time, the meaning of the term has broadened and developed various other connotations.

Starting with the late medieval ages, its meaning has expanded to include the mental, unphysical aspects of life, and it spread to refer to other religions as well. In modern times, the concept has gained an even broader meaning, including a wide range of experiences related to the spirit and even a variety of esoteric traditions.

Spirituality can be very difficult to define nowadays as it’s developed into something quite personal, but a comprehensive definition that could encompass the meaning of the term as it has evolved could sound like this:

“Spirituality is the feeling of connectedness to yourself as well as to something greater, experienced by building and nurturing a relationship with your own spirit, your environment, your community and your perception of transcendence.”

One way to look at it to understand the concept and how it differs from religion is that religion is the structure, while spirituality is the feeling.


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The Differences between Religion and Spirituality

Still not very clear about what makes the difference between spirituality and religion? Have a look at the table below:



  • Religions entail various rituals, practices and specific holy texts followers live by.
  • Spirituality does not.
  • Many religions entail forming groups – gathering in a holy place to worship together.
  • Spirituality is personal, individual.
  • Religion is an organized structure, an institution.
  • Spirituality doesn’t entail organization. It is more of a feeling, or, in some cases, the substance behind religion (as being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean being religious too).
  • Many religions focus on the past and the future of mankind.
  • Spirituality is about living in the present.


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