What Does it Mean to Be Spiritual?

You go to church every Sunday and you say your prayers every day. Does this mean you are a spiritual person?

No.

You practice yoga and meditate every day. Does this mean you are a spiritual person?

No.

You belong to spiritual group and are devoted to following the teachings of the group. Does this mean you are a spiritual person?

No.

What, then, does it mean to be a spiritual person?

Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to oneself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals, and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all one, and consciously attempts to honor this oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person.

So, you can go to church every Sunday and say your prayers every day, without caring about loving yourself, others and the planet. You can practice yoga and meditate every day without being conscious of what is loving and what is not loving in your thoughts and actions. You can belong to a spiritual group and devotedly follow the teachings, yet still be judgmental toward yourself and others in your daily life.

There are many people who do not practice a religion, who do not meditate, pray or belong to any group, who are very spiritual people. These people naturally do caring things for others. They think about how they can help. Their thoughts are kind rather than judgmental toward themselves and toward others. When you look at them, you see their kindness in their eyes.

There are many religious people who are anything but kind. We all know of religious people who are extremely judgmental, righteous, and outright mean. Can you be both religious and spiritual? Of course! But only when you are operating in your religion from your heart rather than from the learned dogma of your mind.

Years ago I very briefly attended a “spiritual” group. People would meet in an auditorium to hear the leader of the group speak. The second time I attended I heard a number of parents yelling at their children and judging them to try to control them. These parents were being anything but kind with their children. That was the last time I attended the spiritual group. The focus of the group was surrender to God, but love was rarely in the picture! They obviously had a very different experience of God than I did.

My experience of God is that God is the energy of Love that created us and sustains us. In my experience, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Anything that is not of love, peace, joy, truth and kindness is not of God. Praying to God does not mean that you are allowing the spirit that is God – the love, peace, joy, truth and kindness that is God – to guide your thoughts and actions. Practicing yoga or meditating does not mean that you have invited the love that is God into your heart, or that you are turning to that ever-present love to learn about what is in your highest good, and the highest good of others and the planet.

If you want to be a spiritual person, then let kindness be your guiding light – kindness toward yourself, toward others, toward animals, and toward this beautiful planet that is our home. Recognize that we all have the spark of love that is God within us, and learn to honor that love so that you can know and experience the Oneness of all that is.

Factors Leading to the Distinction of Spirituality Vs Religion

Spirituality and religion were once synonymous. In fact in the dictionary they still are. But recently they have parted their ways farther and farther away from each other. Instead of helping each other they are now in the position of fighting each other. Thus we have the phrase religion vs spirituality. They are now treated by more and more writers as antagonistic to each other. What factors have led to the growth of the distinction between spirituality and religion?

The Growth of the Empirical Sciences

One factor which is not only coincidental but causal is the growth of the empirical sciences like medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, astronomy and their branches. These sciences have cultivated in people the attitude of the priority of experience. Everything has to be measured by human experience through the instruments that are constantly being refined, whether it is the microscope or telescope or other instruments.

In an age when these sciences were, as it were, in their infancy and adolescence, there was no clear distinction between religion and spirituality. But now people want to experience something even in religion. Failing to find the spiritual realities they want to discover in religion they turn to spirituality to satisfy their hunger for the things of the spirit.

More and more can no longer profess belief in a statement that has no meaning to their experiential life. They can no longer go through rituals which seem to them meaningless. And they rebel against a moral code which seems to them to stifle their personal growth. So they turn to spirituality that to them has no religion.

Increase in the Knowledge of the Scriptures

It is strange but true that the growth in the knowledge of the Scriptures, particularly Christian Scriptures, has also contributed to the parting away of religion and spirituality from each other. Beginning with literary criticism of the Biblical texts going to higher criticism new interpretations of the passages in Scriptures have been offered to the public. Entire passages have been construed to be Biblical myths. Creation did not really happen in six days but in six periods of time which may be millions of years each. The flood of Noah’s time did not happen all over the earth but only in a particular place of the earth. These interpretations have eroded the belief of people in the Bible and religion. But they still long for something meaningful in their spiritual life. Thus they turn to spirituality as offered by the Eastern religions or by the New Age teachers.

The Relativity of All Things, Especially Cultures

The theory of relativity has not been confined to physics, as propounded by Albert Einstein. It has been adopted by ordinary people as they viewed the cultures of other people. Where before some churches have adamantly believed and taught that they were the only way to salvation, now they have acknowledged that other religions can also be used by God to draw men to himself. For many of the preachers of these churches salvation depends upon one’s response to God’s revelation, not upon membership in their churches.

Thus the appeal of religion as the safe way to gain eternal happiness has waned. Instead people now are experimenting with various techniques to gain this happiness here and now, not in the hereafter.

These three developments in our time, the growth of the natural sciences, the increase in the knowledge of the Bible, and the relativism present in our churches and cultures have helped to the parting of ways between religion and spirituality. While there are heroic attempts to integrate them again, the split seems to be final and irrevocable. It will be for a long time religion vs spirituality.