Religion or spirituality? So far, so close

In the previous post, we reflected on what we understood by religion. There we pointed out three of its essential characteristics: the social element, the sacred and the openness to the transcendental. Now, from the above, the question arises about spirituality: is it something different from religion, something opposite to it, or is it part of a phenomenon that shares some common characteristics? Let’s see.

In recent years, different protest movements of a new spirituality have emerged with intensity. Some authors try to define spirituality as that which is (E) spirit, but this definition does not give much clarity.

It is complex to be able to specify what is meant by spirituality. And this difficulty lies, we believe, in two fundamental points: the novelty of the phenomenon (although spirituality itself is very old) and the different definitions that its own defenders give of it. Even so, we will try to point out some characteristics of this new phenomenon.

In the first approach to spirituality, some philosophers and sociologists of religion highlight its subjectivist aspect. There is a centrality of the own experience on the traditions or dogmas that stand out in the religious communities.

Along with the above, there seems to be a great accent in the idea of unity between the essentials of oneself (self ) and the whole. On the other hand, the pre-eminence of the authentic (autonomous) personal search of a fulfilled meaning that is not found in the dogmas and rites of the traditional religious communities is given.

Difference between spirituality and religion

In his work, the sociologist of religion Wade Clark Roof looks at the differences between religion and spirituality through several testimonies collected in his research. Thus, religions would put their accent on doctrine and tradition, while spirituality would be closer to an inner feeling of relationship with the whole.

Its focus is transcendence, its own fullness. On the other hand, a strong emphasis is placed on feelings (although there are spiritualities that distance themselves from them), which can make her prone to stay in a kind of intimacy. Meredith McGuire, on the other hand, understands spirituality as a feeling of an individual condition in the process, which suggests an unfinished experience that is in development and is open.


In contrast to ‘ religiosity ‘, ‘ spirituality ‘ can be used to refer to patterns of spiritual practices and experiences that comprise ‘lived religion’ as an individual. The ‘ religiosidad’, on the other hand, tends to describe individual religion in terms of characteristics such as formal membership or identification, percentages of participation in religious services, a frequency of prayer or reading of sacred texts, or consent to certain beliefs and moral mandates of a particular church.

Charles Taylor, for his part, affirms that those who oppose spirituality to a religion believe that spirituality is defined by a kind of autonomous exploration that the subject must do for himself (although there is often a guide accompanying the experience).

Along with this, there is a rejection of all religious moralism and all the ‘fetishist’ expressions found in churches. This position comes from two reactions: the first is that you do not feel the need for religious discipline and, second, the feeling that the answers given by the churches are too fast, too easy and trite, and that they do not They reflect a deep search.

Many times these spiritual movements – which cover a wide range of very different beliefs and which, unfortunately, often get into the same bag – tend to be conceived as movements that only try to promote human development, as they focus on immanence and pure inner perfection, leaving aside the concerns of more social or transcendental content.

Spirituality in some peoples and widespread in Africa and the Middle East And Spirituality is used in the treatment of spiritual diseases And Cure magic

Although sometimes this criticism can be true, staying in it can mean losing sight of the true spiritual reality of our time: the individual search for transcendence. The English sociologist and anthropologist Paul Heelas states that many of the spiritual expressions emphasize the immanent well-being. But it would be unfair to say that all modern spiritual movements fall under the same pattern because today many seek to go further.

Wealth of spirituality

The richness of spirituality, as many authors point out, points to personal transformation and to the discovery – or rediscovery – of the deepest dimension of the human being. Leonardo Boff, who has also worked on the theme of spirituality, quotes the Dalai Lama as explaining spirituality: “it does not produce a transformation in you, and then it is not spirituality”.

Spirituality must generate a transformation that opens us from mere individuality to a space of peace in the midst of existing social conflicts and desolations. In this sense, spirituality would refer to the depths of the human being.

Thus, spirituality would not be a movement to be or feel good -as it can be in the New Age movements, but to be uninstalled and put on a path of growth. As someone has already noticed, from this perspective, spirituality and religion are not as distant as one might expect. Both have the openness to transcendence and, willingly or not, also a social element

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