As I have often pondered the purpose of life, one of the contrasts that has beckoned my attention is the difference between spirituality and religion. I see it in a similar vein  as the primary distinction between the ‘works of God’ and the ‘works of man’ as discussed in 3rd Nephi, chapter 27. Here is an attempt to draw out the differences that, I believe, help illuminate the characteristics of someone who is spiritual versus someone who is religious.

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Being religious allows one to express righteous indignation when a visitor to church reeks of tobacco.

Being spiritual means that you feel sorrow for someone who carries the odor of their addiction.


Being religious means taking pride in the magnificent structures that are built through the donations of money and wealth.

Being spiritual is understanding that a mountain can bring us close to our Maker if our hearts are right.


Religion is the domain of those who feel a need to be seen and heard and is a necessary platform to conduct our charity.

Spirituality is found in the random acts of kindness that require no forethought and exhibit no ownership of the deed.


A religious person takes comfort in ritual.

A spiritual person senses when an act of reverence has become rote and seeks renewal.


A religious person can easily be satisfied with platitudes and has an answer for everything.

A spiritual person finds that every answer spawns another twenty questions.


Being religious means taking pride in heritage and success; easily and unknowingly classifying others based on clothes, address, and possessions.

Being spiritual acknowledges that the only true measure of a person is the spiritual dimensions of their heart.


A religious person understands that power and position are to be sought after but never publically acknowledged.

A spiritual person seeks only the happiness of others; knowing inside that we can only help ourselves by helping others.

Religion is based on the works of man while spirituality is the work that the spirit vests in one who maintains a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

What think ye?

10 Responses to “Religion versus Spirituality”

  • admin:

    I speak of these differences on a personal basis. I have, at times in my life, been both spiritual and religious. I have found that I cannot normally exhibit both dimensions at the same time.

  • Cub:

    I love your thoughts. For several years I’ve had a growing feeling that something was not right in my approach to religion. Recently I’ve discovered that the problem was my focus on religion (i.e., being a good latter-day saint) rather than spirituality (i.e., being a follower of Christ). In allowing myself to give up some of my addiction to the law and culture of the church, I have felt more free to follow my heart and find Christ. It has been the most wonderful and challenging journey.

  • Cub,
    Thanks for your comment. You have succinctly captured what I was trying to say in my post. As you say in your comment, I spent many years trying to be a good latter-day saint. I have found that it is a lot lonelier being a follower of Christ. I would, however, never trade it for the old lifestyle.

  • Younger Dude:

    Here is Paul’s take on being religious vs being spiritual:

    Phillipians 3:3-11

    3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

    4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more;

    5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

    6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

    7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

    8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

    9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;

    10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

    11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the just.

    My favorite verses are 8 and 9. SO AWESOME. Being spiritual is coming to know Christ through faith. Anything less misses the mark.

    Paul rocks my world.

  • Dude,
    I would suggest that it is a two way proposition. We must come to know Christ as you identified in the scripture above, but we also need Him to know us.

    When God talked of Abraham in Genesis, chapter 16, He said: ‘For I know Him, that he will command his children and his household after him…’ I take this to mean that God had come to understand Abraham.

    Contrast this with the scripture in Matthew 7, verses 22 and 23:

    “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

    Even though these people prophesied, did miracles, and accomplished mighty works, the Lord didn’t know them. I take this to mean it isn’t enough to simply live the gospel. We must seek to build a two-way relationship with Christ. We must know Him but He must also know us.

    I believe that the key to this is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. In 3 Nephi, chapter 12, Christ states:

    “…after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost…”

    It is Jesus Christ who will initiate the relationship through this second baptism. He then knows who we are and the process of ‘knowing’ builds in both directions.

    What do the scriptures say that eternal life is? To know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    If we accomplish nothing else in this life besides coming to know Christ, we have been successful. That’s my take.


  • Younger Dude:

    I agree with your suggestion of it being a two way proposition. We want a personal relationship with Christ, right? And a relationship is a two-way thing so yeah that makes sense. It also makes sense that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost provides the means whereby we can have a real and abiding relationship with Him, one where we could be prepared to speak to Him face to face if needed.

    I am not sure what you mean by God coming to understand Abraham, because if God didn’t understand him in the first place he wouldn’t be God (all knowing). Maybe you just mean it in the sense that God and Abraham had a relationship that many who claim to know God don’t have.

    You said:
    “If we accomplish nothing else in this life besides coming to know Christ, we have been successful. That’s my take.”

    One thing I am beginning to notice as I make my journey from being less religious to more spiritual is that there is such a lack of emphasis on Christ in our religious routines. I went to a stake priesthood meeting last Sunday which had almost zero focus on Christ. It was hard to sit through. It was all about programs and the like.

    There is a such a good refreshing Spirit when we are focused on the Savior. It is awesome how much more abundant that good Spirit is poured out when we speak of Christ and focus on Him.

  • Dude,
    When God says he knows Abraham, I think it is more of a ‘biblical’ know which suggests a close relationship. There are very few places in the scriptures where God speaks of a close relationship like this.

    In my opinion, you are very fortunate that you recognize the difference between spirituality and busywork. Many members I have known, including myself for many years, assumed being ‘anxiously engaged’ was sufficient. I now understand that such a focus on the role as ‘active member’ can actually draw us away for the work needed for a close relationship with God.

  • TruthSeekerToo:

    Great post and comments!

    Younger Dude, I

  • TruthSeekerToo:

    Oops, my comment got messed up.
    Oh well, just sayin’ I love Paul, too!

  • Umer:

    incluso a sus apf3stoles que fueron teistgos de su bondad, la misericordia, el amor infinito y hechos milagrosos le fallf3, bfcf3mo podemos esperar a ser mejor? Esta cancif3n es acerca de como dice claramente que e9l, su temor de que su brillante es demasiado pequef1a para contener toda su oscuridad. Ok? Lo que una interpretacif3n superficial que ha hecho. Usted hace una injusticia para el autor de esta cancif3n increedble. Y la mayoreda de sus canciones tienen connotaciones espirituales. Conseguir una pista, por favor.

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