Spirituality is not religion, although religion is a form of spiritual expression. You may have had a bad experience with a specific religion, or maybe you see the numerous wrongs mankind has done to one another in the name of religion. Perhaps you simply can't believe what a religion you are familiar with says about how the universe was created.

Many people assume that spirituality and religion are equivalent, but they aren't. Being born and raised in a certain region with specific cultural influences, some are only exposed to one religion, and automatically assume that spirituality and religion are one and the same. Others may see multiple religions in the world, all claiming to be the one and only true path, and notice how illogical that seems. But don't let a bad experience with religion turn you away from spirituality.

Religion is a set of agreed upon beliefs 

Religion can be viewed as an organized and collective expression of spirituality. Religion prescribes a set of rules, beliefs, dogmas, and rituals that a group chooses to follow together. These rules and writings reflect the culture in which the religion was born. Religion, while also capable of evolution and reinterpretation, tends to adhere more closely to its foundational texts and traditions. It often provides a stable, community-oriented framework that can offer guidance and support, but it can also become rigid and resistant to change, sometimes leading to major conflicts when differing interpretations or beliefs arise.

Spirituality does not require a god or deities 

Spirituality is an integral part of the human experience, offering a path to discover our true nature, foster a sense of connectedness, and embrace a life of meaning and purpose. Spirituality does not require a god, deity or any form of worship. It is entirely possible that you can be a highly spiritual atheist who believes only in what science has discovered (which from the perspective of physics is only about 5% of the known universe). Spirituality is not about faith in a belief system. Instead, spirituality involves how we see the reality in which we live, and our place in it.

Spirituality recognizes that our existence is sacred 

It is a matter of seeing that what is right before you, that the entire world in which we exist, is sacred. Spirituality involves looking at this manifestation we call reality, and realizing that there is inherent beauty and sacredness to all of it. Spirituality involves recognizing the natural, intrinsic connection each individual has with the universe, with each other, and with everything in it. Spirituality transcends the boundaries of religion, and embodies the common experience all human beings have in the profound realization of our interconnectedness with everything around us.

Spirituality is fundamental to humanity 

While religion personifies spirituality in a specific expression, spirituality is an inherent part of the human experience. It is our birthright as human beings, and an essential part to living fully a deep and authentic life. Scientists have even identified that spirituality is embedded within our genes. If you take a purely scientific interpretation of this, it means that spirituality, at the least, must have been beneficial to our survival as a species. In fact, multiple scientific studies have been conducted that show a more positive, healthful outcome for people who practice some form of spirituality compared to those who don't.

Spirituality embodies universal truths about wise living 

How to live well as a human being. Living with empathy and compassion. Recognizing that life is hard and how to deal with that fact. Letting go of the past, managing our fear about the future. Yes, life is hard, and hardships happen to everyone. It is in all of our natures to ultimately lose the things we love, and ultimately to die. This is the common experience of every human being. Spirituality gives meaning and purpose, providing universal truths on how to live wisely as a human, how to overcome or limitations, and live in alignment with what is.

Spirituality is a journey inward 

Another key difference is that spirituality is inherently personal. It is a journey inward, a quest for personal meaning, and an exploration of one's own relationship with the universe. Spirituality is about finding one’s own path to understanding and experiencing the sacredness of life. It is about awakening to the reality that lies beyond the tangible and the material. Whether guided by a set of religious doctrines or not, spirituality is a highly personal experience of awakening.

 Furthermore, spirituality is fluid and evolving, mirroring the personal growth and changing understanding of the individual. It is not confined by a specific set of beliefs but is instead a continuous exploration of the self, the universe, and the connections between them. It is about living in harmony with these understandings, leading to a life marked by compassion, mindfulness, and a deep sense of peace and fulfillment.

A word of caution about humanity's gurus 

Humans have a predisposition for losing their way when they are given great power over others. Great spiritual leaders will naturally acquire a following, and this following will many times try to convey great spiritual power unto their leader. But the saying power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely was created for a reason. Even the most altruistic guru who's original intent may have only been to spread the wise learnings they have acquired through their study of spirituality can be susceptible to this. When exploring your spirituality, always be on guard for people who may be using spirituality as a means for others to worship them. If the message is about worshiping a specific living individual, be wary of the practice.

Begin your spiritual journey today 

Spirituality is an innate, personal, and direct connection with the universe about ourselves, our universe, and our place in it. It can teach wise ways of living that can help us cope with the difficulties inherent in simply being alive as a human being. Spirituality can provide a deep sense of sacredness and connectivity to all things. Furthermore, it is built into our very genes, and is our birthright. If you have abandoned the idea of spirituality because you have had a bad experience with religion, or simply think it is impossible to be a spiritual person and an atheist, I invite you to have a second look at something that can completely change the meaning and direction of your life for the better.