top of page

Blurred Lines - Spirituality vs Religion

According to a study published by the Pew Research Center in 2021, about 30% of American adults say they have no religious affiliation.

That’s 3 out of every 10 citizens, and that percentage has increased from 20% a decade ago.

As religious affiliates decline, Americans declaring to be “spiritual but not religious” has increased.

This personal declaration is often met with a confused expression.

Why is this?

They are both valid approaches to exploring soul questions, like:

  • Who am I?

  • What is my purpose?

  • What is the meaning of life?

The quest for these answers has been a passionate pursuit for humanity

since the beginning of time.

But for many, the need to be spiritual without organized religion,

blurs the lines crossing between the two.

So. . . . What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

In general, spirituality is an inner formation of self-awareness.

It’s the most natural state of your conscious self, turning inward to connect and find unity with the creator of all.

With spirituality, we exist on the deeper levels with our body and soul willfully submitted to the inner spirit and open to experiencing something bigger than self:

bonding with the creator of the universe.

This internal formation is usually developed on a private journey with relational practices, like:

  • meditation,

  • gratitude journaling,

  • or time in nature to quietly reflect on the amazing creations of the divine.

That’s a general definition of spirituality.

Religion, on the other hand, is an external expression of spiritual beliefs.

Usually attached to organized institutions, religion focuses on the outward sources like:

  • houses of worship with membership opportunities,

  • books of scripture with rules and regulations,

  • tithing for access to a religious teacher,

  • or observances with social fellowship events.

Because it’s an external expression, religion can be acted out, with or without an internal connection.

These become religious rituals with no real spiritual relationship.

And this. . . is the big elephant in the room.

The need for many to separate spirituality from religion has occurred as a by-product of unmet expectations.

There is an unspoken expectation for the religious institutions to:

  1. operate by above reproach standards,

  2. to offer a safe community, united to grow spiritually,

  3. to guide members with principles that lead to a thriving purpose-driven life,

  4. to nurture the soulfully sick to wellness,

  5. to guide you on the path to personal connection with the divine.

In other words, the community has an expectation for the religious institutions to be a “masterclass”, offering the tools needed to develop an intimate relationship with the divine.

However, the focus over the last few decades has shifted:

  • from the development of personal spirituality to a focus on the leaders and their inner cliques,

  • from using resources to unite and uplift communities to flaunting luxury jets and lifestyles,

  • from using the platform to encourage authentic growth, to manipulating the audience with self-guided missions.

In a culture that pride’s themselves on intellectual wokeness, the effectiveness of religion is being evaluated.

Hence comes the decline, as external religion fails the relevance assessment,

and the increase, as the community looks to authenticate internal spirituality.

The remnants of religion that are working to master both continue to grow, leading communities past what we’ve always done to finding new visions for what must be done.

The need to separate spirituality from religion does not have to be permanent.

With accountability and a re-focused mission, institutions can still rise up to the challenge with effective leadership.

As individuals, we can use the critical thinking process to see past the blurred lines.

One step at a time. . .

A balanced “Me” becomes a stronger community of “We”.

Subscribe to explore the commonalities of our humanity with us.

One topic at a time. . . from the inside out.

Welcome to Circles of You.


bottom of page