Religion and Spirituality – Is it one and the same?

In addition to the four major religions of the world, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, there are various faiths and philosophies, which are practiced by people all over the world. Some may argue that Judaism, Baha’I, and Sikhism are religions and should not be classified under the category of faith.

Considering how they started and evolved, their simplicity of religious texts compared to the religions of the world and other aspects, some theologians classify them as faiths. Confucianism is referred to as a philosophy rather than a faith or religion. Confucius never professed himself to be a religious expert. He thought of himself as a philosopher.

Statistics show that Christianity is currently the world’s number one religion, with an estimate of 2.1 billion followers or 33 percent of the world’s population. The second biggest religion is Islam with 1.5 billion followers. At one time, Hinduism was the world’s foremost religion. But now, it has fallen to fourth place.

Buddhism has an estimate of 376 million followers. Ranking in third place, overtaking Buddhism and Hinduism is a new ‘religion’, meant for a specific group of people. They are the non-believers, atheists, agnostics, secularists or those who classify themselves as nonreligious. This group makes up an astounding 16 percent of the world’s population, with 1.1 billion followers.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, religion refers to either “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: a particular system of faith and worship” or a “pursuit or interest followed with great devotion”. So, I call it a new religion. Why is this group passionate about classifying themselves as nonreligious or not believing in God?  One of the key reasons is religious fanaticism.

Some religious leaders or activists are fanatical because of the power religion wields, the fame and popularity that comes with the practice of their religion. How many of them truly understand what their religion teaches them? Look at what is happening around the world in the name of one religion or another, the fights for religious supremacy never seems to end. The second key reason might be due to the seemingly lack of justice for those who are good.

Some people wonder what God is doing when all kinds of things are happening in this world, some too cruel to even imagine. Where is the justice if God is truly there? I wonder at times too. The third major reason might be the lack of evidence. Bibles, Vedas and other religious texts were written by people, not by God.

How does one prove the existence of God in this world of Science and Technology especially to those who are scientifically inclined? Can something abstract be proven? It is like explaining what pain or suffering is. The only way might be to ‘feel’ it, to truly know what pain or suffering is. Likewise, to know God, one has to ‘feel’ God.

The definition in Oxford Dictionaries for spirituality is either “relating to religion or religious belief” or “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”.  Yes, there is a connection between spirituality and religion. The connection is in terms of the common grounds of all religions, practicing justice, truth, unconditional love and so on.

To put it simply, spirituality has to do with your spirit. By practicing values, truth, justice, unconditional love for humanity, inner strength, inner courage and other aspects related to your spirit, your spirit develops intrinsically. In my opinion, the true purpose of all religions is for a person’s spirit or Soul to connect to the infinite Spirit or Soul, named as God. The key is to develop the spirit to be as ‘perfect’ as possible to be one with God, Nature or Universe. It is the spiritual goal!