Religion and Spirituality | Counseling | Therapy

Religion and Spirituality

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

Religion and Spirituality The words religion and spirituality are often used interchangeably, though they are uniquely different things. Spirituality is the pursuit of a relationship and understanding of the world around us as it relates to our spirit and deity. Religion is the assembling of spiritually like-minded individuals into a practicing group whereby beliefs, traditions, and rituals are indoctrinated. Though they often coexist and overlap, they neither require nor rely on one another. Many people practicing religion are spiritually barren, and many who are spiritually adept have become so outside of a major religion. So in the search for a spiritual experience, where does religion fit in?

Although being spiritual does not require adherence to religious dogma, many people choose to operate spiritually within the preexisting framework of a major world religion. Religion provides a foundation to rest your spiritual beliefs firmly on. It gives definition and focus to an otherwise ethereal venture. It can be an excellent springboard for launching into your own spiritual endeavor. Likewise, it provides built in rituals, traditions, fellowship, and imagery with which to define and practice your spirituality. Assuming a major religion as part of your spiritual quest affords you mentors, community, and physical landmarks to support you along your path. Many religions offer nonprofit benefits as well: schools, homes and shelters for the needy or poor, and scholarships just to name a few. Within the context of religion, spirituality takes definite shape, deity is given a recognizable face and name, and an otherwise featureless path is characterized with guiding barriers and signs.

Still, there are those who find the stringent codes and dogma of major religions too confining in their search for divine life and its role in the mundane world. Their spiritual existence is found outside the walls of churches, mosques and synagogues. Instead, freedom itself defines their journey. Deity can be anyone or anything. Traditions are borrowed and doctrine is individual. Many of these people study a variety of religious traditions only to find that none are a perfect match. They often pull what works personally from a myriad of religions and sects and utilize it in their own unique way. Support systems are harder to come by, but internet sites and forums, local open-minded groups, and intimate family and friends all make great substitutes. Rather than a straight shot outlined towards a definite goal, their path is a winding stroll through ever changing landscapes littered with the joys of having no deadlines, ultimatums or direct destinations.

How do you know what’s right for you? Put religion to the test. If you’re already involved in a religious heritage, dabble in some of the other major religions. See how they culminate with your own spirituality. Read, attend gatherings, and ask questions. You may find that they only reaffirm your chosen religion and previous inclinations, and you can be confident you are where you need to be. Or, you may discover that you have a taste for the delicacies of another world religion. This could lead to an overall conversion or a mere adaptation of current practices and beliefs to include those outside your previous choices that you have found an appreciation for. In some cases, you may be led to look outside of religion altogether for spiritual direction, and in others you may realize that you are most comfortable within the heritage you are accustomed too. In either case, you are expanding your own spiritual understanding and whatever your conclusions, you are sure to benefit from them.

Struggling with religion and spirituality? You are not alone.


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