The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality


Throughout the history of humanity, there have been many different religions. Each of them has a unique story, but all share a common goal: to preserve the essence of their teachings. Each also has profound spiritual texts. Although the term religion is often used interchangeably with spirituality, it is important to distinguish between the two.

Traditional religion provides meaning for life and gives people ground for action. It was one of the strongest elements of society before colonization. However, the cultural influence of individualism has reduced the social value of religion. Similarly, rigid religions can become powerful ideologies of oppression.

Despite these negative features of religion, there are still reasons to consider the social value of it. For instance, the gratitude that is part of spirituality can be associated with greater physical health. This can be especially true for people who have an intrinsic religious orientation, which means they dedicate their lives to a higher power. Moreover, individuals with this orientation exhibit less physiological reactivity to stress.

In contrast, those who are religious overwhelmingly agree that religion gives them purpose and moral guidance. However, fewer than half say religion helps them to choose right over wrong. This may be due to the undercurrent of fear and worry that can come from religious concepts of original sin and divine wrath.

Across Europe, attitudes towards religion are comparatively positive in Italy and Spain, while they are more negative in Denmark and Norway. In Austria and Ireland, the views are likewise more positive.