Larry James' BLOG

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Religion vs. Spirituality

Filed under: Prayer,Relationships,Spirituality — Larry James @ 7:00 am

peanutsWhen I perform my “romantic” wedding ceremony, I always ask the Bride and Groom about their spiritual beliefs. I get a wide assortment of answers which often leads to some very interesting conversations.

I need to know because each ceremony is always customized to their complete satisfaction. They always get to choose just how spiritual they want their wedding ceremony to be. My belief is that what is in the wedding ceremony should only and always be the choice of the Bride and Groom, not what the Minister thinks should be in it. I never push my beliefs off on anyone. They get to choose.

It is also my belief that you must never forget the importance of the spiritual side of your relationship.

“My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn’t.” ūüėČ

Affirmation ~ My love partner and I share similar spiritual values. Higher spiritual values give meaning and purpose to our relationship. They determine what we will turn away from and what we will move toward. Shared spiritual ideas are the basis for a lasting, fulfilling love relationship.

Marriage is sacred. So are the vows you make. Making a relationship work should not be totally dependent upon what you or your partner do or do not do.

God, a Higher Power ‚Äď or whatever you choose to call what you believe in ‚Äď can only inspire you to make the right choices. He alone cannot do it for you. You and your partner must do the work.

Listen for God’s soft whisper. He speaks to you in the stillness of daybreak and in the midst of conflict.

mosesemailAre you listening?

I highly recommend the following list of priorities for your relationship: God, you, your relationship and your work ‚Äď in that order!

‚ÄúPeople are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.‚ÄĚ ~ Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Here is my take on Religion and Spirituality:

Religion is a specific church’s organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of rules, narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, not unlike a ‚Äúhow-to‚ÄĚ guide, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to God or a higher power usually within that church’s denomination. Most religions and denominations are about conformity and the leadership has the right to demand such. However, it puts limits on us and often traps us in its dogma. God is too big to be confined to any one religion or denomination.

To me, spirituality means that, once one has accepted his or her faith in God, Great Spirit or a Higher Power (or whatever they choose to call it), how they personally choose to express it is their own personal choice not particularly what a church denomination chooses to impose on their followers. Spirituality is natural. We all have it, whether we know it or practice it, it is in us.

“Spirituality does not come from religion. It comes from our soul. We must stop confusing Religion and Spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations, and rituals created by humans which were supposed to help people spiritually. Due to human imperfection religion has become corrupt, political, divisive, and a tool for power struggle. Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as given by the Most High. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other.” ~ Haile Selassie I, former President of Ethiopia

“Spirituality is NOT a Religion. Being spiritual just means you are in touch with your own divine self.” ~ Anna Pereira

Spirituality has to do with what we make of what religion offers us and what we make of our place in life relative to the Divine, to self and to others. Religion could be thought of, at least in very general terms, as a large shared human activity organized and passed along in time to help individuals in their relationship to the Divine and to one another.

InGodWeTrustSpirituality is all about finding the truth that resonates the highest with you. Religion is based on a fixed belief-system, and to be included (or to be saved) you need to adopt this belief system.

childprayingSo to some, to be spiritual may mean the individual expression of their faith without religious interference from a church or any reference to God. It is only and always a personal choice. It is the connection we feel to something greater than ourselves. In a sense, spirituality is personalized religion. It also means that you recognize and acknowledge a power or sensibility within yourself and outside of yourself, beyond the purely physical or mental.

“Every religion on the planet, and there are so many more than you are even aware of, has the potential of absolute thriving. But when you think that you must prove that you have the only one that is right – and you use your condemnation to push against the others – your condemnation separates you from your own Connection that, before your condemnation, you were finding in your own religion.” ~ Abraham

It is your way of loving, accepting and relating to the world and the people around you. It cannot be found in a church or by believing in a certain way. It is independent of religious beliefs, dogma or doctrine.

Spiritual beliefs are developed individually and quite often deal with issues of a more personal or intimate nature than those addressed by religious doctrine.

Many followers of religion feel that only their path can lead to salvation. They have tremendous faith in their own religion, but at the same time they feel other religions are wrong and cannot lead a seeker to God.

Religion“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness should be part of our daily lives.” ~ Dalai Lama

Spirituality feels that all religions are valid. Spirituality knows there are many paths to the same goal. Spirituality embraces all the world religions, but at the same time, is not constrained by any religious dogmas or forms. It does not require membership in any group.

The religious beliefs of spiritual groups do not necessarily lead people to the same conclusions as organized religions, but that doesn’t make them less religious. Being religious or spiritual both usually connote belief in a Higher Power of some kind. Both also imply a desire to connect or enter into a more intense relationship with this Higher Power.

Although this may be controversial thought, it also seems to me that some atheists are spiritual, in their own way. If being spiritual also means following good, life-affirming principles, then any atheist would be thought of as a spiritual person who passionately believes in, and lives, a life that includes helping others, being honest, and sharing oneself.

Few men are so obstinate in their atheism, that a pressing danger will not compel them to acknowledgment of a divine power. – Plato

By the way, neither religion or spirituality are bad because what you personally believe is what is true for you. Both give order to a world in chaos; they provide a moral foundation upon which to base behavior. Religion is a path to God. Spirituality is also a path to God. However there are differences in the approach.

Holding on to your religious beliefs can often inhibit spiritual growth.

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.” ~ Deepak Chopra

religionMy friend, Jennifer Scott put it this way: “I deeply believe in God but only through my personal relationship. I believe that God is everywhere and in every living thing. I personally do not believe in the rules of any church yet strongly support those who do.”

I concur.

You choose!

Seen on a bumper sticker: “My car ran over your dogma!”

God is smiling.

Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there. – Bonnie Raitt

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

BONUS Article: Vows, Parents & Religion: Conundrum!
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Copyright ¬© 2010 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s Wedding Website and from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and a nondenominational minister. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere. Something NEW about relationships is posted every 4th day on this Relationships BLOG.

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – and

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