artistic rendering of cross - religion vs spirituality

The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

First, let me explain what I mean by “religion” and “spirituality” (as they pertain to Christianity).

Religion => A set of practices (behaviors), rituals, rules, and regulations by which one must abide.

Spirituality => A journey in which the soul is being transformed by the Holy Spirit, leading gradually to an outward change in behavior.

Religion demands obedience.

Spirituality inspires obedience.


Religion produces artificial change.

Spirituality produces organic change.


Religion requires us to focus more on ourselves.

Spirituality leads us to focus more on God and others.


Religion requires energy.

Spirituality produces energy.


Religion requires us to lean on ourselves for strength and perfection.

Spirituality requires us to lean on God for these things.


Religion involves maintaining the external – behaviors, practice, and appearance.

Spirituality is focused on inward transformation, which spills over to the external.


Religion drains us.

Spirituality sustains us.


Religion is human-centric.

Spirituality is Christ-centric.


Religion requires us to maintain and exercise the ego.

Spirituality requires us to lose the ego.


Religion says “we are God” (we have the power to change ourselves).

Spirituality says “we are one with God” (joined with Him, so change is inevitable).


Religion is a set of metrics by which we estimate our “righteousness”.

Spirituality depends on Christ’s righteousness – on which our merit is based – and involves us continually merging with His righteousness.


Religion is about earning favor from God.

Spirituality acknowledges that those who have received salvation are already resting in God’s favor.


Religion is a Sunday event.

Spirituality is an every-day event.


Religion is a to-do list of boxes to check off.

Spirituality checks boxes off the list when we’re not looking.


Religion is a mode of doing.

Spirituality is a mode of being.


Religion reveres the words (rules and rituals) constructed by humanity.

Spirituality causes us to lean into the Word (the Logos, Jesus).


Religion demands that we essentially be God – and places on our shoulders the responsibility of making ourselves perfect and saving ourselves (earning salvation) – a feat only achievable by God.

Spirituality acknowledges that we are incapable of saving ourselves – and joins us with God so that we may be made whole.


Religion stifles, stuffs, and suppresses our sin.

Spirituality sanctifies us from our sin.


Religion cleans the outside of the cup.

Spirituality cleans the inside.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. – Jesus


Religion seeks self for transformation.

Spirituality seeks God’s energy and power for transformation.


Religion, out of obligation, is charitable.

Spirituality, out of charity (love), is compelled to give.


Religion displays itself publicly, but its fruit is often sour.

Spirituality offers sweet fruit – and by this it is recognized, though it rarely flaunts its label.


Religion claims that our works can earn or maintain God’s favor.

Spirituality claims that only Christ’s work on the cross can please God, and so we must be joined to Christ to “earn” God’s favor.


Religion requires our own energy and steam.

Spirituality taps into the Holy Spirit’s energy and steam.


Religion is about refining our image – our avatar.

Spirituality is about losing our image – our avatar – and becoming one with Christ, the Logos.


Religion is living under the Old Law.

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. – Romans

Spirituality is living under the New Law (Love).

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” – Galatians

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEARTAND WITH ALL YOUR SOULAND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew

Healthy religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James

(Read more about my thoughts on this verse in What Christianity Was Meant to Be.)


Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. – Jesus


The Bleeding Blogger

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