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what is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?

GMartin asked
Hello and Good Afternoon Everyone,

         I have a friend who says that she is not religious and does not believe in God, but, yet, she is spiritual and prays each day.  That said, I wonder what the distinction is between being religious and spiritual.    I always thought they go hand in hand with one another.

         Any shared views or thoughts on this question will be appreciated.

          Thank you

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I think your friend should be an excellent resource to answer this question.  She has made the distinction for herself and should be able to explain it.

I did a Google search on "religious vs spiritual" and came up with a number of responses.  This was the first one:
Robert RComputer Service Technician

to whom does she pray to if she does not believe in God? I am not sure I can understand how can some say they pray on a daily basis but don't know to whom they are praying to.  Sorry if I appear offensive, I am just trying to understand. Unless she is praying to an unknown god or a god that is unknown to her. But do be cautious, someone who may appear spiritual may not be spiritual at all, as man judges on the outward appearance but God judges the heart.  Without God in the heart not one us human beings can be spiritual towards God. But then spiritual can mean so many things to so many different people.
Distinguished Expert 2019

is being religious not connected to a religion ?
spiritual  could be something  like "obeing rules for good , or ethic behaviour" without a religion attached
so she could pray to " a god " being the super id governing everything - but not to a christian, or judean god
Our pastor is a c
Christian. His parents are Buddhist and they have visited the church so they know about Christianity but choose to be Buddhist. The pastors brother also knows about Christianity but "has no religion". He doesn't worship God or Buddha. All that in one family of 4.

Here is a contrast between the two

Religion is a set of texts, practices and beliefs about the transcendent shared by a community, and involves a relationship with God.

Spirituality on the other hand is about a person's relationship with the transcendent questions that confront one as a human being.
This may or may not involve relationships with God.
And what looks like a contrary view on the two

There is a clear difference between spirituality and religion. The general public many times confuses the two terms; they are very different and have diverse implications. Spirituality is your connection with your soul and God, OR Creator, Source, Higher Power, Nature, or whatever name you call the Holy.
Religion is "a personal or institutionalized system grounded in belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe."


Comments made by CompProbSolv,  Robert, nobus others are good ones.
Ask her to tell you why she prays, what she prays for.
Does she pray for material items, etc.
Ask her who is going to grant her wishes through prayer.
Surely one of her friends or relatives has been sick with some condition that could cause death. Flu is a common killer of people.
Ask her if she prayed that the person would get through their medical issue safely.
If she did and the person had a complete recovery, who does she say answered her prayer that their health issue pass over.
Many people call themselves "spiritual" because they have a vague belief in some higher power, an all-pervading spirit, or some other kind of mystical belief. Some of them are into oriental religions, others grasp for an "earth spirit". Crystals sometimes play a role, as do eastern superstitions like feng shui and acupuncture. I suspect a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop "customers" will claim to be very spiritual.

What they have in common with religion is that they believe in something for which they cannot provide any proof. While they may believe in a higher power, they reject the "western" religions, in favour of something undefined, and which varies from person to person and group to group. One of my friends does not believe in God, but instead believes that everything in the universe shares consciousness, and our fates are somehow controlled by that consciousness. How that is supposed to happen he cannot explain, but the belief is very strong nevertheless.


Hello and Good Evening Everyone,

       Thank you very much for sharing your viewpoints and resourceful links.  With respect to what I was able to figure out from my friend, it boils down to this.  She does not believe there is a God in the judgment of us.  Instead, she believes that all of us have a spiritual existence that can be connected through learning experiences.  The only judgment is self-judgment.  Life is about taking inventory of what is learned from our mistakes and moving on.  Everything is about learning which is made obvious through her continued interest in self-help or self-healing types of workshops in addition to reading books on these topics.  

Sounds pretty much like my friend. And as a matter of fact, except for the "spiritual existence" and the "self-healing workshops", me.