“The only temple that matters can be found within yourself.”-The Dalai Lama.”
I remember one day in my youth my father was watching Bill O’Reilly as he discussed the much heated debate of separation of church and state. O’Reilly had said that Christianity is not a religion, rather it was a way of life. I of course scoffed at that ridiculous statement. It was a popular fundamentalist Christian talking point that my own mother had told me word for word growing up as a child. Christianity is of course a monotheistic religion and to call it anything else is to be in denial of truth. However, looking back on this had me thinking about how spirituality and religion are two terms that tend to be used synonymously with each other, when in reality, the difference between the two is night and day.
Religion has been with us for what seems to be an eternity. The oldest organized religion is Hinduism which dates back to around 7,000 (BCE), predating Judiasm by about 5,000 years. It is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as being “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” To put it into perspective, acts such of Communion or or praying for forgiveness are ritualistic practices based on your personal and institutionalized beliefs. People are taught to fear God, people are taught to love God, and people are taught specific ways to worship His glory. There is no right way of doing this for you, because it is all to be done for Him in accordance of the religious dogmas.
None of this is to bash religion. I believe that most people need structure in their lives and religion is more than obliged to fulfill that need. Prayer and other religious practices can be very beneficial for the individual. People take comfort in knowing that they are part of a bigger plan and can celebrate that plan in fellowship. But is that really what it means to be spiritual?
Spirituality has evolved beyond its roots in religious dogma in recent history and has a much broader definition. As defined by the dictionary, Spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” As opposed to religion, spirituality has a much more introspective definition. It varies depending on the individual and how the define spirituality as it pertains to their life. The sky is practically the limit, as long as what you are doing lifts your spirits.
Going back to Bill O’Reilly’s statement that Christianity is a way of life and not a religion, is he right? Yes and no. Though the dictionary defines Christianity as being “the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, or its beliefs and practices,” most pastors will tell you that to be Christian is to have a close and personal relationship with Jesus. In essence, a person who goes to church every Sunday and believes in God practices Christianity, but a person who lives his life by Jesus’ teachings and walks hand-in-hand with him, is a Christian.