Is Religion The Opposite Of Spirituality?

In certain quarters ‘Religion’ has come to mean the opposite of ‘Spirituality-‘ the observance of out-dated law as opposed to spiritual development. A quick search on is sufficient to get an overview of this particular debate. The question is- are these two concepts truly the opposites that some points of view suggest?

As explained by Bahá’u’lláh the rationale of our existence is to express those virtues that comprise the very essence of our being. Bahá’u’lláh referred to the human being as a “mine rich in gems of inestimable value”. However these virtues can only be developed successfully with the guidance of a Divine Educator, as it is not possible with our limited perspective to understand the will of a transcendent God.

Thus over the millennia humanity has been guided by Divine Educators including Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and Bahá’u’lláh. The guidance that each has brought has been both timeless in reiterating key spiritual teachings but also contemporary in revealing laws relevant to that particular age-

“…is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions”?

– Bahá’u’lláh The Kitáb-i-Íqán, US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1989 pocket-size edition Page: 257

I would suggest that following the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh unites both the ‘form’ of religion and the ‘content’ of spirituality. This is because of the appropriateness of the social guidance to the age in which we live.

In the words of Bahá’u’lláh-

“Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight”!

– Bahá’u’lláh- The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition



3 thoughts on “Is Religion The Opposite Of Spirituality?

  1. IMHO, spirituality is impossible to avoid. It’s the nature of our existence. Art is spiritual. Mathematics is spiritual. Dinner is spiritual.

    Religion may in a general sense be seen as an attempt to formalize spirituality.

    One might rightly say that organized religion is sometimes so rigid that it stifles spirituality, but I don’t know of too many people who believe that religion is somehow intrinsically the opposite of spirituality. Maybe Kierkegaard.

  2. Dan,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment- I hope that you and the family are well.
    Actually, I agree with you that spirituality is the nature of our existence. However, I do not think that good religion so much formalises spirituality as channels it in a positive direction. Conversely, informal spirituality can sometimes be a dissipation of vital energy. In addition, I would suggest that good religion is also a better vehicle for the promotion of shared values and fellowship. In the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá-
    “..the foundation of real brotherhood, the cause of loving co-operation and reciprocity and the source of real kindness and unselfish devotion is none other than the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without this influence and animus it is impossible. We may be able to realize some degrees of fraternity through other motives but these are limited associations and subject to change. When human brotherhood is founded upon the Holy Spirit, it is eternal, changeless, unlimited”.

    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 sixth printing

  3. That’s a very good point, Karl.

    “Good religion”, BTW, is a common term that Zoroastrians use for their religion. I might have to reflect on that parallel for a bit.

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