I have been asked not just once, but several times by different people, “Are you a religious person?” and my reply has always been consistent: “No, I’m not religious at all, but spiritual.”
“What’s the difference between them? Aren’t they the same thing?” you may ask.
Unfortunately, they are worlds apart in meaning—although ideally, they should really mean the same thing.
To me, being religious means following the beliefs, doctrines, practices, traditions and rituals of a particular organized religious institution, such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc.
Among the Christians, for example, a person is regarded as religious if he or she goes to mass every Sunday, receives holy communion, prays the rosary, makes contributions to the parish church, confesses his or her sins to the priests, and gives alms to the poor.
Even if this person treats his maids or subordinates like slaves, watches pornographic films, cheats on his income tax and business deals, he or she is still considered a religious person and a respected member of his parish.
Religiosity deals with externals, not with internals. It deals with the obvious and what can be seen, not with the unseen or the invisible. Religiosity is what one shows to others, or how others see what he does in connection with his church’s beliefs and practices. It has nothing to do with what he does in secret, or with his unseen relationship with the divine.
Religiosity then consists of being a member of a group, of a religious community called the faithful, and doing what is expected of him by that religion.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is a very individual thing. It need not conform to the dogmas, practices, beliefs and rituals of a particular organized religion or church. One may practice spirituality completely alone and follows no official rules, doctrines, policies or practices.
To be spiritual is to commune with the highest spiritual being in your own unique way. It is very personal and individual. Your actions need not be sanctioned or approved by an authority figure like a bishop or rabbi.
Good, true and beautiful
A spiritual person is his own authority. His relationship with the divine is his own perception of what is good, true and beautiful. He does not try to convince others that he is right and the others wrong. He is content to live his faith in harmony with others, and shuns conflict with them.
The religious person, on the other hand, tries all the time to convince others that he is right and the others are wrong. He believes he has a divine duty to convert everybody to his own church’s way of thinking. He believes that only through his religion can salvation be attained. Religiosity, therefore, divides people; spirituality unites them.
Religious persons promulgate dogmas and creeds and develop social institutions and structures to perpetuate such beliefs and ensure compliance. They impose disciplinary measures against members who disobey or disrespect those rules or dogmas. The Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, for example, instituted the dreaded Holy Inquisition to prosecute heretics, i.e. people whose beliefs or practices do not conform to the officially accepted ones.
That’s why Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the astronomer Galileo was arrested, put to trial, and almost executed, until he refracted his scientifically valid teaching that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, as the church believed it to be.
If you don’t believe that religion divides and spirituality unites, place the priests, rabbis, imams, theologians and defenders of the faith of all religions in one room, and they will kill each other. But if you put spiritual and mystical people of all religions in one room, they will embrace each other as brothers and sisters.
I believe that once we die, God will not ask us what religion we belonged to on earth before being allowed to enter into his kingdom. Religion is completely irrelevant to our salvation. What he would most likely ask is this: “How have you lived your life and how much have you loved?” I am sure religious people will object to this, which proves my point.
My next Soulmates, Karma and Reincarnation seminar will be on Sept.17, 2011 from 1p.m. to 7 p.m, while the next Basic ESP & Intuition Development Seminar will be on Sept. 24-25, 2011, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Rm. 308 Prince Plaza I Legaspi St., Legaspi Village Makati. For details, pls. call tel. no. 810-7245/815-9890 or cellphone no. (0920) 981-8962; email [email protected] Visit our website: www.jimmylicauco.com.