Where Spirituality and Religion Meet

There is no true religion or spirituality without kindness and love. – Swami Brahmananda

Ed was raised in the Jewish faith (as he says, Jewish on his parents’ side!), Deb was raised a Quaker. We both began spiritually seeking at the same time in the late 1960′s. Ed was in his twenties living in New York City, hanging out at Studio 54 and other discos; meanwhile Deb was an art student living in London. And when Ed was in India being ordained as a Swami — a monk in the Yoga tradition — Deb was being ordained as a Buddhist. We both became teachers in our respective traditions, but by the time we met in the 1980s we had each left being part of a traditional order and were on our own, having decided to explore what it is to live a spiritual life in the midst of a materialistic world. We were like foreigners, finding our way in a world that was not so inclined or sympathetic towards spiritual life.

Essentially, religion is designed to be our spiritual source of comfort and advice, a structure to provide moral guidelines, a caring community, and help for those in need. And in many ways it is. But religion is also the cause of violence, wars, discrimination, bigotry, pain and suffering, all of which are a long way from kindness, compassion, comfort and spiritual reassurance.

Religious morality is also used to justify political reasoning and supremacy. In the U.S., the 1st amendment draws a clear separation between church and state, between religion and politics. Yet every presidential candidate is judged by his or her religious beliefs, as seen in the attempt to prove that President Obama is a Muslim, more so because his name is Barack Hussein Obama, which generates fear.

Prospective Republican candidates use their Christian beliefs as a form of qualification and go to great lengths to show that a good Christian is a Republican, thereby implying that Democrats are not. We remember watching Bill Moyers (during George W. Bush’s era) interviewing a Kansas couple being evicted from their home due to spiraling mortgage costs. As the movers were carrying out their furniture around them, Moyers looked puzzled and asked why they had voted Republican. They replied: “Because we are Christians!”

We often hear somewhat extreme candidates constantly pushing their religious beliefs into the political arena with outrageous statements like: the hurricane and earthquake happened as God is punishing us, whether it’s because of gay marriage, abortion, or any number of reasons that support their ideology.

This is taking religion into realms that are not religious. When religion is used to validate killing because there is a difference of opinion, then it has gone beyond having a moral compass to imposing belief and power over another. We see this with the killing of abortion clinic staff, all in the name of saving a fetus, despite the pregnancy being caused by rape or incest, or threatening the mother’s life. Yet how many who are trying to stop abortion are also willing to adopt an unwanted baby?

At the same time, spirituality is a loaded word, often misunderstood, as its practices include meditation, contemplation, and direct communication with universal consciousness. Pope John Paul condemned meditation and yoga as immoral, deluding, and even sinful. Yet spirituality is simply the discovery of our authentic self without any trimmings or labels, which gives us a rich source of values and a deeper meaning to life, whatever our religion.

In the seeking of such meaning, religion and spirituality come together. Spirituality highlights qualities such as caring, kindness, compassion, tolerance, service, and community, and, in its truest sense, so does religion. But where religion is defined by its traditions and teachings, spirituality is defined by what is real in our own experience, arising from an inner search within ourselves, the finding of our own truth.

Where religion tends to breed separation – my religion verses your religion, my god is the only real god, my ethics are better than yours, etc. – spirituality sees all people as equal – we are not an “ism” or a label, we are spiritual beings whose purpose is to awaken to our true nature.

Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, Jesus wasn’t a Christian; the great ones did not create a religion, they just said to look within. They recognized the truth that is always here, always present, but so easily forgotten. We are not able to see this because of a mind that is veiled by ignorance, hatred and greed: the ‘me-centeredness’ that rules and deludes.

When we were with the Dalai Lama at his residence in India we asked him what we could do to help humankind to awaken to caring and kindness. He said how people of different religions should come together in peace and respect and talk openly, honoring each others differences and similarities. This is a great example of religion and spirituality coming together.

Organized Religion – Misunderstood?
Breaking With Tradition
Are You a Spiritual Window Shopper?



Jayasri Amma
Jayasri Amma3 years ago

Thank you!

Danuta Watola
Danuta W6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

George Marshall
George Marshall6 years ago

Love is the key. The Lord (or whatever you wish to call him) is love. The reason you look within is that is where you will find him. We are all spirit and united. We are all one. We are all love. You just have to find your spirit and spread the love. Simple.

Jeffrey W.
Jeffrey W.7 years ago

Your separation of spirituality and religion was spot on..Thank you for this article. A lot to think about.

Dawid Blyth
David B7 years ago

Ron Rolheiser has written some excellent articles on this subject
See at
Friends who had lost loved ones to suicide found that aspect of his work of great value!

Zee Kallah
Past Member 7 years ago

My God told me anyone who calls on their creator with sincerity is acceptable to him no matter what name they use.

The problem with most religions is there are so many huge pieces of the puzzle that are missing.

When I got to know the one who is God to me, I easily understood why. These lower worlds were created for fun. It didn't turn out that way. Even the Bible says in Revelations,
all things were created for his pleasure.

Sacred books that belong to a religion can't really be understood. They are based on the interpretations of man.

These lower worlds are bi-polar, both the good and the bad, the black and the white, the positive and the negative. Nothing can exist in these worlds that is perfect. One of the major rules is, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around. It was supposed to work. It doesn't. However, there are certain laws to these worlds. To break those laws would shatter the worlds. So we're stuck with karma unless someone else takes it off of us and pays the bill.

That's what Jesus did.

God just wants to have fun. That's why the Bible keeps telling us to Rejoice. Be glad. It's party time. Jesus was a fun guy. That was one of the main things the religious authorites had against him. He was having too much fun and doing it in his Father's name.

He was partying, healing, folk on the Sabbath!, squabbling with the religious authorities. They killed him and after 3 days,he was alive again, more trouble than before.

Zee Kallah
Past Member 7 years ago

I enjoy my religion, more than my Higher Power does.

I developed a prayer list covering all necessary subjects. It took about 9 hours.

My Higher Power wasn't going for it. He did not want me to read to Him. Most of the time he just likes informal chating.

Did you ever read the book, Heaven Talks Back by Jon Macks with an introduction by Jay Leno.

God talks to Jon Macks and they developed this book of comedy. I tried to send him Jon an email to let him know this is the same God I talk with but the email address didn't work.

The book was set up with dates and short paragraphs. The paragaphs are God talking. (Lord Kal) I'll give you a couple
of them.

May 3

If you think you are right about everything you are not God. You are Donald Trump.

March 17

You are in a partnership with God. Each of us has responsibilities in this cosmic partnership. On your end, you need to follow the Commandments, tend to my pastures, protect the earth and follow the Golden Rule. I sit back and take the credit.

May 8

If God is your target, you're in luck, because God is so big you can't miss him. Although with summer coming up, I may go to Jenny Craig to lose a few pounds.

That's my chosen Higher Power. His name is in almost every religion there is. And His name is even in Superboy comic books. Kal El -- check out Kal Niranjan. The El means God or mighty one in Hebrew.

He just nudged me and told me I shouldn't be giving out his name.
"You'll have a whole bunch

Kirsten B.
Past Member 7 years ago

I liked your separating spirituality from religion. It makes sense and makes 'believing' easier for me.

Timely too, because today is our quarterly English Church Service (I live in Germany) and I help out - currently Sunday School, but sometimes doing a reading or just helping with coffee afterwards. The reverend makes a point at many times during the service that it is not a 'protestant' service, that it is for people of any faith to join together.

This will be my 6th time attending and helping and so far he has tried to convert me 4 times (last time I just avoided him), trying his best to make me feel guilty for not being baptized or a member of a 'regular' church.

I like helping out, I don't like being preached to. With your words in mind this afternoon will be much easier to focus on what is important: taking part, sharing, helping.

Thank you.

William K.
William K7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Dawid Blyth
David B7 years ago

Dee, quite right: "Satan" is the Hebrew word for adversary and he has been a liar and murderer from the beginning!
Many base their spirituality on "how they feel" - that can be deceptive.
Spirituality is the path to the truth that we should seek within our faith.
As Christians we are called as a group too, and should assist others in their faith struggles.
As Jerome said in the third century: Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. The Bible content as the Word of God is a sound guide and should be read and contemplated.
We must be careful not to become "Sola scriptura" though.