Spiritual Awakening, Growth, and Enlightenment/spiritual


hi,what is the difference between spirituality and religion and what is more important,thanks

Hi Kelly. Thank you for this important question. I see you are in India, and the situation may be different there , but I believe in the US we as a society are just coming to awareness that the distinction between religion and spirituality is an important one.

The way I see it, religion is more related to a particular institution, whereas spirituality is experienced more personally. Religion is about a specific set of beliefs, rules and rituals or practices largely dictated to members by some type of outer authority - clergymen or a particular holy book. Spirituality on the other hand is more about the the of connection a particular individual feels with the greater whole of reality. While different individuals may use different terminology to express what they mean by spirituality, for the large part they are all speaking about something they feel from within themselves - not something that can be dictated by an outer authority. Most spiritual individuals feel some sort of connection to something greater than themselves - it could be connection to their community, their family, to nature, to the universe, to whatever they call God. It can even mean connection to their religious community - which is where the distinctions between religion and spirituality begin to get mixed up. So I suppose anyone asking to draw a sharp line between the two is asking for trouble somewhat. Nonetheless we do need to make this distinction if we are ever to move beyond the literal, divisive, exclusivist messages we often hear from religious authorities trying to convince others that their particular religion is the only correct one.

As to which is more important, that is even a more muddled question. I believe it depends largely upon where a person sits on the spiritual development path. My book Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind explains these stages in some detail. People at or moving into the
Faithful (second out of four) stage very much need the outer forms of institutional religion, and probably don't have a very good sense of an inner spirituality.
For them religion is clearly more important. They very much need the rules, the specific beliefs, and the comfortable answers that religion provides.

On the other hand, people at the Rational (third out of four) stage would do well to work at developing a deeper spirituality. These are people who have moved beyond the comfort needs that organized religion provides. They may be a risk of denying or ignoring the type of connection that spirituality is about. Convincing such people that spirituality is nothing to be afraid of, and need not involve supernatural beliefs, is one of the major aims of my writing.

People at what I have called the Mystic (fourth) stage are all about spirituality. For people who have reached this level ,  I am sure spirituality is more important than religion. However without knowledge about the stages (and a clear distinction between spirituality and religion) it may not be possible for these people to articulate ways in which (or the extent to which) their spirituality diverges from traditional religion, and arises more from within.

I hope this reply has helped you. If not feel free to ask further questions. It is in "discussing" such issues with interested people that I am able to refine my thoughts for future writings.

All the best go you,


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Margaret Placentra Johnston


I am particularly interested in answering questions about the stages of spiritual growth, faith development, religious stages. The term spiritual growth or spiritual development can have many different interpretations. In some cases, it refers to the ability to have para-normal or mystical experiences. Others use it to describe the ability to communicate with beings that are not present here on earth with us at this time, such as dead people or our own prior lifetimes. This is not where my knowledge and expertise lie. The type of spiritual growth questions I can address concern here and now issues about religious belief versus non-belief, the stages of religious development and spiritual development where spirituality is defined as living deeper than the surface things of life, knowing there is more to life than the latest new car, questioning the deeper meanings of our existence.


For at least the past twenty years I have been a serious student of the various spiritual development theorists. The concept of spiritual growth occurring in stages throughout our lifetime is a vitally important factor that, if more widely known, could help decrease a lot of the religious intolerance and societal tensions we are putting up with today. My book of stories about real people growing beyond the need for traditional religion was published by Quest Books in October, 2012: Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation(and many others unrelated to this topic.)

www.mpjauthor.com Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind.(Quest Books, October, 2012.) http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-placentra-johnston/

Four college degrees, including an undergraduate degree from the Catholic University of America where required theology and philosophy courses formed the equivalent of a college minor.

Awards and Honors
GOLD WINNER of the 2013 Nautilus Book Award in Religion/Spirituality.

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