Friday, May 7, 2010

Journey Inward/Journey Outward

What is the relationship between spirituality and religion? This question provoked a lively discussion in my World Religions class last night.

Most of us viewed spirituality as having to do with inwardness and solitude, while religion is communal. However, there is not a sharp dichotomy between the two. Rather, there is overlap and interconnection between spirituality and religion. The yin-yang symbol above captures their interrelationship.

Religion without spirituality is lifeless. Spirituality without religion tends toward isolation and individualism. Spirituality provides the connection with the sacred that inspires and motivates us to practice our chosen religion. There is a strong overlap between religious and spiritual values such as compassion, empathy, joy, hope and love.

I like Elizabeth O'Connor's view that spirituality needs a "journey inward" and a "journey outward." For the journey outward, religion can provide the means to serve the greater good. Religion is organized to help those in need and spirituality provides the energy to help.

Organized religion has a negative perception. Yet, at its best, religion is organized to serve humanity. I believe we need both inwardness and community in order to realize our full potential as humans. Spirituality and religion together can help us become fully human.

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