Let me start off by saying that I was about to cancel writing this post. Not because the topic doesn’t interest me, because it really does. Rather, it was simply because I know that this is a topic that is often misunderstood.
Just by mentioning the word “religion” to people in the U.S., makes our egos step in and exclaim “woah, you’re stepping on my toes!” or “be careful to not step on my toes!”
That’s the reason for this disclaimer.
For the record, I am not intentionally stepping on your toes. And if I do, I apologize, it was an accident. (And I highly encourage you to read until the end of the post so that you can prove this for yourself).
Simply asking the question, “is love a religion or a spiritual practice?” immediately creates a sense of defensiveness in people…. not because of the entire question, because the entire question is actually thought-provoking (if you let it)… but because of the word “religion” especially, and “spiritual.”
It’s weird that this defensiveness pops up because this sensation is first of all, unnecessary, it’s also uncomfortable and counterproductive, because the real focus of the question is LOVE, remember?
Before you start reading the actual post, let me just say 2 things that I hope will minimize the discomfort, at least a tad:
1) I don’t care if you have a religion or not or what your religion is. I really don’t.
2) I also don’t care if you have a spiritual practice.
I say this not out disrespect for you, on the contrary, I say it because I respect what your choices have been regarding these topics.
I do care about 1 thing though, so continue reading to find out more about what that is.
What This Post Is Not About In a Nutshell
In this post, I will not be talking about whether you should be religious or not, or what religion you should be. I also won’t be persuading or dissuading you from having a spiritual practice.
REMEMBER that the vast majority of my posts are about lifting a mirror up to yourself, myself, a book, a product, the world or humanity to see how love fits in relationship to it.
What Is The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion?
A few years ago, thanks to being an avid Oprah Winfrey fan, I learned that there is a difference between spirituality and religion.
According to Merriam-Webster, a religion is “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.”
It is, in other words, a doctrine that you learn about and try to apply its doctrines to your life.
Spirituality is “the quality of state or being spiritual.” And what is “spiritual”? It is “of or relating to a person’s spirit.”
Essentially, it’s a practice of having a reverence for your spiritual essence and the spiritual nature of living things.
Is Asking The Question “Is Love A Religion Or A Spiritual Practice” Implying Something?
Asking whether love is spiritual or religious is a question that does acknowledge that there are religions that are based on love.
Yet there are people who are very religious who are not loving
And there are very loving people who are not religious.
So being one does not automatically imply that you are the others as well. They each require their skill set. Let’s see what this means.
How Are Religion, Spirituality and Love Alike?
All of these elements, if you choose to incorporate them into your life, require that you devote your time, which as you know, is one of your most precious resources, to someone.
In the case of your:
- Religion: you’re devoting time to whom you believe in
- Spiritual Practice: you’re devoting time to yourself and/or to whom you believe in
- Loved Ones: it’s pretty clear that you’re devoting time to them
But how you spend this time in these three areas can be what determines how satisfied or how “off” you feel in your life.
Let’s explore this further.
What Are You Focusing On?
Even though the content of the posts on this site may seem theoretical and even philosophical, my posts are meant to make you think about your life and invite you to make sure you’re living consciously. Not living how I’d like for you to live, but YOU Living how YOU want to live. Meaning, choosing the elements of your life that you want. Not living by default.
So, let’s take a “quiz” about the role that religion, spiritual practice and love play into your life. The right answer to these questions is your honest answer to yourself.
What is most important to you in your life?
- your religion
- your spiritual practice
- your loved ones
Now take a look at your daily/weekly schedule, what do you devote the majority of your time to?
- your religion
- your spiritual practice
- your loved ones
Which one makes you the happiest?
- your religion
- your spiritual practice
- your loved ones
If you were dying, what would you have wanted to spend more time doing:
- practicing a religion (isn’t it weird that we “practice” religions? I wonder if we truly ever “master” them).
- devoting time to your spiritual practice (yes, we practice that, too).
- loving your loved ones
Analyze Your “Quiz” Results
Take a look at your Answers. Do you see the pattern? Seeing a clear pattern would be nice.
There’s was no wrong or right answer to the quiz questions, necessarily, but I think there is one answer that makes living worthwhile.
Regardless of whether there is a pattern that you like seeing or that you don’t, ask yourself these important questions:
- Are you devoting time to what makes you the happiest?
- Are you devoting time to what you would miss doing when you’re dying?
- Do you now know what is most important?
- Is your life aligned?
- If your life isn’t aligned, what can you do about it?
- Are you living your life according to your CHOSEN priorities or to your DEFAULT priorities?
I Can Sense What You’re Asking
You’re probably asking yourself right now, can’t I have a religion, a spiritual practice and love in my life?
Having one does not prevent you from having another.
We’re simply engaging in this conversation to see if by chance, love is a religion, or love is a spiritual practice.
Let’s Gracefully Enter The Controversial Subject
People say that you should love your Creator above all else
But your Creator is in other people.
Bottom line is: if people don’t love those other people, who will love them?
In other words, put yourself in their shoes. How do you feel and know about your Creator’s love (if you believe in a Creator) in a terrestrial/physical level?
Answer: Through people.
When you’re lost, you’re crying inconsolably, or going through an incredibly tough time, who actually comforts you?
They uplift you through words, through actions, through hugs, by sharing their experiences, by holding your hand, offering their shoulder to cry on, and giving you encouragement and hope.
Can you get some comfort by your Creator himself/herself? Yes. But my point is people are instruments of your Creator’s love.
And if you don’t believe in a Creator, my point is people are loving and capable of giving you comfort when needed (not all people of course, but most).
Without people, the Creator’s love would be more intangible than it is.
I’m saying this not to minimize whom you believe in, but rather to increase your power and YOUR potential to uplift the world.
Is Religion and Spirituality Useful To Some People?
But it’s especially useful when people don’t practice either religion or spirituality to see what blessing, miracle, life-saving response, peace or well-being they can get, but rather, what goodness they can give to the world.
So be love and act on love to help others.
One of my favorite quotations and one that hasn’t left my desk for more than 10 years says:
“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” -St. Francis De Sales
It’s been a constant reminder for me to be who I am, meaning my essence… and not a label with all sorts of expectations that labels often come with.
And when my life has been out of alignment, it has been painful to read this quotation and notice how out of alignment I am, but at the same time, it’s been my best tool for letting go of things in my life that are not me.
Some people may use this quotation to justify how religious they are.
Others may try to use it to justify how spiritual they are.
I don’t like labels, because I know that they’re mostly “items” on a body. Like clothing. But they’re not the actual body. And as I said, they come with all sorts of expectation baggage.
Have I been or am I religious? Yes. But whether I’ve been or not doesn’t matter.
Have I been or am I spiritual? Yes. But whether I’ve been or not doesn’t matter, either.
I prefer being.
Not striving to be something, but being myself.
Not trying to convince myself or others that I am someone, but rather convincing myself that what I’m doing, what I’m acting on, what I’m thinking, what I’m wanting to do is really me. Makes sense?
I like things to feel natural, not forced.
It’s like not having a “practice,” but doing the deed.
Going with the flow is ACTUALLY living, instead of living hypothetically.
It’s helping where it’s needed instead of helping make a difference on a topic that I dream of making…. especially to those around me in my life, which I may otherwise overlook in wanting to change the world or increase my “score” as a religious or spiritual being.
In other words, if I’m kind or unkind, it’s because of me. Not because I am spiritual or not spiritual. Not because I am religious or not religious. Taking responsibility for my actions.
And the label that I feel the most comfortable with is “love.”
We are created out of love, we are love, our greatest legacy will be love, the only thing we’ll take with us when we pass is love, and the most meaningful thing we can leave behind is love.
Enough said, right?
If Religion and Spirituality is Beneficial, Why Do I Identify With Love The Most?
Two things were key in determining why identify with love the most.
- Which of these 3 things has the most potential for universal good?
- Which of these 3 things does the world need the most?
- Which of these 3 things would allow me to leave my footprint on the world in the best way for the benefit of others?
Clearly, the answer is love.
If we devoted as much attention to love as we did to religion and spirituality combined, our world would be different, and definitely, more peaceful.” -Haydee Montemayor
Love on its own does not create wars or alienation, but religion has and continues to. It’s very unfortunate.
Spirituality often raises skepticism.
But even love is not free of “faults”:
Religion, spirituality and even love become controversial when there are differences involved that are misunderstood. So it’s our job to understand, or at the very least, accept them, and move on.” – Haydee Montemayor
The best way to increase a religion’s effectiveness and a spiritual practice’s trust is through genuine love.
So Can Religion, Spirituality and Love Coexist?
Yes, they can coexist and should coexist in the following way:
Each of these topics form the lines of a triangle. The bottom of the triangle must be love, in my opinion. If it’s not love, we wisely say, that the foundation of a religion or a spiritual practice is “shaky.”
Religion and spirituality run into problems when there is no genuine love that supports them.
So, Is Love A Religion Or A Spiritual Practice?
Needless to say, I believe that love is neither. It is its own separate entity.
It is and should truly be the foundation of all things, including religions, spiritual practice and our day to day interactions with ourselves and the people around us.
It’s interesting to note that we are born “spirit”-ual, meaning of the spirit, but we are not born religious. We become or don’t become religious. That’s what Baptisms and being born again often allude to. And being religious is a choice not an inherent quality.
In my mind, the best “religion” and the one that all religions should truly incorporate, spread, foster, give and use as their criteria to do anything is Love.
And the best spiritual practice we could have is to actually love.
Don’t get caught up in the symbols, names, rituals or lack thereof, get caught up in the love.
Religions aren’t bad. Spirituality isn’t either. They can both be great for humanity as a whole when love is both at their core and in every action it inspires. Love should be the what runs through the veins of religion and spiritual practice. Love, after all, is what makes the heart pump.
At the end of the day should just allow our goodness shine through.
People should be able to tell what the main “ingredient” that we are made of is.
We should just be. We should just love.
It’s Your Turn
So yes, I told you this Love and Treasure topic was going to be controversial. But, I hope you notice the lingering essence of it. I hope you feel the love right now. I hope you feel the possibility of what you can do with love.
If we realized that our common denominator is love, and just let other people choose our own religion just like we chose what milk to drink or avoid it entirely, this topic wouldn’t be so touchy.
We are much more alike than we want to admit.
Why don’t we admit it more easily?
Because we think that there is something other than love that is worth arguing over, when in fact, Love is all there is.
So tell me:
- What do you think, feel, know: Is love a religion or a spiritual practice?