For many people around the world, religion is an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, practices, and worship that center on one Supreme God or deity. All those who follow some form of religion believe that the universe has been created by a divine power, and it is no one but God who influences their lives.
Spiritualism, on the other hand, relates to the spirit, which is soul and which is a separated part of the whole, that is God (Bhagavad-Geeta 15.7). And, soul is different from matter, that is neither material nor physical.
Are religion and spiritualism same, since they both relate to God ? Yes, they are. It is because, in both cases, the essence is faith in a divine authority called God. There is an essential need in both – religion and spiritualism - to connect to this Supreme Entity.
At the spiritual level, there cannot be any difference between the two. Religion and spiritualism must come together to be truly spiritual. The former must assist in achieving communion with God. The later can, therefore, be defined as following a bonafide religion as well.
However, there are many differences on how a religion is perceived by different people. For many, religion involves a number of gods or deities. Some people have a religion in which no specific God or gods are worshiped.
Then, for others, religion is identified with practices that originated in different regions at various times, and were founded by different personalities. For example, Abraham founded Judaism, Gautam Buddha led to the rise of Buddhism, and Confucianism owed its origin to Confucius. Likewise Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed founded Christianity and Islam respectively.
In the pervert form of religion, there are only rules and no spirituality. People fight in the name of religion that means they try to establish the superiority of their own practices. The futility of this can be understood by an example of food cooked differently in different places ; the very idea is to make the food nourishing and palatable, so that it can meet one’s needs. The details are never important as long as one achieves one’s goal and objectives.
Most religions of the world share the following characteristics : A belief in a divine power, a doctrine or accepted teaching of salvation, a code of conduct, sacred writings called scriptures, and, of course, religious rituals. But a true religion must also possess the following features : Love and compassion for other living entities, the need to cooperate with others, serving others and taking guidance from God or His authorized representatives.
Personal religion, which can be understood as following a set of rules and practices according to one’s own nature, is also not different from the real religion or spirituality as long as it does not conflict with the larger goals of religion. Religion, which is limited to the material body alone, is useless in the spiritual sense. One has to know as well as practice the ‘religion of soul’, which is an important requirement for achieving salvation or moksha.
Both religion and spirituality should make one free , really free in the current life itself . They must also help one in getting liberation from the cycle of life and death.
Religious practices can be judged by the progress one makes in this direction. The ultimate goal is to be spiritual, which, in essence, is linking with the Supreme Being called God. Religion should help one achieving that goal, since spiritualism is the essence of religion.