In our day-to-day conversations, we may be comfortable throwing around certain words interchangeably because they seem to be very closely related. But knowing the difference between terms like “faith” and “spirituality” is important because the distinction makes a difference to many.

Both terms may seem to mean the same thing to some, however, they really do have distinct meanings. Understanding these differences can be quite helpful in guiding you through your own spiritual journey or in discussions with those around you. Having a solid argument or one that is vague and misunderstood can be the source of a disagreement.

To begin, it may be useful to first understand the difference between the terms “faith” and “religion”, which often get confused due to their close relation. Faith comes from within and begins when we trust someone or something, even when we have no empirical proof. It may or may not be associated to religion. In the religious sphere, one cannot fully follow a religion without faith. As Saint Paul said, “Faith is being certain of things you cannot see,” (Hebrews 11:1). While faith is a necessary facet of religion, religion is not a necessary facet of faith.

Religion, on the other hand, is the system of beliefs and practices universally agreed upon and followed by a community of individuals. Thus, faith in the religious sphere implies that we trust the teachings of this religion. We could also say that religion would not survive if it weren’t for the faith of its followers — the kind of faith needed in order to believe that a human could part a sea or walk on water.

Spirituality can be thought of as the journey that an individual is on during the exploration of his or her beliefs or the reinforcing of his or her faith, as well as the actions taken to express their faith. For example, a Christian may pray or attend mass as a means of connecting with God.

However, one can explore his or her spirituality without being devoted to a particular religion and without possessing strong faith in a particular set of beliefs. Spirituality can guide an individual in his or her process of self-discovery, growing, and learning.

A spiritual person might have some of the same values as a Christian, for instance, but is on a journey of exploration and learning when it comes to God. So, an individual can be spiritual without being tied to any one set of beliefs and through this spiritual process, might one day begin to develop faith in a religion or another belief system entirely.

Hopefully, this discussion has been informative, clarified statements like “I am spiritual, but not religious”, or has even enlightened you to begin your own spiritual journey.