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Does Spirituality Have Anything to do With God?

Half body shot of a woman sitting in lotus position and meditating.

Everyone struggles with this question, regardless of religious affiliation. If you are a sage, priest, monk, shaman, imam, guru, mystic, master, cantor, rabbi, scientist, agnostic, atheist, or any combination of those named, you have confronted the origin of the universe. I have had many friends who have struggled with their perception of spirituality due to their lack of belief in God.

I have also had friends who continue to be spiritual and attend religious services without faith in God. People’s religious beliefs develop a lot when they get older. Most people believe more in God and get more involved in religion as they age because they are closer to confronting their inevitable end.

While that may seem a tad morbid, religion and the belief in God gives tranquility and reason to many people’s lives. A 2010 Pew Research study estimates that by 2050 the world’s Muslim population will be 73% larger and almost equal to the world’s Christian population. In general, the three Abrahamic religions are growing, despite many Westerners increasing lack of belief in God and identification with religion.

Buddhist and folk religions, both of which have large atheistic sects or believers, are seeing a stagnating and negative growth rate in people identifying with their beliefs. However, Buddhist practices are becoming more and more accepted and adapted into the modern way of life. For example, meditation, in the form of mindfulness, is more popular than ever.

Many religions and theologists argue whether spirituality has anything to do with God, or gods for that matter, to no end. Many faiths exist with no conception of an omnipotent singular god or a multitude of gods. Ultimately, you individually conceive your own perception of spirituality or universality.

People Who Believe in God and Practice Spirituality

Black image surface of woman while meditating.

If you follow a sect in an Abrahamic religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, you ultimately believe that your belief in God is connected with spirituality through prayer and action. These three religions are interconnected because they all branch off from the Old Testament. However, each religion emphasizes different figures to different degrees—unique texts from religious philosophers and sermons from religious leaders further this separation.

While liberal and progressive churches and temples associate themselves with those religions to a lesser degree, the monotheistic belief in God is consistent among the vast majority of believers. Gary Eby notes this in his book, Reflections: A Journey to God:

“You are completely free to reject everything we have to say about spirituality. What we believe in is not that important. What really counts is what you believe that gives your life meaning, direction, and purpose.”

Non-religious sects, such as Utilitarian Unilateralism, Bahai Faith, Mandaeism, and Rastafarianism, embrace many religious and philosophical readings and figures when interpreting spirituality. There also is a small but notable population of agnostic believers in Christianity and Judaism.

Judaism and Spirituality

Spirituality woman sit in lotus pose.

Judaism follows the Old Testament the most strictly and derives most of its belief in God from that text. Judaism is the oldest of the three Abrahamic religions; however, it has the smallest population out of the three. Many Jews now self-designate as secular – meaning they don’t believe in God.

Judaism is technically an ethnoreligious movement. Despite being of different skin color, most Jews can trace their heritage and relation through DNA testing. Modern historians associate this with the break up of the ten tribes of Israel after the Greek wars.

Before the formation of the state of Israel, most Jews lived in the Middle East. Islamic law recognizes Jews and Christians as legal citizens, so while they were discriminated against in those areas, they could practice their religion to a large degree. Pogroms existed on a larger scale in Europe, which led to a large overseas diasporic community echoing the European colonization era.

These smaller communities and sects have different relationships with God and experience spirituality differently. Out of stark contrast with the other two major Abrahamic religions, Judaism is more interpretive and allows less strict followers to question the existence of God while still practicing the religion. One thing consistent about all Jews is the habit of Mitzvah – the commandment of God to do a religious duty or good deed.

Christianity and Spirituality

Concept of Sun rays shining down from heaven on a Christian cross.

Christianity has the most diversity of beliefs out of the three main Abrahamic religions and has a long history of having sects branch off from each other. Christians focus most of their studies on the New Testament, which follows the birth of Jesus – their main icon. Both Judaism and Islam recognize the existence of Jesus, but Jews do not believe he was the son of God.

Muslims worship Jesus as a significant prophet but believe Muhammed is the primary prophet. Christians await the second coming of Jesus and pray to be sent to Heaven at death or at the rapture. The diversity of Christian spiritual beliefs is broken up by sect.

These sects have branched off from each other following the movement and conquering of different European nations. Protestantism and Orthodox churches exist because of the Protestant Reformation and the East-West Schism; both sects broke up from the more prominent sect of Catholicism due to ideological and spiritual differences.

What does the Bible say about being spiritual?

Spirituality in Christianity is most closely interpreted as biblical faith. Individuals who follow the Ten Commandments, especially the Golden Rule and the teachings of the Bible and Jesus, most deeply show their biblical faith. Doing good deeds, giving charitable donations, and helping those in need are the best ways to show your spirituality.

Penitence for your sins is another way of showing faith. In the form of a song or reading, prayer is done to show devotion and total belief. Prayer and trust in a Christian God are demonstrated through the development of religious communities.

Communities informally and formally work to mend people’s ties with God and lead them to accept the Christian faith and God into their hearts.

Islam and Spirituality

Muslim man praying at night during Ramadan.

Muslims worship multiple prophets but believe in a singular God, Allah. Muhammed is the central prophet of Islam, and it is through his teaching and actions Muslims today believe in the Islamic faith. Muslims heed themselves to the will of Allah and act in accordance with the Quran in all ways of life.

Like how Jews follow the Halakha and the Talmud, Muslims are governed by Islamic law. A Qadi, an Islamic judge, makes rules, religious practices, eating habits, and legal judgments. Another similarity between the two groups is that both have fasting periods and religions.

Muslim belief also accepts both the Old and New Testaments but largely ignores and cherry-picks sections of both texts. Muslims pray five times a day to reconnect themselves with Allah. If you want to adhere to this religion, you must follow this rule no matter where you are.

Another significant component of Muslim belief is the pilgrimage. This used to be more important in Judaism and Christianity, but it is less important nowadays. Muslims must travel to Mecca, where Muhammed started his journey, once in their lifetime to get rid of their sins.

Eastern and Indic Spirituality

Indic and Eastern religions each have their own interpretations of spirituality and belief. These two regions are often grouped together, but each has separate religious beliefs and traditions. While both sets of religions show faith through festivals, rituals, and meditation, Indic religions, with the exception of Buddhism, practice polytheistic worship.

Most Asians do not experience spirituality through the existence of gods.

How do Indic religions deal with God and spirituality?

Indic religions are broken up into many groups and schools of thought. Hinduism has different sects that worship various deities, similar to the habits of the ancient Greeks. Consistent between all denominations is the belief in karma and reincarnation, along with moksha and rebirth.

Buddhists, like Hindus, believe in rebirth and reincarnation but do not engage in the same idol worship. Buddhism spun off from Hinduism, and they solely pray to Buddha. However, both religions can be practiced without idol worship.

Jainism is also similar to Buddhism because it encourages a spiritual awakening through the individual purging of immediate emotion in favor of peaceful action. All three religions believe that living with less can often mean living with more. Sikhism is another popular Indic religion that encourages people to live with less. However, Sikhs wear a steel bracelet with the Sanskrit character for righteousness and the sword.

Sikhism is the youngest out of the three, and it claims distinction from Hindu tradition.

How do East Asian people deal with God and spirituality?

There are also plenty of occidental religions that do not believe in God. For example, major religions in China, such as Taoism and Confucianism, do not have a belief in a singular God and instead believe in the heavens or the way of the people. Chinese society was historically organized by birthright and divine rule, but that was not given to the emperor through one God. Confucianism and Taoism long replaced the polytheistic belief Han Chinese used to have over 2,000 years ago.

Interestingly enough, folk religions still existed in Chinese most northern and western regions, where nomadic people lived. Also, Buddhism spread from India to the rest of Asia through China. This is why there are notable Korean and Japanese Buddhist communities, and similar trends are seen in their folk tales and popular ancient novels, such as The Journey to the West.

Similarly, Tibetan monks spread Buddhism to the Mongolians during the time of Genghis Khan.

Do you have to believe in God to be spiritual?

Hands of God.

You do not have to believe in God to be spiritual. Modern philosophers and social theorists have been shying away from organized religion for a long time and still embracing the teachings and universality of religious theory and fables. Many noted academics and scholars view religion as extremely important.

Jungian psychology, theological schools, and sociology all look at religion differently. Charles Darwin, the biologist who founded the theory of evolution, had this to say about the subject:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

It is up to you to define the relationship between spirituality and God, but at least now you know where to start.