Recently I was asked if I define as religious or spiritual, or both, and I found myself with an easy answer but a lack of words to explain why. As such, I decided to make a post out of it (because that is what you do when you are a blogger--you fill the page with your ramblings). Anyway, I'm religious. Always have been; that's what got me into Paganism: the belief (or desire to believe) in the Gods and to worship Them to the best of my ability. I am also of the firm belief you can't be both but that you can practice both, regardless. This depends on your definition, though, which means I should give that a go.

The definition of 'religious' that resounds most with me is 'believing in a God or a group of Gods and following a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects'. In general, this means you accept the worldview laid out before your by those who designed or furthered the religion; you can be critical of this world view and tinker with it a little to fit your own views, but in general, you will accept the beliefs of the group.

'Spiritual' is the hard one; the definition of the term that resonates most with me is 'the personal, subjective, dimension of religion'. A spiritual person, in my opinion, defines their own religious boundaries, creating their own worldview and definition of the divine. A spiritual person has made the conscious decision not to be attached to a specific set of religious rules, allowing them greater freedom to define rules of their own. They may find inspiration in existing religious worldviews but feel uncomfortable adopting the whole of it because it conflicts with their own views or simply does not feel truthful to their reality.

I think the conscious choice we make between religious or spiritual defines our viewpoint and the label we adopt. You can be religious and follow a specific religious framework, be religious and not follow a specific framework for whatever reason, be spiritual but practice a religious framework, or spiritual and practice a spiritual framework. You identify as one or the other, though.

When I was just starting out with religion, I didn't have a specific framework in which to pour my religious views; many religions resonated with me and I had many views of the divine that refused to be bound into a specific school of thought. I wanted to be religious, though. I wanted that framework. That is why I never labelled myself as spiritual, and I still don't. I am now a religious person who practices a religious framework, but I was religious to start with.