Spirituality is the personal, deeply felt experience of the Spirit of the Divine in our lives. It is represented most often in single words like “Wow!”, “Yes!”, and “No!” As such, spiritual experience can happen daily, hourly, consecutively. I see a beautiful sight (“Wow!); I feel compassion (“Oh”); I notice the nice weather (“Yes”); I see injustice (“No!”).
Religion is, at its best, an attempt to make sense of spirituality. I think that when we use more than one word to describe our spiritual experiences, we are being religious.
Religion at its worst is about social control: a way to scare people straight, make them feel guilty, set apart the damned from the saved. When we say “I’m spiritual but not religious,” we are usually referring to our desire to stay away from fearful, judgmental, violent, or anxious religion.
We can, however, use religious or theological language to make better sense of our spirituality, and there are religious communities that truly offer religion that helps make our lives better by helping us name the Divine Spirit.