Religion and Spirituality: Yuval Noah Hariri

In his latest book Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari, one of my favourite scholars of all time, makes an interesting distinction on the difference between spirituality and religion. He writes:

“Religion gives us a complete description of the world, and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals. ‘God exists. He told us to behave in certain ways. If you obey God, you’ll be admitted to heaven. If you disobey Him, you’ll burn in hell.’ The very clarity of this deal allows society to define common norms and values that regulate human behaviour.

Spiritual journeys are nothing like that. They usually take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations. The quest usually begins with some big question, such as who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is good? Whereas many people just accept the readymade answers provided by the powers that be, spiritual seekers are not so easily satisfied. They are determined to follow the big questions wherever it leads, and not just to places you know well or wish to visit… such journeys are fundamentally different from religions because religions seek to cement world order whereas spirituality seeks to escape it.”