Respecting others’ spiritual beliefs

Australia is a multicultural, multi-faith society, so Australians as a whole follow a wide range of religious and spiritual beliefs. Learning about them will help you to become more understanding and more respectful of people who hold beliefs that differ from your own. Ultimately, we need to accept that we’re all entitled to our own spiritual beliefs.

This can help if:

  • you’re not sure what makes someone ‘spiritual’

  • you’re not sure how ‘being spiritual’ differs from ‘being religious’

  • you’re clashing with someone over religious or spiritual beliefs

  • you want to know more about spirituality.

2 hands on a wall

It's okay to be different

Both religion and spiritual differences have been used over time to discriminate against people because of their beliefs. Although spirituality and religion are two different things, they both can inspire some pretty heated debates.

How is spirituality different from religion?

Religion is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. There are many different religions, with different rituals and teachings, but they all teach that life has a spiritual dimension, and that connecting with that dimension through meditation or prayer or other practices is good for us.

Spirituality is more of an individual practice, and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others.

Respect others’ beliefs

Not everyone has religious or spiritual beliefs, and that’s fine. The important thing is to accept that some people place a lot of importance on this aspect of their lives, and to respect their right to believe whatever they want, even if you don’t agree with them.

Become informed

The first way you can begin to respect different forms of spirituality is to learn about them. Even if you don’t agree with someone’s beliefs or practices, learning more about what they believe, and why, could help you respect their decision to make these beliefs an important part of their life.

Go to the source

There’s a lot of misinformation about spirituality in the community, so learning more about it can help you to gain a better understanding.

Ways you can do this are to:

  • read a book about spirituality

  • go to talks and presentations on different forms of spirituality

  • talk to people who identify as ‘spiritual’ and ask them about their experiences.

Try a different point of view

Though spirituality might not be your thing, it’s worth thinking about why it might work for others. People come to spirituality for different reasons. They may:

  • not want to adopt an organised religion but still feel they have a spiritual faith

  • have grown up in a family that followed certain spiritual practices

  • want to explore the meaning of life

  • have experienced loss or grief

  • want help with handling stress or releasing emotions.

The bottom line

Understanding more about spirituality might help you to rid yourself of some pre-existing assumptions and inherited prejudices. However, learning more about spirituality doesn’t mean you have to get into it yourself. Spirituality is an entirely personal thing. You should never feel pressured or forced to take it up.

What can I do now?