To me, religion is like the scaffolding of the soul. It has a purpose to serve, and once that purpose is served, it isn’t necessarily needed anymore; you take it down.
Likewise, to me spirituality is like the structure of the soul. The scaffolding goes up to build it, and the scaffolding comes down when it’s done.
If it doesn’t come down you can’t see the structure, and it really can’t shine and be seen while it’s up. Imagine a cathedral that gets built- one of those elaborate Gothic ones, say- and the builders just leave that metal-and-wooden framework that only the construction workers need to build the cathedral, and it just sits there until the elements tear the scaffolding apart (if that even happens).
Something is lost when this happens; the beautiful cathedral is choked out of sight, just as the beautiful spirit and spirituality can be stifled totally by the restraint of religion and all its attendant dogmas. Rather than taking down the scaffolding when it’s served its purpose and letting the soul display itself, and really shine in all its beauty, even a Gothic cathedral can be made hideous with that superstructure cloaking it from view.
To be sure, for the builders, leaving the scaffolding up is ideal and saves a lot of trouble, but it comes down for a reason: to let the thing they have created exist in the world, that it may serve its purpose. While that stuff is up, it is in many senses totally removed, or set aside. If nothing else, it’s inconvenient to access.
Sometimes you must set aside religion, take what you’ve learned from it, and just exist in the world with your spirituality to guide you. That doesn’t have to be a permanent situation; you can add wings or extra rooms or towers or whatever to the building later, if you decide you need them, just as they can be demolished. And just like a building, sometimes you need cleansing or repairs- whether that’s recovering from a serious mistake or tending an open wound from rough times or worse. In these cases, there’s no reason not to return to your religion, your culture, or your dogmas, and perhaps rebuild, repair, cleanse, build anew, or perhaps demolish things. It’s not like you can’t throw the scaffolding back up over part or over everything and take it down as needed.
Essentially this is about the dropping and picking up of religion to build and sustain the spirit. It contradicts what the major religions would say about the relationship between spirituality and religion, but it’s the truth I’ve found about it. Some will need that scaffolding more than others- and even an atheist or physicalist belief system needs these things- but I don’t think it’s right to just leave it up all the time, forever, to the point where you’re repairing the scaffolding more than the actual structure while it remains hidden and perhaps falls to ruin.
Scaffolding’s a tool, with a purpose, with a shelf life; when it’s expired it ought to come down, and when you need it again new scaffolding should go up. Religion’s the same way; that’s exactly how it works. It isn’t there to stifle the spirit, but to build it up and step aside or fall back on when appropriate.