A good friend of mine wrote an inspired piece in which he draws his own conclusions about “religion” , after addressing the shortcomings of your basic dictionary definition of religion. This that he wrote, is not an afternoon’s musing, but born out of a lifetime experience. I want to share it as something which is the fruit of a sincere man who loves Jesus and has been battered a bit by religion, as I suppose most, if not all have, but in Job-like fashion, retains his “integrity”…or does not fault God with any past trials and difficulties, but correctly identifies the shortcomings and dead end nature of the things to which so many people subscribe themselves………………….
Religion – definition of by XXXX Miller
Religion; The dictionary defines the term “religion” as the following;
RELIGION, n. relij’on. [A “system” established (by man) (or God) in which to worship God. Morality (code of ethics) is closely tied to the definition as his “will” and this “will” (so to speak) is defined by the religion’s philosophy.
The above definition defines and encompasses all religion. World wide. As a Christian, the scripture teaches that Christ, as Messiah, is the only avenue for which mankind may find propitiation (appeasement, or satisfaction) for sin. Total salvation & total freedom. He is the gate on the heavenly path. There is no other gate but through Christ. Consequently, the above dictionary definition is suspect as ‘all inclusive’ in that it places all world religions in this category of which, have no merit. Their existence, and elaboration about them, is therefore a mute point. Consequently, throughout the balance of this Theseus, denominational Christianity will conclude the subject matter.
Finding the above definition of religion inconclusive, I researched further finding little satisfaction for my efforts. So, I have concluded to write my own definition of ‘religion’ based on personal experience and my knowledge of scripture. Keep in mind; the term “religion” (as a system) to me incorporates everything I consider wrong with Christianity, and shall be used derogatorily through out the balance of this Theseus. In my search, I did run across a quote by St Augustine saying, “Most of us know perfectly well what religion is – until someone asks us to define it.” In as much as I don’t subscribe to the practices of Augustine’s religion, I thought his definition was honest. But not accurate. I believe a definition is possible. In fact, his statement defined him to the fact that he doesn’t know the definition either. I/e he ignorantly practiced religion. James, The brother of Jesus, described religion in the bible as the following; James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Although this definition is an example of how Christians should conduct themselves, it is not really a definition of what religion ‘is’. But rather it is an example of how the Holy Spirit should change ones heart (motives) and ones actions as one practices pure and faultless religion. Now here is my contention within the realm of “Religious Christianity”. “Is said denomination in question, biblically or philosophically motivated”? I will concede and admit that most of “Christian” denominations probably originated in “good faith” mixed with “a little truth” and sincerity. But I will also refute the fact that they are STILL based on truth and sincerity. Even the most iconic religious denominations have strayed from truth and have developed their own version of Gods word thru their hierarchy, choosing to approach the word as one would approach a smorgasbord. I have gone to some of these churches and have observed this to be true. The debate over abortion & homosexuality is evidence in itself that they have strayed from scripture and purity of heart. There shouldn’t be a debate… The scripture is clear.
(People management.) In contrast to true Christianity, Here would be MY definition of ‘religion’; [Religion defined by the common person] A practice (or methodology) done by individuals, or as a group of individuals, to relieve themselves from guilt and to ‘earn’ forgiveness, respect, and acceptance of their God. [Religion defined by leadership / priests] Whether sincere or not, A method of controlling a group or individuals as a means to an end. Controlling society from lawlessness and the attempt to maintain a civilized society. Controlling the masses by means of guilt and providing a “temporary antidote” for guilt or sin via practices done for the church I/e penance or monetary giftings. How is this achieved? By continually preaching a ‘list of sins’ entrapping the hearer to an item on that list forcing them to ‘again’ partake of the antidote thus adhering the partaker deeper and deeper within the ‘religion’. Past Pagan religions could demand a human sacrifice, self-mutilation, or self-denial as part of that antidote. Modern religions would most likely demand monetary, physical disciplines, or self-denial as a means of compensation to receive said ‘antidote’. Make no mistake, all religion old or new has something in common. It requires “more” of its followers “than they are already doing” to achieve the “temporary antidote” prescribed by said religion. This prescription also captivates the individual by means of limited atonement or no atonement at all apart from said religion, thus perpetuating the religion, for the sake of the religion, BY DESIGN. Disallowing individuals the freedom to investigate other religions (denominations) for fear of eternal damnation and the withdrawal of “said antidote” by the former religious leadership. Thus resulting in the pied piper effect. Most “Christian” Denominational Religion discourages the studying the bible apart from its “specified authors” enabling it to establish parameters on the minds of its followers for the purpose of unity, control, and again self perpetuation / preservation.
So the conclusion of the matter is, ‘religion’ today is no different then it was in Jesus time. It doesn’t ‘set you free’ but rather does the opposite. It binds you to itself for the purpose of promoting ‘it self’ with its ‘own’ interests in mind and not your interest as a person who just wants to have your heavy load lifted…
Example: Matt 23:4 They (The teachers of the law and the Pharisees) tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Read all of Mathew 23 for more examples.)
Many sincere religious people believe (have been told their whole life) that his / her own religion is the “true religion” and the way in which he / she practices it (zealousness) defines whether he / she really believe in it. If we believe in a religion simply to control conduct in a society, then we should be pitied above all men. The Apostle Paul makes such a statement.
1 Cor 15:12-19 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Why did he say this? I think he said it to establish a difference between Christianity and all of the other religions of the day and of the future. What was the difference? The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead unto eternal life. Many pagan religions believe in eternal life to some degree, but none have demonstrated its possibility. Until Christ. Christ did so when the tomb was found empty. Therefore separating the religions of “presumed hope” and the religion of truth with an ability to pay off (so to speak).
REAL Christianity could be described as ”thinking out side of the box” of religion.
If Jesus came to bring us good news, it must have to be really really good news. Is being saved and still living under the law good news? Is striving to be better and never attaining that status good news? Is graveling at the alter and repeating the same “sorry lord”, I won’t do it again” and knowing that I will, good news? Trying to be more like Jesus and yet in my heart, I know I won’t ever get any better. To me, this is where I had to make a choice. Is what I am doing really the gospel, and am I supposed to live the rest of my life feeling all this guilt? Am I forever a defeated looser? In my heart of hearts, I was happier before I got “saved”. Lord, shall I say, “why didn’t you leave me alone till just before I died and then save me?” I was happy in the beginning, but now that they (the church) have taught me that I need to be perfect, I am miserable. I hate my life now! Just let me die now! Lord. I can’t stand it any longer!
I have said and thought all of that! Why? Because I take my walk with God seriously! If we are right in our theological religious perspective in our worship to God, we go to heaven. If we have believed a lie in this theological methodology, we go to hell. So why am I writhing this? Because I was deceived and believed a lie for years. The same lie that most “Christians” believe. The Lord gave me light years ago on this subject, but I trusted rather in my “spiritual leaders” then what the Spirit was teaching me and abandoned this perspective to “follow the pastor, as he follows Christ” (so I was taught to do), and was led into the miry clay of religion a second time. A LAW righteousness. Law has no ability to forgive, rather it condemns. If you run a stop sign, does the ‘sign’ itself undo the fact that you ran it? So, can obeying the yield sign (penance) undo the stop sign violation? Can any act of penance undo another act of disobedience? No it can’t. Because law is the schoolmaster, not the judge. Only the judge or the judge’s boss (governor) or the governor’s boss (president) can pardon a lawbreaker.
Buildings are nothing but corporate headquarters for big businesses preaching ‘lists’, offering antidotes with expiration dates…
Futility only to be equaled by politics…
Only Christ and the REAL gospel bring an end to this religious madness… To be forgiven past, present, and future… To be seated with Christ and have our names permanently written in ‘the book of life’ is real Christianity… to enter Gods ‘rest’ is what I call good news… somehow the ‘treadmill of religion’ just doesn’t appeal to me…