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Posts Tagged ‘is religion bad?’

When I saw this meme, I instantly thought about the church I attend and what it does in the community. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • Serves more than 1,500 free meals each month to people in need
  • Established a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association so it can better help people with mental issues
  • Created the Career Connection Network to help people find jobs
  • In partnership with the Calgary Food Bank, distributed almost 2,500 food hampers to hurting families during a one-year period.
  • Supports 250 families with special needs

I attend one of the largest churches in Canada; most are much, much smaller and don’t have the donor base to do this kind of work. But almost all of them are doing something – and doing it with less red tape and more efficiency than any government or business. The same applies to charities like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion Canada.

Why is this happening? Because Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, tells everyone who follows Him that “anything you did for any of my people here [and Jesus came for ALL people], you also did for me.” He also said this:The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”

I can’t speak for religion, since that has very little to do with faith in Jesus. (In fact, religion is often a scourge on society and I explain it here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-q1.)

But I can write about Jesus followers. So, to the creator of this meme, I ask: imagine what kind of world we’d be living in if Jesus followers weren’t obeying His directive and making life better for millions and millions of hurting people?

Sure, they may not be making gigantic financial contributions to science and medical research (that’s being covered quite nicely by taxpayers, foundations and wealthy philanthropists), but through their actions and donations, they are on the frontlines of the battle against misery and hopelessness.

That’s where Jesus – God’s perfect gift to everyone willing to accept Him – calls His followers to be. And if you’re willing to accept the gift of Jesus, two extraordinary things will happen:

  1. He will come into your life and start making you more of the person God designed you to be. That includes becoming more aware of the suffering around us and more willing to do something about it.
  2. God will no longer see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection. And when this life ends, He’ll welcome you to spend all eternity with Him in Heaven.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Celebrated former TV talk show host and political commentator Jon Stewart certainly stirs the pot with this pithy statement. But is it true? There are two important points to unpack here.

1. Perhaps “religion” has given some people hope. But from my perspective, religion is absolutely hopeless. If you know any “religious” people, it wouldn’t surprise me if you found them to be negative, judgemental and intolerant of those who don’t follow their rules.

That’s what religion does; it sucks compassion out of people as it divides humanity into “us” and “them”, into right and wrong, into good and bad. It’s just a small step from there to actually persecuting people who aren’t in your religious group (or tribe).

I can tell you right now, if that’s what following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) is all about, I would never have committed my life to following Him.

Thankfully, following Jesus is about a relationship – something entirely different from religion. When you commit yourself to following Jesus, you enter into a relationship where He comes into your life and begins to make you more like Him.

Becoming more like Jesus means that over time, you become more compassionate, more generous, more trusting, more understanding, more loving – in other words, you become the exact opposite of religion.

There’s another part to this relationship. When you trust in Jesus – His life, His remarkable (and challenging!) teachings, His death and, finally, His resurrection – God no longer sees all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you haven’t done. All He sees is the perfection of His Son. That means when this life ends, you’ll spend eternity in the joyous, glorious presence of God and Jesus.

2. I may not have any use for “religion”, but I can write with confidence that this world has absolutely NOT been torn apart by religion. It’s been torn apart by the opposite of all the traits of Jesus – greed, intolerance, hate, fear, judgmentalism and tribalism.

Sadly, these are common traits for every human being on this planet, whether or not they’re involved in any kind of “religion”. The solution, for Jon Stewart, for me and for YOU, is a life-changing relationship with Jesus that starts NOW and goes into all eternity.

Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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While watching the Halloween episode of TV sitcom Young Sheldon (a spin-off of the uber-popular Big Bang Theory), I grabbed a pen and paper and took notes because it gift-wrapped an opportunity to tell you what a life of faith is all about. And why you might want to give that kind of life serious, thoughtful consideration.

The episode revolves around a church Halloween production that Sheldon’s ridiculously religious mother is directing. As she describes the production’s gruesome theme around the dinner table, Sheldon’s grandmother pipes up, “hang on; y’all are trying’ to scare people into going to church?”

Then it’s Sheldon’s turn.

“Actually, fear has been a recurring tactic used by organized religion for centuries. When you add guilt to keep people in line, it’s an extremely efficient form of crowd control.”

“Our religion is based on love, Sheldon,” responds his mother. “Not fear.”

But then the script goes in this direction: “So what happens when people don’t follow the rules?” asks Sheldon. “They burn in hell,” answers his mother.

As the camera pans around the silent dinner table, Sheldon’s mother tries to save the conversation by adding, “Because God loves them.”

Yikes. And yikes again.

First of all, the entire conversation smacks of “religion” and that’s a nasty term I want nothing to do with. As you can probably tell, religion is not about love. It’s about creating and enforcing rules in order to control and judge people. In other words, religion is exactly how Sheldon describes it.

Secondly, this conversation portrays God as a vicious ogre who can’t wait to toss us all into Dante’s Inferno. I can tell you right now, if this was anywhere near the truth, I would not have become a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son).

But I am a Jesus follower. I follow Jesus because He’s the living embodiment of God’s outrageous, break-open-the-champagne love for every person on this earth—no matter who they are or what they’ve done (or not done).

Jesus came to earth to show anyone willing to pay attention exactly who God is. In other words, look at Jesus and you’re looking at God. Now think about what Jesus has done:

  • He healed the sick
  • He hung out with the dregs of society
  • He lifted up the outcasts, favouring them over the privileged and powerful
  • He taught us radical ideas about loving our enemies
  • He criticized rule-loving, power-hungry religious leaders
  • He told us money and power aren’t where it’s at; a soul-restoring faith in God is the ultimate prize in this life and the life to come.

Finally, Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of our moral crimes. God’s standard is perfection and that’s how he sees everyone who follows His Son.

God offers Jesus as a gift to YOU. Interested in accepting that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The late, great Andy Rooney (a beloved commentator on TV’s 60 Minutes for more than 30 years) said many profound and witty things during his 92 years on this planet. The quote in this meme, helpfully supplied by an Atheist internet community, is definitely among his most compelling thoughts.

First off, as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son), I’m 100 percent with Andy. We have centuries of history, much of it downright horrifying, to absolutely prove his point. More often than not, religious people are simply awful.

Here’s a brief list of what religion does:

  • It makes people judgemental
  • It creates a dangerous ‘us versus them’ mentality
  • It causes people to think that since they’re right, then everyone else is wrong and that leads to intolerance and persecution
  • It sparks vicious tribalism and if you want examples of how bad that is, think of the endless bombings in the Middle East or the 1990s genocidal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in Rwanda.

So who else opposes religion? How about Jesus? Some of His harshest words are saved for arrogant, judgemental, rule-obsessed religious leaders.

Furthermore, a case can be credibly advanced that part of Jesus’ mission was to get rid of religion altogether. In his book The End of Religion, pastor Bruxey Cavey says “I’m not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

In fact, Bruxey quotes Jesus (Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.) to make the point that “Jesus is not pointing toward a different and better religion, but instead he invites us to himself as an alternative to the weary way of religion.”

Now this is an invitation that should be attractive to anyone interested in spirituality (and I assume that’s YOU, since you’re reading this blog). Skip religion and connect with Jesus!

So what happens when you do this? Consider Jesus to be God’s gift to every person on this planet, regardless of what they’ve done or not done, regardless of their social status, gender, or age.

Anyone who accepts that gift invites Jesus into their heart and mind to begin a life-long process of making them the kind of people that God wants them to be. And when this life is over, all the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do will be irrelevant. All God will see is His Son’s perfection.

Call me crazy, but this sounds like a GREAT deal. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Elton John is being too kind here. The reality is, “organized religion” absolutely, overwhelmingly does not work.

In fact, “organized religion” is so wildly unsuccessful that just putting those two words together causes a negative reaction in people like me.

Because I follow Jesus of Nazareth — whom many people believe is the Son of God — you might not understand. Aren’t people like me all about “religion”? In a word, NO.

Serious followers of Jesus have zero interest in “religion” because it does exactly what Elton John says. Religious people seem addicted to:

  • harshly opposing anyone who doesn’t agree with them
  • judging others based on horribly superficial criteria like clothing, body jewelry, language and political positions
  • ignoring or downplaying their own weaknesses
  • isolating themselves from the world, instead of working to improve it

Where does this all lead? So often, it leads to religious people concluding that because they’re right, everyone else is wrong. It’s a pretty short trip from that conclusion to persecuting those “wrong” people.

Unfortunately, history overflows with horrifying examples of that thinking, from Christians rioting against Jews in the Middle Ages to present-day Islamic terrorists murdering Christians, Jews and anyone else who opposes their radical agenda.

There you have it; the hateful lemmings of “organized religion”.

Now let me advance to you the position of Jesus. In his book The End of Religion, Bruxy Cavey notes that in ancient biographries, Jesus “is not portrayed as the founder of a world religion, but the challenger of all religions. I am not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

Bruxy, a Canadian pastor, goes on to make this statement: “the primary mission of Jesus was to tear down religion as the foundation for people’s connection with God and to replace it with himself.”

Exactly. Being a Jesus follower is not about being part of a religion. It’s about establishing a relationship with the Son of God through prayer, reading the Bible and attending church. As that relationship deepens, Jesus followers open their heart, minds and souls to being led by Jesus to a place where we:

  1. Come to understand and support God’s position that all people, from terrorists to politicians, from blue-collar workers to billionaires, are worthy of His passionate love.
  2. Humbly agree that no one has the inside track on virtue; everyone has “sinned” — that is, missed the mark of what we can be — and that by following Jesus, God can and does change that through radical forgiveness.
  3. Recognize that we are Jesus’s loving ambassadors in a world that most of us will agree is not doing very well. In fact, as His ambassadors, Jesus followers are really God’s agents of change — allowing Him to work through us to make this planet a better place.

Do you want to be one of God’s agents of change? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion badWhy did I save this graphic after first seeing it in an atheist community? Because I can do better.

Yes, “religion” offers false hope for the poor. Yes, “religion” offers pretend wisdom for the stupid.

But it also offers opportunities to be judgemental. Hard-hearted. Unforgiving. Obsessed with keeping irrelevant rules. Unloving of anyone outside the “religious” group.

Had enough? I certainly have. That’s why I’ll always stand up, with any member of the atheist world, and declare that “religion” is downright horrible.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: the “religion” I’m referring to is what most of our culture generally thinks of when they hear the word. NOT the dictionary definition.

Let me move you on to something far more life-affirming, soul-enhancing and character-building: faith. In this case, faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God.

Jesus had as much interest in “religion” as you, me and the creator of the meme that inspired this blog. In other words, ZERO.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus spent much of his time opposing the dominant religious authorities in ancient Israel. In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life, he notes “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”.

Yep. Nailed it.

So what about faith – in this case, faith in Jesus? Now we’re talking about something entirely different. We’re talking about:

  • Understanding who God is – the perfect and mysterious creator of time, space and the universe.
  • Understanding who we are – horribly imperfect people who can never live up to God’s standard of perfection.
  • Understanding who Jesus is – God’s absolutely perfect love GIFT to everyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him above everyone and everything else.

When you understand this and accept the gift of Jesus, you also understand that you no longer have to live up to God’s standard of perfection because Jesus paid the penalty for everything wrong you’ve ever done and everything right you’ve ever failed to do.

Finally, when you understand all this, you’ll want to become more like Jesus. You’ll want to be more generous and less selfish, more compassionate and less judgemental, more concerned about others and less preoccupied with yourself.

This is all part of the miracle that happens when you cast aside the priorities of our culture and make Jesus your priority. It’s a life-long process of change and growth that doesn’t end until you’re finished with this life and start your next life – eternity in the transforming, glorious presence of your Creator.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Religion+is+Slavery+-Robert+G.+Ingersoll-1I’m a person of faith, so what I’m going to write probably won’t make a lick of sense to you. But I’m gonna write it anyway.

1. “Religion” can never reform humanity. Ever.

2. Without a doubt, “religion” is slavery.

Religion is dogma, rules to follow, appearance to keep up, judgements to hand out. It all too often translates into numbing negativity that gives people of faith a bad reputation.

A quick example? You would be amazed at how many religious people spend their Halloweens telling followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) how deluded and misguided they are to be “celebrating” what one called a “pagan holiday about death”.

I feel quite safe in writing if I line up 100 North American parents who are taking their six-year-olds out to collect candy and tell them what these religious people said, they would look at me like I’m out of my mind.

Sadly, there are people who become addicted to this kind of thinking. In other words, they become slaves to religion. Some even go so far as to pass judgement on people’s clothes and hairstyles, declaring that today’s men and women look too much alike and it’s “one of the reasons we have this is the epidemic of homosexuality”. Yes, I’m actually quoting from a religious person who wrote this on the Internet.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus is embarrassed, too. The original-source documents about His physical life on earth don’t have a single quote from Him about Halloween or about people’s clothing and hairstyles. Not. One. Word.

But in one of those documents, Jesus does have this to say about people in love with religion: “They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others.”

I’m sure you’re as turned off by all of this as I am. Indeed, if people tried to attract me to Jesus with this kind of thinking, I would have run the other way.

So what attracted me? The prospect of a relationship with the Son of God that starts in this life and extends into eternity. The idea that God loves — yes, LOVES me so much that He offered me an extraordinary gift: Jesus — His life and incredible teachings, His sacrificial death to make up for all the bad things I’ve done and all the good things I’ve failed to do, and His game-changing resurrection.

I wanted this relationship. I wanted to be reformed in a way “religion” never can. And I wanted to be free of the slavery of our culture — the meaningless drive for money, power and prestige, the irrelevant obsession with looking good and earning the praise of judgmental people.

And I have it. By no means am I anywhere within shouting distance of “perfect”. But because I follow Jesus, I’m a better person than before. And I have the assurance of life with Him for all eternity.

Do you find this at all attractive? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Hijacks mindIt’s such a common stereotype that many people accept it without a moment’s thought or investigation: people of faith just don’t think “critically”. For many years, I bought this sales pitch, too.

Only after becoming a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) did I check out the facts. And they left me astounded.

1. Between 1901 and 2000, more than 65 per cent of Nobel prize winners have identified Christianity as their religious preference. That’s according to the book 100 Years of Nobel Prizes.

The Christian Nobel list includes J.J. Thomson in physics, former Liberian president Helen Johnson Sirleaf for the peace prize, Ivan Pavlov in physiology or medicine and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in literature. A little bit of research will reveal that none of these people are brain-dead dolts.

2. In the entertainment world, how about actress Mira Sorvino (who won an Academy Award for Woody Allen’s 1995 move Mighty Aphrodite), Tyler Perry (who, besides his TV and movie acting/directing/screenwriting credits, owns a 200,000-square-foot movie studio) and two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington? Can anyone credibly state these people are idiots?

3. Scientists? I’ve already written an entire blog on just a few of the Jesus followers who are doing amazing work in the science world. You can read it here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-e9

So does “religion” hijack the mind? More often than not, yes. Religion is about following rules, keeping up appearances and judging others. That’s not what serious Jesus followers are all about. We are about having a life-long relationship with Jesus.

In my case, I did all kinds of critical thinking before deciding to follow Jesus at age 41. I read books from a wide variety of perspectives. I debated the basics of Christianity with Jesus followers. I thought long and hard about I’d read, what I’d heard, and how this world has always worked.

That’s not all it took for me to become a man of faith. It took an understanding that God is not the evil ogre that some people make Him out to be. And finally, it took a leap of faith.

A mix of reason, understanding and faith is what it takes to become a Jesus follower.

Maybe that sounds like a lot of work. Maybe you’re shrugging your shoulders and thinking “Meh, I don’t need this. What’s on TV?”

Fine. But if you were satisfied by what our culture insists are the keys to success — money, power, fame, toys, sex, the newest iPad and cruise-ship vacations — would you be reading this blog?

You know there has to be more to life than that. And maybe you’ve even wondered what happens when this life ends. Do you simply become rancid worm food or do you have a soul that lives on? These are important questions. And Jesus has the answers.

Want to know more? Click the ‘links to other sites’ tab at the top of this page or email me at fdking@hotmail.com. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

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Religion bad 5.14A challenging graphic, isn’t it? I saw it on an atheist Internet community and knew it would be good for Frank’s Cottage. Mostly because I’m in full agreement.

Religion, from my point of view, often does BAD things in our world.

  • Religion says that because the group I belong to is right, then everyone else must be wrong. And it’s a pretty short trip from there to believing I can do whatever I want to “wrong” people.
  • Religion says I have to do things, or NOT do things, in order to get in good with whatever god is at the top of that group.
  • Religion says if I blow up a building or murder a doctor who performs abortions, I’m doing a good thing.
  • Religion says I’m supposed to have it all together and if I don’t, then others (who obviously DO have it all together) will judge me and exclude me from their social group.
  • Religion insists that certain behaviours are wrong (such as having an occasional alcoholic drink or getting a tattoo), even if my holy book is absolutely silent on them.

So where does all this religion get us? I like the response of Bruxey Cavey. In his book The End of Religion, this Canadian pastor writes, “Religion does not lead people to God any more than empty cups quench your thirst”.

To me, religion leads to an empty charade of a life. Or the sickening horror of thinking you’re doing good by blowing up a building or murdering a doctor who performs abortions.

Another pastor, Mark Driscoll explains the difference between religion and Christianity (my faith) this way:

Religion is humanity trying to reach up to God. The message of Christianity is God reaching down to people. Religion is about what people have to do to be right with God.  Christianity is about what God has already done to provide us the opportunity to be right with Him.

Religion says you must earn your salvation by doing good deeds or certain acts and not doing evil. Christianity says all we need to do is believe that Jesus Christ [whom serious Christians believe is God’s son] has already paid the price for the evil we have done.

And before you protest, yes, every human being on this planet (and that certainly includes ME) has done evil. Even the late Mother Teresa did evil — that’s one reason she dedicated her life to following Jesus. She wanted — and received, as far as serious Christians are concerned — the benefit of Jesus paying the price for all her wrongs through His sacrificial death at the hands of Roman officials. That benefit is eternity in Heaven with her saviour.

“Jesus did not come to offer an alternative religion, but an alternative to religion,” Bruxey Cavey wrote in The End of Religion. “He did not call people to leave one lifeless shell for another, but to live life beyond the borders of religious rules, regulations, rituals, and routines.”

Does this Jesus — and all He’s done for everyone who believes in and follows Him — appeal to you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Are you as fascinated as I am with the spirituality of celebrities? In recent years, the media told us about pop singer Katy Perry not having a childhood because of her strict religious parents (they wouldn’t even let her buy non-Christian CDs), and about Brad Pitt (who grew up the son of very conservative Christian parents) saying his upbringing was stifling.

Now there’s another celebrity speaking out about faith.  Singer Brian Johnson, the 70-year-old member of AC/DC – I love his wolverine-in-heat singing style – told the website popeater.com that he doesn’t believe in religion.

“I believe all religions are bad,” he said. “I think they’re a waste of time.”

From a Christian perspective (and that was Johnson’s childhood environment), he couldn’t be more right. Religion is about rules and appearances – follow the rules and make sure you appear to have it all together. If you don’t, prepare to be criticized and ostracized.

Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the Son of God, has no use for this kind of thinking. He told the self-righteous religious leaders of His day (those are likely the sort of people Johnson is thinking about) that they were hopeless frauds.

One of the original source documents of His life records Him telling a crowd of people, “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they [the self-righteous religious leaders] package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads.”

In the case of Katy Perry (famous for her outlandish outfits and the hit song ‘I Kissed a Girl’), she told Vanity Fair magazine her parents wouldn’t let her say ‘deviled eggs’ or ‘dirt devil’ and the only book her mother ever read to her was the Bible.

Now this may be a case of parents fearful of losing their child to all the attractions of our superficial, often-misguided culture. But that fear caused them to go to such laughable religious extremes that Perry abandoned her faith.

These were the same kinds of extremes Jesus dealt with. His followers were collecting food during the Sabbath – a holy day of rest for serious Jews – when those obnoxious, rule-obsessed religious leaders found out and accused them of breaking Jewish law. As before, Jesus refused to knuckle under.

The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath,” He told them.

Notice what keeps happening? Now, as in ancient times, religion keeps getting in the way of people having a life-changing relationship with God – a relationship that ultimately guarantees us a place in Heaven with Jesus.

I’m not saying all rules are always bad; can you imagine the mayhem that would result if we tried playing hockey or soccer without rules? Those guidelines help us understand and enjoy hockey and soccer, just as the guidelines Jesus supported help us understand and enjoy a relationship with God, through Jesus.

If this makes sense, are you willing to give God (as opposed to religion) a try?

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