Is Religion the Problem?

This is a reply to a recent commenter.  But it has relevance for anyone who is getting their information about Christianity from secular sources like college, Wikipedia, and the internet in general.  Our modern culture in the USA is so ruled by secular thought that it’s hard to even see where the bias comes in.  When the founding fathers of our country determined that there should be a wall of separation between the church and the state, they had it exactly right.  But their intent has been so mangled that it has come to mean something much different from what they intended.  Here’s the reply:

I appreciate your thoughtful comment as well.

List all the wars you say were caused by religion you want.  My point was that every time the state tries to stamp out religion, as it did in the USSR and is still trying to do in China, people have been arrested, beaten, robbed of their possessions, watched as their families were split apart and their livelihood destroyed, and even killed.  So it doesn’t seem to matter whether religion or no religion is in charge.  We still find ways to hate, kill and destroy.

It’s really interesting that you’ve mentioned your belief that Adam and Eve never existed at least three times now.  I’ve indicated that it doesn’t really matter whether they literally did or not.  What matters is that there is a tendency in the heart of man to understand what is right, but to do wrong anyway.  And by the way, the original sin was actually committed by Satan, and the sin was pride.  He decided that he really didn’t need God telling him how he should live.  So he led a revolt, and for this he and his minions were cast out of heaven.

And that’s an important point.  Whether you look at the OT’s 10 commandments or the NT’s 2, the first one is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul.  Call that religion if you want, but it’s intensely practical.  Without God’s definition of right and wrong, it’s up to man to decide, and we have a hard time agreeing on anything.  Some societies see it as OK to murder if you have a good reason, others say it’s never OK.  You say you’re against abortion, but not enough that you would actually agree with a law that made it illegal.  You say that you would never want to “impose my feelings or morals about these matters on anybody else”.  But you do.  You also say you are “totally on the side of women on this matter.”  So you’re saying you won’t take sides, but you are on the side of women.  Francis Schaeffer wrote about the dilemma that we have in our postmodern society.  We are grasping at straws to justify our beliefs, but we don’t have anything to base those beliefs on.  We have both feet planted firmly in midair.

Have you ever watched the movie Bruce Almighty?  Funny, but it made a good point or two.  For one, when Bruce had the ability to be god, he didn’t do too well at it.  He tried to just grant every prayer request, but it went completely amuck.  For another, when he couldn’t make his girl love him without taking away her free will, God (played by Morgan Freeman) said ‘Welcome to my world, son.  If you figure that one out, you let me know.’  And one of the things they don’t teach you about Christianity in school is just that.  How could God create us with the ability to decide for ourselves, and yet make it so that we would always choose the right and not the wrong?  It’s just impossible.  It would be like making a one-ended stick.

Satan’s sin is the same, really, as the one portrayed by Adam and Eve – pride.  Pride says in effect ‘I exalt no one but myself, and will be subject to no one, because I do not submit to any higher authority.  In fact, my authority supersedes yours, so that when we disagree on moral issues, I’m right and you’re wrong.’  Yet even in a secular society, somebody makes up the rules.

Non-Christians all seem to make one comon mistake.  They point to the bad behavior of other Christians, and say they want nothing to do with that kind of behavior.  But they never really look at what Christ Himself said or did.  We Christians are sinners.  If we really have submitted ourselves to His Lordship (really that just means acknowledging Him as boss), hopefully our sins will be less frequent and less horrible, but we come to faith in Christ, and we spend the rest of our days on Earth trying to cooperate with Him in making us more right in His eyes, not our own.  That we fail and come up short again and again should not reflect badly on the one we claim as our role model.  As he himself said in another context, ‘Let the man who is without sin cast the first stone.’

You also tend to make the mistake of lumping all religions together and being against them all.  Really, that’s just absurd.  There are significant differences, and many of them are mutually exclusive.  Read what Jesus said.  What He said was wise beyond anything the world had ever heard, and His message continues to be highly relevant, even in today’s far more advanced culture.  He uses simple yet vivid illustrations to make his points.  In addressing the arrogance and pride of the Pharisees, he said things like “You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel”.  And ‘before you try to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye, first remove the log from your own.’  Or ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.’  Or “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Hebrew people.  Yet Jesus aimed his most harsh criticism at them.  He never talked to any person or group so harshly.  Apparently he wasn’t very impressed with religion either.  And neither am I.  Christianity is not a religion.  It’s a worldview.  

Jesus established a new order.  The things He taught did not counteract the teachings of our Old Testament, but they did give us new and fresh ways to understand the meaning of much it.  More importantly, Jesus showed us how God wants us to live.  He showed us that whenever we think we’re “good”, we’re decieving ourselves.  We may be good compared to other people, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, all of our good works would be like filthy rags.  Jesus lived his man-life (as God’s son, his life is eternal) as a humble servant.  He was tempted but did not sin.  Then He humbled himself – even to death on a Roman cross – and in so doing, showed that the opposite of pride is humility, and that humility comes from a heart of love, and that even though with man that kind of sinless life is impossible, with God all things are possible.

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6 thoughts on “Is Religion the Problem?

  1. Sidney Carton

    Good point. Religion is not the problem, the problem is written in human nature, as long as we embrace selfishness and pride, (which can wear the robes of piety as easily as those of the libertine) we will continue to be a ruined an wretched lot. Christ is our exemplar, we follow him and embrace his humility, his morality, his mercy and his unselfishness and kindness. Were we able to do this, we would not rise up against our neighbors (personally or nationally) and seek to slay them.

  2. thewordofme

    Hello again John Andrew, really enjoying the discussion, I hope you are also.

    You write:
    “…it has relevance for anyone who is getting their information about Christianity from secular sources like college, Wikipedia, and the internet in general. Our modern culture in the USA is so ruled by secular thought that it’s hard to even see where the bias comes in. When the founding fathers of our country determined that there should be a wall of separation between the church and the state, they had it exactly right. But their intent has been so mangled that it has come to mean something much different from what they intended…”

    In regard to this opening sentence in your reply. Where else does one get information about religion but colleges, encyclopedias, books, and the internet? One cannot only go to the Bible and theistic tomes written by the founders of a particular sect and expect unbiased and factual information. You must check many sources and compile diverse viewpoints and thoughts to arrive at a synthesis or approximation of truth. If you only follow one line of thought or viewpoint then your understanding of that subject is necessarily biased…and may not be true in a literal sense.

    When our founding fathers erected that wall of separation between religion and state they were responding to the religious darkness that had for so long constrained and controlled the world that our forefathers knew. They and their ancestors had suffered religious and spiritual control by kings and religious leaders of the old country. Our main founding fathers were mostly agnostic or non-believers and they didn’t want the same kind of government leadership they were breaking away from.

    As for the intent of the founders being mangled, I think what you are talking about is the normal expansion of knowledge and understanding that intelligent people experience as their civilization grows and begins to comprehend the truths of the world around them.

    I agree with you about the USSR and China and their treatment of the various religions they try to suppress. My only thought in bringing up the genocides that Christians (and other religions) have committed is to make the point that no matter the religion…one is not better than the other in regard to human rights. In fact, if you think it through, all religions and all secular authorities have abused humans throughout time. Even Solomon hired out his citizens as slaves. We in the US do it as well as anybody.

    In regard to Adam and Eve, should one take it as a literal story… were they really the first created and placed in the Garden of Eden about 6,000 years ago? If that is your position…you are up against tremendous testable scientific evidence that mankind has been around for waaay longer than 6,000 years and then of course there is the Neanderthal’s which in all ways appear to be a natural human predecessor and 98.5% human. Then there are the other various predecessors to us and Neanderthals such as Homo-habilis, Homo antecessor, Homo erectus, etc.

    You write:
    “…by the way, the original sin was actually committed by Satan, and the sin was pride. He decided that he really didn’t need God telling him how he should live. So he led a revolt, and for this he and his minions were cast out of heaven.”

    I’m talking about the “original sin that Paul wrote of in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22 for its scriptural base, and see it as perhaps implied in Old Testament passages such as Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3. According to Paul, Adam and Eves consumption of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the origination of sin in all humans thereafter. Jesus was our redeemer of that sin, to make us OK with God again, by his death on the cross.
    Just a short aside here, the Bible says that God does punish the son for the sins of the father and then it says in a different place that he does…which is right?

    Just a thought about Satan’s revolt…God deconstructs him…end of problem.

    You have to wonder about this; God (omnipotent and omniscient) made evil in the form of Satan and fully allows him to exist and foment seriously bad Mojo for us humans…key point here being–“God allows this” The tremendously bad logic in this story just overwhelms me…does no one else see it?

    I’m talking here of the theology that the evangelical fundamentalists have been championing in our times as the reason for Jesus’ being alive and being crucified. He died for our “sins” so we would/will have eternal life.

    Without Jesus dying to atone for this inherited sin we would all go to hell. Yeah, I know it’s kind of a hokey story, but remember Paul was making this stuff up 2,000 years ago. So the natural logic here is that if Adam and Eve did not exist; as they surely didn’t, we have no real need for Jesus because there was no original sin.

    You write:
    “…Without God’s definition of right and wrong, it’s up to man to decide, and we have a hard time agreeing on anything. Some societies see it as OK to murder if you have a good reason, others say it’s never OK. You say you’re against abortion, but not enough that you would actually agree with a law that made it illegal. You say that you would never want to “impose my feelings or morals about these matters on anybody else”. But you do. You also say you are “totally on the side of women on this matter.” So you’re saying you won’t take sides, but you are on the side of women.”

    Our society right here in the US says it’s all right to kill…not murder. I agree with you that mankind has a hard time agreeing on anything, but we have had some success in the past at this and there is the UN statement on human rights which is a step in the right direction, however futile it appears now.

    The thing is that people live together and decide that there are certain ways to conduct themselves when in this societal milieu, and most people follow the rules. When there are disruptive forces afoot then we tend to make laws to punish the wrong-doers who step out of line. When families are involved we are much more controlling of social misfits.

    All societies will make laws against murder and thievery and the more common misdeeds naturally. In smaller social groups the laws tend to be unwritten but known by all, in larger groups they get written down and advertised …think of the code of Hammurabi in Babylon.

    The point is that as groups of people get together they tend to set guidelines for behavior, which is simply a way of living peacefully and without fear. The God of Moses seems to go way overboard when Gods laws include how to treat women when they’re menstruating and what to eat and how to prepare it, and many other weird commandments or laws that Deuteronomy puts forth. I really feel that this is not God’s thinking.

    Men have been able to visualize “perfect societies forever…they did not, and do not, need a god to instruct them in what’s good for them; that information has been floating around forever and is self evident. By the way most Biblical scholars believe that Moses did not write the Pentateuch. It was written anonymously in the late 7th. Century with later additions after the fall of Judah in 586 BC

    You write:
    “…You say you’re against abortion, but not enough that you would actually agree with a law that made it illegal. You say that you would never want to “impose my feelings or morals about these matters on anybody else”. But you do. You also say you are “totally on the side of women on this matter.” So you’re saying you won’t take sides, but you are on the side of women.”

    I admitted that although I did not like the idea of abortion, I believed that there are exceptions to this, as there is to most things in life. To me the mother’s life takes precedence and if there’s a problem in this regard…the baby is sacrificed. Rape or incest is arguably the worst thing that can happen to a woman or girl-child, and making a woman/child carry a baby under these circumstances amounts to pure evil. These are decisions to be made by the women alone…not some church or government official. I would not vote or champion a cause to take away this right of women.

    I would not impose my feelings or morals on someone, that’s not the same as talking about these things. Impose has the connotation of forcing ones viewpoint on someone…forcibly making a person do or not do whatever evil it is you are selling. I don’t believe I said I would not take sides. I will not force (by legislation or other means) my position on others.

    By the way I would welcome your input on the thought of abortion and how it has slowed population growth in the US, thereby, in some ways, helping our quality of living by alleviating some eco-concerns. Think of how bad smog and water quality (or availability) and crowding and scarceness of resources, etc. would be if we had an additional 100 to 150 million people living in our country right now.

    You write:
    “Have you ever watched the movie Bruce Almighty? Funny, but it made a good point or two. For one, when Bruce had the ability to be god, he didn’t do too well at it. He tried to just grant every prayer request, but it went completely amuck. For another, when he couldn’t make his girl love him without taking away her free will, God (played by Morgan Freeman) said ‘Welcome to my world, son. If you figure that one out, you let me know….’”

    I never saw the complete movie, but am familiar enough with it to understand what you are saying. I wrote a post awhile back about the matter of free-will, I’ll have to find it and give you the Biblical references, but the gist of it is that the Bible says in many places we have free-will and many places it says we don’t have free-will. I still haven’t figured this out.

    There is more to answer, but It’s late here and I want to post this part and answer the rest later, if you don’t mind.
    twom

  3. Pingback: Is Religion the Problem? - Part 2 « Bloom Where You’re Planted

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