Last night I had the pleasure of spending a few hours hanging out with an extremely conservative individual. A self-described “very conservative” person whose religion is Baptist. And while we managed to avoid talking politics (mostly) we did discuss religion in great detail.
Myself being a non-denomination Christian vs. a conservative Baptist, to simply say we “disagreed” on most issues would be an understatement. But by far the most interesting part of our debate came when I stated my strongly held belief that organized religion is the biggest enemy to real Christianity.
Being raised a Baptist, this was clearly something with which they strongly disagreed. They couldn’t grasp the fact that someone would call themselves a Christian but hate religion.
But then I asked the question I always ask people who were raised to be (fill in whatever denomination), “If you weren’t raised to be (fill in religion) would you still follow it?”
Let’s honestly think about that for a moment. Generally, people stay with the religion which their family raised them as following. Sure there are those who adopt other religions or move away from religion altogether, but generally those who do believe in a religion stick with the one their family raised them to follow.
Their answer to my questions was, as expected, yes. They believed they would still be Baptist even if they weren’t raised that way.
One thing that undoubtedly stood out to me during our debate was how religion is killing Christianity.
I see myself as a spiritual, faith-based person, but I detest organized religion. I’m a Christian, but I don’t subscribe to some religious group where humans set the rules, not God. Because that’s honestly what religions are — they’re mini cults. God didn’t create the Baptist religion, a human did. A human who took their own personal beliefs and tied them into a religious denomination.
To me, being a Christian is about being a good person. Help the helpless, defend the defenseless. Take care of the poor, the sick, the elderly. Don’t judge others. Live a life of love, hope, forgiveness and compassion. To me, that’s what following the teachings of Jesus Christ and being a Christian means.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging people who choose to follow any particular religion. So please don’t take anything I’m saying here as a judgement against those who see organized religion differently than I do. Just personally it’s never made much sense to me to follow a faith via a set of religious rules that were put in place by some human’s interpretation of something they read and beliefs they think should be followed.
But it’s clear to me, based on the anti-Christian crowd, that organized religion is destroying real Christianity.
I’ve said it numerous times that I believe Christian values — those I described above — are transcendent. You don’t have to be a Christian or follow any religion at all to believe in those values.
But when you get into organized religion, that’s where you get into judgement, hate, fear and paranoia. That’s where simply being a “Christian” is no longer good enough, you have to follow that religion’s rules to follow “Christianity.” The values which define your faith no longer match with the values of Christ but the values of your religious denomination.
And that’s where organized religion is destroying real Christianity. A fantastic quote from a movie most people probably haven’t seen (because it’s not a particularly great movie) comes from Kingdom of Heaven, where a character is asked about religion and he responds:
“I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.”
He then points to the other man’s head and heart as places where true goodness can be found.
Now even though it’s only a movie quote, it’s right on the money. Too many people have committed great atrocities in the name of their religion. People have used religion to justify their ignorance, intolerance, cruelty and agendas.
My thoughts on faith have always been this: if you wish to follow the Bible, read it yourself. Interpret the words written inside, and the subsequent meanings, on your own. Don’t let some religion, built by individuals with their own agendas, dictate to you what is or isn’t true Christianity.
Because at the end of the day, your faith should be determined by you — not the desires of others.
It’s time real Christians reclaim Christianity from those who for too long have used it to manipulate others for their own selfish ambitions and agendas.