My Debate with a Conservative Baptist, and Organized Religion’s Attempt to Destroy Christianity

A_Free_Thinker_Is_Satans_SlaveLast 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.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Jeremy Stephenson

    Amen, brother! Thank you for contending for the faith! I noticed the picture you included, too. I’d love for whomever put that on there to show me where, in the Bible, God said that. I know a lot of people say the words in the Bible are man’s words & not God’s, but one thing they either forget or are unaware of is: holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. –2 Peter 1:21

    • Guillermo Maldonado

      Believing the bible is the word of god because the bible says so, it’s like believing Hitler was good because his book ‘Mein Kampf’ says so…

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        Im more into mad magazine,,,,, much more truthful

  • boxofivehands

    My only question is why do you have to be a christian to be a “good person”? I don’t believe in any god yet I have always followed the same guidelines you have outlined above. (Paragraph 9) “Good people are not all christians and christians are certainly not all good people!”

    • Charles Hernandez

      The author already mentioned it in paragraph 12 for those who weren’t reading: “You don’t have to be a Christian or follow any religion at all to believe in those values.”

  • Pipercat

    As a Born Again Agnostic Jack Buddhist, I have to say, I have no knowledge of any of this…

    • moe/larry & curly keys

      im agnostic; I have read many spiritual and religious book, I encourage you to do so: it will strengthen you agnosticism. GOD cannot be defined

      • Pipercat

        That’s the Jack Buddhist part!

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        why do we reply to these xylocephalous regressive crybaby tea party maggots?

      • Pipercat

        I hate falsehoods, fallacies and fear mongering. I really hate the projection bullshit. There are some valid conservative arguments, but they seem to be buried under mounds of spit out sour grapes. I guess that’s the Jack part. I can kibbitz with a few guys here, but they tend to admit when they are wrong or make a valid point and don’t rub in when they are right.

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        I enjoy listening(b reading) btheir nonsense which is 99% stuff we all hear on FOX “news”…old tired playbook

      • Pipercat

        Well, plenty of shit hit the fan today so, get ready for some fun. I can’t wait to see the intricate fallacies that will inevitably rear (throw in a pun) their ugly heads.

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        im actually enjoying the ones who make extra profiles with my username trying to annoy me!!! I must be doing sumpin’ right!!!

  • zed

    There would be no such thing as “Baptists” if there hadn’t been “free thinkers” who rejected the organized “religions” that engulfed them many years ago. And Jesus was a “free thinker” who condemned the Pharisees for thinking and acting inside their fundamentalist little mental box 2000 years ago.

  • LoriS

    Love the photo. It encapsulates one of my biggest issues with most of Christianity — even more moderate denominations. I would argue however that what you describe as “Christian” values are not Christian at all. To me, using the word “Christian” to describe oneself conveys the basic premise that one believes Christ is the son of God, the New Testament is holy doctrine, and Christ is elevated essentially to the same plane as God. Nowhere in your description of your Christian values did you mention Christ or the New Testament. The values you described are not original to Christianity — especially when considering Christ was Jewish, always embraced his Judaism and taught his beliefs to fellow Jews. Judaism is based solely on the Old Testament (or, as Jews call it, the Bible.) Christ’s teachings likewise were based solely on the Old Testament since the New Testament had not even been written during his lifetime. Judaism also discourages blind faith and actively encourages people to question, argue and, most importantly, continue to study. Christ’s legacy is a perfect example of those very Jewish tenets. Your basic religious principles, therefore, can be considered basic Jewish principles. Having said all of that, they can also be considered Unitarian Universalist principles, Buddhist principles, Baha’i principles, and fundamental values in a variety of other faiths. As boxofivehands said, they are also guidelines followed by most atheists. (I don’t know enough about Islam to comment on it definitively. I know none of the things you mentioned are part of their 6 basic principles but I do think they could also be considered Muslim values.)
    If you’re still reading, I beg to differ in another way: many organized religions, albeit not the most popular ones, are the antithesis of “judgement, hate, fear and paranoia” including the aforementioned UU church, Baha’i and Buddhism. I’m sure there are many others, given there are hundreds of faiths on this earth, but they are harder to learn about precisely because of their more passive religious platforms. They don’t make headlines.

    • moe/larry & curly keys

      well written and highly accurate. That means FOX “news” pseudo-Christians will want to escort you to hell as U show the facts; facts they call secular

  • Alecta

    Not only should a self-professed Christian read the bible, they should read several different translations of it. And they should read it critically, questioning the meaning behind every verse.

  • moe/larry & curly keys

    a NON free thinker is not free………………………. cuffed and imprisoned by mantra and dogma. Pass the $$$ basket now please

  • 2Smart2bGOP

    Bumper sticker: My God is too big to fit into one religion.

    • moe/larry & curly keys


    • arizona jack

      This what I think. First,God is not religious. If He was,only HIS religion would be permitted. I object to the way the definition of the word Christian has become so narrow.Finally,most fundamentalists I know,are narrow minded,believe that God hates,plays favorites among His children,and use only those teachings of the Man from Nazareth,that fit their socio political agenda,and then they have to distort those! Look at who Jesus preached to. Look who he advocated for. Look at who he associated with. Do that with an unbiased mind,and you will know that Jesus was a reformer,a liberal,and therefore Conservative and Christian is an oxymoron

      • 2Smart2bGOP

        God may have created the divine spark that is Man, but Man created God in Man’s own image, and then Man created religion. I think your post is well considered.

      • Dusty2

        This is so painfully true. When a religion is established is is done by an individual or group that does so to enforce there own beliefs. There sole purpose is to propagate their own beliefs and try to get others to conform to those beliefs. They are by nature a commercial enterprise because in order to survive they must produce enough money to pay for their preachers and properties. These pastors preach their version of the word which regardless of intent is shaped to generate money for the church. There are many different versions of gods truth but I have never seen one that truly follows the footsteps of Jesus. There is no religion that teaches from the street, That walks among the poor, the homeless and the sick and is willing to live without the comforts of home to combat the rich and merciless money changers.

    • John Masters

      Another bumper sticker I saw recently: “Jesus love you, but I’m his favorite.”

      • noah vail

        my favorite is… “dear jesus, please protect me from your followers”

  • Guillermo Maldonado

    You are criticizing organized religion but at the same time are doing the same as them: saying that to be a good person you have to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ… and also, would you follow JC if you weren’t raised in that belief? why not believe in Buda and follow the Dalai Lama and his message of compassion over everything? which at the end leads to be a good person? why not Hinduism for that matter? (notice I mentioned pre-Christian beliefs).. and why not any other pre-Christian belief which many of the JC teaching come from?

    • John Masters

      There are many paths to God, and this author, and myself have chosen the Christian, likely having a lot to do with having been raised that way. I’d say my beliefs are very close to the author’s, and I’m comfortable in finding a path a God through some Christian teachings. I’ve studied most of the other religions of the World, and having spent quite a few years as Funeral Director, been exposed to many of them. They each have beautiful lessons from which we can learn.

      Why not view Christianity as a “pre-Christian” religion illuminated and expanded by the New Testament teachings of Jesus? That’s what it really should be, as Jesus never set out to create a new religion, nor did he ever stop being a Jew. He also never proclaimed himself to be God or a god, nor did he ever think of himself as even divine. Those are all attributes added to Jesus my man later on…usually as part of a committee meeting.

      • Guillermo Maldonado

        Totally agree with the add-ons to Jesus later on, and I hear your statement of the illuminated expanded version, and this is what Muslims say about Islam… but the problem with that is that all these “expanded versions” at the end are full of manipulation and arrangements to make it fit to the interests of those whom are in charge of these versions, and in many cases have nothing to do with searching the truth or the paths to God. I choose to believe in the teachings of Jesus, and Buddha, and many others without classifying myself as Christian or Buddhist, because these classifications engrave you into a well defined group which I don’t want to belong. I believe all religions since religion was invented, are ways to explain nature and then ways to explain God itself, and since they are all corruptible, (because are human being creations) are not to be trusted without using reasoning.

  • Mark Strange

    Only in religion can Freedom be Salvery.

  • Edward Krebbs

    On your question of “If you weren’t raised Baptist, would you be one ?” Wouldn’t answering “yes” be hardcore predestination – which is decidedly not Baptist ?

    • buricco

      Calvinist Baptists do exist.

  • Jennifer Read

    You make no sense to me. You can be a good person without being religious, but being a Christian means doing Christian things, like holding worship services. Different denominations worship differently. Another important aspect is living as a community. Denominational identity involves identifying oneself as a member of a group, a community. Interpreting the Bible as an individual too often has led to delusions.

    • Shane Patrick

      …and interpreting it as a group has led to delusions: have you heard of the people’s temple or the fundamentalist lds church or the Branch Davidians?

    • John Masters

      “Denominational identity” – See, right there, wrapped up in that one phrase is the entirety of Allen’s point. I have a great program here on this computer that allows me to search about a dozen translations at once…and for the life of me, I can’t find a thing in any of them that talks about “denominations” or which one is the right one. Can you point me to the verse.

      Being Christian is not about being part of denomination, wearing certain color stoles at certain times of the year, or even holding worship services as we know them. I don’t remember Jesus ever holding anything close to a “worship” service as we know it today. What he did say was that you should know him by his works, and that we should go on to do even greater things.

      And what were his works? He never organized a church, nor even a religion. What he did do was travel throughout Galilee and show the people how to organize themselves and their villages to take care of one another. Micah speaks for God in the Old Testament saying clearly, “He has told you, O man, what is good, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Jesus said something similar in the New Testament…that great commandment thing about loving no other God, but equal to it was loving your neighbor. Nothing…NOTHING…in there about what color robe to wear, what songs to sing, what the order of worship should be. Just a few simple words.

      Honestly Jennifer, spend your time trying to truly and honestly live out those words in the world, and stop trying to live a cloistered live amongst like thinking people who spend Wednesday nights in Bible study. In those verses, you have God’s plan for your life. Spend the next four Wednesday nights doing something from those commandments, and see if your life doesn’t change for the better.

    • noah vail

      i’ve got at least 5 different interpretations of the bible on my bookshelf …i can’t argue that they are all delusional if one thinks them to be written by god talking to man…oh thats right god decided to stop talking to man when the book was done…LMFAO

  • Jack Miller

    Doing good is an outward and visible sign of true Christians; but, no matter how much good you do, you are not a Christian unless you believe in Christ.

  • Grazel

    Actually organized religions are BIG cults, not little ones. The difference between a religion and a cult is whether it’s accepted by the culture in which it’s in. Religions are sanctioned cults. It’s one of the forms of power in sociology.

  • Phyllis Warren

    Good article. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person. I believe you have to choose to be a Christian. My feelings are to be a Christian you have to love and follow the teachings of JESUS CHRIST as best as you can; this means to accept JESUS CHRIST as LORD and SAVIOR. All denominations are man made however; numerous say their roots come from the last supper. I would love to ask just who was there at this time and can prove this beyond a shadow of doubt. I also find it difficult to establish myself with any denomination. I have tried numerous and each tends to have their clicks and seem to have a cult like following insisting their way is the only way. I will not sit and pass judgment on any denomination or person that feels differently from me. I also feel it is my responsibility to help others as best as I can and not humiliate them by discussing their needs with a committee before lending a hand. I proudly say “I am a Christian” and try to live by the teachings of JESUS CHRIST. I do my best to help others and for those I can help I will but, for those I can not help, I will not intentionally hurt or judge them.

  • Lyola M Roeske Shafer

    I got really lucky. I was excommunicated from a severely “conservative RELIGION in 1941 when I was 16. I failed to agree with them on a non-theological issue and took the option of being sent to Hell.

  • Kevin Nivek Murphy

    You sound more “Christian” than the millions who fill churches on Sundays. I agree that organized religion has stained Christianity with too much blood and tears, unfortunatly when most people are confronted with facts, even recent ones, they turn the cheek (and ear) from the conversation.

  • 20pizzapies

    That’s all very nice and accurate , and I’m sure the author is a “good person ” . However being a Christian , is a bit more , if the words of Jesus are to be believed , then believing that he was crucified , died , buried and resurrected to take on the penalty everyman faces , ONLY THEN are you a Christian . I totally agree with the notion and TRUTH that Christianity is non-denominational . And all those good things the author mentions comes with adhering to The Two Great Commandments -Love God with all your mind heart soul and body / Love you neighbor as you love yourself .
    Follow those and you’ll observe all the others . BUT , no matter how much good you may have done , you have and will at some times in your life violate them . And that by omission or commission .
    So Jesus says no man comes to the Father except through me .

    Take it or leave it , that’s the core belief of Christianity , and if you don’t believe that , you can not call yourself “Christian ” – PERIOD . Of course you can be a good person , you can be an atheist , and fill your life with good works , but you have not lived perfectly , and that is the standard , that all men have fell short of . Now Jesus left no instruction for any institution , or cult , or denomination , in fact no mention at all . No RULES ! The author is correct in pointing out that , TRUE Christianity has no denomination or institution . Building Churches was NEVER a requirement . But belief and faith in Jesus is .

    • Dot

      Yet, this worshipping of Jesus’ death is all some Christians believe in. Jesus’ teachings are ignored.

      • 20pizzapies

        Christians don’t worship Jesus’ death , they celebrate His Resurrection . As far as not following his teachings , that’s rather common in all religions , is it not ? The world is the way it is because of that . So it is more than just Christians ignoring the teaching of Jesus . Those teachings are ignored by the many , of this world ,religious or non-religious . Evil does not discriminate . and no group is immune .

      • John Masters

        But that doesn’t excuse those actions…”well everyone else does it too.” When Christians start standing up to hate, demanding inclusion in their denominations, and treating the poor and needy the way Jesus did, without judgement, then you’ll be about the business of the Kingdom.

      • 20pizzapies

        Didn’t say they did .The two great commandments , follow them and you’ll need no denomination to instruct or include or exclude .

      • noah vail

        but not everyone is trying to shove their religious and political bullshit down my throat and claiming tax exemptions while doing so like the “christians”

      • 20pizzapies

        There are 2000 sects of so called Christians That’s a lot of differing dogma , and no doubt ,behavior . I’m sure there are charlatans and the like in that lot . So where should one put their faith ? In Jesus , or the people who say they are his followers ?

  • Dot

    Great article. You have put into words exactly how I feel about this subject.

  • Dot

    Jesus also went up against an established church. The Jewish hierarchy went along with the Roman Empire to control the people and tell them how to live and what to think. Jesus came along and said that it was wrong. So organized churches who become almost dictatorial are going against Jesus.

  • Greg

    “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ~ Anne Lamott

  • Roy Glover

    Christ himself made it clear your body was the temple and he is the religion. He made it clear that all you had to do to enter the kingdom of heave was to believe in him and that he died for your salvation. He didn’t say you had to go to church. In fact one of the few times he got mad was to cast the corrupt out of the temple.

  • elaygee

    Religion isn’t about god or goodness, its about money and control. Why government gets involved by giving them tax exempt status for pushing stone age belief systems and hateful rules is beyond me.

    • noah vail

      tax exempt status should be removed from ALL churches…didn’t jesus himself say to render unto caesar that which is his?…when churches become an arm of a political party they should have to pay taxes or register as a political action committee