Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Hate Religion!

I really do! Now, before you punch a hole through your computer screen, cursing me and condemning me straight to the pits of hell, at least hear me out. Then, if you still feel like doing that, you can tell me to “go to hell” and I will take it like a man.

When I was in Germany many people asked me if I am a “religious person”. I would shudder at the thought and answer that I am not, or at least I try not to be, religious, but follow that by saying I am deeply spiritual and believe in Jesus, and much of what I do is rooted in that belief. But I also feel that many people who call themselves followers of Christ are not as much following Him, as they are following a system which was created to follow Him; a system that gives size, shape and color to a seeming invisible God. Much like Bill Maher, and his anti-religion documentary Religulous, I hate religion for the division it brings to the world. The difference between me and Bill however is he does not believe there is a God and so he finds religion absolutely ridiculous and absurd, but I believe there is a God and believe that religion (and much of the harm done in its name) is man’s feeble, flawed attempt at following God. But I hate religion.

I do not hate God. I actually love Him a lot. I just hate religion. By religion I mean the practices, traditions, buildings, rules, regulations, legalism, sects, denominations, and so on we create to try and follow God. The man-made stuff. Our means to the end, the end being God. I guess as humans we need a certain degree of it, because we are simple creatures really. Like the Israelites who created a golden cow while Moses was gone for a few days, or Thomas who checked the resurrected Jesus’ scars for proof, we like to see things. We want the tangible, not the mysterious. We want an instruction booklet and a warranty, not a choose your own adventure book.

We like to build safe boxes, with as few questions as possible, to make our experience of following God easy, human-friendly and safe. In the process, we often leave God behind and passionately follow religion; because religion is easier to see (for those who do not have time to look deeper) and much easier to follow (for those who want more answers than questions). Unfortunately, in our quest to follow God, we make a lot of user-friendly practices, regulations and steps in order to help us better follow God, and those very religious things are what end up causing much harm and discord in the world. We hurt people, push them away and the “religious” fight amongst themselves, battling to prove who is more “right” and superior, often forgetting that God is the only right and superior one.

People who speak hollow religious words with actions that do not match are following religion, not God.

Denominations and church splits are of religion, and not of God.

Radical extremists bombing abortion clinics or flying planes into buildings are radically following religion, and not God.

The Crusades were led by religion, not God.

Slavery and oppression throughout the world was justified by religion, not God.

When I look at Jesus’ life of activism, I see that much of what he did in His walk on earth was break down religion, because it was being used to oppress people and hurt them. He came to uncomplicate things. When asked what the most important commandment is, He said “love God and love people”. Anything else is complicating the situation. If we love God and love people, other important stuff will follow, and the negative behaviour (through judgments, condemnation, practices of exclusivity, aggression, etc.) will fall away. Let’s face it, we often treat people really bad in the name of religion posing as the “name of God”! I do not think He likes that very much. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was on earth, the only people He spoke harshly to were the religious leaders of the time, and people bringing violence and greed into the place of worship. Jesus hated religion, but He wanted people to meet God, feel His love, and love each other. Because religion of the time was causing harm to people. Jesus wanted people to be free, not live in bondage. Today we see the same things happening in the name of religion. And people are so busy spreading ”religion” many have left God behind, and those recipients of the dished out religion, and the Kingdom of God itself is suffering because of this. That’s why I hate religion.

Feel free to swear and throw your computer at me now!


  1. Hello Ryan!

    I just read your post sent to me by a student on Semester at Sea. Funny, I just wrote about Jesus and am in Cape Town and it's Easter!!! I would love to meet you- I work on the ship and teach on it. The students call it "spiritual dance"! We connect with our bodies to connect with God, creativity alive and within us! Please check out my blog-, if you have time and please email me if you want to meet up while I am here- we leave Sunday!
    Thank you for your work and writing!!!

  2. Ah Ryan, I couldn't agree with you more! I echo every one of your sentiments. For me, religion gives me the impression of having to "earn your way" to heaven. John 3 vs 16-19 says that God loved the WORLD and gave His son so that EVERYONE who believes in him shall have everlasting life - that's in - simple - in a nutshell. Nothing else needed.

    Also, Romans 7 vs 4 to 6 says that we have died to the law through the body of Christ so that we might bear fruit to God. It is hard to bear fruit for God when my time is consumed with "jumping through hoops" (trying to obey all the man-made rules of religion).

    If we are renewed by God's love and spirit then we will automatically want to obey God's law. We will strive out of a deep sense of gratitude at having being called by name and chosen by a Father who loves us unconditionally. Knowing this causes me to have a deep yearning to please Him through my actions, as well as spread this amazing love to all those whom I come in contact with - so that they too may share in it.

    And that is all there is to it! ;)