Religion is any human-centric or man-powered attempt to reconcile ourselves with God. Religion has produced many beautiful buildings and is the source of some interesting cultural pageantry. But religion (yes, even the Christian religion) is functionally useless, for it does not achieve the reconciliation or healing that mankind desires. In fact, it proves to be detrimental to people.
The more we cling to religion as a solution to personal guilt and societal problems, the more we bind ourselves and others to a system that enslaves people in an endless loop of futile rituals. In the process, wisdom, judgment, and virtue are stifled. Religion coalesces people into cliques and divides rather than unites. It consumes resources on institutions rather freeing them up to help people in need. It hides the beautiful truth about God behind layers of tradition, ritual, and human effort.
People frequently point out that religion promotes moral behavior. And how could that possibly be a bad thing? It’s true, religion is frequently used to govern the behavior of the masses through guilt, fear, and peer pressure. The problem is that external controls on behavior prevent the internal development of virtue. In other words, the moral behavior is a product of coercion rather than personal intent. Any moral effect that is produced by coercion will be temporary. In the process of coercing morality, religion reinforces the view of God as a punisher whose anger will only be assuaged by grovelling and chasing self discipline.
Because religion is a purely human-driven endeavor, it cannot produce a heart change. It will actually cause damage in the long run as it erects barriers between people and God and between groups of people. God’s relationship with humans has always been based on freedom. Stifling this freedom in hopes that the masses will behave morally actually prevents them from growing in their relationship with God.
God’s desire has always been to have a relationship with mankind. Our sins did not diminish this desire. God never wanted us to follow rituals in order to obtain His favor. In fact, He offers this relationship freely and places no demands on us as criteria. All we have to do is want to reciprocate His love. But we’ll never experience the depths of this relationship if we interact with God through the bars of a religious prison.
Statistically, most people in this world place their hope for the future in religion. Christians are no exception. Yet Jesus has called us to leave the world’s systems, be they religious or political, and enter into a personal relationship with the Creator. We will never achieve this relationship, nor will we succeed in making the world a better place if religion is the driving factor.