Religion Is Not Dying Because Faith Is
Religion is not dying because faith is. Religion, or the practice of spirituality, has little to do with real faith.
I. When Faith Withers Religion Spreads
II. Religious Forces Conversion While Faith Allows Choice
III. Walking Away From Faith to Experience Religion
IV. Mysticism is Religion by Another Name
V. Human Reasoning is Faulty So are Its Conclusions
VI. Fanatical Religious People Don’t Admit Error
VII. Seek Faith and Avoid Religious Experiences
When Faith Withers Religion Spreads
What is the difference between religion and faith? Religion is what human beings believe about a Divine Being. Faith, on the other hand, is predicated on who that Divine Being truly is.
Faith, according to the Bible:
Billions, around the world, struggle through their lives searching. The issue is most of us can’t define that for which we are searching. Since the journey’s destination isn’t defined, we stop off in various places.
While there, we find everything we don’t need, and those things harms us.
Before proceeding, I will not make assumptions about who you are. Assumptions, like an undefined destination, always leads to getting lost. I will skip the cliches about assumptions as well.
It may seem that religion is growing around the world. However, it is not for one reason: religion, at least in part, suggests a divine source. If that divine source is ill-defined, it does not exist.
By virtue of being divine means “sovereign.” Sovereign is predicated on absolute control. This control allows the sovereign to define who they are universally and therefore, defines “itself.”
In the early days of the Internet, search engines didn’t compensate for “misspells.” If you spelled something wrong, you would receive a “no results” error message. If there are no results, technically, the information doesn’t exist.
Religion is exactly like this. Ill-defined terms, words, and beliefs, return “no results.” One can’t head down the wrong road and end up at the right destination.
Religions, then, having a source of truth, must be exactly defined.
When that thought is developed further, those who don’t know WHO, or where to search, will never find what they are searching for.
Religion is, therefore, a vicious, ill-defined existence which traps otherwise well-meaning people. While many are choosing no religion at all (hooray!), others are following something they do not understand.
Further, they become disillusioned having discovered it unsatisfying.
Check out these stats:
How is it possible to not what one is searching for, then never finding it, and finally becoming more confused having done so? Religion is a "black hole" which few escape.
As a ‘Christian Pastor,’ I've observed many seek knowledge at the cost of faith.
Remembering that faith is different from religion, how can this be? Knowledge, itself, is unsatisfying if not understood in proper context. Being thus unfulfilled, discouragement sets in. The greatest enemy of faith is discouragement.
If faith is a 2x4 piece of wood, discouragement would be the 'sandpaper.'
Religious Forces Conversion While Faith Allows Choice
Let's further explore the word "Christian." I avoid “Christian” as much as possible and use it sparingly. I define myself as a “Believer” and follower of “The Way.”
This was the moniker used for early followers of Jesus Christ.
“Christian” has been used by evil people, to do wicked things, which Jesus Christ never condoned. I mean, really, did Jesus Christ command Catholics to murder tens of millions who refused to covert to their religion?
Nevertheless, I often interact with seekers of biblical (Holy Bible) knowledge. They, and I, often go back and forth attempting to sharpen one another’s biblical knowledge.
Where I have learned to back off is when the discussion veers into the: “I am right, and you are wrong” paradigm.
A Christian always believes they are "right", while a "Believer" understands we are most often wrong. Christian(s) are people who can be described as religious. You have seen these people before.
They claim Jesus as Lord, but act NOTHING like Him!
To fellow Believers: on one matter or another, we all have something wrong. To act as if a single church, or denomination, has all answers is the height of “pride.”
Remember what the Bible the Bible said: “God resists the PROUD but gives grace to the humble.”
In professing to be “more right” than others, this is the beginning of being a part of a religious cult! Religion is dependent on “routine.” Routine, itself, is not wrong. It becomes wrong, and thus insincere, when it replaces faith.
There are sincerely religious people who have never had a faith-based experience.
Let me explain.
A faith-based experience can loosely be defined as an unexplainable, personal, and powerful interaction between oneself and an 'unseen' power. On the other side, religious people always have religious experiences.
Religious, being about routine, can make one feel “good,” but is unsatisfying. Billions, the world over, practice their religious routine and never have a faith experience.
They perform religious ceremonies, while never connecting spiritually with a higher power.
Walking Away From Faith to Experience Religion
Each Sunday, as a child/teen, I attended a religious service. It was a Christian based, African American style worship. While there were times I thought I believed in a higher power, at others I didn’t.
The true test of religion or faith is its staying power when freedom to refuse becomes an option.
As soon as sixteen (16) years of age, when I was no longer forced to attend, I stopped. I was away from the church for many years and experimented with other religious experiences.
First, was a Catholic service while an 18-year-old in Marine Corps boot camp.
Very few religions so embody ‘routine’ as Catholicism. It is religion without power, routine without transformative insight.
I will stay away from its flawed theology for now, however, their church is built on the practice of religious ceremony.
Millions attend service because they are afraid of being damned to hell for not doing so. This is just another form of “forced conversion” which defines dead religion.
I would submit without the ‘threat’ of eternal punishment, Catholicism would be finished!
Those who attend for fear of punishment aren’t the “faithful”, they are hostages. God doesn’t want hostages rather, willing servants.
The Bible says this (2nd Corinthians 2:6-7):
This text is specifically speaking about “money”, but the application goes far beyond to our “service” as well.
Religious leaders build their power base, and wealth, on spiritual hostages.
Of course, as a ‘Christian’ Preacher, I understand there are consequences for us as well. However, there is a difference in attending only out of fear, and voluntarily surrender.
Mysticism is Religion by Another Name
Another reason religion is prospering, while true faith waning, is the lure of mysticism. I use mysticism in the sense of deception masquerading as the miraculous.
In the Holy Bible’s Book of Exodus, there was a ruler named Pharaoh. He ruled over the land of Egypt during the life of Moses.
Moses is remembered as the giver of the ten (10) commandments which is the basis of the Jewish Law.
Christians define Egyptian mysticism as occult. This mystical darkness defined their entire culture. In the time of Moses, an ethnic group known as the Children of Israel were captives in Egypt.
They arrived some 400 years before, under their patriarch Jacob. Jacob’s son, Joseph, was a ruler in Egypt, having been sold there by his brothers as a slave.
God wanted the children of Israel to be free of Pharaoh and slavery. He sent Moses, to Pharaoh, demanding the release the Children of Israel. Pharaoh refused and God sent 10 plagues on Egypt to hasten freedom.
Pharaoh's will was eventually broken, and he freed the slaves. What is relative to this discussion is the first miracle.
Moses turned the Nile River into blood through the power of God. This miracle is the opposite of occult mysticism. It was performed by a Holy God, who has no darkness in Him.
If any super-natural event isn't from God, it is, by definition, from a place of darkness.
Pharaoh also had two ministers named Jannes and Jambres.
They were able to closely mirror the blood river miracle through occult mysticism. Since a Holy God did not perform this, it wasn’t a miracle, it was a magic trick.
What is the difference?
Religion, like that of Pharaoh, does things for selfish purposes. Faith does things for the greater good. Put more simply: religion imprisons, and faith frees. Religion, through its occult practices, and meaningless routine, provides people a task, but never gives purpose.
It does have value, however. It is through one religion or another, that many find the true and living God, whose name is Yahweh.
As a young man in the United States Marine Corps, I sought out a religious experience in the Nation of Islam. No, I never converted into a Black Muslim! However, it’s militancy, pro Blackness, and focus on knowledge of self was attractive.
Eventually, I backed away after discovering what they had done to their greatest champion, Malcolm X. While I did not believe then, nor now, the Nation was totally to blame for Malcolm’s murder, they were involved.
Although I didn’t buy into their religious experience, I learned lessons which would lead me to faith. I couldn’t have known then, but I was destined to preach of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is another point: people choose religion, faith chooses people.
I chose to 'dip my toes in the water' of the Nation of Islam. Its religious dogma appealed to my anger and personal desires. However, some years later, having sworn off religion, God showed up and CHOSE ME to preach faith!
We confuse what is real through faulty reasoning. The same faulty reasoning almost kept me FROM PREACHING FAITH, believing I was having nothing more than a religious experience.
The human condition could be described as founded on faulty reasoning. Anyone with eyes can conclude this. Religion is growing rapidly because of human inability to adequately reason.
Flawless reasoning would conclude religion imprisons those it claims to free.
Human Reasoning is Faulty so is its Conclusions
Human reasoning is the ultimate two-edged sword. It is our greatest strength, and our greatest weakness.
Unfocused reasoning can have two people, look at the same set of facts, yet come to different conclusions.
We see this often in courts of law.
A prosecutor looks at facts and draws certain conclusions. Defense attorneys, conversely, examine the same facts but arrive at different conclusions. Another example is the Supreme Court of the United States.
With six (6) Republican justices and three (3) Democrats, their reasoning is according to politics and not law.
Faulty reasoning also revolves around bias, irrespective of truth.
For example, there are few grandparents who don’t believe their grandkids are the greatest ever. I am subject to that bias as well. My seven-year-old granddaughter is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
However, other grandparents might think she looks like a troll!
A further example of inherent bias is my difficulty listening to non-African American preachers. In my mind, they are much less compelling. Is this true, or engrained bias?
My vote is for the latter, not the former.
Does this mean Black preachers are superior? God forbid! The originators of the biblical narrative were Jewish, and not African American. For me to believe that African American preachers are superior, would question the very source of our belief system.
The faith we Preach was launched by a Jew named Jesus Christ and spread by His Jewish Apostles.
Without them, there would be no preachers!
To argue a “copy” is better than the “original” is a losing posit. Worse, who could make the case the foundation is LESS important than what is built on top of it?
Yet, I wake up every day understanding I don’t know everything. I further accept my biases keep me from experiencing “faith” in the way God intended.
Fanatical Religious People Don’t Admit Error
A religious person is rarely open to the possibility that they are wrong.
Ten (10) years ago, I was just such a person. I believed something, and everyone else was wrong except me. Today, things are different. I was speaking to the wife of a Marine I served with recently.
She challenged the authenticity of the biblical narrative because there are books missing from the canon. Her facts, research, and presentation was flawless.
Although I do not agree with her conclusions on faith, I understand how she arrived at them.
Many Christians claim they know the whole truth as presented by God. How can that be when there are several books missing from the original narrative? They are missing because those who put the book together, were subject to biases as well.
It should be evident to anyone that these men were much more discriminatory against women than Jesus Christ was! This does not mean their error can’t communicate God’s truth.
It is my faith, as well as limited reason, which opens me to the possibility of personal error. A person clinging to religion excludes the possibility of error.
If you find this hard to believe, try telling a Muslim that Muhammad was not the only religious prophet. Further, follow that with saying their version of religious text is false because Jesus said so.
On a serious note, be careful challenging a Muslim. It could be extremely dangerous.
They depend on religious routine, such as praying five times a day. They associate routine with faith.
If a Jewish person questioned the authority of prophet Mohammed, they would be killed. What you may found interesting, is their holy book, the Quran, is based on the Jewish/Hebrew scripture!
To better clarify, a house must be built on a solid foundation. If no foundation exists, the house cannot be properly built nor stabilized. Islam wants you to believe their house is solid, while standing on a shaky foundation (Jewish scripture).
This demonstrates another reason religion is in no danger of dying. It provides untrue, and confusing narratives people want to believe.
Someone said: "the truth can't even put it pants on before a lie circles the Earth twice."
Seek Faith and Avoid Religious Experiences
Overall, I suggest avoiding any religious experience. I encourage faith in the creator of the universe, whose name is Yahweh.
This does not come through repetitive, ceremonial actions. There are people who sat in Christian churches for multiple decades, died, and went to hell.
Further, Catholics perform more religious ceremony than most other faiths. However, they are among the most corrupt organizations on the planet. Not only for what they do today, research the Middle ages.
They are religious yet never faithful. The Holy Bible defines faith as: “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Further, there is a perfect example of religion versus faithfulness in the Holy Bible.
Jesus Christ, being faithful to His mission, confronted Jewish religious leaders. They valued ceremony over faith, personal interpretation over truth, and prestige over the Power of God.
Their misguided value system led to them dying in spiritual opposition to God.
It is no coincidence you arrived here. This is what we Christians call a divine appointment.
In the natural world, we set appointments to resolve need(s). In the spirit realm, God sets appointments for people based on His desire for closeness with YOU.
I am not a religious person, nor would I encourage you to be. What I am, however, is a man of faith who God has put in front of you. Religion is prospering, while faith in the true and living God is on the wane.
The Bible, written thousands of years ago, forecasted this very time.
I close with this (John 3:15-17):
These words were spoken by Jesus Christ who came to earth 2000 years ago. Jesus was crucified for sacrificial purposes. God loves you so much, that He refused to destroy you for your opposition against Him.
However, and because He is Holy and Righteous, a price must be paid for all the evil we have done.
When I was a child, and mother left home, she expected no issues when she returned. However, sometimes we did evil things. When this happened, she demanded answers. No answer was ever good enough to make her less angry.
Someone had to be punished for what happened. The same is true in the kingdom of God.
Jesus was punished so that things between humankind and Yahweh (God) could be set right again. Jesus was murdered, but He was resurrected three days after His execution.
This was the greatest miracle in the last 1900+ years.
The reason Jesus was able to come back to life, is God raised Him up. Jesus paid the price with His horrible death. God is no longer angry and wants you to come back to Him.
Jesus’ resurrection means if you believe in Him, you will get up from the grave as well.
That is the simple message that religious institutions have failed to communicate.
Religion makes things too hard, while simple faith makes them easy. They want you to perform religious tasks which mean NOTHING to God.
God, the Father of Jesus Christ, only asks that you BELIEVE in His Son for eternal life.
Although faith in Jesus Christ is on the downslope, that does not mean He has lost!
If you believe in Him today, you will be one of the very few to live in Heaven, forever.
Will you believe Him today?
Header Image Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz @Unsplash
Moses & Pharoah Image Courtesy of WikiCommons