The Difference Between Religion and God
The title of this section of our local paper can affect practically everyone differently. To some it is a bane. This one word means control, restriction, boredom, or any other negative adjective that describes a way to make life less enjoyable. To others it is a description of everything going wrong in the world (i.e., Islamic fundamentalists are destroying the true Islamic religion). Other groups simply enjoy acidic, asinine rhetoric. They say things such as, “fundamentalists of the Christian religion are just as dangerous as the Islamic religious zealots.”
To another group, religion is a description of a following that guides a life one should have. The Shinto religion has at its root honor, justice and courage, which are the makings of true character in anyone’s book. To some it is a code of conduct based in philosophical logic such as Confucius’ proverbial sayings or Buddha’s life lessons. To another group their religion is a way to achieve eternal residence in Heaven. Their set of beliefs and their assessment of righteousness are based in what they do to earn or merit approval with their chosen deity. The key to, “the pearly gates,” so to speak. To others their belief in a system or religion defines what they are and what they will be. They may be a nice human today and a pretty bird tomorrow. They could be a mean person today and a cockroach tomorrow.
When one mentions “religion,” it conjures up different images for different people as well. Some might picture religion as a mass of individuals kneeling, forehead on the ground chanting a prepared prayer four times a day. Other people see huge statues, iconography, while others see religion as a monastery, isolated and silent. Some picture a Tibetan temple, high in the snow capped mountains. Others picture the crusades where Anglican and Catholic leadership led millions to their deaths. Yet, others see witch trials that murdered 19 and imprisoned about 150 in the Colonies but saw 30,000 killed in Europe. And there are some who picture an angelic looking Jesus, hands slightly parted, pointing toward Heaven as He gazes there toward His Father.
Webster’s Merriam dictionary defines religion thus:
1. a : the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3. archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
This secular definition is certainly a sanitary way to consider religion. Seldom is secularism or humanism considered a religion, but they are. Both require the base elements of religion – proselytism, indoctrination, institutionalization, and fiduciary support.
Regardless, the truth is that religion is all of these things. “Religion” is the esoteric description of a spiritual experience and existence, or an organizational structure to guide life, or both. The bottom line is that “religion” is worthless in the eternal scheme of things. Religion is not now, nor has it ever been the answer. Religion is man made, organized, orchestrated, and managed. Because of the involvement of man, religion changes and shifts as man “progresses.” Because religion is man made, organized and controlled, it is the cause of many problems in the world. Whether Islamic religion, Secular Humanist religion, or Roman Catholic religion all are guilty of distorting truth to make a religion. Some religions say the Bible is just a collection of stories. Other religions say the Holy Bible was distorted and a new one needed to be written. Still others wrote their own to suit their purposes, standards, and beliefs. Religion regularly changes things to fit itself doctrinally, spiritually, socially, economically, and empirically.
The difference between religion and an immutable God is – everything. God’s immutability means He brings people into His heaven the same yesterday as He does today. God said that Abraham’s faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6). The same applies today. Our faith in the Son of God sets us free from religion, free from man’s spiritual control, free from fluctuating doctrine and dictatorial autocrats praying on our need for salvation (John 8:32). Faith in a living person who knows how to get to Heaven (came from there and went back), and your faith in Him gets you there too. It is not religion that provides eternal life; eternal life resides in a person. That person is the Son of God Himself, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (John 1:4; 14:6).