“It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
This is what I would often be found touting, back when I was a Christian, hoping that somehow I could separate my beliefs from the term “religion,” and the putrid stench that seemed to be its ever-present companion. I wanted it to be clear that being a follower of Christ didn’t just mean following a bunch of laws or rules. It was not a “works-based” system, like all those “other” religions. Christianity was an active relationship with Jesus. It was to have the characteristics of a relationship in which there is trust and a desire for the other’s well-being. The apparent “rules” in Christianity weren’t “rules.” God was just explaining what was best for humans, because he loves them. The consequences that follow from not following these “rules” aren’t so much punishment as they are the natural consequences of not doing what’s best for yourself. So, as a Christian, you can do what you want. It’s just that what you want will coincidentally be precisely what God wants too, because you love and trust him and what he thinks is best for you is best for you because he made you.
Excellent. Now you’ve detached yourself from the disgusting term “religion,” by convincing yourself that you’re not just following a “bunch of rules” (like in all those “other” religions). A masterful psychological trick. If you make yourself believe that the guidelines set out by Jesus (I won’t refer to any of the laws in the Old Testament because that was the “old covenant” and, according to Christianity, has been fulfilled by Jesus and no longer apply) are guidelines portraying what is “right” for humanity as a whole and that they are there to make things better for you rather than to keep you from things you might like to do, then that’s what they will be for you.
“Religion” also serves quite well as a place to put the blame for all the bad things that have been done in the name of Christianity. “Oh, those ‘Christians’ were all mixed up. They only saw the religion, not the relationship. They were just rigidly trying to follow the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law.” I was quite fond of this explanation myself (while I was a Christian). This was extremely thematic in the church I used to attend. The entire church was pretty much founded on “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” and nearly every sermon found a way to squeeze that in. Religion is a TERRIBLE, ATROCIOUS thing, but Christianity, oh, now Christianity is swell. You should check it out.
To me, it’s just a matter of needing a scapegoat to push off everything that goes wrong onto. Later, we can release the poor goat into the desert to die. But our Christian belief is pure, because all those “bad” things, those are the fault of “religion,” oh, and people. People are TERRIBLE, ATROCIOUS beings, always making God look bad with their measly efforts at everything. They sure need forgiveness. Now I’m getting carried away.
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