religion vs. faith

Whenever I talk about my belief questions with a select few people, I am reminded to separate those two things: religion and faith. Faith is personal, it is the quiet interior of your belief practice. While religion is the man-made structure or organization that creates the rules, gathers the money, and declares the wars. I get the difference. I understand why people want to separate the two. As a believer I was very outspoken about how religion was not my cup of tea. I preferred faith and the personal, self-defined system of beliefs that I had decided on. Ah but there’s the rub.

I may have had my own faith, my own system, and my own personalized structure of beliefs while I was attending church. But I was still in the church. I worked for the church! I was a part of the organization. I was clearly in the religion. As much as I did not want to call myself a Christian, (because of the way people would perceive me) I was still a Christian! What about people who believe but don’t go to church? Well, do they believe in God, the God of Abraham? Do they identify as Christians? Even a weird, vague, watered-down version? Then they are in the religion.

I think aversion to being part of the system is partly due to our American individuality coming out. We all want to be individuals, originals, unlike anything else, special. And we are in many ways. And in many ways we aren’t. And when someone decides that they believe even part of a system of beliefs, that has been decided on by a group, and called Christianity, then they are part of the religion.

Some Christians seem to think that if they are odd or different or outcast enough, then they are no longer part of the system. They have the impression that by not “being religious” they are not participating in the system. I thought the same thing. And I was wrong. Being a believer, even if you are a different kind of believer, automatically puts you into that club. Whether you like it or not. People might chafe at being in the “in crowd”, but that doesn’t make it less true. And rest assured, if you are in, someone else is out.

I am not sure why this bothered my suddenly. Maybe the fact that I saw myself buying into this disordered thought process. Maybe it’s the prevalence of it. But when I am trying to be bluntly honest with myself, learn more about the world and how it works, and put names to things that I have never bothered with before- I really want to see other people taking a more rigorous look at what they are saying. I don’t want others to buy into comforting half-truths, or self-delusion- I want them to be thinking critically about who they are and what they believe. And if it is still Christianity- okay. But just be honest about it. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you are a rebel when you are part of a hugely powerful organization.

12 thoughts on “religion vs. faith

  1. I. Love. This!

    You’re probably the first person I’ve seen write about this from a former Christian, now non believer, aspect.

    You’re right, I’ve been there, priding myself in spirituality or relationship with Jesus. Thinking that I was above the trappings of religion and you know what? At 39 years old I finally came to the conclusion that it’s all the same. I could not separate religion from Jesus because the Bible was the bond that held it all together. I found myself unable to continue giving myself over to a Book and everything that was based upon it.

    Great post!

    • Dear CHope, how much did you read the Bible and whit what sort of eye did you look at it. Did you dare to pick up and rad the words like they where written there on black on white? To me you give the impression you stayed to the teachings you had learned from your childhood and your church congregation.

      To come to the Biblical Truth, you should dare to take distance from all those doctrinal teachings and come to listen to what the Word of God, the Bible really says. You shall be surprised how much false teachings there are in Christendom, the same as you can find a lot of false teachings by so called Quoran (Koran) followers. A lot of Muslims are not following what is really written in that book of the prophet Muhammad.

      Many call themselves Christian, but forget that this would mean they should have to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene Jew from Nazareth which we consider to be the Messiah. Often when people follow more their church, having more a bond with their pastor or community, they will not feel the real bond with the Bible, because they shall have an other ‘Bible’ than the one they hold in their hands. It is like being married to an other person than the person really is. Once the chock will come.

      Than it would be wrong to give the fault by the Bible, or the Word of God. That has always stayed the same. God’s Word did not change, before or after Christ. It is our perception that has changed. We should come to see that what is really written in the Word of God, and than we shall be able to find the truth.

      I would say, try it. Try to look at the Bible and try to get the wisdom out of it, by putting away all the doctrinal teachings you have carried with you all the way. Get rid of all those church ideas and start afresh, by taking the Bible word for word like it is written down. You shall be surprised what you may find over there.

      Good luck.

      • On CHope’s behalf, I need to say that when you are urging someone to go back to the bible, remember that you do not know the whole story about why they left in the first place. Never assume. People bring all their history into discussions about faith and it’s easy to create misunderstanding and anger with your words.

        I don’t think it is harmful or bad to fault a text when the text is inaccurate. For me, my perception of the words changed because I know more about the history and the actual events leading to the formation of the book. And as you say, God gave us brains, so using them must be acceptable to him. I also don’t think that any god worth worshipping would abandon people who struggle with the idea of faith.

        I appreciate your responses to my posts. Be well and enjoy the holiday season.

      • Marcus,

        The Bible is severely flawed with a lot of hate and contradiction after contradiction. Please do not assume that I don’t have a clue about the “real” Christian God.

        I became a Christian at three years old and was baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues at eight years old. I have been Southern Baptist, Non Denominational, Inter Denominational, Hope Chapel, Full Gospel, Foursquare, Word of Faith, Assemblies of God, Methodist and Missionary Alliance. I was born to parents who were apart of the Jesus People movement while I was still a baby. I attended three different Christian schools while I was growing up, two were under A Beka and the other used LIFEPACs. I was baptized in water in my early teens and in my early 20’s. I graduated from a Bible School in Dallas in 1993. My home church from 2000 to 2003 was Brownsville Assembly of God, which was also a Church I visited out of state many times in the mid to late 90’s before I actually moved to Pensacola. I met and married my husband through Church in 2004 and we have two boys who both have strong Biblical Old Testament names for their first and middle names. Over the years I have been a camp counselor, executive director at a Christian pregnancy center, a prayer telephone counselor for CBN, a nursery worker, youth group leader, worship team member and choir singer.

        I had attempted to have times of weeks, even months, away from Church before my deconversion, I even looked into Frank Viola and others who supported more of an organic church experience. I thoroughly studied the Bible for many years. I seriously toiled with my faith from around 19 years of age, while at Bible School, until my deconversion half a year before my 40th Birthday.

        Here’s what the Bible says:

        Eve’s “sin” of eating from a tree because she wanted to know more causes her and Adam to be kicked out of Eden. It also led to EVERYONE having to pay for her sin by all mankind being “born into sin”. Even after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this still holds true to modern day Christians two thousand years later. (There goes the whole “free will” argument.)

        Abraham lied to kings (who both were punished for his lies BTW), married his half sister, raping a slave girl, abandoning his son and God still blessed him greatly. He’s even mentioned and honored again in the New Testament/Covenant/Teaching of the Book of Hebrews.

        Job became a thing to be gambled with between God and the devil. Oh and God sees Job’s children as totally replaceable.

        Esther was pressed to marry a sadistic king who got rid of his first wife because she wouldn’t dance naked in front of his party guests. Contrary to Exodus 20 and the romanticism Christians have built around virginity, Esther was more than likely “tried on for size” by this king with other queen hopefuls before she married him.

        Also contrary to the way many Christians believe, Ruth was the one who pursued Boaz and not the other way around. It is more than likely that she did a lot more than just lie at Boaz’s feet every night while she pursued him.

        Jesus yelled at his mother when she encouraged him in performing his miracle of turning water to wine. He also calls a Samaritan woman a dog. He also makes sure that people are submissive and don’t rustle feathers with his whole Beatitudes speech. He encourages the ways of his Heavenly Father, God, by telling his followers that when you see Him you see his Father in Heaven. He also says that he came to fulfill the LAW, not condemn it.

        The gospels clearly have their own agenda by their supposed authors. John makes sure that he’s the one at the cross (none of the other male disciples were there). How convenient that he calls himself “the disciple who Jesus loved” and is the author of the “Revelation”.

        The Bible has been written and re written again and again (not just merely translated). Even King James, though it’s believed that he didn’t transcribe the Bible, it was written during his reign, had heavily influenced it with his political notions, especially and obviously, slavery. It is also a book that divides, not unites, people. That is why Christians use it extensively to support their abuse, manipulation and gossip.

        Maybe you can try looking at the Bible for what it really is, a book supporting rape, child abuse and blessing the rapists and abusers. A book that keeps women and children under the thumb of an oppressive. A collection of stories that just don’t add up, but go against each other instead. A divisive tool that encourages the “us and them” concept causing justification for wars, belittling and bullying.

  2. Interesting post. I have been working on separating religion versus spirituality. My view of religion is a man made organization mainly to control other people’s lives with strict doctrines and rituals. Spirituality is the act of realizing my role in this universe and embracing life like it is.

    • Yes Noel, there is the danger of the world and the trap of which is spoken in the Bible. The Adversary (Satan) has been running around in the world for already billions of years and today we still can see that many people are taken by the words of the world and prefer to keep to traditions instead of coming to the clear Word of God.

      Spirituality is totally something different than belief and also something different than faith. We have received our brains from the creator to use them, so we should use our ‘breath of life’ = ‘spirit’ (the Ruach). We should make use of our possibility to think, be it rational or irrational, but in our minds we should go wondering and come to be living the spiritual to get to those things we can not understand with our human limited minds. That what God created is and shall always be to great to fully understand or better to know. (Remember what God said to Job about the stars and planets, being more than the grains of sand on the beach we can count.)

  3. as you already came to see, there is a big difference between religion and faith, by which an emotional point is involved in the last one. Church, faith and religion are also not equal and not necessary interconnected. Believe is also not always believing in the same thing you do or did or in a god or in the God. Even that God of gods may be different for certain believers. I do have the impression for example you believed that Jesus is God, though I as a follower of Christ (=Christian) do believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God, like his Father, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah told the world. I also believe my God, who is the God of Adam and Eve, the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of Isaiah and the God of Jesus is the same as the God or Allah of the Jews and Muslims but perhaps not of all the Christians, because those who believe in a Trinity believe in three gods who can not be in relation with the Judaic God.

    To have faith in the Divine Creator God, people do not have to be connected to a church or having to go to a specific church building; Everywhere, in your living room, in the park but even in your smallest room of the house (the loo) you may encounter God. He sees everybody everywhere and knows their heart. Nothing can be hidden for Him. He always sees the naked truth.

    “being religious” will not make a person acceptable for Jehovah God. It is a matter of change of heart, the right attitude people should to take on, “clothing themselves in the Body of Christ”, becoming like Christ Jesus the Messiah who gave his body for all people, even for those he did not know and where not yet born.

    Remember that in Christendom is the word ‘dom’ like in “Mensdom” te ‘dom’ like being ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’. Christendom covers a lot of denominational churches. Christianity may also have several churches in its structure, but all those should be in line with the Body of Christ, a Church of God where Jesus Christ is the cornerstone.

  4. Sorry, Somuchandsomuch, I wrote my reply to Marcus quickly and I’m sure it’s full of typos. Hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving. May your week be full of good food and company kept with great people!

  5. CHope, nice to find you have taken up many good jobs to help people in this world of suffering.

    By the answers I notice after all those years you did not yet come to see who is who in the Bible and you still seem to take Jesus as to be God. When Jesus tells his followers that “when you see him you see his Father in Heaven” it is not meaning he is the same person as his Father, who is greater than him and without Him Jesus can do nothing. Rightly you say “He also says that he came to fulfill the LAW, not condemn it.” Where did Jesus condemn the Law or how did he not fulfil the Law?

    Also true that the gospels clearly have their own agenda by their supposed authors, but what is wrong with that. They all write from their own experience and with the knowledge or background of their own profession. When you look at things or write things, do you also not write form your own experiences? And would be wrong by doing that. Your background, your upbringing, the things you encountered in life are useful to use and why should a person not bring his or her own experiences to the forefront in an emotional way of involvement? It is not because the other apostles do not mention their presence at the place where Jesus was brought to death that they would not have been there.

    It is not because the Bible presents cases of rape, incest, torture, slavery a.o. that it agrees with it. We may look at the Bible for what it really is, a book not supporting rape, but showing that it happened and still can happen in the world where people went against the Creator. It is also not the book that keeps women and children under the thumb of an oppressive. It declares that all people are created in the image of God and are equal in the eyes of God. It are human beings who made other human beings not their equal. the Bible gives their stories but that does not mean the Bible does agree with those facts.

    You say there are a collection of stories that just don’t add up, but go against each other instead. Which ones? You also do find that the Book of books is a “divisive tool that encourages the “us and them” concept causing justification for wars, belittling and bullying”, but this is just the opposite of what the Bible proclaims. It looks more that you became frustrated by things that went wrong and came to blame this book in which you have put your hope for so many years. A shame or should I say a pity, because it is a real book of hope. But seeing all the denominations you encountered, supposing the Baptist group you where in was not a non-trinitarian Baptist denomination and likely more one of the Baptist groups which like the other denominations you mentioned thrown at you the feeling of guilt and spoke about hell being a place of damnation where people would be tortured after death. (Something umbilical).

    The Bible which was not translated or rewritten by King James, but translated under his direction (a big difference) was by those translators not written in such a way that it would justify all the killing and wrongdoing of people. Sorry, but that is a wrong concept, not recognising al the work the many translators did over the years. also remember that you have the translation of the Word of God and the notes written by those translations, which are the words of human people involved with dogmatic teachings and denominational background. It is not their words you should take being part of the Bible. You always should look at them as words of human beings coming from their own background and with their own limited knowledge and vision, adding their ideas, but not God His ideas, to the Holy Scriptures.

  6. The whole “free will” argument is till going on, but true the penalty of the first sin still counts. Still we all have to die, like all our predecessors died. God is the only One who can not die. Even His son had to die and did die early in his life in a terrible way. Also God His son was afraid of death, like we are and did not know what would happen. (Remember God knows everything, though the Bible clearly Jesus did not know everything and had to learn all things – one of the proofs he is not God.) Jesus even cried to his Father, asking the Elohim Hashem Jehovah why He abandoned him (Jeshua/Jesus)

    The Bible also tells us that humankind will have to face a terrible third World War and than shall have to go on for an other thousand years. So that is still a terrible long time we have to go on. By then we probably would all be death already a long time.

    When God gave us free will we received the liberty to use it. But because of what happened in the Garden of Eden, humans are on their own and have no dictator God who only give the good things to those who follow Him strictly. In case God would favouritism His followers that way He would not be able to show that people would follow Him freely to His adversary (Satan = every opposer and not an animal like looking being with two horns who lives in a place called hell, being a place of torture for the death.).

    Nothing has changed to our free will. All of us have the choice to follow anybody who the want. God has given us the prophets like Abraham and Jesus, which may be our patriarch if we wish so. The Nazarene Jew Jeshua, baptised by his nephew John the Baptist who preached salvation, brought more inside in the Word of God, by giving more explanation and ‘erclaring’ lots by parables, which we can use as lessons or just take as nice stories. It is up to us how to interpret those stories of the Bible and either do something positive with it or use them against others instead as for others.

    We are told that Jesus is the way to come to his Father, the Only One God. We can make use of him and follow this master rabbi. Some made him to their god and continued the pagan traditions like many worshipped statues before them. Those people keeping doing something which is an abomination in the eyes of God still keep continuing describing the Creator as an awful tyrant who tortures His people when they do not do what He says. But when you look at His Words you will find out this is not so. All the suffering we have to endure on this earth does not come from God, but is infested by human beings. Why should we give God the guilt for something those human beings are causing?

  7. dear somuchandsomuch the God who should be the only one to be worshipped does not leave those people who are willing to go for Him in the dark. He does not abandon ‘people who struggle with the idea of faith’. He is , was and always shall be there for those who need Him and want Him.

    Though He for the moment can not give them all, because He has given the world in the hands of his adversary. The human beings now in charge of this earth, have to bear their own responsibility. But those who honour God the Divine Creator shall already in their lifetime feel the blessings of their God.

    I can assure you, though we might feel a lot of pain ans till have to suffer a lot, we do know God is with us and He shall keep His promises. With His son Jesus He showed the word that a human being could be faithful to Him and that such a person will get his or her reward, like Jesus also was taken out of death, we by the return of Jesus shall be taken out of death. Jesus who was lower than angels (remember God was, is and always shall be the Most High) was made higher than them after he was taken out of the dead, to come to sit at God His right hand (so not on the throne of God Himself) to be mediator between God and man. Today we can use that mediator and have already advantage by believing in that mediator, the only begotten son of God (who is not a god son).

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