Christianity – Not a religion?

Jesus facepalm

I have sometimes heard the claims that ‘Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy’ or ‘Christianity is a relationship with God, not a religion,’ and I can see why people do this. The term ‘religion’ comes with a lot of meanings, and is infamous for corruption, blind faith and other negative values, so it would make sense for people to want do distance Christianity from other religions that require the same amount of blind faith.

The goal of setting apart Christianity from other belief systems would mean to hold the position that it is different, more reliable, perhaps. But this effort is in vain.

The claim that Christianity is not a religion is rather stupid. And I will show you why. Using the standard dictionary definitions, a religion is:
“the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”
Or more specifically “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”

Christianity has a Holy book, it has a system of beliefs, it has ceremonies and rules, and it has a deity. Christianity meets all of the criteria, so that makes it classified as a religion.

Whether Christianity has some philosophical values or not, and whether it is some sort of ‘relationship’ with God or Jesus doesn’t matter. Christianity is classified as a religion by every single credible definition of what a religion is.

And if you really want Christianity to not be a religion, you can start by paying taxes.

 

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24 thoughts on “Christianity – Not a religion?

  1. Agreed. To claim that Christianity is not a religion is stupid.

    But to claim that Christianity is a religion like any other is also stupid.

    Stupid + Stupid = Stupid
    Stupid – Stupid = Stupid
    Stupid x Stupid = Stupid
    Stupid/Stupid = Stupid
    In other words, one stupid claim cannot be used to disprove another stupid claim.
    It’s like trying to argue against the obvious using a hallucination.

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  2. I wrote a post a while back (http://clearlens.org/2015/10/09/i-dint-choose-to-be-an-atheist/) about the dictionary definition of atheism and received push back because “language is fluid”. Can’t the same be true for christianity as a religion? (I’m really not arguing it is or it isn’t) but if the point is to see religion as a set of rules and the relationship with Jesus as an inability to follow the rules it makes sense the same fluidity needs to transform christianity away from religion.
    My two cents. Thanks for your thoughts.

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    • Perhaps if Christianity was just following Jesus himself and his teachings, but Christianity has ceremonies, rules, and so many other aspects that fit the definition of a religion.

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      • Could it be true that some sects/denominations are just following Jesus? For example, nothing in the bible says “go to church” it’s a responce to God dwelling in the temple. Just like nothing says “thou must read the Bible” it is a means of learning about Jesus. This doesn’t depict every Christian denomination but it isn’t every denomination splitting from the term religion.
        Thinking out loud.

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        • Maybe, it all depends on how you define Christianity and is dependent on what exactly someone believes.
          However most of the ‘Christianity is not a religion’ arguments come from preachers who seem to worship the Bible itself more than their God.

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          • I’m not claiming it’s denominational per se. But if indeed their are some claiming christianity is a relationship over a religion than those making the claim likely don’t fall under a Creed which would both omit 1 part of the religion requirement and also add merit to their claim.

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            • Again, most Christian denominations that I am aware of try to claim that they are “just following Jesus”. The problem is that their claims of what following Jesus consists of is contradicatory.

              The ones that claim a creed also claim to “just be following Jesus”. They claim those creeds true.

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              • Right. I’m not refuting, only offering an opinion. Following Jesus is different for different people. For example, catholics rely alot on traditional. Evangelicals, contrastly have very little traditions. In other words, following Jesus doesn’t omit your or my point. Therefore, my point is still valid even if it’s not unanimous.

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                • I understand that you are only offeringan opinion. But if there is not one instance of what you propose, there is little reason to think that any actual Christians who aren’t following a religion .

                  Evangelicals have as much tradition as the RCC, if not quite as old. And following Jesus? Well, that depends on which Jesus is being followed. We have the one that is concerned with the poor and helpless, and then we have the Jesus that wants to murder everyone that doesn’t agree with it.

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                  • “there is not one instance of what you propose”
                    That’s a pretty radical claim. I know several people who identify as “Christian” but will not attend church for various reasons. Therefore, they have no worship, no ceremonies, or other facets that make up a religion. They, for all intents and purposes, are only living their relationship–not their religion.
                    “Evangelicals have as much tradition as the RCC”
                    Another wild statement. If an evangelical minister wanted to plant a church in “City, USA” and another like minded evangelical minister wanted to plant a church in “City, Africa”, and another in “City, India”; what ‘traditions’ would they all share? Unless by tradition you mean creed (infallibility of the Bible, Resurrected Christ, Triunity of God) all of which have nothing to do with priestly garments, chants or rituals, or even building design. Maintaining a biblical worldview is not a tradition, it’s a source. It is kinda like saying, the US has a tradition of believing the Constitution or, following presidential orders.
                    “depends on which Jesus is being followed…(one Jesus) wants to murder everyone that doesn’t agree with it”
                    That’s just an angry way to assign dictatorship where it doesn’t belong. C.S. Lewis once described it in terms of types of people; “There are two types of people in the world. Those who, in this life, say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those who, in the next life, God says to them, ‘thy will be done’.” This view recognizes God, not as a punishing authoritarian, but as a God who allows people to chose for themselves what they want. His example calls people to care for the poor and widows and orphans, but if you don’t want to, then don’t. That’s loving not murderous, just saying.

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                    • I’ll address your other points later, but I did want to point out that C.S. Lewis advocated for intentionally lying to prospective Christians by not mentioning that they didn’t agree on much. That bit from C.S. Lewis is, I believe from his book on heaven, where he blames humans for the failure of his god.

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                    • The book you are referring to is ‘Mere Christianity’ and the context is keeping the first priority on God, namely his existence and redemption found only through his son Jesus Christ. It’s essentially the same thing as saying, “Let’s first provide our veterans with the medical services they need, then we can discuss where funding comes from, how the process will work, and other housekeeping details.” Specific to Christianity, Lewis is saying, why should we tell non-believers speaking in tongues, or tithing, or repeating liturgy is the right way before addressing the reason those things matter. The first thing should be Jesus; that’s not lying that’s the core.

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                    • It is “Mere Christianity” I am speaking of. Here’s the quote I am referring to: “And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son”

                      The context is hiding the disagreements between Christians from people who may become Christians, lying by omission, and that Lewis thinks his version of Christianity is the only right one, because he does go far beyond claiming that there is simply one go and JC is his only son.

                      Lewis advocates this because if they aren’t lied to, not told that Christians do disagree, people won’t join his religion, the “one true faith” isn’t so much those things. It is not essentially the same to your quote, since there are no benefits like medical services from Christianity and there are no hard facts like how funding is to be gained, etc. To claim that the differences in Christianity are nothing but “housekeeping details” seems to be an attempt to push under the rug the fact that Christians have regularly murdered one another over these “housekeeping details” and are quite sure that other Christians than themselves are damned to an eternity of torture (or whatever they’ve invented as punishment). Since these sects do not agree on what this Jesus wants, what Jesus is, what one is to do to save one’s soul, etc, that is indeed lying, since there is no core to claim that you are “really” teaching these non-Christians.

                      Lewis also says this ““You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic”. This may be true but you certainly will learn from Lewis what he believes and that’s not supported by any fact. His claims about this god aren’t those of all Christians. I’ll be back this evening to chat about your other comment.

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                    • Here is a summary (outline) of “Mere Christianity” http://www.lewissociety.org/merechristianityoutline.pdf
                      As I’m sure you can gather from the title, Lewis is systematically weeding out alternative views by starting with what we know (we are human and we can infer feelings) to what could bring about knowledge (an intelligent being). He makes it a point to not even mention Christianity in the first 3 chapters! It’s really easy to see a paragraph on a trusted (for you, not for me) webpage like patheos and be ‘sold’ but you should read the book, it’s not ‘selling’ Lewis’ God, it is invoking thought to what (eventually who) is The God of humanity. Because the ENTIRE book is an overview, he writes — this isn’t a book about catholicism, methodism, etc (your quote) — but a starting point for every believe. Thus, his quote–literally is (not debatable) — a quote to support Jesus as the Son of God over and above church/denomination politics.
                      Even if ‘housekeeping’ issues divide Christianity, they have no bearing on Truth. That is, if RCC has it right and we should all follow Papal teachings, it can only be right because Jesus died on the cross and resurrected 3 days later. Or, if Pentecostals have it right and speaking in tongues is a sign of salvation, it is only possible because Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross and resurrected 3 days later. As important as housekeeping issues are, they are ALL secondary to Jesus’ resurrection. 1 Cor 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Some translations use the word ‘worthless’ or ‘in vein’. On Christ all other things hang (you guessed it), including church politics.
                      Here is a great article on hypocrisy in the church http://clearlens.org/2015/12/30/bad-arguments-against-christianity-christians-are-hypocrites/

                      Here is a great resource for the resurrection of Christ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5wKYcK_kUs
                      Have a happy New Year, I thank you for our interaction together.

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                    • To find it important that Lewis doesn’t mention the term Christianity in the first three chapters of a book *titled* Mere Christianity seems a little silly to me. I have read the book, and I believe I told you that already, so I know that what Adam on daylight atheism is quite correct in what he reviews. The book is indeed Lewis selling Christianity and his god, his versions of both by his arguments of what this god must be according to him. I would assume you do know that there are other versions of Christianity that differ on exactly what Jesus Christ is. To declare that something is not debatable seems just an attempt to shut down debate since you don’t like the conclusions reached.

                      Plenty of Christians want to claim that their disagreements on what their god is, what it wants, and how to placate it are just “housekeeping” issues, when they have murdered each other over such things. The various sects of Christianity do indeed claim that these issues are the Truth, and insist that those who don’t agree with them are damned for not believing in the Truth. So your claim that these are all secondary isn’t how Christians act at all, they find them to be equal to the supposed truth that Christ existed and he was resurrected. Paul claims his version of Christianity is right and he contradicts some of the things that JC supposedly said, and claims that anyone who disagrees with his Truth is damned.

                      I am not too surprised that you think Strobel presents a “great resource”. I’ve read his books and they are such the examples of how badly supported the claims of Christianity are. There is no eyewitness evidence as he claims. All we have are repeated stories written down decades later by unknown authors. The gospels give contradictory stories that can’t all of happened(who saw what when after the supposed resurrection?) There are no extrabiblical sources corroborating the existence of Jesus Christ, the words from Josephus are known to be a forgery. The other claims of sources are amusing since they only mention Christians and what they believed. If this is evidence, then the existence of believers of other gods means that those gods must exist too and are just as valid as the Christian god. There is no archaeological evidence that supports the existence of Jesus Christ, Christians can’t even agree on where the supposed tomb is (if there is no tomb then the “empty tomb” claim is entirely baseless). The events claimed in the bible that would have left evidence didn’t leave anything at all, and we do have archaeological evidence that completely different events did happen, which preclude the claims of the bible.

                      One of Strobel’s worst claims is that since people were willing to die for their beliefs that means Jesus Christ and God are real. With that argument, then Islam is as valid as Christianity, the People’s Temple was just as valid as Christianity and there really were aliens behind Comet Hale-Bopp since people died for their belief in that.

                      You might want to rethink your claim about how great Strobel is.

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                    • I’ll first post the definitions of worship: “the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god : the act of worshipping God or a god” and “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence 3 : a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual”

                      I use merriam webster. So it seems that your acquaintances are doing exactly what religion requires, and there is no relationship since there is no other to interact with. I don’t make sweeping statements without due consideration. I think this may be the best definition of relationship for our purposes “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other” IF they are Christians then they worship a certain entity. If they are simply people who follow something that JC said, there is the problem that JC wasn’t the only character to advocate for the golden rule, or to kill someone who didn’t agree you. If your acquaintances don’t worship god and Jesus as son of god, they aren’t Christians in any meaningful way, to differentiate them from any other person who is decent to others or who wants everyone to agree with them to the point of violence. As I have shown there is no one “Jesus Christ” to claim as the one true entity.

                      Again, evangelicals have as much tradition as the RCC, as do Lutherans, etc. They all constantly add and subtract from it. They have their communion, their songs, their preaching, their holidays, their prayers etc. If you wish to claim that they don’t have these traditions, I would ask for evidence of this. I do not mean creed since Christians don’t agree on infalliblity of the bible or the trinity. They don’t even agree on the various creeds that have been invented. There are many claims of a “biblical worldview” but since Christians don’t agree on what the bible really means or what their god really means, the claim that this is universal is unsupported by fact.

                      Unfortunately for you, demonstrating that there are many contradictory attributes and words claimed to apply to Jesus Christ, son of God, isn’t being angry or assigning some dictatorship, whatever that means. It is being familiar with the bible and knowing that most Christians ignore the parts they don’t like, claiming that those bits aren’t “really” what their god meant. As I noted before, C.S Lewis isn’t exactly someone I consider a decent human being. He has made up his god just like every other Christian. Lewis has invented his god as one that only has said certain things and merrily ignores the rest, because he doesn’t like that kind of god. I do not known if you have read the entire bible, most Christians haven’t, which is always bemusing to me. I do recommend actually reading it and not taking anyone’s word on what it actually says.

                      A fair number of atheists have read the bible, like me, and have cited it as one of the reasons they became atheists, because it isn’t the feel-good religion that is preached from a lot of pulpits, it has many things that no pastor or priest will mention. The bible does have a son of God who recommends that people take care of widows and orphans. If it only said that, you would be truthful. However, it also has this same entity advocating genocide, and the murder of anyone who doesn’t accept him be murdered. It has the lovely revenge fantasy in Revelation. It has the stories in the OT where this god is indeed a punishing authoritarian who murders humans constantly, including widows and orphans, and constantly interferes. Your, and Lewis’, claim that this god allows people to choose, and will just leave people alone is not true and not even supported by the only source we have about this supposed entity. If you would please, show evidence for your claims.

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                    • These are great points. Based on these definitions, I absolutely recant my previous points–thanks for pointing them out.
                      I still think some level of fluidity is required as language changes, but you kept me focused. Thanks.
                      Ironically, since we are holding the term ‘religion’ hostage by meeting a set of requirements, I guess that also makes atheism a religion. http://creation.com/atheism-a-religion

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                    • No, atheism isn’t a religion. That’s a sad claim by theists who only seem to want to use the excuse “but but you are as bad as we are”, when trying to claim atheism a religion. always quite funny to read.

                      There is no hostage taking; words simply mean things and changing them without good reason is ridiculous and often the best indication that the one trying to change the definition is trying to do so in order to move the goal posts of a discussion. Oh no, we’re holding the word “orange” hostage to either the color or the fruit, how could we?! Let’s just call light at the wave length 380-450 nm orange and the fuzzy brown fruit with a green flesh “orange” because it makes us feel better 🙂

                      In the context of this discussion, atheism is not a religion ”
                      the belief in a god or in a group of gods

                      2

                      : an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods” Now, if you can show how an atheist or atheism fulfills this, please do so. At best atheism, for some people, may fulfill this definition “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” but it fails on the idea of “faith” since that is belief in things without evidence, which most atheists find silly.

                      The people at creation.com are liars and quite willfully ignorant. I have evidence that there are no gods as claimed by humans. I’m still waiting for evidence that there are gods as described by humans. Some theists claim that their god could be found under a rock some day on Ceti Alpha 5 but that isn’t the god they worship, is it?

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                    • We all serve a god. Some choose Jehovah, others choose Mohammed, atheist choose the god of self.
                      ‘God’ according to Merriam-Webster, “An adored, admired, or influential person”. Therefore, if you admire anyone AND you show them love and respect (your definition of worship, see above) you meet the rigid definitions of religion.
                      OR, you can claim fluidity of language (as I did for Christians who opt not to adhere to a religious sect) then you must give to the notion that not all Christians follow a religion. Either, you are wrong and atheism is a religion OR you are wrong and not all of Christianity is a religion (according to the thought behind the OP). In either sense, I see no need to carry this further. Have a wonderful New Year. If the time should ever come that you want to know more about a personal relationship with Jesus, I am always willing to share my experience. I consider you of great worth.

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                    • No, we all don’t serve a god, and it’s always curious to see a Christian try to about atheists in order to promulgate the false claim that atheists are only interested in themselves.

                      In the context we have been discussion religion in, atheism doesn’t fit the “rigid definition” of religion, which is the worship of a deity, and what *all* Christians do.

                      It always strikes me as quite funny when theists are so desperate to claim that atheism is a religion. Why is that so important to you, Roger? It seems no more than an attempt to claim that atheists are no better than theists and that’s why atheists shouldn’t point out the failures of religion.

                      You have offered a false dichotomy based on trying to use different definitions of religion at different times. Atheism can only be construed as a religion if one assumes that no gods are involved, the expanded definition that the word has gained over time. Christianity can always be defined as a religion by any of the definitions that the word has now, and a god is most definitely involved since Christians claim that their god is real.

                      Your claims of a personal relationship with Jesus are no more believable than any other Christians. I was a Christian and was quite sure this god was real too, and then I actually read the bible and looked at the evidence. I consider you of worth as a human being, but your claims are simply false and when you go out of your way to misrepresent atheists that is malicious.

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