"Say what?" they say, looking at the title of this post. "This guy says he's a Christian, yet calls an entry 'Down with Religions!!' What's up with that?!"
I am a Christian, and I do say down with religions. The reason for this is, quite simply, because Christianity at its finest, at its most pure, at its most perfect, is not a religion at all. It is nothing short of a personal, loving, intimate relationship with God. It is getting to know your Father in Heaven better than you could ever get to know your father on earth, or your mother, or your siblings, friends, or spouse. It is the perfection of the most pristine relationship imaginable.
According to the good people at Merriam-Webster, there are several definitions of "religion." The most vague one refers to the worship of God, but because a person can worship God in their own mistaken way with no religion at all, this definition is a little weak. Standing before the ocean, taking a walk in the woods, or looking at the night sky can be a worshipful experience devoid of religious content, so I reject this definition as simply being too imprecise.
But Merriam-Webster offers a second, more detailed definition: "2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices" Ah, yes. Now that's far more precise, and is far more in keeping with the definition most people have in their own minds upon hearing the word "religion." And it is to this definition I say, "down with religions."
Look carefully at that definition. What exactly is it saying? First of all, it is relating religion to a huge, monolithic institution, not unlike a modern government or other massive bureaucracy. Think of the IRS or some similar organization. Now, emanating from this monolithic institution are a whole long list of things that the adept must do and say, clothes that they must wear, and other details of their outward life. It also speaks of a desire to control what one holds in his or her heart, but the reality of this situation is that religions are far more interested in what outward behaviors one exhibits rather than the purity of one's heart.
So what we have here is a massive organization that has produced vast amounts of rules, regulations, and dogmatic literature in an attempt to effect the outward actions of the alleged faithful.
So if I claim Christianity, when properly practiced, is not a religion, what are some examples of a religion? Almost needless to say, Islam comes right to mind. There are few better examples of a "religion" by the definition of a monolithic organization bent on controlling one's outward actions. I will talk far more on this collection of insane ramblings later, so suffice it to say now that Islam is indeed a religion I'd like to see go down.
Next in line is Catholicism. "OK, now wait," they say again. "Isn't Catholicism Christianity?" No, it is not. Catholicism is its very own religion loosely based upon Christianity. But thinking that the precepts and beliefs of the Catholic Church represent the beliefs of Christianity is like saying the precepts of the KKK represent the belief system of the United States. It doesn't, and it couldn't be further from the high ideal of the original founder. Once again, I'll devote an entire post to the Catholics, so just allow me now to say that this is another religious system that needs to go down before people can be fully free.
Some other religions? Shinto and Hinduism, and Buddhism as most people perceive it. Actually, let me take a moment to say something about quasi-religions like Buddhism. Buddhists are wonderfully peaceful people and are truly some of the most dedicated humanists I know. However, Buddhism itself is not a religion at all. It is a philosophy, not unlike the many systems that came from ancient Greece. The only difference here is that none of the Greeks tried to turn Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates into some sort of divine personage. Siddarthur Gautauma, or Buddha, or whatever you want to call him, was a caring, compassionate, lovely individual, but he was no divine person -- nor did he ever claim to be. So the problem with Buddhism is that people spend their entire lives thinking about a philosophy when they could have been spending their lives getting close to God. It is a wonderful pursuit when combined with Christian faith, but as a philosophy, it is a real waste of time, and therefore needs to discarded with yesterday's garbage.
So how is Biblical Christianity different? When practiced properly, there are no barriers between you and God. You pray to him when you want, how you want, where you want, in whatever way you want, and you can say what you want. There are no formulas to remember, no magical words He has pre-approved at the expense of all other words. You bring him your pain, your troubles, your concerns, you wishes, your thanks, and your sins, and he takes them from you and makes them right. There is no ritual involved, no cleaning process; you're a sinner when you come to him, and a drop of water won't wash away sin. There is no direction to point, as the entire Earth is holy. Because of Christ's sacrifice, we have an open line directly to God, and we can access that line whenever we wish. Christianity recognizes your freedom and encourages you to use when speaking to God.
Christianity doesn't tell you want to eat or what to wear. All of God's creation is holy, so there is no food that could possible make a person "unclean." Why would God make the pig less holy than the cow, or the cow more holy than the goat, or the lobster less than the chicken? He wouldn't, of course. This is just one of those silly, outward control things religions do in order to allow their faithful to ignore the evil in their heart and focus instead on the meat on their plate. What a man puts in his stomach doesn't make him clean or unclean, but rather what he has in his heart. Similarly, Christianity doesn't tell you what to wear. No need for flowing robes from the 10th Century, no need for prayers tied to your forehead (prayers should etched on your heart, not plastered to your forehead!), and certainly no need to hide women's faces.
Which brings me to another, vital difference. Christianity respects and holds up all people -- even the women (Can you hear the collective gasp from non-Christians all around the world?!) The view of women in Christianity was perverted in the Middle Ages due to sexist political practices and power issues, but the truth, the Biblical truth, is that Christianity lifted women up as equals to men in all respects. If the world had implemented the proper Biblical Christian belief system, we would have had complete gender equality long ago.
I could go on and on and on, but I hope you begin to see that there is a huge difference between religions and Christianity. Religions seek to control and dominate people's lives, even to the extent of what foods they can eat and the clothes they can wear. Christianity seeks to change the thoughts people have in their minds and the feelings in their hearts, and seeks to make these changes for the betterment of everyone. Religions seek to force people to do this and to think that, Christianity seeks to have people want to change themselves as a way of expressing their gratitude to Christ for his sacrifice. In the end, religions seek to control people through fear, while Christianity seeks to have people control themselves because of joy and thankfulness.
So because of this, I say down with religions, and up with Christianity!!