An article donated by Alton C. Thompson
"Is Christianity a Biblical Religion?"
Web-master's personal note:
There is a profoundly important conflict among the world's 2.6 billion Christians and the approximately 30,000 Christian faith groups, denominations and sects.
- Many conservative Christians regard the Bible's most important teachings involve the nature and role of Jesus. They believe that among the 7.8 billion people currently living in the world, perhaps more than a billion persons who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior will spend eternity with God in Heaven after their death. They believe that the remaining billions of people in the world -- those who do not hold these beliefs -- will spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell, separated from God.
Other Christians regard the most important teaching of the Bible is related to the Golden Rule: that each person should treat other humans as they would wish to be treated by others: with fairness, respect, and kindness. In particular, they should help other people who are in need: the lonely, sick, poor, imprisoned, homeless, depressed, etc.
- Alton Thompson has written the following article on this conflict. I regard it as among the most important 1% of the many thousands of articles on this web site.
"Is Christianity a Biblical Religion?"
One is likely to conclude from the following discussion that Christianity is not a Biblical religion! That is, on the basis of how “religion” is defined in the Christian Bible, in conjunction with:
- Statements compatible with that definition,
- Criticisms directed at the Judaism of Biblical era, and
- Illustrations given as to what is, and is not, “religion,”
the conclusion follows that present-dayChristianity is not a Biblical religion!
Religion is defined in just one place in the Bible -- in James 1:27. Thus, it’s logical to begin with that definition:
27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look afterÂ orphans and widowsÂ in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
This verse claims that the origin of this concept of “religion” is a “God our Father;” however, given that (a) that, in my belief, this Being is an invented one â€" thus, merely fictional â€" and that the basis of that concept of “religion” is otherwise (see my “Religion as a Natural Phenomenon”), we need pay attention here only to the definition itself; the verse can be “translated” as follows:
It consists of two components, both of them being of a behavioral nature:
- Engage in behaviors having the intention of helping others in need â€" both as specific individuals and classes of individuals (e. g., widows).
Refrain from allowing one’s thinking to be “polluted” by belief systems/ideologies that may be current in one’s society, but are lacking in a firm empirical basis. There is such a thing as “ideological possession”!
What follows is, first, the supporting evidence in the Bible.
Verses That Support and/or Expand On the Definition found in James 1:27:
Matthew 25:35 â€“ 36: This is part of the "Sheep and Goats" passage in the Bible.It says: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,Â I needed clothes and you clothed me,Â I was sick and you looked after me,Â I was in prison and you came to visit me."
John 4:7: "Let us love one another."
Mark 12:31: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 5:44: "Love your enemies." Helping those in need should come from an attitude of love, and not be restricted to oneâ€™s
Amos 5:21 - 24: â€śI hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. I will have no regard for them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"
What an indictment of organized “religion,” as it has existed, per se! Today, we may no longer practice burnt and fellowship offerings, but music is commonly associated with “religious” services! Seeking justice for individuals is what Amos adds to James 1:27.
Hosea 3:1: "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress."
Wow! Love your wife even though she’s become an adulteress! That’s asking a lot!!
Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does theÂ LordÂ require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly ..."
Not only do justice, but love kindness!
- Isaiah 1:17: "Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the
- Psalm 82:3: "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute."
- Matthew 23:23: â€śWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."
James 1:26:"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless."
Oneâ€™s words can also be hurtful!
John 8:32: "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
In my opinion, this includes the truth that â€śGodâ€ is in invented Being.
Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."
Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human
tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world ..."
1 Peter 3:15: "Do it with gentleness and respect, ..."
Two more behavioral characteristics to add to James 1:17! Not only do justice, but love kindness!
Isaiah 1:17: "Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."
- James 1:26: "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless."
One’s words can also be hurtful!
- John 8:32: "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Including the truth that “God” is in invented Being.
Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."
Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.
This relates to the second part of James 1:27.
- Two more behavioral characteristics to add to James 1:17!
James 2:2 â€“ 7: For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,Â and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,”Â while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet.”Â Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and becomeÂ judges with evil thoughts?Â Â Listen, my beloved brothers,Â has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to beÂ rich in faith and heirs ofÂ the kingdom,Â which he has promised to those who love him?Â Â But youÂ have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones whoÂ drag youÂ into court?Â Â Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorableÂ name by which you were called?
Some very practical advice follows, with some truthful comments on the rich!
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, . Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, . Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have,
- Hebrews 13:1-25:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world â€" the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions â€" is not from the Father but is from the world.
- 1 John 2:15-17:
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."
Two Illustrations of Religious Behavior:
1. The famous “Good Samaritan” Parable at Luke 10:25-37, should be called a “Religious Samaritan parable, Plus”! Here’s why: An injured man is ignored by both a passing priest and a Levite, meaning that these two “religious” figures are depicted as irreligious â€" given their failure to provide help for the injured man. A despised Samaritan, however, in later encountering the injured man, took pity on the man:
- 34Â He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Â
35Â The next day he took out two denarii[c]Â and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
What’s clear from this parable is that it is helping behavior that is religious!
2. This story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery: One day “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. Members of both sides knew that Leviticus 20 requires that:
- "If a man commits adultery with another man’s wifeâ€"with the wife of his neighborâ€"both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death."
Both by stoning, although the man, for some reason, was not brought along with the woman before Jesus!
Jesus, in being confronted with the woman, first responded by kneeling, and pretending to write in the dust with his finger.
After determining how to respond to the teachers of the Law and Pharisees, Jesus stood up again and said,Â “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest,
What an utterly brilliant response!! And the “slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest” is so believable! After all, we all make mistakes, in part because of situations that we find ourselves in from time to time; and as we grow older, we tend to recognize this about ourselves and, so, develop a more tolerant view of the mistakes of others.
The verses/passages quoted above from the Christian Bible constitute but a small portion of that book. Given that among those verses/passages is the ONLY definition of “religion” given in the Bible, one may very well ask oneself:
Why is that so?!!!
My best guess is that those (all males, I assume!) who chose the books that constitute the Bible (and likely did some editing of them!) were intent on creating a book that would:
- Provide support, if but subtly, for the Existing Order of their society, and
- Provide employment for various functionaries.
Because they succeeded, centuries ago, many of us have been brought up to accept the Bible as “God’s Word”! To, that is, not only believe that “God” is a real Being, but that all portions of the Bibleâ€"all being the “Word of God” in some senseâ€"are to be regarded as of equal importance. And although we likely were exposed to at least some of the verses/passages quoted above, we were mainly exposed to other portions of the Bibleâ€"those other portions being especially “facts” about Jesus. Because of that exposure, we have been tricked into thinking that what’s important about Jesus is beliefs that we should have about him. As stated, e. g. in the Apostles’ Creed. Here’s a version:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Thus, insofar as Christianity is a religion, it is a “religion” ABOUT Jesus, rather than being one consistent with James 1:27 and many other Biblical verses andpassages!!
A question that may have arisen with some readers is this: The Biblical definition of “religion” seems to be individualistic in nature. That is, it tells us how we should behave relative to other individuals, but places no importance in meeting, on a regular basis, with others who accept that definition of “religion.”
That’s certainly true; but why should that fact prevent us from doing so?! In fact, in my A Life Institution I present an idea of how to meet! Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 crisis makes implementation of that idea inadvisable!
Original posting: 2020-MAY-21
Author: Alton C. Thompson
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