Thursday, January 12, 2012
Cheap marketing tricks, anti-intellectualism and the "I hate religion" crowd
There's a popular video going around facebook lately where a young man, whom I believe is a brother in Christ, waxes poetic about how he hates religion. I've heard this many times before, how religion supposedly is the worst evil imaginable and how it is a direct antithesis to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's always grated on me but I guess this video, and the number of times I saw it reposted by Christian friends on facebook, kind of pushed me over the edge.
I think this "religion is evil" axiom is one of the best examples of the anti-intellectualism with which Evangelicalism is rife and also an example of a marketing trick employed to make Christianity look more palatable as an evangelism tool. It's anti-intellectual because it is a redefinition of the word "religion." As another facebook friend recently kindly pointed out, religion has traditionally been defined as, "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances." And while many heretics would deny it, there is a set of propositions which must be believed in order to be a Christian, or to have a relationship with Christ. The most obvious of these propositions would be that one must believe that there is a God before being a Christian or having a relationship with Christ. I would also say that if one denies the Trinity, the Virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement and the physical resurrection of Christ, among many other truths then one is not a Christian. And while some would deny it I would also say that devotional and ritual observances are also an integral part of Christianity. I don't believe that baptism or the eucharist save, but if they are not being practiced, then true Christianity is not being practiced either. Christianity is of course different from every other religion in that it is the only religion which is also a relationship with the one true God. But let me repeat, it is a religion.
The "religion is evil" axiom is also a good example of a cheap marketing tool to try to make Christianity more palatable to the world. If we can only separate Christianity from all of those evil things which have been done in the name of religion then maybe we can win a few more converts. But the fact is Christians have done evil things in the name of Christ just like believers in every other religion have done evil things. The difference, I believe, is that those men, some of whom probably were true Christians, who did evil things in the name of Christ were being disobedient to Christ when they did them. When a Muslim, on the other hand, kills a family member for converting to Christ, I'm not so convinced that they are being disobedient to Allah. So when a Christian does evil things in the name of his faith he is not living up to the demands of his faith, and none of us do, but when a person belonging to some other religion does something evil in the name of their faith I think they might very well be living up to whatever their faith commands.
The thing I find most frustrating is that I actually agreed with almost everything this guy said in his video. I just disagree with misusing the English language, anti-intellectualism and marketing tricks to try to make Christ look more appealing. And I think I'm in good company when it comes to not hating religion, the Apostle James wrote, "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27)
And here's the video: