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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how often people get offended and feel they need to prove their point on so many topics and posts online? It usually does not go well once that starts. Especially when it comes to spiritual and biblical topics.

We fail to realize that not everyone has the same interpretation as another. We also fail to realize the fact that we cannot prove most of what we believe.

We can fight and argue between christian and atheist, one christian denomination and another, among Jewish, Christian, Islam and a host of other religions. We can argue about whether there is or there is not a God, is there a hell or not, what this verse means or what that verse means. We get mad and defensive when someone goes against what we believe and do our best to prove our view is right.

Thing is, we cannot prove our point. We cannot prove God exists, we cannot prove there is a heaven or a hell, we cannot prove any other aspect of the spiritual existence. This life is a life of faith and belief. As christians, we have faith that God is there and he loves us. We have faith in the guidance of the Spirit within us.

On the other hand, no one can prove there is not a God, there is not a heaven, or there is not a hell. Yet we will fight and argue until we almost hate each other trying to prove our way of thinking.

I think God can take care of himself. We do not have to fight and argue to defend Him. Rather than making ourselves look like mean, hateful people who have to be right we should be showing the love of God to everyone. Show his love to those who agree with us and also to those who are a hundred percent sure in their minds that we are wrong.

To be sure, we cannot have this kind of love and acceptance in our own strength. God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it his love that flows out of us. Through His power, we can love those who live differently, who think differently, we can love our enemies and those who want nothing to do with God.

We can have our own way of thinking, our own beliefs and interpretations, knowing that God created each of us differently. Yet we need to remember we are not totally right on everything, and for sure we are not always going to agree with one another. We can all learn something by listening and communicating with others.

We all have a right to believe what and how we want to believe. People can put their faith in God or not. We can have completely different lifestyles. We can have a completely different interpretation on bible verses or we can completely reject the bible and not believe anything about it, and it is OK. Jesus did not tell us to judge and condemn others for what they believe. He did not say to force our views and beliefs on others. He did say to love one another.

We are not called to make people believe like us, or believe in God at all. We are called to go into the world and live the gospel message that God loves and accepts us. Jesus came to restore fellowship between humanity and the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love and accept others just as they are.

We can have our individual beliefs and interpretations, and we do not have to agree with everyone. Love and acceptance do not mean agreement. We can love and accept others just because they are loved by God. We were all created in His image. We can have our differences and still accept and care for those God brings into our lives each day.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”– Alan Watts

When exploring the comedic landscape, be it stand-up or just laughing with buddies, what we discover is total-unsaturated freedom. I mean, come on! You know you cannot deny when a good joke hits your soul, you become overpowered with joy and bliss. The endorphins hit an all-time high, and you bask in the comfort of hilariousness. When swimming in the Christian tradition, I think “busting-up” is a vital prophetic practice to have if we ever want to see restorative justice and mercy flow through our current social landscape.

How do we experience this through the Christian tradition? Well, unfortunately we don’t see to many preachers at the pulpit preaching “go out and watch some comedy”, but this does not mean that from the broad scope of things, the Christ-trajectory hasn’t journeyed out to this particular new endeavor. Yes, I get it. When we see how uncomfortable someone’s sense of humors can make us feel, its hard not to react in disdained. I find it interesting that a sermon kind of has the same kind of effect on us. Comedian Pete Homes says it best:

“The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive, and you’re likable.”

Now, I am not saying that we are just to be entertained in our seats while watching the “pastor” make us laugh. That is not the point. The point, I think, is we might have to find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces to be able to stretch us to encounter different perspectives. We are seeing some truth spoken to power being projected out of the stand-up scene, which if we listen closely and take some pointers, it might just help us over here in the Christian world.

The prophetic is used not to just expose the injustices, but also to bring about liberation. We must see that when we laugh, it is a way for us to heal towards a better way of living for ourselves and the community we relate to. Likewise, as the medical research shows:

“There is growing evidence that laughter as a physical activity can additionally produce small but quantifiable positive physiological benefits.”

The physiological also plays a huge part in the spiritual. When we step into the realm of expressed humor, we find ourselves in a place of peace. It is peacemaking that brings us into the “reign of God”. There is hope for this Jesus tradition and it is finding our sense of humor! Yes, the current divide and injustices that is currently happening within our current American culture is ramped.

It’s easy to get to serious with ourselves with all the bullshit running amok! Believe me, I am guilty of it! Please understand, we are not to ignore the racism that is happening within the police force across the county, school shootings, the Trump impeachment scandal, etc. The list can go on and on.

But we must admit, when things to get a little out of hand, the only medicine is to laugh that shit off! Like good old Sarah reminds us in her time of utter disbelief in the insanity: “So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12) Pleasure? In all this mess? Is it possible? Don’t know (like always) but I do trust in the gift of laughter. From this ancient tradition, its time to let go of the long faces and step into the vibrant space of comedy…

“When I opened my eyes and saw the real world, I began to laugh and I haven’t stopped since.” – Soren Kierkegaard

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by Jim Gordon

As a person that has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the church today has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation. We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Our churches today are so divided by denominations and doctrines that it makes me think of Heinz 57 Varieties. It seems like there is a church building every mile or two from each other, yet they cannot seem to come together in unity. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, yet we continually divide ourselves and fight and argue amongst ourselves. Those outside the church can only look on and laugh.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go too. The Church is the body of believers no matter when and where they get together.

Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel so often that we christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time hearing the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states, as for you, the anointing which you received from Him (talking about the Holy Spirit) abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or anywhere. So many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway? God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us. So why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God, and He lives within us.

Going to a building to meet with other believers is not wrong, but let’s start calling it what it is. The building that people go to on Sunday morning is only a place where the members of the Church sometimes get together. The Church are those of us who are following the example of Christ, and that is done on a daily basis not a one-day event.

How many times do people get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid, that they lose sight of their first love Jesus. He is to have the preeminence.

We are to follow the example of Christ by loving God and loving others as ourselves. Let’s be clear that we are to love all people, not just those who believe like us, agree with us, look like us or are of the same faith.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines. Stop the judging and condemnation of people and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

Friends can smell a hidden agenda a mile away.

It simply is wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs without advising upfront this is your agenda. It should be obvious that we need to start acting like true friends act toward one another. We engage in relationships because we are interested in having friendships with others, both to love and be loved. Discussions about spirituality or God best come up naturally.

If people want to pursue a relationship with God, they should see in our life something worth asking about. What if I told you the Gospel is: God loves you and longs for a relationship so you can be the kind of person you deep down truly desire to be. I am convinced God wants you to know true freedom is knowing your Creator’s love for you so you might love others similarly. 

God has been a respecter of freedom of beliefs from the very beginning.

Why would a God who is powerful enough to create not annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God? Jesus did not force God on others but discussed spirituality in a natural, relational way. Jesus brought up spiritual matters when it seemed appropriate and was accepted. Jesus’ agenda was to simply love people in the moment, not to manipulate them.

We have portrayed God as a Parent who has certain conditions to be loved and accepted. We portray God as wanting to save people from hell, which is a myth, rather than being a God who respects one’s freedom to consider how they might make for a better world. God knows what human parents know. Love is the only path to authentic relationships but can’t be forced. “Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms. Relationships come out of inspiration not fear!

Even the Son of God in the Bible didn’t require certain beliefs.

Jesus simply invited His disciples to follow Him and see for themselves as opposed to adhere to a set of beliefs. He told Levi (Matthew): “follow me” (Lk. 5:27). Jesus basic message could be summarize as: “But to you who are listening I say: ….Do to others as you would have them do to you” (6:27-31). Jesus only encouraged those seeking a better life to follow His example. 

We all know the story of how Jesus responded to the religious elite who had caught a woman in adultery (Jn. 7:53-8:11). When Jesus rightly shamed the crowd, they dropped their stones and left Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus didn’t lecture, pray with the woman, or tell her to go to church. Jesus simply said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus showed the woman all she needed to know – God loves you and encourages you to do what you know is right in your heart.

Jesus saved tough conversations for religious pretenders who claimed to represent God. The Pharisees were in love with their power, thus making religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for their misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than a relationship and God’s radical love. 

Many may be surprised what Jesus said when asked how to have eternal life.

Jesus did not warn one to run like/from Hell. Jesus simply advised to love God and your neighbor. One saves their life by running from selfishness. A religious expert asks Jesus: “what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25). Jesus didn’t admonish one to get on their knees and pray for forgiveness. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (10:25-27). Jesus knew loving God can empower us to be the person we deep down desire to be.

Eternal life in the Bible isn’t about one’s destination in the future but life in the present. J.D. Myers is right: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.” https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God-followers need to worry more about their example than what others believe.

Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc. fight over their different doctrines, yet all supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself. Why would anyone seek spiritual guidance from people that can’t get along? We have enough conflict in our families, friendships, and places of work. Christianity or any religion is better off without buildings with names on them. We simply need relationships that encourage one another in their spiritual journey.

What does God believe in and desire for us all?

People feel manipulated rather than loved when spiritual folks have an agenda. Engage in relationships only with the desire to love others as they wished to be loved. The Gospel is simply that our Creator desires a relationship to influence us for the world and our own good. Jesus only wanted to help others listen to their heart. I am convinced a close relationship with my Creator helps me to be a better man, husband, father, and friend. Loving parents seek the admiration and respect of their children, so they want to follow in their footsteps to make this world a better place. Similarly, knowing and understanding God’s radical love can inspire selfless love toward others.

More posts in the I Doubt God Really ………. series:

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed To Anyone After Death

Why I Doubt Hell Is Real

Why I Doubt God Is A Homophobe

Why I Doubt God Is A Sexist

Why I Doubt God Is A Mysterious, Moral Hypocrite

Why I Doubt God Is A Blood-Thirsty Child (Jesus) Killer

Why I Doubt God Expects Every Word Of The Bible To Be Viewed As Inspired

Why I Doubt God Is An End-Of-The-World Doomsayer

Why I Doubt God Is An Angry Egomaniac

 

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by Jim Gordon

Looking back over the postings of Done with Religion, we started with a few posts in May of 2010 and another in February 2011. Not until July of 2011 did we start regular and continual postings on this site. Since then we have had eight years of continual writing at Done with Religion. The time has sure flown by but it has been fun learning and meeting new people along the way.

Over the years I have seen a change in my views, beliefs and interpretations of what I believe the bible says and what God meant for the Church. Church being the body of Christ, not a building or an organization.

My views and beliefs changed a little over time while growing up in the organized church. Yet after my wife and I walked away from the organization I have seen even more changes since being outside the walls of religion.

I think it is easy to get set in our ways, to live within the box of organized religion and stop thinking for ourselves.

I believe that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and we will do much better to focus on hearing directly from the Spirit rather than the many different voices of men and women trying to tell us what God wants us to do. There is nothing wrong with getting ideas and opinions from others, but never put your full trust into people. We have the Spirit living within us and we should be constantly listening for that still, small voice to guide us in our life.

I believe we will be constantly changing and adjusting our beliefs in this world. Living for God is something that is alive and constantly changing as the Spirit reveals new truths to us as we are able to accept them.

Over these eight years we have seen changes in views and beliefs as well as changes in writers. Two new regular writers and one guest blogger have been added and they have made a very good addition to the views, insights and writing styles of Done with Religion. I look forward to the next eight years and I think it will be interesting to look back at that point and see what God has taught us and how he changed us as we seek to show his love, grace and freedom to others.

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by PK LANGLEY, Guest Blogger
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/frustratedgrace/2019/07/quit-church/

I Would Quit Again

I’m not going to church anymore, I quit. God told me I don’t have to go and I listened. If you think God told you to go, then I suggest you go. I’m pretty happy about the fact that God released me. My life has been a lot less complicated since I stopped going. What happened to me after I stopped going to church was part of my deconstruction. It has been a wild ride, but one that I would take again gladly if given the opportunity.

I Was Afraid

The first thing that happened to me when I quit church was fear. My heart was afraid that God would be mad at me. I was afraid of falling back into sin like those who stayed behind told me I would. There was a fear of losing community. My loneliness from not being in active church life cemented those fears. Part of me was terrified I had made a mistake. I had taken a bite out of the un-churched apple. I had left, and had sealed my fate.

Where The New Covenant Lead

I quit the church initially because my eyes were opened to the New Covenant. Picture a step like that of Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade” move, when he took a “leap of faith” across a great chasm, to find his aim; the cup of Christ. He stood there overlooking a plunge to certain death and put his foot out, leg straight and true, fully intending to take a step when he could not see where his foot would land. When his foot was stopped by a bridge he had not seen, he sighed with relief at finding his footing.

In the same way, leaving the church felt like that fearful step into the unknown. My family of forty years would not go with me. In fact, they would all turn their back on me with the “left foot of fellowship”. I was alone, but the spirit of God would show me that I could depend on our union.

I Tried To Find A Church

At first, after I quit my “home church”, I looked for a church that believed as I did. It’s no different than someone who chooses Baptist over non-denominational. When your eyes are open to the fact that tithing is complete bullshit, you can’t sit and listen as someone fleeces the sheep. There were other doctrinal issues that had pushed me out to try to find someone, anyone, who was walking in truth.

The further I went out, the more pillars began to crumble in the institutional church building. While hoping to find a body of believers that knew the truth and were walking in it, there were understandings breaking through my heart every day. Every church I tried to connect with was a complete disappointment. I couldn’t eat what they were serving anymore, my appetite had totally changed for the better. I felt like I had unplugged from the matrix and there was no turning back.

Church Came To Me

God was with me, and even though I had quit going to church, church started coming to me. I was living in an apartment and the smoke detector went off, leading me to call maintenance. A man showed up with his son to take care of fixing the smoke detector and the son noticed my guitar. One thing led to another and the young man ended up weeping and crying as I witnessed the love of God to him. We had experienced marvelous encounters, and none of them were inside a building.

The Wind In My Sails

A week later after the smoke detector surprise, three gay men who did not live at our complex, came in late at night to use the swimming pool. We went down for an evening swim, and we started talking with them. The love of God poured out between us, and there were tears. Every time I looked for God outside of the confines of a church relationship, I was not let down.

When I would start missing the fellowship that I had become so accustomed to inside the building, there would be a beautiful spontaneous expression that would be like a wind catching my faith sails. Whenever I was weary, God moments breathed upon my soul and I kept going.

The Ties That Bound, Loosed

Every time I had another epiphany about God outside of the church, I would become stronger. At times, it felt like learning to walk all over again. I always felt God with me, in me and through me. No longer did I need a pastor to show me how to live, I was spirit led all by myself and thriving. I began to find others that had left the church and were doing fine. Some of them were like me, trying to find their footing after thirty years of service. My life lost its co-dependencies and I started really walking in a spirit led life. My life was evidence of a spirit led life outside of the church building.

Demanding God?

That’s what’s scary for people. When you go to church, it pacifies some guilt that is embedded systematically by religion. It’s those twisted scriptures that really don’t mean what they say they do that twist the proverbial guilt blade. The, “Don’t forsake the fellowship of the brethren” verse is a good one. Other verses are used by the modern church as tools to keep people coming. If you told people they didn’t have to go to church, would they stay home? Today, where we battle for every second of time we can get, who wouldn’t stay home if they realized God wasn’t demanding their attendance?

They Did “Church” Different

When we go back to the beginning, you know that place around the time when Jesus rounded up a bunch of misfits; there was no building. At that time, there were no pastor’s in pulpits or apostles claiming they were more important than the seated pastors. There were no congregations, no tithe demands backed up by promises that God blesses the cheerful giver. Believers came together, loving God and each other in simplicity. People were going “from house to house” in spontaneous fellowship. That was what Jesus asked them to do, wasn’t it? Today, we have complicated and mechanized that beautiful relationship that Jesus perpetuated while he walked the earth. Puppeteers tell parishioners that “their reasonable sacrifice” is to attend church, and they not only believe it, they promote it defiantly as well.

I Was A True Building Disciple(r)

I promoted the institutional church agenda for thirty years and I know how we convince ourselves that “it’s true”. We parrot the same verbiage that we have swallowed. When someone refuses to listen, it becomes pointless to try to convince them of anything other than their truth. My life in ministry demanded that I was hard-nosed and defiant to anything that “threatened MY truth”. Now that I am on the other side of having my ears washed out with the soap of reality beyond religion, I look at those I have left behind with sadness and a desire to ask them to listen. It is for my brother’s and sister’s still in captivity that I write about life outside of institutionalism. Those who want to quit but are afraid.

Ask Yourself Ask yourself if you have ever wanted to sleep in. Have you ever heard the alarm go off on a Sunday morning and wished you could stay in bed another hour? Was there a time when you felt God nudge you in a direction, one that you excitedly shared with “leadership”, to find that they wouldn’t support you? Have you ever allowed yourself to question whether we are doing church right? Have you wanted to change church the way it is currently done? Did you want to quit? Questions lead to answers, if we allow ourselves to explore them. Religion is afraid of those who will ask questions, and are brave enough to discover the answers. My answer was to leave the institution and it was the right answer, for me. Can you be brave and admit that you have questions like I did?

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