A Deeper Look at What the Bible Says About Religion
By Aaron Armstrong
While waiting for my plane to take off, I did something I rarely ever do: I struck up a conversation with my seat-mate. We covered the basics—family, hometown, final destinations—pretty quickly, but when I started talking about my job, he really opened up.
I work for a nonprofit organization that partners with local churches in some of the poorest countries in the world. One of the things we do is give kids a chance to learn about Jesus in a safe environment. Telling people about my job usually elicits one of two reactions. They either say, “That’s . . . nice,” and attempt to exit the conversation as quickly as possible, or they start talking about their own ideas and experiences with spirituality and faith.
This man was definitely the latter. He began telling me all about his life and family. He shared that he and his wife really wanted their daughter to believe in something, though they didn’t have any particular religious beliefs themselves.
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As peculiar as this may seem, my seat-mate isn’t alone. In fact, a recent Gallup survey shows that although about three-quarters of respondents think religion as a whole is losing influence in America, that same number believe America would actually be better off if it were more religious.1 Meanwhile, millennials—the globally connected generation of young adults now taking center stage—have been shown to have almost no interest in religion at all. They find it divisive and unnecessary, if they think about it at all. As one millennial put it, “Religion is just really low on my list of priorities.”2
What does this tell us? At the very least, it tells us there’s a great deal of confusion about the idea of religion and whether it’s good or bad. And this confusion isn’t limited to those who consider themselves nonreligious.
You see, it’s become en vogue in North American Christian circles to put down religion. We publish books on the “end” of religion; we write blogs about why Christianity is superior to “religion.” We even make smash-hit YouTube videos about why it’s OK to hate religion . . . as long as you love Jesus.3
While contemporary critiques of religion all have their own strengths and weaknesses, there seems to be a fact overlooked by many: the validity of the criticism really depends on what you mean by “religion.”The way we understand anything about religion is entirely contingent upon what we mean when we use the word…