Hello reality; goodbye religion

God said we’d die, and there hasn’t been a human yet who hasn’t died. Hello reality, therefore; we’re all going to die – either in the natural ageing process, often advanced by disease and poverty, or we’re killed by accident, war or a natural disaster. And even if scientists discover how to reverse the ageing gene, imagine what billions of ageless humans would do to each other in the fight for survival.

But religion jumps in with a soothing solution: Death happens to us all, yes, but not to worry, there’s another life after death, based on some vision of the afterlife a man had. And being a very charismatic chap millions of people in his region of the world believed him.

And isn’t that how Christianity got started too? Jesus arrived on the scene, also claiming he had special insight into life after death. He even claimed he’d come from God and been sent by God to solve the problem of human death in himself, and humans would no longer have to worry about death if they believed and followed him. And many people in his region of the world did believe and follow him too.

But Jesus’ credibility took a nosedive when he died. So now what proof was there of life after death when Jesus, just like all the other charismatic visionaries in human history, died, and with their death the proof of whether they were right or not about their version of the afterlife died with them?

But Jesus came back to life again. And the most shocked people of all were his followers, who thought he’d been talking through his hat when he predicted he would rise from the dead. But now he’d gone and done it, forcing that rag tag bunch of shattered, despondent men and women to face reality, that what he said about life being possible after death was true.

And face it they did. It’s what started them on the road to believing in this man. It wasn’t for any religious reason or superstition based on vague, unprovable visions; it was based on evidence, the pure, raw evidence that a human being had defeated death, and he was standing there and talking to them – and eating food – as proof of it.

So hello reality, goodbye religion, because who needs the superstition and vague visions of religion when the proof of life after death has already happened, and a human has defeated death? But religion breezes over that as if it never happened, resulting in all sorts of weird ideas about the afterlife that have no proof whatsoever to back them up.

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How is Christianity different to other religions?

Christianity isn’t different to other religions, in that it too, like all the major religions, has symbols, rituals, special commemorative days, named gods, and belief in an afterlife. It too erects impressive buildings, lays out strict rules for how to behave, and attempts to moderate behaviour by the promise of eternal rewards for good people and the threat of something awful for the wicked. And like all typical religions Christianity claims it too is the only true path to spirituality and eternity.

Christianity has also shared the same embarrassing faults with other religions, of divisions and conflicts within, of splinter groups breaking away to carve a purer path, of dealing extremely harshly with heretics, and even justifying the killing of other humans as a godly duty. Christians are also just as vulnerable as members of other religions to judging and condemning anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And like members of all religions, Christians also believe we must escape these horrible bodies of ours and this horrible world into some ethereal bliss that is totally out of touch with why this creation came into existence in the first place.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people wonder why we have religions at all, especially when religion has been the cause of so many conflicts, crusades, inquisitions, massacres, burnings, stonings, mutilations, land-grabbings, and the worship of human power and personality. And no religion, including Christianity, can be excused for its stupidity and cruelty by dragging out a list of the good things it has done, because none of the good done has erased evil completely or permanently in the world, or in any religious community either.

Would the world be better off without religion, therefore? Of course it would. No more killings in the name of one’s god, no more holier than thou attitudes, no more barbaric practices in the name of religious purity, no more chucking rocks at each other over doctrinal differences, no more fear of eternal torture, no more philosophical rubbish that offers no solution to death or evil, no more worshipping fallible human beings, no more wildly different ideas as to what happens to us after we die, no more wanting to escape this beautiful earth and our wonderful bodies for something fuzzy and meaningless for eternity, and no more self-centred play acting to get oneself saved.

But true Christianity was never about any of those things anyway. It’s about a man who said he was sent by God to give us eternal life, and came back from the dead to prove it. It was all about solving the problem of humans who die. Nothing religious about it; just raw reality.

Is Christianity relevant in a world like ours?

It isn’t Christianity that’s relevant, it’s Christ-likeness, because without Christ-likeness Christianity is just another religion that’s totally irrelevant to those who are aren’t Christians, just as Buddhism is totally irrelevant to non-Buddhists.

Without Christ-likeness Christianity would more appropriately be called ‘Christianism’ and be lumped in with all the other “isms” like Hinduism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Taoism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism, all of which differ wildly in their beliefs and rituals and what happens after we die, which make them all totally irrelevant and meaningless to anyone who doesn’t agree with those beliefs. And then there are serious differences and divisions within religions too, like the vicious conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Islam, and between Catholics and Protestants in Christianity, that totally disqualify all those involved as being relevant.

What would be relevant is everyone being Christ-like. If the whole world did what Christ taught there’d be no need for any religion in the first place, or any strange rituals, or any competing denominations, because we’d all be getting along, loving our neighbours as ourselves, treating others as we ourselves would love to be treated, and correcting ourselves rather than judging and condemning others.

And from what I’ve heard and read, most people have no trouble accepting what Jesus taught. It makes total sense. If we all loved our enemies, for instance, as Jesus taught, we wouldn’t have bullies, tyrants, war, racism, conflicts between neighbours, suicidal teenagers, character assassinating gossips, an upper class despising the lower classes, and vice versa. Christ-likeness would change the world, if only we could all be Christ-like.

But therein lies the problem, because being Christ-like is next to impossible in a world where to survive financially, and not be trodden on emotionally and socially, you’ve got to be better, sharper, more cunning and more ruthless than the competition. To be nice, honest, thoughtful, sensitive and truthful is asking for trouble and opening oneself up to being taken to the cleaners by salesmen, scam artists and bullies. And how can a youngster be Christ-like in school when it makes him so vulnerable to being picked on and isolated?

But this is where Christianity can be hugely relevant, because it provides a place for those who wish to be Christ-like, so that some people, at least, get the chance to see and taste the difference Christ-likeness makes. And equipped with that knowledge they can live in a world like ours with courage and the desire to share and practice what they’ve learnt, making them extremely relevant in a world that is desperately seeking solutions to its problems and hasn’t cottoned on yet that Christ-likeness is the solution.

Is it what we GET that makes Christianity attractive?

So much of Christianity nowadays seems to be about the things you get for being Christian, like you get salvation if you repent and believe, you get rewards if you do good works, you get a closer walk with God if you fast and pray, and you get all kinds of blessings if you’re kind and generous. It’s all “get, get, get.”

But isn’t that the appeal of the Christian message, though? It’s what we “get” for being Christians, isn’t it? We all get to go to heaven because we’re Christians, not go to hell like all those non-Christians. And when we become Christians we get miracles, we get healing, we get angelic protection, we get answers to prayer, we get all our needs met, we get life in abundance, we get peace beyond understanding, we get joy inexpressible, and on an on it goes. And isn’t that a huge part of Christian preaching to make Christianity attractive to others? It’s like selling a product by advertising all the things it can do to make life easier, happier and more exciting.

But the attraction of Christianity isn’t what we can get when we’re Christian, it’s realizing what we’ve already got. According to 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” HAS given, take note, meaning it’s already ours. And according to Paul in Ephesians 3:20, it’s even beyond our imagination what we’ve already got.

And that’s what people need to hear. It’s not “if you become Christian you get all these goodies,” it’s “Christ died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15) so that our greatest needs as humans have already been taken care of. And if only we believed it we would then begin to experience it. What we’ve denied ourselves as humans, then, is experiencing what we’ve already got.

We were all dead in our transgressions, for instance, but God made us alive with Christ and “seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:5-6), so that we could join Christ in all that’s he’s doing, filling this world with everything he is, all of which God planned in advance for us to do (verse 10) before the world was even created (Ephesians 1:4). All that’s left for us to do is participate in what is already ours (2 Peter 1:4).

When Christ ascended that’s when the Holy Spirit was given to us so that Christ himself in all his divine and perfect nature can actually live what his Father has already given to us IN us (Colossians 3:4). Christianity, therefore, is never about getting; it’s all about God’s giving, every step of the way. And that’s what makes Christianity so attractive.

Is Christianity about me and my future?

I woke up at the tail end of a frightening dream. I was in a church service singing a hymn, the congregation was swaying to the music and I was swaying in all the wrong directions, so I was glad when the hymn ended and we could all sit down. But just before sitting down the chap in front of me turned round and said, “I’m really looking forward to your sermon today.” Horrors: I’ve got the sermon? Right now?

So up I went and announced the first thing that came to mind, which was: “Christianity is not about self.” And that’s when I woke up. But in that twilight period of coming to, I pursued the thought further. How can Christianity be about me and my future when I’ve already “been raised with Christ,” Colossians 3:1, and my entire “life is now hidden with Christ in God,” verse 3?

The present preoccupation of much of Christianity with being good enough to go to heaven after we die, therefore, is at odds with Scripture which says we’re already in heaven with Christ and God. I don’t have to worry about me and my future at all then, do I, when Scripture clearly says my “self” has already been taken care of forever? But what, then, is the purpose of my human self now, while I’m still here on the Earth?

Well, when Jesus was here as a human he was in heaven and on Earth at the same time, just like we are. His reason for being on the Earth, meanwhile, was to be his Father’s agent. “See me, you see the Father,” he told Philip in John 14:9. So Jesus’ purpose for being here as a human was to be a perfect reflection of his Father.

And what people saw in Jesus was the relationship he had as a human with God. Jesus demonstrated that by obeying and trusting God in everything, and God always answered his every need. And there’s OUR reason too for being here on the Earth still; it’s to be JESUS’ agents, obeying and trusting him, and him taking care of our every need, so that people see the kind of relationship we humans can have with him.

My life is a reflection of that, which I’m able to do because “Christ is my life,” Colossians 3:4. Jesus now creates the same kind of relationship he had with the Father in me, through us obeying and trusting him.

Our concern isn’t about “me and my future,” then, because that’s all been taken care of already. It’s about what we’re here for now.