A Christian is taught to consider a 'religion' as something that has to do with any spiritual teacher other than Jesus Christ, and/or a set of spiritual beliefs which includes ritualism or tradition with which they are not familiar.
Here is what Dictionary.Com has to say about religion:
Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
Under the heading of "revealed religion" Dictionary.Com further expounds in part:
1. The outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and honor are due; the feeling or expression of human love, fear, or awe of some superhuman and overruling power, whether by profession of belief, by observance of rites and ceremonies, or by the conduct of life; a system of faith and worship; a manifestation of piety; as, ethical religions; monotheistic religions; natural religion; revealed religion; the religion of the Jews; the religion of idol worshipers.To the modern Evangelical "Christian" a religion is anything, including what might claim to be "Christianity," that requires nothing more than participation to provide some sort of "spiritual benefit". These things can range from saying words, such as "The Lord's Prayer" to elaborate and arcane rituals practiced by highly trained priests in secret and richly appointed temples to appease some obscure demonic beast. Anything, particularly if it is not related to their particular flavor of "Christianity," can be a religion, even if it is another sect of "Christianity." This is frequently seen in Protestants who believe that Catholics aren't "Christians," or "born-again" believers who proclaim that the less fundamentalist minded Christians are not "real" Christians.
2. Specifically, conformity in faith and life to the precepts inculcated in the Bible, respecting the conduct of life and duty toward God and man; the Christian faith and practice.
Generally, a "Christian" will describe any spiritual practice that is unlike their own, or with which they disagree, as a "religion", while they will characterize their spiritual life as a "relationship" with God (usually through Jesus), regardless of the similarities between their lifestyles and those of the people who are being marginalized as "religious."
When most people think of God, they do not think of him/her/it as someone with whom it is possible to be a friend or a lover in the way that one is a friend or a lover of another human being. Nearly all "Christians" will freely admit that 'Christianity' is essentially slavery to Jesus, and they use scriptures such as Matthew 20.27, Matthew 23.11, Mark 9.35, Mark 10.44, John 12.26, Romans 6.16 and Ephesians 6.6 support that argument. At the same time, they claim that the only way to experience "true freedom" is to accept the role of a slave. (1 Corinthians 7.22) A master/slave relationship is basically one-sided. The master commands and the slave obeys. It is not a "relationship" with the pleasant overtones Christians want to promote.
A lot of "Christians" will argue, in spite of hard evidence to the contrary, that unprovable and fantastic things are true. There are Pentecostals, for example, who will denigrate a diabetic person for injecting the insulin they neeed, because they are giving in to the demon of diabetes. Sufferers are encouraged to overcome the affliction through prayer and faith in God. These same people believe that the mentally ill have been afflicted with demons, and even go so far as to attempt to prove it by trying to cast these so-called demons out. A mountain of books have been sold on this topic—some to me.
Furthermore, the "God of the Bible" is reputed be the inspiration for all sorts of horrendous and abominable things, including the sexual mutilation and murder of infants, children and adults; incest and genocide; and, this "God" is even responsible for killing off almost everything on the planet in a great world-wide flood. These atrocities are well documented and widely known to anyone who reads the Bible. And yet, "Christians" continue to maintain that the "God of the Bible" is an entirely good "God" who only wants to have a loving relationship with everyone.
This begins to sound a lot like George Orwell's description of "doublethink."
Most people naturally consider Evangelicals (aka "born-again" Christians) to be very religious. Indeed, the conservative political "arm" of Evangelicalism is commonly called the Religious Right. Yet, ironically, Evangelicals themselves often deny that they practice a "religion!"
Again, Evangelicals define religion as a burdensome yoke of man-made rules and dead rituals; a futile attempt to please God and save oneself by good works. So, it is insisted that Christianity is not a religion but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Is Christianity a religion or a relationship?
Why Are Evangelicals Anti-Religion?
Among Christians, this aversion to "religion" is unique to Evangelicalism. Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and mainstream Protestantism never tried to claim that Christianity is "not a religion". The Protestant "reformers" (sic) did not object to the term religion either; in fact, they all used it to refer to the Christian Faith! So why do modern Evangelicals find this term so repugnant?
It may, in part, be the result of past attempts to share the Gospel with people who dislike "organized religion". Such folk would show resistance toward any discussion about Jesus and hostility to the prospect of becoming Christians. So perhaps Evangelicals started to tell them, "Hey, I hate religion as much as you do; I would never try to push that on you. I just want to tell you the Good News that Jesus loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. I'm not talking religion, but a relationship."
(I often wonder how many people buy this line, and how many simply say to themselves, "Well, this guy believes in a Deity, follows the Bible with all its 'do's and don'ts' and goes to church every Sunday - sounds like organized religion to me!")
Many Evangelicals honestly do have a tremendous personal aversion to "religion." The word evokes in their mind images of oppressive religious authorities, empty, showy rituals, and, most of all, self-righteous hypocrisy. It all seems completely removed from the deep love they have for their God and the joy they feel in living the their version of the Christian life.
What Does the B-I-B-L-E Say?
The Bible itself does not condemn all religion! In fact, James indicates that there is a true expression of religion, which he defines as follows:
"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27)
There you have it; The Bible clearly teaches that Christianity is a religion! When confronted with this verse, no one who truly wishes to be faithful to their Holy Scriptures could fail to acknowledge that.
An honest reading of the Bible will show that God is not opposed to religion or to its "rules and rituals". After all, He established just such a religion in ancient Israel! Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, is full of all sorts of commands - six hundred and thirteen of them, to be exact! It also contains many detailed rituals involving sacrifice, purification, etc., all given to Israel by the Lord.
Nor was Jesus opposed to religion, for the Gospels tell us that He Himself observed the Judaism of His time. He kept all the Commandments contained in the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and worshiped His Eternal Father every Sabbath in the synagogue liturgy: "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, unabated day. And he stood up to read" (Luke 4:16; also Mark 1:21; 6:2; Luke 6:6; John 6:59).
Jesus also made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for major festivals (Luke 2:41-42; John 2:13; 5:1; 7:2-10; 10:22-23) and celebrated the Passover Seder (Luke 22:7-15), a ritual meal complete with written prayers and hymns. No, Christ was not opposed to organized religion and rituals.
(When Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, He was only condemning the empty religiosity which a few of them exhibited. He was neither condemning the Jewish religion itself nor religion in general! Notice that He prefaces His strongest words against the religious leaders by telling the crowds to observe the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees because they "sit on Moses' seat" [Mt 23:2]. That means they have religious authority over the people!)
After He ascended into heaven, His disciples followed His example. They went to the Temple daily to worship God until they were kicked out (Luke 24:52-53; Acts 3:1), and met daily in each others houses, then later in the catacombs. Scripture records the following about the earliest believers, right after
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers....And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people" (Acts 2:41-47).
According to this passage, the infant Church had doctrine (the apostle's teachings), rituals (Baptism and "breaking of bread"), communal prayer and temple worship. Don't those sound like the elements of a religion? Yes, and that is what they are.
Christianity makes demands of those who believe: Care for the unfortunate, Keep yourself unstained by the world, Bridle your tongue (James 1:26), Gather in Church every Sunday (Hebrews 10:25), Hear God's word (Joshua 1:8), Obey Christ's commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23-24), Be baptized (Acts 2:38), Receive Communion (John 6:53), Confess you sins (James 5:16) etc. These are not "dead works" talked about by the writer of Hebrews. Paul said: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Eph 2:10).
I would say that Christianity is most definitely a religion.
What do you think?