Religion vs Relationship

Recently I put one of my infamous controversial Facebook statuses up that garnered a bit of a response. Some of the responses got me thinking about the subject matter of this post. Here is the status I put up that day:

I rejoice when others doubt the myth and misery of Christianity. I know the pain that pursuing the non-existent can cause a person and it makes me glad when someone escapes it!

I was inspired to put this up when I got to thinking about the rejoicing I would do when I was able to successfully share the “gospel” of Christ with someone and how glad that would make me. I remembered Luke 15:10 which states, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (KJV) and began thinking about all of the trouble, confusion, and pain that comes with living in the Christian faith.

One of the responses I received was from a local youth pastor of one of the larger Baptist churches in our small town. I’ve met this fellow before, but we really don’t know each other in any way beyond that of a passing acquaintance, he is good at what he does and has always come off as a very nice guy so I am in no way attempting to start beef with him – this is just something I have heard before that I wanted to take the opportunity to address for the edification of my Atheist and Christian friends. Here is what he said:


Hey, Matt. I too have experienced the emptiness of “Christian” religion. However, a relationship with the God of true Christianity is something all-together different. God hates religion because religion is all about man’s attempt to please a god that he has either fabricated or perverted… and there is nothing more meaningless or miserable than that. True Christianity is not trying or doing, but simply knowing. I praise the Lord that he graciously & powerfully transformed my life, through Jesus Christ, into a life of purpose, excitement, and joy. I know that my redeemer lives! May many more experience the true and abundant life that only Christ can bring!

If you are an Atheist or Agnostic then I am sure you have heard this in some form or another at least six thousand times. In fact it is something I have carried in my “bag of tricks” whilst doing evangelism when I was still captive to Christianity. This is what is known as the “Religion vs Relationship” argument and is closely related to the logical fallacy known as the No True Scotsmen position. What the commenter is basically asserting here is that I have never truly been a Christian – that perhaps what I experienced those years ago was some watered down non-truth version of Christianity.  I don’t really think that this position is as much intentional as it is convenient as it provides a simple explanation for apostasy that fits within a persons Bible-based worldview (Arminian in this case) with little or no thought required.

Clearly those that knew me well when I was still a Christian as well as my regular readers know that I do believe there are two distinct ways at encountering religion, which absolutely fits with this persons perspective. There are those that come into their beliefs with no real struggle about it, they simply go to church from an early age and perhaps simply believe because they don’t know any better.  These people could care less about the Great Commission and are only concerned with getting into heaven by the skin of their teeth. I was not one of these people. For some, like myself, the pursuit of God (understanding him, knowing him, experiencing him, etc.) becomes an obsession. Every waking breath is spent by these individuals trying to find the ways to best please God and to make him known to other people, we are seekers of God’s face and we won’t rest until we find him or until we die trying. To me that is a True-Christian, as much as I hate terms like that. True Christianity (or Islam, B’hai, Judaism, etc.) requires sacrifice and pain that lazy Christianity does not, Christians like this are the ones that will endure a lifetime of pain in their pursuit of that which does not exist.

Like me, those seeking a relationship with God are simply fooling themselves and doing so with good intentions. The fact that one can make his god real and experience him like one experiences the aspects of reality makes that man-made god (all gods are man made) an image of its creator and therefore susceptible to his volition. A seeker in any faith will create a personal God and eventually that God will either justify every whim of that individual or lead him to insanity in trying to please it. This is called schizophrenia.

So, the person that left the comment was correct; True-Christianity is far different from religion but it is no more true.

  • I've never understood how someone has a relationship with someone who either never existed or died over 2000 years ago. Of course, one does not have any such relationship. Instead, one has a relationship with oneself. Like you suggested, when this relationship reaches the level of delusion, we call it Christianity.

    • I'm new to this site and I didn't know what your stance was because you began reciting scripture yet there was mention of atheism but not in that "shun the non believer, evolution is for abortionists" rhetoric.

      Anyways what I'm trying to say is that it's interesting to see it from the other side, from a former pastor (was it?). Usually they (theists) always bring up stories of athiests having seen the light and switching over from their alleged hedonistic lifestyles.

      • Atheism isn't always hedonistic….though that certainly is within our rights…most of us find ways to serve the world rather than simply ourselves….people don't become scientists for glory fame or money, they do it to find solutions to problems that plague billions….certainly not hedonistic!

        I was not a pastor, I had a non-affiliated ministry that focused on recovery from sexual abuse and ritual (religious) abuse in cult/occult settings…it's a long story but it was a ministry of service and a very specialized skill set that I have.

      • and thanks for the comment, very much

    • You can have a thriving relationship with someone who is alive – therefore, the someone has to be alive – Jesus was raised from the dead 3 days after he was put into the cave – witnessed by over 500 separate individuals who recorded what they discovered to be irrefutable to them – we can argue all day long 2000 years later, but to them it was very real.

      If he wasn't raised from the dead according to history, then the entire 'Christian' movement and the totality of its presence in the Earth was a very huge deception – which is what most in your shoes argue – most come to that conclusion very glibly, without checking out the massive archive of recordings and evidence that have been collected by those professing that it is true for 2 millenia…

      Delusion is an easy word to toss around – if you end up standing before this 'Jesus' someday, and you discover that he will judge you for eternity, will you try and convince yourself in that moment that what your are experiencing is just you being delusional..? Just curious, you may end up eating those words…

      No probs, it doesn't bother me for folks to take shots at what they don't understand – but man its going to suck major if you're wrong – it won't for us, because if we are wrong we've lost nothing, maybe missed out on a lot of fun… 😉

      To make a claim that this someone never existed or died over 2000 years ago is to completely ignore a very massive collection of human history, documentation, culture, knowledge, etc…. Seems like a suckers bet to me – at least put forth the effort to explain why all of that makes no sense – I on the other hand am always amazed that so many can simply dismiss it all without decades of personal research – especially since the consequence of being wrong is potentially so permanent; e.g. eternal… Mike M

      • What if you are wrong and Allah is right?

        It's not like there are only two possibilities here….Christians are atheists in regards to every god but one, we atheist only reject one fewer god than you do….so you still have thousands of chances to be wrong in ways that would garner you some sort of punishment…our chances are nearly the same….my lack of faith makes no threats on my person…im gonna stick with that until someone proves otherwise.

      • Eternity is not permanent. (Learn the Latin.) And there is no history behind Gospels. Tell us when it was written and the meaning of history. He was also a liar and sinner. So we can't be wrong.

  • Rachel

    You use many skirted negatives to garner your points.

    • maybe i like my negatives to wear skirts?

      If you give me a specific example and some sort of refutation of it i would be glad to address it….I certainly can't deny that I focus on rather rare negative occurrences, but they are indeed my experiences.

  • While the cliche term is tiresome, its still basically how I see things. Christianity as we know it today, its rituals and subculture…I would call the "religion" part of it. This side of Christianity I have grown more and more sick and tired of as years go by, to a point that I want little to nothing to do with it or even the label of "christian". But their is a whole other side of me that seeks God in my everyday life…through what I read, biblical or not, and through what I see and encounter. When I forget about what all the people I know think of me now, and I forget about church and just "seek God" on my own…I find life alot more enjoyable. NO longer is it about pleasing religious duties, people or even so much God…its just discovering how God made things to be and what hes trying to do in my own life.

    I dont know that that pastor was trying to imply "you were never a christian" I think those blanket statements for anyone who defects from faith to be absurd. I think you were a Christian and you were coming to understand God so well, and so much deeper than most people do that you became frustrated with the sheeple around you. That coupled with other evidence led you not to believe in any of it at all. So I wouldnt say you were never a christian, I would say you were moreso than most any that I know.

  • Mike

    Whatsup Matt..? How are you doing man..? Been awhile since I've been here – too busy surviving – but things are looking up…

    As always, you know where I stand on this – I relate to a living God, one who meets all my needs on every level – one who knows more about me than I know about myself, because he created me and gave me everything I would need to fulfill everything I would ever encounter in this lifetime – I'm consistently surprised by his level of involvement in my life and I've met him face to face on a few occasions in my lifetime. He died over 2000 years ago for all of our sin and was the first to be permanently resurrected from the dead – just as much alive as he ever was – he is a person, not a thought or idea – narrow is the way to him and few there be that find it – not because he hasn't made it evident,but because we are too caught up in our own drama to put forth the effort most often than not – it took me 25 years to get to this place – so those that pursue, must be prepared to pursue for a lifetime – he must be Lord of all or he refuses to be Lord at all – the evidence far surpasses any other ideology on the planet – but like I've said so many time – we are all more rationalizing than rational and I understand the need to believe that we are all OK – I get that its tough, but it doesn't change anything.

    Put me up against an atheist in an a horrible foreign prison situation, and I will thrive, most atheists will go insane – why, because my God is alive and I can relate to him – with nobody to relate to, all humans will eventually go crazy – thus the atheist argument melts when real life shows up – sorry you guys, but its true. I've met many atheists who do pretty well putting up a front that everything is OK and they have total control because its all so logical – but the reality is that on the inside they don't understand all the things they can't control -don't have a logical explanation for the emotional roller coaster ride, and many turn to other temporary things to lean on – put me in a situation that is impossible, and I will come out smelling like a rose – why..? Because my God is alive..!

    As always Matt, I have all the respect in the world for you – keep up the conversation – when you get to the end of this thing, you'll discover that your first love was the right place to be – hope all is well with you – God Bless… 😉 MM

    • wow Mike,

      if you were in a horrible prison situation, and you thrived because of your reliance on god, does that not simply mean that your reliance is a safe and easy crutch for a mental dependency? Just because your delusional belief serves you well in times of need does not make the subject of that belief any more real. It is not evidence of this creator in the least, just that you rely on one.

      I would like to think that I might thrive as well in a prison environment, left to my own devices and thoughts, nothing but time to think….

      truthfully though, I don't think many spoiled americans would do very well in a foreign prison…lets just be honest

      • Hi Matt,

        Yes..! You hit it – he is for me a crutch as I've learned in my older age that we all lean upon something or someone. We weren't designed to go it alone – something in us always looks for assistance along the way.

        It actually makes it real for me – life is all about perception anyhow – none of us have the whole and absolute truth, we are striving to discover it; my current belief structure has been built over a lifetime of trying this, trying that and finding what actually works – like everybody else – some put forth more effort than others – the beauty of it is that you nor I can necessarily convince the other that he is wrong – no matter how many expletives or adjectives we throw at the other…

        You are one of the few that I think might actually have a shot at surviving – I'd be willing to bet you would rediscover your relationship with Jesus in such a situation – hopefully we will never know the real outcome – don't want to wish that experience on anybody really… 😉

        Evidence is a funny word – it seems that we are all more rationalizing than rational – we all have our version of evidence – for me, I have enough to know that Jesus is alive and way more real than most believe – that the existence of a 'spirit realm' that is even more real than our earthly existence is true, and that it has great influence over the affairs of mere mortal men…

        Just wondering, for those that read this, what you imagine when you put your imagination into trying to envision your own death – I've thought alot about mine lately and discovered its a pretty scary thing to imagine – were we right, were we wrong..? Even for us its still pretty intimidating to think about it – would be an interesting topic to discuss…

        As always, not making any claims to have it all correct – just presenting what I believe to be true – thank you so much for your willingness to engage in this discussion and I will continue to endeavor to remain faithfully yours… Mike M

        • If you knew him, you would not call him Giizas Crayst. Of course this means nothing and is nobody. If you knew scripture, you could tell the Gospels (or writs) never calld him God, but the son of God, and Ttòmas's line was about how the lone way to God was throuh Krist.

          There is no "breath realm". Learn the Latin.. and English.. and Hellènic, and Hibirijt. Your Buybull is full of liges, mistakes, and frauds, and you still believe weird feelings or hormones (endorfins?) are God (They're not.). There is nothing your fake God can do thas another fake God or I or anyone cannot.

          We all were already dead. We never met Gods and we never will.

  • It's funny, I get told this every now and then. The thing is, I said the exact same thing for 20 years, and truly my faith wasn't about religion or ritual at all. It was about seeking God in my daily life, in his word, and in fellowship with other believers. It all boils down to the No True Scotsman fallacy, you were into religion, not relationship, blah, blah, blah.

    • I've said it before too <shameface>..many times

      • Well, I do think there is a difference between going to church a couple of times a week, worshiping, going to Bible study, and really throwing yourself into seeking a relationship with God. I think if I had been a religious Christian only I'd probably still be there, but because of my attempts at relationship I am where I am now.

  • Mike, that's about one of the most offensive, condescending things I've read towards atheists. I could make similar arguments about Christians. Christians lives fall apart at times too, that doesn't make their faith invalid, at least not to them.

    • I should have been more specific – my lack of detail may have allowed folks to miss the point I was trying to make – we all have a need to relate to someone – left alone, at least for most, we eventually lose touch with reality and life over time – sending most over the edge of insanity – scientifically and mathematically proven – the point I was trying to make which I miserably failed at was that the difference between those that have a real relationship with a living God and those who don't is that there is someone to continue to relate to

      Ok, I get it, I screwed it up – Matt, you're right as always, most Americans would fail to survive in most 3rd world prisons – especially if left by themselves in solitary for years on end – the ability to have someone to relate to, hope in, etc., seems to make a big difference…

      There is a great book out written by a Jewish Psychiatrist, Victor Frankl – "Man's search for meaning" – recommend it – it doesn't necessarily support my argument – but is a fascinating read as he was a concentration camp guy and tried to understand the differences between those who survived and those who didn't –

      Hi Mike, good to hear from you again – I promise, I've been way more offensive than that before – but I really wasn't trying to necessarily offend, just point out some notable differences – its tough to do a decent job via this medium… sorry dude… Mike M

  • RevOxley, I always enjoy your posts. I too used to praise God and think about those angels who were rejoicing. I am also excited when I see others who are questioning and are truly trying to 'figure it out.' I like to see others who are stepping outside of themselves and their organized religion to see things from another Point of View. As someone who grew up in church, but who was not satisfied with just showing up, I held very strong to my beliefs for years. But, one day I decided that I should allow the questions I had to come to the surface and be answered. This was perhaps the most enlightening, painful and ultimately wonderful thing I ever did. I stopped the cycle of just trusting that this was true, and looked at things from another point of view.

    I hope that everyone allows themselves the freedom to explore, question and see things from another point of view. It makes whatever conclusion is come to, more real, and more personal. For me, personally, I came out the other side with a stronger sense of self, and much greater appreciation for others. I also am much more okay with knowing that I don't know very much about the world and the universe, etc… and that that is okay.

  • I am interested in the phrase "Bag of Tricks" you talk about. What is up with that?

  • miss patricia

    as i read all of your comment's on your thoughts and ideal/,s i am saddened for the boy i once new. You had the power of God so strong in you . You just made the process of serving your lord and savior way harder than God ever intended. I don't sit in judgement . But i will call your name and lift you up before the true and real God who loves you in spite of your proclaimed unbelief. Ine day you will experience a major turn of events. You will come to the end of this and back to your first love.

    • How did I make my servitude harder? I simply wanted "Pure Religion Undefined"…the heart of God was the only thing I ever sought…I imagine that is difficult…but is that not what we are asked to seek for?

      Because I refuse to allow emotional stimuli to change the way I think or to skew my understanding of the world, I refuse to allow them to make me a believer again. If your beliefs are brought about by that sort of stimuli the the belief is likely to be shallow and poorly understood….

      • Scott

        For someone who speaks much about keeping an open mind, I believe you just contradicted yourself with the above comment. The older you become the more you learn,that's a fact.. I have many issues with religion as well but that doesn't mean I'm hell-bent to shut it out completely just because a couple of Southern Baptist conservatives have pissed me off by slapping their religion on me. My advice, get out of Eastman and see what's out there instead of griping about political functions in the blip of Dodge County and then come back and feed me all of your opinions you desire.

        On the otherhand, I think I understand what your going through with religion around here. It's a very shallow perception of what it really means. IMO, God is real! I may not dedicate myself to Little Pebble church every Wednesday and Sunday night but that's a personal choice. I'm not one of these people who completely throw away the idea of "science" because that's just completely idiotic. I'm also not going to use the cliche "well it had to come from somewhar" remark. While that is true it is heavily overused and just sounds ignorant.

        When I need reassurance there is a higher power I just look around me. Pinch myself. Look outside and just think about the beginning of times. There is a scientific explaination for many things. Chromosomes,genes, and all of this other stuff is something we made into words.Break it down to me Matt where our consciousness comes from. After you do that break down each ingredient that makes up a consciousness. We can try to explin everything but we will never be able to.
        I don't want to come off as someone who has everything down pat to what I believe, because I don't. I just felt obligated to post here today.

        • Scott,

          who ever indicated that bad experiences led to my unbelief? You really need to go deeper into my background – maybe ask some questions…bad assumptions make an ass out of you and me.

          I'd love to get out of Eastman…kind of. I love this place and I hate it, I think I prefer trying to affect change in Eastman rather than allowing it to continue on in the ignorance that it is so famed for. Some folks don't mind bending over and watching potential float away, I am not that type.

          Religion around here is quite shallow. Lots of emotionalism and very little substance, if you will. My religion, though emotionalism spawned it,became much more personal than that of most so I really have little respect for those that participate in the shallow religion we have around here. If you have not thought critically about your beliefs then I have a hard time communicating with you – it should be an essential task for any religious person. It did wonders for me.

          It's so easy to call things that we do not understand the result or effect of a god. It kind of removes the challenge of science to do that. Science cannot prosper if it ever simply assumes that "god did it" – it completely halts progress. It is better to assume otherwise than to take the easy road.

          Thanks for commenting

  • Autymn D. C.

    Are you black?

    See above.

  • Scott

    My apologies on the comment about not posting my opinion. I was confused by the 3 "My gripe" threads.

  • Kayla

    Many times people have questions about the Bible that they do not understand and they feel if they ask them then they will be frowned upon for questioning the Bible. I feel the reason that God doesn’t just tell us everything about the Bible is so we can put our trust in Him like it says in Proverbs 3:5. The realationship part is why God first put Jesus on earth. We may think that all of this is just a hoaks but I have grown up in church and until I really started working at my realationship with God I didn’t understand the true beauty of it. It says in Jeremiah 33:3 “Call on me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things thou knowest not.” When I figured out that the realationship part was not a question as to wheather God loved me or not but rather how he has shown his love to me and how I should try to love him in the same way, I finally realized how selfish I was. That’s when my realationship with God started to blossom. We can argue all day long of how Christianity isn’t a realationship but until you experience it you may not understand. That would be like trying to breath with no air. God is the beginning of understanding! He loves you wheather you believe that or not.

  • Hi ya’ll, I’m what you’d call ‘A genuine Christian’. I will say- I feel that I am born again. I’ve got spiritual rebirth.
    Revoxley is my friend. I am trying very hard not to judge the Rev. I will say that I did do this.
    I feel very bad that I did. I have shared with the Rev what I said about him. This isn’t an easy thing to do. I forward many more E-Mail messages than I withold..
    I have recently caught a news bight where some religious person was striving to pull down some Atheist signs that were about people being trapped into god worship and spirtuall holidays and such. Now folks? Before I had met Revoxley; I would have felt threatened by viewing that telivision news! I have to say though- this time, I just experianced a sort of soft peace over the issue. The last five or so years around christmas, I have found myself questionioning, “If the 25th of Dec. is all about The LORD’s B-day- why is so many people being driven stark raving mad over buying gift after gift for person after person?” The Rev and I do have some common ground of understanding in some areas. My question is this: How do I remain friends with someone who has a total opposite ideology? The Christian Bible it would seem, calls certain people to be living in darkness. It tells Christians to avoid those who live in darkness…Allas! I have a bit of peace about this friendship though. It is said that The Jesus Christ made friends with so called unrighteous people! I have seen it said that The Father above will call me his friend if I do watever He tells me… The Rev of revoxley is my friend today- regardless of what he believes.. Can we continue listening to each others oppinions without either of us feeling as though our ideologies have become harmed? I hope so. After all, I know for a fact; no person makes another’s mind for them. this nation that was founded by moral men of integrity believed strongly in being heard, and being able to hear all others who had a thing to say! Bye all. Sincerely, The Dream Dr.

  • Jay

    Truth exists. A misplaced dependency for receiving truth will result in missing out on experiencing truth and instead believing false truths through forming theories (so-called educated beliefs or opinions, actually guesses). We can have curiosities that we feel must be answered that actually require no such answers. So, we venture to satisfy these wonderings in our minds about God and whatever with our beliefs that we ourselves own because we created them in our minds. Most of Christianity is guilty of this which is also why there are so many countless divisions of Christianity.
    “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
    “it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”
    “And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.”
    “LORD, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
    I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
    Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
    “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God”