12 January 2012

What does St. James say about hating religion?

Adding my voice to the chorus of others, I thought I might also weigh in on the Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus: Spoken Word video.

Those who claim to love Jesus but hate religion - or who are spiritual but not religious - are Protestants (or Catholics who think like Protestants).  As such, they claim to follow the Bible, and to follow it alone.

Now, we all know the skip over certain - shall we say - inconvenient passages of the Scriptures that contradict their Protestant worldview (John 6; Matthew 16:18-19; and James 2:17, just to name a few).

But there is one particular passage that is of great interest in regarding the above mentioned video: James 1:26-27.  Writes Saint James:
If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Clearly, James is not condemning religion in and of itself, for he says there is a religion "that is pure and undefiled before God."  What he condmens is not religion, but rather hypocrysy, as others have already pointed out (though out reference to these verses).

If, therefore, someone rejects religion, he rejects the Scriptures, which he claims to follow.

What is more, in some translations Cornelious is described as "a religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God" (Acts 10:2, Douay Version.  In modern translations the word is translated devout; I don't have the Greek text handy.  Perhaps someone can help with this.)  This description is clearly not an insult but squares well with James' definition of a pure religion.

The meaning of the word "religion" itself should also be explored.  It comes from the Latin religare, meaning "to bind again."  Religion is, then, what binds man to God and God to man.  The word religion is defined as follows:
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
There is nothing in the meaning of the word to justify a rejection of religion.  Before people go spouting off against something, they would be wise to understand first what it is they refject and to choose their words carefully.

Update: Several years ago, Jeffrey Pinyan did a word study on religion, that he was kind enough to bring to my attention.


  1. I did a word study on "religion" three years ago on my blog. The problem that "spiritual but not religious" people have with religion is really with people who are religious but not spiritual! ;)