Why I Left Religion Behind

megachurch

The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is higher than it has ever been before. Young people, driving this trend, have seen the damage that religion is causing in their own local communities and around the world.

I have a hard time reconciling the fact that people need religion to create a sense of personal responsibility and morality when it should come from the individual. It is a somewhat insulting idea that in “God’s plan” we are all powerless chess pieces on a chess board of life and that the worst things that happen are inevitable, part of a prophecy. I despise the “let go and let God” message that far too many religious spew, further removing any individual from personal accountability. I can’t stomach this bible verse instructing the weak of mind to worry not about anything, just pray. Prayer, in its traditional form, is the most self-indulgent and useless of activities. You want me to recite words or ask for something without getting off my knees and making it happen? I think true prayer can be found in our actions and convictions not in recited word. God most certainly does NOT want you to leave it in his hands any more than he wants you waiving around books or objects or beads or statues or amulets or any other idolytry.

There is big difference between the religious and those with morality. Dressing immodestly makes you no more immoral than praying ten times a day or following some special diet make you more moral. Attending a man-made service with man-made rituals and listening to man-made doctrine makes you no more moral than not attending at all. In fact, with so many of these mega-churches building mega-structures and flying private jets and living the high-life on the backs of their followers, I find attending these services more immoral than not. And don’t get me started on the Vatican and their sex parties and hustler rings and illegal drug use. People are starting to see the truth.

Religion has become a profitable, commoditized business with slick marketing campaigns and architects hired to build new excessive, new buildings and money invested to build modern electronic money collection systems and engaging new websites. How is it that God has become an industry and to whom should the right to profiteer from this be granted? And why are these operations not subject to tax?

And how about the idea of whom God’s chosen people are? There have been deities and religions for thousands of years. Who is to say which the correct one is? Are we really all worshiping the same God? How can that be if some Gods are asking people to kill others and sacrifice people and animals while other God’s are pacifists?

What about the world’s turmoil caused by religion? Its awful enough that we have race and ethnic origin to marginalize people with. Long before the Jihadism we became more of aware of on 9/11, we have seen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sudanese holocaust, the holocaust of World War II, and the many European holy wars that spanned hundreds of years. Bloodiest of all is the Christian crusades where millions were sacrificed. All in the name of the classic game of “my religion is better than yours. You must submit now.” This same sentiment holds true today when the door bell rings and the salesman is ready to tell you why eternal salvation can only come through [insert one religion here] and not yours. But for a limited time, you too can be blessed. Operators are standing by. I always use my favorite line from As Good As It Gets, “Go sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.”

And what’s this “blessed” phenomenon that people are using. It’s the newest hash tag. You’re #blessed because you got a new pair of shoes or you attended some fancy event or you got the dinner you wanted while much of sub-Saharan Africa starves? It hardly seems reasonable to make these claims. What makes you so blessed? Is blessed some sort of code word that God loves you better than me? I don’t think you’re #blessed, I think you’re out of touch.

I also left religion behind because I just can’t worship man made fiction. From a Christian perspective, I just cannot buy virgin birth, resurrection, miracles, heaven and hell, gods and saints and monsters and lions and tigers and bears. The Jesus story has been repeated long before the Christian calendar has him existing. Plenty of Pagan religions as well as Greek and Roman mythology all predating Christianity have similar “king and queen” stories that rival Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I just don’t buy it. But I do buy dinosaurs.

As for the bible, anyone who believes slavery is wrong, human trafficking is wrong, women being owned and beaten into submission and being counted as less-than-men is wrong, torturing and sacrificing of people and animals is wrong, and treating LGBT people like they are adulterers is wrong, needs to see the bible for what it really is: a fallible, man-made piece of folklore which belongs on the fiction shelf of the bookstore. An all-knowing God would surely have demonstrated understanding of all his people in a book long before modern times would present a new system of values.

While I do believe that there is a greater power that is responsible for the universe, I reject the notion that so many of these religions ask us to worship a God that barters with us, offering a prize at the end of a journey. And where is this God that religious books caricature, with his mighty oversight of the world? Someone commented on another blog that I read and got me really thinking: “Take a couple of minutes and think about all the things you would do if you were an all-powerful God… After you have accomplished that task, contemplate the fact you worship a God who hasn’t.” Perhaps this is the case because we have man made expectations of a man made version of what God really is. We worship through man made rules, with man made pomp and circumstance in man made buildings while marginalizing others for our own gain or imagined salvation. I left religion behind and feel closer to God for it.

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4 responses to “Why I Left Religion Behind

  1. I love you so much Mr. Conte! A very controversial subject and you handled it quite eloquently if I may say so myself. It really feels good to know I’m not the only one to see religion in this light. Hats off!!

  2. I happened upon this entry of your blog a few months back but never read it until today and I felt compelled to say a few things. While I’m not here to say your opinions are wrong, right, or to make you believe my views I felt the need to say something. Only God can change your heart and that is not my place. I think that Christianity has become twisted in the world today. Many people think that by going to church every Sunday, believing in God, listening to Christian music, abstaining from sex until marriage, and not doing drugs or drinking makes them a Christian. That is not what Christinity is about. Nor is it about the many good deeds you do. It does not mean they are better than anyone else or that God loves them more. For we are all sinners and are all equal in Gods eyes.
    The essence of religion and why Jesus came to Earth was to change the world and people’s perspective. To show the selfishness of our sins. And how we had become comfortable in them.
    And yes while there were many people practicing other religions before Jesus came into the flesh. He and his father existed before the earth was even made and God was there from the garden of Eden, through the falling of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, and so forth. Other religions may predate the religion of Christianity but that was because God gave us all free will. To choose our path whether it be with him or not and through the coming of his son he has made it possible for us to live in heaven.
    There are many who have twisted and used religion to fulfill their own selfish ways of thinking. Who have killed, tortured, and abused others in the name of God. This goes completely against God and the free will we are all given.
    With religion I have been recently woken up to the many sins I myself have committed. I have been selfish, prideful, and self righteous to name a few. And even though I’m still a sinner and no better than anyone else I have learned that I can’t continue to keep on sinning and think its ok. Because I believe in God in my heart, I have completely owned up to my sins and am fighting daily to repent for them and to not let them own my life. Before I was lonely, depressed and angry all the time. But since I have opened my eyes looked into the mirror and not the magnifying glass I have started a new beginning. I am happy, content and respectful of others, not always arguing my view or trying to change them. I accept everyone as they are for we are all sinners and like I said before I am no better than anyone else. And yes there will be days that I fall because I am not perfect but I will not live in denial of my sin. I won’t say it’s ok. That everyone else is doing it or justify it somehow. My perspective has changed and I’m glad because I needed it. And I would have not gotten there without God.

    • Love and welcome your comments. Religion is a deeply personal choice. You are so right – only God can change people’s hearts – and that’s exactly why I no longer believe in religion. I believe it is deeply offensive and against god’s will to commoditize and build an industry around god. No one has this right!

  3. I do agree that it is wrong to build riches for yourself off of religion. Here is an excerpt I found on Christianity.about.com:

    Prosperity Gospel: Is Greed a Motive?

    Jesus Christ was clear about greed and selfishness. Both attitudes are sins. He blasted religious teachers who used the Bible to enrich themselves. Referring to their inner motives, he said:

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25, NIV)

    While the prosperity gospel teaches that Christians should boldly ask God for new cars, a bigger house, and nice clothes, Jesus warned:

    “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15, NIV)

    Word of Faith preachers also argue that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. They hold up their own material gain as proof that they have tapped into God’s riches. Jesus doesn’t see it that way:

    “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25, NIV)

    Unfortunately for every good cause, movement or religion there will be those who abuse it. Sadly there is no stopping that. But I do believe that Christianity at its core is about turning from worldy thinking and towards godly wisdom. Not to focus on self, wealth, fame, pride, and envy but instead to focus on loving others, being patient, kind and spreading that out to all. It’s a struggle bc we are taught to look out for ourselves but if we were to all instead look out for others oh how wonderful this world would be.

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