Yes, God hates religion…
I will give you Biblical support for that statement in a moment.
Someone may be thinking “I thought God invented religion!” Sorry, but God invented Man and Man invented religion.
Humankind is by our very nature, (designed so by our Creator) drawn to relationships. Relationships that range from familial, to friendships, to marital as well as communal. These relationships that we don’t even think about give us insight into what God intended for us. From the time we are born we learn that the family relationship provides security and safety and unconditional love. (That is why we call God the “Father”). A healthy family creates a relationship of trust, security and encouragement. As we grow older we learn the value of a loyal friend that we can trust with our cares and stand beside us when we need help. (Jesus is referred to as the “friend that sticks closer than a brother”.) As we mature and attract a mate, we learn how marvelous the intimate relationship between a man and woman becomes, and how to depend upon and serve each other to the point of becoming “one flesh”, as the Bible states it, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. That relationship of marriage is the pinnacle of relationship theology. This is why Jesus is called the “Bridegroom” and the “Church” (don’t get ahead of me, just keep reading!), which is the entire congregation or number of believers, is called the “Bride of Christ”.
Now, we all know that not all of our relationships always work out this nicely. I would venture to say that those relationships not working out is not because God had anything to do with them, but more than likely because we kept Him out and did what we wanted to do. In other words, the reason the relationship failed is one or both parties put self interest ahead of the other. Self. God had nothing to do with the failure of those relationships. Can a broken relationship be restored? Sure! It happens all the time, but not until those interested persons are willing to put someone else ahead of themselves. This humility of spirit, seeking and offering forgiveness and restoration is absolutely necessary for a reconciled relationship.
God created Man for the express purpose of mutual relationship with him, but gave Man the power of choice and free will. Man chose to break that relationship and has been trying to find his own way by inventing religions and cults of all kinds in an effort to replace that void left by lack of relationship with his Creator.
But relationship with God cannot be found through religion. In fact, religion is the biggest roadblock to seeking a relationship with God. Religion is simply Man trying to reach out to God by doing something that he thinks will please God. “If I can do enough, say enough, pray enough, give enough, sacrifice enough perhaps God will show me favor”. Every religion is based upon this “works theology”. Neither ceremony, liturgy, creeds, sacraments nor money have ever brought one soul into a reconciled relationship to God. Abstaining from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, illicit sex and the places that provide them is a healthy thing to do but cannot of itself restore a broken relationship with God. Giving up a favorite food or drink, reciting ‘program prayers’ or self mutilation does nothing to convince or satisfy God.
“But my denomination teaches…” Do you really believe that God favors your denomination over others? Quite the contrary, if your denomination professes to be “the only true way”, I can pretty well guarantee that it isn’t! Do you think that God’s intention was to have eleventy-five different denominations of His Church? They can’t all be right, and more than likely they’re all wrong.
Now, I realize that thus far I have been speaking in terms of Christianity. But the cults such as Islam easily fall precisely under the premise of “God hates Religion”; after all, I observe no one more committed to their religion than an Islamic Fundamentalist. Although the Muslim serves a different god (Allah is not the God of the Bible), he too is seeking to appease his god by doing. That is “works based theology” no matter how you slice it.
So you may be wondering where in the Bible it says that God hates religion. Starting in the Old Testament I will show you several references and then finish off with what Jesus Christ Himself said concerning religion.
Isaiah 1:13-14 states, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies…it is iniquity…Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.”
David prays to God in Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire;…Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.”
Amos 5:21 says, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell (the odors of their sacrifices) in your solemn assemblies.”
Micah 6:6-8 includes; “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
And there it is: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10.
You see, the Israelites (Jews) of the Old Testament had forgotten the relationship with God and became dependent upon the religious system of works and sacrifice and offerings expecting spiritual redemption or to appease God. But in these passages we see God Himself saying, “I don’t care how you shake and dance, I’m not interested in your religious activities, I want your heart.” In fact that is exactly what He expresses here in Isaiah 29:13, “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me…”(Jesus quoted this passage in Matt. 15:8-9 adding “…in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”)
Pride is the capstone of religion. But as in any pyramid scheme, only a few get to the top; everyone else is trying to work off their guilt and fear. It is a bondage that Jesus confronted with a tongue lashing directed at the religious leaders of the day; the Pharisee’s of Judaism. They sought to entrap and discredit Him and asked Jesus, (paraphrasing) “Why are your disciples disregarding our traditions…” Jesus answered, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?…You hypocrites!”(Matt 15:1-9)
Jesus really lets them have it in Matthew 23. Talking first to the people He said (paraphrasing), “The scribes and Pharisees sit in high seats and bind heavy burdens upon you that they themselves won’t even lift a finger to bear! They make themselves look pious before men so everyone will recognize their positions.” Then turning on the religious leaders He calls them hypocrites, fools and blind, tombs full of dead men’s bones. “Every time you open your mouth death comes out!” He called them snakes headed for the damnation of hell! These were the religious leaders!
Jesus said “Come unto me… and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Religion can’t save you; only relationship and that comes through humility and repentance. Christ says in John 10:9 “I am the door: by me if any man enter in he shall be saved…” Guilt is the natural state of Mankind. We are all guilty before God. This leads to fear of all kinds. Fear of being found out. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of the opinion of others. But doing something good (works) will notchange the fact you are guilty. The only cure is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ who took upon Himself my guilt and fear. I am no longer guilty and can act fearlessly and rest secure that I have a relationship with God, which then enables me to “work”, that being striving to do things that honor my relationship with Him.
The works are not to gain God’s blessing in my life; but to reflect God’s blessing in my life. “We don’t do to be, we do because we are.”
The relationship with God through Jesus Christ is more perfect and full than any earthly relationships we can forge because God is perfect. Other people are not. And even though we can have wonderful relationships with one another, these pale in comparison to a relationship with Him.
As with everything in Creation, the physical (material) is a manifestation of the spiritual. The human relationship of family teaches us of the security we have in Him as the perfect Father. The friendship we experience of our most loyal friend on earth is still imperfect compared to the Friend we have in Jesus. The picture of marriage shows us the intimacy and devotion that He has for us when believers are referred to as the Bride of Christ. If you read the Song of Solomon with the King as Christ and the bride as the “Church” you will see how this works. Better yet, if you have a great marriage, you have experienced the wonderful earthly manifestation of this relationship.
But as humans, we are flawed creatures, and still struggle within these relationships on the human level. The relationship with God puts Him as the guardian of the relationship and Jesus promised “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And if your relationship with God is good, you will realize that your relationships with other people are much better. That is, indeed, the abundant life that Jesus promises.
It is impossible to work your way into a relationship with God. You must be born into it. The second birth. The spiritual birth. Religion is not the answer. Religion is the problem.