True and False Religion

How do we find true religion - a true faith?

Many believe that religion has had, and is having, a destructive effect in the world. For example, we could site:

  • The Crusades
  • The Inquisition
  • Islamic fundamentalism
  • Northern Ireland conflicts
  • Middle East conflicts
  • Yugoslavia (conflicts between Serbs and Bosnian Muslims)
  • India: conflicts between Hindu and Muslim and Christian minorities
  • Mass cult suicide (David Koresh - Waco Texas)

The 'religion' behind these examples might be defined as "adherence to a particular faith or belief, but usually without sincere, coherent and sound reasoning". All these examples have a religious context in that the name of God is invoked and sacred writings are referenced. But how deep does this go? Was there, or is there any man-God-man relationship whereby God's guidance is sought and heard? Indeed, since God is variously defined such a relationship may not even be possible in some faiths. And what adherence to the sacred teachings is there? Again, such teachings vary between religions and may even be in conflict. Who is right? In most of the above cases one suspects God was or is often remote and unknown and there was or is little serious adherence to sacred teachings.

An exception is Sharia Law, which does rest on ancient Islamic teaching. But is it just law? Is it sincere and sound reasoning? The growing application of Sharia Law through Sharia Councils in the UK is highlighting its injustice and failings. Sharia covers many aspects of life, but in contrast to established Judeo-Christian law in the UK, it has very unequal treatment of women; the rights of women under Sharia are much inferior to the rights of men. This is explained in the following video:

A Test for True Religion

The Christian faith measures the success or failure of those who claim to be religious as follows:

"You will know them by their fruits ... every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." (Mat 7.16,17)

Clearly, most of the above religious activities have born little good fruit and a lot of bad fruit! On this measure they are false religion. Examples like this have been a public relations disaster for religion and the notion of God. Another definition of religion might be "adherence to a particular faith or belief, based upon sincere reasoning and meditation". This is likely to bear good fruit since there is a sincere attempt to follow reason. Buddhism may fall into this category.

A subtle form of false religion is found within the church itself! Jesus Christ said that within the church there will be both 'wheat and tares' or 'good and bad' (Mat 13.24-30). The Bible also says that at the end of this age a false church will become very prominent and will lead many into a false faith. This church will be in alliance with the final World Government or New World Order and can be described as an 'ecclesiastical Babylon' (see Revelation 17 and section D2 of The Last Years of this Age).

But what about the other side of the ‘religious coin’? Such as:

  • Missionaries
  • Wilberforce, George Muller, Shaftesbury
  • The Salvation Army, Bernados
  • Oxfam, Christian Aid
  • Church soup runs to the homeless
  • Monasteries
  • Crusades (Billy Graham, David Hathaway)
  • Christian reform programs in prisons
  • Church food banks

In most of these, God is invoked in a form of liberation theology and the net result is positive. People are liberated either from physical situations or from bondage in their personal lives. And they are treated as equal under the law and under God.

So what'’s the fundamental distinction between the two lists? Members in the first list tend to have a strong political-ideological agenda and were, or are, prepared to use force to defend their view. Their notion of God is often fuzzy and often God is used only as a unifying theme. There is generally no relationship with Him or reliance upon Him. In contrast, members of the second list have no political-ideological agenda and are merely following Christ and His teachings. They adhere to biblical teaching and particularly the New Testament teaching of love, tolerance, grace, endurance and liberation from sin. They embrace the concept of life transformation through Christ and embark on a relationship between man and God. God is understood to be a personal God. This is true religion, if we really have to use the term.

The difference between a faith that bears good fruit (true religion), and fruitless, destructive religion is simply that one truly follows Christ and His teachings, the other does not.