"I have no religion."

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 20% of Americans indicated that they are adherents of "no religion", that is, they have no religious affiliation. This is the highest number ever recorded in a survey of Americans. The numbers of young Americans describing themselves as having "no religion" was even higher—around 34%. Why is this? What is the cause, and what are the implications?

Interestingly, of the poll respondents who gave "no religion" as their response, 68% indicated that they believe in the existence of God. Further, 37% described themselves as "spiritual" instead of "religious". Why would 68% of these people who claim "no religion" still believe in God? Why would they prefer "spiritual" as a label instead of "religious"?

A generic definition of religion might be "belief in and worship of a God or gods, usually expressed in conduct and ritual." So, if "belief in God" is not the issue for a significant majority of the "no religion" respondents, the problem must be with "expressed in conduct and ritual." Essentially what these people may be saying is, "Yes, I believe in God, but I don't want God to tell me what to do or how to do it."

This is nothing new. The only thing that has changed is that more people are willing to admit it. "What may be known about God is plain to them ... but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ... They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." (Romans 1:18-25)

We human beings are inherently stubborn, arrogant, and self-obsessed. We do not want anyone telling us what we should and should not do—not even God. We acknowledge God's existence, but seek to deny Him any influence in our lives. We avoid the "rituals" He commands in the Bible because they might be inconvenient. We do not want to go to church; study the Bible; serve the poor, orphans, and widows; or give financially to God-honoring causes. For those with "no religion," perhaps they say "no" because religion might actually impact how they live their lives. Yet belief in God's existence at all is an act of religious faith (Hebrews 11:1-6).

Countless times, I have heard people say something to the effect of "I am very spiritual. I pray. I worship God in nature. I try to be compassionate to people. I don't need the Bible or to go to church." But they have no idea who the Holy Spirit is or to whom they are praying. How can they even know what worship is or have the right motivation for being compassionate when they have no one and nothing instructing them on how to relate to the God in whom they claim to believe?

Essentially, to claim to believe in God but have "no religion" is to advocate a "Burger King religion". Have it your way. Perhaps they are not truly opposed to "religion" per se. Rather, they are opposed to any "religion" other than the one that is convenient. Sadly, the Bible makes it clear where this flavor of religion leads. "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:29-32).

No, no one said it would be easy, but it is still God's way that is best—not ours. The next time you hear a poll about people increasingly claiming "no religion," or the next time someone tells you, "I am spiritual, not religious," take a big whiff. Perhaps you'll detect the aroma of a big, juicy burger with some French fries. Smells great and tastes good, but once it is digested...

Image Source: --Tico--; "Imagine, no religion"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Church-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published 10-11-12