(I wrote this on my blog last week when I was still mad at the whole Rob Bell-John Piper fiasco. I've eased up since then, but most of this is still true.)
One of my all-time favorite comedians is George Carlin. He’s one of the few stand-up comedians that could make you both laugh and think at the same time. One of his most famous routines is “Religion is Bullsh*t” where he makes his case for atheism. Here’s how Carlin sums up religion:
“Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man...living in the sky...who watches every thing you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry for ever and ever 'til the end of time...but he loves you!”
On one hand, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. But on the other hand, I think Carlin was right on the proverbial money.
I can’t count how many times preachers have described the holy and sovereign God as a dictator sitting in his high chair watching over everything we do, say, and think, ready to get his smite on whenever some one makes the slightest mistake. This is why I cringe whenever God is described as holy and sovereign. It’s not because I don’t believe God isn’t holy or sovereign. I do, very much so. It’s just that often when preachers describe God as holy and sovereign, what they really mean is, “God’s gonna seriously eff you up!”
And that’s why I hate religion.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an atheist. Neither am I rejecting Jesus or the Bible or the Church. I still follow Christ. I just don’t follow religion anymore. Religion is what happens when people twist the Gospel to make it fit their own agendas.
Religion is motivated by fear.
Faith is motivated by love.
Religion’s main driving force is rules.
Faith’s main driving force is God.
Religion has all the answers wrapped up in neat and tidy boxes.
Faith isn’t afraid to live the questions.
I also hope no one thinks I’m suggesting universalism. Believe me, I’m not a universalist (and apparently neither is Rob Bell). I believe that on Judgment Day we’ll all stand before God. However, when I read the Bible I can’t help but notice that the Gospel is so much bigger than a Get Out of Hell Free card.
It’s about God restoring the world through Jesus.
It’s about freedom from sin and bondage.
It’s about reconciliation with both God and each other.
And that’s why I can’t embrace Carlin’s atheism: the Gospel is so much bigger than what religion has made it out to be.