Why do non-Catholics scoff at the word "religion"

I have noticed a lot of disdain for the word “religion” and they even put in quotes as I have done here.
Can someone explain this?

I was raised Baptist, and we scoffed at the word “religion.” When I was growing up, we often said, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.”

The reason was because we saw “religion” as “works of man,” an attempt to earn our way to heaven through a system of good works.

To us, Christianity was The “anti-religion,” because we are saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, not through any of our own good works. Any good works that we do are done because Jesus Christ transforms us and gives us the power to do works that bring honor and glory to Him and help to spread the Gospel and advance the Kingdom of God.

As a Catholic, I still believe all this. The Catechism teaches that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith produces obedience to Christ, and that means submitting to His Church, which asks us to do certain good works. So faith and works go hand in hand in Christianity.

I no longer have the animosity towards the word “religion.” I think that one of the reasons for the continued splintering of Protestant Christianity is the demonizing of this word and the resulting loss of the word “religion” from Evangelical Protestant culture.

The emphasis in Evangelical Protestant Christianity is upon a personal relationship with Jesus.

The importance of regular fellowship with and commitment to a Body of Believers is not recognized. This has resulted in many Christians who have little or no commitment to any local church or fellowship group but instead, “hop” from church to church and fellowship to fellowship looking for a place where they can “be fed.” (There’s a great Ray Boltz song called “Church Hop.”)

I think that a restoration of the word “religion” to Evangelical Protestant culture would help these Christians to see the many places in the New Testament where it is blatantly obvious that there is an actual “organized church” with an actual hierarchy of authority, and that Christians should affiliate themselves with that Church rather than living as “lone sheep” in this world.

JMO, of course.

In regards to people in general-

There is a good book called “spiritual but not religious”


In some ways I think it is about people being non committal a little cowardly maybe just insecure… saying you are spiritual is almost a given, all people are, its like saying “I like food”. Saying you are religious is like saying “oreo icecream is the best food” and by extension all other foods are not as good. Then you must defend why Oreo icecream is the best against all other foods. Saying you are religious means that you are taking a stand.

Because the world does. And it’s “cool”.

My non-denominational evangelical friends have told me this ad nauseum. They believe somehow that my Catholicism negates my personal relationship with Jesus. I don’t get it. It makes no sense to me. I can be part of a religion and have a personal relationship with God & Jesus. I find it quite natural to have both.

It doesn’t get any more personal than receiving the Eucharist,spending time before the Blessed Sacrament,participating in the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass…:slight_smile:

I have that book on my wish list. Most of my friends are “spiritual and but not religious” I hear it ad nauseam in the the 12 step fellowship I am in. The disdain for the church is saddening. Especially the anti Catholicism I hear a lot of in the 12 step fellowships I attend. Most people I have met in 12 step programs, follow new age stuff under the “spiritual, but not religious” tag.

Thank you Cat,
This explains why my father, who left the Church and became a Fundamentalist, says he “hates religion and only wants Christ.”

This would totally confuse me… I would be like “how can you hate religion and want to follow Christ?” Today, there is a Lutheran Church (don’t know what kind) down the road from my house with the following message on their sign, “don’t like organized religion, give us a try.” The sign drives me crazy. :hypno:

God Bless

Thanks for this fabulous answer!~

Religion was needed while the curtain still separated us from God, once Jesus came, lived, and died and the temple veil was rent from top to bottom, “religion” is no longer necessary. Man does not have to strive and perform ritual in order to access God, after God became man and walked amongst us, and provided a way for God to literally dwell within in us, and we become temples ourselves. The idea behind religion is that humans must “do” works in order to connect with God, become righteous, become enlightened, etc…

I would respectfully disagree, Kliska. In my understanding as a Lutheran, the rituals that are often spoken of are not our attempts to access God, but His way of offering access to Him. Whether it be the sacraments, liturgical worship, or other things sometimes categorized and religious ritual, they means of grace, and His grace is offered and made available to us in this way.


A lot of Evangelical Protestants have never known Catholics who are obviously visibly in love with Jesus Christ and who love talking about Him and praising Him with other Christians, and who demonstrate the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in a life that is lived in personal holiness and a rejection of sinful practices (e.g., co-habiting, using God’s Name in vain, gossiping, complaining, carousing, substance abuse, misusing money, etc.)

Instead, a lot of Evangelical Protestants only have met or know Catholics who practice the rituals of Catholicism (Mass attendance, giving alms, genuflecting, wearing a crucifix and/or scapular, making the Sign of the Cross, etc.), but who seem to have no knowledge of Jesus Christ as a Person (Which He is), and show no sign in their everyday lives of becoming more like Jesus, but instead, continue to regularly sin in big and little ways (see the list in the above paragraph).

Many many Catholics co-habit and don’t seem to be ashamed of it. So do Protestants, but when I was growing up, I didn’t know ANY Evangelical Protestants who were living together outside of marriage. If they were, they kept it utterly secret. They still do. It is simply not acceptable in Evangelical Protestant culture.

And many many Catholics party, carouse, swear, indulge in media that is questionable at best, go drinking with the intention of getting drunk on a regular basis, etc.

Of course there are Evangelical Protestants who occasionally get caught up in these sins, but not too many. If they do, they don’t go back to church. They stay away, because these things are in glaring conflict with the lifestyles of Evangelical Protestants. Whether that’s right or not is a subject for another thread. It’s the way things are in Evangelical Protestant culture–those who profess Christ simply do not continue to practice sin, at least the visible sins.

So here’s my point–Evangelical Protestants question the value of a “religion” or any ritual that doesn’t make a person more like Jesus. And for many Catholics, their religion doesn’t seem to make them more like Jesus, at least in a visible way.

So here’s my suggestion for all Catholics, myself definitely included!–be zealous and publicly enthusiastic about practicing the various rituals of our Church, but make sure that we don’t neglect our personal relationship with Jesus, and make very sure that we demonstrate to a watching world (especially to Evangelical Protestants!) that our Catholic faith is the reason that we have a relationship with Jesus and the reason we are becoming more like Him! :slight_smile:

When my husband and I started attending Mass after we were kicked out of our Evangelical Protestant church, we met plenty of Catholics who were sold-out, totally radically in LOVE with Jesus Christ, and who gladly testified in pubic about that love, and who lived lives of beautiful holiness and showed genuine sorrow over their own besetting sins. These people were the best possible “witness” to the truth of Catholicism–all the theology and apologetics would have meant NOTHING if the lives of the people didn’t back it up. We all need to remember that.

We do? :shrug:


If that’s what religion is, then St. James didn’t know that, since he references it as caring for widows and orphans. You seem to indicate rituals, though, as the defining characteristic of religion. In that sense, do you mean, what, baptism, communion, worship, etc? Correct me if I am wrong, though, that the God-man instituted these things, or through his apostles later on, no?


Non-Catholic here, and some Bible only’s really need to read their Bible’s.

I believe it’s mostly the evangelical / charismatic crowd. A lot of books I’ve seen in the “Religion” section seem to be actively engaging this topic: “Why Jesus is greater than religion”, etc.

To answer the OP, the use of “religion” in this case means a Pharisee-like practice of faith: “behavior modification” to have a good outward appearance but no change of heart (like the “whitewashed tombs” or other Biblical metaphors).

In this context I understand what they’re getting at. But I’m still perplexed because this type of faith expression (i.e. just do this and that and you’ll go to Heaven for sure) was never big in Protestantism to my knowledge - and the areas where these black-and-white distinctions DO exist aren’t solved or even touched upon by the Jesus>religion movement (e.g. “Baptism must be full immersion only or else we’re redoing it”).

Well, yes, of course you would disagree (respectfully ;)) as the Lutheran church is both liturgical and sacramental in nature. Grace flows via faith, and accompanies “ritual” it isn’t made available to us through ritual, there’s a distinct difference. I don’t see sacramentalism taught anywhere in the NT, but we will disagree on that as I do with the teachings of the RCC. I’m offering but one of many “Non-Catholic” views, and of course I consider it the only “biblical one” or else I wouldn’t believe it or teach it. I respect other views, but respectfully disagree (most of the times it is respectful at least :o).

And I first would like to read in the NT where says it must be in the Bible?

I agree. Many Protestants say “we only regard things taught in the Bible” - but where in the Bible does it say to only do this? By deciding to follow things only in the Bible, they contradict themselves, for this stance is not in the Bible.

Yep, I understand. OTOH, I find the sacraments all over the NT, and often prefigured in the OT.


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