“I’m not religious; I’m a Jesus-follower.”
“I love Jesus but hate religion.”
“Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”

Have you ever heard these statements from Christians before? I sure have. In fact, I’ve even said them before. I felt much like this young poet:

I think he communicates some admirable views on the role of people in society:

  • love others
  • be accepting
  • don’t be a hypocrite
  • forgive
  • feed the poor
  • support and help those in pain
  • be genuine and live out your convictions
  • don’t be a sheep

And some opinions about religion I also support:

  • religion is a man-made societal infection
  • religion enslaves
  • religion causes wars
  • religion makes followers blind and intolerant

Despite all of this, I disagree with his claim that Jesus is not connected to religion at all. In fact, he even says Christianity and religion are totally separate from one another. Oh really, now? Christianity isn’t a man-made invention? The only writings about Jesus weren’t written by a bunch of anonymous men who wanted to convert followers to their belief system? Jesus wasn’t a Jewish Rabbi who was Torah-observant all his life? The belief that we’re sinners who need supernatural salvation isn’t religious?

I think it’s popular to claim Jesus wasn’t a religious man or that a “true follower of Jesus” is better than a “religious person” because it makes Christianity seem more hip, liberal, and casual than the actual theology and doctrines of the religion truly are. How do you gain followers among  doubtful and skeptical youth? You make your product cool; you make it edgy; you rebel just enough against “the system” to show you don’t like authority while still staying within the lines of the “sinner needing salvation” requirement.

Dear cool Christian Christ-follower: You can’t follow Jesus without religion. The only reason you even know about Jesus is because his followers created his legend within the framework of religion. Go ahead, leave the shitty parts of your religion in the dust; for that I applaud you. Love others, be genuine, and hate hypocrisy all you want. Just don’t think you can redefine something just to make it less disgusting and objectionable. Your love of this hippie Jesus guy and dislike for empty ritual doesn’t mean his teachings are any more true or reasonable from your mouth than they are when it’s preached within the four walls of a cathedral. You can’t whitewash Christianity and ignore the reality.

Here’s a tip: try being a humanist. You’ll fit right in!

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55 thoughts on “Can You Follow Jesus without Religion?”

krissthesexyatheist · January 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I think we can claim this as a victory for Team Atheist. Seems like even tho religious peeps still believe, they are moving away from organized religion to a more deist-y god and belief. Any step to a more secular society is a good step. Awesome sauce.

Kriss

    PersephoneK · January 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I somewhat agree. I don’t know that I’d call it a total victory, but as a former Christian, er-Christ-follower myself, I would say that having this type of mentality was one stepping stone that eventually led me to total abandonment of religion and left me able to lean against a foundation of reason and science. Its often a journey to move away from religion, but a person wiling to think critically about his faith is a person more likely to eventually throw it away altogether. Sometimes you get it wrong the first time, but if he keeps at it, you never know. His next post may be about coming out as an atheist. One can hope.

      Kali · January 16, 2012 at 12:49 am

      You guys sound like Christians going around saying, “We won the round on that one!” Seriously? You are just as bad .. pitting humans against one another because of a system of beliefs. Science or religion. Grow up. It isn’t all about you and your beliefs either. “A person willing to think critically about his faith is a person more likely to eventually throw it away all together.” What? Critically thinking about it doesn’t CAUSE people to abandon faith. You are pretty much saying, “I’m right, and your beliefs are wrong,” if you belief anyone who thinks hard enough on it won’t believe what they believe anymore. That’s like a religious person saying to an atheist, “If you just are willing to think critically about how you were made, you will eventually abandon your beliefs.” Again .. you sound just as egotistical as people pushing religion. Think before you type.

        Jim Jones · January 17, 2012 at 12:37 am

        “Critically thinking about it doesn’t CAUSE people to abandon faith.”

        Experience says you are wrong.

        http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/pomopedia/Personal_Accounts_of_Leaving_Mormonism/return

          Kali · January 17, 2012 at 2:13 am

          Jim, we are talking people with a true christian faith. Mormons don’t believe Jesus Christ is the son of God. He was a prophet, and they will all be gods of their own planets someday. My best friend’s dad was a bishop in a Mormon church, so I do know they are not christ followers in that respect. If a person has true convictions, critical thinking generally strengthens their faith. But it has to be true faith in the first place, otherwise it was just a simple hope in something. Critical thinking might tell a teenager to come to the conclusion that definitely, their parent will yell at them if they ask for a ride home from a drunken orgy. Faith, on the other hand will tell them that parent has already said they won’t yell. Call anyway. Logically .. that parent should be angry and yell to high heaven at the kid. But that child trusts what his heart tells him .. and he makes the phone call. Thus is faith in something.

            Jim Jones · January 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

            All across Western Europe, churches are emptying. The process is starting here in N. America. Part of the reason is the insistence of too many that the bible is right about science when such belief is foolish. As soon as people look at Christianity in its various versions and compare it to reality they lose faith. See this

            http://clergyproject.org/

            as one small example.

            Kate · January 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

            “Mormons don’t believe Jesus Christ is the son of God. He was a prophet, and they will all be gods of their own planets someday.”

            Yes they do believe he is the son of God. You have been misinformed.

            Tara · May 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

            Kali,

            I was raised in the Mormon church, you should read this. While I no longer believe in that religion, I do believe in speaking the truth…

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_Faith_%28Latter_Day_Saints%29

Dan Palmer · January 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

The problem with this guy’s views is that, he is essentially saying that his beliefs are true and therefore better than the untrue beliefs that he calls religion. However form a non-believer’s perspective, his beliefs are just as incorrect as the others and therefore what he believes is just another variation on Christianity.

He makes some good points about not being the typical Republican American Christian person that non-believers have as a concept in their minds, but the points he makes are all in support of his own beliefs about Jesus.

Unfortunately, while on the surface this is a refreshing view, when analysed I find it to be just more stale rubbish.

    Kali · January 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

    He isn’t preaching to atheists. He’s talking to other believers in jesus who are hung up on rules and heavy church doctrine. That’s it.

Pseudonym · January 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

I would say he is a humanist. Seems very much in the tradition of Kierkegaard, in fact.

DAN · January 13, 2012 at 9:20 am

I am a proud and happy Atheist.

I found some of what you said about the hip hop poem to be ludicrous or just silly due to the incorrectness.

You have a bad habit of telling us we can’t do things.
That’s just waiting to bite you.
You say things like ‘You can’t white wash christianity and face reality’. Sure You Can!
People do it all the time, every day!

Please engage brain before approaching the keyboard. Sheesh!
You must really really like your typing. I’ll bet you love the sound of your own voice too. Time to get over it.

As one fed up with your pseudo wisdom, I’m encouraging you to beeping step back and think more carefully about the stuff you type up.
Sheesh! You are NOT helping!

Enlist the aid of a truly wise person. Much of what you write is crap. Thanks!

Anna Johnstone · January 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

How do you have a ‘relationship’ with a fictional character?

    Kali · January 16, 2012 at 12:57 am

    He isn’t fictional, if you are talking about Jesus as a historical figure. There are more written accounts of his life by different people than any other person in that time period. That isn’t even a dispute anymore, no matter who he was. So if you don’t believe he’s alive as christians say, then a better question would have been, “How do you have a relationship with a dead man?”

      Jim Jones · January 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      “There are more written accounts of [Jesus] life by different people than any other person in that time period.”

      Can you point me to them? Actual contemporary historical accounts?

        Kali · January 17, 2012 at 2:01 am

        Too much to type all the writings from them, but I can give you a few names of Non-Biblical accounts of Jesus from these people: Thallus (52AD), Pliny the Younger (61-113AD), Suetonius (69-140AD), Tacitus (56-120AD)
        i.e. Cornelius Tacitus was known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and is one of the most trusted of ancient historians. (He was a senator under Emperor Vespasian and was also proconsul of Asia); Mara Bar-Serapion (70AD), Phlegon (80-140AD), Lucian of Samosata: (115-200 A.D.), Celsus (175AD), Josephus (37-101AD), Jewish Talmud (400-700AD), The Toledot Yeshu (1000AD).

          Jim Jones · January 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

          Thallus : Mentions darkness myth.
          Pliny : Says there were indeed Christians living in Asia Minor.
          Tacitus : Mentions ‘Christiani’ but makes it clear these weren’t Christians.
          … etc.

          All that is left is the TF, a notorious forgery almost certainly by Eusebius, the original “Liar for Christ”.

          The real question is, why didn’t Philo of Alexandria (30 BCE – 45 CE) mention Jesus? He lived in the right time and place, he wrote endlessly about everyone no matter how slight their importance. The reason is, the gospels hadn’t been written yet and thus ‘Jesus’ hadn’t been invented.

          And there’s a list of about 20 other historians of the time Jesus supposedly lived. Not one mentions him.

          The claim that “There are more written accounts of [Jesus] life by different people than any other person in that time period.” fails miserably. There isn’t one.

Jack · January 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Good point. I saw this article on my news feed, as a critique for Bethke’s video. I wouldn’t say it’s a step away from Christianity at all. It’s just a matter of guiding a lot of the young Christians, which has been happening for decades (probably much longer than that).

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/13/does-jesus-hate-religion-kinda-sorta-not-really/

Joan · January 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Jesus as a historical figure? OK, a figure from a slave-owning, patriarchal society. And that’s what his teachings uphold. Check out Sunsara Taylor’s video response “I Hate Religion & Jesus Is No Good Either – Read Your Damn Bible”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynzz4iUvWfM

    Kali · January 17, 2012 at 2:33 am

    First impression of that video. That is one angry woman. Sunsara is reading from Bob’s book as though she wrote the words herself, so that really didn’t sit well. Second, who is she talking to? People who follow the bible and believe in the biblical account of god and of jesus as his son? She is sitting there telling christians they can’t love god, because there is no god. She is telling them jesus was human, so therefore they can’t believe what they do about him. Again, as I mentioned in another post earlier, this sounds just like christians telling atheists they can’t believe god doesn’t exist because he does, not matter what they think. So in my opinion, neither crowd should be telling one another they “can’t or shouldn’t” because it’s a free country. And Sunsara doesn’t seem to understand this isn’t the dark age. I have friends both christian and atheist, and none of them are condemned, shunned or called adulterers for getting a divorce. 50% or more of married couples are getting divored these days. No one is going around telling abused women they should stay in a dangerous marriage and be abused. That’s ridiculous. This isn’t the Middle East, lady. Do your own research, and stop quoting Bob.

      JK · January 18, 2012 at 1:23 am

      You say you believe in Jesus and hes teachings, but dismiss most of those teachings, because they are not contemporary? So if there is no set of rules you will accept but your own, then you are NOT a follower of christ (TM) but making up your own religion. You cherry pick the things you like out of the bible and readily dismiss the others. That won’t work. Either the things written in the bible are the truth or they are not. You cannot say that part is right and that part is wrong. And don’t shit me with god’s mysterious ways.

        Jim Jones · January 18, 2012 at 1:35 am

        “You cherry pick the things you like out of the bible and readily dismiss the others.”

        Every Christian does. Every Christian is a cafeteria Christian.

        “Either the things written in the bible are the truth or they are not.”

        False dichotomy. Some things in the Harry Potter books are true, some are not. That doesn’t mean schoolboys fly around Scotland on broomsticks. There were Romans in Jerusalem. That doesn’t mean men came back from the dead after 3 days.

          JK · January 18, 2012 at 3:06 am

          I wanted to refer to “the teachings of Jesus” but put it the wrong way: “Either the things written in the bible are the truth or they are not.”
          You are right there of course.

      JB · April 16, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Ah, finely a breath of fresh air in an otherwise smoke filled room of one sided views…Why cant we all just get along…lol…I live in a harbor where most of the boaters and artist that I have friendships on a day to day basis are mostly atheist. I follow Christ, and Im also not very close to any form of organized religion, we exchange views on a regular basis…I dont think in 10 years theirs ever been an argument between any of us. Some slightly heated discussions now n then, but never any disrespect…We all agree on the fact politics in this country are driven by manipulative war driven profiteers that control, n polarize the masses through the imaginary right and left winged political machine, and that religion is being utilized by the powers that be to keep everyone fragmented to the point of major discourse between friends and family a like. We all want to wake up to a safe and friendly environment in a land that is making us all feel discourse toward each other more n more each day. I know their is a God, you folks know their is not…Whats the problem???

Respectful Atheist · January 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Hey Godless Girl,

I sent this link to a Christian colleague of mine, and it generated an interesting discussion between she & I (about your comments on the video).

I blogged about it at http://respectfulatheist.blogspot.com/2012/01/playing-faith-card.html.

Just thought you’d be interested to know.

Keep up the good work!

Jim · January 31, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Ah, a toast to a true hater and hypocrite! Humanism is a religion, advocated and eschewed by zealots as fanatical as any other religion. We tip a glass a Pelegrino in your general direction for making it easy to make our point.

    Jim Jones · January 31, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Atheism is a religion in the same way that sanity is a mental illness.

    “Here the only genuine conflict is between true believers. Of a given text in Holy Writ one faction may say this thing and another that, but both agree unreservedly that the text itself is impeccable, and neither in the midst of the most violent disputation would venture to accuse the other of doubt. To call a man a doubter in these parts is equal to accusing him of cannibalism. Even the infidel Scopes himself is not charged with any such infamy.”
    — H L Mencken, “Mencken Likens Trial to a Religious Orgy, with Defendant a Beelzebub” (coverage of the Scopes Trial) The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 11, 1925 (posted in Positive Atheism’s Historical section)

    Anna Johnstone · February 1, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Jim,

    What you mean is that you don’t like that freedom of speech works in both ways.

    You’ve really bought into the ‘Fox News’ definition of humanism. I doubt you’ve actually met a humanist because most of the time, we don’t have to go banging on about it to stangers in the street, we don’t go banging on doors and invading people’s private space in a bid to convert them on their doorsteps, we don’t go round persecuting people who don’t buy into what we believe by boycotting their businesses and driving them out of town and their homes as soon as we find out they have differing beliefs. We don’t try to get our taboos legislated as law.

    Don’t like our blogs and books? Don’t read them. Just remember, that unless everyone is free, nobody is. By the way, this isn’t me telling me you can’t be a hateful, twisted bigot. This is me telling me you are one.

      Anna Johnstone · February 1, 2012 at 4:45 am

      Correction: “This is me telling you, you are one.”

Meghan · February 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm

It came up that this guy (in the video) belongs to the Mars Hill Church under Pastor Mark Driscoll. I wouldn’t say he has humanist values…

Danny · July 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm

What’s wrong with some one wanting to follow a positive role model like Jesus without all of the hocus pocus? If you ask me, that’s pretty fucking cool.

    Jim Jones · July 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    If you’re going to ‘follow’ a fictional character, Harry Potter is much more moral.

Mike · November 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm

You people are so intense, give it a rest, enjoy the moment, reach out to life. We would all like to know the truth about everything – but we may never know it – its great looking for it – but don’t put down others who are looking for it – its the people who think they have found it who just need to cool it – what ever they describe themselves as. We are all people, all fragile. All schools of thought are just ladders to others. Its relationhips that offer the most likely route to truth – a different kind of truth. Perhaps we all start out having relationships with fictional characters – we create people all the time. We just need to find the true person – in us and others.

I await a deluge of criticism for having these views!

Just off to enjoy some heavy metal, beer, walking in the cold air and relationships

    Jim Jones · November 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    But if you don’t know the truth and cannot know it, why waste your time with whatever you hope it might be?

    You could be watching “Two and a Half Men” and eating key lime pie.

      Mike · December 1, 2012 at 4:33 am

      Why be so negative? Perhaps you can and do know the truth?, perhaps hoping is worthwhile?, perhaps you never know till you try? Perhaps we can have fun looking? Perhaps completely cogent thought systems are not all they are cracked up to be? We may need room for the irreverant, absurd, illogical, opposite.

      If some idea of truth doesn’t make life worthwhile maybe we need to think again, and again, and again, but not lose sight of life and others.

Jennifer · January 9, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I just pray that God will save all of you.

    JB · April 15, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Amen sister…

      Anna · April 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

      We don’t need saving, we aren’t broken. Besides which your imaginary friend would only be ‘saving’ us from himself. Hardly a magnanimous act…

        JB · April 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

        I dont think you are any more broken then the rest of us on this planet, we all seem to be very broken in my view. But the action of prayer should be an action of love, and humility, not of presumed superiority by any means. My amen comes from the hope that her prayers are emanating from Love, not a cultural high horse…I think praying for the people around us, if the prayers are honest, and not self driven is a beautiful thing…Im here as a guest in your house and will never knowingly be disrespectful to your belief. If my comment seemed to be disrespectful, I apologize.

JB · April 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm

http://youtu.be/LXG4WJ1GKr4

JB · April 16, 2013 at 12:05 am

All’s I can say is, dont hold Christ responsible for Christian behavior…The best of thinkers are completely clueless because all of us only see what our small little paradigm will allow us to see…I dont belong to any religious group, but I do have a firm faith in Christ and a firm trust in His teachings…I was a thug brought up in a high profile criminal environment since i was born back in the 50’s, till I was 25 years old. I know what ugly looks like in the human condition. It starts with small things like judging, and undermining other peoples thought process, and beliefs, and grows from there. My changes toward evolving into a human being are a direct result of my embracing Christ and His teachings…But make no mistake religion and politics are not a necessary component to following Christ…If all of us would shut down our ridicules ego driven views long enough to understand the intricacies of another persons beliefs, we might all learn something…The beginning of intelligence is the quieting of our own internal self driven display of what we think we know to be Truth…And for the life of me I just cant imagine what problem anyone would have with the message of Christ…But I can totally understand what problem someone would have with organized religion.

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John · September 8, 2014 at 6:59 am

I understand where the writer is coming from. But I think he has missed what Christianity is.
Look. Every “religion” on the face of the earth is the same: do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.
That is NOT Christianity at all, although one could get that impression if you listen to a lot of preachers.
Christianity is based wholly in belief in Jesus’ PErRFECT work, and totally disassociated with anything we do AT ALL. The writer lists some positive aspects of Christianity. They are not the root of our belief system, they are the fruit.

Will · August 5, 2015 at 3:46 am

Being religious is being a rule follower, whether it be the Muslim shariah law or the Torahs laws, what Jesus is talking about is having God live in you as one being with you and having fellowship with your creator, when this happens Gods ways are literally IN you…that is what Jesus preached and lived as did Paul and the rest of the apostles…and it’s also been my experience with God, I have Him inside me fully and I KNOW His ways not keep them as rules…some people simply don’t know God…in the end those who love the Light and those who love the darkness will be separated for all eternity, I suggest the Light, bc we all know how hot it will be for the lovers of darkness who neither know or are known by God

Will · August 5, 2015 at 3:54 am

I’ve searched long and hard for truth and I’ve seen God with my own eyes, you will regret completely rejecting the still small voice that speaks to you even now lover of darkness, the Light of Love wants to live in you and He could be your salvation, hear God in the deepest place and let Him know you so that you might know Him and be saved…”for this is eternal life, that they may know you”…stop suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and be humble and meek rejoicing in truth…”for the pure in heart shall see God and the meek shall inherit the earth”

Jona · November 22, 2015 at 3:39 am

I am not really surerispd from the fact that Nadine Labaki won the “Celebrity of the year title”. If we got back in time, we know that her movie “Caramel” put her on “Variety’s 10 Directors to Look Out for List.” Also, She also directed Nancy Ajram’s video, Akhasmak Ah. Among many other interesting accomplishments she has done, which you can read on . Her last movie “Hala2 lawayn” was a great hit! Which I believe made her win the tittle.

You Can’t Hate Religion and Love Jesus | Friendly Atheist · January 13, 2012 at 5:05 am

[…] discounting other religions, or even just other manifestations of his own religion.Godless Girl puts it beautifully:You can’t follow Jesus without religion. The only reason you even know about Jesus is because his […]

Can You Follow Jesus Without Religion? « Left Christianity · January 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

[…] Can You Follow Jesus Without Religion? […]

Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship … with reality | Unreasonable Faith · January 15, 2012 at 7:45 am

[…] comments on this particular virus of a video. Some notables are (on our side) Friendly Atheist and Godless Girl. From Christians, The American Jesus pans the whole thing and picks apart the assumptions. On top […]

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