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The Need to go Beyond Religion
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The Theology of Beyond Religion
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Why We Need to Go Beyond Religion

1. Religion is limited by our human understanding. Spiritual truth is as wide and broad as the mind of God. No human attempt to comprehend the reality and plan of God could be complete and final. There is always more to learn.

2. Religion is the grammar school of spirituality, the place where we learn the basics about God. But those lessons are couched in very elementary concepts. In the same way that we are intended to move beyond grammar school into ever higher levels of learning, so we must be willing to move beyond childhood concepts and embrace the larger truths that God continually offers us.

3. We are physical/spiritual beings. We have a body which will eventually die, and a soul which will live forever because it is part of God. As a result, we have two sets of senses, the five which connect us with the physical world and others that connect us with the spiritual world (intuition, dreams, visions, psychic abilities, etc.) Religion is an expression of the physical side of our nature, while spirituality is connected to our divine nature. Our goal as humans is to become more like God, to turn the world into the Kingdom of Heaven. We can do this only as we turn away from human/intellectual images of God and seek a broader understanding of divine truth.

4. Religion is an attempt to convert a vision of the invisible, eternal world into symbols and practices which we can understand. But the problem is that we tend to invest those symbols and practices with divine authority and eventually worship the traditions we ourselves have created. This is called idolatry.

5. Religion is trapped in its own past. Over the years it has developed a point of view about God which it considers complete and final. As a result, it spends most of its time defending that vision and protecting itself against any new revelations which might upset its system of belief. That means that even God is unable to get through to religious institutions with new insights into divine truth. Thus, we have a choice between defending old human systems or being open to God's spirit which wants to communicate with us daily.

6. Christianity is one of many efforts to understand and become one with God. To think that it is the only true way to God, or that God loves only those within this particular belief system, is the worst kind of chauvinism. It is helpful in this regard to think of Christianity as the Jesus cult. There is nothing wrong with this cult except its claim that it alone holds the key to God's love. Because of this claim, rather than embracing all others as equals in the sight of God, it looks down upon them as unbelievers who must be converted to think as Christians do.

7. Jesus made the statement that he has much more to tell us (John 16:12). But many who claim to be his followers are not interested in what he still has to say to us because they are afraid that any new idea will upset their neat little closed system.

8. Religion is by definition an effort to understand and therefore to please God. Religion began in primitive times with a recognition that the most important things in life are out of our control-life, death, weather, crops, health, the future, etc. All these things seemed to be in the hands of a power much greater than we, and therefore it was important to stay on good terms with this power. There is still a large element of this primitive thinking in current religious practice-fear of punishment, sacrificial behavior to try to gain divine favor, sets of rules which define acceptable behavior, etc.

9. Ancient Jews felt that their salvation came from belonging to the people of God. We understand today that each individual's personal relationship with God is what is required. However, there is still a large tribal component in religious practice-belonging to church, attending worship, observing certain celebrations, accepting the required disciplines. These are external and largely man-made rules. We need to move from fear of punishment to love of God.

10. Recent revelations about sinful practices in the church and the leadership's attempts to cover up those crimes underlines the fact that the church is often motivated, not by a love for God and his people, but by a desire for power and the need to protect that power. The church has become so saturated with politics that it tends to forget its basic purpose, to speak in self-forgetful love for God.

11. The church cannot speak for God when it has quit listening to the voice of God. It often mistakes its traditional confessions of faith for the authentic will of God. The choice is between the voice of tradition and the voice of the Holy Spirit. If we believe that the Holy Spirit dictated the original documents on which the tradition is based, why do we not believe that the Holy Spirit is still fully capable to speaking to us today?

12. Religion is a metaphor for life lived in a vital connection with God. All the rituals of religious behavior count for nothing without a heart that yearns for God. Religion too often leads people to believe that agreement with a creedal statement is all that God requires. We must move beyond that misconception. Obedience to the Holy Spirit, not to human tradition, is what ultimately pleases God

You may have other reasons which explain why we need to move Beyond Religion. We would be glad to hear them. We might publish some of the more incisive statements on this page. Send your thoughts to john@beyondreligion.com.