Bad religion produces bad morality

DAY 11 REFLECTION: Bad religion produces bad morality

Religious leaders have taught that societies can’t be moral without religion. While many Christians believe this, the tide is turning. Pew Research has shown that most U.S. adults no longer think it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (56%), up from less than half of respondents (49%) six years earlier. Moreover, the research shows that attitudes are also changing among religious Christians, including white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and white Catholics.

We certainly don’t need to look very hard to find moral atrocities enacted by people claiming to have strong faiths in God. The Bible is often used to justify those acts—including discrimination of nearly every kind, oppression of the weakest in society, polygamy with young girls, and religious leaders sometimes living extravagantly off the tithes and offerings of their followers, collected through hyping up fear and supernaturalism. Despite being religious, pious people can be highly immoral, demonstrating shameless degrees of religious hypocrisy. Jesus warned about this when he addressed the religious elite: “Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”(30) 

There is a moral code that everyone can practice with or without going to church, and Jesus explained it. He said: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”(31) And if we have been wronged? Consider how Jesus responded to Peter: “‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”(32)

Becoming more conscious as a Christian requires that we let go of biblically justified hate, judgment, political revenge, and selfishness. Jesus preached three main things: love (Mark 12:30–31), connection (Matt. 7:1–3), and service (Matt. 25:25–30). 

Imagine if love, connection, and service formed Christianity’s North Star and shared moral code.

The Bible says that grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ will be with us in truth and love and that loving one another is not a new command but one that has existed from the beginning.(33) It also says not to imitate what is evil but what is good, that anyone who does what is good is from God, and that anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.(34) 

When Christians are hateful, judgmental, and selfish (the opposite of being loving, connected, and serving), they are not trying to be like Jesus. Today and throughout time, legalistic religion has not produced morality. Just the opposite. People who claim to be moral followers of Jesus need to simply start with love as Jesus’ greatest commandment.

30. Matt. 23:3–5, NIV
31. Matt. 7:12, NIV
32. Matt. 18: 21–22, NKJV
33. 2 John 1
34. 3 John 11