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Jesus and organized religion (1)

"From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." Sir Elton John 

"Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms. There were all very important when we didn't know why the sun moved, why weather changed, why hurricanes occurred, or volcanoes happened. Modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology." Bruce Willis

"I love Native American spirituality and paganism, and I've studied Buddhism. I think organised religion is one of the top problems of the world actually, so no, I'd say I steer clear of religion and go straight towards spirituality." Pink

Don't assume that this kind of thinking is limited to a few people in the entertainment world. Steven Weinberg, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics, said: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

And no less than the Dali Lama weighed in a couple of years ago (on Facebook, where else?), "All of the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether."

Well, there you have it—it’s no exaggeration to say that everywhere we turn we’re hearing that organized religion is headed the way of the dinosaur (and none too soon for many). Indeed, the Pew Center for Research reports that one-fifth of Americans have no religious affiliation. Furthermore, one-third of millennials (those under 34) fall into this category. Both numbers represent all-time highs. Belief in God is still relatively widespread (80%), but 88% of the unaffiliated (or Nones as they are popularly referred to) are not looking for a religion. They think religion in America is too concerned with money, power, politics, and rules (not necessarily in that order). If you’re interested, you can find the report here: http://tinyurl.com/llu8pa5.

What can we say in response to this? Is there anything we can say? I believe there is. More to the point, I think we can share some things that Jesus said--things that can make a difference to them (and us). There is respect and admiration for Jesus that transcend categories. This shouldn't really surprise us because it was that way in His time as well.

Part Two

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