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Austin Cline

Ego & Uniqueness (Book Notes: Religion of Paul the Apostle)

By March 25, 2006

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Quite a few Christians insist that Christianity isn't a religion, it's a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The fact that Christianity, even as lived by such Christians, perfectly fits just about any definition of religion doesn't matter. So why do they make this claim? Perhaps they fear that classifying Christianity as a religion prevents it from being special or unique. The Religion of Paul the Apostle

In The Religion of Paul the Apostle, John Ashton writes:

Jonathan. Z. Smith is fond of quoting a passage from William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience that expresses the resentment people feel when they hear an object that is ‘infinitely important’ to them classified along with something else: ‘Probably a crab would be filled with a sense o personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. “I am no such thing,” It would say: “I am myself, myself alone.”

The truth is, however, that there are millions of crabs, and it takes an expert to distinguish one species, let alone a single individual, from another. So the crab’s brazen claims have to be dismissed.
[emphasis in the original]

The truth is also that there are millions of religions and gods throughout human history, most with some similarities to Christianity. The claim that Christianity isn't really a religion is no less brazen than the claim of the hypothetical crab above — and no less false, so it also has to be dismissed. The reasons behind the claim, however, shouldn't be so quickly ignored. The feelings are genuine and are obviously strong enough to motivate making absurd claims, so we need to find some way to deal with them.

Unfortunately, I don't have any answers for this. In the past I have pointed out that even rudimentary definitions of religion apply to Christianity as they live it; usually, I never hear back from the person again. It seems that the confrontation with reality is just too much to bear, so they close off the conversation and proceed with their life as if nothing had ever happened. Does anyone out there have any better tactics for dealing with this sort of situation?

 

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Comments
August 22, 2006 at 4:40 am
(1) rochelle says:

You seem very adamant that Christians think that Christianity isn’t a religion. The fact that there is a word defining the will/lifestyle/habits of being a Christian would beg to differ. I am a christian and think that christiantity is a religion, but the comment that you made about people thinking it is a relationship with Jesus is also valid, though the two aren’t explaining the same thing. Yes, there are religious aspects to Christianity – I go to church, sings songs of worship, pray, confess my sins, read the Bible, which are all “religious activities”. The relationship with Jesus, which is only one aspect of christian theology is something that Christians hope for, pray for and work at, even though it is offered freely to us by God.

I am sorry that my Christian brothers and sisters have ignored your questions. That is quite rude. We never claim to be perfect, but like you seek the truth of this life and existence of ours.

So I am curious (the answer may already be here) to know, who do you perceive Jesus to be? Because he is a real person, he did live and did do some miraculous things. The facts that the New Testament offer are backed up by historical documents other than the Bible. What evidence do you have that he wasn’t the Son of God, whom he claimed to be, and I might add, he died for that claim. The fact that it (the religion + others) has stuck around all these years is one reason why it stands out among the millions of religions you say have existed.

Thanks for your thoughts
Rochelle

August 22, 2006 at 6:36 am
(2) atheism says:

You seem very adamant that Christians think that Christianity isn’t a religion.

Adamant? No, and neither do I attribute this position to “Christians” generally. It is, however, a popular position with certain segments of Christianity.

So I am curious (the answer may already be here) to know, who do you perceive Jesus to be?

Nobody. Jesus may or may not have existed and if he did, he wasn’t important.

Because he is a real person, he did live and did do some miraculous things. The facts that the New Testament offer are backed up by historical documents other than the Bible.

Name some reliable, non-biblical sources for miraculous deeds done by Jesus.

What evidence do you have that he wasn’t the Son of God, whom he claimed to be, and I might add, he died for that claim.

It’s not my responsibility to prove that you are wrong; it’s your responsibility to prove that you are right.

The fact that it (the religion + others) has stuck around all these years is one reason why it stands out among the millions of religions you say have existed.

Except for the fact that some religions are older than yours — i.e., has stuck around for many more years. Of course, neither the popularity nor the longevity of a belief is any indication of its being true.

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