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Harmful Religious Beliefs

We’ve all encountered Christians. Some have to make sure everyone knows their joy “comes from the lord.” Others speak about heaven and hell, or crucifixion. Others focus on sin and salvation, worrying about all the unsaved people. The question is this – does this type of person do more harm than good for their faith?

I should clarify that their are some very cool religious people. I don’t want to take too broad of a stroke here. Also, I’ll focus on Christians – the group I know the most about.

That said, what’s the reaction, for example, of the general public, when some “religious” person says “God Bless You” (instead of thank you) to a grocery clerk?

There will likely be two broad reactions:

  1. A smile
  2. An inner thought that says: Weirdo – plus a smile

Or, how about a judgmental look or word from a religious person? I had a good friend (when he was newly converted) speak down to me once. I didn’t talk to him for three years. I saw an “elder” in a local church admonish a boy for wearing a hat in church. I’m sure that made the kid feel good. I could go on, but the point is clear.

For many, Christians are indeed weird. Some are so “in your face.” Others are judgmental, cold, hypocritical, intolerant, and rigid. One could argue they actually push people further from God. Why do these things happen? Why do even devout and sincere Christians struggle with spreading the good news?

The answer is surprisingly simple. They don’t understand God’s message – it hasn’t penetrated their hearts. This misunderstanding has led to misinterpretation. This has led to incorrect teaching and focus. This has led to very few examples to follow. In other words, we can’t see the “good news” in action.

With this in mind, we have to at least entertain what Dallas Willard writes in regards to Christian teaching (I suggest reading this twice):

“Should we at least not consider the possibility that this poor result [lack of effectiveness] is not in spite of what we teach and how we teach, but precisely because of it.”

Put another way, Christian teaching has missed the mark in some respects.

How could they miss? They don’t follow the lead of their teacher, Jesus. Jesus was one cool dude. He changed the whole world. He walked the earth (God in the flesh) and showed us that God is here, now, and wants to be in our lives. That we’re heirs! Friends! Family! This is really amazing!

God will help us walk the most incredible journey of our lives! And he does not disappoint! When the creator of the universe says, “Hey, I got your back,” that sounds like pretty good news to me.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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  1. …I think this problem is global no matter what your religion is (for I come from a totally different background from yours). Those who are inclined to think that they are far better than the others because they “play by the rules” are so far from being religious…I mean what’s the point of going to church or praying 5 times a day (such is my case), then scorning non-believers, as if God had endorsed them as his juries…they remind me of someone who learned the alphabet by heart, but can’t make a single word out of it…

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