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Is there a Difference between a Religion and Faith or Relationship with God?

Christians often refuse to use the word “religion” when pointing out to Christianity saying that Christianity is not a religion. They would rather prefer to say that it’s a faith or a relationship with God. This is more related to the Christian belief that salvation is carried out through faith and not through works or “Dos and Don’ts”, that we are weak and our works cannot be perfect and hence they can’t afford salvation that’s why they needed Jesus to die on the cross so that people could be saved as the law couldn’t save them. They also cite some detailed laws done by Jews or some Christian denominations saying that these are not present in the Bible. They think that this is what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. Actually I see this statement an attempt from Christians to face the high rate of Atheism or non religious beliefs as Deism for example so that its followers feel that works are not that important as it’s all about faith and loving God. But is it true that the above standards doesn’t make Christianity a religion or different from another religions? Let’s see.

What is a Religion?

Religion is simply the way a person believes in God. Based on that belief, this person has a vision in his mind on who is God and how to follow His way in this life. So the first base any religion teaches is the belief; Islam and Judaism teach monotheism (although there are differences on the concept of God), Christianity teaches trinity, Hinduism and others teach polytheism. Under each of these beliefs, there are many detailed beliefs that differ from each other but at the end each religion has a belief or a faith.
The second base of all religions is the “Do and Don’t”. God didn’t create people and leave them, He rather gave them a catalog of what they should do in this life in order to be a real follower of God. That’s why God sent prophets and messengers to tell them what God wants from them. That’s why worshiping God is simply related to obeying His orders and keeping away from what He forbade us to do.

Is Salvation Achieved by Works Only?

Based on the above definition of a religion, the answer is no in most religions, at least this is the case in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. This is because the first base is essential which is to have the right belief in God. If this base is not found, then what comes afterwards would have no meaning. So at the end works alone would never be enough. On the other hand, a faith without work has no meaning as the one who believe in God should obey His commandments. So simply both should be present. This may be explained in more detail in the article “Concept of Salvation between Islam and Christianity “.

Does Christianity has Rules or “Dos and Don’ts”?

Yes, although Christians may see that the law is no more valid but still there are many rules in Christianity as following the commandments, baptism, divorce rules, the way a deacon or a bishop should act (not to have more than one wife), that women should cover their head in the church, not to get drunk and other “Dos and Don’ts”. So simply the second base of a religion is already in Christianity.

Christians Obey God out of Love Only not to Gain Salvation?

This may seem to be the next word a Christian shall reply with, which is that all these are just related to keep the relationship with others so it is done out of love not to have a benefit. If this was the case, then why did Jesus and the Bible talk extensively on Paradise and Hell and that wicked people will be burned in fire and in the lake of sulfur? Why would people be accounted on what they do if it’s just about love? Loving God is already present in religions other than Christianity and each has its way whether it was right or wrong and the article “Concept of God in Islam” talked about this point in much more detail. But the point here is that if God wants us to obey Him out of love, He won’t have needed to tell us about Paradise or Hell. We actually worship God out of love, out of hope to enter Paradise and out of fear from entering Hell.

Conclusion

The point is that the definition of a religion applies on Christianity, there is no need to disavow from that term to appear as if Christianity is special or that the term religion is man-made. If Christians would like to compare themselves with the detailed laws of Jews or some denominations not following the Bible, this won’t be a real comparison as the one who invents some rules or forbids what God didn’t forbid has his own sin but it couldn’t be a justification to say that religion is a man-made term. There is a true religion from God and there are false religions of people, but when God sends us prophets and tells us what to do and not to do, this is a religion not just a relationship or a faith which are just related to the first base of religion. The second base which is “Dos and Don’ts” is already in Christianity.
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About Ibn Taymiya

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