"Religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain."

- Gene Roddenberry

Pure religion...is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

- James 1:27 NASB

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

- Hebrews 11:1 NASB

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business."

- Jesse Ventura

"Religion is the opiate of the masses."

- Karl Marx



BASIC TERMS: Let's start by speaking the same language
1) religion, worship, and faith


"I saw no God."

- Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin,
first man into space

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...."

- Apollo VIII Commander Frank Borman broadcasting
the Genesis creation account from lunar orbit

6.1 What is religion?

Religion, in the Latin religare, describes the binding of one thing to another. In a true sense, everyone is religious in that everyone holds some kind of belief on how everything is bound together: where everything came from, why we are here, the meaning of life, and so on. The particular set of beliefs based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, as given in the Bible, is referred to as the Christian religion.

Atheism is defined by its proponents as the deliberate absence of belief in God, but it, too, is a full-fledged religion as affirmed in 1977 by the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1985, a decision written by Justice Scalia, and concurred in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist, states that the United States Supreme Court explicitly holds Secular Humanism to be a religion.

Obviously Christianity, atheism, and all other beliefs have conflicts with each other. Therefore, it is a fact that not all religions can accurately be reflecting the true nature of how everything relates. Just like asking, "What is two plus two?", the true nature of reality is not a question that can be answered, "To each his own". If there exists one true religion or worldview, that worldview is as true for you as it is for me, and any others must be false.

For example, Humanism cannot claim that there is no supernatural Creator while the Bible claims that there is - and both claims be right. Either there is a Creator or there isn't. This is not narrow-mindedness; this is just the nature of truth.

On the other hand, the word religion is also used to describe the mere outward gestures, ceremonies, and customs that people go through in exercising their beliefs. In this sense, isolated from a true inward relationship to the Lord, religion has a terribly bad connotation.

Some people who describe themselves as religious, who attend Christian-labeled churches regularly, and go through all the outward motions are not biblical Christians. Conversely, there are many authentic Christians who resist being labeled as religious specifically to avoid being associated with the former.

6.2 What is worship?

The word worship sometimes evokes Tarzan-esque images of savages prostrate before a gnarly-faced icon. But worship, by its general definition, is something that everyone practices. Worship is simply the showing of great love, devotion, or admiration. That is worship. And people worship many things, like loved ones, sports teams, activities and so on. Enjoying such things does not make us polytheists, but we might do well to re-evaluate those things that receive the majority of our time, money, and attention.

What or whom do you most worship? Why? And to what end?

Looking at Scripture, one finds that worship which God finds acceptable is narrowly defined. Acceptable worship of God, according to the Bible, requires worshipping the true God, in the proper attitude, with an obedient spirit.

Worshipping any false idea about God is not worshipping God. Dragging yourself into church just because that's "what you're supposed to do" is not worshipping God. Feeling proud that you even went to church is not worshipping God. Singing and praying in the morning, then lying and being selfish by the afternoon is not worshipping God. If you believe you love God, but are described by any of those, revisit how it is that you worship. Otherwise you might as well spend Sunday morning watching midget wrestling on TV and perhaps be better off for not having offered up a pathetic mockery of worship to the Lord.

6.3 What is faith?


What causes some men to see evidence for God where others see none? Or, phrased another way, what blinds some men to the evidence for God that others plainly see? One answer is to say, "It's all a matter of faith", but what exactly is faith?

An old quip attributed to Mark Twain goes, "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true." This answer sounds like one of those things that only a kid would come up with, but adults seldom do a better job of explaining it.

Skeptics routinely charge that faith is the act of turning off one's intellect, parroting verses of Scripture, and holding to unevidenced hopes and claims. For too many Christians, this is dead on and the skeptics' charge stands.

Entire movements have been centered around false definitions of faith like the word-faith movement (name-it-and-claim-it, etc.). Ideologies of this sort are not an accurate portrayal of faith as the Bible instructs. Even on doctrines where false-faith groups agree with orthodox positions, their conclusions are often arrived at by such poor logic that their teachings are detrimental to the effective teaching of the real gospel. Such "believers" have only substituted intellectual laziness for true faith.

So for them, and for the rest of us, here are two good definitions of real faith illustrated to show faith's relevance and application in our everyday lives.


First, faith is the foundation of logic. Logic is the science of reasoning. In logic, what you accept to be true in the beginning directly affects what you conclude in the end. These beginning truths are called premises: inclinations of thought upon which reasoning is built. No premise can be said to have been derived logically because, if so, it would be the end product of some prior reasoning instead of a starting point itself. Premises are simply accepted as true.

As an illustration, anthropologist Arthur C. Custance contrasts the faith of an atheistic scientist against that of a Bible-believing Christian:

In any system of thought, one must always start somewhere, and the validity of the starting point must always be accepted on faith. The scientist says, 'I believe that there is but one kind of reality, the physical order of things, the nature of which will ultimately be understood only by the scientific method.' The Christian says, 'I believe that there are two kinds of reality, a physical one which is that acknowledged by the scientist, and a spiritual one which cannot be understood without the revelation of Scripture.' It is pointless to set these two, the one against the other: each side must allow the other's point of view. ...What both hold are basic unprovable assumptions (or premises). 1

Premises, by this definition, are all matters of faith; whether theistic or atheistic. It is on this same basis that the Supreme Court can rightly declare any belief system, including atheism and humanism, to be a religion. Justice Scalia's decision, referenced earlier, goes on to state that the exclusion of the creation science viewpoint in favor of teaching evolution within public schools violates the separation of church and state. Scalia clarifies that it is a violation because evolution is the central doctrine of the secular humanist religion.

This particular statement (admittedly the court system upholds contradictory declarations on church/state separation) alludes to the extreme difficulty of separating religion from public life and institutions. No matter what one holds in faith, God or no god, the practice of that faith is a legally recognized religion. The deliberate exclusion of an acknowledgment of God can be just as much the expression of one's worldview as the deliberate inclusion of the same.

As for agnosticism (the philosophy that nothing can be known, or everything is to be doubted), it fails to provide a rational compromise between the presence and absence of faith in God. When agnosticism declares that nothing can be known, then that declaration itself is either 1) wrong and something can be known, or 2) right but, in the act of knowing that nothing can be known, consequently refutes itself. Pure agnosticism is logically impossible. Thus we are left with the confirmation that whatever one believes, that belief is ultimately based on faith.


Second, faith can also be the extension of trust into the future based upon proven reliability in the past. This is a common expression of faith with which we can believe the Bible as a written document.

The telephone directory is a good illustration of this principle. Imagine checking a directory for five phone numbers that you have called many times in the past. If the numbers found in the directory prove identical to the numbers you already know to be valid (because you have been calling them all these years), then the directory is proven correct in those five cases. You can now trust the directory concerning those five cases.

Trust then becomes faith when you look up someone's number in that directory which you don't already know, and call believing the listing to be correct based upon the directory's reliability in the past. In this sense, faith is the extension of trust into the future based upon proven reliability in the past. By checking those first five listings, the directory proved perfectly reliable against what you already knew to be true. Therefore, you reasonably concluded that the directory was likely also true even where you had not yet tested it.

This is an empirical approach to applying faith to the Bible. Much of the Bible (like its more notable cities, persons, and prophecies) can be proven true by history, archaeology, geography, and other methods. Yet other parts remain to be proven (like specific conversations, cities long since destroyed, and future prophecies). Christians can therefore choose to believe the unproved parts of the Bible either as an extension of the premise that God exists, or by a faith based upon the Bible's reliability in the past.

Think of the Bible as an enormous phone book. It has stood complete for over 1,900 years. Over the centuries, skeptics have tested it and have continued to fail in constructing an unanswerable argument against it. Many skeptics are won over, but many others maintain their expectation that some day the Bible will be disproved.

Dismissing the Bible's accuracy in light of the 1,900 years of testing is like accusing the telephone book of being a random pairing of names and numbers even after years of using it. It's as if 98% of the entries have been called, all having been found to match, and yet holding out the hope that someday the entire phone book will prove to be mere coincidence.

Without a doubt, the phone book is not an accidental pairing of names and numbers. But consider for a moment if someone claimed it were. How many numbers would you expect them to test in order to be convinced otherwise? Every number? Just a paltry few thousand numbers? Now think about the Bible. What should it take to be convinced of the Bible's authenticity? At some point, it is the absence of faith that becomes irrational.

Faith, in review, is not believing something contrary to evidence or believing against all logic and reason. Christian faith is recognizing and acting in accordance with the belief that we are always living in the presence of the God of the scriptures. I like that summation because it is a good contrast to an atheist's self-description I once read: "Atheists live their lives as though there is nobody watching over them."

By faith we learn to discern God's voice in the scriptural writings, in our circumstances and in our prayers, and allow his love for us to move us towards a better expression of his own perfect attributes. It is how closely our relationship with God has improved our ability to reflect his attributes that we can most accurately measure how much we truly love him.


(top of page)

NEXT: BASIC TERMS... - part two

See also:

What is truth?

What is Christian?

What does it mean to combine faith and the Word?

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Clarifying terminology is important because common words carry unique associations with every person.

Some words also have both good and bad connotations.

And other words are so frequently used and seldom explained that the definition is lost on the hearer, and even sometimes on the speaker.

1. What is religion?
2. What is worship?
3. What is faith?
--a. the foundation of logic
--b. the extension of trust