Sunday, April 10, 2022

Freedom Of or From Religion??

By Gerald Cowan


    Your first impulse may be to deny the statement in the title. You may say that God has made us free moral agents with the power to choose one thing or another, and that our religion must be a matter of individual choice. Of course there is some truth in that. But what does it mean? And how many possibilities are there from which to choose? It may come as a surprise to you to learn that God offers only one religion, and your only choice is to accept it or reject it. That’s it. Take it or leave it. But His response to you will be based firmly upon your choice to do it His way or not. Oh yes, you may substitute any number of things for what He asks, and you may be well satisfied with the arrangement. But the fact remains that God’s offer has been rejected, which means God has been rejected, which means you have been rejected by God. Read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:10-11, Galatians 1:6-8, Ephesians 4:4-6, Romans 1:16-17, and John 12:48. Everyone is free to reject the offer of God, but he is not free to reject the consequences of his rejection (Romans 6:16-17).

    Freedom of religion in our society is usually interpreted to mean that each person is free to choose and practice whatever suits his religious needs and desires, so long as it does not violate the rights of others. No person is to be allowed to force his religious beliefs upon others. That is the view which led to the ruling of the Supreme Court against Bible reading and prayer in public schools. The ruling was not intended to encourage atheism, but simply to define the state’s relationship to religion as neutral. However, atheists were encouraged by the ruling and have pressed for the removal of religion from all aspects of public life – think what you want, but do not speak it or act it out, lest someone of a different persuasion have his feelings hurt. Now that psychology and psychiatry have convinced us that thoughts are parents to deeds – the Bible taught that a long time before those two psy’s made their appearance (Proverbs 4:23, Mark 7:20-23) – we may lose our freedom even to think religious thoughts. Atheism belittles and ridicules and actively opposes and punishes religion, but that is not considered a hate crime because they have found the courts of human opinion and civil law to be on their side.

    Atheism likes to assume that man can be free from religion, but that is impossible. The word religion, reduced to its simplest definition, means “tied back or tied to,” hence a way of life; a pattern for living. The laws or principles that one applies to his life can properly be called his religion. The Christian religion  is simply the way of life which takes its direction from and submits to the authority of Jesus Christ, which is the one proper way to the one true God (Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 3:17, John 14:1-9). One’s way of life need not have any god in it to be a religion. So atheism is a religion – a way of life without God, without any god. Atheism is from Greek ATHEOS, and means literally “without God, having no god.” It does not necessarily imply or require disbelief or denial of the existence of God. It implies only that one has no god in his life, that he is unaffected by and not associated with any god. Some may cultivate atheism for its value in shocking other people. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or gods. But one can reject any and all existing gods – that is atheism. Some are atheists because they have been disillusioned and turned off by the hypocrisy of so many professing believers, especially the absurdity of so many different and contradictory beliefs and commandments all supposedly emanating from the same God and the same Christ. Some will not accept the concept of a God they cannot fully understand. And then of course there is the atheism of indifference – the “I couldn’t care less” attitude about God and Christianity.     

    So far you may be saying, “Well, thank God I am not an atheist! I have not denied the existence and reality of God.”  Good for you! That puts you in a rather select group called believers in God. But have you obeyed God? Have you accepted the religion that He offers to you through Jesus Christ? Remember that an atheist is one who is without God. He is separated from God, rejected by God, out of fellowship with God, having neither part nor lot with God. It may not be by his own choice – he may actually think he is with God and of God in Jesus Christ. The only time the word atheist appears in scripture is in the Greek text of Ephesians 2:1-12. Notice how the apostle uses the word. He says, “You Christians at Ephesus are now alive to God in Jesus Christ. But at one time you were dead (separated from God) because of your way of life which was according to the desires of your own minds, in keeping with the customs of the world but contrary to the will of God and the religion offered by God (2:1-3). you were at that time aliens and strangers to God’s covenants of promise. You had no hope and were without God (ATHEIOI, atheists) in the world (2:12). Do you get the implication of that? There is no freedom of religion given to us by God. We either accept the  religion He offers and do things His way, or we are atheists. What do you think is the eventual and eternal outcome for those who are without God and do not obey the gospel of Christ? Hint: you will find help with the answer to that question in 1 Peter 4:17-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9. 
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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