The Blinding Temptation of Religion

Religion is the futile attempt of man to be good enough to be accepted by G_d on his own merits – all the while foolishly believing he already is.
~Makala Barnabas Doulos

What makes a genius? The ability to see. To see what? The butterfly in a caterpillar, the eagle in an egg, the saint in a selfish person, life in death, unity in separation, God in the human and human in God and suffering as the form in which the incomprehensibility of God himself appears.
~Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again to the temple. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
~ Jesus, King of The Universe, in John 8

Oh beloved, it is true. There are moments in our lives where He brings clarity. We know religion is dumb. But religionize on we do, as we cast our tiny little pebbles at the devil (like our friends on the Hajj – or we at our perceived enemies).

Over the past years this fool of a writer has been crushed to Life by the Author and Finisher of our faith. My own sense of self-righteousness still most-definitely exists. However, as it raises its ugliness within me, i sense the bitter stench of death that it brought me in the past, and can more quickly turn away from it.

Regardless, everything in us as believers does now have a right desire. We want to do right. And this is good. However, the problem is the way that we go about it. For the believer does not have the option of doing something well. We are either going to be lovingly and smashingly victorious – or we are we going to fail.

And this is where the spirit of religion in us blinds us badly.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in your Name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’
~ Jesus, King of The Universe, in Matthew 7
The temptation of religion is subtle too. There is an effort on our parts to be good enough for G_d. This is true. But really the temptation is for us to simply see ourselves as better than everyone else. We look at our own failures – and while knowing they are dastardly – we minimize them. But in nearly inverse proportion we look at the failures of others and maximize them in our own eyes. 
In looking at this dynamic from a distance it is easily perceived as foolish, but the closer we get to the problem the harder it is to see in ourselves. And the gears of our ability to receive wisdom get gummed up with the shame of our past and our misperceptions about both the astounding mercy and the infinite holiness of the One we will face on Judgement Day.
And again, on that Day there will be no sliding scale. There will only be clarity and truth and the stark reality that we have reached a point of no return. And on that Day, there will be no one standing beside us. None of the people at whom we have cast our stones will be in the dock. It will only be you (and each of us alone) and Him.
There will be no questions about behaviors or transgressions or even motivations. The only question at hand will be whether we abandoned hope in our own strength, and put our hope into His. The issue will be – and read this – whether we yielded to His Love and Mercy and Spirit and Grace. Nothing else. 
Can we see it? Read this again beloved. What you did will not matter if it was done by you in your own strength. Rather, it will be a curse you (and i) have brought upon ourselves. It will be seen for what it really was: pride, hubris, self-righteous, and acting like you (and i) were better than everyone else.
However, we do have the ability to face that Day with great confidence. When we cast aside confidence in our own flesh, and invest it completely in the power of His Spirit we then begin to see much more clearly even in this life. As we come face to face with our own depravity, the Gospel becomes even better Good News in every moment of repenting from our old way of thinking!
So, are you seeing the failures of others around you? You may not be seeing clearly at all beloved. In fact, you may be altogether blind and naked and needy. Tonight is your night. Time to open your eyes to the truth of the Good News…. To see yourself for who you really are, and HIM for who He really is.
It was religion that put Christ on the cross, religion without the indwelling Spirit. It is no use to deny that Christ was crucified by persons who would today be called Fundamentalists.
~A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)