Coercion of Belief

In the last blog, we started our discussion about the various faults and problems organized religion has.  We will address three more of those problems in this blog.

Another fault of religion is that it has used and does use coercion to obtain belief.  Religion seems not to understand the concept of human free will and that violating someone’s free will is evil.  The Inquisition by the Christian religion is one example of this violation.  The Muslims who kill those who convert to another religion is another.  If God chooses not to force us to follow his teachings, why do the religions of the world feel they must do so?  Can we trust an institution that must coerce people to believe in its tenants?

One reason why religion used coercion to obtain belief and another error of religion is that each religion, denomination, and sect believes it is the one true religion and the ultimate source of truth for humans.  In the Christian religion we have the Protestants, the Catholic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church to mention a few.  Within the Protestant branch there are a multitude of different denominations.  These different belief systems have arisen because people interpret the Bible differently and each believes their interpretation is right and everyone else is wrong.  However, they cannot all be right because of their conflicting belief systems.  Other religions have their sects and divisions as well.  God must look with amusement at all the different religions and denominations, each claiming to speak for him.  God must look with sorrow when, in the words of Mark Twain, he observes humans making “a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven”. [1]

The various scandals that have erupted in religious groups cause us to question the validity of religion.  How can they claim to speak for God when they act like the devil?  Leonard Pitts, Jr. lists several instances of scandal, hypocrisy, and even violence by religious groups. [2]  Now some will say that we all are sinful and people of faith will make mistakes.  The problem is when major elements of the church condone or do not speak out against sin or questionable practices, something is wrong with that institution.  Why did the Catholic Church try to hide the fact some of their priests were abusing children?  It is apparent many in the Church did not follow the teachings of Jesus when he stated that if one caused a child to sin it would be better for that person to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea (Matthew 18:5-6).  There is something very ungodly in an entire organization to let this sin continue for years and to try to cover it up.

We have Christian leaders flying around in expensive business jets.  Christians were first called Christians because they imitated Christ.  Did Jesus purchase the latest chariot with a matching team of horses so he could better get around Palestine to spread his word?  Now most people would not have a problem with the use of a jet to further one’s ministry; a jet is just another tool like radio or television.  The problem is when we see TV evangelists “living like lords on the largess of the poor”. [3]  Does not the Bible say we are to help the poor?  Where in the Bible does it say it is alright to con the poor into supporting one’s lavish life style?  How many Christian leaders did you hear speaking out against such practices?  Why was the Christian church so silent?

Christians often speak of the power of God to change one’s life.  If that is so, why do we see so much corruption in organized religion?


[1]   Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth (Greenwich, Conn.:  Fawcett Publications, 1962), p. 180.

[2]   Leonard Pitts, Jr., Wake-Up Call for Organized Religion, March 14, 2009.

[3]   Pitts.

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