Why do some Christians claim that following Jesus is not a religion?

Can you please elaborate on this as it is very confusing when I talk to someone who wants to “save” me, they then say that they are against religion. Please tell me what they are talking about.

The argument goes like this:

(1) “I don’t practice a religion.”

(2) “All religions involve man striving to do good works that win the approval of God. It is about man-based, works-salvation.” (There are variations on this but that is a good example. Of course, if they had a much better knowledge of world religions, they wouldn’t make such generalizations.)

(3) “What I’m telling you about is not like this. I would encourage you to reject all religion.”

(4) “I’m talking about a relationship with Jesus, not just another religion.”

(5) “Yes, religions are dead-ends. No matter how good you try to live, your religion will never save you. That is why I urge you to reject religion and follow Jesus instead.”

These people generally get angry with me when I quote James 1:27 in disagreeing with them. I also explain to them that my faith in Jesus Christ certainly qualifies as a religion. (After all, the academic definition of a religion is a recognition and devotion to a transcendence of some sort, whether that be a deity or some non-natural state.)

This also brings to mind the related claim that “All religions of the world are based on salvation by works. But only Biblical Christianity is based on salvation by faith.” They often will quote Josh McDowell’s books. Unfortunately, he apparently has never hear of various Asian religious traditions, such as Pure Land Buddhism. They believe that if one cannot self-sacrifice enough to attain Enlightenment and Nirvana, one can place one’s faith in the superior abilities of a Bodhisattva savior and qualify by that route.

I’ve also known Baha’i adherents who appeared to hold salvation-by-faith positions.

Is following Jesus unique among world religions? Yes, one can certainly list various distinctions, but too many amateur apologists get them wrong because they trusted the wrong sources. (Of course, a lot of atheists on the Internet fall into the same error-prone habit. It is a human tendency.)

I hope that addresses your excellent question, Patrick.


Yes you did. Thank you.


Great! Can you also comment with relationship to grace in the New View on Paul from E P Sanders? Thanks.

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