What Is the Bible’s View?
Is It a Sin to Change Religions?
“WHAT? Change my religion? Not me. Our family has gone to the same church for generations. If it was good enough for them, it is good enough for me. I’m perfectly satisfied with my religion.”
Does that reasoning sound familiar to you? Do you personally believe that it would be wrong for an individual to change from one religion to another? Many think so. In fact, some feel that it would be a sin against God and a condemnation of their parents if they were to change from their religion.
Is this viewpoint correct? Certainly you would want to know, because worshiping God in the correct way determines whether you will have his favor and blessing.
It should not matter whether one is satisfied with one’s religion or not. Personal satisfaction is not the really important thing. What is important is God’s viewpoint of the matter. To obtain this we must go to the Holy Bible.
Did you know that some prominent Bible characters changed from their religion with God’s approval? The patriarch Abraham did not pursue the religion of his father. Concerning Abraham and his father Terah, we read: “It was on the other side of the River that your forefathers dwelt a long time ago, Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they used to serve other gods.” (Josh. 24:2) But Abraham did not agree with the pagan religion of his father Terah and became a worshiper of the true God, Jehovah. Ruth the Moabitess is a striking example of one who changed from the false worship of her native land to become a servant of Jehovah.—Ruth 1:16.
In the first century C.E. many changed from their religion with God’s approval. To former Jews, the apostle Peter wrote: “You were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18) The apostle Paul says of his former religion: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age in my race, as I was far more zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:14) But when these sincere Jews realized that the traditions they had received from their forefathers were wrong, they changed and became Christians.—Mark 7:13; 1 Pet. 1:18.
Today, about one third of the earth’s population claims to be Christian. Does this mean that if you belong to one of the hundreds of Christendom’s churches your religion is acceptable to God? Consider the apostle Paul’s warning to Christians of the first century:
“I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) Yes, false teachers were to arise after the death of the twelve apostles of Christ. They would teach “twisted things” in the name of Christian doctrine. So merely belonging to an organization that claims to be Christian does not assure that one’s religion is right.
“But does it really matter what one believes?” someone may ask. “Is not the important thing one’s sincerity and the way one treats one’s fellowman?” What do you think? Does sincerity make a wrong thing right? What about the apostle Paul? Did his zealous adherence to Jewish tradition justify his course before God? He himself admitted: “Formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith.”—1 Tim. 1:13.
Concerning certain others who practiced their religion sincerely, Paul wrote: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” The result was that “they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10:2, 3) While sincerity and kindness are important, these things alone do not make one’s form of worship acceptable to God. One can be sincerely wrong.
What, then, is required? Jesus said: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Worship that is correct in God’s eyes involves more than a sincerely worshipful attitude or “spirit.” It must also be in agreement with the “truth” that God has revealed in his Word. Each individual is responsible before God to make an examination of his religious beliefs in the light of Bible truth. If such an examination reveals that one’s religion does not agree with the Bible, what should he do? Well, what did Abraham, Ruth, Peter, Paul and other faithful servants of Jehovah God do with reference to the religions formerly practiced? Keep in mind God’s command at 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”
This involves leaving behind what is false. Concerning the world empire of false religion, called “Babylon the Great,” Revelation 18:4 commands: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”
“But what would my family, friends and neighbors think if I were to change my religion?” someone may ask. How do you feel about that? Is it reasonable to put pleasing such people above obedience to God? The Bible says: “Trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” (Prov. 29:25) With regard to one’s family, Jesus said: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.—Matt. 10:37.
What about older people? Have you ever heard someone say: “I’m too old to change”? Is God pleased with such an attitude? Among those who are to “praise the name of Jehovah,” Psalm 148 includes “old men together with boys.” (Verses 12 and 13) Those who changed from Judaism to Christianity and whom God favored with miraculous gifts of his holy spirit at Pentecost included “old men.” (Acts 2:17) Should it be different today?
Louise Templeman of St. John’s, Newfoundland, did not think so. At the age of eighty-eight she came to realize that the church to which she belonged was not teaching Bible truth. So she became one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Mrs. Templeman continued faithfully in this course until her death at the age of one hundred and one.
Is it a sin to change religions? Not if one’s form of worship disagrees with the Word of God. In fact, in such a case it would be a sin not to change.
“The brothers sent both Paul and Silas out to Beroea, and these [Beroeans] . . . were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.”—Acts 17:10, 11.2