Definition: A form of worship. It includes a system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; these may be personal, or they may be advocated by an organization. Usually religion involves belief in God or in a number of gods; or it treats humans, objects, desires, or forces as objects of worship. Much religion is based on human study of nature; there is also revealed religion. There is true religion and false.
Why are there so many religions?
A recent tabulation concluded that there are 10 main religions and some 10,000 sects. Of these, some 6,000 exist in Africa, 1,200 in the United States, and hundreds in other lands.
Many factors have contributed to the development of new religious groups. Some have said that the various religions all represent different ways of presenting religious truth. But a comparison of their teachings and practices with the Bible indicates, rather, that the diversity of religions is because people have become followers of men instead of listening to God. It is noteworthy that, to a large extent, teachings they hold in common, but that differ from the Bible, originated in ancient Babylon. (See pages 50, 51, under the heading “Babylon the Great.”)
Who is the instigator of such religious confusion? The Bible identifies Satan the Devil as “the god of this system of things.” (2 Cor. 4:4) It warns us that “the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God.” (1 Cor. 10:20) How vitally important, then, to make sure that we really are worshiping the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that our worship is pleasing to him!
Are all religions acceptable to God?
Judg. 10:6, 7: “The sons of Israel again proceeded to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, and they began to serve the Baals and the Ashtoreth images and the gods of Syria and the gods of Sidon and the gods of Moab and the gods of the sons of Ammon and the gods of the Philistines. So they left Jehovah and did not serve him. At this Jehovah’s anger blazed against Israel.” (If a person worships any thing or any person other than the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, it is evident that his form of worship is not acceptable to Jehovah.)
Mark 7:6, 7: “He [Jesus] said to them [the Jewish Pharisees and scribes]: ‘Isaiah aptly prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men.”’” (Regardless of whom a group profess to worship, if they hold to doctrines of men instead of the inspired Word of God, their worship is in vain.)
Rom. 10:2, 3: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” (People may have God’s written Word but lack accurate knowledge of what it contains, because they have not been taught properly. They may feel that they are zealous for God, but they may not be doing what he requires. Their worship is not going to please God, is it?)
Is it true that there is good in all religions?
Most religions do teach that a person should not lie or steal, and so forth. But is that sufficient? Would you be happy to drink a glass of poisoned water because someone assured you that most of what you were getting was water?
2 Cor. 11:14, 15: “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness.” (Here we are cautioned that not everything that originates with Satan may appear hideous. One of his chief methods of deceiving mankind has been false religion of all kinds, to some of which he gives a righteous appearance.)
2 Tim. 3:2, 5: “Men will be . . . having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.” (Regardless of their outward professions of love for God, if those with whom you worship do not sincerely apply his Word in their own lives, the Bible urges you to break off such association.)
Is it proper to leave the religion of one’s parents?
If what our parents taught us is really from the Bible, we should hold on to it. Even if we learn that their religious practices and beliefs are out of harmony with God’s Word, our parents deserve our respect. But what if you learned that a certain habit of your parents was harmful to health and could shorten a person’s life? Would you imitate them and encourage your children to do so, or would you respectfully share with them what you learned? Similarly, knowledge of Bible truth brings responsibility. If possible, we should share with family members what we learn. We must make a decision: Do we really love God? Do we really want to obey God’s Son? Our doing so may require that we leave the religion of our parents to take up true worship. It certainly would not be fitting to allow our devotion to our parents to be greater than our love for God and Christ, would it? 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.
Josh. 24:14: “Now fear Jehovah and serve him in faultlessness and in truth, and remove the gods that your forefathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt, and serve Jehovah.” (That meant a change from the religion of their forefathers, did it not? To serve Jehovah acceptably, they had to get rid of any images used in such religion and cleanse their hearts of any desire for those things.)
1 Pet. 1:18, 19: “You know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.” (So, early Christians turned away from those traditions of their forefathers, which traditions could never give them eternal life. Gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ made them eager to get rid of anything that caused their lives to be fruitless, lacking real meaning because they did not honor God. Should not we have the same attitude?)
What is the Bible’s viewpoint as to interfaith?
How did Jesus view religious leaders who pretended to be righteous but disrespected God? “Jesus said to them: ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for from God I came forth and am here. Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth. . . . You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie. Because I, on the other hand, tell the truth, you do not believe me. . . . This is why you do not listen, because you are not from God.’”—John 8:42-47.
Would it demonstrate loyalty to God and to his righteous standards if his servants were to embrace in religious brotherhood those who themselves practice what God condemns or who condone such practices? “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9, 10) “Whoever . . . wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones.”—Ps. 97:10.
2 Cor. 6:14-17: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing”’; ‘“and I will take you in.”’”
Rev. 18:4, 5: “I heard another voice out of heaven say: ‘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. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.’” (For details, see the main heading “Babylon the Great.”)
Is belonging to an organized religion necessary?
Most religious organizations have produced bad fruitage. It is not the fact that groups are organized that is bad. But many have promoted forms of worship that are based on false teachings and are largely ritualistic instead of providing genuine spiritual guidance; they have been misused to control the lives of people for selfish objectives; they have been overly concerned with money collections and ornate houses of worship instead of spiritual values; their members are often hypocritical. Obviously no one who loves righteousness would want to belong to such an organization. But true religion is a refreshing contrast to all of that. Nevertheless, to fulfill the Bible’s requirements, it must be organized.
Heb. 10:24, 25: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (To carry out this Scriptural command, there must be Christian meetings that we can attend on a consistent basis. Such an arrangement encourages us to express love toward others, not only concern about self.)
1 Cor. 1:10: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (Such unity would never be achieved if the individuals did not meet together, benefit from the same spiritual feeding program, and respect the agency through which such instruction was provided. See also John 17:20, 21.)
1 Pet. 2:17: “Have love for the whole association of brothers.” (Does that include only those who may meet together for worship in a particular private home? Not at all; it is an international brotherhood, as shown by Galatians 2:8, 9 and 1 Corinthians 16:19.)
Matt. 24:14: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (For all nations to be given the opportunity to hear that good news, the preaching must be carried out in an orderly way, with suitable oversight. Love for God and for one’s fellowman has caused people around the earth to unite their efforts to do this work.)
See also the main heading “Organization.”
Is loving one’s fellowman what really counts?
There is no doubt about it, such love is important. (Rom. 13:8-10) But being a Christian involves more than simply being kind to our neighbor. Jesus said that his true disciples would be outstandingly identified by their love for one another, for fellow believers. (John 13:35) The importance of that is emphasized repeatedly in the Bible. (Gal. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:8; 1 John 3:14, 16, 17) However, Jesus showed that even more important is our love for God himself, which is shown by our obedience to his commandments. (Matt. 22:35-38; 1 John 5:3) To demonstrate such love, we need to study and apply God’s Word and assemble with fellow servants of God for worship.
Is having a personal relationship with God the really important thing?
It certainly is important. Merely attending religious services in a formalistic way cannot take the place of it. But we need to be careful. Why? In the first century, there were people who thought they had a good relationship with God but whom Jesus showed to be badly mistaken. (John 8:41-44) The apostle Paul wrote about some who evidently were zealous about their faith and obviously thought they had a good relationship with God but who did not understand what was really required in order to have God’s approval.—Rom. 10:2-4.
Could we have a good personal relationship with God if we treated as of little importance his commandments? One of these is that we regularly assemble with fellow believers.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
If we personally read the Bible, is that sufficient?
It is true that many people can learn a great deal by reading the Bible personally. If their motive is to learn the truth about God and his purposes, what they are doing is highly commendable. (Acts 17:11) But, being honest with ourselves, are we truly going to grasp the full significance of it all without help? The Bible tells about a man who held a prominent position but who was humble enough to acknowledge his need for help in understanding Bible prophecy. That help was provided by a member of the Christian congregation.—Acts 8:26-38; compare other references to Philip in Acts 6:1-6; 8:5-17.
Of course, if a person reads the Bible but does not apply it in his life, it does him little good. If he believes it and acts on it, he will associate with God’s servants in regular congregation meetings. (Heb. 10:24, 25) He will also join with them in sharing the “good news” with other people.—1 Cor. 9:16; Mark 13:10; Matt. 28:19, 20.
How can a person know which religion is right?
(1) On what are its teachings based? Are they from God, or are they largely from men? (2 Tim. 3:16; Mark 7:7) Ask, for example: Where does the Bible teach that God is a Trinity? Where does it say that the human soul is immortal?
(2) Consider whether it is making known the name of God. Jesus said in prayer to God: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6) He declared: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) Has your religion taught you that ‘it is Jehovah you must worship’? Have you come to know the Person identified by that name—his purposes, his activities, his qualities—so that you feel you can confidently draw close to him?
(3) Is true faith in Jesus Christ being demonstrated? This involves appreciation of the value of the sacrifice of Jesus’ human life and of his position today as heavenly King. (John 3:36; Ps. 2:6-8) Such appreciation is shown by obeying Jesus—sharing personally and zealously in the work that he assigned to his followers. True religion has such faith that is accompanied by works.—Jas. 2:26.
(4) Is it largely ritualistic, a formality, or is it a way of life? God strongly disapproves of religion that is merely a formalism. (Isa. 1:15-17) True religion upholds the Bible’s standard of morality and clean speech instead of weakly going along with popular trends. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; Eph. 5:3-5) Its members reflect the fruits of God’s spirit in their lives. (Gal. 5:22, 23) So, those who adhere to true worship can be identified because they sincerely endeavor to apply Bible standards in their lives not only at their places of meeting but in their family life, at their secular work, in school, and in recreation.
(5) Do its members truly love one another? Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Such love reaches across racial, social, and national boundaries, drawing people together in genuine brotherhood. So strong is this love that it sets them apart as being truly different. When the nations go to war, who have enough love for their Christian brothers in other lands that they refuse to take up arms and kill them? That is what early Christians did.
(6) Is it truly separate from the world? Jesus said that his true followers would be “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) To worship God in a manner that he approves requires that we keep ourselves “without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:27) Can that be said of those whose clergy and other members are involved in politics, or whose lives are largely built around materialistic and fleshly desires?—1 John 2:15-17.
(7) Are its members active witnesses concerning God’s Kingdom? Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) What religion is really proclaiming God’s Kingdom as the hope of mankind instead of encouraging people to look to human rulership to solve their problems? Has your religion equipped you to share in this activity, and to do it from house to house as Jesus taught his apostles to do?—Matt. 10:7, 11-13; Acts 5:42; 20:20.
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that theirs is the only right religion?
Why do some people have faith while others do not?
See the main heading “Faith.”
If Someone Says—
‘I’m not interested in religion’
You might reply: ‘That doesn’t surprise me. Many people share your view. May I ask, Have you always felt that way?’ Then perhaps add: ‘One of the things that impressed me was finding out that almost every major doctrine taught in the churches today is not found in the Bible. (Perhaps use what is found on pages 203, 204, under “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” with special emphasis on the Kingdom. By way of contrast, point out what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, as outlined on pages 199, 200.)’
See also pages 16, 17.
‘There is too much hypocrisy in religion’
You might reply: ‘Yes, I agree with you. Many preach one thing and live another way. But tell me, How do you feel about the Bible? (Ps. 19:7-10)’
‘I live a good life. I treat my neighbors right. That’s enough religion for me’
You might reply: ‘Since you say that you live a good life, you evidently enjoy life, is that right? . . . How would you like to live under the kind of conditions described here in Revelation 21:4? . . . Notice what John 17:3 says is necessary in order to have a part in it.’
See also page 327.
‘I’m not interested in organized religion. I believe that a personal relationship with God is what counts’
You might reply: ‘That interests me. Have you always felt that way? . . . Did you ever associate with a religious group in the past? . . . (Then perhaps use material on pages 326-328.)’
‘I don’t agree with everything my church teaches, but I don’t see the need to change to another. I’d rather work for improvement within my own’
You might reply: ‘I appreciate your telling me that. I am sure you will agree that what is really important to all of us is having God’s approval, is it not?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘God gives us all something serious to think about here at Revelation 18:4, 5. . . . Even if we personally do not practice the wrong things, the Bible shows that we share the blame if we support these organizations. (See also the main heading “Babylon the Great.”)’ (2) (Perhaps also use material on pages 328-330.) (3) ‘God is looking for people who love truth, and he is bringing them together for united worship. (John 4:23, 24)’
‘All religions are good; you have yours, and I have mine’
You might reply: ‘You evidently are a broad-minded person. But you also recognize that we all need the guidance that God’s Word provides, and that is why you have a religion, is that not right?’ Then perhaps add: ‘Here at Matthew 7:13, 14 the Bible provides us some very valuable guidance in the words of Jesus. (Read it.) . . . Why might that be so?’
See also pages 322, 323.
‘As long as you believe in Jesus, it really does not matter what church you belong to’
You might reply: ‘There is no question about it, belief in Jesus is vital. And I assume that by that you mean accepting everything that he taught. No doubt you have observed, as I have, that many who say they are Christians really do not live up to what that name represents.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Notice what Jesus said here at Matthew 7:21-23.’ (2) ‘There is a wonderful future for those who care enough to find out what God’s will is and then do it. (Ps. 37:10, 11; Rev. 21:4)’
‘What makes you think there is only one religion that is right?’
You might reply: ‘Without doubt, there are sincere people in almost every religion. But what really counts is what God’s Word says. How many true faiths does it refer to? Notice what is written here at Ephesians 4:4, 5.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘That agrees with what other texts state. (Matt. 7:13, 14, 21; John 10:16; 17:20, 21)’ (2) ‘So, the challenge that we must face is identifying that religion. How can we do it? (Perhaps use material on pages 328-330.)’ (3) (See also what is on pages 199, 200, under the heading “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”)
‘I just read my Bible at home and pray to God for understanding’
You might reply: ‘Have you succeeded in reading the entire Bible as yet?’ Then perhaps add: ‘As you work on that, you will find something very interesting at Matthew 28:19, 20. . . . This is significant because it shows that Christ uses other humans to help us to understand what is involved in being a real Christian. In harmony with that, Jehovah’s Witnesses offer to visit people in their home for an hour or so each week, free of charge, to discuss the Bible. May I take just a few minutes to show you how we go about it?’
See also page 328.
‘I feel that religion is a private affair’
You might reply: ‘That is a common view nowadays, and if folks are really not interested in the Bible’s message, we gladly go on to other homes. But did you realize that the reason I came to see you was that this is what Jesus instructed his followers to do? . . . (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20; 10:40)’