Is It Wrong to Change Religions?
CHANCES are you did not choose the religion you profess but you inherited it from your parents. Comparatively few persons actually make their own choice of a form of worship. Most stay with the religion in which they were reared, very often being afraid to make a change even if dissatisfied. This is particularly so in communities that are predominantly of one religion. The person who makes a change may become the object of popular hatred and be deprived of the means of earning a livelihood.
But what should a person do when he becomes convinced that the religion he inherited is the wrong form of worship, that its teachings are untrue and that its leaders are blind guides who are leading him into the way of divine disapproval? Would it be wrong for him to go against the wishes of his parents and of the community by changing his religion? Or would it be wrong for him not to change? This is a serious decision, and certainly neither the opinions of others nor emotions should be allowed to influence it, because it has to do with his relationship with God.
A favorable relation with the Creator is of far greater importance than the favorable opinion of relatives, friends and neighbors. If a person’s worship is wrong, his eternal welfare is in jeopardy. But how is he to know whether his worship is right or wrong? That is determined by whether it is in harmony with God’s written Word. He cannot take someone’s word for it. He must go to the Bible himself and study what it says. Just because the religious leaders in his religion as well as his parents and others say it is the true form of worship, that does not make it so. It must measure up to the Bible’s standard of true worship. God provided the Bible as a measuring rod of true faith and intended us to use it as such. By doing so we follow the counsel: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is right.” (1 Thess. 5:21) If a form of worship is not right, a change should be made.
WHAT HAVE OTHERS DONE?
In the first century the people who were born into the religion of Judaism assumed that they had the true religion. Not only were they told by their religious leaders and relatives that they had it, but they learned from Bible history that their forefathers had worshiped God in an acceptable manner. Those people, with few exceptions, overlooked the fact that the true religion of their forefathers had become corrupted in the course of time. That meant that the religion of Judaism was not acceptable to God. It was not the same undefiled worship practiced by Moses, Samuel and David.
Christ and his disciples preached to these people with the purpose of changing them, of turning them back to the true, uncorrupted worship of Jehovah God. They had a difficult task because they were talking to people who were just as adverse to changing religions as are many people today. Today we might wonder why Christ did not go to the pagans instead of preaching to those who were members of Judaism and worshipers of the true God. Jesus explained this when he said that he was sent forth “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matt. 15:24.
Like sheep that have strayed from their shepherd, so the nation of Israel had strayed from the true worship of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God. Their religion had become corrupted by human philosophies and traditions. Because the religious leaders had become like blind guides Jesus said: “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14) Those religious leaders were well entrenched in their positions of authority and did not welcome the efforts of Christ to change the religious thinking of the people. Yet change was necessary for those people to gain the favor of God.
On the day of Pentecost three thousand members of Judaism changed to Christianity after being convinced by Peter that this was the divinely approved religion. They did not permit the fear of what angry relatives and neighbors might say or do to cause them to hold back. They considered the approval of God more desirable than the approval of men. The same was true with the two thousand who were persuaded to change to Christianity shortly after this. “However, many of those who had listened to the speech believed, and the number of the men became about five thousand.”—Acts 4:4.
It was not wrong for those people to change from Judaism to Christianity, because they were turning from a defiled form of worship to the undefiled worship of the living God. Instead of allowing human philosophy and tradition to govern their worship and thinking, they were allowing the written Word of God to do it. They began worshiping him in spirit and in truth. How could such a change be considered wrong except by the false shepherds of Israel?
NOT AGAINST THE COMMAND OF MOSES
The change these people made in their religion was not against the command given by Moses on the plains of Moab. When he said, “You must not walk after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you,” he was warning them against changing to a false form of worship. The people of Canaan did not worship the living God, Jehovah, but instead venerated dumb idols. For the people of Israel to turn from the true God to the nonexisting gods of Canaan, it would be disastrous for them. Moses warned them that it would. “And it must occur that if you should at all forget Jehovah your God and you do walk after other gods and serve them and bow down to them, I do bear witness against you today that you people will absolutely perish.”—Deut. 6:14; 8:19.
As time passed, that nation became indifferent to these warnings. They turned to the gods of Canaan. “And they went mingling with the nations and took up learning their works. And they kept serving their idols and these came to be a snare to them.” (Ps. 106:35, 36) Because they changed from the true religion, they suffered greatly under the harsh rule of pagans. But the change they made to false religion cannot be compared with the change made by followers of Judaism who became Christians in the first century. By turning to Christianity they were not turning to false worship but were returning to the true and undefiled worship of Jehovah.
As for a person who remains in a religion that has become defiled in the eyes of God and one who has turned to false gods, both have God’s disfavor. The person who wants divine approval must first change from such a religion. It was with good reason, therefore, that Christ and his apostles told the followers of Judaism to repent. Those who did turned around or changed from the course of defiled worship that they were following as members of Judaism.
WHY CHANGE IS NECESSARY TODAY
It should be evident that all religions professing to be Christian today cannot be the same true religion to which people turned in the first century. It is written that “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33) Yet disorder is what prevails in Christendom, where hundreds of different religions claim to be Christian but teach conflicting doctrines. All these contradictory teachings cannot be Scriptural truth.
Christendom is in the same position that the nation of Israel was. The worship of her professing Christians has become corrupted. This began centuries ago when all those who professed Christianity were still worshiping God in an undefiled manner. The apostle Paul foretold the falling away from true worship when he said: “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.
As time passed the drift from undefiled worship became greater. Traditions, human philosophies, as well as teachings and practices adopted from pagan religions became intermixed with Scriptural truths. This corrupted form of worship that claimed to be Christian could no more bring God’s approval than could the corrupted Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day.
Now what should a person do who has inherited by birth one of Christendom’s defiled religions? If he takes the attitude that it is wrong to change and that since he was born in that particular religion he should die in it, how is he any different from the members of Judaism who refused to listen to Christ and change to undefiled worship of God? He can no more take for granted that his religion is the true one, the one approved by God, than could those people. He must prove it for himself by studying the Scriptures.
Those who became Christians in the first century and came in line for the divine gift of eternal life were those who were willing to listen to what Christ and his followers had to say. They did not turn a deaf ear to them. Like the people of Beroea, “they received the word with the greatest readiness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) The same must be done today by all who want God’s approval.
The person who values his relationship with the Most High is willing to change his religion when he is convinced that the religion to which he belongs does not measure up to the Scriptures. It is only by changing that he can escape God’s adverse judgment.
That a change from Christendom’s defiled religions is the right thing to do is indicated by the divine command: “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.” (Rev. 18:4) Do not, therefore, close your ears to Jehovah’s witnesses when they call at your door. Listen to what they have to say and examine the Scriptures carefully to see whether it is so. Your eternal welfare depends upon your making a wise decision about the way you want to worship.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.—Ps. 143:10.