Should You Change Your Religion?
Is it right to change to another religion? Why do many make such a change?
WHEN a princess, second in line for the throne of the Netherlands, recently announced her conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism in order to marry a Spanish prince, it provoked a storm of controversy. Many in that land resented the fact that she had changed her religion.
While this particular instance received more notoriety because of the prominence of those involved, still it is not uncommon for persons to change to another religion. Many do so, and for a variety of reasons. However, is it right in the sight of God to change one’s religion? Also of vital interest to you is the question: Should you change your religion?
WHY MANY CHANGE
In the case of the Netherlands princess there was a romantic interest that was the basis for the change. This desire to marry a person of a different religion is a common reason for changing to that one’s religion. It is felt that by doing so there will be more harmony in the home. At times the change occurs because one party requires the other to join his religion if the marriage is to take place at all. Rather than give up the marriage, the other party changes his religion.
Another reason some change is that they can no longer conform to the requirements of their religion. They then seek another, with requirements that suit their desires. Related to this is changing to another religion because the individual no longer looks at life the way he used to and feels that he wants to belong to a religion that more closely represents the views he has come to acquire.
Frequently the reason for changing to another religion is convenience, as one husband stated when explaining why he went to another church even though he was raised a Methodist and had at one time been a Congregationalist. He said: “The church at the end of the street happens to be Presbyterian. My wife belongs to the guild. We both like the preacher. It is convenient.”
Some change because they want the benefits that can come from belonging to another religion, such as the prestige that may be acquired by joining a more prominent church. Others desire to enhance their social standing, business prospects, or perhaps even their political future.
ACCEPTABLE TO GOD?
In analyzing these reasons for changing religions, it becomes apparent that the change does not at all mean a change in the individual’s understanding of God’s purposes and requirements. To change one’s religion for personal, social, political, romantic, business or other similar reasons really has nothing to do with one’s fundamental convictions concerning God and his truths. It is more like putting on a different garment that changes the external appearance, but does not change the mental, spiritual or moral fiber.
Jesus Christ showed us what to look for in a religion. He said: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) When a person changes his religion for personal advantage and not because of an intelligent conviction based on a study of God’s Word, nor for the sake of His truths, then such change is not being made for the purpose of wanting to worship with “spirit and truth.”
It is not the mere formality of worship that God wants. First of all, he wants individuals to take in accurate knowledge of his Word. Note how the Bible expresses this thought: “For in loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.” (Hos. 6:6) Added to this knowledge of God must be obedience to his will: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams . . . Since you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he accordingly rejects you.” (1 Sam. 15:22, 23) So even if a person strictly adhered to the precepts of a new religion, if his worship was not based on an accurate “knowledge of God” it would not be acceptable to God. What is acceptable is the taking in of knowledge of His Word and will and then obeying the requirements that God has outlined in that Word.
Thus, when a love and search for the knowledge of God’s truths are missing, when obedience to God from the heart is not the motive, then one who changes to another religion is not doing it to please God. It is not done in God’s interests, but only to please the individual.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR RELIGION?
From the foregoing you might conclude that it would be better not to consider changing your religion, since you may not be certain that a new one would be pleasing to God. Yet you must also consider this: How do you know that your present religion is pleasing to God? How do you know that it meets God’s requirements for true worship?
If you have not proved for yourself, from God’s Word the Bible, that the religion you belong to teaches the truth and meets God’s requirements, then there is the strong probability that your religion does not please God. Why can this be said? Because the right religion would have a permanent program for teaching and equipping you to be able to prove your faith from God’s Word, the Bible. As the apostle Peter said, you would be “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
This is not the only requirement for true worship, of course, but it is one of the more fundamental. So if your religion is failing to equip you to make the defense of your faith that Peter speaks of, then you have compelling reason to consider changing your religion.
ADMISSION OF FAILURE
Many religious leaders openly admit that their church organizations are failing to provide their members with what they need to meet God’s requirements, and admit they themselves are not meeting these requirements.
Why should this admission of failure concern you? Because Jesus said: “Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 7:19) Any religion that does not produce the kind of Christians God requires will come to eventual destruction. Individuals who do not meet God’s requirements will meet with similar disaster, for Jesus added: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:21.
Note some of these admissions that should alert you to the possibility that your own religion is failing. Archbishop Coggan of England admitted: “The tragedy within the Church today, all too often, is that the Gospel that is preached is but a section, a fragment, of the Gospel as it is given to us in the New Testament.”
The Italian magazine Europeo contained this comment in regard to church failure in Italy: “‘The progressive support given to Marxism in Italy,’ sustained the President General of Catholic Action during his press conference, ‘can be considered an aspect of the phenomenon in the decline of spiritual and religious values, and the cause must be attributed to the loss of the Christian mentality, of the Christian manner of judging, of the Christian conception of existence.’” But why did this decline and loss come about? The article adds: “Catholic morals and conduct fall to pieces by themselves at the first contact with the new ideology because for centuries they had lost their substance and their truth, they had been reduced to rites, to practices, to folklore.”
In Australia, the president of the South Australian Methodist Conference stated: “The church has become a club to be enjoyed by those within its membership, and it forgets the purpose of its existence.” A Baptist clergyman there declared: “We have lost our grip, our way, our faith. We are filled with foreboding and fear, worried about nuclear weapons.” How could these religions represent true worship when the Bible plainly says that those persons having the right religion would not fear because they would know for a certainty what the future holds for this earth, yes, for this very generation, and that they would be bearing witness of this in all parts of the earth?—Luke 21:28; Matt. 24:14.
In this regard astounding are the words of the late Archbishop Yngve Brilioth of Sweden, who said: “Whether mankind will ever get peace, is a question the answering of which would require a prophetic endowment that I have not got.” If what this clergyman had was the right religion, he would clearly know that peace will come to this earth, and how it will come, since the Bible pointedly answers these questions.
A prominent American bishop, James A. Pike, admitted: “The story of Christianity’s retreat is more than one of numbers. It is a story of a Church that has become largely complacent and irrelevant. The Christian community seems incapable of heeding the religious admonition to ‘love thy neighbour’ at a time when the need for such love was never more apparent.” But this could not be true if he represented true religion, whose adherents have always practiced such love and do so at the present time. In fact, it is a prominent feature that distinguishes them from those who have the wrong religion.—John 13:34, 35.
Related to this are the words of the late Pope John XXIII, who, when speaking of boxing, said: “It is barbaric to put brother against brother.” Yet, it is far more barbaric to witness millions belonging to the same religion slaughtering one another on the battlefield in time of war, each side supported by their respective clergy who are also of the same religion! What a fantastic failure of these religions when we consider the words of 1 John 3:10-12: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. . . . we should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother”!
If you face things honestly, the way they really are, you will find the words of the German Lutheran church paper Amtsblatt der bekennenden Kirche (Official Journal of the Witnessing Church) accurate when it said: “In this period at the end of the modern world, we theologians and clergymen, due to our false course, belong to the same class as the Pharisees and Sadducees spoken of in Matthew 16:1-4. We, too, fail to understand the signs of the times.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
In view of all these admissions of failure, you must consider it mandatory, if you love what is right, to check and see if what your religion teaches and practices squares with the Bible. “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine,” God’s Word counsels truth seekers.—1 Thess. 5:21.
Do as some in the city of Beroea did in the first century, after they listened to the apostle Paul. The Bible tells us that these people “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 17:11) Yes, they checked on what they heard from Paul to see if it matched what their Scriptures said. They were commended for doing so.
What if the things they heard and checked in their Scriptures were different from what their religion was teaching and practicing? Then it meant they must change their religion if they were to meet God’s approval! Did they? The account relates: “Therefore many of them became believers, and so did not a few of the reputable Greek women and of the men.” (Acts 17:12) Yes, they abandoned their former religion and accepted true religion. Even the apostle Paul himself was an outstanding example of this, for he was one who had changed his religion. And he had been a very prominent religious leader at one time!
However, none of such people who changed their religion did so for romantic, social, political, business or other selfish reasons. They did so because they wanted to worship God the way God wanted them to worship. They wanted to adopt true religion so they could gain God’s approval and blessing, knowing that any who clung to false religion would be rejected by God as he would reject the false religion itself.
See the need, then, for the same kind of examination and change that these Bible Christians demonstrated and that is being demonstrated by hundreds of thousands who seek true religion in our time. Get out of false religion, as the Bible commands: “Get out from among them, and separate yourselves.” (2 Cor. 6:17) And what if you need to change your religion but do not do so? It would mean identifying yourself with a religion that has passed under God’s adverse judgment and is reserved for destruction soon. As God’s Word warns concerning Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion: “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 . . . in one day her plagues will come, . . . and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”—Rev. 18:4, 5, 8.
So search the Scriptures. Put your religion to the test. Abandon false religion for true religion. Yes, look for those who take the Bible seriously and live by it, all of it. Join them in true worship. If you do this, you will be doing God’s will, and “he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.