Journey to Freedom

All sorts of people are ready to save our soul-not least among them being those who would plunder it. Being set free from religion is a process that unfolds to us as we contemplate the saviors who have supposedly come to our rescue. All of them pose as our friends, and few of them will settle for anything less than submission and servitude.

Absolute freedom maddens them.

You see, religion socializes us. By that I mean it puts us into a group of people where now we belong. We are family, we have identity, we are accepted. I follow the rules and they approve of me. I break the rules and they chastise me (for my own good, of course). This process is not unique to religion; it is the most basic description of how society operates. We become so dependent on the group, which has now become our reference point for what is right and wrong, that our very self becomes a reflection of the group’s values and beliefs. In fact, our self-worth is measured by our perception of what the group thinks of us.

The process of socialization, then, is the means whereby we learn the rules of the “in club” and then adjust our lives accordingly.

Religion’s socialization process is lethal. It not only offers us the acceptance and affections of a specific group of people, it also offers us the acceptance and affection of God. We become secure in our religious sense of self and vigorously join with the others in defending the fundamentals of our worldview. This is what much of our Christian education is about… a certain percentage of Sunday School classes, sermons, doctrine courses and seminars are not as much about pursuit of truth as they are about religious socialization.

The acceptance and affection of God offered to us by religious socialization come with high stakes. Any rejection of this religious group’s values and behavioral expectations will bring down upon us the wrath and rejection of not only the group but also God.

To become free people is to unleash the indignation of religion.

We must be clear that the journey to freedom is at times a bleak and lonely path, one that offers us few of the familiar comforts that came with religion. We are left to ourselves to discover our true salvation, and we are often confronted by the animosity of those who find our freedom a threat to their religious tranquility.

From the book, “Cages of Pain” by Gordon Aeschliman.

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I picked up this book some time around 1992 when I was visiting Westmont College in Santa Barbara with a small group of youth pastors on retreat. Little did I realize how much it would mean to me during the following year. No book has meant as much to me as this one and I return to it time and again to find solace, encouragement, and hope.

In the next few posts I plan on sharing some of it with you. It is a powerful story and one that will bring healing and empowerment to those in the process of gaining the freedom they seek from religion. I hope it also brings understanding to those surrounding us.

17 thoughts on “Journey to Freedom”

  1. <>So it make sence (sic.) to me to attend the church of your choice but don’t fall into the trap of becoming a member.<>I’ve attended the same church for fifteen years, but have not gone through the membership process and have no plans to do so. Personally, I don’t see the point of it all. IMO, if you attend a church, you’re a member of it until either you die or you leave it (either on your own, or the church board decides to kick you out).Anyway, there’ve been some good posts here lately. Yay! 🙂

  2. I second, third, or forth the kudos going round for this excerpt…I also wonder why ‘religion’ is so far from the intentions expressed in the words of the new testament, especially the writings of Paul. I guess the SS answer is that we are all human, falliable, prone to sin and any human organization reflects that limitation. But, the 5/6 step process mentioned above seems defeatist in a way, like we cannot progress to any level of freedom, true understanding, or real relationship with Christ unless we fail in several different ways first. Don’t get me wrong, it mirrors the last 16 years of my life but you would think that there would be a better way, don’t you think?

  3. So it make sence to me to attend the church of your choice but don’t fall into the trap ofbecoming a member. This would leave you a totaly free agent in Christ and freeing you fromthe enslavement part of church membership and towing the party lines don’t you think?Dan

  4. Steve, you sure have been reading a lot, lately…stomach flu? Yeah, I get a lot of reading done that way too… 🙂jkSeriously, I love the line,<>“a certain percentage of Sunday School classes, sermons, doctrine courses and seminars are not as much about pursuit of truth as they are about religious socialization.”<>. I’m not sure whether to say “amen” or “hell yeah!”.This is good stuff…

  5. said youth pastor says, “Remember, that for the Christian there is no such thing as absolute freedom nor any measure of freedom afforded us outside of Christ and His Word. Therefore we do submit to authority inside and outside of the church as a lifelong demostration of our obedience to Christ. There are very few times that we are allowed to disobey.”Therein lies the problem. Preachers like this 6’4″ “monolith” love to remind us that obedience to the church is necessary. I couldn’t agree more, but I also hate being submissive to people I don’t respect. In fact, I’m not. I simply leave the situation.

  6. It is always interesting that we always seem to circle around the same issue – To go to church or not. Go if you want to and don’t if you don’t want to. It really boils down to a choice YOU make. Are we trying to justify our choice? Just a question……

  7. So much of that response is confusing it is hard to see his points other than: 1) Don’t leave a church unless your interpretation of scripture differs from that of the leadership2) Obey leaders simply because someone has made them a leader.That is typical christianese bull.

  8. Well, I sent this to a youth pastor at my local church, just to get his reaction. He’s 6’4″, and bald. Thinks he’s a monolith of the Christian church. Here’s his reply. I sent him only the text posted on the front page.“Interesting article and very true in so many cases. Remember, that for the Christian there is no such thing as absolute freedom nor any measure of freedom afforded us outside of Christ and His Word. Therefore we do submit to authority inside and outside of the church as a lifelong demostration of our obedience to Christ. There are very few times that we are allowed to disobey. Abortion, racism, homosexuality, etc. We do not comply with governments that attempt to impose on us legislation that is in clear contradiction to the Scripture . Within the church we are not permitted to object unless there is doctrinal reason for it. i.e. leadership is conducting themselves or the business of the church in a way that is in direct contradiction to the clear mandate of scripture. A Sunday school teacher is teaching falsely etc. Then we are to stand, trusting God’ s Word and call for accountability and discipline. To respond the opening paragraph of this article; Blah-blah-blah Baptist has no saviors here. Our job is not Sales or Management. Our calling is Communication. We are to communicate God’s Word to all those who would hear and obey it. We are to communicate it to all those who will never be converted by God, not obey it. This local congregation will and should expect it’s parishioners to accept the vision and direction of the Pastor and the Elders and Deacons and to follow their lead IN CHRIST. No one is called to blind faith in men nor to slavery to religious leaders. However, the Bible is clear that there are those who will rule over us spiritually and that they are God’s servants of mercy. I will return to what I believe is the only good reason to leave a local congregation. DOCTRINE, do they teach anything that is outside of the scripture. It the reason that caused me to leave the denomination I had grown up in. (NOTE-He left the Assembly of God to be a Babtist) I had to leave. I could not assent to teachings that through a proper study of God’s Word, I knew to be false. To me any other reason is either a matter of personal Style preference or disobedience.”And that’s it……

  9. I have totally enjoyed catching up on the recent posts. There are some really good reads out there after all. It is thought provoving finding the balance with this relationship versus religion discussion.Religion = Rules = FailureRelationship = Mercy & unconditional loveI would rather take the 2nd.

  10. “There are very few times that we are allowed to disobey. Abortion, racism, homosexuality, etc.”What does this mean ? Does he say he condones these acts by Scripture ???

  11. hey steve I’m not going to cuss or anything i be nice now.Decent excerpt. Dave: I don’t think I’m in a shit creek without a paddle. I tend to stay away from any and all groups (including non-religious ones).Groups always have a foundation philosophy that transforms people’s lives into a stagnant waste. In a coterie or cabal, we all listen and submit to the person willing to be the most vicious. This may not seem true, but it is. Rarely do I see good leaders anymore. What’s up with all the suck ass preachers in the world? I stick with my family. I mean, you can’t even trust your family sometimes, but you can try, and it’s worth it…..it sure beats “buddies” or “pals” or “prayergroups”.

  12. This reminds me of “Platoon”. Remember Charlie Sheen getting in on the crazy action in that North Vietnamese village? “Dance motherfucker dance” he says only soon after plunging into a tearful delirium. when Wilem Dafoe (sp?) (the other sergeant) enters the town he’s outraged and confronts the guy with the scar. That’s what groups can do to good people with no balls. They turn into bad people. Why? Because they’re scared to stand up to the dude that talks the most. That’s it. Until you (anyone) can tell preachers that they are WRONG in front of everyone, then nothing will change.

  13. <>To become free people is to unleash the indignation of religion.<>Certainly seen oodles of that around here.Looking forward to more stuff, Steve.

  14. “The acceptance and affection of God offered to us by religious socialization come with high stakes. Any rejection of this religious group’s values and behavioral expectations will bring down upon us the wrath and rejection of not only the group but also God.”So true but something worth challenging no less.

  15. It seems you have to go through religion to get free from it…this is how it goes – 1. bondage to world 2. Freedom from world 3. Bondage to religion (christian) 4. Freedom from religion 5. Alienation from the world and religion – up shit creek with no paddle, but hey, Jesus is in the boat as well.WARNING…be free from religion at your own risk!

  16. …additionally, how might this “respect” be earned? hell if i know. We all can feel when a man’s words actually engage us.Billy Graham was an engaging speaker, whether you like his “Just as I am” call to the altar or not. He spoke truth almost defiantly! I love watching his old crusades when one of the wacko christian channels decides to air them.

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