What is the point of religion?

Slow down… deep breaths… Now, answer the question as asked, please.

That was the question posed to me last week as I delivered a presentation on denominational shaping of Christianity. Is it just to go to heaven, the respondent asked. It is not, I assured him. After all, many of us believers do not believe in the heaven professed by other believers. Nor, if we look at the anthropological history of religion, is it the driving force of the earliest religions, including the religion of the Hebrews and other semitic peoples. So, if the carrot is not the point of religion, what is?

What if the Teacher is correct, that the entirety of our existence is to eat, drink, and be merry with some sort of glorification of God (something the Teacher’s aide clearly thought)? Perhaps being human, flourishing in our humanity, glorifies God and this is indeed the whole duty of us. Perhaps not. I do not believe that the point of the Christian religion is to “get to heaven.” I turn again to Paul in Galatians,

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6.15)

The new creation here does not seem to be the New Creation mentioned elsewhere. So maybe the point of the Christian faith is not so much about going to heaven but about becoming that new creation to glorify God in the way we talk, walk, and act.


Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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