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Why Are "Religious" People Jerks?

Self | Attie Murphy | 6 mins

As a Christian, I don’t like to call myself “religious” because of all the connotations that come with that word. I don’t want people to think of me as a judgy or hive-minded person. Yet when I look at the characteristics of my life, I realize that the definition of “religious” is an accurate description of my core beliefs. I adhere to a certain set of principles that guide my habits. Isn’t that what religion is all about? The problem is that religion is a human-made concept, which means it’s something that should not define who we are. No matter how often we go to church or how “good” our lives are, our value comes from our Creator, not our own work.

Even when it comes to trivial issues, we often think we are defending our beliefs when we point out the “rights and wrongs” of others. We have voids we want to fill by succeeding in our “religious” systems, no matter what they may be. So for people of faith, it’s easy to want to grasp that form of control when representing our core values. But the truth is, the control is not in our hands and never will be. We can’t convince anyone that our lives are perfect because they’re simply not. There is no evidence that our lives will ever be free from evil while we’re in this world, and pretending so only discredits anything else we proclaim. Whether you’re a Christian reading this or someone with other beliefs (or who isn’t sure what to believe), you need a point of focus that is not about comparison.

Here are some points to remember when you’re on the giving or receiving end of judgmental attitudes.

When someone judges you, remember:
First of all, if you’re thinking something like, “I know some religious people who are definitely jerks.” then take a moment to look inward. Are you judging those judgmental people? There are too many times when I’ve caught myself making assumptions about people simply because they were judgmental in a different way than I was. We all have insecurities and fears that can make us look like hypocrites, and one of the best ways to battle this tendency is through empathy. Instead of scoffing at legalistic people, we should work on our anxieties so we can better understand theirs. To let go of the pressure to prove ourselves right, we need to realize there is only one truth that decides our fate:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.- John 3:16

It’s that simple. The Bible tells us many things about how to represent God’s mission and thrive in our relationship with Him, but this one verse is where we need to start. Nothing else dictates the purpose of our souls. Our habits usually don’t change overnight and we may go through periods when we backslide, but that doesn’t negate our salvation. Jesus remains in our hearts through it all, once we accept Him. Anyone who says otherwise is most likely struggling to find peace in their own way and needs understanding. It’s difficult for any of us to completely accept the simplicity of Jesus’ truth because it’s a gift that defies our measurement of love. Our minds tell us there must be some standard of qualifications to earn that type of renewal, yet the Bible tells us we can never earn it if we try. The most beautiful fact is, that we don’t have to.

Before you voice judgment, remember:
Jesus’ path does require us to live differently than the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean we’re in competition for who “follows the map” best. We can see that in examples such as the criminal on the cross, who Jesus told, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” No matter the time and no matter the place, God celebrates when one of His children comes to Him. You may feel the pressure to point someone to the truth because you fear for their future, but negative urgency is usually more alienating than motivating. There is a time and place for constructive accountability, and it requires relationships with people and trust in God. If you want to lead people toward Jesus, seek His peace and share that with others. The ways you love and serve will create more influence than any judgment you offer.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.- James 1:27

You have worth and influence, no matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. What next step will you take to make an impact with the real you? 


Written By

Attie Murphy

An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.

Published on Apr 20, 2022