A brief study of the etymology of our English word “religion” will reveal that we might not want to allow the word “religion” to be associated with Christianity. There are several Latin words that may have served as the origin of our English word “religion.” The Latin word religo meant “to tie or fasten.”18 A similar word, religio, was used to refer to “respect, devotion or superstition.” Religio was a recognition that men are often tied or bound to God in reverence or devotion. It can also convey the meaning of being bound or tied to a set of rules and regulations, to rituals of devotion, to a creedal belief-system, or to a cause, ideology, or routine. Some have suggested that “religion” may be derived from the Latin word relegere, which refers
to re-reading. There is no doubt that “religion” is often associated with repetitious rites of liturgy and litany, and
the reproduction of creedal formulas and expressions. Most etymologists, however, regard the English word “religion”
to be derived from the Latin word Religare which is closely aligned with the root word religo.19 The prefix re- means
“back” or “again,” and the word ligare refers to “binding, tying or attaching.” Other English words such as “ligature,” referring to “something that is used to bind,” and “ligament” which “binds things together,” evidence the same root in the Latin word ligare. The Latin word religare, from which our English word “religion” is most likely derived, meant “to tie back” or “to bind up.” The purpose of Jesus’ coming was not to “bind us” or “tie us” to anything or anyone, though it might be argued that in the reception of Jesus Christ by faith there is a spiritual attachment of our identity with Him. Jesus clearly indicates that He came to set us free – free to be functional humanity in the fullest sense, by allowing God to function through us to His glory. To some believing Jews, Jesus explained that “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Further explanation of the personification of that “truth” in Himself was then made when Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” To the Galatians, Paul affirms that “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” by reverting back to the bondage of Jewish religion (Gal. 5:1)

“You were called to freedom, brethren” (Gal. 5:13), Paul exclaims. “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor.
3:17). Jesus did not say, “I came that you might have religion, and practice it more faithfully,” or “I came that you might
have religion, and adhere to it more committedly,” or “I came that you might have religion, and define it more dogmatically,” or “I came that you might have religion, and defend it more vehemently,” or “I came that you might have religion, and thus behave more morally.” What Jesus said was, “I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The life that He came to bring and express within us and through us is His life. “I AM the way, the truth and the life,” declared Jesus to His disciples (John 14:6). The apostle John wrote that “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son does not have life” (I John 5:12). “Christ is our life,” is the phrase Paul uses in writing to the Colossians (Col. 3:4), for Christianity is not “religion,” but the life of Jesus Christ expressed in receptive humanity.

The need of the hour is to distinguish and differentiate between “religion” and Christianity. Most people in the Western world have so long identified these terms and thought them to be synonymous and equivalent, that it takes a sharp can-opener of rational argument, or the sharper still “Word of God” (Heb. 4:12), to reveal the contrasting dichotomy between Christianity and “religion.” This attempt to differentiate between the two may indeed be presumptuous, but on the other hand, it might be used of God to bring the revelation of spiritual understanding that would allow someone to make an important distinction and
enjoy the reality of Jesus’ life. Many erstwhile Christian thinkers have made the distinction between “religion” and Christianity. Martin Luther, in confronting the sixteenth-century religionism of Roman Catholicism, explained, “I have often said that to
speak and judge rightly in this matter we must carefully distinguish between a pious (religious) man and a Christian.”1 The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, was exposing the nineteenth-century religionism of the state church in Denmark in his work entitled Attack on Christendom, wherein he noted that it is most difficult to explain to someone who thinks that they are a Christian already, what it means to be a Christian.2 German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stood up to the spineless
religionism of the German Lutheran Church during World War II and was killed by the Nazis. In his Letters and
Papers from Prison he sets up the antinomy between faith and religion and argues for a “non-religious” or “religionless
Christianity.”3 Perhaps the clearest delineation between “religion” and Christianity is drawn by the Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, arguably the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. In his voluminous Church Dogmatics, Barth wrote that

“the revelation of God is the abolition of religion.”

“It is always the sign of definite misunderstanding when an attempt is made to systematically coordinate revelation and religion…to fix their mutual relationship.”5
“In opposition to all ‘religionism’ the proclamation of the grace of God is introduced as the truth…”6
“Religion is unbelief. It is a concern of…godless man.”7
“Religion is clearly seen to be a human attempt to anticipate what God in His revelation wills to do and does do. It is the attempted replacement of the divine work by a human manufacture.”8
“It is a feeble but defiant, an arrogant but hopeless, attempt to create something which man could do. In religion man bolts and bars himself against revelation by providing a substitute, by taking away in advance the very thing which has to be given by God. It is never the truth. It is a complete fiction, which has not only little but no relation to God.”9
“What is the purpose of the universal attempt of religions but to anticipate God, to foist a human product into the place of His
word, to make our own images of the One who is known only where He gives Himself to be known.”10
“The revelation of God denies that any religion is true. No religion can stand before the grace of God as true religion.”11
French sociologist and legal scholar, Jacques Ellul, in like manner affirms that,
“There is no path leading from a little bit of religion (of whatever kind) to a little more and finally to faith. Faith shatters all
“The opposition between religion and revelation can really be understood quite simply. We can reduce it to a maxim: religion
goes up, revelation comes down.13

“Almost all people, inside as well as outside the church, find that the notion of grace stands in contradiction to everything they
understand by religion.”15 “The gospel of grace is the end of religion, the final posting of the CLOSED sign on the sweatshop of the human race’s perpetual struggle to think well of itself. For that, at the bottom, is what religion is: man’s well-meant but dim-witted attempt to approve of his unapprovable condition by doing odd jobs he thinks some important Something will thank him for. “Religion, therefore, is a loser, a strictly fallen activity. It has a failed past and a bankrupt future. There was no religion in Eden and there won’t be any in heaven; and in the meantime, Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now.”16 “I want you to set aside the notion of the Christian religion because it’s a contradiction in terms. You won’t learn anything positive about religion from Christianity, and if you look for Christianity in religion, you’ll never find it. To be sure, Christianity uses the forms of religion, and, to be dismally honest, too many of its adherents act as if it were a religion; but it isn’t one, and that’s that. The church is not in the religion business; it is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. And the gospel is the good news that all man’s fuss and feathers over his relationship with God is unnecessary because God, in the mystery of the Word who is Jesus, has gone and fixed it up Himself. So let that pass. Many other statements from Christian writers could be adduced, but these will suffice to represent the awareness of the differentiation between “religion” and Christianity. This wonderful write up is in the book Christianity is NOT Religion by  James A. Fowler 

firezone Changed status to publish January 11, 2022