That lyric used to really offend me. I thought he was anti-religion, which for me implied anti-Jesus, anti-God, anti-spirituality. It was an affront to me when I used align myself with various camps in the Christian religion.
I see now that, while the lyric is indeed anti-religion, that happens to be a good thing. Religion isn’t, nor was it ever, the point. When it becomes the point, people divide into camps of “us” versus “them” and it leads to holy wars (both verbal and physical). These days I’ve found two metaphors for religion that I think put it in its proper light for me:
Religion is Scaffolding
Religion, like scaffolding, is temporary and helpful during a construction project, but not “the point”. It is just one of many tools used during construction, but at some point you rip the scaffolding down, put the tools away, and get to using the thing you’ve built. No one really needs golden scaffolding with banners and marble platforms and special lighting effects and a rock band singing about the power and glory of the scaffolding…
Religion is Training Wheels
Religion is comparable to training wheels on a bike – temporary and helpful in the initial stages of learning to ride a bike, but if used for an extended period of time become an indication that you are unable to find the balance necessary to go on without them. Unless there is a special circumstance, you should be able to take the training wheels off at some point and just use the bike as originally intended.
Yeah, I can imagine a world in which humankind has broken down the scaffolding, taken off the training wheels, and we are a “brotherhood of man” with nothing to kill or die for – not religion, not some self-interested nation-state – where we live each day in peace, harmony, compassion, consideration of others. It’s the kind of world that Jesus was on about when he declared his “good news” originally spoken of by the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
Good news to the poor. Bind up the brokenhearted. Freedom for captives. Release for prisoners. These are good things, things Jesus actually did and we can actually do, too. It isn’t about us finding some special plan that God supposedly has for our lives; rather, it’s about us finding what God cares about and getting busy doing that. I believe that is when you are “partnering” with God and have the resources of the heavens at your disposal.
Working on anything other than that seems to me to be riding training wheels straight off your scaffolding.