What matters is not whether Jesus was literally born of a virgin, literally the Son of God, that he literally absorbed the sins of the world, was literally raised from the dead, literally ascended into heaven, or that his spirit literally lives within believers. (I never would have said that a few years ago. But I still want it all to be true). Religion focuses on these things being literally true. But these things are not the point. They merely illustrate a point.
We also must accept that there may have been people who wanted these things to be true, or wanted others to believe they were true. These stories were circulated for decades before they were written down and we have no original copy of any of them. (here is an eye-opening book on this subject)
Religion wants it all to be literally true and condemns anyone who does not accept it all as literally true. To religion, faith in events which cannot be substantiated trump faith in a loving God.
Religion is not faith, nor does it speak for faith. Religion is fear and ignorance masquerading as an ambassador of faith. Religion can get people to believe in God, but not in the grace of God. The grace of God (unmerited favor) confounds the religious mind.
Religion understands mercy, to a degree, but it doesn’t understand or accept grace. Mercy lets you off the hook (if you ask for forgiveness and believe everything in the bible is literally true). But grace lets you off the hook and showers you with favor, no matter what you do.
From the book itself:
“… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” ~ Jesus
In other words, “God loves everyone and blesses everyone. You should do the same, so that you are like him.”
Religion doesn’t accept grace, because grace doesn’t seem fair. But God’s ways are not our ways. Religion wants God to inflict pain on those who do not follow the rules. But what religion doesn’t realize is that we inflict pain on ourselves when we do the wrong thing. It’s the realization of grace which sets us free and makes us want to do the right thing.
Don’t let religion get in the way of faith. Don’t let the fear pushed on you by religion cloud your faith in God’s love. That’s what faith is – accepting that God loves you. That’s what causes real inner transformation. That’s what produces change that lasts.
Religion is the way of the past. Faith can be the way of the future.
PS: Check out The Misunderstood God for more perspective on this.