a letter to those who hate religion

Dear Friend,

I wanted to write you a letter, you who hate religion, you who think the Christians are responsible for so much hatred in the world, you who is tired of hearing about Jesus from people who don’t seem to even know him. You, who wants nothing to do with this organized religion called Christianity which you suspect is just a code word for hypocrite.

You, shaking your fists watching televangelists tell hurricane and earthquake victims that the gays are responsible for God’s wrath. You, whose stomach turned when you drove past the street corner where the guy with the bullhorn and the poster board condemned passersby straight to the fires of hell. You, who rolls your eyes when your friend posts another Bible verse to your Facebook news feed. You, who is angry that your personal life and your future are threatened by people who don’t know you and don’t understand you and don’t even want to.

You wonder if God is so good and so powerful, and if He helped that team win the football game, then why doesn’t He do something about all those starving children or rape victims. You wonder what all the mega-churches full of believers could accomplish in the world, together, if they acted on the principles they preach instead of holding another Bible study or spiritual retreat. You wonder what the world would be like if there really was a movement of the love and grace Jesus taught about and if faith was more than a buzz word.

You are so sick of hearing from the Christians because after all these years you only seem to hear about what they’re against… politically, relationally, religiously, and morally. Because faith, hope, and love doesn’t seem to go any farther or any deeper than the cute little sign on their wall that holds the words. Because the only thing in your life they seem to care about is your sin. Because deep down you believe that if Jesus really does come back to this planet, he’ll be horrified about much of what is being done in His name and by those who claim that He is their God while they worship power and money.

I wanted to tell you…

You’re right.

It was never meant to be this way.

Jesus gives us a life of freedom, a freedom we Christians so often use to hold others captive. Jesus gives us infinite grace, a gift we maim and distort into judgment and condemnation. Jesus taught us to live a life of love, an instruction we’ve misunderstood and mismanaged and turned into a method of self-service.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the Christians who have judged you and condemned you and cared only about your sin instead of extending grace and understanding and a hand of fellowship. I’m sorry that following Jesus has so often become a pursuit of religion and favor and that we have failed to do what our namesake requires of us, and act, always, in love.

Because we are the answer for the starving children and the rape victims, the solution God gave to a hurting world…His people. We are the hands to apply balm to the hurting bodies and hurting hearts. We have been given the kind of transcendent love that allows us to carry out supernatural miracles in the power of the Spirit.

But we don’t.

We fiddle with our iPhones and get bent up about politics and pray for vacations and sports victories. We imagine Jesus in our own image, with blue eyes and blue jeans, in a rage against all the things we hate. We play at church and turn it into a social club for the in-crowd, far removed from marginalized society, tithing for the benefit of flavored coffee and softer chairs while we look at the photos of the starving and the sick and the addicted and the lost and we say it, again and again…

“How sad.”

We are, so often, a poor representation of Jesus.

We fail at all those things we’re supposed to be. We’re selfish and overwhelmed by the needs of the world and scared of what we don’t understand, so we waltz around and through our days like we don’t know the answers, like there’s nothing we can do, like we don’t have hope, and like we don’t really care about those neighbors we’re supposed to love like ourselves.

He isn’t like us.

We’re fallen and broken and making a mess of things. We’re sinful and selfish and so off-track. We’re human, and even when we try our hardest to emulate Him, to be Him in a hurting world, we miss the mark and get tangled up in our humanity, in our very nature as not-gods. We have let you down. He won’t. He isn’t like us.

I’m sorry.

It was never meant to be this way.

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Cara Sexton
A wife, mom, foster parent, writer, and Jesus girl, trying to live out loud with as much grace and gusto as I can. Visit me at WhimsySmitten.com
Cara Sexton

Latest posts by Cara Sexton (see all)


  1. You make me think. Hard.

    • Maybe all I ever need to hear about something I’ve written as encouragement to keep doing it. Thanks for that, Leslie.

  2. And big thanks to BibleDude.net for having me here.

    • Thank YOU! You are always such a great contributor around here!

  3. Amen. Would love to preach this from the pulpit Sunday.

    • Julie, would love it if you did.

      • Let’s talk. Will send message through fb.

        • Looking forward to it, Julie.

    • In fact, we do that a lot.

  4. Hey Cara, been forever. I was hesitant to read this because of the direction I assumed it would go. Thank you for surprising me and actually taking the time to point stuff like this out. As an atheist, I’d like to say I wish more Christians were like you in realizing this. In the enormity of everything, I find it disheartening and offensive when religious people praise god for touchdowns or finding cars keys, or even going so far as to travel to a third world country devastated by famine to pass out bibles instead of food and water. You’re right, Jesus would be pissed. Keep fighting this fight to make sure gods fan club realize that they signed up to humbly benefit their fellow man, not for French Roast after Sunday Services.

    • Thanks for weighing in here, Josh, and for taking the time to read. I’m a failure in so many respects as a Christian — we all are — but I think it’s important that the world sees a different face than it often does. The loud hateful Christians do not represent all of us and there are so many just trying to do what we can, willing to be changed because of what we believe, believing that our responsibility is to love people in word and action. I’m a mess of a person most of the time, but I claim a grace that covers my crap and I *must* extend the same grace to others.

  5. Wow. As a person who is the intended recipient..a person who hates religion, I was expecting a lot more “mysterious ways” BS, and to have that not be your main point was pretty refreshing. I think you nailed it as far as the hypocrisy goes (and other great points you made)…rarely do religious people reflect on the negative aspects of it, and I admire your intellectual honesty. It didn’t change my mind, but if more religious people spoke out against the negative aspects of their religion, the world would be a better place…You may still think I’m with Lucifer, but I don’t believe in that either, I wish you the best.

    • “if more religious people spoke out against the negative aspects of their religion, the world would be a better place…”

      From my experience, We do criticize religion a lot, but not at public for obvious reasons. We criticize our moral system, our internal culture, our organization, ourselves… The issue is that our criticism is constructive, but most anti-religious criticism is destructive. That’s the reasons you may think we don’t criticize ourselves.

      However, we can agree we have a lot to improve, but that doesn’t mean that what some Christians do represent the whole christian community, and that the issue I have with people that hate religion for those reasons.

      Nice day.

      • Yes, the church as a whole is full of self-criticism. I guess I just wonder most of the time if we’re criticizing the right things. What it comes down to is whether or not we are Christ-like. The rest will work itself out when we start acting like we’re meant to act.

    • Thank you for your thoughts here, for being willing to read and consider my perspective. For the record, I don’t “think you’re with Lucifer” and the post wasn’t written to change anyone’s mind, just to offer a quiet whisper of a different perspective in the face of a lot of loud misguided voices. Most atheists I know (and I used to be one, too) feel that Christians fail to represent Christ accurately. I just though it was important that I say, to Christians and atheists alike, that I agree with that. I think we’re all basically the same in this world, imperfect people with selfish natures just trying to make our way with what we understand about things. Just aiming for a little honesty. Thanks for your time and your words.

  6. Sandra Heska King

    Powerful and thought-provoking, Cara.

    • Thanks, Sandra! I appreciate your encouragement.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    Preach it, Cara! Powerful stuff here. I’d love it if you’d do a follow up about some of the ways you see Jesus-followers getting it right here and there. Because I do think there are signs of hope – and those signs have nothing to do with winning football games, or even elections. They have to do with connecting with suffering at the street level and offering cold water, food, medical care and hope. They also have to do with encouraging people to go deeper on their own personal exploration of spirituality and faith, to dig beneath the surface of coffee flavors and padded chairs to what it is that makes human beings tick, to what makes US tick and then allowing the Spirit to re-form us over and over again until we look just a little bit more like Jesus. You’re right, he’s not like us. But he invites us to be like him – and like our truest, best selves. I’m sharing this one. Thank you for it.

    • Yes! And I will… we are getting it right in so many ways and there is hope. The fact that He invites us to be like Him is hopefully what keeps spurring us on for more transformation…less of us and more of Him. Thanks for sharing it, too.

  8. I do believe that, as Christians, we have to improve a lot. We do criticize ourselves, but we have to do something about rather than to continue with the same mistakes.

    However, I’m struggling with the fact that secular and non-practicing people expect perfection from us, although that’s some kind of good because that remember us what we are. We aren’t perfect and we aren’t Christians because have to be perfect, but because we aren’t perfect!

    I don’t think it makes any sense to hate religion as a whole. It’s like hating politics because of Hittler, or hating internet because of pedophilia spreading. I would not even hate just religious fanaticism, but fanaticism in all aspects (politics, sports, nationalism, etc).

    I prefer to be considered hypocritical because I am not a perfect Christian than to be considered “honest” from the perspective of those who don’t know God’s Love.

    • What I struggle with, Joseph, is not that people expect perfection from us but that we expect perfection from everyone but ourselves, so much of the time. We all hold opinions on right and wrong, moral and immoral, good and bad, but are usually much more willing to address these things in others than in ourselves. I think the majority of people who “hate religion” are simply fed up by the misrepresentation of what they believe, or the devastating things done to others in the name of love or faith. I love God but even I hate what religion as a whole does to society in the pursuit of being “right”. For sure, though, we’re all hypocrites, imperfect, fallen and none of us are honest or good in the reflection of Christ’s perfection. What we are, though, is commanded to do better than we do, and I thought it was time someone said so.

  9. Lori

    Great post Cara, and thought provoking. There is much the American church can do to improve, and yet there are so many in the church working behind the scenes doing what Jesus did, everyday and faithfully. They just aren’t noticed. I agree with much of what you are saying, but I am reminded of a friend of mine who was very fond of saying he didn’t believe in organized religion, and yet his own son and 4 children were living In a mission who have taken them in and fed them. Through that mission the church they went to found this Dad a job and they are now doing very well. Great post! Thank you for keeping our eyes turned to Jesus, that is what it’s all about!

    • Thanks for your comment, and you’re right. There is a lot of good being done in His name. I think the loud and condemning overcomes the quiet and working when it comes to what is being done in the world in the name of God. Thanks for weighing in.

  10. This may be the most honest, gracefully humble post I’ve ever read from a Christian. While there is still the issue of evidence, it’s nice to see that someone on the other side sees what we see. Thanks, and best wishes.
    An atheist.

    • Thank you for your words and for taking the time to read this and offer your encouragement. Evidence is tricky, I agree, and I have tried to walk away from Christianity so many times based only on what I could see and hear. My heart is gripped, though, by something I can’t explain, something that logic can’t make sense of, something that I cannot deny as much as I’ve tried to when I’ve had it up to here with the church in general. Anyway, thanks again for coming by.

    • Well said, John. I agree fully. I too am an atheist and think I’m often a “better Christian” than most of my Christian friends…ironic.

      • You probably are. The only answer I can give to it is that grace is often used as an excuse to stop trying … “I know I’m saved and forgiven and wicked so therefore, I don’t have to do anything about it.” It’s not what Jesus taught, which is why I’m attempting to address it. Simply put, much more is required of us than we’re usually willing to admit or carry out.

  11. Before I got to the “You’re right” and “I’m sorry” part, I was already raising my hackles, getting ready for the other shoe to drop and I wanted to admit that your letter and all it’s truths just further cemented my hatred for organized religion. Because all those things you listed, all those things I hate about religion are absolutely right on the mark, and to hear it from someone (I don’t know you, but I trust you are what you say you are) such as yourself and to then receive an apology for it…it blew my mind. This isn’t the first time someone has apologized to me on behalf of the horrible, terrible, unthinkable things done in your lord’s name, and it probably won’t be the last. But from the bottom of MY heart, thank you for this letter. Now that you’ve admitted how bent your religion has become, my question is – what are YOU going to do about it?

    • Thanks for your comments and taking the time to read and weigh in. The question you asked, (what are YOU going to do about it?) really is what it comes down to for us all, isn’t it? It’s the only thing that matters. What I’m going to do about it is to try, step-by-step, to live closer to the way Christ did, to emulate him, to do what he commanded, and to speak up on behalf of those that the church and the world marginalizes, the way Jesus did. I’m a foster parent, trying to take seriously the command to look after widows and orphans, to feed and clothe and offer a cup of cold water in His name. I will do what I know how to do and try hard to keep my perspectives in check I will also fail at this every day on some level, no doubt. I’m a broken, fallen person who is grateful for grace. Thanks again for your thoughts here.

      • In North Carolina last spring they had a referendum on Gay Marriage. God’s warrior spent $10 million stopping the “Evil Gay Agenda” and a local church spent a few hundred dollars for a couple of billboards apologizing for it after it passed. This says it all about modern American Christianity. In Kansas a westboro baptist is running for the state board of education, In Louisiana they’re making it legal to teach creationism instead of science. These things are doing damage to this country and somebody has to stand up to them. So far the people doing this are the ACLU, The Secular Student Alliance, and the Human Rights Campaign. They’re going to spend the next generation dragging a large part of Christian America into the 21st century and Christian America is going to be cursing, kicking and screaming “YOUR GOING TO HELL” every single step of the way. To be totally honest I find it comforting when a Christian tells me I’m going to hell, it tells me I’m doing something right. But anyway I put little stock in apologies from people who aren’t responsible for the actions of others. It would be trillions times more meaningful if at least a few Christians could spare a little time to help us put their own Christian house in order.

        • I can’t be responsible for the actions of others. I had nothing to do with their bad decisions. What I can be responsible for is what I can do about it, and I am. It’s why I spend my time doing all the things I spend my time doing — to awaken the Christian culture to what it is doing, to help heal wounds where I can, to affect change from inside and to “be the change I wish to see.” I’m sorry I can’t single-handedly thwart every misguided Christian out there, but I’m doing what I can. In the meantime, I’m trying to help others see it the way a lot of the rest of us do…that these actions are harmful and not Christ-like at all. You don’t have to put any stock in my apology, but asking me to be responsible for the actions of every other Christian on earth is a bit unrealistic. Regardless, I will keep writing and speaking, working and shedding light on these things to expose the damage they are doing in pursuit of change.

  12. What shocks me is that there are so many atheists here genuinely surprised by the post. It saddens me that they must have encountered so many Christians that behave in this way, but presumeably none who… well… actually act like Christians.

    • Me too, Chris. I think many Christians are downright oblivious to the basic reputation Christianity has in the world. It saddens me that it doesn’t represent Christ in the slightest. I think that’s mostly our fault, though (not on a personal level but a corporate one, I mean).

  13. Good message, and something that needs to be said more.

    One thing that got me curious- God gives magical powers to his followers? Where is the evidence for this? When people try to study it, they don’t find it. If the magic is real, why does it disappear when people carefully look for it?

    • I wasn’t intending to make a theological statement that God gives magical powers to his followers. What I mean is that for me, I find an excess of strength, love, grace, peace, and joy because of my faith. I don’t think studying those things makes them any more tangible any more than studying air or depression or fear makes those things tangible. What I believe, though, is that having an increased measure of love, joy, peace, etc. at my disposal means I have a greater responsibility to use those things for doing good for others.

      • I guess I misunderstood this: “We have been given the kind of transcendent love that allows us to carry out supernatural miracles in the power of the Spirit.”

        To me, this sounds like it means that God gives magical powers to his followers. Do you have the ability to carry out supernatural miracles? I am skeptical of such claims, because they have so frequently turned out to be fraud. When I think of a person claiming magical powers from God, I think of a TV preacher bilking little old ladies out of their retirement money.

        • If what you’re asking is whether I have the ability to slap people on the head and heal them for a modest donation, then the answer is no. At least, I’ve sure never tried. But the way I see it, supernatural miracles happen all around us every day. It takes an excess of love and strength for a foster mom I know to clean feces off the walls after being spit on and cursed at since her young charge isn’t in control of his emotions, and yet continues to love and care for him when she easily could walk away. It takes something beyond understanding when three volunteers with two trays of food feed over 1200 homeless for two rounds of dinner until they were all stuffed to the gills, and then wind up with leftovers. It takes a complete change of heart for a person I know with a once lavish lifestyle to sell everything they own and use the money building wells in third-world countries to help supply drinkable water to at-risk villages to improve the quality of life of people she’s never met.

          I completely agree that those who claim to have been given magical powers they will bestow upon you for the low-low-price of such and so are frauds and I don’t think most miracles happen that way. It’s hard to put into words to a person who hasn’t experienced what it feels like to be gripped by a profound and moving love what that looks/feels like or why it’s not something that can be studied. I don’t know why. If I could deny it, though…if I didn’t know that I have personally experienced something deeply inexplicable beyond myself, I would have walked away from the whole Christian thing years ago.

          Honestly, the church is so flawed that I’ve thrown my hands up and my towel in more than once. But I found that I couldn’t decide not to be a Christian, knowing what I’d experienced, anymore than I could decide not to be tall or not to be white. I just was. I don’t spend my days trying to convince others that I am right because I don’t think you can come to faith by listening to what others know, only by what you know and have experienced yourself. My point here was simply that it matters what message we are sending out into the world as Christians. You’d be surprised how many Christians don’t know how the world perceives us most of the time.

  14. Incredible post. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve actually started blogging again and recently wrote a post on what grace really means (http://veruminvenire.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/what-is-grace/). This letter really hit the nail on the head, and really captured what I was trying to say.

    This was the topic of our small group discussion last Wednesday, I can’t wait to share this with them this week.

    God bless!

    • Thanks, Adam. Can’t wait to read your post. Headed over now…

  15. Apologies for the gush, (I’m British, I don’t get to do it often) but I am moved. A truly remarkable piece of writing. The world is in dire need of thinking like this and people like you. People of understanding, humility and the ability to say “enough”. I hope this article is read and shared by all. It’s words hold a power of reasoning that should be realized, and you should be very proud.

    My only regret is that such an glorious outpouring of revelations was not made sooner.

    The best of wishes :)

    • Thanks for your very kind words and for reading, and best of wishes right back atcha. One thing? There are a lot of us out there saying this. It’s not a novel idea or an enlightened new perspective. Sadly, the loud and fierce often drown out the voices of the rest of us just trying to learn what it looks like to live like Christ.

  16. I also want to comment here, because it was noted in the Reddit thread that I didn’t acknowledge my own failures, just the failures of others. This is true and it was an oversight. The post wasn’t meant as a theological exposition, rather an acknowledgement of how far we all have to go (myself as much as any other). I fail tremendously at being Christ-like every single day. I just think knowing and acknowledging this is a big step toward bridging the gap between the church and the world. If we all were willing to say, “Wow, I blew it” or “I value your perspective even if it’s different than mine” or “You’re right” more often, we may be able to open the dialogue that will fuel both progress and repentance.

  17. Thank you for this… Sometimes we need to hear the truth in all its brutal honesty.

    • Thank you for reading, Dean.

  18. Just give up your faith, you can be fine without it.

    • I did once. I wasn’t fine.

  19. too long; didnt convert

  20. Well-written and thought provoking. Props, Cara.

  21. so ignorant that people blame christians for everything when in fact it is not about their religion but who they are as a person , people need to seperate that. Not all chrisitains are doing bad things or concerned about your sins This is a nice letter but it is wrong that she even wrote that in the name of christians because everyone has been tainted by some bad in all religion . Look around and stop making it seem like christianity is to blame for all the chaos because its not all religion and ALL people are to blame because they cant live in peace with one another. living 101 people seriously!

  22. JodyCollins

    Cara–it’s taken me a week to get to this post and a few hours to digest it to know how to respond. I see your point–can’t we all (believers/Christians) just act saved? Yes, that would be nice. We all need to improve on the PR Campaign for Jesus. The responses you’ve received from people who call themselves atheists have been interesting and you’re brave to initiate the conversation.
    But here are a few points: 1) As John Piper has said–“God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” (Jonathan Edwards said it first). If we say we are a follower of Christ we should be living like that–is my life showing the joy that I have in following Him? Does Jesus really meet all my needs? or do I need a new car and weekly shopping trips and a new iPad and, and, and….THOSE are some of the things Christians need to work on, the flesh versus the Spirit battle we engage in daily.
    2) I think we need to be careful; Jesus did not die for a ‘Love Wins’ gospel. Your lines, “Jesus taught us to live a life of love, an instruction we’ve misunderstood and mismanaged and turned into a method of self-service….we are the answer for the starving children and the rape victims, the solution God gave to a hurting world…His people. We are the hands to apply balm to the hurting bodies and hurting hearts. We have been given the kind of transcendent love that allows us to carry out supernatural miracles in the power of the Spirit,” are all true, but they are not the whole truth.
    Jesus died in my place to set me free from sin. Repentance, transformation, sanctification, holiness……….those are repeated throughout the New Testament, that we might glorify Jesus here on Earth.
    It is really far easier to sign up for a mission trip or go to a soup kitchen or lead an inner city Bible Study than to let the Holy Spirit do the hard, invisible work of taming our tongues or harnessing our pride. Those are the struggles I need help with. Holiness looks like something– It looks like me keeping my mouth shut at work when I want to be sarcastic. It looks like me letting the lady in front of me at the grocery store go first ’cause she’s got 3 kids with her, it looks like me walking in forgiveness daily with my saviour and my spouse as I (again) interrupt him, disrespect him (my own shortcomings).
    I’m committed to spearheading and supporting the ministries that are helping women reclaim their lives from abuse and sex trafficking. I want to do all I can–send money, go and give and pray, write about these causes, whatever God works out as I move forward with Him.
    But Jesus didn’t spend an entire day on the cross bleeding for me so that I could be nice and helpful and just do good works and be kind, throwing the word grace around. As Bonhoeffer said, “His grace isn’t cheap (but it’s free).”
    I can’t leave out the dying to myself part. There is a daily surrender. When Jesus said the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force He implied there would be a cost involved. It is not an easy road, it is a tough, pot-holed highway we walk with a Saviour who supports and delivers us in our shortcomings. That is what glorifies Jesus and makes Him look good to a dying world.
    There are hundreds of people in many churches (evangelical/spirit-filled whatever you want to call them) that I know of personally where this is happening. Hard truths are preached, people are walking them out and lives are being changed.
    I agree with (I can’t remember, several comments ago) who encouraged you to do a follow up post on the places where believers are ‘making Jesus look good.’ Our church members and other congregations I’m aware of around the country would be on that list. I’d be happy to share with you who they are.
    Again, good job on this thought-provoking, insightful post.

  23. This is so very true! I love it, keep on writing… My Husband wrote a letter to our church when they were trying hard to start a building fund. It was titled Close the Building, build the Church. Of course that didn’t go over too well with those on the building committee, and those that wanted bigger and better. But this letter you wrote reminds me so much on why we are here. To reach the lost, and it doesn’t happen through religion, it happens with personal relationships and only through the holy spirit are we able to share true love. Jesus came to show his Love on that Cross… To walk with the sinner’s… That is what we are called to do as well. Carry on, and may God Bless you in your daily walk.

  24. This is well written! I do want to say that not all Christians are like that. There are those who walk in divine love and God’s presence. Just because someone says they are a christian doesn’t mean they are. The Bible says we can know them by their fruit-love,joy,patience,kindness,gentleness,faithfulness,self control,goodness, and peace. I am sorry to everyone who has ever been turned off from God by well meaning (or not) people in His name. Not all Christians are hypocritical :)
    Also, it is NOT God’s wrath when there are hurricanes/tornadoes/etc. God judged sin on the Cross and Jesus said “It is finished” No more wrath, no more judgment (until the final judgment from the resurrection) The Bible clearly says the devil is the god of this world, and is the prince of the powers of the air, the 3rd heaven. All these devastating things are from him, not God!!
    Also let me add-I hate religion too-and so does God! Religion is just a set of rules that men make. God’s answer to that is JESUS-God just wants a relationship with us! Jesus was perfect so we don’t have to be! However, he gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to live free from sin and bondage! :)

  25. I’m glad I’m not alone in this thinking. We waist our time with the same programs and styles of worship. We talk about prayer, yet don’t do anything. I’d love to see this change.


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