3. What the differences are between belief in God and belief in religion

Relevant Words of God:

What is belief in religion? What is belief in God? Is there a difference? What are the common, prominent features of religion? How do people generally define belief in religion? Belief in religion consists of changes in behavior, a change in such behaviors as fighting with others, cursing others, malfeasance, exploiting others, taking advantage of others, and petty thefts and larceny. It refers, in the main, to changes in behavior. When someone believes in religion, they try to behave well, to be a good person; these are external behaviors. What about religion as a psychological crutch? What about the realm of the mind? With faith, one does have a crutch, psychologically. Belief in religion can therefore be defined thus: being well-behaved, and having a psychological crutch—nothing more. When it comes to details such as whether whom they believe in actually exists and what He is, exactly, and what He asks of them, people use inference and their imagination. Belief with such a basis is called belief in religion. Belief in religion chiefly means pursuing a change in behavior and having a psychological crutch, but does it entail any change in the path of a person’s life? There is not the slightest change in the path, purpose, or direction of a person’s life, nor in the basis on which they live. And what is it to believe in God? What does God define and require as believing in Him? (Believing in His sovereignty.) It is believing He exists and believing in His sovereignty—this is most fundamental. What does God require of people in their belief in Him? What does it relate to? (Being honest people, having normal humanity, pursuing the truth, pursuing dispositional transformation, and seeking to know God.) And is anything required of people with regard to their words and behavior? Externally, you are required to have basic saintly decency and to live out normal humanity. And what is the definition of believing in God? Believing in God is obedience to God’s words; it is to exist, live, and perform one’s duty according to the words spoken by God, and to engage in all the activities of normal humanity. What this implies is that to believe in God is to follow God, to do as God would have you do, and to live as God would have you live. To believe in God is to follow His way. And in doing so, are the purpose and direction of people’s lives not completely different from those of people who believe in religion? What does belief in God involve? People should live out normal humanity; they should obey God’s words, no matter what God asks them to do; and they should practice according to God’s words. These things all involve the words of God. What are the words of God? (The truth.) Belief in God involves the truth; it is the source, and the right path of life; it involves the path people walk in life. Does the belief in religion involve any of this? It does not. To believe in religion, it is fine merely to behave well externally, restrain oneself, adhere to rules, and have a psychological crutch. If one behaves well and has a psychic support and crutch, does their path in life change? (No.) Some people say, “Believing in religion and believing in God are the same thing.” Do they follow God, then? A belief in religion is merely the pursuit of behavioral change, nothing more than the pursuit of a psychological crutch, and it does not involve any truths. As a result, there can be no change in these people’s dispositions. They are incapable of putting the truth into practice, or of any substantive change, and they do not have true knowledge of God. When someone believes in religion, regardless of how good their behavior, regardless of how robust their psychological crutch, do they follow God? (No.) Then whom do they follow? They follow Satan. And what is the basis of what they live out, pursue, desire, practice, and rely on in their lives? That basis is entirely the corrupt disposition of Satan and its essence. The way they conduct themselves and treat others is in keeping with the logic and philosophy for living of Satan; everything they say is a lie, bereft of the slightest truth; they have not achieved the slightest change in their satanic dispositions, and what they follow remains Satan. Their life view, values, ways of handling things, and the principles of their actions are all the expressions of their satanic nature; there has only been a small change in their external behavior; there has not been the slightest alteration in their life’s path, the way they live, or their outlook. If you truly believe in God, what changes have actually occurred in you after having believed in God for several years? The foundation of your life undergoes a change. On what basis do you live? What governs what you do and say every day? What is it all based on? (It is all based on God’s words and the truth.) For example, perhaps you no longer tell lies—what is the basis of this? Why do you not speak that way anymore? (Because God does not like it.) There is a basis upon which you no longer speak or act that way, and that basis is the word of God, what God asks, and the truth. So, does such a person have the same life path? Here is a summary: What is belief in religion? And what is belief in God? When people believe in religion, they follow Satan; when they believe in God, they follow God. That is the difference. Today, you perform your duty in the house of God; do you believe in religion or in God? What is the difference? What does this depend on? It depends on the path you walk. If what you pursue is good behavior, a psychological crutch, compliance with rules, and plots for personal benefit, and if you do not pursue the truth in the least, but merely to be someone who seems nice, and there is not the slightest change in your nature essence, or corrupt disposition, then you believe in religion. Those who believe in God are able to accept all the truths that God expresses; they are able to reflect on and come to know themselves according to the truth and to repent truly, and ultimately, they become able to live by God’s words, obey God, and worship God—only such people are true believers in God.

—“Belief in Religion Will Never Lead to Salvation” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

What’s the difference between belief in God, and belief in religion and religiousness? Everyone conceives of believing in religion being because that person lacks a livelihood, that they might have difficulties at home. Otherwise, it’s that they want to find something to lean on, to find spiritual sustenance. Belief in religion is often nothing more than getting people to be benevolent, help others, be kind to others, do more good deeds to accumulate virtue, not commit murder or arson, not do bad things, not hit people or curse at them, not steal or rob, and not cheat or swindle. This is the concept of “belief in religion” that exists in everyone’s minds. How much of the concept of belief in religion exists within your hearts today? Can you tell whether having these thoughts is belief in religion? Is there a difference between a state of having faith, and a state of believing in religion? What is the difference between belief in religion and belief in God? When you first started believing in God, you may have felt that believing in religion and believing in God were the same thing. But today, after believing in God for more than five years, just what do you think having faith really is? Is there any difference from belief in religion? Belief in religion means following certain rituals in order to bring happiness and comfort to one’s spirit. It doesn’t relate to questions of what path people walk, by what means people live, or how they live their lives. Which is to say, there is no change in your heart, in your inner world; you are still you, and your nature and essence remain the same. You have not accepted the truths that come from God and made them your life, but have merely done some good deeds or followed ceremony and rules. You have merely engaged in some activities related to belief in religion—just this, that’s all. So what does belief in God refer to? It means a change in how you live in this world, it means that there has already been a change in the value of your existence and your goals in life. You originally lived for things such as honoring your ancestors, standing out from the crowd, having a good life, and striving for fame and fortune. Today, you have abandoned those things. You no longer follow Satan, but you wish to forsake it, to forsake this evil trend. You are following God, what you accept is the truth, and the path you walk is that of pursuing the truth. Your life’s direction has completely changed. It is approaching life differently, having a different way of life, following the Creator, accepting and submitting to the Creator’s rule and arrangements, accepting the Creator’s salvation, and ultimately becoming a true created being. Isn’t this changing your way of life? It is the complete opposite of your previous pursuit, way of life, and the motivations and intentions behind all you did—they’re entirely at odds, not even in the same ballpark.

—“Exactly What People Have Been Relying on to Live” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

The simplest way to describe belief in God is trusting there is a God, and, on this foundation, following Him, obeying Him, accepting His dominion, orchestrations, and arrangements, listening to His words, living in accordance with His words, doing everything according to His words, being a true created being, and fearing Him and shunning evil; only this is true belief in God. This is what it means to follow God. You say you follow God, but, in your heart, you do not accept God’s words, and you do not accept His dominion, orchestrations, and arrangements. If you always have notions of what God does, and you always misunderstand what He does, and complain about it; if you are always dissatisfied, and you always measure and approach what He does using your own notions and imaginings; if you always have your own understandings—this will cause trouble. You are not experiencing God’s work, and you have no way to follow Him truly. Such is not belief in God.

What, exactly, is belief in God? Is belief in religion equivalent to belief in God? When people believe in religion, they follow Satan. Only when they believe in God do they follow God, and only those who follow Christ truly believe in God. Is someone who will never accept God’s words as their life a person who believes in God? It is of no use, no matter how many years they have believed in God. Someone who always engages in religious ritual in their faith but does not practice the truth is not a believer in God, and God does not acknowledge them. On what basis does God acknowledge you? His acknowledgment of you is based on whether you act in all matters according to His requirements. His acknowledgment is meted in accordance with His words, not based on how many changes there are in your outward behavior, or how much time you spend running about for Him, but on the path you walk, and whether you pursue the truth. There are many who say they believe in God and speak words of praise for God—but, in their hearts, they do not love the words spoken by God, nor are they interested in the truth. In their hearts they believe always that only if they live by the philosophies of Satan and various doctrines of the outside world will they be normal, and able to protect themselves, that only living like this will give value to their lives in this world. Is this someone who believes in God and follows Him? All the sayings of renowned, great figures sound especially philosophical and are particularly capable of deceiving people. If you treat them as the truth and abide by them as maxims, but, when it comes to God’s words, to the most ordinary words of God, which ask that you be an honest person, that you stick scrupulously to your own, allotted station and perform the duty of a created being, and that you remain steadfast—you are incapable of practicing them, and you do not treat them as the truth, then you are no follower of God. You may say you have practiced His words, but what if God may press you for the truth and ask: “What have you practiced? Who spoke those words that you practice? What is the basis of the principles to which you adhere?” If that basis is not the words of God, then it is the words of Satan; what you live out is the words of Satan, yet you still say you practice the truth and satisfy God, is this not blasphemy against Him? God says people should be honest, yet there are those who do not ponder what being honest includes, how they should practice honesty, or which of the things they live out and reveal are not honest, and which of them are. They do not contemplate the essence of the truth in God’s words, but find a book of the unbelievers, and, upon reading it, they say, “These are good words—even better than God’s. ‘Guileless people ever prevail’—isn’t that the same as what God said? This is the truth, as well!” So, they abide by these words. What do they live out when they abide by these words? Are they able to live out the reality of the truth? Are there many such people? They gain a little knowledge, read a few books, and gain a bit of insight, and they hear some famous adage or popular saying and treat these as the truth. They act according to these words, and apply them to their duties and their lives of belief in God, and even think this satisfies Him. Is this not sleight of hand? Is this not trickery? It is blasphemy! There is much of this in people. They abide by pleasant-sounding, correct-seeming folk doctrines as if they were the truth. They put God’s words to one side and pay them no heed, and, no matter how many times they read them, they do not take them to heart or treat them as the truth. Is one who does so someone who believes in God? Do they follow God? Such a person believes in religion; they follow Satan! In their hearts, they think there is philosophy in the words spoken by Satan, that these words have profound meaning, that they are scripture, wise sayings, and, no matter what else they may forsake, they could never put these words aside. To do so would be, to them, like losing their life, or having their heart scooped out. What kind of person is this? This is a person who follows Satan.

—“Belief in Religion Will Never Lead to Salvation” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

If one believes in God but does not heed His words, accept the truth, or submit to His arrangements and orchestrations; if they only exhibit certain good behaviors, but are unable to forsake the flesh, and relinquish nothing of their pride or interests; if, though to all appearances they perform their duty, they still live by their satanic dispositions, and have not in the least given up the philosophies and modes of existence of Satan, and do not change—then how could they possibly believe in God? That is belief in religion. Such people forsake things and expend of themselves superficially, but the path they walk and the source and impetus of everything they do are not based on the words of God or the truth; instead, they continue to act according to their own imaginings, desires, and subjective assumptions, and the philosophies and dispositions of Satan continue to be the basis of their existence and actions. In matters whose truth they do not understand, they do not seek it; in matters whose truth they do understand, they do not practice it, exalt God as great, or treasure the truth. Though they are nominally a follower of God, it is in word only; the substance of their actions is nothing but the expression of their corrupt dispositions. There is no sign that their motive and intent are to practice the truth and act according to God’s words. People who consider their own interests before all else, who fulfill their own desires and intents first—are these people who follow God? (No.) And can people who do not follow God bring about change in their dispositions? (No.) And if they cannot change their dispositions, are they not pathetic? … When they have no problems, when everything is going smoothly for them, most people feel that God is mighty, and righteous, and lovely. When God tests them, deals with them, chastens them, and disciplines them, when He asks them to put aside their own interests, to turn their backs on the flesh and practice the truth, when God does work on them, and orchestrates and reigns over their fates and their lives, they become rebellious, and create estrangement between themselves and God; they create conflict and a gulf between them and God. At such times, in their hearts, God is not lovely in the least; He is not at all mighty, for what He does does not fulfill their wishes. God makes them sad; He makes them upset; He brings them pain and suffering; He makes them feel unsettled. They therefore do not submit to God at all, instead rebelling against Him and shunning Him. Are they practicing the truth by doing this? Are they following the way of God? Do they follow God? No. So, regardless of how numerous your notions and imaginings about God’s work are, and regardless of how you previously acted according to your own will and rebelled against God, if you truly pursue the truth, and accept the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, and accept being pruned and dealt with by God’s words; if, in everything He orchestrates, you are able to follow the way of God, obey God’s words, seek His will, practice in accordance with His words and His will, are able to seek to submit, and can put all your own will, desires, considerations, motivations, and antagonism to God aside—only then are you following God! You say you follow God, but all you do, you do according to your own will. In everything you do, you have your own aims, your own plans; you do not leave it up to God. Is God still your God, then? If God is not your God, then, when you say you follow God, are these not empty words? Are such words not an attempt to fool people? You say you follow God, but all your actions and behaviors, your outlook on life, your values, and the attitude and principles with which you approach and handle matters all come from Satan—you handle all this entirely in accordance with the principles and logic of Satan. So, do you follow God?

—“Belief in Religion Will Never Lead to Salvation” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

If, in believing in God, people treat the truth as a set of regulations to be adhered to, then will their belief not be liable to turn into just a bunch of religious ceremonies? And what are the differences between such religious ceremonies and Christianity? These people may be deeper and more progressive in how they say things, but if their faith has merely come down to a set of regulations and a type of ceremony, then does that not mean that it has turned into Christianity? (Yes, it does.) There are differences between the old teachings and the new, but if teachings are nothing more than a kind of theory, and have merely become a form of ceremony or regulation for people—and, likewise, if people can neither gain the truth from it nor use it to enter truth reality—then has their faith not become just the same as Christianity? In essence, is this not Christianity? (Yes, it is.) Then, in your behavior and when performing your duties, in which things do you have views and states that are the same as or similar to those of believers in Christianity? (In adhering to regulations, and in equipping ourselves with letters and doctrines.) (In focusing on the appearance of being spiritual and exhibiting good behavior, and on being devout and humble.) You seek to outwardly exhibit good behavior, doing your utmost to package yourselves in a kind of spiritual appearance, and you do some things that are relatively approved of within human notions and imaginings, pretending to be virtuous. You stand in the high pulpit preaching letters and doctrines, teaching people to do good, be virtuous, and understand the truth; you preach spiritual doctrine, saying the right spiritual things; you put on airs of being spiritual and exude a superficial spirituality in everything you say and do, yet in practice and in performing your duty, you never seek the truth. As soon as you encounter a problem, you act entirely according to human will, tossing God aside. You have never acted according to the truth principle, nor do you have any idea what the truth even is, what God’s intentions are, or what the standards that He requires of man are; you have never taken these matters seriously or even concerned yourselves with them. Do such external actions and internal states of people—that is, does this type of faith—comprise a fear for God and the shunning of evil? If there is no connection between people’s faith and the pursuit of the truth, then do they or do they not believe in God? Regardless of how many years people who have no connection with pursuing the truth might believe in Him, can they or can they not truly fear God and shun evil? (They cannot.) What, then, is the outward behavior of such people? What kind of path can they walk? (The path of the Pharisees.) With what do they spend their days equipping themselves? Is it not with letters and doctrines? Do they not spend their days arming themselves, dressing themselves up with letters and doctrines to make themselves more like the Pharisees, more spiritual, and more like people who supposedly serve God? Just what is the nature of all these deeds? Is it worshiping God? Is it genuine faith in Him? (No, it isn’t.) So, what are they doing? They are deceiving God; they are just going through the steps of a process, and engaging in religious ceremonies. They are waving the flag of faith and performing religious rites, attempting to deceive God in order to achieve their aim of being blessed. These people do not worship God at all. In the end, will such a group of people not end up just like those within the church who supposedly serve God, and who supposedly believe in and follow God?

—“Only by Constantly Living Before God Can One Walk the Path to Salvation” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

If the path you follow is the same as that followed by religious people, that makes you a believer in Christianity; you do not believe in God and are not experiencing His work. Some who have not believed in God for long admire those who have, whose speech is well-founded. They see such people sitting there and can talk for two or three hours with ease. They begin to learn from them—spiritual terms and expressions, as well as how the person speaks and carries themselves. They then commit to memory a few passages of spiritual words, and thus they carry on until, one day, the years of their belief are sufficient in number for them to sit and expound endlessly, eloquently, and at length. But if one listens closely, it is all nonsense, all empty words, mere letters and doctrines; and they are clearly religious cheats, cheating both themselves and others. What a sad thing! You must not follow that path, which, once trod, causes ruin, and is hard to turn back from. To treasure such things, to take them as one’s life, and to use them to measure oneself against others wherever one goes; to have, beyond a corrupt, satanic disposition, some spiritual theories, and elements of hypocrisy, besides—this person is not merely disgusting, but is disgusting in the extreme, sickening and shameless, and others cannot bear to look at them. Therefore, the denomination of those who once followed the Lord Jesus is now called Christianity. It is a denomination, and in their belief in God, they do no more than rigidly adhere to formality. There is no change at all in their life disposition, and they are not people who pursue the truth; their pursuit is not the truth, the way, and the life that come from God, but instead they seek to be Pharisees, and are hostile to God—these are the group of people now defined as Christianity. How did their group come to be called “Christianity”? It came about because they pass themselves off as holy, spiritual, and kindhearted, and as true followers of God, yet they deny all truth and they deny the reality of all positive things that come from God. They use words God has previously spoken to camouflage themselves, to arm and cloak themselves, and ultimately they use them as a sort of capital to cheat people everywhere out of food and drink. They disguise themselves as believers in God and thus swagger about and swindle others; they compete with others and vie with others—to them, these things are glory and capital. They also want to gain God’s blessings and rewards through deception. This is the path they follow. It is because they follow this sort of path that their group is ultimately defined as Christianity. Looking at it now, is the name “Christianity” good or bad? It is a disgraceful designation, and there is nothing glorious or splendid about it.

—“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days

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