Few things get on my nerves more than religious people.

Keep in mind that there is a vast difference between being religious and being spiritual. The first way to distinguish is with speech. The spiritual person seeks the mind of Christ. “What would Jesus do” is not a slogan on a bracelet but a true pursuit. Religious people drown their conversation in religious slogans, catch-phrases and clich├ęs. Let me provide an example. I was at a function recently where the old question of “if you had $1 million, what would you do with it?” One person said, “First, I would give some to my Lord and Savior.” A more conventional statement would be, “As a Christian, I believe in the practice of tithing, so I would give the first 10% to my church.” See the difference?

Another thing that can be vexing about religious people is their belief that their traditions are as important as real Scriptures. And as often as not, some of the views are about as Biblical as a Dr. Seuss book. Since I have lived in the South, I have encountered a disturbing number of people that believe if you are reading a Bible that is not the King James Version, you are not reading a real Bible. It is useless to try to convince these people that the Bible was not written in King James English, or that several versions are translations (not all other versions are paraphrases). These folks also write commandments where there are none, such as that any consumption of alcohol is evil. They insist that any time the Bible uses the word “wine,” it is Welch’s grape juice and not real wine. You can’t convince them that Jesus would not create something sinful. Would Jesus turn a rock into cigarettes? Of course not. So why would he change water to wine if consuming wine was a sin? These are people that just don’t like taste of alcoholic beverages and believe everyone that consumes alcohol will end up as a raging alcoholic. So they preach that all alcohol is evil so they can canonize their personal preferences.

One thing that religious people do that can also trap spiritual people is the concept of what I call “levels” of sin. There is really no such thing. The Bible says the one unforgivable sin is blasphemy (Mark 3:29). I have always believed that suicide is also in this category, because you are murdering yourself, and once you murder yourself, you have no opportunity to repent. But humans tend to believe that some sins are worse than others. The strict fundamentalist I mentioned above thinks alcohol is worse than a lot of other things. But the biggest one is sin of a sexual nature. The Bible is very clear that the only type of acceptable sexual activity takes place between a husband and wife, a man and a woman. In the current age, where homosexuality is becoming more accepted in society, many religious groups are going absolutely nuts, and are attacking homosexuality as if it were far worse than any other thing a human can do. Sadly, this has been on full display here in North Carolina in the battle between the Charlotte LGBT protection ordinance and the state House Bill 2 that overrode that ordinance. While the ordinance was being debated, religious nut cases packed the government center to protest, and those that spoke during the public comment portion of the city council meeting shrieked of moral outrage, promises of God’s vengeance and that anyone who supported the ordinance was going to hell.

These religious nuts were nowhere to be found when former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon was being busted for taking massive bribes. But my Bible reads that liars and cowards will burn in the same lake of fire as those who are sexually immoral (Revelation 21:8). I have grown extremely tired of preachers who stand on their platforms and scream bloody murder about sexual sin being the worst thing in the world, while at the same time they are bilking their congregations and TV viewers out of millions of dollars in the name of “preaching to the world” while building mansions for themselves and owning private planes so they don’t have to get soiled by traveling with the great unwashed masses. Makes me sick to my stomach.

But what drives me batty most of all is when religious people attempt to force their narrow views onto everyone else, especially through legislations. The ones that do this the most are the strict fundamentalists. These are the people that think it is a mortal sin do engage in any activity that in even the4 slightest way resembles anything fun. The only thing they preach is hellfire and bloody damnation. All music that they don’t like is inspired by demons, they will angrily tell you. How DARE you drink a glass of wine with your dinner – and pay no attention that the Apostle Paul told Timothy to do that exact same thing (1 Timothy 5:23). They will also angrily tell you that God has personally instructed them to force everyone to live by their creed. Throughout the South they have managed to get sales of alcohol banned or restricted on Sundays. And here in NC, they have managed to elect people like them to state legislative positions who have done their bidding and passed House Bill 2, which has cause so much trouble.

While these religious nut cases are ramming through legislation in attempt to force the citizens to believe exactly as they do, they have a holier-than-thou, I-am-better-than-you smugness that is positively nauseating. They are the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, believing that they are higher life forms than everyone else. The spiritual person is more like the tax collector in this parable, calling for God’s mercy.

So, memo to religious people: Step off. Get over yourselves. Don’t spend your life loudly bloviating about your opinion being equal to the Bible, quoting your religious catch-phrases and trying to enact legislation to make everyone like you. Be spiritual. Drop to your knees and say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”