But is that the case? Take a look at these passages.
"If you love me, you will obey what I command." -- John 14:15
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. -- 1 Timothy 5:4
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -- James 1:27
Does the Bible oppose religion? Nope. It encourages us to live out our religion. Does Jesus dislike the church or not care about rules? Nope. He founded the church, loves it deeply, and wants us to obey Him completely.
There is a problem here. We need to clarify our definitions of these words. Religion is NOT hypocrisy or self-righteousness. Religion means a system of beliefs regarding God (or gods) and how its followers should live and worship. Christianity is a religion and Jesus was its founder. Certainly hypocrisy and self-righteousness are bad. In fact, the religion of Christianity is opposed to both of those things. Are there hypocrites who call themselves Christians? Absolutely. But there are also hypocritical atheists. I repeat, religion is NOT hypocrisy or self-righteousness. The Christian religion is opposed to those things. In fact, while there are negative things that can be attached to Christianity such as the Crusades, Christianity is also responsible for countless good throughout the ages including abolishing slavery, founding the educational system in the western world, and providing more relief and aid to those in need than any other organization or group.
This is important because, if we use this language, we end up bashing Christianity and the things Jesus calls us to. When we say that religion is a bad thing, we may not be conveying to others what we truly mean. We may mean that trying to earn God's love with a list of rules is bad. We may mean that hypocrisy and self-righteousness are bad. But what most people will think we are saying, is that the church is bad. Many will think we are saying that obeying the Bible is bad. Many will think that evangelism and being vocal about your faith is bad. Many will think that the things Jesus Himself calls us to are the things we are against. People in our close Christian circles might get what we mean, but loads of people will not. By saying these kinds of things, we may be pushing people away from things like the church, good doctrine, discussing your faith, reading the Bible, or listening to a sermon. And without those things, what is there left to actually lead people to faith in Jesus and help them grow in their walk with Him?
To be honest, I've used this kind of language in the past. I have said things like "I hate religion" when teaching at youth group. Now that I've thought about it though, I recognize that this was careless of me. What I meant to say is that I hate self righteousness and I hate hypocrisy. Instead, what I said was that I hate something that Jesus loves. So, I need to repent of using that kind of language. And if you've done the same, I encourage you to repent as well. Let's be more cautious of how we use our words so that people will understand what we are really saying. Let's be careful not to speak ill against true Christianity. Remember, Jesus loves obedience, the church, evangelism, faith, and all of the things the Christian religion stands for.
I'll leave you with this really awesome video. Check it out.