This page attempts to reduce the use of this rhetoric, which is neither effective nor accurate, by making atheists and heathens aware of some responses to it and by asking Christians to avoid it.
I remember sitting on the balcony of a highrise apartment down in Miami watching the boats go by and trying to win a relative to [C]hrist. He made a comment that he “wasn’t very into religion,” followed by my canned comment of, “Oh, but it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
—Anonymous post from a former Christian on No Gods Allowed
Most Christians who claim they aren’t religious consider their sacred holy text, the Bible, inerrant or at least divinely inspired and they often insist that you must believe … in the Trinity. … This is far and away enough to qualify [their beliefs] as religion by definition.
Indeed, where would one even get the idea to begin a prayerful relationship with Jesus if not ultimately from the Bible or clergy? It goes without saying both sources are clearly religious in nature.
Saying that your Christ-centered beliefs are not a religion, but rather a relationship, also opens up those who use the line to attack. If there is “no religion” involved, that would seem to imply no scriptures or dogma are serious contributors to one’s beliefs; if revelation comes directly through this relationship, then the lack of agreement that followers of Christ have on even the most basic doctrines of how salvation is attained would suggest that the relationship is entirely imaginary.
If one’s beliefs regarding Jesus are “not religious,” then a skeptic may wonder if one may maintain a relationship with Jesus while becoming a Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist. After all, religions are generally held to be mutually exclusive, but a relationship won’t preclude one from converting to a particular religion.
Even more light-heartedly, one may inquire as to the comparative benefits of a relationship with Christ versus a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The “relationship” is certainly not as friendly as Christians would like to assert; after all, Jesus is the only “person” who claims to torture us for eternity should we reject his “friendship.”
Dave urges Christians to avoid this rhetoric and instead use more sincerity in their attempts at conversion and apologetics.
That sentiment is echoed here.