The difference between someone who is born again and a religious person, it that those who are religious think that they can earn salvation. They believe that they will get to Heaven by doing something. They think that they have to pray, do good works, face a certain way when they pray, eat certain foods, lie on beds of nails, or sit on hard and painful pews.
But the good news of the gospel is that we need not suffer the pain of religion any longer. The suffering was done 2,000 years ago on a cruel cross, so that we could have eternal life as a free gift from a merciful God. We can’t buy salvation. It is completely free, thanks to the amazing grace of Almighty God.
Many times I hear skeptics blame Christians for the persecution of Galileo. But those who accuse us of that, need to study history. It was religious people who arrested Galileo for what they perceived as heresy.
I have spoken to hundreds of religious Roman Catholics, and when I asked them, “Are you a Christian?” most say, “No. I’m a Roman Catholic.” They know the difference, and there is a difference.
Most Roman Catholics aren’t ashamed to say that they love their tradition more than the Bible. They are convinced that the word of the pope supersedes that of Holy Scripture. Most also say that they don’t need to be born again because they were baptized into the Roman church, even though Jesus said that if we are not born again, we will not enter Heaven.
Galileo maintained that the Earth circled the sun. As a professor of astronomy at the University of Pisa, he was required to teach the accepted theory of his time--that the sun and all the planets revolved around the Earth. But he was exposed to what was then, a new theory, proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus--that the Earth and all the other planets revolved around the sun. Galileo’s observations with his new telescope convinced him of the truth of Copernicus’s sun-centered or helio-centric theory.
Galileo’s support for the helio-centric theory got him into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1633, during the Inquisition, he was convicted of heresy and ordered to recant his support of Copernicus. The Roman Catholic Church sentenced him to life imprisonment, but his advanced age allowed him to serve the term under house arrest at his villa outside of Florence, Italy.
It is therefore unfair to blame Christians for his imprisonment. Not only were we not around 450 years ago, but history clearly attests to the fact that it was the Roman church that persecuted Galileo.
So remember this the next time someone accuses you of being anti-science because you are part of a group that persecuted Galileo. But don’t get caught up in an argument about the Catholic church. Rather, swing the conversation to the importance of salvation, by asking if he thinks he is a good person. Then take him through the Ten Commandments to show him that he, like the rest of us, is a sinner who desperately needs a Savior to escape the damnation of a very real Hell. Then preach Christ crucified for the sin of the world, and the absolute necessity of the new birth.
Any man-made religion is about as helpful as a parachute that’s full of holes. The only one who can save us from the great drop into eternity, is the Savior. That’s why Scripture commands us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”