Some definitions of “religion” are fairly innocent. Like this one: “pertaining to a belief or practice forming part of someone’s thought about or worship of a divine being”.
But even innocent sounding “religion” gets out of hand pretty quickly and winds up chopping off people’s heads or burning them at the stake — and the heart of this violence is that the “deity” some people believe in isn’t the same others believe in and “we’re right and they’re wrong and now they’re dead wrong.“
Every religion defines the relationship between its deity and its people. By using symbols, teachings, ceremonies, and rules, a religion defines how a person can be in a “safe” relationship with their god — be it a demon, a pantheon of gods, a malignant spirit, a benign Being or whatever.
Religion fundamentally is a code of behavior which sets people together (or apart) in respect to whether or not they choose to “follow the rules”.
The Bible is a record of a people — the Israelites — and their experience of their deity, Jehovah or Yahweh. Moses received a system of laws from Yahweh which, if obeyed, would bring the blessing of God onto His people and even the possibility of blessing in an afterlife. Not all Jews believed in the afterlife, but they all certainly knew what God’s blessings looked like in this life: lots of wealth, good reputation, a good wife and many children, etc. All the result of carefully following their religious system.
But when Jesus came, He began to preach that the idea that ANY of them received ANY blessings from God because of successfully following their religious system was BOLOGNA. (That’s “baloney” in Americanese.) It’s like winning the Lottery if the Lottery had a hundred, thousand numbers: get even one number wrong and Bazinga! You lose! Jesus pointed out that with religion (for them, Judaism) if they had ever broke even the “slightest” of religious laws (get irritated at a friend or a family member?), you were liable to wind up in “Gehenna” (“Hellfire”) — his point not being about “hell” but about the complete and dismal failure of their religion to make them “O.K.” with their deity, Yahweh.
Jesus had a totally different approach to their becoming FOG. (That’s “Friends Of God”.) A Pretty damn simple way, too. The Way of Love. Like, “God loves you, so let Him make you His friend… O.K.? (No strings attached, no small print, no returns and no exclusions.)”
But to become FOG a person has to quit being religious. So Jesus told all his relatives (and some of his non-jewish neighbors, too) that they’d failed getting “right” with God by way of their religion and they needed to quit and just let God do it for them instead. Oh! And Jesus backed up this strange, anti-religion preaching of his by proving God really only wanted to do good for them all by miraculously healing everyone who came to him wanting to be healed.
Well, the miracles and healings went over really big with everyone but the preaching mostly went over everyone’s heads because they were so steeped in religion they just couldn’t seem to break free from thinking in those old ruts of religion. (Like religious people today.)
Everyone was locked into religious traditions. One time, when Jesus was confronting the religious leaders, he accused them, saying, “You have laid aside the will of God and instead substituted the mere traditions of men!” The religious traditions that the Jews were locked into weren’t even really the ones from Moses or from their deity, Yahweh! The religious professionals had so twisted religion to their own purposes that no one knew what to believe anymore. At least, not until Jesus came along, shining Light on these religious fakes and proving they had nothing whatever to do with either the Power of God nor the Love of God.
Obviously, the professionally religious people (the Pharisees and scribes who were like the preachers and religious lawyers of today) really hated Jesus. If the people started following Jesus into spiritual freedom and away from religion, the whole system of Judaism would collapse and their life-styles and their reputations and their power over the people would collapse. OMG, this crazy man just HAD to be stopped! So they decided to kill Jesus.
No question about it. God is always opposed to “religion” and its empty traditions. Who crucified Jesus? The Pharisees and the scribes — and these were the traditionalists of their day so you can rightly say that Tradition nailed Jesus to the Cross.
Closing point: The reason Jesus was opposed to tradition was because if traditional religion had been worth crap IT WOULD HAVE WORKED. And it obviously HAD NOT. So his evangelism was directed instead to demonstrating the grace and love of God (healing, etc.) while He preached how NO one had ever been able to make religion work for them. He was preparing the way for a “religionless” faith (what I call “Mu-church”) which has no doctrine or dogma, no tradition or ritual, no law or ethic but is summed up in its entirety in a spirit-relationship and in its manifestation, love.