It’s one belief that the late atheist Christopher Hitchens and the apostle Paul had in common. Paul believed so fervently that religion and works-based righteousness tainted everything that he wrote an entire letter to the church at Galatia warning them about it. In the book of Galatians, Paul writes with increasing angst and intensity to warn the Galatians of the poison and detriment caused by believing that works of the law can make a person right before God. Specifically, works-righteousness creates self-righteousness and self-righteousness is one of the most destructive mindsets that exists. It creates a pride in self and a judgmental, condescending attitude towards others who don’t “measure up.”
But Paul doesn’t conclude by simply bashing religion. He gives an alternative to religion: the gospel of Jesus. The gospel declares that we are simultaneously more sinful than we could imagine and more loved, through the cross and resurrection, than we could ever hope for. The gospel eliminates both arrogance and self-pity.