As in most discussions, the first issue is defining what we mean by the word. Without agreement on such basics, we can exchange lots of words but be talking about different things. Before my second year at university, religion was something that made little sense but made some people happy. Even there we have an issue with words. Happy is hardly the first word that comes to mind when I think of religious people, but hopefully, you know what I mean.

When I became a Christian the world was neatly divided between Christians and non-Christians. Soon Christians were divided into this group and that group - sometimes denominations and other times within one church. In the mid 90's I left the church and soon began meeting with others in houses (although with hindsight this was similar in many ways to a workplace meeting I attended earlier while still part of a church.

Later I came to see that being in a house church didn't always avoid natural divisions. One of the biggest causes is religion. I came to understand that religion has always been an enemy of the truth. That might sound strange, but if you look at the big issues, God created us for relationship and religion strives to replace that with other things - often bad things but if that fails it dilutes the good things.

We can easily point to the bad things in other religions. Just look at some of the things some people do in the name of Islam. Yet compare that with the man in a wheelchair talking about forgiveness after his wife and friends were shot in the Christchurch mosque attacks. Or consider the Irish troubles. Yet I got to know a little of a Catholic priest at St Mary of the Angels in Wellington. He was neither like the IRA not like the cast of Father Ted. I enjoyed his company and wasn't surprised when I heard he went to South America as a missionary.

Similarly, I have met some remarkable Anglican people - people who seem like me to strive to know God and live like Jesus as much as they can. My Mum was a Methodist, and my first university vacation as a Christian was spent in New Plymouth where I met some really wonderful Presbyterians. Yet, as with Catholics, so much of their tradition seems contrary to so much Jesus taught.

In fact, if you follow any denomination there seems to be a place where they settle down, comfortable, with what God has shown them thus far. Newer denominations and groups haven't had long enough to fix their traditions, but should not be too smug. The long path of history shows such a consistent pattern of settling down that if they haven't already, they're on the way.

Religious people, like any others, are a mixture of good and bad. Religion itself has no good of itself. Any good comes from what its people do despite their religion. We see through history that when people have seen something good to do, they often leave their religious group to be free to do it. Sadly in time this new group becomes mired in the past, and another group leaves to do something else.

So if you've been part of a religion for a long time, the question is are you still growing, or has your mind settled down?