The reason I still like Jesus, though I’m an agnostic, is because Jesus was a victim, not a victimizer, and so proved a trailblazer to three key moral insights: (1) respect of conscience (Jesus called people to his cause, but never forced anybody); (2) imaginative sympathy for outsiders; and (3) nonviolence.
Whatever are Jesus’s sins—his moments of hell-fire rhetoric; his promotion of faith over reason—he still has these three virtues that redeem him; the things that have resulted in whatever “good vibrations” he has sent through time.
And Jesus is a voice of conscience to the religious. Every religionist in the 21st century has to make the following existential decision: Will I go the way of Jesus or the way of the violent Hindu extremist, the Islamic Brotherhood member, the West Bank settler, and Rick Santorum?
And if you’re an atheist or agnostic, you too have an existential decision to make that Jesus shadows. Will you go the way of: (1) a humanism or Buddhism that largely tracks with the three moral precepts of Jesus; or (2) Machiavelli and Nietzsche?
Either way, what to do about Jesus is inescapable. And it’s why I still like Jesus.
I see your point but I disagree with your conclusion. The reason that the non-believer is limited in their choices is not because of Jesus himself or his teachings but because of the influence on society by those who claim to follow his teachings. It’s a fine distinction. The believers have left little room to make distinctions other than one or two small classifications.
Were you to take a Nietzschian tack with hints of Buddha, it would seem much like Jesus with a bit of a downer outlook. The problem is that this can’t be seen as a valid choice in the shadow of the believer’s cries. They taint the conversation – and anything else they touch – to the point that they try to make it either their way or their hell way.
In this regard, Jesus was a plague upon the earth and his followers ensure that the damage continues. It is rare to find a non-violent follower of the Jesus. It’s an effing shame he didn’t teach them that part. Apparently this is not something that gods are wont to teach. Not even man-god boys. Oh, that 70 times 7 thing, he didn’t stress that enough. Seriously, he could have done a lot more to end violence against women, slavery, violence in general and on and on. All he did was give them justification that wanted to find it. Not the work of a perfect being if you ask me. meh!
Gods have never done our species any good, even when they seem to be good themselves. Throw them all in the trash is what I say.
Your point about the distinction between Jesus and Christians is a good one, and I agree that Christians are weirdly supportive of violence despite claiming to follow the guy who spoke the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus might have said something about gay equality as well. But he didn’t know, obviously, that a giant religion would follow in his wake that would last for 2000 years. He thought the end was near.
Jesus has many faces. Here is a short observation of mine:
Types of Christians
These Christians are “lock and loaded” with their bibles and survival gear. They store food and ammunition and tend to live in the woods. Their preachers have a following and are waiting for the end times ready to fight for Christ’s Kingdom against the hordes of unbelievers. They practice shooting their guns frequently…in the name of freedom and Jesus.
These Christians focus more on the “devil” than on Christ. They see the evil
influence of Satan all around them. Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub,….the “devil”… are
seen everywhere through this groups Christian glasses. They “feel” evil everywhere.
Down syndrome Christians:
This label may sound a little “politically incorrect” but have you ever seen a Down Syndrome person?…always happy. All is joy. These adult non-Down syndrome Christians see Jesus in everything. Any good thing that happens in their life they attribute it to Jesus blessing them. Any bad thing that happens to them they say Jesus is testing them. I was in a car one time going to the mall with one of them and she shrieked with delight thanking Jesus for giving her a parking spot near the mall door. So happy, so joyful, so good, so trusting.
These Christians focus mainly on the Book of Revelation. They center their attention on the “end of days”, wars, desolation, famine, earthly disasters, “signs of the times,” and mainly God’s wrath. Very little is preached on the love and mercy of God and Jesus. It is a canon of despair….unless you are one of the “Chosen” who is following this particular preacher.
Gospel of Prosperity Christians:
These Christians watch a lot of evangelistic TV shows where the preacher promotes the giving of money to his church so the giver may prosper in life. “Send in your tithes and offerings and see that the windows of heaven will open to you” they say. I have heard one say God wants him to have a 62 million dollar jet to preach the word. One famous preacher said that God will take him if he didn’t raise several million dollars by a certain date. The bottom line is that giving your money to these TV preachers will in turn bring wealth and prosperity to you for your giving.
All There Is “Is Love” Christians:
These Christians remind me of the flower children of the sixties. Everything is okay as long as you believe in Jesus and have love for everyone. It’s a Jesus outlook of acceptance for all the children of God. They are the “feel good Christians.”
Gospel of Fear Christians:
These Christians live in fear of the retribution of God’s wrath for any perceived sin they may commit. Their preacher is constantly raising his hands in the air with a towering voice proclaiming the fury of God if they do not follow his interpretation of the bible. It reminds me of the question: do you do good because you fear the penalties’ of sin or do you do good for the love of righteousness? Here it is doing good because you fear Jesus’ condemnation.
This is a very select group of Christians. They believe they are chosen of God for some purpose in the “last days.” They believe in and preach the “Rapture” where they will be taken up into the clouds just prior to the destruction that God will bring upon the earth. I have seen it in specific races of people like Christian Asians. The Jews feel they are still the chosen people but just lack the historical Jesus connection.
Jesus Cult Christians:
These are the Pentecostal-type Christians. They worship and adore mostly Jesus. Their worship service is heavy with hypnotic repetitious songs containing Jesus. They sing Jesus songs that they will repeat over and over for long periods of time. During these songs their faces will look upward with tears streaming down their cheeks with their hands raised upward. Some will be on their knees like this and I saw a lady with this same look waving two three foot flags in the air as fast as she could. Jesus Cult Christians are specific in extreme worship and adoration toward Jesus without an adult relationship with Jesus or God. Does Jesus just want to be worshiped?
Lord of the Rings Christians:
These are basically fundamentalist “Rapture Cult” Christians. They take “literally” the fairytale type descriptions in the bible. For example, they believe without a doubt that Jesus will return riding a white horse with a flaming sword followed by millions of his angels also riding white horses. Why? Because the bible says so. Go Gandalf!
Musical Performance Christians:
These are the “New Age” Christians that gather thousands of youth in Jesus rock concerts. Their look of long hair, tattoos, and rock band music is Jesus oriented and is hugely popular with Christian youth groups.
Trinity Christians – 3 distinct individuals running a Company called God.
This seems to be a family-run business with three Individuals holding equal shares with equal
authority and equal say-so. In this sense they are One. There is a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which is probably the Mother but the men who wrote the bible couldn’t say this. Jesus, the Son, prayed and talked to the Father through-out His life to show His distinct individuality. The Son had to complete his equal ownership in the Company by the test of the incarnation. He passed the test and we owe Him our eternal gratitude for doing something for us that we could not do for ourselves for some eternal process we don’t fully understand yet.
Jesus prayed only to one Person…God the Father. He instructed us to pray to “our Father who art in heaven.” Jesus did not portray Himself as the Christian churches do today. There are Christians who recognize Jesus and His teachings but who pray only to God the Father. This is the Father of all of earth’s children. This is Abba. Abba is the common denominator for all of earth’s religions and if recognized as such there would be much less divisiveness in the world’s religions.
Many of the above groups think they have a monopoly on God and Jesus. Most take their views to extreme height and tend to “cast fire and brimstone” on those who don’t believe as they do.
Excellent! Although as a Buddhist, I would say that Jesus tracks to Buddhist precepts, given chronology and all. Just being a wise acre; I’m a big fan of Jesus as well. Enjoying your blog immensely.
Great post! What is interesting is that the Jesus of the Apocrypha is very different than the Jesus of the New Testament bible. In the apocrypha he actually gets violent lol…but who knows if those scriptures are accurate or not.
In advance, I apologize for my English.
I only seventeen years but I am a person who enjoys reading quality books and articles like yours (a little flattery does not hurt).
I would like to know your opinion about something that bothers Christians: What do you think about the story of jesus is based on Greek mythology?
Reader Note: I practice Theravada Buddhism as a philosophy of life and I’m Atheist
I would say that the Christian gospels, written in Greek by literate people immersed in classical culture (Homer, the ancient tragedians, etc.), share assumptions with the pagan world (such as the idea that there are “sons of god” that can literally have gods as their fathers). Here’s a book I recommend for thinking about this:
And here’s another: