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.