I’m just not into Jesus I have to tell you. I know he has a good reputation and a lot of people claim to worship him, or at least belong to the religion that was made in his name. But his positions just don’t work for me and frankly, I’m surprised that so many people find inspiration in them. Maybe they just haven’t really thought it through, which seems to be an affliction that a lot of people suffer from.
My beef with Jesus is his absolutism–his totalitarian vibe. You either get with his program, do as he says, follow his instructions or you’re cast into the fire. He really gives very little leeway when it comes to following him. I mean, check out this quote from the Gospel of Matthew: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” This strikes me as a contemptible position from a leader. He basically demands allegiance rather than attempt to earn it. He goes on to state that those who leave “…houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.“ So again, he demands absolute devotion to him, even abandoning home and family, and rather than trying to earn such a commitment, he makes promises any rational person would find difficult to accept.
One of the other things I think brings Jesus down a few rungs on the ladder of praise people tend to put him on is his threat of eternal punishment. The concept of eternity is not a simple one to grasp. The word can be tossed about easily enough, but in practical terms it’s beyond the scope of human comprehension. All that aside, what crime could be worthy of such extreme retribution? Speaking against the Holy Spirit for one. He’s not even specific about who the Holy Spirit is, but there is no forgiveness for badmouthing him. He even makes claims on our thoughts, stating that to look at a woman with lust–just look mind you–means you’ve committed adultery. Jesus apparently has Thought Police and isn’t afraid to use them, creating the ultimate totalitarian regime from which one cannot hide. Jesus goes so far as to say that if your hand or foot causes you to sin, you should cut them off and live your life maimed, because it’s better than burning in eternal hellfire. Not only is this kind of threat far-fetched, it is deplorable.
Now many people will say that Jesus was about love and compassion, kindness to the poor and the sick, the downtrodden and the weak. Certainly these are worthy qualities so let’s overlook the tyrannical, threatening Jesus for a moment and look toward this kind and compassionate man. The first problem I see in his teaching about love is that he commands that we must love indiscriminately. Everyone must love everyone else as they love themselves. In fact, you must love those who would do you harm; your enemies. Those who hate you, curse you, abuse you and persecute you must be loved if you’re to obey Jesus. In my opinion, this cheapens love to the utmost extreme. The caring feelings one has for another human being come from a myriad of connections, of common ground and purpose, of mutual attraction and a desire to share thoughts and ideas, time and companionship. In Jesus’ view, all are to be loved equally. It is his most authoritarian command in my view, and it is an impossible one.
When Jesus talks about charity, he speaks not of altruism in its purest form. Instead he offers a reward for charitable acts done in the manner in which he prescribes: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” I will say right here and now that true charity is done because it’s the right thing to do, because selfless giving to one in need makes both people feel good, and I’ll even state that there’s nothing wrong with performing your charity publicly. In fact, I encourage it. Let others see your selfless acts of kindness so as to lead by example. What we need is more public humanity, not less.
When it comes to the poor and the meek, sure he says that they’re blessed and that the hungry and the thirsty are righteous, but he offers no suggestion, no solution to the problem of poverty and hunger. When you combine this with his command to be submissive to those who would oppress you, even beat you, and to give them all they ask of you and more, he undermines the very foundation of human liberty and self-respect. Essentially the command of Jesus is to persevere through this life for your reward will come in the next, which is a promise no rational man can make.
There are certainly some worthy nuggets of wisdom in the teachings of this man, but taken in its entirety, his body of work is a dictatorial set of impossible rules with excessive threats of judgment for non-compliance and promises of reward in order to entice allegiance. The promises he makes could only be kept if he indeed was the Supreme Being he was made out to be, and I think that’s highly unlikely. At least I’ve seen no compelling evidence that this man was and is above and outside the laws of nature. So while Jesus remains popular, I’m just not that into him.
I’m not really the kind of ‘hit and run’ commenter. But your beef seems to hinge on Jesus was not God (and everybody knows it), that he was merely the leader of a group. As God, it would be idolatry to put people above God. So if you wanted your family and friends more than you want God, then thats a problem. Additionally, people dont go to hell because they dont believe in God. But as God, he has the proper right and authority to demand absolute alliegence, dont you think? In the same way an army general has the proper authority to demand and expect soldiers to follow and obey? Or do you also dislike military officers as well, ( I know that was snarky,I’m not being offensive, just making a point).
I know you’re an atheist, but when you make arguments like this from the point of view that not only does God not exist, everyone knows it, even the religious. I know you didnt say that, but thats the aire it comes off with.
Thanks for reading John, and for commenting. We can look at this several ways. If Jesus is God, then His regime is a Totalitarian system like no other. You must love Him & obey Him, for the punishment is of the most extreme kind, that of eternal fire. “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters abroad.” We are all under 24-hour surveillance, including our thoughts. This is an absolutism that debases our humanity, creating a master/slave relationship. There’s no hiding from this Regime, for even your death doesn’t let you out. In fact, that’s when things get really interesting.
If Jesus is not God, then he was a madman. An apocalyptic preacher who thought the end of the world was near and those who followed Him would sit upon thrones of gold in the coming Kingdom of God.
I was inspired to write my thoughts on the subject by a conversation I’ve had many times about Jesus’s moral teaching and his compassion, love and kindness. I don’t see his preaching of compulsory love of everyone to be a righteous & honorable one, which is one of my main points.
By the way, I served proudly in the US Army & flew scout helicopters for the 3rd ACR in the 1st Gulf War. We follow lawful orders, not any and all orders.
I would say your complaint of totalitarianism would be valid only if Jesus doesn’t have the proper authority to have the expectations he does.
But I think your view of why people go to hell is a bit uninformed. People don’t go to hell because they didn’t trust in Jesus, they go because of their breaking God’s moral law. They are rescued from hell by trust. Like, someone who has been poisoned doesn’t die from lack of an antidote, they die from the poison. The person who is injured and is bleeding to death doesn’t die from not having a doctor, they die from their injuries. In the same way people are condemned for their actions, not because they didn’t take the rescuer.
I’d have to argue that point with you. If the Biblical God and the Christian system of heaven and hell were true, and Jesus has the authority as you say, it would be the Ultimate Totalitarian Regime. After all, totalitarian rule is a system which recognizes no limits to its authority & strives to regulate every aspect of life. It’s generally a single party rule, marked by personality cultism, mass surveillance and use of fear. That’s the Christian system to a T. If true, the very large majority of everyone who ever lived and died would be burning in hell right now, many of them children, more of them just victims of circumstance. They happened to be born into a non-Christian culture, which is the majority of people in the world. God didn’t pick a very efficient system of informing us all of the rules that would cost us eternal fire.
If the Biblical God and the Christian system are not true–which is a much more likely proposition–then the promises of everlasting bliss and threats of everlasting torture are the ramblings of an ego-maniacal loon. The so-called moral teachings aren’t very impressive either, which I elaborate on in my essay.
Whether or not people have heard of Jesus is irrelevant to their sinning. For example, in my state there is a program calles ‘Accelerated Rehabilitation’. It is essentially a once in a lifetime get out of jail free card. What it is is a program whereby someone who has committed a relatively minor crime, to enter into a probationary period and the record i nthem expounged. It is then as though the person has never been arrested or charged with anything. And in fact, legally speaking, you could answer “never been arrested” on legal forms if you have completed the program. Now, it is unfair to people who have committed crimes and infractions and have never heard of AR? The state isnt actually obligated to tell people. People commit crimes its their job to know the system. Think of all the people who could have used AR but didnt know? My question is, how is that relevant to their punishment for the crimes they committed? Does that make their punishments (fines or whatever) unjust? Or is being punished for crimes you committed the right thing? Whether there is an escape for a punishment is irrelevant to being justly punished for what you have done.
It all comes down to proper authority. You seem to be stuck on this issue, and it seems to be because you view God in the same way you would a human dictator. Thats a problem. God has rights over his creation that we do not. God is not given to the same flaws man is given to. No one is punished for things they havent done, and God doesnt expect from people that which they cant do.
I’m not really stuck on that issue because the Biblical God is a mythical figure so the whole discussion of what crime could possibly be worthy of a punishment like roasting in hellfire for eternity is just an intellectual one.
My main point is that the so-called moral teachings of Christ aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Leave out all his promises of sitting on thrones of gold in a magical sky kingdom and being cast into fire for eternity and look at what’s left.
Ill be honest, your condescension is a huge turn off. It gives the impression that you’d rather feel intellectually superior to theists by reducing certain beliefs to magic and fairy tail. So if this is where the discussion is headed, I’ll just let my past comments stand. Thanks for the discussion.
John, we actually agree on several points. I argue that the Christian system is a Totalitarian Regime and you basically agree by saying God can do as he sees fit. I agree with you, God can do as he pleases, including establishing totalitarian rule over humanity.
If Jesus was God, then of course he could mandate the following of God’s rules in order to reach the Kingdom of God. I agree with you there as well.
However, these are theoretical debates, not about actual situations we have to contend with as human beings. You know there is no actual evidence that any of the Christian belief system is real. That’s why it’s a belief system, a system based on faith. I don’t feel that pointing that out is condescending in any way to the believer.
I have many thoughts on that subject as well, but that wasn’t the point of my blog post. My point was to look at the teachings of Jesus and explain why they didn’t work for me.
I Thank you for the comments; I enjoyed the discussion.
I wouldn’t say there’s no evidence for the Christian world view. Just because something is a belief doesn’t mean there no evidence for it. There is a difference between no evidence, and not being compelled by the evidence.
John, if you’ve got observable, verifiable, testable, falsifiable data to support the truth of Christianity, I’d be thrilled to see it. As would millions of others I’m sure.
Unfortunately, Atheists don’t allow for evidence. They hold Christianity (theism) to a higher (impossible) standard than they do other fields of study. If the same rigors of historical investigation are applied to Christianity and the Bible, it comes up pretty reliable.
However, not that I am going to make an issue out of this, but the majority of things you, and everyone else, believe to be true, and in fact are true, don’t meet those standards anyway. It’s funny, macro evolution cannot live up to your criteria, but no doubt, you believe it to be true.
I asked you for evidence, but you won’t provide it? Scientific evidence is readily available in any of the disciplines. You will find a plethora of peer reviewed and published studies in all fields of science.
So again, I’m just asking you to support what you’re saying with evidence. Prove the existence of Yahweh, that Yahweh created the Universe, that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Yahweh is his father, that there’s a heaven, a hell, an afterlife, an immortal soul. Any of it really.
John, if you’ve got observable, verifiable, testable, falsifiable data to support the truth of Christianity, I’d be thrilled to see it. As would millions of others I’m sure.
Awesome article, yo –
I never got the whole “Jesus was a good guy” bit.
Sometimes my jaw drops when I hear people say;
Even if he wasn’t the literal “son of a god” he still preached good stuff”.
Funny – while taking the divinity equation out from Jesus and just going by his teachings, I really can’t find too much about what he said that was spectacular or Morally salient . . .
1) As Jesus never recommends knowledge, so he never recommends the virtue that seeks and leads to knowledge, namely reason.
On the contrary, Jesus regards certain beliefs as in themselves sinful.
Whereas it is an essential part of reason to hold that no beleif can be morally wrong if reached in the attempt to believe truly.
Jesus again and again demands faith:
and by “faith” Jesus means believing certain very improbable things without considering evidence or estimating probabilities; and that is contrary to reason.
2) Jesus does not pronounce about war, capital punishment, gambling (except in the synagogue), justice, the administration of law, the distribution of goods, equality of ethnicity, equality of opportunity,tyranny, freedom, slavery or self-determinism.
There is nothing Christian about being for any of these things, nor about being against them, if we mean “Christian” what Jesus taught according the the Synoptic Gospels. . .
– Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels says little on the subject of sex.
– Jesus is against divorce in any circumstance.
– Jesus only speaks of adultery as a vice and perhaps includes in his notion of “adultery” all extramarital intercourse.
*Although in the Gospel of John, Jesus does preach a humane and forgiving attitude toward sexual errors.
– Preach the great precept “Love thy neighbor”.
This precept is overshadowed in them both by the harsh unloving behavior of the preacher, and by its absolute sub-ordination to the unreasonable commands to love god and believe in Jesus.
“to love your neighbor as yourself”;
unrealistically to prescribe this degree of altruism that is in general not humanely possible and so to make Morality a fantasy rather than something that people can seriously try to practice and ask of one another.
This is an injunction, which morever trespasses on my right to have preferences in people.respect for one another should be enough.
3 ) Associated values of piety –
Many terrible actions have been done out of piety and duly responsible for shameful wars of religionfaithimprovidence-call for humility:better to make true estimates of oneself and others and not lie about them in public.
4) Schizophrenia, anyone?
Jesus petulantly blasts a fig tree for its failure to supply him with fruit
( Mark 11:12-14 and 20-22 )
(hardly making him a paragon of sustainability)
Jesus sends demons (which really don’t exist, by the way ) into a herd of pigs, then driving them off over a cliff edge ? !
( Matthew 8:28-34 )
So, in reality he freaks out a bunch of pigs by waving his arms around and proceeds to chase them off a cliff edge- brilliant !
What a dwell kinda guy !
Of course, those pigs belonged to somebody –
So, did Jesus pay back the farmer for the livestock killed, or did Jesus like an ass that he was, just tell the farmer that
“Best be grateful, I did you a favor” . ..
– “Resist not evil”- Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these mine bretheren, Ye have done unto me
( Mathew 25:40 )
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
– Jesus declares he “has come to bring not peace, but the sword”
( Matthew 10:34-36 )
5) Some very consequential statements concerning neglect :
– Jesus tells us to “take no thought for the morrow” & to “behold the lilies of the field for they toil not, neither do they spin”,
otherwise meaning, better not plan ahead
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”
( Matthew 6:24–33 )
No planning of any sort should be practiced? No savings accounts?
no college funds?
What if Jesus ran all of your livestock off of a cliff claiming that they were possessed of “demons” – should you not worry about it, because the crazed lunatic said;
“Oh, no worries – the kingdom is coming – your plans are obsolete”
so. . .
just trust in me that I’m the son of your god –
without question or deliberation is that it ? !
– ” No one may enjoy a relationship with god unless they recognize him as the almighty’s sole and exclusive agent.”
( John 6:44-45 )
a few seconds ago · Like
Shaun Herndon ( Continued / Conclusion )
So, Jesus tried to reform a few precepts of the Jewish law, that his teachings were also for the gentile to follow?
What Judaic teachings did Jesus keep in line with?
6 ) Jesus adhered to Jewish Law when it comes to combatting Heretics.
Violence towards the “out-group” :
A literal reading of the old testament not only permits but requires heretics to be put to death.
The book of Dueteronomy explicitly enjoins the faithful to murder anyone in their midst, even members of their own families, who profess a sympathy for foriegn gods.
The author/s of this document also demands that anyone too squeamish to take part in such religious kiling must be killed as well;
“If you hear that in one of the towns which Yahweh your god has given you for a home, there are men, scoundrels from your own stock, who have led their fellow-citizens astray, saying.
“Let us go and serve pther gods,” hitherto unknown to you, it is your duty to look into the matter, examine it, and inquire most carefully.
If it is proved and confirmed that such a hateful thing has taken place among you, you must put the inhabitants of that town to the sword : you must lay it under the curse or destruction- the town and everything in it.
You must pile up all its loot in the public square and burn the town and all its loot. offering it all to yahweh your god. It is to be a ruin for all time and never rebuilt ”
( Deut 13:12-16).
In addition to demanding that we fulfill every “jot” and “tittle” of Old testament law, Jesus seems to have suggested further refinements to the practice of killing heretics and unbelievers ;
” If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned”.
( John 15:6 )
Of course, people try to lighten this passage by insisting that this should be taken metaphorically?
7 ) Family Values:
– One is to forsake their families in order to follow Jesus :
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple … So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
(Luke 14:26-27, 33)
Is there even an adequate example of Moral suasion? Just as the heavenly “gift” of Free will comprises the element of true freedom, so the insistence on compassion is vitiated by the minatory “or else” component.
Attitude towards his own mother, Mary :
Jesus’ Mom is later met with “what thou art to me, woman?”
Surely this isn’t what a Jewish woman would want to hear from her son . .
8 ) The Most Attrocious teaching of Jesus . . .
– Doctrine of Vicarious redemption:
to fling your sins onto a scapegoat ( a primitive, savage practice ) and thereby have them annealed is to dissolve utterly the notion of personal responsibility on which any serious conception of ethics and morality must depend.Was Jesus sacrificed or merely “lent” for a while, for as soon as the stone was rolled away, Jesus was up & at ’em.
The urging of forgiveness for one’s enemies is an entirely evil preachment. If the welfare of my family is at stake, not only am I inclined to forgive those that threaten it, I’m equally disinclined to look warmly on those who would forgive my loved ones assailants.Hitchens; “Forgive your own fucking enemies, don’t be forgiving mine.
Really, no where in the Gospels are we encouraged to do the right thing for its own sake . . .
Everywhere are we urged on by the false premises of hysterically exorbiant rewards and distinguished disproportionate punishments.
Consult any Greek philosopher ( from Socrates and Epicurus to Plato, Aristotle and Epictetus ) and one will find more warmth. more humility and more Godly reasoned creativity than you shall in any version of the Salmagundi of concentrated nonsense that goes by the name in Christianity.