I rankle at the undue reverence afforded Jesus even by many atheists and so in a post yesterday at the Richard Dawkins Foundation website lamenting the spiritual and intellectual analogue of Stockholm Syndrome that I see many liberal believers who can’t let go suffering, I explained why I want no part of the attempts to reclaim and rehabilitate Jesus:
Being a former Christian who devoted years of my life to literally worshipping this human being, proselytizing on his behalf, and dividing myself from all non-Christians emotionally on account of him, this is a serious sticking point. This is more than just a routine case of some thinker’s ideas or character being overestimated. People by the hundreds of millions, maybe billions, down through the centuries have been systematically brainwashed into worshippingthis particular person, and to sacralizing ideas, texts, institutions, and supposed representatives associated with him. When someone’s veneration extends to these extremes of power it’s a moral obligation to subject precisely that person and the institutions and ideas grown up around him to far more rigorous scrutiny than run-of-the-mill hit and miss philosophers get. The inordinate respect he receives, even by the non-worshipping atheists and extreme theological liberals, spiritually supports an outsized and falsely acquired influence, with power to be disproportionately destructive.
When the power of Jesus, the Bible, or Christian ideas and symbols is as extensive as it has been for two millennia, the negative impact of even small mistakes about facts or inadequacies in values is drastically magnified. And when hundreds of millions of people are unable to see through a centuries’ long literal deification of a particular human and the institutions associated with him, and so mentally and morally subjugate themselves to that person or institutions, it is irresponsible for those who do see through it all to go on contributing to the aura of reverence towards that figure, rather than bluntly and unequivocally disabusing people of it.
Being aggressively and systematically deceived from childhood about the character of Jesus trapped me in delusions and blatant falsehoods that took away my ability to autonomously think and feel as clearly as possible about what was true and false and good and bad in life. Asking me to carry on mouthing platitudes about how awesome Jesus is, after that, is about as offensive as asking the escapee of a cult to never say a bad word about their former cult leader. It’s like telling them even to go on singing his praises. Sometimes literally! It’s like asking them to endorse others to vote him to stay in a position of power that he has held for centuries and which he used to ensnare you in the cult in the first place.
“So what if now you see he’s not a god, why can’t you at least admit he was awesome anyway?”
Because he claimed to be a god. Or at least “the way, the truth, and the life”, which is just as bad. And too many still worship him as God and surrender their intellects and consciences to him. So he was not awesome, is not awesome to celebrate, and probably never will be.
He is a weapon of ecclesiastical institutions. I understand the strategic impulse of liberals to want to take control of this weapon and use it for their own ends. I understand they fear that going up against nasty theocrats and other ecclesiastical authoritarians who are armed with Jesus without picking up their own Jesus to fight back with would amount to going to ethical war unarmed. But I for one would rather rely only on honesty and rationality themselves than keep the arms dealing churches in business in perpetuity.
And a follow up post on who or what I’m really opposing when I oppose “Jesus” is here.
I also addressed overviewed the evolution of my views on liberal theology at greater length last week.