Can You Hate Religion but Love Jesus?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: Can you hate religion but love Jesus?:

Incidentally, Jefferson Bethke‘s new book about why Jesus > Religion is now out and he spoke about his paradoxical views in the Washington Post yesterday.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I’ve not encountered this “I’m a follower of Jesus, not a Christian” idea. I have several friends to are non-religious, but claim to follow Jesus. All label themselves Christian except for one, who calls himself a Messianic Jew. All are opposed to organized religion, and therefore don’t align themselves with any sect. Their worship consists of getting together with like-minded people and reading or discussing the bible (the Old Testament tends to be quite important to these people, as well as the NT). They have no organized leadership. I guess they’re a bit like Quakers in this sense.

    While I can certainly see the influence that organized religion has on them- mostly unconsciously- I’d still say that these people characterize themselves as anti-religious, Christian, lovers of Jesus.

  • TnkAgn

    This is just what the religionists want to hear: That we secular humanists, agnostics and atheists are “haters” of religion. I myself have never hated religion. I deride the leaders, purveyors, opportunistic extortionists, frauds and followers of this pernicious cultural meme, but don’t “hate” it.

    I save my “hate” for the Michigan Woverines, the NY Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys.

    • busterggi

      Got nothing against Michigan but I stand firm with you on the other two.

  • Wrich

    If you see Jesus as a person, or as an allegory or amalgam of several people, it is possible to love the message of peace, forgiveness, feeding the poor, healing the sick, and just simply discard all of the “Christ” nonsense.

    Much in the same way Christians converted the followers of Thor- who’s hammer looked like a cross, and who’s father took terrible wounds and was crucified on a tree- by starting from an area of mutual belief, you have an easier shot at being heard.

    Naturally, that is not everyone’s cup of tea. I am not even sure Jesus existed- but some of what has come down over time is pretty much “Help other people and don’t be a dick.” Isn’t that a message that most people get behind?

    Assuredly, people can come up with a ton of random quotes from which ever version of the bible and show that Jesus loved melons or Jesus wanted you to buy swords so you can cleave the non-faithful and don’t forget to burn a witch or two….etc. Most of the people I talk to do not even know very much about their own faith other than the core points of the 10 commandments (Don’t lie, listen to your folks, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet, etc.), let alone understand the messages that many of their pastors are selling them to get those coins in the plate.

    When you are giving someone a rope to break away from their skywizard of choice, starting off with “Hey, peace, love, and health is what we are all about” is not a bad place to start.

    • cyb pauli

      I respect people who take this position… I just cant. My point of reference in life is truth. I need to know if there are magical beings out there, and if I cant find evidence for them, if nobody trustworthy seems to be able to, if even BELIEVERS cannot provide proof… that is not a starting point for me. I need my beliefs to match reality or I cant sleep at night. But I understand most people need to ease into the water and I respect people like David McAfee who are gentle with believing people.

      • http://ma-sblog.blogspot.com/ Alice

        I need my beliefs to match reality or I cant sleep at night.

        Yes.

      • Wrich

        Understood.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      … it is possible to love the message of peace, forgiveness, feeding the
      poor, healing the sick, and just simply discard all of the “Christ”
      nonsense.

      If we’re going to have that discussion, let’s be clear and accurate about what Jesus’ message was. It was very mixed, and people like to pull out only the parts they agree with.

      Luke14:
      [25] And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,
      [26] If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

      • 3lemenope

        The problem with this line of attack is that the word would have been understood differently by its intended audience than by us. Greek literature is replete with examples of the word normally translated as “hate” meaning something more similar to “love less than”. This would only be intensified by the didactic style that Jesus uses in the text, which like most moral teachers at the time, used rhetorical extremity for emphasis rather than for literal instruction. (This was also encouraged not least because ancient languages are far less flexible in adjectival diction than modern languages, particularly modern English).

        There’s plenty in the message attributed to Jesus that actually just plain sucks. Breathtakingly bad advice on divorce and internal moral struggle, and an ethical theory that borders on the insipid, just for starters. I tend to think it best to attack as bad those interpretations which are not in much doubt among believers, since they can simply dismiss without thinking any textual interpretation that doesn’t match how they actually use the text.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Greek literature is replete with examples of the word normally
          translated as “hate” meaning something more similar to “love less than”.

          Hector Avalos claims otherwise in The End of Biblical Studies.

        • Wrich

          Also, anything which does not meet their established line of thought is simply discarded anyway, so starting with an attack on what they think now, based on something they minimally value and have any real knowledge of, makes them think we are just being mean or attacking them.

          Leading them to water and getting them to drink is very tricky.

          • 3lemenope

            True. I think where I differ from you (at least what you expressed in your other comment above) is that sometimes the opposition to Christian thought can be productive and important even when it alienates Christians. Sometimes their beliefs, when put into action, are so destructive that I don’t much care about them understanding why they are wrong, the imperative is to just get them to cut it out by any ethical means necessary.

            • Wrich

              My opinions expressed are specifically related to having conversations leading to a more skeptical world view, and away from Skywizardy. If they start demanding we all never shave, post the 10 commandments everywhere or beat our “wives”, you can be sure I will be far more direct in opposition to their perspective….and hopefully be standing right beside you.

              I think a calm, friendly discussion is more convincing for long term change- but I wouldn’t rule out confrontation if required, and have been very direct as required in the past.

      • Wrich

        Gubba, I get where you are coming from- but let me put it a different way:

        Most of these folks who own a bible have never read it, never will read it, and could not understand it if they did. Convincing them of the Great Skywizard is child’s play, and they have been played for centuries. Walking them away from it is not the same thing.

        They have the pressure of their peer group, the challenge of a culture focused on supernatural as reality, and the threat of punishment.

        These are not folks who typically make decisions based on rational thought, but gut instinct and tribal directive.

        Reaching out to them and saying “I see where you are coming from, I believe in peace, love, forgiveness, understanding, and hope as well, I think that is what you are after, here is how we are common” is far more productive than getting into a Lord of the Rings level battle on who killed what Balrog when.

        I am not trying to defend a document or series of documents which have been written, re-written, edited and and made up out of whole cloth- that returns to my “Jesus loves Melons” quip- who CARES?

        In the end, they have made it all up anyway. Let’s find the parts which are the right thoughts (the parts which involve curing the sick, and not stoning whores) for a positive society and use it as a bridge to bring them over.

        Focusing even one more KEY STROKE of showing that Made Up Jesus was more like Sauron than Aragorn is entirely pointless- at this stage of the game.

        Later you can hit them with all of the reasons the bible is absurd, if that is what they need. Right now, I just need them to listen, and not think we are trying to eat their children.

  • cyb pauli

    Yeah sure, you can believe in a divine being, pray to him, worship him as a god and not be religious. Just like I can be physically female, identify my gender as woman and not be a woman. And my cat can fit the definition of cat and not be a cat. And up is down.

    Lez be honest, they are shying away from the term religion because they know religion is a negative thing. So they are trying the “personal relationship” angle.

    You don’t know Jesus. You don’t know what he said. You don’t know what he did. And even if you did know for certain records of his words and deeds were true you still have no rational reason to “follow him” or have a “personal relationship” with a 2000 odd year old corpse. Just stop. Stop. The. Madness.

    • Keyra

      Do you not get the concept?

      • cyb pauli

        Nope. Explain it to me.

        • Keyra

          What Jeff was talking about, was the corruption, self-justifications, hypocrisy, violence, and other misrepresentations that comes from religion. Christianity was never meant to be a religion (but merely a relationship with our savior) but man has made it so. The story of Jesus & the Pharisees is a huge example

          • invivoMark

            So what they don’t like is the politics of religion.

            Not the religion itself.

            • Keyra

              That’s one way of looking at it

          • cyb pauli

            Loving Jesus as a deity requires all of those except violence. And even if it required none of them, loving Jesus as a deity (or following his divine teachings) fits the definition of religious. The dictionary, the lexicon… it’s like your shadow, it’s like material reality, you cant escape it. Christianity is a religion. Christians are religious… even when inconvenient.

            • Keyra

              There’s religions that don’t believe in God; Buddhism, Scientology, New Atheism. A religion is a lifestyle, a commitment (in some cases, a fixation; like the latter).

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Ahem: atheism is a religion as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

                Secular humanism is a philosophy that many but by no means all atheists follow. However, it is a philosophy, not a religion. Religions all have some supernatural aspect to them. They usually involve those supernatural elements telling people to do stuff, perform rituals, etc. Scientology definitely meets those elements. Buddhism does too. There is no form of atheism that does, because all atheism is is an expression of nonbelief. It says nothing about what a person’s beliefs actually are.

              • GubbaBumpkin

                There’s religions that don’t believe in God; Buddhism, Scientology, New Atheism. A religion is a lifestyle, a commitment

                You are missing the point of what a religion is. It always involves belief in the supernatural. Even the flavors of Buddhism which don’t have gods believe in such things as reincarnation.

                RE: New Atheism as a religion: thanks for tipping us off that you need not be taken seriously. It’s unfortunate that you don’t adhere to a religion which forbids the bearing of false witness.

                • 3lemenope

                  You are missing the point of what a religion is. It always involves belief in the supernatural.

                  No, it really doesn’t. Neither UUs nor Quakers are required to believe in any supernatural aspect in order to fully participate in their traditions. It gets even slipperier with Theravada Buddhism and Cārvāka, since the categories you are seeking to apply (which make some sense in the Western context) are pretty nonsensical when applied to their world-views. Modern Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism all have branches or sects that deny the supernatural and espouse an essentially materialist, atheistic metaphysics.

                  “New Atheism”, and atheism simpliciter for that matter, isn’t a religion simply because it has no ethos. There is no tradition to join, no community to belong to, nobody to answer to. It has no practices, no asserted metaphysics, no moral content, and no prescribed ethical system. There is, to put it as simply as possible, no “there” there. Atheism can be a feature of more complicated belief structures that *do* possess an ethos, and certainly it is the rare individual whose metaphysical opinions begin and end with whether there is a deity or deities.

                • Glasofruix

                  Did you wake up just now? Absolutely NOTHING Keyra says makes sense or should be taken seriously…

              • Andy_Schueler

                Christianity was never meant to be a religion (but merely a relationship with our savior)

                A religion is a lifestyle, a commitment (in some cases, a fixation; like the latter).

                ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose
                it to mean — neither more nor less.’
                ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
                ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

              • ichuck7

                Would being passionate about the Green Bay Packers be considered a religion then?

          • spitzs

            “Christianity was never meant to be a religion (but merely a relationship with our savior) ”

            Religion simply refers to the nature of the philosophy that makes you think there’s a savior to have a relationship with. ie: it’s based on reconciling reality with mysterious(supernatural, magical, mystical, spiritual,etc) forces. That’s religion.

            Because people with those kind of philosophies have been corrupt, hypocrites and/or violent, people try to shy away from it by avoiding the term “religion”, but simply changing what something is called does not change what it is. And in fact, since Christianity itself shares those same associations, you also have people announcing “I’m not a Christian, I just follow Christ.”

            http://www.outofur.com/archives/2009/11/not_a_christian.html

            It’s a shallow perspective that attempts to deal with philosophical problems not by addressing them, but by changing titles: by rebranding. “Oh, religious groups are causing problems… well clearly the problem is organized religion.” Nevermind the fact that organized religion is simply religious individuals working towards shared goals. People who are anti organized religion do not stop organizing.

            “Oh, religion is a problem, well, we’re not a religion, we’re just Christians.” Nevermind that they keep the same kind of beliefs that defined them as a religion

            “What’s that? Christianity is a problem? Oh, well, we’re not Christians, we just follow Christ.” Christ-follower being a synonym for Christian.

            Now it’s just a question of what kind of titles they’ll come up with once the image of “I merely have a relationship with our savior” is sullied. It’s already being recommended by the largest Christian religious organization on the planet: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=34689

            which is just a reminder of how it utterly fails to show any real deviation from Christianity, religion, or organized religion, and is purely empty rhetoric. At that point, anyone who still wants to cling to Christ can only announce that the other people don’t TRUELY have a relationship with their savior. And that debate over what a TRUE follower of Christ is also happens to contribute the corruption, self-justification, hypocrisy and violence religious groups partake in. Violent because they believe their savior supports it; hypocrites because they dismiss faith claims equal to their own, self-justification because there is nothing to support faith claims beyond the personal belief that doing so is justified, and corrupt because their violent hypocritical self justifications naturally tend towards favoring themselves at the expense of others. Which is built into some of the more popular Christ follower beliefs: they are trying to become Jesus’s chosen people, and if successful will be rewarded handsomely for it, while everyone else who is not chosen will receive and deserves all manner of punishments: from simple death while the chosen live, to excruciating isolation, to an eternity of torture

          • Obazervazi

            Do you worship a deity? Do you own a holy text? Do you attend a place of worship? That’s religion.

            Stop pretending words don’t mean what they mean.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    i require supernatural proof. i’ll have to witness, personally and up close, several “miracles” before i start believing in any god(s). and i i don’t mean conjuring tricks. making lava flow back into a volcano or resurrecting 20,000 soldiers recently killed on a battlefield. that would be a start.

    you’re so adorable, Hemant. we should make a doll out of you and sell it to children. you’re so warm and fuzzy no one decent could hate you. you chose your nym well.

    to me, the important part of this discussion is “why? why are there Jeebus fans who don’t want to say they ‘support a church?’” i like the mythology of Jesus, the good parts. heartwarming movies have a similar effect, when i’m in the mood for that sort of fluff. hell, i bet i feel as strongly about the matrix as some xtians do about the buybull.

    but this is an interesting conversation starter. folks cling to the Good God, but are slinking away from the houses of worship? why should that be? /s

    • busterggi

      They don’t like paying the membership fees?

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      That would indeed be a miracle worth celebrating! Normally you can only cast the heal spell across a battlefield, not raise dead. And to make time go backwards, you need a wish spell.

  • cryofly

    If Jesus had really existed, and for most part, I believe he might have, I think his primary goal was not to create christianity, but to reform judaism. Being one of those people who is read the bible after self-confirming myself to be an atheist, Jesus’ purported messages resounds with the period, the life style and beliefs, some 2000 years back in that region. Anyway, preaching men to be peaceful and asking them to look at themselves in the mirror before hurting another person, etc. is… seriously as good as any Michael Jackson song. And I know MJ existed. But then I prefer to be a Pete Seeger follower.

  • Sajanas

    Its been my general impression that people who love Jesus but not religion seem to be operating less from a detailed knowledge of what Jesus said and did, and more from the fluffy Jesus-is-love persona that gets bandied about in Sunday schools and movies about him. In the Gospels, Jesus has just as many cult leader hallmarks. He wants people to worship him, love him, abandon their families and friends for him, promises them everything, especially if they suffer for him.

  • busterggi

    There are plenty of fictional characters I love. Jesus isn’t one of them but you can’t please everyone.

  • Dave

    Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. If you love Jesus and follow his teachings by definition you are a Christian. Christianity is a religion. So you are religious. Now you just have to work out which of the 41,000 variations you belong to. Or you could make it 41,001 with your twist on an old book.
    I think Jefferson is working out that ALL of it is man made, he is just half way there. Religious people denying religion. The end is nigh.

    • cyb pauli

      No Christianity is only a religion when it’s convenient to Christians.

      • 3lemenope

        This is the real problem. It is perfectly comprehensible that a person follows Jesus but doesn’t participate in a faith community. The problem is that most of the time, the person who claims “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” are arguing thus in bad faith, because they *are* participants in the ethos of the religion.

        • cyb pauli

          For me it’s like this: if you are a man who exclusively desires romantic/sexual relationships with men, you are gay. You dont need a rainbow flag, to go to pride parades, wear assless chaps, have a lisp, a boyfriend, husband or any other qualifier. If you love Jesus, follow his teachings but don’t attend a Church, own a Bible or protest at abortion clinics or work at a homeless shelter, you are still a Christian. Trying to tweak the definition of a word to make your religious orientation more palatable is not a good argument strategy.

          • 3lemenope

            Trying to tweak the definition of a word to make your religious orientation more palatable is not a good argument strategy.

            I agree, hence the comment about bad faith. I think most of the time, when this “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” crops up in the wild, it is being said by a person who is religious but doesn’t like some of the implications that being a participant in a religion brings.

            The prevalence of religious people being uncomfortable with religion being what it is, I think what gets lost is that it is perfectly possible (and some people actually do it, sincerely) for the argument to not be a vacuous dodge. Some folks read the Bible and think that Jesus was a swell fellow with some neat ideas, or even think that he’s a supernatural something, but do not participate in any extant tradition or religious ethos, which I tend to think is a crucial part of the definition of “religion”.

    • TnkAgn

      I think that if the radical rabbi thought to be Jesus can be separated from the “Christ” (Messiah), a conversation can be started. If the two are conflated, then there’s no room for discussion, I’d say.

  • Keyra

    Sure you can. The religion Jeff is talking about is the corruption, hypocrisy, violence, etc. Christianity was never meant to be a religion but man has made it so

    • The Other Weirdo

      Atheists have been called arrogant, but how do you know what Christianity was meant to be 2000 years ago?

      • Glasofruix

        Because Jesus, obviously.

    • cyb pauli

      Jesus asserts himself in the Gospel that he is a divine being, the Son of God. When you follow the teachings of a divine being and/or love (worship) that being, it is called religion. There is no way around it. Religion can be corrupt, it can be somewhat honest, it can be evil, it can be benign in some respects, but none of those are the question. If you hate religion and love Jesus, you hate cars and love Audis.

      • 3lemenope

        If you hate religion and love Jesus, you hate cars and love Audis.

        I hate reality shows but really appreciate Master Chef Junior. The existence of a singular exception to a category isn’t usually enough to nullify all judgments about members of the category.

    • baal

      Jesus said to follow him. That’s the founding of a religion.

  • ZenDruid

    I despise the cheap storytellers who drive religion. I don’t hate religion, I just wish those storytellers accepted their true social context.
    I don’t ‘love’ Jesus, or John Stuart Mill, or Hume, or Thales or Zeno or Epicurus. I do appreciate that they all had some valuable insights into the world/human condition. [For Jesus, read the gospel of Thomas for a fair set of thoughts.]

    • ZenDruid

      And the love/hate thing is a clue to me that some cheap storyteller is sticking his dick in the argument whenever that flipflop emotional stance appears. Love and hate are both strong emotions directed at someone or something, and IMO, ‘serene Stoic indifference’ is more properly the opposite of both.
      My understanding of the mind/brain thing suggests that emotions as well as instincts are the functions of the hindbrain, and the cheap storytellers will be wildly successful only when they figure out how to tapdance on it. The well-tempered forebrain generally is immune to their nonsense….

  • Svelaz

    I’ve often come across the argument lately from Christians who when cornered into a difficult position regarding their religion suddenly they proclaim that Christianity is NOT a religion but a state of mind. That’s a humongous cop-out if I ever saw one. I get the sense that it is not enough for Christianity to be a religion but it is extra special because….it isn’t. I think this sort of proclamation is an attempt to just be able to disregard any accountability associated with religion and is now a wholly different thing that is not a religion but something more……special, so special that no one will ever understand because only believers are able to due to having that special inside track info. It just getting more ridiculous when more and more Christians try hard to reconcile the bible’s many contradictions or their behaviors that are often times not in line with their belief’s principles.

    • Keyra

      Just as how hard New Atheists try to dismiss the Bible by taking everything black & white and judging by their own merits?

      • The Other Weirdo

        I have no idea what you are saying here.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        … and judging by their own merits?

        By whose merits should we judge the Bible? It is historically inaccurate, scientifically inaccurate, and morally reprehensible. Even its literary merit is overrated.

      • baal

        Yes, my standards that say my neighbor is a bad person when they steal or pollute is the same standard I’m using when I say the OT god was a petty warlord of a lesser deity.

    • cyb pauli

      It’s no different than when they say “Atheism is a RELIGION!”

      They can see plainly how destructive their religion is, and they see how easily nonsensical religious claims can be dismissed. By saying they have a personal relationship with a spirit or a corpse they are doing their argument no favors.

  • 3lemenope

    I tend to think a key part of the definition of religion is that it is an ethos, which implies a community (with practices, traditions, norms, etc.). So I think it perfectly possible to “love Jesus” and “hate religion”; heck, loving Jesus doesn’t even require worshiping him or any connected entity or storybook character. A person can be moved by the stories, or inspired by the examples, or internalize the ethics of what Jesus allegedly taught without participating in a faith community or even participating in a faith at all.

    We all know it’s perfectly possible to do the opposite (hate Jesus [and/or his teachings, examples, and ethics] and love the religions that were made in his name), since it seems like that’s what most Christians do most of the time. It would never enter their minds that it’s a good idea to give the guy with elephantiasis a hug but think it’s a swell notion to air-drop Bibles in to Pyongyang. That doesn’t seem to give people who have an obsessive drive to categorize everything into neat categories apoplexy, so why does the inverse?

    • cyb pauli

      Have you ever heard a Christian say “I dont love Jesus, I’m a Christian” or “I hate Jesus, I love religion”? The nefarious Christians you describe interpret the message, ethics and examples of Jesus differently. I cant tell them they hate Jesus just because I don’t like how they practice their faith. I CAN tell them that loving Jesus as a deity or spiritual guide fits the definition of religion. I can also tell them it is impossible to have a personal relationship with a being that cannot be sensed and/or has been dead for thousands of years.

      • 3lemenope

        Have you ever heard a Christian say “I dont love Jesus, I’m a Christian” or “I hate Jesus, I love religion”?

        Of course not. And the reason should be fairly obvious; they don’t know that they don’t love Jesus, most of the time simply because they are unaware of what he actually is credited with saying/arguing.

        I would submit that the vast majority of people who say, for example, that they believe the Bible is true only believe that they believe the Bible is true, and are in fact in error about their own orientation with the text. Usually because they have never actually read it or only ever read the convenient bits.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    and he spoke about his paradoxical views…

    You are being too politically correct. The word you are looking for is stupid.

    • 3lemenope

      Paradox can be fruitful. I tend to think that people’s views on logic are somewhat stilted by an over-obsession with deduction, leading to the (I think) pretty silly notion that if something is deductively invalid it is perforce wrong/stupid/easily dismissed.

      One of the more valuable contributions of religious thought (especially from Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism) is the exploration and unpacking of paradoxes, primarily as a way of cushioning the blow of living in an absurd universe, but also in reminding us that the surface of an idea can be deceptive. Sometimes when you work out the implications of a statement, the actual deep structure of the idea points in the exact opposite direction as the surface might cause one to expect.

      For example, one of the most famous nuggets of the NT is 1st Corinthians 13:12, which reads:

      When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

      It seems to be a very straightforward take on the demands of maturity. “When you grow up, you should put your toys away” might be a less flowery way of putting it.

      Here’s an interesting meditation on the passage from someone you might have heard of:

      Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

      A person who rigidly assigned mental roles to categories like adulthood and childhood would probably miss this insight. Paradox can, if used judiciously, free someone from being too rigid to notice the stranger, counterintuitive implications of seemingly simple ideas.

      • joey_in_NC

        One of the more valuable contributions of religious thought (especially from Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism) is the exploration and unpacking of paradoxes, primarily as a way of cushioning the blow of living in an absurd universe

        You’re one of the very few atheists who would admit that we live an “absurd universe”. I’m pretty sure you’re aware that many of my past comments here have been arguing the absurdness of the universe given materialism, and many here would like to believe there really are no such “paradoxes” to existence.

        I’m wondering if your notion of “absurd universe” is identical to my notion.

  • Thin-ice

    This is just a fresh spin on the old “I don’t have religion, I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.

    But it’s taken off as almost a new paradigm, as existing liberal evangelicals are embarrassed by the established evangelical culture’s embrace of homophobia, right-wing politics, and similar themes. I know at least a dozen friends from my former evangelical life (including my brother) who haven’t been to church in years, yet claim to “love Jesus” and claim to be his followers still.

    But it’s only so long until a glowing coal or ember separated from it’s bonfire will flicker out, just as leaving a congregation will eventually result in a dead faith.

  • revyloution

    I love the M5 from BMW, but I hate all cars. I love Harvard, but I hate all ivy league universities. I love the Heckler and Koch P7 9mm pistol, but I hate all guns.

    Hrm, nope. It doesn’t work.

    • 3lemenope

      I dislike driving cars, but appreciate watching the Indy 500. I hate reality TV, but think that Tim Gunn is a fabulous tour de force worth watching. I passionately hate listening to country music, but believe it is vitally important as one of the five major genres of American music. I like a local politician but despise the party she belongs to.

      See, it can work. A person can appreciate an element or feature of something without appreciating the whole. A person can accept one claim about an entity without having to accept all claims made about that entity.

  • guest

    The problem is that Jesus as we know him is an religious creation. All the sources for his life are from people who worshipped him or people quoting from people who worshipped him. You could try to reconstruct a ‘secular’ Jesus, but it’s always going to be guesswork based on personal opinion, which is why there are so many versions of the ‘historical’ Jesus.

    We cannot say for sure what Jesus actually taught and what was added later.

    I guess you could love Jesus as a character from a story, in the same way I love Severus Snape. Personally I prefer Peter from the NT testament, he’s more relatable.

    I worry that when people say they love Jesus they are saying that they think it’s nice to give to the poor, forgive your enemies and heal the sick. The problem is that Jesus never had a monopoly on these ideas, they are natural human impulses as much as our evil desires are. To give Jesus credit just fortifies the stranglehold of Christianity on Western society. Thousands of years before Christianity, buddhists were doing similar things.

    I don’t love Jesus. I never met the man (assuming there was a real man at base of all the myths). As a character, he’s too much of a Gary Stu to enjoy. As a symbol, he’s too confused to be useful to me.

    Sandal wearing hippy Jesus makes me think of that new religion- Dudism. If you’re going to interpret the bible to fit the moral preconceptions you already have, what’s it for? Jesus becomes just you. You might as well give up religion and just follow your own conscience- it’s what you’re already doing.

  • mandas

    It’s nonsensical to claim that you can hate religion but love jesus, because the jesus you are supposedly in love with is 100% a construct of a religious text.
    It is highly unlikely that jesus even existed. But if there was such a historical person, he would have been nothing like the claims made in the bible.

  • Anna

    Not only can’t you love Jesus without religion, why would you love Jesus without religion? The only people who have a strong emotional attachment to the Jesus figure are those who were taught to believe he was real, special, and worthy of adoration.

    By the way, I remain unimpressed with Jefferson Bethke, who acts like he’s some sort of revolutionary progressive when it’s clear he’s the same as any other conservative evangelical. Especially when he churns out regressive nonsense like this:

    A poem I originally wrote for open mic at Pacific University. It highlights my journey with casual sex and the conclusion I came to that sex as recreation, or just for fun, is unable to satisfy us the way we were meant to be satisfied. Sex is good, in it’s proper context. This poem mainly focuses though on anyone who has been deeply affected, hurt, and damaged by sexual sin. Forgiveness and mercy are given freely by Jesus. He cleans, restores, and heals us beyond measure and asks nothing in return. He saw all our sin and filth before he went to the cross and it was still his joy to go get us.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlJFvxad1_A

  • Robster

    How can a person love a dead person who quite probably never actually existed? Seems quite futile to me, there are better, more productive things to do not involving a dead bloke possibly (but not likely) nailed to a stick on a middle eastern hill many moons ago. What a silly waste of time.

  • Mick

    I’ve often heard independent fundies (street preacher variety) saying they believe in Christianity not Churchianity.

    Here’s a link to a blogger who has found fifty reasons why it might be a good idea not to love Jesus: http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com.au/2010_11_01_archive.html

  • Elsie Rempel

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments from an Atheist perspective. I’m glad you believe in doing good for its own sake. So does my atheist son, and his actions are in line with his beliefs about doing good. I believe that’s a sign of the divine spark in both of you. I also believe that Jesus can help us keep doing good, even when it includes suffering for the causes of peace and justice. I am sorry so many of us Christians and Jesus followers contradict that with our actions.

  • Makoto

    “Let’s do good because kindness matters”. This. A million times this.

  • Paul Zimmerle

    I often hear people talking about how they ‘hate’ religion but ‘love’ Jesus, and on the face of it this seems like a good idea. After all, you make people feel good by saying something that seems positive and meaningful on the face of it.

    Thing is, though, is Jesus REALLY such a great role model? Sure, he has his good moments here and there, but they’re balanced with moments of selfishness and sheer insanity. Why should we keep paying homage to a dusty cult leader whose only notable accomplishment was that his cult happened to take over most of the world?

    Pass.

  • ichuck7

    The “I’m a Christ follower” nomenclature drives me crazy. I get what they are trying to do . they want to distance themselves from all of the negative things about religion and repackage it to make themselves sound better. However, it always felt like the people who said it were the example of why people don’t like religion.

    It lost its meaning. At first I thought it would mean someone who follows the teachings of Jesus but not the supernatural. Now it’s more come to mean the fanatical guy or gal who thinks their brand of Christianity is superior to everyone else’s.

    What if we did that in our professions? “I’m not like those other teachers, I’m a 5th grade educating guide.” what’s that? “oh I teach 5th grade students.” so you’re a teacher? “No, no, no, I’m not like those other teachers.”

    • guest

      Yeah I’m also getting a you can’t have your cake and eat it from these love Jesus hate religion cultists.


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