The Apostles Creed – Revised For Humanists

The Apostles Creed – Revised For Humanists August 29, 2014

Editor’s Note: Mary Johnson, Clergy Project member and former nun with Mother Teresa’s order, gave Rational Doubt permission to reprint this post from her website. Thank you, Mary, and thanks for the enticing offer to readers to write their own variant of the creed.


imageBy Mary Johnson

I don’t believe in God, an imaginary father with almighty power.

I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.

I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era,

That he was conceived in the way of all human beings, that he was born of a woman called Mary, that he had a following large enough to trouble the authorities of his day, that it’s very difficult to separate what he actually said and did from what people would later say he said and did, that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.

I believe that this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; that he was crucified, died and was buried, that there were no souls in hell waiting for him to set them free, that his death was in no way redemptive, that crucifixion has to be hell enough for any person.

I believe that when Jesus died, he remained dead. He did not ascend into an imaginary heaven, nor does he sit at the right or left hand of God, an imaginary father.

I do not believe that Jesus judges human beings. It seems to me that far too much judging goes on in his name, and that most of us try to do the best we can with the lives we’ve been given and that all of us fall short of the unreachable ideals we sometimes set for ourselves, that we ought to be kinder to ourselves.

I do not believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.

I believe that the church is a human institution that still has much to learn about the humane exercise of power and authority.

I believe that each human being is connected with every other human being by bonds we do not often perceive, that what we do matters because our deeds affect beings animate and inanimate, for better or for worse.

I believe that justice and mercy are both essential and that forgiveness is often one of the deepest kindnesses we can extend to others and to ourselves, but that it should not be offered indiscriminately.

I believe that when we’re dead, we’re dead, and that while we, for a brief stretch of years, breathe upon this planet, we experience mysteries we ought not pretend to understand, though one day human beings will understand them better than we do now. I believe that we should affirm as true only those things we know with reasonable certainty, according to rigorous standards of history and science, that to cede our intellect to religious tradition is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who benefit from our credulity. I believe in the value of helping others and nurturing ourselves so that we can live lives as full as they can be.


(find the original creed here)

I encourage you to compose your own creed. What do you believe, and how do you choose to live in the world?


DSC_0347Mary Johnson worked for twenty years as a nun in the Missionaries of Charity where she became a trusted assistant to Mother Teresa. Since leaving the convent, Mary has married and written a well-received memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst.  She left the Catholic Church and has become a humanist celebrant, speaker and teacher. She serves on the Board of A Room of Her Own Foundation, an organization that empowers women writers. Her work has appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications. She has appeared on The Rosie Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, NPR and the BBC.






photo credit: <a href=””>lars hammar</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

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  • I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era

    Come on, it’s 2014. Don’t you know you have to subscribe to Jesus Mythicism to be a nonbeliever these days?

    • Mary Johnson

      Sorry, Shem. I think history comes down on the side of the guy having existed. Jesus Mythicism as a Nonbeliever Litmus Test seems rather limp to me…..

    • Kent Truesdale

      You have to use a double standard of historical proof to say that other figures of the 1st century world existed but someone called Jesus did not. It’s crassly dogmatic to say there is absolutely NO real history in the New Testament — or maybe you were just being ironic? (I hope!)

    • Mary Johnson

      Of course, there are scholars who propose that Jesus never existed. As Valerie Tarico points out, “The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving.” Tarico explores the question here:

      • Mary, I was being sarcastic. I consider the notion that Jesus-the-podunk-rabbi existed is much more plausible than any of the comically elaborate Jesus Myth theories. As you said in your last response, having mythicism become a litmus test for atheists is just the sort of dogma enforcement that scared most of us away from organized religion in the first place.

        • Mary Johnson

          Yes, indeed, Shem–and I did suspect you were being sarcastic. Though I do think it’s interesting to watch how far scholars are willing to go in considering these things….

          Do you know of any remedy (like garlic for warding off vampires) for warding off dogma enforcement? I’d love to know…. I think dogma enforcement is one of the worst offenders of truth around….

          • Kent Truesdale

            Mary, I so agree with you about the policing of orthodoxy in the Godless online community! I think it’s one of the main things that turns off many who might otherwise be open to hearing and even joining us.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Kent — Being an optimist, I like to think “orthodoxy” will be less of an issue in the future as the sheer number of “out” atheists grows and it becomes perfectly obvious that there are many differences among us.

            We share a non-belief and many of us share humanistic values, but we have different personalities, talents, priorities, interests, experiences, etc., etc., just like everyone else.

          • Kent Truesdale

            LInda, yes I agree with you that we Godless are as human as anyone else — but one difference is that we claim to be more rational than theists as a group, so it’s time we start living up to that and debunking our own dogmas and orthodoxies? ESPECIALLY since they’re hindering our growth.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I’d qualify that to say “some” of us claim to be more rational than theists. I’d also say that we ARE more rational about that one thing – the existence of a deity –and that rationality may affect other issues, but maybe not.

          • Kent Truesdale

            Very well said!

          • Marcus Small

            Linda I wonder about that. A friend has defined scepticism in the following way.

            Greek ‘σκέπτομαι’ skeptomai, to think, to look about, to consider. There are equivalent spellings US “skepticism”, English spelling “scepticism”. Sceptics are thus those who would think, look and consider rather than simply react or subscribe.

            I like that bit about not reacting or subscribing. Seems to me that is the rational way when it comes to our metaphysical commitments. That s what belief is, its a commitment. For me our metaphysical commitments are to be held contingently. Subject to adjustment or discarding.

          • Linda_LaScola

            But that is not to say that skeptics always react skeptically, anymore than emotionally-oriented people always react emotionally.

            Also, please don’t ask me to explain (maybe someone else can), but atheism and skepticism are not the same thing, although there is overlap.

          • Marcus Small

            No I agree that atheism and scepticism are not the same, one can be religious and a sceptic. What I was questioning was the statement:

            I’d also say that we ARE more rational about that one thing – the existence of a deity.

            Could you qualify that? Are you saying that not believing is more rational than believing? Are not both making a claim to knowledge, and therefore both need to substantiate those claims. The sceptic on the other hand perhaps maintains a more agnostic position, that of informed ignorance rather than knowledge.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I’m saying it’s rational not to believe in something invisible for which there is no evidence and that is outside of nature (supernatural). That would go for any manner of things, including deities.

          • Marcus Small

            May I defer on that, I am not sure I agree, but I can’t quite articulate (its fairly late on Friday night) why I don’t agree.

          • John Lombard

            I’d disagree with you, with some qualification. Skepticism, critical thinking, and rationalism do NOT necessarily lead to true conclusions; one’s conclusions are only as good as the evidence one has to support them.

            Take my case as a young believer (before 18 yrs. old). I was raised in a devout Christian atmosphere where there was plentiful ‘evidence’ of the reality of my beliefs — people who testified to amazing miracles, personal witness of people speaking in tongues, stories of people’s lives transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit, etc. At the same time, I had very limited evidence or knowledge of scientific theories or proof (I grew up in a tiny village where everyone was religious).

            It was NOT irrational for me to accept as ‘true’ the belief in a god at that time. But as I gained more knowledge, and started to see contradictions and problems, I pursued that knowledge, and ultimately accepted the conclusions that it led me towards — that there was no god.

            The important thing here is that I was EQUALLY RATIONAL as a believer, and as a non-believer. Had I not been rational as a believer, I would never have pursued and studied the evidence against my beliefs, or ultimately changed them.

            I think this is one of the most fundamental mistakes to which atheists are prone — the tendency to define how rational people are according to WHAT they believe, rather than WHY they believe it. The plain fact is, there are people who can believe in god for very rational reasons (they do not have access to, or are not aware of, evidence that contradicts their beliefs); and there are people who can reject god for very irrational reasons.

            And this is a very important issue — because if we approach religious people with the implicit assumption that we are more rational than them, this leads almost inevitably to an attitude of condescension (albeit often unconscious), which will inevitably affect how they see and respond to us.

          • Marcus Small

            I agree with that John. Why do we believe? What do we mean by that word ‘believe’. When I say believe in my friends I am not saying anything about their existence, I know they exist, and they have shown themselves to be worthy of my belief in them. If I say I believe in a particular way of living, it is partly because that particular way of living has shown itself worthy of my belief in it. If say I believe in God am I saying something about God’s existence? Yes…. But its more than that. If I say I believe in God, its because I have reasons, loyalty to upbringing, sense of identity, validity of a way of living, an intuitive sense of something that’s bigger, something for which I might have reverence. I could go on. And yet… Are those good reasons? What would be a good, reason? How does one decide what is a good reason and what is not? Questions, questions, questions.

            ‘There is no time on this island.

            The swinging pendulum of the tide

            has no clock: the events

            are dateless. These people are not

            late or soon: they are just

            here with only the one question

            to ask, which life answers

            by being in them. It is I

            who ask. Was the pilgrimage

            I made to come to my own

            self, to learn that in times

            like these and for one like me

            God will never be plain and

            out there, but dark rather and

            inexplicable, as though he were in here?’

            R. S. THOMAS (1913-2000)

          • Mary Johnson

            I, too, thought I was being rational when I believed in Christianity. After all, Jesus was a good man who worked miracles and said he was God’s son. Why shouldn’t we believe him?

            Those were the thoughts of an earnest teenager who gave her heart to the God she believed Jesus revealed, a Hod of infinite love and mercy.

            Only after years of study did I come to understand that the Gospels weren’t journalism, that Jesus probably never claimed to be God’s son, that the records of miracles written decades later by people with an interest in proving Jesus’ divinity ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

            Christians often reason themselves into believing, based on their understanding of the evidence at hand. I think it’s always valuable to study the evidence more closely and reinterpret conclusions based on new evidence.

          • Marcus Small

            Although this applies to a different religion I do think it apposite.
            ‘[My book’s] natural opponents are those who have made statements about the old religions of these islands which are not supported by, or have ceased to be supported by, the evidence. In a sense, by establishing that we really do know very little about the subject, it provides a greater freedom to those who wish to make their own interpretations of it without any claim that these are objective or binding. I hope that it will give sceptics peace of mind, and yet leave others [i.e. in this case contemporary Pagans] free to dream.’

            Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, Their Nature and Their Legacy.

          • I always say I wouldn’t belong to any echo chamber that would have me. And you can misquote me on that.

        • Kent Truesdale

          Whew! I thought I smelled sarcasm but you’re obviously an excellent practitioner of it 😉

        • MNb

          Though I’m willing to recognize some exceptions I think Jesusmythology largely pseudoscience. Way to many JM’s are arguing for a predetermined conclusion.
          My position is actually “worse”. I don’t think very high of Jesus. He is quite irrelevant for my worldview.

  • Marcus Small

    This is what I call my January Creed, after Christmas and before Lent. But its not my last word.
    My Creed:
    I remember in the January snow of 2010 spending five minutes filming the back garden. The snow fell silently. The sound of traffic was more intermittent than usual. In the snow the world is quieter. With leafless branches pointing into white skies there’s a great simplicity in a snowscape, as there is in any winter landscape. Everything is stripped back. Like the unbleached woollen garments worn by Cistercian monks.

    As snowflakes lose their identity in the snow-bed’s totality of white, so I am reminded that I am nothing and at the same time a part of, and at fundamental level connected to, everything. At the heart of simplicity is the clarity, unity and in the end bare reality so beloved of the mystics. I am increasingly inclined to the view that the ultimate reality, which might be called God, Nirvana whatever, is this clear, silent, still and unfurnished heart of an ‘onion-like’ reality.

    Any sense we might have of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘self’ or ‘soul’, is an illusion, a trick of the mind, generated to prevent it from seeing the ultimate reality, indeed realising the emptiness. These illusions protect the mind from seeing what it fears to see, that it itself is an illusion. The mind fears emptiness, it fears silence, and thus seeks to realise its self, creating the illusions of ‘self’, ‘soul’, I’ and ‘me’.

    At one level we need this sense of self in order to survive. This body of mine needs to be able to say ‘that’s my food’ ‘I will guard it.’ But there’s a down-side as well.

    The sense of self can lead to a ‘me versus you’ an ‘us and them’ way of thinking. This in turn pushes us away from realising the ultimate simplicity of reality. There is but one thing. It is mostly nothing and we are all a part of it. As Einstein put it “human beings are a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe”, a part limited in time and space. We experience our self, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest.., a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

    The temple in Jerusalem, like other temples had a space at its heart in which to place an idol of the God. The space was called the holy of holies. In the Jerusalem temple the holy of holies was empty. God was represented by nothing but an empty space. God was not to be represented by an image created by human minds and hands. Maybe that is true of you and me. Perhaps in order to ‘see’ ourselves as we really are we must learn to discard the images and concepts we have created to represent our selves.

    If this sounds depressing, bleak, nihilistic, and even hopeless, on a cold January morning, it is perhaps that we mistake the unfurnished heart of things for the absence of anything real. That is perhaps an error, for the emptiness points us to the ultimate reality that which I call God. And what is love other than the expression of a need to reconnect beings made separate by the illusion of self. Love is a emptying of self to connect more fully with the other. God, they say, is Love.

    A New Year like a new day is like a clean slate, a time for a greater simplicity, a time remember the self emptying nature of love. In the clarity of leafless branches pointing into white skies we can learn again to see our true humanity emptied of all idols and illusions.

    • Mary Johnson

      Marcus, your thoughts (and the way you express them) are so beautiful. I agree with you that learning to disregard images and concepts can be a step toward experiencing the heart of a silent reality. That knowledge can be so valuable. Yet to express it we have nothing but concepts and images, like the snow and the leafless branches you so eloquently describe. The irony, the paradox, the silence we perceive yet cannot express but through words and images which are not silent at all. The utter inexplicability and inexpressibleness of reality–there’s a lot of mystery out there. And it can be wondrous to behold.

      • Marcus Small

        Mary thank you and yes I agree inexpressible though it is, we seem compelled to try to express that which can ‘t be expressed. Did you ever read Thomas Merton’ account of his encounter with the Buddhist statues at Polonnaruwa.
        I friend of mine, an atheist, once said that theology would do far if it started like science in ignorance. I liked that idea, but thought that it has to proceed in a different way through speculation, reflection and living theologically, i.e. saying the office, breaking the bread, drinking the wine, living with and for others. Yet at the same time we/I hold all those things as contingent, being prepared to let go of all the theology we/I have created and start again.

        • Mary Johnson

          Merton had some very wise things to say.

          If theology were truly willing to let go of itself, we’d all be better off. I think that the exalted place given to tradition by much of theology does make it harder for theology to take itself less seriously. Of course, the tradition I came from is Roman Catholicism, which has been strongly fettered by tradition in the last few centuries especially.

          Theologies which base themselves in what they believe to be God’s true revelation often end up taking themselves far too seriously.

          Starting in ignorance, testing everything, making conclusions not on what we’d like to be true but on what holds up to scholarly scrutiny — this seems like a way forward to me.

          • Marcus Small

            I am an Anglican, we are not quite so bound to tradition. That said there is much in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practice I personally find conducive, just so long as is not compulsory or has to be taken as revealed truth. I realise that’s having one’s cake and eating it. But I suppose I have come to see Christianity as a way of living rather than a creed to be assented to.

  • MNb

    “I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.”
    Meh. I don’t believe in earth. I recognize that there is a universe.
    Same for the rest. Just replace “believe” by “recognize”, “assume”, “opine”, whatever. To believe implies faith. I don’t need faith.
    Mind you, concerning the content I largely agree.
    OK, without much thinking, so I don’t claim to be accurate or complete:

    This material universe (might be a multiverse) is all there is.
    The few decades of my life is all I have.
    Like the vast majority of mankind I’m rather happy than unhappy, whatever happiness means.
    Freedom comes with responsibility.
    I can only be free if all the others around my are free as well (thanks, Bakunin).
    Cognitive skills come with responsibility.
    If I’m old (that won’t last that long anymore) I want to look back and be able to say that I made a difference (I already can).
    My heroes (though far from infallible) are Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

    • Mary Johnson

      I really appreciate those words about freedom: “Freedom comes with responsibility. I can only be free if all the others around my are free as well.” Amen.

      By “believe” I don’t so much mean granting intellectual assent to something’s existence. Here I’m asking myself, “Where do I place my trust?” So for me the question is a bit different that recognizing or expressing an opinion. It’s about the realities in which I choose to place my trust.

      • MNb

        Yeah, I already thought so. I just expressed my dislike.

  • Marcus Small

    (1) I believe in love, compassion, mercy, justice, grace, and forgiveness.
    (2) I believe that reality will find its ultimate meaning in these things.
    I believe that the stories I was told as a child, the stories I continue to read, these stories inspired the belief in the validity of (1) and in the possibility of (2).

    I know that have no real grounds for believing the second statement (2), I could be wrong. I can, nevertheless choose to live as if it were true, and that choice does not seem irrational.

    • Mary Johnson

      Choosing values like love, compassion, mercy, justice, grace, and forgiveness seems like a good way to live.

  • Alma Mercer

    thank you sounds very logical to me, and I like that .

  • jcmmanuel

    I believe we can live our lives gracefully and we should see each others potential to do the same.

  • Guest

    This is actually a revision of the “Nicene Creed” from the Council of Nicea, 325 CE.

  • bill wald

    Please define “believe.”

    • Mary Johnson

      Of course, “to believe” has several different definitions, and I think that in this passage I employ several different senses of the word “believe,” but mainly here I don’t so much mean granting intellectual assent to something’s existence. Here I’m asking myself, “Where do I place my trust?”

      Sometimes I think about the founding fathers of the United States, how they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” They weren’t going to argue about whether or not all men are created equal and are endowed with liberty–they were going to hold these truths as self-evident and then build a society based upon them. More than two hundred years later we’re still trying to do that, and to understand exactly what liberty and equality mean, but we nearly all agree that freedom and equality are foundation stones of American democracy. The founding fathers believed in those particular values.

      So that’s not really a definition of belief, for you, Bill, but I think that in writing a creed or a declaration of independence, what we are really doing is writing about where we choose to put our trust, which are the values we will hold sacred (another word with many meanings–here I mean it in a very secular sense).

      • bill wald

        Thanks for the reply. It makes sense.

  • Scotty Greene

    Curious as to need to include the “don’t believes”?

    • Mary Johnson

      I suppose I did that to contrast with what I used to believe, to set my new worldview apart from my old one…..

      • Scotty Greene

        Thank you. They (the “don’t believes”) seem superfluous for an affirmative creed and more than suggest a value judgement of those that still hold those beliefs.

        • Mary Johnson

          Ah, Scotty, I don’t mean to judge anyone for the beliefs he or she may hold. I don’t really think I’m in a position to judge others at all. Perhaps part f the trouble may be casting this as a creed rewritten for Humanists I didn’t intend it that way, as being something that would be applicable to anyone but myself. This can be the problem with headlines sometimes….

  • remliw

    One of my creeds:


    Today, I arise on just this side of fourteen billion years of time,
    Today, I arise in a moment before many immediate possibilities,
    Part of everything past and empowered by all the possibilities of the future….

    Today, I experience the awe in the gratuity of the Universe,
    In the grain of sand, in the life of an ant or an elephant,
    I experience the awe of my own beating heart.

    Today, I take a step on a journey with a unknown destiny,
    Trusting in the hope of arriving in a good place,
    Trusting, even in bad places, in the emergence of better places.

    Today, in moments of solitude, I experience a bloom of awareness,
    All alone, but connected with the entire web of interdependent life,
    Just me, by myself, I am in all and all is in me.

    Today, I face all the terrible things that happen in our world,
    The horror of starvation, torture, and pain shatter me,
    Experiencing the breaking of every barrier to acting in love.

    Today, as my eyes droop, I experience the rest, or escape, or even ecstasy of dreams,
    Even awake, the ecstasy of hearing or visions or transport can come,
    The best, the ecstasy of serendipitous creativity, immanent and transcendent.

    Everyday, God finds me!

    Experiencing Life: a personal, ecumenical, Christian perspective. John R King, Jr.

    • Mary Johnson

      I was with you every step of this exuberant credo to life…. Until the last line. Sometimes I wonder if attributing all to God is just the expected punch line. I don’t know John R. King or his work, so I wouldn’t hazard even a guess as to his intentions in writing that last line, but I must say that I think the poem/creed stands just as well (and in my opinion, better) without the last line….

  • remliw

    Apostles Creed (my own personal revision)


    I trust in God, our Caregiver, the primal ground,

    creativity in heaven and earth and all….

    And in Jesus, the Christ,

    our Leader and Teacher,

    anointed by the awareness of God,

    born of Mary, low, but greater than any ruler,

    suffered under Pontius Pilate,

    crucified, dead and buried,

    gone from life in the shadows of memory,

    on the third day raised from the dead,

    raised into our hearts, our lives;

    he is now our radicalized trust in God, our Caregiver;

    from there he comes, always,

    to judge us all.

    I trust in Guidance by the consciousness of God,

    the global gathering,

    open participation with all,

    a generous path to a complete life,

    resurrection of the dead

    and continuing abundant life.


    Experiencing Life: A Personal, Ecumenical, Christian Perspective. John R. King, Jr.

    • Mary Johnson

      That’s a very moving creed, remliw. I wonder what the experience of writing it was like for you……

  • remliw

    Another one of mine!


    One: God! Bang? Or Bang! God? Being Itself. Heat, expansion, and the arrow of time starts to fly, forward it flies. God before time, after time, God has time. God in time and more than time.

    Two: God. In the falling apart and the pulling together,

    is there no big crunch? God, the structure. God in and God is and God of non-uniform density hangs the stars, the galaxies, and all the great forms of the universe. Mystery pervades.

    A grounding of all.

    Hydrogen, helium, neutrinos, and photons swirl.

    Protostars, black-body radiation, fusion begins, matter emerges, creativity stirs, stars are born. Supergiants. Giants. Dwarfs. Sub-dwarfs. Yellow, red, hot white, black.

    Elements, discrete associations, chemistry appears. God’s cauldronic brew of quantum mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Everything is changing in ancient, deep time. Do not lose patience, billions of years to go, God has time

    A principle of exclusion, serendipitously, new things emerge. Great complexity. Infomatic matter, emergent of an immanent God.

    Three: Planetismals circle the protostars, wanderers formed from disks of stardust, waiting to stagger across a great cathedral vault. Solar systems. Suns. A sun. Emergent suprises.

    Earth, our world, it melts. Uranium and thorium and potassium are captured, boiling the core, heat flows, plates shift, continents drift. Frozen accidents or frozen minds?

    The geosphere, rocks…water….air….life. Rocks harden, move, explode

    Rocks, water, air, life! Changing, moving complexity. Small, hot planets with no air….escaped. Large, cold planets with no air…compressed to liquid or solid. Amazing earth with ice, liquid, and vapor all held in a narrow range. Life, a reality of earth itself.

    Four: Metabolism with unity and diversity. Among all the chemical possibilities, why life? Cells, multicellularity, animals, neurons and neural nets. Noetic features deep in matter. Behavior with purpose. More mystery: knowing, vocation, God. Symmetry, cephalization. Fish, bugs, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, mammals, hominids. A long evolutionary process. All with a place, a purposeful niche in which to compete.

    Five: Primates, Apes. Genes proceed but now learning and information and community emerge. Biological fitness moves toward social fitness. The bodies slow down and the mind speeds up. Consciousness warms, grows hot, the bright flame of thought appears.

    Homo sapiens survive. Humankind.

    Six: Transcendence’s appearance. God spoke, but no one heard. God speaks, humans hear. Beginnings struggle to be understood by those who came from the beginnings. Many knows the details, no one knows the mind of God. Creativity races forward on a wave of words. Good and evil, past and present, shall and shall not. A place to choose, to fall back or to step forward, to not quite reach our humanity or to reach beyond all that we have been.

    Seven: God rests in the temple universe. We stand in awe of the starry vault of the heavens as we fall on our knees on the lands of our earthly home.
    Experiencing Life: A Personal, Ecumenical, Christian Perspective. John R. King, Jr.

  • Gordon Duffy

    “I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era”

    I don’t believe this.

    • Don’t know what’s so implausible about it.

      • Gordon Duffy

        It is plausible that a man existed, but I have no reason to think it was that one.

        • Marcus Small

          When I look at the synoptic Gospels I see two main purposes.
          1) The conveyance of a set of teachings attributed to a particular teacher.
          2) To interpret the significance of the life and death of that teacher.
          With regard to 1) I see no real reason to doubt the existence of a teacher who taught those teachings. Someone taught them, why not someone called Jesus?
          As to 2) well that’s theology, i.e. the interpretation of a set of events.
          As to miracles. Stories about miracles are to expected. Both Edward the Confessor and Charles II were said have cured people. No one doubts their existence because of that.

          • Gordon Duffy

            Someone brought me presents as a child so why not Santa? I need more than “why not” to buy the premise of a book where a man rises from the dead in a form where his friends do not recognise him.

          • Marcus Small

            where a man rises from the dead in a form where his friends do not recognise him.

            But we are not discussing that are we? We are asking whether or not there was a first century Galilean Jew, named Iesous/Isho who lived and taught and had his teaching recorded? For me the question is why should I not believe this person existed?

          • Gordon Duffy

            the null hypothesis. I will believe it when evidence presents itself.

          • Marcus Small

            There is evidence for a life. The cultural artefact ‘Christianity’ which occurs rather too quickly in the historical record. Why does historical Christianity occur so quickly? The simplest explanation is a life from which it arises.

    • Mary Johnson

      Yes, the idea that Jesus never existed at all is being tossed around a lot these days. I still think the evidence mostly points to him having existed. For more from others who support Gordon’s view that Jesus didn’t exist, see

      • Gordon Duffy

        Given that there’s no contempory evidence I will see your 4 Gospels and raise you 7 Harry Potter books.

        • If you’re saying that the Gospels were fiction, you’re unlikely to get much disagreement around here. But what Mary affirms in her post is not the existence of a miracle-working, death-defying demigod, but rather a rabble-rousing rabbi who was executed by the Romans. The fact that his biography later accrued all sorts of mythological details to gain converts in the meme-pool of the day doesn’t mean that he was a fictional character made up out of whole cloth, as the mythicists appear to claim. In the case of Jesus, there appears to have been a systematic effort to elaborate on a biography whose details weren’t perfect for propaganda purposes; for instance, his origin in a backwater like Galilee isn’t what we’d expect from a Messiah, hence the awkward and implausible narrative that gets him and his family into the land of David for a birthplace more appropriate to the King of the Jews. If Jesus were wholly mythical, why would the mythmakers have insisted he was a Galilean in the first place? It’s inconsistencies like this that indicate efforts to bolt mythological aspects onto an existing biography rather than creation de novo.

          I’m not sure how much “contemporary evidence” we should expect to see for a podunk rabbi whose brief mission initially ended in death and disgrace: do you expect coin of the realm and statues? Ultimately, though, Harry Potter isn’t a good analogy. The mere fact that Phillippa Gregory or Bernard Cornwell wrote fiction about Henry VIII or Mary Queen of Scots doesn’t mean either of these two historical figures were fictional. People have written plenty of fiction about real historical figures.

          • Gordon Duffy

            At best you are arguing for Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. Nobody would find it remarkable to assert that there existed a relatively insignificant wandering rabbi. What I have not been given enough evidence to assert is that a particular character really existed.

      • Yes, the idea that Jesus never existed at all is being tossed around a lot these days.

        I think that after decades of dogging creationists, we nonbelievers are excited to finally have an Internet hoax that tells us what we want to hear.

  • Dave Ucannottaknow

    …that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.

    Why would you say that? That he got people to follow him says only that he wasn’t freakish enough on the surface to scare people off, as were Jim Jones, David Koresh, and many other cult leaders. Evidence abounds from biblical accounts alone that Jesus was a bit of a bad-tempered, megalomaniacal narcissist – I particularly loved the way he cut loose and trashed the Jerusalem temple. For he was the one true way to “the father”, to heaven, and life eternal, and boy did he ever know it!

    • Mary Johnson

      Yes, the gospels do portray a Jesus who could be very bad-tempered (can’t we all be cross from time to time?), and one who presented himself as the one true way to “the father” — but I’m not sure that that last bit was how Jesus presented himself. It’s that whole question of separating the Jesus of history from the Jesus of Christian mythology. For more on this, I like Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God.” Also Reza Aslan’s “Zealot.”

    • Damien McLeod

      The odds are he never existed at all, but Mary’s moving in the right direction.

      • I’d love to know how you calculated the odds for that. There must have been plenty of Yeshuas in the area, and the Romans were not known for their patience with rabble-rousing rabbis. There must have been a lot of failed Messiahs around. But you think it’s more likely no such person ever existed?

        • Damien McLeod

          It wasn’t a calculation, it was a comment, based on various articles I’ve read over the years. I don’t believe in messiahs failed or successful, or gods, or the supernatural, or any of the delusions of so called believers in such things. I wouldn’t mind so much if people want to believe such silliness if they would just quit trying to tell the rest of us that they have something worth listening to.

          P.S. I love your phase Rabble-Rousing Rabbis, I would add to it Rabble-Rousing Pastors, Rabble-Rousing Priests, Rabble-Rousing Islamist’s, Rabble-Rousing Tea Partiers, Rabble-Rousing Politicians, it’s a great term, I haven’t heard it used in years. Being a new-atheist I suppose there are those who will think I’m a Rabble-Rouser too. Yea, a great old term to express my insolent waywardness.

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    It strikes me that much of this is less an affirmation of what Ms. Johnson believes and more an affirmation of what she doesn’t believe.

    And in that regard, the real alternative may have been well-captured by Dorothy Sayers (although admittedly by way of a parody of the parody):

    “I believe in man, maker of himself and inventor of all science. And in myself, his manifestation, and captain of my psyche; and that I should not suffer anything painful or unpleasant.

    And in a vague, evolving deity, the future-begotten child of man; conceived by the spirit of progress, born of emergent variants; who shall kick down the ladder by which he rose and tell history to go to hell.

    Who shall some day take off from earth and be jet-propelled in the heavens; and sit exalted above all worlds, man the master almighty.

    And I believe in the spirit of progress, who spake by Shaw and the Fabians; and in a modern, administrative, ethical, and social organization; in the isolation of saints, the treatment of complexes, joy through health, and destruction of the body by cremation (with music while it burns), and then I’ve had it.”

    Dorothy L. Sayers

    • Mary Johnson

      Dorothy Sayers is always good for a laugh or two!

      • Are you saying Ms. Sayers presented this piece as an attempt at humor? Or, that you find her creed laughable?

        • Mary Johnson

          I’m saying that one thing I’ve always enjoyed about so much of Sayers’ work is her sense of humor. Of course, in this creed she says a lot of serious stuff–and I agree with much of what she’s saying–but she does it with humor. I don’t think Sayers’ creed is an attempt at humor–I’m saying that she is very funny while she says very serious things. (And of course, I didn’t say that too accurately the first time round, so thanks for asking for a clarification.)

    • Linda_LaScola

      And what do you believe in, Rev Schmidt?

      • Frederick William Schmidt

        Linda, I’m a Nicene Creed guy. (Lots of other things I believe in, but that’s at the center.) I’m also convinced that in the absence in the belief in something transcendent or (in my case, someone transcendent), the imputation of value, meaning, or morality to existence is wishful thinking in a merciless vacuum. Hence, my conviction that Sayers is right about the alternative.

        • Linda_LaScola

          Thanks – Is it plausible to you that those of us who don’t believe as you do, do not see our existence as a “merciless vacuum?”

          • Frederick William Schmidt

            Linda, yes….absolutely and they do. I’m just not convinced that as beautiful or noble as those convictions might be (and the lives that go along with them), that there is a convincing argument for the abiding significance of those choices in the absence of some larger telos for our existence and the existence of our universe. Thanks for asking.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Does there need to be a convincing argument? Atheists would say that theists don’t have a “convincing argument,” but it seems pretty obvious to me that people (atheists/liberal Christians) who are alike in many ways, in terms of promoting empirical knowledge social justice, can have innately different perspectives about this.

  • Damien McLeod

    How many angels are dancing on/in the pin-like heads of christians? Science is so much more interesting than all the scrolls, holy books, etc, that have ever been written. Oh well, I think I’ll go to taco bell, then maybe take a nap.

    • Science is so much more interesting than all the scrolls, holy books, etc, that have ever been written.

      The process of formulating hypotheses, accumulating observations, and interpreting data is so much more interesting than religious poetry and music?

      Enjoy the taco.

  • I appreciate your thoughts and “creed” Linda. I’ve had to remind myself: be careful when burning bridges!…some people are still there, crossing, pausing, or reflecting… Be also careful when toppling idols!…many are still bowing below them and might easily be crushed. Living an example is the best education, it awakens and brings enlightenment, but scorn only makes enemies. Its frustrating at times when we deal with those who we feel are still deeply entrenched in ragged paradigms. But in these kinds of forums open dialog can bring in needed light where change is allowed to come gently

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    Linda, the nature of adult life and the mark of spiritual and intellectual maturity is the will to make commitments in the face of uncertainties, unanswered questions, and unanswerable questions. Pascal’s wager…we’ll see and in the meantime, we can certainly work for the common good. But I wouldn’t want to think it was all a noble gesture in a vacuum. As Paul noted, that would be the saddest option of all.