A reasonable blog on atheism, religion, science and skepticism
Follow Patheos Atheist:
And thus was born religious mysogeny
So not that most religions don’t teach that Adam and Eve really existed, they still say Jesus had a job to do. The Garden of Eden story is not taken as literal history any more, but when will the masses figure out that if Adam and Eve didn’t sin, well…. there is no need for Jesus.
I like the image. Nice. http://www.wecreatedgod.com
The oldest version of the Adam story didn’t even include Eve, or the snake for that matter. It also wasn’t the first story after Genesis. Only after Eve and the snake were added and the story gained meaning by being the tale told post-genesis did people see it as the origin of humanity.
I forget the name of the lady who presented it but there was a nice investigation of that on a BBC series a while back.
But yeah, this is awesome, Jesus had to die ’cause a woman ate an apple.
I’m a bit confused the more I read the Bible. Some of it just doesn’t make sense.
I really do want to believe but even the accounts about the Jesus life are not consistent. I’m talking about Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. They don’t seem to agree on a lot of things: How exactly Jesus died. Who was there. Upon the resurrection, who actually saw Him first? Everybody seems to have a different story. Check this ! His own disciples present an inconsistent story as to whether He did or did not ever travel to Egypt in His youth. The street speed limit in NYC is 30 mph. unless posted otherwise. That is consistent. Why can’t we find consistency here? Any ideas?
Well, the Bible is cobbled together by a lot of contributors, and though it’s been heavily redacted, inconsistencies are bound to occur. This doesn’t really have to be a problem if you can accept the Bible as being a product of fallible human authors (who apart from being inconsistent, which is to be expected, have clearly taken some *ahem* liberties regarding history). Though the Bible is not inerrant you can still choose to believe in its overall message – whatever that overall message may be; the Bible is inconsistent even on the big issues, as demonstrated by the existence of thousands of differing Christian denominations.
Personally, I don’t discard Christianity based on biblical inconsistencies, since they in themselves don’t disprove the existence of God – although I do like to point them out. For me, it’s the general absurdity of it, the lack of evidence, and the obvious similarities to so many other myths and religions. Also, it doesn’t help that the Bible (NT included) depicts an immoral, unjust and barbaric god I’d find unworthy of worship even if he existed.
My suggestion…..quit reading the “stories” and instead read the words of Jesus only. Forget all the “he went there” then “he did this” crap. Just read HIS words, then base your judgement of Jesus on that alone. Most people I’ve challenged to do this, atheists included, come to realize how great Jesus really was.
Keep in mind that you must be willing to throw out the miracle stories, the divinity of Jesus, and other such concepts. Judge him for his words and teachings, and you will quickly agree that he was perhaps one of the greatest men to ever walk this earth.
Some here would be quick to disagree, but I firmly believe this is because their view of Jesus is skewed by modern Christian thought and teachings, which are far removed from the actual teachings of Christ.
[A] woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about [Jesus], and came and fell down at his feet. The woman was a Greek, by race a Phoenician from Syria. And she started asking him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He responded to her like this: “Let the children first be fed, since it isn’t good to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to the dogs!” But as a rejoinder she says to him: “Sir, even the dogs under the table get to eat scraps dropped by children!” Then he said to her: “For that retort, be on your way, the demon has come out of your daughter.” She returned home and found the child lying on the bed and the demon gone (Mark 7:25-30).
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53).
“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for
marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32).
And so on, and so on. The guy portrayed in the Bible was an interesting one, but by no means a superlative moral or practical leader. He had good ideas sometimes, though the vast majority of those were not original to him. He had bad ideas sometimes, too. Christianity’s insistence on deifying the figure of Jesus makes the problem of taking account of the character much more difficult, but even without that interference, Jesus was not exactly the clear-thinking genius you seem to think he was.
Prove he existed, and I’ll look again at some of the things he’s supposed to have said.
In your own time.
I don’t think that’s a workable criteria for judging the ideas expressed under the name. Plato attributed a heckuva lot of ideas to Socrates, and it is doubtful that Socrates ever existed; this does not in any way diminish the content of the ideas written under the character’s name, nor the consideration they are due.
Whether Jesus existed or not, the ideas attributed to him have independent value (positive or negative as they may, in turns, be).
I’ve noticed that quite a lot of people like a nice quote by someone, and it doesn’t matter if it was a character in a movie, they attribute it to the character’s voice and not to the script writer. Quotes are good guidelines, fortune cookies are also adequate at some times when they actually apply and make sense, to remind you of things you want to think about. They can also be totally wrong, or just sound nice and neat that it doesn’t matter if they are sensible. I don’t really think Jesus is especially important, but a few good quotes or sentiments can be attributed to him, while other people can have said the same things in different words. People like quotes and quotable people and characters to guide them.
Indeed, people need narratives to make sense of life, and narratives need voices. Jesus is, as you say, not particularly important for his ideas, which by-and-large are mostly derivative of prior and contemporary thinkers (or, in some cases, just plain bad).
But I don’t think it problematic to note that there is indeed some value in their presence (at least, the better ideas) in the narrative which does, for many, help to frame the meaning of their lives.
I happen to think Fred “Mr.” Rogers was a really important figure, in all seriousness, and said many things that helped people, and even there, I have to assume he got most of his ideas and motivation from the bible, him being a minister and all that. Without the bible and Jesus’ words, he probably would have done something else with his time, although if a man were seeking his purpose in the world without a Jesus Christ to ask, I like to think he’s still capable of seeing the same void in children’s programming and filling it with his sort of gentle and non-judgmental straightforward kindness and appreciation for pretending out all sorts of childhood burdens with puppets, and fighting Congress for the need for public television in general. If he got all that from believing in Jesus, it doesn’t matter to me that Jesus wasn’t a real person and the bible isn’t true.
Agreed on all points.
And Mr. Rogers was the man.
Whether Jesus existed or not, the ideas attributed to him have independent value
That is true in principle, but few Christians treat the words of Jesus as independent ideas that must be judged on their own merits. Instead, they treat everything he allegedly said as truth because, well, because they think it was Jesus who said them. It’s the ultimate argument from authority. As long as these ideas/assertions are attached to Jesus, don’t expect any serious evaluation of them from believers (except perhaps when their ambiguity leaves them open to interpretation).
True. I was responding to Nathan’s particular suggestion that if one were to ignore the authority arguments and just look at Jesus’ attributed words, we’d all understand that he was way awesome. Most Christians, as you illustrate, are unwilling to carry such a flight of hypothesis even that far where Jesus is concerned.
Yes, we unbelievers can of course evaluate Jesus’ words for ourselves. And as you yourself mention we usually find some of them to be good, some of them bad, and none of them original or revolutionary. I think most of us aren’t as impressed as Nathan likes to think.
And, I might add, it’s possible to find ideas in philospohy and literature that are both superior to and more refined than anything Jesus said, so I fail to see why we should give the words of Jesus special significance – except for the implicitly suggested reason that it was Jesus who said them.
The Beatles said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” I do know that some people make a special case for Jesus having said some things (I remember a post about a “Christian Atheist” a while ago) that make the Christian think, but different speakers, artists, teachers, tv characters, fortune cookies, etc., say something, and people are going to clip it out and post it on their facebook. It’s like a greeting card saying things you find difficult to express in your own boring words. My therapist tried to give me a sheet of quotes, and I said, “I don’t care for quotes.” They may amount to sensible prose, but it’s not more important that someone says something as someone pretends to live by them. I’ve seen less evidence that people put their favorite quotes to use than just like the ideal of someone having put their own thoughts into much more important-sounding phrases.
I guess what I was trying to say (if only there were some apt quote to say it for me) is that I don’t really care where people borrow nice ideas from, what I think we ought to concentrate on is the “and then what?” It’s nice to admire a well-put phrase by a speaker one may regard as a genius (or even a savior), but I would ask them how they put these thoughts to good use in their actual life. Do they do it, do they act on it, or just have it stitched on a pillow? If more people acted like the Christ they admire in the story, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea just because it came from the bible, and you should tell them that, rather than point out that Jesus isn’t real to start with.
Why do you care if he existed? You couldn’t agree that some of the teachings attributed to him are indeed worth applying to ones life? Isn’t it the teachings that are important, and not the teacher?
Not when the teachings are claimed to have been by example, and when so many people use his existence to claim authority and power. Then it really does matter whether the teacher exists.
TRJ already addressed this point above.
“And, I might add, it’s possible to find ideas in philospohy and literature that are both superior to and more refined than anything Jesus said, so I fail to see why we should give the words of Jesus special significance – except for the implicitly suggested reason that it was Jesus who said them”
I would say that superiority in philosophy is a matter of opinion; that of the individual, and that of the whole. But this argument still fails to answer the underlying question. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jesus saying it, Plato saying it, Santa Claus saying it….if we deem it worthy of being called truth, or at the least, worthy of living one’s life in such a way, then why not acknowledge this fact rather than attempt to denigrate all things Jesus? He/she (TRJ) never really elaborated on these “superior ideas.”
You just said it didn’t matter who said it as long as it’s true. Then you just said it did matter because we were denigrating everything that Jesus said.
Please pick one.
The “most important” thing about Jesus is that he’s god in person form, and that he suicided-by-cop, basically, as a way to clean people who were made dirty by a mythical naked person who listened to a snake one time. He might have said some redundantly nice things, and I like those things too, I’ve seen Godspell, the point is people who look to Jesus to do their talking for them really mostly like him because he martyred himself to show how much he loves us, and not all those people are taking the good parts. See also: “no true Scotsman.” Even I think a “real Christian” should be like the nice Jesus, use the nice Jesus’ thoughts to motivate their efforts in life, but John C does that, and really without seeming to mean to, blathers incoherently about those themes. I don’t know what he does with the rest of his time, I have to say, but it’s all about the fallen and the saved, the error that made us this way and the death of a cult figure that conveniently can get everyone off the hook, but they have to beg for it to dwell in them. Whatever’s dwelling in him is obviously achieved by personal decision and conscientious effort, based on the nicest of Jesus’ examples, but his expression here focuses mainly on having taken the spirit in, the one who died on the cross, became that way from the inside out magically, and tries to save us all the time. That is a symptom of trying to be kind, but it actually is obnoxious. Other Christians display their gratitude over the execution of Jesus in a variety of ways, and behave in a way I don’t associate with the Jesus you’re wanting to quote by far.
Essentially, he didn’t save anyone from anything, he probably didn’t exist, he is a character in a book so someone else wrote what they thought sounds nice, and here it is 2000 years later, and you think Jesus is wise, Jesus said this, Jesus said that. As I said above, it’s common and not completely out of line to find some phrases inspiring, but Jesus is not original or specially wise for having said them. He’s someone people can use for good or for evil (in the superhero sense), whose primary purpose is so people have an imaginary friend who always takes their side in an argument, because he died on the cross.
Even if we assume Jesus existed (already a thing that we don’t exactly know), how can we know what he did or didn’t say?
Um, duh? It’s in red.
Hahhaaha that’s funny.
I’ll put it another way….I believe people could agree on the truth contained in the words attributed to Jesus if they would take an honest look at them without the influence of superstition or religious dogma. It’s not an issue of whether he existed. I didn’t say everyone should “have faith” in Jesus or believe he was some kind of deity. I’m suggesting that the virtues he (or purportedly, anyways) taught such as forgiveness and love (even to the extant of ones enemies), mercy, compassion, nonviolence, charity, etc……that these are things that could help rather than hinder the human condition. I believe most reasonable people would agree with these teachings.
People have been saying stuff like that for years – way before Jesus said them. Why attribute such sayings to him as if he’d invented them all?
Why would an atheist waste time trying to disprove something they don’t believe in the first place-sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine
Why would an atheist waste time trying to disprove something they don’t believe in the first place?
1. A politically powerful segment of the population does believe it, and relies on that belief to justify doing things to people who don’t.
2. If you think someone is making a demonstrable error of fact on an important topic of mutual concern, it does that person a disservice to fail to make them aware of it.
i.e. finding the truth. Thank you Elemenope
Because you can’t feed 7 officers 13 donuts each if you only make 28:
I suppose because maybe they’re interested in the truth? That would be my guess. Besides, are you saying that Atheists don’t believe in truth? Don’t believe in forgiving others? Don’t believe in mercy and compassion? I hope that’s not what you’re saying. But since we’re posting links, you might try this one:
Still a “no true Scotsman.” He’s interpreting the bible to present a correct version of its wisdom. I don’t doubt that he’s an atheist as well, but it’s a really weird hobby. I do believe the best of any religion is a guideline for serene living by any means necessary and/or appealing; sort of a self-help kind of thing.
There’s a little more to Christianity, as far as I can tell, than believing in supernatural, is that it’s the way. Psychobabble. It also looks like he wants to argue actual Christians “doin’ it wrong” that this is what the bible and Jesus is meant to be interpreted, and that they should alter their own interpretations after he shows them “the way.” (SPOILER ALERT: They won’t.) I guess rather than being an atheist who doesn’t believe there’s a deity period, he’s choosing one prominent religion to use biblical examples to “correct” the bad behaviors other people have gotten from the same bible. Nox does it better, but I have to admit neither one is a more real atheist than the other (if Ken Schei is not a liar); being a Buddhist is an attractive method for some in the Western world. Not sure how much of the woo is generally absorbed, it really seems to depend on the individual and how committed to the community they are, I’ve seen typically an obligatory buddha and maybe sometimes incense or candles. Candles are a common theme in many religions, but that doesn’t mean lighting a candle is religious or even symbolic. Cultural Jews also seem to observe some customs of faith, but not necessarily believe anything magical happens because of them. Families that eat dinner together are performing a cultural ritual, because they’re hungry and they live in the same house, so ritually commune to socialize about their day, and so bond better than families that do not make time to know one another. It’s a function, not magical. I don’t think it’s necessary to qualify Jesus as an authority on good living, and it still kind of functions as a crutch for people who may have bad feelings because they are doubting in god after a lifetime of relief, a support group. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but it’s not something to preach about – that atheists are missing Jesus and we all have to read and learn about Jesus, because that would be beginning to sound fanatical.
Re: Buddhists – in the US, most serious Buddhists are Asian immigrants or the children brought up in a Buddhist home. Anyone else seems essentially attracted to the exoticism of an eastern religion, just the same way you think Jesus was wise, Buddha is also wise. They may or may not (and I think usually not) buy into the magical aspects, although they probably consider themselves Buddhist and not align or recognize their atheism (“spiritual, but not religious”), nor recognize any similarity to Christianity they are likely more familiar with. Some Asians as well may be reaching back to their roots if they’d gotten far away from them. I’m probably making it worse, but Asian people in the West bringing their Buddhism with them and teaching it to their children are not the Western Buddhists I was referring to above.
I think I agree with almost everything you said. But now I’m not sure if that was a response to my comment or just a really big hit off the pipe.
Sounds like bizarro evangelism
Enter your email address:
Delivered by FeedBurner
Follow Patheos on
Copyright 2008-2013, Patheos. All rights reserved.