The following sentence is one that I repeat a lot because it doesn’t seem to get said enough by anyone else:
The literary character Jesus in the canonical gospels intended to return back down to earth with an army of angels to set virtually all humanity on fire for all eternity for the crime of being imperfect.
For comparison, here’s Hitler:
The historical person Adolf Hitler in the early 20th century intended to conquer the world with an army of stormtroopers and kill everyone he deemed defective.
For fictional comparison, here’s Ultron:
The fictional comic book character Ultron in the movie Avengers 2: Age of Ultron intended to drop an asteroid-sized city back down onto the earth to kill virtually all of humanity who neglected to sufficiently evolve.
Do I have my basic facts right (mythological, historical, and fictional, respectively)?
If I could communicate just one thing about Jesus to everyone, that first sentence about him would be it (though obviously there is much more to be said). I’ve laid this case out across 8 “Judging Jesus” videos so far. All the Bible references are right there in the YouTube video notes for your convenience if you want to skip to the part where you just read it for yourself. In my videos I argue (hopefully persuasively) that the issue is mainly a matter of basic reading comprehension and consistent moral standards. If you can answer short essay questions at the end of an assigned reading and figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are in popular comic book movies, you, too, can figure out that Jesus is hopelessly evil.
The cast of Monty Python claimed there was simply nothing to lampoon about Jesus himself and so made their Life of Brian movie about someone else (i.e. Brian) in the same cultural context of Jewish messianic fever. They must not have read the New Testament very carefully (take my guided intro tour here). We have morality reference classes on hand to explain how a person may appear outwardly one way, but in actuality be entirely another. Jesus even hands it right to us (as though he’s projecting) when he says in Matthew 7:15,
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
He says this ironically right after he admits in Matthew 7:14 what the dismal proportions of his body count of eternal torture are going to be (remember he claimed hell would be like torture in first century prisons and that it would last forever). If wanting to set most of humanity on fire is not harboring a “ferocious wolf” attitude then what is? We don’t even need a mob boss morality reference class where a kingpin is outwardly civil but in actually harbors intense menace for many of his fellow human beings who get in his way. We don’t need to point out that Nazis in person at a dinner party or at a train stop on the way to Auschwitz might be perfect gentlemen. Jesus busts himself with a perfectly viable morality reference class that explains the supposed disconnect between “gentle Jesus” and “sadist Jesus.” It’s been hiding in plain sight all along.
Just to be clear: I’m not talking about whomever a historical Jesus was or wasn’t (though he may very well have had some brand of his own apocalyptic delusions of grandeur). I don’t care that much since that Jesus is mostly lost (or obscured) at best and I’m much more concerned with the literary Jesus artifact that we’re stuck with culturally. I’m not even talking necessarily about the Jesus depicted elsewhere in the New Testament (though he actually gets worse in places, like in the book of Revelation, the endcap of the New Testament). And I’m primarily talking about the Jesus depicted in the gospel of Matthew (which, as a flagship ideological Christian document, is the first of the four canonical gospels and the very first book of the New Testament). Though most of that is supported in the other 3 gospels as well (but the least in the gospel of John). And if you happen to be a Jesus-loving Christian, I’m not trying to insult you by pointing out that this is probably not the deal you thought you signed up for.
This Jesus is in the morality reference class of comic book supervillians and 20th century genocidal dictators. There is no escaping that fact. You don’t just go setting billions of people on fire (mythologically speaking) and avoid legitimate comparisons to the worst atrocities of real and imagined histories. This is not a petty or frivolous thing to point out and quaint internet by-laws will not rescue a straightforward reasonable assessment of Jesus’ moral character. This matters because Jesus still matters (unfortunately) culturally and to those afflicted with Jesus-centric religion in their lives. Eventually (hopefully) Jesus will be tossed next to Zeus and others on the pile of mythological divinities no one minds morally chastising when the topic happens to arise in popular sentiment.
The fact that so many Christians (and even unbelievers) simply can’t seriously countenance my opening Jesus sentence (as merely an accurate descriptive statement about a character in an ancient book) and will fight tooth and nail to avoid acknowledging it in whole or in part as the most legitimate reading, backhandedly testifies strongly to how morally offensive the character Jesus so obviously is. They imagine the problem is with me and not with their largely Biblically illiterate, culturally-generated, motivated reasoning enshrining and protecting the moral, golden boy Jesus trope. Ironically it might take Jesus actually returning and setting all of them on fire for them to come around. “Is he still a great guy? Oh, really, why the change of heart?”
And this isn’t just some contrived atheist reading of the gospels. This basic view is sufficiently well subscribed by many modern Christians (see a pertinent example here if you don’t believe me). On this flip side of things, these kinds of Christians simply can’t countenance the obvious moral implications of their beloved savior that everyone else can clearly see. This isn’t just “Nazi Jesus.” This Jesus is infinitely *worse* than Hitler could ever have hoped to be. Arguably Hitler would have likely “saved” more of humanity than “few-will-be-saved” Jesus (see my full argument here) insofar as probably many more blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned humans fit into Hitler’s conception of what an acceptable person is. To side with Jesus against humanity is to merely have a moral nitpick with the Holocaust where Hitler was only in the wrong for jumping the gun and accidentally killing just a handful too many Jews that Jesus may have been inclined to pardon. These kinds of Christians desperately need to have their, “Are we the baddies?” epiphany.
Even “Annihilationism Jesus” (where the fires of hell burn most everyone up to non-existence) is still worse than every 20th century genocidal dictator *combined* as they didn’t set billions of people on fire even just (“just”) to kill them in mass. Raising billions of people from the dead just to set them on fire to briefly torture and kill them again is a genocidal war crime that would make even most comic book supervillians blush. That’s ironically going the extra mile to make sure you hate just about every member of a species that ever existed. Most tyrants with global domination on the mind would be significantly lazier than that and settle for mass killing the still extant representatives of the species.
It should hardly need to be pointed out that merely being imperfect isn’t a good reason to infinitely hate someone (see my case that Jesus was a superstitious, sadistic perfectionist here). A car with a scratch on it is still objectively useful. A person with a character defect is still just as objectively valuable in general if they would be without that defect. Any divine being who is infinitely hypersensitive to that is the one with the problem. That’s a just a divine “biology” problem, like a god who is allergic to even a few molecules of peanuts. Hardly a moral one. Humans didn’t choose to be born imperfect by default (and didn’t choose to be born, period, despite what the Mormons say). A certain god would have enabled and allowed (not to mention predestined as Paul claims) that to happen. That’s the last person who ought to complain about it especially given a natural morally perfect obligation to prevent even the possibility of even an iota of evil from ever transpiring in an entirely optional created domain.
And it should go without saying the supposed opt-out clause where it’s all okay because of the mere *possibility* (though obvious practical *improbability* by any reasonable reckoning) is a cop-out. If a mass shooter walked around a schoolyard and told a bunch of Christians that he wouldn’t kill them if they publicly denounce Christ, would that excuse that he was going to shoot them in the first place? Imperfect humans didn’t deserve to be eternally tortured in the first place! Even the worst person who ever lived couldn’t possibly deserve that since finite beings can’t be guilty of infinite crimes in a fair system of justice (as I explain here).
And if it’s so easy to “get out of jail” free, then why would only a handful of people be saved? It’s a plainly implausible excuse to deflect responsibility for such undeserved hatred of humanity. No one takes seriously the justifications of Hitler or Ultron. These cliche’ “bad guys” also didn’t say, “I’m the bad guy and I do bad guy things,” to make it so easy to dismiss them. Presumably they believed what they were doing was right, but their justifications were at the very least unsound. So why should we even bother with Jesus’ excuse? You know, if caring about people is like a thing.
One has to infinitely hate humanity to love Jesus and there isn’t a good reason to infinitely hate humanity. And certainly not over us merely being even slightly imperfect. I see no way to respect any divine being who could hate our species *that* much for such petty reasons.
The trick (“trick”) of course is to get everyone to combine the basic reading comprehension with this basic moral comprehension and “Viola!,” Jesus’ moral reputation is done in popular culture. One would think that would be fairly easy if the topic weren’t so bloated and hopelessly obscured with so many cultural flavors of motivated reasoning. There’s little need to even cover the many other issues if this was miraculously culturally accomplished. Few people take the time to figure out all the lesser things Hitler got wrong. But I’ll cover Jesus’ many moral faults anyway since culturally speaking, he isn’t going anywhere for a while. I intend to hammer out an entire Judging Jesus series that represents pretty much everything I currently have to say about the ethics (or lack thereof) of Jesus. Thor willing. So far I’ve covered the most important overarching evil themes as I see them and I will be referring back to them as they touch on and intertwine with the moral general problematic moral issues with Jesus. Stay tuned.