The recent pummeling (or lashing as their bibles would put it) from the Evangelical Right has been the dissent against the charity work being done in Haiti on behalf of the United States. This led me to a question today: does anyone really find it all that ironic that the most vocal support for the US’s charity work in Haiti has come from rather left-wing secularists and/or atheists like myself, and the most vocal opposition to this charity has come from the Evangelical and Christian Right? Personally, no, I don’t find it even mildly ironic.
One might question this, but quite frankly, if 2/5 Christians were half as Christ-like as many of the atheists that I know, this world might be a slightly better place in which to live. In fact, it was Christ who originally led me to atheism.
In reality, I’ve always been an atheist, as the ramblings of my grandfather didn’t quite catch me at an early enough age to hook me. Again, the church is sort of like big tobacco in that way. But I was always mesmerized by the words of Christ himself. Christ was far ahead of his time, and in saying that I realize that there is actually no evidence at all that the one called Christ ever existed. In fact, archeological, anthropological and paleontological evidence points to Christ being a fictional character who was a compilation of many different men. The Life of Brian was actually closer to capturing real life in biblical times than the bible, as there were actually many, many different men who were referred to as messiahs and saviors in those times. And most of them were crucified by the Romans, and actually about fifteen of them were rumored to have risen from the proverbial tomb after having been killed. But in this case, I like to suspend disbelief and recognize Christ, or rather the man who created Christ as a revolutionary who tried to change what he saw wrong with the world in which he lived. Now this is a man that I can get behind.
I’ve never, in all of the conversations that I’ve had about religion, said anything bad about Jesus. Personally, I feel that Jesus himself is a good influence on people, I just don’t like all of the stuff that’s carried out in his name, nor do I like that with which he’s been continually associated. Jesus was a revolutionary who was far ahead of his time. Even Richard Dawkins pointed out in The God Delusion, “His Sermon on the Mount was far ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years.” This is exceedingly true. The man or the myth is a great man or myth with great ideals and a philosophy that I wish the people of the world would adhere to today.
Jesus taught: good will toward man, love and respect, honor and dignity, and most of all, Jesus told us to love our neighbor. What he never said was, “Love thy neighbor unless their beliefs conflict with yours; then you should kill them.” He was a revolutionary who refused to live by the violent creed of his upbringing and of those around him. He lived his life teaching people to live and let live, and to avoid judgment at all costs. He had a hooker friend, and he was friendly to homosexuals and said, “You are as your father created you.” What’s wrong with this? What’s wrong with adhering to the beliefs of a man who taught this kind of positive philosophy? I don’t see anything wrong with it, however, I don’t think it was necessary to surround his teachings with all the other bells and whistles that confuse his quotes and even contradict them. I like what Martin Luther King taught as well, but that doesn’t mean one must surround his teachings with a religion, although, it seems today that his teachings have been just as lost or abhorrently diluted as Jesus’ teachings.
To apply religion to what was a good idea is to apply faith and devout fanaticism to something that probably taught against both. In Jesus’ case, this is true. Jesus didn’t like the concept of churches, nor did he have any kind of reverence for the wealthy. He even said, “A mule has a better chance of entering the pin of a needle, than does a rich man of entering the kingdom of Heaven.” This is a good idea, although it may be confused with class warfare, what he said regarded the wealthy of his time, who quite adamantly opposed charity of any kind. Charity is what Jesus taught—charity, tolerance and acceptance. Should the Christians or other religionists apply this to modern beliefs, religion would be a very different thing than it is. However, they have refused the teachings of the revolutionary mind of Jesus, and have continued to carry out acts in his name that are more antithetic to what he actually taught, than was the work of Oscar Schindler to Hitler’s Nazi regime. What is carried out in the name of Jesus is, dare I say, heresy, and should bare no pardon in the devout of the Christian faith.
Jefferson wrote his book for a reason, and that reason is just that: religion, when applied to the good and moral teachings of Jesus, makes his words ambiguous and applies double meanings that leave too much room for misinterpretation. Philosophy is a good idea and religion, a bad one. This has been proven time and time again throughout history. Just imagine what the work of Gandhi would have turned into if it had been subjected to a book, wherein also lay phrases like, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” or “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live; he who bareth onto any other god shall surely be put to death!”? The honorable life of Gandhi would turn rather indignantly from love and peace, to violence and bigotry. So please, religionists, don’t base a faith after Gandhi, because I don’t want to have to explain, regarding yet another subject, how an entire book of faith is wrong and immoral, yet the man after whom it was based was a right and moral person.
I like Jesus, and I like what he taught, I only wish that more people who claim to live their lives in his name felt the same way.
Having said that, in more recent years, I have studied the works of the one called the Christ, and I’ve found quite profound contradictions in his work. Once Jesus said to love thy neighbor, however, he later said, “Suffer not ye cursed, throw them into the fire.” Where is the consistency there? He also once said, “I am no come to bring peace, but a sword.”
There are others, however, I find these few to illustrate the point that I wish to make. This point is how the work of Jesus was far perverted long before our current time. Work like this could easily explain the explosive Christian Majority’s support for the Iraq war. Other wars before it as well seem to show the same statistics of support from the Christian Right. Ray Suarez pointed out a fact about Conservative Christians that I found quite spot-on when he said, “What I mourn is the loss of independence of the church in the wider marketplace of ideas and the willingness of Conservative Christians to embrace the first part of that label to the detriment of the second.”
This, I found, to be a perfect summary of what it is to be a Conservative Christian. Let’s keep in mind that Conservatives have fought long and hard against Welfare and free education and healthcare, in favor of military funding and weapons manufacturing. Please, other than the quote above from Jesus, which was from the King James Version (probably the most perverted in comparison to Christ’s initial teachings), tell me what is Christ-like about that?
Christianity, in my opinion, first lost its way when it was Romanized. You see, when Constantine took on the role of the Christian liberator of Rome, what happened to Christianity on that day changed the belief forever. It became Constantine’s crusade against all that he despised and against all that he felt strongly against, i.e. homosexuality, human rights and so on… Constantine was nothing less than a warlord, and from the day of his adoption of Christianity, the structure became a war-mongering faith, as all that he taught became an immediate part of the bible. Jesus suddenly didn’t come here to bring peace; he came to bring a sword. Jesus no longer came to save mankind; he came to condemn all that he (Constantine) disagreed with. Jesus became a warlord just like Constantine.
So, in the end, what was once a peaceful belief in equality and human rights became a belief in condemnation and atrocity. Christianity, when Constantine created it (at least what is now known as such) became a justification of war against rivals, as opposed to a wall blocking the striking blow of the sword.
If one were to read only Jesus’ words in the bible, as one can in Thomas Jefferson’s The Faith and Moral Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, one could walk away with a very different view in regards to Christ. Let’s remember, the passages in the bible that condone spousal abuse, child abuse, slavery, stoning, lashing, and condemn homosexuality were not written by Jesus himself – they were written by the confused followers who wished to spread their own beliefs along with his. If we just followed Jesus’ way of thinking, children would not be refused modern medicine in lieu of prayer, children would not be beaten or killed, wives or husbands would not be abused, war would be a distant memory and progressive values would thrive across a world of acceptance, tolerance and equality among men and women alike.
Please, can we just try this for a change?
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