By AL Katz
Though completely counter-intuitive on its face, it’s not only possible for an atheist to be a fan of Jesus, I’d argue most atheists are already “fans” in that they live their lives by happily, successfully “doing unto others”.
One of the questions most atheists will face at some point in their life as an atheist is the theist’s “But, without God, people would be free to murder each other!” It’s not phrased as a question but it is: what basis does an atheist use for “morality” if there’s no God to tell you what moral “is”? Are theists saying that without worrying how a sky deity might react, they’d be completely down with killing people? That seems more a reflection on them — and their character flaws (that minus the threat of an angry sky deity to motivate them they’d go on killing sprees every day) — than it is a reflection on atheists.
Humans are social creatures. In order to live with even a modicum of happiness, we need to learn how to co-exist peacefully and peaceably with other humans. And, we do. Most of us go our whole lives without killing another human. We may get angry at them — we may even scream and shout and raise our voices at them. And then we apologize and get on with things.
As Jesus put it, we “do unto others” and live happier lives as a result.
How can not be a fan of that? It’s so simple. So elemental. So basic to human nature.
For the record — Jesus also railed against priests and temples. He said we don’t need them. “Speak directly to the father”, Jesus preached. Talk directly to God.
Cut out the middleman.
Do I know for a fact that Jesus existed? Hell, no. No one “knows”. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence that someone vaguely (very vaguely) like Jesus appeared around this time — which was ripe with chaos and apocalyptic preaching. Reminder — Jesus did not invent Christianity (he — such as he was — never knew such a thing ever existed least of all in his “name”), Paul did. A huge chunk of the NT is Paul writing to all the growing, far-flung Christian communities being established across the Roman world. In those letters, he’s describing a Jesus he never met. Also he’s trying to justify his deification of Jesus by lining up Jesus and his life with the messiah vaguely prophesied in the Hebrews’ religious texts.
On the one hand, Paul jumps through all sorts of crazy hoops to make Jesus a descendant of the House of David. In keeping, the early church fathers, picking up from Paul, altered history itself to invent a census that required Jesus to go to Bethlehem — the justification for his being in Bethlehem in order to be born there. Again — for prophesy’s sake.
Check out the Jesus Seminar for an academic, scholarly approach to Jesus’s actual historicity. The Seminar was formed in 1985 by Robert Funk — an actual “bible scholar” — with actual academic bona fides and included, at various times, up to 150 similar scholars.
The Jesus that emerges from their work has a simple message — Do Unto Others — that has nothing to do with what the church (the early church then the Catholic Church then the Protestant Church and the Mormon Church etc etc) eventually invented and called “Christianity”. That’s probably why pretty much every church out there uses Jesus as a mascot. They have no use for any sort of historical Jesus because he contradicts everything they want you to believe. About their Jesus.
Well, their Jesus is not “the” Jesus. Their Jesus is “a” Jesus. A Jesus only a racist, misogynist, science-hating bigot would love. Their Jesus is a Jesus Jesus would most definitely hate. Because he hasn’t a clue how to “Do unto others”.