Bringing together non-believers
By Kennedy Karuga — A Kenyan Free Thinker
This question is, to many, one that needn’t even be asked. There seems to be a consensus among many people, religious and non-religious alike, that Jesus was not simply moral, but that he was, beyond this, a great moral teacher and authority. Gandhi thought so. So did C.S. Lewis. Richard Dawkins appears to share this thought as well (I recently wrote to him challenging his extolment of Jesus. I am waiting to see what he has to say). He has been called the ‘Highest standard of Moral good’. Some have even gone so far as to speculate that without the existence of Jesus, and particularly of the gospels, a document like the bill of rights probably would not be existent today. The connection is unclear to me.
Well, we are all entitled to our own opinions
Correct. But we are not entitled to our own facts. So opinion aside, what do the facts say? I will start a little off topic with the bigger question surrounding Jesus. Did he exist? Has his historicity been ascertained? To the first question, the answer is: It is VERY VERY unlikely. To the second, the answer is, of course, NO! Even weak evidence for Jesus’ historical existence does not exist. The best that I have come across are some broad and vague writings attributed to the Historian Flavius Josephus who, I am compelled to mention, wrote about Jupiter and Hercules as well, within the same context he wrote about Jesus. So Jesus almost certainly did not exist. It would be without basis to even suppose that Jesus was anything more than a solar deity dressed in human flesh and the best philosophy of the First Century.
But his historicity is rather immaterial to the topic at hand. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to make two very generous assumptions:
That Jesus was in fact a historical figure.
That the details of his life presented in the synoptic gospels are all accurate (This assumption, however, brings with it the problem of contradiction. The gospels are not in agreement regarding a number of events. For instance, if we assume that the gospels are all accurate, we would be saying that it is true that there were two and three women at Jesus’ empty tomb as according to Matthew and Luke respectively).
But before stepping into the synoptic gospels, let me alert you to the fact that there are hundreds of gospels containing narratives about Jesus. And yet only four of these are considered canonical, in spite of the other gospels having the same legitimacy and provenance as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You may wonder why, but once you look even briefly at these books, it is not hard to see that in a large part this was obviously motivated by a desire of the church to save Jesus’ face. Because far from the Jesus we see in the four gospels, the Jesus who espouses turning the other cheek and not judging others, the Jesus in a number of these books, notably the infancy gospel of Thomas, is about as moral as Syphilis. The Jesus of these books would effortlessly pass for Pol Pot, believe me.
Now let us come back to the issue of Christ’s morality. We first see Jesus speaking in the Bible at the age of twelve when his parents took him to the temple and he decided instead of going home to keep the company of teachers, and frighten them a little with his understanding of what I suppose to be scripture. A day into their journey home, his parents discovered that he was not with them and they turned back. After three days searching for him in Jerusalem, they finally locate Jesus and when questioned by his mother over his disappearance, he retorts discourteously,
“Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my father’s house?”
Is that really an appropriate way to speak to an obviously distressed mother after she has searched for you over three days? Without question, it is rude and insensitive. I do not have children but I know from common sense and from the worry I get when my cat or dog goes missing even for a day that the prospect of losing a child is devastating and Jesus, being God, should have known better than to address his mother in the way that he did. But let us agree that it is too early to form opinions about him. He is only twelve, remember. Let’s give him time.
At about the age of Thirty, Jesus is baptized by his cousin John and he starts his ministry. He pulls a dozen followers out of different circles and begins moving around with the good news. He heals the sick, exorcises demons, multiplies food, raises the dead and even brews wine at a wedding. I have no objection to these miracles. If anything, they are genuine acts of altruism. But let us examine his teachings, and the consistency of them with his actions.
Jesus advocated pacifism. In the beatitudes, he talks of ‘Turning the other cheek’ and not judging others. He also warns against tenacious anger. In Matthew 5:22, he says:
“Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” (a term expressing contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
But how well does Jesus practice what he preaches? We see him acting contrary to this teaching when he blatantly refers to the Pharisees as fools in verse 40 of the eleventh chapter of Luke:
“Fools! Did not the one who made the outside also make the inside?”
We see a contradiction as well when he turns tables and whips merchants he finds trading at the temple in Jerusalem. Here, he also charged them with what he worded as turning the house of his father into a den of thieves, when the Bible provides no information to suggest that the transactions going on at the time of Jesus’ arrival at the temple were fraudulent or dishonest in any way. Could Jesus, who could raise the dead, create food ex nihilo and walk on water, WHO WAS GOD, not have worked out a solution that did not involve violence and verbal Diarrhea? This is a man that could talk the sea into composure. He could not speak to these merchants and convince them that whatever they were doing was not in keeping with the laws of his father? Did he have to go savagely assaulting them and destroying their assets to make a point?
We see him elsewhere speaking quite angrily to his disciples in the incident when a boy was brought to the disciples for exorcism and they could not muster the faith to boot the demons out. Jesus, clearly angry, remarks:
“You unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
This sort of speech is not the kind I would use to exemplify the slowness to anger and gentleness that Jesus endorses in the beatitudes.
Jesus’ unchecked anger even surpasses the limits of unreason when he starts to take his frustrations out on vegetation. Apparently, this son of God who is supposed to be all-knowing is not so keen on his father’s agricultural timeline. We see him walking up to a tree expecting to find figs on it when figs were not in season. Finding none, he curses the tree and it withers. The Christians argue that he was trying to teach the importance of faith to his disciples, which is supported by Jesus’ own words following this incident, but this justification falls through because only the next day, Jesus affirmed his lunacy by murdering yet another fig tree for its mistake of not having figs when they were out of season. Either Jesus had an extremely poor recollection or he was, like I think, a deranged lunatic.
More evidence of Jesus acting destructively and with insensitivity can be found in Matthew 8:22 where Jesus responds to a man’s request for permission to go bury his father,
“Let the dead bury their own dead.”
A little below this, we see his true colors again when he transfers a legion of demons in a man to a herd of pigs that subsequently fall into the sea and drown. Now, as a person that is very much concerned about the humane treatment of animals, this action here is rather disturbing for me. For what reason would a moral man do such a thing? Compromise with demons at the expense of, presumably, thousands of animal lives? The Jews were always condescending of pigs, an attitude we can trace back to the book of Leviticus. Apparently, pigs were unclean animals, according to God. It makes you wonder why he would create an animal unclean and then go on whining about it. This is yet another example of God retardedly blaming his creation for his mistakes.
Back to Jesus- apart from unapologetically ending the lives of thousands of innocent pigs, Jesus did something else- he destroyed property. The pigs were certainly not a collage of pets; they were someone’s assets, possibly their livelihood as well. I visualize, reading this story, the agony of a man working really hard for several years to assemble a thousand or so pigs only to have a deranged godman throwing all his efforts into the sea. Don’t the Christians see anything repelling about this behavior? Would you be smiling if someone showed such disregard for your work and possessions?
We also cannot ignore Jesus’ disregard for the environment. Having the corpses of as many as two thousand pigs in the sea would inarguably have resulted in heavy pollution as they disintegrated. But Jesus simply did not give a damn.
Contrary to what apologists have spewed for so long, Jesus did not make any remarkable changes to the repugnant laws in the Torah. If anything, he stated explicitly that all the laws of the Old testament were and would always be eternally binding.
“However, it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.” Luke 16:17
What Jesus communicates here is that he sees nothing wrong with the Torah as it is. He sees nothing wrong with burning homosexuals or murdering unmarried non-virgins, or forcing rape victims to marry the men that rape them (in a society where divorce was a myth, this effectively meant sentencing a woman to a lifelong union with a man that abused her.)
Apologists will often dispense nonsense such as the famous: Jesus refined the law of Moses. I challenge any of them to intelligibly show proof of Jesus making any useful changes to the old law, and to then explain why he made the remarks in Luke 16:17(An explanation would also be welcome as to why a law that had been given by a PERFECT GOD needed revision). A staple argument by Christians, who have a remarkable gift for bending facts to fit in with particular dogma, involves the account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Very characteristic of the Christians, they try to twist and interpret this story to buttress the notion that Jesus gave the verdict he did out of esteem for womankind; that it was an act of elevating women from their desperate status in his society. In effect, it had nothing to do with his opinion of women. You will notice that he does not express resentment for the sexism surrounding the case. What he resents is what he sees as hypocrisy on the part of her accusers.
His basis is not that it should be nobody’s business who a person decides to sleep with, or that it was not fair to indict only the woman for a ‘crime’ that must have obviously involved at least two parties. His ground is that it is HYPOCRITICAL to condemn someone for sin when everybody is a sinner. Full stop. You can only see compassion or feminism in this story if you want to see them.
This is not a very moral argument when you look deep into it. It is quite like telling a parent that it is not proper for them to spank their child when they break a glass, not because it is objectively harmful to the child but because the parent breaks a glass every once in a while too. I would not file that as a moral argument.
It would be speculative to claim that Jesus had any better a regard for women than the average male Jew of his time. There is no evidence to this effect.
Now, one utterance of Jesus that, even in the absence of all his other shortcomings, would single-handedly disqualify him as a moral authority is the utterance we see in Matthew 22:36-40, where Jesus responds to a question by his disciples who sought to know what the greatest commandment in the law is. Jesus returns,
“You shall love the lord your god with all you heart, with all your soul and with all your mind- this is the greatest commandment.”
Before I get to the point, won’t I point out the absurdity of an omnipotent deity DEMANDING to be loved? Is loving a particular entity something you consciously and willfully choose to do? Did you ever make the decision to love your mother? Did you ever sit and decide to love your dog? Love, and the degree of it that you give to someone/something, is something you have virtually no control over. If there is anyone that should be aware of this, it is the supposed creator of the human mind. But clearly, he has no clue.
So loving God, according to Jesus, is the highest ideal. Exactly which God are we talking about here? Is it the same God that created womankind as an afterthought? The same god that explicitly endorses their mistreatment and exploitation (Numbers 31)? Is it the same God that allows a rebellious angel to run free killing and afflicting? Is it the same God that punishes mankind because our ancestors were talked into vandalizing a fruit from a magical tree in some Garden? Is it the same God that on multiple instances destroyed humankind in the most vicious ways conceivable: crushing them in earthquakes, drowning them in a global flood, sending armies to shred, rape and plunder, and roasting them alive? This is the thing that Jesus thinks it is most estimable to love?
Anyone who believes in all honesty that loving such a cold mass of filth is the single most important thing in life should not complain if called insane. And anyone who then so much as suggested that this person is the greatest standard for moral good deserves nothing less or more than a thorough mental evaluation.
In conclusion, I will bring a charge against Jesus that I have rarely seen brought against him- ETHNOCENTRISM. My first underpinning of this charge is to be found in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:2-14. Here, Jesus tells the allegory of a king that invites presumably high-ranking people to a wedding and when they decline to turn up and even beat and kill his servants, he kills them and invites the servants instead.
The allegory, and particularly Jesus’ choice of analogues, is inarguably demeaning to non-Jews. To compare the Jews with the crème de la crème and the gentiles with servants is expressive of prejudice on the part of Jesus. And the prejudice does not end here.
Another time Jesus was confronted by a canaanite woman whose daughter suffered from demon possession (what mental illnesses were called then, and are still called today by the ignorant). The lady was pleading with Jesus to rid her daughter of the demons but Jesus ignored her, stating unashamedly that he had been sent for the sheep of Israel (The Jews). Bothered by her ceaseless nagging, his disciples ask him to grant her request so she may leave them alone, to which he replies,
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
This mentality right here, though it may seem as some harmless bigotry, is the same mentality you will find in an ethnic cleanser- The conviction that “We are special, they are worthless”. Jesus likened the non-Jews with dogs, without a discernible speck of shame. He is ethnocentric, and racist by extension.
What do you think would be the world’s reaction if the queen of England likened the Irish with dogs? What do you think the world would say if Obama likened the people of Canada with dogs? Or if Mwai Kibaki, the president of Kenya, referred metaphorically to the people of Uganda as dogs? Global outrage. Facebook and Twitter would be full of vitriol and bitterness. Apologies would be demanded. And the sources of these statements would be in a good deal of trouble. But apparently, it is all right for the supposed son of God to spew such garbage.
This was the kind of mentality behind Rwanda and Bosnia. The kind of mentality that drove Adolf Hitler to kill six million Jews. The kind of mentality that made Sadaam Hussein massacre over a hundred thousand Iraqi Kurdistan. The kind of mentality behind apartheid. When you dehumanize a particular grouping of people, it becomes effortless to commit any kind of atrocity against them.
Looking at the world’s history of murderous ethnic cleansing, you may wonder how humans can afford to be so cruel toward fellow humans. Remarks such as the one Jesus made are rich in insights pivotal to understanding this. Through social and political manipulation, the perpetrator of ethnicity-related genocide is convinced, like Jesus is, that their target is not really deserving of a human status and the dignities and rights that go with it. They drag them down to a sub-human status. In Rwanda, they called them cockroaches. In some parts of Liberia they were called rats. Jesus would have called them dogs.
Now, once you bring someone down from the status of a human to, say, that of a cockroach, there are few things you cannot do to them. Because with a mindset such as that which Jesus espouses, the person killing for his tribe or country does not see his victims as humans at all. It all starts in the mind with how you view people. If you view them as dogs, you are unlikely to treat them any better than you would treat a dog.
Which is why I find Jesus’ remarks so abrasive and evil. And they are. Anyone who would still call him an exemplary moral teacher upon looking at those words would have to be seriously morally bankrupt.
If a human living today behaved and talked as Jesus did, they would be in for a lot of harsh criticism, and possibly litigation. If you found people selling at a church and set on them with a whip, you would get thrown in Jail (If you were in Kenya you would not even make it to prison).
Why then is it morally defensible for Jesus to act as he did? Because an old book says he was the son of God? Because the cult founded after him has 2.1 billion subscribers? Because he embarrassed the laws of physics by walking on water?
As a factual matter, Jesus’ actions are not any less indefensible simply because he alleged to be the son of a God. To call him a moral human, much less the highest standard of moral good is, if not a joke, an assault on ethics and human decency. To refer to him as anything else besides a morally impoverished lunatic is intellectually dishonest.
He is a disgusting character who uses his supposed divinity to justify his own malice while hypocritically preaching pacifism and gentleness. He does not deserve to be ranked with moral heavyweights such as Baruch Spinoza, Ganhi and Martin Luther King among others. He deserves instead to be placed with fellow, morally unendowed cult leaders such as Jim Jones, David Koresh and Pope Benedict. And his Barbaric father as well. Those that still cling to the thoroughly debunked idea that the Golden Rule originated in him only prove to be ignorant and close-minded. The Golden rule can be traced as far back as 500 B.C. to the philosopher Confucius. Jesus never came up with any distinct moral precepts. His teachings were often vague and pre-existing. And he was silent on most of the social injustices of his time.
Anyone looking for a good moral example has better odds of finding one in Bashar-Al-Assad.
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