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Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 13: Jesus Told His Followers to Hate

04/08/12

Permalink 11:31:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 798 words   English (US)
Categories: Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian

Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 13: Jesus Told His Followers to Hate

Today is Easter, which is perhaps the most important religious holiday for most Christians. Of course the story is that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead on the Sunday that a couple days later. I grew up Catholic and this time of the year always involved a lot of religious observances. On Good Friday we went to mass and heard details about Jesus' torment and agony and then on Easter we would go to mass again and have much more joyful and upbeat service that was all about Jesus' resurrection.

For anyone growing up Christian with regular church service and Bible readings, you hear a lot about what a great man Jesus was. You hear that he was the Son of God, that he was an aspect of God himself, that he was perfect, that he was flawed because he was human, etc. It was all pretty complicated and what you heard depended on who was giving the sermon and who was doing the interpretation.

It was in my early twenties that I came to realize that traditional forms of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical) are false religions. I had, by that time, already questioned many minor aspects of the faith, but the defining moment was when I realized that Jesus was no more (or less) than any other human being. He did not have any special connection to God any more than anyone else. I also realized that the Bible contains mostly false stories and that the Catholic Church is not the mouthpiece of God.

More recently I have heard some very good arguments that there never was a Jesus in the first place. The theory is that Jesus is purely fictional character along the lines of Thor and Zeus. I still actually think it makes more sense that Jesus did exist and that a lot of the accounts in the Gospels are partially accurate, but I am not sure about this. I know that if there was a Jesus that he didn't perform miracles because this is physically impossible, but I am willing to accept there probably was a Jesus who was a leader of some dissident Jews in the First Century AD.

Given the assumption that there was a Jesus and that a lot of the quotes attributed to him in the Gospels might well have genuinely originated with him, one can then say that Jesus was a great man. I believe that many quotes attributed to Jesus in the Bible are quite wise and admirable and helpful to people facing suffering. For example, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill” (Matthew 5:3-10) are inspirational to those who live in difficult times and have brightened the spirits of countless people for centuries. There are many other sayings attributed to Jesus that have positive value as well.

If one looks closely at the sayings of Jesus, however, they should be able to see that some things he said were just wrong. In fact, some things he said were simply horrible. For example, the quote “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Hate my parents? My family? My own life? Are you serious? When I was a Catholic Christian, I remember hearing many sermons given by priests and theories advanced by laypeople regarding what Jesus might have meant in saying this. Some say that Jesus meant that being a disciple needs to be the most important thing in his followers lives, hence they should hate everything else. The truth, though, is that this statement is impossible to rationalize if one actually pays attention to what it says. Unlike many of Jesus' other sayings, there is absolutely no value in taking it to heart. It is difficult for me to even conceive of a more depressing thing to say, to be honest. But this just shows that Jesus was imperfect, as we all are, and said something unwise that he may well have later regretted. It happens to us all.

So it is irrational to hang on every word of Jesus as reported in the Gospels or any other part of the Bible, but there is still much value in the wisdom of Jesus and we can all admire him as a great, yet flawed man. All great men and women are flawed, after all. Though there is no good reason, given our modern understanding of reality, to believe that Jesus was the savior of the world, we can still acknowledge him as one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in history.

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