Sunday, October 26, 2014


"I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other."
Katherine Hepburn

A not so cute WWJD story

The story that Mick Mooney creates in his piece "WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know?" is intended to be a cute demonstration of what it means to follow Jesus and how some people misinterpret the real Jesus' central messages. The problem is it isn't cute at all. It is, in fact, as dishonest as it is arrogant and condescending. Mooney passes judgment on the mother in the story as if he actually has definitive knowledge of the Jesus figure. He doesn't. He can't. As I have pointed out so often the only available information about the Christ figure is contradictory and in places incoherent. To make matters worse, there isn't a single verifiable fact about Jesus. Mooney is ridiculing the notion that there can be other valid interpretations of the Jesus narratives without ever considering his own views are as baseless as any others. Apparently, he is among those who don't "really want to know." Then again, there probably isn't actually anything "to know" about Jesus.

An early appearannce

That fun annual phenomena that is best labeled Christmas cultural arrogance has made an early appearance. One advice columnist has already answered a reader's concerns about the upcoming Christian silly season. I largely agree with Amy Alkon's response in her "When atheist meets pious: A Christmas story." However, I think she let's the boyfriend in the scenario off way too lightly.

Basically, a dilemma is created by the boyfriend of this relationship when he tries to guilt his girfriend into attending Christmas mass with his very religious parents. He himself is not religious but tries making it seem that it would be disrespectful not to attend mass with his parents. Bullshit. Amy points out that it is not disrespectful and does a decent job explaining why that's the case. She should have noted that it is the boyfriend who is belittling other people's views, namely those of his girlfriend. He's being the disrespectful one. She, the girlfriend, has not indicated that she has in anyway sought to dissuade or interfere with the parents beliefs. He is doing to her what he falsely perceives she is doing to his parents.

Not being religious himself has not prevented a common misconception from clouding his judgment. The notion that everyone should approach Christmas from a Christian perspective is pervasive. Christians rarely bother to consider how weak and pathetic their claims on winter celebrations are. Even those of us non-believers who are generally comfortable celebrating Christmas don't necessarily want to constantly deal with the theological baggage that comes with it. Why should we? "Christmas" is not unique and doesn't have to be.

An "ordinary" Jesus?

It is true that people find it easier to relate to those individuals who more like them rather than less like them. That does seem to be a part of human nature. So, for marketing/public relations purposes much of what Kevin Emmert writes about in "You Need a More Ordinary Jesus" does make sense. However, it only makes sense in that specific context.

It is rather entertaining that this piece appears on Christianity Today's website. Promoting Jesus as a sort of every-man is not all that new. It is very problematic from a philosophical and theological perspective. This is what amuses me so much. If you think about it critically for more than a minute the innate contradiction of this approach should be blatantly obvious. To virtually any Christian the most import aspect and message of the Jesus figure is the resurrection. Coming back from the dead is about as far from ordinary as you can get. And, through your death and resurrection "saving" all humanity is an equally extraordinary feat.

Accepting all the supernatural elements infused in the Jesus figure is rather preposterous but it is equally foolish to try to trick yourself into believing that stripping out all those elements somehow makes the reputed messiah more palatable to current and/or potential followers. How? Who really expects the guy next-door to be a savior of all humankind? If you are looking for a messiah wouldn't you want a bigger-than-life figure to serve that function?

Sorry Mr. Emmert but a "more ordinary Jesus" is just as alien and untenable as a fully supernatural one.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


"The question of the truth of a religion is one thing, but the question of its usefullness is another. I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue."
Bertrand Russell
My Religious Reminiscences