If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

By David G. McAfee

It’s perfectly understandable, in my opinion, to find good things in the teachings of Jesus Christ or any other figure, mythical or otherwise. But to base your life on the teachings of Jesus as they are portrayed in the Bible and claim that you are not religious is disingenuous.

“It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!”

Without the religion, without the archaic and flawed holy texts, there wouldn’t be anything for you to manufacture a “relationship” with. Without the wars and forced conversions key to the religion’s spread across the globe, it may have died out long ago like so many others have. If that were the case, you wouldn’t know the characters of Jesus or God or Muhammad or any of the tales and myths associated with a particular faith. Religions concern themselves with preserving and worshiping these myths as realities, without regard to substantial evidence to the contrary.

If not from ancient religious texts, where does one glean knowledge of Jesus’ teachings? Can’t one simply be a good person without doing it in Jesus’ name or because he would have done the same? The fact is that without cultural indoctrination, all of us would be atheists or, more specifically, while many may dream up their own Gods as did our ancestors, they would certainly not be “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” or any other established religion. That’s because, without the texts and churches and familial instruction, there are no independent evidences that any specific religion is true. Outside of the Bible, how would one hear of Jesus? The same goes for every established religion.[1]

More importantly, what are Jesus’ unique teachings that are so crucial as to be valued above those of all others? I often challenge Christians to give an example of any of Jesus’ alleged ideas that were new to humanity, never used by anyone who lived before, without a definitive and novel answer. For many Christians, Jesus is worshiped in such a way that his followers actually change his teachings, sometimes to an extent that his original (biblically-attributed) claims are forgotten or marginalized. It is for this reason that, if a person needs a life advisor, I usually recommend a living person with fluid ideas over archaic and stagnant scriptures for guidance.

What other baggage does Jesus have?

Jesus claimed to be God incarnate  (John 10:30). It is taught in the Bible that “Jesus” and “Yahweh” are the same omnipotent Creator, that the former was simply the latter’s physical form while on earth. This was no doubt a way for Christians to justify the blatant worship and idolization of Jesus, in light of the Old Testament God’s warnings not to worship “other gods” – an idea that is common in the Hebrew Scriptures and is highlighted in the first four of the Ten Commandments, which leave out such atrocities as rape and slavery.

This means that, according to Christian doctrine, and according to the vast majority of modern Christian denominations, Jesus IS God. Jesus is the same jealous and angry God that abhorred homosexuals and condemned them as “an abomination.” He is the same deity that gave instructions on how to beat slaves and the same divine Creator that suggested the stoning of non-believers and disobedient children. You have to accept the good along with the bad… after all, he came not to abolish the Hebrew laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The jealous and angry God that justified the killings of millions and set plagues on first borns is the same God that Christians believe came to earth in Jesus. Whether Christians choose to obey early Old Testament laws or not, the deity hasn’t changed.

“But that’s the Old Testament!”

What we consider “moral” has changed greatly since the days of the Old Testament. The outdated moral laws present in the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate Bronze Age ideals – and it’s understandable that modern Christians distance themselves from that era as much as possible. But to discount the entirety of the Old Testament is to discount the religion’s history and the actions of God “Himself.”

So, before you claim to hate religion and love Jesus, take a look at what Jesus claimed and understand that the Christian religion was built upon those teachings.

David G. McAfee is a journalist and author of Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with dual-degrees in English and Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

"I hate religion, but love Jesus!"

“I hate religion, but love Jesus!”

[1] Quote from Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide To Coming Out as a Non-Believer.

3 responses to “If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

  1. interesting note: the guy behind that image (jesus>religion) forgot jesus created his own dogma before he even peaced out. bold move.

    i came across this a few years ago:
    What is written below is written by a woman who is ex-christian:
    “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
    But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and bowed at his fee, saying, Lord, help me! He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15:22-28

    Do you think that was kind? Do you think it was godlike? What would you think of a doctor, if a woman came to him distressed and said, “Doctor, help my daughter, she is very ill.” What would you think of the doctor who would NOT reply at all at first, and then, when she fell at his feet begging him, answered that he did not spend his time doctoring dogs? Would you hire him as a family physician? Do you think that, even if he were to cure the child then, he would have done a noble thing? Is it evidence of a perfect character to accompany a service with an insult? Do you think that a man who could offer such an indignity to a sorrowing mother has a perfect character?” ~ Helen H. Gardener

  2. Bradley Schafer

    I’ve addressed your argument of being a “good” person below:

    One may demand goodness, but if the definition of the one who demands such differs from those of which he demands, is he justified? If judgement of what is good or evil is contingent to the individual, is there such a thing as right and wrong? How does one explain the conundrum of someone committing an act permissible in his or her culture outside of the boundaries of that very society? Would he or she be right because of his or her cultural standards or wrong because the act was committed in an outlying moral structure? The only legitimate variant in discernment between right and wrong or good and evil is an absolute objective moral standard. Then, and only then would we have a point of reference for us to gauge our choices. This absolute standard, or truth is the exclusive right to knowledge of good and evil.

    We’re living in a society today where we’re encouraged to pursue what we believe in but condemned if we claim what we believe to be true. How can one justify this irreconcilable contradiction? Truth is and must be exclusive. In a culture where postmodernism ideologies are so prevalent, how can we be sure that truth exists?

    Christian apologists teach that there can only be but two views withheld in this world in regards to existence; either we evolved or we were created. A closer examination of the first view produces little more than nothing. We came from essentially nothing, and will return to nothing. We are merely existing as a product of, as author and apologist Ravi Zacharias states, “time plus matter plus chance.” If this is the case, we are not required nor should be expected to lead moral or “good” lives. We are accountable to no one but ourselves. Consequently, we are faced with a revolving moral compass with no North reference to lead us in the right direction. If this is true however, we need to answer several questions. When we are faced with a plurality of moral standards we are also faced with a plurality of judgements. Who is to be our judge, and to what standard are we to be held accountable?

    If an absolute truth does exist, why are we more susceptible to ignore the exclusive and hold onto the contradictory? Exclusivity is looked down upon by society, but why? We were created in the image of God. God’s love is not exclusive. Therefore, we were not created to act upon our postmodern philosophical traits that we hold onto today. We often hear that, “All religions lead to God.” Or view bumper stickers that read, “coexist.” Is it possible that all religions lead to God and that we need to learn to coexist? A closer examination will reveal this is far from the truth.

    With every view or belief held pertaining the doctrine of morality, there is a common element. ” No matter what moral code or standard we follow, there is ultimately a longing in our hearts for love, truth, and justice.” With these desires in our very being, it’s hard for one to deny the existence of a moral law giver.

    Do good morals give us a good life? Yes and no. In his lecture, “How can we measure our choices,” Ravi Zacharias posits that we need to measure our choices outside of the framework of time. Dr. Zacharias argues that morality is transcendent and eternal and therefore our choices must be as well and hold authority over the changes of time and culture. While morals may give us a good life, why does it matter? If morality is transcendent and eternal as Dr. Zacharias points out, our very souls must be eternal as well.

    If morality exists, it is only because God exists. God so loved the world that he gave us the truth so that we may be justified by His standard. We do not need religion to lead a good life, we need faith. Jesus came into this world to lead the spiritually dead to life. Morals mean nothing if we don’t have the “…way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6).

    • while you provide a well versed response, there a lot of holes in your reasoning.
      firstly, faith provides nothing concrete other than belief in something abstract beyond ourselves. If Jesus is the standard, then by the quote i provided, then racial segregation is justified by him and apostles actions to permeate throughout cultures for all times creating DIVISION. As there will always be cultures that exists that will never hear of Jesus’ messages or read a bible, or even become literate enough to read a bible, your argument here is simply leaning on your belief versus that actual world we live in. If jesus came to spread spirituality, what exactly is your argument for the other 1-3 million years of hominid existence prior to Jesus’s birth? you gloss over a point that morality exists regardless of what religion you follow, or none at all. As animal species exhibit “moral” hiearchies of sorts, i believe your argument here is null again.

      If god’s presence, or Jesus’ words or instructions are transcendent, why do we not find geographically separate cultures with the exact same theological and religious tenets leading back to the exact words in the bible? because we absolutely don’t. so again, your argument here is null.

      and, it’s an incorrect assertion that all “long for love, truth or justice…” have you been inside the mind of a person with congenital birth defects so severe that lead them to be mental invalids?

      if we were created in the image of god, what’your argument for the previous 3.5 billion years of evolution when humans didn’t exist. How long did the dinosaurs roam the earth absent of humans? hmmm.

      moral compasses are driven by evolving ethics of cultures and societies and not by adhering to archaic dogmatic teaching that address the problems that will arrise in the societies to come in the next 100 years or even the next 10,000 years.

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