This is an edited version of a tract produced by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose original can be found at "Freedom From Religion Foundation".
"As for Jesus' divinity...I have doubts." -- Benjamin Franklin, near the end of his life.
WAS JESUS PEACEABLE AND COMPASSIONATE?
"Think not that I am come to send peace; I came not to send peace but a sword."
"He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."
"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." (The last was spoken in a parable in Lk.)
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth...and men gather them into the fire, and they are burned." (a verse cited by the Inquisition)
Jesus looked at the Pharisees "with anger" Mk. 3:5, called them blind fools and sons of vipers and sons of the devil, and called his generation an evil and adulterous one [just as today's doomsaying Christian televangelists rave on about the evils of OUR generation] and said that certain towns of his day deserved and would receive greater judgment than Sodom. And in one spectacular curse, Jesus says, "Depart from me ye accursed into the hellfire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Jesus attacked merchants by turning over their tables and brandishing a whip.
He showed his respect for life by drowning innocent animals.
He refused to heal a sick child until he was pressured by the mother.
WAS JESUS TOLERANT?
The Gospel of John, unlike the three other Gospels, concentrates on the necessity of "believing in Jesus." The other three Gospels do not have Jesus harping on the necessity of believing in Jesus but instead explain "the kingdom of God" in parables, and even downplay belief in Jesus and play up ethical actions instead. John's Gospel also differs from the rest in NOT HAVING JESUS UTTER A SINGLE PARABLE, but only portrays Jesus teaching about himself: "I am the way, the truth and the light," "I am the light of the world," "I am the good shepherd," "I am that I am," "I am the resurrection and the life," etc. Jesus' emphasis according to "John" was totally on himself, and the only way to inherit eternal life was by believing in Jesus (as supposedly revealed to Nicodemus secretly one night, an event that the other evangelists left out). Hence, statements appear in John's Gospel like, "If you do not eat the body of the son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life within you," and, "He who does not believe is condemned already" [the latter verse is found in John, chapter 3]
The Gospel of John is also the most anti-Semitic in tone, since it blames "The Jews" as a whole, not just "the Pharisees."
Neither is the author of the Gospel of John mentioned in the book itself. It is the "beloved disciple." And if the apostle John was that disciple then it is curious that his Gospel omits any account of Jesus transfiguration, a spectacular even that the disciple John was supposed to have witnessed along with only two other disciples, according to the other Gospel writers. Furthermore, a later chapter in John states that "we" are the ones who have "witnessed" and written the Gospel of John, implying a group effort. The Gospel also has two ending verses, one in the next to the last chapter, the other in the last chapter. The last chapter is therefore believed to have been added later, to enforce later church opinion, making it seem like the "beloved disciple" was "John" rather than someone else.
DID JESUS PROMOTE "FAMILY VALUES?"
"I am come to set a man against his father, and the daughter against her mother, etc., And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
When one of Jesus' disciples asked for time off to go to his father's funeral, Jesus rebuked him, "Let the dead bury the dead."
Jesus never used the word "family." He never married or fathered children.
He spoke approvingly of those who would "become eunichs for the kingdom of heaven.
To his own mother he said, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?"
WHAT WHERE HIS VIEWS ON EQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE?
Jesus encouraged the beating of slaves. (Luke 12:47) He never denounced slavery and incorporated the master-slave relationship into many of his parables.
He did nothing to alleviate poverty. "Ye have the poor with you always."
No women were chosen as disciples or invited to the Last Supper.
WHAT MORAL ADVICE DID JESUS GIVE?
"There be eunichs which have made themselves eunichs for the kingdom of heaven."
"If you do something wrong with your eye or hand cut/pluck it off." (This perfectionist ideal, of being able to divorce yourself completely from even looking at a woman with a sexual longing, has lead to a lot of cognitive dissonance and neuroses, not to mention a few cases of actually severed hands!)
Jesus also taught people not to plan for the future in any realistic fashion, don't save money on earth, give to all who ask and ask nothing in return, give your cloak and coat to anyone who asks (leaving you naked).
If someone hits you, invite them to do it again.
If you lose a lawsuit, give more than the judgment.
IS this WISE? Is this what you would teach your children?
WAS JESUS RELIABLE?
Jesus is depicted as mistakenly predicting that "some [of his disciples] standing there would not die" until they "saw the coming of the Son of Man" [with his angels, to reward the good and punish and evil, i.e., the final judgment] Mat 16:28
This false prophecy was echoed by Jesus' disciples throughout the N.T., here are some of those echoes:
The book of Revelation begins with this prophecy, "The revelation... which God gave to show...the things which must shortly take place." (1:1) The author, having addressed his letter to several churches in Asia Minor, circa 65-95 A.D., continued, "He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him...Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you (the church at Pergamum) quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth...(To the church at Thyatira) hold fast until I come...Because you (the church at Philadelphia) have kept the word of my perseverance, I will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world...I am coming quickly...hold fast what you (Philadelphia) have."
Rev. 1:7; 2:16; 2:25; 3:10-11
In the final chapter of Revelation the author repeats his first chapter prediction of Jesus' soon coming, "...God...sent His angel to show...the things which must shortly take place...I am coming quickly...do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near...I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done...Yes, I am coming quickly...Come Lord Jesus."
The idea of being either "sealed up" or "not sealed up" is something that the books of Revelation and Daniel both share. According to the author of the book of Daniel, he was commanded to "seal up" his book "until the end of time": "Conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time...these words are concealed and sealed up until the end of time." (Daniel 12:4,9) The book of Daniel was composed from the alleged point of view of a Jew living in ancient Persia who had visions of "the end of time," or, "the end of the age," when all men would "rise again" and be judged. (12:2,13) "Seal up the book," he was commanded, or so the story goes.
But the author of Revelation was told, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book," adding that what is revealed in it "must shortly take place." The intent of the author of Revelation in alluding to the "non-sealing" of his book is obvious, the author believed and predicted that Jesus was about to "come" and judge the world "quickly." So, the author of Revelation was a false prophet. And, by the same token, so was the author of Daniel, since his book was "unsealed" long before "the end of time."
"The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining...The world is passing away [This world, as it is now, will not last much longer - Today's English Version]...Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour."
1 John 2:17,18
"The rulers of this age...are passing away [will not last much longer -Today's English Versin]...Do not go on passing judgment before the time ["before the time" of final judgment], but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts...The time has been shortened so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none...and those who use the world, as though they did not make use of it [i.e., there was no time for marriage or buying or selling - only in a state of holy celibacy could the Elect remain pure while awaiting the soon return of Christ]; for the form of this world is passing away [This world, as it is now, will not last much longer - Today's English Version]...These things were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
1 Corinthians. 2:6; 4:5; 7:29-31; 10:11
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you...It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure [which is to say in James' own day]...Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord...for the coming of the Lord is at hand...behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."
The author of the letter to the Hebrews began his letter, "...in these last days," and argued on such a basis that, "He (Jesus) would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." With equal fervor he employed the phrase, "as you see the day drawing near...," and made the prediction, "...for yet a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay."
Heb. 1:2; 9:26; 10:25,37
This ridiculous idea survived century after century. If the world did not end under the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, it had to end under Theodosius; if the end had not come under Theodosius, it had to occur under Attila the Hun. And up to the twelfth century this idea enriched the monasteries. A great many of the charters and donations to the monasteries began thus: "Christ reigning, the end of the world approaching, I, for the remedy of my soul, etc."
Voltaire, "An Important Study by Lord Bolingbroke, or, the Fall of Fanaticism"
Now back to the reliability of Jesus' claims...
Jesus claimed the "stars would fall."
The author of the Gospel of Matthew (in the scene in which Jesus is taken to a very high mountain by Satan and there shown all the kingdoms of the world), claimed that you could "see _all_ the kingdoms of the world" from a "_very_ high mountain" (implying a "flat" shape for the earth).
Jesus also mistakenly claimed that the mustard seed was the "smalled seed on the face of the ground" (Matt. 13:32), and that salt could "lost its savour."
WAS JESUS A GOOD EXAMPLE?
Jesus said that whoever calls somebody a fool shall be in danger of hell fire, then he called the Pharisees much worse names, like sons of vipers, sons of the devil, etc.
Jesus irrationaly cursed a fig tree for being fruitless OUT OF SEASON.
He broke the law by stealing corn on the Sabbath, and he encouraged his disciples to take a horse without asking permission. (Matthew says it was not just one horse that Jesus said to take, but two, and adds that Jesus "rode THEM" into Jerusalem.)
The "humble" Jesus said that he was "greater than the temple" "greater than Jonah" and "greater than Solomon" (see Matt.). He appeared to suffer from a dictator's "paranoia" when he said, "He that is not with me is against me." Mat. 12:30 (Though in another place Jesus reversed that and said, "He who is not against me is with me.")
Although other verses can be cited to portray Jesus in a different light, they do not erase the disturbing, judgmental, unruly side of his character. And if the church "added" this side, then there is certainly no way to credibly determine exactly what might not ALSO be merely an addition or gloss upon the Jesus legend. Maybe many of the beautiful, less disturbing passages are also additions, such as the "woman taken in adultery" section of John's Gospel, which we now know was a later addition, and not in the earliest Johnnine texts. (In fact, the earliest appearance of the parable of the "woman taken in adultery" is in a Lukan text dated after 1000 A.D., and the text became so popular it soon got copied again by some scribes who felt it belonged more properly in the fourth Gospel rather than the third.)
On the whole, Jesus said little that was worthwhile. He introduced nothing new to ethics, not even the notion of "eternal punishment" which several intertestamental works had introduced right before Jesus appeared on the scene, works like the Book of Daniel and the Books of Enoch. He instituted no social programs, no useful science or medicine, but appeared ignorant, a child of his times. Many scholars doubt that any clear picture of the "historical Jesus" will ever emerge. [See for instance the two excellent works by Dr. Robert M. Price, BEYOND BORN AGAIN (an introduction to "Jesus questions"), and, DECONSTRUCTING JESUS (his new scholarly thesis that sums up the many strands of work on the historical Jesus today).]
WHY IS JESUS SO "SPECIAL?"
It would be more reasonable and productive to emulate real, flesh-and-blood human beings who have contributed to humanity -- mothers who have given birth, scientists who have alleviated suffering, social reformers who have fought injustice -- than to worship a character of such dubious qualities as Jesus.
In fact, if it wasn't for a host of scientists who happened to be either lapsed churchgoers, heretics, apostates, infidels, agnostics, or atheists, and their successes in the fields of agricultural and medical science, hundreds of millions would have starved to death or suffered innumerable diseases this past century. Those agricultural and medical scientists "multiplied more loaves of bread" and "prevented/healed more diseases" in the past fifty years than Christianity has in the past two thousand.
Also, Florence Nightengale, the woman who made nursing a legitimate profession, was a lesbian who disdained institutionalized religion. The founder of the International Red Cross, Andre Dunant, was gay. The founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton, was a freethinker. And Helen Keller, the blind and deaf woman who proved an inspiration to sufferers of severe disabilities, was a humanist.