“It has become a commonplace that, were Jesus to return today, he would be appalled at what is being done in his name…. We owe Jesus the honour of separating his genuinely original and radical ethics from the supernatural nonsense which he inevitably espoused as a man of his time…” — Richard Dawkins
Most, if not all, of the earliest Christians in ancient Rome were branded atheists because they frowned on the emperor cult and refused to recognize the Emperor as god, even as many of them were arrested, tortured and killed — so explained the documentary “Rivals of Jesus” shown in The National Geographic Channel. Indeed, these early Christians were atheists with respect to the Roman emperor/god. They were, shall we say, atheists for Jesus.
Similarly, today’s Christians (Catholics included) are atheists with respect to other gods, in the same manner that other religionists are to the Judeo-Christian god. Uniformly, we’re all atheists with respect to Zeus and Thor. And does anyone still pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Physicist Mano Singham wrote: “If one asks followers of one particular god why they do not believe in a different one, you will usually find that they argue much like atheists, citing the lack of evidence or reasons for belief. The difference is that they apply the rule only selectively, to rule out all other gods except their own preferred one, although there is no empirical difference between them.”
My take is that the plethora of gods ultimately makes a god-believer a theist and at the same time an atheist. If you’d not get schizoid with that…!
However, not a few religionists would argue that no matter what religion one belongs to, and even with the different name(s) for the god(s) he/she worships, these names universally refer to the same and only one God. Aha! the “only-one-God” with multiple bios and resumes? Like the three-hundred or three-persons-in-one? The latter sounds more like the sacheted Nescafe!
Additionally and not necessarily relevant, what explains the fact that Buddhism does not have a god? Would nothing or none be the same as the Abrahamic God?
Alas, we were all born without faith, without belief, without any clue whatsoever of the god-hypothesis. That’s pretty clear. It’s only when indoctrination started in varied stages of our life in various little and big ways did we begin to consciously or unconsciously adopt the faith in a non-existent god — either by having that faith slowly instilled in us or forcibly rammed down our throats.
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I can’t remember in my childhood when Santa Claus and Christmas socks were first introduced to my gullible Christmas gift-excited mind; or the moment in our house when I first saw pictures and icons of Jesus’ face, as a baby in a nativity frame or as a half-naked man crucified, and somebody whispered to me saying “he’s the son of God.”
But I do remember viewing a TV program months after 9/11, wherein a little girl was asked who the man in the picture (Bin Laden) shown to her was. Without hesitation she quickly answered : Jesus Christ.
Pardon the kid, but you know the popular image of Jesus is so embedded in our minds that many geniuses could see him about anywhere: From formation of clouds to burnt marks of a toasted bread, from abstract designs of bathroom tiles and soiled urinals to worn out soles of flip-flops. Yet, a National Geographic documentary posited that Jesus may have looked like a dark-skinned, curly, beardless man resembling that of the Judas character in the rock opera/ film “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Which leads me to gutsily croon this Rice/Webber non-Christmas “carole”:
Every time I look at you I don’t understand,
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand,
You could have managed better if you had it planned,
Now why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
If you’d come today you could have reached the whole nation,
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
Well, Judas-looking or not, Jesus would have topped Google search hits if the net and Facebook were already in vogue when he was rumored to be walking on water or raising the dead in old Galilee or thereabouts. Conversely, if he were to show up in these parts in this post-Marcos era, he would be an admirable heroic human rights activist, and would possibly be listed as a victim of torture (read: crucified), and/or unfortunately gone desaparicido. Partly because Jesus possessed the radical ethics that Dawkins describes him to have!
Now, this question intrigued me the happy holidays through: If Jesus were to return today, would he be an atheist or agnostic, too? My gut feel: Yes, probably! You know he’s depicted in the bible to have knowledgeably debated with religious elders when he was still a kid. He was, at the very least, a maverick.
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When I was still a pre-schooler, I had difficulty distinguishing Jose Rizal from Andres Bonifacio. It seemed I saw Rizal in Bonifacio and vice-versa. It was only when I was able to recognize the old (’70’s?) two-peso bill wherein, if memory serves, Bonifacio and Mabini shared “topbilling” on the banknote, and contrasting it to Rizal’s one-peso bill did I clearly define who was who. So you can say that money educates the ignorant about history, and also makes hero-worshippers out of pre-schoolers. And oh, how brilliant was that person who originally thought of deflecting money-worship toward other forms of fanaticism.
Anyway, my drift here is: To be a fan of popular celebrities or historical figures brings its own strategic reward. A fan values the admirable traits of the idol/role model and perhaps deliberately emulates his/her attributes, then most likely in the long evolutionary process, somehow those characteristics are replicated in meme-like fashion thereby enriching the human gene pool. Good to hear, thus, there are Catholic followers of Martin Luther King, non-Mason fans of Rizal, or Noranian admirers of Vilma.
But I maintain that atheist ‘fans’ of Jesus must not be confused with atheists for Jesus. You see, I’m no more than a mere Jesus fan now.
Worshipping these celebrities and historical figures as gods is altogether a delusional matter, as one Rizalista cult proves to be no ordinary fans club. Go figure that woman-member who was interviewed on TV about her interpretation of the “INRI” that’s associated with the crucified Christ: She emphatically lectured viewers that the “R” stands for “Rizal”. Arrrrr…!