Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” These words, supposedly said by Jesus of Nazareth after dying and resurrecting, have always disturbed me, not only because he is damning me and others for our integrity in admitting our ignorance of the facts, our awareness of the improbabilities and irrelevancies, our belief in something else or our indifference to the subject, but because he is invalidating his own philosophy!
Jesus is also quoted as saying1, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called the children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Since I take all this personally, I was in a quandary about what Jesus was saying about me. Am I damned because I refused to be baptized or because I don’t believe that Jesus ever had a second life or will ever have a third – or that, if he did have a third life, he would expend it ruling the world as a dictator for exactly one millennium? If Jesus of Nazareth were “Jehovah” or “Christ,” why would he preach peace and tolerance while practicing violence and intolerance? The Trinity is so utterly irrational in so many ways, I couldn’t even imagine it, let alone decide to believe in it.
I believe that a bunch of Roman Pagans who had been converted by Saul of Tarsus got hold of a flawed Greek translation of the ancient fictional prophecies about the Messiah and put them together with verbal testimony and translated transcriptions of the sermons of Jesus before he was crucified and made up the Gospels using pseudonyms. They then added a pagan last supper and some post-resurrection narrative to attempt to make it fit their beliefs. That’s what I believe. I could pretend to believe something else, but that’s what I believe!Even though there is considerable evidence to support my conjectures, do they damn me? Why? Is God so prejudiced against thinking and learning that He would exclude me for it? Or have self-serving, delusional men concocted this scheme to capture our credulity and so extort money, power, and conquest out of us?
Over the years, Christianity has rarely been merciful, meek, humble, or poor, but many ministers cite Mark every week so that they and their fellow Christians can pretend superiority to the rest of us and lord it over people with less devastating weapons and less dogmatic beliefs. Not incidentally, they also extract a tidy sum each week from those they have managed to “convert” to this biased and anachronistic way of thinking.
What I hate about all this grandiosity is its divisiveness. We look for redemption in all the wrong places. We declare ourselves “the good guys” when we are the only country to drop atomic bombs on civilians and the originators of much of the war and divisiveness in the world going on today.
A small amount of humility might be in order here. Maybe it’s time to stop at least some of our pretensions.
How about taking to heart the real lesson of the loaves and fishes and spread the abundance – and the ability to create more abundance – rather than hoarding, killing, stealing and destroying?
There is a national campaign against bullying. Why isn’t the focus on Christians bullying others? This isn’t new. It was going strong when they banished Arius and his followers for believing Jesus wasn’t Christ or God. And it hasn’t stopped yet. We have regularly bullied other countries since the Monroe Doctrine and minority groups around us since before the Revolutionary War. Christians have bullied and badgered others and each other for centuries. It was certainly true in my mother’s home. It’s been a way of life. In many Christian homes today, it still is!
There are many Christians I like and admire. But their religion, I’m sorry to report, is a blight on this world and should be eliminated with the prejudice it has earned over the millennium and more it has bullied and berated many of its own along with the rest of us.
Can we at least talk about this? Or is this subject taboo? Are the rules such that they are free to berate and mislead me, but I must remain silent?
©David N. Dodson, December 2016