Jesus: The Man, The Myth, The Misconception

If you are a Christian, you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. You believe he was the Messiah sent by the God of Abraham, miraculously born from a virgin, who eventually was crucified on a cross in an act that somehow symbolized  eternal exoneration from all human sins. In the duration of his 33 years on earth, he performed several miracles, such as healing the sick and turning water to wine, and taught values of unprecedented moral significance. The belief in these things is required of all Christians, as the precept of the entire religion is founded on the divinity of a real-life man named Jesus. If you do not believe these things, you cannot  be considered a Christian, even if you try to twist your allegiance to God by saying you believe in the “idea” or “spirit” of Jesus, but not necessarily his divinity. I think that the divinity of Jesus is one criterion that Christians cannot back away from if they identify themselves with the religion.

Now, Jesus can absolutely not be considered a definite historical figure, as the likes of someone like Caesar can. There is simply not enough documental evidence of his existence. The identities of the four Gospel writers are unconfirmed and, to our knowledge, have not written anything besides the Gospels, so they cannot be considered reliable sources anyway. On top of this, the oldest of the four Christian Gospels is believed to be the Gospel of Mark, which scholars believe was drafted in 70 C.E., 37 years after the supposed death of Jesus. Hmm… well, right off the bat, we know that the four Gospel writers were not eye-witnesses of Jesus. Given all this information, their credibility looks meager at best. But is there anyone who can testify to the existence of such a renowned figure? Well, no. There are several reliable historians from that period and area who would have certainly wanted to account for such a major person. Ironically enough, none of them did. Many Christians like pointing out Josephus, a famous historian from Judea, as a significant early scholar who testified to Jesus’ existence. However, Josephus was born in 37 C.E., scratching him from the list of possible eye-witnesses. On top of this, the section on Jesus, as miniature and relatively insignificant as it is, reeks of Christian forgery. The passage itself can be dated back to the fourth century during the rule of the Emperor Constantine. Interestingly enough, Constantine was the man who essentially Christianized the dying Roman Empire. And who chronicled Constantine’s life? The Bishop Eusebius, who is known to have okayed bluffing for the sake of reaching the kingdom of Heaven, and was instrumental in teaching Constantine the basics of Christianity and assisting him in spreading it across the empire. Suddenly, Jesus does not seem so real after all.

Despite the fact that the very historicity of Jesus is extremely tenuous, I am willing to, for the Christian’s sake, accept his existence. So, for the purposes of this post, let’s ignore the evidence (or lack there of) and assume that Jesus was a real person. In fact, let’s accept all of it. The miracles, the virgin birth, the crucification, the resurrection, everything. So this man named Jesus comes along; he walks on water; he gives vision to the blind; he claims to be the Son of God; he is even willing to die so that we do not have to spend eternity in Hell. Wow. What a nice guy. Seriously. But let’s take it a step further. What are his demands for reaching the kingdom of Heaven? Well, it is simple: believe in him. When asked what they think will happen to people who do not believe in Jesus but have lived good lives, many Christians like to say, well, that’s for God to judge, not me, and no one can truly know God’s intentions. But I think this is one thing God made pretty clear: believe in him, or go to Hell. When you really think about this, your perception of Jesus as such a nice guy might change just a little.

This, in my mind, is the most fundamental flaw of the Jesus character: he requires nothing of us but to believe in him. I think religious people tend not to question this aspect of faith because it seems so natural to worship a god. But think about it. Would an all-loving, all-merciful God demand that you believe in him in order to live happily for eternity? However you want to put it, this is selfish. Simply selfish. And yet it is so elementarily selfish that most of us overlook it. It seems to me that a more productive criterion for paradise would have been good deeds, and although Jesus encourages good deeds, this does not make his list of requirements. Think about if all religions merely emphasized the doing of good deeds, rather than the promotion their gods. The problem here is obvious. God is the poison that makes religion violent and dangerous. Once you believe in an all-powerful ruler, you are liable to do anything you interpret as a demand from such a ruler. Even if it includes killing. Frankly, if a god is unjust enough to let me spend eternity – eternity – in Hell for simply not accepting his existence, I would not choose to spend time with him anyway.

The point I am trying to make is that belief in a divine being is simply not necessary in modern society. Why believe in the divinity of Jesus or any other god but to ease the fear of death? Rather than focusing our intentions on pleasing a god, let’s use our energy on things that will make this life meaningful – not the one that follows it. We can do this simply by thinking rationally and making decisions that cater to the greater happiness of all human beings. No society in human history has ever gone awry by trying to think more rationally. So let’s stop trying to create lives outside of this one, and let’s start cherishing the one that is right here in front of us. No Jesus required for that.

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18 responses to “Jesus: The Man, The Myth, The Misconception

  • Noah Ketterman

    Alright, we will go paragraph by paragraph. I am not sure how many words I get per post, so each post will deal with a specific paragraph. To anyone reading this, I am Mark’s brother in law. I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember and I firmly believe that, after studying the evidence myself, it is without a doubt the truth that people can spend their entire lives seeking. I believe that the Christian faith is simple enough for a child to understand (which is why I was able to first accept Christ into my life the summer after my fifth grade year of school) but so deep and fascinating that it can capture the minds the smartest people we know. As such, I hope you give it a chance with an open mind as I will set out to respond to the points that Mark raises above. That being said, for the most part I think his summary in paragraph one is accurate of the Christian faith. Here I think Mark makes a good point, the belief in Jesus’ divinity is essential to Christianity and anyone who tries to piece together a Christian faith without accepting this is wasting his/her time. This is a good place to start the discussion.

  • Noah Ketterman

    Paragraph two questions the historical accuracy of Jesus. On this note we have to make something very clear up front. It is not fair to judge Jesus as a historical figure with any greater scrutiny than we use to judge other historical figures. Most of what we teach in history class comes to us with far less certainty than that which we have about Jesus. As such, it is interesting to me that I have to defend the fact that Jesus ever lived at all, but I will. Let’s start with the Gospels which, obviously, are the most complete accounts of Jesus’ life. More specifically, let’s start with the issue raised about their authorship. The authors of at least three of them are really not in question. Did the authors sign their own names to their writings? No. However, the early church was absolutely sure of their authorship as they used and circulated them up until the official canonization of the bible (which admittedly was some time later in the year 400). Long before canonization though we know of references to these three gospels from early church leaders like Papias, Irenaeus, and Clement (the easier ones to assign authorship are Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John, admittedly, is a little trickier to definitely attribute to him (or, rather to the apostle John and not another John), but Irenaeus (among others) attributes his gospel to him as well. So, to a certain extent we must trust the early church for their authorship but I believe this is a reasonable thing to do. I believe this because of the canonization / authentication process. The early church used incredibly scrupulous criteria in deciding which books to canonize. If a book even slightly failed the criteria, it was thrown out altogether. They ensured that each chosen book met certain standards like being authoritatively written while at the same time being inspired by God (written by an Apostle or someone who had similar authority), being consistent with or fulfilling the teachings of the Old Testament, and unanimous acceptance by the early church leaders, some of whom were referenced earlier. The four gospels were easily included within this group and as such I believe that we can attribute them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Consider, for a second, who the early church leaders might select if they were to make up authors to the four best known documentaries of Jesus’ life. To artificially authenticate them, wouldn’t they have chosen more prominent figures like Peter or James? They didn’t and I think the fabricated selection of these four authors, if it really had been done, would have been a poor choice. Now, to the issue of WHEN they were written, Mark is reasonable in questioning the time frame. Matthew was likely written between 60-65, Mark around 55-65, Luke around the year 60, and John around 85-80. Does this mean we cannot trust them since they were not immediately captured after Jesus’ death? I don’t think so, mostly because at the time the importance of oral tradition was incredibly strong. Writing mediums (and people who could actually do it) were not plentiful and as such it was very customary to commit important things to memory and pass on through oral tradition. We know this because Jewish priests at the time prided themselves in committing entire books of the Old Testament to memory. As such it would have been within reason to commit Jesus’ teachings and stories to memory. However, there is a stronger argument here that directly contradicts something Mark said in this paragraph. You said that “right off the bat” we cannot accept the gospels because they were not written by eye witnesses. That, simply, is wrong. Two of the gospels (Matthew and John) were written by disciples of Jesus who were with him during his three years of ministry and therefore were direct witnesses of the things he did and said. The other two gospel writers acted under the guidance of people who did witness Jesus directly (Mark worked with Peter and Luke with Paul and other leaders of the infant church). I will close this post with one more note about the timing of the gospels. Even though they were written some time later, they were still written and circulated at a time when eye witnesses to the events were still alive and could have challenged the documents. This was not done in any way as the earliest enemies of the Christian church may have tried to discredit the significance of these events, but not the fact that they actually occurred. I will get to the issue of the corroborating evidence of Jesus when I respond to your most recent post. This already is a lot for just your second paragraph (and we are just getting started!)

    • Mark McHugh

      Noah,
      It seems to me that you are merely disputing the facts. Your dates for the writings of the Gospels reflect that your sources for this information are probably very conservative. It is true that we cannot put a definite number on it – but many historians consider the first Gospel (Mark) to be written in 70 CE, with John being written in the 90s. Regardless, they are writing these books decades after the supposed life of Jesus. Why? Why would they wait so long? Because they wanted to commit it to memory? I don’t buy it. Also, since they did not identify themselves in the texts, we can in no way attribute them to the disciples or anyone else. You say the Christian Church was confident of their identities, but frankly, the Christian Church was a biased source that proved they would manipulate and interpolate texts when it suited them. The fact that these authors are unknown and have no other documents to their name, means we simply cannot view them as legitimate. You also point out that there is a lot more information about Jesus than other historical figures – but the question is how much reliable information? There are a lot of stories and fables about this character named Jesus, but barely anything dependable. Your comparison of him to other figures is absolutely inaccurate. We can have more confidence in say, Caesar, because he wrote documents on his own that have been preserved. Self-made documents. It would have saved all of us an enormous amount of trouble if Jesus happened to do the same. Interestingly enough, however, he didn’t. Furthermore, the texts were heavily tampered with, copied over and over, manipulated, etc., so their original content cannot be known. Christians disagree, but the mere supernatural aspect of the Gospels further discredits them. They’re talking about miracles, walking on water, being born of a virgin, etc. If you take a closer look at these events, you will see that each and EVERY miracle Jesus performed can be traced to a previous tradition, meaning that they were borrowed. It was all too common in this period to make up fairy tales. The Christian one has merely managed to gain the most leverage. Also, it is very important to note that this was a time period of an absence of any sort of scientific knowledge – magic and miracles were very conceivable to these people, so it makes sense that they would write such fictional tales. If such a story were spread in this era, it probably wouldn’t even reach Twitter. You say it is interesting to you that you have to defend the historicity of Jesus (which in contrast to your opinion is extremely tenuous). It is more interesting to me that we are forced to dig so far back just to try to disprove ancient myths, quite literally, about magic and miracles.

      • Noah Ketterman

        I do admit that the gospels were not written immediately after Jesus’ death, but I did not say the REASON for that was so that they could memorize everything about him. I simply pointed out the extreme importance that culture placed on memorization and the care they used in preserving things. Again though I must point out something to which you didn’t respond and that is the fact that nobody disputed the gospels when they came out. We have nothing from that time that says anything captured about the life of Jesus was in any way misconstrued by any of the four gospel writers. There were many people who were alive during the circulation of the first gospels that also witnessed what Jesus did and were very interested in doing whatever they could to squash the spread of this message. Instead of disputing the facts, (or writing their own accounts of what might have happened instead) they just killed the people who spread the news. Also, you are being inconsistent in your approach to historical literature. How is it that the early church unanimously attributed each gospel to its currently known author and you call it “bias” when you are willing to jump on board with documents that Ceasar wrote about himself? How is that not biased? Cesar could have written anything he wanted about himself. You could extend that argument to any historical record from the time and yet you choose to scrutinize the gospels alone because it is convenient for your argument. If Jesus had documented his own life that would change nothing for you, you still would hold that under a magnifying glass while you looked at the rest of history through a telescope. Now, concerning the manuscripts you referenced (the copies), I think that is one of the absolute best defenses of the Gospels (the best, in my opinion, are the fulfillment of OT prophesies but I am sure we will get to that later). When we have copies of the gospels/letters that date far back, close to the time of the original writing, we can be even surer of their validity. On this front, the New Testament obliterates any rival document from its time (whether it be religious or secular). Concerning the ancient Greek language, we have 306 uncial (ancient copies written parchment) manuscripts, some of which date back to the third century. We have 2,856 manuscripts written in a more stylistic form of Greek dating back to as early as 800. We also have 2,403 Greek copies of manuscripts from the early church. In addition to the original language in which the gospels were written, we also have at least 8,000 Latin manuscripts and a total of 8,000 in Ethiopic, Slavic, and Armenian. So we have tens of thousands of copies coming from different languages in different geographic regions from different times and when you piece them altogether into on modern-day Bible you have an excellent argument for the validity of the gospels. Also, there is no basis whatsoever for you to say that because the gospels include “supernatural aspects,” that they are therefore illegitimate. That is you dismissing them on your own opinion and therefore that sentence doesn’t merit any further consideration. Also, you make a sweeping statement that every single miracle can be traced back to something else, but I will need you to defend that. In fact, use written proofs of documents that are legitimate ones according to your own standards that depict similar miracles performed by godlike people from that time or earlier. If you use standards like the ones I am using to defend the gospels, then you will have acknowledged their authenticity.

  • Noah Ketterman

    In paragraph three, Mark stops a little short in actually playing the overused, and misinformed, argument of “why does God send good people to Hell?” I won’t criticize him for saying it because technically he didn’t raise it as an objection, but I believe it is important enough to address here anyway. People love to talk about a loving God, who apparently also created and “sends” people to a place called Hell, and throw that image into the face of Christians. Is God love? Yes (1 John 4: 7-21). Is God merciful? Yes (Ephesians 2:4). However, this is far from a complete list of all of the characteristics of God as revealed to us in scripture. Another, very important one is the fact that God is just (2 Thessalonians 1: 5-6). God is all of these things (and many more) all at once. All aspects of his character are 100% accurate all the time and must be satisfied at all times. Therefore, God will not elevate his loving and merciful nature in order to lessen his just nature. No, justice, love, and mercy must be satisfied equally and completely at all times. Consider, then, that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). As evidenced extensively in the Old Testament (OT), God established a payment system by which we can be considered cleansed of our sins. That payment system was bloodshed. Then, they used the blood of animals but this sacrifice was never sufficient as the people of the OT were required to keep doing it. As we continued to repeatedly make decisions that pushed God further and further away, he continued to require sacrifices of us. Think about that for a second, imagine trying to love someone (romantically for example) that continued to violate your relationship with him/her. Say, for example, this person continued to cheat on you, regardless of your continued warnings not to. Could you love that person? I, in my sinful nature, can say for certain that I could not. Now, multiply that kind of betrayal by the number of people that have ever lived and you can imagine that God should want nothing to do with us at all. Would you want to spend any time with any of those people..how about eternity? I imagine you would want to permanently separate yourself from them as well. That, in a very crude example, is what our relationship to God is. However, as stated earlier, God is love. He, being perfect in this love, was able to reach out to us by sending his Son to die as the ultimate sacrifice allowing all of us to restore our relationship with him. The criteria, though, is that we must accept this sacrifice. Otherwise, his just nature is not satisfied and we go back to being the “cheater” reference earlier only without any remorse for our actions. So, to think about it that way, it is amazing that God cares enough about us reach out to us in this way. Does he have to? Absolutely not, but he loves us and desperately wants to be with us. Unfortunately, not all of us want him as much as he wants us.

    • Mark McHugh

      Noah,
      I’m surprised you brought the OT into the conversation, given the evil, egotistical, impulsive, violent, bigoted God it portrays. But I won’t go into the fact that he commands the murder of gays and okays slavery. I respect your beliefs, but I am completely opposed to them. If God truly wants to punish us for not being friends with him, why did he create us in the first place? According to your logic, God made us as flawed, utterly imperfect creatures. If you want to point back to Adam and Eve, we can rule that out through evolution – I hope you agree. You truly think God created a “system of bloodshed?” Looking at it rationally, you truly believe this rather than thinking that this was the work of ancient people trying to make sense of the world? Going back to an earlier post, I think that your beliefs are a product of the very topic I discuss in “Spirituality and Religion: do they have to co-exist?” You rely on this otherwise absurd logic because your spiritual relationship with God affirms it. As you can read in that post, I think I give a valid explanation for the truth about spirituality and the delusional role that God plays in it.

      • Noah Ketterman

        Actually, I agree with pretty much everything you said here but I don’t think that devalues my point (yes, Leviticus does say that homosexuality is punishable by death under the old law, but the significance of that and what it means today is another discussion that requires belief in everything Jesus stood for – one day I hope to have it with you). However, the Adam and Eve that God created were in his presence and as such were literally in heaven on earth. To be in God’s presence, one must be free from sin. This is a statement I am making based on a holistic view of scripture. However, when God made Adam and Eve, he gave them complete freedom and only one real restriction. We know the story about eating the fruit of the forbidden tree (of course it was the woman who ate first…..). At that very moment, sin entered the world and was unfortunately engraved on the heart of every man and woman. At that point God banished them from the garden and separated himself from them because, as he was perfect, he could not be in the presence of imperfection. At that point, God owed us nothing. He dwells in heaven and as such is and always has been in a pretty good situation. However, he didn’t give up on us. He desperately wanted to be with us despite our imperfect nature and as such he set up the sacrificial system that Jesus eventually fulfilled for eternity when he died on the cross. Again, that needed to be done because as a just God, He couldn’t he let that slide. I think that is a fair thing considering my own, limited understanding of justice. When I am wronged, I expect someone to pay for it. I am sure you are the same way. If someone were to steal your wallet or, worse, murder a loved one, could you let that slide? Of course not. It is not fair to say that God set us up to fail, he gave us freedom and we chose sin. We always will unless he gives us an out. He did. I have not read your spirituality post, but I likely will soon. As such, I won’t respond to that part of it.

    • Mark McHugh

      Responding to your last comment… Jesus never once criticized the atrocities of the Old Testament. In fact, he ensured that people knew he supported it: “Do not think I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” – Matthew 5:17. I understand that Jesus encouraged good deeds. But how are you going to believe, evidently literally, the story of Adam and Eve and other passages of the Old Testament, if you are going to discard the parts that demand morally outrageous behavior? You cannot simply pick and choose which parts please you and that is precisely what you are doing. If Christians did not believe these parts to be the true word of God, why are they still in the Bible? It’s contradictory. Your rhetoric regarding the creation story seems to be so literal and yet you back off from the other more frightening sections of the OT. Regarding your point about sin, it does not make any sense to say that Adam and Even sinned and therefore ruined it for the rest of us. It is not fair that I, having no choice in entering into this life, have to bear the burden of my ancient ancestors. Thankfully for me, Adam and Even did not exist – this is a fact, given that you accept evolution. You say God so desperately wants to be with us, but you simply cannot make that claim. You’re making that claim based on your perception of how God has found you in your life. But you have no grounds to speak for him wanting to be with anyone else. You say that God is “perfect and could not be in the presence of imperfection. At that point, he owed us nothing.” So God was so arrogant as to abandon his creation after he gave them a choice and they failed his test? And he owes us nothing despite the fact that he alone made the decision to create us and place us in the exact predicament that we are in? This only exemplifies another selfish trait of your god. If he truly gave us free will and expected us to be perfect, well, it seems he made a grave miscalculation. And if God is the creator of everything, he also created the sheer capacity for evil, upon which he burdened us – how is that our fault? Also, it seems he waited quite a long time to “give us an out.” What about all the people who lived from the purported time of Adam/Eve and Jesus? Are they permanently in Hell? And I hope that, if you choose to respond, you do not make the claim that we are simply too inferior to know all of God’s will and cannot make these kinds of judgments. You seem to know your god’s will pretty well and that is a cheap cop-out to questions that indicate religion’s fallacy. All in all, your sort of theological system may make sense to you, but from a rational standpoint, it is evident that it was concocted by people trying to figure out the world thousands of years ago. It’s simply common sense that this is a mythical system of punishment and reward. You have said before that you welcomed Jesus into you rife in 5th grade. To me, this is a vulnerably young age to adopt something that makes such powerful intellectual claims. Given that you, as a 5th grader, were not yet intellectually matured (compared to an adult, of course), it seems to me that you inherited an extremely strong bias towards the rationale of Christianity before you were capable of evaluating it from a reasonable point of view. Justifying something that you already fully believe in can be done with almost anything. But it is different once you take a step back, remove yourself from your beliefs, and approach it from a strictly rational point of view. I hope you know that I don’t mean any disrespect – I completely respect you as a human being for who you are and I respect the fact that your life choices contrast mine. However, religion itself is a different animal and I have no respect for it whatsoever because it offers nothing to respect, in my view. It has been the bearer of tremendously good deeds and atrociously bad ones, but the choices people have made on its behalf do not change it substantively. Thanks again for taking so much time out to respond to these posts – it means a lot that you care enough to put so much time into contributing to such beneficial discussions. I realize you could be doing things that are probably more productive to your personal life, but you still choose to do this. And, though I clearly don’t espouse your beliefs, I admire the time and effort you have put in to finding a kind of truth that works for you. Hope all is well.

  • Noah Ketterman

    The fourth paragraph deals with the idea of Christ being selfish because he demands worship of himself. I don’t hear this objection that often, but I understand it. The problem is that we are viewing it through our own, imperfect worldview. We only understand human nature to fail eventually. As such, everyone, and everything, has limitations and will fail us eventually. When we think of people demanding respect of themselves or to act perfectly in a given situation, we expect the not to succeed sometimes (even if they succeed very often). For example, as a Steelers fan Ben Roethlisberger is pretty good at come from behind victories (I am not bothering to look up the numbers but he has a significant amount of 4th quarter game winning drives) so it is reasonable for me to get excited when the ball is in his hands and the Steelers are down by 4 with 3 minutes to go in the game. However, Ben lets me down sometimes (see week one in Denver). Now, sticking with the sports theme, imagine there was a quarterback who actually could guarantee a win every game. Imagine that Napoleon Dynamite’s uncle really could throw a football “over them mountains” and win states every time. Would it be wrong for that person to demand the ball every time in that situation? I don’t think so. That person actually deserves to be turned to every time that situation occurs. Now, expand that silly situation to the idea of worship. Is it reasonable for us to respect Zoltan in the movie “Dude Where’s My Car” when he demands the worship of his cult following? No, because Zoltan isn’t perfect (despite the fact that he is hilarious). But what if someone actually was perfect and really did deserve the worship that Jesus asked of his followers. Mark imagined a world where everything Jesus said he did actually occurred (the virgin birth, the miracles, the death, and the resurrection). If all of that happened to one person, how could you not believe that he actually deserved to be worshiped? He fulfilled multiple prophesies (many of which he had no control over), he healed blind people, raised people from the dead, and defeated death himself. If all those were true, how is that not the very image of the only being worthy of our actual worship? It is difficult to imagine because we struggle to think of even perfect qualities in certain people to respect, let alone a perfect and even divine character. But that is what Jesus demonstrated and as such it is not “selfish” that he demands our worship, it is simply right for him to ask it of us because he actually deserves to be worshiped.

  • Noah Ketterman

    Concerning the final paragraph, Mark challenges us to dismiss faith and think “rationally and (make) decisions that cater to the greater happiness of all human beings.” I say do that, but keep the faith (they can coexist quite easily). When I do that, when I consider God’s awesome creation and do what my little mind can do to establish dominion over it and seek to understand it, I do it for the glory of God and doing this does nothing at all to cheapen the experience. Rather, it magnifies the joy of it because I know there is a greater reason for everything that exists around me. Really, what is the point of thinking rationally and doing anything at all if not for the glory of God? What does an anyone living without a relationship with Him gain by doing anything for the greater good, especially if it sacrifices his/her own enjoyment? What is the purpose of doing anything at all? Why go to school? Why get a job? Why make money? Why eat, drink, and be merry? You will only go hungry again, be thirsty again, and be unhappy at some point in the future. What do you gain by helping others or even developing your own mental state? Your legacy will eventually die out unless you make a pretty significant contribution to society (although I would venture a guess that many people enjoy electricity and light without ever considering Franklin or Edison who made the rational decisions that catered to the greater good so people could have those things). Anyway, the point is life absolutely does have purpose, and Mark, I literally pray every single night that you will one day come to appreciate that. So, to any reader, I hope this gives you something to think about even though I am sure our conversation is far from over!

  • Mark McHugh

    Noah,
    Although I am flattered that you pray for me (seriously), I assure you that my life is purposeful. I find an enormous amount of purpose in pursuing my passions in life and through the relationships that I form and build on every day. None of these include God, but they are surely reason enough for me to keep going. You ask what the point of all this is if there is no God to provide to provide a greater purpose. This is the point that I actually feel most strongly about. There is so much meaning and delightful mystery in the unknown – merely recognizing that we such a small part of this incredible universe. I get so much satisfaction in living each day for things that I can feel, sense, pursue, and do in the world that immediately surrounds me. I think for you, God plays a similar role and I have absolutely no problem with that. I just wish you would abandon defending your spirituality with writings that were made thousands of years ago not because I’m absolutely certain that they’re not true (no way to be certain) but because I think they are totally unnecessary to live a meaningful life and they only strain people in seeking concrete meaning for a life that offers nothing of the sort. The one thing I hope you do realize, though, is that life can be incredibly meaningful without God. At the end of the day, I’m not going to convince you of anything and vice versa. But I don’t want you truly believing that life lacks meaning without God because, to me, the beauty is in the mystery. Solving it is a task I am utterly unfit to do.

  • Jordan

    As a man who shares many of the same views as Noah, I think the line for the argument is drawn at how one views God. Mark and Noah have each picked their sides.

    Noah rightly views God as the Creator of the universe, the creator of all we see and we (mankind) being part of his creation are called to give worship to Him and obey His commands.

    From what I can tell, Mark does not acknowledge God as his Creator, let along a god at all. I would anticipate he attributes the creation of all we see to some form of the big bang theory, which, over billions of years, evolved into what we see today. As a result, there is no sense of a Creator and subsequently no sense for giving glory to God and thanking Him.

    I believe the above difference explains all the remaining differences:

    Noah’s faith in God, and belief that God is who He reveals Himself throughout the Bible, has allowed Noah to understand he has fallen short of God’s glory (both by nature, referencing Adam, and choice). As a result, Noah knows he is in need of a savior. Throughout history and as seen in the scriptures, God has clearly always provided a means for people to be saved – but salvation is only for those people who turn to God.

    Mark doesn’t appear to believe in God, so there’s no reason for him to believe there is any standard outside that set within the society he lives. I would imagine under this belief, morals and ethics are purely subjective. There is nothing to determine right and wrong other than what is popular or what the government of a land dictates. Just thinking about this actually gave me chills, haha. Anyway, because Mark doesn’t believe in God or His standard, there’s no reason to believe he’s fallen short of it…essentially, he would have to say he’s never sinned. As long as the justice system of his society hasn’t caught him doing something, he’s never done anything wrong. Certainly most people would say they’ve done something wrong (or bad or however you will refer to it), but if there is no supreme law or moral and if you haven’t been caught, then who did you offend?? You could say you offended a person, but without God, morals are subjective so that doesn’t mean anything. For instance, if you kill a man in a land that doesn’t condemn murder, then you aren’t accountable to anyone. Someone may say, “but that person has the right to live” (insert Declaration of Independence quote reference). Who gives them that right if not God? While this is an extreme example, the subtle ones work all the same. And to keep from going too far down this path, it’s suffice to say Mark doesn’t believe he (or anyone else) is in need of a savior.

    From here, you both argue the person and work of Christ. Noah again argues rightly that we are all in need of a Savior because we have fallen short of the glory of God. Noah has (with God’s grace [another one of His supreme character attributes]) turned to Christ as his Savior, knowing that Christ is the means by which God saves us. Because Christ was born of a virgin, He didn’t carry the nature of sin. And throughout His life, he resisted temptation and thus didn’t carry the choice of sin.

    Mark, in his current philosophy, has no reason to acknowledge or turn to Christ b/c, again, he hasn’t done anything wrong.

    The ugly thing about holding to philosophies that exchange the truth about God for lies is that those people will be held without excuse. God has put Himself on display for all to see and His invisible qualities are clearly seen in the creation of the world (His words). Regardless of what you think about God’s attributes and actions, who are we as His creation to talk back to our Creator?

    You both seem to hold fast to your views on Christ and I would offer that is because you each picked your sides at the beginning of the argument regarding God.

    • Jordan

      I will commit to praying for God’s grace in Mark’s life as well. After all, I too was once dead in my sins, but God, because of His great love, made me alive – it is by grace I have been saved, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

    • Mark McHugh

      Jordan,

      Thanks for commenting – I appreciate your viewpoint. However, I strongly disagree, as you might have guessed. You seem to think that humankind needs a supreme ruler and law in order to behave morally. I couldn’t disagree more. God was humankind’s attempt at providing moral structure to the world amongst chaos. It probably served as a very useful tool to create a god for the things that humans were incapable of understanding. That being said, I believe that humankind has completely outgrown the need for god. Our common sense and general knowledge about how to treat each other suffices to provide a general moral framework. If you read Sam Harris’s “The Moral Landscape,” you can get a far greater grasp on this than I am able to articulate.

      It is my view that religion has adapted to reason. If we look at the Old Testament, it is clear that God’s idea of morality was archaic in comparison to our’s today. He blatantly ordered murder based on discriminatory precepts and acted as a ruthless, impulsive monster. Unless you are going to say that people misjudged God’s word in recording these things, I don’t think this is arguable. And Jesus does stand by the law of the Old Testament according to Scripture. Furthermore, it is obvious that over time, humankind has slowly inched its way forward in terms of values like equality. Is this a result of a better interpretation of God’s word? Or is it a result of a developing sense of reason as humans continue to evolve and grow? I see it far more reasonable to accept the latter.

      You seem to think that just because I don’t accept God, that I could not have, from my perspective, done anything wrong. This is a misguided view of atheism. I live within the basic moral framework that humankind has created, and through my own reason and rationale, I make moral decisions that I believe to benefit the common good. You are right that I don’t believe that any authority figure is looking down on me, judging my actions and holding me accountable for wrongdoings. But to me, it is not about punishment and reward, like it seems to be for Christians. There is no concrete set of ingrained moral guidelines, and I have a hard time accepting the notion that Christianity provides one, because it is so blatantly obvious that Christians have evolved in their sense of right and wrong just as much as any other sect of people. It is about doing the right thing for the sake of humanity, not to glorify anyone in particular, but for the basic fact that we are all human and we have no choice but to live within the circumstances that we are born into. I have compassion for others because logically, I recognize that they have had life experiences that are completely different from mine, but like me, have a brain and are capable of feeling similar emotions and producing similar thoughts. It is for the greater good of humanity to treat others with love, compassion, and respect.

      As I have grown, I have realized that this concept owes very little to religion and far more to the development of reason and critical thought. I have realized this because as I began to abandon Christianity in my late teens, I felt an even greater sense of compassion for the people around me as I was not so preoccupied with pleasing or glorifying God, but rather overtaken by a genuine sense of caring for others. It took me a very long time to fully abandon Christianity but I can say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has liberated me to view morality as a purely rational concept, and this has opened countless intellectual doors and has lead me to develop my own sense of right and wrong through a lens that makes sense to me. If I blindly relied on a god for my morality, I would be prone to committing heinous acts in his name. So why do Christians like yourself refrain from such heinous crimes? Because you have a strong enough sense of reason to not blindly obey a supreme deity. Many extremists (i.e. Muslim suicide bombers) cannot say the same – their commitment to their faith is just as strong, if not stronger, than yours – but unlike you, they have fully surrendered themselves to their scriptures and have rejected all sense of reason in the process. My commitment to reason is and open, critical thinking, is what directs my moral life.

      • Jordan

        I can’t say I expected to change your viewpoint with a few short paragraphs (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was the intention…after all what’s the point of responding if there’s no intention). We each have liberty to place our trust where we see fit, and we’d probably agree that liberty carries with it a responsibility…though, I imagine we differ on how long the consequences of that responsibility last.

        I pray God will renew your passion for Him. I realize you may see that as taking steps backwards, and I guess that’s why I lift my request to my sovereign God (and not you, haha…no offense intended, I’m just glad I have someone like that to turn to).

  • Mark McHugh

    Well I appreciate you taking the time to read and contribute to the blog. I respect and appreciate your viewpoint and I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

  • Erin

    Hey homie, I have to admit that I didn’t read your entire blog, let alone this entire post/comment section…but Noah brought it up last night when I saw him so I was intrigued. Eventually I will read it, but I need to be studying for a test right now instead 😉

    It’s hurtful to have someone I love trying to make a mockery of what does give me a reason to live. Who are you to say that the purpose I’ve found can’t possibly be as fulfilling as the one you’ve found? I do think for myself – but you’ll just have to trust me on that because there’s no way for me to prove it. I know I don’t agree with Noah or our parents or any other Christian on every single thing they say regarding faith or religion, but I will continually be in the process of trying to make sense of who I am, what I believe, etc. until the day I die. I know you’re trying to do the same – we’re just not in the same place right now. In spite of that, I have never told you that you were wrong, I have never thought you were “wasting your time,” I have never discouraged you from finding who you are. But it feels like you simply don’t want me to be the person that I am – a person who believes in Jesus. It doesn’t feel loving, it doesn’t feel helpful, it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel like any of the characteristics you said you developed since giving up your faith.

    I hope you don’t take this as an attack, it’s just something I feel and that I wanted to throw out there. btw, what happened to the his/hers blog we were going to make?! This is not quite what I had in mind. 😉

  • Mark McHugh

    Erin,

    I am not making a mockery of your faith. I apologize if it came off that way. These posts were not supposed to be an attack on you or anyone else; I am merely stating my opinion, which I feel very strongly about. I think if you read my posts you will realize that this was my intention. However, it is concerning to me that you interpreted it that way so I will try to write with greater sensitivity in the future.

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