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.