It sucks that an atheist has to explain Christianity to Christians. But — the fact is — atheists have a perspective on Christianity that Christians intrinsically lack (and can never get). THIS atheist — having perspective — sees a distinct difference between Jesus (the supposed “inventor” of Christianity and “Christianity” (his supposed “invention”).
Oy. Where to begin…
Back in the 1985, Robert Funk (an American bible scholar) created The Jesus Seminar. Funk wanted to promote “biblical literacy” via a “historical-critical” approach that viewed Christian orthodoxy with extreme doubt. Funk wanted the Seminar (composed of about 50 critical-thinking biblical scholars and 100 lay people) to identify (if they could) and draw out a “historical Jesus” from the texts — a man apart from any mythos. While the Seminar was most active in the 1980’s and 1990’s, its work has continued up to today.
The Jesus Seminar concluded that (this is taken from Wikipedia’s page on the Seminar) —
- Jesus of Nazareth was born during the reign of Herod the Great.
- His mother’s name was Mary, and he had a human father whose name may not have been Joseph.
- Jesus was born in Nazareth, not in Bethlehem.
- Jesus was an itinerant sage who shared meals with social outcasts.
- Jesus practiced faith healing without the use of ancient medicine or magic, relieving afflictions we now consider psychosomatic.
- He did not walk on water, feed the multitude with loaves and fishes, change water into wine or raise Lazarus from the dead.
- Jesus was arrested in Jerusalem and crucified by the Romans.
- He was executed as a public nuisance, not for claiming to be the Son of God.
- The empty tomb is a fiction – Jesus was not raised bodily from the dead.
- Belief in the resurrection is based on the visionary experiences of Paul, Peter and Mary Magdalene.
The seminar also concluded that at best we can put a dozen to a dozen-and-a-half sayings into Jesus’ mouth — as things Jesus might have said (vs the self-referential things he almost certainly did not say because it would never have occurred to him).
That means that, effectively, most of what we think of as Christianity had nothing to do with Jesus — and everything to do with Paul who was the one person hard at work creating far-flung churches (among the goyim) made up of goyim. The overwhelming majority of the NT is Paul communicating with and building his church communities. And he’s mythologizing Jesus as he goes — converting “Historical Jesus” into Christian Church Jesus.
Real Jesus despised the “church” (in his world – the Temple authorities). Jesus’ whole message was “You don’t NEED a church to have a relationship with god”. Since that’s the case (according to the Jesus Seminar), then why on earth would Jesus advocate for the creation of a “church” to speak for him? It’s ludicrous on its surface.
Jesus preached a simple message — that’s why it’s endured. Simple & doable. Why, even a humble atheist can “do unto others” without contradicting themselves.
For “Christ’s sake” — following Jesus is incredibly simple (and rewarding). I bet following a church can’t hold a candle to it.