Profiles In Monotheism & Madness: Kenneth Copeland

If you don’t know who Kenneth Copeland is, you should. Kenneth Copeland is the poster boy for why monotheism is dangerous.

Ken’s a televangelist and a big fan of the “prosperity gospel”. He preaches that contrary to what Jesus actually said about money and how corrupting it is, “true believers” like Ken owe it to themselves to get filthy, stinking rich. Still, ya gotta give guys like Ken their due. That’s quite an imaginative leap to get from “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” to a an actual rich man like Ken buying the kingdom of God out from under God because Ken is richer than God. That’s just one measly example of how easy it is in the religion biz to take something that clearly means one thing and make it mean its diametric opposite. As moored as monotheism seems to a concrete “God”, its god is never in fact made of concrete.

What a luxury it is to have such a fluid, malleable deity that each human can make God in their very own image – which is exactly what every theist does (by design). What’s the alternative? Imagine God in someone else’s image – like the guy praying across from you? Look, I honestly don’t care what anyone else believes so long as it doesn’t “get on me”. But, make your crazy belief system my problem (by, say, legislating it) and then, yeah – I’m going to take issue with you AND your deity. Especially when you think you ARE the deity.

Whose voice is it really that fills a believer’s head when a believer surrenders themselves to God? Does God (or Jesus) really “want” Ken Copeland to fly private rather than commercial? I doubt God or Jesus actually give a flying eff. But, Kenny C sure does – and he believes down to his mitochondria that it’s not him insisting that he treat himself like God, it’s God!

Except it ain’t.

Ask ten people who believe in God what God is and you’ll get ten different answers especially if those ten people run the gamut from Reform Jews to lapsed Catholics to FLDS Mormons to Wahabist Muslims. “God” can cover a lot of territory, plenty of it outright contradictory. Theists point to this fluidity as evidence of God’s transcendence. He can be all things to all people. So can a finger painting. The Lord may work in mysterious ways but if he’d just stay on his meds maybe he’d get a handle on that.

Guys like Kenny Copeland and Benny Hinn and Joel O’Steen and TD Jakes and David Oyedepo and Pat Roberson and Jesse Duplantis and Creflo Dollar do not for two seconds believe IN God. But they all – every one of them – believe they ARE God. Take that to the bank and prepare to get richer than a televangelist.

Republicans Have Achieved “Peak Magical Thinking”

The Republican Party could run a master class on magical thinking. That’s a measure of their absolute expertise on the subject – from imagining it to propagating it to accepting it. In essence and in fact, magical thinking is a safe space for tender, snowflakey feelings. Facts are anathema. They simply don’t get along with the magic. Facts keep trying to burst magic’s gossamer bubble. At its core, magical thinking rests upon a wide beam of fear. Fear of death. Fear of Black people. Fear of Jews. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. The need for magical thinking makes sense on a certain level. It provides the perception of security. Sheer faith in a story being true is all one needs to “make it” true. When that story answers the question “What happens after I die?” in a way that satisfies (regardless of its veracity), magical thinking has just claimed another adherent. And reality just got a little harder to sustain.

Magical thinking has turned the GOP into a perverse joke. They’re like characters in a Monty Python sketch racing for the ledge just to prove they’ll do anything if “an authority” tells them to. That authority can be a politician or a businessman. But the “real” magical thinking authority flows from religion, the Mother of Magical Thinking.

It’s no coincidence that Trump looked for and found fellow travelers in the evangelicals. Evangelicals are magical thinking on steroids. Virtually everything they think begins as magical thinking – whether it’s stuff they believe or only pretend to. It takes zero magical thinking to “Do unto others” or “Turn the other cheek”. It takes being in touch with your humanity. It takes having real courage and the courage of your convictions. Jesus didn’t invent Christianity. Paul did. Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew preaching Jewish messages to other Jews. While Jews do have their mythologies and magical thinking, the magical thinking doesn’t wag the dog the way it does in the other Abrahamic religions. Any Jew’s goal – per her religion’s admonitions – is to make the world a better place just for having been in it. Christianity on the other hand is built upon a complex bargain. If you believe in Jesus the exact way the church tells you to, like Jesus, you too can defeat death and live forever in a beautiful place called “Heaven” with everyone you love.

The blood libel that’s haunted Jews for almost two thousand years? Pure magical thinking. Even as a story it doesn’t make sense. If God knows all from the start (how magical!) then he knew before magically impregnating Mary with Jesus what Jesus’s fate would be. If, per the church, Jesus’s entire reason to exist is to die for humanity’s sins (caused by Eve in the Garden of Eden), then it’s not a tragedy that Jesus dies, it’s the whole trigger for salvation. And, since Jesus is spiritual rather than flesh, he can never really “die” anyway – so what’s death to Jesus? If Jesus doesn’t get betrayed by Judas (as the story says), and never gets crucified and lives to a ripe, old age and dies in his bed surrounded by loved ones, then no one gets saved. Or, if that’s how it works, it’s kinda lame having an old guy rise from his comfy death bed instead of from a cold, dark cave.

Paul, of course, was trying to align real Jesus (who he never met in person!) with the invented Jesus he needed to make his new religion work. Everyone who actually knew Jesus or heard him preach rejected Paul’s version of Jesus. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus – and his growing bubble of magical thinking – to the Gentiles. Having lived their whole lives in a polytheistic world where the gods didn’t care about them one way or the other, Romans and Greeks were intrigued by monotheism and its “loving God” who wanted to grant humans eternal life – provided they did things his way. All they had to do? Buy, believe and proselytize what this God character was selling. Oh – and don’t forget to kick the living crap out of anyone who doesn’t buy it.

Once you’ve framed your entire worldview from magical thinking’s perspective? All magical thinking is possible including the magical thinking you think is stupid. Imagine though how you look from the non-magical thinking point of view. The irony? Magical thinkers, as a rule, never step outside their magical thinking perspective because that would suggest that theirs isn’t the only way to think. And that would burst the whole gossamer bubble.

What is The Big Lie but “magical thinking on steroids” on steroids? What is the story of Donald Trump – a man genetically predisposed to greed, corruption, incompetence, bigotry, racism, misogyny and lack of character – if not a terrifying tale of magical thinking’s potency? Trump a great businessman and master negotiator? Magical thinking. Trump a patriot? Magical thinking. Trump anything but a criminal? Say it with me: “magical thinking”.

You can’t honestly blame a rat for being a rat. You can’t blame a thief for stealing you blind if you knew he was a thief and opened your pockets to him. You can’t blame a traitor for continuing to betray the nation when all ever gets for doing it is richer. Letting this happen without actively doing something to stop it (because we think good people with power will fix it for us)? Magical thinking, I’m afraid.

Democracy is a contact sport. Self-government is entirely DIY. It’s messy by nature but better for human beings (if our goal for humans is for them to live together peacefully). Though America has yet to live up to its full promise, the more E Pluribus Unum we become, the more we prosper – there’s data that proves it. Take it from a professional writer – there’s nothing wrong with re-writes. Re-writes are where we get the message more right than the first draft got it. “All men are created equal” was good – but it wasn’t exactly perfect. Especially not in the context in which those words were written.

Marx only got it half right. Religion may be the opiate of the people, but magical thinking is its meth amphetamine. People who believe in people want to empower people and make them the future. People who believe in magic want to preserve the magic – even if that means destroying people. There is no future for magical thinking because it’s committed itself to living entirely in the past. As the white, racist Republican Party keeps demonstrating, the belief that a white, racist past trumps a diverse, open-minded, open-hearted future? Pure magical thinking.

A War On Christmas? More Like Christmas Declared War On US!

Gingrich Fought on the Wrong Side in the War on Christmas

When you first enter the world famous “Pantheon Of Nonsense”, one of the first rooms you come to (and how can you miss it, there’s so much light coming from it?) is one marked “The War On Christmas”. Inside, the room feels both enormous and yet crushingly small; it’s such a massive complaint about nothing. The walls are literally aflame with worry. But when you touch the actual flames and worry? They lose all form like melting jello. They never really were to begin with.

The “War On Christmas” is the ultimate white person’s outrage. When you wipe off the red and green holiday icing and get down to the “why there’s a holiday to begin with” cake, you realize: there’s no cake here and the icing, pretty as it is, tastes awful. Here in America, Christmas belongs to every other sector way more than it belongs to any “religious sector” there might be.

Ask “what’s the point of Christmas?” and you’ll get a blast of pretty but empty words flying at you. That’s not to say there isn’t a point – or that there isn’t a point worth making (they’re not necessarily the same thing). But, here in America, Christmas got hijacked early on by commercial interests. Harriet Beecher Stowe bemoaned how “there are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants and nobody cares for after they are got” all the way back in 1850! Buying things – making it as easy as possible to buy things – that became “the Christmas spirit” very early on. As early as 1867, “Macy’s store in Manhattan accommodated last-minute shopping by opening until midnight on Christmas Eve.” It’s just a stone cold fact. The “Christmas” these sad, little Christians insist there’s a war on is entirely about buying things. There’s not an ounce of Jesus in it.

But then, there’s never been an ounce of Jesus in Christmas. The concept of “Christmas” doesn’t occur to anyone for over 300 years until after Jesus is gone. Paul – Christianity’s actual inventor (Jesus had zero to do with creating Christianity; he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew preaching Jewish things to other Jews) – wasn’t interested in Jesus’ birth (other than to revise the details to make them fit the messiah mythology Paul needed them to fit inside of). Paul’s genius (and it was genius) was to focus instead on Jesus’ death and the idea that if Jesus could beat death, so could anyone who believed in him (so long as they believed in Jesus the exact way Paul told them to). As for the December 25 date? Pope Julius I chose it around 336 AD. “It’s commonly believed that he chose the date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.”

In addition to this blog, I also do a podcast called “The Faitheism Project” with my friend the Reverend Randy Lovejoy. In our podcast, my friend Randy and I talk about the difference between religion and spirituality. I have always been grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today. Actually, I thin I dropped from the womb an atheist. Hebrew School simply closed that deal for good. But, when I gaze up at the cosmos, I feel the same sense of awe, wonder and mystery as Randy does when he contemplates the will of God. The constant discovery of our podcast is that though on paper Randy and I should be incapable of having a civil conversation, in fact, we’ve been having the same great conversation for almost twenty years now (except now we share it with an audience).

This week’s podcast talks about this very subject. The war on Christmas v Christmas’ war on us.

The Faitheism Project Podcast, Season 2, Episode 4: “Is There A War On Christmas?”

I’m biased of course, but I highly recommend the conversation (hell, I recommend the podcast as a whole but then, I would). As our conversations almost always do, this one went someplace neither of us expected it to go. When Randy asked me about my experience of Christmas, I told him. Honestly. That’s how our podcast rolls. And, what I said took Randy aback. Randy wanted to find a way to make the Christmas spirit truly universal.

I wondered aloud if that was truly possible.

Randy doesn’t believe there’s any “war on Christmas”. In fact, he feels as worn down by Christmas’ commercialization as anybody. What he didn’t anticipate hearing was that Jews can feel something deeply anti-Semitic inside the “Christmas spirit” because it’s there. You have to remember: the entire Christmas story is a fabrication. Every last bit of it. Jesus’s death and resurrection also was a story. The entire blood libel? Another story, entirely made up by the early church fathers as they spun Christianity out of whole cloth. Christmas celebrates a massive fiction about the birth of someone the Jews – as a whole group – get blamed for murdering (even though he’s half-God which should, in theory, make him a little tougher to kill than that). Logic problem: if the whole point of Jesus’ existence is to “die for humanity’s sins” (to correct for Eve having committed the “original sin” in the first place), then in order for humanity’s sins to be forgiven, Jesus must die. Dying is essential to everything Jesus needs to accomplish in the big picture. If Judas (per the story) never “betrays Jesus”, and Jesus never gets captured and crucified, then he never dies then – and never resurrects. If no one dies for anyone’s sins, where does that leave Christianity?

Growing up Jewish, growing up hated by Christians because you’re Jewish, growing up hated for reasons that make literally no sense – it alters the way you look at and experience Christmas because it doesn’t celebrate anything real. Even the cheer and camaraderie feel hollow and disingenuous. Unless they’re on sale.

I won’t ruin the podcast’s ending for you but, we do come to a conclusion about what Christmas is and what exactly Christians should celebrate. As I said – biases all still intact – this conversation is both open-minded and mind-opening. Think of the hour spent as an early Christmas present to yourself!

]NOTE: the visual above is from Business Insider.]

There’s A HUGE Difference Between “Christians” And “Followers Of Jesus”

Question: How do you get from “Do unto others” to “Onward, Christian Soldier!”? The truth is you can’t. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others”. A Christian soldier? They do unto others before others can do unto them. That’s their idea of Jesus. In other words, they have no idea of Jesus or, whatever idea they do have of Jesus? That ain’t Jesus. I bet Jesus would be shocked (if he actually did pull off a second coming) by all the people claiming to follow him who, in fact, hate everything about him. Is there anything less Jesus-y than a horde of culture warrior Christians?

Jesus preached a simple, confident message that even an atheist can embrace, follow and find happiness in. How we got from there to, say, the Catholic church (or, even further afield, the Mormon church) is a story (and blog post) unto itself. But, that is what Christianity did — it turned a simple relationship between creator and created into a dogma-heavy obstacle course light on logic but heavy on complications. In Paul the Apostle’s defense, when you set out to found a new religion (as Paul did among the Gentiles), you have to do everything you can to cement your brand.

Paul was very definitely a Christian. As to was he a “follower of Jesus” — no, he wasn’t. Jesus, if anything, was an impediment to Paul because of his very Jewishness. Remember: the Christian movement in Jerusalem faltered because it wasn’t Christian, it was Jewish. Radical but radical Jewish. When the Romans finally sacked Jerusalem and banished all the Jews, the diaspora created was entirely Jewish. Paul meanwhile (about half the New Testament is Paul’s writing) spun his mythology further and further away from its Jewish roots and more toward something that he was inventing on the fly — a faith based entirely on “the death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus.”

That, right there, is Paul’s brilliant innovation. It’s his true genius: he pitched a deity to the Gentiles that cared about them (polytheistic gods didn’t really care about humans the way Yahweh seemed to), who even produced a son tasked with dying for humanity’s benefit just so that they — like Jesus — could defeat death and live forever in a magical place called Heaven along with all their loved ones. That’s Christianity’s real sales pitch: believe in Jesus the way we tell you to (no questions asked) and we’ll “guarantee you” a happy eternal afterlife with your loved ones. Can the church really guarantee such a thing? Does that really matter? Of course not!

Death makes human beings irrational. We’ll cut any deal we can to try and get out of having to die. That is, some people will. To them, religion is a kind of ongoing negotiation with the universe. It’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card they’ll take with them to the grave where it will rot and fall apart just like they will. But, hey — why not cover that angle, right? The early Christian church slowly evolved a mythology based on a thousand years of Jewish messiah stories radically re-imagined for a Gentile audience (who didn’t care that it didn’t conformed to the original Jewish mythology since they had no knowledge of it).

Let’s be real: the Christian origin mythology is a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t add up (unless you accept all of its illogical premises). If Jesus’s whole purpose — the reason universe-creator Yahweh mates with a human virgin — is to fix the mess Eve made (according to the early church fathers, Eve daring to eat the apple and causing humanity’s fall from grace was humanity ‘s original sin). Plus — it’s by Jesus dying for humanity’s sins that God opens the door to eternal life. If Jesus never gets betrayed by Judas and never gets crucified and never dies for humanity ‘s sins then there is no resurrection.

If God created Jesus for this specific purpose then God (being all knowing) wouldn’t have zigged because Judas Iscariot zagged. God would not only have known and anticipated Judas, he’d have relied upon it — because that’s the trigger for everything else that follows. If Jesus, instead, lives to a ripe old age and dies in his bed surrounded by his loved ones then we’re not having this conversation. Judas isn’t a villain, damned for all time, he’s a story mechanism.

And, hey — blood libels are flat out stupid. It is stupid and offensive to use a poorly constructed story as a justification to hate Jews. But then Jews have never viewed the world as something to be converted into their way of thinking. Judaism is virtually non-dogmatic compared to Christianity. Yeah, sure — there are ten commandments. There are dietary laws out the wazoo and pretty much rules for everything. But Jews didn’t imagine a hell the way Christians did. There’s “Sheol” but that’s just a place where all dead people go. It was the equivalent of the Greeks’ “Hades”. And, while Jews imagined a few less than honorable divine creatures. There’s the “Dybbuk” — a malicious, possessing spirit usually associated with a dead person — but Dybbuk’s aren’t invented until the 16th century.

Jews simply don’t rely upon the heavy weight of eternal after-life punishment to motivate Jews to do anything — like follow the ten commandments. Being good is simply one’s obligation. In fact, every Jew is obligated by the core Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam”. Every Jew is responsible for making the world a better place just for having been in it. How one accomplishes that? That’s up to you. But, once Paul and the early church organizers committed themselves to a whole after life mythology, they took it to its extremes. And the dogma piled higher and higher.

Followers of Jesus “do unto others” because that is what following Jesus actually entails. Paul and his church had no use for any sort of historical Jesus — so they quickly dispatched with that guy. Joshua ben Joseph vanished and Jesus rose in his place. Joshua ben Joseph was born lived his entire life and died a Jew (having spent his entire life preaching and teaching to Jews exclusively). If Paul could have sold the Jews in Jerusalem his version of Jesus, he wouldn’t have had to go outside Judaism. But he did — and one of the first things Paul’s new religion did was declare war on the old religion that rejected it.

It never mattered to the faithful if the mythology didn’t add up. The point of the exercise was defeating death! If the step-by-step includes hating Jews then the faithful will hate Jews because the prize is worth it.

Why does anyone take Jesus into their heart? It ain’t the same reason people succumb to a church’s song and dance. But then, all Jesus really promises his followers is a good way to live a life.

The church needs warm bodies to fill its empty space but also its coffers. It needs people willing to go along without questioning the church. It needs the “faithful”.

It needs “Christian soldiers”.

Michael Flynn Is The Poster Boy For Why Monotheism Is Dangerous

Michael Flynn speaks during a protest of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election outside the Supreme Court on December 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Ever notice how it’s never Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Native Americans or anyone other than Christians who think their religion should be the only religion practiced in America? What is it exactly about Christianity — okay, American Christianity — that makes it so easily taken in by megalomaniacs like Jim Jones and David Koresh and a thousand other mostly men who insist they are “God’s messenger” (and you better effiin’ listen to what they say!)? What makes a guy like Michael Flynn say out loud that America should have only one religion: his? What in his religious instruction when he was growing up made him equate “Do unto others” with “Do what I say or else?” How does a loving god become an authoritarian monster? Spoiler alert: it’s how monotheism works. Loving people having loving “God’s” inside their heads. Racist authoritarians have racist, authoritarian gods inside theirs.

Guess who’s better at imposing their god on other people — because that’s what their version of God is telling them too do? Hint — loving Gods don’t ever have to “impose” anything on anyone; they wait for people to come to them. So, it will always be the monotheist with the darker version of God who does the better job of marketing and spreading his version because that’s what his version is telling him to do (while the loving God’s followers preach patience — admirable but time consuming). The whole idea of forced conversion is ludicrous of course. If you have to force belief on someone? That’s probably because what YOU believe isn’t all that believable.

Polytheism itself didn’t produce empires the way monotheism produced the Holy Roman Empire. That’s not a coincidence. Polytheism by its nature diffuses divine power. There may be a “head deity” like a Zeus or Odin but they control the other gods mostly. Humans are incidental to their existence, not its focus. Monotheism flipped that on its head. Now, for reference sake, we should note that the Romans regarded Christians — who didn’t believe in the Roman gods — as atheists. For real! “Atheism”, ya see, is kinda relative. Judaism may have put monotheism on the map, but it was Christianity that took monotheism wide. Following Gods laws was the point of the exercise, not spreading them to people who didn’t believe already. That’s one of the reasons Jews don’t proselytize. In our heads, you have to come to God (or be born into the tribe); there’s no “good news” to spread.

And that “good news” — that’s the whole thrust of Christianity. It’s Paul’s true genius (and Paul invented Christianity, “Jesus” did not). Paul wove a thousand years of conflicting Jewish messiah mythology into a brand new religion that took monotheism itself to a brand new place. While polytheistic gods offered individual humans nothing in return for believing in them, the Hebrews’ Yahweh (itself a distillation of the Canaanite god El) took a personal interest in humans because, for starters, he created them and they epitomized him. Humans were a not-quite-exact-but-close-enough image of God himself. Somehow though, this perfect God creates a creature that can’t even remember who created it. Next thing ya know, these stupid creatures think there are thousands of gods!

In Genesis, Yahweh tells Abraham “Believe in me and me alone and I will make of you a great nation!” Think about that. A deity capable of creating literally everything has to negotiate with something he’s created just to get them to believe in him! But that’s part of what made monotheism so attractive — there’s only one deity and he’s emotionally fragile. And fluid. You can make of this deity what you like. The Apostle Paul clearly understood that. Remember: Paul traveled outside the teeny-tiny world of Judea and Samaria. Jesus (Joshua ben Joseph is how he thought of himself) — a guy Paul never met in the flesh — did not. Jesus was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He thought Jewish thoughts and taught Jewish lessons to other Jews who understood all his Jewish references and concepts.

When Saul of Tarsus becomes Paul, it’s because of a vision he has — INSIDE HIS OWN HEAD. He goes to Jerusalem and tries to sell that vision but gets rejected: by the people who knew Joshua ben Joseph personally and who had actually heard him. They reject Paul out of hand because, well, he wasn’t describing the real Joshua ben Joseph, Paul was describing an imaginary character that he himself had created: Jesus, the Christ. And Paul’s version of Jesus did something the real Joshua ben Joseph most certainly did not: he defeated death.

That’s it. That’s Paul’s whole sales pitch in a nutshell — and it’s genius. In a world where gods did nothing for human beings, Paul offered a deity who cared so much about individual humans that he 1) had a son who 2) died for their “sins” and 3) if they believed in him exactly the way they were told to, then 4) just like Jesus, they, too, could live forever! in a magical after life called “heaven”. Of course, if they didn’t accept “the good news”, they would absolutely go to another place Paul and the early church fathers invented: “hell”.

Jesus preached that one didn’t need the corrupt temple or its corrupt priests in order to have a relationship with God. Paul couldn’t preach that because it would cut him out of the relationship. So Paul inserted the very same corrupt temple and priests that Jesus had railed against. In place of a simple one-on-one relationship, Paul inserted complexity over-brimming with dogma. He also created a hierarchy where a direct relationship between human and God was impossible! It required training — or maybe just being “special” — to understand God.

Even the Catholic Church couldn’t always agree with itself what God wanted. During the 14th century, there were two Popes for a while (actually, for a short while there were actually three Popes!) Martin Luther didn’t agree with anything about the Catholic church. I wonder — has anyone ever tried to figure out exactly how many humans died because they disagreed about whether God was a Protestant or a Catholic? Or a Muslim?

Quick reminder: Jews don’t kill other people because they don’t believe in the exact same version of God. Israel’s Palestinian problems are all entirely political, not religious. Their solutions will be entirely political — not religious.

Guys like Michael Flynn are nothing new to non-Christians. Every evangelical is just as threatening because of utter nonsense they accept as “gospel truth”. Remember — in an evangelical’s head, all the Jews have to die in order for the evangelicals to get their final reward. Thanks anyway, fellahs! But, here’s the thing — if we were to sit down with Mike Flynn and go deep into his religious beliefs, we’d get to that place where Flynn has fused his ideas of God with the fact that he “hears God’s voice in his head”, telling him “do this” or “do that”.

When Flynn then “does this” or “does that”? Who does Flynn think he’s doing it for? Himself? He may insist that, no, he’s doing it for God but unless we can see or hear the other side of that conversation for ourselves? Sorry, Mike — that’s just you talking to yourself, telling yourself what you think “God” says. Take this to the bank and anticipate getting richer than rich: people like Michael Flynn have completely swapped their own sense of self for whatever they think “God” is. When they speak for God, they speak AS God.

And that’s because, really, they ARE God.

To be fair, this doesn’t happen inside every monotheist’s head. It doesn’t have to for it to be dangerous. But a monotheist who insists he speaks for God will always be able to sway plenty of other monotheists to go along because that dynamic version of God sounds more appealing than they’re undynamic version. And, so, off they go — a mutually agreed upon version of God in their heads — to attack people whose version of God isn’t the mutually agreed upon version.

Michael Flynn believes that his version of God (and that God’s “religion”) should be the only version of God and religion here in America. Hey, so does Steve Bannon. So does every single Republican member of Congress who calls him or herself “Christian”. They must feel that way about God because that’s how they act. To reiterate: a loving god doesn’t need to be shoved down peoples’ throats.

An angry god, on the other hand, relishes that form of delivery. Take Michael Flynn’s word for it.

How To Be A “Mensch”

In Jewish culture, there’s no higher compliment you can pay than to say of someone: “they’re a mensch“. A mensch has honor and integrity. They’re kind and compassionate. They don’t just feel a sense of responsibility toward others, they act on it. “A mensch is driven by an innate decency, motivated perhaps by a sense of values to live up to but not out of regard for recognition. They will act as a mensch at times when it may be hard to be one.” The thing about being a mensch is, the moment you try hard “to be one”, it means you’re almost certainly not one because the last thing a real mensch would ever do is seek praise or reward for being a mensch. How menschy is that?

Plenty of rich people aspire to be mensches. They think throwing their money at things makes them menschy — even if they created some of those problems. That disqualified them for mensch-hood right off the bat.

Joe Biden has always had mensch-like qualities — the result (ironically) of his deep Catholic faith. That makes Joe Biden exceptional. Catholic instruction turns a lot of people into thought zombies. You have to accept an awful lot of dogmatic shadow chasing in order to be a “good Catholic”. And the church has a long, long history of being cruel and as un-Jesus-like as an institution could be. That’s probably why Jesus railed AGAINTS having temples or churches or priests interceding between believer and God. “Speak directly to the father,” was Jesus’s message. That and “Do unto others” (which even a simple atheist can manage — so, why can’t most Christians?). “Do unto others” is a kind of shorthand for “how to be a mensch” which, itself, is the perfect encapsulation of the core Jewish concept “Tikkun Olam“.

Tikkun Olam obligates every Jew (well, every person actually) to make the world a better place simply for having been in it. That’s it. That’s the obligation. How any of us meets it is entirely on us.

Mensch-like as Biden has been all his life, he’s backed some policies that were completely UN-mensch-like. “Biden opposed school busing for desegregation in the 1970s. He voted for a measure aimed at outlawing gay marriage in the 1990s. He was an ally of the banking and credit card industries.” Still, it was Biden’s menschiness, I think, that made him a strong choice for Barack Obama (being a compassionate man himself — with plenty of mensch bona fides of his own).

Centrist though he’s been his whole life — trying to find common ground between Progressives and conservatives — Biden became Progressivism’s standard bearer, a thing I’m not sure any Progressive anticipated. Biden certainly wasn’t my first choice as the primaries ran along. I liked Kamala then Liz Warren. Biden, as he rose, Phoenix-like from the ashes, seemed like the compromise Progressives always have to make — which is to say they give up nearly everything. in order to appease the middle. But, that was when Biden either became a mensch or his menschiness was revealed. He saw that the majority of Democratic voters wanted what the Progressives did. Instead of digging in his heels, he listened. And heard.

That is what mensches do: they “hear”.

And then they do something to manifest their menschiness here in reality. And the world, instantly (even in some small way) becomes a better place.

Biden has already made the world a better place (just for having been the POTUS in it). He cut childhood poverty in America in half! And every other bit of the Build Back Better plan is geared toward transforming America from the great idea (“All men are created equal”) as yet unrealized into a nation where E Pluribus Unum blooms. America’s diversity is what makes us exceptional, not the whiteness of our money. The reason so many people from all across the globe have done everything they could to get here is because of the promise E Pluribus Unum holds.

America itself has always had the potential to be a mensch among nations (provided we cam disconnect ourselves from America’s racist past). In a sense, the world has come to rely on that potential. The Trump presidency, of course, burned all that accumulated trust to the ground — by design. The Biden presidency immediately set to work rebuilding it because America and Americans want our government to be the mensch we need when we need.

Electing Biden brought menschiness into the public square. Doing everything we can to help Biden enact every bit of his menschy legislative agenda is incumbent on us. Imagine an America where the playing field was truly level for everyone. Where opportunity smiles on all equally. Sounds like a mensch’s “Mission Accomplished”.

If We’re Honest With Ourselves, We Suck At Being Honest With Ourselves

Americans love honesty. In the abstract, anyway. Young George Washington could not tell a lie about cutting down his father’s favorite cherry tree (“the story first appeared in an 1806 autobiography of Washington, whose writer admitted that he was just trying to show how our most beloved president’s “unparalleled rise and elevation were due to his Great Virtues.”). “Honest Abe Lincoln” was, well, “notoriously” honest in, well, everything. Americans really liked that about him then and we still do. “Honesty’s the best policy”, we insist. Tell the truth and it will set you free. Hey, even Shakespeare got it. Above all: “to thine own self be true”.

But, as much as Americans talk the talk about honesty, Americans collectively suck when it comes to actually walking honesty’s walk. Especially when we have to be truthful to ourselves. As we stand before the bathroom mirror each day — just us and, well, US — as we look into our own eyes and attempt to take stock of ourselves, that is when we need to be most honest about every last little thing that got us from wherever “there” is in our past to wherever “here” is. Forgetting vital details is one thing; sometimes memories need to be stoked to life like an old furnace. Deliberately refusing to confront them, regardless of why, that’s a sign something’s desperately wrong. America is staring itself in the bathroom mirror and if we can’t be absolutely honest with ourselves (on both sides of the looking glass), we will absolutely plunge off the precipice.

I’m just speaking from experience here. Very long story short: I kept a secret from myself for 45 years. What I mean is, as I stared at myself in every bathroom mirror I ever stood in front of for that whole time, I refused to acknowledge to myself (and for my own benefit!) that when I was 14, I was sexually molested twice by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged. Can I tell ya? Doing that made a mess inside my head that came within literal inches of killing me. Not to worry — I got better. Between a great therapist, the right mood stabilizer and copious amounts of smoked THC, I managed to put my darkness at arm’s length, admit to myself that I was the victim of an adult committing a crime against me, not the one responsible for it happening, and begin to create bonds with other people that I had been unable to beforehand because of the secret I was keeping (“if they didn’t know my secret, they couldn’t possibly know me” was how I saw it). Getting mentally healthy was life-changing. The process itself was hard. But worth it!

Something in the American character reflects Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” —

Church Lady is very, very, VERY judgy. What makes her funny however is how bang-on right she is! We get the behaviors that disgust Church Lady. She sees on such a granular level though. And kind of obsessively, too. That’s what makes Church Lady really funny and a great character: she’s the guiltiest of “unchristian” behavior, really, and the least able to see it in herself. Church Lady, like that great swath of racist America, cannot to her own self be true.

If America was really and truly honest with itself, it would admit a few things to itself. For instance — we are not nor have we ever been a “Christian Nation” founded by Christians. Some of the men who took part in founding America were, indeed Christian. Plenty were deists however like Thomas Paine (they believed in a “Supreme Being” but not one defined by any institutional church. They saw “God” in nature and in logic and in democracy. We should also be honest about what the country’s founders did and didn’t do. They did have a great idea — self government where the rule of law dictated everything. However not all great ideas are executed the right way right out of the box. Some great ideas (human flight, for instance) take a long time for us to perfect enough to not die every time we try them. “All men are created equal” has a lot going for it — but it’s not perfect and never was.

For starters, the white, Christian, land-owning men who gathered together to articulate what they thought this new nation should be, started their work from a skewed position. They didn’t mean “all men” though they did mean “only men”. By “men”, the men who founded America meant them. Just them: men who looked, acted, sounded, spoke, prayed and thought just like them. But, at the same time, James Madison encapsulated the American ideal this way on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. See how much cleaner that is? How much more inclusive? Nothing about E Pluribus Unum says “but give the white guys all the advantages they can possibly have because otherwise they can’t compete”.

Why did America cut a deal with slavery? Simple: money. Without stealing the labor of every slave who worked a cotton, tobacco or sugar cane plantation, none of those crops would have been nearly as profitable. To this day, you’ll hear arguments from serious people that this justified slavery — how else could the Confederacy have risen without all that free labor (minus the costs of housing, clothing and feeding one’s slaves)? I wonder, would any of those slavery apologists be apologizing for slavery’s “necessary evils” if their families had been in bondage or if their family’s wealth had been taken from them along with their freedom? Puh-leese! Ask a hard question!

It’s like asking a racist if they’re a racist. How the hell would they know? They’re a racist! Racism isn’t in the eye of the racist anyway — same as beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder — more exactly, in the eye of the racist’s victim. If anyone sees racism in someone’s attack on them, it’s not for any of us to question them, NOT being subjected to the racism. Oh, yeah — this can be messy. But racism is way messier. To fix things of this nature, it doesn’t do to aim for the middle. You aim for the other extreme because it’s the only way you can possibly get tot he middle. We have to see and call out every bit of racism for the time being in order to assure ourselves collectively that we’ve really and truly leveled the playing field for everyone.

That is democracy’s true goal — to get the very best out of everyone by giving everyone the very same opportunities. Consider how much genius America has denied itself simply because our racism refused to educate or nurture certain people. Consider how fearful some Americans have always been about learning anything new! The “Know Nothings” were an actual political movement who were anti-Catholic, Anti-Irish, anti-immigration, populist and xenophobic. This, really, is pure conservatism. It wants to conserve what was — the imperfect version of America the founders put into practice. That is what originalism wants to enshrine in amber and call “America” — our first draft.

Well, fortunately for America, E Pluribus Unum finally overtook “All men are created equal” and that’s what triggered white rage — the fear of losing (or worse, having to share) political power with the rest of America’s citizens.

How do we fix it? Oh, it’s soooooooo simple (yet soooooooo complicated). We walk into a private bathroom. We lock the door. We go to the bathroom mirror and we look at ourselves in it.

And then we cut the shit.

I Am Sick To Death Of People Who Literally Think They’re God

Personally, I blame monotheism.

We’ve got it in our heads that monotheism was a positive evolutionary step forward from polytheism. That is, “people who believe there’s only one sky deity are more advanced in their thinking than people who think there are more than one sky deity”. Can I tell ya? From an atheist’s POV? Less of the wrong idea isn’t really an improvement over more of the wrong idea — or vice versa. When looking around at the world and wondering where did this all come from and what is the point of it all, different people in different parts of the world answered those questions differently. In their defense, they were all working with a very limited knowledge base. If the men (they had to be men — would women write about women like this?) who wrote what became the Pentateuch had had telescopes and microscopes and the internet available to them as they sat down to scribble, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have scribbled out Genesis in the same way. For one thing, they’d have had a handle on geology and its very reliable data set.

They may still have written about the world being created in seven days, but, at least the metaphor would have been clear to everyone.

East of Eden — in the high, high mountains far beyond the Canaanite desert where El morphed into Yahweh (the biblical character we call “God”) — spiritual enlightenment meant finding an answer to suffering, not eternal life with all your loved ones in a magical sky-place. If this atheist suddenly felt compelled to “run for cover”? I’d run to Buddhism. It seems the shortest distance between two points by millions and millions of miles. Still, you can’t deny the radical forward progress monotheism presented over polytheism. From a polytheist’s POV, a monotheist is an atheist (because they deny all the polytheist’s gods). But then, polytheistic faiths didn’t work at all the way monotheism does. For one thing, polytheistic gods don’t really give a crap about humans or what humans do. They’re definitely not there to serve humans or larger human needs. They don’t even work as human wish fulfillers.

Right off the bat, Yahweh is different. Eden is literal perfection. Adam is Yahweh in the flesh. Eve, on the other hand…

Yahweh punishes man because he loves us so. But mostly because we disappoint him so. All he asks is that we behave ourselves — and worship him like he was the only god in existence. That is where the trouble begins.

Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. If you brought Jesus back from the dead (for real) and asked him what he thought about “Christianity”, Jesus would have zero idea what you were talking about. He was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew (I’m going to assume someone like Jesus existed only because of Paul’s writing about Jesus). He preached Jewish teachings to other Jews who were equally familiar with all the same ritual and mythology. If Saul Of Tarsus doesn’t have his “Road To Damascus” moment (which he writes about forcefully — like he really experienced it inside his head), he never goes to Jerusalem to try and sell his version of Jesus to Jesus’s family and all Jesus’s followers. The reason everyone Jesus knew rejected Paul’s version of Jesus is because they all knew Jesus and had heard him actually teach. Paul’s version of Jesus was just that: Paul’s version of Jesus.

Atheist that I am, I consider myself a fan o’ Jesus. “Do unto others” is an amazing message for a religious faith to preach to the world. Every religion should be so humane in its purpose. But, to be fair, “Do unto others” isn’t radical, it’s a simpler expression of “Tikkun Olam” — a central tenet of not just Jewish faith but Jewish culture. “Tikkun Olam” obligates every Jew (every person, really) to make the world a better place just for having been it it. That’s it. That’s our mission, however we choose to fulfill it. Paul saw value in “Do unto others” but that wasn’t the hook he saw in Jesus. Resurrection — that was the hook on which Paul hung his version of Jesus and the brand-spanking-new religious faith Paul invented on the fly. Paul’s pitch to the Gentiles in a nutshell: “believe in this version of Jesus — in exactly the way I’m telling you to do it — and just like Jesus did, you, too, can defeat death.”

Oh, and by the way? This Jesus guy? He’s Yahweh’s son — that’s how we know his word’s good.

So long as you believe in Yahweh — and that Yahweh had a son with a virgin human being — and that son was imagined by Yahweh as a way for humankind to fix what Eve broke — then eternal paradise awaits! Just follow those rules to the letter. Jesus may have taught “Do unto others” but his churches (which is crazy since Jesus preached against corrupt temples and their corrupt temple priests) turned that into “Do what we say — or else”. And since the “we” is speaking for God (no longer Yahweh), who are little “you” to question? How exactly does a human go from being a fallible priest one moment to being an infallible pope the next? I mean, aside from inside his own head?

Polytheism didn’t concentrate the whole power of the universe into one pair of hands the way monotheism did. Also, it doesn’t put the voices of its gods inside human minds the way Abrahamic faiths put God’s voice inside every believer’s head. Christianity took the idea of a “personal relationship with God” and ran amok with it. It’s not hard to get why it worked. Imagine the “Voice Of God” inside your head. On the one hand, yeah — it could be terrifying. Like the worst acid trip ever. But, OTOH, if God liked you… if God saw that YOU understood him like few others…

That’s what priests are, in theory — people (usually men of course) who have a better relationship with God than you ever could. They feel God’s love better than you, see his intent where you see mysteries. When God really, REALLY needs to get his point across? He knows YOU are the guy to get it across for him. That, of course, is just you putting on a show inside your head — as we all do — and giving yourself the role of “God’s Favorite”. As you look at yourself in the mirror however, with the Voice O’ God in your ears, you convince yourself (what else can this be?) that you and God have an awful lot in common.

Show me a televangelist, I’ll show you someone who thinks they’re God…

Show me a Republican politician whose religiosity is tied to their brand, I’ll show you a fraudulent toad who thinks they’re God.

Yeah — I blame monotheism.

Personally, I Blame Monotheism For This Freakin’ Mess We’re In

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A monotheist is someone who thinks his imaginary friend can beat the crap out of your imaginary friend. The problem is, the monotheist’s friend isn’t all that “imaginary”. This atheist absolutely accepts the sincerity of all his monotheistic friends (and he has many!) that they believe a creature far larger than themselves created everything. And I know that many of my monotheist friends imagine a God that really does represent love (or, at least, the possibility of love in a universal sense). Alas, as I look around at the world, I don’t see much evidence of theists following the teachings of a loving deity. Instead, I see and hear people who insist that they understand God and what he wants better than you — so you better get out of their way. I see people determined that they’re acting on God’s behalf. Are they? I have doubts…

It starts innocently enough on the believer’s part. They walk into a religious institution’s door filled with questions. It ain’t even remotely innocent on the religious institution’s part. Judaism doesn’t imagine the activist God that Christianity morphed Yahweh into. But, the Apostle Paul’s genius (and this atheist thinks he was a genius precisely because we’re still talking about his work product) was in refashioning Jewish mythology (going back a thousand years by the time Paul started refashioning it) into a whole different thing wherein God offered eternal life in exchange for devout belief. The institutional church also put it into everyone’s head (as part of its teaching) that every non-believer (everyone who doubted the absolute veracity of this mythology) threatened the entire belief structure — and therefore must be eliminated because they’re “heretics”.

Wait, what? How the hell did we get THERE from a loving “God”?

It takes zero dogma to “Do unto others”. To be a good, practicing Catholic? It’s nothing but dogma. That’s because the institutional church — regardless of denominational branding — has turned “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”.

This atheist — grateful to Hebrew School for making him the atheist he is today (well, it iced the cake on the atheism with which I dropped from the womb) — considers himself a “Fan O’ Jesus”. Jesus was born lived his whole life and died a Jew who preached only ever to other Jews about Jewish things and in a way that only other Jews understood. Paul (also a Jew) took his version of Jesus (and Paul never met Jesus or heard him teach) to the Gentiles where no one was going to check his work or point out how he was getting either the Jewish mythology or the Jesus mythology all wrong. Because the Gentiles knew nothing about Jewish mythology or Jesus that Paul didn’t tell them.

Thus Paul and the early church fathers began to construct a brand-spanking-new Christian mythology.

When Jews took to monotheism, they were relatively unique. Yahweh (which is really the Canaanite god “El” repurposed and still represented in place names like “Beth-EL” and “IsraEL”) represented a radical shift in how people thought about the divine. Polytheistic gods didn’t really bother themselves with humans or human concerns. Few polytheistic gods had any sort of “personal relationship” with humans in general. Why would they? What could humans do for them? What could they do for humans? Almost nothing.

Monotheism changes that dynamic. Right off the bat, Yahweh tells Abraham to move from Ur (modern day Southern Iraq, where he was from) to modern day Israel (Canaan then) with the promise that the Canaanite’s land was going to be theirs. Because Yahweh said so. Yahweh, unlike any god before, takes a very personal interest in Abraham but only so long as Abraham agrees to believe ONLY in Yahweh.

Think about it… When the Pentateuch’s authors finally wrote down the stories they’d been passing along orally for a thousand years, their monotheistic god didn’t say “Well, you can believe in other gods if you like but that’d be silly since they don’t exist!” Instead, Yahweh is petulant: “You better not believe in any other god!” That’s being competitive where, if Yahweh is the real deal, no competition ever existed; if no other gods made the world then they can’t exist (other than as characters in a story)! That makes Yahweh’s petulance even harder to comprehend. This mighty creature was powerful enough to create literally everything in existence — and out of nothing no less. He should be the epitome of confidence! Instead, like a whiney little bitch, he can’t bear it if his creations don’t toady to him! What kind of bullshit deity is this?

If Yahweh creating everything in existence is a fact of life from the outset, then where would any alternative way of thinking come from? It makes “free will” look like a design flaw since free will can invent bullshit out of nothing — just like Yahweh can. Or, it makes Yahweh look deranged, mercurial, bi-polar and off his meds. Only a human being could invent a deity as horribly neurotic as that.

Hey, this doesn’t mean “God” or god-like being doesn’t exist. Show me proof, I’m there! But, Yahweh (“god” is Yahweh’s job description, not his name) is a piss poor creation. Valdemort makes more sense FFS!

And while we’re on the subject, God — as imagined by way too many monotheists — and Valdemort — have way, way too much in common.

Put aside whether or not a “creator of everything” exists. What monotheism does is put “God” (a character it says is God and describes as God and quotes as God) inside its believers’ heads. “When you ‘pray to God’,” the institutional religion tells its followers, “Or talk to God or think about him and “another voice” answers you, trust that that voice IS “God”.

This is exactly the moment when trouble begins.

The believer now believes that this voice inside his head — the one speaking AS God — IS God. Except, it’s not God. It’s just a voice inside their head — it’s them talking to themselves. And if you can’t show the other side of the conversation in any way, shape or form? Then it’s a one-sided conversation. The other side is not going to reply because it can’t. So any “reply” you attribute to it is you replying and not it. The True Believer swaps themselves with the God character. Therefore, whatever thoughts occur to them are also occurring to God (especially since God, being omnipotent, sees and hears literally everything).

Now the True Believer is thinking like God and for God. Oh, come on already! Whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not, they’ve made the leap. They may put it “God speaks through me” or “I understand God and what he wants” but the divine entity in their minds is none other than themselves cos-playing as Yahweh.

Think I’m nuts? Watch televangelist Kenneth Copeland explain how life works and tell me Kenny-Boy doesn’t think God’s divine light doesn’t shine from his anointed ass. “Anointed!” That’s code for “I made me God”.

Part of the institutional church’s genius (an extension of Paul’s) is their insistence that believers need the church in order to have a relationship with God. Unfortunately that contradicts one of Jesus’s core teachings — that no one needs a corrupt temple or its corrupt priests (even if they’re priests working for a corrupt church) in order to speak to “the father”. But, hey — that’s just Jesus talking and what does that effin’ hippie know, right?

Monotheism concentrates the power of the universe in one place and in one “brain” — “God’s”. That would be okay if everyone had a truly uniform idea of what “God” is. That’s a literal impossibility. Every human experiences Life in their own personal way as Life filters through their brain. Ask ten theists what God is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not because God can be “anything” (isn’t that a neat trick!), it’s because the idea of God can be anything.

Put that kind of “power” inside a flawed human mind and it’s a stone cold guarantee that only bad shit will ever happen. The history of human beings and their religious beliefs says so.

There’s No Such Thing As A “Fake Christian”; There Are Only “Christians”

Want to know what makes an atheist laugh? Hearing one Christian call another Christian “fake”. FFS, that’s what the whole Protestant Reformation was! One group of Christians calling the other group “fake“. From the vantage of point of non-Christendom? What are both groups talking about? Hey — ever Google “Protestantism sects”? There are more than you can count (if you count them all!) And then there’s Catholicism. And all the national churches and Eastern churches… And then there’s Mormonism — and its offshoots. From outside that tent, everyone INSIDE the tent is a Christian!

Look, I’m one of those Jews who’s always been fascinated by Christianity. Originally, I needed to know how and why tens of millions of people hated me and wanted me dead simply because I was Jewish.

Can we be honest? The answer you get back — why Christians hate Jews — it’s not especially satisfying.

Or logical.

Having grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust (I was born in 1959, fourteen years after the camps were liberated), I’m keenly aware where extreme anti-Semitism leads. That’s what the Holocaust was — Jew hatred taken to its most horrifying, industrial conclusion. This perverse, genocidal compulsion is based on a poorly thought-out story that was invented by Paul and the early church fathers. The former Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus. Never heard Jesus preach or teach. That’s why Paul’s version of Jesus didn’t play in Jerusalem or for anyone who knew Jesus or who actually did hear Jesus speak. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus — and a thousand years of made-up Jewish messiah mythology — to the Gentiles (who had no background in it as Paul did and so accepted what the Jews in Jerusalem rejected).

It’s Paul — a real person — writing about Jesus — that makes me think someone “like” Jesus probably walked the earth. But, Paul revised Jesus to suit the needs of the newfangled offshoot-of-Judaism he was inventing on the fly. Paul was doing something else too — and this is where his real genius lies. The Roman world was polytheistic. Judaism was monotheistic; it rejected all of the Roman gods because, Judaism believed, only one god — Yahweh — existed. Roman gods, like most polytheistic gods, were very different in nature from the Jews’ Yahweh. They weren’t made of different material. Their lives only occasionally intersected with mortals’ lives. Though divine, polytheistic gods offered humans nothing of the divine.

Yahweh on the other hand was different. Not only was he divine, he (sometimes) liked humans (when he wasn’t flooding them out). He seemed to want to like us; we just kept disappointing him. Paul reinvents Yahweh by making Jesus Yahweh’s son. That’s not a big deal in and of itself. But then — here’s the genius part — Paul has Jesus rise from the dead, defeating death while also dying for humanity’s sins (the original sin being Eve’s)! Paul’s God (not entirely monotheistic since he can replicate by breeding with humans), unlike polytheistic gods, promises to actually DO something for humans other than just punish them. And that thing God will do for you is something only God can do — all you have to do is believe in Jesus exactly the way the Church (God’s now-infallible spokesman on earth) tells you to.

“Do unto others” has become “Do what we say — or else”. Not that the institutional church ever had the least interest in Jesus or any of his teachings. If Jesus were to return from the dead, the biggest enemies he’d have would be the institutional churches who’d race to the media to declare this “Jesus Guy” a total fraud. Oh, the irony — how it burns! Jesus taught that no one needs a corrupt temple or its correct priests in order to have a relationship with “the father”. “Talk directly to God,” Jesus taught. Anyone — atheists included — could “Do unto others” like a pro. And certainly better than any Christian.

There’s a clear distinction between “Christians” and “followers of Jesus”. My heart goes out to followers of Jesus because of what Christians have done to the brand.

Whoever Jesus really was, it’s simply a fact that he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He preached Jewish thoughts to other Jews — even if Jesus’s version of those thoughts were somewhat “radical” (ignoring the Temple and its priests because they were corrupt). At the core of Jesus’s teaching — we all agree — is “Do unto others”. And “Do unto others” is a magnificent way to live Life. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived that way — including (or especially) Christians. “Do unto others” is a very Jewish teaching. It’s a graceful distillation of a core Jewish concept: “Tikkun Olam”.

Every Jew (every person really) is obligated — according to Tikkun Olam — to make the world a better place for having been in it. One doesn’t have to accept this obligation (plenty of people don’t), but, if you want to live a good life, making the world better is how you’ll do it. Now, in all fairness to Christians, Christians don’t have a “culture” in the way Jews do where a way of life and a way of faith co-exist. While one absolutely can convert into the Jewish faith (a relatively rare things as Jews don’t proselytize), one can’t convert into the Jewish culture. Ashkenazis — European Jews — were excluded from European culture for 1500 years. They weren’t allowed to live with Christians. Weren’t allowed to marry them. Certainly weren’t allowed to make babies with them (though I’m sure babies made from male Christians raping Jewish women wasn’t a problem for them).

Consequently, Jews lived apart in their own villages or, as they first started to do in Venice in the early 1500’s — in “ghettos”. The word is Italian and first referred to the islands in the Venetian archipelago where the Jews were allowed to live. Living apart caused Jews to evolve a culture separate from white Europe’s. It caused Jews to evolve their own genetic disorder — Tay Sachs disease. Jews never set out to be “different”, that was something European Christianity made us.

Can we be just a little bit more honest? The way Christians have treated Jews across fifteen hundred years of history has not been especially “Christian”. Or maybe it has been — and every single person calling themselves “Christian” is, in fact, a “fake”.