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”.

Why Being An Atheist And A Jew At The Same Time Isn’t A Contradiction

It took me a while to figure out why I’ve gotten strange looks most of my life when I claim to be both an atheist and a Jew.

Every one of those strange looks comes from non-Jews who have it in their heads that Judaism is equal to Christianity is equal to Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or any other world faith. And, indeed, one can convert from whatever faith one practices to any of those other faiths — Judaism included. But the only thing one can convert into — where Judaism is concerned — is the religion. One can change one’s way of thinking to to see the world from a Jewish perspective. That doesn’t make one Jewish though in the cultural sense. And that’s what separates Jews from nearly every other ethnic group. We’re not just a religious affiliation, we’re a distinct cultural group whose religion is part of the group’s culture but far from its entirety.

A Baptist may have Baptist roots and the culture they live in can be Baptist out the wazoo. But those Baptists could convert to Methodism or Calvinism tomorrow and that’d be the end of them being Baptists. A Jew can quit Judaism and never walk into a synagogue again for the rest of her life. In the world’s eyes, she’ll never stop being a Jew however. Because what makes her a Jew — what makes any Jew a “Jew” — isn’t their version of God, it’s something deeper than that. God, after all, is just an idea of how we all got here.

In addition to this blog, I have a few others. There’s Mulligan Jesus (which I neglect and shouldn’t) and there’s The Faithesism Project Podcast which I do with my good friend Randy Lovejoy who’s also a Presbyterian Pastor. A few podcasts back, Randy and I had a guest named Dave Wertlieb. Randy and Dave are related by marriage which is how they know each other. Randy wanted Dave to be a guest because (in addition to being Jewish), Dave is an avowed agnostic. Whereas theists insists that “absolutely, there is a God!” and atheists insist “absolutely there is not!” agnostics insist that neither theists nor atheists know what they’re talking about. That is, they cannot literally “know” anything here and both the theist’s faith and the atheist’s un-faith are based on incomplete information. Randy and I both expected the podcast to focus on a discussion of agnosticism (their point of view really is the most honest), it ended up more a discussion between Dave and I about what it is to be “Jewish”. More specifically, about how Dave and I could both insist we’re Jewish while neither of us practices the Jewish religion.

Randy grew up in Texas but then traveled the world as a religious missionary. His attachment to Christianity — though it’s the faith he grew up in — isn’t cultural at all. Christianity is an ideal that appeals to Randy, a vision of the world he agrees with. Of all the Christians I know, Randy has more Jesus in him than most. But, Randy found himself befuddled by both Dave and myself. For starters, though I had never met Dave before the podcast, Dave and I hit it off instantly. That is, we had plenty to talk about including a huge pool of common experience: we’re both Jewish. Randy, at the conversation’s start, couldn’t understand how I could claim to be an atheist — and yet Jewish — while Dave could claim to be agnostic and yet Jewish. Randy was assuming that the bottom line for “being Jewish” was following the Jewish faith.

The reasons WHY Jews were treated as pariahs across two thousand years of European history is a whole set of blog posts unto themselves. Christianity grew on the back of multiple untruths — all of them Paul’s creation. Paul took various Jewish ideas and mythologies and repurposed them for the gentile communities he was grooming across Asia Minor. These communities had no knowledge of Jewish mythologies or prophesies. Whatever Paul created went unchallenged. After Justinian made Christianity the state religion and, as the Catholic Church began to assert its primacy, Jew hatred became a focus because “feelings over facts”.

For fifteen hundred years, Jews were excluded from European society, forced to live separate lives in separate communities. The word “ghetto” is Italian. The first place it ever referred to was the Jewish Ghetto in Venice — that fenced off part of town where the Jews were forced to live. Living apart from Christian Europe for fifteen hundred years, marrying and having babies only with other Jews — not a huge community begin with — caused a Jewish genetic disorder: Tay Sachs disease. Tay Sachs was born in the shtetls of Europe. And Tay Sachs can live inside a Jewish person regardless of how dedicated they are to the Torah.

I recommend the podcast Randy and I did with Dave. Okay — I’m biased. But it really is a worthwhile conversation both because of what was said about being a Jew and about being a person of “un-faith”.

When I say (and I say it at the start of each podcast) that I’m “grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today”, I am absolutely not being sarcastic or even mean. I am genuinely grateful because Hebrew school taught me to question even fundamental ideas like where we all came from. To be honest, I’m pretty convinced I dropped from the womb an atheist. Except for a twenty-four period when I was eight and thought I was in big trouble for taking a Playboy magazine to school one day? I have never looked skyward expecting a shoulder to cry on.

History says any shoulder up there is too cold to cry on anyway.

Anti-Semitism Will Endure Until The Last Christian Stops Thinking “The Jews Killed Jesus”

I’m biased, so excuse me, but blood libels are flat out stupid. Blood libels based on invented stories? The stupidest of all. And, it turns out, the deadliest. It’s hard to describe to a Christian — even Christian friends — what that experience is like. For starters, my tribe has NEVER declared war on their tribe. My tribe has never sought to convert their tribe. My tribe has never accused their tribe of poisoning the well — so, let’s kill them all! My tribe has never stuck their tribe in ghettos — starting with the one in Venice, Italy. My tribe has never subjected their tribe to an Inquisition or a Holocaust. Every one of those terrible things happened because their tribe had it in for my tribe — and the reason they had it in for us is because “the Jews killed Jesus”. Even if this story — which takes “ludicrous” to bold, new heights — were true, it STILIL makes no sense since the whole POINT of Jesus being here was for him to “die for our sins”. I don’t think Christianity becomes a world religion if Jesus dies an old man in his bead surrounded by loved ones.

Jesus did not invent Christianity. He was born, lived and died a Jew, thinking Jewish thoughts, preaching Jewish ideas to other Jews. They were somewhat radical ideas — because they discounted the role of the temple and the temple priests — in other words, THE CHURCH. Jesus discounted the need for a formal, institutional church. “Speak directly to the father!” But, most importantly, Jesus taught a core Jewish principle — Tikkun olam: it is every Jew’s obligation to make the world a better place for having lived in it. It starts with “doing unto others”.

The Apostle Paul never met Jesus. He never heard Jesus speak a word in person. Any knowledge Paul had of Jesus was entirely Paul’s own creation. For Paul, Jesus’s significance wasn’t what he taught — “Do unto others” — it was the possibility that Jesus might could fit the part of “messiah” that derived from mythologies going back a hundreds of years! When the Jews (some of whom had actually known Jesus) rejected Paul’s version of Jesus, Paul took his version of Jesus to the gentiles. The gentiles had even less knowledge of Real Jesus than Paul did. And, unlike Paul, they had zero background in the Jewish mythology Paul was trying to manipulate so as to make Jesus play as “messiah”.

The majority of the New Testament is Paul’s various communications with the early church communities he, himself, was establishing, mentoring and instructing. I take nothing away from Paul’s achievement. But, let’s be clear — Paul wasn’t selling Jesus the actual Jewish guy who preached a radical message of “you don’t need a church just talk directly to God and, above all, do unto others”. Paul was selling a completely different Jesus who had to be connected to King David, had to be born in Bethlehem, had to be this, had to be that. More importantly — Paul was selling a Jesus who rose from the dead.

Jesus defeating death — that’s what Paul believed he was selling. And if “you”, Paul preached, “Believe in the Jesus I’ve imagined, then you too can defeat death just like my imaginary Jesus did!” But, you have to believe in Jesus exactly the way Paul and the church tell you to. That ‘s the catch. Fail at any of the dogma and, apostate that you are, you’ll be spending the rest of your afterlife in actual hell.

Can I tell you something? When an angry Christian comes at you — spouting the “Judas betrayed Jesus so therefore every Jew is guilty for all eternity” line? There’s literally nothing you can do or say to change their mind and stop them from hurting you. The harder you try to point out the flaws in the story, the angrier you make them and the more vicious they get because now you’re denigrating their rubbish. How dare you!

One could toss everything the church teaches and still be a fan of Jesus. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” and trust me — most atheists DO “do unto others”. That’s what’s most frustrating! Jesus has been entirely decoupled from his message and turned into a mascot. He’s Ronald McJesus selling absolution happy meals — hey, can we super size that for ya? The church did not build itself pitching “do unto others” lessons. It captivated the world because, for the first time, a deity offered up something of real value to human beings: eternal life. A way to beat death.

Paul baked his rejection of his mother faith into Christianity’s architecture. He left home and never looked back. But, he also pointedly helped invent a brand new mythology, based loosely on the old Jewish stories. Jews did not by and large proseletyze. Back then, Judaism was the religion practiced exclusively by the Jewish tribe. If you were born a Jew, you practiced Judaism. If you weren’t born a Jew, you didn’t. Jews didn’t take their idea of a monotheistic god out to the gentile world because it never occurred to them to do it. Yahweh (the God character’s actual name, “God” being his job description actually) wasn’t the gentile world’s god, it was the Jewish tribe’s god. The gentile world, the Jews understood, already had their own gods and didn’t need Yahweh.

Paul changed that. In his mind, the world needed Jesus if it was to defeat death. People needed to “hear the good news” that if Jesus could rise from the dead, so could they!

The Holocaust wasn’t some aberration. It was two thousand years of gentiles hating Jews “because they killed Jesus” put on industrial strength steroids. Why kill just a town of Jews (cos they killed all the children to turn their blood into matzohs) when you can kill a whole city’s worth? The Holocaust was two thousand years of accumulated history. Two thousand years of Jews being treated as pariahs, of Jews being looked at like they were cockroaches. Of Jews being murdered by white people who hated them just because they were Jewish.

To judge by its actions, the Christian church has never cared whether or not any of its adherents actually did unto others. They care deeply however about keeping people in line — about getting adherents to “do what they’re told to do” — even if it’s to terrorize, maim, kill, abuse or torment the very people Jesus called his family. Hmmmmmm… maybe this isn’t about Jesus after all.

Maybe it never was…

No, SCOTUS — A Cross Is Not (And Can NEVER Be) “Secular” In Any Way – BECAUSE Of Its History

The Supreme Court just came down 7-2, allowing a 40-foot World War I memorial in the shape of a Christian cross to remain standing in Maryland. The American Humanist Association had sued Maryland; they wanted the state to replace the cross (erected in 1925 as a memorial to 49 local residents who died) with something more “with something more appropriate and universal.” The SCOTUS however says the cross, while “undeniably a religious symbol” is also now “secular enough” to stay.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/supreme-court-christian-peace-cross-ruling_n_5cfeb071e4b02ee3477b60cc

How to put this politely… BULLSHIT!

It’s hard, apparently, for Christians to conceive of the idea that the symbol for their faith means more than just “their faith”. It means two thousand years of persecution — if you’re Jewish. It means pogroms and massacres and inquisitions and holocausts. A cross always stands in the background of each of those scenes. The people doing the pogroming & massacring were almost always motivated to their violence — at least in part — by that cross and the people who controlled that cross’ message. That cross is the banner anti-Semites have almost always followed into battle.

I grew up in a mostly Jewish suburb of Baltimore during the 1960’s & 1970’s — a kind of gilded ghetto. Jews have been living in ghettos — gilded or otherwise — since the term was coined in Venice, Italy around 1516 to describe the part of the city where Jews were allowed to live. The ghetto.

Jews didn’t force Jews to live in ghettos, Christians did — because Jews insisted on remaining a separate group. More to the point, they insisted on remaining the “original” group from which Christians emerged. They insisted on staying true to themselves regardless of the nonsense Paul and the early Church Fathers INVENTED to distinguish the emerging Christian faith from its Jewish origins. Though Paul didn’t invent the idea that Jesus was “a messiah” (at the time LOTS of people claimed to be messiahs or were declared messiahs by their followers — it was an apocalyptic time in Jerusalem), Paul adeptly used it to create the Christian Mythology that Jews killed Jesus (never mind all the mythology’s myriad logic problems).

Whenever Christians went hunting for Jews to punish — for having killed Jesus — they did it under the banner of a cross.

I’m sorry, SCOTUS, but almost TWO THOUSAND YEARS of being beaten with a cross cannot be undone by CHRISTIANS claiming their core religious symbol isn’t religious “in this instance”. That’s like saying a noose — left dangling at a black person’s desk at work or left outside a black family’s home — isn’t necessarily racist.

Trust me — it’s racist.