Jesus and Thomas Jefferson

If opinion and knowledge was accurate and just, and we looked at it fairly and objectively, we would look at Jesus as we look at Thomas Jefferson. Both of these men (whether one actually existed or not) were behind monumental documents containing not entirely original, yet immensely impactful ideas that greatly influenced the world. And yet they both were very flawed, both were products of their time, and their respective issues are so serious that some justifiably throw them out and discredit them completely.

Informed readers know that Jefferson thought Jesus, though he believed nothing of Christian mythology, one of the greatest moral teachers in human history. I am perplexed how someone as clear thinking and enlightened as he was overall could believe this so strongly, because even he acknowledge much of what came out of the character Jesus' mouth in scripture was absurd and deplorable. But he convinced himself much of the absurd and deplorable content was inserted by his "biographers" and others who corrupted his simple teachings. Jefferson also knew well, being one of the absolute greatest pioneers for secularization of government and freedom of religion in all of history, just how awful and bloody the legacy of Christianity actually had been, and he knew it derived directly from scripture (something he had no problem cutting up with a razor to separate its "diamonds from dunghills"),the ending of which, the book of Revelation, he called the "ravings of a maniac." He knew the God of Moses was "cruel, capricious, and unjust", he knew Jesus was portrayed as thinking demons cause sickness and much else that he concurred was nonsense, whose "spells on the human mind", along with priestcraft, held the progress of the human mind in an "ominous" state.

I haven't come upon any commentary by Jefferson on the idea of eternal torture for non-Christians, but that doctrine certainly is the height of sadism and injustice and has caused unquantifiable harm through history, and is advocated clearly by the "prince of peace" who often isn't quite so peaceful, and who (or at least the character crafted by the biblical writers) espoused many other very questionable things, from preaching the imminent end of the world, to encouraging followers to hate and abandon their families, to pronouncing it ok to not wash your hands before eating,to urging us to not think of tomorrow and to not resist evil, to applauding Old Testament barbarism. He himself also says nothing against slavery and uses slavery analogies. The character of Jesus does get credit for not directly espousing so much of the blatant misogyny that he nevertheless surely knew about and permeates the Bible. I'd say, even taking into account all the good that the very best ideas attributed to the character of Jesus have inspired (though much of it coming thanks to the religion being stripped of power by modernity), this is at the very least a very, very mixed picture.

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With respect to Thomas Jefferson, unlike with Jesus, I actually am a fairly big fan, despite his flaws. I have many books. For one, he never claimed to be and was never perceived to be anything more than an imperfect human being. As stark as the indictment is regarding the deep contradiction of the great ideas of freedom and equality that he so eloquently articulated and his actually owning slaves, the positive attributes and the effect they had in the world overcome that admittedly conspicuous blemish that rightly stains his image. Because again, the issue of slavery was ubiquitous and ancient, as unflattering as that fact is for humanity, and he was still to a degree a product of his time, though he was, for a time,one of the first and greatest opponents of slavery. And if we start judging all historical figures by modern standards I think we're heading down a very useless and unreasonable path. I agree with Carl Sagan that Jefferson was an enormous and indelible pillar that erected and holds up the modern world and all the progress and Enlightenment ideals that have seen humanity make such unprecedented progress in absolutely every possible area, scientific to moral to political.

I have no problem looking upon Jesus as an imperfect historical figure or myth who had and preached some good things. I have no problem appreciating those things and acknowledging any good they have done. I do have a problem with venerating such a figure and the context he comes in, the book his name is attached to, and holding such things as supreme and perfect, that are so obviously imperfect, and filled with so much absurdity and poison. I have problems with foundations made of intellectual dishonesty, obfuscation, and indoctrination. I would have a problem with The Iliad or The Odyssey being venerated as the supreme object of reality as the Bible is. How we look upon The Iliad or The Odyssey, how we appreciate and criticize those man-made books is precisely how we should treat their Near Eastern counterpart in the Bible. I sit back and imagine how the world would be if the tides of history had flowed differently and mankind viewed these things based on their actual merit and support of evidence and validity. How much better would the world be for it? Or better yet, how much better would the world be if a benevolent and wise god actually had produced a book and gave it to us from the beginning? It would be clear and unassailable what that book was. What would the world look like then?

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