I am a Christian and am looking to learn more about atheistic belief about Jesus. I am not here to slander, demoralize, or assassinate someones character because they believe differently than I do. I will admit that typically, atheists are extremely intelligent and ask great questions. Questions that everyone should be asking about reality, faith, and how we interpret our lives. With that said, as previously mentioned, I interpret my worldview from a Christian perspective. So, as I respect your views, I hope that you can respect mine as well.
With all that said, I am seeking a good friendly debate about the historicity and reality of Jesus Christ. What do atheists believe about Jesus? Most atheistic debates I've heard circle around the existence of God type of arguments but I have not heard many about Jesus, who he is, why he has made such an impact on the world (whether you think that is positive or negative), and why his claims were so shocking to so many people.
What are your thoughts? Who is Jesus to you?
Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.
Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.
“Jesus” to me, is an idea that doesn’t make much sense, when touted as a “fact” and “real”.
To me, it’s silly (the idea) - so be forewarned...ideas are open to question and ridicule - how much of that you take “personally” in a discussion, I guess will depend on how personally you are invested or identified by your idea.
Just to also be clear, “atheist” means “with-holding belief in god”. I withhold belief in many a thing, but this one needs to be clarified at the on-set.
I have no evidence that a) Jesus existed as a person. b) any of the claims are true
So I default.
Just as I default (or withhold belief) in the existence of Pandora and her gifted box.
Neither has any meaning, importance or thought really, in my life. And I don’t look to either as an “explanation” for “society”.
However the “idea” of Jesus now influences society more so than the Greek gods do - but this is just a preferred superstitious choice (depending where you live) Other societal superstitious choices are Allah, Jehovah, the Dali Lama, Kim Jung ...
Jesus may or may not have been an actual person. Lot's of scholars believe he existed and point to various reasons for their belief, but no one actually knows if he was a real person. He is obviously important to Christians because they believe most of their lives revolve around him and that they are connected to him in some way. I don't know if he was an actual person, but I doubt that he was, and for sure, I don't believe any of that walking on water or coming back to life stuff that the Bible talks about. I'm not going to debate this. It's just how I see it, and none of this is that important to me anyway.
Hello Winston, and welcome to Atheist Republic.
Atheism is not a dogma, it has no leadership, being an atheist is just one thing, the person is not convinced that a god or gods exist.
So my opinions may be quite different than other atheists.
Let us begin with the history of the bible, since all stories about jesus come from that one source. The bible is a collection of stories written by unknown authors over an unknown number of years. There is no collaborating evidence for the existence of jesus outside of the bible.
I am a very skeptical person, I do not accept anything on just a person's word. And my perception is that the story of jesus is just as valid as the story of King Arthur or Robin Hood. There probably was one or a few individuals who were the core of the story, but because it is a story passed down verbally and with unknown authors, it grew into a glorious story.
I am just the prelude to others who know a heck of a lot more than me on the historicity of jesus.
But here is a point to ponder. What did he look like? I am sure almost everyone has seen multiple depictions of jesus, on the cross, caressing sheep, doing the halo thing. But researchers did an analysis on what he really looked like. What came out of that research was definitely what many imagined jesus to be.
So what was jesus, a European with flowing blonde hair, or a Semite? Look at the attached picture.
Please prepare yourself for an opinion that may make you uncomfortable.
Strip away the drama and religiosity, and the bible describes a malcontent who came from a dysfunctional family, could not hold a job, and lead a bunch of rough people from town to town until the local authorities had enough of him and had him executed. To me that describes a crime boss/con man.
What is real and what is perception?
Hi David . I am a Christian and I would ask you what difference does it make what Jesus physically looked like. ? Every culture in every corner of the globe that embraces Jesus sees Christ in their own image because that is who he is . Look up the art of any culture across the world and you will find this to be true . Christ doesn’t speak to the material , he speaks to the spiritual.
Perception is very important if you want to sell anything. Reality and truth are also important, at least to me. If one is to accept any position, they should have a full and honest understanding on what they are engaging with.
In the middle dark ages in Europe when christianity really had a choke-hold on the entire continent, many imposing cathedrals and churches were built. You may accept the concept of "spiritual sells", but that is not true. Those imposing and huge structures were erected to impress. On this physical world.
The catholic church is the wealthiest organization in the world, with $150 billion in assets and an annual operating budget of $170 billion. Not bad for an organization exempt from taxes and audit.
I worked in the construction trades, and the depictions and statues of jesus come nowhere near to what a man who actually worked in any way. His features are Nordic/European. He is slim and has delicate features and hands.
If this one tiny detail indicates that untruths and false perception may pervade this religion, what other lies may be out there?
Relics such as the Shroud of Turin? oops, my bad, that has been proven a fake. Jews built the pyramids as slaves? oops, serious historians all agree that never happened.
Will jesus return soon after, as he promised to? oops, he missed that meeting.
TheFlyingPig, it is important to me, and I hope to you, that truth trumps fantasy. I live in the real world.
I was replying to your post about the physical appearance of Jesus and it’s irrelevance to Christianity . Every culture that has embraced Jesus Christ reflects him in their own image . There is a reason for this .
. You live in the real world . What does that mean ?
“What is truth” ? - One of the most important quotes from the NT . What is it ?
"I was replying to your post about the physical appearance of Jesus and it’s irrelevance to Christianity ."
The image of jesus as projected by religion is exceptionally relevant.
No one buys a car (for just personal use) that is ugly to their tastes.
Do you think that Mrs Karen KKK Deliverance from Alabama will even open her bible if she perceives jesus as anything but white? Of course not. So instead, she is fed a lie.
Hey, David, did you know they found several genes that are predictive of sexual orientation? Yes, heterosexuality is genetic. Kewl eh? That means that homosexuality is genetic and completely normal as well. Kewl eh? I believe it is slitrk6 and TSHR over chromosomes 13 and 14 respectively. Yup, initiated during the last epigenetic wash, in utero prior to birth...yup born homosexual...and completely natural. Huh...why would a god slag his creations for being gay, when he created them that way...huh.
You mean the bible and homophobes are wrong?
Are we truly shocked?
I guess god made a mistake...huh.
Uh...don’t get too excited... you see, just like “slavery” doesn’t mean “slavery (it’s indebted servitude) the way it’s described in the good book, uh, you know, homosexuality wasn’t really “guy on guy” or “girl on girl” sex, it’s the “act” of reproduction without an “intention” to reproduce. Yah, that’s what was meant. And, uh, back then there was no adoption or inverto or surrogates, everyone had parents or families (cause they were more loving back then) and so what it “means” is just “sex without an ability to reproduce”... psssttt we’ll link it to the Duet 23:1
“ No man who has been castrated or whose penis has been cut off may be included among the Lord's people.”
Whew, Buybull in tact! We can “debate” the finer points later... just say Jesus is OK with it!
David - The image of a physical Jesus is irrelevant . You can certainly cherry pick examples that fit the narrative that you believe but they are not representative of Jesus Christ and the message he preached .
If the image of Jesus as a salesman is so important as you claim then what does the NT say about his physical attributes ?
@SkySurfingSwine Re: "The image of a physical Jesus is irrelevant."
Au contraire, Monsieur Porked Pegasus. I beg to differ with you on that. That particular image of Jesus that has been generally accepted over the centuries is absolutely relevant. You see, even when I was a little kid, it always puzzled me as to why every picture I ever saw of Jesus depicted him to be a white Anglo Saxon looking dude with long flowing blonde or light-brown hair. This was a guy who was suppose to be of Middle Eastern or Northern African descent over two thousand years ago, right? So how the hell could he be white??? Nobody could ever explain that to me.
So, that being said, I would like to elaborate a bit on what David said in regards to the KKK. Most of my early childhood was during the seventies. And in my small Southern hometown in the middle of the Bible Belt, it was very commom to see a KKK group gathered at a local shopping center or other such location, all decked out in their flowing white robes and pointy white hoods. They always looked very silly to me, and even as a child I thought it was very cowardly that they hid their faces under their ridiculous hoods. (But I digress...) Anyway, those white "esteemed members of society" (aka: ignorant idiots) were using the bible and the white Jesus therein to justify their blatant bigotry and discrimination against persons of color (black, yellow, red, or otherwise). And you have the audacity to say the image of Jesus is irrelevent??? How many of those KKK members do you think would have been rallying in the name of their beloved Jesus if the images of Jesus were made to depict him as he should have looked in reality? Are you truly that naive and ignorant, or are you intentionally being blind to reality?
No description of Jesus? Possibly because no author in the NT, including Paul, the earliest contributor, ever met or saw Jesus. You wouldn't want them making things up would you?
And by the time the early caucasian Roman Christians had cleaned off all the Middle Eastern dross, and discarded the less savoury Mosaic tenets, the new improved Jesus 2 deserved a new lighter, hipper, image, which just got lighter and less semitic over time. There aren't even any depictions over the following centuries of Jesus with a sun tan which is curious for the climate of Palestine. Jesus' nose in some later portraits was portrayed straighter and finer than Michael Jackson's.
Even the 'Black Jesus' of the Philippine passion rites is only called that because its carved from black wood. The features remain European (Spanish).
But I agree. Looks really don't mean a thing and the whole issue is irrelevant. Of more importance is the performing of miracles by the faithful as promised by Jesus. When are you guys going to start?
We do know that he was not unique in appearance, he had to be pointed out to be identified for his trial. And considering the overall physical appearance of those people in that region, he sure wasn't tall and blonde.
Didn't you ever cover that in your bible studies? Or did you just accept what you were led to believe without thought or question?
David. You said that the physical appearance of Jesus was extremely important - ugly car example . Why didn’t the writers of the NT give him physical characteristics that would better sell their “product “ to future readers of their gospels ? What is the reason why people who claimed to spend 24/7 time with him would not put a single physical description in their accounts of him ?
@ Frying Pig
(Pardon my intrusion Dave)
You asked "What is the reason why people who claimed to spend 24/7 time with him would not put a single physical description in their accounts of him ?"
I am assuming you are a fundamentalist Christian. I understand that view, however I really have to insist that it has long been established through exhaustive research of the gospels focusing on language and stylistic examinations by qualified biblical scholars, academic bible historians and linguists, theist and atheist alike, that the gospels were not authored by any of the apostles.
It has also been established beyond all reasonable doubt that those who actually wrote the gospels never met Jesus; none make any claim in any way to have met him, or much less made the claim to be an apostle.
No-one knows what he looked like, but for me I think there really was a Jesus or Yeshua, an itinerant preacher and its more than probable he looked like a short stocky Jew, given his birthplace and his stated pedigree. But that's not important. His message was.
However you can not have failed to notice the religious art of the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox, the Byzantine and many of the Protestant sects in which Jesus is depicted more like Brad Pitt rather than Danny DeVito. That was no mistake. How else would you depict the son of your god? If you were Caucasian, it would have to be as a tall, handsome athletic guy, with undeniable good rugged looks and without a hint of any Semitic breeding, of course. The Pauline doctrines eventually displaced Jesus's penchant for upholding Mosaic law to complete the desired rebranding image.
In fact Jesus's appearance in early Christian artwork had begun as a charming curly headed smiling youth working miracles with an actual wand in relief sculptures. He looks very much like Harry Potter without spectacles. This popular image began morphing into an androgynous long hair soft gentle look until the emergence of his mother as the Madonna/Isis branch of the Catholic religion kicked in. From here Jesus was then depicted as the full bodied, muscular, fully toned, bearded, masculine guy with nice eyes and fair skin. It not likely he was an albino.
His image became an attractive product that augmented his favourably altered message. I think the ultimate artistic representation of Jesus is found in Michelangelo's majestic and ineffably sad Pieta where he looks so serene athletic and beautiful even in death.
So, no-one ever recorded any contemporaneous record of what Jesus actually said or what he looked like; no shorthand notes and no portrait sketches. Not really an issue. But his supposed message was corrupted anyway by the interpretations of Paul's writings. And almost imperceptibly there was increasing importance placed on what he looked like. We all know the imagery was imagined and idealised, but there can be no denying that the flattering depiction of his appearance must have assisted in the continued faithful reverence of the majority of his followers over the centuries and that for millions, Jesus was always a handsome Causcasian blue eyed blonde fair skinned bearded adonis. For many others he was Japanese, for many more he was black.
So in the end, the perception of his image proved more important than his original message and that really says it all for the influence of biased organised authoritative religions.
Grim - If that we’re true then it makes the point even sharper . The Roman gods and Greek gods are described in physical terms , they have superhuman qualities that identify them as beyond mortal men . This is the age that Jesus lived in and yet according to your interpretation the people who wrote the gospels did away with this time honored tradition and created a completely nondescript person to sell to the public who believed in these superhuman gods - why ? . It’s ok writing long monologues but it doesn’t answer the question . It’s not about how Christ is depicted by man over the last 2000 years ,it’s about why he was never physically described by writers who claimed to know him . After all if what you claim is true and they made it all up then why not go the full Monty and give him some super human qualities to compete with the Roman gods who were ruling the roost at that time ?
@TheFlyingPig: give him some super human qualities
You mean like walking on water, healing lepers, giving eyesight to the blind, raising the dead, turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, casting out demons, coming back from the dead...?
Edited to add: ...killing fruit trees with a curse (I wonder what Monsanto would pay for that technology.)
Really, nondescript? A supernatural deity in human form, those descriptions sound like they have very similar origins to me.
I do not feel it is ok to take the time and effort to write anything with an honest intent, if no-one will honestly attempt to read and comprehend it.
You have totally ignored what I wrote. Are you angry or something? I repeat for you, no author of the gospels or the New Testament ever met Jesus; they had no more idea about what he looked like than you do. Its not a matter of my interpretation, its a matter of documented history, however because of similar experiences I understand where you are coming from. Bear with me.
Please, if any of this really matters to you, take time to at least read the following, thank you:
You are trying to make a case for the redemptive message of Jesus's sacrifice for our sins and I agree this is far more important than what Jesus might have looked like. This pardon of sin is only made manifest IF we believe in it. Just like miracles, they only work if enough people will believe in the power of the miracle worker.
It turns out that lack of actual historical proof of Jesus's existence enhances this requirement for faith for Christians. If there were solid stone statues of Jesus, sculptured and autographed by the apostles themselves, still standing all over the Middle East, and if there were corroborating written descriptions of his appearance and an authenicated autobiography written by Jesus himself and multiple independent contemporaneous sources describing his life and works, it might be insane not to believe. But evidence is not faith. Such evidence as I described would leave no room for that most important issue, the heart of the Christian experience, "faith"; its the 'test' we are suppose to overcome for God.
I have often wondered why Christian theists get themselves into a lather over the issue of evidence and proofs. Its simply not what their religion is about. They should be offering prayers of thanks that there are none.
However, it remains that their witness and proselytising is meant to be expressed as a function of faith not evidence. Evidence is too easy. I used to be a Christian, a Baptist youth leader, I led bible and prayer groups and I put up with the jeers of non believers. I sometimes really wanted a solid bit of undeniable evidence, but I knew even then, that wasn't how the game was played.
I think there was an actual Jesus. I think he was a mortal and probably had some message of peace and brotherhood, but only for other Jews. But no-one knows what he actually said because the actual apostles were illiterate with no conception of future posterity because they were expecting the imminent end of the world as prophesied by several Jewish sects and by Jesus himself.
Now a little history for why there are no contemporaneous statues of Jesus,
The authors of the gospels were Jewish, who while new Christians were still Jews with an abiding respect for the Mosaic Laws (read St Stephen's long explanation of Jewish history before he was stoned to death. Acts 7).
One of those laws concerned a total ban on the manufacture of idols. (Exodus 20:4-6) Some still worshipped other gods, but that's the gist of the entire Old Testament; Jews disobeying God and getting punished.
There are no statues of any kind in synagogues today for Abraham or Moses or Isaiah. There are no descriptions for them written anywhere either. The Jewish religion does not allow for them. Judaism is meant to be a spiritual, internalised and personal experience, something that was lost to Christians when they split from the Jewish faith and became the religion for the Roman Empire.
The writers of the gospel had no time honoured tradition of long written physical descriptions or making statues.
Despite the Mosaic Law there were still idols and figurines. The Ark of the Covenant comprised winged figures, angels or bulls, that served as a seat for God to sit on. The Ark has never been recovered. Moses himself, according to the bible, was said to have created a large metal snake in the wilderness, that could cure people of snake bite. The snake was destroyed during the civil disputes between Judah and Israel. From time to time, the "evil" kings of the united kingdom of David, erected statues of pagan gods and goddesses in the Temple which were eventually destroyed by the 'true' followers of YHWH to avoid being overwhelmed by the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians.
The Romans on the other hand had a different culture. Like most empires before and after, they produced hundreds and thousands statues and mosaics for politicians, generals, gods, goddesses, popular fictional characters from stories and theatre productions and they erected them everywhere they travelled in the world. Their writers left detailed contemporaneous descriptions of all their celebrities.
By the time the little Church of Rome got the legal and generous financial backing of Emperor Constantine 300 years after Jesus died, they had already fudged around the Mosaic bans on statues and began building enormous gilded churches and they took up the Roman tradition of sculpture with a vengeance. A look in any Catholic church today is proof. And the attribution of 'superhuman' features once reserved for pagan Roman gods were applied to Jesus and all the prophets of the Old Testament.
But as I have tried to show, both the message of Jesus, the itinerant preacher, and his image have been sensationalised and distorted. I honestly hope you made it this far FlyingPig even if you don't comprehend or agree.
I haven’t made a case for Jesus anywhere on this forum , what are you talking about ? I have made the point that there is no physical representation of Jesus Christ in the NT because it was not , is not , and never will be relevant to his message . That’s it .
You tell him...Sailing swine to Smilingbirdfood -
Jesus has never been a product to be sold! No one makes any money off of Jesus!
No one advertises or pushes the need for Jesus!
@ Flying Pig
What was I talking about? You weren't talking about Jesus?!!
In the process of making your point, which I largely agreed with, you asked several questions, all of which revealed an appalling lack of perception about social, political and religious aspects of the 1st century, which I consider to be very important for understanding the history of Christianity. You made no intelligent reference to my contributions but just kept rehashing the same questions.
But its OK, I understand how you feel about not engaging in biblical discussions with godless pagans in an atheist debate forum. It would be stupid thing to waste time on, right?
I feel the same way about answering people's ignorant questions about history when they're too arrogant to consider the answers.
Thanks for the stimulating exchange of information and ideas.
"Why didn’t the writers of the NT give him physical characteristics that would better sell their “product “ to future readers of their gospels ?"
Because they were busy consolidating their power for their moment in time. To me, it is obvious they never gave consideration to the future, they sought to make the future.
"What is the reason why people who claimed to spend 24/7 time with him would not put a single physical description in their accounts of him ?"
There are many possible explanations. Maybe jesus never existed. Maybe the jesus story is an amalgamation of different people wrapped up into one story and "person". Maybe, the most likely scenario for me, is that none of the people who claimed to be with him never did?
"You said that the physical appearance of Jesus was extremely important - ugly car example ."
Heck yea, you took umbrage that I would tarnish the lovely image of your beloved savior. The very fact that you responded (or maybe the better definition is "triggered") to my picture indicates that the image of jesus is important and relevant.
David . Triggered ? Not in the least buddy
. The physical appearance of Jesus is not relevant and it never has been . Again , if the whole NT is a made up fairy tale by people who had ulterior motives then it makes pure sense that included in the story’s of miracles performed by this Godman who be a physical description to stimulate the senses of the desired audience . Even the Romans had a profile of their main man Jupiter as Caucasian with a white beard . The NT gives the readers nothing to hang their religious hats on . As I posted to Grim , if the claim that the people who wrote the gospels made up the personage of Jesus or they heard about some poor preacher who had been crucified by the Romans then the point is even stronger that they would have included some physical descriptions that made him stand apart from the regular joe at the synagogue.. Stuff like having amazing speed , incredible physical strength like arm wrestling all twelve disciples at once and beating them , the kind of physical attributes that vain mortals look on with envy and desire But, alas, nothing . Why not ?
@ FlyingPig, Pardon me again Dave.
You asked why the early Christian Jews didn't invent a 'super Jesus'.
They created a Jesus who walked on water, raised the dead, restored sight and hearing, cured leprosy, cast out demons, fed thousands on a single snack, and defeated Death. What more do you want? Useless track and field records?
It was the poverty of their oppressed nation and the limitations of their culture and literature that prevented the early Christian Jews from creating Hulk Hogan statues in honour of Jesus or creating Stan Lee depictions in writing. You need to brush up on your knowledge of cultures and beliefs.
The apostles didn't really expect Jesus to die. They even disputed the issue with him. He was the long awaited Messiah of the Jews, prophesied centuries before in the Book of Daniel, who was to physically destroy all Israel's enemies and set the Jews up as the rulers of the world as promised to Abraham by God himself. To everyone's surprise Jesus just got himself killed. The apostles didn't act like it was part of a plan. They ran. Peter denied all knowledge of him, the ultimate betrayal. The traditional Jews are still waiting for that Messiah. They weren't at all impressed with Jesus.
So the Jewish Christians had to change the plot. They decided the best explanation would be that Jesus hadn't come to defeat the world he came to defeat Death, to erase everyone's sin, save lots of small furry animals from being sacrificed and to give everyone an opportunity to live forever, which proved to be the most successful marketing adaption in all human history.
At the time, details about the afterlife was a hotly disputed issue amongst the Jews and the pagan Roman and Greek philosophers. Jesus's death gave the debate a focus.
The Christians had to maintain Jesus was born of the flesh, as a normal human being who was meant to die a real death to validate his sacrifice. Think about what was suppose to be his last words "My God why hast thou forsaken me?" It was supposed to show he wasn't enjoying his crucificton. He was not meant to be different from any other mortal, not meant to be Superman. He did magic things because he had God's favour, but he was meant to feel heat, cold, hunger, thirst, love, anger and all the usual physical discomforts. His painful messy death is the heart of the Christian faith.
And once the new uncircumcised Gentile Christians dispensed with the disliked Jewish bits, Jesus was given the Roman Empire's superhero treatment. Jesus got ripped.
Frankly, I don't care what you believe in, but I do have concerns about what you know, or think you know because you only get one life and you owe to yourself to understand how and why this world is the way it is before you die. Time you started reading your Bible, all of it, and not just the natty cherry-picked study guide bits. You also need to start researching some credible ancient history.
Grim All the descriptions in the NT of Jesus miracles contain no reference to his physical appearance which is the point I’m debating . They almost universally tell us he touched someone , he spoke , he commanded and miracles took place . They don’t say anything about him having a super human physical appearance , his skin color , hair color ,beard or not , his height , his facial looks , nothing but nothing . This was all irrelevant to the people who wrote the gospels , it was irrelevant to the people who became his followers and it is still irrelevant today to the message of Jesus Christ .
As for the the Bible itself I find no value whatsoever in discussing / debating the Bible with someone who doesn’t have a belief in God . It’s like debating if the number 2 exists when the person you are debating with doesn’t believe there is a number 1 , it’s all rather pointless and wastes everybody’s time . Thanks for your concerns though .
@sailingswine “ ...debating the Bible with someone who doesn’t have a belief in God .“
You tell him!
You need “gods spirit” first to understand what god meant when he wrote it!
Otherwise you can’t understand it and it can be misinterpreted!
And it’s the only way to get to the “truth”...so.. uh - wait....
Uh, god doesn’t like opposition, (whew, almost had myself there for a sec)...
So all you’re doing is telling David/us what “He” wants with “guidance from His spirit and Book”
Please listen!!!!! He’s just trying to save you!
It’s “step by step” process - acceptance ...no questions or opposition allowed.