On another thread, it was pointed out that we can recognize the wisdom and intelligence of certain persons in history -- Plato, Newton, Einstein -- without believing they were 100% right about everything they ever said or believed.
Simon Payton than suggested atheists treat Jesus this way. We condemn him on the strength of only one or two mistakes.
I don't think that's true. I know some atheists who are like that. They quote an odd line from a parable ("Take those who didn't want me to be king and kill them before me") as if it proves Jesus was a nut.
On the other hand, some ex-Christians who grew up loving Jesus can recognize he had some good qualities, and yet reject his teachings overall. His emphasis of "love your neighbor" was very good. The parable of the sheep and goats--where people are judged on how they treat the less fortunate, not just on what they claim to believe--was very good. Even his actions were selfless: if you accept the premise of the Gospels, that SOMEONE had to die in order to save all of humanity from hell, then you see Jesus did something very selfless and loving in going to be tortured for the sake of others.
We can also condemn some of his teachings. He says divorce is never an option, and thus condemns good religious women to a lifetime of abuse with bad husbands. He calls himself a god, inviting worship of a mythological being. He says "looking with lust" is the same as actually committing adultery, giving rise to much of the Christian sexual repression we see today, and endless guilt heaped upon young men and women.
So I think we can find both good and bad in Jesus' teachings. What do you guys think? Was Jesus a good teacher, and you just dislike the religion based on him? Or do you think Jesus himself wasn't so great? What do you like about his teachings, and what do you reject?
For a start, I think that one of his greatest contributions was his emphasis on forgiveness. As far as I know, in the Western world, this was quite a new thing, considering in the Old Testament the view was "an eye for an eye". He is said even to have forgiven those who crucified him, and he died willingly (or recklessly) bringing us his message. So 10 out of 10 for that.
Aristotle discussed anger and forgiveness at great length.
"....The good-tempered person is not revengeful, but rather tends to forgive” (Nicomachean Ethics).
However a person that does not defend themselves (as in the case of jesus) is too servile. Making the world an easy place for bullies, crooks, and reckless people to thrive is not the best moral position. Forgiveness should not replace justice.
Good points on what Jesus got right and wrong in the same breath. I, too, am deeply impressed by his teachings on nonviolence. I think those teachings influenced Ghandi and MLKJr to have great success. And at the same time, they can absolutely be taken too far and turned into servility. Taking Jesus' words as more or less helpful advice is good, in this case. Taking his words as the pure and perfect word of God is damaging.
It's good that Aristotle said those things. But he didn't found a world religion.
The great thing with Jesus is that he was proclaiming it to his dying breath (or was said to have been). He went all the way and, literally, using his life, gave us a theoretical gold standard to live up to.
Forgiveness is the thing that gives us a way out of conflict. When something has escalated, forgiveness can gradually de-escalate it again, in stages. It doesn't have to mean somebody walks all over you.
Jesus founded a cult. Constantine turned it into a religion in the 4th century.
Here is what Jesus said....and he walked the talk at his death
Luke28:30 Love Your Enemies
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29"Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30"Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back
Now I am an advocate of non violent solutions, but this verse is about servitude, not responsible ethical relations. As usual with Jesus, his teachings on morality are too general, too over simplified, too worship-oriented and simply not realistic. The Greeks did a much better job and really paved the way.
Not many actually follow the teachings of Jesus. Leave your family to follow him. Really? It's ridiculous.
In order to get good non-violent teachings from the teachings of Jesus, you have to do a lot of interpretation. It can become very fuzzy whether the good teachings are really in Jesus' words, just obscured by time, or whether the good teachings are entirely the product of the "interpreters".
That's why I'm more inspired by Christians like Martin Luther King and Shane Clayborne, than by the Jesus they claim to follow.
"too general, too over simplified, too worship-oriented and simply not realistic." - I think this is a persuasive objection, but forgiveness still makes a good ideal. The problem is that people can use it as an excuse to walk all over somebody, as I think Belle has pointed out.
Punishment and deterrence are a necessary part of morality too.
We can choose the rule "maximum benefit and minimum harm" and I think this encapsulates both the ideas of forgiveness and punishment.
Forgiving another's mistake is one thing.
Forgiving another's policy is a damn fool thing.
I like that.
The parables were a very evocative way of getting points across.
His vagueness was a problem, and may have led to a lot of misunderstandings.
I believe he started out as a sinner, which is why he was so big on forgiveness and accepting the rejects of society.
Suppose you come upon a stranger on a street corner proclaiming himself as the son of god. What would you say--He is nuts.
Why is it any different when someone did this 2000+/- years ago?
Nuts is nuts is nuts is nuts.
To play "God's advocate" here:
There was a lot more to Jesus' message than proclaiming himself the Son of God. There's some controversy over whether Jesus ever claimed to be god or not, or whether the early Christians believed he was really god. Jesus spends a lot of time in the book of John saying he is God -- but he spends a lot of time in Matthew Mark and Luke telling people to follow God, keep the commandments, love their neighbor, and the like, staying quiet on his own nature.
Even if the gospels are true, you're not so likely to come across Jesus on a street corner proclaiming himself son of god. You're more likely to see him preaching about the "kingdom of heaven", or giving the sermon on the mount, or healing sick people, or driving out demons.
I don't disagree with you, I'm just arguing for rhetoric's sake. You also make a valid point. Why should we seek moral teaching from a madman, when there are so many other places we could find moral teaching.