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?

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"Why should we seek moral teaching from a madman"  - who says he was mad?  He's never come across as mad to me, just inspired. 

"there are so many other places we could find moral teaching."  - most of them inspired, or at least supported, by Jesus.  Even Nietzsche was informed by Jesus.  

Don't forget that there is no evidence that there was an actual Jesus.  No contemporary historians wrote of him.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

This is from Mathew 6.5 and 6.6. Now if the Christians followed the above instructions, it would eliminate the grotesque evangelical money makers and please me greatly :)

I could have used that when I was a catholic school kid to get myself out of daily mass. Nah, they would have just wacked me with a ruler fer bein a schmart arse lad. ;)

It's funny though, isn't it. There is a direct instruction not to congregate for prayer, yet it is all but ignored by those professing to follow the word of their deity. This is a perfect example of cherry-picking.

Cherry picking on your part, perhaps.  Jesus himself went to synagogue and temple.  It's hard, therefore, to interpret another passage as a direct instruction not to congregate for prayer.  Communal prayer and personal prayer are both encouraged, and have been since earliest Christendom.

What is discouraged is personal public prayer.  I will agree that following these words in Matthew's gospel would eliminate the grotesque evangelical money makers.  That would also please me greatly. :)

For argument's sake, let us grant that this Jesus fellow, as described in the gospels was a real person. I don't think his dying on the cross as you suggest is such a great thing when you really think about it. He knows he will be done with it in a few days, he is god and has been sent by god to die to god. Seriously what is the beauty in that?

If he was real, there is nothing so great about him. He claimed he could cure blindness, people are still born blind, would it not have been worthy of such a fellow to leave behind the remedy for blindness?

Well, if Jesus existed, then he was a Jew and he slaughtered animals to spill their blood in an attempt to appease Yahweh.  If he never did this, citing his sinless nature, then he would have been ostracized (if not executed) at a much earlier age than he is thought to be at the time of his ministry.

This detail alone is the one I find to be the strongest indicator that the New Testament gospels were authored by people completely unfamiliar with the times in which Jesus is claimed to live.  That being said, whether mortal or deity, his teachings were inherently flawed because he never made an explicit protest against slaughtering innocent animals to appease an imaginary sky-monster.  Whether he was mortal or divine, he should have stated explicitly that such behavior in no way absolves the transgressor.  The trouble, however, is that his entire message is that the slaughter of a lamb (himself) will absolve all transgressors (or at least Jewish transgressors) and that personal responsibility not only unnecessary but is actually a vice in and of itself.

Are you sure they were still doing animal sacrifice during Jesus' time?

....and even as I ask that question, I remember exactly what it was the moneychangers were allegedly selling when Jesus "cleared the temple" - there were animals there and other things related to making the sacrifices.

The whole scope of the conversation is literary criticism...an analysis of a fiction character...not the goodness or badness of a real life man.

If you want to discuss Jesus the fictional character...that is one thing but if we phrase our questions and discussions as though Jesus actually existed (or if he did actually exist...that the gospels are accurate reports of what he said) then we are falling into a narrative trap that theists would be happy that we fall into.

Let's break free of this and speak of him like the fictional character that he is. Compare him to fictional characters like Wolverine or Harry Potter. Analyse his fictional actions in the cultural construct of his times. This would certainly be an interesting conversation.

I think that most of Jesus' teachings taught forgiveness, tolerance, charity and nonviolence. For instance, he asked those who wanted to stone the adulteress to throw the first stone only if they themselves were free of sin and he said that if someone asked for your coat also give him your shirt, he made several statements regarding the evils of wealth (e.g. the rich man being like the camel trying to pass through the eye of the needle) and of course he said to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. If he existed at all and if he said any of these things, they are good moral tenets, which few of his followers pay attention to. He also claimed divinity (although seldom did he do so directly) and he stood up for adherence to the Judaic laws, but to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. There is no indication in the Bible that he intended his teachings for anyone other than Jews. Most of the evils of Christian theology, as far as writings in the Bible, are due to Paul and, of course the whole bloodthirsty fictions of the Old Testament. What is remarkable about Jesus' teachings is their challenge to existing doctrine by liberalizing it to be more humanitarian and less rule-centered,  in the midst of religious intolerance within the Jewish community.

Well, if Jesus said of of those things during the time he is claimed to have lived they might have been more interesting.  The story of the adulteress shows the author's profound lack of understanding of Jewish law by failing to mention the presentation of the man with whom she is said to have adultered - a requirement of rabbinic law of the time.  Further, what exactly is the message being offered in that story?  Let's see - ignore enforcement of the law unless you yourself have never broken a single law.  Oh, there is a second problem with the story in terms of the suitability of Jesus as the ultimate (and last) sacrifice for the sins of mankind - he didn't throw a stone himself, suggesting that even he acknowledged that he was not without sin.

Over and over the stories that Christians most love to tell just come up, upon close scrutiny, very short on solid moral foundation.  What's wrong with being rich?  Can we really say that Bill Gates is a terrible person for all the money that he's attained?  What about the hundreds of millions that he gives away each year to charity?  Then there is the 'good' Samaritan - a story that reveals the open racism of a time when the idea of a Samaritan doing the right thing is considered newsworthy.


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