…Which Are Probably Wrong, according to Valarie Tarico for Salon.com:
I’ve mentioned before that I’m an atheist. I’m not a militant one, however, and feel that if religion is a big part of your life and gets you through the day, then good for you. Anything that makes you happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt others, is fine to me. Obviously there are those in the past and present who use(d) their beliefs to harm others and that is where I draw the line.
Having said this, I find religion fascinating. I like reading up on it and getting an understanding of where the various religious ideas have come from. Of particular interest to me, as I was raised that way, is Catholicism. So the above article, which sifts though the potential “reality” of Jesus versus the myth, is doubly interesting.
From all that I’ve read, I believe there is a very legitimate question as to whether the Jesus people worship was a real person or a mythical fiction built up over many years. Regardless of your stance, the above link provides a fascinating look at some of the ideas/concepts associated with Jesus and whether they may be the case or not.
Some of the items are, as the author herself admits, trivial (was he short or tall, did he have long hair or short, etc.). What I found the most fascinating, and what deserves the most scrutiny, is just how many of his philosophical sayings/teaching are his or were probably taken from other philosophies and/or added over time. As the author states:
Which words are actually from Jesus? This question has been debated fiercely by everyone from third-century Catholic Councils to the 20th-century Jesus Seminar…The New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died, and no technology existed with which to record his teachings in real time, unless he wrote them down himself, which he didn’t.
We can be confident that at least some of the wise and timeless words and catchy proverbs attributed to Jesus are actually from earlier or later thinkers. For example, the Golden Rule was articulated before the time of Christ by the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who similarly said it was the “whole Torah.” By contrast, the much-loved story of the woman caught in adultery doesn’t appear in manuscripts until the fourth century. Attributing words (or whole texts) to a famous person was common in the Ancient Near East, because it gave those words extra weight. Small wonder then that so many genuinely valuable insights ended up, in one way or another, paired with the name of Jesus.
This, in a nutshell, explains why I’m so intrigued by religion and yet am an atheist. It is the mystery of it, the history of how these works came to be, that fascinates me. I love reading about the search for the philosophical roots of Biblical teachings, of the alternate texts or deleted ideas. As mentioned, “the New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died”. If he existed, he left no actual contemporaneous record and therefore one has to wonder how many of his ideas are indeed his versus those added to him over time.
Again, fascinating, fascinating stuff.