There is no good in this world, done under the name of religion, that could not have been done by good people who hold no religious belief. Any good and moral action that has been done in religion’s name has been done in spite of religion, not because of it. Good people will, given the chance, do good. And most people are good.
Christians like to point to the Bible as a source of moral truth just as Muslims like to point to the Quran and Jews point to the Torah. All three of the Abrahamic faiths share the same roots. Finding horrible and evil things in your favorite holy book is easy, even if we restrict ourselves to the shared stories. Fish in a barrel. Low hanging fruit. But I digress . . . Take Abraham who, when asked by God to sacrifice his son, was more than willing to put a knife into his son’s heart for the greater glory of his deity. Just as Abraham was about to kill his child, God stops him and says, “Stop. I now know what you’ll do whatever crazy thing I ask of you. I’m convinced and you don’t need to kill your son. Kill me a ram and we’ll call it even. Not only that, you can conquer the world.” Or words to that effect (see Genesis 22). Why God, who is supposed to be omniscient needed Abraham to go through the motions when he should have known he’d do it, because he supposedly knows everything, is beyond reason. The only explanation is that God, as Monty Python would say, is a rotten bastard.
The Old Testament is full of horrible things civilized people find deplorable, all done in the name of, and as demanded by, God. Many Christians are quick to brush off all the Old Testament badness by saying that Jesus, by coming down to Earth as a human being, changed all that with his perfect moral ways and teachings. To live as Jesus lived is the ultimate expression of goodness.
Sure. Okay. Let’s talk about Jesus. You know, the turn the other cheek guy. The love thy neighbour guy.
On the surface, that being what most Christians actually know about the Bible, spoon fed the sweet bits by their Sunday preacher, Jesus seems like a nice enough guy. Until you actually bother to read the Bible.
C.S. Lewis, the author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” and a famous Christian apologist, once famously asserted that a “man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher” but a lunatic or a madman. Lewis says that Jesus was either a lunatic sociopathic madman or he really was a God. Because as a human being, he was an terrible person.
There are plenty of examples in the short story compilation that is Jesus’ life, namely the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that makes it clear C.S. Lewis was right about one thing. Jesus was not a moral person. In point of fact, he was, at times, actually a pretty awful person. Assuming, of course, that he ever existed. If you are among the believers, however, and you also believe that the Gospels tell a fitting and accurate story of the life of Jesus Christ, then your saviour is a bit of a scumbag. I can think of many instances, but for today, we’ll look at Jesus the racist.
One of my favorite Bible stories happens over in Matthew 15.
21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
In short, Jesus is telling this woman that she is not worthy because she is not a Jew and therefore closer to a dog than a human being. When, begging, she points out that dogs are sometimes allowed to eat the crap that falls off the table, Jesus is pleased that this woman is willing to admit that she is no more than a dog worthy of crumbs. This admission strokes Jesus’ ego and, presto, the daughter is cured.
This isn’t a good man. The Jesus we see here is a racist and a proud one at that. By his own admission, he’s here for the Jews and only the Jews. People of other races and backgrounds are not welcome. In the case of Canaanites such as this woman, Jesus sees them as dogs. Not exactly what you’d call a moral human being and certainly not a good role model.
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