I don’t usually write upon religious matters, but something struck me in the last week.
My old alma mater was hosting a talk, one whose topic was on the Resurrection. The theme of the talk was on disproving the event, and discussing the complete lack of historical sources for the rising of Christ on the third day.
This is all well and good, the study of biblical history always being interesting to me, but reading some of the resulting online exchanges between the organisers, I realised that the talk was being organised and given by one of the more, for lack of a better term, militant atheist groupings, and the real theme of the night was that the Resurrection never happened and as such, the whole religion is fraudulent.
As a practicing Catholic, I read this kind of thing and sigh. Some people just don’t seem to get it. These people include the militant atheist crowd, those atheists who are not satisfied in not believing in a higher power, but feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops and challenge all “believers”. They include the more hardcore right wing Christians, the same ones who wish things like the abuse scandal would just go away and I’m sure that it includes fundamentalists from other religions.
You see, I’m not, by the letter of the law, a very good Catholic, in that I don’t follow a lot of the rules. I have a very strict guideline when it comes to personal worship and practice and that is “If Jesus didn’t say it, it doesn’t count”. That is, the vast majority of the Bible I can take or leave, and I frequently leave. Same goes for Church “law” and the edicts of the Popes. The Bible was written by men, and the church was created and governed by men and the Popes were all just men, men who deigned to give themselves a measure of divine power.
Men are men. I don’t feel like I should have to listen to everything they say.
I say this because, getting back to the point, a lot of these people don’t get it. The Resurrection should not, and in my view is not, the main point of the Jesus story. It’s a miraculous thing, and I understand the whole “sacrificing himself for all of us” bit and that’s great. But at the end of the day, it’s just another miracle in a book that is full of them.
According to the Bible, Jesus performed lots of miracles, from healing the sick, to making wine. Those things are not in the least bit important. Neither, in my eyes, is the story of the Resurrection.
The Resurrection did not make the Church and it does not make the faith, anymore then Jesus turning water into wine does.
It is his teachings, that stuff that makes up most of the Gospels, that are the important part, and the things that all Christians should focus on. They often don’t seem to, choosing to ignore the likes of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, “Bless thy enemy” and the kicker, the one line that should do more to sum up not just Christianity, but all major religions: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
See, those are the important parts. I couldn’t give a toss if Jesus made a lot of bread out of a little amount of bread, or if he was able to walk on water. I don’t really find the idea of him rising from the dead all that important. None of that stuff can be proved factually to have happened after all, and I am an historian. Facts are important to me and it is impossible to set that aside, even in something as reliant on blind faith as religion.
As such, I fall back on the teachings and Jesus’ teaching were good. They are the things that should be the bed rock of the faith, not miracles or being fearful and supplicant to the sky bully of the Old Testament.
They don’t seem to get it. Build me a time machine, take me back to Galilee, show me a man who was just a preacher, a preacher whose message went too far for the times and it got him killed. Show me a man who raised no dead, who cured no illnesses and did not come back to life three days after his execution.
I’ll shrug and say “Yeah, but it doesn’t invalidate his message does it?” and carry on.
Does it? If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, does it mean that “Do unto others” has no meaning? Of course, Jesus doesn’t have the monopoly on moral right and wrong, but it cannot be denied that his influence on those topics has been gigantic.
Some would seek to lesson his influence in those things, those who see the Church as an enemy. I’m not especially fond of the Church either. I’m fond of Christ and his message. I choose to follow it, as best as I can. By following Jesus exclusively, that leaves me free to ignore the idiotic teachings of Mother Church on issues like gay rights, women’s rights, contraception, sex before marriage and the like, things that do not, and should not, fall under its purview.
Instead, I focus on the teachings. Everything else is so much filler. If more people had that line of thinking, I don’t think that religion would be as thorny an issue as it often is today. Those atheists seeking to drag me down with their mockery of something as innately unbelievable as the Resurrection might understand better, if they understood that it is not all about the miracles.
But you know, I turn the other cheek, as best I can. Jesus taught that. They’re good teachings.