The Teachings Are The Important Part!

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.

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9 Responses to The Teachings Are The Important Part!

  1. Good post, sums up my views pretty nicely. I’ve had this conversation a lot more lately and the way I see it is Jesus wasn’t some kind of pranking wizard but more of a moral compass for humans of the era in that part of the world. I see him as a social influence on humanity’s collective moral stance.

  2. I_Avian says:

    While I’m definitely not religious, I agree with you that the teachings were good, and that that really is the point. The story of Jesus was a Good Story, and like all good stories has lessons worth taking from it. Doesn’t matter a damn if he was real or not. (Which is why I’m not religious… I have no need to have Faith in whether it was real, I just take the good parts and move on. I just don’t think the parts about God are the good or necessary parts of the teachings…)

  3. John says:

    Well first off we both know “militant atheist” is a stupid term. “Loud” or “Vocal” atheist would be much more accurate. Or hell “obnoxious atheist” if you want to get some kicks in.

    But one thing I don’t get is this: If you don’t believe that the resurrection is important or even happened and don’t believe that the bible is divinely revealed and that the Pope is the divinely appointed moral authority (aka some of the characteristics that make Catholicism distinct among religions), why be Catholic?
    Why lend support and credibility to a organisation that you feel doesn’t represent your views and don’t have a hope of changing that?

    Sure Jesus said some nice flowery things and he also some less nice things and even a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense. But nothing he said on morals was unique. There’s a lot of earlier and a few contemporary writings which same a lot of the same things.

    If the actual factual nature of the miracles and the life of Jesus are negligible and the message is the only thing that is important and the message is reiterated better in other places, why be Christian at all?

  4. HandsofBlue says:

    Militant is just the term I used, for those who see atheism as some sort of cause to be fought for, those who seek out a conflict with religious people. Loud, vocal and obnoxious are all just words to the same extent, words I find no less derogatory then “militant”.

    I’m Catholic because I was baptised Catholic. That’s actually just it. The name means little to me and I lack the drive to even begin a process where I’d change that. I don’t especially care about anything the Church does (mostly) so it’s not something I’m bothered by. It does come down to personal reasons to an extent though. Family members would be upset if I choose to leave the Church for reasons they wouldn’t care about or understand, and I’m not about to make my 80 year old Grandmother cry over a form of words that mean more to others then myself.

    Also, I fervently beleive that the Church can and will change in time, and will be better for it. Every Catholic who thinks a woman should be able to be ordained can help that process along.

    Nothing Jesus’ said on morals was unique? So? He said somethings I might not like? So, I won’t follow them. It isn’t a case where if I follow one teaching, I have to follow all of them. Why would it? That would be stupid. I don’t like what Jesus said about divorce for example, though I think he makes an excellent point on the sacrament of marraige, something that should not be entered into lightly. But I don’t think any Union entered into should be binding.

    The message being reiterated better elsewhere is a view of personal taste, one I just don’t happen to share.

    I’m Christian because I follow Christ’s teachings. Like so much other stuff, it’s just a word that people fling around like an accusation or a title to be proud of.

    Also, I didn’t say, but I do believe in the divine, though it strikes me that I often treat the belief almost seperetly then my belief in the teachings of Jesus. My belief in God is, like everyone who shares it, a personal one, that I don’t feel the need to go into.

  5. John says:

    “Militant is just the term I used, for those who see atheism as some sort of cause to be fought for, those who seek out a conflict with religious people. Loud, vocal and obnoxious are all just words to the same extent, words I find no less derogatory then “militant”.”
    But militant also has extra connotations which simply aren’t accurate.
    For example:

    The atheists in question are no more “militant” than the CU or the YCS.
    Vocal? Yes.

    “I’m Catholic because I was baptised Catholic. That’s actually just it. The name means little to me and I lack the drive to even begin a process where I’d change that. I don’t especially care about anything the Church does (mostly) so it’s not something I’m bothered by. It does come down to personal reasons to an extent though. Family members would be upset if I choose to leave the Church for reasons they wouldn’t care about or understand, and I’m not about to make my 80 year old Grandmother cry over a form of words that mean more to others then myself.”
    That’s fair enough, though it doesn’t quite explain why you’d observe Catholic rituals.

    “Also, I fervently beleive that the Church can and will change in time, and will be better for it. Every Catholic who thinks a woman should be able to be ordained can help that process along.”
    It might be a long long wait. It took them a good few centuries to realise that church goers might want to understand what was going on at mass.
    Unless of course you’re thinking of a Dan Brown style papal power grab. In which case I’ll totally end you the antimatter.

    “Nothing Jesus’ said on morals was unique? So? He said somethings I might not like? So, I won’t follow them. It isn’t a case where if I follow one teaching, I have to follow all of them. Why would it? That would be stupid. I don’t like what Jesus said about divorce for example, though I think he makes an excellent point on the sacrament of marraige, something that should not be entered into lightly. But I don’t think any Union entered into should be binding.

    The message being reiterated better elsewhere is a view of personal taste, one I just don’t happen to share.

    I’m Christian because I follow Christ’s teachings. Like so much other stuff, it’s just a word that people fling around like an accusation or a title to be proud of.”
    But why Jesus specifically? Is there anything specifically that he has that warrants moral authority? Or is it a result of the aforementioned upbringing?

    “Also, I didn’t say, but I do believe in the divine, though it strikes me that I often treat the belief almost seperetly then my belief in the teachings of Jesus. My belief in God is, like everyone who shares it, a personal one, that I don’t feel the need to go into.”
    I can dig it.

    • HandsofBlue says:

      Observe Catholic rituals? Like what? Like Mass? I’ve had an up and down relationship with Mass. Mostly, I see Mass as a celebration of the teachings and of peoples common faith. Mass is, in most places, a community event and is a ceremony that can provide comfort, meditation and an opportunity to actually think about faith.

      Of course, its also easy for Mass to be a boring, pedestrian event, one that is pointless and maintained more out of a sense of routine then anything. That’s more of a personnel issue of course. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I got tired of Mass, since my mind would drift during mundane sermons and endless singing (I actually hate singing in Mass, for reasons I can’t rightly explain). I wasn’t getting anything out of it, or I wasn’t happy with what the Priests were preaching. It comes and goes.

      Aside from that, I’m not sure what you mean by “Catholic rituals”, other then prayer which is not a solely Catholic thing.

      It might be a long wait, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth waiting.

      Lets just say I like the way Jesus put it, and I’m inspired by the story of his life and the staying power of his message. That is, the more general aspect of his preaching days and struggle against what can only be called religious persecution.

      But, moreover, I’ve been exposed to more writings and thoughts on Jesus then most moral figures, because of my upbringing and later by choice. And, of course, the connection with the divine that is a major part of the Christ story.

      I’ve chosen to be a follower of Christ, which is in tandem with a belief in a divine being. I suppose you could choose to be a follower of another moral or religious figure just as easily, but this is just how it worked out. If I was ever exposed to something or someone who could change that view legitmitly, then I would follow them.

  6. Aaron says:

    “Nothing Jesus’ said on morals was unique? So? He said somethings I might not like? So, I won’t follow them. It isn’t a case where if I follow one teaching, I have to follow all of them.”

    But that’s everything. That’s what being ‘Christian’ is all about. Following Christ. Otherwise, you’re not one.

    They clearly weren’t saying disregard everything Jesus ever thought. Of course they weren’t. As we’ve established, Jesus was preaching some very well thought out, popular, pretty universal stuff. When they were saying, I gather, was that Christianity as a religion (and a religion that takes all parts of it’s history and doctrine seriously and as truth, the Ressurection being the most important part of that doctrine) is founded on something utterly disprovable and fraudulent.

    Regardless of what you think, the Ressurection is one of the most important parts of the Jesus story. Without it, it’s anyone elses story. Easter is the most important and central part of the religious year for all Christians, just like Passover for the Jews. The Miracle of the Ressurection is one of the key tenents of Christianity as an organised religion. Look at the Apostles’ Creed.

    You’re darn right Christian is bandied about a lot nowadays. But you, or many of the other ‘Christians’ are not who they were targeting with their criticism.

  7. HandsofBlue says:

    I choose to disregard an antiquated teaching on the subject of divorce, one rooted in ancient thinking, and I can’t be a Christian? Please. I might not like Robbie Keane, but it doesn’t mean I can’t support the football team.

    The Church might be founded on making the Resurrection the centre piece and acting like the Bible is, well, Gospel. That’s the church. The Church, as much as it would like to think otherwise, is not the faith or the whole religion. Others may choose to think of the Resurrection as the main point of the religion. That’s fine and I do admire the central message of that story. I chose not to base my belief structure around that event. I don’t see Christianity as some kind of locked system of rules and articles that must be followed to the letter or else you cant be one, as the faith and the Church have changed so much since its creation. Unless God happens to tell me otherwise, I’m fine with my interpretation.

    And again, as I said. The Resurrection is “utterly disprovable and fradulant”? I’ll shrug and say “Yeah, but it doesn’t invalidate his message does it?” and carry on.

    You don’t need to tell me what the most important festival in Christianity is. I’m a baptised Catholic. I happen to know this. However, I would argue that Christmas is now the de facto primary festival, though mostly for reasons outside of the religion’s purview/power (Again, the faith and the Church isn’t as static and rooted as it often seems).

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