An Atheist Sermon

An Atheist Sermon -  Jesus taught a new Prime Directive:

Where you find evil, return good.

jesus teaching on mountain

pleni sunt caeli … the heavens are full

I’ll be brief and to the point:

Why is a modern atheist like me a student of a Jewish preacher from 2,000 years ago?

1 - Because I believe our current bad monkey behavior has no future. It  would be heartbreaking to wipe ourselves out while we stand at the threshhold to the stars. But: Now that there are over 8 billion of us, we consume everything in sight and threaten not only ourselves but most of the life on this planet. What’s wrong with this picture?

2 - Religions are part of the problem, not the solution. They endorse and promote what the rulers of society want for their own benefit - wealth and wars. Paul diverted Jesus' small Jewish sect into a full blown greek mystery religion, with magic and miracles, including raising the dead. Then, with Constatine's help, it became the Imperial state religion of the Roman Empire.  

3 - I agree with Jesus that we need a new start, both as a society and as individuals. Jesus called his new society the Kingdom of God and our individual change being reborn. Jesus also said there would be few who would take up his challenge - very few. 

4 - Jesus issued a radical challenge. Society teaches conformity to its standards - returning equal injury for offenses - eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, balance evil with equal amounts of evil -scaling up to stealing and killing with armies. but Jesus proposes a change, instead of balancing evil with more evil: 
Where you find evil, return good. As Tolstoy said:  
There is only one way to put an end to evil, and that is to do good for evil.

As mentioned in the preceding page, churches water Jesus down, hiding from his teachings, to make him acceptable to society. And this is the most difficult of his teachings. As he said, few have the courage to follow him and go this way - where you find evil, return good.

From nature, we know that like produces like. Figs produce figs. Grapes produce grapes. Similarly, Evil produces evil. War produces war. Hate produces hate. But returning evil for evil, bad for bad, increases, even doubles the amount of evil - in a world of tit for tat morality. As MLK was fond of saying: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind..” When however, we return good for evil we increase the amount of good in the world, instead of increasing the amount of evil. When we continually tip the scales for good, eventually evil is overwhelmed by good.

So I repeat:

1 - The Message is always the same, 
               whether it comes from a modern atheist like me, or Jesus from 2,000 years ago:

We can guide ourself  from within.
Instead of being channeled by the external forces of society and religion.

2 - The Challenge:  be reborn as new humans, with a new behavior:

Where you find evil, return good.

        Society teaches eye for eye, injury for injury, greed, violence, war, hate.
        
Society teaches: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

         Do we have the courage to defy society, enact our love, and care for each other?
         Are we willing to take risks for each other and 
               see the costs not as sacrifice, but as fulfillment?

You know where these choices lead. They lead to two stories:

You know the first story - society’s public religion, is about violence and submission:
     - pure stoneage superstition: gods, angels, devils, heaven, hell, magic:
     - all the religions in those days were full of magic: calling down fire, raising the dead, etc:

But the other story, still found in Bible clues, is about humanity, love and caring: 
    a much more powerful and moving story of Jesus and his students:
           After running from the authorities, they gathered their courage and returned:
                through fear and failure - to risk and action,  to rescue their Master and friend.

 You decide which you think is true. Here is what I think happened:

_________________________________

Jesus did not die on the cross. Some clues to this remain in the Bible: Gospels and Acts, and in other documents excluded from the Bible, such as the Gospel of Thomas.

Crucifixion usually took several days to kill you, mainly by suffocation, when your legs could no longer lift you to breathe. That is why the soldiers in the gospels broke the legs of the two crucified along with Jesus, to hasten their deaths, but oddly they did not break Jesus’ legs. They did stick him with a spear and blood came out, which only happens when your heart is still beating. Since death was usually seen as the cessation of breathing in those days, they reported to Pilate that Jesus was dead. Maybe they also doped him with the sponge as told in the gospels.

And so Jesus' friends got him off the cross in a few hours instead of a few days. Joseph of Arimethea, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene and others were well connected, and could to afford bribe the officials - soldiers and priests. The gospel also says they used about a hundred pounds of Aloe and herbs - also very expensive - and put Jesus in a tomb nearby that Joseph owned.

They got him down!I It probably took all they had, even Mary Magdelene’s every last cent,
but they got him down! Now that is what the love and loyalty that Jesus taught is all about.

Jesus was seen alive later by some of his followers, according to the New Testament. Probably he was revived by the rest and aloe. I also think his friends convinced him to get out of the Roman empire. Maybe he headed East down the Silk Road, where he may have spent some time as a young man. There is even a grave in Kashmir often atributed to him.

I smile when think of him escaping 
        and living in Kashmir with Mary Magdelene, playing with their babies.

Jesus was rescued by the love of his friends, just as he taught them.

_______________________________

NOW we are ready:

              To go beyond the golden rule … to a new prime directive:

Where you find evil, return good.

Who has the courage to live this way ? Few, very few.

                                   But … Some do, whether by choice or events:


“Go thou, and do likewise:

Where you find evil, return good.

It may be our only chance.

_________________________

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© Gareth Harris 2017       --------        Contact email: garethharris@mac.com        --------         see also: GarethHarris.com