Who cares whether Jesus was divine?

The Daily Dish dedicates some time to tell us ‘All About Mormons’, courtesy of some South Park clips. The first clip suggests that Joseph Smith pretty much made up the Book of Mormon and claimed divine intervention, while the second clip reminds us that this doesn’t really matter:

Maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to Thank for all that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now, is loving your family, being nice, and helping people … you’ve got a lot of growing up to do buddy. Suck my balls.

It is odd that Sullivan makes no analogy with other Christianities, or other religions, which also carry absurdities. I’ve always thought that men claiming to have spoken to a burning bush are probably pretty high on something, but not God. And if someone goes wandering about the wilderness these days, and then claims to hear voices, we declare them to be psychotic, not prophets. And some passages of the Gospels which deal with sightings of the ressurrected Jesus (for example, Mark 16:12 or Luke 24:16) stretch credibility. Time and again, disciples do not recognise Jesus when he appears. Could that perhaps be because it was a different guy, claiming to be the crucified preacher!? I find it hard to believe that Sullivan did not take these glaring issues into account: I guess he simply decided against making that particular point in that particular post.
This is odd, however, since Andrew has been writing a lot about his faith recently, and I should have thought he would want to explicitly align himself with the sentiments expressed by the liitle boy in the South Park clip. Biblical inconsistencies do not, or should not matter to other strains of Christian either, because it is Jesus’ ethical teachings that should be of paramount importance. These persist even if there is no causal connection between God and the Holy Bible. They persist despite the falsity of the Virgin Birth. They persist despite the hoax of the Resurrection. Tony Benn is fond of quoting Malcolm Muggeridge, thus: Jesus was not the Labour MP for Galilee North. I say that is a shame, because Jesus is a great politician! “Pay a bit of tax“, “Be nice to the kids“, “Don’t let money rule your life” and, of course “get pissed at weddings“. Universal policies by which we can all interact with our neighbours. His ethical pronouncements stand us in good stead, even the evidence for his divinity is unconvincing.
It seems to me this is the difference between the fundamentalists, and the ‘private faith’ which Andrew Sullivan has been discussing in the past few months: faith is what you believe when no one’s watching. Only this latter group can embark, as Sullivan has done, on a reinterpretation of the texts that would (say) make homosexuality permissible. Meanwhile, the fundamentalists pursue the red herring of Intelligent Design, or concern themselves with what two or more people do in the privacy of their bedroom.

2 Replies to “Who cares whether Jesus was divine?”

  1. A very interesting speech by Tony Benn, on your link, how he was taught to follow prophets not profits. It doesn’t matter what religion you follow the moral challenge is to be good and kind to your fellow man, and to eschew power for righteousness. I’ve never read Joseph Smith’s readings, and even if they are morally righteous, I am still very suspicious how he sought and gained power. Jesus from my understanding never sought power but tried to spread good moral teachings through his own behaviour.

  2. Jesus never sought power? But he went about telling people what to do! And if he wasn’t seeking power, why didn’t he keep his water-walking under his hat? Next you’ll be telling us that Abby Lee isn’t an attention seeker 🙂
    And, Rob, I think it rather does matter whether Jesus was divine, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, if believing in all that stuff about moral goodness is not dependent on believing in a divinity, then you don’t need Jesus or the bible (or any alleged divine authority) to convince you of it, do you? And if you do believe that Jesus was divine, then you’ll probably by extension believe most of the rest of the bible, even the implausible, preposterous and offensive stuff, and you might even use it as an excuse to be downright nasty to other people.
    ps d’you really think there might be more than 2 gay people out there?

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