Why I Don’t Want Jesus as My Savior

Here has always been one of my major distastes for the Jesus-savior concept. It’s like a person you aren’t interested in constantly asking you out on a date. If you aren’t attracted to or interested in that person, then they aren’t going to have anything to offer you, and repeated inquiries into the matter just gets irritable.

73551b7c6002671fb2353a283ed11409.pngI do not find the person or message of Jesus to be inspiring, particularly meaningful, or fulfilling for my life. I say this as someone who studies thehistorical Jesus in higher education. The historical Jesus was most likely a radical, apocalyptic prophet, predicting imminent cosmic intervention and a reordering of social hierarchy and religious customs. His manner of teaching and interacting with people, as depicted in the Gospels, is often inamicable and even brutish. He mostly wants to talk at people, and when people present counter-arguments, they are usually depicted as either secretly wicked or blind. Even people who ask well-meaning questions are often depicted as foolish for failing to grasp some point.

Going around as an itinerant prophet complaining, likewise, is not the best way to institute social change. It’s all talk, but what did Jesus effectively change about social conditions in Palestine during his lifetime? And while Jesus is said to perform miracles, why did he do so for one tiny sliver of human history, in one tiny geographical region? Why couldn’t Jesus visit more areas and other periods of human history, so that everyone could tell, without relying on hearsay, that he had special powers of a divine nature?

I don’t find Jesus’ eschatology to be appealing, and even repulsive. Lots of imagery about “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” references to families being divided, and parables that have clear butts to the story’s moral. If I were present at the Sermon on the Mount, I’d either argue with Jesus or walk away. Sure, there are some beatitudes that sound nice, in a platitudinous way. But Jesus wasn’t promoting freedom and prosperity for all of mankind. For the poor to become affluent, the rich would suffer. For someone to be the first in the Kingdom of Heaven, someone else would be last. I don’t even find Jesus’ movement to be aesthetically pleasing.

Jesus is not someone who I would want as a friend, let alone as a thinker I looked up to, let alone as my “savior.” He’s someone who I simply have no interest in, personally. There is no person in the world that is well suited to be a friend, romantic partner, or teacher with everyone else. Different people with different personalities will want different things. To be told by complete strangers, therefore, that they know Jesus is needed in my life simply sounds pompous, inconsiderate, and demeaning. I’ve studied Jesus, and I am not interested in following his person or message. I’d rather follow other teachers and even other religions, even if I weren’t an atheist.

-Matthew Ferguson

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12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Want Jesus as My Savior

  1. Betrand Russell was asked what he would do if Jesus appeared to him.
    He said he would get down on his knees and kiss Jesus’ feet.
    I think your “understanding of Jesus” is rather lacking – though you claimed to have studied Him.
    Perhaps your egotism is greater than “Russell’s” which would take a very, very large ego.
    Even Wittgenstein, who did have an ego larger than Russell’s and Keynes – was humble enough to admit that Jesus lived the life he should have lived. You have free will and can choose to do with it what you will, but you should understand what you are so fervently rejecting, before you make such a choice.

    • All the examples you quoted are rather old at this point, back when it was fashionable to say, “Hey, I don’t believe Jesus is God, but he was a good moral teacher.” I think that Jesus is neither.

      For a more recent study, Hector Avalos in The Bad Jesus has analyzed how virtually none of Jesus’ teachings were particularly revolutionary for his time, in favor of advancing human rights, or even particularly motivated by compassion:

      https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Bad_Jesus.html?id=HEWTrgEACAAJ

      I’m doing my PhD dissertation on the Gospels in the literary context of Greco-Roman biography, and have taken graduate seminars on the historical Jesus. I think I understand what I am fervently rejecting, do you?

      And besides, I can’t express this enough: I am not interested in Jesus (beyond an object of historical study) or anything that he has to offer. I find him repulsive, boring, petulant, temperamental, and a rather mediocre philosopher. I’m more than happy to miss out on him in my life.

    • Oh, and talk about ego, here you are giving advice on what I “should understand,” when you don’t even know me. Your comment is rather hubristic, frankly.

    • I think that Bertrand Russell was probably way, way smarter than Matthew is—on the grounds that he was way, way smarter than >99.99% of people.

      I do not, however, think that Bertrand Russell had any special expertise in the studies of the historical Jesus, even such as it was in the early 20th century—and let’s acknowledge that historical research progresses, like everything else. Hence, I think that it’s eminently likely that Matthew, as a smart guy (even if not on the Bertrand Russell level) who has actually put in the years of academic study in the specific academic subjects relevant to the knowledge of the historical Jesus and his context, knows an awful lot more about Jesus than Russell did. If Matthew starts casually disparaging Russell’s views on set theory, THEN I think you have a right to call him out on it.

      Though it’s also worth noting that Russell had his criticisms of Jesus, too: “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching—an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence.”

      (And “free will” on “what [he] is so fervently rejecting”? Either this is a red herring, a deeply veiled threat of Hell, or a bizarre non sequitur. At any rate, I think it’s rather odd to include the dubious assumptions of libertarian free will and volitional belief in a critical comment on an opinion piece. Rather weakens your case than help it.)

      • I think that Bertrand Russell was probably way, way smarter than Matthew is—on the grounds that he was way, way smarter than >99.99% of people.

        Aww, well I do my best :’-(

        But what I was mostly critiquing about the alleged quote of Russell above was the tendency among secular authors, in the early to mid-20th century (and before) to characterize Jesus as a great moral teacher, even if they didn’t believe that he worked miracles or was the Son of God. It was this tendency that caused C.S. Lewis in his trilemma apologetic to argue that, if you accepted many of Jesus’ sayings, such as his claim to be one with God the Father (John 10:30), then he couldn’t have been a great moral teacher, unless he was telling the truth. He must have either been a lunatic (like someone claiming to be a poached egg) or a liar (like the Devil himself).

        But, I don’t accept the premise that Jesus was a great moral teacher to begin with. I should note, too, that this blog is just meant to be a short personal testimonial. A longer article or even a whole book (like Hector Avalos’ The Bad Jesus) could be written on this topic. This was actually a Facebook post before I decided to share it here. I thought it would provoke some thought and discussion on the alleged universality of the concept of Jesus as savior. In terms of Soteriology, Jesus is supposed to be the savior of all of humankind. And yet, some people find his person and message far more appealing than others. How can Jesus really be the right choice for everyone, then? To me, it feels like an arranged marriage with someone that I have no attraction to or respect for.

    • Citation? The only comment of Russel’s I recall about meeting God was on what he would say on meeting God in the Afterlife if He turned out to be real. Russel’s remark was that God had not supplied enough information to make Him belief-worthy.

  2. I agree with you Matthew. Well said, and succinct. I’m no historian, nor was I raised up in religion, and I always found the Gospel Jesus’ character and “teachings” to be rather trite and lacking relative to other philosophers of antiquity. Guess one has to get that “old-time religion” early and often for it to take hold!

  3. (Version 2 – some stylistic tweaks, re-wording of phrases that came off unnecessarily harshly, and clarifications; please publish this one, not the first attempt).

    I think that there are several points in this post really miss the point. For example, supposedly, Jesus, was ineffective at inducing social change… with the crucial caveat, that this has to be measured against the yardstick of achieving it during his lifetime, in his geographical vicinity.

    Without that crucial caveat, of course, this statement would have been about as absurd and false a statement as it would be possible to construct. On any fair or honest assessment, Jesus of Nazareth has inspired, both directly and indirectly, more positive social change than any other figure in the entirety of human history, by a gigantic margin. That fact gets not-a-mention somewhere in this piece, which betrays a lack of readiness to state the case honestly. But, admitting that Jesus’ strategy worked better, by a huge margin, than anything before or since, would rather undermine some of the points and the main conclusions that the article wants to make.

    So, the caveat itself. This is also absurd, and jars with the author’s obvious intelligence. Even on the most basic reading of the Bible’s plot-line, you’ll observe that the reason why you can’t just turn up at the time Jesus did, and successfully campaign for “social change”. That’s because the world is in the grip of cosmic powers of evil. It’s not just that we need better education, more money, or better science. It’s that human beings are under the power of, and enjoy being under the power of (because of the short-term payoffs they get, or think they get), evil which they are totally unable to defeat or overthrow. For Jesus to break this cosmic power of evil, he had to die. His death was a cosmic event, breaking the claim and hold of evil powers over mankind, and inaugurating a new era. Hence, to demand that he brings about large-scale changes to the world, before dying, is a bit like complaining that the Sun doesn’t bring heat or light to countries in the hours before it rises. Well, yes, of course.

    Of course, I understand that the author rejects the Biblical narrative of the world’s fundamental problem (evil, sin, human rebellion) too, and of how that problem could be resolved. But that’s the point. He re-interprets the story of Jesus within his own narrative, and then criticises it on the terms of his own narrative. He does this without apparently noticing what he’s done; without explaining what he’s doing, or commenting. The result is then, as a critique, not so much wrong, as incomprehensible; nonsensical. It’s like criticising Aragorn for being excessively bloodthirsty for not taking his dispute with Sauron to the United Nations first, and trying to get a vote from the Security Council before riding to war. Such a criticism isn’t even wrong – it doesn’t make sense unless you pre-assume your a fundamentally contradictory view of the most basic questions involved.

    • Now that I reflect on it, I’d add: there’s actually good logic in what the author says, taken on its own terms. Jesus isn’t attractive, unless you understand the universe he enters. Without a Biblical view of sin, there’s no real need for the Biblical Jesus, in the same way that a course of chemotherapy has little attraction to somebody who doesn’t realise that they’ve got cancer. The Biblical Jesus, as the author notes, polarises and condemns. He’s not all fluffy bunnies and Christmas presents and dinner served up every day. If you’re not living in a universe where sin and judgment are real problems like the Bible says, who wants a Saviour like the one in the Bible?

      And on that note, I’ll offer up the effectiveness of Jesus “strategy for social change”, in comparison for anything else before or since, as a primary piece of evidence that it’s Jesus who’s correctly understood and revealed the nature of reality, and not the author of this article.

      • Hi David,

        Interesting to see some of the evolution of your thoughts between these three comments. I’ve only posted the second two, per your request.

        First off, as a clarification, this post is only about why I find the idea of Jesus as an eschatological and soteriological figure to be unattractive, depressing, and repulsive. It does not in any sense imply that I couldn’t be convinced by empirical evidence and rational argument that Christianity is true. Someone could likewise convince me that a comet is heading on a collision course with earth, which was going to wipe out all life in a few months, and I would find that to be rather depressing and wish it weren’t so, but still believe that it was factually the case.

        What I was getting at in this case is that there are some universalizing assumptions built into orthodox Christianity that Jesus is supposed to be the “one-size-fits-all” savior for everyone. And yet, certain people find his message and person to be far more appealing than others. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that Christianity is so universal as is often claimed. That’s argued to metaphysically be the case, but it doesn’t mesh well with personal experience, nor observations of many people.

        Regarding how effective Jesus was at inducing social change, I think it can be difficult to measure such things, but I would still disagree with your assessment. You say that Jesus “both directly and indirectly” has effected more social change than any figure in human history. That I certainly think is not true. At best, he only did so “indirectly,” since as I have noted, he made very little impact during his own lifetime. And considering that he authored no works of his own, not even his own writings effected change either.

        One might argue that the “concept of Jesus as he was later conceived” brought about a lot of change. But figures like Paul of Tarsus, Irenaeus, Augustine, and Constantine were far more effective “direct” agents of change than Jesus. They actually got Christianity formalized and disseminated, not Jesus. I also disagree that Jesus’ indirect impact has been the “most positive,” since I find much of it to be quite negative and distasteful, but since that is a value judgement, I’ll simply say that we have different values on that point.

        Though, I don’t even think Jesus has had as much indirect influence as you claim. Arguably, Mohammed had both more of a direct and indirect impact. He certainly got more done than Jesus during his own lifetime, in his respective region of the world. And while Islam is a slightly smaller religion than Christianity (though it is on track to overtake in demographics), you have to take into account that its adherents also tend to be more devote and less apathetic. Most people in North America and Europe who identify as Christian barely ever read the Bible or attend church, whereas my impression is that Islam is far more fervently adhered to.

        If one doesn’t give Jesus a 2,000 year head start, arguably figures like Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping have had a much, much greater impact. In less than a century, Mao’s little red book is the top contender to the Bible in publications.

        Now, as you note, Jesus’ effectiveness takes on a whole new light when you read it within a cosmic narrative, in which he serves as an eschatological and soteriological figure who is necessary for the salvation of humankind. As the Passover Lamb, his sacrifice was necessary to save us from death, more so than any social reforms that he could have instituted to improve education or ban slavery in Judea, etc.

        You ask that I interpret Jesus’ effectiveness from a New Testament perspective. But, then again, couldn’t we do this with a lot of questionable individuals? If we interpret Kim Jong Un from his perspective, he’s not a bloodthirsty dictator, but a leader of his people resisting the evils of the American Empire (and his nuclear weapons program has kept us off his soil). If we interpret Mohammed from his perspective, he was the last prophet who was giving the correct understanding of the God of Abraham.

        To interpret someone’s influence within a certain narrative, you often have to buy the premises of that narrative. And, since I don’t buy either the theological or many of the historical premises of the New Testament, naturally I am not going to convinced of its claims about Jesus’ cosmic impact, just as I am not convinced about Islam’s claim of Mohammed’s prophetic impact.

        But even still, a point that you may have missed is that, even if I bought Christianity’s theological and historical premises, I would still find it to be horribly repulsive. Revelation is a terribly nasty book, full of grotesque images about torturing people. Jesus’ parables are often brutish and full “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It would feel like I had been thrown back into the stone ages. Such a reality could be true, but I doubt that I could ever find it appealing.

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