Jesus Versus Religion


Religious people get an unfairly bad rap these days, so I want to start by defending them. My purpose here is not to slam religious people, but to show that religion doesn’t adequately represent Jesus.

It was religious people who killed the ancient evil of slavery. First, the religious people of Europe, having inherited a full social system of slavery from Rome, disassembled it between about 500 and 1000 AD, precisely because their ethics were better than those of Rome.

Then, after slavery sprang back up in the New World… and once a serious number of religious Europeans got to the New World… they killed slavery again. Regardless of what we were taught in civics classes, it was religious Christians who defeated slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, not Abe Lincoln.

And even through the worst times of the European Middle Ages, most towns had kind and concerned religious people in them, people who did not abuse the parishioners, who helped the sick, interceded for the poor, and supported the weak. Yes, there were massive abuses from the top, but at the bottom there were many good and decent religious people.


With that said, I will continue to my primary point, which is this:

Religion is a very poor container for Jesus and his ideas.

To illustrate the difference between Jesus and the religion based (partly) upon him, please consider these statements:

Jesus never said anything about a virgin birth.

Jesus never said anything about original sin.

Jesus never said anything about a trinity.

If he believed in these things at all, he apparently considered them to be trivial, because we have no record of him mentioning them.

Isn’t it odd, then, that the bulk of Christianity has established itself upon these ideas?

And things get still worse for religion if we pay attention directly to Jesus and not to the people interpreting him:

  • Jesus flatly contradicted the Fourth Commandment (not working on the Sabbath), placing compassion above it. (See FMP #44 for details.)

  • Jesus taught that the barbaric passages of the Old Testament were to be ignored and that compassion and self-honesty were to be placed above them. (See FMP #89, which will be available in a few days.)

The Gulf Between Jesus and His Interpreters

This idea of paying attention to Jesus and not to the people interpreting him rests on a very strong base. It is very clear that even his closest followers didn’t understand him very well. I’ll leave off the citations (again, see FMP #44), but Jesus said a number of things like these to his closest students:

  • Do you not yet understand, neither remember?

  • How is it that you do not understand?

  • Are you also without understanding?

  • Do you not yet perceive or understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?

  • I have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.

Let me add one more telling fact:

The gospels mention six separate incidents when Jesus “had compassion” or was “moved with compassion,” plus two more where he wept over tragedies. Never, in the entire New Testament, do we find these things said of anyone else.

This man was very clearly not religious and was very clearly not understood by the people who interpreted him. These people may have been well-meaning, and I suspect that they were the best available, but their ideas should never be used to define Jesus’s ideas.

Let me restate that to make the point clearly:

The teachings of the apostles should not be used to explain what Jesus believed, taught, or intended.

I understand how disruptive that statement will seem to many people, but I think truth matters more than tradition.

What Religion Imposes

Whether purposely or simply by a slow adaptation to necessities, religion established a set of beliefs on top of the bare-bones teachings of Jesus. Here are three of those beliefs:

There is a great gulf between God and man, requiring special men and women to fill the gap (aka the clergy). Jesus was clearly an anti-cleric and held a high view of humanity. Nonetheless, over time, the concepts of “fallen man” and “unapproachable God” carried the day.

Structure and “rule” are necessary. Jesus directly opposed hierarchy and trashed the concept of status. But again over time, religion brought these things to the followers of Jesus and established them as fixed structures.

Doctrine is all-important. Jesus quoted the Bible infrequently, and even then mostly to contrast his teachings with it or when he was challenged. The idea that God would condemn you to eternal torture for incorrect doctrine was simply not part of his message. (He taught that we were justified or condemned by our own words.) Religions, however, compete for adherents, and as a practical matter, that requires doctrine and dogma. And many early Christian leaders (Ambrose and Chrysostom are good examples) worked hard to differentiate their religion from Judaism and to condemn Judaism.

Last Words

Religion is a poor container for Jesus’s ideas. It has twisted and obscured the message. And no one has been more damaged by this than the many millions of decent and well-meaning religious people.

This would be a good time for people to step outside of the container and to take a raw, fresh look at what Jesus taught.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

8 thoughts on “Jesus Versus Religion”

  1. Wish I’d said that. Well, actually I have, at many times and in many ways.
    Paul, I think I am, like you perhaps, not a Christian, but a wavering, faltering, tripping, halting, weak disciple of Jesus. Recognizing my own inability to fully live up to his principles and many good examples, I can readily forgive Paul/Saul for retaining his Roman citizenship and using it for security from bodily harm (Acts 22:25), to salve his wounded ego (Acts 16:37), and, if he wasn’t speaking ironically, which I’m pretty certain he was, for his preposterous advice to the Christian flock in Rome in Romans 13:1-7, which not only conflicts with the teaching of Jesus (see: Matt. 5-7,17, 22, Luke 4, 6, 20, and Mark 12), but conflicts as well with Paul’s own theology, as expressed, for example in 1 Cor. 2:6-8: “Yet among the
    mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of
    the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

  2. 10317 Jesus vs Religion frmnsprspctv artcl…
    the Jesus ‘Krap you spew, in much of your article, is straight Humanist Liberation Theology… the very tenants that were used to supplant Christianity in our time : today.
    This style subversion : syncretism of the Christian Religion was tried, unsuccessfully, by George Klaxtus in the 1700’s… there is nothing new, or original, in your line of semi-Christian twaddle,,, see, the works of George the ‘K … the Original Liberation Theologist of modern times.

    1. mark,
      I’ll not be starting a debate, and I think I get where you’re coming from. I’ll simply ask you to re-read the specific points I make about Jesus. Go slowly and decide for yourself whether or not they are accurate.
      Also please decide whether Jesus is more important, or whether church is more important.

      1. 110217 , Disqus, Reply to Paul Rosenburg, does not work. So, I am using the email reply to respond – please post this in your reply section.
        Your whole liberation theology deal is extracted from several
        places in history – the selective bible picking element that you use appears to be straight Jefferson heresy – which Jefferson heresy was apparently arrived at by Jefferson independent of George’s syncretic works…
        As I said before, there is nothing new here.
        You are regurgitating ‘Kommunist Liberation Theology ‘Klap
        …the term ‘Kommunist is a useful reduction of the general term ‘Stupid ‘Kommunism’.
        There are 2 forms of Communism in this age :
        1. is ‘Stupid ‘Kommunisim’, as exemplified by your Soviet
        Union, China, and India pre-83, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and so on… all reduced to marginal societies in which the economy is devastated, the people have virtually nothing, there is no opportunity, and the promoters in power enjoy whatever is their societies ‘Most’ while pushing everyone else around in grinding poverty and squalor;
        which is distinct from
        2. ‘beneficial Communism’, as exemplified by Israel and
        India – China post 83, respectively 100 year and 35 year periods in which beneficial Communism raised + 800,000,000 people out of the be-all and end-all perpetual social justice devastation of Stupid ‘Kommunism’.
        + 800 million, upwardly mobile, middle-class Citizens is
        more human beings than are alive in Europe, North America, AnZac, and Japan combined… of which Western number, the actual Western middle class might be some around 300 million people and shrinking every day…
        Since you, Rosenburg, seem to be a totally committed member
        of the Hate the Western World to Destruction Global and
        local Poilti’Kal “Kklass ‘Stupid ‘Kommunist’ advocates, I do not see that you will pursue any ends which do not push : advance your Politi’Klally ‘Korrect Hate America : Hate the West to destruction ‘Krap through working to advance Victimology and Liberation Theology as prime movers of ‘Stupid ‘Kommunism’ in the societies of today.
        ‘Stupid ‘Kommunism” is what the ruling American : European
        Hate the West to Destruction Politi’Kal ‘Klasses are advancing as the ONLY viable political option.
        We all know there are much more beneficial communist and
        American, Government by Law, Republic Options, Either of Which is better for society and mankind than any part of the never miss societal destruction by ‘Stupid ‘Kommunism’.

  3. Well said, sir. Jesus was killed by the authorities because his precepts were anathema to the hierarchy, both in the civil government and the church. In other words, his teachings were a threat to their nice, cushy, do-nothing jobs.

  4. Put simply, Jesus was a Non-Aggression Principle Anarchist. Where ever the laws of man contradicted the laws of God (Natural Law), man’s was to be ignored. And as evidenced by Matthew 23, he had absolutely no love at all for heads of religious institutions. Most ‘Christian’ churches these days, especially in the US, spit in the face of Jesus with every single service, as most have been infiltrated by the Synagogue of Satan (Zionism aka the Fake ‘Jews’, Revelations 2:9 & 3:9).

  5. The “gulf between Jesus and his interpreters” was filled by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit starting at Pentecost. It sounds like your entire argument fails to give any credence whatsoever to the Holy spirit, and to the men and women who were influenced by it and whose writings we have today.
    If offered the choice between your words, obviously not influenced by the Holy spirit, and the words of the apostles who, historically, were…whose words should I believe?

  6. Thanks for another article. Let me start with saying I’m a Christian but a rebel in the church . Jesus came to die for your sins and do away with the law , he was the final offering . The problem most churches have is they want the Bible to become a Rule book , and it’s not. It is a Grace book . In order to make it a rule book they first must claim the Bible is the “Word of God ” The Bible does Not say that , nowhere does it say this book is the word of God . It does say John 1:1 In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God . The Santiago version says Verbo rather than word (in Spanish) Verb , so God is the action . The Muslims claim the Quran is the word of God , but they qualify that statement with , written in Arabic. When other Christians make that statement I always ask ; Which Bible ? There are quite a few some have more verses and even more books , so I call it the Scriptures . Another problem I have with most churches is money , First a 501c corporation church is not allowed by law to ever talk about politics , Jesus never had a building or a corporation . The next money issue is tithing . Under the law you were required to pay 10% of your Increase to the church , notice it did not say INCOME , increase is where you have more than when you started. Most people back then were farmers , so they may have 2 cows and a bull at the first of the year , then have an Increase during the year . Now days most people have a job , get a check , borrow money for a car, a house, and everything else , at the end of the year they had an income but most didn’t have an increase. Jesus did say give Cesar what is his and give God what is his , when ask about paying taxes. When Jesus feed thousands of people , Did he pass an offering plate to buy food ? So how can you give to God ? The beatitudes may have some clues , ” when I was hungry you feed me ” . Based on that I believe in what I call Direct tithing . I have feed countless hungry people Directly , I Never donate to any 501c or give them money . I also make sure they eat the food , you can open the food so they can’t resell it , they must eat it (in the event they are scammers ) .
    The real problem with most Christians is they believe on faith rather than study what the scriptures say and have knowledge to back up the faith .

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