Jesus is presented by Christians as the greatest moral teacher–by far. The claim that he is “God made man” makes it impossible for the pious to recognize what he said that was objectionable. After all, they can’t really object to God, can they? So they are forced into some extreme mental contortions to justify it all.
Of course it is a presumption that Jesus was God to begin with. it is likewise a presumption that he said everything attributed to him. At least some of what he is alleged to have said was put into his mouth by the Gospelists, or by the Christian community in a process of embellishment that predated the written Gospels. But believers tend to take it all at face value. So, for the sake of argument, we will do so as well in order to present what an objective mind should find objectionable.
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16)
Contrary to Jesus’s earlier description of the Last Judgment based on one’s treatment of others (Matthew 25:31-40), this makes salvation dependent entirely on believing. This is not only corrosive of morality, but it has inspired a desperate aggressiveness on the part of soul-winners to coerce belief, lest we go to Hell. That the intention is good is simply not good enough.
“They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:18)
This solitary passage is responsible for the existence of snake-handler cults within Christianity. Who knows how many have died from snake bites or from sipping strychnine? When a death occurs as a result of these practices they typically blame an alleged lack of faith–even though too much faith was involved–rather than realize that it is this ridiculous passage that is the problem.
“They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:18)
Once again a bad idea, an idea that has caused many people to die who might have been saved–especially children–children who should have been allowed to grow up and choose for themselves whether to believe in such nonsense. (If it is any consolation, Mark 16:9-20 was added to the original ending of Mark by an unknown redactor, perhaps Aristion. Too bad people accept it as legitimate merely because it is there.)
“And the lord said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in …'” (v. 23 from the parable in Luke 14:16-24).
This verse gives justification to anyone who feels like being aggressive in foisting religion on the unwilling, such as Augustine, for example: “It is praiseworthy to force men to accept the Gospel against their wills …”
“He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)
Christians do not sit up here and take notice that “The Prince of Peace” is preparing for an armed clash. Exegetes have taken this parable as a divine blessing on war in general. So much for “Who lives by the sword dies by the sword” (Matthew 26:52), or “Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).
“You are of your father the Devil.” (John 8:44)
This is an intemperate saying that anti-Semites have sometimes taken literally–with horrible consequences. Also intemperate were Jesus’ over-the-top rants against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33; Luke 11:39-52), that have too often been applied to Jews in general. We might also mention Matthew 21:43, which is used as another justification for anti-Semitism. (Remember the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21:19? It symbolizes Israel.)
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee … And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee …” (Matthew 5:29-30). “And there be eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:12).
These hyperbolic statements can–and have–incited people to actually follow through on atrociously bad advice. The early Christian luminary, Origen, castrated himself to comply with what Jesus suggested. In our time it was Marshall Applewhite and his Heaven’s Gate suicide cult who did.
“Unto him that blasphemeth the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:16)
Many ministers have had to deal with anxiety-ridden parishioners desperately afraid that they have committed the “Unpardonable Sin” even though they are not at all sure what it is. The Interpreter’s Bible even admits “It has filled insane asylums with minds broken down by a guilt complex.”
Bottom line: It takes a warped mind to see any of these teachings as good ones. Unfortunately, however, this is what Christianity can do to you.
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