Rethinking Christianity

Seeing Jesus as a Humanist

Before I begin the post I should say that I am aware that “humanist” is a label being used by many atheists these days.  I am using the word “humanist” in reference to its original definition as someone passionate to advance human agency and advocate social justice.

When I think about social justice, I often think about the life of Jesus. It is the charitable characteristics of Jesus that I connect with when I read the stories about his life. And it is this personage of Jesus that keeps me holding him in regard despite my discontent for religion and the doctrines it produces.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the ministry of Jesus. And I wonder if he was not a humanist and his ministry was to advance a socially amicable humanity?

jesus1When I read the gospels I see Jesus represented in two ways. I see him as he speaks for himself and the actions that he commits to. And then I see him as Paul wrote about him. Perhaps it is just my own understanding, but the Jesus who speaks about himself is not the Jesus whom Paul speaks about. And he is not the god/man produced by the Roman Church in antiquity, woven together by unified god myths of the time.

The bible presents a very human portrait of Jesus for those willing to see it. He was spiritually committed, sometimes at odds with his conscience and inclinations, but motivated with the intention to advance the moral and ethical regard of people. Jesus was someone who acknowledged the marginalized people in his society, the tax collectors, the poor, non-Jews, even the lepers.  He took the time to speak to people who would not be given any measure of recognition by others.  He expressed to them that despite their condition or status that they mattered.  I recently watched a documentary on a leper community in India. As I looked at the disfigurement and grotesque features of the afflicted I couldn’t help but consider the immense sense of benevolence that Jesus must have possessed to engage such people while living in a medically uneducated and subsisting society. Yet he comforted them, touched them, and tried to heal them.

I have to admit that it disturbs me at times when atheists scoff and mock Jesus, although I know that they are targeting the god myth created by religion. But it disturbs me because I believe behind all of this religious dogma was a moral and honorable man. Jesus was a revolutionary. He was someone who railed against the hypocrisy of the religious elite who condemned and marginalized people. He was a man who spoke out against the tyranny of Rome and the oppression of his people. He was a social advocate for the poor, infirmed and outcast of his society. He stood apart and spoke out publically knowing it could cost him his life. So when I see billboards that mock this man hanging on a cross it disturbs me. It bothers me that people do not understand what the person of Jesus represents for modern society. Within his spiritual persona he was a humanist advancing the agency of humanity when civilizations were hesitant to value the concept. Before the times of great humanitarians like Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela was the story of Jesus.

When I think about the person and ministry of Jesus, I realize that he was not a demigod to give rise to temples, and statues and saints. He was a man, a teacher, a spiritual leader who wanted to give rise to humanity and the moral high ground that should be taken by all to advance an amicable society wherein all its members can experience a gratified existence.

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17 thoughts on “Seeing Jesus as a Humanist

  1. You’re absolutely right when you state that he was a revolutionary. He stood for everything that was corrupt in society, which was pretty much everything. They deified him to distract the masses from his message.

    • Your comment is interesting. I have discerned from the texts that Jesus was an apocalypticist but I have not thought of him standing for all that was corrupt in society. I tend to accept his apocalyptic thinking as a result of his poverty, oppression and perhaps even the stigma surrounding his birth. It is difficult for me to connect his overall presence with a malicious personality. What makes you think so?

      • Sorry for the typo. I meant to say that he was opposed against all institutions of society and aligned himself with the downtrodden.

  2. Well said. I have always seen Jesus and his teachings as humanist, not religious or divine, just RIGHT. Growing up Christian, I still see him as a teacher of humanity. His perception was so ahead of his time in that culture. I value the red words above all other teachings in the Bible. I always appreciate what you have say. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: Jesus: A Different Perspective | Nan's Notebook

  4. Excellent post! You have expressed well the views of a thinking person about Jesus and his mission as he seemed to view it. Whether or not he was sent directly by God to do his ministry is open to question, but I think he was a model that would be hard to beat. Those who deny the very existence of Jesus chose to be blind to historical reality.

  5. You are wrong because Jesus like the Jews of his time believed in sacrifices . The proof is inside the Eva Giles when his parents before him and he later sent a man to make sacrifice .JEsus like the Jews of his time respected the shabat and never did anything forbidden by Jewish law. Jesus like Jews never ate any non kosher food and even never enter the house of a non Jew. Check your New TEstament and you will understand that Jesus is only an internal discussion between Jews about written laws and oral laws . All the rest is invention of PAul, creator of Christhianity

  6. This is a well written post… and I believe it is closer to the truth about Jesus. I also have been perceiving Jesus as a humanist. At the same time, I also believe that Jesus’ mission to help the “least of these” was a divine mission. The act of helping others like Jesus and other revolutionary leaders have done is not a mere human act. I believe it involves a transcendent intervention in order to “turn the other cheek” , “walk the extra mile”, and “love our enemies”.

  7. He was not moral at all, but a misguided fool.
    The Pentateuch has been shown to be demonstrably false. Characters including Abraham and Moses are fictional and yet, the Jesus of the New Testament references them on numerous occasions.
    Why would one ant to reference a character such as Moses, even if they were real? He was an egotistical maniac who butchered thousands

    The god man as you suggest openly stated he was here to fulfill the Law. Jewish law. Law imparted to Moses from Yahweh. If he was not god then the Law came from a monster deity that annihilated humankind.

    If Jesus was ”genuflecting” to this deiry then he was either delusional or complicit.

    • Hello Ark. While you think that biblical characters are fiction I don’t see it that way. My view is that they are original existing people and stories which have become mythic over time. Much as in the telephone game, people embellish, exaggerate and insert their own insight into the stories that they tell. I think social tyrants in antiquity saw the opportunity to use a belief in Yahweh to herd the sheep and keep them compliant.

      Like children today, Jesus would have been indoctrinated into the beliefs of his society. However it seems that he questioned what he was asked to believe. While he is claimed to have said that he was to fulfill the law his reported actions didn’t align with that statement. He was rebellious against the laws of the Pharisees and Sadducees and didn’t accept them as “God’s truth”. Like many men of his day he began to think that he was the messiah as his supporters grew, but in my interpretation of the text I think he questioned the actuality of it.

      I think Jesus was a real person. I think he was an apocalyptic Essene from the Nazarene faith who felt out of sorts with both his Essene teaching and that offered by the Pharisees and Sadducees as well. I think he most likely had exposure to the religion of the Egyptians as well, and his ministry was a hodgepodge of what he felt was right and wrong from them all. I also think that it was his benevolence toward others that made him memorable enough amongst the many upshooting messiahs to be talked about and remembered after his death. Enough so that his followers, and later Paul were able to establish a religion that the Romans would find useful.

      • That he might have been an historical character is quite possible.
        That he is the same character as reflected in the gospels is nonsense.
        That there was an actual place called Nazareth as described in the gospels at the time of his supposed ministry is also nonsense.
        You may be closer to the truth with the Essene thing and the Nazarene sect but this has no etymological relation to the town religion built. (Thank you you Helene and Constantine)

        That he referenced Moses and Abraham is a clear indication that he was either ignorant of true jewish history, he was a charlatan or he was in fact a fictitious character after all.

  8. @Ark. Why wouldn’t he be ignorant of Jewish history? It is only in the recent past that some Jews have begun to doubt the history of their religions. In a primitive society, Jesus being an ordinary Jew (not god incarnate) would have certainly believed in a God and some truth in his religious teachings. And it seems he believed there was a god unlike the one of the Jews.

    I agree that the gospel Jesus interpreted by Christian theology is inaccurate. To think that scribes didn’t tinker with the scriptures would be ridiculous. Even older bibles show footnotes that over time became inserted into the scriptures.

    But his human portrait is in the bible as well, it is just Christians have been conditioned to interpret it as the church would have them believe. Even in the bible Jesus is accused of being fond of drink, a glutton, a participant with the unsavory members of community and someone who can’t heal people regularly. Scriptures also report him as doubting, confused, temperamental and egotistical at times, so he may have well had the tendencies of a charlatan on occasion. These are some very human traits attributed to someone who never claimed he was God. So it took some creative endeavor by the church to make him into one through manipulation of scriptures and teaching a specific doctrine that could be supported by misinterpretations and conflations of the text.

  9. Hi. This doesn’t need to be posted, but I just wanted to tell the writer of this blog that I found your use of the word “atheist” offensive in this context. It was offensive in the same way that it would be for me to say “it disturbs me when Christians shoot people at abortion clinics.” I’m pretty sure that whether it is an ultra-violent Christian or an obnoxious atheist making billboards, we are talking about an individual whose issues go much deeper than whether or not they believe in God. Therefore referencing the person’s faith or lack thereof is inappropriate, as it is associating the actions of that person with the group to which they belong. I am personally an atheist who greatly admires the teachings of Jesus, and I know that amongst my friends and family I can’t think of anyone who would be so blatantly disrespectful to other people’s beliefs. We would appreciate the same respect.

    • Hello. I take no issue with posting a contradictory comment. I am sorry that you felt offended by my use of the word “atheist” in this post. However, I think that may reflect that you have too much of your identity wrapped up in the atheist label. I agree that one view point does not represent the all and try to use words such as “most”, “many” or “some” when referring generally to a group of people who are represented by various logic, beliefs and behaviors. If I failed to do that in this post it was not my intention to group you with all others.

      The point I was attempting to make in this post is that Jesus was someone who I think contributed immensely to the moral growth of the human condition. And that I think he should be regarded more for his life as a teacher and humanitarian than merely as the icon of a religious group.
      Thanks for reading the post and taking time to comment.

  10. Religion is religion and it’s only meant to guide all to some point from whence our walk and living becomes a personal oneness with God.

    There is a distinct difference between the historical Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ of Faith. Christ Jesus never at any point assert that He is God, rather He maintained that: He was the Son of Man & verily the Son of God as well.

    A profound clarity would be obtained if we who profess we believe in God should ask ourselves: What is the plan of God in creating all that He created?

    Everything about God centres on Faith & Obedience. For to start with, the message of the person of Christ is foolishness to the unbelieving mind.

    One vital issue we must not fail to take for granted is the fact that Christ came to show the way by living out Divinity in Humanity!

    Through Him, we now know we exist to God even before we were conceived in our mum’s womb, and that after we leave our physical bodies, which some refer to as ‘died, we would still be alive & living to the God of the Living!

    God had a purpose. Now, He has accomplished His Eternal Purpose in Christ. So that everything is indeed done – Eph. 3:11!

    Thanks to God for Christ Jesus, the Kingdom of God is now existent, and it’s up to each man to force himself in through faith that operates in love!

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