February 06, 2007

"Jesus was Wrong"

I watched a rather drab movie this weekend called Little Miss Sunshine. (Note to self: "acclaimed by the Academy" = "you won't like it.") The teenage boy in the movie was a disciple of Nietzsche and wore T-shirts throughout to reflect that fact. One of the T-shirts I found interesting because it expressed an idea that you just don't hear very often from critics of Christianity. It simply said, "Jesus was wrong."

While some on the radical fringe of skepticism opt for the denial of the existence of Jesus altogether, most people are quite friendly toward some historical perspective of Jesus. Of course, it is usually a desupernaturalized and purely human portrait that they prefer to see (though some of the alternate religions will take Him on a semi-divine basis). Jesus as a social reformer and moral teacher is an image that even hardened atheists can get behind. But the statement on this T-shirt is unique in that it denies all these historical reworkings of the Biblical Jesus.

To say that "Jesus was wrong" implies three things.

The first is that you don't like what He had to say. But if you are comfortable redacting the Biblical Jesus to fit your preconceptions of Him, then there is nothing with which to take issue. Is it mere coincidence that the liberal scholars often land on a portrait of "the real Jesus" to which they are partial or sympathetic? I don't believe that I've ever heard a skeptic argue for, say, a Hitleran Jesus whom the Romans did well to exterminate. This T-shirt slogan implies some curious objectivity.

Second, you think that He actually said the things which you find to be wrong. The unspoken assumption here is that what the Bible records is what Jesus actually said; and what Jesus said was just plain mistaken. What else could this statement mean? What sense would it be to say, "That which Jesus actually said, which we don't really have a proper record of anyway, is just plain wrong"? It is pretty clear that what the wearer of this T-shirt is so exercised about is the biblical portrait of Jesus. And why not be? If Jesus really made the claims that the Bible attributes to Him, and He was indeed wrong, then He was a teacher of extreme hubris. Imagine me telling you that I existed before Abraham, that no one can get to God except through me, and that I will be judging your sorry butt at the end of time! If the authors of Scripture documented Jesus' words accurately, and He actually was not God-in-the-flesh, then this boy's T-shirt is an understatement! The Jews would have been justifiably zealous to bring this heretical lunatic to trial.

Third, you think there is an objective truth about spiritual matters and that Jesus has shipwrecked Himself upon that truth. That may be a rational position for some, but this boy in the movie favored Nietzsche, who some have claimed to have lain the very groundwork for postmodern relativism. The biggest irony of all is that this boy had taken a vow of silence, and when asked why by one of his co-stars toward the beginning of the movie he merely pointed to a picture of Nietzsche. Initially, I took this to be an admirably principled stance based on the philosophy that life and all ideas are ultimately meaningless, thus it is vacuous to utter any statement at all. But then he went and negated his whole worldview by putting on that T-shirt. It would appear that the dogmatic denial of the historical Jesus trumps all need for rational coherence.

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40 Comments:

At 3/02/2007 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you know where they sell these t-shirts because i really want to buy one. get the fuck over it, its a movie.

 
At 3/02/2007 12:27 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I thought about deleting this comment because of the obscenity, but I thought it might be instructive to leave it. Please note the following:

1) It does not occur to this person that I am critiquing the idea expressed on the t-shirt and not the movie itself.

2) Detractors of Christianity are quite often foul mouthed. Why is it that anti-theism and cursing are so common? Profane words do not add anything of value to a rational case; though they seem to be required to get laughs for some comedians (ever watch one of George Carlin's diatribes against Christianity?).

3) It takes a whole lot of courage and confidence in yourself to post anonymous comments.

4) He does not address anything I've said here.

5) In spite of my (I think) effective deconstruction of the slogan "Jesus Was Wrong," this brainiac still wants to wear the t-shirt.

6) He thinks I would want to help him find one.

7) Sure it's just a movie, and it's just a t-shirt. So, why does he want one so bad?

8) This is just a blog. Why comment? Get over it!

 
At 3/19/2007 8:30 AM, Anonymous Brandon said...

I agree with all 3 of your arguments, however I think you missed how the shirt could be argued 'true' from a nietzschean (if it isnt a word, it is now. :)) standpoint. We must begin by realizingng that nietzsche had a fondness for Jesus and held him in high regard as a person, however he was critical of the followers of christianity and Jesus on that they placed their value in something that was not attainable (the afterworld) instead of something that was worldy and improved mankind.


No longer can your Self do that which it desireth most:- create
beyond itself. That is what it desireth most; that is all its fervour.
But it is now too late to do so:- so your Self wisheth to succumb,
ye despisers of the body.
To succumb- so wisheth your Self; and therefore have ye become
despisers of the body. For ye can no longer create beyond yourselves.
And therefore are ye now angry with life and with the earth. And
unconscious envy is in the sidelong look of your contempt.
I go not your way, ye despisers of the body! Ye are no bridges for
me to the Superman!

Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Chapter 4


So whatever your reason for Jesus being right, it could be argued that it is 'wrong' to devote yourself entirely to something that teaches man all the wrong about himself and to only seek being rid of himself. How can you both love yourself and regard yourself as evil? This duality cannot exist therefore you must choose between investing in mankind or the afterworld.

 
At 3/19/2007 2:40 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Thanks for your comments Brandon, they are certainly more thoughtful than anon's.

"We must begin by realizing that Nietzsche had a fondness for Jesus and held him in high regard as a person, however he was critical of the followers of Christianity and Jesus in that they placed their value in something that was not attainable (the afterworld) instead of something that was worldly and improved mankind."

So, you're saying that Nietzsche affirmed that Jesus taught about an afterlife but that He was just wrong about this? If that were the case, then I'm not sure what's to admire about Jesus, since he was either deluded or just a liar -- especially in that He claimed to be divine and the nexus of the kingdom of God. What hubris! But maybe that's exactly what Nietzsche liked about Him, you know, "the will to power." It's my understanding, though, that Nietzsche didn't much care for Jesus' ethic of catering to the weak and being kind to your enemies.

The point seems to be that if there is an afterlife, then this is indeed something to take into consideration. It would be pointless to argue that anything that (somehow) minimizes this world is ipso facto wrong. I could just as soon say that belief in retirement is bad because it puts a cramp in the financial pleasures of my youth. The fault of Christianity could not be that they value the afterlife; the fault would be that they believe in something that is not actually true. In this sense you would be right that Jesus would be wrong if He actually taught such a fiction. Whether or not this is indeed a fiction is another question. Personally, I think "Nietzsche was wrong."

"So whatever your reason for Jesus being right, it could be argued that it is 'wrong' to devote yourself entirely to something that teaches man all the wrong about himself and to only seek being rid of himself. How can you both love yourself and regard yourself as evil? This duality cannot exist therefore you must choose between investing in mankind or the afterworld."

First, I don't understand your opening statement (i.e., "whatever your reason for Jesus being right"). If Jesus really has divine authority, and He said anything like what you think you've heard here, then you've just got to suck it up and come to terms with it somehow. But if He's wrong, then end of story.

Now to your claim about what you think He taught...

What you are referring to (roughly) are the dual doctrines of the fallen nature of humanity and the creation of humanity in the image of God. There is no contradiction here, and, in fact, it explains something that people unconsciously affirm all the time. You've heard the old question, "Are people basically good or bad by nature?" Why ask such a thing if there are no counterfactuals to either position? The Christian position gives a grounding to the idea that humans have great value, by their very nature, yet are in a state that causes them to act in self-serving and rebellious ways. Most people affirm human value and dignity (for whatever reason), and who can deny that people do stupid things all the time ("nobody's perfect" as the saying goes). There is no philosophical problem with the Christian view.

Now, what we are supposed to do about this is another matter. Jesus did not teach that we are supposed to just reject the world and bide our time until death. He taught that we should engage the world and be salt and light to it. He taught that we should love and care for one another. He taught that we should enjoy and appreciate the good things that God has made (in their proper time and places). What He taught that is to be rejected is the value system of the world: materialism, hedonism, lust for power and fame, looking-out-for-number-one, secularism, etc. So, is this what you are suggesting as "investing in mankind?"

 
At 4/04/2007 3:20 PM, Anonymous Mary said...

It almost makes me laugh how ridiculous statements on both sides of this blog have been, but it mostly makes me sad. Like how Paul felt the need to not only go on a mini rant about how narrow minded and ignorant most non-Christians are, using the movie and a piece of fabric as a focal point on which to force his views into the mainstream, but did so in a way that only made himself seem ignorant and narrow minded. For example, his retort to the first comment that was posted:

Detractors of Christianity are quite often foul mouthed. Why is it that anti-theism and cursing are so common?

Obvious generalizations are being drawn in Paul's statement here. The implication that those who speak out against Christianity are foul mouthed and only out for attention is extremely offensive to Paul's "detractors of Christianity." I mean, seriously? Did he really write that and not think that it was aimed at offending someone. I have met plenty of people in my life, and of them, Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindis, agnostics, and more, not one has been exempt from swearing or offensive comments. Profanity is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of personal choice. While it may have offended Paul and other, for Paul to blame the person's religious views for their choice of words is far more offensive than any profanity he could have uttered.


Paul goes on and even has the gall to say that his argument had enough depth, reasoning, and sway to cause someone else to change their entire perspective and belief system. How much more conceited can a person become?! It's hard not to pick up on the rather conspicuous tone of condescension riddled throughout this narrow minded blog. For example, writing:

I thought about deleting this comment because of the obscenity, but I thought it might be instructive to leave it. Please note the following:



And as to why someone would comment,

"8) This is just a blog. Why comment? Get over it!"

Paul is talking about a huge issue here, the validity of Christ, and he does it in a manner that is not only disrespectful to those that do not believe in Christ, but is disrespecting the very religion that he was attempting to back up. Due to the nature of the blog, it is logical to conclude that someone who felt otherwise or wished to reaffirm their beliefs with yours would post a reply. Yet, for Paul to use his page long reply to a 2 sentence comment as a snide way of attempting to insult a commentator, he should really step back and think over why he posted a blog. This is a way of expression. Paul expressed himself in a public manner that is designed to encourage posting back responses and commenting as such.

And I couldn't help but laugh when Paul added in the "Get over it!" part to his comment. For someone who spent a great deal of time and energy into writing a rant over a shirt in a fictional movie, he should really consider taking his own advice every now and then. If Paul felt strongly enough to create a blog discussing this topic, what right does he have to be angry when others react to said blog? I mean, honestly, Paul, stop trying to be such a condescending jerk. You have a right to your views and freedom of expression and religion, but, SERIOUSLY, it would be far more affective if you took an objective viewpoint rather than using your own belief system to reaffirm itself.


As to Paul's response to the Nietzsche comment, all it does is show off his lack of understanding of general philosophy and Nietzsche's message. Next time, before criticizing others so thoroughly, and with so much pompousness, Paul should try doing some research first to actually understand what it is that he's argueing against. Whether or not he agrees with Nietzsche's teachings, at least make a better attempt to understand his works before disregarding them. Paul seems to be interested in philosphy and have a good knack for forming basic arguments, so he might actually really enjoy studying it more. Though he may not agree with what is being taught by certain people, I myself think that Nietzsche was shortsighted in many regards, it's still an enlightening experience that forces one to see the world differently.




While Paul may see no problem with the Christian teachings, many others do. Christianity is not the majority religion on Earth. I myself was born and raised Christian, and hold my religiong very deeply within me. Yet I have met many people who do not share my religion, and I have learned to accept them despite this. I guess that the biggest preblem I felt in Paul's arguments was his inability to even consider what position the commenters and viewers of his blog were coming from. He refused to acqueiesce on almost every point, and just when I'd think he was beginning to try and actually understand or at least accept an opposing view, he'd turn what he was saying into a cruel joke or deliberate offense.



In Paul's previous comment, he wrote that Jesus:

taught that we should engage the world and be salt and light to it. He taught that we should love and care for one another

I really wish that Paul would follow Jesus's teachings more carefully, and do his best to engage the world and care for others. To do so requires understanding and knowledge of views that aren't your own. I really wish that Paul would really make an effort to be more understanding. Understanding doesn't mean giving up your own beliefs, but it requires that you are willing to respect the beliefs of others.



As for the whole Jesus was wrong idea, I asked one of my friends, who is an atheist, about what she thougt the shirt meant, so that I could get a better viewpoint. She explained to me that she simply does not believe that Jesus existed, or that God exists, and that therefore, the theoretical Jesus figure was wrong in his preachings. According to her, God, Heaven, and an afterlife do not actually exist, much like how a Christian would not believe in the many gods of Hinduism or in the prophets of Islam. Thus, Jesus was wrong, because there is no afterlife, no god, etc. Yet the statement of, "Jesus was wrong" holds indiviual meaning to those who read it. Personally, I find it offensive. Then again, I have friends who are offended by the shirts that say, "Jesus is my homeboy,", "Got God?", sections of verse praising Jesus, God, or anything having explicitly to do with Christianity. I think that Paul took the statement on the shirt a little too far and a little too seriously, especially since, given by the color and font of the writing, it wasn’t meant to be a profound declaration read into that much.

Just, please, Paul, go out and read up on other religions and views if you really want to build a strong case. Otherwise you're just disgracing yourself and the religion that you meant to defend. And be less close minded, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

 
At 4/06/2007 11:52 PM, Blogger ephphatha said...

Mary, it is hard for me to know what to make of your post. On the one hand, I take it that you think Paul is somehow in the wrong for being harsh and demeaning. But on the other hand, your post seems pretty harsh and demeaning toward Paul. What am I to make of that? Is it okay to be harsh and demeaning or not?

 
At 4/07/2007 12:25 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Mary,

I'm not confident that you are really looking for a reply here and so I'm struggling with what to say or what not to say. It seems that your main points are about attitude and not about challenging my core ideas. To the former, I readily admit to suffering from some measure of egotistical pride. I am human, and it seems to be a universal human struggle to keep pride at bay, no matter how unwarranted that pride may be in any individual. I've also spent the last many years packing my mind full of scientific, historical, theological, and philosophical content, and (true or false) knowledge often brings certain unfortunate side effects -- knowledge puffs up, as St. Paul says. A case might even be made that to have a blog such as mine, which is driven by no social, business, or ministerial necessity, implies a certain amount of vanity on my part. However, I can't help thinking (as all studious people do) that I've got something to contribute, and enough of my readers have been kind enough to provide warrant for this assumption. But I'm sure I could get far more mileage with those I critique if I devoted as much energies to my tact and grace as to my arguments.

Apologies aside, advancing and deconstructing ideas is what I do here. To that end, allow me to now go beyond your character assessment of me and look at the claims and arguments you've made.

Paul felt the need to ... go on a mini rant about how narrow minded and ignorant most non-Christians are, using the movie and a piece of fabric as a focal point on which to force his views into the mainstream

I think you may be conflating my original post and my response to the anonymous commenter. My post was certainly not a "rant"; it was an exercise in thinking through the implications of the saying found on this T-shirt. It might have been much the same post (other than the start and end) had I seen the T-shirt on someone at the mall, or heard Rosie O'Donald make the statement. A rant is generally the bitter venting of emotion and is full of ad hominem attacks. Simply being in disagreement with my observations and reasoning does not warrant the claim that it is a "rant." By that standard, I might call most of Al Gore's speeches "rants."

Now, my response to the anonymous commenter may come closer to the definition of a rant. However, the tone of the comment certainly invited a less generous response than I might otherwise make, yet I tried to make some legitimate points in the process, though you have disagree with some.

I said: Detractors of Christianity are quite often foul mouthed. Why is it that anti-theism and cursing are so common?

You said: Obvious generalizations are being drawn in Paul's statement here. . . . Profanity is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of personal choice.


A "generalization" is when you take an example of something and apply it to an entire group. I did not suggest that all anti-theists use profanity, I simply commented on my observation that it is quite common. I cannot apologize for genuine observations I have made. It just is the case that in my exposure to atheists, I have again and again been struck by this fact, so much so that I have nearly blogged on it in the past. I simply took the opportunity to mention this point in my comments.

For a simple example of this truth, do the following: Go to Google and do an advanced search. Put in the profanity of your choice, perhaps the F-bomb, and then go down to the Domain field and enter this: debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com.
I picked this site, not because I know them to be more profane than others; on the contrary, these are a bright and professional group of atheists, some being ex-ministers. It only goes down hill from here when you start looking at blogs of young atheists. And the secular culture itself is quite profane in general, but I know many Christians and profanity is just not part of the general lingo.

I think your implication that profanity has no connection to belief systems is naïve. If there are no byproducts related to holding a belief, then there's not much weight to the belief in the first place. Christianity teaches that words matter and that we should keep our deeds, thoughts, as well as our lips clean. Atheism really has no doctrine at all, other than, perhaps, the rejection of religious truth claims. It only follows that you would expect a difference in behavior and speech patterns between the two groups, and in my experience (do you deny my experience?) it is the case.

Paul goes on and even has the gall to say that his argument had enough depth, reasoning, and sway to cause someone else to change their entire perspective and belief system.

Well, that's a bit of a stretch. All I meant to suggest was that in spite of the fact that there was reason to think that the slogan was an exercise in cognitive dissonance, the commenter still wanted to proudly display it. There was no attempt to engage the points I made regarding the saying, only a belligerent desire to affirm it. I would never be so naïve as to think that even the most bulletproof case against someone's entire worldview could cause them to discard it. People are just not that committed to logical consistency.

Regarding your issues over this comment: "This is just a blog. Why comment? Get over it!"

It looks to me like you completely misunderstood the gist of my point here. And yes, I was making a point with this comment. Remember that the commenter originally said, "get the %$#@ over it, it's a movie." My own point was to show the vacuity of his/her point. Indeed, it was the only argument that was even offered by this person, and it was the very one which contained the expletive. By making a reply in kind I was hoping to get across the idea that it is not the medium that is at issue (T-shirts, movies, blogs), but the ideas expressed within those mediums. If I cannot address ideas presented in mere movies, to which millions are exposed, then it is even more absurd to think that my own ideas are worthy of comment on a mere blog frequented by hundreds.

You have a right to your views and freedom of expression and religion, but, SERIOUSLY, it would be far more effective if you took an objective viewpoint rather than using your own belief system to reaffirm itself.

Why surrender what I actually believe to be true as I reason my way through this world? If Christianity provides me with lenses through which I might see the world more clearly, then why take off those glasses to see only a blur? You see, I wasn't always Christian; I ultimately came to a point of discovering that my vision was blurred and needed correction.

I think your mistake is thinking that my religion is simply a matter of preference and that I should be willing to try things out from other people's perspective. This isn't ice cream; this is metaphysical truth we're playing with. Let me help you understand better where I'm coming from. What if I said the following to you? "You have a right to your view on addition, but it would be far more effective if you took an objective viewpoint on it. Don't just dogmatically assert your belief that 2 + 2 = 4. Be willing to consider other points of view and not be so narrow minded."

I know it sounds narrow minded in our postmodern era to claim that what you believe is actually the truth, but everyone in reality believes themselves to be in the right. We're only "open minded" on the things which we haven't yet formed an opinion. I didn't just pick Christianity and now I'm trying to argue for that to everyone else; I argue for it because I think it's actually true and I use some of that rationale which convicts me of its truthfulness. I may be wrong about my religion, but I've got some pretty solid reasons to believe I'm on the right track and I can't just shake that off without rational justification.

I know there are others who disagree with me who think the same is true about their beliefs, but that is where the dialog begins. Let everyone put his beliefs out on the table and may the best (or truest) one win.

Regarding your comments about Nietzsche.

I'll have to beg to differ with you on my lack of desire to understand Nietzsche's ideas and the ideas of many other philosophical systems besides my own. I have spent a great deal of time attempting to understand the claims being made of others so that I can accurately address them. There's no honor in jousting with strawmen. Of course, it is a big world with a lot of history, so my exposure can only be so deep and broad. I measure my time carefully as to where I drink deeply. What I've learned of Neitzsche has offered enough intellectual showstoppers to discourage a major investment of time. However, if our culture comes to the point where it fawns over his memory (which may be happening), you can bet I'll make the time so that I can more fully engage that culture. It is the very reason that I expose myself to certain books, movies, and TV shows for which I would otherwise have no interest.

Other than these general comments, I have nothing more to say, since you did not take the time to actually point out where I had gone wrong in my thinking.

While Paul may see no problem with the Christian teachings, many others do. Christianity is not the majority religion on Earth.

Unfortunately, Christianity actually is the majority religion (though not if you count only classical Christians), however, this is not the point. Numbers mean nothing in the game of truth. I fully acknowledge that others take issue with my beliefs. Why else would I feel the need to advocate my beliefs on a blog like this if it were otherwise?

I have met many people who do not share my religion, and I have learned to accept them despite this.

Please note that this is a blog where I advocate and defend my Christian beliefs. What beliefs I "accept" here and how I deconstruct ideas is not related to the people who hold these beliefs or how I treat people in other venues. I have a number of non-Christian friends and family and I manage to get along with them. I strive to be egalitarian regarding people, but elitist regarding ideas.

the biggest problem I felt in Paul's arguments was his inability to even consider what position the commenters and viewers of his blog were coming from. He refused to acquiesce on almost every point

While I've been known to admit mistakes and concede a decent argument, the input thus far on this blog post has been a bit sparse. Again, I'll concede my own shortcoming in the area of tact, and perhaps I need the occasional scolding from those like you to keep me in check, but I can't be dishonest with myself and roll over where I believe there is no warrant. If you can identify for me where I have made a mental misstep, then I welcome your correction.

Personally, I would be more chastened if someone like Psiomniac, one of my regular atheist readers and commenters, were to tell me to mind my manners. He has earned that right by thoughtfully engaging my ideas and understanding what I am about here. He has seen me on my good and bad days. You, however, appear to be focused on a particular article, with your primary concern being my reaction to the most obscene and hollow comment I have thus far received on this blog.

just when I'd think he was beginning to try and actually understand or at least accept an opposing view, he'd turn what he was saying into a cruel joke or deliberate offense.

Trust me, if you were not so committed to rejecting my own point of view (that seems to be true from your writing anyway), you'd be using a term like "pithy" rather than claiming they are "cruel jokes." I think you're being a bit overly sensitive here. But I do see the points to which you refer and will consider in the future whether or not using such rhetorical jabs are beneficial.

Understanding doesn't mean giving up your own beliefs, but it requires that you are willing to respect the beliefs of others.

This sounds good to some extent, but the problem usually surfaces when we clarify what it means to "respect the beliefs" of others. In our present culture this tends to mean that you consider their beliefs as equally valid to your own -- kind of like saying I like strawberry ice cream and you like chocolate, but that's okay because its all about personal preferences. That's not what Christianity is about and that's not what we do here on Pensées. It's not just a forum where we all share our beliefs and give positive affirmation to each other. This is a marketplace of ideas where we mix it up. What's respected here are well-reasoned ideas and intellectual honesty.

As for the whole Jesus was wrong idea, I asked one of my friends, who is an atheist, about what she thought the shirt meant, so that I could get a better viewpoint. She explained to me that she simply does not believe that Jesus existed, or that God exists, and that therefore, the theoretical Jesus figure was wrong in his preachings.

And finally, we come to an engagement of my original idea. I think I understand what this atheist is trying to say, but it simply convicts the original slogan on the T-shirt. He's saying that those ideas expressed in that fictional Bible, which were put into the mouth of the fictional Jesus, are simply wrong. I can buy that sentiment, but then shouldn't the saying be, "The Bible is wrong," or "The founders of Christianity were wrong," or something like that? I know language is imprecise in our culture and people make token statements to express other general beliefs, but I reserve the right to deal with statements at their most precise face value. Part of the reason that people are so mushy in their thinking and imagine that they are in agreement with each other more often than they really are is exactly because they simply use words and phrases as empty containers into which they can pour the contents of their own choosing. This is one of the reasons why many people think that the world is worshipping the same "god." They are more focused on our unity in the word rather than the irreconcilable meanings we ascribe to it.

I think that Paul took the statement on the shirt a little too far and a little too seriously, especially since, given by the color and font of the writing, it wasn’t meant to be a profound declaration read into that much.

Again, ideas are what I do. My post was a thought exercise more than a psychoanalysis of what the moviemakers were hoping to accomplish. However, I don't think you should underestimate the motives and savvy of our modern media. And if you wanted to market your idea in the broadest way, would you package it in swastikas and pentagrams? Hemlock goes down best in a cup of wine.

Just, please, Paul, go out and read up on other religions and views if you really want to build a strong case.

Again, I have done quite a bit of reading. You would be astounded at how much time I've expended in study since becoming a Christian (not that I was idle regarding religion before). And I was not always a Christian; I once held to many of the views against which I now write. If you can tell me where my case has been weak on this or any other post, then you are welcome to join the conversation, otherwise let's dispense with the generalities and assumptions about my ignorance.

And be less close minded, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

When people call someone "closed minded" they often simply mean "you are wrong and you ought to open your mind to my view." I've never heard an atheist or a member of the far-left tell another of their kind that their mind is too closed. Generally, if someone is in agreement with you, no matter how sloppily they've arrived at your position, then they get a pass where this statement is concerned. Your comments make it sound as though you are a Christian, so you might say that you are a counter-example here, i.e., one Christian telling another to be more open minded. However, if you're finding Nietzsche -- someone who opposed the Christian worldview on almost every front -- to be edifying reading, then perhaps you'll be open minded enough to understand why I might be suspicious of your orthodoxy.

Perhaps what you really mean is that I ought to more tactfully deal with other people's viewpoints, such as trying them on for the sake of argument and then gently asking leading question -- Socratic style. I can buy that, and sometimes I do it, most often when I deal with people in person. I shall strive to do so more often.

And finally, regarding your scriptural quote, loving your neighbor does not mean affirming their mistaken ideas. Sometimes the most loving thing to do can also be the most painful. If you have children (who aren't spoiled), then you begin to understand what I am saying. We first must come to terms with what the word "love" means in the biblical sense before we can disqualify any act as unloving. Unfortunately, the word has come to mean simply being polite, affirming, and having warm emotional feelings toward someone.

Let us remember that Jesus not only spoke about love, but He also called people blind guides, vipers, rotting tombs, and sons of hell. This certainly seems ungracious, unless we develop a more robust understanding of what it means to love people. Biblical "love" must make room for the insistence that we should be "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God" (2Co 10:5), and that Christian ambassadors should "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2Ti 4:2). Of course, it also says this should be done "with great patience and instruction," and in that regard I am confident that I do not measure up to the perfect standard of Christ.

 
At 8/22/2007 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8/22/2007 8:53 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Sorry to have to remove your comment, Mr. Anonymous from Dayton Ohio. If your comments were not just emoting and chest pounding, and you'd really like a reply (which can easily be made), then try again without the heavy profanity. Oh, and thanks for affirming my points about atheism, anonymity, and profanity. Nice ambassador, dude!

 
At 9/17/2007 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ive got nothing lingustictly profound or wordy to add...

Just think the T-shirt is cool and cant wait to wear it in public. Its unfortunate that a statement such as the shirts statement can evoke such a response. Wars were started over less .. When I am dead maybe to my surprise my T-shirt will then say Jesus was right. until then I will stick with this T.

 
At 9/17/2007 11:34 AM, Anonymous john the blasphemous said...

DARE - someone to wear this T to Israel. Or maybe one that says "Muhammed was Wrong" to Iraq.

Lets give it to the soldiers..

Kill. Buy. Go Team America!

 
At 9/17/2007 2:10 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Anon,

"It's unfortunate that a statement such as the shirt's statement can evoke such a response."

And just why would you want to wear this thing out in public unless you thought it was meaningful in some way? And if meaningful, then why should no one have a reaction to it? If those like myself believe that Jesus is the pivot on which history turns, then why should we not have some reaction to this? What might your reaction be if I wore a t-shirt saying, "I think your worldview is a fiction?" I think it is a bit arrogant to assume that you could fly such a banner before all the people in your school and local mall and expect they just choke it down.

In any case, it's not like my "response" was a call to arms. I'm just thinking through a quote as though the one making it were serious. Curious how extreme the reactions have been to my statements!

John,

You make an interesting point (intentionally or not). I think it is instructive to point out that skeptics have little bodily injury to fear when voicing even the most outlandish slanders against Christianity — a freedom not mirrored in regard to competing religions like Islam.

The fact that Bill Maher, George Carlin, and Richard Dawkins are still alive and kicking (without bodyguards) is a testimony to the patience and tolerance of Christianity. However, if we want to fuss and debate a little, I think we are due at least that.

 
At 10/01/2007 1:15 PM, Anonymous Ernest Garrison said...

"I have spent a great deal of time attempting to understand the claims being made of others so that I can accurately address them."

You fail.

But seriously... The idea is that if you do not explicitly believe in the Bible as the unadulterated word of god then you believe that Jesus was at least partially wrong.

The main deal is, it's an abrasive shirt and people that enjoy stirring the pot and/or bursting the protective thought-bubbles of others therefore enjoy the shirt.

 
At 10/01/2007 9:36 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Ernest,

Said: You fail.

Oh, you've got me all summarized and assessed just that quick. Aren't you the clever boy! [Visitor tracking is rather handy.] But I am impressed that you read at least as much as you did to find that one sentence to respond to.

But seriously... The idea is that if you do not explicitly believe in the Bible as the unadulterated word of god then you believe that Jesus was at least partially wrong.

So, just what statements do you believe that Jesus actually said that are wrong?

The main deal is, it's an abrasive shirt and people that enjoy stirring the pot and/or bursting the protective thought-bubbles of others therefore enjoy the shirt.

So you enjoy being abrasive and disabusing people of their cherished beliefs. How very . . . tolerant of you. And here I thought we Christians had cornered the offensive market. Seems to me that there are better ways to open the door to genuine dialog. But, I know, being contrary is much more fun.

 
At 11/21/2007 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People, this is a movie. Who the hell cares about "what this shirt really means." I love this shirt!

 
At 11/21/2007 8:13 PM, Blogger Paul said...

So, just what is it you love about the shirt if its meaning is irrelevant? If it has no meaning, then it may just as well say, "Slurm glimph dorflink," and you could say, "I love those sounds!"

 
At 12/07/2007 10:21 AM, Anonymous Skyler H. said...

Cafepress has these shirts, and if you like eBay, I've seen them there, too. Too bad they don't have them in black. ;)

I agree with Ernest; this shirt is meant to cause controversy, to see how many people it can effect. I'd say life is pointless if you can't get some sort of emotion from people out of your actions.

Paul, I understand your dislike for the shirt, and I definitely respect your arguments, but if you truly didn't want to make this "Jesus was wrong" "movement" (if you'd like to call it that), then you should have turned from it and not given it more notice. In fact, you're probably doing more harm to Christianity than good by posting this blog. Keep it up, I say.

I'll conclude my comment here with some quotes by Nietzsche that I admire.

"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."

"There is not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving any of it away to imaginary beings."

 
At 12/08/2007 11:37 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Skyler,

My thanks for a reasonably civil post, but I hope you'll not think that I'm doing "more harm to Christianity" by taking exception with a couple of things. Christians are often accused of abdicating the mind in their pursuit of "fairytales." It is a no-win situation if we are also seen in a bad light for raising rational arguments in our own defense.

"I agree with Ernest; this shirt is meant to cause controversy, to see how many people it can effect. I'd say life is pointless if you can't get some sort of emotion from people out of your actions."

This is a rather odd life-philosophy and says something quite disturbing about you. Since you expect that the reaction will be negative, you seem to be saying that life is pointless if you can't find ways to do things to insult and oppose people. One might respect a philosophy that says to "stand up for truth whatever the cost," but yours seems less about the principle and more about rattling cages.

Now about those Nietzsche quotes. . .

"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."

This actually makes the case for one of my points. This is a marvelous summary of relativism, meaning that there is no "right" or "true." Now, given that fact, exactly how does this t-shirt appeal to a devotee of Nietzsche, since it is both making its own truth claim and rebuking the truth claims of another? Nietzsche's point implies that Christianity — its doctrines and moralities — is as true as any other belief system. So, given that there is no "right," in what way can Jesus possibly be "wrong?" To wear the t-shirt is to be a poster child for irony.

"There is not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving any of it away to imaginary beings."

Besides having a snoot full of arguments for the existence of the "imaginary beings" to which I'm sure he refers, I would say that this is another example of Nietzsche making value judgments to which his philosophy does not entitle him. If I were able, I would begin by asking him, "Just what is goodness if not the preferences of your own mind?"

 
At 10/10/2008 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul said: And just why would you want to wear this thing out in public unless you thought it was meaningful in some way?

Reply:

Who cares? It's funny.
And Jesus was wrong.

 
At 10/11/2008 10:25 AM, Blogger Paul said...

That pretty much covers it for much of this generation: Who cares about reason? Who cares about why we do what we do? Who cares about the truth of the matter? I just want to do certain things because they are fun or rebellious. Period.

 
At 12/09/2008 7:30 PM, Anonymous Jose Carlos Salomao said...

I have a t shirt just like that! And I love it. Sometimes some christian comes along and bugs me but it is all rigth. I dont wear it because I'm NOT "anti-jesus", i wear it because i am änti"people who says i am going to a BAD place after i die if i use a condom or people who says that two men (or women) cant have the same loves as a man+woman and i am real against people that prefers another child in misery and not a abortion
Cheers

 
At 12/18/2008 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think that 'cursing' is really bad, it's just words.

and as for the whole is god real or not, who cares? I think it's rare that a christian converts and atheist or an atheist convinces a christian that god isn't real. so really, writing out long rants about it is a waste of time.

and this is anymonmous because i don't have an account.

ps - that movie was pretty funny.

 
At 12/18/2008 10:29 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I think I'll stop trying to respond to these comments, since none of them seem intended as dialog starters and (how shall I say this delicately) they seem to come from a different sort of audience than I enjoy with my other posts. This particular post of mine is a strange sort of sinkhole.

If future commenters would like me to offer a reply, and intend to at least read it, then please make that clear. Also, please use a name (any name) with your post so I'll have something to reply to. You may do this by selecting "Name/URL" instead of "Anonymous" as your identity. You will then be able to choose a name, and you don't have to supply a URL or any other personal data.

 
At 12/19/2008 8:21 PM, Anonymous logan huntington said...

i'm sorry i couldn't offer you a long, pointless diatribe about a SHIRT.

it's a shirt, just that. some people seem to need to make up reasons for why things are. it's just a shirt for those who wish to be rebellious. don't get all worked up about it. chill.

 
At 2/03/2009 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nietzsche's Ideas of "Jesus was Wrong" and "God is Dead" and things like that were not in an atheistic perspective, but that he truly believed that our society has outgrown Christianity...The Christian church just doesn't accurately represent the life of Christ,and he goes further to say that the church has distorted his teachings. He said that Christianity has become so worldly that It's just a parody of itself.
Thus,"death of God".

christian society killed him.

My name is John, I'm 16
I was a "Christian" until recently I am still wondering what the fuck life is about and I'm not sure what my purpose is.
Maybe I'll find the faith to accept Jesus again.

Johnthepiratexxx@aol.com
maybe we can discuss this more.

 
At 2/04/2009 12:56 PM, Blogger Paul said...

John,

I hear what you are saying about Nietzsche seeing the death of God as a descent into which mankind has fallen. However, it is certainly within an atheistic perspective that he makes his assessment. One must first believe that God is a societal construction (not real) before one may say that society has dispatched Him. Martin Luther was one who thought that the church had strayed, but rather than suggesting that God was dead and the church obsolete, he sought to restore and reform it.

As to the claim that the church has distorted the teachings of Christ, I would first respond by asking what we are to use as the measure of comparison to determine if the church has strayed. Unfortunately for the skeptic, love it or hate it, the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers represent the earliest documentation of the life and teachings of Jesus. And against that measure, the foundational doctrines of the modern church compares favorably.

John, I'd love to speak further with you, since you seem to have a truly "open mind" at this point. It is a rare thing in life to find anyone who genuinely seeks truth rather than some means of justifying his own preferences and presuppositions. And, I was also in a place very similar to you at your age. Perhaps a private conversation would be best. Is that "xxx" in your email address for spam-avoidance or is that your actual, full email address? I can shoot you an email if you like with some opening thoughts.

 
At 4/20/2009 1:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no God.

 
At 5/24/2009 3:25 PM, Anonymous Lewis Adam Mills said...

The statement on the t-shirt had me wondering for a while. However, my conclusions are that the t-shirt slogan does not contradict nihilist/Nietzschist philosophy. By stating that something was wrong does not that there is a 'right'. This is the basis of nihilist thought. To quote Bob Dylan 'good and evil are just invented by people in scenes'. I think the t-shirt is condemning the arrogance of Jesus's (whatever perception of him you wish to include) assumption of having the absolute answers to morality and life. To which I also concur that Jesus was wrong, and anyone who claims to possess absolute, unchanging, truths is also wrong.

Lewis (lam43@le.ac.uk)

 
At 5/24/2009 4:44 PM, Blogger John Bryden said...

Mr Mills

I'm curious to know on what occasion Jesus gave "absolute answers to morality and life". He often spoke in parables, which is a form of teaching that tends to generate open-ended answers...

 
At 5/26/2009 1:15 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Lewis,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, but I must fundamentally disagree with your assessment.

You say, "stating that something was wrong does not [imply] that there is a 'right'."

To quote C.S. Lewis, "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line."

How can we call Jesus (or anything He said) "wrong" unless we first have at least some hint as to what the objective truth is? And if there is not even such a thing as objective truth, then any one thing is just as true as anything else. The only differentiation would then be preference. If truth, as well as good and evil, are just invented by people, then the only thing that makes sense to emblazon on such a t-shirt would be, "I don't like what Jesus said."

As to the idea that it is arrogant for Jesus to claim absolute knowledge about life and morality, I would have to agree if He were just another man (like the Buddha) who was building theology out of His own mystical experiences. But if Jesus is who He claimed to be, then He's the only one who can say anything with absolute certainty!

I think one of the major issues is whether or not Jesus really was what He said He was and what His followers recorded of Him. If this is not the case, then perhaps Jesus wasn't just "wrong"; perhaps He was downright wicked. As I mention in my original post, it is interesting that almost nobody goes in that direction with Jesus. Of course, if they did we'd circle right back to the question, "Wicked by what measure?"

 
At 5/26/2009 1:16 PM, Blogger Paul said...

John,

I often find complete secularists (as I assume Lewis to be) to take my Scriptures in much the same way that I do: at face value. Lewis implies that he understands what Jesus was saying, but he just doesn't buy it. It's pretty hard to mistake the hard edge of absolute claim to knowledge that Jesus offered, as when He says things like "I am the truth," or begins many of his statements with "verily, verily" (more literally, "Amen, Amen"). It would certainly be interesting to hear Lewis's response to your question with his own observations from Scripture, though.

 
At 5/26/2009 7:27 PM, Blogger John Bryden said...

Paul

Mostly I'm curious to know whether Lewis' assertions about Jesus are based on reading the Gospels or just a generalized perception. It's difficult for me to imagine that an attentive reader of the Gospels would charge Jesus with "arrogance". Will not elaborate further for now.

 
At 5/27/2009 11:44 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Yeah, most people just pick up that Jesus was a pretty good guy. But then again, most people just go by information they've gleaned from those who like to portray Jesus as nothing more than a loving, tolerant, do-gooder.

This "Jesus Was Wrong" thing is interesting to me because it is a less common response. Most of the radical skeptics either want to deny His existence or just deny that history can tell us anything confidently about Him. Seems like you've got to first assume the words He uttered were actually His before you could take offense with them. And He did say some rather arrogant things if He was not, in fact, divine.

Unfortunately, I don't think Lewis will be coming back to answer which particular verses he finds offensive. So far on this blog post no one has made a return visit after launching their initial salvo. This has been a weird little corner of the blog, and I'm surprised you managed to find it to join the party :) It's actually one of the most frequently searched items.

 
At 7/04/2009 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus said:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, or the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me."



JESUS WAS WRONG

 
At 7/06/2009 8:51 PM, Blogger Paul said...

So, are you affirming that Jesus actually said these things?

 
At 7/12/2009 11:17 AM, Anonymous Mihajlo said...

Hello to all debaters.
First off all I want to express my perception for the movie which is far from being "rather drab".
Shortly: The movie has an excellent made idea with a "like a documentary" deep social-psychological analyses of the characters,a lot of deliberately studied scenes and on the other hand a lot of spontaneous but well played scenes with seriously good acting despite the fact that the movie should be a comedy and despite the fact that it was acclaimed by the Academy which is = "you won't like it."
About your point of view for the character in the movie who wears "Jesus was wrong" t-shirt:
As you notice he is into Nietzsche's philosophy and in some of the first scenes you can see that he's reading Nietzsche's brilliant "Thus spoke Zarathrustra" where Nietzsche speaks for the death of God and the procreation of the Overman or Overhuman.
In those scenes the author of the movie primary brings out the radical Nietzsche's idea that God/Jesus or Alah/Mohamed whatever is dead (which could mean that its ideas are dead),after which the author brings his less radical idea with the t-shirt that They might be wrong.
But this gives you a whole new idea for yourself to start thinking out of the religious frames and boundaries in order to become a self-mastered individual who will achieve his full power in accordance with the great power of the Universe.
Anyway I think that you couldn't see the full power of the movie and its great message after you saw the scene with the "Jesus was wrong" t-shirt:)
p.s. My apologies for my humble English and the impossibility to bring out my full idea about your point of view.
All the best

 
At 5/09/2011 5:59 PM, Anonymous Kaitlyn said...

So I read your posts and blah blah blah. So since I love George Carlin's religion skit, don't believe in god Jesus or an afterlife I have a dirty mouth am extremely narrow minded and basically pound my chest while failing to get my point across.Oh yeah! I'm also so cowardly that I won't even leave my name. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.... Well than thank the giant spaghetti monster someone finally let me know!

 
At 10/30/2011 11:05 AM, Blogger Politicalcynic said...

"The fact that Bill Maher, George Carlin, and Richard Dawkins are still alive and kicking (without bodyguards) is a testimony to the patience and tolerance of Christianity." - Paul
=Allowing the opposing view to survive is generous.

"What else is love but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives, acts and experiences otherwise than we do?" - Nietzsche
="Love your enemies." - Christ

Which sheds some light on the statement,
"In truth,there was only one christian and he died on the cross." - Nietzsche

 
At 10/08/2012 7:24 AM, Blogger Sminto Antony aka sÅm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/25/2015 11:09 AM, Blogger joe cornfield said...

http://www.zazzle.com/i_love_jesus_but_i_cuss_a_little_t_shirt-235373093937448320

 

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