Jesusism

Jesusism

Religion has overwhelming influence on human history. Evidence of religious direction can be seen in the earliest recorded times, be it shamans leading tribes through the wilderness to priests giving divine blessing to monarchs. The directions given by these conduits of the divine can be interpreted as a teacher imparting wisdom on students; this interpretation is reinforced by how often divine figures are given paternalistic or maternalistic titles and representation. 

Foremost in religious influence in the modern Western world is Christianity.  What began as an underground preaching spreading the worldview of a carpenter from Bethlehem became an institution that entire governments would lean their legitimacy on. Devastating conflict would span Europe, Northern Africa and the Levant for centuries based on the interpretation of directions from Jesus.

Considering that the outlook of Jesus was one that promoted peace, tolerance and reconciliation, this seems abnormal; but one must keep in mind that religion can be used as a tool by secular rulers to increase their temporal power by backing their ambition with perceived divine guidance. But what if the teachings of Jesus were not perceived through the lens of Christ the Redeemer, given authority by God? What if the teachings were perceived through the lens of Jesus the Carpenter, building a framework for humanity?

Philosophy and religion share many characteristics. Both shape how a person perceives the world around them and how a person perceives themselves. Both can serve as a foundation for a nation or a government. Both have a founding figure in their genesis. But there is a very strong distinction that separates religion and philosophy; religions generally have a divine judge of some kind, whereas philosophies generally do not. Simply put, religion is a philosophy with a judge. 

So how would Jesus be interpreted if the pretense of divinity was stripped from his teachings? Thomas Jefferson had that idea. Taking a razor blade to the King James bible, Jefferson patched together The Philosophy of Jesus of NazarethDiscarding most references to divinity and all instances of miracles, Jefferson attempted to show a secular interpretation that could be adopted by anyone of any creed or religion. One could reasonably argue that altering the bible this way could be heresy, but when one takes into account the multiple historical alterations to the bible such as the Council of Nicaea and inevitable translation errors, it is absurd to get hung up on what are essentially magic tricks.

The virtues promoted by Jesus - forgiveness, empathy, helping the poor, the common good - do not inherently require a divine power. But the threat of divine retribution may have been necessary to cow those who would not adopt these virtues of their own volition. After all, religion is one level of the process of taming a person to live in a society alongside family and government. However, the age that we live in has governments much more able to clamp down destructive behavior.

The philosophy of Jesus has influenced a titanic amount of philosophers that came after him, and this influence should be recognized. If references to divinity were substituted with references to nature, his teachings could and should be taught in the same regard as Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Rousseau. 

 

 

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