I am an atheist. I am an atheist who is obsessed with religion. Maybe it’s my catholic upbringing or something, but I have a very large chip on my shoulder about organized religion–especially Christianity. You will likely see many posts in this blog on the subject. But today I want to talk about Jesus. Because in addition to being obsessed with religion, I am an atheist who loves Jesus. No, I don’t worship the dude. And no I don’t think he’s the son of God or a death-defying superhero with convenient cocktail-related magic powers. But I do think he is the most important moral visionary the world has ever known as well as The Most Misunderstood Guy in History.
No one’s message of tolerance and unconditional love has been so perverted for so long and by so many as this man’s. Or to paraphrase from one of my favorite Woody Allen films, If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what people were doing in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.
Here is what Jesus preached:
Love one another.
Not just your tribe, not just your family. But EVERYONE. Love the Jews and the Greeks, men and women, even lepers and prostitutes. Love them all.
Remember, the world Jesus knew did not embrace the concept of universal love. It was largely a tribal world of gross intolerance toward others. His message was an outright challenge to tribalism, as well as being an inherently anti-establishment assertion of radical equality before the eyes of God.
But somewhere along the line, Jesus’s universal love meme got perverted into its exact opposite. Love one anothe became Hate fags.
Why, you ask Well let’s investigate.
A multitude of gospels (just a fancy term for good news) were produced in the hundred or so years following the death of Jesus, but only four gospels were ultimately canonized: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Their writings about Jesus became the official version and the countless others, many of which overtly contradicted these versions, were cast aside. From that point on, any Christian group that dared question its authority was trampled under the growing juggernaut of the official Christian Church.
Armed with the promise of universal love and drawing from the inherent charisma of Jesus himself, this movement grew to gargantuan proportions. And that’s when the trouble began.
Because the meme was now a memeplex (or complex of memes). And like a meme, a memeplex has no purpose but to replicate. No matter how philosophically or logically inconsistent, no matter how antithetical to Jesus’ original intent, the memeplex thrives when it replicates well. What are some of the strategies the memeplex evolved to enhance replication?
1)Growing its wealth through tithing
2)Establishing a monopoly on important social rituals like marriages, births and funerals
3)Opening schools to promote indoctrination
4)Codifying rules over basic human urges like sex and food
5)Insinuating itself into government
Do any of these strategies bear any resemblance to the original teachings of Jesus? No. But they sure do promote the survival of the Church, which is the very definition of an effectively replicating memeplex.
The true Jesus meme–love one another–was subordinated to an ever-growing list of rules and regulations that were used by priests to maintain the boundaries of the Church while exerting enormous control over their subjects.
Thomas Jefferson tried to rescue Jesus and his universal love meme by editing out the “artificial vestments” of the New Testament, leaving only the “pure principles.” And in fact, the Jefferson Bible, as it has come to be called, is a wonderful read.
But it’s a terrible meme It did not replicate. Despite Jefferson’s eloquent righteousness, the Church endured in all its schismatizing glory and the original message of Jesus remains buried under that terrible weight to this day.
But is there hope for the universal love meme? Is there a way to defeat the Church and rescue the message?
I wish I could conclude this post with an answer to that question but in all honesty I can not. All I know is that in the name of a man who believed in universal love, a terrible theocracy of hate is growing.
So I ask you, dear readers, to help me find a way to break the juggernaut of Christianity and promote the forgotten “pure principles” that originally gave rise to it. Send me your suggestions. I’m serious. This is my life’s mission.