Where I’m coming from

As someone who never actually identified with religion but grew up with basic understandings of it, I actually felt intimidation when encountering a Christian who started to speak Bible-ese to me.  Between that and the selfishness I had encountered while having worked with a handful of Christians and having purchasing my house from an old couple who were in the religious bookmark business who tried to scam $1000 out of me, I came upon a need to understand what all this God and Jesus stuff really was about.  An opportunity arose, an invitation from a seemingly nice girl I had played volleyball with on a couple of occasions, and I dove in.

The community aspect was great!  The people were friendly.  And I had no trouble fitting in, even though I talked of the concepts shared in the sermons in a secular way.  I actually kind of miss the community aspect.

I went to one of the men’s meetings and realized that a lot of the guys who were the most serious about Christianity were ones who actually utilized it to pull themselves out of bad situations such as substance abuse.  There are definitely teachings in the Bible that are great for helping people set boundaries in their life to separate themselves from their troubles, and the church is already set up as a support system.

I also realized that there were some clear holes in some of the teachings.  Most memorably in a sermon about fulfilled prophesy in the Bible, the idea of self-fulfilling prophesy was not even mentioned.  Naturally, I asked questions.  I did my best to listen thoughtfully.  I wanted to understand the whole deal to the best of my abilities.  I came out with a good handle on things, especially having been so receptive to learning and plowing through the New Testament in a very short time span.  It is a lot to take in, and I now understand why people end up clinging to a more basic understanding of Biblical ideas, namely the ‘rules’ to live by.

I focused more on understanding what Jesus was really all about.  I came in under the belief that Jesus was as much God as any one of us.  From my understanding, man was created in the image of God.  The definition of “image” is “exact likeness”.  What that says to me is that we are all one in the same as God.  Treat your neighbour as yourself … do to others as you’d have them do to you … makes sense to me.  Jesus referred to himself as “son of man”, which fit that idea too.  We are all children of mankind.  We all have the same potential to do what Jesus did.

From that viewpoint, I think I came to a pretty decent grasp of it all.  I’m no longer intimidated by Christians, and I keep an awareness of techniques that are explored within the Bible which I feel have made a positive impact in my life.  I also see a need to improve the angle from which the Bible is presented.  This is where the inspiration for this blog came from.

As a guy I work with says something along the lines of – what’s the point of Christianity if all you need to do is accept Jesus to be forgiven and go to Heaven?  I’ll just do it when I’m about to die.

Is Christianity missing the moral of the story?

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47 Responses to Where I’m coming from

  1. “What that says to me is that we are all one in the same as God. Treat your neighbour as yourself … do to others as you’d have them do to you … makes sense to me. Jesus referred to himself as “son of man”, which fit that idea too. We are all children of mankind. We all have the same potential to do what Jesus did.”

    This has become my redefined spiritual philosophy. I think the bible has a great deal more to reveal on this philosophy that what has been taught in doctrines, and seemingly like you, I wonder if the bible can’t be presented with a different angle.
    I found your comments on Chialphagirl’s blog interesting and followed back. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your posts, and the commentary with them.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      It’s great connecting with people who embrace the middle ground between beliefs. I think it is important to embrace the culture of religion, much in the same way we embrace cultures from physical areas. Everyone has something that can be learned from.

      I took a quick glance at your blog and it looks like it will be up my alley too, I look forward to checking out your writings!

  2. Arkenaten says:

    Since day ne I have struggled to make head or tail of your beliefs…or no beliefs.
    Are you, in effect a deist, Jason? And do you think there is no direct connection between Jesus and Yahweh…that he was merely a prophet?

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Ark, I’ll take that as the highest compliment! Jesus seemed to me to be a guy who knew the OT inside and out and was aware of the societal troubles associated with the belief at the time. He seemed to want to shift the way people understood things to a more humanitarian view, and did what he did in order to lock the ideas into peoples’ heads.

      So no, not really much connection between Jesus and Yahweh other than as a reference point, and not necessarily even a prophet either.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Oh, and I thought of another benefit of religion – it provides a base morality for those who have difficulty with more abstract ideas like cause and effect. I have heard that it has been proven that people learn more effectively when they are able to connect understandings with a story.

      Trouble is, there are God-sized holes in the story that result in the belief issues that you battle against. My aim is to fill those holes with understandings based in reality.

  3. Arkenaten says:

    So what do you make of the view that the Pentateuch is all fiction?
    And do you think Jesus was aware of this?

    • jasonjshaw says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus believed it to be fiction. He seemed to know it well enough that he probably saw a lot of the conflicting issues in it that are seen today, but he knew he had to work from it as that was what people best connected with at the time.

      • Arkenaten says:

        And now the biggie…
        How do you react to the distinct and ever growing possibility that Jesus was a narrative construct?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Ever growing? That viewpoint just seems to be the easiest one to take, right alongside the view that “God did it” explains everything. The story about the boy who cried wolf is a narrative construct, does that mean the idea taught in the story is of no significance?

      • Arkenaten says:

        That is not what I am saying.
        If it turns out that the Jesus of the bible is fictional how will that influence your worldview.
        Let’s be honest nothing he did or said or taught was in any way original.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        It was original compared to what was in the OT. You have to keep locational reference in mind.

        If it turns out that the Bible is proven to be a work of fiction, I think that only makes it more impressive of a piece of literature – to hold such wide influence as it does with no historical basis.

      • Arkenaten says:

        So how would you personally feel knowing your worldview is based on a fictional character?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        It doesn’t matter much to me personally, it’s a viewpoint I’m working from to try to help those who think “God did it” understand reality a bit better. If it’s proven to the point of outright acceptance, then I can spend my time finding other things to do rather than this blog.

      • Arkenaten says:

        How many people do you think you have influenced re: the Godidit thing?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Beats me, I have a few people following the blog and I have engaged in dialogue with more than a handful, it’s enough for me to continue working on it.

      • Arkenaten says:

        This sounds like an odd mission, for any given value of odd, of course.What is the motivation behind it?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Honestly, I didn’t expect to find any audience with it. I just wanted to have my simplification of Christianity online in hopes that it might be of use to someone at some point. What’s kept me going is the connection with others and exploring my own views to see if they do make any sense and to build on my understandings.

        I like the community aspect, much as i did when I was attending church. At least here there are more interesting, varying viewpoints to explore and connect with.

      • Arkenaten says:

        But it cannot be referred to as Christianity, surely?
        Christianity is emphatic that Jesus is divine and rose from the dead and went to heaven.
        The resurrection is what makes Christianity.

        Perhaps you are merely a Jesusite?
        You don’t believe in the divinity of the character do you?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        A word is a word. Its definition is shaped by its use and understanding. The whole idea is to connect those who believe in the supernatural with a more realistic view, not to pander to those who already hold such a view.

      • Arkenaten says:

        So, effectively, you are touting your blog at believers in the supernatural, yes?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I am working from the Christian viewpoint, yes.

      • Arkenaten says:

        But do you believe in the supernatural or are you trying to
        draw folk away from this to a normal worldview

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I do not believe in the supernatural but I believe in the usefulness of Jesus’ teachings when approached metaphorically. I am seeking to bring increasing connection between the two worldviews.

      • Arkenaten says:

        But Jesus taught the supernatural.
        He also demonstrated it…waking on water, water into whine. coming back from the dead.
        I mean, as far as supernatural goes the bible is even better than a Marvel comic and the central character is a colossus.
        How do separate the man from the myth as it were?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        And that supernatural can come out of human embellishment through the sharing of stories.

        My prime example comes from the baseball world. The most legendary of all characters in baseball, Babe Ruth. Watch the movie “The Babe” and then fact check it. Even in an era of literacy, a historical person’s legend is able to grow beyond reality.

        It seems to be a reasonable possibility to consider that the story of Jesus could have evolved in a similar way.

      • Arkenaten says:

        What you seem to be attempting to do is get across a message to Christians, yes? that it is all right to believe in Jesus, the schmaltzy stories of helping lepers and good Samaritans and chucking out the moneylenders etc but to convince them that he was nothing but an ordinary bloke and all that walking on water stuff is crap, so just hang on to the ethics etc and ditch the voodoo.

        And just how the hell do you propose to do that?
        I read some of our interaction on another post of yours with a Christian.

        Really, what’s the point Jason?

        Jesus without the voodoo is just not Jesus and take this away and you have no Christian.
        Who is going to buy this? And why would they want to?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Connecting Christians with an understanding based in reality, connecting non-Christians with an understanding of the concepts Jesus presents that leads Christians to believe in the story.

        I can sympathize with your viewpoint as it is a challenge to view the story of Jesus and his teachings from a viewpoint embracing the humanity involved in the telling of the story and connecting the supernatural elements into metaphors that connect with reality. When I chose to learn about Christianity, I had no choice but to either do this or write it off as silly nonsense. I chose the former, and was surprised as to how it actually can be connected to earthly concepts.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Ah, so now I see.I think..
        You did not accept that it was silly nonsense.

        You should have accepted it was silly nonsense. Have you never read the gospels?
        Once you take out the crap all that’s left is the smell and it is unpleasant and unsubstantial.

        However, this position seems merely a stop gap to ditching it altogether.

        You are not going to convince an atheist of anything, most are former Christians in the first place and ”significant others”, Jews, Muslims already believe he was simply a man and or a prophet.

        And if you can get through to Christians then why the hell must they hang on to anything about Jesus?

        They will become deists or atheists.

        Once again, I ask what is the real motivation behind this?
        What is it that perhaps you have not yet come to terms with?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        You are aware that Jesus promotes connection throughout humanity, especially with those who have been marginalized? That concept alone seems rather substantial itself. I would suggest to you another read through of the NT with the focus on understanding the concepts that people connect with leading them to believe it is true. It seems like you have only read it with its destruction in mind.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Secular Humanism does a much better and more thorough job.

        Have you considered bringing your worldview up to date rather than wallow in a first century rabbi who may or may not have even existed?

        Are you actually trying to ‘save’ someone in particular from fundamentalism with this approach?

        Is there more of a personal angle in this for you?

        If so, then this is a noble quest and I wish you all the luck.
        If this is more abstract then unless you have some unresolved Christian issues I would venture to say you are wasting your time and energy on a fruitless endeavour.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Are there any common stories that allow people to connect with the ideas of secular humanism?

        It is the personal angle in that understanding some of the concepts presented in Christianity was helpful to me. Belief of Jesus as God was not required for it to be helpful. Needless to say I feel this uncommon angle has a usefulness to it. If I feel I am wasting my time, I will move on to other things.

      • Arkenaten says:

        What personal angle?

        Are you saying you require stories to get across a message of goodwill?
        Or ethical behavior or morality?

        How do you pick and choose?

        Turn the other cheek, but leave out cursing the fig tree because we don’t want to upset the applecart.

        Help old folks and the sick, but leave out the Crucifixion as it’s a bit too bloody?

        How do South American Indians living in a rain forest with no access to meek and mild Jesus cope?
        How did North American Plains Indians cope before the chuffin settlers arrived on their doorstep and forced them to convert?
        One of the least talked about genocides they helped perpetuate.
        Are you suggesting they needed the lesson of Jesus to live a better life?

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Here’s a video outlining the importance of fictional stories in learning:

        The story of Jesus is focused on humanity-minded concepts, which is likely why people connect with it so readily.

      • Arkenaten says:

        I know the importance, I write fiction.
        Come read some of the stories on my blog….

        But Jesus is not considered a fictional character.
        And how are you going to get around the rest of the story?
        Explain that the writers were liars?

        ”No, kiddies, dead people didn’t climb out of the ground while Jesus was hanging from nails on a cross screaming in agony.”

        “Oh I am sure they didn’t beat him that hard, little Johnny. Oh that wasn’t real blood, Probably tomato sauce like what we get at MacDonalds.”

        Humanity minded concepts?

        Give me a couple of examples.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        The concept that’s coming to mind that’s relatable here is that once you realize that those you are sharing your ideas with are actually not open to understanding them, it is best to move along.

        I know you’re trying to understand but are having great difficulty connecting with my point of view. I am actually amused that I’m getting a lack of understanding from both the Christian side of things and the Atheist side of things. With so much criticism from either side, it’s giving me the impression that I might actually be on to something.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Oh Ark, don’t try to be happy, let the happiness come to you!

      • Howie says:

        I’m not sure I see why Jason’s approach is so bad. I believe that Gandhi had some really good things to say about human relations that we can all respect and learn from, but that doesn’t mean I want to become a Hindu. And communicating with Hindus that I don’t want to completely eradicate everything that has come out of the Hindu religion even though I don’t believe in all the supernatural stuff in Hinduism could bring about more positive relations between myself and Hindus. It may even give some Hindus another perspective to think about which could perhaps cause them to be more open to explore more secular ideas. I think Jason is trying to do a similar thing with Christians.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Gandhi was not considered divine.Jesus is.
        Without divinity, Jesus is nothing.
        If his life were meant to be interpreted as something otherwise then the gospels would have reflected this position.
        They don’t. It is all about a blood sacrifice.

      • Howie says:

        I agree that the bible is mired in lots of supernatural stuff, but I can still see some of the sayings that were attributed to Jesus were things we could all learn from as far as ways we can relate better to others. Turning the other cheek, or treating others in ways that we would want to be treated, considering the poor among us, and others as well. I guess I just don’t see why I need to feel that the whole thing needs to be torched.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Because these are all variants on the Golden Rule.
        And secular humanism does a fine jib without the religious angle.

        And once you involve Jesus there are a myriad of questions that will arise, so why bother?

        How you going to teach this ”goodness” to kids for instance without having to explain the lies about the divinity and other crap in the bible.
        And then they still have to sit through the Crucifixion and questions like:
        “If Jesus was good, Daddy why did they kill him?”

        Best of luck with that one , Howie.

      • Howie says:

        LOL, yeah I probably would need a lot of luck with that – probably why my blog doesn’t really attempt what Jason’s trying here. 🙂 And I agree that secular humanism does a better job at trying to work out all the more grey areas of human relations as opposed to things being a bit too black and white in the bible. But I’m not seeing why Jason’s approach is one that is useless. I still see my analogy to Gandhi and Hindus having some merit while obviously it’s not exact. Perhaps a lot of Christians would be more moved by your more blunt approach of cutting off the whole thing, but others might still see some merit to holding on to at least some of the good teachings that have been passed down while realizing that there were some bad things in there as well.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Well of course there were some good things, but it is in the context that having to relay them is enough to give anyone nightmares.
        It is only relevant to a Christian and like I said, if a Christian is going to ditch the supernatural he is going to ditch Christianity, and Jesus too.
        Look at Ken’s story. Or Nate’s.

        It’s like a Wish Sandwich. Two slices of bread wishing they something between them.
        It is meaningless. It is bread. Plain and simple.
        Methinks Jason’s efforts, albeit quite noble sounding, are hiding something.
        Trying to work something out the old system, maybe?

        But maybe you could try to teach a few kids about the good things Of Yeshua without bringing up the nasty bits.
        A sort of ethical Life of Brian without the swearing?
        If you have kids I would be fascinated to hear of the outcome.

  4. Howie says:

    @Ark I was confused about Jason’s beliefs as well. Then I read this comment that he wrote a while back: https://christianitysimplified.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/christian-beliefs-in-a-nutshell/comment-page-1/#comment-2

    Not sure if that will clear it up for you but it did for me.

    • Arkenaten says:

      Hi, Howie.

      Don’t buy it, sorry.

      As a non divine character he was pretty useless. Nothing he taught was original, and pretty much everything about him hinged on the divinity angle and dying for our sins crap.

      Jesus without the voodoo is like a Cornflakes packet without the Cornflakes.

  5. Hi, I enjoy your stuff. I find all too often, the loudest voices are often the most unreasonable. Your measured, reasonable approach is a breath of fresh air.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Unfortunately, the loudest voices tend to be often listened to. Thanks for coming by! I’m just checking out your blog now. Always good to find others who don’t jump to wide conclusions based on narrow information.

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