for all the wondrous elaborations and embellishments, is an idea,
an idea that exists, and has only ever existed, in the minds
for example the physicality of Jesus. Nowhere
do the Gospels (nor any other sources for that matter) describe the
phantom superstar – and yet we all know that slender
frame, the flowing hair, that soft yet troubled face. The
vivid image originates not in history but in the human mind,
conditioned over centuries by the Church. We conceptualise the
Jesus of our hopes, dreams and expectations.
The idea of
Jesus is real enough and the idea extends to everything about
the superstar – what we
think he did, what we think he said, and
above all what we think he was. Jesus Christ, in reality,
is not an objective fact in the historical record but a "relationship" with
our own psyche. Our rational selves might concede that his
deeds are a
may in fact be taken from other sources, but what he was permits
no revision: he was and remains a standard of perfection when
are anything but, and he offers the promise of a life beyond
the grave when reality denies any such possibility.
Pocus – a
biological trait ?
"If you don't
believe in a God, what's the point to your life?"
"I could never make it through my life without some kind of
faith. I think we all need something to believe in, some higher
other than ourselves."
"I believe He
has saved me from condemnation, damnation, and eternal hell.
He has given me the precious gift of eternal life with Him
write to Jesus Never Existed.
in a higher power, particularly a benign, protective deity, may
helped the human species to survive. Man, after
all, is the only animal that has to cope with the certain knowledge
demise. He alone has had to live with the potentially enervating
insight that life itself is transitory. That awareness could,
and no doubt did, traumatize
many early sapiens into a neurosis of anxiety and inactivity. After all, loss
of faith can be quite debilitating and unnerving even today,
comforts. What greater reassurance could there be than
an eventual "return" to the protective embrace of the
Creator, to the surrender of self to a god of infinite love,
at one with the cosmos? We
believe because we want to believe.
It seems increasingly
likely that normal gene mutations within the
gave evolutionary advantage to individuals
who could mitigate the evidence of rational thought and their
own senses with a belief in an invisible world beyond
retained hope in the face
adversity, gained an invigorated purpose in life and
increased their chances of reproductive survival. In time
all human survivors inherited the "God genes", predisposing
humanity towards belief in a supernatural realm. Dreams appeared
to confirm its existence, as did the discovery of
psychotropic plants and
With the propensity
to supernatural belief "hard wired" into the human brain
religiously organized societies were a natural concomitant. Priesthoods
arose that articulated and manipulated the "religious impulse". This
ruling caste regulated and sanctioned communication
with the spirit world and established control over the ceremonies
and exploration of the natural world advanced man's understanding
and provided immediate, tangible comforts. Less the focus of
attention be directed away from protective tribal spirits,
the priests intruded accentuated
horrors of unbelief into the world of the living and concocted
the notion of sacrifice. Ultimately,
that sacrifice would be a perfect man, a god in fact, who would
come from that invisible world and, in returning,
guide those who die to an eternal paradise.
JC and his fans – Impossible
Dream meets Grubby Reality
"Be perfect as My Father in heaven is perfect." –
Jesus Christ, we all know, was/is without flaw
– 100% perfect in all things. He is because we define him so. JC,
fans of JC, merely human, have no such luck, no matter how hard
they strive to emulate their hero. Even if they
persevere for a lifetime, the Christ-like qualities they
so admire will elude them. A standard of perfection so absolute
permits no fleeting moments of weakness and transgression. They
Swaggart. Celebrity sinner. All part of the show.
practice, therefore, all Christians compromise with sin. Perhaps
with some, the sin is nothing worse than the occasional selfish
or naughty thought. Others have
sinned on a truly monumental scale. Quite a surprising
number of popes were
murderers: Paschal I (817-824); Sergius III (904-911); John XII
(955-964); etc. Gilles
de Rais, a pious
Carmelite monk, was one of history's earliest recorded serial
killers. This companion of Joan of Arc and Marshal of France
tortured and murdered more than two hundred children.
the twilight zone of Christian absolutes all are inescapably
sinners and no amount of saintly
behaviour will change that. Fortunately for the brethren the
Church has an answer.
by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: Not
of works, lest any man should boast."
– Ephesians 2.8,9.
we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the
deeds of the law." – Romans
times those who name themselves for Christ have been moved to
acts of kindness, to a compassion even beyond
the norms of human behaviour. But typically and consistently Christians
throughout the history of the faith have been animated to destroy,
not love, their enemies; to eliminate their rivals by violence,
not suffer privations meekly; to accumulate riches on the earth,
not give them to the poor; to sin with more abandonment
than those not moved by their godman.
orthodoxy has indeed
had a "get out of jail card" which exonerates even
the grossest of sinners, a dogma of convenience which masquerades
label "Grace". It originated with
St Paul himself. Simply put, no sin is so grave that it cannot
be absolved by
God's freely given Grace (approach Holy Mother Church for
application form; send remittance when applying). This
wonderful news means that obeying commandments is quite unnecessary
– "His grace" is infinite. A "modern" Christian can get down
and dirty with everyone else and still sleep happily at night
knowing that salvation is assured by his intellectual
belief in the godman myth, so on with the party...
centuries the Church waged a fierce struggle against all sects
which argued for emulation of a Christ-like purity and "Works" of
a terrible chore). What triumphed was the notion of "Faith" – the
simple expedient of "accepting the Lord as Saviour" and
submitting to the will of the Church. Catholic orthodoxy
made some pretence of "faith shown by works" (such
as a crusade against the heathen) but Luther and the Protestants
him clarified "justification" (Heaven's entry
fides" – faith alone. Luther
was certain that any
attempt to influence God's master plan was an insult to the
Calvin went further, arguing the
notion that God had already
bestowed his irresistible grace and had predestined those who would be
saved and those who would be damned. Therefore do what you
will, your "works" will not save you.
the asylum of Christendom, faith without goodness got you
faith damned you for eternity.
Charity – or Saving one's own soul?
.. will render to every man according to his deeds." – Romans
wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
... Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and
not by faith only." – James 2.20,24.
faith gets you into Heaven why bother with Christ-like behaviour
at all? With
a theology that subordinates charity to faith and absolves any
amount of sin, including mass murder, it is no surprise that
despite having almost two thousand years in which to practice
it preached the
Christian Church has never, anywhere in
the world, put
the ethics supposedly uttered by Jesus.
course, to a large extent that is because of those ethics are
"Take no thought for the morrow"? "Give
to him that asks"? "Lay
not up for yourself treasures upon earth"? "Resist
"Love your enemies, bless
good to them that hate you"?
saw the difficulties in these epithets of nonsense: he called
Sermon on the Mount "the
any event, no land in history has ever followed the precepts
and principles of the
godman. Rather, what
Christianity has manipulated and profitted
fear of death.
Achieving an immortality snuggled up to Jesus has proved
far more of a
marketing success than charity for others.
Christians are genuine humanitarians, and would
have been so whatever faith they had been acculturized into.
Because they cloak their humanity in Christian
garb they interpret their compassion and charity in Christian
terms, imagining that it is the "example of Jesus" that
inspires and encourages them. In another place and time it
might have been the example of Muhammad or the Buddha. Their
humanitarianism, no doubt also programmed into the human
genome as a species
survival trait, is
to be seen in individuals of all faiths – and of no faith
the price ticket some Christians pay to keep in
God's good book. Part of the Church's arsenal of terror
is the threat of divine retribution. The notion of an individual
the moment of death actually owes more to medieval ponderings
the 1336 Bull "Benedictus
Deus" issued by Benedict XII, the heretic hunter)
than anything found in
It sits somewhat at odds with the more
of the Judgment" anticipated
in both the Old Testament (Joel 2.31, Ezekiel 13.5, Isaiah 2.12)
and the New Testament (Matthew 24-25, Acts 10.42)
and integral to all early Church dogma (Apostles'
Nicene Creed, etc.). Theologians
for centuries wrestled with the conundrum of where, precisely,
were the souls of the dead before the great "universal Resurrection"?
Purgatory was one solution, which opened the door to the
criminal racket of indulgences.
whether it's one judgment or two that we have in store, be assured,
every thought, every deed, and every word will be judged.
I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall render an account for
day of judgment." – Matthew 12.36.
pernicious Christian sky god knows every guilty secret,
every shameful sin. So
He's watching our little sacrifices and random acts of kindness? They
will all count on the day of judgment! (And if you write nasty
things about Jesus you'll burn in Hell!).
Many Christians concentrate
their "doing good" on and around their
favoured church, serving the Lord in his front office
and therefore certain to be recognized. Christian
charity disguises a selfish desire
to cheat death and stack up credits in the hereafter.
those heroes of leper colonies and
refuges for down-and-outs,
number, but lionized and raised to sainthood? What
of these paragons of Christian virtue? Do they rise
above not only the vast majority of insurance-policy
they even match the
shown by those of other faiths or no faith at all?
Christian exemplar? – The
Saint who lived among us
order to be saints, you have seriously to want to be
one ... The fact of death should not sadden us.
thing that should sadden us is to know that we are
Mother Teresa, In My Own Words.
Teresa, will soon find herself rubbing
shoulders with the very saints in Heaven. A fitting reward
for a media star who – according to her well-oiled PR
machine, at least – took Christ's message to heart, embraced
the leper and lived among the poor and destitute. Here
on planet earth (well, at least in the affluent part
of it) Teresa enjoyed star-billing for over thirty years.
wrinkled, her name became a byword for self-sacrifice
and patience. She was surely the yardstick by which the entire
world measured compassion,
talking Calcutta, right? Stinking, crowded, unhealthy
... Who but a saint would live there? All that good
work and love for dark skinned babies ... See, that's
the sort of goodness that the Lord Jesus inspires. Or does
Albanian, born in Skopje, Macedonia, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu at
the age of 17
joined an Irish order of nuns, the Sisters of Lareto,
for the place in Italy that has Jesus's house,
flown in specially by
angels from Nazareth. Our heroine took the
name Teresa (thankfully) and accepted
missionary work in India. Twenty years passed before the
Vatican allowed her
to leave her post in the convent and work directly in the
city of Calcutta. Here, under the jurisdiction of its archbishop,
the canny Teresa identified
market, the dying poor, whose souls at
least could be dispatched to the Catholic Heaven. Until
her own death in 1997 Teresa spent her life actively seeking
publicity – and funds – for her mission.
formed a group, the Missionaries of Charity,
to help street people die with a little dignity and
Catholic sacraments ringing in their ears (they were
too far gone to realize they were being baptized into
a faith they neither knew nor cared for). Her first Home
for the Dying opened in 1952 and some
450 others followed, in India and around the world,
an AIDS hospice in New York.
to popular myth, she did not build
hospitals or offer medical care to the sick. Teresa's policy
was one of non-intervention,
in which God decided who was to live and who was to die. She
actually ran a primitive and poorly equipped hospice,
where "saved" Indians
could meet their Christian maker. Although she preserved her
own health at costly Western clinics (and had a pace
maker fitted) she forbade
the purchase of even basic medical equipment for her clinics.
was not interested in making the poor less poor (by,
for example, helping them restrict family size) but in
making them more Catholic.
Calcutta itself she was all but unknown.
Media Star for Reaction
late 1950s and early 1960s was a time of crisis and
internal dissension in the Roman Church, as it stumbled
towards an accommodation with the modern world. The Second
Ecumenical Council (Vatican II - 1962-1965) was either
"springtime" of a new Catholicism or the start
of the rot which has seen attendance of Mass decline by
66 per cent and the number of teaching nuns fall by 94 per
this fury of Catholic in-fighting entered "Mother
her houses of death, a pinup for the forces of Catholic
Teresa's Christianity was quite simply medieval.
She urged the poor to think
of their suffering as a "gift from God." She described abortion for
victims as "pure killing." Her small Calcutta
clinics eschewed the use of painkillers in accordance
with the primitive doctrine of "redemption
of the soul through suffering".
British media luminary (and pious Catholic) Malcolm Muggeridge now took a hand
to elevate to
stardom the diminutive zealot he so admired with
a hagiographic movie "Something Beautiful
(1969), proclaiming to a credulous media circus
that "an actual miracle had taken place
during filming" (a roll of film took
on a "curious" colour cast).
of a good Christian was born and was quickly embraced
by a papacy fast retreating from the high tide
of liberalism. Jet-setting
the world went Teresa, her saintly celebrity rallying
the faithful in hot spots of evangelism and extracting
funds from Catholics who served Christ vicariously through
their chequebook. And
the money certainly poured in, notoriously from the likes
Duvalier gang in Haiti and Charles
Keating, the biggest fraudster in US history (the Lincoln
Savings and Loan scam). Keating chipped in more than
a $million for Teresa and she reciprocated with a character
reference for his day in court. The Lord sure moves in
have estimated the Missionaries of Charity receive as
much as US$100 million a year, although
no accounts are published. Some maintain
that the money is
transferred to the Istituto
per Opere Religiosi (the Vatican
where it is diverted
into non-Christian countries for "missionary work"
– more nunneries and
convents. A 1991 audit of the UK operation revealed
that only 7% of the total income of about US$2.6
into charity work. The rest was remitted to the
How Reactionary can you get?
abortion isn't nice; contraception may be unnatural; we might
even, in a fuzzy moment, nod in agreement with Teresa's
quixotic notion that the
suffering of the poor is "something very beautiful."
But this does not begin to approach the depths of Teresa's
medieval insanities. An escapee from the asylum reveals
the cold heart of the world's most celebrated "Good Christian."
of Mother Teresa's teachings that are fundamental to
her religious congregation are all the more dangerous
because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters.
is the belief that as long as a sister obeys she
is doing God's will.
is the belief that the sisters have leverage over
God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering
makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces
is the belief that any attachment to
even the poor being served, supposedly interferes
with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or
to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and
confusion, movement and change in the congregation.
Teresa did not invent these beliefs - they were prevalent
in religious congregations before Vatican II - but
did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce
– Susan Shields, former sister with Missionaries
On 5 September,
1997 Teresa died. Her crony, Pope John Paul II, the most prolific
creator of saints in history, couldn't wait to
get beatification underway. Precisely one year after Teresa's death
the required miracle occurred. A photograph of Mother Teresa
beamed a light at a Calcuttan woman and overnight she lost a big
tumour. Wow! In October 2002, the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints recognised the miracle and a year
after that John Paul beatified his old pal. Can any one doubt
that the necessary second miracle is just around the corner and
new star will join the firmament?
And that's as good as a "Good Christian" gets.
Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa
in Theory and Practice (Verso, 1997)
Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa : In My Own Words (Gramercy,
Aroup Chatterjee, Mother Teresa The Final Verdict (Meteor,
Matthew Alper, The "God" Part of the Brain (Rogue Press, 2001)
S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Collins, 1955)
Dean Hamer, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hard-Wired
Into Our Genes, (Doubleday 2004)
Susan Shields, Mother Teresa's House of Illusions, (Free
Inquiry, Volume 18, Number 1)
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Copyright © 2005
by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no
material herein is sold for profit.