The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Fantasy Jesus

with 7 comments

When I was a Mormon I had a great love for Jesus Christ as he was portrayed by my church and in the scriptures (even though my reading was biased by my belief, which I didn’t realise then, of course). Anyway, the other day I heard a Christmas carol being sung and I experienced a few brief moments of nostalgia for those warm happy feelings I used to have as a believer when I thought about Jesus.

As I considered this some more, I understood that the feelings I had once had about Jesus were based upon two things – my own desires and a very clever marketing campaign. I was more than happy to believe that Jesus loved me and sacrificed his life for me. I used to feel very emotional when I thought about this. Who wouldn’t want to believe that they were loved unconditionally and that someone thought they were special enough to suffer and die for? I thought about the words of the hymns I used to sing, and how they reinforced this image of Jesus as our loving Friend, the one who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. I remembered the church talks and lessons I used to hear, where Jesus was constantly portrayed as this loving, compassionate, selfless person. How he blessed us with his grace, condescending to step down from the lofty heights of godhood to become one of us, so that he could understand our sorrows and help bear our burdens. If one believed everything that was taught about Jesus, it was impossible not to love him.

Of course, that was the whole idea. All the information available to us from Bible compilers and the religious leaders who interpret the scriptures according to their own belief agenda is highly selective and aimed at inducing feelings of love and gratitude towards the person designated our “saviour”. It’s a master class in selling – selling an idea, a dream, a personality.

My feelings about Jesus were not just influenced by the great marketing job carried out by my church and by the scriptures, of course. Probably the greatest contributor to the way I felt about him were my own perceptions and ideals. In a way, Jesus was like a famous celebrity that I had never met personally, but who I had heard enough about to believe that I did actually know him in a personal way. In his book – Breaking the Spell – Daniel Dennett tells of a TV programme that he once saw, in which young children asked what they knew about Queen Elizabeth II:

The answers were charming: the Queen wore her crown while she “hoovered” Buckingham Palace, sat on the throne when she watched telly, and in general behaved like a cross between Mum and the Queen of Hearts.

To these children, this was the way the Queen behaved. Not only her actions, but her very personality, may well have been vastly different from their imaginings, but this is how they saw her, and that is what they believed her to be. It’s the same for believers in Jesus. We get a picture of the kind of person he must be, based not only on what we have read, but how we have interpreted those stories and related them to our own experience, ideas and wishes built up over our lifetime.

The “Jesus” that I was so fond of may have been different from the “Jesus” that another Christian believed in. The way that Jesus is perceived and experienced must surely vary from individual to individual. Even those who knew him personally and spent a lot of time with him (supposing that the man we refer to as Jesus of Nazareth actually did exist), couldn’t know him definitively, any more than we know our partners or close friends completely. There is always going to be room for us to wrongly attribute certain characteristics, qualities, motives and emotions to other people, even those who we think we know well. How much more likely are we to have mistaken ideas about someone who we have never met and only have second hand accounts of at best?

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I used to believe things about Jesus that made me feel warm and secure and loved, but they weren’t based on any kind of fact or even any intimate knowledge. That Jesus was a combination of advertising hype and my own personal desires. I believe this is the same for all believers. Gentle Jesus, Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd – all comforting images that simply reveal humankind’s own hopes and needs rather than offering any accurate insight into the person (real or mythical) at the centre of the Christian faith.

IslaSkye

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Written by islaskye

December 18, 2007 at 5:58 am

7 Responses

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  1. Your story on “Fantasy Jesus” is thrilling and interesting to know.

    Jesus

    December 18, 2007 at 11:42 am

  2. The story book fantasy Jesus that you refer to is not the One I personally know. You see the key to the whole question that you don’t have to your many questions about Jesus and if He even existed is easy enough. First why would you take just the words and teachings of a cult that you were in, to be the truth about Jesus in the first place. I fully agree with you that He is marketed in a very different light and as seen differently as descibed in the Mormon, Later Day Saints Church. Your choice of a ‘church’ is the first problem. If you have never experienced an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus. Then how can you dare to even try and say anything about Him. You need to leave your past endoctrinations and get into the know of who Jesus really was and is. The very words ‘Christian” means Christ in, therefore meaning Christ in you the hope and promise and glory with Him. When manmade stories get mixed in with the Bible there is bound to be trouble. And again this is where you are overshadowed by your selection of your church affiliation. It is well known the The books of Mormon are great ‘ad-on’ stories to what you are saying. You see, when your mind is set on this endoctrinational path you are doomed to believe and see Jesus in any way your church has lead you. Understand I am not putting you down personally, I am trying to get you to see the great need you have in finding out about this Jesus for yourself. “Don’t take the words of Smith or your church as the truth about Jesus. Find out for yourself, break away from your preconcieved ideas and teachings, in order to find out for yourself!” Therein is the key my friend to knowing Jesus Christ as a Reality rather than ‘fantasy’. I encourage you to contact me, as I would like to introduce you to The Jesus that I know who is the real thing! Here’s hoping that I hear from you!
    I am sincere in this. Thank You! Bob

    Bob

    December 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

  3. Bob,

    Please explain to me how an “intimate and personal relationship with Jesus” is manifested in the life of a believer?

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    December 19, 2007 at 7:34 am

  4. Bob

    Thank you for your kind offer, but I think you may have misunderstood me. As a Mormon I had a very satisfying “intimate and personal relationship with Jesus” as you put it. The Mormon church uses the Bible to teach about Jesus, just as mainstream Christian churches do and most of what I knew and believed about him came from the New Testament. I was also brought up in the Anglican faith before converting to the LDS church, so I had been taught the Bible stories of Jesus from childhood and loved him dearly, as I think I made plain in my blog entry.

    What I now understand is that neither you nor I nor anyone else can know “Jesus Christ as a Reality” because whatever we think about him is simply a mixture of what we have been told and what we would like to believe about him. You cannot have a personal relationship with someone you have never met, no matter how close you may feel to them. It’s like saying that your best friend is your invisible friend. It’s a nonsense. Any “relationship” we may think we have with Jesus (whose very existence has never been conclusively proven) is all in our minds. Yes, we may feel loved and loving when we talk to him, sing about him, read about him and think about him, but those are purely emotions that we conjure up inside ourselves.

    I have been in situations where I was convinced that Jesus was wrapping me in the arms of his love, and where I felt he was lifting my burdens, but that was just psychological. It’s the same for all of us. You can’t claim to know him better than I do, or be closer to him than me. What you are experiencing, and what I experienced as a true believer, was self-induced. That may be hard to accept, but it’s true. We all have preconceived ideas about Jesus, fed to us by parents, ministers, teachers, etc. They undoubtedly impact on what we believe about him, maybe even how we “interact” with him. Except we can’t “interact” because we can’t see him and have no proof that he communicates with us whatsoever.

    What you have is an intimate and personal feeling about someone who may or may not exist in reality. There is no relationship, except the one you have created in your mind and heart. Obviously, you won’t agree and I respect your right to believe whatever you wish. I would just ask that you don’t expect me to believe it too. I have been there, enjoyed the fantasy and now I want to live in the real world, reserving my closest and most intimate relationships for actual people rather than a mythological figure.

    islaskye

    December 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

  5. For Christians, God exists. For most Christians, God has been proven to exist. In the process of the explanation, you learn what God really is like. God is perfect, id est, He causes no suffering or harm, rather is beneficial to all things He has created.

    Imperfection is a state that only gets worse.

    Were God imperfect, we would be suffering far more than anyone could possibly imagine right now, because, being outside of time in the state of imperfection means that He would be infinitely evil. The only way for us to exist as we do is for this Creator to be perfect.

    Twelve

    December 21, 2007 at 9:37 pm

  6. Twelve

    For most Christians, God has been proven to exist.

    For most children, Santa has been proven to exist.

    If you are keen to believe something, you will find “proof” for it. You will interpret everything in the light of your desire to believe. You’ll hold onto anything that seems to support your view and reject anything that doesn’t.

    God is perfect, id est, He causes no suffering or harm, rather is beneficial to all things He has created.

    You’ve clearly never read the Old Testament.

    Were God imperfect, we would be suffering far more than anyone could possibly imagine right now, because, being outside of time in the state of imperfection means that He would be infinitely evil. The only way for us to exist as we do is for this Creator to be perfect.

    What on earth are you blathering on about?

    islaskye

    December 22, 2007 at 11:45 am

  7. Twelve

    ***For most Christians, God has been proven to exist.***

    And I have proof that you’re an idiot – it’s all over this blog!

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    December 22, 2007 at 11:55 am


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