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July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) - When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.


Two thousand years ago, I was told, in an ancient land called Galilee, the God of heaven and Earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity.

Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return he was nailed to a cross. Though Jesus could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die.

Indeed, his death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins.

But the story did not end there, because three days later, he rose again, exalted and divine, so that now, all who believe in him and accept him into their hearts will also never die, but have eternal life.

For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God.

In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable.

After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran.

My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.

That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.

I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith.

I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.

The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face.

Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world.

The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts.

The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.

I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart.

Meanwhile, I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text.

Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him.

The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.

Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

I wrote my newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.

Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus.

Reza Aslan is a bestselling author and a scholar of religion. This article was adapted from his newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." The views expressed in this column are Aslan's alone.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. Austin

    When I was reading through the old testament, I started having dreams about the scripture before i read it. and this was scripture I had no idea about, the book of Jeremiah.

    The Holy spirit is a sanctifying spirit that bears the truth of God's word on a persons heart. In my case this was a supernatural experience at this time. There was a string of time where this happened repeatedly. This was a serious call to faith and revelation of the Holy Spirit.

    God is sovereign, and in control. The Holy Spirit is the leader of HIs own ministry, and we humans do not do HIm justice in proper return . We are backsliders.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Jonah

      Yes, you understand! Thank-you!

      July 21, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • G to the T

      Any more psychic visions since then?

      July 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Dave in Houston

    Satan has always tried to lead the sons and daughters of men astray since the Garden of Eden. He is a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). To deny the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth is to listen to the enemy of man, rather than the Spirit of God. And to deny the Scriptures which testify of Jesus (John 5:39) is to disbelieve the Word of God (Matthew 5:18) – the One Who became flesh (John 1:14) – and to choose to follow one's own heart and understanding (Jeremiah 17:9) rather than submit to the Triune God through faith in the Son – the Only One Who can save us. But then again, we were told these days would come: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4). May YOU, dear reader, have ears to hear. Maranatha then Shalom.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • snowboarder

      satan is an imaginary monster with which to frighten the children.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • cjeddie8

      Brainwashed much?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Nope. Satan is a myth from the Babylonian myth system. Why is it all the good angels have "El" names ? Gabri-el. Micha-el. Messengers of the "El" god. You need to take a course in the ancient Near East or read Dr. Elaine Pagels "The Origins of Satan". There are no devils. A ancient childish notion to explain "evil", which in 2013 has a FAR better explanation. Trible is, it requires an education. Maybe you should invest in one.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      You have posted a bunch of self affirming cherry picked lines from the bible. Big deal. Any brainwashing techniques also include the same type of self affirming information.
      Believe what the book says is true, since it says in my book that it is true, and I know my book is right because it says so.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Satan did not actually exist as a singular character until the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Before that time, it was a term that meant "adversary" and applied to any person of an outside religion that tried to influence the Hebrews or Canaanites. Hilariously enough, some of the earliest tales of battles between God and Satan began as battles between the good god Baal and the evil god Yahweh. Many Chistians and Jews fail to realize that the ancient Canaanites saw Yahweh as the dark and evil son of El and Baal as the good son.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        El Elyon had 40 sons. Yahweh was the 40th.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Austin

      your greatest desire is to be free of God's authority. If I am only one example , then one is sufficient.

      The Holy Spirit is a supernatural sovereign spirit. I have been given evidence of this individual. The Holy Spirit provided the revelation of parts of God's word being communicated through my dreams, the day before I would read what I would read.. seven or eight times it happened in a span of a few months. Also the spirit manipulated other peoples dreams around me and they dreamt of things I was thinking about. I dreamt about a blue print a guy showed me two days later with pricise details.

      I had a demonic dream that showed me a dead cat, and woke to the cat being ran over.

      I have proof. and all yall have are the doubts of flesh that wars against God. Your doubts are worthless. God is everything good.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • G to the T

        I don't believe unverifiable personal experiences should be confused with "proof" for something as important as this...

        July 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • wostraub

      Utter, circular nonsense. You defend the preposterous lies and contradictions of the Bible by parroting the very same lies and contradictions, including the existence of Satan. Jesus spoke profound truths regarding the spiritual and physical human condition, but fundamentalists prefer to wallow in magic and myth simply because they are scared of death and will believe anything, including made-up nonsense, to allay that fear. Christ is dead, long live Jesus!

      July 21, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • john

      If you are going to preach, use the bible in it's original text not the text created for the mass to sell bibles. if your going to be a sheep don't preach what you don't know.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  3. el flaco

    There is no message in the life of Jesus that is relevant to the 21st century.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • snowboarder

      being good. helping the poor. he was a decent philosopher.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • Isabel

        As we approach the rim of the drain, there is no better time to know that God is in control and His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior. But as in any day, the choice and revelation is up to each of us individually. Even though we hear, our hearts and necks are hardened and stiffened. Satan, after all, is the great deceiver. I have no defense against the lies, except to turn to God and know that He is in control. Its all a matter of faith, which God has steadily grown in me through challenges and unwinding my terrible thoughts. But before I accepted Jesus, my faith was small because I wanted to know how it was going to work out. I wanted all the details. But faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things unseen. How does something like that get started? I don't know. I'm just thankful God chased me down one more time to ask me if I accepted Jesus as my savior. Once I did that, faith grew. Don't know how. But then I don't know how my Induction Plate works either. It just does and I love it.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:55 am |
        • snowboarder

          sorry Isabel, I can not force myself to believe something so absurd.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:59 am |
        • Bob

          Isabel, your whole religion is a giant crock of BS. Think this through a bit harder if you can:

          How is it again that your all-powerful sky fairy had to sacrifice his "son" to do his saving bit? Why not just do the saving without all the Jeebus hoopla. For that matter, how was Jesus' death a sacrifice, when a "god" ought to be able to pop out a new son any time it wants (and without the use of a virgin to carry the baby) with less than a snap of its fingers.

          Furthermore, your "loving", infinitely merciful being threatens people with horrid torture forever if they don't do what he dictates. What an ass hole and liar.

          Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.

          Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
          Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
          http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

          July 21, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • Sokesky

        Yes, I'd agree with you, and I'm not sure where I stand on the religion issue.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  4. motorfirebox

    Funny to see a book about the historical Jesus... with a picture of Pretty White Dude Jesus on the cover.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Isabel

      I think he was more middle eastern looking - olive skin on a darker side - definitely not Swedish! But that's why one of the 10 commandments is No Image of God rendered by Human Hand.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • john

        your right, but which version of the 10 commandments are you using?

        July 21, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  5. ozzi7

    A lot of "Christians" are followers of Moses rather than Jesus. Even Paul fell back to Moses rather than follow Jesus.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Neither man actually existed in the way presented in the book, so it's a pointless philosophy either way.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  6. us_1776

    The Sky Fairy does not exist.

    Get over it !!

    .

    July 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • ozzi7

      Maybe you need to get over that people are going to believe what they want to believe. Put on your big boy pants and deal.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • AtheistSteve

        People also believe in BigFoot, alien abduction and ludicrous conspiracy theories. Should we just humor them as well or try to educate them to examine the justification behind their beliefs?

        July 21, 2013 at 10:40 am |
        • snowboarder

          I had a long conversation yesterday with a chap that believed our government was intentionally withholding evidence about the monuments on mars. people are crazy.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • Austin

          no you should close your mouth when some one assures you that they have experience the revelation of the Holy Spirit. and I have. and this is proof of God. and this proof was given to me, and it is not my imagination. I have data as evidence of all this repeated glory that God provided, and this reality goes beyond you and I .

          July 21, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • snowboarder

          @Austin, ironically you can find adherents to every religion making all the same declarations. I guess that makes them all true.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:57 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          @Austin

          I don't know how many times this has been explained to you. Your personal revelations are relevant only to you and are not evidence of anything to anyone but yourself.

          July 21, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • cjeddie8

        you're right Ozzi if the imaginary friend upstairs gives them a good life, let them believe it.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:41 am |
        • snowboarder

          if only it were simply about a personal belief. unfortunately, we find that we must defend our rights continuously against those that would codify their beliefs into law for the entire population.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Taylor

      You have the exact same amount of proof for this as religious people do for the existence of a god.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  7. Hutch

    Ah, poor humans. Flawed, petty, lacking, imperfect. And we know our failings even as we elevate man as the arbiter of all things. We apply our values, our standards to the world. We choose to explain our world through science, our selves through psychology. We attempt to remove all mention of the divine because to admit that there is more than ourselves admits we are not our own masters. It offends our self absorbed view of ourselves and the illusion that we are in control.

    So we see religion examined and "explained" by the scholars. Viewed through the lens of humanity and relegated to a human experience. And many who do practice a religion turned to that religion because it suited them. It is acceptable and reasonable to them. So, the man Jesus, the "illiterate, marginal Jew" is easier to compare ourselves with than the divinity of Christ. The author models his life "not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins" but after that "illiterate, marginal Jew". That does make life easier! And for those who point to the failures of religion, the failures of Christians to "practice what they preach", as a refutation of the existence of God; since when do the failures of man somehow infer a failure of God?

    It is Faith the makes the difference. I have faith that the Bible is true. I have faith that this is the word of God to his creations. I believe that it is told to communicate with an audience that did not have the same education, the same science or understanding of the world that we have. When I tell my child not to touch the stove, I don't explain the chemistry behind the rapid, exothermic, oxidation of methane. I just tell her its hot! Reading the Bible, I listen for the word of God, the direction and plan for me from the Creator and don't lose the message thinking about how the historical socio-economic paradigm might apply to Jesus and his disciples. I believe that I am imperfect. I believe that a relationship with a perfect creator is not possible without Jesus Christ who forgives my imperfection and cures the separation between my God and myself. I reflect on the teachings and actions of Jesus and the feeling in my heart affirms that God exists and that Jesus is his son and my savior who loves me even when I cannot love myself.

    So, those who would put man before God, who would see the world as one of science, fact and probability, good luck. I wish you the best and hope the world you create is a true utopia. So far, though, it doesn't look like that's going to work out too well.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • cjeddie8

      so Hutch, what happens to the Hindus and Muslims or the billions who have existed and never heard of God or his son Jesus?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • Isabel

        Mohammed was well-versed in Judaism and Christianity. He created the Jihad out of protest to the rejection he received when he tried to get the Jews and Christians of that day join him. This is why the Jihad is read with two interpretations: One way is that Jihad is an opportunity for the believer to get closer to Alhah; and the other is to wipe out anyone who doesn't belive in Islum.

        The Hindu religion has always been so complicated and weird to me that I never pursued it. It just feels creepy to me, pardon me all you Hindu's out there, but starving while a nice big McDonald's cow is sitting right next to you sounds like a God that is more for the demise of His people than the joy and blessings.

        Just my point of view...

        July 21, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Muhammad never existed. Read Robert Spencers books or watch his videos.

          July 21, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • snowboarder

      nearly all things once attributed to divine cause have been determined to be of natural origins. the realm of the supernatural is simply a placeholder of ignorance, waiting for the determination of a natural cause.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      The Bible has countless errors and contradictions. Why do need "faith" to believe a book is true ? Either it's obviously true or not. That one is flawed. Written by humans, only. Why is there nothing unique in it ? Why did it "reveal" NOTHING that was not already extant in the cultures of it's human authors ?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Rick Henderson

      To Hutch: belief comes from our imperfect minds, nourished by our hopeful souls. The Bible, like it or not, was undeniably written by similarly imperfect men. The argument cannot be made with any authority that God chose to inspire some men and not all men. Why would God be so cruel? Can't it be said that Jesus was one of the finest examples of how divine inspiration works in mankind with the same fervor as one says that he is indeed divine? By speaking of the divine spark that exists in all mankind, we leave more room in our hearts for all of mankind; instead of just those who worship in the same temples.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • just me.

      Well written.But,not convincing in any way.To summarize,you FEEL you need a religion to keep you sane.That's just sad.You FEEL the religion you were indoctrinated in to is the truth.Begin to discount all other religions,then you can understand why others discount yours...or not.Try this.Walk down to the five and dime.Buy a package of balloons.Blo w them up and let each balloon represent a religion.Stick a pin in each religion you think has no basis in reality,the ones you believe to be untrue.See how many balloons you have left.Could be fun NO?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  8. janet

    I'm a Jewish believer in Y'Shua (that was his name you know...)...and I hate religion.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Many historians believe that his name wasn't Yeheshua, but instead had his name recorded as the acronym YESHU or "Y'mach Sh'mo V'Zichro", meaning "May his name and memory be obliterated."

      July 21, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Many historians ? Name two.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  9. Casey

    I grew up a Christian and from about the age of 10 realized that it is a false religion. Jesus was never a Christian, he was born a Jew, lived a Jew, and died a Jew. Christianity was created by man and man alone. The Church picked and chose what it wanted and that which suited it's own desires. The Bible is a collection of stores and should never be taken literally.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • cjeddie8

      Jesus couldn't have been a Christian silly the religion is named after HIM.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  10. lionlylamb2013

    In the Beginning there was the Word and the Word was God and the Words were with God and of God and about God and God's Sons."

    I believe in God of the Creations made celestially and the establishments of each and every evolved creations manifested upon the celestial domains... You need not believe...

    I am satisfied beyond doubts that God's first begotten son was with God from Celestial Creations beginning moments to the ending ways of evolved creations manifestations upon any earthen world capable to bring forth life and sustain life in the abundances... You need not be satisfied...

    I cherish the wisdom and professed teachings of Christ Jesus despite our Christian inadequacies to render decisively upon others doubts... You need not cherish Christ's wisdom...

    For it is a matter of being proud that many prides of people endure their foolish miseries and infidel jealousies hell-bent against any and all of religiously endearing devotions. It is not our wills to be done but God's will to become of our wills that many prideful people are forcibly against. Love is God's conquering force over God's people. You who despise and hate God's chosen will He allow the unloving nurtured natures of the depraved prideful to remain... Without knowing of the bad things how can the right things become foreseen?

    July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  11. MARTY

    It's not enough to hear about Him, it's not enough to know about Him, you got to reach out in ALL SINCERITY/ ALL YOU ARE and have actual relationship with Him thus reaching out for His saving work on the cross and perfect pure blood that ONLY by it you can be saved !... remember though SINCERE repentance of sins goes into this equation.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • One one

      This seems like a strange religion.

      Why do you need blood to be "saved" ?

      Is this a blood cult ?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • Isabel

        In all religions there is a 'blood' sacrifice given to gain remission from sin. I don't know how it started. Maybe in a more simpler time, offering something that was dear and valuable to a recognizable higher power was the tradition. At any rate, God says that the blood of no animal, nor gift can erase our transgressions. God got fed up with his own loving creation. God could have done it better by not giving his creation free will. But God chose to make his creation after his own image, which means God didn't want slaves or obediant robots as his followers. He wants us to choose him out of love. So being that it seemed to be the tradition of human beings to offer blood sacrifices to their god (it seems every religion has this going on) God topped them all with Jesus: His own son, sinless and perfect yet not snobby and judgemental, wrongfully accuesed, convicted, tortured and killed–out of Jesus' obediance to his Father (God) - and because of Jesus' obediance to God, God made Him the final judge of the human race and I guess angels too. Well I'm no scholar, but this is my humble point of view.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          You describe an imperfect creation. Was it God's perfect will that we should be imperfect and that creation should go awry?

          July 21, 2013 at 10:55 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          A god that is subject to a system , (only certain things can erase transgressions) cannot be the master of or creator of such a system. It means the god is only a cog in the nature of Reality.

          July 21, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      What about the sin of allowing another to take your just punishment?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • Isabel

        Many of my years here on earth were spent questioning why God would love me so much as to put his one and only son through such terrible torture and humilation. I still cannot fathom that kind of love. For years it made me angry. I wondered, "The nerve to put me in such obligation." That doesn't make much sense, I know. But I can share this. When my time came, which was when I realized I wasn't so smart after all, and I simply wanted a peaceful life inside my head - that's when God called me again to consider accepting his son Jesus as my savior. With trembling I did. And my life now is full of a joy I don't deserve and did not work for, nor did I pay anyone for it. But I know who gave it to me, and I'm thankful every single day for it.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:49 am |
        • snowboarder

          it is especially questionable considering a supposed omnipotent god would have no necessity for such theatrics.

          it certainly reads like something created in the imaginations of man.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:53 am |
        • just me.

          Did God call you or,maybe,just maybe,you convinced your-self,in a moment of confusion and desperation,you needed the comfort of a father figure who will love you,unconditionally,for all eternity?Perhaps you said,"what the heck,I'll bite".Interesting that you choose the religion that fits in to your geographic location.Did God tell you to choose the religion that your friends have chosen?It is VERY lucky for you he didn't tell you to worship Allah.That would have been MOST inconvenient-NO?Maybe there's something in this Christian Mingle thing after all.

          July 21, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • lionlylamb2013

          Kind Isabel...

          Your words of loving kindness shall ever ring of truthfulness towards God and His most beloved son...! Do not let those who seem contemptuously against any favoritisms of Godly orientations for they are inside themselves...

          July 21, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • snowboarder

      I am unable to suspend my disbelief. the doctrine is absurd.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • lionlylamb2013

        A good Sunday toward you snowboarder...

        One's abilities are regulated by one's ineptness ambitions shown toward others... One may only be for or against and being on the fence posts one does ever fall away toward either side... While the bumpiness ride thru life ever alters one's eyeing probabilities, sole comforts dare languishes within one's soul...

        July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • just me.

      Abandon evidence as your basis for reality,and you're good to go.Yup,we get that.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • lionlylamb2013

        One who cannot find good resolutions will ever lose their ways and become as lost paradigms in their psychoanalytical babblings of brooked dementias within societal deliriums away from the prying eye...

        July 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  12. sjtaylorphoto

    That the historical Jesus might be the one and only "real Jesus" is a respectable and centuries-old position, but if you're worried that the only alternative to literalistic Evangelical Christianity is outright skepticism, you should consider the Catholic position, which is so much more intellectually nuanced than that of the radical Protestant "Bible-thumpers." I appreciate this perspective by Father Robert Barron, who argues that fundamentalist literalism is primarily a modernism:

    "The Bible is not so much as a library. I think once you see that, an awful lot gets cleared up. The Bible is a collection of texts from a wide variety of genres, written at a variety of different times, written by different authors for different purposes. You've got in the Bible, sometimes, some relatively straightforward history (think of 1 and 2 Samuel, or something). You've got an Apocalypse in the Bible, like the Book of Daniel or Revelation. You've got letters in the Bible, like Paul to the Romans or Paul to the Galatians. You've got saga in the Bible, like the beginning of the Book of Genesis. You've got gospels in the Bible, their own unique genre. Do you take the library literally? Well, it depends on what section you're in. If you went into the library – the history section, old newspapers – you take that more or less straightforwardly. But now you wander into the poetry section, the mythology section, the epistolary section. If you approach those texts with the same clunky interpretive lenses that you use to read literalistic texts, you will ipso facto misread them.

    "One of the disciplines we learn in hermeneutics or interpretation theory is how to take off and put on different sets of glasses. One of the most fundamental questions you can ask about any text is 'What kind of text is this?' ... One of the most fundamental problems is a lack of genre sensitivity in regard to the Bible, and I see it everywhere on the YouTube forums. 'Either it's straightforward history, or it's just nonsense.' That's the binary option. One thing I have found in the general populace is an extreme insensitivity to the 'way texts mean,' a deep insensitivity to the way poetry functions... This is usually important as we do our work in evangelization.

    "When I make this observation, I'm almost always met with the counter-argument 'You're just cherry-picking, you're just deciding which texts you want to be literal and which ones you don't.' And that gives me the opportunity to say 'No, no, I'm insisting that we read the Bible within an interpretive tradition. I'm going to speak here very much within the Catholic tradition: I don't think it's a good idea to simply pick up the Bible and read it, just as I don't think it's a good idea to pick up Hamlet and read it, or Moby Dick and 'I'm going to read it, I understand how it works.' Don't we, when we approach a text like Hamlet (a richly complex text), don't we automatically consult a long, disciplined, interpretive tradition, the long history of those who have read Hamlet, wrestled with it, argued over it? If you pick up a book like Moby Dick, of course you love to read all the critical history and interpretation around it. Simply to pick it up on your own, without that discipline, without that preparation, is almost a guarantee that you will misread it. So I argue with the Bible. We have to read it within the context of this richly disciplined and complex interpretive tradition that I would call the Church, though here I am not just restricting it to the Catholic Church. I mean the whole community of those over space and time who have read the Bible. That, I think, is something very much missing as people try to understand the Bible today.

    "...Go back to Origen. 3rd century. What do you find? Richly textured, symbolic, non-literalistic readings. Go back to Augustine, 4th/5th centuries, what do you find? Same thing.... I argue with people that fundamentalism, the literalism that we see today, is really a modernism. It's an invention of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Christians were fighting against what they saw as an agressive modernity...."

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htxOjJHB5-8&w=640&h=360]

    July 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Colin (the original)

      I didn't view the video, but the quote you cited is spot on.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • sockpuppet1984

      this is good–most evangelicals really have no idea that the current teachings are JUST THAT–current. Because God is the same yesterday, today and forever, they think the interpretation of the Bible is also the same yesterday, today and forever. I have had many conversations regarding the evolving views of christianity, but they just don't believe it, or get it. I consider myself a christian for lack of a better term, but certainly not a fundamentalist and no longer an evangelical as it is currently defined. It's really about a lack of education regarding the history of the religion itself. Unfortunately, people can't see that their interpretation has a context. They don't believe there IS a context–just an undiluted truth.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • lionlylamb2013

        Hello there sock puppet...

        Your wordage usages dare I say comes from your heartfelt ambitions to "break bread" with others... May you continue onward within your words ever to be heard by others and also hearing of others whose words bring righteous sanctifications ...

        July 21, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • HarryGP

      In order to read the bible, we should not read the bible ??? Specifically his statement:

      "I'm going to speak here very much within the Catholic tradition: I don't think it's a good idea to simply pick up the Bible and read it, just as I don't think it's a good idea to pick up Hamlet and read it, or Moby Dick and 'I'm going to read it, I understand how it works.' Don't we, when we approach a text like Hamlet (a richly complex text), don't we automatically consult a long, disciplined, interpretive tradition, the long history of those who have read Hamlet, wrestled with it, argued over it?"

      Excuse me for reading the bible then. I had no idea how wrong I was to read what happened and what you said, God.... sure... I better join up with Catholics right now... gotta find the car keys and the nearest Pope.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      A goodly Sunday to you sjtaylorphoto...

      The richly colored venues of all religious genres are how one is found being perceptually stimulated... Do not the religiously stymied fall shamelessly away from religions due their inessential wisdoms unfounded clamoring way...? Is a person's falling by the religious pathway justifiably a conditional response duly brought about by their socialized reflexes and bitter individualist indemnities floundering ideals never to be fully fathomed...? Is therefore one's owned judgments the devised interpretations of selfishness ideals rationalized within one's waywardness frothing...?

      Being a child becoming raised, do you not rise up in one's vesper years either wanting or rejecting social ambitions...? All of adulthood become their own best or worst friend and have tendencies to seek from others their self-owned reflective ideals...? For as one begins to know another one, does not now two thinking as one traverse their combinative idiosyncratic revelations within an assimilative sort of gathered kindness...? And in rejections umbrella clauses do we not all fall short of completion's guarded competitiveness...? We are sole survivors more than soul providers...

      July 21, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  13. MW Sphero

    ...when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
    Luke 18:8

    July 21, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      It is dependent upon a man's son and not the half breed son of God... For many a man's sons continue to sire other children with their wives, or just a woman and maybe a concubine within the sheets bedfellows...

      July 21, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  14. Mark

    Viva Cristo Rey!

    July 21, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  15. MW Sphero

    Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
    Matthew 12:30

    July 21, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      No one shall come to me unless the father draw him.
      John 6:24

      For many are called but few are chosen.
      Matthew 22:14

      For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.
      Ephesians 2:8

      July 21, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • cjeddie8

      litterally billions have died not knowing of Jesus throughout history. If God doesn't let them in he is a terribly unjust God and just doing a miserable job.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • JJ

      Psalm 137:9 – Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
      • cjeddie8

        thanks for the sheep herder -ism of the day

        July 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • Solomon

        What you just did was like watch the end of a movie and then watch the start and then say the movie is confusing. This about it.

        July 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Paffa

      It is far better to take a man for his worth then for what others say about him. History and religion has embellished him over the centuries into a supra deity. When he himself said. " Worship the Father GOD is spirit and Truth" At no time did he ever go so far as to ask for such devotions of himself. When people ask or called him "Good Teacher" or Rabbi and such he asked them " Why do you call me Good? There is one that is Good and that is the Father. " Call no man on earth teacher or Father for you have but one. That is God. He was emblematic of Divine principle of One. GOD and he had no designs to replace that one in any shape or way. Only to be the visible example of what the One looks like in action and living for our sakes. But deified he did not ask for this. He said... To Marry after his resurrection. How bowed at his feet. " Be careful do not do that . I have not ascended yet to the Father. Jesus the Man is the more accurate reflection. Even in Revelation he is often called the "Son of Man" And son of God introspectively. Keeping the harmony of Divine Principle of the One which gloried not himself but in his Father in all things.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  16. Isabel

    I think, in my humble opinion, that, in this game of hair-splitting, "Christian" may mean "those who follow Jesus Christ" or it may refer now to "religion" but in the day that Jesus walked, the people who followed him were simply "Believers" and when asked further, they simply described what Jesus preached as "The Way" - at any rate, all spiritual beliefs that preach good and the notion that we should think of others besides ourselves are leading to the one God; but the believers of Jesus Christ, those folks who believe Jesus is the son of God, those folks will gain entrance into heaven. I know for unbelievers out there, this is fodder to be torn apart, but the bottom line on this earth for me is: Is you a good person or a bad person and beyond that, its really none of my business. I don't plan on spending my life judging other people, when God says that is His son's job. I guess I'm very human inasmuch as I always seem to go where the water flows easy. And with Jesus, the water flows easy and I'm never thirsty. So that's the ticket for me. Plus, its free and open to every one. That made my day too, because that's fair.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • snowboarder

      I imagine that the majority in every religion are simply going where the water flows most freely. following the traditions and rituals of their family or community. of course, that really has nothing to do with validity.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:27 am |
      • cjeddie8

        Society dictates morallity not religion.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
        • Paffa

          True and unfortunately modern society and morality is rather an absurdity. There is so many things we accept as ok that are a far cry from ok. And the world is a blight of suffering and misery while we worship money and hold it power as more important then our own survival as a species.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • G to the T

      I'm pretty sure all the disciples would have identified as being jewish. A particular type of jew certainly but jews none-the-less.

      July 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Jonah

    There you go again. You can't prove spiritual things using physical laws. The spiritual is a different dimension and uses different laws. You are missing the basic and simple fact that Jesus LIVES and is involved in the lives of the faithful. Yes, it can be proven, but there is only one way and Jesus pointed out that is the rock upon which he has founded his true church.

    "17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

    18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

    I promise you that anyone having a sincere desire to know Jesus Christ can know him by prayer and personal revelation. I urge you to go mormon.org or lds.org and find the living truths found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by his living apostles and prophets....

    July 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Jonah

      The point of the gospel is happiness. Does your current philosophy bring you happiness? So, what good is it then? Happiness comes from living the commandments (which eliminates most of lifes problems and regrets) and from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who is our true friend and helps us on a daily basis to solve our problems.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:26 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        These are the commandments I live by and they don't demand worship/idolization of a god:
        TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR A GLOBAL HUMANISM

        1- Proclaim the natural dignity and inherent worth of all human beings, in all places and in all circumstances.

        2- Respect the life and property of others at all times.

        3- Practice tolerance and open-mindedness towards the choices and life styles of others.

        4- Share with those who are less fortunate and mutually assist those who are in need of help.

        5- Use neither lies, nor spiritual doctrine, nor temporal power to dominate and exploit others.

        6- Rely on reason, logic and science to understand the Universe and to solve life’s problems, avoiding superstitions, which numb the mind and are an obstacle to thinking for oneself.

        7- Conserve and improve the Earth’s natural environment – land, soil, water, air and space – as humankind’s common heritage.

        8- Resolve differences and conflicts cooperatively without resorting to violence or to wars.

        9- Organize public affairs according to individual freedom and responsibility, through political and economic democracy.

        10- Develop one’s intelligence and talents through education and effort, in order to reach fulfillment and happiness, for the betterment of humanity and of future generations.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          As a note let's add that there is nothing eternal about anyone. No one faces eternal torment for breaking any commandment of any kind. Also, your value is to yourself, your family and your community.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      "The spiritual is a different dimension and uses different laws"

      Really? Where is there one shred of evidence to back up this claim?

      You have jumped to an unjustifiable conclusion., like believing in the supernatural or existance of things that are "spritual". There is no logical reason to conclude what you have concluded.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • snowboarder

      believers have conveniently placed their spiritual realm outside of the corporeal universe, allowing them to make unsubstantiated claims with impunity.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Casey

      You have no idea what Jesus might have said. It was written down hundreds of years later by men with an adjenda.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Paffa

      Laws come from intelligent sources that govern each realm it has jurisdiction over. Be it physical laws of matter and energy, or Cosmic laws and those laws of man or Divine. And this is true that they interact with each other as well. One can hardly dismiss material laws, from man made laws any more then one can dismiss Divine principle from the other two. The cosmos is not made up of just material or mechanical by themselves. They influence each other quite a bit. But you need more then a bible to understand that.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  18. West Coast Conservative

    To 'know' Jesus is one thing. To 'believe' in Him is another. Even evil spirits 'know' Jesus (Act 19:15).

    July 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Great. Now all ya gotta do is prove there are evil spirits.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:48 am |
      • Paffa

        That would be lost in translation. Evil spirits is another way of expressing your dual nature. The ego vs. Divine consciousness's that wars with it. The inner man that struggles with the wants and desires of your crooked heart. The morality or Divine principle you were born with despite your lack of ability to know how it got there. Evil is negative action or thought that begets actions with negative consequences. Divine is not a who as matter of what. Generator, Operator, Destroyer. The balancer of Divine thought intelligence permeates everything made by mind thought and is harmonious. Or conversely true chaos brings destruction by blocking or misalignment from order. All the laws of nature mechanical and through thought order the cosmos even as such follows through to our very own thinking.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  19. Ashley Gray

    You have conveniently changed Christianity to suit your personal needs. To be a Christian means embracing Jesus as the Christ....thus, Jesus Christ. You must embrace him as the savior, or, you're NOT a Christian. It's simple. So, while you
    may admire and appreciate Jesus on other levels.....you are not a Christian. You don't understand what it means to be a
    Christian. ...... Perhaps that's as a result of the toxicity of your Islamic history..... Respectfully,

    July 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • snowboarder

      losing the divinity and following the philosophy was the point of the article.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      "Judge not, lest ye be judged:.
      It's not up to you to decide anything, you judgmental troll.
      There are 31,000 sects of Christianity. Are they ALL wrong ?
      It begs the question ; if your god is so intelligent, why can't she make herself clear ?
      My religion is better than yours is . Na-na, na-na, na, na.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      All Christians change christianity to suit their needs. That is why there are over 40,000 denominations.
      If I took 100 christians, and asked them to interpret different sections of the bible, I will get 100 different answers.
      It is the nature of trying to interpret the meanings of words and phrases, that were written by men, then edited by other men, then translated by yet even more men, and then read by even more men.
      We all know what happens to the accuracy of a story in its retelling.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • Paffa

        Perhaps compulsion over accuracy of a story and missing it's intent is the problem. Rather then look upon just one mans wise words why not look also the teachings of many such men over time? How are their bits of wisdom similar? What common shards of light do they all hold in common? And triangulate on the variants of a common theme. An important tid bit of wisdom. Like say the Golden rule.. Love thine neighbor as yourself.. or.. treat others as you would want to be treated. Stuff like that. Such common bits of wisdom are known by all mans religion over the ages. Why limit yourself to just one?

        July 21, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Paffa

        I myself have gained a good deal more appreciation of Jesus words and stories by studying Buddhism. And Confucius, The Talmud and Torah respectively as well as the Taoi. And they make a good deal more sense when you put them all together. Tie that together with Science and natural laws and some metaphysics and things really jump out at you. Looking through only one wall of the prism only gives you a certain light to look through. A light seen darkly as Paul would say. A lessor hue. Look at all of the walls of the prism through the center and behold things have a much richer context.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Paffa

      We change our realities every day. We change therefore our meanings change with it. We are not meant to stay babies all our lives. We must grow from milk to meat and the understanding from child to adult to full maturity. It was not meant for us to stay in the same thing over 2,000 years but rather to grow into deeper understanding. "There is much I want to teach you he said.. But you are not ready. " he told his disciples. Those things we would spend a good deal of time having to grow into over the course of mans development. Sticking to hide bound ways of yesterday won't help.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  20. eddie

    Belief in Jesus is in itself not an evidence of a christian, since even the Devil believes in Jesus and knows that he is God, the only thing that makes one a true disciple of Christ would be taking up the cross, denying self and following him. The only way to follow Christ is not through our own intellect since our minds will not grasp the divine nature of christ, only through his spirit and by and through the cross can we fully comprehend Christ. This is why he used simple people like Peter who were humble themselves and didnt pretend to know everything or have everything figured out, and this is also why he couldn't use the religious scholars of the day or even a king like Herod. – thanks

    July 21, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • snowboarder

      what does that even mean?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • cjeddie8

      so many other people of other religions just wasting their time...poor people. Give 'em a "Jesus for Dummies" book at the gates of heaven maybe they'll slip in.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • One one

      I would agree, as you said, most followers of Christ seem to be simple people.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      False premise.
      There is no devil.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • just me.

      "our minds will not grasp the divine nature of Christ",but,if you believe,and suspend all logical thought,you will grasp the divine nature of Christ.Did I get that right?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Vic

      That's a common misconception! The devil knows Jesus is God the Son but he DOES NOT BELIEVE in Him.

      If you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and personal Savior, you are a Christian.

      John 3:16
      "16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

      Romans 10:9
      "9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;"

      All Scripture Is From:

      New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

      http://www.biblegateway.com/

      July 21, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • Freethinker57

        Actually, believing in God and/or Jesus is a common misconception. Why is it that otherwise rational people, who employ critical thinking in every other part of their lives suspend those rational thinking sklls when it comes to religion?

        July 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • michaelw777

      He also used Paul who was very much a thinking Christian. And Paul's writings are much more foundational to the church than Peter's. God gave us a brain, He expects us to use it.

      You are mistaken in your assessment of the author. This is a man who by his own statement, accepted Jesus as his Savior. Therefore, you tread on very dangerous ground to judge him for thinking differently than you. That his path and walk with Jesus are different from yours does not make it less valid: reread Romans 14:4, and the verses leading up to it. Who are we to judge another man's servant? God is able to make him stand.

      The statement that someone who believes in Jesus does not prove they are a Christian only opens the door for someone else to accuse you of not being one. Or for one church to accuse another church of such activity. And if following the dictates of scripture is meant to show the "true Christians" – then I submit to you that I know of no church, no individual who successfully does so. And if you then say that is human nature and why we seek forgiveness – then why have you judged this man? He has told you up front he accepted Jesus as Savior. That he now has a view that is different from yours does not make him a non-Christian – it makes him a different one from you. Be careful in your judgment of him, for the judgment you give will be the judgment you get, and the measure you use will be the one used for you. How that often plays out in life is we find ourselves in the same situation as the person we judged.

      He could have been more clear – and perhaps less provocative – in his decision to separate the word Christian from a follower of Jesus – but then we might not have read the article. To be a Christian does not mean we have to shut our brain down. Jesus has said He is the way, the truth and the life. And the Truth can handle any question put to Him.

      The author clearly has a spiritual life. He has merely tempered that spiritual life by thinking about his faith and relating that faith to the world around him in a way that makes sense to a logical mind. He has chosen a narrow and rocky path for himself, but it is the only path he can walk.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.