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. One one

    I shall now pray. Dear heavenly father, I give thanks for torturing and killing yourself, i mean your son, to end the eternal curse of your wrath & vengeance you put upon all of humanity because, in the beginning, two people wanted knowledge. Unlike the unsaved godless trash who deserve to burn forever, I do not seek knowledge. I seek only your approval by submitting to your absurd and egotistical demands so that I may live forever in heaven. And though you never show yourself, I believe in you, for if I have thoughts of doubt, you will send me to hell to be tortured forever… because, although you love me, you hate my thoughts. Amen.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • forgetaboutatleast

      well said, and freakin hiliarious!

      July 21, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • snowboarder

      the endless dichotomies of religion.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  2. Walter

    And today's anti-Christian story from CNN is.....

    July 21, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • midwest rail

      ...non-existent. Your persecution complex is showing.

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

        And your inability to interpret the English language is non-existent as well.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Marsha Stone

      I only read this CNN article because my dad sent it to me. Now I read the comments to glean a reply to my dad...otherwise I would never waste my time on anything from CNN.

      July 22, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • jazzguitarman

      I would say that this article is only half anti-Christian. This foolish author acutally believes that some historical guy named Jesus should be worshiped.

      July 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  3. One one

    This article is a plug for the guys book.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • forgetaboutatleast

      no way! really?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Da King

      I'll buy a copy.

      July 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Why would you wish to buy a copy? I only ask because it looks like the author is mocked equally by both Christians and atheists. i.e. neither side respects his POV but of course for vastly different reasons. I think the guy wrote this book as a way to market to half way Christians; i.e. those that have rejected many of the myths but still have a need to worship some historical figure.

        So his marketing plan is a good one but I wonder what readers expect to get from reading his book.

        July 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  4. Paul

    Each person who hears the Gospel has the choice of accepting or rejecting Jesus as Savior. Discrepancies in the scripture will always be an argument, justification, reason to reject the salvation offered. You choose. Your decision. As it has been from the day thousands of years ago. Your "logic" and "educated assumptions" will not dissuade me or weaken my trust in Christ's salvation. That is true Christianity, will you follow Jesus Christ or not? I believe, I trust, I have hope, I have forgiveness, I have been assured of my eternity....Where will your "faith" lead you?

    July 21, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • jazzguitarman

      Well I hope you can understand that your delusions will not change the minds of any atheists either. But I know very few atheist that are trying to convert the religious but I know many Christians that try to convert NON christians. I don't respect either of them for trying to.

      July 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  5. JLS639

    To answer the articles sub-heading: Can you follow Jesus and not be Christian?
    Non-Christian religions that follow Jesus: Ba'hai, Druze and Islam, at least, plus some Gnostic traditions and arguably heterodox Christian traditions (Millenariuns, Mormons, etc.). If you really are willing to stretch, you can say some Unitarian Universalists follow Jesus (but might not mind if you say the don't follow Jesus).

    July 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  6. Vic

    Galatians 3:1-13

    "3 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

    6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

    10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—"

    All Scripture Is From:

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


    July 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • JJ

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

      July 21, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • Marsha Stone

        Wow, how did you find THAT out of all the choices you had?? It should be read like this-"happy is the one who takes YOUR babies and smashes them on the rocks!". The Babylonians had been doing that to the Israelite babies.

        July 22, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  7. Benjamin Gibson

    Read my article next week – "Can you use words that have similar meanings without using synonyms" (said with my eyebrows raised and a serious tone, so you will think maybe there is that possibility)

    July 21, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    It is complete idiocy to appreciate the historical Jesus, and to deny Christ at the same time. Christ and the historical Jesus are the same person, therefore we call him Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ had got a human nature and a divine nature, he was man and God at the same time. His human nature was created in Mary's womb, but his divine nature was eternal (Jesus existed before he came into the womb of Mary, and, of course, before he was born into this world). Thus, one can say that the eternal Christ incarnated when he came into the womb of his mother Mary who was a virgin. First, this human being was simply called Jesus, but when he revealed his heavenly glory by miracles he was called Jesus Christ.

    Jesus was King of Israel indeed because he was a descendant of the Jewish King David. It is only that the royality of Jesus' family was no longer acknowledged by Israel at Jesus' time. Jesus was a man of virtue, he was a real king. He committed no sin, and cured people, and gave them the soul's health. And if the Jews (Jewish leaders) had not turned apostate from the ancient faith of Jahwe they had elected him King of Israel. Yet, the Jewish leaders were not concerned about their people Israel but only greedy for honor, power and riches. They used religion as a smokescreen for their malice. They were obsessed by the devil who gave them thoughts like: "let us do evil things in order to harvest good things". They uesed the law of the Torah as a cub in order to beat the ordinary Jews themselves breaking it. The Jewish leaders were angry with the ordinary Jews, insulted them and condemned them. The did not tell Israel of a Redeemer, and when the Redeemer became visible in the person of Jesus, they said he would be obsessed by the devil.

    The Jewish leaders were breaking the law, and condemned the ordinary Jews. Jesus kept the law, he even fulfilled it through divine love which is more than keeping, and he loved the ordinary Jews despite their sins. Hence, Jesus was the exact opposite of a Jewish leader. The Jewish leaders were let by the devil, Jesus was let by the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why they hated Jesus.

    Jesus told the truth by saying: I am the Saviour, and you need me in order to get delivered from your sins. Jesus confirmed the law of the Thorah but said that one is not pious through simply possessing the law, being circu-msized, and a descendant of father Abraham but through fulfilling the law. We fulfill the law when we love God and our neighbour. Yet, this love we don't possess by birth (by birth we a selfish, breakers of the law). This love is a divne gift which we gain through faith in Jesus Christ who is the love.

    This is the great mystery of faith: When we believe in Jesus Christ, we get a new divine nature beside our selfish nature which we have by birth.. The spiritual exersice we can fascilitate the new nature more and more, and thus we will come through at Judgement Day because we were really people who loved God and their felllow human beings.

    May Israel realize his Redeemer today. They are God's Chosen People.


    The Son of God: Jesus, the Christ.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • snowboarder

      jesus the philosopher is believable. jesus the human sacrifice for the mistakes of his father is not.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Da King


        July 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Rainer, if anyone were to come upon this God-man idea you are describing without knowing of it and believing that it is true, do you imagine it would seem like anything but lunacy? I don't think anyone can arrive at the notion by reason, or by hearing someone proclaim it. How did you come to believe it? Suppose Jesus is not the Christ. He is dead and long gone. Would you, in the same way you did come to believe he is the Christ, still have reached the conclusion that he is the Christ?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  9. mustardseedhead

    Why do I have to read a book to find out about Jesus? I can just pick up the bible. Right?! Just a new way to right an old story that needs no re-writing, and an attempt to get rich quick?

    July 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • cat0325

      Actually, this book is about trying to figure out the HISTORICAL Jesus based on what little evidence we have as well as the time and socio-political climate in which he lived. But, for those who believe that an oral history that was written down at the very least DECADES after his death by people who were writing in the NAME of an apostle (in general they were NOT written BY the apostles) is 100% correct, then you are someone who can not be talked to logically about this subject.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • Counter

        I am always amazes at the propensity to believe what LIBERAL therologians think about Christ and about what he did and what he did not say, and when the gospels were written down.

        I will choose to believe what those gospels say and what Paul had to say.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • Candace Clough

          I bet you think Paul wrote all the epistles that are ascribed to him too.

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

          considering not a single word uttered by the mythical jesus was written down within decades of his fabled life, the veracity of every quote is clearly questionable.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  10. 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 10:02 am |
    • snowboarder

      believers have conveniently placed their "spiritual" realm outside the corporeal universe. it allows them to make claims with impunity.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      "I promise you that anyone having a sincere desire to know Jesus Christ can know him by prayer and personal revelation"

      "No one shall come to me, unless the father draw him".

      Are you wearing your magic undies ?
      Please say something in Joe Smith's fake Egyptian hieroglyphics.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  11. Hmmmm

    Christianity has been transformed into a noun. Jesus stated it needs to be a verb. It is a religion of action. That is why, most action Christians use other terms like " believer", born again, Christ follower. Etc....

    July 21, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Dave

      Actually, Christianity was a religion of action. The crusades, inquisition, witch hunts etc are reminder of that. By the way, what need does an almighty and all powerful deity have for mere mortals to fight its battle for it?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • Da King

        That was man, not God. You don't know him yet.

        July 21, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  12. Vic

    ♰♰♰ Jesus Christ Is Lord ♰♰♰

    July 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  13. aao

    Of course you can in the same way you could be a follower of Santa Claus or Hansel & Gretel. What kind of idiot should you be to be a follower of something you acknowledge to be a fictional character?

    July 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • mustardseedhead

      From experience, people who chose not to believe and follow Christ's teachings are those whose only interest is that others believe and follow in them. No thanks!

      July 21, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  14. Master Mazda

    Persians have been misinterpreting Christianity since the Gnostics and Catharis. Even their take on Islam is flawed by their peculiar Zoroastrian and Manichean beliefs.

    July 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Moonlight

      And Christians were so kind to the Cathars.......

      July 21, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      "Peculiar beliefs"? Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  15. Saddened by THIS world

    Hmmm, wow, sigh...

    I think they should rename this blog to the

    "CNN UNBelief Blog"

    Folks, why the vitriolic HATE spewed out to Christianity?

    You ever wonder why, other religious beliefs, ANY other religious belief, NEVER is hated or despised like Christianity?

    I have a dozen refutable reasons for this, but I'll now waste your/my time with them.

    "For it is written, As I live, SAITH THE LORD (that would be JESUS the CHRIST), every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
    Romans 14:11

    The only important reason is that YOU WILL NOT BOW TO GOD.

    But what you FAIL to realize, is that you WILL bow to Him, at the judgement.

    Either as a redeemed CHRISTIAN, or as one judged guilt.

    Please, contemplate (the possibility of) this TRUTH, and get right with God.

    It matters not to me, but it WILL matter to you someday.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • snowboarder

      there is no legitimate reason to believe any of that to be true.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • Da King

        Hard for you to comprehend. Maybe you should try knitting.

        July 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Colin (the original)

      Why is subjecting the stories in the Gospels to a bit of historical scrutiny an act of hatred?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • JJ

      But quoting from a text written by primitive man as if it were some prophecy yet to be fulfilled is a waste of time to the billions who find it nothing more than quoting Moby Dick.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • One one

      "Folks, why the vitriolic HATE spewed out to Christianity?"

      You preach that anyone who doesn't submit to your beliefs will be judged and tortured forever in hell by your god and you actually ask such a question ?

      You have a lot to learn about people.

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

      silly to think fundamentally the universe is centered around human conduct. All of the complexities of life and it all comes down to whether or not I lied, stole, cheated and whether or not I decided to force myself to believe sheep herder mythology or a God that contradicts himself.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • One one

        And the most important of all concerns to god, according to Christians, is what you do with your private parts.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • Da King

        Eddie, no one said that but you.

        July 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Shayna

      You seriously believe Christianity is the most hated religion? That would be Judaism, the most persecuted religion & people on earth. Truly ironic when you consider Jesus was a Jew. Also, this article was in no way hateful, but rather thoughtful & reasonable, which obviously you have never experienced.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  16. Rainer Braendlein

    What is the meaning of the law of the Torah today?

    The law of the Torah shows us that we are not in a blissed state of health like Adam and Eve were before the Fall.

    God tells us, for example: "you shall not kill!" If we had a perfect, loving nature by birth, we would not need such a command. We would be able to love, and would neither kill nor hate. Yet it is true that we often hate our fellow human beings, which is a prestage of killing. And it is outrageous that the more whe hear the command that we should note hate the more we are tempted to hate. This is sad reality.

    Let us simply accept reality: We are selfish by nature, and God tells us that we should not be selfish: you shall not steal, kill, commit adultry, etc.. When we try to keep the commandments without the help of a redeemer we become even worse, and hate more, steal more, commit more adultry. We are complete sinners. That is the truth.

    The law of the Torah makes us realizing that we need a Redeemer who gives us power to overcome our selfish nature. This Redeemer is Jesus Christ. If we believe in Him we die for the sin, and enter Christ. In Christ we can overcome the selfish nature of our flesh, love our neighbour, and thus we will come through at Judgement Day.


    Love is the fulfillment of the law (this is much more than keeping the law), said St. Paul.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • G to the T

      So why do you call yourself a christian when you favor the words of Paul (who never met the man) over the words (supposedly) spoken by Jesus himself?

      Don't let Paul fool you! What proof do you have that it wasn't the devil that Paul met on that road and that all of christianity as we see it today is just the devil's greatest triumph to turn people away from the Law?

      July 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  17. joebak

    To all the atheists out here... the greatness of Jesus/God is that he has given us the choice to follow him or not. Now just because you chose not to follow him does not mean that he still does not love you. Just like if your child or children don't approve of your love and that does not mean you don't love your child/children...same way works with God. No matter who you are and what you are...GOD LOVES YOU!

    July 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • JWT

      and yet i certainly have no god.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Which of the thousands of gods are you referring to?
      Why that one and not the others?

      July 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • cjeddie8

      Yeah tell big J I love him too. Thanks for wiping the slate clean for me even though sin continued before and after he was on the cross. What is God's big hang up with "BELIEVING IN HIM" or human conduct in general. God is a weird dude and doing a really bad job.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • Jim


        Please don't do that. Trying to point out the absurdities of religion by talking like any part of it is real is both fruitless and part of why they believe non-believers are "angry at god" and the like.

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


      1) Millions of kids believe in Santa Claus, but that doesn't make him real.

      2) Atheist don't "chose not to follow god"; Atheist don't buy in to your mythology from the start. Simply put, there is nothing to follow or not follow.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:24 am |
      • Da King

        Yea, We know heaven won't be over crowded.

        July 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  18. Moonlight

    Congratulations Reza, you've discovered the very same thing my spritual ancestors learned in the enlightenment. There is a reason we're called Unitarians.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Da King

      You may be called that.

      July 21, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  19. Derek

    Jesus asks us: "Who do you say that I am?" This is a challenge for us to assert his divinity or, His mere humanity. Basically, Reza just wrote an entire book stating that he's not God. There are more than a few Atheists who would find this laughable that it took two decades for him to come to this conclusion. Also, if Jesus was just a secular revolutionary that tried to bring down authority just for the sake of some modern notion of "freedom", then he was pretty bad at it. They hung him on a cross after only three years of revolutionary activity. Hardly a shining example for people like Stalin, Che, and Castro. I the end, Jesus tells us "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." If that isn't Him telling us He's God, I don't know what is. And if he did say these things, then we can't see him as merely another human being. He's either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord. But He can't be anything other than those three things.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      You speak the truth, however few on here will acknowledge it.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • ce smith

        The written page tells us that Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." It's hard to accept reports when the first ever word written about Jesus was 100 years after his death. I'm accepting of Jesus but not the Bible. Jesus was not a Christian. And I wonder how he'd feel about having "Christ" added to his name.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • Counter

          Christ only means the " Anointed one" ... It's really not his last name. Do some research , you don't know much what we Christians really believe.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:18 am |
      • mustardseedhead

        It is IMPOSSIBLE to totally deny God. We are HIM in form and cannot literally deny HIM. The only reason atheist exist, is because of HIM. So it is IMPOSSIBLE except in words and even still by HIS grace, allows it to be said.

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

          there is no legitimate reason to believe what you posted to be true.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:15 am |
        • Richard Cranium

          Atheists will always exist. It is the theists that may not. If no one taught others about gods, then all of the religions would die off, and all peoples would not believe in gods, leaving us back to the default position of no gods. People are born atheists, they have to be taught beliefs.
          Gods are created by men. It is in the belief of the gods that they created that also created theists.
          Atheists have always been. Gods came along after.

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


          Do you feel better after writing that? I hope so, because otherwise your writing is utterly pointless.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Colin (the original)

      Well, not exactly. People can have the most absurd religious views, even of themselves, and not be lunatics. For example most Christians believet:

      (i) that a being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions upon billions of galaxies (each with billions of stars and planets) supervises all 7 billion human beings on planet Earth every minute of their lives so he can decide how to reward or punish them in an afterlife.

      (ii) that this being reads human minds (or “hears our prayers”) and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of human history in small ways to answer them.

      (iii) that this being, having created the Universe, sat back and waited about 10 billion years for the Earth to form, then another 4 billion odd years for human beings to gradually evolve, so he could impregnate a Greco-Roman Jewish virgin with himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to forgive the original sin of a couple we now all know never existed.

      Those beliefs are clearly insane, but because they are quarantined to the religious sphere, they are not perceived as such. Jesus likely had apocalyptic Jewish religious views common for his time.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • Derek

        "People can have the most absurd religious views, even of themselves, and not be lunatics." Fair enough. But Jesus actually tells us that He is God. Even Buddha said: 'Don't follow me, follow my teachings." Confucious said something similar. Even though Jesus held apocalyptic views, which may have been common at the time, it doesn't negate the fact that he said he was God incarnate. You must admit that if he says he's God, but knows he's not, then he is a liar. If he says he is God, and truly believes he's God, but he isn't, then he is a lunatic. But, if he says He is God, and he actually is, then he is our Lord. There's no way around this choice that we have to make after hearing what Jesus tells us. The only thing he cannot be is just another regular human being.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • snowboarder

          my brother-in-law had a psychotic break and decided he was the most recent incarnation of jesus. he wasn't god either.

          July 21, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • G to the T

          Mr. Lewis forgot one very possible option in his "liar, lunatic or lord" theory – misrepresentation (sorry – no good "L" word for that). His theory hinges on the bible being an accurate records of the words and actions of Jesus. Once you don't consider the bible "god breathed" it's very easy to see how stories ABOUT Jesus (never BY Jesus you note) could easily have changed and/or been fabricated to fit the views of the person who was writing that particular book. Neither lyer, lunatic nor lord...

          July 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Liar, lunatic, lord, victim of misrepresentation, fictional character...

          Most likely some combination of at least 2 or 3 or those.

          July 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
      • JustJoe

        This troubled me for a time too until I read quite a lot at Reasons to Believe. RTB is a cadre of scientists who deal specifically with things like this and they make some incredibly compelling argumentation. For instance to answer your question of time and number of galaxies, it takes that to create a stable universe for us in the here and now. Less stellar mass would mean a universe where certain matter could not form. This is part of the "just right" series of discussions that make very interesting reading for believers and skeptics alike. The bottom line though is that all these issues are dealt with openly and by people with the background to answer technical query, you just need to be open enough to consider their answers.

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

      You say '"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." If that isn't Him telling us He's God, I don't know what is'. I contend that that is the Bible telling us that he is God–Jesus telling us he is God in a "I don't know what is" fashion would be him coming down today and telling us himself. You say (perhaps inspired by C.S. Lewis) "He's either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord"–this ignores the fact that the Bible was not written by Jesus and that Jesus could have been an honest person that we can aspire to emulate, but that much of what is written about him is the stuff of legend or mythology just like many famous figures of history who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. You ignore at least the fourth option–that what is written in the first person about him might not be his words.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Derek

        I understand your argument, though typically t's meant to be a 'wave-of-the-hand' argument. Who can disagree that everything we know about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, we can only know through the mouths and written words of human beings? With this fourth option, we are admitting that nothing about Jesus is truly knowable since Mark, Matthew, Luke and John may have misremembered some of the things they saw Him do and interviewed the wrong people. Reading the Gospels is still the best we can do when discerning the nature of Jesus and His role in our lives.

        July 21, 2013 at 10:18 am |
        • Counter

          That is the convenient method doubters take to dismiss and not confront who Jesus is. They just don't want to be held accountable by a the sovereign God and Lord of the universe.

          They will in the end be held accountable.

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

      Did it ever occur to you that Jesus was misunderstood when he said "I am the way, the truth, and the light"? I know Julian Jaynes' theories are not particularly popular, but what if Jesus' oft-cited quote was a reference to the then-new (according to Jaynes) phenomenon of human consciousness? Perhaps Jesus didn't mean "I", he meant THE SELF - the conscious mind. To the still mostly bicameral people of his time, stumbling around in their confused darkness, this new thing called the "self" would easily qualify as "the way, the truth, and the light".

      I wasn't there when he said it, if indeed he did, and neither was anyone who wrote the Bible. But I can easily imagine that "the self" is what he said in the first place, and that those who heard him predictably misinterpreted his statement as a claim of divinity.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  20. Jon

    Um, nope. Jesus is the Son of God. That is what he claimed. That is why they crucified him.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Colin (the original)

      It is an exceedingly odd myth. A god impregnates a Greco-Roman Jewish virgin with himself, so he can give birth to himself, and then sacrifice himself to himself for the "original sin" of a couple we now all know never existed.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • hharri

        it is odd that you find it odd. and that it is a tenet of demonic churches

        greco-roman? lol

        he moved life into her.

        she gave birth to the
        his son, the savior of the world
        who was with god and was god

        he gave his life, willingly.
        he laid down his life for you
        he sacrificed everything
        in obedience to abba, his daddy
        even as his mom writhed in agony

        for the sins of sam stone

        September 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
        • keith

          Which lord are you yalking about? if you read some history you will discover that there are 10s of thousands of gods all of them as USELESS as the next lord.
          Read Richard Dawkins "The delusion of God" that book really is TRUE.

          September 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • snowboarder

      there really is no legitimate reason to believe that to be true. they executed him because they thought he was a troublemaker.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • cjeddie8

        along with hundreds of other troublemakers...

        July 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Da King

        He was a trouble maker for the religious Jews back then. Much less so today. Jews seem stronger in their own faith today.

        July 21, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • cat0325

      Nope. If you were a religious scholar you would know that the ENTIRE Jesus tale had been told PRIOR to the First Century CE. His name was Zoroaster and the tenets of Christianity are DIRECTLY paralleled in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster lived in the 6th century BCE – over 600 YEARS before Jesus.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Sane Person

      Actually, he was crucified as an enemy of the state of Rome. A traitor. The leader of a rebellion. Crucifixtion was a punishment reserved for specific criminals.

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

        Please cite.

        July 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • neorhythm

      He never actually says he is God or that he is even the son of God. People read between the lines but he never said any such thing.

      July 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
      • Marsha Stone

        John 10:30 Jesus says "I and the Father are one." This sounds like He is saying He's divine.

        July 22, 2013 at 7:08 am |
      • lngtrmthnkr

        when Jesus taught his followers to pray he said the (Lords prayer)-Our Father who art in heaven.Calling God Father implies we are his children and he his son and we his sons and daughters.

        July 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Darice Gerg

      They crucified him for "claiming" to be "King of the Jews."

      July 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
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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.