Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in the New Testament is often considered to be a great moral teacher. Many of the precepts ascribed to him are indeed of great value in living a moral life: loving your neighbour, taking care of the sick and needy, feeding the hungry, and numerous other examples demonstrate this. However, the concept of the necessity of believing in and worshipping him as god or facing eternal damnation is not such a decent idea.
Phil Ferguson at Skeptic Money explores this as a concept with a simple morality play entitled: An Ogre, A Cake And A Pistol.
Imagine that you are in a very big city. A city that you have never been to before and you find yourself walking down a dark alley, you are lost and a little scared. It is 3AM and there is no one around. You are all alone.
From out of the darkness comes an ogre. The ogre sneaks up behind you and wraps one arm around you. This ogre is 8 feet 2 inches tall, weighs about 450 LBS and is all muscle.
You cannot get free. You can call for help but, no one will hear you. You are in serious trouble. With his free hand he lifts up a pistol and places it to your temple.
He leans over and whispers in your ear, “Do you love me?”
You are stunned and not sure what to say so the ogre explains… “If you love me, I will make you a cake!”
and… “If you don’t love me…I will kill you and turn you into a zombie!
At this point in time I will ask the christian if the ogre is moral, have they created a moral situation? Every time I have done this they say NO. The ogre is not moral. I point out that we agree and that there are some moral ideas – virtually, everyone can agree with. This is one of those ideas. It is so simple and clear and we, as part of our humanity, share this and so many other things in common.
Often they agree and seem happy that I have finally found some common ground for us to share.
Now, let change things just a little. I am not going to change the evil situation that the ogre has put you in but let’s just magnify the reward and the penalty.
Again the ogre asks….
“Do you love me?”
Now he tells you that if you do, you can live with him forever in a place of beauty. Let’s call in paradise.
If you do not love the ogre, he will kill you over and over for all of eternity and put you in a lake of fire!
Often at this point the christian will say something like… “Now you are talking about christianity.”
I will acknowledge that I am and how impressed I am that they recognized the situation and how immoral it is. Often they will just stammer something like, “well for christianity it’s different.”
I then inform them that and nothing has changed. I only magnified the reward and the penalty. The have already agreed that christianiy is evil.
Every time I have done this, they have nothing to say and simply walk away.
Here is a comic rendition of the parable.
Most of the teachings of Jesus are quite easy to derive by applying reason to social interactions. Society as a whole functions better when we respect and take care of one another. There is no need to invoke the supernatural to come up with a personal and social morality that encompass the secular teachings of Jesus. It is when the lessons turn on the deification and commands for loyalty and forced ‘love’ that the entire house of cards come stumbling down.
Thanks to Biodork for the link.