Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus

the power of jesus

Often, atheists and agnostics grossly underestimate the power of Jesus. I am sure that some of you are already thinking or saying out loud, Bruce, are you nuts? Have you renounced atheism and become a follower of Jesus again? We don’t underestimate the power of Jesus because he doesn’t exist. End of story!

But, he does exist and I think many atheists and agnostics forget this. In our desire to rid the world of the damaging effects of religion we often forget that Jesus is alive and well.

Now, the Jesus who is alive and well is not an actual, physical living human being and neither is he an actual, physical God or Son of God. The Jesus who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is dead. The Jesus who, for thirty-three years, walked the roads of Palestine is dead. The Jesus spoken of in the Bible is dead. We know that dead people do not come back from the grave. We know that once a person is dead he stays dead. Jesus is dead and there is no chance that he is coming back from the dead.

But, Jesus is alive and well in the myths and beliefs of millions of Christians. In the mythical Jesus, people find comfort, meaning, and hope. In the mythical Jesus, people find what they think is lacking in their lives, and quite frankly atheists and agnostics don’t have much to offer when it comes to what Jesus can offer a person.

But, Bruce, believing in Jesus is irrational. Believing in Jesus is as rational as believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Totally correct, but this doesn’t matter.

When suffering and loss come our way, our rationality often doesn’t do us much good. When our lives are in a heap of ashes, knowing the evidence for God not existing does nothing to comfort us. When we are struggling to keep from drowning, the books written by Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, provide no help. All our rational, well-thought-out arguments do little for us when we are at those moments in life where the most precious thing to us is our next breath.

In these times we look for comfort and hope. We look to those who love us and who are willing to do anything for us. In these times, our intellectual prowess does not matter. What we desperately want and need is a hand to hold on to, someone who will tell is it is going to be all right.

But, Bruce, shit happens and we are all going to die in the end. Atheists and agnostics don’t need sentimentality. Surely, we can face what comes our way with a rugged resolve, knowing we are right. Perhaps.

But is knowing we are right the most important thing? Is drawing our last breath knowing we were right about religion, God, Jesus, and the Bible really the grand objective?

Forget for a moment what you know about the Bible. Forget what you know about its teachings. If you were once a Christian, forget your experience in the church. Think for a moment about the essence of the Christian religion. What is the one thing that matters more than anything else?  What is the one thing that allows millions of people to live in a state of cognitive dissonance? What is the one thing that allows Christians to shut off all the criticisms of Christianity and allows them to continue believing?

One word…Jesus.

The mythical Jesus, the Jesus of legend, the Jesus that is preached in countless Christian churches all over the world, this Jesus is the one thing that matters above all else.

Why is this? What is it about Jesus for which  millions of people will abandon rational thinking?  There is no proof for what the Bible teaches on most anything. Few of the events in the Bible have any historical proof. Why does Jesus have such power over people?

Jesus offers salvation. Jesus offers friendship, love, and compassion. Countless drug addicts and alcoholics have abandoned their addictions because of Jesus. Gang members have forsaken their violent ways and thieves have turned to gainful means of employment all because of Jesus. Only the most hardheaded and blind among atheists and agnostics would deny the fact that, for millions of people, Jesus makes a qualitative difference in their life.

In Jesus, millions of people find meaning, purpose, and direction. In Jesus, they find the strength to suffer and die. This Jesus promised to never leave them or forsake them, and no matter how hard we try to show that Jesus is AWOL in the lives of Christians, they still believe he is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

I am sure there is some psychological or neurological explanation for why this is so, but such explanations have little value. People believe what they believe and that is all that matters.

My wife’s parents are almost 80 years old. They are on the short side of life and it is unlikely that either of them will still be living ten years from now. When they die I will mourn their death. I love them dearly. I will grieve over the loss of two people I have known most of my adult life. Good people. Loving people. Caring people.  And yes, devout, fundamentalist Christians.

They believe that Jesus is with them through thick and thin. Jesus has been their faithful guide. According to them, Jesus has worked countless miracles for them. To them, Jesus is as much a part of their lives as the air they breathe.

I could point out to them all the times that Jesus wasn’t there for them. Where was Jesus when they miscarried? Where was Jesus when their daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident? Their life is filled with countless examples of Jesus leaving them for dead along the side the road. He seems to always be around when they need a hundred dollars, but nowhere to be found when faced with job loss, economic troubles, or sickness. Yet, they still steadfastly believe.

Is it my place to expose their fraudulent Jesus? Is it my place to point out all the places that their friend Jesus was no friend at all? Perhaps I should buy them Bart Ehrman’s books for Christmas so they can know the truth about the Bible and Jesus? Why would I want to do this? Would their life be better without Jesus?

I can’t think of any way their life would be better without Jesus. Their whole existence and being is invested in him and they are trusting Jesus to be there when they are dying and to carry them home to their reward in heaven.

None of this is true, BUT it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is what Jesus means to them and what value he adds to their lives. If this Jesus gives their lives meaning, purpose, and direction, I have no right to disabuse them of their beliefs.  If this Jesus gives them peace and comfort…who am I to take that away from them?

Sometimes, we atheists and agnostics, in our zeal to rid the world of the evil of Christian fundamentalism, forget that most Christians are not theocrats trying to take over America. They have sincerely-held beliefs and, for them, Jesus adds value to their lives. Yes, we must battle Christian fundamentalists who want to turn American into a Christian theocracy. Yes, we must battle attempts to teach creationism as science in the public schools. Yes, we must battle attempts to codify Christian morals and ethics as the law of the land. We must battle any and all attempts to lessen the individual liberty we have to believe or not believe. But, beyond these things, it is not our place to rid the world of beliefs we think are silly or anti-intellectual.

We must remember, those of us who are bloggers, that the Christians who come to our blogs to debate, evangelize, and attack are not typical Christians. Zealots deserve all that we give them and I have little tolerance for such people. But…I must never forget that most Christians are not like the zealots.  Most Christians are like my wife’s parents — people who love Jesus and want to live a good life.

All human beings want a life that has meaning and purpose. We want to be loved and we want to know our life mattered. In the end, we all die and we will soon be forgotten by all but those who loved us. Let’s be careful, in our zeal to rid the world of all the evils associated with religion, that we don’t lose those we love, that we don’t trade being right for those who will be there for us when we draw our last breath.

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22 Comments

  1. Silver

    This reminds me of a quote. As Terry Pratchett states in the book “Men at Arms”:

    “When you hit your thumb with an eight-pound hammer it’s nice to be able to blaspheme. It takes a very special and strong-minded kind of atheist to jump up and down with their hand clasped under their other armpit and shout, “Oh, random-fluctuations-in-the-space-time-continuum!” or “Aaargh, primitive-and-outmoded-concept on a crutch!”

    Reply
  2. Ami

    I would not take away the comfort my mom feels because of her religion. I’m quite certain that some days that is all that keeps her going. She’s been married to my dad for a really long time, and he is undiagnosed and untreated and mentally ill. Oh my goodness is he ill. It’s frightening. She figures her heavenly reward will be well deserved, I guess.

    Reply
  3. Dale

    Very well put, Bruce. I am guilty at times of lumping all Christians with the zealots who insist the USA is the light on the hill, the Constitution was framed by Southern Baptist preachers and deacons, and if not for the Ten Commandments our lawmakers wouldn’t know right from wrong if both bit them on their asses. Most Christians are doing their time the best they can without fanfare and if their beliefs help them, more power to them.

    Reply
  4. Middle-ager Deconverter

    Interesting food for thought. Happy, blissful ignorance in otherwise intelligent- sometimes very intelligent people. If lies and bullshit, though, should not be exposed for the sake of the truth – that Jesus died like every other human, that there is no reward or punishment after we draw our last breath – then what do we DO with that Truth, then? Are we to keep it to ourselves? Shouldn’t Truth be sought for Truth’s sake so more and more people learn to be better humans (and teach the next generation to be better humans) ON THEIR OWN rather than attributing successes to an imaginary supernatural entity? We are stifling the evolution of our minds by encouraging Medieval times homage to an imaginary friend!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I think we share our truth when asked to do so or when we are in a public forums. My in-laws know my wife and I are no longer believers. If they want to find out more about our unbelief they can either ask or read my blog. If they do neither, then I am content to let them die happy in Jesus. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter. Lasting change requires time — lots of time. We are several generations away from becoming like “Christian” Europe. We should target those who are most sympathetic to our beliefs and worldview — millennials (and maybe their parents). While older people can and do deconvert, it is not common. Older people have too much emotional investment to walk away, even when they have doubts. I am not saying we shouldn’t engage older people, we should. But, they are less likely to hear us than young adults.

      Reply
  5. Karen the rock whisperer

    Deconversion, for many people, is a long, painful process. I’d love to see my Christian relatives and friends not be believers any more, but many of them are not in a position in their lives to take that journey without inflicting wounds that will never be able to heal. Those than have been able to at least start down that path are already doing so. Even some of those who will always be Christians have forsaken church and are focusing more on the theology of Christian Love than the necessity of right belief.

    The best way I can encourage them is to be the best secular humanist I can be, to be a Social Justice Warrior, to care about the people in this world who need caring about. If my Christian family/friends can see that I’m not evil or even particularly self-absorbed, that brings them a step closer to discovering that there moral frameworks and loving hearts are not the sole province of religion. But to insist that they give up their deity is pretty demanding, depending where they are in their life journeys.

    I think humans need not just literal truths, but philosophies. Religious belief substitutes for the latter, though it doesn’t have to. But I find it more helpful to encourage secular philosophies than to argue religious truth. I think it’s easier to have a secular philosophy and discover your religious belief is irrelevant, than to discover your religious belief is untrue and have to rebuild your philosophy from scratch.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    That Ken Pilcher Junior reserves all rights to his poem (sic) just makes me sad. If he ever read a real poem, he would not claim that his quasi-bible-versing crap is poetry. That’s a wee bit judgemental you know so I will show you what I mean by poetry. This guy is the real, real thingin rap:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0NJGENMu7Q
    Jesus is my nigga!

    Reply
  7. Doug B

    I enjoyed this post and think you are really onto something. As long as we aren’t harming others, we should all be free to explore, doubt the consensus, and search constantly for meaning and purpose in life – or remain convinced there is not meaning and purpose. Why the battle to force others to our way of looking at things?

    Reply
    1. J.D. Matthews

      I think of it this way: If a person is HIV positive and lives out his life keeping the disease in check and not infecting anyone else, then that’s not a problem, at least not for society at large. On the other hand, if an HIV positive person is hell-bent on infecting as many people as possible and wants everybody he knows to have AIDS, then that person must be stopped at any and all cost.

      I view religion in much the same way. If you’ve got it, and it’s something you can live with (even if we know it’s killing you) then more power to you. But when you want to force the rest of the world to live by your religion’s morals and strictures, oppress people who differ from you, legislate your religion upon us, and force us all to endure your religious pomp and ceremony, then please believe that it’s now clobberin’ time. And even then, I won’t be trying to change your views. No, I will be trying to utterly defeat you.

      Reply
  8. Craig

    Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He was buried, and bodily rose on the third day. By believing this – the Gospel, you to shall have eternal life. It’s a fact. He was seen by hundreds after He was risen. Y’all are just full of the devil, and you need to repent. Your life is but a vapour, and eternity is a LONG time.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      *sigh*

      Please provide names, addresses, and photographs/videos of the people you say saw Jesus after his death.

      If not, you are just parroting stuff you read about in a mythical storybook.

      BTW, I love being full of the devil. I plan to sacrifice a baby in your name! So there.

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    2. GeoffT

      There is increasing academic opinion to suggest that there never existed a person on whom the biblical myth known as ‘Jesus’ was based. I’m not saying absolutely that there was no such person, but I can say with near certainty that he didn’t perform miracles, that he didn’t rise from the dead, and that he wasn’t in any way divine in nature. There is not a single eye witness account of his existence.

      Reply
  9. Craig

    🙂 A rational man should not be asking for video tapes of something from 2,000 years ago 🙂 It would make no sense for people to ‘invent’ the story of Christ’s resurrection, considering it brought persecution and death to so many of them. Also today, people like Kanye West, Beyonce, all the pop stars and celebrities are Christ attackers. How can this be? Either it’s all a coincidence or it really IS a spiritual battle. The evidence suggests the latter, however, people are selective of the evidence, which is exactly what atheists are. Have a good day.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The gospels were written 30-90 years after the death of Christ. These writers were likely not eyewitnesses . The bigger point is that there is no contemporary, non-Biblical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I am one atheist — a former Evangelical pastor — who is not selective of the evidence. If you have contemporary, first person evidence for not only the resurrection of Jesus but also his so-called miracles, by all means share it with me. Of course, I know you can’t because such evidence does not exist.

      Consider two events surrounding the death/ resurrection of Jesus: the veil in the Temple being rent in two and graves opening up and formerly dead people walking through the streets of Jerusalem. Two astounding events that surely would have made it into the historical record of the day. Yet, the historical record is silent. Following the evidence suggests — to me — that these two events did not happen; that these stories were written to embellish the very human — not God — life of Jesus.

      If you have not read any of Bart Ehrman’s books, I encourage you to do so.

      As far as First through Third Century persecution of Christians are concerned, most Christian accounts are embellishments or outright falsehoods. Again, this is not my opinion. The historical record reveals that Christians were not as persecuted as much as modern followers of Jesus say they were. And, to a large degree, they were persecuted not because of their faith, but because they were lawbreakers (much like Evangelicals who end up in prison in foreign countries, not due to their faith, but because they broke the law.)I encourage you to read The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss.

      You need to get out more. Countless music and movie stars are professing Christians. Maybe the real issue is that they are not your “kind” of Christian. Justin Bieber is a good example, as is Jennifer Hudson, and Carrie Underwood — to name three.

      I assume you believe Mormonism is a cult. Millions and millions of people are Mormons, proving that large groups of people can and do die for lies. Of course, the same can be said for Christianity.

      I encourage you to educate yourself about Christianity. Read books written by liberal Christian authors or non-Christians. It’s important to read works by people who don’t have any skin in the game. If you are willing to do so, come back and see me in six-months and we will talk.

      Reply
      1. Craig

        I am not sure what you mean by contemporary, first person evidence. That Jesus existed is pretty much accepted as fact https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus, of course, people are NOT going to accept the Gospels, because they are not willing to accept that miracles happened. The NT declares that people who saw the resurrection of Christ were still among them. The Apostles suffered persecution and death in the name of Jesus. It defies logic, for people to ‘make up a story’, and live with nothing and suffer a violent death, to defend something they made up.

        Just because people profess to be Christian, does not make them Christian. I’ve been reading through your blog, and I notice from your testimony that you ‘invited Jesus into your heart’. This sounds nice, but, it’s not Biblical and it’s not the Gospel. I notice that later in living the Christian lifestyle that you adopted 5 point Calvinism. Again, full blown Calvinism is not the Gospel, because it requires works to be saved. The Biblical standard is faith alone. Also, a ‘follower of Jesus’ is not salvation; This is discipleship, which is different from salvation – completely separate. From your testimony, i’m confident enough, that you were never really born again to begin with, but instead, had the Christian life without being born again, I think 1 John 2:19 applies to you.

        Yes, I do think Mormonism is a cult, but, there’s no rational link that Mormonism is wrong = Christianity is wrong. Mormonism is wrong for obvious reasons, not least that the historical accounts of America, as written in the book of Mormon, are easily discredited (currencies, towns and so forth), and the obvious contradictions in Mormonism, that, Mormons believe they will become Gods, which, is what Satan wanted. There are no contradictions in the Bible, which is impossible for something if it were ‘made up’.

        My issue with reading books by liberal Christian authors, is, that they usually mix Christianity with the Christian lifestyle. In essence, they do not really understand Christianity at all. One does not need buildings, institutions, organizations, deacons boards and so forth to be a Christian, Christianity is spiritual, not carnal, the freedom comes from within, that’s liberation. Not liberal in terms of liberal Christians, for instance like Billy Graham, who gave the Catholic church his blessing (from his presentation of the Gospel, and this would shock many – he actually was NOT a Christian).

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          As I said, do some reading and then we’ll talk. Until then, you have nothing to offer, discussion-wise. The Bible is not what you claim it is. Until you can at least see that, there is no hope for you. For you — without being under the influence of meth — to say the Bible has no contradictions would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad; sad in the sense that your rational thought processes have been taken captive by Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism kills intellectual inquiry. Why? Because, as your comment aptly illustrates, the Fundamentalist thinks he knows everything and has nothing to learn. What could an atheist teach you, right?

          Once again, I encourage you to read a few of Bart Ehrman’s books. If you truly want to know truth, especially about the Bible, please read a book or two of his.

          I assume you have read the commenting rules. https://brucegerencser.net/comment-rules/ Your first sermon comment should have been your last, but I gave you a bit of rope. Consider yourself hung, and I’m not talking about your dick.

          Thank you for commenting.

          Bruce Gerencser, a sinner saved by reason

          Reply
          1. GeoffT

            Sorry Bruce, I really shouldn’t comment any further on this, but I just read Craig’s assertion that there are no contradictions in the bible. My morning coffee is now splattered over my iPad!

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            For Craig, the Bible CANNOT have contradictions, errors, etc. The foundation of his faith is certainty; certainty that what he has been taught the Bible is and says is absolutely true. To admit anything else is to destroy the foundation, and once that happens down comes the house.

            I hope Craig will pick up one or two of Bart Ehrman’s books and read them — eyes and mind wide open, read them.

  10. Craig

    Well, there’s no need to be personal 🙂 But that’s OK, I understand that’s what occurs when the individual runs out of sensible points (it’s referred to as ad-hominem).

    Unlike many, I did not grow up as a Christian. I spent a large part of my life as an atheist, with a university background in biological science.

    I would hope that a man as educated as you, would have put some of the arguments by Bart Ehrman, but who knows why, maybe he doesn’t understand Christianity either, so you didn’t?

    Regardless of it, you would have to agree your testimony indicates you were never saved to begin with. Regardless of this, I’ll look into some of his stuff, but, attacks on the Bible, that’s easy. The Bible has always been under attack, even today with 100+ false Bible versions.

    Still, it’s one thing to say there’s contradictions in the Bible, then not provide them. I’ve had something similar on another atheist website, except, they provided examples, which I refuted. They were not happy 🙂

    Have a good day, you are forgiven by me for what it’s worth, and thank you for commenting also 🙂

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Craig,

      Someone who knows and understands atheism (and science) does not become a King James-only Fundamentalist. It doesn’t happen. What does happen is people confuse not believing in any particular God as atheism — it’s not.

      Bart Ehrman is “an American New Testament scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity. He has written and edited 30 books, including three college textbooks. He has also authored six New York Times bestsellers. He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

      What I am asking to you do is do the work. Read. Educate yourself. I understand where you are, Craig. Within the Evangelical bubble everything makes sense. It was only when I dared to step outside of that bubble that I began to see that what I had been taught, what I believed, and what I preached about Christianity was not true. That’s my hope for you. Dare to step outside of the bubble. Dare to consider that just maybe you might be wrong. Once you admit that, then true intellectual inquiry can begin. If your God is all you say he is, surely he can protect you as you read a couple of books.

      As far as me cutting you off…the rules are in place for a reason. This site focuses on helping people with doubts about Christianity or who have already left Christianity. It’s not a place for Evangelicals to regurgitate Bible verses, sermons, Evangelical talking points. This blog is widely read. Over the past decade countless Evangelicals have stopped by to preach or tell me I’m wrong. It’s been years since I’ve heard an original thought or argument. Thus, for the sake of saving time and effort, Evangelicals such as yourself are given once chance to say whatever it is you think God wants you to say. You did, end of discussion. I encourage to take the time to read other posts on this site. You might find these helpful: https://brucegerencser.net/why/ If you still want to set me straight, I encourage you to start a blog and rage away.

      If you have any questions, please email me: https://brucegerencser.net/contact/

      Reply
    2. Grammar Gramma

      Funny – Craig gets personal by declaring that Bruce was never truly saved, not truly a Christian, then he complains when someone else gets personal! Indeed, I was unable to determine who it was who was getting “personal.”

      I suspect that Craig was never an atheist. He just spent part of his life outside of the Christian church. Now that he’s wholly consumed by it, he believes he was an atheist in his former life.

      Craig needs to get back to blogs where his sort of rhetoric is welcome. This isn’t the platform for him.

      Reply
  11. Brian

    As the senior citizen son of a Baptist preacher who lived his whole life believing and preaching, I find it tedious and sad to listen to a man like Craig. I say ‘a man like Craig’ with respect for his position as a Christian though I see him as a kind of ‘survivor’ because of my view of things. He has survived his own pain by buying into the glorious salvation of Christ. He has given himself over to the club of belief and cannot allow a space for his old self because that old self threatens his flight from a real history. My dad never faced his own history except to perhaps whisper it to the void (God) and to take up his Cross of ministry as a gift and new life to live that separated him from his own history. The unfortunate human reality is that regeneration or being saved, transformed by Christ, does not deal with a human history in a genuine way but suppresses and denies it so that it must erupt in sick ways, in unbalanced fashions similar to the way extremes erupt for alcoholics. Of course, one only has support for boozing among boozers at the bar but the boy’s club of Christianity has drugs available on almost every corner, internationally! Like other addicts, Christians visit their delusions on helpless children and do so with glee and/or anger, with the excess of conviction/denial. They harm others in exactly the fashion that they were harmed but with their own personal denial of the past. So Craig takes his atheism, transforms it into a new suit of Christianity and then visits it on others. He feels confirmed in his hatred, telling you about how you were never saved, didn’t do it right etc., all the same old observations that we find so boring and shallow and that he experiences with glee. I believe that limiting this kind of exchange is balanced and that your continued respect through his very generic, common insults allows you to maintain respectful humanity in the face of what is essentially aggression. I admire your willingness to endure this kind of thing. I wonder if the man is willing to read outside his comfort zone though because it starts him further down the path of self-knowledge and the pain he has put away. There is a very good reason people of faith want more and more of Christ and less and less of themselves. Black collar crime, the eruption of the past in criminal behaviour does not appear to even make a dent in the great denial that is Christianity. One of my cousins has just revealed (as +60 year old) that her father sexually assaulted her, made recordings and that he threatened her mom’s death if she ever spoke of it. My aunt, her mom just died recently and now it is pouring out. My uncle has been convicted as a +80 year old. The family did not agree with her admitting the crimes publically, that it should be dealt with by God etc. But she wanted to face herself, be herself, openly feel what is and was real. As I see it, she simply wanted to be, to be…. The Church wanted her to shut down. Her own family too…. Christianity is a dangerous tool.

    Reply

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