“Love your neighbor as you love yourself” —Jesus Christ

I’ve never known a Christian who obeyed this commandment. How, then, do they explain their disobedience? They say:

(1) Jesus just meant that everyone should be kind to everyone else. (2) I’m saved by faith rather than by works, so I will get into heaven even if I don’t obey every last commandment. (3) Christ meant this as a goal to work toward rather than something that we had to accomplish. (4) I have a family to support, but once the kids get through college, I should be able to help other people more. (5) God only gives wealth to those whom please him, so if I were to help the needy, I would be thwarting God by helping people who don’t deserve it. (6) God only requires me to tithe; beyond that I can do whatever I want with my money. (7) By neighbor, Christ meant those with whom I come in personal contact, and since I live in a good neighborhood, I don’t run into poor people everyday like those who live in poor neighborhoods. (8) Christ was only talking to those who wanted to be perfect rather than to every single Christian. (9) I’m under no obligation to love wicked people like Snowbrush because their hatred of God has made them into demons. (10) “In the present world, I am aware that if I have to survive I should go by the dictum - A SLAP FOR A SLAP, AN EYE FOR AN EYE OR A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH. Otherwise people will crush me to death.” [a comment to my last post]

Such efforts to rationalize disobedience to a straightforward commandment that allows no exceptions reminds me of a video I saw last night in which a Moslem scholar claimed that when Allah commanded Moslems to kill nonbelievers that he didn’t mean that they should kill nonbelievers. Perhaps, but how is it that the creator of galaxies is such a failed communicator that he can’t make his wishes clear to a primitive species in the hinterlands of the Milky Way, the result being that millions of us have been neglected, ostracized, disowned, imprisoned, tortured, boiled, stoned, burned, beheaded, and otherwise abused by people who mistakenly thought they were serving God?

But back to Jesus’ words, when he said to love your neighbor as yourself, did he mean it or not? If you think he didn’t, you have an excuse for not loving complete strangers as much as you love yourself, but if you take him at his word, how is it that you are living in a spacious house, driving a late model car, buying gifts for people who don’t have room for what they already own, and watching lowlife morons make fools of themselves on a 42-inch TV, instead of using your money to buy food, clothing, and medical care for the poor? Thus have I stated my main objection to your religion, namely that it’s a sham, an attempt to feel good rather than to be good, a way to infuse your life with meaning, stability, and hope by imagining that you are under the care of a deity who created galaxies beyond number only to descend to a primitive Iron Age country on earth to die as a sacrifice to himself for your sins.

Yet, I have more sympathy for you than you might imagine because Christ was a hypocrite who laid a burden upon you that he couldn’t bear. If he had loved others as he loved himself, he wouldn’t have repeatedly and viciously denounced them as fools and snakes, or ordered working men to abandon their families and follow him around the desert, or condemned those who didn’t believe he was God to eternal misery in a place that he wouldn’t want to go. These were not the actions of a loving man, yet he expects you to be loving, and when you fail—as you must fail everyday that you live—you beat your chest, call yourself a miserable sinner, and beg a dead man to forgive you. It’s not atheists who are blind; it’s you.

But, as I am often asked, why do I care? I care because religion is surely the most divisive force on earth. If the difference between belief versus non-belief was like that of tea versus coffee, or if I could see that religion does the good it claims to do, I might never write of it again, but the fact is that I watch the news, and I read a newspaper* devoted to the coercive side of religion, so I care deeply and I hate deeply. Some readers say that I care too much, that I should simply let it go rather than to be made miserable by it, but I enjoy writing about religion. If I wanted a cause that would make me miserable, I would choose animal welfare because seeing the abuse and neglect that my species inflicts upon helpless cats and dogs might very well push me over the edge. By comparison, religion is a piece of cake. Besides, I know more about it than most and have seriously reflected upon it longer than most, so I have a lot to say. Most critical writings about religion disappoint me, and it is my sincere hope that I have a unique contribution to make.

*Freethought Today