Jesus Wasn’t Great Part 1

Jesus is one of the most influential figures of all time. Even those who aren’t religious presume he was a pretty good guy, while the religious devote their lives to him. However, I started thinking about it and I realised Jesus wasn’t that great. In fact, I could fill three posts about why he wasn’t great. Firstly, there is a lot he didn’t say, secondly he said some terrible things, and thirdly his main points and rules for life would never work. This has been called “Christianity’s God awfully awkward, nightmarish question”, namely why did Jesus not say anything useful?

Imagine you’re sending the Son of God down to Earth, you would think that he would have some deep and important life message. Perhaps he would bring knowledge of how to cure diseases. Instead of dying painfully after a short life, people could live long and healthy lives. Life back then was nasty, brutish and short, but surely the Son Of God could have fixed that? Some of my friends study history and they have concluded that up until the 20th century, life was miserable; everyone was poor and there was great suffering. If Jesus was so great why didn’t he do anything about that? What if he jumped civilisation two centuries forward to modern times, where (in Western Europe at least) war is rare, life is easy and we all have enough to get by? Why leave continue the suffering for centuries more? What is basic knowledge now would have trebled the life expectancy back then. Why didn’t Jesus mention some basic rules of hygiene so millions of people could have been healed instead of the handful he personally met? What if he created a modern and enlightened church, instead of a backward and ignorant hierarchy that preached that pray was better than medicine and that demons caused illness?

Or what about futuristic technology that would vastly improve the lives of millions of people. Imagine if Jesus thought people about electricity? Israel would be the most advanced and prosperous nation, a fitting reward for the chosen people and clear proof that God was on their side. Imagine if while the other tribes of the region were sitting in primitive huts with swords, the Israelites were driving tanks and building nuclear reactors? What if he taught the secrets of space travel so we could explore the stars instead of the silly story of then two servants? Think of how much time and effort it would have saved if he told us about evolution instead of leaving people to believe the nonsense in Genesis was true. Think of all the scientific knowledge the Son of God could have taught humanity. He could have made Israel the centre of arts, culture, science and civilisation. But no. Instead of sharing great revelations that could advance humans by generations and cut out an enormous amount of human suffering, Jesus gave us nothing that is scientifically useful.

Jesus being both the Son of God and God (that’s a mystery for another time) apparently has the power of omnipotence, that is the ability to see everything that will ever happen (a silly idea if there ever was one). This means that Jesus knew everything that would come after him. He knew that Christianity would split into factions and fight vicious wars that would kill millions and create enormous hate and division in the world. He knew this would happen, but apparently didn’t think it was worthwhile to prevent it. He knew slavery (one of the greatest evils known to man) would persist for centuries but decided not to forbid it. Imagine if Jesus said something as simple as “Judge someone not on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character.” Think of how much better the world would be if Jesus had condemned racism. Or if he thought that men and women are equal? Think of all the suffering that would avoid. But apparently, simplistic parables were more important.

Have you ever wondered why there is no Gospel of Jesus? Surely if Jesus was sent to Earth to teach humans a new testament he would write it down? He would have to be an idiot to think that it would be best to leave it to unknown people decades after his death to record his sayings. Obviously parts of the story will be lost or changed in the retelling; it’s obvious that it’s best to hear it from the original source. Why didn’t he give clear rules and guidelines instead of vague parables? In fact, for someone who supposedly planned to set up the world’s largest religion, he did next to no actual planning. There is only one or two vague quotes from the Bible that imply Jesus even wanted to set up a new religion. He gave no advice on how this religion should be run or rules about it and as a result there are roughly 41,000 branches of Christianity. He should have seen that coming.

I think it’s strange that Jesus didn’t particularly act like the son of God. Instead he resembled an ordinary guy. Nothing particularly happened in the first 30 years of his life, it was normal and uneventful (why did the Son of God have to be born couldn’t he just descend from Heaven? It would be faster and more impressive than being born like a mere mortal). He then spent his time in tiny villages, performing petty magic tricks (convincing drunk people that a glass of water is wine isn’t an achievement) and praying (what was the point of praying, didn’t he already know he was the Son of God?) He didn’t visit the great centres of civilisation where most the world’s population lived and could have properly recorded his words and deeds. In fact the saviour of the world mainly stayed in a tiny and insignificant province. Are you telling me that is what the Son of God would do?

He told parables that had little meaning and have been mostly forgotten now. He did not declare any great scientific, cultural, social or medical principles or advance humanity at all. He did not condemn the great evils that have plagued humanity like slavery, racism, sexism, famine, poverty etc. Nothing that has been claimed about him hasn’t also been claimed about pretty much every other deity.  He didn’t settle the question of what was the one religion, instead left us to fight countless wars over it. He was a simple man who told little stories, had some friends and toured the neighbouring villages. That was all. It wasn’t great, he wasn’t the Son of God, and he didn’t have magical powers.


Filed under Religion

48 responses to “Jesus Wasn’t Great Part 1

  1. somepcguy

    Then why were those who knew him best willing to suffer and die in order to preach what they perceived as his message to the world?

    • Just because his friends were willing to die for him, does not make him a great guy. History is full of countless tyrants who convinced friends and strangers to die for them. They were still tyrants

      Just because people are willing to die for a belief does not make it true. Many have died for Marxism and Fascism, but that does not legitimise those beliefs.

      • somepcguy

        I do not know of any tyrants whose friends were willing to die for their legacy after the tyrant died.

        • So if I told you I was willing to die for my pet hamster, the only conclusion you can draw is that it must have been the world’s greatest hamster? A hamster sent by God?

          • somepcguy

            No, I would ask you why?

            • If I told you it was a miracle performing hamster sent by God and I was prepared to die for it, would you then agree? Would that be proof that the hamster was great?

              • somepcguy

                It would depend. Do you have 500 witnesses to these miracles, who are also prepared to die for the hamster?

                • What if I wrote on a piece of paper that I did, but didn’t source or identify any of these people? This is all Jesus has, a single throwaway line in support of him, which could be fictional. What’s to say my book is any better than yours?

                  • somepcguy

                    Do you believe that we know anything abut the life of Alexander the Great? The life of Jesus is better documented than that of Alexander the Great.

                    • I don’t care about Alexander the Great. If he did or did not exist that would change my life one bit. He is not proclaimed as my saviour or as someone who’s principles should govern my life. His followers are not rich and powerful nor do they have an influence on public life. Unlike the followers of Jesus

                    • Kevin

                      First of all, that’s not even true. Secondly, the existence of Alexander the Great is not relevant to whether or not Jesus was the son of an all-powerful, all-knowing being who will torture me for ALL ETERNITY simply for not believing in him despite there being very little evidence for that being so.

                    • somepcguy

                      You are now arguing a different question. I was arguing the reliability of the documentation of Jesus’ life as reflecting a real person. You are now dismissing it on the basis that you do not believe what those who wrote it said rather than on its historical validity.

                    • Kevin

                      I don’t know if Jesus existed or not, but just because he existed doesn’t mean that he was the Messiah. Those two ideas are not perfectly linked. He could have existed as just another (failed) doomsday predictor (he said the world would end in his apostle’s life times, which it clearly didn’t).

                      The only “evidence” I have seen to support the existence of Jesus of Nazareth has also bestowed upon him godlike powers, so I question their validity as historical documents.

                      Please tell me why you believe Jesus to be the son of God, without referencing the Bible.

                    • somepcguy

                      I have not at any point in this discussion said that I believed that Jesus is the Son of God. That is a separate discussion entirely and completely inappropriate for this format. The original post I replied to said that Jesus was nobody of any particular significance. I challenged his logic.

                    • Kevin

                      That’s a flat out lie. The very first post you made asked why people were willing to die for him if his message weren’t true. Rob even said earlier that Jesus was an incredibly important and influential figure in society today. This discussion is over, since you have proved yourself as being willing to completely ignore the reality of how this conversation went in order to claim some sort of high ground in the discussion.

                      An appropriate metaphor for religion, if you think about it

                    • somepcguy

                      NO, what I asked was why those who knew him were willing to die for preaching what THEY PERCEIVED to be his message. For the second time in this discussion, you failed to follow logic.

                    • Are you insane? We have extremely detailed accounts of Alexanders life and deeds, not least of all The Anabasis, written by Arrian, which drew on the writings of two of Alexander’s generals (Ptolemy I and Aristobulus) for source material. The Persians even wrote about him in contemporary times, they called him the Two-Horned One. Jesus? Not so lucky i’m afraid. You have 2nd, 3rd and 4th century accounts of a 1st century gnostic. Also, there isn’t a scrap of external evidence as to the person ever living.

                • Kevin

                  Hang on a second, there are very few (if not any) recorded eye-witness accounts of Jesus. None of the gospels were written by anyone who knew Jesus. The reports in the gospels are the result of stories being told by word of mouth for over 20 years and then being recorded by unknown writers 2,000 years ago.

                  Your god is not omnipotent if he believe showing up 2,000 years ago was sufficient evidence for his existence.

                  • somepcguy

                    I disagree. I find the argument that the gospels were written by people who did not know Jesus unconvincing. (Luke may not have, but he based it on eyewitness accounts, Matthew was probably written by someone who witnessed the events and Mark was written by the protege of someone who witnessed the events he recounts and quite possibly witnessed them himself as a child). What evidence do you have to that effect?

                    • Scholars all agree that the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ time when all the eyewitnesses were dead (remember life expectancy was only 30 back then). They were written in Greek which none of the disciples spoke and probably none of them could even write. As there are no sources given in the Bible and the Gospel writers never identify themselves, there is no reason to presume they were written by witnesses

                    • somepcguy

                      No, they don’t agree that they were written after all of the eyewitnesses were dead.

                    • They agree they were written decades later, which considering the life span of the era, implies the witnesses were dead. Stories would have been passed around verbally for decades and would have got muddled like a game of chinese whispers. We also have no idea who wrote any of the Gospels so it is possible they were completely made up.

                    • somepcguy

                      Life expectancy in colonial America was at best 45 years. So by your logic, Benjamin Franklin was dead by the time of the American Revolution.

                    • Kevin

                      Well it’s widely accepted that Mark wrote his gospel around 70AD, and that it was written in Greek. Matthew and Luke’s gospels were then based on Mark’s, while John’s was based on Matthew’s.

                      In effect, they’re all based on the one gospel, which was written 40 years after the death of Jesus (at a time when living past 30 was impressive). For someone to be a reliable eye-witness 40 years after the event, they would have to be around double the current life expectancy (no one younger than 20 at the time would be reliable) and would still have to be free of any mental illnesses (such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or even just plain forgetfulness that kicks in 40 years after something happens).

                      But let’s just go back to the basic question. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn’t he know that we would question the legitimacy of the gospels and give us no reason to doubt him?

                    • somepcguy

                      As I pointed out in another comment, the average lifespan of colonial America was 45. Using your logic would mean that Benjamin Franklin (who was born in 1706) did not live to see the American Revolution.

                    • Kevin

                      Here you are being intentionally misleading in a way to get me to accept the legitimacy of unnamed sources. We have documentation and evidence to support Benjamin Franklin living through the revolutionary war of the US. However, there is no documentation (or even names) for those who provided eye-witness accounts to Luke (whose own existence has also been questioned by scholars, since we do not actually have the original copies of his works). In light of this fact that we do not know who gave these accounts, it is not unusual for me to be skeptical of their validity since (as I said previously) all accounts would have to be from people who lived to be around twice the life expectancy and retained all the information perfectly in that time too.

                      In case you’re not keeping up, this would mean that multiple people would have had to have lived to be twice the life expectancy (which, by its very definition, is unlikely) and that these people would all have to have perfectly remembered these stories 40 years after they happened. Also, without knowing anything about these people, I cannot tell how reliable they are as sources.

                    • somepcguy

                      You are the one who said that because the life expectancy in the first century was 30 years, that meant that none of the witnesses to Jesus life were still alive in 70 AD, by that logic Benjamin Franklin was not alive at the time of the Revolution. You are now presenting and argument for Ben Franklin being alive at the time of the Revolution. The fact that he was alive at the time of the Revolution suggests that many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus life would have still been alive in 70 AD, especially when you consider that one of the largest factors in lowering life expectancy is death before reaching puberty.

              • “If I told you it was a miracle performing hamster sent by God and I was prepared to die for it, would you then agree? Would that be proof that the hamster was great?”
                Amazing! I had a hamster JUST like this when I was a kid.😉

    • Kevin

      Like Rob said, people dying for a cause doesn’t prove its legitimacy. Plenty have died in the name of Islam as well as Christianity and pretty much any other religion in the world.

  2. Great post, and thanks for the link, Robert! It’s a huge subject to try and pack into a single post, but you did it well. Kudos!

  3. Kevin

    I can only assume that “somepcguy” is completely missing the point. If the gospels were the story of an almighty being, there would be no doubt whatsoever to their legitimacy. There would be contemporary accounts from Romans or even Jews at the time of dead bodies rising from the grave and walking around town in the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death and appeared to “many people” (Matthew 27:52-53), but there aren’t. You’d think that would be a pretty big deal.

  4. Somepcguy, theres no space to reply you above, so I’ll do it here. You are confusing average and maximum. 45 was the average age, obviously some lived longer and some lived shorter.

  5. Kevin

    I will give you one last response in an attempt (that I’m sure will fall on deaf ears) to explain why you are arguing on fallacious grounds.

    1) Benjamin Franklin living past life expectancy does not prove that the people who lived at the same time as Jesus and saw him and believe his message outlived their life expectancy.
    2) Even if these people were still alive at the time of writing, it does not make what they said true (see alien abductees)
    3) The difference between Jesus’ message and his “perceived” message is completely irrelevant as to whether or not people died for him.
    4) Robert’s opening statement in this piece is “Jesus is one of the most influential figures of all time”, which completely contradicts your assertion that “The original post I replied to said that Jesus was nobody of any particular significance. I challenged his logic.” since no one was making that argument and you posted nothing to that effect.
    5) Again, Israel in the first century and America in the 18th century are two completely different contexts of survival and saying that an occurrence in one proves the same thing happening (but on a larger scale) in another makes absolutely no sense.

    You are merely trying to distort facts to fit in to your agenda. You never explicitly stated that Jesus was the son of God, but by arguing for the validity of the Bible as historical fact, you are saying that. If the Bible were a legitimate, accurate historical source, it would not be the only source from that time claiming that those things had happened.

    All the documentation from that time actually points to the Bible being false.

    I hope this helps you in your quest for truth, although something tells me that you are looking for a subjective “truth” rather than a real one.

  6. Your argument, unfortunately, probably only works on non-believers. A believer can always say “whatever happened, it was God’s plan”. That’s the beauty of religion – this 6 word long explanation works for everything.
    On a side note, I’m actually glad that Jesus did not teach people how to make tanks 2000 years ago, because I’m not sure that the humankind of that era would have survived that.

    • Yeah and the “God is mysterious” argument which is like a get out of jail free card that is used to justify everything and anything. I am presuming that whoever reads this will use reason and logic to examine the topic instead of pre-existing beliefs and prejudices. So yes probably only non-believers

      • And it is a literal get out of jail card, too, because people use the God card to justify crimes (e.g., honor killings), and in some countries even the courts accept that.

  7. Pingback: Jesus Wasn’t Great Part 2 | Robert Nielsen

  8. You’ll get no argument from me. Jesus neglected to do any of the things that you imagine God would do if he came to live among us. The things you value — long life, health, military dominance, scientific knowledge, technological advances, art, clear moral direction, an historically accurate account of significant people’s life and teachings — were not promoted by Jesus. A fair argument could be made that the impact Jesus made on civilization actually impeded those things. Like I say, no argument from me.

    Except, I disagree with your conclusion. You didn’t demonstrate that Jesus is not God nor did you demonstrate that God does not exist. You simply proved that the God you imagine, or the God you would want, doesn’t exist. The God that exists defeats your expectations — his values are vastly different from yours.

    The God who exists values mercy, meekness, vulnerability, weakness, a grieving heart, righteousness and peace. These are not the things you value.

    What you want is one thing — and your post is a compendium of the things you want. What you actually need is something far, far different. You need to change your mind about what is valuable. The things you value do not lead to satisfaction. The god you imagine would fill your life with lots of things that would leave you dissatisfied and bitter. That god does not exist. If that’s the god you refer to when you ask, “Does God exist”, then I am DEFINITELY an atheist.


    • I didn’t discuss the existence of God or Jesus here because I try to get each post limited to one topic. I have discussed those points in other posts if you want to debate them. This post is not about God’s existence but rather a complaint/query about why Jesus did not say anything useful or beneficial to humanity.

      The God I discuss is the one traditionally understood by Christians, namely an all-powerful and loving God. I didn’t create him myself, but rather discussed what others have praised.

      You claim to know what I did and do not want, what I do and do not value. Can I ask what special powers you have that let you know this?

      The god I described and who you have so much problems with is one who cares about humanity and wishes to minimise our pain and suffering. If this view is incorrect please explain why.

      • Peace!

        I’m not claiming ‘special powers’ other than the power of understanding the manner in which you use the term ‘useful’. You enumerated a dozen or so useful things that Jesus didn’t do — which makes me understand what you’re talking about when you say, “Jesus didn’t do anything useful’.” I agree with you (how could I possibly disagree?) if we accept that meaning of the word.

        The useful thing that Jesus DID do is something that is unsettling to all of us. He testified to the truth that we humans — me, you, believers, atheists, good people, bad people, people now living, people in history, people who are yet unborn — are badly deceived in our understanding of what’s useful. The useful things you spoke about in your post are the things that most people, including you, value the most.

        You’re critiquing Jesus according to your idea of what sort of useful things a loving god (assuming one existed) would give us. Jesus fails badly by your critique, so you conclude that claims of his divinity are insupportable.

        I feel no urge to debate or discuss the question of whether God exists. I would rather discuss the question of what is valuable. I don’t think I’m claiming ‘special powers’ when I say that I developed a sense of what you think is valuable, or useful by reading the examples you included in your post.

        I’m sorry you think I have ‘problems’ with a god who cares about humanity and wishes to minimize pain and suffering. What Jesus taught didn’t contradict the idea that God wants to minimize suffering, but he did say something I suspect you might have ‘problems’ with — namely that the suffering we ought to be concerned about is the suffering we endure by being in a state of sin. Jesus taught that that suffering was infinitely worse than the suffering of physical sickness, or handicap, or poverty, or political oppression, or ignorance.

        Could I engage you in a discussion of that?


        • Sure, I’m by all means always open to discussion. Sin is harmless in and of itself. For example, there is nothing wrong with a married couple living together even if the are living in sin. Most sins are actually harmless activities (things like theft and murder are the exception but they generally aren’t considered sins). I have the feeling that we will disagree on this point.

          You claim the greatest suffering is sin. But didn’t Jesus die for our sins? Doesn’t God forgive sins? Seeing as God is the punisher of sins and the only person offended by them, couldn’t he just forgive them and save us all the trouble?

          If Jesus is beyond our comprehension of ‘useful’ does that make him ‘useless’? How do you know if something is incomprehensibly useful or just useless?

  9. Note: I had been logged on under my wife’s moniker. ‘Captain Catholic’ is mine


    “Sin is harmless in and of itself.” Ahhhhh… here’s where we get back to the need to consider what we mean. If, by sin, you mean all the things that your great-aunt Tillie found troubling but you figured out weren’t really that bad I can agree with you.

    I meant something else when I said ‘sin’. I meant the delusion that I’m the center of the universe, the idea that I’m more important than you, the attitude that it’s ‘nice’ if you get what you need but it’s ESSENTIAL that I get what I need. Sin is also the inclination to impose my will to get what seems beneficial to me rather than to yield to what is just. It’s also my resistance to accepting responsibility for things under my own control and my impulse to condemn others rather than to forgive. That’s what I mean when I said ‘sin’

    When I sin (by my definition) I show you and everyone else what an asshole I am and I make your life more difficult. There’s no way you’re going to consider my sin “harmless” when I’m playing every angle to get as much as I can for myself with no consideration of your needs. The word sin seems to be your problem. If I say so-and-so is a sinner it won’t mean anything to you. If I say he’s a douche bag, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Sin, my sin, not only makes me a pain in the ass to be around but it also makes it impossible for me to experience any real satisfaction in life. If I spend my whole life attempting to feed my own desires I’ll end up frustrated and bitter. Do you believe me?

    You’re thinking that God is the punisher of sins but you’re entirely mistaken. When my dog craps in your lawn and I don’t clean it up what do you suppose is going to happen? God isn’t going to punish me — but there’s a good chance you will!

    The insanity that afflicts the entire human race is our insistence on punishing behaviors we think are ‘bad’ and rewarding behaviors we think are ‘good’. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’, of course, are in the eye of the beholder. I’m going to reward you if you’re good to me. I’m not going to bother assessing whether you’re good to others. When I punish you, it’s because you do something I don’t like — from someone else’s perspective, I might be punishing you unjustly.

    It’s different with God. God’s forgiveness or condemnation isn’t a matter of whether or not He takes offense — it’s based on whether we forgive or condemn. The merciful receive mercy, the judgmental receive judgment. Certainly you’re familiar with those teachings of Jesus.

    I can’t be free of sin unless I repent, and repentance won’t do me any good unless I receive mercy, but I won’t receive mercy if I refuse to give it to others.

    God didn’t crucify Jesus, people did. We scapegoated him, but scapegoating Jesus isn’t going to get us anywhere. You’ve got to stop scapegoating and start accepting responsibility. You’ve got to stop condemning and learn to forgive.

    Jesus’ “usefulness” isn’t beyond your comprehension. Not when you start figuring out what’s really useful.


    • I think we have different conception of what “sin” means. You’re right that I view sin as the hand wringing that your sour aunt shakes her head in shock at. I’m not quite sure how many Christians share your view though.

      “I meant the delusion that I’m the center of the universe,”
      Doesn’t the Bible say that we are created in God’s image, in other words, God looks like us? That the creator of the universe loves me specifically? That the creator of the universe listens to my every thought?

      “the idea that I’m more important than you,”
      According to Christianity aren’t you going to get eternal reward and I will get eternal damnation because of sin?

      I think its a good time to mention the “Harm Principle”. This is the idea that I can do whatever I want so long as it does not harm anyone else. So I have the right to swing my arms so long as it doesn’t hit your face. So religion is on safe ground so long as it sticks to the harm principle and condemns theft and murder etc. However when it gets into condemning people for victimless crimes like blasphemey, disbelief then it runs the ground of dictatorship and thought crime. The idea that simply refusal to blindly follow religion is “sin” and worthy of eternal punishment is indefensible.

      “The insanity that afflicts the entire human race is our insistence on punishing behaviors we think are ‘bad’ and rewarding behaviors we think are ‘good’. ”
      Isn’t this what religion does?

      If the merciful receive mercy, will my atheism be forgiven/ignored and I’ll be let into Heaven?

      “God didn’t crucify Jesus, people did. We scapegoated him”
      I didn’t, so don’t blame me. Blaming all humanity for the sins of a handful of people 2000 years ago is collective punishment (which is banned in the Geneva Convention)

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