Paul is the reason I am not a Christian. God is the reason I am an atheist. Jesus is the reason I and many nominal Christians are Jesuists.
Paul is dead, but seriously… just this morning I was trying to come up with a term that would encapsulate my atheistic attitude toward Christianity (within which religion I was loosely raised) and permit my admiration for Jesus himself. I thought I might have coined the name "Jesuist" and Googled it…
Anonymous on https://jcarlinsv.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-jesuist.html
Jesuism in the West is an atheistic worldview based on the teachings of Jesus as documented in the Gospels including the recently discovered Gnostic Gospels of Thomas and Judas. A Jesuist rejects the supernatural accretions to the stories about Jesus as mnemonic and marketing devices typical of the age, and rejects all theistic references including self-references by Jesus as metaphorical devices to communicate with the prevailing Jewish and Pagan religions.
To understand Jesuism one must understand the concept of radical respect for all people taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes, the Good Samaritan, the Adulteress, and indeed in all the stories involving Jesus directly. While Jesus believed in the eventual judgment by his God to help formulate and sell the radical concept that all people are to be accepted as brothers and sisters, the Jesuist will accept this as part of the religious culture Jesus dedicated his life to changing. Jesus was a Jew who believed in the Abrahamic God concept, but his rebellion was as much against his own God as the religion of the Jews he was immersed in.
The Jefferson Bible is a useful condensation of the traditional teachings of Jesus and could be considered the Holy Book of the Jesuist. Thomas Jefferson winnowed out the story and teachings of Jesus the man for us in The Jefferson Bible. He littered the floor of the President's office with trash from the bible created by Paul and others, until he had distilled the essence of Jesus from the rest of the bible. I claim Jefferson as the first Jesuist, he certainly was an atheist, (politically a Deist.) The Jefferson Bible is a concise and readable way to discover the ministry of Jesus.
Part of the traditional Unitarian “Affirmation”
Unitarians believe incould be its doxology.
…the brotherhood of man
The leadership of Jesus...
Jesuism is really designed for Christians who, having lost faith in Paul's Christ have moved back to the Gospels for meaning and morality. Once they get comfortable without a savior many of them find they don't need God either. Particularly the God of the OT and Paul who was more worried about idol worship than people treating each other right. They can salvage most of their 'Jesus loves me' conditioning with Jesus as exemplar rather than God, and even worship in their same church.
You will hear them talking about Jesus ministering to the poor, the prostitutes, the gays, the fishermen, and other common people. You will also hear them focusing their religion down to the Second Great Commandment:
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyselfwith the gloss of Matt 25:40
As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
It is the teaching of radical respect for all people which separates Jesus from all of the religious teachers of his time. Until Jesus, religion was all about us vs them, 'We are the world's sweet chosen few, the rest of you be damned.' After Jesus it was more of the same. Fortunately, Paul hijacked his charisma and caused the preservation of the synoptics to document it, incidentally preserving the message of radical respect to be rediscovered by those who can relate to it.
There are theistic Jesuists. Some might call them Synoptic Christians since for them the NT stops before John. But they believe Jesus is the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, who was sent to earth to teach the humanist message of Love your neighbors, all of them, even the Samaritans, respect the poor, the meek, the thieves, the whores and even the people who hate you. In short how to live this life. Many of them take the next step and don't worry about an afterlife believing that how they live this life is all that matters to God.
There is little of Christ in their beliefs but they call themselves Christians for traditional reasons, as many of them are found in traditional Christian Churches. Some call themselves Progressive Christians; I would call them theist Jesuists.
The Humanist Teachings of Jesus
It is clear to me that this historical person was a human that lived and died in the usual human fashion. He believed in God, but was not one himself. He was the earliest documented humanist, and I think all humanists, theistic and atheistic are indebted to him.
37...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:37-40 (King James Version)
In particular when the neighbor explicitly referred to was a member of a hated group that had just caused Jesus to 'shake the dust off his sandals' for one of the most serious breaches imaginable of the social contract of the time.
In a desert community refusing hospitality was probably comparable to refusing to help an injured man by the side of the road. The chances were good that one refused a drink of water, could dehydrate before getting to the next stopping place.
But he was not telling us to love just the nice neighbors, but all of them. This of course does not mean approving of everything they do, but that violations of the social contract must be dealt with love rather than hate.
With the gloss of Matt 25:40
"As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." the explicit humanism of Jesus becomes quite clear.
I find Jesus to be quite human, quite humanistic, and radically respectful of all people. No wonder they killed him.
Cynic and Pharisaic teachings were an important component of the message of Jesus but it was his synthesis of the important ideas of both, and certainly his showmanship in presenting the synthesis that made his message so important for its time. The fact that there are still many people trying to emulate his teachings no matter how corrupted, although some are going back to the gospels only, that makes Jesus so important in western religions.
A distinctive feature of Stoicism is its cosmopolitanism. All people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should, according to the Stoics, live in brotherly love and readily help one another.
The Historical Jesus
Jesus as a normal 30+ male of his time probably had a female companion who was with him during his ministry. Illiterate as nearly all women of the time she created an adoring oral history embellished as all oral histories are for mnemonic as well as story telling reasons. She probably helped him hone his message, I see a lot of anti-misogyny in it, at least in the context of the time. No man thought up the tale of the unstoned whore.
As I understand the 'Q document' its very existence as a 'document' is an inference. I find it much more likely that Q was a companion of Jesus for much or all of his ministry, had a good memory for what he said at the various gatherings and related those to the disciples along with other lore that may have been less important to the disciples in their cult building. Hesh probably was what would be termed today a groupie, probably was not literate, as it is unlikely that hesh had any relationship with the priesthood. The reason I am using the gender inclusive pronoun is that I find it probable that Q was female." And yes, I think of "Q" as Mary Magdalene.
Also I think Mary was much more important to the ministry of Jesus than the men who wrote the histories would even think of giving her credit for. I suspect that social conversations between the two were instrumental in developing Jesus' overall gospel of respect and love for ones neighbor.
In any event the story if you will or oral history which was probably the case in that illiterate culture was probably originated by a companion of Jesus in his travels.
This oral history was picked up by the disciples who as tradespeople of the time were probably also illiterate. At some point literate followers of the cults generated by Jesus were induced to write down the various oral histories, three of which were canonized along with John's commentary. The rest were destroyed, lost, or in the case of the Gnostics buried for posterity.
I have no problem extrapolating the Synoptics back to the original oral history and stripping the mnemonics and worship to get to the radical theistic humanism of Jesus.
What I get from the story is a humanistic and anti-religious message. Radical for its time and place. Certainly God is there but it is a personal not a male religious God. I find a strong feminine influence on the message. Admittedly a lot of soup from one oyster, but when the oyster is strongly and uniquely flavored, it may not be a useless soup. Even for an atheist.
The existence of a cult whose names and characters have been preserved in the stories argues strongly for the existence for a leader for that cult. People do not generally risk reputation and possibly their lives for a cobbled together philosophy or religion. Also crowds generally do not gather for panel discussions of religion or anything else. The cult had a spokesperson, Ockham's beloved razor says the spokesperson was Jesus and that he assembled and preached the stories that form the basis of his ministry.
The other very strong argument is that a contemporary religious charlatan needed a God like man as a marketing tool to be the savior for his followers who he had convinced were sinners in need of a savior. This charlatan hijacked the charisma and one of the miracles associated with Jesus as the basis for his savior Jesus, now Christ Jesus. The fact that his followers accepted the transfer of the charisma from Jesus to the Christ argues strongly that a popular preacher existed within their lifetimes who could believably be thought of as the Christ.
If you strip the obvious miracles, especially the resurrection, which Christians cannot do of course without destroying their faith, you find a charismatic itinerant preacher, who integrated a consistent message of radical humanism and independence from the god mediators, priests, and shamans. It was a theistic culture so it is not surprising that he would believe in God. The core of his message was to develop a personal relationship with God directly, no priests necessary or even desirable, and treat all humans as neighbors to be respected, aided when necessary even at considerable cost to yourself, and loved as one loves oneself....
Cults are not started by committees, which for me argues strongly that there was a historical person that was the basis for the Jesus cult for which there is some historical evidence, Paul's Christian Cult. for which there is ample historical support, the Gnostic cults, for which historical documentation has recently been discovered, and other cults rumored but for which no documentation exists.
But again, God was the dominant social paradigm at the time atheists and secularists really were non-existent. Even a personal God independent of any religion was radically humanist for the time.
I see no religious establishment in the sayings of Jesus. He was in all sayings directly attributed to him giving religion back to the people. Jesus was using the prevailing paradigm of God to teach, but the focus was on being a better human being to and for other humans. In other words you learn from God how to be a better human.
I am not talking about The Lord Jesus of Nazareth I am talking about the human preacher Jesus, who was using God to teach his fellow humans humanity. I suspect he believed in his personal relationship to God and believed that his mission from God was to teach what he taught.
Certainly the radical theistic humanism of Jesus in the Synoptics before the passion has much to teach Christians and atheists alike. It is true some of the idealism is over the top, but none the less effective as an ideal if not a practical paradigm for living.
In some payoff scenarios turn the other cheek seems to be an extremely effective strategy in game theory known as tit-for two tats. Opponent defects once, cooperate. If opponent defects twice retaliate. Practically: If hesh smites the other cheek, kill herm.
There is a good reason that much of modern Christianity, the 'Progressive Christians' have for the most part reduced the entire law and the prophets, that is the whole Bible, to this teaching of Jesus. An atheist can learn simply by studying this and its context.
"Love thy neighbor As thyself." In those days as now religion made a good living selling self-hate. Jesus is clearly stating that all humans are worthy of self-respect. You can't get much more humanist than that. Theistic humanist? Of course theism was the language of the time."
I find the evidence for the existence of Jesus, the itinerant preacher and entertainer, persuasive. He would be a great televangelist today and as then he would refute all the Pauline garbage preached by the followers of his competitor in the religious leader industry."
What would Jesus do? If he were alive today would he have a television ministry based in a megachurch in Marin County? It sure wouldn't be in LaLa Land. Would he be regaling against the preachers of hate for your neighbors of the wrong religion, color, or sexual preference? Would he be successful?