The Raving Theist

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Picture This

June 27, 2006 | 57 Comments

The God Who Wasn’t There filmmaker Brian Flemming has described himself as a “Christian Atheist.” He explained his meaning in an interview with Christianity Today last year:

Once you’re a Christian, I don’t think you ever shake being a Christian, and personally I don’t want to . . . [T]he Jesus that I hold in my mind as the Jesus who taught me my moral values in many ways, I don’t want to lose that. I like Jesus. When I see a picture of Jesus that doesn’t make me feel bad, it makes me feel good. I’m an atheist because I only believe those things that can be demonstrated and proved. I don’t believe that faith is a good thing at all. But I’m a Christian in that I love Jesus.

To those of you atheists who once were Christians: How do you feel when you see a picture of Jesus?

Comments

57 Responses to “Picture This”

  1. qedpro
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:47 am

    Personally i’m sick of seeing pictures of Jesus.
    But i’ve been an atheist for as long as i can remember.
    I guess God just made me that way. :-)

  2. Carlos
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    I feel indifferent, it is just a picture of some roman guy.

    It seems that Mr. Flemming is not an atheist, but what I call an “angry christian.” I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years he says he was wrong about the atheist thing. How can he say that he loves Jesus right after saying that faith isn’t good? Angry christian indeed, and not an atheist.

    By the way, you don’t need the Jesus myth to learn moral values. If you read the new testament, you’ll notice that it is actually a really bad place to learn about morals.

  3. sdanielmorgan
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:57 am

    Somewhat as Templeton claimed he did: sad. Sad that I’d been brought up with so many lies about this man. Sad that whoever he was, and if he ever was, if he was anything like the gospels record, there is so little in common between him and his followers, including those who deified him.

  4. EK
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:06 am

    When I see a picture of jesus I feel like I’m looking into a northern-european-biased mirror. Minus the cool spiked headgear.

  5. reconciled
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:13 am

    Who has an actual drawing (or photo) from someone who actually used the “real” Jesus as a model?

  6. noah nywno
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:22 am

    I don’t really feel much of anything when I see a picture of Jesus anymore.

    However, to be honest, I do feel the sting of my loss of faith whenever I go to a Catholic service for a passed loved one and I find myself almost wishing I could belive again, just so I can share in the same kind of mouning as the rest of my family.

    Almost.

    Then I remember what pining for things that aren’t real did to me as a person and how it almost killed me. I also remember how much happier I am now that I don’t belive.

    Sentiment is no substitute for reason.

    Noah

  7. June
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:23 am

    My conception of a Cosmic Creator has always been much more magnificent than anything seen in sculpture or painting. I’m talking about a scale where our Milky Way galaxy might be one atom of God.

    And then it becomes clear that “God” is a name for the natural universe around us, an attempt to personalize the forces that control us and shape our lives, an instictive need to project our psyche onto the cosmos.

  8. reconciled
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:24 am

    Amen noah nywno. I feel the same!

  9. diogenes
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:49 am

    My soft spot is the Virgin Mary; when I see her picture I cannot control the compulsion to pray three Hail Mary’s. Lately this compulsion has grown to the point that, when in Rome watching La Pietá, I even kneeled and prayed the three Hail Mary’s. My problem now is: What Church? (Some help!). Those Christian should try to make things easier and unite in only one church. Well, I have to recognize I’m analyzing other alternatives, e.g. I like elephants. That’s why I cannot discard Ganesh. Thanks RA for opening our eyes, but I will be fairer than you: I will never utter a bad word about ANY religion. There is not any reason for privileging only the Christians.

  10. Tommykey
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:49 am

    It depends on what kind of picture of Jesus it is. When he is portrayed as this very meek and frail figure, it annoys me, because I don’t picture him that way at all. Just like in the movies when he is preaching and doing that sermon on the mount bit, he is always portrayed as speaking in a very soft and gentle voice. I picture him speaking in a loud and animated fashion like one of those bible belt preachers. Jesus, if he indeed was real, would have to have had a magnetic personality and tremendous charisma in order to attract a following.

    Contrary to Noah, as a former Catholic myself, I detest attending baptism, wedding and funeral services. Whenever the parts come where everybody does the sign of the cross, I remain motionless and sigh to myself observing everyone around me participating in some superstitious nonsense. But that’s just me.

  11. Tommykey
    June 27th, 2006 @ 11:50 am

    I worshipped Mary before she was a Virgin!

  12. Choobus
    June 27th, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    If anyone has an actual picture of Jesus I’d like to see it. Somehow, the white Berkely style 60’s hippy with long hair seems less than realistic.

  13. Alpha Spork
    June 27th, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

    I’m too busy laughing to feel anything. Except when it’s a really anglo looking Jesus, then my ribs hurt from laughting too hard.

  14. Aaron Kinney
    June 27th, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

    The same way I feel when I see pictures of Santa Claus, or the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Except with more ANGER, because nobody kills or persecutes anyone for not believing in Santa Claus or Mr. Stay-Puft (unless you count the movie Ghostbusters).

  15. John Galt
    June 27th, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

    Carlos said, It seems that Mr. Flemming is not an atheist, but what I call an “angry christian.” I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years he says he was wrong about the atheist thing. How can he say that he loves Jesus right after saying that faith isn’t good? Angry christian indeed, and not an atheist.

    But he did say that he can only believe those things that can be demonstrated and proved. Which means that if asked the question “Do you believe in God?” he has to say no. It doesn’t mean that can’t love Jesus. I can love Socrates without believing in formalism. I can love characters from novels even though they’re fictitious. I think that’s the idea he’s getting at. Despite his disbelief in God, and his skepticism that Jesus ever lived, he can still find value in the life of Jesus and what that stood for.

    And what’s the definition of an “angry Christian”?

  16. Dada Saves
    June 27th, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    If you look real close into the face of Jayzus, you can usually see a tortilla.

  17. diogenes
    June 27th, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

    “Despite his disbelief in God, and his skepticism that Jesus ever lived, he can still find value in the life of Jesus and what that stood for.”

    How can you find value in the life of a person you are skeptic abouts his existence?

    Maybe you are refering to the christian ethics and in this case your sentence makes sense. But the problem is: What exactly is a christian ethics? Is there something like that?. If Christ existed his ethics was a jewish ethics. The rest is the work of the cristian church. There are some people who call themselves christian atheists. They mean by that, that they share some values with christians. In this sense the outcome is that most of atheists are “christian atheists” since we think, as christians do, that it is rigth not to murder, steal, help others, etc. But I don’t think this is an accurate definition because some christian values are universal ones in the sense that are shared by many religious and non-religious people , and some of them, before the First century (those unforgettable Greeks !).

  18. Cap'n Awesome
    June 27th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    I don’t feel anything particular when I see a picture of Jesus. No magic feeling, or spiritual moments. The only thing I feel is a little bit of cultural embarrasment. Boy, that Anglo-Saxon Jesus must have really stood out walking around Egypt and Palestine.

  19. Cap'n Awesome
    June 27th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    I don’t feel anything particular when I see a picture of Jesus. No magic feeling, or spiritual moments. The only thing I feel is a little bit of cultural embarrasment. Boy, that Anglo-Saxon Jesus must have really stood out walking around Egypt and Palestine.

  20. Cap'n Awesome
    June 27th, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    I don’t feel anything particular when I see a picture of Jesus. No magic feeling, or spiritual moments. The only thing I feel is a little bit of cultural embarrasment. Boy, that Anglo-Saxon Jesus must have really stood out walking around Egypt and Palestine.

  21. Thorngod
    June 27th, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

    Just a slight touch of nostalgia, since I was in thrall until the age of fifteen. Of course, when I see one of the crucifiction depictions by an adolescent artist, with the huge drops and streaks of blood, I’m saddened by the realization of what’s happening inside that kid’s brain.

    We are all Christians, in some degree, religious or not–except, of course, for those few who were not reared in the Christian world.

  22. Sean
    June 27th, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

    It’s clear he doesn’t actually believe jc ever existed, so his parents must not have been all that great if he attributes his morality to a mythological figure. I suppose it could have been worse, having no moral guidance in the home and all. The idea of loving jc nonetheless seems strange. I can’t relate. I learned nothing from going to church growing up because I only went twice a year until age 12. On those 2 days I was too distracted by how annoyed I was for having to be there to pay any attention. My dog was nice, wouldn’t hurt a fly. Never did. I still love him. At least he was real.

  23. Shelley
    June 27th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    Speaking as a former Christian I have to say that I feel very little when I see pictures of JC. I feel saddened by the people who are still so vehement in their delusions. I feel worse that they feel compelled to put those delusions into law and when women suffer so much because of old men who hate them.

  24. Mijae
    June 27th, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

    It depends on the context. In a traditional context like at an actual church, it just gets an internal grimace. Beh. Religion. If it’s on some cheesy T-shirt someone’s wearing like the “His pain, your gain” one, it gets a big eyeroll. If it’s something just plain gooofy like a “Join the Winning Team” poster of RACECAR JESUS, that gets hysterical laughter.

  25. Brian Flemming
    June 27th, 2006 @ 6:14 pm
  26. PhalsePhrophet
    June 27th, 2006 @ 7:26 pm

    Don’t we already have the “Atheist Jesus”? Did he not offer all so we could continue our atheism unrepentantly?
    I agree with Brian Flemming on the shorthand for jesus, and the whole family really enjoys the Jesus on the Crucifix magnetic dress-up set which is stuck right next to The Raving Atheist magnets.
    Everyone has been quoted out of context before. Actions reveal more about the reality of one’s position than words do, at least most of the time. I have no doubts at all that TRA, Brian Flemming, and Sam Harris(whose book TRA sent me as a prize) are all atheists. Each has presented compelling evidence for their atheist beliefs. Evidence, which would require a deity to show itself to overcome.

  27. Kafkaesquí
    June 27th, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

    How do you feel when you see a picture of Jesus?

    It sort of depends on the picture, don’t it?

    However, sometimes a picture of Jesus can make me smile.

  28. Shirley Setterbo
    June 27th, 2006 @ 7:41 pm

    When I see a picture of Jesus, I feel the same way I do, when I see a picture of Zeus, or Posiden. I don’t have anything against them. Interesting stories. I just don’t think they ever “really” existed.

  29. hollmaster
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:07 pm

    When I see a picture of Jesus I think of how blind people are. Jesus was in the middle east and the typical picture is of a blonde hair blue eyed man. This small(?) discrepancy proves to me how people have beliefs because of what they learn as children and aren’t able to incorporate independant thought into their belief systems. Their thoughts are spoon-fed to them as a smooshy substance that’s easy to get down.

  30. Some Guy
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

    Do those ‘WWJD?’ bumper stickers, hats, keychains etc. bother anyone?

  31. Kafkaesquí
    June 27th, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

    SG, I just translate them to ‘Who Would Jesus Do?’ — which, when you think about it, is a pretty interesting question.

  32. Heathenlifer
    June 28th, 2006 @ 12:44 am

    If its in public, I get mildly annoyed. I see it as a statement of “look, I belong to a club!” kind of advertisement. Tiresome advertiement. If its in private, like someone’s home that I’m visiting, I take it as a sign to tread carefully. Jesus – the signpost to people we’re dealing with.

  33. Chris Treborn
    June 28th, 2006 @ 1:57 am

    When I see a picture of Jesus I immediately recognise Him, and I immediately feel His love in my heart. I know many people think that there is no way to know what he really looked like, but consider this: for hundreds of years Artists all over the world have been compelled to portray Him in a similar way. Isn’t it obvious why? Because the power of Christ compels them! He reaches out from heaven and directs their thoughts so that we may know him. That means we DO know what he looks like, and that’s why I feel his love when I see what I know is his picture.

  34. Kreme
    June 28th, 2006 @ 2:24 am

    When I see a picture of Jesus I recognize a boring lie projecting a boring made up man. Then I focus my attention elsewhere less boring: a forum, or more interesting book perhaps.

  35. EK
    June 28th, 2006 @ 2:29 am

    HA!

    You are incredible Chris Stillborn.

  36. rob
    June 28th, 2006 @ 4:14 am

    Chris, you are aware, are you not, that for the first 500 or so years after the jesus myth started, Jesus was depicted by artists as clean shaven? Only in the sixth century did Jesus acquire the bearded rabbi look.. I guess the power of Jesus compelled the artists to make him grow a beard!

    Just as the power of Moses compelled the artists to depict him as a white male with a long white beard, even though he somehow managed to pass himself off as a pharaoh’s son! And the Power of Robin compelled the artists to depict Robin Hood as a green suited redhead sporting a goatee! There must be quite a number of spirits going around compelling artists a certain way… Its so obvious!

  37. MB
    June 28th, 2006 @ 6:13 am

    Seeing a picture of Jesus makes me grateful: grateful that I no longer labor under the illusion that he exists.

    Also, depending on the picture, I think, “Does anyone really believe that this guy is from the Middle East?”

  38. Kreme
    June 28th, 2006 @ 6:28 am

    I find the Jesus image quite boring. To me it makes no more sense to care about a Jesus image than it does for a Christian to care about an image of any other non-Christian religious myth character. I feel more inspired after witnessing a smiley face emoticon. However, I do care about adding to the Raving Atheist community, which is why I post this message.

  39. noah nywno
    June 28th, 2006 @ 7:02 am

    Mijae said:
    “It depends on the context. In a traditional context like at an actual church, it just gets an internal grimace. Beh. Religion. If it’s on some cheesy T-shirt someone’s wearing like the “His pain, your gain” one, it gets a big eyeroll. If it’s something just plain gooofy like a “Join the Winning Team” poster of RACECAR JESUS, that gets hysterical laughter”

    One of the funniest examples I’ve ever seen of this was in a mall once when I saw a guy with a white T-shirt with the word “JESUS” arching across the chest in big red, white and blue letters. There were stars mixed in for good measure. I couldn’t help thinking, “How come we never see BHUDDA shirts like that?” I almost became light headded from trying not to laugh.

    Chris,

    I think there’s a much simpler explaination for what your talking about…Plagarism.

    Noah

  40. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    June 28th, 2006 @ 7:44 am

    Chris Treborn said:

    for hundreds of years Artists all over the world have been compelled to portray Him in a similar way. Isn’t it obvious why? Because the power of Christ compels them! He reaches out from heaven and directs their thoughts so that we may know him. That means we DO know what he looks like …..

    ———————————————————————————

    WTF – that is to freakin funny!!! Talk about infantile thinking – some xtians have the wildest imagination.

    And that is why when I see silly pictures of jesus I feel resentment … resentment that such a symbol can promote such silly magical thinking!

  41. John K. Fitzpatrick
    June 28th, 2006 @ 7:48 am

    My wife has about, oh, 2 dozen cruxifixs and other Jesus images around the house (along with Buddha’s and other symbology), many scavenged, or made by local/outsider artists/mental patients. Our downstairs bathroom is particularly holy in this respect. I like the bloodier crosses, but I’m sick that way.

    – John

  42. musashi
    June 28th, 2006 @ 8:25 am

    The picture itself isn’t what bothers me so much as what it represents. Any time I see a picture of any religious icon I picture the spanish inquisition, the annhiliation of the native peoples of north, central and south america, lies, pat robertson & the moral majority.. the list goes on. To me, religion has come to represent everything that is wrong in society.. it IS the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” .. innocuous at first, until faced with an opposing view, then all hell breaks loose.
    Humanity would do well to eradicate it completely.

  43. Oz
    June 28th, 2006 @ 8:40 am
  44. Erik
    June 28th, 2006 @ 9:47 am

    When I see a picture of Jesus, I think “Gosh, where does the time go?” Seems like just yesterday he was romping around the Judean desert, skipping stones on the sea of Galilee, lecturing rabbis on the finer points of Jewish life and withering fig trees right and left when they failed to produce fruit in the wrong season.

    Then those awful Romans (or was it the Jews?) did that terrible cross-nailing thing when he was 33 (or was it 27?) and he had to go all Resurrected on them and everything.

    And he worked so hard to influence minds in the Mediterranean for the next few centuries so that those amazing stories that people made up about him became accepted as, well, Gospel (hee, hee!) across the most powerful empire of that part of the world. Ah, me, was he proud as a peacock when Constantine converted the entire Roman world.

    It all took a bit out of him, poor dearie, so he took the next few centuries off, and just look what happened. I remember telling him when he had his first goat that if he couldn’t take care of it, he wouldn’t be able to be a husband to humankind, either. Oh well, sometimes you just have to let them go their own way.

    The Enlightenment and Reformation really sort of took him by surprise, which was a surprise to me since he is supposed to be omniscient. He was so put out when he found out from Copernicus that the earth isn’t actually the center of the Universe that it sent him into a century-long drinking binge. Just locked himself up in a cave all day and night with a fifth of Jack Daniels, which he seemed to have an endless supply of. It was that lush Gabriel, I’m sure of it, who kept it flowing. Well, of course we worried about him. I mean, the hangover was so bad that he missed the whole era of the Slave Trade and eradication of the population of the Western hemisphere.

    And looking back on it, it was a mistake to send him to Spain to sober up, but we thought some nice sea air and olives would do the trick. Well, his immune system was a little down, so he got that nasty Spanish flu, sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. And boy, was he a sneezer! Always had sinus problems, ever since he was a wee lad. Well, how were we to know that Spanish flu spread through the air? He still feels bad about all those millions.

    Ah, yes, such memories….

  45. Shelley
    June 28th, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    I like seeing cars and people with Jesus icons around. It makes me feel secure that I can identify the freaks right off the bat and I don’t have to wonder. One thing I see a lot around my town is the license plates with bible verses on them, for example: “John 03 16.” Cool.

  46. sdanielmorgan
    June 28th, 2006 @ 10:18 am

    Because the power of Christ compels them!

    The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ!

  47. Shelley
    June 28th, 2006 @ 10:40 am

    sdanielmorgan:

    You made my day! HAHA!

  48. HappyNat
    June 28th, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    I actually have a picture of Jesus next to my computer. It is the ultra-white, clean, hippie Jesus picture in a fabulous plastic gold frame shaped like leaves. It is so 1950s and I got it for 50 cents at the Goodwill!!

    I’m pretty used to him there watching me as I go about my business or getting dressed, folding clothes, or looking at internet porn, that I don’t usually notice him. When I do think of him I wonder how anyone would put their lord and savior in such a ugly frame. It is also a great talking point when friends come over.

  49. benjamin
    June 28th, 2006 @ 11:36 am

    When I see a picture of Jesus my feelings are of pity for people who can’t discern fiction from reality. When I see a picture of Obi Wan, however, I am filled with admiration and hope that I could live a life as justly as his fictional character did.

  50. RJ Evans
    June 28th, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    The Jesus character is a fiction. See for yourself. Oh…BTW… Do take time to read, study, and analyze everything on the following site with a critical eye. I’m sure you’ll find the information eye opening and fascinating!

    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com

    RJ Evans
    The “American Heathen™”
    ShockNetRadio.com & FreethoughtRadio.com

  51. Nokot
    June 28th, 2006 @ 4:29 pm
  52. Rocketman
    June 30th, 2006 @ 9:04 am

    A very deep sadness. Whenever I lok at a picture of christ I get this conflict between what we could be and what weinevitably demonstrate we are.

    I have quite a bit of contempt for humanity in terms of both the idea that a culture could so gladly crucify a person and that the followers of the example have misinterpreted the myth so very gravely.

    Oh and then of course theres the smug self righteous atheists who view anything that differs from their personal worldview as contemptible. I think I’m getting really quite tired of this site.

  53. Thorngod
    June 30th, 2006 @ 9:37 am

    Rocketman, we don’t have the luxury or the disposition for a Christ-like humanity. Someone has to slay the dragons and lead the sheep to the slaughter. A few can be sustained by the rest so they can go about preaching nice and doing good works, but this is not a Winnie-the-Poo universe. Theoretically it could be a hell of a lot better–at least for the humans–but looking at the worldwide picture, I don’t see the slightest prospect.

  54. Penny
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 2:50 am

    When I see a picture of Jesus I think “idolotry”.

  55. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

    It IS a “graven image,” isn’t it Penny. Does that mean Muslims are truer to Yahweh than Christians? Muslims also keep their women fully covered so as to avoid breaking that other famous Commandment. And boy! When it comes to coveting their neighbors’ wives and other impedimenta, Christian men (in this country, at least) are covetous in spades!

  56. anon
    July 5th, 2006 @ 7:34 pm

    I feel angry. Angry that I wasted so much of my life, so much of my energy, so much of my self-esteem trying to figure out what an imaginary friend wanted me to do.

  57. Thorngod
    July 6th, 2006 @ 2:34 am

    Try to calm yourself, ANON. tHE PAST DOES NOT EXIST. You have to start from here. Think how much more time you could have devoted to the Great Question! You might have made a name for yourself: The Great Quester–and devoted your entire life to proving that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle (even though most Christians already believe in the “possibility”).

    ANON, you are your own best friend. Love yourself. Appreciate your automymous self. Discuss and argue things with yourself.
    If you cannot honor and love and value yourself, you cannot honor, love or value any other (neither human nor Imagined). Do not be cozzened by Jesus freaks or any other purveryers of “The Truth.” The truth is yours at no charge if you seek it honestly and without preconceptions. And do not fear God. I have a close personal relationship with God, and I go fishing with him on almost every Thursday. Anon, when God reels in a fish, he’s very gentle about it. He frees the fish from the hook, kisses it (I swear!) and eases it back into the holy waters. You would be moved, my frient, truly moved!

    Anon, don’t be a fucking idiot. Go fishing!

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