An Atheist's Values critique of Jesus Christ

Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values, 1964.

Richard Robinson wrote An Atheist’s Values which is a wonderful criticism of many secular and religious myths. Robinson rejected humanism as his label and it seems to be down to its insistence that morality is good while he is clear that morality has a bad side. He rejects the optimism of humanism. He even examines the teaching of Jesus Christ.  It is strange that few attack Jesus though he was clearly used by the gospel writers and the Church as a way of shoving faith down people's throats.  Jesus largely in the gospels is a threatening figure who wants towns destroyed for not heeding his message.  The Church says that sin is just individuals not the Church for the Church in a sense is Jesus.  It is the presence of Jesus bringing people together and connecting them.  This dreadful doctrine is an excuse for saying, "Catholic x is a heretic and adulterer so she or he does not reflect on the Church."  It is the One True Scotsman fallacy where you say that true Scotsmen don't abuse drink but Hamish does and despite being born in Glasgow is not then Scottish!

QUOTE: “The gospels emphasize self sacrifice too much. 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends' (John xv. 13) - a person who is always sacrificing himself is destructive of everyone's happiness, except perhaps his own; and he creates no love.”

COMMENT: My comment on that is that Jesus' version of love is not about being happy but putting others first.  Everybody would however agree with Jesus that it is love in that sense and a duty to die to save your friends when there is no way out.  The self sacrifice problem is there though.  It is in Jesus's attitude that we must be all for God.  That is very destructive and miserable.

Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest.  Was the goal to get him to say that if you kept one commandment you could break the rest?  Or was it just to learn which one was the most important?  Jesus said the greatest was to give all the love in your heart and soul and mind and body to God.  So that was answered.  But he gave the next greatest, to love one's neighbour as oneself.  Clearly the latter was given just for elaboration and Jesus would have been happy to not give it at all.  It is not true that Jesus gave him two equally important commandments.  He gave one supremely important commandment.  The commandments of love God and love neighbour are shorthand for the ten commandments.  They start off with commanding love for God and the rest are about one's neighbour.  So the order is there.  The message is clear though that love for God comes first.  Failing to love God is worse than committing murder or adultery.  The commandment to have no other God means that God alone is to be loved and don't share your heart with any other god even non-religious gods like money.  This is totally at odds with humanism.

Liberal Christians are not really Christians for they go on about God's unconditional love which for them is not about God working to help you rid yourself of the cancer of sin but God not caring what you do.  They do not advocate love for God but sentimentality.

QUOTE ABOUT WHAT LOVE IS NOT: “Nor is love almsgiving, or 'charity' as that is sometimes wrongly called. 'The real love knows her neighbour face to face, and laughs with him and weeps with him, and eats and drinks with him, so that at last, when his black day dawns, she may share with him, not what she can spare, but all that she has.' Those fine words were written by Stella Benson (Living Alone, p. 92).”

QUOTE: “What mostly makes it hard to love living things is not their absence but the hatefulness of their presence. The ways of men and animals often strike us as too hateful to let us love them.”

COMMENT: Does God or Jesus feel like that about us? Christians say love is not feeling but action. They seem to care not that God loves them but that he feels love for them. Yet they say God has no feelings as such as he is a being of spirit.

 Suppose we all deep down think what Robinson thinks. How do we tell ourselves that we must have some lovability? Is what we want a God for? Is it a crutch so that one can feel loved?

QUOTE: “The only completely improper extension of love is its extension to the love of a god; and the New Testament's putting this first is a great defect in its formulation of the ideal. If there is a god, we should be on man's side against him; and in any case one cannot converse with a god. The doctrine that 'God is love' conflicts violently with other things that are said about him.”

QUOTE: A conscientious man is 'one who when he deliberates always has (the idea of rightness) in his mind, and does not act until he believes that his action is right' (G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, p. 179). Conscientiousness is often considered the greatest of the virtues. 'It is as certain as anything can be that very harmful actions may be done from conscientious motives' (G. E. Moore, op. cit., p. 180).”

COMMENT: Worse harm comes from not caring enough about what is right. So we should be conscientious. If God hinders that in any way then belief in him should go.

QUOTE: “What Jesus subordinated conscientiousness to, namely the love of god and man, is not identical with what I subordinate it to, namely reason and the love of man - conscientiousness is not the greatest virtue, and that conscience should be criticized by reason and love.”

COMMENT: Conscientiousness that is derived from the wrong thing is not conscientiousness at all. The paradox of conscientiousness is that the more it looks like the real deal and is not the more dangerous it is. A truly mangled conscience loses credibility and will wreck itself. A subtly off-centre one is more toxic and dangerous. It is as bad as the reason a good counterfeit banknote is bad.

QUOTE REGARDING THE FOUR GOSPELS: “Each of them is in form a biography rather than a collection of commandments and valuations. In each of them, and especially in Mark, Jesus is primarily not a teacher or moralist but a mysterious and miraculous divine leader.”

COMMENT: Mark it is true has very little moral guidance in it. However it contains loads of threats for sinners.

QUOTE: “The teaching is paradoxical and intended to be so. The writers represent Jesus as one who repeatedly uttered statements, valuations, and commands, that seemed to most people odd or shocking. He is given to sayings like 'the last shall be first, and the first last', and 'whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant'. Though in one saying he condemns making a scandal (Matt. xviii. 6 ff.), yet in another he implies that his own preaching makes scandal (Matt. xiii. 21); and Matthew often speaks of people being scandalized by him. Most people are in fact scandalized by the saying that 'whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath'.”

COMMENT: The paradoxes and “deepities” are taking advantage of how people think that a person making such statements is full of wisdom. In reality they are given useless teaching. Jesus was out for his own glorification and nothing else.  It is a classical trick used by religious charlatans who wish to hide that they don't really know what they are talking about.

QUOTE ABOUT JESUS’ TEACHING: “The teaching has a prominent strain of harshness in it. Jesus threatens weeping and gnashing of teeth. He threatens great misery to those who do not receive his missionaries (Mark vi. 11). He threatens damnation to those who do not believe in his gospel (Mark xvi. 16), and to those who blaspheme against the Holy Ghost (Mark iii. 29). He is remarkably abusive (cf. Matt. xi. 20), especially towards the Pharisees, with whom he at least once engages in clever silly argument (Matt. xxii. 15-22). He harshly neglects his family relations for his gospel (Matt. xii. 46 ff.). He expects his gospel to result in parricide and in the betrayal of brothers and children to death (Matt. x, especially verse 21). He withers a fig tree and destroys a herd of swine. Matthew Arnold seems to me far from the truth when he finds 'sweet reasonableness' in Jesus. There are a few 'sweet and comfortable sayings'; but the prevailing atmosphere is harsh. One of his most judicious twentieth-century followers, Professor T. W. Manson (The Sayings of Jesus, p. 75), acknowledges 'the seeming harshness of Jesus and His almost brutal thrusting into the background of natural feelings and obligations', but puts it down to 'the overwhelming urgency of His task'.”

COMMENT: The task was hardly urgent for there is no sign that anybody is really delivered and saved from sin by Jesus. Saved Christians are as bad as demon adoring pagans. Jesus cast out demons instantly it is said in the gospels. But he had a get out clause if the person acted possessed again – it’s the person letting the demon back in. Anyway a man is not a saviour though it is claimed he could get demons out instantly for the evidence is from Catholicism in particular that exorcism is never that quick! Jesus himself knew that nobody was any better than anybody else so the urgency does not explain his harsh teaching. It is simple, he hated sinners.

In Mark 9 Jesus says,

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

For everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

End of citation from Mark 9.

Jesus is saying that it is better to be murdered for sin than to go to Hell for it.

He suggests you go to Heaven with whatever limbs you have. Life is Heaven. So if you lose a hand you have no hand in Heaven. The reference to losing salt implies that you make yourself beyond redemption. Jesus here gives the same rationale God gave for the stoning of adulterers and idolaters to death in the Old Testament. It's about purging evil which is why you are better murdered than going to Hell and better losing your limbs than going to Hell. You are better hurt in any way than going to your death in unrepentant sin.

If Mark saw the resurrection in very physical terms then that may explain why he has no resurrection of Jesus account. Was it removed for saying Jesus was raised but was sick and bleeding and sore?

QUOTE: “Jesus says nothing on any social question except divorce, and all ascriptions of any political doctrine to him are false. He does not pronounce about war, capital punishment, gambling, justice, the administration of law, the distribution of goods, socialism, equality of income, equality of sex, equality of colour, equality of opportunity, tyranny, freedom, slavery, self determination, or contraception. There is nothing Christian about being for any of these things, nor about being against them, if we mean by 'Christian' what Jesus taught according to the synoptic gospels.”

COMMENT: Politicians use Jesus to bolster themselves and their aims. The people are sweetened up by the politician referring positively to Jesus. Jesus should be dropped when he did nothing about war the biggest problem of all and said nothing. He did allow capital punishment though for he told the Jews off for mercy towards lads who cursed their parents. They were not stoned to death as the law commanded and he objected to that disobedience. Jesus did say when a woman was brought to him that adulterous people like her deserved stoning. Indeed it was such a holy deed he said it could not be done by those who held impurity in their hearts. Jesus was hardly going to tolerate any sexuality apart from a married man and his wife when he centred like that on divorce. Jesus seems to have been written about in a way that politicians could use him to consolidate their own support among the people.


We have learned that God and Jesus fail to promote love.  Jesus is just weaponised by Christians.

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