Questioning Abusive Religious Authority





From Mormonism to the Messiah: Questioning abusive religious authority

By Steve Benson

Introduction: Challenging the Authority of Church Authorities

I have found from personal experience that uncritically accepting as “gospel truth” the assertions, opinions and commands of religious authority figures can result in significant ethical, moral and intellectual problems.

Difficulties often arise when the utterances of these designated leaders conflict with the claims of others inside the same religion; when their statements are proven to be untrue; when their directives turn out to be unreasonable, uninformed and harmful; and when the behavior of these leaders is unethical.

Take Mormonism, for example:

--Through a drawn-out series of personal correspondence with Church President Spencer W. Kimball, I learned that he was fundamentally uninformed about the official LDS position on the theory of organic evolution.

--In a lengthy one-on-one conversation with Apostle Bruce R. McConkie at his home, I found his claim that canonized LDS scripture took precedence over even the words of the living Mormon prophet to be clearly at odds with the teachings of the Church.

--Upon close examination of my grandfather’s and then-church President Ezra Taft Benson’s sermon on the subject of pride (combined with behind-the-scene discussions with a Benson family member who had done research on his talk), I concluded that major elements of his sermon had been plagiarized from the writings of Christian author C.S. Lewis.

--In personal discussions with Apostle Dallin Oaks in the Church’s Salt Lake City offices and through follow-up examination of the public record, I concluded that he had lied to a newspaper reporter about the improper involvement of fellow apostle Boyd K. Packer in the excommunication of Paul Toscano.

--In questions directed to LDS public relations director Don LeFevre, as well as to Apostles Oaks and Neal Maxwell, it became clear to me that the Mormon Church had openly misrepresented the actual mental and physical condition of my grandfather’s health during his final years as Church president.

--In another conversation with Oaks, I learned that the Mormon Church had, using highly questionable justifications, deliberately withheld from law enforcement officials certain documents that had been requested during the investigation of the Mark Hofmann case.

--In discussions with Oaks and Maxwell, I learned that they could produce no compelling historical evidence for the Book of Abraham’s alleged authenticity and that Oaks’ considered it possible that portions of the Book of Mormon may have been lifted from other sources.

--From Oaks and Maxwell, I also learned that they considered the teachings of President Brigham Young on the Adam-God doctrine to have been false, blaming them on Young’s youthful inexperience and the fact that he lacked good counselors to advise him.

--In a curiously-worded letter from then-LDS director of correlation services, Roy Doxey, I was informed that Mormon priesthood manuals represented the official position of the Church---unless those manuals contained doctrinal errors.

--Through contact with my grandfather, who was then serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I realized that he lacked knowledge of critical and pertinent information (and, hence, lacked inspiration) when giving intrusive and uninformed commands concerning our marriage plans and, later, regarding my wife Mary Ann’s future.

--In a direct order, my grandfather insisted that I follow Mormon Church leaders, even if they were wrong, saying that this was a fundamental principle of the Gospel and that God would bless me if I did so.

--Finally, through personal experience, I discovered that predictions made in my patriarchal blessing, although pronounced in the name of God, were in gross and demonstrable error regarding key areas of my life.

From Joseph to Jesus: What’s Good for the Generals is Good for the Gods

I have also learned that the same scrutiny and skepticism which I applied to Mormon Church leaders applies equally to the proclaimed head of God’s Church—Jesus himself.

Since Jesus and the leaders of his Church supposedly command obedience by the same divine authority, I concluded that it was just as reasonable and justified to apply to Jesus the same standards as were demanded of those claiming to speak and act in his name.

In others words, I thought, it was fair to ask of Jesus what was asked of Jesus’s servants:

Were Jesus’ statements true?

Were Jesus’ directives reasonable and informed?

Was Jesus’ behavior ethical?

After all, I reasoned, if Jesus is going to demand of me complete obedience to his will—meaning absolute devotion of my time, my efforts, my money and my life—to his kingdom, then it was only fair that I examine his own life and teachings under a microscope to see if they justified a commitment on my part lasting until the day I died.

In the Beginning Was the Word—and the Word Was Not a Good Example

As I examined Jesus’ words and actions, I concluded that rather than being the Prince of Peace, he was the Gunslinger for God.

An early version of Jesus the Kid.

The Law This Side of the Universe—and not to be messed with.

Examining what characterized his own life and teachings, I found that Jesus was the:

tough-talkin,’ big-boastin,’ voice-raisin,’ fire-breathin,’ finger-pointin,’ devil-damnin,’ fig-afflictin,’ merchant beatin,’ pig-killin,’ slave-subjectin,’ family-hatin,’ hell-raisin,’ scripture-citin,’ woman-usin,’ science’-lackin,’ thinker-whackin,’ mind-twistin,’ contradictin,’ intimidatin,’ crazy-actin’ Bad Boy of the Bible.

I reached this conclusion after having carefully examined the teachings and actions of Jesus himself, as found in Biblical scripture.

A review of the record of “holy” writ revealed, in my opinion, a swaggering, self-touting “prince of this world” who suffered from a host of serious character flaws.

In short, although Jesus is regarded in some quarters as a “redeemer,” his words and deeds as described by and for him in Bible lore, reveal a person of many unredeeming qualities.

Critically Examining the Character of Christ

Michael Martin, professor of philosophy at Boston University, summarizes the troubling teachings and behavior of Jesus:

“Jesus is reported in . . . [the Synoptic] Gospels to have said many things about ethical conduct, some of which are unclear and others of which do not seem to cohere well with his ethical pronouncements in other places. . . .

“Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Mathew 4:17) and, indeed, that this Kingdom would come into power within the lifetime of some of the people he was addressing.(Mark 9:1). Because of the nearness of the Kingdom of God, he was not concerned with worldly problems. Saying, ‘Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’ (Luke 18:22), he neglected his family for his gospel, predicted that preaching his gospel could result in brother betraying brother and in parricide (Matthew 10:21), maintained that his disciples should hate members of their family and their own lives (Luke 14:26) and said that anyone who did not renounce all that he had could not be his disciple (Luke 14:33). Jesus also threatened great punishment for those who rejected his teachings (Matthew 10:14-15)

“. . . Jesus not only makes pronouncements about what should and should not be done. His practices yield insights into his moral character, ones that sometimes sit uneasily with his actual commandments and conflict dramatically with our idealized picture of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Christian of ethical conduct. Although he can be tempted to sin he cannot actually sin. Moreover, we have been taught that Jesus is gentle, forgiving, full of compassion and universal love, offering universal salvation and redemption. Given this understanding of Jesus it is hardly surprising that part of being a Christian is believing that Jesus’ life provides a model of ethical behavior to be emulated.

“Yet his actual behavior does not live up to the idealized picture and in fact seems at times to contradict his own teachings. For example, it is quite clear that he believed that people who did not embrace his teachings will be and should be severely punished. “Thus, he said to his disciples: ‘And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, than for that town’ (Matthew 10:14-15). Moreover, although he preached forgiveness, he maintained that ‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness and is guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:29). Indeed, it is clear that Jesus sanctioned the eternal punishment of the fires of hell for those who sinned (Matthew 25:41, 46). “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?’ (Matthew 23:33) . . .

“Although he preached nonresistance to evil he did not always practice it. He used force and drove out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.’ (Mark 11:15). He made no effort to win over the wrongdoers by love. In other cases, Jesus’ action is far less than compassionate and gentle. Not only did he not say anything against the inhumane treatment of animals but in one case his actual treatment of them was far from gentle and kind. He expelled demons from a man and drove them into a herd of swine who thereupon rushed into the sea and drowned (Luke 8:28-33). It has been noted that Jesus could have expelled the demons without causing the animals to suffer. The story of the fig tree is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ teachings and our idealized pictures of him. On entering Bethany he was hungry and seeing a fig tree in the distance, he went to it to find something to eat. But since it was not the season for figs the tree had no fruit. Jesus cursed the tree and later it was noticed by Peter that the tree had withered (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). Jesus’ action is not only in conflict with his Purity of Heart and Language Commandment, it also suggests a mean-spiritedness and vindictiveness that is incompatible with his alleged moral perfection.

“Jesus' practice has an additional problem. He does not exemplify important intellectual virtues. Both his words and his actions seem to indicate that he does not value reason and learning. Basing his entire ministry on faith, he said: “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). As we know, children usually believe uncritically whatever they are told. Jesus seldom gave reasons for his teachings. When he did they were usually of one of two kinds: he either claimed that the Kingdom of Heaven as at hand or that if you believed what he said you would be rewarded in heaven whereas if you did not, you would be punished in hell. No rational justification was ever given for these claims. In short, Jesus’ words and actions suggest the he believed that reasoning and rational criticism are wrong and that faith, both in the absence of evidence and even in opposition to the evidence, is correct. Rational people must reject Jesus’ example that values blind obedience and that forsakes reason. . . .

“Many Christians profess to find in the moral teachings of Jesus answers to al the moral questions of modern life. Needless to say, he explicitly addressed few of the moral concerns of our society today. For example, he said nothing directly about the morality or immorality of abortion, the death penalty, war, slavery, contraception, or racial and sexual discrimination. . . . His doctrine of not resisting evil suggest that he would be against all war yet his violent actions in driving the money changers from the temple suggests that he might consider violence in a holy cause justified. His Love Your Neighbor Commandment, which entailed love of your enemies, suggest that he would be opposed to the death penalty yet his threats of hellfire for sinners suggest that at times he might deem death or worse to be an appropriate punishment.

“Jesus makes not explicit pronouncements on moral questions connected with socialism, democracy, tyranny, and poverty and what one can infer from some things he says seems to be in conflict with other things he says. Consider his attitude toward poverty. His advocacy of selling everything and giving it to the poor (Luke 18:22) may suggest that he was opposed to poverty and wanted it eliminated. Yet when a women who poured expensive ointment on his head that could have been sold and given to the poor was rebuked for this by his disciples, Jesus defended her by saying that you always have the poor with you (Matthew 19:23-24), and, as in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, that the poor are blessed and that theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 6:20).

“In some cases, Jesus’ silence on the morality of a practice can only be interpreted as tacit approval. For example, although slavery was common in Jesus’ own world, there is no evidence that he attacked it. . . .

“Moreover, if Jesus had been opposed to slavery, it is likely that his earlier followers would have followed his teaching. However, Paul (I Corinthians 7:221, 24) and other earlier Christians writers commanded Christians to continue the practice of slavery.

“Unfortunately, Jesus’ apparent tactic approval of slavery is obscured in the Authorized and Revised Versions of the New Testament by a translation of the Greek word for slave doulos as ‘servant.’ For example, in the Revised Standard Version Jesus says that a servant is like his master (Matthew 10:25). A more accurate translation would be that a slave is like his master. . . .

“. . . [A] large part of [Jesus’] teachings seem irrelevant or indefensible to morally sensitive people or even to many contemporary Christians. Jesus’ otherworldliness, harshness, demand of blind obedience, and vindictiveness are not only morally unacceptable but in conflict with the claim that he is morally perfect. Further his extreme emphasis on purity of heart and language and humbleness is also objectionable. Moreover, his tacit approval of slavery and the unclarity of his teaching concerning other matters (for example, poverty) makes him an inappropriate ethical model. . . .”

Former Christian and author Ruth Hurmence Green assessed the questionable character of the man Jesus with this damning conclusion:

”’For I am meek and lowly in heart’ (Matthew 11:29). Jesus may have thought of himself that way, but these are not adjectives which come to mind when reading the account of his ministry in the gospels. He continually makes it abundantly clear that he had been sent by God, is God, and will return in clouds of glory to claim a kingdom. That’s meek?

“He has no patience whatsoever with anyone who doesn’t listen to him and unhesitatingly pronounce him the Messiah . . .

“He calls unbelievers fools, wicked, perverse, adulterous, and ‘whited sepulchres’ and with relish assigns them to eternal torment. . . . His quick temper, impatience, and resort to violence on occasion, along with his contemplation on the fate of the unbelievers, sometimes make it impossible for the love to show through, although the gospel of John tries to smooth it all over and give the world a Savior full of loving compassion.

“Christianity as established by the sword, and Jesus brought it: “I came not to send peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). He doesn’t hesitate to pick up a whip and drive the merchants and moneychangers from the temple area. These capitalists were assigned a permanent place in the temple courtyard where they sold pigeons and animals for the sacrifices demanded under the Mosaic law, as a convenience to worshippers. Far better if Jesus had condemned the whole idea of the useless slaughter of innocent creatures to appease a vindicative Jehovah.

“He calls all who pray on street corners hypocrites, but ministers pray in public today, even at football games, and no doubt some of them are sincere; surely not all are ‘serpents’ and ‘vipers.’ They might be incensed at being so described. . . .

“Not satisfied to downgrade individuals who don’t believer, Jesus damns whole cities which fail to put out the welcome mat: ‘Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! . . . And thou, Capernaum . . . shalt be brought down to hell.’ (Mathew 11:20-23). All of this hardly sounds like the ‘Prince of Peace.’

“Any humility which might surface is properly smothered in such pronouncements as ‘In this place is one greater than the temple’ (Matthew 12:6). And: ‘Behold, a greater than Jonas is here’ (Matthew 12:42). These are all words spoken by Jesus to describe himself.

“ . . . [P]arables of horrendous bloodiness and pointless brutality fall from the lips of this self-proclaimed deity and would match any presentation on television today; yet Christian groups trying to sanitize current entertainment keep the Bible accessible to all ages.”

Problems with Jesus are not confined only to areas of his morality and ethics, but also to his knowledge of science.

As author and ex-supernaturalist James A. Young concludes about Jesus’ professed divinity:

”. . . [I]f Jesus were God, he would have known the true nature of disease. Interestingly, Jesus, like others of his day blamed everything on demon possession. You would think, He, being God, would have the inside track on scientific knowledge. He displayed no such trait.

“The evidence is conclusive and overwhelming. Jesus was not a God Like many modern day religious zealots, he suffered from delusions. Reading the gospels with objectivity, one can easily see Jesus was as ignorant as the people around him, idolized and immortalized as he may now be in a major world religion, he was nonetheless merely a man.”

Finally, evangelist-turned-non-believer Dan Barker asks the following of afore-mentioned doctrines delivered up by Jesus:

”Is this what you would teach your children? . . .

“Although other verses can be cited that portray Jesus in a different light, they do not erase the disturbing side of his character. . . .

“On the whole, Jesus said little that was worthwhile. He introduced nothing to ethics (except hell). He instituted no social programs. Being ‘omniscient,’ he could have shared some useful science or medicine, but he appeared ignorant of such things (as if his character were merely the invention of writers stuck in the first century). . . .

“Why is Jesus so special? It would be more reasonable and productive to emulate real, flesh-and-blood human beings who have contributed to humanity—mothers who have given birth, scientists who have alleviated suffering, social reformers who have fought injustice—than to worship a character of such dubious qualities as Jesus.”

Jesus Said and Did That? Good God!: More From the “Good Book”

Below are further examples from the Synoptic Gospels about Jesus’ life and teachings which I found to be an insurmountable impediment to acceptance of his claim that he was God and deserving of my worship:

Jesus Engaged in Ugly Ad Hominem Attacks Against the Jewish Leaders of His Day

A Jew who bashed Jews, Jesus’ intemperate attacks on Jewish leaders of his day would eventually feed vicious anti-Semitic bigotry spread in the name of the Christian God. Jesus denounced Jewish scribes and Pharisees as a “generation of serpents,” and “a wicked and adulterous generation.” He further warned them that they would not be able to “escape the damnation of hell.” (Matthew 23:33; Matthew 12:39 )

Jesus Was Intolerant of Those Who Believed Differently Than He

Defending the idea that it was good to fry heretics, Jesus declared that if a person “abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch . . .and men cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

Jesus rejected those who refused to follow him and damned them to hell, commanding them, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

Jesus reminded sinners that they faced an agonizing death at his Second Coming, declaring, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather all them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” He ordered those “on the left hand” to “depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 13:41-42, and 25: 41)

Demonstrating a burning desire for revenge, Jesus warned unbelievers, “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:25)

As a sign of punishment to come against those who refused to follow him, Jesus told his missionaries: “And whosoever shall not receive you . . . when ye depart out of the house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew 10:14)

Warning that God did not take kindly to unbelief, Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)

Jesus pronouneced the same fate on unbelievers when, to Nicodemus, he said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3: 17, 18)

Speaking of the eternal punishment awaiting those who did not follow his commands, Jesus said, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28, 29)

Jesus Verbally Abused His Disciples

Jesus ripped into his own apostles, calling them a “faithless and perverse generation” and impatiently wondering aloud, “[H]ow long shall I suffer you?” (Matthew 17:17)

Likening Peter to the Devil, Jesus declared, “Get the behind me, Satan; thou are an offence unto me.” (Matthew 16:23)

Jesus Was a War-Monger

Encouraging his disciples at the Last Supper to resort to violence, Jesus ordered that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garments, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

Speaking through a parable, Jesus taught, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 9:19:27)

Jesus Could Have Used an Anger Management Class

Sensing a trap laid by Pharisees who had asked him if it was justifiable to heal the sick on the Sabbath, Jesus “looked round about on them with anger . . .” (Mark 3:5)

Jesus Refused to Explain His Authority

Asked by Jewish elders to produce his preaching credentials, Jesus replied, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:27)

Jesus Encouraged Holier-Than-Thou Attitudes

Jesus told his followers to regard themselves as “the light of the world” and commanded them to “[l]et your light shine before men, that they may see your good works . . .” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus Played on Feelings of Guilt, Fostered Self-Loathing and Recommended Self-Mutilation

To sinners did not wish being consigned to never-ending hell, Jesus recommended do-it-yourself amputation: “Wherefore if they hand or foot offend them, cut them off, and cut them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having tow hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out.” (Matthew 18:8, 9)

Jesus Contradicted Teachings of Scripture, As Well as Made False Prophecies

Although Moses declared that “Thou, Lord, art seen face to face” (Numbers 14:14), Jesus contradicted Moses by saying, “Not that nay man hath seen the Father.” (John 6:46)

The Old Testament states that “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (II Kings 2:11), yet Jesus insisted that he--and only he--had accomplished such a feat: “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man.” (John 3:13)

Jesus also couldn’t seem to get the facts straight, even about himself. First he said, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (John 5:31) Yet, a few verses later, he reversed himself: “Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.” (John 8:14).

Jesus announced to his apostles, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) He further assured believers, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelations 3:11)

2,000 years later, his followers are still waiting.

Jesus Suffered from Sexual Hang-Ups

Jesus warned that harboring “dirty thoughts” about women made one an adulterer: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

Exhibiting typical chauvinistic attitudes of his day regarding sex with women, Jesus reserved praise for those who became eunuchs for God: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Mathew 19:12)

Jesus Discouraged the Use of Calendars or Day Planners

Jesus discouraged looking ahead or planning for the future, telling his followers, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”(Matthew 6:34)

Jesus Was a Bad Financial Advisor

Jesus discouraged the use of savings accounts, piggy banks, or 401Ks, telling his followers: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” Instead, he commanded them to concentrate on earning heavenly rewards: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

Expressing deep aversion toward anything the world had to offer, Jesus warned, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all the he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

Jesus Was a Hypocrite

On the one hand, Jesus warned that “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22), yet, conversely, blasted others as “fools and blind.”(Matthew 23:17)

Jesus told others to show compassion: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7); yet, he himself showed no mercy to those who did not think the way he did: “'But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”(Matthew 10:33) Despite his own failure to follow what he preached, on the cross he audaciously asked his Father, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus Was Egocentric

In the Gospel of John alone, Jesus effusively referred to himself over 20 times by various lofty and magnificent titles, including “a spring of water welling up unto eternal life” (John 4:14), “the bread of life” (John 6:35), “the “light of the world” (John 9:5) , the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), “a prophet,” (John 4:44), “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), “the only begotten son of God” (John 3:18), “the Son of man” (John 1:51), “the Messiah” (John 4:25-2is), “Christ” (John 4: 26), “Master and Lord” (John 13:13), and “the prince of the world” (John 12:31)

Ever the self-effacer, Jesus introduced himself to his followers by saying “. . . [B]ehold, a greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42].

Jesus Opposed Becoming Financially Rich

He told a well-to-do young man to give everything he had worked for to the indigent: “. . . [S]ell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” When the young man refused, Jesus commented, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21-25)

Jesus Was Paranoid

Always on the lookout for enemies, Jesus warned that “[h]e that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12:30)

Jesus Encouraged the Development of a Persecution Complex

Jesus said that being harassed for your religious beliefs was actually a good thing: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:11)

Jesus Discouraged Self-Defense or the Setting of Personal Boundaries

Declaring that it was acceptable to be someone else’s doormat, Jesus commanded: “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

Jesus directed anyone who was forced to walk a mile, to instead “go with him twain.” (Matthew 5:41)

Jesus Condoned Slavery

Jesus advocated the physical mistreatment of disobedient slaves: “. . . [T]he lord of that servant . . . will cut him in sunder . . . and that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” (Luke 12:45-48)

Jesus, through a parable, supported “deliver[ing] to their tormentors” for punishment slaves who had behaved contrary to their master’s wishes.. (Matthew 18:34)

Jesus Did Not Sympathize with the Working Class

Speaking approvingly of his society’s social pecking order, Jesus instructed his followers in a parable: “When thou are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him . . .For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)

Jesus Discouraged Working For Food

Jesus commanded his disciples, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” (John 6:27)

Jesus Was Sexist

Told a story by the Sadduces of a woman who was forced to successively marry seven brothers after each preceding brother died, Jesus was asked which brother would get to have her as his property in the resurrection.. Without condemning this sexual indignity perpetrated upon the woman, Jesus simply replied, “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven.” (Mark 12:18-25)

Jesus declared that that a man could divorce his wife and marry another woman without being regarded as an adulterer, as long as he divorced her “for the cause of fornication.” (Matthew 5:31-32).

Jesus, however, did not afford the same option for divorced women “. . . [W]hoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery." (Luke 16:18)

Jesus assured women undergoing the pains of childbirth that they would forget the trauma of delivery--if it turned out to be a boy: “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

Jesus Encouraged Thoughtless Lending to Anyone Who Asked for Money

If someone comes asking for money, Jesus commanded, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matthew 5:43)

Jesus Was an Inept Legal Advisor

Jesus commanded those who had lost their coat in a lawsuit to let the winner “have they cloke also.” (Matthew 5:40)

Jesus Advocated Seizing Money from Those Without Savings and Turning It Over to Well-Off People to Invest

Jesus advised: “Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? . . . Take from him the pound, and give [it] to him that hath ten pounds. . . .For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Luke 19:23-26)

Jesus Attacked the Institution of the Family

Jesus admitted that his mission included creating discord among families, saying, “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35, 36)

Describing rebellion and killing that would tear families apart as a result of spreading his gospel of Christian love, Jesus said, “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.” (Matthew 10:21)

Jesus showed little sympathy for those who mourned the passing of loved ones, commanding one man who wanted to bury his own father to “Follow me.” The man replied, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus tersely responded, “Let the dead bury their dead . . .” (Luke 9:59-60)

To another man who wanted who first wanted to say good-bye to his family before following after Jesus, he said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 61-62)

In an open attack on the family, Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters . . . he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

Conversely, for those who decided to abandon their families in order to follow him, Jesus promised, “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Jesus Mistreated His Own Mother and Family Members

As a 12-year-old, Jesus spoke arrogantly to his mother after being found by her in the temple, after a frantic, three-day search: “ . . . [W]ist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)

Brushing off his own flesh and blood when informed by his disciples that his family (that was standing at the back of a crowd) wished to speak to him, Jesus said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” (Matthew 12:48)

Downplaying his personal family ties, Jesus identified those who chose to obey God as his “real” family: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

At a marriage banquet, Jesus rudely said to his mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:1-4)

Jesus Opposed Trying to Recover Personal Stolen Money

While it was good, Jesus commanded, to “[g]ive to every man that asketh of thee,” he said that “of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” (Luke 6:30)

Jesus Embraced Discrimination Against Unbelievers

Giving his disciples instructions for missionizing, Jesus commanded, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles . . .but rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)

At the Last Supper, Jesus assured his disciples that in heaven they would occupy positions of pre-eminence over the Jews: “And I appoint unto you a kingdom . . . that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29, 30)

Demonstrating his own aloofness, Jesus displayed little initial compassion for the sick child of an unbeliever. To a Canaanite woman who pled for a healing blessing from Jesus in behalf of her sick daughter, he rudely retorted, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel . . . It is not meet to take the children’s [meaning the Jews’] bread, and cast it to dogs [meaning the Gentiles].” (Matthew 15:26)

Jesus Harbored Negative Attitudes About Life

Jesus admonished his followers, “He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:25)

Telling people that heaven was more important than earth if one wanted to be saved, Jesus warned, “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself . . . ?” (Luke 9:25)

Jesus cautioned everyone that getting ahead in this world, but ignoring God, would mean earning last place in the world to come. He warned that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Mark 10:31)

Jesus Practiced a Pagan-Based Form of Cannibalism

Borrowed from ancient mythology in which consuming god parts was believed to infuse one with god-like attributes, Jesus ordered his disciples at the Last Supper: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:52)

Conclusion: Rejecting Abusive Religious Authority Across the Board, Not Just Across the Morg

As someone who became disenchanted enough with the demonstrably false and offensive doctrines of the Mormon Church and the behavior of its leaders perpetrated in the name of a racist, sexist, homophobic and mythical god, I came to question, distrust and disbelieve what I regard as the superstitious and odious claims made by anyone purporting to speak in the name of God—or as God.

As I have written previously, after abandoning Mormonism in favor of unfettered thinking:

“I found myself loosed from the gravity of the gods, free to roam the universe in search of new adventures, new beginnings and my real self . . . .

“I found little value in searching for meaning in what believers joyfully described as the unfathomable mysteries of God. . . .“

“I found that scientific explanations based on observable laws of nature made infinitely more sense than the scriptural fairy tales invented around campfires by superstitious shepherds. . . .

“As astronomer Carl Sagan observed in what proved to be his last book, Billions and Billions, shortly before dying of cancer:

‘The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.’ . . .

“Science discovered long ago that carbon is a source of life. The ashes of my faith have prepared the ground for the planting of seeds that have produced new forms of truth, morality and meaning on my own terms, not according to the dogma laid down by religious ruffians or a vengeful God.

“If, as believers claim, the word ‘gospel’ means good news, then the good news for me is that there is no gospel, other than what I can define for myself, by observation and conscience. As a journalist and free-thinking human being, I have come not to favor and fear religion, but to face and fight it as an impediment to civilized advancement. Historically, it has been the so-called ‘men of God’ who have committed all manner of evil in heaven's name. The philosopher Bertrand Russell observed:

“’You find as you look around the world that every single bit of human progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is, the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

“’I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.’”



The Holy Bible, King James Version

Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1991)

James A Young, An Ounce of Reason . . . (Valrico, Florida: The Secular Coalition, undated)

Ruth Hurmence Green, The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible (Madison, Wisconsin: Freedom From Religion Foundation, 1979)

Dan Barker, “Why Jesus?” Nontract #12, copyright 1993, FFRF, Inc., PO Box 750 Madison WI 53701

Steve Benson, “Good-bye to God: An Editorial Cartoonist’s Journey from Jesus to Journalism—and Beyond,” Nieman Reports, The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, Vol. 51, No. 3, Fall 1997

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