You meet a charismatic stranger one day. He tells you that he is destined to return to judge the earth, and soon. He tells you that if you have a wife you should act as though you did not. If you have a career you should not pursue it, and you should also be giving everything away to others because someday, during your life time he will come for you in glory. And if you've believed in him he will sweep you away to paradise where all, we are assured, will be well. Imagine you trusted him, believed him, accepted his promises.
And then he didn't show.
I speak from history, by the way. Jesus said all these things, convinced many of his imminent return, and then failed to make good. A cursory read of the Gospels demonstrates this, and also the lengths that later Gospel writers went to in order to make sense of this. They'll tell you that the hour of Christ's return was unknown, and that he will come like a thief in the night when we least expect. In short, they ignore what Jesus himself said on the matter in order to square the proverbial circle.
What then, are we to make of this Jesus? Fraud? Phoney? Crook?
Well probably not. He was likely just another failed apocalyptic preacher one of many that roamed the middle east during this period in our history. And let's be honest, some of what he said was ok. The bits about forgiveness, about loving your neighbour and giving generously of oneself. All worthy of credit, even though all of this had already been said by others. With the historical Jesus I expect he genuinely believed he was whom he claimed to be, assuming you credit the Gospels with at least a modicum of historical accuracy.
The reason for this blog? Well I'm wondering about how we make our choices about what we believe, and why? Every day we're assailed by claims and propositions ranging from the guy in the phone shop to the kids in our home. Everybody making claims, promising more than they can deliver. Granted, you're average teenager, whilst they might act as if the world was custom built for them, doesn't generally mean it. If life's taught me anything it's that sometimes you have to glance beyond the patter and the gloss, and show just a bit of caution when people try to tell you things that sound too good to be true.
Life after death is an attractive idea isn't it? And this paradise concept; more than a little appealing? I can even look beyond the fact that unlike Muslims I don't get the seventy two virgins, but perhaps I'm being greedy. And the brute fact is nobody knows what, if anything, happens after we go the way of the dodo. And anybody who deigns to suggest otherwise has bitten off more than they can chew. So with this in mind can I gently make the following suggestion? Let's concentrate on making this life really special, really meaningful, really good. We get one shot at this thing and there's an adventure to be had, a voyage to undertake. If religion helps you to make sense of some of life's harder quandary's then so be it. Just don't let it strangle you with fear. Don't let it choke the breath from your lungs, and don't ever listen when people who believe in God try to cast you as a sinner, as a wretch in need of salvation, a soul that can only be made complete if you believe in Jesus, or Allah, or Shiva, or whatever creed it is they've chosen to adopt for themselves.
Live a little, love a little, give a lot. And yes, I have used that line before.