When I was growing up, my mum, who had been raised Catholic, still talked quite a lot about all things religious. She wasn't devout anymore; her mother had died when my mum was 15. Her one goal after that was to go to Heaven so she could see her mother again. But then someone told her that in Heaven you don't recognize people that you used to know. My mum then figured that there was no point in going to Heaven if she couldn't see her mother again, and mostly gave up her faith. I always thought this was very sad.
But she still told me about the stories (and thankfully treated them as just that: stories). I grew up figuring that Jesus was a pretty nice guy, it was just a shame that he got tied into all this craziness. If you could just look at the basics of his teachings - love - then I think the world would be alright. But then someone had to go throw that stupid "Son of God" crap into the mix.
The thing is, I believe that Jesus was a real dude. Now, just let me finish before you get all red in the face and start yelling: I believe that Jesus was real, but I DO NOT think that he was the Son of God. See, here's the way I've always thought it to be...
There was a guy named Jesus, and he had some ideas as to how he thought things should be run. He was a nice guy; he was kind and helpful, blah blah blah. It got to a point where people started to say things like "Man, that Jesus is so great. He's like, the son of God or something!" So Jesus hears this, and figures, hey, this couldn't really hurt his cause, and might in fact really help it, so he runs with it. When you're just some guy and you're telling people to love their neighbours, not a whole lot of people are going to get behind you. But if you're suddenly the Son of a mighty God, no shit people are going to start believing you. Everything after this is just stories that were told and re-told until they lost their truth and he started walking on water. Of course, I'm only speculating about all this. But it makes more sense than what the Bible says.
Now, call me a big nerd, but I've always loved this line from Lord of the Rings: "History became legend; legend became myth." I just think of religions as big, souped-up myths. Now, there's a problem with this when you're trying to explain to the religious-minded why you are an atheist (Man, I hate that question). I was talking to my friends Catholic roommate, and she asked me the aforementioned hated question: Why am I "the big A?" (haha, that's what my mum's boyfriend calls it). So I started out with my explanation, and she then interrupted "But do you believe that Jesus was real?" I pretty much told her exactly what I've said in this blog, and almost made it through before I lost her. I said "I don't think that part's made up. Jesus happened." And then she started laughing. "Oh, I like that, haha! 'Jesus happened'. I'm going to tell that to my friends!" She regarded me with this smarmy, kind of pity smile for the rest of the conversation. Man, I don't like that girl.
See, the problem with this belief that "Jesus happened" is that I think theists see it as a weakness in your beliefs. They hear you say "I don't believe in God" but then they hear you say things like "Jesus happened" and they think "Aha! She doesn't believe in God, but she DOES believe in Jesus!" Then you just want to start punching things, saying "No, you fuck! Just listen to what I'm saying!" Or at least, that's what I want to do.