Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 9: God knows what you need before you ask him

PrayJesus said: ‘Do not be like non-Jews, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Matthew 6.8

Prayer has been in the news quite a bit lately. Not, of course because it’s suddenly started working, but because prominent Christians have been pretending, yet again, that it does:

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been telling us just how important prayer is. He prays for others while he does the ironing.

The pope has been praying for victims of Islamic State.

Churches in Glasgow have been praying for the victims and families involved in last Monday’s terrible accident there.

Bishops in Australia prayed for victims of the Sydney seige.

Christians inherit this futile behaviour and empty posturing from Jesus himself. He believed that talking ‘in secret’ to his god-in-the-sky could actually change things down here on Earth. This God, according to Jesus, knew what his children wanted even before they asked.

His children were not, however, Christians; they were Jews. The phrase I’ve interpreted above as ‘non-Jews’ is ‘Gentiles’, which means exactly that – outsiders who weren’t Jews. These outsiders, Jesus implies, just don’t get prayer. Only the chosen people, the Jews, do. Only they know how to talk to the big Sky Daddy properly and it’s only their needs that he knows about beforehand. He isn’t interested in others, their needs or their prayers.

But if he knows the needs of his chosen before they even ask him, why doesn’t he simply meet those needs? Why does he have to be asked? What sort of perverse and twisted version of a loving father is this, who insists on being asked before he will consider acting? I’m only a fallible and flawed human being but when I know my children’s needs, I don’t wait to be asked to meet them.

Maybe God isn’t really as magic as Jesus seems to think. Maybe he needs time to let things happen by chance so that he can then take the credit. Because there’s absolutely no evidence prayer works. The opposite is the case; there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the supposed results of prayer are no more likely than if they happened by chance.

As if this weren’t ludicrous enough, many of the examples of prayer we’ve heard about recently are prayers after the event; appeals for the victims and survivors of disasters once the disaster has struck. So did God not know those involved ‘needed’ not to be killed or tortured or bereaved? If he didn’t already know this, then Jesus’ claim is, like so many others he made, utterly worthless. And if God did know, why did he not do anything to prevent the loss of life, the hardship, the devastation? Because he wasn’t asked

It’s likely though that he was asked, by those believers who were caught up in appalling circumstances. So then, why didn’t he act? Why didn’t he meet those needs he knew so much about beforehand?

Perhaps he just doesn’t care or he’s not able. Or, more likely, maybe he doesn’t exist.

And if he doesn’t exist, then Jesus was wrong in everything he said about him. He was wrong to think God was there in Heaven, taking an interest; wrong to think he cared. It also means Jesus certainly wasn’t the son of any such god. Nor was he the human manifestation of a make-believe Sky Daddy on Earth.

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Happy Christmas!

Xmas14Oops! Can I say ‘Happy Christmas’ when I’m an atheist? To hear some Christians talk I can’t. I’ve been told by one of my Christian acquaintance that, because I’m an unbeliever I shouldn’t even be celebrating Christmas. It upsets the baby Jesus.

However, as we know, the mid-winter celebration now known as Christmas didn’t start with the Nativity myth. Nor do most of our modern ‘traditions’ spring from it; we’ve Charles Dickens, Prince Albert, Clement C. Moore and Coca-Cola, amongst others, to thank for those.

But, if – as Christians insist – we need to put the Christ back into Christmas (because, as one internet wag puts it, he keeps wandering off) then equally we should put the Eostre back in Easter when that festival rolls round again. Easter was originally a Spring-time celebration of fertility, which is why its timing is determined by the moon, symbol of femininity, and why it’s named, still, after the Germanic goddess of fertility, Eostre. Let’s give her her rightful place at Easter and dump all that rubbish about resurrected god-men!

And shouldn’t we, on the same principle, put Thor back into Thursday, Friya into Friday and so on, as internet commenters have been saying for some time now?

Just because an occasion is named after a particular non-existent deity, be it Thor, Eostre or Christ, doesn’t mean we have to honour and worship them, or put them ‘back into’ it, when we reach the time of year named after them. Nor does it mean we can’t refer to Thursday, Easter or Christmas when we don’t believe in these deities. Christians do it themselves all the time, when they talk about the days of the week.

The self-righteous don’t have a monopoly on Christmas, any more than Thor’s worshippers own Thursday. It’s time they gave their ‘put the Christ back into Christmas’ nonsense a rest and stopped telling the rest of us we’ve no right to be celebrating Christmas, just because we don’t believe in Jesus.

So, I’ll say it again –

A very Happy Christmas – to both my readers!

Answers to this year’s all-new Christmas Quiz

saving-christmas-posterGod save us all from this, this Christmas time.

1. Where does the word ‘Christmas’ come from?
The answer is b, the name comes from the Catholic Mass held on the supposed date of Jesus’ birth. So all you anti-Catholic Christians need to find a new name for it fast.

2. When was Christ born?
a) is the answer here: Christ wasn’t born. Maybe Jesus was, but ‘the Christ’ is an invention of later Christians (Paul, for example, in Romans 8.3 and John’s gospel, written up to a century after Jesus lived.) The Christ is a mythic, supernatural being who’s always existed. He bears little relation to the itinerant Jewish preacher Yeshua who wasn’t born on 25th December or in the year 0.

3. Which gospel writers didn’t think the nativity story worth including in their accounts?
Mark and John (b & c) don’t bother including it. Did they not know it? The two gospels that do have bits of the story – Luke and Matthew – contradict each other.

4. How well attested are the events surrounding the birth in historical documents of the time?
a) Not at all. You’d have thought the Romans, who were pretty good at keeping records (lots of which have survived) would have noted Herod’s massacre of little boys or the appearance of a new, magic star in the sky – they were, after all, a superstitious lot. Not even Josephus, who, in the late first century, acknowledges the existence of Christians, sees fit to mention any of it.

5. Following the miraculous events of Jesus’ birth, what did Mary do?
According to Luke 2.19, she treasured them in her heart. However, the answer is c) because only a few verses further on, she hasn’t a clue about what her son is up to (Luke 2.48). Later still, she is part of the family’s efforts to ‘restrain him’ (Mark 3.21 & 31). Why, on these occasions, doesn’t she recall his miraculous beginning and think, ‘oh yes, I remember now. He behaves like a lunatic because he’s the son of the Most High.’ She certainly didn’t write down the details of his miraculous birth for later use in the gospels. No-one did. On account of them not really happening. Just sayin’.

6. How many times does Jesus refer to his miraculous birth?
a) Never. Strange that.

7. How many times does the rest of the New Testament refer to Jesus’ miraculous birth?
c) Never, even more strangely. Evidently the story hadn’t been invented when the rest of the New Testament was written.

8. When did Christians first start celebrating Christmas?
a) hundreds of years later.

9. Which of these Christmas traditions originate in the Bible?
None of them. Despite what Kirk Cameron might think, Christmas trees, kissing under the mistletoe and giving presents all have pagan origins. The giving of gifts did not come about because the wise men did it first. The tradition pre-dates Christianity.

10. Which of these groups has benefited the most from Jesus’ birth?
Yes, you’re right; none of them. Not women, not black people and not LGBT people. Christianity has a history of oppressing all three groups.

Speaking of which…
11. What does Pastor Steven Anderson want for Christmas?
c) he’d like to see the execution of all homosexuals so that AIDS – which, as far as the reverend understands it (I use the term loosely) only gay people get – might be wiped out. Peace and joy to you too, Stevie.

12. How will Christians celebrate Christmas this year?
The answer is a, b and c: by fighting the War On Christmas, putting the Christ back into Christmas and by telling us that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Just like they do every year. As you can see, Kirk Cameron’s disaster of a movie, Saving Christmas, has two of these blessed clichés on its promotional poster alone.

So how did you do?
If you scored –
between 10-12: well done. Betcha don’t believe in Santa Claus either.
Between 7-10: your cynicism needs a little work. Order my book for Christmas – it’ll help.
Between 4-6: oh dear. You’re new around here, aren’t you. There’s hope for you though, so stick around. Oh yeah, and order my book for Christmas – it’ll definitely help.
Between 1-3: Like Christmas, you are in need of saving, my friend. May the scales fall from your eyes this holiday period. Amen.

This Year’s All-New Christmas Quiz!

SantaBack by popular demand (well, mine anyway), try this year’s all-new Christmas quiz!

Answers in the Bible or not, as the case may be. Real answers next time.

1. Where does the word ‘Christmas’ come from?
a) the Bible
b) the Catholic Mass held on the supposed date of Jesus’ birth
c) the Greek, meaning to pull the wool over people’s eyes

2. When was Christ born?
a) he wasn’t
b) 25th December
c) in the year 0

3. Which gospel writers didn’t think the nativity story worth including in their accounts?
a) Luke
b) Mark
c) John

4. Following the miraculous events of Jesus’ birth, what did Mary do?
a) she remembered them all in her heart
b) she wrote them down for later use in the gospels
c) she forgot all about them

5. How many times does Jesus refer to his miraculous birth?
a) never
b) twice
c) he doesn’t shut up about it (well, would you?)

6. How many times does the rest of the New Testament refer to Jesus’ miraculous birth?
a) repeatedly, showing how important it was
b) only when making an important theological point
c) never

7. How well attested are the events surrounding Jesus’ birth in historical documents of the time?
a) not at all
b) quite substantially
c) as you’d expect when mass murder and strange astronomical events are involved, they’re mentioned everywhere

8. When did Christians first start celebrating Christmas?
a) hundreds of years after the event
b) not long after Jesus died
c) immediately

9. Which of these Christmas traditions originate in the Bible?
a) Christmas trees
b) kissing under the mistletoe
c) giving presents

10. Which of these groups has benefited most from Jesus’ birth?
a) women
b) black people
c) LGBT people

11. What does Pastor Steven Anderson want for Christmas?
a) his two front teeth
b) peace and joy
c) the execution of all homosexuals

12. How will Christians celebrate Christmas this year?
a) by fighting the War On Christmas
b) by telling everyone that Jesus is the Reason for the Season
c) by putting the Christ back into Christmas

 

Picture from memegenerator.net