Religionskritisches von William Josephus Robinson

Jesus of Nazareth


William J. Robinson

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer (

Zitierweise / cite as:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: Jesus of Nazareth.  -- Fassung vom 2007-11-17. -- URL:            

Ursprünglich erschienen in:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: If I were God : a freethinker's faith. Incorporating a discussion between the author and a catholic priest. -- New York : Freethought Press, 1930. -- 186 S. -- S. 142 - 151. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-11-16

Erstmals publiziert: 2007-11-17



Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Religionskritik  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Chapter Thirteen. JESUS OP NAZARETH

THE QUESTION of the historicity of Jesus, whether Jesus ever existed or not, whether what we are taught about his life, and death is history or pure myth, has never interested me very deeply. For, if myth, the influence of the myth has been as great as if it had been a thoroughly demonstrated historical fact. And for that matter, are not all religions based partly or wholly on myths? That there is not a single unimpeachable piece of historical evidence that Jesus existed, I am well aware; but this does not much matter. The myth did and is still doing its work, and for argument's sake, we may assume that Jesus did exist.

Of course, with people who are convinced that Jesus was of divine origin, was God himself, we have nothing to argue, nothing to discuss. In this case the chasm is so wide as to be impassable. But with those who accept and are willing to regard Jesus as a human being, stripped of any halo of divinity or sanctity, we may exchange a few remarks.

Assuming even that Jesus lived, we have no authentic picture of him; we do not really know what sort of man he was. We can only take him as he is pictured in and as he emerges from the New Testament. And judging him by his words and acts as reported in the four gospels, he does not emerge as a superlatively wise man, nor even as a superlatively kind and good man. We must emphasize, of course, that we have no proof that he said the things that he is reported to have said; but we have to take them as reported in the gospels, or not at all. And thus taking them, we are forced to the conclusion that among humanity's leaders and saviours, he occupies a rather secondary, yes, a rather unenviable place.

He has said many foolish things, and many wicked things; while among his sayings about love and forgiveness there is not a single original thought, nothing that has not been said and better said by other religious leaders many centuries before.

It is, therefore, my opinion that Jesus has not brought a single original contribution to the treasury of human thought and conduct, and I cannot help feeling that in speaking of Jesus as humanity's foremost leader and saviour and the world's greatest thinker, there is a good deal of hypocrisy or self-hypnosis. I can well understand a religious believer thinking and speaking of Jesus in this manner; but this sort of talk is not uncommon even among freethinkers and atheists and here it becomes very objectionable. A good deal is made of the Golden Rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do you even so to them," as if it had been an original saying of Christ's. But that saying was known and repeated a thousand years before Jesus was born, and as Alfred W. Martin of the Ethical Culture Society has pointed out, is to be found in every one of the great religions :

The Hindu: "The true rule is to guard and do by the things of others as you do by your own."

The Buddhist: "One should seek for others the happiness one desires for oneself." (A much finer saying, by the way, than the Christian Golden Rule.)

The Zoroastrian: "Do as you would be done by."

The Confucian; "What you do not wish done to yourself, do not to others."

The Mohammedan: "Let none of you treat your brother in a way he himself would dislike to be treated." (Also finer than the saying in the New Testament.)

The Jewish: "Whatsoever you do not wish your neighbor to do to you, do not unto him."

And the noble and gentle Hillel who lived some seventy-five years before Jesus said : "What is unpleasant to thyself, that do not to thy neighbor; this is the whole Law, all else is but exposition."

Abb.: Bergpredigt / von Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890)
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia]

"Love thy neighbor as thyself," is ascribed to Jesus, but exactly these same words are found in the Old Testament (Levit. xix, 18).

"Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." This is not only a silly, impractical saying because it is contrary to the fundamental essence of human and all animal nature, but it is ignoble. Why should a man, if insulted and beaten by a ruffian, not defend himself, but swallow the insult, and humiliate himself to receive further insults and blows? This injunction was of great value to all kings, despots, tyrants, robber barons and various other sadistic beasts. This "resist not evil" was perniciously influential in perpetuating evil.

The same is true of the next saying (Matthew v. 40) : "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Excellent teaching: let the poor who are robbed by the rich permit themselves to be robbed without hindrance, without an attempt even to stop the robbery.

And the injunction about giving to Caesar what is Caesar's helped to keep the people in slavery and subjection.

Now listen to the Prince of Peace: (Matthew x, 34-36), "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth : 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 in his own household," etc. ! Fine words for a gentle humanitarian!

And then, unlike many religious leaders, he did not use merely persuasion. He used threats and menaced with hell. "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." This is sheer fanaticism unworthy of a really noble leader. Why should people break up their homes, forsake their parents or their children and follow an itinerant preacher?

And "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?" "Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire." "It is better for these to enter into life maimed, than having the hands to go into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." For one who loves mankind with an all-embracing love, who came into the world to "save" mankind, these are not nice words to use.

Jesus may be considered from two viewpoints; as a personality, and from the point of view of the influence he has exerted on mankind.

1. Studying his personality, as it is depicted by his chroniclers we have no other sources we reach the conclusion that he was a sincere and well-meaning man, somewhat psychopathic, of a mediocre mentality, who shared in all the superstitions, even the very lowest, of his age. He contributed nothing whatever to the intellectual or spiritual treasury of mankind. There is not a single valuable saying of his that had not been said by other religious leaders centuries before. In character, he did not reach the sublime nobility of Confucius, Lao-Tze, Buddha, Socrates or Hillel. Had he not been crucified, he probably would have never been heard of. His crucifixion which has been exploited by his followers for the past nineteen centuries, cannot but excite pity in the breasts of every humane individual, but not any more so than does the fate of thousands of other men who underwent much greater tortures, suffered more cruel deaths in their attempt to free humanity from its mental thraldom and physical slavery. And these deaths and tortures were inflicted by the very church which calls itself after Christ, who is supposed to have taught love, gentleness, and forgiveness, and by the states who professed Christianity as their official religion.

À propos of the crucifixion. When I was yet very young, certain points bothered me, which I couldn't possibly explain and which I could not see how pious Christians explained: If Jesus was divine, if he could perform such great miracles, if he could get out of his tomb and ascend to heaven after he was dead, why couldn't he get away from the cross, disappear and ascend to heaven 'before he was killed? And then again, if he was God, why in his agony, did he exclaim, "God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It seems so incongruous. First, how can God, or God's son be crucified? Second, if God the Father, wants his son to be crucified, he has a certain reason for it. God is omnipotent and all-wise and does nothing without a reason, and nothing can be done without his consent, so why question him?

Abb.: »Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?« / von Rembrandt, um 1656

If an absolute proof were needed that Jesus was nothing but a poor ordinary man, this heart-cry of his in the hour of his agony is such a proof. But the brutish, religious minds won't see it. When this unanswerable argument is presented to them, they close their eyes and their ears and their minds.

I recently came across an article of Stephen Leslie in which the author touches upon this very point.

"Think only," says he, "of the last words on the cross as reported in the Gospel according to St. Matthew: 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Nothing can be more terribly pathetic if we read it as the despairing utterance of a martyr yielding at the last moment to a hideous doubt. But if it be taken as the utterance of a divine being, what can we make of it? I will not give the obvious answer."

Nor is it necessary. None are so blind as those who will not see, none so stupid as those who refuse even to listen to an argument which threatens to shake or to shatter their superstitions.

I have stated my impression of the personality of Jesus. As to the influence he or the myth about him has had on mankind, it has been most pernicious and disastrous more pernicious, more disastrous, more tragic than that of any other man that has ever lived. Of course, for this disastrous influence he is not responsible ; it is the organized church that has called itself Christian that carries this responsibility. But on this point we needn't dwell. Even the half-educated and the dull-witted know what misery organized religion has been responsible for. But he who does not know what villainies the church has committed in Spain, Italy, France, Mexico, etc., or he who goes farther and denies that the church has been responsible for indescribable atrocities will not be enlightened by this or by any other book.

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