Hypothetical religion

Hypothetically, let’s say Jesus never went to Jerusalem. He was never sentenced to die, or He was secreted out of the city by His devoted disciples. He continued to preach, teach and spread His message until He died of natural causes at an advanced age.

Would Christianity still be a worldwide religion, or would it have died with Jesus?

The biggest conflict I have with my faith, isn’t believing or not believing that Jesus died and was resurrected. It’s just wanting to know why He had to died in the first place and in the manner He did. Why was being the Son of God not enough?

I’m not debating His deity, not denying Him being the earthly Son of God. What I want to know, what no one has been able to articulate to me, is… what did His dying change? I know the biblically annotated responses, I want the historical, the cultural, the actual effect.

Up until the point of His death and resurrection, what did people of that era believe they had to do, what ritual or offering had to be made, to secure entrance into the Kingdom of God? It certainly wasn’t the simple profession of faith that is required now.

I’ve read the stories about Jesus’ anger at the money changers in the temple. That they were selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifice. (My religious education tells me it wasn’t the sacrifices He objected to, but rather selling animals and exchanging money inside the temple.)

Was the pathway into heaven through blood sacrifice? Even in the story of Cain and Abel, Abel’s offering from his flock was favored over Cain’s offering of crops. Is it the brutality of religion what no one is willing to discuss? Was the death of Jesus the ultimate ritual killing? Through His death, was the need for further sacrifice eliminated?

This question has taunted me for many years, and I don’t expect to find the answer any time soon. Until I do, I can only live my life as best I can, hoping I’m doing something right.

Side note:
I’m amused by people who want to rail about the rationality of religion. Saying that people of faith are weak-minded lemmings who are merely worshipping an imaginary friend in the sky. It’s no more irrational than believing that the entire universe, as vast and ever-expanding that it is, was created by some microscopic, spontaneous explosion.

10 thoughts on “Hypothetical religion

  1. Just wanted to say, I love your side note. I have always viewed myself as too rebellious to be a lemming of any sort, but I have certainly heard the phrase and your point about belief in science vs religion is well made.

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  2. I have so little patience for most religion. It just doesn’t seem to have anything in it that can benefit me, especially when you see the constant hypocrisy. How many wars are begun and fought in the name of religion?

    I’m kind of in the same place as Jessie. I think there is something but I can’t believe in some all seeing dude up in the sky. And the fact he apparently let his kid die…yeah, no real parent would do that.

    Great post Tara. And that picture is awesome 🙂 I love the clever signs, religious or not

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  3. Your post is so close to my own experience recently I only hope I can help you with an answer. I have wrestled with the very same question – WHY did he have to die?? I know that he did, and I believe that he rose again but until recently I couldn’t get my head round the WHY of it. Through some study groups with my minister at church we have looked at Jesus’ death in historical context and I have learned that way back in the Old Testament, God made a whole load of promises about what he would do if the Jews didn’t change their ways. They were too hung up on the letter of the law and they weren’t very flexible when it came to the spirit of the law and they were dishonouring him by behaving so rigidly and without any sort of spiritual belief. He eventually got mad (my words, not a theological argument!) and said that for once and for all he was going to send a messenger – Jesus – who would tell them that they either start behaving properly and then would live, or else. The else was that they would be dead to him and that would be that. Jesus had to die to prove ONCE AND FOR ALL that God keeps his promises and those that believed in him and honoured him would live. Simple as that.

    Now as I say, that’s my very new and very recent understanding of it, and my understanding is still a work in progress, but at the minute that’s the way I understand it. We are working our way through Hebrews at the minute, which is helping. It is joining up the promises God made to Isaiah in the Old Testament, and the “how it all came true” in the New Testament. It’s a great journey!

    I hope that helped you a little 🙂

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  4. If you take the time to research how religions ‘evolved’ and who and what determined the final product we know as the Bible, it will certainly leave you with more questions than answers. You also have to know these books were written some 100 years after Jesus death. How much do you think the prevailing thought of the day came into play in putting together the Good book?

    And why are some religions considered ‘more’ worthy than others? Who gets to make that call? Mortals? Ha………

    I guess that is why it is called faith, huh?

    Side note – when scripture mentions gods descending from the heavens, what if it were ‘aliens?’ Do you really think the pyramids were built to the precision they are w/ a very, very uneducated population w/out assistance? Far fetched? Maybe, maybe not………..just like religion, nobody knows for sure…………..

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    1. I’ve been watching a series on the History Channel called Ancient Aliens, it covers that very topic… that earth was visited by extraterrestrials centuries ago and that evidence of those visits is seen in hieroglyphics and other ancient records. I have no problem believing that possibility. Like you said, nobody knows for sure.

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  5. Yes, if I am remembering this accurately, in the Old Testament, it was through blood sacrifices that people would atone for their sins (usually lambs or other valuable animals). Jesus was supposed to be the ultimate sacrifice to end the sacrifices. That’s why He’s referred to as The Lamb of God and His death on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice.

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  6. “What did His dying change?”— We no longer need a high priest to make atonement for our sin (Jesus is now our great High Priest); we no longer have to sacrifice animals for sin (Jesus was the final sacrifice, once and for all, for sin); we no longer depend on religion (we have a relationship with a person, Jesus); we are not forbidden to come into God’s presence under penalty of death: holy of holies (we, through Jesus, come boldly to the throne of grace); we have physical healing for our bodies (through the stripes Jesus took at Calvary); we no longer come to a temple to find God (Jesus resides in our bodily temple); we are no longer sentenced to eternal doom ( Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for us); etc. I have just begun to barely scratch the surface of the things that are infinitely better since Jesus gave His life for mankind. And my hope is that you will come to place your hope, faith and trust in the man, Jesus. God bless you.

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  7. So as I’ve understood it, yeah, pretty much, the theory is that Jesus was the last big blood sacrifice. But. I’m not the right one to ask. (Not that this has ever stopped me having an opinion.)

    I’m agnostic. I don’t disbelieve in God, but I haven’t ever been able to buy the whole Jesus-Bible thing. (Which amuses the hell out of my Christian husband. It amused him even more when we lived in Lexington and I was the one, the noisily agnostic one, dragging us off to church because the choir director turned these banal hymns into divinity profound. Christianity is fine when the music is right. Hell, you want to believe the world was created by ape turds, and it’s all good with me if you can sing me the song right.) I don’t pretend to understand the origin of the universe. I try to understand living with other human beings and treating each other with respect.

    I got a lot of flack as a kid for being a smart girl who refused to be Christian in our rual areas. So I do have a lot, A LOT of paranoia where Christianity is concerned. (And so, just for funsies, I moved down to the Bible Belt, because, yeah, that’s the smart thing for me right now.) And yet I’m married to this Christian man whose Christian family amazes me. (Actually, at least one, possibly both of his first cousins are more of my persuasion, though they aren’t so noisy about it as me.) I know that when we go to church (which is rare right now – when politics and religion are conjoined at the pulpit, we stay away or look for a large church with politics that at least come close to ours, and we haven’t found a liberal enough church down here that is also PCUSA, which is Scott’s denomination. The church we went to in Lexington was actually rather conservative, but the pastor was so intellectual that even though I almost never agreed with him, I can count on one hand the number of times I was so offended I had to walk out of the service. And believe me, when I walk out, that’s so much better than heckling, which is my other go-to offended behavior.)

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    1. The idea of heckling is attractive. I’m very disillusioned with organized religion. The level of hypocrisy, hatred of all things different, and judgmental bigotry can be stunning. I still believe in God, because how can I be so angry at Someone if I don’t believe in Him.

      My mother and her family were/are church-goers from waaaay back. They still fret over my eternal soul and those of my children. I’ve never forced my kids to attend church. My thought was that they were too young to understand and appreciate the same indoctrination I was forced to go thru as a child. When they became adults, they could make up their own minds about God and religion, and I think it will mean more to them.

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      1. Tara, you hit the nail right on the head with the word “indoctrination”. A relationship with God isn’t about religion, it’s about love and it’s about faith. The rites and practices that the church has evloved over the centuries is there to control people, not to bring them closer to God. It was a way of building a hierarchy that served only itself, not the souls of the people it was supposed to serve. Christians come in all shapes and sizes and they don’t all go to church. And vice versa…church goers come in all shapes and sizes and they aren’t necessarily “good” Christians!

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