I was asked a good question. This is my response, which is based on my religious views and my personal version of atheism. I cannot speak for any other atheists. The person asking was sincerely curious.
I don’t like the word atheist, but I know none better. So, I’ll roll with it. We have varying concepts and definitions of what an atheist is and what one believes or should think. That’s why I’m writing this explanation. Those differences aren’t going to change soon.
I was asked because I had linked to a song in last week’s blog on questions. The song was Spirit in The Sky by Norman Greenbaum. (Linked again here.) It’s tied to my answer to “What happens after we die?” (Answer: I don’t know.)
I enjoy spiritual music and I’ve liked this song since first hearing it in the 70s. It’s uplifting and has a lot of hand-clapping and singing about what happens following human death. All of that is good, based on the song. However, there’s a condition.
The lyrics say I “gotta have” a friend to intervene for me if I plan to make a deal with the spirit in the sky.
Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
My friend asked, “How does being a friend of Jesus resonate with an atheist?”
Resonate means “to attach particular meaning or importance for someone, or to affect or appeal to someone in a personal or emotional way.”
I can’t say that Jesus or an afterlife resonate with me. My personal belief is that when we’re dead, we are simply dead and gone. There are no fires, no trials, no judgements, no hooking up again with the old bod – it’s simply over. If there is more to it, as with my answer to the question, I’ll have to wait to find out. I’m in no rush to learn the answer.
To be clear: I am an atheist, Norm Greenbaum is a Jew, Jesus (actually Yeshua) was also a Jew.
Now, consider these three points of view.
- Atheists do not believe in any gods. Any belief in a historical Jesus is personal. And for an atheist, that is only a belief that the man existed. Any opinion or judgement of that man is also a personal opinion.
- Most observant Jews (that I know of) do not believe that Jesus was the messiah, or is God. Yet, one of them wrote and sang this song – Norm Greenbaum.
- Christians seem to believe Jesus was the messiah prophesied in scripture for the Jews. They also seem to believe that Jesus was, or is, the Son of God. Thus, as the second person of a holy trinity, also God. But, this is about me, not Christianity.
Notice anything? I never said that Jesus never existed. I never said he was not a nice guy, or a great religious prophet and leader, or a Jewish Rabbi. Simply not believing that someone is a god isn’t as negative as some folks may think.
Jesus also allegedly said and did a lot of cool things that I, and many other atheists, do agree with. Whether Jesus existed or not, I’m not, and never have been, anti-Jesus just because I don’t think he or anyone else is a god.
Besides, if Richard Dawkins supports Jesus’s philosophy (contrary to what many Christians may think), I certainly feel comfortable plugging songs that may include the name of Jesus.
I’ll not dismiss music simply because it uses his name, is religious in nature, or invokes any other god. I may for other reasons.
Here is another great Jesus song I like: ‘Jesus is Just Alright,’ covered most famously by the Doobie Brothers in the early 70s. It’s not much for lyrics, but was an upbeat hit.
I neither hate nor love Jesus. I accept that he probably lived about 2,000 years ago and he may have been one of the world’s first hippies (something I like). If so, I also think he is long dead.
May we unite in love and friendship. Let’s end dividing into tribes and against each other. Would Jesus want us to join our humanity together with peace and love in our hearts? May we acknowledge what we need from, and share with, each other. And, let each of us also be true to ourselves.