Sin and atonement [Part – 5]

PreviousSin and Atonement [Part – 4]

Unwilling Sacrifice

Now let us turn to the act of the Crucifixion itself. Here we are confronted with another insoluble dilemma. Jesus, as we are so insistently told, offered himself voluntarily to God the Father and was made the scapegoat for the sins of all humanity, provided, of course, they believed in him. But when the time of acceptance of his wish approaches nigh and at last the glimmer of hope for sinful humanity is beginning to appear like the dawn of a new day, as we turn to Jesus expecting to observe his joy, his happiness and his ecstasy at this most eventful moment of human history, how profoundly disappointed and manifestly disillusioned we are. Instead of finding a Jesus impatiently awaiting the hour of jubilation what we see instead is a Jesus weeping and crying and praying and beseeching God the Father to take away the bitter cup of death from him. He severely reproached one of his disciples when he caught him in the act of dozing off after spending such a fateful long day and suffering through a dark gloomy night which bade ill for him and his holy master. The Biblical account of this incident goes as follows:

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gesthemane, and said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.’

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’.

He went a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ When he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matt 26:36–43)

Alas as the Christian story unveils itself, the prayers and beseeching of neither Jesus nor his disciples were accepted by God the Father and willy-nilly, despite his strong protestations, he was at last crucified. Was he the same person, the same prince of innocence and paragon of sacrifice who so bravely volunteered himself to take the burden of all of mankind’s sins on his shoulders, or was it a different person? His conduct, both at the hour of the Crucifixion and during the Crucifixion itself, strongly casts shadows of doubt, either on the identity of Jesus Christ or on the truth of the myth spun around his person. But of that later. Let us now return to our critical examination where we left it.

Some other questions which arise from the last cry of agony by Jesus Christ are as follows: Who uttered those deeply pathetic and touching words? Was it Jesus the man or was it Jesus the ‘Son’?

If it was Jesus the man who was abandoned, by whom? And why? If we accept this option, it would also have to be taken for granted that till the last, Jesus the man retained a single independent identity which could think and feel freely and individually. Did he die at the moment of parting of the soul of Jesus the ‘Son of God’ from the body of the man he had occupied? If so, why and how? If it was so and it was the body of the man which died after the soul of God deserted it, then the question would arise as to who got revived from the dead when the soul of God revisited the same body later on.

Again, this option would lead us to believe that it was not Jesus the ‘Son’ who was suffering but the person of Jesus the man who cried out in such agony and he was the one who suffered while Jesus the ‘Son’ looked on in a state of total indifference and apathy. Then how can he justify the claim that it was he, the ‘Son’, who suffered for the sake of humanity and not the man in him?

The other option is that we presume it was Jesus the ‘Son’ who cried out, while the man in him, perhaps hopeful to begin a new life for himself, watched on in uncertain expectancy of the realisation that along with the sacrifice of Jesus the ‘Son’, he, Jesus the man, whether he liked it or not, would also be slaughtered on the altar of his innocent cohabiter. What sense of justice ever motivated God to kill two birds with the same stone is perhaps another mystery.

If Jesus the ‘Son’ it was, and it was him indeed according to the general consensus of Christian churches, then the second question arising out of the answer of the first would be about the identity of the second party involved in that monologue of Jesus (Matt 26:39,42). We have two options open to us.

One, that the ‘Son’ was addressing the Father, complaining that he was abandoned in the hour of need. This inescapably leads us to believe that they were two different persons who did not coexist in a single mutually merged personality, equally sharing all attributes and putting them into play simultaneously with equal share. One appears to be the supreme arbiter, the all powerful possessor of the ultimate faculty of taking decisions. The other, the poor ‘Son’, seems to be entirely deprived or maybe temporarily dispossessed of all the domineering characters which his Father enjoyed. The central point which must be kept in focus is the fact that their opposite wills and wishes nowhere seem more at odds and at variance with each other than they were during the last act of the Crucifixion drama.

The second question is, would these two distinct persons, with individual thoughts, individual values and individual capacities, feel pain and agony if they were ‘two in one’ and ‘one in two’? So another question would require many a long dialogue between theologians regarding the possibility of God being able to suffer pain and punishment. Even if so, only half of God would suffer while the other half was incapable of doing so by design or by the compulsion of His nature. As we proceed further in the shadowy world of this twisted philosophy, light begins to get dimmer and dimmer and we find confusion heaped upon confusion.

Another problem is that whom was Christ addressing if he was God himself? When he addressed his father, he himself was an inseparable part of the Father, so we are told. So what was he saying and to whom? This question must be answered with a free conscience, without resorting to dogma. It becomes a dogma only when it cannot be explained in human terms. According to the Biblical statement, when Jesus was about to give up the ghost, he cried addressing God the Father: ‘Why have you abandoned me?’ Who had abandoned whom? Had God abandoned God?

Who Was Sacrificed?

The other problem we have to take note of is that the man in Jesus was not punished, nor by any logic should he have been punished because he had never opted to carry the load of humanity’s sin. This new element, entering into the debate, leads us to a very peculiar situation which we have not considered before. One is compelled to wonder about the relationship of the man in Jesus with the inherited propensity to commit sin, common to all the progeny of Adam and Eve. At best one can bring oneself to believe that in the duality of the ‘Divine Son’ and the man occupying the same body, it was only the ‘Divine Son’ who was innocent. But what about the man living alongside him. Was he also born out of genes and character provided by God? If so, then he should behave like the divine in Jesus and no excuse would be acceptable if he goes remiss in this or that, with the plea that he only did so because he was a man. If there was nothing of God in him, that is, in the man in Jesus, then we must concede that he was simply an ordinary human being, perhaps half a human being. Yet that human person, amalgamated with Jesus, has to be human enough to inherit the disposition to sin. If not, why not?

Obviously there is no gain in saying that being a man distinctly separate from his divine partner, he must have sinned independently with the entire responsibility of sin upon his human shoulders. This scenario will not be complete without presenting Jesus the ‘Son of God’, dying, not so unselfishly after all, for the sake of humanity but his prime concern might have been for his half brother, the man in him.

All this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to digest intellectually. But from our point of view there is no problem. It was the innocent person Jesus the man, without there being any duality in him, who uttered this cry of astonishment and agony.

The Dilemma of Jesus

Let me once again make it clear that I do not disbelieve in Jesus but have profound respect for him as a messenger of God with exceptional sacrifices to his credit. I understand Jesus to be a holy man, going through a period of great trial. But as the narration of the act of Crucifixion begins to unfold and come to a close we are left with no choice but to believe that Jesus did not volunteer himself for death upon the cross. The night before the day his enemies attempted to murder him by crucifixion we hear him praying all night, along with his disciples, because the truth of his claim was at stake. It is said in the Old Testament that an imposter who attributes things to God which He had never said, would be hanged on a tree and die upon it an accursed death.

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. (Deuteronomy 18:20)

And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed of God. (Deutronomy 21:22–23)

Jesus knew that if this happened, the Jews would celebrate with ecstasy and proclaim him to be an imposter whose falsehood had finally been proved beyond a shadow of doubt on the authority of the divine Scriptures. This was the reason why he was so anxious to escape the bitter cup of death; not out of cowardice but out of fear that his people would be misled and would fail to recognise his truth if he died upon the cross. All night he prayed so piteously and helplessly that to read the account of his agony and misery is heart rending. But as this real life drama proceeds to a close, the climax of his emotional distress, dejection and hopelessness is fully displayed in his last cry:

‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

-Matthew 27:46

One must notice that it was not agony alone expressed in that cry but obviously there was mingled with it an element of surprise, bordering on horror. After he was brought back to consciousness, with the help of some of his dedicated disciples who applied to his wounds an ointment they had prepared before Crucifixion and which contained all the ingredients needed for mitigating pain and healing wounds, he must have been so wonderfully and happily surprised and his faith in a loving true God would have been reinstated and revitalised in a manner seldom experienced by man in its intensity and boundlessness.

The fact that the ointment had been prepared in advance constitutes a strong proof that Jesus’ disciples were indeed expecting him to be delivered from the cross alive, very much in need of medicinal treatment.

From the above, it becomes comfortingly clear that the concept of Inherited Sin and of Crucifixion are based only on the conjecture and wishful thinking of Christian theologians at a later date. It is quite likely that it was born out of some pre-Christian myths of a similar nature, which, when applied to the circumstances of Jesus Christ, tempted them to read close similarities between the two and create a similar myth. However, whatever the mystery or paradox, as we see it, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Christian philosophy of Sin and Atonement was based on anything which Jesus might have said or done or taught. He could never have preached anything so contrary to, and so diametrically opposed to human intellect.

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Sin and atonement [Part – 4]

PreviousSin and atonement [Part – 3]

Justice and Forgiveness

The Christian philosophy of Crime and Punishment is not only utterly confusing for simple unprejudiced human intellect but also raises many other relevant questions which are no less perplexing. The relationship between justice and forgiveness, as maintained by the Christian philosophy of Atonement, attempts to explain why God Himself could not forgive. It is dependant entirely on an erroneous and arbitrary concept of justice, which takes it for granted that justice and forgiveness can never go hand in hand. That being so, why does the New Testament place so much emphasis on forgiveness when the question of human relationships is discussed. I have never read in any divine scriptures of any world religion a teaching that leans more one sidedly upon, and overly emphasises the role of forgiveness. What a fantastic contrast with the traditional emphasis on justice found in Judaic teachings. An eye for eye; a tooth for tooth. That is justice, pure, simple and unattenuated. What a dramatic departure from this to the Christian teaching of turning the other cheek if slapped on one. Who gave the latter teaching that is against the earlier teachings of the Torah? Was the first teaching of Torah, one is left wondering, a teaching by God the Father as against the diametrically opposed teaching of the New Testament, a teaching by Christ the ‘Divine Son’? If so, why did the ‘Divine Son’ differ so drastically from his Father? Should such a conflict be taken as a genetical defect or an evolutionary change or was this Christian attitude of absolute forgiveness, as diametrically opposed to the Judaic emphasis on revenge, an example of volte-face change on the part of God the Father. He seems to have dearly repented of what He had taught Moses and the people of the Book and wanted very much to redress His own wrong.

As Muslims, we observe this fundamental shift in emphasis and see no contradiction because we believe in a God who combines in Him both the attributes of justice and forgiveness, without there being any inner conflict between the two attributes. We understand the transfer from Judaic teachings to that of Jesus Christ, not as a corrective measure of those teachings but of their misapplication by the Jews. With us, God is not only Just but is also Forgiving, Merciful and Beneficent. If He so desires, He does not stand in need of any outside help to forgive the sinful. But from the Christian point of view the problem acquires gigantic proportions. It appears that the God of the Torah was a God who knew only justice and had no sense of compassion or mercy. Apparently He was unable to forgive, however much he may have desired to do so. Lo, then came to His help ‘God the Son’ and extricated Him from His infernal dilemma. It seems that the ‘Son’ was ‘All-Compassion’ as against the ‘All-Vengefulness’ of his Father. It is not just the apparent absurdity of this vision of the ‘Son’ which disturbs the human conscience but it also raises the question once again of the contradiction in their characters. Jesus does not appear to be a true son of his Father. A genetic error again perhaps.

Another important area of inquiry is the attitude of other religions of the world towards sin and its consequences. Christianity is of course not the only religion to be a revealed religion. Numerically, non-Christians largely exceed Christians. Thousands of years of the known history of man, before Jesus Christ, saw many religions born and take root in different human soils in various parts of the world. Do these religions ever speak of a philosophy of forgiveness even remotely related to the Christian dogma of Atonement? What is their concept of God, or Gods if they have now begun to believe in many? What is their concept of God’s attitude towards sinful humanity?

Among the comity of religions, the nearest to Christianity is perhaps Hinduism in this regard, but only partially so. Hindus also believe in an Absolute Just God, whose sense of justice demands that He must punish somehow every perpetrator of sin. But the resemblance ends there. No mention of a ‘Divine Son’ taking the entire consequences of the whole world of sinners upon his shoulders is even remotely indicated. On the contrary, we are told of an endless chain of crime and punishment in an endless number of reincarnations of the soul into animal flesh. Atonement only becomes accessible after the many times reincarnated soul has incurred punishment exactly in accord with the sum total of the crimes it committed during all its fateful experiences of reincarnation. To some it may sound weird and bizarre indeed, but there is certainly some inherent justice in this philosophy. A balance and a symmetry which is in perfect harmony with the concept of absolute justice.

Leaving Hinduism and other religions who also believe in the philosophy of reincarnation with all its complexities of cause and effect aside, what is the role of forgiveness on the part of God in the remaining major or minor religions of the world? All such religions and over a billion adherents of religions such as Hinduism seem to be totally ignorant and uninformed of the myth of Atonement. This is very perplexing indeed. Who was in communion with mankind elsewhere in the history of religions? If it were not God the Father as in Christian doctrine, was the entire religious leadership of the world except Jesus Christ, pupil of the Devil himself? And where was God the father? Why did He not come to the rescue when the rest of mankind was being led astray by the Devil in His name? Or were they, the rest of the humanity, a creation of a being other than the so-called God the Father. Again, why were they treated in such a step-fatherly way and abandoned to the cruel sway of the Devil?

Let us now turn our attention to this issue with reference to common human experience. It can be shown that forgiveness and justice are balanced and can coexist and do not always contradict each other. Sometimes justice demands that forgiveness must be extended and sometimes it demands that forgiveness be withheld. If a child is forgiven and is encouraged to commit more crime, then forgiveness is itself bordering on a crime and is against the sense of justice. If a criminal is forgiven, only to perpetrate more acts of crime and creates suffering all around him because he is forgiven and encouraged, that would also be against the dictates of justice and will be tantamount to an act of cruelty to other innocent citizens. There are countless criminals of this type who are covered by the atonement of Jesus. That in itself is contrary to justice. But if a child repents, for instance, and the mother is convinced that the same crime will not be repeated, then to punish the child would be counter to the sense of justice. When a repentant person suffers, that in itself is a punishment which may in some cases far exceed a punishment imposed from outside. People with a living conscience always suffer after committing a sin. As a consequence, the cumulative effect of the repeated pangs of conscience reaches a point where it may result in God taking pity on such a weak, oft-faltering, oft-repenting servant of His. This is the lesson in the relationship of justice to forgiveness, which people of high intellect or even people of ordinary understanding draw alike from a universal human experience. It is high time that Christians woke up from their dormant state of accepting Christian dogma without ever questioning its wisdom.

If they re-examine the Christian doctrine in the light of common sense and reasoning, they may still remain good practising Christians but of a different and more realistic type. They would then believe even more and with greater love and dedication in the human reality of Christ as compared to the Christ who is a mere figment of their imagination and no more real than fiction. Jesus’ greatness lies not in his legend but in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus the man and messenger. A sacrifice which moves the heart far more powerfully and profoundly than the myth of his death upon a cross and his revival from the dead after spending a few ghastly hours in hell.

Jesus Cannot Possibly Atone

Last but not least, how could Jesus be born innocent when he had a human mother? If the sin of Adam and Eve had polluted the entire progeny of this unfortunate couple, then as a natural consequence, all male and female children must inherit the same genetic propensity to sin. Females were perhaps more likely to because it was Eve who as the instrument of Satan enticed Adam. Therefore, the responsibility of sin falls squarely on the shoulders of Eve rather than of Adam. In the case of the birth of Christ, obviously it was a daughter of Eve who contributed the major share. The question that very powerfully arises is whether Jesus inherited any gene bearing chromosomes from his human mother or not. If he did so, then it was impossible for him to escape the inevitable inherited sin. If he did not inherit any chromosomes from his mother either, then indeed that birth would be doubly miraculous. Only a miracle could produce a son who neither belongs to his father nor to his mother. What remains incomprehensible is why those chromosomes, provided by Eve, did not carry the innate tendency to sin to the child Jesus. Suppose it happened somehow, and Jesus had that innocence needed to carry the sins of mankind, on condition that they believed in him and not otherwise, another problem would arise: what happened, one may ask, to the progeny of Adam and Eve that died before the dawn of Christianity? How many billions of them might have got scattered throughout the world over five continents generation after generation. They must have lived and died without hope or even the possibility of ever hearing about the Christ their Saviour who was not yet born. In fact the entire humanity between Adam and Christ seemed certainly to be doomed for ever. Why were they never given even a remote chance to be forgiven? Would they be forgiven retrospectively, by Jesus Christ? If so, why?

In other parts of the world, much larger by comparison to the tiny land of Judea, where people had never heard of Christianity even during the life time of Jesus Christ, what happens to them? They never did, nor ever could, believe in the ‘Sonship’ of Jesus Christ. Will their sins go unpunished or will they be punished? If they go unpunished, for what reason? If they are punished, again by what logic? What chance did they have anyway? They were totally helpless. What a distorted sense of absolute justice!

Sin and atonement [Part – 5] next

An apology letter for Quaid-e-Azam on his 134th Birthday

Dearest Father of the nation,

Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah

May your soul rest in peace. Today on your 134th birthday, I wish I could give you something. I know what you wanted from your nation, but I am sorry we as a nation have let you down. I know we didn’t live up to your expectations as much. I understand, the Pakistan today isn’t what you dreamed of. I am sorry about that.

I am sorry we made corrupt people as our leaders, who robbed us and took everything away. I am sorry we didn’t find any leader like you in the past 62 years, so we had to settle for the feudal ones. I am sorry for the fact that we failed to ensure security of each and every individual living here. I am sorry we failed to preserve the rights of the minorities, instead we persecuted them. I am sorry we don’t have any Pakistanis here, but we do have Sindhis, Punjabis, Pushtoons, Saraikis, Baluchis, Mahajirs etc. I am sorry we don’t have any Muslims here either, but we do have Sunnis, Shias, Deobandis, Barhelvis etc. I am sorry we failed to develop like India or China, but the good thing is (I hope you will be thrilled to hear that) we still have IMF supporting us.

I am sorry we cannot reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy and lawlessness because we have to spend the money we have on our leaders, parliamentarians and the military. I am sorry we let our talented youth go to waste due to our ignorance. I am sorry we let the illiterate religious leaders use us for their interest, sorry that we have to follow those who called you an infidel and Pakistan an abomination. I am sorry no place of worship is safe here and I am dearly sorry that we are now listed among the top 10 dangerous countries in the world. I am sorry that this country which was meant to be the fort of Islam, is a disgrace to the very cause.

Dear Quaid-e-Azam, on your 134th birthday, I am sorry we are even worst than what we were, back when you gave us the most cherished gift of all, ‘freedom’.

I am sorry.

Sin and atonement [Part – 3]

PreviousSin and atonement [Part – 2]

Punishment Continues to be Meted Out

Let us now consider a different, more serious, category of crime, the consequences of which human nature simply cannot accept to be transferable. For instance, someone mercilessly abuses a child and even rapes and murders it. Human sensibilities would no doubt be violated to an unbearable degree. Suppose such a person continues to cause similar and greater suffering all around him without ever being caught and brought to justice. Having lived his life of crime unpunished by human hands, death closes in upon him but he determines to elude even the greater punishment of the Judgement Day and suddenly decides, at last, to have faith in Jesus Christ as his saviour. Would all his sins suddenly melt into nothingness and would he be left to glide into the other world free of sin like a new born babe? Perhaps such a one who defers his belief in Jesus till the time of death proves to be much wiser than the one who does so earlier in life. There always remained for the latter a danger of committing sins after belief and falling prey to the devils designs and insinuations. Why not wait till death is close upon you giving the devil little chance and time to rob you of your faith in Jesus? A free life of crime and pleasure, here on earth, and a rebirth in an eternal state of redemption is no mean bargain indeed.

Is this the wisdom of justice that the Christians attribute to God? Such a sense of justice or such a God himself is totally unacceptable to human conscience, which He Himself created, without, alas, being able to discriminate right from wrong.

Looking at the same question in the light of human experience and human understanding, one has every right to denounce this philosophy to be meaningless and without foundation. It has no reality or substance. Human experience teaches us that it is always the prerogative of those who suffer at the hands of others, to forgive or not to forgive. Sometimes governments, to celebrate a day of national rejoicing or for other reasons, may declare an amnesty to criminals without discrimination. But that does not in itself justify the act of pardoning those who have done some irreparable harm and caused perpetual suffering to their fellow innocent citizens. It should be remembered that if the act of indiscriminate pardon at the hands of a government can by any measure be justified and if this is not considered by Christian theologians as a violation of the sense of justice then why do they not extend the same courtesy to God and concede to Him the right of forgiveness as and when He so pleases? After all, He is the Supreme Sovereign, the Creator and Master of everything. If He pardons anyone for any crime that may have been committed against fellow beings, the Supreme Master has the unlimited power to compensate the aggrieved so generously as to make him perfectly satisfied with His decision. That being so where is the need for the sacrifice of His innocent ‘Son’? This in itself constitutes a mockery of justice. We are born attuned to the attributes of God. He so declares in the Holy Bible:

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness.’
-(Genesis 1:26)

On the same subject in the Holy Quran He says:

And follow the nature made by Allah—the nature in which He has created mankind.

This tenet, common to both Christian and Muslims alike, requires that human conscience is the best reflective mirror of God’s conduct in a given situation. It is a matter of every day experience with us that many a times we forgive without having violated the sense of justice in the least. If we are wronged personally, then in respect of the crime committed against us we can go to any length in forgiveness. If a child hurts his parents by being disobedient or by causing damage to some precious household article, or by earning them a bad name; he has sinned against them. His parents may forgive him without their conscience pricking them or blaming them for having violated the sense of justice. But if their child destroys the property of their neighbour, or injures the child of another person, how could they decide to forgive the child for causing suffering to others? It would be deemed an act of injustice even according to their own consciences if they did so.

Crime and punishment have the same relationship as cause and effect, and they have to be proportionate to some degree. This aspect of the relationship between crime and punishment has already been discussed at some length with regards to financial misconduct of one man against another. The same argument applies with greater severity to other crimes like injuring, maiming or murdering innocent citizens or violating their honour in any manner. The greater the enormity of the crime, the more severe one would expect the nature and extent of punishment to be. If God can forgive all and sundry, as I do believe that He and only He can, then the question of Atonement in exchange for punishing an innocent person does not come into play at all. If, however, it is a question of the transference of one criminal’s punishment to another innocent person who has opted for such a measure, then justice would most certainly demand that the punishment must be transferred in its entirety to the other person, without decreasing or diluting it to any degree. Again of that we have already said enough.

Do the Christians believe that this dictate of justice was applied in the case of Jesus the ‘Son’ by God the Father? If so, it means that all the punishment due to all the criminals of the Christian world born at the time of Christ or ever afterwards till Judgement Day was amassed, concentrated and brought to an infernal intensity of such a degree that the suffering of Jesus Christ for merely three days and nights equalled the torture of all the punishment which the above mentioned sinners had earned or were to earn till that last day. If so, no Christian should ever be punished on earth by any Christian government. Otherwise, that would be tantamount to an act of gross injustice. All that the courts of law should do after reaching the verdict of guilty would be to ask the Christian criminal to pray to Jesus the ‘Son’ to save him. And the matter should be rested and brought to a close there and then. It would simply be a case of book transfer of criminal’s account to that of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of illustration let us bring the United States of America into sharper focus and zoom in on the state of crime there. The crimes of mugging and murder are so widespread that it is difficult to keep a count of them. Once I remember in New York, I tuned in to a radio station which was devoted entirely to the reporting of capital crime. It was a most horrifying experience. It was so painful that half an hour was the maximum I could take it, no more. Almost every five minutes a new murder was committed in America and was reported, sometimes with grisly coverage by reporters who were actually witnessing the very murder in progress. It is not our intention to present a detailed picture of crime in America, but it is a matter of common knowledge that today America stands among the foremost in the list of countries where of all sorts of crime are rampant; particularly in larger cities such as Chicago, New York and Washington. In New York, mugging is common place along with the maiming of innocent citizens who dare to resist it. This daily occurrence creates a most obnoxious picture of mutilation and murder for paltry gains.

Leaving aside for the moment, the rising trend of crime throughout the world, in the case of America alone, one cannot fail to wonder about the relationship between the Christian concept of Sin and Atonement with the crimes committed daily. However much removed they may be from Christian value in their practice, at least this much goes to their credit that they do believe in the Christian doctrine of Sin and Redemption and also in Christ as their saviour—alas—to what avail. The majority of the criminals in America, of course, are so-called Christians. Though Muslims and others are no exception. Just because all such criminals who belong to Christianity and believe in the reported voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sake of the believing sinners, would they all be pardoned by God? If so in what way? Ultimately, a sizeable percentage from among them may get caught and get punished by the law of the land, but still a large number would either remain unapprehended or may only be punished for a part of the crimes which they may have committed over many years.

What would Christianity offer to those who are punished by law and what would it promise those who remain unapprehended here on earth? Will both be punished to varying degrees or will they be punished indiscriminately?

Another dilemma relating to a criminal’s redemption because of his belief in Jesus Christ arises out of a less clear and undefined situation. If, for instance, a Christian commits a crime against an innocent non-Christian victim, he would be forgiven of course because of the blessings of his faith in Jesus. The punishment of his crime will then be transferred to the account of Jesus instead. But what would be the profit and loss statement of the poor innocent non-Christian victim. Poor Jesus and the poor victim, both being punished for a crime they did not commit.

One’s faculties are confounded if we try to imagine the enormity of all the crimes ever committed by humanity since the dawn of Christianity till the time when the sun of existence sets on human life. Have all these crimes been transferred to the account of Jesus Christ, peace and blessing be upon him? Have all these sins been accounted for in the small space of three days and three nights that Jesus is supposed to have suffered? Still one keeps on wondering, how could the vast sea of criminals so intensely embittered by the deadly poison of crime be sweetened and cleansed entirely of the effects of their crimes by the mere act of their believing in Jesus. Again, one’s thoughts are carried back to the remote past, when poor Adam and Eve so naively committed their first crime only because they were very cunningly duped and ensnared by Satan. Why was their sin not also washed clean? Did they not have faith in God? Was it a minor act of goodness to have faith in God the Father and was it their fault anyway that they had never been told of a ‘Son’ living eternally with God the Father? Why did not the ‘Divine Son’ take pity on them and beseech God the Father to punish him for their crimes instead? How one wishes that had happened, it might have been so much easier to be punished only for that one single faltering moment on the part of Adam and Eve. The entire story of humanity would certainly have been rewritten in the book of fate. A heavenly earth would have been created instead and Adam and Eve would not have been banished eternally from heaven, along with the untold number of their unhappy progeny. Jesus alone would have been banished from heaven merely for three days and three nights and that would have been that. Sadly, neither God the Father nor Jesus, thought of this. Look how Jesus’ holy lovable reality is unfortunately transformed into a bizarre and unbelievable myth.

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Sin and atonement [Part -2]

PreviousSin and atonement [Part – 1]

Inherited Sin

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that Adam and Eve sinned literally as described in the Old Testament, and were duly punished. As the story goes, the punishment was handed out not only to them but to their entire progeny. Once that punishment was prescribed and delivered, why was there the need for any other punishment at all? Once a sin has been punished, it is done with. Once a judgment has been passed, no one has the right to continuously add more and more punishments. In the case of Adam and Eve it is not only that they were severely reprimanded and if anything more than punished for the sin they had committed, but also the nature of the punishment which was extended to their progeny in itself is highly questionable. Of that we have said enough. What we are attempting to point to is a far more heinous violation of absolute justice. To be punished continuously for the sins of our forefathers is one thing but to be compelled to continue to sin as a consequence of one’s forefather’s error is simply abominable.

Let us get down to the hard realities of human experience and try to understand the Christian philosophy of crime and punishment in relation to our everyday experience. Let us suppose a judgement is passed against a criminal, which is far too severe and harsh in proportion to the crime committed. That could, of course, lead to loud and severe condemnation of such a gross disproportionate penalty by every sensible man. In view of this, we find it very difficult to believe that the penalty imposed on Adam for his sin, came from a Just God. It is not just a case of an out of proportion penalty. It is a penalty, that according to the Christian understanding of God’s conduct, outlived the life span of Adam and Eve and was extended generation after generation to their progeny. For the progeny to suffer for the punishment of their parents is actually an extension of the violation of justice beyond its ultimate limits. But we are not talking of that either. If we had the misfortune to observe a judgement passed by any contemporary judge, making it compulsory for the children, grand children and great grand children, etc. of a criminal to be coerced by law to continue to sin and commit crimes and be punished accordingly till eternity then what would be the reaction of contemporary society, which has acquired a universal sense of justice through civilisation?

In the fifth century, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo, was involved in a confrontation with the Pelagian movement, concerning the controversy of the nature of the fall of Adam and Eve. He proclaimed the Pelagian movement as being heretical because it taught that Adam’s sin affected only himself and not the human race as a whole; that every individual is born free of sin and is capable in his own power of living a sinless life and that there had even been persons who had succeeded in doing so.

Those in the right were labeled as heretics. Day was denounced as night and night as day. Heresy is truth and truth, heresy.

The Transfer of Sin

Let us now re-examine the theme that God does not forgive the sinful without punishing them because it is against His sense of justice. One is horrified to realise that for century after century Christians have believed in something which is most certainly beyond the grasp of the human intellect and contrary to human conscience. How on earth, or heaven for that matter, could God forgive a sinful person merely because an innocent person has volunteered himself to take the punishment instead? The moment God does so, He violates the very fundamental principles of justice. A sinful person must suffer for his sins. In short, a multitude of complex human problems would arise if the punishment is transferred to someone else.

It is argued by Christian theologians that such a transfer of punishment does not violate any principle of justice, because of the voluntary acceptance by the innocent person of the other person’s punishment. What would you say in the case of a debtor, they ask, who is overloaded with debts beyond his capacity to pay and some God-fearing philanthropist decides to relieve him of his burden by paying his entire debts on his behalf? Our answer would be that indeed we would loudly applaud such an act of immense generosity, kindness and sacrifice. But what would be the reaction of the person who confronts us with such a question, if the debt payable runs into trillions of dollars and there steps forward a philanthropist who takes out a penny from his pocket, demanding that all that is due to the debtor should be canceled out against that kindly penny offered as a substitute for that debt. What we have in the case of Jesus Christ offering himself to be punished, for the sins of all humanity, is far more grotesquely unproportionate. Again, it is not only one debtor or all the debtors of one single generation, but we are talking about billions of born and unborn defaulters extending up to Doomsday.

But that is not all. To conceive of crime as only a debtor who owes money to someone else is the most naive definition of sin that I have ever come across. This scenario which has been presented deserves to occupy our attention a little longer before we turn to some other aspects of crime and punishment.

Let us consider the case of a debtor called ‘A’, who owes a hundred thousand pounds to person ‘B’. If a rich philanthropist, in full command of his senses, seriously and genuinely wants to relieve the debtor of his burden, the common law would require him to pay to ‘B’ all that person ‘A’ owed him. But suppose the hypothetical philanthropist steps forward with the plea that person ‘A’ should be absolved of his responsibility of payment to person ‘B’ and instead he himself should be beaten up a little bit or imprisoned for three days and nights at the most, in his place. If it really happened in real life it would be a treat to watch the horrified faces of the astounded judge and the confounded poor creditor ‘B’. But the philanthropist has yet to complete his plea for clemency. He would further stipulate: ‘O my lord, that is not all I want in return for my sacrifice. I require all the debtors of the entire kingdom alive today or to be born until the end of time to be absolved of their dues in return for my suffering of three days and nights.’ At this point one’s mind boggles.

How one wishes to propose to God, the Just God, that at least those who had been robbed of the fruits of their labour, or of the savings of their lives should have been compensated to some degree at least. But the Christian God, it seems, is far more kind and clement to the criminal than to the innocent who suffer at the hands of the criminal. A strange sense of justice indeed which results in the forgiveness of robbers, usurpers, the abusers of children, the torturer of the innocent and the perpetrators of all sorts of beastly crimes against humanity, provided that they believe in Jesus Christ in their dying moments. What of the incalculable debt they owe to their tormented victims. A few moments of Jesus in hell seem sufficient to purge them of their long lives of unpunished heinous guilt, generation after generation.

Sin and atonement [Part – 3] next

Sin and atonement [Part – 1]

PreviousThe son-ship of Jesus Christ


Now we turn to the second very important article of Christian faith. I must clarify however that all Christians do not believe exactly in what follows. Even some Church leaders have deviated from the stiff dogmatic attitude of the Church. Even so, the philosophy of ‘Sin and Atonement’ is a fundamental principle of orthodox Christian faith.

The first component of the Christian understanding of Sin and Atonement is that God is just, and exercises natural justice. He does not forgive sins without exacting retribution; as it would be against the dictates of absolute justice. It is this particular attribute of God that makes necessary the Christian version of atonement.

The second component is that man is sinful because Adam and Eve sinned. As a result their progeny began to inherit sin, as if it was infused into their genes and, ever since, all children of Adam are born congenital sinners.

The third component of this dogma is that a sinful person cannot atone for another person’s sins; only a sinless person can do so. Based on this, it becomes evident why, according to Christian understanding, no prophet of God, however good or near perfection he may have been, could have cleansed the mankind of sin or was able to rid them of it and its consequences. Being a son of Adam, he could not have escaped the element of congenital sin with which he was born.

This is a simple outline of the entire doctrine. Here is the solution advanced by Christian theologists.

The Atonement of Mankind

To solve this apparently unsolvable problem, God conceived an ingenious plan. It is not clear as to whether he consulted his ‘Son’ or if they both conceived the plan simultaneously or even if it was entirely the idea of the ‘Son’, and then accepted by God the Father. The features of this plan unfolded at the time of Christ as follows. Two thousand years ago the ‘Son of God’, who literally shared eternity with Him, was born to a human mother. As the ‘Son of God’, he combined within him the perfect traits of a human being as well as those of God the Father. Next we are told that a pious and chaste lady by the name of Mary, was chosen to be the mother of the ‘Son of God’. She conceived Jesus in partnership with God. In that respect, being a literal ‘Son of God’, Jesus was born without sin, yet somehow he retained his human character and entity. Thus he volunteered himself to take the burden of the entire sin of those of mankind who would believe in him and accept him as their saviour. By this clever device, it is claimed, God did not have to compromise His eternal attribute of absolute justice.

Remember that according to this modus operandi, man would not go unpunished, however sinful he may be. God would still be able to exact retribution from the sinful without compromising His sense of justice. The only difference between this and the previous position, which was responsible for this dramatic change, is the fact that it would be Jesus who would be punished and not the sinful sons and daughters of Adam. It would be the sacrifice of Jesus which would ultimately be instrumental in atoning for the sins of the children of Adam.

However strange and bizarre this logic may seem to be, this is exactly what is professed to have happened. Jesus volunteered himself and was consequently punished for the sins he had never committed.

The Sin of Adam and Eve

Let us re-examine the story of Adam from the beginning. Not a single step in the above doctrine can be accepted by human conscience and logic.

Adam and Eve expelled

Adam and Eve expelled from heaven

Firstly, we have the idea that because Adam and Eve sinned, so their progeny became genetically and eternally polluted with sin. In contrast to this, the science of genetics reveals that human thoughts and actions, be they good or bad, even if persistently adhered to during the entire lifetime of a person, cannot be transferred to and encoded into the genetic system of human reproduction. A lifespan is too short a period to play any role in bringing about such profound changes. Even the vices of a people, generation after generation, or good deeds for that matter, cannot be transferred to the progeny as genetic characters. Perhaps millions of years are required for etching human genes with new characteristics.

Not only this, even if by a most absurd and unacceptable extension of one’s imagination one could conceive of such a bizarre happening, the contrary will have to be accepted by the same logic. This would mean that if a sinful person repented and came out clean at the end of the day, then that act should also be recorded in the genetic system; effectively cancelling out the effect of the previous sin. Scientifically this may not happen, but certainly there is far more logic in this balanced picture than imagining that it is only the propensity to sin which can be genetically encoded and not the disposition to do good.

Secondly, by attempting to resolve the problem of Adam by proposing that sin is genetically transferred to the future generations of Adam, all that has been achieved is the total demolition of the very foundation on which the Christian doctrine of ‘Sin and Atonement’ is based. If God is absolutely Just, then where is the sense of justice in eternally condemning the entire progeny of Adam and Eve for the transient sin they committed and repented? A sin for which they themselves were heavily punished and driven out of heaven in such disgrace. What manner of justice would it be for God, who even after having more than punished Adam and Eve for their personal sins, still did not have His passion of revenge abated until He had condemned the entire human race to a helpless degradation of being born as congenital sinners? What chance did the children of Adam have to escape sin? If parents make a mistake why should their innocent children suffer for that mistake eternally?

That being so, again what distorted sense of justice does God claim to possess and to enjoy, to punish a people who are designed to act sinfully, however much they abhor sin? Sin is made a part and parcel of their mechanism. There is no chance any more for a child of Adam to remain innocent. If sin was a crime, then logic demands that it should be a crime of the Creator and not that of the creation. In that case, what justice could require the punishment of the innocent, for the crimes of the perpetrator?

How different from the Christian understanding of sin and its consequences is the proclamation of the Holy Quran, which says:

No one can bear the burden of another.

God requires not of any one that which is beyond his capacity.

Compared to the Christian concept of Sin and Atonement these declarations of the Holy Quran are pure music to the soul.

Let us now turn to the Biblical account of what actually happened at the time of the sin of Adam and Eve and the consequences that ensued the punishment. According to Genesis, God accepted their apology only partially and an eternal punishment was meted out to them, prescribed as follows:

To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.’
To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it were you taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’

-(Genesis 3:16–19)

Mankind existed long before Adam and Eve came to be born. Western scientists themselves discovered the remains of many a prehistoric man and labelled them under different distinctive titles. Neanderthal man is perhaps the most widely known of them. They lived between 100,000 to 35,000 years ago, mostly in the regions of Europe, Near East and Central Asia. A carcass of a fully developed human being has been discovered, who happened to roam the earth about 29,000 years before Adam and Eve are known to have begun their short-lived sojourn in paradise. At that time, human beings were physically just like us and lived in Europe, Africa and Asia, and later during the Ice Age they spread to the Americas as well. Again in Australia, the authentic cultural history of Aborigines is traceable up to 40,000 years ago.

Compared to these relatively recent times, a skeleton of a female from Hedar in Ethiopia has been discovered which is 2.9 million years old. Now according to the Biblical chronology, Adam and Eve lived around six thousand years ago. One may look back in wonderment at the reported history of human beings, or Homo Sapiens as they are titled in scientific jargon.

Human Suffering Continues

Having read the Biblical account of how Adam and Eve were punished, one cannot help wondering if the pain and throes of labour were unknown to woman until the beginning of the era of Adam and Eve. A scientist will be hard to come by, who believes in such fantasies. Again, we have plenty of irrefutable evidence that man, long before Adam and Eve, had occupied all the continents of the world, even remote Pacific islands and had always laboured hard to survive. Therefore, to say that Adam and Eve were the first to commit a sin and because of that, painful child-birth was ordained as punishment, is totally proven wrong by the study of life. Even animals, who are much lower in the order of life, give birth in pain. If one watches a cow giving birth to a calf, her suffering seems similar to the pain of a human female. Many such animals, we know, inhabited the earth millions and millions of years before Adam and Eve.

To earn ones livelihood with labour is common to man, but not distinctive at all. Women also labour for their earnings and livelihood. Before that, every specie of life earns its livelihood through labour. This fact is the key motivator in the evolution of life. The struggle for existence is perhaps the very first distinctive mark of life which separates it from the world of the inanimate. It is a natural phenomenon, with nothing whatsoever to do with sin.

Again, if this be the punishment prescribed as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin, then one wonders what would happen after Atonement? If Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the sinful human beings, was the punishment prescribed for the Sin abolished after the Crucifixion? Did those who believed in Jesus Christ as the ‘Son of God’, if they were women, cease to have painful childbirth? Did the believing men start earning their livelihood without exerting manual labour? Did the propensity to sin cease to pass on to the future generations and innocent children started being given birth to? If the answer to all of these questions were to be ‘yes,’ then of course there would be some justification in seriously contemplating the Christian philosophy of Sin and Atonement. But Alas, the answer to all these questions are no, no and no. If nothing seems to have changed since the Crucifixion, both in the Christian and non-Christian worlds, then what would be the meaning of Atonement?

Even after Jesus Christ the sense of common justice continues to dictate to human beings all over the world that if any person commits a sin, punishment of that sin has to be given to that person alone and to none else. Every man and woman must suffer the consequences of their sins by themselves. Children are always born innocent. If this is not the truth then God’s attribute of Justice is thrown overboard.

We as Muslims believe that all divine books are based on eternal truth and none can make any claims contrary to that. When we come across inconsistencies and contradictions in any so-called divinely revealed book, our attitude is not that of total denial and rejection but that of cautious and sympathetic examination. Most of the statements of the Old Testament and the New Testament, which we find at variance with the truth of nature, we either try to reconcile by reading some underlying cryptic or metaphoric message, or reject part of the text as the work of human hands rather than that of God. While Christianity itself was true, it could not have contained any distortions, unacceptable facts or beliefs giving a lie to nature. That is why we started not with the textual examination but with the fundamentals themselves, which through centuries of consensus have become indisputable components of Christian philosophy. Rudimentary among them are the Christian understanding of Sin and Atonement. I would much rather believe that someone, somewhere during the history of Christianity, misunderstood things and tried to interpret them in the light of his knowledge and misled the following generations because of that.

Sin and atonement [Part – 2] next

The son-ship of Jesus Christ

Previous Pretext

The ‘Father-Son’ relationship between God and Jesus Christ is central to Christianity. Let us first try to understand what is the meaning of being a literal son. When we concentrate on the meaning of being a literal son to a literal father, things begin to appear which force us to revise our opinion of Jesus’ ‘sonship’. What is a son? During the period when science had not yet developed and discovered how a child is born, this question could only be vaguely answered.

Ancient people thought it is quite possible for God to have a son through human birth. It was a belief prevalent in almost all pagan societies in different parts of the world. Greek mythology abounds with such tales and Hindu mythology does not lag far behind either. For the so-called gods to have sons and daughters, as many as they pleased, was in fact never seriously challenged by human reason. But now science has developed a stage where the process of human birth has been described in greater detail than ever before. This issue have become very complicated and those who still believe that literal sons and daughters can be born to God have very serious problems to resolve and some very difficult questions to answer.

The Scientific Basis of Parenthood

First of all, let me remind you that the mother and father participate equally in producing a child. The cells of human beings contain 46 chromosomes, which carry the genes or character bearing threads of life. The ovum of a human mother possesses only 23 of the 46 chromosomes, which is half the number found in each man and woman. When the mother’s ovum is ready and available for insemination, the other half of the chromosomes which it lacks, is provided by the male sperm, which then enters and fertilizes it. This is the design of God, otherwise, the number of chromosomes would begin to double with every generation. As a result the second generation would have 92 chromosomes; humans would soon be transformed into giants and the entire process of growth would run amok. God has so beautifully planned and designed the phenomenon of the survival of species that at the productive levels of regenerative cells, chromosomes are halved in number. The mother’s ovum contains 23 chromosomes and so does the father’s sperm. As such, one can reasonably expect half the characters bearing genes of the child to be provided by the female and half by the male partner. This is the meaning of a literal son. There is no other definition of being a literal son which can be ascribed to any human birth. There are variations in the methodology of course, but there are no exceptions to the rules and principles just explained.

Focusing our attention on the birth of Jesus, let us build a scenario about what might have happened in his case. The first possibility, which can be scientifically considered, is that Mary’s unfertilized ovum provided the 23 chromosomes as the mother’s share in the forming of the embryo. That being so, the question would arise as to how the ovum was fertilized and where did the remaining 23 essential chromosomes come from? It is impossible to suggest that Jesus’ cells had only 23 chromosomes. No human child can be born alive with even 45 chromosomes. Even if a human being was deprived of a single chromosome out of the 46 necessary for the making of all human beings, the result would be something chaotic, if there was anything at all. Scientifically, Mary could not provide the 46 chromosomes alone, 23 had to come from somewhere else.

If God is the father then that presents several options. One; God also has the same chromosomes that humans have, and these must have been transferred somehow to the uterus of Mary. That is unbelievable and unacceptable; if God has the chromosomes of human beings it means he is no longer God. So as a consequence of belief in Jesus as the literal ‘Son’ of God, even the divinity of the Father is jeopardized.

The second possibility is that God created the extra chromosomes as a supernatural phenomenon of creation. In other words, they did not actually belong to the person of God, but were created miraculously. This would automatically lead us to reject Jesus’ relationship to God as one of child and father, and would result in the all-embracing relationship of the Universe to God, that is, the relationship of every created being to its Creator.

Is a Literal Son of God Possible?

Evidently therefore, literal sonship of God is impossible because a literal son must have half the character of his father and half the character of his mother. So another problem surfaces, the son would be half man and half god. But those who believe in the literal sonship, claim and emphasise that Christ was a perfect man and a perfect god.

If the chromosomes were half the required number then we are not left with any problem, no child would be born anyway. Suppose it did happen, that child would only be half a man. Not to mention the missing twenty-three full chromosomes, even a single defective gene within one chromosome can play havoc with a child born with such a congenital defect. He could be blind, limbless, deaf and dumb. The dangers attendant to such a mishap are unlimited. One should be realistic; it is impossible to conceive God as possessing any chromosomes, human or otherwise.

Therefore, with the personal physical contribution of God having been ruled out, if a son were born to Mary with only the human character bearing genes possessed by her ovum, whatever the outcome, he would certainly not be the ‘Son’ of God. At best you can describe that anomaly of nature as half a man and no more. If the reproductive organs of Mary were like any other female and still the ovum were to fertilize somehow by itself, the maximum one can expect is the creation of something with only half the human characters. It is abominable to call that something the ‘Son’ of God.

So how was Christ born? We understand that research on the subject of single mother birth without the participation of a male is being carried out in many advanced countries of the world. But so far human knowledge is only at a stage where scientific research has not yet advanced to such a level where positive irrefutable evidence of virgin births in human beings can be produced. However, all sorts of possibilities remain open.

At lower orders of life two phenomena are scientifically well established: Parthenogenesis and Hermaphroditism. As such, the miraculous birth of Jesus, to Mary, can be understood to belong to some similar natural but very rare phenomenon, the peripheries of which are not yet fully fathomed by man.

What are Miracles?

With the possibility of virgin birth being wide open, it does not remain to be all that impossible and unnatural. Where is the need to search for a supernatural explanation of Jesus’ birth, or even go beyond that to the farthest extreme of believing in the birth of a literal ‘Son’ of God through a human birth? When all this is observed as a fact of nature, why is it hard to believe that the birth of Jesus Christ was a hidden natural phenomenon, brought about by a special design of God? Something happened in Mary which gave that child a miraculous birth, without a man having touched her. It is Muslim belief that this is exactly what happened. Our case is unshakable because no scientist can dismiss it as nonsensical or opposed to the known laws of nature.

Miracles are not seen in Islam as unnatural occurrences, but as natural phenomena that are concealed from human knowledge at that period of time. Otherwise, there would be many questions raised against the wisdom of God. If God created the laws of nature Himself, He should have made some provisions whereby without breaking them, He could bring about desired solutions to a problem.

Not all laws are known to man. There are categories of laws working as if in different tiers and on separate plains. Sometimes they are known to man only on one plain and man’s sight is not able to penetrate beyond. As time goes on, man’s knowledge increases, so does the penetration and his capacity to observe such laws as hitherto remained unperceived. In another era of scientific progress, new discoveries throw more light on such laws which seem to work in groups. So, not only is their function better understood but also their interaction with other laws.

Those things that appeared to be miracles in the early ages are no longer considered so. Miracles are so, only in relation to man’s knowledge in a specific period of time. When a special exercise of God’s power is displayed, apparently a law is broken. But it is not so; it is a hidden law that was already there and came into operation through God’s command. The people of that time could not have understood that law nor had they any control over it. For example, the force of magnetism was not known to man a few thousand years ago. If somebody had accidentally discovered it and had contrived a device by which he could levitate things without any apparent cause discernible to the naked eye and to the wonderment of everyone, he could then exclaim, ‘Lo, a miracle, a miracle’. Today, such tricks are considered common place and trivial. The knowledge of man is limited whereas that of God is unlimited. If a law comes into operation that is beyond the scope of man’s knowledge, it looks like a miracle. But looking retrospectively at such instances with the hindsight of knowledge gained since, we can dismiss all such so-called breaches of the laws of nature as merely natural phenomena which were not fully comprehended by the man of that age. This is why I said that there had to be a natural phenomenon responsible for the single parent birth of Jesus Christ, which was unknown to man of that period; it is not fully known to man even today. But science is advancing in that direction and more is being understood. A time may therefore come, when no one will be able to claim that the birth of Jesus was unnatural. They would have to agree that it was a natural but rare occurrence, so rare that it seldom occurs in human experience.

Jesus the Son of God?

There are many other problems with the Christian understanding of Jesus, his nature and his relationship with God. From further critical and analytical study of Christian doctrine, what emerges is that there is a ‘Son of God’, who possesses the characteristics of a perfect man and also that of a perfect god. However, remember that even according to the Christian doctrine the Father is not exactly like the ‘Son’. The Father God, is a perfect God and not a perfect man, while the ‘Son’ is both a perfect man and a perfect god. In that case these are two separate personalities with different characteristics.

It should be realized that these characteristics are not transferable. There are characters in certain substances which are transferable. For instance, water can become snow and also vapour, without causing a change in the substance or composition of water. But the sort of differences in the characteristics of God and Christ, where certain characteristics are added to one of them, are irreconcilable. It is not possible for one of them to go through this transformation and still remain indistinguishable from the other. That, again, is a problem and a serious one for that matter, whether Jesus Christ was a perfect god as well as a perfect man. If he was, then he was surely different from the Father who was never a perfect man; not even an imperfect one. What type of relationship was this? Was the ‘Son’ greater than the Father? If this additional character did not make the ‘Son’ greater then it must have been a defect. In that case a defective ‘Son God’ is not only against the claims of Christianity, but is also against the universal understanding of God. How, therefore, could anyone comprehend the paradoxical tenet of Christianity which would have us believe that ‘One in Three’ and ‘Three in One’ are the same thing, with no difference at all. This can only happen when the very foundation of a belief is raised, not on a factual base, but merely on myth.

Yet another problem to be resolved is this: If Jesus became the ‘Son of God’ as a consequence of his birth from Mary’s womb, then what was his position before that? If he was eternally the ‘Son’, without having been born of Mary, why was it necessary to give birth to him in a human form? If it was necessary, then the quality of Son was not eternal; it only became an added characteristic after he was given birth and it disappeared when he rejected the body and returned to heaven. So there are many complexities rising out of a belief which common sense rejects. I invite you again to accept a far more respectable and realistic scenario; that of believing the birth of Jesus Christ to be a special creation brought about by God, having activated some hidden laws of nature. Jesus was the metaphorical son of God, loved by Him in a special way; but a human being all the same. His ‘Son’ status was attached to his character some three hundred years later, to allow his legend to live on—this will be discussed later.

On the question of the nature of the nuptial relationship between God the Father and Mary. This is a question which one loathes to discuss bare thread. Yet in an attempt to understand the intermediary role of Mary between the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’, this is an unavoidable evil. Perhaps it is the same question which bothered Nietzsche so much that he gave vent to his pent up dissatisfaction on this issue, at last, in the following words:

Not long after Zarathustra had freed himself from the sorcerer, however, he again saw someone sitting beside the path he was going: a tall, dark man with a pale, haggard face; this man greatly vexed him. ‘Alas,’ he said to his heart, ‘there sits disguised affliction, he seems to be of the priestly sort: what do they want in my kingdom?’ … ‘Whoever you may be, traveller,’ he said, ‘help one who has gone astray, an old man who may come to harm here!’The world here is strange and remote to me, and I hear the howling of wild animals; and he who could have afforded me protection is himself no more.

I was seeking the last pious man, a saint and hermit who, alone in the forest, had as yet heard nothing of what all the world knows today.

What does all the world know today? asked Zarathustra. This perhaps: that the old God in whom all the world once believed no longer lives?

That is so, answered the old man sadly. And I served that old God until his last hour.

Now, However, I am retired from service, without master, and yet I am not free, neither am I merry even for an hour, except in memories.

That is why I climbed into these mountains, that I might at last celebrate a festival once more, as becomes an old pope and church—father: for know, I am the last pope!—a festival of pious memories and divine services.

‘But now he himself is dead, the most pious of men, that saint in the forest who used continually to praise his God with singing and muttering.’

>‘When I found his hut I no longer found him himself, but I did find two wolves in it, howling over his death—for all animals loved him. Then I hurried away.’

‘Had I come into these forests and mountains in vain? Then my heart decided to seek another, the most pious of all those who do not believe in God—to seek Zarathustra!’

‘Thus spoke the old man and gazed with penetrating eyes at him who stood before him; Zarathustra, however, took the old pope’s hand and for a long time regarded it admiringly.’

‘Behold, venerable man,’ he said then, ‘What a long and beautiful hand! it is the hand of one who has always distributed blessings. But now it holds fast him you seek, me, Zarathustra.’

‘It is I, the godless Zarathustra, the same who says: Who is more godless than I, that I may rejoice in his teaching?’

Thus spoke Zarathustra and pierced with his glance the thoughts and reservations of the old pope. At last the latter began:

‘He who loved and possessed him most, he has now lost him the most also:’

‘behold, am I myself not the more Godless of us too now? But who could rejoice in that!’

‘You served him to the last,’ asked Zarathustra thoughtfully, after a profound silence, ‘do you know how he died? Is it true what they say that pity choked him,’

‘That he saw how man hung on the Cross and could not endure it, that love for man became his Hell and at last his death?’

The old pope, however, did not answer, but looked away shyly and with a pained and gloomy expression.

‘Let me go,’ said Zarathustra after prolonged reflection, during which he continued to gaze straight in the old man’s eye.

‘Let him go, he is finished. And although it honours you that you speak only good of this dead god, yet you know as well as I who he was; and that he followed strange paths.’

‘Between ourselves,’ said the old pope, becoming cheerful, ‘or, as I may say, spoken beneath the eyes’ (for he was blind in one eye) ‘in divine matters I am more enlightened than Zarathustra himself—and may well be so.’

‘My love served him long years, my will obeyed all his will. A good servant, however, knows everything, and many things, too, that his master hides from himself.’

‘He was hidden god, full of secrecy. Truly, he even came by a son through no other than secret and indirect means. At the door of faith in him stands adultery.’

Whoever honours him as the god of love does not think highly enough of love itself. Did this God not also want to be judged? But the lover loves beyond reward and punishment.’

‘When he was young, this god from the orient, he was hard and revengeful and built himself a Hell for the delight of his favourites.’

‘But at length he grew old and soft and mellow and compassionate more like a grandfather than a father, most like a tottery old grandmother.’

‘Then he sat, shrivelled, in his chimney corner, fretting over his weak legs, world-weary, weary of willing, and one day suffocated through his excessive pity.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche. p271–273. Translation published by Penguin Books 1969

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