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Take one more step, please

Those secular Europeans…they’re almost there. Klass Hendrikse is a Dutch minister who is apparently reasonably typical of the breed. He doesn’t believe in gods.

“Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.”

Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.

“When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that’s where it can happen. God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience.”

Oh, yes, god as blithering bafflegab. It’s mostly harmless, it’s entirely pointless, and you might as well change the name of his church to the Gorinchem Social Club and be honest about it all. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a social club.

So finish it, and do one more thing: read that Bible you keep waving around.

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.

I’ve read the Bible; I think most Christian’s eyes must glaze over before they hit the second chapter of Genesis, and then they skip ahead to Revelation. This version of Jesus as the loving wise man isn’t in there. Instead, he’s a patriarchal rabbi with an apocalyptic vision who wanders the land, doing cheesy magic tricks and making extravagant claims about himself. I certainly don’t think he modeled a good life, and the nice humanist bits in some of his purported sermons you can get just as well by reading some of the Greek philosophers.

So the Dutch have a little bit further to go, but at least they’re further down the road of reason than the typical American preacher.

Comments

  1. AussieMike says

    I think Sam Harris has it right. We need to ‘start having the conversation’. Teach the young, let them realise you can live life without guilt and embrace reason. Speak out that being atheist is OK. Let the die hards die out naturally.

  2. PotsAndOwls says

    Yes. That’s the last step I had to take. If there is no god “out there” and if Jesus was (maybe) just this teacher, and if a lot of his lessons were immoral, well, what’s left?

  3. Yoritomo says

    Let’s be honest. The “loving wise Jesus” is in the Bible: Love thine enemies, turn the other cheek, the adulteress story – you can even find Jesus saying that the way to heaven consists of performing random acts of kindness to strangers. Those aspects tend to be deemphasized by Evangelicals in favor of the fire-and-brimstone parts.

  4. Waffler says

    the nice humanist bits in some of his purported sermons you can get just as well by reading some of the Greek philosophers.

    Which is where they likely came from — inserted by redactors to bolster their evangelical objective.

  5. Torugu says

    @ Yoritomo:

    “The “loving wise Jesus” is in the Bible: Love thine enemies, turn the other cheek”

    But does that make him a good moral teacher? It certainly would in an ideal world, but the same can be said about communism. When one considers the value of an ideology one must always have its practical application in mind. And if there is even one “evil” person in the world the hole “turn the other cheek” ideology fails miserably resulting in a dictatorship which is limited in its cruelty only by how far the person at the top is ready to go.

  6. mikerattlesnake says

    One must also consider the Jesus character as a whole. Noone is completely villianous, nor do they have to be to be dismissed as a good moral role model. I’m sure most horrible, cruel dictators have said at least a few nice things we could all agree with. It doesn’t make them good people.

  7. says

    Yoritomo:

    Jesus also preached that people should not plan for the future and that all they needed to do to gain salvation was to follow him unconditionally. Add the notion of eternal punishment for not doing so and he becomes slightly less than loving, let alone wise.

  8. Ing says

    Let’s be honest. The “loving wise Jesus” is in the Bible: Love thine enemies, turn the other cheek, the adulteress story – you can even find Jesus saying that the way to heaven consists of performing random acts of kindness to strangers. Those aspects tend to be deemphasized by Evangelicals in favor of the fire-and-brimstone parts

    No they just point out that their Jesus is the one who preached fire and damnation, mocked a minority when she asked for a healing, mocked the poor while excusing luxury for himself, and beat merchants with a deadly weapon. The loving wise Jesus is NOT in the Bible. You have to selectively excise parts of the bible to get to that character.

  9. Clavd says

    I’ve always kinda imagined Jesus as a hippie, to be honest. I mean, the hair, the attitude as generally portrayed, you see where I was coming from, right?

    I was very disappointed when I read stuff like this:

    Matthew 15:22-28 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

    I don’t know, it was rather like finding out a friend you had thought cool is a raving racist.

  10. Alverant says

    I have to disagree with some of the comments. Jesus is not a loving god. Jesus demeans love.

    First he said you must love him more than everyone else inclding your family. If you don’t it’s like not loving him at all and you’ll be eternally punished for it.

    Second he said you must love your neighbor as yourself. What if your neighbor doesn’t deserve love? What if he/she is a serial child molester or psycho (or both). There are people who do not deserve our love. We don’t even have to go that far, there are people we like, love, hate, dislike, indifferent all for various valid (and invalid) reasons. Jesus is saying to erase all that and love your spouse just as much as the man who burned your house down because you’re a mixed race couple. That’s a twisted thing for a god to demand.

    Not to mention the problems of someone who is filled with self-hate. Does that mean if you hate yourself you must hate your neighbors just as much?

    Third, Jesus tells us we must love our enemies and not fight back against them. That’s what turn the other cheek means, if someone slaps one cheek offer the other to be slapped. Showing respect to your enemies is one thing, but to demand it be raised to the level of love and to never fight. It permits anything and encourages victimhood. What kind of love wants more victims?

  11. Sastra says

    I was also disappointed in the character of Jesus when I finally got around to reading the entire New Testament. So much of what he says and does is grim, gloomy, and mean-spirited.

    A “spiritual” friend of mine who was raised Jewish told me how amazed and impressed she was with Jesus when she read the Gospels as part of her study on Jungian analysis (don’t ask /eyeroll.) When I told her that there wasn’t a single passage in the NT where Jesus showed any sign of a sense of humor she heatedly begged to differ: on the contrary, Jesus was depicted as laughing and smiling congenially all the time. When asked to cite a specific passage in support of this, she was a bit taken aback. The best she could come up with was that part where Jesus requests that people bring their children to him. He must have been smiling or the children wouldn’t have come.

    Uh huh. I suggested that she didn’t have a lot of expertise in ancient Mideastern views of childhood and child rearing.

    People see the Jesus they want to see. There is really nothing in the Bible to stop a reader from visualizing the Messiah as a gruff, grimacing, grumbling grouch stomping his way through the New Testament in a fierce and forbidding frowning foul temper — and quite a few passages that suggest it.

  12. Rainyday says

    Leave it to us Dutch people to find a protestant minister who doesn’t believe in god. I’ve heard about this guy before. The official governing body of the Dutch protestant church doesn’t even have a problem with his teachings. We’re almost there, a little further and even our church is secular. When we’ve done that, will you come live with us in the Netherlands PZ? We have very good universities with excellent biology departments. We’ll go sailing through the canals on Noah’s ark ;). O, right, PZ probably won’t come unless we sink that thing.
    Were’s that drill…

  13. Yoritomo says

    I don’t claim the loving Jesus is the only one – there’s Jesus for everybody’s tastes in the Bible, which makes picking and choosing not just a rather simple exercise, but necessary to prevent the worst inconsistencies. But those Christians who pick and choose the loving Jesus are no farther from a “true” interpretation than those who choose the fire-and-brimstone Jesus. (They’re also better for society, in my opinion.)

    @Torogu: Whether a philosophy of radical non-violence even in the face of oppression is wise is debatable, but there are a few historical examples where it actually worked, more or less. And those who take that route are usually highly regarded for it, whatever their other shortcomings.

    @Ing: “Deadly weapon” sounds interesting, but I was unable to find that line. I assume you refer to Jesus driving the merchants and moneylenders from the temple; I read up accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but they don’t mention any items (besides the merchants’ own tables which get overturned). Source?

    @Alverant: “Love thy neighbour” is old testament; Jesus says you should love your enemies (who presumably don’t love you and may well be undeserving of your love).

    There are sufficiently many other creepy parts in Jesus’ purported sayings, but this is the first time I’ve heard him critizised for demanding people to be too nice.

  14. says

    I don’t understand why people even bother with this watered-down nothing of a “faith” when they don’t even believe most of it. Why accept all the negative baggage if you’ve dismissed most/all of the supernatural claptrap?

  15. madknitter says

    Well, we can’t take what the Gospels say about Jesus as gospel, as it were, since they were all writtin long after his death (between 40 and 80 years, depending on the Gospel), were written to address the specific needs/questions/problems of specific communities, each one moulding the character of Jesus to fit the politics and questions of the time and communities for which and to which they were addressed.

    All we can say for sure is that there may have been an itinerant rabbi named something like Jesus. If he lived, it was most likely sometime in what is now considered the first century, CE. He may have said some things that disturbed the powers-that-be. If he really lived, he may have died a gruesome traitor’s death on the cross. Full stop. End of story. Whether he was a hippie, or loving, or angry, or all or none of these things (and more, besides), is completely up to conjecture.

  16. Pteryxx, hider of comment numbers says

    re “What if your neighbor doesn’t deserve love?”

    IMHO… I dunno, while love can stop a person perceiving evil, I think it takes hate to stop a person seeing humanity. I can see erring on the side of love.

  17. 'smee says

    Clavd: re the Canaanite woman…

    The was Jeebus being merciful and loving™. Even when he didn’t need to help, even tho’ it wasn’t his job to help non Israelites, he eventually (grudgingly) did anyway… just like you’d pet a harmless stray dog that’s continually snuffling around.

    What a superman.

    What a star!

    [/snark for the christoid conservatards]

  18. Torugu says

    ““Deadly weapon” sounds interesting, but I was unable to find that line. I assume you refer to Jesus driving the merchants and moneylenders from the temple; I read up accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but they don’t mention any items (besides the merchants’ own tables which get overturned). Source?”

    John 2:13-16
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    Jesus Cleanses the Temple

    13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

    You realise a whip is a deadly weapon?

    @Torogu: Whether a philosophy of radical non-violence even in the face of oppression is wise is debatable, but there are a few historical examples where it actually worked, more or less. And those who take that route are usually highly regarded for it, whatever their other shortcomings.

    There are? I have never heard of any, please enlighten me.
    And please note that Gandhi’s non-cooperation policy, while not physically violent, did a lot of harm to their British oppressors. NOT turning the other cheek is what Gandhi’s “non-violent” resistance was all about.

    “There are sufficiently many other creepy parts in Jesus’ purported sayings, but this is the first time I’ve heard him critizised for demanding people to be too nice.”

    We have already lined out why demanding people to be nice when they really should be making use of their right to defend themselves is a very dangerous thing.

  19. says

    I’m an atheist. I’ve spent a bit of time with Quakers (my daughter wanted a religion and so I shopped around and made a few recommendations).

    I admire Quakers. There’s that whole “Spirit” thing, but atheist Quakers aren’t unknown, or even rare. I’ve sat in a Meeting and not felt remotely spiritual, but I’ve ministered–when you want to say something you stand up, say something, then sit down. No applause, no critical analysis. The Meeting doesn’t incorporate those elements, but critical analysis is part of the Quaker way. Silent listening is a useful technique. It’s a kind of joint, open-ended meditation. There is no other Quaker ritual. None.

    I’m talking about British Quakers. I understand that some Quaker Meetings are quite different, but this is the norm in the UK.

    The emphasis of the sect is summarised as PEST (British Quakers tend have a very British sense of humour): Peace, Equality, Simplicity, Truth. I consider these to be great virtues.

    Is it a social club? Yes, I think it is. But it’s a powerful and strongly motivating one. Quakers have always promoted their belief in equality and peace through action. In British politics, and in American politics, too, it has been a very powerful force. Alongside Christians of other sects, Quakers did prominent work in abolishing slavery in the old world and the new. In more recent years the Quakers were probably the first sect to acknowledge the equality of love. Alongside three or four other minority sects including the Unitarians and the Reform Jews they actively press for the equalisation of marriage, with considerable success.

    Religion can be benign, particularly when they get rid of the pomp and the priesthood and the attachment to ancient fairy stories.

  20. Henk van der Haar says

    Maybe Rainyday is a bit too optimistic about reverend Hendrikse’s position in the Dutch Reformed Church. After a lot of trouble Hendrikse found his little niche, so now for the church at large his teachings are more or less harmless. All kinds of denominations, from very orthodox to almost agnostic, are represented in this organisation. But don’t be fooled: most of the christian Dutch still believe in the oldfashioned Holy Trinity.
    On the other hand, the position in the Dutch society of the churches is much less important than it is in that of the United States. Their role should’nt be underestimated though.

  21. Draken says

    Note though that Klaas (double aa) Hendrikse preaches in Middelburg, southwest of the Dutch Bible Belt, and in that area he’s certainly not representative. Here is where the faction of Dutch creationists live, mostly on the former island of Urk. The one thing they aren’t is creative, though, because anything you find on their websites is completely rehashed from American creationist sites, adding another level to misquotation metaquoting. The one ‘original’ contribution to Dutch creationism is Peter “Candyman” Borger, who some of you may have heard of.

  22. MJesk says

    Well, that’s not the only minister getting to its senses. I don’t think many preachers here (I’m from the Netherlands) accept the bible as the literal word of god (if we just ignore the bible belt (yes, we got one too)).

    We got a bishop here speaking out against the celebacy. So I guess things are moving in the right direction…

  23. Ing: Od Wet Rust says

    “Deadly weapon” sounds interesting, but I was unable to find that line. I assume you refer to Jesus driving the merchants and moneylenders from the temple; I read up accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but they don’t mention any items (besides the merchants’ own tables which get overturned). Source?

    My bible says “scourge” which is a corded flail that has sharp pieces of metal or glass or the like embedded in the ends. And the Bible says he went and made it specifically for that task, it wasn’t even just an improvised weapon. He made a weapon designed to inflict as much pain as possible. What a fucker. You sort of feel a lot less bad for Jesus in The Passion when you realized he was hitting people not a day earlier with pretty much the same weapon they whipped him with.

    I don’t claim the loving Jesus is the only one – there’s Jesus for everybody’s tastes in the Bible, which makes picking and choosing not just a rather simple exercise, but necessary to prevent the worst inconsistencies.

    Horseshit. If Jay Gatz a noble romantic, a philanthropist, a self made man, or a adultrest, a philanderer, and a cheat wh o is so stuck in the past he is divorced from reality and unable to comprehend the world he lives in.

    He’s BOTH, you don’t go through Great Gatsby picking and choosing to make either the scum bag Gatz or the pure noble one. You don’t DO that for characters. It’s pure horseshit.

    Fucking Context how does it work!?

  24. Ing: Od Wet Rust says

    Cultleaders have about the same ratio of bullshit to pretty flowery happy language as Jesus has. Do you want to go back and tell us how the Saintly Savoir Jim Jones is in history?

  25. raven says

    This version of Jesus as the loving wise man isn’t in there. Instead, he’s a patriarchal rabbi with an apocalyptic vision who wanders the land, doing cheesy magic tricks and making extravagant claims about himself. I certainly don’t think he modeled a good life, and the nice humanist bits in some of his purported sermons you can get just as well by reading some of the Greek philosophers.

    Which jesus? The NT is a multi-author text written long after he died.

    There are a lot of jesuses wandering around in there.

    Some are OK, some aren’t very nice.

    As to his modeling a good life. Let’s see. He apparently lived at home with his mom until his 30’s, never got married or had children, and then wandered around Palestine with 12 other guys and no job. He predicted the end of the world and the imminent Kingdom of god. Neither of which ever happened.

  26. faithless says

    I’m not going to be visiting this site very often, I’m afraid (unlike the old version, which I visited every day) if it’s going to have video adverts with an annoying soundtrack where I have to chase down the location of the advert and switch the effing sound off. I simply can’t be doing with it.

    I already took a vow a couple of years ago never to buy anything advertised in this way.

  27. Mario says

    I’m sorry, but Klaas Hendrikse is not quite the hero you think he is. He is not an atheist, in fact, he thinks atheists are not right in the head for not believing in god. He does not believe god exists, because our human word ‘exist’ is simply too narrow to apply to such a magnificent being like god. He’s got a book out, “Believing in a god who does not exist”, I’ve read it. It is an utter mess. “God is what happens between people” is one of the things he says. It’s as dense as any regular apologetics. I really have no idea why the man gets so much attention, other than calling yourself an atheist priest is a nice publicity gimmick. Oh, and Hendrikse still is a christian preacher. His church did not see any reason to get rid of him. According to them, nothing he has said goes against the basic underpinnings of Christianity.

  28. Zorba says

    The Greek Philos0phers were boy lovers and believed in infanticide and rule by the elite.

  29. Jim Mauch says

    My Favorite quote! :
    “I’m a member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”
    — Flannery O’Connor (Wise Blood)

  30. raven says

    The Greek Philos0phers were boy lovers and believed in infanticide and rule by the elite.

    Sounds exactly like Catholic priests except for the infanticide.

  31. Steve Jeffers says

    “Jesus was depicted as laughing and smiling congenially all the time. When asked to cite a specific passage in support of this, she was a bit taken aback.”

    It’s a major plot point in The Name of the Rose that in the Bible Jesus never smiles, laughs, makes a joke (possibly ‘then become fishers of men’ is a pun, but equally possibly not).

    I’ve also done the ‘find the bit where he smiles’ challenge on people. And it’s not there.

    Jesus is a sour-faced git, basically.

  32. fidel says

    actually God liked a good laugh:

    the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Psalm 37.13)

    I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes. (Proverbs 1:26)

    its just he was a bit of a callous shit

  33. tim Rowledged says

    The Greek Philos0phers were boy lovers and believed in infanticide and rule by the elite.

    You say that like it must be a bad thing?
    I mean, OK, abuse of minors is certainly not something I’d approve of but IIRC the Greek thing was more for youths than children so there may not be minor abuse involved. And infanticide? Practiced by quite a few governments today in effect. US for example; without a proper healthcare system in place I’d say the US govt. practices it. Republicans seem to glory in it.
    Rule by ‘the elite’? I’m in favour; I want smart people in charge of how things are run. Not rich people, not ‘chosen by god(s)’ people, but smart people. Nice if they care, too. Again, not something you’ll find in a lot of governments these days.

  34. Ing says

    Me thinks he’s also taking Greek as a wide net which lumps in the Cretans, Spartians, Athenians, Thebians, Macadonians, Lesbosians, etc. Distinct cultures and states are being treated as one unit. I’m presuming he meant Athenians cause that’s what people think of as the Greek Philosophers, though it’s not like the other cultures didn’t have their great thinkers.