The perfect way to honor and dishonor Christmas simultaneously – give a novel that recognizes the reality of Jesus without the fantasies of divinity. A novel that accounts for every bizarre action, every “miracle”, every lecture by Jesus, and makes sense of them all by contextualizing them within the Roman Occupation that he fought against.
The perfect Christmas gift!
He chased 2,000 pigs off a cliff… why? Whose were they? What was important to him about the number 2,000?
He talked of the Good Samaritan. Why did Jews think of the Samaritans as bad? Why did Jesus want them considered good?
He talked of a son of man being dead and buried and resurrected on the third day… then he waited until the third day to “resurrect” Lazarus. (He himself was only buried for a day and a half before his body was taken from the tomb… Friday evening to Sunday morning.)
He “appeared” after his death, twice – the first time telling the disciples not to tough him because he wasn’t ascended, the second time insisting Thomas touch him although he still wasn’t ascended. Why the discrepancy?
“The Gospel According to the Romans” tells the story through the eyes of Matthew Levi, the Roman agent working as a tax collector (and therefore spy) for the Romans in Galilee. it tells what we know of Jesus’ partially Romanized childhood, of the uprisings in Galilee against the Romans, and of Jesus’ failed attempt to take over the Temple at Passover.
This is Jesus as the Jews and Romans of his time saw him. It is the perfect Christmas gift for the atheist, agnostic, or Roman or Jewish historian on your list!
Am I an atheist, or not? It depends on the definition of “atheist”, and on the mindset of the person asking. In Europe I label myself agnostic, because I have no understanding of why there is a Universe. But in the United States it’s easiest to say I’m an atheist, because anything short of that implies support for the idea of a personal God.
God watching TV
I find offensive the idea of a personal God who, swayed by the emotional appeal of prayers from the devout, favors one person over another. I don’t care whether they’re praying about healing an illness, or winning a ballgame, or picking the right lottery ticket – what morality is there in an omnipotent deity who would intervene in that, and not intervene in the most extreme situations of human suffering?
I find illogical the idea of a God who creates individuals and then punishes them for acting according to the nature they were given.
I find simplistic the idea that God’s Universe is focused on Earth (let alone on one particular tribe, or sect, or individual), when the Earth is only a small planet of a small star, and there could be more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the whole world.
So I’m certain that the personal God of the average American believer doesn’t exist, and couldn’t possibly exist.
But as for exactly what force is the wellspring of the Universe, and what qualities it has, that’s where I’m a militant agnostic: