I believe that you don’t have to believe.

Dennis Martin - Parrish, Florida
Entered on March 20, 2009
Age Group: 65+

This I believe‒

I happen to be an Atheist, but a person doesn’t have to believe in God to appreciate the logic of Jesus Christ. He didn’t invent kindness, but on the day he said, “Love thy neighbor,” he created the buddy system. The idea that to live in harmony, we have to take care of each other. That works in foxholes, households, and countries, whether you’re a praying person or not.

Good ideas have legs of their own. You can see that if you consider Jesus’ social ideas as social ideas! Religion is fine for most people, but atheists can benefit from real wisdom, as well as anybody else. It’s like astronomers who put their telescopes away from the glowing haze of cities, in order to get a clearer view of the sky.

Jesus never wrote anything down, but we don’t have to fuss about historical accuracy. It doesn’t matter who said, “Love thy neighbor,” as long as we know what it means.

These three words (let’s just call them LTN), stand out from most of the earlier rules for living, because they make the statement in very positive terms. Next to the Ten Commandments, LTN is a ray of sunshine. Seven of the Big Ten are “Thou shalt nots,” which may amount to wise cautions, they just don’t quite have the ring of a joyously fulfilling lifestyle.

I also like the way Jesus applied LTN to women. He broke precedents when he talked freely with women, which was a traditional no-no of his day. Several witnesses to Jesus’ life recall the time that he addressed a woman he had just met as a “Daughter of Abraham.” Jesus used the term casually, but it flabbergasted some of the old-timers who heard it. That phrase, “Daughter of Abraham,” appears nowhere else in the New Testament, except that one quote attributed to Jesus. At the time, it was common to refer to an honored man as a “Son of Abraham,” but equal terminology for a woman was unheard of. That simple phrase had a great effect on Judaism and Christianity, because by showing all around him that he addressed women with the same respect as men, he rhetorically raised women to full status with men. It was the biblical equivalent of a Captain addressing a swabby as “Sir.”

Personally, I don’t care about the stories of Jesus being married, or curing the sick, or any of that, because that’s not anything I can use. But love Thy Neighbor? I think we can all use that.