However, one man has blown them all out of the water, and utterly monopolised the ridiculous-quotes industry. His name is Professor Richard Dawkins. He said in an interview with the Guardian that (and I'm not making this up):
"Jesus was a great moral teacher: Somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today."
That's not a typing error. Have you ever heard anything so absurd? After I had had chance to fully absorb this statement, I immediately started to dismantle it in my head with a view to blogging about it. Then I had a period of thinking that it was simply too daft to merit refute. But in the end, I realised that a disproportionately large quantity of people take Dawkins' frequent wild assertions as fact because it's what they want to hear, and he has letters after his name, so perhaps refute is necessary.
Dawkins starts off his article by conceding that Jesus was obviously a theist, but says that 'this was the least interesting thing about Him'. This bears a classic Dawkins hallmark, in that he has cast a cursory glance over that which he challenges, and assumed the rest. The trouble is that Jesus was not just a theist, He was and is God. Dawkins gets as far as acknowledging that Jesus believed that God is real, but then stops short of the fact that Jesus went round saying and proving that He was God. There are 2 explanations for this. Either RD didn't know Jesus made these claims, which would make him rather ignorant and ill-informed, or he just chose not to mention them because they don't fit in with his argument, which is irresponsible and invalidates just about everything he has ever said.
Either way, Jesus said He was God. If this is true (which I believe), I can say pretty confidently that Jesus would not ever be an atheist. If it wrong, then Jesus either made a spectacular miscalculation, which would suggest that calling Him 'intelligent' is absolutely false, or He was a nutcase with the most inflated ego since Johnny Vaughan. If it's this one, then to call Him a 'great moral teacher' is also false.
It's an oxymoron. Not everything in this statement can be true at the same time. If Jesus is a great moral teacher, and intelligent, then He must be right that He is God. If he is God, then He can't be an atheist. The problem is that, according to Jesus' teachings, we can essentially swap the word 'Jesus' in this statement for 'God':
"God was a great moral teacher: Somebody as intelligent as God would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today".
Sounds pretty thick if you ask me.
Whilst I'm here, I want to take a closer look at the rest of this article RD wrote. To say that His theism 'was the least interesting thing about Jesus', makes another ill-informed assumption that, to Jesus, God and religion were just another 'thing'; that they could be put into little compartments like every other aspect of one's life. But you see, this was not the case for Jesus, and according to His teaching, nor should it be for any of His followers (Christians). For Him, and for us, God permeated every aspect of His being. Dawkins makes the assumption that 'Theism' could be put in one sphere and 'Everything else' in another, and ne'er the tween shall meet. This is not the case. For a person who rejects God, everything truly can be kept separate if the will to do so is there, but if a person is serious about God, then this is not possible, because He demands everything of His followers.
So not only was His 'theism' inseparable from every other aspect of His life, it governed everything Jesus said and was. Dawkins says his favourite bit about Jesus was his 'radical teaching'. He insinuates that Jesus rebelled against the God of the Old Testament, of Abraham with His teaching. This is perhaps his most shameful claim. Far from this, Jesus once said when having a rant (at the Jewish leaders, regarding their own claims, not those of the Old Testament) 'You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life, but these are the very scriptures that testify about me'. (John 5v39) Far from challenging and rebelling against what the Old Testament said, they were the basis of everything He said. In fact, He quoted the Old Testament 78 times in the Bible, and quoted the books that RD says contain Shariah-like cruelties 26 times. And yet Dawkins is trying to say that Jesus in 'advocating generous forgiveness' rebelled against this stuff, and against 'God's vengeful nastiness'. If you ever have such an intellectual collapse deep enough to believe this description of God, read Ezekiel 16, which explains it all from God's point of view. Look into it, and you will find that 1 John 4v8 rings true: God is love.
I can't help but wonder whether a modern, atheistic Jesus with His radical teachings on which Dawkins is so keen, would have had any more effect on the professor than the first century theistic one. I doubt it. RD cites his 'niceness', but if you cast your mind back to the visit of the Pope to Britain, and there was certainly no niceness on show from Dawkins, rather 'hatred' might be a better word for it. For me, this means that he must stand trial as a hypocrite too. The charges mount up, professor.
There are other issues with the article he has written, but I suspect that if you're not bored now, you soon will be, so I'll stop now. Comment if you want and we shall discuss it. I just hope that this makes people stop and consider what professor Dawkins says a little more in future before we accept them as truthful.
As for this claim, if Jesus walked the Earth today, He would not be an atheist, of course He wouldn't. When He does, I suspect RD might be a little red-faced about this article. Haste the day.
Pope Benedict sums it up nicely; he calls the claim 'an absurdity'. Exactly.