|What is the meaning?|
The role of great literature in your life is vast. The trouble is that we tend to forget that part.
I’ll start off big.
Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus are considered among the primary sources for the historicity of Jesus Christ. They mentioned the name in nearly-contemporary works.
How does an atheist interpret the historicity of Christ? First of all, he laughs at The Buck-Naked Archaeologist, when he’s on TV and jumping all over Jerusalem, asking in that classic cable-television trope, “Is this the hole Jesus Christ was buried in? Or is it just another freakin’ wannabe archaeologist asking dumb questions like von Daniken, and not incidentally, making a pretty good living compared to making candles?”
Why, we interpret it as evidence tending to confirm or deny the historicity of Christ.
Maybe he was a real guy.
Maybe he walked around the countryside telling stories, stories with a moral hook, the sort of shit that gets in you like an intestinal parasite and never leaves, because it’s well, good. The guy was good, I’ll grant you that.
But then I never forget a good story, do I?
Maybe that really happened, in fact that’s one of my own core beliefs—Jesus was a real guy.
I happily concede the point. He probably existed.
Other than that, we as atheists invest these historical writers, way back in history, with no mystical or supernatural embellishments. We do not claim Ammianus was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write his history of the Caesars or whatever, in which Jesus and Christianity was briefly mentioned.
We do not claim that evidence for this Jesus Christ guy somehow proves the validity of his claims of supernatural authority
He was just some guy walking around telling stories with a moral point at their base, root and nerve.
Some people say we have a soul and most of us would agree we have an inner voice, which some label the conscience.
Are we just thinking to hear ourselves talk?
But isn’t that good?
And we do not invest those stories with a Heavenly, supernatural, or all-omnipotent, all-seeing entity as their cause. Some people do, and some people would—an important distinction. Because it is their natural propensity to do so.
We, as atheists, might very well simply accept the fact that Jesus may have lived and said certain things. On that level, we may believe in the authenticity of certain statements made by aforesaid Fellow.
They could be direct quotes, for all we know, even though the evidence is that it was all compiled later, that would be considered objective evidence, that I am referring to.
We believe certain fundamental moral precepts to be true in all cases, and at all times.
We call that truth—oh, you know, stuff about loving your neighbour and your enemy and all of that sort of thing. I think without such philosophical notions, the world might tend to be a much darker place.
In that sense, morality is useful. It supplements and guides our natural human feelings.
It serves a purpose, and perhaps even a higher one than individual self-aggrandizement. Even I, am willing to go that far.
In that sense, Jesus, and guys like him, Mahomet, Buddha, whomsoever, may be said to have done their jobs.
Some of them guys did a real good job.
Some of that might be backed up by our own personal observation, our own experiences, or even just education. It might just be habit or prejudicial thinking.
But what’s important is that we are thinking.
And we are thinking in moral terms.
I can’t stress that enough, ladies and gentlemen.
I was just thinking about all the great books I had read in my life. That set me to thinking about all of the stuff in them.
Some would call this the ‘Infinite Intelligence.’ (Lawrence Block on Facebook for example. I just love that guy. I’m not even really sure why. Maybe Darwin can explain it.)*
All of that stuff, everything we ever read, is still inside of us, every minute of every day. As you get older it tends to accumulate.
Don’t throw it out. It might come in useful someday, if only just save a buck!
Now that’s wisdom. (Wisdom, one of the four cardinal virtues. The four Pabst Blue Ribbon beers consumed in the writing of this whatever the hell it is didn’t exactly hurt either. – ed.)
Wisdom is better than pure rhetoric, I’m not sure why.
Ask somebody else.
Anyhow, I don’t care if you use it or abuse it.
For surely it is ours to do with what we will.
As for dreams, and visions, and miracles and walking on water and all that stuff, it was allegory, it was a necessary fiction.
It was an ignorant age.
*(Oh, God, Harold. You’re in deep trouble now. – ed.)