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I have always, some may be surprised to hear, had great love and reverence for Jesus -- and though I have never felt the need to accept the 'virgin birth' or 'resurrection' elements of that narrative, I feel those are almost incidental anyway. For, let us suppose Jesus had indeed been unquestionably the product of a virgin birth, and had indeed been resurrected following crucifixion, but in between these events he had lived a life of selfishness, worrying only after his material wealth and having more possessions then his neighbours, and only ever spitting contempt and bigotry against the poor and the sick and the outcast. If that had been the case, then surely we wouldn't much feel for him no matter what the circumstances of his birth and death.

But then, suppose there was never any report that Jesus had been born through any but natural means, and that there was no belief that his death had been followed by anything but his remaining dead, and no miracle was reported in between (such miracles being accounted for as being of no great import under the pandeistic model anyway), nor any supposed claim to any special divinity -- but that Jesus had still lived the life described of him in terms of his love for all man, his willingness to brave severe punishment and outrageous suffering for questioning harsh rules of law and for associating with those who broke them. Would we not, then, have sufficient reason to love the man and laud his example? Indeed, would such an example not be all the more remarkable and commendable coming from an ordinary, non-omniscient, non-super-powered man?

It is because Jesus lived an exemplary message that I love him, as I love the Buddha and as I love Gandhi, and as I love Nightengale and Einstein and Socrates and Salk. For Jesus did not shy from contact with the lepers, and he deigned to wash the feet of fellow travelers, he cared nothing for being tied by wealth and comfort and vanity and material possessions, but made his way in the world seeking knowledge and championing the most reviled and oppressed!! So it is, indeed, for these very reasons that I do not consider myself a 'Christian,' because I honestly find so much to be repugnant in the religion as it carries itself. I am repelled by the Church's covetousness of ownership of land and ornate buildings and like signals of material wealth, and by the unending infighting between sects over who has the right interpretation of which passage. I throw up my hands at the obsessive focus on those very ephemeral claims of virgin birth and miracles and resurrection, drummed to the point of drowning out the message of love and tolerance and the eschewing of personal desires in favour of uplifting our fellows, and the concomitant obsession with reviling a seemingly cherry-picked selection of 'sins' (while ignoring and even encouraging others). I never heard tell of Jesus condemning a gay man or acting unfriendly towards an outcast, but he did put a beatdown on those usurers, who harm the poor with their trade!! That is the example I prefer to follow, the actual example of Jesus, and strikingly similarly of the Buddha and of Gandhi as well.

But though I am no Christian, I do consider myself something of a Jesusist (and I'd like to think many other pandeists feel the same), because I do hew to those positive practices exemplified in his conduct of life. And I would like to think that if I turned out to be wrong about the miraculous claims, loving the practices would be sufficient, for surely if there is a God who is as good and wise and merciful as the example set forth by Jesus himself -- exemplified when he saved from punishment the prostitute with his admonition that the mythical 'he who is without sin' ought cast the first stone -- then indeed none will be punished who tried to do good, no matter what their beliefs!!

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