I was raised Christian (Catholic), and Christianity and Catholicism are also coincidentally the most popular religions both in my country (the United States) and worldwide. That gives me two reasons to criticize Christianity. One is personal. I feel like I was emotionally abused as a child by being taught to believe in (and fear) the Christian “God”. The other is that I generally feel that popular ideas need to be challenged (just to make life interesting and allow other ideas to get a fair showing).
I used to (when I was young) believe that Jesus was the “son” of “God”, born to a supposed virgin named Mary who was miraculously impregnated and then notified of the event by an “angel”. (I’m going to put aside what the word “God” and “angel” might actually mean because I think that can be inferred from some of the theories below on Jesus.) At present, I consider myself an atheist, because I worship nothing but my own abstract principles. For me, atheism is about science, and science is about asking questions. It’s too easy to simply say condescendingly that “there is no God”. The better question is what factual, misinterpreted events might be the basis for the word “God”.
For Christians, “God” is all about Jesus. Most or all of them actually believe that Jesus was “God”, so I’m going to focus on Jesus as a means of challenging the idea of “God”. What follows are the potential theories I currently hold about who or what Jesus could have been. I don’t think any are original to me, but I accept all of them (and I don’t favor any one in particular).
Jesus could have been a fictional character. There are many myths in many cultures, and most of us don’t take them literally. For instance, I don’t think anyone believes that the popular character Hercules of Greek mythology was a real person. We use fictional characters for entertainment or as symbolic representations that teach life lessons. Jesus could just be another example. All the miracles he performed that supposedly prove the existence of “God” could be pure fantasy.
Jesus could have been a cult leader. Every few years, the news reports on some charismatic person who leads a bunch of ignorant, weak-minded people desperate for meaning in life to believe that he is something extraordinary (when he is just a manipulative individual playing psychological games with their minds). The miracles Jesus supposedly performed may have just been exaggerated by his followers, or they could have been magic tricks. It’s common sense that professional magicians don’t really have supernatural powers and that the shows they perform only appear to be magic because they use some sort of illusion to mislead our perceptions. — A corollary to this theory is that Mary may have become pregnant by simply having sex with an ordinary person (without being married), and she could have used the virgin-birth explanation as an extravagant way to hide her shame. She may have also filled Jesus’ head with this idea growing up, and that may have instilled in him delusions of grandeur that led him to believe that he was more than he really was. –
Jesus could have been a physical alien. Jesus might have been from another planet, or he might have been created (by artificially inseminating Mary) by physical beings from another planet. Many human civilizations are empires, and expansion is the goal of an empire. Earth could be a colony in a large alien empire, and all of Jesus’ miracles could have been accomplished using technology that humans thousands of years ago (and even us today) couldn’t possibly understand. Just look at our own technology: cell phones, computers, airplanes, cars, electricity, plastic, … We take it all for granted, but imagine how amazed cultures from just 200 years ago or cultures who today live in a jungle (or in a desert) would be amazed to see our technology. They might mistake us for “gods” and try to worship us.
Jesus could have been a higher-dimensional or non-corporeal alien. This is the closest to suggesting that Jesus was an actual god (but I don’t believe in worshiping gods, so keep reading). Physicists theorize that there are dimensions of space of which we are not aware. Beings like us may exist in those dimensions. An alternate hypothesis is that physical matter may not be the only basis for life. Life forms could exist that are composed purely of energy. With either of these possibilities, the everyday actions that such life forms would consider to be no challenge to them would appear to us in our mundane lives to be miracles. Of course, that doesn’t make these beings the be-all and end-all of existence. It doesn’t mean they created the entire universe. It still just makes them a little more advanced than us. Give us a few more billion years of evolution and spiritual and mental development, and maybe what we now call the “human” race will get there too.
These are some of the ideas that help me keep an open mind whenever I’m forced to defend myself against the well-meaning brainwashing of Christians. I personally no longer have a Jesus fixation. It’s now just a Jesus curiosity.