It’s Christmas Eve and approximately 2.1 billion of the inhabitants of the planet earth will be celebrating the birth of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am not one of them.
Still, I think I should probably say something about philosophy and Christmas.
A few years ago, President George W. Bush said that his favorite philosopher is Jesus. Some reporter asked who his favorite philosopher is and he answered the question. I’m not a fan of the former president but I appreciated that he answered the question honestly.
I remember there was some to-do about what the president said.
Stuff like he shouldn’t have named a religious figure
And that Jesus wasn’t a philosopher.
Sure Jesus was.
How is “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” not philosophical?
You see, even though I’m an atheist (actually I’m an apatheist, but who’s being technical?) I’m not one of those atheist types who gets all furious-faced and bent out of shape any time someone mentions Jesus Christ, Christianity, or Christmas. I’m not offended when someone tells me “Merry Christmas”. I’m not all that bothered by Nativity displays in public places. And I think it’s entirely appropriate to mention that Jesus is the “reason for the season”.
That’s because he is, you know.
It’s no secret that philosophers are notoriously atheistic. There are plenty of non-believing-in-the-existence-of-an-all-powerful-creator philosophers to choose from. A.J. Ayer, Colin McGinn, Julian Baginni, Rudolf Carnap, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Michael Martin, John Searle, Simone de Beauvoir, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Albert Camus, J.L. Mackie, Bernard Williams, David Chalmers, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Dennett, Baron d’Holbach, Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand, Kai Nielsen, James Rachels, George Santayana – Just to name a few.
All philosophers. All atheists.
The belief about philosophers and God goes that philosophers are all about reason and logical arguments, and that most philosophers believe that believing in a great, big God up in the sky that no one actually sees or hears isn’t exactly reasonable or logical.
Even when we name philosophers who do believe in God no one really ever mentions
All Descartes wanted to do is prove that God exists. I don’t recall him saying anything about Jesus – at least not anything about his philosophy.
I actually think Jesus is a philosopher. And a pretty good one at that.
Need I remind you, I don’t believe in God and I’m willing to admit this.
I know that some believers out there might take the fact that I’ve considered Jesus a philosopher at all as a sign that my sensus divinitatis is working, which, of course, means that Plantinga is right.
That is exactly what I don’t want to admit during the holidays.
But I really do think that Jesus is a pretty good philosopher.
Now wait, my atheist friends – I’m not talking about Christianity. I’m not advocating following the word of Jesus as a religion or even that anyone should praise, worship, or follow the words of Jesus at all (although if you want to, the Bible makes it pretty easy to do, since everything he said is written in red).
So what makes Jesus a philosopher, you ask?
I know this may be weird for all of you atheist philosophers out there, but if we think of what philosophers do; that philosophers think, write, and, well, philosophize about matters concerning ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology, there’s no reason (other than personal bias) to exclude Jesus from the ranks of philosophers.
And don’t say Jesus isn’t a philosopher because he didn’t write anything down.
Neither did Socrates.
If you’re still not convinced, let me give you a sample of what I’m talking about:
Jesus the ethicist:
A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45)
Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you. Pray for happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (Luke 6:27-28)
Jesus the metaphysician:
With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)
God is a spirit… (John 4:24)
I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 16:6)
Jesus the epistemologist:
Your father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)
It’s fairly obvious that Jesus was (or is it is?) a philosopher. But here’s the cool thing: if you follow Jesus, you will be rewarded with an eternity in Heaven.
Can Saul Kripke promise you that?
Getting into Heaven is awesome enough to persuade anyone (unless you’re Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett) to give a philosophical read of Jesus a try. But when you read the philosophy of Jesus it’s really no wonder that Jesus’ philosophy, even 2500 years after his birth, is more popular than any other philosopher.
That’s probably because unlike most professional philosophers, when you read Jesus’ philosophy you can actually understand it. And it’s a cinch to follow.
That’s two things no one will never say about Immanuel Kant.
is more popular than this philosopher
And that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?
I think only me and President Bush would agree to that.
So, from this hell-bound atheist to my fellow philosophers and citizens of planet earth, I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
ENJOY A LITTLE CHRISTMAS MUSIC
My list of atheist philosophers may include an agnostic or two. As I recall Sir Bertrand Russell was an agnostic, not an atheist.