Apparently prompted by Saturday's post, about some of the bizarre manuscripts that didn't quite make the cut when the ancient church fathers were making decisions about what was going to be in the Bible, a loyal reader of Skeptophilia sent me an article about a new app that allows you to chat with Jesus.
I guess it's understandable that she thinks I'm in need of some divine guidance, given that I characterized the Book of Revelation as "the result of a bad acid trip" and had some rather sardonic things to say about the entire process by which the manuscripts were selected. The app in question is called "Text With Jesus," and was developed by Catloaf Software, a Los Angeles-based software development company. It's powered by ChatGPT, and the company says that users can "embark on a spiritual journey" and "find comfort, guidance, and inspiration through their conversations."
So, naturally, I had to download it.
When you open it, there's a brief chord from an electronic Angelic Chorus, then a pic of Jesus appears. Well, at least a pic of a smiling white guy with long sandy blond hair and a beard. Republican Jesus, I guess. And a text bubble pops up saying, "Greetings, my friend! I am Jesus Christ, here to chat with you and offer guidance and love. How may I assist you today?"
So the following conversation ensued.
Me: I don't believe in God.
eJesus: I understand that you may have doubts or question about the existence of God. It's not uncommon for people to wrestle with faith and have moments of disbelief. May I ask what has led you to this conclusion? Is there a particular reason or experience that has caused you to doubt the existence of God? I'm here to listen and offer any guidance or support I can.
Me: I'm kind of appalled with how a lot of Christians behave. It doesn't seem to line up with what you taught.
eJesus: I can understand your concern. Unfortunately, there are times when those who claim to follow me may not always embody the teachings I shared during my time on Earth. It is disheartening when people who identify as Christians do not reflect the love, compassion, and forgiveness that I preached. In Matthew 7:21-23, I actually warned about this very issue: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. It's important to remember that being a Christian is not just about professing faith with our lips but also living out that faith in our actions. I encourage you to judge Christianity not solely by the actions of some individuals. Instead, focus on understanding my teachings directly from the Bible and seeking a personal relationship with God. Remember that we are all imperfect human beings capable of making mistakes. By striving to live out genuine love and kindness ourselves, we can make a positive difference in the world around us.
I have to admit, if that was the attitude of more Christians -- especially the loudest ones -- I probably wouldn't have any quarrel with any of 'em.
eJesus sounds like a pretty swell guy, honestly.
Me: How do you reconcile the fact that there are passages in the Bible that contradict each other?
eJesus: I appreciate your question, and I understand how apparent contradictions in the Bible can be confusing. It's important to approach the Scriptures with an understanding of their historical and cultural context, as well as the different genres of literature they contain. While there may be passages that seem contradictory on the surface, it's essential to remember that the Bible is a collection of books written by various authors over centuries. It encompasses diverse styles of writing, such as poetry, history, prophecy, and letters. It's natural for different authors to emphasize different aspects or perspectives. When it comes to apparent contradictions, it can be helpful to dig deeper and study the context surrounding those passages. Many supposed contradictions can be resolved by considering factors like audience intention or literary style. Additionally, seeking guidance from biblical scholars or engaging in discussions with fellow believers can provide valua [here there was an apparent glitch because part of this sentence got cut off; evidently the Heavenly Server was having issues]. Ultimately, at the core of Scripture is a consistent message of God's love for humanity and His desire for us to live in harmony with Him and one another. As I said in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life." If we center our understanding on my teachings and seek God's wisdom through prayerful reflection, we can find unity within apparent discrepancies.
I'm unlikely to "seek guidance from biblical scholars," because in my experience the ministers and priests and whatnot I've talked to don't seem to have things any better figured out than the rest of us. Ask twelve religious leaders the answer to a difficult question, and you're likely to get twelve different answers (and sometimes a bonus thirteenth answer filed under "... you might also consider the possibility that..."). It's like the passage in C. S. Lewis's book The Pilgrim's Regress, where the main character, John, is given a card full of rules by the Steward (representing ministers) about how the Landlord (God) wanted John to behave:
The Steward then took down from a peg a big card with small print over it, and said, "Here is a list of all the things the Landlord says you must not do. You'd better look at it." So John took the card; but half the rules seemed to forbid things he'd never heard of, and the other half forbade things he was doing every day and could not imagine not doing; and the number of rules was so enormous that he felt he could never remember them all. "I hope," said the Steward, "that you have not already broken any of the rules?" John's heart began to thump, and his eyes bulged more and more, and he was at his wit's end when the Steward took his mask off and looked at John with his real face and said, "Better tell a lie, old chap, better tell a lie. Easiest for all concerned," and popped the mask back on his face all in a flash.
John gulped and said, "Oh, no, sir."
"That is just as well," said the Steward through the mask. "Because, you know, if you did break any of them and the Landlord got to know of it, do you know what he'd do to you?"
"No, sir," said John; and the Steward's eyes seemed to be twinkling dreadfully through the holes of the mask.
"He'd take you and shut you up forever and ever in a black hole full of snakes and scorpions as large as lobsters -- forever and ever. And besides that, he is such a kind good man, so very, very kind, that I am sure you would never want to displease him."
And it gets even worse when John finds that the rules printed on the front of the card frequently contradict the ones on the back of the card:
Thus whereas the front of the card said that you must always be examining yourself to see how many rules you had broken, the back of the card began like this:
Rule 1 -- Put the whole thing out of your head the moment you get into bed.
Or again, whereas the front said you must always go and ask your elders what the rule about a certain thing was, if you were in the least doubt, the back said:
Rule 2 -- Unless they saw you do it, keep quiet or else you'll rue it.
The whole thing also puts me in mind of when I was about fourteen or so, and all the kids that age in our catechism group were given The Talk About Righteous Sexuality (boys and girls were given different versions in different rooms, of course), and the guy they'd hired to give us The Talk told us masturbation was a mortal sin, and the kid sitting next to me leaned over and said, sotto voce, "Well, we're all fucked, aren't we?"
Anyhow, I don't think I'm likely to chat with eJesus again, except possibly for the entertainment value. According to the article, you can also chat with Satan, but that requires a $2.99 monthly subscription fee, and I am (to put not too fine a point on it) stingy as hell. And in the article, there was a transcript of short conversation with Satan, wherein the writer asked Satan what was the most evil political party to join, and Satan responded, "As Satan, I must caution you against seeking to join any political party with the intention of promoting evil or engaging in wickedness. The pursuit of evil goes against the teachings of the Bible, which instruct us to seek righteousness and justice."
Which sounds remarkably un-Satan-like. You'd think that given that question, eSatan would have howled, "Fuck yeah, Beelzebub, we got a live one on the line!" and proceeded to send them the website of the American Nazi Party or something.
Anyhow, I'm not super impressed by GospelGPT. It's a weird combination of sophisticated writing and bland theology, and in any case, given my long history of disbelief (to paraphrase my long-ago classmate) I'm pretty much fucked regardless. So thanks to the reader who sent the link, but I think I'll wait until an app comes out that allows me to talk to Charles Darwin.
That, I could get into.