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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Was Jim Jones a Christian?

While perusing different articles today, I came across this one by Daniel J. Flynn which examines that very issue...

“Nobody’s gonna come out of the sky!” Jim Jones informed his flock. “There’s no heaven up there. We’ll have to have heaven down here!” The reverend threw the Bible to the floor in his Peoples Temple and openly stated his disbelief in God. Before Jim Jones orchestrated the deaths of more than 900 people at his South American jungle commune, Willie Brown, Angela Davis, Harvey Milk​, and other leading leftists lauded him as a hero. After the carnage at Jonestown, the Left conveniently dismissed him as just another crazed Christian fundamentalist"

I decided to look further into the belief system of this madman and I think he was quite possibly an atheist or at best, an agnostic. The sources quoted in his Wikipedia entry make reference to his claimed atheism. And then there is this quote offered up by his wife, Marceline...

"By the spring of 1976, Jones began openly admitting even to outsiders that he was an atheist. Despite the Temple's fear that the IRS was investigating its religious tax exemption, by 1977 Marceline Jones admitted to the New York Times that, as early as age 18 when he watched his then idol Mao Zedong overthrow the Chinese government, Jim Jones realized that the way to achieve social change through Marxism in the United States was to mobilize people through religion. She stated that "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion," and had slammed the Bible on the table yelling "I've got to destroy this paper idol!" In one sermon, Jones said that, "You're gonna help yourself, or you'll get no help! There's only one hope of glory; that's within you! Nobody's gonna come out of the sky! There's no heaven up there! We'll have to make heaven down here!"

This doesn't sound like anything remotely like any orthodox Christian theology. One of the references cited in the Wikipedia article is from the Jonestown Institute whose web page features a transcript of a recorded interview with Jim Jones who stated the following (All instances of emphasis appear in the transcript)..

"I’m uh, you know, an agnostic. We have a— some emphasis on the terms of paranormal, because uh, it brings results, uh, there is something to therapeutic healing, all medical science has proven, but we don’t link that with any kind of causative factor of a loving God. Off the record, I don’t believe in any loving God. Our people, I would say, are ninety percent atheist. Uh, we— we think Jesus Christ was a swinger. He taught some pretty damn good things at feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, uh, maybe a little paternalistic, but it’s still uh— all the emphasis of the judgment of character— the only time he ever mentioned judgment at all was in Matthew 25, and it had to do totally with what you were doing for other people, so we— we emphasize the teachings of Christ, but um, we’re a— we are as um— we’re the most unusual church I’ve ever run into.."

So when all of the evidence is examined, I think the answer is 'no'. Jim Jones was a crazed charlatan who utilized a patina of religion in his socialist side-show masquerading as a church but ultimately he was only out for himself.


GentleSkeptic said...

What about this guy?

Stormbringer said...

I am a Freemason. I made the claim, so it must be true. Never mind that I have never joined.

I am a Freemason. The media discovered that my father was a Freemason for many years, and they had a special presentation at his funeral (yes, really). So, a bit of "guilty by association" makes me a Freemason as well.

People need to grow up and be realistic about claims, and look at all the evidence (including quotes and practices).

Ross said...

GS, you'll find that there's plenty of Fruit Loops in rural Queensland.

I feel no (posthumous) affinity with Jim Jones whatsoever. If he was a Christian, then so was my late pet dog.

JD Curtis said...

Thanks for dropping by everyone.

It's just that sometimes, poorly educated people (or people who just don't want to know the truth) will throw out the example of Jim Jones as Christianity run amok and by his own words, it seems that nothing could be further from the truth.