I am an atheist. And I am religious.
I am not a Christian. And I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus.
I am a pacifist and proponent of nonviolence. And I am an active agitator for justice and human rights.
Yes, I am an atheist minister. I have little use, however, for that strident form of atheism than condemns all organized religion and would throw the baby of love and charity out with the bath water of dogmatic intolerance and oppression of the Other.
Yes, I am a non-Christian follower of Jesus. Whether he actually existed or resides merely in myth, I admire the person who walked humbly, helped everyone without judgment, and stood up to the authorities of the day speaking out for equality, fairness and mercy. If he walked our streets today, I imagine him decrying our cuts to food stamps, calling out business greed that destroys families and demanding an end to our violence against each other.
Even the most hardcore atheist can find much to admire in the life of Jesus. He fed the hungry, healed the sick and comforted the oppressed and outcast. He debated the learned experts on matters of policy interpretation and law, showing them the errors of outmoded and irrelevant thinking. And when the time came for action, he forced the defilers from the sacred places and denounced their love of money.
Jesus lived a life of principle. He didn’t “do” charity. He didn’t attend events. He didn’t plan protests. He lived every day according to the ideals he upheld — love everyone; care for the needy; speak out against injustice; and stand up to the corrupt. He loved everyone regardless of their station in life, their gender identity, their religion, or their occupation. He lived in neither opulence nor poverty and sought similar fairness and justice for all people.
Jesus lived a model life, a life we can all aspire to lead, whatever our beliefs regarding religion.