As an atheist I spent some years reading philosophy to gain an understanding of the secular foundations of ethics, and reached an understanding that satisfied me. (for those interested, see http://www.atheistnexus.org/pr... ). Then I heard a Christian declare that the Absolute Truth about ethics was the teachings of Jesus. So I asked "What DOES Jesus teach about ethics?" I went through the four Gospels and collected everything Jesus is reported to have said about what his followers should DO. I found that there actually IS an underlying logic to it. The Jesus of the first three ("synoptic") gospels believed that the world was ending soon, certainly within the lifetime of those hearing him speak, Judgment Day was coming when everyone would be sorted into the saved and the damned, and sent to Heaven or a fiery Hell respectively. Very few would be saved; almost everyone would be going to Hell. He told his followers to take drastic measures to rack up as much credit as they could in the limited time remaining, and AFTER they had done all that he commanded, they should count themselves as unworthy servants and hope that Yahveh would be gracious. Jesus commanded his followers to follow the entire Law of Moses down to the last Iota (punctuation mark), except for the dietary laws. He told them to sell everything they owned and distribute the money to the poor, to practice strict nonviolent pacifism, to abstain from all sin even in their thoughts, even to the point of self-castration to avoid thoughts of lust, which were spiritually equivalent to adultery. He told them not to judge others, that was not their job, Judgment Day was coming soon enough, focus on purifying their own character, doing good works, and spreading the news.
The fourth gospel, of "John", was written more than 70 years after the time of Jesus, and it is starkly different from the others. His warnings of Judgment Day, and his instructions of what to do to prepare for it, have all been deleted. There is no mention of Hell, no mention of helping the poor, no mention of following the Law. According to "John", one can be saved by "believing in Jesus" and taking Communion. Modern Christianity has chosen to ignore Matthew, Mark, and Luke and place all their faith in John.
Chapter and verse on all this at http://www.atheistnexus.org/pr...