Opinion column in The Adelaide Advertiser
Published 18th September, 2014
The barbaric beheadings and crucifixions by ISIL show Islam is prone to cruel and merciless interpretations. But Christianity might also reflect on its own barbarity — seven crusades, the conquistadors, and centuries of merciless Inquisitions; all based on absolute intolerance of those who rejected Jesus Christ.
Since the ‘enlightenment’ a rising tide of doubt has surrounded Christianity, the Bible’s authenticity, and Jesus.
Inevitably, belief in God is slipping — and most noticeably among priests! In February this year a national daily ran a piece titled “The New Atheist Priests” — showing that almost 20 percent of ‘men of the cloth’ had lost their faith and regarded the New Testament as fiction.
According to Catherine Dunphy, Executive Director of support group The Clergy Project, this is “the tip of the iceberg”. More priests are questioning the authenticity of Jesus as fresh evidence mounts from a wave of contemporary historians.
Pope Pius XII first showed concern for the Bible’s validity. In his 1943 encyclical it was clear the Vatican wanted to validate provenance of the Church. For two millennia Christian scholars had simply verified their own Christian history and ignored growing proof of fabrication in the New Testament.
So does it matter that the Jesus story is a myth?
For the vast majority of Christians it most certainly does matter. That message is summed up in crystal clarity by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17. He says; “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”.
But there’s now a phalanx of modern Biblical scholars more concerned with historical fact than Biblical myth. Prominent among these is the historian Dr Richard Carrier. His recent book, “On the Historicity of Jesus”, is a 700-page culmination of exhaustive research, going back to the earliest Greek, Hebrew and Latin texts to trace the founder of Christianity.
In meticulous detail he reveals an endless seam of pious fraud in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles. As merely one example, Carrier points to irrefutable proof that only seven of Paul’s alleged thirteen Epistles are genuine, and that all references to Jesus are by visions, hallucinations and, together with his followers, speaking in tongues.
The four Gospels were written by unknown authors up to ninety years after Jesus’ alleged death. Carrier lists endless “tampering” of translations, edits and re-copying, up to the Council of Nicaea in 325 and beyond.
Throughout history the Church has claimed that non-Christian writers of the day have confirmed Jesus as a living being. They cite a list of chroniclers such as Josephus, Tacitus, Philo of Alexandria, Seneca the Young and others. But in scrupulous detail current scholars show why this evidence is fabricated, or imaginary.
The modern trend among professional historians is to weigh every piece of competing evidence with the analytical system known as Bayes’s Theorem. Carrier shows conclusively that with this analysis the entire Jesus narrative is factually flawed.
Contemporary Biblical scholars now view Jesus as a mortal Judean preacher — like scores of others — who was later deified. But no Roman or Jewish writers, official or civilian, provide any reliable evidence around the time Jesus was supposed to have lived.
Dr Carrier and other historians conclude that Jesus was created as a ‘celestial figure’ — in exactly the same tradition as pagan and Greek gods before him. And like many other gods he was later “written into history” — with the customary Virgin Birth and other miracles. The Gospel stories were gradually embellished, from late in the first century.
The evidence is overwhelming. With high levels of education, social advancement, and dramatic discoveries in science, the Western world is finally coming to recognise the Jesus myth is exactly that. It accounts for plummeting rates in church attendance — just eight percent of adults — and the rising phenomena of priests rejecting God and joining The Clergy Project.
But the sky will not fall, nor will humanity cease. Human hope, compassion and charity will prevail. As proved in the advanced countries of Western Europe, society flourishes without the ancient dogmas of man-made religion.
Australia too must to shed its social and political dependence on supernatural myths. We need to disengage from centuries of religious divisiveness — especially the conflicting gods of Islam and Christianity. The doctrines of all religions must be consigned to the dark tumult of mythical history. It’s time for this country to advance and evolve with clear vision, sound reason, and the unity of shared secular and humanitarian values.
Plain Reason: promoting science, reason, logic, and critical thinking.