More Jesus Mythology

Alan from Meet an Atheist posted on the Jesus Myth. The posts inspiration is a case in Italy, where a Judge has required the plaintiff to prove Jesus existed. Alan posts another article, in full I believe, but he didn't link to it so I've linked to a story on London's Times Online on the same case. I think this question is always worth a look, because an honest and thorough knowledge of our cultural history is just as important as knowledge of material facts. Why is functionally as important as what in bio-cultural evolution.

Alan voices a serious and debatable concern.
I think that too often we atheist, in trying to find some middle ground with believers, will become too agreeable with some aspects of the believers superstitions. Take the existence of Christ for example.
As many have pointed out, there is scant evidence that Yeshua bin Meriam actually was a real person. Regardless of that existence, we can say that we've not seen any human have the abilities ascribed to this Roman and Judaically ruled man. We really have no empirical reason to embrace the stories of an assortment of underground political cults from a time in human history that was filled with fear and change. The existence of Mithras seems equally well (or ill) supported, but his particular flavor of salvatory peculiarities were incorporated into the Jesus myth, long before the 4 approved gospels were even selected by the growing christian movement.

These were tough, intelligent and desperate people. Their delusions were fueled by the Life and Death dealing delusions of those who held power over their very right to exist. The vehemence and conviction of the protochristian beliefs did certainly help them to survive in a horrifying political enviroment. The fact remains that their survival didn't magically make their beliefs true, any more than a couple of shots of booze gives one reason for self-confidance before heading out for a night on the town. It simply helps them feel more confidant.

There's nothing wrong with that unless it becomes dogma and replaces reason as the default solution for life's challenges. If you embrace a myth for the emotions it invokes in you, you have an obligation to keep it personal and not force it upon others. Share it? Of course! It's your life. Like many people though, regardless of personal feelings, I recommend looking into it before giving into it though.

Ramen & Namaste & L8R y'all.


  1. I tend to believe the Jesus myth arguments myself, but I felt the need to comment because of your rather excessive Roman-bashing. The political circumstances the Jews and early Christians had to deal with were, by ancient standards, extraordinarily mild and tolerant. Certainly they did not live up to modern standards, but you make it sound like the severity of the oppression helped strengthen the religions. In reality, the oppression could have been far more severe (other ancient governments often were), and had it been so, it might well have successfully suppressed Christianity (though probably not Judaism, which managed to survive Assyrian rule; now there was truly horrifying oppression).

  2. I think you're right about the general level of Roman oppression (or lack thereof,) until we get to Nero's days; the time when the Gospels were actually being composed. Even by that time, genocide doesn't seem to have been a much utilized tool in the Roman arsenal.

    Relatively speaking, weekly crucifixions are not the same as the rounding up of Jews in Nazi Germany or the brutality of many recent totaliarian regimes. People from the time of Rome would have laughed or just shrugged off any complaint of immorality in America's pre-Civil War slave industry days. Their morality effected their laws. It didn't derive from them. The Roman laws were, as you suggest, a bit more moderate than many of the cultural proscriptions for criminals which they replaced. THAT is horrifying from a modern POV.

    Rome was what it was. We are no way as violent to our own citizens as Everyone was in those times. And no amount of data supporting the fact that BushCo is operating on a semi-fascist ideology will make us worse than Rome or as bad as Hitlerite Germany. (not as long as we keep working against its growth!)

    But Rome was what it was and, for people who would pull the Masada gambit for their faith, what it was was fatally unacceptable. I can't see how such suicidal massacre could occur if the severity of the oppression, even if only in the minds of the "oppressed", was not strengthening their religious faith at the expense of their very lives. If I am clear that such faith is irrational and self-defeating, then I hope to be clear that I don't think such faith was the best way for them to deal with the powerful Roman rulers. Their faith supplanted their reason and thusly their ability to synergize and grow as respected citizens of the empire.

    I guess that all I'm saying is that I'm not bashing Rome by pointing out its brutality. It was better than much of what the archaeological records suggests passed for Good Government before its rise, and that's why we still hold its civilizing influences in such high regard.

    Progress is definitively relative, but it only goes forward, even if it has to backup in order to proceed.

    Thanks for the comment Protagoras. It engendered positive thought!

  3. Hi Michael,

    I just want to say I completely agree with what you posted on my blog: I' to pass on relationships that don't totally fascinate and encourage and support my life. Giving...without reciprocity is just flat out emotionally exhausting...

    Everything must be reciprocal or energizing. Volunteering must bring you joy; it can't be done as mere sacrifice.

    The goal is to be involved so that the doing of whatever helps another also energizes and empowers you as well.

    All relationships must be give and take. None of us can allow ourselves to be drained. It's just that, when you find a way to give that feels great, it fills you up instead of emptying you. That's the paradox. And that ususally happens when a person gets involved with a group of like minded people who work together, as friends, and succeed in a common goal to lift themselves and/or others to a better place.

    In any event, I suppose I may as well comment on the Jesus myth, as well.

    I agree it's a myth. After reading The Pagan Christ, I'm convinced there was no such historical person. But I do believe the archetype of the loving "Christ within" is "real".

    But, then, the "Christos" myth, which is over five thousand years old, existed long before Christianity. It was, essentially, stolen from the Egyptians, who understood it as myth and metaphor, and changed by the early founders of Christianity into a supposed historical person.

    Frankly, it never really worked for me. Christ as myth, as representing the eternal flame of consciousness and love within each of us rings more true.

    I read an interesting paragraph today in The Secret World of Drawings by Gregg M. Furth:

    "Archetypes set a pattern for both psychic and physical life. Myths, legends, dreams and pictures are some of the means by which archetypes 'travel'. A myth may carry a universal belief found in all religons. Myths survive from one generation to the next, both for their historical value and as an educational tool to help people find direction in life. In many religions, a ritual enacted around the telling of a certain story is maintained, thus providing a universal belief system, history and education to its followers."

    [That's the lead in for the following which I think you will appreciate]

    "Whether the Gospels, for instance, were really written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John is no longer debated; instead it is generally assumed they were not." [italics mine; he wrote this book in 1984; unfortunately we seem to have regressed in the last 20 years] "Nevertheless, Gospel as legend has a ritual function in the Mass."

    He goes on to discuss how myths and the symbols that represent them unlock unconscious psychic energy and allows it to flow toward a level where a transforming effect occurs and problems can be brought up from the unconscious and dealt with on a conscious level.

    It's a fascinating book which, for one thing, documents how a five-year-old boy drew a picture of himself showing an illness that did not manifest (nor was it diagnosed) until 10 months later.

    I think that there is much that we do not know. And while everyone needs a structure and set of beliefs to inform his or her actions, I'm not much interested in debating opinions about God or living inside a 2000 year-old box or defending its walls. But I must admit I like the idea of Jesus, of a person so aligned with love. To me, Jesus "The Christ" is a metaphor for what we all might become. (Minus the crucifixtion, of course. But if I go into what I think of that little barbarity attributed to a loving God's will or the cannibalistic aspects of the Eucharist, I'll be writing all night.)

    Christianity has the opportunity to get its head on straight if its proponents recognize they are dealing with myth, metaphor, archetypes and subconscious needs for healing. But if its proponents continue to insist in factual intrepretations of the Bible and in using Christianity to villify nonbelievers, they will do far more harm than good.

    Okay, I'm stepping off the soapbox now.

    Take good care.



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