Posts Tagged “historical”

Popular Mechanics / The Real Face of JesusChristians love to assume their religion is founded on historical fact. Specifically, they’re absolutely certain their Jesus lived and walked the earth in the first decades of the 1st century CE. This assumption is so compelling that we count the years in terms of Jesus’ supposed lifetime … i.e. our Year 1 is, supposedly, the first year he was on earth.

The reality of it, though, is that it’s by no means certain at all that Jesus ever actually lived. Many people find this surprising, but Jesus’ historicity has been a subject of scholarly review and conjecture for over a century now. While devout believers in Christianity are certain Jesus lived, the rest of us, and scholars especially, aren’t as sure, because the historical record of his existence is vastly less clear and compelling than Christians claim.

Despite the lack of scholarly certainty, this month’s National Geographic cover story proudly trumpets that Jesus definitely lived (Archive.Is cached article). Their evidence? The discovery of a tomb:

Just yards from the tomb of Christ [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem] are other rock-hewn tombs of the period, affirming that this church, destroyed and rebuilt twice, was indeed constructed over a Jewish burial ground.

Nat Geo has made a big deal about the recent discovery of one particular tomb near the Holy Sepulchre. The problem is, in historical and archaeological terms, this finding doesn’t really tell us anything, and it certainly doesn’t prove Jesus must have lived. The site of that church was “found” by the (Christian) Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. When she was there in the 4th century, it’s possible she knew tombs were nearby, and that may have been why she picked that location. So finding a tomb in the area doesn’t mean anything.

The problem here is that Nat Geo is accepted as an authoritative publication. Many Christians looking to promote Jesus’ historicity are sure to use this article as ostensible “proof” that he actually lived. Unfortunately for them, it’s not “proof” of anything, other than that Christians would like to think he existed and will go to ridiculous lengths in order to say they’ve “proven” it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machineryThe belt-buckle of the Bible Belt, Texas, is acting up again. And it’s the same people — the state’s Board of Education — as I’ve blogged about previously (e.g. here, and here, and here). This time they’ve fallen in behind the vast hosts of the nation’s Neocrusaders, and are laying siege to textbooks. The New York Times reports on the Texas BoE’s continuing effort to proselytize to public school children (WebCite cached article):

Some conservative members of the Texas Board of Education assert that the history books used in this state have a pro-Islamic bias, and they are upset about it.

Never shy about wading into the culture wars, they are planning to vote Friday for a resolution that would send a blunt message to textbook publishers: Do not present a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian version of history if you want to sell books in one of the nation’s largest markets.

“The purpose of this resolution is to ensure there is balanced treatment of divergent groups,” Gail Lowe, the chairwoman of the board, said. “In the past, the textbooks have had some bias against Christianity.”

The resolution was written and submitted to the board this summer by, Randy Rives, who as a member of the school board in Odessa, Tex., pushed through a Bible study curriculum.

The Neocrusaders’ complaint is that textbooks are “biased” against Christianity and in favor of Islam. Unfortunately, they don’t bother to demonstrate this. They simply insinuate that it’s the case. The problem, of course, is that “bias” has a meaning … a statistical one, and it must be demonstrated using compelling, objective, statistical evidence. The Neocrusaders — to no one’s surprise — don’t offer any such thing. They simply assert “bias” and base it on a small selection of readings, as well as the fact that some Dubai royals had once attempted to invest in a textbook publishing company. (They no longer have any interest in it; showing once again that the Religious Right loves to ignore facts it finds inconvenient.)

In my experience, anytime someone whines about “bias” without offering evidence of it, what they really mean is, “This stuff isn’t exactly the way I, personally, want it to be.” Sadly, their own personal wishes — whatever they may be — are irrelevant. History is history … period! … and to bend it to suit one’s personal whim, makes it something other than history.

In any event, if anyone in Texas — or any other state — is concerned that his/her child may not get a “balanced” view of Christianity, the solution is rather obvious … teach it to your kids yourself, or in Sunday school. Forcing public school teachers to mouth the platitudes and dogmas you — personally — hold dear is not the solution. Unless, of course, your goal is to control other people’s kids rather than just your own. This is, in fact, precisely what Mr Rives and the rest of the furiously sanctimonious Neocrusaders want; he said so, himself:

“If you can control or influence our education system, you can start taking over the minds of the young people,” Mr. Rives said.

Thank you, Mr Rives, for confessing to your own game. It is to control people. I can’t possibly have asked for any more clear of an admission on your part.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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