Posts Tagged “jesus christ”

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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What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicAs I type this, tomorrow will be the National Day of Prayer, 2017. Around the country, politicians and all sorts of other folks will attend all kind of events, showing each other how much they like to pray. Most all of them will insist they’re doing it out of love for their deity — which, for most participants, is Jesus Christ. The problem with that is … it’s un-Christian of them to be involved in such a thing!

Yes, that’s what I said: Christians participating in the National Day of Prayer is decidedly and undeniably un-Christian.

A lot of folks will be amazed at this. “What are you talking about, you hateful, cynical, godless agnostic heathen? How dare you say that!” That people might find my statement surprising, is the real tragedy here. Any Christian who attends a National Day of Prayer event obviously hasn’t read his/her Bible and doesn’t realize that public piety — as I’ve blogged on numerous occasions — is something Jesus clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously forbid his followers ever to engage in!

Here, in case you missed it, is the most important scriptural passage which explains this:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” …

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Jesus didn’t want his followers using their righteousness for self-aggrandizement, and with that as the goal, ordered them never to express their piety in public (whether by praying or making an issue of it in any other way). He was clear about it. There are no caveats, no exceptions, no wiggle-room at all. Just a clear order to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

I really can’t understand why Christians are so militant about not obeying this teaching. I’ve discussed it with many of them, and they actually get very agitated when I show them that public piety is un-Christian. I can only assume that’s because, for them, one of the benefits of being a Christian in the first place is to be able to display their Christianity to others and to show they’re part of “the club.” An inability to express their piety publicly would rob them of that precious perk. I guess. I mean, what other explanation can there be for it?

At any rate, no Christian who actually wants to obey Jesus will attend any National Day of Prayer events. He made his wishes known, and they can be found in any Christian Bible. Time for Christians to open it up, read it, and just do as they’re fucking told, for once.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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Gospel of Jesus' WifeI blogged about the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” back when it hit the news four years ago. Since then, tests on the fragment showed it could have come from an actual classical manuscript. As I said both times, whether or not the fragment is “real” doesn’t really present any substantial challenge to anyone’s Christianity. The most it would have told us is that one group of Christians, in 4th century Egypt, thought Jesus had married. That’s all. Nothing more. Even so, traditionalist Christians raged and fumed about it, as though someone had tried to kill them or something. (That would be your Christian martyr complex at work.)

Well, Ariel Sabar of The Atlantic has done some investigating — not on the fragment itself, but into its provenance — and offers compelling evidence it was a hoax (WebCite cached article):

[Harvard professor Karen L.] King has steadfastly honored the current owner’s request for anonymity. But in 2012, she sent me the text of e-mails she’d exchanged with him, after removing his name and identifying details. His account of how he’d come to possess the fragment, I noticed, contained a series of small inconsistencies. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. But years later, they still gnawed at me.

The American Association of Museums’ Guide to Provenance Research warns that an investigation of an object’s origins “is not unlike detective work”: “One may spend hours, days, or weeks following a trail that leads nowhere.” When I started to dig, however, I uncovered more than I’d ever expected—a warren of secrets and lies that spanned from the industrial districts of Berlin to the swingers scene of southwest Florida, and from the halls of Harvard and the Vatican to the headquarters of the East German Stasi.

Sabar’s revelations are engaging, and I urge you to take the time to read it all. I’ll leave the story as is. The bottom line is that the likely forger was an East German, now living in Florida, who’d studied Egyptian antiquities for a time, and thus was in a position to pull of a hoax of this kind.

Professor King herself, in the wake of this, acknowledges the likelihood she’d been hoaxed (cached):

A Harvard professor who rocked the musty world devoted to studying early Christianity when she presented a tiny swatch of papyrus that referred to Jesus as married now concedes the fragment is probably a fake.

From the very start, she had hedged her bets and suggested it might have been a hoax, but given what she did — i.e. to broadcast it to the world in as public a way as a historian of religion could — belies that. What’s more, her total disinterest in the fragment’s provenance — which normally is of great importance to scholars when reviewing any artifact — suggests she feared it might be a hoax; purposely minimizing her knowledge of it helped her alleviate that fear. In other words, it’s a classic case of Sgt Schultz thinking.

I’m sure conservative Christians who’d been incensed with King’s publication of “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” back in 2012 are now crowing with glee. Bit I bet they weren’t as happy that the so-called “James ossuary” a number of years ago turned out not to be the “proof” of Jesus’ historicity they’d presumed it was (cached) … so I guess turnabout is fair play, no?

The bottom line is that this was a case of people investing more sentiment into something than it deserved. And I say that not because it ended up being a hoax. I say that because, from the very beginning, and without regard to its genuineness or phoniness, too many people made more of GJW than it deserved. Prof King took it too seriously as “proof” of the existence of some feminist Christian sect, and her critics took it too seriously as well, with their sanctimonious outrage that someone might provide potential evidence that early Christianity wasn’t as uniform — and consistent with the Biblical canon — as they’d like it to have been. People really need to fucking grow the hell up already.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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Baby yellingIt’s still August, but the annual “war on Christmas” trope has seen its first salvo. Actor, director and militant Christofascist Kirk Cameron announced the limited release of his latest movie, Saving Christmas. His fellow Christofascist Glenn Beck’s house organ, the Blaze, advertises for tells the story of his crusade to defend his holy day from total eradication by those vile secularist types (WebCite cached article):

Actor Kirk Cameron is taking political correctness to task this fall with a new movie that aims to deflate arguments regularly made against Christmas, while simultaneously pushing back against atheist activists’ annual attacks on the holiday.

In “Saving Christmas,” Cameron plans to tackle some of the most controversial and disputed issues surrounding the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday — claims that he says have had a profound impact on the way believers and nonbelievers alike view the Christian celebration.

Still acting the part of the boy he once played on a sitcom, his motvation is a juvenile effort to get a dig in at the atheists he despises:

And while he has no idea exactly how atheists will respond to the feature film, which is slated to open November 14 in theaters across America, he predicts they likely won’t be too elated with its storyline.

“I assume they’re going to get frustrated to see some of their best arguments deflated by this movie, because we take on some of the most commonly parroted myths about the origins of Christmas,” Cameron exclusively told TheBlaze Tuesday.

Some of those “commonly parroted myths,” the Blaze and Cameron tell us, are:

Cameron said some of the claims that will be addressed in the film include: the notion that Christmas is really a church co-opting of winter solstice celebrations, that Jesus was not born on December 25, that Christmas trees are pagan and that consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season.

A few years ago I addressed a lot of Christians’ beliefs about Christmas, and the effort to outlaw it that their paranoid minds have have deluded them into thinking exists, in a static page on this blog. So I sympathize with Cameron’s fact-checking effort. I also agree that the jury is out as to whether setting Christmas on December 25 was part of a conscious, methodical effort to stamp out other pagan celebrations around the same time. I rather think they did it for the same reason there had been so many celebrations at that point in the calendar, before then — simply because it was a convenient time to have a holiday. The culture they lived in had already adapted to having a holiday around that time, so it just made sense to peg their own to that spot on the calendar. I also do not view Christmas trees as a clearly “pagan” practice that Christians saw pagans doing and then decided to take it up for themselves. Christmas trees didn’t come into vogue until the Reformation, and by that time Europe had been Christianized — with no pagans left lurking around — for centuries.

That said, I’d love to hear Kirkie’s evidence that Jesus was born on December 25; a lot of Christians acknowledge it was extremely unlikely he was born on that day, and suppose, instead, that he’d been born sometime in the spring. There’s nothing in scripture or in any other 1st-century Christian document that suggests he was born on or around December 25. So Cameron must have latched onto some astounding discovery, if he can demonstrate December 25 definitely was Jesus’ birthday.

As for “consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season,” if that’s happening, it’s something Christians have largely done themselves, and it must be very old. For instance, the reason Thanksgiving in the U.S. has its current date is because retailers lobbied for a longer Christmas shopping season. It would make no sense for them to have done so — and to have been reliant on Christmas shoppers — if consumerism hadn’t already been rooted in Christmas by the 1930s, which predates “political correctness” by decades.

At any rate, another Blaze quote confirms Cameron’s paranoia:

Cameron continued, “It’s obvious that there is a deliberate attempt to snuff out the holy root that has produced all this wonderful Christmas-time fruit. I think it’s about time someone spoke out and made a movie about this.”

None of this is “obvious” at all! For the record, Kirkie, I know of no “atheist” who wants to deprive you of “the holy root” of your precious holiday. Nor could they do so, even if they wished to — which they don’t. I know of no “atheist” who’s offended if you celebrate Christmas yourself. Again, they could hardly stop you from doing so! I know of no “atheist” who cares whether you approve of Christmas commercialism. What concerns many of them is when Christians like yourselves use government authority to promote Christmas and intimate that all Americans are required to celebrate it — whether they wish to or not. What concerns me, particularly (and I’m no atheist), are all the outright lies you and your fellow Christians tell in the name of pushing Christmas, just so you can feel all nice and persecuted for your Jesus (because the psychopathology of your religion tricks you into doing so.) Just stop already with the delusions and lies. Go celebrate Christmas in your homes and churches. Enjoy it! But … leave the rest of us out of it, fercryinoutloud. Is that such a difficult thing to do?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Gospel of Jesus' WifeIt’s been awhile since it was a hot topic in the news, but the so-called “gospel of Jesus’ wife” is in the news again. The New York Times reports that, after some non-destructive tests have been done on it, the fragment is probably of classical or early-medieval origin (WebCite cached article):

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.…

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

The last time I blogged about the GJW, I’d commented on a rather rash Vatican dismissal of any possibility that the fragment could be genuine. Now that some tests have actually been done — which hadn’t been the case back when the Vatican pitched a fit over it — I don’t doubt they’ll still refuse to accept it might be genuine.

That’s a shame, because quite obviously, whether or not GJW is genuine, doesn’t mean Jesus had to have been married. It only means some classical or early medieval Coptic Christians wrote as though he had been. Sure, it seems a really bizarre idea to modern eyes, but there were lots of Christian groups that believed a lot of different things in antiquity, and a lot of those ideas were strange (even to other Christians). If you want to read a really weird account of Jesus’ childhood, for example, read the (possible) 2nd century Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In it, a young Jesus literally curses people to death. No Christians today take that seriously, but some Christian definitely wrote it, back in classical times. There really isn’t any rational reason for anyone … the robed denizens of the Vatican included … to get their knickers in knots over this.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Homeless Jesus' by Timothy P. Schmalz / photo by WCNC-TVA statue of Jesus in Davidson, NC has some local folks upset. No, it’s not blasphemous, not even slightly; in fact, it’s in front of a church, one which willingly hosted it. The problem with it, is that it depicts Jesus as … <drumroll please> … a homeless man, of all things! WCNC-TV in Charlotte explains this “controversy,” if one can call it that (WebCite cached article):

A sculpture of Jesus as a homeless man installed outside a church in Davidson has neighbors and church leaders debating its message and appropriateness.

According to articles on sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s website, the same “Homeless Jesus” now at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church was rejected by cathedrals in New York and Canada. Schmalz’s site also includes articles claiming Pope Francis blessed and accepted “Homeless Jesus” into Vatican City.

From a distance, especially at dusk, you would swear the sculpture is a real-life homeless man sleeping on a bench in front of the church.…

Crucifixion marks in the feet offer the only clue to the man’s identity on the sculpture itself. A plaque next to it shows the “Homeless Jesus,” title and that the inspiration came from a passage in Matthew: 25.

A local woman — I assume, Christian — interviewed for this story had called police about the statue, fearing for her family’s safety.

Later in the story she complained about it:

[Cindy Castano] Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.

“Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help,” she said, “We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy.”

Actually, Ms Swannack, if you’d actually read your Bible (most Christians, sadly, have never done so) and noticed the mention of Matthew 25 at the site, you’d realize what this was about. It was about one of Jesus’ more notable teachings:

“Then the [Son of Man] will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ message is a simple one, which is completely lost on Christians like Ms Swannack. And that simple message is this: Treat the lowly as though they were Jesus himself; whatever you do for them, you do for Jesus. Honestly, how much plainer could that be? How can it not, therefore, make sense to depict Jesus as homeless?

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s Web site is available here, and here is his page about this particular statue. After spending some time looking at the site and Mr Schmalz’s art, I can’t see how anyone could possibly conclude his work is anything but reverent, and (contrary to Ms Swannack’s assessment) appropriately Christian.

Photo credit: WCNC-TV photo of Timothy P. Schmalz sculpture.

Hat tip: CNN Belief blog.

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