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Thoughts on Debunking the “Jesus Myth”

May 3, 2009

This is a diversion from my usual blog posts, but involves something that has been on my mind lately. But first, a little background about me is in order:

I was born and raised in a Christian family. My father was a pastor of a Pentacostal church, and you can say that I came from several generations of religious believers. During my high school years, we joined a more fundamentalist conservative church of which my parents became fairly known as the “poster couple” of the church’s beliefs and remain to this day, devoted and loyal. I, on the other hand, gradually became more disenchanted with the church’s beliefs because I was unable to align my own developing life philosophy with its ideals. This eventually led to my voluntary departure of the church, my family, and everything I had believed about my Christian faith that had been a part of me for my entire life.

Before you assume that I’m one of the bitter, disillusioned folks who “lost their religion,” through intense study and contemplation, I have come to accept with peace that there is not just one way to the divine, but many, each according to his own life experiences, and the spiritual peace that I found has no specific label and needs none. I am perfectly content in the unknowing of all the answers in life because it is not important for me to know right now – because the answers are within the journey itself.

I won’t go further than this, but suffice to say, while I do not affiliate myself with a particular religion or spiritual discipline, my spirituality is a part of me. Integral to that spirituality is the willingness to keep an open mind to all possibilities, but questioning everything to determine what rings true for me.

My BF (“K”) was not raised in a religious background, and he has an understandably disdainful and distrustful view of religion, especially Christianity. This does not bother me; this is his experience. We both watched “Religulous” and “The God Who Doesn’t Exist” and just as the narrators stated, K exclaimed incredulously how intelligent people could be so stupid as to not question whether the very story of Jesus could possibly have taken place in history. How can intelligent people who would normally scoff at someone today who might claim that he could turn water into wine, walk on the water, or die for all the sins of the world, even those who hadn’t been born yet, believe without question that the very same events, on which they built their entire faith and spiritual future, occurred two thousand years ago based on a book that was written by various scholars but was undoubtedly, of course, written by the hand of God? K’s conclusion was that such people had to be just plain stupid and ignorant in their refusal to face the truth.

I had a different, and more compassionate take on it. But what bugged me about films like “Religulous” and “The God Who Doesn’t Exist” was that the approach that non-religious skeptics take in debunking religion is invariably that they attempt to prove that the founder of the religion couldn’t have existed in historical records in the first place, and therefore, the religion itself had no divine basis.

If the purpose of such documentaries was to somehow persuade or convince Christians that their religion must be false because  there was no way that Jesus could have existed two thousand years ago, then I believe they have failed miserably in their crusade. The majority of people who likely watched are those who needed no such convincing in the first place, like K.

I realized that one cannot persuade the religious faithful to abandon their faith because the basis of their faith was not that a certain man named Jesus of Nazareth once lived in Israel long ago, but that they have chosen to rest their life’s hopes, dreams and ultimate happiness within the construct of the faith they call Christianity. It’s the same with Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, etc. So no amount of evidential proof that Jesus did not exist would move the hearts of the majority of Christians. It almost doesn’t matter whether the proof is there or not. Believers are not scientists, and even scientists once upon a time, believed firmly that the sun revolved around the earth and the earth was flat. Believers have a very personal stake in their faith that has to do with where they place their happiness, and they will protect that happiness at all costs.

I understand that, and ultimately I respect their choice. To me, religion is like a box, and people are choosing what type of box in which they want to rest their hopes and happiness. One is just as good as another, as long as it meets their needs. There are some who absolutely must put a name to the divine; I don’t. I believe the divine is that which cannot be named, because it is Everything. There is nothing that it is not.

Unfortunately, there are those who use their religion as a tool to prop their self-esteem, to hide their insecurities, and therefore, use it to wield superiority over others. It is sad, very sad, that so many have died, are dying and so many more have yet to die because of this fact. But tragedy can be the impetus to progress and understanding; the most bitter fruits are the ones that teach us the most. I hope and pray that one day we will learn to understand and accept each other unconditionally with love.

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