Faith Crisis: The God Who Wasn’t There

“Religion is regarded by the common man as true … by the wise as false … and by the rulers as useful.”Seneca, Roman Philosopher

Within our perceived and tangible existence we could find ourselves at a spiritual crossroads: Does God exist? Was Jesus real? By ‘we’ I am talking about the open-minded people who would not necessary adopt the truism way of thinking, who are not brain washed and more than anything who would really like to get some answers.  Sometimes I envy the people who are very confident in their beliefs. The atheist who believe there is nothing out there, and after we die it’s nothing left, other than us becoming dust. Or the hardcore religious guys who believe that there is an omnipotent, ubiquitous somebody (namely God) who punishes according to your sins or the wrongdoing of your ancestors. I am none of them. There is a part of me who believes that there is something out there. We are created of energetic particles and we cannot just vanish. If we are to find answers, we have to investigate pros and cons literature.

 I was born and raised Christian Orthodox and it’s absolutely nothing spectacular about this religion.

 I will not define myself as not being spiritual. Just that Christianity left me with a bitter taste in my soul. My quest has not stopped.

The next stop in my spiritual journey is to try to understand the atheistic point of view.

I guess one of the reasons the skeptics are looking for proofs is to counteract the forced feeding coming from the righteous.

 One of the movies that created some buzz is The God Who Wasn’t There . I went looking for reviews about the movie on the Internet. Following are some of my findings:

Claims  made by Flemming and interviewees in The God Who Wasn’t There include:

  • The divine Jesus was based on older, mythic “savior figures” such as Dionysus and Mithras and that Christian leaders are reluctant to teach early church history because it supports, rather than debunks, the theory that Jesus was a mythic figure rather than a historic personage.
  • Earlier gods like Thor, Balder, Deva tat, Dionysus, Bacchus and Horus shared one or more similarities to Jesus, including “Born of a virgin on December 25”, “Killed on a Cross or Tree”, “Visited by Magi from the East”, “Rode Donkeys into the City” and “Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver”.
  • Christianity’s global success is based on its claim to historical accuracy. Unfortunately for the Christian church, the “proof” evaporates on closer scrutiny.
  •  The film opines that modern Christians aren’t taught about early history of their religion because, upon any real scrutiny, evidence of Jesus’s life evaporates.
  • Moderate Christianity makes even less sense than a fundamentalist interpretation of Christian doctrine because the Bible contains many messages incompatible with toleration of non-Christians, particularly Jews (who reject Jesus as a savior and, thus, are damned).
  • Christian doctrine is contradictory in details but unambiguous on one point: God demands you believe in him or be damned to eternity in hell. Flemming sees this as, essentially, mind control.

Searching for other arguments, I found these clarifications on some of the arguments used by Flemming to support his theory:

Born of a virgin on December 25 – None. And according to the Gospels, not even Christ. Mithras was formed from a rock on Dec 25, but this date doesn’t appear to predate Christ.

Stars Appeared at Their Births – Krishna

Visited by Magi from the East – None

Turned Water into Wine – I’ll put Dionysus here, though there is no myth where he does it himself. In one story, empty jugs left in a Dionysus Temple miraculously fill with wine overnight. In another story, a devotee causes a spring of wine to appear. In neither case is “water turned into wine” — wine only gets created. (Again for those who want to quibble: I am going with the wording presented. I suspect “turned water into wine” is worded that way to bring up the image of Christ personally performing that miracle. Why not just say “Wine gets miraculously created”, which would be a match?)

Healed the Sick – Asclepius, a few others, especially when believers prayed to them after they ascended to heaven.

Cast out Demons – Krishna, Buddha

Performed Miracles – Several 

Transfigured Before Followers – None.

Rode Donkeys into the City – None. Dionysus is depicted riding on a mule, though not into a city. (What? Close enough, you say? Then why not say “Rode a beast of burden to some place for some reason”? Then it would be a match) 

 Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver – None (though I’ve heard this is true of Socrates)

Celebrated Communal Meal with Bread and Wine – Mithras 

Which (Celebrated Communal Meal) Represented the Saviour’s Flesh and Blood – None

Killed on a Cross or Tree – None

Descended into Hell – Dionysus

Resurrected on Third Day – Attis (though the evidence for this doesn’t appear to predate Christ)

Ascended into Heaven – Lots! (Not sure where else gods are supposed to go)

To Forever Sit beside Father God And Become Divine Judge – None (Osiris and Mithras do become judges, though don’t sit beside a Father God) 

From the same source it comes the following information: 

Richard Carrier says in the movie:

“You have someone make up a fake quote, or misrepresent a document, misrepresent the evidence. [Readers] assume: “This guy wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t have made this stuff up.” And so they go and repeat it. And so you get the lie repeated many times mostly by people who aren’t lying – they really do think it’s true. They just didn’t check.”For me, Carrier’s statement summarizes the data content of Flemming’s movie. Flemming has presented misinformation on pagan “saviour figures” that is repeated uncritically from website to website. From the reviews on atheist websites, many people have just accepted this misinformation as fact. After all, Flemming wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t have made this stuff up. But unfortunately he just didn’t check. And, while it is true that Paul gives few historical markers in his writings, Jesus Mythers rarely (if ever) attempt to examine that pattern within the context of the literature of the day. Again, there doesn’t appear to be any checking… which brings up this point: What are Flemming’s sources? Where did he get his information from? While I can’t criticize him for including references to his sources in the movie, it has been a year since he has released it, and the research that he said he did has been slow in coming forth. And why no follow ups with interviews with other scholars on some of these points? There are actually a number of Jesus Myth variations, with Earl Doherty’s version the pre-eminent one currently. All Jesus Myth proponents believe that their particular view remains unrefuted, though obviously not all Jesus Myth theses can be correct at the same time. (This is of course a similar situation that religions find themselves in). Which one is the “true” Jesus Myth theory? Flemming appears to have adopted Doherty’s version (with a dash of Acharya S or Freke&Gandy), though I doubt that he has investigated Doherty’s thesis in any more depth than he investigated Christian origins when he was a fundamentalist. Finally, I should point out that the reviews of Flemming’s movie on atheist websites have generally accepted it on good faith — and generally uncritically. I hope that my analysis encourages a more skeptical attitude towards Flemming’s movie. I think I’ve presented a strong case that the claims made in the movie should at the least be examined on their merits, rather than assumed to be true. But it is worth pointing about again that I am a Christian, so I may be biased. I urge interested readers to look into claims for themselves, and not take my word or Flemming’s word for anything. What about the evidence for a historical Jesus? Well, that isn’t very strong either. But currently scholars — both religious and secular — appear to believe that they have enough evidence to come to a conclusion. And until mythicists start to present their cases in peer-reviewed publication, the current consensus that there probably was a historical Jesus at the core of Christianity is a reasonable position based on standard practice of conducting historical research.” 

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