Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown has resurrected a heresy that rattles the Church

Jesus had a baby, yes Lord. Jesus had a baby, yes my Lord. It sounds pretty blasphemous, put like that, doesn’t it? The only reason I dare to begin with those words is that they represent the beliefs of growing millions of otherwise sane British adults. Yup, folks, we all seem to be swallowing the new gospel. You on the Tube, madam, turning the pages with such narcosis that you miss your stop: you believe it, don’t you?


You, sir, sneaking your dog-eared copy off to the loo for a quick fix – you think there’s probably something in it, too, hmmm? According to astonishing statistics from the Roman Catholic Church, 22 per cent of British adults have now read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and of those an amazing 60 per cent believe that, yeah, it is probably the case that Jesus indeed got married to Mary Magdalene and sired a line of descendants.

By my maths, that means that there are at least six or seven million people in this country who now believe that it’s true: that for two millennia the Roman Catholic Church has been engaged in a desperate struggle to conceal the existence of the Christ family, and that they are probably all over the place: behind the fish counter at Sainsbury’s; creating loaves for Hovis; causing people to rise from their beds in hospital.

They could be anywhere. They could be reading this paper. They could (gulp) be you. There is something in the logic of Dan Brown’s book that has convinced millions that they have really uncovered the biggest, the spookiest, the most chilling conspiracy in history.

Never mind the autoflagellant cowled assassins and the idiotic anagrams. This story has clearly touched something in the popular psyche, and if you need any evidence, look at the global panic that book and film seem to have induced in the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Vatican, the papal portavoce has described this pot-boiler as “shameful and unfounded lies”. In India, no fewer than 200 Christian organisations have succeeded in having the film blocked from release, and even here in placid little Britain the officials of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, have called for it to carry a “health warning”.

You may think that the Church is barmy to get so hot under the dog-collar, and you may think that Austen Ivereigh, the Archbishop’s public affairs man, has forgotten the golden rule of his trade.

Why, you may ask yourself, are they rising to the bait? And yet the more one thinks about the doctrinal message of The Da Vinci Code, the clearer it is that the Catholics are right to think this a seditious text.

It is not just the sex. Among Dan Brown’s assertions is that Jesus had a long, loving and matrimonial relationship with Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute. This is, of course, a vaguely embarrassing allegation to make about a man who has always been taken to be a model of chastity, but it does not seem in itself a fatal blow to Christianity.

They were married, says Dan Brown; there is no suggestion of fornication; and plenty of other early Christians were married and had children. No, it is not the News of the World aspect of the book that worries the Church, or which is now filling the shelves of WH Smith with Da Vinci-ana. It is the simple possibility of Christ’s reproduction that is so mesmerising; and, in discussing this idea with such awful readability, Dan Brown has reopened a controversy that the Church thought had been settled in ad325.

The reason this piffle is such a howling hit is that it resurrects the great unspoken doubt in the minds of all Christians, that has existed ever since the doctrine of the Incarnation. It is about whether Christ can really be man and God at once.

If you walk round the Louvre at a less frenzied pace than Tom Hanks and co, you will notice a fascinating gradual change in the depiction of the ancient gods. As the human race gains in intellectual self-confidence, the image of the divine becomes more and more anthropomorphic.

Egyptian jackals, Babylonian curly-bearded cow-hoofed centaurs: they all give way to the human-shaped gods of the Greeks and the Romans until finally, at the very moment when the Romans have first declared that their emperor is a god, a Jewish heresy also announces that God has been made man in the form of Christ, and from then on there were those who couldn’t get their heads round it.

If he was a god, how come he died? And if he was a man, how did he rise from the dead? From the very beginning of Christianity, there were Gnostics, who contested the full divinity of Christ, and by the third century AD the chief exponent of this type of view was a Libyan Christian bishop called Arius.

The Catholic Church said Christ was of the same substance as the father, coeternal. No, no, said Arius, he couldn’t be of the same substance; he was just similar; he was just a chap really; not homoousios, but homoiousios.

Arius spoke for everyone who has ever said that “Jesus was a really great guy and a great teacher, but I don’t think he was really the biological son of God”. He had many supporters, and the wrangle engulfed the Christian world until Constantine settled it rather incompetently at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and the doctrine of the Trinity was pronounced.

But the controversy rumbled on for hundreds of years, until it produced its most potent successor, Islam, which regards the idea of the son of God as blasphemous.

By depicting Jesus as a man who fathered, Dan Brown is making the same objection as Arius, and putting his finger on the logical problem in the doctrine of the Incarnation. Are the descendants of Christ meant to be divine? Patently not. But why not, if Jesus was God?

The answer must be that Jesus was not of one substance with the father, and that is why the Catholic Church is so rattled. This book may be bilge, but it awakens an ancient and distinguished heresy. Dan Brown is the new heresiarch, and I vote that he, the Pope, Austen Ivereigh and the rest of us convene a new Council of Nicaea to settle the matter.

221 thoughts on “Da Vinci Code”

  1. I love the way that so called sophisticates throw away centuries of tradition as unbelievable, only to fall for far cruder ideas.

  2. The 60% of 22% statistic is shameful really – evidence of an appalling absence of critical thinking, something which is corroborated by the fact that Russell Grant’s website receives millions of hits per day.

    Our educational establishments should be ashamed of themselves, but why am I surprised? A huge majority of people still believe in Christ as some kind of spiritual being.

    Personally, I’ve converted to the flying spaghetti monsterism since there’s some evidence to suggest that He never existed.

  3. NOTE – This item has been relocated to a better home here

    The predicted blockbuster film “The Protocols of al-Khwārizmī” opened today amid some controversy. Based on the book of the same name, it appears to use historical evidence to suggest that the Prophet was in fact gay and that his descendents were really the descendents of his cousin, also called Mohammed. This has been kept secret throughout the years of the Hajira by a shadowy organisation called the Jihad of the Green Crescent. This organisation is notable for the fact that it has members from both major branches of Islam, Sunni and Shi’ite. Somewhat less impressive is the fact that it uses torture and murder to further its aims. Given these claims it is not surprising that many Muslim leaders and scholars have taken issue with the book’s claims and the release of the film is unlikely to calm things down.

    The Tehran Times published an article by the Grand Ayatollah, in which he said he was saddened that many people appeared to believe the story. Although he recognised that people had the freedom to make their own choices he hoped that they might think about how many ordinary Muslims might be offended. He condemned the tactics of some rather dogmatic elements who shouted abuse and even waved fists at cinema queues.

    Osama bin Laden, the fundamentalist leader in Afghanistan called for a world wide boycott of firms and businesses associated with both the book and the film. He supported the remarks of the Grand Ayatollah but said that he should not condemn people who perhaps let their emotions take them too far, although he was against verbal and physical abuse.

    In Europe many Christians, Jews and others of all faiths or none took up the invitation to attend discussion meetings at mosques. In Finsbury Park a lively but good natured discussion took place between an imam from Gay and Lesbian Islamic Movement and a more traditional imam. Further informal discussion took place over tea and biscuits afterwards. It was noticeable how many Muslims, young and old, felt that there was indeed much to think about here and that there were no easy answers.

    Andy Hamilton said that his Radio 4 take on the book, which had upset many Islamic listeners, was in the best tradition of British satire. Since the BBC had not bowed to pressure when showing the Monty Python film “Life of Tariq” or the popular series “Imam Ali” it is unlikely that the repeat of Hamilton’s show will be pulled.

  4. Not worried in the least about whether or not ‘Jesus’ had children because this presupposes that he existed in the first place.

    Highly bloody unlikely.

    And there was no such place as Nazereth either.

  5. The Da Vinci Code is both fictional as far as I know, and not a new idea either.

    A couple of quick theological points about a nice article from Boris….

    Firstly (pedantic only): “And if he was a man, how did he rise from the dead?” – Jesus wasn’t the only person to rise from the dead in the gospels, Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter were both raised from the dead by Jesus, but no theology I know of attempts to turn them into gods. Holding to the Arian heresy for a second, God could have raised Jesus from the dead without him being divine himself.

    Secondly: Christian theology, and most ideas about the trinity seperate Jesus’ divine nature from his human nature. They say that he was both fully divine and fully human, but they are usually distinct. Lots of ideas revolve around it, such as ‘kenosis’ by which Jesus self-empties himself of divine knowledge before being incarnated is a notable one (if the divine and human sides of his nature were ‘mixed’ then he wouldn’t be able to with-hold the knowledge from his human side). As such, it would be possible for him to father children without them also being divine (‘using his human side’ if you like).

    I find the idea of Jesus being married quite plausible actually. If Jesus ‘was love’ as god is supposed to be, then it seems likely that he would display all forms of love in abundance. We have clear displays of his love for his parents, love for his friends, love for his brother, love for all humanity, and some others. But we don’t have any show of love for a partner, or for children. Those are things which I think fit well with my idea of Christ, so I could easily accept.

    Mary Magdelene is also a plausible choice for a wife, since Jesus was notoriously more involved with, and kind to, the ‘unclean’ members of society.

    I think that the Catholic Church should definitely oppose things which it sees as false, but I wonder if they should really feel as threatened by it theologically as they do.

  6. I read a borrowed copy of the Da Vinci Code a few months ago. I thought it was gripping piece of on-the-edge-of-your-seat fiction. But it was fiction all the same.

    And in fact, it was quite manifestly the 1980s’ Holy Blood and the Holy Grail fictionalised, with a few extra carrots and potatoes added to the stew. The connection was clear from page 1, where a character called Sauniere is introduced: Berenger Sauniere was one of the key characters in Holy Blood & Holy Grail. The clear (and admitted) connection led to the court case earlier this year, in which the authors of Holy Blood & Holy Grail lost.

    But Holy Blood & Holy Grail wasn’t presented as fiction, but as fact. Although, when I read it, I thought that it was a wonderful piece of fiction masquerading as fact. And the underlying idea was the same: Jesus had married, and the sang raal was the sacred bloodline.

    Holy Blood & Holy Grail was a 1980s’ best-seller. But I don’t remember the Roman Catholic church getting particularly upset about it back then. So what’s changed.

    One thing that’s different is that the Da Vinci Code, unlike Holy Blood & Holy Grail, makes the Catholic cult of Opus Dei the principal bad guys in the book, self-flagellating and wearing painful cilices around their thighs. Opus Dei is a powerful and sinister organisation (which Labour minister is a member of it, again?), and if Dan Brown’s fiction is being condemned, my guess is it’s probably because of his attack on Opus Dei, not because of the Jesus-Was-Married bit.

  7. There is a way to verify the truth…

    Hello Boris and all,

    Yes, the DaVinci Code is a novel. It is no more accurate as a literal version of history than is the New Testament. In other words, neither is the literal truth, which is a key fact of the story and ancient history. The primary sub-plot is about purposeful symbology being used to encode hidden meanings, exactly like the Bible and related texts. Arguing about whether the DaVinci Code, Gospel of Judas, or the Bible are accurate history is a Machiavellian red herring designed to hide the truth by misdirecting your inquiry away from the heart of the matter.

    Want to truly understand why we can’t let the Vatican succeed at telling us what to think about ancient history? There is a foolproof way to verify the truth and expose centuries-old religious deceptions. It is also the common thread connecting why the ancient Hebrews, Yahad/Essene, Jews, Gnostics, Cathars, Templars, Dead Sea Scrolls, DaVinci Code, and others have all been targets of Rome’s ire and evil machinations. What the Vatican and its secret society cohorts don’t want you to understand is that the ancient Hebrew symbology in all of these texts purposely encodes and exposes the truth about them. Furthermore, the structure of ancient symbology verifiably encodes the rules to decode messages built with it. This is what they most fear you will discover.

    If the Bible represented the literal truth or even accurate history, there would be no need for faith in the assertions of deceptive and duplicitous clergy and their ilk. Wisdom and faith are opposing concepts, because wisdom requires the unequivocal truth where faith obfuscates and opposes it. Religion is therefore the enemy of truth and wisdom.

    It is undeniable the New Testament is framed by ancient Hebrew symbolism and allegory. The same is evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, biblical apocrypha, DaVinci Code, and other related texts. All ancient religious, mystical, and wisdom texts have been shrouded in mystery for millennia for one primary reason: The ability to understand their widely evidenced symbology was lost in antiquity. How do we finally solve these ages-old mysteries? To recast an often-used political adage: It’s [the] symbology, stupid!

    It is amazing the Vatican still tries to insist the Gospels are literal truth. It is beyond obvious they are replete with ancient Hebrew symbology. Every miracle purported for Jesus has multiple direct symbolic parallels in the Old Testament, Apocalypse, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other symbolic narratives and traditions. This is the secret held by the ancient Gnostics, Templars, and Cathars, which is presented with dramatic effect in the DaVinci Code. None of these narratives or stories were ever intended as the literal truth. That is a key fact to unraveling ages-old mysteries.

    Likewise, the following Washington Post article ( The Book of Bart) describes how many changes and embellishments were made to New Testament texts over the centuries, unequivocally demonstrating they are not original, infallible, or truthful.

    What then is the purpose of “faith” but to keep good people from seeking to understand truth and wisdom? It’s no wonder the Vatican fears the truth more than anything else. Seek to understand the symbolic significance of my name (Seven Star Hand) and you will have proof beyond disproof that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have long been duped by the great deceivers I warned humanity about over the millennia.

    Now comes justice, hot on its heels… (symbolism…)

    Revelations from the Apocalypse

    Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk…
    Here is Wisdom!!

  8. I despair that people believe it, to be honest. It’s cheap pocket fiction, by an American who was aware that creating a controversy is the best way to sell books. I really don’t know what to say, obv. as a Christian I believe it to be wrong, but also as a person I find it impossible to buy into the idea. The idea that he married comes from the early 1980’s, so we’re to believe that for 2000 years a select band of people which just co-incidentally happened to include Da Vinci and Newton kept a secret that big. The Romans and The Jews who were determined at the time to stamp out Christianity never thought to publicise it? Yeah? And none of the descendants thought to make a quick buck from it? And how big would the cover up conspiracy have to be? It’s all such utter trash.

  9. Idlex: “Opus Dei is a powerful and sinister organisation”.

    They’re really not. Really, really not.

  10. It’s nonsense, of course, but countless people will always fall for the mix of sensationalist fiction and anti-Catholic bias. Errare humanum est, after all..

  11. people love this sort of conspiracy crap (Michael Moore et al) because of the downfall of organised religion. It sorts the world into goodies and badies and gives us faith in humanity by distinguishing ‘us'(powerless but inately good)from ‘them'(powerful and corrupt) and their actions. And it makes ordinary, academically unremarkable people like me feel like we have insight and intelligence. very seductive, but benign.

  12. I was going to make the same theological points – the idea that Jesus Christ could have fathered children is not necessarily Arian at all. One divine Person, but with two natures, inseparable but unmixed.

    He is married, of course – to the Church. It is not really plausible to suppose that Jesus was married on earth to an individual human woman – there’s simply no evidence that any early Christians thought this to be the case. Similarly, there is no evidence that anyone thought he had had children. Jesus’ divinity is not threatened by either of these ideas, but they are, as it happens, untrue, and would be profoundly unfitting.

    Catholics’ concern is more that modern Britons are mostly (though no fault of their own) so theologically illiterate that they have no way to evaluate the kinds of claims referred to in DVC. And some people will look into them sensibly and realise it’s (in purely historical terms) a load of tosh, but others, tragically, will prefer to stick with the conspiracy.

    Besides which, it’s just horrible reading something about people one loves which isn’t true, even when in an overtly fictional context. And it’s horrible to see Holy Mother Church besmirched. Insulting people’s mothers isn’t usually considered very good manners…

  13. Totally off topic I know, but I just heard this on the radio:
    “…workers of the female gender are being made to run this gauntlet daily. They have been decimated over the past five years from over 1000 to 72 employees.”

    A few comments on this allegation:
    1) Gender is a grammatical term which is virtually redundant in English; it is NOT, contrary to the opinion of many, a synonym for sex.

    2) No-one has ever ‘run a gauntlet’! They may have run a gantlet which is an archaic military punishment where a disobedient soldier was made to run between two lines of troops armed with clubs.

    3) Decimate means to reduce by 10% and not virtually wipe out. The word derives from the habit of Roman officers occasionally rubbing out every tenth man in a legion in the event of mutiny or any perceived cowardice by the army as a whole.

    Is this a record?

  14. “….it’s just horrible reading something about people one loves which isn’t true… (boeciana)

    Well, how about we just put it down to revenge for all the people the Christian church has murdered, tortured and kept in poverty over the past two millennia? If you judge a man by his works (even a totally fictional one) Jesus ‘Christ’ must have been on a par with Charles Manson.

    And, before you waste any more of my time snivelling on about how much good you do and how you’ve all changed, I am all too afraid that given fifteen years of a non-secular government you f***ers would be burning ‘witches’, scientists and mad people fast enough to get rid of what’s left of the ozone layer.

    Yeah, yeah I know… “I’ll burn in hell”.

    Murderers are bad enough, but there’s nothing more sickening than sanctimonious ones.

  15. Well, insofar as the latin scholar above is refering to my previous post and further presupposing that he can read Latin, as opposed to just writing fragments of it, all I can say is disputandi pruritus ecclesiarum scabies

  16. I’m a very occasional customer of the cinema. New Star Wars or James Bond film usually and thats about it.

    The amount of fuss the Catholic church has made about this film however has made me want to see it now.

  17. It never ceases to amaze me how worked-up the militantly secular get over the fact that there exist such things as religion, faith and spirituality. Seems a tad pathological. Anyway, must get back to the real world so: ave atque vale!

  18. Maybe Boris, Dan Brown, the Pope and this Austen Ivereigh (whoever he is) are conspiring together so that they can have a Council of Nicaea (whatever one of those is).

    You know Boris it’s nice that as a politician you don’t treat us like idiots, but we aint all got Classics degrees from Oxford either you know.

  19. James, on my scale of despicability, exponents of the Abrahamic religions occupy a rung somewhere between cancer and HIV. It isn’t secular militancy which provokes my reaction, it’s because you and your collaborators are unspeakably dangerous and I despise you.

    By the way, have you lot got some sort of patent on sanctimony?

    Try a different tune, there’s nothing holy about a bunch of murdering savages like the God squad.

  20. At least some of us aren’t quite as abusive or vitriolic as you, dear Mental Joe. Thanks for making all of these assumptions as well, you must be psychic..

  21. The only assumption I’ve made is that you, James, are a practising theist. The rest is simply history, unless you’d care to deny the bloody trail you’ve left over ‘anno Domini’.

    It’s amusing really that the only way you predators ever react to accusations, such as those levelled by me, is with glib rhetoric and aloof sarcasm. I can only assume this is because there are no reasons or excuses and you just have to duck and dive like a corrupt politician. I find it hilarious that it only takes a work of fiction to bring the slavering hyenas of the churches out, baying for blood and sacrifices.

    The sooner the last God botherer turns their toes up, the sooner the human race will actually make some social progress. You’re simply a plague.

  22. I must say it’s a privilege to be despised by a Mental giant like Joe. I see little argumentation in this visceral stream of hatred. I don’t think the likes of a plagiarising novelist and Richie Cunningham, the ‘acclaimed’ film director will ruffle any feathers, really. It’s merely the general ignorance and anti-Catholic prejudice that grates but then nothing changes. Joe is fully entitled to be a proselytizing professional atheist. I hope I’m allowed to differ..

    p.s. I didn’t “murder” ayone and I do not consider myself to be a “savage”, aloof or otherwise.

  23. Joe, thanks for placing me somewhere between cancer and HIV. It’s nice to know that you think me to have such a major effect on the world, although it would be a shame if it were such a negative one.

    I’m also glad that you made the distinction between Abrahamic religion and just plain ‘religion’ to bear the brunt of your ire. Nothing annoys me more than atheists who think that just because they don’t believe in God that somehow they’re not religious. Some of the most religious people I know were simply highly devout atheists!

    However, I feel that I should speak up for the others in your category, since I’m one of them. In reality, we’re no better or worse than anyone else. I don’t lump atheists in with Hitler, and I don’t lump Muslims in with Osama bin Laden. Like all people, we have a faults; and like all groups of people, some of us have faults which are more destructive than others. However you’re right in a sense, people who believe strongly in what they’re doing tend to be more effective than those who don’t, and if what they’re doing is having a negative effect then it can be a very strong one. Notable examples include Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and any number of Crusader and Witch-burning types.

    I also think it’s only fair to speak up for the heroes from such backgrounds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Saladin being two of my favourites, but there are obviously hundreds of others. Ghandi is a notable non-Abrahamic of course. Perhaps it’s a little cheeky of me to mention that I’m struggling to remember the atheist ones… Please suggest one though.

    You’re right about secular society (perhaps not about the specific consequences), but when I tried to join the National Secular Society to help try and keep this country effectively secular, they refused because I was Christian. (just an aside, I realise the National Secular Society doesn’t necessarily represent mainstream secularism!)

  24. Of course Uncle Joe Stalin, Mr Mao, and the peoples’ favourite, Pol Pot were great humanitarian devout atheists who did a lot of good for us mere mortals..
    Of course, the 20th century, otherwise known as the age of reason, of secularism, in which society moved away from religion was also the most bloody in history. Two world wars (which weren’t fought over the finer points of theology) and a choice of genocides as well as the fall and rise of communism (atheism in practice) which is responsible for 100 million innocent deaths. No small feat. Let’s hear it for progress and enlightenment!

  25. “It’s nice to know that you think me to have such a major effect on the world…” (Jack Target)

    Unfortunately Jack it’s not nice of me to think it. It is the unfortunate truth that yours, and the other religions formed around Moses’ God, are ludicrously powerful organisations.

    Sadly, it’s constant testimony to the inherent ‘evil’ in these organisations that, given the power they wield, they are so conspicuously absent in making the world a better place.

  26. James, just because there are other people as bad as your lot doesn’t make your behaviour excusable. Nice try, but I’ve heard it all before.

    What’s actually so wrong about putting your hands up and admitting that your religious leaders have been, almost to a man, total scumbags?

    They say that admission is a stop the road to forgiveness, don’t they?

  27. What I meant to say was that religion does not have a monopoly on violence or starting wars as is often thought. We’re all subject to errant behaviour and just as likely to make a wrong choice as we are of making the right one, whether one is religious or not. Religion is a fact of life, like it or not and will be around as long as there are human beings hovelling about on this globe. I just find the argument that the absence (or lack) of religion would inherently and necessarily be beneficial in broad terms highly suspect. The evidence is to the contrary. Religion is life; both wonderful and terrible. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Resenting the fact isn’t going to change it..

  28. Jack Target

    I do fear for Joe’s blood pressure as no doubt you do. I have a couple of atheist ‘heroes’ Alan Turing and Karl Popper, though I suspect neither would have wanted to be known as a hero and I’m not too keen on having heroes anyway. It can be a way of offloading the moral responsibility of thinking for oneself. I once made a rather rude comment about the sainted George Monbiot only to be told that he was – quote – a ‘god’! This from an atheist! It does remind one of the comment by C. S. Lewis wringly attributed to Chesterton, that when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing but are rather prepared to believe in anything.

    I’m always intrigued by the idea of the National Secularist Society – a group of people united by a disbelief. How do you talk of your common disbelief without it getting rather samey?

    Anyway mate I’m not showing up to the DVC as a small act of solidarity with my Christian friends based on the feelings I expressed in a previous post. If these clever dicks were prepared to offend by their art people who might have a rather more robust attitude to artistic criticism, as Salaman Rushdie found to his cost, I might think more of them.

    As you know I am an atheist but a CofE one.

  29. Sir,
    I applaud your comments.
    Having recently visited Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, I was alarmed to discover that the place is now overrun with saggy-jawed plebeians murmuring, “ooh, it’s not like this in the book”.

  30. So James, if we extend your argument, murder, torture and religious discrimination are perfectly reasonable hobbies for the church as long as everybody else does it? Is this the proposition you’re offering? (So much for moral high ground)

    As to choices, I make my own; yours are predominantly defined by God’s representation, biblical and otherwise. You can consider yourself fortunate that you don’t get burned at the stake anymore for disagreeing with the local vicar.

    Your comment regarding the world not being a better place in the absence of organised religion is merely an expression of an opinion; I do not agree as is my prerogative. All I know for certain is that the Catholic church’s prohibition on contraceptives has probably killed more people (through AIDs) than Hitler did in his wildest dreams.

    Your final comment basically says that I can like or lump it. Well I don’t like it, and as long as there is breath in my body I will continue to fight religious authority, and any exponent of it, tooth and nail.

    If these are examples of the your best arguments, the end of your ilk may become reality sooner than I hoped.

  31. I fail to understand why so many people are ready and willing to have a go at religion, especially Christianity. What is it that so offends you? That people have a belief that gives them comfort and strength and a meaning for their existence? Why not simply leave them alone and find something more constructive to do with your time?

    Anyone who believes the things written in this book must be missing something from their lives, to be so willing to accept fiction as fact so readily.

  32. Andy,
    it’s the underlying hypocrisy of your creed which is so offensive. Like a politician who gets elected on an anti-homosexual ticket and who turns out to be shagging rent boys.

    The other problem is you can’t be trusted. Christians may be all woolly jumpers and organic vegetables in the UK but your overseas brethren aren’t nearly so superficially ‘cuddly’. If I made some of these comments in a bar in the bible belt of the US I’d be lucky to get away with my life. (‘love thy neighbour’, my arse!)

    Unfortunately, the self-righteous, and murderous, convictions motivated by ‘faith’ are near enough to the surface to pop out at any moment particularly if they’re ever given a thumbs up from the government.

    Your groups are demonstrably dangerous, gullible and you need to be eliminated in the interests of world peace and public safety.

  33. Hmm..you propose eliminating groups of people in the interest of world peace and public safety? I just hope that you never get any position of power because I can just see what will happen. Try to adopt some tolerance of people who don’t agree with you (or some decaf..). I don’t mind that you have different ideas to mine, so why should you resent someone else disagreeing with your acidic outlook on life?

  34. And James, I can see how your (Christian) mind works, immediately associating elimination with murder.

    It’s possible to ‘eliminate‘ criminal or psychotic tendencies through patience and education; remarkably without the unfortunate requirement of burning anyone.

  35. Joe Mental.

    Jesus never murdered anyone, or implied in anyway that anyone could do so. May be get your facts straight before you fling mud, I could go kill someone tomorrow and say Nelson Mandela made me do it, but it wouldn’t mean he had.

    Mud slinging muppets are bad enough, but there’s nothing more sickening than ill-informed ones.

  36. Jesus never murdered anyone (Pete)

    Sly, but simply a specious argument which doesn’t really deserve to be dignified with a refutation. However, in the interests of debate…

    Nelson Mandela is still alive, and we could simply ask him if he told you to murder anyone. In the event that you committed this atrocity after his death, and you were a member of a society affiliated to Mr. Mandela (or a society which claimed to represent him post mortem) we could ask this organisation if you were acting under their instructions.

    In the event that you were acting under their instructions one of two things must be true:
    1) Nelson Mandela was an evil, murdering bastard and you are complying with this philosophy.
    2) The alleged representatives are, in fact, no such thing and they are merely evil, opportunist usurpers.

    Take your pick.

    (I should add that this makes the assumption that Nelson Mandela, unlike JC, existed in the first place)

  37. Oh, Pete, by the way, thanks for getting cross. When you lot start flinging insults at me it means I’m hitting nerves.

    None are more vituperative than the guilty.

  38. Anyway, I’m off out to go and see the film now.

    Any further expostulations of religious outrage will have to wait until tomorrow to be kicked into the gutter.

  39. Hope Joe enjoys the film. I’m told it appeals to those suffering from a certain feverish disposition. Just hope he doesn’t wander into ‘The Passion of the Christ’ by mistake..

  40. Well, at least Joe Mental has not identified the EU as the Root of All Evil. It’s a refreshing change to see Abrahamic religion in somebody’s gunsights, rather than the European Council of Ministers, or Clause IV, or bleeding Illegal Immigrants. I think even Joe might permit me a single Hallelujah.

    And in directing his ire at religious beliefs, of one sort or other, I think Joe is digging down towards the fundamental problem. It’s not the EU, or the Labour party, or the colour of Dave Cameron’s shirt that matters. What matters is our most fundamental beliefs about the nature of the world in which we live. And such beliefs are essentially religious beliefs, where religion (religare – to bind together) is about tying everything together to make some sort of sense.

    In this approach, we are all religious in one way or other, Joe included, in that we all make ‘sense’ of the our circumstances in one way or other.

  41. Ah yes indeed idlex, nicely put! That’s what I meant when I said I was pleased to see him targeting Abrahamic religion rather than religion in general, because those who target religion in general don’t tend to understand that they themselves are religious too.

  42. Ahh, religion, money and power.

    Later dudes, just want to give everyone on the blog a big fat wet kiss in celebration of the news that, despite complications, my surgery was a success. A little repair work as an out-patient is all thats needed now and I’ll be fighting fit and hopefully, ready to enjoy life to the full.

    A special hug to Mac who, hopefully, will soon be telling us similar news. All best Mac.

  43. Great entry, Boris. I was worried for a moment there that you weren’t going to end it as aptly as you did. Why did I doubt you?

  44. Da Vinci Code my arse!!! Such nonsense, hype and flitting trend !!! Shouldn’t we be talking politics?

    Not many people knew about this book until now. Thanks Hollywood, again!!!

  45. And you’re argument that “Jesus ‘Christ’ must have been on a par with Charles Manson.” isn’t implying that? I’m refuting that accusation because it’s idiotic and inflamtory, you said it to get a reaction and you got one.

    But you’re clearly so fervent in your denial of his very existance, which you will not no sensible historic scholars even debate that notion, as his existance was not just recorded by his followers, his detractors and also uninterested third parties in the Roman system. You’re in a good position to talk about specious arguments, you’re full of them.

  46. “I’m refuting that accusation because it’s idiotic and inflamtory [sic]…” (Pete)

    Sorry Pete, that’s not really a refutation, it’s a contradiction. Refutations usually have some proof, evidence or argument involved.

    I couldn’t make a lot of sense of your second paragraph (first sentence) but I infer that you’re saying that everyone knows JC existed and that intelligent people don’t even bother to debate it anymore. Well, I suggest you check your facts. Contrary to the propaganda promulgated by the Christian churches, there is virtually NO evidence to support the existence of a carpenter from Nazareth who became the prime motivator of the Christian faith. Insofar as you dispute this, perhaps you could provide some proof to support your position as opposed to making hysterical and unsupported denials.

    All in all though Pete, I have to say that you’re the sort of poster child for the (alleged) Christian values of love, understanding and rational coexistence that proves my point: That devotees of Moses’ God are predominantly hypocritical and dangerous psychotics. When would you like to start burning astronomers again?

    I suspect that even co-Christians reading this find your irate expostulations somewhat embarrassing.

  47. Religions = Wars!

    How true! Come and see these people quarelling about someone who has never even existed!!!

    Don’t you go and bloody blame other “second class” religions for fighting over their own religous beliefs, idiots!

  48. Dear Joe, have a care
    there are Christians out there
    who will soon be after your blood.
    Sometimes they’re not nice
    and you may pay the price.
    Will you wear a permanent hood?

    Its odd when they say
    that they’re lovely and ‘gay’
    and often seen doing much good.
    But I can’t reconcile
    the odd laugh or a smile
    with a history covered in blood

    They’ve killed many a man
    (and girls too) till the ban
    on leaving folks dead in the mud.
    Was it all for the best
    or some sort of test?
    Perhaps they just misunderstood?

    Well the burning has ended
    (least said soonest mended)
    Joe, leave them alone as you should.
    So they killed and they maimed,
    it’s for this that they’re famed!
    If only they’d run out of wood.

  49. I don’t even know why Boris wasted his time writing about such nonsense. Oh well, some people just like to be… trendy.

    But, believe you me, nobody will be talking about Da Vinci Code anymore as soon as the film has done its rounds in the cinemas!

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  50. Religions = Wars! (dj)

    How true; in fact we might even postulate an equation whereby:

    D = kTN

    Where
    D = Deaths
    k = Constant (coefficient of ‘religious fervency’)
    T = Time
    and N = number of major religious groups within a geographic territory.

    I have to say that, unlike Jack (Target) I don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone is ‘religious’ in the sense that football is a ‘religion’ . I prefer the (Shorter) Oxford definition of religion as being “a belief in or sensing of some superhuman controlling power…” From that perspective I am utterly non-religious. Of course the arrogance of monotheists requires that the antithesis of their belief system is ‘Atheism’ and further that an atheist cannot hold any spiritual or metaphysical views. Vanity, vanity all is vanity.

    It’s testimony to the excellence of the brainwashing implemented by various religious organisations that so few Christians (et al) know anything at all about their own history and, often, what some of the words (like atheism) really mean. Our little chum Pete is a gravid example if this sort of institutional ignorance. You can try this out at home by mentioning Charles Taze Russell to a Jehovah’s Witness. The chances are they’ll just look at you blankly and assume that’s your name.

    Surprisingly (to the audience of this forum anyway), I still keep an open mind about spiritual and religious issues and if I were ever engaged in rational conversation by a Christian, Jew or Moslem and wherein their reasoning was less fraught with dogma, rhetoric and downright mendacity, it’s conceivable (if unlikely) that I would change my mind. I should add that the unlikelihood stems from the improbability of ever having the hypothesised conversation because, in my considerable experience, they are all, to put in bluntly, full of s**t.

    P.S.
    Love the poem Odi.

  51. Andy, everyone freaks out a bit when their orthodoxies are challenged, and athiests are no exception

    Coupla pedantic points: The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail wasn’t original, it was simply the first articulation of the theory to make it to the best-seller list. There are lots more.

    Do these people also accept the Ickes doctrine? Fascinating! People love to believe stupid things. It’s practice for listening to management consultants and politicians.

    The real reason this is such a threat to the Church (and not actually to Christianity as such) is that it cuts the legs off their insistence that priests and nuns remain celibate. Without all these people married to the Church, the Church is at risk of being #2 to them, rather than #1. It’s all about power, as a politician like Boris should know. Maybe he does, but as a Catholic he can hardly put that in the Telegraph under his real name.

  52. One reason this book, which displays no literary merit whatsoever, has become so influential is that human beings, despite the evidence, are not actually mindless sheep; they’re sheep with glimmerings of consciousness, just enough to give them existential anxiety.

    We recognize the power that we, as average people, do not wield, and it is psychically comforting to believe that someone, somewhere is in charge, rather than that our world is a vast, directionless mass of teeming, conflicting, and ultimately meaningless orthodoxies constantly at war with one another and themselves, splitting off new groups like a paramecium squeezing off mitotic clones.

    On that note, Have a nice weekend everyone! (It’s remarkable what five days in an office will do for one’s outlook)

  53. Tonight, whilst hanging around outside my evening club of choice, I witnessed 3 ambulancemen (two vehicles) and 10 policemen (3 vehicles) split up a fight between one German and 5 indie rock and rollers. Having laughed hysterically at the amount the British public are paying in tax (roughly £700 I work out for that hour of shanannigans), I was then asked, by a lout dressed up as a policeman, to move on. I love paying tax, as do my hard-working parents, and know that you are doing your best to make sure that it is spent in the best possible way.

    PS Sorry if this comment is not as eloquent as some of your recent articles Boris, although I do support their general theme.

    PPS Good to see you round at uni Boris, hope you enjoyed dinner.

  54. I thought that Jesus was mentioned in both Tacitus and Josephus and that that was generally accepted as independent verification for his existence. I don’t really see what’s so controversial about accepting his status as a historical personage; it hardly implies divinity.

  55. That was in response to Joe Mental’s request for proof of historicity by the way.

    While I’m at it…

    “Religion=Wars” Really? Seems rather facile. I imagine that the majority of wars that have been claimed as religiously motivated, either by protagonists or observers, have had a political or economic motivation instead. I’m not a Marxist, but I imagine a Marxist reading of the history of warfare could be quite illuminating.

    Incidentally I’m not a Christian either (except nominally), but I do struggle to understand how people can honestly believe religion to be the route of all evil.

  56. And before someone mentions it, yes I do realise that the concept of evil is itself a religious one, therefore it does trace its genesis to the existence of religion and ha bloody ha.

  57. Off topic, did anyone watch the Eurovision Song Contest last night? I regularly do, so as to get some idea how big Europe is likely to become. These days it includes Turkey, Israel, Malta, and Russia. I think Iceland is included as well.

    At the current rate of expansion of the Eurovision Song Contest, I think Europe will cover half the world.

    Anyway, Finland won this year, with a monster rock band singing ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’. In this politically loaded competition, the most recent winners have been former East bloc countries.

    At this rate, I think Russia will win next year. Particularly if its entry is a catchy tune with the refrain, ‘If we come last, we’ll turn off the gas,” sung by a choir of KGB officers.

  58. Jaq – good to hear your news- glad you’re better!

    Odi – fantastic poem

    DJ – all is forgiven – what a big soul you are – don’t give it another moment’s thought

  59. “I thought that Jesus was mentioned in both Tacitus and Josephus and that that was generally accepted as independent verification for his existence. I don’t really see what’s so controversial about accepting his status as a historical personage; it hardly implies divinity.” (dtmw)

    Yes, Jesus is (allegedly) mentioned by the following classical gentlemen (you missed Suetonius by the way)

    Josephus – c37AD-c100AD
    Tacitus c55AD – c117AD
    Suetonius c69AD – 140AD

    As you can see none of these historians had the advantage of being alive (let alone writing) at the same time that JC theoretically strutted around Galilea. Further, the works by Josephus have largely been discredited as forgeries. In fact, the Josephus paragraph about Jesus was probably ‘inserted’ around about the fourth century by Christian scholars who wanted to gild the lily with some classical authority. Remarkably, even Christian scholars reluctantly acknowledge this ’embellishment’.

    Again, contrary to Christian dogma ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is never actually mentioned by Suetonius. He did write:
    ‘As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.’
    Unfortunately, these events took place (somewhat inconveniently) in 54AD but that didn’t stop Christian spin doctors grabbing at another potential ‘straw’ of credibility.

    Tacitus’ contribution to the Jesus myth is somewhat more difficult to explain without a long and complex argument. Briefly, the terminology he uses with respect to ‘Christ’ didn’t exist at the time he (allegedly) wrote it and, once more, is rejected by (non-Christian) historians as having been tampered with.

    dtmw, I disagree that the existence of Jesus historically is irrelevant. Given that there is no evidence to support the allegation that he ever existed, and further that Christians manufactured evidence to support their lies, merely demonstrates that this organisation is a duplicitous, power hungry establishment bent on something other than spiritual guidance (money and power would be my guess). This statement is supported by their subsequent actions in destroying virtually every ancient library (particularly those with contradictory evidence) and persecuting every other religious group in ‘burning’ range.

    Naturally if he never existed it makes his ‘return from the afterlife’ a bit anticlimactic and rather destroys any credibility the church enjoys today.

    Bonus!

  60. Odi, just read your poem. Not a comment on its technical merits but…

    Is saying, “Ooh, they killed alot of people”, really a valid criticism of Christianity? A number of people who’ve been Christian, or countries that were Christian states, have engaged in warfare. Fine. Don’t really see how it affects Christians today.

    If one says that one’s a Christian it means, generally, that one believes in Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Trinity, ressurection, eternal life and all the other stuff. Are these central claims somehos negated by an awareness of the military / legal history of Western Europe? A Christian faith requires one accepts responsibility for / seeks to excuse / supports every action that has taken place in the last 2000 years in the name of Christianity?

    When awful things have been done thus they were generally accepted within their cultural context. Religion, or indeed the religious, do not exist in a pan-temporal vacuum.

    God, it’s like those idiots who say that because of the Stalinist and Maoist atrocities Marx no longer has any merit, as though the unrelated actions of dim-witted sociopaths somehow undermine an entire politico-socio-economic theory.

  61. JM:

    Sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia, quin iussum incendium crederetur. Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta mundique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. Igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud perinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti sunt.

    This is the passage that deals with Jesus. What’s the anachronism.

    Not entirely correct to say that Josephus has been identified as a forgery. Actually, it’s just not correct.

    I didn’t mention Suetonius because he talks about Chrestus and probably means someone else entirely.

  62. Another pedantic note: evil is not uniquely a religious concept, it’s an ethical one. All philosophers, even athiests, struggle with the question of evil. Usually the problem they face is that, without a god commanding people to do good, it becomes harder to justify, and for some their brain breaks down completely while thinking it over, and that is where nihilists come from.

  63. I didn’t claim it to be a strictly religious concept. I said it had a religious genesis. The concept has since widened.

  64. I stand by my use of allegedly if you would care to use a dictionary.

    Your comments regarding Josephus are utterly unsupported. I’ll get back on both Tactitus and Jospehus shortly when I’ve collated the references.

    By the way, if you want to start getting picky, I agree that religion isn’t the “..route [sic] of all evil…” because it doesn’t link up with the M4 at any point.

  65. Seems dtmw must have his own way,
    but is it with substance or simple gainsay?

    Christians killed people, Lots! Far and wide.
    This isn’t a charge they have ever denied.

    It seems the excuse for behaviour so mad
    is that various others were often as bad.

    Now this is the point that I want to belabour:
    The others didn’t claim they were “loving thy neighbour”.

  66. It’s all about power, as a politician like Boris should know. Maybe he does, but as a Catholic he can hardly put that in the Telegraph under his real name.

    Is this true? Boris, Catholic? If so, it is a conspiracy far greater than anything Dan Brown may have concocted. I have a sneaking suspicion that Catholics have a plan to take over the Tory Party and then Parliament. Bombs and bullets failed to unite Europe, so they turned to treaties; Guido Fawkes failed to blow up and re-catholicise Parliament, so we have the steady infiltration of carefully-selected A-List Catholics…

    …and when Kennedy led the LibDems, IDS led the Tories, and the crypto-Catholic Blair led NuLab, all the party leaders were Catholic, along with the Speaker. The first time since the Reformation?

    Curious thing is, for just 9% of the population, Catholics hold an extraordinarly high proportion of top jobs… owners of The Telegraph, BBC Director-General…

    If these were all Muslims or Freemasons, would there not be questions in the House…unless, of course, the House is complicit?

  67. Dearest Joe Mental,

    If I might first make a fairly obvious point… a site called http://www.jesusneverexisted.com may not offer the most balanced account of the evidence for the historical Jesus.

    I wasn’t referring to your use of the word allegedly, but to the use of the word allegation.

    “Given that there is no evidence to support the allegation that he ever existed”.

    To label the Christian claim of Jesus’ historical existence an allegation is to capture the wrong tone. The word’s accusatory note is ill suited to the original claim, more so to your counter claim. Though for me to say, “the claim that Jesus existed isn’t an allegation”, was imprecise. I should rather have said that the use of ‘allegation’ suggests a different agent attitude to the one held and therefore is used ill advisedly.

    On Josephus…

    I said: “Not entirely correct to say that Josephus has been identified as a forgery. Actually, it’s just not correct.”

    You said: “Your comments regarding Josephus are utterly unsupported”.

    Quite right. They were, weren’t they. I’m afraid I was writing an essay, and so was much briefer than I ought to have been. Further, I was terribly imprecise (again). What I ought to have said was that Josephus was very badly tampered with, but that interpolations seem to have been made not to support Jesus’ existence per se but to support his divinity.

    Ginetai de kata touton ton chronon Iêsous sophos anêr, [eige andra auton legein chrê]: ên gar paradoxôn ergôn poiêtês, [didaskalos anthrôpôn tôn hêdonêi talêthê dechomenôn], kai pollous men Ioudaious, pollous de kai tou Hellênikou epêgageto: [ho christos houtos ên]. kai auton endeixei tôn prôtôn andrôn par’ hêmin staurôi epitetimêkotos Pilatou ouk epausanto hoi to prôton agapêsantes: [ephanê gar autois tritên echôn hêmeran palin zôn tôn theiôn prophêtôn tauta te kai alla muria peri autou thaumasia eirêkotôn.] eis eti te nun tôn Christianôn apo toude ônomasmenon ouk epelipe to phulon. (Antiquitates Iudaicae, 18.63-4)

    There was around this time a wise man called Jesus, IF INDEED IT IS LAWFUL TO CALL HIM A MAN; he did wonderful things, AND TAUGHT MEN WHO RECEIVED THE TRUTH WITH PLEASURE. He drew to him many of the Jews and many of the Greeks. HE WAS THE CHRIST. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; FOR HE APPEARED TO ALIVE AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY; AS THE DIVINE PROPHETS HAD FORETOLD THESE AND TEN THOUSAND OTHER WONDERFUL THINGS CONCERNING HIM. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

    (The Greek edition incidentally is Niese’s; it’s the only one I have immediate access to).

    The text has clearly been altered by Christian editors; I’ve put what I belief to be the likely interpolations in parentheses in the Greek text, capitals in the English. These have been taken from comparison to a tenth century Arabic text of Josephus, one that is mentioned in the charming weblink you gave me. I’d suggest that the remainder probably is authentic just because it sounds so authentic. It reads as Josephus, and uses language and phrases typical to him. The idea that a clever editor could have doctored the text in a manner typical to him is plausible, but for the fact they made such a hash of the interpolations. Also, the text does things which seem wrong, which scream “INTERPOLATION!”, but actually are just stupidly idiosyncratic. If altering a text one wouldn’t do that.

    I would say at this point two things about the weblink’s discussion of Josephus. Firstly, it chooses to ignore one of his references to Jesus (as the brother of James); frankly, I’m baffled, as one could argue quite strongly for this being an interpolation. Secondly it misrepresents Shlomo Pines (the scholar who first raised the issue of the Arab text):

    “Pines himself remained cautious about claims of untampered authenticity but the brethren have no such reservations, such is their desperation to keep Josephus in the witness stand for Jesus.”

    Pines did not actually raise the Arab evidence matter-of-factly, but as an attempt to suggest a more accurate verion of Josephus. He believed in the historical existence of Jesus.

    A decision either to ignore evidence one is not sure how to refute, or to misrepresent opinion, is hardly suggestive of the highest standards of scholarship.

    I’m running short of time, but their attack on Tacitus is flawed. It may seem strange that he refers to ‘Christians’, a label that is said to be anachronistic, but he was writing at a time when it wasn’t, and so may just unwittingly have used a contemporaneous expression for the group he intends to refer to.

    Also, if later Christian editors had altered Tacitus they would not have him saying “quos per flagitia invisos (sic. Christianos)”, “the Christians who were hated for their shameful actions”. The suggestion (of the planet sized brains behind http://www.jesusneverexisted.com) that the entire passage is an interpolation is one that oddly enough seems to have escaped every major Tacitean editor and scholar. Either someone ought to prepare a new commentary sharpish, or the suggestion of an interpolation’s barking.

    Just to reiterate my own view…

    I’m not a Christian. I’M NOT A CHRISTIAN. I don’t cling blindly to the idea of a historical Jesus to try to buoy up my religious faith, but because his existence is suggested by a mass of evidence and is supported by an overwhelming consensus of scholars.

    Could someone name a single reputable historian / theologian who denies Jesus’ historical existence? I mean it, anyone, because I live with five theologians and when I asked a couple of hours ago if there was evidence that he didn’t exist they looked at me as though I was mad. As far as they were concerned Jesus’ existence was historical fact and a matter of total academic agreement. Incidentally of the five, two don’t believe in God either.

    I suppose I just don’t see why anyone would deny Jesus’ existence unless they had a very specific agenda (i.e. anti-Christian, though I suppose anti-Islamic as well). His existence as a historical personage doesn’t prove any of the main contentions of Christianity, that’s what I meant when I said it was irrelevant. It’s irrelevant to me, as a non-Christian; it doesn’t affect my world view in the slightest.

    And finally, a note to Odi…

    “Seems dtmw must have his own way,
    but is it with substance or simple gainsay?

    Christians killed people, Lots! Far and wide.
    This isn’t a charge they have ever denied.

    It seems the excuse for behaviour so mad
    is that various others were often as bad.

    Now this is the point that I want to belabour:
    The others didn’t claim they were “loving thy neighbour”.”

    That wasn’t actually my point. My point was simply that the misbehaviour (or indeed the good behaviour) of a number of people who were Christian doesn’t affect the validity or otherwise of Christian doctrine. The idea that Christianity caused wars is simply rubbish. I can’t think of a single war that didn’t have at root a political / economic motivation.

    Also “The others didn’t claim they were “loving thy neighbour”. Well, they probably did, since by and large Christian countries fought wars with Christian countries.

  68. Was it George Carlin who said so-called religious wars were really just two groups fighting over who had the better imaginary friend?

    Joe has a lot more faith in the religious zeal of the dead millions than I do, and I’m a Christian. I think they went to war for power and money. Like, duh.

  69. Hmmm, seems nobody watched the Eurovision Song Contest…

    I live with five theologians… Incidentally of the five, two don’t believe in God either.

    How mindbending. What’s it like when they’re all having breakfast together?

    “Please pass the marmalade, oh credulous one.”

    “Get it yourself, infidel.”

  70. But the real question is: does the marmalade have an existence at all, apart from the belief in the existence of the marmalade?

    Questions like this were the reason nobody would eat at my house when I was growing up. There is no-one on Earth, logical positivists included, who isn’t irritated by having to answer a philosophical puzzler like that before they can get at the condiments.

  71. Well I don’t think that anything has an existence (or at least certain existence) outside of its existence as sense data. But then I’m a radical empiricist.

    I am actually starting to develop some sort of account of existence whereby it can be understood only as the perception of sense data, and so any account of something’s ‘real existence’ is rendered meaningless because ‘real existence’ as a concept is left meaningless. Everything exists. But then equally nothing does. Or something. This is why I’ll never make a philosopher; conclusions escape me.

  72. Ah, the great Philosophical Boondoggle has escaped you: it’s not philosophers who are expected to come up with the answers, it’s philosophy students. Philosophers are only expected to come up with the questions.

  73. But the real question is: does the marmalade have an existence at all, apart from the belief in the existence of the marmalade?

    Do you really want to shove us all into questions of this sort of depth?

    We’re half-drowning already, as it is.

    And I just worry about Mac.

  74. We all believe in the existence of Mac, and his existence does not depend on our faith, nor even his own. It is divine will that we not be deprived of Mac. Simple as that.

  75. But then I’m a radical empiricist.

    Bloody radical empricists! Haven’t you just had it up to here with them?! The next time I see one of those effing RIs, I swear I’ll blow their effing heads off.

  76. Simple as that.

    Yes. Itt is as simple as that. Even when he’s gone, he will never be gone.

  77. Very sorry indeed to bring this back to the topic which has caused so much contention, but I just wanted to mention one thing.

    “Now this is the point that I want to belabour:
    The others didn’t claim they were “loving thy neighbour”.”

    One thing that both Odipides and Joe Mental seem to be saying is that Christians are hypocrits. But like their charge that Christian history is riddled with murder and war, it’s not a charge we deny. The Christian ideal standard is one to which only God can live up to, and no Christian I know would claim to be any better morally than an atheist or anyone else. Particularly adherents to religions based on legal systems, which often produce some very moral people indeed.

    The fact that our morals are not pitched at an acheivable level is not a problem for me, it keeps us striving constantly (honestly, the most common question you’ll ever hear Christians ask each other is “how can we love our neighbour?”); and because of the doctrine of grace, setting the morals at an unacheivable level is not a ‘bad’ thing for God to do.

  78. Incidentally, I hear the film is awful?

    Also, thank you dtmw, it has been a pleasure reading your posts!

  79. . To revert to radical pedanticism for a second: For someone to be an empiricist, it means:
    a) That person’s beliefs are founded on experience without the aid of science or theory.
    b) The practice of quackery, or charlatanry.
    c) The practice of relying on observation and experimentation e.g. in the natural sciences.

    Two points :

    If the being referred to here is God , surely that makes that person ‘supernatural’ and is thus precluded from the natural sciences.

    Take the bit about ‘experience’: unless there are some very ancient, (indeed), Galileans still hanging on to a tiny pension out there, there cannot be anyone brash enough to say that they have experience of that doubtlessly astute being we know as Jesus.
    I am confirmed atheist,( for the record).

  80. Sorry, not sure I quite grasp your point. Is it that I claim to be an empiricist, yet believe that Jesus existed without having direct experence of it?

  81. Well Mac, your third definition only says “e.g. in the natural sciences” so it God being supernatural is still not precluded from “The practice of relying on observation and experimentation” while not in the natural sciences.

    I know a lot of Christians (Pentecostals mostly) who would claim to have personal experience of Jesus. But while what they say may be true, there are also countless other theoretical explanations for their empirical results, and so it could never be enough for me.

  82. Haven’t visited for a few days and my, aren’t tempers high this week…

    Just to add fuel to the fire, over at the Bread and Circuses blog (www.adrianmurdoch.com – another one for you classicists), Adrian Murdoch is discussing Boris’ Telegraph piece on Da Vinci Code.

  83. dtmw: re allegation:

    Extract of the post which excited your semantic and literary sensibilities:
    “dtmw, I disagree that the existence of Jesus historically is irrelevant. Given that there is no evidence to support the allegation that he ever existed…”

    (The new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, ISBN 0-19-861134-X)
    Allegation n – “3 An assertion esp.one made without proof”
    Proof n – 1 (A piece of) evidence or (an) argument establishing a fact or the truth or validity of a statement
    Assert v.t. – 2 Affirm the existence of; draw attention to the existence of.
    Affirm v – 2 – A positive statement

    Let me rewrite it, expanding the aforementioned definitions:
    dtmw, I disagree that the existence of Jesus historically is irrelevant. Given that there is no evidence to support your positive statement of the existence of Jesus, made without a piece of evidence establishing the truth that he ever existed…”

    I delight in the ‘accusatory tone’ (and its connotations).

    Further, I fail to see what authority you have to take this patronising tone regarding the style of comments (or, for that matter, comment on the technical merits of Odipides’ poetry).

    Anyone who writes a paragraph like:
    “When awful things have been done thus they were generally accepted within their cultural context. Religion, or indeed the religious, do not exist in a pan-temporal vacuum.”

    when they mean:

    “When dreadful things, like those we have discussed, are perpetrated, they are rarely out of the band of conventional behaviour determined by the cultural mores of the time; religions, or indeed the religious, are not exceptions to this rule”

    has no place criticising anyone’s literary style.

    Now, onto your subsequent points:
    I have to say that it is unlikely that two amateurs debating this issue on a public blog site will reach a meaningful conclusion to a question which has divided professional historians for the last two centuries. More importantly, I have work to do. My position is simply that he (JC) didn’t exist and I believe that this casts doubt on the modern Christian church’s credibility as a genuine spiritual organisation if it’s primary reason for being is fabricated. In this regard and from my perspective, the RC church was merely precursive to Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Smith Jr.

    The skeptic’s wikipedia states this: “Quite simply, Occam’s Razor favours the existence of Jesus.”

    Although this statement nominally supports the existence of an historical Jesus, it clearly states that the balance of evidence is so fine as to require the use of a blunt instrument like Occam’s razor and that there is no truly compelling evidence either way. If you read the rest of the article you will discover that one of the primary reasons for coming down on the side of JC historic veracity is largely because the writers feel it is unlikely that the early church would have made it all up. I disagree; if this latter comment were the case, early Christians would have no reason to ‘ginger-up’ the Josephus passage. In fact I would offer that, had this evidence been presented in a court, the whole of Josephus’ work would be excluded from evidence because of this obvious and admitted tampering. Maybe they merely did it more competently in other places.

    Your statement that your theologian flatmates are so resolute about the historical existence of JC, given the virtual absence of any reliable evidence, is testimony to the incontrovertible fact that propaganda is the predominant constituent of this fallacy (sic). If this were not the case they would be less steadfastly determined about their assertion. Their testimony may have been more plausible had they not been so definite; “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

    Now, regardless of whether “those feet in ancient times..” actually did, my original position was (before I was so rudely interrupted by militant Christianity – Pete and James), that I loathe and despise all manifestations of the Abrahamic religions. I associate nothing with any of these organisations except strife, conflict and ignominy. There are enough centuries of this sort of behaviour to examine and determine a trend. As Odipides has poetically observed, I, like him, find Christian sanctimony and hypocrisy nauseating beyond words. ‘Eye for an eye’ Jews and psychotic Moslems are little better, preaching peace one minute and then quoting Bible, Torah or Qu’ran in justification of their latest atrocity.

    Another statement which made Christian hackles rise was my comparison of JC to Charles Manson. This was on the basis of judging a man by his works. Even Christians must concede that the works of the church have been less than humanitarian. I later decomposed this on the basis that either JC was a murdering scumbag or the church, which alleges to represent him, is in fact, no such thing. I must admit that the comparison fails because there is utterly conclusive proof that Charles Manson is a genuine person.

    Please don’t expend any emotional energy in a reply to this posting; the latter statement is an opinion and can be neither proved nor disproved any more then the existence of God and his (alleged) offspring. Neither am I particularly interested in a grammatical or semantic analysis given the difficulties you evidently have to overcome in such endeavours.

    As for Jack “I really like your stuff dtmw” Target’s justification for Christian murder being that “no one’s perfect”, all I can say is that whenever I’m a member of a group or organisation whose activities are demonstrably inhuman, I leave. To stay is to condone their behaviour which presumably equates to your approval of mass murder and torture Jack.

    Oh, of course you’re all different now and content to merely destroy the lives of Africans by refusing to allow them to use contraceptives rather than hands on murder.

  84. Saw the film…

    It was ok…

    Made a couple of interesting points in that the bible was codified by men at a particular time and that some documentation at the time was left out.

    Fair enough…

    You can never ask too many questions…

    Treat it as a hypothisis and then believe it or not…

    At least we have the right to choose…

  85. Responding quickly to the bit directed at me:

    “As for Jack … Target’s justification for Christian murder being that “no one’s perfect”, all I can say is that whenever I’m a member of a group or organisation whose activities are demonstrably inhuman, I leave. To stay is to condone their behaviour which presumably equates to your approval of mass murder and torture Jack.”

    To stay is not necessarily to condone behaviour, many try to reform the behaviour of the organisation in question. I do not condone this country going to war in Iraq, yet that doesn’t force me to leave. In fact it is the very fact that “no one’s perfect” that makes this the case – it will be impossible for me to find a group that I properly identify with, and while I tentatively call myself a Christian, it is only because I believe Jesus was the son of God, not because I belong to the church (though I am indeed a member of the Church of England)

    Having said that, demonstrate to me that the Church of England’s behaviour is ‘inhuman’, and I will leave. I’m afraid for me to do so it will need to be inhuman by my own standards of humanity, but I imagine they’re little different from your own.

    “Oh, of course you’re all different now and content to merely destroy the lives of Africans by refusing to allow them to use contraceptives rather than hands on murder.”

    I’m not a Roman Catholic or an evangelical, and in fact I’m very much against refusing Africans contraceptives, or even preaching against them.

  86. There may be a much bigger storm coming along soon. It seems that the ‘Judas Manuscript’ has been fully translated and is about to appear. Although this old document has been known about for years, it’s still going to put the cat among the pigeons.

  87. I would be interested to see what they make of the judas gospel.

    I’m with Mac on the difficulty of proof. In the end, it all comes down to what you believe, with some caveats – if it’s written on Basildon Bond it’s clearly a joke or someone’s homework that the dog really did eat.

    As for Africa, I’m not sure free condoms for the entire population would achive much – after all, you still have to rely on a man to put one on!

  88. …Having said that, demonstrate to me that the Church of England’s behaviour is ‘inhuman’..(Jack Target)
    I think chopping the heads off Catholics probably qualifies Jack. I also recall that the last witch to be burned in England was in 1684 comfortably under the supervision of the Church of England. I presume your objection to this would be “That was a long time ago and we’ve stopped all that sort of thing.” Although, that being said, I’m not sure a defence of that nature works for war crimes or murder; I don’t think there are any temporal limitations on culpability for murder.

    So, I presume what you are looking for is contemporary inhumanity. The Church of England is somewhat more constrained these days but I recall your American brethren are less regulated. At a Christian rally (1999?) Rev. Harvey allegedly stated at a that the U.S. Army “should napalm Witches”. One of the Christian demonstrator’s signs read “Witchcraft is an abomination” on one side and “Burn the witches off Ft. Hood” on the other.

    I’d be hard pressed to find anything overtly unpleasant about the CofE in recent history because they are so fiercely curtailed in their activities by our predominantly (until Blair anyway) secular government. My ongoing fear is that a religiously inspired government will rear it’s (unutterably) ugly head again and take us all back to using the odd astronomer as a cheap alternative to anthracite.

    The fact remains that I simply don’t trust any of you because of your history. Would you trust a convicted multiple rapist (who claims ‘he’s changed’) with your 17 year old daughter? Probably not unless you are the British Home Secretary perhaps.

    On a more pragmatic note, it is unreasonable to request me to prove inhumanity of a subsection of a group and in a contemporary setting. In terms of Abrahamic monotheism the CofE is simply a subset of a much larger group of organisations. You might as well have said “I am a member of the CofE, demonstrate to me that my behaviour was inhuman between 2:00 and 2:30 PM on Tuesday the 9th May 2006 or you must accept that your criticisms are without substance.” Typical Christian sophistry I’m afraid.

    However, I am reluctantly obliged to concede that there is little, if any, recent dirt on the Church of England. However, it isn’t really the Anglican Church I’m primarily concerned about; it’s the 1.2 billion Moslems and 1 billion Catholics that keep me awake at night. That and the fact that the Israeli (Jewish) military keep the fuse lit in the Middle East is another, constant, source of concern to me.

    From these undeniable facts I conclude that the world would be better off without all of you.

    I do not condone this country going to war in Iraq, yet that doesn’t force me to leave (Jack Target)
    Quite. Countries do not declare war because they are geographic definitions and largely composed of rock. However, had you been a card carrying member of the Labour party, you may have been disposed to resign your membership in the event that they behaved as poorly as the various exponents of Christianity have.

    I’m not a Roman Catholic or an evangelical, and in fact I’m very much against refusing Africans contraceptives, or even preaching against them. (Jack Target)
    So Jack, yours is the “it’s those other guys” defence I take it (also called the “no true Scotsman defence”)? Very original and about as compelling as “the devil made me do it”. All of you nut jobs are “those other guys” to some group. In the event that one bunch of “those other guys” enjoys some pre-eminence the rest of us get caught in the crossfire. Knowing this, and theoretically adhering to Jesus’ (alleged) teachings regarding loving thy fellow man, surely you should all deny any knowledge of Christianity publicly and practice your dotty observances in a nice private cellar as a sacrifice for the public safety of others?

    But you guys like martyrdom don’t you and have no objection to taking the rest of us with you.

  89. I must confess that I can’t match Joe’s apoplectic anticlericism. But I have some sympathy for it.

    The problem, ultimately, as I see it, is that all religious faiths are, simply by virtue of being faiths, almost entirely irrational. That irrationality is never demonstrated more clearly than when the faithful going poring over their ancient books (bible, torah, quran, etc) in search of an enlightenment they can never find, because these books are, well, …just books. They may as well be seeking wisdom in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

    And because religious belief is irrational, it requires a prodigious dogmatism to sustain that faith in the face of ever-insistent doubt. And because religious belief is irrational, there is no way that rival creeds can reasonably dispute their differences. The result is that religious conflict almost always leads to violence, as one creed attempts to suppress another. After all, if rational discussion is impossible, violence is the only resort.

    Over the past few centuries, and indeed the past few millennia, humanity has gradually pieced together a rational science underpinned by a rational mathemetics to explain a great deal of the natural world. Unfortunately, however, this science has never extended to the humanities – to ethics, economics, law, etc. We simply don’t have a rational ethics. Consequently non-religious ethical beliefs are largely as irrational as traditional religious ethical beliefs.

    The result is that we are all, both religious and non-religious, floundering around in a fog of ignorance. And Joe’s condemnation of religion ultimately boils down to the pot calling the kettle black – because what Joe believes is almost certainly as irrational as anything he condemns. And indeed, as he thunders against the iniquities of Christianity, he increasingly sounds exactly like some Christian hellfire preacher ranting from his pulpit.

  90. Idlex: precisely! This book , certainly not the last to be expected in the genre, is causing yet another storm in a teacup. ( I gave up on it)

    Religion in its simplest form is purely ( or impurely) , a matter of belief or faith, call it what you will. It will inevitably become more complex, as time goes by.

    The tenets of all monotheistic religions were all set out as simple laws; a means of observing common sense and basic courtesy, thus allowing,( at least in the early days of learning to live together in relative harmony), a modicum of guidance in the art of living peacefully, in groups.

    The trouble was , and still is , that influence by a hierarchy of advocates of a certain way of behaviour over large numbers of people must lead to the acquisition of power, and this , once won becomes increasingly difficult , if not directly impossible, to relinquish.

    Result of such a recipe . e.g. The Crusades; The massacres at the partition of India. Etc.

  91. idlex and Mac:

    I’m really sorry but I disagree and in fact I hate what you’re saying. I spent almost all of my life as a very militant atheist, constantly using reason and science to fight religious dogma. I converted a fair few people out of their religions too.

    But to me it is a complete fallacy to say that religion has to only be a matter of faith. To me it stands to reason that if there were a God who wants to live in relationship to us (as Christians anyway preach), or to have us follow him (as jews and muslims generally do), then he would leave evidence of his existence. To me, lack of evidence for God would be proof that he doesn’t exist, at least not in the form that monotheistic religions place him.

    Reapeating: If there is no evidence for God’s existence, I will take that as proof of his non-existence.

    And so if you want to say that religion has to be based on faith I will disagree with you, and recommend that you read “Mere Christianity” by C S Lewis.

    (apologies for the prolific use of gender-specific terms such as he to refer to God, I was speaking in common usage, and believe they’re incorrect!)

  92. >raincoaster wrote:
    We all believe in the existence of Mac, and his existence does not depend on our faith, nor even his own. It is divine will that we not be deprived of Mac. Simple as that.

    ———————————-

    Long Live Mac!!

  93. idlex, whilst I understand your point, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that my beliefs are irrational. I make this assertion on the basis that I don’t really believe anything unless it is, or can be, fully documented and is verifiable to the point of being as utterly certain as is reasonably possible. Beyond the commonplace, I have no unshakeable scientific, spiritual or metaphysical beliefs, only the most superficial opinions (which may change over the next pint of beer). My views on UFO’s and extra-terrestrials are based entirely on the premise that if the universe can produce one (theoretically) intelligent life form, two or more doesn’t seem to be much of a leap of imagination. That being said, I can’t see much incentive for any extra-terrestrials to visit an insignificant ball of mud which hosts a bloodthirsty and primitive bunch of savages who predominantly believe that supernatural forces govern the universe.

    I also have a book on reported sightings of fairies in England which is currently being used to prop up the bookshelf and this is probably its best use.

    I do have a slightly stronger opinion about the unhealthy influence and historic abuses of the major monotheist faiths. However, even the theists acknowledge that there is some justification for these views even if they don’t accept my conclusion that the world would be a better place without them. Much as I would like to, I can’t prove this latter conclusion, as you put it, rationally because the tools to do so don’t exist. My anger, more than anything, derives from frustration from hearing the same circular arguments about their absurd faiths a la:

    Theist: “The Bible/Torah/Qu’ran is holy”
    Atheist “But the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran was written by men not God, how do you know it isn’t just an instrument for control?”
    Theist “Because the men who wrote it were inspired by God and divinely controlled”
    Atheist “How do you know they were inspired by God?”
    Atheist “Because the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran says so”
    and so on ad nauseum.

    This followed up by comments like Jack Target’s about the reason the Christian church has had such a chequered history is because it’s full of imperfect people makes my brain bleed. Surely this excuse begs the question about why this same imperfection doesn’t (apparently) apply to the people who allegedly set it up and wrote the Bible in the first place. The utter irrationality of this kind of un-logic (sic) just drives me to distraction and ultimately anger; particularly when it’s served up with a large helping of how wonderful they all are and how marvellous the prime motivator (Jesus) was even though his followers and imitators have left a trail of destruction in their wake.

    I reluctantly concede that, perhaps, my ire is disproportionate with regard to the God squad. It’s to this possibly inappropriate ‘passion’ that I would attribute your observation regarding irrationality. I’m embarrassed to admit that there’s just something about the smarmily didactic hypocrisy they invariably manifest that makes my adrenal glands go into overdrive and my fists clench. The latter point is coupled with the fact that, whenever my company has been seriously ripped off or messed about, it’s invariably been a God botherer (of various flavours) that’s been to blame. On that point, take my advice and, if anyone starts banging on about how much they love God, just tell them to get the f**k out of your office (and check their pockets on the way out). It would probably add years to my life if I ignored the various exponents of the God squad and disregarded them altogether but I just can’t do it. They seem to me like superficially reformed paedophiles; you just never know if the next Mothercare advert is going to set them off again.

    The HONEST truth of the matter is that they scare me. The same as a large group delusional schizophrenics (what else is an adult who has an imaginary friend with ‘super powers’?). They have a long history of doing as they are told (en-masse) because some self appointed prick at the top claims he/she is the Earthbound representative of God and their record of spotting these scumbags before they have done untold harm is less than satisfactory. The only guarantee of precluding this possibility in the future is to re-educate the lot of them to discard this spurious self absorbed nonsense.

    But, idlex, we are of one mind on your observations about examining (allegedly) holy documentation (of dubious provenance) to search for universal truths; you’re probably better off searching on the back of a crisp packet. The consequences of this impenetrable layer of dogmatic righteousness can do nothing except cause conflict when exposed to another seemingly immovable and equally preposterous world view.

    And I’m sorry Jack but I don’t understand what you are getting at in that last post. It’s far too opaque for my literal mind.

    By the way, the film’s crap. The TV documentary of the Holy blood and the Holy Grail about 20 years ago on BBC Two was infinitely better.

  94. I made a defense of the likely historicity of Jesus partly based on a defense of classical sources. Given that Joe Mental previously attacked the validity of those sources but has chosen not to answer my points, would any one else care to?

    “I have to say that it is unlikely that two amateurs debating this issue on a public blog site will reach a meaningful conclusion to a question which has divided professional historians for the last two centuries”.

    The question has divided professional historians for two centuries? Really? Once again, a single reputable historian / theologian who doesn’t believe Jesus existed? Or is it just conspiracy theorists on the internet?

    By the by, with regard to textual criticism I’m not strictly amateur. Though of course, I may still be wrong.

    On my prose style: we each have our own, mine was hardly polished (I was rushing), but you were clearly able to understand what I mean which is after all the point.

    “The HONEST truth of the matter is that they scare me. The same as a large group delusional schizophrenics (what else is an adult who has an imaginary friend with ‘super powers’?). They have a long history of doing as they are told (en-masse) because some self appointed prick at the top claims he/she is the Earthbound representative of God and their record of spotting these scumbags before they have done untold harm is less than satisfactory. The only guarantee of precluding this possibility in the future is to re-educate the lot of them to discard this spurious self absorbed nonsense.”

    Just thought I’d tag this on the end. The honest truth is you scare me: your readiness to question the sanity of those you disagree with; your utter lack of interest in accuracy (how exactly is the Pope / Archbishop of Canterbury / any other denominational leader self-appointed?); and your apparent desire to forcibly re-educate billions of people so that they think in the same manner as you.

    With that I bid you all farewell; I’m clearly wasting my time attempting to engage in reasoned argument, and have a frightening amount of work to do.

  95. I made a defense of the likely historicity of Jesus partly based on a defense of classical sources. Given that Joe Mental previously attacked the validity of those sources but has chosen not to answer my points, would any one else care to? (dtmw)
    I will be happy answer these and other questions at length; do you really want me to? I ask this because the preparation in order to forstall your somewhat irritating and high-handed rebuttals will take me some considerable time and this blog may well have closed by then.

    By the by, with regard to textual criticism I’m not strictly amateur. Though of course, I may still be wrong. (dtmw)
    Well that’s as clear as mud.

    On my prose style: we each have our own, mine was hardly polished (I was rushing), but you were clearly able to understand what I mean which is after all the point. (dtmw)
    Only after reading it three or four times. Please recall that you criticised me over the use of a single word which I think I have amply demonstrated was utterly appropriate. Isn’t there a famous precedent about casting the first stone? People (particularly didactic prigs) who can’t take criticism should avoid doling it out.

    The question has divided professional historians for two centuries? Really? Once again, a single reputable historian / theologian who doesn’t believe Jesus existed? Or is it just conspiracy theorists on the internet? (dtmw)
    On that point, get your dictionary out again; divide means to split into two or more parts. It does not infer the relative sizes. If you are suggesting any web conspiracy theorists were knocking up Biblical conspiracy theories on the pre 1850 then please consider the following:

    (The following references with kind permission of Ken Humphries who has been of considerable support to me during this blog)

    For more than 200 years a minority of courageous scholars have dared to question the story of Jesus. Despite the risks of physical assault, professional ruin and social opprobrium, they have seriously doubted the veracity of the gospel saga, have peeled away the layers of fraud and deceit and eventually have challenged the very existence of the godman.

    Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768).1778, On the Intention of Jesus and His Teaching. Enlightenment thinker and professor of Oriental languages at the Hamburg Gymnasium, his extensive writings – published after his death – rejected ‘revealed religion’ and argued for a naturalistic deism. Reimarus charged the gospel writers with conscious fraud and innumerable contradictions.

    Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire) (1694-1778) The most influential figure of the Enlightenment was educated at a Jesuit college yet concluded, “Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world … The true God cannot have been born of a girl, nor died on a gibbet, nor be eaten in a piece of dough.” Imprisoned, exiled, his works banned and burned, Voltaire’s great popularity in revolutionary France assured him a final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris. Religious extremists stole his remains and dumped them in a garbage heap.

    Charles François Dupuis, 1794, Origine de tous les Cultes ou La Religion universelle. Astral-mythical interpretation of Christianity (and all religion). “A great error is more easily propagated, than a great truth, because it is easier to believe, than to reason, and because people prefer the marvels of romances to the simplicity of history.” Dupuis destroyed most of his own work because of the violent reaction it provoked.

    Count Volney, 1787, Les Ruines; ou, Méditation sur les révolutions des empires (Ruins of Empires). Napoleonic investigator saw for himself evidence of Egyptian precursors of Christianity.

    Edward Evanson, 1792, The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists and the Evidence of their Respective Authenticity. English rationalist challenged apostolic authorship of the 4th Gospel and denounced several Pauline epistles as spurious.

    Thomas Paine, 1795, The Age of Reason. Pamphleteer who made the first call for American independence (Common Sense, 1776; Rights of Man, 1791) Paine poured savage ridicule on the contradictions and atrocities of the Bible. Like many American revolutionaries Paine was a deist:

    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of … Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.” – The Age of Reason.

    Robert Taylor, 1828, Syntagma Of The Evidences Of The Christian Religion; 1829, Diegesis. Taylor was imprisoned for declaring mythical origins for Christianity. “The earliest Christians meant the words to be nothing more than a personification of the principle of reason, of goodness, or that principle, be it what it may, which may most benefit mankind in the passage through life.”

    Godfrey Higgins, 1836, Anacalypsis – An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis; or an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions. English pioneer of archaeology and freemason.

    Bruno Bauer, 1841, Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptics. 1877, Christus und die Caesaren. Der Hervorgang des Christentums aus dem romischen Griechentum. The original iconoclast. Bauer contested the authenticity of all the Pauline epistles (in which he saw the influence of Stoic thinkers like Seneca) and Philo’s role in emergent Christianity. Bauer rejected the historicity of Jesus himself. “Everything that is known of Jesus belongs to the world of imagination.” As a result in 1842 Bauer was ridiculed and removed from his professorship of New Testament theology at Tübingen.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841, Essays. One time Trinitarian Christian and former Unitarian minister held Jesus to be a “true prophet” but that organised Christianity was an “eastern monarchy”.

    “Our Sunday-schools, and churches, and pauper-societies are yokes to the neck.”

    Mitchell Logan, 1842, Christian Mythology Unveiled. “Reigning opinion, however ill-founded and absurd, is always queen of the nations.”

    Ferdinand Christian Baur, 1845, Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi. German scholar who identified as “inauthentic” not only the pastoral epistles, but also Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians (leaving only the four main Pauline epistles regarded as genuine). Baur was the founder of the so-called “Tübingen School.”

    David Friedrich Strauss, 1860, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Lutheran vicar-turned-scholar skilfully exposed gospel miracles as myth and in the process reduced Jesus to a man. It cost him his career.

    Ernest Renan, 1863, Das Leben Jesu. Trained as a Catholic priest, Renan wrote a romanticised biography of the godman which was influenced by the German critics. It cost him his job.

    Robert Ingersoll, 1872, The Gods. Illinois orator extraordinaire, his speeches savaged the Christian religion. “It has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature. Is it not wonderful that not one word was written by Christ?”

    Kersey Graves, 1875, The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours. Pennsylvanian Quaker who saw through to the pagan heart of Christian fabrications, though rarely cited sources for his far-reaching conclusions.

    Allard Pierson, 1879, De Bergrede en andere synoptische Fragmenten. Theologian, art and literature historian who identified The Sermon on the Mount as a collection of aphorisms from Jewish Wisdom literature.The publication of Pierson’s Bergrede was the beginning of Dutch Radical Criticism. Not just the authenticity of all the Pauline epistles but the historical existence of Jesus himself was called into question.

    Bronson C. Keeler, 1881, A Short History of the Bible. A classic exposé of Christian fraud.

    Abraham Dirk Loman, 1882, “Quaestiones Paulinae,” in Theologisch Tijdschrift. Professor of theology at Amsterdam who said all the epistles date from the 2nd century. Loman explained Christianity as a fusion of Jewish and Roman-Hellenic thinking. When he went blind Loman said his blindness gave him insight into the dark history of the church!

    Thomas William Doane, 1882, Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions. Outdated but a classic revelation of pagan antecedents of biblical myths and miracles.

    Samuel Adrianus Naber, 1886, Verisimilia. Laceram conditionem Novi Testamenti exemplis illustrarunt et ab origine repetierunt. Classicist who saw Greek myths hidden within Christian scripture.

    Gerald Massey, 1886, Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ. 1907, Ancient Egypt-The Light of the World. Another classic from an early nemesis of the priesthood.

    Edwin Johnson, 1887, Antiqua mater. A Study of Christian Origins. English radical theologian identified the early Christians as the Chrestiani, followers of a good (Chrestus) God who had expropriating the myth of Dionysos Eleutherios (“Dionysos the Emancipator”), to produce a self-sacrificing Godman. Denounced the twelve apostles as complete fabrication.

    Rudolf Steck, 1888, Der Galaterbrief nach seiner Echtheit untersucht nebst kritischen Bemerkungen zu den Paulinischen Hauptbriefen. Radical Swiss scholar branded all the Pauline epistles as fakes.

    Franz Hartman, 1889, The Life of Johoshua: The Prophet of Nazareth.

    Willem Christiaan van Manen, 1896, Paulus. Professor at Leiden and most famous of the Dutch Radicals, a churchman who did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. After resisting the argument for many years van Manen concluded none of the Pauline epistles were genuine and that Acts was dependent on the works of Josephus.

    Joseph McCabe, 1897, Why I Left the Church. 1907, The Bible in Europe: an Inquiry into the Contribution of the Christian Religion to Civilization. 1914, The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels. Franciscan monk-turned-evangelical atheist. McCabe, a prolific writer, shredded many parts of the Christ legend – “There is no “figure of Jesus” in the Gospels. There are a dozen figures” – but he continued to allow the possibility for an historical founder, nonetheless.

    Albert Schweitzer.1901, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God. 1906, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The famous German theologian and missionary (35 years in the Cameroons) ridiculed the humanitarian Jesus of the liberals and at the same time had the courage to recognize the work of the Dutch Radicals. His own pessimistic conclusion was that the superhero had been an apocalyptic fanatic and that Jesus died a disappointed man. Famously said those looking for an historical Jesus merely found a reflection of themselves.

    Wilhelm Wrede, 1901, The Messianic Secret. Wrede demonstrated how, in Mark’s gospel, a false history was shaped by early Christian belief.

    George Robert Stowe Mead, 1903, Did Jesus Live 100 BC? A discussion of the Jewish Jeschu stories which moves Jesus back to an earlier time.

    Thomas Whittaker, 1904, The Origins of Christianity. Declared Jesus a myth.

    William Benjamin Smith, 1906, Der vorchristliche Jesus. 1911, Die urchristliche Lehre des reingöttlichen Jesus. Argues for origins in a pre-Christian Jesus cult on the island of Cyprus.

    Albert Kalthoff, 1907, The Rise of Christianity. Another radical German scholar who identified Christianity as a psychosis. Christ was essentially the transcendental principle of the Christian community which aimed at apocalyptic social reform.

    Gerardus Bolland, 1907, De Evangelische Jozua. Philosopher at Leiden identified the origin of Christianity in an earlier Jewish Gnosticism. The New Testament superstar is the Old Testament ‘son of Nun’, the follower renamed Jesus by Moses. The virgin is nothing but a symbol for the people of Israel. From Alexandria the “Netzerim” took their gospel to Palestine.

    In 1907 Pope Pius X condemned the Modernists who were “working within the framework of the Church”. An anti-Modernist oath was introduced in 1910.

    Prosper Alfaric (1886-1955) French Professor of Theology, shaken by the stance of Pius X, renounced his faith and left the church in 1909 to work for the cause of rationalism.

    Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian, 1909, The Truth About Jesus ? Is He a Myth? Erstwhile Presbyterian Minister who saw through the fabrication.

    Karl Kautsky, 1909, The Foundations of Christianity. Early socialist interpreted Christianity in terms of class struggle.

    Arthur Drews, 1910, Die Christusmythe (The Christ Myth). 1910, Die Petruslegende (The Legend of St Peter). 1924, Die Entstehung des Christentums aus dem Gnostizismus (The Emergence of Christianity from Gnosticism). Eminent philosopher was Germany’s greatest exponent of the contention that Christ is a myth. The gospels historized a pre-existing mystical Jesus whose character was drawn from the prophets and Jewish wisdom literature. The Passion was to be found in the speculations of Plato.

    John E. Remsburg, 1909, The Christ: A critical review and analysis of the evidences of His existence. Gospels rife with contradictions. Doubtful that Jesus existed and a supernatural Christ is certainly Christian dogma.

    John Robertson, 1910, Christianity and Mythology. 1911, Pagan Christs. Studies in Comparative Hierology. 1917, The Jesus Problem. Robertson drew attention to the universality of many elements of the Jesus’ storyline and to pre-Christian crucifixion rituals in the ancient world. Identified the original Jesus/Joshua with an ancient Ephraimite deity in the form of a lamb.

    Alexander Hislop, 1916, The Two Babylons. Exhaustive exposure of the pagan rituals and paraphernalia of Roman Catholicism.

    Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga, 1912, Radical Views about the New Testament. 1918, Voorchristelijk Christendom. De vorbereiding van het Evangelie in de Hellenistische wereld. Theologian and last of the Dutch radicals to hold a university professorship.

    Edward Carpenter, 1920, Pagan and Christian Creeds. Elaborated the pagan origins of Christianity.

    Rudolf Bultmann, 1921, The History of the Synoptic Tradition. 1941, Neues Testament und Mythologie. Lutheran theologian and professor at Marburg University Bultman was the exponent of ‘form criticism’ and did much to demythologise the gospels. He identified the narratives of Jesus as theology served up in the language of myth. Bultmann observed that the New Testament was not the story of Jesus but a record of early Christian belief. He argued that the search for an historical Jesus was fruitless: “We can know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus.” (Jesus and the Word, 8)

    James Frazer, 1922, The Golden Bough. Anthropological interpretation of man’s progress from magic, through religion to science. Christianity a cultural phenomenon.

    P. L. Couchoud, 1924, Le mystère de Jesus.1939, The Creation of Christ. Couchoud espoused an historical Peter rather than an historical Jesus and argued that the Passion was modelled on the death of Stephen.

    Georg Brandes, 1926, Jesus – A Myth. Identified the Revelation of St John as the earliest part of the New Testament.

    Henri Delafosse, 1927, Les Lettres d’Ignace d’Antioche. 1928, “Les e’crits de Saint Paul,” in Christianisme. Epistles of Ignatius denounced as late forgeries.

    Joseph Wheless, 1926, Is It God’s Word? An Exposition of the Fables and Mythology of the Bible and the Fallacies of Theology. 1930, Forgery in Christianity. American attorney, raised in the Bible Belt, shredded the biblical fantasy.

    L. Gordon Rylands, 1927, The Evolution of Christianity.1935, Did Jesus Ever Live?

    Edouard Dujardin, 1938, Ancient History of the God Jesus.

    John J. Jackson, 1938, Christianity Before Christ, Drew attention to the Egyptian precedents of Christian belief.

    Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 1944, Who is this King of Glory? 1970, Rebirth for Christianity. Jesus was never a person, but a symbol of the divine soul in every human being.

    Herbert Cutner, 1950, Jesus: God, Man, or Myth? Mythical nature of Jesus and a summary of the ongoing debate between mythicists and historicizers. Mythic-only position is continuous tradition, not novel. Pagan origins of Christ.

    Georges Las Vergnas, 1956, Pourquoi j’ai quitté l’Eglise romaine Besançon.

    Georges Ory, 1961, An Analysis of Christian Origins.

    Guy Fau, 1967, Le Fable de Jesus Christ.

    John Allegro, 1970, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. 1979, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. Jesus was nothing other than a magic mushroom and his life an allegorical interpretation of a drug-induced state. Not jail for Allegro – but professional ruin.

    George Albert Wells, 1975, Did Jesus Exist? 1988, The Historical Evidence for Jesus. 1996, The Jesus Legend. 1998, Jesus Myth. 2004, Can We Trust the New Testament? Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony. Christianity a growth from Jewish Wisdom literature. Later books concede possible influence of a real preacher.

    Max Rieser, 1979, The True Founder of Christianity and the Hellenistic Philosophy. Christianity started by Jews of the Diaspora and then retroactively set in pre-70 Palestine. Christianity arrived last, not first, in Palestine – that’s why Christian archeological finds appear in Rome but not in Judea until the 4th century.

    Abelard Reuchlin, 1979, The True Authorship of the New Testament. Conspiracy theory par excellence: Roman aristocrat Arius Calpurnius Piso (aka “Flavius Josephus”) conspired to gain control of the Roman Empire by forging an entirely new religion.

    Hermann Detering, 1992, Paulusbriefe ohne Paulus?: Die Paulusbriefe in der holländischen Radikalkritik. German minister in the Dutch radical tradition.

    Gary Courtney, 1992, 2004 Et tu, Judas? Then Fall Jesus! The Passion is essentially Caesar’s fate in Judaic disguise, grafted onto the dying/resurrcting cult of Attis. Jewish fans of Caesar assimilated the sacrificed ‘saviour of mankind’ into the ‘Suffering Servant’ of Isaiah.

    Michael Kalopoulos, 1995, The Great Lie. Greek historian finds strikingly similar parallels between biblical texts and Greek mythology. He exposes the cunning, deceitful and authoritarian nature of religion.

    Gerd Lüdemann, 1998, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did. 2002, Paul: The Founder of Christianity. 2004, The Resurrection Of Christ: A Historical Inquiry. After 25 years of study German professor concluded Paul, not Jesus, started Christianity. Lüdemann was expelled from the theology faculty at the University of Göttingen for daring to say that the Resurrection was “a pious self-deception.” So much for academic freedom.

    Alvar Ellegard, 1999, Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ. Christianity seen as emerging from the Essene Church of God with the Jesus prototype the Teacher of Righteousness.

    D. Murdock (aka ‘Acharya S’) 1999, The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. 2004, Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. Adds a astro-theological dimension to christ-myth demolition. Murdock identifies JC as a composite deity used to unify the Roman Empire. She also exhibits worrying aberrations for serious scholars.

    Earl Doherty, 1999, The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Powerful statement of how Christianity started as a mystical-revelatory Jewish sect – no Jesus required!.

    Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, 1999, The Jesus Mysteries. 2001, Jesus and the Lost Goddess : The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians. Examines the close relationship between the Jesus Story and that of Osiris-Dionysus. Jesus and Mary Magdalene mythic figures based on the Pagan Godman and Goddess.

    Harold Liedner, 2000, The Fabrication of the Christ Myth. Anachronisms and geographic errors of the gospels denounced. Christianity one of history’s most effective frauds.

    Robert Price, 2000, Deconstructing Jesus. 2003 Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? Ex-minister and accredited scholar shows Jesus to be a fictional amalgam of several 1st century prophets, mystery cult redeemers and gnostic ‘aions’.

    Hal Childs, 2000, The Myth of the Historical Jesus and the Evolution of Consciousness. A psychotherapist take on the godman.

    Michael Hoffman, 2000,Judaism’s Strange Gods. Historian and theorist of “ego death” who jettisoned an historical Jesus.

    Burton Mack, 2001,The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy. Social formation of myth making.

    Luigi Cascioli, 2001, The Fable of Christ. Indicting the Papacy for profiteering from a fraud!

    Frank R. Zindler, 2003, The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources. No evidence in Jewish sources for the phantom messiah.

    Tom Harpur, 2005, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Canadian New Testament scholar and ex-Anglican priest re-states the ideas of Kuhn, Higgins and Massey. Jesus is a myth and all of the essential ideas of Christianity originated in Egypt.

    Francesco Carotta, 2005, Jesus Was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity. Exhaustive inventory of parallels. Alarmingly, asserts Caesar was Jesus.

    Joseph Atwill, 2005, Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus. Another take on the Josephus-Gospel similarities. Atwill argues that the 1st century conquerors of Judaea, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, used Hellenized Jews to manufacture the “Christian” texts in order to establish a peaceful alternative to militant Judaism. Jesus was Titus Flavius? I don’t think so.

    Is that enough for you?

    Just thought I’d tag this on the end. The honest truth is you scare me: your readiness to question the sanity of those you disagree with… (dtmw – who else)
    So your contention is that people who basically believe in the grown up version of the tooth fairy are fundamentally sane? So, let me put it to you this way dtmw: if I went to my doctor and claimed that a supernatural being was watching me at all times, controlling my actions (and everyone else’s) and would send me to a place in which I would burn forever in the event of disobedience, how long to you think it would be before the straightjacket came out? the only thing that stops them being locked up is that their numbers create the illusion of credibility.

  96. idlex, whilst I understand your point, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that my beliefs are irrational. (Joe)

    I have no doubt that a great many of your beliefs are perfectly rational. But the point I was trying to make was that we as a society or civilisation have yet to put together a fully rational secular system of ethics (or indeed anything much in the sphere of the humanities, bar economics perhaps) with which we can counter religious dogma.

    The result is that my own (never mind your) personal non-religious set of values is, quite frankly, something of an irrational hotchpotch, some of it clearly derived from Christianity, some of it from peer pressure, and perhaps a minute amount from my own personal ponderings. What it most certainly lacks is a clear and unambiguous rationality. And, indeed, I have never encountered any such rational ethics, but only a variety of failed attempts at one.

    The unfortunate fact of our present predicament is that we are assymmetrically developed (like those crabs with one huge claw, and one tiny one), with a quite astonishingly powerful and rational natural science and technology on the one hand (or claw), while we remain pretty much moral imbeciles on the other hand. Somehow or other, the rationality that we employ within science has never been extended into the humanities. And this might be described as the singular spectacular failure of the Enlightenment. Ethically, politically, and largely economically, we live in a dark age.

    And the result is that we have no rational defences whatsoever against any irrational cult that might suddenly start multiplying in our society. And such cults need not be religious: Nazism, for example, wasn’t a specifically religious cult.

    The HONEST truth of the matter is that they scare me.

    I’m scared too. But in general I’m not as scared as you seem to be of established religions, which seem to be fairly well behaved (they aren’t furiously burning heretics these days). But I have the uneasy sense of standing on top of a dormant volcano, which could erupt at any moment. If anything, I’m much more worried about the religious fundamentalisms that seem to multiply mostly in America (the Rapture, and all that), and now in Islamic countries, and which seem to be feeding off each other.

    But it seems there’s next to nothing we can do about it, while we lack the kind of rational ethics which would see off all these lunatic cults in short order.

  97. idlex, you have used your formidable lucidity to put the matter more concisely than I could ever hope to. dtmw would, without doubt, benefit enormously from your tuition.

    Christian apologists just wind me up; they should have a government health warning tattooed on them.

  98. Well sod it, I’m back.

    “Just thought I’d tag this on the end. The honest truth is you scare me: your readiness to question the sanity of those you disagree with… (dtmw – who else)
    So your contention is that people who basically believe in the grown up version of the tooth fairy are fundamentally sane? So, let me put it to you this way dtmw: if I went to my doctor and claimed that a supernatural being was watching me at all times, controlling my actions (and everyone else’s) and would send me to a place in which I would burn forever in the event of disobedience, how long to you think it would be before the straightjacket came out? the only thing that stops them being locked up is that their numbers create the illusion of credibility.”

    The labelling of those one disagrees with as insane is I think unfortunate. It’s hardly a critical technique with a glorious history, it avoids proper engagement in argument, and it reduces what ought to be reasoned discussion to the level of name calling.

    Comparing God to the tooth fairy is a false analogy. One cannot prove that the former exists, one can disprove that the latter does.

    Christians don’t believe that they are controlled by God. They believe in free will.

    I’m not aware of any sophisticated Christians who believe that anyone “burns in hell”. I think that hell’s generally now taken to be the absence of God; flames and pitchforks are a bit mediaeval.

    ” made a defense of the likely historicity of Jesus partly based on a defense of classical sources. Given that Joe Mental previously attacked the validity of those sources but has chosen not to answer my points, would any one else care to? (dtmw)
    I will be happy answer these and other questions at length; do you really want me to? I ask this because the preparation in order to forstall your somewhat irritating and high-handed rebuttals will take me some considerable time and this blog may well have closed by then.”

    Well I would quite like you too, yes. My view on Josephus (as I’ve stated) is that I believe the relevant passage to have seriously corrupted but still salvageable. I understand though how one could view the entire thing as an interpolation. I just happen to feel the evidence for partial corruption is better.

    With regard to Tacitus, I really can’t see anything wrong with it, so if there is something I would honestly like you to tell me.

    I’m not being sarcastic; if there is a serious textual point I really would like to know, because I haven’t come across one. I don’t see that it requires a tremendous amount of research; fairly short passage after all.

    “On my prose style: we each have our own, mine was hardly polished (I was rushing), but you were clearly able to understand what I mean which is after all the point. (dtmw)
    Only after reading it three or four times.”

    You had to read it three or four times? Really? Never mind.

    “Please recall that you criticised me over the use of a single word which I think I have amply demonstrated was utterly appropriate.”

    Actually you haven’t. The way you phrased the sentence suggested that it was Christians who were doing the alleging. “Allegation” does usually suggest accusation (thanks to your helpful suggestion I consulted a dictionary), which I imagine you can see is somewhat inappropriate.

    I have to say it was rather a silly point to pick up on though. I dare say you were typing quickly and it didn’t occur to you the way the sentence might be interpreted. Even Homer nods.

    “Isn’t there a famous precedent about casting the first stone?”

    Christianity isn’t all bad is it? Why, one would almost think you were becoming open minded in your old age.

    “People (particularly didactic prigs) who can’t take criticism should avoid doling it out.”

    Ah, but when one’s as manifestly flawed as I am one becomes used to it. Don’t worry, you haven’t hurt my feelings! I am didactic (though I try not to be), and I can be fairly priggish in arguments, so well done you. Spot on.

    Thank you ever so much for the list of academics; about to go to bed now but will glance over them tomorrow. Preliminary thoughts… you seem to agree that the overwhelming academic consensus is for the existence of Jesus as a historical figure. Now that to me seems compelling; to you obviously not. Why? (Again, just curious).

    Those writers who suggest that Jesus was Julius Caesar in disguise… I’m afraid I don’t really see how that can hold up. The experience of the Early Church is against it for one thing (though I imagine you think that all the documented history is false). It smacks slightly of the attempt by Christian classical scholars to claim Golden Age prophesy for themselves (Eclogue 4 was notable I think), and turning Augustus in to Jesus.

    All the stuff about finding traces of other earlier religious traditions in Christianity seems very believable. I know that the Romans made an effort to incorporate Roman elements once it became the state religion. I daresay it happened elsewhere at the instigation of others too.

  99. “I have no doubt that a great many of your beliefs are perfectly rational. But the point I was trying to make was that we as a society or civilisation have yet to put together a fully rational secular system of ethics (or indeed anything much in the sphere of the humanities, bar economics perhaps) with which we can counter religious dogma.”

    Do you think conventionalist accounts are inadequate?

  100. Ok, thats a whole lot of comments since I was last here, and to be frank I’m far to lazy to read them all, esspecially as it seems dtmw has countered Joe’s points very well.

    With regards the killing people slant, people from all walks of life kill people, just because sweeney todd killed people, doesn’t mean Barbers are a bunch of murderers. Thats a stupid world view, yet the one you exhibit towards Christians, Joe, I’d also point out considering you seem obbsesed with how psychotic and full of hate Christians are, perhaps you should look in the mirror first, you’re just showing yourself to be all those things you say others are.

  101. Do you think conventionalist accounts are inadequate? (dtmw)

    If by philosophical conventionalism is meant the theory that principles become established by general agreement rather than rationally or empirically, then, yes, I do think it’s inadequate. However, clearly it is all we have at present.

    The problem with conventionalism would seem to be that we all might agree about something, but still be mistaken. For example, we might all agree that the sun goes round the Earth, and indeed we pretty much all did not so long ago – but we were mistaken.

    Equally, we are probably all mostly agreed on what constitutes ethical and unethical behaviour, but we may nevertheless be fundamentally mistaken.

    And where we disagree about some ethical matter, how can we resolve our dispute by reason if we lack a framework of ethical rationality? Or, put another way, how can we solve an equation if we have no algebra? The answer is that we can’t resolve them rationally, and can only do so in the nicest way by vote, or in the nastiest way by force. And either way, we’ll probably end up with the wrong answer.

    At present, we solve our mathematical puzzles with pens, and we solve our ethical dilemmas with meat cleavers.

  102. Dan Brown is causing something of a stir, only because the self imposed media censorship has been lifted. Well before anything controversial was dismiseed as “New Age” mythology, way back in the 1950’s; an advocated called Nazir Ahmad penned a book called ” Jesus in Heaven on Earth” for which he received a doctrate and was nominated for the Nobel prize. This book still remains the most authorative book on the subject of Jesus having a life beyond the cross. The book is nearly always the ultimate reference point for all authors who claim to have made a “discovery on the life of Jesus”. Soon after it was published; it became impossible to obtain this book from any library because it was either on long term loan or “missing”. Understandably so because it is unpalatable for rigid minds to accept that Mary is buried in Murree Pakistan( named after Mary); that Jesus lived and died in Kashmir India; buried in Srinagar India. It is far more comforting to believe in stories about Santa Claus and his reindeers going down chimneys and more economically rewarding for the high street than to face up to a reality that banishes comforting childhood myths. Boris must be congatulated for his thought provoking scriblings.

  103. dtmw

    “The labelling of those one disagrees with as insane…”(dtmw)
    I merely observed that a person exhibiting the delusions associated with Christianity would probably be diagnosed by a professional psychiatrist as suffering from psychosis. I qualified this by stating that the vast numbers of people who exhibit these symptoms create a situation where the diagnosis is inappropriate; This doesn’t make them less psychotic.

    “Comparing God to the tooth fairy is a false analogy. One cannot prove that the former exists, one can disprove that the latter does.”(dtmw)
    You understand, of course, that the actual physical removal of teeth is a metaphor for taking away evil from a child and observing this process isn’t necessary for belief in the tooth fairy, Please proceed to prove the non-existence of the tooth fairy.

    “Christians don’t believe that they are controlled by God. They believe in free will.”
    Yes, but God (allegedly) controls everything around them (except, according to you, other people). That’s still a fairly enormous amount of control. On the other hand I’ve read a number of articles by born again types about being ‘filled with the spirit’ and how they were almost unaware of their own actions. Perhaps He takes a more direct hand every now and again. This is further evidence of clinical psychosis by the way.

    “I’m not aware of any sophisticated Christians who believe that anyone ‘burns in hell’.”
    I presume therefore that the American evangelical types are unsophisticated; hell seems to play on their minds quite a lot. Your expertise in this regard could be quite useful in that perhaps you can give advice as to how one tells them apart. Tattoos perhaps? Distance between eyes?

    “I will be happy answer these and other questions at length;…” (JM) “Well I would quite like you too” (dtmw)
    Fine. I’ll get on with it. As you are aware, it is rarely possible to prove a negative.

    “I’m not being sarcastic; if there is a serious textual …I don’t see that it requires a tremendous amount of research…”(dtmw)
    I said the issue was complex and really didn’t want to bore anyone with hair splitting. I see you make a profession of this though and can therefore understand your interest.

    “Re Allegedly…”The way you phrased the sentence suggested…”(dtmw)
    Bullshit. To allege something means to claim something to be true, allegation is simply the noun form. You claim you aren’t a Christian and consequently I use the ‘accusatory tone’ as you put it. I reiterate my request for your qualifications in offering critique as to style and semantics simply because yours often leave something to be desired.

    “Ah, but when one’s as manifestly flawed as I am…” (dtmw)
    If the cap fits wear it.

    “…Now that to me seems compelling; to you obviously not. Why? (Again, just curious).” (dtmw)
    I won’t go into an interminably long list of null-hypotheses but suffice to see that the world is not flat nor does the sun revolve around the Earth; there is no such thing as phlogiston either. The number of supporters of any postulate neither improves nor reduces it’s correctness.

    “Those writers who suggest that Jesus was Julius Caesar in disguise…” (dtmw)
    Some of them are just nutballs. You may be aware that a legitimate line of defence for murder is to demonstrate that someone other than the accused may have committed the crime; if the jury believes this may be the case, the defendant is entitled to be acquitted. My position in including the nutjobs was to demonstrate that a variety of perspectives have been offered on this matter (JC’s actual historic existence) and that this supports my view that the issue is by no means as clear cut as you and your student cohabitees would have us believe.

    “Thank you ever so much for the list of academics;…” (dtmw)
    I take it therefore that you retract your earlier comment:
    “Really? Once again, a single reputable historian / theologian who doesn’t believe Jesus existed? Or is it just conspiracy theorists on the internet?”

    You have still failed to issue any rebuttal to my lengthy comment starting with “dtmw: re allegation:” To leave the impression that you have offered a reasonable counter to these statements is sheer sophistry and unworthy.

    By the by, It’s generally accepted that when inserting large tracts of comments by other people it’s not necessary to cut and paste the whole thing. On behalf of the other contributors to the blog may I request that you perhaps make use of the ellipsis and italics or it takes too long to download the URL?

    (Your groupie ‘Pete’ will just irritate the pair of us. I recommend you tell the little gleet to land somewhere else. If I make this suggestion there’ll probably be a lot of hell and burning involved in his reply.)

  104. To clarify my earlier point which nobody seemed to understand:

    – To me, it stands to reason that a God of the form suggested by Christians, Jews and Muslims, would give us evidence of his existence.

    – Conseqently if there is no evidence, reason would lead me to believe that he doesn’t exist. No evidence of existence would actually be proof of non-existence to me.

    As such, I get very annoyed when people say “you can’t prove or disprove God”, seeminly as a matter of fact. Why? I don’t see why we can’t.

    And as I said, a lack of evidence to me is proof of non-existence. So at least in my case you can prove it if what you say is true!

  105. That’s only true if your premise is correct ie if god would give definite proof of his existence. And we don’t know that. I haven’t given you definite proof of MY existence, yet you believe that I exist. And I’m sure you believe that other people do, even though they don’t even post on blogs!

    Maybe god doesn’t think the way you do?

    In any case, here is a list of the 100 most influential people in history, along with their religious affiliations. The world would be much worse off without the Christians.

  106. dtmw, leave poor Joe alone!
    Are you too dim to see that you’re making him groan?
    It’s simply your egos displayed herein,
    There’s no search for truth, just which of you wins.

    You say that your mates are utterly sure
    that Jesus existed; that their jaws hit the floor.
    If they are so certain then why can’t you show
    undeniable proof and thus tell Joe to go.

    Josephus’s text was changed by a priest.
    Was it one that’s still living or one that’s deceased?
    If he’s dead we can’t ask why he uttered this fraud,
    but we’d probably guess “in defence of our Lord”.

    They lie and they kill (and Joe says they steal).
    They changed some old stuff, so what’s the big deal?
    They added some words, perhaps they were bored.
    If they did it today I’d guess five years for fraud.

    But JC is God (at least so they say)
    don’t you suspect that this just ain’t His way?
    There’s no need to lie when everything’s true.
    So It sounds like a con job, all through and through.

    The story of Jesus has made the Church rich,
    and giving this up would be quite a bitch.
    It’s not a surprise if they changed some old books,
    in their tortuous history they’ve had plenty of crooks.

    Did JC exist? It’s hard to see why.
    but if he never existed, then how did he die?
    If he’s just an old myth, then he couldn’t have bred.
    which leaves Dan Brown’s new film somewhat pointless and dead.

    The pair of you like to hold court with this stuff.
    Your argument’s weak, your writing is rough.
    Now both of you stop! It’s boring and trite.
    Take it outside if you want a huge fight.

    It’s taken a while to come up with this,
    if it shuts you two up I’m rewarded with bliss.

  107. Jack

    A lack of evidence in your or humanity’s experience is not proof of non-existence. The standard atheist argument seems to be absed on Occam’s razor and a response to the theist question of ‘Where did the universe come from?’. By adding God as an explanation the atheist says you are replacing one puzzle by another that must be greater since a Creator must be greater than his Creation. I think you can argue that Occam doesn’t always have it right. My doubts as an atheist – about atheism – come from the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?”.

    I have put “Mere Christianity” on my reading list following your recommendation. One’s lack of faith should always be put to the test!

  108. Raincoster

    Here are some of the people I think have been very influential

    Hitler, Lenin and Mao.

    I don’t think it’s a good judge of character!

  109. I don’t think it was ranking them in congeniality, it’s quite true. But none of those people were Christian anyway, so you sort of prove my point for me.

    And Joe, you’re going to have to tighten up your meter if you hope to win any arguments with poetry.

    If the rhyme don’t scan,
    Ignore the man!

  110. Jack,

    To me a lack of evidence on this issue would be proof of non-existence (non-existence of the God of any of the main monotheistic religions). This is partly because all those theologies only make sense with a God who leaves evidence, and partly because it’s necessary to explain another frequent stumbling block: The Problem of Pain.

    If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God, then why does he permit suffering? There are many explanations, but the only one I find plausible is that free-will is a ‘greater good’ than the absense of suffering. However, this only makes sense to me as an explanation if God reveals himself to us as one of the choices. And so the existence of evidence for God’s existence is essential for me to believe in him, because if there was no evidence, then the problem of pain would thwart my belief, as well as the original logic.

    And yes, I thoroughly recommend Mere Christianity, C S Lewis got a triple first from Oxford – he writes very well indeed! Substantially better than I can.

    This followed up by comments like Jack Target’s about the reason the Christian church has had such a chequered history is because it’s full of imperfect people makes my brain bleed. Surely this excuse begs the question about why this same imperfection doesn’t (apparently) apply to the people who allegedly set it up and wrote the Bible in the first place. The utter irrationality of this kind of un-logic (sic) just drives me to distraction and ultimately anger;

    Exactly!! This one drives me up the wall as well. intelligent evangelicals will generally recognise it as circulr logic, but still take the bible as the word of God anyway. I recently made that argument to an evangelical friend of mine in a letter, and he sent back a 4 page essay in response, none of which had any reason behind it whatsoever!

    I have never heard a reasonable explanation of why I should take the Bible as anything more than it is – a collection of second-hand accounts collected together in various councils and meetings, and so consequently don’t believe it to be anything more than exactly that.

  111. Cranmer, I thought you were joking. Yes, Boris is Catholic. Where did you get that veddy interesting tidbit of gossip?

    Can’t say. But I’m shocked. It makes a bit more sense of the part The Spectator played in the downfall of one parliamentary candidate at the last election – when the Catholic Herald called Slough’s PPC a ‘bigot’ for articles he had written for The Spectator years before, and MIchael Howard sacked him, just because of the accusation.

    I had just assumed that Boris was sympathetic (from an article on here – ‘How to breed poodles’), not part of the cause. I’m just genuinely surprised.

  112. I don’t believe he’s very pious. He said something like, “I find faith difficult. It comes and it goes. It’s a bit like Magic FM in the Chilterns.”

  113. But he commissioned articles that were interpreted as being critical of the Catholic Church, and then left Slough’s PPC to carry the can on his own. I followed this story, quite shocked at Howard’s actions. It was never reported by the Catholic Herald that Boris was Catholic.

    Boris’ faith may ‘come and go’. I’m just surprised that he left this bright young politician to just ‘go’. Boris should have declared his interest.

  114. And where have I told anyone they will burn in hell, Joe? Or is that just stereotyping me based on what you believe I will say because of my faith?

    Narrow-minded moron.

  115. He may not have felt he had an interest to declare. Ought he to have declared an interest if he’d been an Anglican, and the piece had been critical of the C of E? What if he was only nominally Anglican, and had no particular religious faith or feelings of affiliation? He seems only be nominally Catholic.

    There is also a question of who should bear the responsibility for a piece published in a magazine. I know that Boris has apologised for Taki on occasion, but that’s when Taki has been gratuitously offensive and it’s been felt Boris ought not (in his role as editor) to have allowed the piece in the magazine.

    On one occasion of course Boris was steadfast, accepting total responsibility for the Liverpool editorial, defending its essential thesis and copping a huge amount of flak over it though he hadn’t written it.

    The comment about the disproportionate Catholic influence is interesting though. An incredibly disproportionate number of Army officers are, particularly in Cavalry, Guards etc.

  116. Boris breeds poodles??? Good god, I’m sure the Catholic Church is against that!

    And I give it ten hours before someone posts that he should stick to British breeds.

  117. Tony Bliar is Boris’s fault????
    No, he can’t have bred good old Tone, that’s not the kinda guy he is.
    Must catch up and read the whole thread dudes..

  118. Good grief, some of this stuff is making my brain bleed too, sod it, I’m going to do the washing up.

    (catholics – they believe they can say sorry on a friday and do it all again next week don’t they? Absolution’s a wonderful thing)

  119. I really don’t know what all the fuss is about the Da Vinci Code. I found myself thinking that it would have been a much better plot to have had JC not only marry Mary Magdalen, but also move to Tibet and become a Buddhist. Now that would have been a bit more contentious.

    But the thought was overtaken by the Independent’s headline news that David Attenborough has signed on the dotted line for Global Warming – which was surprise in that I had always supposed that the likeable old chap had signed up in 1956, never mind 2006. But it seems they’ve nobbled him now:

      I’m not a chemist or a climatologist or a meteorologist; it isn’t for me to suddenly stand up and say I have decided the climate is changing. That’s not my expertise. The television gives you an unfair and unjustified prominence but just because your face is on the telly doesn’t mean you’re an expert on meteorology.

      But I’m no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate. The thing that really convinced me was the graphs connecting the increase of carbon dioxide in the environment and the rise in temperature, with the growth of human population and industrialisation.

    Somehow, reading this filled me with dread. It was the “I’m no longer sceptical – Now I do not have any doubt at all” bit that did it. They were the words of a newly-minted True Believer on the Road to Damascus. He was no longer sceptical. He had no doubt whatsoever. He had Seen The Graph.

    And I think we are all going to be made to See The Graph. And it will become as impermissible to be sceptical, or to entertain the slightest doubt, as it was to be an atheist in Rome in the 16th century, or a Languedoc Cathar in the 13th century.

    And I found myself wondering what punishments these new Believers would inflict upon us Global Warmers. It’s Your Fault, they will say, pointing their fingers at me. And what will they ban? What will they criminalise? What laws will they rush through parliament to make life even worse for me, and purely and simply to punish me?

    It filled me with dread.

  120. No no, you’ve got the conspiracy all wrong! I’m sure Dan will reveal next that it was Jesus’s brother Thomas (of doubting fame)who moved to India and became a Buddhist.
    (You think I’m joking, but that is one of the stories that’s been circulating for a couple of hundred years or so).

  121. Socially incorrect though it may be to say it, the dominant cause of global warming seems to be the excessive number of human beings on the planet. (encouraged by our old friends the Catholic Church of course.) Anything other suggestion is merely paddling around the edges of the problem.
    Me paranoid and delusional…? Of course not 🙂

  122. the dominant cause of global warming seems to be the excessive number of human beings on the planet.

    An interesting variant of the it’s-all-our-fault doctrine. I guess it’ll just have to be gas chambers again. Just hope they don’t use a greenhouse gas this time – tank engines exhausts are so environmentally unsound.

    And it might be suggested that this propensity for self-flagellation is very much a Christian notion (and kept alive by Opus Dei) that derives from the idea of an Original Sin that resulted in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden. It was their fault then, and it will be our fault now.

  123. Sorry for hijacking the conversation, but this is more important.

    Taken from the Equalities Act 2006 as published by the Office of Public Sector Information:

    Section 3 General duty

    The Commission shall exercise its functions under this Part with a view to encouraging and supporting the development of a society in which-

    (a) people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination,
    (b) there is respect for and protection of each individual’s human rights,
    (c) there is respect for the dignity and worth of each individual,
    (d) each individual has an equal opportunity to participate in society, and
    (e) there is mutual respect between groups based on understanding and valuing of diversity and on shared respect for equality and human rights.

    Section 9 Human rights

    (1) The Commission shall, by exercising the powers conferred by this Part-

    (a) promote understanding of the importance of human rights,
    (b) encourage good practice in relation to human rights,
    (c) promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, and
    (d) encourage public authorities to comply with section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42) (compliance with Convention rights).

    Section 20 Investigations

    (1) The Commission may investigate whether or not a person-

    (a) has committed an unlawful act,
    (b) has complied with a requirement imposed by an unlawful act notice under section 21, or
    (c) has complied with an undertaking given under section 23.
    (2) The Commission may conduct an investigation under subsection (1)(a) only if it suspects that the person concerned may have committed an unlawful act.

    (3) A suspicion for the purposes of subsection (2) may (but need not) be based on the results of, or a matter arising during the course of, an inquiry under section 16.

    (4) Before settling a report of an investigation recording a finding that a person has committed an unlawful act or has failed to comply with a requirement or undertaking the Commission shall-

    (a) send a draft of the report to the person,
    (b) specify a period of at least 28 days during which he may make written representations about the draft, and
    (c) consider any representations made.
    (5) Schedule 2 makes supplemental provision about investigations.

    21 Unlawful act notice

    (1) The Commission may give a person a notice under this section (an “unlawful act notice”) if-

    (a) he is or has been the subject of an investigation under section 20(1)(a), and
    (b) the Commission is satisfied that he has committed an unlawful act.
    (2) A notice must specify-

    (a) the unlawful act, and
    (b) the provision of the equality enactments by virtue of which the act is unlawful.
    (3) A notice must inform the recipient of the effect of-

    (a) subsections (5) to (7),
    (b) section 20(1)(b), and
    (c) section 24(1).
    (4) A notice may-

    (a) require the person to whom the notice is given to prepare an action plan for the purpose of avoiding repetition or continuation of the unlawful act;
    (b) recommend action to be taken by the person for that purpose.
    (5) A person who is given a notice may, within the period of six weeks beginning with the day on which the notice is given, appeal to the appropriate court or tribunal on the grounds-

    (a) that he has not committed the unlawful act specified in the notice, or
    (b) that a requirement for the preparation of an action plan imposed under subsection (4)(a) is unreasonable.
    (6) On an appeal under subsection (5) the court or tribunal may-

    (a) affirm a notice;
    (b) annul a notice;
    (c) vary a notice;
    (d) affirm a requirement;
    (e) annul a requirement;
    (f) vary a requirement;
    (g) make an order for costs or expenses.
    (7) In subsection (5) “the appropriate court or tribunal” means-

    (a) an employment tribunal, if a claim in respect of the alleged unlawful act could be made to it, or
    (b) a county court (in England and Wales) or the sheriff (in Scotland), if a claim in respect of the alleged unlawful act could be made to it or to him.
    22 Action plans

    (1) This section applies where a person has been given a notice under section 21 which requires him (under section 21(4)(a)) to prepare an action plan.

    (2) The notice must specify a time by which the person must give the Commission a first draft plan.

    (3) After receiving a first draft plan from a person the Commission shall-

    (a) approve it, or
    (b) give the person a notice which-
    (i) states that the draft is not adequate,
    (ii) requires the person to give the Commission a revised draft by a specified time, and
    (iii) may make recommendations about the content of the revised draft.
    (4) Subsection (3) shall apply in relation to a revised draft plan as it applies in relation to a first draft plan.

    (5) An action plan comes into force-

    (a) if the period of six weeks beginning with the date on which a first draft or revised draft is given to the Commission expires without the Commission-
    (i) giving a notice under subsection (3)(b), or
    (ii) applying for an order under subsection (6)(b), or
    (b) upon a court’s declining to make an order under subsection (6)(b) in relation to a revised draft of the plan.
    (6) The Commission may apply to a county court (in England and Wales) or to the sheriff (in Scotland)-

    (a) for an order requiring a person to give the Commission a first draft plan by a time specified in the order,
    (b) for an order requiring a person who has given the Commission a revised draft plan to prepare and give to the Commission a further revised draft plan-
    (i) by a time specified in the order, and
    (ii) in accordance with any directions about the plan’s content specified in the order, or
    (c) during the period of five years beginning with the date on which an action plan prepared by a person comes into force, for an order requiring the person-
    (i) to act in accordance with the action plan, or
    (ii) to take specified action for a similar purpose.
    (7) An action plan may be varied by agreement between the Commission and the person who prepared it.

    (8) Paragraphs 10 to 14 of Schedule 2 apply (but omitting references to oral evidence) in relation to consideration by the Commission of the adequacy of a draft action plan as they apply in relation to the conduct of an inquiry.

    (9) A person commits an offence if without reasonable excuse he fails to comply with an order under subsection (6); and a person guilty of an offence under this subsection shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

    23 Agreements

    (1) The Commission may enter into an agreement with a person under which-

    (a) the person undertakes-
    (i) not to commit an unlawful act of a specified kind, and
    (ii) to take, or refrain from taking, other specified action (which may include the preparation of a plan for the purpose of avoiding an unlawful act), and
    (b) the Commission undertakes not to proceed against the person under section 20 or 21 in respect of any unlawful act of the kind specified under paragraph (a)(i).
    (2) The Commission may enter into an agreement with a person under this section only if it thinks that the person has committed an unlawful act.

    (3) But a person shall not be taken to admit to the commission of an unlawful act by reason only of entering into an agreement under this section.

    (4) An agreement under this section-

    (a) may be entered into whether or not the person is or has been the subject of an investigation under section 20,
    (b) may include incidental or supplemental provision (which may include provision for termination in specified circumstances), and
    (c) may be varied or terminated by agreement of the parties.
    (5) This section shall apply in relation to the breach of a duty specified in section 34(2) as it applies in relation to the commission of an unlawful act; and for that purpose the reference in subsection (1)(b) above to section 20 or 21 shall be taken as a reference to section 32.

    24 Applications to court

    (1) If the Commission thinks that a person is likely to commit an unlawful act, it may apply-

    (a) in England and Wales, to a county court for an injunction restraining the person from committing the act, or
    (b) in Scotland, to the sheriff for an interdict prohibiting the person from committing the act.
    (2) Subsection (3) applies if the Commission thinks that a party to an agreement under section 23 has failed to comply, or is likely not to comply, with an undertaking under the agreement.

    (3) The Commission may apply to a county court (in England and Wales) or to the sheriff (in Scotland) for an order requiring the person-

    (a) to comply with his undertaking, and
    (b) to take such other action as the court or the sheriff may specify.
    25 Application to restrain unlawful advertising, pressure, &c.

    (1) This section applies to an act which is unlawful under any of the following-

    (a) sections 38 to 40 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) (advertising; and instructions or pressure to discriminate),
    (b) sections 29 to 31 of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74) (advertising; and instructions or pressure to discriminate),
    (c) sections 16B and 16C of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50) (advertising; and instructions or pressure to discriminate), and
    (d) sections 54 and 55 below (religious discrimination: advertising; and instructions or pressure to discriminate).
    (2) Legal proceedings in relation to action to which this section applies-

    (a) may be brought by the Commission in accordance with this section, and
    (b) may not be brought by anyone else.
    (3) Where the Commission thinks that a person has done an act to which this section applies the Commission may-

    (a) present a complaint to an employment tribunal, where the act is alleged to be unlawful by reference to-
    (i) Part 2 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975,
    (ii) Part 2 of the Race Relations Act 1976,
    (iii) Part 2 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995,
    (iv) Part 3 of that Act in so far as it relates to employment services, or
    (v) Part 2 of this Act, or
    (b) in any other case, apply to a county court (in England and Wales) or the sheriff (in Scotland).
    (4) On a complaint or application under subsection (3) in respect of an alleged act to which this section applies, the tribunal, court or sheriff shall determine whether the allegation is correct.

    (5) The Commission may apply to a county court (in England and Wales) for an injunction restraining a person from doing an act to which this section applies where-

    (a) either-
    (i) a tribunal or court has determined under subsection (4) that the person has done an act to which this section applies, or
    (ii) the Commission thinks that the person has done an act to which this section applies, and
    (b) the Commission thinks that if unrestrained the person is likely to do another act to which this section applies.
    (6) The Commission may apply to the sheriff (in Scotland) for an interdict prohibiting a person from doing an act to which this section applies where-

    (a) either-
    (i) a tribunal or the sheriff has determined under subsection (4) that the person has done an act to which this section applies, or
    (ii) the Commission thinks that the person has done an act to which this section applies, and
    (b) the Commission thinks that without an interdict the person is likely to do another act to which this section applies.
    (7) Subsection (1) does not apply to an act which constitutes an offence.

  124. And the award for the worst bit of legislation I have ever seen, the section that makes the Hunting Act look like a masterpiece of draftsmanship goes to:

    46 Goods, facilities and services

    (1) It is unlawful for a person (“A”) concerned with the provision to the public or a section of the public of goods, facilities or services to discriminate against a person (“B”) who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services-

    (a) by refusing to provide B with goods, facilities or services,
    (b) by refusing to provide B with goods, facilities or services of a quality which is the same as or similar to the quality of goods, facilities or services that A normally provides to-
    (i) the public, or
    (ii) a section of the public to which B belongs,
    (c) by refusing to provide B with goods, facilities or services in a manner which is the same as or similar to that in which A normally provides goods, facilities or services to-
    (i) the public, or
    (ii) a section of the public to which B belongs, or
    (d) by refusing to provide B with goods, facilities or services on terms which are the same as or similar to the terms on which A normally provides goods, facilities or services to-
    (i) the public, or
    (ii) a section of the public to which B belongs.
    (2) Subsection (1) applies, in particular, to-

    (a) access to and use of a place which the public are permitted to enter,
    (b) accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment,
    (c) facilities by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans, credit or finance,
    (d) facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment,
    (e) facilities for transport or travel, and
    (f) the services of a profession or trade.
    (3) Where a skill is commonly exercised in different ways in relation to or for the purposes of different religions or beliefs, a person who normally exercises it in relation to or for the purpose of a religion or belief does not contravene subsection (1) by-

    (a) insisting on exercising the skill in the way in which he exercises it in relation to or for the purposes of that religion or belief, or
    (b) if he reasonably considers it impracticable to exercise the skill in that way in relation to or for the purposes of another religion or belief, refusing to exercise it in relation to or for the purposes of that other religion or belief.
    (4) Subsection (1)-

    (a) does not apply in relation to the provision of goods, facilities or services by a person exercising a public function, and
    (b) does not apply to discrimination in relation to the provision of goods, facilities or services if discrimination in relation to that provision-
    (i) is unlawful by virtue of another provision of this Part or by virtue of a provision of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/1660), or
    (ii) would be unlawful by virtue of another provision of this Part or of those regulations but for an express exception.
    (5) For the purposes of subsection (1) it is immaterial whether or not a person charges for the provision of goods, facilities or services.

  125. No wonder lawyers get paid so much, if they have to wade through this kind of crap on a daily basis. Gave me a migraine.

  126. Maybe in a bit when I’ve calmed down.

    Seems to me like they are basically setting up an agency to define and to enforce political correctness including the use of making court order against people who refuse to be politically correct.

    Political correctness is all well and good, it is wrong to go around offending people, but it is an oxymoron, a bit like ‘positive discrimination’ is.

    Some of my personal opinions on political matters would offend people, but they are MY opinions and I am entitiled to them.

    This legislation is a charter for the establishment of a thought police with actual enforcement powers!

    PS, Raincoaster, when are you gonna teach me how to use wordpress?

  127. Honest to god I will get on the WordPress blogging lessons as soon as I’ve come down from this cold medicine high. It’ll be tonight sometime just to teach you how to write something original for your blog and how to paste stuff in. This stuff is golden; you should paste it into your blog tonight after I’ve posted your lesson.

    It’s just that right now I’m so stoned that all of my words need to be retyped: they all come out as words, just not the ones I had intended. I wouldn’t be offering any advice in the shape I’m in.

  128. Wow, from the Da Vinci Code to the Kennedys to blogging: we’ve really covered the whole cryptocracy, haven’t we?

    Somebody say “Illuminati!”

  129. Wow, actually you’re right! Hadn’t looked at it that way… Thanks Steven, yet another step on the road to 1984 for labour.

  130. Although it’s not actually a thought police as such is it, since those things that are against the law are all tangible actions.

    Admittedly that stuff about issuing people with ‘action plans’ is a bit thought police-esque

  131. Steven_L

    You know how to depress a chap! I didn’t realise it was actually written like that! Sound of weeping from the Ramsey shed!

    As a univeristy teacher one of my roles is, with others, to look through courses and see what needs pruning and where we might need new stuff to make our degrees worthwhile. Maybe the governement could take the same attitude to legislation? For new stuff

    What problem is this law aiming to solve?

    How will it do that?

    Has anyone tried to think of unintended consequences?

    What contradictions does it introduce?

    For old stuff

    Is this any use any more?

    My daughter makes Madonna look like a very non-material girl. She’s thinking of going into law – this from the age of 11. But I now see why!

  132. Up to the paragraph beginning with « If he was a god … », Boris Johnson’s article is witty, entertaining, and also full of sensible remarks.
    From there on, logical, theological and historical mistakes become so dense, that it is hard to believe they are due just to poor scholarship, or plain ignorance: … yet there is method in ‘t. I will quote and comment on the main ones. (BJ= Boris Johnson, MS=my comment)

    [BJ] If he was a god, how come he died? And if he was a man, how did he rise from the dead?
    [MS] Jesus was Son of God, God and man at the same time. Though it is customary to say that he “rose” from the dead, in fact he was resurrected by God, the Father, YHWH (“He hath raised him from the dead” – Acts, 17:31).

    [BJ] From the very beginning of Christianity, there were Gnostics, who contested the full divinity of Christ …
    [MS] In fact, the Gnostics (unlike the Ebionites, who actually insisted Jesus was a merely human Messiah), insisted on the divine-only nature of Jesus, and went as far as claiming that his body was only appearance (“Docetism”, one of the variants of multifaceted Gnosticism, comes from the Greek dokeo, “to appear”)

    [BJ] … the chief exponent of this type of view [Gnosticism] was a Libyan Christian bishop called Arius.
    [MS] This is the most disconcerting distortion of facts. Quite on the contrary, Arius was a staunch opposer of Gnosticism, and exposed the heretical tenets of Valentinus, one of the most eminent of the Gnostics.

    [BJ] [Jesus] he was just a chap really; not homoousios, but homoiousios
    [MS] Arius believed that the Son was subordinated to God,the Father, it’s true, but maintained that he was immediately after God the Father, his first creature, actually his “generation” above all angels and above all creation. And Arius believed that this super-human, divine, pre-existent being, had been incarnated in the man Jesus.

    [BJ] “Jesus was a really great guy and a great teacher, but I don’t think he was really the biological son of God”.
    [MS] According to the Arian heresy, Jesus was not Son of God in the sense of “biological son of God”, but because he was the Incarnation of the Son, generated by God before all creation. In this respect the Arian doctrine is not different from the orthodox, Athanasian, Trinitarian doctrine. The radical challenge to this doctrine does not come from Arianism, but rather from Unitarism, aka Radical Monotheism.

    [BJ] Constantine settled [the Arian controversy] rather incompetently at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and the doctrine of the Trinity was pronounced.
    [MS] Actually, at Nicea, at Constantine’s compelling order, a sentence was inserted in the Creed, whereby the Son was declared homoousios to patri, “of the same substance of the Father. The Trinitarian dogma only came with the Council of Constantinople, in 381.

    [BJ] Islam, […] regards the idea of the son of God as blasphemous.
    [MS] True, but Johnson should not have omitted to say that Muslims still consider Jesus as miraculously conceived, and born from the Virgin Mary. And, before the Arian heresy, Athanasian reply, and Trinitarian dogma, this was also the essential core of the Christian belief.

    Ultimately though, I must say that, in spite of his many misconceptions, Boris Johnson “put his finger on the logical problem”. Actually, to be accurate, the problem is not so much Incarnation, but homoousios, that is “consubstantiality”, Constantine’s “invention” that Jesus was “of the same substance” as God the Father. Constantine was not at all “incompetent”, though: in fact he secretly “imported” the homoousios doctrine from Egyptian Hermetic Mysteries.

    And the idea of a “new Council of Nicaea” is more serious than Johnson would or could imagine: to save Christianity, the only way is to re-affirm that Jesus is truly the Son of God (“biological”, so to speak), and to remove from it the late and ultimately heathen doctrine of Trinity and Incarnation.

  133. Servetus

    kindly explain your closing statement:
    “to save Christianity, the only way is to re-affirm that Jesus is truly the Son of God (“biological”, so to speak), and to remove from it the late and ultimately heathen doctrine of Trinity and Incarnation.”

    The first part seems to be in favour of a trinitarian interpretation, and the latter opposed. The parts can be reconciled with either a duality of son and father (as opposed to trinity), or a strict monotheism with an incarnated father as the son, but somehow I don’t think that either of those is what you had in mind.

  134. Jack Target,
    I am glad you are asking me the question, because it means that my comments are not unreadable, and also, you give me the opportunity to clarify.
    Let’ see

    1. The Trinitarian dogma (and also the Arian heresy), as I have already noted, do not give too much importance to the “biological Sonship” (in the domain of time). What matter there is that the Son is generated “from eternity” (for Athanasians/Trinitarians) or anyway before all creation (for Arians). It is a total misconception that Arius advocated a doctrine of a merely human Jesus: quite the opposite. You may say that Arius advocated a “duality of son and father”, but thing are a bit more complex here, because, just as Trinity is not three-theism, so “duality” is not (necessarily) di-theism, but rather Binitarianism (yes, this word exits, I have not invented it! It is the same idea as Trinity, just with two “persons”)
    2. What you call “strict monotheism with an incarnated father as the son” also existed as a historical heresy: it was called (depending on the “accent”), Monarchianism (when the idea of the one-God was insisted upon), Modalism (if the one-ness of God underneath the different “modes” of revealing Himself to humans, as “Father”, “Son” of “Spirit” was underlined), or Patripassianism (if, usually by opposers, the fact that God-the-Father would have been one and the same who suffered on the cross was evidenced)
    3. My position (and I boldly claim it was the clear and simple position of the Apostolic Church, before it got corrupted by Greek Philosophy and Egyptian Mysteries) is that there is only one God, YHWH, who is also the Father of Jesus, not from eternity, but in the domain of time, as the Gospels (Matthew and Luke in particular) most obviously suggest. Jesus is is true God and true man, inasmuch as He joins in Himself by generation the Divine nature of God his Father and the human nature of his Mother, the Virgin Mary.

    In my next comment, I will show that, from the Apostles’ Creed, a perfectly consistent (and, I claim, the only legitimate) meaning of the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be derived.
    The Greek-philosophical-heathen doctrine of the Logos, concocted by the Hellenistic Jew Philo of Alexandria, and unfortunately adopted by Christianity (soon after the end of the Apostolic age, or perhaps even before the end of it), is the “original sin” of Christianity. Trinity and Incarnation are the clumsy, incomprehensible dogmas the Church had to come up with, to hide this “original sin”and to try and patch thing up.

  135. Here is the promised comment on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and what these words really mean in the Apostles’ Creed

  136. The God of Christians is not a “force” that moves the world, bur a real Personal God, He is strictly One, He is the same God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob in whom Jews and Moslems believe. God is called Father because he loves His creatures, and most of all human beings, who are the ultimate purpose of His Creation.
  137. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, that is the Messiah, announced by the Scriptures, who has dwelt among us as a man, and who will return in the Glory. Jesus is Son of God not “from eternity”, but generated by God in the fullness of time from the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is true God and true man, inasmuch as He joins in Himself by generation the Divine nature of God his Father and the human nature of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. This is the greatest Miracle and Mystery of Christianity. In Jesus has been fully expressed God’s Wisdom, which had already been deployed at Creation. The Word, or God’s Wisdom, is therefore not a distinct person neither from God, nor in God, and it is not even a “project” of Creation, but an eternal attribute of the Eternal God.
  138. Creation is tied to the One God Father by a twofold bond. Creation is Nature, which obeys the laws that God imposed upon it in His Wisdom. In Nature the Divine Providence expresses itself as Order and Harmony, with reference to the General although Nature includes also breaches of order and catastrophes). But God acts also directly upon Creation, with actions that are addressed to the Particular. This direct action and presence of God in His Creation, is called by the Scripture Holy Spirit. God manifests Himself by His Spirit both as inspiration in humans chosen by God, and as miracle in Nature’s extraordinary events.
  139. These are interesting ideas, and make a lot of sense.

    But are you proposing a God who changes? If the Son is generated within time, then there would have been a time when the Son did not exist as an aspect of God. And also a time when he did. As such the nature of God appears to change from his pre-temporal nature, without the Son, to his temporal nature which includes the Son.

  140. Jack Target,

    it is not easy to reconcile the idea of God, which implies perfection, and therefore also immutability, with the Son being an “aspect” of God, and this “aspect” changing in time. So (see above explanation of the words Father, Son and Spirit), my reply is that, properly speaking (and making an effort to go against nearly 2000 years of Trinitarian brain-washing and conditioning), there is only one God, and this God is one person, to whom we refer to as the Father.

    The Word (or Logos, or, in Hebrew, Dabar, or Wisdom, or, in Hebrew, Hochmah, they are all equivalent expressions) and the Spirit (or Pneuma, or, in Hebrew, Ruah, they are all equivalent expressions) are not persons (or, with theological “technical” Greek word, “hypostaseis”), but rather attributes of the one and only God and Father.

    It was Michael Servetus (the staunch defender of Strict Monotheism, who died burned at the stake in 1553 at the behest of John Calvin, religious despot of Geneva), who, referring to Deuteronomy 33:27 (“The eternal God is thy Refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms”), explains that the Word and the Spirit are the two “Everlasting Arms” of God.

    As for Jesus, once again, he unites in himself, mysteriously “something” of God (in fact, the close partaking of His Word) and the human nature, which he derives miraculously from his human Mother, the Virgin Mary.

    On the other hand, that Jesus cannot be God, in the proper sense of the word, as the Trinitarian dogma teaches (to be accurate, the Incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity), can be inferred (in my opinion, conclusively), from the following reasoning.

    Let us assume that in God there subsist a Trinity of Persons, and that in Jesus human nature has been united to the divine nature of the Eternal Son so as to constitute one Person, how is Jesus, resurrected and sitting on the right hand of the Father, posited with respect to this Trinity?

    Two only are the possibilities: either the divinity of the Son has been changed and somehow “enriched” by the humanity of Jesus, or the humanity of Jesus has been entirely “absorbed” into the divinity of the Son.

    In the former case it is God’s immutability which is questioned, in the latter case it is the very reality, value and meaning of Resurrection which dissolves into a haze.

  141. I don’t quite follow that final reasoning, the reasoning “that Jesus cannot be God, in the proper sense of the word, as the Trinitarian dogma teaches”. Could you clarify it please?

    I don’t actually have a problem reconciling perfection with change, in fact I find it easier than reconciling perfection with immutability. However, would be interested to fully understand your conclusive reasoning!

  142. But are you proposing a God who changes? [Jack Target May 31, 2006 08:27 AM]

    I don’t actually have a problem reconciling perfection with change, in fact I find it easier than reconciling perfection with immutability. ? [Jack Target May 31, 2006 11:43 AM]

    I am not quite sure what it is you don’t follow in my reasoning.

    If it is that you “do not have a problem reconciling perfection with change”, and therefore the notion of change with God, then let me be more specific, and say that it is the God of the Scripture I am referring to (Mal 3:6 “For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed”), and also of St. Anselm of Canterbury (or Aosta, for Italians, or Bec, for the French), that is God is “that than which nothing greater can be thought”.
    Of course it is perfectly possible to conceive of God as changing (Eraclitus did, Idealist Philosophy, and Brahmanism), but I claim that a God that changes, is not distinguishable from his Creation, in fact the very notion of creation vanishes with a changing God.

    I believe in a Creator God.
    I believe in God and Creation.
    I do not believe I am God (or part thereof)

  143. When I asked if you were proposing a God who never changes I was simply seeking clarification, not challenging the point 🙂

    “Two only are the possibilities” for example, what makes you say this? Why not:

    The Eternal Son has had his human part since ‘before’ creation. Or rather the human part has always been a part of the Eternal Son (and also therefore of God). This is totally harmonious with a view of God which places him outside time. As such God would not need to change to accomodate this aspect, and likewise the humanity of the Son would not need to be absorbed into the divinity.

  144. I never assumed you were challenging my point, what makes you assume that? I simply put close to each other two sentences of yours, the first of which seemed to imply surprise at a possible proposal of mine of “a God who changes”; the second, on the contrary, shows “ease” with “reconciling perfection [and, therefore, presumably, God] with change”.

    Now you seem to prefer to go back on the idea of a God that does not change (unless you have another, special, copyrighted meaning for the adjective “eternal”), and propose the audacious idea that “the human part has always been a part of the Eternal Son”. This is not contradictory, of course, but let me insist that it makes the idea of Jesus receiving his humanity from his Mother incomprehensible. Also, it voids all possible meaning of the Resurrection.

    In sum, as I concluded in my comment at 10:36 AM:

    «[Either] it is God’s immutability which is questioned, [or] it is the very reality, value and meaning of Resurrection which dissolve into a haze.»

    You tackled the two horns of the alternative one at the time: if you tackle them both together, you realize that to have a “God [Father and Son, and …Spirit into the bargain] outside time” and, also, a Jesus Christ with a real human nature (therefore subject to change), whose Resurrection is not simply “going back, unchanged, where he eternally belongs”, is impossible.

    Very much like wanting to “have your cake and eat it too”.

    I have chosen: I believe in real Resurrection. The alternative would be a purely theatrical Resurrection.

    If it is not clear, I can expand on the notion of “theatrical Resurrection”. But I wonder if this exchange is not getting a bit exorbitant: I wonder what Boris Johnson and the other forum participants may think.

    Maybe we can continue with our personal e-mails?

  145. Why are people getting so upset? It’s just a novel!

    I watched one of the many television programmes on the subject at the weekend where, after spouting on about the DaVinci Code for an hour, the ‘expert’ admitted he hadn’t actually read the book he was commenting on. People are making a lot of money out of all this controversy.

    As for Christians and the church getting so upset, why? You are just playing in to the hands of conspiracy theorists.

    And anyway, the more enlightened know that Jesus was a Buddhist ; )

  146. Personal e-mails might be better! Feel free to use mine:
    warphueal (at) hotmail (dot) com.

    A theatrical ressurection is actually fairly in-line with my beliefs in the sense that you’ve meant it. However, only in the same way that human free-will is ‘theatrical’. I think we make the choices with free-will, and the choice is entirely ours (influenced by outside forces though of course), however I also believe that God knows the outcome ‘before’ it happens. This doesn’t mean that he makes the choice for us. Likewise I think the ressurection was innevitable and pre-destined, but to me that doesn’t make it any less miraculous, wonderful, or important.

    I don’t think that wanting to ‘have my cake and eat it too’ is necessarily an argument against the validity of my points. Those who believe in Grace are most definitely having their cake and eating it too in my opinion! Christianity is full of those examples.

    I think my scenario tackled the bull by both horns perfectly well, preventing the necessary questioning of immutability but without necessarily diminishing the importance of the ressurection. I don’t agree that the Eternal Son (which by the way I’m still undecided on, I like your idea a lot) eternally having a human part should necessarily preclude him gaining it from Mary. It all depends on our understanding of God’s understanding of time.

    Anyway, unless anybody intervenes to say they’d like to see it, I’ll expect your next reply by e-mail.

  147. raincoaster said:
    May 23, 2006 06:43 AM | permalink

    The book’s not all that unavailable, given that it’s selling on Amazon at the moment for $11. The Wikipedia entry, however, is unencouraging. Here is a better introduction to the Ahmadiyya religious movement.

    To RAINCOASTER

    Apologies for the time delay; a better wikipedia search is “Khwaja Nazir Ahmed” who died in 1968; unlike the Nazir Ahmad you refer to who is still alive and very much illiterate.

    The Turin Shroad was hailed as a major dicovery about 25 years ago, the cloth was verified and carbon dated to conincide with the time of Jesus; the existence of 120 pollen were found on the cloth that are known to thrive in the middle east 2000 years ago; 22 of which no longer exist. The only thing that remained was that there needed to be conclusive evidence that the shroud did indeed wrap Jesus when he was removed from the cross; this was further enhanced by observing that there were indeed thorn marks on the forehead of the person and wounds on the wrist and ankles in line with a person who had been crucified. However when observations suggested that the blood marks from the wounds were not in lines but in pulses suggesting that the person covered in the Turin shroud must have had a beating heart when removed from the cross; there was a self imposed blanket ban by the media, then suddenly a few years later it was announced that the Turin Shroud was a hoax produced in the 18th century. Strange that even in the 21st century it is impossible to reproduce such a shroud ! Obviously the implications of Jesus being alive after crucification has immense, where does that put Father , Son and Holy Spirit ?

  148. Bashir Ahmad,

    However when observations suggested that the blood marks from the wounds were not in lines but in pulses suggesting that the person covered in the Turin shroud must have had a beating heart when removed from the cross; there was a self imposed blanket ban by the media

    Where did you find about “blood marks in pulses”? I searched the web, to no avail.

    The cloth was verified and carbon dated to coincide with the time of Jesus

    This is in sharp contrast with the official results:

    “All three [laboratories], Oxford University, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology agreed with a dating in the 13th to 14th centuries (1260-1390.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin#Radiocarbon_dating]

    Please clarify

  149. I wonder what Boris Johnson and the other forum participants may think. (Servetus)

    Well, I for one can say that I barely understand a word that you’ve written. It simply doesn’t make any sense to me. Take the following quotation:

      In Jesus has been fully expressed God’s Wisdom, which had already been deployed at Creation. The Word, or God’s Wisdom, is therefore not a distinct person neither from God, nor in God, and it is not even a “project” of Creation, but an eternal attribute of the Eternal God.

    I can take more or less every word in this and ask: what does it mean? What is meant by ‘Word’, ‘God’, ‘Eternal’, ‘person’, etc, etc? It’s all Greek to me. It employs language that has little or no contemporary currency, but is instead the private and arcane language of theologians.

    My own view is that, if you wish to express ideas clearly, you should do so using simple English. And if you wish to introduce some concept – like “Word” as opposed to “word” -, you should explain in simple English what this means.

    Fundamental ideas in physics, like ‘mass’ and ‘length’ and ‘time’ can be explained in simple English. Ultimately, what cannot be said in simple English cannot be said at all.

  150. Servetus

    I recall reading this in the “New Scientist” around the late 1970’s probably circa 1978. A quick serach on the Internet brought me to as site aptly named “Shroud of turin.org”. Here are some snippets from their site; there are many other sites to chose from.

    April 1976: Release of Report of the Turin Scientific Commission, with the first public information of the pollen findings of Dr. Max Frei, who claims that the Shroud’s dust includes pollens from some plants that are exclusive to Israel and to Turkey, suggesting that the Shroud must at one time have been exposed to the air in these countries.

    TWO YEARS LATER

    September 30, 1978: The STURP team arrives in Turin. Some of their luggage is lost and Italian Customs authorities hold all eighty cases of their test equipment, refusing to release any of it. One particularly delicate piece of x-ray equipment needs to be filled with liquid nitrogen or it will be damaged beyond repair. Access is denied.

    Early October, 1978: En route to Turin to take part in the Second International Symposium on the Shroud, Professor Harry Gove stops off in Oxford to inform Hall of Oxford about the possibility of radiocarbon dating the Shroud. Although Hall does not yet have an AMS facility, he expresses himself and his colleagues as being very enthusiastic to ‘get in on the act’.

    TEN YEARS LATER !!

    July 27, 1988: (Wednesday) The Oxford laboratory commences its first run of its Shroud sample and controls.

    August 8, 1988: The Oxford laboratory completes its Shroud work.

    August 26, 1988: The London Evening Standard carries banner headlines declaring the Shroud to be a fake made in 1350. The source, Cambridge librarian Dr. Stephen Luckett, has no known previous connection with the Shroud, or with the carbon dating work, but in this article declares scientific laboratories ‘leaky institutions’. The story is picked up around the world.

    September 18, 1988: Without quoting its source, The Sunday Times publishes a front-page story headlined: ‘Official: The Turin Shroud is a Fake’. Professor Hall and Dr. Tite firmly deny any responsibility for this story.

    October 13, 1988:(Thursday) At a press conference held in Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero, Archbishop of Turin, makes an official announcement that the results of the three laboratories performing the Carbon dating of the Shroud have determined an approximate 1325 date for the cloth. At a similar press conference held at the British Museum, London, it is announced that the Shroud dates between 1260 and 1390 AD. Newspaper headlines immediately brand the Shroud a fake and declare that the Catholic Church has accepted the results.

    ANOTHER TEN YEARS ON !

    April 11 & 12, 1997: Shortly after 11 p.m. fire breaks out in Turin’s Guarini Chapel, quickly threatening the Shroud’s bulletproof display case. Fireman Mario Trematore uses a sledgehammer to break open this case and the Shroud, in its traditional casket, is taken temporarily to Cardinal Saldarini’s residence. Signs of arson are found in the Royal Chapel, the walls of which are very badly damaged. Also damaged are the whole High Altar end of the cathedral and the part of the Royal Palace directly adjoining the Chapel.

    April 14, 1997: In the presence of the Cardinal and several invited specialists, including Mme. Flury-Lemberg, Professor Baima-Bollone and Dr. Rosalia Piazza of Rome’s Istituto Centrale del Restauro, the Shroud is brought out from its casket and its condition carefully examined. It is found to be completely unaffected by the fire. It is taken to an undisclosed place of safety.

    AND NEARLY ANOTHER TEN YEARS LATER !!

    May 2006 Da Vinci claims new discovery !! ??

    —————————–
    If the shroud was indeed a fake produced in 1350; remarkably the points of injury were anatomically correct, the nailing marks were above the wrist and not in the palms as was consistent with medically naive 19th century images of Jesus on the cross. Remarkably the 1350 fake cannot be copied in 2006.

  151. idlex,

    I find your comment rather ironical, bearing in mind that, after Jack Target’s first reply, I had written:

    I am glad you are asking me the question, because it means that my comments are not unreadable, and also, you give me the opportunity to clarify. [Servetus May 30, 2006 07:00 PM]

    Anyway, “Word” is the English equivalent of the Greek Logos (the New Testament was written in Greek): it corresponds, more or less, to the Hebrew term Hochmah and it means means, in Greek, something like “wisdom”, “logic”, “rational principle”.

    So “Word” (capitalized not because it is personal, but because of its special meaning) means that the World (forgive the capitalization, again) is not chaotic but was created according to an intelligible, rational plan.

    As for ‘God’, ‘Eternal’, ‘person’, they may have “little or no contemporary currency”, and this, I am afraid, is not a progress, but a serious problem.

    Are you sure you can explain everything in terms of ‘mass’ and ‘length’ and ‘time’ (and ‘energy’, ‘atoms’, ‘protons’, ‘electrons’, ‘quarks’, ‘barions’ etc.)? Can you really express Quantum Physics and Relativity in “simple English”?

    And can you include in your “simple English” what really matters in life: ‘love’, ‘freedom’, ‘courage’, ‘plans’, ‘meaning’, ‘guilt’, ‘forgiveness’?

    I wonder…

  152. Are you sure you can explain everything in terms of ‘mass’ and ‘length’ and ‘time’? (Servetus)

    No, of course not. I was simply giving an example from physics where there are clear ideas of mass and length and time, which can be explained in English. I wasn’t suggesting that one can explain absolutely everything with physics.

    And can you include in your “simple English” what really matters in life: ‘love’, ‘freedom’, ‘courage’, ‘plans’, ‘meaning’, ‘guilt’, ‘forgiveness’?

    I’d say all those words are simple English. There may be some ambiguities about exactly what is meant by ‘love’ or ‘freedom’, but I think their meanings are fairly clear to most people.

    As for ‘God’, ‘Eternal’, ‘person’, they may have “little or no contemporary currency”, and this, I am afraid, is not a progress, but a serious problem.

    Well, it’s certainly a problem for someone like me trying to understand someone like you. Words like ‘God’, ‘eternal’, ‘Word’, and such are words that I don’t use, and nor does anyone I know use them. In an increasingly secular society, they have largely fallen out of use.

    The same comprehension problem is to be found elsewhere. There is a deep divide between people who study mathematics and science, and those who study the humanities (The Two Cultures of C. P. Snow). In many ways I’m simply pointing at another deepening divide of incomprehension – between the secular and the religious.

  153. Bashir,
    thank you for your reply, (though I cannot access the website you mention – I tried shroudofturin.org and shroud_of_turin.org)
    You suggest the idea that the Carbon 14 dating was not entirely “neutral”. Actually, come to think of it, October 13th was the day of Fatima’s Great Miracle, 1917, and of the mass arrest of Templars, including Jacques de Molay (in 1307). Maybe, a “symbolic revenge”. But maybe, a bit too much of a conspiracy theory! 🙂
    In your “snippets” I can find no answer to my question about “blood marks in pulses”, though. Which is the most puzzling one, because, of course, by implying that the “man of the Shroud” was still alive, it would void the possibility of considering the Shroud a “witness” to the Resurrection.
    Of course, if the person was still alive, it could be that Jesus did not die after all, and spent more time with Mary Magdalene? Or maybe, it was, again flipping Jacques de Molay, so Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas were right after all. But this, of course, is not even conspiracy theory: it’s plain silly.

  154. Words like ‘God’, ‘eternal’, ‘Word’, and such are words that I don’t use, and nor does anyone I know use them. In an increasingly secular society, they have largely fallen out of use.[idlex]

    How sad, too bad.

    Just make sure you have enough “ballast” so as not to fall pray to the first Wiccan wind.I have known of staunch rationalists, nay, scientific reductionists who …

  155. There’s no way I’ll fall prey to any Wiccan: I’d only start asking them difficult questions.

  156. You need a philosophical approach, to ask “difficult” questions.

    ‘mass’ and ‘length’ and ‘time’does not work, I am afraid.

    And simple English no good.

    And C.P. Snow suggested the gap needs to be eliminated by finding a common ground, not by eliminating one side of the gap.

  157. And simple English no good. (Servetus)

    Why? If you open a dictionary, you generally find the meanings of English words expressed using simpler English words.

    If you are saying that your terminology is inexpressible in simple English, however do you explain its meaning to anyone? And indeed, how was it first explained to you?

  158. In the meantime, Servetus and Jack Target managed to exchange 12 posts between.
    And, with some clarifications, we perfectly understood each other’s Q&A’s. And we are carrying on via e-mail (we are sparing you all that!).
    I know how you feel, because I had “simplified” my world exactly like you have (and I was even proud of it): I reduced my language, and everything “beyond” was simply “irrational” or “meaningless”.

  159. I know how you feel, because I had “simplified” my world exactly like you have (and I was even proud of it): I reduced my language, and everything “beyond” was simply “irrational” or “meaningless”. (Servetus)

    You’re being patronising, Servetus. You don’t know anything about me. You don’t know whether I ‘simplify my world’ or not. You don’t even know whether I dismiss anything beyond my supposedly simplified world as ‘irrational’ and ‘meaningless’. In fact, you’re ascribing views to me that I don’t hold.

    All I have said here is that I don’t understand what you’re talking about, and asked if you can express yourself in simple English as opposed to theological jargon. Apparently this is impossible.

    If Jack Target understands you – and it seems he does -, then good for him. It suggests he’s more of a theologian than I am.

    Perhaps Jack can express an opinion on the matter, and say whether he also thinks it is impossible to render theological ideas into simple English. I’m fairly sure that he won’t be patronising in his reply – because he never has been before.

  160. All I have said here is that I don’t understand what you’re talking about, and asked if you can express yourself in simple English as opposed to theological jargon. Apparently this is impossible.

    Words like ‘God’, ‘eternal’, ‘Word’, and such are words that I don’t use, and nor does anyone I know use them. In an increasingly secular society, they have largely fallen out of use.

    I may be patronizing, idlex, and I do apologize for making comments about your thoughts and intentions. But you are changing your position like a moving target (oops, the pun was entirely unintentional!).

    On the one hand, you ask to explain, in “simple English”, words which, on the other hand, you say you are not interested in and “[you] don’t use, and nor does anyone [you]know use them.”

    Sorry, mission impossible, at least for me.

  161. Theology is definitely an interest of mine – in fact I’m going to study it at uni next year.

    I’m afraid that language was necessary for me and servetus to make any headway with the discussion, although it was a bit exclusive, hence why I had no objection to switching to e-mail. It’s unfortunate that we had to carry on what was essentially an academic theological discussion here, but I was very interested indeed with the point he was making, and wanted to hear more. His case is for a heresy which I know nothing about, and since many would say that “heresy is just another word for independent thought”, I wanted to learn more! In adition, it attempts to tackle the Trinity, which is one of the stickiest and most complex of all theological issues.

    The technical language really is necessary though I’m afraid, it’s a bit like trying to have a productive discussion of quantum mechanics without using any terms introduced after GCSEs. It’s possible, especially if you use them to define new terms, but it takes a long time and gets quite confusing if cramped into a single discussion.

    On top of that, this discussion focusses on the Trinity, which in my mind anyway is already one of the most complex theological issues there is ( 1+1+1 = 1 ?).

    To give you an example of the unwieldiness, here is a translation of one paragraph into plain English:

    My position … is that there is only one God, YHWH, who is also the Father of Jesus, not from eternity, but in the domain of time, as the Gospels (Matthew and Luke in particular) most obviously suggest. Jesus is is true God and true man, inasmuch as He joins in Himself by generation the Divine nature of God his Father and the human nature of his Mother, the Virgin Mary.

    “My view is that there is only one God. This God is the same as the Hebrew (Old Testament) God, called YHWH, and who I believe fathered an entity called Jesus. Jesus was not “eternally begotten” as the Nicene Creed states
    (by which it is meant that: Even though he is begotten from the father, the process does not take place within time (or therefore at a point in time). In fact even though the Son is begotten of the Father, he has also existed ‘for as long’ (a misleading term for an eternal being!) as the Father. For as long as the Father has existed, so has the Son.)
    but rather was begotten at a certain point in time, as the Gospels (Matthew and Luke in particular) most obviously suggest. Jesus is both wholly divine, and wholly human. By this I mean that even though he is both divine and human, he is not shared between the two, because he lacks nothing of either. This is acheived by fusing his divine nature (inheritted from his Father), YHWH, with his human nature, which he gained from his mother, the Virgin Mary.”

    I think that given a couple of readings it should be possible to understand that passage given a fairly basic Sunday School knowledge of Christianity, and an intelligent mind. It is however much longer and much harder to absorb than the ‘technical’ passage (that is if you’re already familiar with the technical terms!). Obviously it is unreasonable to expect anyone and everyone to be familiar with uncommon theological concepts, in the same way that I am completely baffled when my friends discuss art or music in an academic way. It was our fault for carrying on a conversation like that in an inappropriate place.

  162. It was our fault for carrying on a conversation like that in an inappropriate place. (Jack)

    There was no fault in that. The problem started when Servetus asked what anyone else on the thread thought, and I piped up and said I didn’t understand a word of it.

    And thanks for having a shot at rendering one passage into rather more plain English. Clearly you at least believe that it can be done.

    And contrary to Servetus’ presumptions about me, I’m actually rather interested in theology – but mostly in the sense of trying to understand the differences between the many varieties of Christian heresy that seem to have arisen in the first few centuries AD – simply to try to get a better grasp of history, which includes, after all, the history of Christianity, whether one believes in it or not.

    I actually have a Christian education, but RI was as unfathomable then as it is now. But I did not end up dismissing it all as irrational or meaningless, as Servetus tells me: I ended up concluding that I simply didn’t understand.

  163. On the one hand, you ask to explain, in “simple English”, words which, on the other hand, you say you are not interested in and “[you] don’t use, and nor does anyone [you]know use them.” (Servetus)

    Where did I say that I was “not interested” in these words? Where? Nowhere.

    I don’t habitually use these words simply because I don’t really know what they mean. But that does not mean that I am not interested in finding out. For the most part, when somebody asks me what some word means, it is my custom to do my best to explain (always assuming I know what it means) using simple English.

    And, in argument, I generally try not libel people by putting words into their mouths that they never said, nor ascribing to them views that they don’t hold.

  164. Servetus

    There are many references that the “heart was beating” covered by the Turin Shroud. Try reading Rodney Hoare’s “Testimony of the Shroud” particularly the chapter on Forensic Evidence (Ch 5). There is also reference in Kurt Berna’s publications. There are many other authors, mainly disaffected clergy who write under an alias including Kurt Berna who have overcome their initial disbeliefs, to investigate further; some have been imprisoned for their writings, other ostracized. It would be interesting to have Professor Hall and Dr Tite at Oxford revisit the subject that they investigated back in 1988 and state their current views some twenty years later. The pollen expert who examined the shroud was the Swiss Police criminolgist Dr Max Frei who did the pollen analysis in 1978.

  165. idlex,

    This is what I said:

    I wonder if this exchange is not getting a bit exorbitant: I wonder what Boris Johnson and the other forum participants may think. [Servetus,May 31, 2006 04:42 PM]

    It was meant to be an act of consideration towards “Boris Johnson and the other forum participants”, because I felt (and obviously Jack Target also felt), that we we hijacking the forum into a very specific debate, that nobody else was partaking of.

    This is how you interpreted it:

    The problem started when Servetus asked what anyone else on the thread thought, and I piped up and said I didn’t understand a word of it.[idlex June 2, 2006 02:53 AM]

    I realize more and more, also from my own, undue and improper, patronizing towards you, how easy it is to misunderstand and to be misunderstood. For my part, again, sorry 🙂

  166. Servetus

    “I can find no answer to my question about “blood marks in pulses”, though. Which is the most puzzling one, because, of course, by implying that the “man of the Shroud” was still alive”

    In response to your above query.

    Kurt Berna has written extensively about the shroud and the fact the body was alive. He was imprisoned in Germany for his blasphemous views during the 1970’s. Andreas Faber-Kaiser the Spanish theologian has also written and produced several papers on the subject of Jesus being alive when wrapped with the shroud. Interestingly in 1978, a certain Cardinal Ratzinger had been assured that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences would not be excluded, when deciding on the three institutes permitted to date the shroud. Sadly they were excluded by the archbishop of Turin. Cardinal Ballestreo was also advised that only three laboratories were to be kept in the project: those of Oxford,Zurich and Tucson in
    Arizona. This order was passed on to these laboratories by Cardinal Ballestrero on 10 October, 1987. The rest is history. Whether you believe their findings or not is conjecture; particularly in current times, when spin on Niger Yellow cake, false WMD reports and a whole lot of fantasy can be passed of as fact.

  167. Jack,
    thank you for making the effort (and it proves to be a laborious one!) of providing a sample of “vulgarization” of my theological “shorthand”. I give my approval to your “translation”. With the following specifications: the divine nature that Jesus received from God, his Father, does obviously not include eternity “in the past” (it does instead include life everlasting, starting with the Resurrection). Also, I would still prefer the expression “joining” (or “uniting”) the two natures, to “fusing” them. Or, as the Chalcedonian Council expresses itself: “without separation, yet without con-fusion”. Of course, with the further note that we cannot really form an adequate concept of how this union, without confusion, of two natures in one person is possible, or what it really means: Jesus is unique, we lack terms of comparison.

    As for this:

    On top of that, this discussion focuses on the Trinity, which in my mind anyway is already one of the most complex theological issues there is ( 1+1+1 = 1 ?).

    We should not really be taken by mystical awe at the arithmetically impossible equation. It is easily debunked by saying that the {3 persons = 1 God} is not much different, and not more difficult to understand, than {3 persons = 1 family} or {3 persons = 1 company}, which are more familiar equations.

    The problem is not the concept of Trinity, it is whether it is founded in the Scripture or not. (see my “Trinity and Incarnation I”). In my opinion, as I have already claimed, it is not, in fact it is a spurious “infection” from Egyptian Hermetism, with Greek philosophy as a probable “carrier”.

  168. If you really are worried about sinister organisations then

    Here is URL you might like to look up

    http://www.pro-test.org.uk/March.aspx

    Our next march will take place on Saturday, 3 June in Oxford. The march
    will start at 11.45am at the corner of Parks Road and Broad Street –
    please assemble at 11.30am – and should last about 90 minutes. Speeches
    will take place at Parks Road and outside the lab building site. This will
    be another major, peaceful protest in support of animal research and the
    Oxford lab, and a great chance for you to stand up for science. Please
    spread the word as widely as possible and encourage friends, colleagues
    and relatives to participate. You can download a poster here. Why not
    BYOB: Bring Your Own Banner! If you are interested in helping to steward,
    get in touch!

    We are keen to link up with supporters from outside Oxford. For
    information about travelling to Oxford for the march, or if you are
    thinking about bringing along a group of people to participate, please
    contact us for any advice you may need.

    Pro-Test looks forward to seeing you there!

  169. Bashir,

    thank you for the information. I did a “google” with the three relevant names you quote: Kurt Berna, Andreas Faber-Kaiser, Rodney Hoare.

    The only website that has them all is the Italian Wikipedia (see http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studi_scientifici_sulla_Sindone). They are all dismissed as fantasy-schoolars, in particular Kurt Berna (real name Hans Naber) who is actually presented as a mix of visionary and con-man.

    The wild hypotheses of all three (including personal visions of Jesus, Jesus in Kashmir, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus that hear Jesus cough in the tomb) are based on a serious “forensic” question: from a dead body no blood comes out. But this question has been amply explained.

    In fact, the separation between “blood and water” (blood and serum), witnessed in Jhn 19:34-35, is nothing mystical: quite the opposite, it is the confirmation that Jesus was really dead.

  170. The problem is not the concept of Trinity, it is whether it is founded in the Scripture or not. (see my “Trinity and Incarnation I”). In my opinion, as I have already claimed, it is not, in fact it is a spurious “infection” from Egyptian Hermetism, with Greek philosophy as a probable “carrier”. (Servetus)

    One thing that struck me of my visit to Egypt, and my few studies of Egyptian mythology, was the number of triple deities. For example, Osiris-Isis-Horus, Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertum, Amun-Mut-Khons, etc. All are families consisting of father, mother, and son. And in some systems of counting, the first real number was regarded as 3, with 1 and 2 not being regarded as ‘true’ numbers. I wondered back then whether the idea of a trinity was an Egyptian export.

    So also with Isis. Some Egyptian sculptures of Isis with the infant Horus on her knee are strongly reminiscent of those of Mary and Jesus.

    But does this possible origin render it ‘spurious’?

    And is Egyptian Hermetism the same or something entirely different from the religion[s] of pharaonic Egypt?

  171. But does this possible origin render it ‘spurious’?

    It does indeed (of course with reference to the Biblical God, YHWH), and that for two good, complementary reasons:

  172. The OT insists that the “gods of the nations” are nothing but figments of the mind, idols, and this same concept is strongly repeated by Paul (“the gods of the nations are demons”)
  173. The Church has always claimed that the God-Trinity is implicit (even if not openly), “embedded” in the Scripture. Now, if it could be proved that it has been heavily borrowed, imported from one of the most heavily condemned heathen religion, how else could it be called other than “spurious”? In fact the term is too mild, “pollution” or even “prostitution” are the terms normally fund in the Old Testament
  174. And is Egyptian Hermetism the same or something entirely different from the religion[s] of pharaonic Egypt?

    The relation between Egyptian Hermetism and the ancient Egyptian Religion is similar to the one between Neo-Platonism and the Greek Mythology and Religion: only a sublimated, pseudo-conceptual essence remains.
    I suggest, for a quite impressive reading: P.F. Beatrice, The Word “Homoousios” from Hellenism to Christianity ( http://plaza.ufl.edu/dmorgan/Articles/homoousius-churchhist-v71-i2-p243.pdf ). It proves quite conclusively, IMMO, how the keyword of the Council of Nicea (325 CE), Homoousios (that is “of the same substance, referring to the relationship between the Father and the Son), imposed on the recalcitrant assembly of bishops by Emperor Constantine, is entirely non-biblical, non-Christian, and borrowed from the Hermetic tract Poimandres and from other Egyptian sources (ancient oracles). I quote here the most disconcerting one, bearing in mind that it comes from an entirely non-Christian source:

    There was a unique Nous [Mind, referred to the “Father”], more intelligent than all, incorruptible beginning,
    from him the intelligent Logos [Word, Wisdom, the “Son], creator of the universe, eternally incorruptible
    Son, reflection of the intelligent Father, one with the Father.
    Distinct from the Father only by name,
    but one with the Father and one from one, same disposition,
    being from the glory of the Father, consubstantial [homousios], eternally incorruptible
    with the prime holy Pneuma [Spirit] and beginning of life.

    It sounds “Christian”, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t, it is purely 100% heathen.

  175. Christianity certainly took a lot from the other religions it came into contact with – mostly from the greeks. You would expect quite a bit from the egyptians too given their proximity and ties to Judaism, although I think there’s surprisingly little (may be wrong on this point).

    Since we’re throwing things into the pot, and since this discussion is currently on egyptian and christian mythology/religions, there’s an interesting thing that I’m very keen on:

    At a very similar time to the exodus in the old testament, the whole of egypt temporarily (for 20 years) became monotheistic. It’s worth bearing in mind that traditionally the exodus has been discounted due to a complete lack of archaeological evidence for it in Egypt. Have a read about it on Wikipedia, it begins with the pharaoh Akhenaten, whose article includes a fair bit on it. Some strange things particularly stand out:
    – The very powerful priesthood went along with it completely, despite the loss of power, as did the entire population.
    – After presenting it in the usual egyptian way, by identifying the new god with old ones and then replacing them, Akhenaten then did something completely unheard of, he claimed that the Aten was the one and only true God, the first example of monotheism we have.
    – Idols were banned, and even the representation of the Aten was always accompanied by a “hieroglyphic footnote”, insisting that the representation be seen as just that: a representation. This was also unique, but familiar to us of course from judaism.
    – Just before all this, there were serious plagues across the whole of Egypt.
    – “The impact of Akhenaten’s religious reform, albeit introduced in steps, is hard to overstate; it is equivalent perhaps to a new Pope declaring an obscure African saint the supreme God of Catholicism, building a new Vatican City somewhere in Canada, and abolishing all bishops as well as banning the symbol of the Cross, defacing all churches to remove all reference to Jesus, and banning any personal veneration of Jesus. It is a measure both of Pharaoh’s great power, and of the extraordinary circumstances of the time that an equally shocking and dramatic transformation was achieved even temporarily, for about twenty years.” – from the Wikipedia Atenism article.
    – At a similar time, the volcano Thera is thought to have erupted

    However, even more significantly as far as I’m concerned:
    – During this time, there is a reference to a tribe in slavery called the Apiru (or Abiru, or Habiru – often speculated to be the forerunners of the Hebrews), wreaking havoc in the Egyptian empire, who then disappear from the egyptian radar for 200 years, with no records of any of them in slavery.
    – At the same time, an adopted son to the pharaoh (Thutmosis, meaning born of the god Thoth), appears to have been disgraced and banished (the records for this bit are thin on the ground, but the son definitely existed and disappeared in disgrace, and was definitely adopted).

    It is not a long-shot to wonder if, no longer believing in the god Thoth, this person would have cut his name to Mosis (the hebrew spelling of Moses anyway), and led an enslaved tribe to cause havoc all over the empire, at the same time as the volcano Thera erupted, causing many of the same plagues which are described in the OT (frogs and insects (such as locusts, gnats, and flies) always do remarkably well in volcanic eruptions, livestock die and people get boils due to the chemicals in the air, ash causes darkness across the land, etc.).
    Pillar of smoke in the day, fire at night?
    In addition, moving towards the volcano would have taken the Apiru to the Sea of Reeds specified in the OT, at a similar time to the arrival of the tidal wave which usually follows an eruption at sea, pulling the water first out to sea to create a causeway, and then crashing in.

    It may sound like a bit of a long-shot, but we know a lot of it to be true. The volcanic eruption cannot be pinpointed except to within a couple of centuries, and the Egyptian dates are a little shaky too due to the way they recorded dates. However, we know that a major disaster struck, because just before Akhenaten instituted the first ever monotheism, he erected large numbers of statues to appease the Egyptian god of evil and destruction, Set. We know that the adopted son Thutmosis left at this time, and that the Apiru were causing havoc across the empire and then also dissappeared from the records. We know that there was a severe plague across egypt and in fact further afield. And the dates for the volcano fit.

  176. Interesting, Jack. It’s true that Akhenaten was monotheistic, but I don’t think that the Theban priesthood were at all pleased with the change. At his death, his son Tutankhaten was renamed Tutankhamun, the old religious orthodoxy restored, and most traces of Akhenaten obliterated.

    As for dates, a quick search seems to point at 1350-1334 BC as the reign of Akhenaten. [1] [2].

    The eruption of Thera, from a quick search, is variously placed at 1450-1500 BC [3] and 1628-1627 BC according to dendrochronological dating [4].

    Of course, these dates are always disputed.

  177. In fact the term is too mild, “pollution” or even “prostitution” are the terms normally fund in the Old Testament (Servetus)

    Am I right in thinking that “prostitution” had a rather wider meaning than it has now?

    It sounds “Christian”, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t, it is purely 100% heathen.

    I read the link you gave, and it places that quote in the Syringes, or the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. If so, it would likely be far older than late Hermetism.

    But it’s precisely this sort of quote, and the others in the link, that inclines me to think that there were a whole set of ideas that were current at the time, and diffused out from Egypt. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, (and also Constantine much later) all visited Egypt. There’s no reason that Hebrews weren’t visiting as well.

    It seems much more likely to me that their were ideas floating around the ancient world just like there are ideas floating around now, and no particular nation or people come up with their own unique ideas, but use those in current circulation.

    At a similar time, the volcano Thera is thought to have erupted (Jack T)

    I’ve not heard that association before. Akhenaten seems to be usually dated to 1350-1334 BC. Thera’s eruption seems to be dated 1628-1627 BC according to tree rings, during the second Intermediate Period, 1782 – 1570 BC, a chaotic period in Egyptian history. The date also falls in the Hyksos period of 1663 – 1555 BC, possibly in the reign of Apepe (Apophis).

    Thoth, incidentally, was identified with Hermes, from which Hermetic derives, I believe.

  178. Jack,
    let me try and summarize the “gist” of your long post, if I’m getting it right. You are really saying, in reply to my post of June 2, 2006 06:37 PM:

    «What is so special about finding out hard evidence (e.g. P.F. Beatrice, The Word “Homoousios” from Hellenism to Christianity) that the Christian doctrine of Trinity and Incarnation is not biblical, is not in even in response to Arius’ heresy, but it is the unwitting (on the part of the Christian bishops) and cunning (on the part of Constantine, secretly adept not only to the cult of Mithras, but also to Egyptian Hermetism), grafting of the core of Egyptian religion onto Christianity?
    What is so special, indeed, if not only Christianity (actually, Trinitarian Christianity) is (nothing but) a disguised Egyptian religion, but even the Hebrew religion, founded by Moses, is imbued with Egyptian religion, or, to be accurate, Moses (who was the adopted son of a Pharaoh) dictated to the unwitting “Habirus” a religion that was entirely new to them, and in fact it was his clever way of ensuring the survival of Akhenaten’s failed monotheistic religious reform?»

    If the above is a fair synthesis, then you better be aware that what you propose is nothing but the fantastic hypothesis which the Biblical scholar Ernst Sellin invented. In fact, Sellin threw into the story, as a bargain, the spurious adoption of the “volcanic God YHWH”, during the meandering in the Sinai desert, and the final murder of Moses by the rebellious “Habirus”.
    Siegmund Freud later reinterpreted Sellin’s story in a psychoanalytic key (modifying significantly the very murder of Moses), and adding further details (see S. Freud, Moses and Monotheism). Freud was perfectly aware that his was not serious history, only a historical novel. An excuse for reinterpreting the Exodus, the story at the core of Jewish religion and self-identity, in his favourite, all-encompassing, psychoanalytic way.
    Serious scholars today rank Sellin’s and Freud’s fantastic exercise on a par with Plato’s myth of Atlantis (which, incidentally, also includes disastrous volcanic eruptions).

  179. idlex:

    There’s no reason that Hebrews weren’t visiting [Egypt] as well.

    No, there is no reason. Jack Target (whether or not he is aware of the source, Sellin+Freud), goes as far as claiming that in fact Hebrews came from Egypt, or at least formed in Egypt as a people, with a monotheistic creed. But the undisputable fact is that, today as yesterday, the Hebrew religion is in sharp contrast and opposition to any other religion. I discount the Cabbalah, which is a spurious mix of Judaism and new-Platonism (heathen, once again), and Islam, which drew from Judaism its core tenets and, significantly, although it extols Jesus and Mary (going as far as declaring the Virgin Birth of Jesus, “the Word born from Mary”) violently rejects Trinity and Incarnation.

    It seems much more likely to me that there were ideas floating around the ancient world…

    The notion of “ideas floating around” is rather irrational (especially for a stern advocate of science!). It must be proved that specific ideas (and the Hermetic Trinity is, at the same time, an evolution of ancient Egyptian “trinities”, but in a very specific way – there is no female figure involved, for instance) have “moved” via actual historical “distribution channels”. At least that is how serious scholars deal with “history of ideas”.

    Thoth, incidentally, was identified with Hermes, from which Hermetic derives, I believe.

    Hermes, the Greek God with winged helmet and wings at his ankles, was the “messenger god”, further identified with Mercury, in the Roman Pantheon.

  180. The notion of “ideas floating around” is rather irrational (especially for a stern advocate of science!). It must be proved that specific ideas (and the Hermetic Trinity is, at the same time, an evolution of ancient Egyptian “trinities”, but in a very specific way – there is no female figure involved, for instance) have “moved” via actual historical “distribution channels”. At least that is how serious scholars deal with “history of ideas”. (Servetus)

    I have to agree that it’s a bit loose to speak of ideas ‘floating around’. All I meant was that ideas get transmitted (not always accurately) from one person to another, via conversation, education, pamphlets, books. etc.

    And ideas evolve as they pass from person to person. In the history of science, since you mention it, Copernicus introduced heliocentrism, but with the planets revolving round the sun in circles, and the fixed stars as lights attached to an enormous sphere bounding the universe. Kepler adopted the system, and found elliptical orbits fitted best the observed motions. Newton adopted both Copernicus and Kepler (as well as Galileo’s idea of inertia as uniform motion in a straight line, which became Newton’s first law of motion), and came up with the laws of motion and gravity. There isn’t any specific idea here, but one that keeps changing as successive thinkers adapt and adjust it.

    If so, Egyptian trinitarian notions, plus Egyptian incarnation ideas (Pharaohs were routinely described as ‘Son of Re’), and Egyptian ideas of an afterlife and a soul (Ka, or Ba), all seem to provide a set of ideas which Greeks, Hebrews, and subsequently Christians could develop further. And one must bear in mind, after all, that Egyptian civilisation and religion remained more or less intact until circa 500 AD.

    You may dismiss it as ‘heathen’, but that’s like dismissing something because it’s ‘French’. It is of no consequence where an idea comes from, or who has it. It’s only the idea that matters.

  181. Apologies Servetus, but your summary isn’t at all what I was meaning! My rather lengthy post was completely unrelated to anything we’d said before, except that we had been talking about Egypt in the context of Christianity!

    Incidentally I don’t claim myself any of the things I posted, or guarantee their truth. This is some stuff I’ve been getting from a rather interesting book I read a couple of months back, but I’m no egyptologist and can’t speak with any authority!

    I’ve not heard that association before. Akhenaten seems to be usually dated to 1350-1334 BC. Thera’s eruption seems to be dated 1628-1627 BC according to tree rings, during the second Intermediate Period, 1782 – 1570 BC, a chaotic period in Egyptian history. The date also falls in the Hyksos period of 1663 – 1555 BC, possibly in the reign of Apepe (Apophis).

    Now this is unfortunate, I’d better have a look at that book, because I remember him saying something about this – unfortunately the book is with a friend at the moment! If I remember the gist I think it was essentially that the error margins in dating would allow them to happen together, even though their central, assumed dates are quite different. I know that there is some dispute over Thera, since the geological dating is different to the archaeological dating by over a century. However even with the most liberal dating it is hard to bring it to within many decades of akhenaten’s time, so I think I’ll have to get hold of that book! Watch this space….

  182. You’re right about Thera’s dating. The archaeological dating puts it at more like 1500 BC, and it would mess up all the archaeological dates to change it to the tree ring / ice core dates.

    There are people who say that the Egyptian chronology is wrong too.

    But I’ve read that there are no known reports from Egypt of the eruption of Thera. However if it happened during the Hyksos intermediate period, when Egypt was occupied, there may well not have been a system of reporting active.

  183. DVC is a load of “drivel” ( as my english teacher used to write on my school essays). If it hadn’t trodden firmly on the corns of christianity and the roman catholic church in particular we would never have heard of it.

  184. If it hadn’t trodden firmly on the corns of christianity and the roman catholic church in particular we would never have heard of it. [Negatron]

    Talking about “corns”, what about “crop circles”? What about the “saucer frienzy” in the 40-50’s? Anything would do, as Carl Jung argued. People crave the supernatural or at least to find out that we are not alone in the Universe, on Earth, this “small flower bed that makes us all so wild” (l’aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci), as Dante put it in his Divine Comedy

  185. There isn’t any specific idea here [with the cosmology of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton], but one that keeps changing as successive thinkers adapt and adjust it. [idlex]

    I dare say there is (a specific idea), so much so that we still speak of “Copernican revolution”. That it was not original, that Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 BCE) had already proposed at the time of Hellenistic civilization, does not change the fact that it was revolutionary, even in his days: and Aristarchus was in fact ostracized, and his heliocentric model of the solar system soon forgotten, or rather ignored. For an excellent depiction of all this see Arthur Koestler: The Sleepwalkers. A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe .

    You may dismiss it as ‘heathen’, but that’s like dismissing something because it’s ‘French’. It is of no consequence where an idea comes from, or who has it. It’s only the idea that matters. [idlex]

    I am not ‘dismissing’ the Trinity because it is ‘heathen’: if you read carefully I am claiming that it is (heathen), and therefore, that it has got nothing to do with the Bible and with the strict monotheist notion of God (YHWH) that is found there. Of course one can make the desperate attempt to claim that YHWH is a “local Palestinian disguise” for the Egyptian God Aten, but I claim all this is nothing but hocus-pocus, and worse. An indirect evidence is that one of the most vocal supporters of this “theory” was Savitri Devi (see her book Son of the Sun: The Life and Philosophy of Akhnaton, King of Egypt– and Wikipedia’s entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savitri_Devi_Mukherji ), a woman of mixed ethnicity (French, English, Italian and Greek blood) and enthusiast of a concoction of esoteric Hindu and Nazi doctrines.

  186. Apologies Servetus, but your summary isn’t at all what I was meaning!
    Incidentally I don’t claim myself any of the things I posted, or guarantee their truth.

    Jack,

    must confess that mine was a deliberate, calculated provocation, to see if you would endorse the “stuff” the you were reporting. I am kind of relieved to find out that you do not share the rather fantastic things you were “throwing into the pot”.

  187. For an excellent depiction of all this see Arthur Koestler: The Sleepwalkers. (Servetus)

    It is indeed an excellent book. And the Copernican revolution is just a term for a process of discovery which, in many ways, still continues.

    And are you claiming that if some notion is in the Bible, then that lends it a credence not to be found elsewhere? And that you reject (if you do indeed reject) the Trinity because it’s not in the Bible?

  188. idlex:

    And the Copernican revolution is just a term for a process of discovery which, in many ways, still continues.

    This is wrong, but I won’t dispute it, unless you insist.

    And are you claiming that if some notion is in the Bible, then that lends it a credence [sic] not to be found elsewhere? And that you reject (if you do indeed reject) the Trinity because it’s not in the Bible?

    I have already (not only claimed but) argued that the biblical God YHWH, to be found in the Bible, is incompatible with any form (“christian” or Egyptian or other) of Trinity. I claim that Strict Monotheism (non-trinitarian) is the only authentic form of Christianity (although probably recognized by less than 1% Christians). It is not a problem of credibility, but of compatibility

  189. Isaac Newton, for one, would have agreed with you about trinitarianism.

    And what’s your problem with ‘credence’? One of its meanings is ‘something supporting a claim to belief, recommendation’. I see no problem.

  190. Blimey!
    this thread is now way over my head. Maybe my English teacher was right after all.

  191. cre•dence n.
    1. Acceptance as true or valid; belief. See Synonyms at belief.
    2. Claim to acceptance; trustworthiness.
    3. Recommendation; credentials: a letter of credence.
    4. A small table or shelf for holding the bread, wine, and vessels of the Eucharist when they are not in use at the altar.

    cred•i•bil•i•ty n.
    1. The quality, capability, or power to elicit belief: “America’s credibility must not be squandered, especially by its leaders” Henry A. Kissinger.
    2. A capacity for belief: a story that strained our credibility.

    I suppose “trustworthiness” is even more appropriate, in this circumstance, than “power to elicit belief”. So I recognize I was being just unduly fussy.

    Newton was certainly (albeit secretly) anti-trinitarian. Whether he was Strict Monotheist (viz. he believed that Jesus is Son of God only in the domain of time, that is only since he was born from Mary) or rather Arian (viz. he believed the Son was not fully God, yet the first, fully spiritual, creature of God, by means of whom all the rest of creation had been carried out; and only secondarily “son” in the sense of “born of a woman”), is still a subject for debate.

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