Joseph Cotto, 1/3/2017 [Archive]

One Lingering Question Heading into 2017

One Lingering Question Heading into 2017

By Joseph Cotto

The new year is upon us! Did you make any resolutions?

Before looking too far into the future, consider learning from the past; in this case, the very recent past. Christmastime is over, but one key question -- as per usual -- generally went unasked: Was Jesus Christ even born at all?

That such a great deal of Americans take this query for granted is startling. To assume something so pivotal as historical fact is to take a leap of faith so far that damage -- psychological rather than physical, thankfully -- seems likely.

I have devoted the last several weeks of my column to interviewing two prominent scholars about Jesus's historicity. Neither believe he was real.

Dr. Richard Carrier, author of the peer-reviewed 'On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt', maintains that Christ's tale is just too improbable. Joseph Atwill, who wrote the bestseller 'Caesar's Messiah', believes Jesus to be a creation of Roman imperial forces -- specifically for subduing rebellious subjects.

As one might imagine, many scholars have criticized Carrier's designation of Jesus.

"I'm still waiting for any scholar to actually read and address what I argue in OHJ, which is still the only peer reviewed book directly addressing the historicity of Jesus published in almost a hundred years. Not a single critic has done so yet. Not even James McGrath, who is the only one who even claims to have read the book, yet his critiques reveal he did not, since he gets wrong everything that's in it. I maintain a running list of all critics, what they've said, and what I have to say in turn," Carrier explains.

Atwill has taken a great deal of heat as well. Several scholars criticized his perspective on Jesus, including Carrier, who claims that Atwill's "theory is a paradigmatic example of crank history, promulgated by someone who is probably insane, and certainly wholly unqualified. As far as I can tell, he doesn't even read Greek."

Needless to mention, Atwill begs to differ.

, "Carrier criticized my work without reading it and therefore produced incoherent analysis of it...Many prominent scholars who have read it strongly support it," Atwill says, pointing to favorable reviews from academics Rod Blackhirst, Robert Eisenman, and J. Harold Ellens -- all of whom are doctors.

Far more interesting than a squabble between intellectuals is this: Physical science has proven it impossible for one to resurrect from the dead. DNA testing has dispelled the Catholic/Orthodox claim of communion wafers becoming human -- let alone Jesus's -- flesh. Enhanced technology allows researchers to discover inconvenient truths about divinized individuals.

Nevertheless, billions still consider Jesus the supreme deity's son and their personal savior.

"As with all superstitions and ideologies, people need certain things to be true more than they want to know what actually is true," Carrier tells. "As John Loftus points out in his excellent book The Outsider Test for Faith, the things they think they need to be true, are entirely an accident of where and when they were born."

Ponder this for a moment -- or several.

Carrier continues: "Had there been different accidents of history, they'd be relentlessly defending the magical powers of Lao Tzu or the resurrection of Inanna. [Rational] recovery from this culturally installed delusion is the only way to see reality and stop having to believe in imaginary beings and their attendant mythologies."

Let us be honest with ourselves. How much of what we hold true boils down to nothing more than chance?

"Mysticism is a tool of tyrants," Atwill relates. "During the Dark Ages the children of the oligarchs studied logic and rhetoric while the children of the slaves learned about Jesus. The same condition exists today."

In this new year, let each of us resolve to make a sincere effort at accepting facts for what they are. Resisting the recurrent urge to twist reality so it meets our desired ends is difficult, to say the least. However, the alternative is taking the easy path which, despite its initial appeal, leads only to self-delusion.

Imagine how much we miss out on under this scenario -- we do not live, but merely exist.

Seriously, who desires such a thing?


Copyright 2016 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at

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