Jan 17 2014

Mithras and Jesus

The phrase, “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that,” is a good starting point for many skeptical discussions. I am not sure of the origins of the phrase, but I have heard it used frequently by my colleague, Ben Goldacre. I have used some form of it myself, and as it expresses a fairly basic skeptical concept, it has likely been independently used by many.

It is therefore difficult to say who “originated” use of that specific phrase as a rhetorical device. Most works are derivative to some degree, and the law recognizes that similar works can emerge from the culture without one being plagiarism.

When very specific details overlap, however, then some sort of direct copying (rather than just a common source of inspiration) is more likely.

I have encountered from many skeptical and atheist sources the claim that the Jesus mythology is heavily borrowed from pagan mythologies that predate Christianity; the Roman Mithras cult, for example. If true, this would be a sobering fact for any Christian.

Unfortunately, on close inspection it seems that the Mithras-Jesus claim has evolved into its own mythology. The error seems to be motivated by the desire to claim that the Jesus mythology was directly copied from earlier pagan mythologies. Therefore the claim is made that the mythologies overlap in specific details.

For example, Stephen Fry in this YouTube clip of his show repeats the basic claims – that the Mithras legend states that he was born of a virgin on December 25th, he says, “in a manger or perhaps a cave,” that he had 12 disciples, and that he died in order to save us but was later resurrected. The overlap in details seems very impressive, and certainly would be evidence of a common source.

However Mithras scholars don’t tell the story that way. The Roman cult of Mithras existed from about the 1st to 4th century ACE. There was also a cult of Mithras in Iran predating the Roman mythology, but there is no clear connection between the two. They are likely independent traditions.  Mithras worship was common for a time, and over 420 Mithras sites have been uncovered. However, there are no texts of Mithras. The mythology has had to be reconstructed entirely from iconography, and a few side references in contemporary literature.

The current reconstruction of the mythology is that Mithras was born out of the rock in a cave (not of a virgin in a manger). He did attract followers, although there is no evidence for the number 12. Mithras iconography does often incorporate the 12 signs of the zodiac, but this does not directly relate to his disciples. He did save his community, defeating a raging bull. That is the most common scene depicted in Mithras sites – Mithras defeating the bull. The next most common is Mithras dining with the sun god on the parts of the bull. It seems there is some confusion as to whether or not Mithras was the sun god himself, but the picture of him dining with the sun god implies that they were separate entities.

None of these details overlap with Christian mythology. The only detail that may overlap is birth on or around December 25th. This was common practice, however, to align significant religious days with existing holidays – around the winter solstice was a common pagan holiday, and it is likely that both traditions simply attached to this date.

There does not therefore seem to be any significant overlap in specific details, and there is no record of the Roman Mithras legend predating Christianity. The idea of a connection apparently came from a 2nd century Christian writer who complained that the Mithras cult had borrowed their communion ritual. The idea of a connection was then expanded upon in the 19th century, but modern scholars do not find any hard evidence of such a connection.

Similar claims are made for the Egyptian god, Horus – that he was born of a virgin, came as a savior, died and was resurrected. Horus mythology existed for a long time in Egypt and is very complex. The mythology evolved significantly over time. It does contain elements of a miraculous birth – his mother, Isis, used magic to become impregnated by his father, Osiris, after he was dead. Horus is both man and god in various traditions. He is also portrayed as a heroic savior.  There are no details, however, that would seem familiar to a Christian, unless connections were being deliberately forced.

Independent scholarly sources, not directly addressing the Christian connection claim but just summarizing current scholarship on the Mithras and Horus mythologies, do not support the notion that Christianity was directly borrowed from either of these traditions – no overlap in specific details.

However, we do see thematic overlap in many areas. This suggests that while not copied directly, these various mythologies were all part of the culture of ancient Western civilizations. There were many cults and mythologies developing out of this culture, all with variations on common themes.

For example, all three mythologies include a miraculous birth, if not specifically a virgin birth. All three portray their central figure as saviors and kings in some way. The themes of self-sacrifice, disciples, and some connection to the gods are also common. The figures are all part man and part god. These similarities are derivative, in the same way that all rock and roll songs are derivative of the rock and roll culture, or any art is derivative of the artistic tradition out of which it emerges.

In other words, the beliefs of Christianity do not come out of nowhere. They are not entirely new. They are part of the cultural traditions of the time. Christianity is not a copycat of the Horus or Mithras mythologies, but they all share a common cultural background.

It is unfortunate that the real implications of the various religious traditions of the time is obscured by an attempt to make the simpler and more dramatic claim (and demonstrably false) that Christianity was copied wholesale from an earlier tradition.

The story is indeed a bit more complex. I think, however, the core lessons are preserved. The best way to demystify any religious tradition is through comparative mythology. The historic record shows the cultural evolution of the various religious traditions. They did not come suddenly like a bolt out of the heavens. They evolved like every other bit of human culture, as a complex web of influences and cross contamination.

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37 responses so far

37 Responses to “Mithras and Jesus”

  1. Kieselguhr Kidon 17 Jan 2014 at 11:00 am

    This post confuses me and I think shows the vast gulf of misunderstanding between today’s atheists and believers. I am religious and it’s an important part of my life, although I do not identify as Christian (I am what people call “Hindu” and to be honest I not uncommonyl answer “Do you believe in God?” with “No,” not to be deceptive but because there are so many complex understandings of God). But I read Greek and Latin comfortably and have spent a lot of time with Christian religious scholars, and attend Church weekly (my wife is Christian) and I think there aren’t _too many_ Christians (certainyl there are some) who’d react the way Dr. Novella thinks they would, to the idea that myths predating theirs share many of the same themes and events. I mean, duh. I have studied a lot of comparative religion, I think it’s great. I know any number of Chrisitans who’ve done the same. For most of us the idea that “the best way to demystify any religious tradition is through comparitive mythology” is patently false: the great sharing of themes and ideas enriches rather than diminishes that mystical quality. Again, I’m sure many believers feel differently, but I think an awful lot don’t.

  2. Ori Vandewalleon 17 Jan 2014 at 11:41 am

    A Hindu who can read Greek and Latin comfortably and has a Christian wife is not the typical believer. People tend not to be all that knowledgeable about religions other than their own, and sometimes not even their own. See http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

  3. Bronze Dogon 17 Jan 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Remember, Optimus Prime died to save us and was resurrected. Many, many times.

  4. ccbowerson 17 Jan 2014 at 12:21 pm

    To add to what Ori said, which I agree with, KKid seems to have latched onto one particular statement and missed the point of this post. (I’m curious how KKid does on the survey – my guess is much greater than the average of 16) This post is about skeptics (and atheists) and skepticism, and a common misconception about Christianity.

    KKid also seems to be reading into what Steve says and incorrectly extrapolating from the comment about demystifying religious traditions by calling it: “patently false: the great sharing of themes and ideas enriches rather than diminishes that mystical quality.” To ‘demystify’ is to make a subject clearer and more understandable. It does not have the negative connotation implied by KKid. To demystify something often does ‘enrich.’ I’m not sure why he thinks otherwise, or objects to that idea.

  5. cbeckeon 17 Jan 2014 at 1:38 pm

    It is interesting that many Christians will reject any comparison to ancient religions, demanding that the Jesus story is unique. Yet the 2nd century Christian church father, Justin Martyr highlighted the similarities in order to justify plausibility of and belief in Christianity.

    In chapters 20-22 of his “First Apology” (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-firstapology.html), he goes to great lengths to show that what is believed about Jesus is no different than the Romans believe about their gods:

    “… when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter…”

    So such arguments come not only from skeptics, but from the earliest authorities of Christianity.

  6. dogugotwon 17 Jan 2014 at 1:45 pm

    ccbowers, I find that the thing that lead me from faith to atheism WAS comparative religion. When I understood that sacred to turns out to be similar (or identical to) one in , and each religion is determined to prove that they are THE RELIGION OF THE ONE/MANY GOD/S, I realized it was all just stuff people were making up and passing off as truth. There was obviously more to my move away from religion than realizing the similarities between sects, but it was a major part of my awakening.

  7. pdeboeron 17 Jan 2014 at 1:46 pm

    KKid

    “the great sharing of themes and ideas enriches rather than diminishes that mystical quality.”

    Don’t get confused and think that we are talking about doctrine rather than the story elements. That is another story. Harhar.

    If you look at other religions writings as “extended universe” or “non canon” writing of your own religion, then it does indeed flesh out that mystical world.

    If you analyze any story, you see themes and elements from other tales and current and past events.

    Seeing the evolution of the stories demystifies their origin and, as cc said, enriches our understanding of story craft rather than our immersion or interest in the story as you seem to say.

  8. cbeckeon 17 Jan 2014 at 2:04 pm

    There are also assumptions in Dr. Novella’s argument that all of Christianity agrees that Jesus was born of a virgin, in a manger, on 12/25 and had 12 disciples. Yet even the books of the Bible do not agree on these premises. The manger only appears in one of the 4 gospels. The December date of birth appears in none, the virgin birth is not mentioned in Mark or John, and although the disciples number seems to be in agreement, the names differ in each gospel.

    I do agree that we are not comparing a fixed Mithras story with a fixed Jesus story, but it is wrong to assume that the current “facts” of Christianity bear direct resemblance to their sacred texts.

  9. ccbowerson 17 Jan 2014 at 2:17 pm

    “ccbowers, I find that the thing that lead me from faith to atheism WAS comparative religion.”

    dogugotw-

    I can see how this could be convincing, if a person was under the false impression that their religious stories were unique, and that impression of uniqueness was an important aspect of their faith. I suspect that this is common enough to affect some people. My point was that the purpose of getting the facts right and ‘demystify’ is to aid in proper understanding by giving context to these stories. Kieselguhr Kid seemed to interpret demystify as something negative. I view an increase in clarity and understanding (which is demystify means) as positive things, for both atheists and theists.

  10. TheFlyingPigon 17 Jan 2014 at 4:04 pm

    “…as a complex web of influences and cross contamination.”

    ‘Cross contamination’, nice summary there at the end:)

  11. Karinon 17 Jan 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Interesting… I’ve most often heard the mythological comparison between Krishna and Jesus.

  12. shchasmon 17 Jan 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I believe, from a skeptical approach, that verifying the originality of any particular religious claim is of limited value. What is more important, in my opinion, is the question of the strength of evidence that exists for any belief, religious or not, especially when considering any supernatural aspects.

  13. tmac57on 17 Jan 2014 at 7:57 pm

    If you find mysticism to be an attractive ‘magical’ quality of religion,then hearing someone say that some process will help to demystify it might sound like an attempt to make it more mundane,such as showing how a fascinating magic trick is, after all,still just a trick.

  14. BillyJoe7on 17 Jan 2014 at 11:54 pm

    SN: “The best way to demystify any religious tradition is through comparative mythology”
    KK: “the great sharing of themes and ideas enriches rather than diminishes that mystical quality”

    For those studying comparative mythology, the sharing of the themes and ideas underlying religious tradition can certainly be an enriching experience. However, there is no doubt that, doing so, diminishes the mystical quality (ie demystifies) inherent in religion. However this is only a concern for those whose religious experience depends on this mystical quality. And I hazard a guess that this applies to most religious people.

    CC: “To ‘demystify’ is to make a subject clearer and more understandable. It does not have the negative connotation implied by KK. To demystify something often does ‘enrich”

    Well, I think it does have a negative connotation for most religious people. Because I think most religious people rely on the mystical quality of their religion for their religious experience.

    TM: “If you find mysticism to be an attractive ‘magical’ quality of religion,then hearing someone say that some process will help to demystify it might sound like an attempt to make it more mundane”

    Like the magical rainbow. Maybe not a mystical experience, but certainly an awesome experience, at least for children and child like adults like myself. Knowing the physics behind rainbows enriches that experience for me but ruins it for others. Same with “magic” tricks. Knowing how they’re done enriches the experience for me but ruins it for others.

  15. geopaulon 18 Jan 2014 at 2:00 am

    Steve,

    According to Robert M Price, there is a direct connection between the Osiris/Horus myth and Christianity. Osiris is god who is resurrected after being murdered by his brother Set. His body was dismembered and spread across Egypt. He is also a harvest god marking the passing of seasons, and the festival that celebrates him includes using wheat to make dough replicas of his body parts and beer from wheat which are consumed by the worshippers as part of the celebration. It’s not much of a stretch to say this resembles the Last Supper of Christ.

  16. SARAon 18 Jan 2014 at 7:05 am

    This quite uncritical of me, but I have gotten to the point where if I see any claim in a forwarded email, I assume its false until proven otherwise. And so if I don’t have time to look into it – FALSE.

    However, the first time I saw this claim was in a forwarded email and still I liked it so well, I was more inclined to believe than not. Fell smack into confirmation bias.

    Thank you again Dr. Novella.

  17. etatroon 18 Jan 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Anyone interested in this topic should check out a history class on Early Middle Ages (in Western Civ) (e.g., iTunes U Stanford course). The topic is pretty interesting how the christianity cult arose from political unrest in the middle east during a tumultuous time of the Roman empire. There were apparently records of other cult leaders like Jesus, who performed miracles and preached an ascetic philosophy. The early Christians didn’t even think of themselves as “christian” until political/religious leaders (prophets) started writing things down generations later, preserving and adapting the idea for their own purposes. One of the more interesting things is how Christianity came to Ireland & the British Isles separately from the Roman influence; Constantine converted the Roman empire to Christianity, but it had lost its influence on the far-flung British Isles before. No, it wasn’t direct copying (at all) of any particular cult, but, like most new ideas, it was an adaptation of existing ones. It evolved a LOT over time. I think it’s really fascinating, too, how the experiences of just an individual can change the world. What if Constantine hadn’t had his conversion experience or had lost that battle or a friend or relative convinced him not to convert the empire? Really weird how contingent history seems to be.

  18. tmac57on 18 Jan 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Billy Joe-Coincidentally, NPR’s Radiolab just did an episode called ‘Black Box’ where in their segment called ‘You Be the Judge’, a grandson goes on a quest to understand how a “psychic” BBC radio show was pulled off by his grandparents. He knows that it is a trick,but couldn’t get his grandmother to tell the secret,and at the end of the segment Jad and Robert contacted Penn Jillette to solve the mystery for them. Penn’s take on it is relevant to my comment and your follow up:

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/black-box/

    P.S. I did not try to find out the answer…if you listen,you will understand.

  19. hardnoseon 18 Jan 2014 at 7:29 pm

    There are some common themes in the religions of all cultures. I don’t think that de-mystifies religion.

  20. delphi_oteon 19 Jan 2014 at 8:36 am

    Great post, Steve.

    Atheists who get mythology, history, and Christianity wrong like this embarrass me. I thought we stopped believing in things just because they make us feel good. Mithras is interesting. Horace is interesting. Christian origins are interesting. Instead of buying into simple minded conspiracy theories that let you dismiss ideas you don’t like without thinking, be a real intellectual and read honest scholarship about these things. Stop spreading misinformation and check your facts. This stuff is as childish as arguing from the DaVinci Code.

    The “mythicist” atheists who immediately claim “Jesus probably didn’t even exist” when arguing with Christians make me furious for the same reason. Maybe there are interesting arguments to be had about this subject, but the Jesus as myth hypothesis is still a fringe idea among scholars in the area. It’s not intellectually honest to bring this up as though it were a settled argument. There are many devastating arguments against Christianity (especially biblical literalism) based on sound scholarship. If you admire honesty and rationalism, use them. If Bob Price is wrong, would you start going to church on Sundays? If the answer is “No,” then you clearly don’t find your own argument all that convincing. It’s dishonest and insulting to use it.

  21. delphi_oteon 19 Jan 2014 at 9:04 am

    “What if Constantine hadn’t had his conversion experience or had lost that battle or a friend or relative convinced him not to convert the empire? Really weird how contingent history seems to be.”

    There are a lot of good reasons to be skeptical about Constantine’s conversion story. As with all stories about his life, we don’t really have reliable sources. Lots of mythology surrounding him. There are some odd details. His mother had an apparently Christian name, for example. Maybe he had Christian sympathies all along. He also conflated Sol imagery with Christian imagery on his coins. Maybe his conversion wasn’t certain or complete. The empire was also converting well before Constantine, and the process didn’t end with Constantine. Maybe it wasn’t as contingent on Constantine as we typically think. Maybe Constantine rode the wave. It sure is interesting to think about!

  22. ccbowerson 19 Jan 2014 at 9:56 am

    “Well, I think it does have a negative connotation for most religious people. Because I think most religious people rely on the mystical quality of their religion for their religious experience.”

    BJ7 I partially agree with your comments (except maybe the word ‘most,’ and I don’t think the general population really thinks about the topic that much), but I was referencing how Steve used demystify and how Kieselguhr Kid responded to it. I agree that some people may “rely” on mystical aspects of their religion as an aspect for religious experience, but I have two thoughts about that:

    First, in reading of KKid’s comments, he doesn’t seem to be making the argument from the perspective that you put forth, and he does seem to extrapolate something more from the term as Steve used it, in saying: “For most of us the idea that ‘the best way to demystify any religious tradition is through comparitive mythology’ is patently false: the great sharing of themes and ideas enriches rather than diminishes that mystical quality.”
    To me that quote indicated that we had different understanding of what Steve necessarily implied, and his other comments also indicate that he is not talking about the perspective of ‘most religious people.’

    Also, for those who view that learning about their own religion and learning about similarities and differences to other religions harms their personal experience of their religion, then I’m not sure that experience is worth preserving if it cannot stand the light of day. Although I have seen this perspective before, I would hope such a perspective is a minority one, as it requires a willful ignorance.

  23. ccbowerson 19 Jan 2014 at 10:15 am

    “If Bob Price is wrong, would you start going to church on Sundays? If the answer is ‘No,’ then you clearly don’t find your own argument all that convincing. It’s dishonest and insulting to use it.”

    I don’t quite understand this quote, but maybe there is something I’m missing, because it reads like a false choice. He could be wrong about all sorts of things (even if you tailor it to the existence of Jesus, or any other specific topic), yet it doesn’t follow that anyone should go to church as a result.

    It’s also a little strange that you first use a quote saying that “Jesus probably didn’t even exist” then criticize a perspective that is certain that he didn’t exist as if it were the same argument. I agree that lowering the bar of evidence for perspective that you agree with is a problem, and is a problem for everyone, but lets not make a strawman of that… the proof of whether Jesus existed is a burden to be had by those that say he did.

  24. delphi_oteon 20 Jan 2014 at 4:31 am

    I started to type a response, but then I had a change of heart*. If you can’t understand colloquialism, I don’t think having a conversation with you is going to be a good use or my time.

    *my heart didn’t really take on another form, nor was it replaced with a new heart.

  25. BillyJoe7on 20 Jan 2014 at 5:37 am

    tmac,

    Sorry, I would love to know why you did not try to find out the answer, but I hate podcasts (far too much irrelevant banter), I don’t have an hour spare, and I’ve lost interest in Penn Jilette after he appeared on the Dr. Oz show and basically licked his arse in exchange for a bit of publicity for his own show and then publicly embarrassed someone who dared to criticise him for it on his blog.

  26. BillyJoe7on 20 Jan 2014 at 5:41 am

    ccbowers,

    I see what you’re getting at, but perhaps I’ll wait to see if KK and SN clarify their respective uses of the word “demystify” before commenting further. I suspect that’s not going to happen now though.

  27. Bill Openthalton 20 Jan 2014 at 7:42 am

    delphi_ote Would incontrovertible proof of the historicity of the Jesus described in the gospels (and the, I guess, concomitant proof of the existence of the christian god) cause every human to convert to christianity and follow its precepts to the letter?

    In the sense that this would be no longer a belief, but simply becoming aware of reality, I guess could not be called a conversion. In addition, humans have been able to extract almost everything and its total opposite from the bible, so the bickering would, if anything, only intensify.

  28. Joe G.on 20 Jan 2014 at 10:11 am

    Its amazing what deeper picture a person can have about a topic such as Dr. Novella’s post when one knows a bit of history. To claim that a specific pagan cult or any one source was the direct predecessor and influencing agent of Christianity is extreme oversimplification. First one most forget the influence of Judaism, as well as Zoroastrianism. And much of Roman paganism would have been borrowed from by the early Christians, especially given the primacy of Rome/St. Peter and the fact that it became the Roman Empire’s state religion. Culturally, the spread of Hellenization would have influenced the religion (especially in the eastern churches). And in Coptic Christianity, one can see Egyptian pagan customs (which would have included customs from Hellenization as well).

  29. delphi_oteon 21 Jan 2014 at 8:20 am

    The questions of whether Jesus was based on a historical figure or whether he was just completely mythical are two very different questions. Obviously different questions, in fact. It’s dishonest to just bounce between the two as though they’re the same question. It’s equivocation, the favored tactic of apologists.

    Johny Appleseed was a historical person about whom myths were created. Pretending like the fact that I believe George Washington was a historical person means I must accept that he chopped down a cherry tree is childish. Myths can be based on historical figures. I can’t believe I actually typed those words while communicating with an adult human.

    Whether Jesus was based on a historical person or not has no bearing on the fact that I don’t believe the mythology. If you’re thinking logically, it shouldn’t have any bearing on your belief, either. It also shouldn’t have any bearing on a hypothetical Christian you might be arguing with. If you convince a Christian not to believe because Jesus was mythical, why shouldn’t they convert to Islam or Scientolgy? The founders of those religions were almost certainly historical. If the historicity of the founder is actually relevant to your belief in a religion, why aren’t you a Mormon?

    If the only tool you have to argue against a story about a god man coming back from the dead is that the man might not have existed, you’re not very good at arguments and should probably just stop.

  30. Steven Novellaon 21 Jan 2014 at 9:27 am

    By “demystify” I meant to add a significant level of clarity to a topic, to go from essentially seeing the topic as a “black box” to having some useful context, background information, and structure so as to make real sense of it.

    I often use the term “demystify” when discussing neurological topics, for example. It does not necessarily have anything to do with mysticism.

    But – when you demystify a religious topic it may also have the secondary effect of more literally demystifying the belief – taking out the supernatural belief element. So in this case I did intend for it to have a bit of a double meaning.

  31. Bill Openthalton 21 Jan 2014 at 11:41 am

    delphi_ote
    If you argue that the reason to belong to a religion depends on the “quality” of its teachings, then its teachings concerning its founder and other significant members are of course germane, as is the actual behaviour of these people (as they are the role-models for the followers of the religion).

    Of course, if the persons are historical but did not live the lives reported in the teachings of the religion, these teachings are (by definition) myths, just as they would be if the persons were not historical. As far as myths are concerned, the historicity of the protagonists is moot, but believers have always used the historicity of the key figures of their religion as proof that their teachings are not myths. Christians believe that Jesus did exist, was the son of the abrahamic god, and born from a virgin, and performed micracles. These is the cornerstones of their belief, and if they prove to be myths, there is no reason to believe in the rest of the teachings.

  32. hardnoseon 21 Jan 2014 at 12:45 pm

    When Christianity was sold to the Greeks by the former Pharisee Paul, he knew he had to make a lot of compromises. Christianity was originally a Jewish sect, but Paul knew the “pagans” wouldn’t go for the kosher laws, or the one-god limit, for example. Christianity filled in some of the things that were removed from the Israelites’ religion by Moses.

    No religions are “true.” All are feeble human attempts to grasp something that many people seem to need. The surface details don’t really matter.

    I don’t think anyone who has studied comparative religion could buy the idea that Christianity is somehow unique and special.

  33. bladerunner060on 21 Jan 2014 at 1:35 pm

    @delphi_ote:

    “Whether Jesus was based on a historical person or not has no bearing on the fact that I don’t believe the mythology. If you’re thinking logically, it shouldn’t have any bearing on your belief, either.”

    That seems pretty absurd, to me. If he never existed, the mythology (as presented) CAN’T POSSIBLY be true. If he existed, then the mythology COULD POSSIBLY be true, but probably isn’t–there are more hoops to jump through, and as you point out, there are “better” reasons for disbelief.

    Whether he existed is a low threshold for most skeptics because the existence of a historical person isn’t really the craw-sticking point, it’s the fantastical claims based on no significant evidence. However, to those who DO accept the mythology, they’re accepting the whole cloth, everything from the very existence up to the godhood etc. etc. I’ve had discussions with people, where they tell me that they think the story as presented being true is the most plausible answer. Getting at the root of THAT is a difficult task, and often requires the parsing of all the parts that have been accepted uncritically.

    He may or may not have existed–again, the real sticking point is the claims further up the credibility scale.

    But to someone who believes, every link MUST be true. Thus, pointing out the flaws in every link has value–since we’re dealing with someone who’s acceptance of fantastical claims is based on limited (at best) evidence. Therefore, I do think there’s value in pointing out that the very existence of the historical personage is at least questionable–it at least points out that the very minimal foundation necessary for truth is at least moderately shaky. Trying to point out the “ending links” in the chain of thinking that’s gotten someone to accept a religious belief as unreasonable is unlikely to, on its own, be particularly effective, in my experience.

  34. ccbowerson 21 Jan 2014 at 1:48 pm

    “Whether Jesus was based on a historical person or not has no bearing on the fact that I don’t believe the mythology. If you’re thinking logically, it shouldn’t have any bearing on your belief, either. It also shouldn’t have any bearing on a hypothetical Christian you might be arguing with.”

    You are attempting to create an equivalence between the Christian and Non-Christian with regards to Jesus, but their positions are very different. The existence of Jesus is necessary (but not sufficient) for Christian’s beliefs, but for the Non-Christian it has no bearing one way or the other.

    No one here is saying that this is the “only tool you have to argue against a story about a god man coming back from the dead”… that is a strawman you just made up.

  35. JAYHUTCHINSon 21 Jan 2014 at 3:36 pm

    The mystical part seems to be where people pretend to know things they can’t possibly know.

  36. Paul Parnellon 25 Jan 2014 at 2:28 am

    Maybe someone could comment on the connection between Hercules and Samson. I

  37. SAK22on 26 Jan 2014 at 7:24 am

    I assume the info in this article is trustworthy?…given the lack of notable citations. Oh, shoot, whats a little relaxed acceptance between….friends…of like mind. You can even keep calling it science.
    That’s what you do, right? The Reconstructionist Mind.

    I note that many minds here have a distinct ‘venting’ requirement…

    Wiki Mithras for a better explanation…

    And don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (yes, that’s encryption for you).

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