Some heartening news from America’s heartland, and the Aslan controversy

August 4, 2013 • 11:25 am

I’ve already mentioned the HuffPo piece on Hedingate: “Ball State University bans teaching of intelligent design in science classes,” but until today I hadn’t looked at the comments. Well, there are 1,190 of them as of 1 pm today (Sunday), and the good thing is that most of them are positive: anti-ID and anti-religion in science class. By my count the antis are running 3:1 against the pros, which must be disheartening to the Discovery Institute. But it will cheer us up, and if you need a lift go read some of them.

That is, by the way, a lot more comments than those following the HuffPo piece on the controversy about Reza Aslan’s new book about Jesus: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aslan’s book tries to paint a new picture of Jesus as a revolutionary: a Middle-Eastern Martin Luther King rather than a meek and humble teacher of love.

I haven’t like Aslan’s scholarship since I read his book on Islam, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which I saw pretty much as an attempt to whitewash everything disreputable about both Islam and Muhammed. The new book on Jesus is, according to HuffPo, getting pushback from theologians and Christians who naturally reject  his reinterpretation of Jesus and his downplaying of the man’s divinity and resurrection. I haven’t read Zealot, and probably won’t, but readers who have can weigh in below.

The Aslan controversy (exacerbated but publicized by a horrible interviewer who grilled him on Fox News) has pushed his book to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. That interview was the best thing that could have happened to Aslan, who comported himself well.

But the whole controversy smacks of postmodern scholarship. What we have is the scriptures, and you can interpret the portrayal of Jesus in many different ways. Frankly, I don’t care much which way you see him. I’m inclined to believe that there was a historical figure behind the story of Jesus (though I’m ambivalent about even that), but I don’t believe for a minute that what the Bible says about him is accurate.

What it does show is that the public has an enormous appetite for books about Jesus and Christianity, probably to find reassurance in an age of increasing disbelief.

And, by the way, Aslan’s book tops the nonfiction list!

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100 thoughts on “Some heartening news from America’s heartland, and the Aslan controversy

  1. I am inclined to think that the anti ID comments increased over time as more and more anti ID folks read those comments and felt safer expressing themselves. It’s pure speculation on my part but there did seem to be an upward trend over time.

    As for Aslan, the Fox piece did him well and it was horribly brutal for Fox but I can’t take him very seriously ever since he wrote his misguided piece on New Atheism which to me, calls into question his ability to approach any other work objectively.

    1. Thanks for the link Diana. I’m so impressed with how impressed Aslan is with his “scholarship”. In the piece you linked to, he said, “After all, religion is as much a discipline to be studied as it is an expression of faith. (I do not write books about, say, biology because I am not a biologist.) Religion, however it is defined, is occupied with transcendence…” He went on from there with a number of nonsensical paragraphs that we have come to see as “sophisticated theology™”, i.e. pure bs. He fails to understand how entirely shallow useless his scholarship really is. If one were trapped on a desert island with Aslan, one would be tempted to use him for bait.

  2. I’m inclined to believe that there was a historical figure behind the story of Jesus (though I’m ambivalent about even that), but I don’t believe for a minute that what the Bible says about him is accurate.

    That last phrase demonstrates gets right to the heart of why even simple statements about existence don’t make sense.

    Pretty much everything we “know” about Jesus is either in the Bible or in the Apocrypha. And the Apocrypha were specifically rejected early on in Christianity’s history as unreliable (for whatever reason) — which is convenient, for they contradict much of what’s in the Bible.

    But what’s in the Bible, as you note, isn’t at all believable. It’s all tall tales, and only even begins to make sense if you see Jesus as the terrestrial incarnation of a divine spirit — a demigod.

    What’s worse, the moment you go looking outside the Bible for independent confirmation of even the slightest detail, you get reverberating silence. Nobody — and I do mean nobody, not even the authors of the Bible — even noticed a thing until generations (at least) after the “facts.”

    And, should there be any remaining doubt, the earliest Christians were adamant that Jesus was no different from the other Pagan demigods, even going so far as to detail all the ways in which his biography was by the (Pagan) book. They just attributed the Pagan demigods to the work of evil spirits and claimed Jesus as the One True Good Demigod.

    Add it all together and even the “crazy preacher about whom the tales grew” theory doesn’t hold water — that one’s flatly contradicted by everything we actually do have, and not even vaguely supported by anything other than very modern incredulity.



    1. I agree with you Ben and to add to this tall tale, what Jesus would they be referring to, a son of god and what god or would they be saying a preacher or sorcerer who lived sometime no one knows accurately between what period of time and so much more.

      1. Indeed, the Gospels can’t even agree on the schedule of Passover events the week Jesus died — and this is important, because that moves the date of the Crucifixion around by several years depending on which version you sign on to. And these are critical elements in the stories, themselves, with special significance attached to what happened on what day, so it’s not like it’s just some sort of innocent confusion. At least one of the Gospel authors is unabashedly just making shit up — and, clearly, in reality, they all are.


        1. The story is all made up, even from the place of his birth, the movement of stars, something other people would have written about, the census and the killing of young males among many others. If we follow the evidence, we can only come to one conclusion, that this is all a tall story badly patched up together

        2. I get most annoyed by people who say “Jesus existed but we can’t know anything about him” what does this even mean? There were thousands of Jesuses wandering around the region at the time, it was the most popular male name there, so no doubt many Jesuses existed, that is hardly the point! To be able to say the Jesus lived on Earth you need to have a bare modicum of facts relating to that to make any sense. At least a few of the things he did and said surely. There is no good evidence at all of Jesus existence, and the Epistles form good evidence that he never lived on Earth, for if their writers had known of an Earthly Jesus they surely would have mentioned it.

        3. Seems you guys haven’t yet heard of the The Theory of Quantum Christianity – it’s where all alternate versions of the same Bible story are true until you pick the one you like most.

          1. Brilliant!

            Does that mean you can create an entangled Jesus by dipping the crackers in the wine? Or — even better! Beer bread! Now, why didn’t I think of that?


    2. This is something that has always irritated me, what is the point of saying that you believe the story was based on a “real” person? Scooby Doo was based on a real dog, many fantasy characters in many books are based on real people, of course once you attribute magical powers to such beings, they really are no longer truly “based on” real people or animals.

      I mean if you can just add or subtract a whole lot of fantasy characteristics to someone then the story of Jesus could be based on anyone or anything. What is the needed quantity of truth vs fiction needed for a story to be “based on” someone?

      1. Ask Ben Goren about the real Santa Claus. That’s the best example I’ve ever seen that addresses the point your making.

        1. Santa is real!

          He’s retired, now — lives year-round in Florida. Never actually been north of Niagara Falls, for that matter. And his real name is, “Harold.” Oh — and he was really a salesman for one of those agribusiness conglomerates. Hates kids, never gave Christmas presents. Besides, he’s Jewish. And he’s allergic to reindeer, skinny as a rail, and never wears red.

          But Harold Weisenstein is the real Santa!



            1. He had a beard for a couple months during his Lubavitcher phase in his late 20s, but his mistress of the time persuaded him to shave again. (His wife thought it kinky….)


    3. Yes, I tend to see Jesus as not a historical figure but as a made up embodiment of ideals that other figures had at that time. There is no verifiable evidence of his existence and I find it annoying that Pontius Pilate always gets a bad rap when he was just doing his job as a Roman Governor (they were told they had to stay out of local politics).

      1. Weren’t there many apocalyptic preachers running around at the time? Or am I taking Life of Brian too seriously?

        1. I think Life of Brian does accurately depict the chaos of all the apocalyptic preachers running around.

          1. This is a good point, and one I think about often, if there were so many running around at the time, what made this one called Jesus and his story so different that almost everyone has heard of him today, how many of those other preachers have you ever heard of specifically. How did his story get repeated, kept alive and spread for so long? Does that not have any bearing at all on it’s authenticity?

            1. Does the fact that the Jesus story, specifically a dude called Jesus lived and died and was resurrected, survived provide evidence for its authenticity? No.

              Evidence of authenticity involves looking at texts – let’s say we take the Christian texts. Then verifying those texts with other contemporary texts (contemporaries include Roman texts, writings of guys like Philo and Josephus) also verifying dates with other dates (Romans – who admittedly suck at dates so it’s always nice to find a nice Egyptian event to correspond since they used the solar calendar). You also want to take a look at archaeological evidence: evidence of sites where things took place, expression of events on pottery shards (hey it happens). You may even look at linguistic evidence (that’s always fun and interesting).

              What we see is this stuff has come up pretty thin. There really is very little externally verifiable evidence for Jesus. Look at Ben’s posts for more details. He is less lazy than I and articulates it well.

              So, sure the Christ story as survived but it can’t be authenticated by external sources. It’s hard to know why this specific story survived….I’m sure there has been some writings on it though usually Classicists do this fun stuff and Classicists usually don’t care about the Jesus story.

            2. There were lots of apocalyptic preachers running around, yes, but they generally weren’t mistraken for actual demigods. Instead, they set themselves up as the mouthpieces of the gods, and the gods of that era either wouldn’t think of soiling themselves with the physical world or were ancient heroes whose stories were lost to the mists of time (but not so long back that they were no longer relevant).


        2. Well, I think most of them probably were very naughty boys. And some probably lost a shoe every now and again.

          Not sure about the gourds, though. I think those are New World plants, and this was a millennium and a half before Columbus….


          1. I’m surprised that you’d say this. You should know that The Life of Brian is a completely inerrant sacred text, not to be questioned or doubted.

            Your skepticism is crushed by the fact that the gourd associated with Brian is plainly a bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and not one of the New World Cucurbita gourds. Watch Brian again, more reverently, and observe this detail.

            The bottle gourd spread widely long before Columbus, and is probably of African origin anyway. It followed people wherever they went, and even made it to the New World before Columbus. It was domesticated thousands of yeas ago, even before the creation of the world according to some chronologies.

            1. What a relief! For a moment there my belief in Pythonic Infallibility was starting to waver.

              Thank you! Thank you! Monty bless you! 🙂

            2. Bah. Bunch of heresies spread by the upstart “traditionalists.” The real Brian was carrying a conch shell, anyway — the gourd was just what they told the unwashed masses to keep ’em from learning the true Truth.


              1. For the umpteenth time — those weren’t juniper berries, because it wasn’t gin.

                Those were worms in tequila. Which is why it was miraculous.

                Like, duh!


      2. Pontius Pilate skated compared to the hatred Judas still receives for his crucial role in the drama. It’s my opinion, though, that as bad as the Judas character gets f^cked over in historical fiction, it is nothing compared to to the millenia of foul deeds culminating in genocide — not quite culminating; anti-semitism continues — that Jews suffered on account of ‘blood libel’ that is impossible.

          1. I don’t get why Judas isn’t a hero to Christians. Without him, Jesus doesn’t get turned over to the authorities, and so doesn’t get to die for our sins. What’s up with that?

            1. Aye, it is still beyond me that they don’t put the blame solely on their god. I mean, he’s all powerful and all knowing…..I don’t get it.

              1. According to one of the more recently discovered non-canonical gospels, Jesus actually asked Judas to turn him in. In which case Judas didn’t betray Jesus, but followed his instructions. Now THIS makes sense (to the extent that ANY of this makes sense).

              2. Judas was as set up but Eve was super set up. God tells Adam not to eat the fruit, not Eve. She eats it then boom, all her fault. 🙂

              3. It’s almost as if this god character is an unjust misogynist thought up by primitive sexist men.

              4. Yes, at first I had sympathy with the god character, but then I quickly lost interest in him and saw him as a mercurial, needy character that exercises extremely poor judgement.

              5. It makes a lot less nonsense when you understand that Adam and Eve are the Jewish equivalents of Prometheus and Pandora. And they’re not exactly heavily disguised, either — it’s much like the Jupiter / Zeus thing.


              6. Actually Prometheus is more a Jesus figure. He gives man a gift, he gets punished blah blah blah

              7. Prometheus was the pivot point between the gods and men, and the first cast from heaven for defying the gods. Adam was the first man, cast from Eden for defying YHWH.

                Jesus is Osiris / Dionysus, the personification of the Sun. The gift and punishment is a later Christian gloss done by making parallels between Adam, the First Man, and Jesus, the Son of Man.

                Many of the same themes repeat in variations in all these ancient religions, just as they continue to do to this day in heroic fiction. It’s not hard to find elements of one in another — and, often, very significant elements.

                But the archetype remains….



      3. “Pontius Pilate always gets a bad rap” by just doing his job of putting to death a made up embodiment of ideals that other figures had at that time. I don’t get it, are you saying he did crucify Jesus and was just doing his job and shouldn’t get a bad rap for that? How can one side not be true, and then still have the need to defend the actions of Pilate?

        1. There is the whole parable of “washing his hands” – Pilate is often seen as giving a concession to the Jews wrt to Jesus because he’d pissed them off so many times before. Roman prefects/governors, etc. were supposed to stay out of local affairs.

          1. I understand all of that but why are you annoyed by something that according to you, never happened? I always thought that washing your hands of something means you no longer have a part in it, so at the very most he just didn’t stop them, but again it’s hard to discuss an event and what it means if you think it never even happened in the first place, so that’s what I don’t “get”.

            1. Well freegrazer, I’m annoyed in the Odyssey when Odysseus is free and clear on his boat with his men, having escaped the noming of Polyphemos (who he blinded) and responds to Polyphemos’s demands to tell him who did this. Free. And. Clear. All he had to do was shut his big hero mouth and he’d be back home with Penelope & his dog Argos (that’s right, I remembered the name of Odysseus’s dog. It’s a very touching scene). But no, he had to brag. He tells the Cyclops that he, Odysseus blinded him & what happens next? Well, Polyphemos gets his dad after Odysseus. Who’s his dad? Friggin’ Poseidon. I said he was on a boat right? This sets up the whole hell that becomes Odysseus’s life.

              Do I think Odysseus, Polyphemus, Poseidon et al. are real? No! But I’m annoyed and Odysseus anyway.

              Now, at least we don’t have a bunch of people going on and on about how Poseidon should not have helped Polyphemos as part of an Odysseus cult that meets once a week and has Odyssey school for the kids, because if we did, I’d be telling them that this is a time of blood ties – this shit went down all the time. And I bet if that were the case, someone would accuse me of believing in Cyclopes!

              1. Ha ha I actually thought that too when Finding Nemo came out – must be about Odysseus. 🙂

              2. Well, IMDb notes that “Nemo” is a reference to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but it is a kind of Odyssey…

                (I note that the main astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey is Dave Bowman.)


        2. Oh and I was speaking only of pro sua conscientia Christianus about the Christian story wrt to Pontius Pilate in that the story isn’t fair to him exactly if you put him in the historical context which the stories don’t.

          As for if he really crucified the real Jesus, who knows. All the non Christian texts tell us is there was a guy called Pilate that was a prefect of Judea (AD 26-36) and Philo & Josephus says he ticked off the Jews a lot and he got called back to Rome by Tiberius and that’s about it.

          1. Sorry, I typed my comment before I saw this but as for “who knows”? apparently many people here making comments “know” and even you yourself said you don’t think Jesus was an actual historical figure, so now are you backpedaling. Reminds me of a movie I saw where Val Kilmer was playing someone who lived in ancient times and his son was asking him this and that about “The gods” and he said basically, “It all happened so long ago, who can know these things” So is that your stance?

            1. I’m not back peddling, I’m commenting on the the biblical story of Pilate and saying it wasn’t fair to him. I didn’t say it was true.

              Also, read my words more carefully, I choose them for a reason: I tend to see Jesus as not a historical figure but as a made up embodiment of ideals

              Does that say I know something? I’m sure of something. Here are some other ways I could put it: I am inclined to see Jesus as not a historical figure…. <—-no "knowing" used here

              or I am disposed to see Jesus as a historical figure….<—-no "knowing" used here

              Then new thought: in the Christian narrative, Pilate is treated unfairly given what we know about ancient history.<—-this part I say with stronger conviction.

              1. Ok I get it now, you are only discussing the treatment of Pilate. For some reason my other comment hasn’t posted about washing the hands. I thought that meant you no longer have any part in it, so at the most he just didn’t stop them, which puts him in the context you claim he should be in by not getting involved in local affairs. That is the way I always understood it. I’ve read that Pilate said Jesus committed no crime that he could see and if he had broken Jewish law, it was up to them to deal with it, is that not the story you’ve heard.

              2. There is a lot of extraneous stuff with the story – people see Pilate as a real baddy who struck Christ or should have stopped the crucifixion because he was in charge. Pilate was just doing his job but they sure make him out to be a villain.

              1. Ha ha, none of it at all, I had to look it up and from what I can understand it means he was already a Christian in his conscience, which does not paint him as a baddy in fact quite the opposite which is what I always thought, that he for all intents and purposes found Jesus innocent and tried to set him free, but because some Jewish leaders at the time were so angry with Jesus, he just washed his hands of the whole thing and was only doing his job by staying out of their affairs. So I don’t see how pro sua conscientia Christianus helps explain your view unless I totally misunderstood what it means, in that case it would be helpful to just speak English.

              2. No, it means the texts were only looking at Christian texts i.e: scripture therefore not verifiable.

              3. I found it several different places that says it means already “Christian in his conscience”

                Tertullion, speaking of Pilate, saith, Ipse jam pro sua conscientia Christianus—In his conscience he was a Christian;

                And no places that says it means what you said, can you please show me a reference or link that shows that is what is means because I am just not finding it.

          2. Much more telling: Philo went on an embassy to Rome in the mid-40s (well after the latest hypothetical date for the Crucifixion) to petition Caligula about the unjust treatment of Jews at the hands of the Romans, including excessive use of crucifixions. But Philo never mentioned Jesus in that context nor any other.

            And let’s also not forget that it was Philo whose Magnum Opus was the incorporation of the Greek Logos — the “Word” of John 1:1 — into Judaism. Philo was the inventor of Christian philosophy, was there on the scene when it was all supposed to have gone down, and never noticed a hint of anything even remotely resembling any of it.

            Neither did Josephus, either, except for that famous forgery of Eusebius. Then again, Josephus wasn’t born until about the same time Philo was headed off to Rome, so Josephus is at best a secondary source. And one who would have gotten along swimmingly in the Rupert Murdoch school of journalism, so much less interesting as an historian and much more as an example of contemporary propaganda and tabloid celebrity gossip.



      1. Which apocrypha are you talking about? There are several such books deemed apocrypha that do mention Jesus. The Gospel of Thomas is one in particular that comes to mind.

      2. Squeeze me? You must be thinking of some other word, because that’s the very definition of “apocrypha” — they’re the extra-biblical, heretical ancient texts about Jesus. Prime examples are Marcion’s Gospel and all the gospels set as first-person accounts from other characters in the story — Mary, Judas, etc.



        1. I was thinking of the Old Testament apocrypha. The word “apocrypha” in the sense of “OT apocrypha only” is used here and here, so you can understand my confusion with your use of the term to refer to non-canonical Early Christian literature.

  3. Recommended reading:

    “The Historical Figure of Jesus” by E. P. Sanders

    I’ve disposed of my copy, but iirc Sanders is a professional historian who asked this question in his book: using the ordinary techniques of historians for assessing ancient documents’ reliability, what can we conclude about Jesus from the Biblical account of him?

    One interesting rule of thumb Sanders deploys is “if the text is gushing, it’s probably fiction; if it recounts setbacks, it’s probably telling the truth.”

    Sanders (again, iirc) concludes that there was such a person, but the more extravagant parts of the Biblical account are probably fictions.

    At this point my memory gives out, so you’ll have to read it for yourself if you are curious about Sanders’ overall conclusions.

    1. … if it recounts setbacks, it’s probably telling the truth.”

      Pthththt. Every novel contains setbacks.
      I know from “Paul Bunyan and the Log Jam” that Mr. Bunyan was not above mistreating animals, even those he owned. This puts him in a bad light, therefore I suspect it is a true story and that Mr. Bunyan was a real historical person.

    2. One interesting rule of thumb Sanders deploys is if the text is gushing, its probably fiction; if it recounts setbacks, its probably telling the truth

      You’ll find that nonsense nowhere outside of religious apologetics, especially Christian apologetics. It’s often called the “criteria of embarrassment.”

      If you used that standard, you’d find every fictional character passes that test. In particular, the other Mediterranean gods and demigods popular at the same time are all highly flawed figures — and flawed in the exact same ways as Jesus, for that matter. Hercules had doubts when performing his Labors, for example. In just the Bible, we’d also be forced to conclude that Adam and Eve were entirely real, as was Noah and Moses — and YHWH and Satan, too, for that matter.

      When it comes right down to it, the criteria of embarrassment is very aptly named, for anybody who applies it damned well be deeply embarrassed.



      1. Agreed. Using that criteria Odysseus could probably be seen as a real figure and you definitely could apply it the Hercules.

      2. Though it is not quite the same thing, there is a legal principle that allows hearsay statements which would otherwise be excluded to be admitted into evidence if they are an “admission against interest.” That is, for hundreds of years our legal system has accepted that “embarrissing statements” are more likely to be true than, say, boastful statements. That doesn’t necessarily make the principle true, but it does show Sanders is not alone in making it; he is not even very original.

    3. This criterion assumes that Jesus existed, and goes on to fallaciously try to figure out what really happened. You first need to show that he existed. The Gospels are not adequate to the task, and as Bart Ehrman showed,(thought that wasn’t his intention) it can’t be done.

  4. Ashley F. Miller ran a review: Zealot by Reza Aslan: A Review

    I don’t know why Aslan’s book should be considered nonfiction. He assumes that the existence and crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ are unquestionable facts, and then makes up everything else about him. If you don’t accept the New Testament as a reliable source when they claim Jesus H. Christ was God and rose from the dead, why should you believe anything else it says, including the crucufixion, when those events are also not corraborated by secular sources?

  5. Is this his new shtick?

    Reza Aslan insisted for all these years that Islamism is nothing to worry about, that the muslim brotherhood is really misunderstood, secular, modern and reformist. He welcomed the victory of the muslim brotherhood and the election of Morsi in Egypt. Concerns that the muslim brotherhood actually intends to follow through with the plan they have consistently layed out for the past 80 years were condemned by Aslan as nothing but expressions of crude western islamophobia, orientalism and racism.

    Well, recent events have shown that 30 million Egyptians disagree vehemently with Reza Aslan’s sanguine assessment of the brotherhood and islamism. So Aslans’s narrative can no longer be sustained in the face of the obvious. Neither can be his role as go-to expert for all things Islam and chief explainer of the muslim world for the NPR crowd.

    The notion that Jesus Christ was originally based on a historical character who was a terrorist and warlord is one of the many somewhat plausible hypotheses of a historical Jesus. But in Aslan’s case, it looks like this fits conveniently into his islamic apolegetics. “See, Mohammed was really a peaceful man; Jesus on the other hand the true warmonger.”

    It’s understandable that a fundamentalist Christian would smell a hidden motivation behind Reza Aslan’s sudden interest in the true meaning(tm) of the gospels.

    1. The Jesus Zealot schtick is also old. I’m no Jesus expert but I’ve read it’s not a new approach.

      1. Definitely not new. Albert Schweitzer first proposed the idea in 1906 in “The Quest of the Historical Jesus”. And more recently Bart Ehrman wrote a book called “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium” which was published in 1999, and there have been several others.

  6. Revolutionary Jesus is not “postmodern” history, whatever that may be. Various versions of the thesis were popularized, if memory serves, by Hyam Maccoby in Revolution in Judaea and the Marvin Harris in Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches. Robert Eisenmann I think was an academic but the main book is S.G.F. Brandon’s Jesus and the Zealots.

    Karl Kautsky’s Foundations of Christianity may have stated the thesis (but it’s unavailable to ordinary readers, so I can’t say for certain.) It seems to have been a staple of Soviet historiography. There was an anticommunist historian named Joel something who may have picked this up from them.

    Since Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus, it has been a widely accepted thesis that the real man was an apocalyptic prophet, although very few dare to think of apocalyptic as involving political commitment. They seem to think it’s merely a literary genre.

  7. I have read a copy of Zealot passed on to
    my wife by her sister who was impressed with it. We are all atheists. I never took religion seriously, since my
    early teens. My parents, an anthropologist and a sociologist, were totally irreligious. I have read parts
    of the old and new testaments more so that I could say I have, rather than to find anything interesting in them. I do not consider any of it to be great literature and only interesting because its is the basis of Western religion.

    The lesson I draw from Zealot is that Palestine was beset by the economic exploitation of lower classes
    by corrupt Romans and the equally corrupt Jewish priesthood which extracted excessive taxes to support the empire and expensive temple rituals, bribes and downright exploitation.. This regularly
    brought forth revolts, frequently lead by messianic cults and leaders which were brutally suppressed by murder
    of the populace and crucifiction of the leaders. The poor and exploited were of
    course victims of their own belief in
    the current deity.

    The book is full of interesting “factoids” such as that the gospels and associated letters were written by people who never knew a live Jesus, and his alleged message
    was propagated by Greek speaking Diaspora Jews
    who transformed him into a Romanized demigod.
    This subsequently led to more schism in Christianity.

    I liked Aslan’s style. The book is an easy and engaging read. It gave me some perspective on the tenor of those ancient times. There is a 53 page supplement of notes on all kinds of matters arising
    in the chapters. They are interesting reading insofar as the disagreements among experts, the “knowable unkowables, etc” are reported by the author.

    For me, the book was an engaging reminder that anyone who takes any of this Biblical stuff seriously as evidence for a miraculous deity is lucky to be rational enough to
    look both ways before crossing the street.

    1. For me, the book was an engaging reminder that anyone who takes any of this Biblical stuff seriously as evidence for a miraculous deity is lucky to be rational enough to
      look both ways before crossing the street.

      Are you implying that christians in particular are guilty of jaywalking?

      I hope you have the evidence to back up such a bold statement.

    2. That sounds a lot like the state of religion and politics today. All that we are missing is the part about revolting against it….

      1. My impression from reading the book is
        that all classes of Bible believers were
        murderously intolerant of deviations. The
        Romans put up with local religions as long as they paid up what was demanded of them and no one raised a destabilizing ruckus. We
        are fortunate today that Christianity has been
        tamed and a modus vivendi exists among the sects and nonbelievers are not physically harassed except in rare occasions. This seems not to be true of the Moslem world. As far as present conditions we should not assume that impoverished and downtrodden people are always rational in their reaction to difficult times.

  8. Ms. Green did not write her script for that interview, she was given the talking points and just came up short. I expect few Fox reporters have the freedom to express their personal opinions.

    1. But Lauren Green has consistently shown herself (or her scripted talking points have consistently shown her) to talk in conservative Christian inanities.

      1. She referred to Jesus as the “founder of Christianity”. Wasn’t that Paul? And if she is their Christianity religion person, shouldn’t she know that?

  9. I have just finished Aslan’s Zealot, and find it interesting. Maybe because he is a muslim (or not xtian), his approach on historical Jesus is rather good.

    It is closest to what I have in mind what Jesus is / was. Of course I didn’t really check Aslan’s biblical references, they may be wrong (or wrongly interpreted by him).

    It is good if we start to look at religions this way. I vaguely remember read something about Islam (something about whether Mohammed really exist), and it is similar.

    You look at the historical contexts, the socio-political environment at the moment, and you can see a lot of explanations on why Jesus or Mohammed (and people around them) acted they way they did.

    Much better explanation rather than God-did-it. And I always like the explanation that God’s son ideas was Paul’s rather than Jesus.

    Actually the book Zealot gave you some things to mull about. And I got the feeling that Aslan is thinking about a sequel (especially after the success of this).

    More interesting than, say Anne Rice’s Jesus stories.

  10. Hi, all,

    Would anyone like to have a go at “God or Allah, truth or bull?”

    ISBN 978 1 60976 813 3

    I shall be glad to make a pdf copy available, gratis of course.

    Just contact me via email:

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