I’ve often complained about National Geographic‘s recent trend towards osculating religion, extolling the virtues and verities of faiths without questioning them in the least (see here. here, here and here, for instance). This is clearly an editorial decision, perhaps exacerbated after the magazine was purchased by Rupert Murdoch.
What bothers me about all this is the totally uncritical acceptance of the claims of religion, which is just not proper for a magazine dedicated to the natural world. It’s not just that National Geographic shows how religious people behave throughout the world, which is within the magazine’s remit, but that it not only celebrates faith but takes the truth claims of religions like Christianity for granted. But if Jesus was just a myth, or a rabbi with no divine origin, then Christianity can hardly have a firm basis. But you’ll never see National Geographic examining with a cold eye the historical evidence for the existence of a Jesus-person, for that evidence is very, very thin. That wouldn’t be a way to sell magazines.
Here’s the latest issue demonstrating the credulous acceptance of the truth claims coming from revelation and scripture. “The real Jesus” is the title article, and you can see from that and the subtitle that there’s not a scintilla of doubt that Jesus really existed. “What Archaeology Reveals about His Life,” they say breathlessly, as if there were any evidence.
Below is the magazine’s summary. As you can see, there’s more than just an article on “the real Jesus,” but also an “editorial” by the Editor in Chief that accepts and extols Jesus, a piece by the archaeology editor and a writer about how Jesus’s life fits into the archaeological data, interviews with those two authors, and added Jesus Features to enhance your experience and strengthen your faith.
Can we expect articles like “The real Muhammad?” and “The real Vishnu?”
Reader Gary F, who read this article, sent his take, which I quote with permission:
The article begins with a visit to the archaeologist and Catholic priest Eugenio Alliata as an authority. Then it goes on to point out the importance of Christianity and thus Christ, by the great number of Christian believers in the world, and wastes no time dismissing the skeptics who argue that Jesus didn’t exist. The author clearly has a great sympathy for the spirituality of Christianity, visiting the holy sites with great reverence and awe. The only substance seems to be the discovery of archeological sites of the sort mentioned in the Gospels, thus adding to credibility of the Gospels, thus adding to the awe and reverence. It is also argued that we shouldn’t expect to find much about one person living at that time so long ago, being careful to set a low burden of proof. (Apparently God didn’t want to establish the truth about his greatest message.) The last sentences, after the author visits a holy site and is inspired [JAC’s emphasis]:“At this moment I realize that to sincere believers, the scholars’ quest for the historical, non-supernatural Jesus is of little consequence. That quest will be endless, full of shifting theories, unanswerable questions, irreconcilable facts. But for true believers, their faith in the life, death and Resurrection of the Son of God will be evidence enough.”
The Editor in Chief’s column ends with: “…sites that are monuments of archaeological significance as well as vibrant centers of pilgrimage and faith. How gratifying, in this season of goodwill, to see the scientific and spiritual coexist.”Ugh! But you have already mentioned the decline of the magazine several times on WEIT.
Look at the bit in bold. It basically says, “Christians don’t need no stinking evidence, for their evidence comes from faith alone.” What a dire and miserable attitude to foist on readers of a magazine about the world! And, of course, it’s a slap in the face to those Sophisticated Theologians™ who claim that faith is more than “belief without evidence”.
It’s a good thing I don’t have a subscription, as I would have canceled it a long time ago.