Is Christianity a Myth? …. September 29, 2014

If one examines the Egyptian Sun God Ra many similarities will be noted between Ra and the story of Jesus. In fact, the stories nearly parallel. It is apparent that the story of Jesus was plagiarized from the Sun God’s story. This is the basis for my assertion that Christianity started as sun worship.

If one does not think Ra real, and Christianity was taken from Ra’s story, can Jesus be real?

More clearly: If Ra does not exist, and most Christians will deny Ra exists, then can Jesus exist?

Clearly if one accepts that the story of the Egyptian Sun God Ra is a fabrication, and that the near parallel of Jesus’ story was taken from the story of Ra, Jesus never existed and Christianity has no foundation. If one says that the story may have been plagiarized but that Jesus did exist then one is admitting that the Bible is not the infallible word of God. 

Naturally no Christian can admit the two stories are one from the other. Christianity was never based in logic, it is totally tied to emotion. Emotion does not reason. No true believer will be swayed by logic. Does the true believer’s belief make the story of Jesus true? Of course not.

Conclusion: If one takes the Ra story as a fabrication and Ra non-existent; if one accepts the apparent truth that the Jesus story was extracted from the Ra story; if one insists that the Bible is the infallible word of God; then Jesus is fiction and Christianity a myth.

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23 Responses to Is Christianity a Myth? …. September 29, 2014

  1. Ron Murphy says:

    Fair point. But no more convincing to Christians than merely inferring Jesus (divine, miracles, etc.) is a myth even without comparison to Ra. If I were Christian I’d simply deny details of similarity as unimportant and differences telling. As is done by several Christians. Somewhere on Well Spent Journey (wellspentjourney.com) for example. On the road now but if you need a precise post I’ll add later.

  2. drenn1077 says:

    I agree. Nothing will convince the devoted. They did not acquire their beliefs through reason, they aren’t going to give them up as a result of reason.
    Actually, I think, there are those that need belief to sustain them, as a crippled person needs a crutch. Their mental bearings are such that otherwise they could not withstand life.

  3. dpmonahan says:

    1. I think you are referring to Osiris, the dismembered and resurrected corn god with the magic golden penis, not Ra the sun god.
    2. Christianity was a Jewish sect, and ancient Jews were generally horrified of paganism, so it is unlikely that first generation Jewish Christians were looking for religious inspiration in Osiris myths. Usually when someone tries to claim a convoluted pagan precedent for Christianity there is a perfectly simple one to be found in Judaism.
    3. Ancient Christians living in pagan cultures were perfectly aware of vague or shadowy parallels between old myths and their faith, which they attributed to an anticipatory desire for Christ already present in pagan culture.
    4. No, Christianity is not myth in the strict sense. Myths don’t claim to be historical. No ancient Egyptian ever claimed that Osiris really lived in a specific time and place in human history. Osiris was a symbol, an archetype, from some misty dreamworld before the time began. Christians always claimed that Jesus really lived in Palestine, born under Augustus, died under Pilate, and rose from the dead, literally.
    True or false, those are historical claims, not myths.

  4. drenn1077 says:

    Unless you think that the Brother’s Grimm were historical claims, then at the very least, Christianity and Jesus were historical myths.
    Jewish Sect? Everything, including Judaism has a beginning. They may have been jews, but they invented a new religion, a new myth. This myth had it’s basis in the Egyptian sun god.

  5. Ron Murphy says:

    dpmonahan, There are two aspects to Christianity that you are conflating when denying it is a myth. One is the historical aspect, of the times, the beliefs of the people, and of the existence of a specific Jewish man and the dubious history of his non-supernatural acts and words. Jesus may not be a myth, but many of the words and non-supernatural deeds attributed to him may be, but we simply don’t have the facts. Jesus the supernatural Christ figure, and the God of Christianity and Judaism, the significant aspects of Christianity that make it a religion, are myths. So, unless you want to say Christianity is nothing more than following the teachings of a Jewish man, then Christianity is a myth.

  6. dpmonahan says:

    As I understand the accepted terminology, a myth is a story of the gods that explains or represents some aspect of the cosmos or of human experience (Osiris). A legend refers to some shadowy figure from the past who is presented as an historical figure, and may well have been, but whose life is embellished with fanciful stories (Agamemnon, King Arthur).
    Jesus is not a myth, since he existed. He is not quite a legend either, because his life was documented within a generation of his death. The resurrection account is a not fanciful distortion made over the course of many generations, Paul was talking abut it not 20 years after Jesus died.
    If you are looking for a parallel to the stories about Jesus you wont easily find them in Greek or Egyptian mythologies or legends. The closest thing I can think of would be some characters I heard about when I was living in Italy, like Pio of Pietrocina, who died in the ’60s, or Giovanni Bosco, from the 19th century, where stories of miraculous deeds were circulating during their lifetimes.
    I’m not arguing that the Resurrection or miracle of loaves really took place, I don’t think that sort of thing can be argued. What I am pointing out is that your efforts to categorize Jesus as myth are based on messy categories and fuzzy logic.

  7. dpmonahan says:

    Fairy tales, like myths, do not claim to be historical. Legends claim to have some basis in history. The Gospel does not fit into any of the above categories.
    Whatever mythological materials ancient Hebrews might have used in elaborating their religion, (and it probably is not so simple as Ra, there are Canaanite and Babylonian elements too) the “new thing” they created was not a myth, that is, it was not a mystic story that explains why the crops grow. That sort of religious notion was explicitly rejected by the Jewish prophets.
    The Jewish notion of god is strikingly different from their neighbors: a personal god who intervenes in history, who breaks out of the mythological mold. This is a radical departure from previous forms of religion.
    And it is to this radical tradition that Jesus belongs. If you want to “explain” Jesus, you always look first to Judaism, not the myths of Egypt or to Greek cults.

  8. drenn1077 says:

    Prove Jesus existed. Many Christians will rejoice at your proof.

  9. drenn1077 says:

    The story of Jesus was a radical breakaway from Jewish myth. There is no explaining Jesus with Judaism except to say Judaism came first and any stories concocted afterwards could be easily fabricated. That is why the story of Jesus, so quickly understood to be taken from earlier myths, is easily seen as a myth.

  10. dpmonahan says:

    The existence of Jesus is not seriously in doubt. His disciples wrote about him within 20 years of his ministry. The traditions and institutions they attributed to him are still in existence today.
    Whether or not Jesus existed as his disciples present him is another question, a messiah who rose from the dead, is different question which I don’t think has a satisfactory answer.

  11. dpmonahan says:

    I think you are using the word “myth” as “a story that isn’t true”. I’m using it in a technical sense, as a specific sort of religious story, which does not claim to be literally true.
    Was Jesus a radical break with Jewish tradition? His whole conceptual universe is unmistakably Jewish: not just a monotheist god, but a god who acts in human history, who has a covenant with the Jewish people, who will send a messiah who will bring about “the kingdom of God”: all this is Jewish. Even “radical” ideas like redemptive suffering and the covenant being one day extended by God to all of humanity have Jewish precedent. Rituals like Baptism and the Eucharist, attributed to Jesus, are a re-purposing of ritual ablutions and the Seder meal.
    Where Jesus does radically change Judaism is that he seems to have claimed some sort of divinity for himself.
    The point is, that if you say, “Jesus is a retelling of the Osiris myth” odds are you are dead wrong. You are looking in the least rational place to find clues for where Jesus or his followers got their ideas.

  12. drenn1077 says:

    Dear sir, if you don’t have any proof of Jesus’ existence, it would behoove you to say so, rather than repeating your claim.

  13. drenn1077 says:

    Jesus was depicted 180° in character from the old God that was inhuman and unapproachable.
    There are a dozen or more stories similar to the Jesus story. Enough to convince almost anyone that it was all fiction. I realize there are many who are desperate to save a corporeal Jesus, but alas, it just ain’t so.

  14. Ron Murphy says:

    dpmonahan,

    The only difference between the interfering God of Judaism and Christianity, and mythical interfering gods of the Greeks is that the Jews had the sense to pick up on monotheism, and not to make the mistake of having their god hang around on solid ground where he can be found to be absent.

    You are splitting hairs with your claims of significant differences that make Christian/Jewish God ‘real’ and all others myths. Given all the many very specific claims of Christianity that are missing any evidence whatsoever there really is not good reason not to classify it as a myth.

  15. dpmonahan says:

    There is no hair splitting involved. It is a question of what a myth is, and whether Christianity is a mythical religion.
    A myth is not an historical claim. Myth, by its nature, is ahistorical. If you ask a priest of Osiris “But when did Isis piece back together the 12 pieces of Osiris’ body and give him his golden phallus? Where did it happen?” he will just look at you funny; it is not the kind of story he is trying to tell. If you ask the Apostle Paul “When did Jesus rise from the dead?” He will say “Under the procurator Pontius Pilate, in Jerusalem, and here is a list of people who saw him.”
    Now, Paul’s claims may or may not be true, but they are not myths. They are historical claims.
    As for the claim that mythological gods also interfere in human history, they don’t. When Homer claims that Athena guides Odysseus, he and everyone reading his book knows that Athena did not really do that. But when Paul claims that God rose Jesus from the dead, he really believes it and expects his listeners to as well.
    It is a different kind of story.

  16. dpmonahan says:

    To simplify: 1) that he existed is proven by the fact that the institutions he started (see above) exist to this day, and these things are the subject of historical record from his death until now. 2) Whether he existed as his followers claimed he did, is unprovable.

  17. dpmonahan says:

    OT God is inhuman and unapproachable? I think that is a biased reading of the text. Sounds like a gross oversimplification, probably encouraged by some not-very-bright Christians.
    As for “similar stories”, yeah you might compare Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead to Osiris being chopped in 14 pieces by Set, pieced together by Isis, and given a golden penis. There is a death and resurrection, but once you understand how the mythological mind works, and how the Jewish mind works, that is where the similarity ends. You are talking about two radically different systems of thought.

  18. Ron Murphy says:

    dpmonahan,

    Christianity fits all these definitions of ‘myth’

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/myth
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/myth
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/myth
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_mythology

    Can you provide sources that support your ‘technical’ sense in which Christianity is not a myth?

  19. dpmonahan says:

    I like this definition, which is similar to the ones you put forward, but more fleshed out:

    Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the “beginnings.” In other words myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality–an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution…. The actors in myths are Supernatural Beings. They are known primarily by what they did in the transcendent times of the “beginnings.” hence myths disclose their creative activity and reveal the sacredness (or simply the “supernaturalness”) of their works…. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today. Furthermore, it is as a result of the intervention of Supernatural Beings that man himself is what he is today, a mortal, sexed, and cultural being.

    -Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963

    NB: I’d say by “sacred history: he is not saying that a myth makes an historical claim as we understand it, as the rest of his definition makes clear.

    I think the only part of the Christian tradition to which all this would apply would be to the first 12 chapters of Genesis, and large parts of Exodus. I don’t know about Exodus, but the only Christian I’ve met over the age of 13 who took the first 12 books of Genesis literally was a Seventh Day Adventist I ran into about 15 years ago.

    Nothing in the Christian tradition purports to be a “just so story” explaining why the sun rises, why the wheat grows, why cats have tails, except maybe the doctrine of original sin, which sort of explains some human feelings of alienation.

    If you look at Christianity as an institution, then by this definition Christ could be interpreted as the supernatural being who founded it… except that this foundation took place within human history. The gap between founder and foundation is not a few thousand years reaching back to before human memory. Between the death of Jesus and the first written records of an organised church is less than 20 years.

  20. Ron Murphy says:

    dpmonahan,

    Christianity is very specifically about the divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t found the religion. He was a Jew, and baptised as a Jew. Christianity is a myth built around him. It’s not clear that any of the claims to divinity were actually made by Jesus. So, everything about Christianity that makes it a religion rather than just a personality cult (though it is both) is mythical.

    Of course it’s all a ‘just so’ story. The crucifixion, the execution of a rebel (criminalised), is turned into a ‘just so’ positive story.

    OK, what’s the ‘official’ required gap between the life of a person and the myth that surrounds him? How about the myth of Scientology (the myth is its story about Thetans and other nonsense, the religious cult is the religion that thrives on that myth) which grew during the life of the man that started it? There is nothing in the general definition of a myth that requires a specific gap. Myths can be started any time. The myth(s) of Scientology

    Myths about fictional characters don’t have actual living characters around which they are based, so the notion of some time criteria is irrelevant.

    And you continue to conflate the the man Jesus and the myth of Christianity built around him, and then use the (presumed) historical existence of Jesus to deflect the charge of myth from the Christianity.

  21. dpmonahan says:

    Ron Murphy:
    For a story to be categorized as mythological, it must display the following characteristics: it explains the origins of some cosmological reality (such as why the grass grows in spring) or human experience (why we grow old and die); it does not claim to have literally happened in human history, but rather serves as an a-temporal archetype.
    The story of Jesus does not fit these criteria. Therefore it is not a myth, but something else.
    I would submit that a parallel might be seen in someone like the 19th century Italian priest Giovanni Bosco, reputed to be a miracle worker. The stories about him may or may not be true, but there is no mythological element involved.
    Your assertion that Jesus did not found Christianity is baseless, as is your assertion that Jesus taught something different from his early followers. While it is possible that his followers made radical changes to his teaching, there is no evidence for it. Since the earliest examples of Christian teaching date from about 50 AD, the most likely thing is that they were building on Jesus’ teaching more or less as they claimed to be doing.
    You accuse me of conflating the story and the man, I’m just taking the available evidence we have about him. But nowhere in this thread have I claimed that the Resurrection or miracles reported by his followers are real: the only thing we can say about them is that that his followers believed them to be real, literal events.
    L. Ron Hubbard did not believe his own stories.
    I should also point out that I’ve nowhere said myths are bad things; they serve a purpose. My points have always been 1) that it is wrong assume pagan inspiration for the story of Jesus and 2) that the story of Jesus is not mythological.

  22. Ron Murphy says:

    dpmonahan,

    It is not the case that a myth need contain origins stories, though of course Christianity does, since Gensis and a creator God is the basis of Christianity: no God, no divine Christ/Jesus.

    “You accuse me of conflating the story and the man, I’m just taking the available evidence we have about him.”

    First, you’re doing that and using it as your case against the OP, that Christianity is a myth. It’s no good you keep telling us about the Jewish mortal man Jesus and using his non-mythological status to argue against the myth of Christianity.

    Second, so many of the stories about Jesus are nothing but stories reported by Christians. We really have nothing about what Jesus actually said or did. You say I’m asserting Jesus was not what later Christians proclaimed him to be, when in fact I’m merely saying that you have no evidence to support the fantastical stories that Christians have been telling about him.

    I offered Scientology to show how even in the life time of the originator of a known scam of a mythical cult people will come to believe it, and this is evidence of unsubstantiated belief such that we cannot rely on any claims from first century CE Christians: they too could extrapolate from the acts of a mortal man into a full blown religious cult.

    As for Giovanni Bosco, yes he was a non-mythical person, but the claims to his miracles are such that they are myths – unless you have evidence that his mythical miracles were actual miracles.

    “But nowhere in this thread have I claimed that the Resurrection or miracles reported by his followers are real: the only thing we can say about them is that that his followers believed them to be real, literal events.”

    I’m not claiming anywhere that you believe them or claim them to be true. I am saying you are denying the mythological status of the stories. Yes, they believed the myth, and the specific sub-myths of the myth. Without evidence to support such grand claims they still remain myths.

    “The story of Jesus does not fit these criteria. Therefore it is not a myth, but something else.”

    Again you conflate the man with the myth. When you say ‘the story of Jesus’ are you talking about the the Jewish man that preached stuff, or are you talking about Jesus the Christ figure, the Son of God, the one third of the Trinity, the basis upon which the myth of Christianity was constructed? You continue to be unclear on this in every comment you make. State it clearly. When denying the myth of the mortal Jewish man Jesus, try using the phrase, ‘the man Jesus’; and when talking about the stories of miracles and his divinity and his figure as Christ, use terms like ‘Christianity’ or ‘Christ’. Then we’ll be able to tell if you’re denying the myth status of ‘the man Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ and ‘Christianity’, the latter being what the post was about.

    Having said all that, we can still argue about the mythical status of even ‘the man Jesus’, because there are no good records about him other than from the Christians reporting on the myth of Christ and Christianity.

    “Your assertion that Jesus did not found Christianity is baseless”

    No it is not. It is base on a total lack of evidence that he did start Christianity as we understand it. About the best that can be gleaned, most charitably, is that he was a rebel Jewish preacher/teacher who wanted to extend the scope of his Jewish access and favour from God to non-Jews, and that he wanted a more empathetic ‘Golden Rule’ approach to religion and society. And even that charitable reading is still based solely on stories of Christians. I’m sure you can find plenty of 1930’s German propaganda that tells us what a nice man Hitler was; so that Christians paint a good picture of their man is not indication of his actual nature; and early Scientologists no doubt thought Ron L Hubbard was a fine upstanding reliable man too.

    What little we have about Jesus is not reliable enough to claim that Jesus the man had the intent of starting a non-Jewish religion where he was one third part of the nature of God.

    Other than what a few early Christians wrote, what evidence is there about Jesus at all?

    Christians often offer Josephus as ‘independent non-Christian evidence’, but Josephus was only reporting what Christians were saying. Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny – they are all hearsay.

    Christians will tell us about the disciples, the witness at the tomb, etc. But where does this information come from? From a handful of gospel writers who tell us that there were witnesses at the tomb. And it seems some of those gospel writers depended on each other for some of this information. When yet other gospels are rejected by the church this is not telling us that the rejected ones were false while the canonical ones were true, because this was an expedient trimming down to near matching sources. There is no reason to prefer one of the canonical gospels over any rejected ones, or to prefer any at all.

    The whole of Christianity is based on a handful of stories written after the events. Everything is funnelled through these few writers extrapolating on stories of a preacher man. There is zero actual evidence of any substance. It’s all myth, as far as we can tell.

  23. dpmonahan says:

    OK, looks like the issue is mostly semantic: your definition of myth seems to be “a story with a supernatural element that annoys a materialist”, mine is a definition that is useful in discussing comparative religion or literary forms. And since we are discussing comparative religion, I think mine is better.
    As for my “conflation”: the effort of 19th and 20th century theologians to distinguish the “historical Jesus” from “the Christ” has been a failure, always petering out into conspiracy theories or just-so-stories.
    What does the available evidence say about the man Jesus? That he was a first century Jew with Messianic aspirations (aka “the Christ”) who founded an organised movement meant to carry on his teaching, and whose followers believed he rose from the dead.
    This description makes sense based on what we know about first century Judaism. The “very nice man who claimed to be nobody special and was killed for preaching universal kindness” theory makes sense only in the context of 19th century sentimentalism.
    What is the value of the available evidence? Not bad. It is the preaching of his first and second generation disciples, and there is no reason not to assume continuity.
    But there may have been other 1st century authors giving a different opinion, only to be suppressed? Conspiracy theory.
    The non-canonical gospels are not particularly impressive: they are third and fourth century Gnostic works, and Gnosticism is utterly foreign to the world-view of 1st century Jews like Jesus, his disciples, and the authors of the NT.
    No, Josephus and Tacitus are not much use for knowing anything about Jesus.
    Remember we are talking history here, not geometry, the criteria of proof is not absolute certainty, but preponderance of evidence, fitting historical contexts, etc.

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