Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is the Jesus Myth a Conspiracy Theory?

Ockham’s Razor, a conservative blog in the US, has picked up on an article from New Scientist magazine explaining how to construct your very own conspiracy theory. They apply this to the lunatic fringe-ideas on 9/11, the death of Diana and the assassination of JFK. Obviously, I immediately wanted to know how the Jesus Myth stacked up. Do Jesus Mythers follow standard conspiracy theory behaviour? There’s only one way to find out. Here is the New Scientist low-down on producing a conspiracy, coupled with my comments on the Jesus Myth.

Pick your adversary: A sense of anomie (dislocation from society and authority) fuels beliefs in conspiracy theories, so pick a big bad organisation of some sort - government or big business is ideal.

Well, Jesus Mythers tend to blame everything on the Christian Church which is certainly big and, by their lights, bad.

Choose your event: You’ll need a big, contemporary newsworthy event around which to weave your theory.

No question here – the life and death of Jesus was one of the biggest events in history, even if it took a while for the world to realise.

Develop your story: Construct your theory from carefully selected information that weaves together into a compelling story. If something doesn’t fit, reinterpret it in line with your theory.

This is classic Jesus Myther strategy. The story of how early Christians pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone including, it seems, themselves is certainly compelling. It is crafted from carefully selected and re-interpreted evidence weaved into a narrative that can then be used to explain away the evidence that doesn’t fit.

Create uncertainty: Question existing evidence or find new evidence that contradicts the “official” account.

The huge amount of effort that Jesus Mythers put in to invalidate the historical sources such as Tacitus, Josephus, Paul’s letters and the Gospels fits this perfectly. Their standard tactics are to find tiny inconsistencies and blow them up out of all proportion.

Prepare your defence: If someone highlights a gap or inconsistency in your evidence, don’t be afraid to tweak your story, but keep the core conspiracy in place.

After a lot of work, the pagan parallels argument of the Freke and Gandy has been largely defeated, but the Jesus Mythers simply retreat from that and move on to something else.

Broaden the circle of conspirators: to include those who question your position: “They’re denying the truth - they must be involved too!”

For Mythers, any Christian scholar is an apologist and all Christian sources are ruled out of court. Just for disagreeing with the Jesus Myth, atheist historians have been accused of being closet Christians on the Secular Web’s discussion boards.

So it’s official. According to the New Scientist, the Jesus Myth is a conspiracy theory.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.

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