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The Skeptics' New Truth
by James Hitchcock
July 28, 2004
After Jesus' death His apostles immediately started to work falsifying His life, claiming, in order to give themselves spiritual authority, that He rose from the dead. They also falsified His teachings. His real message was that people are free from all religious authority and should look within themselves for truth. Human nature has infinite potential, if it is allowed to develop.
Instead the apostles made Jesus into a new religious authority. They invented the concept of orthodoxy -- that there are true and false beliefs -- and the concept of sin, as a way of controlling people's behavior.
All of this reflected a power struggle within early Christianity. Jesus had a revolutionary attitude toward women and a close relationship with Mary Magdalene, who was His chosen successor to lead His movement. But the apostles turned her into a reformed prostitute and exiled her to the margins, Peter and the other apostles then claiming Jesus' mandate.
Some of the early Christians tried to tell the truth, in documents like the Gospel of Thomas, but the orthodox believers discredited this as well, making Thomas into a doubter simply because he understood Jesus' real message, which was to look for God within yourself.
Over the centuries the church used naked force to impose its doctrines on an unsuspecting public. Even when the Protestants repudiated Catholic authority, they did not go far enough, not recognizing that the New Testament itself is the ultimate source of error about Jesus.
But modern scholarship has at last discovered the truth. The Jesus Seminar has found that most of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are spurious, and Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code, while allegedly a work of fiction, raises many "interesting questions" that have been suppressed for centuries.
Christianity, except insofar as it repudiates its historic self, is a negative force in society, especially in its repressive teachings about sexuality, which prevent people from finding their true selves. Christianity is dangerous especially because of its concept of orthodoxy. There is no such thing as ultimate truth, and those who think otherwise are fanatics who threaten a free society, as in the pro-life movement.
The above is a view of religion which any half-attentive person is likely to imbibe from even cursory attention to the way religion is now discussed among the "enlightened" classes. The media do not exactly endorse this view of religion, but they present it as "interesting" and treat its proponents with much deference.
There have been many assaults on Christianity throughout history, and we are now in the fairly early stages of a major new one. The roots of this assault go back to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, when Christianity was condemned as a dangerous illusion discredited by reason, an assault that had direct results in the savage attack on religion mounted by the French Revolution.
Since that time there has been an uneasy relationship between belief and unbelief in Western culture, most "enlightened" people being skeptics, the majority of people at least nominal believers. Now, however, the skeptics estimate that the time is ripe for a new assault on religion.
This new assault is the most complete ever, in that it comes from all sides. Not only is Christianity superstitious and repressive, it is not even Christian. As it turns out, the skeptics are closer to the real teachings of Jesus than are the believers, and Christianity is by far the greatest fraud in all of history.
Small things often give the best insight into the life of a culture. Recently pop singer Linda Ronstadt told the press that "it's a conflict to me when I go to a concert and find out that somebody in the audience is a ... fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment". Linda Ronstadt does not a movement make. What is significant is that she would say such a thing, that the media would report it in a straightforward way, and that no one seems to think that it represents appalling bigotry. For the enlightened classes, it is now simply self-evident truth.
James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press. His two-volume book on religion and the Supreme Court has just been published by Princeton University Press. E-Mail: Dr. James Hitchcock
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