Reviews

The Jesus Delusion

The Jesus Delusion

Science writer Steuart Campbell reviews The Jesus Delusion: How the Christians created their God  (‘The demystification of a world religion through scientific research’) by Heinz-Werner Kubitza.

Not all freethinkers want to know in what way Christians are deluded about their religion (it’s taken for granted). But those that do will find the answers here. A theologian who quotes both Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens with approval must attract our attention.

The author, who has a doctorate in theology but is not an academic theologian, deconstructs the Bible, claiming that it is the most overrated book in the world and that Jesus is the most overrated person in history.

He questions the idea that the Bible is really such a good, ethically valuable book, as the churches claim. He also claims that the God of the Old Testament is an embarrassing irascible war god in whom no one should put their faith.

Many opponents of Christianity have ignorantly slated it but here is a Bible expert with a sharp knife who thoroughly dissects the Scriptures and shows that, mostly, they cannot bear the interpretation that is usually put on them.

The book is directed at critics of Christianity and to those who have always had an inkling that “something must be wrong” with it. It is also directed at members and friends of the Christian churches who are not afraid to be confronted by ideas that question the premises on which their lives and beliefs are based.

heinz-werner-kubitza

Kubitza, above, is like the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperors’ New Clothes who points out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. He shows Christianity to be a hallucination, just like its contemporary mystery religions: Mithraism and those based on worship of Osiris, Dionysius or Heracles.

In fact it is a superstition, baseless, without foundation, an illusion. Religious belief, he claims, is the most popular form of superstition.

Kubitza shows that Christianity is an invention of the Early Church (“Christ did not found the Church, the Church founded Christ”) and that it largely ignores, or is ignorant of, the historical Jesus (yes he did exist). The Church turned an itinerant Jewish rabbi, who may have believe that he was the expected Messiah, into the Son of God, the saviour of all mankind, at least those who follow him.

That Christianity teaches punishment for unbelievers is an embarrassment and something the Churches try to hide. Jesus was not born by a virgin, not in Bethlehem and not in a manger. The nativity myths are borrowed from other religious histories. Jesus performed no miracles which, in any case, do not exist, or exorcisms.

Kubitza thinks that Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion was a surprise to him and that he would not understand the interpretation the Church now puts on his life. Kubitza points out how Jesus’ conviction that the Kingdom of Heaven (on Earth, not in Heaven) was misplaced. The Kingdom did not arrive and those that still wait for it are likewise deluded.

Nor was Jesus’ self-appointed mission, as the Church claims, one to the whole world; he preached only to his fellow Jews. Gospel claims to the contrary, like their claims that Jesus was divine, are inventions of the evangelists. Jesus’ teaching was not even new, certainly not The Golden Rule. If it had not been for Paul’s work with Gentiles, Jesus would have been forgotten like all the other claimants to Messiahship who are mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus.

As a theologian, Kubitza can represent the views of academic theologians (mostly German), views it seems they themselves fear to express. He cites the case of one German theologian who, after speaking his mind, lost his job. To maintain the Christian myth, theologians have to pamper to the religious prejudices of the churches, even the more enlightened Protestant ones (Catholics are incorrigible).

However, one cannot imagine Christians taking him seriously. Who wants to be told that their faith is “vain” (literally “empty”) because Christ has not been raised (I Corinthians 15:14)? Those addicted to Christianity could only recover if they cease to hear the repeated reinforcements from the pulpit and read a book like this. But addicts only recover if they really want to and I am unable to imagine Christians wanting to give up their beliefs. Religious belief is in decline, in Germany as in the UK, because the believers who die are replaced by more sceptical people who have no use for it.

There is an amusing postscript where Kubitza imagines the Christian god in a home for old gods reviewing his career and realising that he is on his way out and that he will be forgotten like all the other gods.

The book is a (US English) translation from the original German (Das Jesuswahn, 2011) and, although well written and often amusing, could have done with better editing and an index. It is odd that the author uses ‘AD’ throughout when non-Christians and most liberal historians use ‘CE’.

The author is not only the founder of the publisher (Tectum Verlag) but a board member of the Giordano Bruno Foundation, which works toward promoting Enlightenment values and a humanistic ethic (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno_Foundation). For more information about the book and its author, go to http://www.jesus-delusion.com/.

The title is not unique. G M Jackson’s 12-page ebook was published in 2010 and Robert Macklin’s book was published a year later.

• Steuart Campbell is the author of The Rise and Fall of Jesus (WPS, 2009).

28 responses to “The Jesus Delusion”

  1. Rob Andrews says:

    “Xtianity is not only an invention of the early church”, but it’s final form was deternined largely by a conclave of bishops called by the Emporor Constintine. So the TRUTH was determined by a committee and ratified by an Emporor for political reasons(unity and control).

    One book that really gets into the reality of the new testament and makes the ‘word of god’ cloudy is called:
    “Misquoting Jesus:The Story of Who Wrote the Bible and Why”–by Bart Ehrman

  2. Dianne Leonard says:

    One thing most of these authors do is say that Jesus really existed. I’m skeptical of that claim, as there is no good evidence. We have little, if any, evidence that a particular rabbi started what is generally called the Jesus Legend by authors who are skeptical of the claim. As we have no time machine, all we can do is look for written evidence from the first century–which is one of the best attested centuries in the ancient world. Yet we have *no* evidence that such a person ever existed. I think all Christians (and those in christianized society) have been caught believing in a legend.

  3. Rob Andrews says:

    @Dianne Leonard:

    One thing not addresses too often is that Christ may have been a ‘composite charater’. That is like King Arthur made up of about 3 peoiple living at the same time. Yashua (Jesus) was a common name umong the Jews. And last names wern’t noted among the poor.

    That era was full of magicians and faith healers many cured the sick.

    Several History channel documentaries went into this. PBS DOcumentary: “From Jesus to Christ”. is good.

  4. Daz says:

    It would seem a little strange to me if all those 1st century Jewish sects had named themselves after a completely non-existent man. I can only think of one example of a group who (maybe) did so, and that’s the Luddites—and even with them, historians seem to hedge their bets by saying things like “If Ludd existed, we have no record of him.”

  5. Mark Palmer says:

    I just knew the whole christian thing is a scam!

  6. andym says:

    Daz: Jesus is the Latinised form of Joshua. A Joshua in Hebrew is also a non-specific messianic figure,so could originally have been used as a generic term. Add to that the lack of any biographical details in Paul’s writing and I think composite with a few fabrications thrown in is most likely.

  7. Daz says:

    “A Joshua in Hebrew is also a non-specific messianic figure”

    Well I learns summat every day. Thanks andym.

  8. CoastalMaineBird says:

    I’m with you, Dianne Leonard.
    Several folks (Ehrman for one, this guy for another) do all this research about how the church inflated the character, and then couch it all with “but he really did exist”, as if to soften the blow.
    Sorry, folks – show me evidence that he wasn’t completely fabricated. I’ve seen none so far.

  9. andym says:

    You might want to look at this book. He also disputes the evidence also for the existence of Mohammed who may have been, as well, a post-hoc creation of the early caliphates.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Behind-Myths-Foundations-Judaism-Christianity-ebook/dp/B00BRJKGT8/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477578787&sr=1-3&keywords=behind+the+myths

  10. CoastalMaineBird:
    The evidence is in my book ‘The Rise and Fall of Jesus’ (available on amazon.com).

  11. Lurker111 says:

    I’m in rapt anticipation of the upcoming follow-up, The Mohammed Delusion.

  12. StephenJP says:

    The evidence for a flesh-and-blood Jesus is surprisingly thin. The earliest references to JC, in ‘Paul’s’ epistles, talk about a largely spiritual figure who died and was reborn in a realm removed from this earth, just like Osiris and Mithras, the myths about whom probably kick-started the whole Jesus myth in the first place. The ‘Gospels’ are a mixture of hagiography, rehashing of OT legends,and stories (real or made-up) about one or more itinerant preachers of the 1st century. The last thing they are is history.

    You will never get any of this taken seriously in academic circles, because most religious professionals are based in university theological departments, where the existence of JC and the ‘truth’ of the Gospels is assumed from the outset. But try Googling Richard Carrier, Rene Salm or Vridar to get a different perspective.

  13. StephenJP says:

    I should have added:
    a. kudos to Kubitza and Campbell;
    b. for an upbeat,breezy approach to the mythicist question, have a look at Kenneth Humphries’ site :
    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/

  14. StephenJP
    You’ve been reading the wrong books (try mine). Trying to explain the origin of Xianity without a historical Jesus is almost impossible. Of course the Gospels are not all history; they’re a mixture of historical fragments and propaganda for the Early Church. I point out many examples where what the Gospels contain could not possibly be invented (‘cos it undermines the teaching of the Church). I have disentangled this mix and found what appears to be the real story of Jesus’ life and how Xianity began–with a case of mistaken identity!

  15. Jesus is my special friend.

  16. Barry Duke says:

    Jesus is my special IMAGINARY friend. There, I fixed it for you, Michael LaRocca.

  17. StephenJP says:

    Stewart, thanks for your response; I am interested in the questions and I should certainly read your books. But I’m not sure you can dismiss Carrier’s Bayes-based analysis, or the lengthy and detailed discussions that take place on Vridar, as just ‘the wrong books’. Anyway, your review was very interesting; I hadn’t heard of Kubitza before and will look out for his writings. Have they been covered elsewhere in the UK, do you know?

  18. StephenJP says:

    Sorry, ‘Steuart’ not ‘Stewart’. Damn’ predictive text!

  19. StephenJP:
    I’ve looked at Carrier’s attempt to apply Bayes Theorem to the Gospels and gave up. It’s just the wrong approach and leads to a dead end. Kubitza writes in German and this may be the only one of his books to be translated into English, not entirely accurately. So you may need to learn German if you want to read his other books. I think my review is the first in English (there are many reviews of the German original in German, but I don’t read German). I’ve written 4 books, but only one on Jesus. You might want to read the articles I’ve written on this subject in ‘Humanism Ireland’, as follows: ‘How Christianity began – by mistake!’ (no. 148, Sep-Oct 2014).
    ‘Why Jesus wanted to be crucified–Part 1’ (no. 149, Nov-Dec 2014). ‘Why Jesus wanted to be crucified–Part 2’ (no. 150, Jan-Feb 2015). ‘What is the Kingdom of Heaven?’ (no. 154, Sep-Oct 2015). There are links on my website at http://www.steuartcampbell.com/articles.html.

  20. StephenJP says:

    Steuart: many thanks for the links;I will read them with interest. I think that Carrier’s polemic style sometimes gets in the way of his arguments; but I do think that the Bayesian approach to history is a powerful tool. After all, historical interpretation is surely, at least in part, an exercise in assessing alternative probabilities. (Not that I am any good at doing it myself, I hasten to add!)

  21. StephenJP:
    Do you know of any historian who uses Bayes Theorem to determine historical probabilities?

  22. StephenJP says:

    Steuart,
    I’m not an historian, and I don’t follow the academic historic journals. But it seems to me that whenever historians embark on an assessment of probabilities, they should be trying to formalise their treatment, and the best way of doing this is by using Bayes. There may well be considerable resistance among historians to doing this, but it is just a means to make explicit the assumptions they (maybe unconsciously) make in setting out their hypotheses.
    Thanks again for making available the links to your articles. I read them with interest,and I hope that other followers of this site will do so too. For me,while your arguments are very convincingly presented,they do depend on the acceptance of the Gospels as accurate records from eye-witnesses. I’m afraid this is where we part company. I find it very difficult to believe that someone writing about 40 years after the alleged events (Mark) is writing history; and even more so that a man (or possibly a collective) going under the name of John could be doing so 20 years or so later.
    I return to the point I made earlier: I find it very odd that the earliest Xtian texts, “Paul’s” 6 or 7 “genuine” epistles, hardly say anything about the life or earthly ministry of Jesus. Perhaps this is because there really wasn’t one.
    Thanks again for your comments.

  23. StephenJP:
    Thanks for reading my articles but reading my book, especially chapter 2 (‘Did Jesus exist?) and, more especially the last section subtitled ‘The Jesus of Paul’ would explain why Paul has very little to say about the the life of Jesus. The reason in a nutshell is that Paul was not interested in Jesus the man; he was only interested in the ‘risen Christ’. You surely understand that I am not claiming that the Gospels are wholly accurate historical records (they can’t be). However it does seem that parts of them derive from eyewitnesses via verbal accounts. When I can cast a hypothesis that explains some curious and otherwise inexplicable accounts then I think it needs to be taken seriously.One should not underestimate the accuracy with which verbal accounts can be transmitted.

  24. StephenJP says:

    Hi Steuart, sorry not to have responded earlier; I have had a busy couple of days. In principle, if course I accept what you say about possible oral accounts being transmitted over what amounts in 1CE terms to two or more generations. I just wonder how much weight can be placed on their reliability: there are plenty of examples today of legends that have taken root incredibly quickly, with pretty little evidence to back them up. On the religious front alone, we have the absurdities of Mormonism, which within a few years of Joseph Smith making up the Book of Mormon had thousands of adherents; or the John Frum cult of the Pacific Islands, deriving apparently from the visit during WW2 of a US airman.mu

  25. StephenJP says:

    Hi Steuart, sorry not to have responded earlier; I have had a busy couple of days. In principle, if course I accept what you say about possible oral accounts being transmitted over what amounts in 1CE terms to two or more generations. I just wonder how much weight can be placed on their reliability: there are plenty of examples today of legends that have taken root incredibly quickly, with pretty little evidence to back them up. On the religious front alone, we have the absurdities of Mormonism, which within a few years of Joseph Smith making up the Book of Mormon had thousands of adherents; or the John Frum cult of the Pacific Islands, deriving apparently from the visit during WW2 of a US airman. I am afraid I still have considerable reservations about the extent to which Gospel stories are based on events that actually happened, as opposed to stuff that was just made up to pretend that the Scriptures were being fulfilled.
    As for Paul, of course he had no interest in Jesus the man, because for him Jesus the man had not existed on earth. I think I am right in saying that nowhere does Paul refer to Jesus’s mission on earth, or his teaching, or his message. When Paul does refer to the source of his own message, he says he gets it direct from the Lord, not from what Jesus is supposed to have been preaching barely 20 years before.
    Anyway, what this exchange shows, I think, is that “Jesus studies” range far beyond the traditional faith-bound interpretations, and that those who are so constrained are missing an awful lot!
    Cheers.

  26. StephenJP says:

    Whoops, bugger, the first part of my post seems to have been sent without my meaning to do it. Apologies! Spooky,eh?

  27. Cali Ron says:

    Late reply and probably nobody will read this, but I noticed no mention of the fact that Israel was a part of the Roman empire which kept a lot of records, including concerning crimes and punishment, yet no trace of Jesus in any of those records. If indeed Pilate condemned Jesus to death after the pharisees rejected Barabus you would think that would appear in those records. I will have to check out Steuart Cambell’s writing for to date this skeptic has seen no convincing evidence that Jesus really existed.

  28. Only Judea was ruled directly by Rome, but even then Rome took little interest in hothead religious movements so long as they didn’t threaten security (Jesus was hardly that, but Josephus did mention him among many other aspiring Messiahs). There’s a section in my book headed ‘Did Rome know of Jesus?’ where I discuss references to ‘Chrestus’ by Suetonius and ‘Christus’ by Tacitus (I recommend it to you) . It is not at all surprising that what appear to be momentous events recorded in the Gospels were largely ignored at the time. Herodotus managed to write about the religion of the Persians without mentioning Zoroaster! ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’ Trying to explain the origin of Christianty is rather difficult without assuming Jesus’ existence.