Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"I'm the King of the Jews!"

Renowned megalomaniac James Cameron -- director of Titanic and Piranha 2: The Spawning -- has now figured out a way to irritate not only everyone in this plane of existence but apparently the next as well. He claims that his new documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, reveals just that: the final resting place of Jesus Christ.

The Discovery Channel special details an archaeological dig in Jerusalem which stumbled upon a sepulcher containing ten stone burial boxes. The ancient caskets bear the names of Jesus, an immediate family (possibly brothers and sisters), Mary (presumably, the "Magdalene" variety) and -- most startling -- what could be the offspring of Jesus. If any of these relics were to be proven legitimate, they would render the basic tenet of the Christian faith essentially null and void -- as well as leave open the possibility that Jesus's brother could very easily have been a guy named "Jeff of Nazareth" whose main claim to fame was his ability to turn water into wine coolers.

It goes without saying that religious "scholars" are now falling all over themselves to debunk the find and disparage its proponents.

That's where things get interesting.

Christopher Hitchens may be a surly, drunk son-of-a-bitch, but there's a great quote from him that's worth keeping in mind right about now: "That which can be asserted without evidence can be disproven without evidence." When applied to this specific case, the suggestion is painfully obvious: whether or not the tomb of Jesus has truly been found is irrelevant; it's not needed to disprove a belief-system that has no evidence backing it up. When it comes to disputing the spectacular convictions of the faithful, it's as easy to say "that's just irrational nonsense" and be done with it, as it is to go digging for contradictory evidence. The other side of that coin, unfortunately, is that a belief buttressed by nothing but wishful thinking is immune to the typically persuasive powers of contradictory evidence anyway. You just can't argue with someone whose primary justification is "because the Bible says so."

So why aren't the faithful skeptics employing this bulletproof "argument" in their attempts to discredit the discovery in Jerusalem? The answer is not only simple -- it's a delicious tip of the cards from a group which portrays itself as ready, willing and able to consistently rely on faith and faith alone.

The truth? They know that faith isn't enough -- that at some point a concession to reason is imperative.

The solution? They attempt to apply logic to claims which have no basis in reality -- to argue their points as if they were backed by accepted and irrefutable evidence.

The result? Well, it's damn funny.

Case in point -- the quote of the day. Father David O'Connell of the oxymoronically-labeled Catholic University voiced his considerable doubt as to the veracity of Cameron's claim with this simple bit of common sense:

"Jesus of history is often referred to as 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Joseph the father was from Nazareth. Why would they be buried in Jerusalem? It doesn't make sense."

In case you missed that homerun of irony, let's recap: a man who believes that the son of a supreme being was born on earth of a virgin, rose from the dead three days after being executed and ascended into the firmament to be with the benevolent father who allowed him to be executed in the first place and who takes an interest in the day-to-day existence of every man, woman and child on the planet, so much so that he's keeping a personal tally to help him decide where we'll spend eternity after we die -- this guy says that being buried sixty miles away from your hometown doesn't make sense.

I've met people like Father O'Connell. They're the ones who sit through movies in which alien invaders spend two hours decimating the earth with giant spaceships, sucking human blood out of their victims and spreading it across the landscape -- and then feel compelled to comment incredulously, "Oh that's impossible!" at the fact that the aliens are finally done in by bacteria.

Jesus was known as "Jesus of Nazareth." Joseph was the father of Jesus. How do we know this? The Bible tells us. How do we know the Bible can be trusted? Because it says it can.

If there's a better example of perfectly circular reasoning I'm unaware of it.

Just as entertaining (as well as enlightening, if such a word can be used in this context) is a widely-circulated press-release from the Christian Newswire entitled, "Bible Scholars: Ten Reasons Why Jesus Tomb Claim is Bogus." Among its supposedly unassailable points -- presented with a tone of arrogance and condescension typically (and falsely) attributed to those who advocate scientific fact over ancient superstition:

"There is no historical evidence that Jesus was ever married or had a child."

"The earliest followers of Jesus never called him 'Jesus, Son of Joseph.'"
(as was inscribed on the stone casket)

"There is no DNA evidence that this is the historical Jesus of Nazareth."

And my personal favorite:

"The statistical analysis is untrustworthy."

I won't bother pointing out, once again, the laughable irony of that last statement. You do have to marvel though at the brilliant penultimate introduction of the DNA straw-man -- it serves the purpose of hanging those know-it-all scientists with their own rope while cleverly tying it into one big Gordian knot of zero-sum argumentation: There will likely never be DNA samples of Jesus, which means it can never be proven that Jesus was merely human and not divine; which means that it can never be proven that Jesus existed at all. Each side gets to go about its merry way, safe in the knowledge that is has technically neither won nor lost the debate.

So, after taking the case into careful consideration and weighing all the relevant "evidence," what singular conclusion can be drawn, according to the enlightened authors of the ten-point plan?

"In light of all the incredible number of problems with the recent claim that Jesus' [sic] grave has been found, the time-honored, multi-faceted evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is more convincing than ever."

Well, of course it is. That just makes sense.

I'm reminded of something I saw years ago -- a hilarious and thoroughly disturbing cult documentary called Mondo Elvis. For two hours, it chronicled a brand of deluded lunacy that was unlike anything I had seen before (but unfortunately have witnessed in person since). It's central focus: the small but ferocious segment of the American population that remains obsessed with Elvis Presley. It takes no insight or ingenuity to recognize the analogous relationship between the single-minded insanity on display in Mondo Elvis, and the occasionally ludicrous behavior of those adhering to the demands of a faith-based religion. Each has a central figure of worship who's been afforded mythic, sometimes supernatural qualities. Each requires unquestioning loyalty. Each casts the utterly irrational as commonly accepted fact. Each has a cadre of acolytes who honestly think that they're sane, reasonable people -- in spite of an overriding belief-system which is on par with that of your average schizophrenic.

The most memorable, unnerving moment in the movie comes about half-way through. A middle-aged, skeletal nightmare with bleach-blonde hair, Appalachian bridge-work and a cigarette that's been smoked down to solid ash twists and twitches uncomfortably in a decrepit recliner which sits against a paneled wall inside her trailer. With menacing intensity, she pushes her focus directly into the camera and proclaims her own personal mystery of faith. Although to her, there's no faith; there's only fact -- and the mystery is nothing less than the identity of the man who gave her life.

Her belief: Elvis is her father.

Her rationale for this seemingly dubious deduction: her mother never told her that Elvis wasn't her father.

She has no proof, but she has plenty of faith -- and a bulletproof argument -- and that's enough for her to continue her fantasy.

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be disproven without evidence."

I doubt we'll see any proof that James Cameron, or anyone else, has found the actual tomb of Jesus Christ. Then again, I doubt we'll see any proof that Jesus Christ ever existed in the first place.

But as long as no one can prove he didn't exist, that will be enough for the faithful to continue their fantasy.


UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

There are historical, non-Biblical documents that show he existed, on earth, written by Jewish and Roman writers such as Josephus and Suedonius. However, just because he existed doesn't mean he did everything that's in the Bible, and it certainly doesn't mean he was ever raised from the dead. I'm skeptical about these discoveries as well-- but that's more because I read that these ossuaries were found before, and that the names found in them were very common back then and may not point to this particular Jesus and Mary at all.
But I could be wrong.
And if I am, I won't be entirely unhappy.

rasaustin said...

I'm personally looking forward to J.C.'s (look! he even has the same initials) over-hyped Hollywood Production, if for nothing else to get a look at Kate Winslet's huge rack once again.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Oh, and by the way-- comment made by super-Christian girl when this subject was brought up in my theology class today: "I don't believe Jesus could have had a son, because it doesn't make any sense for a God to be able to have sexual relations with an imperfect human woman."
The sad thing is, this girl seems to know a LOT of stuff about science, history, you name it. She's well-educated. But she's so locked into the "this is right because the Bible says it" mentality that I just want to scream.

Prophet of Ra said...

The only way to prove empiricism is through empiricism. The only way to prove God is through God. It makes no sense to try prove empiricism with the Bible, and conversely makes no sense to bother trying to explain the Bible with scientific 'fact.'

The very idea of finding the skeletal remains of Jesus has already upset and confused a few of my Christian friends. I find their reactions completely unfounded, assuming they really see themselves as Christian. The obvious answer to all of this is:

Jesus ascended into Heaven, so clearly that can't be his body.

Anyone who calls themselves Christian and is upset by this is simply not grounded very well in their own beliefs. There is no belief, including 'secular' (empirical) beliefs, that can be proven or disproven. The fact that people believe different things is a testimony to that. You can look at the Elvis Cult and pass them off as crazy just as quickly as they can pass you off as crazy.

Empiricism is looked at as the Devil in Christian eyes, only here in order to create doubt. The evidence you provide has at least two different interpretations. Your interpretation shows you the 'truth.' But so does theirs. The truth they see is not the same that you see.

Our culture has a thing about right and wrong. The way we see it, you are either right or wrong, you can't be neither and you can't be both. Because of this, everyone is always trying to prove each other wrong, because they think they themselves are right. You can't do it. You can't prove people wrong on the basis that you are right. You can't prove people wrong on the basis of whose idea came first, because whose idea came first is based on everyone's own interpretation of the world. You can't prove people are wrong based on majority, because that would mean right and wrong are simply subjectave, which would go against the entire idea of right and wrong.

I think the people trying to prove Christianity wrong, as well as those trying to prove it right are all wasting their time. I think people trying to prove evolution right/wrong, those trying to prove Mohammed, Zeus, Allah, Buddah, Thor, The Raven God ... etc. are all wasting their time. ****

People are different. There is no reason for everyone to agree, there is no way for everyone to agree. People will always disagree and that is not a bad thing. I say this to both sides: Stop trying to change each other. It is only wasting everyones time and is really bloody annoying.

A little long winded. Sorry, Chez. I could go on all night about this.

****This does not apply to Ra. Ra is right.

Anonymous said...

Wow....remind me the next time I catch you at a cocktail party to bring up either religion or politics with you. Seems to bring out your most venemous - albeit well-articulated - rants.

What happened to the good ol' days, when you'd wax and wane over your MANY sexual escapades? Not interested in something so, well, basely human? Then how about a tale of love and redemption? Love the blog, but guess what? We GET it. You hate the hyporisy of the religous right. Understood. You despise the oxymoronic peddlings of our ridiculously lethal government. Yep. Check that too.

Dig deeper. WOW us. You are capable of more.

VOTAR said...

What would Brian Boitano do
If he was here right now,
He'd make a plan
And he'd follow through,
That's what Brian Boitano'd do.

When Brian Boitano was in the olympics,
Skating for the gold,
He did two Salchows and a triple lutz,
While wearing a blind fold.

When Brian Boitano was in the alps,
Fighting grizzly bears,
He used his magical fire breath,
And saved the maidens fair.

So what would Brian Boitano do
If he were here today,
I'm sure he'd kick an ass or two,
That's what Brian Boitano'd do.

When Brian Boitano travelled through time
To the year 3010,
He fought the evil robot kings
and saved the human race again

And when Brian Boitano built the pyramids,
He beat up Kublai Kahn.
Cause Brian Boitano doesn't take shit from an-y-body

So let's all get together,
And unite to stop our mom's
And we'll save Terrance and Phillip too,
Cause that's what Brian Boitano'd do.

And we'll save Terrance and Phillip too,
Cause that's what Brian Boitano'd dooooo,
That's what Brian Boitano'd do.

Chez said...


But Mom! I told you all my dirty sex stories!

Manny said...

"Dig deeper. WOW us. You are capable of more" - anonymous

oooooooooooooh, you just got served Chez.

I heard about this story earlier today and couldn't help but be reminded of my brother and his fiance's family. His fiance's mother is a devout Christian, as can be evidenced by the fact that she doesn't like stories involving witchcraft or democrats. I'll be up front here and state that I've had a long standing issue with organized religion, or basically any faith whose tenets dictate your daily behavior and rain down armageddon upon those who are not amongst the faithful. But for a Christian to try and use science to disprove the argument from the scientific community that Jesus was human and not divine, well, it's just fuckin' retarded. Their's is a faith based entirely on the idea that, again, "cuz the bible says so". Seriously, I'm gonna write the Bible according to Manny, bury it in the ground so 2,000 years from now some schmuck taking his six legged sheep out to pasture can find it and proclaim it as the new faith for all mankind to embrace.

Get ready for Manny of Orange County, his 10 hot brides, the last supper at In n Out and the miracle of turning water into imported beer.

I mean, aren't these (Christians) the guys that believe God spoke from a burning bush? Not to mention that Jesus rose from the dead three days after he was entombed ("..guys, I'm just gonna hang out in here for a bit, k? Make sure you tape Survivor for me"), and Moses parted the Red Sea with his bare hands ("You like that ladies? You should see what I can do in bed"). If he did rise from the dead then you know what that means: eventually we're all gonna have to take refuge in a local mall while his mindless followers gather around hungering for our flesh.

Only a .45 and tank of propane gas can set us free.

Chez said...

Ironically, In-n-Out may be the only tangible proof I've ever seen of a benevolent supreme being.

Manny said...

That, and Fatburger......ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

choenbone said...

ELVIS IS NOT DEAD! hes living in a trailer park in Utah with ALF as his roomate...seriously I saw it on late night cable, after a Tammi Faye-Baker jesus loves you marathon....or was that after a late night of drinking and playing HALO on x-box...i can't remember

Harris said...

What, Roscoe's isn't proof enough that God loves us and wants us to be happy? You people are godless heathens.

Chez said...

Yeah -- Roscoe's is pretty damn good. Used to work at Columbia Square on Sunset, right across the street. Friday evenings invariably began with five or six martinis at Pinot, followed by our drunk asses stumbling over to Roscoe's and plowing through a plate of chicken & waffles.

Followed by vomiting.

The Mad Hattress said...

WTF? i am speechless... i am a Christian - yes - PLEASE start throwing stones at me and judge me as inarticulate, inbred and depraved. hmmmmm.... sounds so so SECULAR?!?!?!? I couldnt care less what Cameron found in that box - as per my *faith*, Christ went back to the Father IN HIS BODY - so lets all google Joshua Smith - HOW MANY RESULTS are we going to get??? The statistical probability that there were 1,000 effin Jesus of Josephs back then is pretty certain. And someone quoting about Josephus providing documentation about Jesus Christ? How many of us have actually READ Josephus to be so liberal at quoting him in their bibiliography of "Christians are stupid" essay. Yes, I have read Jospehus BUT i am one of those illiterate, crossed eyed sheep who just continue to follow in the footsteps of the millions of misguided who have come before me... instead of giving two shits about what that numbnuts Cameron is digging around for (this smacks of the Geraldo / Capone debacle more than historical non-fiction) It is a BlAtAnT attempt to jump on the DaVinci Code gravy train and people are actually wasting their time CARING. omfg. WHAT HAS THIS WORLD COME TO???? I am WAY more worried about where they're gonna bury Anna Nicole... hmmmmmm we don't know who the father of her baby is either.... NOW THERE'S some DNA worth fretting over. well, time for me to go read my Bible and have my IQ drop a couple dozen more points...

Chez said...


Uh, you seem pretty alright -- but I swear, I've read that comment a few times now, and I still can't make heads or tails of what the hell you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

The Christian faith is dying a slow, painful death... this is only further proof.

It no longer applies to the average, conscientiously thinking person. There was a day and age that it provided answers for it's followers, but more and more they are looking for answers elsewhere.

If Christians were content in their faith and beliefs, this show wouldn't air. It wouldn't be profitable... but people want to try to justify their beliefs, something Chez eloquently proves is quite impossible :]

VOTAR said...

The demonstration of the statistics that I saw was quite enlightening, even using the most common names available. The commonality of the names is not the key, it is the likelihood of very specific links between them. As the example goes, ask everyone in a stadium with 50,000 people to stand up. Then ask everyone NOT named John to sit down. Then ask the remaining people (ostensibly now all named John) to sit down if their father's name is not Bob. Then ask the remaining guys to sit if they do NOT have a brother named Steve. Then ask the remaining guys to sit if they do not have a sister named Jenny.

Even with a much larger population (such as the several hundred thousand or so that probably lived in Galilee at the time), you can see that the math makes it impossible to have more than one specific family left standing in that stadium after only 5 or 6 questions.

Of course, this proves nothing, since as Chez has already pointed out, proof is impossible. The whole thing may be just the most improbable coincidence that has ever occured. What we are left with, is likelihood.

And, unless I'm mistaken, this collection of tombs was unearthed about 20 years ago. Long before Dan Brown wrote The DaVinci Code, I think, although these questions about historical fact versus undocumented tradition have been raised for centuries.

But it must be a hoax, right? A bLaTaNt hoax conceived and implemented 2000 years ago, with the mischievious goal of replacing a system of belief in -- at best -- HEARSAY, concerning an invisible man who lives in the clouds and makes rainbows happen, with an obviously diabolical attempt to understand reality through factual observation and measurement, known as secularism.

What has the world come to? With each moment like this, when science and archeology and common sense repeatedly demonstrate the fallacy of religion, I like to hope that the world is coming to SOBERIETY at last.

But then someone finds Jesus on a corn chip, or the face of Mary on a dog turd, and the crowds of illiterate, crossed eyed sheep gather with their candles and velvet paintings, and I remember we are nowhere near that day.

Manny said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, Hattress, but are you more concerned about where Anna Nicole's bloated corpse is going to be buried than the possibilty of some definitive proof of the lineage of your homeboy, JC? I know, I know, you don't need proof cuz the garsh durn Bahble is all the proof you need. Yeehaw!

Don't take this the wrong way (but if you do, well, so what), but I have a hard time following commandments that are written on the same book as stories about frogs falling from the sky, a guy with long hair that hangs around with 12 other guys and has no girlfriend, a burning bush that talks, and virgins giving birth.

I don't suppose you went to go see a Tyler Perry film recenlty?

Or maybe you need to eat some In n Out. Clarity in a bun, I'm tellin' you. The last time I had a 3x3 animal style I had visions of World Peace breaking out overnight, George Bush finding a low level position at Home Depot in 2009, and the second coming of Anna Nicole Smith. It was a win win for everybody.

Well, it was either that or the defibulator short circuited when my lemonade spilled. West Side!

slouchmonkey said...

Manny, don't you know in N out comes from the Bible? John 5:15.


Sleepless Mama said...

Just a quick question: you mention the "demands of a faith-based religion," but I wonder if you could provide an example of a religion that's not faith-based?


Manny said...

Correction: I meant to infer blind faith. You know, mindless sheep, zealots, Tyler Perry fans.....

Anonymous said...

Sleepless Mama said...
Just a quick question: you mention the "demands of a faith-based religion," but I wonder if you could provide an example of a religion that's not faith-based?


Tina said...

Good article man, good to see there are some people with sense in the US

Anonymous said...

Listen, this is the problem we have we argue with the Christians. By opening are mouths to argue with them we gave their ideas validity.

When we say, "well if Jesus was God then how could blah blah," we are essentially saying, "well, yes, your right, now lets argue semantics."

We think we are deconstructing the argument from the beginning but all we are doing is feeding the fire. A very stupid fucking fire.

gmcclancy said...

Keeping in mind: "That which can be asserted without evidence can be disproven without evidence."

Not quite. That which can be asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence. For proof (and disproof, or the proof of the contradictory), evidence is always required.

No small point, you might agree, as regards the entire discussion.