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by Richard Carrier
HIS TWO HUNDRED ERRORS
THE exaltation of men to the character and homage of divine beings has always had the effect to draw a vail over their errors and imperfections, so as to render them imperceptible to those who worship them as Gods. This is true of nearly all the deified men of antiquity, who were adored as incarnate divinities, among which may be included the Christian's man-God, Jesus Christ. The practice of the followers of these Gods has been, when an error was pointed out in their teachings, brought to light by the progress of science and general intelligence, to bestow upon the text some new and unwarranted meaning, entirely incompatible with its literal reading, or else to insist with a godly zeal on the correctness of the sentiment inculcated by the text, and thus essay to make error pass for truth. In this way millions of the disciples of these Gods have been misled and blinded, and made to believe by their religious teachers and their religious education, that everything taught by their assumed-to-be divine exemplars is perfect truth, in perfect harmony with science, sense, and true morals. Indeed, the perversion of the mind and judgment by a religious education has been in many cases carried to such an extreme as to cause their devout and prejudiced followers either to entirely overlook and ignore their erroneous teachings, or to magnify them into God-given truths, and thus, as before stated, clothe error with the livery of truth. This state of things, it has long been noticed by unprejudiced minds, exists amongst the millions of professed believers in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Hence the errors, both in his moral lessons and his practical life, have passed from age to age unnoticed, because his pious and awe-stricken followers, having been taught that he was a divine teacher, have assumed that his teachings must all be true; and hence, too, have instituted no scrutiny to determine their truth or falsity. But we will now proceed to show that the progress of science and general intelligence has brought to light many errors, not only in his teachings, but in his practical life also. In enumerating them, we will arrange them under the head:
Moral and Religious Errors
There are many other errors found in the precepts and practical life of Jesus Christ (which we are compelled to omit an exposition of here), such as his losing his temper, and abusing the money-changers by overthrowing their counting-table, and expelling them from the temple with a whip of cords when engaged in a lawful and laudable business; his getting mad at and cursing the fig tree; his dooming Capernaum to hell in a fit of anger; his being deceived by two of his disciples (Peter and Judas), which prompted him to call them devils; his implied approval of David, with his fourteen crimes and penitentiary deeds, and also Abraham, with his falsehoods, polygamy, and incest, and his implied sanction of the Old Testament, with all its errors and numerous crimes; his promise to his twelve apostles to "sit upon the twelve thrones of Israel" in heaven, thus evincing a very limited and childish conception of the enjoyments of the future life; his puerile idea of sin, consisting in a personal affront to a personal God; his omission to say anything about human freedom, the inalienable rights of man, &c.
- The first moral precept in the teachings of Christ, which we will bring to notice, is one of a numerous class, which may very properly be arranged under the head of Moral Extremism. We find many of his admonitions of this character. Nearly everything that is said is over-said, carried to extremes -- thus constituting an over-wrought, extravagant system of morality, impracticable in its requisitions; as, for example, "Take no thought for the morrow." (Matt. v.) If the spirit of this injunction were carried out in practical life, there would be no grain sown and no seed planted in spring, no reaping done in harvest, and no crop garnered in autumn; and the result would be universal starvation in less than twelve months. But, fortunately for society, the Christian world have laid this positive injunction upon the table under the rule of "indefinite postponement."
- Christ's assumed-to-be most important requisition is found in the injunction, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all else shall be added unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) His early followers understood by this injunction, and doubtless understood it correctly, that they were to spend their lives in religious devotion, and neglect the practical duties of life, leaving "Providence" to take care of their families -- a course of life which reduced many of them to the point of starvation.
- The disciple of Christ is required, "when smitten on one cheek, to turn the other also;" that is, when one cheek is pommeled into a jelly by some vile miscreant or drunken wretch, turn the other, to be smashed up in like manner. This is an extravagant requisition, which none of his modern disciples even attempt to observe.
- "Resist not evil" (Matt. v. 34) breathes forth a kindred spirit. This injunction requires you to stand with your hands in your pocket while being maltreated so cruelly and unmercifully that the forfeiture of your life may be the consequence -- at least Christ's early followers so understood it.
- The disciple of Christ is required, when his cloak is formally wrested from him, to give up his coat also. (See Matt. v.) And to carry out the principle, if the marauder demands it, he must next give up his boots, then his shirt, and thus strip himself of all his garments, and go naked. This looks like an invitation and bribe to robbery.
- "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth." (Matt. vi. 19.) This is another positive command of Christ, which the modern Christian world, by common consent, have laid on the table under the rule of "indefinite postponement," under the conviction that the wants of their families and the exigencies of sickness and old age cannot be served if they should live up to such an injunction.
- "Sell all that thou hast, ... and come and follow me," is another command which bespeaks more piety than wisdom, as all who have attempted to comply with it have reduced their families to beggary and want.
- "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Then he must hate it, as there are but the two principles, and "from hate proceed envy, strife, evil surmising, and persecution." Evidently the remedy in this case for ... worldly- mindedness" is worse than the disease.
- "He that cometh to me, and hateth not father, mother, brother, and sister, &c., cannot be my disciple." (Luke xiv. 26). This breathes forth the same spirit as the last text quoted above. Many learned expositions have been penned by Christian writers to make it appear. that hate in this case does not mean hate. But certainly it would be a slander upon infinite wisdom to leave it to be inferred that he could not say or "inspire" his disciples to say exactly what he meant, and to say it so plainly as to leave no possibility of being misunderstood, or leave any ground for dispute about the meaning.
- "Rejoice and be exceeding glad" when persecuted. (Matt. v. 4.) Now, as a state of rejoicing is the highest condition of happiness that can be realized, such advice must naturally prompt the religious zealot to court persecution, in order to obtain complete happiness, and consequently to pursue a dare-devil life to provoke persecution.
- "Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it," &c. (Luke xvii. 33.) Here is displayed the spirit of martyrdom which has made millions reckless of life, and goaded on the frenzied bigot to seek the fiery fagot and the halter. We regard it as another display of religious fanaticism.
- "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." (Matt. x. 12.) How repulsive must have been their doctrines or their conduct! No sensible religion could excite the universal hatred of mankind. For it would contain something adapted to the moral, religious, or spiritual taste of some class or portion of society, and hence make it and its disciples loved instead of hated. And then how could they be "hated of all men," when not one man in a thousand ever heard of them? Here is more of the extravagance of religious enthusiasm.
- "Shake off the dust of your feet" against those who cannot see the truth or utility of your doctrines. (Matt. x. 14.) Here Christ encourages in his disciples a spirit of contempt for the opinions of others calculated to make them "hated." A proper regard for the rules of good-breeding would have forbidden such rudeness toward strangers for a mere honest difference of opinion.
- "Take nothing for your journey, neither staff, nor scrip, nor purse" (Mark vi. 8); that is "sponge on your friends, and force yourselves on your enemies," the latter class of which seem to have been much the most numerous. A preacher who should attempt to carry out this advice at the present day would be stopped at the first toll-gate, and compelled to return. Here is more violation of the rules of good-breeding, and the common courtesies of civilized life.
- "Go and teach all nations," &c. Why issue an injunction that could not possibly be carried out? It never has been, and never will be, executed, for three-fourths of the human race have never yet heard of Christianity. It was not, therefore, a mark of wisdom, or a superior mind, to issue such an injunction.
- "And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." What intolerance, bigotry, relentless cruelty, and ignorance of the science of mind are here displayed! No philosopher would give utterance to, or indorse such a sentiment. It assumes that belief is a creature of the will, and that a man can believe anything he chooses, which is wide of the truth. And the assumption has been followed by persecution, misery, and bloodshed.
- "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matt. xxi. 22.) Here is an entire negation of natural law in the necessity of physical labor as a means to procure the comforts of life. When anything is wanted in the shape of food or raiment, it is to be obtained, according to this text, by going down on your knees and asking God to bestow it. But no Christian ever realized "all things whatsoever asked for in prayer," thought "believing with all his heart" he should obtain it. The author knows, by his own practical experience, that this declaration is not true. This promise has been falsified thousands of times by thousands of praying Christians.
- "Be not called rabbi." "Call no man your father." (Matt. xxiii.) The Christian world assume that much of what Christ taught is mere idle nonsense, or the incoherent utterings of a religious fanatic; for they pay no more practical attention to it than the barking of a dog. And here is one command treated in this manner: "Call no man father." Where is the Christian who refuses to call his earthly sire a father?
- "Call no man master." (Matt. xxiii.) And yet mister, which is the same thing, is the most common title in Christendom.
- He who enunciates the two words, "'Thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. xxii.) Mercy! Who, then, can be saved? For there is probably not a live Christian in the world who has not called somebody a "fool," when he knew him to be such, and could not with truthfulness be called anything else. Here, then, is another command universally ignored and "indefinitely postponed."
- "Swear not at all, neither by heaven nor earth." (Matt. v.) And yet no Christian refuses to indulge in legal, if not profane, swearing which the text evidently forbids.
- "Men ought always to pray." (Luke xviii.) No time to be allowed for eating or sleeping. More religious fanaticism.
- "Whosoever will be chief among you let him be your servant" (Matt. xx. 27); that is, no Christian professor shall be a president, governor, major-general, deacon, or priest. Another command laid on the table.
- "Love your enemies." (Matt. v. 44.) Then what kind of feeling should we cultivate toward friends? And how much did he love his enemies when he called them "fools" "liars," "hypocrites," "generation of vipers," &c.? And yet he is held up as "our" example in love, meekness, and forbearance. But no man ever did love an enemy. It is a moral impossibility, as much so as to love bitter or nauseating food. The advice of the Roman slave Syrus is indicative of more sense and wisdom -- "Treat your enemy kindly, and thus make him a friend."
- We are required to forgive an enemy four hundred and ninety times; that is, "seventy times seven." (Matt. vii.) Another outburst of religious enthusiasm; another proof of an overheated imagination.
- "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt. v. 48.) Here is more of the religious extravagance of a mind uncultured by science. For it is self-evident that human beings can make no approximation to divine perfection. The distance between human imperfection and a perfect God is, and ever must be, infinite.
- Christ commended those who "became eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matt. xix. 12) -- a custom requiring a murderous, self-butchering process; destructive of the energies of life and the vigor of manhood, and rendering the subject weak, effeminate, and mopish, and unfit for the business of life. It is a low species of piety, and discloses a lamentable lack of a scientific knowledge of the true functions of the sexual organs on the part of Jesus.
- Christ also encouraged his disciples to "pluck out the eye," and "cut off the hand," as a means of rendering it impossible to perpetrate evil with those members. And we would suggest, if such advice is consistent with sound reasoning, the head also should be cut off, as a means of more effectually carrying out the same principle. Such advice never came from the mouth of a philosopher. It is a part of Christ's system of extravagant piety.
- He also taught the senseless, oriental tradition of "the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost" -- a fabulous being who figured more anciently in the history of various countries. (See Chapter XXII.) No philosopher or man of science could harbor such childish misconceptions as are embodied in this tradition, which neither describes the being nor explains the nature of the sin.
- We find many proofs, in Christ's Gospel history, that he believed in the ancient heathen tradition which taught that disease is caused by demons and evil spirits. (See Luke vii. 21, and viii. 2.)
- Many cases are reported of his relieving the obsessed by casting out the diabolical intruders, in imitation of the oriental custom long in vogue in various countries, by which he evinced a profound ignorance of the natural causes of disease.
- Christ also taught the old pagan superstition that "God is a God of anger," while modern science teaches that it would be as impossible for a God of perfect and infinite attributes to experience the feeling of anger as to commit suicide; and recent discoveries in physiology prove that anger is a species of suicide, and that it is also a species of insanity. Hence an angry God would be an insane God -- an omnipotent lunatic, "ruling the kingdom of heaven," which would make heaven a lunatic asylum, and rather a dangerous place to live.
- And Christ's injunction to "fear God" also implies that he is an angry being. (See Luke xxiii. 40.) But past history proves that "the fear of God" has always been the great lever of priestcraft, and the most paltry and pitiful motive that ever moved the human mind. It has paralyzed the noblest intellects, crushed the elasticity of youth, and augmented the hesitating indecision of old age, and finally filled the world with cowardly, trembling slaves. No philosopher will either love or worship a God he fears. "The fear of the Lord" is a very ancient heathen superstition.
- The inducement Christ holds out for leading a virtuous life by the promise of "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," bespeaks a childish ignorance of the nature of the human mind and the true science of life. It ranks with the promise of the nurse of sugar-plums to the boy if he would keep his garments unsoiled. (For the remainder of the two hundred errors of Christ, see Vol. II.)
The Scientific Errors of ChristThat Jesus Christ was neither a natural or moral philosopher is evident from the following facts: --
And numerous other errors, evincing the most profound ignorance of science and natural law, might be pointed out in Christ's teachings, if we had space for them. It has always been alleged by orthodox Christendom, that Christ's teaching and moral system are so faultless as to challenge criticism, and so perfect as to defy improvement. But this is a serious mistake. For most of his precepts and moral inculcations which are not directly at war with the principles of science, or do not involve a flagrant violation of the laws of nature, are, nevertheless, characterized by a lawless and extravagant mode of expression peculiar to semi- savage life, and which, as it renders it impossible to reduce them to practice, shows they could not have emanated from a philosopher, or man of science, or a man of evenly-balanced mind. They impose upon the world a system of morality, pushed to such extremes that its own professed admirers do not live it out, or even attempt to do so. They long ago abandoned it as an impracticable duty. We will prove this by enumerating most of its requisitions, and showing that they are daily violated and trampled under foot by all Christendom. Where can the Christian professor be found who, 1. "takes no thought for the morrow;" or, 2. who "lays not up treasure on earth," or, at least, tries to do it; or, 3. who "gives up all his property to the poor;" or who, "when his cloak is wrested from him by a robber," gives up his coat also; or who calls no man master or mister (the most common title in Christendom); or who calls no man father (if he has a father) or who calls no man a fool (when he knows he is a fool); or who, when one cheek is pommeled into a jelly by some vile miscreant or drunken wretch, turns the other to be battered up in the same way; or who prays without ceasing; or who rejoices when persecuted; or who forgives an enemy four hundred and ninety times (70 times 7); or who manifests by his practical life that he loves his enemies (the way he loves him is to report him to the grand jury, or hand him over to the sheriff); or who forsakes houses and land, and everything, "for the kingdom of heaven's sake." No Christian professor lives up to these precepts, or any of them, or even tries to do so. To talk, therefore, of finding a practical Christian, while nearly the whole moral code of Christ is thus daily and habitually outraged and trampled under foot by all the churches and every one of the two hundred millions of Christian professors, is bitter irony and supreme solecism. We would go five hundred miles, or pay five hundred dollars, to see a Christian. If a man can be a Christian while openly and habitually violating every precept of Christ, then the word has no meaning. These precepts, the Christian world finding to be impossible to practice, have unanimously laid upon the table under the rule of "indefinite postponement." They are the product of a mind with an ardent temperament, and the religious faculties developed to excess, and unrestrained by scientific or intellectual culture. A similar vein of extravagant religious duty is found in the Essenian, Buddhist, and Pythagorean systems. As Zera Colburn possessed the mathematical faculty to excess, and Jenny Lind the musical talent, Christ in like manner was all religion. And from the extreme ardor of his religious feeling, thus derived, sprang his extravagant notions of the realities of life. This peculiarity of his organization explains the whole mystery.
- He never made any use of the word "philosophy."
- Never gave utterance to the word "Science."
- Never spoke of a natural law, or assigned a natural cause for anything. The fact that he never made use of these words now so current in all civilized countries, is evidence that he was totally ignorant of these important branches of knowledge, the cultivation of which is now known to be essential to the progress of civilization. And yet it is claimed his religion has been a great lever in the advancement of civilization. But this is a mistake -- a solemn mistake, as elsewhere shown. (See Chap. XLV.)
- Everything to Christ was miracle; everything was produced and controlled by the arbitrary power of an angry or irascible God. He evidently had no idea of a ruling principle in nature or of the existence of natural law, as controlling any event he witnessed. Hence he set no bounds to anything, and recognized no limits to the possible. He believed God to be a supernatural personal being, who possessed unlimited power, and who ruled and controlled everything by his arbitrary will, without any law or any limitation to its exercises. Hence he told his disciples they would have anything they prayed for in faith; that by faith they could roll mountains into the sea, or bring to a halt the rolling billows of the mighty deep. He evidently believed that the forked lightning, the outbursting earth-shaking thunder, and the roaring, heaving volcano were but pliant tools or obsequious servants to the man of faith. And he displays no less ignorance of the laws of mind than the laws of nature; thus proving him to have been neither a natural, moral, nor mental philosopher. He omitted to teach the great moral lessons learned by human experience, of which he was evidently totally ignorant.
- He never taught that the practice of virtue contains its own reward.
- That the question of right and wrong of any action is to be decided by its effect upon the individual, or upon society.
- That no life can be displeasing to God which is useful to man.
- And he omitted to teach the most important lesson that can engage the attention of man, viz.: that the great purpose of life is self-development.
- That no person can attain or approximate to real happiness without bestowing a special attention to the cultivation and exercise of all the mental and physical faculties, so far as to keep them in a healthy condition. None of the important lessons above named are hinted at in his teachings, which, if punctually observed, would do more to advance the happiness of the human race than all the sermons Christ or Chrishna ever preached, or ever taught.
- And then he taught many doctrines which are plainly contradicted by the established principle of modern science, such as, --
- Diseases being produced by demons, devils, or wicked spirits. (See Mark ix. 20.)
Christ nowhere assigns a natural cause for disease, or a scientific explanation for its cure.
- His rebuking a fever discloses a similar lack of scientific knowledge. (See Luke iv. 39.)
- His belief in a literal hell and a lake of fire and brimstone (see Matt. xviii. 8) is an ancient heathen superstition science knows nothing about, and has no use for.
- His belief in a personal devil also (see Matt. xvii. 88), which is another oriental tradition, furnishes more sad roof of an utter want of scientific knowledge, as science has no place for and no use for such a being.
- Christ taught the unphilosophical doctrine of repentance, as he declared he "came to call sinners to repentance" (Matt. ix. 13) -- a mental process, which consists merely in a revival of early impressions, and often leads a person to condemn that which is right, as well as that which is wrong. (For proof, see Chapter XLIII.)
- The doctrine of "forgiveness," which Christ so often inculcated, is also at variance with the teachings of science, as it can do nothing toward changing the nature of the act forgiven, or toward canceling its previous effects upon society. Science teaches that every crime has its penalty attached to it, which no act of forgiveness, by God or man, can arrest or set aside.
- But nothing evinces, perhaps, more clearly Christ's total lack of scientific knowledge than his holding a man responsible for his belief, and condemning for disbelief, as he does in numerous instances (see Mark xvi. 16), for a man could as easily control the circulation of the blood in his veins as control his belief. Science teaches that belief depends upon evidence, and without it, it is impossible to believe, and with it, it is impossible to disbelieve. How foolish and unphilosophical, therefore, to condemn for either belief or disbelief!
- The numerous cases in which Christ speaks of the heart as being the seat of consciousness, instead of the brain, evinces a remarkable ignorance of the science of mental philosophy. He speaks of an "upright heart," "a pure heart," &c., when "an upright liver," "a pure liver," would be as sensible, as the latter has as much to do with the character as the former.
- And the many cases in which he makes it meritorious to have a right "faith," and places it above reason, and assumes it to be a voluntary act, shows his utter ignorance of the nature of the human mind.
- And Christ evinced a remarkable ignorance of the cause of physical defects, when he told his hearers a certain man was born blind, in order that he might cure him. (Matt. Vii. 22.)
- And Christ's declaration, that those who marry are not worthy of being saved (see Luke xx. 34), shows that he was very ignorant of the nature of the sexual functions of the human system.
- Nothing could more completely demonstrate a total ignorance of the grand science of astronomy than Christ's prediction of the stars falling to the earth. (See Luke xxi. 25.)
- And the conflagration of the world, "the gathering of the elect," and the realization of a fancied millennium, which he several times predicted would take place in his time, "before this generation pass away" (Matt. xxiv. 34), Proves a like ignorance, both of astronomy and philosophy.
- And his cursing of the fig tree for not bearing fruit in the winter season (see Matt. xxi. 20), not only proves his ignorance of the laws of nature, but evinces a bad temper.
- Christ endorses the truth of Noah's flood story (see Luke xvii. 27), which every person at the present day, versed in science and natural law, knows is mere fiction, and never took place.
Christ as a Man, and Christ as a SectarianTo every observant and unbiased mind a strange contrast must be visible in the practical life of Jesus Christ when viewed in his twofold capacity of a man and a priest. While standing upon the broad plane of humanity, with his deep sympathetic nature directed toward the poor, the unfortunate, and the downtrodden, there often gushed forth from his impassioned bosom the most sublime expressions of pity, and the strongest outburst of commiseration for wrongs and sufferings, and his noble goodness and tender love yearned with a throbbing heart to relieve them. But the moment he put on the sacerdotal robe, and assumed the character of a priest, that moment, if any one crossed his path by refusing to yield to his requisitions of faith, or dissented from his religious creed, his whole nature was seemingly changed. It was no longer, "Blessed are ye," but "Cursed are ye," or "Woe unto you." Like the founders of other religious systems, he, was ardent toward friends and bitter toward enemies, and extolled his own religion, while he denounced all others. His way was the only way, and all who did not walk therein, or conform thereto, were loaded with curses and imprecations, and all who could not accomplish the impossible mental achievement of believing everything he set forth or urged upon their credence, and that, too, without evidence, were to be eternally damned. All who climbed up any other way were thieves and robbers. All who professed faith in any other religion than his were on the road to hell. Like the oriental Gods, he taught that the world was to be saved through faith in him and his religion. All who did not honor him were to be dishonored by the Father. And "without faith (in him and his religion), it is impossible to please God." He declared that all who were not for him were against him; and all who were not on the same road are "heathens and publicans." His disciples were enjoined to shake off the dust from their feet as a manifestation of displeasure toward those who could not conscientiously subscribe to their creeds and dogmas. Thus we discover a strong vein of intolerance and sectarianism in the religion of the otherwise, and in other respects, the kind and loving Jesus. Though most benignantly kind and affectionate while moving and acting under the controlling impulses of his lofty manhood, yet when his ardent religious feelings were touched, he became chafed, irritated, and sometimes intolerant. He then could tolerate no such thing as liberty of conscience, or freedom of thought, or the right to differ with him in religious belief. His extremely ardent devotional nature, when roused into action in defense of a stereotyped faith, eclipsed his more noble, lofty, and lovely traits, and often dimmed his mental vision, thus presenting in the same individual a strange medley, and a strange contrast of the most opposite traits of character. That such a being should have been considered and worshipped as a God, and for the very reason that he possessed such strange, contradictory traits of character, and often let his religion run riot with his reason, will be looked upon by posterity as one of the strangest chapters in the history of the human race. But so it is. Extraordinary good qualities, though intermingled with many errors and human foibles, have deified many men.
NOTE. One Christian writer alleges, in defense of the objectionable precepts of Jesus Christ, that "He taught some errors in condescension to the ignorance of the people." If this be true, that he taught both truth and falsehood, then the question arises, How can we know which is which? By what rule can we discriminate them, as he himself furnishes none? Or how are we to determine that he taught truth at all? And then this plea would account for and excuse all the errors found in the teachings of the oriental Gods. If it will apply in one case, it will in the other. And thus it proves too much.
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