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.
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.
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).