Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rebuttal to Licona's "Refutation of The Christ Conspiracy"

Rebuttal to Licona's "Refutation of The Christ Conspiracy"

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Whoever, though not a specialist, invades the province of any science, and ventures to express an opinion opposed to its official representatives, must be prepared to be rejected by them with anger, to be accused of a lack of scholarship, "dilettantism," or "want of method," and to be treated as a complete ignoramus. This has been the experience of all up to now who, while not theologians, have expressed themselves on the subject of an historical Jesus. The like experience was not spared the author of the present work after the appearance of its first edition. He has been accused of "lack of historical training," "bias," "incapacity for any real historical way of thinking," etc., and it has been held up against him that in his investigations their result was settled beforehand--as if this was not precisely the case with theologians, who write on the subject of an historical Jesus, since it is just the task of theology to defend and establish the truth [sic] of the New Testament writings.

Prof. Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth

The historicity of Jesus does not depend on proving that the upholders of the myth theory have made mistakes, or do not agree with each other. The problem is a very big one and requires an exceptional acquaintance with the literature of myths, legends, folk lore, anthropology, history, as well as theology in general and Christianity in particular.

Herbert Cutner, Jesus: God, Man or Myth?

The Christian war is always Parthian. Its tact is to throw out its calumnies, but never to alow the accused his privilege of defence. To read the vituperations that Christians heap on infidels, is an exercise of godly piety; to venture but to look on an infidel's vindications, is playing with edged tools.--None rail so loudly, as they who rail in safety.

Rev. Robert Taylor, The Diegesis

We know that the sign of the celestial Virgin did come to the horizon at the moment where we have fixed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the mysteries of the incarnation of our Saviour Christ; and all the circumstances of his marvellous life, from his conception to his ascension, are to be traced out in the constellations, and are figured in the stars.

Christian theologian Albert the Great (1193?/1205-1280), Book of the Universe

In Christian apologist Mike Licona's "refutation" of my book The Christ Conspiracy, he terms me a "skeptic with an interest in mythology." This statement is misleading, as are many of his other remarks, as he has learned to do in apologist school in order to make individuals who do not subscribe to his particular belief system look ridiculous and inadequate. Firstly, Licona spends his time trying to prove a most preposterous premise: To wit, that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead, which should in itself cast doubt on his own credibility. Secondly, I am not a "skeptic with an interest in mythology." I am an expert in comparative religion and mythology who is sensibly skeptical of the silly stories and bogus claims foisted upon the masses by priestly hucksters such as Licona, e.g., that a Jewish man is the God of the cosmos and rose from the dead 2,000 years ago. At least Licona has the courtesy of calling me a "scholar," albeit an "amateur."

It is obvious that apologist Licona's main tactic in refuting The Christ Conspiracy is to attack my credibility, constantly misrepresenting statements from my book and website in order to make me look absurd. Such is a classic tactic of apologists and other used-religion salesmen attempting to sell their shoddy goods to an unsuspecting public. Apologists are not generally trained to think independently or to refute facts but to assail the credentials and credibility of the individual who does not buy such shoddy goods. In other words, don't bother them with the facts or the science, they will simply retort that your hair is the wrong color or you will be punished by God or some other playground rubbish.

While Licona himself uses "experts" so entrenched in the mainstream perspective that they are unable to do research into anything "new," such as the information I provide--and cite quite thoroughly--he nevertheless attacks my sources, calling them "non-experts," "non-scholarly," etc. Again, another classic apologist tactic: bait and switch, sleight-of-hand, etc. The attack on sources is an old trick designed to keep the reader from looking at the facts presented. The whining about the use of secondary sources is also a strawman tactic used for the same purpose; in reality, the clamor for "primary sources" serves to remind that there are few remaining, that the ancient cultures have been thoroughly decimated, usurped and destroyed by Christian fanatics. Thus, every time an apologist moans about "primary sources," he is indicting his own "faith" (brainwashing) and its perpetrators. The use of the term "poor scholarship" is another typical trick designed to keep the reader from addressing the facts presented, as is illustrated by the comment above by Arthur Drews, who was writing nearly a century ago--obviously, harping about "poor scholarship" is an old huckster tactic. As Columbo says, "Just the facts, ma'am." Forget about whether the sources are primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.--does what they are saying make sense, factually? This factual argument, of course, is dangerous to the world of religions/cults, since they require blind belief in non-facts. So, attack the sources, even if what they are saying is not only perfectly logical but absolutely true! Then, when you've befuddled the reader/listener, you can slip in your own erroneous and bogus load of balderdash. Like PT Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute. The reader is invited to study the following, as well as my many other works, and see if they constitute "poor scholarship." The bibliography of my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled alone comprises over 250 books and articles, many of which are conservative, Christian resources.

While thus impugning my integrity, it is ironic that, while Licona attempts to make me and my sources look absurd, he himself is running about trying to convince people that a fictional character was really the "son of God" who was truly raised from the dead! And, just what are Licona's motives in attempting to fob off this fairytale, one must wonder? The priestly and ministerial occupation is a con game as old as the hills: Tell tall tales, with no evidence whatsoever, and hope the less intellectual will fall for it.

As the ignorance of nations grows darker, priests of all religion see their way the more clearly.

Christian Mythology Unveiled

Concerning the attitude of priests, preachers and pastors towards their flocks of sheeple, Count Volney remarks:

That we may understand the general feelings of priests respecting the rest of mankind, whom they always call by the name of the people, let us hear one of the doctors of the church. "The people," says Bishop Synnesius, in Calvit. page 315, "are desirous of being deceived, we cannot act otherwise respecting them. The case was similar with the ancient priests of Egypt, and for this reason they shut themselves up in their temples, and there composed their mysteries, out of the reach of the eye of the people." And forgetting what he has before just said, he adds: "for had the people been in [on] the secret they might have been offended at the deception played upon them. In the mean time how is it possible to conduct one's self otherwise with the people, so long as they are people? For my own part, to myself I shall always be a philosopher, but in dealing with the mass of mankind, I shall be a priest."

"A little jargon," says Gregory Nazianzen to St. Jerome (Hieron. ad. Nep.) "is all that is necessary to impose on the people. The less they comprehend, the more they admire. Our forefathers and doctors of the church have often said, not what they thought, but what circumstances and necessity dictated to them."

Moreover, Licona quotes some "experts" who not only impugn my integrity but basically assert that I should not be allowed to speak in public; yet, no one is bothered that used-religion salesmen with no evidence of their claims have free rein of the airwaves (and the minds of innocents).

Licona's "refutation" begins with an erroneous statement, setting the stage for what is to follow. Again, I am not a "skeptic" with some passing interest in mythology. I am what I say I am: an archaeologist, historian, mythologist and linguist. To reiterate, regardless of the disparagement, I am also a specialist in comparative mythology and astrotheology. It just so happens that, when religions and mythologies are studied in dept--in depth, mind you--they resolve themselves into astrotheology or astral mythology.

In reality, Licona's comments regarding ancient astrology--and those of his "expert" astronomer--are absolutely false and absurd, as is easily demonstrated by a wide variety of proofs. For one thing, the Babylonians and the priestly caste of Chaldeans were expert astrologers, with a known zodiac (the zodiac is even mentioned in the Bible, which I point out!) centuries to millennia prior to the Christian era--denying that fact is beyond ridiculous! But it does reveal the depth of dishonesty needed in order to shore up fables. Concerning the origin and antiquity of astrology, the "foster-sister of astronomy," the Catholic Encyclopedia relates ("Astrology"):

The history of astrology is an important part of the history of the development of civilization, it goes back to the early days of the human race.... The most ancient dwellers on the Euphrates the Akkado-Sumerians were believers in judicial astrology which was closely interwoven with their worship of the stars. The same is true of their successors, the Babylonians and Assyrians, who were the chief exponents of astrology in antiquity. The Babylonians and Assyrians developed astrology, especially judicial, to the status of a science, and thus advanced in pure astronomical knowledge by a circuitous course through the labyrinth of astrological predictions. The Assyro-Babylonian priests (Chaldeans) were the professional astrologers of classic antiquity. In its origin Chaldaic astrology also goes back to the worship of stars; this is proved by the religious symbolism of the most ancient cuneiform texts of the zodiac. The oldest astrological document extant is the work called "Namar-Beli" (Illumination of Bel) composed for King Sargon I (end of the third millennium B.C.) and contained in the cuneiform library of King Asurbanipal (668-626 B.C.). It includes astronomical observations and calculations of solar and lunar eclipses combined with astrological predictions, to which the interpretation of dreams already belonged. Even in the time of Chaldean, which should be called Assyrian, astrology, the five planets, together with the sun and moon, were divided according to their character and their position in the zodiac as well as according to their position in the twelve houses.... undoubtly the priests of the Pharaohs were the docile pupils in astrology of the old Chaldean priests. The mysterious Taauth (Thoth), the Hermes Trismegistus of antiquity, was regarded the earliest teacher of astrology in Egypt. He is reputed to have laid the foundation of astrology in the "Hermetic Books"; the division of the zodiac into the twelve signs is also due to him. In classic antiquity many works on astrology or on occult sciences in general were ascribed to this mythical founder of Egyptian astrology.... It is significant that in ancient Egypt astronomy, as well as astrology, was brought to an undoubtedly high state of cultivation. The astoundingly daring theories of the world found in the Egyptian texts, which permit us to infer that their authors were even acquainted with the helio-centric conception of the universe, are based entirely on astrologico-theosophic views. The astrology of the ancient inhabitants of India was similar, though hardly so comptetely developed; they also regarded the planets as the rulers of the different hours. Their division of the zodiac into twenty-eight houses of the moon is worthy of notice; this conception like all the rest of the fundamental beliefs of Hindu astrology, is to be found in the Rig-Veda [c. 1500 BCE, conservatively].

Naturally, the Catholic Encyclopedia, while acknowledging how important to civilization and religion in specific has been astrology, is quick to assert that the Bible and Christianity have nothing to do with this "supposed science." Nevertheless, CE is forced to relate that (by its proscription in the Bible) it is suggested that "the Jews, especially after they were exposed to the influence of Egyptian and Babylonian errors, may have practised astrology in secret, along with other superstitions." CE also says:

After the Exile, however, astrology spread so rapidly, above all among the educated classes of Israel, that as early as the Hellenistic era a Jewish astrological literature existed, which showed a strong Persico-Chaldean influence.

Regarding the zodiac in particular, the Catholic Encyclopedia further remarks, "Long before the Exodus the Twelve Signs were established in Euphratean regions much as we know them now." ("Astronomy in the Bible") These "twelve signs" are mentioned in the Bible at Job 38:32, which says:

Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (KJV)

Strong's defines "Mazzaroth" (mazzarah) as "the 12 signs of the Zodiac and their 36 associated constellations." The "twelve signs" are also referred to at IV Kings 23:5 (Doay-Rheims Bible):

And he destroyed the soothsayers, whom the kings of Juda had appointed to sacrifice in the high places in the cities of Juda, and round about Jerusalem: them also that burnt incense to Baal, and to the sun, and to the moon, and to the twelve signs, and to all the host of heaven.

In the Protestant bible, this scripture is at 2 Kings 23:5, and the word for "twelve signs" in the Hebrew, "mazzalah," is variously translated as "constellations" or "planets." Strong's defines "mazzalah" as "planet," "constellations" and "signs of the zodiac (maybe)." "Mazzalah" is apparently the same as "mazzaroth," "mazzaloth" or "mazzarah," as at Job 38:32. The word in both passages in the Greek translation, the Septuagint, is "mazarouth"; in other words, the Greek translators determined that both scriptures referred to the same thing, which by Strong's definition is the zodiac.

In any event, CE places the development of constellations squarely in the early part of third millennium BCE:

The Babylonians alone, among the nations of the fore-time, succeeded in laying the foundations of a progressive science. Through the medium of the Greeks, they transmitted to the West their entire scheme of uranography, our familiar constellations having been substantially designed on the plain of Shinar about 2800 B.C. ["Astronomy"]

Concerning the antiquity of astrology and the zodiac, let us provide a few more quotes among many possible thousands, this one from Robert Graves's The White Goddess (pp. 379-340):

When and where the Zodiac originated is not known, but it is believed to have gradually evolved in Babylonia from the twelve incidents in the life-story of the hero Gilgamesh--his killing of the Bull, his love-passage with the Virgin, his adventures with the two Scorpion-men (the Scales later took the place of one of these) and the Deluge story (corresponding with the Water carrier). Calendar tablets of the seventh century B.C. bear this out...

The original Zodiac, to judge from the out-of-date astronomical data quoted in a poem by Aratus, a Hellenistic Greek, was current in the late third millennium B.C. But it is likely to have been first fixed at a time when the Sun rose in the Twins at the Spring equinox [c. 4150-2300 BCE]...

The Zodiac signs were borrowed by the Egyptians at least as early as the sixteenth century B.C., with certain alterations...

Even the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia acknowledges the antiquity of the zodiac:

ZODIAC... It is believed that the zodiacal signs originated in Mesopotamia as early as 2000 BC. The Greeks adopted the symbols from the Babylonians and passed them on to the other ancient civilizations. The Egyptians assigned other names and symbols to the zodiacal divisions.

Under its entry for "Astrology," the Encyclopedia also says:

Astrology was studied among the ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Chinese, Etruscans, and the Chaldeans of Babylonia. The Chaldeans are credited with the origin of astrology in a primitive form, probably as early as 3000 BC. As they observed the influence of the heavenly bodies, and especially the significance of the sun in ruling the seasons and determining the crops, they presumed that the power that ordered human life resided in the heavens and that its message might be read there. As astrology moved from Babylonia to Greece in the 4th century BC, it was enthusiastically adopted and combined with the already existing religious system of anthropomorphic polytheism and the rapidly developing science of astronomy.

As is well understood, encyclopedias and dictionaries are not only curt in their entries, including just the most germane information, but also notoriously conservative, representing the educated opinions of the status quo.

Furthermore, in The Astronomy of the Bible, Christian astronomer Walter Maunder states:

…There is...little room for doubt that some time in the earlier half of the third millennium before our era, and somewhere between the 36th and 40th parallels of north latitude, the constellations were designed, substantially as we have them now…

Maunder also indicates that the precession of the equinoxes was known thousands of years before its "discovery" by Hipparchus (2nd cent. BCE) and states that the current zodiac signs are between 4,000 and 5,000 years old:

It will been noticed that Ptolemy makes the Ram the first constellation of the zodiac. It was so in his days, but it was the Bull that was the original leader, as we know from a variety of traditions; the sun at the spring equinox being in the centre of that constellation about 3000 B.C. At the time when the constellations were designed, the sun at the spring equinox was near Aldebaran, the brightest star of the Bull; at the summer solstice it was near Regulus, the brightest star of the Lion; at the autumnal equinox it was near Antares, the brightest star of the Scorpion; at the winter solstice it was near Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the neighbourhood of the Waterpourer. These four stars have come down to us with the name of the "Royal Stars," probably because they wre so near to the four most important points in the apparent path of the sun amongst the stars. There is also a celebrated passage in the first of Virgil's Georgics which speaks of the white bull with golden horns that opens the year. So when the Mithraic religion adopted several of the constellation figures amongst its symbols, the Bull as standing for the spring equinox, the Lion for the summer solstice, were the two to which most prominence was given, and they are found thus used in Mithraic monuments as late as the second or third century A.D., long after the Ram had been recognized as the leading sign.

It is not possible to push back the origin of the constellations to an indefinite antiquity. They cannot at the very outside be more than 5000 years old; they must be considerably more than 4000. But during the whole of this millennium the sun at the spring equinox was in the constellation of the Bull. There is therefore no possible doubt that the Bull--and not the Twins nor the Ram--was the original leader of the zodiac.

The constellations, therefore, were designed long before the nation of Israel had its origin, indeed before Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees.

Maunder apparently bases his terminus a quo on biblical chronology, and does not account for civilization existing prior to 6000 years ago. In any event, from its evident zodiacal representation, a disk from Bulgaria called the "Karanovo Zodiac" demonstrates that such knowledge is at least 6,000 years old. Moreover, what can be said definitely is that the study of the stars goes back tens of thousands of years, however the constellations were represented.

Interestingly, regarding the precession of the equinoxes the Merriam Webster Biographical Dictionary relates that it was discovered by the Babylonian astronomer and mathematician Kidinnu (Kidenas or Cidenas), who flourished around 379-383 BCE. The head of the "astronomical school at Sippar," Kidinnu also "incorporated the 19-year cycle into Babylonian calendar." Obviously, there is a problem with the received history regarding Hipparchus.

Indeed, concerning the age of the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes, in his book In Search of Ancient Astronomies, astronomer and then-director of Los Angeles's Griffith Observatory Dr. Edwin Krupp states:

The earliest known direct reference to precession is that of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus (second century B.C.), who is credited with discovering it. Adjustments of the Egyptian temple alignments, pointed out by Sir Norman Lockyer, may well indicate a much earlier sensitivity to this phenomenon, however.

Again, Krupp says:

Circumstantial evidence implies that the awareness of the shifting equinoxes may be of considerable antiquity, for we find, in Egypt at least, a succession of cults whose iconography and interest focus on duality, the bull, and the ram at appropriate periods for Gemini, Taurus, and Aries in the precessional cycle of the equinoxes.

So much for Licona's "experts," who actually make quite erroneous assertions. A word to the wise: caveat lector when it comes to such "experts!"

In another instance demonstrating how shallow is Licona's knowledge and how false are his assertions, I have reproduced in Suns of God the proofs of Jewish scholar Theodor Reik, who quite handily shows that Judaism was derived from "moon worship." The following is excerpted from Suns of God, found in the "Solar Pantheon" chapter.

In Pagan Rites in Judaism, Theodor Reik outlines the ancient moon worship and polytheism of the Hebrews, relating that the famed Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 CE), for one, cited moon worship as "the religion of Adam." Reik additionally discusses the origins of the Adam-Eve myth and the fact that the Jewish tribal god Yahweh had female consorts, reflecting Israelite polytheism. "Eve," or Adamah, as the earth goddess was called by Semites, was the same as the "Great Mother-Goddess," also known as Ishtar, Isis, Cybele, Aphrodite and Venus. Reik further says:

After the liquidation of the kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, the Jewish refugees in Egypt associated Yaweh with two goddesses. The name of the Lord was blended with that of the goddess as Anath Yahu.

Concerning Jewish polytheistic astrotheology, Reik also states:

The moon was the emblem of Israel in Talmudic literature and in Hebrew tradition. The mythical ancestors of the Hebrews lived in Ur and Harran, the centers of the Semitic moon-cult.

Reik is asserting not only Hebrew moon worship but also that the Hebrew ancestors from Ur and Harran, i.e., Abraham, his father Terah and wife Sarah, were mythical. Reik further relates that Abraham's father, Terah, was a star-worshipper, as was Abraham until he "found the real God and found himself." As we have seen, however, Abraham was deemed an astrologer; indeed, he has been credited with teaching Chaldean astrology to the Egyptians. In addition, Reik relates the legend of Joseph, who "once dreamed that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down before him," also reflecting Jewish astrotheology:

Jacob understood the meaning of the dream because he, Jacob, had once been called the sun. The moon stood for Joseph's mother, the stars for his brothers. Jacob was so convinced of the truth of the dream that he believed in the resurrection of the dead, since Rachel, his mother, was then dead. Jacob thought that she would return to earth.

Hebrew moon worship is also reflected in the "Birkat Lewana, which means sanctification of the moon." Having observed this ritual carried out by his pious grandfather, young Reik believed that the elder man had "performed an ardent act of worship" of the moon. Reik further says:

The experts assure us that the observance of Rosh Chodesh, the first of the month, was once a major holiday, more important than the weekly Sabbath. They also say that this festival was a reminder of the cult of the moon god.

Reik also asserts that the Hebrews were a wave of migrants from Arabia and that their cult center was Mount Sinai, "the mountain of the moon," Sin being the Babylonian moon god. Concerning Semitic moon worship, Reik continues:

All Semites once had a cult of the moon as supreme power. When Mohammed overthrew the old religion of Arabia, he did not dare get rid of the moon cult in a radical manner…. Before Islamic times the moon deity was the most prominent object of cults in ancient Arabia. Arab women still insist that the moon is the parent of mankind.

Reik then relates the moon mythology of the Chaldeans and Babylonians, who worshipped Ishtar, the moon, as "Our Lady" and "Queen of Heaven." Ishtar, like Isis and others, was represented as a horned cow, a lunar icon. Reik further says:

In the Old Testament, which is a collection of much earlier, often edited writings, the moon appears as a power of good (Deut. 33:4) or of evil (Ps. 12:16). Traces of ancient moon-worship were energetically removed from the text by later editors. A few remained, however, and can be recognized in the prohibitions of Deuteronomy… The Lord predicts (Jer. 8:2) that the bones of the kings and princes of Judah will not be buried, but spread "before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they served, and whom they have worshipped."

In fact, it is axiomatic that the wider the "objectionable" practice, the greater its denouncement. From the repeated biblical proscriptions against the worship of the heavens, it is clear that the pre-Yahwist Israelite religion was astrotheological. Yahweh's usurpation, however, was not its death, but merely drew it underground behind a veil of allegory that was mistaken for "history." In fact, later Jews, in their typically competitive manner, were quite aggressive in establishing the "patriarch" Abraham and "prophet" Moses as the originators of astrology (Judaism and Hellenism, Martin Hengel, pp. 86, 89ff). Hengel relates a Samaritan tradition concerning Abraham:

At God's command he emigrated to "Phoenicia" and taught the Phoenicians the "course of the sun and the moon and all other (wisdom) to please their king."... Furthermore, he instructed the priests of Heliopolis in many ways, above all in astrology. (90)

Hengel further states, per the anonymous Samaritan writer he is citing:

Abraham openly teaches the Phoenicians and the pagan priests of Heliopolis astrology and astronomy (they were identical at that time), which were highly prized and associated with Enoch and Abraham, the Chaldean. (91; Emphasis added.)

The Book of Enoch, in fact, likewise proves pre-Christian Jewish astrotheology, as it is positively rife with it.

Jewish knowledge of astrology can be found in a number of passages in the Bible, including Daniel 8:2-8. As Hengel says (184):

Thus we can easily demonstrate the knowledge of ancient astral geography in Dan. 8.2-8, in which the ram represents the star of Persia and the he-goat which attacks him is the star of Seleucid Syria. These and possibly other astral allusions are all the more striking, as in Dan. 2.21ff. The influence of the stars on fate and history is denied, and God's omnipotence is proclaimed. A similar opposition can be found in a still more acute form in Qumran, where astrology is simultaneously rejected and practised…

And so on. Obviously, these astrotheological cultural developments are well above the heads of the vested believers, and Licona, faced with the evidence I have just presented, will likely not admit that he and his "experts" are wrong. Despite Licona's assertions, the astrology of the Jews is proved by the presence of zodiacal mosaics in several synagogues. (See Biblical Archaeology Review's "The Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic" and "Helios in the Synagogue.") Also, Licona attempts to make it seem as if I never acknowledge that the Bible and Judeo-Christianity as we have them proscribe astrology--I do, but this false impression is yet another of the apologist tactics. These biblical proscriptions are relevant only in that they demonstrate that "the chosen" were practicing astrology.

Regarding Masonry, while disparaging my information concerning its involvement in the creation of Christianity, Licona holds up an "expert" Mason as if he were omniscient! And all this "expert" does is say, "False," etc. Apparently, that settles the case, because, after all, he is an omniscient expert! If such is the case, then the Magistrate and Mason Godfrey Higgins must have been correct in his many assertions that Licona is attempting to assail. Moreover, other Masons, such as Knight and Lomas in The Hiram Key (314), validate some of the claims found in The Christ Conspiracy, such as the obvious Masonic symbolism of "Peter," i.e., the Rock, or stone, and his keys, elements which Licona's all-knowing expert simply and unconvincingly denies as having Masonic meaning.

In addition, in establishing the Masonic connection to Christianity, I reproduce a long excerpt from Thomas Paine's "Origin of Freemasonry." Regardless of Licona's efforts at dissuading the reader, what can he say in response to Paine's comments as follows?

The Christian religion and Masonry have one and the same common origin: Both are derived from the worship of the Sun. The difference between their origin is, that the Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun.

Moreover, the great expert on Masonry, Manly Hall, a 33rd-degree Mason himself, was likewise an expert on religions, esoterica, mysteries and mythology, etc. He was likely far more erudite and knowledgeable than Licona's Mason. Yet, Hall was quite clear that religion in general is based on astrology, i.e., it is astrotheology. Since Hall is an expert on Masonry and astrology, he must be right, following Licona's method.

In the end, there is actually nothing "radical" at all in the theory that a bunch of men got together and created a god or godman in order to produce a religion. In fact, it's the most important aspect of priestcraft and has been done thousands of times over the millennia. What about all the gods and goddesses such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, Indian, Greek, Roman and European? I assume that Licona doesn't believe them to be genuine gods or "real people." Hence, he would doubtlessly claim that the "lying Pagan priests" made them up! Well, all I am saying is that the "lying Christian priests" made up one more! There is absolutely nothing "radical" about such a concept, except to someone who has not studied it in depth.

Let us take another example of how Licona's thinking and education are flawed. He makes much ado about my statements regarding the etymology of "gospel." In the first place, it is quite evident that scholars, "experts" and apologists have practically no sense of humor or imagination, which makes them singularly unqualified to be "specialists" in the field of religion, i.e., mythology. In The Christ Conspiracy, I write that the "gospel" is "God's spell," as in delusion, etc. Licona smugly assails that comment (naturally, since it's a delusion he is avidly attempting to spread) and recites the Greek word evangelion, which means "good tidings" or "good messenger," technically, since "angelion" is an angel or messenger. Licona then makes disparaging remarks that I, as a classicist who knows Greek, should know that fact. Naturally, I very well do, as is demonstrated by my writings. In the first place, I'm not using a Greek word but one in English--someone, supposedly "inspired by God," one would assume, chose this English word as the equivalent of the original Greek. Secondly, I could easily point out that this statement regarding gospel equaling God's spell is a play on words, but such literary devices are utterly lost on the rigid and uncreative thinker. In any case, I need not resort to humor, because in his smugness, Licona has overlooked even the basic etymology of "gospel" as provided by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, which states that godspel is Old English (not Greek, obviously), composed of god and spel. The dictionary then equates god as "good" and spel as "spell," with the first definition indicated. We then discover that, as in "good-bye" ("God be with you"), for example, the terms "god," "good" and "God" evidently have been somewhat interchangeable over the centuries. The first definition of "spell," of course, is the very one I claimed: "formula of incantation." Good spell, god spell--the point is the same. A spell, an incantation. And Licona is wrong, as he is with several other assertions. Yet, that fact will not stop him from his superior airs in thinking he has one-upped me. It appears that this "truth quest" is nothing more than an ego contest for apologists, who quite evidently believe that they are "special," "chosen" and "infallible" vessels of the Almighty Himself.

Licona makes yet another inaccurate statement, thus forcing me to respond to his petty and trivial criticisms. He claims that I believe my arguments to be "too knifelike" to do away with. What he fails to quote is that I was referring to the arguments of the mythicists school in general, not necessarily my own views. Apparently Licona is unable to distinguish between individuals, as he keeps attributing to me what my various sources have said. These citations are all clearly marked, so there's no excuse for Licona's sloppiness. This sloppiness raises its head again when Licona comments on my reporting of the claim that the New Testament has some 150,000 "variant readings." Again, I am quoting someone else, but Licona makes it sound as if I've just made it up, out of thin air, unreasonably and irrationally. That figure was arrived at by the influential German theologian Griesbach (1745-1812), who coined the term "synoptic." His conclusions were reached after an intense study of the gospels and, presumably, comparing them not only with each other but with the various manuscripts of each gospel. In the typically irritating and confrontational manner of apologists and others, Licona has not bothered to inquire as to why this figure has been reached but immediately assumes it's incorrect, that my source and I are "wrong," etc.

The suspicion of fraud and error runs rampant in theology--believers often turn out to be very suspicious people, as they are conditioned to be so. Such suspicion in theology needs to be turned inward, instead of constantly treating "outsiders" as adversaries and enemies, as there could hardly be more chicanery and artifice than in the priesthood or ministry, etc. Naturally, these suspicious minds must subconsciously know that they and their colleagues are full of it, that their entire occupation is based on arguing nonsense and non-factuality (i.e., beliefs in one intangible and unprovable concept or another), which is why they are suspicious of others, to the point of irrationality. To these suspicious detractors, I say, why don't you just ask me where this information, research, etc., comes from, instead of writing polemics and ad hominems against me? Why are you taking my dissection of Christianity so personally that you are getting personal with me? There are obviously some unresolved psychological issues, and the behavior is childish. As well as macho, blustering, pompous, arrogant, conceited, etc. Probably even sexist. After all, as the misogynist, dress-wearing weirdo Paul said, women should be silent in church, and be submissive (1 Cor. 14:34) and hold no authority over men, or teach them anything (1 Tim. 2:12). And why are these men attacking me, a living, breathing, feeling human being, over an intangible, imaginary man in the sky? Or an ideology that has been responsible for the torture and slaughter of millions of people worldwide? How can any honest person with any integrity defend this ideology, with its bloody past, or its supposed founder, on whose omnipotent shoulders ultimately rests the responsibility for the management of the world and, thus, its endless atrocities?

In addition to this uncalled-for and untoward behavior, Licona makes outrageously false statements that reflect how shallow is his knowledge of his own chosen vocation: E.g., his claims about the passage in Josephus called the "Testimonium Flavianum" ("TF"). No, the "overwhelming majority of scholars" have NOT believed the TF to be authentic, but what can you expect from someone trying to sell such a bogus fable? As I show in Suns of God--in the excerpt on Josephus-- many very well-known and erudite scholars have dismissed the TF in toto as a forgery. In fact, it is quite obviously a forgery to those with common sense. In the meantime, readers may find quite a bit of debunking of the TF at my "Christ Conspiracy" links. (Suns of God also quite clearly shows that I possess detailed knowledge of the writings of the church fathers, such as Origen, so that point of Licona's is also inaccurate. In reality, I have read dozens if not hundreds of pages of these early Christian rants.)

Regarding Tacitus, Licona's knowledge of the subject is again that of the typically shallow apologist. A number of scholars, including Hochart, Taylor and Ross, have shown that either the passage or the Annals in which it was contained are highly vulnerable to charges of forgery. Again, I present this debate in greater detail in Suns of God; interested parties, however, should read Cutner's Jesus: God, Man or Myth and the sources he cites, such as Hochart, Taylor and Ross. Licona's tactic in "refuting" me and my work seems to rest on his presenting my claims very superficially and making it seem as if I don't back them up. It should be noted that when the highly intelligent and educated English minister Rev. Taylor began preaching that Christ is a mythical character, he was assaulted with calumny and eventually jailed twice for "blasphemy." One of his detractors, a fanatic Christian named Pye Smith, heaped abuse upon Taylor in a pamphlet using typical "Christian epithets," such as follows:

Audacious falsehood.... A dishonest man. A false witness. A wilful deceiver. Unhappy writer. Most shameful representations. Unblushing falsehoods. Gross untruth.... Disgraceful ignorance. Shameless perversion. Falsely pretended to quote. Grossly perverted. Disgusting. Base misrepresentations. Dishonestly garbled. Wicked in soul. How miserably incompetent. Impudent forgery. Defying all truth and justice. One of the most unprincipled and impudent liars that ever opened a mouth or set pen to paper. Mass of impudence and misrepresentative so aggravated taht language has no name strong enough. Unspeakable folly and wickedness of his mind, etc., etc. (Diegesis, "The Devil's Chaplain" by H. Cutner, 35)

As we can see, history repeats itself, endlessly, and the same worn-out apologist tactics are used again and again, with robotic precision and dullness of mind.

In any event, as concerns Justin Martyr and the dating of the gospels, I have already gone into great detail regarding the references in Martyr that purportedly prove their existence by his time. Licona himself cites my excerpt from Suns of God called "The 'Historical' Jesus?" Nevertheless, as he is wont, Licona completely ignores that I have already addressed the assertions he raises and refuted them there. In any case, even if Martyr were somehow twisted to reveal a knowledge of the gospels, it would still place their date as the middle of the second century, long after the purported events. (In his response, Licona is demanding I do further research for him. I have provided the names of the texts. I cannot read them for him.)

Licona once again tries to discredit me and my sources when it comes to the oldest extant fragments of the gospels; yet, again, his argument is based on wishful-thinking "scholarship." The oldest surviving portions that are conclusively from the gospels date to the third century; the fragment of the "Gospel of John" that purportedly dates from 150 CE is not conclusively part of a canonical gospel but may be part of another non-canonical gospel, such as that of Nicodemus, also called the Acts of Pilate. So, once more, instead of asking for qualification, the suspicious-minded Licona immediately concludes that I and my sources are wrong. In this quest to sell us a patent fable, Licona further impugns the eminent mythologist Barbara Walker and her extraordinary work The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, a book that displays a tremendous amount of intelligence, erudition and integrity.

The same treatment of ignoring the back-up research is given to my information on Krishna's purported crucifixion. While Licona apparently has read some of my webpage on the subject, he fails to mention that it is not I who make such claims, nor does he inform the reader that the webpage is but an excerpt of a much longer chapter in Suns of God (which I note at the bottom of the excerpt). Nor did his "experts"--who are evidently completely unaware of this debate--apparently bother to read the excerpt, or they could not have so shamelessly impugned my character with their puerile remarks. My chapter on Krishna's "crucifixion"--the excerpt of which can be found at "Krishna Crucified?"--includes attestation by Christian sources, such as Rev. Dr. Lundy; but, again, this fact is not brought out. Instead, little used sources from totally unrelated chapters towards the end of the book are raised up to ridicule. Such are the apologist tactics. And in this case, the apologist is a graduate of Liberty University, the institution of that laughing-stock Jerry Falwell. (Another case of people in glass houses...) The assertion by the all-knowing "expert" that there no crucified gods in India (or, as the case may be, Tibet) would certainly come as a surprise to the Christian monk Father Georgius (Giorgi), who traveled to Tibet and found crucified gods in many cross-roads. Licona also completely ignores the information that follows the Krishna-crucified discussion, which is the evidence provided by the Church fathers themselves that Pagans did indeed possess images of gods crucified or in cruciform, centuries before Christ was ever depicted in that manner.

As can be seen, I have not fabricated these various claims; indeed, I have provided a tremendous amount of back-up research for many of the most salient points I make, but Licona doesn't bother to mention that, except to disparage my sources. (In fact, I'm in a double-bind, as he, so typically and robotically, also criticizes my work for using many quotes--so, I am both "making things up" and unoriginal at the same time!) Well, I could play the same game by disparaging his evidently all-knowing experts, who apparently haven't bothered to study my claims and sources but who simply and mindlessly dismiss my research with ad hominems. As is so often the case with academics, these "experts," while smugly suggesting that I need to study "Religion 101," themselves appear to be stuck in "Religion 101" and unable to go beyond into the depth of religious development. Licona's approval of their insulting comments regarding my supposed lack of knowledge is extremely disingenuous, since he himself purports to have read The Christ Conspiracy and, with an honest conscience, surely would have to acknowledge that my knowledge of the subject is broad and deep enough.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Licona's expert on Krishna, Edwin Bryant, appears to be a serious devotee of the Hare Krishna movement or ISKON, a fundamentalist Hindu offshoot many consider a "cult." In the first place, Bryant's peculiar renderings in his writings of the Indian names are indicative of his association with ISKON. The fact that Bryant dedicates his book on Krishna to the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Swami Prabhupada, is further indication that he is a devotee of that sect. Additionally, the title of Bryant's book, Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God, serves as yet more evidence that Bryant is a Hare Krishna devotee or at least a Hindu fundamentalist, as he does not write "The Beautiful Legend of a God" or "The Beautiful Legend of a Hindu God," but "The Beautiful Legend of God," implying that he believes Krishna is God. Bryant, therefore, could be viewed as the Hindu equivalent of a Christian fundamentalist and apologist. Hence, his interpretations may be skewed in a way that is biased and not necessarily factual. For instance, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement possessed a highly derogatory attitude towards women and sexuality, which may factor into the debate about the chastity or virginal status of Krishna's mother. It would be very surprising if Bryant's master, Prabhupada, would agree that the divine Krishna – whom ISKON followers believe is God – were born of sexual intercourse or of a mortal woman sullied by sexual intercourse. Also, if Bryant is an Iskon devotee - essentially a Hindu fundamentalist - he would naturally not concur with my assessment that, like Christ and his mother, Krishna and his mother are mythical characters, and, thus, their stories are not factual biographies set in stone but have mutated over the centuries and millennia, as happens with virtually all myths.

In addition, while Licona gives the impression that he and Bryant had a long and deep discussion about my work, Bryant himself has stated that he simply remembers someone calling him up, asking him a couple of questions, to which he briefly responded. In other words, Licona merely took a couple of sentences out of context, drew negative comments about them from Bryant, and then hung up. Licona's impression, therefore, that Bryant is an expert on my work and has debunked it is quite false. At that time, Bryant knew nothing about my work at all.

These "experts" who make pronouncements concerning my lack of knowledge do not in fact know me at all; it is they, therefore, who are ignorant. Their knee-jerk reactions without inquiring of me or my research--even recommending a snooty, sophomoric and obnoxious response of ignoring me at all costs--are a sign of a personality problem, not of their cleverness or erudition. The fact is that I have known the orthodox story of Krishna for many years, having studied it and Hinduism in general for over 20 years. This fact is easily proved, and had these snooty "experts" been given full disclosure, they may have been more hesitant in their petulance. One aspect that demonstrates my knowledge of the orthodox story, which, naturally since it is readily available, long preceded my becoming aware of the contested information, is the fact that I cited these same contested characteristics. The same may be said concerning Buddha, which is obvious from my numerous footnotes, in particular as concerns the contested motifs, and from my statement on p. 109 of The Christ Conspiracy:

Because of this non-historicity and of the following characteristics of the Buddha myth, which are not widely known but which have their hoary roots in the mists of time, we an safely assume that Buddha is yet another personification of the ancient, universal mythos being revealed herein. (Emph. added.)

It should have been obvious that I know very well the orthodox tales of these various godmen.

As concerns Buddha and the similarities I outline in both The Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God, it is interesting that, if one reads the correspondence provided by Licona at the bottom of his "refutation," some of his contentions in the body of his diatribe are themselves refuted, especially in the case of Krishna. In any event, it is quite easy to demonstrate that not only did those assertions not originate with me but they have been pointed out numerous times over the centuries by Christian authorities themselves, as is revealed in yet another of my excerpts from Suns of God at "Life of Buddha." It is yet another typical and simple-minded apologist tactic to merely deny these similarities; what is surprising is that Licona could find an "expert" who apparently knows so very little about the history of comparative mythology as concerns Buddhism. Instead of insulting me, perhaps these "experts" should have inquired as to my sources and then researched the subject themselves. One would think that someone so passionate or obsessed with a subject would immediately want to know more, rather than pooh-poohing and then recommending that I be turned into a pariah.

While Licona seems to think he has dispensed with the Christ conspiracy in his short "refutation," we must ask, what about the rest? Even if we toss out the Krishna-Buddha-Christ comparisons (against scholarship of the past three centuries), what about the other godmen who preceded Christianity and whose similarities to the Christian godman were acknowledged by early apologists? And what about the other hundreds of pages of research in The Christ Conspiracy? Picking out a few things here and there and attempting to ridicule them will not make the rest go away.

As concerns Robert Price, Price is an ex-evangelist who also now believes Christ to be a fiction but whose asinine assault on me is gleefully glommed onto by blind believers--do you, Licona, agree also with the rest of his thesis, that Christ is a fiction? And is this person who changed from a fervent proselytizing believer to a fervent proselytizing nonbeliever a highly stable and credible source to be citing? It is interesting that Licona is aligning himself with someone who, as do I, sets out to prove that Jesus is a mythical character, thus giving him credibility. In any event, I have answered Price's petulant "review" at "Response to Robert Price." (What is this fixation on my name, displayed by both Robert Price, who broke a confidence in order to reveal it--demonstrating his lack of integrity--and Licona, who apparently thinks he thus "has something" on me?)

Licona's entire superficial "refutation" is as easily chipped away. His rebuttal to my rebuttal is not something I wish to spend time on, since most of these "arguments" have been responded to in Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. Regarding Licona's remarks concerning my work being ignored by mainstream scholars, a reader (MO) has provided some interesting insight:

...Licona's cheap shot about scholars having "taken no notice" of your book...reminds me of the Pharisee's old argument at John 7:47-8: "...you, too, have been led astray? Have any of the authorities come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?" Viz., read "any of the mainstream scholars?"

Also, it is evident from the work of Prof. Christian Lindtner, who possesses a PhD in Buddhist Studies and has held a number of teaching positions as an Indianist and Religious Studies scholar, that European scholars are aware not only of the comparative mythology I discuss but also of my own work itself. Dr. Lindtner has pronounced my works "two great books." Regarding the Buddhist influence on the gospel story, Dr. Lindtner writes:

The Sanskrit manuscripts prove without a shadow of doubt: Everything that Jesus says or does was already said or done by the Buddha. Jesus, therefore, is a mere literary fiction.

* The Last Supper was the Last Supper of the Buddha.
* Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was baptism in the name of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Samgha.
* All the miracles performed by Jesus had already been performed by the Buddha.
* The twelve disciples of Jesus were, in fact, the twelve disciples of the Buddha.
* It was king Gautama--not Jesus--who was crucified.
* It was Tathâgata--not Jesus--who was resurrected....
* There is nothing in the Gospels, no person, no event, that cannot be traced back to cognate persons, events or circumstances in the Buddhist gospels.
* ...Jesus is a Buddha disguised as a new Jewish legislator, teacher, Messiah and king of Israel.

The Gospels, forming the foundation of Christianity, are, therefore, typical Buddhist literature, fiction, designed for missionaries whose language was Greek.

As concerns the knowledge of European scholars regarding comparative mythology, Dr. Burkhard Scherer of Canterbury Christ Church University remarks:

...it is very important to draw attention on the fact that there is (massive) Buddhist influence in the Gospels.... Since more than hundred years Buddhist influence in the Gospels has been known and acknowledged by scholars from both sides. Just recently, Duncan McDerret published his excellent The Bible and the Buddhist (Sardini, Bornato [Italy] 2001). With McDerret, I am convinced that there are many Buddhist narratives in the Gospels... So there is "much Buddhist stuff going on in the Gospel."

To this startling admission, Dr. Scherer discreetly adds:

"But its not the only source, not even a main source for the NT."

Another reader sensibly is amazed at the venom with which my critics attack me. A good question: Why are they so nasty? I did not attack them, personally or otherwise. I merely discuss the mythological origins of Christianity as well as its bloody history. Yet, these fanatic defenders of the faith invariably spew venom, nastiness and viciousness at me personally. There seems to be something inherent in Christianity and other religions that create fanaticism that makes human beings utterly unpleasant, hostile, angry, arrogant and conceited. Such ideologies are therefore extremely deleterious to the human mind and create neverending hostilities and atrocities upon this planet. Hopefully, humanity will grow out of this ugly stage of valuing mythological constructs more than living, breathing human beings. Why are these individuals so concerned whether or not I or others believe their stories?

Suffice it to say that it is a shame that anyone could read The Christ Conspiracy or any of the numerous sources therein, or the various relevant "Christ Conspiracy" links, and still maintain a desire to continue this cruel and deleterious hoax. Regardless of what nit-picking Licona or other apologist come up with in order to justify their occupations--and in spite of the fact that I certainly did not get everything 100% correct, as can demonstrated in the errata page I created years ago for The Christ Conspiracy--the reality will remain that virtually the entire gospel story existed prior to the Christian era, that it can be found in the myths of other cultures, and that it revolves around astrotheology.

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