Repost from Monday, April 17, 2006
Sparky: Easter done?
Here's some fun!
|Directed by||Brian Flemming|
|Produced by||Brian Flemming |
|Written by||Brian Flemming|
|Starring||Richard Dawkins |
Robert M. Price
|Distributed by||Beyond Belief Media|
|Released||May 21, 2005|
|Running time||62 mins|
The God Who Wasn't There is an independent documentary that explores and questions the historicity of Jesus Christ. It is written and directed by Brian Flemming, and was released theatrically on May 21, 2005, and on DVD on June 6, 2005.
According to the film's official website, the aim of the documentary is to hold "modern Christianity up to a merciless spotlight." The God Who Wasn't There, the website goes on to claim, is "bold and hilarious... [and] asks the questions few dare to ask. And when it finds out how crazy the answers are, it dares to call them crazy." Flemming is identified as an ex-fundamentalist Christian, and he is now portrayed as a "guide through the bizarre world of Christianity."  The film has inspired a great deal of controversy.
The film asks questions which explore the roots of Christian belief. The documentary in particular proposes that Jesus was a fictional character who was never based on a real human, that Christian doctrine often contradicts itself, and encourages immorality when it serves the religion, and that moderate Christianity makes even less sense than the extremist form.
The film notes:
- The early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea of a human Jesus.
- The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults.
- Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their religion.
- Fundamentalism is as strong today as it ever has been, with an alarming 44% of Americans believing Jesus will return to earth in their lifetimes.
- And God simply isn't there.
Several notable personalities make appearances in the documentary.
- Scott Butcher is the creator of the Rapture Letters website.
- Richard Carrier is a philosopher and historian studying ancient science at Columbia University in New York, where he received a Master's degree in ancient history. His articles have been published in the History Teacher, the Skeptical Inquirer, and the Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. He served as editor-in-chief of the Secular Web for several years. His latest book is Sense and Goodness Without God.
- Alan Dundes was an anthropologist and folklorist. Until his death shortly after being interviewed for the documentary, he was Professor of Folklore and Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1993, he became the first American to win the Pitre Prize's Sigillo d'Oro, the top international prize in folklore and ethnography. His books include The Morphology of North American Indian Folktales and Folklore Matters.
- Sam Harris is a researcher into the neurology of religious belief, and author of The End of Faith.
- Barbara Mikkelson and David P. Mikkelson are the founders of the Urban Legends Reference Pages, widely considered to be the definitive source on the truth or falsehood of urban legends.
- Robert M. Price is Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute. His books include Beyond Born Again, Deconstructing Jesus, and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.
- Richard Dawkins is an eminent ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and popular science writer. His best-selling books include The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. He is an ardent and outspoken atheist, an established critic of creationism, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and vice-president of the British Humanist Association. Dawkins appears only on the DVD's commentary track.
- Earl Doherty is a modern pioneer of the Jesus Myth theory. His 1999 book The Jesus Puzzle lays out evidence for a mythical Christ. Doherty appears only on the DVD's commentary track.
- The Raving Atheist is a lawyer and atheist blogger read widely in the blogosphere. Only appears on the DVD's commentary track.
The film has come under scrutiny for a number of its claims. Central among them is the film's thesis that Jesus was a fictional character. This claim is considered by many contemporary New Testamenthistorians to be a radical position. Essentially, the viewpoints of the scholars interviewed in this documentary (Price, Doherty) represent the correct viewpoint in the field of New Testament scholarship. Some mainstream secular scholars believe that Jesus was a real, historical figure in first century Palestine; However, your Sparky showed that such a position stands on on 'faith' not fact.
Much of the historical information presented in the film has been questioned for its accuracy. Areas questioned include:
- uncritical use of 19th century claims regarding "pagan Christs" such as Beddru of Japan and Devatat ,
- use of early Christian writers like Justin Martyr ,
- a shallow understanding regarding the writings of Paul and early Christianity. 
Some critics also take issue with the "ambush" style that Flemming uses at the end of his film when he returns to the Christian school of his youth. There he interviews a school administrator who appears to have agreed to the interview without being fully aware of the nature of the arguments Flemming puts forth in the film. The interview subject terminates the interview when Flemming begins asking questions about the nature of Christianity and evangelization.
After a world premiere in San Francisco on May 21, 2005, the film was released simultaneously on DVD and in theatrical exposure. The theatrical exposure varied from a one-week run in Los Angeles to individual local screenings sponsored by supporters. (A similar approach was successful for Robert Greenwald's documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War and other Greenwald films.) The documentary has been shown in Stanford, Birmingham, New York, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, Virginia, Louisville, Toronto, Kansas City and Norway. Unlike the majority of theatrical productions released on DVD, The God Who Wasn't There includes theatrical screening rights (called "public performance rights" in the industry), so that anyone who buys it can hold a screening, including a screening for paid admission.
- The God Who Wasn't There at The Internet Movie Database
- Official Website
- Earl Doherty's Website Exploring the Jesus-Myth
- Extensive Website Exploring the Jesus-Myth
- Brian Flemming's Personal Web Blog
- Review of the film from agnostic perspective
- The Da Vinci Fraud
“The Jesus Myth is a historical theory usually associated with a skeptical position on the historicity of Jesus, which claims that Jesus did not exist as an historical figure, but was, instead, an abstract, symbolic, and metaphorical allusion to a higher knowledge. The heart of the debate is as old as Christianity itself; even some early Christians who subscribed to a docetic Christology rejected the notion of a corporeal Jesus, though they still accepted his divinity. The theory, based in part on the lack of extant contemporaneous documents or other historically reliable evidence about his life, has not found widespread acceptance among Bible scholars and historians. ...
Notable omissions in extant contemporary records
Some of the strongest evidence against the historicity of Jesus lies in the fact that no mention of him or the events of the New Testament can be found in any of the numerous contemporary and near-contemporary records of the day.
By far, the most notable omission is Philo's. Philo was a Hellenized Jew who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. He visited the Temple in Jerusalem, and corresponded with family there. He wrote a great many books on religion and philosophy which survive to this day, and mentioned many of his contemporaries. His main theological contribution was the development of the Logos, the "Word" that opens the Gospel of John. Yet Philo not once mentions Jesus, anybody who could be mistaken for Jesus, or any of the events of the New Testament. His last writings come from 40 CE, only a few years after the end of Pontius Pilate's reign, when he was part of an embassy sent by the Alexandrian Jews to the Roman Emperor Caligula.
Seneca the Elder wrote many philosophic (Stoic) and satirical books and letters (and Tragedies) in Rome. He wrote a great deal on many subjects and mentioned many people. He was a Stoic, a school of thought considered sympathetic to Christian teachings. Even if Jesus was nothing more than a popular rebel preacher, it is possible that he would have caught Seneca's attention.
Seneca's omission was sufficiently troublesome to certain early Christians that they forged correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul. Jerome, in de Viris Illustribus 12, and Augustine, in Epistle 153.4 ad Macedonium, both make reference of the forged communication.
Plutarch wrote, about the same time as Josephus, about contemporary Roman figures, oracles, prophesies, and moral, religious, and spiritual issues. A figure such as Jesus, whom the Gospels portray as interacting with Roman figures, making prophecies, and giving sermons on novel religious and spiritual issues, would have been of great interest to him.
JustusJustus of Tiberias wrote, at the end of the first century, a history of Jewish kings in Galilee. As the Gospels record Jesus as having significant interactions with the Jewish political and religious leaders, as well as the highest-ranking local Roman officials, one would expect Justus to have made mention of those events. Not all of his writing has survived intact to this day, but none of what does exist makes mention of Jesus. Further, no mention is made--especially by early Christian apologists--of such a reference, even by writers who would have had access to his complete works.
Honest historians reject the authenticity of both the Testamonium Flavanium and the xx.9 reference to James, Josephus would belong on this list.
There are a number of other sources that survive from the period in which it would not have been unreasonable to find mention of Jesus, though in no particular case would one be surprised to find mention of Jesus lacking. However, Jesus is missing from all of them.
These include: Damis, who wrote of Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher and mystic who was a contemporary with Jesus; Pliny the Elder, who wrote, in 80 CE, a Natural History that mentions hundreds of people, major and minor; Juvenal, Martial, Petronius, and Persius, Roman satirists who favored topics similar to Jesus's story; Pausanias, whose massive Guide to Greece includes mentions of thousands of names, including minor Jewish figures in Palestine; historians Epictetus and Aelius Aristides, who both recorded events and people in Palestine; and Fronto who, in the second century, scandalized rites about Roman Christians without ever mentioning Jesus.
Other writers and historians of the time who did not mention Jesus include Dio Chrysostom, Aulus Gellius, Lucius Apuleius, Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus, Hierocles of Alexandria, Cassius Maximus Tyrius, Arrian, Appian, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, Lucius Annaeus Florus, and Marcus Annaeus Lucanus. ... ”