From the February 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
Workers must one day learn to believe in themselves. That they can really make a new and better world. And that nobody else can do it for them. Many still believe that Christ will do it for them if they believe hard enough. Well, if it's silly to believe in men who did exist, what price believing in one who didn't?
The Socialist Standard does not normally use up its space on articles about dim religious figures from the murky past and in general readers can find out all they need to know from the "professional" anti-religious papers such as the New Humanist. (There was also, a few years ago, a very convincing article by, of all people, the Tory historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper in, of all papers, the Spectator. No doubt both papers would supply cuttings from their libraries to anyone interested enough to ask.) ) But briefly, the main arguments against the legend of Christ are as follows.
First and foremost is the total lack of any authentic reference to this alleged individual among all the contemporary writers and historians (and there were quite a number whose works have come down to us from that era of the Roman Empire). Just imagine—here is a chap who had no father—his mum was far too pure to allow any man to do anything so disgusting as copulate with her. (There was a boy friend called Joseph knocking about, it seems, but I suppose he knew it was no use trying—or maybe he just did not fancy her.)
Having made his entry into this vale of tears in such an odd way, clearly there could be no stopping Jesus afterwards. He seems to have been apprenticed to a chippy but we are not told if he was any good at it though in view of what he achieved later, to produce some smashing tables and chairs he would only have had to scratch his left ear.
Be that as it may, he spent his time going around doing odd parlour tricks like walking on water, feeding a multitude with a mere handful of loaves and fishes, making the blind see and the lame to walk and—my next trick is impossible—even raising a bloke called Lazarus from the dead (I don't know if he is still alive or whether he died next time for keeps).
And he caused such a deal of bother in a Roman province called Judea that the governor, name of Pontius Pilate, was actually moved to wash his hands which must have been an unusual thing to do in those dirty days.
Now isn't it puzzling that all this was going on and the contemporary historians never said a dicky bird about it? It is indeed so puzzling that the Christian fathers, long after the events took place (or did not take place) realised they were on a loser if they didn't do something about it. So being first class frauds and villains (just like our own bishops and popes), they solved the problem thus: There was a famous contemporary historian called Josephus who was a baptised Jew living in Rome who wrote a very important book called The History of the Jews. And—hocus pocus!—there appeareth a passage in the book telling us all about Jesus. Only one little problem remained. The passage never appeared in the book while Josephus was alive. He somehow remembered to put it in centuries after his death. In other words, the only evidence in favour of the historicity of Christ is a blatant piece of Christian forgery.
You can add other morsels if you like to bother. For example, why did Jesus himself leave no written material of any kind? We have lots of material from even more ancient societies in the civilised Middle East. Surely daddy must have taught Jesus to write as well as walk on water? Finally, in case anyone says: what about the gospels? Well, what about them? The earliest was written nearly a century after Christ had died (or not died) on the cross—a fate that occurred to lots of people in those days, including others of the numerous messiahs knocking about.
At least far fewer people believe in Christ nowadays so there is some sign of progress. How about stopping believing in the likes of Jesus Wedgwood Benn or the Virgin Mary Thatcher?
L. E. Weidberg