July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) - When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.

Two thousand years ago, I was told, in an ancient land called Galilee, the God of heaven and Earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity.

Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return he was nailed to a cross. Though Jesus could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die.

Indeed, his death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins.

But the story did not end there, because three days later, he rose again, exalted and divine, so that now, all who believe in him and accept him into their hearts will also never die, but have eternal life.

For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God.

In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable.

After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran.

My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.

That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.

I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith.

I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.

The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face.

Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world.

The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts.

The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.

I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart.

Meanwhile, I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text.

Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him.

The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.

Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

I wrote my newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.

Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus.

Reza Aslan is a bestselling author and a scholar of religion. This article was adapted from his newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." The views expressed in this column are Aslan's alone.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. Time For You To Grow Up...

    There are over 3000 different religions in the world, each one worshipping a god... As soon as you come to understand why you reject all those other gods, you'll understand why I reject yours.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Margaret

      Perfectly stated.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • pothead

      Well said,you deserve a Scooby snack!

      July 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  2. WhenCowsAttack

    You know, I like to think of myself as a tolerant person, but I find that as I get older I become increasingly intolerant of all things religious.

    Thinking back to my teenage years, attending the evangelical churches and getting down on my knees and asking Christ into my heart and renouncing my "sin", and feeling ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except a little silly, I was unable to put my finger on exactly what my problem was. Why couldn't I believe? Was I broken? Was there a demon inside me or something? Had I done something so horrible that God hated me and just didn't want me? Eventually I just resigned myself to the idea that I was unable to believe.

    It wasn't until later in life that I realized why. The so-called divinity of Jesus is false because it cannot possibly be true.

    Christians- consider this (though I know most of you won't). The moment that Jesus died on the cross, that very instant, the only way to heaven was through acceptance of him, right? Now consider the fact that in those times, there were fewer than 20 human beings that knew this "fact". They were directed to evangelize so that mankind might be saved. Now consider how many full-grown adult humans across the world died in say, the first year alone after Jesus's death. Since virtually all civilizations have a religion of sorts, these untold hundreds of thousands of humans died not only knowing nothing about Jesus, but actively worshiping other gods. Breaking the very first commandment, no less. According to the Bible, every single last one of those unfortunates are in Hell. Nevermind the fact that it's quite literally impossible for them to have heard the "Good Word"- the Bible after all is very clear that the ONLY way to Heaven is through Jesus.

    Ignoring all of the other contradictions in the Bible such as the fact that it states the Jews are God's chosen people, yet by its own tenets the only way to heaven is through Jesus therefore all jews are damned, the only sensible deduction a rational human being can make is that the entire Jesus-as-son-of-God theology is simply a lie.

    I'm sorry Christians, but your religion as written is simply impossible as truth. And I'm so sick and tired of people blindly following it, trying to demand prayer be put back in schools, that the Pledge of Allegiance must contain the word "God", that Sam Adams beer put the word "creator" back into its silly beer commercial, and telling the rest of us we're going to hell if we don't believe. Why do you blindly ignore logic and reason? Life as an agnostic or atheist is just as fulfilling- more so, because we don't fear god's judgment nor do we see Satan lurking around every corner.

    Free yourself! Throw off the bonds. It's liberating.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • lol??

      Pro 19:10 Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • WhenCowsAttack

        You ignore the meat and respond with a Bible verse. How typically ignorant.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      Thank you, and the funny thing is that I will bet you not a single Christian will reply to this. I've posted similar things in the past and they just ignore it (presumably because it makes them uncomfortable).

      I get similarly ignored when debating with them about whether gay people are born that way. "What about hermaphrodites? Who are they supposed to love? Aren't they gay either way?" I get crickets, LOL.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bill P

      If a person does not want to believe, then they will find reasons, real and imagined, to do so. Your understanding of scripture is weak. You have turned to your own wisdom and understanding. The Apostle Paul makes a couple points relative to God and ignorance: 1) Where there is no law, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15) and 2) "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20) Here is what you and I could agree on: you, and I, only know what is in our own individual heads. Yours by you and mine by me. We have absolutely ZERO understanding of what is in anyone else’s head. Pure and simple. I am confident that the Lord is just and righteous and will judge everyone such that – at that time of the final judgment – not one mouth will open and dispute Him. (Romans 3:19) I believe that your failing in your Christian life was not to believe on Jesus for salvation but to continue down a path of faith. Consider what Hebrews 11:6 says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You may not have realized that you had to work at your faith. The Bible is replete with examples of individuals going forward in their faith in God by trusting Him – despite travails and adversities. It entailed work on their part. And that is the entire point. He could have made the truth of His existence so patently obvious that only an idiot would be incapable of embracing that truth. That is not what our current dispensation is about – this dispensation of “grace” (versus the Jews were under the dispensation of “law” and there was a different dispensation from Adam to Noah, which was basically no laws). It IS about faith. It IS about understanding by reading His Word. This life is the only time that you will have to get it right. After that is the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Consider that, if you believe that there is a God of some sort and there is an eternity which follows death, then is this life essentially nothing, as if it did not even exist? (James 4:14) Make sure that you “get it right” as there is no second chance after death. And eternity is a very long time. It is infinitely long.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
      • G to the T

        And yet you quote Paul – the man who never met Jesus in person.

        July 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • I wonder

        Bill P,
        "there is no second chance after death"

        Do you really have verified evidence for that?

        Huge numbers of people believe in reincarnation; and many believe in posthumous conversion and all sorts of other options happening in an afterlife. Just as much evidence that their beliefs are true as there is for yours...

        July 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Wrong

      I'll respond, so you lost your bet. Yes, we choose to follow Jesus, but Bigger than that, Jesus chooses US. Now dont twist that in a simplistic way. Essentially, Jesus chooses who enters into heaven. What about babies that die? Obviously, they cannot comprehend the concept of Jesus, so does that mean they are eternally damned? No, that would be ridiculous. Each man is judged by his ability. Jesus has the power to save everyone. It's his choice, not ours. Thats what that means

      July 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • G to the T

        Biblical evidence that unbaptized babies go to Heaven please...

        July 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Really-O?


      @Bill P –
      One does not need to "find reasons, real and imagined" to not believe in something; reasons are only required for belief. "Believers" are not able to comprehend or accept this because they are already "believers".

      July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @WhenCowsAttack –

      Sorry, my previous post should have contained a "well done".

      July 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Austin

      Thinking back to my teenage years, attending the evangelical churches and getting down on my knees and asking Christ into my heart and renouncing my "sin", and feeling ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except a little silly, I was unable to put my finger on exactly what my problem was. Why couldn't I believe? Was I broken? Was there a demon inside me or something? Had I done something so horrible that God hated me and just didn't want me? Eventually I just resigned myself to the idea that I was unable to believe.

      back @ what teenager made a mature committment that they grew in to for life?
      you were not broken, you weren't resolved . unable.

      July 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Austin

      It wasn't until later in life that I realized why. The so-called divinity of Jesus is false because it cannot possibly be true.

      Back@ really? I expierienced the revealing spirit of God, supernaturally bearing the word, but you arrive in your mind that this is a fact, that it cannot possibly be true?

      No you havent. it is true. Moses was foreshadowing Jesus Christ with the the passover, unleavened bread and first fruits, and God was showing the world who the boss is. This foreshadowing is done only by God. That is who He is.

      Christians- consider this (though I know most of you won't). The moment that Jesus died on the cross, that very instant, the only way to heaven was through acceptance of him, right? Now consider the fact that in those times, there were fewer than 20 human beings that knew this "fact". They were directed to evangelize so that mankind might be saved. Now consider how many full-grown adult humans across the world died in say, the first year alone after Jesus's death. Since virtually all civilizations have a religion of sorts, these untold hundreds of thousands of humans died not only knowing nothing about Jesus, but actively worshiping other gods. Breaking the very first commandment, no less. According to the Bible, every single last one of those unfortunates are in Hell. Nevermind the fact that it's quite literally impossible for them to have heard the "Good Word"- the Bible after all is very clear that the ONLY way to Heaven is through Jesus.

      July 22, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
      • Austin

        Since virtually all civilizations have a religion of sorts, these untold hundreds of thousands of humans died not only knowing nothing about Jesus

        what does it say in the bible about these people, who have never hear of Jesus?

        July 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
      • Austin

        According to the Bible, every single last one of those unfortunates are in Hell. Nevermind the fact that it's quite literally impossible for them to have heard the "Good Word"- the Bible after all is very clear that the ONLY way to Heaven is through Jesus.

        what verse are you referring to? because it says God is just, and as for babies that die or people who didn't hear of Jesus, God is just and He promises you and them that He is faithful to forgive.

        The problem is for people who mock and reject, twisting and perverting who He is.

        July 22, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  3. jb

    I love irony.
    Jesus did not promote religion and did not condone the church. So he became a threat and later was crucified. Later we created a religion in his teaching ‘Christianity’ and built churches dictated to his teaching, among other things such as what you can and cannot do based on the rules of the church. History shows Christians took that teachings and perverted it into a way to concur people and commit mass murders such as in Africa, Spain, Central America and so on. Finally Christianity began to calm down in the 21st Century and now they ask the question “Can you be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian?” Hate to tell you folks, but that was his point all along. Spirituality without organized religion. Anyone that does not get that, needs to read the teaching once again and this time without the use of interpretations.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  4. Joe

    I consider myself a Christian, however I will never step foot in a church. Most denominations don't preach the true meaning of God, rather they teach fear and instill unnecessary values that which the Bible only briefly mentions which leads to judgement and hatred of others. I'm not saying the Christian faith is wrong, I consider myself a Christian. But a lot of the details of the organized religion side of Christianity is nothing more than both a financial and political scam. Christianity isn't the only organized religion that this applies to either. In fact, it probably more-so applies to Islam, a religion that not only instills values that leads to hate, but also justifies the murders of non-believers. A true faith opens your heart and mind up to accepting one another. Religion does the opposite, it closes your mind. True faith brings you to believing in true freedom for everybody. Religion forces you to believe that only your own kind, what it may be, deserves freedom and salvation. It forces you to follow, rather than lead. True faith is absolutely a real thing. It allows you to feel the ever-so real presence of the magical force that is the answer to life, God. Religion makes you feel bad about yourself, which doesn't allow you to feel the presence of God. Having faith that God knows who you are and what you've done and that you're truly sorry for whatever wrongs you have committed makes it so that Heaven isn't only a belief, but a real, reachable place that harbors all the secrets to life and is accepting of everybody in this universe. Religion simply closes your heart and mind to believing that only a select group of people deserve Heaven. True faith is real. Organized religion that forces you to pay into a church that is notorious for providing a helping hand to passing political agendas around the world, whatever religion it may be, is fake.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Austin

      I agree with you , when you go in there and they are praying for the secular military in an evil world, you have to stay home. that can be scary. I have a hard time believing that as christians we are supposed to vote for war. I did not pick that part up from the Bible.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Austin

        then again God is in control, and maybe He executes grace and mercy through sending the U.S. to war in dark places.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
        • G to the T

          So he has enough control to send them into dark places but not enough to not have there be dark places in the first place?

          July 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      I like your take on it it's just that so many Christians disagree with you.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  5. Margaret

    Bill Moyers highlighted best the powerful relationship between man & myth. I doesn't actually matter whether Jesus (or any prophet for that matter) actually existed at all. Humans are built to respond to myth and storytelling...it is a central currency of the human experience. That these people actually existed is irrelevant...and is evidenced by the concept of faith. Not-knowing/ having definitive proof that a prophet existed has never really been an effective determinant in peoples beliefs. I actually think that the greatest threat/ perceived threat that science poses to religion is not in proving or disproving facts (age of earth, how man got here etc...)...but more so in the idea that achieving scientific description of our world and how it works/ came to be erodes the power of myth...and this scares people.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • faith

      pity his son

      July 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  6. John Diaz

    By all accounts, He was, at the very least, a good man and, for that, "Jesus is just alright with me."

    July 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • pourform

      “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
      -CS Lewis

      July 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • G to the T

        "Liar, Lord or Lunatic"? Really?

        How about this – None of the above? Lewis assumes an accuracy in the biblical stories that I cannot agree with. Doesn't it make more sense to say "He was a good man and the stories about him grew over time"? Which is the more fantastical argument?

        July 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • fath

          sorry, that doesn't work. no evidence suggests what was written was embellished.

          you need to remember our doctrines.

          1 we believe nothing proves the existence of god because there is nothing that proves his existence

          2. if it looks like evidence, it is not evidence.

          July 22, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
        • agree

          agree. point being. so

          July 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
        • agree

          agree. point being. so

          thief didn't get splashed

          July 23, 2013 at 8:44 am |
        • pray

          you assume what lewis assumed. you have no idea

          July 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
        • G to the T

          Actually, I do. I've studied Lewis' works and implicit in his thinking is the idea that the bible is an accurate description of the words and deeds of the people it describes (or else you wouldn't potentially call Jesus a liar, if he never actually said what is atributed to him). My studies on the history/creation of the bible lead me to understand that it is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a cohesive narrative. There were dozens of gospels in the days of the early church and the 4 main gospels were chosen as a comprimise. All of these authors had something very different to say about who Jesus was, why he came and what he taught. So yes – I feel quite justified in saying that a fourth option – misrepresntation – is another viable answer (and in my opinion the most likley) to Lewis' question.

          July 23, 2013 at 9:25 am |
        • Emerald

          "that doesn't work. no evidence suggests what was written was embellished"

          Everyone knows the story about Jesus and the woman about to be stoned by the mob. This account is only found in John 7:53-8:12. The mob asked Jesus whether they should stone the woman (the punishment required by the Old Testament) or show her mercy. Jesus doesn’t fall for this trap. Jesus allegedly states, let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her. The crowd dissipates out of shame. That story was not originally in the Gospel of John or in any of the Gospels. It was added by later scribes. The story is not found in the oldest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Nor does its writing style comport with the rest of John. Most serious textual critics state that this story should not be considered part of the Bible.

          July 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  7. kyzaadrao

    By this reasoning, I can say that I'm not here to believe in an ideal of fair and balanced news from CNN, I just love the corporation because it makes a great struggle in the financial world. Thanks for the perspective.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Bob

    Jesus was and is human trash. His views on absolute morality has brought about more evil and hate than any other man in history. I wish there really was a heII because I would want Jesus to be burning in there.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Mark

      and you , Bob , are an idiot.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Christian7

      How is telling people to "treat others as you want to be treated" evil? How could there be any wars if everyone did what Jesus said: "Love your enemies"?

      July 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  9. Christian7

    Jesus is Christ and the bible is truth. But what college professors teach about the bible is deception. It is easy to claim a contradiction or an error but what are you comparing the error to? And every contradiction I have seen turned out to be an obvious interpretation or translation error. You can't believe in Jesus without him being Christ. If Jesus is not Christ, then he is a lunatic or a liar. Jesus is Christ.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • kent

      you're wrong. jesus is made up.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Christian7

        Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most biblical scholars and classical historians see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      You and I haven't looked at the same contradictions.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Christian7

        You are very confident in your abilty to comprehend things accurately.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          As are you, apparently.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  10. Buster

    Well, let's see, technically speaking, a follower of Jesus is by definition a Christian.

    July 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Apotropoxy

      To the contrary. Many believe that Jesus was not a Messiah (Christ) but a passionate apocalypticist who blended Hillel's advocacy of open-hearted love with the belief that the Jewish god would smite the Roman occupiers, send them fleeing and set up a Jewish kingdom on earth.
      Given that it was Rome who smashed the Jewish kingdom and temple about 35 years after Jesus' execution and maintained its empire for 300+ more years, I'd have to say that Jesus' prediction that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" prediction was erroneous.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  11. Pakonbike

    BUT ... was there a person name Jesus at all? We can all be good without Zeuss. We can all be strong without Apollo.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Austin

      And God can reveal His spirit at any time. again, here I am, remembering the things that God has done. speaking in truth to people who turn around and deny the possibility that I am telling you the truth.

      This is not about me, though. I am concerned for those who actively reject the bible from the flesh compulsion , the natural condition of being at enmity with the manifestation of God's forgivenes.

      this is a deadly trick and mental affront to human life.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        You lie. You're not concerned about us. You've already made up your mind based solely on your own thoughts that your god is real and in turn you believe we will suffer eternally. Concern and pity are two different things. However it is you who should be pitied...you'd allowed the brain damage from your car accident to go untreated for far too long and now you're believing your dreams to be reality and think they're pertinent in the real world...help help.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          .help help. should have read 'get help'

          July 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  12. are122

    "if there has ever been a greater cancer to mankind than religion" <~~ Is it religion or what people pervert it in to? Frankly I believe what people pervert it in to is by far more malignant. You see it every day in the news. You even see it in comments like yours.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Austin

      the comment below gives a detailed attempt to pervert one truth about God.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • davejjj

        I don't see how actual history can "pervert a truth." What you mean is that actual truth messes up your preferred story.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  13. Colin (the original)

    Jesus was very, very likely a real historical figure. It is just that the stories about him that circulated for decades before being reduced to writing were heavily influenced by prevailing mythology and motifs.

    For example, two centuries before the appearance of Jesus, the myth of Mithras held that Mithras was the son of the sun sent to save mankind. He was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, and his birth was attended by shepherds. Mithras sacrificed himself and, on the last day of his life, had supper with twelve of his followers. At that supper, Mithras invited his followers to eat his body and drink his blood. He was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again. The cult of Mithraism, which evolved out of the earlier Persian religion of Zoroastrism, was popular in Rome at the same time that Christianity was spreading.

    Similarly, before Jesus, Attis of Phrygia was said to be born of the virgin Nana on December 25, was crucified to save mankind and rose from the dead after three days, as did the Indian god, Krishna.

    So, for that matter, did the Greek god Dionysus. Dionysus was hailed as ‘The Savior of Mankind’ and ‘The Son of God.’ Dionysus was born on December 25 after Zeus “visited” the mortal virgin Persephone. Announced by a star, he was born in a cowshed and was visited by three Magis. He turned water into wine, raised people from the dead and was followed by twelve apostles. His resurrection was a popular myth throughout the Roman Empire, although his name was different in each country. The rituals in honor of Dionysus included a meal of bread and wine, symbolizing his body and blood. Other figures from the Mediterranean who died and were resurrected include Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Tammuz, Asclepius and Orpheus.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Austin

      so then we have a complete evidence of diabolical satanic mimicry. is that a possible theory?

      July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • davejjj

        The story of Jesus is satanic mimicry? Who'd a guessed?

        July 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • G to the T

        Of course Austin – but which requires fewer assumptions? A satanic conspiracy or the natrual human tendancy to tell stories?

        July 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Simon of Perea. Announced by the angel Gabriel. Martyred. Rose after 3 days. Messiah.
      50 years before Jesus. How, without any reference points ... no newspapers, no calendars, no records, no paper pads, no written anything for common folks could you know the difference 75 years later ? Nope. Jesus was not "very" likely an historical anything.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  14. @OD

    Good article, we all need faith and heroes but religion is an obstacle to the development of humanity. If you need spirituality without mythical beings of any kind, read " The god problem: how a godless cosmos creates" by Howard Bloom.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • lol??

      First off you have to recognize your commie socie perspective. Benjamin Samuel Bloom infected the educratists with the Frankfurt School philosophy. Then try and understand your Bloom.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • lol??

      The Herodian Dynasty was hero enuff.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  15. tom LI

    As to the article. I like this author, have seen him on TV...he's smart, witty, and clearly a man devoted to some sort of spiritual, Xtian leaning belief system.

    But that he doesn't recognize he adopted Xtianity to be American, to Fit-In, and feel as close to the American mythos as a foreigner can be...is astounding to me. Sure he burned with his new faith, most newbies do...and when he was confronted by the lies of that Bigger Story it shook him. He didnt want to lose what he perceived as his passing from foreigner to real American, his falling for Jesus – so he went on a mission to reshape the myth, into one he could still cling to and not lose his American-ness. He connects his American-ness to Xtianity.

    He found his faith in an indoctrination setting. Where he was there ONLY to be indoctrinated, to be made into a Xtian. Which he did. When he found that lacking he had to fix it – find someway to reconcile those childhood memories of inclusion and create a NEW Mythos...his Jesus the REBEL, the dissident...which is made up too!

    Adults do wacky stuff to reconcile their childhood – especially those that involve indoctrination...

    July 21, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  16. Yau

    Sad that this person doesn't understand the very reason Jesus came to earth which was to save humanity from its sin and give them the opportunity to choose eternal life. The difference in believing in Jesus the Peasant and in Jesus the Christ is precisely the defining factor of a person's salvation. If you only believe in Jesus the Peasant and not Jesus the Christ then are you are that crowd of people who followed Jesus because he healed them and because he fed them. They never understood or accepted God's greatest gift – eternal life!! Jesus wept for this kind of people because they rejected God's salvation and chose to remain oblivious to His grace. When Jesus asked Peter, who do you say I am? – Peter answered: You are the Christ, Son of the living God! My friend, you have to believe in Jesus the Christ! Otherwise, you are passing up your only opportunity of being saved from eternal damnation. I pray that you never stop seeking the Truth. Seek Him and He will find you.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • niknak

      Seek professional help Yau Ming, because you are delusional.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • Bob Bales

        You have not the slightest evidence that Yau is delusional. You know only that this person has a viewpoint different than yours - which does not justify calling someone names.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • Bob

          Look up the definition of delusional. You'll see that it fits in this case.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • Bob Bales

          It absolutely doesn't fit. The definition of 'delusional' is not "doesn't believe as I do."

          July 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • Todd

          Actually it does and it has nothing to do with what you're claiming Bales.

          July 23, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Bob

      Prove anything you said is true.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • C. Haynes

      Seems like you have the spiel down. I've heard it a lot and your rendition was fairly succinct. The thing is, you need to pick your audience... this isn't it.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How is it that one is punished before the error is made? Would you take the punishment of death for something you didn't do?

      July 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • Bob Bales

        God never punishes anyone for what they did not do.

        July 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • cjeddie8

      Yes Santa came down my chimney too!

      July 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Austin

      Yau you are gifted and clearly called. God bless you.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm sure the author is familiar with what you say. After all, it's the sort of rhetoric most christians use when trying to convert other.

      It appears that this author rejected your more simplistic approach after studying the source material. Rather than look upon Christ as nothing more than the golden ticket into heaven, he has chosen to follow Christ the teacher. This approach is more honest and far less self-serving. Perhaps that is why it makes you uncomfortable.

      July 23, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  17. Bob

    Has anyone ever proved that gods, angels, souls, or unicorns realy exist? Why assume that they do exist without proof? If I told you the moon was made of cheese, would it be rational for you to believe me without any evidence?

    July 21, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • niknak

      No they haven't, but that won't stop the masses from going to their myth houses and believing in the fairy tale.
      The Ponzi scheme needs cash, and that is where the fools come in to keep it going.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Woody

      Bob, I have my doubts about "gods, angels, souls, or unicorns", but being that yesterday (July 20th) was the 44th anniversary of the first moon landing, I'm pretty sure they found absolutely no cheese in the chemical analysis of the returned lunar samples.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      People who do not believe in God make the assumption that because they see no evidence or proof that there is no evidence. Such is not the case. The fact is, millions of people see evidence for God and believe as a result. Atheists will say that people's seeing evidence for God is not proof that He exists. This is true. However, it is equally as true that atheists' failure to see evidence for God is not proof or indication that He does not exist.

      Atheists say that people who believe in God are believing in a myth. But it is a myth only from their own perspective, so they are essentially claiming that others see things from their perspective, which is not true.

      July 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  18. Trey

    I guess we may be born into a religion but if we are truly blessed then we will eventually think ourselves into a faith.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • jt330


      July 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  19. curious

    Often times the argument comes down to the creation. Questions like who created this? who created that? arises but is creation really the case. If we think about it, you cannot create anything; it has always existed..you can only transform things just like the law of conservation of energy ....the problem arises when people ask who created this? that? if god created something then something has to create god..so if we leave the creation out of question then everything makes total sense.....things have always existed.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Austin

      neither way makes sense really because you nave no way of picturing either scenario. no one has the vision of what happened, what God did.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • cjeddie8

        who made god?

        July 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
        • dean

          Many will argue that any god they believe in is supernatural and thus the laws of physics don't apply to that being so gods don't need to be created like things in the physical world. Not saying I agree.

          July 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Jonah

      Your question was answered by a modern prophet of God. Lorenzo Snow said, "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become." This vision opens up the eternal nature of man and God. We are eternal beings and are children of God, and as such have infinite possibilities.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • curious


        if your logic, arguments, knowledge all come from the leaders of your church then may i remind you that you are doing a big mistake...or in other words you are being ignorant. There is a sea of knowledge out there and thousands of years of knowledge garnered from scholars and figures who were more serious about these things, who spent their lives trying to find out answers to difficult questions like these and who have helped us in our understanding of who we are … Read darwin, nietzsche, gladwell, churchhill, dawkins, osho, buddha, richard feynman,krishnamoorthi, neil degrese tyson, christopher hitchens, gandhi, bhagat singh, carl sagan, etc etc....

        I would urge you to be more liberal and take off your blinders and take the courage to study other disciplines as well. Once i too was a serious follower of one religion but only when i decided to seek knowledge outside my religion that my understanding was more enriched. It's easy to follow the crowd and in a place where you are taught the same thing for decades it can be hard to believe something else.

        July 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Jonah

      Your question was answered by a modern prophet of God. Lorenzo Snow said, "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become." This vision opens up the eternal nature of man and God.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Nope. There was no spacetime "before" a singularity. "Always" implies spacetime existed before a singularity. It's meaningless. "We don't know yet" is all we can say.

      July 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • G to the T

        Actually – we have no way of even knowing that! I may just be that the big bang was beginning of our current session of space/time. Competely possible that a previous line of space/time(s) may have existed beforehand.

        July 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  20. omeany

    I have recently come to grips with the concept that Jesus was a wise teacher whose teachings have been corrupted over the centuries because of organized religion's political agenda.

    It has help me separate why (when I was a Christian) I had no explanation for fossils or why my fellow Christians seemed so on board with the idea of people who did not believe burning in hell for all eternity. I also came to the conclusion that if we were not created perfect (As proven by fossils) then we did not "fall from grace" and if we did not fall there is no need for a savior.

    I am still learning (and probably will be all my life) but am a much happier person since I follow the person Jesus as opposed to believing in "we need a savior Jesus".

    July 21, 2013 at 11:52 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.