Here's an interesting article on the latest in scholarly evidence, or lack thereof, of the existence of Jesus. (A former friend, now evidently insane, used to claim, even before he went over the edge, that there was more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is of Julius Caesar. I think he read it in a book.) I'm an agnostic on the issue, but I do find it interesting.
... The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive: ...The article goes on to list several factors which support the idea of mythologized history.
Well, trying to prove non-existence of Jesus is about like trying to prove the non-existence of god; so it's mostly a moot point. He's among, what, a few thousand godheads around this planet in whom billions believe but whose existence or lack of it, is exactly equally ephemeral. To me, it speaks of a deep human need -- which is undeniable -- to explain the inexplicable in mystical terms, and to hold them ever more tightly even as evidence mounts against those particular terms. Age of the earth. Evolution. Human physiology. Stuff like that.
I don't expect the race to survive long enough (mostly because of the ill effects of such beliefs) to evolve past the need. But it's an endless source of interest to me. How it is that, while observing billions of people believing just as strongly in different deities, people can maintain their own certitude in the exclusive rightness of theirs? Even more challenging is to observe how, among the christianist theocrats in this country, they manage to claim the superiority of the teachings of their faith while ignoring at least half of them. Especially the hard ones, the ones that require a little sacrifice for the greater good.
Those of differing faith, or no faith, so they claim, can't possibly have a moral compass, can't distinguish right from wrong.
Which is, in fact, as wrong as it can be.
Those that have it (which, sadly, includes very few in today's R party, especially the most "religious" among them) have all they need to walk goodly in the world. Paradoxically, that quality isn't lacking in any of the atheists I know or know of, but is undeniably absent in the most vocal right-wing paragons in this country, Christian leaders and politicians alike. And only to a more obvious and grisly degree in Muslim maniacs on the other side of the planet.
As I've said plenty of times around here, I understand and respect the need for belief in most people; and I know plenty of believers for whom their faith is a source of personal strength, and who see the value in keeping it that way. Personal. If all believers in this country were like them, though, I'd have nothing to rant about.
My guess is that Jesus didn't exist, or that if he did he was nothing like the person who began to appear, many decades post quasi-mortem, in various contradictory gospels. But it doesn't matter much, either way, any more than does the "reality" of Ganesh or Shiva or Odin. Belief is belief. But it's curious that so many people are so certain in their belief, absent real "proof" and in the face of such contradictory descriptions of his backstory and characteristics. Even more curious, though, is the spectacle of so many Americans demanding that this is a Christian nation, that we become a bible-based society, while behaving in the most unchristian, unbiblical, uncharitable and non-empathetic ways imaginable.
Humans! What amazing organisms we are.