This I Believe

norman - savannah, Georgia
Entered on December 5, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: Christianity
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.


Our Western Civilization, however defined, is based to a large degree on Christianity. For two thousand years (more if the Jewish contribution through the Old Testament is included) some form of Christian belief about God, Jesus, salvation, sin and redemption has marked all thought, religious and even secular, in the West.

What would it mean if this foundation is entirely fictitious and a hoax? I believe it would mean a great deal.

After a lifetime of reading biblical scholarship I am convinced that the foundations of Christian faith — faith in Jesus as a saviour — is totally unhistorical. The churches — none of them — have taught the real Jesus since the first church led by James of Jerusalem was destroyed by his murder and the Roman obliteration of Jerusalem. Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet allied to those who were willing to use even brute force against Roman domination. He was executed as a rebel leader. The church which knew him largely disappeared and another church based on the deceptions and delusions of Paul of Tarsus became the foundation of Christianity. The Jesus taught by this church is entirely imaginary. There is no reason to believe that Jesus’ death was anything other than martyrdom for Jewish nationalism: it did not mean redemption from sin, certainly not for the Gentiles whom Jesus ignored. The earliest followers of Jesus continued temple worship, thus attesting to the fact that for them salvation required the temple and the whole panoply of Jewish observance. The Gentile Christianity which is the foundation of Western Civilization is either a terrible misunderstanding or a gross hoax.

What would this mean? What I believe is that our entire culture is based on a lie and a fraud. We need a new beginning.