Jesus Never Existed – The Christianization of the Americas
Inc ® – Selling the Lord
When modern pharmaceuticals
put 19th century snake-oil salesmen out of business a certain breed
of flimflam artist found an alternative cure-all for the feeble-minded
and the emotionally insecure –
values – drudgery and faith
Vast tracts of land and
chronic shortage of hirable labour favoured early marriage and large
families. A widow with children was a desirable
bride – a ready-made workforce for the years of toil.
the Episcopalian church
(an off-shoot from the Church of England) nor the Congregational
suited to the needs of
Into the vacuum galloped
Methodism's circuit-riding clergy and the more energetic, if poorly
educated, Baptists, preaching
and when necessary conducting weddings.
Jesus takes care of his own
As the frontier moved
west ever-adaptable Christianity attuned
itself to the interests of the Protestant land-owning peasantry. The "work
ethic" was deeply ingrained, as was a sense
of "property" and notions of "rights".
on the frontier freed the daily lives of the peasant farmers
from the liturgical calendar but made periodic "revival" meetings
the same time, the excessive
self-reliance of a frontier life engendered an opinionated, gun-toting
arrogance which easily led to confrontation and violence.
You got a problem with
Hill Cumorah, close to
Joseph Smith's own home and four miles south of Palmyra, NY.
it was here that Joe recovered "golden
the visit of Jesus Christ to America and the history of ancient white
Unfortunately, the plates are not to be viewed in the Smithsonian.
They had to be returned to heaven before anyone could see them.
Mound City, Ohio. Hopewell native Indian culture, 200 BC - 100
The site, about 100 miles south of the Mormon settlement at
Kirtland, was first investigated by archaeologists Squier and Davis
during the 1840s.
Joseph Smith worked native
Indian "pyramids" into his yarn about "Nephites" and "Lamanites" – his
migrant "Israelites" in America – but
archaeology confirms not a word of this nonsense from the Book of
Jesus treks West
The dispossessed were
urged westward, in a continuous process of seizing native lands and
eradicating the Indians as a people.
missionaries, and explorers arrived, spreading disease, destruction
and disruption ... within a few mere centuries the old Indian way
of life had been swept away forever."
Jesus goes huntin', shootin', fishin'
in tune with the interests of rich peasants ("hard
working pioneers") thrived.
or speculation held no interest here; the sermon was everything.
The transient excitement and hysteria was designed to produce immediate,
power of the Jehovah Witnesses!
Tomb of Charles Taze Russell, founder of The Watch Tower
Bible And Tract Society.
Madame Blavatsky – larger than life fraudster who founded
the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875.
a hard day raising the dead..
"For John the
Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He
hath a devil!
The Son of man is
come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man,
and a wine bibber, a friend
of publicans and sinners!"
– Luke 7.33
Inherit the wind
Biblical literalism on trial.
An All-American Jesus
Jesus also ate burgers and drank coke.
The 1910 census
reported that, of a US population of 92 million, 50 million
rural areas. Moreover, less
than half of the over 25s had a high school education!
for Christian fellowship!
Praise the Lawd!
Joy of Sects
century America had little place for the touchy-feely
Jesus of love and charity. The angry god of Calvinism
had arrived in the promised land and marched westward
wearing the cloak of Baptism and Methodism.
Even so, Jesus had to become All-American and
the hucksters of Christ saw their opportunity, fabricating
peculiar forms of the faith, packaged into a convenience
Christianity of competitive variety.
the young republic, God-fearing folk required an entrepreneurial
of the Palestinian pageant. They responded to creeds
attuned to their "pioneering spirit" and to
the exaggerated patriotism of a new nation. Americans
rallied to charismatic preachers who sanctioned
the heady dream of vast personal wealth and, at
time, endorsed a reassuringly conservative moral code.
Success favoured the loudest, most demagogic tub thumper,
the progenitor of the 21st century televangelist. To
idealistic spirits, America, bold and audacious, would
shine as an exemplar of Christian rectitude and the hope
of righteous betterment to a corrupt and secularising
lack of an established or even a dominant church in the
USA presented bright and ambitious charlatans with an
unbridled opportunity to set up shop in the religion
business. In America, the normal restraints upon an ecclesiastical
career – years spent in seminaries, pondering ancient
Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts, an age spent training
as a priest, a lifetime spent in dutiful service to the
Church, endless obsequious soliciting for hierarchical
preferment – all were blissfully absent. In the
new republic, where liberty bestowed its bounty on the
quick and the slick, guru status was on offer from Day
1. Just go for it.
pattern was amazingly predictable. A family background
in congregational or baptist activity. A gift for self-publicity
and showmanship. A youthful quest for a get-rich-quick
scheme which ended in failure. A fascination with the
rituals and ceremonies of freemasonry and ancient Egypt.
Then, eureka, a return to the hypnotic mantras of the
Bible plus that vital extra ingredient, the guru's own "inspired
writings", held to be a special dispensation
from the Almighty and indispensable for a true understanding
of scripture and sold to gullible camp followers in vast
and profitable quantity.
Crisis of Succession
founder of a cult makes his
fortune. At his death the organization inevitably splits
see their own opportunity for worldly grandeur. Often,
a restatement of the Law and a new name follow.
untypically, the crisis of succession is a conflict between
the family of the dead prophet and the personalities that
had stood near to the throne. One
need only think of the schism that affected 7th century
Islam, forever after torn between the 'Shia' faction
of Ali ibn Abu Talib, married to Muhammad's daughter,
and the 'Sunni' faction led by Abu Bakr,
the prophet's right-hand man. A division, even fragmentation,
follows, with the power struggle disguised by subtle
adjustments to doctrine.
in the Jesus Saga? The Lost Continent
United States had never been anticipated in that font
of all wisdom, the Bible, but the salesmen of the Lord
would rewrite and reinterpret scripture to minimize the
it happened, the ancient Land of the Pharaohs,
with all its biblical connotations, burst back into European
consciousness as a consequence of the French
occupation of Egypt in 1798. Napoleon's France, having been ejected
from North America, made a strike towards British India
by landing an army near Alexandria. During the next three
years French scholars followed the army south to Aswan
and east into Palestine, acquiring "treasures" and
amassing the information that would fill 22 volumes of
the Descriptions de L'Egypte.
authoritative and defining tome of Egyptology informed
literate minds for generations and led directly to the
work of the Orientalist, Jean François Champollion.
Between 1814 and 1824, Champollion published his
pioneering decipherment of previously unreadable ancient
Egyptian script. With his formidable language skills
and a close study of the Rosetta Stone, the young scholar
had solved "the mystery of the hieroglyphics".
of the excitement of Egyptology, but none of the scholarship,
found its way to upstate New York. By the 1830s, mummies,
Egyptian artifacts and papyri were the razzmatazz of
travelling showmen, one of whom captured the interest
and fired the imagination of another young man, Joseph
Smith. Joe bought himself a common funeral
papyrus and decided to "translate" it. With
his experience of digging for treasure, a rudimentary
knowledge of Indian
a few words
of Hebrew he set about concocting a fabulous yarn that
put America centre stage in the fable of Jesus. He now
had all he needed to "restore" the true faith.
Smith's subsequent antics, of fleecing gullible followers,
a militia to intimidate his critics and collecting
a harem, so enraged the locals that Joe got himself
founded, however, became
the most successful cult in modern history: the Mormons.
Smith was but one in a long and ignoble succession of
religious fraudsters that flourished – and continue to
flourish – in the land of liberty and credulity.
The breeding ground of cults
The threat of Popery!
of Irish and German Catholics, arriving in the cities
of the eastern seaboard after 1830 – into areas
that had once been havens of Protestant rectitude – set
alarm bells ringing. After the famine of 1846-1850, "coffin
ships" brought boatload after boatload of desperate Irish
migrants, possessing little more than their devout Catholicism. After
two centuries of struggle was the young republic to succumb
to papal autocracy?
century America's northeast became a "burned over" breeding
ground of anti-Catholic cults. The pure had a simple
gather kith and
kin, up-sticks and trek to a new enclave of biblical
virtue. Here a self-appointed and charismatic pastor
could be monarch in his own kingdom and define a theology
to his own liking. The
new movements combined an eclectic mix of enthusiasms:
revivalism, spiritualism, communism, abstinence,
polygamy and novel views on women's rights.
Finney – often
called "America's foremost revivalist."
blacks back to Africa with a Bible in their hand.
America pure and ready for the Kingdom
Grandison Finney (1792–1875) was the major
hothead in the "Second Great Awakening" which
convulsed America in the 1830s. In part, the revival
was a reaction against the secularism of
age, and in part a response to the perceived threat
of Catholic immigration. The
cause of temperance also helped to agitate the godly.
American Bible Society was founded in 1816 with the
goal of scattering the earth with
(Protestant) Bibles. The same year Finney himself
founded The American Colonization Society. In 1820
the Society started shipping free blacks out of white
purifying the promised land and in the process carving the colony of
Liberia out of Sierra Leone. Other
overseas "missions" followed,
the way for the growth of the American empire.
Hiram Edson – had rare
gift for knowing the difference between a holy place and a most holy place.
Ellen White – put
the 7 into the 7th Day Adventists.
Edson and the "Adventists"
the original "Bible code" shyster, New Yorker William
Miller, concocted a timetable for the fulfillment
of the prophesies of the books of Daniel and Revelation:
March 21st 1843. He proceeded to gather in his flock – and
for the farmer-cum-baptist preacher JC did not come
calling in his fiery chariot and the "great anticipation" was
followed by the great disappointment.
never recovered from the shock (he died in 1849) but
were not about to give up on a nice little earner. While "crossing
a cornfield" Millerite Hiram Edson received
the spiritual guidance that in 1843 Christ had indeed
entered the second stage of his ministry – in Heaven!
Christ it seems had gone from the Holy Place to the Most
Holy Place, and from there he's been making his "investigative
1860, in Battle Creek, Michigan, the Millerites joined
the followers of a visionary from Portland, Maine, named Ellen
White and took the name "7th Day Adventists",
the 7th a reference to observing a Saturday sabbath,
believed to be in accord with the early ("pure")
church. The Adventists followed a good bit of Jewish
dietary law, and emphasized Jesus' role as high priest.
Victor Houteff joined the SDA church in 1919. His beliefs
from main-line church doctrine. This became obvious when
he wrote his book The Shepherd's Rod in which
he outlined errors that he had found within the church.
He left the church and formed a new sect in 1929 called
the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.
split further and eventually led to the organization
of the the Students of the Seven Seals, popularly
known as the Branch Davidians. In 1993, after
a long standoff with the FBI, the Branch Davidian's compound
burned down with major loss of life.
womaniser Joseph Smith achieved temporary cult success
(27 wives and his own town!), early martyrdom (murdered
while in jail), and everlasting notoriety.
Patriarch Brigham Young.
Young recruited new cult members in the
east of the US and in England before ascending the Mormon throne
after Smith's murder. He became king of "Deseret" (initially
part of Mexico and then Utah territory).
Young reigned for more than 30 years and fathered
at least 56 children by 52 wives.
Smith and the Mormons
Born in Vermont
in 1805, the future prophet and "Latter Day Saint", Joe
Smith, was raised in Manchester, New York, where his
father initiated the young lad in
arts of divination, talismanic "magic" and
digging for treasure. Obviously thrilled with this power,
assembled a collection
of "seer stones" and went hunting for buried
Indian gold. The treasure he actually found was the realization
that he could fool ignorant farmers into believing all
manner of nonsense.
By the time
he was 30 Smith
had refined his act. In the wondrous tome The Book
of Mormon, published in 1830, he boldly asserted
that the angel Moroni had appeared to
him several years earlier and
the existence of hidden golden plates,
which a magic stone had allowed Smith to translate
Egyptian" (an otherwise unknown language). Smith's "translation",
the Book of Mormon, told how the descendants
of the ancient Israelites had gone to America, and
how Christ himself had
appeared there after his crucifixion. This hokum rapidly
won Smith a following among simple farm folk, impressed
a modicum of "learning" – blissfully
unaware that Smith had copied most of his yarn from
taken from a Rev.
Solomon Spaulding, a writer of historical
romances on a Biblical theme.
Smith led his camp followers to pastures new – Fayette,
Kirtland, Nauvoo, driven on by the resentment of
non-Mormons. Like Mohammad, centuries earlier, Smith
"revelations" as circumstances required. One
notorious revelation gave Smith a special
dispensation to take multiple wives (Mohammad got the
same dispensation!). Joe's diverse writings from the
years 1830-1842 were published in a second sacred tome Pearl Of Great Price.
Among the book's more extraordinary assertions was the
claim that both God and Christ
had appeared to Smith and that John the
Baptist had anointed Joe into the "Aaronic Priesthood".
The happy reign
of the prophet came to an abrupt end when Smith was jailed
for instigating the wrecking of the offices of a newspaper
(run by ex-Mormons) critical of his cult. A mob stormed
the jail and shot
and his brother Hyrum. The martyrdom split the Mormons.
The larger group followed ex-Methodist Brigham
Young, so-called "President of the Quorum of The
Young led some 16,000 Saints west to the Great
Salt Lake and proceeded to
a theocracy, fiercely hostile to outsiders, including
the US Army. The enmity led to the notorious Mountain
Meadow Massacre of
1857 when Mormons executed 120 men, women and children
a passing wagon train. Brigham Young tried to blame
Indians for the outrage but 20 years later a Mormon
was executed for the crime.
"The Judge" Rutherford
are my witnesses" – Isaiah 43.10.
the "Millennial Dawn" and Jehovah's
In 1870, a young Pittsburgh haberdasher, Charles
T. Russell, began
a Bible study group which he called the "Millennial
Dawn." Fascinated by "Biblical prophecy" and
impressed by "Adventist" speculations
on the coming of the Apocalypse, Russell
advanced his own wondrous notion that an invisible
returned to Earth (in 1874, in fact). Over the coming
years Russell's idiosyncratic "theology" would
fill a series of books and give birth to a highly successful
the age of 28 Russell broke from his local
Congregational church, styled himself "pastor" and
set up his own show. In 1884 he launched the journal
The Watch Tower and then later that year The Watch
Tower Bible and Tract Society.
saw Russell as a messenger of God, critics as a child
molester and con man. In 1909 his wife
sued for divorce. In 1911 a Brooklyn newspaper exposed
scam run by Russell. Other Russell get rich quick
schemes included a fake cancer cure and what he termed
a "millennial bean". But his followers stayed
loyal to their guru.
esoteric calculation convinced Russell that the Second
Coming would occur in 1914. Instead, his own
in 1916. After his
majority following an attorney, "Judge" Joseph
F. Rutherford, who coined the term "Jehovah's
Witnesses" in the
1930s. The "Judge" led
the Witnesses until 1942, letting Russell’s books
go out of print and marketing his own.
Rutherford came up with his own prophecy: the imminent
return of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In preparation,
in San Diego, California, complete with a limo, apparently
to chauffeur the resurrected patriarchs about.
link to correspondence with The
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society on the validity of Noah's
Jesus Loves the Rich Guy! (says Rich
lawyer turned Baptist preacher in the 1870s preached
the "gospel of wealth" in
a speech reputedly made 6000 times, "Acres of Diamonds".
It reconciled the ideology of material success with
the Christian message. It certainly made Conwell wealthy.
By the time of his death in 1925, he had reportedly earned
Baker: "Christian Science" – all
in her mind.
In her stripped
down Christianity, Eddy jettisoned most of the
traditional furniture: Hell,
Sin, the Trinity, Resurrection,
Matter itself "did not exist".
left was the "healing principle of Jesus",
lost since the early Christian era.
Science – and then there's "Christian Science"
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, followed two
years later by the light bulb. In rapid succession
a whole raft of devices followed: movie projector, dictaphone,
train. By 1881 much of lower Manhattan had electric power.
The modern age of gadgetry had dawned. However, electricity
itself remained something of a mystery. What was this invisible
force – was it real? was it the life force of the
universe? Edison was a member of the New York Theosophical
Society which attempted to find common ground between
science and religion.
At the same time as Edison was sorting amps from
volts, the determined, egocentric wife of a part-time
Baker Eddy, was concocting the jargon of her own "science". In the
for a remedy to her
health problems, Eddy had been impressed by the quackery
of a "healer" named Phineas P. Quimby. Her own masterstroke
was to claim that the new "science of healing" was
based upon Jesus Christ, divine healer.
At a time
when medicine was
infancy the suggestion that "sickness is an illusion"
to be overcome by a correct understanding of scripture
over matter") found gullible believers readily
But what was a correct understanding of scripture?
Why, Eddy's own of course: Science
and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a small but
expensive book, sold in vast numbers. Followers
were compelled to buy and sell various editions of the
book. Mary Baker herself used morphine
to combat the occasional illusion
a perk of being the guru.
illusion of death caught up with Ma Baker in 1910 but
by then Eddy had amassed
a personal fortune of $3 million (Martin, p160). At its
peak perhaps a million people attended Christian Science
churches and "reading rooms". The cult had
the usual sex and financial scandals in the 1970s.
Seymour – illiterate, black preacher who
turned the Day of Pentecost into a salable product.
tongues – or gibberish induced by hysteria?
of the Spirit" – Pentecostalism
in 1906, the
Houston-based revivalism of Charles Parham, notably "baptism
of the holy spirit", inspired an
illiterate, black preacher, William
to Los Angeles and took over the disused meeting house
of the African Methodist
Church in Azusa
Street. Here, undeterred
by his lack of theological training, he
orchestrated marathon outbursts of emotional hysteria, otherwise
known as "speaking in tongues" (glossolalia). The
showman spent much of the time on
his knees with his head between wooden milk
crates, detecting the spiritual presence. Thus
began the Azusa Street Revival, the birth of Pentecostalism,
Jesus served hot and wild.
a poor man's version of Christian Science, Pentecostalism claimed
"blessings" of healing from the laying on of
hands. Prayer and the fiery holy spirit could do all
and more than
fangled medical science.
migrated from poor blacks to poor whites. An interracial
Assemblies of the World was founded
members withdrew to form the Pentecostal Church, Inc.
In 1917, the wife of a Methodist minister and Klan
supporter, Alma White established the Pillar of Fire church
and became the first female bishop in America.
1914, at Hot Springs, Arkansas, a group of
Pentecostal circuses merged their operations into
the Assemblies of God. Today it is
the largest of the breed.
Russell made wine bibber Jesus teetotal – just
Demon's Drink?– Pledged to Purity
became a cause of the godly at least as early as the
"Second Great Awakening" with the founding of the American
Temperance Society in Boston in 1826. Within
years, Quakers and others had persuaded thirteen states
to get men out of bars and on to their knees in church,
the Reverend Howard
Hyde Russell founded the Anti-Saloon League in 1895. This was followed in 1903 with the "Lincoln
Lee Legion" pledge
was divinely guided to bring temperance to America – and
extract money from all and sundry. Netted $5m.
against "German brewers" in 1914, the League
and its allies successfully forced national prohibition
in 1919, a disaster that led to an era of gangster-controlled
liquor sales. The manufacture, sale, and transportation
of alcoholic beverages was forbidden. Repeal
came in 1932.
shenanigans led to criminal investigation of the League
Bryan – biblical literalist (and erstwhile
Secretary of State) who "won" the monkey trial
but brought Fundamentalism into disrepute.
1925: the legislature, dominated by fundamentalists,
enacted a statute forbidding
teaching of Darwinian evolution.
A teacher, John Scopes, was found
guilty of breaking the law.
But it was a hollow victory for Fundamentalism. The
publicity surrounding the trial made biblical
dogmatism a laughing stock. Increasingly, historical
and scientific research across many disciples exposed
error, inconsistency and absurdity in holy scripture.
consequence was that the fundamentalists eschewed
established institutions of learning, and founded
their own colleges and seminaries, centres
in which academic study subordinated itself to the
precepts of God's divine plan (and the Churches that
put up the money).
have guessed that two generations later the monster
would again break cover and lobby for "creation
science" in the curriculum?
Barton – cooking
up an All-American Jesus.
Man for Christ
In 1925, Bruce Barton, a Tennessee advertising
mogul and congressman, brought the worlds of modern advertising
and religion together.
of a Congregationalist minister and a founding partner
of BBD&O – one of the world's top advertising
agencies – wrote "The Man Nobody Knows".
proved to be a best-seller Barton described Jesus as
a super-salesman and "the founder of modern
business", a go-getter who "outclassed his
competitors in choosing men of potential."
derided ideas of a weak and "feminine" Jesus.
His book presented JC as an outdoors man, a brawny man
with muscles. With his tanned face, blue eyes, and "personal
magnetism,"Jesus was a popular guy, especially with
Barton's seductive ideology allowed Americans to
claim godliness even while pursuing hedonistic pleasures,
making selfish ambition and greed wholly compatible with
the apostle of love and self-sacrifice.
In fact, JC was a regular American.
beats hell out of sin.
against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot,
and I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll
butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as
I've got a tooth. "
Sunday (1862-1935) scored a home run to wealth
when he finessed his baseball career into hot-gospel
evangelism. At the depths of the Depression, when
a third of the nation was unemployed, Billy Boy accumulated
a fortune from the saps who loved his vitriolic Jesus
schpeel. He was one of the first propagandists to
recognize the power of radio.
Disastrously for America
Bill Sunday championed the cause of Prohibition (1919-1932),
so beneficial to gangsterism.
In the 19th
century New World, Christianity enthusiastically endorsed avarice
and myopic self-importance just as surely as it had accommodate
slavery and genocidal warfare. But
in America it would impart a reassuring glow of guilt-free, self-righteous
In the land of opportunity, the business of religion
thrived as nowhere else on earth, throwing up a colourful breed
of entrepreneur, the quintessential masters of the
hard sell. If America's business was business, the cartel that
first beat the path to earthly riches was Jesus Christ, Incorporated.
In the minds of the pious, the growth of the nation into an economic
of the correctness of its Christian ideology.
By the mid-20th
century a godly America was gearing up to bestride the
sponsored "destiny" beckoned.
Sources: F. Mead, A. Hill, Handbook of Denominations (Abingdon, 1990) W. Martin, R. Zacharias, The Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany
house, 2003) Jean Ritchie, The Secret World of Cults (HarperCollins, 1991) Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon (Deseret, 1974)
Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness (Deseret, 1993) Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History of the USA (Penguin, 1999)
Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (First Church
of Christ Scientist, 1875)
James Bjornstad, Counterfeits At Your Door (Regal, 1979)
Edward Laxton, The Famine Ships (Bloomsbury, 1996)
organisation, authority and membership preceded
rather than followed the justifying doctrine. As
the organisation and its needs changed so has the ‘Testament
of God’ adapted accordingly. Dogma – The
Word in all its Savage Glory