WeeklyWorker

17.12.2015
Traditional image

A contested Jesus

Respect the longevity of Christianity, but, says Jack Conrad, separate myth from reality

Christianity, the Jesus religion, is an established historic fact. It is just as real in its own way as Disneyland, the novels of Virginia Woolf and quantum theory. There are well over two billion Christians worldwide. Alone, the Roman Catholic church, the largest Christian denomination, boasts 1.1 billion adherents.

Nonetheless, like a language, Jesus has been passed down from generation to generation, affecting them, being changed by them. As a result of this process of ‘Chinese whispers’ the Jesus of one historical period would be almost unrecognisable in another. The 1st century Jew was in the 15th century pictured as fair-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed by artists in north-western Europe. Likewise that Jesus has been remade to look Japanese, native American and black African. In 1969 the Cuban artist, Alfredo Rostgaard (1943-2004), produced a ‘Guerrilla Christ’. His depiction faithfully mimics religious iconography. Jesus has a golden halo … but fully in the spirit of the Cuban revolution - and the 1791 second amendment to the US constitution - he is shown carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder.

Almost uninterruptedly, for over one and a half thousand years - in various institutional forms and guises - Christianity has been a dominating cultural influence over the minds of Europe’s peoples. “Christendom” was only “replaced” by the altogether vaguer notion of “Europe” in the 18th century.1 However, as William Faulkner put it, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past” (Requiem for a nun).Christian democratic parties have been particularly influential, forming governments in Germany, Italy, Norway, etc. The European Peoples Party has long been either the biggest or second biggest bloc in the European Union’s parliament. Its origins lying squarely in the conservative response to the expansion of the suffrage and the rise of the socialist working class in the late 19th century - Catholic and Protestant voters being mobilised to defend the status quo in the name of religion, the patriarchal family and individual rights. So Marxists would be foolish not to respect, albeit grudgingly, the longevity of Christianity and its continued contemporary authority.

Whatever Rowan Williams may say, Britain is not “a post-Christian country”.2 As widely argued, that dejected statement by the former archbishop of Canterbury ignores historical and constitutional reality. The fact of the matter is that since 1536 the monarch has been head of the Church of England and to date there has never been a prime minister who did not claim to be a practising Christian (Benjamin Disraeli might be thought to be the exception; born a Jew in 1804, he was, though, baptised in 1817).

Though nowadays it loudly proclaims its commitment to toleration, this was a conversion forced on the Church of England.3 Indeed till recent times Christianity exercised a sort of moral terrorism against anyone who might be tempted to openly declare themselves an atheist or materialist. Britain gave the world Charles Darwin (1809-82), the Marx of biology. However, in 1881 Darwin candidly admitted to a group of visiting freethinkers, including Edward Aveling, Marx’s son-in-law, that “he had finally given up completely on Christianity at 40 years of age”.4 Though an “agnostic” on god, he remained afraid to criticise religion from the standpoint of science. Public opinion would crucify him. Thankfully, no longer the case.

A few years ago, the Financial Times published a survey which showed that, while atheism in the US stood at only 4%, in Europe it was much more widespread: the figure in Italy is 7%, Spain 11%, Great Britain 17%, Germany 20% and France 32%.5 Evidence that religion is on the defensive. Another survey - this time of churchgoing in Europe - put Britain fourth from the bottom, just ahead of Hungary, France and Denmark. Poland coming top with around 75% regularly going to church.6 Whereas some 58% of the British population describe themselves as believing in, or identifying with, Christianity, only 15% attend services once a month or more.7 So churches have become remote, unattractive and strange places, as far as most people in Britain are concerned. Not only are services sparsely attended, but rituals are seen as largely pointless and only relevant when it comes to weddings and funerals - and less and less so even then.

The Church of England “really can be described” as the Tory Party at prayer, hurrahs the rightwing blogger, Archbishop Cranmer. Among the 35% of the population who say they are Anglican, almost a third are “Conservative identifiers”. Fewer than a quarter are natural Labour supporters.8 By tradition the Labour Party is more based on Methodist votes in England and Wales, and Catholic votes in Scotland. But, of course, over the last 50 years or so, church attendance has plummeted. And remaining Church of England congregations are more and more female, middle class and elderly. There have been reports of increased numbers of under-16s attending Sunday services. However, this is reliably put down to parents smoothing the entry of children into Church of England schools. Not a religious revival.

For warmth Church of England professionals huddle together around ecumenicalism. There are also chummy get-togethers with Muslim, Sikh and Jewish clerics. But fundamentalist splits, often charged by the sticky heat of sex, keep occurring and, in relative terms, they prosper. Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics seem to embody certainty in an uncertain world.

There are vicars who consider themselves leftwing. Most I have come across appear perfectly sincere. Sermons fulminate against third-world poverty, ecological destruction, the greed of transnational corporations. A world of equality, justice and freedom is earnestly prayed for. Suffice to say, these red priests manifestly lack a popular base. Their congregations are as diminutive as the conservative mainstream. Usually, however, they attract more than the usual portion of the mentally damaged, recovering addicts and the desperately poor. Hence, while trying to find a fulfilling role for themselves through involvement in wider society, the political practice of leftwing vicars amounts to a mundane combination of social work and social pacifism.

Because it claims to be all-embracing, because it can contain both right and left, because it constantly fudges doctrinal differences, Leon Trotsky once humorously dubbed the Church of England the “Menshevik” church.9 Needless to say, the Church of England is not the religious wing of the workers’ movement. It still constitutes what Walter Bagehot called one of the “dignified parts”, as opposed to the “efficient parts”, of the constitution.10

Twenty-six of its bishops sit in the House of Lords. Though they are not formally attached to any political party, it is surely significant that they always sit on the government side of the chamber. Although one of Elizabeth Windsor’s many titles is ‘supreme governor of the Church of England’, in reality, it is the prime minister who is supreme. After a formal ‘consultation’ with the Crown Nominations Commission, he or she chooses the archbishops to the provinces of Canterbury and York and the 43 diocesan bishops. So the Church of England is no democratic ‘church of congregations’.

Moreover, it can usefully be pointed out, many parish priests have time-fixed terms of tenure. They rely on bishops for reappointment. Those who fail to conform, toady and please can be evicted from office and thereby find themselves jobless and homeless. Hence, in fact, a stifling and oppressive hierarchical relationship prevails. From bitter first-hand experience Michael Hampson (a former C of E minister) confirms that the “parish clergy are the lowest rung … of that hierarchy, sworn to allegiance and obedience”.11 Vicars are not elected by those below. Nor are they accountable to them. They are minions of their bishop … and through them the bourgeois state. They swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch and an oath of canonical obedience “in all things lawful and honest” to the bishop.12

Atheism of fools

There are those supposedly standing in the Marxist tradition who claim that, because of the remorseless advance of science and the seemingly frenetic introduction of new technology, religious ideas are bound to undergo a constant shrinkage, to the point of soon winking out altogether. Such an outlook might provide atheist solace, but it is the atheism of fools (ie, an idealist worship of the means of production).

The United States proves the point. Here is the richest and most capitalistically advanced country on the face of the planet. It is also perhaps the most religious.

Barack Obama abandoned his youthful non-conformism and scepticism to be baptised as a 30-year-old adult into the Trinity United Church of Christ.13 Today he claims to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.14 Preceding him there was George W Bush, the 43rd president. He owed his November 2004 second-term four-million popular majority in no small part because of his pledge to follow a Christian agenda when it came to issues such as abortion, stem cell research and homosexual marriage.

Prior to George W Bush there was, of course, a long line of presidents going all the way back to George Washington, who regularly sprinkled speeches with choice religious claims, quotes and allusions. The sociologist, Robert N Bellah, employed the term “civil religion” to describe the United States in a seminal article first published in 1967 (he took the expression from Jean-Jacques Rousseau).15 This civil religion exists parallel to churches, denominations and sects and can be considered a kind of religious nationalism or religious national identity. But a decisive turning point clearly happened with the emergence of the New Christian Right. In the late 1970s Jerry Falwell founded the moral majority which successfully marshalled evangelical Christians into a substantial political bloc. The Southern Baptist Convention, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc, carried out what can legitimately be called a counterreformation. Religious doctrine, religious identity began to “replace logic and realpolitik” in official Washington, “especially in the Republican Party”.16

A nation of immigrants, constant flux and obsessive money-making, a nation that has never given birth to a mass workers’ party, a nation still marked by racial slavery, the US puts tremendous emphasis on consumption, self-reliance and social conformism. Families are highly privatised and highly mobile: only around 50% of those aged from 25 to 44 were born in their “current state of residence”.17 Atomised, insecure, reduced to mere economic objects, people live in constant fear of ill-health, joblessness, debt, migrants, losing their homes ... and they seek warmth and shelter in church congregations and the illusory community of religious nationalism. Allegiance to god, Jesus and the flag substitute for the real community that is so obviously lacking.

In the age of computers, bioengineering and Mars explorers, religion draws on a deep well. What we have seen since the late 1970s is the third “great Christian awakening” in America (the first began in the 1720s; the second occurred in the early 19th century).18 A Gallop poll shows that religious observance actually rose even further after the 2008 financial crash: “43.1% attending services at least weekly or almost weekly”.19 Around a third of the US population say they take Bible stories as literally true.20 Many of the same unfortunate people think that the regime change imposed on Iraq by US-UK forces confirmed prophetic texts in the Old Testament, which refer to the fall of Babylon; that the borders of Israel were decreed by god thousands of years ago; that the UN is a forerunner of a final satanic world order that will produce the antichrist. It is not only the masses. According to another survey, this time sponsored by Nature, even amongst American physicists, biologists and mathematicians 40% believe in god as a deity who “takes an active interest in our affairs and heeds our prayers”.21

In short, there is no automatic correlation between capitalist progress - with its profit-limited (ie, skewed, lopsided, interrupted) development of the productive forces - and the diminution of religion. Therefore, despite dramatically falling Church of England attendances and a shrinking belief in prescribed ecclesiastical doctrine, there is surely no room for smug atheist complacency. A clear majority is still convinced of the existence of some vague divinity or spiritual power. And, sadly, alien conspiracy theories, astrology, healing crystals, palmistry, tarot-reading and other such mumbo-jumbo fills the vacuum, not socialism. Indeed, amongst so-called ‘Marxists’ there has been a fair crop who have discovered the paranormal, the otherworldly. Eg, in 2000 the ‘critical realist’, Roy Bhaskar, revealed to stunned devotees his 15 former lives - beginning with crossing the Red Sea as a child with “the teacher”, Moses.22 His ‘God is love, man is god’ philosophy of ‘self-realisation’ was not being inconsistent. Shorn of nature, history and the class struggle, all that remains of the dialectic is idealism - methodologically more than prone to arrive at religious destinations.

It would therefore be foolish in the extreme to insist that Britain is immune from some new religious revival. Saying this does not rely on some kind of reinvention, or reworking, of David Hume’s pendulum theory.23 Simply that, be they conservative, liberal or radical, many people still find religion motivating, consoling and explanatory. If the bonds of social solidarity continue to deteriorate, there could quite conceivably be a sudden upsurge of those fleeing to the safety of religion - not just because of difficult material circumstances, but because life under capitalism lacks meaning, has become miserably dehumanised. The perceived failure of working class politics and the absence of a viable socialist project can only but intensify the attraction of an established and well honed fantasy.

To say the least, all this makes it crucial to upgrade the Marxist analysis of Christianity and, drawing on the latest historical investigations and archaeological discoveries, fully bring out its revolutionary origins in Palestine, transformation into the main ideological prop of the Roman empire and its subsequent evolution as a tool of the feudal and capitalist ruling classes. Marxist politics, let me emphasise, is about far more than trade union disputes, fighting cuts, student grants and other such bread-and-butter issues.

Actually our side has an inherent advantage. The cause of the working class, if it is to succeed, needs the unvarnished truth about the past in all its concreteness, all its complexity, with all its different social formations, class antagonisms and contradictory world-historic personalities. In contrast, our rulers, in Britain at least, prefer Karl Popper’s positivism. Indeed to maintain and reproduce ideological domination the bourgeoisie and its state purchase, flatter and promote an intellectual elite who are willing to sell their souls - writers, theologians, journalists, broadcasters, lawyers, academics. In exchange for fat salaries, commissions and entry into the establishment, they manufacture, or propagate, a second-rate history that part sanitises, part decontextualises and part demonises.

Eg, Marx and Engels have both been transformed from dedicated revolutionary politicians into tame harbingers of globalisation and periodic capitalist self-destruction by left economists, liberal academics and mainstream newspaper columnists alike. The Marx-Engels team have also been deemed responsible for the gulags and the system of terror instituted by Stalin in the 1930s by bog-standard rightwingers and their anarchist outriders. Such claims are sustainable because not only was Stalin’s ‘second revolution’ - ie, the 1928 counterrevolution within the revolution - carried out under the guise of Marxism, but so too were the Chinese, Korean, Albanian, Kampuchean and other bloody and disastrous experiments in national socialism. ‘Official communism’ in power created and lived an anti-Marxist Marxism. Instead of lighting the way to universal human liberation, what was called Marxism functioned as a creaking, idealist doctrine, which obscured (non-capitalist) statist oppression and exploitation. In the absurd propaganda claims, ideological trappings and actions of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Enver Hoxha and their heirs and would-be emulators, the paid persuaders of capitalism found their truth.

Suffice to say, turning the likes of Marx, Engels and Lenin into their opposites - ie, advocates or heralds of national socialism - requires dishonesty on a grand scale. Capitalism ensures conformity of the intelligentsia in general through assimilation - generous salaries, research grants and all manner of honours and privileges (there is, of course, the parallel threat of the sack, ostracism and middle class poverty). Bureaucratic socialism by contrast relied on blanket censorship, the destruction of genuine political debate and the cult of an all-knowing leader. Supposedly Marx, Engels and Lenin blessed the grey-on-grey drabness. Lying about such personalities is endlessly difficult, however. Deceased they may be. But their thoughts and aspirations live on in published and widely disseminated writings (crude doctoring is easily exposed and was therefore in the main never attempted or quickly abandoned).

Marxists must, and will, defend their own. Being partisans of a cause uniquely interested in the truth, they must also necessarily put the personalities of official history back on their feet - not least those who in some way struggled to achieve human freedom. That must include Jesus.

Jesus remains a popular and therefore highly contested figure. In March 1966 John Lennon only half-jokingly boasted that the Beatles had become “more popular than Jesus”. Not any more anyway. A Google search gave me 74 million references for the fab four. However, Jesus does somewhat better. He scored 556 million.24 Even in Britain, it is therefore no surprise that top politicians find it advantageous to parade their religious affiliations or, failing that, at least their moral affinity to religion.

There is doubtless some considerable degree of cynicism involved. Nonetheless, religion, especially the Jesus religion, is actively courted, promoted and appeased.

Three examples.

Many voices

Historically, the Christian religion has unmistakably shaped the development of Britain’s working class movement and national psychology. “There is no country in Europe,” remarked Leon Trotsky, “where church influence in political, social and family life is so great as in Great Britain.”28

Religious notions, even the most socialistic, helped smother or divert class-consciousness and served as an alternative to Marxism. It is commonplace, though nonetheless historically accurate, to describe the Labour Party as more coloured by Methodism than Marxism. In his The making of the English working class Edward Thompson showed that Methodism came to the fore during the period 1790-1830 (that is, after the revolutionary movement had palpably failed). Religious revivalism “took over just at the point where ‘political’ or temporal aspirations met with defeat”.29

Following that deflected course of political development, Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden promised voters a new Jerusalem; and to that end they demanded class peace. Socialism must come through parliament and the existing constitution. In 1910 Hardie humbly explained that “the impetus which drove me first into the labour movement, and the inspiration which has carried me on in it, has been derived more from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than from all other sources combined”.30 Even Tom Mann - a leader of the 1910-14 syndicalist revolt and chair of the early CPGB - was rumoured to be seriously considering entering the priesthood at about the same time he was secretary of the Independent Labour Party. James Connolly himself bowed a knee before the Catholic faith of Ireland - it should take care of belief and other such spiritual matters; meanwhile socialists will concentrate on the struggle to obtain the nationalisation of the means of production and exchange.

What characterised the early 20th century also characterised the late 20th century. Leftwingers such as Tony Benn, Jimmy Reid, Arthur Scargill and George Galloway freely, embarrassingly, pronounced upon their Christian ideals and their inspirational value. Not to be outdone, Maurice Glasman, the moving spirit behind Blue Labour, declares himself a “passionate advocate” of Catholic social teaching.31

Conclusion: Jesus serves as a vehicle for just about every contending political viewpoint.

Missing Jesus

As well as being useful, Jesus is an unnatural and elusive figure too.

In the New Testament, he is, of course, presented as possessing supernatural powers. Note, Christian fundamentalists insist upon the inerrancy (absence of error) in the Bible. So for them Jesus would miraculously cure individual, presumably deserving, lepers, but not banish leprosy as a disease. However, even the most ‘progressive’ Church of England bishop pretends, or might actually believe, that Jesus worked wonders and roused the minds of millions.

Suffice to say, in early modern times, leading deists were busily pouring the cold water of doubt upon these claims and thereby laying the foundation stones of the materialist critique of religion. Benedict de Spinoza (1632-77) subtly mocked the idea that god acted in a way that “contravened nature’s universal laws” in service of religion, as recorded from the time of the patriarchs. Anyone who made such an assertion, reasoned the philosopher, would ipsofacto “be compelled to assert that god acted against his own nature - an evident absurdity”.32 In their turn, Charles Blount (1654-93) and Thomas Chubb (1699-1747) argued that the miracles incorporated into, or claimed by, paganism must be given the same status as Christian miracles. Henry St John, viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), also considered that miracles “are incredible because [they are] contrary to all experience, and to the established course of nature”.33 And, let us not forget, even during the enlightenment, such thinkers had to formulate their ideas with extreme care, if they were to avoid charges of atheism and the possibility of heavy fines, imprisonment or worse.

In this deist tradition, the historian, Edward Gibbon (1737-94) pointed out in his Decline and fall, surely with intended irony, that, though god had supposedly allowed Jesus and his disciples to regularly suspend “the laws of nature”, the sages and philosophers of Greece and Rome remained somewhat unconvinced. In fact they “rejected and derided” all such Christian claims of miracles.34 And the simple fact of the matter is that during his own time not one pagan or Jewish observer that we know of devoted even a single word to Jesus, let alone his supernatural cures.

The first non-Christian to mention the saviour’s name was Flavius Josephus, the pro-Roman eyewitness to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 73. He expresses indignation at the killing by a Sadducee high priest of “a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ”.35 Better still, in the chapter devoted to events during the reign of Tiberius, he included a passage which in Christian hands has become known as TestimoniumFlavianum:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was Christ. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of god had prophesised these countless other marvellous things about him. And the sect of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.36

The words of this self-justifying and sometimes highly untrustworthy aristocratic Jew, who was a near contemporary of Jesus, were much valued by Christians. From the 2nd century he was translated and widely read by them almost as an additional biblical testament. He splendidly corroborated the gospels. However, even in the 17th century critical voices were being raised. The enlightenment thinker, Voltaire (1694-1778), exasperatedly complained in his essay, ‘The sermon of the fifty’, that “the historian Josephus is falsified and made to speak of Jesus, though Josephus is too serious an historian to mention such a man”.37 Voltaire thought that reason alone mitigated against the fraud. If Josephus had merely written the words, “He was Christ”, that would have made him a Christian. And, needless to say, Josephus was no Christian. He was in his own peculiar way loyal to Judaism.

Nowadays, all worthwhile scholars agree that what we are dealing with is a Christian interpolation, not Josephus himself. Whether this was by accident or design, opinion is divided. Some hold that it was nothing but a clumsy forgery; others maintain that perhaps marginal notes by some pious 4th century monk were later integrated into the text by a copyist. Either way, says Mireille Hadas-Lebel, “No-one believes that Josephus’ hand wrote the words ‘if, indeed, one ought to call him a man’ or ‘He was the messiah’.”38 Interestingly, but hardly surprisingly, neither of these formulations appears in the recently discovered old Arabic version.

Two possible conclusions broadly present themselves from all this. The first is that Jesus simply did not exist. More than a few thinkers have come to this conclusion. In his Critique of the gospels and history of their origin former left Hegelian and eminent German Bible critic Bruno Bauer argued that Jesus was “constructed, for the most part, to meet the needs of Christian propaganda”; he was not an historical figure.39 In a famous Secular Society lecture in 1927 Bertrand Russell put forward a similar idea: “Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him.”40 John Allegro, a translator of the Dead Sea scrolls, argued that the whole Jesus story was a “fictional” cover for a secret drug-using cult.41 More recently, the idea of Jesus as a non-historical figure has been argued in the extensive writings of GA Wells.42 Amusingly, in this spirit, the militant atheist, Luigi Cascioli, took his old school friend, Enrico Righi, parish priest in the Italian town of Bagnoregio, to court in January 2006, complaining that for 2,000 years the Catholic church had perpetrated the fraud that Jesus was a real person. Father Righi had repeated this in his local parish bulletin. Cascioli filed a criminal lawsuit alleging that: “When somebody states a wrong fact, abusing the ignorance of people, and gains from that, then that is one of the gravest crimes.”43

I hold to a second conclusion. That there were so many saviours, or messiahs (ie, ‘christs’ in the Greek tongue), in 1st century Palestine, that, while others were given a passing mention, Jesus did not rate any specific treatment. Josephus rails against numerous “religious frauds and bandit chiefs” who joined forces in an attempt to win Jewish freedom from Rome. He also writes sneeringly of an “Egyptian false prophet”, who, posing as a seer, “collected about 30,000 dupes” and, after leading them around the desert, took them to the Mount of Olives; “and from there was ready to force entry into Jerusalem” so as to seize “supreme power”. Roman heavy infantry scattered the “mob” and killed or captured “most of his followers”.44

Given this combination of the absent messiah and an abundance of messiahs, is there any realistic possibility of knowing anything about the real Jesus and finding out what he really represented? Yes, there is, albeit within definite limits. My book Fantastic reality (2013) starts not with the myth of the persona, but, on the contrary, works from the outside and investigates indirectly, socially and historically, applies the method of deduction and inference and arrives at a credible, Marxist outline of Jesus and what he stood for, and who followed him during the turbulent final few years of his short life.

In short, I conclude that Jesus was a 1st century apocalyptic revolutionary and communist.

Notes

1. N Davies Europe: a history London 1997, p8.

2. The Sunday Telegraph April 26 2014.

3. J Spur, ‘The Church of England, comprehension and the Toleration Act of 1689’ English Historical Review October 1989.

4. Quoted in J Bellamy Foster Marx’s ecology: materialism and nature New York 2000, p224.

5. Financial Times December 20 2006.

6. The survey was conducted in 2002. See www.whychurch.org.uk/trends.php.

7. www.whychurch.org.uk/tearfund_church.pdf.

8. archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2009/03/is-church-of-england-still-tory-party.html.

9. L Trotsky Writings on Britain Vol 1, London 1974, p195.

10. W Bagehot The English constitution London 1974, p4.

11. M Hampson Last rites London 2006, p33.

12. www.cofe.anglican.org/about/history.

13. www.newsweek.com/cover-story-barack-obamas-christian-journey-92611.

14. www.wanttoknow.info/008/obama_religious_beliefs_views.

15. BH Belah Dædalus Vol 96, No1, pp1-21. See www.robertbellah.com/articles_5.htm.

16. K Philips American theocracy New York 2006, p237.

17. www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2011/acs/acsbr10-07.pdf.

18. See S Lambert Inventing the ‘great awakening’ Princeton 1999. Also EL Ayers, LL Gould, DM Oshinsky and JR Soderlund American passages Boston 2009, pp90ff. RY Hugh Christian America and the kingdom of god Illinois 2009, pp118ff.

19. www.christianpost.com/news/poll-church-attendance-increasing-in-us-45729.

20. An additional 47% merely think that the Bible is “inspired by the word of god.”. See www.gallup.com/poll/27682/onethird-americans-believe-bible-literally-true.aspx.

21. The Wall Street Journal December 24 1997.

22. R Bhaskar From east to west London 2000, p12.

23. David Hume (1711-76) presented several critical theories of religion, including the idea of a permanent oscillation, or flux and reflux, between polytheism and theism. See D Hume The natural history of religion part 8.

24. Search conducted December 14 2015.

25. The Times October 16 2006.

26. Christian Today November 22 2014.

27. Christian Today October 23 2014.

28. L Trotsky Writings on Britain Vol 1, London 1974, p19.

29. EP Thompson The making of the English working class Harmondsworth 1968, p428.

30. Quoted in www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REsocialism.htm.

31. Catholic Herald August 6 2015.

32. B Spinoza Theologico-political treatise New York 1951, p83.

33. See www.iep.utm.edu/b/bolingbr.htm.

34. E Gibbon The decline and fall of the Roman empire Ware 1998, pp275-76.

35. F Josephus Jewish antiquities xx,200.

36. Ibid xviii,63-64.

37. J McCabe (trans) Selected works of Voltaire London 1935, p111.

38. M Hadas-Lebel Flavius Josephus New York 1993, p227.

39. www.seop.leeds.ac.uk/archives/spr2005/entries/bauer.

40. See B Russell ‘Why I am not a Christian’ and other essays London 1957.

41. See JM Allegro The sacred mushroom and the cross London 1970.

42. See GA Wells Did Jesus exist? London 1975.

43. Quoted in The Guardian January 28 2006.

44. F Josephus TheJewishwar Harmondsworth 1981, p147.