How Best to Bury Christianity? by Robert Conner

Here are some brute facts. There are twenty-seven documents in the New Testament. Twenty-one are letters, but only seven are generally regarded as authentic—the rest are either forgeries or misattributed. The four gospels are anonymous—in no case does the writer name himself. There is near universal agreement that the gospels were written decades to a half-century or more after the events they purport to relate and almost certainly contain no direct eyewitness testimony. No original of any New Testament document is known to exist. Although the exact dating of the earliest running-text copies of the gospels still extant is a matter of dispute, they date from no earlier than 150 to 200 years after the life of Jesus.
The word count of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graecae, the most used scholar's edition of the Greek New Testament, is a bit over 138,000 words, about the length of a fantasy novel. Christians have been fighting over the meaning of these words for the better part of two millennia—until a few hundred years ago, they often tortured and murdered one another over their differences of opinion. By some estimates there are 40,000 Christian sects worldwide, nearly all having split after a squabble about the meaning of the words of Christianity's founding documents. After centuries of study, scholars are still divided over how much, if any, of the gospel stories is history and over what Jesus the Teacher supposedly taught.
Literally tens of thousands of books have been published that claim to explain the New Testament. By some estimates more than 5000 books on Christianity are released each year in the United States alone. Besides this avalanche, there are currently over twenty peer-reviewed print journals of religion in English as well, most published quarterly, several of which focus exclusively on early Christianity. In short, it is safe to say that the text of the New Testament is the most thoroughly debated set of documents in world history. The text of the New Testament has been subjected, interminably, generation after generation, to word-by-word analysis without the emergence of a consensus of opinion regarding the accuracy, the historicity, or in some cases even the meaning of nearly any of it.
Since 2006 I have extensively researched and published five books on various aspects of early Christianity. For whatever it's worth, here's my considered opinion: Christianity is ultimately folklore, loosely based on Hebrew folklore, which was based in turn on older strata of Middle Eastern folklore. Conclusion: it's folklore, and not just around the edges. Folklore all the way down. The scholarly disquisitions, Ph.D. dissertations, and learned books, burdened with footnotes and hundreds of references, are, in the final analysis, about belief based on folklore, fantastic stories about a pregnant virgin, heavenly visions, casting out devils, magically multiplying loaves and fishes, walking on water, a Son of Man coming on the clouds, and similar tripe, all stuff that would have been dismissed out of hand long ago if not for the fact that some two billion humans claim to (more or less) believe in (some version of) Christianity. Folklore. Stop for a moment and let the implications of that thought sink in.
So how is Christianity still a thing? Your average Joe Pewsitter, influenced by centuries of apologetics, probably still believes Christianity is the world's numerically largest religion due to its compelling story of salvation. The New Testament itself offers a different explanation. According to the letters of Paul, and Mark, the earliest gospel, the growth of the early Christian movement was attributable to "signs and wonders," miracles that astonished the mostly illiterate population of Palestine and the wider Greco-Roman world. "We've never seen anything like this!" the villagers exclaim when a cripple picks up his cot and walks. (Mark 2:12) The gospels are in remarkable agreement about the matter: "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe." (John 4:48) That miracle mongering pushed Christianity over the finish line during its initial phase is further supported by the apologist Origin, the historian Eusebius, and the observations of Christianity's Roman critics. Christianity spread like magic across the ancient world because, well, magic.
So here's another conclusion: Christianity's clothes have no Emperor. There is no there there and there never was. Neither Jesus nor his disciples were any kind of "intellectuals" and like most people of the era from humble backgrounds, Jesus and his followers knew almost nothing factual about any feature of the natural world. Christian intellectualism, Christian philosophy, Christian apologetics, and whatever else passes for Christian thinking was, and will ever be, concocted ex post facto, plagiarized from smarter, better educated people, conjured literally out of nothing. Debates with Christians about their philosophy, cosmology, or ethics are, in the final analysis, a fight about the shadow of an ass. All Christianity is reducible to presuppositionalism, belief in belief. Any claim that evidence, probability, or consilience enter into debates with Christian believers is pure pretense on their part.
As most who are conversant with history are aware, Europeans intent on conquest and colonization spread Christianity across the Americas, Africa, and Asia. As the conquistadors of of various nationalities descended on what would become the Third World, intent on monetizing primary resources and exploiting or exterminating indigenous populations, they brought Christianity with them along with smallpox and measles. Like Islam, Christianity spread globally by conquest and maintained itself ever afterward by suborning the apparatus of the state and by controlling the educational system.
Although I obviously support a robust refutation of Christianity's idiot claims, I suspect it's really dying slowly from a combination of sheer irrelevancy and manifest absurdity. Let's take the recent case of Ireland, once a Catholic bastion, the "isle of saints and scholars." In 1995 the country amended its constitution to permit divorce, in 2015 it became the first country to approve same-sex marriage by national referendum, and in 2018, legalized abortion and again amended its constitution to remove a Church-inspired law against blasphemy. This seismic shift appears to have come about in response to the exposure of decades of cruelty, abuse, and criminal behavior of Catholic clerics. For those of us who would like nothing better than to see Jesus, Mary, and Jospeh gathering dust on the shelf alongside Zeus, Hera, and Neptune, the case of Ireland may point to a way forward: emphasize what Christian fundamentalists do and say, and spend less time arguing with them about the baseless arcana of their belief. In short, expose their criminality, cruelty, stupidity, and hypocrisy, ridicule the ridiculous, enjoy a hearty laugh at the laughable, and in so doing pry the rotting fingers of Christianity off the throat of society.
--Robert Conner.