What could be more encouraging for the human race than for us “religious animals,” as American author Mark Twain called us, to question why we believe what we believe! Some would suggest that religious beliefs are insignificant and must be private. But, when a religion teaches that God hates those who do not believe “thus and so,” or when a religion seeks to make criminals of those who believe differently by legislating its doctrine into civil law, we humans must demand a dramatic change. It's time for dialogue in courts of law if necessary, utilizing laws of evidence, reason, and logic about the basis and value of religion. Enter Luigi Cascioli!
According to a story posted on January 4 by Reuters, an Italian court is being asked to rule whether the Roman Catholic Church is breaking the law. The first criminal charge is Abuso di Credulita Popolare (Abuse of Popular Credulity) meant to protect people against being swindled or conned. The second criminal charge is Sostituzione di Persona, or false impersonation.
The case pits two elderly men, from the same Italian town who went to the same seminary in their teenage years, against each other. The plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, after years of independent study became a religious skeptic and atheist. The defendant Enrico Righi is a Roman Catholic priest and writer for a local parish newspaper, but by extension the lawsuit includes the Roman Catholic Church.
Cascioli alleges the Roman Catholic Church violates Italian penal code. The charges are that: 1) the Church fabricated Jesus Christ based upon the story of John of Gamala, a 1st century Jew who fought against the Roman army; 2) Righi and the Church are the “bearer of obscurantism and regression”; 3) the Jesus of Nazareth story is purposely designed to swindle the people; and 4) the Pope’s claim of representing Jesus Christ is “false impersonation.”
Righi claims there is substantial evidence to support the credibility of the historical Jesus including historical texts.
Cascioli claims his book, The Fable of Christ, proves Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He admits that the odds are against him, especially in Roman Catholic Italy. He jokes, “It will take a miracle to win.”
The typical Christian response to this case is that Cascioli’s charges are ridiculous! How could a religion some 2,000 years old with millions of believers be false? Yet, Christians make the same charge about the Hindu religion which is over 2,500 years old and has many more believers then Christianity. Therefore, the superficial Christian objection has no weight and, if anything, lends credence to Cascioli’s charge. Neither age nor number of adherents validates any religion.
How Cascioli will prove Jesus did not exist will be a challenge since neither he nor any one he knows was in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, Cascioli will probably make very thought provoking arguments that are unknown to most Christians. Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle site at provides a thorough substantive discussion of these issues.
1) Paul’s epistles (written 55–60 CE) were the first writings about Jesus. Amazingly, Paul makes virtually no mention of the biography of Jesus such as his virgin birth, where he was born, his parents, his teachings, his miracles, his healings, his demonic deliverances, his trial, or Calvary. This suggests that Paul’s Jesus was a savior of the Gnostic Christians, a spiritual Jesus of the heavenly realm who never physically lived on this earth much like the savior-gods of Egypt, Greece, and Paul’s hometown of Tarsus which worshipped Mithra, a mythical savior-god of the Romans.
2) The gospels (written 70–100 CE) put meat on the bones of this spiritual Jesus. Roman Emperor Constantine required a literal Jesus who passed his authority on to a Roman Church authority. The Jesus of the gospels evolved from 50+ written gospels. Four were chosen in the early 4th Century. Mark, written first, is very brief and does not refer to the resurrection. Matthew and Luke copy Mark, but make addendums which contradict each other, such as Jesus’ genealogy and the resurrection account. John, strongly anti-Semitic, describes a Jesus virtually unknown to the preceding gospels. The gospels, though written as eyewitness accounts are at best, word-of-mouth legend. Their authorship is anonymous. It was not until 367 CE (three centuries after Paul) before any Christian record of all 27 books of the New Testament existed.
3) Considering all the miraculous events of Jesus’ ministry followed by the crucifixion, the eclipse, the earthquake, the resurrection of dead Jewish saints, Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ appearance to believers, Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Jesus should have achieved celebrity status as the gospels claims. Yet, not one single credible mention is made of a Jesus or Jewish Messiah in the surviving writings of thirty plus Greek, Jewish, or Roman historians, theologians, philosophers, playwrights, or moralists.
4) Most significantly, Philo of Alexandria (30 BCE–50 CE), a Hellenized Jewish theologian is a contemporary of Jesus’ alleged time-span. Philo wrote extensively about the expected Jewish Messiah. He described this Messiah as the Logos (ala John 1). Philo taught that God was a Trinity, and that Gentiles who believe would go to heaven and Jews that don't believe would go to hell. Space does not permit all the amazing parallels between Philo and John’s gospel written generations later. Yet, Philo, who was intimately acquainted with Jerusalem, never once mentions a Jesus of Nazareth or the appearing of the Messiah. His silence is deafening!
5) Justus of Tiberius, another 1st Century writer living in Palestine makes no mention of any Jesus.
6) Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, written 93 CE contains an alleged “Jesus Testimony” which apologists desperately parade as evidence of Jesus. What the Christian apologists fail to answer is why immediately following this testimony Josephus would write, “About the same time another sad calamity put the Jews in disorder.” The reason for this statement is because preceding the Jesus testimony, Josephus was writing about Romans killing Jews. The Jesus testimony was fraudulently inserted out of context many years after Josephus’ writing. The fact that no church father through the 4th Century ever referred to this alleged Jesus Testimony confirms Josephus never wrote it in the original Antiquities of the Jews.
7) Tacitus’ reference has the same weakness. Though allegedly written in 115 CE, no church father or historian ever referred to this alleged reference to Pilate and Jesus’ crucifixion until the 15th Century. Again, another later fraudulent insertion.
Luigi Cascioli will declare that the truth is Christianity has no more unbiased historical evidence confirming the historicity of Jesus than the Greeks had for Zeus or the Egyptians had for Horus or the Hindus have for Vishnu. For those who want to believe in the Romanized form of Christianity as edited, re-edited, and re-edited ad infinitum from no known surviving original Greek manuscripts, a quote by Eusebius, Constantine’s chief Christian scholar is most revealing: “it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.” (The Preparation of the Gospel, volume 2, page 619) Eusebius is considered the Father of Church History.
Bravo brother Luigi, you have the audacity to challenge humanity’s thinking. We reject Saint Augustine’s authoritarian dictate: “It is not permissible to say or even think that any of the evangelists might have lied … we must believe that contradictory statements are actually in agreement, even if we do not see how this can be true.” May Luigi Cascioli’s efforts challenge men and women to consider the roots of all religion and its impact on humanity for good or for ill, especially if not based on credible historical evidence. As Luigi quipped, “It will take a miracle.” Do you suppose Mary will intervene?
Other Articles by Lee Salisbury
Robin Hood Deemed More Likely as Historical Figures than Moses or Jesus