Brian: "I am NOT the Messiah!"
Arthur: "I say you are Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few."
In the first part of this two part blog, I examined why we should question the authenticity of the supposed lineage of Jesus. In this part I will examine why we should question the validity of the account of Jesus' life.
The Life of Brian
In 1979 the British comedy troupe known as Monty Python released a feature film called Life of Brian. I didn't watch it until 1996 when I was 16. I had stumbled upon reruns of the old Monty Python's Flying Circus television show and many of the skits had me in stitches. These guys just seemed to have a real knack for not only portraying absurdities, but for pointing out the absurdities in our everyday real lives. But I was still wearing the label of Christian when I first saw this movie, and like many I got a bit offended by it.
For those who haven't seen it, the film chronicles a short span of the life of an unwitting messiah named Brian. Through some comic mishaps, Brian is mistaken for the messiah and gains followers. He is eventually crucified and the tale ends with an oddly upbeat musical number. When I first saw this, and for most Christians who've ever watched the movie, it seemed to be a mockery of the life of Jesus.
It was another 3 years before I watched this film again. I had abandoned Christianity for agnostic spiritualism and had realized how silly all those bible tales were. So when I watched the movie again, without any Christian sensibilities to offend, I saw a different idea being presented. What I saw watching it the second time was that the movie wasn't a jab at Jesus at all. In reality, this film is a reducto ad absurdum argument against belief altogether. It is in essence the idea of the rumor mill all hopped up on speed.
The Rumor Mill
Spectator I: "I think it was "Blessed are the cheesemakers"."
Mrs. Gregory: "Aha, what's so special about the cheesemakers?"
Gregory: "Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products."
The thing this movie really looks at isn't Brian's life at all. Brian is just a bit of a dimwit who puts himself in bad situations and this is something that happens every day. The real butt of the joke are all the people who follow Brian. What starts as a few people who hear him say a few words simply to try and not get noticed by Roman guards, soon turns into a horde. Literally overnight, Brian goes from a nobody to having a massive following.
In the real world this usually takes a lot longer, which is why I say this is a reducto ad absurdum argument. But the principle is the same. Two people hear something and they tell two more and then those 4 tell two more and suddenly you find yourself saying, "Boy. That escalated quickly!" This is how the rumor mill works. It feeds off a single idea put into an ear and then spread by word of mouth. The story grows and changes. Embellishments are made and suddenly a guy who gave a fish to a homeless dude is feeding thousands on a loaf of bread and a few fish.
Eyewitness testimony is only kind of accurate. But when you get up to third and fourth hand accounts, you just can't trust the story at all. By that point it's become a jumbled mess. Therein lies the heart of the problem. We don't even have a verifiable firsthand account of these events. And it isn't just Jesus' life we are lacking verification of, it's nearly the whole of characters throughout the entire bible. From Adam to Abraham to Moses, we have not one shred of evidence outside of word of mouth given through oral transmission across hundreds of generations that these people even existed.... Much less that they did these crazy miraculously impossible things with the help of a sky wizard.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Brian: "I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!"
Girl: "Only the true Messiah denies His divinity."
Brian: "What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!"
Followers: "He is! He is the Messiah!"
Brian: "Now, fuck off!"
Arthur: "How shall we fuck off, O Lord?"
We humans have a tendency to try and look for the best in things. We have an aversion to the ugly and sad things in life. Because of this we are often quick to accept that which is calming to our minds. We are often more willing to accept a comforting lie than a harsh truth. Worse still, our aversion to the harshness of reality also causes us to have a tendency to hold on to those comforting delusions even when everything we see seems to be to the contrary.
Brian, in a moment of frustration, claims to be the messiah and one would think this only makes things worse. But in truth there is likely nothing that he could said or done to make this worse. These followers were intent on believing and they would believe no matter what. And that is the true absurdity of the whole matter. We can watch this film and see just how quickly things can get confused and misrepresented and how we want so badly to believe in something that we'll damn near believe in anything.
We also see here how badly we want to be led and how dead set we are to be given answers rather than find them for ourselves. We often would simply rather believe than know. Even if we are wrong, we will cling to our beliefs stubbornly because they comfort our minds. But when we do this, we only work to make ourselves the butt of a big joke.
Monty Python - Always Look on the Bright Side of …: