“Batman & Jesus” Documentary

Batman & Jesus is an almost two-hour documentary that tries to draw parallels between stories about Batman and stories about Jesus to make a case for the Christ myth theory–the claim that Jesus was not a historical figure.

The video cuts back and forth between straightforward defenses of the Christ myth theory from Robert M. Price, Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald, and others that are interspersed with a discussion among “self-proclaimed Batman experts” about the Batman canon.

Just as Batman’s mythos over the years have resulted in numerous contradictory stories, movies, and video games, so have what were considered canonical stories of Jesus’ life both changed and been re-interpreted over millennia.

The leap the film wants viewers to make is obvious– just like Batman, the earliest stories about Jesus were nothing more than “literature based on myths,” as Price puts it mid-way through the documentary. The central claim seems to be that stories about Jesus consisted of rewritten and updated versions of older stories from Jewish, Roman, and other traditions. This is supposedly similar to the way that someone like Frank Miller took existing Batman mythology and updated it into the much grittier and violent “The Dark Knight Returns” that better reflected and appealed to the mid-1980s comic book audience

The Christ myth theory is a fringe theory, and “Batman & Jesus” gives some insight into why.

The documentary gives a lot of space to debunking contemporary views of Jesus, and implies that if these contemporary views are wrong then Jesus must be ahistorical.

For example, since the New Testament says little about Jesus’ physical appearance believers have often depicted him as appearing like them. But the fact that many contemporary churches where I reside depict Jesus with blonde hair and blue eyes does not make Jesus ahistorical, any more than John Wayne’s ridiculous portrayal of Genghis Khan in The Conqueror renders Genghis Khan ahistorical.

Similarly, Fitzgerald repeats his claim that the reason the Christ myth theory is not more widely accepted is because most Biblical scholars are Christians. This is a common ad hominem that Fitzgerald uses, and isn’t helpful even if taken at face value since many prominent Biblical scholars are not Christians.

As a piece of film, the structure is certainly interesting and creative, but the thesis is wholly unconvincing.

The Descent of the Modernists Cartoon by E. J. Pace

This cartoon by E. J. Pace was published in 1922 as part of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy that swept Protestant denominations in the United States. According to Wikipedia,

At issue were foundational disputes about the role of Christianity, the authority of Scripture, the death, Resurrection, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Two broad factions within Protestantism emerged: Fundamentalists, who insisted upon the timeless validity of each doctrine of Christian Orthodoxy, and Modernists, who advocated a conscious adaptation of religion in response to the new scientific discoveries and the moral pressures of the age.

Descent of the Modernists by E. J. Pace
Descent of the Modernists by E. J. Pace

Moral & statistical chart showing the geographical distribution of man according to religious belief : with the principal Protestant mission stations in the middle of the 19th century

Alexander Johnston created this map showing distributions of religions around the world that was published by Willi Blackwood & Sons in May 1854. (Via Princeton University Library).

Moral & statistical chart showing the geographical distribution of man according to religious belief : with the principal Protestant mission stations in the middle of the 19th century
Moral & statistical chart showing the geographical distribution of man according to religious belief : with the principal Protestant mission stations in the middle of the 19th century

Tehran Bans Dog Walking

Religious fundamentalism just has to ruin everything. From the BBC,

Iran’s capital city has banned the public from walking pet dogs, as part of a long-standing official campaign to discourage dog-ownership.

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said “we have received permission from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks”.

. . .

Dogs are viewed as “unclean” by Iran’s Islamic authorities, who also regard dog-ownership as a symbol of the pro-Western policy of the ousted monarchy.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the media from publishing any advertisements for pets or pet-related products back in 2010, and there was a push in parliament five years ago to fine and even flog dog-walkers.

Scientology’s R2-45

On the one hand, it is bizarre that Scientology is taken seriously by a significant number of human beings. On the other hand, that’s true of every other religion. According to Wikipedia,

R2-45 is the name given by L. Ron Hubbard to what he described as “an enormously effective process for exteriorization but its use is frowned upon by this society at this time”. In Scientology doctrine, exteriorization refers to the separation of the thetan (soul) from the body, a phenomenon which Hubbard asserts can be achieved through Scientology auditing. R2-45 is said to be a process by which exteriorization could be produced by shooting a person in the head with a .45 pistol. This literal meaning is acknowledged by the Church of Scientology, although they deny that it is meant seriously.

. . .

Some critics of Scientology and ex-Scientologists have alleged that R2-45 was invoked by Hubbard to authorize the killing of individuals regarded as antagonistic to the Church of Scientology. There is no evidence that it has ever been put into practice and Hubbard did not explicitly define the meaning of R2-45 in writing. Representatives of the Church of Scientology have said that Hubbard’s description of R2-45 “was coined as a joke — [it] is not authorized, and I am afraid [it] occasionally ‘misfires’ as a joke when taken literally”.

On two separate occasions orders to use R2-45 on specific individuals were published in a prominent Scientology magazine. On March 6, 1968, Hubbard issued an internal memo titled “Racket Exposed”, in which he denounced twelve people as “Enemies of mankind, the planet and all life”, and ordered that “Any Sea Org member contacting any of them is to use Auditing Process R2-45.” The memo was subsequently reproduced, with another name added, in the Church of Scientology’s internal journal, The Auditor. Another four people were named in a second R2-45 order published in The Auditor later in 1968. Stephen A. Kent of the University of Alberta characterises such orders as demonstrations of “the manifestation of Hubbard’s malignant narcissism and, more specifically, his narcissistic rage.” The Santa Rosa News-Herald reported in 1982 that “attorneys have uncovered evidence to suggest that between 1975 and 1977, during the FBI’s investigation of the cult, meetings of Scientology executives were held in which there were discussions relative to ‘auditing’ high-level FBI members with auditing process R2-45.”