When religionists get into nasty debates because one of them thinks he’s found such-and-such evidence proving this or that claim about their god/savior/holy man, and all the others think he’s full of it for one reason or another, atheists find themselves in the curious position of watching the whole scrap from the sidelines. It’s like being a parent, watching your kids arguing over topics that seem profoundly important to them, like who would win in a fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk, but couldn’t matter a hill of beans to you as you spend most of your time in the real world.
Most recently, there was the whole flapdoodle over The DaVinci Code, a bad novel that became a boring movie that nevertheless sold zillions and launched an entire cottage industry of Christian apologetics works dedicated solely to debunking the novel. That evangelists sincerely seemed to believe that the faith of millions could be blasted to smithereens by a book written and openly marketed as fiction (and thus at least more honest than the Bible in that regard) says more about the worth of faith than any criticism an atheist could make.
Now we have a similar media circus in the offing over a Discovery Channel documentary premiering this coming weekend, executive produced by no less a filmmaking luminary than the King of the World himself, James Cameron.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus purports to present physical evidence of not only the burial place of Jesus, but also Mary Magdelene, and the rest of a whole massive family the two of them are said to have sired as man and wife. That this claim will prove staggeringly provocative to Christians doesn’t begin to describe the full impact of it. If what the documentary claims is true (and I’m not for a nanosecond saying it is), then it would be proof that the Resurrection never occurred. And if the Resurrection never occurred, then Christianity is false. Full frickin’ stop. Two thousand years, untold billions of minds washed and lives lost for the biggest of all lies.
We atheists already know pretty confidently that Christianity is false, but this documentary casually intends to be marketed to a mass audience, in the interests of telling them to their faces that their whole lives are a lie, and claiming to offer “historical evidence” that this is so. On the face of it we atheists ought to find the whole thing amusing as all git-out, and to a degree it is. But it’s too bad that this documentary is going to be 100% full of crap, its “evidence” not worth the paper it’s printed on. Christians will rightly dismiss it as not proving a thing, then go on to get the wrong idea that their traditional beliefs have been given an intellectual shot in the arm. Lost in the shuffle will be any room for legitimate discussions of why Christianity ought to be rejected, buried under the media-feuled “controversy” over “evidence” that isn’t really evidence claiming to disprove something that the use of common sense alone ought to be sufficient to reject as stuff and nonsense.
Let me say that, as a filmmaker currently at work on a documentary of my own, the idea of slapping together a doc like this with such obviously slapdash and credulous research work offends my professional sensibilities almost as much as being told Jesus not only didn’t get crucified but repeatedly bred with Mary Mag would offend a Christian. Director Simcha Jacobovici seems to have gone about the project the same way creationists think you do science: start with the predetermined answer, grab whetever evidence looks supportive of it, and rush the results to the public without any of that pesky peer review.
After all, doesn’t it just seem awfully conveeeenient that the entire family crypt of the guy everyone believes died and rose from the dead because he was actually, you know, God just happened to be found beneath a Jerusalem apartment complex? With everybody’s names on all of the ossuaries so you’ll know who was packed where?
Cameron himself, whom many folks were starting to think was a guy who had some respect for science after his recent deep sea documentaries and oft-stated desire to shoot 3D IMAX footage on location in orbit, sounds no less dippy and doe-eyed than Oprah when he discusses his attraction to Jacobovici’s project: “I’m not a biblical scholar, but it seemed pretty darned compelling.” Replace “biblical scholar” with “biologist,” and “it” with “intelligent design,” and you’ll see the intellectual laziness of Cameron in all its embarrassing glory.
Not exactly redounding to Jacobovici’s credibility is the fact that he was taken in by that infamous recent forgery, the James ossuary. If he was that easily gulled then, what’s stopping him now? Especially as he’s clearly a man on a mission to be the world’s first to present proof of any physical remains of Jesus. And rack up huge ratings while doing it, of course.
Devastating fiskings of the claims the documentary makes aren’t hard to turn up. And over the period the doc airs, we’ll see Christian sites getting into the ring with their objections too. And once again, we atheists will be sitting here on the sidelines, shaking our heads and wondering why the kids get so worked up arguing over superheroes and fantasy, when they could be doing their homework, devoting their time to knowledge and learning — something real.