Monday, July 03, 2006

Jesus Debunker Fined in Italian Court

WorldNet Daily reports on the resolution of a previously-blogged court case.

An atheist who gained worldwide fame when he sued an Italian priest, claiming Jesus Christ never actually existed, has been fined by an appeals court in Rome.

But Luigi Cascioli vows never to pay the $1,900 judgment against him.

The fact he was given the maximum fine is "an abuse of authority against every right of intellectual expression and liberty," the 73-year-old Cascioli said. "I refuse to pay."

In February, Judge Gaetano Mautone threw out a petition by Cascioli who wanted his childhood friend, Rev. Enrico Righi, to stand trial for asserting Jesus Christ was a real person.

Cascioli, a retired agronomist, contended Righi violated a law that forbids deceiving the public. The atheist said the priest, who had publicly criticized him for casting doubt on the truth of the gospels, had no evidence Jesus ever existed.

[…] Rev. Righi said the existence of Jesus is "unmistakable" due to a wealth of both pagan and Christian evidence pointing to his reality.

"Cascioli maintains that Christ never existed. If he doesn't see the sun at midday, he can't denounce me just because I do. He should denounce all believers!" Righi told the London Times.

Among his examples are the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, thought by scholars to be the most important non-Christian source on the issue. One of his passages of "Jewish Antiquities," a work completed in A.D. 93, mentions the execution in A.D. 62 of "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name."

Okay, let me get this straight. Fr. Righi is guilty of “deceiving the public” by claiming Jesus existed when Sr. Cascioli claims He didn’t. But since Jesus did (does, if you’re a believer, BTW) exist, Sr. Cascioli’s claim that He didn’t is “intellectual expression.” With an ability to embrace double standards of that magnitude, perhaps Sr. Cascioli should migrate to America and become Episcopalian.

Interestingly, Fr. Righi used the undisputed reference to Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 and not the other, longer, but disputed passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared. (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3)

The consensus opinion among historians is that this passage is real, but has been “enhanced” by later Christian scribes. Why give Cascioli any potential credibility when you have plenty of undisputed material with which to refute him? Good move.

It’s one thing to argue the validity of Christian theology; it’s quite another to make unsupported allegations and spread wild conspiracy theories. The latter, however, seems to be the current vogue – from the DaVinci Code to “BusHitler and Halliburton” to the Illuminati and the Saucer People. One wonders how long a civilization so enmired in delusion can survive.