John Allegro made headlines (and a fool of himself) speculating that “Jesus” was a code word for a sacred mushroom the early Christians got high on. John Rush in Failed God (FG) takes it a step further, arguing that all three major monotheistic faiths – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – all got their starts as mushroom cults.
At over 400 pages, and with Rush having an argument style that commends itself mainly to be read to the tune of falling bricks, we won’t be looking at the entirety of FG; it will be enough to review the 150 or so pages on Christianity.
Well, no, not even 30 pages. Did I say arguments? It was hard to find any, or anything in the way of documented fact, anywhere in those 30 pages. Breezy claims, such as that John the Baptist was a mushroom inhaler, that Christianity is similar to Buddhism, are made without a scent of an explanation or evidence. Footnotes and documentation: Not necessary, though the most critical points might be supported now and then with the averments of others equally without credibility. (Eg., Bennett and McQueen, who wrote a book declaring that the Hebrew anointing oil included cannabis or perhaps other mind-altering substances as ingredients, are designated as “scholars,” when they are not.)
There’s the usual gag about how Paul corrupted Jesus’ teachings, under the premise that Paul filled it with all sorts of rules and regulations that Jesus dispensed with as an advocate of “personal responsibility”. There’s an oddity here though inasmuch as exactly the opposite s argued by various “Paul haters” like Doug del Tondo: He says, no, Jesus taught rules, and Paul advocated libertine behavior. The solution to this paradox is that both sides are wrong: Both Paul and Jesus still had use for rules AND for personal responsibility – which makes sense, as they tend to appear together in the moral record.
But most of what is in here amounts to simple assertion without documentation. Jesus is declared likely a non-existent person (“absolutely no historical visibility”) constructed by power-seekers to fool the masses, but if you expect Rush to deal with Annals 15.44, for example, be prepared to be sadly mistaken. (Maybe Tacitus was on reefer, too.) He deals with Josephus, merely resurrecting all the standard canards, and quoting such reliable Josephan scholars as C. Dennis McKinsey (!) to settle on the conclusion that the whole thing is a forgery. Tacitus? Not even mentioned.
Paul: He was put on a drug trip by Gnostics, maybe, while on the road to Damascus – maybe. Why believe this? There’s no apparent reason other than that Rush can’t figure it out otherwise. He certainly didn’t do much serious research to get answers that might make sense otherwise. He remarks upon Paul’s letters as strange products (“rantings-in-ink”) but there’s not much sign that Rush has bothered to crack open any sort of scholarly tome on any of them, much less acquainted himself with the sort of Greco-Roman rhetorical forms which informed the format of Paul’s letters. (But maybe Quintiallian and Cicero were on ‘shrooms too.) Complex issues like the dates of the Gospels are settled with a claim that those who advcoate early dates are “biased intellectuals…who want to believe in the existence of Jesus and his mythic storyline.” For Rush, all you need to settle an argument, apparently, is to select from a roster that includes the following: 1) You’re biased. 2) You’re deluded. 3) You’re on drugs.
30 pages of this nonsense was enough – Rush has all the appearance of the one being on mind-altering substances; it is the only thing that explains why he believes he has offered anything like a sustained, credible argument here. And I’ll add that the folks at infidels.org must have been smoking something, too, to put this lunacy in their online bookstore.
10/4/11: It was brought to my attention that Rush is an academic fraud. See http://www.quackwatch.com/04ConsumerEducation/News/cpu.html