Doing some research for a Friday article on the intellectual alliance between atheists and freemasons, I ran across an old theme: freemason Christopher Knight, in his fallacy-laden scribble called The Hiram Key, recites the now tired mantra that Christianity is nothing but a rehash of the ancient pagan mystery religions. He dramatically overstates the case:
A fundamental difficulty for the Church lies in the fact that the central Christian myth predates Jesus Christ. The outline of Christ’s story is as ancient as man, from the virgin birth in humble surroundings to the sacrificial death that saved his people—it has all been written down, time after time, for religious figureheads in many cultures. This is not a case of similarities; we’re talking about total interchangeability (Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key, 44, my emphasis).
Knight and Lomas’ rant here has its own “fundamental difficulty”: there is not a shred of manuscript or artifactual evidence anywhere to support this claim. We know nothing of the mystery religions outside of folklore and a few artifacts—none of their original documentation or copies thereof have survived. Nothing in what we do have shows anything close to a genuine parallel to the Gospels. All we get are inflated claims by enthusiasts who have read the inflated claims of fanatics who are distinguished by nothing but their imaginations. Barely anything close to a resemblance exists; for Knight and Lomas to claim “total interchangeability” attests to their cavalier scholarship and a loose relationship with the truth.
Those familiar with my work in this area know I have thoroughly refuted the “mystery religion Jesus” claims in my DVD series Defeating the Mythstorians, and in my books Manifested in the Flesh and Zeitgeist—the Movie: Exposed.
Reading through The Hiram Key quickly I noticed one more fallacy worth mentioning for its denseness. The authors claim, “It is interesting to note that the symbol of the organization [the Church] was originally a fish and not a cross, indicating that the execution of Jesus was not so important at the time” (The Hiram Key, 74).
Those versed in detecting fallacies will recognize here the “argument from silence,” or “appeal to ignorance” (See my Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, 264–266). Even if (and it’s a big if) the cross was absent from early Christian symbolism, this would say absolutely nothing about the importance of the crucifixion to the early Christians. They may feared creating an idol of it, or they may have considered it with such contempt (as a symbol of pagan torture or God’s wrath) that it did not appeal to them—the Lord’s Supper sufficing to commemorate the Lord’s death. Who knows? All we would know in that case is we don’t have any evidence. The old saying applies, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and it is certainly not proof of unimportance of any given belief.
This appeal to silence is akin to a child covering his ears a yelling “la la la la! I didn’t hear you so you don’t exist.” The mystery-Jesus proponents love to argue from ignorance in this way—their whole argument is based on it.
The only irony here is that Knight and Lomas wrote their nonsense way back in 1996—long before the movie mythicists like The God Who Wasn’t There and Zeitgeist—the Movie made it popular.