Questions about "The God Who Wasn't There"

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Questions about "The God Who Wasn't There"

Hi all,

I am a strong atheist, and am not in anyway a theist. I have a few questions about the film, The God Who Wasn't There.

First, I think this was done well, and it's a good tool to help bring atheist out of the closet, and to help agnostics make up their minds. Most of the movie wasn't new, as we've all has similar personal experiences, and especially similar experiences with theists.

However, the movie did introduce two new concepts, here they are:

1. Flemming says, "Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea! And he's the link between the time frame given the life of Jesus and the appearance of the gospel account of that life."

2. "If Jesus had been on earth, he would not even have been a priest." -Hebrews 8:4

I'll address number 2 first. In my Bibles (KJV and NIV), number two is worded differently, and the way it's written the implied meaning seems to be "if he were on earth right now." I assume that Flemming had a newer translation, and I was just wondering what the source was.

As for the first point, I brought it up in a conversation with a theist friend, and he quickly pointed out a Bible and pointed to areas attributed to Paul where it's clearly referencing. Yes, he's a motherfucker. So, my second question is, what's the basis of Flemming's statement?

This may sound like criticism, but it's not. I am just trying to gain a better understanding, which, after all, is what led me away from theism in the first place.

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus


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2. No two languages have a

2. No two languages have a 1:1 translation.  Due to this there's always some influence on the translated text from the person or people who did the translating.  It is up to them to take the words in the original language and rephrase it in the way they feel makes the most sense and gets the correct message across in the target language.  Now add gospel or fundy coloured glasses to this and you get "if he were on earth right now" as that is the understanding of that particular line to the person doing the translation (provided of course they're not being dishonest).  The translation used by Harris is a more direct translation, a closer correlation between the original language (greek/hebrew depending on the text in question) and the target language (english) if it were being translated by someone who wasn't already indoctrinated and affected by the bias of the religion.

There's many differing claims out there as to which version of the bible is the most accurate.  Those who prefer the lovey dovey story generally say the NIV is.  Scholars and those without gospel coloured glasses generally say it's the worst if I'm not mistaken.

1. It would probably help us if you could let us know which parts of Paul he pointed out.  There's a difference between what theists attribute to Paul and what scholars attribute to Paul, keep that in mind.  I should know which those sections are by now I've read it often enough, but alas I don't.  If you're willing to do some reading on the subject look for "Deconstructing Jesus" by Robert M Price and "The Jesus Puzzle" by Earl Doherty.  Both great books.

I'm sure there will be a few others who will jump in here and answer your questions much better than I have.  Just be patient. Smiling In the meantime, if this type of discussion you have had with your friend isn't out of place it might be an idea to peruse the essays and blog posts done on this site by Rook Hawkins.

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thingy wrote:2. No two

thingy wrote:

2. No two languages have a 1:1 translation.  Due to this there's always some influence on the translated text from the person or people who did the translating.  It is up to them to take the words in the original language and rephrase it in the way they feel makes the most sense and gets the correct message across in the target language.  Now add gospel or fundy coloured glasses to this and you get "if he were on earth right now" as that is the understanding of that particular line to the person doing the translation (provided of course they're not being dishonest).  The translation used by Harris is a more direct translation, a closer correlation between the original language (greek/hebrew depending on the text in question) and the target language (english) if it were being translated by someone who wasn't already indoctrinated and affected by the bias of the religion.

There's many differing claims out there as to which version of the bible is the most accurate.  Those who prefer the lovey dovey story generally say the NIV is.  Scholars and those without gospel coloured glasses generally say it's the worst if I'm not mistaken.

I agree with this, as it's my general assumption, but I'd really like to know if there's a source that I can check.

 

1. It would probably help us if you could let us know which parts of Paul he pointed out.  There's a difference between what theists attribute to Paul and what scholars attribute to Paul, keep that in mind.  I should know which those sections are by now I've read it often enough, but alas I don't.

1 Corinthians – 15:3-7

Galatians 1:13-24

Galatians 2:9-10

Colossians 4:14

2 Timothy 4:11

Philemon 1:24

Basically, any information would be helpgful. I really haven't devoted my time to studying Christian mythology in a long time, as I find it takes away from more important things.

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus


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http://www.biblegateway.com/

Zadoc wrote:

thingy wrote:

2. No two languages have a 1:1 translation.  Due to this there's always some influence on the translated text from the person or people who did the translating.  It is up to them to take the words in the original language and rephrase it in the way they feel makes the most sense and gets the correct message across in the target language.  Now add gospel or fundy coloured glasses to this and you get "if he were on earth right now" as that is the understanding of that particular line to the person doing the translation (provided of course they're not being dishonest).  The translation used by Harris is a more direct translation, a closer correlation between the original language (greek/hebrew depending on the text in question) and the target language (english) if it were being translated by someone who wasn't already indoctrinated and affected by the bias of the religion.

There's many differing claims out there as to which version of the bible is the most accurate.  Those who prefer the lovey dovey story generally say the NIV is.  Scholars and those without gospel coloured glasses generally say it's the worst if I'm not mistaken.

I agree with this, as it's my general assumption, but I'd really like to know if there's a source that I can check.

 

1. It would probably help us if you could let us know which parts of Paul he pointed out.  There's a difference between what theists attribute to Paul and what scholars attribute to Paul, keep that in mind.  I should know which those sections are by now I've read it often enough, but alas I don't.

1 Corinthians – 15:3-7

Galatians 1:13-24

Galatians 2:9-10

Colossians 4:14

2 Timothy 4:11

Philemon 1:24

Basically, any information would be helpgful. I really haven't devoted my time to studying Christian mythology in a long time, as I find it takes away from more important things.

 

Hmm, i checked http://www.biblegateway.com/, under the New International Version, and found very little relevance to jesus behing a human in these passages.

He gets close when he says that jesus 'appeared' to him, but what distinguishes this from being a non-human appearance?

The rest of these passages seem not to refer to the topic of jesus being human at all, I'm confused, maybe I looked up the wrong ones?

 

 

 


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Vermillion...

...you should note that some, particularly Fundamentalists, (though not necessarily *only* them,) do not seem to care very much about truth and/or logic.  An example from my own experience:  I visited an Evangelical church one evening, and the wife of the pastor (at the time) was essentially giving the sermon.  I say "at the time," because her choice of topic that evening was explaining to the congregation why she and her husband were going through a divorce.

 

I expected her to deal with the words of Jesus in the Gospels concerning divorce.  She didn't--not even a reference, to my recollection.  Instead, she picked some verse out of the Old Testament which had not even a single thing to do with marriage, love, sex, relationships, or divorce.  I wish I had taken notes that night; it would be much better for me to be able to give you exact references as to church, speaker, verses, etc.  Alas, I had no idea that that evening's exegesis would be so...fascinating.  Anyway, this verse was just about as completely irrelevant to the topic as you can imagine...and that verse was what she used to get her congregation to swallow the fact of her divorce.

 

I can't count the number of times that I have talked with Fundamentalists, and heard the most...creative...excuses for exegesis that one can think of.  Indeed, not only does the word "eisigesis" not seem too strong...it seems that even eisigesis is far too respectable to cover the wholesale irrelevancies which get tagged on to any given Bible verse to suit the purposes of whoever may be speaking.  (At least when Catholic Mariologists approach the Bible, they usually have the grace to pick a relevant verse, and if they wish a "spiritual" interpretation, they usually tell you that right up front.)

 

So...if the passages don't seem to say anything about Jesus' humanity...don't worry.  You're not necessarily reading them wrong.  You may, in fact, simply be reading them.

I'll note them down, take a look at them, and see what I can come up with.

 

Conor


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I took a quick look at those verses, Vermillion

The 1 Cor. reference did...obliquely...deal with Jesus' humanity, insofar as it mentioned his death and burial.  (The quick-and-sloppy version: humans die, and get buried; God doesn't.  And yes, this distinction gets funny when talking about the case of Jesus.)

 

As for the others...perhaps someone wanted to use your issue of the humanity of Jesus as a springboard to discuss *their* topic of choice: the goings-on in the early Christian Church.  Yep...your ideas and questions were irrelevant; the only thing that mattered was that someone saw "an opportunity" to tell you what they just learned at church.  You were supposed to be so impressed that you would immediately abandon all doubts about the existence of God, and forthwith, attend church wherever that individual does.  Or, at least, that's my best guess, given what you've said so far.

 

I don't mean to be insulting.  But this is the natural conclusion I would draw, based on available evidence.  In short, I smell a rat.  For the record, I hope I'm wrong.

 

Conor


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Conor Wilson wrote:The 1

Conor Wilson wrote:

The 1 Cor. reference did...obliquely...deal with Jesus' humanity, insofar as it mentioned his death and burial.  (The quick-and-sloppy version: humans die, and get buried; God doesn't.  And yes, this distinction gets funny when talking about the case of Jesus.)

But this came to Paul in a vision. Paul himself attributed it as something happening in an unearthly realm, and such allegory is not uncommon for the time. Paul NEVER met Jesus - he saw him in a vision on the way to Damascus.

You have to remember the mentality of the time. Gods had been working in unearthly realms for a LONG time, and what they did there MATTERED and was just as real as if it were happening on earth. A god COULD grant you salvation from a sacrifice made in the ether.

The best credence for this are not just Paul's own epistles, but the fact that Paul seems unaware of the details of the life of Jesus written by those who wrote of the Christ before him.

 

 

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Vermilion wrote:Zadoc

Vermilion wrote:

Zadoc wrote:

thingy wrote:

2. No two languages have a 1:1 translation.  Due to this there's always some influence on the translated text from the person or people who did the translating.  It is up to them to take the words in the original language and rephrase it in the way they feel makes the most sense and gets the correct message across in the target language.  Now add gospel or fundy coloured glasses to this and you get "if he were on earth right now" as that is the understanding of that particular line to the person doing the translation (provided of course they're not being dishonest).  The translation used by Harris is a more direct translation, a closer correlation between the original language (greek/hebrew depending on the text in question) and the target language (english) if it were being translated by someone who wasn't already indoctrinated and affected by the bias of the religion.

There's many differing claims out there as to which version of the bible is the most accurate.  Those who prefer the lovey dovey story generally say the NIV is.  Scholars and those without gospel coloured glasses generally say it's the worst if I'm not mistaken.

I agree with this, as it's my general assumption, but I'd really like to know if there's a source that I can check.

 

1. It would probably help us if you could let us know which parts of Paul he pointed out.  There's a difference between what theists attribute to Paul and what scholars attribute to Paul, keep that in mind.  I should know which those sections are by now I've read it often enough, but alas I don't.

1 Corinthians – 15:3-7

Galatians 1:13-24

Galatians 2:9-10

Colossians 4:14

2 Timothy 4:11

Philemon 1:24

Basically, any information would be helpgful. I really haven't devoted my time to studying Christian mythology in a long time, as I find it takes away from more important things.

 

Hmm, i checked http://www.biblegateway.com/, under the New International Version, and found very little relevance to jesus behing a human in these passages.

He gets close when he says that jesus 'appeared' to him, but what distinguishes this from being a non-human appearance?

The rest of these passages seem not to refer to the topic of jesus being human at all, I'm confused, maybe I looked up the wrong ones?

 

 

No, the question in regard to those passages is this: The movie said that Paul was not aware of the idea of the apostiles, but those passages refer to them.


 

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus


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Conor Wilson wrote:...you

Conor Wilson wrote:

...you should note that some, particularly Fundamentalists, (though not necessarily *only* them,) do not seem to care very much about truth and/or logic. 

Some fundies? I would argue that by definition all fundies do not care for logic or truth at all. However, I do very deeply.

The movie makes two claims:

1. It says that Paul was not aware of the idea that Jesus had apostles. The passages that I cited earlier make references to them.

2. The movie also makes a claim about Hebrews 8:4 that I cannot substantiate.

What I am looking for is the source that corroborates the film. I would really like to be able to use it. However, I cannot find it.

Can anyone point me in that direction, please?

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus


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I don't know if Rook has

I don't know if Rook has seen this thread or not.  I sent him a quick message asking him to take a look.  If anyone on the site can give you sources, he can.

 

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I'm sorry I have been very

I'm sorry I have been very busy organizing a book if essays that I will be editing in the near future.  Hamby has already posted the link to my article on Paul, which will be very helpful to those curious about what Paul has to say about Jesus and why.

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Epicurus was a roman pagan

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Archbishop_Of_Canterbury

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Epicurus was a roman pagan so naturally he would be against Christanity , therefore his opinions are null and void , and it is criticism as your tring to force your opions and belifes on other people by force , which denotes slight dictatorial tendencies in your cold dark , ice sculpture of a heart

...Yeah, and it complements my grotesque, baby-devouring maw so nicely.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
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Archbishop_Of_Canterbury

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Epicurus was a roman pagan so naturally he would be against Christanity , therefore his opinions are null and void , and it is criticism as your tring to force your opions and belifes on other people by force , which denotes slight dictatorial tendencies in your cold dark , ice sculpture of a heart

...Yeah, and it complements my grotesque, baby-devouring maw so nicely.

 

by the looks of you it seems that your mother knew you were going to be an 'athiest' when you were older and dropped you on your head , it also looks like someone tried to devour you as a baby and throw up

(Well, I guess it's what Jesus would've said... )

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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Archbishop_Of_Canterbury

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Epicurus was a roman pagan so naturally he would be against Christanity , therefore his opinions are null and void , and it is criticism as your tring to force your opions and belifes on other people by force , which denotes slight dictatorial tendencies in your cold dark , ice sculpture of a heart

...Yeah, and it complements my grotesque, baby-devouring maw so nicely.

 

by the looks of you it seems that your mother knew you were going to be an 'athiest' when you were older and dropped you on your head , it also looks like someone tried to devour you as a baby and throw up

(Well, I guess it's what Jesus would've said... )

well i cant speak for Jesus and God atm , but im sure they would say something along those lines to the people like you that have a long running loathing hatred for them

...You're sure that the Abrahamic God, who Christians claim to be all-loving and beyond any form of conceit, would resort to petty name-calling and belittling the unattractive?

 

Theists making my arguments for me is the best part of the morning.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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Archbishop_Of_Canterbury

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Archbishop_Of_Canterbury wrote:

Epicurus was a roman pagan so naturally he would be against Christanity , therefore his opinions are null and void , and it is criticism as your tring to force your opions and belifes on other people by force , which denotes slight dictatorial tendencies in your cold dark , ice sculpture of a heart

...Yeah, and it complements my grotesque, baby-devouring maw so nicely.

 

by the looks of you it seems that your mother knew you were going to be an 'athiest' when you were older and dropped you on your head , it also looks like someone tried to devour you as a baby and throw up

If you're going to attempt "funny", don't forget to actually bring the said "funny". 

Unless of course, your brand of humor was more subtle and displays itself in Misspellings, improper use of past tense or having a screen name that evokes an homage to Pedophilia, in which case...naw, I'm still searching for the humor.

Oh, and also, maybe you should re-consider the wisdom of declaring every historian's opinions that were "pagan" or lack the label christian, as "null and void". 

 

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Yellow_Number_Five...

...I do not mean to deny that this came to Paul in a vision; you might say that I was looking at this from more of a "Christian apologetics" viewpoint.  The reason that I took this approach was that these references were a part of an informal discussion, and it is my experience that in such discussions, the focus is (...at least theoretically speaking...) on the content of the verse in question.  The 1 Cor reference *does* indeed talk about Jesus dying and being buried, and I can certainly see why a Christian of whatever denomination might view that as being relevant to a discussion of the humanity of Jesus.  (The other verses, of course, are still irrelevant.)

 

As for Paul being/not being aware of the details of Jesus' life...I personally would be a bit more cautious, here.  Paul may indeed have been unaware of those details...or he could have simply failed to mention it in his extant works.  (I've always been uncomfortable with a direct "he wasn't aware" statement.)  We can't read Paul's mind...but we can read his works (...the ones we have, anyway...) and note that many important details of Jesus' life don't appear there.  And to be entirely fair, this *is* odd, given that we are dealing with the earliest written references to Jesus' life.

 

Conor


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Again, I would recommend

Again, I would recommend everyone review my blog article on Paul here.


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[bump] Jesus vs Paul ,

[bump]   Jesus vs Paul ,  regardless, i god      basically,  J = Atheist , P = Xian  


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Zadoc wrote:No, the question

Zadoc wrote:

No, the question in regard to those passages is this: The movie said that Paul was not aware of the idea of the apostiles, but those passages refer to them.

 

How does the sentence below refer to apostles? He is simply pointing out that Paul thinks of Jesus as some type of immaterial being... a vision, an angel, a ghost-like aparation, etc.

"1. Flemming says, "Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea! And he's the link between the time frame given the life of Jesus and the appearance of the gospel account of that life."


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Paul's concept of "Apostle"

Paul's concept of "Apostle" was not the same as the concept of "Apostle" to the author of Luke-Acts and later Christians.  In Paul's day, an apostle was somebody who witnessed Jesus' resurrection (the 500, himself, the other apostles including Cephas...etc...).  To later Christians and the author of canonical Luke-Acts, an apostle was a "witness to Jesus' life".  The difference is clear.  To Paul, the resurrection was a spiritual event, and therefore all those who received Jesus were witnesses to the resurrection, which is why he includes himself among the disciples (he never says he was a witness to Jesus' "life" at all).  The historicizing of Jesus in the second century lead to people to not only see Jesus differently, but also the title of "apostleship".

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Paul poses several

Paul poses several interpretational problems, even for christians, though one might be forgiven for not being exactly aware of this given the certitude with which Paul is a) represented as material evidence, if not a witness, for the physical existence of a Jesus character as having lived where and when tradition asserts, and b) represented as a real person himself. From an historical point of view, and using the criteria normally applied to gauging the athenticity of traditional claims, Paul himself deserves a little more scepticism than theists afford him.

 

The collection of writings presented through the bible in the form of "his collected works" has been problematic to the church authorities for almost as long as the authorities have existed. They have been suspected, even by scholars who themselves were committed christians, as having been penned by more than one hand - an attribute of style that has never been successfully explained away, though the more frequent explanation concentrates on the assumption that he changed his style to suit his audience and intention, be it proselytizing or keeping tabs on his existing "flock". Unfortunately this explanation does not adequately account for the shifting relationship as expressed in the letters between Paul and Jesus, who alternates between real person and deity but with never a hint from the author as to how he himself has reconciled the two definitions. For a proselytizer, and without the benefit of centuries of subsequent theological interpretation concentrated exactly on this dichotomy, it is very "fuzzy thinking" and would have been more confusing than convincing to a prospective audience of converts.

 

The failure on the part of any other contemporary source to corroborate the assumptions that have grown up around this character, as with Jesus, has not deterred either from having acquired accredited historical status through simple assertion that they must have existed. But again, from a solely historical point of view, this is inadequate. All that can be truly deduced from the remaining data is that proselytization of the Jewish spin-off faith existed and that even in such an early manifestation of the belief system being propagated, there was a simultaneous need - probably expressed by different people for different cultural reasons - to predicate their belief on the fact that Jesus was a human being and that Jesus was a euphemism for deity. The two ideas, now enshrined within the trinity concept which of course had to be devised later to accommodate such divergent notions, were at the time exclusive of each other.

 

The idea that there was one man called Paul who happily preached both versions without ever tackling the inherent contradiction, and despite contradicting himself repeatedly managed to persuade untold thousands to abandon their existing beliefs and tag along with his, does not ring true, either historically or even according to common sense.

 

The bulk of the content ascribed to Paul, as Rook has pointed out before, does however tend to the euphemistic interpretation - a clue to the fact, if the antiquity of Paul's letters has been genuinely gauged, that the foundations on which the Jesus character myth has been built are seriously unhistoric. If the church in its early days had bitten the bullet and admitted that it had no evidence for Jesus's existence but didn't require it as Paul's assertion that Jesus as a deity was what mattered, then it might yet have survived as a mystical faith, though without much of the ingredients that made it subsequently appealing to the powers that be and promoted it to a political power in its own right. Once that status had been achieved however, there was not only to be no turning back but further introspection on the matter was actively discouraged and even punished.

 

Hence the official stand now that Jesus existed, Paul was one man, and the dichotomies (which could never be adequately disguised theologically) are still presenting interpretational problems even to atheists.

 

It's one of those areas where the subscribers to the faith have to fall back on the "it was so because it says it was so" argument, and as such disqualifies both it and them from serious historical discussion.

 

I wouldn't worry too much about it, if I were you. It's their lie - and they're the ones who have to swallow it. To a rational person it's just one more example of the tangled web of self-inflicted deceit they've been spinning for so long now that there's no longer a way out for them.

I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy