This story isn’t strictly speaking Jewlicious. Ok, it’s not even loosely speaking Jewlicious. Too bad, Muffti likes it and Muffti has the power to post. The story comes from CNN but you can find it all over the net.
Italy is a great country. In 2002, Rev. Enrico Righi claimed, in the church bulletin, that Jesus exists and was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. No big deal, right? Well, zealous atheist Luigi Cascioli filed a complaint with the court, claiming that Righi had violated, not merely one, but two Italian laws. (1) a law against “abuse of popular belief” in which someone fraudulently deceives people; (2) “impersonation” in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone. Righi allegedly violated (1) by lying about Jesus and violated (2) since Righi claimed that Jesus did things really done by John of Gamala.
Prosecutors tried to avoid letting this strange case go to court, but Cascioli was adamant and so Judge Gaetano Mautone set a hearing for next Friday in Viterbo, which is north of Rome. This obliges the court to consider in a legal context the weighty historico-theologico question of whether or not Jesus existed and whether or not he did what Church dogma claims he did. Cascioli, resting on the apparently contradictions in the New Testament and the wealth of data that some of the Gospels were written well after any discipile of Jesus would have been long dead, thinks that he has the upper hand. Righi, on the other hand, claims that Jesus’ existence is easy to demonstrate and rebuked Cascioli:
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!
Muffti has no idea what that means. However, there are quite a few sources attesting to Jesus’ existence: our own Flavious Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger to name a few. And, since no CNN story would be complete without consulting an american, Rev. Scott Appleby from Notre Dame got Righi’s back, claiming:
…what Jesus of Nazareth did and what he means is a different question…But on the question of the existence, there is more evidence of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth than there would be for many other historical people who actually existed. Not only did Jesus actually exist, but he actually had some kind of prominence to be mentioned in two or three chronicles.
There’s an interesting philosophical issue about the semantics of names that is worth exploring, but Muffti won’t bore readers with the details.
Oddly, Cascioli and Righi have known each other for a long time and were actually school mates. Why did Cascioli direct his attention towards Righi rather than, say, the Pope who frequently says things that seem to display a commitment to Jesus’ existence? Cascioli claims:
When one demonstrates that Christ didn’t exist, attacking a simple priest is the same thing as attacking a bishop or cardinal.
Poor Righi was thus the victim of noble equalitarian thought, while Ratzinger can walk around day and night claiming that Jesus existed, walked on water and raised the dead. A better question is why Cascioli waited until he was well into his 70s to launch such a complaint.
I was born against Christ and God…I’m doing it (the complaint) now because I should do it before I die.
Of course, that reasoning was true when he was 20. Oh well. Cascioli’s chances of victory in the overwhelmingly catholic country are about the same chances of, say, the Gomery Commission not exonerating Paul Martin or Saddam Hussein being found innocent in the Iraqi court. His ultimate aim, however, is more lofty: a case before the European Court of Human Rights where he will pursue his case against the court on the grounds of religious racism.
Godspeed Yeshar Koach Good luck, Cascioli!