Religious history

The many Jesus-like figures of the ancient world

What people tend to forget about Jesus Christ is that he killed children. As a five-year-old, Jesus was toddling through a village when a small boy ran past, knocking his shoulder. Taking it like any five-year-old would, Jesus shouted after him ‘you shall not go further on your way’, at which point the boy fell down dead. Later, when the boy’s parents admonished Joseph and Mary for failing to raise their son properly, Jesus blinded them. Something to bear in mind next time you ask yourself: ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus smites teachers, sells a ‘twin’ into slavery, and has someone crucified in his stead If this story is unfamiliar,

The English were never an overtly religious lot

Generalisations about national characteristics are open to question. Nevertheless, the overwhelming impression one gets from reading the major works of English literature, or from studying the famous English men and women of politics, the military or the academic world, is that the English have not been an especially religious lot. Or, if you think that a strange judgment of a nation that produced the finest Gothic cathedrals in Europe and the hymns of Charles Wesley, then you could rephrase it and say that they have not generally worn their religious feelings on their sleeve. Jane Austen’s hilarious novels do not quite prepare us for her letters in which she confesses

To hell with hell: Bart Ehrman debunks the Christian belief in perpetual torment

Here is a sobering thought for anyone involved in the world of finance. Those who charge interest when they lend money are doomed to spend eternity in a pit with filth up to their knees. This is not the verdict of some radical, online, anti-capitalist echo chamber but of the second-century Apocalypse of Saint Peter, an early Christian text in the form of a graphic tour of heaven and hell, ascribed to the leader of Jesus’s apostles, though not actually written by him. It offers scant comfort too for those who have sex before marriage: their bodies will be torn to shreds in the afterlife. And for women who have