ALL RELIGIONS are good because they keep alive needed mystery and rituals, intended to set up a human behavioral code that will please God. No doubt, religion has a most powerful grip over all human emotions, controlling them in a positive way. It is self-evident that religion fights sins and demands only good deeds be done by its believers.
Religion is clear about what is good and what is evil, while philosophy offers a large array of choices in life. One man who shed light on all those complicated concepts was Jesus, who did not know how to read or write and was never vested with any academic or religious authority to preach. In terms of Effectology his birth was a divine accident that forever changed the pagan world.
Jesus was a humble carpenter who called God "my Father" and considered all humans to be God's children. The first accident involving him started before Jesus was even born, when the Magi of Persia in April of 6 B.C. saw the royal star Jupiter eclipsed by the moon. Oral tradition held that this celestial event would signify that a new king would be born. Because Jupiter and Saturn also got into an almost overlapping position three times in a row, it signaled that the first deity was to be born in human form.
The legend told that a shiny ray from the sky led the three wise men (most likely Jews living in Babylon) from Persia to Bethlehem, where Mary, likely a gentile woman who was pregnant without a husband, was denied registry of the baby Jesus as a Jew of Nazareth.1
Herod, the king of Palestine, ordered all children born in Bethlehem during that year to be killed, but Jesus (the saint child) and his mother escaped to Egypt.
The second accident was the denial of the thirteen-year-old Jesus' entry to the synagogue, where probably a kind of religious bar mitzvah took place. Most likely, Jesus was not even circumcised. (F.N. When he healed a man on a Sabbath day Jesus implied that circumcision was an injury. Neither him, his brother James, Paul or Peter ever required circumcision in their preaching.) It was the precise moment when he realized that he could belong to Jewish society and its religion. As a frustrated outsider, he decided to win against this powerful and discriminatory establishment.2
The third accident took place when, at a later age, the young wise man spent forty days in the desert. He probably joined the tribe of the ascetic and unmarried Essenes, who definitely changed his philosophy on life. Some believed that there he learned how to perform amazing feats of magic, and he was initiated in the art of healing by hypnosis.
The fourth accident happened before Jesus did or said anything great, when his cousin, John the Baptist, announced the coming of God's son. That was when John named the younger cousin Iesua, which in the Aramaic dialect meant "the Savior," or Jesus in Greek language. The news created an adverse effect among the pious Israelites who had had enough of previous false "messiahs." However, people from Galilee received Jesus as their deliverer who would set them free. They promptly named Jesus, a Chrestos, or Christ, which in the same dialect means "the anointed one," similar to Messias/ Messiah/"the king." John was beheaded by Herod, the real king of Caesarea/Palestine, for his spiritual work. Luckily enough, Herod died before he could kill Jesus as well.
The fifth accident consisted in everything Jesus said and did in his years of ministry. Indeed he performed amazing miracles on humans and even controlled and unleashed the forces of nature. Aware of the power and implication of his words, he spoke in parables, like all rabbis, avoiding incriminatory plain words, so the Jewish priests were eager to listen. However, Jesus was bold and confident when declaring to his followers and audience that he was the Son of God, and he was present in the ante-mortal world before Adam, Eve, and Abraham. He came to earth to represent God and correct the sins of humanity. By saying "I'm the bread of life," he implied that those who would follow him would never be hungry or thirsty again, at least in the spiritual sense.
Even though Moses predicted the coming of the prophet, the Jewish priests believed that Jesus' actions were blasphemy that tarnished God's name. After all, the 30-year-old self-named "Good Shepard" of all people was nothing but an uneducated laborer and the son of an obscure family. He had never graduated any school, nor had he a license to teach, and his ministry was a show of tricks. Jesus could not be a messiah, because he came from Galilee, not from Judea, where God's chosen people lived. The Jews refused to accept Jesus' divine origin, and they remained the disciples of Moses, not this Sabbath-breaker who promised to demolish the sacred temple and rebuild it in three days.
The sixth accident was the most important, because it was generated when Jesus and his followers marched into Jerusalem. If that were not enough, Jesus started a riot at the Holy temple, attacking its servants and throwing the usurers out of it. It is not clear if that was an act of revenge, or just his desire to clean the temple of sinners and eliminate the market from the house of God.
What is crystal clear is that the high priests saw in Jesus neither the Son of God, nor a prophet, nor a rabbi from Nazareth. To accept him as a Messiah was to invoke the elimination of Jews by the predicted apocalypse connected with his apparition. Obviously, the pious Jews were not ready to die, and James, the brother of Jesus, was thrown off the Temple's Walls. His peaceful reentry into Jerusalem riding an ass stirred only tolerant smiles from the Romans.
The seventh accident was the effect of the previous one. In fact, he could not have chosen a worse time to show up than the Jewish Holy week. The insulted Jewish High Council decided to eliminate Jesus, and so they delivered him to Pontius Pilate to judge the false prophet as a religious blasphemer and a rebel against Roman power. Jesus defended himself with wisdom, and was found not-guilty by the Roman governor. However, the incited Jewish crowd quickly convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus.
The eighth accident was the crucifixion, when Jesus, now renamed Iesus Nazarenus Iudaeorum by the Romans, was challenged to rescue himself from dying as proof that he was indeed the son of God. Jesus accepted death for the sins of mankind. Three days later, he was said to have been resurrected, showing that everything he preached was the truth.
The New Testament is very unclear about how Jesus really died. It would take two days for a crucified person to die. Jesus was taken down by 3:00 P.M. and left Golgotha/Skull Hill after only six hours on the cross. The good accident was owed to a powerful storm and earthquake that frightened the legionnaires, and to a rich admirer who bribed the Roman guards to use his tomb for Jesus' burial.
Equally frightened were the Jerusalemites, who noticed that a supernatural force split the veil of their temple, and the temple itself was wide open to reveal its secrets to the outside world. When Mary Magdalene came to perform the ritual for the dead, the tomb was empty and its entrance wide open. Jesus' appearance three days later in front of his apostles was probably the most successful miracle produced in front of a crowd.
All these personal accidents of Jesus's life are perceived by Christians as acts of God, to teach humans lessons in forgiveness and salvation. Divinity and Eternity were revealed through Jesus's Resurrection and from then on, Christians could find comfort in God's protection and a better life after death.
In this way, many people began to believe that Jesus had indeed demonstrated that indeed, God is real. He can take human form, and each human can be in the company of God. This new concept of repenting in the name of God was so powerful as to last for centuries. The new concept of the Holy Ghost would change the religious beliefs of billions of people.3
These accidents and their dramatic effects resulted in unmatchable evidence of God's love for mankind, and Christianity took off like a match touching gasoline. Days after the execution, some 10,000 people converted to Christianity, led by Jesus's followers, many of them becoming martyrs.
One of the igniters was Stephen, a fanatic minister of Christ, who was charged by Jews with heresy and blasphemy against Moses and the sacred temple. In the year 33, he was stoned to death and thrown off the Jerusalem walls. He was the first Christian martyr and later Stephen was sanctified. James/Ya'akov, Jesus' younger brother, also a leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem, led a community of Christians in Jerusalem. He was later executed in 62 A.D. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded a few years later.
Christianity was the only religion that changed an object of torture, the cross, into a sacred and beloved symbol. It became a sacred sign of hope, of good luck, and of the ultimate salvation. The image of Christ dying on the cross became the most beloved icon of suffering. The effects of this accident proved to be the most determining in shaping the future Western world.
However, Christ's message of hope and forgiveness did not stand well with the Jews, or with the Romans. The Jews always rejected any other gods, and certainly they did not like the Father-God, promoted by Jesus who "pretended" to be the Son-God. The Romans were proud of their gods and did not want to exchange them for a god recommended by a ridiculous foreigner. Yet, Jesus never named his religion, leaving it open for all mankind. Obviously, Christianity was named after Christ.
For the next three hundred years, the Christians were persecuted and executed in the gladiatorial circusesbecause of the unpleasant accidents they inflicted upon the pagan Romans. The first accident was burial after death, versus the incineration practiced by the Romans.
The second accident was more disturbing to the Romans: Christianized legionnaires began to think twice before entering the battlefields and killing the enemy. Love for the enemy was not exactly what Rome had in mind when it paid its soldiers. The effect was the diminished military power of Rome.
The third accident was the transformation of the institution of the Pantheon into churches, and the replacement of ancient icons with the cross. Religious confusion was probably the most damaging effect on the moral and civic strength of the Romans.
The fourth accident was imminent: the Roman Empire was divided into Christian and non-Christian populations, eroding the unity of a once great and powerful, three-continent-spanning, pagan nation. All these accidents rushed the decline and the collapse of the Roman Empire, which began to be divided among its many emperors.
The final collapse took another accident: Christianity's recognition as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Under his mother's influence, Emperor Constantine decreed the new religion as the only church throughout the empire. That crucial decision separated two eras of mankind and created a new philosophy, much different from pagan, Oriental, and other religions.
The new era began counting its years with anno Domini, "in the year of the Lord." It was the triumph of humble Jesus, who lived only thirty years, who never had any wealth or political power or an army, but whose preaching conquered Rome and Europe. Ironically, Christianity, with its saints painted or turned into statues, brought back the multiple families of near-Gods. The Pantheon lived on.
The Jews kept rejecting Christianity because of its universal love of brotherhood, which could dissolve the Jewish race and their beloved religion. To them, Jesus was a race destroyer. The New Testament was full of inflammatory, anti-Judaic texts, even going so far as to say of the Jews: "
your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires" (Gospel according to John)4
. In time it became the source for many racial accidents against the Jews.
While Christianity was in a full march, Buddhism was accepted in China in the first century A.D. because Emperor Ming had a revealing dream about Buddha. The accidental lucky dream was the main cause of the acceptance of that religion in the vast land of China. From there it spread all over Asia and Japan. Why Buddha, a deeply ascetic man who punished his body with extreme mortification, is now portrayed by a fat statue is another matter that may hide a secret accident of its own.
Inspired by Jesus' example, another self-made prophet, Mohammed of Arabia (570632), founded a new religion that united the desert people into one of the most powerful military forces ever: the Ottoman Empire.
Mohammed was an orphan and came from a very modest family living in Mecca. Eventually he became a caravan leader who realized that a huge territory and its many nations did not have a formal religion, neither could they identify with any existent one. At age forty, Mohammed retreated to a cave where he had a revelation about the new religion he was going to promote. With strict dietary and moral rules, Mohammedanism was a tougher Christianity, for Allah (the only god) was totally merciless with sinners. It unified all desert people into a powerful religious empire.
It was only a matter of a lucky accident that Mohammed did not end up a martyr like Jesus. Instead, he found friendly tribes to endorse the new religion and back it with their swords. His instant good accident materialized in 628 when he conquered Mecca, which served from then on as the spiritual center of his new movement. Most of the prolific and rich Islamic philosophy came out of that region, rich in traditions and in oil fields. Also in many historical accidents.
According to prophets, God is the eternal brain and soul of the entire universe, but he needed them as messengers to relate his wishes to humanity. Were Moses, Jesus and Mohammed three impostors or true prophets? Whoever they were, they changed the world forever, moving philosophy forward and founding powerful religious systems followed by billions of people. Their importance overlaps their religion.