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Are the Religious Founders Unfounded?

by Lewis Vaughn


The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 20, Number 1.


As we go to press, another major news magazine has tried to ride the wave of a religious theme. U.S. News and World Report asks on a recent cover "Is the Bible True?"-and illustrates the headline with a painting (a la Michelangelo) of a very buff Adam, Eve, and serpent, all wearing nothing but an apple. The subtitle says that "New discoveries offer surprising support for key moments in the Scriptures." 

The "support" here is indeed surprising. We are told, for example, that, even though there is "no direct evidence" for the existence of Abraham and the other biblical patriarchs, other factors do bolster the Genesis account. They are: (1) the assertion that we should not expect to find any archeological record of "an obscure nomad and his descendants" and (2) indications that sometimes the Bible and archeology match in depicting the patriarch's "historical context." One need not be a biblical scholar to see that this boat is missing most of its planks. I would think that the piece would leave the intellectually curious-whether religious or nonreligious-wondering where the other boards are. Unfortunately, this skimpy and skewed analysis is not only typical of the rest of the article but of much of religion reporting in America. Its telltale signs are a lack of journalistic balance and a sad tendency to strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel. 

The cure for this ailment is good, honest scholarship, which we hope to offer in this special section on the lives of the founders of the major religions-especially Moses, Muhammad, Jesus, and Buddha. The section's editor and principle author is Robert Price, the distinguished biblical scholar and member of the notorious Jesus Seminar, a 75-member committee of scholars studying the Bible and the figure of Jesus. Using the best available archeological, historical, and textual evidence, he tries to answer the oldest and most important questions of all: "What do we know about these men?" and "Did they really exist?" 

We challenge others to judge whether any planks are missing. 


Lewis Vaughn is the Editor of Free Inquiry.


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