Monday, April 15, 2019

Historical Research Exposing Religious Distortions

Reformed Egyptian scribbles
Some Church of Latter-Day Saints historians recently have been spending a lot of time trying to prove that their holy text reflects real history.

They are failing, of course.  After all, their founder, Joseph Smith, once told a colleague that “a novel got out of hand.”  In addition, scholars in his day and ours have repudiated the hieroglyphics Smith is said to have translated as mere gibberish.  Mormons call them “Reformed Egyptian,” a language unheard of by Egyptologists and certainly unknown in this country.

My point is not that the theology of the LDS church is wrong.  I don’t know that. No one does. That’s true for all religions.  I am more concerned about the repeated efforts to distort known history for religious effect.  Such desperate measures are not limited to the church based in Utah.

Every religion does it.

Ancient image of Roman court
In a few weeks, for example, Easter and Passover will be celebrated.  Devout Christians will go to great lengths to insist that Jesus died and rose from the dead during that time period.  Actually, no one can prove he even lived much less was crucified.  The biblical account contains no semblance to known Roman trials or documented events in Israel. 

Just for starters, no tradition existed for a criminal (Barabbas in the Bible) to be release on Passover; Roman judges were not seen, and Roman governors definitely did not consult with crowds or other rulers before making decisions; the traditional dates for the crucifixion do not match up with known events; and the original followers of Jesus knew nothing of a risen god.

Imagined Exodus
As for the Jewish holiday of Passover, all evidence uncovered to date demonstrates conclusively that no such event ever took place: no evidence of anyone living in the Sinai desert; no conquest of Canaan by outsiders; no celebration of the holiday for centuries after it must have taken place; and the existence of two earlier holidays combined and given a new rationale.

In addition, no pharaoh ever drowned; no slaves in Egypt built any buildings; and the Red Sea is in the wrong direction for an escape.

Believers stretch meanings beyond breaking points, twist facts, ignore valid research and generally do everything they can to buttress religious claims against facts.

Eventually, that’s a losing proposition.  That time may be here.

Recent published surveys now show as many Americans claiming no religious affiliation, “nones,” now matches the number of people who call themselves Roman Catholic.  That is unprecedented in American history.

Pope Benedict XVI
Researchers credit the internet for making available findings that contradict religious teachings.  The information has been available since the 1800s but has only become public knowledge in recent years.  The result has been a more determined effort by religious leaders to block access to the studies and to control education.

In that vein, retired Pope Benedict XVI recently blamed  the internet, lax enforcement of church laws and the sexual freedom movements of the 1960s for the widespread priestly abuse of children, blithely ignoring the long history of such malfeasance, dating back centuries.  Unfortunately, as history has shown, priests in the Catholic Church are not the only perpetrators of such crimes. 

DNA findings for American Indians
In fact, history has proven a lot.  Much of it religious folks don’t like to hear.  So, they ignore, distort or flat out lie.  In the case of the Mormons, the lies are increasingly apparent.  Golden tablets, claimed to have held the sacred words, would have weighed 200 pounds and not be easily picked up and moved as Smith insisted. Modern DNA testing has shown that the American Indians are not descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, as Smith also claimed, but of Asian descent as anthropologists long thought.  Moreover, there never were 10 lost tribes.  They simply assimilated, as did all conquered people then.

Empty claims by religion-bought "historians" will continue to be heard, but the drumbeat of history is slowly muffling them.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at He is the author of the recently published novel The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  His website is, which is still under construction. He can also be followed on Twitter.