NBC News propagates the Jesus myth

Just a note about how the news treats religious superstition. My regular evening newscast on NBC was reporting the Christmas festivities around the world (celebrations in Israel, the Queen’s Jesus message, and the Pope’s annual homily), when it described the festivities in Bethlehem as being “in the birthplace of Jesus.”

Not the “traditional birthplace of Jesus”, not “the place where Christians believe Jesus was born,” not “the birthplace of a person on whom, according to Christianity, the Jesus story is based.” Nope: NBC bought the whole story, hook, line, and stinker.

This is the way that religious mythology gets normalized—by being broadcast as fact by the national news.

Merry Xmas (where “X” stands for a person whose existence is contested).


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I heard that as it was said and thought, maybe cringed a little, how can you say that? Just as if saying, I was born over there and Jane was born over here. It is the end of journalism. And Santa is back at the North Pole where he was born.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Duh. Here in NZ our regular weather man was ‘tracking’ the progress of Santa’s sleigh from the North Pole to NZ, complete with corny computer graphics. (Though at one point he announced with mock drama “Santa may be running into trouble with snow showers” which made me retort “It’s a f***ing sleigh, you idiot. What do you think it’s supposed to run on?”)

      In the nauseatingly cutesy stakes that scores projectile vomiting, I think.


      P.S. Bethlehem? What’s with the Nazareth business then? Couldn’t they make their mind up?

      • okaro
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        The so called prophesies said that he was born on Bethlehem but came from Nazareth. The authors of Matthew and Luke wrote completely incompatible stories to fulfill this. In the traditional nativity scene these are mixed in a salad so that the wise men from the east look at Jesus in a manger. (The wise men came from Matthew and according to him Jesus was born in a house, likely where Mary lived)

        • Geoff Toscano
          Posted December 26, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

          It’s also the case that the town of Nazareth didn’t exist until long after the time Jesus was purportedly born. Jesus was known as ‘the Nazarene’ and Nazarene was a small Jewish cult that became one of many thorns in the Roman church in later centuries. To avoid the problem of Jesus being connected with this cult it is suggested that the Roman church decided to have him born in Nazareth as a more palatable reason for being ‘Nazarene’.

          I’ve seen this idea put forward by a number of authors (though I daresay from one original source) and it does have a compelling logic to it.

          • Posted December 26, 2018 at 4:49 am | Permalink

            I’m not completely convinced about the idea that Nazareth didn’t exist at the beginning of the first century. It must have existed at the end of the first century when Matthew and Luke were written otherwise it would have been a bit pointless for them to have mentioned it.

            Wikipedia says there is evidence in the area for a settlement to have existed prior to the first century.

      • chewy
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        That can’t be! Our tax dollars in the US of A, per NORAD Highly Sophisticated Wonderful Taxpayer Financed Wizardry was tracking the Holy Marketer to the US! Gadzooks, something is afoot. Can it be that there is more than one of the Saint Nick?

        • Greg H
          Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          You could see professional “Santa Apologists” 2000 years from now using the fact that NORAD tracked Santa’s whereabouts as evidence that he really existed.

  2. Greg H
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    They should just go ahead and add, “And by the way, Jerusalem is the place where he was crucified and later resurrected, and the city to which he will return when he comes on the clouds of heaven with power and glory in the not too distant future.”

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    … hook, line, and stinker …

    I see what you did there, Mister Compleat Angler.

  4. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    If he existed at all, which is not very likely as we have seen here over the last few days, there is about 1 in 365 chance he was born on the 25th of December,

  5. Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    In both GMark (by consensus the first gospel written) and GJohn, Jesus has no identified birthplace; he first appears as a grown man with no backstory.

    The indications are strong that the nativity stories in GLuke and GMatthew are late confabulations (not to mention incompatible with each other.) GLuke also includes an episode of 12 yo Jesus amazing the priests & scribes in the temple with his precocious erudition; this episode is cribbed almost verbatim from the historian Josephus’ boast of his own prowess at age 13.

    • chewy
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      I can still remember learning in Boy Scount Camp back in the late 50s: Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and strength and in favor with God and man.” I have not looked that up; it could be wrong, but that’s what I learned as a kid and it was supposed to be important and mean something. Never have figured it out, but it did count for something if you could recite this crap. Maybe another bowl of gruel. Or not being taken to the “shower” or ….

      • Greg H
        Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Well I’ve heard this point made regarding that passage: it may not prove that Jesus ever existed, but it does prove that if he did exist he wasn’t God, because why and how would God grow in wisdom and knowledge?

        • Posted December 26, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

          Jesus was like a young X-men still unaware of His full powers, and John the Baptist was his Dr. Xavier.

      • Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        And that’s a close paraphrase of a passage in 1 Samuel.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I just can’t hear Xmas anymore without thinking of Stan Freberg’s “Green Christmas$”

    Say, Mother, as sure as there’s an X in Christmas, you can be sure those are Tiny Tim Chestnuts roasting. Tiny Tim Chestnuts are frill-bodied, longer lasting! This visible shell (KNOCK-KNOCK) protects the nut! Now with X-K 29 added, for people who can’t roast after every meal.

    NBC knows what side it’s rum is buttered on.

  7. FB
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Who let the Queen and the Pope into the 21st century?

  8. Blue
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    When on NBC I heard and saw that, I wondered if
    you, Dr Coyne, had as well.

    Normalized, indeed .that. Just as with
    your recent Conversation article / accommoationism:
    here journalists as well as scientists.

    It is so disgusting that I just
    remain reclusive. It is so “normal”
    within the spaces at where I hafta be
    that I just have to … … leave them. And
    go th”ell away … … alone. Solitude, please.


  9. Dave137
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Merry Mythmas

    • Mark R.
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:02 pm | Permalink


      • Diane G
        Posted December 26, 2018 at 3:30 am | Permalink

        And Heathen’s Greetings.

  10. Posted December 25, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I heard a rumour that xmas had been cancelled this year in the USA as Donald Trump wouldn’t allow Santa to cross the border….


    • Doug
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      Trump decided that belief in Santa is marginal.

  11. Jerry Sallo
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Fake NewsJerry Sallo

  12. Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I sort of like the myth. God so loved humans that he took human form and walked among us, and then we killed the poor SOB.

    • Greg H
      Posted December 25, 2018 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      It’s very Darwinian.

      • Posted December 26, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Yes, he secured himself the Darwin Award.

  13. Silvia Planchett
    Posted December 26, 2018 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Christianity is based on one girl really sticking to her story.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 2:56 am | Permalink


      That wins the thread, I think.


    • Diane G
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 3:31 am | Permalink


    • Posted December 26, 2018 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      That’s a good one, but not true, unfortunately. The whole virgin birth story is fabricated from a section in Isaiah chapter 7.

      Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.


      The gospel writers didn’t know the Hebrew scriptures, they had a Greek translation called the Septuagint and somewhere along the way, the word for “young woman” got mistranslated as “virgin”.

      You’ll also note from the context that the passage is not a Messianic prophecy at all, it’s a message to King Ahaz (King of Judah in the 8th century BCE) about his enemies and how they’ll be gone fairly soon. This is typical Christian methodology. They’ll cherry pick passages from the Jewish scripture and retcon prophecies about Jesus into them, and then wave them in your face as if it proves something.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 26, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        The gospel writers didn’t know the Hebrew scriptures, they had a Greek translation called the Septuagint

        Well, given Paul’s (?) sterling work in convincing the Galacians or Ephesians that Christianity did NOT require adherence to Mosaic laws or even being a Jew of any description, then there is no particular reason to expect the Gospel writers, working within arms reach of 100AD to have close knowledge of Hebrew scriptures.

      • Posted December 26, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Robert M. Price, in his The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems goes almost line-by-line through the gospels noting the OT scripture sources, like that one from Isaiah 7.

    • Blue
      Posted December 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      but.but., no, ’twas NOT Mary’s story at all !

      “Actually” Mary took the news to Joseph.
      Of his, w her, connubial canoodling dilemma.

      HE is the one who came up with … …
      The Plan
      to deceive HIS daddy and mama / HIS people
      cuz, well, Mary’s pregnancy
      was rocking H I S World and
      NOT in a good, good way.

      Joseph is the one who … … LIED !


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 26, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Errm, no, if it was just Joseph he had no need to invent the ludicrous Angel story, all he needed to do was keep stumm and let everyone think the little bastard was his. (‘Oooh, a miracle, old Joseph just managed to do the Daddy thing’). Unless he was so incredibly old and decrepit that everybody else would rather believe in an angel, than in the chances of old Joseph getting it up.

        Of course Joseph would know if he couldn’t have been responsible, so that made it Mary’s problem, hence the Angel story. I suspect Joseph just went along with it as a way to save face. (Why he didn’t just say to Mary ‘Never mind this angel crap, let’s just do the usual thing and pretend it’s mine’ I don’t know).

        Not that it matters one iota who was lying, they’re all fictional characters anyway.


  14. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted December 26, 2018 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    The normalisation that gets me is the shorthand “god”. It’s just taken as read that this means a particular version on the christian god, but we humans have invented (probably) millions of gods so I’m always asking, which god are you referring to.

  15. Posted December 26, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I am not a native speaker, but doesn’t the adjective “traditional” put it in context? To me, it implies that the person and/or event isn’t historical. We never see e.g. Genoa referred to as “the traditional birthplace of Columbus”. It is the birthplace of Columbus, period.

  16. Posted December 26, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I just read an article in The Economist as to how those that answer the “religion?” question with “none” in US polls are rapidly becoming the majority. (I tried to find this article online but failed. I have a print subscription but no online access.) Even though society as a whole are much less religious, getting religion out of the media and politics will be a lot harder, unfortunately. In both cases, they and their sponsors are too afraid of offending to remove their nodding toward religion, especially Christianity.

    • Posted December 26, 2018 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      As time passes ‘religion’ will mean something more secular than it does now. From the religious point of view ‘reason’ poisons everything – a slippery slope that there’s no getting off. We live in a world where reasoning is rewarded by health and prosperity, cognitive dissonance aside.


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