A theory for the origin of Christianity
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12-06-2011, 04:13 AM
A theory for the origin of Christianity
Hi everyone. I'm new to this forum. I've been studying the history of Christianity for many years and would like to contribute some ideas and learn from people's responses. I would value your opinions on the following theory about the origin of Christianity...
"Was Christianity a Roman Government Plot?
There is a fascinating angle to consider, which I suggest as an interesting hypothetical possibility. It is possible that Paul’s philosophy may have had its origin in the Roman government. The fact that belief in the divinity of Jesus arose simultaneously in many diverse areas of the empire a number of decades after his death suggests to me that it could have originated from a central source, which definitely wasn’t Nazarene. The inspiration for such a plan would have been to undermine the power of Judaism because the religion itself was the inspiration for fanatics who threatened the stability of the Roman Empire.

Jewish zealot extremists promoted the subversive idea that a king of their race would one day soon govern the world on behalf of God and in place of Caesar. Some gentiles were converting to Judaism. The government must have been worried. If they couldn’t subdue the Jews it would have set a dangerous precedent for other races to revolt. They needed to keep control over the valuable trade routes to Asia and Egypt. They must have been thoroughly frustrated at having to use force to suppress Jewish extremists, as it was disruptive, expensive and taxing on the army. There were very legitimate reasons for Roman animosity toward the Jews. Roman soldiers decimated the Temple in 70 CE when there was no real military need to do so.

I think it is likely the government wrote and promoted its own propaganda that included Paul’s writings and the definitive versions of the gospels. They tried to weaken Judaism from within by dividing it. They knew words could be more effective than weapons. A story that the messiah had already been and gone and was not a political activist, but rather a spiritual intermediary between God and man would have suited their agenda nicely. If the idea caught on there would be no more messiahs and no more revolts. Blessed are the peacemakers, turn the other cheek and love your enemies meant getting on with the Roman government. To promote such a story would have been a lot less expensive and a lot less hassle than having to repeatedly use the military to suppress religious fanatics.

If there is any truth in this, there could have been many “Pauls” throughout the empire who were working as agents of the Roman government spreading propaganda. Men like Paul could have genuinely thought they were promoting an ideology that was beneficial to the believer as well as to the cause of peace and harmony. If so Paul was part of a very cunning plan, although one that never really achieved what it set out to do.
Paul’s arrest by the Romans is not necessarily inconsistent with such a scenario. Paul was a little out of control and ended up being a source of civil unrest. He became a fanatic who took his job way too seriously and caused trouble wherever he went. Instead of undermining Judaism he incited Jews to the point of violence, something Rome didn’t want. He had to be taken out of circulation, which the government did by arresting him. Officials outside of Rome did not know what to do with him, so packed him off to Rome. I suspect his employment was terminated there and he was probably put out to pasture somewhere, which may be why no one knows what happened to him.

If this is true it was Rome that created a benign messiah. Even today, most non-Jewish people totally misunderstand what the actual Messianic Movement was and how it came into existence. This current misunderstanding was Rome’s doing, and it was deliberate. The government twisted the knife to further wound Judaism by blaming the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews and making themselves look like the innocent good guys. They then taught that Jesus was a celibate who produced no posterity in case a hope of a royal bloodline still existed. They wanted no more messiahs claiming the right to rule and inciting the Jewish peasants to insurrection. The Roman emperors Vespasian and Domitian would search out real members of the 'royal house of David' family in the late decades of the 1st Century to help make sure this didn’t happen. The government hoped the story of the new idol would convince people that true spirituality and the promise of eternal life were synonymous with getting along with the Roman government. It was the winners that wrote the history.

In modern times this is called disinformation and psychological warfare. It is fascinating to imagine these subversive tactics as part of the first century Roman Empire and jaw dropping to realize this information is still coloring the way modern man, and in particular Christians, look at the world.

If this is true Christianity was the offspring of the Roman war against Israel and Judaism, a plot born to undermine the Jews. The gospel stories became the most successful literary enterprise ever undertaken in the history of the world. There was an additional benefit when Christianity solidified the allegiance to Rome of superstitious pagans throughout the rest of the Roman Empire.

It took a lot of reading and thinking before the penny dropped for me. I hope the reader understands the significance of this. Are the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? They definitely have been on mine. If this is true Christianity has been the largest fraud ever inflicted on mankind."

Thanks, Mark
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12-06-2011, 08:12 AM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
An interesting concept, no doubt. I'm not all that savvy about the history of Christianity, so if there are any blatant falsehoods, I'm blind to them. Obviously, I don't think the events in the bible are true, so there is the question of where the stories did come from. I've heard several ideas(again, I've haven't looked into this subject enough), and this one is possibly. Though I have to ask, is this speculation or do you have evidence?

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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12-06-2011, 08:48 AM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2011 09:00 AM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
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12-06-2011, 10:08 AM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
This seems very interesting. Please keep us updated as you progress with this. Just to clarify you are suggesting that Jesus DID exist but was never the son of God and the Romans added that bit on to his story for political gain, whereas Jesus was actually more like he is portrayed in Islam, just another Prophet?

Just out of interest have you raised this with any Christians and if so what sort of response have you got? I could imagine that they could be very dismissive, they tend to be dismissive when shown cast iron proof of something they don't like so something like this may be rejected without any consideration at all by many believers.

Also, I've been on your site and it's quite interesting. Keep up the good work Smile

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12-06-2011, 08:10 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(12-06-2011 10:08 AM)hughsie Wrote:  This seems very interesting. Please keep us updated as you progress with this. Just to clarify you are suggesting that Jesus DID exist but was never the son of God and the Romans added that bit on to his story for political gain, whereas Jesus was actually more like he is portrayed in Islam, just another Prophet?

Just out of interest have you raised this with any Christians and if so what sort of response have you got? I could imagine that they could be very dismissive, they tend to be dismissive when shown cast iron proof of something they don't like so something like this may be rejected without any consideration at all by many believers.

Also, I've been on your site and it's quite interesting. Keep up the good work Smile

Hi Hughsie. I do believe that there was a character named Jesus who existed, although he bears little relation to the Jesus of the gospels. Allow me to cut and paste a page of my book for you....
"Did Jesus Actually Exist?
The Gospel writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries were myth-makers and may not have even needed a genuine character as the foundation for the myth.

In the first century historians flourished, yet there are no contemporaries of Jesus who provide a surviving written record acknowledging his existence, with the exception of Paul, whose mythical Christ is a very different character to the man in the Gospels.

Josephus (37-ca. 100 CE), a prolific and exhaustive Jewish historian who would frequently write a few pages on the execution of common Jewish thieves, has not one authentic line that mentions Jesus. So if Jesus existed, we must assume the most unfortunate demise of Josephus’ true historical record of him. It is very likely this is what happened because the early Christians would have destroyed any record of Jesus that didn’t fit with their manufactured image of him.

Justus of Tiberias (ca. 35-100 CE) was a first century Jewish author born in Galilee. He made extensive historical writings on contemporary Jewish history, but never mentioned the name of Jesus once, or if he did his record has been destroyed too.
Philo-Judæus, a prolific writer and historian, was an Alexandrian Jew, and he visited Jerusalem in the years Jesus was allegedly teaching and working miracles. He too fails to mention Jesus.

One would think Jewish religious officials would have a seriously large amount to say about Jesus, but that is not the case. The earliest references to him in the Judaic rabbinical literature were not written down before the third century and later and seem to bear little relation to the Jesus of the Gospels.

What about the Roman and Greek writers of the 1st century? There are no Roman records of Pilate's or Herod's dealings with Jesus. Edward Gibbon, writing in the latter half of the 18th century in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, describes the absence of evidence for Jesus in Roman literature;
"How shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to those evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled, and the laws of nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the Church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.” Mr Gibbon devoted 20 or so years of his life to write his 17-volume work on the Roman Empire. It is the result of exhaustive research, so we can trust his comments are well researched.

Pliny the younger, a Roman, does mention the existence of Christians in Asia Minor in 112 CE, but says nothing about Jesus the person.

It is said that in 115 CE a Roman historian, Tacitus, makes the first mention of Jesus. However his notes about Jesus are not quoted by any of the Christian Fathers and have been shown to be forgeries. I only mention them because they are so often mentioned in pro Christian literature.

The existence of Jesus was not important enough to merit a single mention from any historian until at least 80 years after his death. This is undeniably remarkable. If Jesus actually preached to thousands, healed the sick, expelled demons and rose from the dead, historians throughout the Roman Empire would surely have known of him, but they don’t.

Despite the absence of evidence in the historical record I believe that Jesus probably did exist and some of the facts in the Gospels are loosely based on his life. I believe this for a number of reasons. We do have non-Biblical evidence for the existence of John the Baptist, and for James, the brother of Jesus. John and James were leaders of a sect of Jews, and there was another historical character, Jesus, who was leader of this same sect for a short time between these two. Members of this sect, including descendants of Jesus’ family, believed in the existence of Jesus for centuries after his death. There were also numerous second century stories about Jesus, some of which still exist, which never made it into the Bible. Paul, who was a contemporary of Jesus, claims there was once a human Jesus, and although Paul never met Jesus, he did meet members of his family and some of his original disciples.

The real Jesus just wasn’t as remarkable as the Gospels would have us believe. His genuine historical record probably documented his relative mediocrity so was destroyed by evangelical Christians in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries.
Once we assume his existence we do have to cherry pick the Gospels to obtain specifics about his life."

The real very Jesus did NOT think he was the son of God ( a very blasphemous idea for a Jew ). The very imaginative Saint Paul invented the idea roughly 20 years agter Jesus died.

I don't believe Jesus was even a prophet (nor do today's Jews). I believe he was a political activist who tried to start a war with Rome. They got to him first. They then invented myths about him to subdue militant Jews.

You (all) may be wondering "so what, who cares?". In a sense that is valid....but understand this....the only tangible connection Christians have with God/Jesus is through their Bible. If the Bible can be proven to be fraudulent (which I have done in my book "Get Over Christianity by Understanding It") they have no leg to stand on and just maybe some of them will give up on it and the world will be a better place.

The "dyed in the wool" Christians who have read my book haven't read my book LOL. They don't get past the first few pages LOL. It is the more intelligent fence sitting type of Christian I am hoping to appeal to as well as anyone genuinely interested in history. Please keep talking, regards, Mark
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12-06-2011, 09:06 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
I have one problem with this theory. Why bother? I mean, why would Rome go to so much trouble to undermine and discredit Judaism? Israel was a little speck of a state, incapable of putting up much of a rebellion, let alone challenge the empire, and the Jews didn't even try to proselytize. I'd assume the Romans would be more concerned about the Huns or the Gauls or the Persians or whoever, from time to time, could give them a real fight.

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12-06-2011, 09:28 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(12-06-2011 09:06 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  I have one problem with this theory. Why bother? I mean, why would Rome go to so much trouble to undermine and discredit Judaism? Israel was a little speck of a state, incapable of putting up much of a rebellion, let alone challenge the empire, and the Jews didn't even try to proselytize. I'd assume the Romans would be more concerned about the Huns or the Gauls or the Persians or whoever, from time to time, could give them a real fight.

Hi Peter....good question. I know the answer. Jews were a problem. There were 3 anti Roman rebellions in Palestine in the 50's BCE. There were also a large rebellion in 4BCE and 6CE, both in Galilee. Jesus may have winessed this. Allow me to cut and paste another little section...
"The Political Climate in Palestine

“…the Jews discovered a fierce impatience of the dominion of Rome, which repeatedly broke out in the most furious massacres and insurrections...and we are tempted to applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of the legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but of human kind. The enthusiasm of the Jews was supported by the opinion, that it was unlawful for them to pay taxes to an idolatrous master; and by the flattering promise which they derived from their ancient oracles, that a conquering Messiah would soon arise, destined to break their fetters, and to invest the favourites of heaven with the empire of the earth.”
(Edward Gibbon)
Romans ruled Palestinian Jews. Palestine was an important strategic acquisition for Rome because it was on the trade route with Egypt, and Rome was quite dependent on Egyptian grain.

Herod “the Great” had laid siege to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish nation, in 37 BCE, with an army of Roman soldiers. It took them five months to capture the city after which he was installed as the puppet king of Judea. The Romans had a policy of installing locals as rulers by supporting the aristocratic families of the countries they invaded, as this helped wield control of the lower classes. Herod wanted the people to respect him as king of the Jews, but he lacked credibility mainly because he wasn’t a pure Jew, as his father was an Idumean. Herod thought anyone of the royal Jewish bloodline was a threat to his position. He deposed the last of the Jewish kings, Antigonus, and had him executed. He married a royal Jewish princess to shore up his claim to the crown, but later had her and her brother killed. Amazingly, because of his paranoia, he also had his own two sons by this marriage executed. The Roman emperor Augustus said
“I had sooner be Herod’s swine than his son”. (Cecil Roth, pg 92). Pigs were in no danger of being slaughtered in a Jewish household.
Throughout his life Herod tried to increase his prestige by undertaking some massive building projects. He remodelled the Temple in Jerusalem, employing 10,000 workers, and spared no expense. The Temple was the nerve centre of the Jewish nation. It was twice as large as today’s St. Paul’s cathedral in London and was truly magnificent to behold. It boasted Corinthian columns, lots of white marble and many plates of gold. It was famous throughout the empire. All Jerusalem lived in the shadow of this Temple.

He also constructed the whole new city port of Caesaria overlooking the Mediterranean. It had an artificial harbor and an Amphitheatre that held 20,000 spectators. He also built a temple to Augustus in Caesarea.

Herod’s architectural projects were thoroughly Hellenistic in design, other than for perhaps the Temple. This upset the Jews as they didn’t approve of public buildings that didn’t advertise the glory of Yahweh. To make matters worse Herod placed a massive golden eagle, the symbol of Roman dominion, over the great gate of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Most of the common Jews despised Herod. A real king needed to be one of them, a true Jew and a descendant of David, not someone who loved Greek culture, and not someone who was appointed by Romans. The peasant Jewish populace even despised their fellow Jews who supported Roman rule. Herod was also dictatorial and not particularly concerned about the plight of poor Jewish peasants. It was only by governing the country as a police state that he managed to avert open rebellion.
Herod Archelaus, one of Herod the Great's sons, took over as ruler of Galilee, a northern province of Palestine, when his father died in 4 BCE, quite possibly the year Jesus was born. He was such a brutal ruler Caesar replaced him after ten years and his brother, Herod Antipas, became the ruler of the region. This is the Herod who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist and who allegedly interrogated Jesus before he was crucified. He too was very ambitious and focused on shoring up his own credibility. He married a princess with royal Jewish blood to strengthen his claim of being a Jewish king and he continued his father's grandiose building projects. He rebuilt a city called Sepphoris, which was to become the capital of Galilee, eight kilometres north of the present day Nazareth. Construction occurred during Jesus' childhood and it is possible Jesus and some members of his family worked as labourers there. In about 19 CE, when Jesus was a young man, the city of Tiberias on the banks of the Sea of Galilee was under construction, 30 kilometres from today’s Nazareth. Jesus must have witnessed this magnificent city being built and would have walked through its streets. Today it is Northern Israel's most popular holiday resort.

The Herodian monarchies had to get the money for these projects from somewhere. Money was also needed to support the Roman infrastructure and army. It came from taxes paid by the already struggling peasant labour force and collected by the infamous tax collectors of the gospels. In the province of Syria income tax was 1 per cent of a man's income per year, but there were also export and import taxes, taxes levied on crops; one-tenth of the grain crop and one-fifth of the wine, fruit and oil - purchase taxes, taxes payable on the transfer of property, emergency taxes, and others. So anything from 20-40 per cent of the produce of the peasant workforce went into paying taxes. A Roman official called a censor was responsible for collecting the revenue, but he often sold the right to extort it to the highest bidders, men who demanded more money than was due and kept the difference for themselves. They commonly took bribes from the rich. It was the poor people who ended up paying most of the tax and they deeply resented the fact. It was very obvious to the peasant farmers of Galilee the aristocratic people who lived in the largest cities of Palestine were living off their backs.

Equally infuriating to most of the Jews was the fact that Romans appointed the High Priest, the chief religious figure of the Jewish nation. This meant the High Priest and the powerful aristocratic families associated with him supported Rome. All Jews traditionally looked up to the High Priest, who they expected to live a pure life, one devoted to the worship of their god. Yet the High Priest in Jesus’ day was not someone they could respect. A modern analogy would be the Catholic world today having a Pope and his cardinals appointed by an Islamic government.
Just how discontented the Jews of Galilee were with the Roman occupation was demonstrated by some events in 4 BCE, possibly the year Jesus was born. After a few decades of exploitation by Herod many common Jews thought his death was an opportune time to revolt. Three groups started insurrections against Rome. Judas, son of Ezekias, gathered together a band of Jewish supporters who broke into the royal armoury at Sepphoris and stole weapons and money. Further south at Jericho, 30 kilometres from Jerusalem, another Jew named Simon led a group who burnt down the royal palace. The third character was a shepherd named Athronges who raised a small army that roamed the countryside for a few months in opposition to the Romans. All three leaders thought they were the messiah and soon most of Galilee was in revolt. The Roman army responded quickly and with brutal force by marching into Galilee, burning towns and villages and crucifying anyone resisting Roman rule. Three thousand Jews were massacred. There must have been much terror and many innocent deaths. There is no mention of this in the gospels, yet Mary and Joseph and their extended families must have been involved, either as participants or as observers. Mary would have been a vulnerable young girl totally at the mercy of strong soldiers. It is possible Jesus’ biological father was a Roman soldier named Pantera who was part of the invading army. While that sounds very far-fetched and a little confronting, there is some evidence for it that the reader can look up for himself or herself on the Internet if they are interested.

Ten years later, in 6 CE, maybe when Jesus was about 10 years old, the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius, undertook a census to work out who should be paying taxes to Rome. This sparked another revolt against the Romans, led by another Galilean character also named Judas, who many Galilean Jews also hoped was the messiah. The Jewish historian Josephus tells the story;
“There was one Judas, a Galilean, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Zadok, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt. Both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honour and glory they would thereby acquire for magnanimity. They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such councils as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially, if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same. So men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height.” The Romans gathered three legions and four regiments of cavalry and once again the movement was quickly and brutally suppressed. Judas’ army was routed and the Romans set fire to Sepphoris. This time 2000 Jews were killed. Jesus may have witnessed the battle from a distance. He might have seen the surviving members of Judas’ army crucified on wooden crosses and a long line of Jewish widows and their children marched off to slavery in Rome. Many Jews of the era were convinced their God would come to their aid in battles and a young Jesus may have been surprised and disappointed that didn’t happen. There is no mention of this war in the gospels because they were written and edited in an era when Jewish nationalism was a lost cause and to raise the topic was in bad taste. Neither Jewish nor gentile readers needed to be reminded of the violence and bad feeling of the times.

There is no doubt that in the decades before, during and after Jesus’ time many of the Palestinian Jews, and particularly the poor peasant Jews of Galilee, felt degraded and oppressed by the Romans who had killed or sold into slavery many of their relatives. Many Jewish Galilean peasants were even angry with their more urban fellow Jews who had partially assimilated into the Graeco-Roman culture.

A young pure-blooded Jew like Jesus would have hated the Romans with a passion. He would have regarded Romans as an inferior class of people, not God’s chosen, illegitimate impostors who ruled only by virtue of the fact they had a very powerful and brutal army. We should appreciate that Jesus’ audience were poor, oppressed peasants who suffered under the burdens of taxation, landlessness, unemployment and perceived religious discrimination.

From the Roman perspective, Galilee was considered a backwater; a festering wound that refused to become peaceful. Judea was considered a minor province. Its governor, who was Pontius Pilate from 26 to 36 CE., was known as a 'praefect' or 'procurator', and he came from the Roman equestrian class. He was subordinate to the legate of Syria at Damascus. He had at his disposal about 3,000 auxiliary soldiers, mostly stationed at Caesarea, the provincial capital of Judea, located on the Mediterranean coast, about 75 miles northwest of Jerusalem. A detachment of soldiers was kept as a garrison in Jerusalem. Pilate would make the trip to Jerusalem only when necessary. On festival occasions, such as the Jewish Passover, anything up to 3000 soldiers would be stationed in Jerusalem overlooking the Temple grounds."

In addition to to this there were the first Jewish war (66-70 CE) and the second Jewish war (132-135 CE). There were also skirmishes with Jews in Egypt.

Titus (Roman general in charge in the first war) totally demolished the Temple in Jerusalem in the first war to try to quell their nationalism.

In the decades after Jesus' death various Roman emperors tried to find members of Jesus' bloodline and remove them in case they tried to revolt again.

So the Jews were a major thorn in the side of the Roman government.

I hope this helps. Regards, Mark
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13-06-2011, 03:50 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
Thanks for your reply. I've never really had much interest in looking into the depths of Jesus' life and the various possibilities of his 'real' story, despite having a reasonable interest in history, but just reading what you've put on here has drawn my interest. I would quite like to read your book, will it be being released in England and if so, when?

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13-06-2011, 04:54 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(13-06-2011 03:50 PM)hughsie Wrote:  Thanks for your reply. I've never really had much interest in looking into the depths of Jesus' life and the various possibilities of his 'real' story, despite having a reasonable interest in history, but just reading what you've put on here has drawn my interest. I would quite like to read your book, will it be being released in England and if so, when?

Hi Hughsie, as a fisrt time author it is really nice to hear you are interested in my book. It is being copy edited (twice), should be available at Amazon in about 4 months. In the meantime I would love to answer any questions if i can. I too want to learn from what everyone thinks. Warm regards, Mark
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13-06-2011, 05:26 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
All right, i get that the Hebrews were unhappy with Roman rule and started a few rebellions. As far as i knew, every one of those was put down successfully, with no significant losses to the empire.
All the vanquished nations were unhappy and started rebellions from time to time, and they were all put down, up to the end, when the empire was falling apart for bad management, overextension and internecine strife among the rulers. None of the other subject peoples seemed to merit a well-planned and subtle propaganda campaign. (Hardly the Romans' forte!) I always thought Israel assumed an unrealistic importance in retrospect because of Christianity, not the other way around.
Still an interesting idea.

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