Shane Murphy
Shane Murphy asked:

I'd like to know more about why, for example, Roman and Greek Gods are simply thought of as myths, yet the story of Christ has endured as truth for so many. Are there any good books about the history of Christianity that are straight-up in their atheism, that just discuss (as non-condescendingly as possible) the history of the stories rather than lapse into "was he, wasn't he"?

Bonnie I have found the historical review of Jesus, by Bart D. Ehrmann, to be a well balanced, historically comprehensive, and intellectually satisfying summary of the impact of Jesus' "apocalypsist" teachings. The author of this book is a well published historian author, and he is honest about his personal philosophical perspective on Christianity. Ehrmann states the historical fact of Jesus' crucifixion with incredible clarity, and without succumbing to wishful thinking regarding the brutality of the Roman crucifixions of Jesus time. He also shares some personal facts about his upbringing as an evanglical Christian, his college education, and his ultimate disillusionment with the Christian faith, and the promises of the evanglical Christian "Right", which is still committed to the hope of a miraculous apocalyptic return of the Savior, and the restitution of the human race through death, rebirth and (hopefully?) the Rapture. (The Christian Rapture is not discussed in his book, "How Jesus Became God". But Bert Ehrman does truthfully state his agnostic philosophical position, which I found refreshing. The content of his historical review of Jesus life is extensive, and it is surprising. It is historically grounded, and well documented. Professor Ehrman's academic credentials are well rounded, and his writing is lucid, his concepts deep, and his understanding of the Christian faith is well grounded. I found the book deeply satisfying, and I recommend it highly. And.... I am a Catholic Christian. This book did not destroy my faith. Rather, it reaffirms it.
Legacy Dad The Christ Files by John Dickson. In this book, Dickson chooses to stay away from fringe sources on both sides for and against Christianity (Harris, Dawkins, Strobel, McDowell) and instead focuses on unbiased, peer reviewed, scholarly opinions on the writings about Jesus and the early Christian movement. Dickson also uses the writings of pagan, Greek, and Roman sources, outside Christianity, who also wrote about Jesus and the early Christian following.

To answer your question plainly, there is no evidence that Roman and Greek God's ever lived or walked the earth while there is DNA, anthropological, and peer reviewed academic sources from both inside and outside of Christianity that many of the people, stories, places and events in the Christian New Testament did exist.

Scholars have more historical evidence and ancient texts evidencing that a person named Jesus Christ existed than they do for Julius Caesar.
Michael In truth they are all myths.
Not sure they killed people for not believing in Greek or Roman gods but for centuries they did that for the Christ myth.
The Christ myths spread, not from the quality of its message but the quantity of its violence.

John The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World By Bart D. Ehrman is a fairly recent endeavor. Don't let the title mislead you. The book chronicles when, where, why, and how Christianity displaced pantheistic religions.

I've read seven of Ehrman's books and I've never been dissatisfied with his writing and his even-handed approach.

Another interesting book by a non-Christian, about Early Christianity, which also chronicles to some degree the displacement of paganism, is Richard E. Rubenstein's book "When Jesus became God: the epic struggle over Christ’s divinity in the last days of Rome."
Valentin Partially the answer is in the book already, but you can also try.

Religion was use, at the beginning, as a mean to unite different culture within one empire as nationality was not yet a concept of the society. When the Greek lost there power to the Roman, there Gods had the same fate. The Roman took over there Gods, but every new Caesar use other Gods at his side for his war campaign. As the Roman empire lasted for so long, and Christianity was chosen quite early, it became the dominant religion. Moreover, it used it's favor of the Caesar to abolish other religion, such that Europe remained only with it...;)
James When you have a story that contains historical persons (Pontius Pilate was a noteworthy and ruthless Roman official, Peter really did die in Rome), then you can see why it is taken as true.

This is a good book to chart the origin of Christianity from pre-Christian times, although the author at times disparages those of Faith in the early, more distant and historically ambiguous days. Mr MacCulloch does reference plenty of primary sources where they can be found. Clearly there were people living in the first 100 years AD who claimed to know an itinerant preacher who was executed by the Romans, and this then goes on to show how this legend has endured.
Frances Richardson You might find Jesus Skeptic, by John S. Dickerson, addresses just this subject.
Alex Livingston This is a comment rather than an answer to your question. I hope that doesn't bother you.

You appear to be presupposing "atheism", just as, for example, (many) self-described Muslims, at least rhetorically, presuppose Islamic tenets, and, implicitly (and often explicitly as well), disparage those who do not presuppose them. Even if your presuppositions are true, is it wise to advance them as such, and thereby implicitly claim epistemic higher ground (to know better, in other words)? Is it being "as non-condescending[] as possible"?
Image for A History of Christianity
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more