Friday, July 13, 2007

News Roundup: Maybe We Need an 11th Commandment

Well, the republicans have definitely found a loophole when it comes to morality. And it's a lot bigger than asking what the meaning of "is" is. It's a loophole you could drive a cement truck through.

I do not recall ever seeing a group of people identify a concept and adopt it as their own as quickly as the republicans have discovered hypocrisy and encircled it in their warm embrace.

For starters, we have a nice U.S. Senator from Louisiana, David Vitter (R), doing whatever he can to support the hard-working girls in the world's oldest profession, both in Washington DC and in his home state of Louisiana. A hard-working multi-tasker, Senator Vitter, while he was a Congressman, was able to represent his district in the halls of Congress while still having time to chat up DC madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey on the telephone on at least five occasions. Not bad for a man who was elected to replace Bob Livingston, who resigned after an adultery scandal. At the time, Vitter, after heaping praise on Livingtson, went on to say,
"It's obviously a tremendous loss for the state...I think Livingston's stepping down makes a very powerful argument that Clinton should resign as well and move beyond this mess."
So I wonder whether it's as obvious to Vitter that he should also resign, based on his own personal ethics, as outlined so eloquently above in his comments regarding Bill Clinton.

I suppose he'll stay on, since he has released a statement indicating that his wife and his god have forgiven him. That brings up another problem. What kind of egotistical bastard thinks he has his own god? Either way, I have my doubts that morals-impaired Rudolph Guiliani will keep Vitter on as his southern campaign chairman. Rudy once fired his chief of police because he'd been featured on the cover of Time Magazine. "That's my job," Rudy snarled as he showed the newly unemployed police chief the door. You gotta love the guy.

And let's not forget the stumbling McCain campaign. Down in Florida, the McCain campaign co-chair for the state, dedicated anti-gay Florida state representative Bob Allen, offered a male undercover police officer a nice crisp Andrew Jackson in exchange for letting Allen fellate him. Never mind that the idiot propositioned a police officer, Allen's offer was destined for failure. I've seen photographs, and I'm thinking he would have needed to offer something in the middle six figures. Oops ... the middle six figures actually exceeds the McCain campaign's cash on hand. McCain is furious over the speed at which his campaign has burned through it's funds. I'd like to hope the money wasn't all spent in $20 increments. Representative Allen is not quitting though. He says:
"I am not resigning my office because the people elected me and want me to do a good job. I am going to do a good job for them in finishing this term."
So that would explain Bush's decision to serve out his term. These silly bastards think that merely finishing something equals success.

Speaking of the leader of our less-free world, George Bush, acknowledged that some unidentified person in his office leaked the name of a covert CIA agent to the media. Nevertheless, Bush no longer stands by his promise to fire such a person, however. Why should he? It's a lot more fun to wait until someone is convicted and sentenced--that way he can commute their sentence, just like he did with Scooter Libbey.

Republican criminals? Poor, misunderstood good people who have suffered enough.

Everyone else? Well that's what lethal injection is for, stupid. Remember Texas?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gauging the Pope's Supreme Court

Well, it seems like America's fundamentalists and fascists have finally found a successful strategy when it comes to picking Supreme Court Justices. When in doubt, nothing but a Catholic will do. Can't ask a Supreme Court nominee about Roe vs. Wade? Nominate a Catholic. Bummed out about that pesky establishment clause in the First Amendment? Nominate a Catholic. Sick and tired of brown folks clamoring for equal opportunity? Nominate a Catholic. Get a little queasy imagining what homosexuals might be up to in the bedroom? Nominate a Catholic.

Let's review. Of the eleven Catholic Supreme Court Justices in the history of the United States, five of them currently darken the halls of Supreme Court. They are Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito. Let's review the impact of the Court's Catholic Cabal (CCC) in recent decisions that have been handed down.

  • Upholding the Partial Birth Abortion ban? Catholics yea, all other justices nay.
  • Excise a student's free speech rights? Catholics yea, all other justices nay.
  • Scrapping voluntary public school desegregation? Catholics yea, all other justices nay.

It goes on and on. Can't somebody just please, make it all go away? We're losing our country here. It's being ripped away, decision by decision. Arggghhhhh.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Fallwell Skids (and Grinds to a Permanent Halt)

If, as Jerry Falwell believed, there is a god who is all-knowing and all-powerful, and rewards and punishes people as appropriate, then that God has apparently had enough of Jerry's bullshit.

In rememberance, here's a few of Falwell's quotes:
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" --Jerry Falwell, referring to the attacks on September 11, 2001.
"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers . . . AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." --Jerry Falwell, circa 1991
"You've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops and I am for the President—chase them all over the world, if it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord." --Jerry Falwell

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mitt Romney Prays at the Shrine of Pat Robertson

For the second time in four months, Mitt takes time out from his busy efforts to be elected the leader of the most powerful secular nation the world has ever known to visit Pat Robertson's psuedo-university. You know which one I'm talking about, the one that has a law school that teaches Commandments one through ten on day one, and issues diplomas three years later, with no apparent transferal of knowledge to its students in the interim, which hasn't been a problem during the current administration, because they hire based on loyalty and not competence. W doesn't mind not being the smartest man in the room, but he gets so damn frustrated when he's clearly the stupidest person present.

Anyway, always wanting to think there best of people, I can only hope Mitt felt a bit slimy while he was on campus at Regent--I would certainly expect that more and more Americans will feel slimy in the presence of Mitt. Here's a nice photo of Mitt exchanging pleasantries with Regent University Chancellor Pat Robertson, the nice god-fearing tel-evangelist who takes time out of his busy schedule to tell us wonderful, loving, Christian things:

"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor." –Pat Robertson, on "gay days" at Disneyworld.
"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there." –Pat Robertson, after the city of Dover, Pennsylvania voted to boot the current school board, which instituted an intelligent design policy that led to a federal trial.
"God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.' ... He was dividing God's land. And I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.' God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'" –Pat Robertson, on why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke.
"Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up" –Pat Robertson, on nuking the State Department.
"That was never in the Constitution, however much the liberals laugh at me for saying it, they know good and well it was never in the Constitution! Such language only appeared in the constitution of the Communist Soviet Union." –Pat Robertson, on the constitutional separation of church and state.
"Well, I totally concur." –Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell following the Sept. 11 attacks, after Falwell said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say: "You helped this happen."

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Stark Truth

Congressman Pete Stark, Democrat from California, has identified himself as an Atheist. According to the Secular Coalition of America, he is the first member of Congress to do so in our nation's history. It's a brave man indeed that will risk everything he has on principle. Take a moment to thank Congressman Stark. The Secular Coalition of America has made it easy to do this by clicking here.

It's a good thing.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Congressman Crazier than Dennis Prager, That Ignorant Schmuck?

Can anyone be crazier than Dennis Prager, that ignorant schmuck?

Hard to believe, I know, but it's absolutely true. The Representative from Virginia's 5th district, Republican Virgil Goode, was prompted by an email he received to send a letter to his constituents bemoaning the fact that our current immigration laws allow Muslims to infiltrate this fair land of ours, apparently to the point where, horror of horrors, a Muslim was actually elected to the House from the very, very, weird state of Minnesota. And ... *choke* *sob* ... and he's even going to put his hand on that, that, that, Muslim book, that Koran thingy, when he has his happy little photo-op after taking his oath of office. I mean really, what is this country coming to? Why can't everyone be white, thin-lipped, and tight-assed, just like Congressman Goode? I mean, God created man in his image, so why aren't all Americans created in Congressman Goode's image? Why have we been let down in this way? Is there no justice?

On to the letter from Congressman Dumbass. This is not a joke. He wrote it; he mailed it. He even declined, through a spokesman, to apologize for it. Really. I mean it. Honest.

December 7, 2006

Dear . . . Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts. Sincerely yours,

Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Open Letter to Dennis Prager, You Ignorant Schmuck.

Okay, I haven't followed your career, due in large part to my complete and utter disregard for right-wing, fundamentalist religious nutbags of any stripe, be they Muslim, Christian, or in your case, Jewish. Can I say up front that I sincerely hope you get shit-canned from the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, you little homophobic, hate-spewing, anti-American, fascist bastard? I guess I can.

To have both the hubris and ignorance to misrepresent our secular nation and its secular Constitution, and to brazenly lie about the very basis for our freedom as Americans (the Age of Enlightenment, not Christianity, dumbass!) is completely unforgiveable.

To attack Ken Ellison as you have, and to basically taint what should be one of the proudest moments of his life, simply because he wants to exercise his right to put his hand on the holy book of his choice for the individual, ceremonial reenactment of his taking his oath of office to serve as a Congressman, shows what a small-minded, hate-loving, shit-shoveling, low-down, sorry excuse for humanity you are.

The only mention of religion in the U.S. Constitution is in Article 6, which stipulates that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The framers of our constitution, our founding fathers, left no doubt that the nation being created was a secular one:

“... religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize.” --James Madison

"A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law.” --Benjamin Franklin

"Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling in religion." --John Adams

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” --Thomas Jefferson

You see Dennis, it works like this. I will use short words so you will know what I mean. There is no place in our government for God. But because we, as citizens, have the right to practice any religion, and we have the right to free speech, there is also no right for the government to meddle in the religious practice of an individual citizen. These are, essentially, the two clauses of the first amendment, the establishment clause, and the free exercise clause.

Dealing with the establishment clause, it has been (and is) interpreted thusly:

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or the preference of one religion over another, or religion over nonreligion.

So Dennis, when you piss and moan about Mr. Ellison's choice of holy book for his individual swearing-in re-enactment, you only advertise your own sadly deficient understanding of our nation's founding principles.

Perhaps you should work on fixing that.

Here's a nice quote from Thomas Jefferson to start you on your way:

"[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

And good luck to you on your journey towards enlightenment.


David Lister

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

President of the Christian Coalition? No Thanks!

The Reverend Joel Hunter was all set to replace Roberta Combs as President of the Christian Coalition, but something funny happened on the way to the inaugaration ball. It appears Reverend Joel suddenly discovered there's just no room for Christian Charity in the Christian Coalition, what with Pat Robertson being so busy trying to illegalize abortion and gay marriage. Reverend Joel had hoped to put some of the focus on poverty and the environment, but that turned out to be a non-starter:

A statement issued by the Christian Coalition said Hunter left because of "differences in philosophy and vision." So poverty and the environment are out of luck, so far as the Christian Coalition is concerned. Reverend Joel, a senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, stood his ground on the poverty and environment front, saying, "... these are issues that Jesus would want us to care about."

I think we know what's going on here. Reverend Joel is clearly in the "Peaceful, caring Jesus" camp, and not in the "Kill the Gays, Save the Fetuses Jesus" camp.

Well that's a little naive Reverend, isn't it?


Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Catholic Conundrum

My father was Catholic; my mother was not. When they married, it was not the first marriage for either, so suddenly my father was not so Catholic anymore. This is not an uncommon pattern. As goes Henry VIII, so goes a lot of people, down through history. The Reformation comes to mind as a rather obvious example.

Henry VIII (and my father, for that matter) understood that there is no such thing as an "al a carte" Catholic. Henry solved his problem by creating the Church of England (Catholicism lite with a side of divorce) and my father solved his by simply pushing organized religion aside.

What they didn't do is to choose some subset of beliefs from Catholicism, mix in a little astrology, some numerology, a thimbleful of Zen and stir it up with a big helping of personal superstition. They did not do this, because Catholicism doesn't allow it. In Catholicism, either you buy the whole she-bang, or no wine and wafer for you. None. This unfortunate fact has been reiterated this week by the United States Conference of Bishops. On that page there are links to three documents, including (in .pdf format) Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist. As these documents show, and the Boston Globe reports, The requirements Catholicism place on their members are in open and obvious contrast to the beliefs and actions of the majority of Catholics in the United States.

If you happen to be one of these non-compliant Catholics, I have a dirty little secret to tell you. The Catholic Church does not want you as you are. The Catholic Church requires that you adapt to it. Relevancy in the modern world has not been a priority of Catholicism since the time of Pope John the 23rd. There is no indication whatsoever that the Catholic Church has any desire to be a more "user-friendly" interface to God. So wake up.

The willingness of non-compliant Catholics to continue to embrace their Catholic faith defies all logic and reason. The only way to force a higher level of understaning on the Catholic Church regarding issues ranging from birth control, abortion, and capital punishment to premarital sex and homosexuality is for non-compliant Catholics to immediately and officially leave the Church in large numbers. Make a stand. Let your voice be heard.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Crisis of Faith

Lately, I've been having a crisis of faith. I've been told that such an event is not uncommon, but nevertheless, my crisis of faith snuck up on me pretty much undetected. For more than 30 years I've been an agnostic. So I really didn't think I had enough faith to generate a crisis. Which goes to show what I know.

As an agnostic, I never felt the need to deeply examine my belief system, which went something like this: "I cannot prove god exists, and cannot prove he does not exist. Time to move on." It's a very basic sort of belief. It allowed me to view believers and atheists with equal amusement. How presumptuous they are to tie their hopes and dreams to what may or may not be. I was happy. I even have a bumper sticker for my truck. It says, "Militant Agnostic--I Don't Know and You Don't Either." It addresses equally people on both sides of the "is there a god?" coin. It was cool.

But I'm beginning to doubt even that level of faith, which I will call, for wont of a better term, "the faith of not knowing."

What, might you ask, is responsible for me potentially losing the least amount of faith (the faith of not knowing) that one can have? Oh it started out innocently enough. I read a little Thomas Paine. Founding father and American patriot Thomas Paine was a deist, which made a lot of sense in his day, but I would bet he'd be an atheist in today's world. In his pamphlet The Age of Reason he does a bang-up job of dismantling Christianity, using the Bible itself as his only supporting document.

Then I bumped into British evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins, who makes a series of very strong, scientifically based arguments against the existence of god in his fine book, The God Delusion.

Mix in a bit of Bertrand Russell, in particular the texts Am I an Atheist or An Agnostic and Is There a God?, and you can easily see where all this is headed. Bottom line, I'm contemplating taking the step from not believing there is or is not a god (Agnosticism) to believing, without conclusive proof, that god does not exist.

My faith quivers at the thought of becoming smaller still, becoming finally completely weightless, and floating away on the breath of nonexistant angels.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Twisting the Word of God

So in Topeka, Kansas there is a church. I'm not talking about just any church, but rather the Middleboro Baptist Church. You've probably heard of them, they're the plucky little group of christians who reside in cyberspace at the oh-so-very christian URL,

They believe, as I understand it, that their primary mission on this earth is to spread the word that god has a less than charitable view of homosexuals. Right now, and for some time, they are accomplishing this by protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. As I understand it, they believe that our war dead are an example of God's revenge on America for America's tolerance towards homosexuals. Apparently, they accept donations to help them in their mission, and are, as one would expect, well funded.

Some years ago, for reasons I don't quite understand, they came to the happy little burb of Jaffrey, New Hampshire to protest at the Catholic Church there. I think it had something to do with their belief that some Catholic Priests were homosexuals. It caused quite a stir in Jaffrey. They try to cause quite a stir everywhere they go.

They once protested at the school of one of my coworker's children, because some child at that school had the audacity to pick Ellen Degeneres as the subject of their "Women in History" essay. So you get the drift. They are the lowest of the low. Apparently, Missouri passed a law that criminalizes protest at funerals and the the ACLU has joined with the Westboro Baptist Church to challenge the law. I bring this up because I'm a supporter of our first amendment, and whether I support the views of the Westboro Baptist Church (otherwise known as the Fred Phelps family), I do support their first amendment rights to protest.

On the bright side, we have The Patriot Guard Riders, a not-so-loose affiliation of motorcycle enthusiasts who's mission is to attend the funerals of fallen soldiers as invited guests of family in order to show respect and shield mourners from funeral protestors (i.e., primarily members of the Westboro Baptist Church).

To the Patriot Guard Riders, I want to say 'Thank you!.'

Oh, also a quick thanks to Mundy Township, Michigan, for billing the Westboro Baptist Church for police protection and then being a no-show at their protest. From the above article, "Officials said the church members asked for special police protection and broke an agreement for security service when they failed to arrive."


Saturday, July 08, 2006

No Rest for the Wiccan

It's simple enough; a five-pointed star inside of a circle. But for nine years the Veterans' Administration has sat on an application requesting that the pentagram be designated as the official symbol to be placed on the grave markers of Wiccan veterans buried in VA cemeteries. During those nine years, eleven other religions have had their symbols approved by the Veterans' Administration.

Wicca is one of America's fastest growing religions. The Pentagon says that more than 1,800 Wiccans are on active duty in the armed forces. Wicca has been recognized as a legitimate religion by U.S. courts since 1986. Wicca is recognized as a religion by the IRS, prison systems across the country, and the U.S. military, which allows Wiccan ceremonies on military bases.

But this Wiccan, who fought and died for his country and was awarded the Bronze Star, has no marker on his grave, thanks to the foot dragging by the Veterans' Administration. Unbelievable. The VA doesn't even treat atheists with this kind of disrepect--there's already an approved symbol for the headstones of atheists.


Earth to Vatican: Shut Up Already

Last week the Vatican, in the person of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, floated a trial balloon advocating automatic excommunication of anyone doing stem cell research. "Destroying an embryo is equivalent to abortion," said the cardinal. "Excommunication is valid for the women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos." The New York Times article goes on to say that "The Church regards such early stage embryos as a human life, not to be used or destroyed."

Should the above opinion become official Vatican policy, stem cell scientists who work with human embryos will join abortionists and their patients as categories of Catholics who are automatically excommunicated without Church action or proclamation by a Church official. Oddly enough, the historical view among Catholics regarding whether abortion (or the death of an embryo) is equivalent to the taking of a human life has bounced around quite a bit over the centuries, as you can read about here. So much for the unquavering moral stance for life.

I'm a firm believer that the Catholic Church should step back and reassess whether it should even express an opinion regarding issues of morality--afterall, it would be extremely difficult to find an organization with a poorer moral compass than the one employed by the Vatican. Let's review ....

(1). Numerous bishops advocated refusing communion to U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, while remaining mysteriously silent regarding whether communion should be given to pro death-penalty Catholic politicians (such as Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum). Also, during this very same period of time, Pope John Paul II is completely happy to personally give communion to the Mayor of Rome, a pro-choice Catholic.

(2). The Church excludes openly homosexual men from becoming Priests, just a few short years after gay Catholic Priest Father Mike (Mychal Judge) becomes a hero (posthumously) for his rescue efforts and the sacrifice of his own life during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

(3). The Church spends decades covering up the criminal acts of pedophile priests, gay and straight, in the United States and around the world, often in direct violation of civil law.

(4). The Catholic Church, one of the richest organizations on the planet, encouraging many archdioceses to declare bankruptcy as a way to avoide making payouts to the victims of Priest sexual abuse.

(6). The Spanish Inquisition.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Considering the Code

This weekend marks the release of the movie The DaVinci Code. So of course pundits everywhere are rehashing the fundamental premise of the book on which the movie is based, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and produced offspring. With no real proof to base this theory on, there's little point in arguing its merits. Come to think of it, outside of the New Testament, there's virtually no proof that Jesus existed at all.

For me, The DaVinci Code provided a jumping off point to take a second look at what passes today for Christianity, and to compare that to what might have (or perhaps should have) been. Most biblical scholars do agree that during the first centuries after Christ there were many forms of Christianity with many varying beliefs. If you have an interest in pursuing this fascinating subject I would recommend, as a starting point, any of the fine books by Elaine Pagels or Bart Ehrlman, particularly Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospels of Thomas by Pagels, and Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Ehrlman.