You know that game about who would you like to go to a dinner party with, alive or dead? I think Tom Harpur has just jumped to the top of my list.
Harpur is a very interesting person. A Canadian of Irish descent (although Protestant instead of Catholic), he group up with deeply devout parents. His father had his life planned out for him — religious studies, become a priest, get a doctorate in theology, become a professor. At first, Harpur followed his path, but eventually (primarily after his father’s death), he started to deviate. He lost his belief in the bible as historical fact (while still embracing it as myth with great lessons to teach). His time as a Rhodes Scholar (like other accomplished people, including Bill Clinton) clearly led him to the tools to examine church teachings, rather than just accepting it without questioning.
He eventually moved from ministry to journalism, which let him travel the world and learn about other faiths through his reporting as a religious journalist. His first marriage dissolved, and then he married his second wife. Eventually he was pointed at the writings of Alvin Boyd Kuhn (who I will have to look into), which headed him down the road to writing The Pagan Christ, the controversial best seller that goes into the theory that Christ was a myth, adapted from the myths of other civilisations, and not a historical person that can be verified.
Finally, he covers the a bit of the aftermath of that book. Needless to say, there was a lot of aftermath, since a large part of the Christian faith is invested in the concept of Jesus as an actual person, while he argues that Jesus is a myth, and no less valuable for it.
The progression from devout christian following his father’s plan for him through to religious rebel without ever really losing his faith (it just evolves) was fascinating, and told in a conversational tone that draws you in. I will admit to being well disposed towards his arguments, so I’m not sure what one of those Christ as history people would think of this book, but even if I completely disagreed with him, I think I would still find him a fascinating person.
Unfortunately, Tom Harpur died earlier this year (2017) at the age of 87, so other than that mythical dinner party, I won’t ever get the chance to meet him in person.