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Defending the Faith: 'Parallels' of prophets not parallel

From time to time, some triumphant atheist or other challenges me with a list of supposed parallels between the biblical depiction of Jesus and the stories of other important religious figures (mythical or historical), such as Krishna, Tammuz, the Buddha, Muhammad, Mithra, Cadmus, Osiris and Baal.

The biographies of these characters are said to resemble each other right down to minute details: They commonly if not always came into the world via a virgin's immaculate conception; were born on Dec. 25; were adored as infants by angels, shepherds and visiting sages; performed miracles; taught New Testament doctrines; were regarded as divine; were crucified; atoned for human sin; descended into hell; rose again from the dead; and ascended into heaven.

The point of the list, of course, is to suggest that the story of Jesus is merely fictional, probably derived from myths about the death of vegetation in the winter and its miraculous rebirth in the spring.

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