a staircase to heaven
Reading Time: 9 minutes The tomb of Jesus in Shingo. (ウィキ太郎(Wiki Taro), CC.)
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Hi and Happy Easter! If there’s one thing we can say about Christianity, it’s that it really reveals the downfalls of holding beliefs that aren’t based in reality. For this Easter holiday, we check out one those sorts of beliefs. Today, let me show you a wackadoodle claim about the end of Jesus’ life — and why it’s not really wackadoodle at all in the grand scheme of things.

a staircase to heaven
The tomb of Jesus in Shingo. (ウィキ太郎(Wiki Taro), CC.)

(Related posts: The Putting Away of Childish Things; The Jesuses of the East and West Almost Met Once; A Very Non-Historical Jesus; “Original Christianity” is a Lie; The Birth of a New Trickster God; and Attack of the Mini-Jesuses. Also check out the last Super Special if you missed it!)

Everyone, Meet Sajiro Sawaguchi.

Sajiro Sawaguchi is a very old Buddhist (YES) farmer who lives in the tiny village of Shingo, Japan. That’s at the way northern end of the big island itself, Honshu. That means that Shingo is very northern indeed — long winters and short mild summers are the norm in that part of Japan. I lived in Hokkaido briefly in the spring years ago, just a stone’s throw north of Shingo, and I was dodging blizzards and snowdrifts most of the time I was there.

About 2400 people live in Shingo — it’s losing it population quickly, as a lot of these small villages seem to be these days. The people there make their money in agriculture and dairy farming, mostly.

The town lacks a high school and possesses no options for commuting. There’s no Christian church for miles around, though I spotted several nice Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples in town.

However, Shingo does boast a major claim to fame, at least locally.

The tomb of Jesus Christ is located in the south end of town

Sajiro Sawaguchi claims that his family represents the direct lineage of the Christian God-Emperor. 


Wait, What?

In the photo at the top of this post, a larger version of which can be had here, a sign explains all (mostly):

When Jesus Christ was 21 years old, he came to Japan and pursued knowledge of divinity for 12 years. He went back to Judea at age 33, and engaged in his mission. However, at that time, people in Judea would not accept Christ’s preaching. Instead, they arrested him and tried to crucify him on a cross. His younger brother, Isukiri casually took christ’s [sic] place and ended his life on the cross.

Christ, who escaped the crucifixion, went through the ups and downs of travel, and again came to Japan. He settled right here in what is now called Herai Village, and died at the age of 106.

On this holy ground, there is dedicated a burial mound on the right to deify Christ, and a grave on the left to deify Isukiri.

The above description was given in a testament by Jesus Christ.

Talk about creating more questions than are answered!

But Wait, There’s More.

A 2013 Smithsonian Magazine article explains a bit more:

On the flat top of a steep hill in a distant corner of northern Japan lies the tomb of an itinerant shepherd who, two millennia ago, settled down there to grow garlic. He fell in love with a farmer’s daughter named Miyuko, fathered three kids and died at the ripe old age of 106. In the mountain hamlet of Shingo, he’s remembered by the name Daitenku Taro Jurai. The rest of the world knows him as Jesus Christ.

It turns out that Jesus of Nazareth—the Messiah, worker of miracles and spiritual figurehead for one of the world’s foremost religions—did not die on the cross at Calvary, as widely reported. According to amusing local folklore, that was his kid brother, Isukiri, whose severed ear was interred in an adjacent burial mound in Japan.

“Amusing local folklore,” indeed. But it’s way more than that. The site functions as a major tourist trap for the area, with 20,000 visitors a year coming to see the humble site. While there, they buy a lot of relics and tchotchkes from the nearby gift shop and visit the site’s museum, where they can purchase garlic-flavored Dracula Ice Cream (for whatever reason) and commission a tour of Jesus’ real live tomb before going go-kart racing with the kids.

For decades now, the area has celebrated a Christ Festival every spring. For the occasion, women dress in kimonos, dance around the two graves, and sing in a made-up language.

I have fallen down a rabbithole with this town, and I can’t seem to extricate myself. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, I notice another pin in the area’s map and I’m just lost again.

Supporting Evidence?

In 1998, the Fortean Times, always an excellent source of unbiased, peer-reviewed objective knowledge (/s), ran a story on the topic. There, they gushed:

In the years before World War II, documents pertaining to two small, forgotten graves on the ancestral land of the Sawaguchi family in Shingo turned up in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. While Sawaguchi family tradition held that the graves should lay undisturbed, no one knew who or what was buried in them. The ancient scrolls were found among the possessions of Koma Takeuchi, a Shinto priest from a long line of Shinto priests. When he realized the secret his family had been guarding for generations, he went to Shingo with Banzan Toya, an artist and a researcher in ancient Japanese history. The two found the graves on May 26th, 1935 in a bamboo grove atop a small hill.

Alas, however, disaster soon struck. The Japanese government at the time disliked Takeuchi’s brand of Shinto, Amatsukyo. (Here’s some interesting info about it.) Shortly after the discovery of the Shingo graves, the gubmint confiscated the documents. Nobody’s seen hide nor hair of ’em since.

But nothing stops a village hellbent on exploiting a local legend. It doesn’t matter how small it is, or even if it didn’t actually exist at the supposed time stuff happened there.

Locals can smell an opportunity to exploit out-of-town rubes when it presents itself with rings in its hair and stars on its garters. As we learned years ago in the “Cryptozoology” episode of Bullshit!, locals love to mess with gullible visitors.

Not Even the Only One.

Besides the obvious claimed tomb in Jerusalem (and another besides), several notable candidates for Final Resting Place of Jesus litter our fine planet.

Two aren’t even located anywhere near Judea. Three are at least located in or near Jerusalem.

But must Christians slice-and-dice their Savior so?

Because if he wasn’t La Machined at some point, that means that at least four of these five claimants are wrong.

YouTube video

Just a reminder of what that is: a food processor, one of the first that reached Freedom Land in the 1980s or so. By the late 80s, gamers in my area were using its name as a verb to describe an eviscerating loss.

And there’s not a single thing Christians can say about any competitors for the title, either, because all of it is based on wingnuttery.

The Problem With Wingnuts: Burial Site Edition.

When beliefs don’t tether to reality, then reality cannot be used to challenge them. Reality had nothing to do with their making, so reality cannot support — and more importantly cannot undo — them.

So a Japanese guy can make up a really outlandish biography for Jesus, even substituting a fraternal crucifix-ee who doesn’t exist anywhere else in the historical record (any more than Jesus does). What are other Christians gonna say about it? Nothing, that’s what. It’s not like anything at all exists to support their preferred story.

Indeed, the 2006 BBC story (relinked here) dug up a Christian pastor in Japan willing to comment on the Shingo tourist site. Here’s what he said:

Wasn’t he shocked by the legend of Jesus’ grave? [The pastor] laughed and said it was just a silly story which caused him no particular offence.

“I suppose that many Japanese people feel respect for Jesus and the Bible,” said the pastor.[citation needed] “The legend ties in with that. Perhaps it shows that people are looking to make a connection with Jesus in some way.”

But notice, please, that he offered no actual facts to contradict this other claim. That’s because he has none. To him, as to all other Christians, it represents only a competing myth, though one with far fewer adherents than his favored one.

So they attack it on that basis, if they attack it at all.

Dispelling False Beliefs.

It doesn’t matter that not once, not ever, has a rotting corpse come back to life. Nor that not once, not ever has a single miracle claim from any religion turned out to be true. Nor that there’s not one single contemporary mention of Jesus or his family or his trial or his miracle-working or his friends or his disciples anywhere in the historical record during those critical 30-35 CE years.

For that matter,  we lack any support at all attesting to the existence of even his earliest followers or anything we can directly call Christianity during those years, neither of which require Jesus to have actually existed. Very strangely, it looks exactly like Christianity itself came to life and his followers only manifested in reality with the release of the earliest writings about it (around 50-60 CE).

In Reality-Land, when someone creates some fake news or alternative facts (ugh, that term) then reputable, credible authorities can swoop in to correct the record with actual little-f facts. However, wingnuts won’t care about any of those facts. Their beliefs weren’t built from real facts, so real facts won’t challenge their beliefs. No matter the contradictions offered up by reality and facts, wingnuts always maintain their belief-frames.

Teen Cas Accidentally Wanders into the Problem of Wingnuts.

Years and years ago, when I was Pentecostal myself, I had such an innocent view of my religion.

Obviously, my beliefs were 100% informed by reality and little-f facts.

So naturally, I thought that when other people believed differently from myself, then it must have meant they simply hadn’t received the information that I had. They didn’t yet possess my knowledge. So all I had to do, in theory, was show them my information, show them how I’d formed my beliefs, and they’d believe what I did!

I thought this because that’s how it works in Reality-Land, ideally. If someone thinks that 2+2=27, or that the capital of France is Dubuque, Iowa, then all that needs to happen is to show them how it really works. One adds up beans or pennies, one pulls up any encyclopedia entry for France, and the other person achieves enlightenment.

(Oh, how smartphones have destroyed the age-old custom of arguing about trivia in bars!)

But that’s not how it works in Christianity.

Time and again, my innocent attempts to set others straight got rebuffed.

The Spiritual Yardstick.

Sometimes people told me they were happy that I was happy with my flavor of Christianity, but it wasn’t their thing. Or (if they were fellow fundagelicals) they’d launch into long arguments based on esoteric applications of ancient languages they didn’t actually understand to recite arguments they’d learned from various similarly-ignorant apologists whose trains of thought eventually pulled into agreeable destinations.

But their arguments failed to sway me, and mine failed to sway them, even though all of us were completely convinced that we were right and they were all wrong.

Yes, this truth bothered me. A lot. I didn’t know it, but I’d hit upon the Problem of Wingnuts. None of our beliefs were based on facts, so none of us had facts to offer to sway the others. All we had were arguments based upon our opinions. But none of those arguments could adequately substitute for facts.

Whoever won these doctrinal squabbles did so only if they happened to luck into an argument that completely fit the worldview of the other person — as that cult leader discovered when he came to reap new recruits from my then-church. All Ezekiel had to do was extend out the arguments we already used to make our existing beliefs even more extremist than they already were, and he bagged his cult two new recruits and almost snagged more even than that!

But usually, nobody won. Because nobody could. Because wingnut beliefs are adopted from the heart, not from the head. 

The More, the Merrier.

So yes, bring on the alternate, competing Jesus tombs. Bring on the weirdos who think Jesus fathered children at some point and that there’s a real live lineage of his descendents running around France, England, Japan, or wherever else. Bring ’em on!

Because nothing points out the total lack of reality in Christian beliefs like competing beliefs that cannot be eradicated with little-f facts because there simply don’t exist any little-f facts with which one can do that. And because all the little-f facts we have actually contradict Christians’ beliefs, Christians learn to ignore them and hand-wave them away with stuff like apologetics.

Every time I see one of these doctrinal competitions and slapfights, it reminds me anew of how happy I am to be away from religion.

So pass the chocolate bun-buns, please! That’s one part of Easter I still love and always will.

a white ceramic bunny amid mini pastel rainbow cheesecakes, on a white ceramic platter
(Melissa Walker Horn.)

NEXT UP: Lord Snow Presides! Next week, our dance card is full to bursting: Christian criticisms of positive thinking, a new scam to watch out for in multi-level marketing, the developing false narrative around massive evangelistic success in the pandemic, and another total lie from Josh McDowell. If we get time, maybe we’ll look at the purely laughable state of the sort of “apologetics training” offered by hucksters like him because y’all, that will just never be not-hilarious to me. See you tomorrow!

(Wowzers, I’m liking this daily posting thing! I get to talk about everything I want to share! Hope you’re enjoying it too!)

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...