-- Benedict and Nancy Freedman, authors Mrs. Mike, Sappho: The Tenth Muse, The Immortals
In a thriller that rivals anything Dan Brown ever wrote, The Messiah Matrix threatens to take all your beliefs and toss them into the wind. A priest is murdered in Rome. His assassin is also shot and killed while with another priest. A message was delivered. An artifact is found on the floor of the sea. A Jesuit questions his faith and the history of his Church. An archaeologist uncovers the find of a lifetime and loses it.
A connection between Christ and Augustus Caesar? The wise men following a star in 17 BC? Curiouser and curiouser! Although you know what they say about curiosity. The Monsignor searching for the ashes of Christ--which he was killed before explaining. Does the Holy See condone murder? Damn Skippy it does!
This book is amazing! The two main characters of Ryan and Emily are the perfect pair of detectives. Will they be more? You’ll have to read the book! Emily’s coin is vital to the history of Christianity in the world, but will they get it back? On the coin, Augustus was wearing a crown with twelve spikes. What’s up with that?
In this tale we have good guys, very bad guys, the Holy Mother Church, good priests and very, very bad priests and one red-headed archaeology professor who, along with one questioning Jesuit and some of his brothers, may be able to solve the conundrum that is The Messiah Matrix.
--- Cheryl's Book Nook
"In a thriller that rivals anything Dan Brown ever wrote, The Messiah Matrix threatens to take all your beliefs and toss them into the wind." - Cheryl's Book Nook
"… unique combination of carefully researched material and breathless adventure story" – Book, Bones & Buffy
"The Messiah Matrix is a creative, thought-provoking, action-packed, historically laced, and masterfully detailed page-turner. (Watch out for paper cuts!--You'll be turning the pages quickly. It's that good!)" - Blogcritics
"More than modern thriller (which it definitely is), The Messiah Matrix is a thought-provoking, original examination of the origins and evolution of modern Christianity." - ThrillerThursday
Destined to be highly controversial - A Very Fine Novel
Review by Grady Harp
Dr. Kenneth John Atchity has created a novel that is not only an absorbing story, but it is also a platform for re-thinking the beginnings of Christianity as we have been taught. This fact will doubtless unsettle many right wing religious conservatives - much the way that Darwin's concept of Evolution has always caused them problems. And if that is an afterburn of reading this novel then we should hope it gains a very wide readership.
Acuity is a scholar, highly regarded among academics, and it is this aspect of his novel THE MESSIAH MATRIX that gives him the edge. The ideas he poses are scientifically grounded and so well developed, based on archeological findings and research, that the themes of this book cannot be disregarded. Add to that the fact that Acuity writes with an elegant style, not only in a manner that makes his story propelled forward at all times but also he creates a compelling atmosphere - both above and below the waters of the sea!
Very briefly the book opens with a gripping Prologue of the intentional murder of a priest who receives last rites from a Fr. Ryan McKeon, a Jesuit whose convictions about his religion and his church are tenuous at best, and as the struck priest dies he utters a secret that starts the story with a mesmerizing concept: who was the human form the Bible calls Jesus Christ but historical research may prove him to be a Roman Emperor, so similar are the facts about the beginning of the Biblical Christianity and Roman history. Parallel to this incident is the work of three archeological investigators, the women member of which dives to discover an ancient element at the bottom of the sea that supports the thoughts that begin with the secret shared with Ryan.
As with all successful novels there are power struggles, love stories, adventures around every turn and to reveal more would diminish the impact of the slowly unraveling mysteries that connect to question the validity of the historical Christian Savior. It is the mixture of investigative acumen and the gift for relating mystery writing in a style so eloquent that it resembles the major books of literature that makes this book so solid. There are those who compare it to the Da Vinci Code genre of books and yes, it is every bit as intoxicating as those. The difference is in the writing style. Kenneth John Atchity could write about any topic and he would be worth of reading, so beautiful is his mastery of the English language!
Grady Harp, February 2013
From the Author
One of many dismaying ecclesiastical events of my formative years was the Catholic Church's sudden 1984 announcement that eating meat on Fridays was no longer a mortal sin. Bad enough all those hamburgers and hotdogs sacrificed to mackerel and catfish. What really got me was the fate of those uncounted millions of souls who had been consigned to hellfire for all eternity by St. Peter's keys to the kingdom. Would they get a reprieve and be allowed to migrate heavenward, albeit a bit blackened around the edges? Apparently not! If one doctrine can so arbitrarily be discarded after centuries of confessional enforcement, what, I wondered, about so many others?
Now archconservative Pope Benedict XVI, in his latest book, "Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives," admits a few other things never made a lot of sense; infallibly ex cathedra, has pronounced an end to them. First, the year of Jesus' birth, known for millennia now as anno domini, "year of our lord," "A.D.," he admits is problematic. Being a close critic of the written word it never made sense to me that King Herod tried to kill the infant Jesus when secular history incontrovertibly records that Herod himself died in 4 B.C. "Never mind," the nuns and priests told me, "some things are mysteries and better not questioned." I suppose we're still asked to ignore the actual historical event, which was a senatorial decree to slay all male children on the birth of Octavian (later to be called Augustus) in 63 B.C. In "The Infancy Narratives," His Holiness admits that the Jesus birth year of record has been mistaken for nearly 15 centuries due to a sixth-century clerical error and should be reassigned to 7-6 B.C.
Second: It always seemed an uncanny convenience to me that the sacred date of our annual Christmas celebration of the savior's birth, coinciding with the winter solstice, is found in nearly every single ancient pagan religion -- some predating Christianity by more than a millennium. Mithra, Horus/Osiris, Dionysus and the Phrygian savior Attis all share the same birth date. Even the Christmas tree can be traced at least as far back as Attis rituals circa 400 B.C. (imported to Rome by conquests). The ritual involved the cutting down of a pine tree and installing it, branches covered with candles to shine the way home through the darkening days. All that said to me is that the story of Jesus was founded in ancient myth -- which made it all the more momentous as far as I was concerned. Now the Pope tells us that we actually have no idea when exactly Jesus was born, and that, in fact, December is just a solstice-appropriate date that need not be taken literally.
The same Pope, by the way, once declared that the greatest problem with Christian doctrine was our scholarly inability to make the historicity of Jesus credible: "the so-called historical Jesus is a mythological figure, self-invented by various interpreters." But, then, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wasn't pope yet when he said that.
Third: On my knees each year marveling at nativity cribs -- which ranged in size from the six-inch one beneath the family Christmas tree to the full life-sized crib on Gilham Road in Kansas City or in St. Peter's Square, both of the latter generally involving live animals -- I couldn't help wondering if poor Mary, Joseph and Jesus really had to deal with the rank breath of camels, ox, ass, sheep and cows. Now, it turns out, this Pope doesn't believe the camels, ass and oxen were literally there either. Thank God believing in them was never an issue of mortal or even venial sin!
Fourth: There's also an awful lot of talk in the Pope's new book about Augustus Caesar, bringer of universal peace, divus filius divi, "God and son of God," being called soter ("savior") -- a "theological figure" who arranged that history be started from his reign, the true origin of the term anno domini. Is there indeed a hitherto unadmitted "link between Jesus and Augustus"? After all, one of Augustus' many epithets is Jasius -- after a Trojan founding father of Rome.
Maybe His Holiness is simply intent on redeeming Christianity from the literalists who hijacked it two millennia ago and who never seemed to notice that their literalist beliefs are self-contradictory.
As we reach a time in American history when fewer than 50 percent of the U.S. population claims to believe in the Christian God, the Pope's scholarly conclusions illustrate more clearly than ever that it's not necessary to believe literally in any organized religion's founding story.
All religions are based on universal myth: the myth that humans are capable of aspiring to the divine urges within human nature as much as we are capable of sinking into the bestial ones. That is what the ancient fish diagram (two conjoined circles with the area of conjunction forming the fish), first popularized by the Egyptians, symbolizes. The fish in the image is formed by the intersection of the two natures, divine and bestial, within the human species. That is what the term christ originally meant long before it was attached by historical literalists to a carpenter who supposedly walked the dusty roads of Judea. At the end of the day does it really matter whether a man named Jesus actually lived, when the mythic idea of Jesus resonates through the ages, shining through the darkness of the evil that haunts us, and enlivening our hearts with (nonsectarian) Christmas hope and joy?
Good News From the Vatican
The wicked witch is not quite dead, but the present pope has resigned -- supposedly because he's getting old; but really, insiders say, because he can't control the violent politics in the Vatican except by the ultimate diffusion of renouncing the ring of the fisherman. For the first time in six centuries (when Gregory XII resigned to end a war between clerical factions) that ring will be ceremonially broken while the pontiff still breathes, to make way for his successor; and the arch-conservatives in the Mafia-besmirched Curia must face the uncertainty of what politics the next white smoke will bring.
My thought is that Benedict XVI resigned because he could no longer pretend he believes in the historicity of the founding myth, knowing as a scholar that it had never and could never be proved -- especially by the anti-intellectual fundamentalists bent on returning the world's remaining faithful to the Dark Ages where priests would never marry, women would never be priests, every act of sex must result in Sunday-generous children, and Jesus' face is actually imprinted on the shroud of Turin as certainly as Boccaccio's Friar Onion sold feathers from the Archangel Gabriel and breast milk from the Virgin Mary.
The decadence of this pope, who turns in St. Peter's keys on Feb. 28, is not only obvious from casual googling, but also written on his every photograph -- the weary, uninspiring scowl of cynicism also evident in portraits of Renaissance profligates Alexander VI or Leo X. It always amazed me that the sacred college of cardinals couldn't have found someone to elect who wasn't a childhood member of Hitler Youth! No wonder his loyal butler, after service in the Vatican under saintly John Paul, leaked secret documents from the Unholy See. Joseph Ratzinger may not have had female mistresses, but he obediently and infallibly excluded women from the altar, protected a molesting priest, inflamed the Muslim world, refused condoms to spouses married to HIV victims, and staunchly continued to sever divorced Catholics from the sacraments.
Don't get me wrong. I love what the Roman Catholic Church supposedly stands for -- the potential for the divine in every human being -- though I believe that's whether he or she is baptized or not. I just no longer believe the divine is institutionally enshrined in an organization that has condoned murder, genocide, "holy wars" and sordid sins of the shepherds against their flock for nearly its entire two millennia -- truly as sinful itself as the Roman Empire of which it is, after all, the continuation.
The divine is what I responded to as a kid growing up midst the incense, magical stained glass and haunting Gregorian chant. But I've long recognized that I also experience it in Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Francesco Goya's paintings, Antonio Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Diane Arbus' photographs, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and Paul McCartney's "Yesterday."
"Great poetry," said A. E. Housman, "makes your hair stand on end" -- and all the finest and best popular arts put us in touch with the transcendent and transformative best of the human spirit.
It's been a hard lesson growing up to the incontrovertible truth that the all too human hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church does not hold a hegemony on holiness, and that its ancient formula extra Ecclesia nulla salus ("outside the church no salvation") is the very root of its corruption. Not to mention the sacrament of Confession, which by allowing all sins to be forgiven allows all to be committed. That Jesus said to Simon Peter, "I give thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven," had to be the greatest piece of self-serving propaganda ever penned by a second century scribe. Justifying what an Irish-Canadian friend calls "centuries of organized thuggery."
Isn't it time that we all grow up, reject the charlatans that collect millions every Saturday or Sunday in the name of one intolerant God or another? Isn't it time that we embrace the patent reality that evil is our own fault and that it is our human responsibility, each and every one of us, to find, instead, the heaven in our hearts and manifest it in our daily deeds -- following the universal Golden Rule that nearly every spiritual doctrine in the world has advocated from time immemorial.
To restate all of the above more optimistically, thank you, Your Holiness, for, wittingly or not, setting an example. Let's all resign from this wrong-headed church and turn our hearts and minds to the God in whose "image and likeness" Genesis claims we are fashioned.