The following article “Jesus of Nazareth Discusses His Failure” is written by H. G. Wells, one of over 40 articles in the Disinformation anthology I edited, Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion.
Russ Kick writes: H. G. Wells is best-remembered as a late-Victorian pioneer of science fiction, mainly due to his 1890s novels The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. He cranked out dozens of books in numerous genres of fiction and nonfiction, and 1945—the year before his death—saw the publication of his last two books to come out during his lifetime: The Happy Turning: A Dream of Life and Mind at the End of Its Tether.
The Happy Turning is a slim, strange work that gets even stranger as it continues. Wells sets it up by claiming that sometimes he dreams about taking his daily walk and coming across a pathway he’s never noticed in real life. Taking this turn (the “Happy Turning”) leads him to the utopian Dreamland (a/k/a the Beyond), where his body is perfectly fit, where society knows no war, poverty, or inequality, and where his “subliminal self” lets loose with a flood of “cryptic and oracular” symbols.
Wells then steps back in time to relate some dreams he had when he was young, including the one that “made me an atheist.” Having read about “a man being broken on the wheel over a slow fire,” the preteen Wells had a nightmare. “By a mental leap which cut out all intermediaries, the dream artist made it clear that if indeed there was an all powerful God, then it was he and he alone who stood there conducting this torture.” Upon awakening, he felt that he had two alternatives: go insane or stop believing in God. “God had gone out of my life. He was impossible.”
The following is Wells’ Dreamland chat with Jesus, which takes up two of the longest chapters. The excerpt below is
approximately the first thousand words of this encounter:
THE COMPANION I FIND most congenial in the Beyond is Jesus of Nazareth. Like everything in Dreamland he fluctuates, but beyond the Happy Turning his personality is at least as distinct as my own. His scorn and contempt for Christianity go beyond my extremest vocabulary. He was, I believe, the putative son of a certain carpenter, Joseph, but Josephus says his actual father was a Roman soldier named Pantherus. If so, Jesus did not know it.
He began his career as a good illiterate patriotic Jew in indignant revolt against the Roman rule and the Quisling priests who cringed to it. He took up his self-appointed mission under the influence of John the Baptist, who was making trouble for both the Tetrarch in Galilee and the Roman Procurator in Jerusalem. John was an uncompromising Puritan, and the first thing his disciples had to do, was to get soundly baptised in Jordan. Then he seemed to run out of ideas.
After their first encounter John and Jesus went their different ways. There was little discipleship in Jesus. He played an inconspicuous role in the Salome affair, and he assures me he never baptized anybody. But he was brooding on the Jewish situation, which he felt needed more than moral denunciation and water. He decided to get together a band of followers and march on Jerusalem. Where, as the Gospel witnesses tell very convincingly, with such contradictions as are natural to men writing about it all many years later, the sacred Jewish priests did their best to obliterate him. He learnt much as he went on. He seems to have said some good things and had others imputed to him. He became a sort of Essene Joe Miller. He learnt and changed as he went on.
Gods! how he hated priests, and how he hates them now! And Paul! “Fathering all this nonsense about being ‘The Christ’ on me of all people! Christian! He started that at Antioch. I never had the chance of a straight talk to him. I wish I could come upon him some time. But he never seems to be here…. There are a few things I could say to him,” said Jesus reflectively, and added, “Plain things….”
I regretted Paul’s absence.
“One must draw the line somewhere,” I said.
[“]In this happy place, Paul’s in the discard.”
“Yes,” reflected Jesus, dismissing Paul; “there were such a lot of things I didn’t know, and such a lot of snares for the feet of a man who feels more strongly than he understands. I see so plainly now how incompetently I set about it.”
He surveyed his shapely feet cooling in the refreshing greensward of Happyland. The stigmata were in evidence, but not obtrusively so. They were not eyesores. They have since been disgustingly irritated and made much of by the sedulous uncleanness of the saints.
“Never have disciples,” said Jesus of Nazareth. ‘’It was my greatest mistake. I imitated the tradition of having such divisional commanders to marshal the rabble I led to Jerusalem. It has been the common mistake of all world-menders, and I fell into it in my turn as a matter of course. I had no idea what a real revolution had to be; how it had to go on from and to and fro between man and man, each one making his contribution. I was just another young man in a hurry. I thought I could carry the whole load, and I picked my dozen almost haphazard.
“What a crew they were! I am told that even these Gospels you talk about, are unflattering in their account of them.
“There is nothing flattering to be told about them. What a crew to start upon saving the world! From the first they began badgering me about their relative importance….
“And their stupidity! They would misunderstand the simplest metaphors. I would say, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like so-and-so and so-andso’…. In the simplest terms….
“They always got it wrong.
“After a time I realised I could never open my mouth and think aloud without being misunderstood. I remember trying to make our breach with all orthodox and ceremonial limitations clear beyond any chance of relapse. I made up a parable about a Good Samaritan. Not half a bad story.”
“We have the story,” I said.
“I was sloughing off my patriotism at a great rate. I was realising the Kingdom of Heaven had to be a universal thing. Or nothing. Does your version go like that?”
“It goes like that.”
“But it never altered their belief that they had come into the business on the ground floor.”
“You told another good story about some Labourers in the Vineyard.”
“From the same point of view?”
“From the same point of view.”
“Did it alter their ideas in the least?”
“Nothing seemed to alter their ideas in the least.”
“It was a dismal time when our great March on Jerusalem petered out. You know when they got us in the Garden of Gethsemane I went to pieces completely…. The disciples, when they realised public opinion was against them, just dropped their weapons and dispersed. No guts in them. Simon Peter slashed off a man’s ear and then threw away his sword and pretended not to know me…
“I wanted to kick myself. I derided myself. I saw all the mistakes I had made in my haste. I spoke in the bitterest irony. Nothing for it now but to know one had had good intentions. ‘My peace,’ I said, ‘I give unto you.’
“The actual crucifixion was a small matter in comparison. I was worn out and glad to be dying […] But being crucified upon the irreparable things that one has done, realising that one has failed, that you have let yourself down and your poor silly disciples down and mankind down, that the God in you has deserted you—that was the ultimate torment.”
Read this article and many others in the Disinformation anthology Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion, edited by Russ Kick, available on Amazon and in all good bookstores.
About The Author: H. G. Wells (1866–1946) is best-remembered as a late-Victorian pioneer of science fiction, mainly due to his 1890s novels The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. These are just a sliver of the approximately 180 books he wrote, covering topics such as politics, science, history, and the future.