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A film by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven suggesting that Jesus was not the son of God is already causing controversy, despite the fact that a script for the film has yet to materialise. Verhoeven, who directed the 1992 sex thriller Basic Instinct, is said to be basing the movie on his book, Jesus of Nazareth, which questions the commonly accepted version of Jesus’ life.
According to the Daily Mail, Verhoeven’s film suggests that Jesus was conceived after his mother Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. Oscar winner roger Avary, who co-wrote Quentin Tarantino’s hit Pulp Fiction, is said to be adapting Verhoeven’s book into a screenplay.
According to a spokesperson for the Culture and Media Institute, a conservative American media watchdog, the proposed film is an attack on Christianity.
“Hollywood isn't anti-Christian, we are constantly told,” said Dan Gainor.
“Yet the evidence keeps piling up that it is precisely that way.
“This isn't accidental. Christians and Christian faith have been under decades of attack by hedonist Hollywood that is desperate to rationalise a culture of immorality.”
A spokesperson for Verhoeven, however, has said that the outrage is a little premature.
“There is as yet no script on the subject, and until there is, there's nothing to discuss. It will be at least six months before we have a script.”
In an interview last year, Verhoeven revealed that he respected what Jesus stood for.
“If you look at the man, it’s clear you have a person who was completely innovative in the field of ethics,” he said.
“My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realise that. It’s not about miracles, it’s about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world.
“Jesus’ ideals are about the utopia of human behaviour, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy.”
Verhoeven’s film, if it gets off the ground, won’t be the first film on Christianity to stoke controversy.
The 1979 Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’ stirred up protests from religious groups and was accused of blasphemy.
This religious satire told the story of Brian Cohen, a Jewish man who was born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus. Many local authorities in the UK banned the film outright, or imposed a high age restriction.
The 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ also caused outrage. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film starred Willem Dafoe as Jesus and depicts the Messiah being tempted by sexual visions. The movie carried a disclaimer that it was a departure from the Gospel story.