Atheist Luigi Cascioli

An atheist who gained worldwide fame when he sued an Italian priest, claiming Jesus Christ never actually existed, has been fined by an appeals court in Rome for bringing a fraudulent suit.

But Luigi Cascioli vows never to pay the $1,900 judgment against him.

The fact he was given the maximum fine is “an abuse of authority against every right of intellectual expression and liberty,” the 73-year-old Cascioli said. “I refuse to pay.”

In February, Judge Gaetano Mautone threw out a petition by Cascioli who wanted his childhood friend, Rev. Enrico Righi, to stand trial for asserting Jesus Christ was a real person.

Cascioli, a retired agronomist, contended Righi violated a law that forbids deceiving the public. The atheist said the priest, who had publicly criticized him for casting doubt on the truth of the gospels, had no evidence Jesus ever existed.

“The Rev. Righi is very satisfied and moved,” Righi’s attorney, Severo Bruno, said. “He is an old, small-town parish priest who never would have thought he’d be in the spotlight for something like this.”

Cascioli, who himself once trained for the priesthood, further accused the church of having profited from its deception for 2,000 years, another crime under Italian law.

The author of “The Fable of Christ” alleged the priest violated local laws against deception when he stated in a 2002 parish gazette “that the historic figure of Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary (two totally imaginary characters and therefore historically non existing [claims Cascioli]); of having the same Jesus been born in the village of Bethlehem and of having grown up in Nazareth.”

Rev. Righi said the existence of Jesus is “unmistakable” due to a wealth of both pagan and Christian evidence pointing to his reality.

“Cascioli maintains that Christ never existed. If he doesn’t see the sun at midday, he can’t denounce me just because I do. He should denounce all believers!” Righi told the London Times.

Among his examples are the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, thought by scholars to be the most important non-Christian source on the issue. One of his passages of “Jewish Antiquities,” a work completed in A.D. 93, mentions the execution in A.D. 62 of “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name.”

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