In Memoriam: Acharya S

Did you know that:

  • Mithra [sic] was born on December 25th.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or disciples.
  • He performed miracles.
  • He was buried in a tomb.
  • After three days he rose again.
  • His resurrection was celebrated every year.
  • Mithra was called “the Good Shepherd.”
  • He was considered “the Way, the Truth and the Light, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah.”
  • He was identified with both the Lion and the Lamb.
  • His sacred day was Sunday, “the Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • Mithra had his principal festival on what was later to become Easter, at which time he was resurrected.
  • His religion had a Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper”

Or that very much the same is also true of Horus, Krishna and Prometheus?

These claims, and others equally strange, were widely circulated on the early internet.  They originated from a website,, run by a woman calling herself “Acharya S”.[1]

These claims were met with much derision at the time, at least among those with any knowledge of antiquity.  But they were terribly useful to a certain sort of ignorant atheist, and so were repeated endlessly.  Indeed they may still be met with online, in one form or another.  The author never withdrew them, or admitted any mistake of fact.

I was led to interest myself in Mithras as a direct result of the circulation of these claims.  Occasionally I crossed swords with the authoress or one of her close disciples on various online discussion forums, an encounter that seldom left a pleasant impression behind.  But always the claims were stimulating, and I received a great deal of enjoyment in chasing down the real facts of the matter on more than one occasion, and learning of strange or unusual ancient sources, such as Antiochus of Athens.  We all need intellectual stimulus, and sometimes it may be found in strange places.

On Christmas Day 2015, she died.  She was 55 years old, and died of cancer, leaving a 13-year old son.

That she should die on 25 December was itself full of irony.  Acharya S was certain, certain with a degree of certainty that would appal most of us, that Christmas Day was a fraud: that Jesus of Nazareth never lived, and that the day was in fact the birthday of a huge number of pagan deities – Attis, Mithras, Adonis, Osiris, Horus, and so on.  So she wrote, and so she preached with a fierce fervour that contradiction only strengthened.

I cannot tell you her real name.  She went by the pen-name of Acharya S; before that, of Acharya Sanning.  In recent years she used the name “D. M. Murdock” on her books, but whether that was her legal name is not clear.   If it was, her name may have been Dorothy.

Nor can I tell you anything much of her background.  She claimed to have modelled when young, in New York City; to have become a Christian briefly at that time.  But she gave no account of her life.  This cannot, therefore, be an obituary – only an account of what I encountered or found online.

Her key assertion was that Jesus of Nazareth never lived, and that Christianity was merely an antique and fraudulent concoction from pagan beliefs.  This she derived from 19th century atheist popular writers, and embedded into a hazy new-age system of her own that she called “Astrotheology”.  But this system was really nothing: her life-energy was really spent in trying to rewrite history to prove Christianity false, and to convince as many as possible of her preferred account of events.

Without the internet, it is unlikely that Acharya S would have ever been heard of.  But the “Jesus myth” was taken up eagerly by atheists on the web.  Claiming that Jesus never existed, and demanding people prove them wrong, is an easy way to render discussion futile, while creating an impression of doubt; for it requires no education, merely impudence, a willingness to demand others prove to them what everyone knows, and a determination that any evidence to the contrary shall be “inadequate”.

Carried along by this tide, in 1999 she published The Christ Conspiracy: the greatest story ever sold.  How well this sold I do not know, but it certainly attracted attention, and material from it has continued to circulate.  She contributed to a film, Zeitgeist, which made many of the same claims.

But mythicism did not pay well.  She wrote online that she was very poor.  It is a fact that, in the last year of her life, she was obliged to seek money from the public in order to pay medical bills.  Pitifully, her executors have been obliged to continue the appeal in order to pay her funeral expenses.

What can we say about her?

Acharya S stirred up interest in a whole load of obscure aspects of antiquity.  It gave us all something to research, something to investigate, and much time and fun online in rebutting it.  To this extent we are all poorer for her passing.

On the other hand she did some real harm.  Nobody is well served by getting the raw facts wrong.  Many a gullible young atheist will have been confirmed in his newly-minted obscurantism by her work, and led just a step or two further from the light of knowledge into the darkness of ignorance and intellectual self-destruction.  “Jesus mythicism” is the judgement of God upon modern atheists – that those who boast most frequently of their own logic, science, reason and learning should be led to advocate an ignorant, stupid claim in the face of the world.  In this judgement she took a full part.  To dedicate yourself full-time to proving that others are completely wrong is perilous to every human soul that does so, whatever the object so hated.  It leads those who do it into a darkness of hate and blindness.  This path she walked.

She dedicated herself to trying to destroy the Christian religion, to the extent that she was able.  I never knew the reason for this, but it must be personal.

She was not an educated woman.  This fact lay at the root of all the mistakes of historical judgement that filled her books.  I never detected the slightest interest in history for its own sake.  If she had had this, it might have given her the education she lacked.  As far as I can tell, she never understood that history must start by compiling the primary sources and seeing what they say.  To the end, a book by some writer of the 19th or 20th century was “authority” – so long as he said what she wanted to hear!  In fairness she used better sources in her later books.  Acharya S wanted, wanted very badly, to be learned; but only, one sensed, to bolster the cause.

This lack of education meant that she had no critical detachment from her own claims.  What she wanted to believe was what she believed, and woe betide you if you contradicted her wishes.  Like many ignorant people, she seemed unaware that men may honestly disagree sometimes.  Even her admirers describe her as “strong-willed”.  I remember asking for evidence that Mithras had twelve disciples, and, after much abuse, being shown a relief with a Zodiac on it, and told that if the apostles were sometimes depicted as the zodiac in the renaissance, then clearly this showed that Mithras had twelve disciples.  If you disagreed with her, on whatever basis, she asserted that you were simply dishonest.

I usually felt sorry for her, except when provoked by some very gross piece of intellectual dishonesty.  Perhaps I am unduly imaginative or sentimental, but I always felt pity for this poor woman.  She was somebody’s little girl, somebody’s “mum”.  Indeed any sensitive man must look at how women are treated in our times with hearthbreak and shame.  Everything is against them.  Everything encourages women when young to throw themselves away outside of marriage.  The pain, guilt and misery that results must ruin many lives.  In attempting to cope with the guilt, some turn into railers at Christians – the only people to say “this is wrong” – and, in their howls, one can sometimes hear the pain of a violated conscience.  Acharya often railed against men, and “patriarchy”.  Was there some awful experience at the hands of some selfish man or selfish men in her past?  I do not know.

But it is impossible to look at her life, and not feel a sense of waste.  The world owes a great debt to energetic, single-minded women such as Florence Nightingale, or Elizabeth Fry, or several modern women.  Such women are often personally charming, as Acharya was, and often attract dedicated supporters who feel chivalrous towards them, as she did.  They are often determined to an intimidating degree, as Acharya seems to have been.  Such women can achieve much.  What can be vices in conversation can become virtues for society as a whole.  Acharya S might have been one such.  Who can say?

May the God whom she was so fierce against in life have mercy upon her, and rescue her, somehow, from the consequences of her wrong choices in life.

RIP “Acharya S”, 25th December 2015.

Edit: Add a couple of words of clarification at one or two points.

UPDATE (25 June 2016):  Her legal name was Dorothy Milne Murdock, known as Dori, and she was born on March 27, 1960.  I have found an obituary at the “The Hartford Courant”, published January 24, 2016, which mentions her family, which I have pasted into the comments.

UPDATE (14 November 2016): Via her Facebook page (pointed to by this link) I find this image of her gravestone.

Acharya S' gravestone.
Acharya S’ gravestone.
  1. [1]A sample post from 2005 is here, which helpfully tells us the source from which they were then disseminated: The page at no longer contains these claims, and were prevented from archiving it.  However her PDF “Origins of Christianity”, although revised somewhat, still contains a  version of much of these claims.

69 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Acharya S

  1. “May the God whom she was so fierce against in life have mercy upon her.”

    rogers, its your pagan religion which is the cause of her fierce reaction

  2. Yes, indeed, now she knows. Tis a shame.

    Another well written post, Roger. Thank you.

  3. Actually, a lot of we secularists, especially if not of the Gnu Atheist variety, reject mythicism, at least as she and other current devotees expound it.

    That said, Roger, I certainly feel more sorry for her than for you.

    As for mythicism, it was first expounded more than 100 years ago, in late Victorian Britain. I guess you’ve just shown the depths of your ignorance right there.

  4. Hi Roger,
    A charismatic pastor in my home town once went on the local Christian radio station and claimed that the followers of Mithras had headquarters at the Vatican in Rome and had a ‘pope’ of sorts. He was just being polemical against Roman Catholics. I’m not a Catholic but I emailed him and ended up meeting him and having a discussion. He had no idea about primary sources or any knowledge of church history. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be an atheist to use and abuse Mithras.

  5. I am glad to hear of any atheists who manage to resist the siren call! Nobody benefits from a spanking great lie taking hold in any area of public life, least of all those deluded by it.

    I was certainly aware of the 19th century pamphlets peddling this idea: from where, no doubt, Acharya S first learned of it. In fact I vaguely recall that it appears in the 18th century.

  6. “God” doesn’t need to have mercy on her soul….she did what she was suppose to do here….she told a story the best she knew how as to expose the lie that is Christianity….this has nothing whatsoever to do with the “God” of the universe.

  7. You’re welcome to your religious opinions, of course. But she is now dead. The only way she will survive is if somehow God can rescue her from dissolution. I wish her good luck.

  8. We all have the gift of eternal life within us, unaffected by our beliefs. Christianity claims to offer us eternal life if we simply adopt their view of how life really is. There is no need for this, as we are the consciousness that is God….if you doubt that, who exactly is looking out from behind your eyes….

    You said I was entitled to my religious views, but I do not have any religious views, only life views…..and it’s great that you accept religious views, because you obviously own them yourself.

  9. The first troll has appeared! And, therefore, disappeared.

    Just a note to clarify that I will delete any “comments” that annoy me without hesitation. See the comments policy for details.

    That said, unless posts are simply personal abuse of me, I will try to post them.

  10. I guess I don’t understand why you even wrote this piece, as I look back over it. You discount her views and research, but hold to yours which feebly come from one book, admittedly patched together by those who most stood to gain from them.
    I’m wondering how much study you have put in to verify the extraordinary claims your religion preaches. Asking her to produce evidence of the disciples of Mithras, while having none of your own for “Jesus'” supposed 12 disciples….you will probably delete this because I’m sure I am beginning to annoy you. Just will never understand how one holds to personal beliefs while bashing those who are looking for the truth….

  11. I’m not going to take up your invitation to discuss why your religious beliefs are inferior to mine, not least because you probably couldn’t articulate yours very well.

    Why did I write? Well, who else will do so? I wish they would! Most likely she will be quickly forgotten as cranks usually are. As I said, I always felt sorry for her. But I profited personally from her existence. I am grateful for the enjoyment and research that I was led to do. Selfish, but there you are. And preserving the past is what I do. I should have liked to write an obituary but the materials are not there. So all I can do is to reflect on the impression that she left on me. What would you do?

  12. Your first paragraph leaves a lot to be desired….I was raised in the fundamentalist church and was surrounded by those who were to be set apart from the ‘average’ man who benefited not by the special compensation afforded to believers….only one problem; not one stood out as special from any other person I have met. I am now 64 yrs old and as a classical singer have taken up a singing job in a church. Nothing has changed over all these years, Christians are no different than the average Joe, and church leaders still focus on the church’s income.
    One thing I have found over the years is that the entrenched ch. belief will not be dug out, as it is deeply programmed within the psyche…so be it. But for those who dare to question the false authority of the church as did Acharya, my hat is off.
    As I said previously, we need no intercessor, no man-made authority to be linked to ‘God’… my friend, we already have been given the gift of life, as one tiny spark of the divine has been placed into these bodies we know so well. After all, what leaves the body upon death, but the divine spark that animates our every movement.

  13. My point referred to the fact that the religion and it’s belief system has no effect on people, probably because as Acharya was pointing out, it was fabricated.

  14. So the religion is fabricated? How do you know? Because Dorothy said so? LOL. Come on. Roger’s article is (for the most part) spot on. The only beef I have with it is that in my (general) view you should say “nothing of the dead except good”. But that’s just an old saying, and it was his decision to write some very important and true things about Murdock’s “achievements”. And since it’s already been said, yes, she was definitely a crank, maybe she was educated in some standard fashion, but it doesn’t seem to have helped her a lot. But she was there from the beginning, and some of her output has inspired others to actually *achieve* something. I don’t know if she’ll be forgotten. I for my part won’t forget her, but that’s only because she appropriated my own peer-reviewed research, sold it as her own, while mashing it up with pseudoscience in one of her predictably ghastly publications. I confronted her, she didn’t care. So maybe she didn’t care much about other people, about what they thought and felt about her… so Roger, I stand corrected, it was probably the right thing to write this article.

  15. It wasn’t intended as a hatchet-job. “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum” is a civilised practice. But all I could say was what I did.

    I’d be interested in more details of your experience – offline via my contact form if you prefer?

  16. I did not know her but lump her work with others who have successfully, in my mind, debunked the ch religion as a Roman political tool. Anyone taking the bible as the word of god should honestly be given the naiive medal of honor. Back to eighth grade for the naiive.
    I search for truth and do not sit still for beliefs. You may do what you please.

  17. David, do bear in mind that nearly everybody on this blog is highly educated and rather intelligent. Don’t just swallow blindly claims that rejecting Christianity is clever – it is nearly always for reasons other than logic.

  18. Very good post Roger. Thank you for taking the time to write it, and also to do the research.

    As for Christanity — I know that I used to want to kill people, especially Christians, and blow up churches (this is not an exaggeration — I was in the process of trying to figure out how to do it). But Christ had mercy on me, and supernaturally removed all of my anger and depression in a single moment, and it has never come back even in the slightest after 10 years. I have been able to joyfully see people whom I used to want to kill, and embrace them. I do not exist at this moment if God and Jesus Christ are not real.

    What is more, I know many man other people who used to be similar to me or worse, and have experienced similar things. I have a friend who, as an atheist, was on his way to murder someone, and God talked to him in an audible voice and told me that he was real and that he needed to follow him. He thought someone was in the room and went to grab his gun to kill him. But there was no one. He changed his entire life around and is now an incredible loving individual.

    Why are these stories present in every single country of the world, regardless of upbriging, race, previous religious convictions — even in the midst of Muslim countries, happening to people that would rather do nothing than promote their Muslim religion and kill every one else — but these these Muslims change and now hug people whom they used to want to kill?

    Read the story which the book ‘End of the Spear’ was written about. Entires ‘naked’ tribes of people used to kill one another. They killed missionaries — but their wives forgave them, went back to those murderers, and told them about Jesus — and entire tribes repented and now the murderer of the husbandis one of the most happy individuals and even embraces and does missionary work with the very women whose husband he killed!

    And there is nothing of this sort of change among any other religion in the entire world.

    Christianity changes the more ruthless individuals into loving their enemies, it makes thiefs become volunteer-workers, it makes adulterer’s faithful to their spouses, it makes gays and lesbians actually be attracted once again to the opposite sex, it delivers people from drug and pornography. Why would you even want to oppose such a wonderful power, which nothing else on earth can do? Do you want murderers and rapists and thiefs?

    Here is my personal testimony. I believe that I am only alive today, and there are not murders individuals, including my own suicide, only because Christ, in his mercy, was faithful to heed those who call upon him, even when they do not even think he exists in order to answer them.

  19. Thank you Roger. Appreciate your effort, in both the announcement, plus analysis, and the links. Well done.

    We are not in accord on some of the issues, but I am very impressed by your acknowledgement of Dorothy’s contribution, with its flaws, as you have noted. I am insufficiently informed, having read only bits and pieces of her writing, to comment on your main point: her lack of scholarly demeanor, but, what little I have read, was both provocative, and worth my time. I think, eventually, history will accept her effort. Her poverty is understandable, sad, but true. Few of us manage a successful career, especially by writing about Jesus from the perspective of incredulity. Wishing you a happy and productive new year!!! Cheers.

  20. DAVID I would like to communicate with you as we are like minded and I truly need someone to bounce some thoughts and ideas off. I spoke with her once on a call in radio show, own several of her book and found her to be interesting and well researched. ERIC

  21. I found you piece on D. M. Murdock interesting. However, at the same time it struck me as hyper critical. I have copies of most of her published books – not ebooks. I prefer hard print that I can then research easily. I got the impression that she had drawn on the works of J. M. Robertson and was told that she had a personal interest in Hinduism. That may be so for the mythology of the Hindu deities have a lot in common with Christian claims. Personally I do not believe that Jesus was a myth, but nor was he what mainstream Christian cults peddle. He was, in my opinion a political agitator hostile to Roman control of Judea, be this directly or through Jewish collaborators such as the Herodians. He has been described by the historian F. A. Ridley as a Galilean Spartacus. This might be an exaggeration, but would be in keeping with Jewish aspirations. Sadly, there are np independent records of Jesus and his movement that date from the first century, with the exception of a couple of passages in Josephus’s Antiquities, the aiuthenticity of these have been long challenged. But as current events illustrate, the use of religion to further political aims is all too evident.

  22. Thank you for your note. It is quite hard to be fair to someone who was the opposite of yourself in every respect, and abused you personally at quite some length. All I can say is that I did try. As I said, most of the time I felt sorry for her.

  23. I hated her a bit, I wanted her to S.T.F.U. and F.O. Now she has. It is sad she died but I would have preferred her repentance while alive and turn a great many to Yeshua! I felt she was doing a lot of malicious damage with her blind rage at christianity. At the Heart level I know Yeshua was Real and True and said and did all the things written of Him in the Gospels.

  24. I think most of us got irritated with her from time to time. She did intend to do harm, and she did succeed in polluting the discourse online for a considerable period. Whether any real harm was done, in the long term, it is impossible to say.

  25. People, just a reminder that this is about Acharya S and her passing, not an opportunity in which to throw at me the daft claims she or others espoused and demand that I comment on them. I have other things to do. 🙂

  26. There is an old saying that some of those who castigate the memory of Acharya that there is a line between legitimate factual criticism of her arguments, and personal, if not abuse of her.There is an old saying that is apt here, “don’t speak ill of the dead”. Her works, by no means lack scholarship, although some of her conclusions do not stand up to close investigation, but this is the same for the ideas of many justly praised scholars. I also get a distinct impression that in some instances her critics have not read the works they attack – and probably never will.

  27. She often used to claim that her critics had not read her works. Of course it’s an old scam, once much used by pornographers posing as artists, to throw something in the face of the public, and then demand that critics should be silent unless they have paid money for the product. Those who make public claims can’t really expect to play that trick today tho.

  28. Big surprise here, a known Christian apologists spreads the same old misinformation and falsehoods about Acharya S – even after her death. Shameful indeed. Scholars who actually studied her work, especially “Christ in Egypt” and “Did Moses Exist,” were quite supportive of it. Roger Pearse hated her because she debunked his absurd Christian special pleading easily so, he needs to have the last word here.

    I liked this article of hers because she shows that the Jews themselves admit to star worship and the Old Testament was full of it and that led to the origins of Christianity:

    Star Worship of the Ancient Israelites

    Scholars who’ve actually studied Acharya’s work tend to be supportive but one would never know that by reading this hit-piece for a “memorial”:

    “I find it undeniable that many of the epic heroes and ancient patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament were personified stars, planets, and constellations.” “I find myself in full agreement with Acharya S/D.M. Murdock”
    – Dr. Robert Price, Biblical Scholar with two Ph.D’s

    Earl Doherty defers to Acharya for the subject of astrotheology:

    “A heavenly location for the actions of the savior gods, including the death of Christ, would also have been influenced by most religions’ ultimate derivation from astrotheology, as in the worship of the sun and moon. For this dimension of more remote Christian roots, see the books of Acharya S”
    – Earl Doherty, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, (2009) page 153

    “Your scholarship is relentless! …the research conducted by D.M. Murdock concerning the myth of Jesus Christ is certainly both valuable and worthy of consideration.”
    – Dr. Ken Feder, Professor of Archaeology

    “…In recent months or over the last year or so I have interviewed Frank Zindler and Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald and Robert Price all on the issue of mythicism … when I spoke to these people I asked for their expertise collectively and what I got, especially from Fitzgerald and Robert Price, was that we should be speaking to tonights guest D.M. Murdock,author of ‘Did Moses Exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver’.”

    – Aron Ra, The Ra Men podcast EP10 – Did Moses Exist? with D.M. Murdock

    “I’ve known people with triple Ph.D’s who haven’t come close to the scholarship in Who Was Jesus?”
    – Pastor David Bruce, M.Div

    “…I have found her scholarship, research, knowledge of the original languages, and creative linkages to be breathtaking and highly stimulating.”
    – Rev. Dr. Jon Burnham, Pastor

    “I can recommend your work whole-heartedly!”
    – Dr. Robert Eisenman

  29. Now that Acharya S is dead, we may hope that the flow of rubbish will diminish. I’ve just allowed the preceding “comment” through as an example of just why normal people loathed her and her work; the impudence, the ad hominem insults, and the downright lies. Let us hope that this dribble will wear out over time.

  30. For near 31 years, Acharya and I have had a very unique and heartfelt connection. We met in Manhattan at a prayer group given by my friend, Tina Louise Evers, who was a top NY model and host of the Prayer group. Acharya was a young blue eyed blond model new to New York, and was invited by Tina to participate in her prayer group. Beginning within a few months, we traveled from NY to living in Dallas, then back to NY, then to Venice Beach, Ca., often in our separate but richly connected ways. We both, the last few years went to separate ‘alternative like’ towns in Washington State and Oregon.
    I visited with her days before she passed. She still looked beautiful and with subdued humor. Her 13 year old Jason was the love of her life, to me he’s like a nephew, and cared for Acharya by Nick her assistant and friend.
    We each were the others main connection for talking about everything for 31 years. She cannot be replaced with her insights, intellect, and humor. Everywhere I go I sense her presence. Love never stops! Arhata~ (

  31. Arhata kindly emailed me that Acharya S was born on March 27, 1960 (NB: in that year Easter Sunday was April 17th). This might be useful information for bibliographers.

  32. He also emailed me that her legal name was Dorothy Milne Murdock, known as Dori. I have found a full obituary at the “The Hartford Courant”, published January 24, 2016, here.

    Dorothy Murdock

    After a struggle with a vicious and virtually untreatable form of cancer, Dori passed away on Christmas Day 2015 with her best friend and her son by her side. She was 55 years old. Known by many as Acharya S., Dori was a scholar and prolific writer and left behind a legacy of completed work, as well as a trove of unfinished projects and ideas for future books, articles and videos. Dori grew up in Avon. As a child she developed an interest in Greek Mythology, which evolved into her life’s work exploring, writing and teaching about the origins of religion, mythology and astrotheology. Dori attended Avon public schools and Franklin & Marshall College where she earned her degree in Classics – Greek Civilization. Following graduation she spent time in Greece where she became a member of the American School of Classical Studies and studied languages and archaeology, serving as a trenchmaster for archaeological digs. Upon her return Dori worked with Dr. Kenneth Feder on digs in CT.. Dori founded Stellar House Publishing Company, and websites, and She authored several books which received critical acclaim. She also wrote numerous articles, and shared her knowledge on many radio and video interviews. She leaves to carry on her memory and her work: her son Jason, the light and focus of her life; her partner and best friend N. W. Barker; her sisters Alison Murdock of New Hartford and Pamela Polderman of Barkhamsted; her aunt Dorothy Jensen; step-siblings Stuart France, Jennifer France and John France, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and friends all over the Earth. She was predeceased by her father, James Milne Murdock, her mother, Beatrice Murdock-France, and stepfather Herbert France. Funeral arrangements are private and there are no calling hours. A global on-line celebration of her life will be held on her birthday, 3/27/16 on her Facebook page. For more information about Dori and to make contributions to support her son Jason and continue her work, please visit any of the following sites:;;

    Published in The Hartford Courant on Jan. 24, 2016 – See more at:

    I see that the Wikipedia article has also been updated.

  33. She is one of the most important females in all of human history and I can not think of her without tearing up. Are you kidding me? She was UBER educated and obsessed with facts. I know, I spoke with her about why she was just concentrating on Christianity and Islam and not Judaism. Then she started bringing up Judaism, more. This woman was PURE LIGHT and I hope I can tell her son how special his Mother IS. Acharya S, DM MURDOCK is a GODDESS! Love & respect forever! – Holiday

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