8 Lessons Learned from the Minimal Facts Argument (2 of 2)

Habermas Minimal Facts ResurrectionIn the aftermath of our analysis of Gary Habermas’s minimal facts argument from The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, here are the final lessons learned. (Read part 1 here).

5. Follow the facts; don’t start with your religious presuppositions. Habermas makes this error many times. For example:

The laws of nature would be no match for an omnipotent God who chooses to act by superseding those laws (p. 141).

Yes, if we assume God first, we can imagine him having his good reasons. For example, why is there evil? (God has his reasons; don’t worry your pretty little head about it.) Why is God so hidden? (God is way smarter that you and must be hidden for a good reason.) Doesn’t science reject miracles? (Bending the laws of nature would be easy for the god who made them.)

Yes, I suppose that if you start with your presuppositions, you can select and arrange the facts to support it. Do this to satisfy your own doubts if you must, but otherwise the rest of us don’t care. No, what makes a powerful argument is showing that starting with the agreed-to facts, an objective observer would come to your conclusion.

Never start with your presuppositions and then show how the facts can be rearranged to support them. That’s backwards.

Habermas says that the resurrection “accounts for all five [minimal] facts very nicely” (p. 76). Okay, but so does the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (Show me how the Flying Spaghetti Monster can’t explain any aspect of the gospel story and I’ll show you how you underestimate the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

The apologist can say that we can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, that God is always smart enough to stay ahead of science and clever atheist arguments. But that puts the burden of proof on the wrong shoulders.

6. Failure to acknowledge the magnitude of your claim

Habermas wants to win by default. He says: here are the secular claims; they’re all wrong; therefore, I win. For example:

We have observed that all opposing theories to Jesus’ resurrection are extremely improbable, if not practically impossible (p. 188).

Why bother weighing Habermas’s claim when he’s the only one left standing? What he fails to acknowledge is that his might be the most remarkable claim ever: that the universe was created by a supernatural being, that this being created humans on the dust speck we call Earth, that he appeared on Earth as a man to provide a loophole in a rule that he created himself so that we can get into heaven, and that this claim is for real, despite looking very similar to a thousand other manmade religions. I don’t remember a single word from Habermas acknowledging the complete insanity of the claim.

Maybe Habermas’s supernatural claim is correct, but he must acknowledge the enormity of the claim he’s making and the correspondingly enormous quality of evidence necessary to support that claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Habermas must make the positive case, not just attack his opponents.

(And I can’t let Habermas’s bold claim stand unchallenged: “all opposing theories … are extremely improbable” is completely unfounded. At best, the powder-puff arguments that Habermas attacked are improbable. Read the full critique from a few days ago for more.)

7. Evaluate similar claims with a similar bar of evidence

Apologists should test out their arguments by imagining an equivalent argument from someone in another religion. Would they be convincing to you? If not, why imagine that yours will be to me?

8. The consensus of New Testament scholars says so

While a poll would be easier and more reliable, Habermas prefers to infer the scholarly consensus from published articles, and this creates problems. Since Habermas won’t show his database to anyone, we don’t know how comprehensive or unbiased it is. Not everyone who has an opinion on gospel questions (Was there an empty tomb? Was there a resurrection?) will be equally motivated to write a paper and try to get it published. Most importantly, his sample is surely under-represented by historians and over-represented by Christians.

This was more thoroughly debunked in the first post in this series.

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down

Like Weebles, the roly-poly toys that won’t fall down, the individual claims in Habermas’s minimal facts argument will bounce back up. They’re immune to evidence because they’re not the result of an unbiased following of the evidence.

Perhaps they can at least provide examples of what to avoid.

If you can’t be a good example,
then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.
— Catherine Aird

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Greg G.

    I was looking for recent comments from Richard. Is he on vacation?

    I came across a debate between you and Rick in an earlier post on this topic where he linked to Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources

    The non-Christian sources are Tacitus (b 56AD), Pliny the Younger (b 61AD), Josephus (b 37AD), Babylonian Talmud (compiled from the 3rd to the 5th centuries), and Lucian (b 125AD). For some reason the dates were left for the reader to look up. All they can possibly tell us is that there were people in the late first century who believed there was a real Jesus.

    • Alex Symczak

      Be careful, I think that the jesus claims in a lot of those sources have been found to be later forgeries, copyist errors, or based upon the gospels, which would not make them independent sources. I think Richard Carrier has some solid articles on some of these.

      • Greg G.

        I agree with you but my point is that even it we had the originals written in their own handwriting with those exact phrases, it wouldn’t help their case. Those writers wouldn’t have known any more about what went on in Jerusalem before they were born than my first hand knowledge of WWII which also happened before I was born.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Good point. infidels.org is probably a good source for this kind of thing.

    • MNb

      “All they can possibly tell us …”
      Good job rejecting the scientific method, Greg.

      http://www.livius.org/theory/orality/

      • Greg G.

        The explanation of orality at the link you provide explains how stories are related in fairy tales and oral stories borrow elements and motifs. It says there may be some element of truth to it but often they are tales with new names. It is not about transmitting accurate information orally.

        All of the accounts in the article were written after Mark and have nothing about Jesus that couldn’t have come from embellishing Mark. Nearly everything in Mark seems to come from written sources, not oral tradition, unless the oral tradition came from the popular literature.

    • RichardSRussell

      I’m still here, but really, Bob said pretty much everything that needs to be said on the subject.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      It’s amazing the evidence that gets them excited. If it were a newspaper article from the Jerusalem Times the day after the first Easter that confirmed everything, I’d be very skeptical. That it’s “there are these people called Christians” decades later isn’t much to brag about.

      • Rick

        If it were a newspaper article from the Jerusalem Times the day after the first Easter that confirmed everything, I’d be very skeptical.

        So you wouldn’t be impressed if a newspaper article appeared in a paper that didn’t exist. (Spoiler alert—that isn’t how news was recorded in that time period anyway).

        That it’s “there are these people called Christians” decades later isn’t much to brag about.

        And you wouldn’t be impressed at ancient records recorded by eyewitnesses within their lifetime but recorded a few decades later.

        I think you just wouldn’t be impressed no matter what. Unless there was a typo in one of your two quotes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (Spoiler alert—that isn’t how news was recorded in that time period anyway).

          As long as we’re on the same page. Decent evidence for the remarkable supernatural claims in the New Testament simply doesn’t exist.

          And you wouldn’t be impressed at ancient records recorded by eyewitnesses within their lifetime but recorded a few decades later.

          Why do you ask? Do you have such records?

          We have the gospels, about which not much of a claim of eyewitness authority can be made. I’m not impressed by them, and if they were prefaced with something like “I, John, promise that this is an authentic account to the best of my recollection,” that would do very little to improve the situation. Should it?

          I think you just wouldn’t be impressed no matter what.

          You make what may be the most remarkable claim possible, and you’re surprised that I demand remarkable evidence?

          I’d be surprised if you acted any differently with respect to evidence from a foreign religion.

        • Rick

          Decent evidence for the remarkable supernatural claims in the New Testament simply doesn’t exist.

          That’s not what I said. Nice spin.

          Do you have such records?

          Yes, but you with superior air of diffidence aren’t ahem impressed by them. Then you state what John should have stated. That also wouldn’t have satisfied you.

          John actually did make such a claim. He said,

          This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

          I’m sure he would be disappointed that his words were found wanting in your sophisticated review. Then again, perhaps he has more important things to think about.

        • Pofarmer

          Heh, if you’ve got first hand accounts, let’s see em!

        • Rick

          They have been presented. You choose to reject them. I don’t. I think there is reasonable evidence they are genuine. You don’t.

          You have evidence to counter the evidence of the New Testament’s textual, archaeological, and history changing impact? Let’s see it. Evidence for the New Testament is voluminous and readily available. I’m waiting to see your counter evidence, as opposed to “Harumph! Not good enough,” sort of empty swagger.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The best argument you can make is that the four gospels might hold eyewitness testimony, written down decades after the fact. Sorry–that’s not much.

          I assume by “empty swagger,” your referring to the response to your shirking the burden of proof. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that boldly proclaiming the reason for the hope that’s within you was actually a burden.

        • Pofarmer

          archaeological? If there is archaeological evidence for Jesus, there are a bunch of people that would love to see it. If you think that there is some textual evidence that makes the Gospels other than what scholars agree they are, that would be interesting, as well. Also, in all sincerity, you give this quote.

          “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”

          If this were true, wouldn’t you have expected other authors to pick up on it? Wouldn’t you have expected other books to be written? Also, if this were true, why did Christianity expand mainly among the Gentiles first? Wouldn’t you have expected the people in Palestine who were seeing these miracles to have converted in droves?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s not what I said. Nice spin.

          Instead of sarcasm, you could, y’know, tell me where I got things wrong. Not how you do things, I guess? Maybe your arsenal is empty except for snark?

          Yes, but you with superior air of diffidence aren’t ahem impressed by them.

          Hey, you got eyewitness records, I’d like to see them. Unless it’s the gospels that aren’t eyewitness records, because I already know about them. And no, I’m not impressed.

          Why—would you be if the tables were turned? You read an equivalent account from some other religion and you’re going to convert?

          John actually did make such a claim.

          You mean in the final chapter that was added on? Yes, I realize that it says that, but that is thought by many scholars to be a later appendix—it certainly reads that way.

          But suppose that it were authentic. What am I to make of it? How much more convincing is a document that claims to be an eyewitness account?

          You realize, I hope, that we’re talking about the New Testament, in which half of the “Pauline” epistles are pseudepigraphical. Stretching the truth is what some of these guys obviously did. Doesn’t make me give much credibility to the Bible’s supernatural stories.

          I’m sure he would be disappointed that his words were found wanting in your sophisticated review.

          Got nothing better to do at night than spread a little Christian love around the internet? Come back later when you’re in the mood to actually engage in arguments. When all you have is sarcasm and whining and whatever else this is supposed to be, my arguments still stand.

        • Rick

          Against what little better judgment I may possess, I’m going to respond to your concerns about “snarkiness.” From my perspective, this was snarky:

          Yes, but you with superior air of diffidence aren’t /ahem/ impressed by them.

          And for that I will apologize.

          This is not snarky:

          That’s not what I said. Nice spin.

          The latter comment was a response to your comments, which indicated you totally misunderstood what I said. I am not so incompetent a writer as to be “misunderstood” almost every time I write on this blog (but almost nowhere else where I write, and I do so a lot.) You are not so obtuse a reader as to misunderstand so many things those who disagree write. Yet you resort to ridicule and belittling to respond rather than actually addressing the points made. I have no logical conclusion to come to other than that you choose intellectual bullying when you have no expectation of convincing an opponent on the merits. That’s disappointing, because there could be some pretty interesting exchanges if you didn’t cut them short with witty quips that silence but don’t engage.

          My point in most of what I write on the rare occasions when I choose to do so is this. Thought experiments are your sole source of argumentation. You use them skillfully, but they are woefully inadequate to the task you have taken on.

          You like to suggest you regularly deal a body blow to Christian thought. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, you simply bully and intimidate and ensure that most of your contributors are of like mind with your way of hoping there is no God. I just think it is important to post occasionally to remind any who wander by and happen to see your material that there is another side with actual data, historic and traditional evidence, and the like.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Against what little better judgment I may possess …

          Why do you do that to yourself? You know you won’t respect yourself in the morning.

          This is not snarky: “That’s not what I said. Nice spin.”

          I’m flexible on word choice. My point was that this wasn’t spin on my part, either deliberate or inadvertent. I interpreted the “nice spin” as an attempt on your part to turn a problem (you couldn’t or didn’t feel like responding to my point) into a point for yourself (pretend that I was the one caught flat-footed, without a rebuttal).

          Call my point (“Decent evidence for the remarkable supernatural claims in the New Testament simply doesn’t exist”) a change of topic if you want (I thought it was a logical response to your challenge), but it wasn’t spin.

          The latter comment was a response to your comments, which indicated you totally misunderstood what I said.

          I might indeed have misunderstood.

          I am not so incompetent a writer as to be “misunderstood” almost every time I write on this blog

          You almost always shoot before aiming. I enjoy your comments, but my advice is to carefully read your response before you send it. I’m forced into meta-discussions about what we’re actually talking about with you more than just about anyone else.

          Yet you resort to ridicule and belittling to respond rather than actually addressing the points made.

          As in the “nice spin” comment above, maybe you should double check. That’s a case where you were far off the mark.

          I often find myself writing a fair amount of sarcasm in responses to you, so I’m not saying that you’re always mistaken when you detect subtext. But let’s not imagine more than is actually there.

          I have no logical conclusion to come to other than that you choose intellectual bullying when you have no expectation of convincing an opponent on the merits.

          My other Christian antagonists may not care for my arguments, but I doubt that they find that. Perhaps that’s just one of the many ways in which you’re a unique and special person.

          While we’re sharing feelings, I’ll encourage you to focus on arguments instead of complaints. I can’t remember the last time you gave me something of the form, “You said X, but that’s wrong because of Y.” That’s the kind of thing that I’m looking for.

          I disappoint you with every post. You’ve told me over and over. I’ve got it—now move on. Where I make an error in an argument, do us all a favor and point that out.

          You like to suggest you regularly deal a body blow to Christian thought. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

          Show me why!! You’ve told me a thousand times that my arguments are impotent. Yeah, I got it. And that’s all you’ve got. Show me (and everyone watching) the problem. Show me the error and (guess what!) I won’t make it again. I dislike being wrong, and I’ll stop being wrong if you ever show me where I’m wrong. Instead, you’re too busy telling me what a failure I am.

          there is another side with actual data, historic and traditional evidence, and the like.

          One could certainly be forgiven for not knowing this since you never bother to explain this.

        • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

          I think you just wouldn’t be impressed no matter what.

          Translation: I have no good evidence. However, I suppose that you wouldn’t accept good evidence even if I had it. Therefore, I am justified in believing without good evidence.

        • Kodie

          I find my argument persuasive.
          Some other people found my argument persuasive.
          Therefore my argument is persuasive.

          You are not persuaded by my argument.
          My argument is not faulty, since it is persuasive.
          Therefore, you are unpersuadable.

          You are unpersuadable.
          Therefore, I will not try my argument on you, since it is persuasive.

          .

  • MNb

    “We have observed that all opposing theories to Jesus’ resurrection are extremely improbable, if not practically impossible”
    In fact this is good news for atheists, materialists and all other baddists. The simple fact that apologists cannot do any better than producing negative evidence (ie refuting the claims of the other camp) shows that they haven’t any positive evidence (showing that their standpoint is the correct one). In other words: we evilists are winning.

    • SparklingMoon-

      In other words:we evilists are winning.
      —————————————-
      It seems really funny to call oneself evilist. If a person exposes his opinion about any matter,considering it right, after the use of his God gifted reason then he is not a sinner or an evilist in the eye of God. Reason is the only ability that makes a difference between human beings and other creatures and a very key to make progress . According to religious view of point evilists are those people who keep double standard as their saying or doing contradict to their inner voice or understanding.

      If human reason of some religious people justify the conception that Jesus has died physically on Cross and then his body became alive and afterward he has gone to somewhere with the same body and will return at this time from somewhere above then they are also innocent.

      Important for a person is that his inner and outer voice should be always one to have the blessings of God.

      • Pofarmer

        S.A.R.C.A.S.M.

      • MNb

        My capability of reason is not a gift from your god, rather from my parents.

        “According to religious view of point”

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH3w0z2Sn_c

        So according to you this guy provides a non-religious point of view. I suspect he would disagree.

        • SparklingMoon-

          My capability of reason is not a gift from your god, rather from my parents.
          —————————————
          Your capability from you parents and your parents from your grand parents and Grand parents from…….? if we observe carefully we find that the entire universe is bound together in a system of cause and effect. This system is at the root of all knowledge. No part of creation is outside this system. Some things are the roots of others and some are branches. A cause may be primary or may be the effect of another cause, and that in its turn may be the effect of still another cause, and so on. Now, it is not possible that in this finite world this pattern of cause and effect should have no limit and should be infinite. We are compelled to acknowledge that it must terminate with some ultimate cause. The ultimate cause is God. This verse:And that to your Lord do all things ultimately go ”(Najm 53:43)sets forth this argument very concisely and affirms that the system of cause and effect terminates in God.
          Secondly, there is no guaranty that children have also the same kind of reason as their parents have. It mostly depends on physical structure of a person( the very source of making a human nature ) and second how a person enhance this capability by using it with the help of different sources .

        • SparklingMoon-

          this guy provides a non-religious point of view.
          ———————————————————
          Yes, this conception of the speaker that morality in human nature is a result of believing God or following a particular faith is wrong. Firstly,the existence of morality in human nature is related to one’s physical structure. ”Just as people belonging to every nation of the world have been blessed with physical features such as eyes, noses, mouths, hands and feet, so have they been blessed with inner faculties, and among every nation there are people, good and evil, depending on their moderate or immoderate use of those faculties. A person cannot be condemned on account of his natural faculties unless he misuses them. In short, the Eternal Bestower has endowed nations with natural faculties in equal measure.

          Secondly, Religion is not meant to change people’s faculties; its aim is only to guide them to their proper use. Religion
          teaches that all the love, obedience,sincerity and faithfulness which a worshipper of idols or of men has for these objects should actually be directed towards God and the same degree of sincerity should be exhibited in His path.(Ruhani Khazain)

        • Pofarmer

          This.

          Is all just.

          So bassackwards and wrong.

          I don’t know where to start.

        • SparklingMoon-

          The Divine law of nature allows every people to claim that, just as there are innately corrupt, immoral and evil people among them, there are also those who are by nature meek, noble and virtuous.It would be wrong to think that a whole nation or people are by nature good or evil. Neither the Hindus nor Parsees nor Jews nor Sikhs nor Buddhists are outside this law, As a people grow in civility and courtesy and gain knowledge and prestige as a nation, to the same degree, the righteous among them also gain renown for their virtuous lives, character and exemplary conduct. Had there not been individuals in every nation who were innately good, a mere change of religion or faith could not have created goodness, for the Divine law of nature is irrevocable.(Ruhani Khazain)

        • Pofarmer

          “We are compelled to acknowledge that it must terminate with some ultimate cause.”

          This is begging the question.

          And then you answer it.

          “The ultimate cause is God.”

          You might try reading or listening to Laurence Krause, “A Universe from Nothing.” You might also watch Theoretical Bullshit(Scott Clifton) on youtube discussing the Kalam Cosmological argument.

        • SparklingMoon-

          “A Universe from Nothing.”
          ———————————————-
          I have no information about other people that how they explain the meanings of Nothing. According to my knowledge the meanings of “A Universe from Nothing.” is that the fundamental particles of this universe are product of Nothing ( physical )but of God’s different attributes that are highly spiritual.

          Causes and effects of this Physical world lead to a world small in size, particles to sub particles that gradually become invisible and finally change into energy. Angels are the middle sources of these energies to transform God’s different spiritual attributes in this universe for their creation according to the Will of God.

          It is His very spiritual attributes that locate inside each and every particles of this universe. These particles are not only physical manifestation of His Spiritual Attributes but also getting constantly their sustenance(for maintenance) from His Attributes through angels ( who are middle source between God and His Creation to transform) as the Sanctity and Holiness of His Spirituality stops Him to communicate directly to a physical object .

        • Pofarmer

          “I have no information about other people that how they explain the meanings of Nothing.”

          And therein lies the problem. You are misunderstanding an awful lot of stuff. You get so close, and then veer off on some weird theological tangent, like this.

          “Causes and effects of this Physical world lead to a world small in size,
          particles to sub particles that gradually become invisible and finally
          change into energy. Angels are the middle sources of these energies to
          transform God’s different spiritual attributes in this universe for
          their creation according to the Will of God.’

          You take a sane approximation of how things work, and make it incomprehensible. Occhams razor applies.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This is simply a summary of some of your theology. Do you have evidence?

        • MNb

          “if we observe carefully we find that the entire universe is bound together in a system of cause and effect.”
          Then please tell me what the cause is of a radioactive atom decaying at this very moment and not at another. You might be in for a Nobel Prize Physics.
          You can’t? Then your statement is refuted before your argument actually has begun.

          “it is not possible that in this finite world”
          Prove our Universe is finite.

          “it is not possible that in this finite world this pattern of cause and effect should have no limit and should be infinite”
          Actually this is possible. A circle is both finite and unlimited. This is reflected in the model of a pulsating Universe, where Big Bang and End Crunch coincide.

          “it must terminate with some ultimate cause”
          Prove that there is only one ultimate cause. There are about 30 natural constants, which according to your argument all have to have an ultimate, non-physical cause, especially as they seem fine-tuned for human life. There should be about 30 ultimate non-physical causes as well. In other words – you’re arguing for polytheism. Still I doubt if you will convert, which shows your argument is intellectually dishonest.

          The First-Cause, aka Cosomological Argument is the easiest to refute of them all, because it makes specific claims about our physical reality and hence invades the domain of the natural sciences. And as we all know: if philosophy/theology conflicts with science the latter always and everywhere wins.

          http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/

        • smrnda

          The ability to reason is an adaptation, and sometimes requires us to do things to account for the fact that we aren’t very good reasoning machines. Think of how experiments must be constructed to avoid bias.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yet another “argument” where you wonder if these guys have ever actually thought about the issues. He’s just rattling off talking points.

  • lawrence090469

    “We have observed that all opposing theories to Jesus’ resurrection are extremely improbable, if not practically impossible”
    These words do not mean what you think they mean. For a few counterexamples: The entire story is a fabrication. Or, the entire story is a wild exaggeration of events that occurred long before they were recorded. Or, the story is somewhat representative, but the body got moved when no one was watching, or the body was put somewhere else in the first place. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

  • davewarnock

    every time I see a Christian going to great lengths to defend the Biblical account of the resurrection, I always come back to this: there are no original documents. No one bothered to take notes! Huh?? Watching 60 Minutes last night about a thief who stole historical artifacts including letters written by Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, etc. We have those. The originals. Hundreds of years later. And yet, the documents that contain the evidence upon which the eternal fate of every human on the planet…gone. Missing. oops. God did a really really bad job taking care of these things so that future generations would know the truth.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The Christian might reply that having really good evidence from that time (photos, videos, even a news report published a day later in the Jerusalem Times) is impossible to get. Fair enough–but since that kind of evidence is the minimum that we must demand for so remarkable a claim, don’t hold these supernatural beliefs.

      • Kingasaurus

        Of course.

        It then begs the question of why an omnipotent creator of the universe engineers a resurrection that is supposedly the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe, and he can’t be bothered to show future generations that such a thing happened with any clarity or well-sourced evidence.

        Why should I think such a god “inspired” any writing at all, if the writing and its provenance is this poor? So he cared enough to inspire the text, but not enough to preserve the originals or solid information from eyewitnesses?

        Does he want people to believe this stuff, or doesn’t he?

        Oh, I forgot. Jesus’ spin-doctors/publicity arm tells me that it’s a major virtue to believe all of it anyway, even if the evidence is shitty, and the shittier the evidence is, the more noble you are for believing it anyway.

        Got it.

        • Pofarmer

          Exactly. Faith without evidence is a VIRTUE.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast

          — White Queen

        • Kodie

          Everything about this story sounds like an incompetent god came up with a terrible idea. He could just forgive everyone for disappointing him, but they will say, he can’t just do that. He is god, after all, and we have to live in a world as he decides to make it, we can’t tell him how he should have done things. He’s perfect, and yet, every human can think of a few ways he could have accomplished the same thing more simply and clearly and successfully – if he were trying to do what believers seem to think he planned to do, at least as far as they’ve been going along with it and seem to think everyone’s lives would be drastically improved for coming to their side. God’s ways aren’t perfect, they’re not even good enough for sensible people who can imagine how they would run things if they had as much power or authority. It’s a manipulative tale of abuse and abuse victims who confuse fear with love.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Though Christians handwave about how God must have his perfect justice, apparently God can just forgive:

          “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:33–4).

          “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Is. 43:25).

        • Ron

          Yeah, but maybe god forgot he said that. I mean, he seems kind of forgetful when it comes to honoring his covenants. He had to create the rainbow to remind himself never to flood the earth again, and Moses had to talk him out of destroying all the Israelites in the desert after they committed idolatry.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah. The guy’s only human.

        • Kodie

          It seems to be another example of othering themselves or atheists. We can point out a lot of improvements that could be made – if god were real, he’d be more evident, and if he were loving, things would surely be different than they are? – but then they wouldn’t be able to say we just can’t ask god for things. He’s a father and fathers know more than kids. Fathers know why you have to buckle your seatbelt and why you have to eat your vegetables or go to bed. We’re just supposed to obey for our own good. We’re supposed to act as though the things we don’t understand are the things he does understand and wants for us for our own health and well-being, I guess, spiritually speaking, and that atheists are the childish rebels who don’t want to heed these mysterious rules because we try to analyze what kind of sense they make. That gives them a sense of security to just let their father know best, and not do things the easy way.

          So I do have a problem with this perfect god thinking to send a human savior to the world, not just given that it’s a stupid way to forgive people. I get that it is symbolic and beautiful (to people with some form of sickness that love death), but why such an obscure place among illiterates that was just about lost. If it had really happened, that is, the historicity of Jesus was a total failure and only barely saved by people who wanted to keep the fire lit, who only have as much credibility as a modern Christian believing something someone told them was true.

          If this was god’s great message to the world, it’s kind of like if you had an important assignment for someone at work and didn’t talk with them or schedule periodic progress reports, and instead put a post-it note on their computer monitor while they were away on a 2-week vacation, that dried out and fell off behind the desk. And then you get fired because the project wasn’t turned in and the client backed out, then the employee moved on, their replacement was replaced sometime later, and eventually the office went out of business, and the post-it, along with all the other scraps, were picked up by a clean-up crew and removed to make space for another company to move in.

          Only this time, the janitor read this post-it note instead of adding it to the bins, extrapolated a great project from a 2″x2″ scrap of paper that said, “See me 4 project 2 save [illegible]: URGENT” and tried to find out what it was by interviewing the people who used to work there, but only found records for the people from another department.

    • Pofarmer

      Think about something else, and it’s just a small thing. But, all the apostles ran away from the trial, right? And yet we are told in detail the happenings there. How can that not be fiction?

      • Kingasaurus

        How can anyone know what Jesus said or did when he was alone in the Garden of Gethsemane or alone in the wilderness being tempted by Satan?

        It’s obviously a literary contrivance.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Yes, the literary contrivance of the omniscient narrator. aka God! Checkmate, atheist!

    • Ron

      The most conspicuous piece of missing evidence is the resurrected man himself. Why would he hide himself away for all these centuries? Why not stick around to answer questions and resolve disputes? It’s not like he has anything better to do, right? Or is he off saving people in other galaxies, as well?

  • King Dave

    For the believer their Christian god is delivering his Nigerian flock into the hands of his enemies to be butchered in a fashion only he could dream up. Whether snake bite or burned alive this blood thirsty god has a strange way of calling them home.

  • Marie Alexander

    “Show me how the Flying Spaghetti Monster can’t explain any aspect of the gospel story and I’ll show you how you underestimate the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

    HILARIOUS
    I’ll may end up using that…