The perfect mirror

We’ve all heard the phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes”.  It’s a condescending set of words telling us that even though there’s no good reason to believe in god, that atheists will be so scared when in a helpless situation that we’ll hope one exists enough to believe for all the wrong reasons.  Frankly, it says much more about believers and the reasons for which they’ll believe things than it says about atheists.  It’s the coward who succumbs to despair and retreats into self-deception.  It’s hardly admirable.

I’ve always wondered if staring death in the face would cause me to suspend my rationality long enough to do something embarrassingly useless like praying.  Well, Monday I got to find out.

After all the kinks in my travel over the weekend, I finally flew out of KC Monday night.  As we reached Columbus, a monster storm had situated itself directly over the airport, daring planes to land.  It was beautiful.  The sky all around us was awash with lightning as we circled, waiting for the storm to pass.  However, at one point we entered a thunderhead which produced powerful turbulence.  Then there was a deafening crack of lightning off the right side.  Now, I’m aware that commercial airplanes are struck by lightning around once per year on average, but seeing a bolt of lightning that close is still fucking scary.

Immediately after the lightning, the plane tipped hard to the left and began falling downwards in a half nose dive.  Everybody on the plane was screaming.  I’m not sure if my perception of how long this went on is accurate because my blood was racing, but I would wager about ten seconds.  During that time, I was genuinely convinced that I was about to die.

I remember precisely what I thought.

  1. For the love of Loki, stop screaming to god, all of you!
  2. I am glad I got to have such an enjoyable weekend before I die.
  3. I hope my parents will be ok.
  4. I hope I live, but if I don’t, I hope this is painless.

When you’re in that type of situation, you have no motivation to lie to yourself.  These thoughts are as close a glimpse to who I really am as I can get, and I was very happy with them.

Thankfully, the plane was righted and we flew over to Pittsburgh for a few hours to refuel and to make sure the storm was gone by the time we flew back.  All the way there, everybody around me was thanking god.  Of course, there were no censures of god for sending the storm in the first place and certainly no credit being offered up to the pilots.  But maybe that type of silliness is a good trade for comfort in the face of a frightening situation.

I say fuck no it isn’t!  Sure, fantasies can provide comfort, but there are avenues to comfort that don’t require a surrender of our good senses.  We have approaches to solace that are drawn from an understanding of the world and the importance of the people in our lives.  Atheists are not so intelligent or special that these intellectually honest means are available only to us while the poor theists have to settle for thoughtless drivel in order to brave the hardships of life.

No matter how much believers argue for their limitations in this regard, we should convince them that they have the personal strength to acknowledge that death is just as much a part of life as living, and to let it be enough to live their lives in such a way that when death finally catches up to them they’ll be ready.  You want to be brave?  Stare down what frightens you instead of turning your head and pretending it isn’t there.  Trust in the power of human beings to fix problems instead of resigning our sagacity for empty hope at the drop of a hat.

I’m not sure I’m there yet myself, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths.  The valiant only taste of death but once.” ~ William Shakespeare

  • Jessica Landis

    One of my favorite things about Obama’s speech announcing Bin Laden’s death was the lack of god-thanking. He thanked the intelligence agents, the seal six team, and the american people who support them. You know, the actual folks who did stuff.

  • http://onehourparkingshow.com Jeff van Booven

    I think you rather should have stood up an criticized God for sending the storm just to see the looks on all their faces. Maybe their absolute anger and wanting to kill you would have gotten a first class upgrade for your safety.

  • http://healthyhumanist.blogspot.com Jay

    When I was in the service I was a deist at best. I had left Christianity’s craziness behind me in high school but I just figured, “there might be something.” In my younger days it just wasn’t something I really had to consider. It just never came up. But when I was in the service, it STILL hardly ever came up. I prayed before almost every mission we went out on on the basis of “f#%k it, maybe it works.” But when shit went down, the last thing I was thinking about was a deity. That may have been the training taking over. Anyways, I’m a healthy secular humanist now, that’s what matters. Glad you didn’t die!

    -HH

  • Scott

    I’ve noticed a lot of people claiming thanking God and thanking people are contradictory statements. Really? The Bible never makes a distinction between the ultimate control of God and the responsibility and causation of the actions of men and women.

    This whole problem is based on a bad theology and a poor understanding of God. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.. you do not disbelieve in the God I believe in. You’ve created a God, based majorly on stereotypes with a lack of study, and disbelieve in this limited, created God. It’s a divine straw-man. I say learn who God is before you fight against Him so strongly. Most people don’t need to be freed from religion, they need to be freed from bad theology, atheists and theists alike.

  • Doug Kirk

    @Scott,

    You have to explain exactly and in no uncertain or logically contradictory terms what and/or who your god is. Then after it’s pointed out to you how your god either isn’t possible, isn’t a god in any real sense of the world, or has absolutely no evidence for its existence; we can go right on not believing in it. Unless your god is as special as you claim. in which case I will convert on the spot, I guarantee it.

    However, you actually have to describe it first. You don’t get to attack people for criticizing a straw man without explaining who the actual man is first.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “It’s a divine straw-man.”

    Right. The god believed in by billions of people is a straw man. m-/

    And Doug Kirk is right: You have to tell us what exact god you believe in if you want us to think that it makes sense. we have all had countless theists tell us, “Oh, well, of course, that silly god that everyone else believes in is just silly… but my god makes sense.” And then, when we finally pin them down and get them to tell us what their god is and why, it turns out to be just as silly as all the rest.

    (“If” we finally pin them down, I should say. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard theists insist that their special snowflake god makes perfect sense, only to have them refuse to explain what that god is and why they believe it.)

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Oh, and btw: Great piece, JT. I’ve had similar experiences: not with my imminent death per se, but with terrible crises of the kind that are supposed to make people turn to God. Not so much, as it turns out.

  • http://www.remijdio.com Nick Johnson

    Only in religion could you say that the more vague something is the more it makes sense.
    “I say learn who God is before you fight against Him so strongly.”
    -I doubt he had time to do a polling of the passengers when the plane was experiencing extreme turbulence but I would put down a 95% chance of the people on that plane believing in the common judeo-christian version of God as represented in society.
    oh and “For the love of Loki, stop screaming to god, all of you!” I literally busted out laughing on that one.

  • Scott

    @Greta and Doug,

    It’s a fair question, and a good question, and its the very question I’m suggesting people look into instead of assuming their idea of God is correct because that’s what they grew up believing.
    The reason answering that question is difficult is because beliefs and ideas about God can and will be corrected or more deeply understood throughout a person’s life. Knowing God is similar to knowing another person, every day is a chance to get to know them more.
    There may be paradoxes in studying the attributes of God, but never contradictions. The issue I was addressing above was specifically the issue of God’s sovereign control over all things and human’s responsibility in every action. You can find countless examples in the Judeo-Christian texts of God sovereignly controlling a situation and humans held accountable to what happened (ex. God sovereignly hardened Pharaoh’s heart to not let His people go and Pharaoh was accountable for his discision – ex2. People crucifying Jesus according to the divine plan of God but they are held accountable for their action-Acts 2:23). The examples can be found on the positive side as well, such as David and Goliath. David obviously kills Goliath, but gives credit to God.

    I find it odd when I read an atheist bashing God for things based on a bad understanding of God. Stop being as simple minded as the theists you mock and think a little deeper about the things of God yourself. Should the pilot be thanked? of course! Should you thank God? Well, it certainly does not contradict thanking the pilot.

    For starters on the question of who God is I’ll give some basics:

    God is good.
    God is able to do whatever He wants.
    God is sovereign (in control of any situation).
    God loves people.
    God is just and will pay back wrong for what it deserves.
    God is merciful.
    God is creator and sustainer.

    Understanding these attributes and their implications, like I said above, really is a lifelong process. But most atheistic accounts of the character of God reflects a poor consideration or a very elementary understanding of what these attributes mean or imply. I think if theology was studied more by atheists they may find that very few thoelogians believe in a god they disbelieve in.
    The hard evidence for most of these attributes is found in the death and resurrection of Christ. I always challenge people to provide a plausible account of what happened to Jesus after his death that fits the evidence we now have (Paul’s letters, the gospels, non-Christian materials, and the movement of Christianity in the 1st and 2nd centuries). To say that Jesus neither lived nor died reveals a biased agenda in the study nearly every time.

    I’m sure the mocking will ensue, but this will give you something to blog about and possiby think about. Thanks for the responses.

  • Rob

    For the love of Loki. Oh my Loki, you made my day.

    I think you stumbled onto something here. Maybe Loki is closer to reality than God is. If there is some higher control, wouldn’t it make more sense that someone like Loki was dangling death before you only to leave you as the sole survivor thanking the right God even though you believe in no God.

    But then there’s the simple solution. Maybe your plane just flew into a storm, and all of you were too insignificant for anything of higher significance to notice.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “God is good.”

    A good being who starves and tortures people. Including infants and children. Floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, birth defects, pediatric cancer, etc.

    “God is able to do whatever He wants.”

    And apparently what he wants is to starve and torture people. Including infants and children.

    “God is sovereign (in control of any situation).”

    And what he does with that control is to starve and torture people. Including infants and children.

    “God loves people.”

    And how he shows that love is to starve and torture people. Including infants and children.

    “God is just and will pay back wrong for what it deserves.”

    And how he shows that justice is to starve and torture people. Including infants and children.

    “God is merciful.”

    And how he shows that mercy is to starve and torture people. Including infants and children.

    “God is creator and sustainer.”

    And the world he created and sustains is one in which he starves and tortures people. Including infants and children. (And I’m not even getting into the complete lack of evidence for a universe created by a supernatural force, or sustained by anything other than physical cause and effect.)

    “I always challenge people to provide a plausible account of what happened to Jesus after his death that fits the evidence we now have…”

    The “evidence” of the New Testament? Internally contradictory, written decades after the events it supposedly describes, by highly biased writers deeply invested in converting new believers, entirely unconfirmed by contemporary accounts and in many cases directly contradicted by them? This is like asking people to provide a plausible account of what happened to Robin Hood or King Arthur.

    Sorry. You lose. I have, in fact, heard of your god before. Many, many times. Your god is really not a particularly special snowflake. A god who created and sustains the world, who is in control of any situation, who is able to do whatever he wants, who loves people, and who is good, just, and merciful… that’s a god that lots and lots of people believe in. Pretty standard issue, in fact. I am very familiar with your god. And I completely disbelieve in your god.

    Oh, I suppose you want to know why. Here’s why. (Sorry for the self-linkage, but it really is relevant.)

    The Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Believe In God
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/09/the-ten-main-reasons-i-dont-believe-in-god.html

    Unless you start with the assumption that your god exists, or that any god exists, there really is no good evidence to support the conclusion that he does.

  • Douglas Kirk

    @JT

    I was too concerned with talking at Scott to say what a great entry this was. I can only hope that when I have moments where I learn my own mortality I can achieve that same conclusion. I love this blog and have quickly added you to my favorites.

    @Scott

    I second every point Greta brought up above me. Your god is not special. Your god is common and untrue.

    I would like to also point out that Jesus is not evidence for a claim for the simple fact that Jesus is not evidence. The new testament was written 30-90 years after his purported death by authors who never had any first hand knowledge of him.

    The four books also contradict each other many times about really important issues. To top it off, what is the most damning to me about trying to use Jesus as evidence is that besides the bible, there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO historical evidence he even EXISTED, let alone performed miracles, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead.

    No contemporary historians mention him, even though they mention scores of other “prophets” and devotedly recorded the minutiae of their day. And since that time and before it, everything we’ve ever learned about science has shown that what he supposedly did is impossible.

    So what is the more likely scenario? That some guy wandered around a Roman province during a time of meticulous records keeping with a politically dangerous crowd following him because he was reknowned throughout the land for performing miracles. Then because he was such a danger to the ruling class he was put to death…. And nobody wrote anything about it? That there was a darkness that consumed the land and temple curtains were torn in half and none of the historians and records keepers thought that was an important thing? And that his own followers were too busy to write anything down about them even though some of them were clearly not illiterate?

    Or perhaps, its that the new testament is a post hoc attempt to justify christianity by using well established guidelines for mythic figures that were very very common and old at the time?

    See http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel.html

    There, a perfectly logical explanation for what happened to Jesus. It didn’t.

  • Scott Admire

    @Douglas Kirk

    I’ve recently done a little research on the life of Jesus Christ. There’s plenty of things your pro-atheism website is missing about the historical evidence for Jesus Christ. Almost unaminously all people claiming ther is no historical evidence that Jesus existed write either on atheist websites or atheist books at a popular level outside of their expertise.

    The Jesus ‘myth’ theory is based on very biased research. I encourage you to go read some of the myth parallels that people claim are ‘borrowed’ to tell about Christ. None of them read as biographies in a true historical context and most of the parallels are either a very big stretch or appear to be later traditions that post-date Christianity (one account of Mythra’s resurrection includes his hair continuing to grow and his pinky being able to move.. and this is used to say the gospel authors borrowed the resurrection story from Mithraism).

    The gospels compare quite nicely to other biographies of the time. And all biographies of the time were biased, whether politically or otherwise. After research (not after reading a Christian.org blog that tells me Jesus exists) I have very high confidence in Jesus’ historicity. This research includes skeptical text critics such as Bart Ehrman (agnostic) and Dom Crossan (does not believe in the physical resurrection or miracle claims of Jesus). But even the critical historians agree he existed. To say he didn’t probably indicates someone who WANTS to find a lack of evidence for Jesus’ existence. Take a quick survey of the sources you’ve heard that from.. I’ve got a hunch they are all very openly and ‘evangelistically’ atheists.

  • Scott Admire

    @Greta

    Suffering is a tough issue in any circumstance, especially personal ones. But your responses show a very immature approach to understanding how suffering can be bad and God can be good. I was talking about the attributes of God, not the attributes of suffering. God is good, suffering is bad. You somehow have mixed the two into one to say if suffering is bad, then God is bad. The component you’ve forgotten in this equation is humanity. God is good, humans often aren’t. This does get more difficult to explain suffering in light of natural disasters (these aren’t easily seen to be caused by any direct act of mankind), but at mankind’s rebellion against God, all of nature was impacted by sin.

    No this isn’t out of God’s over-arching control, but (thankfully, yet fearfully) God is a just God and cannot let wickedness and evil go unpunished. If God is the ultimate good, and loving anything above the ultimate good is to down-grade the ultimate good and therefore commit an idolatrous sin (the greatest command in scripture is to love God and love people), then we are all guilty of committing sin and living in rebellion. We all deserve punishment from God.

    Basically, to eliminate suffering God would have to eliminate all wrong. To eliminate all wrong God would have to eliminate you and me, because you and me both are wrong.. often. It is the great truth and great tragedy that I find very few people arguing against. Humanity is sinful.

    Mankind, since its beginning, has been striving to counteract this wrong through religion and good works. No matter where you go in the world, there is an attempt to achieve the impossible, to attain a measure of goodness/power/wisdom/beauty/riches that is found in God alone. The end goal is happiness, but apart from God (though often times in His name), man will do terrible things to achieve this ever elusive state of happiness.

    And before we blame God for making an evil human, we must blame the human for rebelling against a good God.

    So a question that deserves some thought is do you think there has ever been anyone who has lived that has not done something wrong, either in word, deed, or thought. And what did this wrong deserve if true justice were given? And if there were a truly infinitely Good God, what would the just punishment be not only for sinning against another flawed imperfect human, but what would the logical just punishment be for sinning against Perfect goodness?

    The greatest problem for any person alive is the goodness of God, because we all fall short of it and rebel against it.

  • Scott Admire

    @Greta

    I also read a few of your reasons for not believing in God. This is just some thoughts on the first point of explanations for the supernatural have been explained by natural causes.

    I’m going to assume you’ve critiqued someone for having a ‘God of the gaps’ theology sometime in your blogging experience (I may be wrong, but I know it’s a popular critique you’ve probably at least heard of). Well I agree. God of the gaps theology is a very poor understanding of God. But, have you ever thought your first point is actually using the ‘God of the gaps’ theology as evidence God doesn’t exist?

    What you are saying (and if this doesn’t accurately capture your argument please let me know) “once an unexplained gap is filled by natural science then we have growingly less evidence for God.”
    The problem is that’s working with the exact same basis of the bad argument that claims the only valuable evidence for God is an unfilled gap in explanations by natural science. At the root is the SAME bad theolgoy. It only makes since that God, if God IS, is the God of nature and natural causes (He is claimed to have created it) just like he is God of the supernatural and supernatural causes (or what we might call a miracles).

    Science simply cannot disprove Jesus rising from the dead. It can give us the observation that if it did happen it would go against all modern recorded observation. I understand that. But people in Jesus’ day understood it too. Jesus rising from the dead was compelling because, well, people don’t rise from the dead. Just like any of Jesus’ miracle stories.. the people were amazed because stuff like that just doesn’t happen. They were called miracles back then for the same reason we would call them miracles today, it breaks the pattern of the naturally observed world. We see the skeptical and the doubters back then (even in the gospels). Many people claimed they wouldn’t believe it unless they saw it for themselves! This is simply different from a mythical account.

    Without drifting too far from may main point, I just want to re-iterate, some of the same uncritical thoughts about God that atheists use against believers (rightfully so) or then applied to positive arguments against God’s existence. This should not be.

  • Scott Admire

    and I re-read it. JT, your website doesn’t allow me to edit my comments to correct my grammar and typos. Not cool.. nothing kills a good flowing paragraph like a run-on and a mixed up noun-article agreement.

  • Douglas Kirk

    @Scott

    I’m not going to get into a dualing “who has more historians on their side” argument. The existence of a fact is independent of how many people believe it to be fact and the evidence of Jesus’ existence has consistently been muddied and opposed by theological interests for 2000 years.

    I’m quite familiar with the argument that the New Testament counts as evidence for Jesus’ existence simply because it mentions him. I reject this, because it could also be used on literally any other mythical character as long as there weren’t confirming texts. The claims for what Jesus did and who Jesus was are so extraordinary that extra-biblical evidence is required. If you reject research done by an atheist for bias, it is only reasonable to reject the bible for the same bias. Beyond the Bible, the evidence just isn’t there.

    The fact of the matter is, there is no non-disputed evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. The only remotely contemporary evidence is Josephus, and that is greatly disputed because of the many problems with the way he mentioned Jesus. The Gospels are contradictory and nothing that happens in them (besides the existence of Pilate) has historical, contemporary basis.

    And even if a man named Jesus existed around the turn of the century (possible but this is not necessarily the Jesus of the Bible) it says nothing about the Jesus of the Bible. If you think that Jesus’ resurrection is incontrovertible fact, I claim that Hercules descended to Tartarus to rescue his love based on the same quality of evidence.

    I always challenge people to provide a plausible account of what happened to Jesus after his death that fits the evidence we now have

    You asked for a refutation of the Jesus of the Bible, because you claimed that it was undisputed fact in support of your position. I provided it. And provided one of many reference sites. Here is one that almost supports your point:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/chap5.html

    In this the man is talking about what it takes to make the positive claim that a historical Jesus existed and what it takes to make the positive claim that Jesus did not exist. He, however, also runs afoul of the problem of extra-biblical evidence that he attempts to wave away here:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/indconf.html

    But in both cases, he does not claim what you claim. you asked for evidence against resurrection. You conflated the Biblical Jesus with a historical man named Jesus, and I replied in kind. There is no evidence of existence for the man it claims to have existed. I don’t care about evidence for a carpenter named Jesus, I care about evdince for a miracle worker named Jesus who was resurrected. The man you and the bible claim existed. In the case of Jesus, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    Again, a perfectly logical explanation for what happened to Jesus. It didn’t.

  • Scott Admire

    @Douglas

    I know simple majority on an opinion doesn’t make it true. And I’m not saying because someone is an atheist it makes them untrustworthy. What I’m saying is the majority of people who devote their lives to studying the history of the ancient near east in the 1st century believe Jesus was a man who existed and gathered a following that stayed around after he was crucified by the Romans. (Most don’t touch miracle claims, saying a historian can’t determine such things.. which is where I diverge from the majority consenus) The Josephus comments are also nearly unaminously agreed on to have original material mentioning very significant details about Christ’s death and claimed resurrection, and that it was later tampered by Christian editors to make it sound more pro-Christian.

    The problem is not with atheist sources. THe problem is with obviously agenda-driven atheist sources that ignore what the majority of historians find important. For instance, you say Pilate is the only think linking the gospels to history. I encourage you to read other myth stories compared to the gospels. THe gospels mention road ways, cities, cities that would soon be destroyed (obviously dating the events), customs that match customs of that time period (the way passover was held), tensions in cultures (samaria and jews), religious leaders of the time period (pharisees, sadducess), specific people corraborated with other sources (peter and james in paul’s letters – Paul in the book of Acts), government policies (Roman crucifixion even though it was the Jewish court that said he deserved it)… that’s just off the top of my head. There are a ridiculous amount of cultural things that place the gospels in 1st century palestine. Usual a myth is set in a distance mythical past because, well, it’s just not meant to be read like a history. People weren’t supposed to have known Hercules personally. Someone doesn’t claim in the myth, “Go ask the 500 people who were there and still alive, they’ll tell you!” That’s precisely what Paul does in one of his letters.

    Any honest person would say the gospels and paul’s letters simply read differently than mythological text. It fits into a different genre altogether. Craig Keener, an ancient text critic, argues compellingly that the gospels fit the genre of ancient biography.

    And no, none of this proves Jesus rose from the dead. But I hope to at least get your mind reckognizing the differences in the approach to history the gospels give that is entirely lost in other mythologies, like Hercules.

    Another problem I want to address is throwing out the Bible as a recorded account. Yes it’s bias and has an agenda (Just like any biography of any ceasar written at the time.. and like most biographies written today), but the fact is it was still written. More interestingly are Paul’s letters, which mention the name of Peter and James (the brother of Jesus). I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but I feel it necessary to let you know the New Testament is a compliation of letters and books that were already in circulation. This means the first copy of Galatians was not attached to the rest of the New Testament. This is important because people talk about the Bible as a single book when in reality it’s several separate works. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) contain obviously borrowed material from similar sources (most think Mark and a hypothetical 5th source they’ve called Q) as well as independent material unique to each gospel. Why this is important is because we have independent attestation from at LEAST 5 sources about Jesus that are compiled into the Bible. When someone wants to throw out the Bible as a whole they should understand it should be a source by source critique. This critique then needs to be compared to other historicle biographies (gospels) and letters (Paul’s epistles) to be adequately compared to what we should expect to find in a 1st century text. If it doesn’t pass the test a valuable resource because of a late date (gospel of Thomas as an example) then it should not be included, which in most serious discussions it isn’t exactly because of it’s late mid 2nd cent. date.

    I know that sounds boring, but when you throw out the Bible I don’t expect you to find good evidence for Jesus. He was a peasant man with a following made up of mostly peasants. Why a Roman historian would find it necessary to write about a peasant during the time he started gaining followers is almost like asking for a needle in a haystack. We have no good reason to think a Roman historian would have HEARD about Jesus during his very brief 3 year ministry. Pilate is even recorded in the gospels as not knowing what was going on, and definitely never before that sabbath day had he ever heard of Jesus and he was the ruler of the Jerusalem area. When roman historians started hearing about Jesus as the movement spread to more Roman areas guess what.. they wrote about him and his movement. It’s really what we would expect if a peasant man named Jesus had 3 years to minister and then was killed.

    Show me some plausible evidence for why Pliny the Elder should have writtne about Jesus. Were Pliny and Pilate friends? Did Pliny know the Jewish texts and prophecies? Did Pliny ever even travel in Jerusalem? He’s just an example but I think you can see my point. We have no evidence for why any of these contemporary historians SHOULD have known about Jesus and didn’t. Only then would the silence be compelling enough to even come close to arguing Jesus must have never existed. These arguments are not taken seriously by serious historians because, in reality, they just aren’t that good.

  • Douglas Kirk

    Thanks for the history lesson. Did you miss the part where I said the New Testaments had conflicting narratives of Jesus’ life and were compiled 90-120 years after his death? That does not support your ironclad historical fact that Jesus existed declaration. Even more, that really really doesn’t support your “there is nothing controversial about the resurrection” claim.

    “Go ask the 500 people who were there and still alive, they’ll tell you!” That’s precisely what Paul does in one of his letters.

    Then Paul should have followed his own advice. Even though Paul’s letters predate the new testament, he himself never met Jesus. He converted before hearing a first hand account and supposedly the only follower he ever sought out was Peter. His letters, interestingly enough, are suspiciously devoid of things relating to what Jesus did or said. In fact, Paul disagrees with Peter and Paul’s theology is disputed by the followers of Peter.

    Another source you mention, the Q gospel, is certainly loaded with Jesus’ sayings and references to him, but suspiciously is devoid of miracle claims. While it does portend an end to the world and a rising of the kingdom of god, the “historical truth” of a miracle-working resurrection machine is ahrdly shown to be truth at all.

    Josephus, I’ll say again, as a source for jesus is suspect because it is the historical consensus that the mentions of Jesus in his writings were modified at a later date by christian scholars. Why does Josephus write extensively about John the Baptist and his preaching but barely mention a miracle worker who was famous throughout Israel and came back from the fucking dead?

    The evidence for a man named Jesus existing is not nearly as ironclad as you are making it out to be. It’s extremely suspect. Now I’m going to try not to insult your intelligence, but I have to apparently explain that there is a difference between a man named Jesus existing and claiming that a man named Jesus existed and was a miracle worker who’s resurrection is a historical fact that must be explained; of which you did the latter, not the former. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear, but I’m disputing what you actually claimed.

    “The founder of this sect, Christus, was given the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator, Pontius Pilate; suppressed for the moment, the detestable superstition broke out again, not only in Judea where the evil originated, but also in [Rome], where everything horrible and shameful flows and grows” -Tacitus

    This is, by my research, the closest thing to a historical verification of jesus. and that doesn’t mention anything about a resurrection. It only mentions that a superstitious cult spread from Jerusalem to the rest of Rome, which IS historical fact.

    Even if I grant that a Jesus existed who was a preacher, I absolutely can say that the historical evidence for the miracles he was credited with and the resurrection is non-existent. Lets not forget, too, that the bible was assembled not from all the leading texts about Jesus, but about the leading texts about Jesus that supported a preconceived notion of Jesus and that competing texts were destroyed.

    It is not, I repeat NOT, a historical fact that a man named Jesus lived a life anywhere near what is recorded in the Bible, and it is NOT a historical fact that he was crucified and rose from the dead.

  • Scott Admire

    @Douglas

    “What I’m saying is the majority of people who devote their lives to studying the history of the ancient near east in the 1st century believe Jesus was a man who existed and gathered a following that stayed around after he was crucified by the Romans. (Most don’t touch miracle claims, saying a historian can’t determine such things.. which is where I diverge from the majority consenus)”

    Note that I clearly did not mention historians claim for the resurrection

    “The Josephus comments are also nearly unaminously agreed on to have original material mentioning very significant details about Christ’s death and claimed resurrection, and that it was later tampered by Christian editors to make it sound more pro-Christian.”

    “And no, none of this proves Jesus rose from the dead. But I hope to at least get your mind reckognizing the differences in the approach to history the gospels give that is entirely lost in other mythologies, like Hercules.”

    I haven’t even started talking about evidence for the resurrection. First things first. I was discussing the historical reality of only the life and death by the Romans of Jesus. The Josephus text most likely originally stated that people CLAIMED Jesus rose from the dead.. not that Josephus was recording his resurrection.

    “Then Paul should have followed his own advice. Even though Paul’s letters predate the new testament, he himself never met Jesus. He converted before hearing a first hand account and supposedly the only follower he ever sought out was Peter. His letters, interestingly enough, are suspiciously devoid of things relating to what Jesus did or said.”

    If Paul never met Jesus while he was alive then wouldn’t we expect his letters to be void of details about his life? It’s like people hold things against the New Testament accounts when it’s exactly what we would expect. He met Peter (and James, the brother of Jesus) after 3 years of his conversion, but later met a whole bunch of believers at the council of Jerusalem. He did meet these 500 believers who had known Jesus and witnessed his resurrection, that’s how he knew to talk about them. The disagreements were theological, but surprisingly they weren’t arguing about whether or not Jesus ever existed (they also all agreed that he rose from the dead, but we won’t even go there now).

    Paul meeting Peter and James (the BROTHER of Jesus) and writing about it at least attests to Peter’s historical existence. How would Paul even have known to talk to Peter if he wasn’t known for being a disciple of Jesus? Paul’s conversion doesn’t make sense if Jesus did not exist. Paul meeting Peter and the multiple source attested council of Jerusalem (where they discussed theological differences) does not make sense if Jesus never existed (Still haven’t gone into resurrection claims..).

    You agreed Paul’s letters predate the gospels. Interestingly, all of Paul’s letters are written to already existing and established churches. This means the movement of Christianity had long been in action pre-dating Paul’s letters, which pre-date the gospels. There is much evidence that pre-existing oral traditions were around before his letters as well which he incorporates some in his letters (a hymn in Philippians chapter 2 for example).

    Here’s my honest challenge to you, and I ask you to be honest with yourself and with me in answering this:
    You talk as if it’s apparently easier to understand this time period in history if Jesus didn’t exist (or in other words, it’s more plausible that Jesus didn’t exist than he did). The aim of the historian is to gather all the evidence and create the most plausible historical account of the time. So if it’s more plausbile that Jesus did not exist, then will you please create your account of Paul and the apostles and the writing of the New Testament and the movement of Christianity (minus the existence of Jesus) so that it deals with the evidences we all have to work with? I promise to read it honestly and deal with it if it produces a plausible explanation for the evidence.

  • Douglas Kirk

    Looked into it more over the weekend. I was mistaken; there is evidence for a church/cult leader around the turn of the century who could have been quoted in the Q gospel and who had a minor following around Palestine. The historical Jesus (a man who was a cult leader and was killed by Pilate) probably did exist. My bad; that’s what I get for liking the conclusion more than the argument.

  • Scott Admire

    @Douglas

    whoa… thank you for standing by the evidence over personal preference. I was not expecting that. Most people don’t take the time to really check these things out… unfortunately, it’s often people who seem like their life motto is “I only follow the evidence.”

    I appreciate the conversation and the humble approach to truth, probably more humbe than I was. Now that you’ve come this far, would you be interested in a good evidenced based argument for the resurrection? I know that probably sounds insane to you, but there’s an argument worth listening to. And you can critique me where I’m wrong so I will know why it’s a failing argument.

  • Douglas Kirk

    Scott,

    Thank you for the offer, but I don’t want to keep filling up JT’s blog with point after counterpoint. I accepted only that a historical cult leader probably existed, only because there is no direct evidence that one did not. The Q gospel, a collection of sayings attributed to a rabbi named Jesus, is why I think there is a possibility that a Jesus existed.

    However, as far as the Jesus of the gospels I can safely and without reservation discount any possibility that that myth existed. It’s fairly evident that Christianity started off as a mystical jewish cult and in their testaments generated an entirely new myth based on a literal son of god.

    It would take too much time and too many words for me to simply parrot the evidence that has convinced me; but it’s located here if you want to look it over:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/jesuspuzzle.html

  • Scott Admire

    @Douglas

    read the bigger portions of the article. I would have to read some of Doherty’s work because the article itself only provides an outline without much evidence, while obviously ignoring some evidence (such as Q). Also, the historical construction of orthodoxy winning out is a pretty unfair treatment of anything I’ve studied on the period. We actually have recorded works discussing debates on which texts to include in the canon and the reasons for and against each, it isn’t as if it’s a big conspiracy. Most of the criteria for inclusion dealt with the reliability and authenticity of texts. It also assumes a later date for the gospels without addressing the Luke/Acts problem of a post 62 date.

    Another point to consider in brief is that the Jesus myth theory would stand unique to any other mythology in that other mythologies apparently took a historical man and made him legend, the Jesus myth (as promoted by Carrier in the article) takes a created legend and then later writes him as a historical man. I don’t wnat to blow up JT’s blog anymore. Keep seeking truth and dealing honestly with the evidence. As a Christian, I’m not afraid of where the evidence leads.


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