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Yet Another Post About Atheism and Morality

30 March, 2009

How can atheists be moral without the word of god(s) telling them what to do?  In 1724, Christian theologian Richard Bentley, wrote: “no atheists as such can be a true friend, an affectionate relation, or a loyal subject”.  Or, as a chap pseudonymously named Gideon recently commented over at You Made Me Say It:  “After all, in your Godless universe, anything goes, right?”

In a word (to Gideon), no.  I must live with the results of my actions.  If I decide to borrow massively against my home equity and blow the money on KC Royals merchandise, the debt is mine.  If I decide to speed, the fine is mine.    If I decide to be unfaithful, the destruction of my marriage would be my fault (ain’t gonna happen).  If I decided to embezzle money, the loss of my job and the criminal punishment is all mine.  All of these are real world consequences of real world behaviour.

Christians, however, have a different view.  From Fill the Void’s (which I snarked about yesterday) online comic strip page:

Gun SlingerA hired killer trusts Christ and, at death, goes to heaven. But the law-abiding marshal who hunted him rejects Christ and goes to hell. Clearly shows that salvation is through grace, not works.

(I’ll save you the clicking:  it’s a Chick Tract.  Unless you are well fortified with scotch or absinthe, don’t go there.)

So the hired killer find’s god(s), develops a ‘personal relationship with Christ’ (which sounds, er, creepy?) and, suddenly, all of his life has no lasting consequence.  The guy who tries to make the world a better place, removing criminals from society, goes to hell.

I consider myself a moral person.  I don’t cheat on my wife.  I don’t abuse children.  I work hard.  I pay my taxes.  I pay my debts.  I am part of the fire militia.  I volunteered for the US Army.  I don’t drink to excess.  I don’t deal drugs. In other words, I am incredibly boring (and, obviously, not a Republican). 

If I added to that “I have been saved, I have a personal relationship with Jesus, and I belong to the Hyper-Fundamentalist Christinist Evangelical Church of the Living Word of our Loving Savior,” then, by the standards of a Christian, I would be a sinner who is going to heaven.  And if I cheated on my wife, abused my children, slacked at work, avoided my taxes, renegged on my debts, avoided any kind of public service, and dealt drugs, I would be a bad person.  But, I would still be a sinner going to heaven.

But, I’m an atheist.  In my godless universe, anthing goes.  In my godless universe, I cannot be a friend, an affectionate relation, or a loyal subject.  My acts mean nothing. 

So, according to a large number of Christians, I am going to hell.  No matter what I do on earth, I am condemned because I do not believe the right things about the right things.  Haggard?  to heaven.  W? to heaven.  (((Billy)))?  to hell. 

And Christians claim that atheists cannot be moral?  Bullshit!  Christians are allowed any immorality with their ‘get out of hell free’ card.  Earthly punishment?  It happens, but their final reward is still safe.  We atheists have to live with the effect of our behaviour in the real world.  Could it be that atheists (on average (there are always exceptions)) are more law-abiding than believers because we have no magic friend who can wipe away any transgression?

Maybe I should just smoke some meth with a male prostitute and then find Jesus.  Then all is forgiven, right?

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50 comments

  1. Sounds pretty unfair doesn’t it? On the other hand the Bible is pretty clear that those who “make a practise” of doing those things you mentioned, heaven will not be in the cards for them.

    Actually, becoming a Christian requires of us the most difficult thing for a human to do – We must admit that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and that we cannot save ourselves; that God must pay the penalty of our sins for us.

    As you know from your own life, that is such a difficult thing to do that it may very well be impossible for you.

    Just as an aside, how good do you think a person might have to be to warrant admission to heaven? As good as you, me, the guy next door?


    • oh? and what about people who are good but don’t believe in god? are THEY damned to hell as well? You don’t answer the fundamental question he asks ” why can bad christians get into heaven, yet good atheists be damned to hell?” No answer was given.
      Also, on another note, why do you worship the christian God? after All, why is it that God only reveals himself to a few people in a tiny nation called isreal? why didn’t he reveal himsefl to china/ and why would he do it 2000 years ago? After all, the earth is 4.6 BILLION years old. Religeon can’t answer those questions, and it can’t give me answers. Relgeon used to say ” lightning is God being angry” ( by religeon take your pick) and now we know lightning is the interaction of electrons in the upper levels of the sky interacting an releasing heat and light. Or another one ” earthquakes are gods wrath” nope, they are plate techtonics.
      religeon can’t explain things, and to be quite frank sir, religeons just make people into sheep


  2. I recklessly clicked on the comic before I read your warning. How sick is that, eh?

    So, can someone explain to me how [deity of your choice] is a just [deity of your choice]? Or is it just the Jesus-brand shoppers who go to heaven? The right choice of deity is the main point, I guess.


  3. It’s the main point alright. The thing is, there can’t be thousands of gods (Hindu) and no god (atheism), god is everything (Pantheism) or the Creator of everything (Christian)and on and on and on. Now, one of the thousands of religions might be right. Or all of them might be wrong. But Christianity is the only one, the ONLY one whose God is rooted in history. Jesus needs to be dealt with – accepted or rejected. One thing Jesus isn’t and that is, He isn’t just “kinda” important.


  4. makarios:
    What is the basis of your claim that Christianity is rooted in history?


  5. The confidence with which the vast majority of atheist, agnostic and Christian scholars agree to the histoicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Of course there are those on the lunatic fringe (holocaust deniers etc.) who deny his existence but they really are a small, small minority.


  6. Bwahahaha! The “Only one whose god is rooted in history”!? Tell that to anyone of any other religion. Just more “my god can beat up your god” crap.


  7. Like I said, I’m going by what the vast majority of historical scholars claim is true.

    Tell me this. If Jesus wasn’t a historical figure, why would Josephus, Matthew, Tacitus, Mark, Lucian of Samosata, Dr. Luke, Mara Bar-Serapion, John, The Babylonion Talmud and John Dominic Crossan, the Founder of the “Jesus Seminar” all attest that Jesus’ crucifixion is historical fact? And why would that be when all but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are non Christians?

    If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, why would these historians and scholars write that He did? Why would they simply invent these stories? There was/is absolutely nothing of earthly value to be gained by concocting this as a lie.


  8. Um…even if this Jesus dude did exist. How does that prove the existence of the xtian god?


  9. Mak, I have to tell you, when there’s money and power to be had people will jump on any band wagon.

    As to what they had to gain, well, the divine right of kings, treasure, authority…been to St. Basil’s or the Vatican? Feast of the Holy Spiridon? Kiss a corpses foot? Silliness.

    Plus, I have seen a period of about six months where people claimed to have seen and spoken to a person who I knew for a fact did not exist.

    Also, as many can attest, just because a lot of people say something is so doesn’t MAKE it so.


  10. Makarios:

    Regarding your “historical” sources:

    Josephus – the passage you’re presumably citing is widely (pretty much universally) known to be a later insertion, possibly by Eusebius.
    Tacitus, Lucian – both mention the existence of Christianity as a movement. Neither attest to the historicity of the crucifixion.
    Mara Bar-Serapion – refers only to a “wise king (of the Jews)”, who, given the preponderance of Messiah figures at the time, could have been anyone.
    Talmud Bavli – written 600 years after the events of the Gospels, and mentions execution by hanging, not crucifixion.
    Crossan – specifically proposes that the resurrection was not a historical event, and that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Besides which, he’s a modern scholar, not a historical source.

    You’re left with just the Gospels (all Christian, all with an axe to grind, none of them eyewitnesses). Sorry, but Muslims have far more historical evidence than you, as do Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.


  11. @makarios Please show me this majority of atheists who agree to the historicity of jesus.

    Why would people propagate a lie or deception? for their own benefit of course. Why do you think the Catholic church propagates so many lies and deceptions? So they remain one of the wealthiest businesses in the world.


  12. All: Sorry for the late response. I had a night out with (((Wife))).

    Markarios: Thanks for stopping by. I’ll respond to your comments in separate responses out of fairness.

    Romans 10:13 — For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Sounds to me like your life work does not matter, as long as you believe correctly. Us atheists (and other reality dwellers) think that the only part of us which will live on is the impression we have made on others (for good or ill) and the work we have done.

    Do I think I am going to heaven? I don’t believe in god(s), fairies, leprechauns, unicorns, ethical Republicans, or any other mythical beings. Why should I believe in a mythical place?

    Postman: Sorry about the Ben Stein picture. It was cruel. And it is not just the devotees of the Jesus brand. It has to be the exact right product assembled in exactly the right way. Of course, the instructions are as easy to read as the ones which came with the really complicated toy you are trying to assemble the night before the birthday party.

    Makarios: Sorry. There are actual first-person contemporary accounts of the life of Muhammed. Same for Joseph Smith. There are no contemporary first person accounts (letters, legal documents, diaries) which mention the life, death and resurrection of a rabbinical rabble-rouser.

    Chappie: Good question.

    Markarios: Appeals to popularity tend to fall on deaf ears around here. Check the definition of fallacy.

    Elijah: Thanks for stopping by. The worship of god(s) is rooted in history, no question. Whether it is the Kachina pantheon of the Hopi, the narcissistic assholes of the Greeks, the plethora of Hindu gods, or the Abrahamic god. But there is no historical evidence which, if taken out of the faith of the religious context, will stand up to modern historical methods.

    Makarios: There are no contemporary first-person accounts of the life of Jesus. The four canonical gospels were written 30 to 70 years later and were first put to paper in Greek. The earliest extant copies of the Josephus history do not mention Jesus, do not allude to Jesus, and the later appearance of a verse about Jesus is thought by many scholars to be a later insertion.

    As to why non-Christian historians referred to the early Christian movement? History, as a rigorous academic discipline, is a very recent invention. Historians were employed by the people with money — rulers and religious organizations. Their job was not to tell the truth. Their job was to say whatever their paymaster wanted.

    The early Christian movement was a pain-in-the-ass for the Roman government. They were whipping up resentment among the poorest in the cities, telling them they could ignore the state religion. Many of the second and third century histories which mention the Christian movement were, basically, pointing out why consul X had to kill all those people.

    The other possibility is that, by the fourth and fifth centuries, Christianity was THE religion. Christians had the power. And many were, most likely, very upset that the contemporary writers, in and around the beginning of the common era, did not even notice this supposedly earth-shattering event. So they inserted verses (sometimes as complete non-sequiturs) to show that the world was aware.

    To modern historians, using the standards of modern academic historical methods, the actual evidence for the existence of a magical rabbi named Jesus is extremely tenuous. You take it on faith that Jesus existed. Fine. I have no problem with that. But if you try to claim historical certainty, or even probability, for the existence if Jesus, you must be willing to submit that claim to the same rigorous winnowing process which accompanies any other historical figure.

    Medieval historians in what is today England wrote, in many works, about the founding king of England, Arthur. Today, through the work of modern historians, we know that Arthur did not exist as King of England, and most likely did not exist as a single person.

    In short, if you have faith that Jesus existed, fine. If you want historical probability? That requires a look at the documents of the first three centuries which many Christians probably (actually, looking at the reaction Ehrmann gets, definately) will not like.

    Peace and openmindedness, Makarios.

    Poodles: Excellent point. The worship of god(s) can be shown via historical methods. The belief in god(s) requires faith — a completely different disciipline.

    Sarge: Appeals to popularity seem to be a specialty of the oppressed majority religion.

    Yunshui: Thank you. I seem to remember that most of the histories of the pre-Christian modern era refer to the Christian movement (pesky little buggers), not the crucifixion itself. Correct?

    Oz: Considering how many Christians don’t believe in atheists, how could a majority of us believe in an historical Christ?

    All: Thanks for putting up with this long comment. I try to respond comment by comment but, as I said, I had a night out with (((Wife))) and it would have been exceedingly rude (not to mention dangerous) to pull out a laptop and start commenting during dinner.

    Peace and openmindedness to all.


  13. The thing is, you’re failing to ask important questions and you might want to start with, Why is there a Christian Church? Why would it start?

    As to your statement that there isn’t any evidence,
    Absolutely none of what you’re about to read has anything to do with the Bible being inspired or infallible or any other trappings of religion.

    These are historical facts attested to by the vast majority of secular, atheist and Christian historical scholars. This is not popularity contest. Using that excuse we could say the same thing about “most scientists believe in evolution.”

    The reason that I’m not using the documents that were later compiled into what we now know as the New Testament is of course, atheists have a double standard when it comes to judging acient documents. Something that critics seem to forget is that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life as well as Acts of the Apostles and the other letters that are included in the New Testament weren’t written FOR inclusion into the Bible. What are now part of the Bible were once independent documents circulating throughout the Christian and non Christian community. These guys weren’t journalists working for something like, “Bible Magazine.” The documents that were compiled into what we know today as the New Testament were separate ancient documents, written by people who were interested in the life of Jesus. Some had been followers of or students of Jesus. Others, like Dr. Luke were historians. These people had no idea that what they’d written would one day become part of the biggest and most important movement in history.

    While there will always be those on the lunatic fringe who attempt to deny historical facts (eg. holocaust), to deny that there is extra Biblical factually accurate information regarding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus requires that you be either profoundly ignorant or a determined liar and most importantly, you must lie to yourself about what is factually and historically true. I asked you yesterday, Why would the following have occurred if the facts of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were as described? There is absolutely no sustainable reason for the following historical events to have occurred unless the essential facts of Jesus death and resurrection are true.

    So what if the Gospels weren’t completed until whatever number you want to put on them. They are the earliest testimony to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I wonder if you simply don’t know this or if you’re deliberately trying to mislead – You know, those kind of thoughts come from knowing that atheists aren’t as honest as we Christians 🙂 On that note / joke, nothing that I’ve written is said in anger or whatever. Just the facts man.

    Regardless William there are historically based questions that deserve consideration. I’ll give you the citations at the end so you can look them up yourself.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:

    . Why do we have multiple, independent, extra Biblical sources attesting to the risen Jesus?

    . Why do we have virtually unanimous modern historical scholarship agreeing that the disciples truly believed they saw Jesus alive after His death on the cross.

    . Why would atheist historian and New Testament critic Gerd Ludemann say, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”

    . Why would atheist historian Paula Fredriksen say, “I don’t know what they saw, but as a historian I know they believed they saw Jesus.”

    . Why would highly critical New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann agree that historical criticism can establish “the fact that the first disciples came to believe in the resurrection and that they thought they had seen the risen Jesus.”

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make sense. Why would the enemies of Christianity affirm the historical facts regarding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus if the evidence isn’t accurate and compelling?

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    . Why would all the disciples, plus hundreds and hundreds of others believe that they saw Him alive?

    . Why would they say that they spoke with Him?

    . Why would they say that they ate with Him at various times and various places?

    . If none of that is true, why would they be willing to die for making up the lie of seeing Jesus alive? There was absolutely nothing of earthly value to be gained, and everything to lose by concocting the supposed lies about Jesus life, death and resurrection.

    REMEMBER these people didn’t believe someone else’s lie. Over the centuries many people have died for believing someone else’s lies. But if THESE people died for a lie, it was THEIR lie! They died for saying they saw Jesus alive again after His death. Liars simply do not make martyrs of themselves.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, their willingness to die for the “truth” doesn’t make any sense.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have Paul’s testimony about His encounter with Jesus and why do we have his radical transformation in character from a persecutor of the Church and a killer of Christians to the greatest missionary that the Christian Church has ever seen?

    Remember, Paul:
    . Was a rabid sceptic when Jesus appeared to him.
    . Was an enemy of the Church when Jesus appeared to him. This is not like most conversions whereby the person reads or hears something that persuades h/her to change. Paul’s evidence for the risen Jesus was first hand and so convincing that he endured years of hardship, persecution and rejection for proclaiming the risen Lord, before finally being beheaded by Nero in 64AD.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this change in Paul’s character doesn’t make any sense. He had absolutely nothing of earthly value to gain, and everything to lose by concocting a story of meeting Jesus while on His way to persecute the Church.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    . Why in the world would Jesus’ brothers James and Jude go to their deaths proclaiming that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead?
    . Why would they claim that they had seen Him alive after His death?
    . Why would they confess that Jesus is the Lord God, Messiah?
    Think about it! This was their half-brother, someone that they’d previously mocked and ridiculed. James’ and Jude’s conversions were a drastic change from thinking their Brother was insane and an embarrassment to the family.

    What would it take for you to make this kind of change? What would it take for you to die for that change? For me, it would take nothing LESS than a resurrection.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this change in the beliefs of Jesus’ siblings doesn’t make any sense. They had absolutely nothing of earthly value to gain and everything to lose if what they said about Jesus appearing to them after His death was not true.

    Remember, Both Paul and James were sceptics at the time that Jesus appeared to them. Why would they become His followers if His resurrection wasn’t historical fact?

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why was His tomb empty?
    . Jesus’ ENEMIES were the ones to CONFIRM that the body was missing by proposing that the disciples stole it.
    . The disciples didn’t have the power nor the inclination to steal His body. They were hiding behind locked doors.
    . Jesus’ enemies had no reason to steal the body and every reason to keep it right where it was. They posted an armed guard, and sealed the tomb with the Governor’s seal to make sure that nothing happened to the body.
    . The first proclamations of the empty tomb were made right there in Jerusalem where Jesus was murdered and buried. The tomb could have been easily checked out.

    If the resurrection isn’t historical fact, how is it that the tomb was empty with no sound explanation other than the resurrection?

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do the ancient documents written by Jesus’ followers make the “mistake” of saying that women (who at the time were seen as lower than dogs and not capable of telling the truth) were the ones who discovered the empty tomb and encountered the risen Lord. If it wasn’t true, if the disciples were trying to convince others of a lie, if the resurrection wasn’t historical fact, why would the writers invent the testimony of women to say that it was true?

    If the resurrection isn’t historical fact, it doesn’t make any sense that His followers would do that.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why did Josephus, Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria all non Christians and all historians write about Jesus’ brother James, his leadership in the Jerusalem Church and his martyrdom for proclaiming Jesus as risen Lord and Saviour?

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense. I think they would only write these things if the evidence convinced them that it was accurate.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have an early oral tradition or creed that dates from the first year after Jesus’ death attesting to the fact of Him rising from the dead. The Creed can be found in 1st Corinthians 15:3-8

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense. There is no hint of legend or exaggeration in this oral tradition. And these people had their lives to lose by repeating it. Why would they do that if it wasn’t true?

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have the written works of the early Church with hymns, poetry and creeds, stemming from the early oral history telling about Jesus rise from the dead?

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, we simply wouldn’t have this.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have the Christian Church? It didn’t just begin 300 years after the life of Jesus. It began right there in Jerusalem roughly 40 – 50 days after Jesus was crucified.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact there wouldn’t be any Christianity. Yet here it is today, over 2 billion strong.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    How did Paul know what He knew about Jesus prior to any contact with the apostles and why would they accept Paul as one of their own based on what he was teaching about Jesus? This was an “outsider” eager to kill the leaders of the early Jesus movement, now coming to them with a knowledge of Jesus’ teaching equal to those who had been insiders.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, and without Jesus appearing to Paul and teaching Paul about Himself, this doesn’t make any sense.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have the four ancient biographies of Jesus, one of them by historian and physician Luke who got his information from eyewitnesses all affirming the resurrection of Jesus? Why would they tell Luke that these things happened if they weren’t true? They paid for that “lie” with their lives.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense.

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    Why do we have Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Polycarp and others, all saying that they had been taught by the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead. And THEN, all of these men were themselves martyred based on the believability of what the disciples had told them. These were not ignorant, gullible men. Yet the evidence made sense to them.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, how could that happen?

    If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead:
    What would account for the disciple’s radical transformation from fearful and cowardly men who denied Jesus and who ran away from Him during His trial, to bold individuals who were so confident of the truth of what they saw and heard regarding His resurrection, that they were willing to undergo years of persecution as well as torture and death rather than change their story.

    Peter watched his own wife being crucified just prior to his own crucifixion. Surely, if the risen Jesus was a lie concocted by Peter himself, he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.

    Without the resurrection, this type of behaviour doesn’t make any sense.

    If the accounts of what the disciples taught weren’t true:
    . Why was it that Polycarp wrote of the endurance under torture of Paul, Ignatius, Zosimus, and Rufus for their belief in the risen Christ?
    . Why was it that Ignatius also wrote of the suffering and death of the apostles?
    . Why was it that Polycarp and Ignatius were both martyred?
    . Why would they be willing to die in such a manner if the accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection weren’t accurate?

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense.

    If the accounts of what the disciples taught weren’t true:
    Why would we have confirming accounts of the disciples teaching and deaths in Roman public records called “Lives of the Caesars.”

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense.

    If the accounts of what the disciples taught weren’t true:
    Why would Origen write, “Jesus, who has both risen AND led His disciples to believe in His resurrection and so thoroughly persuaded them of its truth that they showed to all men by their suffering how they were able to laugh at life’s troubles beholding to life eternal and a resurrection clearly demonstrated to them in word and deed by this one Jesus.”

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, it doesn’t make any sense that Origen would write that.

    If the accounts of what the disciples taught weren’t true:
    Why do we have Eusebius, Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian, Hegesibous, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, all of these sources, Christian and non Christian alike affirming the historicity of Jesus and the disciples willingness to die for what they believed to be true.

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, it doesn’t make any sense that these many and varied individuals would make this stuff up.

    If the accounts of what the disciples taught weren’t true:
    . Why is it that Luke writes that Jesus spent about 40 days with the disciples after He rose from the dead, and
    . Why can it be further calculated that about 40 – 50 days after His death, Jesus’ followers started proclaiming His resurrection, and
    . Why did Tacitus, an ENEMY of Christianity, write “Jesus’ execution by Pontius Pilot checked, for the moment, the Christian movement but it then broke out with force not only in Judea but even in Rome.”
    . Why would these accounts, one from a follower of Jesus and one from a secular historian and enemy of Christianity be so similar unless they’re true?

    Without the resurrection being historical fact, this doesn’t make any sense.

    Absolutely none of what I’ve just written has anything to do with the Bible being inspired or infallible or any other trappings of religion. These are historical facts attested to by the vast majority of secular, atheist and Christian historical scholars. While there will always be those on the lunatic fringe who attempt to deny historical facts (eg. holocaust) to deny that there is extra Biblical factually accurate information regarding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus requires that you be either profoundly ignorant or a determined liar and most importantly, you must lie to yourself about what is factually and historically true. There is absolutely no sustainable reason for the above historical events to have occurred unless the essential facts of Jesus death and resurrection are true.

    These questions, stemming from this evidence demands more than just a flippant, “People rising from the dead is impossible.” Something totally “other” happened back then and ignoring it is not a rational nor a logical thing to do.

    If Jesus did in fact supernaturally rise from the dead, then what He taught about being the Son of God and about the existence of Creator God must also be true. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus demands a verdict. With the evidence so overwhelmingly pointing to the fact of His resurrection, one can do three things:
    . Submit to Jesus as Lord and Saviour – Or
    . Lie to yourself that none of this proves anything – Or
    . Say to yourself, “I don’t care if God is real, I’m going to live my life, my way.”


  14. Sorry, I forgot – You might be interested to note that the majority of these people were not followers of Jesus and that many of them were in fact enemies of Christianity. That of course includes the atheists and critics noted at the bottom of this post. This is a long, long way from the statement, There is any extra Biblical documentation re: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

    From antiquity:
    . Lucian of Samosata – (The Death of Peregrine), 11 – 13

    . Mara Bar Serapion – Fragment currently at the British Museum, Syriac Manuscript

    . The Babylonia Talmud – Sanhedrin 43a – I. Epstein Editor and translator, London

    . Clement of Rome – (1 Clement ) 47

    . Polycarp – (To the Philippians)

    . Papia (Fragments: Traditions of the Elders) 2,5 (Fragment 5)

    . Eusebius – (Chronicles)

    . Ignatius of Antioch – (In Eusebius, Histories) 3.36.3 – 4; (To Polycarp) 5; (To the Romans) 4.

    . Irenaeus – (To Florinus) 5.20

    . Tertulian – (The Prescription Against Heretics) 32.

    . Josephus – (Fides et Historia) 13

    . Origen – (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 10) (Antiquities of the Jews) (Contra Celsum) 1.47

    . Agapius – (Historia) 1.7.13

    . Hippolytus – (Quoted by Eusebius)

    . Dionysius of Corinth – (Quoted by Eusebius)

    . Celsus

    . Pliny the Younger,

    . Tacitus

    . Suetonius
    Shepherd of Hermas (Parable 9, section 28); (Vision 3, section 1)

    . Melito of Sardis

    . Hegesipius

    . Polycrates – (To Victor of Rome)

    Modern:

    . John Dominic Crossan – Founder of the Jesus Seminar – In (“Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography”) San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1991 – 145,154, 196, 201

    . Rudolf Bultmann – (“What Really Happened to Jesus – A Historical Approach to the Resurrection.”) John Bowden Trans. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995 – 80

    . Paula Frederickson – atheist Historian – In an interview with Peter Jennings for “The Search for Jesus,” American Broadcasting Company, 2000.


  15. . Why do we have multiple, independent, extra Biblical sources attesting to the risen Jesus? Cite them. And they had better be contemporaneous, otherwise they are of no historical value. Do you study the Civil War based on primary documents from 1890 to 1950? If not, why would you apply the same standard to early Christian history?

    I am not denying, nor have I ever denied, that there are many, many, many early historians who cite the resurrection. None of them were contemporary to the events of which they write. When I say that there is no evidence, I mean that there are no extant primary sources. No letters. No legal documents. None. Many other rebellions against Roman rule are recorded in contemporaneous documents. Why not this supposedly earth-shattering occurence?

    Historians try to deal with primary sources. If no primary source exists, it does not mean that the event did not happen. It means that evidence for the event is lacking.

    And you still have not responded to my initial question to you: Does Romans 10:13 mean that rapists, murderers, crooks, liars, etc. can achieve heaven merely through belief (which was the initial point of this post before it was hijacked into a debate about the veracity of primary and secondary historical sources)?


  16. “And you still have not responded to my initial question to you:”

    Sorry, I didn’t read your original post carefully enough. I got sidetracked by your comment re: Not documentation . . . As to the Romans passage, How do YOU understand the term “belief” or “call on the name of the Lord”? What do you think that means?


  17. More to the point what do you think it would mean for a rapist or murderer to call on the name of the Lord or to believe in the Lord?


  18. Makarios:
    Congratulations for having read and regurgitated Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

    You asked, Why do we have virtually unanimous modern historical scholarship agreeing that the disciples truly believed they saw Jesus alive after His death on the cross?

    This statement attests to the fact that the disciples believed in the resurrection, not to the historicity of the resurrection itself. Do you see the difference? If not, further discussion is hopeless.

    Who knows why the disciples believed what they believed? Lots of people today believe in alien spacecraft – who knows why? – but that doesn’t mean that such spacecrafts actually exist. Recording the existence of the belief is not the same thing as recording the veracity of that which is believed. The quote you cite from Paula Fredriksen supports my point: “I don’t know what they saw, but as a historian I know they believed they saw Jesus.” She’s not saying they saw Jesus, only that they believed they had done so.


  19. (((Billy))) & Chaplain,
    No wonder you’re Gawd’s Chosen People. You’ve got a great deal more patience than He, (or I), do.


  20. “Congratulations for having read and regurgitated Evidence that Demands a Verdict.”

    None of this is from that book.
    ======

    “This statement attests to the fact that the disciples believed in the resurrection,”

    Yes of course, but why did they believe it; believe to the point of undergoing years of hardship and ultimately dying for precisely that belief? They didn’t undertand Jesus when He told them about rising from the dead and the reason is exactly the same reason that you don’t believe it. Dead people do not naturally come back to life. They didn’t believe it when they fist saw him and they didn’t believe it the third time they saw him. Look at John 21:12 – Jesus calls to them from shore. Come and have some breakfast with Me. “None of them dared ask Him, “Who are you?” This was the third time that Jesus appeared to them.” They didn’t get until they’d spent over a month with Him. But when they did get it, when they realised that it wasn’t a hallucination of vision or some sort of trickery, the knowledge of what had taken place transformed these cowards into men and women who changed the course of history.
    ==========

    “She’s not saying they saw Jesus, only that they believed they had done so.”

    No she isn’t. And if that’s the only question that needed an answer it would be silly to continue. But it isn’t the only question. I’ve given you a dozen or more historical events that need an explanation; an explanation that goes beyond, “That couldn’t happen.” I think the best explanation, one that explains a)The empty tomb, b) The dramatic change in the disciple’s character, c) The change in Paul, d) The change in James, e) Their willingness to die for what they claimed to be true, f) Enemies attestation that the tomb was empty – These things and more require an explanation. If you don’t think that resurrection does the job, what’s your explanation?


  21. Makarios: I did not mention evidence at all in the original post. The original post was the question of salvation through belief or salvation through acts. I also did not take this one down into a debate reagarding primary and secondary historical sources.

    I see belief as a total copout. Belief is the ability to see an impossible thing as true through faith. I was referring, specifically, to Christians (and those of other faiths (but, being in America, it is usually Christians)) who insist that atheists cannot have morals as we have no god(s) to stop us from doing bad things. My counter is that Christians have an ‘out’ in that belief in god(s), Jesus, and all the rest will outweigh the sins of life if ouly you believe hard enough.

    As to “. . . what do you think it would mean for a rapist or murderer to call on the name of the Lord or to believe in the Lord?” To me it would mean that a bad person is calling on a magic skydaddy to pull their ass out of the reality which their actions created.

    Chappie: Thank you. I had completely missed that point. Just because the historians believed it to be true does not make it true. Cold War historians saw, in North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, a monolithic international communist movement out to destroy the capitalists; later, of course, we discover that Stalin was fucking furious that the PRK started the war. Historians of the 1960s viewed the First World War as an accident; thanks to the opening of eastern European archives, we now have a pretty good idea of Germany’s intentional culpability in the war’s expansion from a local Balkan conflict to an all-out European war. George W. believed (or at least, publicly believed) that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; they never existed. This why arguing from authority is considered a possible logical fallacy.

    So just because historians from 300 to today believe the resurrection to be a fact does not mean that it is; it only means that all historians deal with an internal bias. This is why modern historical methods regarding proof are so incredibly important.

    And part of the argument comes down to the veracity of primary and secondary sources. There are no known primary sources regarding the crucifixion or ressurection (or any other part of Jesus’ life). The four canonical gospels were put to paper in Greek, thus making them (at least) second hand. There is also cross contamination between the gospels themselves (same story in the same words) and from earlier religious writings. This does not mean that they cannot be true, but it does mean that they are, historically speaking, not a primary source.

    Even if the Josephus insertion is real, it is still a secondary source — a set of information Josephus heard or read and repeated (though I doubt that the part about Jesus is original — no Jewish historian would have referred to Jesus as Christ (the messiah)). Again, this does not mean that it is not true, but it does mean that, from a strict historical perspective, it is not a primary source.

    A primary source would have been written by an observer at the time, or put to paper at a later date by the observer. And any historian using the source would have to be confident that the source could have gained the information first hand and, more important, that it was not pseudonymously authored or, just as bad, a forgery.

    Sorry for going on so long. All I ask is that people either judge a writing historically, using today’s methods of determing value, or judge on faith. One or the other. Don’t switch back and forth.

    Again, peace and openmindedness, ya’ll.


  22. “And any historian using the source would have to be confident that the source could have gained the information first hand”

    I gave you examples of exactly that evidence; people who knew and spoke with, person to person with the disciples (surely you will grant that they were eyewitnesses?) who gave them such convincing evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that the historians themselves went to their deaths proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

    Why would that happen?
    ===========

    “I did not mention evidence at all in the original post.”

    Mmm, it must have been the Pink Unicorn giving me secret messages again.
    ==========

    “who insist that atheists cannot have morals as we have no god(s) to stop us from doing bad things.”

    Well, that’s just plain ignorance. I’m sorry that you’re unfairly judged like that. Really. It’s stupid. It’s wrong.
    =========

    “My counter is that Christians have an ‘out’ in that belief in god(s), Jesus, and all the rest will outweigh the sins of life if ouly you believe hard enough.”

    I don’t see it as an out at all.

    First of all it cost Jesus His life to pay the debt for my sins.

    Second, salvation requires that I do the hardest thing for a human to do – Admit that I am wrong, Admit that Jesus is right, ask for forgiveness for being wrong and then submit to the Lordship of Jesus the Christ. Try it. Bettcha can’t do it. As well, I’m subject to the very same “earthly” consequences that you would experience if / when we do something wrong.
    ========

    “To me it would mean that a bad person is calling on a magic skydaddy to pull their ass out of the reality which their actions created.”

    I know you don’t believe in hell, but for the sake of argument, are there, in your mind, people who have been or are bad enough to deserve to go to hell?


  23. Markarios: Turn that one around. Is there anyone in the world so evil that they cannot achieve salvation through grace?


  24. Whatever, you can just read the heading on my blog to know what my answer is. I’m wondering what’s your answer?


  25. Makarios: There is no grace. There is no afterlife. There is no magic skydaddy. There are no gods. There are people evil enough that a death sentence carried

    As for checking on your blog, you need to check your url address. It’s coming up with an ‘@’ in it.

    But this is a serious question which was the point of the initial post (not comment): Is there anyone in the world so evil that, in the eyes of a Christian, cannot achieve salvation through grace?


  26. Makarios:
    It seems that we are at an impasse here. You seem to regard the New Testament and the writings of the early Church fathers as accurate, reliable historical documents. There are other ways to view those documents. Examining them without the lens of faith yields vastly different conclusions than viewing them through those lenses. What if, for example, they were propaganda literature rather than historical accounts (to cite just one possibility)?

    You also seem to be interpreting the writings of non-Christian authors through the same faith lens. Those authors reported the existence of a Christian sect. Such reports did not testify to the truth of Christian beliefs, any more than similar reports that people worshiped Osiris supported the truth of that religion’s claims. They simply acknowledged that Christians existed. We all know that Mormons exist now. Saying so says nothing at all about the credibility of their beliefs; it’s simply a statement that Mormons exist and hold a particular dogma.

    With regard to your question about why the first generation of Christian believers would have knowingly died for a lie, there are lots of possibilties. I’ll cite just two that I can think of off the top of my head.

    1. They could have believed sincerely that they saw a risen Jesus. In that case, they were just wrong or, possibly, deluded. In either case, then, they didn’t knowingly die for a lie. They didn’t even think that what they believed was a lie – they thought it was true. People believe wrong things all the time. Even today, people make dreadful, costly decisions on the bases of false beliefs (i.e., JWs who don’t seek medical attention for children with diabetes).

    2. They could have knowingly perpetrated a myth in the hopes of acquiring political power. First century Jews were not happy about being ruled by the Romans. If a group of early Christians sought to lead a revolt against Rome, the fulfillment of the Messiah myth would have been a powerful tool toward that end. Having gone so far down this road, once they were arrested, tried, etc., they may not have recanted their beliefs simply because they didn’t want their followers to give up the fight, or they didn’t want to lose face and admit they had lied. People will die for a lie, willingly and knowingly, if their pride and posterity, or the well-being of their families, are at risk.

    Please don’t cite the “my kingdom is not of this world” passages of the New Testament to refute my second scenario, as it is debatable whether Jesus actually spoke those words. They could have been written after the Jewish defeat in the First Jewish-Roman War and attributed to Jesus to explain the failure.

    I’m not saying that I believe these two scenarios exhaust all the possibilities. Moreover, they may not even be the best of all possibilities. All I’m saying is that the evidence you’ve proffered for your beliefs is not persuasive to those who do not start from a position of faith. Your interpretation is not the only plausible one out there.


  27. Mak, again, I knew people who claimed to have spoken to, corresponded with, met face to face a person who I knew did not exist. Knew it for a fact.

    Some of them rewrote what they heard from someone else in their memories, but they would swear blind that they saw this person and they spoke to him.

    The only true existence of this “person” was as a five minute drunken prank by one of my crew that someone overheard, misinterpreted, and passed on. And it grew from there.

    After two weeks even if we tried to tell what happend it wouldn’t have mattered.

    Again: just because people, ESPECIALLY people in authority say something is so doesn’t make it so.


  28. Billy, you’re starting to confuse me. First you say:
    “Is there anyone in the world so evil that they cannot achieve salvation through grace?”

    And then in the very next reply you return with “Makarios: There is no grace.”

    What are you trying to say?
    ==========

    “There are people evil enough that a death sentence carried.”

    . So if there was a hell, would these people warrant going there?
    . How do you decide who is evil enough?
    . Should other people agree with your standard?

    You see, the problem that I have is that atheists state that God does not exist but that we can simply attribute worth to ourselves. That is a nice thought but it doesn’t work. For if you say that you have one unit of worth and your neighbour says that you have no worth, in a secular world your neighbour is just as correct as you are. In a secular world, worth is nothing more than an arbitrary attribute. In a secular world, people feel forced to follow the ebb and flow of human standards of worth within a whimsical and convoluted environment. In this, atheists place their faith. On this chunk of sand atheists build their philosophy of life.

    The second thing is that no philosophy or belief system requires the humility that Christianity demands. I find that very attractive. In your world-view, the ones who deserve punishment are those who, in your opinion aren’t as good as you. You think that some people deserve to be punished, but it certainly isn’t you.

    In the Christian world-view, we’re all on a level playing field. None of us deserve salvation, not you, not me, not a rapist nor a murderer.
    ======

    As for checking on your blog, you need to check your url address.

    makarios-makarios.blogspot.com
    =======

    “Is there anyone in the world so evil that, in the eyes of a Christian, cannot achieve salvation through grace?”

    No, not even me.
    ==============

    Makarios:
    “It seems that we are at an impasse here. You seem to regard the New Testament and the writings of the early Church fathers as accurate, reliable historical documents.”

    Well they’re just as reliable as any other work from that time period. Maybe you’d care to share with us what criteria you use in determining the validity of historical works of antiquity.

    Regardless, that’s precisely the reason that I didn’t use the documents that were later compiled within the New Testament that talk about the reality of Jesus. If I thought you would allow me to used those documents, then I would have pointed to the first hand, eyewitness accounts of Jesus by Paul, James and Jude. The atheist’s irrational bias causes you to think that those works are somehow different than other works from that time so I didn’t use them.
    ===========

    “There are other ways to view those documents. Examining them without the lens of faith yields vastly different conclusions”

    Looking at them through the lens of anti-theism also yields a vastly skewed conclusion. Historical scholars however, those who are able to reign in their bias allows for the comments that I showed from secular and atheist historical scholars who attest to the historicity of Jesus based on the New Testament documents.
    ===========

    “What if, for example, they were propaganda literature rather than historical accounts (to cite just one possibility)?”

    If these were propaganda literature they wouldn’t have included details that are an embarrassment to Jesus (eg. cursing the fig tree, not knowing when His second coming will occur, showing His anger in the Temple), and the disciples (eg. showing them as cowards, liars, jealous, petty, fickle, doubting).

    They wouldn’t have included the testimony of women. If this was propaganda literature trying to convince someone that the tomb was indeed empty, they most certainly would have made the testimony for the empty tomb as coming from men. When producing propaganda, people do not make things up that hinder their cause and embarrass the main characters. If they lie, they lie to make themselves look better, not worse.
    =================

    “They simply acknowledged that Christians existed.”

    Ya, sure they did – “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” –
    New Testament critic Gerd Ludemann

    “That Jesus was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.” –
    Jesus Seminar founder John Dominic Crossan.

    This sounds to you like they are just acknowledging the existence of Christians?
    =========

    “We all know that Mormons exist now. Saying so says nothing at all about the credibility of their beliefs; it’s simply a statement that Mormons exist and hold a particular dogma.”

    Um hmm. Six of the original Mormons recanted their original testimony. Can you imagine if six of the twelve disciples had done that? Instead, every single one went to their deaths maintaining that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead.
    ============

    “They could have believed sincerely that they saw a risen Jesus.”

    That’s exactly the point.
    ========

    “In that case, they were just wrong or, possibly, deluded.”

    You mean as in a hallucination? 500 people had a group hallucination? They had a hallucination that lasted over a month, in different settings, different times of the day, different emotional conditions? C’mon.
    =========

    “(i.e., JWs who don’t seek medical attention for children with diabetes).”

    JW’s are believing someone else’s teaching / lie. The story that the disciples spred originated with THEM. Put yourself in their shoes. You’re sitting around, dejected and fearful because the person you’d be following has just been tortured to death. One of your group comes up to you and suggests making up the story that Jesus didn’t remain in the grave. “Let’s steal His body and then tell people that He rose from the dead. Even if we have to live in poverty for the rest of our lives, even if we’re tortured to death just like Jesus, even when our wives and children are persecuted and killed we stick to this story. Ok?”

    And you say, “Ya, great idea. Let’s do it guys.” And not one of you cracks under the pressure.

    That is what’s not believable.
    ==========

    “They could have knowingly perpetrated a myth in the hopes of acquiring political power.”

    First of all, how would they do that?

    Second, there is not a shred of evidence that these people had any interest in political power. Yes, they thought that the Messiah would come and throw off the shackles of Rome, but that dream died with Jesus.

    Third, Jesus told everyone, to NOT rebel against Rome but to obey Roman law. Jesus’ followers carried on the same message, “Obey every law of the government. They (Rome) were put in place by God Himself.”
    ===========

    “they didn’t want to lose face and admit they had lied. People will die for a lie, willingly and knowingly, if their pride and posterity, or the well-being of their families, are at risk.”

    They do not! Liars do NOT make martyrs of themselves. And as far as the well-being of their families go, the disciple’s lives and that of their families got worse, not better. More hardships, not fewer. More persecution, not less. More danger, not less. More torture, not less. The new testament is filled with advice on how to be bear intense persecution. Or I suppose you deny that the persecution of Christians by Nero and others took place as well?
    =======

    “I’m not saying that I believe these two scenarios exhaust all the possibilities.”

    None of them answer all the questions that need to be asked. Only an actual resurrection does that.
    ===========

    “All I’m saying is that the evidence you’ve proffered for your beliefs is not persuasive to those who do not start from a position of faith.”

    My dear boy, I did not start from a position of faith. I didn’t become a Christian until I was thirty years old. This evidence, that I’ve just given you is SOME of what helped to move me toward a position of faith. It’s my belief that nothing would be persuasive to those who start with an atheistic bias, i.e., a priori rejection of miracles, even though the beginning of the universe is itself the working definition of a miracle. In fact, I would suggest to you that if Jesus himself appeared in front of you, even that wouldn’t be good enough. And of course that’s what Jesus Himself said, “If you won’t believe what Moses wrote about Me, then you won’t even believe it when I rise from the dead.” I hear from atheists on a fairly frequent basis that if Jesus appeared before them, then they too would believe. No you wouldn’t! If Jesus appeared in front of you, you would be forced to come up with a naturalistic explanation for why you thought you had seen Jesus. I believe it was called a delusion just a short time ago. All your friends would say that actually seeing Jesus was proof of nothing and after a pause, you would agree.
    =========

    “Your interpretation is not the only plausible one out there.”
    No. It’s just the best one.
    ================


  29. Makarios: It is simple. I do not believe in god(s). I am an atheist. Therefore, I do not believe in salvation by grace or good works. I do not believe in salvation by any supernatural process. Do you, as a Christian, believe that anyone, no matter what they have done, can achieve salvation through belief/faith/grace? If so (and this was the point of the initial post (which you have already admitted you did not read)), how does this square with Christians who claim that atheists, because we don’t have an imposed morality through a supernatural being, are incapable of moral behaviour? If I know that my actions have real consequences which will affect the remainder of my life on earth (the only life I have), why would I commit acts which would invoke societal or legal repercussions? If a theist knows that, no matter the societal or legal repercussions on earth, their heavenly reward still awaits because of their belief, why obey the rules? Being good or bad has the same consequence if one believes the right thing about the right things.

    “No. It’s just the best one.” The best one for any who value faith over reason, fantasy over reality, supernatural over natural, chaos over order. And I think we all have a pretty good idea where you stand.

    And you are, right now, talking to an honest atheist. I am who I am and make no bones about my lack of belief and why I do not believe. I am not denying god(s). I am not angry with god(s). I see no evidence for the existence of god(s), nor do I see any need in the natural universe for the existence of god(s). Therefore, I live my life knowing that this is my one chance, that there is no afterlife. I cannot prove the non-existence of god(s) anyomore than a theist can prove the existence of god(s). This is my honesty.


  30. “It is simple. I do not believe in god(s).”

    Ok, ya, I got it. Listen, I figured out where I saw your comment about there not being any evidence.

    Well – it isn’t exactly YOUR comment. I’m conversing with people on two different blogs and who both happen to be blogging out of wordpress. Ya, you get the picture. I read that comment on the other blog – went away to do something – came back and posted my reply on the wrong blog – your blog actually and thereby, in your words, hijacked the thread you were trying to establish.

    Is that not the funniest thing – like – ever? That’s funny right? C’mon, don’t stick out your lip like that. It really is funny. Of course to hijack something implies intent so it wasn’t a REAL highjacking. Regardless, for being an accident, it turned into quite a good conversation, ya? I’ve pasted a note right over my monitor that is supposed to remind me – LSD first thing in the morning leads to mistakes later in the day. Ooops

    So anyhow, about moving the goalposts, and changing definitions and such, what are you talking about?

    I already told you that Christians who think atheists are less moral or amoral or whatever are idiots. On the other hand, we can turn that around and say that atheists erroneously believe that Christians try to be good because they are afraid of going to hell or because they are being watched from on high. That comment is just as ignorant. As is your comment about we Christians can do whatever we want because we’re going to heaven anyway. I would suggest that any “Christian” who believes that or behaves that way doesn’t know the first thing about salvation or about having a healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus. On the other hand it must happen because Paul took the Corinthians to task for that very issue.
    ===========

    I don’t value faith over reason. I spent a good ten years questioning and searching and weighing the evidence. I happen to believe that for origins or for the reality of Jesus and who He claimed to be the verdict comes down on the reality of Creator God. In fact I would suggest that agnostics are the most “scientific” of all of us. They and they alone go only as far as the evidence allows. Atheists and Christians go the rest of the way on pretty much equal amounts of faith.
    =========

    “Therefore, I live my life knowing that this is my one chance. . .”

    So do I. It’s my one chance also. We both live it as best we can, but for different reasons.
    =========

    As for all the other stuff that we’ve been talking about re: Jesus, for whatever explanation you submit, it has to answer the Why for:

    The empty tomb

    The change in the disciple’s character

    Confirmation by enemies of Christianity

    Paul’s conversion

    James’ conversion

    The reality of why the Christian movement took off, what would cause people who already had a religion, a powerful religion with huge consequences for not follwing, what would cause them to abandon that faith and go a completely difference direction.

    These are historically factual events that require an explanation; not to one or two of them but to all of them. The resurrection, as far as I can tell is the only reasoned, logical explanation that answers the questions.

    Unless you disagree, I think we’ve pretty well taken this as far as it can go. But I’ll check back if you have something more you’d like to work on.


  31. Makarios: I don’t know any other way to explain this but as a practising public historian:

    1. The empty tomb is not an historical fact. It is an after-the-fact primary or (more likely) secondary telling of a personal experience. It exists in a vacuum with no physical evidence, no contempory primary evidence. This does not mean it did not happen, it means that it must be treated as an anecdote. And the four canonical gospels, because of the geographic proximity of the physical writing down of the story, and the temporal separation from both the time of the event and from the writing of the first gospel to the last, means that cross-contamination from one gospel to the next not only cannot be discounted, but is probable.

    And as Chappie said, there are numerous possible explanations for an empty tomb including, but not limited to, deliberate or accidental fabrication of the story, theft of the body by Jesus’ family, or even resurrection. If you want to claim resurrection, a fantastical event, you need very strong evidence which, as stated above, is lacking.

    2. The change in the disciples character is not an historical fact for exactly the same reasons. Without contemporary corroboration or physical evidence, it is a personal recollection of a past event. Our personal recollections tend to be faulty; look at the number of death-row inmates, convicted on eye-witness testimony, who have been freed through DNA testing. Again, this does not mean it did not happen, only that it does not have the evidence to support hanging the phrase ‘historial fact’ on it.

    3. Confirmation of Christianity by the enemies of Christianity is not an historic fact, it does, however, make it an historiographic fact. Historiography is the study of historians and their writings. Ancient historians have taken as fact the existence of King Arthur (as a literal rather than literary figure) and the existence of Prester John, so historians can be (and are) fooled.

    History as we recognize it today is a recent invention. Early historians can best be described as propagandists for whoever was paying them. As I said above,

    The early Christian movement was a pain-in-the-ass for the Roman government. They were whipping up resentment among the poorest in the cities, telling them they could ignore the state religion. Many of the second and third century histories which mention the Christian movement were, basically, pointing out why consul X had to kill all those people.

    So claiming that, because the enemies of Christianity referrenced the existence of the Christian cult, and may have referred to the odd beliefs of the cult, does not make them true. Roman historians also wrote about their own gods, as well as the gods of the Germanic tribes. That does not make the existence of those gods a fact.

    4. Paul’s and James’ conversions are also personnal annecdotes deficient in contemporary evidence. I have little doubt that a man named Saul spread the new Christian cult among the poor of the Roman Empire, nor that he was persecuted for his belief. His letters (though added to by later authors) are backed up by contemporary evidence in terms of the churches referrenced, and other detials. His life and his importance in creating what eventually came to be recognized as the Christian Church is historically important. Obviously, he believed strongly enough to accept persecution but the miraculous conversion? That is a personal anecdote without contemporary evidence.

    5.

    The resurrection, as far as I can tell is the only reasoned, logical explanation that answers the questions.

    Are you familiar with William of Occam? Basically, the simplest explanation is usually correct. If your explanation requires a supernatural miracle which, conveniently, happens when everyone’s back is turned only to be discovered later, your definition of ‘logical’ and mine are on two different planets.

    These are not (except for part of Saul’s life) historial facts. These are unverifiable historical stories. You accept the Bible on faith. Fine. I really do have no problem like that. But please, take a close look at what I have written here. I am not attacking your beliefs. I am attacking your incorrect view of historical methods.

    I cannot agree with you. You present an illogical position based on supernatural non-evidence. You cherry-pick the Bible to ignore what you don’t want to accept — the Bible is self-contradictory: either all can be saved through belief or sinners go to hell. The Bible says both. You have presented no evidence other than the heavily edited myths and letters which were chosen by men to tell a certain version of a certain story.

    I do, however, agree that we have taken this as far as we can. I see no reason to continue. Thanks for stopping by.


  32. So, the majority of scholars are wrong and (((Billy))) is right – good luck with that.


  33. Three Cheers for Billy for sticking that one out. Good on ya!


  34. Wow – I read through that whole thing just to leave this message.

    If you’re a Royals fan, it’s little wonder you think there’s no god.


  35. Elijah: Just doing what I think is right.

    Discordianstooge: Thanks for stopping by. Actually, I’m a Red Sox and Nationals fan (mom from Boston, dad from DC). The Royals crack was for PhillyChief (of course, I don’t know if he follows the Royals as well as the Chiefs).


  36. Well, I’m late, but…

    “Why do we have Paul’s testimony about His encounter with Jesus and why do we have his radical transformation in character from a persecutor of the Church and a killer of Christians to the greatest missionary that the Christian Church has ever seen?”
    That one is easy. Saul was a zealous persecutor who eventually empathized with his victims (see Acts 9:5/26:14) . It’s right there in his conversion story. Saul “went native”.

    “They wouldn’t have included the testimony of women. If this was propaganda literature trying to convince someone that the tomb was indeed empty, they most certainly would have made the testimony for the empty tomb as coming from men.”
    Except that the dead are unclean, and men, being the most special sex, wouldn’t have gone down to check on a corpse. Which gospel tale from the broads is the correct one, anyway?

    “When producing propaganda, people do not make things up that hinder their cause and embarrass the main characters.”
    But half the point of Christianity is to show how unworthy you are.

    “This sounds to you like they are just acknowledging the existence of Christians?”
    Yes. Yes, it does.

    “In fact, I would suggest to you that if Jesus himself appeared in front of you, even that wouldn’t be good enough.”
    Now try replacing “Jesus” with any other god’s name and see how well it works for you. The Argument from Personal Experience is powerful…for the individual. Any individual. Any experience. Both Joseph Smith and Mohammad chatted with angels (the first is clearly fraud. The second, not so much). Moses talked with a bush. I saw Death sitting and watching my TV (yes, I’m serious).


  37. “Why do we have Paul’s testimony about His encounter with Jesus and why do we have his radical transformation in character from a persecutor of the Church and a killer of Christians to the greatest missionary that the Christian Church has ever seen?”
    That one is easy. Saul was a zealous persecutor who eventually empathized with his victims (see Acts 9:5/26:14) . It’s right there in his conversion story. Saul “went native”.

    “They wouldn’t have included the testimony of women. If this was propaganda literature trying to convince someone that the tomb was indeed empty, they most certainly would have made the testimony for the empty tomb as coming from men.”
    Except that the dead are unclean, and men, being the most special sex, wouldn’t have gone down to check on a corpse. Which gospel tale from the broads is the correct one, anyway?

    “When producing propaganda, people do not make things up that hinder their cause and embarrass the main characters.”
    But half the point of Christianity is to show how unworthy you are.

    “This sounds to you like they are just acknowledging the existence of Christians?”
    Yes. Yes, it does.

    “In fact, I would suggest to you that if Jesus himself appeared in front of you, even that wouldn’t be good enough.”
    Now try replacing “Jesus” with any other god’s name and see how well it works for you. The Argument from Personal Experience is powerful…for the individual. Any individual. Any experience. Both Joseph Smith and Mohammad chatted with angels (the first is clearly fraud. The second, not so much). Moses talked with a bush. I saw Death sitting and watching my TV (yes, I’m serious).


  38. Duplicates! Yay!


  39. MO: Hey, if you feel the need to say it twice, who am I to argue. And it reads just as well the second time. Maybe repetition of the truth will actually begin to work. And maybe giant winged porcupines will fly backwards out of my arse.


  40. Meh. It’s just not the same without the rest of my band (The MO Tones).


  41. Good thing its not MO and the Rons.


  42. You lost me.


  43. MO and the Rons. MO-Rons. Morons?


  44. /me makes the “over my head” swoosh


  45. It’s sort of like humour. Close, anyway. I joke with (((Son))) that I should have named him Morris Ronald. Then he could have been Moe Ron. (((Son))) is not amused.


  46. That’s what passes for humour nowadays? Back in my day we had Jews in blackface slipping on banana peels. Now that was comedy.


  47. makarios

    A slight problem with your textual references: There was more than one Jesus.

    Ananus lost his position as high priest for killing James, the brother of Jesus, and was replaced by a chap called Jesus, the son of Damneus.

    Not Joseph or Mary, not any variation on those names, Jesus the son of Damneus.

    Now, killing the brother of a potential rival for your job? Abuse of power that would annoy Agrippa. Killing a heretic who proclaimed his dead brother king of the Jews? Not so much.


  48. http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/JesusEthics.htm

    I am an atheist who thinks there probably was a historical Jesus. I did a study of the ethical teachings of Jesus as reported in the four gospels, and found that the Jesus described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke was an apocalyptic prophet, predicting the imminent end of the world and Judgement Day, and advising everyone what they must do to have any hope of being taken into Heaven when the Earth was destroyed. The gate was narrow and the way was hard, see my essay at the URL above. The Jesus described in John was very different, not an ethical teacher but a sacrificial lamb, and offering an easy way. Modern Christianity is based almost entirely on the gospel of John, ignoring all that Jesus taught in M, M, and L. The resurrection is entirely beside the point, unrelated to salvation by either account. FYI there was no resurrection reported by the earliest copies we have of the earliest gospel, Mark; the original Mark ends with the crucificion. There were many stories of resurrected saviors prior to Christianity, IMHO legends were adopted and adapted by the early Christians to help their story compete with other religions of the time.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/JesusEthics.htm


  49. The modern New Testament is as follows;
    A Hebrew oral tradition that existed for decades, possibly (though probably not) centuries, mistranslated and written down in Greek, then mistranslated into Latin, then German, thousands of years later in a time when copying books was bound to be full of errors and uncorrected, then mistranslated again into English, into four conflicting versions all accepted as fact.



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