Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.

Dec 19, 2014

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

By Raphael Lataster

Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment.” From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, andBart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose.

The criterion of Aramaic context is similarly unhelpful. Jesus and his closest followers were surely not the only Aramaic-speakers in first-century Judea. The criterion of multiple independent attestation can also hardly be used properly here, given that the sources clearly are not independent.


 

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151 comments on “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.

  • 1
    aquilacane says:

    The best argument I have come across to support the existence of an actual biblical Jesus was the statement that most historians agree there was probably a biblical Jesus. What this means is there is no good argument for a biblical Jesus actually existing.

    Some might accept this argument from authority but it isn’t supported by anything. You would have to be faithful to accept it as truth. And we all know faith is dumb.
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  • The absence of reference to supposedly major news-worthy events in detailed Roman records of the time, is a clear pointer.

    The area was over-run with itinerant preachers, but asking if one or more of them was called “Jesus”, is a bit like asking if an English medieval blacksmith was called “John Smith”.

  • 3
    GrizzlyRepublic says:

    Most historians do not agree that a biblical Jesus existed. I think what you meant (and what most apologists will say) is that most historians agree that there was a historical Jesus or Jesus-like figure. In my experience as a student of history however, most historians actually think that the existence of a historical Jesus-like figure is likely, but that there is not strong enough evidence to conclusively support his existence as historical fact. I think that you would also find a stronger bias among older historians (who tend to be more religious and more likely to be Christians themselves) toward the historicity of Jesus.

  • 4
    Light Wave says:

    JC…Julius Caesar…..son of….Caesarion …with a name change…Julius Caesar thought of himself as a god and Cleopatra a Goddess…so their son was destined for greatness…..he was fostered to mary and joseph and whisked away from Egypt after his fathers death….only to reappear later as a dissident to corrupt authorities…sounds plausible ….but no special abilities or godly connection other than a roman general and pharoah for a father and ‘goddess’ pharoah queen for a mother….god and goddess would be like royal titles and not literally gods…
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  • Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

    Christians represent about 81% of the population in the United States. Imagine setting the ground rules for “a discussion over whether a figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed” that disqualified 81 out of every hundred people from participating….By all means get help for Mr. Lataster but first get him off the streets!

  • This is not conclusive and open to scholarly debate. Josephus has two references to Jesus in Books 18 and 20. Book 20 appears to be the more respected of the two references in Wikipedia.

    Modern scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the reference in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1 of the Antiquities to “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” [12] and considers it as having the highest level of authenticity among the references of Josephus to Christianity.[13][1][2][14][15][16] However, critics point out that Josephus wrote about a number of people who went by the name Jesus, Yeshua or Joshua,[17] and also speculate that Josephus may have considered James a fraternal brother rather than a sibling.[18]

    More from another Roman historian Suetonius .

    The Roman historian Suetonius (c. AD 69 – c. AD 122) makes reference to early Christians and possible reference to their founder in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars.[1][2][3][4] A statement in Divus Claudius 25 involves the agitations in the Roman Jewish community which led to the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius in AD 49, and may be the same event mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (18:2).[4] Scholars are divided on the value of this reference in the biography of Claudius. Some scholars see it as a likely reference to Jesus, while others see it as referring to an otherwise unknown person living in Rome.[5][6][7] Louis Feldman states that most scholars assume that in the reference Jesus is meant and that the disturbances mentioned were due to the spread of Christianity in Rome.[8]

    I think he existed. Not with the trappings later written into the testament narratives, known today as spin doctoring. I think he was part of an anti Roman movement, possible associated with the Zealots. He may have been politically useful if his claim to descent from King David had any credibility. A rallying point. His burial clothes are most likely Essene, a strict celibate tribe devoted to god. (In today, they are the fundamentalists that cause so much trouble.) Josephus, The Clementine Homilies and Suetonius all have passages, that while open to interpretation, may be third party corroboration for an actual person called Jesus. Third party corroboration is important when testing the veracity of a position.

    I think they stumbled on a really good sales pitch with the crucifixion and resurrection. It is a best seller with lots of recruits, and so tithes and they became pretty cashed up. Because they would take anyone, not just Jews, that gave them a distinct market edge. Cash + recruits and high membership equals political power. They got above a critical mass and it took off. A bit like a Ponsi Scheme.

    There must have been a movement way back then, because it resulted in the founding of the Catholic church. So something must have happened. So hard historical events. There is a reference to a figure called Jesus Justus, which means a subordinate of Jesus senior. I’ve read stuff that suggests he is one of quite a few children Jesus sired with his second wife. Mary Magdalene deserted and joined Jesus’ brother James in staying Jewish. Stuff happened back then. It must have been big enough stuff to sustain the creation of the Catholic Church. So I think on balance, Jesus probably existed. But no where near enough evidence to sway a jury of rational minds.

    p.s. Given the true church of Jesus is the Catholic Church with references all over Asia Minor and finally housed in Rome, it means that only those who are Catholics today are actually following the Church that directly descended from Jesus. All you splitters are going to Hell.
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  • Or to channel a CIA Intelligence analogy, there is a lot of “chatter” going on. Something is up. There is too much “chatter” going on in history for something, a much cut down something to have occurred along the bare bones lines of the New Testament. So I vote Jesus existed.
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  • Again this stupid question! hahaha

    As I wrote in earlier discussions in my opinion the character of savior called Jesus was invented for a purpose of promoting an idea. It was a marketing spin in which christians embodied their beliefs, so they can sell much easier the idea. Since those days very few people knew how to read the idea was personified so that could be easily spread mouth to mouth with a lovely story about a man who was like them. Poor but with an good idea.

    This question is nonsense like this: “does god exists?” No, there is no proof, so talking about it means talking about nothing.
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  • Jesus exists it is no doubt, Flavius wrote about Jesus, he wrote the person who was strong in talk. The real question Is Jesus the Son of God, Messiash?
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  • No. Sorry, but you are mistaken. It was proven long time ago by the biblical scholars that writings of Josephus Flavius about Jesus are christian interpolations. An falsification.
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  • Jesus is very different from other gods, so we must accept the fact that Christianity came from different source than other religion. Why? Jesus doesn’t demand any good deeds for confirm. Other religions offers a deal do this and I give that, for example “pray five times a day and I reward you”, etc. Jesus asks your heart a decision.
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  • Agapios bishop from Egypt wrote About Flavius and Jesus, and he used a text which was written before manipulation. Flavius really wrote about Jesus it’s no doubt.
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  • A fabulously funny rewrite of TV history occurred sometime in the late eighties due to Student Rag Mags or possibly even tv/radio producer Victor Lewis Smith. It was quite falsely alleged that the kid’s tv show Captain Pugwash from 1957 onwards had characters with blatantly sexual names. The term Pugwash was allegedly Australian slang for fellatio, and the characters were variously named Master Bates, Seaman Staines and Roger the Cabin Boy.

    This rewrite worked instantly on me (and most others) because we wanted it to be true. The timing of the fabrication was perfect. Ten to twenty years after the original program and through a time when we saw a lot of new Australian slang from people like Barry Humphries. Quite a number of such cheeky insertions had been smuggled into earlier BBC programs in the Goons and memorably into a big band music show whose female host was given improper sign offs which she unwittingly repeated.

    Without the internet we confirmed the rumour to each other again and again as delightful and it took many years to be properly squashed. Without the existence of multiple countervailing sources this idea would be historical fact by now.

    I think people remembering back to their childhood when all those soothsayers used to congregate in the market and that nice one, the tall one….No, he was tallish…..yes, him…..got into trouble with the prefect…No it was the short arse got himself nailed up…

    In this situation, sustained backward projections by others have the capacity to pretty much fill in all detail needed. As a carrier for some nice late axial age morality it suited.

    My point, the vessel for the new narrative need only exist. The nature of its new contents need only be wanted, for any original contents to be neglected almost entirely.
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  • 14
    Lorenzo says:

    The last time I checked, the heart was a muscle and didn’t take very many decisions…

    Anyway, it seems to me that christianity, just like any other religion, does ask you to do/think something in return for ethernal salvation. And the various christian… let’s say: distributions do put some kind of accent on worshipping and rituals and all that.

    Christianity doesn’t seem to be all that different from other religions -especially, from its two sisters, if you ask me. Plus, christianity is utterly sexuophobic -but that’s likely to be a later feature…
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  • 15
    Lorenzo says:

    My own personal version of the story -unproven, like any other story out there about Jesus- is: he probably existed and he was affected by temporal lobe seizure, which led him to have mystical experiences. And he decided to give some lectures about it.

    As for how it all turned into a religion, I’d gladly refer to “Life of Brian”.
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  • Tibor Dec 20, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Jesus is very different from other gods, so we must accept the fact that Christianity came from different source than other religion.

    “My god is the real one because he is mine!”
    That’s how cognitive biases work for the believer.
    Archaeology and historical records however work more objectively.

    Christianity came from the same sources as Judaism and Mohammedanism.

    El, Yahweh, and Jehovah – originating from the earlier Canaanite polytheistic religions.

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Canaanite_Religion

    Jesus asks your heart a decision.

    Could you quote the historical record which supports this claim? – Given that claims for his actual existence are so tenuous, it seems strange that this sort of detail is stated.
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  • Years ago I read a book by a famous Canadian Anglican theologian Thom Harpur called The Pagan Christ: recovering the lost light.

    He shows how the Jesus myth is borrowed. He also shows Jesus started out like “Poor Richard” as the fictitious author of some aphorisms. Gradually more and more stories were added about him. It reminded me of the way the Marvell comic book heroes started out as mere outlines then more stories and attributes were added to them.

    This story making continued after his death, and continues to this day.

    He was a fictitious being, then later people started claiming he actually lived. All kind of other religious show this same pattern.

    Most Christian are under the delusions each of the disciples wrote a book about Jesus, finishing it shortly after his death. Not even the Vatican claims that. They were written by anonymous authors who could never have even met Jesus, long after his death. Christians erroneously treat them as if they were dictation.
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  • Lorenzo Dec 20, 2014 at 5:51 am

    The last time I checked, the heart was a muscle and didn’t take very many decisions…

    This oft repeated misconception, is the result of looking for answers to medical issues in bronze-age philosophy!

    http://listverse.com/2013/09/24/10-incorrect-ancient-greek-and-roman-theories-about-the-body/

    .Aristotle believed the heart was the center of knowledge and the source of the sensations in the human body, rather than the brain, and he had an interesting theory about the brain. He felt that the brain was merely a cooling organ for the heart and an area for “spirit” to pool. Even though earlier Greeks, including Alcmaeon and Plato, had put forth a neuro-centric model of the human body, Aristotle ridiculed them for their “fallacious” views. In addition, he also thought women’s brains were smaller than men’s, another of his errors that persisted for a number of years.
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  • The fundamental lack of any real corroboration outside the books of the bible is indeed the most damning evidence against ever establishing a ‘historical Jesus’. None of the writers of the books of the NT approved by the RCC can be placed in history themselves and nothing of contemporary record (specifically anything during the time Jesus himself was said to have lived) has been traced to an actual Jesus or any of the events in the NT. The census that is mentioned never happened; there is no record of Pilate having presided over the case of either Jesus or Barabbas and naturally none of the miraculous claims were ever documented outside of the NT.

    So to sum up: no evidence of any biblical events regarding Jesus, no evidence regarding the authors of the books of the NT much less evidence for their authority regarding the events they write about which don’t even agree with each other, no historical or archaeological evidence backing up any miraculous claims and no contemporary records giving any credence to a single claim the NT makes.

    I rather doubt we’ll ever have any closure regarding this because most who are pushing for taking a historical Jesus seriously are believers, and they simply never needed evidence to begin with. But it doesn’t make any claims for a historical Jesus any more likely to ever be proven true.
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  • From the article:

    Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian
    sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having
    any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his
    life. And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with
    disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian
    scribes (the manuscripts were preserved by Christians), the fact that
    both these authors were born after Jesus died (they would thus have
    probably received this information from Christians), and the oddity
    that centuries go by before Christian apologists start referencing
    them.

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  • Jesus is very different from other gods, so we must accept the fact
    that Christianity came from different source than other religion.

    None of this statement is true. and even if the first part were true, that wouldn’t mean Christianity came from a source different from other religions (which is by the way people). And what would make a ‘different source’ any more credible than the ‘regular’ ones? Has said different source been proven to be more true?

    Why? Jesus doesn’t demand any good deeds for confirm.

    Do unto others, love thy neighbor as you love thyself, turn the other cheek… those all sound like deeds being asked of others that many consider good. what is the point of this exactly?

    Other religions offers a deal do this and I give that, for example
    “pray five times a day and I reward you”, etc. Jesus asks your heart a
    decision.

    See my previous response. He does makes ground rules for people to follow, and not everything was the feel good stuff that most tend to associate with him. Once again, what is the point of this, and what would make it any more true?
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  • 23
    Lorenzo says:

    This oft repeated misconception, is the result of looking for answers to medical issues in bronze-age philosophy!

    Yep.

    Aristotle believed […]

    It always amazes me how aristotelic statements have managed to get embedded in the caholic doctrine and the extent to which this mechanism managed to slow the understanding of the world.
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  • achromat666 Dec 20, 2014 at 6:59 am

    From the article:

    Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his life. And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian scribes

    While there is negligible historical evidence of an individual Jesus character, there is quite a lot of evidence of the evolution of the meme of an Abrahamic god from earlier and geographically local deities. (as linked to Canaanite Religions on my comment;) https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/12/did-historical-jesus-really-exist-the-evidence-just-doesnt-add-up/#li-comment-163353
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  • There seems to be little follow up of the idea that the Gospels are pastiche based on Egyptian theology of Horus. This idea was presented in Tom Harpur’s book Pagan Christ. He seemed to have a strong point that made a lot of sense to me.
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  • I couldn’t possibly enter into the debate about the historicity of Jesus, but I can state, that the apparently very poor evidence for his existence is hardly worthy of the Son of the creator of the universe ! Jeez, we know more about the big bang than we do about Jesus.

    The Jews expected something wonderful and marvellous to come out of the skies as their Messiah, – not some humble child born in a stable ! No wonder the Jews rejected Jesus as their saviour.
    Just an opinion, I think there probably was a real basis to the fictional Jesus. Maybe one or more charismatic preachers promising a better future than life in the slavery based Roman Empire whose preachings left an impact, especially among the slaves who adopted Christianity. Unlike the Roman gods, Christianity demanded no entrance fee to participate, – all were welcome.

    PS in defence of Tibor, references to the “heart” are still commonplace today, and English, evidently isn’t his/her first language.
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  • 27
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    It always amazes me how aristotelic statements have managed to get embedded in the caholic doctrine and the extent to which this mechanism managed to slow the understanding of the world.

    I think this phenomenon goes back further all the way to Pythagoras of Samos as described by Carl Sagan in the original series Cosmos.

    The basic notion fostered by Pythagoras was that experimentation and empirical proof is unimportant and that all truth can be discovered through reflection alone. This idea really hurt the progress of science because it effectively delayed the adoption of the modern scientific method of inquiry by nearly a millennium.

    Aristotle was a pupil of Plato who was himself a pupil of Pythagoras. Bad ideas have a way of propagating easily and surviving for a very long time. That’s what makes them so dangerous. Plato and later on Aristotle wholeheartedly adopted Pythagoras’ idea for a very simple and dumb reason: the argument from authority.

    This is also why I’m so allergic to this notion of “school of thought” in Philosophy. It’s just a sophisticated version of “monkey see, monkey do”. It doesn’t matter what school of thought one belongs to. Either what you say makes sense or it doesn’t.
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  • references to the “heart” are still commonplace today

    I think this is fair. Our metaphorical minds don’t need to move too far to know that having your heart beat a lttle faster means an emotional engagement of some sort. If we disallow “heart” we should disallow visceral, and insist instead on an accurate list of the neurotransmitters involved that establish the level of engagement intended.
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  • We are trying to solve a conundrum expressed in the doggerel:

    As I was walking up the stairs
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today
    God! I wish he’d go away!

    As atheists our interests are advanced by finding the man who wasn’t there. We should admit our bias at the outset. Raphael Lataster conceals his bias in the guise of a “fair and reasonable rule” which would effectively exclude anyone who is not an atheist from the discussion. In the U.S. (and Australia I imagine) atheists comprise less than 5% of the population. Lataster welcomes himself, his imaginary twin brother and their imaginary friend -atheists to the bone- to the dialogue. He spends too much time talking to himself at the expense of free open inquiry and intellectual integrity.

    Having said that, I would offer my two cents worth. David R Allen’s comments generally coincide with my own views and not surprisingly I find them (generally) provocative and persuasive.

    The apostle Paul has been called “the inventor” of Christianity in the figurative sense that he defined the theological character of the Risen Christ, the Son of God, and Redeemer of humankind through blood sacrifice act actualized for each individual through the confession of faith. But what then of the historical Jesus?

    Mythists who argue against the existence of the historical Jesus deny that a real man, a male specimen of the species homo Sapiens, existed as an itinerant rabbi in first century Palestine whose teachings directly or indirectly laid the foundation for a cult that would evolve into the world religion called Christianity. Because evidence necessary to prove the case either way -man or myth- is absent the argument boils down to claims of probability. Rather than focusing on “documentay” evidence (the gospels, Josephus, etc.), painfully sparse and unreliable in ancient times, structural approaches may yield more credible assessments of probable narratives.

    One fact appears indisputable. Though Paul claims Jesus revealed the Risen Christ privately to him during his experience of conversion, Paul interacts with a community of believers who had experienced prior revelations and conversions -people who were believers before him. Paul joined a pre-existing cult and presumably shared substantial beliefs common to its members, however much he modified, amended or reconfigured those beliefs with his own prophetic revelations.

    Another fact also appears indisputable. The Jewish cult of Jesus sprang up suddenly in the early decades of the first century with headquarters in Jerusalem. In historical context and perspective, “cult” did not refer to congregations that worshiped supernatural beings whose mythic origins were lost in the fog of past centuries. Members of the cult emphatically recorded that their leader -whether human prophet or Messiah or Son of God – was a contemporary rabbi called Jesus. Paul, who never met Jesus, described the organizational structure of the cult which existed before he joined, complete with disciples, apostles -in other words “leaders”- meetings, worship and rituals. He claims to have visited the disciple Peter and the “brother of the Lord,” James – both leaders of the Jerusalem cult during the onset of the fatal schism between Judaism and gentile Christianity.

    At this point in the narrative, and even before, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction because of the absence of empirical evidence and the dearth of recorded evidence from multiple, especially non-Christian, sources. Because we know with virtual certainty that the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles were largely if not completely works of fiction, why not default to the probability that no such man as Jesus ever existed?

    Defaulting raises more problems than it solves.. We know the cult of Jesus emerged suddenly ostensibly grounded in reported historical events which took place in ancient Palestine, a province of the Roman Empire. It’s difficult to imagine a cult springing up in such a short time frame without any leader or prophet. It seems probable that the cult had a rabbi, a prophet, a teacher-leader or some composite thereof at its center. We know the Romans kept a watchful eye on religious extremists and frequently executed those who might stir up the threat of rebellion. The general historical frame is therefore consistent with the conventional narrative.

    If the Jewish cult of Jesus worshiped a purely celestial figure sacrificed in the heavens paradigmatic of the Egyptian Osiris myth, then the founders of the cult and its immediate followers would have almost certainly presented their belief system in an explicitly mythological narrative. The hypothesis that the cult fabricated an earthly Jesus implies they felt compelled to historicize the myth in order to conceal some mystery for no reason. Simply put the mythicist theory presupposes an incredible conspiracy theory where no one involved with the early cult ever compromised an inexplicable vow of secrecy that the whole story played out only in a supernatural realm. The opposite is the case. Anyone connected to the early cult of Jesus never veered from the version that portrays Jesus as a historical-biological man. However much the story was fossilized with fictional material, it has come down to us consistently and with self-conscious affirmation that a historical Jesus, whoever he might have been, walked the earth in first century Palestine.
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  • My point, the vessel for the new narrative need only exist. The nature of its new contents need only be wanted, for any original contents to be neglected almost entirely.

    A well reasoned argument. Like.
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  • In the U.S. (and Australia I imagine) atheists comprise less than 5%
    of the population.

    I’m not sure why you would assume the US is like Australia with respect to atheism? The US is a complete outlier on religious matters in the developed western world. Australia in the 2011 census had 22.3% of people calling themselves atheists:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Australia

    But the number who actually go to Church or pray or are religious in any sense beyond ticking a census box is n my experience a lot lower than those Census number suggest. People tend to tick a box according to the religion they were born into I think. See for example these Church attendance figures from wikipedia

    The Gallup International indicates that close to 40%[1] of Americans report they regularly attend religious services; however, the numbers that actually do attend are less than half that claimed.[2] This compares to other countries claims such as 15% of French citizens, 10% of UK citizens,[3] and 7.5% of Australian citizens.[4] In the U.K., in 2011, an average once-a-week attendance in Anglican churches went down by 0.3% compared with 2012, thus exhibiting a stabilizing trend.[5] Previously, starting from 2000, an average rate of weekly church attendance in Britain was dropping down 1% annually. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 37% of all Americans attended church on a weekly basis.[6] In its turn, Gallup estimated the once-a-week church attendance of the Americans in 2013 as 39%.[7]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance#Weekly_statistics
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  • Melvin Dec 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Mythists who argue against the existence of the historical Jesus deny that a real man, a male specimen of the species homo Sapiens, existed as an itinerant rabbi in first century Palestine whose teachings directly or indirectly laid the foundation for a cult that would evolve into the world religion called Christianity.

    I don’t think that is so. The problem is not the absence of an itinerant rabbi, as that the whole place was over-run with itinerant rabbis, faith-healers and ranting preachers, so nobody considered any one of them particularly noteworthy.

    Because evidence necessary to prove the case either way -man or myth- is absent the argument boils down to claims of probability.

    The probabilities are that the “historical Jesus” MAY be loosely based on stories about one particular preacher, OR a composite of many, cherry picking the juicy bits, OR it could be fiction inspired by the stories about the mutitudes of preachers roaming the district, whose followers promoted wild claims about their merits and abilities.

    Rather than focusing on “documentay” evidence (the gospels, Josephus, etc.), painfully sparse and unreliable in ancient times, structural approaches may yield more credible assessments of probable narratives.

    The evidence is that there were no outstanding preachers of miraculous activities, noteworthy at the time, standing out from the background of wild claims by itinerant preachers of no consequence.

    One fact appears indisputable. Though Paul claims Jesus revealed the Risen Christ privately to him during his experience of conversion, Paul interacts with a community of believers who had experienced prior revelations and conversions -people who were believers before him. Paul joined a pre-existing cult and presumably shared substantial beliefs common to its members, however much he modified, amended or reconfigured those beliefs with his own prophetic revelations.

    The descriptions of “Paul’s prophetic revelations”, are consistent with delusions during a Grand-mal epileptic fit!

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/grand-mal-seizure/basics/symptoms/con-20021356
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  • 33
    GerhardW says:

    Joseph Smith, jr. (Mormonism) existed, Chandra Mohan Jain (Bhagwanism) existed, Charles Taze Russell (Jehowa´s witnesses) existed, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (Scientology) existed, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (hare krishna) existed, Martin Luther (evangelical christanity) existed and many more, who strongly influenced existing religions or invented new religions existed. I contrast, I don´t know any religion founder who is proven to be a 100% invented person with no roots in any real person.
    So, why should´nt ther have been a Jeshuah ibn Josif who was around 2000 years ago crucified for blabbering about peace an love and (probably more deadly) about being the messiah?
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  • GerhardW Dec 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    So, why should´nt ther have been a Jeshuah ibn Josif who was around 2000 years ago crucified for blabbering about peace an love and (probably more deadly) about being the messiah?

    The people who wrote the story existed, but that does not make the characters in it real people.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria

    Bishop Athanasius, Arius, and various others promoting the cult of Christianity in the Empire of Constantine, wrote or edited stories about supposed events 300 years earlier, but these can hardly be regarded as objective eye-witnesses.

    There are plenty of conflicting gospels with similar false claims about who their authors were, but none were written within decades of supposed events.
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  • Australia in the 2011 census had 22.3% of people calling themselves atheists:

    Further to MMurray’s post, in Australia, atheists are the second largest grouping behind Catholics, 25% and are the most rapid growing group. If they continue to grow at the current rate, they will overtake Catholics and become the most widely held (non) belief. Come on Aussie, c’mon, c’mon.
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  • Alan4discussion Dec 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    There are plenty of conflicting gospels with similar false claims about who their authors were, but none were written within decades of supposed events.

    http://gnosis.org/naghamm/nhlalpha.html

    The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles

    The Gospel of the Egyptians*

    The Gospel of Philip

    The Gospel of Thomas:

    The Gospel of Truth:*

    The Letter of Peter to Philip

    etc.
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  • @OP – Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists.

    Where as the various Christian sects and denominations claim such a person existed, but squabble over their dogmatic adherence to numerous contradictory versions of the stories told about such a character.

    Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

    As always, the literalist fundamentalists, are easiest to debunk, because of their ludicrous supernatural claims, while the shifty “rhetoricians”, will simply re-interpret any words to be consistent with their current argument, or will play the “mysterious ways”, or “superior understanding” card!

    Faith-believers with their circular thinking and “text-reinterpretation blinkers”, are unlikely to contribute any objective historical evidence to a debate seeking historical accuracy.
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  • Research suggests persuasive chronological evidence presented in the Gospels which locate a rabbi named Jesus in the historical time frame of 4 BC to 36 AD in Palestine under Roman occupation. If the gospels are pure fiction, their authors did take considerable care with accurately coordinating biographical acts of Jesus; and, not insignificantly, the biographical acts of John the Baptist with dates credibly corresponding to historical Jewish and Roman rulers. (Josephus makes a reference to Jesus in his “History” almost certainly compromised by later Christian editors. Josephus, however, also makes a reference to John the Baptist regarded by scholars as authentic.)

    But one piece of chronology argues far more substantially for the historical Jesus, the time frame for Paul’s conversion between 33 AD and 36 AD. Chronological cues from the gospels put the crucifixion between 27 AD and 36 AD. Paul would be stumbling into his conversion, it could be argued, as little as several months after the execution of Jesus and probably no more than several years. Though he did not personally witness the crucifixion, he was on the scene when the post mortem Jesus craze erupted.

    If Christianity were grounded in a fabricated Jewish myth of a celestial sacrifice of a divine being in a supernatural realm by demons and then fleshed out decades later in the persona of the God/Man Jesus depicted in the gospels, then the conclusion seems inescapable: Paul the Pharisaic Jew, perhaps a Zealot, became besotted with a esoteric mythic cult at exactly the time it reached a critical mass of followers concentrated in Jerusalem who could explode under his leadership beyond Judah-Israel, evangelize the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and convert the western gentile world. There is virtually no evidence for this hypothesis outside of tortured inferences from brief limp allusions to mythic paradigms generic to sacred scriptures; and, of course, the unwavering story that Christians tell about themselves curiously omit any mention of this non-existent “foundational” myth.

    In my view we are confused by an apparent contradiction between two phenomena which upon closer examination are not mutually exclusive. Scholars agree that the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are heavily fictionalized, edited by multiple overlapping conflicting sources over centuries to a point that very little in them can be connected to actual historical persons and events. “Very little,” however is not the same as “nothing.” The chronological connections cited above do involve historical persons and events; and cannot be dismissed with an “aw, it’s all made up.” Simply put, the gospels surely distort the historical Jesus so radically that the actual person almost disappears but “almost” doesn’t imply that, in the mist of first cenrtury Palestine, a rabbi named Jesus, who somehow, some way inspired a Jewish cult which evolved into a world religion, vanishes from existence.
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  • Considering that as far as we know that early opponents of Christianity like Celsus never made the argument that Jesus never existed, it seems a frail reed of an argument at best. And, let us not forget, that there is almost no evidence for 99.99% of us who exist today of our ancestors who lived a few thousand years ago.
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  • I don’t agree David. the “chatter” you are talking about is non existent for 35 years after the supposed time of Jesus. In your analogy it is like the CIA suddenly picking up chatter from Afghanistanistan about a soviet invasion – its not contemporary.

    The single statement from Josephus simply states there was somebody called Jesus who was the brother of James. What exactly does that prove?

    The earliest christian writer is Paul and he makes no mention of any events in the new testament – no historical events.
    The fact that decades later (70+ years after Jesus) Roman historians are writing about Christians and what they believe does nothing to prove Jesus exists.

    You have to put this in the historical context of messiah cults being ten a penny in the middle east – think about the spread of scientology or cargo cults. Is there historical evidence for the existence of John Frum the messiah of the cargo cults? In societies where most ideas are spread by word of mouth it is easy for mythologies to take root and for people to claim that these events are real when they are retelling these stories. I refer you again to Robin hood and king arthur.
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  • phil rimmer Dec 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    references to the “heart” are still commonplace today

    I think this is fair. Our metaphorical minds don’t need to move too far to know that having your heart beat a lttle faster means an emotional engagement of some sort.

    Ah! The long-term durability of “rhetorical anatomy”!
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  • 43
    Lorenzo says:

    And, let us not forget, that there is almost no evidence for 99.99% of us who exist today of our ancestors who lived a few thousand years ago.

    Do you mean that, for the vast majorrity of us, there’s no way to follow up our family tree up to until a couple of thousands years ago and know what that particular ancestor of us was up day to day?

    Because, as far as existence is concerned, each and every one of us had ancestors 2014 (almost 2015) years ago for sure and, very likely, some of those are shared among the commenters of this article, albeit they are now located on different continets. It’s the precise pinpoint of those ancestors that poses a challenge.

    Actually, genetic analysises have been carried out and it’s been found that:

    a) Looking at mitochondrial DNA, all the living women today are likely to have a common ancestor who lived in Africa some number tens of thousands of years ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

    b) Looking at the Y chromosome, you can climb back to a likely common ancestor to all men who lived some hundreds of thousands of years ago. Again, living in africa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-chromosomal_Adam

    It’s worth noting, though, the “two” up there are estimated to have lived thousands (many thousands) of years apart and, curiously, the MRCA of all humans alive today is likely to be much more recent: in the units of thousands of years ago.

    If you carry the argument to its extreme, you can be sure we have a common ancestor: it was that cell that came up with DNA and ate up all the (likely RNA-based) competition.
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  • I am currently reading Richard Carrier’s “On the Hisoricity of Jesus” ISBN: 978-1-909697-35-5 (hbk) or 978-1-909697-49-2(pbk) and it is well worth a look. He looks at a lot of the myths surrounding the characted and the fact that Christianity can be shown to have its roots in many other religions, few, if any, of the stories are new, just reworkings of previous religious tales.

    I have not yet finished it but the more I read the more I think that the Jesus thing is almost complete fiction. I have seen nothing from the believers on this thread that has not been refuted by Carrier.
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  • mr_DNA Dec 22, 2014 at 4:59 am

    The single statement from Josephus simply states there was somebody called Jesus who was the brother of James. What exactly does that prove?

    Duh! Jesus or Yeshua, which is the the Latin form of Hebrew Joshua, . . . It indicates that the two names were common in that population, and some families had used both names for their sons!

    In modern Mexico, it is not very hard to find Jesus son of Maria!
    http://www.babycenter.com/0_most-common-baby-names-in-mexico-since-1930_10341179.bc

    That two separate references refer to the same person is statistically unlikely.
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  • Ok sorry I forgot to mention that that the phrase sandwiched in the middle “who was called Christ” is the bit that it is thought to have been later interdicted by a christian scholar.
    But even if it does refer to a jesus who was considered a messiah that doesn’t mean he existed or if he did who he was. Like John Frum

    “John Frum came to help us get back our traditional customs, our kava drinking, our dancing, because the missionaries and colonial government were deliberately destroying our culture,” Chief Isaac says, his pidgin English translated by Daniel.

    “But if John Frum, an American, is going to bring you modern goods, how does that sit with his wish that you lead a kastom life?” I ask.

    “John is a spirit. He knows everything,” the chief says, slipping past the contradiction with the poise of a skilled politician. “He’s even more powerful than Jesus.”

    “Have you ever seen him?”

    “Yes, John comes very often from Yasur to advise me, or I go there to speak with John.”
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  • In my view we are confused by an apparent contradiction between two
    phenomena which upon closer examination are not mutually exclusive.
    Scholars agree that the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are
    heavily fictionalized, edited by multiple overlapping conflicting
    sources over centuries to a point that very little in them can be
    connected to actual historical persons and events. “Very little,”
    however is not the same as “nothing.” The chronological connections
    cited above do involve historical persons and events; and cannot be
    dismissed with an “aw, it’s all made up.” Simply put, the gospels
    surely distort the historical Jesus so radically that the actual
    person almost disappears but “almost” doesn’t imply that, in the mist
    of first cenrtury Palestine, a rabbi named Jesus, who somehow, some
    way inspired a Jewish cult which evolved into a world religion,
    vanishes from existence.

    It also doesn’t rule out the stories being based on several different persons claiming to be the messiah as there were many making the claim at that time. The contradictory nature of the gospels could also be evidence of that. As has been mentioned, none of the people making claims about the events outside of the NT are contemporary to when Jesus was said to have lived, so we don’t even have word of mouth claims that all of these claims are about the same person.

    Whether or not people agree on there having been a single source of the Jesus stories, as Jesus himself was not the author of any of the stories himself and none of the events in the NT have been corroborated with the history of the time. So is it possible that a person named Jesus walked the land at that time that made claims to be the messiah? certainly, but nothing in what is written about the biblical Jesus is demonstrable so as you say much of the NT is likely fictionalized.

    There is so very little from which to draw historical data that arguing from any direction seems fairly useless, and everyone seems to agree that even if there is a historical Jesus, his authors got next to nothing right about him and none of the supernatural claims about him have any grain of truth to them.
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  • The Jews expected something wonderful and marvellous to come out of
    the skies as their Messiah, – not some humble child born in a stable !
    No wonder the Jews rejected Jesus as their saviour.

    Honestly I’m not certain that the Jews were expecting anything to come from the skies as it were. Nothing about the title Messiah or Christ automatically infers any supernatural gifts, and as Jews don’t interpret the OT literally there is nothing to say that the fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus is supposed to be was ever supposed to be of a magical nature. Terms like son of god, son of man, Christ and other titles of the like were the product of early Christians and I was always under the impression that Jews rejected Jesus because he actually doesn’t fulfill the promise of a son of David performing the tasks of the anointed one (the meaning of the word messiah) which as I said never promised anything magical or supernatural as far as I can surmise. The messiah is supposed to one of David’s line whose traditions and knowledge are rooted in the Torah and will untie the tribes of Israel in peace.
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  • The argument about “detailed Roman records” is pure bullshit and an example of the incredible lack of basic historical context that goes on with these arguments. If Jesus existed he was a trouble making Jewish religious nut zealot. The Romans crucified trouble makers fairly regularly and during the time of Jesus there were many Jews who collected followers and claimed to be the messiah. Show me the “detailed Roman records” for the crucifixion of any of these trouble makers. You can’t because they don’t exist because while the Romans were fairly good by ancient standards at keeping records the things they kept records about were the things that they cared about. Due process for trouble making Jewish religious nuts was not something the Romans cared about. Grain shipments and payments, troop movements, how much money people like Caesar owed to whom for bribes THOSE were the kinds of things they cared about and those are the kind of things we can find detailed Roman records for.
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  • Red Dog Dec 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Show me the “detailed Roman records” for the crucifixion of any of these trouble makers.

    Surely that is the point! Whereas the NT accounts tell stories of palm carpeted processions into Jerusalem, gathered multitudes, miraculous cures, feeding of 5,000 etc. Roman governors involved in show trials etc, the reality seems very basic and routine, whether the reporting is exaggerated fact, or pure fiction.

    You can’t because they don’t exist because while the Romans were fairly good by ancient standards at keeping records the things they kept records about were the things that they cared about.

    That’s right!
    It was when Constantine’s bishops were called on to put together a religion to unify the empire, and the Emperor’s mother was supposedly sent to find bits of “the trooo cross”, 300 years after it was probably ignominiously reused to destruction and destroyed, that the STORIES became important to the Romans.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_%28empress%29

    Saint Helena or Saint Helen (Latin: Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta; c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great, an important figure in the history of Christianity. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross of Jesus’s crucifixion.
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  • I’m a thorough-going atheist, but I think denying Jesus existed is sweating the small stuff. And not to mention, that ship sailed long. The time to raise that objection was 2000 years ago, not now in modern times when nothing can come of it. Too, there’s a saying in law that you are prohibited from raising an objection now that you could have raised at the time in question, and the opposition can’t counter it now but could have then.
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  • Ted Fontenot Dec 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I’m a thorough-going atheist, but I think denying Jesus existed is sweating the small stuff.

    Questioning in the interests of producing accurate historical records, has nothing to do with mindless “denial”.
    In cases of much of the falsehood, who invented it, and when it was invented, has been established on the basis of evidence.
    So much supposed biblical “history” has been shown to have been subsequently invented by Xtian story tellers over the centuries.
    If some claims about relics, were to be regarded a credible, there have been enough pieces of the “trrooo cross” to build a Roman battle fleet, and various saints had enough limbs to be octopuses!

    Too, there’s a saying in law that you are prohibited from raising an objection now that you could have raised at the time in question, and the opposition can’t counter it now but could have then.

    That would be for courts of law. It does not apply to historical research!
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  • Ted Fontenot Dec 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Too, there’s a saying in law that you are prohibited from raising an objection now that you could have raised at the time in question, and the opposition can’t counter it now but could have then.

    When fake accounts are made up 300, 500, or a thousand years after supposed events, NOBODY is in a position to “raise them at the time in question”!
    Experts on calligraphy, other authenticated historical documents and artefacts, and carbon dating, will however expose them as fakes!

    I’m a thorough-going atheist,

    Those brought up in Christian cultures should be very careful with biblical Christian-centric assumptions they have picked up in childhood as “history”!

    The versions of Middle-Eastern history written by objective historians and archaeologists, are quite different.

    If you want to read an interesting discussion illustrating the difference between biblical mythology and historical / archaeological / and geological research, there is one here about the Noah flood-myth and its fundamentalist supporters. https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/12/ken-hams-ark-encounter-loses-tax-incentive/
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  • That David R Allen is superb. I have said for years that there is only one true Christian Church and it was the one that founded the whole sorry affair based upon Constantine. All the other splits are just ‘wannabes’ and have missed the whole historical context and political point of the need for Roman military domination to turn to ideological domination.
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  • Personally, I have no problem with the idea that a fellow named Jesus actually existed, wandered through the desert for a few years gathering followers and was crucified for crimes (real or imagined) against the Roman state.

    I do take issue with the virgin birth (nonsense), the resurrection (baloney) and other such fakery.

    Christopher Hitchens tends to agree. Have a look at The True Core of the Jesus Myth starting at about 2:55.
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  • Up and forward are progressive and good. Down and back, bad. Our metaphors are most often part of our embodied cognition. “Up” is so often good in its real-life associations, it is no wonder that (in a sense) that it and such like are our deepest cliches.

    Noting we are suddenly breathless, heart pounding without threat we notice the effects of oxytocin or lust upon us. Affairs of the heart have a reality based in our ability to introspect on the state of our body. Antonio Damasio is a keen proponent of our generating rich and complex feelings through introspection of our bodily responses to (animal) emotional states. He argues cogently for this to be part of the very fabric of conscious experience, even though we are little aware of it.

    If we could sense our own pupil dilation we might have used this as a signifier of, and in primitive times the seat of, lust or love.

    These metaphorical terms are durable because they are deep rooted and run to every part of our language.

    The worst of it for me, is not “heart for love”, say, it is the dire paucity of words and phrases for inanimate processes. Some human and therefore falsely intention implying verb or adjective seems so often needed to rescue a repetitive and dry narrative for popular consumption.
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  • I think you’re spinning your wheels, and in the process diluting the case against theism by trivializing it. There are thousands, if not millions, of people you can’t prove ever existed. In the final analysis, it’s just something that doesn’t seem to be knowable with any sort of certainty, but have at it. I just think it’s energy best spent elsewhere.
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  • It must be that time of year again (checks calendar and notices Saturnalia is almost upon us). Can we not cut through the chase, as a couple of commentators have already alluded to, by recognizing the whole Jesus story is an obvious rip-off of of the old Egyptian deities- specifically Horus and Osiris?

    There may have been an actual rabble rouser with the specific name Jesus. But that doesn’t give credence at all to the “story” of his existence and life.

    Let’s instead focus on what any egyptologist worth his salt already knows, and has for unknown reasons (tongue firmly in cheek) been, more or less suppressed from the mainstream- the stories of Osiris, Horus, and Isis. These mythological figures were well know in the Eastern Mediterranean “Bible Belt”. As the Egyptian gods were on the decent with the decline of the Pharaohs influence, and with the rise of Rome, taking over these existing deities by the “new gang” and giving them new Jewish names, takes no jump of faith. This is especially true when the purporters of the “new improved religion” never really had to justify their claims from actual contemporaries of the individuals involved. Just like today, they were doing what ever it took to perpetuate and justify their own mental illness. jcw
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  • The real question is about a matter of degree. How wrong are fundementalists in cleaving to an inerrant NT? How content would be the Unitarian settling for a bunch of do-gooder preachers, deeds bundled up into a single man to sweeten the story?

    Historical accuracy is hugely helpful in nailing the errors of the toxic religious, at least in the eyes of others, and most importantly, their kids.

    The God Delusion hinged its premise that religious interference in the public space was unwarranted, because the religious hypothesis was improbable. He analysed the various improbabilties, to reveal a very low net likelihood. This carries on the process.

    A knockout blow to theism is like landing a punch on Harry Potter… if he existed you’d stand a chance. We need to take care of the worst of it rather than shadow box a principle.
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  • It’s a bit like watching Steven Fry’s show, QI when the guests have a Nobody Knows Joker they can play. Short of another Dead Sea scrolls like discovery, we will never no. Fun to argue, but we may never know
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  • kaiserkriss Dec 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Let’s instead focus on what any egyptologist worth his salt already knows, and has for unknown reasons (tongue firmly in cheek) been, more or less suppressed from the mainstream- the stories of Osiris, Horus, and Isis. These mythological figures were well know in the Eastern Mediterranean “Bible Belt”. As the Egyptian gods were on the decent with the decline of the Pharaohs influence, and with the rise of Rome, taking over these existing deities by the “new gang” and giving them new Jewish names, takes no jump of faith.

    Now where would the Roman establishment find a Xtian believer with a talent for creative writing and a good knowledge of Egyptian mythology??

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria
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  • Morgan Dec 22, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Personally, I have no problem with the idea that a fellow named Jesus actually existed,

    As I pointed out earlier, it was a common name.

    I have no problem with the idea that a hundred, or a thousand, fellows named Jesus actually existed. – but that does nothing to resolve the conflicting bible stories

    I wonder how many of those accepting the NT versions know that none of the 4 gospels were written by the named authors, or have even heard of the GOSPEL OF MARY, http://www.gnosis.org/library/GMary-King-Intro.html
    or THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS? http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2006/05/judas-gospel/cockburn-text.html
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  • Those of you that don’t find the historical documentation of historical Jesus compelling might be discounting the scarcity of primary documentation from two thousand years ago. It is certainly true that the Romans were prodigious record keepers, but Rome has been invaded, sacked, and/or bombed on a regular basis over the last two millennia. There may have been many documents produced in the Middle East about Jesus, but that region has been on /fire/ more or less continuously during that time. It’s nearly miraculous that any document has survived. What is left cannot be considered a meaningful representation of the original material To say with certainty that we know not a single person wrote about Jesus contemporaneously because there aren’t any surviving records of it is irrational, at best. I studied history and historiography a bit, and was astounded by how many swathes of history of survived only by a single secondary reference. The Land of Punt was a major trade partner with Ancient Egypt, if tomb hieroglyphs are to be believed, but no maps to its location have survived. No one seriously considers that lack evidence to mean the whole thing was a myth.
    There exists a group that I have labeled fundamentalist atheists. They have much in common with fundamentalist theists, beginning with a certainty of their own infallibility and continuing with the inability to consider that anyone they disagree with is not completely wrong. It is not enough for them to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was not a divine entity; they must prove, to themselves at least, that he never really even existed. The amount of documentation available to confirm at least the existence of Jesus would be satisfactory for any other topic.
    The conjecture that the entire Jesus myth was just a retelling of Egypt’s Horus has been mentioned. An Eagle Scout would be impressed by the logical knots used to make that connection. Harpur, building on Massey, was grasping at straws to make a point. The version of Horus they used is not supported by anything in Egyptology.
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  • Thanks for that Alan4discussion. I was well aware of this particular clown. It was also his ilk- albeit the coptic ones, that in all likelihood burnt down the famous Library of Alexandria and its off site back up storage facility at Serapeum in AD391.

    Of course the Library at Alexandria had been a treasure grove of knowledge since its founding by one of Alexander the Great’s Generals- Ptolemy in the 3rd Century BCE, whose dynasty lasted until the Romans took over around 30BCE. One couldn’t have people finding out the truth that Christianity was actually based on old Egyptian mythology.. (sarcasm) Especially just when the “new religion” was being adopted as the one and only one by the Romans. jcw
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  • Curtis Dec 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    There may have been many documents produced in the Middle East about Jesus,

    Really???? – Perhaps you can list the ones written within two hundred years of supposed events, as the rest of us seem to be scraping the barrel looking for them!
    There MAY have been some about Bryan of Nazareth, but “maybe” does not equal evidence.

    but that region has been on /fire/ more or less continuously during that time. It’s nearly miraculous that any document has survived. What is left cannot be considered a meaningful representation of the original material To say with certainty that we know not a single person wrote about Jesus contemporaneously because there aren’t any surviving records of it is irrational, at best.

    Really?? An absence of evidence and a whole collection of conflicting stories with later fraudulent additions and embellishments.

    I don’t think anyone claimed that, although it is clear possibility that the whole selection of conflicting stories was made-up or wildly exaggerated, up by groups of early Christians.

    I studied history and historiography a bit, and was astounded by how many swathes of history of survived only by a single secondary reference. The Land of Punt was a major trade partner with Ancient Egypt, if tomb hieroglyphs are to be believed, but no maps to its location have survived. No one seriously considers that lack evidence to mean the whole thing was a myth.

    But that would be because there IS NO lack of evidence. Punt was clearly in East Africa according to the products imported. There are a limited number of sea-routes to the South and East out of Egypt.

    http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-ancient-history/land-of-punt.html

    The people of Punt were active traders and frequently exchanged commodities with Egypt. The people probably had a darkish complexion and long, dark hair. Dwarfs and pygmies from Punt were sold into Egypt as slaves, and the skins of wild animals including cheetahs and giraffes were exported by the people of Punt.
    Locating Punt
    The precise location of the Land of Punt is still a mystery. Scholars broadly agree that Punt was plotted to the east of Egypt, possibly to the southeast. It is likely that the coastal regions of the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti formed the erstwhile Land of Punt. Puntland, a region to the north of Somalia, derives its name from the mythical Land of Punt.

    There exists a group that I have labeled fundamentalist atheists. They have much in common with fundamentalist theists,

    Ah! The ad-hom assertions in place of an evidenced reasoned argument.

    beginning with a certainty of their own infallibility and continuing with the inability to consider that anyone they disagree with is not completely wrong.

    This sort of assertive bluster as a substitutes for evidenced reasoning, does not impress on this site when challenging people who actually research their information. .

    It is not enough for them to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was not a divine entity; they must prove, to themselves at least, that he never really even existed.

    There is no doubt that the Jesus of the biblical supernatural fairy-stories did not exist. The question is whether any part of a real person was included in those accounts at all.

    The amount of documentation available to confirm at least the existence of Jesus would be satisfactory for any other topic.

    Such as the existence of the trooo Hercules, the troo Robin Hood, The troo Merlin the Wizard, the troo Cyclops, the troo Gorgons, and the troo Harpies.

    However on non-fiction topics, the so called evidence is woefully inadequate!

    It is well known that chunks of the bible are copied from other, and earlier religions.
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  • Well said, Red. I’ve never believed in the existence of jesus even when it was taught to me as factual. I never believed in the magical powers of god or the alleged person jesus, but also always doubted the actual existence of this man whose remarkable, miraculous achievements were apparently not noticed by anyone who thought them worthy of recording until long after his death. Funny that only decades after his alleged death people thought “let’s write this stuff down.” But they must also have said to themselves: “let’s use stuff from old myths and stories that already exist and apply them to jesus. Saves us from having to think up new stuff.” You can read The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity Before Christ by Kersey Graves, if you want to find out about the plagiarised messiahs. Many religions before christianity included stories of great floods. In many of them the son of god was born to a virgin. etc etc. “The flood myth motif is widespread among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, the Hindu religious books from India called Puranas, Deucalion in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, and in the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca people, and Cañari Confederation, in South America.” So it pays to take the “reality” of jesus with a huge grain of salt. Maybe even a pillar of salt.
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  • Richard Carrier, an ardent atheist, is a young scholar of ancient Greek and Roman history who reviles mainstream opponents of his far-fetched mythicist theory, including the acclaimed New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman (also a non-believer), in belligerent and boorish language on his juvenile “Freethought” blog.

    Carrier subscribes to the hypothesis that a Jewish cult invented Jesus as a divine being confined to a supernatural realm within the mythic paradigm of a blood sacrifice “in the heavens” by demons followed by resurrection by God the Father. “Jesus the Lord” never walked on earth as a man but did reveal to men [and women] his blood sacrifice in the celestial realm and its power to redeem humankind from sin, death and damnation conditional on confession of faith in the “Risen Christ.”

    Carrier makes a case based on a tenuous argument from analogy involving the themes, narratives and archetypes shared generally by religious texts. Specifically he mines the paradigm myth of the “Dying and Rising God” found in the ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris-Isis-Horus. (“Creation Myths,” for example, also share many features in common across religious traditions).

    The problem is obvious. The Osiris myth is Egyptian -not Jewish. While paradigm myth elements can certainly be teased out of the Hebrew Bible, the letters of Paul, and other New Testament texts, there is virtually no evidence that judaism was inclined to elevate the “dying and rising God” myth derived from Egyption sources to foundational status at the center of its faith tradition. To the contrary, judaism adhered to a messianic tradition, always searching for a divinely inspired but human Messiah emerging from “God’s chosen people” to serve as King-Prophet-Warrior who would deliver Israel from false, foreign gods and oppressors.

    Carrier construes Paul’s letters to support his mythicist theory of Jesus. Paradoxically Paul becomes the lynchpin for both orthodox Christianity and the heresy that would deny Jesus the man and His ministry. (Christians believe Jesus was fully man and fully God).

    If Paul was a mythicist, albeit a devout one, and a convert to the Jewish cult of a purely mythic Jesus, Paul and the cult he joined have left no historical trace of “theology” outside vague inferences drawn from text of the letters Paul wrote himself. The argument becomes circular and seriously, perhaps mortally, weakened like any tautology. If such a cult existed we would reasonably assume it had hundreds, perhaps thousands of members in and around Jerusalem when Paul joined. Paul and his colleagues, barring an unbroken vow of secrecy held tight within a mass conspiracy, would certainly have left copious documents setting forth their mythic beliefs in plain explicit language. It would be unlikely that cult members, founders, predecessors, and contemporaries of Paul would rely only on Paul to tell their story. Probably…very, very probably there was no such story.
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  • What a great discussion. Most contributors have had something useful and sensible to say. I think, unless I missed anything, all atheists. Perhaps that makes it one-sided, but we are atheists because we have considered both sides and found one extremely wanting. Jesus is such a historically important figure that the search for evidence of his existence is a truly important one. Who knows what might turn up?
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  • Melvin Dec 22, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    If Paul was a mythicist, albeit a devout one, and a convert to the Jewish cult of a purely mythic Jesus, Paul and the cult he joined have left no historical trace of “theology” outside vague inferences drawn from text of the letters Paul wrote himself.

    Saul/Paul was an epileptic, given to fits and delusional visions, which people in those days regarded as supernatural.

    He was also a Roman Citizen of standing, with respect as a Roman required from local authorities. He also had means to travel to spread his preaching. Paul’s writings are some of the very few in the NT, which can be properly attributed to a named author.
    There is nothing now, and was nothing then, to support a view that deluded preachers cannot generate large followings!
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  • Good point Alan. Plus, there is much more to Carrier’s work than “tenuous argument and analogy”. He has written some very good books and his work deserves proper academic scrutiny, not a few poorly thought out generalisations.

    I agree Carrier can be provocative but that is only because he is willing to take on a lot of mainstrem thought. I do not think his arguments deserve the sort of trashing given by Melvin.
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  • Lorenzo Dec 23, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Now, here is something interesting:

    She does seem to take a while to start to get to the point, but shows the earlier matching stories from other religions well.

    The comments on the link are generally woeful! – With most coming from self aggrandising, patronising ignoramuses, who show no ability whatever to understand or address the issues raised.

    (The Bible is trooo because they want it to be troooo!!!!!)
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  • Alan4discussion: Saul/Paul was an epileptic, given to fits and delusional visions, which people in those days regarded as supernatural.

    The diagnoses above is popular speculation, and a gross violation of medical ethics when asserted by “doctors” who never examined the patient nor had access to forensic evidence. Depending on point of view, Paul died conveniently or inconveniently some two thousand years ago. Paul may have been epileptic at a time when people believed seizures were evidence of divine or spiritual possession. But so what?

    Epilepsy never disqualified victims from great achievement in history. More relevant, there is no validity to the claim of a connection between epilepsy and delusional thinking in ancient superstitious populations where nearly every individual obsessed in delusional thinking about spirits, gods and magic impinging on their daily lives. It is disingenuous and anachronistic to demand that ancient people “explain” why they were so delusional. The way they viewed the world seemed as rational and coherent to their frame of mind as those commenting today on this thread.

    Finally a word about Paul’s place in the historical hierarchy of “Great Men.” Paul (and his collaborators) converted majorities in the Greco-Roman region to the then new religion of Christianity which became the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. Historically the religion spread to North Africa, the middle east, Europe, and by way of evangelical missions to the rest of the world where it reached an apex, now challenged by Islam, with over a billion followers. Paul demonstrated remarkable charisma combined with leadership/organizational skills on a scale equaled by only an elite canon of historical icons. Not insignificantly, his “Letters” translated in the King James Bible reflect a literary-poetic genius of the highest order. Whether the reader rejects the theological junk or not, the writings convey an aesthetic moral, emotional and dramatic power that is hard to ignore.

    Trapped in our atheist bias, it is too easy to dismiss Paul as just another frothing-at-the-mouth crazy preacher who got lucky….He wasn’t.

    (Stephen Mynett: I recommend you google Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier. Ehrman answers Carrier’s fiery dismissal of his book on the historical Jesus in a lengthy blog post. You can judge for yourself who makes the more convincing case.)
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  • Melvin Dec 23, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Alan4discussion: Saul/Paul was an epileptic, given to fits and delusional visions, which people in those days regarded as supernatural.

    The diagnoses above is popular speculation, and a gross violation of medical ethics when asserted by “doctors” who never examined the patient nor had access to forensic evidence.

    This is just side-tracking nonsense which has nothing to do with “medical ethics”!
    The description of “his being struck down” and having “visions” is in the Bible, while I linked the matching medical symptoms on a reputable medical website!
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  • Melvin, I have read both writers and I do not think Ehrman is as convincing as you. I also note his “fuller reply” blog about Carrier is dated 2012, that hardly qualifies it to reply to a book published in 2014.
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  • Really???? – Perhaps you can list the ones written within two hundred
    years of supposed events, as the rest of us seem to be scraping the
    barrel looking for them!

    Taking sections out of context is a poor start.

    trooo Hercules, the troo Robin Hood, The troo Merlin the Wizard, the
    troo Cyclops, the troo Gorgons, and the troo Harpies.

    The term “trooo” derisive and condescending. I once heard someone say, “This sort of assertive bluster as a substitutes for evidenced reasoning, does not impress on this site when challenging people who actually research their information.”
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  • If the point is that a lot, probably most, of what is in the New Testament is made up that’s a point I’ll more than willingly concede. I’ve read several bible scholars over the years but I don’t think you even need to be a bible scholar to reach that conclusion. A careful reading of the gospels, even if you can’t read the original texts and even if you know next to nothing about ancient history still reveals that the books contradict each other. And even a moderate bit of history points out even more contradictions. The idea that everyone in the ancient world had to return to their homes every once in a while for a census is just ludicrous.

    What I have trouble with is the leap from “we can’t trust what’s written in the new testament” to “we know Jesus never existed”. That leap is completely unjustified. Read some other ancient history. Plutarch tells us that Alexander the Great was born of a god who took the form of a snake to have sex with his mom. Yet people don’t just throw out Plutarch because he’s obviously making shit up sometime. They read with a critical eye and they figure out what it makes sense to think is credible and what isn’t. Or another example Caesar’s chronicles: he clearly exaggerates the size of the armies he fought against probably by huge factors in places but people don’t just throw out the chronicles, they read critically and separate the BS from what is probably credible.

    What is more the kinds of pop-scholarship around the myther community is virtually identical to the kind of writing we see in climate change deniers or 9/11 conspiracy theories. In all those cases you have people without serious credentials who suddenly claim to be experts. With 9/11 I can’t count the number of yuppies with liberal arts degrees who’ve given me lectures about building design. And with the mythers you get people who know next to nothing about ancient scholarship but pretend that they do. In all these cases you have a cottage industry designed to feed predigested conclusions to a community that has already made up its mind and doesn’t really care about things like scholarship or scholarly debates. It’s funny how often when I debate people on this the arguments are virtually identical to the arguments I get from climate deniers: “Oh those climate scientists [bible scholars] are just looking to maintain their corrupt institutions and get more grants”
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  • I thought it would be obvious that of course I don’t think anyone rose from the grave. See my other comment in reply to Alan. The point is that if you ever bothered to read ANY ancient history you would find that virtually NONE of the authors: Plutarch, Tacitus, Caesar, etc. were completely credible. They ALL made shit up and exaggerated the notion of honest historian was foreign to the ancient world. And we don’t just throw out everything that Plutarch wrote because he claimed that Alexander’s father was divine. The process of studying ancient history is to separate the BS from the credible.
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  • LOL. “Sounds plausible” If you are Michael Bay looking to reboot the Jesus franchise yeah it sounds very plausible. I mean it’s less nonsensical than the plots to some of the Batman movies. But if you know anything about ancient history it’s total nonsense. Complete speculation without the slightest tinge of support. And how the fuck was someone born to royal Roman and Egyptian blood going to suddenly become a Jewish teacher? Regardless of how he was raised no one associated with either Romans or Egyptians thought of the Jews as anything but crazy monotheists who had to be kept in line. The last thing someone who thought he was Caesar’s son wold strive to achieve would be King of the Jews. First because he would know that the result of that claim was likely to be a messy death and second even if he WAS ABLE to BE Kind of the Jews as a Roman (or Egyptian) of noble birth he would look down his nose at the Jews anyway. It’s totally groundless non credible speculation.
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  • christopher Dec 22, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    But they must also have said to themselves: “let’s use stuff from old myths and stories that already exist and apply them to jesus. Saves us from having to think up new stuff.” You can read The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity Before Christ by Kersey Graves, if you want to find out about the plagiarised messiahs.

    For a brief video summary of a few, this has been added to this site.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/12/tta-podcast-198-the-question-of-christ/

    (If you read the deluded comments on the link, you could start to doubt human claims to be an intelligent species!)

    Red Dog Dec 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    What I have trouble with is the leap from “we can’t trust what’s written in the new testament” to “we know Jesus never existed”. That leap is completely unjustified.

    I would not go as far as to claim to “know” no possible version of Jesus ever existed, but as I said earlier, the supernatural NT fairy-story character didn’t, so we need to consider the possibility, that the extensive made-up or plagiarised content may have approached 100%.
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  • Stephen Mynett:
    From “Bart’s Blog:” Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog. He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” etc.

    The publication date for Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?, I believe, is March 20, 2012.

    Alan4, “medical ethics” connotes way too much gravitas for the discussion. Still it might be the better part of judgement not to make a medical diagnosis of Paul based on links to current medical websites, reputable or otherwise, without access to the patient or at least his medical records.

    If we presume Biblical accounts to be highly fictionalized, Paul’s description of being struck down and having visions more likely employs the stock language of miraculous encounters with the Divine rather than reporting symptoms of epilepsy. (Paul afflicted with epilepsy could be a possibility. Are there additional episodes of seizure recorded in the letters or from other sources?)
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  • I thought you might be referring to Carrier’s book while I was referring the Ehrman’s book given the 2014 date you cited. The 2012 blog post by Ehrman contained “a fuller reply to Richard Carrier” by way of a reply to some of Richard Carrier’s criticisms of Bart Ehrman’s 2012 book Did Jesus Exist?. Because you made explicit mention of “his [Ehrman’s] ‘fuller reply’ blog about Carrier, I presumed you had read the entry and we were on the same page. Sorry for the confusion and ambiguity.
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  • 95
    Sotiris says:

    I don’t think the author is trying to prove that he did not exist. He’s not making any claims actually. The title of this post clearly says it all: There is essential NO credible evidence for his existence. So, it’s the believers who are making extraordinary claims. The onus to prove something is there’s alone.

    You are correct in saying that there are millions who’s existence we can not prove. But, it doesn’t matter if their existence and legacy are not based on extraordinary claims that defy the laws of nature. Hitchens clearly stated this his analogy of the existence of Socrates. There’s is very little evidence that he did exist. No matter. His contributions to western civilization are not dependent on the validity of his claims, or even his existence. Not so for JC. If his mother wasn’t impregnated by god, if he didn’t really walk on water, or he didn’t rise from his grave after three days, the religion is invalid. What are they to believe in then? You see my point?

    However, we have plenty of evidence to suggest that this, stories like it, are not true. First, the supernatural claims automatically disqualify from any sensible discourse. A great deal of the historical events in all three texts didn’t even happen, along with many of the figures named in them. Let’s not forget the parallels/similarities between the Jesus story and other ‘son of god’ myths spanning continents, civilizations, and centuries. If the JC story is true, then so are the others.

    But, you’re about one thing: Our energy is better spent elsewhere. We should be more concerned with preserving the core principle of our constitution: guarantee of our individual freedoms. And this is built upon the separation of church and state. As soon as this separation is removed, say goodbye to the whole god damn experiment. 😉
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  • The term “trooo” derisive and condescending. I once heard someone say,
    “This sort of assertive bluster as a substitutes for evidenced
    reasoning, does not impress on this site when challenging people who
    actually research their information.”

    Perhaps, but the point Alan has been bringing home is the fundamental lack of evidence for the Christ of the bible. There is literally as much evidence for the other mythical people and creatures he mentioned.

    Ultimately the real question has been if there is a historical figure from which stories in the NT are based, which may very likely be never completely agreed upon, so for as dismissive as you find Alan to have been with his ‘troo’ usage you still haven’t demonstrated this documentation that demonstrates Jesus beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    So, do you have something that isn’t either refuted by the comments on this thread or perhaps something new that we aren’t aware of?
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  • Red Dog Dec 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

    The argument about “detailed Roman records” is pure bullshit and an example of the incredible lack of basic historical context that goes on with these arguments.

    There are significant points!

    For example: the Romans might have noticed if the Romans were conducting a population census and recorded the event if such an event happened!
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  • Curtis Dec 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    It seems you have no evidence or reasoned arguments to present in reply!

    trooo Hercules, the troo Robin Hood, The troo Merlin the Wizard, the troo Cyclops, the troo Gorgons, and the troo Harpies.

    The term “trooo” derisive and condescending.

    Not really, when it is used to distinguish asserted “trooo” mythology, or the “No true Scotsman” fallacies of “trooo believers”, from evidenced history.

    I once heard someone say, “This sort of assertive bluster as a substitutes for evidenced reasoning, does not impress on this site when challenging people who actually research their information.”

    That was said by me in response to a vacuous challenge. So far you have only produced further assertive bluster, and no researched information, despite the large amount of information and linked evidence on this discussion, which you could have discussed or quoted.

    In an intellectual debate, dismissing comments which contain nothing of substance is quite usual!
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  • Another interesting feature, is the Roman technique of crucifixion used in Jerusalem, which does NOT resemble the traditional Xtian image.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-a-stone-box-a-rare-trace-of-crucifixion/

    It is therefore an odd fact that archaeological evidence of this punishment — crosses, for example, or perforated skeletons — has never been found anywhere in the world, with one exception: the stone box containing Yehohanan’s remains.

    Today, the box is displayed in a gallery at the Israel Museum alongside other artifacts from the period of Roman rule in Judea.

    His name is inscribed in simple letters on one side: Yehohanan, son of Hagakol. (Some scholars, interpreting the letters differently, believe the second name is Hezkil.)

    Inside the box, archaeologists found a heel bone with an iron stake driven through it, indicating that the occupant of the ossuary had been nailed to a cross.

    The position of the stake was evidence of a crucifixion technique that had not previously been known, according to museum curator David Mevorah. In the image of crucifixion made famous by Christian iconography, Jesus is pictured with both feet nailed to the front of the vertical beam of the cross. But this man’s feet had been affixed to the sides of the beam with nails hammered separately through each heel.

    .His hands showed no sign of wounds, indicating that they had been tied, rather than nailed, to the horizontal bar.
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  • Melvin Dec 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Alan4, “medical ethics” connotes way too much gravitas for the discussion. Still it might be the better part of judgement not to make a medical diagnosis of Paul based on links to current medical websites, reputable or otherwise, without access to the patient or at least his medical records.

    Why? It seems a spurious objection – knowing that no records are available.

    The world-leading medical training and education sites, are quite explicit as to the symptoms of Grand Mal fits, and the Biblical descriptions are clear.

    Do you have an alternative, credible non-supernatural explanation, to offer, or are you just doubt-mongering from a viewpoint of ignorance?

    You have not itemised ANY part of the description which is inconsistent with the symptoms – just a ridiculous claim about modern medical ethics and medical records being applied to archaeology, and you seem to be making a silly claim, that a medical diagnosis cannot be made from a description of the symptoms exhibited.

    If we presume Biblical accounts to be highly fictionalized,

    Presumption is the mother of error!
    Paul’s writings are examples of the very few NT texts which can be confidently attributed to a named author. Rare eye-witness reporting!

    Paul’s description of being struck down and having visions more likely employs the stock language of miraculous encounters with the Divine rather than reporting symptoms of epilepsy.

    What possible basis do you have have for such an assertion? His epilepsy was described as a badge of authenticity for his conversion and visions to the gullible!
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  • We can only argue this debate from scenarios based on probabilities, inferences imaginatively drawn from weak circumstantial evidence, which itself has been extensively altered down through the centuries.

    I view accounts of the crucifixion within a holistic context as supporting the probable case for the existence of the historical Jesus. Here is my scenario:

    Religious fanaticism swept over Israel in the first century, as sects, Essenes-Zealots, etc., desperately sought a Messiah, a divinely mandated prophet and warrior-king to deliver God’s chosen people from Roman occupation. Fiercely monotheistic, Judaism was a tribal-ethnic religion. Yahweh was exclusively identified with the Jewish people. People didn’t “convert” to Judaism, Jews and (with some exceptions) only Jews were born into it, a holy genetic pool if you will, bound by Jewish ancestry to a divine historical-cultural covenant. Jews despised the Romans as they had the Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors before them for bringing foreign and therefore “false” Gods to desecrate the Holy Land of Judah-Israel. Hebrew scripture was radically xenophobic to use an anachronism; and Jews were piously committed to ancestral purity which conferred Yahweh’s exclusive attention- favor or disfavor- on Israelites alone.

    In my view an itinerant rabbi named Jesus existed in the first century. What he preached exactly, I would not venture to guess. I would speculate that, through appealing and controversial actions, he distinguished himself from other preachers, gathered a modest but devoted following, preached an apocalyptic vision amenable to the expulsion of the Romans and prophesied the divine establishment of a reformed/ purified form of Judaism. Jesus qua prophet probably claimed his words were divinely inspired. He probably either claimed to be the Messiah his people hungered for or at least let them think so. I would doubt he literally claimed to be the Son of God; and almost certainly he never alluded to anything like his role depicted in the theological narrative that Paul and others constructed after his death, a theological narrative that became the religion we know as Christianity.

    The spark that ignited both the cult of Jesus and soon thereafter, Christianity itself was probably the crucifixion of Jesus. I believe that the Roman execution of a relatively young charismatic rabbi produced widespread hysteria in the Jewish imagination. The modern counterpart would be found in something like the death of Princess Diana or, dare I say it, Elvis. Jesus became a celebrity and as a rabbi in ancient Israel he took on various attributions of a holy or supernatural being. Contingently a consensus formed that he was the Messiah which rolled over into belief that he was the Son of God. Rumors, propaganda and legends took hold that his tomb had been found empty; he had been bodily resurrected from the dead; he was showing up to people all over the place etc. Paul took the ball and ran with it. The rest is history.

    Some Christians have made the point that Jesus’ followers, disheartened and discouraged by his death, would have let his sect die out had he not miraculously proved his bona fides by appearing to them in the flesh after his death. The secular explanation is more credible. The crucifixion of Jesus was necessary to generate the religious hysteria that solidified into an enduring cult and religion propped up by contrived junk theology. If Jesus had lived to a ripe old age and died of natural causes in his fifties or sixties, chances are he would have been forgotten to history.
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  • Messiah, a divinely mandated prophet and warrior-king to deliver God’s chosen people from Roman occupation. Fiercely monotheistic, Judaism was a tribal-ethnic religion. Yahweh was exclusively identified with the Jewish people. People didn’t “convert” to Judaism, Jews and (with some exceptions) only Jews were born into it, a holy genetic pool if you will, bound by Jewish ancestry to a divine historical-cultural covenant.

    I differ on this point. The dangerous difference with Jesus was that he said that the Jewish god Yahweh was the god of everyone, not just the Jews. His movement argued that everyone, gentile and Jew alike could be full members hold all ranks in the religion. (Except those pesky women of course. Although the women in the scarlet robe in Revelations is an attempt by a women to hold the priesthood. Scarlet robe was the robe of the priest, but I digress.)

    The wedding feast of Canaan is an internal office memorandum to the new church members that gentiles are full members of the church. In Jewish religious ceremonies, there are various ranks from new initiates through to the High Priest. As an initiate moves through the ranks, there seat position at the religious ceremonies changes as they get closer the Priest. From initiate to mid level ranks, the drink supplied was water. The higher ranks got wine. The orthodox position was that gentiles could never obtain higher ranks in Judaism, so were confined to the back tables and had holy water, not wine during ceremonies.

    Jesus comes along and upsets not only the Romans, but the orthodox Jews by proclaiming that Yahweh is the god of everyone and gentiles could hold high ranks up to priesthood. They all wanted to nail him up. Thus, a gentile could drink wine at the religious ceremony. At the wedding feast of Canaan, by turning water into wine, Jesus was saying that Gentiles are full members of the sect. A by product of this was that the available converts in the market place went from just the Jews, to the whole planet. Introduce a system of annual tithes for salvation, and you’ve got a massive financial base, which of course gives you political power. So no miracle, just a coded internal memorandum written in such a way that he didn’t upset the Romans or the Jews.

    When the parable ends, “They saved the best wine for last.” Jesus is saying, there are some very talented people in the gentiles.

    p.s. You can substitute Jesus and insert political spin doctors at every reference to him.
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  • David R Allen Dec 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    p.s. You can substitute Jesus and insert political spin doctors at every reference to him.

    Or you could substitute “Paul” and his followers, re-writing the stories later after admitting gentiles to their ranks.

    (Except those pesky women of course. Although the women in the scarlet robe in Revelations is an attempt by a women to hold the priesthood. Scarlet robe was the robe of the priest, but I digress.)

    The “Gospel of Mary”, suggests that Mary and not Peter was the lead disciple and possibly the first pope!

    The male Roman bishops don’t seem to have cared for that one when they were chucking out gospels they did not like!
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  • Wonderful scholarship by Raphael Lataster and I’m delighted to see it was picked up by the Washington Post. Such prominence has aroused jealous commentary in Oz by schizoid theologians fuming about Lataster’s publicity.

    Bilbo Baggins the hobbit was as just as real as Jesus. He wasn’t an authentic hobbit, just a kid with pointy ears. It wasn’t long ago when most people thought Moses was historical too.

    I outgrew belief in Jesus shortly after I found out about Santa Claus and quickly recognized they were the same character. Like some atheists I retained the illusion that the mythical non-god bloke had actually existed. That fantasy wasn’t broken until my then 8 yo son pointed out that the historical Jesus was as real as the Easter Bunny. I quickly verified the improbabality of any historical Jesus and I’m delighted to now find Lataster’s excellent thesis, which critiques William Lane Craig’s apologetics, being ventilated on the world stage.

    My young son’s insight was a vindication of my having already educated him about the psychology of religion.

    Edit. Lataster’s article is derived from his doctoral thesis.
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  • Alan4: You could substitute “Paul” and his followers, re-writing the stories later after admitting gentiles to their ranks.

    Alan4 is on to something important reported by historians of early Christianity. Though Jesus was a Jew and those who sanctified him as Messiah were also Jews, the emerging cult of Jesus, given a temporary boost by the dramatic crucifixion and “martyrdom” of its youthful leader, was a poor match for the cult of Yaweh which soon extinguished the short-lived appeal of Jesus within Judaism. From the outset though ardent disciples made their voices heard, most Jews never accepted Jesus as Messiah let alone the potential blasphemy that Jesus was the Son of God, the co-equal of God Himself. Jesus, the itinerant rabbi who won limited popularity though his ministry and untimely death, never rose in the estimation of the Jewish people to the status of Messiah.

    Paul was a Hellenistic Jew who spoke Greek and Latin. Steeped in the Greco-Roman culture of the world beyond Israel, his ambition seems to have been to renounce the “exceptionalism” of the Jewish faith tradition in order to broaden the universalism of the faith in the Risen Christ. While still grounding Jesus in Judaic origins, he gave the religion a cosmopolitan appeal divorced from strict Jewish law and ritual. A schism apparently developed between the cult centered in Jerusalem that demanded some form of “conversion” to Judaism and strict adherence to Juadaic law and Paul’s “Christianity” which rejected the requirement in favor of spreading a new religion to the gentiles promoting belief in a universal redeemer-God defined by new scriptures (soon the gospels), rituals, and a new theology which jettisoned the core identity and practices (annoying dietary laws, etc.) of Judaism and its “jealous” God who had made an exclusive ancestral covenant with His Chosen People of Israel.

    Paul recounts his visit to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and other local leaders in an attempt to resolve differences that proved intractable. Though a handful of Jews hung on to belief in Jesus, most Jews returned to the orthodox faith of their fathers. Christian gentiles came to view Jews as perversely rejecting Jesus and his loving offer of salvation. Over time legends took hold that Jews had actually murdered Christ by calling on the Romans to crucify him. Some passages in particular gospels suggest this betrayal.

    One of the greatest ironies of history became one of the greatest tragedies. Christianity became the fountainhead in Europe for virulent forms of anti-semitism, arguably culminating in the Nazi genocide of two-thirds of European Jewry.
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  • 107
    Anthony says:

    Which reminds me of a biblical paradox:
    According to the bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Palestine, in a country where people are called Mounir Aziz, Ahmed, Farid, Omar, Youssef, Mohammed, Mahmoud etc.
    Yet nevertheless he was able to gather a group of followers called Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Andrew, Phillip, Simon etc.
    Quite a feat!
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  • 108
    NoKiddingMan says:

    There is no point in discussing the existence of Jesus if no one can even prove the existence of God. So, I don’t care!
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  • What puzzles me is how can such little evidence for an historical Jesus exist when so much has been made of a fictional character. In addition, it seems that the same people who refute the Biblical records of this fictional character are willing to use the Bible in an effort to prove their points. For instance, referring to Saul’s encounter with Christ causing his conversion. Why would that be true, but all the things this non-existent Saul/Paul said about Jesus be false?

    As far as proving the existence of God is concerned, it doesn’t take a genius to see that there is too much complexity in the universe for it to have all come about by some cosmic accident. Whether you want to call that creative force God or not it must still exist. Design doesn’t happen without a designer. That would be like putting a pile of building materials together over a pile of explosives, and expecting a perfect building to result from the explosion.

    I keep reading about the TRUTH of evolution, but no one has yet to come up with a starting point. Even if there was some SCIENTIFIC proof it cannot be found out without applying the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It simply will never happen no matter how much we argue! It seems that no matter what side of the argument one takes there is simply NO PROOF. Believe what we want, no one will be sure till we die. We will either continue to exist or not. We’ll see!
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  • Larry #110
    Dec 8, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    In addition, it seems that the same people who refute the Biblical records of this fictional character are willing to use the Bible in an effort to prove their points.

    There are no contemporary eye-witness records of this fictional character – that is the point!
    The canonical gospels were put together from folk-law in the 4th. century

    For instance, referring to Saul’s encounter with Christ causing his conversion. Why would that be true, but all the things this non-existent Saul/Paul said about Jesus be false?

    Saul the Roman however did exist, but his late conversion and visiting and writings to early Christian sects were real as far as we know.

    However, “Saul’s encounter with Christ”, has the hallmarks of of delusions during an epileptic fit – which in those days was regarded as a supernatural sign!
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  • Larry

    I keep reading about the TRUTH of evolution, but no one has yet to come up with a starting point.

    They did. Its looking pretty good.

    Read “The Vital Question” by Nick Lane. He leads a a major research team into matters surrounding abiogenesis at UCL.

    Even if there was some SCIENTIFIC proof it cannot be found out without applying the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It simply will never happen no matter how much we argue! It seems that no matter what side of the argument one takes there is simply NO PROOF.

    But but, the scientific method is the only way science progresses. Why should we fail to apply it here? You have failed to frame an actual problem it seems. Are you unhappy that we only know with increasing certainty rather than absolutely?
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  • Larry #110
    Dec 8, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    I keep reading about the TRUTH of evolution,

    The fact that evolution is happening now throughout the world is the science of ecology, which has abundant evidence from genetics, palnt and animal breeding and from studies of micro-organisms. There are also fossilis of past life gradually changing and adapting – or failing to do so and going extinct.

    but no one has yet to come up with a starting point.

    The starting point is “abiogenesis”. Evolution is the on-going variation and natural selection of life, after it began.

    Even if there was some SCIENTIFIC proof it cannot be found out without applying the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It simply will never happen no matter how much we argue!

    It is already happening as geneticists using the scientific method, experiment with the chemistry behind early life on the early Earth.

    It seems that no matter what side of the argument one takes there is simply NO PROOF.

    There is not much of a scientific argument! There is the chemistry of self replicating molecules, and there is the claim that some (evolved? created?) magician did-it-by-mysterious-magic. One version is a scientific hypothesis, the other is a children’s fairy story!

    Of course the Universe formed billions of years before the Solar-System and the Earth formed, and the Earth formed billions of years before life emerged on it after it cooled down enough.

    Believe what we want,

    The scientific method does not work on “believing what we want to”. It follows the evidence to conclusions.

    >no one will be sure till we die. We will either continue to exist or not. We’ll see!

    This kind of begs the question of the fabled “after-life”- the dead don’t see!
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  • @Larry #110

    What puzzles me is how can such little evidence for an historical Jesus exist when so much has been made of a fictional character.

    Read Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven”, which tells the history of the Mormon religion (among other things), and perhaps you will better understand how this sort of thing can (has) happen(ed).
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  • 115
    fadeordraw says:

    Wow! So 114 entries on a conversation begun in 2014, with a 2015 entry and then a March 2016 one and Larry resurrects the thing today and Allan replies, then Phil and Peace. In reading the entries (not the latest ones) I am somewhat surprised that no one raised that matter of the irrelevance, scientifically, of whether there was an actually Jesus. We know that religions are an evolutionary phenomenon for sapiens. We know that there ain’t any validity to them but they, obviously, because of they are ubiquitous, have served, at one time at any rate, an important function for our survival and growth; e.g., RD’s memetic theory of religion. Still, of the Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies (“WEIRD” taken from Harari), and from a meme culture understanding, why has the USA maintained Christianity and nurtured radical Christianity while the other WEIRD societies have become increasingly secular? That would be, for me, a more interesting question for evidenced-based researches and historians to pursue.
    BTW: the same question about an actual Jesus with the same understandings (i.e., records dating to centuries after their deaths), could be asked about the actual Mohammed, the actual Siddhārtha, etc.
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  • 108 There is no point in discussing the existence of Jesus if no one can even prove the existence of God. So, I don’t care!

    It would be worth point out that this argument is not valid, but it’s irrelevant first.

    110 Whether you want to call that creative force God or not it must still exist. Design doesn’t happen without a designer. That would be like putting a pile of building materials together over a pile of explosives, and expecting a perfect building to result from the explosion

    Excellent point Larry. Though it (the task of a designed universe) can be made exponentially harder when you factor the size of the project.

    However Larry, “Even if there was some SCIENTIFIC proof it cannot be found out without applying the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It simply will never happen no matter how much we argue!”

    At the risk of creating a fallacy of context, I would like to point out 2 things. 1) The Scientific Method (TSM) -as presently applied- is fraught with errors from every direction. And 2) I suspect there have been hundreds, if not thousands of important scientific discoveries that were not the fruits of TSM. I say this, not even considering the fact that TSM can be so challenging to define that it can hardly be stated when it actually “came into existence”. (Thus allowing all discoveries after that moment to be of valid logic, since TSM was obviously applied correctly. Oh, and all the ones that came before… well, you know.)
    Still, your statement “…no matter how much we argue.” is true not only relative to evolution, also the primary thread here, “Did Jesus Exist”. As has been stated, there can be no factual conclusion (based on present knowledge and technology), only speculation, and tepid at best.

    To those who argue for the validity of TSM, and popularly so, I offer the following perspective. Richard Horton, Editor-In-Chief of the Lancet (which Wikipedia -beg my pardon- referred to as the 3rd most prestigious medical review journal in the world) states:
    “The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.”
    http://www.scientificjournals.org/new_vision.htm, 2010)

    While the premiss is fine, the fact that humans run the show has reduced peer review -the legs that TSM stands on- into a popularity contest. A circus side show. (No offense to those that ply the trade honorably.) The fact that a group of “scientists” can be bought and brought together to debunk the argument du jour, say, global warming, and “prove” it is not happening serves to brings TSM to it’s knees. Well, not the actual “Scientific Method”. Just the pseudo one that is pervasive these days.
    Apologies for hijacking the thread to lend valid doubt to TSM (in it’s present iteration), but I think it deserved noting. If for no other reason, than to correlate the logic that while the thread here (Did Jesus actually walk the earth, and if so, was He really the Son of God?) deserves consideration, the clear and obvious truth is that open-minded thinking men would conclude no one can prove it either way. Any evidence for or against must be, by virtue of time, speculative, and interpretive. AT BEST!! Show me a man that can change speculation of things said and interpreted a hundred times thru many languages into “known factual realities”, and I’ll show you one that can change water into wine.

    I’m curious then. What exactly was the discussion about? Trying to “prove” that someone’s logic is more “logical” than others? Arguing for the mental exercise? Feeding ego for the sake of… well, I guess ego is it’s own reward.
    Would it blow up the conversation to say that “everyone is partly right, and everyone is partly wrong”? Or “everyone has a valid argument, but no one can be known to be correct”? Again… please… the point?
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  • 115 fadeordraw

    BTW: the same question about an actual Jesus with the same understandings (i.e., records dating to centuries after their deaths), could be asked about the actual Mohammed, the actual Siddhārtha, etc.

    PRECISELY!
    (But why would we?)
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  • @Aardvark

    I’m curious then. What exactly was the discussion about?

    Aardvark, Raphael Lataster’s research illustrates the mythical nature of Christ. His dad (biblegod) and the ghostly ‘designer’ god are therefore mythical too. They’re merely Santa Claus for incredulous adults. Also, your fear of science is unwarranted.

    If you had any evidence to refute Latater’s work, you would surely have provided it already.

    …the same question…could be asked about the actual Mohammed, the actual Siddhārtha, etc.

    And yet it wasn’t, was it?
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  • Aardvark #116
    Dec 26, 2016 at 12:51 am

    At the risk of creating a fallacy of context, I would like to point out 2 things.
    1) The Scientific Method (TSM) -as presently applied- is fraught with errors from every direction.

    This is of course nonsense!
    The scientific method is about exhaustive testing to identify errors and correct them, or to refute false ideas which are beyond correction.

    And 2) I suspect there have been hundreds, if not thousands of important scientific discoveries that were not the fruits of TSM.

    Maybe discovered or suspected! – But the valid ones were CONFIRMED by the scientific method, while the mistaken ones were REFUTED by the scientific method!

    I say this, not even considering the fact that TSM can be so challenging to define that it can hardly be stated when it actually “came into existence”.

    Like the continuum of all good science, there are major characters and key steps, providing solid foundations on which others build more elaborate structures as time goes on.

    The requirements are well understood by scientists at the present time.

    http://www.livescience.com/20896-science-scientific-method.html
    Science & the Scientific Method: A Definition

    Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also the body of knowledge accumulated through the discoveries about all the things in the universe.

    The word “science” is derived from the Latin word scientia, which is knowledge based on demonstrable and reproducible data, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. True to this definition, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis. Science is based on fact, not opinion or preferences. The process of science is designed to challenge ideas through research. One important aspect of the scientific process is that it is focuses only on the natural world, according to the University of California. Anything that is considered supernatural does not fit into the definition of science.

    The scientific method

    When conducting research, scientists use the scientific method to collect measurable, empirical evidence in an experiment related to a hypothesis (often in the form of an if/then statement), the results aiming to support or contradict a theory.

    The steps of the scientific method go something like this:

    Make an observation or observations.

    Ask questions about the observations and gather information.

    Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what’s been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.

    Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced.

    Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary.

    Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory.
    “Replication of methods and results is my favorite step in the scientific method,” Moshe Pritsker, a former post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School and CEO of JoVE, told Live Science. “The reproducibility of published experiments is the foundation of science.
    No reproducibility – no science.”

    Some key underpinnings to the scientific method:

    The hypothesis must be testable and falsifiable, according to North Carolina State University.
    Falsifiable means that there must be a possible negative answer to the hypothesis.

    Research must involve deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.

    Deductive reasoning is the process of using true premises to reach a logical true conclusion while inductive reasoning takes the opposite approach.

    An experiment should include a dependent variable (which does not change) and an independent variable (which does change).

    An experiment should include an experimental group and a control group. The control group is what the experimental group is compared against.

    Doubt-mongering about science does nothing to support of weak claims which lack credible evidence!
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  • Aardvark (#116)

    “I’m curious then. What exactly was the discussion about?”

    I think this discussion is about proof. Everybody wants proof that what they believe is correct, because what we believe shapes our lives. Going back to the beginning of the universe . . . I wasn’t there to observe how it happened (thankfully – I’d probably be bedridden at this point). You weren’t there. Nobody was there! Evolution and Creation are BOTH beliefs that require a measure of faith. When it comes to proof, as you mentioned, both beliefs are impossible to prove because we don’t have all the facts. But we do have a lot of evidence, so it’s a matter of weighing the evidence and seeing where it points.

    I happen to strongly believe the evidence points toward Creation, and God, and Jesus. I’m happy to discuss more in depth. As for the question of whether or not there is evidence that the Biblical Jesus really existed, a really great source is “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell. It covers a wide variety of solid arguments for the authenticity of the Bible (including archaeology), but there is a specific section that lists many historical references to Jesus and the crucifixion – written not only by Christ’s followers, but also by Jewish/Roman historians that were decidedly opposed to Christianity (contrary to the claims of Mr. Lataster). Josephus was one source . . . I will have to refresh my memory on the other names! I’d strongly recommend this book if you are looking for logical, “scientific” arguments for the authenticity of Christ and the Bible.
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  • le-bon michael #121
    Jan 7, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Although there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document,

    Err no! There is evidence that the four “gospels” selected in the fourth century by Athanasius of Alexandria were selected for their use to the Constantine and Roman bishops.
    There is certainly evidence that Christian sects existed and promoted their various conflicting “gospel” folk-law stories, but there are no contemporary eye-witness accounts of any actions by anyone of that name!

    many people are still reluctant to believe what it says unless there is also some independent, non-biblical testimony that corroborates its statements.

    Scepticism rather than incredulity would be the objective historians position in the absence of firm evidence.
    The odd passing reference to some preacher is hardly supporting evidence for all the detailed stories claimed to be “historical” accounts! –
    Especially when some are clearly copied from each other, mistranslated, or are creative “interpretations”, by those who wish to blindly believe accounts falsely attributed to “disciples” by the cults which went under those names in the Roman Empire, and whose “gospels” were written decades of centuries after supposed events.

    [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library#Complete_list_of_codices_found_in_Nag_Hammadi}(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library#Complete_list_of_codices_found_in_Nag_Hammadi)

    Even the form of nailing for Roman crucifixion, appears to be wrong in the Christian crucifix – according to the only archaeological evidence of a crucified skeleton in the Jerusalem museum.

    Was there an actual person or persons behind the folk-law of Jesus, King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.? – Probably.
    Could there be scraps of truth in the stories about them? – Possibly!
    Are the stories largely made up, composited or embellished by later story-tellers and political agendas? – More than likely!
    There is certainly evidence of some forgery, fictional additions, and heaps of fake “holy relics” added over the following centuries!
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  • Henry Ford said “History is bunk”. Its worse than that. You can do something today and tomorrow, but you can’t do anything yesterday. History is just escapism and a persuit for those who don’t wish to do anything today or tomorrow. You have already decided that you don’t wish to cure disease, put man on multi-planets or prevent global warming if you have chosen history as your subject. They protest that only by studying history can we avoid making the same mistakes again. Nonsense, all the drivers that contribute to tomorrow are different today. History does STUFF and you should only get STUFF on a need to know basis. You can get through life not knowing the capital of Hungary. But if you need to know it then just Google it. If you want to know whether Jesus existed please re-read my comment and consider whether you might be better learning skills and concepts instead of STUFF.

    The greatest skill you can learn is the three R’s, reading, writing and reckoning. Learn this skill and you can get all the STUFF you need. But please only get what you need on a need to know basis and not for escapism.

    The next greatest skill you can learn is the epistemological arsenal; logic, rational argument and the universal problem solving methodology (problem, tentative solution, testing, new tentative solution, repeat).

    The problem solving world, the fourth enlightenment, doesn’t do proof, belief or opinion (subjective knowledge). It only does OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE, its true if, and only if, it corresponds with the facts. If we hadn’t had a history (bunk) of anthropomorphic animism, polytheism and monotheism building their high-street businesses in the dark ages between the four enlightenments we would have no religions today. If you introduced the concept of an absolute being today without the history (bunk) you would be met with “and you have evidence for that” and it wouldn’t be mentioned again. Comments welcome.
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  • 124
    Cairsley says:

    To David #123

    You may find Richard Carrier’s book Proving History interesting. It is a thorough discussion of historical methodology, which considers how history has been done hitherto and proposes how this can be improved. The key to his proposal is the use of Bayes’s Theorem for evaluating evidence of past events and states of affairs, pointing out that good historians already use this theorem implicitly in their arguments. Yet I doubt that anyone familiar with the discipline of history is unaware that some very bad works of history have been written. Professional historians can safely ignore what Henry Ford, not known for his competence in or contribution to historical research, said about their field of enquiry.

    Much is in fact known about the past on the basis of evidence. Like all empirical knowledge, historical knowledge is always a matter of probability, some things being virtually certain, other things being more likely than not, other things being less likely than not, still other things being unlikely, still other things being entirely unsupported by evidence, and still other things being not only unsupported by evidence but also contrary to background knowledge or, worse, laws of physics and therefore most likely false. Your present rather confused and frenetic stance on history does seem in need of moderation (at least calming down) and sober consideration of actual methods used by historians in their work.
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  • History is agreed upon lies and the victors get to write it. I had an exchange student from Japan a few years ago. She brought in a Japanese history text and w hung around and she read excerpts to me. I asked about Pearl harbor and was stunned by the “history” that was in the book.

    The Scientific Method is the ONLY WAY we know anything at all. everything that is known with confidence has earned that confidence because of TSM. Every organism on the planet that can problem solve does so using the scientific method.

    If i put a banana on a string and hang it from the ceiling of a monkey’s cage at the zoo, the monkey will use TSM in order to get the banana. Or, he will NOT get the banana.

    Every bit of untested horseshit out there is horseshit because it cannot stand up to the scrutiny of TSM and when you believe in horseshit, you have to denounce anything that implies or demonstrates that you are an idiot.

    Let’s list the “steps” of the scientific method:
    1. Recognize the problem (banana — if he doesn’t see it, he won’t try to get it)
    2. gather information (look around the cage) establish a hypothesis
    3. do an experiment or many experiments (reach up, jump, climb, stack shit up to reach)
    4. gather data — can he simply reach it? Does he need to jump? stack stuff?
    5. solve the problem or revise the hypothesis.
    repeat.
    You can also add — communicate the results.

    Now, why would anyone think that there is something sinister or wrong with this sequence of logical thought? Oh, when it demonstrates horseshit.

    So, i will right now make a claim. Oranges exist. How confident am in in oranges existing?? Pretty damn confident. Why? Because of TSM. Because of evidence from the TSM. Because of experience with TSM.
    Now, i will make another claim — God exists. yeah? Show me a “cup of god”. Show me proof. Show me that his/her/it’s existence is reinforced and proven by TSM. THE god construction is what tumbles down NOT TSM. But, in order for the god construction to stay standing, you have to try to tumble TSM, not realizing that the entire rationally thinking world now sees that your emperor is naked.
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  • tripleflourish 3 #120
    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:11 am

    I think this discussion is about proof. Everybody wants proof that what they believe is correct, because what we believe shapes our lives.

    Nope! In science we want to see where the evidence leads. Hunches may motivate people to carry out investigations and tests, but only “faith” starts with and lock on to preconceptions!

    Going back to the beginning of the universe . . . I wasn’t there to observe how it happened (thankfully – I’d probably be bedridden at this point). You weren’t there. Nobody was there!

    But the evidence from the physics was there, and the techniques of analysing it are well established, giving some good estimates of probabilities.

    Evolution and Creation are BOTH beliefs that require a measure of faith.

    Nope! Biological evolution is supported by thousands of objective observations and experiments. “Faith” is based on indoctrinated preconceptions and belief in the infallibility of bronze-age writings.

    When it comes to proof, as you mentioned, both beliefs are impossible to prove because we don’t have all the facts.

    This is of course a false equivalence, as science has thousands of verifiable facts which can be supported by evidence from repeated experiments. All faith has is stories from alleged witnesses who in most cases were not even alive at the time of writing.

    But we do have a lot of evidence, so it’s a matter of weighing the evidence and seeing where it points.

    Nope! Faith-believers have stories they are told is evidence, but which has no resemblance to what is scientifically recognised as “evidence”.

    I happen to strongly believe the evidence points toward Creation, and God, and Jesus.

    What evidence? If you have some – present it!
    BTW: “somebody said it was so”, is not evidence! It is assertion or personal opinion, which cannot be regarded as evidence until it is tested and confirmed.

    I’m happy to discuss more in depth. As for the question of whether or not there is evidence that the Biblical Jesus really existed, a really great source is “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell.

    Perhaps you could quote the documents or artefacts which make up this evidence.

    It covers a wide variety of solid arguments for the authenticity of the Bible (including archaeology), but there is a specific section that lists many historical references to Jesus and the crucifixion – written not only by Christ’s followers, but also by Jewish/Roman historians that were decidedly opposed to Christianity

    Can you name these newly discovered documents?

    (contrary to the claims of Mr. Lataster). Josephus was one source . . .

    Josephus only makes vague passing references which some people choose to interpret as matching their preconceptions!

    I will have to refresh my memory on the other names!
    I’d strongly recommend this book if you are looking for logical, “scientific” arguments for the authenticity of Christ and the Bible.

    Josh McDowell is an evangelist and a practitioner of Christian apologetics. His writings are also from quite along time ago (1980s – 1990s), before modern scientific investigation techniques were widely used on historical documents and artefacts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_McDowell

    He has also collated apologetic arguments concerning the doctrine of Christ’s deity as in Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity.
    In two companion volumes he and his colleague Don Stewart have addressed popular questions and objections to faith concerning biblical inerrancy and Bible discrepancies, Noah’s Flood, and creation versus evolution.

    Preachers making up answers to arguments, do not constitute “evidence”.

    He is clearly a practitioner of pseudo-science – not science!
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  • Sorry but the whole historical Jesus thing stinks to the high heaven of horseshit. This period of history of Roman controlled Judea is writhe with apocolypictic preachers and I’m sure plenty of them were executed by Rome. At the end of the day the gospel sources were written years after all these events supposedly happened and by whom? Plus these outside sources (which only number at 3 btw considering this is supposed to be the worlds biggest mover and shaker according to Christians) were all written about 80-100 years after by this point Christians already had their own community in Rome and were fairly noticeable. I just don’t buy it, all the miracles and events mirror that of over 30+ different gods/goddesses that predate Jesus Christ and as far as apocalyptic preacher, there were plenty of those going round at the time, this doesn’t prove Jesus existed one iota, how could anybody actually think it does
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  • if old testament stated that messiah would come from the house of David and joseph, was from this lineage , yet the new testament say Jesus was conceived through holy spirit, therefore, he couldn’t be from the house of David therefore if anyone within joseph family could be the messiah it would be one of his biological sons possibly James, not Jesus
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  • tripleflourish 3 #120
    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:11 am

    I’m happy to discuss more in depth.

    Strange, how when depth of evidence and references to quoted sources, are requested by informed commentators, creationist posters disappear along with their alleged supporting evidence which fails to materialise!
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  • I arrived here after watching a youtube video of Bart Ehrman. Someone asked a question regarding the historical evidence of Jesus and he replied ‘there’s a lot of evidence, there’s so much evidence that it is..(jabbering)…once you get out of your conclave…(jabber)…this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity, there is no scholar in any college or university in the Western World who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early Christianity, any related field who doubts that Jesus existed.’

    At that point I stopped watching, as I thought that this was not the case.

    As an appeal to authority, this is Bart Ehrman’s field. However, I do agree with Richard Dawkins in that, in my limited research, there appears to be very little supporting evidence that can be viewed critically in support of a historical Jesus. Perhaps if Ehrman were as thorough in his investigation of the evidence in support of the existence of Jesus as he is in pointing out the problems with the gospels his opinion would be very different.
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  • I also came across this article through research. And I have to ask if any of you who disagree that Jesus was an actual person, who existed and walked this earth, have ever read this?

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus

    “Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed.[5][6][7][note 1]”

    “The view that there was no historical Jesus, that his earthly existence is a fiction of earliest Christianity—a fiction only later made concrete by setting his life in the first century—is today almost totally rejected.”

    “Scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the biblical accounts, and the only two events subject to “almost universal assent” are that Jesus was baptizedby John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.[11][12][13][14]”

    —————

    Where do you get your information that no modern scholar believes Jesus existed? It’s quite the opposite in fact.

    As someone said earlier, the question is not if He existed, but if He is the son of God.

    A quote many of you have probably heard from CS Lewis sums it up for me…

    “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.”

  • I don’t have the expertise to argue the point with authority, but I would put my money on those scholars who assert that it is more likely than not that the Jesus character is mythological rather than historical. Maybe there are scholars who argue that they are certain Jesus is myth, but I don’t know who they are.  I think skepticism is the wiser path. 

     
    Having said that, the Bible, in my opinion, is full of myth so why should we expect that one of the characters — the one who can turn water into vintage wine, who can walk on water, who can revive the dead, who can cure blindness, can forgive sins – on the sabbath no-less, who can wither a fig tree because it doesn’t bear fruit out of season, etc, etc, etc … of course this character, among all the others is real and not mythological.  By the way, if you’re interested in a good investment, I know of a nice bridge I could let you buy at a nice discount.  Report abuse

  • Last night when I was writing #132, the line about the bridge was an attempt to end my opinion on a humorous note. This morning, however, I’m remembering how many people throughout the centuries have been duped by the Christian myth merchants – aka evangelists and preachers, priests and ministers – into parting with hard earned cash. And, this fleecing of the sheep began early and goes on to this day. Isn’t there mention in the Acts that Paul was able to continue converting gentiles, in large part, because of the cash he was sending to the church in Jerusalem. Centuries later, enough people parted with enough cash in exchange for release from the fires of purgatory, that St. Peter’s in Rome was built in all it’s splendor. Even now, in the 21st century look how many celebrity preachers live in multi-million-dollar mansions, and fly on private jets, etc., etc. I’m reminded of the refrain: As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, unto the ages of eternity. Or, as P.T. Barnum observed, a sucker is born every minute.

  • Moderator:  See #133.  I see two places where with “SEQ CHAPTER \h\r 1”  I think this is because I  was using two different word processors to compose  my message – one with a better spell check – and some code got transferred Maybe you can edit it out for me.  Thanks. Report abuse

  • Paul #136

    I believe that this whole discussion can be referred to as being hoisted by your own petard.

    Why?

    1. The article above wasn’t written by Richard Dawkins, or by anyone who works for his Foundation.

    2. In the years I’ve been following this website, there have been countless articles posted that don’t reflect the views of RDF. They’re posted to stimulate discussion and, given that this will be comment #137, that’s what this one has done.

    3. Atheism isn’t a religion and Richard Dawkins isn’t its high priest. There’s no reason why all atheists should align their views to Richard’s.

    4. It’s telling that the clip you linked to has been edited as it has, to finish on him saying, “Alright then, he existed” rather than allowing him to complete his thought, which was that it really didn’t matter whether he existed or not, because it doesn’t affect the arguments for atheism. It’s not the first time that what Richard Dawkins said at this event has been distorted by believers – the egregious Melanie Philips also did so, very publicly, when she wrote an article immediately afterwards claiming that he’d said a strong case could be made for a deist god and speculating that he was wavering in his atheism. What she (and John Lennox and all the other believers who gleefully picked up on her article) failed to mention was that he’d actually said a strongER case could be made for a deist god (i.e. one that did not intervene in human affairs) but that he would reject this TOO, since there would still be no explanation of where this deist god had come from so it wouldn’t answer any of the ultimate questions. At this and other events he frequently uses the rhetorical device of conceding a trivial point for the sake of argument, in order to demonstrate that the argument for atheism stands even without the point currently being argued over. Whether or not there was a historical figure called Jesus is irrelevant to the case for atheism, because even if there had been, even if he’d wandered the countryside preaching to people, even if he’d been crucified by the Romans … none of that would be evidence for the supernatural elements of Jesus-belief: the miracles, the resurrection, the god etc. There was no shortage of wandering preachers, nor of inconvenient agitators crucified by the Romans.

    5. Never put your faith in snippets of edited YouTube material. The speaker’s meaning can too easily be distorted when s/he is cut off mid-sentence and qualifying/explanatory statements have been omitted. The full debate can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVEuQg_Mglw Report abuse

  • In response to Paul #136, first of all I agree with everything said by Marco in #137. Additionally, I think an argument can be made that the gospels, when they were originally written, were not meant to be taken literally.  Talking about someone named Jesus in Palestine in the first century of the common era, is like talking about someone named Robert in America in the 20th century — of course both Jesus and Robert lived. So what?  Keep in mind that the gospels were not written until nearly a hundred years after the events they “describe”, I use the word describe advisedly because I don’t think there are any claims of the events actually having been witnessed.  A major clue is when some of the “disciples” — probably as fictional as the Jesus character—asked what the strange stories were supposed to mean, they were told that the stories were for the uninitiated—parables, so that hearing, they won’t understand. The entire gospel collection is just that —a parable for the uninitiated. I understand that Paul, specifically said that what he was preaching had come to him via revelation, i.e., hallucination. 
     
    Maybe the religion began as an alternative to the Jewish temple cult, maybe as a resistance to Roman imperial rule, who knows? A few centuries after the beginning of the movement, people began to confuse the parables with historical fact rather than myth, and a whole theology began to develop, and then it became the state religion of the Greek and Roman world. State and church remained firmly entangled until the time of the Enlightenment. To express doubt about either the religion or the monarchy was both heretical and treasonous — equally dangerous. This began to change about the time of the Enlightenment. The American and French revolutions established secular governments, and in the mid 1800s the Papal States were taken from Pio Nono, and nations began to replace the city states and kingdoms of the earlier times.
     
    In my opinion, the Christian religion, from beginning until now is a great hoax. Whether it is the uninitiated who accept the parables as fact, or charlatans who fleece the sheep, or unscrupulous politicians who claim to be anointed by the god, it’s all a delusion. It wouldn’t make any difference, caveat emptor, except that superstition and ignorance impede scientific and humanitarian progress. In the 21st century, belief in the supernatural should be seen as a symptom of severe mental illness. The good news is that fewer and fewer people accept religious doctrine. The bad news is that religion still holds enough power that governments and educational institutions etc are still hobbled by medieval superstition. In spite of religious delusion, humanity continues to make progress—progress that began with the Enlightenment philosophers. See Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now.   
    So, no Paul, we are not “hoisted” on our own petards.  There is no Santa Claus, there is no Easter bunny, there is no tooth fairy, and there probably never was a Jesus at least one who walked on water or withered fig trees. Welcome to the 21st century. Report abuse

  • William Faulkner published an interesting spin on the origin of Christianity in his novel “A Fable,” in which an allegorical Christ sparks a mutiny in the trenches of WWI that leads the foot soldiers on both sides, recognizing the irrationality of the war, to simply sit down and refuse to fight. The officers, recognizing that were the mutiny allowed to propagate into the general population, it would undermine the political power of the entire military-political establishment (also industrial by that time) and rather than force the issue, transmuted the leader and his (12) followers into a religion. Easy to imagine the Roman government reacting in such a way. A pretty dense read but worth the effort. Report abuse

  • Michael #138

    In the 21st century, belief in the supernatural should be seen as a symptom of severe mental illness.

    Michael, I agree with most of what you have written at #138, but this goes much too far for me. It makes me very uneasy when unqualified people bandy amateur diagnoses of mental illness about. It’s unscientific, it’s intemperate and, worse, it’s unempathetic. From everything else you’ve posted here, I think you’re better than that. These days we know that mental health issues are extremely common yet still carry far too great a stigma: we need to show far more sensitivity on the subject and leave the diagnoses to the professionals.

    I could certainly imagine that there are forms of extreme religious obsession that might come under the heading of some kind of mental illness, but belief in the supernatural encompasses an enormous spectrum, and affects plenty of people who are as sane as anyone. ‘Mistaken’ is not the same as ‘insane’.

    Those of us with no belief in the supernatural whatsoever are very much in the minority, even in the 21st century. The vast majority of human beings accept – to some degree – the existence of the supernatural, be that the vaguest, wishy-washiest sense of ‘something out there’, or the most extreme submission to a cult, or a multitude of points in between. While that doesn’t for one moment make those beliefs true, it does make holding those beliefs – certainly at all points of the spectrum short of total obsession – as good a definition of ‘normal’ as you could hope to find.

    Neither a lack of education, nor a lack of curiosity, nor a lack of courage to challenge cultural norms, nor a desire for the comfort that some forms of supernatural belief may impart necessarily constitutes mental illness of any kind. Report abuse

  • Marco #140:  You are correct that equating all belief in the supernatural with severe mental illness, probably goes too far — I admit I was kind of wound up while writing that passage. I’m not a physician nor a mental health professional but I think there are degrees of illness, including delusions, and for most people it probably is not a severe impairment in the sense of interfering with social or occupational relationships. And most people who practice religion are not a danger to themselves or others.  Having said that, I think that anyone who believes in invisible beings is at least slightly off plumb in the 21st century. Before the age of the Enlightenment, it made a lot more sense for people to accept supernatural explanations for that which was not understandable. However since the Enlightenment, and since the post-Newtonian scientific revolution, and especially since Charles Darwin, I think people of average intelligence should give up the childish urge to find comfort in imaginary beings (god(s), saints and angles) that reside in the heavens or to fear evil demons that reside in the netherworld.  I remember reading recently that just as it is normal for a child to shed belief in Santa Claus well before adolescence, it should be normal to shed belief in the supernatural before the onset of adulthood.   Report abuse

  • Michael 100 says:

    I admit I was kind of wound up while writing that passage. I’m not a physician nor a mental health professional but I think there are degrees of illness, including delusions,

    This article may help.

    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001553.htm

    Psychosis occurs when a person loses contact with reality. The person may:

    Have false beliefs about what is taking place, or who one is (delusions)
    See or hear things that are not there (hallucinations)

     

    Report abuse

  • Michael #141

    However since the Enlightenment, and since the post-Newtonian scientific revolution, and especially since Charles Darwin, I think people of average intelligence should give up the childish urge to find comfort in imaginary beings (god(s), saints and angles) that reside in the heavens or to fear evil demons that reside in the netherworld.

    I’m sorry, that still won’t do. And frankly: I’m shocked at you.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many self-proclaimed ‘rational’ people entirely overlook the role played by emotions in human behaviour, human interactions and human needs. Or how dismissive they are of them, when we know they are actually a huge driver. And how superficially ‘rational’ people view what belief is and means to the believer. Quite astonishing: ‘clever’ people make a big song and dance about being against belief, posting comment after comment decrying it, define themselves by their rejection of it, but simply don’t bother to attempt to understand it from the believer’s point of view at all, preferring instead to rely on their own simplistic definitions of it, definitions that, frankly, most believers simply wouldn’t and couldn’t relate too.

    It’s not just physical science that explains stuff, you know. Try a bit of psychology some time. Then a bit of sociology. Even a bit of politics. And if that all fails, try a bit of kindness.

    I am so sick of ‘clever’ people looking down on others, feeling contempt for them, simply dismissing them, making no attempt to understand where they are coming from even if you disagree with where it has taken them.

    People are the product of so many factors over which they have no, or virtually no, control. The family they are born into, the attitudes and behaviours inculcated into them from earliest infancy, the knowledge pool within that environment, the value (or otherwise) placed on education, the quality of the schooling they receive, the curriculum of the school they go to, the slant that curriculum is taught from, social expectations, social norms, the drivel fed through their TV screens, their own personal abilities and interests, their financial circumstances, their opportunities, their housing, their health, their security on every level. We know that huge numbers of people are dealing with mental illness (often without adequate support), physical disabilities of all kinds; millions are trapped in abusive relationships – physical, sexual, emotional – with no means or possibility to escape; millions more are trapped in soul-destroying, dead-end jobs in horrible working conditions; more millions are subjected to the deliberate degradations and humiliations of supposedly civilised state welfare programmes; a huge proportion of people in the UK (and I doubt very much it’s any better in the US) are at most 2 or 3 wage-packets from homelessness. Life is bloody tough – for most people, actually – and all the tougher if you don’t have the advantages of a reasonably financially secure and/or supportive family background, a good education, real access to books and learning (by which I don’t just mean that the books are physically ‘out there’ in a library somewhere, but everything that makes reaching out to those books practically and emotionally and socially possible).

    But a lot of people struggling under life’s burdens show a strength and a resourcefulness and a sheer dogged determination in the face of appalling obstacles that would put the rest of us to shame. I come from a poor, working class, struggling family myself, a family in which I was the first ever to go to university or even sit an A-level; a hideously dysfunctional family to boot – but even so, our circumstances were a lot less dire than those facing countless others. I was saved only by the fact I had real natural ability in a subject that I could study at university, and that in those long-gone days there were no tuition fees and students from my kind of background got full maintenance grants, without which it would have been utterly impossible to actually take up my university place. Without that ability and that state financial support, I truly dread to think what kind of life would have lain in store for me – I’d be an entirely different person from the one I am today, that much I do know.

    I have also worked both as a volunteer and professionally with homeless people: I know some of their stories, I know how remarkably varied their backgrounds and educational attainments, the overwhelming number and range of factors that can conspire to utterly destroy people, mentally and physically. And I have also seen them demonstrate real compassion and generosity to one another, a compassion and generosity I wish I saw more often elsewhere.

    Cleverness isn’t everything. And if people who are struggling, whose lives are in every way harder and harsher and less secure than our own, in a society that frankly doesn’t give a shit about them and does nothing, or next to nothing, to prevent or alleviate or offset the struggles they experience day after day after day after day (and don’t think for one moment I’m ONLY talking about the homeless and the extremely poor: the harshness of life takes an inventive variety of forms that most of us can’t even imagine) – if people who are struggling, for whatever reason and to whatever extent, find comfort and solace and strength in some kind of irrational belief, then I for one don’t begrudge them that. I’ll leave looking down on them and feeling contempt for them and sneering at them to the rest of you. But I’ll tell you this much: you will never reduce the majority’s emotional need for religion/spirituality so long as you simply condemn and dismiss them for it rather than attempting to understand and address everything that gives rise to it – and all the Newton and Darwin and Galileo and Hawking in the world won’t help you there. A bit of human empathy might. Report abuse

  • Marco I understand what you mean about having compassion for people who in the midst of crisis find comfort in religious ideas. Comfort however does not equal truth. When someone tries to explain that we are hoisted on our own petards for not accepting Christian mythology, I will not hesitate to defend what I consider to be a more rational position. I didn’t knock on ibeck #131’s or Paul #136’s door to convert them to atheist doctrine.  They came to this site — a site dedicated to science and reason — to espouse their view, and I expressed mine in response. I happen to think that the rational ideas of the Enlightenment make a lot more sense than medieval theology, or 19th century fundamentalist old-time religion both of which are found in too many parts of my country.  I also think that acceptance of outdated superstition is unhealthy and should be challenged when possible to do so in an open discussion forum.  I’m tired of living in a demon haunted world. Again, I don’t mean to berate someone facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or the natural consequences of entropy.  I think this site is a place for blunt discussion of reality. I learn from the ideas you, and the others who regularly contribute here, express on a regular basis. And if I write something inaccurate, I hope it will be pointed out so I don’t repeat it.  I like to take what I learn, both here an from what I read, and repeat it to other intelligent people to make sure I’m not misunderstanding something important.  I hope I’m not giving the idea that I think I have the ability to speak ex cathedra. I don’t think compassion means we need to apologize for our rejection of superstition and inaccurate historical concepts, especially in conversation on this site.  

     
    You close your comments:  “But I’ll tell you this much: you will never reduce the majority’s emotional need for religion/spirituality so long as you simply condemn and dismiss them for it rather than attempting to understand and address everything that gives rise to it – and all the Newton and Darwin and Galileo and Hawking in the world won’t help you there. A bit of human empathy might.” 
     
    I agree that empathy is important, and I understand the need for compassion, but when public policy is being proposed on the basis of superstition— e.g. the need to teach creationism alongside evolution, or the refusal to vaccinate against communicable disease, to name only two instances — I think a vigorous challenge is appropriate, and this site is a good place to test those challenges. Report abuse

  • I’m not complaining about you challenging religion, Michael. Challenge its claims, challenge its institutions, come down like a ton of bricks on those who use it as an excuse for persecuting others, and on those who knowingly exploit it for personal power and personal gain as well. Challenge those who use it as an excuse for smugness and complacency and not intervening to support the poor and the oppressed and the underprivileged. Challenge those who use it to close off the path to knowledge. I’ll be with you all the way.

    Our interaction has been about your sweeping comments about religious believers. Claiming they’re mentally ill or, at best, childish. Implying there’s something wrong with them intellectually.

    Whether we’re talking politics (there are strong parallels between this discussion and certain strands of Brexit discussions too, though this isn’t the place for those) or religion, we need to take care to differentiate between those who exploit and lie and deceive and those who are exploited and lied to and deceived. Deposit as much ire as you like on the former, but the latter are the former’s victims. When we feel passionately about things it can be easy to overlook the person in our eagerness to condemn the idea. But ultimately that will always be self-defeating. And unkind. There is so much that holds individuals back and down, things that go far far beyond any personal failings of their own. And I’ll repeat this point because it’s important and it gets overlooked over and over again: there is nothing remotely rational about demanding that other humans be totally rational. We know that’s not how humans work. Humans are incredibly complex, psychologically and emotionally. It’s our strength as well as our weakness. But it also means we often experience a lot of suffering and misery, much of it hidden from public view. None of us ever knows how close other people are to the end of their respective tethers. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge or disagree or state our case; but we can do all those things without being unkind.

    Here endeth the third lesson 😉 Report abuse

  • Marco

    I am sure it’s not the way you meant it but, for me, empathy should not be in the “at least” category. It is a sound platform from which logic can progress in a more knowing way. Report abuse

  • Marco

    I have no idea. I now have to convince myself that I didn’t see it now. Your “a bit of human empathy might” comment didn’t make it my brain in the right format. Report abuse

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