How smart does one have to be to know Jesus?

December 13, 2007 at 10:00 am 64 comments

Lately, Christians have been challenging me on the intellectual case for Christ based on the evidence for the resurrection and his miracles. For most/all Christians their faith hinges on the resurrection, so I find that it’s best to concentrate on this as opposed to the water-to-wine or heal-the-blind events. However, apparently I’m not intellectual enough to grasp this evidence.

Here’s the main points of the evidence/proof they proposed (unfairly I’m sure they’ll say):

  • The disciples claim to have seen him alive and later died for this belief – ‘people just don’t do that’
  • 513 (or so) saw him alive after the resurrection.

Before I get to the main point of this, let me give my simplistic and probably ignorant assessment of these points.

The disciples saw him alive?

Says who? Would they have any reason to exaggerate? Is it possible they were traumatised? There are plenty of metaphors in the NT, are you sure it wasn’t a metaphorical resurrection they were convinced about. Then, over the decades and translations it was written as physical fact? Because for them, the ‘visitation’ they had could have been as good as physical. Possible?

Of the 500+ people who apparently saw him:

I may be wrong but I believe that 500 of them were at one meeting mentioned in one of the epistles. Now, are we sure it wasn’t 501 or 499? Are we sure it wasn’t actually 300 or 50? And of those 500, how many were 100% convinced that it was him? Do we have at least letters of confirmation from them all? Or do we just believe this because 50 or so years later St. Paul wrote it in a letter to encourage an early church?

Now as I said, I’m not too much with the smarts! Maybe it’s just that I don’t get it. But the hundreds of thousands of god-fearing, child-loving, charitable reasonable people at the time in Israel weren’t exactly falling over themselves to believe the resurrection eithe. They quite reasonably probably asked – “Well ok, if he really is risen again then can we see him? Is he going to come to Jerusalem again to say hi to Pilot and the Pharisees?” OH THEY OF LITTLE FAITH!!

Again, it could well be that I’m not smart enough to understand the evidence, I admit this. The problem is however, how smart does one have to be to be a Christian? Is Jesus only for the really smart people who understand why the evidence is good enough and should be believed? If not, then are we saying that we should teach our children to accept certain things on less than empathic evidence? Not only that but they should accept ‘unlikely’ things like resurrections on less than emphatic evidence?

I think I know where that leads… and it’s nowhere good.

- QuestionMonkey

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Slain in the Spirit… by an Atheist? The call for miracles

64 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JustCan't  |  December 14, 2007 at 1:31 am

    “If not, then are we saying that we should teach our children to accept certain things on less than empathic evidence? Not only that but they should accept ‘unlikely’ things like resurrections on less than emphatic evidence?

    Well I can tell you what I actually hear to those and similar arguments. I hear, “Yes, teach children that.” I hear “Yes, do it on no evidence if the bible says so.” And I hear, “You want proof before you’ll believe, but Jesus says he wants you to believe before he’ll show you. It is YOU who has it backwards.”

    Hogwash. The ultimate to me though, is when someone repeatedly says to me (when I question the resurrection) — “Show me the bones! If you are a proof guy, well, then just show me the bones and I’ll believe you.” My response is “No you wouldn’t.”

  • 2. Amy  |  December 14, 2007 at 10:05 am

    It’s good to see I’m not the only “idiot” who just doesn’t get it. Back when I was still trying to believe, I read those horrible Lee Strobel (“The Case for Faith,” “The Case for Christ”) books and not surprisingly remained unconvinced. Of course the scientist who is Christian is going to see x,y or z as convincing evidence! Their belief system requires it. Show me an atheist who says, “No, I don’t believe in gods, but the evidence clearly and strongly supports the truth of the resurrection.” That would be convincing. Of course, if there was such strong factual evidence that couldn’t be explained away by other means, we would all be Christians.

    As for me, if I had some sort of “vision” of Jesus or God or whatever, I most likely wouldn’t believe it. I would believe I was dreaming or hallucinating or losing my mind. Why? Because people do dream, people do hallucinate, people do lose their minds. But if I, religious doubter and non-drug-user, and three or four friends of mine, also religious doubters and non-drug-users, all at the same time had the same vision in a non Benny Hinn like setting, not brought on by something we all ate or extreme fatigue or stress or some other natural cause, I probably would believe it. But we all know that will never happen.

  • 3. Shannon Lewis  |  December 14, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Actually, if you could somehow show some solid evidence that they were Christ’s bones, I might…but then there’s a lot of other post-Christian (i.e. – things that have happened since trusting Christ) that would then need to be explained. But that’s besides the point.

    Just out of nosiness, have you yet read William Lane Craig’s “Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus”? It stands heads above anything else he’s ever written on the subject, even though – I must add – it is a particularly hard (i.e. – very academic & detailed) read. Worthwhile, however, for anyone engaging these issues. Oh – don’t bother buying it – get it via interlibrary loan if your library doesn’t carry it. It’s ridiculously expensive.

    Also, read N.T. Wright’s major series so far: “The New Testament and the People of God”, “Jesus and the Victory of God”, and “The Resurrection of the Son of God”.

    The combination of those two lines of study may significantly alter how you understand Christ’s resurrection, and Jesus himself.

  • 4. jmromas  |  December 14, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    This is a cool article. What is it that you guys believe in then?
    Just curious. If you ever want to check out my site, I am a Christian, but I have tons of friends who are atheists. Anyways, check out my site sometime…

    http://www.notaveragejoe.com

    Thanks,
    Joe

  • 5. Richard  |  December 14, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    If thats what they are putting forth as their case, then I have to say that is about the worst argument I have ever heard for the resurrection, or just about anything else, for that matter. Not that I think the arguments for the resurrection are ever very good (of all those Ihave seen) anyway, but this definitely takes the cake.

    Briefly:

    1) “…people just dont do that.”

    Answer: What planet do you live on? People have been dying all over the world throughout all history for what they believe in, if it is important enough to them. What about Muslim suicide bombers? David Koresh? Heavens Gate? Every Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or other martyr who has ever lived?

    2) 500 witnesses

    Answer: So, if you were on a jury, and the defendant claimed he was nowhere near the crime scene, and yes, by golly he has 500 witnesses to this fact… but no, you cant actually interview any of them directly and, no he cant give you their names, and no, there is no evidence for this claim except his say-so. Would you acquit that man?

    We dont have “500 witnesses” to Jesus’ alleged resurrection. We have Paul (a man with a bias if there ever was one) *saying* there were 500 witnesses. That is not evidence, that is grade-A hearsay.

    Richard

  • 6. Thinking Ape  |  December 14, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    jmromas,

    What is it that you guys believe in then?

    We believe in a lot. This was kind of a vague question. The most vague answer I can give is that most of us believe in life as having intrinsic value. Is there anything specific you wanted to know?

  • 7. Greg Merrill  |  December 14, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Not bragging, just matter of factly, I have known Jesus since I was six years old. I didn’t start reading the Bible until I was seventeen. I didn’t start going to church until I was nineteen. I was skeptical about churches, and wanted to learn the Bible first. I have been reading it as a daily practice for over twenty-five years. For the last nine years I have been teaching it verse by verse to my congregation from Acts to 1 John, as well as Genesis to Psalms. Completely teaching through the entire Bible is still a work in progress. I have taught on the apparent contradictions, and atheistic objections. I say all that to say “I am familiar with the subject.” I have found that the concrete evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible, for the accuracy of the original Scriptures found in over 500 copies of them, and of the deity of Christ, including His bodily resurrection, is overwhelming. All that I have read on this website from those that have not found this to be true, I could easily explain if I took the time. If you are an unbeliever in Christ, a non-Christian, the strongest advice I could give to you would be don’t be satisfied with what you are believing and trusting in now. Investigate the message God has given you in the Bible until you are satisfied that you are 100% sure of your position. Any less, and you cheat yourself into facing a terrible fate without having had a greater opportunity of avoiding it. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever trusts in HIm should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jn 3:16.

  • 8. Greg Merrill  |  December 14, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I (Pastor Merrill) can be reached at 310-676-3293.
    http://www.centinelabible.org

  • 9. orDover  |  December 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    What evidence, Pastor Merrill?
    You say, “I have found that the concrete evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible.” This is classic circular logic. The Bible says Jesus is God. How do we know Jesus is God?Jesus is God because he rose from the dead. How do we know Jesus rose from the dead? Because the Bible says so.

    That is the farthest thing from convincing.

  • 10. Richard  |  December 14, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Greg-
    If you are “100%” sure of your position, and you base this certainty, as you claim, on evidential support, then something has gone amiss in your reasoning.

    All theories — scientific theories, historical theories — that are constructed on the basis of evidence (yes, that means the resurrection of Jesus is a “just a theory”, based on the evidence of the testimony of the NT) are, by definition, inductive. If you are unfamiliar with the distinction between inductive and deductive logic, I recommend you look into it, because it bears on this issue.

    The essential point is that inductive logic *never* *ever* leads to certain conclusions. The basic reason for this is that there is always more possible evidence around the corner that has yet to be discovered that might weigh against your conclusion. We may be pretty sure that all copper conducts electricity (an inductive inference, on the basis of actual observations of copper), but there is always the possibility (however remote we think it is) that some copper will be discovered that will not conduct electricity. ANd if this is true of science, where we can conduct as many experiments as we like, it is even more true of history, where we are limited to what evidence has survived the passing of time.

    So, if by “100% sure” you just mean you *feel* really, really confident, then all I can say is: fine, but you’re emoting, not making an argument. But if you mean you are *logically* 100% sure, then you are wrong, by definition.

    Setting a standard of “100%” is an artifact of conservative Christian psychology, having to do with emotional needs and an overwhelming wish for reassurance. But it just doesnt translate into epistemology.

    For my part, I have no need to be “100%” sure. For one, its impossible, as I have shown. Two, its unnecessary. I am happy to live in the grey zone of uncertainties. Its exciting. Its human! I may be wrong about this or anything (just like you!), but so what?

    Any God who would punish us for failure to be logically certain would be a monster, unworthy of worship. That would be like punishing us for failing to flap our arms and fly to the moon.

    Richard

  • 11. LeoPardus  |  December 14, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Greg:

    All that I have read on this website from those that have not found this to be true, I could easily explain if I took the time.

    Then by all means do take the time. We’ll read your posts.

    Investigate the message God has given you in the Bible until you are satisfied that you are 100% sure of your position.

    Read around here a little. Many of us have decades of reading the Bible, studying it, preaching, teaching, ministering, witnessing, seminary, apologetics, etc. You come on like you think we know little to nothing about the Bible, the Gospel, etc.

  • 12. bry0000000  |  December 14, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    I want to echo LeoParidus’ point. Many of us have spent a considerable amount of time in the ministry or faith and have not taken our positions on Christianity without considerable amounts of contemplation. We want to hear what you, Mr. Merrill, have to say.

  • 13. Societyvs  |  December 14, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    The evidence question is not one that leads to any definitive position – and those that wish to take the idea there isn’t enough evidence I think are free to do so. However, in the same handshake, I think it is open to certina validities to it. Kind of a ‘who was Jesus’ that he was kept in a certain amount of writings – even one’s destroyed (Gnostic writings).

    But I don’t think one neccesarily needs to be the most educated person to embrace faith – I personally think it was meant for the people of need – that saw that need – and then embraced it. I don’t know – but I do know that Christianity has turned into middle class-ism community centres and this was not the orginal intent. This grouping has forget what it means to be poor and underclassed – and when someone comes along with that view – they are dismissed for the nice, neat system in place – with rules and regulations for all involved. But seeing someone like King Jr. come up in that system lets me know – possibly the system – which we all agree is not so good – can be changed to something of usefullness.

  • 14. Jersey  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Just started reading Genesis thoroughly for the first time. How I know the Bible is like most other books of mythology: snakes don’t eat dust, they eat rodents and other small game; snakes (as most all other animals), don’t talk like animals AT ALL; there are still tribal peoples who still walk around almost butt-naked (even without a loincloth) who have no shame showing off their bodies; and not all civilizations have even – if ever – become agrarian, yet still maintain hunter-gather ways of life. We have evidence to support to this, at the very least.

    And the birth circumstances can be like that of Apollo, Isis, and many demigods of the ancient religions of the day, being born of a god and a human mother – Heracles, Osiris, Nemesis, etc.

    Not saying Jesus’ story was real, fake, or messed up. I personally don’t believe in the Jesus chronicles, I am more of a humanist with some ideas of nature’s workings derived of Oriental philosophy, but I am not into caring what others believe. Grow up in a an area of mixed religions and beliefs, where immigrants more than established Americans cherish you as one of their own…you learn that no one’s ideas, beliefs, or faith is any more real or false than anyone else’s.

  • 15. baptizedbyice  |  December 15, 2007 at 2:26 am

    I do not have any intellectual evidence or any physical evidence to prove anything in the Bible. Anyone who claims that it takes a certain amount of intelluectual prowess to understand the Resurrection, etc. is a pretentious human being. It is their imperfection that one day they will hopefully recognize. I believe in the Resurrection and in God based on the feeling I have personally towards God. I only have my gut feeling in life, and my gut, experiences in my life and the beauty in this world, makes me believe.
    I
    agree with you. Just because the bible says it’s true doesn’t mean that it actually is true. The Bible was written by imperfect human beings. Even if it was inspired by God, it had to be filtered by the human intellect.

    Do you have to be “smart ” to believe in Jesus? No. Just like anything in life, believing in Jesus or God takes faith. Of course certain aspects of Christianity can be argued by intellectual proof, but the opposite point of view can equally argued intellectually. The bottom line ends up coming down to what feels right to the individual. Yes or No.

  • 16. Quester  |  December 15, 2007 at 3:41 am

    Greg, please provide your concrete evidence for God’s existence or the resurrection of Jesus. I am a Christian. It is regular study of the Bible that is causing me to lose faith!

  • 17. びっくり  |  December 15, 2007 at 4:59 am

    I like how you wave off arguments by misrepresenting facts. If you just wanted to not believe, then there would be no need for this. So, it would seem, your intention is to draw attention to yourself or bait the Christians.

    I believe the first argument is that: all of the disciples believed what they saw and reported it consistently; all of them lived hard lives of poverty and punishment, traveling about the Mediterranean; any of them could have denied that Jesus was the Christ, but instead they died for it.

    Any suggestion that they did it for personal gain would have to be written off as silly. Also, there are historical documents outside of the Bible that will support how the disciples lived and died. If one is truly interested, there are plenty of scholars who can guide them in their search. The fact that all of these writings agree, would deflate the argument that the disciples must have been confused or traumatized (which seemed like a back-handed way to say “delusional”).

    Many comment writers were also amusing in comparing the disciples path to death with terrorists. Men traveling around sharing a message and aiding people in need, and who end out being tortured and pursued unto death seem a little different from people who will strap a bomb to their body and walk into a public place to explode. (But, perhaps I’m not intelligent enough to see the connection.)

    There are many other logical arguments to support belief in God and the Christ, but in the end one has to believe in their heart; which most likely will go beyond all the intellectual discussions. Really Atheism is the same, in that it is logically impossible to prove non-existence of anything. To believe God doesn’t exist is literally a leap of faith. So we each have to decide which leap to take.

    I hope you take up a serious research of the lives of the disciples; they were very important historic figures who lived very unique lives.

  • 18. Jim B.  |  December 15, 2007 at 7:35 am

    Richard said,

    “People have been dying all over the world throughout all history for what they believe in…”

    While I would agree that the argument in contention here is not a be-all-end-all kind of argument, the comparison of the 12 Disciples to 21st Century believers just doesn’t fly. I might die today for my Christian (or Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, etc.) beliefs, believing them to be true on faith. However, the disciples (if you accept the basic historical outline of the Gospels) lived with Christ for approximately three years. If Christ wasn’t actually divine (didn’t heal, raise the dead, resurrect, etc.), these guys would have known. Yet, these men did in fact die (often gruesome deaths) precisely because they would not renounce this very claim.

    I would second the recommended reading of Christian thinkers like Wright and Craig – a little meatier than Strobel. It’s easy to pick apart the lightweights – if you’re looking to impress, you’re going to have deal with these more substantial thinkers.

    God Bless

  • 19. OneSmallStep  |  December 15, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Also, there are historical documents outside of the Bible that will support how the disciples lived and died. If one is truly interested, there are plenty of scholars who can guide them in their search.

    Do you have a list of these documents? Because I’ve seen this claim before — the disciples dying for this, and yet it’s been difficult to find historical support. I know it’s in Christian tradition, but what are the documents? Jim mentions they died gruesome deaths, but which documents?

  • 20. qmonkey  |  December 15, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    びっくり

    Thanks for the reply…

    >>To believe God doesn’t exist is literally a leap of faith. So we each have to decide which leap to take.

    It’s not really… if it is based solely on evidence. In any case, I don’t think you’ll find many people here who BELIEVE god doesn’t exist.. You might find many who don’t believe he exists… which is a very very different thing.

    >>There are many other logical arguments to support belief in God and the Christ, but in the end one has to believe in their heart; which most likely will go beyond all the intellectual discussions

    that’s a bit of a problem though… what if I open my heart and Buddha jumps in , or Kristna or Allah or the flying spaghetti monster. Is that ok? Or will I be ‘wrong’ if the opening of my heart makes David Koresh my personal savoir? I presuming you want me to ‘actualy’ belive… not just pretend to belive or even fool myself… in which case maybe I need god to bless me with this belief… do I?

    The phrase ‘beyond all the intellectual discussions’ is a real problem for me… and not something I would like to teach my kids that… I think as a rule its better to say… examine the evidence and make your decisions based upon it, without fear. I think most ‘good’ in the world has come from that approach.

  • 21. predestinations  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Unfortunately it isn’t helpful from an intellectual, moral, or communicative standpoint to deal with these issues in a flippant way as it has been exercised in the post above. I suppose this kind of behavior can be expected when you’re coming out of Christianity in opposition to it.

    I particularly liked what Richard had to say. We aren’t in any way dealing with percentages of conviction of factuality concerning the resurrection or any other event. Christians believe the resurrection really happened, but it would be inapplicable to “believe 100%” that it happened based on “evidence” which doesn’t even come close to covering all the bases required to set a person within a Christian paradigm. Christian tradition provides the invitation by which we cover these bases and become Christians. This tradition includes “the bible” but is not limited to it.

    This is to say that only flakes ever changed their entire existential paradigm, if I may call it that, over a weighing of evidence. The fact that this method is superficial when comprehensively applied is, according to my experience, lost on all those Christian apologists who get into evidential trump contests with atheists who also assume this as their operative principle. (I don’t say “flakes” to be derogatory, but for lack of a better word.) The structures of human existence cannot be reduced to evidential proofs and verification of scientific facts because phenomena observable by physical sense don’t provide what is necessary for us to form and develop even physiologically, at bottom, sufficient structures of life. When we are reduced to being in this state then we once again are forced to mythologize the categories of human existence and the sensible, observable things, and apply these myths in ways that don’t work. The examples of the religions of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and even that of the United States are paradigmatic of this.

  • 22. qmonkey  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    >>>Christians believe the resurrection really happened, but it would be inapplicable to “believe 100%” that it happened based on “evidence” …

    What else should one base it on? im not asking for 100% , even just ‘balance of probabilities’ but i think for such a huge paradigm changign event as this… i think ‘beyond resonable doubt’ would be best.

    If i told you that god visited me today, literealy in the flesh and said that jesus wasnt his son… how much evidence will you be wanting for that?

    How are you going to tell your children to assess such claims? surely not just ‘what ever they feel in their heart’ or some other vagueness.

    The post isnt flipant… its just a question, and one which hasnt been answered… it annoys me that some christians go on at length at how great the evidcence is then once they are challenged the tune changes to ….

    “Christian tradition provides the invitation by which we cover these bases and become Christians. This tradition includes “the bible” but is not limited to it.”

    .. or the like. (by the way i think there are many christians on this site who don’t think you’ll be getting anywhere near the rapture, for sayign things like this!)

  • 23. Richard  |  December 15, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Jim B
    Suggesting that spending time with someone directly is some kind of guarantee that you will know, objectively, the “truth” about them, is absurd. If they lived and traveled with him they would “know” whether he was divine or not? Really? So David Koresh’s followers knew for a fact… what, then? What about Jim Jones? What did his followers “know”?

    Im sorry if the comparison to modern day cult leaders is an off-putting argument. For what its worth, I dont think the life or message of Jesus is in any way comparable to those sociopaths. Jesus’ message was, in many ways, one of love and goodness, and he justly stands out in human history as a moral exemplar.

    But it is just flat-out fallacious to argue that somehow the fact that his followers hung out with him for a long time, and then died for what they believed about him, somehow supports the veracity of their beliefs. No, it doesnt. Every cult leader has followers who think he is divine and are willing to die for him. And if that is true in our own day, how much more would it have been true in Jesus’ time, when illiteracy rates were topping 90%, when all the apostles were, to a man, uneducated peasants, when there was no distinction to be drawn between supernatural events and natural events, because there was no such thing as science.

    It doesnt take a very deep understanding of human psychology to realize that the argument that — lets put this in baldest possible terms — “if someone believes something strongly enough that is evidence that it is true” ignores virtually everything we know about human beings.

  • 24. Jim B.  |  December 15, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Richard,

    Have you read the Gospels? While I would agree that religious followers of a living leader (like David Koresh) will sometimes die for their beliefs, you are still failing to recognize the uniqueness of Christ’s followers. Christs disciples explicitly predicate their belief in Christ’s divinity on His miracles; most specifically, His resurrection. These weren’t men who believed Christ was divine, because He was really charismatic and because “He said so”.

    (Additionally, most – though admittedly not all – cults with living leaders believe their leaders to be prophets or messengers from God, not God Himself. I think that’s an important distinction.)

    I’m not really interested in convincing anyone to become a Christian based on evidential arguments. I personally don’t believe very many people are converted that way. However, I think it is a bit dishonest to not recognize the unique history of Christ and His closest followers.

    God Bless

  • 25. Richard  |  December 16, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Jim-
    Whether or not Jesus’ followers were “unique” is irrelevant to what we are discussing. For what its worth, Im even willing to grant that: okay, fine, the apostles were “unique”, however you want to understand that term.

    What is at issue is whether we can legitimately infer that because they were willing to die for what they believed, that therefore their beliefs are more likely to be true.

    What I am pointing out is that that is bad logic and even worse psychology. Logically, it just does not follow that being willing to die for one’s beliefs somehow supports those beliefs as true. Psychologically, we note that many, many people throughout all space and time have been willing to die for their beliefs. There have been millions of martyrs and cult members throughout human history, so this is not some rare human phenomenon known only to Jesus’ apostles. In fact, when you consider all those in history who have been willing to die for their tribe, or monarch, or state, then it become clear that willingness to die for what one believes is all but universal to human societies. (Virtually all of pre-World War II Japan believed that Emperor Hirohito was a god in human form, as he himself claimed, and that fact accounts for much of the fabled Japanese loyalty and tenacity. Kamikaze pilots are but one example of the outcome of this belief.)

    Look, permit me a bit of constructive criticism: I agree with you that few people convert based on reasoning about evidence. In that much, at least, we are in agreement! But to the extent that you do wish to use evidential arguments, this is not the one to use. You are probably going to have a hard time, in post-9/11 America, selling anyone on the idea that strong conviction is a mark of truth. That was the whole point about suicide bombers. Not that the apostles were morally indistringuishable from those sociopaths that bomb cafes in Tel Aviv. Most certainly they were not. But by the same token, being sure enough you are right to die for it is too self-evidently used by crazy people and psychopaths to qualify as a mark of truth — not to mention just flat-out illogical.

    And BTW, wikipedia has a nice article on “list of people who have been considered dieties”, so no, many people in history have claimed divinity or had it claimed for them by their followers. That is not unique to Jesus, either.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_considered_deities
    (Also has links to lists of people claiming to be the messiah, and of those claiming to be Jesus)

    Richard

  • 26. Jim B.  |  December 16, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Richard,

    I still think you are failing to interact with or fully recognize that Christ’s disciples explicitly predicated their belief in Christ’s divinity on His miraculous works (particularly His Resurrection). (This is what I am referring to when I speak of their “uniqueness”.) They did not believe Christ was God merely because He said so (like David Koresh), or because of their religious culture (with a built-in belief in their leaders divinity – ala Roman Caesars or Japanese Emperors). In fact, they already believed in a non-human deity, Yahweh.

    Again, I don’t expect a right (in my view) appreciation of the Disciples relationship with their Christ to poof you into a Christian. You can always simply believe that the Disciples were wrong and that there are rational/scientific explanations of what they believed to have been miracles. I just don’t think you can dismiss this particular evidential argument away by merely stating, “People die for wrong beliefs, the Disciples are no different.” I think their situation is clearly different, though I would concede that this different-ness doesn’t necessarily make them right.

    Appreciate the respectful dialogue, though!

    God Bless

  • 27. qmonkey  |  December 16, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Jim B

    You keep returning, as I think is correct on your part… to the evidence for the resurrection. Can I ask, is your one and only piece of evidence for this… that he disciples said it happened.. And were really really convinced? Was its Jesus’ intention to leave evidence? If so, can you think of any way he might have done it better?

    I think Richard might be saying that its notable but in no way conclusive that the disciples were really really convinced of this. do you accept that? or do you think its an open and shut case?

    I go back again to the fact that the hundreds of thousands of god-fearing thoughtful and open-mined people at the time were unconvinced by the evidence even in the months and years immediately after… and we’re now 2000 years and countless Chinese-whispers and Chinese-letters (if you will) down the line.. So the evidence for such a thing needs to be better…. And any god worth the name would know that.. So perhaps we should hang fire on the jesus=messiah thing until there is a better case. Is that not rational and fair… or is it plain crazy of me not to see what’s right in front of me?

  • 28. cipher  |  December 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Jim B.

    Three times you’ve claimed that Richard doesn’t “get” how “unique” Jesus’ followers were, and how crucial that is to Christianity’s truth claims. Three times he has patiently explained to you that he does, indeed, “get it” – he simply disagrees with you. YOU are the one who isn’t getting it. He is much more patient with you than I would be. You have a lens through which you view the world. It gives you comfort. Richard offers contradictory evidence, so you have to find a way to rationalize it away. You do it by dismissing his opinion. There is absolutely nothing he could say that would change your mind.

    Richard is absolutely correct – people talk themselves into believing whatever it is they want to belive every day. They die and kill for these beliefs with distressing regularity. The disciples were no different. You can claim all you want to that they were. It’s a matter of perspective. But just saying over and over again – “No, they were different, you just don’t see it” is tiresome. Either get some new material, or drop it.

  • 29. LeoPardus  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Christs disciples explicitly predicate their belief in Christ’s divinity on His miracles; most specifically, His resurrection. These weren’t men who believed Christ was divine, because He was really charismatic and because “He said so”.

    I’d be happy to believe on such bases. I’ll leave off the resurrection, since that was long ago, but some solid miracles would be convincing. Far more convincing that being asked to believe because an old book and a bunch of Christians (who can’t seem to agree on what that book means) “said so”.

  • 30. Richard  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Jim-

    Well, I still think you have not made your case and have really yet to explain exactly how the disciples claims of Jesus’ miracles makes them “different” in any meaningful sense. At bottom you are still saying that the strength of a belief relates to the likelihood of its being true (regardless of what the belief is based on). And thats just plain illogical.

    First, it is simply false that no other messiahs/religious leaders/miracle workers were believed to perform miracles other than Jesus. The world is full of them. Koresh’s followers believed he had the gift of prophesy. The wiki list I gave you has many other examples.

    Secondly, Im just not following how you think that somehow establishes anything. Jesus’ alleged divinity is given evidential support because the apostles believed he did miracles? Thats just a non sequitur. If I claim to you my miniature dachshund is divine, and base this belief on the further claim that he can trasmute doggie chews into Treasury Bonds, does that second claim somehow establish for you the veracity of the first? Would my being so sure of this that I would die for it convince you? No, of course not. Because it doesnt make sense.

    In other words, whether one bases ones belief in x on an alleged miracle, or on the fact that the moon is round, **makes no difference as to whether the strength of that belief constitutes evidence for the belief.**

  • 31. bry0000000  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I wouldn’t even believe a few miracles. What if it was Satan trying to deceive us?

    Sorry, just had to throw that in :).

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    What if it was Satan trying to deceive us?

    Uhm…. well, we could at least believe in Satan then. :D

  • 33. cipher  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    If I claim to you my miniature dachshund is divine, and base this belief on the further claim that he can trasmute doggie chews into Treasury Bonds

    At least that would be useful! Tell us his name, that we may worship him!

  • 34. cipher  |  December 16, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Thinking Ape (and LeoPardus),

    Re: our exchange of about two weeks ago.

    Here is a NY Times article about prayer. I found it on my hard drive; apparently, I read it and saved it as a PDF file at some point. Since I turned fifty, I can’t remember a damn thing any more! Perhaps I got saved and forgot?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?ex=1301461200&en=4acf338be4900000&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

  • 35. Aaron  |  December 17, 2007 at 1:54 am

    I might be coming in late on this post, but it’s been very interesting reading (as are most of the posts on this blog).

    One thing that I haven’t seen from the believer’s arguments is that it wasn’t just the strength of the belief in Jesus’ disciples that lead them to lead a life that involved much suffering and ended in death for their faith. It was that the chances would be extremely low that they would be willing to suffer and die for something they knew to be false.

    This view does hinge on how you view the New Testament writings. If you do not believe the narratives (like the gospels and Acts) to be historical, then the chances are pretty high that you won’t consider it. But here it is anyway. The writings of the New Testament show that the authors believed that Jesus rose physically from the dead. The apostle John opens his letter of 1 John by talking about seeing, hearing, and touching Jesus. In his gospel, he writes about Jesus’ invitation to “doubting Thomas” to physically touch the wounds of his crucifixion. The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that the disciples knew where Jesus’ tomb was–it was a tomb of prominence (being borrowed from a prominent Jewish religous teacher). It was well guarded. They knew where Jesus was buried. Matthew tells us that the Jewish leaders told the soldiers to spread a story–the disciples stole the body. That’s telling–they couldn’t produce a body, which is why they had it guarded in the first place. The disciples knew where Jesus was buried. They knew he was dead. To say otherwise, for whatever reason, and then to live lives filled with suffering and ending in cruel deaths would have been completely foolish and insane.

    Again, this argument depends on how you view the New Testament–if you think it’s unreliable, or a fable, etc., then you’ll see no value in it. But if you grant that there’s a chance that the gospels are carefully researched documents (check out the opening to Luke’s gospel), then it has merit.

    Thanks for the posts and resulting conversations. They really do–and should–give you a mental workout!

  • 36. Jim B.  |  December 17, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Richard,

    Firstly, I appreciate the respectful manner in which you engage this kind of argument. (Cough… Cipher… cough.) I find it maddening when atheist apologists insist that if believers were as rational and intelligent as they were, they would give up their silly beliefs. We should all be able to recognize that there are fools and geniuses on both sides.

    You said, “At bottom you are still saying that the strength of a belief relates to the likelihood of its being true (regardless of what the belief is based on).”

    I don’t believe I’ve said that here. As a Christian, I don’t believe Mohammed was a prophet of God, despite the fact that millions of Muslims really, really believe that he was.

    I merely meant to suggest that this particular evidential argument for the divinity of Christ cannot rationally be dismissed by merely stating, “People die for wrong beliefs all the time, Christ’s disciples were no different.” I think Aaron above did a good job of succinctly summing up the “uniqueness” of Christ’s relationship with His Disciples.

    You said, “If I claim to you my miniature dachshund is divine, and base this belief on the further claim that he can trasmute doggie chews into Treasury Bonds, does that second claim somehow establish for you the veracity of the first? Would my being so sure of this that I would die for it convince you? No, of course not.”

    I think you have made my point for me. Would you suffer a miserable life and death to defend your Dachsund’s divinity? If Christ did not walk no water, heal the lame, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, and resurrect Himself three days after being publicly crucified by the Romans, the Disciples would know this better than anyone. Yet, if you believe the NT Gospels are historically accurate documents (in that they accurately represent what the authors originally wrote, not that you believe the supernatural elements contained within actually occurred) and that their authors were sincere, you’re left with a dilemma. Why did they suffer and die to defend that He did do all of the above?

    Because I don’t believe this argument is vital or necessary to a coherent Christian apologetic (contrary to Cipher’s unfounded insistence that I do), I don’t maintain there is no way to solve this dilemma other than to embrace Christ’s divinity. It is nevertheless, I believe, a dilemma.

    Merry Christmas

  • 37. qmonkey  |  December 17, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    >>Would you suffer a miserable life and death to defend your Dachsund’s divinity?

    if he did… would you then believe him? thats the point really. is it not?
    Does your belief in the dog’s divinty depend wholy on how much his owner belives it? say he was willing to be ridiculed becuase of it… is that enough? what about if he was willing to lose his job over this belief. enough? what if he was willing to get a punch in the face… have a finger chopped off enough? or has he got to believe it so much that he gets killed for it?
    In any case … there is another tier of belief… its your belief that you know exactly (pretty much word for word, deed for deed) why and how these people lived and died – even that is a big leap i propose.

  • 38. Richard  |  December 18, 2007 at 2:36 am

    JIm-
    I, too, am a big proponent of civility in public discourse. There is no better, faster, or more destructive way to maintain and inflame the Us vs Them dichotomy that characterizes too much of what passes for discussion in this society. So, kudos to us!

    I think the problem with your reasoning is that you forget where you are starting from. Lets continue my example. You do not know whether my dog actually is divine. You never met her nor had any outside source of corroborating information about her.

    All you know, for our example, is that I asserted she was divine, that I saw her do miracles, and I was willing to die for it. Thats it. Thats what you know amd thats, lets say, what happened.

    So my question is: are you convinced? Will you invite Her of the Long Snout into your heart (or onto your lap)?

    You ask, Why did they suffer and die to defend that He did do all of the above?

    Why? Because they believed it to be true. I think you dramatically overestimate basic human rationality. Human beings can convince themselves of anything, and have, and can believe virtually anything in the face of contravening evidence, and do. We see it every day. Google “hollow earth.”

    But that is as far as your line of inference can take you: they died for it because they believed it, *** but that does not count as any evidence at all that what they believed actually was true***. Yes, the **believed** it to be true, passionately. No argument. But youre trying to take another leap in the inference, and Im saying that is not justified. It does not follow that there is no explanation for their willingness to die other than that it actually was true.

    Again, going back to my examples: why did Jim Jones followers commit suicide? Why did Koresh’s followers follow him into death? Because they believed in the divinity and miracles of their leader. Yes, but that doesnt count as argumentative support — to me and, I bet, to you — that their claims are true. In this case, by the arguments you have put forth, Jesus’ followers’ deaths are indeed indistinguishable from that of these and other cults. People believe all kinds of things. People routinely die for what they believe. Thats it. Thats as far as you can go with that. Anything more, on behalf of Christianity, amounts to special pleading, not dilemma.

    “Would you suffer a miserable life and death to defend your Dachsund’s divinity?” If I thought it was true, I suppose I might. But it doesnt follow from that fact that I do that, that I must be right. *You* would never accept this inference – cute though my dog is.

    And thats my point. Youre trying to say “what other explanation can there be for their willingness to die, other than the truth of their claims?” and Im saying “It doesnt matter. The inference from willingness to die to truth is illogical, regardless.”

  • 39. qmonkey  |  December 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    May I take the opportunity to navigate it back to my original point…

    Jim, you would at least acknowledge, I hope, that it’s not an open and shut case… that there are valid reasons to disbelieve (however wrong they might be) and that for a reasonable, charitable, moral, loving and open minded person coming fresh to the idea of Jesus, its not crazy or stupid for them to say… “hmmm there’s not enough evidence to believe that”.. just as they do to many other religious sightings and miracle claims.

    I’m not sure if it was you who called this idea flippant (someone here did) … but it for me its central – reason and rationality are the tools we have (or been given by god) to assess such things … and if its reasonable to disbelieve then would a loving god send us to hell… or never know god or life to its full… or however you would put it?

  • 40. びっくり  |  December 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Qmonkey – you have proved yourself to be a unique element at DC. You seem to have some interest in trying to get to the bottom of the point.

    The other posting authors seem to take an attitude of ‘anyone who dissents is irrational’ and create an environment of cheerleaders. Which might feed some needs, but won’t foster discourse.

    One of the favorite practices, which occurred on this thread as well, is to have multiple comments, of great length, all targeted at one dissenter, filled with faulty points. When this happens, it is not reasonable to expect someone to take the hours required to reply to all of that. Essentially, this sends the message of: we don’t want to hear any dissent.

    Back on track now, with your original point. I would summarize it as “there is room for doubt”. I think my opinion of that is clear – “of course there is room for doubt” – since you commented on how that would be a problem for you. Your statements got me wondering about how you believe anything if you require 100% proof.

    For example, most people who want to claim they are rational, believe that Socrates existed. However, evidence for his existence is virtually non-existent: fictionalized accounts, by four authors, whose stories don’t agree, and who may not have existed either.

    Another case, “Did Danny Casolaro die from suicide?” The fact that he warned his family that he was in danger and if he died of an apparent suicide not to believe it, certainly casts reasonable doubt.

    If your burden of proof level is too high, then you will probably become despondent and lost, because you will not believe anything except what you’ve actually seen in front of your eyes (if even that). I consider myself a skeptic, and I often have to wrestle with how to move forward knowing so many things are uncertain.

    On your new point about hell, from a legalistic standpoint, I think that you have a chance to repent once you are face to face with God and the Christ. At that point it would seem unreasonable to disbelieve. But the actual procedure is not laid out precisely, so I couldn’t tell you if that loophole really exists.

    I believe that if you are rational, and seeking truth, you will eventually come to faith in Jesus, but it is entirely up to you. (There are all manner of petty things along the way to distract us.) Keep thinking and we’ll be looking forward to what you have to write about next.

  • 41. Richard  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    ????- Its hard to know what aspects of the threads you were referring to, but since I have been a large part of this one, I cant help but think Im part of your reference.

    If you look at the original post it contains the following:

    The disciples claim to have seen him alive and later died for this belief – ‘people just don’t do that’

    Hard for me to see how that’s not relevant. Its part of the original post. Not the whole point, to be sure, but certainly a reasonable issue for debate.

    I don’t recall anyone saying “anyone who dissents is irrational.” I know I didn’t. But disagreements about what is rationally entailed in a given argument is part of this blog. I’m not sure why you seem to be unhappy about that.

    Multiple posts is unavoidable here. I can’t control how many people respond to a given interlocutor. Maybe it’s the line of reasoning employed that occasions such spirited replies? Saying people don’t die for their beliefs unless those beliefs are true is bad logic, and it is within the purview of this blog to say so.

    And you yourself provide us with another nice example of bad logic:
    “I believe that if you are rational, and seeking truth, you will eventually come to faith in Jesus, but it is entirely up to you.”

    Notice how nicely unfalsifiable it is? No matter what happens, your assertion that if you seek Jesus you will find him is maintained. If someone seeks Jesus and concludes Christianity is false, why, they either weren’t rational or weren’t “really” seeking.

    It’s this kind of definitional assertions that drive me nuts about Christian apologists. If you really accept doubt as humanly unavoidable, then for the love of Pete just accept it, admit that we don’t ultimately know what is true, and go on with your belief. But please spare us some gerrymandered definitionally-based logical system that always lets you blame those who disagree with you as being faulty is some way because they do not reach the same conclusion as you.

    The only part of your criticism that really has merit is the bit about length. Yes, my (and other) posts are sometimes long. I’m trying to work on that; I tend to find lots to say. But the essential point remains: this blog exists, at least partially, to assist and support those who are deconverting or who already have, and pointing out errors in apologetic logic is part of that support. Many people fall prey to the kind of reasoning that you and Jim have employed, and I consider that if I help one person avoid it, then I have don’t some good.

  • 42. qmonkey  |  December 18, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    びっくり – your contribution is appreciated.

    I know what you mean about every comment a Christian makes.. gets swamped… but thats the nature of this site – if I comment on a Christian site its the same. comes with the territory – don’t let it annoy you.

    I think you miss judge most of the people here though – I people are always searching. As for me… if there IS a god out there I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT!! but im not going lower my rational thought… or i would end up joining every messiah cult going!

    The default position needs to be …. “Miracles probably don’t happen” no mater how convinced someone else is or was, that shouldn’t persuade you. That’s surely what you would tell me if I was a child hearing you talk about Jesus for the first time. You would tell the child to keep an open mind.. Because if there is really really strong evidence that miracles do/did happen then he must be open to a change of heart… but to have that change of heart the evidence must be stunning.

    “Socrates”? come on … surely you see that it’s a lot more important for you to prove that jesus rose from the dead… than for you to prove that he rode in to Jerusalem in a donkey. And by understanding that… you understand why the Socrates analogy isn‘t valid. If anyone says Socrates turned water into wine, then I’ll demand the same proof… whether not it was actually him who said whats reported… isn’t earth shattering.

    >>I believe that if you are rational, and seeking truth, you will eventually come to faith in Jesus, but it is entirely up to you

    Even if I’m too dumb to read? Or if I can’t see, and no one will read the bible to me?
    Is it a case of the more rational I am (ie the smarter) the easier it is to “come to faith in Jesus” ?

  • 43. Jim B.  |  December 18, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Qmonkey said,

    “if he did [if Richard suffered a miserable life and death to defend the divinity of his dachshund]… would you then believe him? thats the point really. is it not?”

    Richard stated something similar: “All you know, for our example, is that I asserted she was divine, that I saw her do miracles, and I was willing to die for it. Thats it. Thats what you know amd thats, lets say, what happened.”

    Perhaps I have missed a cog in our discussion here. It seems that some are accepting the notion that SANE people not infrequently suffer and die to defend beliefs they KNOW to be false. I disagree. I know (because I have seen it) INSANE people suffer and die for beliefs they know (in some part of their malfunctioning brains) to be false.

    I don’t find the above question useful, because I believe the more rational explanation of Richard’s hypothetical belief here would be that he is insane. In the case of Christ’s Disciples, I don’t believe insanity can be fairly attributed to them.

    Richard said,

    “You ask, Why did they suffer and die to defend that He did do all of the above? Why? Because they believed it to be true. “

    I’m really not trying to be annoyingly repetitive here, but it still seems that you are unwilling to interact with the reality that the Disciples explicitly found their belief in Christ’s divinity on miracles they personally witnessed, the Resurrection being chief among them. I don’t think this argument can be vanquished by merely stating that they “really believed it just like millions of people have believed wrong things”.

    Example: Jim Jones. Within the last year I watched an excellent PBS documentary on Jim Jones and Jonestown. I believe there is a difference in the supposed “healings” Jones performed (ala the shenanigans one can see 24/7 on the Trinity Broadcasting Network) and walking on water, feeding thousands with a small basket of bread and fish, raising the dead and Resurrection. I personally know people who say they have been healed by people like Benny Hinn. I think we would be in agreement that these kinds of “healings” are extraordinarily difficult to verify and extraordinarily easy to be falsely duped into.

    What I mean to say in all of this rambling is that the Disciples claim Christ, who was very publically crucified, rose from the dead and lived among them. I don’t see how one can mistake this for something else. It seems the only rational explanations for this behavior and the Disciples willing demise are: (1) They were telling the truth. (2) They were nuts. (3) The New Testament writings do not accurately represent reality (I don’t mean the reality of the miraculous accounts within, but the general reality of what the Disciples taught and believed about Christ).

    While I have repeatedly stated that I don’t believe this particular evidential argument cinches the debate in favor of Christ’s divinity, I also don’t believe anyone here has defeated the argument by merely stating, “Sincere belief is not a proof.” I agree with that statement, as do most Christian apologists.

    びっくりsaid,

    “I believe that if you are rational, and seeking truth, you will eventually come to faith in Jesus, but it is entirely up to you.”

    For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that.

    Merry Christmas!

  • 44. Richard  |  December 18, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Jim – It would have been somewhat helpful if you had been a bit less vague; its been hard for me to intuit that “interacting” with the disciples claims, as you keep saying, means “come up with a better explanation than that they happened.”

    My time is short, but basically, my answer is that its not for me to prove the miracles didnt happen or find a better explanation, its for you to provide support that it did. “Miracle” is unacceptable as a default position.

    As we skeptics are always saying, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Having some 2000 year old documents in which some folks allege a miracle, and have no better explanation for those claims (even if that were true, which it isnt) ) doesnt come anywhere near that standard of proof.

    I imagine you would never assert to miracle stories in other traditions even if (a) the claimants were willing to die for their claims and (b) you had no better explanation immediately available.

    So, even if we have absolutely no idea how else to explain their claims, miracle is a poor one, because the evidential standard has not been met.

    But in fact, we have much better explanations available: the entire history of humanity. People have believed and claimed all kinds of wierd things; there are people alive today who think the earth is flat, or hollow, who think the moon landing was faked or Elvis is still alive, they have been abducted by UFOs (there are a *lot* of those folks), who think George Bush and other world leaders are really alien repitles in disguise. No kidding. People passionately believe all sorts of wierd things on what they regard to be sufficient evidence. These folsk are not all demonstrably psychotic, which is a specific clinical syndrome (though some may have been); its just easy as pie for human beings to claim to have seen all sorts of stuff.

    We dont have to debunk the miracle or other extraordinary claims of each and every one. As I said, you overestimate human rationality. Pelple can convince themselves of virtually anythhing given.

    So, being human is a perfectly sufficient explanation for why the apostles might have (a) claimed miracles and (b) died for that.

    You said:
    It seems the only rational explanations for this behavior and the Disciples willing demise are: (1) They were telling the truth. (2) They were nuts. (3) The New Testament writings do not accurately represent reality

    I add (4) human beings routinely believe all kinds of irrational things without being clinically psychotic.

  • 45. OneSmallStep  |  December 18, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    One of the favorite practices, which occurred on this thread as well, is to have multiple comments, of great length, all targeted at one dissenter,

    I think this is inevitable, given the nature of this site. As someone else said, were this a Christian site, any atheist would get swamped. And I think one of the reasons for that is, for me, anything a Christian posts here is something that we’ve all heard lots of times before, in one form or another. If there’s negative emotions directed at you, I don’t think it’s personal, but rather coming from frustration of responding to something we’ve responded to before. On blogs, it’s easy to group all the commenters into one, if it’s the same type of comment.

  • 46. Jim B.  |  December 18, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Richard,

    I find it interesting that you’ve now expanded the conversation into miracles in general and the validity of the New Testament documents, neither of which are being debated here.

    Name one instance in human history where a group of men all claimed to have seen unfakable/unmistakable miracles, and then suffered and died to defend these claims. One.

    Koresh and Jones don’t fit, as I think I’ve demonstrated above. When I refer to unfakable/unmistakable miracles, I don’t mean the kinds of chronic pains that are “healed” by the likes of Benny Hinn (which are more likely attributable to a regression fallacy).

    Prophets who claim miraculous experiences or encounters – ala Joseph Smith – don’t count either. That Smith was able to dupe some into believing him is not the same as these dupes actually witnessing Smith receive his golden plates from the Angel Moroni. I live in the city that houses the Eckankar temple. That followers of the Eck find his teachings helpful in living and explaining the world around them is quite different than what the Disciples claimed and taught.

    Personally, I believe men like Joseph Smith, Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler are insane geniuses who are able to convince large groups of people to believe the unbelievable with little to no “proof”. You and I agree that humans often fall for this kind of thing. I just think you have a bit more work to do convincing anyone but the already ardent unbelieving that the Disciples fall into this camp.

    On the one hand, you want to say, “Human beings routinely believe all kinds of irrational things without being clinically psychotic.” On the other, you want to use the divine dachshund argument. Unfortunately, there would be no other way to explain your sincere belief in your dachshund’s divinity other than some kind of psychosis – or that your dachshund was in fact divine.

    Merry Christmas

  • 47. びっくり  |  December 18, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Richard – QED “And you yourself provide us with another nice example of bad logic”. More than half of your comment to me was harping on my closing, which is merely something I believe; meant to be a closing to my comment. From its wording, it doesn’t seem to be anything that draws itself into this debate.

    Qmonkey – Naturally you are correct. Whether Socrates exists and whether or not the President had someone murdered are not as important as whether or not Jesus rose from the grave. There is no logical way around that , since a Christian would believe that nothing is as important. However, a lot of people base their philosophy of how they live their life on the words of Socrates and Plato and modern philosophers who refer to them.

    I know this won’t comfort you much, but regarding your question: “Is it a case of the more rational I am (ie the smarter) the easier it is to “come to faith in Jesus” ?” the answer is probably, “No, it’s the opposite.” :)

    Sorry if I have misjudged your colleagues desires. Certainly, I agree with you that swamping counterpoints can occur on christian (or political, or …) sites as well. The more enticing sites are those where most points get addressed once.

  • 48. bry0000000  |  December 19, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Hi Jim!

    “Personally, I believe men like Joseph Smith, Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler are insane geniuses who are able to convince large groups of people to believe the unbelievable with little to no “proof”. You and I agree that humans often fall for this kind of thing. I just think you have a bit more work to do convincing anyone but the already ardent unbelieving that the Disciples fall into this camp.”

    I would object to the last statement. Two reasons:

    1) Why do you need to be convinced? Atheism/Agnosticism are not religions. We’re not out to win converts. We’re just here to share ideas. Granted, this is trite, but it’s a myth I’d love to dispel.

    2) Assuming we were trying to convince you, why do Joseph Smith, or perhaps even Mohammed, not qualify as adequate examples? Why can we not assume that Christ didn’t “dupe” his disciples the same way these two did? I was searching in your response for distinctions between Christ and the others, and, saving the obvious (Hitler), couldn’t infer any on my own.

  • 49. Richard  |  December 19, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Jim-
    The conversation was “expanded” to include the broader issue of miracles when you clarified that that was in fact what you were arguing — i.e., that miracle was in fact the best explanation for why the apostles claimed and did what they did, in the context of their being (allegedly) no competing explanation. I did not expand anything, I was simply following your argument. *You* are claiming miracle is the only reasonable explanation for the apostles, and so I am addressing that claim.

    My dachshund example came from the part of our conversation when you had not made your position clear, so I will now (almost) drop it. ;)

    “Name one instance in human history where a group of men all claimed to have seen unfakable/unmistakable miracles, and then suffered and died to defend these claims. One.”

    IIts hard to know where to start. First, so what if I cant? It does not follow from the the premise (if true) that there is no other human examples of this situation, that therefore these miracles actually happened. That is, as I keep saying, a non sequitur. Its uniqueness, even if true, offers not one iota of support for the claim that therefore these miracles happened.

    Secondly, and more importantly, you beg the question by using the qualifiers “unfakable/unmistakable”. Thats exactly what is at issue, now, isnt it? Its not really fair to assume without arguing that these events are “unmistakable” and then ask me to explain them another way.

    Finally, you keep trying to shift the burden of proof. Its not up to me to find some other explanation than miracle or else accept yours. No, you must argue and support your contention that a miracle is what happened. You havent made your case yet. All you’ve said is “I personally cant possibly think of any better explanation than miracle so this must have been a miracle.”

    I think you need to be careful with claims about what is and what is not psychosis. That is a complex issue, and for the record it is not a given that claiming a dog to be divine counts as psychosis. Egyptians believed their cats divine; were they all psychotic? As a psychiatrist, I can claim some relevant education about this. It is not at all clear what a concept like psychosis might have meant to illiterate and uneducated men living in a prescientific society. So it is simple false that if the apostles believed in miracles that did not actually happen, then they must have been crazy. No, no, no, no— that is you main mistake, here, as far as I can tell. But that is quite false. We can discuss this in more detail at some point, if you like, but humanb beings just do not fit neatly into “crazy” or “not crazy.” It is a dimensional phenomenon, not a binary one.

    Human belief formation is complex, often (perhaps usually) irrational, context-dependent, and norms are difficult to establish. So, you are going to have to make your case that the apostles belief in the miracles of Jesus could not/did not follow the same ordinary human psychological “rules”, so to speak, that allow so many people throughout history to come to nutty conclusions about the world — the same rules that you and I both universally would accept in any other circumstance — and that therefore the only option remaining is “the miracles were real.”

    “I just think you have a bit more work to do convincing anyone but the already ardent unbelieving that the Disciples fall into this camp.”

    No, you need to show why they should be givenb a special exception. You see, this is the whole point. You insist on a lower standard of evidence and a higher level of credulity for NT miracle claims than you would allow to anyone else under any other circumstances.

    I could present to you a man claiming to have seen, personally, flying saucers, met their occupants, been abducted by them, describe the goings-on in great detail, show you lesions on his skin that he claims were the result of experiments…I could have him tested by psychologists, who pronounce him sane, and medical physicians, who cant otherwise explain the marks —- and I bet you a box of doughnuts you *still* wouldnt accept that he was in fact abducted by a UFO. Even if you have no competing explanation for any of it, you would reason that an unknown but prosaic explanation is always better than some far-out explanation. This is not a made up example, these people exist. Yet I suspect you would reject their claims. And thats what Im trying to get you to see.

    When you understand why you dont believe in UFOs, you will undersyand why I dont accept NT miracle claims.

  • 50. jmromas  |  December 19, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Cool stuff guys. I am not too sure about all the empirical evidence stuff. I base my belief in Christ off of “Faith.” The definition of faith is “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” The definition of empirical evidence is “evidence originating in or based on observation or experience.” Since I was not there to observe the “big bang” or the “resurrection of Christ” I rely on faith alone instead of making scientific arguments either for or against my cases. (I don’t know that I have ever heard of good, solid, proving the Biblical history wrong. Maybe I am ignorant of that. If so, please hit me up on my site… http://www.notaveragejoe.com and let me know of it.) Matter of fact I have been told that (and I think it is Biblical) people who SAW Jesus Christ after the resurrection did not even believe that it was Him and that it had indeed been a divine event. Some, that did not believe it was God doing the rising from the dead, just attributed it to “weird powers or dark energy or just some weird out of the ordiary thing that happened.” I believe that I cannot empirically PROVE to you that the Bible is true. Surely I can see people’s lives (such as my own) changed when they accept God and Christ’s free gift of salvation, and in response to this, live by the words of the Book. I would rather live by the “Living Word of God” than face the “harsh realities” of this world when I do not comply with what is written in the Bible. Not only do I study the Bible, but I also try and LIVE the teachings of it as well. My definition of a student is “one who learns and applies to life events what he or she has learned.” If one just learns a bunch of theory and does not apply the principles learned, he or she is completely ineffective. I have seen this in simple ways like learning to play the guitar and I have seen this in REALITY and LIFE when friends of mine come up to me and ask me why their lives are a complete mess. I simply tell them that I cannot stop or change them, and that they cannot ultimately solve their problems because they were the ones that created them in the first place (only God can do this). I can however, remind them of what their purpose is or ought to be in life and I can shepherd them back to the proper path in pursuit of their ultimate goals and purposes which ought to be: Bringing MAXIMUM GLORY to God. I am convinced that this is the meaning of life for a Christian (Christ follower). ;-) -J (www.notaveragejoe.com)

  • [...] smart does one have to be to know Jesus? « de-conversion How smart does one have to be to know Jesus? « de-conversion Cool stuff guys. I am not too sure about all the empirical evidence stuff. I base my belief in [...]

  • 52. Jim B.  |  December 20, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Bry0000… said,

    “Atheism/Agnosticism are not religions. We’re not out to win converts. We’re just here to share ideas. Granted, this is trite…”

    Indeed. You don’t get to quarantine yourself off from having to prove your worldview by saying it’s not a worldview. Of course, it is a worldview and you are trying to win converts… or deconverts. Let’s be honest.

    Richard said,

    “The conversation was “expanded” to include the broader issue of miracles when you clarified that that was in fact what you were arguing — i.e., that miracle was in fact the best explanation for why the apostles claimed and did what they did…”

    From the beginning, I have plainly stated that my aim is not to persuade anyone of Christ’s divinity or the miracles that I (admittedly) believe justify/explain it. My aim is only to argue that your simplistic dismissal of the evidential argument in view here is unpersuasive. That’s all. So… you did expand the topic, and it seemed to me one of several retreats in this discussion.

    You still haven’t directly or coherently refuted any of my arguments as to the uniqueness of Christ’s relationship with his Disciples.

    “My dachshund example came from the part of our conversation when you had not made your position clear, so I will now (almost) drop it.”

    I think you have to, because it just doesn’t work. We all know that you wouldn’t do the things the Disciples did to defend your dachshund’s divinity, because (1) he/she is not divine and (2) you’re not nuts.

    I asked, “Name one instance in human history where a group of men all claimed to have seen unfakable/unmistakable miracles, and then suffered and died to defend these claims. One.”

    Richard responded, “Its hard to know where to start. First, so what if I cant? It does not follow from the the premise (if true) that there is no other human examples of this situation, that therefore these miracles actually happened.”

    Again, this is not my argument. I’m simply attempting to demonstrate that you’re “Christ’s-disciples-were –just-like-every-other-duped-cultist” argument is seriously flawed. In fact, I’ve explicitly stated that believing in Christ’s miracles and divinity is NOT the only rational explanation for this dilemma. One could simply not believe that the New Testament writings accurately reflect what the Disciples believed and taught or how they conducted themselves. If, however, you do accept these writings and the history of the Disciples lives and deaths, then this particular evidential argument is, at the very least, intriguing.

    “Its not really fair to assume without arguing that these events are “unmistakable” and then ask me to explain them another way.”

    I thought I did offer an argument. I attempted to distinguish between dubious miracles (e.g. “Benny waved his coat over me, I fell down and now my headaches are gone”) and unmistakable ones – I don’t know how you confuse water-walking and resurrection with something else. If you take the NT Gospels at face-value (I recognize that you likely don’t), I think it is unreasonable to not acknowledge the spectacular – not to mention public – nature of Christ’s miracles. Christ’s Disciples did not allege He was a faith-healer, blowing people over with His itinerant preacher’s breath. They claimed He walked on water, healed the crippled, gave sight to the blind, raised a three-days dead man and resurrected – all in their immediate presence. They then preached His divinity based on these claims – and suffered miserable lives and deaths because of their refusal to relent.

    “Egyptians believed their cats divine…”

    Again, you fail to distinguish types of belief. The Egyptian believes his cat is divine, because he has been taught (in a pre-scientific society) that cats are divine. He does not believe his cat is divine, because it performs signs and wonders.

    “So it is simple false that if the apostles believed in miracles that did not actually happen, then they must have been crazy.”

    Why? You’re jumping from the Egyptian and his cat to a completely different situation with the Disciples. They were not raised to believe Christ was God. They became convinced of this – according to the NT Gospels – via miracles and the Resurrection. How else do you explain someone believing that they saw a man walk on water? Raise the dead? Turn a few fish and pieces of bread into thousands of fish and pieces of bread? Turn water into wine? Spontaneously regenerate an ear? Etc.?

    This is a different category of belief that cannot be rationally explained away by common human naiveté or ignorance.

    “…you are going to have to make your case that the apostles belief in the miracles of Jesus could not/did not follow the same ordinary human psychological “rules”, so to speak, that allow so many people throughout history to come to nutty conclusions about the world…”

    We are not discussing speculation and “conclusions about the world”. We are talking about supposedly eye-witness accounts of spectacular miracles that found a belief in Christ’s divinity. Accounts defended in the face of horrible deaths.

    Merry Christmas

    P.S. I believe the UFO sighters you mention are psychologically not well. Or, were not psychologically well at the time of “abduction”. And I don’t think these kinds of isolated individual cases are comparable to a group claiming to have experienced the same miracles in the presence of a large public audience. A group from which no one defected – not even to avoid excruciating and humiliating death.

  • 53. bry0000000  |  December 20, 2007 at 3:00 am

    “Of course, it is a worldview and you are trying to win converts… or deconverts. Let’s be honest.”

    Ok, this is an atheist being honest. I’m fine with Christians being Christian as long as they don’t harm others. I don’t need to win converts to save people’s souls from hell, because no matter what I or they believe, the end of our lives is the end of our existence. I understand this is the perspective of the De-Conversion contributers and a majority of those atheists/agnostics who comment on this site, and I’m sure they’ve repeated their stance numerous times on this site. Browse around, maybe hop over to de-conversion.org and look, and you’ll see that we’re not after converts; we’re just trying to make it easier for those who are trying to de-convert.

    I think you accused Richard of incoherence earlier, which is ironic, given that you’ve made an extremely vague argument as to why atheism is a religion. If I understand you correctly, Atheism is a religion because it is a worldwide perspective. What about economic liberalism? Socialism? These are all worldwide perspectives on how government should work. Are these religions too? If that’s all it takes to constitute what a religion is, perhaps we atheists need to think twice before converting to vegetarianism.

    P.S. If you’re going to write off Richard’s UFO example because those who were abducted were not psychologically well, then I think it’s fair to write off the accounts of the apostles due to the fact that they were not psychologically well either. After all, seeing things that didn’t happen… Do you see where this type of logic leads us? I just think you have to do better.

  • 54. Jim B.  |  December 20, 2007 at 4:01 am

    bry000…

    It would help if you actually followed the conversation here.

    “…you’ve made an extremely vague argument as to why atheism is a religion.”

    Please specify exactly where I said this. I haven’t said that, don’t necessarily believe that and it’s not even the topic of conversation.

    “If you’re going to write off Richard’s UFO example because those who were abducted were not psychologically well, then I think it’s fair to write off the accounts of the apostles due to the fact that they were not psychologically well either.”

    I’ve also stated that this is a more coherent explanation of the Disciples radical devotion to what they surely would have known to be true or false than Richard’s “They just believed irrational stuff like ignorant people have been doing since the dawn of time” argument. So, we’re in agreement there.

  • 55. qmonkey  |  December 20, 2007 at 6:17 am

    The debate is here is good quality… but I really tried in this post to focus it on one question… and failed badly.

    Understanding and interpreting history, deciding on the reliability of claims, demands intellect. The higher the intellect the more likely one is to be correct in his/her analysis of ancient places and events… whether it be in the field of archaeology, literature, chemistry, DNA analysis…

    It’s rare that people wake up on a Tuesday morning, and think to themselves, I think a man called Jesus existed 2000 years ago, and when he died, he rose from the dead. People take a view on all such mythical and non-mythical claims… and make a judgement call based on the evidence (unless they feel they have been directly spoken to by someone/thing outside of nature/history)

    So to rephrase the question slightly – is mental capacity and intelligence any factor is accepting/rejecting the resurrection as historically accurate? (is it that its an uncomfortable question?)

  • 56. びっくり  |  December 20, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Qmonkey – I like your new question. Perhaps, this site should change its posting method. If the comments are going to be very debate-oriented, then maybe the main posts should just be an issue and a framework for the debate. (Did I just think up a new format, or are there sites using that already?)

    I think intellect (combined with an open and curious mind) indeed helps one to determine what transpired in the past. However, if someone who is not the sharpest tool in the shed reads one museum pamphlet and professes that “In 1533 the Muromachi Shogunate halted all religious events”, he would be no less correct than the professor of Japanese history who spent his whole life dedicated to this study.

    Faith follows similar patterns. I spent decades in various stages of belief or doubt, and after much research decided that the Bible was accurate and realized that I had known it for a long time. Other people hear the story of Jesus once and accept it immediately. Both of us are equally correct. So, while intellect can help research and understand things, it is not requisite to arrive at the truth.

    The person who knows less and researches less can probably be fooled more easily. But the skeptic can often fool himself.

  • 57. qmonkey  |  December 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

    >>>>>if someone who is not the sharpest tool in the shed reads one museum pamphlet and professes that “In 1533 the Muromachi Shogunate halted all religious events”, he would be no less correct than the professor of Japanese history who spent his whole life dedicated to this study.

    But if this un-sharp tool read another museum pamphlet that said the opposite… he wouldnt be in as good a possition as the japanese prof in deciding which, if either, were more likely true.

    granted?

  • 58. びっくり  |  December 20, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Naturally.

  • 59. びっくり  |  December 20, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Sometimes the opposite happens though. The well educated can convince themselves that something isn’t true. I remember one time I was reading about the meanings of family names.

    There were many names containing “Ham” and “Hamm” and this meant “Home”. There were many names ending in “mond” and this meant “protector of …”. The name “Hammond” would then seem to be “Protector of the home”. Yet, for some reason experts are in debate about this. What seems clear to the somewhat educated, somehow became troublesome for the highly educated. Interesting phenomenon.

  • 60. jmromas  |  December 21, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Qmonkey- Nice response!! Couldn’t have said it any better myself. After much searching, and truth seeking, I found the Bible, Jesus, and God to be the best thing to put MY FAITH in. I believe everyone is given faith and with that faith they are able to chose what to put that faith into (evolution, God, big bang, etc). Christianity appeals most to me because it encourages a personal RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND JESUS in it’s teachings. I feel accountable to God now almost like I have signed a contract with Him. It is keepin’ me outta the bars and into the finer things in life like people, family, and friends. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to go into the bar and socialize, watch God’s football team play (Green Bay Packers), and knock back a couple a’ good ol’ frosty beers. However, see me in a social setting drunk like you used to, I think not. I appreciate reading ALL your guys’ comments on this site. Hope to have more good, kind, open communication in the future. Also, if you have a scientific proving its case against the Bible, don’t forget to post it to my site. It may not work smoothly in a few days. I am currently working on turning it into a website, as opposed to a blog site. If any of you can offer any words of wisdom on this, website design, please contact me on my site and let me know. ANY HELP would be much appreciated. I am very busy right now with the Navy and I don’t have much time to sit and figure/read up on all things for myself. God Bless.
    Joe
    http://www.notaveragejoe.com

  • 61. bry0000000  |  December 22, 2007 at 3:58 am

    Jim B,

    I did. But I’m wondering, how does that invalidate my question. From what I understand from this:

    “Indeed. You don’t get to quarantine yourself off from having to prove your worldview by saying it’s not a worldview. Of course, it is a worldview and you are trying to win converts… or deconverts. Let’s be honest.”

    equates Atheism with every other world religion merely for being a world perspective.

    And instead of writing off the apostles sanity, I’d like to see you confront that. UFO observers: probably insane. Those who witnessed miracles: what’s the difference?

  • 62. Richard  |  December 26, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Well, this thread is probably over by now — sorry, Ive been away, and so dropped out of the discussion.

    So please endure one final contribution from me here.

    qmonkey, Im sorry I was part of getting this post off topic. I know this is belated, but for what its worth I think your topic is a good one. I have even had some of the same thoughts myself. I think that is a underrecognized problem with evidential apologetics — i.e.., if it takes people like William Craig writing 2000 years after the fact using a wide array of philosophical analyses to establish Christianity as “true” , well, doesnt that fact itself just cry out for explanation? Doesnt that make salvation a matter of the intellect? Why does an almighty Creator have such a hard time getting his message across in a clear way?

    Christians often claim that no, it isnt a matter of the intellect, its a matter of the Holy Spirit or God’s direct action on your heart, or some variant of that answer, but that seems to me to beg the question — i.e., how do we know there is a Holy Spirit or that it does any such thing? Because Christiainity teaches it? But the veracity of Christian doctrine precisely whats in question.

    So, qmonkey, I appreciate your thoughts on this matter and Im sorry I let myself get carried away on other matters. Hopefully this issue will come up again and we can take another shot at it.

    Jim, if I was testy with you during this exchange please understand that that was a function of the heat of debate and not of my view of you. And if I was (its hard for me to tell if I came across that way), then I apologize. You behavior here has been nothing but honorable, and that is no mean feat in todays world, especially when discussing something as charged as this. I wish we had more people such as yourself, willing to engage in spirited discussion in a thoughtful and respectful way.

    While you still have not convinced me that there is any good argument for regarding the apostles claims as unique or their experiences as unmistakble, and I still maintain that ordinary and very fallible human belief-formation can do far more than you assume it can, nevertheless I will drop the matter for now and move on to other threads. Perhaps I will write a new post specifically on this topic, and we can discuss it at more length there! So, Jim, I have enjoyed engaging with you here and I hope you had a merry Christmas–

    Richard

  • 63. Jim B.  |  January 6, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Richard,

    I dropped off this thread a while ago as well – Holidays, and what-not. I took no offense from you via this exchange.

    God Bless

  • 64. Ilene Banderas  |  January 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Very nice info and right to the point. I don’t know if this is actually the best place to ask but do you people have any thoughts on where to employ some professional writers? Thx :)

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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