Quantcast

«

»

Jan 16 2009

Answering apologists’ questions, part 1

A fellow emailed the TV show address with this forwarded list of questions that apologists have for atheists, taken from Lee Strobel’s site. What is surprising is how simplistic and banal many the questions are (most of them being variations of “if God didn’t create us, who/what did?”). Only one question is any good, and one is downright idiotic. You’d think these guys had never read any atheist literature in their lives. They probably haven’t, though, being apologists, you’d think that doing so would at least give them some kind of frame of reference from which to formulate good responses to atheists’ and skeptics’ criticism of religion. Or maybe they’re worried they wouldn’t be able to respond…

The following answers are my own. Readers are invited to offer their own answers in the comments.

Lee opens:

What Would I Ask an Atheist?
Hemant Mehta’s offer for me to respond to questions from atheists led me to ponder this topic: what would I ask an atheist in return? Hmmmmm. I decided to send emails to some of my friends and ask them for their suggestions. Here are their replies.

Hmmmm indeed. Here are the questions:

Apologist Mike Licona: “What turns you off about Christianity? Irrespective of one’s worldview, many experience periods of doubt. Do you ever doubt your atheism and, if so, what is it about theism or Christianity that is most troubling to your atheism?”

I’m glad this question came first, as it’s actually the first time I’ve heard a question phrased this way from any Christian. Notice Licona doesn’t ask why I don’t believe, he asks why Christianity is a turnoff. Which is quite a different matter. Licona has noticed that, apart from disbelief, there is something about religion in particular that rubs atheists the wrong way. Very astute, Mike. (Except, of course, for slipping in the mistaken attempt at equivocation with the ever-popular Christian weasel word “worldview.” Atheism is not a “worldview.” It is merely the disbelief in gods.)

I’ll take the final question first. When credible evidence for a deity comes to light — a thing theists have singly been incapable of providing — then I will doubt my atheism. This does not mean I have a closed mind towards the idea. Even when I say, with full confidence, that I don’t believe in any gods, I’m not making a dogmatic proclamation of absolute knowledge. But here, it’s like the question of leprechauns. Would I believe in leprechauns if evidence for them ever made it sensible to do so? Sure. But in the absence of such evidence, I’m quite confident in maintaining my disbelief in leprechauns. Ditto gods.

There’s nothing about Christianity troubling to my atheism, per se, so much as troubling to my humanism and ideas about goodness and decency. What turns me off about Christianity is that I consider it morally confused at best, and morally bankrupt at worst. Indeed, the Doctrine of Hell alone forever disqualifies Christianity as a moral belief system of any kind. Put bluntly, any religion that not only uses threats of eternal torture and punishment to enforce compliance, let alone considers eternal torture morally acceptable in the first place, simply for the “crime” of not being Christian, can only be considered not merely immoral but evil. Let us, for the sake of argument, say God exists. Am I to understand that this deity — said to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnific — is so insecure in his rule over his creation that he would find it necessary to consign me to eternity in hell merely for using my reasoning capacities (which he presumably gave me) to doubt his existence, especially when this God has deliberately chosen to refuse to reveal his existence unambiguously? Am I supposed to consider such a being worthy of my admiration, let alone my love and, most incredibly, my worship?

I often ask people who call the television show to imagine an abusive spouse, who tells his wife the following: “Honey, I love you with all my heart. But I swear, if you ever leave me, if I ever even think you’re looking at another man or thinking about breaking up with me, so help me, I’ll break your neck!” Now, is this a man you’d introduce your lady friends to? Is this someone you’d consider, not only a good man, but the best and most moral kind of man possible? No? But look closely. This man is your God. Don’t worship him to his satisfaction, don’t accept the divine love he so generously offers you, and go directly to hell, boom, no passing “Go” or collecting the proverbial two Benjamins.

Honestly, can you really be so clueless as to why Christianity turns atheists off, when it offers such an appalling deity for our devotion?

The immorality of Christianity doesn’t stop there. This is a religion that preaches “love one another,” and yet encourages the most virulent forms of hate. True, Islam does this to a degree Christianity can only dream of, but Christianity is still pretty objectionable. It is Christianity that inspires essentially 100% of the homophobia that is practiced in this country, and it informs most of its racism as well. You could say that this activity is merely bad people misinterpreting Christianity to their own ends. But it’s hard to sell that excuse when passages in Leviticus calling for the execution of gays, and similarly hateful passages in Romans exist.

And why do so many racist groups openly identify themselves as Christian, giving themselves such pompous names as “World Church of the Creator”? This, I’d say, is perhaps not something particular to Christianity as it is to the very nature of religion itself: religion has historically been a tool for people to justify violence, atrocities, bigotry, oppression, even outright murder by giving such activity the divine stamp of approval. Todd Rundgren comments eloquently on this in his song “God Said,” in which he imagines God replying to the prayers of a desperate and insecure believer.

You are not serving me, you’re serving something else
Cause I don’t need to be pleased, just get over yourself
You can’t suck up to me, I know you all too well
But I don’t dwell upon you, so get over yourself
Cause you’re not praying to me, you’re praying to yourself
And you’re not worshiping me, you’re worshiping yourself
And you will kill in my name and heaven knows what else
When you can’t prove I exist, so get over yourself

You might say, again, that religiously-inspired hate and violence is man misusing religion, and doesn’t come from God. But outside of Rundgren’s song, I don’t see God doing much to put a stop to such activity in his name. And when you consider, as I (and Todd) have, that what people call God is pretty much always simply their own idealized self-image, projected upon the universe, is it any wonder that religiosity has so often taken such an ugly form?

Another thing that turns me off about religion in general and Christianity in particular is the way such beliefs encourage delusion and bankrupt knowledge. I could go on (and have) at length about the way Christian fundamentalists in America are engaged in an all-out war on science education, specifically the study of a subject — evolutionary biology — that is vital to the understanding of our health and of our ability to treat disease. And the roster of scientific all-stars suppressed (Galileo) or just plain murdered outright (Giordano Bruno) by the Church is a stain you’ll never wash off. But this post is going to be long enough as it is, so I’ll move on.

Scholar William Lane Craig: “What’s the real reason you don’t believe in God? How and when do you lose your faith in God?”

Why ask for the “real reason” as if you assume atheists are, as a general rule, dishonest about their reasons for not believing? If you think that’s the case, I’d expect to see you back the claim up. You know, being a “scholar” and all. But really, the reason I don’t believe in God is the same for why I don’t believe that UFO’s have a habit of traveling millions of light-years across space only to leave odd markings in crops and kidnap poor country bumpkins in order to perform proctology exams: There’s zilch in the way of credible evidence for the belief.

As for when I lost my faith in God, well, let me say this. While I had a Christian upbringing, don’t assume all atheists started out theist. Kazim here on the blog is a lifelong atheist, and you’ll find many such folks. I’d say my process towards disbelief began in early adolescence, around age 14 or so, and progressed through to my adulthood. Atheists do not tend to have “road to Damascus” deconversion epiphanies. The path to disbelief is an intellectual exercise in developing one’s reasoning capacities and learning to slough off the rubbish your mind’s been filled with since childhood. It’s a lot like outgrowing your belief in Santa, just a bit more involved.

Thinking back, I don’t think I ever really had “faith” in God. I know you’ll leap on that as an admission I was never a True Christian™ to begin with. But to be totally honest, I don’t think most of the people sitting in pews every Sunday really have “faith” in God either. They say they do, because that is what is expected of you in the Christian life. But, as George H. Smith pointed out, “scratch the surface of a Christian and you will find an agnostic.” I tend to think most Christians are cultural believers who, when their backs are against the wall, really don’t believe what they claim to believe. At least not to the point of having real “faith” in their God.

Example: When pink-wigged Jan Crouch of TBN infamy came down with colon cancer in 2003, she checked herself into a hospital’s oncology ward to undergo surgery. And yet the network she and her husband run regularly features the rallies of Benny Hinn, who performs flamboyant onstage “healings.” If the Crouches really believed in what Hinn was doing as an agent of the Lord (after all, they’re promoting his programs to millions and making money off them), why didn’t Jan just go to Benny for a miracle cure? So much for “faith in God.” When the chips are down, it’s science to the rescue after all.

Author and pastor John Ortberg: “How can you create a meaningful life in a meaningless universe?”

I’d first ask John what he means by “meaningless universe.” If he means “non-teleological,” that is, not intentionally designed for the purpose of housing us, the human race, who are so very special, then yes, I do think the universe is meaningless in that sense, and I further fail to see how that fact prevents me, as an individual and higher-thinking being, from establishing meaning in my own life here on Earth. Imagine a group of people putting on a Shakespeare play in an open field. You might as well ask them, “How can you produce a Shakespeare play in a location not specifically constructed and designed for the purpose of performing plays?” Meaning is that which we attach to our own lives, through our goals, ambitions, our desire to leave behind a legacy to be proud of. I don’t tend to fret over my life choices because they cannot possibly “mean” anything on Omicron Ceti VIII. Why do you, John, think the universe must have some kind of specific “meaning” first, in order for your own life to have one?

The next question, and easily the silliest of the lot, comes from apologist Gary Habermas, who identifies himself as a “resurrection expert” in a way that indicates we’re meant to be impressed. From my side of the fence this sounds like identifying oneself as a “Greek mythology expert.” Sure, there’s a vast and interesting field of cultural history and literature to be studied there. But the fact there are experts in Greek mythology doesn’t imply those myths are true, any more than the fact some apologist considers himself a “resurrection expert” makes that particular myth true. But Gary is quite full of himself and his expertise, and launches into a prolix question loaded with unfounded assumptions and unsupported claims stated as fact.

Resurrection expert Gary Habermas: “Utilizing each of the historical facts conceded by virtually all contemporary scholars, please produce a comprehensive natural explanation of Jesus’ resurrection that makes better sense than the event itself.”

These historical facts are: (1) Jesus was killed by crucifixion; (2) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them; (3) The conversion of the church persecutor Saul; (4) the conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus’ half-brother; (5) The empty tomb of Jesus. These “minimal facts” are strongly evidenced and are regarded as historical by the vast majority of scholars, including skeptics, who have written about the resurrection in French, German, and English since 1975. While the fifth fact doesn’t enjoy quite the same universal consensus, nevertheless it is conceded by 75 percent of these scholars and is well supported by the historical data if assessed without preconceptions.

I bet you didn’t know there was universal consensus among “virtually all contemporary scholars” that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, did you? Why, it must be true, since Gary says so himself. Who exactly are these “scholars,” Gary? Yes, I’m being tiresome, asking for names, citations, and what have you, but you know, that’s what we skeptics do. I’d especially like to know who the “skeptics” are among this vast array of contemporary scholars, and especially what it is they are supposed to be skeptical about, since, according to you, they all agree with the historicity of Gospel claims about Jesus. Which would seem to make them, you know, not skeptics. Not to be pedantic or anything. I’m just sayin’.

Naturally it would help to have some of these names. And then, once given the names, we’d need to immediately weed out the ones who were, like Gary, Christian apologists writing for Christian publications rather than peer-reviewed academic journals. Because, as Gary so astutely points out, you really need to assess evidence without preconceptions clouding your judgment.

Okay, enough snark. Obviously Gary’s question is preposterous on its face, mainly because it’s rooted in numerous claims that certain events have been independently established as historical fact, when they have not. Shall we go through them by the numbers?

  1. We have no bulletproof extra-Biblical evidence that the Jesus of the Bible existed at all, let alone that he performed any of the feats attributed to him by the Gospels. Now, I happen to think that the character of Jesus was, in all likelihood, inspired by a real person.

    But even granting this much of the benefit of the doubt, this gets us no closer to real historical, archaeological proof of anything the Gospels say he did. Remember that the earliest scriptures were the product of an unscientific, pre-Enlightenment, primitive, barbaric and cruel culture. Even educated Roman historians like Seutonius, writing about the Twelve Caesars (a great read, btw — snag it), took things like omens and auguries seriously, and slipped them into their histories. Fanciful stories about supernatural occurrences involving popular Roman generals were circulated and believed by the legionnaires; these helped boost morale among the men. In short, the Gospels are hardly unique in making occult claims about famous men. But at its most prosaic, is it likely that, if an itinerant Jewish rabbi named Jesus/Jeshua existed, and pissed off the establishment, that he’d have been crucified as a common rabble rouser and malcontent? Sure, it may have happened. Does it follow from this that we can then claim to have sufficient evidence he rose from the dead? Here’s a hint:
    no.

  2. That someone is converted to a religion or embraces a belief does not prove it is true.
  3. Goto 2.
  4. Goto 3.
  5. What accounts of Jesus’ empty tomb exist outside of scripture? And even if we had such (the passages in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews are widely considered inauthentic), well, allow me to illustrate the absurdity of what you’re claiming, Gary.

    You’re stating that it is an established historical fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty three days after his crucifixion, and that this supports the belief that he rose from the dead. How, exactly, would we in the present day establish this as a fact?

    Let’s go for the best case scenario a Christian could hope for. Let’s say a tomb is unearthed by archaeologists in a location conforming to where Jesus’ tomb is supposed to have been. (No, not this one.) Let’s say they find pretty solid evidence that the tomb was, in fact, the one Jesus was placed in. (For grins, we’ll say they find that little INRI sign that appears in every dead-guy-on-a-stick painting handed down to us through the ages.) Let’s say they carbon date all this stuff right to 33 C.E. (that’s A.D. to you). And let’s say there’s no skeleton in the tomb at all.

    Could we deduce from this that the resurrection really happened? Well, no, any more than an Egyptologist could deduce, finding an empty burial tomb of a forgotten pharaoh, that the guy’s mummy shambled to its feet and wandered off to do some Boris Karloff thing. Maybe the tomb was broken into and robbed; happened often enough. You might expect to see signs of that, but maybe the graverobbers were extremely careful to conceal their tracks. Indeed, maybe the tomb had been broken into by the disciples themselves, in which case, you’d expect them to be careful. Or maybe the tomb was broken into 1800 years ago, or 1600, or 1200, or 700. Maybe it wasn’t maliciously broken into at all, but quite intentionally opened up in order to relocate the body to a different tomb altogether.

    There’d be almost no way to tell. And the point is, I’m giving a hypothetical here. We don’t have an actual Tomb O’ Jesus in the archaeological record anywhere at all. Don’t think for moment every accountant in Israel’s Ministry of Tourism hasn’t fantasized that they had one. So how you expect to approach a group of skeptics with the bald claim that Jesus’ empty tomb is established as factual, while citing no sources and naming none of the impressive dramatis personae of scholars you say agree with you, is quite boggling. You seem to think you can say, “hey, some of these guys were skeptics too!” as if we are obliged to respond with, “well, gee, then maybe I should take all this seriously myself.” Honestly, Gary, you give the impression that the job of “resurrection expert” is to make a bunch of stuff up! [/sarcasm] Do you even know what skepticism entails?

    Okay, I’ll grant that you admitted there isn’t universal consensus on the tomb thing. But, you say, 75% of scholars concede the point. How handy that it’s exactly 75%! I mean, it could have been 72.14% percent, which is, like, a weird number. But 75% would be the kind of thing that might make people sit up and notice, unless they were intelligent skeptics. In which case, you should expect to hear lots of snickering, as you’re hearing now. Then again, you could always cite your sources and name these guys. Because, as the saying goes, 98% of statistics are made up on the spot. But who knows? Maybe yours are among that 2%. I think there’s about an 11.3851% possibility of that.

So my “comprehensive natural explanation” of the resurrection that “makes better sense than the event itself”? Simple. Like the Virgin Birth, it’s a myth. Because the event itself makes no sense. While understanding that it is a myth conforms to Occam’s Razor, the law of parsimony. Which is the more parsimonious and sensible explanation for the resurrection?

  • That it is a myth, or…
  • …that at one point in history, one human cadaver behaved in a manner that, in all of human history, no human cadaver had ever acted before, or has acted since.

Don’t think too hard on it.

Final points: Is it not odd, considering how factually established you seem to think the resurrection is, that the Gospels themselves give conflicting accounts of how it all went down? Being a resurrection expert, I assume you know this. I mean, if the divinely inspired word of God can’t get its information straight, what can we trust? Here, for the rest of you, is the game I like to call Choose Your Own Resurrection Adventure.

Matthew 28

  • Number of women visiting the tomb: 2 (Mary Magdalene and Mary (Jesus’ mother).
  • Earthquake: yes.
  • Number of angels and when they appear: 1, descending from Heaven following earthquake.
  • Anybody else there?: yes, an unspecified number of “keepers,” who understandably did “shake and become as dead men” in response to all this divine seismic activity and angelic visitation.
  • Tomb open or closed?: Opened by angel immediately upon touchdown, demonstrating that no one knows how to make an entrance quite like an angel. Then, just to show off how frickin’ cool angels are, he calmly sits down on the stone after rolling it away.
  • Reaction: The two Marys rush off to tell the disciples. Part-ay! Jesus arrives, fashionably late. Serious part-ay! Disciples are encouraged to spread the word that Jesus will appear to his “brethren” in Galilee, and to meet him there.
  • Anti-Semitic CYA quotient: High. Priests from the temple, who must have slept through the earthquake, are led to empty tomb by guards, and are accordingly chagrined. They bribe the guards to spread the word that the disciples stole the body. If I were writing this scene, I’d have a clueless, comedy-relief guard named Dorkus Magnus say something like, “But what about the earthq—”, followed by a getting-hit-over-the-head sound.

Mark 16

  • Number of women visiting the tomb: 3 (Mary Mag, Mary Mom, and someone named Salome).
  • Earthquake: no. In fact we get the idea it’s a pretty morning.
  • Anybody else there?: No.
  • Tomb open or closed?: Already open when the women get there.
  • Number of angels and when they appear: 1, and he’s already inside the open tomb, waiting for them.
  • Reaction: Fear. The angel calmly tells the women to inform the disciples Jesus is arisen, but, terrified, they keep their mouths shut and tell no one. Then Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and next, bizarrely, appears to two of his disciples (not named) in “another form.” These men tell the remaining disciples, who don’t believe them. Jesus then appears to them (as himself, I presume), jumps everybody’s shit for doubting his return, then orders them all to spread the word. In short, a considerably less joyous reunion than in Matthew. Footnote: a lot of folks have died over the years thanks to Mark 16:18.
  • Anti-Semitic CYA quotient: None. No denouement here about wily Sanhedrin.

Luke 24

  • Number of women visiting the tomb: More than 3 (Mary Mag, Mary Mom, someone named Joanna, plus an unspecified number of “other women”).
  • Earthquake: no.
  • Anybody else there?: No.
  • Tomb open or closed?: Already open when the women get there.
  • Number of angels and when they appear: 2, who beam down from Heaven with considerably less pyrotechnics than Matthew’s angel, while the women are standing slack-jawed inside the empty tomb wondering where Jesus is. This sudden appearance, not surprisingly, scares the shit out of them.
  • Reaction: Complex, happy but muted. The women rush off and tell all the disciples, who don’t believe them. But Peter goes and checks out the empty tomb himself, leaving perplexed. An unspecified time later, two disciples are discussing the event in a town called Erasmus, when they encounter Jesus and fail to recognize him, with the passage indicating, as did Mark, that Jesus was intentionally disguising himself. The disguised Jesus casually questions the men, who express their sadness at Jesus’ death and confusion over events at the tomb. Jesus gently rebukes them for their doubt, then has dinner with them later, where he reveals his true identity then promptly disappears. The men return to Jerusalem and inform the other disciples, at which point Jesus beams in. But the disciples are frightened and think he may be a ghost. Jesus confirms his realness by letting them examine his wounds. Then, instead of giving his “go out into all the world” speech, he tells them all to hang loose in Jerusalem “until ye be endued with power from on high.” Finally Jesus goes back to Heaven and the disciples spend all their time in the temple praying.
  • Anti-Semitic CYA quotient: None.

John 20-21

  • Number of women visiting the tomb: 1, only Mary Magdalene.
  • Earthquake: no.
  • Anybody else there?: No.
  • Tomb open or closed?: Already open when Mary Mag gets there. She promptly runs off and gets Simon Peter and another unnamed disciple, believing that someone has already stolen Jesus’ body.
  • Number of angels and when they appear: 2, who, for some reason, only show up inside the tomb after Simon Peter and the other disciple have checked the place out and gone home. Only Mary Mag sees them.
  • Reaction: …And not only that, Jesus is in there too, alive! And like the befuddled disciples in the other Gospels, Mary Mag at first not only doesn’t recognize him, but mistakes him for the gardener and asks where he has moved Jesus’ body! Then he reveals himself to her. Interestingly he says he has not yet ascended to Heaven, but is waiting to tell her to inform the disciples of his resurrection first. (Why didn’t he just appear when the men were there too? John really needed a good story editor.) She does so that night, at which point Jesus materializes in their midst. In John, there is only one disciple, Thomas, who later doubts Jesus is alive (unlike all of them in Luke), and that’s because he was the only guy not there at the time. Eight days later Jesus appears again, proves himself to Thomas, and chides him for his entirely reasonable skepticism. Later still, Jesus plays an odd prank on some of the disciples fishing on a boat in the Sea of Tiberias. In disguise again (why? — they already know he’s risen), he calls to them from the shore and they complain the fishing is lousy. Jesus tells them to cast their net again, and they promptly snag 153 fish. Simon Peter, now aware the stranger is Jesus, gets embarrassed at his nudity and jumps over the side. LOL! Later, over a yummy fish dinner on the beach, Jesus, after a fashion, forgives Simon Peter for his earlier denial of him (John 18:25-27), giving the man a speech that might have inspired the one given by Don Corleone in The Godfather. (“Someday, and that day may never come, I may ask you a favor…”) Finally, the author of John slips himself into the dinner party, giving Jesus a line that implies the kingdom of Heaven will be installed on Earth in John’s own lifetime.
  • Anti-Semitic CYA quotient: Surprisingly light, considering how anti-Semitic most of John is considered to be in its crucifixion scene. There’s a brief note that, after the tomb is found empty, the disciples are in hiding “for fear of the Jews.”

Whew. Quite a lot of variations for one story, eh? Was there an earthquake, or not? Angels inside or outside the tomb? And why is Jesus doing all this concealing of himself, when he presumably wants his followers to know he’s back and better than ever? Given so many discrepancies and incongruities in the narrative, it must take a great deal of stretching on Habermas’ part to have the stones to claim all of this is established historical fact. But then, maybe that’s what being a “resurrection expert” is about: skillful explaining away of the problems in the narrative, to make it all sound like it was meant to be that way. I think that’s probably what apologists call “interpretation.”

Next: Three more apologists to answer…stay tuned.

48 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Rob

    Great post! Not only is it extremely informative but it’s also very entertainingly written. Kudos.

  2. 2
    Mauro

    Wow. For a second there I thought that “ressurection expert” was someone really good at coming back to life after being killed. What a shame, that would be way cooler. As it stands, it’s just a professional BS-er.

  3. 3
    -C

    Thanks much, Martin. Will be using these in future.

  4. 4
    v_quixotic

    The Infidel Guy did a long interview with “Dr” Gary H. from “Liberty University” in a recent podcast, and even though Reggie had to concede most of the “established facts” to allow the good doctor to complete his argument, it’s still quite entertaining. I especially enjoyed the interesting segue into the possibility that Jebux wasn’t crucified properly but instead had a prolonged near-death experience…

  5. 5
    Gav

    Could we deduce from this that the resurrection really happened? Well, no, any more than an Egyptologist could deduce, finding an empty burial tomb of a forgotten pharaoh, that the guy’s mummy shambled to its feet and wandered off to do some Boris Karloff thing.You, sir, owe me a new keyboard. I love that line and I fully intend to steal it in the future.@v_quixoticIndeed. It’s been a while since I’ve read the gospels, but don’t some of them record bystander’s surprise that Jesus dies so quickly?Looks like the Romans forgot Evil Overlord Rule #13: “All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.”

  6. 6
    Steven Carr

    Is Strobel going to publish answers from , say. John Loftus on his page?Or does he not intend to allow atheists to have a say?As for Habermas’s minimal facts, why should we not use ‘all’ the facts, not just minimal facts?Habermas’s approach is identical to Holocaust-deniers.It is a fact that no document signed or dictated by Hitler said to liqudate Jews in Europe in death camps.It is a fact that ‘Gas chamber 1′ Auschwitz was an air raid shelter in 1944 and the building seen today dates largely from 1948.These are undisputed facts. Even Wikipedia agrees these are facts, down to the building being an air-raid shelter in 1944.Now using Habermas ‘minimal facts’ methodology, how can we best explain these undisputed facts?Remember, we are only allowed to use these minimal facts, which nobody denies.Why is it that Habermas’s technique of cherry-picking allegedly ‘undisputed minimal facts’ is so close to the techniques used by Holocaust deniers?At least Holocaust-deniers use real facts, not Habermas’s non-facts.The other questions are often just variations on ‘I can’t answer this question, so there must be a person who did it all by magic’.

  7. 7
    Ricardo Garzo

    this is becoming…The Martin Experience.No ofense, they are really great posts.Appreciate your work!

  8. 8
    Steven Carr

    ‘But, you say, 75% of scholars concede the point.’But 99.9% of professional biologists have no doubts about evolution and Christians often claim that evolution is ‘controversial’ because 0.01% of professional biologists have doubts.If 1/4 of professional biologists had doubts about evolution, creationists would be shouting that from the roof tops.I would even agree with them! A field where expert opinion is split 3-1 is a field of controversy.Yet somehow, 75% is supposed to be conclusive, yet Habermas would laugh himself silly at the idea that he must accept Darwinian evolution because many, many more than 75% of professional biologists have no doubts.

  9. 9
    Tom Foss

    From my side of the fence this sounds like identifying oneself as a “Greek mythology expert.”See, I think this is a little unfair. There’s a lot of Greek Mythology, and it’s not as though Habermas was a “Bible story expert” or a “Christian dogma expert.” It’s more like being a “Odysseus killing the Cyclopes” expert or a “Theseus in the Labyrinth” expert. He’s an expert on one event out of a whole mythology, which is much more lame and useless, I think, than being an expert on the mythology in general.

  10. 10
    Tommykey

    My take on the Empty Tomb is that it was purposely written that way to make it impossible to rebut.If the resurrection of Jesus was written as some fantastic spectacle witnessed by thousands, there would have been people who would have been around in that area during the alleged time who would have flatly denied it. “I never saw such a thing, nor have I ever heard tell of anyone else seeing such a thing.” However, when you just have an empty tomb, it gives skeptics nowhere to go.Mark is generally considered to be the earliest gospel, and has the Empty Tomb story. Matthew borrows heavily from Mark, but has fantastical things in it that Mark does not have, such as the Magi, the massacre of the children in Bethlehem, and the renting of the temple after Jesus died, among other things. But because Mark describes an empty tomb, Matthew has to adhere to it or else run the risk of contradiction.

  11. 11
    Steven Carr

    Paul never mentions any empty tomb, not even to the Christian converts who converted and still scoffed at the idea of their god choosing to raise a corpse.Why would Christian converts scoff at the idea of corpses being raised?Habermas says Paul implies an empty tomb and that an empty tomb implies a resurrection.Habermas arguments resemble those of conspiracy theorists.All historians agree JFK was killed in Dallas.This is a minimum fact that sceptics of the second gunman theory must accept.I guess, the idea that JFK was shot by a second gunman implies a second gun.Wait a minute, doesn’t a second gun imply a second gunman?So we have now ‘proved’ that a second gunman shot JFK,thanks to Gary Habermas and his circular reasoning.A second gunman implies a second gun.And if there was a second gun, this implies a second gunman….If Paul had said outright that there was an empty tomb, then at least Habermas’s logic would not be so circular that even JFK conspiracy theorists would scoff at it.But as Paul never says outright that there was an empty tomb, all Habermas can do is say Paul implies an empty tomb and an empty tomb implies a resurrection.

  12. 12
    Johnboy

    For the love of God (no pun intended)change the blog theme to one with a wider text column!!!Threads get sooo long because of how narrow the text rows are.Make it twice as wide or make it fluid

  13. 13
    StridentLobster

    I’m not a resurrection expert, but I play one online. Tauren Restoration Shaman, Earthen Ring server.

  14. 14
    DagoRed

    Fun post, Martin. I can’t wait for the other three. It’s as if they all can see only the color green. Licoma asks why we don’t like green and whether we ever doubt our ability to see full-spectrum light, Lane asks a similar question but (in typical Lane fashion) arrogantly spins it to imply green is intrinsically the most likable color and if we don’t like it we must be dysfunctional, Ortberg assumes green is the only color that can bring one happiness, so how could we possibly be happy liking any other color, and Habermas stupidly asserts that green has been proven to be prettiest color in the spectrum and asks us to prove otherwise. No doubt, if Strobel weighed in, he would likely imply it takes far more faith to believe in full-spectrum light than to simply believe in green.These are just more fine examples of how Christian apologists are incapable of ever thinking outside the Christian box.

  15. 15
    Ai Deng

    Beautifully written Martin, and logically drawn. Although I also agree with Tom Foss’s point that the comparison of the professional title of “Resurrection Expert” is more suited to a single event. Comparing it to a “Greek Mythology Expert” gives far too much credit to the former, and depreciates from the later. That is my only constructive criticism however, this was a beautiful read.

  16. 16
    Martin

    You’re right, that’s a good point. I also like Steven Carr’s point about evolution. I love AE readers! Give yourselves a hug and say, “we’re so awesome!” You deserve it.

  17. 17
    Tommykey

    I’m not a resurrection expert, but I play one online.I’m not a resurrection expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

  18. 18
    NAL

    Who buried Jesus? Could it be possible that the women went to the wrong tomb, an empty one?

  19. 19
    TheBrainFromPlanetArous

    Two things about Habermas…1) Another thing “virtually every historian concedes” is that the Gospels were written, copied, distributed and used as evangelical tools. They cannot be relied upon as impartial historical records and were never meant to be that. This is significant because even as we cannot and do not know the identity of the Gospel writers, their location, age, what have you, we can clearly see what the texts themselves are and how they were meant to be used.So Habermas and others are in the position of arguing that we should accept the claims of a religion because of texts produced by… early followers of that religion.Wow, Gary. That’s some world-class scholarship.2) What really grabs me is how Habermas cannot see the difference between an historical claim and a theological one.”Jesus was the Messiah and rose from the dead” is theology. You cannot prove it from history (or, for that matter, disprove it) because as a singular, supernatural event it’s not amenable to empirical investigation.The burden of proof remains with the proponents, of course, which leaves Christians rather in a bind.Or it would, except that they supposedly have an ace in the hole; an eternal, living deity who comforts, sustains and instructs them in their faith, thoughts and conduct.”Well,” we atheists say, “Would this deity please contact me? I’m not asking for miracles or anything flashy… just make contact.”At this point, even though Christianity clearly and explicitly teaches that the deity is eager for such contact and Christians themselves routinely claim communication with this being… contact is not made. The phone doesn’t ring.Faced with the brute, immutable FACT of this silence, Strobel, Habermas, Craig and the lot of ‘em have to fall back on every manner of doubletalk, special pleading and (seen here) laughably bad “historical” arguments. Ultimately, if you think about it, this is all apologetics is.

  20. 20
    cipher

    You’d think these guys had never read any atheist literature in their lives. They probably haven’t, though, being apologists, you’d think that doing so would at least give them some kind of frame of reference from which to formulate good responses to atheists’ and skeptics’ criticism of religion. Or maybe they’re worried they wouldn’t be able to respond…That is precisely what’s going on, even if subconsciously. Reality is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the feeling of security afforded by the belief system. Every one and everything else is expendable. As I said the other day – it’s an addiction. It’s like trying to pry that last drink out of an alcoholic’s hands. He won’t appreciate what you’re trying to do for him; he’ll simply fight you like a cornered animal.Honestly, can you really be so clueless as to why Christianity turns atheists off, when it offers such an appalling deity for our devotion?Yes, and that is the problem. They really are. This is why I won’t argue with evangelicals, and why I asked you why you all bother arguing with Rho. They don’t get it; they’re never going to get it – and they think the same of us. We’re speaking entirely different languages.This is why I feel very strongly that the efforts of progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis are a waste of time. They want to bring the conservatives to the table, which would be an exercise in futility. They don’t understand dialogue; they are capable only of monologue.Fundamentalists cannot be reasoned with; they can only be subjugated.

  21. 21
    cipher

    It’s as if they all can see only the color green. Licoma asks why we don’t like green and whether we ever doubt our ability to see full-spectrum light, Lane asks a similar question but (in typical Lane fashion) arrogantly spins it to imply green is intrinsically the most likable color and if we don’t like it we must be dysfunctional, Ortberg assumes green is the only color that can bring one happiness, so how could we possibly be happy liking any other color, and Habermas stupidly asserts that green has been proven to be prettiest color in the spectrum and asks us to prove otherwise. No doubt, if Strobel weighed in, he would likely imply it takes far more faith to believe in full-spectrum light than to simply believe in green.These are just more fine examples of how Christian apologists are incapable of ever thinking outside the Christian box.DagoRed,Excellent. This is just spot-on.

  22. 22
    Jodi

    To be redundant – absolutely awesome post, I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you a ton, I’m so saving this.

  23. 23
    maddogdelta

    [Copycat humor]@MartinDorkus MagnusWasn’t he the brother of Biggus Dickus? Brother in law to Incontenientia Butticus?[/Copycat humor]Great post! I decided to answer some of the questions myself. Does Lee really want these answers? Is there somewhere we can send them to?

  24. 24
    paul.d.ferguson

    Wonderful column, I really enjoyed it.Regarding the so called “resurrection expert”, it appears he fancies himself an expert in something that actually happened. It’s as if a “Star Trek expert” somehow deluded himself that the Starship Enterprise really exists. One can be an “expert” on fictional events, but the bizarreness of religionists is that they have, mostly through peer pressure, convinced themselves that the myths and fables of their ancient books aren’t fiction. It’s a very weird psychological phenomenon, one which I find endlessly fascinating.Similarly, I always get a chuckle when someone condemns me to hell for being an atheist, because they invariably fail to understand the simple fact that for a threat to be effective the person at whom the threat is directed has to believe it to be real. Otherwise it has all the power of a six year old child threatening his parents that the monster in the closet is gonna get them.

  25. 25
    Tommykey

    Another thing “virtually every historian concedes” is that the Gospels were written, copied, distributed and used as evangelical tools. They cannot be relied upon as impartial historical records and were never meant to be that.BrainFromArous, that even applies to many works of ancient historians. It is readily acknowledged today that they wrote from bias viewpoints, purposely trying to make a particular ruler for example be a model of virtue or a degenerate. Fictional dialogue would be ascribed to a person simply because it must be assumed that an emperor or a general would give a rousing speech before a battle, and so forth. And yet the Apologist denies the same thing when it comes to the Gospels. Every other historical work can be found to contain errors or outright lies, but the Gospels, nope, they have to be 100% correct.

  26. 26
    Kevin Vinther

    BrainFromArous said…Two things about Habermas…1) Another thing “virtually every historian concedes” is that the Gospels were written, copied, distributed and used as evangelical tools.Actually, I think these guys are evangelical tools! ;)

  27. 27
    maddogdelta

    I just checked the website…There was an “Ask Lee” blog, but no posts and no indication that it is even used.But you can get his newsletter, where he’ll tell you what to think, and a store, where you can send him money and make him even richer.There are video clips where he is answering “questions” from people, but I could only stomach one of them, his answer to “Misquoting Jesus”, where he launches a huge ad-hominem attack against Bart Ehrman and his book, without addressing any of the points raised in the book. One vitriol spilled command to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.What a tool.// one sincere seeming person recommended that I give this guy a listen, because he is “good”. I saw no evidence of that.

  28. 28
    cipher

    Yes, he is a colossal tool.I refuse to have theology dictated to me by a man with that haircut.

  29. 29
    Robert

    HA! I laughed my ass off at the dude who called himself a resurrection expert! What a tool!

  30. 30
    DagoRed

    Cipher wrote: why…bother arguing with Rho. They don’t get it; they’re never going to get it – and they think the same of us. We’re speaking entirely different languages.You are so right, and I hope I have learned my lesson since my last row with Rho over gay-marriage. Fundies like Rho are like coming across dead animals in the woods. The mere sight is so sad, I feel compelled to poke them with a stick a bit. In some vane hope, I guess I expect they will just “wake up” and scamper off to live out a normal life. But, alas, they simply lie there, lifeless and dead (from the neck up), just like when I found them.

  31. 31
    Ai Deng

    DagoRed,Love the allegory! With that carcass, even the trees weep.Actually, in my discussions with him I considered that he might be a troll posing as a theist, just to get a rise. But given the time he has put into it, and the numbers of other individuals like him, I have to assume he is being honest, or at least honest as he sees it.

  32. 32
    Badger3k

    Tommy – “BrainFromArous, that even applies to many works of ancient historians. It is readily acknowledged today that they wrote from bias viewpoints, purposely trying to make a particular ruler for example be a model of virtue or a degenerate. Fictional dialogue would be ascribed to a person simply because it must be assumed that an emperor or a general would give a rousing speech before a battle, and so forth. And yet the Apologist denies the same thing when it comes to the Gospels. Every other historical work can be found to contain errors or outright lies, but the Gospels, nope, they have to be 100% correct.”Nuh-uh. Don’t you know that the default position is that the historians are accurate? (/sarcasm)http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/11/independent-confirmation-is-not.htmlwhich leads to here (better links, IIRC): http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=258556So: “You simply cannot be serious. Be consistent then with all textual evidence and see where that gets you. Become a historian and then you’ll know why they treat textual evidence as prima facie true unless discomfirmed. THEY MUST DO THIS! THERE IS NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE!”

  33. 33
    Scriptulicious

    I just amazes me how the most important “historical event” of Christianity is plagued with so much contradiction in the inerrant Bible.

  34. 34
    Ryan

    Yeah… you are SO clever in your own little world, on your own little blog in cyberspace, where you have hours upon hours to type and re-type answers to these questions. Why don’t you get some balls and debate Mr. Habermas, a foremost Christian scholar, in-person? And then we shall see who the victor is! I’ve watched extended-length footage of Habermas taking on Antony Flew before a live studio audience. Habermas decimated Flew. He would do the same to you. Habermas has written many books. Some of them answer each and every point you’ve posted here (and frankly, your points are just recycled atheist garbage that keeps getting regurgitated on various corners of the internet ad-naseum). Why don’t you form some original opinions instead of re-using the same old, tired points that people came up with while you were still in diapers?And the fact you start your post by denying that Jesus ever lived is the most ridiculous assertion I’ve ever heard. While I’ll concede that Jesus’ resurrection is an unknown variable, his existence is almost certain, even if only based on prima facie evidence. To assert otherwise is simply illogical and makes me believe you have been living in a cave for the majority of your adult life.

  35. 35
    Craigus

    Heh, great post.I read the other questions and I stand amazed. Particularly by the second question from the philosopher. This is someone who’s supposed to be schooled in logic and yet he doesn’t seem to notice that in the second paragraph he’s begging the question.

  36. 36
    cipher

    I’ve watched extended-length footage of Habermas taking on Antony Flew before a live studio audience. Habermas decimated Flew. He would do the same to you.Right – he “decimated” poor Antony Flew, who hasn’t had a coherent thought in years. Big man.It really wouldn’t matter who the opponent was. You could pit Ken Ham against a panel of Nobel Prize winners; it wouldn’t make one bit of difference to you. You’d still conclude that your guy “decimated” them – because that’s what you need to believe.

  37. 37
    Paulo Henrique

    “Atheism is not a “worldview.” It is merely the disbelief in gods.)”I disagree, since the disbelief in gods implies in a much more objective (and cool, IMO)worldview.

  38. 38
    glitch

    There’s nothing like slamming down some stupid at 3 am in the morning.

  39. 39
    Kingasaurus

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but we have an apologetic interloper named Ryan who prefers in-person debates. Shocking. There is, of course, a reason why religious apologists generally (and creationists in particular, BTW) always want in-person debates. It allows them to use theatrics, personality, hand waving and obfuscation to “win” the debate, rather than doing so on the merits of the argument – assuming they actually stick to the topic, that is. Written arguments/responses are much preferred for anyone really interested in generating more light than heat. It allows you to parse exactly what the other person has said in detail, followed by the ability to research a well-considered answer without being interrupted or steered away from the topic.The Sam Harris-Andrew Sullivan online debate is an excellent example of how written debates are better, despite the fact that Harris is usually a decent debater in person. The format kept Sullivan from wriggling off the hook in certain areas, where the same situation in person would have yielded less fruitful discussion and more yelling and interruption.Habermas has “answers” to atheist arguments, but they’re crappy answers that only convince people who are already in the tank and who have clearly shown a distaste for considering any non-miraculous explanations for the “events” in question. Strange how Muslims and Jews agree with the atheists and find his case uncompelling. Wonder why that is?

  40. 40
    cipher

    Strange how Muslims and Jews agree with the atheists and find his case uncompelling. Wonder why that is?Yeah, well, they don’t have the Holy Spirit to tell them what abominable sinners they are and that they can’t trust the workings of their own minds – which have, of course, been commandeered by Satan.

  41. 41
    Martin

    Ryan, if you’re going to attempt to correct me, it would help if you learned to read first.You whine: And the fact you start your post by denying that Jesus ever lived is the most ridiculous assertion I’ve ever heard.I actually wrote: We have no bulletproof extra-Biblical evidence that the Jesus of the Bible existed at all, let alone that he performed any of the feats attributed to him by the Gospels. Now, I happen to think that the character of Jesus was, in all likelihood, inspired by a real person.I put the part in boldface because you were obviously not intelligent enough to notice it yourself.So, since you clearly can’t even read too good, is there any reason at all to take the rest of your infantile spasm of rage seriously?If you’d care to produce any of this “prima facie” evidence you claim makes Jesus’ existence “almost certain,” then be my guest. But even having ironclad evidence that the Jesus of the Gospels was a real person would not, in and of itself, constitute evidence of any of the supernatural or divine claims surrounding him. You know that, right?In any case, throwing an adolescent shit-fit over my article and calling it “recycled atheist garbage” does not constitute a refutation of it. If I’ve gotten my facts wrong, explain where and how, in detail. I expect you cannot, and a hysterical tirade is, in fact, all you’ve got. If Habermas asked to debate me, I might consider it. But I cannot see the point of it. Debates do not establish facts. Evidence does. I know Christians like debates, because, as Kingasaurus pointed out, debates are all about performance, bluster, and getting a laugh from the audience. Christians are good at that, and debates give them the illusion they’ve got facts on their side by virtue of enjoying the applause of a congenial audience. Since you’re obviously a huge Habermas fan, though, why not do this: alert Habermas to this blog post, and if my points are as lousy as all that, he should have no problem demolishing them in reply, either here or on his own blog or both. Something like that would certainly be more likely to impress me and the other readers here, than a pissed-off rant from a petulant fundie scorned.

  42. 42
    MrFreeThinker

    @MartinOh heck no.Habermas has written sevral books and peer-reviewed publications on the historical Jesus. If you are looking for names and citations and studies I suggest you buy the books and look there.You completely misunderstood his argument.Also take a look at how we study history because its obvious you do not understand the discipline.(Do historians say that Hannibal never crosses the Alps because Polybius contradicts Livy on the event? heck no. that is why it is stupid for you to appeal to discrepancies in the gospels. It is nothing but special pleading).If you really are open minded I suggest you read one of his books. N.T. Wright has some good stuuff too.

  43. 43
    Martin

    If you are looking for names and citations and studies I suggest you buy the books and look there.You completely misunderstood his argument.I think you’ve completely misunderstood this whole discussion. Remember that I was responding to apologists’ questions for atheists. So this is a case of these guys coming to us. If Habermas wants me to consider all of his apparently vast scholarly work on the subject, then he should present a better question than one whose premise is rooted in a number of assertions he doesn’t back up. Where does he show the proof that “75%” of scholars agree the Resurrection happened? Who are these scholars? Are they real academics, or just fellow fundamentalist apologists like himself? If he wants to present a series of claims as part of a question for atheists, he needs to be the one to bring all of his facts to the table first. It isn’t my job to chase after his facts. If I get asked a question by an apologist, I will answer the question asked. It’s a bit foolish to say, “Oh, I’ll ask you a question, but before you answer it, read all my books too.”Do historians say that Hannibal never crosses the Alps because Polybius contradicts Livy on the event? heck no. that is why it is stupid for you to appeal to discrepancies in the gospels. It is nothing but special pleading.Look up what the special pleading fallacy is first, before accusing someone of it. If anyone is trying for special pleading, it’s the Christians, who want to claim ironclad historicity for Biblical claims on extremely flimsy evidence at best. And as for Livy and Polybius, neither of those men’s writings have had 2000 years of followers proclaiming them the inerrant word of God, nor do either of them claim Hannibal performed unheard of supernatural feats like rising from the dead and becoming ruler of the universe. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I don’t expect all the works of secular historians to be copacetic on all details. But when Christians claim that their God dictated their Bible, and that the book is His Inspired Word, then I do wonder why there are discrepancies.Though the “if you had an open mind” bait doesn’t work with me (sorry), I’m happy to consider any recommendations for further reading.

  44. 44
    cipher

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I don’t expect all the works of secular historians to be copacetic on all details. But when Christians claim that their God dictated their Bible, and that the book is His Inspired Word, then I do wonder why there are discrepancies.To which I would add, “and, if you’re going to insist that we’ll suffer for all of eternity if we don’t believe it…” Neither Livy nor Polybius ever threatened anyone (as far as I know) with eternal damnation.

  45. 45
    MrFreeThinker

    I understand what you mean. Habermas can’t present his full argument in 1 short statement.If you read how Habermas presents his case he doesn’t go for “ironclad historicity” but usually goes with the 5 facts that even skeptics accept.Even most non-Christians scholars (Bart Ehrman and Pinchas Lapide are 2 examples) accept the minimal facts.Oh and I’m not really in favor of the the “Extraordinary…”(ECREE) because of how subjective it is.Basically it says , “I arbitrarily decided what kinds of events I don’t like and what kind of evidence I will accept if it does not line up with naturalism”

  46. 46
    Kingasaurus

    “I arbitrarily decided what kinds of events I don’t like and what kind of evidence I will accept if it does not line up with naturalism”Sorry, this is nonsense. Claims defined as “extraordinary” don’t automatically contradict the idea of naturalism apriori. If you come to my house and claim you’re lateness was due to a traffic jam, I’m inclined to take your word for it. Traffic jams are commonplace, and even though there is a slim statistical chance that you are lying for some reason unknown to me, I’m not going to be really motivated to thoroughly investigate whether the traffic jam actually happened. But if you claim an elephant escaped from the zoo, and during its rampage trampled your car, I’m not likely to just go along and buy it. A zoo escape (or even an alien abduction) doesn’t contradict naturalism, but it is sufficiently unlikely that if you claim it happened, I’d really like some ironclad evidence beyond your say-so.In the same vein, claims of supernatural “miracles” qualify as extraordinary claims – NOT just because they contradict the known laws of the universe that we’ve discovered, but also because they are sufficiently outside our everyday experience that we can confidently say that reports of real “miracles” are less likely to be accurate than the person simply lying, being mistaken, or being deliberately fooled by another person. Doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no chance that something supernatural happened, but the evidence had better be darned good before we buy into it.This is why things like “I saw some guy levitate” simply doesn’t get accepted on the person’s say-so.There are modern gurus who perform “miracles” in front of throngs of eyewitnesses who are convinced the person in question has real supernatural powers. Very few outside the true believers are convinced by such stuff, as people educated in sleight of hand and subterfuge can state that it’s much more likely that the guy is simply doing tricks. Such gurus, as Sam Harris points out, don’t even make the nightly news. Yet plop down some similar (decades old) accounts in some hearsay-ridden ancient books, that come out of the pre-scientific, superstitous environment of the first century Roman empire, and billions of modern people think it’s a worthwhile project around which to organize their lives.You’ll have to pardon me if i find that a bit hard to swallow, with or without a “presumption of naturalism.”

  47. 47
    Jennifer Juniper

    This is one of my favourite posts ever. Can't wait to read the next one. (I've reposted a portion of it on my blog as well. Needs to be read!)Quick question: Is that bit about Thomas not believing where the term "Doubting Thomas" comes from? I love finding stuff like that out.Ugh. But yet again, this blog makes me terrified of the human race and the stupidity that runs rampant through its members… ::shudder::

  48. 48
    tracieh

    Thanks for posting the link to this article to my blog post. I hadn’t read it, but it’s funny. I find the questions “asked” nearly rhetorical in nature. In fact, I just reread an exchange I had with a theist back in 2008, where he asked specifically this question, and when atheists posted answers, he objected it was obviously not intended as a real question, but as rhetorical. It was Craig’s question: “What's the real reason you don't believe in God? How and when do you lose your faith in God?”It’s the sort of question you ask a person when you just don’t like the answer you’re getting. I can’t help people who don’t get answers they want to rhetorical questions. But I can say that if you’re asking questions rhetorically and not wanting answers, then you’re assuming you already know the answer. But what’s interesting with the theists who offer this as rhetorical, is that 10 times out of 10, they’re assumptions are wrong. So, humorously, they ask without wanting to know, and they demonstrate that what they think they know is wrong. The very person who could learn in this situation is, ironically, assuming he has nothing to learn from the people he is asking.“Resurrection expert”? Is that like Big Foot Cryptozoologist? I sometimes ask when I see a divinity degree, if that means the person has graduated to god. There is something special about being an expert on something nobody can confirm ever existed or actually happened.In your reply to Habermas, I’m reminded of the Luke Gospel. It has no named author, but we use Luke. Then we proceed to discuss that book as “Luke’s Gospel,” disregarding that we really don’t know it was authored by a person named Luke. And that becomes “everybody accepts Luke wrote it…” Well, we refer to it as though Luke wrote it, because it’s handy to do so; but that doesn’t mean Luke wrote it. Then when we address that whoever authored Luke wasn’t an eyewitness. And the reply is that he _interviewed_ eyewitnesses. And how do we know this? Well, because this anonymous author said so in the text. Did he also tell us how he knew these people were eyewitnesses? Was there any screening? Seriously, how did Luke weed out real eyewitnesses—if there were any—from the people we all know and love who will assert they experienced/saw anything in order to simply have someone to talk to? Were these the alien abductees of antiquity? How do we know they weren’t? Did the author talk to anyone at all? Or did the author simply assert he did? How do we know his claim is accurate? How do we know, without original texts, if this claim was the same in the original or was added or revised later?For any of these questions we can take a guess. And we can study and take a more educated guess. But we can’t really ever know the answers to these questions because the only means of examining these issues is long gone. We can’t interview anyone. We can’t look at any tomb. We can’t do anything that would be remotely necessary to establish this as “fact.” And that is the problem—when the theist or apologist puts this out as “fact,” tacks on the fallacy from popularity, and then declares challengers to their bald assertions are off their nut. No doubt he has the numbers to pull it off. But it’s dishonest, unreasonable, and dishonorable. I’m fine being considered nuts by a majority who asserts “facts” they simply _cannot_ demonstrate are, in fact, facts.And yes, your breakdown of the resurrection myths is very helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>