Siding with hate: Michael L. Brown »« Yep, you’re a bigot!

Projective stupidity and Jesus

Have you ever noticed how some people tend to assume you’re just as dumb as they are? It’s not that they’re necessarily being patronizing or disingenuous, they’re just genuinely ignorant. They expect you to believe what they’re telling you because they believe it themselves. None of us are exempt from this, of course – we’re all subject to our own limitations here. It just becomes especially striking when people make the most transparently terrible points, without even realizing how bad they are. And nowhere is this more apparent than with arguments for the divinity and resurrection of Jesus. Some people really seem to believe that I’ll find these claims just as compelling as they do, to the point that they fail to anticipate even the most obvious responses. I have to second-guess myself on this every time, because I keep thinking I must have missed something – this couldn’t possibly be what they’re really saying. But it is. It’s just that awful.

By far the most glaring oversight is when events from the Gospels are cited as supporting evidence for the alleged resurrection. This, of course, presumes that the contents of the Bible are factual and that all of this actually happened. If that were the case, there would be no need to refer to anything other than the resurrection story itself, because we’ve simply assumed that the Gospels are accurate. We could just point to the part with the resurrection, and say, “There it is!” But if we’re trying to establish the veracity of the resurrection, then the contents of the books which recount that story can no more be assumed to be true than the very event in question.

Some people have claimed that the contents of the New Testament have remained largely intact and unchanged throughout the centuries, but that has nothing to do with whether the events it describes actually took place – unless humans only acquired the ability to write fiction some time after the first century A.D. But even if we grant that the events cited in favor of the resurrection really did happen as claimed, an actual resurrection of Jesus is hardly the only explanation for this, let alone the best or the most likely.

One common argument is that Jesus claimed to be the son of God. Apparently that alone is supposed to tell us something about whether he was actually divine. Yet many people throughout history have said they were the son of God, relatives of gods, or gods themselves. Was all of this true as well? After all, why would someone claim to be the son of God if they weren’t? And yet most of them were probably wrong. The fact that someone has declared themselves divine says nothing about the truth of the matter.

It’s also been said that Jesus supposedly showed exceptional and even supernatural moral wisdom, beyond the ability of any mere human to articulate. The rapid spread and modern prevalence of Christianity is often cited in support of this claim. But what part of his moral philosophy could not have been developed by regular people? Could no human mind figure out that pacifism, humility, personal virtue, honesty, kindness, loyalty and generosity can be good things? What about this is so difficult as to be accessible only to the divine? And if the success of Christianity is supposed to say something about its truth, what does the spread of Islam tell us? Is the validity of a religion contingent upon demographics now? Even if two billion people are Christians, that leaves five billion people who aren’t. Is that supposed to inspire confidence?

Another key point of this argument is that after Jesus was buried, the stone closing the tomb was found to have been rolled away, and the tomb itself was empty. Has this never happened before or since? Was this the only occasion where a body went missing from a grave? It seems plausible that much like how they put the body in the tomb and rolled a stone in front of it, maybe someone removed the stone and took the body out. Does any of this really require the involvement of a god? Is that the only possible explanation for grave robbery? Of course, some people have claimed that there was a guard watching the tomb. Could this guard not have been bribed, or distracted, or a secret Christian, or missing for some reason? It seems we’re meant to conclude that an act of God is somehow a better explanation than a guard being complicit or absent.

Apologists have also claimed that Jesus appeared to many people after his resurrection. And this does occur sometimes. It’s just a question of what actually happened. There’s a difference between people claiming to see something, believing they’ve seen something, and genuinely seeing something. These are not the same thing. Quite a few people throughout history have seen things that weren’t really there, and most of the time when people see the dead, this doesn’t indicate a resurrection. Jesus certainly isn’t the only one to have appeared in this way, but I doubt that Protestants would give much credence to supposed apparitions of Mary that have been certified by the Catholic Church. Even great numbers of people have reported seeing things that didn’t and couldn’t happen, like the sun flying around the sky. This is the result of either willful self-deception, people going along with a popular trend, or an artifact of abnormal brain functioning. We know that this kind of thing can happen, so why does the alleged resurrection require any supernatural explanation?

Finally, many apologists have cited the conversion of various non-Christians who purportedly had every reason not to believe as evidence for the truth of the resurrection. If this is supposed to prove something, what does it mean when someone who desperately wants to believe in Christianity is nevertheless drawn to atheism? What if someone has every reason not to want to believe in Islam, but finds themselves convinced to become a Muslim anyway? This is hardly unique to Christianity.

As further evidence of the devotion of these converts, some people have pointed out that they refused to renounce their faith even when it led to their martyrdom. Would they really have faced death for the sake of a lie? Well, it’s certainly possible. Maybe they were mistaken, or deluding themselves. Maybe they were just really stubborn. Do people only die for beliefs that are actually true? No. People have readily given their lives in the name of all kinds of non-Christian religions and philosophies, and this does nothing to establish their truth. Unwavering faith to the point of death is simply a non-denominational feature of humanity. If even Christians will dismiss the significance of this, how can they use the very same phenomenon in support of their own religion?

All of these arguments demonstrate a startling lack of imagination and an abject failure to consider the mere possibility that there could be other explanations. It just hasn’t occurred to these people. And even if the resurrection of Jesus happened exactly as the Bible says, that still doesn’t mean it was supernatural or an act of God. What if it was the work of aliens, or nanotechnology? Or aliens with nanotechnology? At least we know these things are actually possible. Does that sound ridiculous to you? So why does it make any more sense to believe that it was literally magic?

Comments

  1. Iuri says

    I wanted to get in contact because of the video about gays and christianism (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRrxPWQu2YI&feature=relmfu). I would apologize for my english, it’s not my native language and you may perceive some errors. I didn’t read this topic yet, because it was just now that I came into contact with your videos and stuff. Anyway, about the video…

    I was actually impressed with the vast ammounts of idiotic commentary. Things like “boo, you’re gay, you’ll burn in hell”. But what actually got to me were the comments about how “other religions support homossexuals, you should broaden your horizons”.

    Damn it, the exact point of the video was that people don’t need a religious excuse to do as they please. It’s a point that i always endorsed, and i’ve been called a “fucking homophobe” a number of times because of it. Unfortunately, I have to agree with you about the current glorification of stupidity (althought it’s not a recent thing), but I’ll not sit idle and see this idiocy corrode into our society. I’ve shut my mouth many times so i wouldn’t hurt over-sensitive people. But screw it; I’ve been hearing things I don’t want to hear for long enought now.

    Well, now that i’ve found you, I’ll keep reading and hearing what you have to say. ‘Cause you do say things that make sense. Congratulations for your videos and blog. And keep the good work.

  2. Kristy says

    Yes. This.

    Although I am not an atheist myself (as I must continually explain to Christians – who apparently cannot understand that “non-Christian” and “atheist” are not synonyms – “I’m Pagan! I worship a plethora of gods! I’m about as far away from atheist as you can get!”), I frequently find myself nodding in frustrated agreement with a lot of atheist’s arguments. This is one. I will never stop being surprised at the number of people who honestly think that if I say I don’t believe in the authority of the Bible, the way to convince me is to quote the Bible!

    And things like “would they really have faced death for the sake of a lie?” Um… Christianity does not corner the market on martyrdom. Most if not all religions, and quite a few non-religious groups, have had people who willingly died for them. I can admire people who would rather die than recant something that they honestly believe to be true, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.

    Anyway. I liked the post a lot. Thank you for putting this so clearly, it’s refreshing to see someone else who recognizes logical fallacies when they see them!

  3. Ken Rose says

    Why I am an Agnostic and not an Atheist:

    The notion of Theism is predicated on proving a Universal Negative, that there are certain natural phenomena that cannot be explained through Science or through any natural analysis of what goes on in the World, then simply POSITING that Cause to a Supernatural Being of their choice, which for convenience’s sake, we’ll call “God.” Thus, anything Human Beings cannot explain for whatever reason, must be the work of God.

    But this reasoning not only defeats Theism, it also defeats Atheism. Because there will never be a Universal Understanding to EVERYTHING. That ought to be transparent to EVERYONE.

    What does that prove? NOTHING. Because the ABSENCE of a rational cause to Natural Phenomena does not ENTITLE you to posit one MAGICALLY, just to make it true.

    Does that prove ATHEISM? I think not. What is GOD??? Is it what the Bible or the Torah or the Qu’ran tells us? I think, transparently, NOT. Does that PROVE there is NO causation in the Universe that is non-Rational or unscientific? Clearly, there always will be! You cannot prove a Universal Negative.

    The Existence or the non-Existence of God is unprovable, because you cannot prove or disprove a Universal Negative. Proving the Bible or the Torah or the Qu’ran wrong does not disprove the existence of GOD. There is no proof God does not exist because there is no definite DEFINITION of God. Old Man in the Sky? No. What the Bible says? Highly unlikely. Some vague Spiritual force that guides the course of the Universe somehow? I can’t say.

  4. Tracy says

    When musing about Christian Reconstructionists and their belief in biblical inerrancy I observed that their entire 2000 year dance is predicated on the argument, “We know the bible is infallible because the bible says it’s infallible.” With critical thinking skills like that it’s amazing they can brush their teeth.

  5. Mary M. says

    I’ve wondered about a lot of this, myself. My initial arguments of sexism in the church led me to read a book by an Episcopal bishop, John Spong, called “Born of a Woman.” I was amazed to see this bishop lay out facts that most Christians ignore. Like, that the writers of the new testament were writing 100-200 years AFTER the life of Christ. They weren’t there, they didn’t see anything, they were recording here-say and legend. That Christianity as a religion was actually organized by Constantine as a political move, 300 years after the birth of Christ, which is when they organized the bible and decided on what they were going to believe in. It was well after Jesus’ death that they decided he was a god, he never claimed to be. It was also under that Edict of Milan that they threw out any bible books that encouraged people to think for themselves, thinking it would undermine authority. (See Gnostic bible and Dead Sea Scrolls.) Learning what I have about the foundation of Christianity has made it a lot easier to turn away from it and to dismiss the arguments of fundamentalists and literalists. Keep up the good fight, Zinnia.

  6. Amanda says

    Hi ZJ, *appreciation time*

    Through watching your videos criticizing religion (mainly Christianity) I have deconverted to an atheist… I feel like I can finally see the (sun)light. Before I was trapped in a small, dark, windowless room with only a tiny matchstick (..Jesus) to rely on, thanks to my lovely parents.
    Thank god for the internet.

    Just wanted to say how grateful I am for your videos and acknowledge how you’ve made my life that much better. You’re truly an inspiring person, you’ve helped me to develop inner strength and not give a damn about what others think :) so thank you.

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=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>