Open thread for episode #915: Russell and Jen


We’ll be starting in a few hours. Hopefully the Ustream channel will work this week, but if not, you can always tune in to the live Austin channel 16 feed.

Comments

  1. Narf says

    Good lord, we got another gimp pushing Kalam? And how the hell would Kalam refute the FSM? No theistic arguments lead to a specific god, and most don’t even lead to a god.

    Sounds like a fairly vapid caller. Was the rest of the call any good? I’m going to wait for the .mp3 to post, then listen while going out for a walk, so I’m going to be a bit late on the conversation.

  2. Russell Glasser says

    He didn’t REFUTE the spaghetti monster, he KILLED it. As in, our fsm jumped right off the table during the call.

  3. Narf says

    Heh heh heh heh heh. Ohhhhhhhh. I think we can label that a suicide, driven by despair at the inanity of the caller.

  4. StonedRanger says

    I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream at that caller. The hosts were clearly not going to follow his script and his passive/aggressive approach was starting to border on irritating for me. The way he kept trying to rephrase to get Russell to say what he wanted him to say was laughble. Welcome back Jen and Russell.

  5. Narf says

    Sounds like a good one. I can’t wait for the .mp3 to be posted. I’ll have to pull up Stitcher and go wander for a while.

    Why is Non Prophets Radio not on Stitcher, anyway? You’d think that if they were going to put one of the podcasts on there, they would do that with all of them.

  6. tprc62 says

    Any of the Kalaam arguments, just point to the Sean Carroll vs. WLC debate(2014 Greer Heard forum).

    Dr. Carroll points out that the things that allow us to define cause and effect(things obey physical laws, increasing entropy) don’t apply to the universe as a whole. So the first premise of Kalaam is incorrect.

    All of this “there must have been a cause” is just so much flailing about to no purpose.
    You need to find a model that matches the data, and cosmologists aren’t there yet.

    The Sean Carroll portions of the debate are really impressive. I’ve had to listen to them several times to understand them, but it really offers a basic understanding of current cosmology and where it is heading.

  7. says

    Kalam Guy: OMG, SO FUCKING TEDIOUS. He’s precisely the kind of guy you hope you never get stuck talking to after a spliff: boring as batshit yet insistent & interrogative & overly concerned with Big Questions™; however, while he gives you the third degree his actual position remains elusive (probably so he can extend them time that he gets to talk). When said position becomes apparent, it turns out to be as utterly worthless as that of your average Bible-thumping wingnut.

    At least the next caller appeared to be willing to ask questions and consider the answers he received.

  8. troy says

    I started composing but after banging head on desk, all I need is to +1 what Hank_Says,,,says @8

  9. troy says

    oh, and Russell, 42 cents is the obvious ‘most right’ answer…there are 98 less right answers.

  10. Narf says

    @8 – Hank_Says

    At least the next caller appeared to be willing to ask questions and consider the answers he received.

    It’s nice when you find one of those theists who actually want to have a conversation with you, rather than just preach. It’s so freaking rare.

    The buggers never believe me when I tell them that, no really, I’ve examined the argument you’re making far more in depth than you have, more different formulations of the argument and more different arguments than your preacher has probably ever heard of. A one-sided discussion with you preaching at me just won’t work, when I have at least an order of magnitude more knowledge and experience with this stuff than you. If we’re going to have a teacher/student interaction here, you’re going to be the freaking student.

  11. says

    Russell’s question about his pocket change was spot-on (and Jen’s observation re the finite number of guesses between 1-99 cents).

    It’s hard to imagine why this guy, or anyone else, places such importance on what people believe about unanswerable questions.

    The Roman Catholic caller sounded to me as if he was a doubter and seeking resources.

  12. valendr0s says

    Oh dear… The caller with the Kalam…

    Wow – he was annoying. “Can I finish?!? Can I finish?” Finish what? Repeating yourself for the 300th time? Finish forcing your subject into the line of your ‘logic trap’ script?

    It’s VERY simple here, guy. We. Don’t. Know. And neither do you. Your supposition that your 3 options are relevant is speculation without a single shred of evidence. So they’re irrelevant. We might as well be saying, “What is more likely? That there are 4000 angels on the head of the pin or 50?” You’re speaking nonsense, plain and simple.

    Russell’s analogy isn’t the best, so I’ll try to clean it up a bit with a bit of a different concept.

    You’re in Ancient Greece, around the time of Plato and with similar knowledge set. Which is more likely, that the fundamental structure of the universe is built from particles called atoms that each contain protons and electrons and usually neutrons. That these particles are further broken down into quarks of various types. And that the further down this chain you go, the more the universe is dictated by probability and chance and the less the universe is solid and unchanging.

    Quantum Mechanics to Plato is insane. There’s no way he could have ever remotely considered the possibility given his knowledge of the universe at the time. Quantum Mechanics wouldn’t be on his ‘list of 3 possibilities’. And let’s say that it was by some miracle of chance that he thought it up and included it in his options, would it have been the ‘most reasonable’ or ‘most logical’ of the options?

    FUCK NO. It wouldn’t have been. And there’s no way without modern tools and building on the shoulders of those who came after Plato would we even be able to consider it, let alone prove it to be so completely true.

    So why are you wasting your time forcing people into three options that you have no idea how possible they are, let alone how likely they are.

    I say that the chances that Plato could have guessed that Quantum Mechanics was possible AND the most likely physical system of the universe is the same chances that you have any of the ‘options’ for the first cause on your list in the first place. Stop trying to come up with solutions to problems you can’t even consider the options for. If we do find the answer, it will likely be something you’d never even consider – and something you won’t believe without immense evidence.

  13. Hippycow says

    @Narf #11: Yeah, you’d think people consider the possibility that the person with whom they are talking might also be knowledgeable about the topic at hand.

    While this is very common with religious discussion, I’ve experienced it on other topics, too. Where you’re sort of sitting there politely listening to someone lecture you about genetics, cosmology, computer science, magnetism, physics, medicine or whatever and you quickly realize they really have practically no understanding of the basics underlying the article or anecdote or whatever they read or heard about, about which they’re now lecturing you at great length. I always wonder to myself why someone would launch into a long explanation of a topic and/or their “theories” about it before first trying to get an assessment of your competence in the topic, instead of just assuming this is the first you’ve ever heard of it.

    Anyway, it seems like this phenomenon is not uncommon, especially among less intelligent people. I’m not sure if this is some variation of the Dunning-Kruger effect or what.

  14. favog says

    The episode shows up on ustream for me, unlike last week’s. Unfortunately, it does not respond when I click on the episode. Am I the only one having this problem? Does anyone have a way around it?

  15. Hippycow says

    @valendr0s #13: The funny thing was, he was whining about being interrupted while in the midst of interrupting Russell. I think there’s a word for that.

  16. Dago Red says

    HippyCow #17: I noticed Nicholas doing that too. But since Kalam-ophiles like him have a pathological need to auto-deny any and all opposing points of view, I am not sure whether his interruptions to complain about being interrupted even qualifies as ironic any more.

  17. frankgturner says

    @ Russell
    I loved the unicorns bit. I would have said something along the lines of, “what is a unicorn but a horse with a single horn on it in the center of its head? (Excluding hypothetical magical properties). We have horses, which are mammals, we have goats and rams and other mammals with horns on their heads. So perhaps the genetics for a horn exist within some horses? maybe at one point horses and deer or elk had evolved from a similar creature?
    .
    So like horses and deer and elk and rams and goats can you give some physical properties of God that we have observed? Would that lead us to believe in god?”
    (I would have been prone to making snarky comments about Charlton Heston in a Toga or George Burns ina business suit smoking a cigar and turning night into day or Morgan Freeman in a white tuxedo making seven fingers appear on my hand).

  18. frankgturner says

    The Kalam guy sounded so familiar like he had called in before. Sounded like a typical WLC bot who for some strange reason gets a sense of confidence and an air of authority from WLC and that metaphoric bovine feces. Makes him feel good probably despite deeper down knowing that it is a false sense of confidence and security. Was nice to hear him squirm from being taken so far off script and unable to cope with the script not being followed.
    .
    Also, I might have said that “sure I can imagine that the god of Xtianity is possible, about as much as Thor or Zeus or Kali. I have a Ganesha statue in my room. I mean Yahweh is equally as possible as Ra or Anubis.” That could have gotten him off script too.

  19. kudlak says

    It was pretty obvious that the Kalam caller was trying to drive Russell into a trap by accepting one of his preselected choices. You can hear his frustration when Russell kept rejecting the bait.

    As far as the amount of change in Russell’s pocket goes I was hoping it was 42 cents. As a Douglas Adams fan I just love that answer.

  20. Monocle Smile says

    Between the “hermaneutics” stoner from Chicago, the “sovereign citizens,” and now the Kalam joker, there’s been quite the rash of callers who have at best a superficial understanding of the topics they’re discussing. I mean, they get tripped up by the most cursory of scrutiny and state things that are blatantly wrong with (presumably) a straight face. I don’t understand going through life that ill-informed.

    Also, I have very little respect for anyone who is under the impression that “thinking really hard” about something like the origins of the universe will ever reveal anything remotely accurate. The Kalamity Kaller’s dishonest badgering of Russell showed that he didn’t understand the first thing about investigating reality.

  21. Dago Red says

    NICHOLAS: I think I can guess your favorite number. I have thought really hard about this problem now, and have come up with a list of potential choices here: 11, 14, and -4. Now, which of these numbers seem more or less likely to be your favorite number?

    RUSSELL : Actually, I find odd numbers and negative numbers to be slightly less appealing to me….

    NICHOLAS: See! Now I can deduce that 14 must be more likely to be your favorite number than any of the other positive even numbers I may have failed to list, right?

  22. Paul Cornelius says

    @valendr0s 13
    Great point. Sean Carroll (in The Particle at the End of the Universe) put it this way:
    “Imagine that a person in the ancient world was wondering what made the sun shine. It’s not really credible to imagine that they would think about it for a while and decide, ‘I bet most of the sun is made up of particles that can bump into one another and stick together, with one of them converting into a different kind of particle by emitting yet a third particle, . . . and that fusion of the two particles releases energy, which we ultimately see as sunlight.’ But that’s exactly what happens.”

  23. Narf says

    #7 – tprc62

    Any of the Kalaam arguments, just point to the Sean Carroll vs. WLC debate(2014 Greer Heard forum).
    Dr. Carroll points out that the things that allow us to define cause and effect(things obey physical laws, increasing entropy) don’t apply to the universe as a whole. So the first premise of Kalaam is incorrect.

    One of the things that I always point out is that it’s a variation of the equivocation fallacy. What they’re using to establish the first premise is the ‘creation’ of things which is just a redistribution of previously existing matter. Trying to extrapolate from that to creation ex nihilo is pretty much useless.

    That’s before you even get into the issue that modern cosmologists don’t even speak of creation ex nihilo, when talking about the Big Bang. What’s even funnier is that I’ve heard Christian apologists dismiss everything that cosmologists are saying, because it doesn’t address creation ex nihilo, when the only ones saying that it has to be ex nihilo are the idiot apologists.

  24. Narf says

    @21 – kudlak

    It was pretty obvious that the Kalam caller was trying to drive Russell into a trap by accepting one of his preselected choices. You can hear his frustration when Russell kept rejecting the bait.

    What’s even funnier is that even within a false choice, it’s often easier to pick the ones they don’t want us to pick. For example, in the Lewis Trilemma, I find ‘liar’ to be a much more credible choice than ‘lord’.

  25. Narf says

    @22 – MS

    I don’t understand going through life that ill-informed.

    Well, when you’ve been brainwashed from birth into believing that faith is the best way to determine the truth of something, a lot of these people only think to go looking for another faith-peddler, when they find themselves in disagreement with the faith they were raised in. Going back to basics and adjusting your epistemology is hard, and a lot of people aren’t up to that sort of mental task.

    A lot of people don’t follow real scientific pursuits, so even if they have some vague respect for science, they don’t know enough to realize when their preachers are feeding them a line of complete bullshit.

  26. Narf says

    @24 – Paul Cornelius

    ‘I bet most of the sun is made up of particles that can bump into one another and stick together, with one of them converting into a different kind of particle by emitting yet a third particle, . . . and that fusion of the two particles releases energy, which we ultimately see as sunlight.’

    But I bet if you give a liberal Christian apologist enough time with a Bible, he can find a passage that he can torture into implying that.

  27. kudlak says

    @Narf
    The obvious fourth option would be that Jesus was just mistaken in his belief about himself, but I guess it’s possible that Lewis was so bogged down by the belief that scripture is infallible that he couldn’t even see the possibility that the Gospel writers could have been the liars, or even just mistaken, but I think he was banking on Jesus being generally considered a good man even by nonbelievers, so he chose to set this up in such a way that he could embarrass people into accepting the premise that he was Lord.

    This Kalam guy probably got this whole argument from a source that scripted the atheist’s response to dutifully fall into the trap which is why he became so frustrated. I genuinely think that these believers get shocked when we don’t behave like the strawmen they believe us to be.

  28. says

    The most aggravating thing about that Kalam caller was when he tried to restructure Russell’s “how much change is in my pocket” question to include two ridiculous options and only one that could possibly make sense instead of just saying “I don’t have enough info to even hazard a guess”.

  29. Hippycow says

    The odds gave the caller were good. They were 1 in 97 if I recall, since Russell made it even a little easier by dropping a couple values by saying “between 1 and 99.” The caller’s odds of guessing the correct amount of money in Russell’s pocket were astronomically (ha, ha) better than his odds of guessing right on precisely how the universe came about, or, more pertinently, the odds that his chosen god actually exists and created it ex nihilo.

    Given the prior probabilities and our available background knowledge, I’d rather bet on the amount of change in Russell’s pocket being 42 cents (did he end up saying it was 45?), than on Yahweh/HS/Jesus being the “one” (or so) real god(s) among all the others that humans have invented.

    Generally the Kalam is juvenile and as pointed out above, WLC blatantly equivocates on “began to exist.” It is funny to hear him say in a mocking voice how he, WLC, began to exist at some point and imply that it was “out of nothing.” I can’t imagine he’s so stupid he doesn’t see the self-evident fallacy, but I guess he thinks his followers and other listeners are dull enough to somehow miss it.

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause — et suppositio nil ponit in esse!
    2. The universe began to exist; — prove it!
    Therefore:
    3. The universe has a cause. — show us the evidence!

  30. says

    #28 @Narf – “But I bet if you give a liberal Christian apologist enough time with a Bible, he can find a passage that he can torture into implying that.”

    That’s the mark of a great religious text – it has so much contradictory stuff in it that you can find something to support any viewpoint.

  31. kudlak says

    @Carol
    Still, other people’s creation stories can be useful arguments against Kalam supporters. They may tediously argue that there is some description of the Big Bang in the Bible, but there are several other stories which describe the universe as an “egg” prior to its hatching creation. It would be an easy thing to argue that those stories actually predicted the theory far better.

  32. mond says

    One of the things that really piss me off about this type apologetic is the “Is X possible?” question.
    Because something is possible does not speak to its likelihood of happening. Also it may be impossible to calculate a proper probability for said possible event.

    Two questions.
    1. Is it possible that within the next 12 months that an alien space craft will land on the White House lawn?
    2. How do we calculate the probability of it happening.?

    Answers
    1.Yes.
    2.Fucked if I know. Some of the information required to calculate the odds are just unknown to us at the moment.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @mond
    There are several meanings to the word “possible”.

    I might be in a deterministic world where every d6 (a six-sided die) roll has a correct answer. However, even if this world is deterministic, I lack the required information to know that answer.

    Right now I will predict that a d6 will come up “6” about 1/6 of the time. That’s a physical probability. I will state that my confidence in the distribution of dice rolls is very, very high, 99%+. That’s an epistemic confidence.

    Frequently, when someone asks “do you think that’s possible?”, they are not asking for a physical probability. Instead, they are asking for an epistemic confidence.

    For example, “do I think that a god exists?”. My answer is: “I consider it epistemically possible that a god exists.” This is different answer than: “I consider it physically possible that a god exists”. The physical possibility claim entails all sorts of other positive claims about the laws of physics, etc., and I don’t mean to make that statement.

    Remember that basically no statement is held to an absolute degree of confidence. Rather, every belief has an associated (epistemic) confidence held to it. In light of that, let me clarify the above two sentences.

    1- “Concerning the proposition that a god exists, my epistemic confidence of that assertion is not 0% (e.g. certainly false) and it is not 100% (e.g. certainly true).”

    2- “I believe that physics and the rules of reality allow for a god to exist, and I have some degree X of confidence that this assertion is true.”

    Completely different things.

    Finally, people who ask questions like this often confuse these two meanings, whether accidentally or purposefully.

    PS: If you understand what I’ve written thus far, then you’re already thinking like a Bayesian. Keep up the good work! For further reading, I suggest the work of Dr. Richard Carrier.

  34. Narf says

    @29 – kudlak

    The obvious fourth option would be that Jesus was just mistaken in his belief about himself …

    Lewis lumped that into lunatic.

    … but I guess it’s possible that Lewis was so bogged down by the belief that scripture is infallible that he couldn’t even see the possibility that the Gospel writers could have been the liars, or even just mistaken, but I think he was banking on Jesus being generally considered a good man even by nonbelievers, so he chose to set this up in such a way that he could embarrass people into accepting the premise that he was Lord.

    There’s a whole lot of shitty apologetics built into this one. Most apologists who push something similar to the false trilemma insist that the Gospels were written down too soon for legendary corruption to creep in, and we know that the writers of the Gospels were telling us the truth, because they were upstanding men of impeccable virtue … because they said they were, in their own writings.

    The claims are laughable on their face, even before you factor in modern scholarship on the subject. Once you realize that they were anonymous writings, written down decades after the supposed events, with many historical inaccuracies, the Gospel accounts become even more difficult to take seriously.

    But ultimately, no, Lewis wasn’t bogged down by the infallibility argument. I think he just became a Christian for very bad, emotional reasons, and he wasn’t much of a thinker. The guy was a great writer, but he was a totally shit philosopher.

    This Kalam guy probably got this whole argument from a source that scripted the atheist’s response to dutifully fall into the trap which is why he became so frustrated. I genuinely think that these believers get shocked when we don’t behave like the strawmen they believe us to be.

    It could have literally been a script, yes. I’ve seen many evangelical scripts with simple yes/no flowcharts, completely devoid of nuance. There isn’t a third line going out of the bubble for, “Atheist rejected my bullshit, loaded question.”

  35. Narf says

    @33 – Carol Sperling

    That’s the mark of a great religious text – it has so much contradictory stuff in it that you can find something to support any viewpoint.

    Depending upon which definition of ‘great’ you’re using. 😀

  36. Narf says

    @35 – mond

    Because something is possible does not speak to its likelihood of happening. Also it may be impossible to calculate a proper probability for said possible event.

    This is exactly where the argument from design falls apart, too. Every design argument includes things that can’t be easily expressed in numbers.

    What are the units on the variability of the force of gravity and electromagnetism? Is it a truly analog variable, or is it digital in some way? If it’s analog, how much does the variable have to vary before it changes things noticeably? Until you can tell me that, you can’t give me a probability calculation that makes any kind of sense.

    Once (or before) we get that out of the way, you’ll have to demonstrate that the force of gravity and electromagnetism are actually variable. Once you demonstrate that they’re variable, you’ll have to demonstrate that the various variables aren’t somehow associated with each other through some underlying mechanism that causes them to move together, as a single slider moves back and forth along the probability curve, which would reduce the likelihood of them ending up with an unfavorable configuration.

    Once we’ve established all of that, you’ll have to do some computer modeling or something similar, in order to demonstrate that we’ve actually ended up with the one possible set of variables that would lead to our sort of life.

    These probability apologists have never done the first bit of the work they need to do to make it a convincing argument.

  37. favog says

    Good ol’ Kalam.

    One thing about the concept of infinity that makes it so difficult for our minds that we’re structured in a way that we can’t imagine infinity existing, but we also can’t imagine it not existing. We can’t truly conceive of something being unending, because our minds are finite and thus cannot contain an infinity as model, but only as a symbol. But a symbol has a boundary, and if the symbol is supposed to represent everything, we immediately realize that there’s more beyond the boundary and essentially ask the same question about the nature of a truly infinite thing all over again.

    That’s how Kalam works. It switches back and forth between accepting a symbol and not accepting a symbol depending on which approach supports the god hypothesis and rejects all others at the point in the argument’s narrative we’re at at any given moment. That’s its essential dishonesty.

  38. kudlak says

    @Narf
    He didn’t need to be crazy to believe all the hype about him. His mother was probably telling him the story about his miraculous conception and birth since he was old enough to listen. He could have just been indoctrinated into believing that he was special in this way, but that would probably not be something that Lewis would have acknowledged as even a possibility either. As an Anglican being pressured by his friend Tolkien to convert to Catholicism he likely had an elevated view of Mary as well.

    It’s usually gets overlooked that Lewis was raised an Anglican and returned to the faith of his childhood. Despite the usual claims that he was a prominent atheist who then saw the light and converted, he is actually better understood as a Christian who had an atheistic phase in his youth, describing himself as being “angry at God for not existing”. We probably have him to thank for the popularity of that particular atheist straw man.

    Some of Lewis’ arguments aren’t so popular these days. He fully accepted that much of Christianity had parallels in myth, and actually was myth, but he had the stones to argue that Christian myth was “true”. I somehow doubt that his modern-day fans quote those writings very much.

  39. kudlak says

    @Narf
    When you say scripted responses with flowcharts I can’t help but think of telemarketers, which is apt, as these guys are trying to sell you something that you didn’t ask for and don’t actually need.

  40. Hippycow says

    @Narf #37:
    The guy was a great writer, but he was a totally shit philosopher.

    What’s your evidence for this claim? If it is the Narnia yarns, then maybe you should go back and re-read them. I enjoyed them when I read them as a child, but when I went back and tried again a few years back, I was appalled and bored with how lame the story was and how wooden and fake the characters were. This is not great writing.

    @Kudlak #41:
    His mother was probably telling him…

    More likely “he” and his mother are a fictional characters . It is more plausible that the Jesus character was originally a fictional spirit being, but then later euhemerized into a fictional human character. Richard Carrier’s new book, On the Historicity of Jesus provides quite a lot of evidence and analysis of this point. You can find related lectures from Carrier, Price and others on youtube.

  41. Hippycow says

    Should have added that Lewis’ characters are a lot like Ayn Rand’s. They are fake because they are just tools of the author. “I need a character that behaves like this and that, who has these (artificial) motivations, so I can teach the reader X.”

  42. Minus says

    I like the way the Kalam guy discarded some of the options because the were ‘ridiculous.” As if his entire spiel wasn’t ridiculous.

  43. says

    Ref the call from Nicolas in Florida

    Just once I like one of you guys to point out that human beings are not more familiar with “creation” or “first cause” than we are with “infinite regress”. Theists like to imply that creation and first causes are part of our common experience. But in fact we have NO experience with either.
    What we experience is existing things changing either naturally from one form to another (chemically, geologically, meteorologically etc) or being manipulated into different forms like “creating” a house or an aircraft.
    Of course, we have experience with cause and effect but we have zero experience with “first causes” or creation ex nihilo.
    What we do have experience with is stuff just being here for what that’s worth. You can’t deny that is our common experience. And we know about the infinite nature of number so… maybe stuff is infinite as well.
    So if they like assuming things based on our common experience maybe it’s this creation/first cause BS that should be rejected and everyone should be assuming everything is infinite.

  44. Narf says

    @41 – kudlak

    It’s usually gets overlooked that Lewis was raised an Anglican and returned to the faith of his childhood. Despite the usual claims that he was a prominent atheist who then saw the light and converted, he is actually better understood as a Christian who had an atheistic phase in his youth, describing himself as being “angry at God for not existing”. We probably have him to thank for the popularity of that particular atheist straw man.

    Later apologists definitely borrowed that particular trope and passed it on to their acolytes, many of whom I’ve caught out, lying about it in their proselytization attempts. I imagine that Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel wanted what they saw as the cred that having been an atheist gave to Lewis.

    But while I accept that C.S. Lewis was actually a functional nonbeliever, I’m pretty sure that the other two are blatantly lying about it. I don’t think that Lewis’s atheism was based upon particularly logical grounds, of course, considering the arguments that he uses for his later theism.

    Who knows, though? I guess he could have been one of the angry-at-God types. It’s impossible to know, since we can’t ask him probing questions, and he didn’t go into much detail in his books, beyond the argument from evil and the throwaway quote about being angry at God for not existing.

    I’m not sure about the angry-at-God trope itself, though. I think that’s quite a bit older than Lewis.

    @43 – Hippycow

    What’s your evidence for this claim? If it is the Narnia yarns, then maybe you should go back and re-read them.

    Of course the characters were paper thin, in the Chronicles of Narnia. Morality-play characters always are, particularly when they’re aimed at children. That’s kind of the point. You need very strong archetypes.

    I was thinking more of The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, which I was kind of surprised to find listed under fiction, when I checked his bibliography for the exact titles. I guess the narrative form categories them more than does their obvious purpose as proselytization tools. Besides, looked at a certain way, all of his writing could be categorized as fiction, except for the autobiographical stuff.

    As far as apologetics books go, Mere Christianity was far more competently written than any of the other AAA titles of Craig, Strobel, or McDowell, if no better reasoned or argued.

  45. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    I’m still not convinced that Jesus was a complete fabrication. I can’t help but feel that they wouldn’t have made him a crucified man if they had a choice. There was so much hope for the Messiah to come at that time that a few guys were claimed to be him, and some of them were better candidates, from a Jewish perspective. Still, Jesus’ core supporters certainly believed that he was the one, and they might have fled more in confusion than out of fear when he died instead of leading a successful revolt against the Romans.

    Maybe, they never stopped believing, so they decided that their messianic expectations were where they were mistaken. We know that the Christian view of the messiah doesn’t match the Jewish, and that they claim the Jews simply rejected what should have been plain to them, but it seems more likely to me that the first Christians just changed messianic expectations to fit Jesus, taking some things from scripture and writing them into the Gospels as part of his life in order to bolster their claim, while working with the problems to their claim, like his crucification, and spinning them into positives.

    That makes the whole Salvation Through Faith Alone theology just something which resulted unintentionally from the need to explain away the crucification, which may explain why none of us find it a bit convincing.

  46. kudlak says

    @Narf
    Yup, Strobel is just a poor man’s Lewis, and it may be that he just discovered a better paying audience in Christians than than he did as a reporter, but it goes beyond just trying to discredit atheists. Christians will gladly latch onto converts from any other background as justification to discredit every other way of thinking, and specific denominations of Christians seem to value converts from rival sects even more. The evangelicals get a lot of their number from poaching the pews of Catholic and mainstream protestant churches, and they use the already converted to help lure them away. Then again, Matt is probably most effective against people of his former faith because he knows better what their doubts are, and can monopolize on them, right?

  47. Narf says

    @45 – Minus

    I like the way the Kalam guy discarded some of the options because the were ‘ridiculous.” As if his entire spiel wasn’t ridiculous.

    Having actually listened to the show now, I call bullshit far earlier in the call than the rest of you have.

    The moment he mentioned Lawrence Krauss, he was done, as far as I was concerned.

    “Okay, so I know you’re not cosmologists, and I’m going to completely discount the perspective of actual cosmologists like Lawrence Krauss and instead argue based upon a childish, simplistic understanding of the Big Bang which doesn’t represent the current understanding of it. Now, which do you think is more likely, based upon this simplistic understanding of the subject?”

    When he protested that he was just trying to ask questions and explore ideas, or whatever he said, I laughed out loud. No you’re not, dude. You’re trying to shoehorn your preexisting beliefs into the proposition, in any dishonest way you can.

  48. Narf says

    @47 – kudlak
    I tend to fall into the mythologized-cult-leader camp, myself. I don’t generally pay any attention to the historicity argument, though, since I don’t care either way. Either way, we’re dealing with legends and myths of one sort of other, and arguing over historicity distracts from the real issue, when talking with Christians.

  49. Hippycow says

    @kudlak #47:
    The Jesus mythology certainly does not make sense in many ways to our modern sensibilities, but that is not a good perspective for evaluating what some people in that time and place might have thought to be very reasonable.

    You should definitely get a copy of On the Historicity of Jesus. It provides in great detail all the background of those places and times, the similar kinds of myths that were abundant and being developed and makes it very clear how ideas like the “criterion of embarrassment” really don’t hold any water, holy or otherwise. It is a very interesting read.

  50. Hippycow says

    I don’t agree Narf. I don’t think there is any point in granting people’s claims, if they can’t actually prove them. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. So why grant that Jesus existed, when the proposition is not supported by any evidence and in fact, all our background knowledge, available evidence and logic point more to the opposite conclusion?

    History is a major claim that Christians make for why their religion is so different than all the others and, moreover, why it is true, while all the others were made up. Of course, they never explain why other cultures invent false religions when they have the One True Religion of Christ “written on their hearts,” but that is another matter.

    Anyway, I think the topic is interesting, just because when you investigate it, you discover how unsupported the claim is. Christians have spent 2,000 using the Bush/Cheney administration’s tactic of repeating a lie until it becomes Truth. I see no reason to accept it.

  51. Thorne says

    @ Kalam caller:
    The fact that you can only conceive of three possibilities for the formation of the universe is more indicative of your lack of imagination than of the validity of your arguments. There could be hundreds,millions, an infinite number of possible explanations for the beginning, assuming that there even WAS a beginning. You should look into the huge number of different creation myths which differ so significantly from your own myth. Then try very hard to use the same critical processes with which you judge them on your own beliefs.

    Basically, the only correct answer currently possible is “I don’t know.’ Not being able to imagine anything which does not agree with your beliefs is your failure, not science’s.

  52. Narf says

    @52 – Hippycow

    I don’t agree Narf. I don’t think there is any point in granting people’s claims, if they can’t actually prove them. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. So why grant that Jesus existed, when the proposition is not supported by any evidence and in fact, all our background knowledge, available evidence and logic point more to the opposite conclusion?

    I don’t do formal debates. It’s needlessly pedantic and obstructionist to refuse the possibility of there having been some random zealot rabbi wandering around the Levant, who formed an anti-Roman cult whose followers started making up incredible stories about their leader, after he was executed for sedition.

    And I’m not granting the claim. I’m saying that it’s a good probability, and it doesn’t matter whether there was an actual person that the myths were added to, as is the case with King David and King Solomon. It doesn’t matter that there were actual Judean kings with those names. The stories about them in the Bible are just as fictional as if there had never been kings with those names. George Washington was a real person. That doesn’t make Parson Weems’s stories about the cherry tree any less fictional.

    In a discussion with a Christian, it’s more important to move straight on to the fact that the only accounts were written down decades after the supposed events, by people who never saw the events told in the stories nor even claim to have seen them.

    Even if elements of the stories are so out of character with the time period that they’re almost certainly made up, that doesn’t point to the complete nonexistence of some guy named Yeshua. We know that the people who wrote down at least some of the gospels were so desperate to convince readers of the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy that we can’t consider even the simplest details to be certain, but that doesn’t go to proving the negative.

    Anyway, they can’t take a mile, when you’re right there telling them to stop and refusing to allow the conversation to continue, the moment they step outside of the bounds of, “Sure, there was probably some random preacher wandering around the Levant, but we have no records of things he actually said, just stories that were passed around for decades, before being written down.” In fact, there were probably dozens of such preachers wandering around. What makes this particular guy so special, just because his cult members made up lots of stories, after his execution?

    If you’re working within a format that allows someone to babble for 5 minutes without correction, that’s one thing. I don’t put myself in those situations.

  53. Narf says

    @51 – Hippycow

    It provides in great detail all the background of those places and times, the similar kinds of myths that were abundant and being developed and makes it very clear how ideas like the “criterion of embarrassment” really don’t hold any water, holy or otherwise.

    Well yeah, every single one of the arguments for why we should take the stories of the gospels at face value is asinine. “The apostles wouldn’t tell stories like that to make themselves look bad.”

    Of course they would. The point of the gospels is to put up Jesus. You need the stupidity and failure of the disciples as a contrast for the supposed perfection of Jesus.

    Besides, none of the gospels were written by the apostles/disciples. They weren’t making themselves look bad. The writers of the gospels were making the disciples look bad … who are not the same people.

  54. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    I just can’t see how they would have chosen to make their messiah a crucified man. It would have been much easier to claim he fulfilled all the Jewish messianic expectations, and then just ascended into heaven without looking like a complete failure. I take the crucification detail as a pretty good indication that Jesus was a real guy who just happened to get himself killed like thousands of other Jews back then. Either way, the Romans were never driven out, so no actual messiah was ever experienced, so why even attempt to invent one out of whole cloth? Somebody had to believe that the prophecies had been fulfilled, and Jesus is described as a charismatic figure, and we all know how manipulating such religious figures can be, don’t we?

  55. kudlak says

    I understand that there is a problem with accepting Jesus as a historical figure, and that is that Christians will take it as acknowledgment that he was also divine. Try as you might, there is no separating Jesus from Christ for many Christians. They treat “Christ” as though it were his last name, but it’s actually just a claim made about the man, like referring to Elvis simply as “the King.” We can all agree that Elvis actually existed, but it’s debatable whether he was the top figure in all of rock and roll history. Feel free to call me a heretic for saying that.

  56. Narf says

    @56&57 – kudlak

    I just can’t see how they would have chosen to make their messiah a crucified man. It would have been much easier to claim he fulfilled all the Jewish messianic expectations, and then just ascended into heaven without looking like a complete failure.

    Errrrrrrr, he would have had to have thrown off Roman rule and reestablished a Jewish state for the Jews. That’s what the messiah was supposed to do.

    I know the Jewish holy texts have a whole lot of unhistorical details, but I think that would have been a bit of a stretch, even for them. Telling the nearest centurion that Rome has been defeated, and he should go home, would only have worked on the more ignorant centurions.

    Somebody had to believe that the prophecies had been fulfilled …

    Sure, and they made a serious attempt at putting together a case for that.

    I think the prophetic case was being put together for non-Jews, though. Romans had this thing for respecting cultural differences because they were old and established. A complete upstart religion wouldn’t have won them over, but they respected the Jews for their claims of ancient origin, even if they thought them a bit weird. The association through messiah-ship would have granted Christianity a claim to ancient origins, rather that being a cult that had started up a few decades prior.

    If they were really going after Jews, they wouldn’t have pulled so much stuff from the Jewish scriptures that so obviously was not prophesy, for any knowledgeable rabbi. Other Romans wouldn’t be so knowledgeable about the Jewish scriptures … and I suppose a lot of the less educated Jews would have possibly fallen for it, too.

    I understand that there is a problem with accepting Jesus as a historical figure, and that is that Christians will take it as acknowledgment that he was also divine. Try as you might, there is no separating Jesus from Christ for many Christians.

    I’d rather have that argument, over and over and over and over again, until it finally sinks in. The historicity argument is far more nuanced and open to interpretation, and as I said, I really don’t give damn about it, anyway.

    I think it’s an easier road to convincing Christians (not apologists, but the nominally Christian sheep in the pews) that even a vaguely skeptical approach to reading the Bible reveals it for the mythology that it is, and you shouldn’t take it any more seriously than Greek, Norse, or Babylonian mythology. Going into historicity involves a hell of a lot more scholarship, and a lot of them just won’t be up for that sort of argument.

    If they can’t grasp an argument, they can’t accept an argument.

  57. Narf says

    Oh, and you won’t get any flack from me about Elvis. I’m more of a Beetles person. Elvis was a great vocalist, but the Beetles had vastly more depth.

  58. Oz 3 says

    No one ever arrived at belief in god or gods, or worship of Jesus through studying the fossil record and finding gaps, or studying backround radiation to date the age of the earth, or the expansion rate of the universe. They were brought up in it, and are reverse engineering it to fit a construct that already exists, just as an aboriginal in Australia, looking at a cloud 200 years ago isn’t going to say to his friend, ‘That cloud looks like an elephant’ without having seen an elephant or being aware of their existence, or Hindus having near death experiences seeing Ganesha and not Jesus.

  59. Narf says

    Nor any of the logical arguments for the existence of god, Oz. None of those arguments can possibly lead to any specific god-concept, despite William Lane Craig’s pathetic tacked-on ending to his version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

  60. Russell Glasser says

    @Narf But you’re not a big enough Beatles fan to spell their name correctly. 😉

  61. kudlak says

    @Narf
    Jesus’ followers same to believe that he was the messiah while he was still alive, yes? They likely even staged a few actual scenes, like the arrival in Jerusalem riding a donkey, according to prophecy because they truly believed that he was the guy and that his arrival would somehow lead to the end of Roman occupation. A naive plan, but they were all from Galilee and maybe didn’t have a really good appreciation of the situation. Jesus may have honestly felt that causing a ruckus in the Temple would lead to a successful uprising.

    They may have felt pretty confident up until the Last Supper, where Jesus got in a sour mood, and then got arrested. After Jesus got crucified, the apostles started hanging out together waiting for the heat to die down, and trying to make sense of it all. Most of them were probably so deep into their belief that they never entertained the possibility that it was all a sham, so they decided that they just misunderstood what was supposed to happen. Then they may have actually started hallucinating seeing Jesus.

    Maybe gradually, or maybe by sudden inspiration, they reinterpreted what the role of the Messiah was to fit what had actually happened, and that’s where we get the mess that is Christian theology today. It was a desperate need to twist the facts to suit their predetermined belief, and Christians have carried on that practice ever since, right?

    They probably tried to argue that Jesus was Messiah in the synagogues, or rather they tried selling their version of Messiah in the synagogues, which led to them eventually being uninvited.

  62. kudlak says

    @Russell
    He might be able to blame autocorrect for that. There’s a reason why guys should never try to text “can’t” to their girlfriends/wives … Well, besides the obvious reason.

  63. Narf says

    @64 – kudlak

    Jesus’ followers same to believe that he was the messiah while he was still alive, yes? They likely even staged a few actual scenes, like the arrival in Jerusalem riding a donkey, according to prophecy because they truly believed that he was the guy and that his arrival would somehow lead to the end of Roman occupation.

    I don’t see any reason to assume anything of the sort. He could have been a random revolutionary, and his followers concocted the whole thing, after he was caught and executed, in an attempt to keep their movement alive. It’s pretty much impossible to know anything for certain, after the early church paved everything over. The best we could do is speculate wildly.

    That’s assuming that there actually was someone at the core of the myths.

  64. kudlak says

    @Narf
    From our modern day experience we know that people will spin all kinds of rationalizations in order to support a deeply held belief. Just look at the anti-vacciners. Even after this latest study of almost 100,000 kids there are still those who simply “know” that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Once you’ve invested yourself into a belief that much little things like facts don’t matter anymore, and I can see this applying to the apostles as one of the most likely possibilities.

  65. Narf says

    @65 – kudlak
    I always use Swype, on my phone. If you don’t have a word in your personal dictionary, and it isn’t a default word, you don’t have to worry about it popping up. I’ve added plenty of vulgarity to my personal dictionary, but not that one.

  66. Hippycow says

    @kudlak #64:
    Jesus’ followers same [seem] to believe that he was the messiah while he was still alive, yes? …

    No! There were no followers at that time. The earlier followers were invented post hoc, by later writers. Just read the stories to see how little sense these earlier followers make and how “the twelve” is only a symbolic and allegorical number (like the frequent triads). At some points in the stories, Jesus has thousands of followers and at other points they completely disappear, or forget he is a magical messiah. These “followers” are clearly nothing more than story telling devices. How could he have thousands and thousands of followers in the early first century, while Christianity sprouted in the mid to late first century with only a hundred or so followers?

    You really need to read the book I linked to above. All the donkey stories and other nonsense are made up stories to jibe with the Jewish scripture. They are mostly allegorical and not actual events that occurred, even if there were a Jesus (actually there were lots of guys with that name, as it was pretty common).

    All the stories about Jesus’ life were invented by the anonymous authors of the gospels many decades after the supposed events. They are written in Greek, while the eye witnesses, were there any, would have spoken Aramaic. Many other gospels existed that were not accepted as cannon and then squelched. Paul, who wrote before all the gospels never mentions a single detail about Jesus’ earthly existence. How is that possible? Not a single detail. That is because Paul thought of Jesus as a celestial being, not an actual human on earth. That human-on-earth story was fabricated later. What Paul “knows” about Jesus comes from revelation (hallucination and/or his imagination) and scripture.

    Please read the book. There is a lot of background information you need to be able to reason effectively on this topic. Speculation based on the false information provided by 2000 years of Christian hegemony does not yield accurate conclusions.

  67. favog says

    Kudlak, hippycow is right that you should read the book. Several points that you’re taking for granted shouldn’t be, for reasons described there. But even more basically than that, you seem to be very geniunely interested in the topic, and OTHJ is fascinating reading on the topic no matter where you stand once you’re done.

  68. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    Jesus could have attracted thousands of locals as he breezed through towns who listened to what he had to say and then went back home after he was done, just as the Gospels say. That would follow the same pattern as modern day tent revivals, or the circus, I suppose. I don’t think its described as the same thousands constantly following.

    Paul supposedly only ever experienced Jesus as the full-on, ascended, spiritual Christ, and he was writing to people who could only ever hope to experience Jesus that same way for themselves. Once they started thinking of him as divine Jesus would only ever be thought of as “the Lord”, particularly by new converts who had never known him while he lived. That’s why I’m not bothered by Paul not referencing events in Jesus’ life. Neither he nor anyone in his foreign churches would have known that aspect of Jesus and it wasn’t important to them where the risen, spiritual Christ was.

    I’ve read some pretty amature stuff about the mythical Jesus, but Carrier seems like he might do a better job, so I’ll see about borrowing a copy.

  69. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @kudlak in 64
    And who are these followers, these disciples? We don’t even have a reliable list of their names. We also don’t have anything they personally wrote.

    The only sources we have for followers are the 4 canonical gospels (and perhaps non-canonical gospels), and those are wildly fictitious in content and nature. The gospels are undeniably rewrites of old testament stories, almost completely, and thus they are not intended as history. Most of the content of the gospels is clearly allegorical in nature and intent, e.g. not intended as history. Further, the later 3 gospels steal from Mark and each other, and it’s clear that they just make shit up to serve their purposes and leave shit out to serve their purposes, which again means they are not intended as history. Thus, the canonical gospels are fictional propagandistic pieces and not accounts of history, and thus they should be worth basically zero in this discussion. Again, these gospels are the only source we have that clearly identifies Jesus as having followers.

    About the last supper. The only sources we have are Paul, who says he learned of it through revelation, and the 4 canonical gospels which are useless as sources.

    The only sources we have that clearly talk about doney riding, historical ministry, disciples, or an Earthly Jesus at all, are the gospels, and the gospels should be worth about zero in this discussion for the above reasons.

    Or so Carrier’s mythicist argument would go. I’m pretty swayed by it.

  70. ironchops says

    @ Hippycow 68 or anyone else

    Saul of Tarsus (Paul the apostle) was a real person that is very nearly the same age as Yeshua` (aka Jesus). He was a rabbi and a Pharisee. Surly he would have heard of Yeshua` seeing as how he was so determined to persecute him along with all of the Christians. Question: Why didn’t he mention that little factoid in his testimonies/letters? It would have gone a long way for the entire Christian movement.

  71. says

    That Chris in Florida presenting the Kalam cosmological argument needs to watch this opening of the Atheist experience.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez_cnpcsnps (Episode #814).

    There’s Russell’s teapot & Occam’s razor…With Mr. Glasser’s coins in my pocket demonstration…I think we can create “Dr, Who’s Coin Purse.” The coin purse uses the technology of the Tardis. It can be as big or small as it needs to be on the inside. Which makes a “likely monetary denomination” claim invalid. There’s no way to know what the amount is until the coin purse is opened. Because the coin purse has infinite amount of possibilities. Basically a Schroedinger’s cat but with an infinite amount of different states/classifications of being alive or dead. The knowledge of the origins of the universe/reality are in that coin purse and we only barley have an idea of how the Tardis technology actually works.

  72. kudlak says

    @EL
    I still think that’s swinging the pendulum too far over in the other direction. As has been said, there are other examples of wandering preachers and other examples of messianic claimants, so it isn’t a stretch that Jesus could have been just another one of them. Other unlikely characters managed to found lasting religious movements. Just look at Joseph Smith and L.Ron Hubbard. Never underestimate the power of a little charisma. I have no trouble with there being a historical Jesus if those clowns could make it. Rejecting the idea is like rejecting the very concept of human gullibility, isn’t it?

    Gee, Carrier’s book seems expensive, but I promise everyone that I’ll try to find or borrow a copy. Happy?

  73. Hippycow says

    @ironchops #71
    Question: Why didn’t he mention that little factoid in his testimonies/letters?
    What factoid are you referring to? You mentioned several there: Was it that he was the same age? Was it that he was a rabbi? Was it that he was a Pharisee? Was it that he heard of Jesus? Was it that he persecuted Christians?

    Paul didn’t make any references at all to a earthly Jesus, because in Paul’s time, Jesus was a celestial figure. The earthly mythology came about after Paul, so he would have no reason or ability to pontificate about it. If Jesus really had been an historical person on earth, Paul would certainly have had a lot to say about him, using his acts and what he said to bolster many of his (Paul’s) own arguments and exhortations. He didn’t do that. Not at all. This alone is good reason to strongly question Jesus’ historicity.

    Is this what you’re implying, ironchops? That if Jesus were a real human in history, Paul would have necessarily made hay about that? If that’s what you mean, I’m in agreement on that point.

    @kudlak #72:
    I still think that’s swinging the pendulum too far over in the other direction.”

    No offense kudlak, but what you think about it doesn’t count for much if you don’t have the necessary background knowledge to apply to the question. This is kind of like the caller who “thinks” there are only three possible origins for the Universe, or the ancient’s speculations on the composition of the sun in the Sean Carroll example. If you don’t have much base knowledge of what the possibilities are, much less their prior probabilities, your “thinking” on the matter doesn’t really amount to much of consequence.

    By the way, also I’m not saying I’m a leading scholar on the topic, either, but people like Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman and Robert Price are and they’ve all written great stuff about the topic. Without reading some of that kind of material, speculation on the topic based on modern day general impressions of what “seems logical” is pretty worthless.

  74. Hippycow says

    Hey, my numbers are off now! I guess posts earlier in the thread got approved in the meantime, bumping the numbers, or something…

  75. Narf says

    @60 – Hippycow

    The earlier followers were invented post hoc, by later writers. Just read the stories to see how little sense these earlier followers make and how “the twelve” is only a symbolic and allegorical number (like the frequent triads).

    Maybe. It’s hard to be completely sure. A couple of them could have been based upon real people. Passing a story from mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth for a few decades, with no written reference point, means it will come out the other end being completely unrecognizable (insert digestion joke of your preference here).

    The final number that the stories settled upon seems an obvious point that was loaded into the stories to appeal to Jews. There’s a lot of that, since the stories were told to draw all sorts of people into the new cult.

    At some points in the stories, Jesus has thousands of followers and at other points they completely disappear, or forget he is a magical messiah. These “followers” are clearly nothing more than story telling devices.

    That’s a problem, all throughout the Bible. I’m reminded of the Jews leaving Egypt, who walked through the magically parted sea, followed a pillar of flame through the desert for days or weeks, were given mana directly from Yahweh … but once Moses disappeared up the mountain for a week or two, they said, “Screw that god. Let’s make another.”

    People don’t do that. It’s utterly unbelievable.

    Does Carrier ever go into a case for an alternate explanation for what kicked off the Jesus cult? I have no problem with the idea that it could have been a chain of storytelling going back to an actual person, probably completely unrecognizable from the end result of the decades of embellishment and mythologizing.

    I’ve never heard a credible construction for an opposing hypothesis. Something had to kick off a movement/cult like Christianity.

    @70 – EL

    The gospels are undeniably rewrites of old testament stories, almost completely, and thus they are not intended as history. Most of the content of the gospels is clearly allegorical in nature and intent, e.g. not intended as history.

    Whoah, easy there. You’re overstating that a bit. They obviously are not history, but I don’t think we can speak to the intentions of those who wrote them down.

    I think we can mostly thank the attempts at prophesy for the similarities between the old and new testaments. And those later followers could have manipulated the stories in a corrupt but not 100% dishonest manner, using post hoc reasoning.

    “Well, he was the messiah, and we know that the messiah would do certain things. So, let me comb through the Jewish scriptures for messianic prophesies. Okay, here’s my list. He must have done all of this stuff, since he was the messiah. When did he do this one? Here’s this point in the story that kind of resembles that prophesy, so he must have done this other stuff while he was there. I should add in those details that someone left out.”

    It’s possible that the gospels were cynically manufactured with dishonest intent, but I don’t take that as a given.

    Further, the later 3 gospels steal from Mark and each other, and it’s clear that they just make shit up to serve their purposes and leave shit out to serve their purposes, which again means they are not intended as history.

    I find it better to view the various Gospels as snapshots of the progression of the stories over time. If looked at in order of the proposed initial writing time of each gospel, the later books show far more mythological embellishment than the earlier ones. It seems like the fairly natural progression of a myth.

    And sure, each of the gospels has its own take on the character of Jesus. I don’t see how this is a problem, though. They were written by different people, and each of those people probably had their own evangelistic style.

    Thus, the canonical gospels are fictional propagandistic pieces and not accounts of history, and thus they should be worth basically zero in this discussion. Again, these gospels are the only source we have that clearly identifies Jesus as having followers.

    That’s still a long way from being completely fabricated and having no historical core.

  76. Hippycow says

    Yes, kudlak there is some pretty amateur mythicist stuff out there. Carrier addresses that (along with the copious amateur historicst stuff) in his introduction. In fact, he says he had long avoided the topic (in the years prior to doing the research and writing the book), because of the amateurish nature of the mythicist claims he had seen. The book that changed his mind and made him take a deeper look was The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty.

    Carrier takes a very thorough and balanced look at the subject and is very generous in his concessions to historicity throughout (using the idea of a fortiori estimates of probability for many aspects of historicity claims).

  77. Narf says

    @72 – kudlak

    Other unlikely characters managed to found lasting religious movements. Just look at Joseph Smith and L.Ron Hubbard. Never underestimate the power of a little charisma. I have no trouble with there being a historical Jesus if those clowns could make it.

    Why would the charisma of a historical Jesus even enter into it? Smith and Hubbard constructed a very significant cult while they were still alive. The cult of Jesus wasn’t noticeable until after the death of the supposed person. The success of Christianity rests upon the charisma of later cult leaders who actually expanded it and the emotional pull of the stories.

  78. Narf says

    @77 – Hippycow

    Paul didn’t make any references at all to a earthly Jesus, because in Paul’s time, Jesus was a celestial figure. The earthly mythology came about after Paul, so he would have no reason or ability to pontificate about it. If Jesus really had been an historical person on earth, Paul would certainly have had a lot to say about him, using his acts and what he said to bolster many of his (Paul’s) own arguments and exhortations. He didn’t do that. Not at all. This alone is good reason to strongly question Jesus’ historicity.

    Unless Paul didn’t know anything about Jesus’s acts. Paul only knew what he had heard from Christians he was persecuting. Why would you think that Paul had a perfect understanding of everything that had lead up to the formation of the cult he was opposing? Seems pretty far fetched.

    I think that what you’re citing presents a vision of early Christianity that is far more unified than it actually was. Paul got one perspective of what this Jesus guy was, and those Paul opposed in the early church and wrote his letters to got another perspective. Paul’s ignorance of whatever details he left out doesn’t strike me as positive evidence for anything.

  79. kudlak says

    @ironchops
    You’re right, Saul was supposedly in Jerusalem when Jesus met his end, but he might might still have been more or less a student at the time, and not part of the group of elders who allegedly plotted against him. The conflict with the Pharisees might be one of those later fabrications designed shift the blame for the crucification from the Romans to the Jewish authorities, or it may just be exaggerated to add to Jesus’ stature as a great rabbi.

    Saul persecuted the early believers of a Jewish sect he considered heretical at the time, but that doesn’t mean that there was even a real Jesus behind that movement. He clearly indicated that he never met the living Jesus, and even Acts backs this up, although Paul never repeats its extraordinary story of his conversion. A more likely explanation is that Paul simply discovered that he liked Christians when he went to persecute them, and when he worked out what their beliefs meant to him and added his own inventions he probably just assumed that “the Lord” was revealing this to him directly, just like modern-day self-styled prophets do.

    It’s also important to note that Paul’s Christianity appears to be dramatically different from the Christianity presented in the Gospels, and there are scenes in Acts where he argues with the guys who actually learned from Jesus himself. When he talks about other preachers bring a “false gospel” he may very well be talking about people representing Peter, James, or Thomas. It may be then that he only ever persecuted a particular branch of Christianity. Several rival interpretations of Jesus’ teaching and meaning may have arose directly after the crucification, each lead by a different close follower, and Acts could just be a whitewashing of all this early infighting.

  80. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @kudlak in 76
    Don’t get the hardcover. It’s like 100 bucks or something. Softcover is much cheaper.

    Let me put it like this. I did not make an argument that Jesus did not exist. I did argue that you have no good evidence to conclude that Jesus had followers (disciples), rode into town on a donkey, etc. All of those claims come from the gospels and no where else, and the gospels are worthless as historical sources.

    To make the stronger argument that Jesus probably didn’t exist requires a lot more evidence which I have not yet brought up. I can if you want. But really, if you want the cheap version, watch one of Carrier’s youtube videos on the topic.

    Dr. Richard Carrier: Did Jesus Even Exist? A Historian Questions the Evidence ACSJ

  81. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Hippycow

    Yes, kudlak there is some pretty amateur mythicist stuff out there.

    Seconded. I believe Carrier said at one point in one video – and only half joking – that if a piece of mythicism argument doesn’t come from him, then don’t believe it. There’s a lot of bunk out there on the topic.

    @Narf in 79

    Almost every single bit of the entire content of the gospels – not the entire new testament, but the 4 canonical gospels themselves – are quite blatantly literary creations to serve propagandistic purposes, to serve as allegorical purposes, etc.

    One of the central theses of Proving History is that it is the consensus of experts in Biblical studies that every single method that has been used to extract the “historical core” from the gospels is fallacious or being fallaciously applied. By that, I mean that of every single academic paper published which analyses the methods in Biblical studies, every single paper concludes that the methods are fallacious or being fallaciously applied.

    I am not here arguing that this means Jesus did not exist. I am arguing that the gospels are not historical, were never intended as history, and nothing of reliable historical value can be extracted about Jesus et al. There is nothing of historical value that you can get from the gospels.

    You can see his books Proving History and On The Historicity Of Jesus for all of the arguments, evidence, and citations for these claims. You can also see this video.
    Why the Gospels Are Myth – Dr. Richard Carrier
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MclBbZUFSag

    The position I am describing here is not fringe. It is the consensus view. The real debate among academics who are not Christian fundamentalists lies in the letters of Paul (and possibly Josephus, but that’s only because people are out of date on the recent publications concerning Josephus). The gospels do not come up in the discussion between real academics because they are worthless for the purposes of the discussion.

    Ex:
    Jesus of Nazareth: Man or myth? A discussion with Zeba Crook and Richard Carrier
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgmHqjblsPw

    Quoting Narf:

    I find it better to view the various Gospels as snapshots of the progression of the stories over time. If looked at in order of the proposed initial writing time of each gospel, the later books show far more mythological embellishment than the earlier ones. It seems like the fairly natural progression of a myth.

    Bolding added.

    Debatable. This is a common misconception of the actual evidence and the mythicist position.

    Carrier cites the work of others to make the point I’m about to make.

    Mark in particular was largely intended to be an allegorical explanation of the gospel message and how to be a good evangelist. For example, consider the story in Mark where Jesus goes to his home town and is unable to heal the sick, and Jesus uses the excuse that they didn’t have enough faith to be healed. This is meant to be instructive to evangelists on how they should handle problems in their own home town (or elsewhere). Carrier cites the work of others which shows this is the case for more or less the whole of Mark.

    Now, with later gospel writers, the historicity trend was developing. During the rewrites of Mark in the later gospels, these later gospels saw a problem on historicity. Jesus being unable to heal the sick in his hometown made perfect sense as an allegorical instruction for evangelists, but it made no sense as a historical account, and so they changed their version to match their historical Jesus.

    Also important to remember was the double-truth standard of the early Christian church. The early Christian church was a mystery religion, and we have surviving documents from the early church founders talking about how you have to feed lies to the masses to convince them of the truth of the gospel, and only once they accept the truth of the gospel can you feed them the actual truth. The gospels, and especially Mark, are written in this double-truth way. Hell, we can see Mark encouraging this way of reading the text for at least part of the gospel of Mark:
    Mark 4:10-11

    10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

    Narf, that is the fundamental mistake you have made. To Christians, the later gospels are actually much more historical, because their Jesus actually is a god-man, whereas in Mark, it was far less historical and far more allegorical because Jesus wasn’t god-man. Yes yes, I know on our secular sensibilities it makes it less “historical”, but what you mean by that is “less likely to be true history”. You’re confusing “intended and written in the style of an actual history” vs “a plausible account of an actual history”.

    Or so Carrier argues.

  82. kudlak says

    @Narf
    Jesus’ public ministry might have lasted as long as three years from baptism to death, but it could have been a lot shorter. In any case, Christianity only became “noticeable” with the writing of Christian scripture, long after Jesus’ death. Smith and Hubbard had the benefit of newspaper and other media to spread their notoriety, where even the Emperors weren’t written about much until after their deaths 2000 years ago. Besides, those early Christians were as dead sure as our modern ones that Jesus was returning any minute, so why write anything down in the beginning, right?

  83. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf

    Paul only knew what he had heard from Christians he was persecuting. Why would you think that Paul had a perfect understanding of everything that had lead up to the formation of the cult he was opposing? Seems pretty far fetched.

    Paul is ridiculously adamant throughout his authentic letters that what he preaches he did not learn from a man. Rather, he adamantly asserts that he learned all of it by revelation and by scripture. This is a huge deal for Paul.

    Paul defines “apostle” as someone who has seen Jesus, whether in the flesh or by revelation (vision, hallucination, etc.). Paul never met Jesus in the flesh, which is also quite clear on. Paul also considers himself an apostle because he had visions of Jesus.

    The fact that he learned it from visions and scripture is important because people of the time valued that sort of shit. The people valued visions much more than what we would call a reliable multiply-corroborated third-hand account of an Earthly Jesus. They would value the visions more just because it was first-hand access. That’s how shit worked. Again, or so Carrier argues.

  84. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    My understanding is that Carrier and Ehrman are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to this question. My opinion lies somewhere in the middle, but I am interested in how you would calculate the possibilities of what actually happened. I’ve already read a few historical fictions with Jesus as a character, and I wouldn’t doubt that dozens more could be written within my lifetime alone. The Gospels themselves are actually four different stories about what happened, and there are as many other possible scenarios for what happened as there are minds to think them up, aren’t there?

  85. ironchops says

    @ Hippycow 77

    I only asked 1 question and yes, you answered it so on that we agree. That’s what I figured. The other factoids that you questioned are assumptions I make, backed by a very little extra biblical information that Saul (Paul) was in fact a real person that lived, breathed and occupied a physical volume on this earth. It is up for debate and confirmation and my mind is open for discussion on that.

    @ Narf 82

    I agree. Even Paul didn’t offer up any real evidence for a man he came to worship and I find that totally odd see as how much credibility that would give the Christian movement at that time. The evidence should have been fairly fresh and much easier to obtain back then yet nothing was done to preserve it. I find that odd as well.

    I did not read Richard Carrier’s book on the historicity of Jesus but I have viewed some of his YouTubes that he debates this topic. It makes me wonder if it is at all possible that there was a man named Yeshua` that preached/taught some of the concepts used in the gospels, namely that you can talk to god yourself with paying a priest, which would be both blasphemy and treason, and was killed/executed for it. I am not sure but I seem to have heard or read that there may have been quite a few people named Yeshua` because that was a popular name during that time. The Hebrew meaning of Yeshua` = saved…not savior. Some all this got distorted into what we call Christianity today which is bullshit. Not saying that the original form of Christianity was any less bull shit but I don’t think I even can know exactly what that would be.

  86. kudlak says

    @EL
    If there was a historical Jesus, and he didn’t have any disciples, then who were the first Christians? Somebody must have been around to hear what he was preaching and repeat it to others later, right?

    My collection of books is already too big, so I tend to read books prior to deciding whether to buy them.

  87. kudlak says

    @EL
    Paul states in Galatians that he met with some of the other apostles for half a month early on, so they were probably discussing theology at that time, correct? Later in that same letter he states that he met with them again fifteen years later to discuss his gospel to the gentiles, which he says was revealed to him, which is to say, it was probably communicated to him directly by God in the same fashion that modern-day Christian leaders claim to know what God thinks about stuff not in scripture.

  88. says

    Ref the call from Nicolas in Florida on 915
    Just once I like one of you guys to point out that human beings are not more familiar with “creation” or “first cause” than we are with “infinite regress”. Theists like to imply that creation and first causes are part of our common experience. But in fact we have NO experience with either.
    What we experience is existing things changing either naturally from one form to another (chemically, geologically, meteorologically etc) or being manipulated into different forms like “creating” a house or an aircraft.
    Of course, we have experience with cause and effect but we have zero experience with “first causes” or creation ex nihilo.
    What we do have experience with is stuff just being here for what that’s worth. You can’t deny that is our common experience. And we know about the infinite nature of number so… maybe stuff is infinite as well.
    So if they like assuming things based on our common experience maybe it’s this creation/first cause BS that should be rejected and everyone should be assuming everything is infinite

  89. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @kudlak

    If there was a historical Jesus, and he didn’t have any disciples, then who were the first Christians? Somebody must have been around to hear what he was preaching and repeat it to others later, right?

    Where did I argue that there are no disciples? Again, most of my arguments here are simply that the gospels do not count one way or the other. To make the case against a historical Jesus requires a lot more which I have not yet gone into here IIRC, except by posting one of those videos.

    On the mythicist account, the Jesus concept existed in Judaism before Christianity, and Jesus was thought to be a celestial archangel, such as documented in the writings of Philo of Alexandria. Then, several people reported visions of the celestial Jesus (the apostles, including Paul).

    They learned from Jesus from visions and from “careful readings” of scripture. Basically, you know modern day bible code nuts? That was common back then too. They would develop wacky ways to read the old testament and other scriptures, and they would “learn” about Jesus from doing this.

    Part of what they learned was in response to several changing social conditions on the ground, perhaps consciously, perhaps not. For example, it was known that any military action against Rome would be folly, and then in 70 AD there was a folly military action against Rome and the Jewish temple cult was destroyed. Some of the purpose of Jesus in the gospels is to replace the salvation of the Jewish temple cult with a personal savoir cult. Jesus symbolically fulfills the purpose of Yom Kippur and Passover, rendering the temple cult moot. For example, see the passage in Mark about the cursing of the fig tree, and how it’s sandwiched around the throwing out of the money changers from the temple cult (another demonstrably false historical account btw). Figs were already known symbols of the Jewish temple cult, and the entire purpose of that story is not history, but allegory in that Jesus is saying that the time of the temple cult is over, and that the temple cult no longer serves a function, “it is not the season for figs”, because the personal salvation of Jesus replaces the need of the temple cult to perform Yom Kippur and/or Passover for salvation for the whole Jewish people.

    The fig tree is also an example of how Mark is not history, was not intended as history, was intended as allegory, and in this case only makes sense as allegory. Taken as actual history, it means Jesus is insane. It makes no sense. He would have cursed a literal fig tree for no explicable reason, saying he did it because it’s not bearing fruit, and even noting that it would be unreasonable to expect fruit now because it’s not the season for figs. Again, this particular story can only make any sense whatsoever as intentional allegory.

    Also, rather than having a military defeat against the Earthly enemies of the Jews, Jesus brought a celestial victory against death, “the best victory of all”, thereby matching expectations in the wacky “bible code” kind of way.

    Paul states in Galatians that he met with some of the other apostles for half a month early on, so they were probably discussing theology at that time, correct?

    Apostle does not mean disciple. Are you confusing these two concepts? Disciple means someone who actually followed Earthly Jesus in his Earthly ministry. The Greek word used to mean “disciple” appears only in the gospels et al, and not in the authentic letters of Paul. Paul only seems to know about apostles, people who know Jesus by revelation and scripture.

    Again, there are like two verses, maybe four, in the authentic letters of Paul, which can be interpreted as referring to an Earthly Jesus, but that’s about it, and Carrier’s point is that there are plausible, equally plausible even, explanations for those verses that do not require an Earthly Jesus. Plus lots of other evidence and considerations which I have not brought up yet.

  90. user1 says

    I immediately bit Russell’s style by buying a t-shirt with the same Russell’s Teapot design. I live more than a thousand miles from Austin, so I don’t think we’ll have any awkward encounters at parties.

    Teach the controversy. Our children deserve to learn about the existence of the Celestial Sinensis. But whoa unto the heretic followers of the lukewarm perversions of Assamica, for they shall boil.

  91. Spoon says

    Could we please have these recorded at a louder volume? I have to adjust all my sound settings when they’re so quiet.

  92. kudlak says

    @EL
    In post #84 you said, “I did argue that you have no good evidence to conclude that Jesus had followers (disciples)”, but you seem to be arguing that the whole Jesus thing was just something esoteric and mystical, without there ever being an actual person serving as the root of it all.

    Interesting, but as Carrier says in one of his own videos, sometimes actual historical figures are characters in myth, so it still seems likely to me that there was a Jesus after all. Maybe this mystical Christ was a central part of some Jewish school of learning, and maybe they crafted much of his life in the Gospels using mystical formulas that only acolytes were trained to decipher, but we also have at least one non-canonical gospel that just lists sayings of Jesus, the Gospel of Thomas. If it was written at the same time or earlier than the canonical gospels that that would seem to indicate a very down-to-earth Jesus the wise rabbi sans any details about his life. To me that lends more to there being a Jesus well-regarded as a teacher prior to all this mystical junk getting heaped on. Carrier’s explanation seems far more convoluted compared to a simple rabbi having this cosmic identity placed upon him afterwards.

  93. kudlak says

    @EL
    Again, why would Paul ever refer to an earthly Jesus? He only ever experienced the risen cosmic Lord incarnation of what the man supposedly became and he only ever expected his Christians to experience the same. To them, the Christ was all that was really important. Other apostles got their authority from the man, but he got his from the Christ. The man just taught some pretty standard rabbinical wisdom mixed in with an apocalyptical message for Jews, but Paul saw the Christ as having a more universal plan. This all better explains why Paul’s Christianity was so radically different from that of the Gospels.

  94. Narf says

    Heh, I’m still going to have to stick with the dont-know-don’t-care camp, definitely such that it’s not worth discussing with theists.

  95. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @kudlak
    Lost context. Starting over.

    I made several arguments that the intent of the author’s of the four canonical gospels is such that they are completely useless as evidence for an Earthly Jesus, disciples, etc. Further, I note that seemingly the only reference to the existence of disciples (disciples, not apostles) is in these wholly untrustworthy documents. Further, I note that the only clear reference to an Earthly Jesus is in these wholly untrustworthy documents. Again, this paragraph is not on its own an argument that they did not exist.

    There is a stronger case which can be made that we have positive evidence affirming the position that Carrier’s mythicism hypothesis is true. I feel unprepared to make the case off the cuff for that. There’s a lot of evidence and argument that goes into that position.

    What I can do right now is try to argue against some of the purported evidence in favor of a historical Jesus.

    Again, why would Paul ever refer to an earthly Jesus?

    Any of a variety of reasons.

    Try talking about a friend with someone for a while. Eventually you will drop incidental notes about his life, his quirks, etc., which place your account firmly on Earth. No such unambiguous things in the authentic letters of Paul. Imagine trying to explain to someone the gospel message, that Jesus was born, was crucified, and died for your sins, without mentioning the city where it happened, or who did it, or any other clear detail that would put any part of the story on Earth. At all. That’s what we see in the authentic letters of Paul. It’s highly suspicious at the least, and it constitutes circumstantial evidence against an Earthly Jesus.

    Spoiler: Carrier’s case can be accurately described as circumstantial. Still, we convict people sometimes in a criminal court on mere circumstantial evidence. IIRC, one of Carrier’s estimates is 1 to 1000 against a historical Jesus. Still, none of us would get into a car with a 1 to 1000 odds that it will explode when starting the engine, and so the odds are not that impressive. In normal English, it’s “Jesus probably didn’t exist”, rather than something stronger.

    Further, many of the letters of Paul concern disputes over doctrine. If Jesus was an Earthly person, and if Paul was arguing against people who knew Earthly Jesus, then Paul would have to explain why his visions are better than firsthand / secondhand accounts. Yet Paul seems strangely ignorant of any firsthand / secondhand accounts. The only way that Paul knows about Jesus, and seemingly the only way that Paul things others can know about Jesus, is from visions and scripture, not from some actual dude on Earth. Paul is very, very adamant in his letters that he did not learn a thing from other people, and only learned about Jesus from visions and scripture, and that makes much better sense on the premise that this is how every apostle learned about Jesus.

    Let me give one of my favorite little pieces of evidence regarding the content of Paul. In the original Greek, Paul uses two Greek words when talking about birth, or what we might call birth. One of the words is the normal word for birth, and Paul uses that everywhere. IIRC, Paul uses the second word, which roughly means “manufactured” or “made”, exclusively in the following contexts: when talking about Adam’s “birth” / creation out of dust, and when talking about the creation of our resurrection bodies, and when talking about the “birth” of Jesus.

    See Romans 1:3

    NIV: “regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David”.

    King James: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;”

    Wow, that’s funny. The King James Version is actually a better translation on this point IMHO. The original Greek (IIRC) does not mention “descended” or “descendant” at all. That’s just the common modern Christian interpretation of the meaning.

    Carrier also notes that this choice of “made” instead of “born” really bothered later Christians, and Carrier cites evidence of later Christian scribes changing the word to “born”.

    Regarding the phrase in the Bible “born of a woman”, Carrier argues that Paul is referencing a preceding analogy in his letter, and that this woman is metaphorical and not literal. Or at least it’s a plausible reading.

    Regarding an earlier point you made that crucifixion was embarrassing, and thus they would not invent that out of whole cloth.

    First, as Carrier rightly argues in his book Proving History, the criterion of embarrassment is quite often overapplied / quite often bogus / etc. As a comparison, around the same time was Attis cult, and their god-man Attis actually castrated himself, and at the time there really is nothing more embarrassing than worshiping a castrated guy. Further, one might argue that by including a couple of completely ridiculous beliefs, it means those who join the cult have to pay some sort of social cost, which then leads to the Concorde fallacy. David Fitzgerald makes a similar observation of the modern Mormon religion and how the absolutely ridiculous requirement of 2 years of ministry actually seems to serve as some kind of reinforcement to their beliefs. People are weird. (Also, I had absolutely no idea about completely and utterly ridiculous the 2 years of ministry actually is. No days off for 2 years, and your entire day every day for 2 years is planned out to the minute. It’s obscene. It’s horrific.)

    Second, the crucifixion thing in particular was quite precedented in other religions at the time. Around half a dozen other religions around the same time also had dying and rising savior gods whose death granted their followers victory over death and life after death. (I am not arguing that any of these inspired Christianity. I am merely noting it was a common trait of religions at the time.) We can expand this to include several more gods, such as Mithras, if we require only that the god underwent some sort of ordeal to grant their followers victory over death and internal life. In all of these cases, the death and resurrection, or mere ordeal, was called a “passion”. The same Greek word was used which also described Jesus’s passion.

    Third, according to the Jewish theological understanding of the time, and because of the problems they needed to fix, Jesus’s death was required. The problem was the Jewish temple cult. Even before its fall, some Jews didn’t like it, for various reasons, but they needed to solve the problem of Yom Kippur and Passover. They needed a way to keep their good standing with god, and for that they needed a way to remove the need for communal atonement at the temple cult and the associated ceremonies. Basically, the Jews knew that their god loved blood and blood sacrifices. That’s just how you got rid of sin – you offered up a bloody barbecue to god. I’m not joking. So, the logic continues: “If a the bloody barbecue of a goat is good enough for one year of atonement or whatever, what do we need for a permanent atonement, and perhaps even power enough for life after death? A human’s blood won’t do. We need a god’s blood.” And thus the idea of Jesus may have been born. Problem solved. And thus again we see that the crucifixion of Jesus might not have been even that embarrassing, and might even have made theological sense and been attractive. Among the many reasons to be careful regarding the criterion of embarrassment, Carrier warns that it may be very hard for us in the modern day, who lack social context, to know what is truly embarrassing and what is not to people at the time.

    Finally, regarding the gospel according to Thomas. I don’t know much about it. I would have to look into it. Still, it seems the earliest that most reasonable historians would put it is contemporaneous with the canonical gospels, and if the gospels made shit up and attributed it to Jesus, so can the gospel according to Thomas.

  96. Jim Baker says

    It’s interesting to me that christian callers seem to be trying to convince themselves that there is a god while disguising the conversation as an effort to convince you!

  97. says

    Hi Guys,

    I’ve got quite a few hits on the blog for the site, thanks for clicking hope you liked it.

    I’ve got a video Blog to Upload sonn about my thoughts too 🙂

  98. kudlak says

    @EL
    Yet again I have to ask why Paul would be interested in mentioning any details about the earthly Jesus? His brand of Christianity seems to be all about what Jesus became, the Christ, the “Lord”, and living as believers, in communities, awaiting for him to return as this spiritual being that he became. That’s how he experienced Jesus and that’s what was important to his Christians. Still, Paul does refer to him as Jesus many times, indicating that he was aware of both identities. He also does mention events in Jesus’ life such as his death, burial, resurrection and trial.

    There’s also the point that the actual details about Jesus’ life were probably widely known orally prior to the Gospels being written, not that Paul’s Christians would have been as interested in those details. You also have to consider what Paul’s purpose was in writing those letters. He was interested in correcting doctrinal misunderstandings about what it was to be one of his Christians. That’s the “touchy-feely” side of Christianity as apposed to the details about Jesus’ life that the Gospels are used for. The argument then is why are Paul’s letters not enough like the Gospels which is unfair considering the different purposes each genre has.

    Yes, dying and raising gods were common at that time, but that could just as easily play into a historical Jesus strongly believed to be the Messiah, being crucified, and his followers then looking for an alternative meaning. Hallucinating seeing a risen Jesus might have sparked this connection and actually led to the belief that Jesus was divine. Same goes for the idea of atonement. His followers could have just as easily been so desperate to find meaning in his death that they came to see it as a sacrifice to God.

    The Gospel of Thomas is just a list of Jesus’ teachings, all fairly standard rabbinical stuff, with no narrative in which to embellish details.

    I guess I really ought to read that book, but it still seems most plausible to me that there was a real Jesus who was morphed into something that he probably would have been mortified by.

  99. Hippycow says

    @kudlak #99:
    …not that Paul’s Christians would have been as interested in those details.
    So, using examples of what the actual earthly Jesus did and said would not a persuasive way to make the arguments about doctrinal understandings that Paul was trying to make, right? That’s your thesis?

    The important point that Carrier makes, is that we look at all the available evidence and for each piece of evidence, we evaluate it based on the question, how likely is this evidence if Jesus existed as a person (historicity). Then we also evaluate its likelihood based on the hypothesis that Jesus was not a historical person. We don’t just go with one side of a bunch of ad hoc speculations that are not backed by any actual evidence, as you are doing here. It might be in many cases that the evidence is equally likely under historicity and non-historicity. In those cases the evidence neither adds nor subtracts from the likelihood of either hypothesis. There are other cases though, that will tip the balance. By looking at all the evidence we have, a preponderance of it begins to tip one way or the other.

    It is worth noting here that Carrier’s conclusion is simply that the probability that Jesus was mythical is higher than it was that he was historical. This is not at all making the claim that it is proved that Jesus was not historical (or based on some historical person). Carrier clearly states more than once that we simply do not have the evidence to prove it one way or the other. All we can do is look at the available evidence, which is not very hard, and make an assessment of the probability, based on whether it is more or less what we expect under historicity vs. mythicism; there is nothing there to make it conclusive either way.

  100. greenjelly01 says

    Here is the question to ask Nicholas:
    “Do you think that it is more likely for a Zanzibasch from the 15th dimension of the Omniverse to imagine a quatrizoid elliptical than a Krudzbar to compose a quartet about the seven pointed zugliot?”
    There are questions that cannot simply be answered by “more or less likely”. His whole argument is designed to create a confusion in the mind and coerce the person into lowering their defenses against one form of deception.

  101. Hippycow says

    Spoiler: Carrier’s case can be accurately described as circumstantial.
    It is worth noting that the case for the historical Jesus is also circumstantial. It is not an established fact at all, though 2,000 years of Christian hegemony have left most historians (and people in general) with the false presumption that it is.

    To have a fair treatment of the topic, we shouldn’t behave as if historicity is the established fact and mythicism is a new challenge that has to be unilaterally supported. Historicity is not an established fact and is not supported by any concrete evidence; it is only supported by the ravings of the various anonymous early cult members whose various mystery cults later merged and morphed over the following centuries into what we think of as “Christianity.” So let’s treat both historicty and mythicism as hypotheses. Now, let’s evaluate them both and see which is most likely.

  102. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    The “doctrinal understandings that Paul was trying to make” were to established churches of converts who had never known Jesus as a living man. What they were taught was who Jesus became, the risen Christ, who was about to return. Who the living man was was far less important than what he was now, which was now something spiritual, and the form that he would return as would be far different than the form he once has as a man. For Paul and his Christians Jesus the Jew was old news and not nearly as important as what Jesus was now to them, see?

    There’s also the point that the other apostles were the ones who knew earthly Jesus, learned directly from him, and could claim their authority from this experience. The NT clearly states that there was some disagreement between them and Paul, at least in the beginning, and that they didn’t see him as their equal. So, it would follow that Paul would deemphasize the importance of knowing the living Jesus like his rivals did, correct? He emphasized knowing the risen Jesus, the “Lord”. It was “the Lord” who revealed himself to Paul, and where he got his authority.

    This was a time before Christian scripture. The Gospels were not written yet, although the basics about Jesus’ life and other stories could have been circulated, particularly by followers of apostles like Peter and James. Remember also that Paul warned against preachers of a false gospel. It may be likely that those false preachers may have just been from the camps of those apostles. Reason enough to deemphasize the meaning of Jesus’ earthly life. Paul and his converts could only ever hope to know the risen Christ through revelation, and it was this form of Jesus who was supposed to be returning soon. Stories about Jesus the man might be valuable when converting folks, but Paul was writing to established churches at that time about the details of being a Christian.

  103. Hippycow says

    More ad hoc speculation. Maybe I should just give up…

    Yes, you can come up with some “explanation” for every oddity, but ask yourself if Paul omitting any references to the details of an earthly Jesus is more likely on historicity or on non-historicity. Just that question, without a lot of speculation about what may or may not have been important to people of that time, what they would have been interested in, how they might bolster their arguments, etc. Is this huge omission more or less probable on historicity or mythicism?

    By the way, it is worth adding that whenever you add speculations to explain improbabilities in the available evidence, you are actually lowering the probably that the hypothesis is true. This is because you are now adding additional conditions, which themselves have probabilities that are less than 100% (unless you can prove otherwise). You have to add the probabilities for each of your speculations to the equation, so the more you make up, the less probable the conclusion becomes.

  104. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    There’s also the point that the other apostles were the ones who knew earthly Jesus, learned directly from him, and could claim their authority from this experience.

    And how do you know that? Paul doesn’t unambiguously say that. And there are no reliable sources regarding this except the authentic letters of Paul.

  105. says

    RE: The Kalam Troll
    He gave 3 choices for an answer : forgetting the best choice of all.

    #4 – Our limited human knowledge and capabilities prevent us from understand the real nature of the universe.

    IF and WHEN we evolve (intentional dig) into a more scientifically advanced and much more intelligent species, we might be able to grasp some meaning about the causes / effects / meanings behind the immensity and content of everything outside our tiny little speck of rock we inhabit.

  106. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    You see, my previous experience with the Jesus Myth argument actually is rife with ad hoc explanations and appeals to what makes sense to us today out of context with that time and place. Asking me to evaluate anything in the NT without considering the historical context just doesn’t seem to be very fair, but let’s table this discussion until I have a chance to actually review Carrier’s work for myself, OK?

    Until then, May the Fourth be with you!!

  107. Hippycow says

    I can’t believe I forgot to wear my “Star Wars #1 fan” t-shirt today!

  108. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS: Again, to emphasize, this is not a terribly important discussion w.r.t. religion vs atheism. My atheism is unaffected whether the minimal history hypothesis is true or Carrier’s mythicist hypothesis is true. It may be a relevant some some Christian believers, but others will ignore any evidence anyway, and others will be ok with the idea that Jesus’s death and resurrection happened in outer space e.g. heaven.

    There are much better defeaters for Christianity than the historicity of Jesus, and it should not be used as a defeater against Christianity.

  109. Perkalov says

    First question about grandparent worried over his x-wife indoctrinating the grandchild.
    I have an similar problem where my x-wife lives with an religious person and he pushes his views on to my children. However, I am Confident that they will come to the “right” conclusion with good education and a critical mind. So assuming the school does its work, all I have to do is to supply them with a critical mind. If they then want to embrace religion, so be it.

    Its nothing unusual with children being drawn towards religion. My daughter has clearly stated that she believes in God/Jesus. I do however suspect that it will pass with age.

  110. kudlak says

    @EL
    That’s my position as well. We have no way of knowing, so anyone who bases their atheism upon the premise that Jesus never existed as a historical person can justifiably be accused of having a faith. Even if Carrier makes a watertight, evidence-based case believers will cite the terrible past attempts instead. It will probably take quite a long time for a better argument to supersede those old ones.

    Like I’ve been saying, any argument that the first Christians thought of Jesus as a celestial deity much like any other won’t bother Christian apologists because they will argue that “Christianity” only began after Jesus had already ascended into Heaven, becoming the celestial Christ.

    So, as valuable as this book may seem to you guys it probably won’t be affective against Christians for quite some time, I’m afraid.

  111. ironchops says

    Does anyone here ever just read the bible for the poetic/spiritual literature it is knowing that most of it is not actually real? If so, then how would you define “God” in that context?

  112. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    So, as valuable as this book may seem to you guys it probably won’t be affective against Christians for quite some time, I’m afraid.

    Strange. You explicitly agree with me that Carrier’s hypothesis should not be used to argue against Christianity the modern religion, but then you seem to imply that “you guys” are doing exactly that. I don’t think anyone here is trying to use Carrier’s hypothesis as an argument against Christianity the modern religion. IIRC, no one here has implied that it will be useful against Christians in the future.

    At least for me, I’ve just been talking about an interesting but obscure historical point.

    Of course, as Carrier notes, lots of evidence in the book makes for great anti-apologetics.

    For example, if someone says the resurrection happened, it’s good stuff to know that Jesus isn’t even mentioned in an authentic independent source outside the Christian bible, and the four canonical gospels themselves are inauthentic garbage, meaning that the resurrection doesn’t have a single trustworthy source for it. It’s fun to be able to argue

  113. Narf says

    @96 – Richard Watts

    How come none of my comments get posted?

    Martin’s comment was aimed at you, I believe. It’s an anti-spam measure. First-time commentators go into the moderation queue. Once a moderator approves your first message, your e-mail, IP address and other details get added to the auto-approval list, and your future comments will show up immediately.

    The moderators might also block some of the more insane, assholish theists who try to comment here, but they would have to be exceptional in their assholishness. We get random preacher-types and clueless theists in here, all the time. The moderators approve them, because the regular commentators like to tangle with theists. It’s almost exclusively used as an anti-spam measure.

  114. Narf says

    @103 – Jim Baker

    It’s interesting to me that christian callers seem to be trying to convince themselves that there is a god while disguising the conversation as an effort to convince you!

    Err, which Christian caller? There were two. Do you mean the Kalam guy?

    If so, that’s absolutely understandable. There are no ‘logical’ arguments for the existence of a god which can possibly lead to any particular god. The ‘logical’ arguments are only useful to prop up the faith of someone who has already been brainwashed into a religion.

    It’s a common thread, all throughout apologetics books. The majority of apologetics books are written to the already-believing, and those which claim to be written to skeptics are revealed to be lying, within a few chapters. The goal of apologetics is to provide the doubting faithful with a quasi-intellectual, reassuring pat on the head.

  115. Narf says

    @116 – EL

    It may be a relevant some some Christian believers, but others will ignore any evidence anyway, and others will be ok with the idea that Jesus’s death and resurrection happened in outer space e.g. heaven.

    That’s why I don’t find the discussion to be particularly interesting. We can’t establish it one way or the other. All that we have are unreliable books of myths which aren’t worth squat in terms of forming foundational beliefs.

    That’s enough for an argument against their beliefs, and you can have a nice discussion about epistemology based upon that alone. Changing it to a discussion of a positive case, in which you’re adopting a burden of proof and trying to present evidence that neither side has, doesn’t add anything to the discussion, in my opinion.

  116. Narf says

    @122 – EL

    For example, if someone says the resurrection happened, it’s good stuff to know that Jesus isn’t even mentioned in an authentic independent source outside the Christian bible, and the four canonical gospels themselves are inauthentic garbage, meaning that the resurrection doesn’t have a single trustworthy source for it. It’s fun to be able to argue

    Sure, which is more of an epistemic argument, which I think only gets muddied if we tried to turn it into an historicity argument. Not that I’m saying that anyone is saying that we should be arguing against historicity, when arguing with theists. That’s just my focus, so I evaluate the worthiness of arguments about religion, through that lens.

    As for the argument within the atheist community, as a side diversion, I still can’t get all that into it. The same thing that makes the Bible worthless as a foundation also makes the argument against historicity untenable, from my perspective. We don’t have any real evidence or even secular corroboration of anything, but that isn’t a positive argument against.

    Okay, so say that Paul was certain that Jesus was never a human. That’s one guy’s opinion, who came along rather late to the movement. It doesn’t mean much to me. I’ll have to see what else Carrier has, at some point, when the book drops in price a bit, perhaps.

  117. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf

    Okay, so say that Paul was certain that Jesus was never a human. That’s one guy’s opinion, who came along rather late to the movement. It doesn’t mean much to me. I’ll have to see what else Carrier has, at some point, when the book drops in price a bit, perhaps.

    Of the sources we have, Paul is the closest to the origin of the movement. Paul is also the only reliable source we have concerning the origin of the movement. Everything else is based on the gospels, or based on oral testimony over centuries – in other words: garbage. Thus, it’s a little strange to complain that Paul is relatively late in the movement. That rebuttal would make sense if we had any other source which was earlier in the movement, or if we had any other reliable source concerning the early movement, but we don’t.

    PS:
    About the price. I’m confused. I just want to make sure. The hardcover is ridiculously overpriced, but the softcover is now around 30 USD on Amazon. Are you waiting for the 30 USD price to drop? I don’t have a lot of experience for comparison, but that price seems reasonable and not out of the ordinary.

  118. says

    The moderators might also block some of the more insane, assholish theists who try to comment here, but they would have to be exceptional in their assholishness.

    We do ban rarely, and to be honest, there are more reactionary anti-FTB trolls in the atheist blogosphere likely to meet our banhammer than trolly theists.

  119. Narf says

    @127 – EL

    Of the sources we have, Paul is the closest to the origin of the movement. Paul is also the only reliable source we have concerning the origin of the movement.

    I wouldn’t go that far. Paul isn’t a reliable source, concerning the origin of the movement, either. I’d say that we have bupkis, concerning the origin of the movement. All we can do is extrapolate from later writings, which isn’t worth much.

    Everything else is based on the gospels, or based on oral testimony over centuries – in other words: garbage.

    No less garbage than Paul’s writings. At least the gospels are mythic distortions of stories that originated closer to the supposed events of the supposed guy’s life. Paul’s writings came out of nowhere, rather late to the game.

    Even if the gospels were completely fabricated from nothing, originally, they’re probably more closely related to the stories that the early Christians were telling each other, back when then-Saul was still persecuting them. So, Paul then turns around and starts telling the early Christians what the guy they’re worshiping really wants of them, based upon his epileptic fever-dreams … assuming he didn’t just make that up.

    Thus, it’s a little strange to complain that Paul is relatively late in the movement. That rebuttal would make sense if we had any other source which was earlier in the movement, or if we had any other reliable source concerning the early movement, but we don’t.

    I don’t see how the lack of a reliable source from the earlier movement means that we should give Paul any more weight. He was making it up as he went, based upon what he claims he saw during his epileptic fit.

    PS:
    About the price. I’m confused. I just want to make sure. The hardcover is ridiculously overpriced, but the softcover is now around 30 USD on Amazon. Are you waiting for the 30 USD price to drop? I don’t have a lot of experience for comparison, but that price seems reasonable and not out of the ordinary.

    I would expect an edition that goes for more like $12 or $14, at some point. We’ll see. It seems silly to jump at it early, for the current price, when I already have 10 or 15 other books in my queue, anyway.

  120. Narf says

    @128 – Martin

    We do ban rarely, and to be honest, there are more reactionary anti-FTB trolls in the atheist blogosphere likely to meet our banhammer than trolly theists.

    You don’t say. 😀 Project P, over in the comment thread for episode #910 comes to mind. He’s still freaking going, over there, as recently as an hour or so ago.

  121. Narf says

    … and yeah, at least the assholish theists are being assholish about a subject that’s on topic. There’s more reason to let them in.

    There’s no real benefit to letting an atheist in, if he’s (funny how it’s always a he) just going to be an asshole that doesn’t say anything on the subject of religion, except to accuse us of acting like theists for rejecting his insane shit about Zeitgeist and Project Venus.

  122. kudlak says

    @EL
    Sorry if it seemed that way, but I was only stating that it will likely take a long time before a good argument for the mythic Jesus can used in anti-apologetics. That lessens its potential usefulness for me, making it an interesting subject, but not one that I will fork over that much money to buy the book without reading it first, which is how this discussion began, with “you guys” trying to get me to read the book. Maybe, I’ll still find a copy somewhere to borrow.

  123. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf
    I see. I just want to highlight where I think you have it wrong. For thorough argument of all of this, do check out Proving History and On The Historicity of Jesus.

    Paul’s letters AFAIK are 51 to 58 AD, approx. The earliest Mark could have happened, the first gospel, was after 70 AD.

    At least the gospels are mythic distortions of stories that originated closer to the supposed events of the supposed guy’s life.

    That very much is a contentious issue. I’m pretty convinced that Mark is not a mythic distortion, but invented out of whole cloth.

    Early Christianity was a mystery cult. It’s like modern Scientology. At the time, you could not merely walk in and have everything explained to you. You have to go through various levels of induction before they tell you everything, and most people don’t make it that far.

    Mark was written with two different readings in mind. The first reading was the literal straightforward reading which put Jesus on Earth doing things. However, the real reading for those inducted into the cult was a mythic allegory, not exaggeration. The meaning and truth of the text is not as a literal history, but as a metaphorical explanation of the gospel. This is not out of left field. There is serious scholarship devoted to this idea. Further, we see this kind of reading promoted by early church leaders quite explicitly, IIRC such as Eusebius. This kind of double-meaning was a common feature of mystery cults at the time.

    The later gospels are all responses and rewrites to Mark, and to each other. It’s unlikely that they are doing so based on any sources which we today do not have. We can see how the later gospels reverse details to suit their theological and political aims. They’re just making shit up.

  124. kudlak says

    @EL
    30 USD is reasonable for a good book but, as I said, I already have too many books. So I really have to justify adding anything to my shelves and buying any book sight unseen just won’t fly with the little missus.

  125. Narf says

    @131 – EL

    Paul’s letters AFAIK are 51 to 58 AD, approx. The earliest Mark could have happened, the first gospel, was after 70 AD.

    I don’t care what year Mark was written down. Matthew and Luke contain shared elements that are absent from Mark, and John is completely off to one side, possibly written down from the stories that an entirely separate sect were passing around. They seem to me to be collections of stories that had been passed along, possibly with bits added from earlier written accounts which are now lost.

    The stories have to have predated Paul’s letters, since Christians had to have something they were telling each other, before Saul had his little mishap in the road. Christians existed before Paul’s writings, obviously. The gospels seem to be collections of those stories, where Paul was admittedly making shit up as he went, based upon the revelations he gained from his epileptic hallucinations (again, taking him at his word).

    Distorted, mythologized stories, possibly passed down from the beginning of the cult, are worth more than something someone made the fuck up from scratch, decades after the fact. In fact, I place essentially no value on Paul’s theology, in terms of trying to puzzle out what might have started the whole thing.

    That very much is a contentious issue. I’m pretty convinced that Mark is not a mythic distortion, but invented out of whole cloth.

    I’m not convinced of that.

  126. Narf says

    Early Christianity was a mystery cult. It’s like modern Scientology. At the time, you could not merely walk in and have everything explained to you.

    The Gnostics were certainly like that, yes. I think you’re badly oversimplifying by saying that all of early Christianity was like one particular thing. There were multiple, drastically different groups, rather early in the history of the religion.

  127. Narf says

    … and you’re giving one interpretation of Mark, there. There were probably bits of what you say, having the gospels serve as evangelical tools. I think you’re oversimplifying a bit here, too.

  128. Hippycow says

    I pretty much concur with the last several comments EL has made to Narf and kudlak. Having read both the books in question, it is clear EL has as well. EL has probably absorbed the material better than me. I went through the second book pretty fast, as I was eager to see the argument and I plan to give it a re-read to better learn all the material.

    I also agree that this is not anti-theist ammunition. For me it is just an interesting from several points of view. First, that for most of my life, I was under the impression that it was a given, a fact, that Jesus was a real historical person. It is a real eye opener to see just how flimsy the evidence for this “fact” is. However, it is also useful to some extent to know a lot of the material, because when you are talking to Christians, they will claim a lot of things as fact that are really not supported and it is good to know specifically why and be able to clearly and correctly point those things out. It is also useful to know more about their religion and how it came about then they do. I wish Christians had the courage to read this material.

    Once again, I don’t mean this as a put down, but Narf and kudlak, pretty much all your objections are based on ignorance. That’s not surprising, because we’ve all been plied with the kind of assumptions your arguments are based upon as being baseline facts. Moreover, I think Carrier thoroughly covers every point that’s been brought up in this discussion and really nails the details.

    For me, the idea of having “too many books” is anathema. Especially if they are good books. (I even keep several extra copies of Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation in my car trunk, for the next time I’m accosted by Mormons). So Narf & kudlak, email me your addresses and your birthdays and I’ll take it from there. My email is the same as my handle here and it’s at cyclethere.com.

    BTW, this forum needs a tag for underlining, so we can do book titles right!

  129. kudlak says

    @Hippycow
    Wow, an atheist willing to send free books!

    Sure you’re not looking for a “faith offering” in return? 😉

    I appreciate your generous offer, but I will buy a copy if and when I want to. Like the guy from a few treads back who was trying to convert me into being a zeitgeist fan, I tend to reject anyone who says that I “have to” read something. Nothing personal, it’s just that I have to be interested in a subject before getting the material to study, otherwise the material is apt to collect dust. Hope you understand!

  130. jhl says

    Atheism sounds like people really impressed with their own really deep thoughts. Used to be one. Atheist cannot explain inexplicable things- something real life is inundated with. It is not a sign of weakness to not know everything. No one ever will. The concept of eternity should haunt the psyche of all atheists. We will all be judged for how we lived our lives. Everybody dies. Only Jesus has risen from the dead -documented by many witnesses. The intellectual well-being achieved by atheists are of a fleeting nature. Everyone grows old, becomes slower of wit and dies. Then God will judge you.

    Regards
    Johan Lombard
    South Africa

  131. says

    Oh, who wants to have fun with this clever fellow? Can I start?

    Atheist cannot explain inexplicable things

    No one can explain inexplicable things. That’s what inexplicable means. The difference between atheists and theists is that we don’t make something up and then claim it’s an explanation.

    It is not a sign of weakness to not know everything. No one ever will.

    Then you should take your own advice here, because it is a sign of dishonesty to claim to know things you do not know, simply because you’ve chosen to place your ignorance on an altar and call it God.

    The concept of eternity should haunt the psyche of all atheists.

    Why should it? We will not experience eternity, being mortal. I can see why it would haunt the psyche of theists, though. What exactly do you expect to be doing in all that eternity living up in heaven? Just praising God, all the time, forever and ever, without end? Wouldn’t that drive anyone mad?

    Only Jesus has risen from the dead -documented by many witnesses.

    And yet even the holy book that documents this alleged resurrection gives four conflicting accounts of how it transpired, and no independent way to verify what these “many witnesses” are supposed to have seen (such as an account in their own words, that exists apart from the Bible), and if they even existed. There is thus no more rational basis to claim that there were “many witnesses” to Jesus’s resurrection than there were “many witnesses” to the Battle of Helm’s Deep, just because the book says there were thousands of fighters there.

    There were other resurrections reported that day — essentially a full-on zombie invasion of Jerusalem, also said to have been witnessed by many. Do you consider that a reputable account as well?

    The intellectual well-being achieved by atheists are of a fleeting nature. Everyone grows old, becomes slower of wit and dies.

    It would seem some people are slow of wit all their lives. But again, you make another Captain Obvious point that applies to everyone. You seem to suggest theists are somehow exempt from this. Why?

    Then God will judge you.

    We are aware that Christianity, lacking facts or evidence, tells people this as a way of controlling the gullible through fear. But you have given us no reason to think it is true, and as we are no longer children frightened of the monster under the bed, this is not a tactic that works here.

    Hopefully this experience has been a lesson to you, but if it has not, allow me to explain: If you want to comment on this blog in defense of Christian belief, you are going to have to bring your A-game. This you have completely failed to do. We’re experienced and informed thinkers here, and it will take more than trite Sunday School preaching for 12-year-olds to make an impression on us. Go back, think a little harder about what you wish to say, and then try again. Until then, we remain unimpressed at the inability of a supposedly all-powerful God to find anyone able to argue for his existence skillfully.

  132. Narf says

    Oh, who wants to have fun with this clever fellow? Can I start?

    Wow, yeah, there isn’t a whole lot to work with there. The whole comment is nonsense, but three big things jump out at me.

    @jhl

    Atheism sounds like people really impressed with their own really deep thoughts. Used to be one.

    You’re going to have to demonstrate this, before we care. There are far too many deceitful preachers out there who lie about this sort of thing, because they think that claiming to have once been an atheist gives them credibility. It doesn’t. If you converted to a religion for a really stupid reason, then it just goes to show that you weren’t a very rationally-based atheist.

    Even if you were actually an atheist, at one point, it still doesn’t matter. The arguments stand or fall on their own, no matter who is delivering them. If you can’t present a rational reason for us to convert to a religion, then you couldn’t have been a particularly rational atheist. We are.

    So far, what you’ve said doesn’t give me any reason to think that you’ve examined your religion with any kind of skepticism or an even vaguely educated eye. I don’t believe you.

    Only Jesus has risen from the dead -documented by many witnesses.

    I can only guess at what you meant by this, Johan. What a lot of preachers mean is the bit at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul makes a claim about Jesus appearing before 500 witnesses, among others.

    We don’t have documentation from 500 witnesses. We have one man who wasn’t there, making a claim that there were 500 witnesses. We don’t have the names of those witnesses. We don’t have a single word written by them. Claims made by 500 people, without a shred of evidence, are worth almost nothing to begin with, but we don’t even have that.

    If you’re talking about the gospels, you also don’t have any documentation by witnesses. The gospels were not written by witnesses. They were almost certainly not written by the people whose names were later attached to them. They are anonymously-recorded collections of stories that had been passed down for a generation after the supposed events, before being recorded. Those are worthless as evidence of anything.

    We will all be judged for how we lived our lives … Everyone grows old, becomes slower of wit and dies. Then God will judge you.

    According to your religion, no we won’t. Your god doesn’t judge us based upon how we live our lives. I assume you’re an evangelical of some sort, based upon your actions here, evangelizing at us. Your theology claims that we just have to be born again and accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, and then we’ll be sent to heaven. If we don’t do that, then we’ll be sent to hell.

    So, it doesn’t matter how we lived our lives. All that matters is whether or not we made that feeble declaration about being saved. Your god is immoral and unjust, and I have no reason to believe he exists.

    And as Martin said, if you have to resort to threats or other emotional manipulation, it’s an admission that your argument doesn’t hold up on logical grounds. That’s essentially an admission that you’re lying to us, and there isn’t really a good reason to believe anything you present as an argument.

  133. Narf says

    Sadly, looks like this guy was just a drive-by preacher, Martin. I always wonder what the hell people like that are even trying to accomplish. If they’re not going to spend the time to even talk to us and have a bit of back-and-forth, why would we take anything they say seriously?

    If you’re going to evangelize to people, you need to at least put in a little effort, unless you’re trying to impress your god by just going through the motions without caring about the results.

  134. Narf says

    Yeah, at least Jerry, from a few months back, was in there plugging away for a while … perhaps too long. I would have called it going through the motions, at the time, but I think that perhaps he just didn’t have the brain power to have an actual discussion on the subject. I think that copying and pasting seemingly unrelated articles and spamming YouTube links was all he had to work with, and at least he was doing it.

    I mean, it eventually got him banned, for damned good reason — I’m sorry, but if you’re posting links to videos of Kent Hovind’s “100 Reasons Evolution is so stupid,” lectures, expecting them to have a positive effect on us, you’ve got nothing — but hey, at least he was doing something.

    If this is the stuff that comes through to the blog, I can just imagine what the show e-mail must be like.

  135. Hippycow says

    @Narf #144: I always wonder what the hell people like that are even trying to accomplish.
    Well, Narf I have to say, after reading brother Lombard’s inspiring testimony to The Truth(TM), I have to now confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior and His Blood has Warshed away all my sins! Hallelujah Jesus! Praise the Lord!