Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

You’ve Got to be Joking

with 11 comments

What I have really been struggling with the past few weeks is the concept that there are tens of millions of Americans who actually believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and the events described in the Old Testament really happened. Granted, maybe I’m a bit old to be grasping this, but until recently I have more or less fooled myself into believing that only a few of these people actually believed, and that most of them were more or less conforming for the sake of fitting in. I grew up in a religious household, don’t get me wrong, but it was a liberal modern denomination, Episcopalian to be exact. We said grace before dinner, we went to church sometimes, Sunday School on occasion … but no one ever expressed the idea that the events in the Old Testament were literally true. Heck, I remember drawing dinosaurs as part of a Sunday School lesson, liberal Christians have no problem with science and its understanding of the Earth and the Universe.

Tens of millions of Americans apparently do have a problem with the scientific view of the Earth and the Universe, and instead believe that a supernatural being created it all a few thousand years ago. This is the logical equivalent of believing that the Earth is flat. These people aren’t mentally ill, they for the most part had at least some scientific education in the school system, and for all practical purposes are functioning members of society. Granted I haven’t met too many of them,  but the ones I have met seemed like nice normal folks to me.

And even more interesting, most of the people who don’t believe aren’t all too upset by it. Imagine if tomorrow morning 50 million Americans woke up and insisted that a nine foot tall invisible rabbit was following them around. Most people would be pretty shocked, and would think there was something wrong with these people. Especially if they insisted that this rabbit had impregnated a virgin, who grew up, was killed, and was then brought back from the dead by the very same rabbit. These people would be rounded up and locked away for their own good.

Instead, they are increasingly running the show. Now maybe the people at the top are simply using the Christ myth to manipulate people, but that is still disturbing on so many levels. I guess people encouraging people to believe in nonsense is part and parcel of human culture, but it’s still an ugly sight. Especially when all of those who are so deceived don’t have much trouble recognizing that other people’s religious beliefs are absurdities. It’s depressing and I’m depressed about it. How much future can the human race have when its individual members are easily persuaded to believe in dogshit nonsense? And the idea that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Earth is only a few thousand yeas old, or there was a global flood (for starters,) … are dogshit nonsense. Turtles, turtles all the way down makes as much sense.

It kinda throws a monkey wrench in the idea of intelligent design too. What kind of God would design people who can easily be persuaded to believe in crap? Which leads me to think that if there is a God, a great designer who set this all in motion with the Big Bang, he must be a little disappointed with these folks. By not appreciating the amazing universe that God created, a universe where the act of creation never ended, and new stars, galaxies, and forms of life are created continuously … aren’t the Evangelists the ones who are denying God? By their own logic, by worshipping a Bronze Age myth put to parchment, aren’t they the ones worshipping a golden calf? The Bible is no more the word of God than a Spiderman comic. Claiming that it was divinely inspired is no different than claiming Stan Lee was divinely inspired. Heck, I could claim God inspired me to write this blog.

On the other hand, this is giving me at least some insight into how people believe other silly things. That however is a topic for another blog post. Have a great week everyone, it’s good to be back.

(The above image came from a site offering free religious imagery. It’s Jesus rising into heaven. Well, white Jesus. Another mythical being. If there was a real Jesus, he wasn’t what most people would call white. And he no doubt suffered from an early case of Jerusalem Syndrome.)


Written by unitedcats

June 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

The Minimal Facts Theory, Proof that Christianity is True?

with 11 comments

In my increasingly less frequent ramblings through atheist/Christian discussion boards, I came across the Minimal Facts Theory as an argument that Christianity is based on true events. The argument is based on the idea that there is a set of “minimal facts” about Jesus and his ministry that the vast majority of scholars believe are true. This is the list complied by Professor Gary Habermas, the person who originated the theory:

  1. Jesus was publicly executed and died on a Roman cross.
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty the Sunday after his burial.
  4. Jesus’ followers had no basis for hoping that he would be raised from the dead.
  5. Women friends of Jesus had experiences of seeing Jesus alive from the dead.
  6. Jesus’ apostles had experience of seeing Jesus alive from the dead.
  7. The first Christians proclaimed in Jerusalem just weeks after Jesus’ death that he had literally risen from the dead (and these Jews made Sunday the first day of the week).
  8. Paul, a persecutor of the Christians, converted to faith in Christ after an experience of seeing Jesus alive from the dead.

Basically 90% of scholars had to agree in order to make the list. The good professor then concludes that given this set of facts, that the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most logical explanation for them. The idea then being that if Jesus really did rise from the dead, he must have been the real deal. Sigh. Reality defined by consensus. While I appreciate the effort to manipulate a limited data set in such a way as to get new information about it or otherwise understand it better, I’m not terribly impressed with this theory.

My first problem would be with the idea that these are facts. The life and ministry of Jesus is very poorly documented historically. That is to say the contemporary records of him are just a few debatable fragments, the facts above were all derived from the gospels, all of which were written decades after Jesus died, and all of which have provenance issues of their own. In and of itself I think this reduces the “minimal facts” theory to GIGO. For the less computer illiterate, that means garbage in, garbage out. If the data entered into a program is faulty, any results the program generates are faulty.

So let’s ignore all that, and agree that these facts are indeed facts. Why then, these facts indeed show that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact. Um, anyone see the problem with this line of reasoning? We are agreeing that one set of facts are facts to prove that another fact is indeed a fact. Wouldn’t it be simpler to simply agree that the resurrection of Jesus was a fact, and avoid the circular reasoning? As far as I can see the minimal facts argument is just that, a sophisticated example of circular reasoning.

And then there’s the little problem of the indisputable fact that other people have indeed shown up at their own funerals. It happens. By accident, or by fakery, it’s not all that unusual for people to turn up alive after their supposed death. I’m not suggesting Jesus faked his own death, I’m just saying that there is no particular reason that a supposed resurrection has to have a supernatural explanation. This was not exactly an era of autopsies and death certificates, and considering the aforementioned lack of historical evidence, anything is possible.

Lastly, even if Jesus was resurrected somehow, this doesn’t “prove” that his teachings were true. Maybe advanced aliens were messing with our minds. “I know, let’s reanimate this dead nut’s corpse to freak out the natives.” Unlikely? Of course. No less likely than in invisible supernatural being creating the universe though. Heck, the alien theory requires far fewer assumptions when it comes right down to it.  I’m quite certain that at least 90% of scientists would agree with the facts behind the alien Jesus resurrection theory, so by the logic of the minimal facts theory, Jesus being resurrected by aliens is far more likely than a supernatural explanation.

And on the gripping hand, who cares? Whether Jesus was the real deal or not has utterly no relevance to the crimes that organized religion perpetrates. This is a point the rigidly faithful might have a little trouble with.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: Reuters/BBC. It’s a reconstruction of the face of a first century skull found in the Holy Land and is a modern guess of what Jesus may have actually looked like. There’s no real agreement on the issue, but he almost certainly was a lot darker and swarthier than traditional depictions.)

Written by unitedcats

April 18, 2012 at 7:17 am