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Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach

jesus_calls_610x300Did Jesus exist?

Discussions of this subject often begin by looking at references to Jesus in early Christian sources.

Either that or they look for references to Jesus in early non-Christian sources.

But there’s another way of looking at the question that is often ignored . . .

 

The Standard Approach

Jesus is obviously mentioned in early Christian sources, such as the gospels, the other writings of the New Testament, and the works of the early Church fathers.

Because these are Christian sources, though, their evidence is sometimes discounted, and so an appeal is made to references in early non-Christian sources that mention Jesus.

He is mentioned, for example, in the writings of a number of Roman writers who lived in the early 100s. He’s also mentioned, somewhat more controversially, in the writings of the first century Jewish historian, Josephus.

But an objection is sometimes made to these sources as well: It is suggested that they don’t represent independent evidence for the existence of Jesus, because the authors in question only know about Jesus from what they have learned from Christians.

In some cases, this may be true. In other cases, it may not be true. Some of these authors may have had access to records that conveyed information about Jesus independent of the Christian movement.

But suppose that they didn’t. Suppose that all of the information presented in these sources is ultimately derived from Christian sources.

This does not leave us at an impasse, because there is another approach to the question that we can take.

 

References to Christianity

Instead of looking, in the first instance, for references to Jesus, we can look at references to the Christian movement itself and see what we can learn about it.

Of course, the same sources that refer to Jesus tend to refer to the Christian movement. That means that we can quickly establish a number of quite early references to Christianity.

It is mentioned by:

  • Suetonius, writing around A.D. 121
  • Tacitus, writing around A.D. 116
  • Pliny the Younger, writing in A.D. 110 or 111
  • The Emperor Trajan, writing back to Pliny in A.D. 110 or 111
  • And Josephus, writing around A.D. 93

The inclusion of Josephus in this list is not dependent on the famous Testimonium Flavianum found in his Antiquities 18:3:3.

Even setting aside that reference, which is partially corrupted, Josephus elsewhere refers to Jesus having followers (noting that he “was called Christ”) in a passage for which we have no evidence of manuscript corruption (Antiquities 20:9:1).

We thus have multiple references for the existence of a Christian movement that date to the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.

 

Geographical Spread

These same references indicate a considerable geographical spread for the movement.

Josephus is writing about events in Judaea, which other sources also indicate was the origin point of the movement.

But Suetonius and Tacitus write about the movement existing at Rome as well.

And Pliny the Younger indicates that it was widespread in Bithynia (in modern northern Turkey).

 

A Recent Movement

Another notable fact about the Christian movement is that it was of recent origin.

This is something also indicated by the same sources, who place its origin in the first century.

Josephus links Jesus to his “brother” James, who died in A.D. 62 (Antiquities 20:9:1).

Pliny is at a loss for how to deal with this religious movement, which is so new that the way to deal with its members is still in the process of being established (Letters 96).

Suetonius specifically says that Christians were a new movement (The Twelve Caesars: Nero 16).

And Tacitus says that Jesus was “executed during the rule of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate” (Annals 15:44).

All of this points to a first century date for the origin of the movement.

 

The Christians Agree

The earliest Christian sources agree with all this. They acknowledge that Christianity began in the first century.

This is significant, because it would not be in the early Christians’ interests to claim this.

Newness is not, on balance, a desirable trait in promoting a religion.

It is much easier to promote a religion if you can claim antiquity for it.

That’s why even religions of indisputably recent origin—including Scientology, Mormonism, and the New Age movement—invariably link themselves to some form of supposed ancient wisdom.

And the early Christians did this, pointing the origins of their movement in Judaism.

They pointed to this as a way of offsetting the fact that their movement had its particular origin just a few years earlier.

We can thus take their testimony of a recent origin as credible, for if the Christian movement had been older, they would have claimed that it was older.

 

Narrowing the Range

We can narrow the range of Christian origins further, though.

Pliny indicates that some of the people he interviewed had been Christians as many as twenty years previously. Working backward from when he was writing, that would suggest Christians in Bithynia by A.D. 90.

Tacitus and Suetonius both speak of Christians being in Rome during the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68), and Suetonius possibly alludes to them being there during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54; see The Twelve Caesars: Claudius 25).

When we turn to Christian sources, we find Luke indicating that John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1), which is most naturally taken as a reference to A.D. 28.

This is significant because all four of the gospels indicate that the Christian movement began after the ministry of John the Baptist had begun.

 

A Rapidly Spreading Movement

These sources thus allow us to discern a portrait of a rapidly spreading movement.

It apparently began in the Roman province of Judaea some time in or after A.D. 28.

It spread as far as Rome no later than A.D. 54-68 (and quite possibly earlier).

And it had spread to Bithynia no later than A.D. 90.

This portrait is derived from just a few sources. If we were to allow other first and second century sources to speak, it would be easy to show that the movement was in other places as well, including Syrian Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, and many other locations.

What we see is thus a movement that went from not existing to being dramatically spread around the Roman world in just a few decades.

This tells us something important about the early Christian movement . . .

 

It Was Organized

Movements do not spread that way unless they are organized.

This was particularly the case in the ancient world, where travel was slow, difficult, dangerous, and often expensive.

The spread of Christianity was not an accident. It was the result of a deliberate strategy of evangelization that required significant organization.

This tells us something else . . .

 

It Had Leaders

Organization requires leaders. There have to be people organizing the movement and arranging for its message to spread.

The book of Romans expresses this need from a Christian viewpoint as follows:

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?

And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?

And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? [Rom. 10:13-15].

 

Developing Organization

Early Christian writings reveal quite a bit about how the Christian movement was organized and how its organization developed during the first century of its existence.

We see it quickly being organized into local groups known as churches.

These had local officers including bishops, priests, and deacons.

The churches themselves, though, tended to be planted, especially in the early days, by individuals known as apostles and evangelists.

The sources we have—including the documents of the New Testament, the writings of the early Church Fathers, and even spurious writings like the Gnostic gospels—indicate that the earliest work was done by those officials who were called “apostles.”

The Greek term for apostle—apostolos—conveys the idea of someone who has been sent, which raises a question . . .

 

Who Did the Sending?

Movements tend to have founders—especially highly organized movements.

Any time you have a sizeable, well-organized movement, there is often a single figure at its inception who played a key role in setting it up, developing its vision, and putting in place the leaders who carried it forward.

Even in movements that form when a number of similarly-minded movements come together and merge, there is usually a single figure who takes the prime leadership role.

So when we see Christianity as a geographically diverse organization that spread remarkably quickly and had leaders known as apostles (“sent ones”) founding local congregations, it’s only natural to look at the movement and ask whether it, too, had such a founding leader.

According to the early Christians, it did, and it is here that we encounter the figure of Jesus.

 

Jesus of Nazareth

The earliest accounts we have agree that Jesus of Nazareth founded the Christian movement, recruited and trained its earliest leaders, and then sent them out as his apostles.

This is simply what you would expect of an organization that displayed the sudden appearance and growth of the Christian movement, and there is no good reason to reject the movement’s own account of its origins on this point.

The sudden appearance and rapid growth of Christianity points to a level of organization and motivation that is most naturally explained by the movement having a single, recent, and charismatic founder.

 

Not Unique to Christianity

This reasoning does not apply just to Christianity. It also applies to other movements that suddenly appear and grow quickly.

For example, it applies to Islam.

Islam did not exist prior to the early A.D. 600s, and within the first 150 years of its existence it spread dramatically, ranging all the way through North Africa, to the Middle East, to India (with a European foothold in Portugal and Spain).

That kind of expansion required organization.

In Islam’s case, the organization was political and military, but it still pointed to the existence of a single, recent, charismatic founder—Muhammad—who established the movement, provided its vision, and gave it its early organization and motivation.

 

The Reality of Jesus

You would expect a movement that began and then spread far and wide in only a few decades to have a founder, and—absent very strong evidence to the contrary—it does not make sense to reject the movement’s claim about who its founder was.

From non-Christian sources alone, we could have predicted that Christianity likely had a founder who lived some time in the first half of the first century.

When we find Christian sources agreeing with this and identifying that founder as Jesus of Nazareth, we have reason to credit this claim and to conclude: Jesus of Nazareth existed.

 

What Now?

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In the meantime, what do you think?
 

Jimmy Akin

Written by

Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • http://www.catholicauthor.us/ Dominic de Souza

    Thanks Jimmy! Fantastic points of view. Really appreciated this review of the facts.

  • GreatSilence

    There is another way of looking at this, a less scientific view but way more fun.

    Let's look at the so-called Jesus-mythers and their arguments. Let's read people like Richard Carrier, who is regarded as the standard bearer in these efforts, and see that the "case" against the historical Jesus is a desperate, unfounded one, Let's look at their arguments, such as they are, based pretty much on speculation and wishful thinking. Let us then note that even agnostics (like Bart Ehrman) and atheists (like John Loftus agree quite easily that the historical Jesus existed.

    And while we are ascribing motives to sources, which campaign seeks to discount the earlier sources because of their so-called Christian bias, let's then also be honest and take into consideration the anti-Christian bias and motive that we may very well find in the Jesus-myth camp.

    Jesus existed. Make peace with it, and make your decision.

    • Fr.Sean

      Excellent Point Great Silence,
      i often find this is another "confuse the jury" tactic. if one doesn't want to believe that he is the Son of God that's one thing, but to postulate that the Christian movement had begun by some mythical idea that isn't based on a real person is just confusing the issue and keeping one off topic. it falls into that; "how do you know, how do you know, how do you know" form of argument that one can use on almost anything to bring confusion in.

      • Ignorant Amos

        it falls into that; "how do you know, how do you know, how do you know" form of argument that one can use on almost anything to bring confusion in.

        Yet you will have no such issue about the claims of other religions. Is the myth stories of other religions granted the same ""how do you know, how do you know, how do you know" or do you just know.

        "Many cultures have stories about divine figures whose death creates an essential part of reality. These myths seem especially common among cultures that grow crops, particularly tubers.One such myth from the Wemale people of Seram Island, Indonesia, tells of a miraculously-conceived girl named Hainuwele, whose murdered corpse sprouts into the people's staple food crops.The Chinese myth of Pangu, the Vedic myth of Purusha, and the Norse myth of Ymir all tell of a cosmic giant who is killed to create the world.Similar is the Christian myth of Christ, whose death refashions the world."

        Still, Christianity is not to be comparative...it's above all that.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Ignorant Amos,

          thanks for your response. i don't think every other religion is by nature false, it's just that we have different amounts of revelation. many of my scripture books are from protestants as well as some Jewish scholars. i think of it more as people have a sense of the spirit and some have some amount of revelation. One of my professors in the seminary used to say that Jesus came to teach the power of unselfish love. he would say that there were other forms of power in the universe, but only unselfish love has a lasting effect. (Ghandi, or Mother Theresa) i believe the spirit encourages us to love others, to be kind and compassionate and various religions and philosophies seem to come to that conclusion. but in order to reveal that to it's fullest God took on human nature to show us he is not above or beyond suffering himself. Bono's article brings that out very succinctly; http://www.strangenotions.com/god-sex-bono
          So i think those other religions/philosophies probably had the spirit reveal things to them that they conveyed in stories. Does that make sense?

          • Ignorant Amos

            So i think those other religions/philosophies probably had the spirit reveal things to them that they conveyed in stories.

            Yes of course, how could it be otherwise? If that wasn't the case, they would have little or no attraction to the masses and die out before they got started. Religions need a nucleus to build the fanciful ideas around.

            It is in the minutiae and the details that religions tend to differ so much. Differ so much that they very often fight about it. Even within religions the various sub groups quite often disagree to the point of clerically condoned violence.

            My point was that the evidence for any one religions origins will be compelling to the adherent of that religion. Regardless of alternative contrary hypotheses. It is called confirmation bias. That is not to say that people do not convert because they fell that another religions so-called evidence is more coercive, but on the whole that has not been a problem and happened very rarely up until a few centuries ago. In today's era it is rife. This is why some religions are losing their grip, while others are having to return to attitudes of a bygone era to maintain control.

            Does that make sense?

            Well I understand your point, whether it makes sense or not is a different matter.

            BTW, I'm not sure Mother Theresa is the best advert for unselfish love and compassion.

            Regards Sean.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            You make a good point and i can certainly agree that people often "attack" other religions in order to uphold their own and make it appear that there's is the only true religion. In a sense i think you could make the same case for the new atheism. I've read many of their theories and explanations and often wonder why many of the atheists accept what they say without questioning it? Dawkins or one of the other prominent atheists will purpose a theory and i don't hear too many people arguing or questioning what he has purposed even though his particular theory cannot be proven. as long as a particular theory supports atheism it appears everyone buys it hook line and sinker. has that been your experience? certainly some of the theories with evolution are pretty concrete and look obvious, but when you get into things like the multiverse, or dark matter proving something can come from nothing i struggle to understand why atheists don't question those theories more often.

            if you can imagine for a moment, lets assume there is a God, but lets not call him/her God, because it may be too loaded of a term. Let's call him/her love, when i say love i naturally don't mean simply eros love (although that is a type) just a source of love that is selfless, and omnipotent. if there was such a source and lets say "love" wanted you to discover him/her through humility and choice, then love would plant various seeds within your heart, that would inspire you to pursue love to grow in your awareness of how love is already present in your life.

            C.S.Lewis once said that Christians who think only there religion is the "right brand" and everyone else is totally wrong really do not understand the message at all. he could see that the "Catholic Nun" and Lutheran minister had something in common. they both had tapped into something, and both conveyed love in their own way. those who are always attacking others religions are often simply insecure in their own faith. if in fact "Love" took on human form than i hope and pray you may consider letting go of all of the preconceived notions you have learned about "religion" and try to be objective about "love". there's a good chance you may find something out about love that you could have missed. i also hope and pray that you may be a little more critical about some of the atheists theories, because if some of those theories are false than everything built upon them are also false.

          • Ignorant Amos

            In a sense i think you could make the same case for the new atheism. I've read many of their theories and explanations and often wonder why many of the atheists accept what they say without questioning it?

            Can you give me an example of an atheist theory?

            Dawkins or one of the other prominent atheists will purpose a theory and i don't hear too many people arguing or questioning what he has purposed even though his particular theory cannot be proven. as long as a particular theory supports atheism it appears everyone buys it hook line and sinker. has that been your experience?

            No I'm afraid it hasn't been my experience. Can you give me an example of a Dawkins atheist theory that he has proposed?

            certainly some of the theories with evolution are pretty concrete and look obvious, but when you get into things like the multiverse, or dark matter proving something can come from nothing i struggle to understand why atheists don't question those theories more often.

            First of all. Dawkins is a biologist not a physicist. Secondly, theories like a multiverse, dark matter and something coming from nothing are scientific theories not atheist theories and they are being questioned by thousands of scientists everyday...a lot of those scientists are atheist, some are theists. BTW, evolution is only obvious to us because science has done all the hard work while dragging the religious kicking and screaming behind. And I must add, many religious refuse to accept evolution. It took the RCC over a hundred years to accept the theory and even then with a number of caveats.

            if you can imagine for a moment, lets assume there is a God, but lets not call him/her God, because it may be too loaded of a term. Let's call him/her love, when i say love i naturally don't mean simply eros love (although that is a type) just a source of love that is selfless, and omnipotent. if there was such a source and lets say "love" wanted you to discover him/her through humility and choice, then love would plant various seeds within your heart, that would inspire you to pursue love to grow in your awareness of how love is already present in your life.

            By renaming God love you've just loaded the concept. Let's look at your comment and substitute the word "hate".

            "if you can imagine for a moment, lets assume there is a God, but lets not call him/her God, because it may be too loaded of a term. Let's call him/her hate, when i say hate i naturally don't mean simply religious hate (although that is a type) just a source of hate that is selfish, and omnipotent. if there was such a source and lets say "hate" wanted you to discover him/her through humility and choice, then hate would plant various seeds within your heart, that would inspire you to pursue hate to grow in your awareness of how hate is already present in your life."

            Does nothing for you does it? I've no need for un-evidenced entities to know what love and hate are, but I'm intrigued. Especially with the attribute omnipotent. If God, or godlove, is everywhere please explain why so many religious hate?

            "...simply look to the many religious and political wars that have occurred throughout history. Protestants and Catholics, members of two religions that promote peace and love, have fought bloody wars. In How the Maori Work, we learn that two branches of the Maori tribe in New Zealand completely exterminated or forced into slavery the similarly named Moriori tribe because they wanted the Moriori's land. Terrorist attacks are almost always related to political arguments, religious disagreements or both. Religious and politically motivated atrocities have traditionally been inspired by greed, envy and fear."

            C.S.Lewis once said that Christians who think only there religion is the "right brand" and everyone else is totally wrong really do not understand the message at all. he could see that the "Catholic Nun" and Lutheran minister had something in common. they both had tapped into something, and both conveyed love in their own way. those who are always attacking others religions are often simply insecure in their own faith.

            Fortunately Lewis, like you and I were born into enlightened times. Times when some parts of some religions are more tolerant than times gone by. It seems strange to me that it took humanity so long to get to where it is today, and it is far from perfect, in spite of religions, that have been the cause of such misery throughout human history. It seems to me that gods are somewhat impotent when it comes to control.

            if in fact "Love" took on human form than i hope and pray you may consider letting go of all of the preconceived notions you have learned about "religion" and try to be objective about "love".

            I have no preconceived notions of religion Sean, I was born into a Christian family, raised a Christian, had a Christian education, attended Christian Sunday school and church and lived in a Christian country in a Christian community. What I witnessed was a lot of sectarian bigotry. I witnessed Christians tear each other apart because of hatred. I look around the world and I seen religious bigotry and sectarianism like there always has been...God isn't working.

            ...there's a good chance you may find something out about love that you could have missed.

            Don't go worrying about me Sean, I'll be just fine in my knowledge of what religion is and what I've learned about it since becoming a non believer.

            i also hope and pray that you may be a little more critical about some of the atheists theories, because if some of those theories are false than everything built upon them are also false.

            I'll take that under advisement Sean, once you outline what an atheist theory is for me, let alone a false one. I feel your understanding of what atheism actually is by some of your comments is somewhat lacking. Let me use an analogy, "off is not a television channel".

            Ironically though, you don't feel the same way about biblical theories that have been proven false.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            Looks like we may be writing a book. these are various theories some from dawkins, krauss.

            Can you give me an example of an atheist theory?

            1. Dawkins proof that God most likely does not exist based on the notion that God would have to be complex and only complex things developed later.

            2. the multiverse. more specifically that there are 10 to the 500 billionth power of other universes that we do not have a shred of evidence exist.

            3.Dark Matter proves that something can come from nothing.

            4. God as an invisible agent.

            5. the source of the natural law as gleaned from a knowledge that if i take care of others in need they will take care of me when i'm in the same situation. etc.

            6. explanations about how "chance" is involved in nature/the universe, yet somehow a "blind watchmaker" guided chance to creating life. which if possible might help to explain life after stars and planets form but gives no rational explanation of getting to the point of planets and stars forming.

            7. society needs to be liberated from "religion" because of all of the evils religion has brought about (which i will agree many people have done a great deal of evil in the name of "religion") all the while ignoring that the most brutal and evil men over the course of time have all been atheists.

            First of all. Dawkins is a biologist...

            true Dawkins is a biologist but he is perhaps the most prominent atheist of our time and could be considered the leader of the new atheists.

            please explain why so many religious hate?...

            while i may not entirely understand why they hate i have read a little of the koran and it appears to be violent from the beginning, as if Mohammad encouraged violence or death. While the Christian God does have elements of violence in the old testament, it's largely a book conveying how much God loved his people. usually when i hear people attempting to convey the Old Testament as violent it appears that they have perhaps cherry picked a few stories here or there and disregarded most of the message.

            Moreover i think people often use "religion" as a means of being violent. Perhaps Ireland and England's histories may be a good example. People killing each other practically in the name of religion yet it's evident that it was more of a tribal hatred. hate you may say stems from jealously or insecurity, thus people, or at least Christians who think only their particular brand of Christianity is right and everyone else is entirely wrong never really understand the message to begin with, as Lewis pointed out.

            I witnessed Christians tear each other apart because of hatred...

            I am sorry you had such a poor example of Christians. that has not been my experience.

            Ironically though, you don't feel the same way about biblical theories that have been proven false.
            I am not a fundamentalist.

            Incidentally, i think there is the tendency of thinking when one is learning about the faith that God just wants blind obedience and wants me to obey the rules. when one grows in faith they see that God isn't really all that concerned about "the rules" but they do serve a purpose. if you were to take a drive through the mountains chances are good their would be a guide rail. the guide rail simply serves a purpose to keep you on the road. but you don't "stare" at the rail post the whole time. hopefully you would enjoy the journey, enjoy the scenery. strict adherence to the "rules" as a way of being rewarded is something Jesus spoke against frequently with the scribes and pharisees.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hello again...

            Looks like we may be writing a book.

            Well if your point is worth making, and it takes a book, c'est la vie.

            1. Dawkins proof that God most likely does not exist based on the notion that God would have to be complex and only complex things developed later.

            It isn't a "Dawkins proof" or "atheist theory", it is a reply to the philosophical teleological argument or the watchmaker argument. It poses an infinite regress.

            "…The whole argument turns on the familiar question 'Who made God?'… A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape. This argument… demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed" - Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion".

            2. the multiverse. more specifically that there are 10 to the 500 billionth power of other universes that we do not have a shred of evidence exist.

            That is physics Sean...nothing to do with atheim and definitely not a Dawkins or Krauss theory.

            "The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationship between the various constituent universes, depend on the specific multiverse hypothesis considered. Multiple universes have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics,astronomy, religion, philosophy, transpersonal psychology and fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy. In these contexts, parallel universes are also called "alternative universes", "quantum universes", "interpenetrating dimensions", "parallel dimensions", "parallel worlds", "alternative realities", "alternative timelines", and "dimensional planes," among others."

            3.Dark Matter proves that something can come from nothing.

            Again, physics Sean. not a "Dawkins or Krauss theory", or an "atheist theory". You really should've Googled these before posting.

            "Dark matter's existence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter and gravitational lensing of background radiation, and was originally hypothesized to account for discrepancies between calculations of the mass of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the entire universe made through dynamical and general relativistic means, and calculations based on the mass of the visible "luminous" matter these objects contain: stars and the gas and dust of the interstellar and intergalactic medium"

            4. God as an invisible agent.

            Really? You want me to reply to that? It is theists that posit an invisible God Sean. Atheists posit gods as non-existent agents? How is that even a theory, let alone a Dawkins or atheist theory? A theory requires a testable and falsifiable hypothesis which theists insist is beyond gods. You might as well have said FSM as an invisible agent?

            5. the source of the natural law as gleaned from a knowledge that if i take care of others in need they will take care of me when i'm in the same situation. etc.

            Nearly right...I think you mean, altruism or selflessness....

            "In the science of ethology (the study of animal behaviour), and more generally in the study of social evolution, altruism refers to behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor. In evolutionary psychology this may be applied to a wide range of human behaviors such as charity, emergency aid, help to coalition partners, tipping, courtship gifts, production ofpublic goods, and environmentalism."

            "Theories of apparently altruistic behavior were accelerated by the need to produce theories compatible with evolutionary origins. Two related strands of research on altruism have emerged from traditional evolutionary analyses and from game theory."

            ...or perhaps it's reciprocal altruism...

            "Direct reciprocity. Research shows that it can be beneficial to help others if there is a chance that they can and will reciprocate the help."

            I'm confused, isn't that the very essence of what Christianity is supposed to be? It is the reason why early Christianity flourished at the expense of pagan religions.

            Regardless, it isn't a "Dawkins theory" or "atheist theory".

            6. explanations about how "chance" is involved in nature/the universe, yet somehow a "blind watchmaker" guided chance to creating life. which if possible might help to explain life after stars and planets form but gives no rational explanation of getting to the point of planets and stars forming.

            This is getting a bit tedious now Sean. Your ignorance of these subjects is showing. Abiogenesis is the scientific study of explaining how life got started. Evolution is the scientific study of how life progressed after it got started. Cosmology is the scientific study of the origin, evolution, structure, dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order.

            Abiogenesis is the chance bit http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Abiogenesis

            Evolution is the how all live came about bit
            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evolution

            Cosmology is the all elements for life in the universe forged by exploding stars bit
            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Cosmology

            None of these is a "Dawkins theory" or "atheist theory".

            7. society needs to be liberated from "religion" because of all of the evils religion has brought about (which i will agree many people have done a great deal of evil in the name of "religion") all the while ignoring that the most brutal and evil men over the course of time have all been atheists.

            Not this same old canard being dragged out again...

            "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."- Steven Weinberg

            The atheist you are alluding to didn't commit atrocities because of the atheism, with perhaps the exception of those French revolution atheists...that is pure nonsense.

            I'll address specific examples if you like...I double dare you to say Adolf Hitler.

            First of all. Dawkins is a biologist...

            true Dawkins is a biologist but he is perhaps the most prominent atheist of our time and could be considered the leader of the new atheists.

            What I mean't was, he is not a physicist in reply to your comment...but him being a prominent atheist is a non sequitur.

            ...but when you get into things like the multiverse, or dark matter proving something can come from nothing i struggle to understand why atheists don't question those theories more often.

            You are struggling with understanding the subject, period.

            His interest in physics is as a layperson. And I can't understand why you would think it was appropriate for anyone, atheist or theist, with no knowledge of physics, should question the work of eminent scientists in the field of physics, especially when the scientific method has peer review to do the questioning?

            while i may not entirely understand why they hate i have read a little of the koran and it appears to be violent from the beginning, as if Mohammad encouraged violence or death.

            The Qu'ran advocates violence against those outside the faith...what about the sectarian divide within the religion?

            While the Christian God does have elements of violence in the old testament, it's largely a book conveying how much God loved his people.

            You are joking right Sean? God loved his people, the chosen tribe, but only when they didn't fall foul. When that happened there was smoting and exile for all.

            usually when i hear people attempting to convey the Old Testament as violent it appears that they have perhaps cherry picked a few stories here or there and disregarded most of the message.

            Ironically, when I hear theist apologetic for the OT I think the exact same thing.

            Let's see...

            People killed by God in the OT = 2,476,633

            "Which, of course, greatly underestimates God's total death toll, since it only includes those killings for which specific numbers are given. No attempt was made to include the victims of Noah's flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc., with which the good book is filled. Still, 2 million is a respectable number even for world class killers.

            People killed by Satan in the OT = 10

            "For which God is partly to blame as they were part of a wager between God and Satan."

            If one estimates for the number of murders that occurred but are not defined, an approximation is 25 million and 60 respectively.

            I'll not be taken lectures on the "love" displayed by the God of the OT thank you very much.

            Moreover i think people often use "religion" as a means of being violent. Perhaps Ireland and England's histories may be a good example. People killing each other practically in the name of religion yet it's evident that it was more of a tribal hatred. hate you may say stems from jealously or insecurity, thus people, or at least Christians who think only their particular brand of Christianity is right and everyone else is entirely wrong never really understand the message to begin with, as Lewis pointed out.

            It matters not a jot, the groups are divided along religiously sectarian lines. BTW, the Normans invaded Ireland after getting the green light from the pope.

            I am sorry you had such a poor example of Christians. that has not been my experience.

            Of course not, you live in a sterile bubble Sean. But that is okay, it isn't place or purpose to burst it.

            Ironically though, you don't feel the same way about biblical theories that have been proven false.
            I am not a fundamentalist.

            There's a relieve...we are already getting to the size of Tolstoy's "War & Peace".

            Incidentally, i think there is the tendency of thinking when one is learning about the faith that God just wants blind obedience and wants me to obey the rules. when one grows in faith they see that God isn't really all that concerned about "the rules" but they do serve a purpose.

            Gods are not the problem Sean, it is people that are the problem.

            if you were to take a drive through the mountains chances are good their would be a guide rail. the guide rail simply serves a purpose to keep you on the road. but you don't "stare" at the rail post the whole time. hopefully you would enjoy the journey, enjoy the scenery. strict adherence to the "rules" as a way of being rewarded is something.

            Yeah, very poetic analogy...but be careful not to enjoy the scenery too much or some other eejit might run you off the road.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i had a funeral among other things. thank you for your detailed reply.

            ""…The whole argument turns on the familiar question 'Who made God?'… A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an
            infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape. This argument… demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed" - Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion".

            I would have to say that as far as i understand i agree with dawkins. it would seem his proof that god does not exist is reasonable. the only problem is that he's purposing a "created God" we do not believe in a created God but in an uncreated God. we live in a universe where some rules appear never to be broken. something always comes from something, time is something we're all subject to etc. and so we apply the same possibilities or attributes to God. thus if an uncreated God existed we tend to think; "what did God do before he created the universe, or who or what created God." the problem is God existed before the universe and as the creator is not subject to all of those laws or observations. whether one is a theists or not, we're still left with a similar question "what existed before the universe?" how did it come into being? but if an uncreated God existed before time and matter than he/she's not subject to those same questions. that's the main problem with dawkins book, if the primary premise is flawed than the the other premises built upon that one are also flawed.

            "The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationship between the various constituent universes,

            the development of the "multiverse theory" largely went like this. physicists observed that there are many variables that were literally perfect within our universe for stars and planets to form. the rate of the original big bang, the rate of entropy throughout it's development. the energy needed by neutrons to keep protons together as it corresponds to the energy of gravity. the weight of protons, neutrons and electrons for stars and planets to form. the chance that each one of those variables to form is astronomically low. when you put them together for the universe to be able to form stars and planets, you have to multiply each variable. it seems logical or almost certain that something intelligent and powerful guided those process. perhaps a good analogy would be if i got a job at the lottery and encouraged you to play the powerball, and lets say you won. you might think, "it's possible sean had something to do with that but it's also possible that i simply won on my own." but then lets say you played it every time for an entire year, and you won every time. you may have no empirical proof that i cheated for you but the mere chance that you won every time is almost a guarantee that i cheated for you. thus, with such odds, one would need to propose a different theory. i'm sure you've heard of the odds notion that something rare occurring in any given point in time may be close to impossible but when you increase the frequency it goes from being almost impossible to an almost certainty. for example, the chance that today a polar bear will prey upon a penguin is nearly impossible since they live on opposite poles. but if things remained exactly the same for say a billion years it would become an almost certainty that it would occur at least once. thus, the chance that our universe would be so perfect simply to create stars and planets is almost impossible, unless one purposes that our universe is one of 10 to the 50 billionth power of other universes, in which it becomes a certainty. the only problem with this theory is that there isn't a shred of evidence that even one other universe exists. the multiverse is only a theory that at this point only exists in the minds of some physicists. as the theory goes the other universes went out so fast at the big bang, or perhaps another big bang that light from potential stars is not able to reach our universe. logically, if there were in fact 10 to the 50 billionth power of other universes, don't you think there perhaps may be some physical evidence or some light? but there isn't any? even tegmarks theory is only a theory. why subscribe to a theory that has no physical evidence that was created in the mind of a physicists.. why not approach the theory with some criticism, or perhaps some doubt as to it's likelyhood since there's not empirical evidence that it exists?

            " "Dark matter's existence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter and gravitational lensing of background radiation, and was originally hypothesized to account for discrepancies between calculations of the mass of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the entire universe made through."

            I should have been more clear, I think you may have missed what i was attempting to say. one of the proofs for God's existence is that something always comes from something else but at some point something had to come from nothing. thus we have dark matter. Dark matter is either virtual matter, or it is photons which is like a wave that is created when too electrons pass close to one another. but regardless of what specifically dark matter is it is NOT nothing. dark matter is still something. thus our original question is still left unanswered. something had to come from nothing. dark matter is not nothing so the proof has still not been addressed? regardless, shouldn't some critique of this theory, or potential distraction be applied?

            "Really? You want me to reply to that? It is theists that posit an invisible God Sean. Atheists posit gods as non-existent agents? How is that even a theory, let alone a Dawkins or atheist theory? A theory requires a testable and falsifiable hypothesis which theists insist is beyond gods. You might as well have said FSM as an invisible agent?"

            i think you may have misunderstood what i was attempting to say. one question regarding the existence of God is why is the notion of God universal? why do people all around the world largely believe in a God that is good, that cares and that implies an eternity. the atheist explanation is that the notion of God formed from an "agent" theory that would help to address questions such as lightening, earthquakes, storms etc. if those things happen primitive humans would think there must be some agent causing them. thus one would want to appeal to the agent so that he/she will not use those events on them. that according to atheists is how religion was born. but does that really explain the universality of what people think of when they think of God? people have notions of a God being good, loving, eternal, etc. more than just an agent of natural forces? shouldn't one at least question this explanation of the universality of God? why just believe it hook line and sinker when there's no proof that this is the cause?

            ""In the science of ethology (the study of animal behaviour), and more generally in the study of social evolution, altruism refers to behaviourby an individual that increases the fitness of another individual whiledecreasing the fitness of the actor. In evolutionary psychology this may be applied to a wide range of human behaviors such as charity, emergency aid, help to coalition partners, tipping, courtship gifts, production of public goods, and environmentalism."

            Darwin observed that two main forces influence the behavior of life, natural selection and survival of the fittest. thus all life is guided by a desire to propagate their genes. thus they are in competition with other species as well as their own. but somewhere along the line humans developed a conscience, or an appeal to the natural law. thus the aforementioned theory would seem reasonable if it only applied to my tribe. if i'm guided to propagate my genes than caring for members of my tribe may increase the likelyhood that my genes would continue. but is that really the way the conscience works? if a little old lady falls near you in your country you feel compelled to assist her. but if you were on the other side of the globe and the same event occurred you would feel the exact same thing, you would feel compelled to assist her. why? according to natural selection and survival of the fittest, you would be better off if you didn't assist her, but somewhere along the line another desire was formed by evolutionary means that contradicts survival of the fittest? does that really seem reasonable? moreover if these compulsions, which we're told are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain were really formed through evolutionary means than why do they change when one concludes that there nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain? if evolution formed them that way they would be static, but they're not, they change according to how i perceive morality. furthermore, why do i feel good when i do good and feel bad when i do bad? if there more than just chemical reactions in the brain then we all (except for people suffering from mental disorders) appeal to a higher truth? what is the source of that higher truth? shouldn't this explanation of the origin of altruism be at least questioned? why assume it's true if it contradicts much of what evolution formed in terms of behavior?

            "

            "6. explanations about how "chance" is involved in nature/theuniverse, yet somehow a "blind watchmaker" guided chance to creating life. which if possible might help to explain life after stars and planets form but gives no rational explanation of getting to the point of planets and stars forming.

            This is getting a bit tedious now Sean. Your ignorance of these subjects is showing. Abiogenesis is the scientific study of explaining how life got started. Evolution is the scientific study of how life progressed after it got started. Cosmology is the scientific study of the origin, evolution, structure, dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order."

            I apologize if i have made this tedious, i need to be more clear. there are only three possibilities, of how things came about 1. pure mathematical chance. 2. guided mathematical chance. 3. design in nature. for the sake of argument and attempting to be succient i'm not going to address 3. because i don't believe it's accurate and i'm reasonably sure you don't either. guided mathematical chance can be shown though various examples in nature and in our universe. a robin lays three eggs, but only one grows to adulthood. water forms a hollow when it freezes, if it didn't, no life on the planet. it evaporates and condenses in the air, if it didn't no life on the planet. the universe as well reveals chance. if the energy needed for neutrons to keep protons together as it cooresponds to gravity was slightly off, no stars, or no large stars. the weight of atoms, rate of entropy, rate of expansion of the original big bang, etc. were not formed the way they were then there would be no supernovas, no large stars. if there were no large stars, we would have an incomplete periodic table. an incomplete periodic table may result in no planets and would certainly result in no life. not just "life as we know it" but no life at all. thus there are chance involved with each one of these variables. but with each one, just happens to be perfect it would seem reasonable to assume that there might be something or someone guiding them. assuming it was just pure mathematical chance might only work if one distracts oneself from the evidence. the analogy i spoke of before with the lottery only applied to forming large stars and thus planets. when you factor in the variables for our own planet it appears that something almost certainly has to be guiding chance. i realize perhaps evolution could create various laws such as survival of the fittest, but it doesn't explain everything that needed to be so perfect for it to reach that stage.

            ""Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."- Steven Weinberg"

            people may use religion to do evil things but they also do a great deal of good things because of their faith in God. feeding the poor, housing the homeless, being kind to one another. i'm not sure if it's fair to use a few examples of people who've been extreme to paint "all religion" as bad. people do far more good in the name of faith than they do evil. but this is a subjective thing and i suspect we will have to agree to disagree.

            "You are struggling with understanding the subject, period."

            i addressed that above.

            "His interest in physics is as a layperson. And I can't understand why you would think it was appropriate for anyone, atheist or theist, with no knowledge of physics, should question the work of eminent scientists in the field of physics, especially when the scientific method has peer
            review to do the questioning?

            I'm not questioning physics, but atheists scientists purposing explanations to avoid the possibility of God's existence. if the physics doesn't show it, simply leave the question open ended. why attempt to create a theory just to keep the possibility of God's existence out of the equation? simply stick with the physics and observable data?

            "You are joking right Sean? God loved his people, the chosen tribe, but only when they didn't fall foul. When that happened there was smoting and exile for all.

            Again, i'm not a fundamentalist, but i do believe the bible conveys a God loving his people into freedom. i think the book of Hosea brings that out in an accurate way.

            People killed by God in the OT = 2,476,633

            If eternal life is an real, then bringing people through earthly life in a shorter period of time instead of allowing them to have a longer earthly life only to lose their soul would only make sense? everyone who lived in biblical times is no longer living an earthly life?

            ""For which God is partly to blame as they were part of a wager between God and Satan."

            if your going to mention satan i'm going to assume that you think he exists if in fact God exists. satan is allowed to do what he does because it forces one off the fence. needing God's help opens one up to how real and loving God is.

            "Gods are not the problem Sean, it is people that are the problem."

            I think i might agree with you there.

            Thanks for your patience in reading all of this. if you want it might be easier to discuss one or two topics at a time, but what ever you would like to do is fine with me. Thanks again for your time.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i had a funeral among other things. thank you for your detailed reply.

            No prob's Sean. Vastly more important than worrying about replying to me.

            I would have to say that as far as i understand i agree with dawkins. it would seem his proof that god does not exist is reasonable. the only problem is that he's purposing a "created God"

            No Sean, he is not. He is saying that if the theist posits everything that exists must have a cause, then what caused God? Either not everything has to have a creator, or the creator requires a creator, which requires a creator, which requires a creator, ad infinitum. To state that God created the universe, but God is exempt from creation when everything else demands it, is *special pleading.

            *"Special pleading is a formal logical fallacy where a participant demands special considerations for a particular premise of theirs. Usually this is because in order for their argument to work, they need to provide some way to get out of a logical inconsistency - in a lot of cases, this will be the fact that their argument contradicts past arguments or actions. Therefore, they introduce a "special case" or an exception to their rules."

            "In the Thomistic cosmological argument for the existence of God, everything requires a cause. However, proponents of the argument then create a special case where God doesn't need a cause, but they can't say why in any particularly rigorous fashion."

            we do not believe in a created God but in an uncreated God.

            Yes I know, so does Richard Dawkins. It is still not a sound arguement.

            we live in a universe where some rules appear never to be broken. something always comes from something, time is something we're all subject to etc. and so we apply the same possibilities or attributes to God. thus if an uncreated God existed we tend to think; "what did God do before he created the universe, or who or what created God."

            That is the faulty generalization fallacy.

            the problem is God existed before the universe and as the creator is not subject to all of those laws or observations.

            You see the problem with that statement is it is unevidenced conjecture. You can't possibly know any of that unless you possess some evidence that you are hiding, it is just an faith based opinion. Got evidence?

            whether one is a theists or not, we're still left with a similar question "what existed before the universe?" how did it come into being?

            Well NO one knows. The god hypothesis was mans first ignorant attempt to provide an answer in a time that to say "I don't know" was to appear stupid. So all manner of things were explained away by insert supernatural concepts. The God of the Bible was one such concept among many.

            but if an uncreated God existed before time and matter than he/she's not subject to those same questions.

            The problem is, something existing outside space and time is not possible. Existence is temporal reliant. Unless you are special pleading again.

            that's the main problem with dawkins book, if the primary premise is flawed than the the other premises built upon that one are also flawed.

            Don't you see the irony in that remark Sean? That is why religion is flawed, it is predicated on false premise.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            I'd have to say there's nothing more annoying that discussing something with someone who keeps changing the subject every time you start to move towards a logical point. You don't do that, and i do enjoy and good discussion where one can stay on the topic.

            I think we both probably sense that this conversation is ultimately going to end in an "agreement to disagree" but we'll have to at least try. For the sake of argument assume that the bible was inspired by a divine intelligence to reveal truths to people according to how they would be able to understand them. (aka. god would not talk about atoms since the people would have no frame of reference. etc.) Now if the bible is inspired by a divine intelligence than one can draw certain conclusions from what was written. (Patience IA) Thus the Catholic Church as well as most mainline Christians draw certain conclusions about God's nature, 1. God is omnipresent (similar to but NOT pantheism) 2. God is omnipotent 3. God is Love 4. God is outside of time and space. Thus IF those attributes were true THEN the rules that apply to us do not apply to God. I can only be in one place at a time. IF God is omnipresent he is not limited to that rule. I do not always feel loving towards other people (personality conflicts etc.) he only loves. in other words, IF scripture is inspired by a divine intelligence, and God moves beyond space and time then the logical fallacy you spoke of which applies to all of us would not apply to him. I suppose i need special pleading for this case, but i would also need special pleading for the other attributes that apply to God that do not apply to myself. if i said "no one can be in two places at one time" that would be a true statement. it would be special pleading to say "Yesterday i was in Dublin and Sydney at three o'clock p.m." That would take special pleading since i started with the notion that no one can be in two places at one time. but if i said God is omnipresent it would stand to reason that he could be in Dublin and Sydney at time same time since he/she would not be held to the same standards. IF there is an eternity, and IF God is not subject to space and time THEN he originated before space and time (going to avoid quoting scripture, it only seems to irk people who do not believe it is inspired). Thus i do need special pleading for this case since the rules do not apply to God in the same way they apply to us. Therefore an uncreated God in light of those attributes does NOT appeal to Dawkins proof, and therefore the question still remains open-ended. If you have a chance, watch the third account in this documentary; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ8TEGMj-jc
            it's has a bit of a fundamentalistic approach but the third account talks about what time was like when he was on the other side that may be evidence of what we spoke of. again it's evidence of a personal experience but he still speaks of it as something unanticipated.

          • Ignorant Amos

            people may use religion to do evil things but they also do a great deal of good things because of their faith in God. feeding the poor, housing the homeless, being kind to one another.

            Surely you are not suggesting only the religious or the religious that do good are only doing it because of their faith?

            i'm not sure if it's fair to use a few examples of people who've been extreme to paint "all religion" as bad.

            Well Sean, there are far more than a few examples. If religion is the cause of bad things to happen, and good things can happen without religion, then there is no need for religion. Is there any religion you are aware of that has not been a cause for bad things to happen in its name?

            people do far more good in the name of faith than they do evil.

            I'll fix that for you.."[Some] people do far more good in the name of faith than they do evil."

            Would those same people do good regardless of their faith? If not, then they are not really being good people no matter what good they are doing.

            but this is a subjective thing and i suspect we will have to agree to disagree.

            Okay.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            I'll only have time to reply to your first two but i will try to address the others as i have time.

            "Surely you are not suggesting only the religious or the religious that do good are only doing it because of their faith?"

            I'm not attempting to get into motive at this point, simply the outcome or results of "religion". Certianly some of those outcomes are bad, and some are good. Many good things occur because people's faith compels them to do so.

            "Well Sean, there are far more than a few examples. If religion is the cause of bad things to happen, and good things can happen without religion, then there is no need for religion. Is there any religion you are aware of that has not been a cause for bad things to happen in its name?"

            My point about atheists committing attrocities is that human's at various times do very evil things. sometimes it is in the name of religion sometimes it isn't. but it's a false statement to say that "all religion causes people to do evil things". Moreover your statement; "there is no need for religion" would be a true statement if one could prove God did not exist. Since you cannot prove God exists or does not exist in an empirical way the question cannot be answered. in my opinion the Catholic Church has to far more good things than it has done evil.

            "I'll fix that for you.."[Some] people do far more good in the name of faith than they do evil."

            Agreed.

            "Would those same people do good regardless of their faith? If not, then they are not really being good people no matter what good they are doing."

            Anthony DeMello says none of us do anything entirely good things for a purely altruistic reason, that you can always trace it back to being partly done for a selfish reason. But he suggests we do them anyway. whether a good act done for partly a selfish reason disqualifies the good act may fall into the subjective realm.

          • Ignorant Amos

            People killed by God in the OT = 2,476,633

            If eternal life is an real, then bringing people through earthly life in a shorter period of time instead of allowing them to have a longer earthly life only to lose their soul would only make sense? everyone who lived in biblical times is no longer living an earthly life?

            There is all sorts wrong with that comment. It reminds me of the sort of thing the apologist William Lane Craig said about the infanticide of the Canaanite children.

            "So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life."

            If your God is omniscient God already knows who is getting into heaven so why bother with any of this life nonsense with all its suffering at all?

            if your going to mention satan i'm going to assume that you think he exists if in fact God exists.

            No, Satan is in the same supernatural category as God. I'm playing devils advocate in using Satan as the standard of evil that theists use, when, according to the scripture, God is much more evil.

            satan is allowed to do what he does because it forces one off the fence. needing God's help opens one up to how real and loving God is.

            Why would one need Gods help though? What is it that Satan does that forces one off the fence? What fence is it you infer? How is God real and loving?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm not questioning physics, but atheists scientists purposing explanations to avoid the possibility of God's existence.

            That is not what is happening though is it? Something is either true or false.

            How the universe began is a physics question. If theists want to posit a god as its creator, then they open the door for gods existence to be critiqued. Physics is the tool used in that critique.

            if the physics doesn't show it, simply leave the question open ended. why attempt to create a theory just to keep the possibility of God's existence out of the equation?

            By all means. But then you need to keep God out of the universe creating malarky. You can't have it both ways. Atheists, scientists or not, on how the universe came about will be happy to say "We don't know yet", because we don't. Theists on the other hand, insist they know, when in fact, they don't. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof.

            simply stick with the physics and observable data?

            That's what is happening, but the physics and observable data don't include any gods, including the one with the capital "G".

          • Ignorant Amos

            i think you may have misunderstood what i was attempting to say. one question regarding the existence of God is why is the notion of God universal?

            No, you provided a list of seven points you considered Dawkins or atheist theories. I was giving you reasons why you are being erroneous. The notion of God is not universal. The notion of gods isn't even universal.The
            Lokāyata/Cārvāka for starters, or Pirahã people of Brazil.

            But to answer your question with a better question, why is the notion of your God not universal given your God's power?

            why do people all around the world largely believe in a God that is good, that cares and that implies an eternity.

            They don't. You also forget that your Good is only 2,000 years old. It came from a concept of a god only a few thousand years older.

            the atheist explanation is that the notion of God formed from an "agent" theory that would help to address questions such as lightening, earthquakes, storms etc. if those things happen primitive humans would think there must be some agent causing them. thus one would want to appeal to the agent so that he/she will not use those events on them. that according to atheists is how religion was born.

            It isn't just atheists Sean, anthropologist's too...and even you natural disasters are said to be your loving Gods punishments. Praise of the miraculous is awarded to God when an earthquake that kills thousands overs up a sole survivor, which seems strange to me given your other statement, they've been robbed of the fast track to heaven. I'd have thought commiserations would be in order. In fact, people should be delighted when they hear of catastrophe that causes all those caught up in it the fortune of getting off this mortal coil.

            Deities are the explanation given to things that could not be explained. You have admitted yourself that primitive humans gave anthropomorphic agency to all sorts of things, well other primitive humans gave what created all things some anthropomorphic agency when they called it "God".

            ...but does that really explain the universality of what people think of when they think of God?

            Sorry to be pedantic, but it is gods and they are not thought of universally.

            There is much writing in the OT on sacrifice. Sacrifice was either appeasement to God for some indiscretion or to ward of Gods wrath. Some gods demanded human sacrifice. Many faiths still have the ancient ritual of harvest festivals.

            ...people have notions of a God being good, loving, eternal, etc. more than just an agent of natural forces?

            I know, and that's a problem, because they are then prepared to embark in all sorts of nonsense in defence of those notions.

            shouldn't one at least question this explanation of the universality of God?

            There isn't a universality of God, Sean. There is an estimated 4,200 religions throughout the world. Christianity has 38,000+ sub sects. This is where I tell you I'm igtheist.

            Premises:
            [1] God is a transcendent thing, completely unlike any normal things we see in the natural world such as matter and energy.
            [2] Because God transcends reality, he is invisible, inaudible, odourless, tasteless... completely undetectable to the senses.
            [3] God is an empirical object, and theological propositions involving him are empirical (a posteriori) ones.
            [4] The modified sense-data theory of meaning is true.

            Conclusion:
            [5] Because the word "God" is an empirical noun that does not refer to any amount of sense-data and/or modified sense-data, it does not mean anything in the empirical (a posteriori) sense.
            [6] It then follows that all theological propositions fail to be a posteriori. And because they are not a priori either, they are meaningless.
            [7] Igtheism is true.

            why just believe it hook line and sinker when there's no proof that this is the cause?

            But there is proof Sean. We now know thunder isn't caused by Thor's hammer. We now know that the Sun is dragged across the sky on Ra's chariot. We now know that all life on Earth wasn't created in its present form by God.

            What there is no proof for is the existence of gods, any of them. So why believe in any of them hook, line and sinker?

            You don't believe in the gods of any other religion, why? The atheist just goes one god further than you.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            "i think you may have misunderstood what i was attempting to say. one question regarding the existence of God is why is the notion of God universal?

            No, you provided a list of seven points you considered Dawkins or atheist theories. I was giving you reasons why you are being erroneous."

            i think i may have committed the "sin" of being presumptuous. I had read one atheistic explanation to the "source" of God was the agent theory. i should not have assumed you subscribed to that theory, my mistake. and whether the notion of God us unversal perhaps could also be subjective, i do think well over 80% of primitive an had some preconceived notion of God, gods, or pantheism, nevertheless, if there is a God, and God has sown that question of his existence into our being than it's possible that that is why so many atheists study the subject to such an extent. in theology when one's conscience is bothering them about something there are three main responses. 1. adhere to it. 2. ignore it. 3. fight against it as a way of attempting to quiet it. number 2. normally doesn't work thus adhering to it or attempting to quiet it through attacking it seems to be how most people respond. when i read most atheists explanations sometimes they seem like their reaching for something or are willing to believe anything as long as it doesn't include the notion of God (number 3) which is where i found that agent theory to fall in line with.

            could you point me to a website or perhaps give your own summary of where you think the "god" notion came from?

            "They don't. You also forget that your God is only 1,900 years old. It came from a concept of a god only a few thousand years older."

            Unless of course God exists in which case he's older than time itself.

            "It isn't just atheists Sean, anthropologist's too...and even you. Natural disasters are said to be your loving Gods punishments. Praise of the miraculous is awarded to God when an earthquake that kills thousands overs up a sole survivor, which seems strange to me given your other statement, they've been robbed of the fast track to heaven."

            That kind of a question goes back to the notion of "Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to Good people." to my knowledge there are to primary answers;

            1. the original fall, Job, and the incarnation.

            and

            2. I don't know

            "There is much writing in the OT on sacrifice. Sacrifice was either appeasement to God for some indiscretion or to ward of Gods wrath. Some gods demanded human sacrifice. Many faiths still have the ancient ritual of harvest festivals."

            That is largely what the "sacrifice of Issac" is meant to imply. that human sacrifice is not acceptable to the Lord.

            "There isn't a universality of God, Sean. There is an estimated 4,200 religions throughout the world. Christianity has 38,000+ sub sects. This is where I tell you I'm igtheist.

            When i was referring to the universality of the notion of God i wasn't attempting to imply that everyone has a same notion, but the majority of people have a notion of a God.

            "[3] God is an empirical object, and theological propositions involving him are empirical (a posteriori) ones.
            [4] The modified sense-data theory of meaning is true.

            Conclusion:
            [5] Because the word "God" is an empirical noun that
            does not refer to any amount of sense-data and/or modified sense-data, it does not mean anything in the empirical (a posteriori) sense.
            [6] It then follows that all theological propositions fail to be a
            posteriori. And because they are not a priori either, they are meaningless.
            [7] Igtheism is true.

            the Bible teaches that God is spirit, but can manifest himself in various ways. When one does have the gift of faith God does manifest himself through their senses from time to time.

            But there is proof Sean. We now know thunder isn't caused by Thor's hammer. We now know that the Sun is dragged across the sky on Ra's chariot. We now know that all life on Earth wasn't created in its present form by God.

            I would say your right in that first part. naturally there is evidence of where thunder comes from. but things like the multiverse cannot be proven as of yet. and theories of how God developed in the human mind are only theories and also can't be proven. it's those theories that should be approached with some skepticism.

            "What there is no proof for is the existence of gods, any of them. So why believe in any of them hook, line and sinker?

            You don't believe in the gods of any other religion, why? The atheist just goes one god further than you."

            I have heard that explanation before of atheists simply going one step further. The Catholic Church does not believe every other religion is "wrong", they simply believe other religions have various amounts of revelation. Islam believes in one God, we believe that's true. Jews believe in the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, so do we, we simply believe Jesus is the promised Messiah. Other Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, we also hold that to be revealed. even much of buddhism has truth in it.

            Thanks for the Explanation from Pascal. it was interesting and thought provoking. i feel his explanation though is a little like looking at a plane with an internal combustion engine and imagining how it would work. but actually flying the plane is vastly different. when one discovers God is real, loving, present, it's difficult to simply go back and spend hours reflecting upon the various parts, when the flight was so breathtakingly amazing.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Let's look at the so-called Jesus-mythers and their arguments.

      Yes let's.

      Let's read people like Richard Carrier, who is regarded as the standard bearer in these efforts, and see that the "case" against the historical Jesus is a desperate, unfounded one,

      It's not though, but even if it was as unfounded as you claim, the "case" for the biblical Jesus is an even more desperate, unfounded one.

      Let's look at their arguments, such as they are, based pretty much on speculation and wishful thinking.

      And the contrary cannot be said? The case for a historical Jesus is based pretty much on speculation and wishful thinking. Much the same as the Cargo Cult of John Frum.

      Let us then note that even agnostics (like Bart Ehrman) and atheists (like John Loftus agree quite easily that the historical Jesus existed.

      So what? Bart Ehrmans book was a very poor excuse by his standards of scholarship...have you read it? Have you read any Carrier on the subject? How about casting your eyes over.."Did Jesus Exist? The Trouble with Certainty in Historical Jesus Scholarship" http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf

      Don't suppose that everyone's ignorance is on an equal footing.

      • GreatSilence

        Hi Amos

        I have read all of those works, except the last mentioned pdf. Denying the existence of the historical Jesus is a fringe position, to put it as politely as I can. When Richard Carrier is your flag carrier your team is in deep trouble. The internet is not a good place to learn about scholarship and consensus on this topic. And no, sorry to disappoint, but "everyone's ignorance" is most certainly not on an equal footing here.

        You can obviously believe what you choose to as far as the historical jesus is concerned, just do not try to coat it with a veneer of scholarly credibility and then use Carrier as your source. Carrier is the atheist equivalent of Wikipedia - a little bit of knowledge on a lot of topics, but no real depth.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Denying the existence of the historical Jesus is a fringe position, to put it as politely as I can.

          You can put it anyway ya like. It is not as fringe as you'd like to think it is, and if it is fringe, it is fringe for some relevant reasons that do not include lack of veracity. I'm not one to concede to the appeal of majority, the majority has more often than not been proven wrong, very wrong in most cases. Heliocentrism was once fringe, evolution was once fringe, believing a world that was older than half a dozen milennia was once fringe, plate tectonics was once fringe, AGW was once fringe. Fringe hypotheses are a science default start position...the list of once fringe positions that came good is endless.

          I won't take offence, I am agnostic on the position of an historical Jesus, which means, I don't know either way for sure, but neither do you or anyone else. I can't dismiss either position either way because there is no conclusive evidence, if there was, the subject would be moot. I like the subject purely out of interest, but it makes no difference to the big picture. If the Jesus character is built around one or more real persons, there is still an astronomical leap to be made to get him from there to a miracle worker who was actually a god incarnate that was put to death then reanimated 3 days later and subsequently ascended into heaven, with all the other bells and whistles nonsense that has been attached to the religion from the get go.

          When Richard Carrier is your flag carrier your team is in deep trouble.

          Deep trouble? Says who? Why? You make it sound like RC is the only scholar contesting the veracity of an historical Jesus, but even if he was, it makes no difference to his arguments, you might try refuting his arguments instead...ya know the ones that lay waste to the points being asserted in this OP.

          The internet is not a good place to learn about scholarship and consensus on this topic.

          You are right, books are far better, preferably ones that cite reliable sources. Scholarship and consensus are not synonymous.

          You've already fell into the bias trap by appealing to your teams scholarship as superior to the other teams scholarship. Now there are nutters on both sides, I'll concede that, but you can't get away with tarnishing all with the problems of some. "Hector Avalos in Avalos published "The End of Biblical Studies " argued that academic biblical scholarship was primarily an apologetic religionist enterprise meant to provide the illusion that the Bible was still a culturally and morally superior authority. He critiqued numerous fields (translation, archaeology, history, textual criticism, literary aesthetics) arguing the discipline was permeated with pro-religionist biases."

          Remove the confirmation bias from the scholarly consensus and the consensus shrinks considerably. Consensus with little or weak evidence just becomes an argumentum ad populum.

          And no, sorry to disappoint, but "everyone's ignorance" is most certainly not on an equal footing here.

          Oh I'm not disappointed. Coming from a group of folk that believe in transubstantiation and the efficacy of prayer...I'm content in my position.

          You can obviously believe what you choose to as far as the historical jesus is concerned, just do not try to coat it with a veneer of scholarly credibility and then use Carrier as your source.

          Spoiiing!!! That'll be the sound of my irony meter bursting. Theologians have been doing the same throughout history, but using the bible as their source.

          Carrier is the atheist equivalent of Wikipedia - a little bit of knowledge on a lot of topics, but no real depth.

          The same conjecture can be asserted to just about any biblical scholar. The problem is, that for the majority of scholars that form the consensus of an historical Jesus...that's where the consensus ends. Scholarship on who and what Jesus was is diverse, from the sublime to the ridiculous. But I suppose it helps to make the enemy of my enemy, my friend.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Amos, you might be interested to know that Richard submitted a couple pieces on the historicity of Jesus which we'll be posting within the next couple weeks as part of a four-part series. Stay tuned!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Now ya've gone and done it...piqued my interest. Catnip, that's what you are laying down. }80)~

          • GreatSilence

            Are we really going to debate the historicity of Jesus, and that as a four-part series? I think that is giving far too much of a stage to a debate that has no serious traction. An article yes, but a whole series? Or is the historicity article just one, and the other three deal with other topics?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            We think it's a worthy discussion. Carrier is today's most prominent Mythicist so engaging his arguments, and perhaps defeating them, would firmly diffuse the claim that Jesus never existed.

            The four-part series is really the result of a two-part article Carrier sent me. In the first part, he addresses a post made here by Jimmy Akin titled "Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach". In the second part, Carrier engages a post by Trent Horn titled "Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed". So the series will look like this:

            Part 1 - Richard Carrier engages Jimmy Akin's original article

            Part 2 - Jimmy Akin responds

            Part 3 - Richard Carrier engages Trent Horn's original article

            Part 4 - Trent Horn responds

          • josh

            This sounds interesting. Carrier brings a lot of knowledge to these topics, certainly more than you usually see. He has a tendency, once he has come to a conclusion, to see it as the only reasonable conclusion, but he can hold his own quite well.

            I think people tend to bury the lede when mythicism comes up. The ultimate point isn't that one can indubitably show that Jesus didn't exist, it's how dubitable the case that he did really is. Some apocalyptic cult leader, possibly crucified, and increasingly deified after death, is probably the most straightforward version of history that fits with the facts IMO, and one can make the case that this is the most justified position on the matter. However, the mythicism narrative, while more complicated in some sense, isn't so easy to simply dismiss. The bigger point is just how little we can say with certainty about early Christianity and its founders.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I think that is giving far too much of a stage to a debate that has no serious traction.

            That is a bit narrow minded. What are you frightened of if the debate has no serious traction? According to you, "Carrier is the atheist equivalent of Wikipedia - a little bit of knowledge on a lot of topics, but no real depth."

          • GreatSilence

            I am not frightened at all. I just believe that, as Dawkins used to say, this will look better on Carrier's cv than it would on SN's cv. My objection is not against Carrier, or his point of view, but against a four part series, which Brandon has subsequently explained.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I just believe that, as Dawkins used to say, this will look better on Carrier's cv than it would on SN's cv.

            That's a false equivalence and you know it. Dawkins refers to live debating creationists. Creationists that have been proven in an evidence based refutation that evolution is as true a theory as gravity. Multiple evidence in a vast array of scientific disciplines while creationism is the ignorance of bible literalists. Creationists have nothing after god-did-it about 6,000 years ago.

            Now whatever your views on the ahistoricity of Jesus, it has not been refuted beyond doubt, let alone what you trial lawyers class as reasonable doubt. The genre is growing because more and more are less frightened of being ostracized by the cadre of scholarship, and a number of those that support the claims ARE qualified scholars in the field. If you have irrefutable evidence that figure of Jesus was a flesh and blood human, I'm all ears, for it would do what all the scholars in favour of an historical Jesus have thus far failed to do over recent centuries, that is, put the subject to bed once and for all.

            Got evidence?

            The proposed opinion pieces for this site are, I'd hazard a guess, to provide an arena where the members can debate the pro' and con's of whatever assertions are made, something, and as a matter of fact, Just this past two weeks the RDFRS has done, as it has in the past with creationist and other supernatural assertions.

            My objection is not against Carrier, or his point of view,...

            But it is though, isn't it. You've patently demonstrated that objection in earlier comments and your c.v. jibe in this last comment.

            ...but against a four part series, which Brandon has subsequently explained.

            A somewhat strange thing that is too considering the second comment made on this thread was...

            Let's look at the so-called Jesus-mythers and their arguments. Let's read people like Richard Carrier, who is regarded as the standard bearer in these efforts, and see that the "case" against the historical Jesus is a desperate, unfounded one, Let's look at their arguments, such as they are, based pretty much on speculation and wishful thinking. Let us then note that even agnostics (like Bart Ehrman) and atheists (like John Loftus agree quite easily that the historical Jesus existed.

            A lot of "Let's" to be covered in one article. Especially when you continued with more "let's"...

            And while we are ascribing motives to sources, which campaign seeks to discount the earlier sources because of their so-called Christian bias, let's then also be honest and take into consideration the anti-Christian bias and motive that we may very well find in the Jesus-myth camp.

            Which on the face of it, seems quite ridiculous, I can't envisage too many Christians supporting an ahistorical position. That's not to say that there aren't any, there was, after all, a whole cult of 2nd century Jesus mythers called the Docetists.

            "...the doctrine according to which the phenomenon of Christ, his historical and bodily existence, and thus above all the human form of Jesus, was altogether mere semblance without any true reality."

            Seems a bit of a quandary to me that given the evidence that is so compelling today, fresh as it was just over a century after the alleged events, that such a group could get started.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    Denial of a historical Jesus is the atheist equivalent of creationism.

    For the same reason I won't argue with geocentrists, flat-earthers, climate change deniers or creationists, I won't argue with Jesus deniers. Serious argument may legitimize an absurd position in some people's minds. It may be best to ignore these arguments and those who make them. This problem will probably go away on its own.

    • Dave H

      I don't think I would include "climate change deniers" in the same category as the others. Climate science has a long way to go before it can speak as definitively on the matter as astronomy does on geocentrism. That aside, why not argue and debate? I don't believe the problem goes away on its own. It hasn't yet! Besides, a lot of readers want to hear both sides. Even if you can't convince your debate partner, those on the sidelines are paying attention.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I think Creationism is on its way out. Maybe I'm wrong.

        If there really are two sides, then it's worth debating. But with issues like creationism, people will hear about the debate and say "Bill Nye will debate Ken Ham? Creationism must have a strong case to be worth Bill Nye's time." Even worse if Bill Nye loses the debate.

        The same case can be made for Jesus denial. Imagine what will happen if Bart Ehrman loses a debate to Richard Carrier?

        Providing some ideas a careful response gives the ideas far more credit than they deserve. Of course, if you want to spend your time responding to cranks, you can. And maybe it's a necessary task. Seems like cleaning the Augean stables. I'll leave it to other more capable hands.

        • Dave H

          I agree a lot of time can be wasted arguing with cranks. But only if it's one-on-one. If there's an audience, convincing the crank isn't the only objective. Frankly that's the only reason it was sad to see that cadre of committed atheists leave the forum a short while back. As they spun ceaselessly in their repetitive, small circles of logic, they inadvertently enlightened readers what awaits once your mind fully congeals around scientism and materialism. If we didn't argue with them, their assertions (and personalities) would never have been on display for other readers, even if they, themselves, were inconvincible. One final note: When we say retrospectively that ideas or social movements "went away on their own" it is often omitted that enormous effort may have been expended to expose the falsehoods and make them go away.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            How do you think it looks when you ban people from a forum for making clear arguments?

            I think that the impression of neutral observers here (if there ever is such a thing) will be the exact opposite of what you claim: When Catholics run into arguments they cannot handle, they expel the arguer.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            When Catholics run into arguments they cannot handle, they expel the arguer.

            Let's be "fair and balanced" here!

            Only one atheist was banned. The rest picked up their marbles and went home. Whether the person who was banned was treated fairly or not I do not pretend to say, but he was not the most vocal or most persuasive member of the "atheist clique." In my opinion, that was Q Quine, from whom I learned a lot, and who provided lots of links to excellent information, particularly about science.

            At the same time the one atheist was banned, a Catholic was banned, one of the most vocal and persuasive—although I disagreed with everything he said! He made no attempt that I am aware of to protest or publicize the decision of the moderators, and nobody that I am aware of protested his banning or left in protest.

            I think Catholics here run into arguments they cannot handle all the time, but they don't think they can't handle them. They are quite confident they have a satisfactory response to every challenge. So I simply don't buy the idea that Catholics expel the people they can't deal with effectively. (How is that for a left-handed compliment?!?)

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            It wasn't just one person who was banned. But even if it was, there was an impression from the majority of the atheists that this was no longer an open forum and so they left. Maybe I'm wrong about how that appears to outside audiences. The effect it's had here is noticeable.

            My main point is that most of the atheists who left were not cranks, and that they didn't leave in order to insulate their argument from criticism.

            At the same time the one atheist was banned, a Catholic was banned, one of the most vocal and persuasive—although I disagreed with everything he said! He made no attempt that I am aware of to protest or publicize the decision of the moderators, and nobody that I am aware of protested his banning or left in protest.

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/hilarious-atheists-go-on-strike-at.html

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/disaster-at-digital-areopagus.html

            I also am sorry to see him go. He wasn't a clear voice of reason here, but he was a clear voice of something. The main thing is he was clear.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Rick should not have been banned either...although his forth-righteousness probably embarrassed the sophisticated Catholics here, his points on doctrine were hard to rebut. He did pop up on at least one atheist forum to complain about his treatment here.

            You are also correct in saying that more than one atheist had been banned...the epeeist escapade was just the final straw.

            There is an interesting article just up on RDFRS which discusses this subject, I might comment later once it develops further

            http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2013/8/22/effectively-criticizing-religious-belief-punching-up-and-other-rules-of-thumb?category=Atheism&utm_source=Newsletter-September+2013&utm_campaign=SEPTNWSLTR&utm_medium=email#comment-box-2

            The SN experiment was a decent idea, but until all involved can accept ridicule of their position, debating with believers is always going to be an exercise in walking on eggshells.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I'd be interested in your thoughts about this.

            I think it was a mistake for Brandon to ban epeeist and Rick. I worry about the future of Strange Notions. It looks to be on very unstable footing right now. But who knows what the future holds for this experiment? It's not over yet.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I think it was a mistake for Brandon to ban epeeist and Rick.

            I totally agree. I can see why he did it though. I've been privy to epeeist's ability to decimate the theist position for many years now...especially on philosophical points. While other atheists had been banned, censored or warned, whether for good reason or not, I think the banning of epeeist was one stage too far. Atheists don't really mind getting called to task..we are used to it, it comes with the territory ya see, but a line had to be drawn in the sand and his fellow intellectuals baled out in support.

            I worry about the future of Strange Notions. It looks to be on very unstable footing right now.

            Well that's a fact. It's turning into a self appreciation society...and that was not the purpose. If critique is not allowed, then why should the believers expect the non-believers to hang about just to be whipping boys (and girls)?

            But who knows what the future holds for this experiment? It's not over yet.

            A shouldn't hold my breath...intolerance and lack of impartiality has all but killed it.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "The SN experiment was a decent idea, but until all involved can accept ridicule of their position, debating with believers is always going to be an exercise in walking on eggshells."

            I'm curious why you think ridicule is necessary. If you believe someone is wrong, why can't you charitably point out their error instead of ridiculing them?

            You may lament the lack of ridicule on the site, but I'm quite proud of it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Brandon, the problem becomes a nonsense when even the most mundane remark is classed as ridicule or derision, particularly as one side demands undeserved respect for ideas that the other side can't and will not give.

            I'm curious why you think ridicule is necessary. If you believe someone is wrong, why can't you charitably point out their error instead of ridiculing them?

            It isn't necessary, but when someone has charitably pointed out why they believe a point is wrong and given reasons why, and yet time after time that same point is not addressed, subsequently supported or conceded, instead the "reset" button is reset, sometimes ridicule is the only option. Now ridicule of a point or idea is not the same as ridicule of the person making the point or idea, but that doesn't matter to the theist. to ridicule one is to ridicule the other.

            Shortening John Paul the second to JPII on a forum is hardly disrespectful or ridicule...calling Jesus/God/holy spirit a 3 in 1 god isn't either. Calling someone a crank, or likening them to a holocaust denier and creationist because they support an alternative thesis, an alternative thesis with increasing scholarly support is another story. Especially without engaging in the points of the thesis and dismissing them out of hand.

            Quine summed the situation up better than I ever can..

            "There are a limited number of points that Catholics can bring to the table, and once they run out, you can expect to be referred back to Aquinas as the unexplained answer for each further question. The purported "proofs" for divine existence were shot full of holes in the first couple of weeks of the site's going on-line. As time went on, the lack of substance in the articles left more room for pushing the line re personal squabbles or rivalry among the community. Ultimately, there always was going to be a point where, what there was to say, had been said, and the clash of world views was going to become the strain that could not be maintained."

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Brandon, the problem becomes a nonsense when even the most mundane remark is classed as ridicule or derision,"

            I don't think this is true. But you'd need to provide specific examples for us to consider the question.

            "...particularly as one side demands undeserved respect for ideas that the other side can't and will not give."

            This website assumes that respect is always deserved. If someone is incapable of showing basic respect, then they are encouraged to comment on the thousands of other websites which share that same inability.

            "It isn't necessary, but when someone has charitably pointed out why they believe a point is wrong and given reasons why, and yet time after time that same point is not addressed, subsequently supported or conceded, instead the "reset" button is reset, sometimes ridicule is the only option."

            Again, this is a vague generality. 'm not sure what you're talking about in specific. But I will say that hundreds of comments stream through this site everyday. It's unreasonable to assume that everybody can respond to every single one of your comments. Not getting a response to a comment is no reason to ridicule someone.

            "Shortening John Paul the second to JPII on a forum is hardly disrespectful or ridicule...calling Jesus/God/holy spirit a 3 in 1 god isn't either."

            I agree. I don't see the problem.

            "Calling someone a crank, or likening them to a holocaust denier and creationist because they support an alternative thesis, an alternative thesis with increasing scholarly support is another story. Especially without engaging in the points of the thesis and dismissing them out of hand."

            I agree that calling someone a "crank" or "holocaust denier" is totally uncalled for. I don't remember seeing either accusation, though. If they have been leveled, and gone unchecked, please let me know and we'll remove the comments.

            On the other hand, "creationist" is not inherently derogatory. It's a neutral classification. We'd have to define the term in context, but it typically refers to someone who believes God created the world in six literal days. If someone believes that, they can legitimately be labeled a "creationist" without disrespect or ridicule.

            "There are a limited number of points that Catholics can bring to the table, and once they run out, you can expect to be referred back to Aquinas as the unexplained answer for each further question."

            Besides (again) being a vague generalization, and thus unanswerable, he's technically right. *Anyone* can only bring a limited number of points to the table since *nobody* can offer an infinite amount of points.

            "The purported "proofs" for divine existence were shot full of holes in the first couple of weeks of the site's going on-line."

            This is simply untrue. Many atheist commenters offered an avalanche of attempted refutations, but attempted refutations (even if unanswered) are not necessarily refutations. Over time, Catholics have addressed each of the major objections in turn and have showed why they failed. If you think there has been an airtight objection that has gone unanswered, please let me know and I'd love to engage it.

            "As time went on, the lack of substance in the articles left more room for pushing the line re personal squabbles or rivalry among the community. Ultimately, there always was going to be a point where, what there was to say, had been said, and the clash of world views was going to become the strain that could not be maintained."

            Quin, of course, had no evidence to back up such prophecies, and I don't agree with them. His comment about there being "a lack of substance" on the site is (once more) vague and therefore inconsequential.

          • Dave H

            For a left-handed compliment it was mediocre or slightly below average. :) You have some tough competition from other atheists' posts.

            In addition, left-handed compliments lose potency when they can simply be turned around and applied to the other party.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I feel like I want to disagree with you (since DN is not an atheist and one of the most sensible commenters here) but after repeated readings of your comment, I have no idea what you are saying!

          • Dave H

            Hi Kevin - Which part was unclear?

            First paragraph: Just having some fun with DN. He asked for a rating, so I gave him mine. Was it the "tough competition" part? When arguing, many Atheists use, as their stock-in-trade, a higher level of snarkiness, of which left-handed compliments are a mild form (I can't believe I'm actually explaining this, but oh well).
            As for DN not being an atheist, fair enough: replace "other" with "all the".

            The last part was pretty obvious, I hope. :)

            Sigh. I am going to post this but I should really just hold down the backspace key and finish my coffee.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I will try to do better with my left-handed compliments, but it is very difficult for me, because I am right handed.

          • Dave H

            :)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Let's be "fair and balanced" here!,

            Yes, lets!

            Only one atheist was banned.

            Was there only one atheist banned?

            What happened to Jonathan West, ZenDruid and articulett to name a few?

            The rest picked up their marbles and went home.

            Who is being snarky now? They are boycotting the site on a point of principle...a wee bit different to what you infer in my book.

            Whether the person who was banned was treated fairly or not I do not pretend to say, but he was not the most vocal or most persuasive member of the "atheist clique." In my opinion, that was Q Quine, from whom I learned a lot, and who provided lots of links to excellent information, particularly about science.

            And the site lost out because of some over zealous moderation, simples.

            At the same time the one atheist was banned, a Catholic was banned, one of the most vocal and persuasive—although I disagreed with everything he said!

            Yes and wrongly too in my opinion. He was a facet of Catholicism regardless. I believe he was banhammerd more because he embarrassed his own than upset the atheists.

            He made no attempt that I am aware of to protest or publicize the decision of the moderators, and nobody that I am aware of protested his banning or left in protest.

            Well, he did as a matter of fact...both here, on his own blogg, and on the Friendly Atheist...that's the places I'm aware of.

            I think Catholics here run into arguments they cannot handle all the time, but they don't think they can't handle them. They are quite confident they have a satisfactory response to every challenge. So I simply don't buy the idea that Catholics expel the people they can't deal with effectively. (How is that for a left-handed compliment?!?)

            "Snark was supposedly outlawed on the site, but it didn't stop the publishing of articles which were largely snark and derisive attacks on atheism as a position. To then rule out strong attacks on these articles is simply hypocritical. Similarly to allow a particular poster a huge amount of licence while warning others from the out-group for much smaller transgressions breaks any idea of fair dealing."

            Just one perception of the situation.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Ignorant Amos, you've now posted several comments lamenting the site, the articles, the comments, the moderation, the tone of discussion, and the substance of the arguments.

            Honestly, if I encountered a site I disagreed with that much, I'd stop visiting.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry Brandon...I only came back to collect some information and got a wee bit caught up in things...lack of self control, reminder to self, "must do better"...I'll leave ya all now to get on with it.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Two-week-old messages and events on a site like this are ancient history.

            It's Brandon Vogt's site, and he gets to run it according to his vision of what the site should be. If you think he's made a mistake and done something against his own best interests and the interests of the site, you can say, "I told you so," but much as I miss Q. Quine's often informative comments, and minor as I found epee's faults (and I should say I didn't read all his messages), the group that is no longer here were leading things into a rut: "You don't have enough evidence to justify what you believe, you can really never have enough evidence to justify what you believe, but we demand you produce your evidence, and we will explain why it is totally inadequate." There were many productive exchanges while it lasted, but that's not a basis for keeping the discussion going forever.

            The purpose of this site, though, is to discuss the articles posted on the site, not to discuss the site itself. Perhaps someone will get the bright idea of starting a discussion site where the only topic of discussion is the site itself and how it should be run. But that's not this site, so this will be my last comment on the matter. As I said, it's ancient history.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Apologies to you too David, see response to Brandon.

          • Dave H

            They weren't banned for making clear arguments. That's absurd. Go back and read their comments and Brandon's rationale. They violated the policy persistently.

          • John Bell

            They were banned because the catholic arguments posted on the site were unable to stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny and the owner of the site was clearly getting tired of that fact.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "They were banned because the catholic arguments posted on the site were unable to stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny and the owner of the site was clearly getting tired of that fact."

            John, that's not true and I don't appreciate the slanderous accusations. The commenters in question were banned for clear and repeated violations of our commenting policy, all of which are still publicly evident, including regular snark and sarcasm, personal insults, ad hominem and straw men attacks, and regular bouts of vulgarity. We issued multiple warnings, removed several individual posts, but the commenters displayed an inability or an unwillingness to change their style of dialogue.

            If you have a specific problem, please email me at contact@strangenotions.com. Otherwise, baseless accusations like this will be removed in the future.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You might consider removing "straw men" from the list because almost all are guilt of this starting out, assuming things about the other side's views. It's more of a failure of rationality than ill will perhaps.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            They were banned because . . .

            That is blatantly untrue in several respects, including the fact that most of the atheists who do not post here any longer were not banned—they left. If you go back and read the messages, when several of them announced they were leaving, Brandon wished them well and said he hoped they would come back.

          • Dave H

            John, that is a simply bizarre misunderstanding of what actually happened. Have you read the threads?

            The ironic thing is that, were your theory true, all the atheists still on the site would apparently be failing in their attempt to provide even a slight bit of scrutiny.

          • Ignorant Amos

            As did theists...but with less consequences. Was it due to numbers? Perhaps....but a site that hopes to be impartial with moderation has to be seen as having impartial moderators.

          • Dave H

            The moderators are impartial. However, prevailing communication styles of Orthodox Catholics and New Atheists are different, which makes it difficult to set a standard that is equally acceptable (or even equally understandable) to both sides.

            Specifically, perceptions of "rude" vs "polite" are very different between the communities. Consider a Richard Dawkins talk: Listen to the the titters rippling through the audience each time he likens God to a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Obviously meant to get a laugh, sell more books, etc. But it also normalizes extreme disrespect among his fans. When an impressionable young Atheist encounters this style from a hero (a "Horseman" no less), naturally he'll begin to incorporate it. (And let's not pretend Dawkins is the most disrespectful of well-known Atheists.)

            This attitude of "score with sneer" simply doesn't find a home among Orthodox Catholic theologians and writers. As a result, Orthodox Catholics are less disposed to use this style. They may have other traits that irritate Atheists, but it won't typically be snarkiness. As Brandon sets and applies the standard, it's certainly possible that, from an Atheist's point of view, he is not being fair. But I've read a great deal of the comments here, and the people who were kicked off (or who left on their own) were consistently more disrespectful than the policy allows.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The moderators are impartial. However, prevailing communication styles of Orthodox Catholics and New Atheists are different, which makes it difficult to set a standard that is equally acceptable (or even equally understandable) to both sides.

            Yeah right. I'll take the Feser article on the CA as a good example.

            Atheist: "Come on, Strange Notions. First you put up a front page article whose author didn't even know what ID was, and now this? Convince me that there is some kind of minimum threshold for informed and honest conversation on this site."

            Moderator: "Finally, your insinuation that commenters are not informed or honest is
            unnecessary and rude. Consider this a warning but future insults will be
            deleted."

            Atheist: "Let me put it more simply: according to your comment policy, are ad hominem attacks like calling someone "sleazy", "slimy", "contemptible", and "dishonest" (as Feser does repeatedly in this article) something that would get a comment deleted or a poster banned?"

            Obviously trying to get one up on the atheists was more important than the civility of the Feser OP...which is just fine, but don't pretend impartiality when it is blatantly obvious that it is absent and you get called out on it..

            Specifically, perceptions of "rude" vs "polite" are very different between the communities.

            Of course they are, those perceptions are different between individual atheists....or theists for that matter.

            Consider a Richard Dawkins talk: Listen to the the titters rippling through the audience each time he likens God to a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

            It is parody...and a good one, but you overlook the adverse, when the religious debater garner titters from a loaded audience with ignorant cheap shots pandering to the theist crowd. I'm thinking off the top of my head of the discussion between Dawkins and that ignoramus Archbishop George Pell. Even Brandon was forced to concede Pell's ignorance and his own erroneous support for Pell on at least one point.

            Not only was Pell ignorant on science and history, but his faux pas on Catholic doctrine would have had Rick De Lano busting a blood vessel.

            Obviously meant to get a laugh, sell more books, etc. But it also normalizes extreme disrespect among his fans.

            Not that obvious. The FSM was conceived as a satirical parody of religion back in 2005. It was "protest the Kansas State Board of Education decision to permit teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes", surely no one here can have any issue with that? What makes the parody so poignant is the reaction to it by the religious.

            "Due to its popularity and media exposure, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is often used as a modern version of Russell's teapot. Proponents argue that, since the existence of the invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster—similar to other proposed supernatural beings—cannot be falsified, it demonstrates that the burden of proof rests on those who affirm the existence of such beings. Richard Dawkins explains, "The onus is on somebody who says, I want to believe in God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it."

            When an impressionable young Atheist encounters this style from a hero (a "Horseman" no less), naturally he'll begin to incorporate it. (And let's not pretend Dawkins is the most disrespectful of well-known Atheists.)

            There's irony. So when an impressionable young theist encounters this style from a theist hero, naturally he'll begin to incorporate it. Let's have a look...

            "Pope Benedict XVI, on the first papal visit to the United Kingdom in 28 years, has made some controversial comments. Benedict likened the rise of British atheism and secularism to the rise of the Nazi Party in his native Germany."

            The two are not even in the same ball park Dave.

            This attitude of "score with sneer" simply doesn't find a home among Orthodox Catholic theologians and writers. As a result, Orthodox Catholics are less disposed to use this style.

            The problem is that theists have been doing it for so long that they have become complacent. That's okay, atheists are used to it. But don't get all pious when getting called on it, that's all that is being asked.

            They may have other traits that irritate Atheists, but it won't typically be snarkiness.

            They certainly have other traits that irritate atheists that's for sure...but to state that orthodox Catholics are not snarky is just wrong...I'm not sure why being orthodox has to do with how typical the snark is, but that's just me.

            As Brandon sets and applies the standard, it's certainly possible that, from an Atheist's point of view, he is not being fair.

            That is the whole point of our discourse here...perspectives and impartiality.

            But I've read a great deal of the comments here, and the people who were kicked off (or who left on their own) were consistently more disrespectful than the policy allows.

            Says you. Yet we have..."Jesus historicity deniers than Holocaust deniers"...which is appalling. Or the questioning of an historical Jesus is tantamount to the ludicrous claims of creationists. You yourself have inferred that I'm a crank for contesting the veracity of an historical Jesus. How disrespectful is that considering the argument for an historical Jesus has more holes in it that a sieve?

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "When Catholics run into arguments they cannot handle, they expel the arguer."

            Paul, this is a baseless and unfair accusation. You're better than that.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            You are right. I apologize.

            I get angry when I read people here saying that the atheists "fled" or "packed up their bags" etc. I think that those who left have legitimate concerns about how this forum is run.

            My accusation here is grossly unfair. Even if it were legitimate, this isn't the right place to post it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            When we say retrospectively that ideas or social movements "went away on their own" it is often omitted that enormous effort may have been expended to expose the falsehoods and make them go away.

            Ah, if that were but the case.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The same case can be made for Jesus denial.

          The ahistoricity of Jesus is a valid scholarly discipline.

          "The biggest problem with the arguments both for and against is that the meaning of the words "myth", "historical", and "fiction" are rarely clarified."

          Imagine what will happen if Bart Ehrman loses a debate to Richard Carrier?

          Bart Ehrman has already lost the online debate.

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1794

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            The ahistoricity of Jesus is a valid scholarly discipline.

            Or, as neo-Creationists would say:

            Intelligent design is a valid scholarly discipline

            Or as Rick Delano would say:

            Geocentric theory is a valid scholarly discipline

            Although he'd say it in a much more interesting way. Proponents for every crank theory think that the theory's not nonsense. If they did recognize it as nonsense, they wouldn't accept it.

            Bart Ehrman has already lost the online debate.

            Then his first mistake was entering the debate. A mistake I won't make again. I'll leave those who are interested to clean the intellectual Augean stables, thank you.

    • GreatSilence

      ".. the atheist equivalent of creationism".

      My favorite quote here in weeks, thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

    The easiest question to answer about Jesus is whether he existed or not. Of course he did. The most difficult is how much we may know about him based on the New Testament documents. The answers to the second question range from Pope Benedict XVI's view that the Jesus of the Gospels is the real, historical Jesus to the view that we can say almost nothing about what he was really like with any degree of certainty. It is probably a waste of time to try to convince anyone who does not believe that Jesus existed that he did. It seems to me that it is not so much what they believe but what they choose to believe, and they work at cultivating that belief. On the other hand, it seems to me that those who take the Jesus of the Gospels as the "real" Jesus—believing Jesus during his lifetime said and did exactly what is reported in the Gospels—are choosing and cultivating that belief as well.

  • 42Oolon

    I really do not think many atheists deny the person of Jesus. But in any event atheists really should not be concerned with whether the person or persons at the centre of a religion existed. After all we are atheist to numerous religions of which the founders`existence is much better demonstrated, such as Mormonism and Islam, not to mention that some humans alive today are considered divine and even gods.

    While we could go down this road and I could point out that the Bible is anonymous or that there are no contemporary sources etc etc. But why bother? I can accept for the sake of argument that a Jesus existed and was crucified. I accept that there was a war in Troy. I do not accept any of the supernatural claims in either story.

    Lets talk about what supernatural claims are accepted by Catholics and why.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "Lets talk about what supernatural claims are accepted by Catholics and why."

      I agree that's the logical next step. But we have to establish the historicity of Jesus' existence first considering that several commenters in the past have denied this very basic fact. It doesn't make any sense to discuss the miracles of Jesus or his divinity unless we can all first agree that he actually existed. Barring any serious refutations of this article, it seems we can now all begin with that firmly established and agreed upon fact.

      • 42Oolon

        To the extent that there is controversy on this it is not addressed in this article. Some people are set on it and make careers out of discussing this, but from what I can tell there is just not much evidence one way or the other. It is not an extraordinary claim and there is no point in debating it.

        I would not agree that the historicity of Jesus is well-established, I would compare him to Socrates. Huge influence, but scarce evidence confirming such a person actually existed. But there is little point in debating what the scarce evidence means, it is simply not conclusive. But there is little point debating it, because what really matters are the ideas, whether they are Plato's or Socrates.

        With Jesus, what matters is if he existed, was he a god?

    • Randy Gritter

      I do think that the supernatural claims can be analyzed in a similar way. That is, what would explain the sudden and widespread acceptance of Christianity? Would a Jesus who did no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead cause such a movement to spring forth just a few decades later? A movement that shows a very high view of Jesus very early.

      Pope Benedict points to Philippians 2. Obviously written before the death of Paul in 66 AD, he quotes a hymn Christians were already singing, "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

      The point is that such a view of Christ does not make any sense unless He did some really mind blowing stuff. Again, absent evidence to the contrary it makes sense to accept the word of Christians about exactly what mind blowing stuff was done.

      • Geoffrey Miller

        But then, a critic could bring up Joseph Smith. I don't think he did anything truly remarkable, and most people agree that he was a charlatan in many respects. However, his movement took off pretty well. Not to mention L. Ron. Hubbard's pet religion. And what about Ba'hai?

        Must the argument be so dichotomous, Randy? Or do these counterexamples demonstrate that ordinary men can easily initiate new, popular religions?

        I'm Catholic, so I'm playing Devil's Advocate here. I just would like to know how you would counter this line of reasoning. Your argument as it stands doesn't seem very strong to me.

        • Randy Gritter

          The key is the claim. The claim of Jesus to have risen from the dead is not the same as someone claiming to have a better theory of God. So Peter and Paul and John would not just be asked if Jesus was an amazing guy. They would be asked if they saw him dead and then risen. They would be asked if he really did heal a man born blind or walk on water or whatever. The followers of L Ron Hubbard or Joseph Smith would not be asked that. Those religions depend entirely on the testimony one one man.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Good answer.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You sure give up easily for a devil's advocate!

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Because the rest of my answer is forthcoming. I'm not done. I just had to eat lunch, and I wanted to somehow acknowledge that I'd read the response. Plus, the issue is already being debated below.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            They would be asked if they saw him dead and then risen. They would be asked if he really did heal a man born blind or walk on water or whatever.

            We might ask why Paul, who must have been familiar with all the claims of Christians, actually persecuted Christians until the events on the road to Damascus, which remain rather murky. If the claims of Christianity were so convincing, why was Paul himself not convinced by the claims? Why was it necessary for a miracle to occur to get him to believe?

            Actually, the number of people who allegedly saw Jesus preach during his lifetime, allegedly saw him perform miracles, and allegedly knew he had risen from the dead accounted for a relatively small number of early members of the Jesus movement. The Gospels depict crowds of up to 5,000 people listening to Jesus preach and being miraculously fed. One source I found (which unfortunately I cannot now locate) claimed that by the year 100, there were only about 1000 Jewish converts to Christianity. I would be very grateful if anyone has figures to share about the ratio of Jews to Gentiles in early Christianity and when Christianity definitively split from Judaism.

            How many of the earliest Christian leaders were Jewish followers of Jesus? There are rather serious problems with talking about the early papacy, but I believe the two immediate successors of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome (if indeed Peter was Bishop of Rome) were Gentile converts to Christianity. How many of the Fathers of the Church were Jews who believed Jesus to be the Messiah? I am not really sure, but I believe the answer is "none."

            So while Jesus may have done amazing things during his lifetime, and may have risen from the dead, as far as I can tell, few who were around at the times these things allegedly happened became his followers. The people who may have been convinced to follow Jesus because of his miracles and his resurrection were largely not the ones who had some firsthand knowledge of them.

            All four Gospels have accounts of crowds showing up for Jesus's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem a week before his execution. If there were indeed large crowds, it would seem that few from among them actually became followers of Jesus and members of the earliest Church.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            >"Few from among them actually became followers of Jesus."

            Acts 2 says that 3000 souls were added on the day of Pentecost. Within a few years a persecution broke out which scatted the Jewish converts. Then, bear in mind that by AD 140, the Romans had virtually wiped out Judaism in the Holy Land.

            Why didn't Paul believe what Christians were claiming? Why would he? Since he believed what he was told the followers of Jesus believed was impossible, he would just dismiss their claims out of hand.

      • 42Oolon

        "what would explain the sudden and widespread acceptance of Christianity" it wasn't sudden or widespread. One would think that the actual manifestation of the Universe creator in such a way that his existence was clearly demonstrated would spread globally within a few years at least. But Christianity was still finding its feet hundreds of years later. It still hasn't reached everyone.

        It, like Islam, Scientology, and many other phenomena can spread and gain great followings without their supernatural claims being true.

        "Would a Jesus who did no miracles..." easily. Islam popped out of the Arabian peninsula almost overnight. It was a devastatingly blasphemic religion to the existing pagan beliefs. All you need to do is get people to believe it. In the Iron Age people believed all kinds of weird things. They were very credible and extremely superstitious. For the promise of eternal life why not believe a man rose from the dead. More credible than Athena busted her way out of Zeus' head.

        He may have done mind blowing stuff but that does not mean he performed miracles.

        • John Bell

          People still believe all sorts of weird things. Like, for example, that Jesus lived and eventually rose from the dead. The latter is completely absurd and the former is not much better.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Asserted without reason, rejected without reason.

        • Randy Gritter

          Islam spread not because of its truth but because of the military and political dynamics of the day. Jesus' claim was not backed up by military victory. He was crucified. The claim was he was raised from the dead. OK. When was that claim made? Was it right at the beginning with the apostles? Did they all claim to be eye witnesses just weeks after the crucifixion? Of so, then you have an issue with their motivation. If not, then you have the question right back. How did a crucified command such a following before the resurrection story was invented? How and when did the story change?

          The notion that people were credible is not really true. You had the Greeks and the Jews. The Greeks were philosophers and asked a lot of questions. The Jews were conservative followers of the Mosaic faith. They would execute a man for blasphemy. I would not describe either of those groups as credible.

        • Geoffrey Miller

          42Oolon said: "They were very credible and extremely superstitious."

          You meant credulous, not credible, right?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          >"In the Iron Age people believed all kinds of weird things. They were very credible and extremely superstitious, For the promise of eternal life why not believe a man rose from the dead."

          The Apostles dismissed the report of the women who visited the empty tomb that they had seen the Risen Christ. and Thomas, if you recall, said he would not believe unless he put his hands in Christ's wounds. Those reports, of course, do not prove Christ rose, but they do contradict you claim that ancient peoples were especially credulous.

          • 42Oolon

            Yes, these are some of the parts that I do not believe. But I would say they are just the kind of stories which you would try to tell to get credulous people to buy the story. It doesn't work on me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said they were credulous and I gave you two pieces of evidence that they were not. What evidence do you have that ancient people (especially Jews) were more credulous than we are?

  • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

    42Oolon: "I really do not think many atheists deny the person of Jesus."

    Paul Rimmer: "Denial of a historical Jesus is the atheist equivalent of creationism."

    ...and yet, the number of atheists which argue against the historicity of Jesus is overwhelming. Just look at documentaries like Flemming's "The God who wasn't there" and Bill Maher's "Religolous" which was shown in selected theaters all over the US and made about $3.5 mill. I would say that, in my experience, there are more Jesus historicity deniers than Holocaust deniers, and their views are much more main stream that you might think.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
    DHS

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      The numbers are much much smaller than the number of creationists.

      I bet that almost every Jesus denier is an atheist. Maybe 10% of atheists are Jesus deniers (I doubt the figure is that high, but maybe it is). That's 0.2% of the world population (self-identified atheists comprise 2% of the world population, according to Wikipedia).

      28% of people in a global survey identify as creationists. http://ncse.com/news/2011/04/polling-creationism-evolution-around-world-006634

      Creationism is a much more serious problem, and even that problem will take care of itself, I suspect. Ideas that stand in direct contradiction to all the evidence tend eventually to become historical oddities.

      Jesus deniers and creationists will both eventually be curiosities for historians to ponder "why did anyone believe that?".

      Now, the Intelligent Design movement... that sort of subtle anti-science may be pose more long-term problem.

      • ziad

        I hope that it takes care of itself as well. But look at Islam. There are a lot of things in that religion that are contrary to science and reason, and do not share the same views as the western society (such as women are less than men). Yet Islam is still around and its actually blooming in Europe mainly and even US. You would think the contrary since we are very secular society and drive to science and education.

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I may be a hopeless idealist, and I am a big Star Trek fan. But I'm also very optimistic about Muslim nations. They became disconnected from the West and from Greek humanism. They are becoming more closely connected as of late, and I predict for them a renaissance and eventual era of enlightenment. Their culture is simply a few hundred years behind ours, with signs that they are rapidly catching up.

        • Geoffrey Miller

          "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" may apply to sociology just as much as it does to classical mechanics.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I actually have some sympathy for the Intelligent Design (ID).

        > It is not a part of science but a philosophical movement which uses scientific data to support its claims.
        >The general idea that the universe is designed by an intelligent person is much wider than the ID movement and does not depend on that movement.
        >Scientific data will eventually strengthen or weaken the ID movement. For example, the science of probability will eventually shed light on whether there is sufficient time and resources for life to evolve as we know it through random mutation and natural selection.
        > A philosopher of science like Paul Feyerabend would probably defend ID as an alternative and possibly fruitful endeavor because it defies scientific "orthodoxy."

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I think ID is much more sympathetic. It's actually worth arguing about! Most ID is pseudoscience, and some of it is non-science, but may become science (and that stuff is worth working on!).

          If you see it as a philosophical movement, I don't think there's much of an argument from my end. It seems theologically flawed (but that objection is entirely academic for me). One objection can be found here: http://newapologetics.com/the-tractatus

          The place I think theologians should be worried about ID:

          If specified complexity (or whatever else) offers empirical justification for design, then there is good reason to think that cells are designed and that rocks are not. Then there is good reason to reject the Nicene Creed, namely that a divine intelligence made everything seen and unseen.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see the logic of "rocks" disproving the Nicene Creed.

            But there is just as much reason to think "rocks" have been designed as cells, since the simplest element has the potential to be formed into all the elements.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I don't see much reason to think rocks are designed. How can you tell?

            The theological problem isn't so much with the design argument, but with Dembski's and Behe's design arguments, that rely on this specified complexity (they would say that there is evidence for design in cells and not in rocks).

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          > It is not a part of science but a philosophical movement which uses scientific data to support its claims.

          I don't believe, however, that this is how those who believe in Intelligent Design see it. Wikipedia notes, "All the leading proponents of intelligent design are associated with the Discovery Institute and believe the designer to be the Christian deity." ID is still very much a "God of the gaps" enterprise. I really don't think ID is compatible with science, because until everything about life is completely understood, ID can keep saying, "Well, we said you couldn't explain A, B, and C, and you did, but now we are saying you can't explain D, so we're still right. It doesn't prove ID wrong that we said A, B, and C couldn't be explained. It just shows we picked the wrong examples."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right that evangelical Christians are behind ID and it is basically out to disprove Darwinian evolution. I guess it has an inherent "god of the gaps" weakness.

            For example, it uses the interesting concept of "irreducible complexity" to argue that it makes no sense that something with many parts, all of which must work at the onset for the feature to help the organism thrive, could have either gotten them all at once or acquired them one by one. Therefore, an intelligent designer, who could only probably be God, did it.

            However, ID could not survive many explanations of irreducible complexity until it fell.

    • 42Oolon

      Okay, many atheists deny there was a historical Jesus. Of course there is much more evidence for the Holocaust than a historical Jesus, including living eyewitnesses.

      The claim that a man existed and was crucified and that a religion resulted is simply not the theist claim. I am just not interested in the discussion.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        Neither am I, although sadly a vocal minority of atheists have seemed to make it necessary here. I think Brandon is right that we are ready to move on to the real controversial question.

        Did Jesus come back from the dead?

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      . . . . the number of atheists which argue against the historicity of Jesus is overwhelming.

      This is just based on impressions, since I don't think there has ever been a census, but it seems to me that serious "atheist Jesus deniers"are a rather small group of what—if I were being unkind—I would call crackpots. They—or at least some of them—seem to be people who do not want Jesus to have existed, for reasons I can't quite fathom. I think Bart Ehrman is correct when he says there is an overwhelming consensus among historians and other scholarly types whose views would be relevant that Jesus did exist. I think "Jesus deniers" belong in the same category as conspiracy theorists.

  • Randy Gritter

    I think the denial of the deniers is the response to many of the tales told by atheists. The Jesus as an obvious pagan myth story is told and then when it is debunked they say not many atheists really believe that either. This happens every time any atheist view of the origins of Christianity gets specific. It can get scrutinized. It is found to be quite problematic. Then atheists run away from it. Atheism does not depend on that particular theory being true. But it does depend on some theory being true. If it can only sound plausible when presented in a vague way with a lot of hand waving then it makes you wonder. Can any reading of the evidence other than the Christian reading be made remotely plausible? I have not seen one yet that even tries to answer to major questions.

    Who was Jesus? What did He do and teach?

    What about the apostles? Did they even try and accurately represent Jesus or did they change the story? What was their motivation?

    What about the apostolic fathers? Church leaders who lived right after the apostles. Guys like Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, etc. Did they really believe the apostles were eye witnesses to the miracles and to the resurrection? Did many of them hear the stories from the apostles lips as they claimed? Was there a concept of apostolic succession where every generation of leaders was mentored by the previous one to ensure the gospel was passed on accurately?

    It is particularly the 2nd and 3rd centuries where the hand waving takes place. Something happened and we ended up at Nicea with a bunch of delusional bishops who came from all over the world and all believed the same thing for no good reason.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      Now, I'm not an atheist. But I don't see too many problems giving an honest answer to your questions.

      Who was Jesus? What did He do and teach?

      I don't know.

      Did [the apostolic fathers] really believe the apostles were eye witnesses to the miracles and to the resurrection?

      Probably.

      Was there a concept of apostolic succession where every generation of leaders was mentored by the previous one to ensure the gospel was passed on accurately?

      Clement's letter to the Romans suggests that the concept existed pretty early on.

      • Randy Gritter

        So you find Clement and Ignatius and Polycarp to be credible. They along with their contemporary bishops were mentored by the apostles. So you have these guys are becoming church leaders at a time when being a church leader could get you killed. They spend time with the apostles. Clement with Peter. Polycarp and Ignatius with John. These were just 3 of many bishops being formed in the faith. What was said? Did they tell convincing lies? Did they say they saw Jesus risen from the dead when it never happened? Did they give detailed accounts of all the other miracles that were totally horse pucky? Knowing that these men might die for their faith they fed them all these lies? Why?

        I know you actually said, " I don't know." That brings me back to the point about not being specific.

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I'm not sure whether Clement or Ignatius or Polycarp, et al, claim to have seen Jesus after he died, but probably some of them knew the ones who did make this claim.

          Did they say they [see] Jesus risen from the dead when it never happened?

          There are at least four possibilities. (1) The apostles were lying. (2) They were honestly wrong. (3) They were right about what they saw but got the explanation wrong. (4) God raised Jesus from the dead.

          As far as I can tell, there's no good evidence to think any of these four are right. I don't know.

          I don't know is as specific and honest an answer as I can get. Did these guys really believe that Jesus performed miracles? I don't know. It is interesting that they thought the claim was worth their lives.

  • James Patton

    "it does not make sense to reject the movement’s claim about who its founder was."

    Extraordinary claims about said founder will require extraordinary proof. Christianity has always claimed the Jewish tradition as its begging point by the inclusion of the Pentateuch to their bible.

    • Randy Gritter

      Yes, the extraordinary claims about Jesus rising from the dead and doing miracles require more proof than just the existence of Christianity. It requires reflection on the remarkable content of Christianity. The idea that it is not just an incremental development of existing thought. It is a radical new thing that stands up to scrutiny in way that radical new things should not do. Part of the scrutiny would involve miracle claims. Part also would involve the coherence of the philosophy in the New Testament. Does what Jesus brought and St Paul explained make sense as something God Himself might have revealed?

      • James Patton

        Thank you Randy Gritter. My issue with some of the said evidence it by linking the Old Testament's Messiah to that of Jesus and also that evidence that is claimed Christ and not Jesus by name...:)

        St. Paul's evidence would be considered hearsay or other because he was not directly educated by Jesus himself, when Jesus was alive.

        • Randy Gritter

          Not sure what you mean by your first paragraph. Jesus is connected with the messiah prophecies in the Old Testament. Christ is just the Greek word for anointed one. The Hebrew word for it is messiah. Are you saying that some references to Christ are talking about someone other than Jesus?

          St Paul's evidence is parallel. It is not really hearsay. His experience on the road to Damascus was an important miracle in early evangelism. He became a very different eye witness to the resurrection. Did he make it up? Did he imagine it? It is interesting because Paul becomes so important. The teachings of the various apostles are different but the church is able to harmonize them and embrace them all.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Jesus is connected with the messiah prophecies in the Old Testament.

            Can you cite prophecies of Jesus from the Old Testament?

          • Randy Gritter

            This seems like a trick question. Of course Christians see hundreds of prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. The virgin will conceive and bear a sin. You O Bethlehem are by no mean least ... for out of you shall come a great ruler. He was bruised for our iniquities and crushed for our transgressions. See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Off the top of my head there are too many to even type in.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            This seems like a trick question. Of course Christians see hundreds of prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament.

            It shouldn't be a trick question, but apparently it was. You picked two great examples.

            The virgin will conceive and bear a son.

            This is from Isaiah 7. Let's look at it in context:

            Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz:
            11 Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as Sheol, or high as the sky!
            12 But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”*
            13 Then he said: Listen, house of David! Is it not enough that you weary human beings? Must you also weary my God?
            14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.
            15 Curds and honey he will eat so that he may learn to reject evil and choose good;
            16 for before the child learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of those two kings whom you dread shall be deserted.
            17 The LORD shall bring upon you and your people and your father’s house such days as have not come since Ephraim seceded from Judah (the king of Assyria).

            Here is the footnote to 7:14 from the NAB:

            [7:14] Isaiah’s sign seeks to reassure Ahaz that he need not fear the invading armies of Syria and Israel in the light of God’s promise to David (2 Sm 7:12–16). The oracle follows a traditional announcement formula by which the birth and sometimes naming of a child is promised to particular individuals (Gn 16:11; Jgs 13:3). The young woman: Hebrew ‘almah designates a young woman of marriageable age without specific reference to virginity. The Septuagint translated the Hebrew term as parthenos, which normally does mean virgin, and this translation underlies Mt 1:23. Emmanuel: the name means “with us is God.” Since for the Christian the incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s willingness to “be with us,” it is understandable that this text was interpreted to refer to the birth of Christ.

            First, a prophecy (at least in my mind) is not a prophecy unless you know it predicts something. Isaiah is predicting something here, but clearly not the birth of Jesus. He is predicting something for Ahaz. And how do these verses apply to Jesus?

            15 Curds and honey he will eat so that he may learn to reject evil and choose good;
            16 for before the child learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of those two kings whom you dread shall be deserted.

            If this is a prediction of the birth of Jesus, what does it mean that he will eat curds and honey that he may learn to reject evil and choose good? First, is there any mention of Jesus eating curds and honey? And did Jesus—God incarnate—have to learn to reject evil and choose good? And what two kings are being discussed here?

            And of course the original Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 does not say a virgin shall conceive. It says a young woman shall conceive. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) mistranslated the Hebrew. And Matthew used the mistranslation link this passage to the birth of Jesus.

            The Old Testament "prophecies" that are "fulfilled" in the Gospels aren't prophecies about Jesus. No one reading Isaiah prior to the birth of Jesus could conceivably have imagined that 7:14 predicted that a Messiah would be born to a virgin.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Here's the second great example you picked:

            See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

            This is Zechariah 9:9. People can read it in context for themselves. Here is the pertinent passage from Matthew 21:

            1 When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage* on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
            2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her.* Untie them and bring them here to me.
            3 And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.”
            4 This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

            5 “Say to daughter Zion,
            ‘Behold, your king comes to you,
            meek and riding on an ass,
            and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

            6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
            7 They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.
            8 The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.

            The NAB has a footnote that reads rather cryptically

            * [21:2] An ass tethered, and a colt with her: instead of the one animal of Mk 11:2 Matthew has two, as demanded by his understanding of Zec 9:9.

            Matthew has misunderstood Zechariah 9:9, and he has made the details match his misunderstanding of the verse. Hebrew poetry uses repetition as a poetic device, repeating the same concept in different words. Zechariah says:

            Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

            Matthew misunderstands the poetic repetition to mean there were two animals, and ass and a colt, not one, and so we are given the rather odd "fulfillment" of this "prophecy" as Jesus riding both an ass and a colt.

          • James Patton

            Yes, I can...:)

            "Before the time of the mashiach, there shall be war and suffering (Ezekiel 38:16)

            The mashiach will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15)." - Judaism 101

          • Randy Gritter

            and Christians would say Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies but not in the way Judaism expected. The church is the new Jerusalem...

          • James Patton

            Yes, equivocation at its finest. Universe=God=Holy Spirt=Jesus=Christ=Messiah=...etc.

          • Randy Gritter

            Precisely. A new way of reading the scriptures that shows they are really all about Jesus.

          • James Patton

            "Precisely. A new way of reading the scriptures that shows they are really all about Jesus."

            That is certainly one way to look at this...:)

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            How many of these make you think of Jesus? Did Jesus have any part in the return of the Jews to Israel? Has the temple been rebuilt?

          • James Patton

            "How many of these make you think of Jesus? Did Jesus have any part in the return of the Jews to Israel? Has the temple been rebuilt?"

            None of them. That is why Judaism is still a vibrant religion today.

          • James Patton

            "It is interesting because Paul becomes so important. "

            If you remove the "works" of St. Paul from the Christian Bible, you remove about 90% of the controversy. That is how "interesting" St. Paul is to me.

  • stanz2reason

    While I can't speak for all skeptics, that a person or persons lived around the time of Christ and did some if not most of the natural deeds (and perhaps even said things) typically attributed to Christ seems a fair claim to make considering the reasonable amount of evidence, even if some of said evidence is from decades or even over 100 years after he lived. In this historical sense, Christ's existence seems more likely than not, and while there will always be people who doubt even that, I'd be surprised if that was the sentiment of the majority of skeptics. If those few who continue to doubt a general historical existence (unreasonably in my opinion) is who this article is aimed at, then *shrug* OK. Still, it was a clear concise argument for such a point.

  • Jim J. McCrea

    No one piece of historical information may be able to prove Jesus, but there is an absolutely vast amount of converging evidence.

  • Loreen Lee

    Did Jesus Exist? I have to ask to what is this question directed to. Christ is both human and divine. If the historicity of Jesus was directly only to the humanity of His existence would there really be such a controversy? Would the question be really that important? No one questions the existence of Mohammed, or the Buddha, (although there are some definitions of a 'kind of divinity' within the latter), but the 'existence' of Jesus, I suggest, is questioned because there is. At least implicitly, I interpret the doubt within this question as implying: Did/does God Exist? Or more accurately - Did/does God Exist as man?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "No one questions the existence of Mohammed"

      See: Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins.

      • Loreen Lee

        I have given you a thumbs up. However I also think you have taught me the following:
        A straw man or straw person, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally,[1][2] is a type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[3]
        To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a
        proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet
        unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and to refute it, without
        ever having actually refuted the original position.[3][4] This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged, emotional issues.

        Ironically, as Islam is said to possibly be the fastest growing religion, the 'straw man' could have as many followers in the future as the God/man.

  • Gonzalo Palacios

    I confess: I have not yet read "Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach." The title itself and the fact it is filed as "history" disturb me. His "kingdom" is not of this Earth, consequently not subject to time and space (i.e., history). The title implies Jesus EXISTED, a heretical affirmation since He EXISTS. Forever, "I AM," not "I was."
    "Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,9and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”*10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”Matthew 4, 9-10. If we, His Mystical Body, fail to manifest the LIVING Jesus, then we must choose an alternate approach

    • Dave H

      Jesus, fully God and fully human, existed as a man, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Historically that man existed 2k years ago. Nothing to be disturbed out. I think we're good here.

  • Jonathan Gibson

    Jimmy, thank you for this coherent and articulate presentation. I have been considering as well the evidence for the veracity of Christianity grounded in the Resurrection. We know from both biblical and non-biblical sources crucifixion was a means of execution used commonly by the Romans. In Acts 5 St. Luke tells us of two messianic type figures named Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Both of them attracted followers, more in number from the followers Jesus had at the time of his crucifixion. These men attempted to organize their followers into a poliitcal-religious movements that ultimately failed. Why? Because they were killed by the Romans for their efforts and their followers dispersed,

    Up to this point, the Jesus movement seems to be quite similar. Yet the difference is, rather than dispersing to be heard of no more, Jesus' followers reconvened. What would motivate them to do so. The most logical and clearest answer is the event of the Resurrection. It is only the Resurrection of Christ that could motivate his followers to move forward with the spread of the Christian Gospel. Without this, there was no reason for them to evangelize anyone because movements like the one Jesus had coordinated had been tried before and would be again after him and they all failed. This is because once their leader was dead and there was nothing left to galvanize the dead leader's followers. The examples I have cited above come from the period contemporaneous with Jesus. We can look to the 2nd century and the year 132 AD to a Jew named Bar Kochba. He led a revolution against the Romans. Many of his followers proclaimed him the Messiah. They even minted coins stamped with the motto Year One of Bar Kochba.His rebellion was put down, he was executed by the Romans , and precisely no one entertained the thought that he was the Messiah. Yet the first Christians were insistent on proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah.

  • Jonathan Gibson

    One of the points I have not seen posted is the documentary evidence for the New Testament. Why is it that in comparison to the New Testament there is no other ancient document that has such reliable primary sources, both in terms of the agreement between texts and their numbers? There are in existence over 5000 New Testament sources, which are either partial or whole New Testament Books in the Greek Language. The earliest of these dates from the period within a couple of hundred years of the original sources. There is no other ancient document that has anything like this kind of support both in therms of numbers and proximity to the originals. Many of these documents have been discovered in the past 150 years. When we add to this quotes from the early Church Fathers and the other translations of the New Testament in other languages the early sources grow to some 24,000.

    If Jesus was only a first century itinerant preacher who gathered a small group of followers and was then killed there would have been no motivation to begin a movement that with time would produce the kind of documentary evidenced that is unparalleled.