Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Evaluating the Jesus the Messiah story

Copied from:  Richard Carrier

Hero Savior of Vietnam

 
Suppose I told you there was a soldier in the Vietnam War named "Hero Savior" who miraculously calmed storms, healed wounds, conjured food and water out of thin air, and then was blown up by artillery, but appeared again whole and alive three days later, giving instructions to his buddies before flying up into outer space right before their very eyes. Would you believe me? Certainly not. You would ask me to prove it.

The National Archives


So I would give you all the evidence I have. But all I have are some vague war letters by a guy who never really met Hero Savior in person, and a handful of stories written over thirty years later by some guys named Bill, Bob, Carl, and Joe. I don't know for sure who these guys are. I don't even know their last names. There are only unconfirmed rumors that they were or knew some of the war buddies of Hero Savior.

They might have written earlier than we think, or later, but no one really knows. No one can find any earlier documentation to confirm their stories, either, or their service during the war, or even find these guys to interview them. So we don't know if they really are who others claim, and we're not even sure these are the guys who actually wrote the stories. You see, the undated pamphlets circulating under their names don't say "by Bill" or "by Bob," but "as told by Bill" and "as told by Bob." Besides all that, we also can't find any record of a Hero Savior serving in the war. He might have been a native guide whose name never made it into official records, but still, none of the historians of the war ever mention him, or his amazing deeds, or even the reports of them that surely would have spread far and wide.

Besides the dubious evidence of these late, uncorroborated, unsourced, and suspicious stories, the best thing I can give you is that war correspondence I mentioned, some letters by an army sergeant actually from the war, who claims he was a skeptic who changed his mind. But he never met or saw Hero in life, and never mentions any of the miracles that Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe talk about. In fact, the only thing this sergeant ever mentions is "seeing" Hero after his death, though not "in flesh and blood," but in a "revelation." That's it.

This sergeant also claims the spirit of Hero Savior now enables him and some others to "speak in tongues" and "prophecy" and heal some illnesses, but none of this has been confirmed or observed by anyone else on record, and none of it sounds any different than what thousands of other cults and gurus have claimed. So, too, for some unconfirmed reports that some of these believers, even this army sergeant, endured persecution or even died for believing they "saw Hero in a revelation"--a fact no more incredible than the Buddhists who set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War, certain they would be reincarnated, or the hundreds of people who voluntarily killed themselves at Jonestown, certain their leader was sent by God.



Okay. I've given you all that evidence. Would you believe me then? Certainly not. No one trusts documents that come decades after the fact by unknown authors, and hardly anyone believes the hundreds of gurus today who claim to see and speak to the spirits of the dead, heal, and predict the future. Every reasonable person expects and requires extensive corroboration by contemporary documents and confirmed eyewitness accounts. Everyone would expect here at least as much evidence as I'd need to prove I owned a nuclear missile, yet the standard required is actually that of proving I own an interstellar spacecraft--for these are clearly very extraordinary claims, and as we saw above, such claims require extraordinary evidence, as much as would be needed, for example, to convince the United Nations that I had an interstellar spacecraft on my lawn. Yet what we have for this Hero Savior doesn't even count as ordinary evidence, much less the extraordinary evidence we really need.

To complete the analogy, many other things would rightly bother us. Little is remarkable about the stories told of Hero Savior, for similar stories apparently have been told of numerous Vietnamese sorcerers and heroes throughout history--and no one believes them, so why should we make an exception for Hero? The documents we have from Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe have also been tampered with--we've found some cases of forgery and editing in each of their stories by parties unknown, and we aren't sure we've caught it all. Apparently, their stories were used by several different cults to support their causes, and these cults all squabble over the exact details of the right cause, and so tell different stories or interpret the stories differently to serve their own particular agenda. And the earliest version, the one told by Bob, which both Bill and Joe clearly copied, added to, and edited (which Carl might have done, too, perhaps by borrowing loosely from Joe), appears to have been almost entirely constructed out of passages from an ancient Vietnamese poem, arranged and altered to tell a story full of symbolic and moral meaning. These and many other problems plague the evidence, leaving it even more suspect than normal.

This Hero Savior analogy entirely parallels the situation for Jesus.[7] Every reason we would have not to believe these Hero Savior stories applies to the stories of Jesus with all the same force. So if you agree there would be no good reason to believe these Hero Savior stories, you must also agree there is insufficient reason to believe the Jesus Christ stories. Hence I am not a Christian because the evidence is not good enough. For it is no better than the evidence proposed for Hero Savior, and that falls far short of the burden that would have to be met to confirm the very extraordinary claims surrounding him.
 
Jesus Walking On Water Paintings - Christ walking on the sea of Galilee by Henry Coller


Why Abby's Faith needs no Evidence

Primitive Craft Sayings | Signs, Sayings & Quotes - Gold Primitive Style Signs & Sayings - Faith ...


If you have followed this blog for the last several months you have seen "Abby", an orthodox Lutheran Christian, do her darnedest to bring me back to Christianity.  She has failed because she is unwilling, and I believe, unable, to give me good reasons why I should believe.  Instead of giving the evidence that I request, she appeals to "faith" as the reason to believe. 

Orthodox Lutherans, my former denomination, believe that salvation is not a choice. It is not a decision, as some evangelical Christians believe it to be. Salvation is a gift from God.  He offers it to all, but only gives it through his preached or read Word, to the Elect.  So, if you have been chosen to believe, you will.  If, however, you have been exposed to the Word (the Gospel) but do not believe, it is not because God does not will you to be saved, it is because you have sinfully resisted God.  Make sense?  No, of course not, but Lutherans believe that it is irrelevant whether it makes sense or not. God said it so it is true.  It is a "paradox".  Therefore, in Lutheran theology, no amount of evidence will convince someone to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior unless God has gifted him faith and belief.  Sinners are spiritually dead, and dead men do not decide to be saved.

In my opinion, this is the most clever defense against rational examination of Christianity in all of Christendom:  If you believe, it is because God wants you to believe.  If you don't, it is due to your own sinfulness that you don't.  It's not God's fault.  It's yours.  So the Lutheran God is always the good guy, unlike the Calvinist's God.

When confronted by a skeptic, initially orthodox Lutherans will point to their Baptism as proof that they are saved.  However, when asked why this religious act of getting one's head wet saves them from eternal damnation, the orthodox Lutheran will point to the Word of God.  When it is pointed out to them that there is no evidence to support the supernatural claims of the Bible, the orthodox Lutheran will resort to the last line of defense:  His perception of the presence of faith, "Yep, I believe.  That proves that God gifted me faith and salvation in my Baptism."  So the circular argument of why their belief system is true comes back full circle. 

Baptism--->Risen Jesus--->Inerrant Bible---->Faith

I don't see this really as any different from the evangelical Christian's claim of knowing he is saved because he "feels" or "perceives" the presence of God in his heart.  "Salvation" is completely subjective for both types of Christians!

Sincerity of belief cannot be proof that you are a member of the correct religion, because many, many people, of many other religions, have very deeply held sincere beliefs.  Depending on your perception of the presence of faith within you is NOT evidence that your god and your belief system are true.  You have deluded yourself into thinking it is, but you really have zero proof of this.  In actuality, you are just rolling the dice and hoping that you are right.

What if your wrong?  What if Allah is the true God?  What if Krishna is the true God?  Or Zeus?  Or Ra?

Below is an excerpt from a fascinating article by Richard Carrier which speaks to Abby and all other Christians like her who believe that they do not need "evidence" for proof that Christianity is true, they only need the perception of faith:

Copied fromRichard Carrier

A fellow freethinker by the name of John Ransom engaged me to compose a statement of why I am not a Christian. I should summarize my case, he said, simply and clearly so everyone can understand where I'm coming from. John was especially frustrated by Christians who routinely come up with implausible excuses to defend their faith, which they don't really examine--as if defending the faith with any excuse mattered more than having a genuinely good reason to believe in the first place. Discussing our experiences, we realized we'd both encountered many Christians like this, who color their entire perception of reality with the assumption that they have to be right, and therefore the evidence must somehow fit. So they think they can make anything up on the spur of the moment and be "sure" it's true. This is the exact opposite of what we do. We start with the evidence and then figure out what the best explanation of it all really is, regardless of where this quest for truth takes us.

John and I also shared the same experiences in another respect: when their dogmatism meets our empiricism, slander is not far behind. I have increasingly encountered Christians who accuse me to my face of being a liar, of being wicked, of not wanting to talk to God, of willfully ignoring evidence--because that is the only way they can explain my existence. I cannot be an honest, well-informed pursuer of the truth who came to a fair and reasonable decision after a thorough examination of the evidence, because no such person can exist in the Christian worldview, who does not come to Christ. Therefore, I must be a wicked liar, I must be so deluded by sin that I am all but clinically insane, an irrational madman suffering some evil psychosis.

There is nothing I can do for such people. Nothing I ever show or say to them will ever convince them otherwise--it can't, because they start with the assumption that their belief in Christ has to be true, therefore right from the start everything I say or do is always going to be a lie or the product of some delusion. They don't need any evidence of this, because to their thinking it must be true. Such people are trapped in their own hall of mirrors, and for them there is no escape. They will never know they are wrong even if they are. No evidence, no logic, no reason will ever get through to them. When we combine this troubling fact with the observation that their religion, like every other, appears tailor-made to justify their own culture-bound desires and personal vanities--as if every God is made in man's image, not the other way around--then we already have grounds for suspicion. The fact that even the Christian idea of God has constantly changed to suit our cultural and historical circumstances, and is often constructed to be impervious to logic or doubt, is reason enough to step back and ask ourselves whether we're on the wrong track with the Christian worldview.

This essay will never convince Christians who have locked themselves inside a box of blind faith like this. But for other Christians out there who actually have an open mind, a good summary of my reasons for rejecting Christianity will help show why I am not a deluded liar, but an honest and reasonable man coming to an honest and reasonable decision. What follows is not meant to be a thorough exploration of every nuance and problem, nor an exhaustive account of all the arguments and evidence. Rather, it's a mere summary of the four most important reasons I am not a Christian. This is only the beginning of the story, not the whole of it.[1] That's what John asked for: a simple but well-written explanation of why I am not a Christian.

I shall assume here that C.S. Lewis was correct when he said "mere Christianity" consisted in the belief that "there is one God" who "is quite definitely good or righteous," "who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another," and who "invented and made the universe." But this God also "thinks that a great many things have gone wrong" with the world and thus "insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again," and to this end arranged the death and resurrection of "His only Son," Jesus Christ, who is or embodies or represents the Creator, and can alone "save" us from "eternal death" if we now ask this Jesus to forgive our sins. That's as quoted and paraphrased from his aptly titled Mere Christianity.

If this is what Christianity is (and most Christians appear to believe so), there are four major reasons why I do not believe a word of it. And all four would have to be answered with a clear preponderance of evidence and reason before I would ever change my mind. I'm serious about this, too. If all four points are ever refuted with solid, objective evidence, then any other quibbles I have beyond these four would not stop me from declaring faith in Christ. For surely any other problem I or anyone might find with the Christian worldview could easily be solved from within the faith itself--if it weren't for the following four facts.  (Click here to continue reading Carrier's article.)

Why do we thank God for one survivor of a plane crash, but not blame him for the other 279 victims?


The Naked Truth about God's Forgiveness


Are Jehovah's Witnesses aliens from Outer Space?

 

For fifty-three years I have lived on this earth believing that Jehovah's Witnesses are as strange and bizarre as aliens from outer space.  I was taught that their beliefs are extremely weird and due to their desire to proselytize me I should avoid them like the Plague.

Since my deconversion from Christianity, I now see how silly and hypocritical this thinking is.

Why are JW's "weird" for their religious beliefs but orthodox Christians are not?  So JW's are "weird" for refusing blood transfusions, but orthodox Christians will drink the "blood" of a 2,000 year old dead man.  JW's are "weird" for not celebrating birthdays and Christmas, but orthodox Christians celebrate the birthday of a 2,000 year old Palestinian demi-god, who is allegedly the offspring of a Divine Ghost and a Jewish virgin!

Jehovah's Witnesses are not any more weird than any other religion that believes in invisible, supernatural Beings.  They are simply misguided people trying to find truth and security in a confusing, dangerous world.  I now feel sorry for Jehovah's Witnesses, just as I feel sorry for Christians.  Both groups of people have been sold a false superstitious tall tale.

Do you really want to spend eternity with the vindicative Christian God?


Worship Jesus...or he will BURN you alive!


How many demon-possessed people have you met?

 

It seems that demon possession was a very common condition in the time of Jesus.  Everywhere he went, demon possessed people were coming out of the woodwork.  And it wasn't as if these demons only became "active" in the presence of Jesus.  Everyone seemed to be very aware of their existence.  Jesus performed exorcisms.  Jesus' disciples performed exorcisms.  The Bible says that even non-believers were performing exorcisms. 

Demons were everywhere!

So why don't we hear much about demons today?  Have you ever seen a demon-possessed person?  I doubt it.  When was the last time you heard of demons possessing a herd of 2,000 pigs, causing them to stampede into the sea to drown?

So what happened?  Why is the Bible full of demon possessed people but our modern, "evil" world has rare "demon sightings", and when they do occur, it is usually in poor, uneducated countries?

Christians scoff at the silliness of the Harry Potter movies, full of witches, warlocks, and demons...but believe, without blinking an eye, that the world of Jesus was infested with demons...witches, and warlocks.

Something to think about, friend.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Confessions of a Former Christian


 


How do you know that YOUR faith is from God, and not just a false assurance?

 
Over that last couple of weeks I have been involved in a discussion with several of my readers over this question:

"Why should I believe in the Christian belief system if there is no hard evidence to support its claims, only feelings, experiences, and intuition?"

Some of my readers have responded:  "It can only be received, experienced, and known by faith."

So my next question is, "How do you know that your faith is true?  Mormons, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus have faith, often very deep, devout faith in their Gods.  And many of these world religions (at least the conservative/fundamentalist branches of them) believe that they and they alone possess the truth.  So, how do you know that they are wrong and you are right?  How can a Christian know for sure that his faith is an invisible gift from the one true God, and not just a false sense of security based on feelings and intuition?