I did think my blogging days were well & truly over. I’d said all I wanted to say about Christianity and its dubious origins, and I’d relegated myself to a casual blog reader who left occasional comments. However, recent unprovoked abusive comments from a certain blogger [see here and here] have caused me to saddle up and respond to this unwarranted & totally unprovoked abuse [see below for a flavour of these comments]
“if you and s****** want my vote for most profoundly ignorant bloggers on WordPress”
“don’t have time to endlessly entertain your silliness”
“reduces your credibility to less than worthless”
“you seem more like an angry lunatic”
“Sorry, Ken but you are a dime a dozen internet atheist and not worth the time”
I’ll start this blog by clarifying the central issue causing all this animosity. Christians claim Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem 2000 years ago & then resurrected from the dead. I’m happy to accept Jesus was crucified as claimed, but I do not accept he was then resurrected. I reject the Christian resurrection claims for the following six reasons.
- The resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Anyone who actually looks closely at Christianity soon realises that the only evidence for the resurrection claims is the evidence found in the New Testament Gospels. There is no other credible evidence available. This does not bothered Christians. They claim the very existence of these Gospels proves Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem, because their existence cannot be explained any other way. This simple argument has held true for centuries, despite numerous efforts to discredit it. However, as I’ve already demonstrated in an earlier blog, the existence of these Gospels does not prove conclusively that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem.
- Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
The New Testament portrays this conversion as a divine encounter with “a resurrected Jesus” and Christians reject totally all suggestions that this was just a sensory hallucinatory experience triggered by TLE. We can’t blame Paul for thinking it was a divine encounter, because back then they knew nothing about TLE, but today there is a growing mountain of medical evidence that enables us to explain Paul’s so called divine experience in a simple & rational manner. Christians, however, still prefer to stick to their 2000 year old supernatural interpretation, of what we now know is a fairly common occurrence. See “Resurrection! What Resurrection?” in The Christianity Myth for more details on this topic.
- Claims made by Peter & by Paul.
Christians accept that Paul never met Jesus whilst he was alive. They also accept Paul’s knowledge of events in Jerusalem came directly from Peter when they first met, some three years after Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Paul summarised what he learned from Peter in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9. He later relays this second-hand hearsay information to his early Christian communities. Established Christian apologists like Habermas do not dispute this chain of events. On the contrary, many of today’s Christian scholars believe it strengthens their resurrection argument, because it links the resurrection claims found in the Gospels directly to a reliable & reputable eye witness, namely Peter. I address the veracity of Peter’s claims in section 5.
- New Testament Chronology.
Professor Taboo’s excellent table in the section called “The Gospel Jesus v The Jewish Jesus” provides us with an excellent up to date summary of the relevant chronology. The dating of the Gospels indicates that all resurrection accounts found in these Gospel must be second hand hearsay accounts based on Paul’s earlier claims in 1-Corithians 15: 3-9. This assertion explains why all four Gospels portray the resurrection as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews, despite the fact it allegedly happened in a city teeming with Jews. Most Christians seem oblivious of this point.
- Veracity of Gospel resurrection claims.
Given the chronology involved [see point 4], I think we can safely assume that all four resurrection accounts found in the New Testament Gospels are based entirely on Peter’s original claims, which Paul later passed on to his early Christian communities. This simple chain of events highlights Christianity’s Achilles heel [see my earlier blog for more details]. Because Christians automatically assume the alleged resurrection actually happened, they never stop to question the veracity of Peter’s original claims. They just tacitly assume he told the truth, & then hope nobody notices. Who knows, maybe they just do it unconsciously. However, Peter’s claims are in fact, just uncorroborated & unsubstantiated claims. Therefore, I think we can say with some certainty, that all four Gospel resurrection claims are based entirely on unsubstantiated & uncorroborated claims made 2000 years ago by a peasant fisherman from Galilee. Christians have no choice but to just ignore this awkward fact and again hope no one notices [again I’ve dealt with this issue in more detail in an earlier blog ].
- The Gospel gap.
There is a 40-60 year gap between the alleged resurrection of Jesus c 30 AD and the appearance of the four canonical gospels c 70-90 AD. Explaining this gap has always been a thorny issue for Christians, because their starting point must be “the resurrection actually happened”. Therefore, logic dictates that someone somewhere should have recorded the alleged event whilst eye witnesses were still around. But they didn’t, and Christian scholars still struggle to explain why several adult generations passed by before the Gospels finally appeared.
But if you change the starting-point to “the resurrection never happened” and then divide this awkward gap into two separate periods, a pre gospel period [c 30-70 AD] and a gospel period [c 70-90 AD], there is no problem explaining the dating of the gospels. No gospels were written in the Pre-Gospel Period [c 30-70 AD] because there was no resurrection to write about. There was just Paul going round the pagan world establishing his early Christian communities. He established these nascent Christian communities because he genuinely believed Peter’s claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. Paul tells these communities about the death & resurrection of Jesus, but he tells them absolutely nothing about Jesus’ life prior to his crucifixion in Jerusalem. Later, after the death of all concerned, it was inevitable that Paul’s newly converted pagans would eventually want to know more about Jesus’ life prior to his death. Cue the Gospel Period [c 70-90 AD] and the appearance of the gospels, all of which appeared when they did in response to growing demands to know more about Jesus. This simple rational explanation yet again challenges Christian assertions that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem [see Pre-Gospel Period & Gospel-Period in The Christianity Myth for more details].
All six points listed above are totally compatible with the evidence as I understand it. The various weaknesses I’ve identified in the orthodox version of events are only weaknesses for those insisting that Jesus was resurrected. If you assume Jesus wasn’t resurrected, as I do, then all these weaknesses just disappear, and you end up with a simpler and more pragmatic explanation of all the know facts and, as a bonus, no divine interventions are needed to make this simpler explanation work.
Thus there are now two alternatives to chose from.
The orthodox Christian version requires acceptance of two divine interventions, one in Jerusalem and one on the road to Damascus. It also requires acceptance of the fact that all resurrection claims found in the Gospels are based entirely on Peter’s original uncorroborated and unsubstantiated claims.
My simpler alternative version requires acceptance that Paul’s conversion experience was a simple hallucinatory experience triggered by a common medical condition call temporal lobe epilepsy, and acceptance that Peter just lied to Paul about this Jerusalem resurrection. [I’ve already dealt with all this stuff in much greater detail in my book The Christianity Myth which can be read here free of charge]
So in effect I’m challenging the credibility of the orthodox version of events & offering instead an alternative explanation which I personally think better explains the known facts. Christians of course can choose to reject any or all of the above six points and continue to stick to their current position. That’s not a problem. What is a problem is the unwarranted abuse from certain Christian bloggers. If you insist on claiming I’m just some idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then I’m going to insist you put your money where your mouth is. I’ve now made it as easy as I can for you to respond. I’ve set out my store, and I’ve lined up all my ducks in a row. Feel free to drop by anytime and point out where you think I’m going wrong. My comment section is there, ready, willing & waiting. Feel free to refute any or all of the weaknesses I’ve highlighted. Prove me wrong & you’ll have my eternal gratitude. Those who feel their necessary response is too substantial for my comment section, can leave a heads up in the comments section, together with a relevant link.
Ignoring this challenge will be taken both as an apology, and as an admission that there are no absolutes where religion is concerned. All world views are just personal choices. We all chose to believe what we want/need to believe, based on the evidence we chose to accept/reject. These personal choices are invariably conditioned/influenced by prevailing cultural values, as this video on Professor Taboo ‘s blog demonstrates so succinctly. Some of us may not like to admit this awkward truth, but both the questions posed in this video and the claims made in this video are abundantly self evident. The time has come to stop hurling childish abuse, to stop making facetious claims & spouting empty rhetoric and to start behaving like adults. If the relevant Christians want to draw a line under their unwarranted animosity, then fine, all you have to do is admit none of us possess knowledge of the absolute truth & accept that some of us prefer to let the evidence dictate our world view, whilst others prefer to let their world view dictate the evidence.
Hope Professor Taboo doesn’t mind my plagiarizing some of his material. I discovered his blog a few days ago, after he dropped by and left some favourable comments. Having read his material I think we complement each other quite well. He seems to relish details. I on the other hand prefer to stand back and look at the bigger picture.
The Isaiah 53:5 Project recently posted a very good blog pointing out the dangers of confirmational bias. I even commented positively, saying I wished I’d written it. In this blog, he rightly says
// Despite our best intentions, it’s easy to unconsciously buy into beliefs that feel right in our hearts, even though they are objectively false. But it’s precisely when we’re sure that we’ve cornered the truth that we should take a step back, breathe deeply, and open our minds as far as we can//
Given these words of wisdom, I find it difficult to understand his abject hostility, both to me personally & to my blog. He seems to simply characterise evidence in one of two ways. If it affirms his world view he calls it evidence. If it conflicts with his world view he calls it rubbish. It’s ironic but he appears to be doing the very thing he so rightly warns us about.