On discussing Christianity with Christians & Non Christians

is-15Or why believing in fairies is a safer bet than believing in Jesus……….

First the fairy issue. There’s no evidence to prove fairies exist and there’s no evidence to prove fairies do not exist. Furthermore, the absence of proof is not proof of absence. Therefore I could claim fairies do exist knowing I can never be proved wrong or I could claim fairies do not exist also knowing I can never be proved wrong. Either way, I could successfully defend my chosen position until hell freezes over, knowing nobody could ever prove me wrong. So believing in fairies, is in fact, a safer bet than believing in Jesus.

Christians claim Jesus is the son of God, but what they really mean is they’re personally convinced Jesus is the son of god. Given the available evidence, it’s impossible to actually prove he’s the son of god. However, the available evidence can be used to demonstrate why he’s not the son of god. What’s more, this can be done, simply by challenging the veracity of their “evidence”. In effect, I can demonstrate why Christians are wrong about Jesus, and help them understand why they’re wrong about Jesus.

Obviously I need to justify these contentious claims, so let’s start by taking a close look at the Orthodox model of Christianity. This 2000 year old Orthodox model was developed in a pagan world that willingly embraced the supernatural to explain what they couldn’t otherwise explain, and it can be defined by the following seven orthodox claims:

  • 1. Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. [supernatural assertion]
  • 2. Paul interpreted his conversion experience correctly. [supernatural assertion]
  • 3. Galatians 1:19 proves Paul’s first meeting with Peter was witnessed by James, the Lord’s brother.
  • 4. Peter & James told Paul the truth about the resurrection in Jerusalem.
  • 5. Paul & the other Apostles were all preaching the same gospel message.
  • 6. The gospel resurrection accounts are all based on Peter & James’ eye witness evidence.
  • 7. The Gospel evidence can be trusted because it’s based on reliable eye witness evidence.

Two things should be noted about this orthodox model. First, it requires acceptance of two supernatural assertions. Second, all seven orthodox claims used to define it, are really just unacknowledged suppositions masquerading as the truth. This outrageous claim is justified as follows::

  • 1. The assertion that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem is based entirely on Peter & James’ unverified claims. Don’t take my word for it. Watch Habermas himself argue this, but please note, at no stage in his presentation does Habermas actually question the veracity of the resurrection claims. His starting premise is the resurrection happened. He then links the gospel evidence back to Peter & James’ original claims, citing Paul as the reliable intermediary.
  • 2. We can safely assume Paul was fully aware of the sacred disease, a temporary, physical affliction that triggered religious revelations. The true nature of this affliction is now better understood, and now called temporal lobe epilepsy [TLE]. Paul’s awareness of the sacred disease, explains why he simply rationalized his experience as a divine intervention. It was the only way he could make sense of his experience on the road to Damascus. We now better understand the true causes of such religious experiences
  • 3. Christianity never questions the presence of James at this crucial first meeting in Jerusalem c 36 CE, His presence is essential to circumvent any suggestion that Paul’s first meeting with Peter was an unwitnessed meeting. However, there is ample reason to challenge Christianity’s assertion that James was party to the exchanges between Paul & Peter. [see Re-appraisal of Galatians 1:19].
  • 4. Paul simply accepted Peter’s resurrection claims at face value, and then relayed them to his early Christian communities. His own earlier experience on the road to Damascus made Paul very sympathetic to, & very accepting of, Peter’s hearsay claims. Unknown gospel authors then immortalized Peter’s unverified claims in their gospels [see Habermas argument].
  • 5. Paul’s own epistles confirm Paul and the other Apostles were definitely not on the same page. Any apologist claiming they were is either poorly informed, or deliberately being very economical with the truth. .[see my critique of Habermas argument]
  • 6. These resurrection accounts are actually based on Peter’s unverified hearsay claims, which Paul then propagated in 1-Corinthians 15:3-9, .[see Habermas argument]
  • 7. Christians have no other evidence to offer, and thus have to trust their gospel evidence. Linking the gospel claims to Peter’s uncorroborated hearsay claims is Christianity’s flimsy attempt to authenticate the resurrection claims found in the gospels.

So, this 2000 year old orthodox model may have been perfectly acceptable 2000 years ago, in a pagan world that lacked our modern understanding of temporal lobe epilepsy, and in a world that willingly embraced the supernatural to explain everything they couldn’t otherwise explain, but its relevance today is questionable. However it still holds sway over more than 2 billion Christians, even though this outdated model of Christianity still can’t adequately explain the following thorny issues:

Why the world barely notice the alleged resurrection of Jesus. This momentous event should have made local headlines at the very least. However, in all four Gospels, the resurrection is portrayed as a near invisible event, noticed only by a handful of Jews, even though it allegedly occurred in a city teeming with Jews. This is because Christianity had to weave its web using the material available, and the only material available, was that supplied by Paul in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9, all of which was based on Peter’s earlier lies.

Why there’s no reliable independent evidence to support Christianity’s resurrection claims. The short answer is there was no resurrection. Absence of independent evidence is exactly what one would expect if the resurrection never happened. This absence is only a problem for those claiming the resurrection did happen. There is just about enough reliable independent evidence to support the crucifixion claims, but there’s no reliable independent evidence whatsoever to support the resurrection claims. Both Josephus and Tacitus make brief mention of the crucifixion, but only because Jesus [the historical-Jesus] had a large Jewish following. In reality, this event was just another crucifixion, of just another Jewish radical threatening the Jewish establishment. Had Jesus risen from the dead as claimed, he would certainly have grabbed the attention of both the Jewish authorities and the Roman authorities, and we can take it for granted, that the early church fathers would have zealously preserved any relevant independent documentation, just as they preserved the Epistles and the early gospels. However, as every Christians should know but never does, the only records of the resurrection of Jesus are those found in the New Testament itself.

Why the Gospel Gap exists. Claiming Peter is a reliable eye witness still doesn’t explain the awkward gospel-gap. This is the 40-60 year gap between the alleged resurrection c 30 CE and the appearance of the four canonical gospels c 70-90 CE. 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.

Why the gospel accounts differ. Numerous gospels appeared during the gospel-period. They were produced by various early Christian communities, each seeking to offer a customized solution to the same problem, namely the complete lack of any biographical details about Jesus’ life. The two conflicting accounts of Jesus’ birth, which we find in Matthew and in Luke, were both early attempts to establish Jesus’ true credentials. To do this it was necessary to satisfy three basic criteria. Jesus had to be born of a virgin to establish his divinity, he had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfil Jewish scripture, and he had to grow up in Nazareth because people knew that was where Jesus came from. Both accounts of Jesus’ birth satisfy these three criteria, but unfortunately, at the time of writing, neither author knew their conflicting accounts would eventually form part of what we now call the New Testament. The early Christian church reduced the potential embarrassment of having two conflicting versions of Jesus’ birth by inserting Mark between Matthew and Luke. These days, the two conflicting accounts are homogenized by the church into a single nativity story, a sort of evangelical smoothie, and every Christmas without fail, children of Christian parents are conditioned to accept this composite nativity story without question.

Why Peter and Paul were at odds with one another. The Orthodox model always tries to infer Paul and the other Apostles were all preaching the same message about Jesus. In actual fact Paul’s own epistles indicate the other apostles were preaching a totally different theological message. The other Apostles preached Jesus was the long awaited Messiah sent by a Jewish god to save the Jewish people. After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul concluded that he had been specially chosen by God, to propagate a different more universal message to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul’s radically different message claimed Jesus was the son of God. Whereas the other Apostles stressed that only circumcised Jews who adhered to Jewish Law could be saved, Paul stressed that circumcision and adherence to Judaic law were both irrelevant. Paul’s message was therefore completely at odds with the message being preached by Peter and his followers. The Council of Jerusalem c 50 CE addressed the issue of circumcision and its relevance to fledgling Christianity, but the opposing sides failed to agree, and both went their own ways.

Why the Jews rejected Jesus. Following the crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem c 30 CE, Jews who believed Jesus was their long awaited Messiah gathered together in Jerusalem to form the early “Jerusalem Church”. Over the next few decades, it became increasingly obvious to these Jerusalem Jews that Jesus was not their long awaited Jewish Messiah. He was crucified as a common criminal and he fulfilled none of the scriptural prophecies. By the time the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 CE, Jews everywhere had more or less abandoned all belief that Jesus was their Messiah, and eventually they came to regard Jesus as just another Jewish troublemaker from Galilee.

Why Paul succeeded and the other Apostles failed. Paul managed to sell his version of Jesus to the pagan world, because the pagan world was familiar with the resurrection concept, and because nobody in this pagan world had any first-hand knowledge of events in far off Jerusalem. Peter and the other apostles had a far more difficult time selling their Messianic version of Jesus to their fellow Jews, because too many of these Jews believed Jesus was just another Galilean fundamentalist, and they refused to accept him as their long-awaited Messiah.

Why The Acts of the Apostles was written. Christianity portrays Acts as a simple historical record of Paul’s numerous missionary journeys. It also infers Paul & the other apostles were on the same page. However, by the time Acts was actually written, the Twelve Apostles were dead, the Jews had rejected Jesus, and apart from Paul, these Apostles had all turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Unfortunately, earlier gospel stories had already tied Jesus to these failed Apostles. So, Acts, simply re-brands these Apostles as the dynamic evangelical force that launched Christianity onto the unsuspecting world—with just a little help from Paul of course. Acts also papers over the obvious tensions between these other failed Apostles and the more successful Paul.

Why the Council of Nicaea was necessary. Not everybody was on the same page in the early stages of Christianity’s development, and views about the true nature Jesus differed. The first council, convened by Constantine-1 in 325 CE, attempted to address these differences. Eventually it formulated the standardized Nicene version of Christianity, the version we now simply call Christianity.

I hope I’ve now demonstrated, even to Christians reaching this far, that the orthodox model of Christianity does not withstand close objective scrutiny. It is definitely not as solid as Christians believe, and certainly not as solid as the orthodox church tries to maintain. Christians ignore all this, either deliberately or out of ignorance, and just believe what they want/need to believe.

Now let’s put all this wishful thinking to one side, and consider a far more robust model of Christianity, one which, for the sake of convenience, I will call The Christianity Myth model. This alternative model is based on the same seven basic elements used to define the orthodox model, but the seven orthodox claims are revised to better fit the accepted facts. The revised Christianity Myth model is defined as follows:

  1. A historical-Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem.
  2. Paul just hallucinated on the road to Damascus and thought he met Jesus.
  3. James was not present at Paul’s first meeting with Peter.
  4. Peter lied to Paul about the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem.
  5. Paul & the other Apostles were not preaching the same message.
  6. The gospel resurrection accounts are all based on Peter’s lies
  7. The Gospel evidence cannot be trusted.

All seven claims in The Christianity Myth model are fully compatible with the known facts as currently dictated by mainstream scholastic opinion. Unlike the orthodox model, all seven claims defining the Christianity Myth model are actually acknowledged to be just speculative suppositions. They have to be speculative, because we are considering events that allegedly happened 2000 years ago and there are very few solid facts to go on. Orthodox Christianity has spent 2000 years trying to convince us otherwise, but actually we know very little about first century Christianity, and much of what we think we know, is actually just speculative supposition and wishful thinking. The revised Christianity Myth model not only eliminates all need for super naturalism, it also addresses all the above “thorny issues” Most of them simply disappear using the Christianity Myth model.

Christians should also note the following more specific observations relevant to these seven alternative claims:

  1. The first claim is totally consistent with the very limited available evidence.
  2. The second claim is totally consistent with our current medical knowledge. [For example Paul and temporal lobe epilepsy].
  3. The third claim is totally logical and fully compatible with the very unusual circumstances surrounding Peter & Paul’s first meeting in Jerusalem. [see Re-appraisal of Galatians 1:19].
  4. The fourth claim is a logical conclusion dictated by the proceeding interpretations.
  5. The fifth claim is totally consistent with the evidence found in Paul’s Epistles. [see my critique of Habermas argument]
  6. The sixth claim is the logical consequence of proceeding claims.[see Habermas argument]
  7. The gospels simply provide the missing biographical details about Jesus’ life & they just rationalize what the unknown gospel authors actually believed. These unknown authors were simply trying to put flesh on the bare bones of Paul’s sparse claims in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9. This simple logical supposition explains both the diversity of detail found in these gospels and the existence of the notorious gospel-gap. No gospels were written c 30-70 CE because there was no resurrection to write about. During this period Paul told his early Christian communities all about the death & resurrection of Jesus, but he told them nothing about Jesus’ life prior to his crucifixion. The gospels simply appeared later c 70-90 CE in response to growing demands to know more about Jesus. They simply provided missing biographical details and put flesh on the sparse claims made by Pail in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9. This simple & rational explanation of the gospel gap also challenges Christian assertions that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem.

So, simply by challenging the veracity of the orthodox  claims, all of which are actually unacknowledged suppositions, it’s possible to better explain the existence of both Christianity and the New Testament, and do so without recourse to super-naturalism & divine interventions. The old, totally unfit for purpose, orthodox model and the new improved Christianity Myth model are essentially just different versions of the same model, one pertaining to a 2000 year old pagan world steeped in super naturalism, the other pertaining to a better informed modern world that now rejects all super naturalism [well almost!]. Hopefully, by now, I’ve demonstrated the veracity of my earlier contentious claim that all seven orthodox claims defining the orthodox model are nothing more than simple unacknowledged suppositions masquerading as the truth.

Personally, I think the old orthodox model is now unfit for purpose. It should be discarded and Christians should be forced to accept they’re wrong about Jesus. It’ll never happen of course, because now, there’s far too much invested in the “Christianity industry”. Also, any suggestion along these lines is definitely a bridge too far for most Christians. However, those able to bring more objectivity and less emotion to the table, will probably find the new Christianity Myth model intellectually more satisfying. Christians are free to reject everything I’ve said about Christianity and carry on believing they’re right about Jesus. No problem, but they have to accept they’re simply choosing to believe Jesus is the son of God. They can no longer assert he’s the son of God, because the evidence proves otherwise.

Trouble is, I don’t think many Christians read my blogs these days. I can’t be too sure, because most of my readers are just ghost readers. They descend, devour and move on, leaving no trace of their visit. They never bother to leave comments, and I’m continuously deafened by their silence. Personally, I enjoy reading Christian blogs. I even leave the odd comments here and there, all of which seem to upset them for some reason. Can’t think why……..Perhaps if more atheists assimilated my argument and exposed more Christians to it, maybe we could get more Christians questioning the legitimacy of their beliefs and thus speed up the demise of Christianity. The sooner all religions are consigned to the dustbin of history the better.

Well that’s enough about Christianity. My next blog will be about that other mythology called Islam. In it I’ll address why political Islam poses a serious threat to all Western societies, and explain why the religion of peace is really the religion of war. [see On discussing Islam]

11 thoughts on “On discussing Christianity with Christians & Non Christians

  1. This is an excellent blog-post Ken. Well done!

    It sorts and simplifies nicely a much needed BROADER independent lens on the veracity of the 4th-century CE Canonical New Testament. Pointing out TLE (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy), the Sacred Disease, is crucial in ANY discussion of the Supernatural perceptions/interpretations by ancient naive peoples. Further modern studies of epilepsy are continuing to show that the experience of those seizures can CERTAINLY excite and inspire the victim to HYPER levels of charisma, influence, and manipulation of gullible crowds. HAH! Great hoaxes still exist and fool people even today!

    Why the Jews rejected Jesus.

    After spending 5-6 long years researching,studying, and corresponding with several Jewish scholars and Rabbis about Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism, I now have a problem/hangup with this traditional wording/framing. In fact, many Jews today also have issue with it because many Jewish sects in 1st century Syro-Palestine NEVER would’ve had problems at all with Jesus’ Reform Movement. Hence, my own personal BIGGEST issue with this framing is that it is SO PURELY one perspective: Hellenic Rome. And Hellenic Roman with the support of Herodian-Jews, i.e. those “Oversea Jews” snared by the Pigs of Greco-Roman culture hijacking their purest Palestinian Judaism, particularly those outlying/rural ascetic groups demarcating themselves from the Herodian Temple priesthood.

    I think it is very important to compare and contrast the differences between Hellenic Diaspora Judaism (‘Overseas’ and heavily influenced by foreign powers), rural Syro-Palestinian Judaism/Messianism (where Messianic fervor was at its highest), e.g. waddis like Qumran, Gamala, Masada, Hamam, Herodium, etc, various sects the historical-Jesus was UNDENIABLY associated with, Herodian-Temple Judaism usually aligned with Rome for the sake of survival, and Gnostic Judaism found mostly in 1st-century North African provinces like Egypt (Aegyptus) and Libya (Libue).

    Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was primarily influenced by the above latter two sects of Hellenic Judaism, NOT by Peter’s, James’ (or Jesus’?), or John’s.

    Once a well-studied student of Second Temple Judaism/Messianism grasps this full context and culture WITHIN the oppression and rule of mighty Roman history and culture… then they are able to clearly see that it was NOT really the Jews who rejected or crucified Jesus, but Hellenic-Herodian Rome… the eventual Victor (post-74 CE) who wrote history, or rather the very biased, amputated Canonical New Testament.

    Ken, the rest of your blog-post is exceptional! Very well done Sir. 🙂

    Like

      1. No worries at all Ken. Humanity, or rather concerned non-Christians as well as heavily indoctrinated Christians, shouldn’t view this as an oversight, but rather this way:

        …the Hellenic-Roman Early Church Fathers/Bishops (c. 275 – 315 CE) and then Emperor Constantine in 325 CE in their quest toward via sociopolitical, Monistic, Roman Orthodoxy, these are exactly the details that those powerful men did NOT want easily heard or read by their subjects and congregation members! Why?

        Not because it was truth, or authentic full historical context, but because they felt on a socioeconomic level it divided their crumbling, struggling Empire. One must remember, then as it is today… it is RARELY about facts or Universal truth, but much more personal, much more “How will this decision/choice of a belief/alliance benefit me and hurt me today and in the foreseeable future?” I think that will be a universal human trait for a long, long time! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Unfortunately yes. Religions present plenty of opportunities for those in power to implement simple mechanisms of self regulating crowd control all designed to minimize external threats their socio-economic-political system. They pull the levers of power & wish to continue doing so for as long as possible. As you say, sod the inconvenient truth. As far as these controlling egos are concerned, truth is what I make it…..Religions have always thrived on poverty, ignorance and the innate desire of most people to believe something, even if their belief is based entirely on crap data, It’s always been that way, and I guess it always will be……..and the Pope and other bastards like him know it!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Religions have always thrived on poverty, ignorance and the innate desire of most people to believe something, even if their belief is based entirely on crap data.

            You couldn’t have stated it better Ken. Bravo.

            I think what also is and will be a long-time hard-line psychological trait of most ALL human beings is our tendency to always or typically seek The easier road, the easier path of least resistance, all at the expense of moral, ethical, and compassionate empathetic principles and values toward each other and this MAGNIFICENT planet that feeds us and sustains us… DAILY!!!

            Liked by 1 person

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