Savior? Shaman? Myth? Ink Blot? Why Christianity's Main Man Remains so Elusive

DURING A DECIDEDLY staid Presbyterian wedding ceremony some years back, I passed the time reading the Gospel of Matthew from the Bible sitting before me in the pew. And I was struck by something I’d never noticed before—the stories of Jesus at the beginning and the end of Matthew seemed very, very different.

At the beginning of his ministry Jesus might be compared to a guru or a shaman—a wandering holy man who imparts bits of timeless wisdom, offers spiritual encouragement to the downtrodden, and performs random acts of (magical) kindness. Blessed are the poor, he says, and then he cures a leper, casts out some troublesome demons, or calms a stormy lake. Not very master-of-the-universe but appealing even so. But then, as the story progresses, dark edges emerge. His truth claims become more exclusive and self-promotional; his parables include threats. He becomes suspicious, talking about enemies and demanding loyalty from his followers. He predicts his own death and then brings it on.

At the time, I had recently read a story about how Jim Jones led 900 followers to mass suicide in Guyana in 1978. Some who had broken away (and so survived) discussed Jones’s early generosity and wisdom followed by years in which he became ever more righteous, controlling, and certain of his direct line to God. Wow, I thought. Was Jesus a paranoid schizophrenic? Only later would I learn that some antiquities scholars had another hypothesis for the dramatic difference between early and late Jesus. The stories came from two distinct bodies of literature; the book of Matthew simply merged two different characters. Later still, a retired Presbyterian minister and religion professor, Tony Nugent, introduced me to some of the ancient stories he believes underlie the Gospel accounts, stories that trace their roots beyond the Hebrew religion and into more primeval traditions centered on the sun, stars, and agricultural cycle.

What does all of this mean about Jesus? With relentless advances in fields like archeology, linguistics, forensics, and pattern analysis, most scholars, including mainstream Christian theologians, have come to agree that the Jesus stories in the Bible are woven through with legend. Over the last 200 years more than a few have devoted their life’s work to trying to excavate the “historical Jesus” behind the myths.

Was there a man behind the myths? Most scholars say yes. Bart Ehrman has done as much as anyone to make modern biblical scholarship accessible and interesting to ordinary people. In his 2012 book, Did Jesus Exist?, he comes down firmly with the majority:

As I have repeatedly noted, most scholars in both the United States and Europe over the past century have been convinced that Jesus is best understood as a Jewish apocalyptic preacher who anticipated that God was soon to intervene in history to overthrow the powers of evil now controlling this world in order to bring in a new order. . . . establishing a rule of peace and justice here on earth, sometime, Jesus thought, within his own generation.

Some who disagree with the consensus position argue that Jesus was a rabbi concerned with re-invigorating Jewish law, or a social reformer, or a political Zealot urging armed uprising against Rome, or an ascetic philosopher akin to the Cynics of Greece. Some, of course, continue to believe that the Bible stories are literal histories and that Jesus was God made flesh, sent to earth to be the perfect and final blood sacrifice. What’s surprising to many people is that a minority of scholars think he never existed at all, that the original kernel of the Gospel stories was a set of literary or mythic tropes, folklore, and traditional sayings which later got “historicized.”

pullquote2This past summer, after interviewing author and historian David Fitzgerald (Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All), I wrote a piece for Alternet that was picked up by Salon and Raw Story outlining the kinds of evidence and non-evidence that keep this debate alive. My inbox erupted. I haven’t had so many readers question my integrity or intelligence—or both—in years. Some critics claimed I had called Jesus a myth. (I hadn’t. In general I think it wise to defer to the opinion held by a majority of relevant experts, while bearing in mind that paradigm shifts do happen.) Several said I had taken a quote from Ehrman out of context and used it as evidence for something he doesn’t believe. (I had, and my sincere apology to Ehrman stands.) Some compared both Fitzgerald’s position (called mythicism) and my article to creationism or climate change denial. Ouch.

I was advised, in no uncertain terms, that academic mythicists, otherwise known as real scholars who doubt that the Gospel stories have historical roots, are about as hard to locate as Jesus himself. So when one of them reached out to me from Australia and offered a conversation, I said yes. I sent him some questions I was dying to ask—and then for good measure sent them to two other Jesus scholars who had made contact as well.

Raphael LatasterRaphael Lataster teaches in the department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He wrote a master’s thesis on Jesus ahistoricity theories, continues to publish on the topic in peer-reviewed journals, and is currently engaged in doctoral studies analyzing major arguments for the existence of a deity. Lataster says he is respectful towards and fascinated by religion, especially traditions that focus more on right living than right belief. When it comes to his own hypotheses about reality—well, the title of his book minces no words: There was No Jesus, There is No God (2013).

Neil GodfreyNeil Godfrey runs the website Vridar, a repository of articles and debates about Jesus including a “who’s who” of mythicists and Jesus agnostics, meaning those who argue that our sources are too poor to answer the question. Godfrey is most interested in understanding the Gospels and Epistles as products of the literary and philosophical contexts of their authors. He finds those explanations entirely adequate without seeing any need to add a historical Jesus to the mix.

James McGrathJames McGrath teaches New Testament studies at Butler University in Indianapolis. McGrath is equally scornful of mythicists and biblical literalists. He blogs about religion, the Bible, science fiction, evolution, and more at Exploring Our Matrix, where his scorching critique of my first article on this topic caught my eye. His books include John’s Apologetic Christology (2004), The Only True God (2009), and (for a more popular audience) The Burial of Jesus (2008).

 

Valerie Tarico: From everything I hear you are the proverbial unicorn—the academic who contends there was no historical Jesus.

Raphael Lataster: Indeed. Of course, every position, scientific breakthrough, and religion was originally held or believed by an extremely small minority. The truth is not a democracy. It doesn’t care about what we think, or feel. It is what it is.

As for the notion that few serious scholars question the historical existence of Jesus, Robert Price  (The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems) is a credentialed biblical scholar and inspired me to begin this journey. Likewise, Richard Carrier (On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt) is a capable historian. I’m hoping my own “coming out” as a historical Jesus agnostic may add something to the discussion. The University of Sydney is rated in the top fifty universities internationally, and I have been influential in swaying several lecturers in my department to the side of Jesus agnosticism. I find that religious studies scholars in general are receptive to questioning Jesus’s historicity due to their understanding of what religion is, that it does not always rely on “what really happened.”

Tarico: Historian R. Joseph Hoffman has said that historical argumentation is “probabilistic (in the sense of following the ‘law of likelihood’).” What does that mean?

Neil Godfrey: Much of the ancient history I learned in high school—about the Hittites, the spread of Indo-European languages, the Amorite invasions—is now known to be wrong. To be open to new evidence and insights, historians had to treat their current knowledge as tentative or “probable.” What we have is still very incomplete, so we can only make judgments about what seem from today’s perspective to be the most probable scenarios.

The best approaches to history oblige us to think carefully about all sides of the question and the nature of our evidence. What is our hypothesis? What evidence do we have for our hypothesis? What is the likelihood (or probability) that we would have this evidence if our hypothesis were false? How about the likelihood that we would have this evidence if our hypothesis were true?

Some Jesus scholars use a mathematical model, Bayes’ theorem, to lay out these probabilities. It stops the historian from carelessly saying, “Augustus sent out a decree so that a census should be taken of the entire world,” and compels him or her to say instead, “We have one document, a Gospel of unknown authorship from the late first or early second century, that says Augustus sent out a worldwide decree for a census.” That might sound like a pretty obvious way to work, but when it comes to New Testament scholarship it is surprising how many scholars talk about “the fact” of, say, the empty tomb instead of the real fact, which is the Gospel narratives of the empty tomb.

Tarico: It seems like a key difference between scholars who feel confident that Jesus was a real person and those who are more doubtful is that they approach the question from different angles or place more or less value on different kinds of information.

Lataster: I have just published an article on this and am working on a bigger project, arguing just that. One of the oddities about mainstream historical Jesus scholarship is the heavy reliance on sources that do not exist.

Godfrey: Definitely. Mythicists like Thomas Brodie and Robert M. Price focus on the wider Jewish and Greco-Roman literary world and believe many of the New Testament stories are adaptations of stories found in other literature. Their arguments often address the New Testament Epistles, because it is generally accepted that most of the Epistles were written before the Gospels. They see a lot in common between Paul’s Christ and the writings of Jewish and Hellenistic literature known in his day, including notions of a heavenly mediator figure or Logos as well as evolutionary development of messianic concepts in various Jewish writings.

Historicists, on the other hand, generally work within a model of Christianity that paraphrases the Gospels and Acts: Christianity started in Palestine with a few lowly followers of Jesus who became convinced that their leader was somehow still with them and victorious over death, and who then persuaded first many Jews and then growing numbers of Gentiles to join them. They believe the narratives derive from oral tradition tracing back to Jesus, and that Christianity could only have started with a historical Jesus. No other explanation makes sense to them.

James McGrath: I would say that doubt about the historicity of Jesus is not what makes one a mythicist. In the case of ancient history, the appropriate standard is (in my opinion) “more probable than not” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But be that as it may, it’s not doubt about the historicity of Jesus but insistence that Jesus is unlikely to have been historical—and that his first devotees thought he was a celestial deity rather than a terrestrial human—that deserves to be called “mythicism.” It’s important to distinguish that view from the uncertainty mainstream scholars may feel about whether we can discern anything more than a few basic facts through the veil of legend, myth, and dogma that shrouds the origins of Christianity from our view.

Tarico: This probably deserves a book-length essay, but in a paragraph or two, how would you describe the backbone of your own approach? What are the key questions?

Lataster: I am a big fan of probabilistic reasoning, particularly Bayesian inference. Various hypotheses should be judged according to how well they explain the evidence we have, and their inherent plausibility. By its very nature, history is uncertain. We can only try to figure out what probably happened, and we should only speak of probabilities between (and not including) 0 and 100 percent.

One key question is, how reliable are the sources? Mainstream historicists place much weight on “hypothetical sources” that we don’t have access to and that may not have existed at all. This is their solution to the highly questionable sources we do have access to. How do you establish the author, date, intent, reliability, content, and so on, of non-extant sources when we even struggle to do this with the extant sources? They discount sources like the Gospels when evaluating the Christ of Faith, yet lean heavily on those same sources when we shift the discussion to the historical Jesus.

Another important question concerns the differences between Pauline Christianity and that of the Gospels. Paul is our earliest Christian author and has no encounters with an earthly, historical Jesus, never references him, and claims to get his information from God. Much of what is found in his Epistle (and others) coheres very well with Earl Doherty’s minimal mythicist view that the belief in Jesus initially was the belief in a purely celestial (and not earthly) being.

Godfrey: The backbone to my approach is to set aside the question of Jesus’s historicity altogether and ask what best accounts for the nature and origin of the Gospels and Acts. I study these the way classicists study any other ancient literature. What do both the internal and external evidence tell us about their origins and why they were written in the way they were? What is their relationship with other literature of the era?

Another very important question is how to assign dates. New Testament scholars generally try to date the Gospels as early as possible, but if we employ the methods normally used by ancient historians and classicists—a combination of external testimony and internal evidence—we must accept possibilities ranging from 70 to 140 CE. So, we must then ask, what external events provide the most likely background to the author, given the sorts of details we find in the narratives? Do they appear to have been written in a time of persecution? If so, what historical periods can we identify for that?

McGrath: I actually discuss some of the key elements of historical study in my book, The Burial of Jesus, which is aimed at helping religious believers understand and wrestle with the consequences of historical study. The backbone of my approach is mainstream historical study as it has been developed and practiced over the past half-century or more. Some mythicists suggest that scholarly opposition to mythicism is motivated by faith or unexamined Christian assumptions, but the work of mainstream historical scholars has been more profoundly unsettling to what I once believed about Jesus than anything mythicists have come up with.

To understand why so many scholars believe that our stories about Jesus have a historical kernel, one must understand the expectations within Judaism regarding an anointed one (or “messiah”) descended from David. There was significant diversity around the time Christianity emerged, but the expectation was that the Davidic dynasty would return to the throne. To claim that someone was that awaited dynasty-restorer, and yet that he had been crucified, was essentially an oxymoron. And yet that is what people like Paul were proclaiming. It is not impossible that someone simply invented this claim. Few things are impossible. But it is for good reason that historians find it more likely that we are dealing with an actual person named Joshua whose followers thought he was the awaited Davidic messiah, and who found a way to deal with the cognitive dissonance of his crucifixion.

Tarico: I come at this as a psychologist, not a classics scholar, and one lens that psychology brings to this debate is the knowledge that humans are highly prone to historicizing otherwise vague stories. Psychological processes in which this happens include confabulation (when alcohol-addled brains invent histories to fill gaps) and false memory syndrome, in which an expert asking leading questions unintentionally prompts a person to create memories that become more detailed and solid over time. In split brain research, a message can be sent to the right side of the brain, for example: Go get a diet coke. When the person stands up and the left side of the brain is asked why, it provides a perfectly coherent story. To my mind, in other words, psychological and social mechanisms exist that could make historicized mythology feasible. But the fact that something is “feasible” doesn’t mean it’s what happened. We also are highly prone to mythologizing history.

Godfrey: Many people cannot imagine Christian origins apart from the general outline of the Gospels and Acts. So we have apologists demanding, “How do you explain the empty tomb!” But all we really have is a story that Jesus was resurrected and the guards fled or fainted in fear. Within the story itself there is no explanation for the empty tomb apart from the resurrection. That’s what stories do. For example, Red Riding Hood’s grandmother really was devoured by a wolf because how else can we explain Red Riding Hood thinking the wolf was her grandmother?

One does not need a conspiracy to explain the invention of a literary character like Jesus. The first Gospel is highly symbolic. Jesus is a mouthpiece for cryptic and wise sayings and does things in the physical world that become metaphors for spiritual realities among readers. The stories of Jesus appear relatively late in the history of Christianity, and when they do appear they look remarkably like adaptations of older stories about Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and others.

The story of Jesus can also be explained as a natural evolution of theological ideas from Second Temple Judaism. Before Christianity, there were already Jewish groups that believed in a pre-existent heavenly messiah who was also a human (e.g., in the Book of Enoch); that the sins of their nation were atoned for by Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac; that the Books of Isaiah and of Daniel prophesied a divine “Son of Man” or “Servant” figure who would suffer and die on behalf of his people; and that a heavenly mediator or Logos figure existed in heaven similar to the one we read about in the Gospel of John and the New Testament Epistles.

So the raw material from which Christianity emerged was in existence well before the fateful year of the destruction of the Jewish nation in 70 CE. From that moment on it is quite plausible to imagine many Jews forging or salvaging a new identity from the old by believing in a successor to Moses—a new Joshua or Jesus whose temple was in heaven.

Tarico: If you’re going to doubt that Jesus existed, wouldn’t you also have to question the existence of, say, Socrates, Caesar, or Alexander the Great? If not, why not?

Lataster: I am happy to question Caesar’s existence. Some question the existence of Laozi and it doesn’t bother me one bit, despite being a fan of the Tao Te Ching’s teachings.

But while doubting the likes of Caesar does nothing to my worldview, it isn’t very reasonable. We lack primary sources for Jesus (and Laozi), but we have plenty for Caesar. Claims about the validity of Caesar’s existence also tend to be more analogous with how we understand the world to work. And while the rise of Christianity is readily explained even if Jesus didn’t exist, it is harder to establish much of Roman history without Caesar.

Godfrey: For some historical figures like Augustus Caesar we have the testimony of coins, inscriptions, and monuments that can reasonably be established from his time—what we can call primary evidence. We also have written records whose contents are at least in part independently supported by some of this primary evidence. These records are often written by persons whom we know—meaning we know their interests, educational level, familiarity with the material they write about, and access to contemporary sources—and they write in a genre that further testifies to an interest in conveying factual information. And on top of all this we have the explanatory power of Augustus Caesar to explain the change of course in Roman history.

So for all these reasons we can say the existence of Augustus Caesar is highly probable. As we move down the scale where evidence becomes ever-more scarce or even non-existent, or where we can see no clear link between later narratives about a person and sources contemporary with that person, then our confidence in the probability of their existence must decline.

McGrath: There’s no harm in making comparisons, but when it comes to influential figures—leaders of nations for instance—we should expect the evidence to be greater than for an individual who was not wealthy, minted no coins, and, as far as we know may not have been literate. Not all figures leave behind the same kinds of tangible evidence.

Tarico: After I wrote my brief, and admittedly casual, article about the Jesus question last summer and got such a strong reaction, I found myself thinking about that old saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Why are scholars on all sides of this issue so heated?

McGrath: I think the reason mainstream scholars react so vehemently to mythicism, even when they’re not concerned in any sense with defending the Christian faith, is because of what mythicism represents in terms of scholarship. The study of ancient textual evidence isn’t ever going to offer the same degree of certainty that can be obtained in the natural sciences. However, mythicism is a view that only a small number of academics argue for, and that most professionals in Christian, Jewish, and Roman history find unpersuasive.  And yet it is being promoted to the public.

We might turn out to be wrong. But the way to demonstrate that is by making a scholarly case and persuading us. There are lots of fringe views in the academy and, indeed, part of being an academic is trying to come up with something new. Most of us will be wrong most of the time in those unconventional ideas and new proposals. That’s part and parcel of the scholarly endeavor.

And so, versions of mythicism popular online probably need to be distinguished from what scholars like Brodie and Price do. I find both of their work unpersuasive, as do most people in our fields. But they approach this topic in the appropriate scholarly manner, making a case and seeking to persuade their peers. That’s the way to go about settling a matter of scholarly inquiry, whatever the question happens to be.

Tarico: Today, almost half of American adults believe that the Bible is literally the perfect word of God. In fact, by way of circular evidence, many quote the Bible itself to prove this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). But claiming that a collection of Iron Age texts is the timeless word of God shackles people to a set of Iron Age priorities.

To me what’s important about this debate and what’s game changing for ordinary people and possibly our society as a whole is recognizing that the Jesus stories in the Bible are woven through with myth from earlier times and legends that probably developed in the first two centuries of Christian history. You all seem to agree on this—that the evidence suggests some parts are literature, mythology, and legend rather than history.

So on this central question—is Jesus a sacred literary tradition or a Yeshua ben Yoseph—does it matter, in the end, which of you is right?

Lataster: You have hit the nail on the head! The far more relevant issue is whether the claims about the Christ of Faith or biblical Jesus are true. I call the discussion over the historical Jesus a debate among atheists; it is an interesting historical question, no more. If we want to highlight the dangers of religious exclusivism (and I do), then let’s focus on God and the biblical Jesus.

McGrath: It matters which of us is right only to the extent that the evidence allows us to draw a conclusion with a reasonable degree of confidence. If the evidence points in a particular direction and we refuse to follow it, we are adopting a stance that I consider a dangerous one. There may be little serious consequence that results directly from this particular historical question. But once people are open to the kinds of selective skepticism used to reject mainstream history, the same approach can be applied to science, or medicine, or other domains in which the risks are much more immediate and severe.

Godfrey: There are many far more important causes and questions in the world. That said, Christianity and the Bible have had a major impact on my life and the lives of others so I find it natural to want to understand how it all began. I have had the benefit of a good education and the opportunity to learn much about scholarly research into Christianity and the Bible, and I like sharing what I find there with others.

Tarico: As I’ve gotten older, I think of Jesus more and more as an ink blot—an ambiguous shape onto which people project their own fears and desires. In response to my first article on this topic, a dear activist friend wrote, “I hope that you’re out there showing that if Jesus did exist, which is definitely up for grabs, that he was a radical revolutionary Jew who felt we should address the gap between rich and poor above all else.” She was joking, but also not. We all hope that our deepest values and acts of service are aligned with something universal. For Christians, a Jesus who shared those values is a powerful, enduring symbol that our lives have meaning.

My friend understands the Jesus she seeks to be a matter of hope, not history. The power of her Jesus comes not from whatever tentative facts scholars can glimpse in the fog of history, but from yearnings of the human spirit that are as relevant today as they were in the Ancient Near East. Perhaps the centuries of desperately seeking Jesus are best thought of as a quest to find and define ourselves. Perhaps that is enough.

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  • Spinoza

    Well… a broad recap of questions from various perspectives… which “answers” very little.
    It is interesting however, that during my lifetime (sixty plus… and counting)… the norm for discussion has moved from almost everyone thinking the bible as the “word of god” and natural events as “acts of god”… to thinking more of the bible as some celestial guide for living via stories and (sadly) this link to immortality via ‘jesus’.
    However, that said, the dinosaur in the room is the brute fact that christianity and the claims in it’s error-riddled ‘holy book’ (nor any of the thousands of gods and other regions sincerely believed by ignorant humans) do not remotely comport with the edifice of reality, painstakingly built by the myriad men and women using scientific methods and our best reasoning and evidence.
    The Cosmos is ever-evolving… spacetime expanding… and these religious musing are beyond trite. None hold a candle to the brilliant light and awesome qualities of this Universe we and everything are embedded. These religious debates are tiresome and petty by comparison… akin to walking in circles with your head bowed looking at your footprints… versus eyes forward on new paths, imagining the future and all the possibilities.

    A sick and tragic aspect of the monotheistic religions is the tribal/cultish nature of them.. the ‘we versus them” attitude, along with their adolescent hope for immortality and demigod status, in a Universe where NOTHING is without change.
    And of course, the absolutely absurd notion of some devil… prince of darkness entity, dueling with some bizarro omni-god for the ‘souls’ of frail humans. Sounds like a lame script for a cheesy soap opera.
    Yep… just got to love the fact that self-proclaiming christians think they are special… will live ‘forever’ (have no idea what one does for an eternity… time/existence becomes meaningless)… and desires an eternal torture and torment for those whose consciences don’t allow them to swallow their mythos and dogma.
    THOSE are the real issues that need to be aired, like dirty laundry, in public forums…. NOT esoteric, stale historical aspects of a murky itinerant ascetic preacher roaming a small portion of our planet millennia ago with no eye-witness accounts. Wthout any doubt and there should be no debate among the rational among us, there was no supernatural dying-rising god-man/men.
    So… if one must have need of a god, then the only sane response is call that god… NATURE.
    DEUS SIVE NATURA.

    • willknutsen

      And if I may add to your good words, I think it is crucial to know that the conversation in this article, interesting as it was, did not address the fundamental flaw in the whole subject of Jesus: a savior of “souls” presupposes the biblical “Fall”, a fall from perfection that somehow requires a sacrifice to get the fallen back to perfection. My point about that is this: It is totally illogical that an “all-powerful” god could have, in the first place, created anything. Since this god was, according to the biblical myth, “everything” before the so called creation, how could there be created more of everything (or, to be more correct, how could there be more of the oneness one supposes existed pre creation? And (and this is crucial) how could anything that was created by this supposedly perfect Being be made of anything but the essence of this being, seeing as there was, supposedly, nothing else around to create with? So why was there “corruption”, as told in the Fall myth? The absurdity should be obvious, but let us take this illogical scenario from the Bible a step further: let us say there was a creation, but an explanation for why this god needed or wanted to do this creation thing has never even been attempted! And for good reason. This imagined God, being everything, obviously lacks for nothing. God could not have been bored, or, for that matter, lonely (putting aside the word-play of “alone” meaning “all-one”). So why the creation stuff? The math can be worked out from that: there was no creation. That is why believers never question why a god that was supposedly everything, wanted to make more; and it is never questioned why, if this god was all knowing, would he have created anything, knowing that Satan would result; and that that in turn would cause the great Corruption, with all the ensuing eons of wars and plagues and so on; and that in turn would required a messiah to save the “fallen from this mess that HAD to have been a part of a god that only had itself from which to do this magical creation. No, these ideas cannot even be thought! Yet, according to the biblical myth, not only does this god make more of everything -from himself- this creation from perfect stuff does indeed somehow go, well, sour. The math does not work, unless we start fooling around with quantum mechanics, but that would mean this god was unpredictable and flawed…and that might, by twisted logic, explain how this god’s perfected and best loved creation went bad and become Satan, or, god’s rival. Imagine the mental gymnastics required to accept an “all-powerful” god, yet also believe in this rival! And then there is the shape-shifting aspect of this Satan which causes believers so much paranoia: who can you trust? And Satan’s seemingly bratish need to interfere in god trying to undo Satan’s mischief….which is to say god is trying to get all of his creation back to perfection…oh, let’s end this! This theology is so complicated, and stupidly so. If perfection could have gone bad, why could it not do so again since eternity is a long, long time? This little conundrum is never discussed by the faithful. So, to get back to my opening lines: the historicacy of Jesus is small potatoes compared to the complicatedly illogical theological reasons for a messiah’s neccessity.
      And now I have to bring in some firewood. Cheers!

      • Spinoza

        You may indeed Sir Will… and as you demonstrate, the problem with ALL religious creation-musings is they are completely illogical and absurd. Not to mention the infinite regress of how did the ‘creator’ get ‘created’… ?

        I think that iconic Greek philosopher Epicurus posed the conundrum of so called (detached from human behavior, supernatural) “evil” best, in the ridiculous context of some Omni-god entity:

        “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
        Then he is not omnipotent.
        Is he able, but not willing?
        Then he is malevolent.
        Is he both able and willing?
        Then whence cometh evil?
        Is he neither able nor willing?
        Then why call him God?”

        Now christian apologists would say… oh, we must have evil to “choose” to do good… so god, in his wisdom, “allowed” that option, in his otherwise wonderful creation.
        Seriously… really? And they sincerely believe this nonsense.

        So here we all are, hurling through spacetime… in a Universe 99.9999999…% lethal to human life… up to our eyeballs in dysfunction, illness and unspeakable acts of human brutality, yet an all knowing… all loving ‘heavenly’ (wherever that may be) Big Sky Daddy procreated via a virgin, a part-human god to “save’ humanity… from… itself, which was created… by Big Sky Daddy? All aboard the Crazy Train… .

        Another elephant in the room is IF there was some supernatural god-man entity which was some “aspect” of this Omni-god entity… then it would have complete knowledge… and thus, know it’s fate. So… any pretense regarding sacrifice and suffering would be just that, and totally bogus – actually mocking real human shortcomings and suffering.

        Oh yes, we could go on… and on… about the absurdities of the faith-based and the Mr. Jesus saga, but for those indoctrinated since they were children and have invested so much of themselves in the mythos, their very core identities entwined and are much too threatened to consider the notion they have been living a lie, and spouting falsehoods like corn in a popper.

        But at the end of the day, when we all die… it matters not at all what one “believed”, but how we lived. Cheers to all who seek and are aware and humbled of our place in The Cosmos.

        • Mary Gennae Angelina

          I feel like addressing this because I hear it so often and it does irritate me. My observation of humanity through my lifetime and also my having raised a family with a kristyan showed me that human beings love to cry that if there is a God and he is all good, then there should be no evil. Regardless of whether or not we believe in a biblical God or not, human beings have certain things that set them apart from animals: we can think and reason, decide right form wrong and make choices. Human beings will fight to the death for their right to make their own choices, then when they make the wrong choices they whine and bawl because they want a cleanup guy to come fix the results.
          What is your definition of evil? War? War is caused by man’s inability to get along with man. We see it every single day, greed, racism, hatred and clowns forcing their religion on others. Disease? Disease is the breaking of natural laws of health such as ingesting things we should not into our bodies. People smoke, they drink dirty water, eat polluted foods and use drugs that are generally illegal. Crime and violence? These are man choosing to show no humanity or respect toward man.
          People want what they want and they don’t care what the consequences are, but if they get hurt they want a deity to come fix their wounds.
          Humans created war, poverty, violence, the drug trade and human beings create their own problems. So what is the alternative? Oh, if God knew we would make mistakes he still made us so it’s his fault, right? Okay, so since human beings are so ignorant that they cannot control their behavior they think they should have never been allowed to exist in the first place? Ok then lets have a mass suicide of billions and clean up the planet. You like that idea? Give me a break! How bout people take responsibility for the world they created, admit they would not want to part with what is in it, and quit whining that it’s someone elses fault who needs to come fix it.
          If I was a God (female version for me would be a Goddess, but I’m not that pretty, sorry) then I would not waste my time on an ungrateful human race who would reinvent the same problems two days later, because in thousands of years of human history, people have never gotten a clue and changed their attitude. Maybe we should not call anyone God, we should call people what they are: Stupid.
          MGA

          • Spinoza

            Of course humans have characteristics that set us apart from other species (by definition, doh!) by their combination of traits and the degree to which we have them, but NONE are unique to our species. This may be a ‘newsflash’ for you Mary… and if so, spend a week or two at Yerkes Nat’l Primate Center near Atlanta (part of Emory University).

            Much of your rant is disjointed and somewhat contradictory… and not sure what your underlying point or ontological view.

            Just a note on the so-called concept of “free will”. It is most definitely not “free” because we are definitely determined beings in the sense of our genetic makeups and nurturing. An autistic or severely mentally handicapped child is not “free” to choose this or that action, for example. All manners of behaviors, both “normal” and pathologic (eg. paranoid schizophenic) are genetically shaped. Neuroscience has shown again and again that what we perceive as “free will” is an illusion, and after the fact of when we initiate some response.

            Having said that, we are and remain causal beings… we act are the proximal cause of those actions, and thus, must be responsible for those actions, no matter how flawed the individual or how dysfunctional the nurturing.
            Let’s just not pretend there is some ‘celestial’ being keeping tabs on this Universe or the evolved (flawed) bio-forms on the speck in the Cosmos, or there is some bizarre celestial battle for ‘souls’, eh?

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            For one thing, I was not ranting about anything, and I’m sorry if you saw it as “disjointed.” Let me be more specific: Which of the animals in this world is able to compose a music piece? Which of them can engineer a highway system? Raccoons? Which animals can reconstruct a city after a tornado? Get the picture or am I being too disjointed?
            See the problem with you is the same as it is with the kristyans. You see things a certain way and anyone who disagrees in the slightest is seen as a fool by you. Kristyans believe that if you are not a kristyan, you have to be an atheist evolutionist. Atheists believe that if you don’t embrace evolution you are defending Christianity. How narrow minded.
            I cant seem to be clear enough here to be comprehended properly. Let me try being a bit more specific one more time so as not to confuse you. I do not believe and never have believed that there is a man in little red jammies with horns fighting a battle for souls against a bearded old man with an hour glass in his hands who is losing the game. I do not believe logic allows for a volcanic incinerator for sinners to burn for eternal time.
            However, as I look around I can find nothing I own that did not have some form of design to it yet you expect me to believe and “accept” that human and animal biology can happen because of interstellar forces combined and “survival of the fittest” and “accident plus accident equals event” which are direct quotes from atheists. You fail to address the points I made (as do kristyans) about humanity being to blame for the worlds evils. Hence, I see no difference between discussions with you or them, since both are totally self convinced. It also amazes me that evolution allegedly takes so much time to happen (what do you expect with a blind force that has zero intelligence but works by accident) and yet the fit manage to survive long enough to evolve.
            There is a massive difference between human beings and animals. No matter how much researchers find intelligent animals, they are not at any point capable of the levels of development of human beings. Feel free to point out any that are.
            No one human being’s view is any more valid than another. All of them have proof and all of them have error. Hence you have belief systems by the tens of thousands and every day multitudes of people change their beliefs from one to another. Right now there are kristyans turning to atheism and atheists turning to kristyans at this very moment. Isnt that interesting.

          • Spinoza

            Wow, again … talk about straw man arguments and autter lack of reasoning and a basic understanding evolution. I guess you and “science” just don’t play well together.

            I don’t have any need to “defend” facts Mary: evolution is as rock-solid (check the fossil record) as the Theory of Gravity… electromagnetism… quantum mechanics… or any other model which actually describes The World we inhabit… and makes verifiable predictions. Um, that would be “science” not speculation.

            Perhaps you never studied or understood biochemistry… or genetics… or the incredibly rich fossil record (in light of the fact that fossils should be and are quite rare and difficult to find)… which beyond any doubt, outlines our EVOLVED roots.

            Ever heard of “Lucy”, among other Australopithicus afarensis.. all the “Homo” species preceding “sapiens”… to Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal… meandering along to, drumroll, modern humans? Try actually “studying” the VAST amount of data available to any inquisitive person open to THE FACTS.

            How about Tiktaalik… feathered dinosaurs… whales with vestigial pelvic/limb bones for ambulation on land and snakes with vestigial limbs… and on, and on?

            Must be your designer at work, eh? Problem is your (completely unknown) Designer created an absurdly large and lethal Cosmos with myriad black holes and stars dying in GRB’s/supernovas… colliding galaxies… … and here on the little planet with 5 major extinction events, countless numbers of failed, now extinct lifeforms with many, many dysfunctional structures, clearly adapted to perform other roles… not to mention the myriad illnesses and congenital anomalies and wastage of embryos/fetuses surrounding basic human reproduction.

            This designer is either a completely incompetent buffoon … or, one can humbly accept the fact that all of this is explained by and predicted by evolutionary theory… both Cosmologically via the “big bang” and terrestrially via evolution.

            None if it by creation myths…. or designer gods.

            Didn’t you just hate it when it was determined that we share over 99% of our DNA with chimps and bonobos? Humiliating… right?

            All your boasting about the wonders of the human specie… being so… far… apart from “the rest of the animals” sounds like a fractious child having a tantrum.

            EVERY specie is UNIQUE… doh! And yes, by our yardsticks we are able to control the environment and explore beyond our niche, for better… and worse.

            HOWEVER, that in NO WAY removes us from the Natural Order.

            Again , all our traits are echoed in Nature, but we have developed some to a high degree. Perhaps AI will be a further and inevitable evolutionary step… as well as bio-mechanical merging to a greater and greater extent.

            Yes… spend some time at Yerkes Primate Center. (cue Frans de Waal).. communicate with the Great Apes (cue Jane Goodall)… spend time with Dolphins… learn what an Octopus can do… what crows are capable of… what emotions elephants exhibit… and on, and on.

            Take off your blinders please, your grasp of basic science and facts is borderline negligence given the resources only keystrokes away.

            Or… just read Dawkin’s: “Greatest Show on Earth” IF you dare to be… enlightened.

            Good luck with your life… .

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            Why don’t you go ahead and just come out and call me stupid? I am quite capable of reasoning, and I am sorry that such basic mechanics of thinking don’t work for you. I will not respond to any more of your comments, you are a typical rude atheist who thinks you have all the answers. I’m not sure if you think I’m stupid because I question your beliefs or because of gender, but either way, I wont be told that I cant think. I spent years hearing that garbage from my ex and my ex was a hard core CHRISTIAN! If you indeed evolved from some ape man you did not come far.
            I know about your fossil records, and we could argue that all day. I have seen both creationists and atheists argue till they were blue in the face presenting opposing proofs of their beliefs.
            I guess when I consider that this debate began because of the usual logic free belief that if a god existed and did not come put on a stage show on earth that disproves his existence I should not have expected any higher level of maturity.

          • Spinoza

            No Mary, you are ‘stupid’ because you ignore a huge body of knowledge painstaking amassed, cataloged and sytnhesized… over centuries, by our best and brightest minds, and arrogantly substituted your ill-informed, dim beliefs.
            Perhaps ‘stupid” is not the best word to describe your illogical, circular ‘reasoning’, but misguided and ignorant should suffice.
            Your god is so illusive and nondescript as to be… nonexistent… unless, as i stated in my opening remarks, which apparently escaped you… one wishes to call their “god” Nature.
            There is a ton o’ mystery and wonder in The Cosmos, which exceeds by “light years” any stale religious dogma.
            Regarding “atheists”… being “rude”… try impatient with those who pronounce myth as reality. Yes, folks like you and those believing in some organized religious construct NEED to be called out. We simply “know” that (intersubjective) “reality” does not comport with any religious musing or supernatural, outside the Cosmos god-thingy. Any one who claims the supernatural best have bullet-proof evidence.
            Put up or shut up. Where is the evidence for this Designer god? Exactly how is this god entity supervene on this Universe and by what means? Why is the design so absurdly flawed and lethal from a human perspective? And, from whence did it come?
            Why add another (imaginary) layer to Nature, for which there is not a shred o’ evidence and is NON-sensical, explains nor predicts nothing?
            No Mary, your problem is denying the undeniable… putting your insipid belief in place of the Edifice of Evolution… and arguing with those who accept the truth as best we are able to determine it.
            The Neanderthal comment above could be Exhibit A for: “I don’t know Jack about evolution… and i don’t care”. And no Mary, you cannot “debate” facts nor the fossil record… nor any of the myriad corroborations from geology, myriad dating methods, comparative anatomy… and most of all, genetics – as we used to say in the South: “that dog won’t hunt”.
            One cannot disprove … nor does one need too, that which does not exist.
            If any one needs “maturing”… um, that’d be you.

          • threenotch23

            I must say the arrogance of these remarks denies any reason that may have been applied to the thoughts themselves. Once you reduce your argument to calling someone stupid you lose all credibility. I may not agree with your thoughts I may not want to continue to speak to you because of our disagreements but I would never assume to call you stupid since I have no evidence except one set of comments on one post. I personally do not agree with Mary and I see her comparison of human and animal as simplified at best but I would rather you have used your comment to point out the actual flaws in her idea than to just rant about her level of intelligence. Perhaps you could try again and find the wit to actually make your point without condemnation of others.

          • Spinoza

            Thank you for your uppity PC tone 3notch… by all means, stay above the fray, and keep your hands clean.
            Me, i suffer fools not at all and call a spade a spade.
            No fence riding or “agnosticism”… i try an be honest and true to my intellect and emotions, and let the proverbial chips fall.
            Now, have you anything of substance to add?

          • threenotch23

            No, you’re just rude.

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            Oh, my best friend Gene is working on some guitar music today, and wished me to add this comment:
            If humanity evolved from Neanderthals and ended up being the arrogant, violent, ill mannered, war mongering, poverty and disease causing and torture happy beings that this world is then evolution is anything but a miracle of nature, it is a mess that should have never happened in the first place and proves intelligence was not involved.

          • Vauxhall

            Read a book on science or watch the discovery channel, I’ll even buy you a “My first Evolution” book from the kids section of the book store. We did not evolve from Neanderthals, your friend Gene needs to read the book too.

          • Devient Genie

            We didnt evolve from Neanderthals. Research is religions kryptonite, getcha some. Overcome the kryptonite, understand our universe 🙂

            Other than that, spot on, there is no intelligence in nature, there is no good, and no evil, there is no emotion of any type in nature, nature is indifferent, and the resulting universe is proof of that 🙂

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            The Neanderthal thing was largely sarcasm, but I totally agree that nature is indifferent, a collection of living things in a cycle, trees, animals, etc. What I find in nature is that among animals there is also no destructive nature based on personal gain. Squirrels don’t decide they hate possums because of their pointy noses and decide to subjugate or destroy them.
            Nature is a product. I am open minded and I like truth. But I go with evidence, not with people who simply yelp “I’m right. Accept it.” Whilst church goers spend their time listening to a nut in a suit getting them emotionally primed for financial milking I am perfectly content to take a long walk among the trees.

          • Lestatdelc

            Sorry, but your musings about the subject “nature” of nature simply does not comport to direct observation of it.

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            How lame. First I agree with you and simply point out something obvious and you put it down. What the hell ever.

          • Lestatdelc

            “First I agree with you and simply point out something obvious and you put it down.”

            Huh? Not sure what you are “agreeing” with of mine. Again your statement that “there is also no destructive nature based on personal gain” is simply incomprehensible given that almost all life functions of living organisms sustain their life functions via the destruction of other organisms for personal “gain” to one degree or another.

            Hence my comment that your subjective musings on the “nature” of nature to not match directly observable evidence.

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            Whatever. Evidently my communications just aren’t clear. I went back and read my post and I don’t see a problem…except one and that is that debating hardcore atheists and hardcore Christians is a way of spending time better used elsewhere.

          • Lestatdelc

            So that’s your reply “whatever”..?

            You don’t see a problem with stating that “What I find in nature is that among animals there is also no destructive nature based on personal gain” when every living higher organism (one could even argue ALL organisms) by their very nature destroy other organisms to even maintain their own life as not being destructive for personal gain?

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            I see a major problem with your comprehension so let me illustrate: In nature, as I said, animals do not enslave and commit genocide or torture other species because of forcing themselves and their will on others. Human beings do this. I really have no idea how to make the very simple concept I spoke of plainer. It’s ridiculous to have even discussed this this far.

          • Lestatdelc

            Except that is not at all what you wrote so the problem is not my capacity for comprehension. But your ability to post clearly what you are trying to argue.

            Furthermore, there are plenty of examples of torture between species. Ever see a house cat with a mouse?

          • Lestatdelc

            Except that is not at all what you wrote so the problem is not my capacity for comprehension. But your ability to post clearly what you are trying to argue.

            Furthermore, there are plenty of examples of torture between species. Ever see a house cat with a mouse?

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            I deleted the other response, I am really sick of this exchange. I go to talk to Christians and I hear a bunch of crap about “evil follower of Satan, repent thee of thine ways woman, or thou shalt burrrn in hellll!” I talk to one of you and all I hear is that I cant think and cant communicate. Funny. A friend of mine invited me to go to his church so I went for the heck of it. I am heterosexual and non Christian, I don’t pray and I don’t believe in a God who constantly micromanages people’s lives, but I do Believe that the supersophisticated world around me indicates design because I have never seen anything I own that did not have a brain behind it. Sorry if that offends you but I don’t give a damn. These people are straight, gay, cross gender and cross dressers, and they are fine with me showing up in a velvet dress and gloves and being a goth chick. We sat and talked, had lunch and I openly disagreed with some of their views and I also believe that as kristyans they should be aware that both the bible and nature prohibit homosexual behavior. They did not get worked up over it, We kept it respectful and disagreed, then walked away friends. I don’t support men sleeping with men, I think it is unhealthy and nasty but I respect their right to do as they wish and I have gay friends. For some reason I can heartily disagree with these people and it does not bother them near as much as others. They also seemed tho think my communications were quite clear. Yeah, I’ve seen cants eat mice. But I have not seen them lead them around in slave chains and I have not seen possums and squirrels commit genocide.
            Before you reply that animals commit homosexual acts, they also eat their own vomit. Are humans not higher than animals? Oh that’s right, you are staunch in the belief that as we evolved we are all equal. Ok. Be happy. I think I am higher than my Terrier. My ex son in law is not, but I am.

        • willknutsen

          Thanks for your reply to my post. Here in Denmark (though I am American) Jule parties and such prevented an earlier reply to you. Your correct observation that believers do not dare to even think their self image is a lie, reminds me of battered housewives who insist that their spouse really loves them! I have lately begun to wonder if some people just do not have the mental ability to be logical. Some people cannot grasp math, for example. And then there is dislexia, being born blind, and so on. And some can be more logical than others. I was once in a cafe-bar here in northern Denmark (Aalborg), and an obvious Middle Eastern man was standing next to me drinking a coffee. I was in an argumentative mood, and so engaged him in conversation hoping I could get to use some of the logic you and I know so well. I was full sheets to the wind, really hitting every point with humor and gusto. And when I finished he said, “I agree with you totally. I’m an atheist”. Damn! Turns out he was from Iran, as well. Iran! When he was twelve, his uncle had explained how there could not be a god….and he told him in Theran! My new found buddy had had to leave Iran for obvious reasons, but we can see that some brains can see through the childhood religious propaganda and social reinforcement of said propaganda (praying together five times a day!) And there is more hope: Atheism is the fastest growing “ism”, apparently.
          Cheers.

          • Spinoza

            Thank you for sharing that story… and yes, thankfully for the sake of “humanity”, the world is (slowly) becoming more secular.
            Religion always has the fundamental problem of not comporting with reality… thus, as you point out with “the battered housewife” delusional thinking and emotional needs must trump truth and fact.
            The real operative psychological term is “cognitive dissonance”, which humans excel… holding two opposing ideas, and not jettisoning either from our minds.
            I KNOW that most, if not all “religious” people have doubts, but suppress them because they reap (tangible) social benefits of being in the “majority tribe” of “the good, and god-fearing”in hopes of “the chance” that there is some bible-esque god… savior jesus… immortality… the whole nine-yards. Add to that the entanglement of their core identity… and it’s powerful stuff, unless your critical thinking kicks it early.

            I was indoctrinated into the Lutheran faith… did all the church stuff: catechism… sunday school… youth camps… even assisted the pastor in the liturgy and communion … and did some youth ministry and attempted to proselytize anyone i thought “needed jesus”, etc.
            However, almost the whole time as i recall, a “little voice” would question claims from the bible or the point of “praying” about this or that. (Heck, even Mother Teresa admitted lack of faith and prayer as pointless… ha!)
            YES, i really do “believe” that on some level, every self-proclaimed christian (like many so-called christian scholars think in allegorical terms regarding a savior-messiah jesus) KNOW that there is something not quite “right” about the what the bible claims… which makes them uncomfortable, and thus, combative when challenged by… facts and reason.
            Cheers friend!

      • Bobby Clayton

        This is point on

        • willknutsen

          Thanks! Is it not strange that we do not see world leaders dealing with the violence of religious jihad by simply showing the illogic of the theology that is, say, driving the Islamic “jihad”. Instead, the leaders throw bombs, and then make absolutely even less sense by making up excuses about Islam being a “religion of peace”. I mean, why not just expose the illogical theology of the biblical creation myth? Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have this mad theology as their belief system, and that is why the religious wars are spreading. But of course the leaders do not dare tear down the illogic of biblical theology: most of them believe in it themselves!

      • bartley p

        These are very interesting thoughts and questions. Why, is a question that will always be asked and I have no problem with that. I also have no problem answering it with a very confident ” I don’t know”. Why did God do all of this the way it was done? I could give some thoughts or ideas that I have but at the end of the day I really don’t know. No one knows. All we know is what the Bible says. Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust the Lord and not lean on our on understanding. You say that the math does not work. perhaps God’s math is not our Math 🙂 I find it to somewhat arrogant and a little foolish when people begin to assume what an all knowing creator should and should not or could and could not do. If there is an all knowing creator who is perfect in every way, and capable of anything, then who are we, as creations of the creator, to question the method?

    • Misha

      Excellent.

      • Spinoza

        Much obliged Misha… thank you for the kindness and taking time to read my post.
        I have thought long and written about these ‘issues’ in the past… if any thing i write resonates with even one person, that makes me hopeful.
        Cheers and best regards.

    • Bobby Clayton

      Well said indeed. Your words should be published and on the front of every newspaper in the world. Kudos to you sir

      • Spinoza

        Well… many others far more insightful/influential/scholarly than i have carried this torch… Chris Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Carrier… Richard Dawkins… Robert M. Price… Daniel Dennett (just to name a few)… and of course, the iconoclast and often forgotten Col. Robert Greene Ingersoll… and many brilliant philosophers throughout the ages, but thanks nonetheless:)

  • Jenn Schimmels Brown

    Jesus, if he existed, MIGHT have been a paranoid schizophrenic. The more likely scenario, however, is that he had syphilis. If you look at his actions, and the ages at which they happened in the stories if the Bible, they directly correlate to a typical presentation of untreated syhpilis.

    I’m sure someone is going to tell me to go to hell for my blasphemy, but as an agnostic, and medical person, this seems the most likely case. There may or may not have been a man on which the Jesus legends are based, and I don’t really care. I find the study of religion from the perspective of history to be very interesting.

    The reality is, it doesn’t matter if he existed. His cult is here, has been here for 2000 years. It’s going to take a lot longer to bring people to reason.

    • Chris

      As interesting as that sounds, syphilis was a new world disease that didn’t reach Europe or Asia til around 1500.

      • Jenn Schimmels Brown

        Correct. But he was not from Europe (no matter how much you want to make him blonde and blue-eyed), nor was he from Asia. He was from northern Africa (if he existed), and there are theories that the disease was present for thousands of years in differing forms. There is evidence of symptoms of the disease in its late stages in classical Greece, which is certainly close enough to when Jesus supposedly lived. Maybe he didn’t have the “modern” version of it, but the symptoms rather neatly correspond to what we see today.

        Either way, it doesn’t matter. I accept that there could have been a man named Yeshua who was a preacher. Whether or not he was the son of a god is another matter entirely.

    • Mary Gennae Angelina

      I agree with much of your post. The only way to know the truth is to be there two thousand years ago and the bus fare is too unreasonable. If I die before you I’ll wait and we can go to hell together, I’ll bring the drinks. I am Gothic, I love symphony metal music, black, red and blue, and the kristyans assure me I’m headed straight to hell. I guess their god is really fashion conscious. Loud music and black clothes tick him off. Kristyans are not smart enough to understand eternity is a long long long long long time, and only a monster would torture people that long.

  • Nick Wride

    The DVD “The God who wasn’t there”, is pretty definitive about the Jesus Mythology.

  • DannyCee

    TL;DR: Myriad texts corroborate the existence of the aforementioned philosophers and military leaders; none do so for the biblical Jesus.

    • Chad Weber

      Sources on Socrates, please. And if Christian texts don’t count as documentary evidence for Jesus because Christians are followers of Jesus and are therefore biased, and that what they say in most cases is almost certainly not what happened, and that the views Jesus expresses in them are, in most cases, not his own views, but those of the writer, then you can’t use Plato as evidence for Socrates, because Plato was Socrates’ follower and is therefore biased, and his writings about Socrates are not histories, but fictional dialogues, and never really happened, and the views Socrates expresses in them are, in most cases, not his own views, but Plato’s views. By the way – almost every reference to Socrates which dates to roughly his own lifetime was written in fictional form by Plato, who calls himself a follower/student of Socrates, so it won’t be easy to prove Socrates existed either.

      • Lestatdelc

        Aristophanes was a contemporary (and hardly a follower) as they were not at all on friendly terms and some of the ridicule he aimed at Plato were contributing factors to Plato’s trial and death. Other satirical playwrights living at the time Plato lived also wrote satirically of Plato as well (though not with the animus that Aristophanes did.

        • Chad Weber

          Except I asked for references to Socrates, not Plato.

  • Mary M

    If one studies the wisdom of Kabbalah and learns of the nature of the spiritual journey that is coded in the Torah, that person can make a good argument that the life of Jesus could very well be stories told to illustrate this journey. The Zohar, which is the Kabbalaistic decoding of the Torah, was written at about the time that Jesus was said to have lived.

    • Spinoza

      Yes indeed… the jewish people have done so much with “the wisdom of Kabbalah”, and jews have thus, always been welcomed wherever they travel and settle… particular the peaceful, joyous “holy land”… or… perhaps, thinking their tribe is most revered or “chosen” (LOL) by some god they just happened to create is hubris of the highest order and bound to offend others.
      Just gotta love orthodox jews… their super-secret “coded” knowledge… and spiffy garb.

  • Darla

    I think the central question is: Do human beings and / or other living creatures survive after death in some form? I think a god who would demand the sacrifice of his own child in order to remove the sin of wanting knowledge or sex or whatever experts are currently saying the forbidden fruit symbolized would be both stupid and horribly devoid of compassion. The only possible answer, it seems to me, is that the Bible is a collection of stories written thousands of years ago, mostly by males, to explain the purpose of life and what happens after death. To say, “Believe on me and ye shall be saved,” seems like a very shallow, narcissistic requirement for any god who is all-knowing and all-loving. I have read enough and experienced enough to believe fairly strongly that life continues in some form after death. Whether or not Jesus is god, the son of God, or a really famous rabbi is interesting but not a deal breaker. Living a decent life is the best antidote to fear of death.

    • Spinoza

      While i lam empathetic to your comment… and “living a decent life” emphasis… there is absolutely no evidence or any reason to “believe” in an “afterlife” (a total oxymoron)… other than simply wishful thinking.

      Imagining some ‘soul-based’ ethereal entity somehow supervening on our biochemistry or more specifically our wonderfully evolved neural network, is beyond absurd. Neuroscience has made great strides in peeling away the layers of brain physiology/function… and it really does completely constitute “our minds”… no bizarro souls need apply. This was Crick’s “astonishing hypothesis”… which is absolutely true.

      Immortality just ain’t on the menu for living organisms… nor for any of Nature’s far more majestic entites… like stars… planets… galaxies… black holes… etc.
      Consider the meaning of life… without the finality of death. Similarly time has no meaning in the context of an ‘eternity’.

      The notion of the petty god of the bible and alleged god-man is so quaint as to be laughable, when viewed through the lens of Cosmic spacetime.

      Having said all that, i wish you a full and well-lived life… and fear death, not at all.

      Again the wisdom of Epicurus:
      “Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.”

      Take comfort in the FACT we are all… everything… embedded in Nature and the inexorably unfolding of The Cosmos. Cheers!

      • Mary Gennae Angelina

        Sorry but having studied biology I cannot except the idea that nature, devoid of any senses or intelligence, just managed to evolve the countless biomechanisms that make us tick. I have heard this very statement made: “nature made note of the fact that human dietary habits were changing and so we evolved…” How did nature, blind nature, make note of anything? Let alone figure out what process would be required to fix it and change it? The entire digestive and processing mechanics of humans would need an overhaul, and blind evolution accomplishes this over long periods, and those that fail to evolve precisely enough don’t survive. I also know how sophisticated human neurology is, and for nature to create this either by simple chance or accident is beyond logic to me. I have asked evolutionists these questions, and as the kristyans do, they avoid answering them.

        • Spinoza

          Don’t be sorry Mary… just try to accept the FACT that we along with every life-form EVOLVED. We know that it’s possible (and likely) that ribonucleotides were synthesized during primitive earth evolution/chemistry, bombarded by asteroids/meteors over cosmic time… and that RNA could have well been the catalyst for both self-replication and information transmission… and life to begin.

          Your utter lack of understanding the Edifice of Evolution, the very foundation of all the biological sciences… interwoven with geology, and consistent with many other disciplines (archeology… cosmology, etc)… and the evolution of our Universe is staggering. Genetic (unknown to Darwin) collaboration was just the icing on the proverbial cake.

          Creationist apologists used to use the human eye as ‘proof’ (LOL) that evolution without a ‘designer’ was impossible, but any biology student knows the precursors for our (very imperfect) eyes abound in other species. So-called ‘intelligent design’ has been throughly debunked… not that it needed to be… or did you miss that entire charade?

          Brute facts regarding our evolving Universe… expanding spacetime… the murky origins of carbon-based life, etc. don’t fit neatly into frail human preconceptions, and emotional needs shaped by religious musings.

          Having said all of that, if you wish to have something called “Intelligence” operating on some unknown level by some unknown mechanism, supervening on our biochemical processes, which by themselves are wholly adequate to explain our lives… then no “argument” here, other than that ethereal intelligence does not resemble any god of any religion… and why not just call it Nature, accept it humbly, and live your life to the fullest?
          Seriously, why not just go with the concept of “Gaia”… i sort of like that?

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            I respect your opinion and it is not my desire to argue, that said, one more comment. I was handed down a musket from someone and is the simplest device there is, a barell, a lock, and stock. As simple as it is it required a designer to make. Human beings and all animals have countless systems including the brain (with some exceptions to that rule and they are so enormously sophisticated that to duplicate their function is still beyond the realm of science. For that reason I don’t just accept evolution. I was also told to accept the holy spirit and it was disproved on so many levels to me by the actions of abusive family monst-I mean members including my ex who were all kristyans. But as far as your concept of just living life day today, that is definitely my angle. Live for today, for tomorrow we die, I believe this. I’ve been in lots of graveyards and I seriously doubt the dead float on clouds playing harps (boring!) but I believe they are under me as piles of dust. o have chance and circumstance make anything happen such as biology would require proof as much as the ideas of modern kristianity. Deism seems more logical to me, that’s why I buy food and clothes with my money instead of giving it to some loser on a pulpit with a cheap suit. ~ Genny

          • Bob Altizer

            OK, but then you must answer “Who created the designer?”

          • Mary Gennae Angelina

            Actually no not really. Unlike the kristyans I can say I don’t know, but at the same time, we humans live in a physical time space concept and a God would not, regardless of the nature of the god, and therefore cannot be measzured by the same rules. That’s not what is important. What is actually important is whether or not this God is what is perceived and taught. The back bone of most peoples existence is the dependence on this god being to take certain actions, including removing ills from their world (heaven or hell, resurrection, whatnot) If god does not exist, then this world simply is what it is with all of the daily horror you see on the news. If a god exists and promises to heal a sick world, then whether or not this is a reality that is all important, not his or her origin. Simply put, we all have heard how the end game is utopia, humanity cannot do anything but make this world worse. I just got out of the hospital and suffered mind blowing pain last night and millions of others are not going to recover like I will. If any god existed who would one day remove war, poverty, crime, death and all pain, I would not care if he hatched from a great blue egg as long as I did not walk into another hospital and see a man with two metal legs and a child slowly dying from AIDS contracted from a transfusion that was supposed to save his life. Frankly I don’t care where a given god originated if this god would do some repair work. Cheers:)

          • Spinoza

            Mary… there is just no “reasoning” with your biases and musings regarding ontology… but no matter, you have your own justifications, and in YOUR mind, it makes sense.
            So… whatever gets you through the night… let’s you find coherence in this life, which is the only one your will ever experience… is just fine since you are not seeking to proselytize… disrupt or corrode scientific curriculum in the classroom… tainting the public square with prayers to the imaginary bible-god… ranting against homosexuals… demonizing those who think otherwise and wishing them eternal torment (possible the most disgusting aspect of the Abrahamic faiths)… or killing to please your “god” or forward your religion’s power… i’m just fine with your:
            “must be a god… don’t care if the world is hugely dysfunctional now, bound to be better in some hereafter … and have no idea where, what or from whence this unknowable being came (whew!) “faith”:)

            Then again, perhaps it’s all… just a dream… ZZZzzz … .

          • Grantley David Leith

            How can you reason with logic when someone does not value logic. How can you reason with evidence when someone does not value evidence.

          • threenotch23

            More of your body mass is actually bacteria than it is cells based on your DNA. So it is not one singular body making changes evolving into a different being but an entire system evolving. The bacteria live reproduce and die in very short cycles so they evolve a lot faster than the humans that have a longer lifespan and gestation period. I have to think that the evolving bacteria inside a human may steer the body in some ways to pass along changes in the offspring. I have never read anything to support my theory but I still hold it nonetheless. The pain of death and disease is only another from of “life on the savanna”. Small packs of virus and bacterium taking down the larger prey to sustain and allow for reproduction. It is not for any “god” to remove the lion nor is it any god to remove the flu or hepatitis or Ebola. Each has it’s own course of life to run eat or be eaten that is and always has been the way.

          • Spinoza

            Um… the grist for the evolutionary mill be our DNA… organized into genes, and the regulatory portions which allow for epigenetics… not bacterial gut flora or viral remnants in our genome. Aging primarily is due to lack of the ability of the cell, via DNA repair enzymes to keep pace with induced adverse mutations and loss of the protective telomeres.
            One interesting viral segment involves the human placenta, which due to the fact it is deeply “invading” in the uterus, allows for our larger fetal brain development.
            And yes, our gut bacteria are more or less grouped into several types, that may shape our health as we grow/develop.
            We are truly embedded in Nature from every perspective… no gods need apply.

          • willknutsen

            Hi, Spinoza! Regarding Darwin: When he stepped aboard the deck of The Beagle, the then young Darwin believed that every word of the Bible was true. When his scientific research began to show that evolution was how life began, not a god’s creating life, he tried like hell to find flaws in his findings, but after decades of meticulous work (biological) he had to accept his theory was in fact, fact. There is an interesting book called “Darwin’s War”, which war was basically with himself and his religious beliefs as opposed to scientific fact. Of course fact won the war, thankfully. Cheers!
            Will

          • Spinoza

            Um… to an extent what you assert is true, but it was the tragic death of his dear young daughter Annie made him question, as it should any sane individual, the absurdity of faith in ‘The Almighty’. His wife Emma, was uber-relgious, and Charles held back partly in deference to her, but after Annie died, his entire world changed. He found new urgency to put his research out there and he no longer feared the repercussions from the religious hacks of his time.
            Yes, thankfully for all of us, we were set along the proper course for understanding the world around us… and a modicum of enlightenment.

            We should not also forget the fundamental contributions of the Welshman, Alfred Russell Wallace… way too often overlooked.

          • willknutsen

            Well, yeah, her death helped him see even cleared what he had already come to understand about a god in a creation, but those thousands of hours -previous to her death, not to mention, her birth- dissecting the guts of myriad types of, say, worms or beetles he had collected on the Beagle voyage was the scientific bit that forced him to question why -for one example- a god would bother making so many varieties of the bloody worms. etc. …not to mention why a god would create so many, and varied, guts! And he was using a microscope, so he could see there were differences! But he already in 1845, with his book on the Beagle voyage, stated some of his budding ideas on evolution. And he had had Lyell’s book (on non.biblical theories of how things came about) with him on the voyage, and he later wrote that Lyell was a great influence. He returned to England in 1936, and was already filled with the idea of evolution over biblical myths of creation. Mary died in 1851 of course. Most sources I have read said that it was his wife, Emma, who was very biblical, that made him hesitant to go public with his work and ideas. Mary’s death -and Emma’s new support for his none theolical theory- cleared the way for him to get his work published…and that was 25 years in the making. A long process. But he stated that he knew the book had to be nearly word-perfect or his critics would tear his ideas to peices. Funnily enough, he also hesitated to publish because it would mean he had to go and hang out in “that damned and dirty city” London of course.,.

          • Spinoza

            Well… not to be to “picky” and all of this is rather beside the point… BUT, his eldest daughter whom he deeply loved, was ANNIE, and she died as i recall about 10 years before he published (at the tender age of 10) “On the Origin of Species”… and it had a most profound influence on him.
            Moving on…. .

        • meleebird

          I’m not sure where you studied biology, but you were led astray and poorly informed. Or perhaps you just misunderstood poetic language “nature made use” as mechanistic interpretation. You are arguing against a description of evolution that doesn’t exist. In the kindest way possible, I would like to suggest that you go back and read some peer-reviewed studies of molecular evolution, geology, and anthropology. You are not making cogent arguments by restating the positions of other poorly-informed position papers.

        • willknutsen

          You are simply having a difficult time imaging the hundreds of millions of years it took to develope what exists today. There WAS “chance” involved: there were billions of mistakes and failures. But even chemical developement took place simply because it could: carbon atom DO hook up with like carbon atoms. There is no pupose or plan: it just has to function that way under those circumstances.This process is going on still, and will continue long after you and all life forms known today have gone extinct (or evolved to other forms: a chicken IS a dinosaur, as recent research has found). Try to imagine what you were before you were born. Try to get one memory from pre-birth. Then apply that to what you will be after you are dead. And remember: the reason you are here is because your parents had sex. No other reason. Why they has sex is something else, and very, very biological and follows patterns set in motion before humans evolved, or even before slime molds were evolved. We are, in fact, slime molds, highly evolved. Cheers!

      • willknutsen

        I had dinner with the Dalai Lama’s entourage in Oslo (he and they were there for the Peace Prize), and they ask me if I believed in the after life. I said, “Yes: this it!” And they laughed in agreement.

        • Spinoza

          Yep… just don’t “get” the faith-based with their myopic blinders and wishful thinking. Why “this amazing consciousness” .. this life with all the Natural Wonders, beauty we can find almost anywhere, is just not enough?

          Oh well… greed has always been part of our evolved behavior (cue the hoarders and the ruthless)… but too bad these folks literally miss the grandeur of the Natural/real whist hoping for the imaginary/super-natural; and worse, care about Nature not at all, except for a resource, as they await “end times” and “the rapture”, the most obnoxious dogma of all time.

    • Mary Gennae Angelina

      Yes they do, if they have a hit record that sold enough copies.

  • kellymitch

    “If you are going to question the existence of Jesus, wouldn’t you also have to question the existence of Socrates, Caesar or Alexander the Great”? Um…..no. While most scholars agree in the person of Jesus existing, the accounts attributed to him in the New Testament are not exactly the same thing. While, the earliest gospels were written at least 70 years after the events took place, then most of the gospels were written well after the lifetime of anyone who would have been around to witness anything first hand. That means, they are stories passed down through generations. We all know how accurate those are. Meanwhile, there are actually historical contemporaneous accounts and histories of actual people like Alexander the Great who are recorded in history, other than in religious texts.

    • Spinoza

      There were dozens of historians writing around the time the alleged miracle-working god-man followed by the masses, roaming around a small corner of our planet, millennia ago… many detailing the mundane activities of life, and some would have been contemporaries in both time and place… but yet none are aware of him. Remarkable indeed, unless he never existed.
      The silence of the historical record regarding this messiah… this supernatural being of immense importance for mankind… is deafening.

      • Chad Weber

        You don’t see any evidence for the man because you expect to find the god/messiah/savior. The myths are myths, but the guy was real. There aren’t references to him during his own life because he was just another illiterate peasant in real life, and none of the few literate people wrote about random peasants. The crap about being god was added much later. Most writing done in that period doesn’t exist anymore, regardless of the subject, even writings by famous scholars about important people/events. Since Jesus was not important and scholars never met him, chances are no one wrote about him (why would they?) and even if they did, chances are the writing would have been lost many centuries ago. This is especially true of writing done in Roman occupied Palestine, because 30 years after Jesus died, the Jews revolted and the entire region was reduced to rubble, and most of its inhabitants slaughtered. A hundred years later, the Jews revolted again, and the same thing happened. Then the region was conquered by Muslims, and much of it destroyed in the process. Then the crusaders destroyed it and captured it, then the Muslims took it back, then the Crusaders took it back, then the Muslims took it back, then the British annexed it, then the Jews carried out a terrorist campaign against the Brits, the Jews took it back, and the Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs and Egyptians have been fighting over it ever since. It is surprising anything still exists there, and it is not surprising that very little writing from Roman times is still around.

        • Mary Gennae Angelina

          From he research I have done on paganism this rule applies to quite a few people. Some were deified into Gods by their followers and came to be the residents of mount Olympus. I wondered how people could be so absurd as to God-ify a human, but then I realized between some of these nut job guys like Jim Jones and others and a lot of celebrities, deifying a human being is not all that tough. I think it would be funny for one of them to wake up one day and find that they went from being a wealthy merchant who bore authority and had a following to a God being who supposedly had super powers.
          I could be deified, me guesses, I have a really nice dress or two.

      • Mary Gennae Angelina

        They felt sorry for the fig tree.

        • willknutsen

          Don’t feel sorry for fig trees! If you have never touched a fig leaf you might not know that a rash will develope, so no one ever used a fig leaf to cover their genitals as some Medieval paintings show when the artist is “showing” the biblical myth of Eden And of course the biblical creation myth is so illogical (a talking snake; and a gog whose creation got out of control) that Early Greeks scholars laughed at jews who believed in it. The only way a human mind can come to believe such illogic is through fear of dying if one does not believe in it…which is exactly how Europeans came to believe in Hell and all that nonsense after laughing at it for centuries: Charlemagne forced this myth down the reluctant throats of Europeans by saying, “Believe or die!” (I just finished writing a book on that historical period) Terrorism and the threat of terror re-arranged human minds. By the way, the Vikings began attacking Charlemagne BECAUSE of his religious peresecution, persecution that was followed by the take-over of whole economies. That is the basis of Christianity. And the founders of Islam learned from the Christian murders. Then went after them!
          Cheers!

    • Chad Weber

      What about Socrates? He never seems to have written anything. Almost everything we know about him comes from Plato, who was a philosopher, not a historian. One could certainly make the argument that since Socrates is known primarily from Plato’s dialogues, in which he appears more often than any other character, it is at least plausible that he was a fictional character, possibly invented by Plato. I doubt that this is the case, but one could make this argument, and a number of people have.

      • kellymitch

        Yes, you could make that argument, but at least Plato was supposed to be a student of Socrates, they were contemporaries, and Plato didn’t wait 100 years to write about him.

        • Chad Weber

          Mark wrote about 30 years after Jesus, and may have been a contemporary. Paul’s first writings were only 10-20 years after Jesus died, and he met (and conflicted with, and was disciplined by) Jesus brother and the apostles. Most of Plato’s dialogues were written more than 30 years after Socrates’ death.

          • willknutsen

            All four of the so-called “gospels” contradict each other. And the bible has three different creation stories. Almost every serious religious scholar has come to the conclusion that the bible is not worth the paper it is printed on…yet you want to qoute it? And the oldest copy of the bible in the form known today is from around 1000 A.D.(and is in Moscow, but was created in England) so you and no one else knows what was actually written a 1000 years earlier. Earlier versions to the Moscow copy were specifically created to “correct” previous editions. Since when does the “perfect word of god” need editing….centuries later…and so often? And the Moscow copy is a copy of the bible CREATED in 800 AD by Alcuin of York, and this enterprise was paid for by Charlemagne who spent 35 years terrorisng Europeans into believing that the book was true…if a people rejected this mafia-like mass murderer’s claim about the bible, he tried to exterminate them, eterminate! And Alcuin told the then Pope that Charlemahne was the new Messiah, come with “fire and the sword”.

          • Spinoza

            There are so many “holes” in the cobbled together… way after “the fact” bible, as to make it really… “hole-y”… like cheesecloth.
            How any sane person could look to this stale text written by ignorant desert tribesmen, late iron-age is certainly beyond me: full or hearsay, bizarre para-normal folktales, genocides in some god’s name… condoned slavery… misogyny… riddled with errors, contradictions (can’t even get the lineage of the so-called messiah right)… fraudulent redactions… and on and on.

            Of course, many other “gospels” didn’t suit the story line of the early church bishops looking to consolidate power via Constantine at the infamous Council in Nicea in 325CE, and were simply jettisoned.
            When one considers the “big picture” regarding this political document and the competing sects during those turbulent times when the mystical and fantastical were considered the currency of the day (got oracles?)… it seems like the faith-based are truly insane.

          • Chad Weber

            When did I quote the bible? Also, the first copy of the bible isn’t the first copy of its contents. There are plenty of copies of individual gospels and epistles from the second and third centuries. I don’t believe in god, so I don’t believe that he has a “word”, perfect or otherwise. The gospels contradict each other on MANY things because they were written long after the fact by people who never met Jesus using a combination of oral traditions that had been passed down for decades and the anonymous authors’ own personal spins, because they were more interested in promoting their own take on the subject than presenting what we call “facts”. Your point?

  • Carla Cannon

    I dont believe anybody believes in Jesus or God. They say that because they are afraid of the unknown of death. If people really believed they would not behave the way they do. So Jesus to me is pure fiction , something to stave off the coldness of space, that goes for God too, total creations of man, whom they have no problem forgetting about when they want t to do something “bad”, or want to invoke when they need to appear pious

    • Mary Gennae Angelina

      Excellent post, so very true. Gene, my closest friend has said that and I had to check to see if it wasn’t his post. I think they call them kristyan atheists, people who don’t really believe in a god but they sorta do. They are terrified by the lie of going to hell so they want to appease the deity but not be obedient to him. Hence the whoring, drugs and booze on Friday night and the pretty suit and tie on sunday after the hangover and shower. We have a word for them: Hypocrites. Gene has names for them, but I don’t think we can write those here.

  • Robotmonster

    If anyone is in the area…This seems germane.

    • Spinoza

      Certainly worth hearing him… a brilliant guy!

  • Mdurwin

    So, a bunch of stories written by some guy who heard them from people who had passed them down for 50-100 years about someone who may or may not have lived leads you to believe that the myth upon which they were based but have grown paranoid and angry over the course of the few years of his ministry? Interesting. And you’re sure that this mythical half-man, half-god was real and that nothing written about him by people who never met him were completely accurate and lacking of any misinterpretation, agenda or influence by writers, translators and leaders seeking to use them to control the population or justify laws or wars? Fascinating.
    Where do you stand on Zeus? Was he really petty and bipolar? How about Lucy? Was she just being mean to Charlie Brown or trying to teach him a life lesson and what, if any, impact did her upper middle class upbringing have to do with it?

  • Philip Stevens

    Spinosa, you are of course correct on the main point, why are we having a discussion on ‘ How many angels can dance on a pin head ‘ when there are many more important intellectual arguments to be had. However, one must consider the need to draw a line under religious belief, to remove the historical validity, goes a long way to removing the distraction of religious interference in human endevour, including political and legal framing. By moving Jesus’s existence from the physical to the metaphysical clearly helps in this process. Understanding the importance of the impact of religious belief and those who uphold it, is important, because they often control the parameters of social /cultural values, which impact all sections of society. Any discussion or conclusion that weakens that authority will have a lasting effect on the direction of human kind.

  • if someone claims to be god, its only natural to doubt it. especially if it is only written word and not through experiencing the god firsthand. there could be more than one god, but who is an authority on the subject? fact is, you can force people to believe in your way all you want, but what it comes down to is nature is what it is. human nature is to resist authority. Me personally, I would much rather figure it out myself than be dictated to on what the truth is. a lot of it is propaganda and psychological warfare. Murphys Law. If it can happen, it probably will at some point. Physics. We are all bouncing off each other on the pool table of life. I will not claim to know it all. I know what I know, and I probably will not tell you more than I desire to. its whatever…people fighting to stake their intellectual claim…for what. War is supposedly a necessary evil. Somehow, I doubt that. I doubt that a lot.

    • Chad Weber

      That isn’t the question here. The question is whether Jesus existed. Almost all credible scholars, including atheists, Jews, and other non-Christians, accept that there was a man named Jesus who is the kernel of reality at the core of Christian theology/myth. These scholars don’t say he was god, or god’s son, or the messiah, or a great moralist, or a savior, or anything special at all; they don’t even know if he himself ever claimed that he was any of these things. They only say that there was an unremarkable, probably illiterate Jewish peasant who became on of hundreds of itinerant preachers in the region at that time, that he attracted a small group of followers, and that he, like thousands of other people like him, was crucified for being critical of the Roman authorities and the Temple leaders who collaborated with them, and for urging people to reject both.

      “The bible says Jesus was god, but there is no god, so therefore Jesus didn’t exist” is not a logical argument. A logical argument would be “The bible says Jesus was god, but there is no god, so therefore Jesus was not god and the bible is wrong.”

      • Spinoza

        Um… who really cares that “yeshua” was a rather common name or holy-men … preachers… or messiah pretenders were part of the community of competing religious sects or cults (among the ignorant masses) during those times? Doh!
        THE POINT are the (bogus) claims of religious faith/dogma that have come to dominate human social context based on that fiction, centuries past The Enlightenment.
        IT is absolutely critical to point out the LACK OF HISTORICITY of the alleged super-natural, miracle-working… resurrected from the dead, god-man – MR. JESUS… roaming a tiny nook of this planet millennia ago, as an organizing principle for personal, social and political life.
        Your point is obvious and not even worthy of discussion, in my opinion… except, sadly… most of the faith=based are simply unaware that any honest scholar must admit the utter lack of evidence for a literal, historical jesus of the bible, and would speak in allegorical terms only. In fact, the point of some jesus character is moot, since it is clear to me and other the gospels and the character of jesus/christ was complete allegorical fiction or mythos, based on similar preceding mystical folklore.
        So Chad, just curious… do you defend any “faith” or “god” construct in this Universe… and why the deflection to the historical evidence for someone OTHER than jesus/christ (Socrates)… what’s the agenda there?

        • Chad Weber

          Yeah, it’s weird to talk about historicity in the comments for an article about historicity, and to mention Socrates in those comments when the article itself mentions Socrates. I’m guessing you didn’t bother to read it. I haven’t defended anything, actually, but I like how you make shit up to suit your own needs. My agenda? Honest, rational discourse. Apparently, you prefer tired cliches, self impressed bombast, and preaching to the choir. Have fun with that.

          • Spinoza

            You post such interesting, nuanced… trivialities; fascinating… not at all.
            The historical evidence for Socrates is such a trendy, hot topic… has altered the course of human history and resulted in huge, powerful institutions in his name… must research all the fierce, scintillating debate… LOL.
            Discourse on Chad… and on… and on… ZZZzzz.

          • Chad Weber

            I’m guessing you’ve never heard of philosophy, because modern philosophy began with Socrates, the Socratic Method, and Socrates’ pupil, Plato. In a very real way, philosophy as an institution is the offspring of Socrates, or at the very least, of Plato. As a matter of fact, Platonism played a major role in the Theosophy of Christianity. So again, condescension, when it comes from an ignorant buffoon only makes him look more ignorant and buffoonish. Try to avoid it in the future.

          • Spinoza

            Grow up Chad… your rants are tiresome. Feelings hurt… ego bruised?
            Hmmm… philosophy… what DOES it all mean? So confused here… always thought is was just one’s opinion.
            The TITLE of the article is SAVIOR? MYTH? SHAMAN? or (my fav’) INK BLOT?
            Where does it limit itself to your narrow-minded, dimly lit focus of “let’s compare the historicity of this (important, but no longer relevant) philosopher Socrates (and yes, i took several philosophy courses in college)… to MR. JESUS OF WORLD DOMINATING CHRISTIANITY WHICH CONTINUES TO HOLD SWAY centuries post Enlightenment?
            The answer is, of course: myth and ink blot… possibly sham-man… definitely not ‘savior’, unless you are among the delusional.
            Once again Mr. Persistently Annoying… who cares about your obsession with the extremely murky world of ancient history and sifting through sand, looking for exactly what?
            Moving on… .

          • Chad Weber

            And if you thought philosophy was “just one’s opinion”, you know even less about philosophy than you do about history. Philosophy is the study of morality, which (unlike ethics) transcends personal experience and cultural norms. It is the attempt to identify universal maxims for thought and behavior.

          • Spinoza

            Um… that’d be “ethics” chad’ster… .

          • Chad Weber

            No, ethics are conditional and situation-specific. Try again.

          • Spinoza

            Chad… your ego and obnoxiousness are boundless:

            From Wiki:

            “Philosophy is the study of GENERAL and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”

            “Ethics, sometimes known as MORAL philosophy, is a branch of philosophy… ”

            Ever heard of meta-ethics… epistemology?… doh!

            Got hubris? Could you be any more wrong?

          • Chad Weber

            I would only be wrong if I was wrong. You said philosophy is ethics. It isn’t. Ethics is a narrow branch of philosophy. Philosophy is based in morality and knowledge, but how we define that knowledge – i.e. epistemology – and what a particular culture’s norms are – i.e. ethics – are subsets of philosophy. That is why the dictionary defines ETHICS as “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.:”; (i.e., the rhetorician’s domain) whereas it defines MORALS as “expressing or conveying truths or counsel as to right conduct, as aspeaker or a literary work;
            founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than
            on legalities, enactment, or custom:” (i.e., the philosopher’s domain).
            Since you seem to be rather simple minded, google “ethics vs morals” and click on the first link (from the website diffen). It is written for people of your simple mindset.

          • Chad Weber

            And yet again, you pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

          • Chad Weber

            FYI – when it says “in more casual speech”, it means “when dullards who don’t know the difference are speaking”… Which is to say, people like you. This would be the reason you are confused.

          • Chad Weber

            For instance, “medical ethics” govern accepted norms in the practice of medicine, but these only apply to medicine. There are no “medical morals” because morality is a broader concept that applies to all aspects of human experience.

          • Chad Weber

            By the by, your track record is still remarkable – literally EVERYTHING you’ve said has been both ridiculous and wrong, and has made you look incredibly stupid. You think rhetoric is philosophy, but you’re not even a skilled rhetorician. This is so much fun.

          • Chad Weber

            Who cares? The article’s author, the panelists she interviewed, everyone who read it, thousands of scholars, and so on. Where does it compare historical Jesus to historical Socrates? Here: “If you’re going to doubt that Jesus existed, wouldn’t you also have to question the existence of, say, Socrates, Caesar, or Alexander the Great? If not, why not?”
            Socrates irrelevant? Only to dullards such as yourself.

        • Chad Weber

          PS – Virtually all credible scholars – even the atheists and agnostics – accept that there was a historical Jesus. Ask Bart D. Ehrman if you need a second opinion on that.

          • Spinoza

            Um… not all scholars… the more critical and unbiased (imo) think it allegorical mythos from the very beginning, like other mythic rising-dying god-men traditions.
            But again who really cares if there was an ordinary HUMAN ‘wisdom teacher’ in a time when many are plying that (mystical) trade… or fraudulent messiahs… miracle-workers… oracles… charlatans of many stripes?
            What’s your point? Pure myth or folklore shaped around one (or more) person(s)… it’s a distinction without a (fundamental) difference.

            THE POINT is there is no credible, historical evidence for the supernatural god-man of the bible. .. not to mention the whole concept reeks of irrationality and comports completely with folkloric traditions of those times.

            Yep, the “historical, real jesus” is so elusive as to warrant at least FIVE scholarly quests over past centuries to find your preacher-man… all seems quite inconclusive, including the diligent effort of Schweitzer. The Jesus Seminars assumed there was some dude uttering some of the hearsay in the bible, and as i recall, could only ascribe about 18% of it to this jesus fellow,.. and an even lower fraction to actions ascribed to him. Seems as THE MYTH completely overshadows the man, IF (and that’s a really big if) existed at all. A follow up Seminar was planned to examine that assumption, but i think it never really got off the ground.

            Anyway, i could quote others (e.g. Dr. Robert M Price) who, based on careful study conclude NO historical jesus ever existed.
            Again, it really matters… not at all.
            Moving on… .

          • Chad Weber

            I like how you pick a name of a discredited nobody out of the article and pretend you know what you’re talking about. Again, consensus is that there was a Jesus, and again, THE POINT of this article was the historicity of Jesus, totally apart from the myths. Have fun being a pretentious blowhard who bores everyone with dime-a-dozen opinions devoid of any insight which you seem to think are somehow outrageous.

            The Jesus Seminar’s results – 11 statements were red, 80ish were pink. But they were trying to make Jesus a nice guy who didn’t hate gentiles, approved of homosexuality, etc. This is absurd – he was an ignorant, illiterate religious fundamentalist, and would have been horrified by modern sensibilities. Many of the members of the Jesus Seminar had questionable credentials. The panel was very one sided. They also said he wasn’t an apocalypticist, which is ridiculous. They did go on to deal with the acts and deeds after the sayings, and only ceased their activities afterwards. Interesting stuff, but I take it with a grain of salt. They were too inclined to find a Jesus they liked.

          • Spinoza

            Still name-calling Chad, rather adolescent and unbecoming.

            Of course your “credentials” trump the “scholars” involved in that project and your opinions trump their consensus… right?
            It should be obvious that almost all New Testament or biblical “scholars” are either faith-based or extremely biased toward a religious perspective…. or they would actually be contributing to society in some meaningful way… and never even question there was an historical figure. Doh!

            Again, i care not at all about the jesus minutia (now what exactly did he look like and why did he write… not a word?) THE ONLY historical question worthy of debate or discussion: was there a “real” supernatural god-man (as opposed to all the preceding mythic figures) roaming a tiny portion of this planet- very, very briefly – millennia ago, yet unknown to the many historians around that alleged time?
            Um… no.
            (Oh, and regarding me ‘boring everyone’ Chad’ly, please check the positive responses i’ve received… versus the rather lame response you have received from those either participating or visiting this site. Zero for ya Mr. Blowhard.)

            Guess your dopey Socrates ruse, and hey: i have special knowledge regarding the “real” jesus just didn’t wash, eh?
            Buh-bye.

          • Chad Weber

            You seem to be unaware that myths aren’t history – they’re the opposite of history, actually. Jesus’ absence in historical records from his time is only surprising if you are stupid enough to be looking for a god rather than a man.

            You also fail to appreciate, for the umpteenth time, that you are commenting on an article about the historicity of Jesus with tired piffle that most of us in the atheist world outgrew about the same time we graduated high school.

            And no, not my credentials – those of scholars in the field who wonder why the Seminar included almost no one who didn’t attend one of 3 schools, and why it included a Hollywood director with no experience in the field whatsoever. Feel free to read the criticism for yourself – these people were looking for a friendly pacifist who loved everyone, not an apocalyptic zealot with no education, a very limited perspective, and a fundamentalist approach to his religion. Consensus is what interests me – and the consensus is that the Jesus Seminar found what it wanted to find. These were people of a single mind, and it is hardly surprising that their Jesus matched the Jesus they had been promoting throughout their professional careers. There is no broad consensus on most aspects of Jesus’ life and beliefs, but there is very broad consensus on the fact that the Jesus Seminar was flawed from the get go. This is one thing that many atheist scholars and evangelical scholars, and scholars of every shade of belief and non-belief in between, have agreed on. But fell free to cling to your tenuous understanding of an outdated and largely discredited study.

            You’re right, you’re not boring EVERYONE – you’re only boring those of us who aren’t interested in having our pre-existing opinions coddled by a witless, dull, and cliche-spewing Dawkins wannabe. I for one don’t see any value in appealing to popularity with like-minded, uncritical people who are just as desperate for validation and ego-stroking as any baptist congregant. But hey, tie your self-image to how many likes you get, if preaching to the choir is your thing.

            I’m not sure what part of my comments on Socrates was a “ruse” – the fact is, virtually everything we know about him was written by one man, a biased source who was one of his students, long after his death, and was written in fictional dialogues constructed to illustrate that man’s personal beliefs, rather than the beliefs of Socrates himself. This is a very good analogy for what we know – and what we don’t know – about the historical Jesus.

            For future reference, being condescending only works when you actually understand the subject you’re discussing. You clearly don’t, so the condescension makes you look even more ridiculous.

  • Desertnote

    While interesting, I agree that determining whether or not Jesus was a historical figure will do little to dissolve the Christian meme. Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were certainly historical figures, and they’ve convinced millions to believe in their fantastical claims. Until the respect paid to religion by government and institutions is demoted, reason will continue to be stalled in its progress.