Below is a conversation I had in May of this year, one month prior to my deconversion from the Christian religion, with a group of ex-Christians/now atheists, agnostics, or deists.
Copied from DagoodS’ blog: Thoughts from a Sandwich
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Dagood: Is it possible that the correct answer to your question, “Would a modern jury be convinced of the evidence for the Resurrection” be… not “yes” or “no”, but “depends”?
If the jury is composed of twelve “Dagood’s” then the jury will definitely not find in favor of the Resurrection. However, if the jury is composed of twelve members who reflect the population at large of the United States, I think there would be a very good possibility that they would.
Studies show that 80% of Americans believe that miracles are possible.
Only if the jury is composed of persons like yourself who believe that miracles are impossible, would they definitely vote “no”.
When I question, “What would a neutral jury determine?” I mean a neutral jury. A jury who has no stake in the claim; a jury who will not benefit if one side wins, nor be harmed if another side loses. We deal with neutral juries every day.
The jury doesn’t care whether the crime occurred on Monday or Tuesday or three years ago—they are neutral. They don’t care whether the defendant is alleged to use a knife, a gun or a pointing finger in a coat. If they decide the person is guilty, no juror will spend a single minute behind bars.
The neutral jury doesn’t care whether plaintiff breached the contract, or defendant did, or both or neither. The jury will not have to pay a single nickel if they award the Plaintiff a million dollars—nor will they receive a single nickel. The very reason they are neutral is their lack of benefit or harm regardless of outcome. Now if a juror is the wife of the Plaintiff, we immediately understand why such a person cannot be neutral.
Our neutral jury for theological claims doesn’t care whether there is a God or not. Doesn’t care whether it is Allah, G-d, Jesus, or Shiva. Doesn’t care whether there are inspired writings, let alone which writings qualify. They hear the arguments from all sides, with neutrality firmly in place, and make a determination what is more likely, based upon ALL the evidence. Let me reiterate this, as it will become important later—ALL the evidence.
I understand this is an ideal jury. I have heard the complaints such a jury doesn’t actually exist. So what? We deal with other such ideals without problem. For example, we hold people to a “reasonable person” standard—what a reasonable person would do in a situation. There is no actual reasonable person—we are not reviewing what some guy named “Bob Hendrickson” in Wichita does—this is an ideal. It is the jury thinking through common sense what is considered reasonable, given the various parameters of the situation.
Given all the information—what we know about Roman culture, and Hebrew Culture, and the First Century Mediterranean honor/shame society, and altered states of conscious, mixed with the language and writings of the time, combined with Christian documentation, archeology, geology, etc.—a jury neutral to the prospect of Jesus’ resurrection would determine it is more likely no resurrection occurred. This was a developed legend arising from disappointed followers of a perceived Messianic figure.
Your question about 80% of people believing in miracles only highlights how we can obtain neutrality. Why limit it to America? What makes America so special? How about we include the world?
23% of the world is Muslim. They believe in Miracles. They are not persuaded Jesus rose from the dead. 15% of the World is Hindu. Miracles = yes; Resurrection = no. 7% is Buddhist, 7% “other religions” and 16% non-religious. No miracles, no resurrection. Less than 1% is Jewish. Again yes to Miracles but no to Resurrection.
32% are Christians, the only possible hope for yes to both miracles and resurrection. From here.
On that number alone, the resurrection fails to preponderate, as 68% do not find it more likely. But even within Christianity, there is debate as to what constitutes a miracle. Pit a Pentecostal Catholic against a Cessationist; you will come up with a very different miracle list.
Gary, do you believe a miracle occurred when Grilled Cheese Jesus appeared? See, you may believe in miracles…but believing in miracles doesn’t mean you believe every miracle. The same way our jury may all believe in miracles, yet still be neutral as to the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and determine it did not occur.
Look at it another way. (And I must credit Matthew Ferguson for this hypothetical.) Does your God have the ability to turn me into a giant pickle? I think we both agree if such a God exists, it could. And no matter how we define a miracle, this would qualify. Now, because (as you believe) your God raised Lazarus from the dead, does this make it more likely or less likely that God will turn me into a pickle? It doesn’t! Right? Even believing in God, even believing in a God who performs miracles, does not make a particular miracle more or less likely. Perhaps…just perhaps…one could argue if a God had performed a miracle before it makes it more likely He would do it again, but Jesus’ resurrection and my being turned into a pickle are unique events.
There are no previous claimed miracles making the Resurrection or my eventual pickledom more or less likely. So our neutral jury, even believing miracles occur may still be neutral toward whether a particular miracle happened.
I reviewed your current set of blog entries reiterating apologists’ attempts to provide evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Alas, they present a much skewed, (sometime downright incorrect) recitation to a favorable audience in assurance the vast, vast majority of Christians will swallow whatever they feed to gratify their own desire to justify rationality within the Christian belief.
I strongly encourage anyone (and everyone) to go to a motion hearing day in a local court. A day set aside for the Judge to hear numerous Motions on various cases where the litigants hope to compel a decision on a parcel of the case. When the first lawyer talks, they recite the facts, and the law, and one cannot help think, “Wow!—what a great case. That other side is a complete idiot to think they could possibly win.” But then the other side stands up, and informs how the facts were not exactly as portrayed by the first attorney. And the law is not so crystal clear. And then you think, “Hmmm…not so cut-and-dried after all.”
You begin to realize how we humans (and those arguing vociferously for a position) shade the facts, and put our best position forward, and downplay or outright ignore any opposing situation. This is what your apologists are doing.
Let’s look at one example—I’ve used this previously.
”But three days later the tomb was empty.”
”Number one is the empty tomb of Jesus–everybody agreed in the ancient world that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The question is, how did it get empty?”
”A hallucination would explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it would not explain the empty tomb,…”
”The tomb was empty on Easter”
”The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.”
Okay, okay, okay…I get it! Pretty solid fact the tomb was empty on Sunday, right? Almost every apologist you listed mentioned it, it is highlighted as a fact, how do those skeptics explain THAT!?
But what…..is that the actual fact?
Actually, the first written indication we have regarding the tomb being empty is the Gospel according to Mark. Written (by consistent methodology) after 70 CE, at least 40 years after the event. We do not know who wrote Mark, let alone where the person obtained their information. So instead of “The tomb was empty on Sunday” the actual evidence is “At least 40 years after the claimed event, an unknown person repeated what they heard from an unknown person who claimed the tomb was empty on Sunday.”
So skeptics do not have to answer the question, “How was the tomb empty on Sunday?” but rather, “How did the story of the empty tomb develop 40 years after the event?” As one can see, the actual evidence provides for an easy naturalistic explanation.
Reading through those blog entries I see error after unfounded claim after lack of evidence after unsubstantiated assertions. Sure it initially looks like strong arguments to those who want to believe it. Alas, once it is questioned, probed or researched, it is discovered to be a cardboard façade held up with tape and string.