Gary: I believe cognitive dissonance may very well explain the development of the Resurrection Belief, notwithstanding your objections (and those of other Christian apologists), Joel. I would bet good money that this or something like this scenario is what happened:
The disciples were preparing to reign on thrones with Jesus the Jewish Messiah in a re-established Kingdom of Israel. They expected to defeat Rome, govern Israel, and the entire world would be at peace, according to the Jewish Scriptures. These men were fishermen, peasants, and tax collectors, yet their dreams were filled with visions of ruling a nation!
Then, their hopes and dreams were suddenly and violently crushed with the unexpected execution of their “messiah”.
“What happened??” they asked themselves? Where in the Jewish Scriptures does it talk about an executed messiah? We were so sure that Jesus was the real messiah, and not a pretender.” Horrific despair and depression set in.
Then days, weeks, or months later, someone, probably women, find the tomb of Jesus empty.
“Why is Jesus’ grave empty?? Maybe God raised Jesus from the dead, just like he raised people from the dead in the OT! Maybe the empty tomb means that Jesus is still alive and will soon return to us to establish the New Kingdom!”
The empty tomb has given the disciples a glimmer of hope. Their hopes and dreams are still alive! This glimmer of hope triggers vivid dreams, daytime trances, and maybe even hallucinations of Jesus, possibly first occurring with Peter. In a very vivid dream, Jesus tells Peter that he has returned from the dead, he forgives Peter’s betrayal, and appoints Peter as the new leader of their movement. He instructs Peter to preach the Gospel with boldness because he, Jesus, will return to establish the Kingdom at any moment.
Peter’s vivid dream triggers other disciples to have vivid dreams, trances, maybe hallucinations. Then groups of disciples experience illusions (bright lights) or false sightings (seeing someone in the distance, on a hill top for instance, and believing it to be an appearance of Jesus).
“But why does Jesus keep appearing for brief encounters but never stays??” a disciple asks. “Well, maybe he wasn’t just raised from the dead, maybe the resurrection of the dead has begun! Jesus is in Paradise collecting the righteous dead and will soon return with them to establish his kingdom. Maybe Jesus was the first fruits of the general resurrection, the rest of the righteous dead will be raised…tomorrow!!! The Kingdom is nigh! Sell everything you have, move to Jerusalem, the city of David, fast and pray. Jesus’ coming will happen any second now! We are soon to be rulers of a nation!!!
And that is how cognitive dissonance led to the Resurrection Belief without anyone ever actually seeing a flesh and bone resurrected corpse!
Joel Edmund Anderson, Christian blogger: That is a very imaginative scenario…with absolutely zero written or textual evidence anywhere.
Gary: It is very perplexing to us skeptics why Christians insist that we provide evidence for our hypothetical, possible, natural explanations for the origin of the Resurrection Belief. If you were to ask me for a possible/plausible explanation for the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I would respond: “Her plane probably crashed into the Pacific and she died.”
Must I provide evidence of her plane crash to posit such a hypothetical explanation?? No. No evidence is required. The only criteria that must be met is that my hypothetical explanation does not contradict any existing, established evidence.
Ditto for the Resurrection Belief. We skeptics do not need to provide one shred of evidence that the disciples experienced illusions, vivid dreams, cases of mistaken identity, and/or hallucinations as plausible explanations for the origin of the Resurrection Belief. Not one shred.
End of post.
5 thoughts on “Must Skeptics Provide Evidence to Support Hypothetical Alternative Explanations for the Resurrection Belief?”
Wow, Gary, I wish I could do that bit of magic in relation to my taxes and debts. “Hey, I don’t owe one shred of any of that. I can rationalize it with my skepticism, and that’s all that’s necessary.”
Really? The convenience you people afford for yourselves is so very typical. You leap off the cliff of non-responsibility for anything on your part, and you think gravity isn’t going to win out in the end?
You lack common sense and good critical thinking skills, my Christian friend. It is hopeless trying to have a rational conversation with you.
Imagine having to provide written textual evidence of alternatives to counter every one of the gazillion Hindu/Muslim/Medieval Catholic miracle claims- claims that even Evangelical Christians don’t believe.
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Conservative Christians repeatedly claim that they have eyewitness testimony for the resurrection of Jesus and that eyewitness testimony is very strong evidence in any court of law. But there is a big problem with this claim. The only alleged eyewitness statements Christians have of people explicitly claiming to see, touch, and hear a walking, talking resurrected first century corpse are in the four Gospels (and Acts). And the undeniable fact is that the experts (New Testament scholars) are divided on the eyewitness status of these ancient texts. The eyewitness status of the Gospels is disputed! Disputed eyewitness testimony is NOT considered strong evidence in a court of law.
This is why I believe that skeptics should stop debating Christians on the evidence and simply point to the fact that experts are divided on the eyewitness status of Christianity’s principal evidence for this alleged event. That is all we need to say! When experts are divided on an issue, most modern educated people withhold judgment on the issue in question.
This argument will not convince many Christians, but it is sufficient for most educated non-Christians.
Modern, educated people should not believe in the resurrection of Jesus because the experts are divided on the eyewitness status of the only sources which describe in detail this (alleged) very extra-ordinary event.