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Should Atheists Debate the Evidence for the Resurrection?

The Resurrection – BYU Museum of Art Store

Imagine the discovery of four twelfth century books which each detail the story of five hundred peasants in rural Germany witnessing, at one time and place, Cinderella’s fairy godmother turning a pumpkin into a carriage.

Should we believe in the historicity of this story based on the evidence that 500 people claim to have been eyewitnesses? Of course not. And why not? Because it is a stupid, silly, highly improbable claim.

Ditto for first century dead corpse reanimations.

The time has come to cease entertaining alleged “evidence” for this preposterous claim. It is not worthy of one second of our time debating this issue. Its proponents should simply be laughed off the stage for their gullibility.

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Bombshell: Paul Invented the Last Supper!

Top 10 Facts about The Last Supper from Leonardo da Vinci - Discover Walks  Blog

Ex-Christian pastor David Madison brought up a very intriguing topic on Debunking Christianity blog today: Did Paul get the story of the Last Supper from the original disciples of Jesus, as most Christians believe, or did the authors of the Gospels get this story from Paul??

We know that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied Mark extensively. And the author of John says not one word about a Last Supper in his gospel. According to this gospel, Jesus was washing people’s feet the night of his arrest. So is it possible that the author of Mark got this story from Paul and simply added some embellishments??

Paul tells us almost nothing about the historical Jesus in his epistles. In fact, Paul never gives us any detailed stories about the life and deeds of Jesus, except one: the Last Supper. So why out of all the stories (allegedly) told to Paul by the disciples about Jesus, did he only pick the story of the Last Supper to include in his epistles? Why not a detailed story about the Crucifixion, or more importantly, the Resurrection? Christian apologists excuse the near total silence in Paul’s writings regarding the historical Jesus, saying that Paul was addressing specific issues with specific churches in his epistles: “Why would Paul bother telling stories about the historical Jesus in his epistles? That was not the purpose of these letters.” Ok… Maybe that’s true. But let’s look at a passage from Paul which represents one of the very few occasions that Paul does say something about the historical Jesus…or does he?

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[b] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[c]25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

–Paul of Tarsus, in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11

Note the first line of this passage: “for I received from the Lord…”.

How very, very odd!

Paul doesn’t claim here that he received this information about the Last Supper from Peter and James during his two week stay with them in Jerusalem, which is what most Christian apologists will tell you is the means by which Paul knew this information. Nope. What’s more, Paul doesn’t even use the verb “received” in an anonymous sense when talking about how he received this information, as he does in chapter 15 of the same epistle when discussing how he obtained the list of (alleged) eyewitnesses to the appearances of the resurrected Jesus. Nope. Paul very clearly states that the information regarding the Last Supper came directly from the mouth of Jesus the Christ himself!

Wow. I never noticed that before!

Paul had another one of his trances! Paul was hearing voices in his head again.

The Lord’s Supper, the Last Supper, occurred in the mentally deranged brain of Paul, not in reality! The author of Mark, possibly a Pauline Christian living in Rome or Antioch, heard this story from Paul and simply added some embellishments when he retold it in his best seller—the Gospel of Mark!

My, my, my!

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William Lane Craig’s Website Responds to My Question: Why do So Many Apologists Struggle with Doubt?

Faith Wall Decals  Doubt Your Doubts Before You Doubt Your image 0

Gary’s question for William Lane Craig on his website:

Dear Christian apologist: When is the last time you struggled with doubts regarding the reality of Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon? When is the last time you laid awake at night questioning the historicity of Alexander the Great’s sacking of the city of Tyre? When is the last time you prayed to God to reassure you of the historicity of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem?

Never?

Think about this: If the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is as good if not better than the evidence for other major historical claims from Antiquity, as many Christian apologists claim, why is it that you have spent so many sleepless nights agonizing over the historicity of the greatest (alleged) event in all of human history??

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is not good, my Christian apologist friend. Tell us that you believe in this event by blind faith, but don’t tell us that there is good historical evidence for it. Your doubts are overwhelming evidence that there is not!

Response from William Lane Craig’s website:

Dear Gary,

Thank you for contacting Reasonable Faith and for your question. Due to the high volume of questions Dr. Craig receives, he cannot answer every one personally. I am part of a team of people that helps respond to them. 

I’m not sure one should accept the assumption behind the question. But even so, doubts can be simply a function of ignorance. 

I noted in the article the comparison to, say, Caesar crossing the Rubicon. Of course, the disanalogy between that and the Resurrection is that most apologists (indeed, most people) have not had reason to have a strong commitment to it one way or the other. Now, if one were to think a lot of one’s worldview rode on the historicity of Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon, then ignorance of the evidence for the historicity of that event would no doubt prompt angst, too. So this contrast between Caesar-crosses-the-Rubicon-belief and Resurrection-belief tells one nothing about the evidence available.

The more general and important lesson here, though, is that it doesn’t follow from the fact that someone has doubts about X that there is poor evidence for X.

As to whether there is evidence, well, there has been plenty of work done on this, and indeed, some of it by Dr. Craig himself. Several volumes of academic work resulted from his second PhD in Germany, which was on the historicity of the Resurrection. Now, how many pastors have read that (or the popularizations)? Probably relatively few. But doubts caused by failure to read doesn’t cast doubt on the evidence.

But it may not be a failure to read either. In the case of, say, Mike Licona, you’ll notice that it wasn’t that the evidence was lacking–it was that he wasn’t as confident the evidence favored the Resurrection hypothesis until he subjected that evidence to the scrutiny of debate.

In other cases (and it sounds like it may have been in Mike’s case too), it could be that doubts are driven not by the evidence, but by the false belief that knowledge of something requires being certain of it. Now, that’s not a view on the evidence, but a philosophical claim about knowledge (and therefore, a claim that entails something about any conclusion drawn from the evidence.

But as any epistemologist will note, certainty is not a necessary condition for knowledge. Unfortunately, it’s probably the case that pastors and a good many scholars (in any field, not just NT Historiography), hold this false view, and so, are driven to doubt, yet without justification.

Sincerely,
Tim B.
Reasonable Faith Please interact with others on Dr. Craig’s material in our forums.

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Sam Harris: Belief in the Christian God is no More Rational than Belief in Zeus

After Christopher Hitchens, my favorite atheist apologist has to be Sam Harris. Harris is an incredibly intelligent, very clever, sharp-witted guy; the perfect advocate and ambassador for science, reason, and rational thinking! Check out this very short clip in which Harris gives several excellent reasons for why you should NOT believe in Jesus of Nazareth as your personal Lord and Savior:

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Bombshell: The Resurrection did NOT Convince the Earliest Christians that Jesus Was God

Bomb, Cartoon, Iconic

When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. 24 Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled[e] and from fornication.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them. –Acts 21

Why is it that in the earliest Christian writings, no one refers to Jesus as Yahweh? Paul never refers to Jesus as Yahweh. Yes, Paul believed that the resurrected Jesus was divine in some sense; that he has the power to save your soul; and maybe that he is equal to God in some aspects; but Paul never tells his readers that the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of Nazareth are one and the same being. Why is that?

And the same is true in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus never claims to be Yahweh in the Synoptics. Yes, he infers in one passage that he has the power to pronounce the forgiveness of sins, but Roman Catholic and Lutheran clergy have been pronouncing God’s forgiveness of sins on penitent sinners in the confessional for two thousand years! Should we assume these men are Yahweh??

But the clear and unequivocal evidence that the earliest Christians did not believe that Jesus was Yahweh comes from the Book of Acts. If the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was Yahweh, why on earth were they still worshipping and offering animal sacrifices in the Temple more than TWENTY years after Jesus’ death?

Jesus is not God, folks. Not even the “eyewitnesses” believed that he was God. Even though these followers of Jesus believed that he had appeared to them after his death, this did not convince them that Jesus was God. His resurrection only convinced them that he was the Messiah. If Jesus was Yahweh, devout Jews would have referred to him as such. They would not have referred to him as “the Christ”, which is simply a Greek translation of the Hebrew “messiah”.

Even if the Resurrection occurred, it is not evidence that Jesus is God. If the (alleged) Resurrection did not convince the earliest Christians that Jesus was God, why the hell should anyone today accept it as evidence that Jesus is God??

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There is a Good Reason Why So Many Christian Apologists Struggle With Doubt

Dear Christian apologist: When is the last time you struggled with doubts regarding the reality of Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon? When is the last time you laid awake at night questioning the historicity of Alexander the Great’s sacking of the city of Tyre? When is the last time you prayed to God to reassure you of the historicity of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem?

Never?

Think about this: If the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is as good if not better than the evidence for other major historical claims from Antiquity, as many Christian apologists claim, why is it that you have spent so many sleepless nights agonizing over the historicity of the greatest (alleged) event in all of human history??

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is not good, my Christian apologist friend. Tell us that you believe in this event by blind faith, but don’t tell us that there is good historical evidence for it. Your doubts are overwhelming evidence that there is not!

Click here to read the sad story of nagging doubts and sleepless nights of prominent evangelical scholar Michael Licona. And he is not alone. One prominent pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention claims that he has undergone the born again experience over 5,000 times due to his doubts! Why? Answer: the evidence for the Resurrection is not strong. It is not good. If it were, pastors and apologists would not be lying awake at night worrying about it.

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Debunking the Exodus is the Best Method to Expose Jesus as a False Messiah

Ask any Christian apologist how she knows that Jesus of Nazareth was/is the Creator God, and she will typically respond with the Cosmological Argument or the Fine Tuning Argument. But these arguments only support the existence of a generic god. That isn’t what I asked! Where is the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator God???

I have never heard a satisfactory answer to this question, even from the likes of the “great” Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig. The typical reply is that the resurrection of Jesus proves that he is God. But the evidence for this alleged first century corpse reanimation has been hashed and rehashed and still the overwhelming majority of the planet’s non-Christians doubt its historicity.

The believability of the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus really depends upon your willingness to trust unverified first century eyewitness testimony, passed down in oral form for many decades before finally being written down, from a group of mostly uneducated, highly superstitious, religious zealots claiming to have seen their dear departed leader appear to them after his untimely death. Would educated people believe such a preposterous claim if a new religious sect made the same claim today? No way!

But let’s look at the claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator God from another angle. If one reads the Gospels, it is very apparent that Jesus of Nazareth believed that the Passover and the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt were real historical events and that Moses was a real historical person. Yet, modern archaeology has demonstrated, with almost unanimous expert consensus, that this story is nothing more than an ancient tall tale! Jesus believed a tall tale was fact!

This is the best evidence that Jesus was not the Creator God!

Even if by some strange twist of fate, Jesus of Nazareth was seen alive again after his public execution, the fact that he believed the Exodus Story to be true is absolute proof that he was not an all-knowing god.

Jesus was wrong. Jesus was not the Creator God.

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Must a Miracle Defy the Laws of Physics?

It's A Miracle - UP Faith and Family

Christian: What makes you think a “laws of physics defying event” is the definition of “miracle?”

Gary: Yes, it is important that we agree on our definitions. I realize that in your worldview, a “miracle” can involve events which do not defy the laws of physics, for instance, recovery from an illness. So maybe a definition of “miracle” which we can both agree upon would be this: the intervention of a supernatural force or being into the natural order/processes of the universe.

But when someone recovers from an illness after prayers to Jesus or any other god, how do we know if this healing occurred by natural processes alone or by the intervention of a supernatural force? We can’t. But when someone alleges that a human being levitated into the clouds without any mechanical assistance, we can safely assume that we are dealing with an assertion of a violation of the laws of physics. And for such events, no scientist has yet stepped forward with evidence that verifies than any such event has ever occurred.

Trust science, not ancient superstitions, my friend.

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The Best Argument Against the Existence of the Christian God

Gender of God - Wikipedia

Listen to any debate involving a prominent conservative Christian apologist on the topic of Does God Exist and they will usually appeal to the following two lines of argument for the existence of God:

–Everything we know comes from something. Something cannot come from nothing.

–The fine tuning of the universe (the laws of physics, the set orbits of planets, etc.) points to an intelligent designer, a Creator.

My response: It is certainly possible that our universe was created by an intelligent being, but that in no way proves that your god, Yahweh/Jesus the carpenter Christ, is that intelligent creator. The Judeo-Christian god claims to have produced many amazing, laws-of-physics defying “miracles”, yet no scientist since the dawn of the scientific age has ever been able to verify one single laws-of-physics defying event. Not one. Ever.

So, although it is certainly possible that your god, by sheer coincidence, stopped violating the laws of physics just prior to the point in time when humans began using the Scientific Method, I think a more rational conclusion would be that your god does not exist, or at a minimum, that he has lost all his magical powers, and therefore cannot help or harm us.

Dear Christian apologist: Don’t bother me with evidence for an Intelligent Designer. If he/she/they or it exist(s), all evidence suggests that they don’t give a damn about what happens to you or me. Give me good evidence for the existence of your god…or get the hell off the debate stage! You are wasting our time.

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Clash of the Titans: William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens

I must be honest. William Lane Craig annoys the hell out of me. I have listened to many of his debates and in every one of them he has used cheap, dishonest debate techniques.

WLC’s favorite cheap, dishonest debate technique: In every one of his debates which I have watched, Craig repeatedly asserts that the “overwhelming majority” of experts agrees with his positions, such as on the topic of the historicity of the empty tomb of Jesus and the many alleged sightings of a resurrected Jesus. Craig never provides supporting evidence for this “overwhelming” majority expert opinion except for sometimes quoting one conservative Christian scholar or historian who claims that such an overwhelming consensus exists. Are we seriously to believe that the overwhelming majority of historians believe that Jesus’ disciples literally saw a resurrected Jesus??? Give me a break. It is certainly possible that the overwhelming majority of historians believe that some early Christians sincerely believed that Jesus had appeared to them, in some fashion (bright lights??) but that is not what Craig claims. Listen to the video below and you will hear it for yourself.

Another WLC dirty debate technique: Craig triumphantly declares (over and over and over again) victory over atheists when debating the topic of the existence of God when the atheist is unable to produce evidence proving that God does not exist.

How preposterous!

Let’s try the same debate tactic on Mr. Craig when debating the existence of unicorns: Mr. Craig, I challenge you to provide evidence which proves that unicorns do not exist. Come on! Do it! Provide evidence that unicorns do not exist, Mr. Craig! You can’t do it, can you?? You see, dear debate audience. Mr. Craig cannot prove that unicorns do not exist, therefore unicorns MUST exist! I win!

What silly nonsense.

Wake up, Christians. If William Lane Craig is forced to use such silly sleight of hands to win a debate regarding the veracity of Christianity’s central claims, how strong is his position??

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