Friday, December 16, 2016

Wanting To Believe In Miracles

by Kenneth W. Hawthorne
A letter I sent to a Church of Christ preacher about 7 years ago:
Christians make the claim that God came to earth in the flesh of a man, Jesus Christ. That he was born of a virgin, performed various miracles while on earth, died and about three days later came back to life never to die again, then forty days later ascended into heaven, and that all or much of this was miraculously foretold by God-inspired prophets in the Old Testament. These are all ontologically positive and distant claims that go against all conventional, community experiences. These Christian claims, therefore, bear an extremely high asymmetrical burden of proof. That means that before someone should believe these claims are actually true, the evidence presented would have to be so profound and so unequivocal that one would be forced to believe these claims instead of believing what he knows happens all the time--and go with something that, as far as his experiences, has never happened.

Unfortunately, what I've seen as evidence for these Christian claims is not even close to being sufficient for the type of claims made. The four Gospels are nothing but hearsay, written by biased, anonymous writers. Certain church "fathers" made a fanciful connection to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being the authors--but no one really knows who wrote these book. These church fathers amount to no more than what you would consider denominational preachers today--yet you believe them on this essential matter--and would, today, be very skeptical of anything they had to say on the subject of religion. But even if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the actual authors they were biased and what they wrote amounts to no more than religious propaganda. None of the  disinterested, contemporary scientists or writers of the time Jesus is said to have lived record anything about Jesus, much less his miracles. Josephus does not qualify because it is obvious that his work has been tampered with concerning his mention of Jesus and is therefore flawed and unreliable. Alexander Campbell had this to say:

“Josephus, the Jewish historian, was contemporary with the Apostles, having been born in the year 37. From his situation and habits, he had every access to know all that took place at the rise of the Christian religion. Respecting the founder of this religion, Josephus has thought fit to be silent in history. The present copies of his work contain one passage which speaks very respectfully of Jesus Christ, and ascribes to him the character of the Messiah. But as Josephus did not embrace Christianity, and as this passage is not quoted or referred to until the beginning of the fourth century, it is, for these and other reasons, generally accounted spurious” (Evidences of Christianity, from Campbell-Owen Debate, p. 312).

The more accurate word Campbell should have used at the end instead of "spurious" is forged.

Writer and scholar Earl Doherty sums up the problem with Josephus very well:

"[I]n the absence of any other supporting evidence from the first century that in fact the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels clearly existed, Josephus becomes the slender thread by which such an assumption hangs. And the sound and fury and desperate manoeuverings which surround the dissection of those two little passages becomes a din of astonishing proportions. The obsessive focus on this one uncertain record is necessitated by the fact that the rest of the evidence is so dismal, so contrary to the orthodox picture. If almost everything outside Josephus points in a different direction, to the essential fiction of the Gospel picture and its central figure, how can Josephus be made to bear on his shoulders, through two passages whose reliability has thus far remained unsettled, the counterweight to all this other negative evidence?"

Writer, historian and scholar Richard Carrier sums up Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story:

"So this is where we end up. We have no trustworthy evidence of a physical resurrection, no reliable witnesses. It is among the most poorly attested of historical events. The earliest evidence, from the letters of Paul, does not appear to be of a physical resurrection, but a spiritual one. And we have at least one plausible reason available to us as to why and how the legend grew into something else. Finally, the original accounts of a resurrection of a flesh-and-blood corpse show obvious signs of legendary embellishment over time, and were written in an age of little education and even less science, a time overflowing with superstition and credulity. And, ultimately, the Gospels match perfectly the same genre of hagiography as that life of Genevieve with which I began. There the legends quickly arose, undoubted and unchallenged, of treeborn monsters and righted ships and blinded thieves. In the Gospels, we get angels and earthquakes and a resurrection of the flesh. So we have to admit that neither is any more believable than the other.

It should not be lost on us that Thomas was depicted as no less righteous for refusing to believe so wild a claim without physical proof. We have as much right, and ought to follow his example. He got to see and feel the wounds before believing, and so should we. I haven't, so I can't be expected to believe it.[41] And this leads me to one final reason why I don't buy the resurrection story. No wise or compassionate God would demand this from us. Such a god would not leave us so poorly informed about something so important.[42] If we have a message for someone that is urgently vital for their survival, and we have any compassion, that compassion will compel us to communicate that message clearly and with every necessary proof--not ambiguously, not through unreliable mediaries presenting no real evidence. Conversely, if we see something incredible, we do not attack or punish audiences who don't believe us, we don't even expect them to believe--unless and until we can present decisive proof."

And this does not even take into account all the other evidence that goes counter to the god of the Bible being the true God, primary of which is that he created man for his glory, knowing all the time man's flawed nature. Knowing that to get this glory that he wanted, but didn't need, untold billions of his beloved (?) humans would have to be tortured forever in the hell that he decided must exist. 

Why this fiction, called Christianity, has managed to hold on so long has a lot to do with this admission that you made in the Forest Hills Faith Builder, "The message of the Bible is such that any rational person will want to believe it. And, wanting to believe it, he will look for rea­sons to be­lieve rather than reasons to dis­believe." FHFB April 8, 2007. These sentiments are understandable but they are not rational, not scientific and are not a blue print for finding the truth. Your admission speaks volumes about why you continue to delude yourself concerning the truthfulness of Christianity. You want to believe that miracle claims associated with Christianity are true and you look only for reasons to believe this. I think this is the problem with most false religions. They too have the same mindset. That is why the vast majority of people born in Islamic countries are Muslim and remain so throughout their lives--and ditto for countries that are predominantly Christian, Hindu, etc.

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