Robert Bumbalough's DeConversion Story

Greetings readers. I thank Harry McCall and John W. Loftus, Harry for suggesting to John that I be offered an opportunity to join the Debunking Christianity team and John for allowing me to post. On offer is my deconversion story....

The first part of the essay is my personal recollections of how I became a Christian and subsequently left the faith. The second part is a partial survey of some arguments critical of the Resurrection of Christ. [*] The best defense is a strong offense. Thus I attack the principle claim made by Christianity. For as Paul is alleged to have written: "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." 1 Cor. 15:14

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Robert Bumbalough's Deconversion From Christianity

From the time of my earliest childhood, I was indoctrinated into the Christian religion. My Aunt and Uncle who raised me after the death of my mother, were devout Christians and members of the Church of Christ. Our home was in Sparta Tennessee, and the faith was “that old time religion”. My Aunt taught me to read using a picture book Bible. I recall the beautiful medieval and renaissance paintings of Biblical heroes that illustrated the stories. I was only five years old, and I loved the painting of Elijah taken up to Heaven by Caspar Luiken (Dutch 1672-1708). The first words I learned to read were from 2 King 2:11 “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Aunt Grace may have chosen that passage because of her love for bright sunny days.[1] I recall how pleased she was and how I, in turn, wanted to please her. So naturally, I just prayed the sinner’s and bedtime prayers she taught me to say. Thus I was a Christian.

Quite normally, in my teen years I rebelled against convention and all the things that were expected of me. When I was seventeen years old, that changed on Halloween night of 1973. One of my little high school buddies had found Jesus at a Church called “The Lord’s House”. Jay invited me to attend the Worship service that Wednesday evening. Since Jay was one of the cool kids and I was not, I was happy to accompany him. After the congregation would sing its hymns they all raised their hands to God and Jesus. I had never seen that in any other Worship services, but I recall thinking “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So I too raised my hands and told God what a swell guy he was. The faith inculcated in me had not died, rather it had only gone dormant while my teenage rebellion wore on. The sermon was a typical need for salvation exhortation based on Romans chapter 6. I went down to the front on the second verse of “Just As I Am” for the altar call along with 5 or 6 other teenagers. After leading me through the “Sinner’s Prayer”, Pastor Carlson asked me how I felt. I thoughtfully considered for a moment while thinking of the things my friend, Jay, had said to me about being “Born Again”. I decided to say, “I feel new” because I wanted to please the pastor despite not actually being personally acquainted. This satisfied Pastor Carlson. Yet I did feel something. The feeling others identified as “The Real Presence” or “The Burning In The Breast” signifying the presence of the Holy Ghost witnessing to my “soul” the truth and efficacy of the Gospel. The Lord’s House was a full Gospel Pentecostal Church. A couple of months after being “saved” I became baptized with the Holy Spirit. Speaking in Tongues seemed to me at the time to be a strong confirmation of Christian reality.

As I grew up, Christianity and Church were the most important factors in my life. I was literally living for and experiencing Jesus as what seemed like ultimate reality. I truly loved God. My life was a living sacrifice for Jesus. Time passed, and a few years later, I was staying on campus at Memphis State University in Browning Hall men’s residence. Those years on campus were delightful and fun. I was regularly attending a small Charismatic Baptist Church. I had a part time job, a car, a Christian girl friend, and many Christian pals. My mentors were the mature and mothering Christian ladies of the Church and a number of good friends who were Medical School students. Church, Bible Study, prayer meetings, Devotions and the associated social activities occupied all my free time. I was very keenly aware and motivated to please God and Jesus in all my activities.

I loved learning. Class and homework were a delight. When I learned from Geology, Physics, and Biology classes that the Genesis Creation accounts were not literally true, I was shocked since form earliest childhood, I'd been taught that Genesis was true. What, there was no Adam and Eve, no Garden, no expulsion, no original sin, no Deluge? The evidence of reality told a quite different story. How was I to determine what was real? Should I trust the evidence or the unsupported Bible stories? This was more than my mind could reasonably hold. Something had to go; I chose to accept the evidence and let Mythology go. Yet, I still had faith in God and Jesus because I felt the inner witnessing of what I thought to be the Holy Spirit.

My little job in a restaurant put me in contact with several Navy Vets, and their sea stories influenced me to join the US Navy. I wanted to see the world, so I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Navy. To my chagrin the Navy was unpleasant in its special obnoxious military manner. Despite that, when I look back on those years spent serving aboard ARS-40, USS Hoist, its plain that I was having a great and fun time. Life on the ship was hard work, but going to foreign ports of call made all the work and military nonsense worth while. During this time, I was still a Christian and completely open to whatsoever God had is store for me. My shipboard duties consumed almost all my time. To fit in with the shipmates, I kept my devotions private. But the problems of Christian mythology in light of modern science dogged my thinking.

Hoist was an ocean going tug boat with salvage capability. Fleet command ordered the ship to Haifa Israel for a job recovering an anchor lost by another US Navy vessel. The job took three weeks, and the crew got liberty several times. On a Sunday, the ships service officer arraigned for a bus tour of interesting tourist sites in Israel. The bus visited several ancient Biblical places where we got off for a few minutes to snap some pictures and hear the tour guide lecture. Then it was back onto the bus and off to the next place. The bus took us to what we were told was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We all got off and took the tour of the Church including a visit to the alleged empty tomb. I was still nominally a Christian, but my doubts had crystallized by leading a more secular life in the company of several non-believers.

Reflecting on my Christian Conversion and experience, the doubts engendered by learning the teleology taught to me by my Aunt and Uncle and Sunday School teachers when I was young was false occupied my mind as I walked the tour at The Church of The Holy Sepulcher that Sunday in early summer 1980. After paying the five dollars, the priest showed us about. Walking on the concave path worn down by countless Christian pilgrims back to the Edicule where the supposed tomb of Joseph of Areamathea allegedly once held the corpse of Jesus Christ, I felt a sense of awe and being very small in relation to the depth of history. Then it finally came to be my turn to walk into the tomb. While inside, I was struck by the stark barren walls and crumbling rubble strewn about. There were no carvings or graffiti, no inscriptions, no iconography of any sort, and no way to identify this particular hole in the wall as the tomb of anyone in particular. Yet there I was inside the place where the ultimate act of redemption for mankind was supposed to have occurred, so I prayed. I called on God to show me if he really was real. I recall that I said to God: “Here I am Lord. This is the place where it all took place. If your real, this is the place to show me. If you’ll reveal yourself to me, I’ll spend the rest of my life serving you in ministry. This I pray in Jesus’ name.” In my mind at that time was the sincere intention to devote the remainder of my life to service to God and mankind if God would only show me he was actually real. Then the priest shooed me out of the tomb to make way for the next visitor. As I walked out of the tomb, I thought to myself that all the religious experiences of my life were somehow no longer meaningful. The Spirit did not move me a bit while I prayed and waited. I was reminded of this when I watched the scene in "Kingdom Of Heaven" where Balian stands on the Hill of Calvary and prays for God to show him a sign. Like my own experience, Balian got only silence. Like Balian, I was open to whatsoever the Lord would have me do, but just as God was depicted hiding Himself from Balian, so also He hid from me.

Back at the Hoist, later that evening as I read my Bible, and as much as I wanted a passage to be illuminated to my understanding, none were. Later I recalled Mark 8:12 “And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.” And Matthew 12:39 “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas”. But why would no sign be given? If we love someone would you or I or anyone else not take time to show that our case was believable? Would not it be wrong to demand someone not only believe but base their life on a fantastic story we offered up without good evidence? So if its wrong for us why is it not wrong for God? Is morality objective? If so then that which is right for us is right for God and what is wrong for us is wrong for God. If Jesus condemns us for not believing, Jesus cannot be “good”. If we say Jesus is good despite the arbitrary and unjust demand to believe without evidence, are we not denuding the concept of goodness of any meaning.

Is a person justified in asking for confirmation from God? The Bible teaches that we are allowed to ask God for confirming signs of his will. Abraham sought a sign from Yahweh in Genesis 15:7-16 to confirm the inheritance promise Yahweh had made to him. In Judges 6:36-40 is found the story of Gideon and the sign of the dewy fleece. Gideon had earlier asked for a sign in Judges 6:17-21 too, yet in verse 39 Gideon asks for double confirmation in order to be sure Yahweh was with him in a war against the Midianites and the Amalekites. In 1 Kings 18:36-39, the prophet Elijah calls for a sign from Yahweh to demonstrate that Yahweh is God rather than Baal. Yahweh is depicted as demonstrating he is God by sending fire to consume a sacrifice that resulted in Elijah murdering lots of people. And in 2 Kings 20:8-11, King Hezekiah wanted a sign that he would be healed. Isaiah the prophet offered the King the choice of either the sun advancing or retreating 10 degrees. Hezekiah choose to see the sun retreat 10 degrees. According to the scripture: “20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” In Acts 1:23-26, the Eleven Apostles pray that God show them by way of lottery who is to replace the dead Judas Iscariot. These Biblical periscopes show that one can expect God to reveal Himself when committed to obeying the will of God. But the very fact that God remains hidden in the face of open and sincere seeking is puzzling. Given that God is loving, fair, just, and is not a respecter of persons, then the vast number of non-resistant, open minded and willing seekers who fail to find or experience God in any way is a strong evidential phenomena that God probably does not exist.

John Schellenberg, author of “Divine Hiddenness And Human Reason” expressed an argument from non-resistant non-belief in an essay entitled “What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof (2008)” [2]

  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships--i.e., able to do so just by trying to.

  1. No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists.

  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists (from 1 and 2).

  1. It is not the case that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists: there is nonresistant nonbelief; God is hidden.

  1. It is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God (from 3 and 4).

  1. If God exists, God is perfectly loving.

  1. It is not the case that God exists (from 5 and 6).

A truly loving being would not make unjust, unreasonable demands, and impossible demands on those it allegedly loves. Such a being would very reasonably reveal itself in no uncertain manner to those it loves. Jesus would not expect worship, surrender of moral autonomy, or blind faith under auspices more akin to an ultimatum: "You have 'free will' to worship Jesus or not as you please — just remember that if you don't, there's a lake of fire, a burning Hell where the worm does not die with your name on it." That's more like the Mob’s protection racket than "free will." "Nice little immortal soul ya got here — be a shame if somethin was ta happen to it! Souls burn, ya know..." .

In 1 John 4:8 we’re told that “…God is Love.” This cannot be, for love is a human emotion not a metaphysical quality. It follows from the assignment of value to the love object. God is logically incapable of valuing anything as He is allegedly an eternal, transcendent, infinite, perfect, indestructible, immutable, self-sufficient, self-contained, complete being which lacks nothing. If God did exist, He would not act in the interest of a goal. He would have no basis for goal-setting whatsoever. He would always be what He is, nothing can change Him, nothing can harm Him, nothing can threaten Him, nothing can deprive Him. Nothing can be of any value to Him because value presupposes some want, or desire to be fulfilled in pursuit of continuing to live. But God needs nothing to continue to live, for that reason, He would be incapable of valuing or loving anything. If the Christian God existed, He could do nothing for any action would diminish its perfection, perturb its sufficiency and immutability.

Jesus promised the believers in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”

Jesus said unto him,” in Mark 9:23 and continued, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

In Luke 17:6 Jesus promised: “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

Jesus promises n John 14:12-14 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

When I stood inside the alleged empty tomb and prayed, I was a believer. Yet Jesus did not answer my prayer according to his promises. Instead there was only silence, only inertness, and only the myths that had been inculcated into my child mind by those whom I loved the most. This conflicted with all the promises made by Jesus that He would not only answer our prayers but that He would actually respond to our sincere requests for confirmation and revelation of his will and presence. The confusion and doubt I felt before visiting the Tomb was only exacerbated by God’s silence. If our eternal souls are at stake, and if belief is required, and if God is Love, then why would God remain silent? If God were real, then the silence made no sense. But if God is imaginary then silence, inertness, and hiddenness is to just what would be expected especially in light of the now irrefutable fact that no one can successfully form any sort of an argument for God's existence from natural teleology or cosmology [3] For the next several years, I waited and sought for God to show me he was actually real to no avail. God was silent, hidden, and inert.

With the passage of time, I left the Navy and put Christianity on a lower priority and moved on with my life. Marriage, home life, and career occupied my time. But the questions still haunted me. If the Christian God would not respond to my heart felt earnest faith believing prayer from inside the Tomb when I was simply asking for clarity and verification, then the Christian religion could not be real so I reasoned. Why would God not respond to me in some special way that only an Omnipotent Being could such that I would have known axiomatically beyond the shadow of a doubt that He and Christianity were really true? If God is actually real and actually loves me and is omniscient knowing that I need to know and not just feign belief, then why would He remain silent, hidden, and inert? I am not a slacker. If God had spoken to me inside the Tomb, just think what a powerful testimony for Christ that would have been. If God is totally compassionate and desperately wants to save mankind, then why was He silent in the face of my solid and firm intent to offer the rest of my life in Christian Ministry Service? Many thousands could have been saved, but God was silent, hidden, and inert.

That was the reason why I fell away from the faith. Several years ago all the old feelings from my well Churched youth surfaced in my mind. Since then I’ve spent much time investigating the possibility of the existence of some sort of god, and the validity of Christianity.

Looking back on the visit to the Tomb, I can now see that was the beginning of my deconversion from Christianity to atheism. However, then I started to think that perhaps I was too hasty. There is no reason why God would have to respond to me, and there was the matter of the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection? Was it real? If so, why was the tomb empty? (This is a question I will address below.) I was more confused than ever, and I was left alone to search for answers. But how would I find the answers I sought. Faith simply would not do as faith has no way to distinguish the difference between fact and fiction. One can believe anything by faith, and be convinced by faith to the extent of delusion. Yet without validation and confirmation, the propositions believed by faith are only hollow vapid assertions. If God exists, He requires us to believe the most unbelievable propositions by faith alone. This I neither could accept or act out. I needed empirical evidence upon which to base logical acceptance of valid and soundly induced knowledge that conforms with the argument to the best explanation. Nevertheless, the question of my religious experience remains? Wouldn’t my feelings be countable as evidence? Didn’t I “feel” the Holy Ghost when I thought I was born again or when I spoke with the tongues of “Angels”? Sure, I felt something, but was it God? How can I, a mere person, made of physical matter feel the transcendent Spirit of God? He is not in space and time. An entity that is non-spatial has no dimensions, no coordinates, and no location. The entity’s non-temporality means it lacks duration and can perform no actions. Without location, duration or potential for action, it is impossible for any relation or attachment to interact with something that is spatially located and in time. Any non-located and atemporal relation or relational attachment would have to cross the boundary between the transcendent realm of God and physical existence. [4] Such boundary crossing cannot occur because an entity, relation or attachment cannot be both non-spatial and spatial, both atemporal and temporal simultaneously because the Law of Identity, A=A is in effect. The Law of Identity cannot be evaded; consequently, that which exists must exist as and only as something specific. It is impossible for a human being to feel or sense in any way the transcendent because to so do would be directly self-contradictory. Like a spheroidal-cube, that which is self-contradictory cannot exist.

My feelings come from my brain and central nervous system, and since I cannot feel that which is not in this Universe of space and time, then I cannot feel that which is Transcendent. And that means my feelings and emotions are no help in determining if God is real. How then can I account for the evidence of my Christian experience that I took to be the inner presence of the Holy Spirit?

In "Has Science Found God" Victor J. Stenger describes an experiment conducted (without a control group or statistical error accounting) by neurologist Andrew Newberg on eight Buddhists and several Franciscan nuns in prayer. The test subjects engaged in Tibetan style meditation and prayer. All participants reported transcendent feelings. The Buddhists described the feelings as a sense of timelessness and infinity as if they were [part of everything in existence while the Nuns claimed a tangible sense of the closeness to and mingling with god. None of the subjects reported any "revelations about future events or risky predictions that could be used to objectively confirm a true otherworldly reality to the experience." The subject's brains were imaged with a SPECT camera (single photon emission computed tomography). The images depicted decreased brain activity in an area dubbed, by Newberg, the orientation association area (OAA). Newberg's contends the function of the OAA is to "draw a sharp distinction between the individual and everything else, to sort out the you from the infinite not-you that makes up the rest of the universe." According to Newberg the reduced OAA activity results from a decrease in the flow of incoming sensory information during meditation or prayer. Newberg surmises that without this information the OAA cannot find the boundary between the self and non-self. Therefore the brain has no option but to detect the self as in touch with the transcendent. [5] Newberg's study was coauthored by Eugene d'Aquili and published in his book "Why God Won't Go Away", p.5 Stenger agrees with Newberg and d'Aquili that the sensation born again Christian's experience in response to their emotions of faith and belief has a neuro-physiological basis. The feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit is most probably a brain phenomena.

Subsequently, the only tool I have to ascertain truth is my human ability to reason, to use methodological naturalism and the scientific method. Only these can actually inform me of what is truth. Therefore it is essential to turn to what can be determined from the evidence.

The defining claim of Christianity is that Jesus Christ Resurrected from the dead via supernatural miracle. The Resurrection hypothesis does not entail survival from swooning. The Resurrection is not resuscitation, or revivification. There can be no possibility of natural causation or of a statistically uncaused event that is mistaken for a miracle. Resurrection presupposes that “supernatural” is a valid concept, but what else does resurrected entail? The characteristics of the resurrected Jesus are listed as propositions by Robert Greg Cavin in his essay “Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence To Establish the Resurrection of Jesus”. Cavin list the properties of resurrection that apologists claim can be demonstrated from the Gospel accounts. Those attributes are that Jesus is unable to be injured, to die, to age, to be sick, and is able to move instantaneously from place to place at will. In order to establish that Jesus was transformed into a super being by supernatural miracle, it is necessary to establish the claimed attributes listed above. Cavin considers what kind of evidence would be necessary to establish such claims. He point out two methods whereby claims are established by evidence.

The first method Cavin dubs “from above”. By favorable comparative reference to an already established general conception whereby obvious axiomatic similarity of the claimed phenomena to the known concept, the phenomena in question can be identified. This works for processes and things because of the nature of conceptual knowledge. Ayn Rand defined concepts as: “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.” [7]. Ms Rand further noted what concepts do for people: “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate concretes of any given, immediate moment.” [8] Cavin's argument is that the claims of the Christian apologists regarding the resurrection cannot be established “from above” because humanity has no experience of any human being possessing super powers like those asserted for the risen Jesus. Without a broad scope of prior experience of humans with super powers, human beings cannot form concepts with which to compare the asserted attributes of the resurrected Jesus. Thus the resurrection cannot be established “from above” using comparative similarity to human super power concepts.

Cavin's names his second method “from below”. He notes that: “...in order to establish universal generalizations of the form of (Object S is able/unable to C after time T.) “from below” it is necessary (and indeed sufficient) to have as evidence a large number of independent instances acquired over a relatively long period of time in which object S is exposed to a wide variety of conditions that cause C-ing and yet does/does not C.” [9] He argues that the small number (11 reported incidents) of encounters with the alleged risen Jesus are insufficient to establish the proposed resurrection attributes claimed by Christian apologists. Even if it is granted that the New Testament Gospel accounts of the risen Jesus are historical, they are not enough to establish the resurrection of Jesus because they do nothing to specifically test the properties of the alleged Jesus. The disciples do not attempt to burn Jesus at the stake, or to stab him, or to feed him poison, or to smash him with a large object. There is no testing to determine if Jesus aged or was susceptible to disease in the forty days prior to the alleged ascension depicted in the Acts account. But a lengthy and methodological program of such testing would have been required to ascertain if Jesus was actually supernaturally resurrected. Thus the resurrection cannot be established “from below” because the disciples did not use scientific testing of the properties of the alleged resurrected Jesus.

The assertion that “supernatural” is a valid concept is presupposed by Christianity. Ayn Rand's definition of concept renders the notion of “supernatural” specious. How can human beings mentally integrate “...two or more (supernatural) units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s)...” [10] when all human perceptual and instrumentation faculties are limited to sensing natural phenomena. By definition “supernatural” implies the negation of all that is natural. Thus no natural effect can have a “supernatural” cause, nor can any natural system interact with anything that is “supernatural”. It is unclear how a miracle of resurrection could occur.

Taken at face value, all should be deeply suspicious of miracle claims because the Uniformity of Nature arises from material existence. David Hume, 19th century atheist [29] philosopher noted this when he wrote:

“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature… There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation…

The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.” - David Hume, [11]

The making of the extreme claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from dead via means of supernatural miracle resurrection requires extreme evidence in order that legitimate warrant for belief may obtain. The canonical Gospels of the New Testament do not provide such evidence, nor do the writings of Paul or the other epistolary authors. Without warrant a belief cannot be justified. Without justification a belief cannot be considered probably true. It is far more likely that the Gospel stories are the product of early Hellenistic/Jewish Religious and Gnostic cults who created allegorical metaphor stories via midrashic analysis and story making of Septuagint scriptures combined with pagan mysteries to assert doctrinal positions relevant to their mystery faith communities.

Dr. Robert M. Price wrote about Hume in an essay [12] that: “...Hume simply pointed out that, faced with a report of a miracle, the responsible person would have to reject it, not because he has a time machine in the garage and can go prove it didn't happen, but because he knows the propensity of people to exaggerate, to prevaricate, to misunderstand, to be tricked, etc. Balance against the possible truth of this report of a miracle all the evidence of contemporary experience against violations, suspensions, whatever, of the regular occurrence of events, and where will you come out? You do not know for a fact that the miracle report is mistaken because you can never absolutely know the past. But you have to make your call whether the thing is plausible of not.”

A miracle must be extremely unlikely or else then no one would take notice of them and say “The gods are with us.” However, if we accept all reports of the miraculous without evidence, then we would be up to our eye balls in such claims. It is special pleading that one should believe the purported miracles of Christianity and reject those of the other religions when there is no good evidence for any miracle claim. What does this mean? How are we to judge what is plausible? Christianity as a mystery religion is plausible as Joseph Campbell [13] shows how universal mythemes of dying/rising saviours across the world's many cultures underlay the great religions. This prescient fact vivifies Hume's contention. It is far more likely that reports of miraculous occurrences from antiquity are the product of expression of the dying/rising savior mythemes. These myths in turn developed in the northern and southern latitudes where people depended on seasonal agriculture. The death of vegetation in the Autumn and renewal in the Spring in conjunction with the solar cycles of nature are the driving force behind the human tendency to create savior hero myths.

Richard Carrier in his superb essay , "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" [14] demonstrates that it was very probable that earliest Paulian Christians thought of Jesus's resurrection as a spiritual event wherein the rotting corpse remained in the grave. Paul's assertions thatIt (the resurrection of the dead) is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” [15] and “...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” [16] are used by Carrier to make help make his case that Paul believed the Resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual event. Since "supernatural" is not positively defined with any vivifying potentialities, it is therefore simply the negation of the natural. To demonstrate a miracle, the theist must prove the absolute impossibility of any natural causation for the event in question to be held as a justified belief. Carrier and many others have demonstrated that there is a very good probability of naturalistic causation for the alleged resurrection.

It could be, as Dr. Michael Martin points out, that “ ... it might be the case that what we thought were strictly deterministic laws are I fact statistical laws. These are compatible with rare occurrences of uncaused events. Thus, the events designated as miracles may be wrongly designated; they may be uncaused in the sense of being neither naturally nor supernaturally determined.” [17]

What of the New Testament’s own witness? There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection itself. The four accounts of post resurrection Jesus sightings cannot be harmonized. The long ending of Mark from 16:9-20 is an acknowledged interpolated appending. Thus there are no post resurrection appearances in Mark. Paul’s list of post resurrection appearances contradicts the Gospels and Acts which in turn contradict each other. The clear progression of legendary development apparent with the chronological order of writing of the Gospels indicates that the original writers had no concern with historical fact. They instead were very much interested in asserting doctrinal and theological points of significance to their faith communities.

Randal Helms, In a great book, “Gospel Fictions” notes many examples of how the Matthew, Luke, and John Gospel evangelists engaged in literary midrash by deliberately and self-consciously changing by elaborative additions to Mark's Gospel. In the second chapter Helms points out that in three of the four canonical Gospels that the alleged final dying words of Jesus are recorded differently, and Matthew spins the words for his own purposes. I will cite the text at length as Helms is an excellent writer.

"For example, according to Matthew and Mark, the dying words of Jesus were, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" According to Luke, Jesus' dying words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." But according to John they were , "It is accomplished." To put it another way, we cannot know what the dying words of Jesus were, or even whether he uttered any; it is not that we have too little information, but that we have too much. Each narrative implicitly argues that the others are fictional. In this case at least, it is inappropriate to ask of the Gospels what "actually" happened; they may pretend to be telling us, but the effort remains a pretense, a fiction.

The matter becomes even more complex when we add to it the virtual certainty that Luke knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words, and the likelihood that John also knew what Mark and perhaps Luke had wrote, but that both Luke and John chose to tell the story differently."

The interesting thing here is that both the Lukian and Johnine writers were working from Mark and other source documents, but they choose to tell the story in very different ways for doctrinal and theological reasons related to the needs of their faith communities. Helms continues.

"The Gospels are Hellenistic religious narratives in the tradition of th Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which constituted the "Scriptures" to those Greek-speaking Christians who wrote the four canonical Gospels and who appealed to it, explicitly or implicitly, in nearly every paragraph the wrote.

A simple example is the case of the las words of Christ. Mark presents these words in self-consciously realistic fashion, shifting from his usual Greek into the Aramaic of Jesus, transliterated into Greek letters: "'Eloi eloi lama sabachthanei (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34). Mark gives us no hint that Jesus is "quoting" Psalm 22:1; we are clearly to believe that we are hearing the grieving outcry of a dying man. But the author of Matthew, who used Mark as one of his major written sources is self-consciously "Literary" in both this and yet another way: though using Mark as his major source for the passion story, Matthew if fully aware that Mark's crucifixion narrative is based largely on the 22 nd Psalm, fully aware, that is, that Mark's Gospel is part of a literary tradition (this description would not be Matthew's vocabulary, but his method is nonetheless literary). Aware of the tradition, Matthew knew that no Aramaic speaker present at the Cross would mistake a cry to God (Eloi) for one to Elijah - the words are too dissimilar. So Matthew self-consciously evoked yet another literary tradition in the service both of verisimilitude and of greater faithfulness to the Scriptures: not the Aramaic of Psalm 22:1 but the Hebrew, which he too transliterated into Greek - "Eli Eli" (Matt. 27:46) - a cry which could more realistically be confused for "Eleian". Matthew self-consciously appeals both to literary tradition -a "purer" text of the Psalms-and to verisimilitude as he reshapes Mark, his literary source. ..... Matthew certainly knew that he was creating a linguistic fiction in his case (Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew.) though just as clearly he felt justified in doing so, given his conviction that since Psalm 22 had "predicted" events in the crucifixion, it could be appealed to even in the literary sense of one vocabulary rather that another, as a more "valid description of the Passion.

Luke is even more self-consciously literary and fictive than Matthew in his crucifixion scene. Though, as I have said, he knew perfectly well what Mark had written as the dying words of Jesus, he created new ones more suitable to his understanding of what the death of Jesus meant - and act with at least two critical implications: First, that he has thus implicitly declared Mark's account a fiction; second, that he self-consciously presents his own as a fictions. For like Matthew, Luke in 23:46 deliberately placed his own work in the literary tradition by quoting Psalm 30 (31):5 in the Septuagint as the dying speech of Jesus: "Into your hands I will commit my spirit" ("eis cheiras sou parathesomai to pneuma mou"), changing the verb from future to present (paratithemai) to suit the circumstances and leaving the rest of the quotation exact. This is self-conscious creation of literary fiction, creation of part of a narrative scene for religious and moral rather than historical purposes. Luke knew perfectly well, I would venture to assert, that he was creating an ideal model of Christian death, authorized both by doctrine and by literary precedent." [18]

Helms illuminates purposeful editorial revisionism throughout "Gospel Fictions". There are many examples of this sort of redaction to assert midrashic theological-doctrinaire teachings. The last words of Jesus were and are of utmost importance to Christians as is indicated by many Christian citations of John 19:30. Yet each of the canonical Gospels tells it differently or spins it differently in the case of Matthew. This shows that the Gospel authors were self-consciously aware they were not dealing with history but rather with pious fiction. Taken together almost all content of the Gospels can be shown to be based on earlier Moses, Elijah, Elisha, David stories or from bits of liturgical text form the Jewish apocrypha.

Dr. Robert M. Price's does a masterful job of illustrating the midrashic nature of the Gospels. Price informs the reader of the evolution of literary criticism applied to study of the Gospels. “Scholars including Erhardt Guttgemanns, Robert M. Fowler, Frasn Neirynck, and Werner Kelber began to show that, despite their brief episodic character, the gospel stories bear extensive traces of authorial creation, original de novo storytelling. Earlier tradition may have played a role, but there is less and less reason to think so, the more 'Markan', 'Matthean', 'Lukan', or 'Johannine' a story appears. This is measured by the extent to which each gospel story employs the familiar themes and vocabulary of each writer as established by studying his redactional treatment of prior gospels. The resultant theory would see Mark as writing much or even most of his work (as the radical critic Bruno Bauer had said already in the nineteenth century) out of his imagination, with Matthew and Luke freely redacting Mark's work and adding much new material of their own invention.” [19]

There is an interesting puzzle within the Gospel of Mark itself that bears upon the question its reliability regarding historical happenings. We read in Mark 16:5 “...they saw a young man sitting on the right side...”(RSV) and in 16:8 that “And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid. (RSV).[20] Who was the young man? The original ending is an obvious literary device to account for why people had not head this story previously. That the women ran away and told nobody is a good reason why the story had not been previously known. Verse 16:8 also functions to explain why it is that the author knows what happened, for implicit is the notion that the young man sitting on the right in verse 16:5 is the author. Mark, or whoever originally penned Mark, wrote himself into the story so that he could authoritatively claim to know what happened. Use of a literary device to feign history would be suspicious. Employed to create pious fiction for the Kingdom of God, use of the literary device would be praise worthy within the faith community that spawned Mark.

What about the Tomb itself? Jerusalem is surrounded by a vast necropolis with many thousands of rock cut tombs. The hole in the wall in question, as it turns out, was selected as a site of veneration by Helen, Emperor Constantine's devote mother, in 325 CE shortly before she commissioned the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. No person living in Jerusalem in 325 could possibly have any factual knowledge regarding the location of the tomb as two major wars and almost three centuries had transpired between the legendary events and Helen's choice. Local Christian traditions articulated by Saint Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, probably influenced Helen's choice. The controversy as to whether the site is actually Golgatha assumes the Gospel stories are true. Such presumption is question begging and special pleading. Mark was knowingly written as an inspirational but fictional liturgy. Since the other Gospels are based on Mark, the Tomb cannot be evidence of any truth.

When the earliest Christian documents, the genuine Pauline epistles, are examined, there is no trace of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Passion, the Trial, details of the Crucifixion, details of the Burial, details of the Resurrection or Empty Tomb. Paul's silence is puzzling. Why would “the Apostle to the Gentiles” not be keen on telling the story of his Master to the Converts? All Christians that have ever lived have at least one thing in common, they are intensely interested in all things Jesus. Would it have been any less so in Paul's day? Of course not.

Peter Kirby in "The Historicity of the Empty Tomb Evaluated: Argument from Silence" points to the silence in early Christian first century writings regarding the Empty Tomb tradition as the reason why the Christian has a burden of proof.

It should be noted that, outside of the four gospels, all Christian documents that may come the first century mention neither tomb burial by Joseph of Arimathea nor the subsequent discovery of such a tomb as empty. Although there may have been no particular reason for any one of these writers to mention the story, it could be argued that, if they all accepted the story, perhaps one of them would have entered a discussion that would mention the empty tomb story. For example, if there were a polemic going around that the disciples had stolen the body, one of these early writers may have written to refute such accusations. In any case, it is necessary to mention these documents if only to note that there is no conflicting evidence that would show that the empty tomb story was an early or widespread tradition since the argument from silence would be shown false if there were. Here is a list of these early documents:

1. 1 Thessalonians, 2. Philippians, 3. Galatians, 4. 1 Corinthians, 5. 2 Corinthians, 6. Romans, 7. Philemon, 8. Hebrews, 9. James, 10. Colossians, 11. 1 Peter, 12. Ephesians, 13. 2 Thessalonians, 14. Jude, 15. The Apocalypse of John, 16. 1 John, 17. 2 John, 18. 3 John, 19. Didache, 20. 1 Clement, 21. 1 Timothy, 22. 2 Timothy, 23. Titus, 24. The Epistle of Barnabas,

Indeed, outside of the four canonical gospels, the Gospel of Peter is the only document before Justin Martyr that mentions the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea or the discovery of the empty tomb. If the Gospel of Peter as it stands is considered to be dependent on the canonical gospels, then there is no independent witness to the empty tomb story told in the four gospels.” [21]

Christian apologists widely acknowledge there was not a tradition within early Christianity of veneration of Jesus’ tomb. By this they commit error by predicating on that basis argument for an empty tomb. Rather the lack of Christian worship at a tomb site indicates the lack of knowledge of any tomb of Jesus, full or empty. Modern Christian of whatever stripe are intensely interested in visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the empty tomb. It is quite likely that first century Christians would have felt likewise and hence would have wanted to visit and worship at a tomb site. The fact that they did not is evidence against a tomb.

Dr. Michael Martin argues that “Its is difficult to take seriously the alleged fact of the empty tomb given: the inconsistencies in the stories, the lack of contemporary eyewitnesses, the unclarity of who exactly the eyewitnesses were, the lack of knowledge of the reliability of th eyewitnesses,the failure of early Christian writers to mention the empty tomb, the failure of the empty tomb story to be confirmed in Jewish or pagan sources, It is significant that Habermas does not even consider the problem of the failure to confirm the empty tomb story by independent sources.” [22]

Michael Martin cites a goodly number of scholars who are skeptical of various aspects to the resurrection story to rebut Gary Habermas’ claim that “… events that are listed as agreed to be virtually all critical scholars…” regarding the main points of the Jesus story. Dr. Martin continued: “But is there the degree of agreement among scholars that Habermas claims? That he has at least exaggerated this agreement can be inferred from the following. W.Trilling argues that “not a single date of Jesus’ life” can be established with certainty, and J.Kahl maintains that the only thing that is known about him is that he existed at a date and place which can be established approximately”. Other scholars argue that the quest for the historical Jesus is hopeless. Ian Wilson argues that, concerning the Resurrection, “Ultimately, we must concede that on the basis of the available evidence, knowledge of exactly what happened is beyond us.” H. Conzelman finds that the Passion narratives are shaped by the evangelists’ own theological convictions, that they are the results of “intensive theological interpretation”, and that they establish only the bare fact that Jesus was crucified: “Everything else about the sequence of events is contestable.” C.F. Evans argues that “almost all the main factors” in the Passion story “have become problematic.” Dieter Georgi maintains that since Paul’s writing omits any mention of an empty tomb this raises the possibility that Jesus’ body was still inside. He also suggests that the empty tomb stories may have been added to the Gospels after the sack of Jerusalem in A.D.70 at which time the tomb may have been empty. We have already seen that scholars such as Marxsen, Fuller, Kummel, and Anderson disagree over whether the empty tomb stories entered the Christian tradition early or late.” Martin makes it clear that the claims of Christian apologetics regarding any consensus on the soundness of the Gospel traditions is exaggeration. [23]

After thoroughly examining the case for and the evidence against the resurrection of Jesus, Martin concludes “that the available evidence should lead a rational person to disbelieve the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead around A.D.30” [24]

John Loftus in his book “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains” cites Uta Ranke-Heineman who argued against the Empty Tomb tradition from the silence of Paul. “The empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning is a legend. This is shown by the simple fact that the apostle Paul, the most crucial preacher of Christ's resurrection, says nothing about it. Thus it also means nothing to him, that is, and empty tomb has no significance for the truth of the resurrection, which he so emphatically proclaims. Since he gathers together and cites all the evidence for Jesus' resurrection that has been handed down to him, He certainly would have found the empty tomb worth mention. That he doesn't proves that it never existed and hence the accounts of it must not have arisen until later.... The belief in the resurrection is older that the belief in the empty tomb; rather the legend of the empty tomb grew out of th faith of Easter.” [25]

If Paul had known of the details of the life, ministry, passion, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, he would have used that information in his preaching and writing. The principle of final causation dictates that a rational and reasonable person will for a given desired end, employ an appropriate means to achieve that end. Paul would have done just that had the Gospel stories been part of his knowledge base.

Charles B. Waite spent years in the Library of Congress often in inaccessible rooms with the help of friends and insiders researching ancient texts to ascertain a history of Christianity up till the second century. His book is titled “History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred” and is fully and freely available on Google books. This book is considered one of the most accurate histories of Christianity with much information not found elsewhere. Waite wrote much on lost books, early Church fathers and heresy. His conclusion on page 433 of the downloadable PDF reads:

“…no evidence is found, of the existence in the first century, of either of the following doctrines; the immaculate conception – the miracles of Christ – his material resurrection. No one of these doctrines is to be found in the epistles of the New Testament, nor have we been able to find them in any other writings of the first century.

As to the four gospels, in coming to the conclusion that they were not written in the first century, we have but recorded the convictions of the more advanced scholars of the present day, irrespective of their religious views in other respects; with whom, the question as now presented is, how early in the second century were they composed?

Discarding, as inventions of the second century, having no historical foundation, the three doctrines above named, and much else which must necessarily stand or fall with them, what remains of the Christian Religion?”[26] Waite's conclusion is a powerful evidence against literalistic fundamental Christianity.

Richard Carrier made this strong argument in an podcast discussion of the resurrection. My version of that argument is based on what Dr. Carrier said on the Infidelguy podcast. In ACTS 23:26-31 we find Claudius Lysias' letter to Felix. Claudius was Tribune and Chief of Police in Jerusalem. Claudius Lysias was Greek who had purchased his Roman citizenship and likely an initiate of the Elysian mysteries with no belief in a physical bodily resurrection. Claudius' letter claims he was present in the council of the Jews when the Apostle Paul explained his case. Claudius found Paul to be only in dispute with the Jews over a matter of their law. This letter makes no sense in light of a physical resurrection of Jesus, but Lysias' letter is readily explained if Paul believed Jesus to be a spiritual divinity that performed its salvific action only in the spirit realm or via way of a spiritual resurrection in the spirit realm. If Claudius had heard Paul say something like, "Jesus was recently a living man who the Jews tricked the Romans into condemning and crucifying, but GOD physically raised him from the dead, and we know this because he was seen alive by the disciples", then Claudius, being Tribune and top cop in Jerusalem, would have thought Paul had assisted the criminal Jesus in escaping or that Paul knew who helped Jesus get away. So instead of sending Paul to Felix with a nice letter, Claudius would have tortured Paul to find out were the disciples were and would have sent out the troops to search for Jesus. So it would seem that Paul in the council of the Jews said nothing about Jesus being a man in Jerusalem recently crucified by the Romans and physically raised from the dead. If however he had instead presented Jesus as a spirit world deity similar to an ordinary god or as spiritually resurrected in the spirit world, then Claudius Lysias would have acted as he is recorded as doing in Acts 23. In Rome of the first century, it was a capital crime to deify any person after their death other than the Emperor. If Claudius had heard Paul doing so, he would have had to have arrested Paul on charges of treason. But Claudius sent Paul on to Felix, so Claudius heard Paul and the Jews disputing only about matters of Jewish law. This is very well explained if Paul believed Christ Jesus to be only a spirit world deity. Paul's silence regarding details of the alleged passion, crucifixion, burial and physical resurrection of Jesus is strong evidence against a Resurrection and the Empty Tomb.

Why didn't Paul know about the details of Jesus' life, ministry, passion, trial, crucifixion, burial or resurrection? The reason why Paul knew nothing of Jesus' story is that it had not yet been invented. The Q Gospel and the Gospel of Thomas both predate Mark, yet they know nothing of the Story as Mark tells it. The Circular nature of Mark with its abrupt ending at 16:8 depicting the women running away in fear and silence after the young mans tells then Jesus will rejoin his disciples in Galilee prompts the reader to go back to the beginning. In “Deconstructing Jesus”, Robert M. Price notes that Darrell J. Doughty suggest this idea. Price continues: “Mark wants the reader to look next at the only place there is left to look: the beginning. There we find the episode of Jesus' calling the disciples at an the lakeside and the mysteriously immediate response: the disciples drop what they are doing and follow him. Doughty noticed how much sense this scene makes if we assume the disciples know him already. Think of how similar the scene is both to Luke 5:1-11 and to that in John 21:1-11, where it is explicitly a resurrection story! This is the reunion Mark's young man was talking about (Mark 16:7)! So once the Risen Jesus regains his disciples at the sea of Galilee, the post-resurrection teachings begin. They continue throughout the Gospel of Mark.” [27] This sort of religious circularity is characteristic of early Christianity. The presence of such a literary device is yet another piece of evidence betraying Mark's non-historical nature. The other three Gospels depend on Mark, but Matthew, Luke, and John each modify and redact Mark freely. They could only do this if they viewed Mark as Pious fiction to begin with. That their stories differ so profoundly indicates that they were self-consciously crafting liturgical fairy tales for their own faith communities. Thus Christianity is, like all other religions, the result of mythological and legendary accretion.

Nevertheless, even if the Gospels could be shown to be historical and the Empty Tomb established, it would not mean that Jesus had actually Resurrected from the dead by supernatural miracle, Christianity would still be irrational and unreasonable. This finding was reached by Walter Cassels in his great book “Supernatural Religion” after lengthy research and study. Published in 1902, Cassels' magnum opus surveys many of the early Church patriarchs and apologists in detail. (This book is available for free download on Google books.) Its worth quoting at length.

Orrexamining the alleged miraculous evidence for Christianity as Divine Revelation, we find that, even if the actual occurrence of the supposed miracles could be substantiated, their value as evidence would be destroyed by the necessary admission that miracles are not limited to one source and are not exclusively associated with truth, but are performed by various spiritual Beings, Satanic as well as Divine, and are not always evidential, but are sometimes to be regarded as delusive and for the trial of faith. As the doctrines supposed to be revealed are beyond Reason, and cannot in any sense be intelligently approved by the human intellect, no evidence which is of so doubtful and inconclusive a nature could sufficiently attest them. This alone would disqualify the Christian miracles for the duty which only miracles are capable of performing.

The supposed miraculous evidence for the Divine Revelation, moreover, is not only without any special divine character, being avowedly common also to Satanic agency, but it is not original either in conception or details. Similar miracles are reported long antecedently to the first promulgation of Christianity, and continued to be performed for centuries after it. A stream of miraculous pretension, in fact, has flowed through all human history, deep and broad as it has passed through the darker ages, but dwindling down to a thread as it has entered days of enlightenment. The evidence was too hackneyed and commonplace to make any impression upon those before whom the Christian miracles are said to have been performed, and it altogether failed to convince the people to whom the Revelation was primarily addressed. The selection of such evidence for such a purpose is much more characteristic of human weakness than of divine power.

The true character of miracles is at once betrayed by the fact that their supposed occurrence has thus been confined to ages of ignorance and superstition, and that they are absolutely unknown in any time or place where science has provided witnesses fitted to appreciate and ascertain the nature of such exhibitions of supernatural power. There is not the slightest evidence that any attempt was made to investigate the supposed miraculous occurrences, or to justify the inferences so freely drawn from them, nor is there any reason to believe that the witnesses possessed, in any considerable degree, the fullness of knowledge and sobriety of judgment requisite for the purpose. No miracle has yet established its claim to the rank even of apparent reality, and all such phenomena must remain in the dim region of imagination.” [28]

The story of Jesus' resurrection is probably fictional. However, even if that miracle could be established as happening, there would be no way to determine the actual cause of the miracle. Consequently, there can be no justification for Christian belief. I am justified in deconverting from Christianity in 1981. Nevertheless, the question of the existence of a God of some sort remains, but that is a subject for another time.


[1] Elijah is quite obviously a version of a sun god.

[2] http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_schellenberg/hidden.html

[3] See Victor J. Stenger's book “God: The Failed Hypothesis.” and Richard Dawkins' “The God Delusion”.

[4] “Gods Spatial Unlocatedness Prevents Him From Being the Creator of the Universe” http://www.abstractatom.com/gods_spatial_unlocatedness_prevents_him_from_being_the_creator_of_the_universe.htm

[5] Stenger's well researched book yields much of interest, and the above material is loosely quoted and paraphrased from pages 293 and 294 of "Has Science Found God".

[6] “Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence To Establish the Resurrection of Jesus” published in “The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave” p.19

[7] Ayn Rand, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” p.15

[8] Ayn Rand, “The Psycho—Epistemology of Art,” published in “The Romantic Manifesto” p.17

[9] Cavin, p.27

[10] Rand, “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” p.15

[11] David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, p. 114-16

[12] Dr. Robert M. Price, “William Lane Craig's “Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence For the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” published in “Jesus is Dead” p. 199

[13] Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”

[14] The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, p105-233

[15] 1 Corinthians 15:44 (RSV)

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:50 (RSV)

[17] Dr. Michael Martin, “The Case Against Christianity”, p.75

[18] Randel Helms, "Gospel Fictions" p.15-17

[19] Price, "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man", p.30

[20] It is widely acknowledged that Mark ended at 16:8 and that the long ending from 16:9-20 is an appended interpolation.

[21] Peter Kirby, “The Historicity of the Empty Tomb Evaluated: Argument from Silence"

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/peter_kirby/tomb/silence.html

[22] Martin, ibid, p.89

[23] Ibid, p.88-89

[24] Ibid, p.96

[25] John Loftus, “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains”, p.210

[26] Charles B. Waite, “History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred”, p.433 – (fully available as a complete book on Google Books)

[27] Robert M. Price, “Deconstructing Jesus”, p.34-35

[28] Walter Cassels, “Supernatural Religion”, p.902-903- (fully available as a complete book on Google Books)

[29] "Hume was charged with heresy, but he was defended by his young clerical friends who argued that as an atheist he laid outside the jurisdiction of the Church. Despite his acquittal and possibly due to the opposition of Thomas Reid of Aberdeen, who that year launched a Christian critique of his metaphysics Hume failed to gain the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Glasgow." - http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=David_Hume&oldid=218587342

[*] I apologize for my poor writing.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Edit History:

1. 6/11/08, 9:41 EST - Corrected bad assertion regarding David Hume having been a Christian Churchman by correctly referencing Hume as the Atheist he actually was and added end note [29].

24 comments:

Evan said...

Welcome aboard Robert. What a fine detailed and well-researched first post.

John W. Loftus said...

Ditto what Evan said!

M said...

"David Hume, 19th century philosopher and Christian churchman..."

GASP! Such slander!

Allow me to catch my breath!

Hume was NOT a Christian, nor a Churchman in any sense! He was a genius enemy to superstition, Christianity, and delusion of all kind. His antipathy for, and animosity towards supernaturalism is second only to D'Holbach's and Diderot's!

Fantastic essay, however.

Bloviator said...

Robert,

I have very much enjoyed your postings to date and look forward to your contributions in the future as a member here. I particularly enjoyed your dismantling of Dan Marvin's chaotic theology in some other threads. You are quite erudite and a wonderful writer, sir.

Robert_B said...

Thank you m for pointing out my error not only in being wrong about Hume, but in failing fact check and further in assuming the validity of those from whom I had mistakenly accepted misinformation regarding Hume.

The Wikipedia article on David Hume clearly refutes my false assertion where someone wrote: "After the publication of Essays Moral and Political in 1744, Hume applied for the Chair of Pneumatics and Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. However, the position was given to William Cleghorn, after the majority of Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to appoint Hume due to his atheism."[15]

[15] Douglas Nobbs, 'The Political Ideas of William Cleghorn, Hume's Academic Rival', in Journal of the History of Ideas, (1965), Vol. 26, No. 4: 575-586

Please accept my apology for making this error.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Robert,
welcome aboard!

GordonBlood said...

For the pure sake of brevity I wont even comment on the essay itself, though I would note that most scholars tend to paint Hume as an agnostic who may have had deist tendencies. Perhaps the clearest elucidation of this is found (in what I imagine many of you have read) "The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion". Of course, as John has pointed out many times, the difference between atheism and agnosticism is often pretty minor.

Robert_B said...

Thanks evan, John, m, bloviator,lee for your kind words. Its an honor to be able to post an essay on this blog. My hot wind bag, verbose yet dull and insipid prose is no match for the extremely well educated and truly erudite scholars who are the actual defenders of Christianity.

The religions of the common people are easily shown as a squirming mass of contradictions. John's books will attract high caliber and professional smart people to this blog. They simply cannot allow a challenge to their cherished beliefs to pass unprotested.

While its fun to debate people such as Mr Dan Marvin, the actual defenders of the faith are the likes of Craig, Swinburn, Plantinga, Miller, Cook, Lewis and their followers. Those folks are for real. They're arguments are sound within their world view given their presuppositions. They use logic and reasoning in sophisticated ways that often befuddle a simple country boy like me. Outside of the Christian worldview, notwithstanding that material existence is ultimate, their arguments are vulnernable. Conseqently, John's "Outsider Test" is a killer argument because it takes the apologist outside the Christian worldveiw. Its Mr. Loftus that makes this blog tick. If he had just pushed his questioning down inside himself and marched ahead like those righteous zombies of Matt 27:52-53, humanity would be moor beggarly.

Bloviator said...

Robert,

I will take issue with your characterization of writing skill as "verbose yet dull and insipid prose". Rather, I find your writing to be very lucid and humorous in a dry way -- a perfect antidote to the feigned concern of visiting xtians who, with some exceptions, are dripping with contempt and ridicule for our positions. Bravo to you!

Further, though it may be true that deeper philosophical discourse at the level of Plantinga, et. al. is beyond the abilities of less educated souls (oops) such as myself, I contend that the real battle is with the Dan Marvins of the world, as they are the 'meat and potatoes' of belief, without whom the intellectual discourse of Mr. Plantinga and Mr. Geisler would be rendered moot. (Not to mention that I personally feel such philosophical meanderings are mere sophistry.)

Indeed, as has been stated by others on this blog, the best avenue of attack regarding revealed religious belief is to use the revelation against the believer, something you have done admirably. I believe this is by far the best blog on the internet regarding the deconstruction of the christian world view.

Kudos to you, John, Lee, Evan, Bart, Harry and all the others who have been posters. You have all had an incalculable impact on my critical thinking skills and, more importantly, have helped me distance myself from an initial rage and anger towards religion and believers. I now feel unthreatened by religion (thanks to you, John, for the Outsider Test which truly reset my mental framework). Just a mental image that may work for some, but not for me.

Keep up the good work!

bart willruth said...

Welcome to this home away from home.

It is not often that I can read the words of another and feel such kinship. Your date of deconversion, as was mine, was in 1981, and was for very similar reasons. I too was strongly influenced by Ayn Rand's work in epistemology, logic, concept formation, and the application thereof to my religious beliefs. In your essay, I detected her influence long before the mention of the name.

Your reasoning and methodology are refreshing. I was looking closely at your argumentation against the historicity of the Jesus story. I fully agree with your conclusions and more importantly, how you arrived there. I have recently gone the extra step (which you came very close to) in seriously doubting the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

I am looking forward to your upcoming posts.

Bart Willruth

Robert_B said...

bloviator's prescient insight makes so much sense that if I were a line in a Haiku, I would ask it to be my girlfriend.

"...the best avenue of attack regarding revealed religious belief is to use the revelation against the believer..."

I would take her on a date to a Christian soiree where we would play the Socratic Dialog game with our religious friends. Unfortunately for the Christians, she's a natural Net Girl. When she charges the net ping-ponging Socrates ball, there's no doubt she'll get the point. An not just by sharp angling the opponent. Her head fake makes others look away at just that particular moment when she tilts her racket downward. She could have been a super sales woman. Her ability to get inside the head of the prospect makes her a worrisome worm to Christian apples. But instead, she's a star on the Christian-Atheist debate circuit.

Cheers. May she always find the perfect pair of shoes to accessorize her favorite purse.

Robert_B said...

Hi Bart Willruth:

Thanks for your comment. Its fun to write an essay about this topic. Being able to vent and tell the story was therapeutic.

I have recently gone the extra step (which you came very close to) in seriously doubting the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

Recently I've read several Jesus as myth books. The first thing is to define which Jesus is being considered. The Christ of faith depicted in the canonical Gospels is such an unlikely character that I have to give the nod to the proponents of the mythic case on his account. On the other hand, the Jesus as a Cynic sage joined to a Galilean Son of Man eschatological/apocalyptic preaching cult might have been real. Dr. Robert M Price in his books "Deconstructing Jesus" and "Incredible Shrinking Son of Man" takes an approach similar to that of Jeffery J Lowder that there is nothing improbable about a religious guru Rabbi guy named Yeshua who would have lived in the first third of the first century and who manged to get himself crucified by the Romans. Price shows how and why the evidence we do have, however, fails to demonstrate that the Christ of faith was a real guy. Price goes further and makes a case that what we do know is not consistent with what we would have to know in order to say there is a good probability that a historical religious guru Rabbi guy named Yeshua can be associated with the Q1 and Gospel of Thomas traditions. Especially in ISSOM, Dr. Price compares similar Gospel periscopes and in like manner to Randel Helms in "Gospel Fictions" shows a pattern of theological-doctrinaire development mingled with common mytheme elements from the pagan mysteries expected by the ancient credulous pagans. Airborne were the expectations of the population for a dying and resurrecting salvation God-man who did the types of miracles Jesus is purported to have done. Anything less could not have been sold.

Its been almost two years since I read ISSOM, but I think thats sort of what I read. If I'm wrong and confused on this, its because I've read too many of the Jesus as myth books and I'm getting them mixed up. I recently got Achraya S'(DM Murdock) new book, "Who Was Jesus". I've got to find time to read it soon.

goprairie said...

i am surprised that none of the xtians that lurk and troll here have picked up on this and chatised your for DARING to challenge god for proof. it has been my experience that when an average xtian in my circle of acquaintances picks up on my 'orientation', their first response is one of judgement and they cannot stop themselves from making some sarcastic or insulting comment about my bad 'choice' or my failure to have 'faith' or my arrogance in challenging god. it is always a put down and never feels loving or compassionate. the 'i will pray for you' that often follows is not a sincere caring loving offer but patronising or hostile, slightly threatening. such reactions are inconsistent with what xtianity is 'supposed' to be about, and while i was not evangelical when i ws a christian, at least my reaction to meeting an atheist was one of kind curiousity.
since i have 'come out', mainly because when my teenage son declared himself a nonbeliever it seemed like i should examine my beleifs and stop waffling, i have been insulted and accused of bad parenting but not a single xtian has ever reached out to me in a loving way to talk to me seriously about it. THAT was a confirmation to me that the whole thing was not real if those who professed such a beleif system could act that way toward me for abandoning that system.
are others experiencing such reactions from xtians who learn of their lack of beleif?

Robert_B said...

goprairie said...

"i am surprised that none of the xtians that lurk and troll here have picked up on this and chatised your for DARING to challenge god for proof."

Hello goprairie: Thanks for your comment and your story. It must have been difficult for you to face the decision to come out. Abandoning your religion also meant parting ways with your Chruch buddies and maybe with some of your family as well. Your strength of character and courage to face reality is analogous to the martyrdoms of ancient scholars like Hypathia (murdered by crazed Christian mob), or Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake by the Inquisition for heresy).

Reality, no matter how unpleasant, is better than a comforting fantasy. From that notion and when dealing with Christians, I almost always do the paperclip test. Citing the Biblical periscopes wherein Biblical heroes test or ask Yahweh for confirmation usually get around the objection not to tempt god. The paper clip never moves and it never will.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Robert,

Good stuff as always. It was great to read more about you after having enjoyed so many of your comments here.

Thanks for sharing your story!

Wendy said...

I've been "lurking" around this web site for awhile and really enjoy it. However, goprairie, "I" before "E" except after "C."

Example:

Believe, not beleive
Belief, not beleif

Love your stuff, just not your spelling!

goprairie said...

W:and you chose this important point to braek your silence abuot? i suppose next you will criticize my failure to use capitAliZatioN. if you think that at the age of 50+ i am going to actually change that bad habit, let me just say it is not high on my list of priorities. in fact, since in most everything else i type, some sort of spell utility fixes it for me, i suspect it will only get worse. enjoy it as my trademark or just don't read.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

goprairie, we've got to get you a modern web browser. ;-)

Firefox spell checks, and so do several others.

Then again, I'm not going to lose any sleep if you misspell the occasional word.

eheffa said...

Robert,

Thank you for your interesting & very well written essay. I can personally relate to much of your story. (Your description reminds of my own years of troubling questions that can't really be addressed because you remain loyal to the "one" who can read your mind... finally, it all comes clear & you realize that you have been deluded.)

Some of the arguments you raise are familiar to me. I too have found the clarity of Stenger's arguments to be quite compelling. You have brought some new arguments forward that I have not encountered before. Cavin's "above" vs "below" proofs is new to me.

The reference to Charles B. Waite's work is also quite interesting. I'll have to give that a read.

Thanks again for this thoughtful and stimulating "testimony" ;-)

-evan

Wendy said...

Goprairie - wow you are only 50+? With your cantankerous attitude I would've put you in the 80+ range.

DingoDave said...

A good article Robert, and a very enjoyable read.
There are a lot of your experiences that I can relate to.
I confess that my final and absolute deconversion was rather swift and angst free. I found it quite easy after having read some skeptical literature which I had aquired from the 'Rationalist Society of New South Wales' while I was living and working in Sydney(Australia).
I had been having serious doubts about the whole Christian construct for many years, and was in effect a practicing atheist already(which I imagine helped somewhat)
Like many others in a similar situation, I instinctively knew that the Christian religion was a crock of sh#t, but it wasn't until I read some of the skeptical material I had aquired that I realised just how massive a crock of sh#t it actually is, and how misleading and downright dishonest the pro-Christian information I had always been given actually was. Boy, was I angry about how grossly I had been mislead and deceived for all those years, both by my family and by my church.
Of course that was many years ago now, and I have mellowed somewhat since then. Not completely of course, or I wouldn't be here writing this now.

The internet is a wonderfull medium with which to spread information, and I only wish it had been available when I was a youngster. If the internet had been available when I was growing up I would have remained a Christian for a lot shorter period of time than I did, believe you me.
Anyway, enough of that. What I wanted to comment on is your discussion of the empty tomb which you mentioned in your article.
I believe that it is quite possible that there had been an empty tomb for the following reason. I posted this same information in the comments section on Jon Curry's blog which John Loftus provided a link to concerning a proposed initial rebuttal to Bill Craig's arguments for the reality of Jesus' resurrection and the empty tomb.

It reads as follows;

"It is interesting to note that it is only the gospel of Matthew which states that the tomb Jesus was buried in belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. All the other gospels simply describe it as a tomb which was nearby to where Jesus had been crucified.

Richard Carrier has written a couple of good articles rebutting Craig's arguments. You might be interested in reading them if you have not already done so.
Carrier makes the case that because the Sabbath was about to begin, Jesus was temporarily placed in the tomb with the intention of relocating the body after the Sabbath was over, which would have been Saturday evening at sundown.
The women are supposed to have gone to the tomb early on Sunday morning, so Joseph and Nichodemus would have had ample time to move the body, bury it in the criminal's graveyard, and be gone before anyone else could have known they were ever there."

Whilst I am aware that Paul never mentions an empty tomb, and that the story appears late in the records, I can't help but feel that this could be another possible explanation for the origin of the resurrection legend. What do you think?

Spontaneous Order said...

nicely done!

I am curious where you found the pdf of Waite's 200 year history. I am interested in reading but my Library does not have a hard copy.

eheffa said...

You'll find the google book page here:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=JFwAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=History+of+the+Christian+Religion+to+the+Year+Two+Hundred&client=firefox-a#PPR16,M1

-evan

SteveJones said...

Doesn't this demonstrate that Paul believed that resurrection was the actual resuscitation of the physical body?:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(Romans 8:11)