The Resurrection – Legend or Myth?

Was the resurrection of the man Jesus of Nazereth a myth?  Many people are convinced it is.  Some of them even claim to be Christians!  That’s about as bizarre an ideology as I can imagine.  The Bible itself says that if Jesus was not the Christ – the one whose life and death was foretold in the scriptures – then our faith is in vain, our worship is worthy of ridicule, and our religion is no better than any other.  But can we trust the biblical accounts?  Are there reasons to believe that it is not only Holy religious text, but is historically accurate as well?  Did the death and resurrection of Jesus actually happen?

Dead men don’t walk, as catchy as that idea is for a movie title.  There are accounts of people who were declared dead coming back to life, but those are explained by simply saying that they only seemed to be dead.  Clearly they weren’t.  Is someone who is declared brain-dead really dead?  Most probably are, but there are documented cases where they weren’t.  Is cardiac failure proof of death?  Here again, only if the failure is permanent.  Sometimes hearts even spontaneously start to beat again, even though attempts to restart them seem to have failed.

But I doubt that there is even a single event in recorded history (other than the resurrections in the Bible) where someone was declared dead, stayed that way for two nights, then on the third day, came back to not only life, but seemingly robust good mental and physical health?  So why believe that this seemingly impossible event could have really, actually taken place?

In a bibliographical survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection in English, French, and German since 1975, Gary Habermas found that 75% of scholars accept the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and that there is near universal agreement on the post-mortem appearances.

N. T. Wright at the end of his voluminous study on Jesus’ resurrection opines that the empty tomb and post-mortem appearances of Jesus have a historical probability so high as to be “virtually certain”.

In Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead, John Piper lists the following.  (Click the link to read the entire article.)

1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.
2. The tomb was empty on Easter.
3. The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:243:154:2).
5. The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim.
6. The Apostle Paul’s conversion supports the truth of the resurrection.
7. The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers.
8. There is a self-authenticating glory in the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses.

While most of these will not be new to many people, # 7 provides a kind of a unique perspective.  He says this in support of the claim:

How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person’s testimony? The decision to give credence to a person’s testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife’s testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him only on the content of his writings and the testimonies of others about him. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?

In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment—Luke 12:57), these men’s writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the invention of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is high. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honor of God.

What’s more, they each went to their deaths proclaiming it to be true.  Why is that so significant?  Because men will die for something they believe to be true, but will not die for something they believe to be a lie.  Clearly, these men were convicted, convinced and compelled by what they saw with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands.  In the end for each of them, it came down to whether to lie, or to die.  If even one of them had decided to lie, the veracity of the witness all of them bore would have been called much more into question.  But none did.

The resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, is the single most important event in all of human history.  That’s true whether you believe it actually happened or not.  There is simply no other event, be it history or myth, that has had more impact on the cultures of the world, than the resurrection of Jesus, on the event we today celebrate on Easter sunday.

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17 thoughts on “The Resurrection – Legend or Myth?

  1. thewordofme

    Hi,
    From what I understand there are three or four other godly myths out there that talk of a resurrection after 3 days and they were all posited before the New Testament.

    Actually come to think of it these same resurrections were of men born of a virgin.

    I wonder what it is with the virgin birth and resurrection that is so popular in myths?

    1. From what I understand there are three or four other godly myths

      Want to elaborate? I would love to hear about them! I’d also love to hear what you believe in. I went over to your your blog, and it’s hard to pin it down. You do seem to believe in truth, but you want to be its final arbiter. Why else call yourself “thewordofme”? You believe in evolution. That’s like saying you believe in the moon. Do you believe evolution caused the universe? Do you have a belief about the origin of the universe at all? Do you believe that all religions are essentially equal? You seem to, based on your recent posts, which treat Christianity and Islam with equal derision?

      Do you believe that Jesus of Nazereth, the man, really lived and died about 2000 years ago? If not, why did we reset all of our calendars to 0? And why do you suppose that of all the world’s belief systems, atheism is professed by truly free people, Christianity is the one chosen by a far higher percentage than any other?

  2. Shamelessly Atheist

    Interesting, but none of the writers of the gospels were there to witness anything. The gospels were written decades after the event, based only on oral tradition. We do not even know the real names of the authors, the names being assigned in ad hoc fashion in the second century CE. This is pretty much the consensus. Thus, they come nowhere near even a bare minimum level for usable evidence. Sorry.

    The author of Luke, at least, was honest about it:

    1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
    1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
    1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
    1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

    “Because men will die for something they believe to be true, but will not die for something they believe to be a lie.” A ridiculous (and sadly a common) argument. That they believed it to be true does not <em?make it true.

    And Paul? PAUL? Paul was never, ever anywhere near Jesus. His only meeting was in a ‘vision’, which is hardly evidence (other than for insanity). What does that misogynist Paul have to do with the resurrection?

    1. Thanks for commenting, DR. I think there are several issues raised in your comment. First, how reliable is the Biblical account of the resurrection historically? There is no way to be certain, but I have read the opinions of several historians who say that bible documents are among the most reliable of any ancient document. Many other documents, I recall reading, were written as much as 500 years after the events depicted, yet are still accepted as historically reliable. Here we have documents written within 100, and sometimes much less of the events.

      Second, the fact that these documents were based on oral accounts must be understood within these contexts: Jewish tradition requires a recitation of matters such as these, and they are extremely careful in getting the stories just right. Second, the written accounts were all done from someone’s memory. There were no recordings, no TV, radio, internet, faxes, etc. Every written page was meticulously done by hand.

      Third, I am surprised to hear your reaction to the point about someone dying for something they knew to be false. Can you point to any incidences in the past where this actually occurred? It seems an absurd waste of a life if it did happen.

      Finally, in order to contend that Paul was “never, ever anywhere near Jesus”, you must reject the encounter on the Damascus road as a delusion. But the evidence from Paul’s writings testify that that experience, if it was all he knew of Jesus, must have been a real doozy. He went from a high-profile Pharisee and militant anti-Christan activist, to someone who wrote compellingly of his love for Christ, his being a “prisoner in chains” for the gospel message, and more.

  3. thewordofme

    Hi John Andrew, thank you for writing back.

    Perseus was born of the virgin Danae. Danae was conceived by the God Zeus who took the form of a shower of gold. In another Greek myth Dionysius was born of the virgin Semele. Semele was impregnated by Zeus with a bolt of lightning. Mithra, a derivative of the Persian sun-worship, whose cult rivaled Christianity during the first few centuries of its existence, was conceived when God himself, in the form of light, entered a virgin.

    Phoenician mythology had Adonis being born of the virgin Myrrh. Virgin birth was also the explanation for the birth of the Phyrgian deity, Attis from his mother Cybele. Augustus, the reigning sovereign during the time of Jesus, was reputedly miraculously begotten when a snake descended upon his mother in the temple of Apollo. Also, Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, was born of a vestal virgin.

    Yes I very much search for the truth. As for the name “thewordofme” it was about my 15th or 20th choice as I was searching for a name for my blog…took about an hour to come up with it after having many other names rejected.

    No I don’t think I am the final arbiter of truth, but I’m pretty good at recognizing it, or at the very least thoroughly researching what I think might be the truth.

    I admit to the possibility of a deity starting up the universe, but don’t believe he/she/it would have stuck around and stuck his/her/its nose into common everyday Hebrew business of dietary laws and female menstruation protocol, etc. However I think the most likely story is that we are just a creation of nature and the whole drama that man (mostly Paul) has dreamed up about sin and redemption is fairy tale.

    You write:
    “Do you believe that all religions are essentially equal? You seem to, based on your recent posts, which treat Christianity and Islam with equal derision?”

    Yes, I do believe that they are all equal, in that they are all just myths and have no foundation in truth or reality.

    You write:
    “Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the man, really lived and died about 2000 years ago? If not, why did we reset all of our calendars to 0? And why do you suppose that of all the world’s belief systems, atheism is professed by truly free people, Christianity is the one chosen by a far higher percentage than any other?”

    The using of Jesus as the basis for the western calendar was brought about by Catholic Church people in the 6th and 7th century AD, so of course this is so. Back in those days if you didn’t agree with the Christians you were killed.

    Catholics…1.2 billion
    Protestant…1 billion
    Muslims…1.3 billion
    Atheists/agnostic…1 billion
    Hindu…1 billion
    many many other sects…???

    From what I hear on the internet the Muslim’s birthrate is at least double the Christians rate…probably won’t be too long before Islam outruns Christianity, and as we all know the biggest dog rules.

    Why do you suppose that after 2000 years Christians cannot agree on the right way to worship an all powerful omniscient God?

    There is a distinct chance that Jesus was a real person, but it doesn’t really matter because there was no original sin for him to “redeem.” So what use was he in the larger view…no disrespect intended if He is real.
    twom

    1. Do you honestly put Greek god mythology in the same category as the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ? Did anybody ever take the GG’s seriously? Why do those religions not exist today – at a time when even with all of our sophistication, more people on planet Earth proclaim faith in Jesus?

      How do you reconcile the huge volume of corroborated evidence for the historicity of Jesus the man with mythology? Does any serious student believe that any of the gods you mention actually lived? And does any serious scholar seriously doubt that Jesus the man actually lived?

      I am very happy to hear you’re interested in the truth! Believe it or not, most of the dissenters I’ve interacted with since starting this blog are not! Did you know that Jesus said not only “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”? He also said “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” He said that to Pilate who was possibly way ahead of his time, because he responded with a comment today’s postmodernists would have agreed with – “What’s truth!” (Notice I didn’t put a question mark at the end, because I agree with the interpretations that characterize it as a dismissive remark rather than a real question.)

      Christians go beyond just believing he lived as a man. Christians believe that he was also who he claimed to be – the Messiah – the Christ. Up to this point I have argued from reason alone. Now I add a measure of faith. But it is not blind faith. It is faith in the evidence. It is faith that the primary alternatives to Jesus being who he said he was are that he was either a liar or a lunatic. And there’s near zero evidence of him being either of those.

      Where did you get the notion that not agreeing with Christians “back in those days” got you killed? Killed by whom? Yes, there were a few dark days when the Church became so corrupt, that it killed a relatively small number of high-profile people for heresy. (That corruption led to the reformation.) But far more Christians were killed for their faith than the number who killed in the name of the church.

      Yes, Muslims are making more babies than we are, partly because we abort so many of them (to our shame, 52 million since Roe v Wade – see my recent posts on that subject.) And it is a crime punishable by death for any Muslim to convert to Christianity. Yet almost no Christian converts to Islam, whereas millions of Muslims convert to Christianity every year. According to Al-Jazeerah, 6 million in Africa alone each year! So the growth rate of the population in Muslim countries is not the same as the growth rate of Islam.

      It is absolutely clear that Islam does not grow because people who are free to choose, choose it. Islam grows by threat and intimidation. Christianity grows because it changes hearts. Christianity does not demand anything. It offers an invitation. ‘Come to me, all you who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls’. Christianity says that the only commandments necessary are to love God, and to love our neighbor “as yourself”. Sooner or later the world will understand that love like that is impossible for man. (The line between good and evil, as Alexander Solzenitzen said, runs through every human heart. Without being told how to live, we choose poorly.

      That’s why atheism gave us gifts like Darwinism, which together with other Nietzscheism-inspired ideologies led to Nazism, fascism and even the corrupting of the Muslim faith by zealots who are most accurately referred to as Islamo-fascists.

  4. thewordofme

    Hi John Andrew, thanks for your reply.
    Below is an excerpt from something I am writing that’s not quite ready to (online) publish. Will include stuff on Jesus, but not done yet.

    You do realize that because there was no Adam and Eve as the Bible posits that there is no need for Jesus to redeem anybody?

    “On the Resurrection, however, no eyewitness wrote anything–not Jesus, not Peter, not Mary, not any of the Twelve, nor any of the Seventy, nor any of the Five Hundred. All we have is Paul, who saw nothing but a “revelation,” and who mentions no other kind of experience or evidence being reported by anyone. On the Resurrection, no neutral or hostile witness or contemporary wrote anything–not Joseph, not Caiaphas, not Gamaliel, not Agrippa, not Pilate, not Lysias, not Sergius, not anyone alive at the time, whether Jewish, Greek, or Roman. On the Resurrection, no critical historian documents a single detail, or even the claim itself, until centuries later, and then only by Christian apologists who can only cite the New Testament as their source (and occasionally bogus documents like the letter sent by Jesus to Abgar that Eusebius tries to pass off as authentic).”

    1. Whether you treat the Genesis account as literal or allegorical (as I do) or even mythological, as you apparently do, it’s pretty hard to argue that there is no need for redemption. Just read the latest news stories. For something to even BE news, it usually requires somebody to do somebody wrong. The reason we have laws is that people and their wrongful deeds need to be restrained. For a good picture of what happens when there is no law, look at Somalia today. Want to live there? Neither do I.

      Would it have mattered if eyewitnesses had written down what they saw?

  5. thewordofme

    Hi John Andrew, thanks for your reply.

    You write:
    “Do you honestly put Greek god mythology in the same category as the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ? Did anybody ever take the GG’s seriously? Why do those religions not exist today – at a time when even with all of our sophistication, more people on planet Earth proclaim faith in Jesus?”

    Yes there were people that took the Greek Gods seriously, just like there were many many people that took the Egyptian Gods for real, and don’t forget the people that worshipped Baal and El and Ashtaroth and Elohim and many more. Up to the 900’s BC even the Hebrews prayed to many different Gods. Hebrew King Manasseh, “reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”

    Actually more people on earth proclaim faith in Buddha, Brahma, Bhagavan Vishnu, Allah or Nothing.

    You write:
    “How do you reconcile the huge volume of corroborated evidence for the historicity of Jesus the man with mythology? Does any serious student believe that any of the gods you mention actually lived? And does any serious scholar seriously doubt that Jesus the man actually lived?”

    Yes.

    Philo 20 BC to 50 AD
    Pliny the Elder 23 AD to 79 AD
    Seneca the Elder 54 BC to 39 AD
    Seneca the Younger 4 BC to 65 AD
    Josephus 37 AD to 100 AD
    Tacitus 56 AD to 117 AD
    Plutarch 46 AD to 122 AD
    Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus 71 AD to 135 AD
    Justus of Tiberius ??20 to ??88
    Dio Chrysostom 40 AD to 120 AD
    Epictetus 55 AD to 135 AD

    The above named men all lived either when Jesus was supposed to live or not long afterwards. All of them wrote on historical, religious, secular, political, philosophical matters of their times and histories of their lands. None of them have a proven legitimate mention of Jesus. There are no contemporary historical documents for ‘Jesus, the Christ’, aside from two forged brief passages in the works of the Jewish author Josephus, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.”

    You write:
    “I am very happy to hear you’re interested in the truth! Believe it or not, most of the dissenters I’ve interacted with since starting this blog are not!”

    I have occasion to “talk” to many dissenters and atheists and agnostics and all I have meet so far are searching for the same thing we all are…truth. If some Christian proselytizer comes up to you and start to spout nonsense and you answer back with scientific truths they tend to get upset and think we are closed to the truth, when in fact it is the proselytizer who is close-minded. We have testable, repeatable science on our side—they have a book written by sheep/goat herders, that if looked at closely, has no relevance to our world.

    What kind of God would pick out a bunch of goat herders to be His “chosen” people and to hide Himself from all the millions of other humans on earth at the time? Why hide from the world and enter into the everyday personal affairs of these Hebrews? Why hand down a few hundred laws to the Hebrews so they can live as God wants and ignore everyone else…do they not matter?

    You write:
    “Christians go beyond just believing he lived as a man. Christians believe that he was also who he claimed to be – the Messiah – the Christ.”

    I thought Christians believed that He was God and He sacrificed Himself to Himself to lift the original sin we inherited from Adam and Eve.

    Which by-the-way is useless, because if there was no Adam and Eve, there would not be any original sin to lift.

    There was no “Adam and Eve” Humans in modern form have been on this earth for 200,000 +- years. God did not create human life 6,000 years ago, or 10,000 years ago. Christians tell me that the purpose of Jesus was to atone for our sins. We have none.

    You write:
    “Where did you get the notion that not agreeing with Christians “back in those days” got you killed? Killed by whom? Yes, there were a few dark days when the Church became so corrupt, that it killed a relatively small number of high-profile people for heresy. (That corruption led to the reformation.) But far more Christians were killed for their faith than the number who killed in the name of the church.”

    Remember the Dark Ages and the different Inquisitions and the Catholic/Protestant wars of the Middle Ages in Germany and France and England. In Germany alone, more than 6 million Catholics and Protestant believers died in battle against themselves, and more in the subsequent desolation of the land and food resources.

    The Catholics in France were at war with other Catholics and eventually Protestants in the 1500’s 1600’s and 1700’s. Religious warfare lasted hundreds of years and millions were killed. Let’s not forget the Crusades and the hundreds of thousands of humans that were killed in the Middle East.

    Religion has been the single most common reason for death in the human race. There are religious people out there right now that would kill me for saying this, if they thought they could get away with it. 🙂

    You write:
    “Yes, Muslims are making more babies than we are, partly because we abort so many of them (to our shame, 52 million since Roe v Wade – see my recent posts on that subject.) And it is a crime punishable by death for any Muslim to convert to Christianity. Yet almost no Christian converts to Islam, whereas millions of Muslims convert to Christianity every year. According to Al-Jazeerah, 6 million in Africa alone each year! So the growth rate of the population in Muslim countries is not the same as the growth rate of Islam.”

    Yes we do abort many fetuses. I am split on this matter. I would prefer that it would not be necessary or ever happen, but I realize that some are needed for a host of reasons, but I am dead set against any government having the power over women to tell them what they can do with their own bodies. That would also mean that I am dead set against any religious organization telling women what to do with their bodies…we are long past the time when some wrinkled old man of faith is the boss of women and their bodies.

    I applaud those converts to Christianity, it is an easy path out of the most horrid religion on earth and I wish them well.

    Islam continues to grow because children are born and raised in it. At this point in time it is still growing faster than Christianity…I hope this doesn’t continue very long.

    Hopefully the side of reason and logic will prevail over all, and we will see a world free of this curse humanity has endured for some 3,000 years.

    You write:
    “That’s why atheism gave us gifts like Darwinism, which together with other Nietzscheism-inspired ideologies led to Nazism, fascism and even the corrupting of the Muslim faith by zealots who are most accurately referred to as Islamo-fascists.”

    Christians like to keep up this misleading story that atheists are “Hitler’s” in training or some such crap. Hitler was a Catholic. In his book Mein Kampf he talks about his faith, in his speeches as German Chancellor he talks of his Catholic faith…the man truly believed he was doing the work of God by killing the Jews. Remember, the Jews killed Jesus, and the Catholic Pope that Hitler entered into an alliance with was a rabid Jew hater.

    Some of the scariest people I have ever meet have been some kind of Christian faith that think women are evil and second class, black people should be slaves and many other moronic ideas. You’ll see some of them in Bill Mahr’s movie “Religilous”

    You write:
    “Without being told how to live, we choose poorly.”

    I have absolutely no problem living a profoundly happy and productive life without anyone telling me how I should live. And I treat others well.
    twom

    1. While the conflicts you listed are all recognized conflicts, there are no reliable statistics I know of that show the numbers of people killed because of a non-religious ideology. Abortion is one example. 52 million deaths in the USA alone. As I said in my recent post, that’s more than all deaths in all USA wars combined. We as a society don’t reject the practice in horror, because a majority of us accept the notion that the baby’s life has less value than the mother’s. And we reject the biblical notion that sex should be between a man and a woman only after they join together in marriage. How arcane!

      So abortion is really all about our unwillingness to give up the right to have sex whenever, and with whomever we want. I’m all for women being able to decide what to do with their own bodies, but abortion involves more than the woman. It involves killing another human being. So what it comes down to is that we are willing to commit murder over and over again, so that we can go on having sex without the inconvenience of babies.

      As for an interest in truth, if you seek it, you will find it, but only if you seek it with all your heart. Most people approach it with a metaphysical presupposition bias, that basically says ‘I assume this belief to be true, and unless you can convince me otherwise, I’ll go on believing it.’ There’s nothing really wrong with that as long as you realize it’s there. I lived for most of my life with a bias that God was not there. Then after watching dramatic changes in some people close to me after deciding to be disciples of Jesus, I started to see the ugliness in my own heart, and made the same decision. The surprising thing to me is that everything in life makes more sense now. I feel that my sins are forgiven, yes, but everything from the origin of the universe to the miraculous design in the smallest things, to the meaning and purpose of my life fits together in a coherent total worldview that makes more rational sense that any other.

      As for the question of whether any serious scholar doubts whether Jesus lived, your response did not answer the question. The people you listed may not have written about Him, but most were probably just unaware of his life and its impact. News traveled slowly in those days. And the Christians near Rome were so harshly persecuted that they literally built vast underground communities, and spent nearly their entire lives out of sight!

      Perhaps the question I should have asked is whether any serious student LIVING TODAY believes that any of the gods you mention actually lived? And does any serious scholar TODAY seriously doubt that Jesus the man actually lived?” And I should add, does anyone living today take the Greek gods seriously?

      Defenders of an atheistic worldview (and politicians) always seem to use the same technique when faced with a tough question: obfuscate, restate and respond. Seems like that’s what you did here. 🙂

      Christians believe that God is triune – that he is one God in three persons. Jesus was the God-man who was the result of the Father’s will, the Holy Spirit’s ‘coming upon’ the virgin Mary and impregnating her with His seed, and who lived as a man until he was resurrected and ascended into Heaven, where he lives today as the Son. All three persons have existed from the beginning, but God-the-Son did not become Jesus until he was born a man. And Jesus the man, during his life on Earth, did not posess all of the attributes of God. So he prayed to the Father constantly, and He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit constantly, because he had voluntarily put most of the powers of Diety aside. But He took them up again when He ascended back to Heaven after the resurrection, and so today we rightly call the Son of God by his Earthly name, Jesus.

      In my last response, I indicated that I take the Genesis account to be allegorical. In other words, I believe Adam and Eve are composite characters, written in to the story to make it personal. Other Christians take it literally. I was not there, so I do not tell them they are wrong. But as I said before, that’s beside the point. Every one has the potential to do horrible things, including me, and including you. There is no one righteous, not even one. That includes Muslims, Hindus, Jews, atheists, and yes, even Christians. What’s more, bad deeds always have a price that must be paid. And the price is death. And yet we have a God who loves us so much, who wanted us to live with Him so much, that He decided to pay the penalty himself.

      Hyperbole about “some of the scariest people” being Christians aside, the facts say otherwise. To say that Hitler was a Christian is an absurdity well outside mainstream thought, and the bounds of credibility. One of the first things he did upon ascending to power was to systematically kill or imprison or subsume every influential member of the church. He did so because he knew that Christian ideology had the potential to turn the people agains him by comparing his deeds to the teachings of the Christian Bible.

      But even that’s beside the point. Again, there is no one righteous. I do not suggest that atheists are Hitlers in training, but I do say that Hitler was strongly influenced by both Darwin and his basic idea that naturalism made god ‘unnecessary’, and by Nietzsche, from whom came the idea of the Übermensch (Super man). And without doubt, the two ideas were remarkably congruent with a worldview that denies the existence of a Creator God. So it was not atheism that created Hitler, but it was rejection of God by both Darwin and Neitzsche that led them to write about their philosophies, and it was Hitler’s reading of those philosophies that created the madman he became. So while it is not correct to say that atheism leads to Nazism, it is correct to say that it was a necessary precondition.

      Christianity requires the submission of one’s self to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That means that one must genuinely try, with all that is within him, to follow Christ and keep His precepts in thought, word and deed. Only God really knows who true Christians are, because only God truly knows a person’s heart. And if one is truly Christian, it is impossible to become a Hitler, or a Jeffrey Daumer, or a Pot Pol, or an Osama Bin Laden.

      Notice in your list of “religious conflicts” how many of them were instigated by Muslims. Of the 11, only two did not involve Muslims. So it’s not so much that religion is the cause, as it is that conflicts between what one group of people says is moral and just and another is the cause. Muslims apparently believe that it is moral and just to force everyone to become a Muslim, and that killing them and as many innocent bystanders as is necessary is just part of the necessary fallout.

      Christianity stands alone among all belief systems. It is the only one that teaches that to be first, one must be last, that to gain your life, you must lose it, and that you should love your neighbor as yourself. It alone says ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’. And it’s the only one whose God washed pepole’s feet, said that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom, and who did that very thing.

  6. thewordofme

    Hi again John Andrew,

    I’ve just posted a new piece on one of the subjects we were discussing. Below is an excerpt.

    “Religion today is every bit as violent and dangerous as it was in the Dark and Middle-Ages. Within the last fifteen to twenty years the following religious conflicts have killed millions of people and totally ruined countless other lives.

    Palestine–Jews vs. Muslims
    Balkans—Orthodox Serbians vs. Catholic Croatians & Orthodox Serbians vs. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims
    Northern Ireland—Protestants vs. Catholic
    Kashmir—Muslims vs. Hindus
    Sudan—Muslims vs. Christians and Animists
    Nigeria—Muslims vs. Christians
    Ethiopia and Eritrea—Muslims vs. Christians
    Sri-Lanka—Sinhalese Buddhists vs. Tamil Hindus
    Indonesia—Muslims vs. Timorese Christians
    Caucuses—Russian Orthodox vs. Chechen Muslims and Muslim Azerbaijanis vs. Catholic and Orthodox Armenians
    India vs. Pakistan—Muslim vs. Hindu—they have already fought 3 wars against each other and now both of these countries have nuclear weapons.”

  7. thewordofme

    Hi John Andrew, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    You write:
    “While the conflicts you listed are all recognized conflicts, there are no reliable statistics I know of that show the numbers of people killed because of a non-religious ideology.”

    That point above about past deaths is almost moot at this point. The real problem now is that religious people have access to Nuclear weapons, and the rhetoric floating around is not promising for life on earth. Religion has not shown itself to be overly concerned with earthly
    human life, and that scares the hell out of me.

    In matters of dogma the first reaction is to go for the throat.

    **” The childish almost unintelligible quarrels between the Homoiousians and the Homoousians … filled the world with riot and hatred. The Catholics tell … how three thousand people perished in the riots that convulsed Constantinople when the Arian bishop Macedonius superseded the Athanasian Paul … In Ephesus, during the contest between St. Cyril and the Nestorians, the cathedral itself was the theater of a fierce and bloody conflict … Later, when the monophysite controversy was at its height, the palace of the emperor at Constantinople was blockaded, the churches were besieged, and the streets commanded by furious bands of contending monks.”**

    I see no reason to think that things would be any different now if religion ruled our lives.

    I truly don’t want to get in an argument about abortion here. As I mentioned in an earlier reply I am against it as a moral position, but I recognize that there are situations where it *should* be used. I am seriously against using it as a means of birth control, but, and it’s a big but, governments and churches should not be allowed to control reproduction in a woman’s body…ever…at all.

    You write:
    “So abortion is really all about our unwillingness to give up the right to have sex whenever, and with whomever we want.”

    We can have sex whenever we want without fear of pregnancy by using birth control, and I think most women realize this, and the intelligent ones do use it. I must mention something that sounds very callous, but it is very pertinent to us as humans…the world is running out of room and water and other resources very quickly…how many millions of children would those millions of aborted fetuses have had by now? How does a population of well over 400 million in the US set with you? Those women who do have abortions…should we charge them with murder?

    I really disagree that a fetus is infused with a “soul” or some such nonsense at the moment of conception and should be considered alive or human…that to me is just plain silly…and I sense you disagree, but I am totally on the side of women on this matter.

    I think the whole of humanity has been having sex in a married *or not* basis for all of our time here on earth. Sex is right up there above religion as a powerful urge…in fact it seems to be a biological imperative.) There is a lot of really disgusting (to me) things going on in this world, and it seems they also have been going on for eternity. Some of the sexual things that do *not* bother me are mentioned in the Bible such as; pre-marital sex, casual sex…as a single person, masturbation. Any others bother me, but except for actual unlawful (civil and criminal) stuff, I don’t let any of it upset me and I wouldn’t under any circumstance try to impose my feelings or morals about these matters on anybody else.

    Another thought is that humans (and some chimp and Bonobo primates that are closely related to us by DNA) seem to be the only animals on earth that are into recreational sex. Now if in fact we are designed by a god, then he has made us that way and we have been that way for hundreds of thousands of years. You think that God just decided that we should restrict this sex to formalized rules some 6,000 years ago?

    A major problem with all religions I have encountered so far is they think they have the right—nay– the moral obligation–to stick their noses way too far in other people’s business. Thanks to secular government we in the US, and some other democratic countries, are properly protected from most religions intrusion into our lives. All the American religions can do is make unbelievers social outcasts or shun people in heavily religious states or towns who don’t follow the “Path”. Think how much of an improvement this is over the Dark-Ages where the priest could cause unbelievers to be put to death. Just think about the poor Muslims and how, because they are really religious, they really do control their follower’s lives and thoughts. Don’t they worship the same God, by the way?

    You write:
    “As for an interest in truth, if you seek it, you will find it, but only if you seek it with all your heart.”

    I think I have found truth in religious matters. I rejected religion at about the age of 13. As I read the stories that were in the Bible I started to realize that much of it was seriously flawed and made not much sense. Try as I might I can’t believe that a god would do what he did to Job, or that he would cause “His” followers to kill whole villages and bash children against rocks and run through pregnant women with swords, etc., etc.. It was sickening and turned me away forever from this evil “god” How people today can call this entity (illusion) a “loving God’ is totally beyond my understanding.

    You write:
    “As for the question of whether any serious scholar doubts whether Jesus lived, your response did not answer the question. The people you listed may not have written about Him, but most were probably just unaware of his life and its impact.”

    And

    You write:
    “Defenders of an atheistic worldview (and politicians) always seem to use the same technique when faced with a tough question: obfuscate, restate and respond. Seems like that’s what you did here. ”

    Perhaps you misunderstand. The writers mentioned were chroniclers of their times and world. For the ones alive when Jesus was, or shortly after his crucifixion, you would think the stories of him raising the dead would draw LOTS of attention. I would guess that curing leprosy (a scourge of the times) would also attract some attention. How about walking on water and multiplying the fish and bread, turning water into wine? Thousands of people are mentioned as followers and there was a “buzz” going on around the phenomenon of this man. At least this is what I have been told.

    You write:
    “Perhaps the question I should have asked is whether any serious student LIVING TODAY believes that any of the gods you mention actually lived? And does any serious scholar TODAY seriously doubt that Jesus the man actually lived?” And I should add, does anyone living today take the Greek gods seriously?”
    To the first part; no, I don’t, but the point was that people at one time DID. Remember the Old Testament Jews used to believe that God (YHWH) had a wife…Asherah. No one has attempted to disprove this by the way…they just quit writing about her.
    To the second part; yes, there are some that question his actual existence, and some that doubt that he was the Son of God if he did exist…the Jews come to mind immediately.
    To the third part; I doubt it, but you never know with some of these New Age/Pagan/Druid followers. Do you believe that Bhagavan Krishna is real…1 billion people alive today do? That’s how many Protestants there are alive today.

    Sorry I didn’t realize I was obfuscating anything. I really do try to give honest, straight forward answers. If I fell down in this it was probably from tiredness/late night hours.
    The whole triune God/Jesus/Holy Spirit thing is a fiction made up by the Catholics in 300AD. It makes no sense and is silly…just my opinion of course.

    You write:
    “And yet we have a God who loves us so much, who wanted us to live with Him so much, that He decided to pay the penalty himself.”

    Now you see this is just BS. What kind of “God” thinks like this? The answer is…none do, and yes I can presume to answer for a god. This makes no human logical sense at all, and yes humans can apply logic to a god. This kind of answer is so obviously made up by humans that I cringe whenever I hear this kind of BS logic used. Why on earth would you think a god would act this way? A real God can do whatever He wants, in any way He wants, at whenever time He wants. He would *not* have to go through the rigamarole that church leaders try to tell us He wants.

    You write:
    “ To say that Hitler was a Christian is an absurdity well outside mainstream thought, and the bounds of credibility. One of the first things he did upon ascending to power was to systematically kill or imprison or subsume every influential member of the church. He did so because he knew that Christian ideology had the potential to turn the people agains him by comparing his deeds to the teachings of the Christian Bible.”

    I don’t believe I said Hitler was a Christian…just that he spouted religious speech and at several points in his time in power referred to his Catholicism and how he thought he was serving a “higher Power”

    “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” –Adolf Hitler

    “I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”–Adolf Hitler

    “Even today I am not ashamed to say that, overpowered by stormy enthusiasm, I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time.”– Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 5

    “In short, the results of miscegenation are always the following: (a) The level of the superior race becomes lowered; (b) physical and mental degeneration sets in, thus leading slowly but steadily towards a progressive drying up of the vital sap. The act which brings about such a development is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator. And as a sin this act will be avenged.” — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 11

    “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” — Adolf Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936

    “[I wish to express my church’s] sincere and joyous preparedness to cooperate as best they could with the government now ruling that had set itself that tasks of promoting the Christian education of the people, repelling ungodliness and immorality, developing readiness to make sacrifices for the common good and protecting the rights of the Church.”
    – Cardinal Adolf Bertram, Archbishop of Breslau, letter to Adolf Hitler following the announcement of the Concordat between Nazi Germany and the Vatican, July 22, 1933

    “…Christ has come to us through the person of Adolf Hitler. …Hitler has taken root in us; through his strength, through his honesty, his faith and his idealism we have found our way to paradise.”
    – Kirchenrat Leutheusser, addressing German Christians in Saalfeld, August 30, 1933

    “[Adolf Hitler is] the tool of God, called upon to overcome Judaism…” — Father Senn, a Catholic priest, writing in a Catholic publication, May 15, 1934

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” — Adolf Hitler, to General Gerhard Engel, 1941

    Hitler was a very complex person, but he did consider himself a Christian at least outwardly. And concerning the Jews he very much did believe he was doing God’s work. He needed the backing of the Protestant church as well as the Catholics and he did get it from both. When he started imprisoning his countrymen and others it started with the homosexuals, the mentally disturbed and “slow learners,” then quickly went on to Jews and small sects in religion such as Jehovah’s witnesses.

    You write”
    “He did so because he knew that Christian ideology had the potential to turn the people against him by comparing his deeds to the teachings of the Christian Bible.”

    I’m a history buff and I have not come across this line of thought in my readings. We know he enjoyed much support from both Protestants and Catholics initially. By the time they came to their senses it was too late.

    You write:
    “So while it is not correct to say that atheism leads to Nazism, it is correct to say that it was a necessary precondition.”

    I would dispute that “necessary precondition” part strongly.

    “Despite how often Christian apologists try to argue that Adolf Hitler is an example of the evil caused by atheism and secularism, the truth is that Hitler often proclaimed his own Christianity, how much he valued Christianity, how important Christianity was to his life, and even how much he was personally inspired by Jesus – his “Lord and Savior.” There is plenty of evidence that he was critical of Christian churches for seeking independence from the state, but his vision of “Positive Christianity” was significant to him.” From About.com retrieved on 4.21.09 http://atheism.about.com/od/adolfhitlernazigermany/tp/AdolfHitlerQuotesGodReligion.htm

    In the above matter you may be influenced by church/religious inspired propaganda. I have read about this in college many years ago, and at the time none of the literature was trying to connect Hitler with atheism or secular influences. I don’t believe the connection is a well reasoned or true argument.

    You write:
    “And if one is truly Christian, it is impossible to become a Hitler, or a Jeffrey Daumer, or a Pot Pol, or an Osama Bin Laden.”

    How about a George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or Bill Clinton? They profess to be Christians, but I have it on good authority that GW and Cheney did some really bad things while in office. Of course ol’ Bill has a problem keeping his” —-“in his pants. How big does the sin have to be for God to be mad? I am not saying the Pres’s are on an equal footing with your mentioned people.

    I think the kings of the North and the kings of the South will turn out to be Muslims and Christianity. Although they worship the same God they are totally at odds, and will destroy each other.

    You write:
    “whose God washed people’s feet, said that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom, and who did that very thing.”

    But he didn’t have to do that….It’s not only a silly excuse for a theology, but as Adam and Eve did not exist and therefore didn’t do the original sin thing, there was no need for Jesus to die to redeem sins that never happened…so the story is bogus. I’m sure Paul thought he had made up a really
    good story about the sin and redemption thing, but as time flows on and mankind grows up and puts away the toys of childhood and learns more and more about his world and his universe…it seems so silly now.
    twom

  8. Interesting conversation (wordofme and John). What is seen here is what happens when one picks and chooses from the Bible what is true and what is a story with meaning.

    To deny Adam and Eve as two literal beings does undercut the stance of a need for redemption. To say that it’s allegorical and then to hold to the most improbable resurrection as literal seems a little off to me. Just my perspective.

    It undercuts the authority of the Scripture. And once that’s done, who’s to say what is true and what is not? For my part, I do believe in Adam and Eve as two individuals who were created and lived. I think it must be so. Clearly Paul believed it to be true, and it is within that context of belief that he was inspired to write his letters (the first of which, Galatians, was written somewhere around A.D. 44, not decades after Jesus’ earthly ministry. Corinthians and Thessalonians also were written within close proximity.

    What I find hilarious is that we will believe and base our history on someone like Alexander the Great, of whom a biography was not written for not just decades later, but centuries later – 400 years after the fact.

    Even if the writers of the gospels wrote at a late time, as some scholars suggest, the amount of time isn’t long enough to mythologize Christ. There’s also good evidence that Mark was written prior to AD 60. Actually, good evidence that the synoptic gospels were written before the fall of Jerusalem.

    There is widespread agreement that the Gospel of John was indeed written by the Apostle John, who followed Christ. That we have record of one of his students in the early second century allows for a much later date for John – circa AD 90’s. He was an eyewitness himself.

    Luke traveled with Peter.

    Mark possibly was present when Christ was arrested. According to how events were recorded in those times, an author would include himself in the story anonymously. At the arrest of Jesus, a young boy flees, leaving his robe behind and runs off naked. Some believe this to be Mark, the writer of the Gospel.

    Just my two cents.

    I’d also like to add, in reference to the first paragraph of the post, that, unless I’m mistaken, Paul does not say our faith is in vain if Jesus is not the Christ, but that it is in vain and we are to be pitied most by men if He was not resurrected, for then our hope is for this life only.

    1. Thanks for your contribution, Josh. To clarify, I do not deny Adam and Eve were literal beings. And I think your point is a good one. I just am not sure we can know where to draw the line between some things that need to be taken literally and things that are clearly not intended that way. If you are an old-Earth creationist, you don’t take the six days as literal, 24 hour days. So if they are allegorical, why not the first man?

  9. Pingback: Will We Ever Agree About Religion ?? « The Word of Me…

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