So, some folk are arguing about whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical person. Leaving aside whether or not there is evidence enough to conclude that Jesus was real… it seems to me that if the argument is important to you and you want to win the argument, you really aughtta argue rationally and honestly. Take, for example this article by trying-to-sell-a-book author Bart Ehrman:
Where the guy arguing that the evidence says “yes” says this:
The alleged parallels between Jesus and the “pagan” savior-gods in most instances reside in the modern imagination: We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions).
Ummm. Anybody catch the logical weakness there? Here’s a hint: he’s claiming that we should reject the claims made about supposed savior-gods because those claims are apparently just made up without any evidence.
Regardless of whether that’s a valid point (and I think it is), it should be noted that what’s right for “proposed god A” is right for “proposed god B.”
You may not trust Rush Limbaugh’s views of Sandra Fluke, but he certainly provides evidence that she exists.
True. But then, it would a hardly be a new thing for, say, a journalist or an author or whatever to simply make stuff up and be believed. And this is today, in an era when every claim can be checked, sooner or later. Thousands of years ago, a claim could go unchallenged for *years,* and when challenged, the hunt to find the evidence might require a month on a boat and a season on a camel.
On a purely rational level, a claim that “Mr. X” existed, no matter how widely believed, bears the burden of proof, not the counter claim that “Mr. X” did not exist. Often the burden of proof is an easy burden: while there are no living eyewitnesses to Abe Lincoln, there are a *vast* number of eye witness accounts, as well as photos and even a death mask. For Julius Caesar there are a number of eyewitness reports, and sculptures and coins and such made while he was supposedly alive. But for Jesus Christ, there are four contradictory books written, apparently, by eye witnesses a few years after his putative death. And that’s it: everything else is hearsay.
How reliable are those four books as historical records? Well… they describe a superhero with magic powers. Consider a modern UFO sighting: which is more reliable…a report that reads, in effect, “I saw a strange light in the sky,” or the one that reads “I saw an Arcturan battlecruiser hovering on anti-gravity powered by dark matter kittens?” Even though the reports may describe a witness account of the exact same event, by adding very unlikely details, the more interesting report becomes less believable.
If you want to believe in historiocity and divinity of Jesus, hey, great. But flawed logic and overblown rhetoric is not a rational way to convert non-believers…. though it may well be a *successful* way. I’ve talked to more than a few people who have tried to convince me to convert because “if you don’t believe, you’ll go to Hell.” The problem with that line (beyond the fact that it makes God look like a petulant psychotic dick) is that it will only work if you already believe. If someone does not believe in Hell, threatening them with Hell shouldn’t make them believe… just as someone who doesn’t believe that that bar of soap in your hand *isn’t* a death ray won’t be converted to the belief that it’s a death ray just because you threaten to blast them with it.
Use it to zap a crater in the sidewalk, and maybe you’ll get some converts.