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Author Topic:   Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 68 (658137)
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart D. Ehrman

In Ehrman's most recent book, released just last month, he presents what he believes are the best arguments for the existence of an historical Jesus. The book is primarily geared toward the refutation of an increasingly popular ahistorical line of argumentation against the existence of Jesus known as 'Jesus Mythicism'. Jesus mythicists argue not only that Jesus did not exist but that the character Jesus was invented based on the traditions of pagan gods that supposedly share characteristics in common with Jesus.

I got this book in the mail about a week ago and have only read through the first half of it or so. I was quite pleased with what I read in the beginning, especially Ehrman's review of Freke & Gandy's The Jesus Mysteries, as I myself had written a review of the book shortly after reading it about a year ago. I have not yet gotten to what I hope are the better parts of the book, where Ehrman knocks down the Mythicist argument and lays out the argument for Jesus' existence based on early Jewish views of Messiah.

At present, I'm reading Ehrman's review on sources about Jesus aside from the Gospels. And for this section, I have to say, I am rather disappointed with the direction Ehrman has taken. I believe he has seriously put far too much weight into the claims of early Christian writers. Regarding Papias, Ehrman says:

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

Papias explicitly states that he had access to people who knew the apostles fo Jesus or at least the companions of the apostles (the "elders": it is hard to know from his statement if he is calling the companions of the apostles the elders or if the Elders were those who knew the companions. Eusebius thinks it is the first option). When these people would come to his city of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, Papias, as leader of the church, would interview them about what they knew about Jesus and his apostles. Many conservative Christian scholars use this statement to prove that what Papias says is historically accurate (especially about Mark and Matthew), but that is going beyond what the evidence gives us. Still, on one point there can be no doubt. Papias may pass on some legendary traditions about Jesus, be he is quite specificand there is no reason to think he is telling a bald-faced liethat he knows people who knew the apostles (or the apostles' companions). This is not eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus, but it is getting very close to that.
...
This then is testimony that is independent of the Gospels themselves. It is yet one more independent line of testimony among many we have seen so far. And this time it is a testimony that explicitly and credibly traces its own lineage directly back to the disciples of Jesus themselves.  (pp. 100101)


This last statement, "... explicitly and credibly traces ...", really troubles me, because Ehrman provides no evidence or reasoning whatsoever for why anyone should believe Papias' testimonies to be credible in tracing back to apostles of Jesus. Given how common it was for early Christian groups to claim apostolic succession, any claims of information going back to the apostles themselves should be taken with a half ton of salt; Ehrman doesn't do this, however, and instead seems to blindly accept the report that Papias had met folk who had met apostles. Scandalous!

On Ignatius, Ehrman sums up the situation as follows:

quote:
Ehrman (2012):

Ignatius, then, provides us yet with another independent witness to the life of Jesus. (p.103)


Say what? The sections of Ignatius that Ehrman quotes are little more than typical Christian apologetics against the docetists of Ignatius' daythat Jesus was born in 'flesh', that he 'truly' suffered and died, etc. This can hardly bee seen as representing actual witnessing to Jesus' life. Ehrman's only reason for supposing this to be of any value (the only reason he gives, that is) is that Ignatius was bishop in Antioch, "the city where both Peter and Paul spent considerable time in the preceding generation, as Paul himself tells us in Galatians 2".

These are just two examples, but I believe they demonstrate clearly that Ehrman has seriously put far too much trust in his sources without giving any explanation at all as to why anyone should trust them. And I could definitely say more on this, but I should probably read more of the book before commenting too much on it.

I will be back with updates; for now, though, feel free to discuss!

Jon


Love your enemies!

Replies to this message:
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 2 of 68 (658140)
04-02-2012 2:52 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


Ehrman knocks down the Mythicist argument and lays out the argument for Jesus' existence based on early Jewish views of Messiah.

I don't understand how this can be an argument (and I understand I'm arguing about a book I've not yet read, so, take it as you will.) Historical existence has to be substantiated with historical evidence. Whatever views early Jews may have had about Messiahs, that can have no relevance that I can see as to whether there were any messiahs.

Myths aren't developed by survey; mythmakers aren't beholden to majority beliefs when they create enduring mythologies. When George Romero created Night of the Living Dead, the majority view of zombies were that they were a product of Haitian vodou. The difference between the zombies of NotLD and "early 20th century views of necromancy" isn't an argument for the veracity of NotLD as a documentary, and I don't see how the difference between the Jesus mythology and early Jewish views of the Messiah is evidence for the historical existence of Jesus. I'm not even sure it makes sense on the surface; followers of Christ are Christians, not Jews.

Ehrman doesn't do this, however, and instead seems to blindly accept the report that Papias had met folk who had met apostles.

Well, from my perspective this is largely consonant with how people approach the question of the historical existence of Jesus - bold, untested assertions of the credibility of unspecified sources; the assumption that far more evidence exists than can be produced. After all, all these other people are convinced!


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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 5765
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 3 of 68 (658144)
04-02-2012 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


First let me say I have read a few of his other books and I find a number of arguments in them are quite compelling.

This book seems like it crystallizes my biggest criticism of Ehrman. He acts at time likes a creationist. he already has the conclusion and he searches for evidence to support his conclusion. He does not weigh all of the evidence and then come to a conclusion. He has made comments in other books about his disdain for mythicists.

His scholarship can be very impressive at times, but it seems like he may have thrown that out the window in order to attack his archenemy; the mythicists.

It sounds like Earl Doherty uses evidence much better than Ehrman does in this book.

I think I will email Earl to see if he has read it yet.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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Jon
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 4 of 68 (658163)
04-02-2012 6:31 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by crashfrog
04-02-2012 2:52 PM


The Crucified Messiah
Jon writes:

Ehrman knocks down the Mythicist argument and lays out the argument for Jesus' existence based on early Jewish views of Messiah.

I don't understand how this can be an argument (and I understand I'm arguing about a book I've not yet read, so, take it as you will.) Historical existence has to be substantiated with historical evidence. Whatever views early Jews may have had about Messiahs, that can have no relevance that I can see as to whether there were any messiahs.

You and I have been around this circle before, and we filled many posts with our arguments. So I'm gonna be waiting until I read the relevant portions of the book and then I will respond here with the arguments Ehrman uses. It should be within the next couple of days.

I'm really hoping Ehrman does justice to the arguments. I have found in the past that even when I agree with him, I get frustrated by his regular failure to really drive his points home and build a solid argument from the evidence he presents.

Jon


Love your enemies!

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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 68 (658171)
04-02-2012 9:43 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Jon
04-02-2012 6:31 PM


Re: The Crucified Messiah
So I'm gonna be waiting until I read the relevant portions of the book and then I will respond here with the arguments Ehrman uses. It should be within the next couple of days.

Thanks, Jon. I look forward to it.


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Jon
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 6 of 68 (658172)
04-02-2012 11:01 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Theodoric
04-02-2012 3:17 PM


It sounds like Earl Doherty uses evidence much better than Ehrman does in this book.

I think I will email Earl to see if he has read it yet.

Earl Doherty is a regularly-posting member over at FRDB; I am not sure if he's read Ehrman's book yet, but you can find some of his comments in this thread: Abe reviews Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?".

He acts at time likes a creationist. he already has the conclusion and he searches for evidence to support his conclusion.

In a sense. None of his evidence is fabricated, though. It's all there, and it all says what he says it says; his conclusions, however, occasionally put more weight on the evidence than it can actually support. This isn't true in every case; for example, when reviewing non-Christian writers who mention Jesus, Ehrman is much more level with his criticisms. On Tacitus he says this:

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

At the same time, the information is not particularly helpful in establishing that there really lived a man named Jesus. How would Tacitus know what he knew? It is pretty obvious that he had heard of Jesus, but he was writing some eighty-five years after Jesus would have died, and by that time Christians were certainly telling stories of Jesus (the Gospels had been written already, for example), whether the mythicists are wrong or right. It should be clear in any event that Tacitus is basing his comment about Jesus on hearsay rather than, say, detailed historical research. (pp. 5556)


Don't get me wrong, while I think Ehrman has done a rather lousy job demonstrating the validity of some of his 'evidence', I think the mythicist position is far worse in terms of honest scholarship and actual evidence.

It will be interesting to see what else Ehrman has to say...

Jon


Love your enemies!

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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 1350 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


(1)
Message 7 of 68 (658177)
04-03-2012 1:12 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


Ehrman the conservative.
As vilified as Ehrman has been, I find that he seems to bend over backwards to accommodate the conservative viewpoint in almost all of his critical work. I tend to just imagine that he probably has a lot of friends who remain Christians reviewing his work and he has a significant investment in his status as a scholar in those circles and as a protege of Metzger.

So I am not too surprised that he would toe the line on evidences for Jesus. He is simply not as radical as he gets portrayed.


BUT if objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born --a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun; that pour down the rain; and fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe still goes on. Are these things, and the blessings they indicate in future, nothing to, us? Can our gross feelings be excited by no other subjects than tragedy and suicide? Or is the gloomy pride of man become so intolerable, that nothing can flatter it but a sacrifice of the Creator? --Thomas Paine

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Jon
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 8 of 68 (658448)
04-05-2012 2:50 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by crashfrog
04-02-2012 9:43 PM


Less than Impressed
I have read through Ehrman's argument for the existence of Jesus based on Jewish expectations of Messiah and have to say that I am quite dissatisfied with what he had to say.

He starts out well, quoting at length texts detailing early Jewish expectations of Messiah. The Mythicist position here is weakit's the same position taken by evangelicals and fundamentalists: that the Jewish sacred texts predict a suffering Messiah. As anyone who's ever read these supposed references to a suffering messiah knows, there's absolutely no merit to the claims that they say anything about a suffering Messiah; the notion that first-century Jews were looking for a suffering Messiah is pure fiction. Ehrman's got it pretty easy... or so you'd think.

Where Ehrman goes wrong, in my opinion, is in his failure to address any but one Mythicist argument. The one he addresses is an argument made by Richard Carrier, who claims (according to Ehrman, I've never read Carrier's work) that Daniel 9:2527 clearly demonstrates an OT prediction of a suffering Messiah. Here's the passage:

quote:
Daniel 9:2527 (NRSV):

Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.'


The passage looks pretty solid. The argument Carrier supposedly makes appears to be a good one. Even after a couple of readings, it's really difficult to see how this doesn't refer to a future 'anointed one' (= messiah) who is to be 'cut off'. It's a good case; it requires a good counterargument. What does Ehrman say about this passage, though? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He just cites the 'consensus' of 'Hebrew Bible scholars'.

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

And so, in one of the definitive commentaries written on Daniel, by Louis Hartman, a leading scholar of the Hebrew Bible (Carrier does not claim to be one; I don't know offhand if he knows Hebrew and Aramaic [it's a troublesome sign, I admit, that Ehrman knows so little about his opponents], the languages in which the book was written), we read about verse 25:

Although in the preexilic period [the period in Israel before the Babylonian exile of 586 bcefour hundred or more years before Daniel was written] the Hebrew term masiah, the "anointed one," was used almost exclusively of kings, at least in postexilic period [after the people returned to the land years later] the high priest received a solemn anointing with sacred oil on entering his office.... It seems much more likely, therefore, that the "anointed leader" of 9:25 refers to the high priest, Joshua ben Josadak.
 (p. 169)

Ehrman then elaborates on this quote and gives us a little background for Hartman's interpretation. That's it. That's all Ehrman has to say against this rather good argument for Jewish expectations of a suffering Messiah. And Ehrman addresses no other arguments by Mythicists on the matter of Jewish expectations of Messiah. None.

Very disappointing. Very.


Love your enemies!

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crashfrog
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 9 of 68 (658456)
04-05-2012 7:34 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
04-05-2012 2:50 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
It seems clear that Erhman, having dismissed mythicism as being for "wrongheaded amateurs", feels somewhat put-upon that he even has to write a book at all.

I mean, they're wrongheaded! Amateurs! How can that not be enough? I'm convinced!


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Modulous
Member
Posts: 7407
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 10 of 68 (658474)
04-05-2012 10:28 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
04-05-2012 2:50 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
The one he addresses is an argument made by Richard Carrier, who claims (according to Ehrman, I've never read Carrier's work) that Daniel 9:2527 clearly demonstrates an OT prediction of a suffering Messiah.

Richard Carrier has a blog

He has recently written a little (or rather a lot) about Ehrman here and also here.


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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 5765
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 11 of 68 (658488)
04-05-2012 12:25 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Modulous
04-05-2012 10:28 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
He has recently written a little (or rather a lot) about Ehrman here and also here.

In which he savages Ehrman's article in the Huffpost that out ined his arguments in his book. Not sure how Ehrman is going to recover from this. I won't read the book after reading the reviews, but it sounds like a classic issue of someone writing outside of their filed of expertise. Ehrman seems to be sadly lacking in training in historical research. He makes what seem to be freshman college mistakes of making assumptions without actually doing the research to confirm at least some evidence for your assumptions.

The whole Pilate issue is very telling of the quality of Ehrman's ability to deal with hard history. This is a long excerpt from Carrier but I think it important in order to understand the magnitude of the error.

quote:
Mistake #1: Ehrman says not even the most powerful and important figure of his day, Pontius Pilate is mentioned in any Roman sources of his day. False. Philo of Alexandria was a living contemporary of Pilate, and wrote a whole book about him (or rather, against both Sejanus and Pilate, documenting the ways they had persecuted Jews contrary to prior imperial edicts, cf. Schrer and Eusebius, History of the Church 2.5, who had read this book), which we dont have (it is one of the missing volumes of the Embassy to Gaius), but we do have Philo discussing one event involving Pilate in another book we do have, written in the 40s A.D., probably while Pilate was still alive, in his retirement (Philo, Embassy to Gaius 299-305).

We also have discussions of Pilate in Josephus Jewish War, written in 78 A.D., the same distance from Pilates life as the earliest Gospels are assumed to be from Jesus. But perhaps Ehrman is being hyper-specific again and only talking about contemporary attestation, although that would be disingenuous, since it is precisely this kind of early secular reference to Pilate that we dont have for Jesus, and Ehrman is trying to say Pilate is an example of a famous person for whom we dont have thisbut, alas, we do. But even if we assume the disingenuous limiting of relevance to texts composed in his day we have Philo. If Ehrman is being hyper-specific as to his use of the word Roman, that would be even more disingenuous (as Philos cititizenship would hardly matter for this purpose; and at any rate, as a leading scholar and politician in Alexandria and chief embassador to the emperor, Philo was almost certainly a Roman citizen).

Forgetting (or not knowing?) that Philo attests to Pilates service in Judea is a serious error for Ehrman and his argument, because the absence of any mention of Jesus or Christianity in Philo is indeed very odd. In fact, the loss of his book about Pilates reign is a very curious omissioneven though Christians preserved over three dozen other books of his, amounting to nearly 900 pages of multi-columned small type in English translation, Christians chose not to preserve the book on Pilate, and that despite preserving other volumes in the very same treatise. Why? Maybe the loss was just accidental (I suspect it was because no mention of Jesus was in it, but obviously we can debate that). Christians were evangelizing in Alexandria during Philos lifetime. If Acts is to be believed, Jewish leaders were very concerned to oppose this and took active effort to persecute Christians. If that is at all true, we can be certain Philo knew of Christians and their claims and stories, and thus knew of Jesus. He was a leading scholar, who wrote on various Jewish sects, and a significant political figure plugged into the elite concerns of Alexandrian Jews, who even chose him to lead their embassy to the emperor of Rome. (He also made regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem: Philo, On Providence 2.64.)

The only explanation for why Philo never mentions Christianity is that it was not as important to Jews as Acts depicts, but was a tiny fringe cult of no significant interest to the Jewish elite. And that is an important conclusion. Mythicists will say he doesnt mention Jesus because there was no Jesus, but that does not explain why he doesnt mention Christianity. Certainly, if Jesus was as famous and controversial as the Gospels and Acts depict, then Philos lack of interest in either the man or the threatening and grandiose claims made about him becomes improbable, but if we accept that the Gospels and Acts hugely exaggerate his fame and importance, then Philos disinterest goes back to being probable again. The consequence of this is that you must accept that Philos silence argues against the existence of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels. One must therefore conclude the Gospels substantially fictionalize the story of Jesus. I dont think Ehrman disagrees with that conclusion, but he loses sight of it in his attempt to mock the importance of this kind of evidence, the silence of external sources.

But that is not the extent of his mistake. Forgetting (or not knowing?) about Philo (or even Josephus) mentioning Pilate is bad enough. Worst of all is the fact that Ehrmans claim is completely false even on the most disingenuous possible reading of his statement. For we have an inscription, commissioned by Pilate himself, attesting to his existence and service in Judea. Thats as Roman an attestation as you can get. And its not just contemporary attestation, its eyewitness attestation, and not just eyewitness attestation, but its very autograph (not a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, but the original text, no doubt proofed by Pilates own eyes). And that literally carved in stone. How could anyone not know of this, who intended to use Pilate as an example? Even the most rudimentary fact-check would have brought this up. And one of the most fundamental requirements of Ehrmans profession is to check what sources we have on Pilate, before making a claim that we have no early ones. Ehrman thus demonstrates that he didnt check; which is an amateur mistake. Ive occasionally made errors like that, but only in matters of considerable complexity. Were talking about something he could have corrected with just sixty seconds on google.

The lack of comparable inscriptions erected by any Christian churches or any wealthy convert at any time throughout the first century is indeed a curious thing. It can be explained (apocalyptic expectations, poverty, humility, the extremely small size of the movement). But it is still a fact, and it is not disingenuous to at least concede that we dont have this or any comparable evidence. Explaining why we dont have any evidence (like we have for Pilate: an inscription; a neutral contemporary text, and a neutral near-contemporary text) does not permit us to ignore the fact that we still dont have it. And where evidence is missing, the possibilities multiply. Again, this entails things about early Christianity (whatever explanation you have for this lack of evidence, you must then accept as true about early Christianity as a whole, and that means accepting all the consequences of that fact as well).

So this certainly does not prove Jesus didnt exist. Because we can retreat to the hypothesis that he was not anywhere near as famous as the Gospels portray, and the Christian movement not anywhere near as large as Acts implies. But Ehrman didnt make that valid argument; he made the invalid argument instead, and premised it on amateur factual mistakes. Emotion seems to have seized his brain. Seeing red, he failed to function like a competent scholar, and instead fired off a screed every bit as crank as the worst of any of his opponents. Foot, mouth.

This is simply not how to argue for historicity. Its a classic example of boner mistakes made by historicists, which calls into question their competence to speak on this issue. Usually I see this claim made of Socrates or Alexander the Great, for each of whom we have vastly more contemporary attestation than we do for Jesus, despite actual claims to the contrary made by Jesus scholars who incompetently didnt bother to check. Thankfully Ehrman didnt make that foolish a mistake. But making the same mistake in using Pilate puts him right in their company.


Source


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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Phat
Member
Posts: 9419
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 12 of 68 (658495)
04-05-2012 12:53 PM


Intellectual Pursuit Leads Only To Vapid Uncertainty
People laugh and say that I am willfully ignorant at remaining a believer. My only response is that I dont want my pursuit of truth to lead only to more questions and more uncertainty. And I would be as much of a fool to declare there to be no Historical Jesus ....thus negating the possibility that a universal Creator is real and tried to relate to humanity through a human medium.

Then of course I suppose I can't deny what the facts say.

Can anyone deny anything that they don't want to deny to begin with, however?


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10196
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 13 of 68 (658498)
04-05-2012 1:09 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Phat
04-05-2012 12:53 PM


Re: Intellectual Pursuit Leads Only To Vapid Uncertainty
Phat writes:

Can anyone deny anything that they don't want to deny to begin with, however?

If we can't the human race is doomed.

History shows the steady march of actuality trampling over wishful thinking doesn't it?

Think of the Catholic church and it's eventual acceptance of Heliocentrism despite a desperate desire to place humanity at the centre of the universe. Think of Darwinism and it's effect on cherished notions about the specialness of humans. What will neurology tell us about the illusion(?) of freewill as commonly conceived and how will this affect how we think of ourselves?

Etc.

Facts are facts.


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Phat
Member
Posts: 9419
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 14 of 68 (658499)
04-05-2012 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Straggler
04-05-2012 1:09 PM


Re: Intellectual Pursuit Leads Only To Vapid Uncertainty
I suppose. My Dad gave me everything I ever wanted...except certainty. He died when I was 17. Looking back, I wanted him...not his money. I wanted him to never leave me.

Then there is jar. Jar used to talk to me in chat. Now, he wants nothing to do with chat or with talking. Frankly it makes me mad! He says he never would accept lotto money...yet the man works every day and has no time for talking? what kind of a worthwhile life is that?

My idea of God is of one who always has time. Who would never leave me alone. I dont need money from God. I need God.

I dont need riches from life. I need certainty. To me, science is vapid and hollow. Yes, they will cure cancer. But what good is 20 more years added to a lifespan that has nothing promised, no certainty, and a certain death with an uncertain conclusion...aside from ceasing to exist?? These people seek to find truth. Yet they only find uncertainty apart from the false god of human reason.


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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 626 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 15 of 68 (658500)
04-05-2012 1:52 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Phat
04-05-2012 12:53 PM


Re: Intellectual Pursuit Leads Only To Vapid Uncertainty
People laugh and say that I am willfully ignorant at remaining a believer. My only response is that I dont want my pursuit of truth to lead only to more questions and more uncertainty. And I would be as much of a fool to declare there to be no Historical Jesus ....thus negating the possibility that a universal Creator is real and tried to relate to humanity through a human medium.

Then of course I suppose I can't deny what the facts say.

Can anyone deny anything that they don't want to deny to begin with, however?

You've almost certainly cast aside beliefs you previously held at some point in your life, Phat. They might not have seemed as significant as your religious beliefs, but it's happened nonetheless.

I'm sure you intellectually agree that thing are not true merely because we wish them to be. Any given position is true or false regardless of how we feel about it...which is why we're not all incredibly wealthy model-attractive immortal geniuses, or something along those lines.

False beliefs should be denied. In this case...if Jesus actually existed, then I want to believe that Jesus actually existed. If Jesus did not actually exist, then I want to not believe that Jesus actually existed. Shouldn't we want to hold beliefs that accurately reflect reality more than we want to hold to a belief that we just happen to like?

Emotionally that's hard. It was extremely difficult for me when I denied Christianity and became an Atheist, to use an extreme example...but even small changes in firm beliefs, even when those beliefs aren't particularly "important," can carry emotional trepidation. But what we want shouldn't be to hold a specific belief. What we want should be to hold the belief that most accurately reflects reality...even if that belief isn't pleasant. To do otherwise is simply to lie to oneself, intentionally.

I didn't want to give up Christianity. But eventually, I got to the point where I realized that what I really wanted was to be intellectually honest with myself, and to hold the most accurate beliefs possible given the evidence available to me. That decision, the requirement that my beliefs be backed by evidence, is what forced me to give up Christianity, whether I liked it or not.

I want to believe what has actual bases in fact. I want not to believe what does not have actual basis in fact. What is true is true, whether I believe it or not; acknowledging which belief is true can't make anything worse.


The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.
- Francis Bacon

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Phat, posted 04-05-2012 12:53 PM Phat has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 22 by AdminModulous, posted 04-05-2012 3:20 PM Rahvin has not yet responded
 Message 24 by Phat, posted 04-05-2012 9:56 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
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