McLeroy replies about the crucifixion

July 20, 2014 • 10:07 pm

Okay, for a one-time bonus, I have allowed creationist and Biblical literalist  Don McLeroy to answer your questions about the supposed 500 witnesses to the Crucifixion, and I’ve asked him to respond to all of the readers’ serious questions.  He has begun to do so. But this is your chance to question a true believer about his beliefs (stick to the Crucifixion claim), so ask questions in the comments to the previous post. [UPDATE: readers appear to be violating this en masses, so, go ahead and respond here. McLeroy did

Be polite, but of course you can also be firm.

McLeroy has his own website, where he’s simply reposting my posts, something I don’t like. It also has the usual creationist blather.

Well, I tried to divert your questions to  McLeroy to the earlier post, but it looks as if he’s monitoring both, so go ahead and leave questions or comments right below this one.

In the meantime, here’s one of his “responses” I’ve allowed on this site site:

Dr. Coyne: Thanks for the opportunity.

It is not unreasonable to accept the the scriptures as authoritative; I have some amazing company. For example from my desk top library at this moment, you could read Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, David Brog, and from my bookshelves many more. These are serious thinkers who have thought deeply about the Bible and for most a lot about the resurrection.

After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true. Are there still intellectual and rational difficulties to my faith? Yes. But, I have come to see that all people have rational problems with what they believe. Even the most dogged atheist is left with “something from nothing.” That certainly is not rational. For me, Christianity brings everything together, in thought, in science, in history, and in life. (From my testimony see: http://donmcleroy.com/ “How I became a Christian.”)

As you are amazed at me and how I could hold what to you understand are wildly unreasonable ideas, I am amazed at how you (evolutionists and atheists) can do likewise. This week,I have just posted my analysis of the weakness of Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levines’s explanation for the evolutionary origin of the ribosome. Check it out and please show me where the analysis fails or send links to more evidence.

Why Evolution is Probably False (revised)

Also, check out the blog post on Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anne Druyan’s opening episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, nd their definition of science and show me where I am wrong.

http://donmcleroy.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/an-observation-on-cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/

The Resurection

Peter Kreeft in his “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (176-198)states that there are five possible theories about what happened that first Easter morning: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon. He then presents 9 refutations for the swoon theory, 7 for the conspiracy theory, 13 for the hallucination theory and 6 for the myth theory.

He then deals with 5 other general objections.

His reasoning is sound and convincing and he is just one among many others. I suggest someone who is really curious, check out his book.

Again, thank you. It is a privilege to be able to join your discussions.

Remember these roolz for this discussion:

1. Stay away from arguing with McLeroy about evolution. There’s nothing to be gained by that.

2. You’re not going to change the man’s mind about either Jesus or evolution. So ask him questions if you wish, but if you think you’ll change his mind—or even make him question his belief slightly—you’re deluded.

Why does putting up this most make me feel like I’m throwing a bone to a pack of hungry dogs? But the bone is indestructible!

159 thoughts on “McLeroy replies about the crucifixion

  1. If one man Paul, says 500 others saw the Risen Jesus, why should we believe him? Suspiciously exact number,-not 499 or 501.
    Paul did not know them, he did not ever meet Jesus; all he had was a dream. Names and addresses please.

    1. This is a problem. One person claiming that 500 witnessed something is still ONE witness. If he claimed a million people witnessed it, he’s STILL one witness. But in this case Paul didn’t even witness it, so it’s Zero witnesses.

        1. In order to be notified of updates to a comment thread, one needs to post a comment. When we have nothing at the moment to add to the conversation, we just use “sub” as our comment, to indicate that we’re subscribing to the thread.

        2. It’s like sitting in a submarine and preparing to go underwater, from where you can observe everything on the surface while remaining unseen.

  2. Exactly; we are not being asked to believe what 500 people claim to have seen, we are asked to believe what one man claimed to have seen.

  3. Dr. Coyne: Thanks for the opportunity.

    It is not unreasonable to accept the the scriptures as authoritative; I have some amazing company. For example from my desk top library at this moment, you could read Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, David Brog, and from my bookshelves many more. These are serious thinkers who have thought deeply about the Bible and for most a lot about the resurrection.

    After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true. Are there still intellectual and rational difficulties to my faith? Yes. But, I have come to see that all people have rational problems with what they believe. Even the most dogged atheist is left with “something from nothing.” That certainly is not rational. For me, Christianity brings everything together, in thought, in science, in history, and in life. (From my testimony see: http://donmcleroy.com/ “How I became a Christian.”)

    As you are amazed at me and how I could hold what to you understand are wildly unreasonable ideas, I am amazed at how you (evolutionists and atheists) can do likewise. This week,I have just posted my analysis of the weakness of Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levines’s explanation for the evolutionary origin of the ribosome. Check it out and please show me where the analysis fails or send links to more evidence.

    http://donmcleroy.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/why-evolution-is-probably-false-revised/

    Also, check out the blog post on Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anne Druyan’s opening episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, nd their definition of science and show me where I am wrong.

    http://donmcleroy.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/an-observation-on-cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/

    The Resurection

    Peter Kreeft in his “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (176-198)states that there are five possible theories about what happened that first Easter morning: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon. He then presents 9 refutations for the swoon theory, 7 for the conspiracy theory, 13 for the hallucination theory and 6 for the myth theory.

    He then deals with 5 other general objections.

    His reasoning is sound and convincing and he is just one among many others. I suggest someone who is really curious, check out his book.

    Again, thank you. It is a privilege to be able to join your discussions.

    1. We are going to stick to the Crucifixion and I won’t let you publicize your links questioning evolution. You did that once here, but do not do it again or I won’t let you post further. We are not going to go over your tired old arguments against evolution once again. No, we’re going to let you defend your assertions about the truth—about the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

    2. So let me get this straight; You believe in the Bible and that Jesus is the Messiah and to test if that is true you study the Bible (which is the only source document) for 29 years, to come to the conclusion that the Bible is true and that He is the Messiah… To make sure that conclusion is true you use Strobel et al as reference and ignore all refutations of any of these.

      Clever, not so much.

      Oh, and nice copy and paste skills.

      1. Bing bing bing; this is the winner (IMO). Mr. McLeroy’s logic is circular or at least tautological. It’s: ‘if we assume the bible is true about what it says about the resssurection (such as number of witnesses), then we are warranted in concluding that the bible is correct about what it says about the ressurection (such as it happened).’

        1. Yes, I believe that is the basis for all literal-lists. Just don’t expect an acknowledgement from him.

    3. Here’s a question for the Dr. You say this

      “After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true.”

      But a devout Muslim brought up in, say, Saudi Arabia, and who had studied the Qur’an for 29 years, would undoubtedly say the same thing. Have you considered that you might be wrong, given that your acquaintance with Christianity is an accident of birth? Also, have you studied the Qur’an for 29 years as well? If not, how have you managed to conclude it is WRONG?

      1. This is the crux of the debate in my opinion. The BIG disagreement is not between atheists and theists (not least because theists don’t believe in the existence of every god/deity postulated and so are atheistic about those gods that fall outside of their theistic view), but between theists of differing religions, particularly where those religions overlap.

        At these points of overlap (such as with creation), I’d like to know how theists determine whose is ‘right’? What test or quality-gate do they apply to ensure they are not deluded , or to ensure they don’t settle on a false positive (or indeed a false negative), and reject the ‘truth’?

        According to Wiki, “Islam rejects the Trinitarian Christian view that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, that he was ever crucified orresurrected, or that he ever atoned for the sins of mankind. The Quran says that Jesus himself never claimed any of these things, and it furthermore indicates that Jesus will deny having ever claimed divinity at the Last Judgment, and God will vindicate him. The Quran emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message.”

        Muslims and Christians are making competing and highly incompatible claims about Jesus, so who is wrong and who, if anyone, is right. What test does each side propose to determine the truth in this matter?

    4. Mr. McElroy,

      Jerry Coyne makes occasional spelling errors here too, but there is in fact a double-r in “resuRRection”.

      Isn’t Moyshe Averick a creationist rabbi? On what grounds then do you cite him as an authority on the Christian doctrine of resurrection?

    5. Hello Mr. McLeroy, good to see you engage in the comments.

      I have a simple theological question for you:

      Based on what Christian scripture do you rationally discount all the other resurrection stories that pre-dates Jesus?*

      *This is of course based on the assumption that you do discount other religions.

      1. Or rationally discount other (non-christian) claims of miracles witnessed by many people?

        Mr. McLeroy, if 500 is some sort of credibility limit, does that mean you also accept any miracles by hindu miracle workers that have been witnessed by 501+ people? What about the Koran’s stories of Mohammed’s miracles being witnessed by crowds? What about tent revivalist meetings where hundreds or thousands of people claim to have witnessed faith healings – should we believe them too?

    6. Even the most dogged atheist is left with “something from nothing.”

      First, that question sounds impressive but is actually incoherent. Try to create a coherent definition of “nothing” suitable for this context and you’ll see what I mean.

      Second, even if you clear that hurdle, you yourself are left with an even bigger one: whence your gods? If it is incredible for the Cosmos (using Sagan’s definition) to arise from “nothing” (whatever that may be), it is clearly even more incredible for the Cosmos plus anything, let alone personable hyperintelligent agents to arise from “nothing.”

      Peter Kreeft in his “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” (176-198)states that there are five possible theories about what happened that first Easter morning: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon. He then presents 9 refutations for the swoon theory, 7 for the conspiracy theory, 13 for the hallucination theory and 6 for the myth theory.

      That’s nice.

      Does Peter address the perfect absence of Jesus and the amazing events surrounding him in the quite extensive contemporary and near-contemporary record? The Dead Sea Scrolls, after all, are the actual pieces of paper and parchment penned by actual messianic Jews actually living in and around Jerusalem before, during, and after all possible dates for Jesus and his ministry. Philo was the Jewish philosopher to first incorporate the Greek Logos of John 1:1 into Judaism, was the brother-in-law of the King Herod Agrippa who was supposedly reigning at the time, and an ambassador who personally petitioned Caligula about the exact types of Roman abuses the Gospels themselves railed against as were done to Jesus. The Roman Satirists were obsessed with the exact types of scandals the Gospels report (and the ones in the Gospels were much jucier than what the Satirists had to work with). Pliny the Elder was obsessed with all things supernatural, and on and on and on…and none of them noticed a thing.

      And does Peter address Justin Martyr’s First Apology, in which Martyr sets forth exactly what remains the mythicist position today (that Jesus is a syncretic amalgam of extant Pagan gods) in excruciating and superbly-evidenced detail? To be fair, Martyr attributes the similarities to evil daemons with the power of foresight who planted the Pagan myths centuries in advance to lead honest men astray when Jesus finally came, but the rest of his thesis is unassailable. Coming from the first Christian defender of the faith, shouldn’t that count for something?

      And does Peter account for the way that the earliest non-Christian authors universally dismiss Christians as the same type of wack-job insane cultists as the Branch Davidians or the Raelians or the Jim Jones mob? How ’bout ones like Lucian who describe them as easily deluded fools who eagerly accepted charismatic conmen who “revealed” unto them Pagan “mysteries” as “truths” about Christianity?

      No, of course not. I’m sure he simply waves his hand and dismisses all this as conspiracy theory….

      Cheers,

      b&

      1. These are the questions I would like answered. How can there be nothing about Jesus Christ in the other writings of the time? How is it possible that the only record of Jesus comes from bible stories written 100-300 years after his life? If he did such amazing things, why didn’t anyone write about them when they happened? How can you possibly verify anything in the bible if it isn’t mentioned anywhere else?

        1. I expect the disciples were too busy fishing to write down anything so boring as God coming down to Earth as Man; besides they were illiterate and could not afford to pay a scribe.

      2. whence your gods?

        That is indeed the biggest objection to the claim that “something from nothing” is somehow a problem only for atheism; it in fact seems to be a bigger problem for theistic religions. Curiously, at least some religions acknowledge this,* but most religious practitioners still try to pretend that this problem does not exist.

        * For example, perhaps the most famous verse in one of the foundational texts of the various Hindu religions, the Rigveda, is the Nāsadīya Sūkta, and it is basically an admission of ignorance on this very point. I believe one could find similar examples in other religions too.

    7. Questions for Don:

      On what day did Jesus die? The day after the Passover meal was eaten or the day before (Day of Preparation)?

      What did Jesus say to Pilate? A long speech or just, “it is as you say” and nothing more?

      Did Jesus carry his own cross, or did Simon of Cyrene carry the cross for him?

      Did both robbers mock Jesus on the cross, or did one robber mock him and the other defend him?

      What were Jesus’s specific last words?

      Was it two days or three before Jesus supposedly rose?

      How many women went to the tomb? One, two, three or several?

      Was the tomb open when they got there or not?

      Who did they see at the tomb? One man or two?

      Who “witnessed” the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb try to explain to Pilate what happened?

      To whom did Jesus appear first?

      Where did Jesus tell his disciples to meet him? In Galilee or in Jerusalem?

      Did Jesus ascend into Heaven on the day of the resurrection or 40 days later?

      Why is there no mention of the “500 Witnesses” in any of the Gospels, but only in 1 Corinthians?

      1. On what day did Jesus die? The day after the Passover meal was eaten or the day before (Day of Preparation)?

        I’d settle for an answer to just this single question, though the others would be nice.

        Passover is timed according to a lunar calendar, and lands on a different day of the week each ear. But we know that the Christian celebration of Easter is tied to Friday and Sunday because that’s when Jesus was supposed to have been Crucified and Resurrected.

        But if we don’t know if the first Good Friday was the day before or after the first day of Passover, that leave an enormous ambiguity as to which year this all happened.

        And who takes seriously a “chronicler” who can’t even tell you what year the most important event in history “actually” happened?

        b&

        1. Well, apart from the Friday, Saturday, Sunday thing, Easter is timed differently every year too.

          Always the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

          Passover may be calculated similarly, I don’t remember.

          1. Passover is always on the 15th day of the month of Nisan in the Hebrew lunar calendar. That means that, if you know that Passover was on such-and-such day when so-and-so was, say, President of the US, you know exactly what year it was.

            Such is ostensibly the case with the Passover at the center of the Jesus incident; Pilate was in office and he wasn’t in office all that long, so, if you know what day of the week Passover was on, you know what year this happened.

            …but we don’t know what day of the week Passover was, even though it’s something that two different “authoritative” authors make a central point of the story.

            b&

      2. Hi KP

        Apologists will usually harmonise these contradictions, sometimes taking things to a ludicrous level, such as sometimes saying, for example, Peter denied Jesus nine times (because the various gospel passages have him talking to different people whilst doing so). Or from one of your examples, positing that Jesus actually dropped his cross and Simon helped him with it, an occurrence no gospel explicitly states.

        Also, I’ve even heard some fundamentalists say that Jesus ascended on the day of his resurrection, then came back down from heaven, to spend time with his disciples, and then ascend again 40 days later. This *removes* the contradiction, but at the expense of implying the gospels didn’t get things right in the first place.

        No matter how ad hoc, far-fetched and arbitrary it seems to outside sceptics, for a committed and motivated believer harmonizing these problems is the most plausible thing in the world. The alternative is having to admit the bible is in error, and that for some (not all) Christians is simply unconscionable.

        1. I’ve heard that some have challenged christians to place all of the events of the crucifixion and resurrection mentioned in the bible on a timeline, and come up with any one sequence of events that would allow every statement in the bible to be true. For example, the crucifixion occurred on Passover or the day before, the stone was/was not moved when the women arrived, and where did Jesus FIRST appear. Apparently, no one had been able to come up with even one plausible timeline.

        2. Yes, the Apologetics are cleverly constructed sometimes, but there are some things they can’t get around.

          Was the tomb open or not when the women arrived? There can only be one correct answer, yes or no, and no Christian I’ve ever challenged on this can get around it.

          Good luck, Don

  4. Just think folks, this is presumably Don McLeroy’s best “evidence” for the truth of the claims that his cult makes.

  5. The only argument I see Dr. McElroy making is in the first paragraph, and it is just an appeal to authority. How long he’s studied the Bible is irrelevant. Everyone
    has rational difficulties so a claim is true? Come now. Kreft ‘refutes’ non-Christian conclusions? Even if did it well, as C.S. Lewis did not, the validity of the resurrection is still not established. It’s your claim, so the burden of proof is on you, and nothing can substitute for hard evidence.

  6. It is unreasonable to accept the the scriptures as authoritative. It is improbable that a reasonable God would set forth scriptures and not an iota of science.

    1. Yup. Passages like God gave us two lights, the sun, and the moon, clearly show that the book was authored by the backwards people of the Middle East, and not an all-knowing God.

      1. There aren’t even any instructions for disinfecting water by boiling it, or setting a broken arm. If the Bible is God’s instruction for man then we can only regard God’s treatment of humans as reckless abandonment.

  7. Don McLeroy wrote:

    After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true. Are there still intellectual and rational difficulties to my faith? Yes. But, I have come to see that all people have rational problems with what they believe.

    Mr. McLeroy

    People who have rational problems with what they believe are almost always happy to change their mind if it turns out they are wrong. They can entertain both the possibility that they have been mistaken and that there are alternative explanations for experience and evidence with fewer intellectual and rational difficulties. This is because their belief is based on reason — rather than on a faith-driven commitment to believe.

    So could you please give a few hypothetical examples of the sort of thing which would or could (in principle) change your mind? In other words, what would have to happen so that you are no longer “totally convinced” that the Bible and Christianity are “true?”

    Thank you, and sorry if you’ve already answered this on another thread.

    1. Whoops – I asked this question over an hour after you did.

      This to me is the most important issue. A willingness to be wrong may not win debates or get you elected into office, but it’s the only way to find truth.

  8. You mention “something from nothing”. it was Aristotle who did not accept this. The Catholic Church eventually rejected this in the “Condemnations” around 12th century, and ever since then the Catholic Church has itself taught “Something from nothing” –Creation “ex nihilo”. So it is their problem; not one for atheists. Have you read Lawrwnce Krauss’ book “A Universe from Nothing”?
    I believe G.K. Chesterton was a Catholic himself.
    So is it only Protestants who slavishly follow the (pagan) philosopher Aristotle now?

    1. Yes I wasn’t going to comment on this but since you did, I’ll pile on. “Something from nothing” seems empirically untrue to us because things don’t spontaneously pop into existence on the human scale. However, there is nothing necessarily irrational about it. It’s a tentative conclusion of empiricism and we should be ready to reject or revise it if new evidence comes to light, rather than treating it as dogma. 20th century physics came up with evidence that this conclusion does not hold in some circumstances, so as a general rule, we have to abandon it or at least revise it to be more nuanced, more complex. The idea that something can come from nothing may be counter-intuitive, it may feel absurd, but we should not let that prevent us from accepting evidence that it happens. Mr. McLeroy is using “irrational” here as an argument from incredulity – he’s saying, basically that he finds the idea unbelievable, absurd – and therefore he’s going to call it irrational. Well, it might indeed be unbelievable and absurd to people who don’t study quantum mechanics. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

      1. We have no more successful scientific theory than the Standard Model of physics, which includes the prediction from Quantum Mechanics of virtual particles that do, indeed, thanks to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, spontaneously appear out of nothing. And this has been experimentally confirmed via the Casimir effect.

        So the fact that it is not intuitive for something to appear from nothing is no more remarkable than it’s unintuitive for us that an object set in motion should keep moving until something else acts upon it.

        b&

      2. Even more basic than that, though, is that some kind of god is *something*, and so invoking god to solve the something-from-nothing problem is a lame dodge. The simple question that even many children in Sunday school stumble upon is: why is it more plausible to believe in a god that simply exists without a creator than to believe in a universe (or meta-universe) that simply exists without a creator? After all, something clearly exists without a creator (that or there is an infinite hierarchy of creators). You have ADDED a mystery to your explanatory difficulty by invoking a god, not reduced the mystery.

        I’ll give my psychological answer why people buy this. People buy this obviously faulty logic because of the nature of introspection. Consider your thoughts. Where do they come from? Where do the specific words you choose come from? They seem to come from nowhere. Your own mind feels like a thing without parts, a kind of pure mind essence. No one feels their brain assembling words and ideas, no one can sense all the machinery underneath that is needed to produce a thought. This gives people the illusion that minds are simple and somehow essential, the product of pure “mind stuff”. As a result people find it easy to imagine minds without bodies: ghosts, souls, and gods. But of course, this goes strongly counter to all the empirical evidence. ALL of the minds we have evidence of are the product of brains. And brains are clearly the products of evolution. The totality of our objective observations about minds in the universe tells us that minds are complex products of mindless matter, not unitary prior antecedents.

        1. gluonspring wrote:

          People buy this obviously faulty logic because of the nature of introspection… Your own mind feels like a thing without parts, a kind of pure mind essence. No one feels their brain assembling words and ideas, no one can sense all the machinery underneath that is needed to produce a thought. This gives people the illusion that minds are simple and somehow essential, the product of pure “mind stuff”.

          Exactly. For all the theological bells and whistles and the sophisticated handwaving about the Ground of Being this is the human source for all our beliefs on the supernatural: our own seemingly indisputable interpretation of direct mental experiences. The “Ground of Being” which we are personally familiar with is our own, with its indescribable sense that this is as pure, necessary, and irreducible as it can ever get. The nature of reality is formed in our image. Watch the Ghost in the Machine become the Ghost in the Universe.

          “God” – an enormous Mind which exists everywhere and nowhere, which has no parts, history, or mechanism, but which can move the material ‘body’ around and create objects by using the power of thought — doesn’t sound weird to them because they’re drawing on the same folk psychology they use for all minds. God is supposed to be the Parent Mind concerned with all we do. Also familiar.

          Believing in God is “common sense.” Theists like McLeroy — all theists in fact — think this is a good thing, making God more plausible.

          It used to be. Not anymore.

  9. Don. Why wasn’t God on coach Tom Landry’s side during Super Bowl XIII? It seemed that God was watching with folded arms during the second onside kick late in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, what does Tom Landry have to do with Israel?

  10. Dr McElroy,-have you also studied Darwin’s Origin of Species” with equal care for 29 years, and unlike the Bible, have you cross-referenced it with other sources and kept up to date on modern Evolution and Genetics. I know it is easy to present us with a list of people who are all memebers of the same club who agree with you and have a built in unshakeable bias against natural science,-which is the only kind of science there is.

  11. Source: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm

    “From the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, SJ (Intervarsity Press, 1994)”

    (2) If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante or Tolkien. Fisherman’s “fish stories” are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.

    (Note: Peter Kreeft is an expert who Mr. McLeroy referenced.)

    So he/they think that the resurrection story is more elaborate than Shakespeare, or Dante or Tolkien? Spoken like a true fanboy of Jesus! Why even take him/them seriously after that obviously ridiculous hyperbole.

    1. This is a favorite argument from my Mormon family: Joseph Smith couldn’t possibly have made it all up, therefore it’s true. Disregarding the fact that people have been make stories up for much longer than we’ve had writing.

      The same holds for the Bible, Jesus, and the resurrection: Personal saviors were the new big thing in the Mediteranian at the time. Taking an older agriculture based religion (like Judaism) adding a savior and the promise of personal salvation. Many of these saviors resurrected. So how is the Bible’s story different? better? more convincing? more real?

      1. My belief that Middle Earth really existed is proven because J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t have possibly made it all up!

        1. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

          This is not a small tremor that might go unnoticed and unrecorded. This quake broke rocks up! Why is it unrecorded except in one of the gospels?

          52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

          53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

          This too would be a noteworthy event. Yet all other sources are silent. Wouldn’t someone have recorded this? The dead went into the city and appeared to many, they didn’t just appear to a few select in secret. Surely, someone at the time would have made a record of it.

          1. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

            This is not a small tremor that might go unnoticed and unrecorded. This quake broke rocks up! Why is it unrecorded except in one of the gospels?

            It’s worse than that.

            We know exactly when the veil of the Temple was torn: 70 CE, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem.

            Mark was not only written after that, it was written with enough separation in time and space for events that happened during the Roman conquest to be plausibly placed as having happened during Pilate’s reign. Most plausibly, “Mark” wasn’t even born until after 70 CE and never got closer than several hundred miles to Judea.

            …and that’s the oldest and most authoritative of the Gospels….

            b&

      2. This is a favorite argument from my Mormon family: Joseph Smith couldn’t possibly have made it all up, therefore it’s true.

        Exactly. So I wonder:

        1) When will Mr. McLeroy be converting to Mormonism. And…

        2) Does Mr. McLeroy at least agree that Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli might be exaggerating a little tiny eetsy beetsy bit when they say, “If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history”.

    2. Yes, it’s a bit sleazy to dismiss a message upfront because it comes from a certain person, but some people say such stupid things that you can’t take them seriously anymore.

      Kreeft also rehashed a number of tired old arguments for the existence of God. And then people wonder why philosophy has a bad reputation.

      1. I run my own Philosophy group. The discussions are wide-ranging and the topics unlimited and uncensored. The enemy is not Philosophy because it teaches people how to think. It is Theology that teaches people what to think, and to ban off-limit subjects, or else patronizes then indulgently in order to attack them for Jesus.It corrupts Philosophy by always having to involve God/Jesus in all discussions, and is therefore biased, closed and limited, and incapable of naturalistic thought.
        For a real Philosopher try Anthony Grayling (atheist) rather than the Christian ones who merely preach.

      2. Kreeft also rehashed a number of tired old arguments for the existence of God. And then people wonder why philosophy has a bad reputation.

        Kreeft has a video of a professional faith healer up there as an example of the argument from miracles! What does Mr. McLeroy think of that I wonder!

  12. I have a simple question for Dr. McLeroy.

    Do you believe that that Sun stood still in the sky for a day, as claimed in the book of Joshua? That’s a yes or a no.

  13. Dr. McElroy, thanks for participating. Here are my questions:

    1. There are no contemporary written accounts of the events in the Bible. The Gospel narratives were written many years after the events they report, the sayings of Jesus are often self-contradictory (e.g., not peace but the sword vs. turn the other cheek), and so forth. Similarly, someone should have noted such things as an earthquake at the moment Jesus died, even if they didn’t know why. How do you reconcile the firmness of your belief with the fact that all the evidence you cite would be dismissed as uncorroborated hearsay in a court of law, and would not be regarded as evidence in science, either?

    2. Given that the Bible is myth (a traditional story), how are its truth claims distinguishable from those of other myths (e.g., the Bhagavad Gita, Native American creation accounts, etc.)?

    3. Is there anything that could persuade you to change your mind about the literal truth of the Bible, or are you like Luther, who famously said that an angel from Heaven couldn’t change his belief?

  14. Okay; I’ll bite.

    Two questions for you, Dr. McElroy.

    First, would you buy some Arizona oceanfront property on the strength of evidence comparable to that in the Bible? (And, if so, how may I contact you to close the deal?)

    Second…let’s grant for the sake of argument that everything in the Bible is true (with whatever mix of metaphor and poetic license and the rest you’re comfortable with). Why, then, does Jesus today never ever call 9-1-1? If you yourself had knowledge of a Texas schoolteacher doing to students what priests of various denominations have famously and unspeakably done to children in their care, would you not use your own limited power and authority to alert police and child protective services and the like? So how could Jesus possibly have less moral integrity and power to act than you yourself so clearly do?

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. As far as I’m concerned, what Don McLeroy did to Texas children through the misuse of his power as the former head of the Texas State Board of Education is no less unspeakable than the explicitly criminal acts committed by his priest caste cohorts.

      So I think that this analogy fails.

      And we need only take Jesus at his own words to quickly discover a stunning lack of moral integrity in that (most likely mythical) person.

      So I think that Don McLeroy has exactly same amount of moral integrity as his invisible buddy Jesus.

      1. I give Don some more credit but not for reasons he would favor. He very likely acts with a greater moral integrity than his own spiritual beliefs would allow. Without thinking he probably is kind to atheists (at least the ones he does not know are atheists). He may not know that he was polite, just this morning, to a clerk at a coffee stand who is gay. In fact, he is probably nice to most strangers, most of whom he should under obligation of his chosen dogma pelt with stones. That is not nice, but fortunately he generally does not act that way.

        Epistemologically, Don is morally repugnant for abusing the education of fellow human beings.

  15. What evidence would convince you that you’re mistaken?

    “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…” ~Isaac Asimov

  16. >Even the most dogged atheist is left with “something from nothing.”

    I don’t see why something shouldn’t be the default.

  17. Don, Paul includes himself in that list of 500, yet he was not an eyewitness (by his own admission) of a physical resurrected Jesus. So why do you think this list refers to witnesses of a physically resurrected Jesus, when the one person on that list who left a first-hand report (Paul) only experienced a vision of Jesus?

  18. Mr. McLeroy

    Given that as a Christian you would not accept the claims that the late Sathya Sai Baba was God incarnate: How would you dispute the claims of Sathya Sai Baba’s thousands (even millions) of followers, who claimed to be eyewitnesses to a great many Christ-like miracles from Sai Baba?

    I have never seen any Christian attempt to answer this in any depth whatsoever. Every Christian has run from it, or given it very brief, handwaving reply. You would be the first to seriously answer this, if you took it up.

    The problem is, I suggest, that if you ever made it a project of truly investigating all the miracles attributed to Sai Baba, trying to come up with alternative non-supernatural explanations, then you’ll face an issue pretty quickly: your attempt to explain away the amazing eyewitness accounts will very soon become vulnerable to Sai Baba’s followers accusing you of “using a naturalistic bias to dismiss our supernatural claims.” Which is of course what Christians tend to retort to atheists
    who dismiss similar miracle stories.
    How would you EXPLAIN away all the Sai Baba miracle claims without validating the very reasons atheists are skeptical of ancient claims for a Jewish miracle worker and God-man?

    (The alternative is that some Christians bite the bullet and say “Ok, it’s not impossible in Christianity that the supernatural can occur, so maybe Sai Baba DID wield miracles, but it could be demonic power. But this simply moves you to a similar problem: Sai Baba’s followers claim all the same personal, transformations in their life as Christians do, in terms of feeling love, peace, purposed, fulfillment, etc. How then do you distinguish when a demon is responsible for such an effect on
    you vs a God, without special pleading for your particular experience?).

    Cheers,

    Vaal

    1. I just thought I’d add more info about Sai Baba:

      SATHYA SAI BABA:

      I’d like to see how the Christians here explain away the miracles of Sathya Sai Baba, without special pleading.

      And these are contemporary accounts, not ones shrouded in the mists of thousands of years ago. One often has the name of the actual “eye-witnesses” attached to the claims. (I remember a list I saw a few years ago which was a long one of those who’d experienced the miracles, and addresses and phone numbers you could actually call to speak with them!)

      Sai Baba had purportedly millions of followers, with 500,000 showing up for his funeral…handily beating Christ’s first outing in that regard. His followers held him to be a manifestation of God, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, with miracle displays in support of all those characteristics.

      Sathya Sai Baba’s mother claimed a miraculous conception, heralded by miracles. Now who would lie about a thing like that, right?

      More miracles are attributed by his followers to Sai Baba than to Jesus. Among his many miracles were: controlling the weather, controlling rivers, raising multiple people from the dead, turning water into petrol for actual use in a car, manifesting many objects out of thin air or from his mouth, assuming different forms, doing amazing healings, appearing as an apparition to multiple people, and bi-location – being in one place yet also manifesting physically in another far away place to others, at the same time. If you go looking into the miracles attributed to him, it’s like they never end.

      Among the multiple claims of Sai Babba resurrecting the dead, from the middle of family funerals, at death beds, to someone declared dead in a hospital it was also claimed ” “The Raja of Ventagiri told me how some twenty or so years ago, he had witnessed Baba’s resurrection of a man dead some six days in whom body decomposition was taking its normal course.”,

      Here is an account, with multiple attestations from eye-witnesses, of Sai Baba purportedly manifesting physically in two places at once, separated by 600 miles. He appeared in locked houses, was said to appear and disappear after talking with devotees, manifested objects, he made his hair uncuttable, etc.

      http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/pages/devotees_experiences/Manifesting_Baba_Appeared.htm

      And after you’ve explained THAT story way, they will keep coming and coming. Here is but one page (of many internet sites) compiling a lot of Sai Baba’s miracles:

      http://www.saibaba.ws/miracles.htm

      How soon into your attempts to give naturalistic explanations for miracle after miracle, will the Sai Baba devotee start complaining you are piling naturalistic improbability one on top of another? “You mean the weather just ‘happened’ to change when Sai Baba commanded? Multiple times? You mean those people just ‘happened’ to look completely dead and snap out of it when Sai Baba was there? You mean all those people just happened to hallucinate the same appearance of Sai Baba? etc.”

      How long before he complains of your obvious naturalistic bias in explaining Sai Baba’s miracles, rather than being open to the fact they were genuine?

    2. And when you are done with all the miracles Sathya Sai Baba, there are plenty of God men left. You can move on to Sai Baba of Shirdi, a deceased Godman of similar reputation. He too wielded all manner of miracles, not to mention claims of his post-mortem appearances:

      “Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan (appearances) in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him.”

      Sai Baba of Shirdi

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi

      Sai Baba’s millions of disciples and devotees believe that he performed many miracles such as bilocation, levitation, mindreading, materialisation, exorcisms, making the river Yamuna, entering a state of Samādhi at will, lighting lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (khandana yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, after death rising on third day, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in a miraculous way. He also gave Darshan (vision) to people in the form of Rama, Krishna, Vithoba and many other gods depending on the faith of devotees.[36]
      According to his followers he appeared to them in dreams even after he left his body and gave them advice. His devotees have documented many stories.

      Claims of his resurrection:

      The physical form of the gracious Guru was laid to rest in the central hall with all due formalities and obsequies, but his eternal spirit rose from the tomb to proclaim to his followers again and again the indisputable evidence of his resurrection and life. The master had often promised that his tomb would speak and move with those who made him their refuge, that even after his mahasamadhi, he would appear the moment a devotee called upon him with implicit faith and love; and happily even today, though 53 years have passed away, these promises are abundantly fulfilled. The Master manifests himself in different ways to different devotees. His voice is not hushed. Nor is his physical presence lost to his devotees. Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him. This deliberate choosing of fresh disciples and devotees by vouchsafing to them some kind of mystical experience is very characteristic of the Saint of Shirdi.

      1. I posted all the above not for Mr. McLeroy to answer every question raised here, but at least to show Mr. McLeroy that this issue can not be dealt with easy handwaving or special pleading for his own miracle beliefs.

        (And it’s info for others here just in case they are unfamiliar with some of the God-men of india).

        1. Yes, this is an excellent point, one of my favorite points to bring up when arguing with Christians about Biblical miracles. The details you posted here will be very useful next time I have this argument!

        2. I don’t think it can be dismissed as implausible that sometime in the next few hundred years (or far less), a couple of thousand tops, a Sai Baba God man religion directly rivaling the trinitarian god figure mythologized in Christianity — perhaps synthesizing the individuals identified above into a triune (or perhaps a larger multiple) supernatural deity entity — becomes a rival Christians are unable to tolerate.

          The God man myth figures have at least two advantages Christians will never be able to counter: (1) literal, not figurative, “witnesses” to supernatural claims, although both are in the same boat when it comes to empirical verification of the fantastic, i.e. there ain’t none and it is impossible there ever will be; (2) the current population of the planet probably has just about the same percentage that is credulous as 1600 years ago, but propaganda dissemination methodology is vastly enhanced present compared to past.

          God man Sai Baba could easily snowball, pass a tipping point, and hoover up a following reeling from climate change upheaval and enormously disappointed by the failure to deal with it by the religious status quo.

          Given tribalism and race bonding, the three Abrahamic traditions may not see that much personnel defection/reduced numbers (I wish atheism would hugely reduce these populations, but …), yet what if a Sai Baba religion sweeps Asia eclipsing Hinduism, Sikh, Jain, and any other existing traditions, especially if it finds root in China about when the Chinese economic rise pulls it into a more powerful position than the West? Bad news for jesus.

      2. I suspect that people who have examined claims for the paranormal using material from self-designated ‘skeptics’ will see their confidence in eye-witness testimony diminish dramatically. It eventually past the point where they can rely on the personal accounts of their own religion — and even their own experiences. I just got back from the Amazing Meeting and I think at least 5 speakers made this a major topic of their talk.

        Steve Novella calls it “neuropsychological humility” — the well-informed position that it’s very easy for us to fool ourselves. People don’t have to be either telling the truth or lying. There is an enormous amount of gray area in there.

      3. Meet the new resurrection…same as the old resurrection.

        How? Because any truth anyone can excavate from wanting there to be an afterlife comes only from humans wanting it to be true. And indeed, a lot of people want it to be true.

  19. Considering the recent analysis of the origin of the ribosome, I would have loved to discuss that. But I think McLeroy is pulling a fast one:

    “Living cells are filled, of course, with complex structures whose detailed evolutionary origins are not known. Therefore, in fashioning an argument against evolution one might pick nearly any cellular structure, the ribosome for example, and claim – correctly – that its origin has not been explained in detail by evolution.

    Such arguments are easy to make, of course, but nature of scientific progress renders them far from compelling.”

    [ Miller and Levine on the origin of the ribosome; http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html ]

    So the argument is actually about the usefulness of evidence. Like xqcd notes on that re the best blackbody radiation ever measured, the predicted distribution of the cosmic microwave background: “Science. It works, bitches!”

    Which leads into this:

    After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true. Are there still intellectual and rational difficulties to my faith? Yes.

    The obvious intellectual and rational difficulty for choosing a religion would be the total lack of evidence.

    When for example McLeroy claims there were “over 500 witnesses” to a living [sic!], walking zombie, it is empirically false. There are no such acceptable historical first- or secondhand evidence, because curiously no one of the supposed witnesses wrote about it and no historian refer to such witness stories. Except, and notably so, in know later fake insertions.

    The first written myth appears over 100 years, 4 generations, after and across the Mediterranean (Greece).

    That is not acceptable evidence, McLeroy. Here we have someone roughly contemporary with Julius Caesar that did something even more remarkable. But while we have historical evidence for the deified JC, from historical texts over contemporary statues to a grave temple [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar ], we have nothing for the myth of the magical zombie.

    Q1: McLeroy, why are you convinced of the “truth” of something that is 1) an obvious myth among many similar, 2) lacks evidence, and 3) so obviously lacks evidence that religious people have been forced to invent lies about the whole myth?

    Any one of those 3 factors would make sane people turn around and seek their facts elsewhere.

    Q2: Failing that, 1) would make them question why they choose their “truth” as they did, when there are many equally “valid” ones to choose from.

  20. The McLeroy defense of the resurrection is really not different from the earliest indoctrination a child receives. The indoctrination is so thorough that even a grown man can not see his way clear to recognize that his standards of what constitutes “evidence” are no better than a Muslim who mindlessly cites the Koran or a communist acolyte of Mao Tse-Tung who reads quotations from his little red book.

    1. The blatantly obvious fallacious reasoning you have employed fall into two categories:

      Begging the question. Citation of the Bible to support a biblical claim is circular reasoning. If you want to validate a claim ou don’t go the the source of a claim for evidence.

      Argument from authority. Citing “authorities” who themselves make fallacious arguments about the validity of the Bible (often by begging the question) does not support your position. This is related to an appeal to popularity. No one would recognize the people you cite as authoritative if they were not espousing popular opinions, but instead had to rely on the quality of the evidence they present.

  21. I actually have a general question regarding Chrsitian scripture ( I’m a complete iliterate, sorry ) that I hope one of you can help me with:

    Are there any descriptions whatsoever about Jesus’ appearance?

    Facial and bodily characteristics and the like?

    Or is it just implied that everyone just knows what this dude looks like?

    I mean, once the word got around I figure that many a conman would cash in on the benefits of being the messiah.

    1. Are there any descriptions whatsoever about Jesus’ appearance?

      This is actually a very significant question.

      For about as much as you might spend on a mortgage payment, you can buy for your very own personal collection a coin of any of the Twelve Caesars, minted during their own reign, with a recognizable likeness of said Caesar on the face — that’s how prolific the archaeological (let alone documentary) evidence is for those men.

      And, even if, for some incomprehensible reason, the living human incarnation of the divine force that Created Life, the Universe, and Everything wasn’t important enough for somebody to commemorate with a statuette or the like, an actual eyewitness account would leave clues. Did Jesus tower over the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount and his powerful voice boom across all assembled, or did those at the back have to lean in to see and hear the slight, soft-spoken figure before them? We have no clue, but that’s the sort of thing you’d expect an eyewitness to let slip at some point.

      Instead, all we have is Gumby Jesus, whose features take on those of whichever model today’s painter happens to have on call today.

      b&

      1. You’d think there’d be some creative folks surrounding a character like that, so it is a bit peculiar that none of them to the best of our knowledge left behind various artistic impressions of their messiah.

        Artifacts of all sorts depicting the divine king.

        Perhaps they did and there were all sorts of contradictions because word of mouth gets distorted fast.

        Islam could’ve taken a cue from that and as a consequence forbade all depictions of their prophet.

        And now if you’ll excuse me I’ll head on over to http://www.conspiracytheory.org and see if anybody’s home. 🙂

  22. 29 years of believing. Is that some kind of credibility statement?

    I once believed as a teenage for about a month the Motley Crue was the best band ever. Mind you, at age 14, one month feels like 29 years.

    Clearly I was wrong. Might you concede too that you are wrong?

  23. Well, since “witness” is understood to mean something that is assumed to have happened behind a large pile of rocks, I can easily top this:

    There have been (a few billion) times (2000 years) times (365 days) = literally quadrillions of “witnesses” to the fact that each night, the sun turns into a pile of mozzarella cheese each night, and then back into the a ball of plasma before it rises!

    Bless his noodly appendages, ramen.

  24. IMHO – all religions are merely figments of the imagination. Therefore, anything goes.

    You can conjure up as many crucifixion witnesses as you please – and so start yet another version of protestant christianity to add to the thousands we see today.

    Unfortunately, too many people mistake these fantasies for reality. Violence and gruesome punishments are often meted out to those who differ ‘figmentally’ or who see these fictions for what they are.

    Ah. Homo sapiens?

  25. What beats me is that no doubt as a result of intensive brainwashing, people consider it quite normal to be worshipping a 2-thousand-year-old dead Palestinian carpenter with delusions of grandeur. He may not at the time thought he was God, but he soon grew to the idea, and the role of Messiah was quite good to start with,, He would need miracles just like all the other pagan gods; so mircles were duly procured. The ultimate was to have a mock crucifixion which would clinch his divinity for all to see.
    Strange are the ferments of the religious hysterical mind.

  26. Dr.s Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, Richard Carrier, and David Fitzgerald are all noted Biblical scholar/historian/college professor/authors, or some combination thereof. All effectively refute that there were ANY witnesses at all to Yahshua’s rising from the dead, much less 500. In fact, they all effectively refute that “Jesus” rose from the dead at all. How is it that they, whose academic credentials on the subject far surpass you own, are wrong, but you are right? My 2nd question: How is it that there are no corroborating accounts of “500 witnesses”? It seems to me that historians of the period would have found such an occurrence noteworthy. 3rd question: How is it that you pay credence to mere 3rd party heresay,when such would be disallowed as evidence in any court of law in all the land! 4th question: Are you one to accept rumor and gossip as fact? Do you do so in your everyday life, or are you making an exception when it comes to the ever so errant Bible? 5th question: What makes you so gullible???

    1. In fact, in his The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul, Robert Price says of Paul:

      Protestantism is based on Martin Luther, and Luther’s theology is based on Paul, but Paul stands based on nothing at all. Paul does not have a unitary voice, is not a single author whose implied opinions might be synthesized and parroted. He is not even a single historical figure. He is certainly not a divine apostle who received his gospel, not from man or through men, but directly from God one climactic day on his way to Damascus. That story, as we saw, is pure fiction, based on 2 Maccabees and Euripide’s Bacchae.

      In the same book, Price says:

      The business about the half-thousand witnesses to the resurrection must post-date the Gospels, since it is impossible for such a memory or tradition (if such it were) to have gone unmentioned for so long and so widely. It must be even later than the rest of the list of appearances. It refers in an abbreviated manner to an episode told at greater length in the Latin Gospel of Nicodemus and Greek Acts of Pilate, where we learn that the 500 were Roman troops guarding the tomb of Jesus. In the second Greek form, chapter 12, we read, “Lest, therefore, his disciples should steal him by night, and lead the people astray by such deceit, order his tomb to be guarded.” Pilate therefore, upon this, gave them 500 soldiers, who also sat round the sepulchre so as to guard it, after having put seals upon the stone of the tomb” (Roberts-Donaldson trans.). Shortly, of course, they have a front row seat at the resurrection. Two chapters later, they witness the ascension, too.

      1. 500 soldiers? That’s about a cohort, an impressive amount in those days. Large enough to conquer a small city. They must have known this Jesus was up to no good.

  27. Don,

    The conversion stories in Acts contain no instances of people demanding relevant evidence anywhere near commensurate to the extraordinary claims before the same people in these stories converted. There’s clearly something else going on here regardless of whatever preceding events occurred, and it’s clear modern Christians are projecting too much of themselves -that is, modern day scientific thought and skepticism- onto a select, highly superstitious, few people in ancient Judea; a standard that did not exist back then.

    Your premise appears to be based heavily on the fact that people believed and the religion spread. However, conversion stories in the book of Acts appear to be a window into the mindset of these people, which is a mindset consistent with the location and time in history. Therefore there’s almost no better case for natural, alternative, explanation for the alleged resurrection to win by default. Just like UFO abduction stories from many people who are alive today (which I doubt you believe) the people in Acts, assuming they represent actual early Christians, are clearly under a misapprehension. Given this atmosphere, what would have been a miracle is if no new major religion ever started, not that one did.

    My question then is, there’s a claim in Matthew 27:52 which says, “tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many”. Given how potentially earth-shattering this experience of a bunch of dead people walking the streets of Jerusalem would be to witnesses, why is it that almost no Christians use this as evidence but they almost always go to the verse about Jesus appearing to 500? Why not use both verses as evidence? Are Christians implying that there’s not enough evidence for Matthew 27:52? Are they embarrassed at what God supposedly did to drive home the magnitude of the moment? It appears just as supportable (or not) as 1 Corinthians 15:6.

    Granted most Christians don’t know about Matthew 27:52, but I suspect you do; and for those who are aware of the verse I’m very curious as to why they -you in this case- think I’m being unreasonable for not believing it.

    1. I’m not Christian now, but I was a very fervent one a long time ago, and I can absolutely, positively assure you that nobody I knew (including myself) even knew about that verse much less used it as “evidence” for the Gospels’ historicity. I do wish I had known about it. I’d have been saved a great deal of time. When I finally did see it, I about fainted of shock. THIS was part of the holy book I’d once considered inerrant and entirely 100% historical fact? I was furious.

      500 die-hard believers think they saw Jesus back from the dead? Picayune compared to the simple monstrous reality of the shambling and risen dead wandering around Jerusalem looking for their loved ones and hanging out with them like the wraiths from Corpse Bride. But in the writings of the time there is nothing about it at all. That’s a serious problem, in my opinion. If that didn’t happen, then what else didn’t? If that was metaphorical, then what else was? It’s no wonder to me that most Christians don’t seem to know this verse exists. They can explain away pretty much everything else (I knew a great many “Blind Men and the Elephant” solutions to those contradictions, and I know they’re lame but at least I had them), but the glaring silence from contemporary accounts about the dead corpses wandering around Jerusalem? That’s not something I could have overcome at all. I really think that one verse would have unraveled my entire allegiance to Biblical literalism. So thank you for noting it and asking about it. I’m curious about how Don will respond to your question.

  28. The Propet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is credited with providing a number of true prophecies that defy logical explanation. My questions are:

    1.) Do you believe that Muhammad had the ability to see events before they actually occurred? If no, why not?

    2.) If you do think that he had this ability, does it prove the veracity of any of his other claims, such as his claim that he was the last and greatest of the all prophets, and that the Quran is the perfect word of God revealed to him?

  29. Don McLeroy writes: “After 29 years of studying the Bible,I am now totally convinced that the Bible and Christianity are true.”

    I question the value of conviction and certainty within any human mind. For many years I was a convinced Christian, certain that Jesus was the risen son of God, certain that I had personally experienced the presence of God. I began questioning my certainty when a cousin told me of his research into a man who was utterly convinced he was the victim of abduction by space aliens. His abductions were actually the result of hypnagogic dreams, something I too had experienced and knew how convincing, yet wrong, they could be.

    When I realized that I had no reason to value my own certainty over that of the “abductee”, that neither of us had any support for our feeling of certainty, I reexamined my entire belief structure. Within six months I quit Christianity in particular, religion in general and am now an atheist on grounds of inductive reasoning.

    I suggest that your certainty of the truth of the Bible and Christianity are, as was mine, ill-founded and lacking support. They may make you feel better about yourself, other people and life in general, but that is no basis for certainty. My schizoaffective nephew is certain that strangers enter his room at night and move his underwear around. He’s wrong, but the belief makes him feel better.

  30. These are all outstanding questions, but I wonder if Don will refuse to engage on the grounds that he cannot possibly answer all of these queries.

    I wonder if Jerry can summarize what he thinks are the best questions and confront Don with those directly.

  31. How can you get something from nothing?

    That to me is not the major issue – we could easily posit that the mindless, fundamental, simple constituents of matter have never not existed. This idea is not contradicted by the finding that our Universe appears to have a beginning – it could just be one of many Universes bursting forth from this background of infinite fundamental matter and energy.

    The key question seems to be – how could simple matter and mindless processes give rise over time to complex entities like living beings?

    The answer to that question seems to be a rather straightforward combination of chance and verified non-random processes like natural selection.

    The religious explanation involves an infinite level of complexity and information that has never not existed. God has always known how to make infectious diseases, for instance.

    While the non-religious can explain quite easily why pain and suffering and imperfection exists, the religious believer in the perfect infinite God cannot seem to approach a rational explanation as to why such a God would interrupt His perfect immaterial reality to bring forth this flawed Universe.

    1. A better question than “How can you get something from nothing?” is “How do you get nothing from something?” “Something”, we know about. “Something” is the default. No one has to convince you that something exists. Even the solipsists grant that. Everyone grants the existence of something, if only their own mind, or only God. But “nothing”, that takes some imagination. No one has ever seen or experienced “nothing”, or detected it with a sensitive instrument, or inferred it from it’s shadow. Of the many make-believe things introduced into the discussions about God, “nothing” has to be one of the most fanciful.

      1. I’ve seen nothing. It’s either a large unknown variety of ape or a plesiosaur like beastie.

        I paid to see bigfoot at the CNE waaaay back. Obviously a rubber suit in ice. Possibly the same one that surfaced not that long ago.

        Nothing is a rubber suit?

      2. gluonspring,

        Yes, but then that’s another way of what theists are arguing: the idea that there was ever a “nothing” makes no sense, therefore there has always been “something,” the “something” that always existed being God.

        The natural atheistic response is then “Well, I can just as easily say something non-theistic always existed – the universe
        in some form or another. You, Mr. Theist are gratuitously adding an extra entity, God, to the explanation that can be shaved off via parsimony.”

        Which is a reply that works better against some theistic arguments than others. The more “sophisticated” Christian thinkers (e.g. Aquinas, who was wrong, but still a very bright guy) have arguments for WHY the universe, or some non-God-like substance, could not have always existed on it’s own, and therefore WHY one has to appeal to a God as creating/sustaining the universe. It’s the “contingency” argument, where it’s claimed that everything in the universe is contingent and not necessary (because there seem logical alternatives to the way things currently are), and that it does not therefore contain within it the “reasons it is X rather than Y.” As such, if we are really interested in a final “explanation,” one must appeal to something necessary as the ground of being, and when you trace out such inferences you get to God as the ground of Being.

        One may be again tempted to appeal to parsimony and say “but the universe, or whatever elements from which it ultimately arose, could still ‘just have existed’ – who are we to say what could or could not have been? In other words, who says it requires some further explanation? Parsimony again says we can just stay with “the universe in some form always existed.”

        What the theists will do here is accuse the atheist of special pleading. That we always work on the principle “there is a reason for X,” it’s assumed in our everyday actions, and science assumes it – even in quantum mechanics, but now when convenient you are arbitrarily saying “well, I’m just going to say there is no explanation for X. I don’t need to explain it.” We would not accept this response in any other area when something is a mystery, and would not accept it if the Theist says the same thing in any part of their explanations.

        The idea being that only a necessary X can be a stopping point of explanation (because it “explains itself” on contemplation in it’s very necessity), and a contingent X can never do so because you are always able to ask “but why is X like X, and not Y, Z…?”
        And the universe is in this way contingent and can not be the last stop of explanation.

        Not that of course I buy the argument, but
        I’m just saying that the quick appeal to parsimony I’ve seen a great many of us atheists use – “who made God? You are just adding a gratuitous entity to the explanation for all that exists” – seems a bit facile insofar as it doesn’t directly address the more extended arguments for God, which permeate a lot of Christian thought. (The contingency-type arguments aren’t constrained to the Aquinas/Catholic arguments – Protestant Christians also will appeal to contingency arguments, e.g. W.L. Craig).

        gluonspring, I’m not saying you or your post are “guilty” of being facile in this way, as I don’t see that you were laying out a specific argument against God. It’s just that your post reminds me of this area of argument between atheists and theists.

        1. “The idea being that only a necessary X can be a stopping point of explanation (because it “explains itself” on contemplation in it’s very necessity), and a contingent X can never do so because you are always able to ask “but why is X like X, and not Y, Z…?”
          And the universe is in this way contingent and can not be the last stop of explanation.”

          I don’t see why matter or some constituent parts of it can’t be considered non-contingent. I think that theists smuggle in the proposition that the stuff of matter is contingent, when in fact we have no reason to believe that it is.

          1. blitz442,

            “I don’t see why matter or some constituent parts of it can’t be considered non-contingent.”

            One could also say “I don’t see why bunny rabbits can’t be considered non-contingent (require no explanation).”

            But that wouldn’t strike anyone as a sufficient stance to take. Certainly we’d demand an actual argument for why one could consider bunny rabbits non-contingent.

            The same will be asked of you about taking the stance the observed universe is non-contingent. Do you have an actual argument showing why it’s non-contingent, or are you simply “adopting the stance” that it’s non-contingent, in which case that just seems special pleading and anyone can adopt that stance about anything else, including God, without argument to support it.

            Whenever we’ve had a mystery of “why is X like X?” our knowledge has progressed insofar as we have assumed there are underlying explanations, and haven’t just arbitrarily stopped at “because that’s the way it is.”

            On one hand many theists are precisely guilty of stopping inquiry, using God as the “that’s just the way it is” of the gaps.
            On the other hand, other theists will want to point out we will be inconstant to suddenly do this when it comes to our lack of knowledge about why the universe is at it is.

            It does seem that in logical terms, the universe seems contingent in it’s character, insofar as it’s possible to imagine logical alternatives to it’s state. The question seems more about the nature of “reality” and whether, in a real, practical sense “the universe could have been otherwise, or could have ‘not existed.'”

            This is why I generally think it’s better to respond to these arguments not with “I assume the universe is non-contingent” or “the universe just is as it is” type of replies, but rather say things like “We don’t know, and it’s more honest to say we don’t know than to say otherwise at this point, as you are doing.”

            It’s also important to point out how the contingency arguments toward a God don’t work, insofar as you can see the gratuitous and unwarranted leaps of logic from “first causes” to the characteristics of an Intelligent, Loving, Being. They just don’t work.

            Then there also would seem to be warrant in the approach of physicists like Sean Carrol and others who (as I understand it) argue that we make models to explain why the universe is as it is, and the explanations are self-contained within the models. It’s just a case of deciding which model is correct somehow. (And that goes so far beyond my knowledge of physics and cosmology
            that I have to sit on the sidelines like the dummy I is).

            1. One could also say “I don’t see why bunny rabbits can’t be considered non-contingent (require no explanation).”

              Actually, I would say that anything that is complex (using Dawkins’ definition), demands an explanation other than “it always existed.” The bunny rabbit, and God, meet the definition of a complex entity and therefore need to refer to either a designer or a process that brought them into existence.

              But for very simple, non-complex things, I don’t see why “they always existed” is not a plausible answer.

              1. I don’t think that’s exactly it. A priori, for all we know complex things are necessary. If we knew nothing about bunny rabbits except that they exist, we might be justified in supposing that they are necessary.

                The thing is, we know quite a lot about bunny rabbits and it is the specific things we know about bunny rabbits that makes their being necessary seem absurd. Among the things we know are that they come into existence and go out of existence all the time. We know, now at least, that they are made up of atoms, and that those atoms survive the appearance and disappearance of particular rabbits. And, of course, we also now have a lot of evidence about their history as a group. The conclusion that complex things are evidence of algorithms operating over time is, I think, an empirical conclusion, not an axiom.

        2. “gluonspring, I’m not saying you or your post are “guilty” of being facile in this way”

          No need to hedge. I’ll completely own that. The theist argument here is exceedingly gratuitous, even with all it’s sophisticated variation. I have nothing but contempt for it. They only arrive at “God” by presupposition OR by completely redefining what “God” is from some kind of Super-Mind to some kind of abstract “perfection”, essentially the super-set of all sets, or the “whatever-it-is-that-is-necessary”. It’s sophistry of the very worst kind and I’m happy to be lumped in with people who consider it highly motivated and intellectually dishonest reasoning fit for flippant dismissals.

          Now, that said, I agree that one should never stop trying to find some reason why things are like X rather than Y. We don’t know if we’ve reached the limits our our explanatory ability. And, we should even try to contemplate if there is some necessary reason why things couldn’t be otherwise. It could be that some explanation would make everything perfectly clear all the way down. If the theists arguments in this regard have any merit at all, it’s the merit that comes from so clearly failing. We can see now how far you get with that kind of highly motivated thinking… nowhere… and so we need not bother with it further. Thanks for taking one for the team, theists, and exhausting that empty rabbit hole for us.

          1. “Thanks for taking one for the team, theists, and exhausting that empty rabbit hole for us.”

            Heh, I like it!

  32. Dear Dr. McLeroy,

    Greetings from a fellow Texan. A question for ya, from the perspective of someone who read ancient historians, and only later read the Bible.

    You spent 29 years studying the Bible. Have you studied enough other ancient literature to put that study into context? Why are the wonders reported in the Bible more credible than those reported in other ancient texts?

    Paul claimed without citing sources, naming names, or giving other evidence that 500 witnesses saw Jesus appear after death. However, to pick a random example, Herodotus claimed without citing sources, naming names, or giving any other evidence that he was told that in Libya there lived men without heads whose eyes were in their chests. Is one of these claims more credible than the other,and if so, why?

  33. If you hold everything in the Bible is true – why is it that your God doesn’t ever clarify anything that is claimed in his name?

    If your God is extant, why doesn’t he do as Leo Igwe once said and contact people to say “That is not what I think, you are misquoting me”?

    Further in Matthew 6:5 Jesus says that one should not pray in Public, and that doing so is acting like a hypocrite.

    As you believe the Bible to be an accurate account of your God – what do you say to Christians who are in favour of publicly enforced proclamations of faith such as school prayer or the words “One nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance and on America’s currency?

  34. To all:

    Thanks again for all your comments. I am impressed by your breadth of knowledge on this issue. Many of the points you have raised are excellent and I understand why you find it difficult to accept a biblical position.

    Because of my faith in the authority of the Bible, I accept the simple testimony of Paul and his statements in 1 Corinthians 15. I admit that I have not gone as deep into every issue you have raised. I plan to print all the comments–once they slow down being posted–and give them some serious consideration. I truly want to understand your position. It is very kind of Dr. Coyne to have this discussion on his blog. I know that I will benefit from it the most.

    But, as you can probably guess, I am still unpersuaded. I find God’s word,the greatest subject matter ever.

    I see biblical principles as the wisdom of God himself.

    I find biblical reasoning as both elegant and sound.

    I discover that biblical Christianity has a great historical track record; when properly understood, it sells itself.

    In all, the embrace of biblical principles and convictions has produced the good life—rich and fulfilling individual lives, strong and vibrant families and some of the freest and most scientifically advanced societies in history.

    Biblical Principles

    I find that biblical principle are more reasonable:

    God exists. vs. There is no God.

    God created the cosmos. vs. “Nothing” created the cosmos.

    We have been created by God in his image. vs. We just evolved.

    Mankind is in a fallen state of sin. vs. Man is basically good; our environment causes us to do evil.

    God has a plan for the ages. vs. All is mindless randomness.

    Jesus is God and rose form the dead. vs. Jesus was just a good man or a myth.

    You can have eternal life. vs. After you die there is “Nothing.”

    Biblical Reasoning–truth exists

    I find that reasoning on the foundation of absolute truth to be more coherent and frees men from the plague of self contradiction:

    Belief in God allows one to say “truth exists.” The statement “There is no such thing as truth” doesn’t work; it is self-contradictory. Alan Charles Kors in his essay “Did Western Civilization Survive the 20th Century?” (1999) observes that “To live with self-contradiction was not merely to fail an introduction to philosophy; it was to be less than human, less than coherent, less than sane.”

    The Biblical Track Record

    Freedom

    I find that if we “ensure that what really happened in the past be taught in our history classes” as Benjamin Wiker concludes in “Worshipping the State,” then we will better understand how biblical religious convictions have led to our free society.

    Modern Science

    James Hannam in his award winning book “The Genesis of Science” clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that it was the religious conviction that God created nature that led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages which then led to the achievement of modern science.

    Conclusion

    It is reasoning such as this that leads me to conclude that the Bible is truth. When I read that there were 500 witnesses; it becomes very persuasive. Eyewitness testimony may be confused about details,but is still very powerful. Let me demonstrate as I will conclude with how I teach the resurrection to my fourth grad Sunday school class.

    I teach this in the Spring when many of the children are playing soccer. I find at lest two children that are on the same team. I immediately have one of them step outside in the hall where they can not hear what is being said and then ask the other one to tell me their teams name, whether they won or lost and the score.

    I have the children switch places–without any communication between them–and repeat the questions. After receiving the same answers, I ask the remaining class if they believe this eyewitness testimony. Of course they do. I even state I would almost bet my life on this being true. And this is on the basis of just TWO WITNESSES!

    I just do not believe that if the early Christians made this up and invented the story, that they would have martyred themselves they way they did. When you combine this with the power of biblical principles, the elegance of biblical thinking, and the amazing track record of biblical convictions and their gift to the world of freedom and modern science, I believe Paul and his testimony of over 500 witnesses.

    Thanks again to Dr. Coyne! He is very generous in allowing his blog to have this discussion.

    Don McLeroy

    1. As I suspected, you are not answering the questions, but just testifying and ducking things by saying, ” But, as you can probably guess, I am still unpersuaded. I find God’s word,the greatest subject matter ever.” There were specific questions, and you’ve avoided them all. This is what I expected, for your mind is not open on the subject of Christianity. Because of that, you were certainly not qualified to judge schoolbooks. Your politness is just a facade because you think it will allow you to keep touting Jesus on this site. Sorry—ain’t gonna happen.

      You will not be posting here any more. If you want to say something, say it on your own website, to your readership of approximately zero.

      1. He did say that he wasn’t going to answer the questions now, but was going to think about them, and respond later.
        That being said, you’ll most likely end up posting the same sort of response to his response, if it comes.

        BTW… I found it ironic that he studied for *29* years and is convinced. I very recently stopped being convinced after that exact number of years. 6 months ago I would have made the same arguments he made. People do change their minds, even hard-core believers.
        Critical thinking and reason are powerful. Many will never give up their delusions, but some will. Thanks for this site.

      2. I encourage Jerry not to ban Don McLeroy. We need to sharpen our skills in debating dishonest adversaries. Yes, Don McLeroy has employed classic dishonest creationist debate tactics– changing the subject, evasion, Appeal to Fictional Authority– which is why Jerry banned him– but I say that’s precisely why Don must NOT be banned: we need to sharpen our skills in rebutting these specific dishonest debate tactics.

        The average scientist is good at arguing scientifically, comparing two arguments, both honest, that are both based on the scientific method. But the average scientist is LOUSY at debating dishonest opponents who change the subject, evade, use Appeal to Fictional Authority, etc. That is why it is crucial that we develop our skills.

        Again, I urge Jerry not to ban Don McLeroy. If he employs dishonest tactics, that is all the more reason to keep him. Let us have at him!

        1. I disagree. We don’t need that sort of mind-numbing drivel here. Can’t you go practice your arguing skills with him on his own site?

          1. Why don’t you skedaddle now and go comment on another thread? The purpose of this one was initially sold as an opportunity to argue with drivel. That’s how it was sold. It’s bait and switch to yank the opportunity away from us.

            1. He didn’t provide the answers that he said he would. Ergo no skills sharpened.

              Now apologize for your accusations or you will leave here for good. You don’t insult the host in this way. I was serious in my suggestion that if you want to practice skills, go over to where people will take you seriously and give you answers. It was not an attempt to get rid of you.

              But I will get rid of you unless you apologize now. Do you not know the rules of this website?

        2. If he tried to provide substantive answers, I’d let him do that. He hasn’t. He is just witnessing for Christianity and I won’t let him do that here. There are plenty of sites where he can “witness” for Jesus. Mine won’t be one of them. Besides, if the adversaries don’t answer, what skills get sharpened? Has anybody learned something from the debate that they didn’t know about creationist/evangelical viewpoints? It’s doubtful.

          McLeroy is simply a troll, and he was SO grateful to be allowed to troll. But he didn’t agree to answer questions in good faith. I don’t let comments go up simply so the readers can use them as “chew toys.” I want to hear how religious people answer our questions. McLeroy didn’t do that.

          If you want to REALLY practice your debating skills, go over to some religious website and take on the people there!

        3. I’m happy to take Mr. McLeroy at his word in regards to his first two paragraphs, so I’ll pop by his blog/site at some point to see if he has answered any of our questions.

    2. Mr. McLeroy,

      “When I read that there were 500 witnesses; it becomes very persuasive.”

      500 witnesses? That’s nothing! Yesterday
      100,000 people witnessed me raise their relatives from the dead!

      Is that “persuasive” to you? Or are you going to apply basic rational thinking, not take my mere word on it, and start by saying “hold on, where are these witnesses? Let’s see what they have to say…” vs just taking whatever claim I pulled outta my butt as a fact?

      It’s the same for the Bible. You don’t even have the claims of 500 people, you simply have one guy’s claim that 500 people saw this amazing thing…just like my claim above. Why wouldn’t you be applying this utterly basic critical thinking to the claim of the 500 in the Bible? Either you are just dropping your critical thinking in simply accepting such claims…or you already have some other reasons to assume the truth of the claim about 500, and it never was such a claim that was “persuasive” in the first place. You’d already made up your mind that you were going to believe whatever you read in the Bible.

      I even state I would almost bet my life on this being true. And this is on the basis of just TWO WITNESSES!

      Ok, then once you’ve read the enormous number of eyewitnesses testifying they saw Sathya Sai Baba establishing via miracles that he was God Incarnate….we can assume
      you will adopt belief in Sai Baba’s divinity.

      Right?

      Your amazingly credulous approach to what you will accept as compelling, eyewitness testimony leads directly to your becoming
      a devotee of Sai Baba’s, if you want to know what God has been telling us lately.

      Once you read the Sai Baba’s claims and reflect on why they deserve your rational skepticism instead of your credulous assent, you *should* understand why the claims in an ancient book deserve the same skepticism, if not more.

      Vaal

      1. Possibly we are missing the point. One of the Church Fathers, Tertullian, is reputed to have said “Credo quia absurdum est”. (I believe it because it is absurd).  Likewise Kiekegaard said we must make the “Leap into the Absurd”.  I think Mcleroy is trying to emulate these two characters by saying in effect, “My Faith is so great that I will believe as much counterintuitive nonsense as I can, in order to show what a good Christian I am; and I can always upstage you in rubbish-thinking”. Obviously one cannot argue with such people.”–(and they will take that a compliment)

        1. Then this argument is truly doomed to go in circles. The Christian starts with a claim that the Resurrection and similar doctrines have some basis in reason, and denies their absurdity. That basis is then easily shown as specious. So the Christian concedes the absurdity of the claims, but either does not see this as a reason to reject them, or uses that absurdity as proof (i.e. why would anyone make such an absurd claim, unless it were true?).

          This same game can be played by any religion that cannot support its claims rationally. Do the religious not see this? I can no longer fathom the religious mind.

        2. Tertullian actually said, regarding the death of the Son of God, “Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est.” It’s totally believable because it doesn’t make sense.

    3. “I just do not believe that if the early Christians made this up and invented the story, that they would have martyred themselves they way they did”

      Oh good grief. You were supplied with examples of eye witness testimony (often far more than 500) from other religions about other sets of miracles and supernatural acts – are these therefore true accounts as well? I’m sure the folks here can provide examples of people of other faiths dying for their religion, does that therefore make the claims of those religions true???

      And do you not understand that the degree of evidence needed to confirm mundance events such as the scores of soccer games is much less than what is required to support miracles? Just because you teach to 4th graders, it doesn’t mean you have to think like them.

      What is it the Brits say…thick as two short planks.

      1. Yes, obviously Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonsim, was martyred for the scam he founded. One of the “witnesses” who swore in a deposition that he saw the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was inscribed was also martyred. Smith’s son was severely wounded. Many other Mormons were martyred at the Haun’s Mill massacre– one true Christian blew off a child’s head with a shotgun at point blank range to keep him from growing up to be a Mormon.

        The Heaven’s Gate cult leaders and rank and file members killed themselves for a scam they concocted. Many other cults could be mentioned.

        People die for scams they consciously oncocted, and for hallucinations. I don’t know why they do. But the empirical fact is that they do.

        McLeroy has resented zero evidence that Jesus existed, got killed in Jerusalem of was resurrected. Zero. Nothing. Nada.

        All he presents is endless Appeals to Fictional Authority– and the authorities he cites, and presents as “amazing” geniuses, are all blithering morons: Norman Geisler, who says UFO’s are piloted by demons; GK Chesterton, who believed in ghosts; that idiot Ravi Zacarias, who non-rule “A law requires a law-giver” is both based on equivocation of “law” and is also self-contradictory, because Zacarias imagines his “rule” applies to universes without gods, then he says universes without gods should have no rules…

        And the cherry on the moronic undae, that idiot C.S. Lewis, with his idiotic “trilemma”, “mad, bad, or god” (leaves out the possibilities that Jesus was misquoted or simply didn’t exist; but if he did, I vote “bad” since Trinitarian monotheistic anti-idolatrous incarnated benevolent hell-condemning “god” is self-contradictory on so many levels).

        Yes Don, the “amazing” people you say you have on your side are all amazingly stupid, and we can prove that. And the fact that you cite these blithering morons as your “authorities” proves that your judgment is abysmal, since you can’t tell the difference between “amazing” intellectuals and morons whose illogic is trivially easy to refute.

    4. “But, as you can probably guess, I am still unpersuaded.”

      The premise was that you would answer questions concerning the resurrection, NOT that we were to persuade you of anything.

      Yet, you failed to answer a single question.

      You have studied the Bible for 29 years, and found not a single answer that you are able to share. Seems like you’ve wasted 29 years of your life.

      You believe it because you believe it. That’s all good and fine. But don’t come promising answers when you have none.

    5. I realize Don McLeroy got run hours earlier today, but I’ve been busy and just now saw this business about how he teaches the resurrection tale to 4th graders. He has two soccer players in the class who play on the same team announce to their classmates the winner and score of the game the team played Saturday. One kid stands outside the closed door of the room while the other “witnesses” the soccer information to classmates, then brings in that player and asks him/her the winner/game score. Neither kid lies about the game outcome, of course.

      Why would they — so they can look like stupid fools Monday in school when word gets around they lied about their soccer game in Sunday School yesterday? I don’t know why a kid would be tempted to lie about who wins a game in an organized team sports league where winners and scores are public knowledge in the first place, and what would be the point of trying to juggle the score results? They’re public results, as already stated, and it ain’t as if a bookie might be persuaded to have his muscle only break an ankle for a small score difference instead of crushing little Sarah Socker’s knee for really fucking up the game spread.

      How this “lesson” can possibly be related, in any way, with witnessing a dead body reanimating, demonstrating convincingly it is now corporeal, and then in the blink of an eye zooming vertically until it disappears right before the astonished gaze of the amazed 500 — well, let me simply say it amazes me how some human minds process reality and manage to make such a pathetic fucking hash of things.

      I wonder if some of those 9 – 10 year olds McLeroy has 52 opportunities a year to indoctrinate every once in a while stirs out of Don-induced torpor and wonder just what in hell Sarah Soccer’s Innocent Virgin’s soccer team game, that Saturday back in 4th grade, is supposed to remotely have to do with the truth about a 2,000 year old crucifixion story.

      1. You commented: “One kid stands outside the closed door of the room while the other “witnesses” the soccer information to classmates, then brings in that player and asks him/her the winner/game score. Neither kid lies about the game outcome, of course.”

        This is almost – not quite – the well-known “Chinese Telephone” phenomenon. Our college communications class used a chain of 4 sequential links: links 1-3 agreeing on the message content, the 4th link reporting back to the class. The final report was – of course – completely garbled. The characteristics of alteration were: 1) many details vanished, 2) other details blown far out of proportion, 3) jumbled time sequence, 4) invented details, if any, were few.

        “Then he appeared to over 500 of our brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.” 1 Cor 15:6 NEB

        So…how many people were in Paul’s Chinese Telephone chain? Did Paul talk to each of these +500 people? Unlikely, and he doesn’t claim he did. All details, save the claim of seeing Jesus, have vanished. What Jesus said or did, details of which would be at least as important as the “fact” of his post-death appearance, are gone. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there were a significant number of links in Paul’s chain which caused nearly every detail to be lost. Little remains upon which to base one’s belief, particularly as profound a belief as the resurrection.

        Assuming, of course, that Paul, caught in the passionate throes of letter writing, wasn’t just inventing these “eyewitness” reports. Always a possibility: “To err is human…” and so on.

        1. Once again, the actual answer is obvious and mundane.

          Even today, innumerable people personally witness the risen Jesus and testify about their experiences. There is no question but that Paul’s Jesus experience fits that very common mode, and he makes plain that it was this same mode that everybody else in the early Church experienced Jesus — including the 500 as well as the Jerusalem church leaders and all the rest.

          The fab 500 aren’t Doubting Thomas style witnesses to the Resurrection. It’s just a simple headcount of the early church’s membership and doesn’t even pretend otherwise. You have to take the passage out of context and distort its plain language to think that these people laid eyes on Jesus’s physical zombie body in the manner depicted in the Gospels.

          b&

          1. You may be correct, and such “witnessing the risen Jesus” as people claim today may be what Paul meant, but I disagree that it’s a “obvious and mundane” answer.

            The context (1 Cor 15:3-9) in which this sentence lies is a list of people who saw Jesus after “…he was raised to life on the 3rd day”, first listing Cephas (Aramaic for rock, thus referring to Simon [Peter]), and ending with himself. So the context at least starts with physical presence and ends with (Paul’s) mental vision, although Paul believed it was the real presence of Jesus, claiming that other could hear but not see Jesus.

            The sentence, as given in 1 Corinthians, doesn’t need distorting to be interpreted as seeing Jesus’ “physical zombie body” as you say. “Then he appeared to over 500 of our brothers at once…” One might assume that Paul means that 500+ people had a simultaneous spiritual vision of Jesus, as people claim to do today either singly or en masse, but that is not how he expressed it.

            The question of whether all these people were having visions or were seeing the actual body of Jesus was addressed in the story of “Doubting Thomas” who reportedly stuck his finger into the wound in the side of Jesus’ chest. It’s clear that these writers wanted people to believe Jesus returned in the flesh, and it wasn’t just visions in their minds. But Jesus now had super abilities and could appear, disappear and apparently teleport at will.

            I’d be interested in hearing why you think 500 is “a simple headcount of the early church’s membership.” There was, no doubt, some moment in time when the church headcount was 500 (as it gradually rose from 12 or so to a billion today), but to assume that this is the moment to which Paul refers does not seem “obvious and mundane” to me.

            1. The context (1 Cor 15:3-9) in which this sentence lies is a list of people who saw Jesus

              No, the context is Paul establishing his bona fides by demonstrating that his experiences with Jesus were the same as everybody else’s.

              One might assume that Paul means that 500+ people had a simultaneous spiritual vision of Jesus, as people claim to do today either singly or en masse, but that is not how he expressed it.

              Except, again, that Paul was demonstrating the authenticity of his Christianity. For the others to have seen Jesus in the rotting flesh but Paul to merely have had a vision would have demonstrated him as being less than the others, whereas the whole point of the passage was that he was every bit their equal in all aspects.

              The question of whether all these people were having visions or were seeing the actual body of Jesus was addressed in the story of “Doubting Thomas” who reportedly stuck his finger into the wound in the side of Jesus’ chest.

              Doubting Thomas appears in G. John, which was written a century or so later by somebody who wasn’t even trying to coordinate his story with the Synoptics. It’s absolutely guaranteed that the author of 1 Corinthians hadn’t the slightest clue that somebody would one day write about Thomas groping Jesus’s guts.

              as it gradually rose from 12 or so to a billion today

              By “12” you’re presumably referring to the Twelve Disciples. They’re entirely fictional characters, and even the Gospels can’t agree on their names — and certainly nobody has any real clue about who they were supposed to have been. Indeed, they’re much more likely to have been picked for astrological or other symbolic purposes — the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the twelve months of the year, something like that. Twelve mystical disciples was not at all an uncommon theme in Classical era mystery cults.

              I’d be interested in hearing why you think 500 is “a simple headcount of the early church’s membership.”

              Again, Paul reports that as the number of true witnesses to Christ. Pick a modern charismatic church at random and the laity can be described in almost those exact same terms for almost the exact same reason. Their own experiences of the risen Christ are a perfect match for Paul’s, and for the 500.

              Cheers,

              b&

              1. Ben: These are all reasonable interpretations, many of which I have seen elsewhere. Paul may be establishing bone fides, but it’s still a list of reported sightings, some of which were claimed to be in the flesh.

                You skipped my point that the writers WANTED people to believe the sighting were of a physical body. The 3 synoptic gospels were of course written later but “a century or so” later is a bit of a stretch. Most scholars put them from c65 to c100 CE, or 10-45 years after 1 Corinthians.

                The astrological interpretation of the entire event including the 12 apostles has gotten some press is recent decades. It too seems a bit of a stretch, and I don’t put any more stock into it than I do into Jesus being the son of god.

                But so what. Don McLeroy won’t be responding to any of this.

              2. The 3 synoptic gospels were of course written later but “a century or so” later is a bit of a stretch. Most scholars put them from c65 to c100 CE, or 10-45 years after 1 Corinthians.

                “Most scholars” are Christian propagandists, in this case, and they picked those dates in order to further the lie that the Gospels were written by the men whose names have been placed at the beginning of the works.

                G. Mark, likely the earliest of the three, makes reference to events — especially associated with the destruction of the Temple — that we know happened in 70 CE. Worse, he places these events within the Crucifixion story during the reign of Pilate. As such, the obvious conclusion isn’t merely that G. Mark was written after 70 CE, but that it was separated sufficiently in time and distance from early first century Judea that neither “Mark” nor his audience would have noticed and / or cared about these anachronisms. Most likely, “Mark” hadn’t yet been born in 70 CE and never made it within several hundred miles of Judea.

                The astrological interpretation of the entire event including the 12 apostles has gotten some press is recent decades. It too seems a bit of a stretch, and I don’t put any more stock into it than I do into Jesus being the son of god.

                There’s a good chance that we’ll never have a convincing explanation for the original source of many of the plagiarized bits in the Bible. The Eucharist (and thus the Last Supper) we know without doubt was stolen from the Mithraists, but the Twelve are themselves quite fuzzy. Indeed, not a single source can agree upon anything about them other than that there were twelve of them — not even their names! As such, it’s reasonable to look to other twelve-ish things that aren’t too terrible a fit, and astrology and the calendar are really, really, really obvious examples. Indeed, even if they weren’t the direct inspiration, it’s a reasonably safe bet that they’re at the root of whatever was the direct inspiration.

                Cheers,

                b&

    6. When I read that there were 500 witnesses; it becomes very persuasive. Eyewitness testimony may be confused about details,but is still very powerful.

      That’s confusing because they didn’t have any testimony. One guy supposedly had a testimony that 500 people saw something. That’s one guy. You just confuse people when you say that to make it look like a big deal. (Obscurantism.)

    7. You offer no discussion, Don.

      You just regurgitate the absurd beliefs of an indoctrinated, deluded, religious mind.

      The Book of Mormon lists several eyewitnesses to the magical golden tablets of the angel Moroni. These supposed eyewitnesses actually signed their names to their testimony.

      You have nothing comparable to the Mormon testimony but yet presumably reject their proclamation of God’s truth regarding their experiences.

      You truly seem oblivious to the astounding absurdities of the Christian religion that you so gleefully espouse.

  35. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is absolutely key to Christian faith. He died to redeem mankind’s sins so that believers in him may live forever. But why do you think this is unique and correct?

    There are “many stories of gods impregnating mortal maidens who then give birth to exceptional individuals, some of whom descend into and return from the underworld and then join their father in his abode. This makes it a puzzle why anyone should regard the story of God impregnating Mary—and all the rest of the story that follows—as out of the ordinary, instead of being a rather obvious borrowing from familiar myths.” (A.C. Grayling, The God Argument.) Think the Greek Dionysos (not the later slandered Dionysos): he too was the son of a god, he too died and was resurrected, turned water into wine, was born on December 25, appealed to women and slaves (who had no power and almost no rights in real life) and promised everlasting life to his followers, etc., etc. Are these not astounding parallels? In all mystery religions, including Christianity, we find the same basic elements, just dispersed differently throughout the narrative. And the same end message: salvation from death by becoming like the savior.

    Celsus, a Greek philosopher and opponent of early Christianity made this very objection in the 2nd century: “Are these distinctive happenings unique to the Christians – and if so, how are they unique? Or are ours to be accounted myths and theirs believed? What reasons do the Christians give for the distinctiveness of their beliefs? In truth there is nothing at all unusual about what the Christians believe, except that they believe it to the exclusion of more comprehensive truths about God.”

    I find it hard to believe that you studied Christianity for 29 years. It’s really time to abandon these embarrassingly made-up copycat stories that date from the childhood of man.

  36. Regarding “the Twelve”, and the idea that they died for a belief that they would have known the truth or falsity of, and that they would not have died for a lie, etc.

    Is there any historical record regarding what happened to each of the Twelve? Traditionally, Thomas went to India, Peter was crucified upside down (in Rome?), Paul was executed (in Rome?). These are things I’ve heard… Are there any historical records of these events? I’m assuming there is not as I’ve never heard or read any apologist cite any such source, and it would be valuable to them if it existed.

    Can anyone give me a reference to a scholarly work that either names these historical records or states that they do not exist? What I’m looking for specifically is what happened to each of the 12 (including Matthias who replaced Judas) after the Book of Acts. I always found it odd that Acts mentions very little about the 12 other than Peter (it mentions John, I think).

    Thx!

    1. Is there any historical record regarding what happened to each of the Twelve?

      Never mind that; is there even any theological agreement as to who they were, including names and other basic identifying characteristics that would let their contemporaries pick them out of a lineup?

      (That’s a rhetorical question, to be answered in the negative….)

      b&

  37. Many years ago (1995?), I struggled mightily with the truth of the Resurrection and I wrote up a harmonization of the gospel accounts. Unfortunately, I lost the piece of paper I wrote it on. Apparently, it satisfied me at the time and now, having become a skeptic, I am extremely curious… I’d love to see it again. I remember that I had to make a lot of assumptions. Ironic that I managed to lose a piece of paper that served as a sort of mental keystone for my faith. Wouldn’t I have copied it? Framed it? Published it? I think what happened in my brain was “Whew! That was hard! Not even sure I got it right, but its close enough and it would be too difficult to give up my faith, so I’m going to tell myself I did it.”

    1. Ben Goren wrote: “‘Most scholars’ are Christian propagandists, in this case, and they picked those dates in order to further the lie that the Gospels were written by the men whose names have been placed at the beginning of the works.”

      That too is a stretch and amounts to little more than an ad hominem argument – biblical scholars are all liars with an ax to grind. The argument that the gospels were written by those whose names are on them died out about 150 years ago, and I suspect that only those christian fundamentalists who haven’t read any biblical scholarship still believe that.

      If you’re going to buy arguments that the bibilical writers, whomever they were, cribbed from Mithraism or that 12 apostles are based on the zodiac, you should consider the alternative explanation that it was Jesus himself and/or apostles and/or others close to Jesus who did the cribbing. In other words, they, rather than the later writers, swiped attractive ideas from Mithraism and astrology. “Hmmm,” thinks Jesus to himself, “tweleve is a nice, round, magical number in the minds of many. I’ll get twelve guys in my core group.” They wouldn’t have been the first and certainly weren’t the last to borrow attractive elements from other religions. But the Jews had been holding Seders and Passover feasts for a long time, so you don’t really need to go to Mathraism for such events.

      I’m certainly not arguing that this is what happened, but if one wants to claim cribbing, you should consider alternate possibilities of who the cribbers were.

      In my opinion, the ‘son of god’ motif was developed in order to appeal to the surrounding Hellenistic culture, which long had all sorts of sons of god(s), Hercules for example, in their mythology. (See Ionianwonder’s comment 7/22/14 2:28pm.) Zeus was always fooling around, impregnating mortal women, much to the dismay of Hera. The Romans may have ruled the area, but the culture was still much more influenced by the Greeks. The “decopolis” were 10 nearby hellenistic cities.

      And I’m still more interested in the “Chinese Telephone” aspect of this. The farther after the fact you believe these writings occurred, the more breakdown points appear in the chain of communication. The communication breakdown factors listed in my first posting can explain a lot of the biblical problems, reducing the need for conspiracy theories as an explanation.

      1. If you’re going to buy arguments that the bibilical writers, whomever they were, cribbed from Mithraism or that 12 apostles are based on the zodiac, you should consider the alternative explanation that it was Jesus himself and/or apostles and/or others close to Jesus who did the cribbing.

        This isn’t some Arhchaya S conspiracy theory; it’s an in-context quote from Saint Justin Martyr, the earliest Christian apologist, writing presumably after the composition of the Synoptics and perhaps before or contemporaneously with John. In his First Apology:

        For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

        Remember that Martyr’s central thesis was that all these Pagan “imitations” were performed centuries in advance by evil daemons with the power of foresight who knew that Jesus was coming and so planted these “imitations” to lead honest men astray when Jesus finally arrived. Further, we know from Plutarch that Mithraism was well established in the second century BCE and that their home port was Tarsus — as in, “Paul, of.” And the earliest mention of the Christian Eucharist? Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, where he instructs the Corinthians on how to perform the ritual. It’s also the most detailed biographical detail of Jesus we get from Paul.

        I know it’s tempting to think that Christianity is just too big and popular to have been founded by pure fabrication, but the simple and plainly obvious fact is that it’s exactly the same type of syncretically manufactured Pagan mystery cult as all those other ones popular at the time. And if you want to know the details, just read the rest of Martyr’s First Apology. He lays it all out, plain as day, clearly and unambiguously and irrefutably — with that sole caveat that he blames it on time-travelling monsters.

        And Martyr was far from alone in arguing along those lines; Origin was in on the act, too. And we get Pagan confirmation especially from Lucian who attributed to Peregrinus the exact sorts of interpolation as we see with Paul and the Eucharist, and from all the other Pagans who thought the Christians were insane fanatics, and and and and and….

        Cheers,

        b&

      2. ‘Jesus himself might have decided to copycat existing religions of his time. Or the devil might have inspired evil men to copycat Jesus far in advance of His time.’ So, in other words, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can really contradict Christianity. This is the unverifiability that Karl Popper refers to. And it makes all discussion about Christianity utterly meaningless. I saw McLeroy’s blog (nothing scholarly, intelligent or even intelligible about it) and regret the few minutes I am wasting trying to reply to his wacky claim of a god-man literally rising from the dead.

    2. “The Complete Gospels”, Robert J. Miller, Editor, has the most complete list of interconnections between the gospels, plus references to the OT, that I’ve seen. Plus it has a bunch of the “gnostic” gospels, the proposed “Sayings Gospel Q” and other stuff. Harper, San Francisco put out a paperback edition in 1992. It’ll give you a good handle on what the phrase “synoptic gospels” means.

    3. Clarification: I wrote up a harmonization of the *resurrection* accounts, not all of the content of the synoptic gospels…

        1. I wonder if the harmonization I came up with would have satisfied me had I known it was going to be peer reviewed. I don’t recall if I ever showed it to anyone else.
          It is very difficult for a Christian, at least it was for me, to think rationally about these things. There is too much to lose. Hard enough for a layperson, but if one is in ministry such that one would lose one’s job for holding a non-orthodox view, it becomes almost impossible.
          Academic freedom allows scholars to change their minds drastically about a topic without losing their job. At some religious institutions, one must sign a statement of faith, and that statement might include things like literal 6-day creationism. Change your mind = lose your job. Makes it impossible to actually explore all the options.

        2. Hey, there. You, McLeroy, with the 4th grade soccer players.

          After you have two of those players tell the rest of their Sunday school class next April who won yesterday’s game and what the score was, and then instruct the earnest young learner’s how this is a swell example of “eyewitness testimony” — which it is not in any sense, although it is quite similar to an ESPN reporter relating scores — …

          … and then proceed to compare recounting the official outcome of a soccer game truthfully (not changing the score or which team won and which team lost — lying — of an easily verifiable result) with 2000 year old self-referencing hearsay …

          … if you have a care at all about honesty, and about the children you are entrusted to teach in order that they may in time become responsible adult human beings …

          … how ’bout passing out copies of the Dan Barker essay at the link GBJames provides?

          Wait a minute. The chance of you ever thinking this is something you want these kids to be aware of is about equal to Ken Ham thinking a Neandertal family was on the Ark.

          When I was 12 or so years old I began Age of Reason. A sister who saw the book on my nightstand game me that C.S. Lewis book with the Screwtape character right away, to counter Paine.

          I finished AoR in short order, but although I immediately gave it a fair shake I never got much past chapter one in the Lewis book.

  38. There is no argument or proof required. If a person is willing to say that after 20 years they are 100% sure then they do not engage with the principle of logic, reason or evidence. They do not want to know, merely to like what they believe. No person can honestly proclaim to know anything absolutely. To do so is to be willingly self deceptive and engage in intellecual dishonesty whether knowingly or not. It is not a position worthy of a response and to think that the man is an educator. That is a disgrace.

  39. I posted this to the previous conversation but Mr. McLeroy had already been booted, so I repeat:

    You commented: “One kid stands outside the closed door of the room while the other “witnesses” the soccer information to classmates, then brings in that player and asks him/her the winner/game score. Neither kid lies about the game outcome, of course.”

    This is almost – not quite – the well-known “Chinese Telephone” phenomenon. Our college communications class used a chain of 4 sequential links: links 1-3 agreeing on the message content, the 4th link reporting back to the class. The final report was – of course – completely garbled. We discussed these characteristics of alteration:
    1) many details vanished
    2) other details blown far out of proportion
    3) jumbled time sequence
    4) invented details, if any, were few.

    “Then he appeared to over 500 of our brothers at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.” 1 Cor 15:6 NEB

    So…how many people were in Paul’s Chinese Telephone chain? Did Paul talk to each of these +500 people? Unlikely, and he doesn’t claim he did. All details, save the claim of seeing Jesus, have vanished. What Jesus said or did, details of which would be at least as important as the “fact” of his post-death appearance, are gone. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there were a significant number of links in Paul’s chain which caused nearly every detail to be lost. Little remains upon which to base one’s belief, particularly as profound a belief as the resurrection.

    Assuming, of course, that Paul, caught in the passionate throes of letter writing, wasn’t just inventing these “eyewitness” reports. Always a possibility: “To err is human…” and so on.

    But rather than simply dismiss the Bible, Christianity and Jesus, as many do, as figments and fairy tales, I think we can use what we know about the difficulties of human communication and perhaps see these documents – not as “revealed,” but written by humans for humans – in a different light.

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