Is there more evidence for Jesus’s Resurrection than for biological evolution?

March 20, 2023 • 9:15 am

I love it when I wake up to an email like this, showing me that there’s still work to be done among the neuronally deprived. Unfortunately, readers like “Henry” are unlikely to be persuaded since they instantiate the very definition of faith discussed below. 

At his friend’s behest, Henry started reading my 2016 post, “Peter Boghossian accused of hate speech for correctly defining ‘faith’.” (By the way, Peter’s definition of “faith” was “pretending to know things that you don’t know” and “belief without evidence”.) Peter’s definition angered Christian apologist named James Bishop, who wrote a long article attacking Boghossian and his claim (it’s no longer online). Bishop’s response was the subject of my piece: was there was anything more to “faith” than Boghossian’s simple definition? Note that Bishop played the “hate speech” card way back in 2016:

I consider Boghossian’s view to be bordering on hate speech. It’s not simply Boghossian’s redefinition of a word that appears hateful but it is the implications it has when it comes to human people – since many religious people do in fact match Boghossian’s  definition of faith. In other words, history well tells us that it is an incredibly dangerous thing to single out a people or a group in such a way as to ostracize and demonize them. That is what it would appear Boghossian is doing here.

Note that there are 120 comments on the post, but that was back in the day when people actually made comments. Now I weep in frustration. . .

At any rate, reader “Henry” was directed by his pal to the piece above, and decided he had to comment on it now; his comment responded not just to my post, but also to a comment made by reader Sastra.

Instead of posting Henry’s comment in the original thread, which nobody will read since it’s seven years old, I’ll put it here because it’s not only bizarre, but shows the mindset of those marinated in faith: how readily they reject a ton of evidence so that they can believe what makes them feel good.  So much for those who claim that there’s no conflict between science and religion!

Here’s Henry’s comment:

I’m only commenting on this because a friend sent me the link.I started reading the above article with the intention of finishing. However, after progressing to roughly the middle of it I concluded the rest wasn’t worth reading. The author would do well to get a grasp on what constitutes “evidence”. The evidence so far supporting evolution as ‘fact’ as opposed to the convoluted diatribe used by atheists towards Christianity (you know, that irritating value system which underpins western civilisation) is somewhat scant. In contrast the evidence for the existence of Jesus as an historical character is fairly comprehensive.The issue is whether or not he rose from the dead.If Jesus was not raised from the dead then the house of cards collapses. The bible as a book, is a collection of books & writings assembled in antiquity with the authors (& eye witness) being much closer to the event than we are today. If you can believe that historical characters like, Julius Caesar existed then why do atheists get upset when Jesus is mentioned ??? I suspect the answer to that lies in psychology. Bad behaviour by organised religion has ruined many lives & generated much (deserved) anger & damaged the credibility of institutions who profess a faith which they themselves have abused. Distinguishing ‘saint’ from ‘sinner’ has become blurred to the point irrelevance in the minds of those who hold a genuine well founded grudge.

Note the absolutely ridiculous claim that we have more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than we do for biological evolution, despite the fact that evidence for evolution appears in many books and papers, with more coming out daily, while the Resurrection appears in only one book and there’s no more evidence since the Old Testament appeared. (There could be—if Jesus came back again!)

Note as well that Henry’s “evidence” that Jesus rose from the dead goes beyond just what the New Testament says: he considers it “evidence” that if the Resurrection isn’t true, then Christianity collapses. This is of a piece that if a religion persists for a long time, then its truth claims must be accurate. So much for all those many dead religions that flourished for a long time!

Finally, note that Henry really instantiates Boghossian’s claim: Henry’s a guy who rejects one claim in favor of another, even though there’s a gazillion times more evidence for the former (evolution) than the latter (Resurrection).

But of course the validity of evidence has nothing to do with the existence or duration of social structures based on that evidence.  Does the presence of 17 million Mormons in the world mean that Joseph Smith did indeed find that now-disappeared set of Golden Plates discovered in 1820.  After all, the evidence for that is not just a sacred book (The Book of Mormon, of course), but the fact that the book is prefaced by the sworn testimony of eleven people (in the 19th century, not 50-100 A.D.) who said that they had actually seen  the golden plates. Doesn’t that make the evidence for Mormonism stronger than that for Christianity?

But I digress. It’s a bit cheeky of Henry to tell me about the relative weight of evidence for evolution vs. the Resurrection when I not only wrote the book about the former, but have also read read a lot about the latter. There is no comparison. It would be great if reader Peter Nothnagle sent me one of his patented New-Testament-debunking pieces to forward on to Henry.

If I wanted to refute “Henry” further, I’d go into the lack of evidence for Jesus’s miracles (and perhaps his very existence), including his vow to return before some of his contemporaries had died (but he didn’t show), that prayers don’t work, nor does a trip to Lourdes restore missing eyes and limbs, and that there’s been a disturbing lack of evidence for Jesus in the past two thousand years. It’s as if after he was Resurrected, he decided to vanish forever.

But I’ll leave any rebuttal up to the readers. Address your comments to Henry (or take on this topic) below, and I’ll forward him the link tomorrow.

79 thoughts on “Is there more evidence for Jesus’s Resurrection than for biological evolution?

  1. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”
    They didn’t see Jesus resurrections, but they hope it was true. Unless the writers of the book of Hebrews was engaging in hate speech he pretty well nailed it.

  2. “Bad behaviour by organised religion has ruined many lives & generated much (deserved) anger & damaged the credibility of institutions who profess a faith which they themselves have abused.”

    Ever the religionist’s assertion to possess the one true faith. “All those other false religions give us true believers a bad name.”

    1. And talking of false religions, I was wondering the other night as I lay awake, whether it is logically possible to call an atheist ‘islamophobic’? I know full well that if I said to a Muslim that Mohammed was just as mistaken as Joseph Smith when he took down dictation, what the Muslim would call me. But, honestly, what did he expect? An atheist is supposed to regard all religions as false and cannot in fairness be held as (malapropically) -phobic on criticising any of them. It’s what atheists do.

  3. I long ago came to the conclusion that the last thing we should accept as evidence for a religion’s truths is that religion’s holy books. They are nothing more than advertising. What evidence does “Henry” have for the existence of Jesus and his resurrection that isn’t from the bible? There is lots of contemporary evidence of Caesar’s life.

    1. “There is lots of contemporary evidence of Caesar’s life.”

      Nah . . . just advertising!

      If you treat the Bible to the same scrutiny as any other ancient writing you’ll find it holds up well. I mean . . . really well!

  4. It appears that our _modern_ efforts to define “faith” have gone as far as they can, when the original conception of faith might have been about something close, but different in important ways. I will have a go (hopefully brief):

    At the origins of the extant religions as they featured in daily life back then, there must have been a primitive discrepancy between the [1] visceral or tangible and the [2] stuff you can’t see or touch but know is there. Perhaps feelings of pain or sickness might be one example of some “thing” people knew was there but was intangible. I imagine the experience of life back then must have been so different to modern times as to be like a terrifying alien planet. … come to think of it, I’ll need to read about the word “faith” as used in antiquity, or “evidence”, or “proof”…

    … bah. I thought I could put my finger on it. Interesting new angles on questions… even if “… roughly the middle of it” the idea might arise that “the rest wasn’t worth reading.” LOL.

  5. It is worth noting that eye witness testimony even under the best of circumstances is notoriously unreliable.

  6. Aside : I got caught in a grammar trance over the title

    “Is there more evidence for Jesus’s Resurrection than for biological evolution?”

    … If I sort of let my mind’s eye go crosseyed, I can see the title meaning that biological evolution is evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

    1. apologies … a re-read cleared this up. somehow, I was reading hastily, and the “for” was sort of lost as a weak beat, is best I can explain it.


  7. A friend who says that Jesus never existed as a human. Clearly the Jesus in the New Testament, which is a ‘document by committee’, is a metaphor and a symbol. He said that, at best, the Jesus in the Bible is a composite of multiple people.

  8. “This is of a piece that if a religion persists for a long time, then its truth claims must be accurate”…. so, is the inverse claim also “true”? If religion makes accurate claims, must it therefore last a long time? How do we know that the true religion didn’t emerge in Central Asia 4000 years ago, making true claims that nobody found appealing, and now it is gone and forgotten. Perhaps we have irredeemably lost the path to salvation….although I’m not losing sleep over this.

  9. I just can’t.

    This is such a time worn issue. I would ask the commenter to post one bit of “evidence” for Jesus. And if he posts anything from the Bible, Josephus, or Tacticus, then he a non-serious scholar who just blindly accepts anything… and he owes me $85 dollars. Why? Because I said so and he accepts such ludicrous claims. I take Paypal.

  10. Interested in Jerry’s reference to the decline in commentary on this site. I wasn’t a commenter in 2016, but show up some days now. Does wordpress have tools for comparing engagement over time and across different types of wordpress websites? Does the decline reflect changes in readership here? Is there a general decline in engagement on wordpress sites?

    1. An aside: I wonder why my comments started going to moderation ~10 days ago. Using the same handle, email, IP address, and browser as before moderation.

      1. I think everybody’s comments are going to moderation now, even though I’ve checked the boxes so they wouldn’t be and determined that people who are getting moderated shouldn’t be. I’ve asked the web tech guy to check on this. I have no idea what’s going on.

        1. For whatever it’s worth – my comment from an hour or so back went straight up. So perhaps not universal (see what happens with this one!)

  11. Children take the world at empirical face value until they are brainwashed (or coerced) into believing in fairy tales by parents and other authorities. Teens and adults need to unlearn those bad habits, which takes discipline and often training. Many, many people do not self-correct and remain confused over what is truth, what constitutes evidence, how to reason from facts to conclusions, and how to identify and reject beliefs that are false.

    For example, beliefs do not become true simply because they are longstanding, Beliefs do not become true simply because they have many adherents. Eyewitness testimony is often not reliable. And eyewitness testimony that is transmitted—and likely embellished—by generations of people who desperately *want* to believe is perhaps the least reliable testimony of all. These principles are all well-known to folks who have trained themselves to avoid accepting mistaken beliefs and even to avoid self-deception. Scientists don’t get everything right, but scientists by inclination and by training take strong measures to avoid the pitfalls that can lead to erroneous conclusions. And, when erroneous conclusions do result despite these precautions, scientists take measures to identify and correct them.

    As for evolution, scientists have been putting the theory to severe tests every day for over 150 years, applying methodological principles that minimize the risk of self deception. Evolution has withstood every test. At this point, the reasoning person accepts that evolution is a truism of life on earth and that no amount of wishful thinking will make it go away.

  12. Yes, that went straight up too – I am logged into and linked from WordPress, don’t know if that makes a difference?

  13. “Was Jesus raised bodily from death after his crucifixion? Compelled by that question, in 1989 I made a critical analysis of the biblical resurrection testimony. I concluded that Jesus’ body probably corrupted in the earth soon after his death. The following is an expanded version of the essay I wrote back then to explain my reasoning. The essay presumes the historical existence of Jesus, about which I am no longer certain; I hope that it will prove interesting for readers regardless of their opinion on that issue.”

  14. For there to have been a resurrection, there had to have been a Jesus. Was there ever a Jesus? A living, breathing Jesus wasn’t recorded by anyone, Christian or non-Christian, until late in the first century. The earliest Christian writing, the letters of the Apostle Paul from perhaps the 50s AD, do not describe him as a human teacher on earth. Jesus-the-man first appears in the Gospel of Mark, written many years later in a foreign land and in a foreign language, which present Jesus and his words and deeds as weird, symbolic retellings of Jewish and Greek myths, filled with supernatural events. Then later gospels expanded on Mark and added stories like Jesus’ miraculous birth and post-crucifixion appearances. All of that is recorded only by Christians and not by any independent observer.

    You might ask, if there never was a real Jesus, how did the religion get started?
    Whole books have been written about that. Something to keep in mind is that the very first Christian writing, those letters of Paul, are already filled with bitter denunciations of rival Christian beliefs, and the canonical Gospels (and the dozens of other Gospels, Acts, etc.) are full of contradictions. There was never a single, “original” Christianity, and there never will be.

    I go into boring detail in a 30-page
    paper which Jerry has been kind enough to mention on these pages before.

    1. Yes, there was a Jesus. This question was dealt with pretty decisively by Tom Holland in a recent Rest is History podcast.

      If the documentary evidence for Jesus doesn’t meet the bar for tentatively assuming he existed, then many of the characters from history have to be expunged from the record*. That doesn’t mean he was resurrected and it doesn’t mean he did all of those miracles. The big problem is that the believers in Archimedes, Alexander, Socrates and Ghengis Khan aren’t going round telling us how to live our lives.

      *Note that Julius Caesar is not one of them. He is very well attested. We have his own writing, for one thing and the writings of one of his enemies.

          1. “Holland is another amateur playing at knowing what he’s talking about. He has no degrees in history, and no advanced degrees whatever. He has a bachelors in English and Latin poetry. He dabbled in getting a Ph.D. in Byron but gave up. No shame in that; but it still doesn’t qualify you to talk about ancient history, or even medieval. So keep that in mind.” From Here Also see this interview for TH education

      1. Yes, there was a Jesus. This question was dealt with pretty decisively by Tom Holland …

        What are the good pieces of evidence?

        If the documentary evidence for Jesus doesn’t meet the bar for tentatively assuming he existed, then many of the characters from history have to be expunged from the record

        Not really, one doesn’t have to give a nay or yeah, one can just say it’s unclear.

      2. You don’t provide any evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus. None of the “documentary evidence” is within decades of his alleged life. Got anything better?

        1. Flavius Josephus was not unreliable at all, but some falsifications were inserted later into his chronicles. You can’t blame someone for falsifications inserted well after their death. By style and content, and sudden change of subject, these falsifications are obvious to about all scholars -including Christian ones- of the subject.

      3. You obviously haven’t read any of the peer-reviewed scholarship on the subject. Holland does not constitute a reputable scholar on the matter. I’ve read the two peer-reviewed works on historicity by Carrier and Lataster as well as work by Dougherty, Price, and others. The ONLY document that posits a Jesus on earth is the gospel of Mark. Period. An anonymous author with no sources. To prove historicity you need more than that.

      4. I wouldn’t say “yes, there was a Jesus”. What proof does Tom Holland have given the complete absence of extrabiblical sources. And if the evidence for other people doesn’t meet the bar for existence, maybe we should be more skeptical about those other people, too.

    2. Indeed. Bart Ehrman’s book “Lost Christianities” details many of the widely different versions of Christianity that arose in the first fifty years after Jesus’ death, all fighting for dominance.

  15. Per Henry’s own words, his religion collapses due to an utter lack of credible evidence for its outlandish claims. The hate is all on his side because he can’t handle the truth.

  16. ” the Resurrection appears in only one book and there’s no more evidence since the Old Testament appeared. (There could be—if Jesus came back again!)” Isn’t it the New Testament that is meant? In any case, a sort of evidence might be found for many, many returns of the entity in question: all the individuals, formerly housed in institutions, who announce that they were born in the wrong body and that they are really Jesus H. Christ.

    1. Worth noting that in the bits of the Gospel of Mark — the oldest of the four — that are not later interpolations, the “resurrection” of Jesus is not a thing. Simply not there.

      Curious that such a key detail would be absent, no?

  17. If you can believe that historical characters like, Julius Caesar existed then why do atheists get upset when Jesus is mentioned

    I for one do not get upset when Jesus is mentioned. I think the evidence for his existence is good enough to believe he really did exist. I think the evidence for his resurrection is very poor to non existent and certainly not enough to get over the bar of “things that have been dead for a day or two do not come alive again”.

    The idea that the answer to the question in the headline of this article could be yes is absurd. There are mountains of objective peer reviewed research on the subject of evolution. There are five stories about the resurrection of Jesus, only one of which is not anonymous and that one could be described as a hallucination. Of the others, we cannot be sure they are independent accounts and we have no idea of their provenance. Against this, biological science unequivocally tells us that resurrection is impossible.

    1. I’ve just realised my post partly just reiterates part of your original article. However, I will nitpick one part of it

      the Resurrection appears in only one book

      The resurrection appears in four books: Matthew, Luke, John and Acts. Paul also mentions his “encounter” with Jesus in one letter and Mark refers to the resurrection but finishes before recounting any resurrection appearances (the appearances in Mark are generally accepted as a later addition).

      Unfortunately, Matthew, Luke, John and Acts are not known to be independent and there is evidence that the authors of all of them knew the text of Mark. I find it interesting that the accounts of the crucifixion and the following Sunday are more or less in agreement but as soon as they get past the bit where Mark ends, those accounts diverge completely. My theory which is mine is that the authors were copying Mark and embellishing it until they got to the end of it and then just made up any old nonsense after that.

  18. In contrast the evidence for the existence of Jesus as an historical character is fairly comprehensive.
    The issue is whether or not he rose from the dead.

    … If you can believe that historical characters like, Julius Caesar existed then why do atheists get upset when Jesus is mentioned ???

    Doatheists get upset when Jesus is mentioned?

    Although there are reasonable arguments that the character of Jesus in the Bible was either fictional, metaphorical, or derived from tales of other people, most atheists accept that Jesus was probably based on an historical person. We therefore don’t get upset when Jesus is mentioned (neither do the ahistoricists — they usually tend to get ready to be exciting.)

    As Henry points out, the main issue is the supernatural claim(s). And though Julius Caesar was declared a god after his death, atheists don’t believe that part either. Neither does Henry.

    I think Henry then would do well to apply what I’ll call the Book of Mormon Test: If the BOM included eyewitness accounts of the miracles written in it by characters in the story — would you convert to Mormonism? If members of the early LDS Church swore, in writing, that they personally observed the plates of gold which the Angel Moroni brought down from which Joseph Smith translated the BOM, would these contemporary accounts convince you, me, Henry, or Jerry?

    Bet they wouldn’t. Think about all the good reasons behind that.

    1. Re “… most atheists accept that Jesus was probably based on an historical person.”

      Or personS, it should be noted. Many experts consider the possibility that he might be a composite to be perfectly valid.

    2. I think Henry then would do well to apply what I’ll call the Book of Mormon Test

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” ― Stephen Roberts

    3. As an aside, let me just say that “Henry” has tangled with the wrong person here. Sastra, while being remarkably patient and polite, is so well versed in argument and evidence that most disagreements are not even close.

      Twenty-plus years ago, at another place, under the pseudonym ‘ennui’, I had a disagreement with Sastra. Although I have conveniently forgotten the details, it involved the term “intersubjective.” I got owned so hard I named my d*g (now 14 yo) Sastra.

  19. For the record, Jesus is also mentioned in the Quran and is part of the Islamic faith. Although I believe Islam does not consider Jesus to have risen from the dead.

      1. I would expect information regarding Jesus in the Quran to be taken from written sources or oral traditions passed between generations. Unfortunately, if my recollection is correct, there is over a 500-year difference between the start of both religions; thus, direct observation by Muhammad was impossible. There were, however, non-christian historians that wrote with contempt about Jesus.

        1. The books of the NT of the Bible long predate the Quran, so I think it’s safe to put his mention in the Quran down to his having read the relevant previous writing. The Quran claims to be God 3.0, for the People of the Book, and — pay attention! The final word of god.. (God 1.0 Judaism; God 2.0 Xianity.)

  20. A slightly off topic point, about grammar and usage, that comes from this piece. I happened to be thinking while reading it what a really wonderful writer JC is, and of course that is true. I think I agree with him on most of everything (not just in this piece, but in everything), and we have healthy disagreement along some (political and social) edges. So two paragraphs after Henry’s comment, JC writes: “…he considers it “evidence” that if the Resurrection isn’t true, than Christianity collapses.” The proper word is “then,” as Jerry surely knows as well as anyone. Here’s my honest and non-critical question–was this a typo? Or more plausibly, I think, just a slip in typing? For instance, when I write the name Karl Popper, as I do often, I ALWAYS type “Pooper” and have to go back and correct it. It’s just the way it comes out when I type at normal speed (and I always get a chuckle). Is this the kind of thing that happened? Maybe a better example, when I am typing at normal speed, I OFTEN type “there” when I mean ‘their.’ I KNOW the difference and can easily correct it in an edit, but do often make the typing mistake. Again, of course Jerry knows the difference. No way he used the wrong one thinking it was the right one (there are, I think, at least two and probably more cases in just this piece where he gets it right.)

    But surely SOME people who write ‘than’ for ‘then’ (almost never the other way, right?) DON’T know the difference. And hence it is a pet-peeve of mine. But a mistake, of course we let slide in the finest of our writers. Can you shed light on this, Jerry?

    1. Yes, I can shed light on it.

      1. It was a typoe
      2. You wrote a whole paragraph calling it out, and then asking if I know the difference between “then” and “than”
      3. Yes I do know the difference. To imply that I don’t is insulting.
      4. You could have emailed me when I make a typo, as most readers do. But no, you have to write a paragraph about it.

    2. The two words are easy to confuse as they’re both usually unstressed and pronounced with a reduced vowel.

  21. Dear Henry,

    Does it strike you as strange that of the four gospels only Matthew mentions the one incidence of mass resurrection in the Bible?: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53).

    Do you think the other gospel writers didn’t know about this event? Is it possible that they knew about it but didn’t think it was worth mentioning that multiple dead people had come back to life, climbed out of their graves, and had been seen walking around Jerusalem? Is it possible that Matthew was mistaken or could he have been referring to the saints having a symbolic rather than literal resurrection?

    These are a few questions which occur to me when I read the story. I don’t have definitive answers to them. What do you think?

    1. And more to the point, is it remotely plausible that independent sources didn’t notice and record this remarkable event? You’d think the many contemporary Roman writers would have thought that something like a zombie apocalypse would have been worth mentioning…

  22. As always, Sastra’s comment is like a bolt of light, and that is why my eye always goes right to her comments when I see them. It was nice to see many familiar names from way back then too.
    Henry reminds me of another commenter I just ‘rassled with on a different web site. This one actually said something to the effect that our theories ‘could just be random molecules in our heads with no truth value’. And other terrible fallacies. Oy! I just gave up.

    Why even debate these people? There is zero chance of flipping ’em. But I suppose it gives us satisfaction to compose a nice, logical argument based on facts and consensus. But their brains just scramble it into something that they can (wrongly) understand.

    1. “Why even debate these people? There is zero chance of flipping ’em.” I underscore your words here, Mark. I’ve been a critic of religion for many decades, and I don’t think I’ve witnessed one case of a believer giving up his belief because of any logical argument. Think of all the debates between Christian/Islamic apologists and Hitch, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Sean Carrol, Dan Dennett, and the New New Atheists, such as Brian Dalton, AronRa, Alex O’Connor, Stephen Woodford, and Paulogia, among others. Since the only good “reason” to believe in any religion in this day and age is fideism, that is, belief because it makes you feel good, only some kind of emotional appeal can cause a believer to give up his belief. Though debunking and rational arguments against religion may always be necessary, they can only shave off a few believers from the margins from time to time. If we are to significantly increase our numbers, we nonbelievers/freethinkers need to take a different tack, that is, speak to the real advantages of non-belief/irreligion in living a happy, fulfilling life. And significantly increasing our numbers is vitally important in this day and age, IMHO, what with all the violence and oppression caused by religion.

      1. Ah, but I have met such converts. Once at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas, I was accosted twice in one day by former Orthodox Jews who gave up their faith because they couldn’t reconcile it with evolution. Both also suffered the same fate: they were shunned by their friends and family. A high price to pay.

        But there are such people out there–they are NOT extremely rare.

        1. Thanks, Jerry. Your reply prompts me to seek out more data on de-conversions, of which I admit I am ignorant.

      2. I’ve been in the trenches debating the religious for decades.

        A number of ex-Christians cited my arguments as either being a wedge starting them to losing their faith, or even being directly responsible.

        I used to worry about causing someone to lose their faith. That’s such a huge life shift and for some can come with some trauma.

        But then I realized that it wasn’t like I was knocking on their door de-converting them. They were coming to places where just such debates occurred. And further, if their faith beliefs don’t hold up to rational scrutiny, whose to blame for that? It’s on the person what they do when that happens. They can retreat from conversation and pull a force field around their beliefs, or if they care about the truth, then they’ll ultimately appreciate feeling like they are now course-corrected in that direction.

  23. Henry, I’d like you to consider the following 3 points:
    1 – Even if we bend over backwards, and accept Jesus was not a symbolic or mythical figure, but that there really was a messianic man crucified (after all, in those days crucifixions were a dime a dozen, as were messianic prophets) there is but little reason to believe an actual resurrection from the dead took place. Not only did he ‘die’ exceptionally quickly, after about 6 hours (normally death by crucifixion would take about 24 hrs or more), but he recovered (‘resurrected’) in about 36 hours -a day and a half
    later. If the story is true -big if-, the most probable explanation would be that he didn’t ‘resurrect from the dead’, but was in a coma. Even as little as about a century ago we have had cases of ‘dead’ people turning out to be alive in their caskets. If that happened a century ago, it would probably be more likely 20 centuries ago (not diagnosing death properly).
    I think that David Hume’s: “no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish” would apply here.
    2 – If the Resurrection isn’t true, then Christianity collapses. That is a great example of begging the question. The fact that Christianity would collapse has no bearing whatsoever on the factual truth of the story. Like: If the Earth revolves around the sun, the pope would be disturbed. The Pope being annoyed has no bearing on the truth of the observations. Christianity collapsing has no bearing on the factuality of the ‘resurrection’. If it would collapse, which I doubt, so be it.
    3 – I also note there is no actual contemporary corroborating evidence. Even Flavius Josephus (with that famous passage which most scholars think is a later insertion, a falsification in other words) was not a contemporary, he was born around 37 AD. His earliest chronicles date from ca. 70 AD, about the time of Paul, the oldest writings of the NT.

  24. I think Henry’s position is very understandable though quite wrong. Thousands of years of instituionalized hearsay, especially if you’ve grown up in those institutions, can seem a lot like evidence. I would recommend taking a step back and trying to objectively strip away the hearsay to find the actual evidence.

    Secondly, I think the human mind has a powerful need to satisfy itself in regards to the “first cause” problem. Superficially God seems to solve that problem. But on closer examination it doesn’t. There is no more nor less reason that a universe can exist without cause than a God can. The difference is that the evidence that the universe exists is essentially indisputable and the evidence for God is essentially nonexistent.

  25. This is not relevant to the post’s central issue, but the paragraph beginning, I consider Boghossian’s view to be bordering on hate speech does illustrate Henry’s difficulties with evidence and logic.

    Does Boghossian’s view border on hate speech in the same way the US borders on Canada, ie, not actually hate speech any more than the US is Canada? By the end of the paragraph ‘bordering on hate speech’ has led to ‘single out’, ‘ostracise’ and ‘demonise’, though he gives himself some cover after these dire insinuations with ‘appear to’.

    Many atheists here know religious believers – I’m married to one, though her religion is not Christian – and don’t hate them; we just think that on one particular matter they are mistaken. I have only to think of my Christian parents, who were better parents and grandparents than I am, to acknowledge that religious believers don’t deserve our hate.

  26. Consider the examples of two fairly recent religions, Mormonism and Scientology.

    In both cases, the foundations of the religion — and the character of their founders — have been definitively shown to be false. Scientology emerged (first as Dianetics) in the 1950s, not even three-quarters of a century ago, and Mormonism emerged in the 19th century.

    Now, Scientology is truly a fringe “faith” (it’s more like a business scam, but we’ll let that go), but Mormonism has tens of millions of adherents worldwide, despite the fact that the basis of the faith (Joseph Smith’s infamous tablets of wisdom in a non-existent language that nobody ever saw and simply disappeared) has been thoroughly shown to be balderdash. Nonsense. Hooey. Garbage. BS. Baloney. Malarkey. Etc.

    So why is it just so difficult for Christians to imagine that in the pre-technology Middle East, scads of humans managed to delude themselves that the ***tales*** of this Jesus character were true, true, TRUE?

  27. The historian (and sceptic) Richard Carrier has written two books on this question: ‘Proving History’, which explains and justifies his use of Bayesian probabilities in dealing with historical issues; and ‘On the Historicity of Jesus’, which applies that approach in detail to this subject. They are both quite pricey (although they are probably available through inter-library loans), but well worth reading.

    Dr Carrier’s conclusion, after bending over backwards to give the historicist view as much credibility as possible (and much more than it deserves), is that the probability that Jesus existed may be as high as 1 in 3. That doesn’t mean, of course, that any of the Gospel stories about him are true. Dr Carrier says that most impartial scholars agree that there is no evidence that any of them are.

    As regards comments on this wonderful site, my impression is that these days people tend to comment only if they have something relevant to contribute. That’s certainly the case for me. I wish I had the expertise and knowledge to offer more!

  28. “…. despite the fact that evidence for evolution appears in many books and papers, with more coming out daily…”

    This is of course true, but I would make the point that people like Henry might counter that there are also many theological books which ‘prove’ the existence of god (though they do nothing of the sort). There are many books elucidating the evidence for evolution but, armed with the appropriate skills and equipment, anyone can go out into the real world and find that evidence for themselves, at least in principle. That is not true of religious faith where the believer has to take the articles of faith on trust from religious authorities.

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