On the alleged resurrection of Jesus

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SASHA regularly sets up an “Ask an Atheist” table on Mizzou’s campus. One of the more-common questions I receive is a rewording of Pascal’s Wager, the classic: “Do you ever wonder to yourself, ‘What if I’m wrong?’” Seeing as I live in the Midwest USA, this question is usually from a Christian.

I think this is a good response:

All the time. That’s what it means to be a skeptic: I question everything, including my own beliefs. I’m only human, and as Augustine himself said, to err is human. To borrow from Spencer Greenberg, I’ve completely changed my mind on some very important and very foundational beliefs in the past, and what that tells me is that I can be very sure about something very important, and think I have good reasons for believing it, and then learn something new and find out that I was wrong. In fact, seeing as I’m only 27, it’s very likely that I’m not done learning new things that will change my mind drastically. So the real question is, how can I really have confidence in the beliefs I have now, if there’s a decent chance that they won’t be the same in 5 years or even tomorrow? Maybe I shouldn’t!

The real question here isn’t if I’m skeptical enough; it’s are you skeptical enough? When’s the last time you wondered to yourself, “What if Islam is right? What if I’m going to burn in hell because I didn’t pray 5 times a day in Arabic facing Mecca?”  You and I both know Islam isn’t true, but the question is, how sure are we and why?  Being skeptical is a good thing, and I think we both agree on that, since you asked me in the first place. So my question to you is, what if you’re wrong?

In this article, I will address the alleged resurrection of Jesus and what it means to be skeptical. Because if Christians are wrong about this, then by their holy book’s own admission, Christianity is worthless: In 1 Corinthians, Paul himself admits that if Jesus didn’t come alive after his execution, Christian preaching is useless and so is Christian faith. So I think we are safe in saying that whether the historical Jesus came back to life or not should be a question of vital importance for Christians – and sadly, one that few self-identifying Christians ever stop to think about, let alone research.

Upon studying the matter to my satisfaction, I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the character of Jesus in the New Testament describes a real, single man who lived historically. See my previous post here, where I review David Fitzgerald’s book “Nailed,” for my reasons for this. In summary, from my previous post:

In my opinion, the evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus is too unreliable, too contradictory, and too far removed chronologically to pass the “burden of proof” test. Consequently, I have removed Jesus from the “People I believe really existed, though I don’t believe the supernatural claims in his biography” category [and placed him in] the “People for whom I consider the evidence for his existence to be inconclusive, and if he existed, I also don’t believe the supernatural claims in his biography” category. Others in this category are, for example, Odysseus, Achilles, and Homer.

I think that the most likely explanation for the contents & claims of the New Testament is that there were lots of people named Jesus wandering around 1st-century Galilee, and over time, these stories grew into legends. “Jesus” is actually an English translation; the name is originally Yeshua in the original language, and it was a common name back then. In fact, the Bible mentions several other people with the same name. The modern Hebrew-based equivalent is “Joshua,” which is also the name of the 6th book of the Old Testament. The writer of the OT book Ecclesiastes was yet another guy named Jesus.

I think it’s likely that at least one of these 1st-century Jesuses was an itinerant preacher, even amassing a small number of fellow travelers as he wandered about. It was certainly not an uncommon occurrence back then. As far as what he taught, who his parents were, etc, the contemporary evidence is non-existent (the earliest mention we have of him whatsoever comes from about 20 years after he allegedly died, and from someone who explicitly admits he never met the guy), and later accounts [the gospel narratives] are contradictory and fantastic.

Assuming for the moment that these legends are, in fact, all based on a single historical figure (I doubt this and have good reasons for doing so), let’s look at what it means to be skeptical in terms of the claim, “Jesus came alive again after being dead.”

One important thing to note: Even if Jesus did somehow manage to come back to being alive after being dead, this does not have anything to do with whether or not the rest of the claims of Christianity are true or not. It does not mean he is God; it does not mean there is an afterlife or that by believing Jesus is God, you can live forever, etc. We still need good evidence for those claims, evidence that we do not have. Why should we believe that the only way Jesus could come back from being dead would be if he were God? In what way does Jesus coming back from being dead prove that heaven exists? All it would prove (if it were actually true) is that Jesus was able to come back from being dead after being executed.

Even if Jesus did come back from being dead, it doesn’t prove that he could do it again at will, or that any other claims attributed to him are true. That is an unwarranted extrapolation, if you ask me.

Let’s talk about what it means to say something is a “miracle.” A miracle is, by definition, the least likely explanation for something. I would even say it’s a non-explanation: It’s what religiously-inclined people conclude when they can’t explain something. A miracle is what you call something that cannot be explained, even in theory, by natural means. It is, by definition, what you call something once you’ve exhausted not just all natural explanations, but all possible natural explanations.

I’m going to lay out for you a possible (through intentionally, ridiculously improbable) natural explanation for how Jesus could have come back to life after being dead.

Say that the legendary accounts in the Gospel narratives are correct insofar as Jesus existed, was executed, and placed in a tomb. Now let’s assume that 2,000 years ago, technologically-advanced intelligent aliens from another planet built a spaceship and decided to visit Earth. Let’s assume that these beings evolved on a “Class M” planet so much like ours that they were indistinguishable to ancient humans with the technology we had at the time – maybe a medical examiner could tell, but passing one on the street, we’d never know. Or maybe they looked different, but using their advanced technology, they were able to disguise themselves with make-up and protheses in order to pass off as Earthlings.

Let’s assume that when these aliens got here, after a trip lasting thousands of years on a generational vessel, they decided to land on the surface and study human anatomy by secretly abducting a recently-deceased person who probably wouldn’t be missed. Say they witnessed Jesus being placed in his tomb, and decided that’s the body they were going to “borrow.” So they subdued the guards by injecting them with a drug like midazolam (aka Versed) that causes retrograde amnesia, and stole the body. Once they got Jesus’s body back to their lab and ran their scans (gathering the information they wanted about human anatomy), they realized that, with their advanced medical technology, that could easily fix everything wrong with him that had resulted in his death & subsequent decay: regrow dead brain tissue using therapeutic stem cell organ cloning, regenerate dermal tissue, transfuse him with a synthesized blood analog, etc. Say they had a crisis of conscience and decided they should “thank” him for his “help” by bringing him back to life and returning him to where they found him. So after some pretty intensive surgery and a few days of recovery in their lab, the aliens again subdued the guards and returned Jesus to his tomb, now alive, albeit with holes in his wrists and feet from the execution, and he thereafter appeared to his followers.

Although this explanation is entirely ad hoc, nothing I said is, in theory, unnatural or theoretically impossible. By using a generational ship in my explanation, I never claimed that the aliens traveled faster than light. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek or any other science-fiction show, you know that virtually nothing is impossible with stage make-up:

Academy Award-winning make-up artist Barney Burman puts the finishing touches on an alien character for Star Trek

Current stem-cell research, though not quite to the point of therapeutic organ cloning, is getting closer every day, etc.

The point is, although this explanation of how Jesus came back from being dead is extremely far-fetched (and emphatically not what I believe happened historically), this insane conspiracy-theory tale is actually more likely to be historically true than what Christians claim – that Jesus came back from being dead without any technological help.

I have asked Christians on multiple occasions how they can believe such a claim – that Jesus came back from being dead, without technological aid. Most just don’t care and believe it because they’ve never questioned it. Of those who have, I generally get two types of answers:

1) It’s the only possible explanation for the evidence we have.

2) You just have to have faith.

Let’s take these one at a time. That Jesus is [a] god is clearly not the only possible explanation, seeing as I just came up with another possible explanation a few paragraphs ago. It’s not even the most probable explanation, despite the ad hoc reasoning I threw in for good measure. In fact, saying that it was a miracle is by definition a non-explanation. Answer #1 fails no matter how you slice it. (If you disagree, please leave me a comment below explaining why; I’d love to hear what you have to say).

As far as Answer #2 — you just have to have faith — I think Dan Barker puts it best:

“Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits.”

Faith is basically another way of saying, “I admit that I don’t have good-enough reasons to believe this. Normally, that would mean I don’t believe it, or at least not until I have better reasons. But in this case, I don’t care that I don’t have good reasons; I don’t care that the evidence is lacking. I want to believe, and if you’re impolite enough to call me out on the obvious mistake I’m making here, well, you are a poo-poo head.”

If faith is the best you’ve got, then ultimately all you are saying is that you believe Christianity is no more true than Islam or the ancient Greek religion, or any other religion, for that matter. You are saying that you admit the evidence and logical reasons are insufficient, but you care more about preserving your beliefs than you do about finding out what’s actually true.

While I personally think the evidence favors a simple legendary fabrication of the details – the same way ancient Greek mythology came about – I understand that Christians might seek a less-extraordinary claim than aliens. So, what’s an explanation for how we could have ended up with the Gospel narratives claiming that Jesus appeared to people after his death, and an explanation for his appearance that converted Paul? One that doesn’t involve miracles, and doesn’t involve something as far-fetches as aliens?

How about a simple case of mistaken identity? Remember, this was a time before DNA testing, before photographs or video, and a time before modern court procedure. None of the writers of the New Testament narratives were present during Jesus’s trial, sentencing, or execution, so at best we have hearsay as far as the historical evidence of what really happened there.

Even in modern times, we have hundreds of examples of “criminals” being tried, convicted, and sentenced, who were later (through DNA testing) shown to be innocent. In our court system, it’s relatively difficult to convict someone. This was intentional – in the past, more people were wrongly convicted, and any number of things can result in evidence being disallowed, people literally getting away with murder on a technicality, etc.

Despite this, The Innocence Project (“a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing”, according to their website) has helped release 281 people who were wrongfully-convinced in the last 30 years or so in the United States alone. Thirteen of these convicts had been sentenced to death at the time their DNA tests proved they had the wrong guy. DNA tests have also showed that the US court system has wrongfully executed at least 23 people. Even for the people who were lucky enough to be exonerated without being executed, the average prison time served — remember, these are innocent people, wrongfully convicted — is 13 years!

So, my question to Christians is, considering that even in modern times — with modern court rules of evidence, modern technology like video evidence, fingerprint dusting, a court system designed to favor the defense, etc — we’ve STILL managed to convict the wrong guy 281 times (that we know about), isn’t it possible that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead? Isn’t it  possible that Paul, who admits he never met Jesus in person, only thought he saw Jesus after his death, but was wrong? How would he even know, if he had never met him in person? Remember, Paul, who was writing beginning in 51 CE, is our earliest source of any kind that Jesus even existed at all. There is zero mention of Jesus’s existence at all, in the archaeological record or any documents uncovered to date, predating Paul’s writings.

Do you, Christians, still want to say that the only possible explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead? In order to say that, that would mean that you have managed to rule out, with 100% certainty, the possibility that Paul was mistaken. So my question to you is, recalling what I wrote at the opening of this article, since Jesus coming back alive is not the only possible explanation, how sure are you it’s the best one, and why?

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Dave

mail@davemuscato.com

(573) 424-0420 cell/text

Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.

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13 thoughts on “On the alleged resurrection of Jesus

  1. Dave, you completely screwed up by bringing Paul into your argument at the end of your post. It’s not a case of mistaken identity for Paul. It’s not as if someone Paul might have thought could be Jesus just showed up on the road to Damascus in the flesh to have some sort of conversation. Paul heard a voice asking him why was Paul persecuting him. Of course, this was right after a huge blinding light, and the only person who heard the voice was Paul. Paul was then left blind and had to be led by the hand into Damascus where he finally met Ananias who restored Paul’s sight (Acts 9).

    So, what motivation did Paul have for his conversion? Here was a Pharisee who was well respected, well educated, a citizen of Rome, and was doing quite well persecuting the early Church. I think it can be assumed that he had no reason to believe in Jesus’ resurrection before his conversion. I’m sure he thought that Jesus was just another nut job and his early followers were also nut jobs. More than that, he must have considered them a menace, blasphemers against the Jewish God and threats to the tenuous peace in Roman-ruled Palestine. So, how did he go from a man who so “approved” the stoning of Stephen to a man who believed in the resurrection and said that Christianity hung on that one doctrine? Of course, you may also believe that Paul never existed, not a true historical figure, much like you doubt the existence of a man from Nazareth named Jesus.

    • So basically you’re saying that for Paul, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity, but rather just that he had a psychotic break, heard voices in his head, hallucinated?

      The same questions apply. In order to say that this was Jesus-back-from-the-dead talking to him, you’d have to rule out all other more-likely explanations.

      I know you’re being sarcastic re: Paul’s existence, but I’m going to respond to that anyway: I’m not very skeptical about Paul’s existence, as a historical figure. We have extrabiblical references to him from his own lifetime, and excellent evidence that he existed: We have writings from Paul himself. In the case of Jesus, we have neither contemporary references from eyewitnesses, nor anything he wrote himself. For these and other reasons, I find the evidence in favor of Jesus’s existence inconclusive. The evidence is stronger for Paul’s existence, though.

      So, back to the question at hand: Why do you believe that Paul really heard from Jesus after his death (an extraordinarily unlikely explanation based on zero evidence other than his say-so), rather than the much-more likely explanation, that he was simply mistaken?

      I believe that Paul believed he really heard from Jesus, but come on. Should we really trust his mere say-so on such an extraordinary claim? I mean, do you believe every psychic medium who claims dead people are talking to them, too?

  2. Pingback: Ignorance, not stupidity « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

  3. Dave,

    Your conclusion isn’t surprising, but i wonder if you realise the several unjustified, and (IMO) quite dodgy assumptions you have made to get there?

    “I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the character of Jesus in the New Testament describes a real, single man who lived historically.”
    The majority of NT scholars and ancient historians think differently to you. Why is it that you criticise christians for ignoring evidence, and then you do exactly the same?

    “I think it’s likely that ….”
    Your musings here are based on less evidence than the beliefs your are criticising. Don’t you see how this makes your claims to be rationalist and sceptical look so hollow? And how do stand against your own words: “I admit that I don’t have good-enough reasons to believe this. Normally, that would mean I don’t believe it, or at least not until I have better reasons. But in this case, I don’t care that I don’t have good reasons; I don’t care that the evidence is lacking. I want to believe”

    “See my previous post here, where I review David Fitzgerald’s book “Nailed,” for my reasons for this.”
    Do you not know that Fitzgerald is not a recognised peer-reviewed scholar? That he ignores some facts contrary to his hypothesis? Read this review by a fellow atheist to see how bad this book is. Why is it that so many thoughtful atheists such as you criticise christians for believing the Bible then base your views on a books so demonstrably biased and unhistorical? Your view is a little like a young earth creationist standing against the scientific consensus.

    “A miracle is, by definition, the least likely explanation for something.”
    Maybe by your definition, but not by mine. You are sort of following David Hume’s logic here, but are you not aware that Hume’s logic has been shown to be at least highly contestible, and possibly totally refuted? For more on this, see John Earman: Hume’s Abject Failure.

    Further, many (most?) atheists believe that the universe came out of nothing, without a cause (that is when they don’t shrug their shoulders and avoid the logic of the Cosmological argument by saying “we just don’t know”). Either answer is (IMO) more difficult to respect and believe than the christian belief about the resurrection, yet I wonder why you haven’t trained your critical guns there?

    “I have asked Christians on multiple occasions how they can believe such a claim – that Jesus came back from being dead, without technological aid.”
    Well let this christian give a different answer.

    1. The best secular historians conclude Jesus did indeed exist and we can know a lot about his life.
    2. From the sections of the gospels that are accepted as genuine by most secular historians, we can construct a good case for Jesus claiming to be divine.
    3. From the Cosmological and Teleological arguments we can construct a compelling case for the existence of a creator and designer of the universe. (The objections to these two arguments are really very weak.)
    4. Like many in the first century who saw and heard him, I find the teachings and person of Jesus very attractive and inspirational. I trust him as a person.
    5. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Jesus could indeed have been divine.
    6. The majority of secular scholars believe the following statements are historically true: (i) Jesus was executed and buried in a tomb, (ii) the tomb was later empty, (iii) his followers had some experience of him alive after that (whether hallucination, imagination, vision, physical reality, or whatever), and (iv) belief in the resurrection was a major impetus to the growth of christianity, despite many of his followers suffering violent death because of their belief.
    7. While recognising that resurrection cannot occur in the natural course of events, it is quite possible that a creator God could raise Jesus from death, and there is no other hypothesis that is really believable – this is shown by the great number of desperate attempts to find one. It is therefore reasonable to believe that is indeed what happened.
    8. Yes, you are right, resurrection does not prove Jesus was divine. That is a conclusion one draws from his life and character. But it is a good confirming pointer to it.

    “Looking forward to your thoughts.”
    Well now you have them! : ) Thanks for the opportunity. May I suggest you think again about the things you have written here?

    Best wishes.

  4. While some of your points might be justified, some of them are either mistaken or are making extrapolations based on further unjustified ideas, such as the reliability of the cosmological or teleological arguments, both of which are only successful when speaking to someone who only has mild doubts about the supernatural claims involved, such as my brother saying he has no issue believing in Jesus and the resurrection, but some problems involving the age of the earth, since he thinks the bible says it is 6000 years old, when even I, a fairly outspoken atheist and student of religious studies, could tell him that nowhere in the bible does it explicitly give an age for the earth and that there are more theologians who agree with science, that the earth is billions of years old, than those who try to weasel out of it by saying God just made the earth look older than it is, or even more ridiculous, that Satan did it.

    I imagine you could conceivably agree with me on that claim about the Bible in relation to claims about the age of the earth, but you clearly already have rooted presuppositions about the divine and its supposed revelation to humanity that you’ll try to find any support you can for its truth, even from those who don’t believe in most of the claims you make, excepting those that conveniently agree with your own.

    Atheists do not believe the universe came from nothing. The big bang theory does not suggest that everything came from nothing, but that the something everything came from was a singularity, something like energy and matter, but condensed into a very small area.l I’m not a cosmologist or physicist, and my areas of interest are not really in that area, but I can almost guarantee you that the notion of nothing in physics is a bit more complex than simply negation. Technically, the desk your computer lays on is not very substantial in terms of technical physics, since the majority of the volume of an atom is empty space, the actual substance existing in the neutron at the center. It’s the fact that there are billions upon billions of atoms clumped together and not moving that gives the appearance of solidity for any object we use on a daily basis, including chairs we sit on. The nothing physics refers to for cosmology in terms of the quantum singularity is that we don’t know the exact laws that organize the singularity, since we can’t really observe one in stasis. This is not to say that physicist think that the singularity was nothing at all, but that its nature is still somewhat unknown to us at this time.

    I would rather claim that I am not absolutely certain about the nature of the universe’s beginning than saying I am absolutely certain about something of which you know nothing about through reason that cannot be regarded as fallacious and ludicrous and anything you claim to know about you know through supposed revelation and faith in its existence. Honestly, as a Buddhist, the primacy of whether the universe was created by something like a “god” or whether it came out of nothing by quantum fluctuations or something in the middle does not concern me so much as the metaphysics we can observe now. Conditioned existence, for example. Everything is, granting those exceptions on a quantum level, dependent on something else for its existence. Positing your creator God is just a way to avoid the issues that exist with the cosmological argument by making special pleas for the nature of your god that override those critiques. And seeing supposed design in the universe is the same sort of reprehensible thoughts that make humans think they can treat animals like machines that don’t really feel any pain, but only react as such. You are not special because you were created, you are special because you are genetically, psychologically and otherwise unique as an individual generated by natural processes, including biological evolution.

  5. G’day Jared, we meet again. I’m unclear what your comments are aimed at, but I’ll reply as best I can.

    “further unjustified ideas, such as the reliability of the cosmological or teleological arguments, both of which are only successful when speaking to someone who only has mild doubts about the supernatural claims involved”
    If you check the formulations of the two arguments in the references I gave, you’ll see that they proceed to a formal conclusion without any mention of the supernatural. Why don’t you have a look and tell where those formulations are in error?

    “I imagine you could conceivably agree with me on that claim about the Bible in relation to claims about the age of the earth”
    The Bible says nothing I am aware of about the age of the earth, and I accept what the scientists have found on that.

    “Atheists do not believe the universe came from nothing. The big bang theory does not suggest that everything came from nothing, but that the something everything came from was a singularity, something like energy and matter, but condensed into a very small area.”
    The question remains, what caused the singularity? Wherever the beginning of the universe (i.e. everything material) was, what caused it? I suggest you look at the arguments I referenced, plus you might want to read what this physicist (not a theist) says about creation from nothing.

    “I would rather claim that I am not absolutely certain about the nature of the universe’s beginning than saying I am absolutely certain about something of which you know nothing about through reason”
    I agree. But I never claimed to be ‘absolutely certain – read the references – but for the conclusion to be more likely than any other conclusion.

    “Positing your creator God is just a way to avoid the issues that exist with the cosmological argument”
    On the contrary, the idea of God was on the table long before I had ever heard of the Cosmological argument. I am just seeking to answer the question that idea has raised. Have a look at the justification I gave to the topic of this post – belief in the resurrection.

    I fear we are not on the same wavelength here jared, but I hope I have at least clarified a few of your misconceptions about that I was saying. Best wishes.

  6. Even if the cosmological and teleological arguments have validity in the most basic claims, this doesn’t technically apply to every aspect of the universe, especially with design, since that is a human construct by nature. Something appearing to be designed doesn’t mean that it was. Form precedes function, to use evolutionary terms. Unlike Lamarckian evolution, Darwinian evolution says that we already have established structure, but slow adjustments over time can adapt to particular functions that they are amenable to.

    Cosmology admits that everything, virtually anyway, since there is the involvement of quantum fluctuation, has a cause. The problem with the theological cosmological argument is that it eventually regresses to a violation of the principle it established. It posits something that needs no cause and just accepts it on faith, since the argument is meant to bolster faith

    You ignored what I explained, from what little I know, about the concept of nothing in physics. It is not necessarily understood as negation, but simply a present absence of mass, but not matter and energy itself necessarily. I contemplated your question and we have answers to it, but the one I thought made the most sense so far is that of a combination of the equalization of the universe’s energy and the principle of universal gravitation. Basically, the universe slowly collapses on itself, instead of all at once as described in Big Crunch theory and eventually coalesces into the singularity. In short, nature itself is the cause of the singularity because it naturally follows from laws that the singularity comes to be over an extended period of time.

    The idea of God is unnecessary and you’re trying to find some justification for it to insert it into an area it has no real relevance or weight, since it’s unfalsifiable and otherwise based on faith instead of trust in principles for which we have evidence for their efficacy.

    The likelihood of your particular Christian God being the cause of the universe is a stretch, considering there are plenty of other gods in mythological history described that make the statistical probability fairly low for one particular God with enumerated features that you could present from your scriptures or even supposed natural theology.

    Belief in resurrection doesn’t technically require belief in a God. The only reason you bring it up is because you trust Jesus’ alleged words as written by his disciples and then say that he must be telling the truth in some sense that he was connected to God. But that might not be the case at all, as the OP already brought up in the article. You’re trying to structure an argument that fits your preconception that Jesus was right in what he claimed instead of looking at the evidence without following rabbit trails that go nowhere in terms of whether Jesus was God incarnate, God’s adopted son, God’s prophet, etc.

    We’ve rarely been on the same wavelength, because you already have much more deeply rooted presuppositions in this argument than I do.

  7. Hi Jared, how are you going?

    “We’ve rarely been on the same wavelength, because you already have much more deeply rooted presuppositions in this argument than I do.”
    Yeah, probably true, because I’m probably older than you. But they are conclusions I’ve drawn from a lifetime of thinking about these things, and I bring all that to my answers.

    “The problem with the theological cosmological argument is that it eventually regresses to a violation of the principle it established.”
    Did you check out the references I gave you? if so, you’d see that this isn’t true. In the Kalam version, the proposition is “Everything that begins has a cause”, so an eternal God doesn’t violate that. And the Leibniz argument is based on explanation, but God is defined as a necessary being and a necessary being contains its own explanation. So again, no violation. Thus one counter argument is to attempt to show that at the universe too is eternal or necessary, but this is at least doubtful and at most clearly wrong.

    “The idea of God is unnecessary and you’re trying to find some justification for it to insert it into an area it has no real relevance or weight”
    If you think God (if he exists) is irrelevant then we are indeed on different wavelengths! But there is plenty of reasons for believing he is there and very relevant.

    “The likelihood of your particular Christian God being the cause of the universe is a stretch, considering there are plenty of other gods in mythological history described that make the statistical probability fairly low for one particular God”
    Here’s an interesting test for you – how many Gods can you name that, as defined by the beliefs about them, meet the requirements of the cosmological and teleological arguments (let alone all the other arguments)? I’d be interested to see your list.

    “Belief in resurrection doesn’t technically require belief in a God. The only reason you bring it up is ….”
    But I didn’t bring it up, Dave did, and I commented. I made 5 comments – what do you think about them? (I’d be interested in Dave’s comments too.)

    Best wishes.

  8. Your supposed thinking is a bit more biased than even a normal person’s is. This is a religious issue intertwined with a philosophical one, which can harshly affect one’s capacity to use proper logic and reasoned out arguments. If this was anything else, you wouldn’t have as much likelihood to be irrational, although politics shows otherwise with policy issues, though even those can be intertwined with religious fervor.

    The problem is, even if we can’t demonstrate the universe’s eternal existence, it still doesn’t give credence to positing an unfalsifiable entity with necessary existence built into it in order to prove it’s existence. This is relying on ontological structuring of the entity in question so that it cannot be explained away with natural causes or effects. The problem remains, why should we believe in such a thing if we only believe in it to fill in the gaps of knowledge we don’t have at present? If you phrase the argument in such a way that you can just create an exception to the principle and use it to solve the issue of infinite regress, then you’ve already become philosophically disingenuous in trying to make the argument fit your conclusion by structuring it in such a way that a layperson doesn’t see the underhanded tactics you’re using. We don’t disagree that everything that begins has a cause by necessity, but in what sensible universe is there something that just exists by necessity?

    Bring up some of these reasons and see if I actually take them seriously. We don’t need God to explain our morals, our existence, or even to help us get over death or injustice in the world. If those are even some of your arguments, then I think you’ve dug yourself into a deeper hole with these unfalsifiable and faith based presuppositions.

    Besides Ho Theos in Christianity, we have YHWH in Judaism, Allah in Islam, Vahiguru in Sikhism, Brahma in Hinduism, the Horned God/Triple Goddess in Wicca, Baha in Baha’i and Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism for just a few examples, such as the Deist God for example. And this is just for the cosmological argument, which is conceivably the only even remotely valid argument for anything like a “God” ‘s existence, though I recall Kant harshly criticized it because it basically depended on the conception of God as the most excellent and absolutely necessary being that was at the heart of the ontological argument which he even more vehemently opposed. And the teleological argument is applying a more recent concept of telos and design that is based on a human need to feel that the universe is oriented towards them in some sense towards created and organic beings. But this is a category mistake. We don’t strictly use the term design to speak about beings that, scientifically speaking, evolved. We use it in terms of architecture and other inorganic and synthetic constructs, such as a house. We don’t deny that those are designed, because there is no conceivable natural way they could’ve come about even through sheer probability

    I think Dave is using more reason than you in that he doesn’t already have the preconception and prejudgment in his mind that God is more likely to be true than false.

  9. G’day Jared, I think we are exhausting the possibilities of useful discussion, don’t you think?

    “Your supposed thinking is a bit more biased than even a normal person’s is.”
    I suppose after that comment I will just have to content myself with think I am not “normal”! : ) I think what you mean is you don’t agree with me! (Have you not thought that I might think the same about you?)

    “The problem is, even if we can’t demonstrate the universe’s eternal existence, it still doesn’t give credence to positing an unfalsifiable entity with necessary existence built into it in order to prove it’s existence.”
    I humbly suggest it is you who are trying to fit the facts to your wishes. All the arguments I quoted show is that the hypothesis of an external cause and external designer are more plausible that any other hypothesis. if you disagree, the idea of a formal argument is that you say clearly which premise you disagree with and what is your evidence. I don’t think that’s an easy task, but I’m happy for you to try to do that.

    “in what sensible universe is there something that just exists by necessity?”/i>
    The point is that the necessary exists outside the universe!

    “Bring up some of these reasons and see if I actually take them seriously.”
    That may possibly be a matter more of your assumptions and psychology than the arguments. I think we can see what your answer will be, so I don’t think so.

    ” We don’t need God to explain our morals, our existence, or even to help us get over death or injustice in the world.”
    It’s not a matter of need necessarily, but of logic. Which explanation best fits the facts, or, better still, which premises best fit the facts and what conclusion do they lead to?

    “Besides Ho Theos in Christianity, we have YHWH in Judaism, Allah in Islam, Vahiguru in Sikhism, Brahma in Hinduism, the Horned God/Triple Goddess in Wicca, Baha in Baha’i and Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism for just a few examples, such as the Deist God for example.”
    That’s nine, a few less than you inferred before (” the statistical probability fairly low”, and a few of them don’t even meet the limited criteria of the Cosmo argument. And a few others are so similar that we might well conclude that they are the same being described slightly differently (and hence not totally accurately). That’s not many for other evidence to distinguish between, and it’s easily done. I don’t expect you would agree with the conclusions any more than you are agreeing here, but the evidence and arguments are there that lead to only one conclusion, and I find them convincing.

    It is may be time to pull the plug on this discussion, do you agree? My comments were aimed at drawing Dave’s attention to facts that he had ignored, not to set up a wide-ranging and ultimately futile discussion on opinions. He hasn’t so far seen fit to comment, and you have already said that you are not concerned about historical fact, and in this discussion you haven’t so far engaged much with the questions I raised. So let’s call it a day shall we? I may keep commenting on Dave’s posts, we’ll see.

    Best wishes, and thanks for the discussion.

  10. I can disagree with you, but your disagreement falls to the point of not even admitting I could be remotely correct. If we met in the middle at a Deist deity that has no interest in humanity, somehow I think you’d find that more objectionable than I do as an apatheist.

    I don’t have wishes one way or the other, which you’ve tried to put on me. If the universe is created, what created it doesn’t deserve worship automatically even if we could remotely prove it existed and if the universe is somehow shown to be eternal, it doesn’t make me appreciate it less.

    The necessary cannot exist outside the universe or it doesn’t exist except as an abstract concept like numbers. If it necessarily exists, it exists in a concept based through the universe. When you put it outside the universe, it might as well not exist even if it happens to exist in some hyper universe

    How does your God’s existence as a premise lead to the conclusion that morals are compelling upon us more reasonable than arguing from virtue ethics or a principle of reciprocity, amongst other secular ethics?

    The number of gods that have capacity for creation and necessary existence is probably larger than either of us could compile if we start including more obscure pagan deities that are said to have existed from the beginning. And the point I was trying to make is that you cannot objectively or reasonably start to try to prove that one particular God is the one that revealed something to you any more than another God without arguing that your God is different from them. If we try to put the Jewish and Christian God together, we have the issue of what supposedly orthodox Christians believe that conflicts with Jewish theology, Trinitarianism. We don’t technically need more than a handful to bring the validity of your supposedly unique God into question because there are believers in these gods that would bring up their experience with it as evidence as much as you would with yours

    You forget that Ahura Mazda is considered coequal in a sense to Angra Mainyu the reflection of evil and the Horned God/Triple Goddess are considered two halves of the same whole in some Wiccan theology, and let’s not forget Brahma as considered pantheistic in some formulations, so there’s plenty of differences, but enough similarities that your God is just one on a list.

    Dave’s clearly more busy than I, so that would reasonably explain why he’s not responding at the moment, am I wrong?

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