Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter
markgritter

I shouldn't get upset by linkbait

Look, I respect skepticism. Thomas the Doubter is a saint not just in spite of his doubt.

But Salon has been having a lot of low-quality articles lately such as "5 good reasons to think that Jesus never existed" and it's beginning to bug me.

I feel like there's a cyclic behavior here in which each generation which feels oppressed by the organized Christianity of its day comes up with lots of reasons (good and bad) why Christianity is probably false. Christianity has done bad things, therefore its roots are probably made up. (If they were not, how could Christianity be responsible for those bad things?)

Some of this leads to useful philosophy (Spinoza!) and historical criticism. Most just gets ignored and the next generation comes up with a different set of reasons. Questioning the foundations of Christianity convinces few Christians to mend their ways. And it's not like we're lacking in a reasonable intellectual foundation for atheism and agnosticism.

This article is particularly bad. The five reasons are:

"1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef": Not an argument against his nonexistence. Same can be said for Socrates, if you ignore all the writing influenced by Socrates. (Yes, I realize this point has been debated to death.)

"2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized [sic] in later texts." An argument for mythologization but not absence. Arguing that Paul didn't know very much about Jesus' life does not imply he placed him in the distant past.

"3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts." "4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other." Certainly the Gospels were written to support already-existing Christianity, not spark its existence. They are not biographies and were not meant to be. If you accept them as texts meant to convey a point, it seems reasonable the authors (and the Holy Spirit, if one is a Christian) have organized events in a thematic manner. Does that imply there were not actual people who did the events portrayed?

"5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons." Of all the "good reasons", this is by far the worst. Attempts to find the historical Jesus often start by simply discarding everything that makes Jesus distinctive (his claims, words, and miracles) so it is not surprising what is left is a nonentity.
Tags: rant, religion
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