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The Christian Delusion 11: Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable

01/11/2011

Carrier may be my favorite author in this collection. He’s focused, he’s good at being persuasive, and he sums up his arguments well. He writes in a straightforward and understandable manner.

The case is re-using the outsider test for faith and applying it to the miracles of Christianity. He shows that if we are to accept the testimony of Paul and the Gospels, we would have to lower our threshold for evidence much lower than we have it now, accepting testimony from sources that we now know are not reliable. This is another chapter well worth reading again. The book is improving as the chapters go by.

Kindle Notes:

When the Gospel of Peter (yes, Peter) says a Roman centurion, a squad of his soldiers, and a gathering of Jewish elders all saw a gigantic cross hopping along behind Jesus as he exited his tomb, and then saw Jesus grow thousands of feet tall before their very eyes, there isn’t a Christian alive who believes this. And yet that was among the most popular Gospels in the Christian churches of the second century, purportedly written by someone who was alive at the time. So why don’t Christians believe Peter’s Gospel anymore (3770)?

None of the other Gospels report anything like this. Nor in fact does any other historian or writer of that place or period. Somehow all the educated men, all the scholars and rabbis of Jerusalem, failed to notice any rock-splitting earthquake, or any hoard of walking dead wandering the city, or any of the numerous empty tombs they left behind (3777).

And yet when it comes to Jesus, we don’t get to interview any witnesses like this. We just get to hear what some unknown guy decades later said someone else saw, with no idea how he even knows that, or who told him (or why we should believe them) (3806).

there are really only two kinds of evidence that Jesus rose from the grave, and neither provides enough evidence to believe it. These are early Christian writings and the fact that Christianity began with a belief that Jesus rose from the dead (3825).

But the fact that so many forgeries got into the Bible already confirms how little we can trust anything in the NTs Just their presence there, indeed their very creation, proves a pervasive dishonesty among early Christians, as well as the gullibility of their peers (3863).

But what do the Epistles even say? As far as evidence Jesus actually rose from the dead, almost nothing. As Paul says: I make known to you, brethren, that the Gospel I preached is not according to [any] man. For neither did I receive it from [any] man, nor was I taught it, except through a revelation of Jesus Christ….(3874).

Paul never mentions having any other evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. He never mentions anyone finding an empty tomb, for example, or the testimony of a Doubting Thomas, or anything else. He learned it from scripture and revelation, and that’s it (e.g., Romans 16:2 5-2 7). Paul was thus convinced by evidence we would never accept from a cult leader in any other religion. So his evidence does not pass the OTE (3888).

There are really only two facts that need explaining: why the first Christians claimed to see Jesus “risen from the dead,” and what happened to the body. To take the second first, we don’t really know whether the body went missing, or even that the first Christians believed it did. The Epistles never mention a missing body. In Acts no one ever investigates his grave or says it was empty. And the Gospels freely invent stories, so their stories about a missing body could be invented, too (3937).

We know masses of people hallucinating together can believe they saw the same thing, and such hallucinations can be stirred by ecstatic trance-inducing behaviors, especially in religious cults populated by regular hallucinators and trancers (3953).

But if Christianity originated as a natural movement inspired by ordinary hallucinations (real or pretended), then we would expect it to arise in only one small group, in one small place, at just one time, and especially where, as in antiquity, regular hallucinators were often respected as holy and their hallucinations believed to be divine communications. And that’s exactly when and where it began (3998).

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