A preacher friend of mine posted the above link on facebook along with a short rant about what he didn't like about it. Of course, several Christian friends of his chimed in about how bad the article was, how inaccurate it was, how stupid the author was, etc.
I read the full article and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it matches much of what I have read in studying the origins of the Bible and its contradictions.
So here's my question: I believe that the Christians who hated the article simply do not see it the same way that I do. We may read the same sentence and what I see is completely different than what they see. So I need to question myself to see if I am doing the same thing, by looking at it from the atheist perspective and seeing where I agree with the statements.
Am I not reading it impartially? Am I reading too many books about the history of the Bible that only support my own inclinations? Are the Christians simply closing their minds to anything that threatens their beliefs?
Read the article and respond with your thoughts.
Bringing @Dr Bob's reply to the top level:
The real question for me is why you feel there is a dichotomy, and why those particular horns of the dilemma. The problem isn't your choice between those two things; I suspect if forced to I'd make the same choice. The problem is the weird notion that you think there are only two choices and they have to be exclusive.
Do things not exist if people create ideas about them and write them in a book?
If there are outliers, exceptional, or not-yet-explained things does it mean that you should just accept (or dismiss) them?
Why can't exceptional things be of interest, to explore and think about? Why wouldn't people talk about and ponder and write about exceptional things in many books?
The universe is full of exceptional and unexplained things, and we write about them all the time. This week's news is that the radioastronomy team in Melbourne caught an extragalactic Fast Radio Burst in a real-time observation. Oddly, the FRB was strongly polarized, and the state of the science is that we really have no clue. Next week it will be something else, and the week after that something else.
We live in a universe of wonders. Where would the fun be, or the learning and growth, if we simply rejected unusual things because we couldn't explain them / they didn't fit into our preconceived notions?
Fair enough, those two options themselves were overly simplistic but there is not a false dichotomy about whether or not the resurrection actually occurred. Events either occur or they do not. The answer to that question is a dichotomy.
You're right, @Bob, there are wonders in the world and unexplained phenomena and all sorts of things. We should have a healthy skepticism towards these and make investigations, etc.
We also have to acknowledge that there exist in the world stories that are fabrications. There are tales that simply do not correspond to anything that happened in reality even though the story claims that this is the case.
It is worth investigating, exploring, thinking about things that are unexplained but have nevertheless been observed. The problem we have with the resurrection is that is only documented in a single volume which is known to be unreliable and it is such an outlandish story that we need more than that to prompt a serious investigation.
Now, if we started hearing stories of people coming back to life from time to time today I would be the first to be on the side of investigation into these phenomena and not to simply dismiss them. But we never hear of this. No-one ever comes back to life. There has never been any reason to think that someone who has died would be able to come back to life. Therefore the pragmatist in me thinks the healthy investigation should be into unexplained things more likely to have actually happened.
You can't tell me, @Bob, that you do not reject anything that you hear. I'm sure every day you evaluate and reject pieces of information that are most likely to be false. However, you make a special case for the resurrection because you are Catholic. I do not. There are no special cases.
People use the phrase "Is nothing sacred?" in a negative context. However, I view this as a positive. No, nothing is sacred. Everything should be held up to the same level of critique, both religious and non-religious. Silly ideas are not the dominion of religions - there are plenty in the secular world too.
Certainly our understandings of God and the universe should always be held tentatively. We are just small humans in a much bigger world, and all of our understandings about everything are probably wrong in the end. In that way, no human idea is ever sacred, and holding human ideas as sacred is a form of premeditated ignorance (or idolatry).
At the same time, there are things that we hold with greater or lesser conviction, at least as working understandings. As an example, physicists until the last century held the invariance of time to be a given, and from that assumption built up an enormous edifice of understanding of the universe.
If you "believe" in physics, then absent fairly definitive evidence to the contrary, you are right to continue to view time as invariant and the universe as Newtonian. Without Michelson-Morley and the follow-on work, there is no basis for rejecting Newtonian ideas. It requires reasonably definitive proof to reject long-standing and successful ideas, and rightly so.