Hello Fellow Atheists: So here's a question. It's been bothering me for some time now and I just want to get your perspectives. When I first became a believer I was handed the book "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. I read it and at the time it made sense to me. I didn't question it much at the time. Now that I am an Atheist I'm curious what others think about it. There are only three options given in this book. Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the true son of God. Of course I know some of you believe that he never existed at all, (I do not). So I want to explore this further.
Which is it?
Is it none of the above?
Why? (back yourself up with evidence)...
I hope this discussion can be educational in nature for those of us who are still learning. Thanks!
Your best post to date, Nelson!
Can I just ask you why you believe he really existed?
I think he would not say that Jesus was anything unless he had no doubt that the Gospels are true records of things that actually happened -- and yet he has plenty of doubt.
Why did Jesus (either a real person or a imagined character), and not someone else, rise to proeminence? The answer may well be "for casual factors at casually appropriate moments". Do you know about chaos theory? Have you heard about the butterfly effect? That's a way to explain lots of things, including "why did it rain today" or "why did Katrina strike". Consider James Gleick's book about Chaos Theory.
This "why him" discussion may be quite absurd. To see how, consider: why did John Frumm (and not Frank Miles, or Benny Mack, or anyone else) become a deity?
Because the story of his life, Belle, was written with those prophecies in mind, not that he fulfilled them, but that his biographers did in the telling of his story.
For example, the temple sheep, that were born and raised for the sole purpose of sacrifice, were raised in a special room in a stone tower, called a Migdala, by temple priests in Bethlehem, and since Yeshua was intended by god to be a sacrifice to himself (try and figure THAT one out!) it was important that, like the sacrificial sheep, who were wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger for the first few hours of their lives to make sure they didn't injure themselves before they gained enough strength to walk well, so it was prophesied that the Jewish messiah would be born there. There is no record, and the Romans were excellent record keepers, of a Roman census that required Jewish men to go to the city of their birth to be counted, but since it was important for Yeshua to be born in Bethlehem, his biographers made up the story about the census, so there would be a reason why he would be born there, then return to Nazareth.
"Most scholars would agree. His existence is pretty solid."
Really - I wasnt aware of that.
Which scholars would those be, Belle?
@Belle:The butterfly effect ties in with the question you posed: "Why do you believe he of all people has become a deity as opposed to merely a man who taught?" Clearing that up a bit before proceding: since you are an atheist you must mean "he of all people has become perceived as a deity".
Anyway, chaos theory says that there are some systems (chaotic systems) in which no change in parameters is too small not to influence the outcome in a great manner.. Small things have great effects. So, if human nature is chaotic (mathematically speaking it most certainly is) then there's no point in asking why X (rather than Y) was believed to be a deity. It just was. The flap of a butterfly wing may be as important to explain as anything else.
Life is chaotic. Try to answer "Why did Arnold Schwarznegger become Governor of California". It may be even more pointless if we are talking about a character in fiction "Why did Frodo and not any other hobbit get picked to carry the ring?"
So, Belle, the Butterfly effect ties in with any question similar to the one you posed initially, "Why do you believe he of all people has become (perceived as) a deity as opposed to merely a man who taught?" The answer is "Butterfly effect".
"Why did Katrina strike South Florida (of all places) on August 25, 2005 (of all dates)?" The answer is, likewise, "Butterfly effect".
Belle, multi-faceted dynamics working at the same time is exactly what Chaos Theory talks about. That is exactly how one would describe the climate system, human history and, some would even say, human thought itself. The fact that trends emerge and run through months, years, centuries or millenia doesn't change their chaotic nature.
There are many, many different world views that have Jesus at or near the center, and just as many that don't -- all these world views are, themselves, part of the multi-faceted dynamics you talk about.
Here's another "interesting perspective" for you, Belle - what do you think of the "Fishers of Men" story in Mark? Rather dramatic, wouldn't you say? Yeshua says, "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men --" and Peter, and his brother, Andrew from one boat, and the brothers, John and James, from another, both sons of Zebedee, the fisherman, illiterate fishermen all, drop their nets and go off, following this stranger, while poor old Zebedee, now finding himself shorthanded, was stuck with running down to the Home Depot parking lot, in hope of finding a couple of day laborers who knew anything about fishing.
Makes a good story, doesn't it? Dramatic reading. And Matthew, Mark and Luke all swear it happened, although none of the three are listed as being there at the time.
But the Gospel of John is attributed to John, the actual son of Zebedee, and if anyone should know, it should certainly be he, wouldn't you think? Read John - he says he and his brother James were followers of John the Baptist, and that he saw Yeshua walking on the other side of the Jordan River one day, and waded across to chat with him. Yesuha suggested John go with him to the home of a friend and spend the night. John did, and the next morning, they returned to the Jordan, where John picked up his brother James and they became followers of Yeshuah.
Both stories, involving the same person, can not have happened, so which did? And if one part of the NT is not true, what's to keep another part from being equally false, where does it end, and how can you tell? Sometimes it IS better to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially if it's been in there too long - who needs a wrinkled kid?
What the bible does document very well are the stories told by the cult of Jesus. Although plenty of different stories developed, everyone seemed to agree on the twelve apostles. Now perhaps 11 guys got together and made the whole thing up, inventing a twelfth apostle who killed himself for betraying the central figure of their story. Those eleven guys not only invented Jesus, but did so without writing anything down because they weren't actually trying to start a church - uhm, that sounds a lot more complicated than just thinking there was a Jesus character in the mix somewhere.