As an Atheist and a former Christian, I am frequently confronted by Christians claiming that Jesus was real and I should believe in him again. These Christians fail to realize that I do believe Jesus existed. I believe he may have been crucified. I do not believe he rose from the dead. If Jesus existed then there are a few possibilities. He was either, the actual son of God, a con artist, a mentally deranged man, or a normal man that had embellished stories written about him after his death. We can examine evidence to determine which of these is most likely.
For those who are not sure he existed, there are several people that have written about the existence of Jesus outside of the Bible. Cornelius Tacitus in 55 AD wrote that Christ suffered at the hands of Pontius Pilate. This is an example of a non biblical writer recording the existence of Jesus. There are several others. These writings make a strong argument for the existence of Jesus. But did Jesus have powers?
In the past few decades several people have claimed to be God or a messenger from God. But in today's society these people are seen as con artist or delusional. There are a few who fall under the spell of deception and believe these people really have some magical powers or believe they are God, but the rest of us are not fooled. We know these people are not special and have no magical powers.
We see their followers in highly emotional states claiming their new friend is the messiah, and we know they have been deceived or brainwashed. David Koresh made claims like this and had many people believing his deceit. Now he is dead, but there are still people who believe he was God. Yes, there are a few Branch Davidians still around. If his followers pass these beliefs onto their children and friends, in the future they may become just as numerous as the followers or other religions. Why is this any different than Mohamed, Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, or Jesus?
We can clearly see that people that make these ludicrous claims today are not magical. Why is it any different when the story is passed down for thousands of years? Does the passage of time make the story more valid? Not one shred of evidence was left by any of Jesus' alleged miracles. Due to the lack of evidence and the sheer ridiculous nature of the stories I do not believe Jesus had any magical powers and was not the son of any God. So was Jesus a con artist?
At the time of Jesus' life, knowledge about the world was only a fraction of what it is today. This advance is not just in science. People now question things that sound either too good to be true or not realistic. This type of questioning mind is far more advanced than primitive man. We know today that if a man is seen walking on water it is just a trick. If we see someone claiming to bend spoons with there mind, they are simple using slight of hand. No magical powers are needed to perform these deceptions.
I am not claiming everyone today is a skeptic. Unfortunately we still have people today who believe in ESP, psychics, ghost, UFOs, Bigfoot, Unicorns, Dragons, and faith healers. These are the same people that would most likely believe someone claiming to be a messiah.
Would it have been easier to fool people in the first century? Imagine, if Houdini had time traveled back to the first century and performed his illusions for hundreds of people and also claimed to be the son of God. Then today we would likely have millions of Houdini churches, with all the followers worshiping the magician.