Did Jesus Really Exist?

I’m not shy about being an atheist anymore.  At one point in my life, when I was much younger, just hearing someone say out loud that they didn’t believe in god made my stomach feel weird.  It was just this sensation of, “Stop!  How can you possibly say that?”  It was very uncomfortable.

Nowadays, not so much.  I’m an open atheist.  I don’t see any good evidence that there is a god and arguments for the existence of a god seem to be logically invalid to me.  So, I don’t believe.  But that being said, I’m not in anyone’s face about it.  I don’t go around shouting it from the rooftops and I’m not about to go out of my way to make people feel like shit for believing.  When I say I’m an open atheist, I simply mean that, should the topic of religion or who believes what comes up, I’m not ashamed or afraid to say “I’m an atheist” out loud.

Though I don’t believe in god, up until about 6 months ago I was pretty sure that Jesus had at least existed.  Sure, I may not have believed he performed miracles, rose from the dead or ascended bodily to heaven, but I figured there probably was a religious teacher named Jesus who the Biblical stories were based on.  But lately I’ve read a lot and heard from several educated people who have convinced me that it probably isn’t true.

For one thing, I’ve learned that the Bible, particularly the Gospels, were not written by eyewitnesses.  Mark, the first Gospel, was written decades after Jesus was said to have lived.  Furthermore, there are so many contradictions in the Gospels and throughout the Bible that it’s tough to know what the hell happened, if anything at all, during the events being written about.

But forget the Gospels.  There is not a single reference to Jesus at all while he was alive!  No contemporary historian, statesman, or even scribe seems to have heard of him.  That is pretty damning when you consider how influential Jesus is said to have been.  Again, this is a guy whose birth and death brought on long periods of darkness and earthquakes through the land.  He turned water into wine.  He walked on water.  He rose the dead.  He himself rose from the dead!  He ascended bodily to heaven and caused Christianity to spread like wildfire throughout the lands.  And no one seems to have noticed?  No corroborating record of earthquakes or eclipses?  No historians or scribes had anything to say?  No one even wrote a letter to their friend about him?  This is guy who, one could argue, is the most important person in history.  So why didn’t anyone write anything about him in the midst of his life?

I’ve heard it argued that historical records weren’t as well-kept in those days.  But that’s not true.  Consider the case of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, for instance.  Caesar lived prior to Jesus, but not only do we have his own writings, but a variety of contemporary sources of his life and travels.  Why nothing for Jesus?

I’ve also had people tell me that the people of the time and place were illiterate, so it is expected that there would be no mention of Jesus.  But that’s not true either.  Seneca the Younger and Nicolaus of Demascus lived and traveled in areas which intersected that of Jesus.  But they apparently never heard of him since they never saw fit to mention him.  And what about Philo of Alexandria?  Not only a statesman and scholar, but he wrote a great deal about religious movements and literally was in the same places as Jesus while he is said to have lived.  His family was close to the royalty of Judea.  There’s no way he wouldn’t have at least heard of Jesus!  But he mentions nothing.  He writes nothing.  This doesn’t make any sense!  Unless, of course, maybe there was no Jesus to notice…

But Paul!  What about Paul?  He was basically responsible for the spreading of Christianity, people say.  He knew Jesus, right?  Nope.  Never met him.  Paul had what would now be called “a vision” in the desert long after Jesus would have been crucified.  It’s true he helped spread Christianity, but certainly not true he met Jesus in person.  His reports of his “vision” are what many people nowadays refer to as a story about a “batshit crazy person.”  I don’t know if he was insane or not.  But the historical record is clear:  he didn’t know Jesus.  And half of his known letters, also known as “epistles,” are known forgeries.  Even the epistles historians do recognize as legitimately Paul’s have been tampered with and edited over the years.  Not exactly a strong case to build your faith around.

It has taken me some time, but I’m now prepared to say that I no longer believe Jesus really existed.  I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway.  I’m not a Christian and I don’t think Jesus was magic.  But if I’m going to proportion my beliefs to the evidence, I don’t believe in god and I don’t believe in Jesus for the same reason.  The evidence is just not there.

NOTES:

I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post that I had been learning a lot about this topic from a few different people.  Well, I’ve been lucky enough to talk to those people on Strange Frequencies Radio.  Their names are Richard Carrier, Robert M. Price and David Fitzgerald.  Please check out their websites, or feel free to listen to the interviews we did with them at the links below.

Thanks!

Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. Robert M. Price on Strange Frequencies Radio

David Fitzgerald on Strange Frequencies Radio

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Kirk Cameron’s Dark Age Thinking

The following article appeared in my “Soupernatural” column in Issue #10 of The Bent Spoon Magazine.  For other interesting topics in the world of the weird, download  any issue COMPLETELY FREE by visiting http://www.thebentspoonmag.com

Homophobia has been in the news a lot lately.  Republican presidential contenders such as Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have each taken stances against homosexuality and gay marriage that have bothered many.  And basketball star Jeremy Lin wears a wristband manufactured by Active Faith, a company with ties to Lakewood Church and the anti-homosexual views of its pastor, Joel Osteen.  It seems that, where negative sentiment about homosexuals is concerned, religion plays a vital role.

That pattern continued when Kirk Cameron appeared on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show Friday, March 2nd, to promote his documentary, “Monumental.”  Cameron has long been outspoken, both in his faith in the Christian concept of god, and his contention that being gay is sinful.  So, once again, during the interview, the Dark Age thinking in his head poured out of his mouth.

When asked by Morgan his thoughts on gay marriage, Cameron first attempted to evade the question.  But that is not really surprising.  He must know, as do people like Joel Osteen, that when he discusses his anti-gay views in public, he is surely going to take criticism.  They must also be aware that it causes a number of gay people a great deal of emotional distress – particularly those who are Christians themselves, or who have been shunned by their fundamentalist Christian family.  Of course, that never seems to prevent them from saying, “No comment,” does it?

No.  Instead, Cameron opened his yap and talked about how being gay is not only “unnatural,” but also “destructive” to society.  It is the kind of homophobic speech one has heard before; typical not only in its hatefulness, but for its lack of basis in any kind of factual reality.

Homosexuality occurs in a large variety of species in the natural world.  At least 450 by some counts.  Attention Kirk Cameron:  that makes homosexuality natural.  Please stop using your ridiculous and antiquated logic to justify your own homophobia.  The idea that gay people exist may bother you, I really don’t know.  But taking this unsupportable and demonstrably untrue stance is futile.

Many are also interested in what history books he has been reading that teach homosexuality has led to the destruction of societies.  The Bible he believes in as the word of god certainly isn’t a history book.  But then, nor does it even count homosexuality in violation of the Ten Commandments.  So, even if God exists, He doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with gay people.  He just keeps on creating them.  So then, which responsible history book shows how the presence of gay people caused society to crumble around them?  Never happened, folks.  And Cameron knows it.  This, in my opinion, is nothing more than another weak attempt to reconcile his own personal problems with the homosexuality in the world he sees as being diametrically opposed to his values.

Now, of course, Kirk Cameron has the right to his beliefs, and the right to speak his mind.  But so, too, do people who find his beliefs disgusting.  Cameron’s supporters are angry at those knocking him because he is, as they say, “only expressing an opinion.”  They say he has Freedom of Speech.  He does, indeed.  What he does not have, however, is a Freedom from Criticism.

Kirk Cameron and his supporters would be wise to learn the difference.

NOTES:

* A clip from Kirk Cameron’s appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS4OqDvhprA