Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Here Comes Jesus Cottontail
Happy Easter! May the big, fluffy divine Easter Bunny deliver unto you colored eggs from His own body saying, "Eat of these tasty hard-boiled treats, for this is My flesh."
That was definitely a visual I didn't need.
Easter weekend always seems to be the time when Christians all over the planet lose what's left of their collective minds in an orgy of religiosity where they commemorate the torture, death, and resurrection of one of their gods, Jesus Christ.
Nominal, "Jack-Christians" -- who never, ever go to church, or read the Bible, or pray, or think about their religion at all during the rest of the year -- strap on their God-Gear™ and troop off to the nearest church with their families in tow to show off how very pious they are to their neighbors - and if they play their cards right, maybe get them a little Jesus Juice. They attend local Passion Plays and weep and pray fervently, asking the bloody zombie god up there on the cross to please, please please forgive them for not praying during the whole last year so that he won't, uh, eat their brains or something. I dunno. It's very complicated, apparently.
Stodgy, uninteresting Christian Philosophers in particular shine during Easter weekend. I mean, the news agencies need to to find some "expert" to quote. They are writing these incredible, unbelievably silly stories about the wacky Filipinos nailing themselves to crosses and the the confluence of torture, blood, colored eggs, bunny rabbits, and resurrection. It's a tough weekend to be a reporter, let me tell you! So, they go and talk with the Respected Christian Philosophers™ like Alvin Plantinga to get a juicy quote or two and attempt to legitimize these weird, wacky stories that are popping up all over the place like banner ads at a porn site.
Alvin Plantinga delivers, of course. He's a brilliant, brainiac philosopher, after all. Alvin says sexy, quotable things like,
[link] [movie star Raquel Welch] "enjoys very little greatness in those worlds in which she does not exist."
That's gold, baby!
However, Brilliant Philosopher™ Plantinga - and his embarrassing, not-so-bright cousin, Pretend Philosopher™ D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Ft. Lauderdale Florida - also have quite a bit to say about the "evidence" and the possibility of the physical resurrection of their incarnated god-man, Jesus Christ.
We'll start with D. James Kennedy. In a recent article, Mr. Kennedy, citing exhausted, retired, possibly senile new deist Anthony Flew, and a 19th-century law professor, concludes,
[link] After more than 40 years of inquiry, it is my firm conviction that the scope and strength of the evidence for the resurrection is such that one cannot both reject the resurrection and, at the same time, believe in any ancient event.
In the same vein, Alvin Plantinga has this to say about a specific miracle like Jesus' Resurrection,
[link] According to Mr. Plantinga, the initial probability of any such claim is low, though it would obviously rise if Christians are right that Jesus "is the incarnate second person of the Trinity."
Alvin Plantinga. Brilliant Philosopher™, Master Of The Obvious.
Two can play at that game, Plantinga! *shakes fist*
"The initial probability that I am an alien from Planet Zebulon IV is low, though it would obviously rise if my followers are right about me being an actual alien from Planet Zebulon IV."
[link] The external evidence, assessed by Oxford's Richard Swinburne and others, includes the Apostles' Easter testimonies and the dramatic spread of their belief. Mr. Plantinga finds this convincing: "Maybe it's not knockdown, drag-out 100 percent conclusive evidence, but it's pretty strong evidence."
How is this strong evidence of anything that they claim? What the heck happened to the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" rule of thumb? Parsimony demands that we look for simpler solutions first, Alvin, and that we do not immediately jump to the most ludicrously complex and convoluted explanation of the facts. Christ on a pogo stick. Sir Ockham must be spinning in his grave.
Okay, let's look at the "evidence" that Christians claim as evidence of the bodily resurrection of their incarnate god-man.
- The "dramatic spread" of the Christian belief.
The Christian faith didn't start spreading significantly away from it's starting point until a few score years after Christ's alleged death. This is perfectly consistent with the way a new meme or idea would spread without mass communication. The religion of Mithraism spread in much the same way - through person-to-person communication.
- The Easter Testimonies of the disciples.
Dan Barker's Easter Challenge has conclusively shown that the contradictory mish-mash of accounts of the Easter story given in the Bible are not evidence of anything at all, except confusion - and maybe and ancient version of the "Telephone Game".
- The empty tomb.
*sigh* What's the more likely scenario? You make the call!
- The human person named Jesus who accidentally became a religious figurehead in the early first century (Follow the shoe!) was executed by the ruling government and the dominant religion's leaders for sowing sedition and discord among the populace. After he was executed, his followers removed his body from the tomb (for whatever reason) by perfectly non-supernatural means. Then, they tacked on the title "Christ" to his name, played up the martyr angle, and told each other increasingly fantastic stories about their savior's magical powers. It was great fun. After a while, they even deceived themselves into thinking that it was true! Centuries of telling and re-telling of the story, combined with human's incredible propensity to exaggerate and elaborate on a sensational, attention-getting tale, plus our species' noted interest in the religious, created a myth that eventually became the centerpiece of the Christian religion.
- God exists. He incarnates Himself by making a human virgin pregnant, then having her deliver Himself in a barn on Christmas Day. He wanders the Middle East and preaches common platitudes and morality stories in mysterious parables, doing miracles and talking to Himself. Then, in a fit of pique at the stupid dunderheaded nonsense that His creations believe in and do to each other and themselves, he sees that they are all a bunch of evil sinners (even though He created them that way), and sacrifices Himself to Himself to break the rules that He Himself wrote. He dies in agony and torment on the cross to make His sacrifice to Himself more poignant and thrilling for 21st-century Movie watching Christians, and also to reward His faithful servant Mel Gibson with hundreds of millions of dollars. He is dead, placed in a tomb, then is physically and bodily resurrected by Himself to full life using his special God magic. Two thousand years later, Filipinos repeat His courageous act without any God magic and get infections from the rusty nails. God thinks that they're pretty god damned stupid to be doing that without any God magic, so he heals their infections, but lets them bleed all over each other because, let's face it, blood's pretty cool. Mel agrees with him. He looks down approvingly at the tormented Terri Schiavo, comforting her silently as she is starved and thirsted to death because She will be the New Messiah, His Only Begotten Daughter. He lovingly answers every one of President George Bush's sincere Christian prayers to Him because America is Under God, dammit, regardless of whether or not some cranky atheist doctor/lawyer or a few dozen idiot atheist bloggers agree. To Hell with them! Literally!
It's more than likely that the Jesus myth contains a seed of truth somewhere at it's core. There was probably a 1st-century teacher or religious figure named Jesus. He was probably executed by the local Roman government. Even this is not really certain, but it's at least believable and probable.
However, just because he might have existed does not mean that god exists, that Jesus was the literal physical human manifestation of this god, that he died and rose from the dead, or any of the rest of it. People want to believe in something greater than themselves. They always have, and sadly, they probably always will. The Jesus myth simply happens to be one of the most common and widely-practiced versions of "believing in something greater then themselves", for the last two thousand years. To us short-lived humans, this seems like an eternity, so this particular magic god-man myth seems eternal.
If we had lived in Sumeria five thousand years ago, the god Enki would seem like an eternal truth to us. We seem to be wired for it.
Ah, well. Happy Easter anyway, folks. I hope you and your families get together and spend time with each other. Because that's the real important thing about holidays. Sharing your time and yourself with the people you love. I do it every chance I get, regardless of the origin of the holiday.
Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. . . Yes. Much better than buckets of blood and torture. Let's go with that.