Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jesus' historicity means nothing to me

Recently, I witnessed a forum thread that exchanged ideas around the historicity of Jesus, whether he was a myth or a man. The debaters ultimately got hung up on one fact and the thread died after 57 pages or so.

You'll remember my four-part series on this exact point, though I clearly didn't have the background of these combatants. I chose to use rational thought, others' research and anecdotal evidence to explain my thoughts, but in the end I didn't come up with a definitive conclusion, but rather I left it open to discussion because the historical method, while the best method we have, still isn't absolute and conclusive when it comes to ancient times.

And this is perfectly understandable. In my somewhat brief debate with my theist family member, she mentioned the historicity of Homer and Alexander the Great as her retort when we started to discuss evidence and proof of Jesus' story. While Alexander is much easier to prove because of archeological evidence and contemporary disinterested writers cataloging his movements and conquering, Homer is much harder because there really is no actual proof that Homer wrote the stories attributed to him, etc.

My response to this was to be gracious, conceding that it is most difficult to prove anyone existed in ancient history, which is why we need to rely on the historical method when we can. My problem with using Homer et al to balance the equation is that even if Homer didn't write his pieces, or Socrates hadn't existed, it makes no difference to the masses because the Odyssey is still a great work and the Socratic Method still holds water with or without his actual existence.

And this gets to my point of this post: From an atheistic standpoint, does it matter if Jesus existed? It does if you want to speculate he was a miracle-working son of a deity. You see, when you argue Jesus merely existed or was just a myth, to me it doesn't matter. Why? Because if he was just a man (likely a crazy delusional man) it makes no difference to me because if I don't believe in him as a god, no one could blame me or throw holy water on me to save my "soul." And if he was a myth, again I am unaffected.

The problem arises when someone says he was raising Lazerus, casting out demons, returning from the dead and sending me to hell if I don't believe in him. And THAT's what should be discussed, what should be shown to be the fraud that it is. Without theists having their feet held to the fire on this unproven point, this planet will continue to be mired in irrational and delusional behavior that will be detrimental to everyone.

For those atheists who want to help open eyes to reality (and I am NOT in favor of actively trying to convince disinterested people because I would be no better than proselytizing Christians), don't get tied down in the Jesus-existence argument and redirect your energy toward demanding evidence of miracles, refuting apologetic arguments and teaching critical thinking.

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