Sunday, May 15, 2011

Did Jesus really die and rise?

Christian belief boils down to one thing: The literal, bodily resurrection of a man named Jesus, who lived in first century Palestine.

If Jesus of Nazareth did not die on a Roman cross, if he was not buried, and if he did not rise again on the third day, alive, then you have no reason to give him or Christianity another thought. But if he did, then he deserves your full attention. As C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

To keep it short(ish), this post assumes that Jesus actually existed. There is a fringe group of atheists and others who argue that he never lived at all, but the "Jesus is myth" theory
 is rejected even by reputable secular historians and scholars.

Some theories claim that Jesus never actually
 died on the cross but merely fainted (the "swoon" theory) or was drugged and later revived. I believe these and the "mass hallucination" argument to be quite a stretch. However, we can address them in the comments section, if you'd like.

But for this post, let's assume that Jesus did truly die on that cross (a pretty safe assumption). If he truly died on that cross, then there are two possibilities:

1) He stayed dead, but his disciples pretended he rose.
2) He rose from the dead.

Let's go with the first option. It seems okay until you think it through and consider human nature. Remember, the disciples' hero and leader had been very publicly, brutally executed, and they knew they could be next. They were understandably fearful in the aftermath of the crucifixion. Their hopes were crushed, and their dreams had died with Jesus. They hid. They locked themselves away. They sat in mourning and defeat, hoping to stay unnoticed. They were not brave. They did not want to die.

So far so good, and in keeping with what we all know of human nature. Any reasonable person would have done the same. 
Human nature.

But now here's where Option #1 goes a little wonky:

On the third day after Jesus' gruesome death, one of the fearful, cowering disciples suddenly has an idea: "Let's pretend Jesus didn't stay dead! Let's pretend he rose from the dead!"

Can you see the problem? What are the odds that someone would say that or even think that? Oh, probably… 

But let's say that for some inexplicable reason, it happened that way. The next thing we would have to believe with Option #1
is that everyone else thinks that is a great idea! Yep, even though everyone saw Jesus die a public death, and even though his body is decomposing in a heavily guarded tomb, all these frightened, demoralized folk think that a (literally unbelievable) hoax would be a fine idea right about now!

The followers of the dead man, somehow excited about perpetrating this lie, suddenly shed their fears, come out of hiding and boldly begin to tell people, with straight faces, that their friend's corpse has just risen from the dead!

Are you still with me?

Okay, so even though the disciples 
know they are deceiving everyone, they go all over the place acting like Jesus really did rise from the dead despite all evidence to the contrary, and thousands of folks just naturally believe them! Can you imagine that such a thing could happen in real life? (Correct answer: No. It would never happen.)

But let's keep going. That original group is actually starting to make people mad again. In fact, people want to kill them now for spreading this obvious lie and triggering mass conversions among the people (who are apparently not too bright).

So, the imprisonment and executions of the liars begin. Beatings, stonings, beheadings, crucifixions (upside down, even), and all sorts of ugliness awaits the perpetrators of the hoax. You can think of lots of folks who would keep up a hoax when facing those conditions, right?

Wrong. You can't think of any. Because it's illogical and unreasonable that any 
one person would consent to be tortured and killed for a known lie, and impossible that an entire group would agree to it, with not a single defector shouting, "Wait, we were just kidding! It's a lie and I don't want to die a brutal death for a crazy lie!" (Which is what a reasonable person would do.)

Again, it's what we know of human nature. We might be willing to suffer, bleed and die for a loved one, or a nation, or a great cause. But no one would willingly die for, or convince their friends to die for, or get hundreds more to die for --
a lie.

It's unreasonable. It's illogical. It doesn't happen. Option #1 is impossible.

Turns out, Option #2 is the only option that reasonably explains the actions of the disciples. It's the only option that doesn't fly in the face of human nature.

Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead. And they saw him. 

The only reason that they were changed in an instant is because Jesus did rise. They were not lying when they proclaimed this good news to the people. There was no hoax. Jesus Christ had truly risen.

He is risen.

There is no other reasonable explanation.

I am ready for the many objections that are sure to come, and I look forward to a thoughtful debate. But in the meantime, I will leave you with a funny video about this very subject. Brought to you by the Lutherans….

Best. Conspiracy. Ever.



  1. It's incredibly annoying how modern society believes in exaggerated claims about the Spanish Inquisition, derived from secondary sources written well after the fact. Then on the other hand, they refuse to accept primary sources from the time of Christ. Seems a little hypocritical.

  2. Giuseppe, come to think of it, they do the same thing with the idea that Pope Pius XII was "Hitler's Pope". No evidence of that from the contemporary sources of the time. Quite the opposite.

  3. I love your no nonsense, logical approach to everything! :) Excellent post Leila!

  4. I love that you wrote this, Leila.
    And your timing is great. Because this isn't just for those who argue that God doesn't exist, it's for us who believe too. As you mentioned in your post, we're human. Even though I'm Catholic and Christian for over 30 years, but that doesn't mean that I never waver in my faith, never have questions, or even those "what if we're wrong and this is a hoax" questions.

    Those who have died for our faith is something constantly on my mind. Why? Why? Why? I want to believe and understand, it's my own human nature to want to console myself with the truth and facts. But our faith, for a lack of a better word, is radical. Christ rising from the dead sounds so bizarre. It goes against all human understanding, and it goes against logic. All we have known all our lives when one dies is that we bury them and they never come out. And yet, we are told by our faith that Christ rose Himself from the dead. My logic says impossible. But my faith says that this is why He is God.

    As you said, scenario #1 might sound very possible--that the disciples, being simple and ordinary men merely said Jesus rose from the dead. But to continue to hang on to that "lie", to go with it that long, and then to die for it, that is all against our human nature. These men (respectfully), were weak men. They were not brave. There's no way they would have continued that sham even unto death.

    I'm interested in hearing what others might think of your scenarios. Thanks for bringing this up.

  5. Um, that video is hilarious. I spit out my coffee! This is an awesome post, and I'm going to send it around for sure!

  6. Christ rising from the dead sounds so bizarre. It goes against all human understanding, and it goes against logic.

    You think that's bizarre, how about the fact we worship what looks like a piece of bread? Talk about ridiculous and bizarre when you step back and think about it from a secular point of view.

    After all, if we're right, we've received the most incredible gift God could give. If we're wrong, we're all a bunch of idolators!

    I wouldn't say any of this goes against logic. I'd say that the Mysteries of our Faith cannot be completely explained by logic, and they often do defy experience. However they can never go against logic, otherwise we'd merely be a religion of Faith, and not Faith and Reason.

  7. This is great, Leila. I'm convinced that anyone who is completely honest and rational--anyone who "follows the evidence where it leads"--will eventually conclude what is professed by the Church: that Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day rose again from the dead.

    During Holy Week this year, I wrote a series on the Resurrection where we walked through each of the four possibilities regarding this claim:

    1. The Bible is a myth or legend at best, a deliberate lie at worst. Therefore we can't trust the Resurrection accounts.

    2. Jesus never really died on the Cross, therefore he didn't rise three days later.

    3. Jesus did die on the Cross, but he stayed that way. There was no subsequent Resurrection.

    4. If the other three are rejected, then the only alternative is that what the Bible and the Church say is true: Jesus really died on a Cross and was really raised to life a couple days later.

    You can find the entire series here:

  8. bvogt1, thank you! I am so happy you have done all that work! My little offering here is a good jumpstart, but there are so many excellent "proofs" out there, and I hope people will avail themselves of all the resources. I also like Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, by Kreeft and Tacelli.

    Giuseppe, exactly… it's logical. It may be extraordinary, or supernatural (above nature), but it is certainly logical that God, who is the Author of Life itself, could hold sway over life and death. Logical that He can overcome death.

  9. Our faith as a whole is a series of events that make abosultely no logical sense. We believe a virgin was impregnanted by God, that a man walked on water, never sinned once on earth and was died, buried and yet rose. And that's just the Christian part of it. Before that, we had crazier things like a guy being told to build a boat and get in it with 2 of every kind of animal because the world was going to flood, or three guys being thrown in a furnance and not even smelling like smoke, or a woman being turned into salt for looking back at a city being destroyed. It's a lot to take in. And, like the previous comment said, I too have my days of waivering in my faith. It's so hard to stay grounded during some of our hardest trials. I'd be interested to hear other's thoughts too.

    And, that video was just hysterical. I loved it.

  10. Oh. My. Goodness.

    That little video was HILARIOUS!!!!

    As I've read more into Catholicism this past year, I've been intrigued by this whole debate, because it really doesn't make logical sense for Jesus to have done anything but rise from the dead. I'm interested to see if the comments start up a debate!

  11. Thanks, Meghan, that's exactly what I was trying to say.

    I'm not in any way saying our faith is illogical, just thinking out loud. I believe in our faith and as Giuseppe pointed out, it's a mystery and above our understanding.

    I don't word things very eloquently so it's difficult to truly voice my thoughts here w/o somehow mistakenly saying something against our faith.

  12. @ Meghan

    You don't have to believe a word I say, I'm not a cleric, nor am I a theologian. But would you believe a Pope?

    From Pope John Paul II's encyclical Fides et Ratio:

    "Revelation therefore introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort; indeed, it impels reason continually to extend the range of its knowledge until it senses that it has done all in its power, leaving no stone unturned."

    "Sacred Scripture indicates with remarkably clear cues how deeply related are the knowledge conferred by faith and the knowledge conferred by reason; and it is in the Wisdom literature that this relationship is addressed most explicitly."

    And again, this one a real zinger:

    "Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.

    There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action."

    Not done yet! I'll be back soon with some more quotes, stay right there! It's a long encyclical and I haven't looked at it in a long while.

  13. @ Meghan

    Here's another real zinger that sums it al up:

    Reason in fact is not asked to pass judgement on the contents of faith, something of which it would be incapable, since this is not its function. Its function is rather to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith.

    Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents.

    I could go on! Here's a link to the actual encylical. I've got to go to a meeting! More later.

  14. Thanks, Giuseppe! And Becky, no worries, I think I do understand what you are saying, but I want to differentiate between what Catholics believe and what some Protestants believe. There are fundamentalist Protestants who do actually believe that faith and reason are opposed, and they are proudly anti-intellectual. I just always want to be very clear here that the Catholic Church sees faith and reason as compatible, and that our Faith is eminently reasonable. I "thought" my way to the fullness of the truth, so I am a big defender of the logic of our faith.

    Sadly, there are Christians who think faith trumps or discredits "reason", wearing their "illogical" faith as a a badge of honor, and that is simply not correct.

    I hope that makes sense! :)

  15. Exactly as Miss Leila says, Faith and Reason are compatible. Reason has its limits, there are things that it just cannot tell us. That limit, that expanse of Truth to which Reason cannot arrive it is filled and shown to us through Revelation.

    Everyone should be a philosopher, everyone should love Truth! Philosphy, the love of Truth, is what brings us to those limits and fosters those desires in us for more. But we can't get more with revelation. For example, the virgin birth, the trinity, etc. These are realities that we desire to know, but realities that reason alone cannot supply. Faith makes up for this lack, God fills the hole!

    As God filled that hole with Revelation, reason can carry on and help us make sense of that Revelation. Revelation is not merely a here's what happen and believe! Revelation is supposed to work in conjunction with our reason so that we may grasp Truths that are beyond us.

    This all gets really cool when you understand the definition of Truth. Truth with a small "t" is what you have when what's in your mind corresponds with what's in reality. Small "t" truth can be arrived at through reason.

    Now Truth with a capital "T" is the Truth of God. Revelation is God revealing the reality of Himself. Without getting into the nature of God's perfect knowledge of Himself, let's leave it to say that God's supplies knowledge of Himself such that when we know revelation, our mind is corresponding with what's in reality, so we possess Truth! Just like when you come to understand that 1+1 equals two, and are ultimately guided to the reality that 1x1=1, with revelation we're given Truth, and with Reason we can develop and deepen our understanding of what exactly God is telling us about Himself.

    Reason assists Faith, Faith completes Reason.

    Reason tells us everyone wants to be happy. The classic philosophers knew this, and believed that it was in knowing the Truth that we would find our ultimate happiness. The way to get there was reason. But as we know, reason has its limits, and Aristotle, Plato, etc. could only get so far.

    Revelation steps in, God says, "I am that Truth, know Me and you'll find Happiness!" God gives us the answer, an answer reason couldn't have arrived at, but an answer that Reason helps us to understand and embrace and love.

    I hope that made sense.

  16. Within the context of Revelation we can use reason to understand why the Virgin Birth makes sense, why the Eucharist makes sense, why all these things that seem foolish to the world make sense. They appear foolish to the world because the world refuses to accept God's revelation of Himself, and therefore they refuse to connect Faith with Reason. They seperate it, and look at Faith as a closed system that can in no way interact with the logic of the natural world.

    The Pope is saying that God gave us reason, He gave us Faith, and the two are supposed to interact. They combine to provide the vision, the Truth of who we are and where our end is.

  17. I'm sure there's a simpler way of saying all that.

  18. "Shut your pie hole fisherman, I have not finished." LMAO

  19. Guiseppe, thank you for saying it so well! So, some truth is attainable by reason alone, and some is attainable only through Revelation, but none of it sits in contradiction, but is part of a seamless tapestry of truth. Which is what I LOVE about Catholicism -- it stands the test of time (see my May 4th post) and hangs together perfectly.

    Monica, I love that part, too, ha ha!

  20. I like to put these two quotes together as an illustration of the Catholic vs Protestant view on faith and reason:

    "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth" Pope John Paul II


    "Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding." Martin Luther

  21. It sort of reminds me of what Stacy said in her latest post, over at Accepting Abundance, when she took on a slippery-on-the-facts scientist who is being less than honest:

    He discusses four "errors" in current pro-life views of the embryo and personhood, concluding with his own theological statements. I am going to address this paper one error at a time because upon reading it through and researching the issue I realize better where the problem of debating personhood and religious beliefs really lie and it's a consistent theme throughout modern secular humanism. It is the problem of Christianity without the Christ, or as I termed it, "-inanity." Modern culture took what Christianity gave it, including science itself, and dismissed Christ while pragmatically keeping certain concepts about humanity and dispensing with others, and even using those ideas to in turn say there is no Christ.

    In the public square it is not just the Christian who needs to defend his beliefs (the Christian always needs to be able to defend his beliefs), but the non-believer who even more needs to justify why it is logical or acceptable to pick and choose from what was once whole, reasonable, historically substantiated and carefully articulated. Secularism seems the next logical step after Protestantism.

    When you take only the part of truth that can be attained by human reason, and deny the parts of truth which can only be given through God's revelation, you get some seriously messed up science which doesn't seem to know what to do with itself, since God is the author of science and the material world.

  22. Monica, wow. Yes, that is why Luther went all nuts on doctrine, even changing the words of Scripture to suit his feelings!

    Great quotes!

    Intellectuals can find a beautiful, comfortable, challenging home in the Catholic Church.

  23. By the way, up there I say "But we can't get more with Revelation" it should say "But we can't get more without Revelation!"

  24. One thing I did want to add. Commenter bvogt1 left a comment on the previous post (before it disappeared) and linked his excellent series on all resurrection possibilities here: Resurrection Series

    Check it out!

  25. This feels like deja vu all over again!

  26. My sister was getting married so I missed the entire first post and all comments. The Jesus post is here! Yay!

  27. Thank you for reposting this. I never thought about it terms of a conspiracy theory, a ridiculous one at that. That video is good.

    I was reading this too, because your post inspired me to search it a little more.

    I wonder what evidence skeptics have against the resurrection.

  28. Stacy, your link is great, and I especially love this:

    Former “hatchet man” of the Nixon administration, Chuck Colson, implicated in the Watergate scandal, pointed out the difficulty of several people maintaining a lie for an extended period of time.

    "I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, and then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world—and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible."

  29. OK...maybe it was part of the lost post, but I wanted to reassert my recommendation of Kenneth Miller's book: Finding Darwin's God.

    This is a very important book. If you want to understand how someone could be a theist and a LEADING scientist who was well-respected throughout the world, this would be the person to turn to. Again, he is dead set against Intelligent Design, yet a practicing theist (I think he is a Christian).

    He goes a bit into how his views of quantum theory inform his theism.

  30. Mary, I think you had posted it on a different post, but the comment may have gotten lost if it was posted on May 12. I still have no idea how someone could be a theist and not believe that an intelligent being (God) designed the universe. Unless you are saying that he doesn't believe God created the universe? I wish I had time to read a book, but these days it takes me up to six months just to finish a book that I really am dying to read. So, you will have to spoon feed me on this.

    I do hope you saw this, from Complicated Life:

    There is a book called "Moral Darwinism" by the same professor I mentioned previously, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, who wrote the book, "Answering the New Atheism" which was very relevant a few com boxes ago...

    Anyways, in Moral Darwinism, Wiker expounds on how our cosmology determines our morality (well, unless there is cognitive dissonance...) So if we believe that there was no design, that it was just chance, we can live however we like. If we believe that we were designed and willed and loved, then there is a certain way we are to live, so we can't just follow our base desires. I feel like this connection between cosmology and morality totally gets in the way of honest science.

    It's funny when you ask, "Why does evolution preclude a designer?" We both know why they want to believe it does--because they don't want a designer! A designer would mean there is a certain way to live, a way that was designed for us, which means we wouldn't get to just do whatever feels good in the moment. Cosmology and morality. Tricky business…

  31. This is great!! And I love discovering new blogs!

  32. Mary, PBS says this about Kenneth Miller:

    Miller, a devout Catholic and evolutionist, believes God and science can coexist in the chapel and the lab. The key, Miller says, is to set aside the assumption that science and religion rule each other out. Miller does this by considering two separate realities: a material reality that relies on science and forms the basis for the theory of evolution, and a spiritual reality based on faith that gives our lives value and meaning.

    Correct me if I'm wrong (Leila, Stacy) but isn't this essentially the Catholic position, with the caveat that science can never "prove" that God does not exist?

  33. Also, I found this review of Miller's book interesting.

  34. When I was younger, (I am not saying now) the first time that I heard of the story. I assumed it was a symbol. That Jesus did not rise, but they still worshiped him, and that he raised into heaven.

  35. I think this post was well written but I'm skeptical from the beginning. It seem you've limited yourself by choosing only those two assumptions. Human behavior is more complex than that, and I think there might be more possibilities than just Jesus rising, or them pretending.

    Pretending brings about a certain context of the people who spread this news that they consciously chose to fake the news. If Jesus had not rose from the dead, there are multiple possibilities and hypothetical assumptions we could make about why they then spread that news.

    As an aside, people think swoon theories are legit? Wasn't Jesus supposedly stabbed with a sword by a roman soldier???

  36. Chelsea and Peter, thank you!

    Chelsea, what are your thoughts on the Resurrection today?

    Peter, I'm happy to cover any scenario. Could you propse a scenario that you think would work with what we know of human nature? I would love to explore that with you.

  37. Peter, yep, some folks believe in the swoon theory. The purveyors of these theories would have us believe that Jesus jumped up on the third day, full of vim and vigor: "Hey, here I am, guys! That near-death scourging and nailing to the cross was no picnic, but boy, I fooled those Romans (who are experts in brutally effective execution)! No one noticed that I was still breathing, so they buried me and I sat there starving and dehydrating for another couple days till I finally decided to push that massive stone away with my broken wrists (because that didn't hurt at all, and I somehow had full function in my hands and feet, and tons of strength at that point! Who wouldn't, right?). And there I was, good as new, and in a bizarre twist, everyone thought I actually had risen from the dead, even though that wasn't true! Isn't that nuts?? I've no idea where they got that idea, but they ran with it, so I just went along with that story, because it made me really popular, even though the others were beheaded, stoned and such."

    Reasonable, no? No.

    Oh, and I think they also claim he ran off to India and became a New Age guru or something. Seriously.

  38. Correct me if I'm wrong (Leila, Stacy) but isn't this essentially the Catholic position, with the caveat that science can never "prove" that God does not exist?

    JoAnna, you are right. The part about what Mary is saying that confuses me is that Miller rejects Intelligent Design outright. But isn't God intelligent, and didn't He design the universe, and humans? That is the disconnect. Someone help me out with how Miller could be a Christian. I'm seriously unclear.

  39. Not only is Kenneth Miller a Christian, Leila, but he claims to be a "devout Roman Catholic."

    I've found, however, that most people to claim that they are "devout Roman Catholics" are more aptly described as "dissenting Roman Catholics" who want to up their "Catholic street cred" among the unwashed masses.

    His book is at the Phoenix Public Library... I may check it out one of these days if I can make it over there.

  40. JoAnna, like Nancy Pelosi. She touts herself as a "devout" Catholic and yet is unrelenting in her support of abortion and gay marriage". Even the Pope refused to give her a photo op recently. Makes me nuts. But Mary, I am willing to hear more, because I want to understand how a Christian can reject ID. I don't know that it is possible to say that God did not design the universe, and us?

  41. JoAnna, sounds good to me.

    Leila, I haven't read Miller but Fr. Jaki who I read a lot covers the issue of Intelligent Design as "science." It's not science. It's faith. Scripture revealed it, reason discovers it, science in its limited capacity in the material world has confirmed what was revealed and reasoned long ago. Science serves the greater truth. It isn't all truth.

    Fr. Jaki actually scolds pretty harshly (his typical manner) the scientists who are so "insecure in their faith" that they think they need to rely on science to legitimize thier faith. It made me wince, but he's right. He's only warning not to elevate science to more than it is.

    For anyone interested he has two great little $3 essays:

    "Evolution for Believers"
    "Intelligent Design?"

    Real View Books

  42. Hm. I read some of that link to Miller and I'm skeptical of his position. I'll read more though.

    Here's someone I trust, Prof. Edward Feser. He's a Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher and his position on ID is similar to Jaki's. In a nutshell what they say, and I agree with, is trying to prove God created the world with science is going to be logically flawed. In other words, ID is bad science...not because it isn't true but because it demands more from science than science can prove.

    Edward Feser's Blog

    Have fun reading...I have to.go.very.very.slow...

  43. Leila, you asked what I believe now.

    I do not really believe the "swoon" theory. I think that his followers would have wanted him to stay alive, more then fake him being dead.

    Now, I tend to be skeptical of what is not right in front of me. But I do think that he was a special person, and his affects was felt after his death.

    But why must he raise. What would be wrong with saying, he was great during his lifetime. I am sure you believed that Mother Teressa was great, during her lifetime. And the fact that she did not raise does not mean she was any less great.

    But like God. Unless I see the act happen right before my eyes, or have a real living breathing god tell it to me. I have to remain skeptical. For I would rather remain skeptical from lack of proof, then believing in sometime that is later to be found not true.

    I also am concerned by the fact that it was only twelve people. Today, hundreds of people around the US claim that they have seen UFO's. I have no right to outright say that they are wrong (goes with, if I do not see I cannot comment) but I would have to stay skeptical.

    You said that they were beaten, and although those whom say they have seen UFO's have not been hurt (or at least, I hope not) most have many people saying over and over again that they are crazy.

  44. Stacy, thank you! So is this right: A Christian could say, "ID is not science because it goes beyond what science, which is limited, can do" but a Christian could not say, "I categorically reject the idea of an intelligent designer of the universe."

    I think that would make sense to me.

  45. Chelsea, I am not sure I understand where you stand.

    As to why he had to raise: Because that is proof that He is God, and it is only in being God (and dying for our sins, and then conquering death) that he could atone for the sins of humanity and open Heaven for us.

    If he were just a "great man", he would not be God. There are lots of great people, as you say.

    But his claim was that he was (is) God, and if he's not, then he's a liar or a lunatic, not a great man.

    You would probably enjoy the classic book by C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

    It covers a lot of that. Either Christ was Lord, or he was a liar or a lunatic.

    Also, there were MANY more than 12 witnesses to the Resurrected Christ. There were thousands.

  46. What I am saying is. I do not want to disrespect an entire religion(s) by saying that their is no way that he rose. And that all of those whom believe in the Restoration are lying/incorrect because I do not believe that.

    I am just saying that it is not enough proof for me.

  47. And also I got it mixed up. I though you meant their were twelve people witnessing from you 8:01 post. Now I see it meant 12 people testified that.

  48. So, Chelsea, you're not saying that He did or didn't rise - you're just saying there's not enough evidence for you to believe He did. Is that correct?

    The resurrection is of the utmost importance to Christians for a couple reasons. If Christ died and stayed dead, then He was simply a man. You must remember, Christians don't simply believe Christ was the human son of God, they believe He was GOD HIMSELF, come to earth to conquer death, thereby freeing us from the corruption of sin. Jesus also prophesied concerning Himself, saying He would die and rise again. So if He didn't, then He was delusional and definitely not God.

    The resurrection is the conquering of death and sin, and it is VITAL to the Christian faith that it was REAL and LITERAL. Paul even says himself, if Christ was not raised, then we (Christians) are to be pitied more than all men on earth. Christ's bodily resurrection gives Christians hope for their own future resurrection.

    Chelsea, have you ever read the story of Jesus' life for yourself? It illuminates the importance of the resurrection in a way that's hard to explain.

  49. Chelsea, don't worry about offending anyone, truly. No one should take this stuff personally. It is okay to seek truth and speak what you know to be true (or not true).

    You say that you don't believe that people who believe in the Resurrection are lying or incorrect. And yet, they have to be either lying or incorrect if the Resurrection did not truly occur.

    Do you see what I mean?

    They have to be lying, or they have to be incorrect. Or, the resurrection truly happened.

    Also, the witnesses to the Resurrected Jesus were thousands (and they spoke about it openly), but the official leaders of the Church were the Apostles (the Twelve).

    Hope that helps.

  50. OK...sorry to start something then be absent...sickness here...and way too much rain...

    Leila, JoAnna and others (Peter?)
    To flesh out Ken Miller's ideas about God/ID/Evolution has been done in a manner much better than I could do here:

    This is scroll down to TWO ASSUMPTIONS and follow at least through FREE LANCE THEOLOGY

    Actually, I didn't know Miller was Catholic...I thought he was some other kind of Christian.

    I am not saying he is TOTALLY RIGHT, but I think his view shows how one can not believe in ID and also be a theist.

  51. Mary, thanks! I will let Stacy and Giuseppe (and Nubby??? Where are you Nubby??) comment with more intelligence, but this part sort of made me scratch my head:

    God has created a fully self-sufficient material universe that runs according to physical laws and needs no further tinkering to keep on ticking, like Paley’s watch, but God also has built in (by design) the mechanisms to change, elaborate and diversify into the fantastically complex world around us on earth.

    Seems like at the very least, he acknowledges an Intelligent Designer? That is my main point, that God has to be that Intelligent Designer… I think he says yes to that?

  52. Just a minute to follow up (and I will hit those posts JoAnna and Stacy, thanks).

    Intelligent Design says that everything about us was designed. Especially such complex things as our eyes or some biochemical cascades, such as in the clotting of blood which are "irreducibly complex". That is- that such entities could not have evolved in a stepwise manner, because they do not function (and thereby confer adaptive advantage) until fully formed.

    Miller explains how this is not so, but he thinks that the Laws of physics that govern the universe were created in such a manner as to ensure the eventual evolution of an intelligent being that would know him. He also links his understanding of free will, and in fact any meaningful type of universe to quantum theory.

    Correct me if this is not what he seems to be implying Joanna.

  53. In fact, at this juncture, if it were not for the implications of quantum theory, I would have a much harder time being a theist at all.

  54. Leila,
    The Thin Veil link is very helpful! It is well done. I (of course) have all kinds of doubts still, but thought this was really worth looking at.

    One of my questions is: People claim that after the resurrection, the disciples and many other followers were so totally sure of Jesus' divinity that they willingly were martyred for their cause. However, much of the "evidence" for this martyrdom that I can find, seems to be from stories of tradition. Does anyone have any leads on meaty historical accounts of the ends of the early Christians. (I have read the Lucian references).
    Any leads would be good.

    The swoon theory and wrong person theory seem totally improbable to me, but someone stealing the body seems less improbable (not that I think that is the case...just more probable).

  55. I will def. look into Father Jaki further but one cursory glance showed:
    "However, the scientific evidence does not prove the existence of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. 'I firmly hold that evolution has not been proven as a scientific theory ought to be proven: by detailed observation or replication of the individual steps.' "

    He might need to append this statement, as the evolution of a new type of bacteria was witnessed in the lab.

  56. Here's one priest's answer to the same question:

    He talks about the Shroud of Turin and includes a summary from the various scientists who have studied it.


  57. I read some of the bits from the DarwinWatch blog, and I think it made very good arguments. The elaboration of Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle in knocking out material determinism was fantastic.

    However, calling out the multiverse theory as hogwash was maybe unnecessary? Dan Dennett explained why the anthropic principle doesn't mean anything in wonderful, concise terms. And the multiverse is absolutely a valid theory.

    In regards to the resurrection... I know I don't know enough. I'm fairly familiar with what's in the bible-but that's not enough to convince me. If thousands of people witnessed the resurrection, why isn't there more "secular" evidence of the stir that would have caused? Is it because the resurrection didn't happen, they only took certain types of record, or something else?

    Chelsea, I'm also not exactly sure what you're trying to say, or what your exact position on the resurrection is now. Also, from a fellow "skeptic's" point of view, what evidence would you need to accept what would become the reality of the resurrection? Beyond that, if you'd like, do you think there is the possibility of evidence that would point only to God? We discussed this nearly ad infinitum before, but I'm interested in your answer.

    Lastly, @PLR, that post from "reverend know-it-all" is uncomfortably snarky (and I read PZ Myers!!). But even Myers cites his science! His failiure to acknowledge the source of his knolwedge in literature is embarassing and it makes it difficult for me to take anything he's claiming as legitimate. The problem with the Shroud of Turin is that it IS distorted--in order for it to have that face, Jesus would have had to have some serious morphological distortions. So instead Reverend Know-It-All twisted it by citing some nonsense about how the image is a holograph or it is projecting up and down at the same time. This sounds like academic babbling for not being able to explain a serious issue with the Shroud.

  58. Amen, Leila.

    It boils down to the old, "Jesus was Lord, lunatic, or liar" but he wasn't all three.

    Which one was he? This is the invitation for each of us to investigate.

    There's plenty of secular accounts, if that's what you maybe mean by "meaty". Check out Flavius Josephus, the jewish historian and Pliny the Younger.

    You may want to research the 'catacombs' for some history back story on early christians. Underground church it was.


  59. The problem with the Shroud of Turin is that it IS distorted--in order for it to have that face, Jesus would have had to have some serious morphological distortions. So instead Reverend Know-It-All twisted it by citing some nonsense about how the image is a holograph or it is projecting up and down at the same time. This sounds like academic babbling for not being able to explain a serious issue with the Shroud.

    Peter, you must not be up on all the latest Shroud documentaries! I have watched the shows on Discovery Channel, TLC and others (secular, all) and they have addressed all of that. Sorry I don't have the facts off hand, but it's not hard to find the shows. Very scientific, very cool. You should check some of them out.

    Also, I am still not understanding what you think could have happened, logically, regarding the history and the growth of Christianity? All of a sudden, people started saying that Christ rose, even though the people who knew Christ knew that he hadn't? I gave an illogical scenario (and then the logical one, that He did rise). Can you give me a logical scenario in which Christ did not rise? Thanks!

    Nubby, glad you are back!!

  60. Nubby, exactly. Ultimately, Christ asks each of us, personally, "Who do you say that I am?"

    We each must answer.

  61. Peter, sorry, I'm still stuck on the fact that you rip into Fr. Know-it-all and address one point (which has been discussed by scientists often) and then dismiss every single other point in his very lengthy post about the science behind the Shroud. Do you think that "literature" is the only thing we can appeal to? Can we not appeal to the scientists themselves and what they say over and over again? I have watched them study and investigate (scientifically!) the Shroud so many times, and watched these guys (not all even believers) talk again and again about the experiments. Have you nothing to say to that? What is your answer to point after point after point that is made? What do you say made that image? I'm very interested in how you counter what the scientists do (and don't) know about what the image is and is not.


  62. I gave an illogical scenario (and then the logical one, that He did rise). Can you give me a logical scenario in which Christ did not rise?

    I will admit up front that I don't know enough to propose a complete scenario that would cover everything, but I feel like it's quite a stretch to say that it's logical that someone could die then come back to life. My skepticism towards biological impossibilities far, far outweighs my skepticism towards abnormal human behavior. Isn't there a possibility that the disciples badly wanted to believe and were simply mistaken? It seems to me that you'd want to err on the side of people behaving weirdly or something being incorrectly reported - a resurrection is about as illogical as it gets, I think.

  63. Michelle, I totally see and get that you think the Resurrection itself would be illogical. So did the people of that time. That is why, unless they saw it, they would not have acted the way they did.

    Can you tell me of any human beings you know (name two or three friends or acquaintances who would so badly want to believe something that they would make it up and then agree to die for it torturously. I don't believe you know of any, but you have to find some if you want that idea to be reasonable. I am simply asking you for any reasonable alternative to the disciples behavior. I haven't heard any yet. I hope you will think of some.

    Or if you would, can you walk me through the specifics of the "wishful thinking" scenario like I did with my scenario? Give me the blow by blow account of how it played out? Thanks!!

    PS: If Jesus is God and God is the author of life and death, then ultimately it's not a stretch for Him to have power over life and death, right? And He did claim He was God, after all, and predicted His resurrection.

  64. Michelle,
    Unlikely or seemingly impossible doesn’t = illogical.
    Does it defy natural law? Yes. Is there supporting evidence this happened? In droves. Is it illogical then believe? No. Logic is the tool that leads you to investigate the possibilities.

    We take logic to reduce lots of possibilities to plausible conclusions.

    Humanly natural to raise from the dead? No, yet how many witnessed him in their doubt and exceeding anxiety? They were overcome that they'd been left hanging, played as the fools, even. They doubted for sure ... and yet, the accounts are there.

    Supernaturally possible? Yes, this is the only explanation a dead body could rise up and appear to people in bodily form with wounds and all. Walking dead people just don’t exist on their own power.

    Big difference btwn what one would expect logically and naturally to occur and what actually happened as recorded historically, even by secular historians of the day.

    Of course the disciples badly wanted to believe, but if you read the accounts, they weren’t exactly sold on the idea right away that he did indeed rise.

    Thomas, for one, wouldn’t believe until or unless he touched the wounds of Christ in person. Talk about faithless. And yet he was one of Jesus’ dearest friends under his ministry.

    St. Peter as well. The list goes on. We believers are included in that friendship even with our faulty faith that changes constantly.

    If they were mistaken, then they sure had some excellent propaganda that’s held up circulating for over 2,000 yrs. Marketing executives they were not.

    And what would they have to gain by spreading this news? The loss of their lives in tortuous ways as Leila has already covered. Who in their right head would sign up for that?


  65. Michelle, to follow up on Nubby's comment,

    I know several friends who have lost parents, and even lost children to death. It is beyond description. All of them wished on some level that their loved ones could somehow come back to them. They wished and wished them alive again. But none of them actually thought their loved one would resurrect. Not one. Not one of them is walking around saying that their loved one is actually walking around alive, and that they saw him/her, that he/she talked to them, and then were willing to die for that act of wishful thinking.

    Why do you think that the disciples would all suddenly "believe" Christ was alive again, when we know that even the most grief-stricken mothers do not do that?

    Help me see any parallel in real life. Because it sounds like you are grasping at straws. It doesn't sound reasonable at all….

  66. This is a good point. Leila says, "Can you tell me of any human beings you know (name two or three friends or acquaintances who would so badly want to believe something that they would make it up and then agree to die for it torturously"

    Well, I do think about this....but I also get the creeps when I think about how Jim Jones or David Koresh convinced people to commit suicide and murder their own children for their beliefs. I do think people can be convinced, and convince themselves to give up their lives for a lie. (I AM NOT SAYING THE RESURRECTION IS A LIE, but I have wrestled with these thoughts for a long time).

    I also see parallels to how people can delude themselves (even a large group of them) in the latest scandals surrounding the late Indian guru Satya Sai Baba, who, to me, seems to be a charlatan of the first order. This man preached love and peace....and performed magic tricks and molested his acolytes, yet still, millions upon millions sent him vast amounts of money and followed him.

  67. Mary, I've thought of that, too, but there is a HUGE distinction here. The disciples did not die for a "cause" or a "belief system" or even a "person"… they died because they saw a dead man rise and knew then (and only then) that He was truly God. That is why they went from fear and despair to courage and willingness to die for the truth of what they saw.

    This is very different from a few sad folks being brainwashed into taking their own lives, or fighting for a crazed leader or a nutty cause.

    They were not ready to die for Christ, or for any cause, until they saw his living, resurrected body.

    It's a case completely unlike any that you mentioned.


  68. Yes, people can be deceived easily.
    But Mary, the major difference in Christ and those other men is that God performed deeds of love in power. He healed the sick, he gave sight to the blind, and other numerous acts of incredible love and power that no mortal could do on his own power; all witnessed by others. He didn't do this stuff in secret. He allowed people to see, when He was ready for them to see His glory, that they might believe!

    So overcome with the reality of His truth, that they could not contain it and had to share it with others. Take the woman at the well for one. (See john 4)

    What normal human has done this for others?

    What have those people done for others that you listed? Have they performed the miraculous? Have they done anything that would indicate they are God in the flesh?

    The ones you listed were men who used people, who deceived them. The main thrust of the Christian life is love. It's all about serving God and others in love.

    God is not a deceiver. He absolutely cannot be, as by definition, He is love and truth and in Him can be no darkness.

  69. I do think people can be convinced, and convince themselves to give up their lives for a lie.

    Another huge point. The Koresh followers actually thought that what they were dying for was the truth. They were convinced that a lie was the truth. But it's totally different from the disciples. Skeptics have to assert that the disciples died for something that they knew was a made up lie. A hoax.

    If the Koresh followers knew they were following a hoax or a lie, they would not have died for it.

    The skeptics are asking us to believe that people would die for something that they know is a lie.

    I don't know if I am writing this clearly. Forgive me. Tell me if I need to try again…

  70. Michelle: "... I feel like it's quite a stretch to say that it's logical that someone could die then come back to life. My skepticism towards biological impossibilities far, far outweighs my skepticism towards abnormal human behavior."

    You are absolutely, 100% correct, if Jesus was not God. If Jesus was not God, then the idea of the resurrection is absolutely silly and completely unbelievable. However, if He WERE God, then it is completely believable, possible, and even logical. Do you believe that if Jesus is God, it would be within His power to resurrect His own self?

    "Isn't there a possibility that the disciples badly wanted to believe and were simply mistaken? It seems to me that you'd want to err on the side of people behaving weirdly or something being incorrectly reported - a resurrection is about as illogical as it gets, I think."

    You know, thinking realistically, I believe this could happen, if it had only been the 12 disciples who saw him. But it wasn't. Many people saw him -- and even the Jewish leaders, who were responsible for the death of Jesus and requested guards be placed at His tomb, admitted His body was gone. They wanted to squash the Christian movement, and if they could, I think they would've pointed to His dead body as evidence that this "Messiah" was not so Messianic.
    So a few questions to think about:

    1) If Jesus is God, can He resurrect Himself? 2) What happened to the body?

    I have heard Frank Morison's book "Who Moved the Stone?" is a great resource on the subject of the resurrection, although I haven't had the chance to read it yet. He was a skeptic who set out to write a book about the last seven days of Jesus' life, stripped down of all the dogma, to show what a "great person" he was -- however, during his research, he was convinced of the truth of the resurrection & wrote a book about his reasoning behind believing.

  71. You know, thinking realistically, I believe this could happen, if it had only been the 12 disciples who saw him.

    Eliz, I agree with you on every point but this. I don't see how it is reasonably possible for 12 people to get to the point that they would erroneously "think themselves" into believing a dead body rose up, and then were willing to be murdered for it. I can't see it even remotely being a possibility (the video is pretty funny on that point. Not even two people would "will themselves" to believe such nonsense and die for it. Unless it's true.)

  72. Dug out some info for Mary and others interested in pursuing the evidence of the resurrection:

    We have proof internally and externally that eyewitnesses wrote the accounts. We have proof that the gospels are the same ones originally written.

    Internally - there's the facts that the style of writing is what would be expected from their accepted authors, simple language. Luke was written before Acts, Acts was written before Paul's death, so Luke had an early date we know is authentic.

    There's an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to 70ad. Full of names, details, historical data of that time period.

    The consistency of the narratives would've been impossible to orchestrate. Discrepancies are not attempted to be hidden, rather they make the accounts stronger simply b/c everything is not copy and pasted.

    Externally - Many people were alive to read the writings of the disciples who left some writings for teaching and counseling. These people and the extra-biblical truth points to the truth of the Resurrection. Even the enemies of Christ concede this. See Celsus, Porphyry, Emperor Julian.

    More later -- nubby

  73. Nubby, thanks! That gets into the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, which is a great topic.

    Eliz, I hope you get the spirit in which my comment was offered. I'm not trying to be snarky, only truly confused as to how even twelve people could reasonably do that. Or fewer. I seriously don't see it ever happening, but if anyone wants to show me how it could (or tell me any twelve friends of theirs who would do this), I am listening.

  74. @Leila, don't worry - I understand exactly what you mean. I am only thinking that I would understand why it would seem more reasonable when somebody looks at the resurrection story in isolation and from a secular background. Because if you do those two things, you would be more likely to think that Christ was simply a man and not God -- and in that case ANYTHING would be more likely/reasonable than Him rising from the dead. If the average atheist/skeptic weighs the odds of a small-group (even though it was not a small group, many make the mistake of assuming only the 12 saw Christ risen) delusion unto death versus a dead person coming back to life after three days (only these two alone, without the other evidences for the resurrection discussed), they would conclude the first one to be more reasonable, as I probably would.

    HOWEVER (and it's a big however!), it is sloppy reasoning to look at these in isolation. And it's a poor answer that even most skeptics (in my experience) have a hard time holding with any conviction. But the other option (Christ rising) has massive implications that they cannot (or are not ready) to accept.

    I'm kind of rambling. IN SUMMARY: I don't think it is likely that somebody would be so deluded or deceptive as to die for a lie -- in fact, I think it is EXTREMELY unlikely. However, is it more unlikely than a human (not God) raising himself from the dead? No, because a human raising himself after death is impossible. And, as Sherlock Holmes says: once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

  75. Leila, I don't think they made anything up. My guess would be that they genuinely believed that Jesus rose, but were mistaken - isn't there some possibility of that? I don't think they deliberately made it up, but through a combination of having been told that Jesus would come back, badly wanting to believe he did, believing that there was a heaven awaiting them after martyrdom, and the very real possibility of the story simply being inaccurately reported, it seems entirely more reasonable that Jesus didn't rise. I just don't see how a logical person can not find someone coming back to life completely and irreconcilably illogical.

    A beloved child/parent that dies does not present himself as a god, telling people that belief in him will save them from an eternity in hell, and that he should be expected to rise after he dies. If people really believed Jesus during his life, they shouldn't have feared even the most grisly of deaths, right?

    Like I said, I don't know enough to write out a detailed explanation of what could have happened, as much as I would like to. I intend to read the Bible in its entirety eventually, and I have no doubt I'll keep this discussion in mind when I do, but for now the best I can say is that it doesn't seem that the two options you presented are the only ones.

  76. Michelle, I totally appreciate the spirit in which you are engaging this discussion! I just want to challenge you to think it through a bit more. You said:

    "My guess would be that they genuinely believed that Jesus rose, but were mistaken - isn't there some possibility of that?"

    I would have to answer "no, there is no possibility of that". Just because people lived long ago, it doesn't mean they did not live in reality. Unless they were all severely mentally ill (meaning some kind of delusional psychosis -- all of them -- and what are the odds of that?), and all having the same delusion at the same time, then how could they believe that a corpse could rise from the dead? And let's say that they all did suffer from this delusion: How is it that they convinced everyone else to have the same delusion and then die for it? And, why didn't the authorities put down this mass conversion by exposing Christ's dead body (opening the tomb)?

    I am just wanted to see any flicker that what you're proposing could even have a flicker or probability in reality.

    I honestly can't see any scenario on earth where what you are proposing could actually occur.

    (PS: You are right that those aren't the only two options. There are also the options I dismissed, which are taken up elsewhere, but check my first comment. I should have said that "mass hallucination" and "mass delusion" were, for me, somewhat of the same issue. I don't see those as reasonable at all.)

  77. I just don't see how a logical person can not find someone coming back to life completely and irreconcilably illogical.

    By the way, Michelle, you are right!! They did find the idea completely illogical, like all of us would. And yet they witnessed it. It's precisely because of that witness that they were willing to boldly go out, proclaim this seemingly crazy truth, and then get killed for it, happily.

    Maybe that helps.

  78. Nubby (and Leila - you respond too fast!), I see what you're saying, but I feel like the accounts likely aren't that reliable. I'm spotty on the details, but I know there are tons of contradictions in the Bible and lots of parts that are said to be allegorical (and even some issues like this one) and that makes it hard for me to regard the Bible as a good historical document. Do you have any links to the secular sources you mention? I'd be interested to see how they treat the subject.

    Leila, what about the stolen body hypothesis? I know there are details like the big rock blocking the entrance of the tomb and the cloths Jesus was wrapped in still being there, but it still seems like a much more likely scenario, since I haven't seen any scenario on Earth where someone comes back to life. ;)

    Eliz, to answer your questions, sure. If Jesus was God, of course he could resurrect himself. But this seems like very circular reasoning to me - if Jesus was resurrected, then he was God; if he was God, then he could resurrect himself. I'll admit I'm not quite sure what to make of people seeing him after his death, since I'm really not completely familiar with stories of what happened, but it seems the body could easily have been hidden or buried.

  79. Leila, what about the stolen body hypothesis? I know there are details like the big rock blocking the entrance of the tomb and the cloths Jesus was wrapped in still being there, but it still seems like a much more likely scenario…

    But that brings up the same old problem: Who on earth would be tortured and murdered for what they know without a doubt is a lie that they concocted? What benefit at all would there be in that? Can you think of anyone that would do such a thing? It goes against everything we know of human nature. Would you die for a hoax you concocted? Could you get all your friends to die for that lie, too?

    Michelle, ha ha, I know I do answer too fast! But I am going out soon, so that will give you a breather. :)

  80. Michelle, in other words…

    The one scenario you gave was that the disciples delusionally believed that Christ really rose. The next scenario you gave was that they definitely knew he did NOT rise, because they stole the body.

    I can't find any reasonable recourse to either of those scenarios, but I just want to be clear that they are vastly different premises.

    I don't think it's circular, by the way, to say that God is the author of life, and that he is in charge of life and death. It was simply that the disciples (like us!) needed to know that He was God (who would think a man could be God?). He proved it by dying and rising. He conquered death for us.

    To me, it's very linear.

  81. PS: on that video link, Michelle. Yipes! I think it's a Mormon video about the King James Version of the Bible! Both of which are rejected by Catholicism. We are not Mormons (they are offshoots of Protestants, and waaaaaaay out of the mainstream), and we do not use the King James Bible.

  82. Michelle:

    If I am a human, I have a human nature.
    If I have a human nature, I am a human.

    I don't think of that as "circular" -- I think of that as "true." You agree that it's true, right?

  83. Haha, fast responses are good! :)

    But would the disciples themselves necessarily have stolen/moved the body? Couldn't someone else have done it, possibly even without the intent to deceive? I'm still operating under the assumption that they truly believed that Jesus had come back to life.

    I guess I see it as circular because, assuming a position of extreme skepticism, you'd have no reason to believe Jesus was God unless he rose. But unless you believed he was God, you probably wouldn't believe he rose.

    Kind of off topic, but then does the version of the Bible you use mention the Trinity at all? Honestly just curious on that one - I didn't really realize until I'd seen the video that there were such major discrepancies between versions.

  84. Oops, didn't see the last comment in time. I guess, currently, that's true. But say a computer was programmed to perfectly model human nature. Would it then be human as well?

  85. "But unless you believed he was God, you probably wouldn't believe he rose."

    Not true, if you saw that he rose with your own eyes. :) Seeing a dead man rise would make me a believer. And it made many thousands believers.

    Let's not go into hypotheticals (computers programmed perfectly to have a human nature). Let's talk about what is real. Use a different statement if you'd like. Bottom line, both of these statements are independently true:

    If Jesus is God, he could rise from the dead.
    If Jesus raised himself from the dead, He is God.

    One statement doesn't prove or depend on the other. I believe they can stand nicely alone, as truths. Do you think so, too?

    No Bible uses the word "Trinity" though the Trinity is implicit. Trinity is a word that the Church uses to describe the relationships in the Godhead.
    By the way, the fact that the Bible does not use the word "Trinity" is a problem for sola scriptura folks (Protestants), but not Catholics (Scripture and Tradition). I'm not sure if you are familiar with Catholic/Protestant differences.

    Give me more details of the scenario where one group would steal and hide the body (and how) and another group is delusional and believes (somehow) that dead Jesus is suddenly back alive again and walking around talking to them. I can't wrap my mind around it. Can you flesh it out for me (no pun intended)?


    Truly leaving now, be back tonight...

  86. That's the thing, though. We've never seen anyone rise with our own eyes, and I know that I can't trust the Bible as a reliable historical document. My point in saying that it's a circular argument is that for someone today to truly believe that Jesus rose (and therefore was God), you'd pretty much have to also already believe in God and believe that Jesus was God.

    I really don't have more details. I'd love to propose something complete, and maybe one day I will be able to, but my knowledge of the events as they were reported in the Bible is weak at best, and I recognize that that makes it difficult for me to carry on this conversation much further. I was mostly just suggesting these as possibilities.

  87. This is of great interest and importance from a purely historical stand point regarding the Resurrection from a non-Christian, non-disciple point of view:

    Flavius Josephus
    Jewish historian, born A.D. 37, at Jerusalem; died about 101

    He received a good education, and association with distinguished scholars developed his intellectual gifts, more especially his memory and power of judgment. He also made himself fully acquainted with and tried the leading politico-religious Jewish parties of his age — the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.

    Josephus's second work, the "Jewish Antiquities" (Ioudaike Archaiologia), contains in twenty books the whole history of the Jews from the Creation to the outbreak of the revolt in A.D. 66. Books I-XI are based on the text of the Septuagint, though at times he also repeats traditional explanations current among the Jews in later times. He also quotes numerous passages from Greek authors whose writings are now lost.

    Book XVIII contains in chapter iii the celebrated passage in which mention is made of the Redeemer in the following words:

    “About this time lived Jesus, a man full of wisdom, if indeed one may call Him a man. For He was the doer of incredible things, and the teacher of such as gladly received the truth. He thus attracted to Himself many Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. On the accusation of the leading men of our people, Pilate condemned Him to death upon the cross; nevertheless those who had previously loved Him still remained faithful to Him. For on the third day He again appeared to them living, just as, in addition to a thousand other marvelous things, prophets sent by God had foretold. And to the present day the race of those who call themselves Christians after Him has not ceased.”


  88. I don't follow that the bible is full of contradictions. As an historical work, it is unmarred by additions, all the quotes of the New Testament and the early fathers agree, no one could have tampered with all the texts, there's no time in which the corruption of texts could've happened before extra-testimony (extra biblical external evidence), the apostles were still alive and would have easily refuted anything like that.

    We have more copies of biblical narratives than of secular histories.


  89. Michelle,
    There is not one shred of archaeological evidence that exists that refutes the Resurrection. Not one.

    Think about that for a moment.
    Think of all the enemies of Christ and of his followers who were salivating for any means to stomp out this "christ" and his growing group of followers.

    Think of that motivation they had to want to squash this Jesus like a bug. They couldn't do it. They cannot refute it. There exists NOT ONE shred of historial evidence to the contrary that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived, died and rose again.


  90. Michelle, regarding Bible translations, there are good ones and bad ones. The King James is fairly good, although it does contain errors (as in typos and mistranslations). The New World Translation, which is what Jehovah's Witnesses use, is terrible and is pretty much panned by all non-JW Biblical scholars across the board (they've grossly mistranslated several passages to conform to their own theology). Catholics generally use the New American Standard Bible (which is okay) but also widely preferred is the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition. To my knowledge that's the most widely respected translation out there, by Protestants and Catholics alike. I took a class in "The Bible as Literature" in college (a secular one), and we used the Revised English Version which is also pretty good.

    I'm curious; why do you think the Bible is unreliable as an historical document, and what contractions do you believe are in the Bible? There are a lot of passages in the Bible that APPEAR contradictory but really aren't once you understand them in their proper context.

  91. Michelle, I just wanted to address your suggestion about a third party stealing the body.

    The Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, (who were the driving force behind Jesus being condemned to death), wanted nothing more than to prove that Jesus was a liar and not the Son of God as He claimed to be. Since Jesus said that He would rise from the dead, the Pharisees had a vested interest in making sure nothing happened to the body. They wanted nothing more than to prove Jesus' followers wrong.

    We have already covered why the apostles wouldn't have taken the body.

    The Romans wouldn't have taken the body since they probably didn't care, and in his lifetime, Jesus wasn't even a dot on their radar screen. They had no vested interest in a squabble between the Pharisees and a small group of Jesus' followers as long as it wasn't going to cause an uprising.

    And that only leaves some poor thrill seeking whack job who decided he was going to risk his life just to obtain possession of a dead body for no purpose. He somehow eluded the Roman guards, rolled away a massive stone, and hurried to lug the body out of sight, but not before he took the time to neatly roll the burial shroud before getting the heck out of there...

  92. Michelle, I want to gently propose one thought before you do further study someday: It may be that you have decided in your mind that it is impossible for a man (Jesus) to rise from the dead. If that is your foregone conclusion, then no amount of reasonable debate, evidence, lack of alternative which can be reconciled with human nature, will convince you otherwise. You have to at least have a mind open to the fact that if all things point to something happening, even something supernatural, then maybe that thing did happen.

    Some people dismiss miracles out of hand. If that is you, then nothing could convince you. There were people who didn't believe the miracles they saw Jesus perform in front of their eyes. There was at least one Apostle who wouldn't believe Jesus rose until he put his hands in Jesus' wounds (at Jesus' invitation).

    If you dismiss the possibility of Jesus rising, then nothing will convince you, not even reasoned arguments and sound historical, archeological and yes, scientific (Shroud) evidence.

    I suggest saying just one small prayer to Jesus, just in case, and then keep your mind open, just a bit. Then, lay out all the evidence. Read the gospels, read Lewis' Mere Christianity, read Strobel's The Case for Christ, read the works of former atheists who now believe. And say a prayer each time, for Christ to reveal Himself to you, if He is real. What have you got to lose? We won't even tell anyone. :)

  93. Leila,

    Fr. Knowitall's post bugs me because he's appealing to our scientific way of knowing. For example, as you asked for more, his bit on the "blood stains" is very matter-of-fact, but here he doesn't even bother listing a name, let alone a reference. And really, sometimes the scientific literature is the only thing we can reliably appeal to. If we are reliably trying to communicate scientific knowledge across nations over the internet, and if this is scientific knowledge that has empirical data and has been published, then it's accepted in at least some scientific circles to have been printed in a journal.

    I've come across enough posts by secularists and theists alike who claim facts but can't back those up at all. I usually sum these up as "lies".

    Some of his evidence is anecdotal. Just because there's a "hidden" seam that's like a seam found in another cloth doesn't mean it's from the same place.

    I will agree with the travertine evidence, though. That is fairly convincing, however, I remain skeptical. A shroud laying on a normal human being would not create an image like that. They would need eyes on the side of their head.

  94. Leila says "On the third day after Jesus' gruesome death, one of the fearful, cowering disciples suddenly has an idea: "Let's pretend Jesus didn't stay dead! Let's pretend he rose from the dead!""

    One would hope that after giving all that perfectly good money to the Jesuits for an education that the student could come up with an argument more compelling than a false dichotomy coupled with a straw man, i.e., that there are only two possibilities and one is absurd.

    Perhaps, though, as MaiZeke kindly and generously suggests elsewhere, the intention is to provoke response by hyperbole.

    New Testament scholarship, where historians attempt to investigate the accuracy of existing accounts independent of doctrinal considerations, is a large field with an extensive bibliography. Citations of any of this research are conspicuously absent in this thread. In the unlikely event that anyone would like to look at any of this material, there's a pretty good list at

    Although Leila's Option #1 really needs no refutation, just for amusement I'll point out that the oldest existing passion/resurrection narrative is found in Mark, which most people date from around 70 C.E., that is, circa forty years after the "first Easter." There may be earlier written accounts, to say nothing of oral traditions, but as none of these survive their contents are imaginary. The resurrection story, therefore, was worked on by many authors over a long period, and is still being embellished today. Nobody really thinks it sprang fully formed from the heads of the twelve on the first Easter.

    The real puzzle in this post, however, is why the truth of the resurrection, which if I'm not mistaken should be a matter of faith, is being treated as a matter of fact. I will not presume to comment on that and as the question is rhetorical I'm not particularly interested in anyone's answer.

  95. I love coming back to this site just to see the pure unadulterated faith! I've been busy and have not avoided the site for any specific reason.

    The best line in the post is "Because it's illogical and unreasonable that any one person would consent to be tortured and killed for a known lie..."

    Yes, so it's understandably reasonable and logical that a person rose from the dead! Yes, that's logical.

    Let's discount the 12 or 20 other possible scenarios-- only 2 options, really?-- that could have answered the question of why or if the tomb was physically empty, and let's jump to the conclusion that a guy came back to life and walked out.

    Whatever it is, it's not reasonable or logical. I think it's safer just to say that you have faith that he rose from the dead and not try to convince anyone along the lines of reason and logic. What's the matter with just having faith?

    (My second best part of the post was the comment about jailbird Colson being convinced of the resurrection because he was convicted in the Watergate conspiracy. Nice.)

  96. Anonymous, if you're so sure you're right, why are you so afraid to own your words?

    Tony, examples of other possible scenarios, please? Leila keeps requesting examples but non-Christians keep insisting that there are tons without actually providing any...

    And yes, it is eminently logical that someone could be raised from the dead, if that someone happened to be God Incarnate. If that premise is in place, then the logic absolutely works -- but it's not logical if that someone was NOT God Incarnate.

  97. Tony, hello again!

    First, I never said there were only two possibilities in total. I said there were two, assuming Jesus died and discounting mass hallucination. Read carefully. :) I also included a link to the discussion of many more scenarios in the very first comment after the post, should you be interested. Faith, yes, since I was not one of the witnesses. However, it's the same faith required to believe that the Revolutionary War happened: It is more reasonable to believe than not, and I do not need a video tape (which may be doctored anyway) nor peer reviewed journals to deduce that an historical event occurred. Question: Do you dismiss miracles out of hand? Do you leave not a jot of possibility that God exists? Then, you might as well move along, because you will never, ever be convinced. There are those who will never believe that a moon landing happened either, because it's absurd. So, they dismiss any evidence out of hand. So be it. You can't explain why the disciples would die for what they know is a lie. When you can give any plausible reason, then you will have something to say here that actually has meaning and adds to the conversation. Some of the greatest minds of the past 2,000 years have believed in the Resurrection as fact, and they don't normally believe that folks rise from the dead.

    Would love an alternate scenario. At least Michelle tried. I respect that.

  98. Clarification re: moon landing: *because it's absurd/impossible in their mind. Now, most of us know a moon landing is not absurd/impossible. We have concluded, for many sound reasons, that it did actually occur. Christians believe the Resurrection did occur. Some believe it on faith (like some believe the moon landing -- because they were told and believe), and some only believe after they study and deduce and are finally convinced that it cannot be otherwise.

    And some will never believe. It has been ever thus.

  99. Paul/Sam/anonymous, back again? :)

    I generally don't want to respond to your mockery and snark, but I will say that you won't get far here appealing to my Jesuit education. At least not if we are talking about the majority of Jesuits at BC. I certainly did have one or two who were orthodox Catholics, praise God!

    If you want to put aside your mockery and attempt to show a scenario in which (even decades later, when the Apostles were still alive) Christians suddenly thought they should say "Let's pretend the dead guy rose, and then let's die gruesome deaths for that!" I would love to see how that could logically, reasonably play out. Please, have at it. Show us. Prove us wrong. I'm all ears! Otherwise, you are just playing, and have nothing serious to say.

    And yes, it is eminently logical that someone could be raised from the dead, if that someone happened to be God Incarnate. If that premise is in place, then the logic absolutely works -- but it's not logical if that someone was NOT God Incarnate.

  100. Tony, the blog post from Father was a blog post. Much like this blog, it serves a purpose, but the purpose is not all-encompassing. If you would like more evidence, there are plenty of books and reports and documentaries and articles and interviews, etc. You can go straight to the scientists themselves. And from what I have seen of their work, they used the best equipment, had the right conditions, did all the right things. Now, it could be that all of them (unrelated, most non-religious, over the course of many experiments and spanning many years) are simply engaged in a conspiracy, just like the Apostles. But, maybe, and more reasonably, they are scientists who have something to say. I guess it's for you to dig further if you are interested, as I don't have time to review the scientific journals and discuss them here. But you might, and I encourage it.

    Besides, that was a cool link to some cool stuff about the Shroud (which is fascinating, but the Shroud was not the point of this post. In fact, I never mentioned it in the body of the post.

    I'm still just waiting for a plausible alternate scenario. How did this whole story of Resurrection go down?

    Whoops, on my last comment, I had a quote from JoAnna that I just wanted to emphasis. I forgot to quote it and preface it. So here it is again, and thanks JoAnna:

    And yes, it is eminently logical that someone could be raised from the dead, if that someone happened to be God Incarnate. If that premise is in place, then the logic absolutely works -- but it's not logical if that someone was NOT God Incarnate.

    If the atheist posters aren't understanding the points we are making, my hope is that the lurkers are.

  101. Oh gosh, it's still early for me!! I meant to say "Peter" not "Tony" on that last comment! Oy vey, I need to go get some breakfast, quick….

  102. @Michelle, I understand what you mean about the circular reasoning, but (and I think Leila pointed this out), I am not trying to use one to PROVE the other, I meant that if Jesus being God is simply not an option for you, then you will never come to the conlcusion that He was resurrected. If you close your mind to the existence of birds and walk by a tree and hear tweeting, you would be more likely to think the tree is singing than that a bird was perched in its branches! (Maybe not the best illustration, but you get my point...I hope!)

    I'm also curious and echo JoAnna's question to all unbelievers: Do you think the Bible is unreliable as a historical document? If so, why? Would it impact your belief if it is reliable?

    Also, as much as I am hesitant to drag another issue into the conversation: I don't really see lack of the use of the word Trinity as a problem for Protestants. It is a label for a concept that is clearly there, just like "incarnation" for example.

  103. Eliz, you are right regarding "Trinity": it shouldn't be an issue for Protestants. I only bring it up that way because Protestants get very upset with the concept of Purgatory or Marian doctrines, and yet they have no problem with Trinity or Incarnation. All of those are not "named" in the Bible, but are implied and do not contradict the Scriptures, and all are part of Christian Tradition. So, that's what I was getting at. Catholics don't require things to be explicit in the Bible. And Protestants don't either, but many deny this fact (claiming that everything they believe is explicit, and there is no need for Tradition).

    I hope that makes sense.

    But I'm totally with you. You'd make a great Catholic, since you understand this stuff already. :)

  104. Nubby, just out of curiosity, what archaeological evidence would refute the resurrection? I can't really imagine how archaeology could be used in support or refutation of a resurrection.

    As for the Bible being full of contradictions, JoAnna (as well as just not being logical at all), here is a pretty good source. I also would find it hard to treat the Bible as a historical document unless you were meant to take every word of it literally, which I think most people would agree you're not supposed to. And Nubby, did you get a chance to watch the video I posted earlier? It addresses one instance of revisions to the Bible.

    Leila, I appreciate the sentiment, and you're right - I am pretty closed to supernatural arguments and miracles, because none of them appear logical to me, and none have been proven. I actually spent a couple of years doing my best to pray and believe that there's a God and Jesus was his son, but I ultimately found that it doesn't make sense to me, and that the atheist position does. If I get a chance in the near future, I will take a look at those books, though (I'm all for familiarizing myself with opposing arguments, obviously!). Could I suggest that, if you're interested, you read Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion? This is not an attempt to get you to lose your faith (I promise that I've never set out to do that! :) ), but just so you can get a better idea of why a lot of us don't find religion to be the most logical position.

  105. I've seen that list before, Michelle, and it's unconvincing. First of all, the author of the list includes a preface in which he states that the contractions have been refuted, but he refuses to accept those explanations because... well, he doesn't really say why, but it's really because he fails to understand what exegesis is or even the varied senses of Scripture.

    If you read a biology book like a history book, or vice versa, you're not going to understand it. If you read, say, Jane Eyre with zero knowledge of 19th century British life, you'll get very confused very quickly. The same is true with the Bible.

    But let's look at one alleged "contradiction":

    Who is the father of Joseph?

    MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

    LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

    And the refutation, which took me about a minute on Google:

    Heli (Gr. HELEI — Luke 3:23) is evidently the same name as the preceding. In Luke he is said to be the father of Joseph, while in Matthew 1:16, Jacob was Joseph's father. The most probable explanation of this seeming contradiction is afforded by having recourse to the levirate law among the Jews, which prescribes that when a man dies childless his widow "shall not marry to another; but his brother shall take her, and raise up seed for his brother" (Deuteronomy 25:5). The child, therefore, of the second marriage is legally the child of the first (Deuteronomy 25:6). Heli having died childless, his widow became the wife of his brother Jacob, and Joseph was the offspring of the marriage, by nature the son of Jacob, but legally the son of Heli. It is likely that Matt. gives the natural, and Luke the legal descent. (Cf. Maas, "The Gosp. acc. to S. Matt.", i, 16.) Lord A. Hervey, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who wrote a learned work on the "Genealogies of Our Lord Jesus Christ", thinks that Mary was the daughter of Jacob, and Joseph was the son of Jacob's brother, Heli. Mary and Joseph were therefore first cousins, and both of the house of David. Jacob, the elder, having died without male issue, transmitted his rights and privileges to the male issue of his brother Heli, Joseph, who according to genealogical usage was his descendant.

    See? This contradiction is easily refuting by referring to historical Jewish genealogy practices, but the author of the list couldn't be bothered to find out because he has no interest in doing so.

  106. Michelle, just a quick clarification: The parts of the Bible that we are talking about are the accounts of Jesus' life and the Resurrection. The gospels (which are a small part of the Bible) are written as an historical account, and meant to be taken as historically true. They are eyewitness accounts and that is their purpose.

    As for the Bible and translations, again, I think your source was non-Catholic. The Bible does not exist in a vacuum. It exists because of and came from and was canonized by an ekklesia, a Church. The authorized translations come from the Church. We cannot account for nor vouch for translations made outside of the Church. Those translations can range from fair to horrid. But you are talking to Catholics here, so you have to stick to Catholics and Catholic things. I cannot defend Protestant beliefs or translations.

    I do appreciate your honest thoughts. I have not read Dawkins, nor the many books written to rebut him. I just don't have time, sadly. Still trying to slog through the one book that I am obsessed with, and which I am only halfway through! But if I did check out atheists' literary works, it would be the existentialists. If God did not exist, I would be kindred spirits (so to speak!) with those guys. I would be all over that. The New Atheists? Not so much. Their is no ultimate meaning in an accidental world, we are nothings going nowhere and nothing matters. At least the existentialists don't try to put a happy spin on that fact. If there is no God, we are nothingness, destined for blackout. I can respect that. That makes logical sense, and I am all about logic. In fact, if you were to move to an existentialist position, I would respect that. It makes sense, once you reject the possibility of God. But all I see here are New Atheists. Any existentialists out there? Camus, Sartre enthusiasts? I can work with you guys, you make sense to me and are philosophically thorough, rigorous (even though I utterly disagree).

  107. *There. UGH, what is wrong with my grammar today???

  108. Also, Michelle - If you thought the God Delusion was a "good" explanation for atheism, then I recommend that you read The Godless Delusion, which is a refutation of Dawkins' arguments by Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley.

  109. @Leila, ok I understand now, although I'm sure about the bit about being a good Catholic -- it seems a lot harder to be a "good Catholic" than a good Protestant! ;)

    @Michelle: I know the challenge wasn't made to me, but I'll read the God Delusion, if you read What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'souza.

    One issue I take with the introduction section in the link, which I will look through more thoroughly, when I can print it off, is that the author writes off what are actually legitimate arguments as being ridiculous, instead of saying why they are wrong. Example: "That is to be taken metaphorically." While this could be a scapegoat technique, it is legitimate in cases of the poetry of the Bible. You must remember the Bible is more of an anthology or compilation -- not just one very long book. It has books of history, but also of poetry and you simply cannot read the two the same way. When we read today, we don't read a newspaper article the same way we read a poem! Why would we do that to ancient texts?

    The same goes for "It has to be understood in context". Just because believers use sloppy methods of reading, doesn't mean you should do the same! Believers who use verses out of context should be held accountable, just as people who critize the Bible should! Also, the author is showing his bias when he discredits miracles as not being factual. This goes back to the whole "closed mind" issue we were discussing before.

    @Tony: There is no problem with just having long as it's in the right thing! Just generic "faith" is kind of worthless, it seems to me, if it's not placed in something that is true. Facts and reason can help us discern what is true.

  110. Oops -- meant to say I'm NOT sure I would be a good Catholic. Hahaha

  111. Eliz, great stuff, thank you! You are my kind of Protestant. :) (And you're right it's not easy being a faithful Catholic, but ooooohhhh, so worth it!)

  112. @Leila -- I've always wondered, if Protestants really believe sola scriptura then why do so many of us use study Bibles? :\

  113. Eliz, great question! I think they want to believe in sola scriptura, but in practice, sola scriptura is unworkable and illogical.

    You've got a great insight there and that's why you would make a great Catholic. When Protestants start asking those types of logical questions, they are getting closer to the Catholic Church. ;)

  114. Love this discussion! Still waiting for other possible scenarios since some have been claiming there are "12-20"! Leila has invited you all to bring those scenarios to the table so we can discuss!

  115. Thanks, Manda! I am about to post a new post, but I am still very much engaged in this discussion, so please, let's keep it going! Anyone want to give a plausible scenerio that accounts for all circumstances? Thanks!

  116. Michelle,
    There ought to be countless records/findings/historical data calling out Jesus and this whole Christian thing as a lark, if indeed it was (is).

    I'm familiar with all kinds of translations. I'm familiar with biblical history, life of Christ, life of apostles.
    I'm familiar with dawkins and the lot. It's all been hashed out and re-hashed and it boils down to each his own at this juncture.

    I've been on the personal road I'm on for a long time, seeking God, falling away from God, and coming around to grace once again.

    It's a personal journey. Blog comments might be helpful here and there, but it's mostly a personal invitation to either accept or decline what we have in Christianity.

    Up to you. As a Catholic, it's my prayer that in time, as your youth gives way to life and experience that you'd find Catholicism worth another glance.

    Nothing further I say, post, refute or otherwise is gonna change your mind at this point. That's up to you and God alone. That's for all reading who don't believe. I find I'm maxed out, and should just stand aside for the HS to do His work.


  117. Thanks for the platform to share the truth, Leila. Your gifts are being well used. You'll be greatly rewarded for it.


  118. Nubby, I agree totally with what you just said to Michelle. I hope we are still in contact, Michelle and I, ten years from now. And Nubby, you can take a breather, but don't dare go away for too long! ;)

  119. Eliz- I second Leila's post- keep on examining. Keep on researching. Nothing worth having is ever easy. But you'll get all the grace you need, and the road will lead you home (to the Church). That much I do know.


  120. Tony,

    Why is it illogical for Christ to have risen from the dead?

    You could say that it is unlikely, or difficult to believe, but it is not illogical, formally or otherwise. Nor is it opposed to reason.

    I think this quote from G.K. Chesterton's book "Orthodoxy" might shed some light on how the terms "reasonable" and "logical" are sometimes misused.

    "If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened -- dawn and death and so on -- as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail."

    I apologize for the length. If Christians were to say that Jesus came from Heaven and told us that 2 + 2 now equals 5, then you could accuse us of being illogical, but to say that Jesus rose from the dead is not illogical. You are right that we have to take this on faith, although with the evidence that Leila and others have provided it is not as big a leap as some would make it, but you are wrong to say holding that belief is illogical or opposed to reason. Opposed to strict empiricism? Yes, but no one has proven that all reality is material, so that is a leap of faith as well.


  121. JoAnna, what about the differences from account to account of events? You'd think at least on the important "historical" points, there'd be agreement, but from what I've read, there isn't. I'm really just curious at this point - how do you reconcile things like this?

    JoAnna and Eliz, I'll look for those!

    Leila, I'm glad you brought up existentialism! From what I've read, though, I don't think New Atheism is incompatible with existential thought. I've actually read some Camus and Sartre and liked their ideas a lot (my blog is named after one of Sartre's quotes!). I know a lot of people find it depressing, but when I was first introduced to existentialism in a high school French course I immediately found that it made sense, and the more I read in school and on my own, the more I agreed with it. I'd still recommend some of the New Atheists' writing, simply because it's an awful lot like the discussions here. To the point, not afraid of causing offense, and very opinionated.

    Nubby and Leila, I hope these discussions continue for a long time too! I really doubt I'll ever end up Catholic (or religious at all), but if I do you'll be the first to know. :)

  122. Wow, I can only catch up so much!

    Leila, I'm supposed I'm used to seeing general references, or at the least, names attached. I did find more stuff on the blood work from the Shroud. However, regardless of the evidence there, it doesn't really support the Resurrection of Christ, does it? It's an image. Maybe authentic. I'm not saying the people doing work on it are trying to further any hoax or not, but that whether or not their studies and data are legitimate is moot. Their data alone is suspect, and as I said, we cannot conclude the Resurrection from the data. There are other conclusions, but certainly not that.

    I am also familiar with Michelle's links. I think another one (it's pretty crude, and I'm certain you will ABHOR the rhetoric), but it points out some discrepancies specifically in the Passion story.

    Lastly, I've noticed a lot of people asking us atheists and secularists to come up with a reasonable explanation for the jesus story. We've mostly deferred by noting that, look, we don't have enough evidence, knowledge, data, etc., whatever, to make that kind of speculation. But we certainly don't accept the evidence and data at hand because it does not seem conclusive or able to rule out other ideas. But, what's remarkable is that this is nothing new:

    Constantly, Christians will begin a piece by saying, "If you ask an atheist, Where did we come from? Why are we here? [etc], they won't be able to answer you". Aside from the fact that atheists CAN answer those questions, the absence of meaning, or morals (if it were so), does not make us wrong just because you find it unfavorable.

    Leila, I LOVE Camus. I'm not sure he belongs right beside Sartre though! Camus thought that there is no actual meaning in the world, but that there is meaning, because we give meaning to each other and things, and he calls this the Absurd, and his writings were meditations on the experience of the Absurd. The Plague is a wonderful example, although The Stranger is more of an existentialist piece, it is still wonderful.

  123. Sorry, I didn't post the link about the Passion discrepancies...


  124. Peter, re: the link…

    Like you really think that no Christian apologist has encountered this stuff before? Sigh. It's like when Protestants think they have the "gotcha" factor when they tell us we worship idols (or Mary) and the Bible says we shouldn't! Like we would run out of the Church because we never heard that before, in 2,000 years.


  125. But Peter, I am glad you like the existentialists! If I were an atheist, I would relish in that angst and be darker than dark! In my thinking, introverted, melancholic ways, it would almost give me some perverse pleasure to feel how meaningless it all is! Of course, I think I would hover on the brink of suicide at the awfulness of it all (if I really believed it), but still, it would be something to wallow in. A life without hope! I can almost imagine it. In fact, when I was a little girl, I would allow my imagination to take me to a place of non-existence. It was so freaky and my mind could not really even take it in, but I remember shivering in the horror of the thought of that nothingness. The joy of knowing that that darkness and nothingness was a lie was the best knowledge ever. My soul would soar, knowing that I was loved by God and that I would not only never be alone, but that I was known. And that I would never fall into non-existence. But wow, what a powerful thought! Like a nightmare that I could wake up from.

    But if I believed that nightmare of nothingness, I think I would have to live like I was nothingness.

    That's why I don't get the fun, happy, "Life is fine without God!" tripe that is as deep as a puddle and as fluffy as a puppy.

    Ick. Give me real, dark atheism, any time.

    But I would never call it "wonderful."

  126. Leila,

    Can you imagine why Camus would be a strong opponent of the death penalty?

  127. But Leila, we are happy, and I'm a bit offended that someone who's never been an atheist can just decide that that happiness isn't real. I'm not sure where you got "real, dark atheism" from, but I promise you, every single atheist I know is fulfilled and happy. The reason we don't hover on the brink of suicide is because we know we're lucky to have this one life to live to the fullest we can. The existential angst you refer to is as a result of coming to realize the complete freedom and responsibility we each have - it isn't a continual state of depression.

  128. As an atheist, you don't have hope.
    Nothing keeps you going when you start to despair. You have no fuel in the tank. And happiness changes with circumstances, so that's no gauge for steady joy. That's just letting moods dictate your reaction to daily life.

    What hope, what purpose, would allow you to cling to life, or even thrive, in a bleak situation?

    One doesn't need to be an atheist to feel what it's like to lose hope. Plenty of us Catholics/christians have faced enough hardship in life to feel like we've perhaps been abandoned.

    But when you are open to grace, grace abounds. Where darkness is, grace fuels the heart, the will, the mind and breaks open the dark like dawn lifting in a new day. Our trump card is that when the heart is heavy, even doubtful, it's when the intellect reminds us that Christ is truly alive, truly present, and truly giving us his own strength. Our whole focus shifts from self to Him.

    It's not something an atheist would understand. So I guess, as you say Leila cannot know what atheists feel as far as happiness goes, then, you, an atheist, cannot know for a second the joy of the hope we have in life everlasting.

    And I know plenty of miserable athesits personally, so you cannot use a blanket statement that all atheists are clicking their heels happily when their future is worm food when the curtain closes on this life.

  129. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones,
    and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might,
    which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
    far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.
    And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
    which is his body, 11 the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

    eph 1:18-23

  130. "Can you imagine why Camus would be a strong opponent of the death penalty?
    -Peter "

    Cuz he's a swell guy?


  131. Michelle,
    I have no doubt that you and other atheists feel happy and content in your lives, but I would be willing to bet that none of you have truly been on the other side believing in God and the truth of Christianity with all your heart.

    For Christian theists who believe in the beauty of heaven and the meaning behind all aspects of life, the alternative seems like life with no oxygen. Going through every day believing we are a step closer to an eternity of nothingness would be suffocating and unbearable.

    I'm sure that when an atheist finds peace with his or her beliefs, he can be very content. However, once you get a taste of Christian hope, the atheist perspective just seems so dark and frustrating.

    It would be like a professional ice cream taster who had a passion for ice cream finding out that he has developed a severe lactose intolerance at age 30. This news is devastating, and a life without ice cream just seems unbearable and without color or happiness...

    Compare this person to someone who was diagnosed with a lactose intolerance as an infant. Over the years, never having had ice cream, this would just be a fact of life.

    Obviously this isn't a perfect analogy, but I think it effectively conveys the point.

  132. "Like you really think that no Christian apologist has encountered this stuff before? Sigh. It's like when Protestants think they have the "gotcha" factor when they tell us we worship idols (or Mary) and the Bible says we shouldn't! Like we would run out of the Church because we never heard that before, in 2,000 years.

    Sigh. "

    Come on, Leila, doncha know! Christianity is a farce. Why just look at all of these anti-Christian links! They'll tell ya so!

    And yet ... no one has said anything about the hard science we went thru not too long ago regarding the odds all of this happening by chance. Hm. Silence is deafening. All of it happened by chance, but I'm supposed to trust their brains over mine when we're all the result of chance? Yeah, I'm thinking not.


  133. Can you imagine why Camus would be a strong opponent of the death penalty?

    I would guess it was because he didn't want to be the instrument of someone else's journey into nothingness?

    Or, because his God-given conscience made him averse to the death penalty?

  134. Michelle, I'm glad you feel happiness. I am only speaking for myself, and what I would feel like if I were ultimately a meaningless mistake.

    That's just me. Like I said, I'm just speaking for myself.

  135. The reason we don't hover on the brink of suicide is because we know we're lucky to have this one life to live to the fullest we can.

    You are "lucky" in that you have the creature comforts. How about the suffering orphan starving and dying of disease in Africa? Is she "lucky" to have this one life before she becomes nothing?

    Just curious.

  136. The existential angst you refer to is as a result of coming to realize the complete freedom and responsibility we each have

    Freedom to.... do whatever you feel like, because nothing ultimately matters and you are nothingness. Responsibility to....??? What do responsibilities matter? If there is no God, no meaning to life (aside my subjective wishful thinking), then why be responsible for anything aside from my own pleasures?

  137. "but non-Christians keep insisting that there are tons without actually providing any..." JoAnna @ May 19, 2011 8:03 AM

    "...and attempt to show a scenario..." Leila @ May 19, 2011 8:24 AM

    "I'm still just waiting for a plausible alternate scenario..." Leila @ May 19, 2011 8:31 AM

    "Still waiting for other possible scenarios" Manda @ May 19, 2011 11:23 AM

    "Anyone want to give a plausible scenerio that accounts for all circumstances" Leila @ May 19, 2011 12:17 PM

    Why such persistence?

    Especially since Anonymous @ May 19, 2011 6:21 AM had already sketched out a perfectly good one:

    "the oldest existing passion/resurrection narrative is found in Mark, which most people date from around 70 C.E."

    Forgive the pedantry, but you did miss or ignore it the first time. For amplification, Mark fabricates the story. Authors Matthew and Luke crib from his book, and write their own, adding embellishments. Later authors do the same or similar.

    It's possible that between 33 C.E., or whatever date you choose for the crucifixion, and the appearance of Mark, around 70 C.E., that there weren't any stories about the resurrection. Example: The Gospel of Thomas, which, although apocryphal, is a genuine early Christian document that may predate Mark, contains no such story.

    Consider that Jesus' body was eaten by wild animals, was not anointed, no shroud, no tomb, no guards on the tomb, no witnesses, no resurrection.

    The claim that martyrdom of early followers constitutes proof of the historical truth of their beliefs, which is spectacularly weak to begin with, deserves special mention. Note that the material, formal, efficient and final cause of martyrdom was the refusal to submit to the official state religion. The Roman Catholic church has significant experience with both 1) being the official state religion and 2) persecuting the heretics, so it is easy to see why Leila prefers such an oblique argument.

  138. Anon, thank you! Finally. But you didn't get very detailed, as I did with my scenario.

    "First, Mark fabricates the story."

    Excellent. Let's go with that.

    Motive? Why did he do it? Witnesses to whatever (didn't) happen are still very much alive. Why didn't they say anything when this fabricated idea started catching on? And why did it catch on? That part I'm dying to hear.

    When do you think the very first people started dying for this fabrication of Mark's? (What year, approx?) And why did they agree to die for this fabrication if people alive at the time of Jesus' death (and eating by dogs) were still alive at the time of the fabrication, too?

    The "refusal of Christians to submit to the official state religion" was because they would not deny Christ, because Christ rose. Have you read any accounts of Christianity in ancient Rome? Please, flesh out those details for me. These were real people, and I want to know how their actions (submitting to death by lion's jaws, being ripped to shreds, instead of saying, "Hey, I won't be a Christian anymore") squares with what you know of human nature.

    I'm truly begging for more information, more to the story. What you've given is a very tiny start. Keep going. I hope my question prompts will help. I am very excited that someone is willing to finally (hopefully) offer a full narrative of how this thing could have gone down.

    Off to try to get the Pope to take over America and persecute some heretics now….

  139. *Meaning, Jesus' body was eaten by wild dogs (I was hoping someone would bring that one up, just because it's so vivid! Was that Crossan or some Jesus Seminar dude who posits that gem?)

    And sorry for the bad grammar and unclear transitions. I said yesterday I should eat breakfast first before I post. Will I ever learn?

    (Also, if you are Paul/Sam, why do you still hide in the shadows? Your snark and mockery give you away anyway, so what's the point of hiding?)

  140. Wow, I had no idea my life was so dismal and depressing!

    We say we're lucky because we understand the long odds of our existence and what came together to bring us here. The little girl in Africa isn't lucky because of oppression brought onto that continent by politics and religions alike. Oh, I know, religious nonprofits will bring her rice, but they won't give her birth control! Because it would be monstrous to prevent her from bringing 8 children she can't support into the same environment, right?

    Camus was against the ultimate penalty because he knew that there is meaning in each life. That meaning is not transcendental, we create meaning. It's real, just as much as our cars, meals, and computers are real.

    And because of that meaning, we aren't free to do anything because it can severely affect our fellow humans. The logical conclusion of atheism isn't total moral depravity. We just simply reject a transcendental grounding for many of the same reasons we reject sketchy evidence of a Resurrection.

    And I know my link is old hat--I'm not the biggest fan myself. But discrepancies in the Passion stories stand out in stark contrast to the claims here that the Gospels are historical accounts written seriously and methodically.

    Knowing happy or miserable atheists says nothing about the entire group. Each of us is going to have their own take on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the meaning of meaning in the universe.

    Anon, there is plenty of hope, I have plenty of motivation. Women are denied basic health care because they're women. My brothers and sisters in my community are denied basic civil liberties because they're in same sex relationships and are bullied to death as children. Millions of students consider creationism or ID to be legitimate scientific theories. Ignorance and bigotry run rampant and apathetic attitudes from the religious lead them to justify their actions by grounding them in the Bible. But maybe this comment is more appropriate in the recent post...

  141. Peter, thanks for touching on on issue that I have been meaning to address and which appalls me to no end: The Third World warehouses stocked with shelves of contraceptives (thanks Western world!) and devoid of simple medications which could save millions of lives.

    Oh, what a rich topic to mine, and I will be doing so, God willing, in the near future...

  142. Peter, a few posts ago, you said this in the comments:

    "I'm fairly certain the universe is meaningless and I'm worthless…"

    That does not sound like a path to joy. It does sound "dismal and depressing". And if one is thinking logically, one would be depressed and unhappy knowing this. That is why I would be a dark, hopeless atheist. I would want my life to be logical. That's just me. I couldn't be a happy atheist. It would mean I would be living in denial of my worthlessness and meaninglessness. My brain doesn't work that way, for good or ill.

    Now, of course, I think your life, Peter, is infinitely meaningful and worthy. You are a child of God, willed into being on purpose, through Love and for Love. And you will live eternally.

  143. Anonymous, I do have hope. I have hopes for my own future and for bettering the futures of the people around me and the people who will be on Earth long after I'm gone. Just because when I die I'll be gone for good doesn't make this life depressing - it makes it all the more meaningful because it's all we have. Of course, there are unhappy atheists, just as there are unhappy Christians. I only meant to indicate that I'm not the one anomalous happy atheist.

    Leila, wanting there to be some ultimate meaning for each person regardless of their situation on Earth doesn't make it so. And honestly, would you really be totally depraved if you didn't have your Catholic faith? I find that extremely hard to believe.

    Megan, some people convert to Christianity from atheism and can't imagine how they lived any other way. Some people deconvert to atheism and are more fulfilled than they ever were before. I tried my best to maintain "Christian hope" for a few years, but ultimately found it unsatisfying. I didn't like trying to believe in something that I couldn't intellectually convince myself was true.

    I started wondering today - so often, people say there's no ultimate meaning in an atheist's life because there's no God. But for Christians, what is the ultimate meaning of God? You're living to please a God who has put you here on Earth, who expects you to believe in him to impress him so he can decide your eternal fate...but why does he bother? For his own amusement? I still don't see there being any ultimate or satisfying meaning in that.

  144. I started wondering today - so often, people say there's no ultimate meaning in an atheist's life because there's no God. But for Christians, what is the ultimate meaning of God? You're living to please a God who has put you here on Earth, who expects you to believe in him to impress him so he can decide your eternal fate...but why does he bother? For his own amusement? I still don't see there being any ultimate or satisfying meaning in that.

    This can be explained in three simple words: God is Love.

    Or, in a paragraph 1 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

  145. Peter,

    Camus was against the ultimate penalty because he knew that there is meaning in each life. That meaning is not transcendental, we create meaning. It's real, just as much as our cars, meals, and computers are real.

    Hardly. He thought life was absurd. He was against the death penalty because he was against the absurdity, the senselessness of life. "Rebel against meaninglessness!" He might have said. The only point of life, for Camus, was in fighting against the absurdity of death. An absurdity because of how much man does possess by way of passion, knowledge, and experience.

    Camus does not read like he was a happy man. He also reads like he was plagued with a contradiction between the looming reality that men and women are persons, and they strive for immortality, and that they aren't just the sum of their parts, and his atheism.

    He'd probably say that the reality of death demonstrates our lack of freedom! No matter what we choose, our choices always lead to death. The only act contra-death that we can choose is to fight death, rebel against it as long as we can! Of course, as Camus might say, even that is absurd, but it is the least we can do.

    Camus was not a happy man. You can read it in his writings. He was tired and struggled to make sense of his desire for something greater and more while death was the ever looming end of all men in spite of these desires.

  146. I wonder how many Atheists are happy when they see death walking to their door?

  147. JoAnna, I guess that's what I don't understand, is why. It still seems to me like, from a Christian perspective, God created people for his own fun, and requires them to follow ultimately arbitrary rules (he defines what is good, right?) in order to please him and gain entrance into the heaven that he created. But what for? I'm not trying to be annoying; I really don't get it.

  148. so often, people say there's no ultimate meaning in an atheist's life because there's no God. But for Christians, what is the ultimate meaning of God? You're living to please a God who has put you here on Earth, who expects you to believe in him to impress him so he can decide your eternal fate...but why does he bother? For his own amusement? I still don't see there being any ultimate or satisfying meaning in that.-Michelle says

    Holy smokes. Well, you totally misunderstand what the whole relationship to a loving God is. I guess that's the giant impasse here.

    When I see a crucifix w/ the bloody, broken body, and stretched out arms of Christ, I don't see a God who wants me to impress Him. I see Him loving me, calling me, inviting me. Don't you possibly see that?

    I see the greatest act of love ever. And He invites us all to partake in it.

    He allows us to partake in our own destiny. Free will, freedom to choose.

    You're confusing a God of fear with a God of love. Fearing God means loving what He loves, hating what He hates. It's not the fear mongering angry God image you've painted.

    Mere mortal will never impress God. We don't strive for that. We strive to be as close to Him as possible. Naturally and supernaturally.


  149. Peter (and Michelle):

    I knew I'd recently read an excellent blog post about reconciling the differing Easter accounts, and I found it. I refer you to Joe at Shameless Popery: The Key to Harmonizing the Gospels' Easter Accounts.

    There's also a good one at called "How Do We Explain the Passover 'Discrepancy'?"

    Also, I have to second what Leila said. It seems more than a little patronizing, even insulting, that you and others believe that these issues have never been questioned and explained in nearly 2,000 years of Biblical scholarship.

    If you were to read eyewitness accounts of the Revolutionary War, where one eyewitness said that there were 2,000 men on the battlefield and another one said 4,000, would you throw up your hands and say, "That does it! The Revolutionary War was a myth, because if it was real there wouldn't be ANY contradictions in the historical record!"?

    I'm assuming not, so why do you apply a much higher standard to the Bible? I think you're misunderstanding what Catholics mean when we say the Bible is inerrant. This article might help you understand better.

    Also, Jimmy Akin (an apologist at Catholic Answers) recommends the following book-length work regarding alleged Bible discrepancies:

    Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, John Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, or Norman Geisler’s When Critics Ask.

  150. Michelle,

    Why do people have children?

  151. I wonder how many Atheists are happy when they see death walking to their door?


    Hear, hear, Guiseppe. I think it's a snow job when non believers say they have joy or happiness. It'd be like me trying to sell, "Catholics never suffer!" Or, "Catholics are always pleasant!"

    And I don't buy for a minute that non believers have joy. Ultimately, I think they're jealous of our joy. Too bad, when so easily they might give Jesus Christ a chance.


  152. JoAnna raises an excellent and fair point. If the nonbelievers want us to read "their side", which many of us have read and do read anyway, then they ought to be intellectually honest and read the catholic side from catholic sources.

    Trying to sell us anti Christian propaganda and asking us to swallow it as somehow shedding new light into our deceived eyes (my, how could we all have been so foolish to believe!) all under the guise of "not trying to shake our faith", then man-up and read the bible in the Catholic understanding.

    THEN and only then might we discuss intelligently both sides.


  153. Michelle, I am very aware that there have been many many conversions on both sides. However, I have a hard time believing that anyone who goes from Christian to atheist had a full and deep understanding of his/her faith. They are more likely people who have always had doubts or who had only been going through the motions.

  154. Yes, Megan. I agree. I actually know someone personally who gave up Catholicism and turned non-believer b/c of the way people used to treat each other in the parking lot after church, rushing out, getting impatient, etc.

    Seriously. She gave up her faith b/c of human frailty and impatience. The logic of her thought process went: "If God was loving, then people wouldn't be nasty to each other after church, therefore Catholicism is false." Huh?

    Now, should we be impatient and give bad witness? No. But we do. Humans we are. However, and a big however; this does not equate to Catholicism being untrue.

    It goes to show the faith formation and the depth to which she failed to embrace it was not strong.
    She was hurt emotionally and so left. Like so many do.


    Have a great wkend all -- Sunshine is calling! whee!

  155. Thank you guys for speaking of the LOVE that is God. He creates out of Love (the reason husband and wife should create their own children!), and He died for us out of Love (the way we would die for our own children).

    Love, love, love, love.

    How is that anything like the image Michelle is presenting?

    Michelle, I hope you will read this, again and again, because when love is real it is simply a reflection of the Father's love for us:

    The God you describe is meaningless to me, because He does not exist except in your atheist imagination. You've made Him a caricature. It would be like you telling me that my biological father is a twisted, psychopathic, manipulative puppet master, when in fact I know who he really is and I know his love for me. And that he is nothing like what you describe.

    Same with my Heavenly Father. I know Him and He knows me, and when I look at a crucifix, I know what true love looks like. He gives everything for me. And for you. We can reject Him, but that doesn't change who He is. He is the same, today, yesterday and forever. He is love.

    There is not one human being on earth who does not need His love. But there are many who reject what they need.

  156. Michelle,

    This issue of whether God's commands are arbitrary is a very deep one. I don't pretend to understand the issue deeply, but C.S. Lewis spent some time on this.

    Take a look at this quote from Lewis:

    "When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him either as making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily … But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories. … But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it could never have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. [But since only God admits of no contingency, we must say that] God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God."

    Here is a link to a very good treatment of this subject.

    I think that your objection is understandable, but ultimately overly simplistic.


  157. Nubby,

    You said, "Hm. Silence is deafening. All of it happened by chance, but I'm supposed to trust their brains over mine when we're all the result of chance? Yeah, I'm thinking not."

    I gotta say, I did talk about "chance" and you really should read Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller. I think it is very important to understand that evolutionary theory is extraordinarily hard, if not impossible to refute. It is based on the chance mutations in DNA. Without quantum theory and evolution, driven by chance, there can be no free will, so a totally designed "everything" including each person, means we could not have free will. If instead, God created the physical laws and let them spin, (complete with the implications of quantum theory) with the idea that eventually a being would evolve with higher intelligence, those beings would still have free will, and true, God would not have "designed" every last feature of us.

    That does not mean the Jesus was not somehow more connected to God than most, or that he was or was not resurrected. I still struggle with those ideas, but I do read his words and try to learn from them. I am open to the idea of faith, but have never felt totally comfortable letting myself believe the totality of Christianity, despite desiring to.

    Re atheists, I am a theist, but I do know lots of very happy, well-adjusted atheists. My in-laws come to mind.

    For me, it does seem bleak to not believe there is anything else beyond materialism, but they would contend that I was raised with the idea of God, so I have trouble without the idea. My FIL was not raised a theist, so he has no trouble without it.

  158. "And I don't buy for a minute that non believers have joy. Ultimately, I think they're jealous of our joy. Too bad, when so easily they might give Jesus Christ a chance."

    Well, I can understand your doubts, but my in-laws have true, true joy...I have known them for more than 20 years. Jen Fulweiler's parents seem (from her description) to be pretty happy. I don't think you can argue that atheism is bad because atheists do not experience happiness or lead good lives. I really think that is the wrong way to go about things.

  159. Michelle, you talked about not being able to hold out and be a Christian because you could not reconcile it with your doubts. I have to say, I am really on that trajectory in some ways, but why not be a theist? I think they are two separate questions.

  160. Mary, I agree that I would not go about refuting the atheist position by disputing their feelings of joy. For me, I am just saying that I would find no joy in being nothingness. That is why I so appreciated the priest in that video, who explained (in his mind) the difference between the existentialists, who did not try to sugarcoat the implications of atheism, and this fluffy "New atheist" stuff which says, "Hey, life is great and meaningful and fun because we give it meaning and fun!" I can't do that... It's illogical. Nothingness SHOULD lead one to darkness, cynicism and despair, no? That's just me, though. Michelle and other atheists in the West are comfortable and happy. They have ever physical thing they need, and can seek pleasure all around. It's sort of an anesthetic, I think. Still not sure about why the starving child in Africa is "lucky" to spin once around on this super cool globe of godless evolution. Hopefully someone can tell me what her hope and worth is. (Not her POTENTIAL hope and worth.)

    More in a sec...

  161. Megan said, "They are more likely people who have always had doubts".

    I have to tell you that I think having doubts is not a bad thing. From my experience, many many people do not want to question things that are difficult. I respect people who have doubts and question things deeply. I think many on this blog are those sorts (on both sides) and that is why it is a gem. In fact, I think people who never have doubts seem suspect to me.

  162. Leila,
    I agree with you, for me. I could not be an atheist (went to the edge there) and exist happily. Went through many years of pain and depression...finally came to Pascal's Wager for myself, and then decided to try Christianity once again (still read lots of other stuff too). But, I still have extraordinary difficulty, and hence...I am here. But I do go (to a Lutheran) church and find I can get something out of the sermons and have time for prayer. I have a really hard time with some of the church school stuff they say to my kids... for example...we just covered Noah...I am thinking I will have to keep them out in the future, and do religious stuff at home.

    My atheist friend Mark would say that little girl has no meaning.

  163. Mary, that last line, what your friend Mark said, that is dark. But it is logical and reasonable from the atheist premise.

    If you have trouble with Noah and all, you really should come back to the Catholic Church. Study the Bible from the Catholic perspective (since it's from the Church, and Protestants have taken it out from the protection of the Holy Spirit and have interpreted it subjectively, themselves.

    Here's my question: Are you saying that God could not have designed the universe, the human body, and the moral law, and yet left the will free?

    If that's what you are saying, then why? I don't understand.

  164. God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it could never have been otherwise…God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.

    Marc, thank you for this great Lewis quote and it fixes my misstatement in the above comment, about God "designing" the moral law. This quote from Lewis is more accurate on the matter of the moral law!

  165. Mary
    When I referred to the "chance" discussion, I was referring to this scientific fact, which has been mathematically worked out by Penrose: The odds against low entropy universe by pure chance are 10 raise to the 10 raise to the 123 to 1 against.

    By the way, he's an atheist last I checked. About as secular and scientific a fact as it gets.

    I was talking about chance as pertains to the comment above. I wasn't talking how chance relates within the evolution of a being, animal, etc. Which is fine to discuss, too.

    Catholicism isn't opposed to evolution as far as science goes, but it is not to be looked at as a philosophy of life.

    As to the happiness of atheists - I should clarify. Sure, they're happy, cirumstantially and depending on the mood of the day. But why would they ultimately feel happy on the deeper questions about life? Where lies their contentment of soul if all we are is bug food? Leila fleshed it out well in her previous comments.


  166. As to the happiness of atheists - I should clarify. Sure, they're happy, cirumstantially and depending on the mood of the day. But why would they ultimately feel happy on the deeper questions about life? Where lies their contentment of soul if all we are is bug food?

    Nubby, thank you! I like how you put this. It's the "deeper questions about life" which would leave me in darkness, and give me no peace as I got closer to the end of the conveyor belt.

    I think the "have a nice, happy day" New Atheists are not thinking as deeply as their older counterparts, who seem to really "get it". There is nothing happy about being nothing.

  167. Thanks, Mary. I don't quite understand the obsession with telling someone they can't possibly have joy when they clearly do! I do agree that quite a lot of it probably comes down to how you were raised - if you were raised thinking that your life's meaning depends on the existence of a God, you'll probably struggle a lot with the idea of no God later in life, and that's understandable. I find atheism more compelling than theism mainly because I feel that the idea of any god doesn't make much sense (although if I were to believe in any god, I think I'd probably be a deist) and that science has better answers than theism. You are definitely right, though, why someone rejects Christianity is a totally different question than why someone would reject theism.

    Nubby (and Leila, I think), you misunderstand my question - I just don't understand why God would create us in the first place, only to have us jump through hoops to make it into heaven, or if we fail, send us to hell. Sure, he may love us, but why? I'm not trying to make a caricature or misrepresent Christianity, I just really don't get it.
    (Also, Nubby, I still don't think you quite understand the role of chance in evolution, but that's a discussion for another blog post!)

    From what I can tell, Leila (and this isn't meant as an attack, more as an observation), you're very emotionally attached to everything Catholicism entails. I think it's a built-in part of all religion, and it's great that you can find such complete fulfillment in it. But I think where we differ on this is that I'm not emotionally attached to atheism - if one day I found that Buddhism made the most sense, or Hinduism or Catholicism or whatever made the most sense, I would be happy because my worldview made sense. Do you know what I mean? I don't despair the lack of a God or heaven or ultimate meaning because I don't believe those things are real. I find fulfillment in reality.

  168. Michelle, running out the door, but will pick this up later. Just need to tell you that I am a fairly unemotional person. I am passionate about truth. I came to the Church through one thing only: My intellect. I thought my way. It is perfectly logical to me, and if it weren't, I'd be gone. If one day the Church changes her doctrinal teachings (which have been unchanged for 2,000+ years) then I will know that the whole tapestry of truth is a lie. As it stands, the Truth is very beautiful and has stood every test of logic and the intellect I have thrown at it. That is why so many of the brightest minds have left atheism for Catholicism. They didn't emote there way into the Church, they thought their way. That's just me, I can't speak for everyone (and there are many ways God speaks to us to draw us to Him), but I can't let you have the impression that I am "emotionally" attached to the Church. I do love the Church, but it was not emotion that drew me to her. Thanks for understanding. (And I hope all the discussions on this blog would have made that clear?)

  169. Pffft. Thanks, but I think my understanding of evolution is pretty on par. Well educated in college and then some, thanks.

    As to your image of God, yours isn't unchartered ground. All the questions you and Peter and non believers raise are ones that are common, but blog comments simply won't sway you one way or another.

    God created us for His reasons alone. We can know Him in relationship, without it even being emotional, though of course He wouldn't leave that component out. Why would he? He wants all of us, every part of us, to be united hereafter with Him.

    That's love, Michelle. It's simply love.
    Are you a mother, Michelle? It's the closest analogy to the love of God I can point to. Unconditional with high expectations of the greatness that is within your children. And nothing in my power as a mom would allow my kids to fail themselves.


  170. PS: That sounds like I was lumping myself into the "brightest minds" category! Believe me, I didn't mean that! I was saying that I did think my way in, but not that I was one of the brightest minds. Sorry, ugh!!

  171. Haha, Leila, I didn't think that at all, don't worry! I'm very glad you thought your way in, but I think some of your previous comments (probably on the post about feminists) indicated that you probably wouldn't leave Catholicism even if God was proven to not exist (which I know can never happen, so let's not get into that). It seems you also often point to the perceived meaninglessness of atheism as a reason why it can't be correct. It's not too huge of a deal, I just wanted to make the point that I'd be happy with wherever the evidence led me. If it led me to religion, even if I didn't like the idea of a God, I'd work with it and find it fulfilling. The reason I'm happy with atheism is because it makes wonderful sense to me intellectually, and if at some point I found it didn't make sense but some religion did, that's where I'd be happy. Hopefully that makes sense. Regardless, I'm glad you're willing to start discussions like this and pretty much ask for your views to be challenged - I've posted comments much, much less controversial than these on other blogs and had them deleted within minutes, so thanks! :)

    And Nubby, oh please. I'm a biologist. Anyway, staying on topic, I don't really feel like "His reasons alone" is good enough. It still seems really arbitrary to me.

  172. Well then you know the joke, Michelle. If biologists could do math, they'd be physicists!

    You don't have to accept anything here or otherwise, Michelle. No one mandates that of you. Do as you see fit. But just realize that the idea you have of God as berating and smoldering mad isn't right.


  173. Wait, what? Nubby, I never said anything about God being "berating and smoldering mad." Where did you get that from? I just said that him creating people didn't make sense to me, even if he did love them (something that still hasn't really been answered).

  174. Michelle, once again, why do people have children, in your opinion?

  175. Something to note, I think, concerning the happiness & fulfillment of atheist:

    It's a difficult issue to discuss because, I think, we come from different viewpoints on the nature of happiness/fulfillment. Christianity, like much ancient western philosophy, assumes that happiness is an objective state, much like health. That is, you can feel healthy without actually being healthy.
    Some ancient philosophers DID believe feeling happy/fulfilled was achieving happiness/fulfillment (Hedonists), while some believed happiness/fulfillment was being freed from your passions (Stoics). Christians concluded that happiness can only come from being in communion with the one true God.

    So you see, while we believe that you may certainly feel fulfilled without God subjectively, we believe that objectively, it is impossible. (I should ammend that this is how I understand it; I don't want to put words in others mouths!)

  176. Michelle,
    One person who helped me think more about meaning and theism was Bernard Nathanson. I read his book and was fairly impressed.

    PS Stacy and others....I have now read Fesser's (?) blog post twice, and I am on the edge of grasping it. I will try again and offer my thoughts and questions. I find it very hard to get through....but difficulty does not imply falsehood.

  177. JoAnna,
    I think I could offer a response to your (good) question about children. People are HARD-WIRED to want children by their DNA, that "wants" to be recreated. In fact, not wanting ANY children is extraordinarily hard to explain from a biological viewpoint, and really is the astounding question.

    This is one reason I find it hard to understand how male homosexuality could have possibly evolved, but it certainly did, so there must be some adaptive benefit somewhere. I have read that the sisters of homosexual males are more fecund than their that might explain how...(sorry it is off topic).

    But to Nubby's point. I agree that the love a mother has for her child is more profound than any other love...period. But...I do understand that a component of that love for a biological child is actually the mother's "selfish" genes caring for their own DNA in the offspring. From a spiritual point of view, I think is is more difficult, and therefore more noble to show AGAPE for an unrelated child. I am eternally grateful and in awe of people who adopt children (especially children with serious challenges) and love them as best they can.

  178. Michelle,
    You've described the Blessed Trinity in error. Perhaps think of these attributes of God, which are all found through either one, two or three persons of the Godhead:

    Spirit of Fire
    Ancient of Days
    Lord of Hosts
    Lamb of God
    Mighty Warrior
    Spirit of Truth
    Lion of Judah
    Rock of the ages
    Alpha Omega Beginning and End
    Word of God
    King of Kings, Lord of Lords

    These are but a handful of the attributes of the Christian triune God. If you don't care to consider those, then you're not seeking to understand the Blessed Trinity. Again, impasse.


  179. Leila, yeah...Mark's comment is dark. I think about that a lot. But he is not dark. It is very hard for me to reconcile...but it is true.

  180. Oops, JoAnna, sorry, forgot to respond to that! I think Mary described it quite well - obviously a lot of the reason comes from the enjoyment and fulfillment involved in raising kids and knowing that you're leaving a legacy of sorts, but it's also a biological imperative.

    Mary, thanks for the suggestion - I'll look for some of his writing!

    Eliz, that's an interesting way of putting it, and one that I hadn't ever considered. I guess, then, there's no arguing it, if Christians consider happiness to be objective. I don't really understand how a feeling can be objective, though, because it's always seemed obvious to me that if you think you're happy, then you are. If you feel healthy, we can know objectively if you are based on all of the quantifiable factors that contribute to good health, but if you feel happy, how does one measure that and confirm it? Very interesting idea, though, and assuming others agree, that clears up quite a bit of the disagreement. Thanks! :)

    Haha, oh Nubby. I think the impasse might be your continued misunderstanding/ignoring of my question.

  181. Oops, JoAnna, sorry, forgot to respond to that! I think Mary described it quite well - obviously a lot of the reason comes from the enjoyment and fulfillment involved in raising kids and knowing that you're leaving a legacy of sorts, but it's also a biological imperative.

    That's PART of it, but you're missing one key element.

    The reason my husband and I have had children is because they are the natural fruit of our union. In other words, our children are the culmination of the expression of the love that he and I share. There is no more perfect expression of it.

    Blessed John Paul II wrote, In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal "knowledge" which makes them "one flesh," does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother. (emphasis mine)

    Just as our children are a living expression of the love of my husband and I, we (the human race) are the living expression of God's love.

  182. ?
    What are you talking about, Michelle?
    You've said you think God makes us, "jump through hoops" and that "he could love us, but why?" and I've given you the truth of Who He Is theologically in a few attributes/names/titles.

    The confusion's not on my end.
    Look I get it. You're not into the whole God is Love definition. So, either there's some underlying emotional stuff sifting around or there's just a general ignorance of the Christian God in your mind, either way, it's up to you to either accept or reject the facts. Fact is, Jesus Christ died for you on that cross. He calls you, he waits for you, he longs for you. By all means, you do not have to accept his invitation, Michelle.


  183. JoAnna, I guess from a Christian perspective that would make sense. I do think that the atheist perspective on children is pretty reasonable though, and should hopefully seem reasonable even minus the part about being the culmination of love.

    Nubby, all I asked was why God would bother creating people in the first place. Not who he is or whether he loves us (which I'm taking you at your word that he does). Just why he would create people. Imagine God before having created people, and then consider why he chose to create an Earth and put people on it, and make rules for the people to follow in order to get into heaven. That's what I'm asking about, if that helps. He can love us all he wants, that's great - it just seems arbitrary to me.

  184. I have no idea why he created anything, Michelle. But we're here in reality, right? And he's revealed himself to this planet, as far as evidence points.

    Give him a chance, Michelle. Call on him in the quiet of the night. Call on him in the hectic part of the day. Whenever. Just give him a chance.


  185. One more thought for Michelle.
    I don't know why God created anything, as I've said, but I do know that what he created he said of it, "It is good" and he loves his creation. He loves better than any puny human could love.

    And I do know this too, on the cross, Jesus Christ said "I thirst". Do you know what he thirsted for? Or whom? For you. Just him and you, Michelle.

    Think of his devotion to you, personally. Think of his loyalty and service to you, personally. Think of a love that flows as deep as the ocean and swallows up all your pain and sin as if it were but one drop in that vast ocean of understanding and compassion.

    THAT's Jesus Christ. That's who calls your name every second of the day. He died for you personally. Can you perhaps take that at face value? Leave beside all the "why did God make people?" "why do bad things happen to good people" kind of questions which no one knows, and just bask in His love that He has for you?

    - Nubby

  186. Then how does that make life any more meaningful than atheism, if God didn't have or need a reason for creating us? I feel like if you take everything as far as possible, you end up in the same place - no ultimate meaning. I'm not bothered by it at all, just confused as to how Christians get around this (and from the answers I'm getting, you just don't?).

    Anyway, Nubby, like I've said, I have given God a chance, and found it far less fulfilling than atheism. I know I was never a real Christian, but from what I've read (and I read quite a bit) I can't imagine myself ever being emotionally or practically or intellectually fulfilled by religion (though I have always been open to going wherever the evidence and logic leads me). I'm here to understand religion better and come to a better understanding of my own views through discussion and debate.

  187. And no, I'm sorry, but I can't be intellectually honest and take something like that (or anything, really) at face value. I know you mean well, and I appreciate that, but the whole idea just doesn't make sense to me.

  188. LOTS of great stuff from everyone!! Thanks, guys!!!

    Okay, Michelle, you said you still don't understand why God would create us in the first place. Well, why does an artist create? God is an artist. Actually, He is the artist. Providentially, I was reading my boys a bedtime story a minute ago. Here is what we happened to read, at the beginning of this great book of Bible stories:

    "…according to His plan, God's goodness broke out into a creative act and at that moment time was born."

    God is creative. He is the creator. You know how most people tend to make God in their own image? Well, of course that is backwards, as we are made in God's image. Why do humans create? Why do they create art, or music, or gardens, or children? Because humans are made to image God. We are made in the image and likeness of God. God is a creator. He loves to create (and so do we). His creation is so amazing that you, as a scientist, love to study it, in the same way an art history major loves to study the creation of humans.

    He created the world because he's an artist, and he created man out of pure love, and wanting to share his beautiful creation with us. It's simply love.

    And by the way, Michelle, it's so important that you understand: God did not make us out of love and then ask us to jump through hoops to get to Heaven. When He created man, we were in Heaven! Because of our free will (a gift he gave us because true love must be free and chosen), we separated ourselves from God. Christ restored our relationship with God, and the gates of Heaven were opened again. The "hoops" we jump through? That is simply love. We either love Him and live as we were made to live, in His dignity, or we reject Him, and live apart from Him.

    Would you say that your (future) husband loved you if he cursed you, rejected you, broke his marriage vows, was never with you, and ignored you?

    If people don't love God, He doesn't force them to be with Him. God is not a rapist, He is a gentleman. If you reject Him, He accepts it. He accepts that you wish to remain separate from Him, even as He continues to love you, and hope for your love.

    I hope that makes some sense.

  189. By the way, I remember when Peter said that most Christians told him that the Creation story is supposed to teach science. I told him he should talk to more Catholics and not fundamentalists.

    Here is something else I read my boys tonight from that Catholic Bible Story book, from 1960, written by a nun, with an imprimatur:

    "The story of creation is a story about religion and not about science. Therefore, creation as told in the Bible does not offend against science. It is true, though, that in His creative act God set masterful forces of science into motion."

  190. Michelle, another way to look at the "jumping through hoops" question: Is it asking your husband to "jump through hoops" to be faithful and honorable to you?

    I didn't think so. :)

  191. “Then how does that make life any more meaningful than atheism, if God didn't have or need a reason for creating us? I feel like if you take everything as far as possible, you end up in the same place - no ultimate meaning” Michelle


    Life does not have to be meaningful if we only get the answer to every single (unanswerable, immeasurable) question. Not knowing every thought of a God I believe doesn’t give me discomfort because I have his promises to go on. Jesus Christ gives them all to you, if you’d call on him somehow, sometime, again. He’s not going to push, shove, cajole, or threaten. Michelle, please understand this if nothing else is taken away from this thread: There is a God who saw fit to create you since before the foundations of the world were set, he has a plan for you to know him and he wants to give himself completely to you.

    Am I wrong in that there is a lot of underlying emotional pain involved in this particular area of topic? You don’t have to answer. It’s just something I see that was there in me over and over again years ago. Anyway – you’re in my prayers.


  192. Then how does that make life any more meaningful than atheism, if God didn't have or need a reason for creating us? I feel like if you take everything as far as possible, you end up in the same place - no ultimate meaning.

    i just read this. Michelle, but God did have a reason for creating us! He created us out of love! We were made to love and be loved. We are known. When you marry, don't you want your husband to know you intimately? Of course you do. But why? Because we were made for love.

    Ending up in the same place? That's like saying that the rotted grave and the bridal bed are the same place.

    These are the same to you? Nothingness or intimate union with the God who created us, knows us, redeemed us and wants to have us share in his divinity forever?

    This is the same to you? Knowing nothing or knowing all truth, goodness and beauty?

    Not the same to me.

  193. Nubby is so right that even all the knowledge of science or philosophy or literature or religion that we can acquire on earth is still the means to an end: To know ourselves, why we are here, and to know the God who created us.

    Even if you know so much your brain will burst, it is meaningless unless it has an end. And that end is to discover and understand who we are as children of God in this beautiful universe he created for our pleasure.

    Michelle, while you are still young, and student who has time to read, please, please, get yourself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It will be well worth your time to read, if only to understand this very ancient and significant religion we call Catholicism.

  194. I was considering the "why did God create us question" last night during prayer, and came to the same conclusion you did, Leila. I am so glad you posted about God being an artist! This is what I jotted down in the middle of the night so I wouldn't forget:

    "Why does the painter paint, the poet write, the musician play? Why wouldn't the Creator create? It is in His very being to do so. Through humanity, He expresses Himself (His nature) in a unique and beautiful way."

    Also, one attribute of God is that He is loving and He is good. If He is good, might He also be generous? If He is generous, then He desires to share this ultimate love.

    1. He created so that someone could experience this goodness and love.
    2. He created so He could share.
    3. He created to express.

    I am not a theologian or even a member of the RCC, but I think this is a reasonable line of thought. (And I think it's what I meant...last night I just wrote down God=Good=Generous?=Somebody). I also know this doesn't really satisfy the non-believer, but you must understand that here on Earth we seek answers, but when we are fully with God, we will no longer seek -- we won't be in heaven thinking "Ok, why am I here?" -- God IS the answer, fully and completely.

  195. Just to clarify the difference between 1 & 2. By #1 I intended it to be more about the person experiencing it -- He wants to do it for the good of the person experiencing it, while the second was meant to mean He shares because it is in His nature to do so. Does that make any sense? I know they sound exactly the same, but they were meaning two different things in my head. :)


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