27 September 2011

What planet are they on?

I like Christians. I really do. Indeed, that's why I'm a Christian Atheist. I even have a soft spot for the craziest spittle-flecked fundamentalist loonies - they're endearing, in an unhinged concrete-mentality sort of way. They have arranged their little brains in such a way that everything makes sense to them, and everything that falls outside their comfort zone is either abomination, or the Lord moving in mysterious ways - in either case, not something to be engaged with at an intellectual level. Of course, some of their views are objectionable, and they get all cross when you call them out over them. That's the fundies; many people are of course a good deal more liberal, and have actually thought a little about the world outside. Many Christians do realise that Muslims (for example) believe what they believe with the same sincerity and using much the same arguments as the Christians do. They're happier to engage with topics that make them uncomfortable, happier to challenge their own preconceptions.
Yet even among this relatively enlightened group, it's fascinating to see that most really don't like to play "what if?" with their religious beliefs. What if Jesus wasn't the son of God? What if he wasn't born of a virgin? What if he didn't rise from the dead? These "what ifs" are questions that I tackled when I was a theist. I decided to pit my beliefs against the evidence.
If Jesus really was born of a virgin, what should we expect to find? Well, one thing might be any reference to this fact during his lifetime. It's interesting that not ONCE does Jesus himself claim to have been born of a virgin, and even the Bethlehem birth is contradicted in the Gospel of John, suggesting that the nativity stories (themselves contradictory) were simply made up.
As for the "Son of God" thing - what does that even mean? In our quasi-Christian society we have this notion of the Trinity (deeply unbiblical, but hey) instilled deep in our minds, and we have forgotten that this concept was itself a late invention, arising from the Ancient Egyptian religion, not from Judaism and certainly not from the teachings of Jesus. In the early centuries of Christianity, this was debated furiously (and often fatally) - the Trinitarians were the winners, but both groups could claim the same biblical support.
And what about the Resurrection? I've covered this topic before, but it's a favourite trope of apologists that the resurrection of Jesus is the "best attested event in history". This claim is simply a lie - even a cursory examination of the gospel texts shows that the writers started with the belief, and liberally made up "facts" to fit. Different authors made up different stories, and these stories conflict - not in the manner of minor conflicts that we might expect from different witnesses' perspectives, but in critical details of sequence and timing that show quite clearly that they are spinning yarns.
But for all that, I still do like theistic Christians, and I hope they're able to take a slightly broader view, and try - even if just occasionally - to think outside the narrow box that they've allowed themselves to become trapped within.

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