A fairly prominent (presumably) secular scholar (I don’t know much about him) posted on his blog that he doesn’t think Paul was talking about a celestial realm when he described Christ Jesus in his epistles. He said we should all interpret Paul’s words through the lens of an Earthly paradigm, because…well that’s what religious scholars say we should do.
Article and comments here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2016/02/unlikely-in-heaven.html#dq
I respectfully responded to his assertion – obviously I disagree with his position, but we’re all grown ups here, right? What commenced was about an 6-hour back-and-forth of me saying a bunch of stuff, and him reading what he wanted to read, ignoring most of my points completely, and engaging in an array of logical fallacies – overall, a ridiculous waste of time.
I presented my case pretty well (not perfectly), but I’m sure he was not persuaded in the least. The substance of his points were deficient, but I understood he didn’t want to write a book to respond to me, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt that there was more substance to his position than what he shared – although for the life of me, I can’t imagine what his points are — I started this investigation into Jesus’ historicity presuming he was a real person, and ultimately was persuaded by boatloads of evidence (and silence) that lead to a pretty compelling conclusion that Jesus never existed.
His first response to me was this:
This is precisely why it is inadvisable to try to come up with one’s own theory about a subject that requires expertise, whether it be history, science, medicine, or anything else.
Fair enough. I appreciate his scholarly concern, but it does stink of elitism. It doesn’t bother me that a scholar thinks he’s smarter than me…I’ve got thick enough skin to deal with that, and hell – it’s probably true.
The conversation went as you might expect it to go based on his first response – I threw the kitchen sink, and he talked down to me. It was pretty characteristic of a long, extended online interaction between strangers.
Overall, there’s nothing too noteworthy in our exchange, and I normally wouldn’t even mention this anywhere, but he responded to someone else in a way that I thought was pretty sleazy, and revealed a really outrageous and dishonest interpretation of reality:
The issue is that a small subset of the atheist community is engaged in this denialism with regard to the conclusions of mainstream secular historical scholarship. And so the reason to get concerned is that denialism is dangerous. While denying an ancient historical fact may matter relatively little in terms of its daily implications, the same tactics that are used in this area are also used by those who deny the Holocaust, and climate change, and evolution, and other things which I am sure I do not need to persuade you are important.
Did you catch that? For a moment, ignore the silly slippery slope and Reductio ad Hitlerum, and try to grasp what this guy is saying: The fact that scholarly consensus says that Jesus was a real person is the equivalent to scholarly consensus saying that evolution happened and climate change is real.
Sorry professor, but we have empirical data to demonstrate climate change. We have a fossil record and genetics and all sorts of other sciences that corroborate evolution.
There exists mountains of evidence for these scientific phenomena, and if every single piece of human knowledge were lost, and humans had to figure everything out again, they would still come to the conclusion that evolution was occurring and climate change was real.
THAT IS NOT THE SAME as scholars talking about it, thinking about it, reading and writing books about it, and concluding, after almost the entire world already came to the same conclusion based on faith and indoctrination, that Jesus existed – especially when the archaeological record fails so spectacularly at corroborating it. The difference between evolution or climate change and the Jesus question is pretty obvious. There’s no goddamn evidence that Jesus existed, beside a bunch of Iron Age cult members claiming he did, writing 40-70 years after the fact, inventing all sorts of new details never mentioned by the earlier claimant, who claimed he saw ghost-Jesus…18 months or more after Jesus supposedly died.
It would be one thing if Jesus left a footprint on the secular record – anything at all would do. I would literally throw away my entire position if there was one piece of evidence in the supposed time when Jesus lived.
Jesus’ existence might also be more compelling if the entire theology that surrounded this religion’s origins wasn’t based on people having visions.
If the early Christian writers and communities were not demonstrably lying or suffering from mass delusion, or in some cases mental illness, it might actually appear that empiricism and logic match scholarly consensus.
Or if this religion looked, in any way, unique from its contemporaries, there might be something there.
But it doesn’t. Scholars have begged the question and have come to the wrong consensus.
The evidence for Jesus’ existence sucks, and after I realized how shitty the evidence was, I was embarrassed to have ever believed it. That’s why I feel compelled to share what I find about it – it’s so damn ridiculous, it’s amazing that most people don’t give it a thought.
So, I share what I find, so that if someone who feels compelled to ask the question “does this make any sense?”, they have a better chance of finding support for the fact that it doesn’t.
The mentality that is so slavish to appeals to authority would return 2+2=5 if scholarly consensus said it was so. This scholar’s position is one of the most dishonest takes on a subject I can imagine. In fact, this scholar was so dishonest, I disengaged, because I just couldn’t believe a respected scholar would hold such a dishonest view of the matter, let alone put it out there for the whole world to see.