Sunday, July 28, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 6 (Prophesy, Christianity, Jesus Christ)

In part 6 of Phil Fernandes' questions to challenge atheists, we focus on Christianity and its central figure, Jesus Christ. I've recently become somewhat obsessed with biblical criticism and criticism specifically of Christianity so this should be an interesting set of questions for me. Let's see if my atheism can maintain its intellectual integrity through this gauntlet or if it turns out that it's Phil's questions that make him lose his integrity.

1. Since absolutely no Bible prophecy has ever failed (and there are hundreds), how can one realistically remain unconvinced that the Bible is of Divine origin?

I hear this from devout Christians all the time. They are absolutely convinced that the Bible is the 100 % perfect word of god and that all biblical prophesies came true. It's a sad testament of their credulity. The one alleged prophesy that comes to mind that didn't succeed when I hear this assertion, is Jesus' promise to his followers that the end was near and that this would happen before his follower's generation would "pass away." (Matthew 24:29-35; also Mark 13:24-31) Well his followers have long since died, and no apocalyptic sign of Jesus in the sky with angles and a darkened sun and moon and falling stars has occurred. And to the skeptic like me, isn't it more obvious that the stories in the Bible that appear to confirm prophesies were simply just insertions of fiction by the authors who knew of the prophesies written in previous books and who wanted to fulfill them? 

2. How do you explain David's graphic portrayal of Jesus' death by crucifixion (Psalm 22) 1000 years before Christ lived?

I believe you can read into religious texts what ever you want, and you can twist vague references however you want to suite your needs. This question also assumes that the gospel accounts are correct and accurate about the details surrounding Jesus' death. I hold no such views. To me, the New Testament is at least partly a work of fiction whose authors simple wrote it in such a way to fulfill so called prophesies of the Old Testament. We have no contemporary sources of Jesus's life at all. And even the gospels themselves were written 40-70 years after the supposed events they describe by people who were not eyewitnesses and who were hearing the story probably on second, third and fourth hand accounts in Greece. 

3. How do you explain that the prophet Daniel prophesied the exact YEAR when the Christ would be presented as Messiah and also prophesied that the temple would be destroyed afterwards over 500 years in advance (Daniel 9:24-27)?

We simply don't know that the New Testament accounts of Jesus were accurate in some of their details, or whether they are partly fictional or completely fictional. If you know of a prophesy already written, you can fulfill it by acting it out, or, easier still, you can create a work of fiction that fulfills it. I am certain that the New Testament contains at least some fictionalized accounts in it from the narrative structure resembling myth, and the embellishments that Matthew, Luke and John contain from Mark's gospel. Aside from that, since Phil gives us no source other than the book of Daniel itself, there is criticism that the author of Daniel's numbers add up as expected. See this link here.

4. How could any mere human pinpoint the precise birth town of the Messiah seven full centuries before the fact, as did the prophet Micah?

The alleged prophesy in question here is from Micah 5:2. Here we can cite additional criticism from, "The "Bethlehem" in Micah 5:2, rather than being a town, was very likely intended as a reference to the head of a family clan. What many people who stand in awe of this alleged prophecy fulfillment don't know is that a person named Bethlehem was an Old Testament character descended from Caleb through Hur, the firstborn son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (I Chron. 2:18; 2:50-52; 4:4)." The passage in Micah also says that the person prophesied will be a "ruler in Israel." Jesus clearly was no ruler. Any reading of the verse will show you how vague it is as are all other alleged prophesies that I've been told exist in the Bible and the Qur'an. There is also evidence that the gospel accounts made Jesus' birth take place in Bethlehem in order to fulfill the alleged prophesy. So since Phil has no other accounts to corroborate where Jesus was born, or that he even lived at all other than the gospels, why should any skeptic accept this alleged prophesy as anything other than a work of fiction?

1. Are there any practical benefits to Christianity? If so, what are they and why? If not, why?

All religions have practical benefits in that they create rituals and beliefs that allow people to bond with one another through. There is evidence that this kinship based around ritual and belief actually aided our ancestor's survival. But the mere fact that religions like Christianity might unite people speaks of nothing to their truth. For example, when Islam appeared it united the warring pagan tribes of Arabia under a single faith, and it spread rapidly within 100 years all the way to Persia and the Iberian peninsula. This says nothing about Islam being true. The social consequences of a belief say nothing about whether that belief is true or false. 

2. Is there a difference between “Christianity” and “Religion”? If so, what is it? If not, why?

Well, all religions are slightly different in their beliefs and rituals, but they're all the same in that they're each different versions of the same untruth. Theologically, Christianity resembles some other ancient Near-Eastern religions that contain dying and rising gods like Osiris, Dionysus, Romulus, Hercules, Asclepius, Zalmoxis, Inanna, and Adonis-Tammuz.

3. Do you fully understand WHAT Christians believe?

No. The reason why is because every time I speak to a Christian about their religion I get a slightly different version of Christianity. Not only are there over 40,000 denominations, within those denominations there are individuals who've created their own god and their own theology in their own image and so I will never be able to fully understand what all Christians believe. That being said, I understand the basics of what most Christians believe.

4. Do you know what the Gospel is?

Yes. The gospels are a bunch of fictional or semi-fictional accounts written by Greeks about 40-70 years after the reported events they describe and who were not eyewitnesses to any of those alleged events, and whose accounts are filled with contradictions and embellishments. Thus, they are not historically reliable. That's what they "are," what they "is" is supposed to be "good news" of Jesus' teachings and vicarious redemption. 

1. Who do YOU say Jesus Christ is? Why?

I'm an agnostic as to whether Jesus Christ even existed. The gospel accounts probably are works of fiction or myths, created around or based off of a 1st century Jewish preacher. So if Jesus existed, then he was simply a charismatic man who had many reformed ideas about his faith and his people. As far as whether Jesus was a liar, lunatic or a lord, I'd say the first two are the most probable.

2. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, why?

Given the contradictions in the gospels themselves surrounding the events leading up unto the supposed resurrection, and the fact that we know scientifically that bodies do not rise after death, and that people are capable of illusions and deceptions, I have no reason to believe that one man was able to violate the natural order and defy his own death. 

3. What are the implications for YOU if Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?

If Jesus was raised from the dead, it probably means that Christianity is true. If Christianity is true obviously my worldview would have to be adjusted. However, Christianity would still deserve it's fair share of criticism at how illogical it is and how unfair god is. 

4. Are you fully familiar with the body of historical evidence relating to the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I am not a New Testament scholar so the answer to this question is no. However, during my research into biblical criticism, I have come to learn that the evidence for Jesus is worse then how I thought it was before I started looking into it. The only 1st century accounts of Jesus come from the Bible. Josephus' account of him in the late 1st century is debated on as to whether it might be a forgery. Even so, Josephus was born after Jesus allegedly was crucified, and so he never met him, and his account merely mentions what Christians at that time believed about him. But since about 65-70 years would have passed from the time of Josephus' account and Jesus' alleged death, that is plenty of time for embellishment and the deification myth of Jesus to occur. 

I'm almost done now with these challenges to my atheism. For this section, if I had not been doing research into these questions, especially the ones about Jesus' historicity, I might have not been able to answer these questions and could possibly have been stumped by them. That is exactly what apologists like Phil are praying they will do to some skeptics. The problem now of course, is that the internet has given the skeptic a plethora or resources on line to combat even the cleverest of apologists. So if you are ever hit with a challenge to your atheism or skepticism, just look it up on the internet, and you are almost guaranteed to find tons of websites and YouTube videos where counter apologists like yours truly have broken down the argument and showed it to be fallacious. 


  1. It seems any work of fiction can correctly foreshadow what is to come within the same work of fiction, it certainly doesn't prove the work is nonfiction. I'd feel completely different about the bible if it told specifics about the future that is currently unfolding.

    The "no prophesy has failed" question is ridiculous.

    I don't believe Jesus raised from the dead because it conflicts with the entirely of human experience and biology.

    1. If you're a gullible believer you can twist anything into a "prophesy." I've had many debates with Muslims who do the same thing with the Qur'an, and the verses they cite are so incredibly vague, it takes quite an imagination to see it.

  2. Point 1 on prophecy is quite obviously false (for instance, see Ezekials failed prophecies regarding Tyre and Egypt, or the failed prophecies from Daniel regarding the death of Antiochus).
    His point 2 is just plain silly - it's quite easy to write something so that it corresponds with an earlier text, and since early Christians were specifically reading existing scripture to find prophecies of their messiah, it's pretty easy to see how the NT so miraculously fulfils supposed prophecies of the OT. In fact we can look at the end of the book of Daniel for a good example of this - it very accurately describes events hundreds of years after Daniel supposedly lives and wrote, but then suddenly becomes inacurate - this actually allows us to date that section to be around when the inaccuracy began, and it becomes quite an obvious example of post-hoc prophecy :-)



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