For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
How often have we come across this in apologetics – “What about the 500 eyewitnesses that saw Jesus after his crucifixion?” Every time I hear it I know exactly how Kif groans when Zapp Brannigan says something dumb. And this is dumb.
Paul presumably wrote this passage in a letter to the Corinthian sect of Christianity. Yet Paul never saw Jesus except through a vision on the road to Damascus, a claim rather low on the believability meter. Certainly, Paul never met Jesus while he was alive and did not become a follower till after the supposed resurrection.
Paul is at best presenting us with hearsay evidence. At worst, he’s lying. We have no way in which to gauge the veracity of the statement. So, do we really have 500 eyewitnesses here? Not at all. We have a statement from one (count ’em – ONE!) claimant who was not at the event in question saying 500 people saw Jesus after his crucifixion. Does this constitute reasonable evidence? No matter how much tap dancing you do, even at a Richard Gere level, the answer is decidedly “No.” , not even in a kangaroo court.
500 eyewitnesses, my ass.
Here’s another one that I’ve run across many times – “Would those Christians put to death for their beliefs have become martyrs for a lie?” Putting aside the attempt at sympathy for their cause (no sooner than Christianity became the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire than they themselves became the oppressors – just ask Bruno), who says that these martyrs didn’t believe the lie? Many people in history have died for ideas that they believed in. But belief does not lend any veracity to the ideas themselves.
Even for Christians who subscribe to this it’s easy to see why this is a silly argument when it is placed in a different context. More than 900 people died in Jonestown believing in the divinity of Rev. James Jones, but I doubt many Christians (even those that subscribe to the argument) think this lends any truth to the claims. Is it any different for those who died spreading their brand of belief? I don’t see how.
The Abrahamic religions each teach that we are all unworthy and born sinners, and that it has the cure. This is exactly how snake oil salesmen operated (and continue to operate – Q-Ray bracelets, anyone?). The only real cure is to realize that you don’t have a disease, that you are not responsible for fictitious original sin. How can one possibly be truly happy living under such oppressive belief? My friend The Atheist Next Door put up a great video on why Pascal’s Wager (in any and all of its forms we see on the ‘net) is wrong – if atheists such as myself are wrong, I will simply stand before my maker (please do not quote mine me hear, making it look as if I actually believe this nonsense – this is just a hypothetical argument, remember), accept responsibility for being wrong and say what Bertrand Russell would say: “Not enough evidence!” If believers are wrong, their belief will have cheated from them the one life they get. In essence, contrary to what most believers claim with Pascal’s Wager, they lose everything. At least I still get this one life and live it the way I think it should be lived. And we only have knowledge about this one life we are living now, not any potential future one which seems to me to be merely an exercise in wish fulfillment. Certainly we have no good evidence for any other life that believers claim exists and have failed to substantiate.
So shake off the shackles of dogma and like the bus ads say, enjoy your life!