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Atheism/Proof of Jesus' reurrection

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Question
Here's a good one for you Jeff,
Jesus' resurrection it is claimed by the faithful that only an event of genuine resurrection (not merely return to this life, but NEW life) could have changed the disciples from frightened, cowering, former disciples to those who proclaimed the risen Christ with courage. Such a change is as unprecedented as the belief in Jesus resurrection actually is. To your knowledge is this historically true?

Answer
Hey Charles,

First of all, if the disciples hypothetically had their souls saved by Jesus during the crucifixion/resurrection, I have no conception of what that would feel like. How could the body feel a metaphysical event? That makes no sense. So I will reduce the question to “If Jesus did not come back from the dead, how could the disciples overcome the trauma of watching their leader killed and go on to found Christianity?”

My next step is to question the Bible's account of the events. It is the Bible, not any historical document, which tells the story that Jesus was a real person who was beloved by his disciples, Jesus died on the cross destroyed his disciples morale, Jesus was miraculously resurrected in a way that restored his disciples morale, and Jesus instructed his disciples to evangelize on his behalf before ascending into heaven. My first thought is “Well of course the Christians would tell the story that way.” Instead of asking me if “How could the disciples got over such an early blow to their morale if Jesus hadn't gotten resurrected?” you could have asked me “How could the Alliance Rebel be brave enough to challenge the Galactic Empire if Luke Skywalker didn't really have the power of the force?” My answer is the same for both questions – If you are making the story up, whats the difference between one lie and two lies (Jesus was resurrected; early Christians knew a real person named Jesus whose supernatural feats were critical to persuading the first disciples in his cause)? It seems ridiculous to me for Christians to use the Bible to attempt to establish the accuracy of the Bible[1]. Furthermore there are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus and no evidence of Jesus existing outside of the religion of Christianity. And see this AllExperts post listing just some of the deep historical problems with the Bible and including the Gospels[2].

So there is no need to explain how could the disciples could have overcome the trauma of Jesus' death if Jesus' death didn't happen like that or if there was no Jesus. So now I've reduced the question to “How could the religion of Christianity get created without a foundation of real supernatural events?” But there doesn't seem to be anything remarkable or unprecedented about large amounts of people believing in untrue ideas with great enthusiasm. For example, in this AllExperts post I juxtapose the (alleged) self-sacrificing devotion of early Christians to other unworthy causes that people have laid down their lives for [3]. To take one example, the same Christians would insist the Bible has to be accurate in order for Christianity to get founded would presumably find it easy to describe how Islam could get founded without Muhammad ascending into heaven on the back of a winged horse. The special pleading here[4] makes it impossible to believe this kind of argument relies on a consistent standard of evidence. See, in particular, my description of the argument by Symmetry in this AllExperts post[5].

Link:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_logic
[2] http://en.allexperts.com/q/Atheism-2724/2013/1/biblical-problems.htm
[3] http://en.allexperts.com/q/Atheism-2724/2012/10/atheism-14.htm
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading
[5] http://en.allexperts.com/q/Atheism-2724/2013/4/best-10-arguments-atheism.htm (4th argument)

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Jeffrey Ellsworth

Expertise

I am well versed on the arguments for both sides about the existence of God and am especially aware of the philosophical ramifications and psychological reactions to atheism. Also, if you have a question about atheism as that pertains to Science or Skepticism, I may be an especially good pick. However my knowledge of non-Judeo-Christian religions and Biblical archaeology is generally limited to knowledge about directions to more informative resources.

Experience

I've been an atheist for 14 years now, open about it for 9 years after being raised in a Roman Catholic family. In that time I have held many different philosophical perspective on the subject and had different emotional and psychological reactions to atheism. I have absorbed many internet articles, video debates, atheist publications, and secular podcasts in my process of understanding and supporting the atheist movement. I routinely hold conversations on the subject.

Publications
One article in If Journal, an interfaith publication.

Education/Credentials
I have a BS in Physics and Mathematics from the College of William & Mary I am pursuing my Ph.D in Physics at Indiana University at Bloomington. I have very little formal training in philosophy or sociology.

Awards and Honors
I was president of the William & Mary Students for Science & Secularism before graduating.

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