Did Jesus Exist? Joseph Atwill Vs. Steven Crowder |386|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Aug 7, 2018.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Did Jesus Exist? Joseph Atwill Vs. Steven Crowder |386|
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    YouTube’s Steven Crowder asked, Did Jesus Exist? Joseph Atwill answers.
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    photo by: Skeptiko
    Today we welcome Joseph Atwill back to Skeptiko. Joe is the author of Caesar’s Messiah, he’s been on this show before, but I invited him back because I ran across this very popular video that asked the question, Did Jesus Exist? The video was published by the popular YouTuber Steven Crowder and I thought it was interesting not just from a Bible-geeky standpoint, but as a way of understanding this new Christian confidence that’s rising in response to satanic/pedo/globalism stuff that’s hung on many liberals these days:

    Alex Tsakiris: I want to go back to the Steven Crowder thing, so I’m going to play the, We Proselytize Less.

    Steven Crowder: You know I’m a Christian… I certainly would say, you know, ironically enough, we get a lot of comments from atheists with Alexa. I think I proselytize, we all proselytize far less than the skeptical atheists’ community now.

    Alex Tsakiris: So, this is a point that I think you and I might have a different of opinion on, but I get what he’s saying. There’s this new force among Christians who have this political chutzpah now, that Jordan Peterson, Dinesh D’Souza, Steven Crowder and I would even throw my friend Rupert Sheldrake in the category of saying, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, so what? It’s not relevant. Listen to what I say and evaluate my opinions on these other topics because I’m right.” I don’t think we’ve seen that in a while and I think when we contrast that with some of the, I’ll use the term ‘libtard’ silliness, there’s a certain traction they get because the left and the liberal point of view has been so exaggerated and has lost any connection with logic or reason, but these Christians are standing tall in comparison. What do you think?

    Joe Atwill: Well, I think that’s true and I think that there are a lot of Christians that, as you say, stand against globalism, can be seen in some way standing against globalism because they’re trying to retain the culture and religion in the smaller group. They don’t want to sacrifice that, their cohesiveness and their values as globalism is just evaporating all of this stuff and taking it over with this atheistic machine world.

    But, I would just point out that Christians are actually fairly easy to herd into globalism and that part of globalism is that the slaves seldom know they’re being enslaved, because the controllers are very, very smart.

    I’ll give one really good example, to show you my point, which is that the first, one of the first globalisms that was ever created was the feudal system, whereby all of the different ethnicities and races, cultures in Europe were globalized and you have basically a monolithic religion that was used to set up the slave state and the religion was Christianity. Christianity was the mind-control device that the oligarchs had at that time to be able to basically set up a system where people wouldn’t rebel because they believed that there would be this workers’ paradise, that they just believed the representative of the Pontiff Maximus, the Pope, who was just obviously a mask for the ruling families.

    (continued below)
     
  2. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    I'm okay with Christians using Bart Ehrman as a reference. He feels that the documentary evidence shows that he lived and walked the Earth. The main reason for his agnosticism, according to his book which I read, is the problem of evil. How can God exist if all this evil exists in the world? Which is an issue separate from the soundness of the Biblical documentary evidence (Ehrmans area of expertise). He's an expert in the pertinent area, but his views as a moral Theological Philosopher are irrelevant. In that sense, its a legitimate reference to use if you are wishing to establish a starting ground for your apologetic effort which states that, "lets start with the fact that Jesus existed."

    I'm not saying its a fact or not personally, I really don't know. But I tend to think he existed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  3. Alex

    Alex New

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    Ehrman doesn't believe in a "Christian Jesus." doesn't believe in resurrection. doesn't believe in divinity of Jesus. pointless for Christians to ref.
     
  4. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    I do agree with you on the, "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?" argument. It's awful. An obvious logical fallacy. The "empty tomb" argument is just as bad. "If theres ONE thing we know, its that the Tomb was empty on Easter Sunday." We don't even know if there was A TOMB. But I encounter this argument everywhere.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Since I haven't been a Christian for almost 50 years, the question as to whether Jesus existed (or indeed exists) doesn't really interest me.

    I guess this needn't be as binary as it appears. I mean suppose you were setting up a fake cult - it might make sense to base it on someone who did exist, but change their story, however if that happened at the birth of Christianity, could you really say that Jesus existed - or indeed that he didn't!

    There again, there are those who suggest that an abstract idea, such as Jesus, can become concrete in the right circumstances.

    David
     
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  6. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's question at the end of the podcast:

    Does this question [presumably, did Jesus exist?] matter?
     
  7. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    Yea I don't doubt at all that people have encountered Jesus during certain NDE experiences. Not just a ball of light that they thought "must be Jesus", but an actual person who looks like the gentlemen in all of the paintings of the Western world.
     
  8. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Does this question [presumably, did Jesus exist?] matter?

    Of course it does. Especially to conventional Christians. Not so much for me personally; if anything, I regard myself as an unconventional Christian who takes the words in the four gospels as delineating a message that has shaped, and proved very important for, western culture, and for me as an individual.

    The gospels must have been committed to writing somewhere in the first century, regardless of whether they are based on the life of a real person named Jesus, and for me carry a lot of weight. I like to think Jesus existed, but in the end it doesn't matter all that much to me. I find the morality expressed in the gospels (which may have originated before the first century for all I know), as being inspirational. It may be woven into a particular (mythic and allegorical?) story of the life of Jesus, but if so, for me it's not a deal breaker.

    I regard being Christian as distinct from identifying as a member of the religion of Christianity. The latter I see as an edifice built up by ideologues largely for purposes of power and control, which has frequently departed from the essence of the message of the gospels. People don't have to become polarised and see things as all or nothing; to my eye both sides tend to have an agenda and think too literally. There's another way of being a Christian that doesn't depend on strong attachment to dogma.

    If anyone's interested, they can read more about my take on Christianity in my guest article at Bernardo Kastrup's web site here.
     
  9. Kevin Williams

    Kevin Williams New

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    Joseph Atwill argues that the New Testament gospels were written as wartime propaganda by Roman scholars
    connected to the Roman imperial court of the Flavian emperors: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. However, the
    fact that there were a multitude of gospels in existence which didn't become part of New Testament canon, such
    as the earliest gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, completely destroys Atwill's theory. Nevertheless, according to Atwill,
    the Flavian emperor's primary purpose in creating the four gospels was to control the spread of Judaism and moderate
    its political virulence. Atwill argues that the biblical character of Jesus Christ is a typological representation of the
    Roman Emperor Titus. But Atwill's theory contradicts the mainstream historical view, which is that while the four
    gospels include many mythical or legendary elements, these are religious elaborations added to the biography
    of a historical Jesus who did live in 1st-century Roman Palestine (Judea), was baptized by John the Baptist and
    was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Secular, atheist historians and biblical scholars
    have easily debunked all such "Christ Myth" theories, including Atwill's theory, which you can read about here:
    https://strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/

    And if it can be shown that the Christian religion was already in existence before the Flavians came to power, this
    would also completely destroy Atwill's theory. The Flavians were emperor Vespasian and his two emperor sons,
    Titus and Domitian, who reigned in that order. Vespasian, the first Flavian, took power in 69 AD, the Year of the
    Four Emperors, a period of chaotic civil war that followed the death of Nero. So, if Atwill is to be believed, the very
    earliest that Christianity could have appeared would be 69 AD. However, in 64 AD, five years before the Flavians
    even came to power, the Great Fire of Rome occurred which Nero blamed on the Christians, and which the
    Roman historian Tacitus (56-120 AD) described in a famous passage in the Annals. This means a Christian
    community was already living in Rome in 64 AD which completely destroys Atwill's theory.

    And there is already a good argument that it doesn't matter whether or not Jesus was a real historical figure if you
    consider the revolutionary social teachings attributed to him to be what is most important. Consider these teachings:

    (1) He proclaimed a radical ethic calling for people to renounce material possessions for spirituality (Matthew 6:19-21);
    (2) He condemned wealthy individuals for not helping the poor (Luke 6:24-25);
    (3) He confronted economic injustice by advocating voluntary income redistribution (Luke 18:18-30);
    (4) He challenged unjust social norms by associating with prostitutes (Luke 7:36-50);
    (5) He rejected racist social boundaries by talking with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-30);
    (6) He broke down social barriers by calling women to take part in his ministry (Luke 8:1-3);
    (7) He promoted the Golden Rule of "doing unto others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12);
    (8) He promoted passive non-resistance by teaching people to "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:38-42);
    (8) He preached unconditional love for your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48);
    (10) He dignified people who were considered second-class citizens (Luke 10:25-37);
    (11) He showed tolerance for people of other faiths (Matthew 8:5-13);
    (12) He advocated help in feeding the poor, sick and disabled (Luke 14:12-14);
    (13) He encouraged compassion toward social outsiders such as in healing the lepers (Luke 17:11-19);
    (14) He challenged prejudice and hatred of others such as tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-13);
    (15) He dignified the weakest members of our society such as children (Matthew 18:10);
    (16) He blessed the peacemakers in society (Matthew 5:9);
    (17) He advocated support for the "Brotherhood of Man" (Matthew 23:8);
    (18) He confronted religious arrogance and oppression by confronting the Pharisees (Luke 6:6-11);
    (19) He rejected dogmatic religious extremism (Mark 2:24-27).
    (20) He promoted faithful social service as a religious requirement (Matthew 25:34-40);
    (21) He redefined political power as a service for humanity (Matthew 20:25-28);
    (22) He condemned the use of weapons of war (Matthew 26:52).

    Notice how the above teachings would have been revolutionary, radical and modern for first century
    Roman-occupied Israel. So even if Jesus never existed as a historical person, the argument cannot
    be denied that the revolutionary social teachings attributed to this man are among the greatest the world
    has ever known. So the argument can be made that it's the message which is most important -- regardless
    of where it originated. And from this argument arises another argument suggesting a "Jesus" DID exist
    as a historical person. After all, wouldn't it take a "Jesus" to invent a "Jesus" and his revolutionary social
    teachings? I think the evidence suggests, "Yes."

    Given all of the above, it should come as no surprise that this "Jesus" in the Bible was described as receiving
    the same death sentence as was the dangerous political opponents of Rome. Because no matter who
    created these teachings, it cannot be denied how significant these teachings have changed the world. They
    led to the development of an organization (the Church) which eventually took over the Roman Empire and
    led to western culture and the western world.

    Despite all its faults, Christianity has arguably influenced the world for the good more than any other movement
    or force in history. Some of the great contributions Christianity has made through the centuries include:

    (1) The creation of hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church as an
    early version of a welfare state;
    (2) The creation of universities, which also began during the Middle Ages, beginning with small monastic
    communities to the world’s greatest universities which were started by Christians for Christian purposes;
    (3) Literacy and education for the masses where practically nobody in western Europe outside of monastic
    settlements had the ability to read or write;
    (4) The development of capitalism and free-enterprise through the Protestant work ethic;
    (5) The rise of representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment resulting
    from congregational church and self-rule;
    (6) The separation of political powers into three separate branches of government (the Legislative, Executive,
    and Judicial) with each branch defined to check the powers of the other branches;
    (7) The creation of civil liberties, especially those established in America's Bill of Rights;
    (8) The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times through the American abolitionist movement
    by religious Quakers and evangelicals;
    (9) The development of modern science of which, historically, Christianity has often been a patron of sciences;
    (10) The establishment of charities from the "Good Samaritan" ethic of parishes, churches, and almshouses
    established throughout Europe in the Early Middle Ages;
    (11) The development of higher standards of justice beginning with the theology of St. Augustine;
    (12) The elevation of the common man beginning with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation which made
    laypersons equal with clergy; and
    (13) Defending a high regard for human life on controversial issues of capital punishment, war, abortion, euthanasia,
    justifiable homicide and, by extension, public health care.

    So it can safely be said that no other person has had such an impact upon the world than the "Jesus" who created
    the teachings of this "Jesus". In my opinion, it doesn't matter who created these teachings. But the evidence for a
    historical Jesus is very secure and remarkable. He also appears in numerous NDEs by people of many faiths.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
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  10. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    It certainly matters for a fundamentalist who states that the only way into Heaven is a belief in the resurrection. That's the biggest fundamentalist (and general overall Christian) belief regarding the Christian faith. Faith that this historical figure accomplished this historical feat and, according to many, you need to believe that it happened. I can't imagine the reality of something mattering more in virtually any instance concerning any topic.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  11. malf

    malf Member

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    If we take an Idealist approach to reality, what does it really mean to say if something or someone really "existed" or not? If "everything is consciousness" and there is a representation of Jesus in just one person's consciousness (let alone many) it seems to be as "real" as anything else. Or am I misunderstanding the concept?
     
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  12. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    Because fundamentalist Christians aren’t claiming that you need to believe in Jesus in some vague idealistic way.

    I also don’t think that if one assumes an idealistic position that they need to maintain that everything anybody has every thought of exists in the same way that malf and wormwood exists.
     
  13. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I really disagree with this approach to religion. I mean most people who adopt a religion, or grow up with it and decide to keep it, learn the stories more than the underlying philosophy. Often people seem to drop the philosophy (or re-interpret it) and weave their own understanding. This whole process began in the earliest years of Christianity and became formulated in the creeds. At a later point in time, an obsession with sexual abstinence crept in. Some people seem to become obsessed with the concept that Jesus had to die if anyone else's sins were to be forgiven! Ultimately, and most crazily, people fight each other to the death over fine points of doctrine!

    I mean just to take one of your items (22) "He condemned the use of weapons of war" - fine, and if he did exist that is most certainly a point in his favour, but what has happened since - think of the Spanish in South America, think of the troubles on Northern Ireland, think of the belligerence of the Christian US, with its stockpile of nuclear weapons!

    Religion seems to take people away from discussing real issues - such as stopping war.

    I'm nearly certain that consciousness continues after death, and yet I tend to think of Christianity and most other religions as an unfortunate mistake!

    David
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
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  14. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    I acknowledge that some folk claim that the evidence for an historic Jesus is sound. The trouble is that others simply do not agree and this argument has been going back and forth for ages. It all depends on what you think is a sufficient basis for an argument.

    But does it matter? At best Jesus seems to be a fusion of history (uncertain and disputed) and myth (indisputable). This fusion seems to be normal - historic figures become mythologised. Think for a moment of Robin Hood and the figures of the US 'Wild West', let alone the war heroes of contemporary history.

    For some Christians it matters a great deal that their central spiritual hero was historic - because without that 'fact' their is no foundation to their faith - a remarkably materialistic POV - if 'God' hasn't been physical we can't believe. Does historicity confer singular credibility? Think for a moment of the singular influences on our Western culture - Shakespeare to name but one of the great sources of insight. There is a long list of poets, novelists and playwrights who have given us profound insight via non-historic characters.

    Eliade observed that history can quickly decay to myth. We can understand this. Before we had ready means of recording 'facts' cultural memory was aided by recalling only the core message - moral or magical - through stories that retold the same essential theme, but with different settings. Even now popular entertainment is employed to convey moral and spiritual messages - as well as political ones.

    It is certainly true that Christianity has been the vehicle for introducing many new ideas and ideals, so it has to be a disruptive and radical influence, rather than a reliance on tradition. So in some respects the claim of historicity delivers that disruption - it signals powerful novelty - a real innovation in terms of divine fiat.

    Let us grant that maybe there was a person who was the historic 'seed' of the Jesus story. It is likely that whatever historic truth that did exist has been completely subsumed by myth. There is good reason for this. That supposed historic Jesus did not act to make a name for himself, but to initiate spiritual innovation. He would have acted to champion the innovation and not his reputation. Naturally the spiritual innovation would triumph in historic terms and it would be sustained in myth.

    What we can confidently say about Jesus is that he was not born on 25 December and didn't die at Easter - they are what we call 'pagan' festival dates. And neither was his mum a virgin. Lots of 'saviours' have virgin mums. We can be pretty sure the magical mythic Jesus was not historic because he fits a pattern of attributes and characteristics that are shared by other spiritual heroes. Once we get rid of the tortuous son of God stuff that is such flagrantly manufactured theology we are left with the possibility there was a bloke who was the historic seed of what became an extraordinary movement - whether you are for or agin it.

    Neither reason nor logic compel us to deny there was a bloke who kicked all off, so why bother. On the other hand, since it is fairly evident that none of the magical and mythic tales are literally true why does it matter? Of course there are going to be folk who insist that the Bible story of Jesus is historic - just shrug your shoulders, smile gently and walk away.

    There is a danger inherent in thinking myth is history and hence true. It begins when we imagine our 'memories' are recordings of what happened in actual fact - they ain't. It ends with believing toxic bollocks contrived by mad folk - like the kind that want Israel embroiled in a Middle East war because it means Jesus will come back. No he won't. On this scale it does matter - but do please let's be subtle about it.
     
  15. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    This is the line of reasoning that I have a tremendous difficulty with. Of course you could still believe in God if you were to decide that Jesus never walked the Earth, but what point would there be in calling yourself a Christian?
     
  16. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    Because the historicity of Jesus (at this point) is irrelevant towards his affect on historical Western civilization and towards the impact of his teachings on the lives of people everywhere, it doesn’t follow that it simply does not matter if he existed or not. The truth matters. You learn lessons and grow from truth discernment, both individually and as a civilization. Let alone the affect a non-historicity should have on a theological Christians view.

    And whether you are an idealist or not, it isn’t helpful to adopt the attitude that, “well somebody somewhere is probably thinking this so it’s therfore true.” You can’t function as an individual or a society using that sort of logic. And idealism doesn’t mean you can’t make discernment’s between existing forms of consciousness and thought forms in the first place.
     
  17. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I really know very little about Christian history - I can't really bring much of my own knowledge to the debate - but it seemed to me that the argument that Christianity might have been a constructed religion is pretty strong. Obviously the Romans wanted to pacify the region, and a religion that taught peace was ideal from their point of view. If Josephus were under Roman control, and much of the history was corroborated through his writings, then Atwill's thesis looks very reasonable.

    I was also struck by the discussion of the argument that Jesus had to be either the son of God, mad, or a liar! I used to hear variants of that line of reasoning while I was wavering about Christianity (nearly 50 years ago!). I agree with Alex and Atwill - that line of reasoning is totally specious, and probably reveals that there are no better arguments available. One variant is the argument that If Jesus were a liar, it is inconceivable that so many people would be willing to lay down their lives for him. These are obviously bogus arguments! The idea that Jesus might not have existed, is interestingly plausible!

    I was also impressed by the brief discussion of Pizzagate, because something seemed to get lost in our heated discussion of the subject on the forum. The core allegation seems to be that lawmakers who were involved in paedophilia were allowed to abuse yet more kids, but blackmailed to support some issues. This was backed up by the fact that one law maker had indeed been convicted of such an offence. Sorry - I would need to listen to the whole interview again to extract more details (unless someone can tell me where to look) but it did seem to be a version that made sense. In particular, Clinton herself didn't need to be into paedophilia to be mixed up in this.

    David
     
  18. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I suppose there is a small chance P(Jesus existed)/365 that he was indeed born on Christmas day!

    David
     
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  19. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I guess one question I have is that if there's an element of conspiracy in the rise of Christianity, whence comes the morality in the gospels? Who at the time the alleged conspiracy was being forged was advocating this morality? It strains credulity to think that a bunch of cynics at that time could have made it up out of whole cloth, especially in a society barbaric by today's standards. So it would seem reasonable to assume that the morality was borrowed from some contemporary sect that wasn't Christianity, and moreover, that the cynics could recognise its appeal, seeking to interweave it into the gospel narrative in order to -- what, exactly?

    What would the motive be? Why not omit much of the morality and stick to a mythos that would inform much of the Christian religion? Why would anyone seek to pepper the gospels with so much morality at a time when, in the Roman empire at least, morality was very different from what is found in the gospels? I can't weigh it up. Someone enlighten me.
     
  20. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well to the extent that the new morality was to turn the other cheek, the answer is obvious!

    David
     

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