Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

“Jesus never existed”. Not only is there overwhelming scholarly consensus that he did (even among non-Christian scholars), but any atheist making this claim is ultimately doing themselves a disservice–not only by setting the bar artificially and unnecessarily high and essentially flipping the burden of proof onto themselves, but because the strongest arguments for Jesus’ existence are also arguments against his divinity and his status as the so-called Messiah.

“Jesus said bring them and slay them before me”. This is “true” to the extent that the Bible claims Jesus uttered those words. But Jesus was actually telling a parable–in an attempt to justify the doctrine of Hell–of a hypothetical king who says those words within the context of that parable. In other words, Jesus did not literally order any men to be killed before him. Of course, the irony here is that this is actually more damning (ha) than the alternative: If Jesus had truly ordered these men to be killed, an apologist could find some way to rationalize their deaths as morally justified, or claim that the story was only applicable to that specific instance at that specific point in time. But parables are by definition intended to be universally applicable, and the orthodox doctrine of Hell (if it were real) is infinitely more morally abhorrent than the mere execution of a few men.

Ridiculing Genesis. The Genesis stories are prime fodder for atheists and standup comedians everywhere, and for good reason: They are the most ridiculous stories in the entire Bible. But everyone already knows that, and most Christians will simply dismiss such ridicule by saying that the stories are meant to be taken metaphorically.
So instead of Genesis, how about ridiculing the problems with the Bible that people don’t know about, and which aren’t as easily written off as “metaphorical”? Think Jesus destroying a fig tree because it wasn’t fig season. Animal babies being born with stripes because of what their parents were looking at while mating. Jesus saying the end of the world would come within the lifetimes of his original followers. Or my personal favorite, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on two donkeys at the same time because the writer of Matthew sucked at reading Hebrew. No more Noah’s Ark jokes please.

This is what Jesus actually looked like.

“How the hell could they have fit two of every animal on the Ark?” OK, sometimes taking jabs at the Ark story is just too hard to resist. But if you’re going to do it, at least don’t make this mistake: Despite the popular conception of “two of every kind” on the Ark, the Bible is clear that there were actually seven pairs (or just “seven”, depending on which translation you read) of every “clean” animal–which includes the VAST majority of animals–and two of every “unclean”. That’s right… the Noah’s Ark story is even more ridiculous than even most atheists realize, by a factor of three to seven times.

For the rest of the series:

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 1

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 3

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 4

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 5

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 6

Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 7

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6 thoughts on “Atheist Clichés to Avoid – Part 2

  1. “Not only is there overwhelming scholarly consensus that he did (even among non-Christian scholars)”

    Whoah there.

    Citation needed. And I mean this, I’m not just looking to voice dissent and flounce off. I’ve spent a significant amount of time looking into this, and have found zero evidence in favour of the existence claim for Jesus.

    Your other post doesn’t address this, it merely goes on about clashing stories.

    What ex-biblical support is there for the existence of Jesus, prior to the Josephus Flavius texts (which 1) are themselves contentious, and 2) not even 3rd hand accounts)?

  2. Hey Brian. Well, first note that I said overwhelming scholarly “consensus”, not overwhelming “evidence”. And certainly there is a huge difference there, as you suggested.

    On the issue of consensus, Bart Erhman has recently pointed out the rather striking fact that “there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world”.

    Now some (such as Richard Carrier) have contested that claim, by citing examples of people who do not strictly meet that definition but come close. But even those are extremely few and far between.

    As for your last question, the answer is none. I wrote this on one of my earlier blog posts, but Josephus’ references to Jesus are the first references to Jesus in any non-Biblical source. And incidentally, a case can be made (by Dr. Marian Hillar, by Dan Barker in “Godless”, and others) that both of Josephus’ accounts are not just contentious, but fabricated entirely .

    • Well, first note that I said overwhelming scholarly “consensus”, not overwhelming “evidence”. And certainly there is a huge difference there, as you suggested.

      This is still a claim that requires a citation.

      Regardless, the lack of evidence renders this consensus meaningless: there is slightly more evidence in favour of the existence of Confucius (and Socrates), yet the consensus is that these guys *probably* existed. Any consensus that ‘Jesus *did* exist’ that is based on *less* evidence is evidence of a failure of scholarship in those field where this consensus is held.

      And incidentally, a case can be made (by Dr. Marian Hillar, by Dan Barker in “Godless”, and others) that both of Josephus’ accounts are not just contentious, but fabricated entirely .

      “Contentious” means that there is dispute amongst the experts regarding the authenticity of those accounts. Presenting one of the people involved in the argument doesn’t mean that it’s no longer contentious. (and I’m not about to cherry pick my scholars when there is a genuine division within the field (i.e. we’re not talking ‘climate change’ schism, but a real schism))

      As for your last question, the answer is none.

      Right so: Jesus is, at best, a story. Like Hansel and Gretal. Moving on.

      • “This is still a claim that requires a citation.”

        I wasn’t saying that to claim otherwise. I was just clarifying my position, since in your initial reply you asked for a citation, but followed immediately with a comment about the lack of evidence for Jesus’ existence (as opposed to lack of evidence of scholarly consensus). It sounded like you may have misunderstood my position, hence my clarification. Even now, I’m not sure if you’re still suggesting that I didn’t provide the “citation”, after I provided the exact quote from Bart Ehrman. Anyway, here is a link to an article which quotes Ehrman making that claim regarding scholarly consensus:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/did-jesus-exist_b_1349544.html

        “…there is slightly more evidence in favour of the existence of Confucius (and Socrates), yet the consensus is that these guys *probably* existed. Any consensus that ‘Jesus *did* exist’ that is based on *less* evidence is evidence of a failure of scholarship in those field where this consensus is held.”

        I think you’re splitting hairs a bit here. Even if the overwhelming position of New Testament scholars were simply that Jesus “probably” existed (as opposed to “did” exist), that is still overwhelming scholarly consensus for his existence. And when it comes to ANY historical figures of ancient history, we’re only talking about probable existence at best, regardless of whether we’re talking about Jesus or any other figure.

        “Presenting one of the people involved in the argument doesn’t mean that it’s no longer contentious.”

        Not sure what you’re referring to here, but if you’re referring to my reference to Richard Carrier (one of my favorite authors BTW, as is Ehrman), I was simply referencing him to acknowledge that there are some who have contested Bart Ehrman’s claim of scholarly consensus.

        If you’re referring to Marian Hillar/Dan Barker, I was actually agreeing with your overall position on the historical value (i.e. little or none) of the Josephus accounts. By “contentious” it sounded like you were referring to the fact that Josephus’ writings were (at best) very least significantly altered (and propogandized) by a later Christian scribe. So I was simply pointing out that some have even gone a step further and made the case that Josephus never wrote those passages to begin with.

  3. Yes, it is hard not to poke fun at Noah’s Ark, but if done, it should be done with care. Anyone who really believes (as I did, once) is likely too immersed in the worldview to respond productively to ridicule. Education, though, can still be useful and to that point, here is an extremely detailed explanation of just how impossible the story really is (the answer, is much more impossible than you ever thought).

    The Impossible Voyage of Naoh’s Ark

    If I had read this, it probably would have hastened my rejection of Christianity by years…

  4. I don’t really see why anyone should stop criticizing Genesis. Yes, it’s well known that it’s bull shit. It’s still in the Bible, and it’s still considered divinely inspired truth by a lot of Christians. Everyone does not already know Genesis is horse shit, because I’ve met some of them. Even if every single Christian or Jew did know it was ridiculous, that’s not really a good reason why we should stop criticizing it. If “believers” honestly support the Bible, they have to support that book too. They can’t cherry pick what is and isn’t metaphorical and still expect to be taken seriously, and that’s always a relevant argument to make. Most atheists are tired of arguing about it, but when there are people who honestly believe we are descendants of Adam and Eve out there, obviously the argument is still necessary. Most Biblical arguments are entirely cliché to atheists because the entire religious argument IS ridiculous. The only clichés atheists need to avoid are the ones based on inaccuracy, and that seems kind of obvious.

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