Friday, January 06, 2006

Professional Atheists

The God Who Wasn’t There, an anti-Christian documentary by Brian Flemming, argues that a man called Jesus Christ never existed.

The question of the historical existence of Christ has never interested me much because it’s not essential to refuting religion. There is no evidence for the existence of God. Does it matter if there was a real man 2,000 years ago who claimed to be God? The religion is false either way.

In Leonard Peikoff’s History of Philosophy lectures, someone asks him about the historical existence of Christ in a question period. Dr. Peikoff dismisses the question impatiently; he thinks it is obvious that a man called Jesus Christ really existed. I have always thought the same.

As a lifelong atheist, I have never examined any religion closely. I have not read the Gospels -- can’t quite find the motivation to read the Bible -- but I know they tell a concrete, detailed story that puts Jesus in the specific historical period of Herod and Pontius Pilate. My uneducated opinion has always been that the things in the New Testament that could have happened, such as riding a donkey and the crucifixion, did happen. The things that could not have happened, such as walking on water and the resurrection, did not happen. I figured the early Christians used the facts of this man who was treated poorly in Jerusalem to create their myth. Did they also make up the things that could have happened? It seems like an odd thing to do, especially since, as far as I know, the other mystery cults of the time, such as Osiris and Mithras, never found it necessary to tie their gods to history. The early Christians were imaginative and clever if they made up the historical angle out of whole cloth. And at least one of them was a world class liar.

After watching this film and checking out the Jesus Puzzle, I think they might be right that Jesus did not exist. I don’t know for sure because to check out their arguments properly I would have to read the New Testament.


The people who think all this is important are usually former Christians. They have rejected the religion, but still accept the premise that religion is important. Atheism is not a philosophy or an ideology, it’s just a negation of theism. People who define themselves first and foremost as atheists make theism as important as the theists think it is.

These “professional atheists” as I call them vehemently oppose the major religions, but often sound like mystics themselves. For instance, Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, has started a woozy new age movement called Universism. (HT: Gus Van Horn)

Here is Harris on faith:

Faith is adherence to a collectively held religious Truth despite evidence to the contrary and without continuing efforts to seek out, understand and weigh evidence.

Faith is the only word to describe the worldview that involves adherence to a group religious Truth, a close personal relationship with God and the moral certainty that comes from that.
This is sloppy thinking. Faith is the belief in ideas that do not come through the senses. It can be a new age belief held by a wine-sipping liberal in Marin County as well as a “collectively held religious Truth.” And it is NOT moral certainty or certainty of any kind. As Ayn Rand wrote, “[A]n error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”

Religious people have false certainty that is based not on reason but on faith. Their “knowledge” is not rooted in the sense perception of the facts of reality. They lack any method to verify the truth of ideas held on faith. This is not certainty of knowledge, even if they wrongly think they are certain.

The professional atheists are usually liberals with a political agenda. They attack conservatives for not being compassionate toward the poor. There are contradictions between conservatism and capitalism, but this does not make socialism true. It merely makes socialist morality a lot like religion. Where would liberalism be without 2,000 years of Christian propaganda about sacrificing for the poor?

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