By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – A coalition of atheist and secular organizations are coming together on Saturday to hold what is being billed at the largest gathering of atheists in history.
David Silverman, chairman of the event committee and president of the American Atheists, said the rally is aimed at uniting atheist organizations and letting the religious know that there are nonbelievers among them.
“We need to stress to the theists that we are here,” Silverman said. “Atheism is growing in all 50 states. What people don’t seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality.”
Silverman initially told CNN that the rally would draw anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people to the National Mall, and the National Park Service has planned for 30,000 people. With thunderstorms forecast for Saturday, however, Silverman told CNN on Thursday that he expects somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
The cost of the event is around $300,000, Silverman said, but philanthropist Todd Stiefel, Founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, is supplying half the money.
CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories
The rally has been a catalyst for protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, a group well known for its picketing of funerals of American servicemen and servicewomen. Westboro Baptist has been granted a permit for the “grassy area between 14th and 15th” streets, according to Carol Johnson, a communications officer for the National Park Service.
Though a press release for the reason rally touts 17 groups planning to protest, only the Westboro Baptist Church has applied and obtained a permit. Johnson said rally organizers have notified the Park Service of other possible protest groups, but none of those have applied for a permit.
The rally's long list of speakers and presenters runs the gamut from intellectuals to celebrities to comedians. The event is headlined by Oxford professor and author Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins, who is widely regarded as the most respected figure in atheism, is lending his voice to this event because he says freedom for atheists is “constantly under threat from people who would like to turn this country into some sort of a theocracy.”
“The Reason Rally is part of an effort to combat the attack of the theocrats,” Dawkins told CNN. “There is in this country at the moment a great revival of atheism, and the number of atheists in the country is much larger than people realize.”
Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital
At a press conference for the event, Silverman was adamant that the rally won't be the last. He didn't say whether it will be become an annual tradition, but he intends a higher profile for atheists in the future.
“The next step after the rally is all eyes on the election,” Silverman said. “We want to post hard questions to the candidates.”
Dawkins, too, related the rally to politics.
“The nonbelieving constituency has not been vocal enough, and it therefore has been politic for them to be ignored by their congressmen, by their senators,” Dawkins said.
Directing his comments at Congress, Dawkins said, “You have been neglecting them, overlooking them and riding roughshod over them as though they didn’t exist. Well, they do exist and they outnumber some of the other lobbies that you have been so assiduously sucking up to all these years.”
The America Atheists also are holding their annual convention in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Secular Coalition for America has scheduled its “Lobby Day for Reason” on Friday.
The weekend is part of a larger blitz by a coalition of atheists to “win” equality in American culture, Silverman said.
“We are the last group against whom it is politically correct to be bigoted,” he said. “That is something that needs to change and I am very confident that we will within 20 years.”
People here seem to be confused about what an atheist is and what it means to be agnostic.
Since it's impossible to disprove something imaginary such as the gods proposed by religions, most atheists are "agnostic atheists." They do not believe in gods, but don't claim to know (gnostic – have knowledge) that gods absolutely do not exist. There simply isn't a good enough reason to believe in them. There are an unlimited number of imaginary, impossible to disprove things one could believe in, and every religious person is an unbeliever in all the other religions.
Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. A – theist means lack of belief a-gnosticism means lack of knowledge, and in this context means that it is impossible to gain knowledge about this, it is an unknowable thing.
Faith is a gift from God.
"Faith is a gift from God."
LOL! wow your god is desperate.
So, accepting claims no matter how outlandish without any requisit evidence to support the claim(s) is a gift?
Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life–except religion.
"If there is no god, there is no reason to consider ourselves especially significant."
Disagree. We are both significant and insignificant at the same time, but in what context? I believe we are insignificant in the overall span of time and existence in general, but I believe we are very significant to our own individual worlds while we do exist. But to have the entire discussion hinge on whether one believes in god or not to determine our own significance is a stretch and not a good barmoeter for judging this type of thing.
I am significant to the people in my life. I was once significant in the life of a friend I saved from drowning. I have made a difference, however small, and due to that I believe I am significant. But as to your assertion that we are just one insignificant step along the full evolutionary process, I would tend to agree, except that every step in that process is significant in and of itself.
Just because we can only physically view and perceive evolution in real time and not on a timeless scale doesn't mean that our specific step along that process is insignificant.
@ QS: it's hard not to see divergent ideas there. I think that's why Hitchens & others criticize that version of atheism.
Sounds like you're saying:
"Evolution tells me I'm not significant. But I tell myself I am."
Hitchens criticized religion for offering what he deemed to be an imagined significance, but he was honest enough to recognize that his beliefs required him to admit in comparison he had no such special significance. Which makes one wonder: if we are just one step in the evolutionary process, why this desperate need for significance/self-importance?
or as Calvin & Hobbes put it: "I am significant!... screamed the dust speck."
We live in an eternal sea of infinite insignificance, but it is only natural for a primate to insist he is significant, in at least some, small way.. This paradox drives artistic expression which seems reason enough.
I think you're misconstruing my belief that, in certain contexts, we are significant to seem like I "need" to be significant.
Like I said, in a "grand scale" context no, I don't believe we are that significant. But in our personal, individual lives and existences we are to each other. It has nothing to do with evolution dictating to me whether or not I'm significant any more than it has to do with religion dictating anybody else's significance.
But if you're asking if I think evolution is more significant than religion, I'd say yes! :-)
But in the end it sounds to me like you're offering up two separate concepts – general significance in the real world as opposed to what you say Hitchens referred to as "special significance". These are completely different things, as I've tried to explain, because we are significant to each other as it pertains to how we interact and make choices....but to the seemingly timeless nature of the universe and existence in general, no, we are not significant.
@ QS: and yet if the 'relative significance' to which you refer is just a function of the purposes of evolution, just a tool in service of optimizing the propagation of our DNA – then we must admit a few things about what we're calling 'significance.'
love, sacrifice, compassion, etc – all are really just 'imagined' tools in the hands of the evolutionary process. any such pretended significance must really be understood as supporting the ultimate agenda: propagation of the species. that is the only real agenda in the function of evolution, so if we're going to be honest, everything must be read through that lens. if love is just some firing of synapses in the service of optimizing the gene pool for survival of the species, then considering it significant for any other purpose is imaginary – which is the atheist's primary objection to religion.
and that takes us back to the question at the outset: why the need for pretended significance? why not simply embrace the insignificance of it (both at a micro & macro level)?
"and yet if the 'relative significance' to which you refer is just a function of the purposes of evolution"
Still not understanding your assertion that evolution dictates significance. I also don't understand where you come up with the idea of "pretended significance". I've already stated why I believe that, in certain instances and contexts, we are in fact significant. And even Hitchens would not be so absolute to say that we are all completely insignificant as a generalization.
Do I believe that simply being an Atheist makes me significant? No. Do religious people think believing in god makes them significant? From personal experience I'd say yes.
I also don't agree that love, compassion and sacrifice are just "imaginary tools" of the evolutionary process. They are thoughts, emotions and even actions that are inherent in sentient beings – they are not pretend and they are significant, if even only to the individual.
I think what you're trying to get me to say is that as an Atheist I believe there's no meaning, or significance, to life because I don't believe in anything like a god or an afterlife. When in fact I believe that life is significant BECAUSE there is no afterlife.
It's a fairly common theme amongst believers to presume that Atheists see all life as insignificant because we believe there is nothing afterwards. Can't stop people from believing that, but I can at least try to get them to understand why they're wrong.
@ QS: I certainly agree with you that if one believes there is no afterlife, then this life *must* be their significance. I think that's Ernest Becker's thesis in "the Denial of Death." many atheists miss this. you clearly do not. i appreciate that.
what i am pressing, though, is that you have defined significance in a completely different manner – and one that is not commensurate with your primary beliefs. the classic notions of love & significance disappear in light of the loss of the eternal/divine. it makes sense that Christians would stress love when their God defines himself as love (1 Jn.4). however, for an atheist, that is not the case. love bears no special, ultimate significance. and if there is any meaning to life (I'm assuming from what you've said that you're not an absurdist), it is the agenda of evolution – which, notably, sees love as a mere tool for optimizing the propagation of the species.
to put it most directly: if that is so, Valentine's Day is a charade. Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin? all just social constructs to ensure the effective propagation of your DNA. in such a case, it is s.ex that drives love, and not love that drives s.ex. any notion of intimacy or love is basically just a psycho-pharmacological co.cktail that was generated by certain kinds of stimuli that provide the sensation / experience of being in love. it's merely a psychological illusion in service of the one & only significant purpose in evolutionary life: passing on your genetic code for the sake of the survival of the species.
that's not love you have for your child: it's merely the evolutionary survival instinct for your genetic code. if your child dies, that's not grief you're experiencing. it's just a yearning evolution has programmed in you so that you might go reproduce again and keep your DNA in the gene pool (or help others do the same).
if evolution is the underlying premise of existence, most of what we do is a farce in service of the one reason for our existence. if you believe in it, can you affirm the bald reality of it? love is an illusion. we are just animals. all other claims to significance are denials of the greatest reality – and, as Ernest Becker says, an attempt to deny our own coming death.
All I can say Russ, is that I think you're placing far too much importance on the role of evolution in the average Atheists' life.
I believe in evolution, but it does not dictate my life, my actions, my desires or my significance.
Gotta go, thanks for the discussion! :-)
The fact that people raise this level of ruckus over non-believers daring to hold a meeting in public indicates the level of intolerance these folks are standing up to. I hope it draws a lot of attention.
I wonder what Piers Morgan will have to say about the Rally. Seems he has a high hard one for Jesus.
Christians rarely act like they love Jesus. With them, it's all about fear of hell and Satan.
Relax, Christians. Hell doesn't exist, and either does Satan:
Stolen from Charles Baudelaire, but somehow better heard from the Kaiser himself...
People who don't realize that evolution was the process by which all the species developed on Earth are either not well educated or politicians looking for votes.
You're being redundant.
I once saw a billboard saying "You can be good without God". I bet that caused some people to think about it.
knowledge vs. imagination
science vs. relevation
reality vs. the unseen
A money-making scheme by the Silvermans (the atheist version of the Graham family)?? Probably.
Internet media networking is doing the same job at no cost and no trip to Washington and $1000 front row seats required.
it's FREE admission. only a few seats are paid for, and that money goes to charity. check your facts.
I did and they are also charging sponsors, $25,000 each.
I see the Westboro Baptist Church will be there. Ironically, if there is one group that has done more to further the cause of atheism, here in the U.S., its them. It will be a small turn out relatively speaking but no matter. It is a fact that attendance at churches across the nation is at an all time low. This is proof positive that more and more are choosing a neutral stance. Atheism, agnosticism, and non belief are spreading and I'm glad!
Do believers believe Anderson Cooper will be recieved in Heaven?
Vatican scientists successfully crossed a pickle and a deer. Catholic priests are excited about the new hybrid, the Dill-Doe.
That is just lame, man. Seriously.
A bunch of people standing around in the rain congratulating themselves on being "brights". Should we at least try to talk them inside where it's dry?
Sure, we'll all come to your house.
i don't understand your analogy. what does the rain represent?
Dawkins is a liberal stooge.
actually, he was very tentative because of religion. his wife was extremely religious. he knew he would be ridiculed and hated for the rest of his life when he wrote put forth his theory. stooge? how so? he followed reason and logic, something with which you are obviously unfamiliar .
I could be wrong, but Dawkins never seemed to interested in asserting himself as a high profile political figure. So why are you branding him a liberal? And when you consider the bigoted and intolerant majority that he has so courageously chosen to criticize, and question, where in the heck do you come off labeling the man a "stooge?"
Prayer changes things .
Not for amputees. Sorry, but you have failed.
You are already aware that regeneration is a work in progress. One can only deduce that you are not only spiritually challenged but mentally challenged as well. When God grants that full knowledge to mankind what will you be b itching about next?
Just sayin, that's not the work of god, that's the work of man. When we do replace the limbs of amputees it won't be because people prayed for it, it will be because brilliant and dedicated researchers figured out how to do it.
Are you asserting that asking a supernatural agent to perform a certain task is a legitimate mechanism for actual change in this, the only world we are sure of?
primework is pointing out that the only ailments ever "cured" by God are unverifiable. for instance, someone who is blind can now see, someone who was crippled can now walk. but amputees are never cured. curious. how come? the answer is because you can't fake that. someone that has perfect vision can pretend to be blind and someone that walks just fine can pretend to be crippled. they can then say they are cured when there was really never anything to cure in the first place. but you can't do that with amputees. you can't have someone pretend to have only one leg or arm. it shows that religious faith healing is bogus. god can cure the blind and cripples, but not amputees? nope, because it can't be faked. god can give sight or the ability to walk instantaneously, but can't make an amputee's arm grow back immediately? or ever? check in on an amputee years in the future and he still won't have an arm. here's a great short on youtube going over it:
-You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~–
You know, it doesn't matter how many times you blindly assert the same thing, it still doesn't make it true.
Prayer changes things
You mutilate the definition of the word "proven." Stop it. Contribute something of substance here, or remove yourself from the conversation, which is your right. Thank you.
"Prayer changes things
Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~`
If pharmacy became a religion would people be quoting 'scriptions'?
if people were crazy enough to believe pharmaceutical magical dogma as opposed to facts/evidence, then they would be just as nutty as christians. wait, is that what you meant?
I'll be coming representing Dyslexic Atheists of America. We don't believe in Dog.
Our favourite book is "A Sale of Two Ti/tties" by Darles Chickens.
A God's word is only relevant in the imagination of its followers
Wasn't it Nietzsche who told atheists to become their own gods?
everybody wants to be me.
Nietzsche also said, "Without music, life would be a mistake."
and when people say humans should be "gods", they don't mean it literally.
@ Bootyfunk: I think Nietzsche did mean it literally. no, not the way Mormons mean it; but definitely the way atheists mean it.
"Versuchers" were those who would create a new existence. he assumed all religious gods were not real, but what those 'gods' had accomplished, now great thinkers would accomplish. that's how i read his parable of the madman and the test of eternal recurrence. but he himself admitted he was not strong enough to pass his own tests.
i think you need to read some outside examinations of his works. you think he meant we should really be 'gods'? you think he meant for us all to be like Yahweh and create a universe and life, etc? or that we should all take control of our own reality?
@ Bootyfunk: no, you're applying theist's logic to Nietzsche's assertions (as an atheist). the same substance & power he saw in the gods of religion (all that he gleaned them to be legitimately – not real but tools for power) is what he was now claiming for those who would take atheism seriously. that's why he mocks other atheists who play with nihilism as a front for their own functional religiosity. that's who he's mocking in the parable of the madman:
Nietzsche – as one atheist to others – is throwing down the gauntlet. He is saying that many who call themselves atheists don't actually understand what they've done.
yes, the religious like to make that argument, but it has holes it in and sinks to the bottom very quickly. your link is from Fordham University, The Jesuit University of New York, which should tell you something. the religious hate Nietzsche and try very hard to distort the facts.
@ bootyfunk: i simply grabbed the first link that had the parable. there's no interpretation there, just the passage quoted.
Here's Walter Kaufmann (leading Nietzsche expert of our time, Princeton professor):
"Nietzsche prophetically envisages himself as a madman: to have lost God means madness; and when mankind will discover that it has lost God, universal madness will break out. This apocalyptic sense of dreadful things to come hangs over Nietzsche's head like a thundercloud. We have destroyed our faith in God. There remains only the void. We are falling. Our dignity is gone. Our values are lost. Who is to say what is up & what is down? It has become colder, and night is closing in."
(from "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ" – chapter 3, p.97)
This is not a distortion of the facts. It's the simple, direct meaning of Nietzsche's parable.
exactly, look how you are interpreting that passage. you really think something so complex has but a single, black and white meaning. other philosophers will tell you different. you really can't find other interpretations without religious backing that finds meaning other than what you have put forward in that passage? just look it up, there are whole papers from non-religious schools with other points of view.
and when you say something like: "Here's Walter Kaufmann (leading Nietzsche expert of our time, Princeton professor)" that tells me something. he's the undisputed expert on Nietzsche? haha. there are lots of experts on Nietzsche with lots of opinions. to say one is above the others is a fallacy of false authority.
"Mr. Kaufmann has produced what may be the definitive study of Nietzsche's life and thought – an informed, scholarly, and lustrous work." – The New Yorker
I don't know anyone who claims "the New Yorker" is religious. And Princeton is a far cry from a religious, uneducated school.
Why are VIP gold seats being sold at the Rally for $5000 each? I thought atheists weren't for prophet :-P
I love a good pun!!
wonder if it adds up to the admission price charged at the Vatican every day...
I like to wear a diaper and act like Jesus when I pray. Praise Jesus!
I like to take Viagra to help guarantee a second coming.
everybody wants to be me
"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:12
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."John 3:17
You are welcome to believe that. I don't believe that a loving God would send a good person to hell because they were born into a society where another religion is dominant.
"Probably you're going to be eaten by a giant marshmallow or something." – Harry Potter, Ch. 2, p.173
OMG pg 173 and that is only chapter 2? How long is that book?
according to the Bible, there are no 'good' people (Rom.3:10-12, 23; Jn.3:18).
Quoting scripture written by men expecting things to happen is no different than casting a spell.
if jesus did live, and there's no credible evidence that he did, he would just have been another crazy cult leader telling people he can do magic because he is the son of god.
the Christian's hypocrisy is his unwillingness to surrender fully to the one he calls "Savior."
the skeptic's hypocrisy is his unwillingness to be equally skeptical of his own logic.
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." (1 Thess.2:13)
Szilard 88:16 I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.
The Truth of Gods word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Careful, you might trip over the lamp., burn your feet and lose your way. That's why I like flashlights.
I need no shepherd for I think and reason...and I am not a sheep,
I shall want only what serves humanity best;
I lie down in green pastures because I choose to, not because anything makes me.
I swim in still waters, I need not be led beside them;
If a soul exists it is mine and is for me to restore how I see fit.
Paths of righteousness will never fail to lead a person astray…
especially for His name’s sake.
I will walk through many valleys, it’s called life;
the shadow of death follows one and all, no matter where we walk.
I fear evil;
evil is created by man, which is to be feared far more than any of the countless versions of god;
your rod and your staff do not comfort me as they are herding tools...and I am not a sheep.
I would be arrogant to think goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, for I am human and we make mistakes.
I shall not dwell in any house that believes me to be nothing more than an animal which must be told where to go and when.
@ QS: if everything you believe tells you that you are not significant in any unique way, then why would you feel the need to scream "I am significant!"?
@Russ – and why would you think that I believe myself to be insignificant? Because I choose not to believe something? I seriously hope you aren't insinuating that people can only be considered significant if they believe in some god or another.
@ QS: help me out, then. I'm simply trying to follow your logic.
you said: "I am not an animal." so you don't believe in evolution?
yet "evil is created by man." yet you are a not a mere animal?
there's a tension here that does not follow. if there's no god, then you are merely one step in the evolutionary process. there is nothing significant about you. moreover, you clearly believe 'man made evil' – so it's worse than simply not being an animal. we are uniquely culpable. it seems you have two threads running at odds with one another. help me understand how you weave them together without an appeal to some Objective reality (God/gods/metaphysical/etc.).
You are having trouble following my logic because you are trying to attribute things to what I said that have no correlation.
I said I am not a sheep, in the metaphorical sense. But I never said "I am an animal", you misread what I was saying which was that I will not follow a belief system that BELIEVES me to be nothing more than an animal. In fact, I go so far as to say specifically that I am human and we make mistakes.
As for the significance aspect, I still don't understand how you made the leap from me not believing in what the bible says to that meaning I believe myself to be insignificant. The confusion in logic on that one comes from you I think.
My reference to evil being created by man is simply contrasting the insistence by the religious that evil is all the devil's doing, or god's for that matter to what I believe is all man's doing.
Hope that clears things up!
@ QS: that does help me understand where you are coming from.
However, that does not resolve the issue of your significance. Your anti-psalm above may have been metaphoric, but you continue to insist that you are not a mere animal. Do you believe in non-theistic evolution? If so, how can you claim to be more than simply one step in the evolutionary process (ergo: insignificant)?
If there is no god, there is no reason to consider ourselves especially significant. And yet we continue to clamor desperately to that very end. Can you embrace the that your beliefs inherently require you to admit your insignificance (as Hitchens & others have done)?
And for the record, the Bible does call Satan the "father of lies" (Jn.8), but evil flows out of the heart of men also (Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-12). For Christians, it's not just "all the devil's doing" (as you put it). we are responsible for what we do.
My reply somehow posted as a new comment above. :-(
Of course those words were spoken in a language you don't speak, written down years later in a language you don't speak by a person who is unknown, and translated into English hundreds of years later, in a different time and historical context, by a different person who is unknown to you. How do you know they were ever spoken at all?
Here's a mind-bender for you; in his lifetime, Jesus Christ never heard the word 'Jesus' nor 'Christ' spoken.
@ David: the Bible is the most read, most scrutinized book in history.
a few helpful facts to consider & a link that has greater detail...
# of Herodotus' oldest manuscripts still extant: 75
# of New Testament oldest manuscripts still extant: 5,700 (not including 10k in Latin & more than a million quotations from early Christian leaders whose writings are still extant)
PT: there's an embarrassing wealth of archaeological evidence for biblical scholars as compared to any other ancient literature in this period
the Dead Sea Scrolls were found beginning in 1947. They date from 1st c AD & prior. Before that, the earliest Hebrew manuscripts were around 900 AD. stunningly, they found that 1000 years of copyists got virtually everything right. If the telephone game theory had been correct, almost everything would be wrong after 1000 years of copying & re-copying.
PT: the Dead Sea Scrolls proved the reliability of scribal methods
it is not surprising that Jesus of Nazareth never heard English while in Israel & Samaria. He did, however, hear the Hebrew & Aramaic equivalents of both 'Jesus' & 'Messiah' (Christ).
Even though it is the most critiqued, there is one glaring problem. All of these First and Second Century historians, and not one of them wrote a single word of this wondrous Jesus of Nazareth:
Josephus, Philo-Judæus, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Quintilian, Lucanus, Epictetus, Hermogones, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Appian, Phlegon, Phædrus, Valerius Maximus, Lucian, Pausanias, Florus Lucius, Quintius Curtius, Aulus Gellius, Dio Chrysostom, Columella, Valerius Flaccus, Damis, Favorinus, Lysias, Pomponius Mela, Appion of Alexandria, and Theon of Smyrna:
Isn't that odd, with all of the miraculous claims made about him by his followers, but contemporary historians knew NOTHING about him?
AGuest9: you are mistaken on two counts...
First, Christianity came from (in the eyes of most contemporary historians) a culturally insignificant area and spread largely through those regarded as culturally insignificant (poor, outcast, etc.). Since Christ never went more than 200 miles from Jerusalem, it was his disciples (those he sent out) who were known to the historians.
and secondly – here's a random church site that compiles several of the extra canonical references to Christ, including some of those you listed as not mentioning him: Tacitus, Seutonius, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, & notably even Trajan himself.
granted, these are not thorough-going statements of Jesus as a person – but what would you expect of historians speaking of some social upstart group? Jesus didn't fly to Rome & write his name in the sky (which would have certainly gotten more mention among historians had he done so). But the extra canonical accounts we have match what the Bible tells us – it was the disciples who spread the Gospel. And many of those disciples who spread their eyewitness accounts did so even under penalty of death. Why die for something you know to be a lie firsthand?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.