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The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
Does Easter celebrate a man, a savior, or a myth? Some say Jesus never existed and was a myth created by early Christians.
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET

The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN)– Timothy Freke was flipping through an old academic book when he came across a religious image that some would call obscene.

It was a drawing of a third-century amulet depicting a naked man nailed to a cross. The man was born of a virgin, preached about being “born again” and had risen from the dead after crucifixion, Freke says.

But the name on the amulet wasn’t Jesus. It was a pseudonym for Osiris-Dionysus, a pagan god in ancient Mediterranean culture.  Freke says the amulet was evidence of something that sounds like sacrilege – and some would say it is: that Jesus never existed. He was a myth created by first-century Jews who modeled him after other dying and resurrected pagan gods, says Freke, author of  "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?"

“If I said to you that there was no real Good Samaritan, I don’t think anyone would be outraged,” says Freke, one of a group of mythicists who say Jesus never existed. “It’s a teaching story. What we’re saying is that the Jesus story is an allegory. It’s a parable of the spiritual journey.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

On Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.

But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age.  But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.

Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”

Your comments on Jesus deniers

He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.

“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”

Does it matter if Jesus existed?

Some Jesus mythicists say many New Testament scholars are intellectual snobs.

“I don’t think I’m some Internet kook or Holocaust denier,” says Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor who argues in “Deconstructing Jesus” that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist.

“They say I’m a bitter ex-fundamentalist. It’s pathetic to see this character assassination. That’s what people resort to when they don’t have solid arguments.”

 The debate over Jesus’ existence has led to a curious role reversal. Two of the New Testament scholars who are leading the way arguing for Jesus’ existence have a reputation for attacking, not defending, traditional Christianity.

Ehrman, for example, is an agnostic who has written books that argue that virtually half  of the New Testament is forged. Another defender of Jesus’ existence is John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar who has been called a heretic because his books challenge some traditional Christian teachings.

But as to the existence of Jesus, Crossan says, he’s “certain.”

He says some Jesus deniers may be people who have a problem with Christianity.

“It’s a way of responding to something you don’t like,” Crossan says. “We can’t say that Obama doesn’t exist, but we can say that he’s not an American.  If we’re talking about Obama in the future, there are people who might not only say he wasn’t American, but he didn’t even exist.”

Does it even matter if Jesus existed? Can’t people derive inspiration from his teachings whether he actually walked the Earth?

Crossan says Jesus’ existence matters in the same way that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s existence mattered.

If King never existed, people would say his ideas are lovely, but they could never work in the real world, Crossan says.

It’s the same with an historical Jesus, Crossan writes in his latest book, “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus.”

“The power of Jesus’ historical life challenges his followers by proving at least one human being could cooperate fully with God. And if one, why not others? If some, why not all?”

The evidence against Jesus’ existence

Those who argue against Jesus’ existence make some of these points:

-The uncanny parallels between pagan stories in the ancient world and the stories of Jesus.

-No credible sources outside the Bible say Jesus existed.

-The Apostle Paul never referred to a historical Jesus.

Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” says the first-century Western world was full of stories of a martyred hero who is called a son of God.

“There are ancient novels from that period where the hero is condemned to the cross and even crucified, but he escapes and survives it,” Price says. “That looks like Jesus.”

Those who argue for the existence of Jesus often cite two external biblical sources: the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote about Jesus at the end of the first century and the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Jesus at the start of the second century.

But some scholars say Josephus’ passage was tampered with by later Christian authors. And Price says the two historians are not credible on Jesus.

“Josephus and Tacitus – they both thought Hercules was a true figure,” Price says. “Both of them spoke of Hercules as a figure that existed.”

Price concedes that there were plenty of mythical stories that were draped around historical figures like Caesar. But there’s plenty of secular documentation to show Caesar existed.

“Everything we read about Jesus in the gospels conforms to the mythic hero,” Price says. “There’s nothing left over that indicates that he was a real historical figure.”

Those who argue for the existence of Jesus cite another source: the testimony of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ early disciples. Paul even writes in one New Testament passage about meeting James, the brother of Jesus.

These early disciples not only believed Jesus was real but were willing to die for him. People don’t die for myths, some biblical scholars say.

They will if the experience is powerful enough, says Richard Carrier, author of “Proving History.”

Carrier says it’s probable that Jesus never really existed and that early Christians experienced a mythic Jesus who came to them through visions and revelations.

Two of the most famous stories in the New Testament – the conversion of Paul and the stoning death of Stephen, one of the first Christian martyrs - show that people seized by religious visions are willing to die, Carrier says.

In both the Paul and Stephen stories, the writers say that they didn’t see an actual Jesus but a heavenly vision of Jesus, Carrier says.

People “can have powerful religious experiences that don’t correspond to reality,” Carrier says.

“The perfect model is Paul himself,” Carrier says. “He never met Jesus. Paul only had an encounter with this heavenly Jesus. Paul is completely converted by this religious experience, but no historical Jesus is needed for that to happen.”

As for the passage where Paul says he met James, Jesus’ brother, Carrier says:

“The problem with that is that all baptized Christians were considered brothers of the Lord.”

The evidence for Jesus’ existence

Some scholars who argue for the existence of Jesus says the New Testament mentions actual people and events that are substantiated by historical documents and archaeological discoveries.

Ehrman, author of “Did Jesus Exist?” scoffed at the notion that the ancient world was full of pagan stories about dying deities that rose again.  Where’s the proof? he asks.

Ehrman devoted an entire section of his book to critiquing Freke, the mythicist and author of “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” who says there was an ancient Osiris-Dionysus figure who shares uncanny parallels to Jesus.

He says Freke can’t offer any proof that an ancient Osiris figure was born on December 25, was crucified and rose again. He says Freke is citing 20th- and 19th-century writers who tossed out the same theories.

Ehrman says that when you read ancient stories about mythological figures like Hercules and Osiris, “there’s nothing about them dying and rising again.”

“He doesn’t know much about ancient history,” Ehrman says of Freke. “He’s not a scholar. All he knows is what he’s read in other conspiracy books.”

Craig A. Evans, the author of “Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence,” says the notion that Paul gave his life for a mythical Jesus is absurd.

He says the New Testament clearly shows that Paul was an early enemy of the Christian church who sought to stamp out the burgeoning Jesus movement.

“Don’t you think if you were in Paul’s shoes, you would have quickly discovered that there was no Jesus?” Evans asks.  “If there was no Jesus, then how did the movement start?”

Evans also dismissed the notion that early Christians blended or adopted pagan myths to create their own mythical Jesus. He says the first Christians were Jews who despised everything about pagan culture.

“For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting,” Evans says. “I can’t imagine [the Gospel writer] Matthew making up a story where he is drawing parallels between Jesus’ birth and pagan stories about Zeus having sex with some fair maiden.”

The words of Jesus also offer proof that he actually existed, Evans says.  A vivid personality practically bursts from the pages of the New Testament: He speaks in riddles, talks about camels squeezing through the eye of a needle, weeps openly and even loses his temper.

Evans says he is a man who is undeniably Jewish, a genius who understands his culture but also transcends his tradition with gem-like parables.

“Who but Jesus could tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan?” Evans says. “Where does this bolt of lightning come from? You don’t get this out of an Egyptian myth.”

Those who argue against the existence of Jesus say they aren’t trying to destroy people’s faith.

“I don’t have any desire to upset people,” says Freke. “I do have a passion for the truth. … I don’t think rational people in the 20th century can go down a road just on blind faith.”

Yet Easter was never just about rationale.

The Easter stories about the resurrection are strange: Disciples don’t recognize Jesus as they meet him on the road; he tells someone not to touch him; he  eats fish in another.

In the Gospel of Matthew, a resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to a group of disciples and gives them this cryptic message:

“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

And what did they see: a person, a pagan myth or a savior?

Albert Schweitzer, a 20th-century theologian and missionary, suggested that there will never be one answer to that question.  He said that looking for Jesus in history is like looking down a well: You see only your own reflection.

The “real” Jesus, Schweitzer says, will remain “a stranger and an enigma,” someone who is always ahead of us.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Art • Belief • Books • Church • Culture wars • Easter • Easter • Evangelical • Faith • History • Jesus • Uncategorized • Virgin Mary

soundoff (8,771 Responses)
  1. jcom

    2000 years ago, why would anyone have wanted to believe the story from some hippy drifter who said he was the son of God and could give you some added years on top of the 30 or so you could expect to have lived back then? Hey, you've got to give the guy some credit, that's a pretty good one...

    April 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  2. norsky

    I'm 68 and retired, so I know why I'm on here in the middle of the day. Why are you athiests on here? Can't get a job? Living off others? I feel sorry for Drew. I have pity for him. Poor, poor hateful Drew. I'll have to pray for you. Won't do no good for you, but I'll try.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      And why are there christians on here? Do you not notice thier posts? And you are right that your prayers wont do anything...ever.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • OhPlease

      "I'm 68 and retired, so I know why I'm on here in the middle of the day. Why are you athiests on here? Can't get a job? "

      Hey moron it's called different time zones or you just like to make up lies about others to feel good about your delusional beliefs.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Andy Anderson

      They're called timezones.

      And they're demonstrably real.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      I'm retired too. Seems to be a lot of Christians posting. Maybe they're either a bunch of rich conservatives waiting for t-time or using their employer's computer to goof off.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Peteyroo

      I'm 63 and retired. Plus, I'm an atheist though that term has become a pejorative. Let's say I am a non-believer. Why would you assume all atheists can't get jobs? Norsky, put down the vodka bottle and lay off the vicodin. It clouds your thinking.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • jcom

      37 and retired here (self made). Just on here for some good ol laughs. People and their religions crack me up. People, this is it, you die and it's over...it's sad, really, that people can't just accept the gift of life and live for the now, rather than for "what will be after I die".

      April 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Norsky... I am a Christian and too be fair to some of the Atheist here.... many in society do not work the standard 9 to 5 like they did in the olden days. Also, many are in jobs that have internet access.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • jcom

      LOL @ Andy Anderson's comment. What the hell are you doing on your computer at 8:30 in the morning? You mean there's actually a western U.S.?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • otto

      Assume much,

      Pray all you want but if your god needs validation from us or he will punish people forever he is an immoral p.rick and does not deserve worship.

      I am a flawed human and an atheist and I would not torture my worst enemy forever, so that makes me more moral than your precious god.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Drew

      Norsky, I have PLENTY of folks praying for me. But as you've said, it doesn't work. I still have my free will, enjoy life, don't fear the fictional Spaghetti Monster in the sky and allow others to live their lives without telling them they're going to hell. I actually feel sorry for you, nearing the end of your life, probably having wasted a good portion of it in fear of what may come next and not actually enjoying this one with family and friends. I'll die knowing I made good use of the short time we have here. You've wasted yours.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  3. Irene

    To Religlion is sb: I seem to remember that the Tillman story was proven to be false, made up by the liberal media.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      You dont beleive that Pat Tillman was killed fighting in the war? Wow.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Really? Define liberal media. I'll do it for you. The liberal media are (yes, Irene–media is plural) any and all sources that disagree with you. The honest (conservative) media are any and all sources that agree with you.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Know What

      Irene,

      The only thing which is disputed is the exact cause of the death of Pat Tillman - claims which range from friendly fire to murder by those who opposed his political ideas.

      That he was an atheist who gave up a lucrative football career to fight for his country in the military, even to his death, is not in the least disputed.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  4. montyross

    Do something really controversial write an article about the doubts concerning muhamed. You cant you just continue to beat a dead horse because Christianity is tolerant and safe to bash. Grow some balls, se ya latter mofo......

    April 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Montyross, does your mommy know you're playing with the computer?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • UglyTruth

      Mohamed actually existed.
      He went into a cave and wrote his holy book.

      Much like a teenage boy invented Mormonism.
      magic underwear, secret names, and lots of wives.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • JoJo

      Tolerance? LOL don't make me laugh. Most Christians act nothing like Christ, and they never have. Study the history of your religion my friend.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. xcrimsonxguardx

    Jesus was no god and he didn't have clue to what a trinity was, but he did do god work and he was favored by god to help us find god, but the stuff that the Evangelical extremist put in there later is prof enough how evil they are. taking away Jesus work by making him a god therefore invalidating the suffering because man has no reason to pity a god suffering, just our own which is what really happened, however they want to rewrite history so they have an excuse to start a holy war to bring about the so called Apocalypse.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  6. Minh Tran

    If there is a God, when I search for him, he must interface with me directly. Bible, Veda, Koran or any book were written by people, and people can lie to gain personal benefits one way or another. People who are spreading the idea from these books (Pope and priests etc...) living above the hi-standard of living with money provided by the blind followers in any countries.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • montyross

      the holy bible was inspired by the Spirit of God and men wrote as the Spirit moved them. Yes men physically wrote the books of the bible, but the thoughts words were given by God. Only the ten commandments were actually written by God in the mountain and given to Moses...

      April 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • jcom

      My God does let me know he's there every day, he's called "The Sun". He gives me light, food, warmth, and vitamin D. The Mayans were right!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • montyross

      you lie to youreself by not believing in a higher power. what perceived personal benefit you gain I dont understand or know. maybe you dont like the idea of man having to answer for his sins?..

      April 9, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • jcom

      @Montyross – perhaps the "perceived benefit" he gets by not believing in God is that he actually lives his life for himself rather than for some guy who told good stories 2000 years ago. Life is short.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • xcrimsonxguardx

      god believes in you to find the truth , believing in him is not required, for god bless all who condone wickedness in all levels of life past, present, and future.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  7. Nate

    Of course, one could also surmise that it wasn't the existence of Jesus that was myth but perhaps simply the crucifixion and resurrection. It is the both more fantastical and less historically backed portion of his life. Historians already have much agreement on the events of the Nativity being a Christian alteration/interpolation.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Fred

      Assuming the human race survives, a few thousand years from now, there will be debates on whether or not Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. really existed. After all, the so-called photographic evidence could just be a photoshopped works of fiction, and videos merely works of fiction created to warn people that those who stand up for what is right are often persecuted and killed. And remember, there was no Hitler, no holocaust, no religious persecution, that's just all those crazy religious people making up stories so others will feel sorry for them. History begins today, nothing happened yesterday that cannot be faked. Out with the old, in with the fashionable new and politically left, oops.., correct.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  8. TDJ

    Jesus-deniers don't really exist, their works are just a collection put together by anonymous communities of unbelievers as teaching points to illustrate their denials. We should not waste our times reading them.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Automatic translator

      "It doesn't agree with what I believe, therefore, it does not exist."

      April 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Ed

      What if I believe he existed but reject his divinity? Can I exist then?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  9. jcom

    What sets this fairy tale apart from some of the other classics like Humpty Dumpty, Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs is that they, unlike the Jesus story, can't claim to have contributed so greatly war, persecution, suffering and death for over two millenia. The Jesus tale definitely takes the cake.....I prefer the Three Little Pigs.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      And with 100s of thousands or even millions of Christians that have helped not only in their own society but around the planet throughout history. All of the good that is being done now in the name of Christianity... I guess we should count those positive acts out or maybe "spin" them as never happened.

      You know we can search the internet and find other claimed causes of the ills of History. Some hate groups will blame it on the White Europeans and their slaughter and slavery of millions. Many of us have run across Feminist groups that discount Faith and any labels and simply blame men for all of the evils in history.

      All in all, folks just want to justify their hate. For you it is religion and like all of the other groups you want to banner the bad but want to ignore the positives.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • jcom

      @Mark from Middle River – I was poking fun at one of the religions. It's sad that man can't just accept that it all ends with death and that he/she can't live life for the now, rather than for "when things will be so much better" (after death).

      April 9, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • montyross

      GOdless communism has killed millions more than all religions ever and that was just in the 20 century.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"It's sad that man can't just accept that it all ends with death and that he/she can't live life for the now, rather than for "when things will be so much better" (after death)."

      Explain the saddness on how another is living. In society there are those that state that they feel the saddness for those individuals who are in same se'x relationships or even interacial ones. What I want to attempt to understand is what some Atheist feel some of Faith are missing out on in life when throughout society the definition of "living life" varies so greatly.

      If you have a Atheist that is hobbitted in his house and does not go out and you have a Faithful that is activily engaged in his or her community...which is living life?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • jcom

      @Mark from Middle River – Everything in moderation...including religious practice. Practice your faith as you will, in the privacy of your own home and church...perfect. It's when I'm told that what I believe (or don't, for that matter) that I begin to get annoyed.

      Believe what you want, I'm not saying people shouldn't....but I can also have a good laugh about it as you might do about me and my beliefs.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • jcom

      @Mark from Middle River – Everything in moderation...including religious practice. Practice your faith as you will, in the privacy of your own home and church...perfect. It's when I'm told that what I believe (or don't, for that matter) is wrong, that I begin to get annoyed.

      Believe what you want, I'm not saying people shouldn't....but I can also have a good laugh about it as you might do about me and my beliefs

      April 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  10. Irene

    We will never know until the day we die, so why argue about it? Either you choose to believe or you don't. I just thank God for the ten commandments. They were the laws upon which men rely for order in their world. What laws would you come up with if you did not believe?

    April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      We don't need mythology to make good laws. You don't have to be religious to be a good person. You've been drinking too much Christian Koolaid. All the gods that have been worshiped since the beginning of history would fill 10 football stadiums, but of course YOURS is the only one that's real. Grow a brain.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • UglyTruth

      no you will not know.
      When you die there is nothing.
      You will not be rewarded nor will you be disapointed.
      You just will not be.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Most of the commandments are simply civil restraints that anyone should practice, and can do so out of a spirit of secular humanism. Filter out the few that directly require belief in a deity, and the remainder are largely civil guidelines.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Doug

      I'm glad the second most important thing that god told us to obey is to not make statues of himself or other gods. What a wise and moral teaching. The 10 commandments are pretty stupid...

      April 9, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  11. Bill

    First reported zombie

    April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • UglyTruth

      zombies may walk
      but they do not ascend

      neither did jesus
      zombies and jesus both fantasy

      April 9, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. Human

    How about The Mohammad debate, Myth vs Man? CNN don't have the balls to run that. Christianity is a safe target to pick on.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • UglyTruth

      myth is all religion.
      all religion is all fantasy.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Drew

      Mohammad Ali was definitely a man, I've seen him!!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Peteyroo

      I assume you mean tennis balls, my confused friend. Non-believers (atheists if you must use a pejorative) hold Christians and Muslims in the same esteem. We neither like nor dislike any of you. You are equally confused and bewildered. That's your business. But don't give us that same lame demand: "you're with us or you're against us." No, we are not. We are neither for nor against you. Until you ram your religious laws down our throats, that is. That gets our dander up.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. norsky

    One more thing to add. Why now are liberals putting out all this hatred for christians? Why now are we seeing an influx of muslim groups, muslim beliefs, and muslim propaganda in this country? It's headlines in every liberal news article. Something up??

    April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • sam

      Nice troll attempt, loser.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Time to take your medications, Norsky. Remove the clown suit and return your Bible to the fiction section at Barnes & Noble.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • jack the tripper

      you call an article about a debate that clearly features both sides of the argument hate speech? Who is the one biased?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • mc

      Faux News is running a story right now about how Jefferson didn't believe in the resurrection either... are they liberal too?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  14. Josef Bleaux

    Christianity, like all religions, is nothing more than ancient mythology, written thousands of years ago by members of a primitive culture in an effort to control people, explain existence and comfort people in the face of their mortality. I've read both the old and new testaments cover to cover. I've read many other religious texts as well. They're all just ancient mythology from primitive cultures, nothing more.

    When I look around, I don't see a god flying around in a cloud or pillar of fire, I don't see sticks turning into snakes, I don't see rivers turning to blood or wine, seas parting, etc. etc. If that stuff was real and happened then, it would be happening now. I don't see miracles happening, all I see is a lot of ignorant people blindly accepting ancient mythology as fact, while rejecting modern scientific knowledge. If people would use their brains for a change, THINK about it using logic, reason and objectivity, then they would understand that it's just old myths. It's just so utterly obvious.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • theauditor

      finally.. someone that makes sense.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • JusDav

      all I can say to your post (and I have a hard time typing it) is
      AMEN. :)

      there is no god, there is no devil, there are just good and evil thoughts contained in the heads of men.

      have a great day and please do not kill any more easter bunnies, they are hard to come by and very hard to train.

      cheers
      JusDav

      April 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • closet atheist

      "Maybe Yes, Maybe No" ~~ A great book that I've been going through with my 4 year old to stem the catholic indoctrination she is receiving at her mother's house. It's funny that a children's book teaching skepticism and reliance on scientific, provable facts could help grown adults challenge their "god myth".

      April 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Nick T

      The truth is that atheists and the like claim to be such rational beings that scoff at those of faith because they are so intellectually and rationally more enlightened fail to realize that it takes more "faith" to believe that there is no god. They want us to believe that it is completely rational to believe that everything from amoeba to galaxies got here by random chance! They pick a couple things out of the Bible, out of context I might add, misinterpret it and justify their authority on the subject by stating they've read the entire book!?! When it comes down to it, we as humans are prideful, selfish beings that like to find whatever reasoning we can use to justify why we live the way we do. It's no different for both people of faith and those or "reason" (a different type of faith), because there will always be the un-provable.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  15. Chris

    @sortakinda – The ads are personalized for ever viewer based on cookies and preferences.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Drew

      Hmmm, I guess that sortakinda makes sortakinda an atheist!!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  16. norsky

    Once again, the liberal news is putting out their propaganda against christians, all in the name of obama! I didn't know so many of you liberals were non-christians, or muslims. Good to know.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Nice red herring there dude. I know plenty of atheist conservatives. Grow a brain.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Drew

      Yes, FEAR the non-believer!!! We're here to ruin your life!!!!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Obama 2012

      Obama in 2012. Just accept it and shut up.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • moas786

      here is a second chance to grow some brains, Muslims believe in Jesus (peace be upon him) they also believe in his return. you sir have a very limited knowledge of jesus (peace be upon him) and your fellow man.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Norsky, you're a hatemonger. Get a grip, not a gripe.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Cq

      "Propaganda" would be if only one side were allowed to voice it's position. If you're interested in that please feel free to visit any of the mult.itude of Christian blogs out there. They usually don't allow much criticism of the faith before banning a user. Believe me, I know from experience.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Jump

      Please find the nearest bridge and jump off of it, immediately.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • closet atheist

      Conservative non-believer here. I take offense.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  17. Roberto

    Life after death is quite a transformation, recognition of others require some type of introduction thus the deciples failing to recognize a restored Jesus, remember he was physically pummeled, beaten beyond recognition prior to being crucified, My feeling is that to many nof those unbelivers, giving up of their life for anyone, family, spouse, child/children, parents siblings and friends is out of the question. for Jesus it wasn't.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      Are you suggesting an atheist has never died for anyone they loved? Thats a pretty pathetic assumption, based on absolutely no evidence at all. Kind of like your religion. Ever hear of Pat Tillman. He was an atheist, and he died protecting you and your silly beleifs. And please explain how jesus getting pummelled does anything. What does god forgiving us have anything to do with sacraficing himself?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Snap

      I don't understand how god taking out his justice on his son who did nothing wrong makes anything better. But I guess that is the foolishness of the cross I keep hearing about.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Thinker

      Ah! but Jesus and god are the same person! So god got himself tortured and killed to save us all from... his own punishments... hmm. makes sence!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  18. sortakinda

    Look at the advertisers on this page. Appealing to an atheistic market segment?

    April 9, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • jack the tripper

      Citibank is atheist?

      Do you only read one half of the article? It is clearly a debate showing both sides. Your bias blinds you as much as your faith.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      The ads you see are based on your cookies and your browsing history, they're customized for each person.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  19. David

    When this subject comes up I am always drawn to a comment from years ago regarding Jesus Christ. "Is it possible that the story has been embellished over the years? Yes, that is possible, but one overiding fact cannot be overlooked. That something had to have happened when Jesus died; something extraordinary, something that fueled these men to carry his message into the future as they did." For myself that means he rose from the dead. And even if you choose not to believe in the man his message of love, forgiveness and peace is as amazing and applicable today as it was then. Believe or not, that is your choice, but at least try to live the message. Think of how wonderful the world would be if each of us only tried.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Yeah, he became a martyr and like most martyrs, his life and deeds were blown all out of proportion by the ignorant, primitive, superst!tious people of the time.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Snap

      It would be wonderful if everyone lived like Jesus, unfortunately his followers don't behave at all like Jesus. Instead they focus on judging others, using fear as a control mechanism, and ostracizing anyone who asks questions or doesn't accept their statements of faith as fact. The part about treating everyone good is awesome, but then again that is not the part that Christians focus on at all.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Cq

      Then the same must hold true for Buddhism, Mormonism, Sikhism, Scientology, and all of the other religions that have formed from the teachings of a single individual. Are you really arguing that all religion is equally true?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • jack the tripper

      actually there are almost 100 gospels. Some from Mary Magdelene and even Judas. The only 4 that speak of miracles by Jesus are the ones used in the new testament and were written long after the others. The other gospels were ignored.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  20. sortakinda

    Believers have faith, hope and charity. Those who don't believe are to be pitied. Their misery has plenty of company on this thread.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Drew

      Haha, I feel the exact opposite.

      April 9, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • OhPlease

      "Those who don't believe are to be pitied. Their misery has plenty of company on this thread."

      That's the lie Christians have to tell themselves to justify their delusional beliefs. Thanks for showing why your cult is so bad for our society.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • EJ

      OhPlease – What is so bad about BELIEVING in something GOOD? What fun is it to be cynical and questioning of everything in this world – to have no faith in anything? I feel bad for people such as yourself.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Ed

      I have no faith, but plenty of hope and I routinely do charitable acts. I neither require nor need any pity for my life is good and I am content.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      I pity YOU for being so ignorant and stupid.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Mark

      "What is so bad about BELIEVING in something GOOD? "

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are mirac<bulous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molec<bule of connection (also known as the molec<bule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. That is why people like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are known in neurological circles as "vagal superstars." We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Mirac<bulous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology. We are born to be beamed up, Scotty.

      For agnostics like me, this is the good news - however it may rankle true believers. Original Sin is a thing of the past.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • EJ

      Hey Mark – Can you name any atheist charitable organizations? There are numerous ones founded under the Christian faith (and probably other faiths as well), but I have yet to hear of a group of atheists banding together for the greater good. I could certainly be wrong, but I have never heard of it.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • OhPlease

      "but I have yet to hear of a group of atheists banding together for the greater good"

      Atheists don't band together because it's not a religion. Atheists do good work for their communities but unlike Christians they don't go around blowing their own horn about it, our egos don't need it like yours do. Plus the only reason you do charitable work is so you can recruit more people into your cult.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Cq

      EJ
      The problem is that Christianity isn't always "good". Sometimes it's oppression being marketed as something good, and you are discouraged from using your common sense to realize that what you're actually doing is hurting people.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • EJ

      OhPlease – you didn't answer my question. So atheists help the world how? Just on their own individually? They don't work together in groups at all?? So now, atheists are against groups of people working together? I just don't get it...and actually, I guess you did answer my question. There are ZERO organizations by atheists dedicated to helping others. Hope you never give to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, by yourself – those are both Christian organizations.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • EJ

      Cq – and sometimes atheists aren't "good" either. If you are a true Christian, then you are a good person. If you aren't a good person, then you aren't a true Christian.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.