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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 • Faith • History • Jesus • Uncategorized • Virgin Mary

soundoff (8,773 Responses)
  1. Jane

    its a lovely little novel but so was the Lord of the Rings, 1000 years from now after our next ice age some reinvented caveman will find the Lord of the Rings and it will become the new Bible of the times.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • northern light

      You are so right Jane but trying to drum that into the heads of people like Rick Santorum is like having a conversation with a brick

      April 8, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • martog

      Actually it's a poorly written disgusting 'novel' full of the evil that men precipitate upon each other.Yea, that's certainly something I'd want to 'believe' in all the while calling myself and my religion 'the most loving'. Like someone else said on this message board...'Happy stolen Pagan Ritual day'!

      April 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 8, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • northern light

      yada yada yada ....you are a broken recrd.....think up something intelligent to write.
      Oh sorry...religion and intelligene are not compatible.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • sick of republican phonies

      I know God answers prayers, because I see stories of little girls with grave diseases who mysteriously get better when people pray! Science cannot understand it, so it must be God to the rescue! Now if only God was super enough to help amputees grow back legs and arms... never has happened! Come on, God! You let the lizards do it! WE WANT OUR ARMS BACK! Signed, United Amputees For Christ.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • FreedomFromReligion

      You mean the prayers to an imaginary friend called jesus? And his sky daddy? Prayer is nothing more than delusional conversation to imaginary friends. Do they talk back to you? If they do, you are more delusional than I thought.
      Religion is fake, get over it already.

      April 13, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  3. CoyoteLoco

    There is overwhelming evidence that Freke never existed. In the same era there were many popularizes of conspiracy legends. Searching for historical evidence that Freke existed we come up with no concrete evidence. Most likely, he was just a fictionalized hero of the conspiracy theorist cult in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • sick of republican phonies

      Your theory had me intrigued. So I looked this mythical "Freke" fellow up in the phone book and talked to him. He's also on the census list. See what a little bit of the scientific method- ask a question, search for a provable answer- can do?

      April 8, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  4. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    “New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “

    2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus).

    An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    April 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • .....

      Hit report abuse on all reality garbage

      April 8, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  5. martog

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • nomdefaitour

      Something I never understood...Jesus had an older brother, but Mary was a virgin when she birthed Jesus?

      April 8, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • martog

      Maybe she layed eggs?

      April 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Norasusan

      Wow. Your post is one of the best examples of over generalization I've read. You can't make a blanket statement like this because not all Christians fall into your Top Ten List. You are speaking about various fundamentalist sects. One does not have to be a fundamentalist to be a Christian. Millions of Christians aren't.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Emmanual Veritas

      Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
      10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

      We don't deny their existance one way or another. We simply will not worship them. If any existed, they were probably demons. "You shall have no Gods before or beside me."

      9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

      Dirt or dust is a generic term for the stuff of the earth. Even if we evolved from bacteria, the truth is still the same. The bible speaks in parables all the time.

      8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

      I AM that I AM. What fool would argue about the nature of the Infinite?

      7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

      If you encounter a nation of child molesters, better to destroy the whole nest completely, lest it reproduce again a million fold. Sometimes, molested children molest, especially if not corrected or re-taught. God was heavy handed back then. And people were slime. Whole nations of people were vile. I will not judge God. Who are you to judge the creator of the universe?Some geek on a computer who will live 60-70 years and then you will be dust. You don't get to judge God.

      6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

      The Holy Spirit (God) did effectively "sleep" with a woman. The result was a man who sinned a lot less than you, and helped a lot of other people sin and suffer less than you.

      5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

      You can't explain quantum physics to shepherds and merchants. The creation explanation is the truth, but simplified for simple people. Duh.

      4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

      Hell is the absence of God. If you don't want to have love, forgiveness, and happiness in the life of you and your family, so be it. In the end, everyone gets what they want. Me, I like my 28 year marriage, successful job, happy children and healthy lives. Following the 10 commandments and Love Your Neighbor makes that possible.

      3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

      I'm just a guy. I'm not going to judge how others communicate with God.

      2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

      The Vast Majority of my prayers have been answered. We live and love according to God's rules. We are largely healthy, happy, and even wealthly now, by most standards. I know that I owe it to God, even though I give Him 10%.

      But remember, God is not a vending machine for your pleasure. He is God. You are a short-lived, disobedient child. What have you done for Him lately? Does he owe you something?

      1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

      Don't make me laugh. This statement, at least for me, is 100% absolutely false. You guys nibble around the edges, and hardly know a thing, in my experiences crossing swords with you. A few half-baked quotes... a few half-read clumsy arguments. But then, I'm a church elder, and a scientist with a Master's Degree. I mow down you pseudo-intellectual types like wheat before the scythe.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • martog

      Wow, must have a touched a nerve. Not used to so much reality all at once? Besides, why aren't all you Holiday Christians at church? God needs your money!

      April 8, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • nomdefaitour

      EV's response was funnier than than the original post! Make me laugh some more emmanuel.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • martog

      Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
      1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
      2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
      3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
      4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
      5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
      6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
      7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
      8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
      9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
      10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • It's me

      ::Stands up:: ::looks at Martog for a few moments:: ::slow clap::

      April 8, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Exaggerating

      Some idiot rolling around on the floor??!! I'm thirteen, and my mother speaks in tongues! When she does, and many other respectable people do, they aren't rolling on the floor acting like idiots. Why so critical? Have an open heart, and pray to Jesus! When I pray, I'm sincere about it, and he answers my prayers. Humans and Gods think on very different levels. Some things I can't understand as well as you. But I know he exists-I've experienced Him many times! God bless you.

      April 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  6. etmendz

    You don't have to be a scholar to deny something, be controversial and earn from it. The commercialization of these arguments makes millions of dollars once in a while. It's like that, for example, when CNN posts this article on Easter. :-p

    April 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  7. Louis

    Osiris rose from the dead. Serapis (who is the Greekified Osiris) rose from the dead. Dionysius rises from the dead. All heroes worth their myth at one time or another go to Hades to rescue someone or other. Whether Jesus existed or not, the supernatural stories surrounding him have been retold for as long as humans have been telling stories.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  8. Lucky18

    The other fact...All writings about Jesus happened at least 8o years later, after the supposed crucifiction. Eighty years is a lifetime! Also, there has never been any proof of his existence!

    April 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  9. Ron

    Even if Jesus rose from the dead it doesn't prove that what he says is true and it doesn't prove that he's the son of a god. Neither does it prove that what is written about him must necessarily be true.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  10. beaconbaptistalbany

    My question is this: why is this so lopsided? The best we can hope for is that Jesus is a figment of our own imagination, the end result of querying our own consciousness? No credible conservative Christian scholar affirms anything even approaching these statements. The writer interviews several heretical liberal scholars (who represent nothing that faithful evangelical scholarship hasn't disproved repeatedly), and then tips his hat briefly to one relatively unknown "traditional" scholar. Talk about begging the question... The article is anything but unbiased journalism. Please interview evenly (i.e., Al Mohler, Mark Coppenger, or James White, for starters) or please don't write what amounts to an inflammatory piece.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • sick of republican phonies

      The article FOCUSES on people who believe Jesus was a myth. We're getting THEIR side in this story; that's why the preponderance of attention is on their ideas. The believers have reams and reams of wordage pushing their cause- time for an alternate view.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  11. jane

    Humanity knows about love, patience, kindness, amd caring for others because of Christ. He suffered and died for all of us. Be thankful and know you are blessed. Have a Happy Easter .......

    April 8, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Veritas

      I am sure there was love, kindness, patience, and all those things before Jesus purportedly existed too. Take the ancient Greek for example; ever read literature from that era such as Homer's Odyssey?

      April 8, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Humanity can know all those things without a god factor. The god factor only instills fear and control.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  12. Flex

    That is how far Satan has achieved in conquering the minds and souls of many Americans.....injecting "doubt" is the key winner element that gained and scored more converts. Nothing new under Satan's ruling in this world, it's just another day.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Veritas

      Satan??? What are we, 5 years old. Sigh...

      April 8, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  13. Sun

    Thank you for pointing out that the Xtians have stolen all our Pagan ceremonies and beliefs and claimed they 'invented' them. If Jesus was a real person, he would most likely be the first to say "Sorry dude, you got it ALL wrong!"

    April 8, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  14. nomdefaitour

    It was after the Jews had been enslaved by Persians that the Jesus myth came about. Coincidentally the Persians had a religion which figured a god-like figure who was crucified and as he died said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". This CENTURIES before Jesus. How dumb do you have to be not to connect the dots and recognize a borrowed myth when you see one. Christianity came about when the equivalent of todays bible thumpers went to Rome and sold a new religion to the bumpkin pagans there, just like they do today; then as today, it's all about these "preachers" wanting money for nothing (and they never have to worry about giving your money back, because when you die and don't go to an afterlife it's a bit to late to complain about being defrauded).

    April 8, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • Sun

      They didn't 'sell' it to the bumpkin Pagans, as you put it, they approached slaves, because they were the only ones who were desperate enough to belive their little stories. And then the Roman emperor had it punishable by DEATH if the Pagans did not convert. Get your facts straight, Mo Ron,

      April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  15. wick89

    wow cnn for alot of people who make fun of fox news for being bias whenever it comes to anything religious you take the religious side. I'm sorry science and religion don't agree. Read any gensis fairy tale about how we came into existance and you will see the bible is wrong. as for jesus you cant use the bible as proof that is a circular agrument. that is like me saying that unicorns are real how do you know because i say its true and that is all the proof you need for reporters you do bad research

    April 8, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • northern light

      "I'm sorry science and religion don't agree"

      Actually it is not very funny at all.

      You either belive in fact or fiction, one cannot have both.

      Science is fact as it is repeatable .....religion of any kind is fiction, not truth, ....religion is based on "faith" and is a very
      poor subsitute for ...."truth".

      It is sad that people deal with science all week in their every day lives icluding work and medicine .....but come Sunday some of you walk into a church and check your brain into the "coat closet of truth"..... and then sing and read about myhts.

      Science and religion will never be cpmpatible.....it is what religious people wannt ....but it is impossible.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  16. Funny

    Gotta love it. Would CNN post something disputing Mohammed during the month of Ramadon? No. No one is forcing anybody to believe the Bible, but considering the amount of people who DO claim affiliation to Christianity, it's rather tasteless that CNN would choose to run such an article on Easter of all days. Fair and unbiased reporting huh?

    April 8, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Veritas

      We have freedom of speech. Besides, there are like 80% christians in the US vs 3% or so muslims, so it is naturally a more controversial topic.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  17. Nellah

    Don't argue about whether Yeshua is real or not. As born-again believers, we know the truth. I am a witness to how my heart has changed after accepting Yeshua as my Savior and believed He was raised from the dead. Christian churches had better get things right! There is no good friday in Scripture. Yeshua was crucifed on Wednesday, rose on a Sabbath (Saturday). Stay away from these man-made holidays.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Veritas

      Stay away from, man-made religions altogether.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  18. Howie76

    Christ probably did exist historically, however that would mean so did Mary M and many others who were edited out by dirty old catholic men when they cannonized the bible. Did he make miracles probably not. Just stories that were handed down as myth to make a point as with other cultures.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  19. halfbakedlunatic

    Jesus wasn't just a myth, he's a combination of a bunch of myth's that were already hundreds of years old. If you're going to make up a myth, it should at least be original ... like the Book of Mormon. Now there's an original story, almost worthy of a broadway play.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  20. The Believer

    None of these people mention the validation of the senses. If Jesus didn't arise from the dead, all of the Apostles would have gone home. That would have been the end of it. However, even Thomas doubted and he had to touch Jesus' wounds. After the confirmation, he went further than any of the Apostles to spread the word. In fact, all of the apostles knew that they would be killed and they all were except for John. Yet they all went forward. Ask yourself why? They had the validation and we today have the same validation through them.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • pirate

      Oh yeah.. because someone who lived in a tent wrote it down, its truth! LMAO!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Eric

      I agree with your posting entirely!!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • jane

      Amen... Have a blessed Easter

      April 8, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • northern light

      You seem to read a great deal of truth into, what is at best, a fictional novel written by bronze age people living in tents.

      April 8, 2012 at 8:58 am |
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About this blog

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.