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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. TRUTH

    For all who know the TRUTH that Jesus is alive now and forever, behold the following Scripture and embrace it with such power that non-believers cannot ever conquer! "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." - GALATIANS 6:7 (KJV)

    April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Concerned Cizizen

      You are delusional and need help.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • SixDegrees

      What do you make of the fact that you're sowing ignorance?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      We all do labour together with God and God's Sons. We are God's Husbandries. We are God's Buildings. This is the Truth in scripture and cannot be ridiculed against no matter one's lacking hindrances of imbittered emotionalisms of pandering ways in a non-believer's progressives of ill-willed meanings.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts or goblins

      Don't you have anything better than lame quotes from The Jewish Comic Book in support of The Jewish Zombie? What do you expect The Babble to say? Given all the crap that is supposed to be hidden in The Babble, maybe "Just Kidding!" is in there.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • ed galbraith

      ...and those words prove what?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  2. QUESTFORTRUTH

    Religion is such a serious matter that you must study. Not just what the preacher says to study. Even if you find out something you did not want to find out, or even if it just leaves you with more questions. My relationship with God and the things I teach my kids are more important than my fear of learning something that does not corrospond with how I was raised.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  3. Martin

    Jesus told his disciples that they would not die before his second coming: "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28). "Behold, I come quickly." (Revelation 3:11) It's been 2,000 years, and believers are still waiting for his "quick" return. It's a myth with no valid historical proof of such a character. Historians were abundant at the time, yet none wrote of this this superman. The Josephus Flavius note has been show to be another catholic church fraud. And it's all tax free. What a burden on the tax paying public.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Robert

      Jesus came in power on the day of Pentecost. The kingdom of God is present here and now but not everyone lives in it.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Robert

      Atheists lack knowledge of science and of the Bible. It is any wonder it is so easy to trounce them in debates?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Religion is Delusional Blather

      You are a Gnostic? The rest of Christianity rejects what you just said.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Robert

      Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

      Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
      Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
      Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
      Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
      Joh 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Robert

      Col 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

      April 8, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • momoya

      I have a pretty good understanding of both the bible and science, and I've yet to hear a decent argument at all for any god.. As to who trounces who in a debate–that's up to opinion.. It's not surprising that a mind thoroughly deluded would not see sense in non-deluded argumentation.. Religion brainwashes people.. Debates, no matter how logically presented, don't counteract brainwashing.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • adventtruth

      Your ignorance of truth and Biblical matters is rather evident.
      The apostle Peter confirmed that he, James, and John did see Jesus in His magesty, as He would appear at His second coming. This was the context of Jesus' remarks that you referred to. Peter writes, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 peter 1:16-18). As Christians, we have the hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus. This is the the desire of every soul that has ever been born and the foundation of every religious system, Only Jesus Christ has conquered the grave and have given the same assurance to His followers. This is what Peter, James , and John experienced. Yes, they did not see death before they saw Him in His glory. It was evidenced by the presence of Elijah who was translated and Moses who was resurrected. We have the blessed hope. What do you have?

      April 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  4. Libysnow

    Believe what you will...It has, it is, and it will always be – a question of faith.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • ed galbraith

      The word "faith", itself, implies belief in something not provable. The "faithful" are people who believe the unprovable...shame on you.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Libysnow

      @ Ed ...the truly "faithful" do not seek, nor do they have the need. to prove or disprove anything. The shame is all yours, and yours alone.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  5. Jim

    To make the claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed is to be counter to all the evidence and to be ignorant.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Pope on a Rope

      What evidence?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • momoya

      Jesus of Nazareth probably didn't exist as one person but as many.. Probably a couple of dozen "jesuses" running around palestine at that time claiming to be the messiah.. The name was common enough, and there were hundreds of people at that time claiming to be the messiah.. And writings of that time period show that almost everybody performed miracles; it was just a very common belief thought about any person claiming to be prophet or whatever..

      No, there wasn't one historical Jesus, but many.. They got all mashed up into one dude a hundred years later or so.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • DebbieNJ

      He very well might have existed. Might have been a great man. Does that prove he was born to a virgin? Come on now. Does that prove he walked on water, rose from the dead, etc?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Concerned Cizizen

      Jesus was the Jerry Falwell of his day. A fraud.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • JanetMermaid

      Point me to SPECIFIC, SCIENTIFIC evidence. You cannot use the bible as evidence - it is totally self-referential: the bible is true because the bible says it's true. Sorry, nope.

      There is ample evidence in thousands of writings that all the stories in the bible - the creation, Adam & Even, Moses, Noah, Jesus, etc. are all just rehashings of far more ancient myths and stories. And the bible today is nothing more than what these stories have always been - ways to control people.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  6. Pope on a Rope

    The funny thing about this article is when you get to the section labeled "evidence that jesus did exist," there's not one piece of actual evidence.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Martin

      right, and people are catching on to this HUGE tax free fraud upon the ignorant.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  7. stephen berofe

    Everyone should read The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur, former chair and prof of Biblical Studies, University of Toronto, Canada for the best discussion of this matter in print. Faithful to the cause of just and non partisan thinking, this book is crucial for personal understanding of our private spirituality, and presents in comprehensible language both sides of the question of Christ's existence and the relationship between Jesus and the other "Messiahs" throughout history. Highly recommended.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  8. Not a Bible thumper

    You are garbage.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  9. martin

    Wildly inappropriate. A few debunked theories are given more credibility than Josephus. The Tomb IS empty. There are 3 and only 3 options. Jesus was insane. Jesus was a liar of colossal proportions and duped everyone. Or he told the truth.

    The idea that the Gospels were written long after the fact has been dispeled.

    So, when do we see a comparable article about Mohammed? Sheesh.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • colin

      The idea that the Gospels were written long after the fact has been dispeled." BS. The first gospel (Mark) was written about 40 years after he died. Two generations in that epoch.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Pope on a Rope

      No, the other option is that Jesus was a fictional character based on pegan legends. We know that those legends predated "jesus" and parallel his story exactly. Making this the most logical conclusion.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Who says there even was a tomb, Martin? You Christians just don't get it. You can't justify your belief in biblical stories by citing plot items within the stories.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Mikastopolous Kalamadakinopoulous

      Or a fourth possibility...he never existed or was just a carpenter.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Know What

      martin,

      Jesus? = Liar? Lunatic? Lord? or Legend?

      I go with an outrageously grown Legend.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  10. edeveryday

    To YeahOk and Robbie who are so anxious to slam Jesus on Easter morning and deny that he existed, did you know that both your mothers slept with black guys? Oh yeah! You can try and deny that fact all you want, but it's the truth.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Beauty. A Christian defends his faith by trying to get people riled up over the idea that their mothers slept with black guys. Has it occurred to you that the people you are addressing might themselves be black, you dip? In any case, I have a lot of friends, both white and black, who have slept with black guys. Crawl out of your cave and you may find out that the world has moved on from the days when the moral code was set by Christian bigots.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • edeveryday

      Yes, that thought did cross my mind. If that's the case; they are denying and slamming Jesus on Easter morning AND they are black guys also, then they are in worse shape than I thought they were. You have white friends who have slept with black guys? Wow! I'll bet you've slept with a few black guys too! What's it like?

      April 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  11. Kenny

    Yall better wake up and smell the coffee! God is real!

    April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Mikastopolous Kalamadakinopoulous

      Where's he been for the last thousand years? Taking a nap? A thousand years of butchery, slavery, usury, opression, greed, starvation, drought..............

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Concerned Cizizen

      Prove it.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      I had coffee with splenda, a little chocolate malt and a dash of cinnamon a little earlier. I smelled it just fine and there was no god present, unless you count the Hindu god Muruga, whose story I was reading up on. (He may be a modern link to the pagan gods and god-men that the christ myth was based on.)

      April 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  12. Robert

    Atheism is in worldwide decline, and has been since the collapse of communism. Atheism is simply not a viable belief system. Atheists must reject science, claiming either that the universe is eternal or that it produced itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing. Both positions are scientifically impossible.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • notheism

      Atheism is not a belief system. Enough said.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • colin

      No, god is all that. God coming from nothing or always being there is scientific nonsense. Quantum fluctuations explain the big bang perfectly.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • momoya

      Science does not say that "something was created from nothing.". That's the christian line because the bible says a big magic sky daddy made everything by uttering some magic incantation or other..

      Science says that the universe is expanding and cooling, and we don't know exactly what happened to cause that expansion and cooling.. Science has no use for some state that may or may not exist called "nothing.". Why should any person, scientist or not, believe that 'nothing' is even possible at all?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • The Almighty Narshlaug

      @ notheism

      That was a pretty terrible argument. You provided no support for your opinion. That's like me saying "I'm 17000 feet tall! 'Nough said. I'll go back to my trailer now thank you."

      April 8, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • dodopdippity

      congratulations. your comments are among the stupidest I have ever read. that was amazing...among your errors is suggesting that "atheism" is a belief system. it is not. is a rejection of a claim of a supernatural "god." pretending it is a belief system is a not so clever way to keep for examining the insanely moronic claims of your religion. whether you realise it or not, you too are an atheist...unless, of course, you believe in zeus, apolo, mithras, every native american god, etc. I simply believe in 1 less god than you. get an education, your stupidity is showing.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • The Almighty Narshlaug

      Atheism is a belief system because it is not "the lack of belief in any god" that would be agnosticism. Atheism is "the belief no gods exist." It's a belief system because you cannot prove that no gods exist, you can only deny the probability and so, atheism is a belief because you CANNOT know if a god exists or not.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Elena

      momoya,
      if there is no nothing what is the universe expanding on what is there beyond the expansion end, what was there before the so called big bang!
      Did you know that the atoms that form you body and everything else is mostly empty space, what does that tells you, and isn't emptiness synonymous of nothingness

      April 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Fn0rdz

      These assertions are simply untrue. Folks who reject religion (including atheists) have been on the rise for a while now, as any review of polls will show.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Believer

      Shame on CNN for allowing such a superficial, poorly written article to appear on the Holiest day of the Christian calendar. I am positive that a similar article appearing on a Muslin, Jewish or Hindu holy day would never appear. Also the non-believing folks commenting on this ridiculous piece apparently have nothing better to do than ridicule what they do not understand. Pity.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Communism is thankfully in decline, as are most absolutist, dogmatic belief systems. Radical atheism is on the rise, but will also decline as people grow less jumpy about religion as religion declines.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Clark1355

      Robert-Athesim is not on the decline. Its actually the fastest growing group in the US and world.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • What IF

      Elena,

      I hate to yell, but non-theists merely say... WE DON'T KNOW (yet, if ever)! Filling in the as yet absent information with the a god, especially the monster-god of the Middle Eastern Hebrew desert tribes, is NOT the default / fall-back answer.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Fn0rdz

      @The Almighty Narshlaug: This is incorrect. Atheism is not a belief at all, it's a lack of belief. Saying atheism is a belief is akin to saying bald is a hair color. There's a subtle difference between not believing in supernatural dieties and believing there is no supernatural diety. In addition, the argument that if one does not believe in god it makes him an agnostic is not necessarily correct: agnosticism and atheism are about different things; that is, agnosticism makes a knowledge claim i.e. "we cannot know" where as atheism makes a belief claim "i don't believe"

      April 8, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Atheists are NOT the fastest growing group and radical atheists a la Dawkins and Hitchens certainly are not. The fastest growing group are the "irreligious", who have turned away from traditional religions calmly and without a bunch of hue and cry. And it is a GOOD thing that THIS is the group that is putting religion out of business by simply withholding support.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. The Almighty Narshlaug

    The argument about Hercules is simply pathetic. I am a genealogist and have mapped out many different lines of family trees and I have discovered that it is quite possible that some (or many) mythical figures were based off of real people. After all, many, many religions tended to worship their ancestors and make then deities.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • The Almighty Narshlaug

      *them

      April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Right, but how much is real vs how much is "based on" a real person? If there was a preacher named Yeshua in Galilee who said early versions of some of what is attributed to him, but who wasn't born of a virgin, the son of god and who never performed and supernatural acts and who, if he was indeed killed by the Romans, stayed dead, how much is left of Christianity?

      April 8, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  14. colin

    Christianity is the belief that an infinitely old, all knowing super-being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, has a personal interest in my $ex life.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ridiculous.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Robert

      So we see many of the atheists are atheists because they are throwing a temper tantrum about God not approving of their actions.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • colin

      I think you missed the point. Subtllty is not your strong suit, hey Robert......

      April 8, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Reason

      What $ex life?... ba dum tssss =D

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  15. Andragogue

    I'd take Crossan's and Ehrman's words over anybody else's, any day. He was real, he was important, he did not intend to start a new religion and he was (and is) not God.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  16. Natalie

    There is nothing wrong with CNN publishing this article on Easter, so get over it. Do what you wish and pray for us. You have your beliefs, and we have ours, so quit trying to convert us over. Once you see the big picture and have the scientific facts laid out in front of you, then you fully grasp that religion is a mystical fairytale, no different than Peter Pan.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  17. Shecky

    I find it extremely offensive that CNN would publish this article on such a holy Christian holiday as Easter.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Why? Easter is supposed to be a time of introspection and reflection. It is not celebrated as a time to turn your brain off and lapse into a chocolate egg stupor. Frankly, I can't think of a better time to publish this article than at a time when we're exhorted to fix our attention on such matters.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Reason

      Well go to church and stop reading it. For those of us who don't believe in a fairy tale there is nothing wrong with the article, other than CNN's usual failings. And seeing as it is your "Holy" day you should be in church and praying or whatever anyway.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Beth

      Why? The article basically dismisses anyone who questions the existence of Jesus as 'internet kooks'. I find *that* offensive since I don't know if Jesus existed or not. The thing is, CNN published articles that actually *were* offensive on various Jewish and Muslim holidays and on Christmas, etc this past year. Did you feel offended for the Jews and the Muslims when those articles were published? What is offending you here? CNN says that anyone who doesn't think Jesus was a historical person is a kook and yet you find a way to find that offensive? I think some Christians find the fact that non-Christians even exist to be offensive. I don't get it.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • RGC

      I have to agree completely. While I do question some events in the Bible, to post an article like this on a day that is so important in the Christian faith is just plain ol' tacky. Shame on you CNN!

      April 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  18. Teddy

    Jesus story sells good,...and of course when it comes to money, who are the front runners?

    April 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  19. Cman

    This is scientific evidence that Jesus was real.

    Google "Shroud of Turin". This is proof of the existence of Jesus.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Cman

      I meant to say " There is "

      After reading this article as a teenager I started doubting the existence, but Google Shroud of Turin.

      Real Scientific Proof of the Existence of Jesus

      April 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • colin

      It is date dto 14th Century. It is a forgery.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • nick2

      Most, if not all of the religious relics, are fakes. Carbon dating a relic does not in itself prove that it is wahat it claims to be.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Given that the all the science points to the Shroud being a medieval forgery, I'm not seeing your point.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • ankenyman

      Sixdegrees, You are showing your ignorance here. If you study the scientific data about the Shroud at all, you would see that the scientific evidence points to its validity. You couldn't be more wrong. Read "Resurrection of the Shroud" by Antonacci.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • ankenyman

      BTW, The carbon dating methods have proven to be flawed. They sample they used had threads that had been added to the Shroud much later. The absence of the material called vanillin shows it is well over 1300 years old, not 700 years old. The Pray Manuscript, which depicts the Shroud with its burn holes shows that the medieval dating is wrong also. All the other scientific evidence is overwhelmingly positive related to its authenticity as the burial shroud of Christ.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      There are some still simmering controversies concerning the shroud and its dating, but to suggest that there is "overwhelming" evidence that it is specifically the burial shroud of Jesus Christ is absolutely ludicrous. There are some studies that conclude that it can't possibly be and others that find flaws with those studies. NONE definitively pinpoint the shroud as dating to the first century and coming from Jerusalem or environs, let alone pinpoint the figure depicted as any specific person and certainly there is no reason EXCEPT the endless starry eyed hope of the faithful to conclude that the person depicted is Jesus.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  20. nick2

    Since there is in fact little real evidence of the existence of Jesus, and an enormous amount of evidence about the First Council of Nicaea, where Christianity was formally created – one is really left with a social philosophy. The question then, is whether this formal theology stands on its own merits as a recipe for living a good life.
    I would probably argue that it is better than nothing, but hasten to add that the 'interpretation' of the bible has been used to justify wars, bigotry, and megalomania. So on balance I believe that the 'magic' should be removed – the mystical nonsense which was designed to manipulate the uneducated – and we would be better off.

    April 8, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Yes, but "nothing" was never the only available alternative, as much as the church tried to make it so by murdering people with unorthodox beliefs.

      April 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
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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.