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. LabRat

    I believe in Cheezus. Mac and Cheezus.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  2. moas786

    a true Muslim believes that the jews and the christians before them believe in the One God. therefore, they are to be respected for their beliefs, their books (torah and the bible) and in their prophets (Moses and Jesus) peace and blessing be upon both of them. furthermore the word "infidel" refers ONLY to the individuals who DO NOT BELIEVE in God period. No Muslim can judge another human being because just by chance they might be closer to God then he or she might be. live your life with mercy,compassion and forgiveness and leave the rest to your maker to deal with. Peace.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      Well, hey, as long as the Abrahamic faiths can come together in their hate of non-believers, that's what's really important here, lol.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  3. Eutaxia

    Having studied world mythologies for 35+ years I can say definitively that, regardless of whether Jesus existed or not, Timothy Freke is an idiot, and Freke's spam-email regarding all of his false parallels between supposed mythological "saviors" and Jesus' story contains not even a kernel of scholarly evidence and is utterly useless.

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

      I have to say that what I find funny about this guy is that there is historical proof of Jesus because even the Romans have information about Pontius Pilot over hearing the case of Jesus there is not much detail in it however there were records found in the roman empire to prove that yes there was a man named Jesus, there were a matter of death like record that proved he was buried in a borrowed tomb. The bible only fills in the blanks. The space between the hearing, and the burial. So even if he does not believe in a living Christ he can not say Jesus never existed there are to many records to prove otherwise!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  4. Thoughtful

    A really interesting article. Speaking as someone who totally believes that Jesus was the Saviour that came to the world to save humanity through the virgin birth, was crucified, died, and after three days, rose again, it was interesting to see what others do or don't believe.
    As to Christians who say that Jesus Christ didn't die and wasn't resurrected,
    "12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. " -1 Corinthians 15:12-19
    Sometimes I think that Christians are the people most in need of cracking a Bible, as opposed to building their faith-and opinions-on what other people say, write, or blog.
    As for the "attackers", I find it strange that no religion is so openly (and with such hostility) shredded, and no one attempts to prove any other as wrong. If it really was just another religion to people, why on earth make such an effort to destroy it, or such a fuss about it?
    Maybe if Christians in general a) grew a backbone; b)remembered the reason we're here; c)stopped condemning people and shoving the Gospel down their throats, and d)actually cared about people beyond just wanting to fill an attendance quota in our churches, we'd start to be the way we were meant to be.
    I'm not a theologian, a Biblical or Historical scholar, or a preacher. This is simply MY OPINION.
    God Bless, and Happy Easter, whether or not you believe <3

    April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Will

      @Thoughtful Thanks for the honest, balanced opinion. I can tell you that even though I hold a different opinion, I very much appreciate your reasonable approach. I find it difficult to stomach people who bash religion as much as people who push it really hard. Believe what you want, but don't project those beliefs into my world, via politics or any other way. Generally speaking, I feel strongly that communal life has to be based on facts, and when it comes to beliefs, their place is at home because by definition you can't prove them (thus, beliefs).

      April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Mike

      I think the bigger problem is that many Christians are not very Christ like.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • EJ

      Good post, and I wholeheartedly agree. Happy Easter!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  5. Irene

    And never the twain shall meet. Egos just Egos.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Legos or Eggos?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  6. Josef Bleaux

    If you want to learn about the wonderful Christian god, just start reading at Numbers:31 where he orders thousands of women and children to be murdered or enslaved. Only the women and girls who "haven't known a man" will be kept alive as slaves and a large portion of these slaves will go to the priests. Nice guy the Christian god.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Kevin Sheppard

      Once again, scripture taken out of context in a feeble attempt to prove your own personal opinion.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • mastermind

      you r an idiot!!!!!!!!!!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • What IF

      Kevin Sheppard,
      "Once again, scripture taken out of context in a feeble attempt to prove your own personal opinion."

      A god with half a brain would not/could not have "written" a book that could be so easily misinterpreted, mistranslated, miscopied, and misunderstood.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Faithful

      WhatIf – However the Old and New Testaments were written, dissenters and those lacking in the intelligence to read , would find a way to distort the truth.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      So... it's ok to murder and enslave women and children?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Mark

      All I can say is "God works in very mysterious ways".....

      April 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Mark

      These people must have done a real bad sin.. totally unforgivable... Even by the standards of the all forgiving Master....

      April 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Mike Texoma

    I am a Christian in the mode of John Dominic Crossan, at odds with many current fundamentalists. Jesus is a very real person to me because of a number of things about him in the biblical accounts, because of Josephus confirmation of him, and because of the growth and the early history of the Christian Church which I do not believe would have been possible had this extraordinary Jesus not existed. I believe in the father God for many reasons, and I believe in Jesus' resurrection as the ultimate affirmation of the life and the truth of Jesus by father God.

    Ultimately, because I was not there, and forensics was then unknown, I cannot offer scientific evidence that Jesus existed, but both my gut and my head tell me he is as real as can be. And so Jesus is my Lord.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Peteyroo

      And my gut and my head tell me the exact opposite!

      April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • mpouxesas

      First, the author said: "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." People DO DIE for myths. Take a look at our soldiers who died in Iraq because of the MYTH of weapons of mass destruction and the overthrow of a bad guy (who WE put there in the first place)!
      Now, YOUR basis on BIBLICAL sayings as your belief in jesus...is questionable....bible was written by men.....

      April 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  8. PRISM 1234

    What do these posts of so many Christ deniers say about them?

    They fulfill the words of Christ Himself....

    Throw your pearls to the herd of pigs, and they will trample them into the mud, never knowing the difference.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Rhubarb

      PRISM 1234:

      You have said it correctly and exactly. By denying Lord Jesus, they fulfill his prophetic words.

      Amen and Amen.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      LOL, that is isn't circular "logic" at all.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • closet atheist

      Circular logic is all believers have to "prove" their faith. Using their "holy book" (insert bible, torah, quran, book of mormon, etc) to "prove" the very existence of said faith. Logic FAIL.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Faithful

      Absolutely. Happy Easter and Bless you, friend.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Happy Easter to you also!
      May the grace and peace of our Risen Lord fill your heart and mind, knowing that He is our ALL IN ALL!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things . .

    April 9, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      List one major world event that prayer was proven to have intervened in.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Peteyroo

      If prayer changes things, please give me a list. I would think that converting atheists would be high on the prayer list. How has that worked out for you?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • just sayin

      Slavery. God bless

      April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Jesus

      `Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! .. . .. ..

      April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      I would like to take this opportunity to thank "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things" for the amazing proofs of prayer offered the other day.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • DrBri

      Nothing fails like prayer. Learn to think and take responsibility for your life. Create your own code of what is just and right. Love and take care of others.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Faithful

      Not All Docs – Guadelupe! Our Lady appeared there to a largely godless people. They started praying and priests in Guadelupe spent 9 YEARS baptising; marrying and giving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist to the population.
      Look up Jack Traynor and Gabriel Gargam – miracles in Lourdes
      Look up the 3 children of Portugal who were asked to pray the rosary. This was followed by miracle of the sun – by God through His Mother,Our Lady of Fatima – witnessed by 70,000 people and reported by an Atheist journalist – after which
      Portugal became a Catholic country.
      Before you start about "brainwashed Catholics" and "mass hysteria/hypnosis" as some foolish people have said – 90% 0f the crowd were Atheist/communists and did not WANT the children to be right.

      So yes ,my friend, prayer changes things. Thanks be t God.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  10. ReligionIsBS

    Can you imagine if the christian god was actually real? What a horrible god. Kills off all of his creations in the flood. States in the bible that he is a jealous god. World hunger. Millions of murders by people trying to defend his name, because he cant do it himself. Cant defeat satan, or even keep him a bay. Infant cancer and mortality rates. 80% of all of creations end up burning in hell forever bcause he cant get them to beleive in himself. You christians sure dont have high expectations. If there is a god, and there probably isnt, it sure a heck wouldnt be as week as the christian god.

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

      Yeah, just start reading at Numbers:31 where he orders thousands of women and children to be murdered or enslaved. Only the women and girls who "haven't known a man" will be kept alive as slaves and a large portion of these slaves will go to the priests. Nice guy the Christian god.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Ed

      Agreed. After discovering that we didn't turn out quite they way he had hoped, rather than fixing us or merely winking us out of existence, he decides to drown his failed creation. What an inept and vindictive jerk.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Rhubarb

      "ReligionIsBS"'s comments are living proof that the lowest common denominators in society never give one bit of credit or praise to God for countless blessings and grace, but have no problem whatsoever blaming Him for everything "bad" or negative that exists.

      You don't want a God, you want a babysitter.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • JoJo

      Absolutely agreed. If the God of the OT were a man he would be imprisoned as a megalomaniac. They made God in man's image, not the other way around, and of course, the primitive mind endowed him with man's animal ego. It's interesting that God never smiles or shows a sense of humor in the bible, or even accepts one iota of responsibility for his creation. In fact, he's quite the opposite. When we were bad at one time he even unleashed viruses, cancer, bugs, snakes and all sorts of nasty stuff to make us pay for being such bad people (I guess smacking us in the nose with a newspaper it not tough enough love). I certainly won't be groveling like a slave to any God like that unless I have no other choice.

      What sort of loving compassionate, father wants you to worship and grovel before them anyway? Ridiculous. Does he purr like a kitten when we praise him so highly? Sorry... this is a beautiful planet and I refuse to believe your mangod put it here as backdrop and that nature and the animals are just here to suffer and eat each other to play a part in our survival and soul test.

      Religions = fear and control. Freewill isn't putting a gun to your head and saying it's my way or eternal torment. It's an ultimatum. Loving compassionate God's don't throw children into fires or drown them because his first soul experiment failed. Even most of us horrible sinners wouldn't even think about something like that. God = man. God = father. Poor woman... she became the scapegoat, of course.

      We can easily see throughout history that Christians have rarely ever followed Jesus' teachings. They've always judged, always will. Never turned the other cheek, and never will. And they certainly don't love thy neighbors. Do you think if Jesus were here today, he would walk with you? Jesus surrounded himself with the thieves and harlots. Not self-righteous delusional idiots who never even question books written by man.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Neal

      It's interesting that you appear to view God as a type of Cosmic trouble shooter who exists only to fix OUR problems in the way WE demand and on OUR time table. Anything short of this is not acceptable to US. Maybe the problem is removing ourselves from the position that God rightly occupies anyway. He offers that to each one of us, a gift that requires voluntary acceptance...as most gifts are.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • ReligionIsBS

      rhubabr, so im the lowest common denomiator of scoiety because i dont share your delusios. Ha! Thats funny. Sorry, but you seem to be one of the people who praise god for saving 1 baby during a holy war, but never blaming him for the autracities he commits. And I wont resort to calling you the lowest common denominatr of society because of it. But it does make you extremely gullible.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  11. thecastro

    The story of gods or dieties dying then coming back to life comes from the winter solstice. The sun reaches the lowest it is going to be, then "stays there" day one, two and three then starts to move back signifying the days are getting longer. The sun constantly used to represtent a god and with Jesus is no different. Jesus is no more real than any other god people used to worship. Eventually Jesus will be replaced by another god people prefer to believe in.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Rhubarb

      Your innocuous drivel is not even worthy of refutation. But someday you WILL acknowledge that Jesus Christ is indeed exactly who He says He is. And you will do so on bended knee. Guaranteed.

      Have a nice day.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • closet atheist

      Very christian of you, Rhubarb.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @closet atheist
      Since you think the truth written by Rhubarb is so un-christian, would you rather have a lie served to you dipped in honey for easy swallowing? Because that's what you do, swallow it every day, never giving it a thought, or discerning for wht it is!
      There are many voices and opinions out there , but there is only one truth.
      Rhubarb spoke the truth which you will face , regardless of you wanting to face it or not.
      Here is something for you to chew on:
      Love without Truth is lame.
      You can give them love without the truth and lead them straight to the portals of hell itself... And that's exactly where many are heading, as well as you in your present condition. Do you find this what I also said to you to be hateful, even so it describes your co'ndition?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  12. Cq

    Being atheist means that you aren't part of an organized group like religious people typically are, so you need to search under "secular charity". Try this link for a partial list:


    Now, these charities usually just do good for the sake of helping people, but can most religious charities honestly claim that they would continue to do charity if the opportunity to proselytize wasn't there? In some cases the actual charity is more like the toys handed out at McDonalds; just the incentive to get people hooked on the real product.

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

      So now you are condemning the way Christians perform works of charity? The problem is that you and I could both be doing the exact same thing, and you would find a problem with the way/reason I am doing it simply because I am a Christian. It's unintelligent (which you all claim to be) and ignorant.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      I had one person actually boast proudly that when he went on a mission trip to an impoverished area of the world, in order to get the mealat the end of the day the poor people "had to" listen to a one hour Bible sermon. Kinda like a dog jumping thru a hoop. It wasn't about helping people in a humanistic way, it was about a crusade to convert., in order for the converting missionaries to feel good about themselves for evangelizing.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      Actually EJ, if the only reason you are being charitable and doing the right thing is that you fear punishment and hope for reward in the afterlife, I do take issue – because it means that you are not a moral person at all, you're just a coward looking out for yourself.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • EJ

      Who said that is the only reason I volunteer my time and money to help others? I help others because it is the right thing to do for a number of reasons – what happens to me when I die is certainly one of them, but it is not the sole motivating factor. And isn't it most important that people are being helped – not necessarily the motivation behind it?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Cq

      It's the difference between simply giving your dog a treat and using it as a reward for performing a trick.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  13. HiredGoon

    Why call the Good Friday – Good? Regardless of what you believe about the Jesus – be he a good man, a deluded man, a prophet or an incarnation of God – that day commemorates his torturous death and that can't be good, regardless of justification. This term belongs in a twisted death cult, and outdated scapegoating ritual – NOT a mainstream religion.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • J

      That's the entire reason He came to earth: to die. In our justice system, the criminal has to pay the penalty. We transgressed; we have to pay the penalty; however, we can't: so, God made a way. He sent His son to die in our place. That's love. That's mercy. That's grace.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      No, J, that's vicarious redemption or scapegoating, and it's just about the most immoral thing I can imagine.

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

      Immoral? If God is the moral lawgiver, He's the one who defines what is/isn't moral.

      But, of course, you are god.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • AMS

      Is it horrible and torturous what we did to him? Yes...and something I tend to ponder and think about as well. Jesus was born a man, a human being. Which to me implies he also has the same emotions and feelings that you or I have. To know as a human being what he was going to be subjected to–the amount of terror that would produce, and to still be willing to go through with it, and to still trust in the lord to do his will–the courage that this must have taken....

      April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Faithful

      You've actually missed the whole point of the Redemption. Jesus suffered and died but it would have meant nothing if He hadn't conquered death and RISEN FROM THE DEAD. He showed us that death is not the end for those who want God for eternity.
      It's the GOOD from Jesus' death that we're talking about and the beauty of the Resurrection. At a funeral or remembrance service for relatives we celebrate their lives, do we not?

      April 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  14. Jake Malone

    Atheist charities? http://www.squidoo.com/Atheist-Charities

    April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  15. tevii

    I find it so interesting that those that believe in Jesus are so offended by the people wanting further evidence before truly believing it. Those that believe, that truly believe, should reinforce the search for those that don't believe, because if it is the truth that he existed, then the proof will be found. All that says is by being so offended is that those that believe are afraid to find out proof might exist that proves he never existed.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Ibelieve

      You believe because you have seen....Blessed are those who believe and have not seen... Jesus to the disciple Thomas

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

      I'd recommend listening to John Ortberg and Ravi Zacharias. Many people have doubts. These 2 are great (non-annoying) preachers/speakers.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • J

      There is proof that He existed. The debate is over whether He was who he said he was or not.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Mike Texoma


      I agree that there is nothing to be offended about in the context you describe, and I would like to be able to introduce you to the rock of proof you seek. I do not know of the existence of such a thing. This truth, for me, depends upon life eperience, an inquiring mind, and lots of prayer. By prayer I mean to say a good deal of talking to God about things, and a good deal of listening. And time. And if you undertake this inquiry, I do not believe you will waste your time.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • tevii

      That is not proof. That is a feeling. Some people say they feel strange around a crystal skull. But the crystal skulls have been debunked so the "feeling" people have is simply a placebo affect. They feel because they want to. THAT is not proof. You are also mistaking my question as a religious question. Asking whether or not there was a man "Jesus" is not necessarily a question about whether or not god exists. If there is no god, a man known as Jesus may very well have still existed in the past. An inspiration similar to Gandhi. That is is what some people such as myself want to search for. WITHOUT any consideration to the religion, did the man Jesus exist? If he did then there is no cause for anger from Christians for our pursuit of the facts.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  16. 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 11:19 am |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      No True Scotsman fallacy.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Noocrat

      Ha, that is such a ridiculous argument. Like at a job interview, "Well, I have an outstanding resume and donate frequently to charity – please ignore the criminal record, that wasn't the true me."

      April 9, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Cq

      Are "true Christian" always good?

      I didn't think so.

      Being Christian then is no better than not believing in a god who will punish or reward you, just like not all children who are "good" are so because they believe Santa is watching.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • EJ

      True Christians are not "always" good – but we always strive to do our best. We are all sinners, and those who say they are not are the biggest of all.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • tevii

      I love hearing that "true Christian" argument. True Christians warred in the Crusades and slaughtered thousands and thousands. True Christians burned people for being witches, True Christians tortured people to convert. True Christians stole... or as True Christians like to say "co-opted" all their holidays from pagan holidays then lied about it to gain converts. True Christians condemned scientific beliefs such as the world is round or that dinosaurs existed. True Christians condemn the idea of evolution which we prove constantly just by observing other animals. And your "true Christians" even now condemn gays and lesbians, condemn stem cell research. True Christians have been a blight on progress. So your personal PERCEPTION of what a TRUE CHRISTIAN is, is EXACTLY what YOU want it to be, because the facts and numbers don't lie.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Cq

      So, you have the choice between getting the same results by following a religion or being guided by your own instincts. Tell me, would you take a medicine that costs you money, effort and side-effects (rejecting reason for creationism, for example) just to get the same result that you would get if you just let nature take it's course?

      " those who say they are not are the biggest of all."
      Are you implying that we atheists are worse behaved than you Christians? Can you prove that? I know several Christians who have actually left churches because they were frequented by individuals who habitually "back slid", performing the most heinous acts imaginable, only to keep returning to the same church as prodigal sons and daughters more than eager to tell of their checkered activities during "testimony" time. Frankly, I'd rather not hang around some of the people who go to church. They scare me.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  17. Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

    Wow, I just lost a LOT of respect for Ehrman. Reasonable people can disagree, but ad hominems really are a sign that you don't have a leg to stand on.

    Personally, I don't think it matters if a HISTORICAL Jesus existed or not – as both destroy Christianity. If there was simply an itinerant preacher named Yeshua running around Judea preaching radicalism that got him crucified, so what? Not only do Christians need to prove such a man existed, but that he performed miracles and rose from the dead. If you cannot do the former beyond shadow of doubt, you have no hope doing the latter.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  18. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Man created God in the image of.........George Burns.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  19. Noocrat

    I keep reading comments and people using the explanation that "something significant must have happened to make them change from BC to AD" – The problem with this idea is that that BC/AD differentiation was not made until the 6th century, after Rome converted to Catholicism. Up until that time they were still AUC, which was based on the founding date of the city of Rome.

    So, in reality, the year today is just as much 2765 as it is 2012.

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


      April 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  20. cworr

    The flaw in the argument of those who claim pagan mesiah myths predate Jesus is that they don't. Most of the Pagan myths most closely associated with the story of Jesus actually date from the late 2nd and 3rd Centuries. The Christian Religion was very successful and spreading like wildfire. Several Pagan faiths (incl the so called "mystery Religions") adopted elements of Christianity including the messiah concept, baptism and rebirth. Some of these elements are carbon copies (savior born in Dec, one who is crucified, and resurrected). The catch though, is that the earliest proof of these stories comes much later than the 1st Century Jesus. Though there is a resurrection component to the Osirus myth, it is nothing at all like the bodily resurrection of an actual man. Basically, Pagan religions took the successful elements of Christianity and coopted them, now modern "scholars" claim that these faiths predated Christianity in order to discredit it. Lastly, there are also references to Roman records of executions that include the crucifixion of Jesus as actually existing as late as the 2nd Century, but unfortunately none of these records survived.

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

      "The flaw in the argument of those who claim pagan mesiah myths predate Jesus is that they don't" – That's only true with a strict definition of the word pagan. You would have to ignore several Egyptian myths, such as Horus, in order for that claim to hold water.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • seyedibar

      Buddha, Krishna, Tammuz, Odysseus, Dionysius, Attis, Zoraster, Romulus, Heracles, Glycon and Horus all predate supposed Christ. The mystery cults of Greece and Egypt also predate Christ. You can trace some of the tales even further, all the way back to the Ugurtic myths, the earliest writings. And even your own holy books explain that many claimed to be a messiah in the times after David.
      Myth busted.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • tevii

      Noocrat and seyedidbar have said most of it. But the resurrection of Tammuz is 2,000 years older than the Jesus resurrection story. And while your mentioning who co-opted what, the major Christian holidays are "co-opted" from pagan holidays. Christmas being the Pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice and Easter being the the day ancient Babylonia celebrated the resurrection of Tammuz with the help of his mother Ishtar (by painting, hiding, then searching for eggs). Which the Semitic pronunciation of Ishtar is Easter. Buddha predates Christianity and he had temptations which many could argue Christianity "co-opted" the temptaions as well.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:41 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.