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. steviep

    omg.....(no punt intended), humans could not even prove oj simpson guilty
    and we r suppose to prove existance of god!...who r we to say theres no god!.........look at near death experiences if u want or need proof of an afterlife and a loving god! as for existance of jesus< its the shroud of torin< ,authenticized by many experts from different professions.....

    April 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • WASP

      @steviep: NDE, neurophysiological processes must play some part in NDE. Similar experiences can be induced through electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe (and hence of the hippocampus) during neurosurgery for epilepsy, with high carbon dioxide levels (hypercarbia), and in decreased cerebral perfusion resulting in local cerebral hypoxia as in rapid acceleration during training of fighter pilots, or as in hyperventilation followed by Valsalva manoeuvre. Ketamine-induced experiences resulting from blockage of the NMDA receptor, and the role of endorphin, serotonin, and enkephalin have also been mentioned, as have near-death-like experiences after the use of LSD, psilocarpine, and mescaline. These induced experiences can consist of unconsciousness, out-of-body experiences, and perception of light or flashes of recollection from the past. These recollections, however, consist of fragmented and random memories unlike the panoramic life-review that can occur in NDE. Further, transformational processes with changing life-insight and disappearance of fear of death are rarely reported after induced experiences.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • momoya

      It is not up to the atheist to prove god does not exist.. It is the believers job to prove god's existence.. Unicorns don't just exist because we can't prove they don't exist.. That's silly.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  2. Maureen

    Christianity and Judaism are the only belief systems which are CONSTANTLY supported by archeology. Many believe Darwin's theory which is based on survival of the fittest when there is absolutely no fossil evidence to support it. There is fossil evidence to support The Flood and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and many historical incidents portrayed in Scripture.
    The proof for our religion is abundant.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Drew

      So if I bury copies of Star Wars all over the place along with all of the props produced for the movies and collectibles companies, will that prove in 2000 years that there were really Jedi and a Galactus Empire rulled this Galaxy??

      April 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Artanis

      No, one Far, Far Away...

      April 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • WASP

      @maureen: i know of no fossil evidence that supports a global flood. if you are refering to shells found on mountain tops, where do you think the land mas.ses came from? the sea floor. darwin layed the ground work for what modern palentologists have found to be a progress of adaptation; some adaptations benefited the various species, other lead to extinction. as far as fossil evidence to support evolution, visit la breya tar pits.....you find whole skeletons of long dead animals, visit almost anywhere in the world that is condusive to created the various types of fossils.
      sadom and gramora, are about as good arguement points as london is for harry potter. that point is just redundant, the city exsits but the wizards do not.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      WASP is correct Maureen. The area that Sodom and Gamorrah were said to be is there, however, there is no evidence that fire and brimstone rained down upon the cities to destroy them. There is also absolutely no evidence (archaeologically) that supports the account of a global flood, at least not that I am aware of.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • canadian

      @WASP – But the sodom and gomorra archeology site shows that it was destroyed due to a large fire as they have have found scorch marks in fossils....interesting thought to me

      April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Artanis

      Actually there is a great deal of evidence for a global flood. When was the last time you read any geology textbooks?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Ivan McIntosh

      Actually there is abundant fossil evidence to support evolution, with many thousands of "transitional" fossils found. But even if no fossil evidence existed, the work with DNA and genetic markers over the last quarter century has by itself proven evolution beyond any reasonable doubt.

      In contrast there is no fossil or geologic evidence supporting a world-wide flood.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Point out the evidence then. If there is so much out there you shouldn't have any problem presenting that evidence.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      That was for Artanis btw,

      April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • WASP

      @canadian: if what you surmise is true that only shows that the villages were ran-sacked by maruders or another warring group. it was a basic tactic to set fire to a town to cause confusion and make it easier to slaughter the inhabitants. fire drives everyone out of their homes and into the streets. it in no way proves that an angry god throw down fire upon them.
      2) another theory just as viable seeing they found a skychart made by a greek observing the night sky during that area in history, makes a rather curious notation about a comet or another celestial body falling toward earth. both could have simply been a living example of the power of what happens when a meteor explodes over an inhabited area. kind of like the one that exploded over the siberian wilderness decades ago.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Maureen, I am a professional archaeologist – literally a PhD assistant professor of anthropology at a state university. That doesn't mean I can't be wrong or mistaken, but it does mean that I am an expert on the things you are speaking of, and what you are claiming is absolutely untrue. Every part of it. You are either (a) just making it up, (b) repeating lies you have been told without evaluating them, or (c) knowingly lying to support an agenda. Regardless, I get so tired of hearing that dishonest crap that I cannot let it stand unchallenged.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Artanis, the last time I read from a geology textbook was about 25 minutes ago. I teach archaeological geology. There is no evidence for a worldwide flood. None at all. Any legitimate geologist would laugh you out of the room.

      And furthermore, there are no "fossils" from biblical archaeological sites. Fossils require far longer periods of time to form. As I said below, it is when you attempt to fudge your way through facts when you are actually talking about faith, that you start to look ridiculous.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      I don't mean to try to sound smarter or better than anyone, it is just that in this particular area I have spent decades in training and research. I, and I suspect many others, would be more open to religious arguments if they didn't shamelessly claim things that I know are simply untrue. If you can't be trusted with simple facts, how can you be trusted to tell me the meaning of the universe?

      April 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Know What

      It looks like @Maureen is just a "drive-by" tooter. She's got nothing else. She may or may not have even read the responses, but perhaps others are inclined to do so.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  3. David Crosby

    Funny..all this over a guy that's been dead for 2000 years...

    April 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Arturo

      He is not dead...He resurrected. He lives in us ... The Holy Spirit.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  4. Snow

    What is hilarious is that people make fun of the N korea's founder kim being worshipped like god... but go home and do the same .. the only difference is that one dude apparently died 2000 yrs ago and one died a few decades ago..

    April 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. Josh

    The weirdest thing about all of this is that it's really old news. Why is it suddenly a big deal? We've known about these other gods and goddesses that Jesus and Mary were based on for some time, and the similarities between the stories of Jesus and Mary and the earlier deities aren't subtle. I assumed the scholarly community had already embraced the mythological evolution of Jesus from Eastern and Egyptian sources a long time ago.

    April 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Bruce

      Actually, what's new is that Jesus-as-myth people are gaining traction in an area where they have historically been pretty much ignored.

      What's funny is that Jung, and Campbell after him, did the best work in this area half a century ago. Freke seems to be reinventing the wheel.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Bruce

    "For a lot of Jewish people, the pagan world was disgusting. 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 53x with some fair maiden."

    And yet the gospels claim that the first people to recognize Jesus as King, the first people to bow down in worship at the feet of Jesus, were PAGAN ASTROLOGERS who used the stars and planets and other heavenly bodies to make their determination. They were not Jewish messianic theologians and scholars, but astrologers steeped in the practice and study of myth.

    Seriously, people. Read your own scriptures and maybe pretend for a minute that they have something to teach you...

    April 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Voice of Reason

    You ask me to read the bible but you will not reciprocate by reading the theory of evolution. Fair?

    April 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Maureen

      Evolution is a theory based on survival of the fittest and there is no fossil evidence to support it.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Drew

      And where's the fossilized evidence of God?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • WASP

      @maureen: you are incorrect. evolution isn't based on survival of the fittest. it's based on the gradual change of creatures over time. study before you post ignorant stuff on here, children are suseptible to reading that garbage.
      -evolution:The definition
      Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompas.ses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life."
      -survival of the fittest:The phrase "survival of the fittest", which was coined not by Darwin but by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, is widely misunderstood.

      For starters, there is a lot more to evolution by natural selection than just the survival of the fittest. There must also be a population of replicating ent.ities and variations between them that affect fitness – variation that must be heritable. By itself, survival of the fittest is a dead end. Business people are especially guilty of confusing survival of the fittest with evolution.
      What's more, although the phrase conjures up an image of a violent struggle for survival, in reality the word "fittest" seldom means the strongest or the most aggressive. On the contrary, it can mean anything from the best camouflaged or the most fecund to the cleverest or the most cooperative. Forget Rambo, think Einstein or Gandhi.
      What we see in the wild is not every animal for itself. Cooperation is an incredibly successful survival strategy. Indeed it has been the basis of all the most dramatic steps in the history of life. Complex cells evolved from cooperating simple cells. Multicellular organisms are made up of cooperating complex cells. Superorganisms such as bee or ant colonies consist of cooperating individuals."

      1. What is evolution?
      Biological evolution refers to the cu.mulative changes that occur in a population over time. These changes are produced at the genetic level as organisms' genes mutate and/or recombine in different ways during reproduction and are passed on to future generations. Sometimes, individuals inherit new characteristics that give them a survival and reproductive advantage in their local environments; these characteristics tend to increase in frequency in the population, while those that are disadvantageous decrease in frequency. This process of differential survival and reproduction is known as natural selection. Non-genetic changes that occur during an organism's life span, such as increases in muscle mass due to exercise and diet, cannot be passed on to the next generation and are not examples of evolution.
      2. Isn't evolution just a theory that remains unproven?
      In science, a theory is a rigorously tested statement of general principles that explains observable and recorded aspects of the world. A scientific theory therefore describes a higher level of understanding that ties "facts" together. A scientific theory stands until proven wrong - it is never proven correct. The Darwinian theory of evolution has withstood the test of time and thousands of scientific experiments; nothing has disproved it since Darwin first proposed it more than 150 years ago. Indeed, many scientific advances, in a range of scientific disciplines including physics, geology, chemistry, and molecular biology, have supported, refined, and expanded evolutionary theory far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined."

      links: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13671-evolution-myths-survival-of-the-fittest-justifies-everyone-for-themselves.html

      April 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • momoya

      If you mean the god of the bible, Drew, the fossils are many and scattered throughout various myths of the middle east during the last 15,000 years or so.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  8. Salero21

    What I believe about what and who Jesus is, to me is as important as believing in Him.


    April 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Sam Yaza

    i don't argue the existence of JC only whether or not his evil or really f.uckin evil

    April 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Toots

      Jesus is LOVE, not evil. You and your wording represent evil. Try reading the Bible and find out for yourself. Better yet, get in touch with a bible-believing Christian who will tell you about Jesus' love for us and eternal. Read the book of Ephesians and John. Jesus is known as "The Word" John 1:1 reads, "In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God." There is so much to be gleaned from scripture. Try it! You just might like it.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • NoGodsPleaseWeAreSmart

      Tootsie: Lots of evil is in the bible, done by and for god. Maybe you should take your rose colored specs off. And open your eyes. Keep in mind that most atheists know the bible better than most Christians.

      Toot toot to you. Maybe you should toot your nose harder to clear your sinuses; something is blocking your thinking.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Snow

      is it selective-hearing-itis or selective-reading-itis that you are showing tootsie?

      April 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Reality

    For more discussion about the historical Jesus, see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    A synopsis of current thinking:

    :Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ –
    Earl Doherty
    Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy – might want to check the educational credentials of these three authors

    Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past
    Alvar Ellegård
    G. A. Wells

    Jesus the Hellenistic Hero
    Gregory Riley

    Jesus the Revolutionary
    Robert Eisenman

    Jesus the Wisdom Sage
    John Dominic Crossan
    Robert Funk
    Burton Mack
    Stephen J. Patterson

    Jesus the Man of the Spirit
    Marcus Borg
    Stevan Davies
    Geza Vermes

    Jesus the Prophet of Social Change
    Richard Horsley
    Hyam Maccoby
    Gerd Theissen

    Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet
    Bart Ehrman
    Paula Fredriksen
    Gerd Lüdemann
    John P. Meier
    E. P. Sanders

    Jesus the Savior
    Luke Timothy Johnson
    Robert H. Stein
    N. T. Wright

    April 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  11. False Dichotomy

    I think I actually have more respect for those who just come out and say that they believe based on faith and emotion, and that logic and reason are not a part of it. That is an honest and self-aware position, although to me it is not a very satisfying way of "knowing" things.

    What is frustrating and absurd, and sometimes downright regressive and harmful, is when believers try to force their faith-based beliefs into the physical world of history, archaeology, biology, and physics. In their attempts they do great violence to the empirical record of the real world. The battles they take on consti.tue a gross disservice to the public by confusing issues, undermining legitimate knowledge, and presenting outright falsehoods as facts. This undermining of intellectualism and science has very real ethical, educational, and economic consequences.

    April 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I couldn't agree more with your statements, all of them.

      And the key words here are respect , knowing, faith and emotion. By knowing what you believe cannot be proved is not surrendering, it should provide you with the drive to question it and to prove it, that's what science does. I will be the first to admit that we do not have empirical proof or data at this time to answer a lot of questions but we will keep trying until we do. One gains respect by being reasonable and fair. Is it reasonable and fair to claim you know the truth and it is god? I think not.
      But as you stated if a believer would admit that what they claim cannot be proved and it is based on faith and emotion and not on empirical fact, it would demand respect.
      Its time for them to open their mind to other thoughts and possibilities as it would be the reasonable and fair thing to do.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  12. Voice of Reason

    There is no god. There never was and there will never be. There is no valid proof of god. After you peel-off all the religions' speculations we are left with the question of a god. Is there or isn't there a god? There is no god. There is no valid proof. It is merely a belief and an atheist is absent of belief.
    The atheist will ask; Why does there have to be a god to answer the unanswerable? A rational person would say that there doesn't have to be a god, this existence happened after the outcome of an event and what that event was is still being explored but for now science has come up with really good information about our natural world and the evolution of it.
    A religious person would answer the same question with that there has to be a god and when asked why they say because, because how could it be any other way, I mean look at everything around you, it is a miracle and we have been told there is a god. And the religious will go on to believe that Adam and Eve were the first human beings on this planet and Noah's Ark carried all of the wild animals and a ghost impregnated a virgin who gave birth to a magical child and so on...
    The non-believer will seek-out to understand and question the validity of the irrational and quickly find out it is purely delusional and that the theory of evolution paints a much more natural explanation with provable evidence.
    Personally, I choose to be rational and believe in natural selection in evolution and I wish I could live longer to experience the growth of intellect and the absence of such religious nonsense.

    April 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Voice of Logic

      And there is no valid proof that there is no God.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Voice of Logic
      "And there is no valid proof that there is no God."

      Absolutely there is, it is the lack of the proof.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Bruce

      Voice of Reason: Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Check out your local Carl Sagan...

      April 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Real Deal

      "Absence of proof is not proof of absence."

      The default / fall-back stance in cases such as this is NOT that it IS true.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Drew

      The burden of proof is on those who claim God DOES exist. If the burden is to prove that he DOESN'T exist (otherwise he does), then EVERY God of EVERY religion has to exist by that logic. No one can prove that ANY God doesn't exist, which means they all have too. Sounds pretty stupid to me.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • WASP

      @bruce: so by your logic, please disprove....vampires, werewolves, ghosts, RA, zues, bigfoot, etc; because if there isn't proof that they don't exist, then they must exist.......right?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Artanis

      Except you can reasonably disprove some of that list there. I can't really think of a way to logically go about disproving God, some gods and goddesses yes, but a few like the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God you are pretty much stuck.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • jorgath

      Absence of proof does not demonstrate proof of absence. It demonstrates probability of absence.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • WASP

      so it's only probable that monsters don't exsist. cool thanks. there isn't any proof against the above named and in some cases there is more proof for these creatures exsisting than there is for jesus or god.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  13. Heretic

    Christianity – the belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie with magical superpowers can make you live forever (after dying first) if you sybolically eat his flesh and drink his blood and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in all humanity because a rib-made woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat a apple from a magical tree.... makes perfect sense

    April 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • one true love

      The Christian Bible, also known as The Truth, did not say I or anyone else wil live forever. What it does say is that my worldy body will fade away...in other words die. When I am welcomed home by my Lord and Father I will receive a new self which is called my glorified self.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • one true love

      And it wasn't an apple. Genesis says Eve ate the "fruit" and shared it with Adam.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • momoya

      It's correct that the myth does not list any particular fruit; some theologians have asserted that the most likely candidate is/was a pomegranate.. It's a small point but a good one.

      However the myth itself shows a god who cannot use logic, and that's just plain stupid.. Why would god punish someone who did wrong before they even knew what "wrong" means.. Neither Eve nor Adam knew what "wrong" was until they ate of the tree-but eating of the tree was wrong.. God curses all humanity for a mistake that Eve didn't know was a mistake.. Of course, we're talking about a god who makes plans but has to destroy and start over a couple of times, and a god who thinks its a good idea to sacrifice himself to himself in order to appease himself so that he doesn't have to send people to the hell that he didn't have to make or allow humans to go to.. The bible is just plain stupid, and it's god has multiple personalities–none of which have the intelligence of a 5 year old.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Heretic

      "The Truth"? What truth is there in the bible? The gospels were written hundreds of YEARS AFTER the alleged Jesus existed. The book itself was put together by MEN acting in their own interest picking and choosing what they wanted to sell the narrative of this so called savior superhero who is a combination of every pagan diety up tothe time – NOT by god. The bible does not have one original idea – just a collection of stories to scare little kids and weak minds into blindly obeying. My church is a library...

      April 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Artanis

      Technically the entire New Testament was written within 50 years of Jesus' death.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Well actually the most accurate dates that we have for when the new testament was written is between 40-70 years after Jesus supposedly died. Except for revelation which was a hundred or so years I think.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  14. SHEM

    It comes down to two choices, either the disciples lied or they told the truth.They each died a horrible ALONE because of thier story,which could have been avoided if they just admitted they lied(no one dies for a lie).Or they told the TRUTH!

    April 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • SHEM

      correction 'A HORRIBLE DEATH

      April 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • shem on you shem

      You are clearly retarded.
      People die for lies all the time, 24/7/365.
      And sometimes it doesn't even matter if they knew the lie for a lie or not.

      Dying for something does not make it real. You are so stupid.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • WASP

      @shem: so by your logic david koresh was the second coming of jesus....... N.F.C.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bruce

      They could have simply been mistaken, and not lying.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • canadian

      @shem on you shem
      yes, many people will die for something they believe to be a lie. but what no one dies is die for something they know to not be true. The disciples were in the place and witness it to not be true if it wasnt. so why would they die for something that they themselves could verify to not be true.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • WASP

      @canadian:" yes, many people will die for something they believe to be a lie. but what no one dies is die for something they know to not be true. The disciples were in the place and witness it to not be true if it wasnt. so why would they die for something that they themselves could verify to not be true.
      i'm pretty certain the david koresh worshippers believed that koresh was who he claimed to be. they in their hearts had been so programmed that they died and killed for him. see how people can be fooled so easily into buying into something that is a fabrication and fight so earnestly to protect that falsehood.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  15. peter avan

    The story of Jesus, his birth, miracles, dearth and resurrection seems so similar to another Hindu god, who apparently existed many centuries before Jesus is said to have been born.....how come?

    April 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • jimbo

      siddhartha-later known as buddha or enlightened one-discovered inis own "time in a spiritual desert" beore he discovered that trough all his experiences that it was the "middle path" that led to nirvana. nirvana being the highes state of spiritual development as buddhists do not believe in a heaven in the same way that cristians do.
      as i mentioned in an earlier response to someone's post, tere are many similariies between mystery cults of the first century ad long before in soe cases-isis, osiris, mithras, as well as female dominated pagan cults that are older than even these.
      it is my feeling that, even if it is heretical by the standards of the catholic faith and the religious order i belong to, that truth is truth. it's a feeling of the heart and a path of righteousness that each must find and follow for themselves. peace to you all, my brothers and sisters!

      April 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      Mithras....the story of Jesus is simply a story borrowed and borrowed from past dead beliefs. I suspect when the last Christians has died at some point a new religion will make the story their own...and onto the cycle we repeat.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  16. Prayer changes things

    Prayer changes otherwise intelligent and rational people into believing they can talk to an imaginary super friend.

    April 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Zenichi-Maro

      Well, that assertion largely depends on how one defines prayer. As a buddhist, I do not find myself praying to an invisible helper friend; far from it. I understand prayer to be intention, CAUSE, which leads to EFFECT. The difference between a theistic view of prayer and a non-theistic view of prayer is perhaps best described with the analogy of a vending machine. Theists keep pushing buttons and hoping for results; non-theists understand the machine and MAKE the results HAPPEN.

      Look at it another way: in quantum physics experiments with quarks–the basic building blocks of matter–it has been proven that human thought can control the outcome, the actual movement of the quarks. That is to say that, in a very literal sense, our minds make this world. Prayer is, therefore, nothing short of embracing our true nature as co-creators in our world and abandoning the notion that some invisible super friend will make it all better whilst we do nothing other than wish.

      Be peace,

      April 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  17. Bruce

    It matters a great deal whether Jesus was real or not. If not real, then people are still lost in their sin – an imaginary Jesus could not have paid the price for us. We live in a fallen world. We all have a sin problem that, but for the atoning sacrifice of a sinless man/God – Jesus – would render us eternally separated from our Creator, God the Father. But by His grace and love for us, he sent his son to die in our place – to pay the price we would otherwise have to. Christianity stands alone in this respect: God made a way for all to rest in His grace and have peace through the work of His son Jesus. Salvation is nothing that we can earn and because of our sin, we certainly don't deserve it.
    The “evidence” alluded to in the article is flimsy at best. A prosecutor would be laughed out of the courtroom if that were all of the “evidence” he had to present in a trial concerning Jesus’ existence. It is not just “one book (the Bible), but five independent people who recorded their eyewitness testimonies concerning Jesus. Roughly 100 Old Testament prophesies – all of them – were fulfilled by Jesus. The more the bible is researched historically, the more it is proven to be factual.
    God, in His wisdom, did not send the political/military messiah the Jewish people wanted because he knew that the real problem was man’s sin. That is why he sent a savior messiah for all of the world – His son Jesus. I believe that Jesus was and is real. He lives today and has set the example of Godly living and eternal life for us. If Christians are wrong about Jesus then we are no worse off than any other person: the day that we die we will cease to exist just like everyone else will. But if we are right, and have placed our trust in Jesus, then the rest of the world faces an awful, eternal pain that they don't need to. Seek the Lord while He may be found: after your last breath it will be too late. Read John 3:16...

    April 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • momoya

      Responding to your first sentence: If Jesus isn't real then sin probably isn't either as well as any of the consequences for it..

      April 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • WASP

      @bruce:" A prosecutor would be laughed out of the courtroom if that were all of the “evidence” he had to present in a trial concerning Jesus’ existence."

      problem here would be the prosecutor wouldn't be defending a client. the defendant would be. second the prosecutor would have the defence laughed out of court by asking one question" without using scripture, prove god." it can not be done, nothing exists outside the bible and related articules that even reference "god" so with such flimsy evidence to show christians why do you all buy in so quickly?

      April 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      I did not say a prosecutor defending a client. I talked about a prosecutor presenting his case and providing evidence to support his position and that I felt the "evidence" presented in this article is very weak.
      I have not bought into Christianity "so quickly". At 56, I’ve lived a life studying and discussing the bible with believers and non-believers. I’ve had to admit that i don't understand it all either. But, i do not feel that over all of these years, God has let me down or failed me. I feel that He is always there when I reach out to Him. No, I cannot give you a photo of God, nor can I point to any other physical evidence that God exists other than the physical book written by over 40 different authors (the bible). I believe it is much like a "black hole" in space. One cannot "see" a black hole – they can just speak to its presence by the impact it has on the space around it. Perhaps it is much the same with God. He does not show Himself physically, but people can see His presence by the impact He has in the world. Really, God’s impact is so much more.
      If people don’t believe in good vs. evil, nor creators, nor deities, then I don’t know how to explain God and my faith to them. Conversely, no one can tell me that the struggles, blessing, and experiences that I’ve had in my life – that have made me into the believer that I am today – are not real either.
      I am saddened by the anger, vitriol, and lack of care that I’ve seen on both sides of this debate while reading these posts. I hope that all people involved find the answers they are looking for…

      April 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Madtown

      evidence that God exists other than the physical book written by over 40 different authors (the bible)
      Hey Bruce... I believe in God. But, in a more spiritual sense, rather than a strict adherence to any particular flavor of religion because...religion is a creation of man. I'm wary of the motives and practices of humans, because we're imperfect! As far as the bible being "evidence", seems a bit of a stretch to me. The marks of man are all over the bible; man wrote it, edited it, chose the individual works that comprise it, left out some individual works that may not have conveyed the message the way the human editors wanted, and revised it. Hardly the perfect "word of God" that we're told.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • De Novo

      Bruce, I am sorry to say that you clearly do not understand rules of evidence, types of evidence, what constltutes proper proof of any particular bit of evidence, nor do you appear to understand how a person, whether judge or jury, is required to objectively evaluate all claims by all sides.

      In short, you have hearsay evidence. Second-hand hearsay evidence. Re-written and re-translated an unknown number of times, thousands probably, yet you would hang your hat on this so-called evidence.
      You would risk your life, the lives of all those around you, and most importantly your "soul" upon this much-distorted second-hand hearsay "information" with no qualms whatsoever.
      This shows you to be a huge fool who does not know and doesn't really care about what may be the real truth, nor do you appear to care about the accuracy of any of your so-called "evidence".

      If you don't care about accuracy or reality or what can actually be proved, then all your words and your faith are empty things like the empty parrot words of any mindless parrot repeating the only sounds it ever heard.
      Blind ignorance is not something that proves your case. It only destroys your case as far as your "evidence" and "testimony" are concerned. It shows you to be repeating what was told to you without it having registered in your head along the way.

      Even the "5" testimonies are worthless because they were not done immediately while the facts were still fresh, were not notarized or attested to by any independent person or agency, and, being decades late in being fabricated, may not have even been by the original people since there is no way of verifying who wrote those words.

      You see how stupid it is to point to these hearsay accounts with no other means of evidentiary support?
      What if I had proof that those accounts were written by one greedy priest who left a secret diary or something?
      What would you say then?
      Would you see where your ideas of evidence didn't really work right?
      No, you'd just say the diary was a fake or something. Using the same tactics I use to discredit your hearsay accounts.
      There is nothing quite so maddening as a religious person who has been so thoroughly brainwashed that clear evidence in front of their face will never change their beliefs, oh no.
      Enjoy your delusions of personal grandeur. There is no actual god who cares so much about what you think and do with your junk that they would actually tell you in person but that they can only tell it to you by proxy, hearsay, mystical nonsense and that works for you perfectly. Right. Gotcha.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • WASP

      @bruce:"If people don’t believe in good vs. evil, nor creators, nor deities, then I don’t know how to explain God and my faith to them."

      1) there is no good verses evil because that implies humans are more important than we really are. if two forces are fighting over little oh us, then it gives humans a reason to feel important.
      2) humans have the capacity to do things that help human kind or commit such violent attrocities that it hinders us as a species. good and evil are merely terms like day and night. i understand violence and have like all humans the ability to be violent, i choose not to due to the fact it wouldn't be healthy for me having a long life nor set a good example of how to co-exist with the rest of humanity to my child.
      you can see a blackhole and it's effect on it's enviroment. you can watch it eat nebulas and stars, they have a physical impact on our reality due to the fact the exist in our reality. god has no effect on anything, it's like saying a ghost can hurt you. it can't, were caporeal they are non-caporeal......god is non-caporeal, thus no chance of physical interaction. if he could effect this reality, we could test or see what he has done.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      Madtown – thanks for your thoughts. Likewise, I believe and have put my trust in the spirit and truth of God – not religion per se. I look at the bible as the inspired word of God even though it was written down and compiled by man. God still uses this imperfect rendering to reveal Himself to us and explain our nature and how He created it all to work. The bible is full of imperfect people (Abraham, Joseph, Rahab, David, Elijah, and Paul, to name a few) who were still used by God to accomplish His purposes: the creation and redemption of mankind and the universe in order to fellowship and relate with us.
      I have many stories of experiences in my life – some good and some bad – that God has used to make me what he wants me to be. I still fail from time to time, but I try to make myself available to God, seek His will in my life, and trust my family and myself in His hands so when the time comes and I stand in judgment, God will not see me but the shed blood of Jesus, and He will welcome me into the place he has prepared for us. Sounds crazy to many – but rock solid to me…

      April 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Bruce

      Concerning your own personal reasons–I have friends of various religions who say the exact same thing (but for their religion, not yours).. Almost every time a believer has the same god as the one most worshiped in his culture and time period.. For a person who has no belief in god or reasons to believe, what do you say?

      April 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Klaatu

    Religion was created by perverts to see their neighbors wives.

    April 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • jim

      excuse me?

      April 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.*

    April 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Avoid fake Jesus posts it never responds with proof

      April 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes otherwise intelligent and rational people into believing they can talk to an imaginary super friend.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • 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! ~,~ ;-P`

      April 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Avoid fake Jesus posts it never responds with proof"

      LOL More lies and desperation proving my posts correct.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  20. LJP

    I am not going to argue with anyone here, I believe we all have the freedom to choose what we believe, however, with that being said I would rather choose to believe that Christ not only existed but died for our sins and that through that belief I will be with him eternally after my moral body passes into dust. If that makes me crazy or delusional that is MY choice and I am not hurting anyone with that belief. I myself would rather believe in the "impossible" or "improbable" than face the possibility of eternity in hell. So you believe that Heaven and Hell do not exist? Are you willing to stake your eternity on that fact?

    April 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • LJP

      That should have said "mortal" body not "moral".

      April 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • momoya


      I don't think belief can be choice.. We do not choose to believe but are compelled to believe.. You are compelled to believe in gravity regardless of whether or not you just fell off of a huge cliff.. There are plenty of folks who WANT me to believe in Jesus and the whole ball of wax he sustains, but I can't choose to believe in it for the same reason I can't choose to disbelieve gravity.. I must be compelled to believe by valid argument, evidence, or any combination of those two.

      April 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • WASP

      @ljp: so you believe for the "better safe than sorry" reason.......ok i'm sure your god will love that he was an after thought. you're afraid of death so you are taking the bet on god. if you're wrong you only wasted the one life you are given, if you are correct you will probably still burn in hell for not truly believeing. so in the better safe than sorry, the person always ends up sorry.

      April 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "I myself would rather believe in the "impossible" or "improbable" than face the possibility of eternity in hell. So you believe that Heaven and Hell do not exist? Are you willing to stake your eternity on that fact?"

      I have a few questions.
      – Do you really believe in hell? Or are you trying to hedge your bets? The way you phrased it, it sounds like the latter. And if it is, I doubt an all-knowing being would be fooled by it. Do you expect to avoid hell?

      – Do you find it reasonable for an all-loving being to create a torture chamber in which he tortures billions of his creations for the minutest of infractions? Is such a creature worthy of worship?

      – Do you expect a non-believer to be swayed by something he/she doesn't believe in? Given the above questions, would you not expect the non-believer to gladly accept hell if forced to make a choice (because, after all, what is the difference, right)?

      April 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Madtown

      face the possibility of eternity in hell
      I wouldn't worry about this. I personally don't believe in hell. I don't believe a loving and just God would banish his creations to torment for "eternity" for a finite "sin". And, if non-belief, or questioning belief, is a "sin", then it's a sin that God intended us to commit, as to do so only means we're using the rational minds God gave us to think, ponder, and make decisions. If you use your mind to inquire and analyze, rather than just accept statements made by others, then you are using the gifts God gave you! This could not be a sin. And again, why "eternity"? The sin of nonbelief can only be committed for what, 50 or so years? How does that qualify as deserving eternal penalty? Just isn't logical. All this being said, I personally believe in God, just not all the man-made tenants/traditions of religion.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
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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.