Thursday, February 4, 2016

Christian Apologists Fail at History.

So Inspiring Philosophy is making a video series detailing his case for the historical resurrection of Jesus (link).  Being true to form, pretty much everything he says is categorically wrong.  Consequently, any specific point-by-point analysis would simply take forever and waste everyone's time.  That's why instead, I'm just going to cut to the heart of the matter and talk about the fundamental philosophical failing of this entire argument.

To begin, when apologists like Inspiring Philosophy talk about "evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus, it's important to be absolutely clear about what that means.  In short, the sum total of all evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ has only ever been the written accounts contained within the New Testament - literally, the pure, unfettered say-so of human authors.  

That's it.  

Now ordinarily, that isn't necessarily such a bad thing thing.  After all, a lot of our historical knowledge definitely comes from basic human narratives.  However, there are standards you have to follow when evaluating the reliability of various written accounts.  Some documents meet those standards very rigorously, and are therefore objectively reliable in their historicity.  Other documents, like the Biblical gospels, completely fail to meet these standards at every opportunity; copies of copies (of copies!) of anonymous, secondhand accounts, written decades after the fact, translated through multiple language barriers, riddled with known corruptions, contradictions, and plagiarisms, then culminating with fantastic descriptions of physically impossible events.  That is the level of evidence Christian apologists would have you believe when evaluating historical claims

So before the argument has even begun, the case for the resurrection of Jesus is already completely sunk.  The canonical gospels are not reliable historical accounts, and nothing they claim can be taken at face value.  Yet despite these glaring failures, Christian apologists would still have you believe that these accounts are perfectly representative of reality - as if, God-forbid, that no human narrative could ever possibly record events that didn't really happen.  

But hey, you know what?  Fine.  Let's play their game.  If Christians want to trust in human testimony so badly, then let's look at some other human testimonies, shall we?  For example, consider this [link]:

This is called the Joseph Smith History.  I defy you, Inspiring Philosophy, and all your little fanboys, to read this document in full detail.  Then, when you finish, come back and tell me how reliable human testimony really is.  Because I can tell you right now, everything about this document is objectively more historically reliable than the Biblical narratives.  For instance:
  1. We actually have the original manuscripts.  Not copies of copies of copies - the true, honest-to-goodness originals in their original ink.  You cannot say that about the gospels.  
  2. The author is not anonymous, but has in fact signed and dated his own signature on the original manuscripts.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
  3. The original manuscripts are written in English, and have not been translated through any languages.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
  4. The manuscripts are genuine first-hand accounts.  The author is not merely relaying events to us from someone else's point of view, but is, in fact, writing his own autobiography.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
Now please, do tell us, Mr. "Inspiring" Philosophy.  How trustworthy is human testimony?  Do you honestly believe Joseph Smith when he claims to have been visited, in literal person, by God, the Father and Jesus Christ?  Do you believe his testimony that both God and Jesus told Joseph to restore the true gospel as recorded in the Golden Plates of Nephi?  Do you trust him when he claims to have been visited, on numerous occasions, by angels?  It's all first-hand testimony, guys, written down in black and white.  Why would he make this stuff up?  Is Joseph Smith a prophet, a liar, or a lunatic?

But wait, there's more!  You don't have to just take Joseph Smith's word for it.  Listen to the Testimony of the ThreeWitnesses: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.  Again, firsthand, eyewitness testimony, all signed and dated.  All three of these guys swear, in writing, that they personally handled the Golden plates of Nephi, and that a no-shit angel even visited them to prove its authenticity. 

What's the matter?  Don't you trust human eyewitness testimony?

Or better yet.  Don't just believe those guys.  There are eightmore eyewitness accounts, signed and dated, all testifying to the existence of the Golden plates of Nephi. 

Okay, maybe you think think Joseph Smith was a liar; a liar who somehow cleverly fooled everyone around him into giving up their homes and their livelihoods to migrate west.  Then why, pray tell, would he rather die at the hands of an angry mob, than simply recant his testimony?

That's right, Champ.  Joseph Smith was literally martyred.  Look it up.  Does that sound like the actions of a liar to you?  Why would someone cling to a lie, even if it meant his own death? 

Sound familiar at all?  Am I ringing any bells, yet?

And it doesn't just end there. Thanks to Joseph Smith and his descendants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is now a global organization that boasts well over 15 million members.  You can even ask them in person, and plenty of them will be more than happy to share their own, personal testimonies on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, as revealed by the direct personal witness of the Holy Spirit.  

Remember now, guys.  You're the ones who think eyewitness testimony is a viable standard of evidence.  So please, do tell us, how exactly is the Bible a reliable, historical narrative, yet not the Joseph Smith History or the Book of Mormon?  There does not exist a single argument you can offer against the truth of their claims that does not also apply equally well against your own.  Either
  1. Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  Or
  2. He was not. 
Take your pick, guys!  This is a perfect logical dichotomy you cannot win.  If your answer is (1), then you immediately admit that Mormonism is the correct religion, and your own faith is invalid.  But since that's obviously not an option with you people, your only other claim is necessarily (2); that sometimes, gee whiz, people can, for whatever reasons, actually write fantastic things down on paper that didn't really happen in real life. 

Wow!  Who'd a thunk?  People can actually record things that didn't really happen?  What is this sorcery?

What's more, you further concede that those same works of fiction can actually be so compelling as to convince many thousands of people to abandon their homes and migrate hundreds of miles, even in the face of violent opposition from the state.  You admit that this same fiction can even sprout into a full-fledged religious ideology, complete with several tens of millions of members only a few hundred years later.  You further admit that these same organizations can even willfully sanitize their own history, effectively downplaying the less appealing events from their past, while simultaneously embellishing the more positive, even to the point of rewriting other historical events which preceded their arrival.  Finally, you must likewise concede that this is apparently a perfectly common phenomenon, as given by the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar religious sects have all followed very similar trends across human history.  

Well, guess what?  You now just admitted that your entire case for the resurrection of Jesus is utterly vapid.  A bunch of people claim on paper that Jesus rose from the dead, and you're stupidly gullible enough to take them completely at their word.  That's your entire resurrection case in a nutshell.

Thank you for listening.