I’m always prattling on about how, if presented with actual evidence and logical arguments, I would change my mind and convert to whatever religious belief system provided that compelling evidence. That’s why I feel like I ought to examine carefully the supposed compelling evidence put forward by theists, at least from time to time. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this page in About.com’s Christianity section purporting to give “7 Proofs Of The Resurrection: Evidence the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Happened.” If Jesus was actually resurrected as the Bible describes, that wouldn’t on its own be proof that every aspect of Christianity is true, but it would go a very long way toward making it look believable. So, it seems as good a time as any for me to check: should I convert to Christianity?
Let’s go through each of the seven proofs this article lays out, and see if they meet reasonable evidentiary and logical standards. It’s important to remember that they are each presented as proofs — not as bits of evidence that add up to a most likely conclusion, but as seven separate and complete proofs — so I think the standards I apply are more than fair. After that, I’ll touch on a few of the things that are mentioned offhand in the intro to the article and linked but are not listed as key points.
The Resurrection Proof #1: The Empty Tomb of Jesus
Wait, what? How is this evidence? The only reason anyone thinks Jesus’ tomb was empty is because the Bible says so. Obviously if you believe the Bible is true, you would believe that Jesus was resurrected. But in order to prove that the accounts of the Bible actually happened, you would need to cite something other than the Bible itself. Especially if you’re going to write things like, “Angels said Jesus had risen from the dead.”
The Resurrection Proof #2: The Holy Women Eyewitnesses
Again, we’re simply citing something from the Bible as evidence that the Bible is a reliable source. Here, at least, the argument is slightly more nuanced: why refer to female witnesses at a time when women were seen as inferior and couldn’t even offer their testimony in court? Well, I’m not sure. But “This would have been stupid unless they had a good reason, so they must have had a good reason” totally ignores the “it was stupid” option. It’s maybe a hint or a suggestion, but it’s a far cry from proof.
The Resurrection Proof #3: Jesus’ Apostles’ New-Found Courage
I agree that, at various points in history, people have felt extremely strongly about their belief in Christianity. People have also felt very strongly about their belief in Islam, their belief in Judaism, or their belief in Hinduism. Clearly, someone holding a belief strongly is not evidence that their belief is true, as Matt Dillahunty articulately explains in this video with a cute analogy. There are so many other ways I could refute this idea, but that’s sufficient so I’ll leave it there.
The Resurrection Proof #4: Changed Lives of James and Others
Belief in Christianity has changed many people’s lives. Belief in Islam has also changed many people’s lives. Becoming an atheist, for that matter, changes people’s lives. The fact that people’s beliefs are related to the events of their lives (in whatever direction, probably both) should not come as a surprise. This can’t be proof of the veracity of one set of beliefs without being proof of them all — so by (a metric ton of) contradiction, it fails. Not a proof of anything.
The Resurrection Proof #5: Large Crowd of Eyewitnesses
Yet again, citing many verses in the Bible as proof that the Biblical account is correct. We get it, guys, the text of the Bible supports belief in Christianity! No one is surprised by this, and it isn’t actual evidence for belief. Here is my favorite part, though it is utterly beside the point: “The hallucination theory is further debunked because after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, sightings of him stopped.” Could use some background research … maybe start here and read on down the page?
The Resurrection Proof #6: Conversion of Paul
Ah, yes. Because no one else has ever gone from feeling strongly about one set of religious beliefs to feeling strongly about a different set of beliefs unless they were converts to Christianity. Especially not when “hardships” might result from such a change. Look: given that you wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) accept it as proof of Islam, Judaism, or atheism, don’t offer it as a proof of Christianity.
The Resurrection Proof #7: They Died for Jesus
I wish I were making this up. But the article actually says, “Countless people have died for Jesus, absolutely certain that the resurrection of Christ is an historical fact.” (Eurgh. They even said “an historical.”) It seems to acknowledge that this is not unique to Christianity and therefore not good evidence — see above — going on to say, “An isolated group may give up their lives for a cult leader, but Christian martyrs have died in many lands, for nearly 2,000 years, believing Jesus conquered death to give them eternal life.” Yet again, asserting, “This would be amazingly stupid without a good reason” is not the same thing as proving a good reason exists. Without any actual evidence, I’m forced to conclude that it’s much more likely Christian martyrdom is an amazingly stupid — and amazingly tragic — phenomenon.
Some final remarks
I would be remiss not to point out that the article also opens with assertions that archaeology has repeatedly verified the historicity of the Bible, and that the Gospels and the book of Acts are all “eyewitness accounts of the life and death of Jesus.” It also points to Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the Sanhedrin as sources which verify Jesus existed. These are warranted by hyperlinks to other ridiculous articles, so I’m going to refute them with the hyperlinks I’ve added to this paragraph — no further discussion needed. (Well, I will say that the Sanhedrin-linked site talks about differences between the Talmud and the New Testament but, shall we say, does not share my point of view.) Of course, even if the Bible was written by contemporaries of a guy named Jesus (or, Yeshua) who really did make all the claims the Bible says he did — it doesn’t prove the Bible accurate; see that Atheist Experience video again.
At the end of the day, this is just sad. I almost feel mean posting this, honestly. But I also feel mean asking for evidence in my blog posts and elsewhere and relatively rarely wrangling with the evidence that’s supposed to be out there. As always, if you have some better evidence — for Christianity or any other supernatural belief — that you would like me to look into, I’ll be happy to do so. I genuinely want to be informed enough to change my mind if my current views are incorrect. If this kind of garbage is the best you’ve got, though … I definitely remain unconvinced.