Which Jesus

This is an old post adopted from M.M Mangasarian’s book The truth about Jesus: Is he myth and I think given that some Christians will soon be wailing that their lawd has been crucified, I thought this would be good entertainment for those who find the narrative wanting in accuracy and significance..

Mangasarian has this running as a conversation between the apostles and a skeptic.

We ask

How long have you known Jesus?

I have known him for one year.

And I for two.

And I for three.

Has any of you known him for more than three years?


Was he with his apostles for one year or for three?

For one.

No, for three.

You are not certain, then, how long Jesus was with his apostles.


How old was Jesus when crucified?

About thirty-one.

No, about thirty-three.

No, he was much older, about fifty.

You cannot tell with any certainty, then, his age at the time of his death.


You say he was tried and crucified in Jerusalem before your own eyes, can you remember the date of this great event?

We cannot.

Were you present when Jesus was taken down from the cross?

We were not.

You cannot tell, then, whether he was dead when taken down.

We have no personal knowledge.

Were you present when he was buried?

We were not, because we were in hiding for our lives.

You do not know, therefore, whether he was actually buried, or where he was buried.

We do not.

Were any of you present when Jesus came forth from the grave?

Not one of us was present,

Then, you were not with him when he was taken down from the cross; you were not with him when he was interred, and you were not present when he rose from the grave.

We were not.

When, therefore, you say, he was dead, buried and rose again, you are relying upon the testimony of others?

We are.

Will you mention the names of some of the witnesses who saw Jesus come forth from the tomb?

Mary Magdalene, and she is here and may be questioned.

Were you present, Mary, when the angels rolled away the stone, and when Jesus came forth from the dead?

No, when I reached the burying place early in the morning, the grave had already been vacated, and there was no one sleeping in it.

You saw him, then, as the apostles did, _after_ he had risen?


But you did not see anybody rise out of the grave.

I did not.

Are there any witnesses who saw the resurrection?

There are many who saw him after the resurrection.

But if neither they nor you saw him dead, and buried, and did not see him rise, either, how can you tell that a most astounding and supposedly impossible miracle had taken place between the time you saw him last and when you saw him again two or three days after? Is it not more natural to suppose that, being in a hurry on account of the approaching Sabbath, Jesus, if ever crucified, was taken down from the cross before he had really died, and that he was not buried, as rumor states, but remained in hiding; and his showing himself to you under cover of darkness and in secluded spots and in the dead of night only, would seem to confirm this explanation. You admit also that the risen Jesus did not present himself at the synagogues of the people, in the public streets, or at the palace of the High Priest to convince them of his Messiahship.

Do you not think that if he had done this, it would then have been impossible to deny his resurrection? Why, then, did Jesus hide himself after he came out of the grave? Why did he not show himself also to his enemies? Was he still afraid of them, or did he not care whether they believed or not? If so, why are _you_ trying to convert them? The question waits for a reasonable answer; Why did not Jesus challenge the whole world with the evidence of his resurrection? You say you saw him occasionally, a few moments at a time, now here, and now there, and finally on the top of a mountain whence he was caught up in a cloud and disappeared altogether. But that “cloud” has melted away, the sky is clear, and there is no Jesus visible there. The cloud, then, had nothing to hide. It was unnecessary to call in a cloud to close the career of your Christ.The grave is empty, the cloud has vanished. Where is Christ? In heaven! Ah, you have at last removed him to a world unknown, to the undiscovered country. Leave him there! Criticism, doubt, investigation, the light of day, cannot cross its shores. Leave him there!

Mencken: Quotes

You will have to forgive me for posting long quotes from Mencken. I think most of you would agree with him in the quotes below.

The whole life of the inferior man, including especially his so called thinking, is purely a biochemical process, and exactly comparable to what goes on in a barrel of cider, yet he knows no more about its chemistry than a cow and no more about biology than its calf.

He is more ignorant of elementary anatomy and physiology than the Egyptian quacks of 4000BC. His knowledge of astronomy is confined to a few marvels, most of which he secretly doubts. He has never so much as heard of ethnology, pathology or embryology. Greek, to him, is only a jargon spoken by bootblacks, and Wagner is a retired baseball player. He has never heard of Euripides, of Hippocrates, of Aristotle, or of Plato. Or of Vesalius, Newton and Roger Bacon, The fine arts are complete blanks to him, He doesn’t know what a Doric column is, or an etching, or a fugue. He is as ignorant of sonnets and the Gothic style as he is of ecclesiastical politics in Abyssinia. Homer, Virgil, Cervantes, Bach, Raphael, Rubens, Beethoven – all such colossal names are empty sounds to him, blowing idly down the wind. So far as he is concerned these great and noble men might as well have perished in the cradle. The stupendous beauties that they conjured into being are nothing to him: he sticks to the tabloids and the movies, with Hot Dog or its like for Sunday afternoon, A politician by instinct and a statesman by divine right, he has never heard of ‘The Republic* or ‘Leviathan/ A Feinschmecker of pornography, he is unaware of Freud.

In the same book, writing on Christianity he says

Do I forget his central virtue – at least in Christendom? Do I forget his simple piety, his touching fidelity to the faith? I forget nothing: I simply answer, What faith? Is it argued by any rational man that the debased Christianity cherished by the mob in all the Christian countries of to-day has any colourable likeness to the body of ideas preached by Christ? If so, then let us have a better teaching of the Bible in the schools. The plain fact is that this bogus Christianity has no more relation to the system of Christ than it has to the system of Aristotle. It is the invention of Paul and his attendant rabble-rousers – a body of men exactly comparable to the corps of evangelical pastors of to-day, which is to say, a body devoid of sense and lamentably indifferent to common honesty. The mob, having heard Christ, turned against Him, and applauded His crucifixion. His theological ideas were too logical and too plausible for it, and his ethical ideas were enormously too austere. What it yearned for was the old comfortable balderdash under a new and gaudy name, and that is precisely what Paul offered it. He borrowed from all the wandering dervishes and soul-snatchers of Asia Minor, and flavoured the stew with remnants of the Greek demonology. The result was a code of doctrines so discordant and so nonsensical that no two men since, examining it at length, have ever agreed upon its precise meaning. But Paul knew his mob: he had been a travelling labour leader. He knew that nonsense was its natural provender – that the unintelligible soothed it like sweet music. He was the Stammvater of all the Christian mobmasters of to-day, terrorizing and enchanting the mob with their insane damnations, eating their seven fried chickens a week, passing the diligent plate, busy among the women.

Men vs the man

In his last letter to La Monte, on the question of Socialism against Individualism, he writes

I am not a religious man, but I cannot think upon my own good fortune in life without a feeling that my thanks should go forth, somewhere and to someone. Wealth and eminence and power are beyond my poor strength and skill but on the side of sheer chance I am favoured beyond all computation. My day’s work is not an affliction but a pleasure; my labour selling in the open market, brings me the comforts that I desire; I am assured against all but a remote danger of starvation in my old age. Outside my window, in the street, a man labours in the rain with pick and shovel, and his reward is merely a roof for to-night and tomorrow’s three meals. Contemplating the difference between his luck and mine, I cannot fail to wonder at the eternal meaninglessness of life. I wonder thus and pity his lot, and then, after a while, perhaps, I begin to reflect that in many ways he is probably luckier than I.

But I wouldn’t change places with him.

The series of letters between La Monte and Mencken are quite interesting and both sides are persuasive. For a brief moment, La Monte almost persuaded me to socialism, but I think at the end, I have to agree with Mencken that socialism attempts to fight the laws of nature.

The charge of racism on Mencken, I think is justified. His view of the Aframerican, the Russian peasant and Jew doesn’t leave any doubts as to his low opinion of them.

In general, it is a good read.

On gorillas

A gorilla, true enough, cannot write poetry, and neither can it grasp such a concept as that of americanization or that of relativity, but is fully equal to all of thinking that a subway guard, a bass drummer, or a chiropractor has to do, and if it could only speak English it could be made into a competent conductor or congressman in thirty days.
H L Mencken

atheists are no fun to talk to

You have met Seth in atheism and burden of proof a post in response to his. He is back again killing the already dead horse, this time though he writes atheists are not fun to have conversations with. This surprised me a bit. The atheists I know both offline and online are good conversationalists. So I read his post further and what he is saying in summary is, I don’t like your definition of atheism. I am going to create my own and we can have a debate.

Atheism has always been defined as a lack of belief but Seth wants it to read there are no gods so he can sit back and ask the atheist to give evidence there are no gods. Seth is frustrated because he wants atheism to mean more than what it is. This is a frustration I can’t cure.

Atheism isn’t a worldview, in the same way being a non football fan isn’t a worldview. Atheism only tells you one thing about me, my lack of belief in deities. You cannot know my other beliefs from my disbelief. It tells you nothing about what my choice of ice cream is. Nada. Nothing. And if this makes me a hard conversationalist, I think the problem is with your lack of imagination and not mine.

Naturalism is a worldview. Many naturalists, if not all, I guess are atheists but the two don’t necessarily follow. A discussion on atheism is not a discussion on naturalism. Throwing tantrums will not make is so.

Seth goes further to create a false dilemma that exists only in his mind. He writes

 If one doesn’t have such a worldview, I would say they are either a) too young/inexperienced to have made up their mind yet, b) too complacent to apply their mind to interpret and analyze the evidence of the universe, or c) too cowardly to commit to a definitive interpretation of the truth.  Children ask endless questions; adults should be able to provide at least a few clear answers — and back them up with evidence.

It is true there are many people who think all these are unnecessary and live very fulfilled lives.

He finishes his post by writing

This community has a value for discussing ideas; it has little value for discussing non-ideas.

which I think he meant only those ideas that he agrees with.

on hate

On Violet’s blog, there are theists who are busy pointing to each how wrong they are. And then there is that one theist who insisted le Ark is full of hate. Mencken has something on this that I find quite interesting. He writes

No combat set in this world ever grows more furious and extravagant than a combat between Christians. They seem to have a special talent for hatred, almost a vocation. Perhaps the fact that their creed denounces it specifically and is mainly concerned with putting it down- perhaps this fact has its significance for practitioners of the Freudian necromancy.

[..]In the course of them many a false-face and bed sheet is pulled off and many a fraud is burnt by the pitiless sun. It is a salubrious sport and diverting. Of it, one may say what one may say of all other varieties of war; that the offensive is more charming than the defensive. Neither side is very impressive when it bawls against the libels of the other. But both are thrilling when they lay on.

are we born with a tendency to believe in god?

A few days ago I read and commented on a post, which I haven’t been able to retrace, where the author is making a claim that we have in us what Plantinga calls a sensus divinitatis, that is, we are born with a yearning for god. My attempts to explain this is not the case fell on what I can only describe as concrete walls. We meet people who have never had a belief in god and most if not all who eventually became believers were spoon fed religion from the cradle to the college lecture room.

The believer who insists we are born with a desire to believe in a god, but mostly his god, should be open to accepting that their god does a poor job and ensuring this belief is kept throughout the person’s life.

If I am to make any concessions, we are generally inclined to see agency in things. And for the untrained mind, the religious mind, or better put, the child and the idiot never grows out of this. To such a person when she or he meets with a long-lost ex boyfriend or girlfriend, god is telling them something.

We live in a pitiless and indifferent universe that we do ourselves little or no justice to believe in such hocus pocus. I have abandoned any hopes I had that the masses could be persuaded to think. I have stopped hoping that I will reach the masses. They are more concerned about a future life that thinking is tiresome and painful for a great number of them.

got a question

it is a hot day in Nairobi, the temperatures are highs of 28 deg C. In the sweltering heat, a question occurred to me, it was a subject in the mind of the ancients. The question

is friendship possible between the sexes without sex?

Oscar Wilde wrote

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.