The Easter myth

In my list of people occupying the lowest rank in society, the so called scum of society, I have politicians, police and pastors. I find pastors with access to the internet the worst type of persons. They are likely to have read volumes of tracts showing the impossibility of the bible narratives but still spread them as truth, gospel truths.

Pastor James Miller in his recent post has decided to convince his followers and anyone who happens on his site that the story of Jesus is factual.

He starts by telling us

Years ago I made an intentional exploration of the question of whether or not God was real.  I made a point of studying everything I could about it.  I read the holy books of many different religions with only one question in mind – could any of this be true?

and it is only fair for us to ask what were his findings.

Without giving us an answer for the above story, he moves on to write

One of the tests scholars may use to evaluate the validity of a historical claim is called “the criterion of embarrassment.” They say that if a story from history is embarrassing to the author or to the hero of the story, it is probably true.

and I guess you know where this is going.

I will not venture to quote the rest of his balderdash but I would like to offer a counter explanation. One, if the story of Jesus was meant to fulfill prophesy as the christian claims, then descriptions of a humble background are not embarrassing but actually buttress the story they are spreading. Lookie, he was a humble prince, he is the son of god, you know the nonsense.

In the case of Jesus narrative, we can safely say he doesn’t know what is being written about him. He has no room to be embarrassed.

It is also untrue that the criterion of embarrassment is always true. Reading about the saints, one gets the feeling that they took pride in some things that most of us would be ashamed to accept in public. There are instances you read of saints who didn’t shower or other things that a modern day pastor would be embarrassed to write about themselves.

In the discussions with the religious leaders of the time, Jesus is said to awe them with his wit, from a young age. In what parallel world would this be embarrassing to someone’s hero.

The christian cannot say the hanging on a cross is embarrassing to their hero. Did they want it written he was killed by the firing squad? Or killed by the guillotine as they used to do in France? The cross instead of embarrassing their hero or them, actually gives them a lot of pride. They like it, wear them everywhere. They claim it is a sign of great sacrifice, they would not want it any other way.

That women were the first at the tomb, instead of being embarrassing is to be seen as a welcome message to women that they too can be leaders and members of the church. There is nothing in Jesus story that can be interpreted as embarrassing to the authors of the story or to the hero of the story. It fits smugly with what they wanted to achieve. They wanted a humble, ass riding, virgin born, cross dying king and that is what they bequeathed the world. To think otherwise, is as my friend would say, to be full of shit.

I contend therefore that the criterion of embarrassment doesn’t in anyway lend support to the Jesus story and in fact destroys it.

in defense of determinism

In this post, the author and a few of those who have commented blame Dawkins and Krauss of having a banal view of freedom. Maybe at the end of my post, I will be in the same box with them, except without the fame and publicity.

I can’t tell whether the post is a critique of determinism or science as a method. The author is all over the place. If the critique is about science as a method, we can safely say we have no method of acquiring knowledge. Revelation is unreliable and unnecessary if the facts it reveals are such that we can arrive at through other modes. Tarot sticks/ cards or whatever have not given us any reliable knowledge about ourselves or the universe. Science remains the only means we have to acquiring knowledge.

It is to be readily admitted there are many things about us not yet answered but am certain no amount of prayer will show why I like vanilla ice-cream. Neither do I expect to get revelation on why sex is good.

But if the post is a critique of determinism, I can say without fear that the author has not even scratched the surface of the problem. Further, I should be  forgiven for saying the author is ignorant of the issue at hand and by going after Dawkins and Krauss, he is venturing into adult talk where he isn’t qualified to speak.

But I digress. The debate on freewill and determinism is to me one of misunderstanding and especially from the freewill proponent. They want to use words freely to mean what they want.

And at the heart of the problem is what is the meaning of freewill and determinism. In Determinism and freewill, C Chapman writes determinism asserts

human nature is part and parcel of nature as a whole, and bears to it the same relation that a part does to the whole.

This means if the law of causation applies universally in the universe, it must apply to human nature. And even if we allow that biological laws are a different set, they are not contradictory to, but additional to other laws of nature.

Going back again to Chapman, he says of the freewill believer

does not on his part deny the influence on the human organism of those forces on which the Determinist lays stress. What he denies is that any of them singly, or all of them collectively, can ever furnish an adequate and exhaustive account of human action. He affirms that after analysis has done its utmost there remains an unexplained residuum beyond the reach of the instruments or the methods of positive science. He denies that conduct–even theoretically–admits of explanation and prediction in the same way that explanation and prediction apply to natural phenomena as a whole.

What about choice someone may ask?. While I admit to not having provided an adequate answer, I think Chapman does a good job at it. He writes

Choice, then, is a phenomenon of consciousness, and it implies a recognition of alternatives. But a recognition of alternatives does not by any means imply that either of two are equally eligible. It is merely a consciousness of the fact that they exist, and that either might be selected were circumstances favourable to its selection. Without labouring the point we may safely say that all that is given in the fact of choice is the consciousness of a choice. There is nothing in it that tells us of the conditions of the selection, or whether it was possible for the agent to have chosen differently or not.

So that when our author quotes Dawkins saying

I have a materialist view of the world, I think that things are determinied in a rational way by antecendent events.

I can’t for the life of me see what he finds wrong with the statement. One Dawkins is saying he has, not the world is and the question for the author is to show that Dawkins is wrong which I haven’t seen him do.

When Marvin writes in his comment in the post

And if we are free to make that choice for ourselves and are not forced by someone else to act against our will, then it is a choice and an act of our own free will.

and I will hasten to say he doesn’t understand the problem. When I say we are not free, I don’t say there is a person compelling you to do anything. No, not all. It only means at any given time our will is determined by previous events and our environment. That it is no way ever free from such influences. To show that my understanding is wrong, all one needs to do is to give an example of a situation when we are free from outside/ external influence.

As I have said before and I will say it now, I am open to persuasion. I would like the thorough going freewill believer to explain what they mean by freewill in a way that is clear and give examples where such a thing as described actually occurs in human affairs and I will readily consider my position on determinism.