Unbelievable? Chapter 9

Living the Christian story

In this final chapter, Justin argues that for one to understand Christianity, they should necessarily become Christian. Sought of the argument that you need to believe first then it will become clear, not I want it to be clear than I can believe.

He says he asked some atheists to pray for 40 days because they lose nothing anyway by trying. It should be noted that none of those who took part in the experiment saw the light. The two he claims came to god, he clarifies did so or were already on the way to religion even before the experiment began and as such don’t count.

He makes a case for divine hiddenness, arguing that maybe god really want us to search for him. He is not interested in making the search easy. God, who is all powerful and all, is interested in you loving and trusting in him. If he were to come again and smote the city of Paris with an earthquake like he did to Gomorrah, you will not believe him. This is poppycock!

Unbelievable? Chapter 6

Facts that only fit the resurrection.

If you have been reading apologetics, you have heard of the minimal facts argument for the resurrection advanced by Licona and Habermas. These facts are

  1. that jesus died by crucifixion
  2. there was an empty tomb
  3. people reported meeting the risen Jesus (Paul has 500 of them. And I just want to know the names of two of these people)
  4. conversion of skeptics
  5. the growth of the christian church

It’s interesting to note here that this was a tactical change in approach by the Christian apologists. When it was no longer tenable to demonstrate the existence of Jesus, they felt if an argument can be made for the death and resurrection, then it follows that for a person to die, he must have lived.

We know that before the edicts making Christianity the religion of the empire, it existed as an underground cult. And two, growth of a religion does not attest to the truth of its claims. The skeptics referred to here are Paul and James the brother of Jesus. Paul tells us he was a persecutor of the Jesus sect. Paul tells us he is the foremost evangelist. I have seen many of this type. May the real Paul stand up!

It is curious that Jesus after resurrecting, chose to appear to 500 anonymous people who only Paul knows but never once do we hear he was seen by the skeptics in the town or even paying a courtesy call to Pilate just for laughs. All who saw him were his followers. I could concede that he didn’t want to be crucified a second time, but this just doesn’t sell.

Here, and here are interesting reads on the resurrection. Thomas Pain also said something about the resurrection.

Walter Cassels again

[..]The actual occurrence of the Resurrection and ascension, however, is certainly a matter of evidence and, to retort, it is scarcely decent that any man should be required to believe what is so opposed to human experience, upon more imperfect evidence than is required for the transfer of land or the right to a title, simply because ecclesiastical dogmas are founded upon them, and it is represented that unless they be true our hope is vain.

[..] Proportionately, it should be as unparalleled in its force as those events are in fact.

I am an African and I am deeply insulted by this.

While reading the Unbelievable? by Justin, there was a reference to an article by Matthew Parris that appeared in the London Times of 27th December, 2008 titled as As_an_atheist_I_truly_believe_Africa_needs_God–Matthew_Parris(pdf). The colonisers when they first came to Africa felt the African needed to be civilized. They called it the white man’s burden. The first anthropologists wrote back home to say the African has no religion. Reason was made to belong to the whites and the African was a creature of emotion and it is this same source that this piece by Matthew grows.

He tells us

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

yeah. Africa does not need fair trade. It needs more religion. The same Christianity that smoothed the way for colonialism. If you needed the goodies, you became a Christian. In many African countries, the children of the chiefs were the first to join the missionaries. These became, with independence, the rulers. That Africa is where it is can be traced to these leaders who were first taught only basic education, again because the African was not a person of reason.

In Europe, the state is being pushed to provide healthcare because people are paying taxes. In Africa, we pay taxes and instead we should welcome more missionaries. So to Matthew, government action should not be demanded because the missionaries are already healing people. I am reminded that every time I see a place with more churches per capita than schools, there you will find dysfunction.

He says of his friends and missionaries he met

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work were unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

which would imply that had they not been Christian, they would be dishonest, lazy and pessimistic. What does this say of him? Or of other secularists and Muslims and Hindoos, heck and voo dooists?

To him, the African is tribal. He writes

I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe.

but the European is just a member of the white race or a tribeless individual. The white man is just that. White! But the African he is tribal.

He tells us

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought.

because the Christian does not have hell anxieties? Or temptation by the devil and evil spirit. Only the rural African is daunted by such thoughts. I am amazed at how many disciples Hegel has even without knowing it. To Matthew, the rural African lacks initiative. He just exists. He is not curious. And only the Christian missionary can arouse this curiosity. How novel!

He wrote

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and insubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

In short, the rural African without Christianity is enslaved. He is only subject to group-think. There is no individuality. This, according to Matthew, is only possible for the white man and his Christian religion.

He concludes

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

and adds

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Which implies that Africa does not fair trade, fair intellectual property agreements, technology transfer. Nothing. Just good old Christianity.

First, I wonder, with Okot p’Bitek

How could a religion that has little practical value and also seems in some ways to encourage asceticism provide a philosophy of life for living in the African world?

And secondly, Christianity & Islam already violently supplanted traditional African systems of belief and practice that had served the continent for hundreds of years before the christian missionary dreamed of African travel leaving the African confused and lost; not white, not black. He has a Sunday religion but nothing else. To Matthew, he needs no religion but with a condescending attitude things this what Africa needs. I am tired of these Hegelian disciples who can always find news ways to show their racism.

I am African and I am pissed off!

Unbelievable? Chapter 5

also titled will the real Jesus stand up.

Justin tells us those who are Jesus skeptics are in the extremist camp of the non-religious. I think this makes me an extremist. I am going ahead of myself.

When I read this quote below, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Laugh. Cry. Bang my head against a wall. Then I remembered what Nietzsche wrote in Thus spake Zarathustra about other gods laughing to their death when one of the gods said there is no god but god. Justin writes

From its inception, Christianity has been a public religion making claims that could be held to historical scrutiny in the place it was birthed. That’s not true of other religions. The precepts of Buddhism originated in the mind of Buddha alone. The ancient writings of Hinduism derive from mystical teachings that are not located in a historical framework. Islam is constituted by the teaching and stories of the Quran as related to Muhammad in a private angelic visitation.

I think irony is lost to Justin on the similarities that exist between what he says of other religions and his religion. How for example can the claim of a virgin birth be scrutinized? Do we have any other extant material apart from the claims of the bible about this birth? In fact, how can miracles be proved historically? Say for example the story of Jonah eating a fish or is it riding a fish? The claims of Paul- the foremost Christian evangelist if he existed- came from his mind alone. The stories such as those of the OT where we have giants having intercourse with the daughters of men are mystical teachings, but to Justin, only other religions have these. Christianity is all evidence based.

Justin then tells us that the death of Jesus has a greater attestation that Caesar crossing the Rubicon. First, even if that were the case, no one is going to hell for doubting the crossing the Rubicon. If Christianity were true, its claims would require more stringent attestations because people’s future eternal lives depend on it. The argument that other historical figures are not doubted as much as Jesus is not an argument in favour of Christianity. Any reasonable person would demand that god, if it were real, would present a much better case for us to believe.

Justin tells us the gospels are evidence for the life of Jesus. Some scholars having looked at the stories in the gospels have concluded the Jesus of the gospels did not exist and have created their own Jesus. We have Jesus the Zealot, the guru, the husband and many more. Is the bible and the gospels specifically a work of history or a miraculous work brought into being by the actions of deity? Did the biographers write what they saw, or what were they inspired to write?

Justin writes we should read the bible differently that we do other historical documents.

In his book, the quest for historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer writes

The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration never had any existence. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb.

but Bruno Bauer said it best when he wrote

The formation of the church and the arising of the idea that the Jesus of the Gospels is the messiah are not two different things, they are one and the same thing, they coincide and synchronize; but the idea was only the imaginative conception of the church, the first movement of its life, the religious expression of its experience.

The question which has so much exercised the minds of men-whether Jesus was the historic Christ- is answered in the sense that everything that the historical Christ is, everything that is said of him, everything that is known of him, belongs to the world of imagination, that is, of the imagination of the Christian community, and therefore has nothing to do with any man who belongs to the real world.

Maybe Justin should read Renan’s life of Jesus or Spencer’s but most of all, I recommend as a good place to being, Walter R Cassels’ Supernatural religion.

J’accuse

In the final chapter of the Antichrist, Nietzsche proclaims his final accusation against Christianity. It is beautiful in its prose. And quite damning

With this I am at the end and I pronounce my judgment. I condemn Christianity. I raise against the Christian church the most terrible of all accusations that any accuser ever uttered. It is to me the highest of all conceivable corruptions. It has had the will to the last corruption that is even possible. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its corruption; it has turned every value into an un-value, every truth into a lie, every integrity into a vileness of the soul. Let anyone dare to speak to me of its “humanitarian” blessings! To abolish any distress ran counter to its deepest advantages: it lived on distress, it created distress to eternalize itself.
The worm of sin, for example: with this distress the church first enriched mankind. The “equality of souls before God,” this falsehood, this pretext for the rancor of all the base-minded, this explosive of a concept which eventually became revolution, modern idea, and the principle of decline of the whole order of society— is Christian dynamite. “Humanitarian” blessings of Christianity! To breed out of humanitas a self-contradiction, an art of self-violation, a will to lie at any price, a repugnance, a contempt for all good and honest instincts! Those are some of the blessings of Christianity!
Parasitism as the only practice of the church; with its ideal of anemia, of “holiness,” draining all blood, all love, all hope for life; the beyond as the will to negate every reality; the cross as the mark of recognition for the most subterranean conspiracy that ever existed against health, beauty, whatever has turned out well, courage, spirit, graciousness of the soul, against life itself.
This eternal indictment of Christianity I will write on all walls, wherever there are walls—I have letters to make even the blind see.
I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great innermost corruption, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means is poisonous, stealthy, subterranean, small enough—I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.
And time is reckoned from the dies nefastus with which this calamity began—after the first day of Christianity! Why not rather after its last day? After today? Revaluation of all values!

God wants unity in the church

But draws the line at homosexuality or rather on sex. In short, god is concerned more with sex than with economic justice, environmental protections or even racial problems. Just sex.

Lisa writes

Not every issue Christians disagree about is black and white. There are shades of grey and room for differences of opinion concerning some issues (eschatology, politics, Calvinism, Arminianism, expressions of worship, etc.). However, sexuality, homosexuality and the number of genders that exist are settled issues. The Bible clearly teaches homosexuality is a sin. Moreover, God made humans in His image, male and female, only, period. (Genesis 1:27, Leviticus 20:13,1st Timothy 1:9-11, 1st Corinthians 6:9).

so go be a good Christian and don’t open a discussion on sexuality.