As most of you who know me have found out, I spend a fair amount of time on this site not just making friends and having conversations, but also have debates which usually center around history. I am not a professional historian, but I am pretty well-read on the subject and consider it one of my hobbies, so I usually find myself debating with people not very familiar with the issues.

What I've noticed is that many atheists are not as historically literate as they think (I've come to blame this on the fact that for many people, science is what drives them away for religion, so most people on this site come from a scientific background rather than a historical one), and so they've usually accepted some historical myths which may or may not include:

- the New Testament canon was chosen by Constantine based on which ideas were most likely to help him as an Emperor

- Jesus never existed as a historical figure and is a construction of Messianic ideals/conglomeration of multiple preachers/alien

- the Roman Empire fell because it incorporated Christianity

- "the Vatican" suppressed science during the "Dark Ages" and basically whenever it could, burning many scientists in the process

- the Vatican actively helped National Socialism before, during and after the Second World War

- the Vatican blew up the Crab Nebula

- etcetera...

As it turns out these ideas are at the core of many people's atheism and their arguments against Christianity, which I believe to be a bad thing since (a) much of it is wrong bordering on the conspiratorial and (b) any half-informed Christian debater is going to kick your ass on this issue.

I'm not very fond of either result, but since these myths just refuse to die (and I get tired of refuting them sometimes) I thought I'd create a series of blog posts on these subjects to give you an idea of what we do and do not know about these subjects and what arguments (against Christianity) are sound and which are not.

I'll also probably tackle other issues from time to time and give you some arguments against Christianity from an atheist historical perspective (debunk the resurrection argument, expose the Turin Shroud as a fake, etcetera).

The first series is probably going to be about Jesus Mythicism. CP Hold is actually doing a series on his blog trying to refute the arguments against Jesus Mythicism (and doing a fantastically poor job). But he's chosen not to allow my comments, for reasons best known to him. So I guess I'll just address his arguments on my own blog and debunk some other stuff while I'm at it ;)

Stay tuned and kind regards,

Mathieu

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Comment by Matt VDB on January 15, 2012 at 6:11am

Hitchens was better in the other video that was linked.

But I'll write a blog post about what constitutes believable evidence and we can have the discussion then and there ;)

Comment by Russell20 on January 15, 2012 at 4:25am

 Matt

  Far be it from me to intentionally upset you,but I found this you-tube video of  Christopher Hitchens discussing the existence of Jesus today and thought it may "kick start" some discussion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZXXqVZFy...!

 

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on January 14, 2012 at 4:59pm

unfortunately believers / followers of religion already believe they are considerate and kind. What do you say to them ?

I would not be bothered to try to influence them.   They are too trapped in their own delusion to see themselves as causing harm.   If they are the victims, they cling to their mental crutch.

Only the atheists, the people whose brain is ready for innate apistia, can themselves make a difference.  Just not by the futile discussion the fallacy of beliefs, which fulfill people's psychological needs, but by starting new way senistive morals of treating people better and of teaching children to be sensitive and avoid hurting.  

Comment by Russell20 on January 14, 2012 at 4:50pm

Maruli,Thie following statement may seem reasonable"Therefore I can see only one method to reduce religions:   
Make people aware of their instinctive urges, teach them full knowledge of what these instincts cause them to do to others, enable them to learn the self control to resist the instincts and treat other people with consideration, care and responsibility."   unfortunately believers / followers of religion already believe they are considerate and kind. What do you say to them ?

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on January 14, 2012 at 2:13pm

Jeremy:  I consider the gullibility for religion as a psychological problem, as a coping strategy that has co-evolved with human cognition.   The same instincts, that determine animal behavior, like the procreation instinct, the hierarchy instinct, the ingroup-outgroup instinct, to a certain extent subconsciously also determine human behavior and what humans do to each other.    But the human cognition has evolved to experience excruciating emotional pain as the victim of behaviors, that animals do not experience as painful at all due to lacking cognition.    Co-evolution balanced this by developing both the ability for self-control in the frontal lobe and the gullibility to justify the unavoidable pain by the delusion of a higher power, who will do justice in an afterlife.    
Therefore I can see only one method to reduce religions:   
Make people aware of their instinctive urges, teach them full knowledge of what these instincts cause them to do to others, enable them to learn the self control to resist the instincts and treat other people with consideration, care and responsibility.    
The less people experience being the helpless and powerless victims of being harmed, hurt, abused and exploited, the less they need delusions provided by a religion.       

Comment by Russell20 on January 14, 2012 at 2:58am

Maruli,

 My computer is preventing me from replying directly,so I hope you see this. I take your point about the ludicrous claims of religion, but, the problem, as I see it, is as follows. The Abrahamic religions currently hold in thrall approximately  a 1/3 rd of the earths population between them, so simply pointing at them and saying (at least least metaphorically ) thus thee hath spoken total crap and I ignore thee, won't achieve very much. Because, if as Atheists we are serious about corfronting and combatting religious/ political influence it is essential that we undersrand what we are up against.

 This would entail a historical knowledge of religion. This is important as it allows us to see the evolution of religious power and influence and it's contemporary manifestation. So, whilst debates about the existence of Jesus may seem trivial and a diversion ( and to some extent I agree with this ), however, what is important is this. How did the mindless mutterings of an apocolyptic Rabbi in 1st century Palestine become the basis of one of the most important and inflluential organisations on Earth. We can only understand that throuigh a study of religious history, just mouthing ludicrous won't cut it I'm afraid.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 13, 2012 at 3:51am

Matt,

I was only meaning to convey more than I said. Proper English be damned.

I have not read a great deal about Bruno. However my understanding largely mirrors yours with the exception that he is given more credit for scientific tendencies. Sort of a newton in reverse, more a mystic and less a scientist. Chopra is yckkk especially because he appeals to dummy asses.

I allow for the possibility that you have done research and have reached a valid conclusion about this period and its impact on scientists. I know many anti-theists have this notion about the church and persecution of scientists and that it is one of the reasons they parade before the alter of hate.

I am here to tell you that it is interesting to the extent it is true. But it is chicken feed. Science flourishes where secular inroads are driven not in all-consuming christian cultures. And that knowledge does not fundamentally change one iota the perspective I have on the church. It is a dictatorship and a corrupter of minds and morals. Its improvement is a result of modernity and a loss of its power, only this and nothing more.

Comment by Matt VDB on January 12, 2012 at 11:03pm

Maruli,

Discarding christianity does not require to be bothered about what they believe in, the claims are ludicrous enough not to waste any time on them.

Well that's fine, as long as you then don't make confident statements about precisely those subjects.

Glen,

Matt, if Bruno be corrupt in whom the anti-theist trust, no wonder that the apologist wields an even broader brush.


That's not a proper English sentence.

Bruno wasn't a scientist - he was a believer in a highly esoteric form of magic and Hermetic mysticism and held some religious ideas that were, at the time, heretical. He never studied "natural philosophy" formally and actually scorned the use of mathematics as a way of understanding the universe.

Any positions on the universe he held were a result of his mysticism, not scientific inquiry.


This guy was a physicist in the same way that Deepak Chopra is one because he blabbers about "quantum consciousness", i.e. not at all.

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on January 12, 2012 at 10:24pm

What I've noticed is that many atheists are not as historically literate as they think

History is a huge subject.   And being historically informed or ignorant can be restricted to specific topics.   As a consequence of being an atheist, I am just not bothered about some elusive Jesus or the Vatican, when Mayans, Romans or Moguls are more fascinating.   Discarding christianity does not require to be bothered about what they believe in, the claims are ludicrous enough not to waste any time on them.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 12, 2012 at 6:24pm

Matt, if Bruno be corrupt in whom the anti-theist trust, no wonder that the apologist wields an even broader brush.

You say the protestants protest too much. No argument there. But questioning theology of the mother ship was the first step.

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