Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Atheist Bill Maher Convinced Me That the Resurrection Probably Happened

As so often happens when I go on Youtube I begin by searching for one thing and wind up watching something entirely different. What caught my attention today was a semi-recent clip of comedian Bill Maher's movie Religulous, a film which attempts to reveal the stupidity and credulity of the majority of religious people. And while that's an easy enough thing to do (especially when you can edit everything and interview people who cannot intelligently defend their faith) that is not what initially caught my attention. What I found most interesting was the discussion that Mr. Maher had with several people about the parallels that can be drawn between the stories of the Bible and those found in other ancient mythical tales. In the video below he provides several examples of this:    

Thus inspired by this cleverly cobbled together video, I decided to investigate a little further on my own. Yes, anyone can say anything, and these poor unsuspecting souls clearly could do little in the face of these kind of anti-Christian polemics. Yet even as I discovered a website that so scrupulously and carefully went out of its way to detail the fact that the Christian story was little more than a kind of ancient plagiarism, I felt strangely sorry for the people (or person) who put this website together:

So much time devoted to proving that the Easter bunny doesn't exist. So much passion and research into exposing the Tooth Fairy as a fraud and a phony. So much effort into revealing that Thor is not the primary conduit of the thunderbolt. My point is if all of this is truly a bunch of "religulous" nonsense, then what an utter waste of time it is to go about meticulously demonstrating that the "elf on the shelf" is not really watching over our children after all. On the other hand, if there is some truth in Christianity, what a profound tragedy it is to waste your entire life trying to refute the very religion whose main purpose it is to make you eternally happy. Clearly this man believes in an objective truth or he wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to make his case. Unfortunately, the kind of truth that he believes in is ultimately self-defeating. For what value could there be in winning this intellectual feud? What virtue could be achieved by demonstrating via reason that there is no reason for anything at all? Indeed, this must be the strangest of all desires- the insatiable urge to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of humanity is little more than a bag of glorified meat.         

But the title of this post is not the strangest desire in the world, but rather how Bill Maher convinced me that the Resurrection "probably happened". Speaking of arguments that are not original; the method that he uses in his mock-umentary has been around since the dawn of Christianity. In fact, many of the Church Fathers grappled and debated with pagan philosophers on this very subject (see aforementioned website). My goal in this post is not to address every single parallel that can be drawn between one religion and another. We are talking about religion, after all, so there are bound to be parallels. When once you attempt to explain the meaning of existence, you are no doubt going to have some overlap. For instance, should we really be at all shocked that water is used in more than one religion to signify cleansing? But for argument's sake, let us assume that all of the parallels that he makes are indeed there.

The argument goes something like this: because different cultures/religions share similar “myths,” we can therefore assume that those myths are completely false. We might just as well say that something is verifiable if no one has ever heard of it, or “where there’s smoke, there’s absence.” Or better still, where there's consensus, falsity is proved. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the doctrine of the virgin conception may be false, especially if one can prove that the story was inserted later on in an attempt to create mystique around a particular historical figure (or an a-historical one for that matter). What is outrageous is the vacuity of an argument that essentially states; “It doesn’t exist because we have countless stories about how it did.” I am quite aware of the fact that these myths are out there. Nevertheless, I certainly would not conclude that Mr. Maher did not exist based solely on the fact that there were reported sightings of him. Hence, why would it be a persuasive argument to say that there is no resurrection due to the fact that there is also a legend of an Everlasting Firebird? Or that Christ is not divine because the ancient world often spoke of the appearance of a “god-man”? Is it possible that the Christian Faith is all a bunch of nonsense? Of course! But it is perhaps one of the strangest arguments in all of history to conclude that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead simply because every civilization known to man has a story about someone (or something) miraculously rising from the dead.

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