Night Owl Mk. II

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Note: The reply presented below was originally sent to me as a part of a larger reply concerning my "Evolution vs. Creationism" essay. I have moved it here since the content more appropriately applies to the topic of religion.

This is the first of the two parts of this reply. Select the link at the end of this reply to go to the next part.

How could they not have comprehended what he meant? There are stories in the Gospels of Jesus raising people from the dead, so resurrection itself was certainly not incomprehensible.
(R) The gospels state plainly the disciples didn't understand the saying of Jesus that he would rise from the dead, that it was hidden from them. It seems somewhat incredible, I'll agree, but you understand the context of the times enough to understand that the Jews were looking for a military Messiah because of the Roman occupation, rather than a spiritual one. The idea of Him rising from the dead didn't fit at all with what they thought they needed: why would a conqueror have to rise from the dead? He would conquer, rather than be killed.
(MB) The idea of the Messiah long predates the Roman occupation and the role has been attributed to various Kings in the Davidic line by different Old Testament prophets. Some thought he would lead by force while others portrayed him as establishing an ideal society - it varied with the current state of the Jewish nation. In Jesus' day, the Jews were indeed under Roman occupation, so they may well have been looking for a military leader. However, Jesus would have been an unlikely candidate. His message was anything other than military in nature.

It's not too hard to fathom how a number of motivated individuals could overpower a single guard - especially in the wee hours of the morning when he's not likely to be at his best.
(R) This is possible, but you seem to assume there would have been only one guard. Surely there would have been more.
(MB) Perhaps. The Gospel of Matthew says that, according to the Jews, bribery was involved in getting the guard away from the tomb so that the body could be stolen. Was he right? Who knows?

(R) Attacking the guard and breaking the Roman seal amounted to capital offenses: with their leader dead because He hadn't even bothered resisting his executioners this band of disciples was in no shape to undertake something so daring as attack the Roman guard to steal the body.
(MB) Minor concerns for religious zealots -- then and now. The cause reigns supreme.

(R) I would think claiming that someone was the God of the universe because He rose from the dead while having possession of the dead body would constitute a pretty big lie. Not only this, if they were wrong they were Judaic heretics, and would be leading their gullible followers on a path away from the true God. These disciples then went on to make other claims, like Christ was the one and only way to God. That only adds to the gravity of the deception, at least in their own, Jewish eyes.
(MB) Again, the cause reigns supreme. Sure, it's a big lie, but if it advances the cause, so be it. Time erases the incriminating evidence, but the message endures. Do you think that being branded as "heretics" by a rival group would matter in the slightest?

(R) Any lie requires some effort to cover up, especially when you go around telling it to as many people as possible. Other lies must be told to remain consistent and keeping track of all of these, informing all of the co-conspirators of them, as well as keeping them in line is always difficult. Haldeman, now a Christian, likens the Watergate cover-up to this situation: it was bound to unravel.
(MB) The thing about Christianity is that there is little hard evidence to contribute to any unraveling. Consistency of story doesn't seem to be a great concern, either. The four Gospels that made it into the Bible are not completely consistent in their stories and that hasn't affected anything. Perhaps the fact that the earliest (Mark) wasn't written until more than 30 years had passed since the death of Jesus has something to do with that. It is interesting to note that the resurrection story in each Gospel gets progressively more detailed the later that the particular Gospel was written. Embellishment, perhaps?

(R) I question how many religious zealots concocted a false religion, knew it was false, and then gave their lives for it. That is contrary to human nature.
(MB) Modern day human nature, perhaps. Then again, maybe not. All that is required is somebody to lead through the force of his message. The flock will follow along shortly. People won't die for it? Remember Jim Jones and David Koresh?

(R) And we are not talking about only one person, but at least eleven, and probably more when you consider others who had seen Christ and proclaimed that He did arise.
(MB) Over 900 people were willing to commit suicide in Guyana for Jim Jones. People will do almost anything if the right cause appeals to them.

(R) Also, the point of Christianity was not overthrow of the Roman empire. In your reading of Romans, you read chapter 13 where Paul writes that we were to submit to the civil authorities, not rebel against them. Peter wrote in his first epistle that we were to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. This hardly sounds like what revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the Roman empire would say, especially when they had gone so far as to concoct a profound religious deception to base it on. That is completely inconsistent.
(MB) True, but it is completely consistent with the knowledge that the penalties for disobeying Roman law in Rome -- especially for non-Romans -- was death. Paul, in particular, pleades for tolerance between the Gentile Christians in Rome and those of Jewish origin. The Jews had been expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius for a brief period a few years before Paul wrote his Epistle. There was bound to be friction when they began to return.

(R) The big difference between Christianity and the eastern philosophies, in my mind, is the dignity which Christianity gives human beings. Hinduism (and I'm not well versed in it) for example, led to the cruel and inhuman caste system. Much cruelty has been practiced in the name of Christianity by misled, supposed, adherents, it is true, but that cruelty is inconsistent with it.
(MB) Hinduism is not an "Eastern philosophy" (such as Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, etc.). In fact, Hinduism predates them. In one tenet of Eastern philosophy, Man is one with the Universe. What greater dignity can there be?
    With over 200 different sects of Christianity now being practiced, there probably aren't much of the original ideals left in one place. Christianity is an easy religion to get into since it demands so little from its followers. One might almost say that its current versions are "roll your own" religion. No other religion is that way. There is always some required level of commitment.

Remember the historical context of those times. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Ideology tends to transcend the methods used to advance it.
(R) Desperate measures to do what? They weren't trying to overthrow Rome.
(MB) Overthrow? Of course not. Nobody and no army of the time had the power to even conceive of such a thing. However, it was possible to extricate one's self from under their rule and gain freedom.

(R) I suggest you follow this reasoning a bit farther. If they weren't liars, and they weren't lunatics, what were they? Well meaning individuals?
(MB) I said "In large part" that I would agree that it is very unlikely that the Bible was written by liars and/or lunatics. However, there are clearly some parts that have been subjected to, um, creative editing and poetic license, over the course of time, and others whose inspiration may have been chemical or hallucinatory rather than spiritual.

(R) If what they were proclaiming was false, they really could only be liars or lunatics: they either knew what they were saying was untrue or were too "gone in the head" to know the difference C.S. Lewis wrote that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Who He said He was, God in the flesh (or Lord, as Lewis put it, to provide the third "L").
(MB) I would agree with that -- with one additional proviso. It is entirely possible that Jesus was actually none of the three initially. He may well have been a well-meaning visionary who was eventually consumed by the growing adulation of his followers and became convinced that, perhaps, he actually was something more than just a man. "God complexes" are not unknown.

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