The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review XL

April 21, 2003 | 8 Comments

The Squad promotes a literal belief in Biblical miracles this week in its answer to “J,” a conflicted Christian who, as a scientist, has “trouble believing anyone could rise from the dead.” This has made Easter “conflicted and negative,” because J “just can’t believe its message.” The Raving Atheist just can’t understand the Squad’s answer:

Tommy and I believe strongly in the founding miracles described in each of our faiths. We believe miracles are real. Tommy believes Jesus did indeed rise from the dead on the third day, and Marc believes the Red Sea split and the people went free out of Egypt in the Exodus.

We do not believe these are just cute, fuzzy, stupid superstitions. We do not think they are simply metaphors for some rational and universal truth you do not need faith to find. We believe faith is grounded not just on a set of moral ideals but also on a set of historical miracles.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity makes no sense. If the Exodus was just a figment of some biblical editor’s imagination, then Judaism makes no sense.

While this may seem like a severe, fundamentalist question to ask of a rational person like yourself, consider: Can you rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope?

The actual problem J raised, of course, was that a man rising from the dead conflicts with science and 100% of human experience. In contrast, 100% of humanity has direct experience with the emotions associated with love, courage, beauty and hope. No one disputes that people fall in love, exhibit courage, appreciate beauty, or have hope. Scientists and layman alike can observe these phenomena and form all sort of rational theories about them. For example, it can be observed that nobody falls in love with an electric can opener, or needs courage to scratch his nose. I’m not sure what the Squad means when it asks if J “[c]an rationally explain love,” but I’m sure J could understand that it’s rational to fall in love with a person, and irrational to fall in love with a can opener. It would also be irrational to fall in love with a corpse, unless one were also irrational enough to believe it would rise from the dead.

Even accepting the Squad’s garbled premise that the alleged irrationality of love, etc. somehow establishes the truth of miracles, it’s not clear how that irrationality helps one to differentiate between miracles and “cute, fuzzy, stupid superstitions.” If I asked the Squad whether they believed in unicorns or the Tooth Fairy, they’d probably say no. Would they change their minds if I pointed out their inability to “rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope”?

Similarly, Squad Rabbi Gellman doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Why doesn’t the Rabbi’s admitted inability to rationally explain love, courage, beauty or hope compel him to believe in the resurrection of Jesus? The Squad does attempt to address this difficulty near the end of their answer, stating that “[t]he fact that only Christians believe this miracle is true simply means the miracle defines and comforts them . . . [p]eople of other faiths are defined and comforted by their own miraculous events.” But saying that a belief comforts or “defines” someone is a far cry from saying that it’s rational or true.

Comments

8 Responses to “God Squad Review XL”

  1. markm
    April 26th, 2003 @ 9:53 pm

    RA: There is actually a rational explanation for the stories of Jesus and Lazarus rising from the dead. Some of the yogi in India can slow their breathing and heart-rate so much that life is indetectable without electronic instruments. At least one of them demonstrated the trick in an American science lab. It was good enough that before the 1950’s he would have fooled any physician. Maybe Jesus had travelled far enough to learn that trick. Maybe he tried to teach it to his disciple Lazarus, but Lazarus didn’t manage the part where you wake yourself up. And maybe he evaded the typical Roman death-by-torture by faking death. It would explain why he died so quickly compared to the usual cruxifixion. And he was lucky that they took him off the cross and stuck him in a cave instead of digging a hole and burying him (or had followers who were in on the trick). This would make him a great practitioner of yoga – but there’s nothing supernatural involved, just a whole lot of self-control.

    However, considering the parallels between Jesus’s resurrection and the Egyptian Osiris myth, and considering the frequent willingness of religious fanatics to lie to advance their cause, it’s far more likely that he really died, stayed dead, and the Gospel writers adapted the Osiris myth along with lots of other miracle stories…

  2. postal code
    July 24th, 2003 @ 9:50 am

    Count me in please.

  3. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

  4. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

  5. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

  6. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

  7. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

  8. Kafkaesqu
    July 24th, 2003 @ 12:39 pm

    markm: I’d note that your rational explanation would mean that Jesus merely rose from a really good nap. Not a lot to hang a religion on, for sure.

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