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Does It Matter if Jesus Existed?

Is It Important If Jesus Existed?

There is not much evidence to support the actual existence of the biblical Jesus.  Does it really matter?  Which is more important, the message of peace, tolerance, and love or the physical presence of an individual person who may or may not have actually existed?

The message of Jesus, as most would believe, is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In modern language, treat people fairly, honestly, and without prejudice or intolerance.  That’s pretty simple and good advice.  True, it’s not always so easy to do, but, acting in our own best interests, it is a good way to live.  Cheating people, taking advantage of them, or otherwise hurting someone unnecessarily will ultimately not be good for ourselves.  So, whether Jesus actually existed is not nearly as important as following the very good, true advice attributed to him.

Consider this.  What if there were no record of say, Thomas Jefferson, until 40 or 50 years after his death?  Then, there were suddenly one, then several people writing about things he said or did.  Would modern day people doubt his actual existence and believe he was a fable like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill?

In the case of the historical Jesus, there is not one contemporary record of his existence.  The Romans, who otherwise kept very good records, never mentioned a figure who was supposed to be socially, politically, and spiritually so significant.  Not until the Gospel of Mark, written from 40 to over 100 years after the supposed crucifixion, is there any mention of Jesus.  If we look at the fables of Horus, Attis, and Mithra, we see amazing similarities.  Born in low circumstances on December 25, 12 followers, executed at an early age, son of a god, resurrected, the list goes on. It would appear that the early church, in need of a powerful central figure, “borrowed” from earlier myths to create a rallying point for their religion.

As stated by Dr. Bart Ehrman, Professor of religious studies at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, NC said, “In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned  by a single Greek or Roman scholar, politician, philosopher, or poet.  His name never appears in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence.  Zero!  Zip references!”

Again, what does it matter?  The important thing is the message.  Be good to each other, help the less fortunate, do not discriminate because someone is not like you.  Be like the Good Samaritan and act kindly to all.  Are those things more valuable if they were spoken by an actual person or lessons a group of people agreed were important?  Being able to assemble these things into a coherent collection of quotations from one person makes them easier to understand and practice.  Maybe that’s what the founders of the religion had in mind?

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  1. Dino
    April 12, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Interesting and though I agree with you that it really doesn’t matter if Jesus exited or not I would have to say there is evidence that Jesus actually existed. There are two dates for Jesus’ birth, the first in Matthew and then the one in Luke which has a birth date 10 years after Matthew’s. I think Matthew’s gospel is greatly flawed, so if we go with Luke’s date of 6ad, add 30 before Jesus started his ministry, add 3 for the ministry years. This gives us the year 39ad for Jesus’ death. Jesus started his ministry when John the Baptist was in prison or after John’s death. Josephus wrote that John the Baptist was executed in 36ad, add 3 years for the ministry and again we get a date for the death of Jesus of 39ad.

    The first epistle, most likely Galatians, was written around 48ad so there was about 9 years before we get the first account of Jesus. Though the proof for Jesus comes from Galatians where Paul states that he met Jesus’ brother James. James is called Jesus’ brother also by Josephus. James was also the leader of the church and not Peter. So if I were asked I would have to say that because the brother of Jesus was a real person then Jesus was real also.

    But in the grand scheme of life it really doesn’t make much difference.

    • April 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

      I have to disagree. The only references are in the bible and those have all been under dispute as to their accuracy and age. The most telling point for me, as I said, is that the Romans, who left such good records about everything else, make no mention of him at all. One would think that anyone with the political, social, and religious influence of a jesus that performed miracles and was publicly executed would have been mentioned somewhere. But nooooo.

  2. Dino
    April 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    The only flaw in your argument is that Jesus was not even close to being as well known as Washington. When you read the gospels you see someone that was born poor, spent 30 years as a day laborer, became a follower of John the Baptist, and then went on to have a short ministry.

    Jesus had no more then 120 followers, a lot of them women, and only 12 close ones. His message was that the kingdom of god was coming and possibly thought that by his death he would bring this change.

    So since he wasn’t as well know as Washington, it makes sense that very little is written about a poor Jewish man who preached a message of overthrowing the authorities. Though what evidence we do have leads me to believe Jesus was either a real person or based on a real person.

    • April 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      Exactly what evidence do we have that Jesus was a real person? Other than the babble, that is?

      Are you saying that he did not have a great influence socially and politically? That items like feeding of the multitudes, walking on water, raising the dead and the other “miracles” didn’t happen? Because if they did, surely someone of the time would have mentioned them. There aren’t even any records of a trial and the execution. Are you saying the Romans wouldn’t have taken any note of any of this? The Babble says they did, but the records of the Romans says they did not. Perhaps because this person never existed?

  3. May 29, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Are you trying to say that history hasn’t been changed before? That books haven’t been burnt and people’s entire existence obliviated?

    • May 29, 2011 at 2:28 am

      What are you saying? I have never even implied that. What I have said is that jesus didn’t exist and there is not one contemporary account of his existence. Apparently, you like to read into things what you prefer to believe instead of what was actually said. I understand. That’s certainly easier than thinking.

      To recap, why can’t christians take the parts of the jesus myth that ask us to be kind to each other, don’t do harm to others, and be good because it’s the right thing to do? That’s the important thing, whether a “messiah” actually existed isn’t at all important. The message of being kind and decent is. Naturally, we have to cherry-pick a bit to isolate those parts from the “I come not in peace but with a sword” messages. But cherry-picking through the bible is how christians justify anything they want to do or say. So I wouldn’t expect that to be a problem.

  4. Joe
    June 19, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Hi James, perhaps there are many books or even some of your previous posts that could help me through this, but I’m just going to cut to the chase and ask for your thoughts directly since you seem pretty responsive.

    I’ve heard you say that religion(Christianity) is evil and it is a blight on humanity. My next automatic thought is to think of how different the world would be without it. At this point I have to go way back in history to take any type of religious influence out of the equation to reach a baseline in which humanity is not religious. But first what do you define as religion? Is it something as simple as worshiping the sun and earth? From your understanding and knowledge is there a point at which humanity was free from the notion or urge to worship rocks and balls of gas?

    • June 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Nice questions. Thanks for those.

      First, what would the world have been like without religion? Excellent question! Let’s consider how things might be if no resources, physical, mental, or financial ever been wasted on religion. There would have been no sacrifices of humans, animals, or property. Resources could have been devoted to education, health care, and even more to arts and sciences. Yes, I know that some religions were patrons of art. That patronage required that the art be directed in only one direction, not where the artists might have wished to go.

      Then, there would have been no dark ages, no inquisition, no repression of science, women might have gained rights more quickly, intolerance and genocide might have been reduced, and science flourished. Yes, without religion, the world might be far different. Morality might be based upon rational thinking instead of a fear system based upon rewards and punishments. (See my blog on ethics)

      Has there ever been a time when people didn’t have the tendency to assign supernatural explanation to anything they didn’t understand? I doubt it. “God did it” is much easier than thinking, isn’t it? There are many things that people, even with the available science cannot yet explain. As new and better tools are developed, explanation become “obvious” where they were previously impossible. The entry here, “Flying Pharaohs” touches on that. When theists state that “There are many things science can’t explain, they are not wrong. But that doesn’t mean the explanation is “god”. It only means new tools and facts have to be applied. There are things that may never be known or there may be continually revised explanations for them as facts change. For that matter, what we consider to be physical constants in the universe may only be local phenomena.

      Some years ago, Dr. Steven Hawking proposed exactly that idea. It could be, as the solar system/galaxy moves into a different area of the universe, some of what we call “Natural laws” or “universal constants” may change. Perhaps this has already happened even during human history. Would we have noticed? Would we now? It depends on what changed and how it affects what we can do or measure. Maybe computers would suddenly go aw

      • Joe
        June 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

        One thing that seems to remain constant is the unsettling urge of mankind to explain the unexplainable, whether it’s explained through reason or not. Hawking lives his life for it. I know some (perhaps most) people could care less. However, they all probably have some sort of explanation, right or wrong, tucked away somewhere in their brain to ease their unsettled heads. But what leads mankind to even care for an answer or explanation? Why do we get excited about science, answers, and absolute truth and knowledge? Why is there the unsettling urge? Did our ancestors have it?

        The creation of laws, whether it be founded through a bush or a king, seems to be another constant throughout human history. Isn’t this because we recognized that a world without order or law is chaotic? Was religion just an answer to the chaos? Just another part of the evolution of human thought? I suppose the problem in that time is the question of “where do we derive or laws from”. Are they to be derived from the aching of our hearts? Or from what we know about the earth and sun around us e.g. the Mayans?

        That is interesting about Hawkings thought of universal “contants” that change based on the position of the universe. This perhaps could explain giant lizards (large growth of plant and wild life due to the high concentration of water in the atmosphere), world floods(high concentration of water in the atmosphere suddenly concentrating on land), and the supposed sudden appearance of rainbows (also due to the change in atmosphere). What do you think?

      • Gregory Vella
        January 2, 2014 at 11:41 pm

        Your statement “Morality might be based upon rational thinking instead of a fear system based upon rewards and punishments” is exactly what I believe to be the fall of the american education system over time. While american education is excellent I think many will see over time what a poor job america does at making people creative thinkers. I am very fond of how you talk about how you learned to think for yourself and didn’t blindly follow the brainwash bullshit everybody else follows. I am 19 years old and fresh out of high school and my assessment of american education is this: There are two very opposite sides of what american education is trying to do and what it actually is doing. It’s goal is to “make you think for yourself” however all it is really doing is “making you think what someone else thinks and to put it in your own words.” So much more I would like to discuss with you between the similarities of Eduction, Government, and Religion. But most of all this reminds me of a few George Carlin quotes, the first being “Governments don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interests. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept it.” The other quote that comes to mind is what really puzzles me about humanity. “Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.”

      • January 3, 2014 at 8:06 am

        First, thank you for the kind words. I appreciate well-written, thoughtful replies even when they do not always agree with my own views.

        Your assessment of the educational system is often exactly the case, even in universities and not only in the USA. Students are generally expected to regurgitate the expected answers and support those answers with references to others that have been trained in the same manner. You are correct in suspecting that’s also how politics (government) and religion works.

        Rational thinking, dissent, and substantiated facts are fatal to any totalitarian institution. That’s true of governments, social clubs, religion, and yes, Universities.

        Again, thanks for your post and I’d like to hear from you again.

  5. June 19, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Joe, more good questions, thoughtfully posed. I am impressed.

    I agree that humanity seems to have a hard-wired curiosity about things. But so do other animals as diverse as primates and cats. Is this a survival characteristic? I can’t cite any proof, but logically, it must be or why hasn’t it died out over the many millions of years? For sure, curiosity has led to many discoveries and improvements in things.

    I once read that, “All human progress has been made by lazy people looking for an easier way.” Perhaps that is true to at least an extent. It certainly seem verified by observation and experience. A sharper axe makes for easier wood chopping. Yes, I am sure our ancestors had it. Otherwise, we might still be living in caves and depending upon lighting to start fires for us.

    Laws surely started as social contract to make cooperation within groups better. Man is a creature too weak and poorly-equipped for survival in the wild without cooperation. It’s been those social contracts (laws) that enabled primitives to hunt and bring down animals much better equipped for fight or flight than humans.

    I doubt that religion was an answer to the chaos. It did provide answers to things people were not able to understand otherwise. It also allowed them confidence that they would survive the next hunt, battle, or other disaster if they made the right obeisance to the right gods. The fact that it usually didn’t work could be explained away by the Shaman as “the wrong prayers/sacrifices/god works in mysterious ways. ” In fact, the shamen are using those same excuses today.

    The unwritten social contracts that became laws were usually adopted through necessity. As most people know, after a law is written, it is almost impossible to change it, even when the reason/necessity for that law is no longer valid. That’s why we often see lists of silly laws. They probably at least seemed rational at the time even if they seem absurd today.

    I agree that changing universal constants could account for seemingly inexplicable things. When you consider the vastness of the universe, anything is possible. Many are unlikely in the extreme, but, if enough “natural laws” change, who knows? I am thinking of a quote from Marcus Aurelius, “You must forgive him. He is from the country and thinks his local customs are laws of nature.”

    On the scale of the universe, we are certainly country bumpkins. Most people cannot even contemplate the enormity of the universe, much less comprehend it. It could be populated with millions of civilizations and intelligent creatures and we might never become aware of them or they of us. It would be worse than a single grain of sand on a beach somewhere in the world being washed to a different beach and contacting another, specific, grain of sand. It’s possible, but very unlikely.

  6. January 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I received this request from a reader in The Netherlands. I agreed to include it for others.

    Dear Mr. Smith

    To promote skepticism/critical thinking I wrote some questions for the Christian believer. Are you able to put the link to these questions at your blog.

    Thank you very much,

    Piet – Rotterdam – Netherlands.

    The original questions

    http://www.freethinker.nl/forum/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=8382

    The translation

    http://www.freethinker.nl/forum/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=10033

  7. July 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Yes I am very serious. If you bothered to look them up, you’d see the jesus myth has stolen many things from these older “gods”. Such as, Born on the 25th of December of a virgin. Raising the dead, twelve disciples, and many more. I’ll send you an email with more details. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Of course Jesus existed. Are you stupid or something? It is obvious Jesus existed. I think you are being willfully ignorant to provoke people. Not clever.

    • April 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

      As I suspected, you are using a fake email. That’s evidence that you are an intellectual coward without the courage of your convictions.

      Show us even one contemporary account of the biblical jesus.

      Believing in something without any supporting evidence is willful ignorance.

  9. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

    READ THE BIBLE YOU IDIOT!

    • April 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

      If you had paid attention to this post, instead of believing only what you want to believe, you would understand that I have read the babble many times. That’s how I became atheist. Using the babble to probe the babble is a typical nonsensical tactic of the intellectually challenged. “The bible is true because it says it is true.” Yeah, real smart.

      You probably can’t comprehend the irony of you calling me an idiot after you make such a ludicrous statement.

      When are you going t stop hiding behind your fake email? That’s another sign of an internet coward and troll. Until you start using a real email and IP address all future post from you will be trashed. I have no more time to play games with people that are liars and cowards.

  10. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I’ll beat you in the face for that

    • April 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Tell you what, you lying coward. I’ll pay your way anywhere in the world so you can meet me and carry out your threat.

      How typical. You are shown to be exactly what you are and, like most christians, you only response is threats.

      You will continue to hide behind your fake ID and IP address so you will never have to put your pathetic skin at risk. What a disgusting human being you are.

  11. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I might be a Christian but I have no problem beating up an atheist

    • April 10, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Then accept my offer. Stop hiding and allow me to pay your way to carry out your threat. You’re being brave when your scrofulous skin is not at risk. How about when you are face to face with me?

  12. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 11:48 am

    You’ll wish you’d never been born

    • April 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Big talk, but you’re still hiding like the cowardly little worm you are showing yourself to be. Now, put up or STFU. Until you accept my offer, I’ll delete your osts like the worthless cowardly BS they are.

  13. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Ah, so you’ve backed down now? Shame, I was looking forward to pulping you

    • April 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

      You stupid moron. How have I backed down? By offering to pay your way anywhere in the world so you can follow through on your threats? By using my real name, emails, and location? By posting my proofs openly on http://www.photobucket.com/slrman?

      You are the one hiding. Accept my offer and you can try to carry out your threats. But you will hide forever because you are a craven PoS.

      Now, put up or everyone will know that you are exactly what I have said. Face me and try to “pulp” me.

  14. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    You forget, I will have God on my side. And you are too old to fight now

    • April 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Your god does not exist and I am not too old to fight a cowardly Jerk like you. So accept my offer. It will be fun – for me. For you, not so much.

      Anywhere, any time, you chickenshit cockroach.

  15. Steve Burton
    April 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    He exists. It is you that does not exist, and you are way too old to be fighting. It would be carnage. I would break your brittle bones.

    • April 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Keep hiding, creep. You are terrified of me . Use a real email and I will arrange for your ticket. If I don’t exist, why are you so afraid? If your horrid god exists, prove it. If you are not a cowardly cockroach, prove it.

      Make good on your threats. You’re like a boasting schoolyard bully but a terrified little boy underneath.

      Come on, try to break my bones. Talk is cheap. Skin in the game is much different.

      Update on April 11:

      It seems that this little frightened freak has decided to cut and run. No surprise their for me. The keyboard commandos always talk tough and bluster until they are called out so decisively they cannot respond unless they actually beg, borrow, rent , or steal some testicular fortitude and actually accept the opportunity to carry out their threats.

      I’m sure this one will go to some religious reich site that knows nothing of this encounter and declare, “Victory, in the name of (insert some non-existent deity) !” So pathetic. Luckily for him, he is incapable of feeling shame for his actions.

  16. Steve Burton
    May 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just knowing that you exist.

    • May 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Why? Because I tell the truth? Do you hate the truth? Prove anything I have posted is not true. For that matter, prove anything you have is true. Please explain, how am I degenerate, noxious, and depraved? Because I show more christian values than you do? Yu debase yourself with your unchristian attitude. Or is this your concept of how a follower of jesus should act?

      Do you think your christ would approve of you insulting people because they speak a truth you do not want to hear? Or would he tell you to love one another and bless those that curse you?

      I suspect you are terribly upset because you read what you do not want to hear. For you, believing a comforting lie is better than thinking. How sad that you choose to throw away the intelligence you believe your god has given you rather than accept that many people lie in his name so as to enslave you mentally, morally, and physically. Perhaps you should read your bible more carefully and, instead of putting christ back into christmas, put christ back into Christians.

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