The Resurrection

Contents

My Debate on the Resurrection
  1. Criticism of the resurrection - Part 1 by Steve Locks
  2. Response 1 by G. Zeinelde Jordan
  3. Criticism of the resurrection - Part 2 by Steve Locks
  4. Response 2 by G. Zeinelde Jordan
  5. Criticism of the resurrection - Part 3 by Steve Locks
  6. 23rd March 2002: Emails with Jordan on the common grave hypothesis
  7. Response 3 by G. Zeinelde Jordan
  8. 22nd October 2002: We had some more correspondence about the 500.
  9. 19th Jan 2003: Emails with Jordan on scholarly consensus.
  10. 9th Oct 2003: Emails with Jordan on What Locks is up to.
  11. Jan 2004 onwards: Emails with J.P.Holding on the Resurrection.
External resources on the Resurrection and related matters.


Part 1

In summary I found a member of various atheist and freethought societies who converted to Christianity. The main reason he gave was due to pondering the biblical resurrection accounts. This page is also an enquiry into his conversion (with links to the account on his website) followed by my discussion of the resurrection with links to many further resources laying out some reasons for the resurrection not being a physical event. These pages are therefore primarily a critical resource on the resurrection, with some discussion of other matters as they came up. It should be noted though that originally our discussion wasn't to be just about the resurrection but about anything that is involved in someone with a background in "atheist/freethought" groups/societies subsequently converting to Christianity - why they change, how it effects them, everything I could find out. Our debate wasn't even initially called "The Resurrection" I only changed it to that title after some months. This can be seen in the URL of our debate which is filed in my asymmetry folder rather than a resurrection folder.

I have toyed with taking the other issues out of our debate and put them into my feedback partly to keep Jordan happy as despite initially telling me that I consider your "ad hominem" applications pertinent and appropriate, when I offered to stop discussing anything like attitudes to homosexuality, he changed his mind and got so annoyed at my "straying" that I became concerned that it might be an impediment to a clear (let alone civil) discussion. (Note though that Jordan uses the "ad hominem" accusation incorrectly). I also worry that it just looks like bickering to outsiders who probably just don't care. However the feedback I got from Christians and others made me keep it in as I had response particularly from Christians who do care very much about Jordan's attitudes and style, ranging from one who literally said that the attitudes of Jordan and Holding were the only things preventing him from accepting Christianity (otherwise being very intrigued and convinced!) to James Jurius who contacted me to tell me about his response to my Plea for Civilised Debate. So I don't know, what's a debater to do - I can't please everybody. Anyway, non-resurrection matters are always relegated to the second part of each of my responses so just skip that material if you want to (or skip the resurrection material if you're only interested in the other matters!)

The main links are summarised at the end. Others, which are more relevant in the context of the essay, are only referred to in the essay.

Background

I was discussing the asymmetry of conversion idea on the ex-tian ("ex-Christian") mailing list and was told by a member who was also on "errancy" that there was a former atheist who joined Farrell Till's errancy mailing list for a few days recently. He had been a former member of a few organizations (this was confirmed by Till) and his reasons for becoming a Christian were that he could not explain away the bible accounts of the resurrection.

So I wrote to Till, obtained this person's email address and wrote to him. The person concerned is G. Zeinelde Jordan. His response follows. I have not included my original email as it is quoted within the response at appropriate places. I have also been contacted by others that Jordan forwarded my question to who have expressed their ideas. I will include them eventually as they raise some common points, but so far they have not included any other previous members of atheist/freethought etc. organisations.

Jordon's email

----- Original Message -----
From: G. Zeinelde Jordan <gzjordan@mail.atl.bellsouth.net>
Sent: 29 January 2000 01:22
Subject: Response to Your Inquiry

Mr. Locks:

I apologize for the delay. I meant to respond sooner but family concerns
interfered.

You are welcome to e-mail me anytime. You may share my e-mail address
with anyone you choose. However, I appreciate your research efforts
enough to share with you additional contact information. Do not hesitate
to contact me by other means. This is for your information only:

<snip address>

Steve Locks wrote to Jordan:
>
> Hello,
>
> I am doing some research for my website "Leaving Christianity" at
> http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html
>
> The site is basically a resource of "testimonies" from people who have
> left Christianity telling why they left in their own words. Mostly it links to
> sites already containing some collections of these stories. In the
> process of my research I have been struck by an asymmetry between the large number
> of professional Christians who deconvert (ministers, apologists,
> missionaries etc.) verses the lack of their atheist counterparts, such as members of
> humanist or atheist organisations, who convert to Christianity. However,
>to date I have mostly just anecdotal information on this although I have now
> asked a number of atheist etc. organisations, and some Christians and
> Christian sites, for examples of converts to Christianity who have a
> background of having been in an organisation that is critical of
> Christianity.
>
> I heard of your case via a member of the Errancy list. The information I
> got is that you had been in various atheist organisations for a number of
> years, but recently converted to Christianity due to pondering the biblical
> resurrection accounts. To date you are the only person I know of who has
> such a background.

I am eager to know if the former clergy who dissented were reared in a
Christian background, or if they made informed adult decisions to enter
clergy. It seems to me that a presupposition favoring any theistic or
non-theistic position (e.g., Johnny became a Christian because Mommy,
school, and general consensus taught him Christianity's veracity,
whereas Toby became an atheist because Mommy, school, and general
consensus taught him atheism's veracity) would not endure attacks very
well. Most children raised in the West are taught that Christianity, not
atheism, is true. Therefore, dissent from Christianity is more probable
than dissent from atheism by virtue of the sheer number of its original
adherents. The intensity of the teaching also bears on the outcome.

D. James Kennedy, whose politics I do not particularly care for but who
preaches Christianity well, made a point referencing two post-World War
II Japanese groups residing in Brazil. One group accepted the evidence
via newspaper, radio, etc., that Japan lost the war and surrendered to
allied forces. The other group, however, presupposed the Emperor's
divinity and could not conceive of Japan's defeat. They rejected the
evidence. The groups remained hostile to each other over that
presupposition. Another case in point: one scientist (details are in one
of the attachments) presented that he had to accept the highly
improbable odds of mass hallucination because, if he did not, he would
have to accept the resurrection as factual. Again, to accommodate his
presupposition that a resurrection is impossible, he rejects the
evidence. He invented a twin-of-Jesus hypothesis, in which an unknown
twin posed as Jesus after stealing Jesus' body from the tomb. It gets
worse. You should hear that debate for yourself. This man actually holds
a Ph.D.

My high-school-teacher friend named atheist front-runners throughout
history who converted to Christ, such as Will Durante. He claims Sartre
converted but it is not well advertised because colleges and
universities use his atheistic writings. He claims Sartre experienced
nothing even close to "deathbed conversion." Those are two names you can
research. Personally, I am not concerned about who converts to what; I
am only concerned with their reasoning.
>
> I am particularly interested in the conversion and deconversion of
> informed people from both the theist and non-theist camps who are well aware of
> the arguments from their particular side, rather than the lesser educated
> public. i.e. the conversion and deconversion of trained theist and non-theist
> "apologists", as it were, for and against Christianity.

A friend informed me that an article in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution
listed names of current-day atheist scientists who converted to Christ.
I e-mailed the AJC regarding it and await the response. I will inform
you of the results.
>
> That is why I have chosen to seek those, like yourself, who were
> previously members of an atheist/freethought/humanist organisation who then became
> Christians. I'm not interested in those who have not studied the
> arguments against Christianity very well before they became Christians, so I'm
> using membership of an organisation as an indicator that they were probably
> quite well read.

>I really want to know if studying material critical of
> Christianity prevents people becoming Christians in the first place,
> whereas Christian ministers and theologians do change their beliefs (the "Sea of
> Faith" organization http://www.sofn.org.uk/ for example).
> So if you would like to tell me, then I would be very interested in your
> background, what you have read on both sides of the argument,

Paine's "Age of Reason," O'Hair's "Questions and Answers," and
"Ingersoll the Magnificent" spring to mind. Over the  years I read and
re-read  "Freethought Today" and "American Atheist: A Journal of Atheist
News and Thought." My American Atheist magazine collection ranges from
December 1988 through Fall 1993. I dropped my membership after only a
year (due to a dislike I formed for O'Hair) but continued receiving the
magazine. I particularly enjoyed American Atheists's highlighting the
works of atheist historians and scientists, for I did not have time to
read such works in their entirety. My "Freethought Today" collection
ranges from August 1990 through February 1995. Incidentally, I remain
fond of Professor Hakeem's columns in Freethought Today. I remained a
member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation much longer than of
American Atheists. I later joined the Atlanta Freethought Society. Its
monthly newsletter, "Atlanta Freethought News," contains little
disputing God's existence or Christ's reality; it primarily bashes
Christianity and touts the virtues of non-belief. Further, I reviewed
atheist Michael Martin's chapter, "The Case Against the Resurrection,"
from his book "The Case Against Christianity." I have read other
publications as loaners but would have to struggle to remember the
specifics. I plan to very soon write a rebuttal to Martin.

On the Christian side, please see the references in one of my attached
articles, "Birth and Death of an Atheist." While an atheist, I read Josh
McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." McDowell's reliance on
scripture, the authority of which he failed to establish, did nothing to
weaken my atheism. I still do not recommend it. In contrast, I recommend
the references from my article as well as transcripts and taped debates
between William Lane Craig and "top-gun" atheists. Craig holds a Ph.D.
in philosophy and a Ph.D. in religion. You can review his materials and
bio at:
http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/
I downloaded the Carr debates I found after visiting the sites you
referenced. I hope to read them this weekend. Additionally, though I am
formally a member of a Baptist congregation, I primarily attend an
inter-denominational church that offers courses in apologetics. I
attended William Lane Craig's "Reasons For Faith" and "Critical
Thinking" classes there. My reference material consists of "Handbook of
Christian Apologetics" (Kreeft and Tacelli), "Hard Sayings of the Old
Testament" (Kaiser), "More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament" (Kaiser),
"Hard Sayings of Jesus" (Bruce), "Hard Sayings of Paul" (Brauch), and
"More Hard Sayings of the New Testament" (Davids).

My fear of Christianity's effect on American government proved the
catalyst for my atheist activism. I feared Christianity's taking over
American culture and indoctrinating youth via, for example,
government-run schools. Eventually, I determined I had inadvertently
supported non-theistic religious tyranny, a tyranny not unlike the
American Christian Right tyranny I still oppose. Despite my atheism, I
opposed the Secular Humanists' drive to dominate American society. I
categorically oppose all religious tyranny, theistic or not.

Then, as now, I harbored little interest in scientific debates. The
pivotal question remains whether Christ died and rose again. Having
determined He did, I began studying apologetics. I expect to continue my
apologetics studies at a Bible college.
 
> any material you may have previously published (even if only online) critical of
> Christianity

I developed my desire to write when I began my dissent from atheist
organizations. As Truth unfolded, I felt compelled to share Him with
others. Attached is my first article, "My Appeal to the AFS." Though I
wrote it to a targeted audience, I think you will get the point. Shortly
after I wrote that article, I began a monograph about a Christian whose
politics I admired and supported despite my atheism. After two years of
composition, I expect to produce a first edition next week. I will
forward you a copy as soon as I complete the manuscript. Also attached
is my personal testimony, "Birth and Death of an Atheist," which I wrote
at the request of a youth minister. Atheist author, publisher, and
editor, Temy Beal, learned of my conversion and printed "Birth and
Death" in his freethought publication SOAR. He posted my work and his
rebuttal at his Website:
http://members.tripod.com/~AtheistEvangelist666/debate1.html
I then addressed his rebuttal point-by-point. (I experienced some font
problems with his site, so for your convenience I have attached
transcripts from that exchange.) Temy is currently preparing his next
response to my argument, and he is compiling conversion stories from
both sides. I copied him your original e-mail message. Should you wish
to use any of Temy's material, please contact him.
 
> and, if you wish, what it was about the resurrection that
> convinced you to become a Christian.

Many points convinced me of Christ's reality. The more I learned about
the resurrection, in particular, the more solid my faith grew. While an
atheist, I rejected that Jesus even existed (a minority view in my
atheistic circles). However, the growing number of atheist scholars who
accept that Jesus existed, faced crucifixion, and disappeared from the
tomb captured my attention. The vast majority of Christian and atheist
scholars concur on those points. Had atheistic scholars managed to
refute any of those points, I could have remained skeptical of the
resurrection. If you know of a current atheist scholar who presents a
compelling case against Jesus' existence, crucifixion, and disappearance
from the tomb, please inform me. J. P. Holding, at:
http://www.integrityonline15.com/jpholding/tekton/text.html
addressed such an argument. Current scholars of both camps argue about
HOW the tomb became empty. When I reassessed the empty tomb, I found
that secular explanations raise more questions than they answer.

I intentionally withheld some of my reasoning about the resurrection
from my point-by-point response to Temy, because I did not want this
issue clouded by pages of irrelevant points. The pivotal question
remains, "What happened to the body?"

> I am not seeking a debate and will
> not harangue you with arguments (put me in your killfile if I do!),
>rather I have to ask people on both sides of the question if I am to do honest
> research.

I admire your intellectual and academic integrity.

> Also if you are aware of a quality Christian NG, mailing list or website
> that might be interested in this question without filling my mailbox with
> preaching then I would be very grateful!

In addition to those referenced above are:
http://www.reasons.org/ (heavily scientific)
http://www.christian-thinktank.com

I respect your approach to this research. If I can be of any further
help, let me know. I am eager to learn your views on these points. I
will share mine with you regarding the Carr debates.

Sincerely,

Jordan

P.S. The files are numbered in the order to be read. Bear in mind that I
wrote "Birth and Death" for a Christian youth group. Therefore, I should
rewrite it anticipating skeptics' arguments before posting it at your
site. Please advise me whether you receive the attachments with or
without difficulty.

Jordan's files can be read here. The debate he is having with Temy Beal can also be watched as it unfolds at Temy's website where others can get involved too! Don't forget to go back to the top of Temy's page to go on to subsequent debate pages.

 

My Impressions and the Resurrection

Including links to many critical resources and other interesting discussions on the resurrection.

(I have told Jordan about this page and its slow evolution as he said he wished to know my thoughts. This format hopefully avoids a harassing debate. Jordan now has his own web presence which can be found here).

I have written this page such that the links within the essay are directly relevant and should be considered part of it. The links at the end are for further reading and lead to exhaustive research.

I have now read all of the material that Jordan wrote and much of the other material linked to. I was already familiar with Craig's site and have read many of his debates and articles as well as pieces critical of his writings. I have found the technical lectures and debates from William Craig far from convincing in the light of the modern scholarship and philosophy that I have read (see end). I am also unimpressed that some of his arguments and articles are sometimes so obscure that they are difficult to follow, not to mention often using non-English quotes (some lengthy) without translation. Does one need to be very intelligent to be a Christian? Would Christians consider putting the same amount of work into examining other religions as they expect non-Christians to put into Christianity? It should also be borne in mind that in "Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 1994" Craig writes: "Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." I am also familiar with, and have read some of, the massive but gentle Christian Thinktank which I found shortly after I first came on the Internet and which I chose as one of the quality Christian sites for sending my "asymmetry of conversion" email to. Although very admirable for its calm manner, this site did strike me in the same way as the book discussed in this exchange. That is, as a tortuous attempt to excuse the inexcusable I'm afraid, a massive effort on the part of one person to justify God's ways to man. It really should ring alarm bells when it takes so long to attempt to convince that God is love. Real and healthy love is not so difficult to know.

I will mostly respond to Jordan's points that are not about the resurrection at the end of this essay. I took a few weeks to compile this essay and to produce some documentary transcripts as I did not want to make a hasty response. (I also occasionally update it, so you may wish to refresh this page and check the date at the top). I wished to give such a convert considerable thinking time on my part to see what he had to say, so that I could follow up his resources and think about him more carefully. I also wish to discuss the resurrection as it is so central to Christianity. However, I do want to avoid merely rehashing the extensive debate that there already is on this, so my essay is a relatively small outline whilst still tackling major points. The links within this essay provide enough material for serious study into why the resurrection stories should not be compelling. I am also trying to be fair and not say anything which might be taken personally. I have made many adjustments to this essay in order to make it free of personal attacks. However it is difficult, if not impossible, to be completely inoffensive when discussing religion. Once beliefs have become part of a personality then to criticise them is to criticise an aspect of a person, let alone engendering fear of being wrong and the supposed consequences of such a mistake.

Another objective is to see why a former atheist society member would convert despite all that he should have known. Would this be amongst the best that Christians have to offer - an informed atheist who became a Christian because he found compelling evidence that Christianity was true? In this case, specifically that the resurrection was well attested and impossible for him to deny. So part of me was expecting novelty - what could I say, that he wouldn't already know? What might he be able to tell me? My reply to Jordan, explaining my idea for an approach, can be read here. However, at other times, I thought it rather unlikely that I would find a new apologetic angle, as I have already read much and there are too many problems with Christianity. Rather I thought it would be an intriguing puzzle to think over how such a person could have become a Christian. I thought that either he had missed something himself or there must really be something new that he had found out - or some new possibility. Indeed, basically I didn't know the reason, which could be quite different from any of my guesses, so unless I inquired I might not find out. Now I have read his writings, I think that there are good reasons why Jordan's apologetics cannot possibly be successful. It seems to me that his approach is to use standard conservative apologetics which have been criticised at length already. I was a little surprised to read this from an ex-atheist society member. As I explained on my previous page, the purpose of looking for ex-members of atheist/freethought societies is that in general they should be well read in the arguments against Christianity. This is not guaranteed, but I was expecting a trend. I discuss this a little here. This also discusses Jordan's good point about relative numbers of ex-"professional" atheists and ex-professional-Christians. I also touch on why ex-Christians should be more disturbing than ex-atheists in a Christian worldview. The original background to this whole question can be seen in a debate I had on the "Xtianity" mailing list - Seek and ye shall find.

Certainly Jordan has read quite a lot of material, but he also asked << If you know of a current atheist scholar who presents a compelling case against Jesus' existence, crucifixion, and disappearance from the tomb, please inform me. >> I think this shows there is likely to be significant important material that has been missed. To ask the question phrased in such a way also suggests to me some confusion about the nature of research, and an immersion in standard conservative Christian apologetics. Most importantly it shows unfamiliarity with modern (and not so modern) liberal scholarship, otherwise one should know the question can be more sophisticated than this. It is quite false that the scholarly concensus is that there was an empty tomb and scholars are merely discussing how it became empty, as I will show below and in the links. Such stringent and particular criteria for disbelieving in Christianity are not necessary. One should not demand that the real-world, if different to how one sees it, should take on certain properties that are to be prescribed beforehand. If the world is different to ones own view, then one does not know how it should be. One should investigate in order to discover, not make a priori demands on reality.

When I was in the final stages of my deconversion I read a book by the Minister of my last church (David Holloway) called "Where did Jesus go?" It discussed the resurrection at length, arguing that it must be an utterly compelling fact for anyone who was honest and open-hearted. At the time it slightly bolstered my Christian faith. This lasted for a month or so until further thought and reading made it obvious how wrong-footed the arguments were. The bible, and especially the NT, is largely a theology book and not a history book. The proof-miracle approach to the resurrection has been discussed since Reimarus over 200 years ago to be a naive view of the bible. From Modern Theology by James P. Mackey (Oxford University press, ISBN 0-19-289206-1) "What Reimarus noticed was that the resurrection material in the NT, far from confining itself to the revival of a corpse as a miraculous proof of some claim or other, or providing an anticipatory exemplar of a general resurrection yet to come, is in fact already preaching in its own concrete imagery what later came to be known more abstractly as the divinity of Jesus, and that that preaching reveals its principal intent."

This is a common theme in modern liberal theology, stretching through the quest for the historical Jesus from such famous figures as David Friedrich Strauss, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, etc. to Geza Vermes, E. P. Sanders, and the Jesus Seminar. This has produced many ex-Christians like Gerd Lüdermann and Michael Goulder and radical "non-realist" Christians such as those at the Sea of Faith. The theologians who take a very different approach to the one Jordan sees as the consensus are indeed legion. They mostly argue that there was an historical Jesus (although quite different from the Jesus of faith) and a crucifixion, but no empty tomb (indeed it seems unlikely there even was a tomb) or physical resurrection. In the punishment of crucifixion, the Romans would leave the body there for the scavenging dogs or the crows - that was all part of the spectacle of the punishment. The massed graves for such victims were constantly exhumed by dogs and it is significant that of the thousands of Jews who were crucified around Jerusalem in the first century, in all of this time we've found only one crucified skeleton. That is a graphic reminder that burial would be an extraordinary event, not the usual event after crucifixion. Pilate was a very bloodthirsty individual, his compassion for a victim is out of keeping with the historical record. Another indication that the resurrection stories were made up after 70 AD by those out of touch with the disciples is the recent discovery that only four round stones are known prior to the Jewish War, all of them blocking entrances to elaborate tomb complexes of the extremely rich (such as the tomb complex of Herod the Great and his ancestors and descendants). It was only after the destruction of the temple that round stones were commonly used (Biblical Archaeology Review 25:5, Sep/Oct 1999, pp. 23-29, 76). Mark's gospel ends abruptly with the story that the women were told to keep silent about the resurrection, a very odd ending for something so important, hinting that it was the author's apologetic as to why the empty tomb was a new story after 70 AD. Other clues come from Paul's silence about an empty tomb, the rift between the Jerusalem church (those closest to Jesus, which spawned the Ebionites) and the Pauline church (the church which prevailed), the discovery of the unauthenticity of many of the NT epistles, the examination of Pauline theology (a spiritual resurrection) and so on. With these few facts we start to see how the empty tomb was a story painted using the understanding of those many decades removed from the real events. The resurrection stories were invented and grew out of a quite different spiritual experience than the dramatic portrayal of orthodoxy. Why this happened will be outlined below and detailed in the links.

Lloyd Geering at How Did Jesus Become God - and Why writes: "There is general agreement, among all but conservative scholars, that the Easter faith began with visions in Galilee and not with the discovery of an empty tomb in Jerusalem." To quote the radical bishop John Shelby Spong "The defensiveness of the hierarchy [of the Church of England to the revelation that many bishops do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus] revealed a startling unwillingness to share common-place biblical scholarship with a questioning public. Most biblical scholars regard the emptiness of the tomb to be an early Christian legend but they don't actually believe there ever was an identifiable tomb in which Jesus was buried in the first place." Also, as Anthony Freeman says "How is it, for example, that not a single professor of divinity in Cambridge is currently an ordained member of the Church of England? And how is it that the English clergy have so effectively insulated their congregations from the fruits of critical scholarship over the past hundred years? Is the reason perhaps that 'no priest dare admit officially to things which every first year theological undergraduate needs to know'?" The Internet Infidels have a similar article here. I have made some transcripts of two documentaries containing material from scholars with this viewpoint; Jesus before Christ and The Real Jesus. This is a huge subject though, and so the links on this page will have to be followed for the fine detail. John Spong also said "...this realisation has the effect of reducing the whole Jerusalem resurrection tradition to the level of a secondary legend. So the tomb stories which are part of the Jerusalem tradition - the empty tomb, the women at the tomb, the angelic messengers, even the accounts of the sightings of Jesus - they are not primary to Easter. They are quite secondary and developed in the eighth, ninth and tenth decades of the Christian era....any suggestion that the resurrection depends on an empty tomb is simply an inadequate and uninformed way to approach the truth of Easter...." His reasons for saying this are found here

More evidence that current scholarship rarely filters through to the Christian laity is the following from religious tolerence.org. "The beliefs of mainline Christian clergy and academics tend to be between those of the liberals and conservatives. A survey of mostly mainline Protestant clergy shows that many doubt Jesus' physical resurrection. Percentage of doubters are:

There is a massive gap between the beliefs of the clergy and laity in mainline and liberal churches. A recent survey of randomly selected Christians revealed that 96% believe the resurrection to have been an historical event." It would be interesting to see the results of a similar poll in the UK.

It should be of no surprise though that many biblical scholars hold conservative views, since most are funded (especially in the USA) by conservative, and even fundamentalist, Christian denominations. Usually people who wish to study theology do so because they are believing Christians. Even so, I know of theological colleges where there is a steady stream of people who leave their Christian faith due to their studies. Not only have I read about this, and seen such people discussed on TV documentaries, but I have also discussed this with the principal of one of these colleges, and I got to know the vice-principal who left because she came to the conclusion that Christianity was not of God. In my opinion, to quote a "consensus" about an empty tomb is a misleading tactic typical of Craig from my reading of him (I am not saying it is deliberate before I get accused of slander!) It is also, of course, one of Habermas' main theses. Discussions of the resurrection may be approached this way in the theology of the modern conservative church and some atheists' ideas - many may not have much time for modern liberal theology and criticism. I know some conservative Christians have at least some familiarity with the scholarship, as is obvious from the criticism of the Jesus seminar. It is quite another matter to think through if such criticism really is all that penetrating (refs  1  and  2 ). I also have a deconversion story from somebody who was studying to be a professional apologist. For him, his faith slowly fell apart when he decided to carefully examine the work of the Jesus Seminar in order to refute it. In his own words:

"I was planning to be a professional apologist and was taking three courses [in] my fall quarter relating to biblical studies.  I thought the best way to defeat the Jesus Seminar and the source critics of the Pentateuch was to know their arguments as well as they did.  Ironically, I was won over to the historical-critical method.  Given my background in comparative religions and my training as an apologist who liked to ask difficult questions, my view of the Bible and the religious communities that produced it quickly changed.  More and more, I saw the Bible as a mere cultural production...I wanted my apologetic to have a firm historical angle. In effect, everything for which I had been working for the past decade came to a drastic halt when the historical-critical method poked holes too large for me to ever repair in my conservative brand of Christianity."

The theological nature of the NT, particularly the resurrection, which emerges in the biblical accounts with a growing theology, shows how the proof-miracle approach is so wrong-footed and, dare I say it, materialistic. When I was a Christian, my approach was largely a "spiritual" one, not an in-your-face apologetic. Although I believed the resurrection was an event in history, I always saw apologetics as an aggressive and materialistic method of convincing people about Christianity. "It is true so you'd better face it!" - rather than promoting love, spirituality, brotherliness or anything genuinely attractive. It sometimes seemed apologetics was the only way once embroiled in a debate, but it also seemed at odds with Jesus' purported claim that little children, tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God. However, when I did study Christianity more closely, not only (contrary to Jordan) did I find the resurrection evidence poor, confusing and troublesome (see below) but resurrection apologetics also completely miss the subtleties of what happens in the development of new religions and theologies. I also discovered early on that the finer feelings Christians claim are neither peculiar to Christianity nor even religion in general. See my deconversion story. Christianity is not the only place where we can see this theological development happening, as I touch on in this essay, and in the links.

It is of some surprise then, that I have discovered Jordan's arguments to be a subset of what was discussed in my old minister's book. I would expect the best arguments to come first, even though Jordan promises he has much more to give. Nevertheless, I was expecting a more liberal approach. It was also disappointed to read that Jordan feels creationism should be given equal time with evolution in schools, which made me very skeptical of his critical powers, at least (to be fair) in science. I don't mean to be rude to Jordan - it is just how it made me feel as we really do know better than this now. I have addressed some of this and other relevant points already in this long email exchange.

On his website Jordan also describes homosexuals as people "trapped in homosexuality" and says he believes homosexuality to be a sin. It is interesting to see how frequently homophobic Christians turn into liberated ex-Christians. The ex-tian mailing list is almost exclusively homo-friendly. Occasionally it is invaded by a Christian and so far they have been always very homophobic (and they get a lot of stick for it!) I know there are exceptions within the church, but most conservative Christians are homophobic. So to a large extent, it could be that homophobia is kept persistent by Christianity, whereas when we are freed from our "fundiecaps" we can put on our "thinking caps." Given such frequent turn arounds from homophobia to liberality when people leave Christianity, it seems that the homophobia in conservative Judeo-Christian-Islamic society is merely a taught response. Christians take this to be divine law from the Almighty conveniently forgetting other commandments to stone children who argue with their parents [Deuteronomy 21:18-2], forbid shirts made of two cloths [Deuteronomy 22:11], force rapists to marry their victims [Deuteronomy 22:28-29] and the nonsense at Deuteronomy. 21:1-9 etc. Many Christians invent theories about homosexuality being "un-natural," "unhealthy" etc, convinced that it must be so because "God hates it" as written in an ancient book full of sympathy with Bronze Age warriors - not people with generally enlightened moral insight. When the Christian bubble bursts and people leave Christianity the vast majority of us have an accepting attitude towards different sexualities. I think most homophobia is a culturally taught response - an unfortunate legacy for us from some ancient writings that got incorporated (and confused) into the annals of one of our current religions. The writings at religioustolerance.org should be read for investigation into homosexuality and attitudes towards it which should shame any homophobic person.

Jordan also says "I am a fundamentalist in as much as I accept the Bible, the New Testament in particular, literally." The following statement is also from his website: "Many in secular "freethought" circles encourage Christians to read their bible claiming it would make them atheists." Many stories can be found on my site where this is exactly what happens. Quotes like this are typical: "The more I read in the OT, the more I was horriffied and disgusted by it. All god seemed to do was give commands and meet out horrible punishments to the disobedient. The death penalty seemed very popular for all manner of minor offenses." For a good example, see this deconversion.

I think Jordan has made many misperceptions. Of course, he may well claim the same about me. However he admits that most of his reading is of vitriolic articles and others that did not go into the depths of their reasoning, or used weak arguments as he says in his testimony. I hope to provide some depth in this page and its links and let the reader judge for themselves.

The basic problem with the resurrection is that it is a story that appears to have evolved significantly over time from Paul's spiritual vision to a physical proof-miracle. An introduction on this can be found in the The Perman-Till Debate on the Resurrection halfway down the page in this link. There are many scholars who argue that the resurrection appearance stories are theology, not history, closely linked to the eucharistic encounter and other religious experiences, expectations and ideas. There are also numerous striking similarities to the Jesus story in earlier religions. This was discussed many years ago by Joseph McCabe who also noted "the peculiar character of the Gospel narratives is that the farther a writer is removed from the events, the more he knows. Paul knows very little: Mark a little more than Paul: Matthew and Luke (about the end of the century) still more: and John (well in the second century) knows everything." In addition, this time from Richard Carrier: " Both Habermas and Craig claim that the Gospels are "lacking in typical mythical tendencies" (Habermas,268) or "theological motifs that a late legend might be expected to incorporate are wholly lacking" (Craig,254). But that is far from true. Matthew's record contains many details which are fantastical and fail to be corroborated anywhere else: the earthquake and the guards at the tomb (28:2-4), the masses of living dead after the crucifixion (27:52-3), secret conversations among non-Christians (27:62-5, 28:11-5), and Herod's killing of the babies (2:16 [9]). Moreover, the constant use of scriptural references, such as in John especially, is in itself a theological motif."

The discussions I have read and heard also show how the NT writers' method of research and theological thinking included searching the OT for apparent prophesies of what Jesus must have been about (e.g. see here). That is how they "discovered" much of his life story which demonstrates how little historical truth there seems to be in the NT. The knowledge of this comes largely from internal examination of biblical and non-canonical writings, examinations of other writings of the period, and understanding of the historical conditions and the kind of mental and cultural world in which the NT writers and their contemporaries lived. The sea of faith movement have a lot to say about the "non-religious" understanding that literal debate about the resurrection demonstrates (see here and here). A surprising sentence for many readers, but a subtle thought with much insight. Although their site is intriguing, the real meat is in Don Cupitt's books, especially "Taking leave of God." All this and much more can be read in detail in the links given via this page. Needless to say, the enterprise is much more interesting and sophisticated than my summary and should hold surprises and enthralment for both sceptics and believers as it did, and continues to do, for me - such is the richness of history and humanity.

The claims of the apostles' changed lives has many problems. Good evidence about their lives is lacking. Nevertheless, similarities to occurrences in other religions, such as the astonishing behaviour of the followers of Shabbetai Zevi, show this argument up as special pleading. This is a far more impressive example of enthusiastic changed lives against the odds following the failure of a messiah than the biblical accounts that Jordan finds convincing. Research into the behaviour at revivalist meetings such as those of John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards would throw much light on visions and religious conversions of large numbers of people at once, even assuming the reliability and accurate understanding of the "500" passage which is quite problematic even at a naive level. The appearance to 500 is rejected by several scholars as unhistorical because it is only mentioned by Paul. If such an event had actually happened, it would have been the strongest evidence the gospel writers would have had for the resurrection. The fact that they did not mention it is suggestive that it did not happen. Even so, there were also reports of multiple and widespread reappearances of Jesus at later times that were clearly hallucinations. These were an embarrassment to the Church and had to be suppressed. There are psychology of religion links and books on my homepage, but to concentrate on arguing over psychology may well miss the more interesting point. "Not only mythical deities but also actual historical heroes, such as Apollonius, Augustus, and Peregrinus, were believed to have died and risen. Their ascent into heaven was seen by eye-witnesses and they appeared to mourning friends to encourage them." (A.J. Mattill, The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs).

Christian street preachers still claim to have met the risen Christ and testify to having a close personal relationship with him without ever having an actual physical resurrection experience of Jesus. I know somebody who saw Jesus standing by her bed. He had a golden cloak, a pointed beard and was holding a book. He smiled, made the sign of the cross and disappeared. I also know of Christians who regularly dream about Jesus. I myself have seen and felt somebody sitting on my bed who was not there (I know because I asked her later!) One can hardly imagine the effect of such experiences on an ancient and superstitious people.

None of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses (ref. (1) and (2) ) and the naive proof-miracle understanding of the gospels' resurrection stories is just bizarre in the face of Paul's silence on their physical accounts. No enthusiastic evangelical Christian like Paul, who goes to considerable lengths to convince his readers about the resurrection, would have kept quiet about such a physical story that Peter and James etc. must have told him if the accounts were as the gospel writers portray. Can one imagine an evangelical being quiet about physical proof-stories, such as are given in the Gospels, that Jesus was raised! All too often evangelicals peddle evidence (such as Josh McDowell's) no matter how poorly researched or flawed. For Paul to miss such an opportunity should be conclusive evidence that the physical resurrection was a later construction. There is much more on this, and everything else I mention, in the links on this page.

Why were women the first to go to the tomb? Surely such unrespected witnesses would not be reported unless it actually happened! Well, why was Krishna depicted as sky-blue? Surely a more natural colour would have made him more believable! With Krishna, the reason for being like the shimmering infinite sky was theological. Maybe this is also so with Christianity? Is not part of the theology of Christianity that it is a call to the meek, mild and downtrodden? Maybe the women had the first visions? Maybe something else? Meanwhile, there is a long history of women greeting a resurrected saviour in earlier religions. In any case, once the tomb story was invented, maybe it should be expected that writers would portray women as going there first as women were the anointers in such circumstances although, of course, Luke and Paul claim that it was not the women who were the first witnesses of the risen Jesus! (Paul claims "He appeared first to Cephas" whilst Luke says "he appeared first to Cleopas and his friend in the village of Emmaus").

"Every year from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, maids and matrons laid the pale and handsome Tammuz on a bier and mourned; and then the glad tidings of the resurrection spread and an easter joy succeeded the lamentations. The effigy or statue laid on the bier figured a comely young god clad in a redrobe; and it was anointed and bathed by the women, who chanted their dirges to the shrill music of flutes, let their long black hair trail in the wind, beat their white breasts, and burned incense to the god. So popular was the annual celebration with women that even after the stern reform of the Jewish religion the writer of Ezekiel, to his intense disgust, finds the matrons of Jerusalem, with dishevelled hair, beating their breasts over the figure of Tammuz within a stone's throw of the temple. Far away in Athens, about the same time, women are making little "gardens of Adonis," flowers and plants set round a bier, and weeping shrilly over the Babylonian god whom their Aphrodite loved. Far to the south, in Alexandria, women, not content with their Osiris, placed little statues of Aphrodite and Adoni on couches, and arranged fruit and flowers and cakes round them, and mourned....Centuries before the time of Christ the nations annually celebrated the death and resurrection of Osiris, Tammuz, Attis, Mithra, and other gods...Osiris, the Judge of the Dead, was as stern a moral judge as Jesus himself; and, to every Egyptian, personal immortality, prefigured by the resurrection of Osiris, was the firmest of beliefs. The main point is, however, that, when we strip away late embroideries, we have here a doctrine of a beneficent god slain by the powers of darkness and rising again from the dead. ... If we find, as we do, a new religion appearing in the first century with a story of a slain and resurrected god, and we see clearly that such a story was current all over the world for ages before the first century, we are very prone to conclude at once that the new religion borrowed its story from the old ones. That is not strictly logical. If, as we saw, the legend could grow up independently in four or five parts of the earth, it could appear independently in a sixth part. We say grow up, but we must remember that legends are not like plants. They do not necessarily require a germ from a previous plant to engender them. The Greek (orpre-Greek), Phrygian, Persian, Egyptian, and Babylonian legends of death (or at least descent into the lower world) and resurrection arose independently. Why not the Christian?" (Joseph MacCabe, The myth of the resurrection). The claim for the uniqueness and originality of Christianity which Jordan makes on Temy Beal's site is hardly valid. Neither are the warm feelings he gets at church peculiar to Christianity, or even religion, something I have already discussed at a number of places on my site. Neither should it be thought that the "success" of Christianity is an argument in its favour. It should be remembered that the church has been, and still is, riven with division, many Christians still claiming that only they are "true" Christians. Much of the "success" of Christianity is due to its bloody history, political power through the ages and ruthlessness towards dissenters (refs. 1,   2,   3 ). Also the fastest growing religion is not Christianity but Islam. Since Allah's influence is growing faster than the Christian God's does this not count against God's work in the world (unless God is Allah)? What is there to conclude from the rate of a religion's growth that couldn't be claimed more so for Islam?

There are many curiosities about non-Christian religions that surely most people would be at odds to "explain away" without a lifetime of research and scholarship. Even then some facets are lost in the mists of time. Christianity deserves no more study than all the apologetics and phenomena an individual may face in any other religion. Their gods also demand our souls and often threaten us with torture. He who in this oneness of love, loves me in whatever he sees, wherever this man may live, in truth this man lives in me...I am from everlasting the seed of eternal life...in its delusion the world knows me not...all beings have their rest in me...I am the way...he who loves me shall not perish...only by love can men see me, and know me, and come unto me...malignant men hate me...they come not to me, but they go down the path of hell. Krishna - the Bhagavad Gita (c. 500 B.C.) If I spread my reading of apologetic literature across the world's religions then I would be lucky to read a slim book on each one in a lifetime. Christianity only gets my attention because it is in our past and culture. Christians may see their religion as sublime - God submitting to death for us - forgetting that this is a common religious theme. Others may see this as barbaric, as reliance on death and torture is no way to engender spirituality or love. Taking this larger view, or moving outside of our own culture, Christianity deserves very little attention.

The NT portrays Jesus as showing the sceptic Thomas his wounds. Why could he not provide us with such hard and desperately needed proof? This is part of the problem with the "500" passage. It is meant to be evidence for the resurrection and yet the obvious evidence of appearing to sceptics, let alone anything but the flimsiest documentation for this claim, is completely missing. Such evidence for a proof-miracle is very un proof-like. Why are Christians trying to persuade us that they have proof that Jesus himself hasn't provided for us? If it is proof, then why remove it by one place? How easily Jesus could make us believe in him! If Jordan has been given undeniable evidence to make him a true Christian, then proof must be allowed. Why then can't we all be given proof? Contrary to many apologists, people do not leave Christianity because they did not want to believe - quite the opposite. Rather study of Christianity made it untenable. If Jesus really did physically appear to "the 500" then he appeared to the wrong people if the intention was a proof-miracle. There is no need to "explain away" something which is already so problematic. The bible is not as trustworthy as it looks to conservative Christians. As the controversial Bishop of Durham, Dr. David Jenkins, declared "nothing in the New Testament could be regarded as certain." See the main links at the end of this essay.

When I think back on how I and other ex-Christians searched so hard for reasons to believe as Christianity was slipping away, the proof-miracle of the resurrection is starkly bizarre. Why have I found so many churchmen and women (and all the well-churched non-professionals) who have left Christianity? Spend some time reading a selection of their stories on my site. If the evidence is so good, and the Christian God was there, listening to their prayers for guidance, would they not have found this evidence or whatever else they needed to remain Christians? Ex-Christians have attested to the magnitude of the apologetics they read in an attempt to hang on to their faith as the onion was slowly peeling away. If the evidence is so good it should have saved them. Christians would have been telling their backsliding fellows all about this great evidence. Instead the evidence is turning scholars into ex-Christians. To quote the ex-Christian theologian Gerd Lüdemann "in the course of my investigation of the resurrection of Jesus, of the heretics in early Christianity, of the unholy in Holy Scripture, of the virgin birth and finally, of the many words and actions of Jesus which have been put into his mouth or attributed to him only at a later stage, I have come to the following conclusion. My previous faith, related to the biblical message, has become impossible, because its points of reference, above all the resurrection of Jesus, have proved invalid and because the person of Jesus himself is insufficient as a foundation of faith once most of the New Testament statements about him have proved to be later interpretations by the community. Jesus deceived himself in expecting the kingdom of God. Instead, the church came; it recklessly changed the message of Jesus and in numerous cases turned it against the mother religion of Judaism. "

The brilliant English scholar, professor of biblical studies Michael Donald Goulder, after having been considered for the position of Anglican bishop, suddenly resigned both the priesthood and the Christian Church in 1981 to become what he described as "a non-aggressive atheist." A knowledge of the history of Christian scholarship brings many such examples from the first "post-Christian Christian" Albert Schweitzer, to the modern day. This scholarship is often lost on the lay public, but is more difficult to ignore for those who have been through non-fundamentalist seminary. Following the bishop of Durham Dr. David Jenkins' doubts aired on national TV, a poll was taken of the UK's 31 diocesan bishops. Two-thirds of them were of the opinion that it was not necessary to accept the divinity of Christ to be a Christian and one third denied a belief in the physical resurrection. Scholarship often breeds radical Christians (like the Sea of Faith movement) or atheists.

On discussion boards, it is common to see a Christian who thinks they have good evidence trumpet it loudly. How many Christians have used Josh McDowell or Paul Little etc. in their evangelism! However, as soon as the evidence can be shown to be in serious trouble, Christians often start using more obscure philosophical arguments and the need for faith starts re-entering the picture. But if evidence is the key (which Christians are keen to use when they think they have got it), then what of the faith and free will? Is free will not important if there is evidence? Not that I think such arguments have any credence anyway. My daughter is quite free to love me or not, without me hiding from her and allowing anything to happen without lifting a finger, and then sending her off for torture if she refuses to love the absent me and believe some curious doctrines. If you exist and love someone then it is easy to show that without interfering with their free will to accept and love you in return.

I am also saying this: to believe in Christianity because of one doctrine that one cannot figure out is a poor reason if one is also aware of the fruits of Christianity and the other intractable problems with it. It is not irrelevant how Christians have behaved over the centuries. If Jesus said "judge a tree by its fruit" then Christianity is a poor tree. Also, if one relegates this, or anything, to saying God's ways are too mysterious to fathom, then Jesus should not have told us to "judge a tree by its fruit" and we can have no criteria for deciding which god or religion, if any, are true or good. What is love really like? To accept Christianity in the face of such horrors as the holocaust just because one does not know the resolution of a knotty doctrine is to be "forced" to love a god who is neither loveable or numinous. This is not a good relationship. Just because a person cannot explain the resurrection accounts, or has not yet seen or felt the force of a good solution, this does not mean there is not one. I have seen a good solution, but it is one I found some time after I deconverted. When I left Christianity I understood that the world was a more complex and interesting place than Christianity paints. Everything pieced together so well when I could finally look at religious experience and history as man-made. And yet I did not have the full conciousness of everything I know now, let alone the combined researches of all the theologians, historians, philosophers and scientists that have ever been. Christianity became untenable when I realised it could be man-made. I had read and thought enough to realise how rich human history, psychology and culture can be. One does not need all the precise details. Nevertheless, with research it is surprising how the resurrection can be shown to be an untenable doctrine. Am I to rehash the debates and researches I link to? I can't see how I can do that justice, but I have at least given a summary, documentary transcripts and links for further research.

The holocaust is just one of many reasons why we should realise something is very wrong with Christian theism. Trying to build a relationship with a silent and neglectful partner is not love. That is the real problem with Christianity, which makes technical debate over the resurrection shameful. Nevertheless, those of us with the leisure to research the resurrection can easily do so, especially with the ease of study the internet and inter-library loan gives us.

In summary, the evidence for the resurrection is neither good (the conservative Christian points have been addressed in detail already), and misses the theological nature of the NT. Also from my researches such arguments belie a misunderstanding of ancient history. I may write more on this, depending on feedback, but for now I will point the reader to the following resources. Firstly this. Much of this material consists of debates, so the best of both sides of the argument can be studied. There is an excellent summary of the nature of the debate here. As interesting as this is, I think even more educational are the links during this email exchange which contain much about the historicity of the NT and also discuss the reliability of Josephus, Tacitus etc. whom Jordan mentioned. Subtleties missed in viewing the resurrection as a proof-miracle are discussed by the theologians within these sites, some of which are obviously liberal Christian sites. A particularly educational and well designed site is Dr Mark Goodacre's (Theology department, University of Birmingham, UK). More links can be found in my Summary of Resources.

This discussion about the resurrection continues in part 2. Also don't miss External resources on the Resurrection and related matters.

Other Questions Jordan raised

Finally, some remarks on other questions Jordan asked that did not fit into the essay above:
Regarding whether clergy who dissent were always raised in a Christian background. I do not know anybody who became a Christian who has not been influenced by other Christians somewhere along the line. I do however know of some whose parents were very against religion. I have a ex-Christian friend who was once a nun whose father was an atheist, quite set against religion, who was very disappointed when she entered holy orders. I recommend trawling through my stories to get a flavour for the mixed bag that is there. Certainly though, most were bought up as Christians, which should be seen as an argument against Christianity, not for it. Most Muslims are bought up as Muslims, although there too I am aware of some who have converted to it without pressure from family or culture. There was an ex-Christian Muslim a while back on the "ex-tian" (ex-Christian) mailing list. She argued that Islam was a far better religion than Christianity on all fronts. However, since Jordan sees this question as unimportant, I will not re-read all my stories in order to find further examples unless I am asked with good reason. We must also remember that if Christianity is true then God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit should be in the lives of Christians in some way, or at least (according to some Christians) "recognised" to be so. The important point being, that according to most Christians, God has something to do with them on a personal level. If not then there is little point in being a Christian (if Christianity is just fire insurance then it is neither spiritual nor a religion and certainly not about love). Therefore the Christian who leaves is not the mirror image of the atheist who joins. Once the hand of God is postulated then it is odd that any of God's flock who earnestly entreat him for faith should be abandoned to atheism (or agnosticism/another religion, etc.) However, if Christianity is a mistaken belief, then anyone who becomes a Christian can just be making a mistake, just like a Muslim, Hindu etc. due to misunderstanding of both experiences and the larger set of arguments against their religion.

A while ago a Christian colleague tried to convince me that people have converted to Christianity without ever having previously heard of it. He used the example of Sundar Singh (1889-1929) who was brought up in a very religious Indian household, steeped in Hinduism and the Sikh religion. The claim was that he had a vision of Jesus "out of the blue" which converted him. My Christian colleague was sure that this would be convincing proof for me and was eager to discuss my thoughts on this. A little research into "An introduction to Indian Christian Theology" by Robin Boyd showed me that Sundar Singh was taught about Christianity by Christian missionaries as a child. He also developed a strong hatred for Christianity as an adolescent, became suicidal and vowed to kill himself unless God sorted him out. Sure enough he had a vision of Jesus that converted him. Quite a typical tension leading to conversion (see William James The Varieties of Religious Experience), hardly "out of the blue." I also have a similar story from somebody who went on to have a vision of the Buddha.

Regarding presuppositions: Like Jordan's claims for his conversion to Christianity, I and other ex-Christians changed our minds due to the weight of evidence and internal problems within Christian theology, the bible etc. We did not disbelieve it due to a presupposition since we started with the world view we eventually left, as I have been at pains to point out already.

Regarding Martin's "The Case against the Resurrection:" Jordan is writing a critique of this. However, there is already an article by Jeff Lowder of the Internet Infidels that criticises some of Martin's arguments against the resurrection. These criticisms can be found near the end of this page. There is also criticism by Peter Kirby here. I have not read Martin's "the case against Christianity" so it is difficult for me to see the extent of Martin's arguments. Reading the reviews at Amazon also show that a number of atheist readers have found some weaknesses in Martin's book mixed in with the other more challenging work. It is possible that Jordan might have found something similar. If so it is possible this has already been raised by non-Christians.

Regarding Sartre: It is of course untrue that Sartre ever became a Christian. However, the phenomenon of people thinking that he might have done is illuminating. The same thing happened to Bertrand Russell. In his biography he discusses making some lax comment about the world needing "Christian love" during a lecture. There immediately followed letters from Christians welcoming Russell into the fold, much to his surprise and later annoyance as he thought he had explained during his lecture that he was only using the term in order to distinguish it from sexual love. Meanwhile free-thinkers wrote to Russell deploring his adoption of orthodoxy. Ten years later the Chaplain to Brixton prison welcomed Russell with the words 'I am glad you have seen the light!' to which Russell explained how this was an entire misconception! More subtle mistakes also seem to occur. It is common for people to assume from the writings of Einstein that he was a theist, and my guess is that the same phenomenon is at work with Sartre. Often highly intelligent people of this rank use God-talk in their writings when discussing something universal or profound, which is then eagerly taken the wrong way by Christians. If this is so easy to do with contemporary or recently dead figures, one wonders how the ancients misunderstood and developed the religious world views around them. In my second transcript it is discussed how the Pauline church misused the ideas of and differed from the Jerusalem church which was closest to Jesus and is lost to us today other than by inference. Einstein's famous God-quotes include; "God does not play dice with the Universe...Religion without science is lame, science without religion is blind" However his true feelings were agnostic as regards religion, and in fact quite hostile to Christianity. This can be seen in his own words here and is further discussed here. When I was deconverting I bought two books on existentialism, one by Mary Warnock, and the other by the Christian theologian John Macquarrie. I reviewed both these books for this essay. John Macquarrie engages in much effort to bring a Christian view into his discussion of existentialism, and yet throughout his book in all his discussions of Sartre (to whom he gives only slightly less space than Kierkegaard) he never once mentions Sartre's supposed conversion to Christianity. Instead, Sartre is a very rigid atheist in every reference (I looked at them all). The very interesting clue comes from Mary Warnock's book. At the end of "Being and Nothingness" Sartre writes "Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man, in order that God may be born" In a footnote Sartre writes "...These considerations do not exclude the possibility of an ethics of deliverance and salvation. But this can be achieved only after a radical conversion which we cannot discuss here." One can imagine the excitement that these passages could cause in Christians! However great men's thoughts are subtle. Sartre went on to explain that the idea of God is contradictory and so men lose themselves in nothing. The "conversion" of which he spoke also turns out to be conversion to Marxism and the ethics he spoke of was addressed in his "Critique of Dialectical Reason" which followed in 1960.

Summary of Resources

These are not the complete set of links in the above essay, but are the main resources for further study including some excellent supplementary sites.


Jordan has written a response to this page.

My reply is in Resurrection - Part 2


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