Chapter 25 - Reviewing the evidence about Jesus

If we were to talk to a Christian about Jesus, the conversation might go something like this:

    Chris: You are completely wrong about Jesus. Jesus is Lord! Jesus is resurrected and Jesus sits on the right hand of God the father almighty!

    Norm: Why do you believe that?

    Chris: I know it in my heart. I talk to Jesus every day. I have a loving, living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ!

    Norm: How do you know that Jesus is resurrected?

    Chris: It says so right in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were real people. So was Paul. They have no reason to lie. They saw the resurrected Jesus.

    Norm: I understand what you are saying. The thing I would like to help you understand is that the Bible is full of problems. There is no reason why we should believe the Bible when it talks about the resurrection.

    Chris: The Bible is not full of problems!

    Norm: That is what we saw in Section 2. The Bible thinks that slavery is great, that women are to be hated, that people should be sacrificing animals and that God loved killing children. We can open the Bible to nearly any page and find nonsense. We know that the story of Noah is nothing but a story. And so on. There are problems with the Bible everywhere we look. Given all of these problems, there is no reason to trust anything the Bible says.

    Chris: Jesus is resurrected! Jesus is Lord!

    Norm: Let's pray to Jesus and ask that he appear to us right now to settle this.

    Chris: He can't do that! Jesus can't appear to us!

    Norm: Why not?

    Chris: He cannot!

    Norm: But why?

    Chris: He's so busy doing everything God needs him to do! Plus, if he just appeared right here out of thin air, it would take away our free will. We would both KNOW that he exists. He can't do that!

    Norm: Then how was Jesus able to appear to Paul? How was Jesus able to appear to the 500 brethren? Why was it OK for them to KNOW that Jesus exists?

    Chris: That was different.

    Norm: Why?

    Chris: Jesus had only been dead a couple of days.

    Norm: Why does that matter to a timeless, omnipotent being?

    Chris: You are so wrong about this!

    Norm: OK, then let's pray to Jesus about anything. Let's ask Jesus to do anything for us right now. What we saw in Section 1 is that Jesus does not answer any prayers. Why don't we ask him to move a mountain for us?

    Chris: You are so wrong.

    Norm: Why can't we pray to him right now? In Mark 11:24 Jesus' message is crystal clear: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." He says, "Ask, and you shall receive." In Luke 1:37: "For with God nothing will be impossible." Nothing is impossible through prayer. Why won't he respond to us if we pray to him right now?

    Chris: You are completely wrong. That is not how prayer works!

    Norm: Here's another way to look at it. Why don't we take a vote? We take all six billion people on the planet and we ask them to vote on whether Jesus is God or not. Only two billion people on the planet are Christian, so the other four billion are going to vote against Jesus. For every Christian, there are two non-Christians who think you are delusional.

    Chris: They are all wrong! If only they knew the Lord Jesus like I do!

    Norm: You are telling me that all one billion Muslims are wrong? They believe that Jesus was a man, not God. It says so right in the Koran [Koran 5:75].

    Chris: The Muslims are delusional!

    Norm: Those are fightin' words.

    Chris: They are delusional! Everyone knows it! Jesus is Lord!

    Norm: So there are a billion Muslims who think that all the Christians are delusional. And there are two billion Christians who think all the Muslims are delusional. Would you consider, at least for a moment, the possibility that all three billion of you are delusional?

    Chris: I am not delusional! Jesus Christ is our resurrected Lord! I talk to him every single day and he talks to me! And he answers my prayers!

    Norm: OK, then give me anything -- give me any evidence at all that shows me that Jesus exists.

    Chris: The Bible talks all about Jesus!

    Norm: So you think we should reinstate the slave trade? You think that Christians should hate women?

    Chris: NO!

    Norm: Give me anything.

    Chris: I cannot. Jesus must remain hidden! If he were not hidden, we would all know that he exists. It would destroy faith.

    Norm: If Jesus must remain hidden, then how do you know that he exists?

The conversation can go on and on like this.

To anyone who stands outside the Christian faith and looks at Jesus rationally, it is obvious that Jesus either was a complete myth who never existed at all, or was a normal human being who was turned into a myth after-the-fact. Yet, despite all the problems, contradictions and lack of evidence, a Christian will cling to Jesus. You will begin to understand why Christians do that in Chapter 27, but for now let's simply review the evidence that we have seen.

In this section of the book we have looked at Jesus from a number of different angles. What we have found is that Jesus was a human being just like you and me. We simply ask the questions that any normal person would ask of someone who claims to be God. For example:

  • If Jesus is God, why did he never prove it in a meaningful way? Why are none of his miracles visible today? We examined this question in chapter 19. Of the questions asked in this section of the book, this one is the most important. It is important for this simple reason: If a man were to walk up to you today and state that he is God, you would want to see proof. The proof would have to be obvious to everyone and scientifically irrefutable. Jesus is no different.

  • If Jesus is God, and Jesus is resurrected, then why hasn't he appeared to you in the flesh to prove that he is resurrected? We examined this question in chapter 20. In order for the Apostles to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to them. In order for Paul to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to him. Why would Jesus, who is all-loving and timeless, think of you as any less important than Paul? The reason is because Jesus did not appear to anyone.

  • Why do we need to eat Jesus? We examined this question in chapter 21. We have Jesus -- the all-loving creator of the universe -- demanding that we ceremonially cannibalize his body and satanically drink his blood if we want to have "eternal life." The source of this bizarre ritual is not Jesus. The ritual comes from primitive pagan religions that were common at the time.

  • Why do so many children live in poverty, and why does Jesus misspeak so many times in the New Testament? In chapter 22 we examined a number of statements where Jesus is wrong. Why would a perfect God write things in the Bible that are incorrect?

  • Why does Jesus need money from you every Sunday morning? In chapter 24 we examined this interesting paradox.
There are broader pieces of evidence as well. As pointed out in Section 1, Jesus does not answer prayers. As pointed out in Section 2, the Bible is provably the work of primitive men. And so on.

We can look at Jesus from several other angles and reach the same conclusion.

The biggest problem with Jesus

The biggest problem with Jesus is his incredible myopia. We can see that now looking back at him 2,000 years later. Why didn't Jesus use his omnipotence to actually do something magnificent and beautiful on earth rather than squandering his "power" as he does in the Bible?

At the very least, Jesus could have transcribed passages into the Bible that would have ended sexism, racism and slavery forever. As the simplest example, think of all of the suffering that slavery has caused. As described in chapter 13, millions upon millions of people have suffered through the bondage and the remarkable brutality of slavery because Jesus and his Bible fully endorse slavery. If Jesus had simply made a clear statement -- "Slavery is forbidden, free all the slaves" -- he could have prevented much of that suffering. Yet he did nothing of the sort. In the same way, Jesus could have chosen women to be six of his apostles and made several speeches on the topic of women's equality and he would have put a huge dent in sexism (see chapter 15). Still today we see the effects of Jesus' shortsightedness in this area.

At a larger level, if Jesus were God, he could have performed so many real miracles. He could have, for example, eliminated smallpox and a host of other diseases that science is busy eliminating today. Jesus could have given the people of Israel the knowledge that they would need to start a technological society and raise themselves above the primitive living conditions of the day. As mentioned in Chapter 17, Jesus could have taught the Israelites about metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physics, manufacturing, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc., etc., etc. He could have also taught them how to responsibly use these technologies to solve the problems of pollution and habitat destruction that so often accompany them today. He could have made clear statements to deter nuclear proliferation. He could have taught mankind to share wealth so that the immense problem of global poverty that we see today would have been solved long ago. He could have laid down a template for governance that would have ended monarchies, dictatorial regimes and warlords forever. He could have made his message so clear, and the proof of his godliness so obvious, that all six billion people on the planet would have aligned with him rather than fragmenting into dozens of bizarre and often warring factions.

Jesus, if he actually were God, could have done so much. He could have prevented massive amounts of human suffering with his words and deeds. Instead, he did none of this. To any rational person, these problems make it painfully obvious that Jesus was a normal human being.

Jesus, the eternal torturer

Simply take a moment to think about the following statement:

    "Hello, my name is Jesus. I love you deeply. I have loved you since you were conceived in the womb and I will love you for all eternity. I died for you on the cross because I love you so much. I long to have a loving personal relationship with you. I will answer all of your prayers through my love. But if you do not get down on your knees and worship me, and if you do not EAT MY BODY and DRINK MY BLOOD, then I WILL INCINERATE YOU WITH UNIMAGINABLY TORTUOUS PAIN IN THE FIRES OF HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!"
Yes, this is the central message of Christianity.

Think about this message. We have a being who, according to the Standard Model of God, embodies love. Yet, if you do not get down on your knees and worship him, you will be physically tortured for all eternity. What sort of love is that?

Imagine a human being who acted this way. Imagine that a human being for some reason "falls in love with you." This person sets up hidden cameras and begins tracking you everywhere you go every minute of every day. This person leaves a book on your doorstep that professes how much he loves you. But this person gives you a deadline and says, "If you do not begin to love me by my deadline, I will capture you and physically torture you in the most hideous ways." How would you describe such a person? We would call such a person a lunatic, and we would put such a person in prison for life.

Asking Jesus to appear

Here is another way to prove it to yourself. Simply get down on your knees and pray to Jesus. Ask him to appear to you, in the flesh, just like he did to Paul (see chapter 20). Ask Jesus to demonstrate to you, personally, that he is resurrected. When he appears, take your family camcorder and record the event for posterity.

Of course, Jesus will not appear.

What Jesus says in John 14:12 is so clear:

    "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
You have asked for something in his name. You have even asked him to do something that he is clearly able to do. The Bible says that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, so it should be no problem for him to appear to you.

Yet, predictably, Jesus will not appear.

Now I would ask you to examine it at a deeper level. Look at what is happening inside your mind right now. You have read the Bible and seen Jesus' clear statement: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." He does not say, "I might do it." You have prayed for Jesus to appear and Jesus has ignored you.

Even though Jesus did not appear, and even though Jesus says to you quite clearly in the Bible that he will, look at how you deal with this setback. Do you draw the obvious conclusion from the evidence? If you are a Christian, then probably not. Instead, in your mind, you are coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not appear:

  • It is not his will
  • He doesn't have time
  • He may appear, but it will be in the afterlife
  • I didn't pray the right way
  • I am not worthy
  • I do not have enough faith
  • I cannot test the Lord
  • Jesus only appeared to the apostles
  • Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, and is no longer appearing on earth
  • Jesus is actually all around me, but I cannot see him
  • It is not part of Jesus' plan for me
  • Jesus will not appear in the flesh, but instead will appear by rearranging the dust motes in the air. But it is not dusty enough here.
  • Jesus will appear in my dreams
  • Jesus is here -- I can feel him in my heart
  • And on and on and on...
You are an expert at creating rationalizations like these. You have to be, because Jesus constantly lets you down. The reason why you are an expert is because you have been creating rationalizations like this for Jesus your entire life. Jesus has disappointed you so many times that you expect to be disappointed. That is why creating this list of rationalizations is so easy and so natural for you.

But here is the more interesting thing. Let's say that there is some legitimate reason that Jesus did not appear to you. For example, it turns out that you happened to be wearing blue jeans as you prayed, and Jesus does not like the color blue. The fact is that the resurrected Jesus has not ever appeared to anyone. Zero people are worthy, or we would see the video clips for sale at Christian book stores.

It is easy to imagine how a Christian would respond to this experiment:

    Chris: Of course Jesus would not appear to you -- that would take away your free will. And if you video taped it, it would take away the free wills of everyone else.

    Norm: So Jesus can appear to no one, is that correct?

    Chris: Yes, that is correct. That is why the resurrected Jesus does not appear today.

    Norm: Then how did Jesus prove that he was resurrected?

    Chris: By appearing to people, of course. How else would we know that Jesus was resurrected?

It is a circle of absurdity. The only way for Jesus to prove that he was resurrected was to appear to people, and that was OK, but for Jesus to appear to you is impossible.

The reason why Jesus does not appear to you has nothing to do with your free will. It has to do with the fact that Jesus appeared to no one.

The evidence of Jesus

Another way to prove to yourself that Jesus does not exist is to ask yourself this simple question:

    Is there any evidence that Jesus exists today?
As you think about this simple question, you will realize that there is not. Everything else that you believe in has left behind some sort of evidence that proves its existence. But with Jesus there is nothing. There is no physical evidence of his existence. There is no miraculous evidence -- it is very strange, but not a single one of Jesus' miracles left behind any physical evidence for us to see today. There is no prayer evidence. No matter how much we pray to Jesus, nothing ever happens (see section 1). There is, quite simply, zero evidence to prove that Jesus exists today.

A devout Christian would point out that there is the Bible -- God's perfect word. Yes, there is the Bible. The Bible talks all about Jesus. It predicts Jesus' coming (see chapter 23) and then tells us about Jesus' time on earth.

But this same Bible also tells us that slavery is great, that women should be hated, that animal and human sacrifice is necessary, and that massacring babies and small children is one of God's favorite pastimes (see Section 2 for details). We don't believe the Bible when it talks about slavery, misogyny, etc. Why would we believe the Bible when it talks about Jesus?

Understanding the evidence

There are two options with Jesus. Either Jesus is God, or Jesus was a regular human being. When you look at all of the evidence, which of these two options seems more likely to you?

If you are a Christian, and if you have believed all your life that Jesus is resurrected and Jesus is God, all that I would ask you to do is take a few moments to look at all of this evidence. See also chapter 27 to understand where your beliefs about Jesus may be coming from.

<<< Go to Chapter 24     |     TOC     |     Go to Chapter 26 >>>

by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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