The Turin Tests

Question from Bubsy (submitted in 3 parts):
William Guy gave an outstanding presentation, and while he gave many decent points for proof of the shroud, these six were the best (in my opinion)

1) Joseph Kohlberg, a geologist, actually studied some of the remnants of the shroud and found limestone. Later, it was found that this limestone was common in Israeli tombs, but not just any Israeli tombs, Jerusalem tombs. Therefore, if it was not real, how could the shroud have some remnants from Jerusalem tombs?

2) Guy researched crucifixion history, and found that while the Persians invented it, the Romans perfected it. It can be seen in the shroud itself that there were thorns in this individual’s head, which was never used before in Roman or Persian killings, therefore, it strongly hints it was actually Jesus

3) The shroud accurately depicts the nails going through the wrists of the individual for crucifixion. In many middle aged drawings, Jesus is depicted as having the nails go through hands, and this is scientifically impossible. Therefore, it couldn’t have been a forgery

4) the shroud was measured in cubic units, something they didn’t do in the middle ages, but did in ancient Palestine or Israel

5) plants and pollen examined on it were found to also be native to Palestine/Israel

6) the blood examined on the shroud had some chemical compounds in it that a person’s blood would have under extreme stress, which is what Jesus would have gone through, and a forgery would not have had that.

therefore, it has to be Jesus, how can it not be? The thorns, the Jerusalem limestones, the blood, the plants/pollen

How does it feel to know it is true lads?

…hello again,
did some further research on the Shroud of Turin, and William Guy made an outstanding documentary about the it. He gives proofs for its authenticity, or at least that it wasn’t a forgery including:

he said that crucifiction was invented by persians and perfected by romans. He said at that time, no one wore those thorns on their heads other than Jesus, therefore it proves it was him, and that it couldn’t have been a forgery as real blood was used which had some chemical balance demonstrating the person was suffering. He said a forger wouldn’t have put blood into the shroud, and he said pollen was found there that is native to ancient palestine. The most recent carbon dating seemed to suggest it was from a time period from about 1000 years BC to 1000 years after, so the timeframe could be right.

He also said that one geologist actually studied the shroud and found remnants of tomb stone on it. He tested it, and found that it matched with Jerusalem lime stone in tombs, not even limestone in other parts of Israel.

These seems really hard to refute.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0JBberCqw4

…Did more research and found a link between the Sudarium of Oviedo and the Shroud.
https://theshroudofturin.blogspot.ca/2007/08/bogus-shroud-of-turin-10-shrouds-blood.html?m=1

There have been connections with the two including: both have same blood types, both have the same plant and pollen remnants, if you do a face overlay, both faces are equivalent. Blood is found in the same places. Therefore, it seems it was used on the same individual. I just think this proves Jesus existed, and if he didn’t rise from the dead, how could all of these people have reported seeing him? It seems like this may prove Christianity.

Answer by SmartLX:
Sorry for the delay Bubsy, I’ve been sick among other things.

First set of points first, assuming for the sake of argument that the analyses by two theologians (one of which happened to be a geologist) were carried out scientifically:

1) Even if the limestone residue is really proven to be unique to Jerusalem, the shroud can be from Jerusalem and yet not genuine if it was made as a fake in Jerusalem, as were a great many false relics. (For instance there are about 30 “holy” cross nails floating around, so at least 27 must be fake.)

2) Thorns in the head would be an essential element of a fraudulent Jesus shroud. If you had the real shroud of a crucifixion victim to begin with, that’s exactly the detail you’d add to make it look like Jesus.

3) Sadly, there were plenty of people in the Middle Ages who knew exactly what happens when you drive nails through people’s hands. Even if not, that would leave it as a possible forgery from the age when crucifixion still occurred.

4) If the shroud is a round number of cubic units (do you mean cubits?) long, that doesn’t mean it was measured in those units. It may have been longer until it frayed or shrank, or another measurement type may sync up at that length. It’s not like there are marks on it like a ruler.

5) Again, if it was forged in Jerusalem with the other relics, no problem.

6) There’s a long way between the Shroud belonging to a real execution victim and the Shroud belonging to Jesus Christ. A real shroud from a random victim, as I’ve been implying, is the perfect base material for a Jesus shroud.

The documentary covers much of the same material. The farthest all of it gets you is that it may well be the genuine shroud of a man who died horribly in Iron Age Israel, and quite possibly the same man the Sudarium was used on.

Even if it’s Jesus, though, this is no evidence for the resurrection or even his supposed disappearance from the tomb. I think you realise this, because right at the end you switch to an argument about witnesses of the risen Jesus. As I’ve written before, the number of Biblical first-hand accounts of Jesus between the crucifixion and ascension is very small, and the bulk of the supposed many who saw him is accounted for in one line of 1 Corinthians regarding an appearance to 500 people. Accounts of witnesses are not accounts by witnesses.

They Poked at the Shroud Again

Question from Bubsy:
I suggest you watch this video, which is a summary video that shows all the relevant articles from 2009 upwards instead of going to the articles one by one. It’s faster and easier. [2018 UPDATE! SHROUD OF TURIN REVEALS SECRETS | STRANGE END TIMES SIGNS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBycQZug8Fo) Within it at the 3:25 minute marker it has information on: The ultraviolet light necessary to do so “exceeds the maximum number release from all ultra-violet light sources available today” and It would require “pulses having durations shorter than one-forthy-billionth of a second, and intensities on the order of several billion watts” ***********

Back to my point: * The evidence they have found is that the image is no oil painting and it is caused by light in the UVB range at burst of several million micro seconds and energy release of everal billion kilowatts. * Science has literally confirmed it is a crucified man and that the image has been produced by no natural light but a light that is several billion kw of energy and bursts of light as short as a millionth of a second. * It was highly superficial but strong enough to cause an imprint. * Christian imagines what Jesus looks like and this comes indirectly from the Shroud image that was responsible for most of the early portraits of Jesus from 300 A.D. Therefore: Since our greatest minds can not conceive of how the image was made except by supernatural means, perhaps logic dictates the Shroud is physical evidence of a supernatural event – the resurrection of Jesus.

Answer by SmartLX:
This article by MSNBC puts this claim into perspective very well. The finding of the recent study is that if the image on the Shroud was created by UV light (as per one existing hypothesis) then it had to be the unearthly burst you describe, which is an extreme hypothetical circumstance which merely debunks the idea that it was faked with this specific method. The researchers separately argue against the idea that it was painted. It might instead have simply been an actual shroud for someone’s dead body, from anywhere and any point in a wide timespan.

My favourite part of the article is where lead researcher Paolo di Lazzaro had to email the journalist to say, “Sadly, we have seen many claims spread in the Web made by journalist/bloggers that discuss the content of a paper they never read.” I think the same applies to YouTube preachers.

One NDE Question Left Over

Question from Kamil (sent before I answered his previous one):
Hello there, a few weeks ago I asked about NDEs with many faces aka Jesus. I just wanted to give you only a few of about the 160-200 accounts I have found online of NDE meetings with Jesus, they are all pretty consistent, and I wanted to see if these convince you.

Here are a few descriptions of meeting him:

“Someone was waiting for me where the path ended. I knew it was Jesus. He was tall and strong, with long dark hair and a wonderful tender smile. His eyes were unforgettable, immense, dark, so loving and full of wisdom… He was wearing a long white tunic, and sandals. He was there all by himself and smiling, just waiting for ME. He welcomed me. He didn’t say a word, I didn’t either, but we were communicating without talking.”

” I felt someone pick me up in their arms and I was surrounded by light. I looked in the smiling face of a man, who said his name was Jesus. He told me not to be frightened; he was here to take me back. He had shoulder length brown hair and dark brown eyes. He was wearing leather sandals on his feet with straps that went between his toes and tied around his ankles. He had on a long white gown with long gig sleeves, with a long light blue tunic over it. There was a gold color rope tied around his waist. His voice was very soft and kind, almost musical, and I felt a feeling of pure love, complete safety and trust.”

” I felt a presence in there and tried to clarify whom it was. I could not see a face but felt the presence of Jesus on a throne. I said ‘who are you?’ He replied ‘I am your Lord Jesus’ and I fell to my knees. Jesus said ‘Don’t be afraid, I love you’. I do not have the words to express the feeling of his presence. He had unconditional love towards me and said ‘what do you think of your life so far?’ I had a strong sense I had not completed what I need to learn as a human being. Jesus said ’You may stay with me or return to being a human being”

” Jesus Christ was seated next to God. The throne room was pure white. Then I stood there in absolute awe at the beauty of Jesus. Jesus was wearing a white robe with a purple sash and had flames in his eyes. His golden crown had many bright jewels in it. The jewels were purple, green, and red. I looked back at Jesus and his sash. Then the sash turned red. I was looking into His eyes. I saw forever in them: He was so beautiful.”

“I only had a clear sight of a man that stood to the far right of me. I knew immediately that this man was Jesus. I never saw him before, but I knew that he was the master and my lord. I understood that he knew every fine detail about me. Jesus wore a white roman like cloak from his neck to his feet with long arm sleeves that were very loose. A red loose ban of clothing stretched from his left shoulder across the chest to his right waist. He had long brown curly hair that dangled to his shoulder length. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t see his wounds in his hands, face, nor see the color of his eyes.”

“Our conversation differed from a typical face-to-face speech. Somehow, I was able to communicate with the choice by mouth or the mind. Jesus spoke to me with his lips and spread his arms and said, “It is not time for you to die yet.”

“I had the pleasure of having a discussion with Jesus. I knew it was him and that I can never deny. I also received a wonderful hug from him. I felt his body with my spirit and there are times, especially when I do have occasional bouts of depression, I can still feel his physical body with my fingertips and I know he was real and that what he brought to the world was wonderful.”

” He was more beautiful outside. This was like the Jesus images I saw in the Bible. His face was shining and he was smiling. His eyes were so deep. I felt that he could sent me lights of love. I wished to stay like that forever. It was the most amazing experience in my whole life! It was like he was taking me to heaven with him and I was happy to follow him. ”

“There was Jesus standing there about one hundred feet tall, with his right arm extended. He was glowing, with long brown hair, copper skin, and a long white robe.”

“Next to me on my right side was a presence. They were similar to the ‘light beings’ I had seen when I was three years old. But this time, the presence turned into a likeness of Jesus. He stood next to me and looked in my eyes. Then he touched/rubbed my right cheek. I immediately was able to breath and was free of pain and fear.”

“Then, Jesus walked up to me. He was tall and so beautiful! His hair was dark and wavy, and very long down to his waist. His skin was dark and his eyes were a warm, liquid-brown. Jesus had a smile that melted my heart. He told me that He loved me, that He had walked beside me every day of my life. He told me that He had never left my side and never would leave my side, not ever.”

“”I saw a pinpoint of light in the distance. As I approached it, I noticed the figure of a man standing in it, with the light radiating all around him. As I got closer the light became brilliant – brilliant beyond any description, far more brilliant than the sun. I saw that the light immediately around him was golden, as if his whole body had a golden halo around it, and I could see that the golden halo burst out from around him and spread into a brilliant, magnificent whiteness that extended out for some distance. I felt his light blending into mine. And as our lights merged, I felt as if I had stepped into his countenance, and I felt an utter explosion of love. It was the most unconditional love I have ever felt, and as I saw his arms open to receive me I went to him and received his complete embrace. There was no questioning who he was. I knew that he was my Savior, and friend, and God. He was Jesus Christ, who had always loved me, even when I thought he hated me.”

There are many more accounts like this all over the internet, I counted about 160 accounts I could find. They just tend to be so deep. Many describe Jesus as having dark hair, while his pictures in the USA make him look almost blond, so the American paintings don’t usually mesh with the description of him.
These experiences like I said seem so deep, the people have personal conversations with Jesus, and they know its him, there are not any NDEs I can find from other faiths where people have such deep experiences with other deities. Do these accounts not mean anything to you???
Even Kreps who studies Muslim NDEs says other faith NDEs seem much more sketchy than the Christian ones, the Christian ones are so vast and detailed.

Answer by SmartLX:
Normally I try to take every question at face value, but it’s especially interesting to come back to this subject after you finally got down to your own motivations in your previous post. You’re still convinced by all this after we’ve covered all the probable reasons why, simply because that is how it strikes your brain – or did once, before you had even learned about the extent of this, and now you’re collecting this stuff to shore it up.

The more or less consistent depictions of Jesus in these quotes may be cherry-picked specifically in order to be consistent, firstly. Even if they are properly representative, though, the culturally accepted image of Jesus has been in place since the 6th century and it’s there in the subconscious of every Christian. What they expect to see is either what they conjure in their mind’s eye or what they gradually nudge the memory towards after the fact.

The emotional impact or “deep”-ness of these experiences is also cherry-picked just by the nature of the fact that they were documented. People who saw Jesus in a much less affecting context in a dream or other state of unconsciousness might not bother to tell people. But again, having got the idea that they saw Jesus triggers subsequent emotions that can be projected backwards into the experience. One’s wedding day is often remembered as uniformly blissful despite a large proportion of it actually being spent adjusting clothes and wrangling family members, because of its significance to one’s life.

Finally (for now, though I think comments will add to the counterpoints), if any of these stories are made up completely, of course Jesus is exactly as people expect him to look, and of course each is a profound spiritual experience. Even the stories that are based on an unexplained vision and embellished later will be shaped in one’s head unerringly towards the expected experience, not away.

So yes, the accounts do mean something to me. They are indicative of a great many social, psychological and memetic phenomena whether or not they are true. But they are very unlikely to mean that apparently the most common type of NDE is genuinely supernatural. You probably knew I’d say that at the end, but maybe just read it a couple of times to let yourself get past some of the emotion and see it through my eyes. It’s a good exercise, according to Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

“ONE VOICE…MANY FACES…”

Question from Kamil:
I have done more research on Jesus NDEs, and found that while he does come up more than other deities from other faiths ex: Muhammad, that it may make some sense. I mean, Christians view Jesus on the same playing field as God, and they feel like they have a relationship with him. That may be why whenever they see a light in their NDEs they assume it is Jesus. Muslims do not feel like they have this kind of relationship with Muhammad, and they don’t worship him. Also there are no pictures of Muhammad, so during an NDE, their brains would be less likely to come up with seeing Muhammad potentially.

However, this leaves me with one question: what about the NDEs where Christians see Jesus, but he doesn’t look exactly like depicted in the paintings. Many report seeing him with dark hair, and some even say olive skin. Different people say he has different physical characteristics, and NDErs argue that he appears to each person differently so that they can understand who he is and so that their souls can learn in the best possible way. So person A may imagine Jesus as being tanned with black hair and brown eyes while person B may imagine him having fair skin with blue eyes, so he will manifest in those images for each person. My question is, does this mean that since he shows up to some people in ways that don’t reflect cultural imagery that NDEs with him are likely to be genuine?

And even though I feel Muslims would be less quick to jump to the idea that seeing a light or having a good “familiar” feeling is the result of Muhammad, it still seems Christian NDEs are much deeper with more life lessons and reinforcement of Jesus than Muslims are of their cultural beliefs. Does this prove Christianity?

Answer by SmartLX:
Kamil, did you start with the final sentence, “Does this prove Christianity?” and work backwards? Because if you read your question from the start up to that point, there is nothing approaching a proof there even if everything you write were true.

Jesus as described in the Gospels was one person, with one physical appearance. Shapeshifting was not one of his documented miracles. If different people who claim to see him are clearly not describing the same individual, this is a glaring inconsistency which contradicts the general claim that the same person is appearing to them all. The idea that Jesus is deliberately appearing to different people in different guises is an excuse for this inconsistency. The existence of an unsupported suggestion as to how the visions of Jesus might be both inconsistent and real is not evidence that they are real; it is at best an argument against utter disproof, which is a very, very long way from proof.

It would make the combined stories a lot more compelling in concert if the images of Jesus were separately verified as consistent AND did not fit the common media images. This would suggest that one person, independent of the cultural meme of Jesus, was reaching out to people. That still wouldn’t be proof, but it would be an interesting phenomenon which warranted further study. The reality is nothing like it.

Cornering the Market, Continued: The NDE Niche

Question from Kamil:
After emailing back and forth with a near death experience expert, I got a figure that from the NDEs he collects, about 13% of NDEs that people have include seeing Jesus. There are not too many Islamic NDEs, but there is yet to be one where a person encounters Muhammad. There are a few Hindu NDEs which differ from Christian ones, but again, almost no mention of Krishna. Would you say 13% of NDEs seeing Jesus would give Jesus more of a chance of being real than the other deities? I have heard that Islamic people may be quiet on encounters with Muhammad as it may be seen as taboo to mention a Muhammad encounter. however, I have seen testimonies of people dreaming about Muhammad and mentioning it, so I’m not quite sure how “taboo” it would be. My question is, if there was never a single NDE of Muhammad but NDEs with Jesus, does this mean Christianity has a better chance of being true? Also, I have seen forums on this topic, and no one can seem to figure out why Muhammad never shows up in NDEs. I do know that Christians on the web will proudly point this out and say “We see Jesus, others don’t see their deities, so we are correct!”. I would like to know an atheistic standpoint on this.

Answer by SmartLX:
I concur on two points. All the research done so far has failed to come up with a statistically significant amount of NDE claims involving Muhammad, and as shown here some Christians do point out Jesus’ supposed monopoly on NDE appearances as support for the reality of his divinity.

Firstly, at 13% of all NDE claims it’s not much of a monopoly. Jesus is not a part of the vast majority of NDE claims even by Christians. Even if it’s really Jesus, he’s not making good use of his omnipresence. But more importantly, when all appearances by Jesus in all claims made so far aren’t enough to convince non-believers due to the lack of good evidence any given claim provides, it means little to point out that other religions do not have the same claims. “Oh, your rivals don’t have this same support that isn’t any kind of support anyway? Well whoop-de-do.”

A more likely reason for the discrepancy than the occasional genuine presence of Jesus, expanding on what I wrote here and here, is that this form of NDE is an almost exclusively Christian cultural meme at this point in time. People are aware of prior claims, so if they have an experience that gives them even a fuzzy feeling of a divine presence (often attributable to medical effects) they will subconsciously shape the memory to fit the expectation. And of course if they’re making it up entirely they will custom-tool it to the memetic specifications.

Now if a recognisable Jesus appeared to someone who had never heard of Jesus, that would be something. But it would also be nearly impossible to prove after the fact, as I’m sure we’ll explore if anyone has a claim like that to share.

Cornering the Market on Divine Visions

Question from Spivak:
I had a question regarding proof of Jesus. People always say the bible or the quran are not reliable proof of Jesus or his existence. My question is, what about all the personal testimonies people have of seeing Jesus. There are many people who make claims that they met Jesus, or Jesus helped them in a particular time. More specifically, I have read and watched accounts of Muslims, Hindus, etc who say they had a problem for ex: they were about to die, they called out to Allah or Krishna, and wouldn’t get an answer. Yet, when they call out to Jesus, they see light, and he comes and saves them. He also tells them bible versus which they later confirm exist. There are healing testimonies, dreams, near death experiences, somehow, it seems no other deity really comes up in these kinds of potentially supernatural experiences other than Jesus. Does this mean Jesus is the most likely deity to exist?

Video examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PExVfzRsKU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjzdG2tNPgw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUBn99mTkM

there are many more examples where that came from. There don’t seem to be testimonies of other faiths meeting other deities. Does this seem convincing for Jesus?

Answer by SmartLX:
We’ve often covered the implications of claimed personal experiences of the divine, and how they have little reason to mean anything to anyone who doesn’t already believe. Here I’ll focus on the supposed imbalance between claims of visits by Jesus and claims of other deities. There are a few potential and very likely reasons for this imbalance besides Jesus being the only real godlike entity that makes house calls.

The most obvious reason is the media sources available in the Western world and the English language, both of which have an immense Christian majority. Accounts of Jesus are written out, recorded, published and distributed because there’s guaranteed to be an audience for them. This is helped along by the engines that rely on people’s faith being continually reassured: televangelism and Christian Right political advocacy to name two.

The religion with the next most adherents worldwide, though with nowhere near the amount of English-language media profile, is Islam. It’s not surprising that there are no stories of visits by Allah, because it’s a matter of doctrine (see here for instance) that we’re not capable of comprehending or withstanding Allah’s presence while alive. As for Muhammad, Muslims take it practically for granted that he can appear in dreams (they have to take care that it’s not their Devil “Shaytaan” in disguise) so it’s no big deal when he does and they’re not so driven to proclaim it to the world.
That leaves Hinduism as the only other religion with more than 500 million followers, and it’s got even less profile in the West. From what I can gather it happens plenty for Hindus as well; many yogis, gurus, monks and priests have their own stories about how Ganesha or Hanuman appeared to them, but only their own congregations hear the tales.

That’s probably the big takeaway from this topic: only Christianity has the infrastructure in place to widely proclaim everything that happens to anyone as a miracle and a vindication. By and large people of other religions just rejoice and get on with it.

Why Atheists Don’t Worship Jesus, Because Apparently Some People Want to Know

Question from Son of David:
Hello, why don’t you have a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? The Son of God. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

Answer by SmartLX:
Because I’m an atheist.

All right, let’s try that again with a bit more detail. Because…

I don’t believe that Jesus is in any sense alive or capable of having a personal relationship with anyone at this point. I don’t believe a god exists, you see. Following on from that, If Jesus lived then he lived right around two thousand years ago, and I don’t believe he was the son of a nonexistent god. When he died, I don’t believe he was resurrected or that he had a soul, so based on that nothing remains of him now but some as-yet-undiscovered/unidentified human remains, plus a very popular tale. To have a one-sided relationship with half a skull and a story does not strike me as beneficial for either party, me or Jesus.

Your question combined with the core Biblical claim is of the form, “Why have you not reacted to this situation in the obviously necessary way?” It’s simply because I don’t think the situation is as you claim. I do not accept the supernatural claims of the Bible, so Bible-based assertions mean nothing to me. So what do you do when they don’t work on people, I wonder?

The Face Of Jesus

Question from Vlad:
Last night I got together with a few friends, and we were talking about how in Islam for example, there is very little imagery (if any) of the prophet Muhammad or Isa (Jesus) but how in Christianity, there are numerous depictions and drawings of Jesus. One thing I found curious was that many of the so-called visions people have of Jesus in dreams, or even according to some individuals “in real life” generally cater to the images they were brought up to believe. A Christian living in Texas, for example, who believes he or she encountered Jesus, is likely to describe him as having long dark hair, pretty light skin, a thin build, etc. However, I brought this up during our conversation, and one of my friends (who is very religious) told me that Jesus did actually look like the way he is depicted in photos. I know quite a few people on here may not even believe Jesus ever existed, but assuming he did, I would have thought that he would have likely looked less “European”. My friend told me that recently, a cloth with Jesus’s face on it was discovered apparently where he was buried, and there are documentaries about this. Apparently carbon dating was done to prove that this cloth existed around his time. He said the only thing they could not verify was Jesus’s skin colour, but that it is actually known what his physical structure looked like. I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with these recent claims, but I would like to know, what would your opinion be on this? Does this give these visions any more credence?

Answer by SmartLX:
Islam, or the widely practiced version of it, expressly forbids depictions of Muhammad. That was the whole basis of the furore surrounding the Danish cartoons depicting him, and the resulting attack on the publication in which they appeared. That’s why there are so few images of him. As for Jesus in the Muslim tradition, he’s only a relatively minor figure in that mythology, and not being able to depict Muhammad makes it difficult to express images of any of the other figures regardless.

The “cloth with Jesus’s face on it” was the Shroud of Turin, which I’ve covered before. Its whereabouts have only been traced definitively back to the 14th to 15th century, and the majority of carbon dating tests done on it so far place its origin around that time. The Christian image of Jesus had mostly been standardised by the 6th century, so if the shroud is a fake then it creators were already working from the image we’re familiar with from so many paintings.

There are claims that those tests were invalid because they were supposedly done on newer patches of cloth, but even the strongest advocates of the shroud’s authenticity can only point to a test which indicates a date range that includes the time of Jesus, but also includes the year 1000 BC and the year AD 1700. In other words it’s useless.

Coming back to your question about people’s visions of Jesus matching the image on the shroud, they also match the accepted image of Jesus from all the art. Even if the shroud is genuine, the supposed visions would only be amazing just for matching the shroud if the shroud were the only surviving source of that type of depiction of Jesus. To sustain the claim, a Christian would have to go on to claim that every famous artist who painted that kind of face for him had a similar vision, because otherwise the face comes to people’s minds for other reasons than that Jesus has paid them all a visit.

Where Do Bad Folks Go When They Diiiiiiiiiie

Question from Becky:
I was never a big believer in the Christian God but I did read the Bible which showed me nothing but a vengeful God as oppose to one of love. I considered being a deist but hell has latched into my brain and won’t let go. Worst knowing there is fire underneath the earth seems to support hell even more since Jesus said he was going to the heart of the earth I just want to let the fear go since it was a main reason I believed. How do I let this fear go?

Answer by SmartLX:
You’re suffering from what I call faithdrawal, the continued fear of the wrath of God (including banishment to Hell) after belief in God has faded. As the link shows, I’ve discussed it a lot, because you’re not alone in dealing with it. You realise of course that it’s irrational because in a doctrine where God is responsible for the existence of Hell there can be no Hell without a God, but since when was fear rational all the time?

Let’s look more closely at the apparent piece of support you’ve found for the existence of Hell: Matthew 12:40, where Jesus spends three days “in the heart of the earth”. First of all, that might simply have meant he was physically down in his tomb for that long. If instead it is actually a claim that he was in Hell between his crucifixion and his supposed resurrection, I wouldn’t be surprised at the implication that Hell is deep underground. In the same way that it’s easy to imagine Heaven being up in the clouds, the unexplored depths seem like a perfect place for Hell, and may even have been part of the inspiration for the popular image of Hell. People living near volcanoes and elsewhere along fault lines, in Biblical times as in any other, would have seen and documented literal lakes of fire and many varieties of red-hot wrath spewing from fissures in the ground. Miners all over the world would have noticed the increase in temperature in a deep enough cave (though this might often have been caused merely by lack of ventilation). From the science of geology we now know why it happens in great detail, so the God-of-the-gaps has retreated from the subject entirely. Unlike our ancestors, we know the lava isn’t coming from Hell.

To answer your final question directly, It’s not a matter of letting the fear go so much as the fear letting you go. An irrational fear, like a belief, must be reinforced artificially in the absence of evidence, by various means: acts of devotion, new personal discoveries in the source texts (like the “heart of the earth” thing) and so on. If you recognise on the face of it, and continue to actively recognise, that all support for the reality of the danger is unfounded, it won’t kill the fear but it will leave it with no reason to remain. Over time, and without emotional reinforcement, the fear will fade and leave you. Though it’s frustrating to hear, the less you worry about it the faster it will go, so engross yourself in something else for a few weeks or months.

“Did they Die for a Lie?” And Other Appeals to Character


Question from Jamie:
I have a question about two types of evidence that Christians use to prove the Bible. What do you (and maybe most atheists?) think of Saul of Tarsus’ conversion and the historical record of at least 3 of the apostles being martyred for their beliefs as being any kind of proof that Christianity is true? They say that it is very unlikely that people would have died for a lie and Paul had no reason to suddenly convert. I’m not asking as a Christian but as kind of a skeptic.

Answer by SmartLX:
Doesn’t matter who you ask as, I’ll answer it the same way.

Christian-persecutor Saul had no reason to suddenly convert to super-Christian Paul that we know of, but that’s not the same as having no reason to do it. There are plenty of reasons you can imagine; guilt is an obvious one, but it could simply have been a very persuasive proselytising Christian. If Saul had any earthly reason to switch but didn’t want to admit to it, the story of Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus was a great alternative that his new fellow worshipers would happily accept.

Perhaps something really did happen to him which he mistook for a divine experience. He’d never seen Jesus in life, so any man might have sufficed. The temporary blindness he reported could even be a sign of a stroke, so there are plausible ways in which his judgement could have been impaired.

The point is that supporting one’s claim by saying or implying there are no alternatives is a very weak argument unless one can actually establish that there are no possible alternatives. Otherwise you’re claiming that if you don’t know of a possibility, there is no such possibility. This is an argument from ignorance, the logical fallacy I most often see in arguments for the existence of God.

The argument about the apostles’ sacrifice is similar: that they had no reason to “die for a lie”. As you can see from the linked YouTube search, this is a major talking point for Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and other prominent apologists. Again, the short response is that there are plenty of potential reasons. Maybe they believed the lie, or they thought the lie was worthwhile to advance the teachings of Jesus. Maybe the lie was a good short-term measure to keep them from being lynched by their own followers; not counting Judas an apostle was first killed eleven years after Jesus died, which isn’t bad considering. Maybe reports of their martyrdom are greatly exaggerated.

There are Christians who won’t tolerate a bad word about these arguments appealing to the integrity of the earliest disciples. Whenever I address one here, a long thread of comments follows where each of the hypothetical alternatives I’ve presented is attacked in great detail. It’s pointless because the alternatives aren’t limited to what I personally can imagine, but it shows that this topic genuinely and reliably strikes a nerve. That makes me think that behind the chaff of myriad apologetics Christians are taught and simply repeat, this is one idea that they actually use to reassure themselves that they’re right.