Did Jesus Christ Exist?
Thanks for the complimentary copy of Positive Atheism.
Sheepishly, I confess that I had not looked at your Web site until today. It is excellent, a real trove of engaging and authoritative sources. I've book-marked it.
For the record, in his last book, The Jesus Myth, G. A. Wells concedes that the hypothetical "Q" source, quotations from which the authors of Matthew and Luke are alleged to have drawn material, may echo the teachings of a historical Jesus, an obscure itinerant Galilean preacher of the early first-century C.E. So belated and after-thoughtish was Wells's concession that I opted not to mention it in my article "Did Jesus Exist, and Does It Matter?" I thought doing so would do Wells a disservice by obscuring the overall thrust of his argument. Besides, I suspect he made the concession so as to broaden his appeal with mainstream Biblical scholars. I don't think the concession was forced on him by the available data.
I recently finished Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle (American Atheist Press). He presents a strong argument against a historical Jesus and doesn't give an inch to orthodoxy. Frank Zindler thinks Doherty makes a stronger case than Wells. That could be, although I think Frank underestimates Doherty's debt to and affinities with Wells.
Keep up the good work.
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
To: "Gary Sloan"
Subject: Re: Did JC Exist?
Date: Wednesday, April 18, 2001 11:09 PM
I saw Wells conceding for similar reasons, in addition to him submitting to the Liberal Scientific Method which prevents us from empirically disproving an existential claim. At least this latter point is why I fall short of asserting that no historical Jesus existed, and prefer Wells's point that there is simply not enough evidence to establish the historicity of Jesus.
I am now working on Andrew Newburg and Eugene d'Aquili's Why God Won't Go Away, which shows that the mystical experiences reported throughout history and across cultures have a biological explanation. This, to me, is groundbreaking information: the implications are staggering, and I highly recommend this book despite its problems in the latter chapters. Newberg and the publisher have agreed to let me reprint the first chapter of the book in April issue. I'll keep you on the list to receive it.
Unfortunately, Newberg (d'Aquili died before the book was started) spends the latter part of the book "explaining" how the "reality" experienced in the mystical experience is not necessarily entirely subjective, and could be seen as "really real" if you look at it just right. He also (perhaps unwittingly) opens the door for Intelligent Design creationists to point to the mystical abilities in humans as part of an argument for Anthropic Principle.
Quackery debunker Kevin Courcey has agreed to respond to the claims that religion is good for you: Newberg recounts all the disputed "studies" showing that "Lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to forty years of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day" (quoting Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke, from a hotly disputed and, Courcey says, highly flawed study). I don't want to slam Newberg completely because I can see how the implications of his work could be quite upsetting to a large number of people, so I can see why he'd want to backpedal (and perhaps even get a grant from the Templeton Foundation, but I have no info either way on that one; this is pure speculation on my part -- which I'm certain Courcey shares).
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