2006-12-16

what’s wrong with this argument?

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by Neil Godfrey

I did succumb to the temptation to reply to a thread of a debate over whether or not a “historical jesus” existed. Below is what I wrote. Maybe in the next day or two when I return to this I will see glaring logical and factual flaws. But till I do, i do invite any passers-by who may happen to be reading this to put in their 2 cents/hundred-dollars’s worth…… (the bit at the top in the square brackets and related to ‘peter kirby’ are the immediate comment i was responding to in iidb)…..

[QUOTE=Peter Kirby;4010439]I am a naturalist, not a metaphysician. I approach this within such framework. If there was a Santa, or a Jesus, it is not the god which you are exercised to declaim.

In any case, the original question concerned what Paul believed, which is certainly a question for historical inquiry. Instead of advancing that question, what you and gurugeorge have posted serves only to obfuscate with this `burden of proof’ dime store philosophy.
[/QUOTE]

“Silly substitution method” and “dime store philosophy” are denigrations of Kimpatsu’s argument that appear to arise from a misunderstanding of it. If you are a naturalist you do not believe in a god or gods or god-men or sons of god any more than you believe in the tooth fairy.

Some historical figures did attach to themselves mythical labels like “gods” etc but we do not start with those mythical labels to establish their historicity. Nor do we start with one or two references whose authenticity is hotly disputed to establish their historicity.

The only reason we treat a son of a god or god-man figure differently from our historical foundations for other known figures is the power that that god-man figure has in our culture. That it takes books like Wells’ and Doherty’s to begin to alert us to the difference between statements of logic (‘tooth fairies don’t exist’ vs ‘tooth fairies do exist’: “these are equally plausible logical statements that require competing arguments for us to decide”) from statement of knowledge (the sun will rise tomorrow, tooth fairies do not exist, god-men or men possessed by gods or sons of god do not exist) is a bizarre indictment on the power of that myth in our 20-21st century culture.

It ought to be a no-brainer to even ask the question “did a historical Jesus exist”. We simply have nothing to begin any quest with. All we have a theological writings about a theological or metaphysical (not historical) person.

Even if there was a historical Jesus for whom we no longer have any evidence (does anyone still believe one can establish a “historical” jesus out of the theological and metaphysical constructs of which our evidence consists?) that question has simply become irrelevant and pointless.

The much more interesting question, one for which we do have evidence with which to work, is the origins of Christianity question. The cause of naturalism and science will be better served by secular historians not leaving it to “religionists” to explore the question of the origins of Christianity.

Valid historical method does not waste its energies trying to find something for which we have no evidence and that defies all basic precepts of naturalism.

The “did jesus exist” question is a distracting waste of time from the real question about the origins of Christianity. The only purpose the ‘did jesus exist’ question serves is, as alluded to above, to prise our culturally bound thought processes back into logical sanity and common sense knowledge in relation to ALL metaphysical constructs, even those bound up in our seemingly otherwise inescapable cultural heritage.

Neil

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Neil Godfrey

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