Thursday, April 25, 2013

Skeptevil

Rawl's taken his blog down the deep dark hole of skepticism...I like it so I'm going to go with him.

I recently watched an hour long video on the historicity of Jesus. It was an interesting video not just because the speaker was casting doubt on whether Jesus truly existed but also because he touched on how it's possible to get history so very wrong.

I liked his explanation that Jesus was really considered an entity that was subordinate to God and that appeared, not in physical form but, in revelation to a few people and that this was a common occurrence.

For example, Imagine some dude has a dream/hallucination/revelation about another guy turning water into wine or something similar. If he tells his bros about his experience they might say something like "Oh yeah, I've heard of that before. That's JC, sending you a message. It's probably important, you should remember it and maybe tell someone at the temple and see if they can add some meaning to it for you.

Aren't we all striving to add meaning to things that occur in our lives?

So imagine in our story above, word gets around of a supernatural entity sending messages to the people of the world through dreams/hallucinations. It wouldn't take much for that to ignite the imagination of other people. They might interpret their own dreams as a revelation from a spiritual entity. They may tell other people. Eventually, as the popularity grows someone will write these stories down.

According to the speaker of this lecture the merging of Greek ideas with other other culture's ideas to create something different was a prominent trait of the religions of this time period. Another common trait was to take these mythological characters and re-tell them in the context of happening on earth as part of history. He called this, euhemerism which, is named after the guy who did this with the stories of Zeus and other Greek gods. So taking from the revelation accounts of people and their accounts with Jesus and then re-writing these stories as having taken place gives us the basis of the Christian holy book.

The speaker was pretty cool in that he indicated why he might be wrong, where people disagree with him and he also added some historical context to his argument - Knowing that a lot of the Christian gospels are forgeries attributed incorrectly to the disciples or modified to suit political aims..

When the talk was finished I though what an interesting idea...but how do we know if it's true? And that thought took me down the rabbit hole.

Is history a matter of perception? If so, whose perception? How can we really know what happened in the past? If we were not there, do we have to trust the people who preserved the story? What if these people were motivated to tell untruths by their circumstances. What about perception again? I may witness a series of events which, if witnessed by a different person could be interpreted differently. Whose perception is correct?

You've probably seen this before:

Is it an old hag or a young woman? As much as I like the idea of Jesus not actually having existed I find I can't make a definitive call on it. Very much like my atheism, I can only say that one explanation seems more likely than another. I can only really say God likely does not exist. I'm not 100% certain on this but I'm fairly sure that is the case.

It seems there are some areas of discussion where there is no room for absolutes. I think probably the mistake a lot of people make is mistaking a "leaning toward" answer for an absolute answer. All we can seem to do is collect as much information as possible in an appropriate manner to get only an approximation of truth...It's a little scary when you think about it but what else can you do? Rawl touches on this a little in his most recent post on arguing from ignorance...how not knowing is not a case for falseness or correctness but now I'm wondering, what is truth?