It is that time of year once again when I am reminded of the rather impossible things that I used to believe in, but no longer do. Perhaps one way to think about these claims is to look at what is known as the Nicene Creed. In short, it contains the basics, the core elements of Christianity, things that almost all Christians on the planet would agree upon, and dates to about 325 AD. The purpose of it was to act as a yardstick of “correct” belief, and comes from a time of considerable variation in thinking, so what we now inherit here is the thinking that eventually prevailed and dominated.
OK then, let’s go back to the initial 325 AD draft and take a look at it clause by clause. There are refinements with different richer words, but they are essentially the same and all harken back to this one.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
Evidence on offer for such a belief? None.
“Ah”, some might argue, “God is beyond” (insert religious hand-waving motions here). Er yes, but the claim is that this is a supernatural entity that manifests itself in our reality, for example by suspending the laws of physics just for you on a whim (answers prayers). Perhaps the most common argument is to point at reality and claim, “But it must all have come from somewhere, everything has a cause, so something caused it all — so God did it“. There is a rather obvious flaw in such thinking, if indeed everything has a cause, then what exactly caused god? The usual answer is an assertion that god has no cause, so apparently this rule that everything has a cause is not actually a rule that applies to everything at all, since we now have an immediate exception to it.
In the end, the addition of layers of pointless complexity on the basis of exactly zero data is quite frankly daft, a far more honest response, when faced with questions we do not have answers for, is to state, “I don’t know”. Making up bullshit will indeed deliver an answer, it just wont be the right one.
Nope, I don’t believe this, and neither should you, but you can of course do so if you really want to.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
So now I’m supposed to believe that the uber supernatural entity that created a universe populated with 100 Billion Galaxies, each filled with millions of earth sized planets in just the right spot for life to emerge, opted to pop down to our little obscure mote of dust, suspend natural human biological processes, and intervened to give birth to itself.
Nope, not only not finding a reason to believe any of this, but not even finding it to be in any way rational at all.
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];
One can only wonder if that includes things such as malaria, plague, earthquakes, volcanoes, meteor strikes, death, war, and poverty. Remember now, the claim here is “all things“, no exceptions and that includes evil. The “Epicurean paradox” which pre-dates Christianity is perhaps the best summary of this …
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
The point is simple, the claim that an omnipotent, all-knowing, and all loving supernatural entity is real and made everything, is not a credible claim.
Nope, I don’t believe this either.
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
Just when you think it could not get any weirder, it does. What this next part is doing is that it is essentially telling us that we humans need to be “saved”, and so the reason this supernatural entity gave birth to itself is so that it could then be slaughtered as a sacrifice to itself, to appease its own anger towards us because one of our ancestors was tricked by a talking snake into eating some forbidden fruit.
I struggle the grasp why a human blood sacrifice to a supernatural entity is deemed appropriate or for that matter does anything at all. Remember now, this entity made everything including the rules, and supposedly knows everything, so should have known exactly what would happen when things were set in motion.
Ah yes, it is all totally credible …. oh wait, no its not.
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
What is rather surprising about it all, even with all the supposed miracles, is that nobody noticed. Not one contemporary writer noted anything of interest like this happening at the time. The earliest account is the Gospel of Mark, and the earliest date for the writing of that is 65 AD … 35 years after the death of Jesus.
Some might claim, “Oh but there were contemporary observations, for example Josephus with his Antiquities of the Jews.” Nope, that was written in 93-94 AD, all he had to do was read the Gospel of Mark, already 30 years old by the time he wrote his book. You can go through the list of others with the same result, for example Tacitus (AD 116). The reality is that there are no contemporary sources, not one, just a stunning silence.
People do indeed hold beliefs, and just because some of those beliefs are popular does not in any way establish them as true.
Was there in fact ever a chap in that time from Galilee wandering around claiming to be the Son of God, a messiah? Actually yes …
- Judas of Galilee – Josephus states that Judas, along with Zadok the Pharisee founded the “fourth sect”, of 1st century Judaism. He also led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around AD 6. The revolt was crushed brutally by the Romans.
- Menahem ben Judah – was another of several Jewish Messiah claimants around the time of the Jewish War and is also mentioned by Josephus.
There are others, my real problem here is that we do have a great deal of detail from contemporary writers who wrote about what was going on, however, when it comes to Jesus and all the miracles, we get nothing. Such events should have been big news, but the fact that there is no mention of anything at all is rather telling
Nope, I’m not finding a reason to believe this either.
So why are such ideas popular?
I used to believe, but I no longer do, so have I suddenly become smarter, are believers in fact stupid? No, that is not what is going on here, there is something else happening.
Humans form beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of their environment — family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large, we tend to inherit them like this; after forming beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. What actually happens is that beliefs come first, then later the explanations for the beliefs.
We have evolved and have been naturally selected to be like this because it gives us a distinct survival advantage – your brain is a belief engine. From the sensory data flowing in through the senses your brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. This offers us distinct advantages that have enabled us to not only survive, but to also thrive, but sadly the price we also pay is our very natural tendency to pull things together and impose a meaningless meaning, hence we have crazy beliefs floating about in many heads for which there is no evidence at all … aliens, ghosts, lake monsters, gods, spirits, superstitions, luck … and Jesus.