Since I’ve been out of the loop for a few days, I thought I’d do a whole post on the comments that have been offered in defense of theism, religion and Christianity that I haven’t addressed yet.
Right now, I’m no longer among the ranks of the working for a while (had an interview for another position yesterday). A month ago I gave my resignation from the small nonprofit where I worked because I simply couldn’t stand dealing with my boss anymore. I gave them a full month to ask me all the questions they would need to know the answers to so they could continue to function and so they could hire someone to replace me. Well, my former boss waited until the last three days to try to ask questions and no one was hired. It should be rather sadly hilarious to watch him try to run an event on his own and do everything else I’ve done when he doesn’t even know how to make name badges in Word. My remaining coworker has all of my sympathies.
Now, onto the real meat. Ben, our current Christian has been doing a yeoman’s job at trying to rebut my points. He’s not succeeding but not for want of trying and I appreciate his efforts very much. It takes some cojones to try to bell the leopard in her den.
In a response to the comments on the Part 1 of his postings, he claims that Moser is not a big fan of the ontological argument. I pointed out that Moser’s argument, ““Setting the bar high, indeed as high as possible, we will approach the term ‘God’ as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name”, is nothing more than onotological argument. This argument is nothing more than the claim that a god exists because humans can imagine perfection and god has to be perfection. I ask Ben to show how that Moser’s argument that he posted isn’t the ontological argument. Moser, like many Christians, doesn’t like the picture of his god that the bible gives and that does cause him to try to seek out a god that humans would consider worthy of worship. He therefore creates a new definition of god, one of human imagined perfection. Moser may claim he isn’t a big fan of the OA but he uses it.
This argument also requires that humans agree on what “perfection” is if this god is to be the ultimate god of the universe, the monotheist’s wet dream. We know that humans have some similar ideals of morality, personal property, personal ownership of the body, etc, but those that we consider “good” are fairly recent. Slavery has been considered good and indeed, Christian God approved, for thousands of years. It is only from willful ignorance and arrogance that modern Christian apologists think that they can revamp their god to be their ideal of “moral perfection”.
Ben also claims that this god “must do what is best for everyone even his enemies”. Really? Again, the holy books of most, if not all, religions do not say this at all. We have the bible saying that those who do not accept this god are worthy of nothing better than genocide. The OT and NT make this clear with the death of non-believers demanded and hell required for their supposedly immortal souls. This is not a god doing what is “best” for everyone. Ben tries to claim that “harsh treatment” for those who spurn his god maybe “best”. That is in the opinion of Christians who think that they are the only ones who are right. It’s the claim of a sycophant who nods in approval when his king tortures someone that he doesn’t like too. And a god like the one Ben and Moser has proposed is certainly a reflection of humanity, our worst parts.
Ben says he won’t “quibble” I say that the bible does not describe the kind of god he proposes. He does disagree with me though. Now, I find that not “quibbling” is just an excuse for Ben not to actually support his claims. Ben, if you disagree, then show why you disagree or all I see is a Christian who wants to pretend that there is nothing behind the curtain. I can show the verses to support my position. Can you do the same? If you believe that your god created a “savior” that is necessary for your salvation and not to be tortured in the afterlife, and you have said you believe “something like that”, we can see this god in the bible. We cannot see a god that is morally perfect, not as you would define your god in the morals we have now. You consider the god you’ve invented worthy of worship, this does not mean that this god is worthy of worship or that it exists at all. And I certainly don’t find it worthy at all.
You have defined your god by your version of Christianity. It is only your opinion that a god worthy of worship (GodWOW) would send JC, it is not a fact or the magical truth. Your holy book shows that this GodWOW didn’t care at all about coercing humans or not. If that were the truth, this god of yours, you know the same one in the OT?, would have sent JC long before he supposedly did. But he didn’t, he, per the stories in the bible, personally interfered with humanity, he gave laws that he should have known would fail, etc.
And this Jesus. Well, there is no evidence that JC existed at all. He is not evidence (personified or not) at all of any god’s existence much less “perfect moral character and love”. It’s also amusing when Ben claims that humans are his god’s enemies. It’s rather amazing that this god couldn’t do better. And as for the claim that this god needed to allow humans the choice to disbelieve him, that’s just more apologetics by Christians who forget about what they claim heaven is. Ben, just think about heaven, and tell me again why humans had to have a choice?
I see many many MANY Christians who do not love their enemies. And again, I have no way to distinguish them from other Christians. They all make the exact same claim “I have the only right way to worship Jesus.” And all of them can cite chapter and verse on why they are “right”. We have Ben who is sure that his god allows humans to love their enemies but we have other Christians who are sure that they are supposed to hate their enemies. Love doesn’t hold up signs that says God deserves to kill people,, love does not say that people deserve a eternity of torture. The Christian god is not about love, it is about control and obedience. The Christian god can’t even fulfill its own holy book’s definition of love. Christians do try to co-opt the idea of love for their god and their god alone but they must destroy the meaning of love to do it.
And Ben, it’s not unusual at all to love one’s enemies. Abused spouses and children do it all of the time. It’s not magical at all.
Next post will be a reply to another of Ben’s comments. Please comment on the new posts. It’ll make things clearer and get us out of the thickets on the other posts.
14 thoughts on “Not Polite Dinner Conversation – I’m free! and more on definitions of “god””
I have been having interesting conversations with Ben on two of his posts and I must say he is totally amusing.
Hope the boss is well and we’ll get to read more from her in the coming days!
Glad you’re enjoying yourself.
I’d like to talk about one thing at a time (or at least try to). First order of business is whether or not Moser is a fan of the ontological argument.
He is not. This is clear from his criticism of ontological arguments in his essay “Religious Epistemology Personified: God without Natural Theology” in the recent “Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity,” pp.155-156. Ontological arguments argue that the very concept of God requires that he exists. I won’t offer such an argument here (at least for now).
Moser instead presents an argument from religious experience (The Severity of God, p. 132). He first determines what the title “God” would refer to, would such a being exist. He then attempts to determine what sort of evidence we would expect from such a being. So far there’s no assumption that such a being exists.
Based on what the title God denotes, Moser seeks to develop careful expectations of how such a God would interact with people. He concludes that God would make himself known to individuals at opportune times. The evidence for God, according to Moser is dependent partly on human volition. As such it is dynamic rather than static. It changes from person to person, time to time. But it is evidence nonetheless.
That’s what Moser thinks.
Moser may critize the ontological argument but he still uses it. Claiming that god is now simply perfection is nothing more than the ontological argument used to make the Christian god more acceptable to those who know what the bible says about this god. The ontological argument argues that since humans can imagine perfection (a baseless claim) then god must exist since god is supposedly perfection. That is exactly what Moser claims when he decides that he can tell everyone else what god must refer to.
The problem with this is that how is “perfection” defined? I can reliable guess that my idea of perfection is quite different from yours, Ben. Can one postulate that there is some objective concept of perfection? Well, again we need a definition of what perfection is and then go from there. Claiming that there is a god and this god simply has to be perfect to be god is quite circular. God is perfect is god is perfect…….
To claim that no assumption of such a being has been made is pure nonsense when I know that Moser is a Christian and as a believer *has* made that assumption. All of his work is based on his attempts to provide evidence for his presupposition and that presupposition influences his conclusions since he relies on long-ago made claims of what his god is. He makes conclusions based on his redefinition of god to excuse its inability to make itself known, claiming that now this god is “hidden” when all other evidence of the supposed Christian god has that it is anything but “hidden”.
To claim that the evidence for god is dependent on human volition is rather amusing. Human volition is the ability to make choices. How can evidence depend on choice? Evidence is evidence. Followed with no presuppositions, it will lead to an accurate answer. Evidence that is not constant is meaningless because then anything can be claimed to be evidence. We can decide that at a car accident, that no, the cars didn’t collide, it was really a magical unicorn that they both hit. What, you don’t believe in the unicorn? But it just decided to make itself known! It’s always been there, you just chose to not believe in it.
All silliness aside, constantly redefining god to fit its absence shows that there is no reason to believe theists in general, or Christians in particular. Their supposedly unchanging and unchangeable god now is as slippery as an eel.
He is simply not using an ontological argument. Its a simple matter of definitions (e-mail him yourself if you don’t believe me).
Rather, what you seem to be concerned about is how to determine what a God worthy of worship would be like (my word against yours). That’s a valid concern.
I suggest looking at it like a God-hypothesis. If God is xyz then the world would be so and so. We check the world and see if there is evidence of a God who is xyz.
It would seem from our conversations that you and I have very different God hypotheses. The God you describe doesn’t seem to exist. Congratulations are perhaps in order. But wait, you’re an atheist. You can’t settle for ruling out just one God. You need to rule them all out!
That means that for atheism all God-hypotheses must fail to describe the world as we see it. So why argue with my about which hypothesis to test? You need to (in principle) test them all! If any God-hypothesis predicts the evidence we see in the world, then things will get awkward.
The God I describe does seem (to me) to exist. The God I worship does seem to me to be consistent with the way the world is. You’ll find it quite difficult to prove otherwise. As such, perhaps agnosticism is more reasonable than atheism?
yes, it is a simple matter of definitions Ben. Moser wishes to redefine his god into that which is perfect “Setting the bar high, indeed as high as possible, we will approach the term ‘God’ as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name”. The ontological argument is that God is what which is perfect and, because of that, it must exist. The argument is exactly the same. If Moser wishes to tell me I’m wrong and demonstrate it, he is welcome here. I will tell him the same thing and his “authority” is only that which other Christian give him. Perfection is never defined and is as vague and nebulous as ever for those who want to pretend gods exist and who realize that there is no evidence supporting their claims.
I am not particularly concerned about how to determine what a god worthy of worship is like. I am concerned about if the gods claimed by the various religious are real. Each religion claims that it has the only “right” god and uses the same arguments as others do in an effort to show that their god exists. if they cannot, their claims are just as invalid as the next religion’s. It is pure opinion on what makes a god “worthy” of worship. My ideal of a god is obviously not yours nor is it the God presented in the supposedly holy book of Judaism and Christianity.
You have a good idea in checking a god hypothesis. Let’s go with the god of the Bible. We know it is *supposedly* XYZ, omnipotent, omniscient, active in human affairs, jealous, has made certain events happen. Now, We can check that hypothetical god against reality. We have no evidence of the supernatural at all. We have no evidence of this god’s supposed action (divine creation, the flood, the exodus, miracles attributed to JC, earthquake, sun going dark, dead walking the streets, etc). We have no evidence of the supposed fabulous temple or palaces of Solomon and David. There is no evidence for any of these things, Ben. Now, since you claim to be a Christian, you should have the exact same hypothetical god as I do, *if* you believe that the bible is true. If you don’t, then you’ve created your own religion to explain the limitations of the god you claims exists. Yes, the God of the bible and of Christianity doesn’t seem to exist. Your religion fails, and congratulations to me! I do not have to test all of the possible gods to know that yours doesn’t work. I can be an atheist to your god since something should support it and it doesn’t. You can be atheist to all of those gods you claim don’t exist aka my “hypothetical gods” because you know that Sekhmet did not annihilate a lot of people and had to be tricked by another god who colored beer red like blood. Disproving gods doesn’t get awkward at all; it just gets tedious. I can be agnostic to the Great Green Arkleseizure who is worshipped by aliens a billion light years from here. The GGA created the universe by sneezing and the end of the universe is the coming of the great white hankerchief. Are you agnostic to the GGA too or are you atheist to that god? I’m guessing you’ll insist that a great white hankerchief is just “silly” and insist your myths aren’t as silly as that, by taking refuge in claiming that things are just “metaphor” when they get nonsensical like talking donkeys.
Ben, you also seem to think we are coming from the same place in where we start with our expectation of god/gods. I do not think we do. I was a Christian, lost my faith despite prayer to the contrary, and went looking for any evidence for or against god/gods. I did not start with the idea that God did not exist. Many theists try to claim that this is what all atheists do, they are often wrong. Many theists want to claim that all atheists are angry at god, that they don’t want God to exist so they try to prove it doesn’t. But that is not the case with me. I read the bible to read from the “horse’s mouth” as it were. I prayed. Then when that failed after testing (and God does indeed say test him), I tried other religion thinking that one of them might be the one with the true story. Those also failed. I started with “If there really is a god, where is it?”; not with “There is my god, how can I prove it?” as you appear to have done. I came to the *conclusion* that no gods exist as claimed by humans. I do understand that we can try to redefine god/gods into something so vague that no one can conclusively show don’t exist. But those are the gods being worshipped right here and right now by humans.
You’ve had to rewrite god as a modern human being who knows certain things are true, so of course your version of god seems to be consistent with the world you wrote it to match. There is nothing surprising about that at all. All religion do it and again, it does not show that your religion is true at all. it just shows that you can retcon a story.
As I mentioned above, Moser is offering an argument from religious experience for the reality of God (so defined). Before defending that argument, I’ll address your post specifically.
In your post you seem to raise two interesting points (at least that stood out to me).
1. “there is no evidence that JC existed at all.” This is an extreme view. There is plenty of evidence that he not only existed, but was crucified by the Romans, buried by an individual named Joseph of Arimathea, that his tomb was found empty by his women followers, that his disciples experienced appearances of Jesus after his death, and that his followers believed in his physical resurrection despite all religious, social, and political pressure compelling them to do otherwise. I need only direct you to the nearest academic library. These are secular, not religious, historical facts and may be verified as well as anything else we know about history.
2. The second point you emphasize in various ways is what may be called the “problem of evil”. If God is good and powerful, why does the world look the way it does? Why the suffering? Why so slow to condemn slavery? Why are Christians mean? Why eternal painful judgment? Why the political abuse in the name of religion?
These are good questions. I’ve examined some of them on my blog. Rather than attempting to justify God to you point by point, I’d like to raise two thoughts.
a) One can know God personally without first understanding why there is evil in the world. It does not follow that just because I know God exists as a Christian that I also know why he runs the world the way he does. Nevertheless, I’ve come to slowly understand these questions and some of their answers over time.
b) I won’t share my views on God’s severity before asking you to reflect on the human condition. I’ve written a somewhat disturbing post about this – http://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/evil-and-naturalism/. It is my position that people are naturally evil and I appeal to the genocidal evidence of the 20th century. Horrible atrocities are not the exception in human experience but the norm. The Holocaust is just one of many examples. I think the Milgram psychological experiment further supports this view. One cannot form reasonable expectations for God’s response until one meditates on the depth of man-made-horrors. Failure to grasp this will result in criticizing God unfairly, as if the world was going well without him.
Until next time,
1. Ben, you keep making these claims about JC. You are requested to present this “plenty of evidence” that JC existed but was crucified by the Romans, etc. You may want to consider that no one knows where the tomb is. Funny how Christians have forgotten that. There are at least three sites claiming to be the “real” one. And no, you dont’ get to claim that I need to go do the research myself at the ‘nearest academic library”. You need to present what you think is evidence and defend it. There are no “secular, not religious historical facts” that support that your supposed savior existed.
I am very familiar with the false claims of evidence for JC’s existence. I’ve been showing how they fail for at least a decade. You’ve made the claim you have the evidence and now are requested to fulfill that claim. If you are so sure you are right, then defend your claims, don’t hide behind claim that I should go to a library. Take some responsibility.
2 (a). You make the claim that one can know your god personally. Evidence for this yet? You claim that one can know your god before understanding why there is evil in the world. How? It does follow that one should be able to understand why there is evil in the world from knowing this god since it is supposedly the entire reason that evil is allowed in the world. Your claims are no more than the words of a believer who wants others to believe in his king but not ask the hard questions. C.S. Lewis is much like this when he wants Christians to not mention the problems of their religion until *after* the person believes.
(b). I do enjoy when you decide that you won’t do something until I perform as you want. I’ve reflected on the human condition lots of times, Ben. I’ve been affected by it for some time.
You want to make the baseless claim that humans are naturally “evil”. Well, what does evil mean, Ben? If you can point to genocide in the 20th century as evidence for humanity’s innate evilness, what does that make your god, a being that repeatedly commanded genocide again and again in the bible? I will guess that you’ll use special pleading, claiming that for your god “it’s different” with no differences shown. Oh and my husband points out that if humans are evil, then we are evil because your god made us that way intentionally. It was not biting the “apple”, since that was only giving us the knowledge of good and evil. We were created in his image, which was hmmm, evil? Quite a god you’ve got there. Again, even if I knew it existed I certainly wouldn’t worship it.
If one actually looks at history, atrocities are not the norm at all. Billions of people have lived and died without harming anyone, and billions of people have been good decent people without your particular religion, the one you claims is the only thing holding people back from violent anarchy. Atrocities in the 20th century and on get a lot of press since technology was abused and made the killing of millions relatively easy. But these atrocities were more prevalent before the 20th century, and have been diminishing as humans realize that they are the same, not special because of skin color, religion, nationality, etc.
The Milgram psychological experiment (the one about how obedience to authority figures makes one do harmful things) shows that people are not evil at all, it shows that humans are prone to follow authority figures. Hmmm, now I wonder what is a really big authority figure that has been obeyed or invoked to get people to commit atrocities? 🙂
You again have tried to claim that only if I come to the same conclusions as you, that is the only time I will ever have a “reasonable expectation”. And that is a false claim, based only on your desire to pretend that you and only you have the right answers. Failure to agree with you will not result in critizing God unfairly; it will result in having a different conclusion and one supported with evidence.
1. I do not have much respect for historical Jesus denying. I can respect a skeptic who doesn’t think he did miracles, or doesn’t think he rose from the dead. But I think his “existence” is about as historically certain as anything else we know about history. As for his resurrection, there are four new guest posts on my blog discussing the evidence.
2a. You would like evidence that I know God personally. Um, would you like me to introduce him to you (or you to him)? Would you like to personally know him? This can be arranged (on his terms). Seriously.
I’m just saying that lots of people know Jesus personally without answers to these questions regarding evil and that it’s normal. I do encourage asking these questions, however. I’ve addressed them in detail on my blog in about four posts. It’s a huge topic. I have no one-liner responses that you would find helpful.
2b. Yes, I do think that all humans have a capacity for great evil. Milgrim shows that when called upon by authority to do evil, people generally comply. You ask, how can God allow this evil or even command war in the Old Testament? Isn’t God evil and not worthy or worship? Once again, I’ve written to some extent about this on my blog. It’s a tough topic.
But it seems to me that without God, one could not objectively label anything as truly evil. At best one could dislike the horrors in the world. So I am of the view that since atheism cannot objectively condemn horrible evil (it can at best call it subjectively wrong) it is a false philosophy. Evil exists. Therefore God exist by whom we can identify evil as such. [Insert some better version of the moral argument for God’s existence].
1. Ben I don’t care if you respect folks for showing that JC didn’t exist. You think that JC is historical but evidently can’t cite the information that makes you think this. I suspect that is because you know how poor it really is. You are a Christian and therefore worship a man/god called Jesus Christ. You are not talking about some itinerant rabbi that was one of many wannabee messiahs wandering around Palestine at the time. Your indignation is simply crocodile tears, because you don’t think that this itinerant rabbi is Jesus Christ either. And I don’t care what’s on your blog since you have made it clear that comments that show you wrong are not allowed. *You* need to tell me the reasons you think JC is a real historical figure and *you* need to defend it. Otherwise, you are again hiding from your own claims of supposedly having all of this great evidence.
2A. Now, you claim that you can have me know your god personally. Okay, how is this done, as you say “seriously”? I will do whatever you say. You see, Ben, I’ve been told this before by many Christians. And I do exactly what they say and when it fails, one of two things happen. The Christian runs away, never to be heard from again so he doesn’t have to acknowledge that his claim was a lie or two, he claims that I did something wrong. He claims that I was not “sincere” enough, that I “didn’t really want to know God”, etc. All false claims intentionally told to excuse himself and his god. You claim, you do not know, that lots of people know Jesus personally. How do you know other than that they simply told you, just like you are telling me? You believe what you want to believe, Ben. It is indeed very normal to claim to know God and to claim that the problem of evil doesn’t matter. It’s called self-delusion, and people of all religions do it all of the time. Those Mormons who you are so sure are wrong, they do it just like you do.
2b. You might believe all people have capacity for a great evil but that’ snot what you originally said. You said that all people ” It is my position that people are naturally evil”. Being evil and having capacity for that are two different things. Again, you have yet to show that this is the case. Milgram showed that when called upon authority to obey, people generally comply. Again, this was not about evil, Ben. You also have yet to define evil. Your god did command evil and thus is evil, at least as supposedly evil as humans. Your writings are no mor than the usual appeal to might equals right. Your god, built on special pleading, is given a pass for things that if done by a human you would consider evil. It is a tough topic only because you want to have your cake and eat it too. You want a god that is based on the bible, but not when its inconvenient.
Without God people have known that there are awful, harmful, selfish things since there has been humanity. In a Christian’s mind, there is anything that God wants is “good” and anything that is opposing God is “evil”. Those are not moral judgements, those are tribal ignorance writ large. Us is good, them is bad. It’s amusing when you try to say that atheists can’t hate anything. Oh my, how hilarious. Atheism only says “there are no gods”. But an atheists, me, can call something evil when I wish to and hate that evil when I do. Empathy and intelligence makes me able to that. I can know that humans do not want to be enslaved. Do unto others as one would have done unto them, is pretty good and it was around long long before a little god in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s even more amusing that your poor god needs evil to define it. That makes the nonsense about heaven and the stories in Revelation just that more hilarious. Because as soon as your god supposedly “wins” then it winks out of existence.
Am late to the party, Ben why don’t you have much respect for those of us who question if Jesus was a historical figure? You claim here that his existence is certain, how then do we still have these many questions? Or is it that you just want to believe that he existed?
I really would like to know how you know god personally!
I regard the view that there was no Jesus at all to be fairly extreme. Certainly the most influential man in human history at the very least existed. We have no doubt that people of lesser historical influence, such as Alexander the Great or Julius Caeser, existed. Why doubt that Jesus existed?
I can understand that some people do not believe he did miracles or rose from the dead. There are multitudes of theories about who Jesus really was and what he was like. But to deny that there ever was such a person seems to reflect an unjustified anti-Christian bias. To be a consistent Jesus denier, one would need to remain agnostic about most of history. This is clearly a fringe view. I’d rather argue about what Jesus was like than whether such a man existed.
I suspect most of this discussion about Jesus will shift to Clubs latest post.
Ben, again, your claim that the “man” was the most influential in history is a false claim. It is the religion that has been very influential and even that is a weak claim since Christians do not agree on what their religion really is about. You all have various opinions of how one is saved, how one should be baptized, if your god is about free will or predestination, if it hates various groups of humans, etc. We see this vast variation when Christians go from wanting to claim that they are ever-so important since they are the supposedly the world’s largest religion to claiming that they are such a persecuted minority in the US or when they want to insist that those “other Christians” are nothing like them. We have no doubt that people like Alexander, Julius Caesar etc exist since there are few claims that they did anything that was supernatural. There is no suspension of disbelief when you think of a general leading an army and winning. If it’s so hard to believe, well, then Doug MacArthur, Erwin Rommel and Dwight Eisenhower must be figments of the imagination too.
Let me give you an example, we have the Emperor Vespasian claimed to have healed people just like your supposed savior, Jesus Christ. What’s amusing is that Suetonius http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius made this claim, one of those fellows that Christians point to as “evidence” their man/god Jesus Christ existed. So, we have the same person making various similar claims about two men he never met. one of those men was a Roman emperor, and there’s no lack of those in historical record. We have coins with them, buildings with their names, and we have external documents mentioning their very human activities, waging wars, having trade, being married, having people put to death in gladiatorial combat. Then on the other hand, we have a man that no one has noticed, despite the claims of fantastic occurences during his life time mentioned in *ONE* book that has nothing else to support it. (incidentally, Josephus and Tacticus, two others who are always claimed to be providing evidence of how JC existed? Well, they were both sure that Vespasian was the messiah mentioned by the Jewish religion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vespasian .)
Ben, you don’t believe in a itinerate rabbi. You worship a man/god that did miracles, the supposed literal son of god. I personally do get amused when I see a Christian try to deny his savior when he’s desperate to prove anyone, anyone at all that is even close existed, but I suspect your god might be a bit miffed if it existed. I can also say that there was no specially selected prophet from the middle of the desert in the Arabian peninsula that supposedly took dictation from an angel and flew on a magic pony. Could there have been a regular old man who convinced others that he had special hotline to god? Of course, but that isn’t the Mohammed that Muslims hold in such esteem. There could have also been a woman who claimed she was a goddess and ended up being claimed Ameratsu or Sekhmet or Isis, but women who were good at lying don’t show that those pantheons exists either. By your claims
I am showing an “unjustified anti-“fill-in-the-religion” bias” which is nonsense. I am simply pointing out that the disbelief in such claims by theists are completely valid considering that you have no evidence of the very special beings that you claim to exist. And no, Ben, one would not have to be agnostic about most of history since most of history has plenty of artifacts, contemporary accounts, etc to show that history did indeed take place. It is not a ‘fringe view’ at all. To claim that needing artifacts, contemporary accounts, and having a skeptical view about supernatural accounts is a “fringe view” is a false statement on your part, because historians do require these things. it is only desperate theists who claim that such things are not needed, when it comes to their very compartmentalized views that their religion should be exempt.
The difference is that historical figures are claimed to have done various things and all are very mundane. When the claims are magical in nature, then we doubt them because there is no evidence that magical events occur. I doubt you believe that Vespasian healed the sick or is was the messiah.
Ben, as a christian you are led by your belief to think Jesus is the most influential guy to have ever lived and this because the bible says he lived. You see apart from the bible, your Jesus story is just one of many. You are suffering from confirmation bias. You want the story to be true so much such that anyone who disagrees with you is not to be respected. If for example Jesus is stripped of divinity, will he still be the Jesus you worship or you will have to change your belief system or will it remain unscathed? Do you ask yourself these questions?
To compare Alexander the Great and Caius Caesar with the Jesus story is to ignore one very important part in their narrative. The one where their contemporaries write about them. The stories are verifiable, can be compared and innuendo separated from fact and this is not true of Jesus.
The people who write the gospels are not his contemporaries. There are no witness testimonies for they contradict each other in details which would have not passed an eye witnesses. Paul, the founder of Christianity did not meet Jesus and never even once quote him but says he received revelation from on high. So who really was this Jesus you claim to have been the greatest of men!