Friday, December 13, 2013

Christianity: The greatest hoax of all time?

Many religions have started from an individual claiming that they gained some sort of new knowledge or understanding from a god, an angel, or through some other mystical way. Islam started when Muhammad was meditating in caves, and a spiritual being (later identified as Gabriel) spoke and wrote through him the Qur'an. It was spiritual experience that only Mohammad went through. When a young teenage boy named Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray, he asked God which of the Christian denominations was the correct one. God the Father, and Jesus had appeared to Joseph Smith, and they told him that none of the Christian sects were right, and that all of their creeds and doctrine were "an abomination in his sight (Pearl of Great Price)." Based off of this experience that Joseph Smith "claimed" he had, the Mormon church was created.

When we look at the Christian religion, we find something interesting. It is not based off of something that one individual saw or experienced. It is based off of what Jesus did for everyone to see. As Peter was addressing the crowd of thousands in Acts 2:22, he tells of the wonders and miracles of Jesus, and he caps it off by saying: "just as you yourselves know." In Acts 26:26 Paul tells Festus in court that the miraculous acts of Jesus "were not done in a corner!" The things that Jesus did were for everyone to see!

The works of Jesus, the life he lived and the death he died were so visible to society, that the New Testament is not the only ancient book that tells about the life of Christ. Josephus, Tactius, and Pliny the Younger are all historians of Jesus's time who wrote about, or at least mentioned the life of Jesus. Based on non-biblical works, we are able to know a lot about Jesus's life. Without even looking at the New Testament, we know that Jesus did in fact exist, that he was a Jewish teacher, that many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms, that he was rejected by Jewish leaders, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Teberius, and that his followers claimed that Jesus rose from the dead, and spread Christianity all the way to Rome by 64 AD, and eventually all over the world.

While we know that many things about Jesus are true, there is one particular event that is of great importance. This is the resurrection. If Jesus truly rose from the grave, every living and breathing person needs to pay attention to this. However, if Jesus did not raise from the dead, then we as Christians have been living our lives in vain. Even the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14: "..if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless." Everything hinges on the resurrection.

So, this bring us to the question: did the resurrection really happen? Was it an actual historical event? If it did not happen, this would mean that the apostles, and many other disciples who saw the risen Jesus lied about it. Let's just focus on the original eleven disciples of Jesus. They all claimed that they saw the risen Jesus. They then went on to proclaim it all over the known world. Because of this outlandish claim that Jesus was still alive, they faced terrible persecution. They were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. Let's look at of few of their deaths: James was killed with the sword. Peter was crucified upside down. Andrew and Phillip were crucified. Thomas ("Doubting Thomas") was thrust through with spears, burned with red-hot plates, and burned to death. Matthew was beheaded. Nathaniel (or Bartholomew) had his skin torn off, and then was crucified. Judas Thaddeus (not Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus) was beaten to death with sticks.

These men died not for what they simply believed, but for what they claimed they saw. Every religion has martyrs, but not every religion has martyrs who died for what they saw with their own eyes.

If the eleven disciples of Jesus really did make up the resurrection, and if they were lying, wouldn't you think that somewhere along the line one of them would have cracked? That while they were spending their lives in prison, and being tortured, that at least one of them would have had a weak moment and told them that it was all a lie? Yet not one of them did. Every one of Jesus' eleven disciples died for what they believed in (with the exception of John, who still went through his fair share of hardship).

Christianity is either the greatest hoax of all time, or it is the truth. It's one of the two. I will wrap this up with something that Chuck Colson said. Colson was an aid of President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Listen to what he says:

"Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States...who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean...testified against Nixon, as he put it, "to save his own skin"--and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on--two weeks! The real cover up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all those around the president were facing embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody's life was at stake. But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, and execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don't you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned?...None did." (I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, pages 292-293)