Help with this Athiest’s Question (Part 2)

Alright so I might as well lay out what’s been going on. This individual I have been conversing with on Reddit has been very friendly and willing to discuss his views. He raises questions or responses to questions very well and I am still not fully informed on everything.

I apologize to those if I seem like spamming but I’m really just wanting help and if you enjoy debating / talking with people then I’d appreciate you commenting:
HIS RESPONSE:

I’ll try to keep my answers short. If you want me to go into details on anything specific, let me know.

  1. How could orthodox Jews follow a man who claimed to be God?
    First, people convert between religions all the time. People join cults all the time. Why would a Muslim, who doesn’t believe God can be a man, convert to Christianity? Why would someone raised in a Christian household abandon their life in America, fly to India, and join a Hindu cult?

Second, even according to the gospels it wasn’t the most educated orthodox Jews who followed Jesus. The religious leaders, those who had spent the most time and dedicated most of their lives to their religion rejected Jesus. It was the peasants, fishermen and prostitutes, who famously followed him.

  1. If Jesus did not resurrect, how did Christianty spread?
    If God did not speak to Muhammad in a cave, how could Islam spread? If an angel did not reveal the golden plates to Joseph Smith, how could Mormonism have spread? The simple answer is that people are credulous and willing to believe things, even extreme, supernatural claims, that aren’t always true.

  2. Why would his followers die for him knowing the resurrection was fake?
    First, what do we actually know about the life and death of the earliest Christians? How do we know they died for their beliefs, and how do we know that they were in a position to know if it were fake or not? All it takes for someone to die for a lie is for that person to be convinced it’s true. Why were Mormons willing to face persecution? Why was Joseph Smith willing to be beaten, tarred and feathered, ran out of town, and eventually arrested and gunned down by a mob of people, if he didn’t actually believe what he preached? Why would the people who confessed to witnessing the golden plates not recant their testimonies when faced death and persecution?

Second, most of the earliest reports of Christian persecution are political. For example, Nero blamed the Christians on a fire that damaged a large portion of Rome. They weren’t being persecuted for their beliefs, but because they were a political scapegoat. A minority that didn’t have the power to fight back.

At best it would have only been a small handful who actually experienced the risen Jesus. Only a small handful who could have been in a position to know whether Jesus had truly been raised or not. At most the bible claims that just a little over 500 people saw Jesus alive again. Every other Christian who may have been martyred for their faith would be converts who believed what they were told, not what they witnessed themselves.

An atheist YouTuber, Paulogia, does a good job talking about this topic in a couple of his videos:

  1. Why would someone make up a religion like Christianity?
    Why does anyone make up any religion?

And when you’re talking about a group of peasants living under the boot of a military occupation, looked down upon by the religious leaders of their community, a new religion that says “blessed are the poor” and “woe to the rich” would be a very attractive belief system. Christianity may not offer a person much material wealth and power here on earth, but it promises mansions, streets of gold, and an end to all suffering in the afterlife. No matter how miserable you are here on earth, you’ve got heaven to look forward to…that’s a belief that would easily appeal to the lowest, poorest, and weakest members of society.

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@luke.shirley Below are some initial thoughts to get you started. Christ grant you wisdom :slight_smile:

  • Point 1: Comparing Jews believing a crucified Jesus was the Messiah is not the same as people converting to any religion at any time in history - if you understand anything about 1st century Judaism, you realize the crucifixion would rule out Jesus as Messiah and that the Jews commonly experienced the death of messianic figures and had ways of responding other than how they responded to Jesus (see N. T. Wright article below)
  • Point 2/3: Both of these arguments rely on the basic premise that humans are gullible / easily deceived. However, the person making this argument is also human, so how does he exclude himself from this same weakness? Again, what makes the spread of Christianity so amazing is the historical context in which it spread. You can’t simply argue that many religions have spread, therefore it’s not surprising that Christianity spread. Christianity was very counter cultural - both in the Jewish and the pagan world, and yet in spite of that fact it spread.
  • Point 4: This argument cuts both ways. Someone might believe in God and Heaven because they need hope. Likewise, someone might choose to disbelieve in God because they dislike having to obey Him and they dislike the idea of being judged. The ability to find an alternate motivation for believing something does not disprove the belief itself.

We must, then, ask once again: Why did Christianity even begin, let alone continue, as a messianic movement, when its Messiah so obviously not only did not do what a Messiah was supposed to do but suffered a fate which ought to have showed conclusively that he could not possibly have been Israel’s anointed? Why did this group of first-century Jews, who had cherished messianic hopes and focused them on Jesus of Nazareth, not only continue to believe that he was the Messiah despite his execution, but actively announce him as such in the pagan as well as the Jewish world, cheerfully redrawing the picture of messiahship around him but refusing to abandon it? Their answer, consistently throughout the evidence we possess, was that Jesus, following his execution on a charge of being a would-be Messiah, had been raised from the dead.

https://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/christian-origins-and-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-resurrection-of-jesus-as-a-historical-problem/

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@luke.shirley
I like to answer this question because I deal with Muslims all the time. The interesting thing about the question is that how can Jews believe in a crucified God. The same way Muslims look at Jesus as only a prophet, Isa. The interesting thing about these two religions what their fundamental beliefs are built on. Jews and Muslims character are indoctrinated with their culture, history and worldview are one and such is what dictates their intrinsic value. There is no separation. To walk away from their belief is to throw away your self-worth. That is why for Muslims and Jews, the choice of Christianity is a tremendous sacrifice that they must undergo. Jewish families disown and chastize their family members for leaving the religion. Loss of inheritance and name. Muslims go through the same challenges and some pay with their lives.
So the problem with the Jews and the Torah is that they were not prepared for a man to come as God and die when they interpreted the Old Testament as a prelude to the coming of the conquering King.
The idea that Muslims find it hard to accept Jesus as God is the same reason Jews cannot. How can God become man and die by his won creation?
In fact, it really doesn’t make sense unless we explain how we are sinners unable to find salvation. All religions proclaim punishment for sin and their precepts defy any logical foundation. Pantheist believes in Karma and Rebirth but there is no reference to who or what, dictates your progress in salvation. Islam promotes works and subjugation but does offer an answer for sin. No theist can proclaim free of sin and pure. None, as Paul says in Romans 3:10 - None is righteous no, not one. Even in Islam Surah Ya-sin (36) warns of sin and righteousness in the example of Muhammad. Another problem with the Quran is sometimes contradicting itself which is why many seeking Muslims find it difficult to understand.
Only the Christian world view provides the answer in the Cross of Jesus Christ. From the Torah and through all the prophets are central to that one moment on the cross when Jesus took it upon himself the wrath of the Father for the salvation for all humanity who in faith believe.
The explanation gives logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential relevance that sums up all answers to the question of Origin, Meaning, Morality and Destiny.
Isn’t that what humanity wants an answer to?
I hope that answer provides some help. I find that Christianity is the only worldview that welcomes challenges because it has nothing to hide and everything that it proclaims is the truth. It is the truth and the Holy Spirit that will provide the answers that we can always refer to in pray and scripture.
Thank you and God Bless

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Hi @luke.shirley.
Your atheist friend made a startling challenge in point no 2 where he describes the fallibility of world views claims towards supernatural events and spiritual experience. He is also presenting an argument based on an assumption “if Jesus did not resurrect” because Christianity would not exist today. The Judaic Christian world view is not based on claims or revelations but on eye witness testimonies. Non-scriptural as well as the Gospel that attests to the claims of Jesus resurrection. Non-scriptural that testify to the growing Christian population and the fact that Jesus was crucified.

In Islam, the evidence is based on a claim. Muhammad claimed to be receiving revelations. Cults are created by individuals with their own agendas and never dictated by a divine reference point. Joseph Smith claimed his divine revelation but again no witness. If we look at the incredible world views that exist today, most are propagated by claims from which followers are recruited by tapping into the innermost desires of humanity deepest needs, even spiritual. Buddhism offer rebirth and onward journey in seeking nirvana. Hinduism caters to literally every desire and materialistic want you seek. The list goes on and on.

In Christianity, we are told we are unworthy. We are sinners. We have desecrated God and His laws. That is the truth which many cannot accept. The whole Bible from the Old Testament till Christ we see the continuous alienation attempts of the Chosen people to become gods themselves.
But within the same scriptures, Christianity is the only worldview that offers a solution in Jesus Christ. Many non-believers have reasons and burdens to avoiding accountability, which in itself is our own evil. It is only when we seek our inherent value in the ‘Imago Dei’ and our reason and purpose grounded in a moral foundation can we ultimately bringing meaning and answers to humanity biggest questions. What is it to be Human?

Sometimes learning someone reasons is more important to their questions. Seek to know him and why these questions exist for him. Sometimes answering those will help reveal more to why these questions are there. As Ravi Zacharias always reminded us to always answer the questioner rather than the question. Many questions evolve from experiences and exposures to life that drive people to question God and his existence. Tackling and exposing the reason offers better answers than answering just the question itself.

Your post has me thinking a lot and how you are facing this gentleman. I pray that you will with God’s grace and the Holy Spirit to guide and help you.

Please update your progress in your conversations with him.

God Bless

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