I am always looking for relevant points of contact between contemporary events and the stories of Scripture. (As you spot these, do share them!). Of course, the #metoo movement has been a prominent feature of news stories since October 2017. A great conversation starter: when do you trust the stories of women (and some men) in the #metoo movement?
In particular, recently, I was pointed to this article by Matt Flannagan:
Sadly, the article details why claims of sexual assault against atheist celebrity Lawrence Krauss are to be believed. But it is particularly interesting how a skeptical atheist evaluates the eyewitness testimony:
Skepticism is, basically, looking at the evidence and allowing it to lead you to conclusions. What evidence we have here? That a number of women, at least five in my count, and a larger number of eyewitnesses, have accused Lawrence Krauss of sexual assault. That is enough evidence to satiate a skeptic. Maybe is there was only one involved, one could somehow withhold judgment out of the possibility of a vengeful liar, but the number of eyewitness accounts leaves no doubt.
If you were a historian and were writing Krauss’s biography twenty years from now, multiple accounts of his behavior from independent sources would convince you to put the allegations into your book.
If you honestly think this is not good evidence, then you must be prepared to throw away a vast majority of our historical knowledge, a great pool of evidence for social sciences (have you heard of qualitative research?) and also, more importantly, should stop believing the victims of Catholic Church and Roy Moore and Donald Trump — as in those cases we also rely on the accounts of independent sources.
Skepticism is not stubborn doubt: once the evidence is too overwhelming, continuing to demand for more evidence is as much a violation of skepticism as incredulous belief. Try to argue with a denier of Holocaust or other historical atrocities to see a non-atheist example of this. If you keep raising the bar of evidence for something you don’t want to believe, then you are not a good skeptic.
You may invent fantastical scenarios to explain away the evidence. Lawrence Krauss is a brave man who speaks uncomfortable truth and so a shadowy cabal of women has risen to taint his honest name. This is not skepticism, but conspiracy theory. No good skeptic would find solace in implausible but technically possible scenarios to avoid believing what they don’t like.
The parallels to the gospel accounts are uncanny:
- We have a number of women who testify to the resurrection.
- We have an even larger number of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.
- We have multiple, independent documentation of these eyewitness accounts.
- To throw out these eyewitness claims would be like throwing a way a vast majority of our historical knowledge and from the social sciences.
- To keep raising the bar of evidence for something you don’t want to believe, then you are not a good skeptic.
- Inventing fantastical scenarios to explain away the evidence is not skepticism but conspiracy theories. Jesus claimed to be God, yet allowed himself to be captured, tortured, and crucified, yet despite this public humiliation, his disciples went around saying he was bodily risen and alive today!