Reader “Fletch” had a comment on the post I wrote yesterday, “To uniquely protect Islam against mockery, Sydney newspaper suggests that Muslims be considered members of a race rather than a religion.” As you may recall, I criticized the Sydney Morning Herald‘s op-ed calling for Muslims to be included among special ethno-religious groups that, considered “races,” are covered by “hate speech” laws in Australia. (Religions in general are not.) I also claimed that Muslims are not a race by anybody’s construal of the term, and this proposal was just a way to uniquely insulate Islam from criticism.
I also claimed (with a bit of hyperbole), that no religion deserves respect, but qualified that by saying that we shouldn’t respect those faiths (nearly all of them) whose truth claims are untestable or wrong and their god-derived moral codes questionable. I do have more respect for, say, Quakers, than I do for the more theistic faiths. Quakerism, however, is almost the same as secular humanism.
But I did make this comment:
Catholicism and Islam are no more deserving of respect than are Scientology or Christian Science. Why is the claim that someone was nailed to the cross, killed, revived, and now is the sole vehicle for eternal salvation in Heaven any more deserving of respect than the claim that the overlord Xenu stashed people in volcanoes and then blew them up, releasing body thetans that now afflict us? Or that disease is merely an instantiation of misguided thinking, and can be cured by prayer. None of the bases of these faiths—their fact claims—survive the merest scrutiny, and none of their behavior claims, including assertions about the afterlife or the efficacy of prayer, are credible to someone not brought up in the asylum. In fact, severe ridicule of doctrine (not “adherents”) is the appropriate response to most religions; or, if you’re not into mockery, calm analysis and rejection of their claims.
Well, Fletch didn’t like that, and tried to post the following. I decided to put it above the fold and get readers’ comments, so I could email the whole lot to him. (I suspect his email address is bogus, but I’ll try). To wit:
I agree and disagree with this column. I agree that Islam is not, and should not be considered, a race; however, I disagree with your assertion that “None of the bases of these faiths—their fact claims—survive the merest scrutiny”. Christianity actually does survive this scrutiny. You just throw off this flip statement because you haven’t really studied it. Look at people like Lee Strobel – the former award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter after his wife’s conversion. What he found so convinced him, that he became a Christian.
Or look at J. Warner Wallace, a former homicide detective who worked on cold-cases for 15 years. He approached the death of Jesus like a cold case and the gospels as eyewitness accounts, and he also came to the conclusion that, yes, what the Gospel accounts say are reliable. He also became a Christian as a result.
As C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien said, the Bible is a myth, but that it is also true. That is the difference between Christianity and your overlord Xenu. As Lewis puts it –
“Myth in general is … at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle”.
As most of us know, there’s no extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of someone who either was a divine Jesus (apparently Fletch’s belief) or even a secular preacher on whom the Biblical Jesus was modeled. The rest is commentary.
I didn’t know about Lee Strobel, who apparently wrote five books on apologetics, including The Case for Christ and The Case for The Real Jesus, but I simply can’t be bothered to read every such book that the goddies throw in my face. However, I found a pretty fair review of The Case for Christ by Jeffery J. Lowder on the Secular Web. Lowder, after a non-“strident” but critical review, concludes this:
Case for Christ is a creative, well-written contribution to Christian apologetics. Moreover, Strobel is to be commended for summarizing the work of so many leading apologists for Evangelical Christianity in such a compact and easy-to-read format. Yet Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane); more often, he doesn’t address objections the critics do make (e.g., the complete inauthenticity of the Testimonium Flavianium, the failure of Jews to produce the body is inconclusive evidence for the empty tomb, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in thetruth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story.
I’m sure there’s at least one reader who has read Strobel’s books, and if you have weigh in below. If Strobel was a true journalist, and was convinced by the evidence, it’s odd that—as Lowder notes—he doesn’t even deal with the objections to the “real Jesus” story. If you’re weaving an evidence-based tale, it’s always best, as we scientists know, to take up possible objections to your case before others do!
As for J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity and now adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, his book appears to be based purely on whether Scripture seems reliable to a detective (see here for his case). Apparently it does. But if the case for Christianity (or rather the divinity of Jesus) is best made by Wallace and Strobel, yet refuted by many others, including the Biblical scholars Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier, then one should hardly commit one’s life to the doctrine.
I wonder what Fletch would think of The Case for Muhammad, which seems much stronger than The Case for Christ?
Anyway, if you want Fletch to read your comments, put them below, and in a day or so I’ll direct him to all of this.