Early Christmas morning, the Washington Post thought it would be wise to stick its thumb in the eyes of those celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Its official “Post Opinions” Twitter account tweeted “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”
Many commented on the provocative timing. Publisher of Encounter books and well known author Roger Kimball said that the Post’s tweet was “Really, all you need to know about that pathetic publication.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted “Why is this necessary today? Why insult people of a certain faith on the day they most cherish? It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of simple courtesy. #Rude”. (He added a ruder hashtag as well.) Many others were affronted.
The gibe was deliberate. It’s not that the story the Post touted was new, containing “breaking” news of some scholar unearthing new historical evidence. After all, the link in the Post’s tweet was to a four-year old already-debunked story of the same name they published in December, 2014.
The article was by Raphael Lataster, with subtitle “There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence.”
What “good reasons” does he have? Lataster claims that there are a “lack of early sources” about the life of Jesus. What about the Gospels? He dismisses those because, he says, they
all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity — which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources — which they also fail to identify.
Should we dismiss Lataster’s (and, tacitly, the Washington Post’s) argument because he is eager to promote atheism? The fallacy is obvious. As is the intimation that because the authors of the Gospels were not professional historians familiar with modern footnoting techniques, they can’t be trusted. If we applied this criterion equally, we’d have to toss out nearly all ancient literature.
About non-Christian, but early professional historians, like Josephus and Tacitus, Lataster is equally disparaging. The excuse he uses for casting these men aside is to call their writings “controversial” and to say their work has “obviously been changed by Christian scribes”.
His argument can thus be boiled down to this.[…]
Lataster does himself no favor at all by leaning on the wild-eyed arch-atheist and Jesus-denier Richard Carrier (who recently “came out” as “polyamorous”). Carrier’s behavior and litigiousness is so outré it annoys even his fellow atheists.
Doubting the doubters
And why are they appearing especially when the crank “mythicist” theories printed by the paper have been debunked repeatedly in scholarly works?
The Post’s mysterious motivation
Statement Denounces Population Control Enthusiasts at Vatican Events (full PDF)
I am a signer. I’m very late in posting this. My affiliation was pulled from my CV and is wrong (I haven’t been at the Medical school for some years). I’ve asked Liz Yore to correct it.
The Catholic Church has a long history of advancing knowledge and obtaining the insights of science in order to better pursue Her religious mission. The Pontifical Academy of Science (PAS) and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) were established by 20th century popes to contribute to this important task. Recent joint work of both academies has focused on issues of environmental protection and human health and development. These topics raise issues beyond strictly scientific matters and enter the realm of policy, ethics, and morality.
In considering environment and human development, the academies appear to draw on a secular culture and mindset that overlooks, and in some cases opposes, the Church’s moral perspective and principles. This tendency comes sharply into view as a persistent focus on reduction of human fertility and population, which emerges frequently as a recommended “solution” to a range of problems. This situation has become a systemic and urgent.
In recent years, several scholars, some PAS members and invited speakers, have publicly endorsed the idea of population reduction through abortion and/or contraception as a means of achieving what they call environmental sustainability. In a 2014 PAS event, PAS member Partha Dasgupta advocated for expanded access to birth control facilities in order to reduce fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Later that year, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs used his platform at a PAS event to encourage leveraging the moral authority of the Catholic Church to support his UN Sustainable Development Goals which are closely tied to ? or actually incorporate — population-reduction programs. Both of these endorsements were published in official PAS documents. The Church does not share these goals, but the Church’s voice in the forum where these ideas are raised has been weak or silent.
Recent activities of PAS and PASS promoting human population and fertility reduction do not appear to take account of current demographic realities of low fertility in most of the world and near stable birth numbers overall. Large parts of the world are now experiencing severe challenges from aging (lack of young) or declining human populations, but the programs to reduce fertility are still promoted in urgent terms. Scholarship needs to be based on accurate perception if it is to be useful.
It is the sincere hope of the signers of this document that the ecclesial authorities responsible for the integrity of the PAS and PASS and the consistent teaching of the Catholic faith will carefully and prayerfully consider the problems we have identified and the recommendations we have made. Because of the gravely serious nature of the problems identified herein, the reality is that leaving these issues unaddressed could be disastrous; human lives, and more importantly, immortal souls, are at great risk.
As Tiny Tim said so well: A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us every one.
You readers are the best present I could get.
A most sincere thanks to followers and deep gratitude to the blog’s supporters.
Look forward to seeing you in the new year!
(I am woefully behind in my emails. Please forgive me.)
Our Summa Contra Gentiles series continues after New Years.
The email salutation began “Reason’s Greetings”. It continued:
Friends. Family. Food. Festivity. What else?
Another basis for a bit of seasonal merriment could be the human capacity for rational thought. The radiant spark of reason does offer hope of our species wending its way to a brighter future…somehow. Brights can celebrate that capacity, and each do our best to nourish it!
How nice of these brights to think of me at Christmastime!
Merry and bright
What’s a bright? According to them, a bright “is a person whose worldview is naturalistic (no supernatural and mystical elements).”
Founder Paul Geisert conjured up the term back in 2003. He and Richard Dawkins thought brights would do for atheists what gay did for men who have sex with men.
Now you may think bright is a stuffy, patronizing, and annoying term for atheist. Which it is. What’s a non-bright? A dim? Because of this insulting inference, brights got a lot of grief and a fair share of teasing over the word. So they juiced their powers of reason and conjured a contrasting term for believers. Which is supers.
To them, a super “is a person whose worldview includes supernatural and/or mystical elements.” Some find this cloying, but it is at least not condescending.
Merry Day to brights and supers, then!
Merry Christmas day, that is. The day of Christ’s birth . A birth we know was special via history and revelation—and through the use of reason.
Brights are a branch of the new atheists, a self-declared “community of reason“, folks who attempt to claim reason as their sole territory. By their definition, a believer in God cannot be using reason and must be enslaving himself to superstition and corrupt authority.
Stir the pudding three times
A superstition is the false association of an observation with an effect. It is thus an error in reason. Yet superstitions…
Superstition is one thing, but it is Reason itself brights hang their fedoras on. Reason is what they possess in abundance, and which their rivals freely abandon in search of belief. They say things like “Belief without proof is no virtue. Insisting on proof is no vice.”
Yet there are many instances in which proof (of the sort they imagine) is impossible.
Many new atheists are intellectually uncurious.
Be reasonable. Click here to read the rest.