Is Jesus White? – Call Jesus (or Santa) white: expect a big fight

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Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly sparked outrage this week by insisting that Jesus and Santa Claus are both white, saying it's "ridiculous" to argue that depicting Christ and St. Nick as Caucasian is "racist."

"And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white," Kelly said, "but this person is arguing that we should also have a black Santa."

Kelly was responding to an article in Slate that said St. Nick needs a makeover from fat, old white guy to something less "melanin-deficient."

The Fox News host would have none of it.

"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," Kelly said. "Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure; that's a verifiable fact. As is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy, in the story, and change Santa from white to black?"

Arguing about St. Nick, who was originally Greek before Currier & Ives got their hands on him, is one thing. But as for Jesus, people have been arguing about his skin color since the earliest days of American history. You might even call it an American tradition.

What's new about this latest brouhaha is how swiftly Kelly’s remarks were attacked. Thousands of people have rebuked her through blogs, articles, Twitter posts and Facebook updates.

Written By: Edward J. Blum
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

81 COMMENTS

      • In reply to #4 by Stuart Coyle:

        In reply to #1 by alf1200:

        Sure, Jesus was a white American, right?

        White Protestant American even. :P

        Yep. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And to be anything “lesser” would just be PC non-sense. Just ask Daily Mail and Telegraph readers.

        If one thing that WASPs are known-for around the world amongst billions of native people are the selfless sacrifices they made for equality and basic human dignity. You know, great WASPs like MLK Jr, Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Gautama Siddhartha and Noam Chomsky

        Anything else would be “mindless, Marxist, feminist, PC” gone mad. Just ask Douglas Murray or Niall Ferguson and countless morons on either side of the pond. And their great spirit and tradition of “Noblesse oblige” as they would glad remind us of, the mere non- WASPSs.

        As Fry elegantly puts it, “You know who would be an outcast in the modern day churches, that Galilean carpenter!”

        • You may not like Douglas Murray but he is certainly not a moron. He’s a highly intelligent speaker and writer. Also an atheist BTW. To describe someone as a moron ( or idiot, cretin, etc ) because his views do not conform to your own says more about you than the other person.

          In reply to #18 by soulreaver:

          In reply to #4 by Stuart Coyle:

          In reply to #1 by alf1200:

          Sure, Jesus was a white American, right?

          White Protestant American even. :P

          Yep. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And to be anything “lesser” would just be PC non-sense. Just ask Daily Mail and Telegraph readers.

          If one thing that WASPs ar…

  1. One of the white girls insisted on reiterating that Jesus and Santa were historical figures, for the kids. Isn’t that sweet. No kids were fooled by her condescending cynicism. Jesus was a Muslim, by the way. Santa will be converted before the War on Xmas is complete.

    • In reply to #10 by Quine:

      Interesting how many of the most ignorant and stupid individuals in USA seem to have a law degree…

      Megyn Kelly is one of the most sanctimonious voices on Fox. She tries to get out of this flap, here.

      • In reply to #50 by Nunbeliever:

        In reply to #10 by Quine:

        Interesting how many of the most ignorant and stupid individuals in USA seem to have a law degree…

        University law schools turn out far more graduates than are required to man the legal profession.
        It is very competitive, so the rejects get employment in journalism, politics or bureaucracy!

        (Then there are also law courses at places like Liberty University where stupidity is a prerequisite admission requirement!)

    • In reply to #12 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      Not quite right… the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and they all get stupider. :D

      The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the stupid get stupider.

  2. Who would have thunk it? Fox News gets itself in a lather over the skin colour of two fictional characters, I expect that they will decide that Santa also drove a coca-cola lorry as well.

    • In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n and #14 by Miserablegit:

      They’re both fictional characters. How can there be a rational debate on this?

      Who would have thunk it? Fox News gets itself in a lather over the skin colour of two fictional characters, I expect that they will decide that Santa also drove a coca-cola lorry as well.

      I thought it was generally accepted nowadays that Jesus was a real person.

      And Santa certainly exists. It’s ten days till Christmas; I’m not gonna piss him off and run the risk of his flying right past my house.

      I love you Santa. Bring me lots of presents.

      • In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n and #14 by Miserablegit:

        I thought it was generally accepted nowadays that Jesus was a real person.

        If your statement was not meant in humour, there was a post a while back on the question of the historical figure. As far as I can tell, most people argued into the position that there was likely some preacher or preachers who inspired the New Testament accounts, but no one seemed to agree over whether to say he was Jesus (obviously not in the “resurrected himself” sense) or was the inspiration for the Jesus character depicted in the books. Personally, I thought it was a matter of semantics, akin to arguing whether or not a Mr. T. comic’s main character is Mr. T. or was inspired by the real man.

        If your statement was meant in humour, then I think I’ll turn myself in for humour agnosia.

        And Santa certainly exists. It’s ten days till Christmas; I’m not gonna piss him off and run the risk of his flying right past my house.

        I love you Santa. Bring me lots of presents.

        You yuletide fool! Did you really think your Pascal-wager-ist trickery would fool Santa Claus! He sees all and knows all! No presents for you!

        • In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

          In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n and #14 by Miserablegit:

          I thought it was generally accepted nowadays that Jesus was a real person.

          If your statement was not meant in humour, there was a post a while back on the question of the historical figure. As far as I can tell, mo…

          “He sees you when you’re sleeping
          He knows when you’re awake
          He knows if you’ve been bad or good
          So be good for goodness sake!”

          That verse used to freak me out as a child… I was more scared of Santa than I was of Jesus…

          Santa was much more real to me (than Jesus) back then…

          Still is, if I’m honest…

          The idea of a beardy old man making loads of presents for all the children of the world with his army of elves and delivering them all in one night on a reindeer-driven sleigh is far more believable than ANYTHING in the bible…

          • In reply to #32 by Dr Bob:

            “He sees you when you’re sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows if you’ve been bad or good So be good for goodness sake!”

            That verse used to freak me out as a child… I was more scared of Santa than I was of Jesus…

            Once I read those lyrics, I could certainly see where you’re coming from vis-a-vis scary Santa. That said, I usually found that song annoying more than anything with its implication of moralistic bribery pretending to be an encouragement of altruism.

          • In reply to #32 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

            “He sees you when you’re sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows if you’ve been bad or good So be good for goodness sake!”

            That verse used to freak me out as a child… I was more scared of Santa than I was of Jesus…

            I don’t know if you’re into film at all, Doc, but there’s a rather good Finnish horror movie from 2010 called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Here’s the trailer. It concerns the real Santa Claus. Parents of young children who are perhaps just a little too attached to jolly old Saint Nick would do well to let their kids view it.

            Hyvää joulua, lapset. Kauniita unia.

          • In reply to #79 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #32 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

            “He sees you when you’re sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows if you’ve been bad or good So be good for goodness sake!”

            That verse used to freak me out as a child… I was more scared of Santa than I was of Jesus…

            I don’t know if…

            Yes, I am into films and that looks fantastic, thanks for the heads-up…

            I’m soooo tempted to order the Blu-ray right now… :-)

            Kauniita unia indeed…

  3. Jeffery Hunter played Jesus in King of Kings. He also played Captain Christopher Pike (“Christopher? Coincidence?) in the Star Trek pilot.

    Both were white.

    Therefore, Jesus is white.

    Make about as much sense as anything else. (Santa as slave master of elves and reindeer must be white!)

  4. These idiots were worth critiquing, but this article doesn’t really try hard enough. The focus shouldn’t be, “His skin colour is much-debated but irrelevant.” It should be, “His easily deduced skin colour is much denied, with both white and Chinese people erroneously claiming Him as their own, and provably so.” Apparently the author doesn’t care about refuting views on the facts so much as deciding how much the issues they concern even “matter” to us. What’s especially remarkable is the way it characterises the reaction to a “Jesus was white” statement as a sign of racism waning, as opposed to a sign of people objecting to provably stupid claims.

  5. Silly as this topic is, it does reveal a lot about the conservative mind. They are in a priviledged position, the world is unfair in their favour, but hey, that’s just how it is, how it has always been and therefore how it should always be.

    There is no doubt that, had they lived 150 years ago, these Fox News people would have been happy slave owners, teaching their kids that “white people own black people, that’s just the way it is.”

    The existence and knowledge of the American Fox Channel does wonderful things for the political parties of the European left — by showing us how awful it could be here too, in a free market economy without a strong leftist counter balance.

    • In reply to #20 by Vorlund:

      Santa is a story for children. Jesus as a historical figure was a politically expedient lie. One is fictional, there is no convincing evidence for the existence of the other.

      Exactly – there is as much evidence for the existence of Jesus as there is for Krishna, Osiris, Odin or Hercules (amongst many others).

      At least Santa brings the children presents – what does Jesus do? Apart from bring them a lifetime of guilt, abuse and servitude, that is…

      • In reply to #21 by Dr Bob:

        …At least Santa brings the children presents – what does Jesus do? Apart from bring them a lifetime of guilt, abuse and servitude, that is…

        Jesus brings the gift of the promise of everlasting life, reunion with lost loved ones, and eternal joy. I’m all for nice material things – take note, Jonathan, or indeed Santa; whichever one of you delivers that Lexus I’ve had my eye on will receive a whole lot of gratitude – but these things pale next to spiritual comfort and relief from life’s travails. Don’t undervalue what Jesus has to offer, Dr Bob.

        • In reply to #25 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #21 by Dr Bob:

          …At least Santa brings the children presents – what does Jesus do? Apart from bring them a lifetime of guilt, abuse and servitude, that is…

          Jesus brings the gift of the promise of everlasting life, reunion with lost loved ones, and eternal joy. I’m all for nice mater…

          On the flipside, Jesus also promises everlasting torture and separation from anything good if you don’t play by his rules. And loss aversion is stronger in humans. At least Santa’s worst punishment is merely that he denies presents to naughty children.

        • In reply to #25 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #21 by Dr Bob:

          …At least Santa brings the children presents – what does Jesus do? Apart from bring them a lifetime of guilt, abuse and servitude, that is…

          Jesus brings the gift of the promise of everlasting life, reunion with lost loved ones, and eternal joy. I’m all for nice mater…

          Jesus doesn’t offer any of those things (including your wished-for Lexus).

          Because he doesn’t exist.

          The made-up story of Jesus offers those things (again, perhaps not the Lexus), as long as you follow the rules laid down by the people who invented him and those who propagate his myth in our times.

          • In reply to #27 by Dr Bob:

            Jesus doesn’t offer any of those things (including your wished-for Lexus).

            Because he doesn’t exist.

            Oh yeah, and that too.

          • In reply to #27 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #25 by Katy Cordeth:

            Jesus doesn’t offer any of those things (including your wished-for Lexus).

            Because he doesn’t exist.

            The made-up story of Jesus offers those things (again, perhaps not the Lexus), as long as you follow the rules laid down by the people who invented him and those who propagate his myth in our times.

            You’ll have to forgive me. When I spoke about Jesus’s offering those things, I meant the non-existent Jesus, not the historical, long-deceased actual person. I can be a little vague sometimes, but the things I mentioned, not including the Lexus, are promised by Jesus.

            Fictional or not, you don’t get to dominate half the world if all you have to offer is stick. There has to be some carrot.

          • In reply to #29 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #27 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #25 by Katy Cordeth:

            Jesus doesn’t offer any of those things (including your wished-for Lexus).

            Because he doesn’t exist.

            The made-up story of Jesus offers those things (again, perhaps not the Lexus), as long as you follow the rules laid down by the people…

            Or in the case of the Church of England, tea and cake… ;-)

            Maybe it’s carrot cake…

      • Actually, Jesus has a lot of appeal for children. Here is this imaginary friend who made you and loves you when sometimes life can be hard. It all depends how he is presented to children but in my childhood Jesus was a great comfort. I know of one child, living in a religion-free home who rings Batman on his imaginary cell phone when he is upset and talks about his problems. We need to understand the psychological need that children (and adults) have for certainty in their lives. The lonely, the isolated, the rejected ( and nearly all of us have felt this at some time in our lives) find great comfort in the idea that someone is always there for them. Do we need to treat people with contempt because they cling to these beliefs and find it threatening when someone challenges them?

        In reply to #21 by Dr Bob:

        In reply to #20 by Vorlund:

        Santa is a story for children. Jesus as a historical figure was a politically expedient lie. One is fictionkal, there is no convincing evidence for the existence of the other.

        Exactly – there is as much evidence for the existence of Jesus as there is for Krishna, Osiris,…

        • In reply to #40 by currerbell:

          Actually, Jesus has a lot of appeal for children. Here is this imaginary friend who made you and loves you when sometimes life can be hard. It all depends how he is presented to children but in my childhood Jesus was a great comfort. I know of one child, living in a religion-free home who rings B…

          I have no problem with people who need an imaginary friend or something to believe in to help them through hard times.

          But that is where your comparison with Batman ends.

          The Church of Batman hasn’t set up a worldwide terror network that punishes people if they don’t follow him and makes people fear for their lives and the destination of their afterlives.

          The Church of Batman doesn’t control the education system in most countries of the world to such an extent that any kind of free-thinking in the child’s developing mind is destroyed before it has had a chance to fully develop.

          The Church of Batman doesn’t control governments the world over so that only THEIR church receives money, privileges and criminal pardons that no other sector of society receives.

          The Church of Batman does not encourage its members to wipe out all non-believers or, at best, to treat them as second class citizens.

          The Church of Batman does not see homosexuals, women and black people as second class citizens.

          I could go on, but you get the idea.

          Yes, the fluffy-wuffy baby jesus is a lovely story… but there is so much more in Christianity (as well as other religions) that causes pain, suffering, isolation, discrimination and despair.

          Merry Christmas everybody…

          • Yes, you are quite right about the church of Batman. I was merely trying to make the point that people turn to religion because the world is often an unkind place. I wasn’t justifying religion but perhaps we as atheists could show a little more compassion to those who are hurting and who turn to religion for comfort, rather than regarding them as stupid and contemptible. In reply to #41 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #40 by currerbell:

            Actually, Jesus has a lot of appeal for children. Here is this imaginary friend who made you and loves you when sometimes life can be hard. It all depends how he is presented to children but in my childhood Jesus was a great comfort. I know of one child, living in…

          • In reply to #54 by currerbell:

            Yes, you are quite right about the church of Batman. I was merely trying to make the point that people turn to religion because the world is often an unkind place. I wasn’t justifying religion but perhaps we as atheists could show a little more compassion to those who are hurting and who turn to re…

            Totally agree with you – my criticism is always of religion, not the religious.

            The only time I make an exception to that rule, is when the people pedaling the religion use it to further their own nefarious ends.

  6. There are two issues here:

    1) It is a sad fact of american life that many fictional overseas characters are turned white for domestic consumption. I care far less about this than many contemporary fictional characters. Though to be fair… Modern day ‘ho ho ho’ Santa IS white! As he was invented lock stock and barrel by the Coca Cola company.

    2) If ‘black’ can mean anything from ‘dark side of the moon’ to ‘slightly tanned white person’ then ‘white’ can include mediterranean and arab people. Just like ‘religious’ can mean anything from pope to ‘vaguely glances at a church on sunday, once a year’. And atheist can mean anything from Richard Dawkins to ‘goes to church but doesn’t really mean it’. Demographic terms are not always mutually exclusive.

    Realistically, or rather cladistically, someone living in that time may well have had european, african, and arab blood – because that’s where the three places meet.

    • In reply to #22 by ANTIcarrot:

      There are two issues here:

      1) It is a sad fact of american life that many fictional overseas characters are turned white for domestic consumption. I care far less about this than many contemporary fictional characters. Though to be fair… Modern day ‘ho ho ho’ Santa IS white! As he was invented lo…

      I still think it’s about a relevant as asking whether Gandalf was white, or whether Frodo Baggins had Danish grandparents…

    • In reply to #33 by Alan4discussion:

      Faith-thinking really can produced tangled mythology!

      Pupils’ Christmas ‘ruined’ by vicar’s Santa Claus origins story

      The characters forming the basis of the Jesus myth, must have been dark skinned if they lived in the middle-east. Mediterranean and Desert sun does not do “white”!

      You are forgetting – “God tans in mysterious ways’…

  7. Santa Claus is unequivocally derived from St Nicholas, whose authentic remains lie in an Italian crypt. You can see a forensic reconstruction St Nicholas’s face here. Judge for yourself whether that’s white or not.

  8. In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

    And Santa certainly exists. It’s ten days till Christmas; I’m not gonna piss him off and run the risk of his flying right past my house.

    Cordeth’s wager. Good call. Just in case he exists. It’s insincere but I don’t think it qualifies as naughty. Your bases should be covered I guess.

    PS: How do you haul a Lexus in a sleigh?..

  9. Really??? That’s like debating whether zombies go for breast meat or thigh meat first when devouring the living. The kind of argument you’d expect to hear from the halfwit junkies Skinny Pete and Badger in Breaking Bad… but on network TV.

    Congratulations to Fox News for lowering the bar of news broadcasting standards (again).

    • In reply to #43 by NearlyNakedApe:

      Really??? That’s like debating whether zombies go for breast meat or thigh meat first when devouring the living. The kind of argument you’d expect to hear from the halfwit junkies Skinny Pete and Badger in Breaking Bad… but on network TV.

      Congratulations to Fox News for lowering the bar of news b…

      There is no debate. No self respecting Zombie would go for thigh when the breasts are available.

  10. “but this person is arguing that we should also have a black Santa.”

    Now that really is a racially driven agenda!
    Since importance is placed not on the character but the colour of the character’s skin.

    • In reply to #46 by Terra Watt:

      “but this person is arguing that we should also have a black Santa.”

      Now that really is a racially driven agenda!
      Since importance is placed not on the character but the colour of the character’s skin.

      WTF! They said “also”. Which, to any normal person would mean you could have Santa – black, white, blue , green, brown, pink, yellow.

      And, when you have suffered through 400 years of slavery and dehumanization of your ow race, cultural annihilation and torture at the hands of others just because of your race, you can have the moral high ground back. Until shut up then and listen !

      Yeah, “racially driven agenda”! Just for asking could they have a black santa.

      • In reply to #47 by soulreaver:

        WTF! They said “also”. Which, to any normal person would mean you could have Santa – black, white, blue , green, brown, pink, yellow.

        Except what they were basically saying was that the issue they have with this character is that they are caucasian!
        That is a racist sentiment.

        And, when you have suffered through 400 years of slavery and dehumanization of your ow race, cultural annihilation and torture at the hands of others just because of your race, you can have the moral high ground back. Until shut up then and listen!

        I’m not a fan of moral relativism. This lady is apparently responding to some who are having issues with certain characters simply because they are caucasian! If that’s their only issue then they are being racist. Its just that simple.
        Also no one here nor in the article denied or belittled, the terrible suffering that Africans faced through slavery and other forms of racist barbarism. Honestly why did you bring that up? Is racism only a concern in its most grotesque and violent forms?

        Yeah, “racially driven agenda”! Just for asking could they have a black santa.

        Again, that’s not what was said.
        From what I gather certain individuals seem to essentially state that the character Santa, is unacceptable,
        unless the character was also depicted to be of African descent!
        That is racist.

  11. Is this really newsworthy that some Fox News presenter says something completely ridiculous? It would be news if they actually for once said something remotely sensible. Look, this Megyn Kelly is pretty much the poster girl for white conservative ignorance and stupidity. I mean, if she would shut up then at least she could benefit from having nice legs… but, the moment she opens her mouth it’s just a disaster. I’m actually surprised she can form a coherent sentence that consists of more than three words.

  12. I have successfully convinced my kids that the burglar alarm sensors in the corners of the rooms, with little lights that flash in response to motion or body heat, are special eyes that Santa uses to detect whether they are being bad or good, which is why we leave them on all year round.

    As a deterrent to bad behaviour, Santa is real!

  13. In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n and #14 by Miserablegit:

    I thought it was generally accepted nowadays that Jesus was a real person.

    If your statement was not meant in humour, there was a post a while back on the question of the historical figure. As far as I can tell, most people argued into the position that there was likely some preacher or preachers who inspired the New Testament accounts, but no one seemed to agree over whether to say he was Jesus (obviously not in the “resurrected himself” sense) or was the inspiration for the Jesus character depicted in the books. Personally, I thought it was a matter of semantics, akin to arguing whether or not a Mr. T. comic’s main character is Mr. T. or was inspired by the real man.

    I’m not certain but I think this post, Awesome dad defends awesome daughter’s message to Texas lawmakers, is the one you’re referring to. It wasn’t strictly speaking supposed to be about Jesus’s historicity but managed to become about that, thanks in part perhaps to some despicable female commenter who did her best to derail the thing.

    I’m still a relative newcomer to this site, and I’m surprised to discover that what would seem to be a linchpin in the non-theist argument against the planet’s dominant religion, Jesus’s existence, hasn’t been discussed more often. I did genuinely think Kelly Thing’s statement “…he’s a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact” was correct.

    It’s only about 2,000 years ago for heaven’s sake. What about Muhammad; was he real?

    Vorlund in comment #20 says that “Jesus as a historical figure was a politically expedient lie,” and received seven likes for his troubles, but is there any truth in this? What if Jesus was real; would that weaken the atheist position? I can see how it might, in the same way proving he never existed would strengthen it. Would atheists therefore rather he never was? I would have a problem with anyone who was prepared to write someone out of existence because it was ‘politically expedient’ for them to do so, or err on the side of this person’s never having existed because it bolsters their own position. I’m sure there are many who would say it doesn’t matter because if he was real he’s now long dead and cannot be offended by having his personhood erased from our species’ timeline.

    That doesn’t sit well with me though. In the absence of any conclusive evidence either way, I think the moral thing would be to grant Jesus his humanity. Honor him for it too. I’ve said this before, but I think reclaiming Jesus from those who worship him for his divinity rather than his humanness would be a really good thing for atheists to do… if for no other reason than it would make a lot of Fox News types’ head explode.

    There’s a book by Philip Pullman called I think The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. I haven’t read it, but perhaps others here have. Red Dog reads everything. I usually rely on Wikipedia to provide me with synopses of books I haven’t read but feel I ought to, or movies I sort of feel I should have watched but couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, I think it might be about the discrepancy between the accounts of Bible Jesus and regular human Jesus.

    A book club section for this site might be worth considering.

    • In reply to #53 by Katy Cordeth:

      In reply to #31 by Zeuglodon:

      In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

      In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n and #14 by Miserablegit:

      I thought it was generally accepted nowadays that Jesus was a real person.

      If your statement was not meant in humour, there was a post a while back on the question of the historical f…

      A book I read recently that you might like to check out is:

      There Was No Jesus, There Is No God by Raphael Lataster

      I’ve read a few on the subject, but that one is pretty new and worth a look…

    • In reply to #53 by Katy Cordeth:

      I’m not certain but I think this post, Awesome dad defends awesome daughter’s message to Texas lawmakers, is the one you’re referring to.

      Actually, I was referring to this one; Evidence for Jesus outside New Testament. To be fair, though, I should have put up the link when I originally posted instead of being lazy. :-(

      I’m still a relative newcomer to this site, and I’m surprised to discover that what would seem to be a linchpin in the non-theist argument against the planet’s dominant religion, Jesus’s existence, hasn’t been discussed more often. I did genuinely think Kelly Thing’s statement “…he’s a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact” was correct.

      Maybe it’s just me, but you seem to be overselling the point. It’s not the existence or non-existence of Jesus that is the important issue, per se, but the idea that he was a god of some kind with supernatural powers. I don’t know what Vorlund’s argument would be, but it seems more parsimonious to grant that there was a real figure or figures behind the works who was some kind of preacher or activist at the time whose followers got really carried away.

      What if Jesus was real; would that weaken the atheist position? I can see how it might, in the same way proving he never existed would strengthen it. Would atheists therefore rather he never was?

      I can see why one might think that, but again, I think it confuses “Jesus was not a god” with “Jesus never existed”. Anti-religionists who think disproving Jesus’ existence is in support of their position are missing the point, and probably trying too hard to exaggerate the strength of their case.

      In the absence of any conclusive evidence either way, I think the moral thing would be to grant Jesus his humanity. Honor him for it too. I’ve said this before, but I think reclaiming Jesus from those who worship him for his divinity rather than his humanness would be a really good thing for atheists to do… if for no other reason than it would make a lot of Fox News types’ head explode.

      Vell, Jesus iz just zis guy, you know?

      There is this. Personally, I think the character in the gospels is a bit of a mixed bag. Some things might have been laudable or even revolutionary at the time (like rejecting destructive retaliation and encouraging pacifism), but give me the Ancient Greeks, Kant, Bentham, et al. any day. He comes across to me as an arrogant apocalyptic preacher with a god delusion and too many anti-materialism spiritualist leanings. Also, some of his depictions in the books are just creepy in a brainwashing-cult sort of way. If the real guy was like that, then quite frankly I think the route to his 21st century counterpart of “feel-good” Jesus must have been a very convoluted one.

      A book club section for this site might be worth considering.

      Now, that would be a great idea. I could think of a few titles to go on the list. Next discussion topic, maybe?

      • In reply to #59 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #53 by Katy Cordeth:

        I’m not certain but I think this post, Awesome dad defends awesome daughter’s message to Texas lawmakers, is the one you’re referring to.

        Actually, I was referring to this one; Evidence for Jesus outside New Testament. To be fair, though, I should have put up the l…

        As you say, I don’t think it is relevant whether Jesus existed or not, as far as strengthening or weakening the atheist case is concerned.

        Atheism is about coming to the conclusion that god or gods do not exist, based upon the available evidence.

        If there was a historical Jesus, so what – it doesn’t make Christianity any more or less likely to be true.

        The real problem with a real Jesus is that there is absolutely NO evidence to support his existence, outside of the gospels, which were written many years after the ‘events’ by people who seemed to be writing more of an advertising campaign for Christianity than an actual historical record.

        Even the writings of Saul (Paul) of Tarsus do not mention Jesus as being a real person… And at least some of his epistles weren’t actually written by him anyway…

        • In reply to #61 by Katy Cordeth:

          I think it’s safe to say that if evidence came to light which proved definitively that the Jesus of the Bible never existed, it would have a fairly major impact on the Christian religion. The supernatural aspect of the character would become rather moot, no?

          Yes, if Jesus never existed, then it obviously becomes impossible for it to be true that Jesus was a god of some sort. But my point was that it is not necessary for the specific argument that he wasn’t a God, so strictly speaking his non-existence would be a bonus. However, it doesn’t work in reverse. His existence is not a weakening of the atheist position; only evidence of godhood matters there. If, say, a fringe group claimed that John Smith was divinely inspired, proving that he didn’t exist would obviously render the idea moot, but even if no such proof was forthcoming, Mormons don’t enjoy the luxury of saying that this makes it more likely that he was divinely inspired. That has to be assessed independently.

          In reply to #60 by Dr Bob:

          The real problem with a real Jesus is that there is absolutely NO evidence to support his existence, outside of the gospels, which were written many years after the ‘events’ by people who seemed to be writing more of an advertising campaign for Christianity than an actual historical record.

          Well, this ties in to Katy’s question about the parsimony I mentioned a while back. Given that scholars are aware of the New Testament, what can be reasonably inferred? The honest answer, as with any question of fragmentary history, is simply that we don’t know. However, given that the story’s details are not outlandish, and the basic elements (preached, baptised, and crucified, basically) seem realistic enough, then I don’t think it’s too much to suggest that there was a real guy behind the accounts. While the biographical details came late, the earliest writings are just less than a decade after the events were supposed to conclude, so perhaps there were real events.

          That said, I am speaking from ignorance, so maybe there were contemporary allusions to his goings-on during the first half of the first century? I don’t know how the historians operated at that time, though I know there were indirect references to a “Christos” in Tacitus and others later on.

          • In reply to #62 by Zeuglodon:

            However, given that the story’s details are not outlandish, and the basic elements (preached, baptised, and crucified, basically) seem realistic enough, then I don’t think it’s too much to suggest that there was a real guy behind the accounts. While the biographical details came late, the earliest writings are just less than a decade after the events were supposed to conclude, so perhaps there were real events.

            You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head there, without realising it…

            The ‘basic elements seem realistic enough’ – indeed they do… they are also identical to the the basic elements in the story of a myriad of other hero figures throughout mythology… You might as well state that there must be a real guy behind the accounts of Osiris, Hercules, Krishna, Mithras and many more…

            The ‘earliest writings’ you speak of did not talk of Jesus as a real person, only a spiritual figurehead. They also only come from Christians – there is NO independent verification. Not a single Roman or Jewish historian (and there were plenty in Palestine at the time) thought to mention the miraculous birth, a single miracle, the trial, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension… Not one…

            For instance, on the day he supposedly expired on the cross, there were supposed to be earthquakes in Jerusalem and the dead rose from the graves and walked the streets like zombies (yes, that is in the Bible) – but, incredibly, NOT ONE PERSON thought that it would make an interesting diary entry for that day…

            Now, you might say that perhaps that was a little over-zealous embellishment of the facts, but that begs the question what else was exaggerated in the gospels – and still doesn’t answer why NOBODY independent (non-Christian) wrote about a bloke who apparently ‘saved mankind’ and was ‘famous everywhere he went’ for decades after the supposed events…

            Please, seriously, if any of you can find an authentic reference to Jesus that was not written ex post facto by people with ulterior motives, then I would love to see it…

            Please note that I am not dogmatically stating that Jesus did not exist (I know better than that) – I’m just saying that there is no first hand evidence that he did and evidence is what I thought this website was all about.

          • In reply to #63 by Dr Bob:

            Oh, I’m not saying the whole earthquake-upon-his-death stuff is true, and I see where you’re coming from. Merely having realistic elements does not make something true, by any means. On the other hand, the real story might be a lot more mundane: I’m saying that it’d be interesting to know if, say, there was a record somewhere in the Roman documents or local historical accounts of the time that at least could suggest it was plausible. It might be more in the spirit of the war of Troy: the stuff with the gods is made up, and the actual details are probably not true, but that kind of thing could have happened at the time and had inspired Homer’s works.

            Applying that to the New Testament, the basic story of a guy who preached and got crucified for it is probably true, and in real life it was no more consequential than any run-of-the-mill Roman nuisance, just that it was lucky enough to snag lots of followers over the following centuries. The specifics of the Jesus story, however, were fabricated. For instance, the reality might be that a real person was regarded by local authorities as a preacher disturbing the peace, was executed, and his name was put down in a criminal records book, for example. Or also some mention of a political activist by a historian of the time. I’m not saying such documentation exists, but for all I know, maybe it does. As it stands, I think it’s an open question.

          • In reply to #64 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #63 by Dr Bob:

            Oh, I’m not saying the whole earthquake-upon-his-death stuff is true, and I see where you’re coming from. Merely having realistic elements does not make something true, by any means. On the other hand, the real story might be a lot more mundane: I’m saying that it’d be in…

            Sadly, there are no records that anything you mention that could have happened actually occurred – but I’ll concede that absence of evidence does not necessarily mean evidence of absence.

            The point I was making earlier was that the Jesus story is almost identical to other stories in the past and therefore doesn’t need any real events to have sparked it off.

            There are no records of Jesus in any Roman documentation regarding the crucification and as mentioned earlier, no mention of Jesus by any historians.

            The home life of Harry Potter, as described in the books, is plausible and non-magical as well, so does that mean that there was an historical Harry Potter?

          • In reply to #64 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #63 by Dr Bob:

            Oh, I’m not saying the whole earthquake-upon-his-death stuff is true, and I see where you’re coming from. Merely having realistic elements does not make something true, by any means. On the other hand, the real story might be a lot more mundane: I’m saying that it’d be in…

            Apologies if I’m coming across as overly argumentative, by the way, I don’t mean to. We are violently agreeing on almost everything and I do understand your viewpoint.

          • In reply to #66 by Dr Bob:

            No need to apologize. I did not take your tone to be overly argumentative, or even particularly heated; just frank and forthright. To be honest, I was also thinking we’ve reached the point where we’re basically going in circles trying to out-agree each other, so to speak, (and probably veering off-topic, too), so let’s agree to agree?:-)

          • In reply to #71 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #66 by Dr Bob:

            No need to apologize. I did not take your tone to be overly argumentative, or even particularly heated; just frank and forthright. To be honest, I was also thinking we’ve reached the point where we’re basically going in circles trying to out-agree each other, so to speak,…

            Sounds good to me :-)

            Right, I’d better get back to making my list for Santa… ;-)

        • In reply to #60 by Dr Bob:

          Atheism is about coming to the conclusion that god or gods do not exist, based upon the available evidence.

          “Atheism” is an “ism” and is about promoting non-belief in deities. Some atheists may come to “the conclusion that god or gods do not exist” but others simply do not come to the conclusion that such deities do exist.

          • In reply to #67 by Quine:

            In reply to #60 by Dr Bob:

            Atheism is about coming to the conclusion that god or gods do not exist, based upon the available evidence.

            “Atheism” is an “ism” and is about promoting non-belief in deities. Some atheists may come to “the conclusion that god or gods do not exist” but others simply do n…

            Apologies, but isn’t that basically the same thing? Atheism isn’t really about promoting non-belief is it?

            The dictionary definition is more along the lines of ‘absence of belief in one or more deities’ I guess…

          • In reply to #68 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #67 by Quine:

            In reply to #60 by Dr Bob:

            >

            Atheism is about coming to the conclusion that god or gods do not exist, based upon the available evidence.

            “Atheism” is an “ism” and is about promoting non-belief in deities. Some atheists may come to “the conclusion that god or gods do not exist” but others simply do n…

            Apologies, but isn’t that basically the same thing? Atheism isn’t really about promoting non-belief is it?

            The dictionary definition is more along the lines of ‘absence of belief in one or more deities’ I guess…

            That’s the definition of an “atheist.” One can be an atheist, but not support atheism. Dictionaries can vary on this; I saw in Webster’s that “atheism” was a “doctrine.” American Atheists has this piece on the definition. This comes up often in the threads here because different ideas of meaning are floating around in the public discourse. My point is that often when asking for the definition of “atheism” one gets back the definition of “an atheist,” and these are not the same things. The problem is that “isms” are usually belief systems (also why I object to “Darwinism”), but atheism is exactly not that. However, atheism has taken on a “movement” aspect, and I think that aspect is why the religious all see it as a competing doctrine, and one to be resisted.

          • In reply to #73 by Quine:

            In reply to #68 by Dr Bob:

            In reply to #67 by Quine:

            In reply to #60 by Dr Bob:

            Atheism is about coming to the conclusion that god or gods do not exist, based upon the available evidence.

            “Atheism” is an “ism” and is about promoting non-belief in deities. Some atheists may come to “the conclusio…

            Got you – completely agree. Thanks for taking the time to elaborate, muchly appreciated. It’s been a long day…

          • In reply to #74 by Dr Bob:

            Thanks for taking the time to elaborate, …

            You are most welcome! :-)

            P.S. Your question has got me thinking about starting a discussion thread on what the “ism” in “atheism” really means, in both theory and practice. Thanks for that.

          • In reply to #75 by Quine:

            Your question has got me thinking about starting a discussion thread on what the “ism” in “atheism” really means, in both theory and practice.

            Please do.

            It may throw a bit of light on some tricky questions.

          • In reply to #76 by DHudson:

            In reply to #75 by Quine:

            Your question has got me thinking about starting a discussion thread on what the “ism” in “atheism” really means, in both theory and practice.

            Please do.

            It may throw a bit of light on some tricky questions.

            Thank you, it is in the pipe.

            -Q

  14. In reply to #59 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #53 by Katy Cordeth:

    I’m not certain but I think this post, Awesome dad defends awesome daughter’s message to Texas lawmakers, is the one you’re referring to.

    Actually, I was referring to this one; Evidence for Jesus outside New Testament. To be fair, though, I should have put up the link when I originally posted instead of being lazy. :-(

    Oh, I see. I tend to dwell in the lofty heights of News, rarely descending down into the depths of Discussions, so that one passed me by.

    I’m still a relative newcomer to this site, and I’m surprised to discover that what would seem to be a linchpin in the non-theist argument against the planet’s dominant religion, Jesus’s existence, hasn’t been discussed more often. I did genuinely think Kelly Thing’s statement “…he’s a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact” was correct.

    Maybe it’s just me, but you seem to be overselling the point. It’s not the existence or non-existence of Jesus that is the important issue, per se, but the idea that he was a god of some kind with supernatural powers.

    I think it’s safe to say that if evidence came to light which proved definitively that the Jesus of the Bible never existed, it would have a fairly major impact on the Christian religion. The supernatural aspect of the character would become rather moot, no?

    I don’t know what Vorlund’s argument would be, but it seems more parsimonious to grant that there was a real figure or figures behind the works who was some kind of preacher or activist at the time whose followers got really carried away.

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, or where parsimony comes into it, but I’ve always sort of thought that was exactly how Christianity and indeed all religions came about. They start out as weird little cults, and in most cases just fizzle out. Occasionally though, if the circumstances are propitious and the gods are smiling, one of these cults becomes popular and before you know it has taken over half the world.

    What if Jesus was real; would that weaken the atheist position? I can see how it might, in the same way proving he never existed would strengthen it. Would atheists therefore rather he never was?

    I can see why one might think that, but again, I think it confuses “Jesus was not a god” with “Jesus never existed”. Anti-religionists who think disproving Jesus’ existence is in support of their position are missing the point, and probably trying too hard to exaggerate the strength of their case.

    They sure would take advantage of such evidence if it did emerge though, wouldn’t they?

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