>> From an atheist's point of view it doesn't matter whether Jesus
>> really existed or not, just whether what He supposedly said and
>> did was true.
> This is the bit that puzzled me. I thought a
> person who calls himself an atheist would just
> simply assume that those things are not true
> and don't bother himself anymore with the
Atheism would not be dealt a serious blow if Jesus of Palestine really lived, but didn't do the miracles attributed to him. If good evidence exists to support the miracles, then atheism (and science) is in trouble. Atheists may reasonably just assume they didn't happen, but I'm not sure that's appropriate.
There was a debate I read about concerning the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The theist, knowing that the atheist didn't believe in miracles, argued that denying a specific miracle a priori just because you don't believe in miracles is not justified. Whether good evidence that a specific "miraculous" event(as we perceive it) happened is what must be determined.
Early 20th century people might have considered claims of seeing airplanes as unreliable claims of things that would violate the laws of nature. In their minds such a heavy metallic flying object would be a miracle.
Thomas Jefferson thought it more likely that university educators were lying than that rocks fell from the sky. To him this would be a miraculous denial of the laws of nature. Really, how could the rocks be floating in the clouds?
Some people believe Jesus was a superpowered alien with advanced medical technology. The resurrection wasn't a miracle to them, just advanced technology.
>> Unbelievable claims like rotted corpses reanimating, or supernatural
>> beings visiting us, or all-powerful creators of the universe that expect
>> us to sacrifice some doves and lambs when we sin, etc. should be
>> rejected until experimental and theoretical backing occurs.
> You don't cease to puzzle me. I thought those
> things should be rejected, period. I thought it
> was clear to you that no experimental and
> theoretical backing could possibly occur.
I reject them now, but it was not that long ago that I believed them like the rest of my family and friends. It both embarrasses me and amazes me to think about it.
I could simply deny that experimental or theoretical backing can occur for religious ideas, but I think it's preferable to encourage them to try and fail and learn than to not even try and just accept things on faith.
It's like perpetual motion machines. Instead of just telling my students they can't exist, I suggest that if they believe they're possible that they try. If they make the effort they'll get a lot of practical experience in the laws of thermodynamics.
I'm trying to treat theists the same way. Those I know believe their religion is logical like science is. They have the same kind of "light bulb in the head" experiences when religious ideas are told them as when scientific ones are. If religion is logical then establish the logic. I challenge them to show the evidence and the theories that explain why religion works and why technology works.
The theists I know might be affected by archaeological and historical evidence showing that Nazareth did not exist during the days of Jesus. Science and common sense do affect them.
For example, some LDS, including my father, think the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon is not the hill in New York called Cumorah by early Mormons. Why? Because the Book of Mormon mentions a great battle with millions of soldiers fighting on Cumorah. The little hill in New York is obviously too small.
Some think the events of the Book of Mormon occurred in Central America. Another reason for this is because DNA evidence is showing that the American Indians are descendants of Mongolians, not Israelis like the Book of Mormon teaches. If the events of the Book of Mormon only happened in a little part of the Americas, maybe the descendants of the survivors could have escaped modern DNA researchers. That's the hope of these scientifically-inclined Mormons.
>> Science is a powerful tool to distinguish fact from fiction.
>> Religion is an unreliable source of knowledge, promoted
>> throughout history primiraly by superstitious, scientific - illiterates.
> I'm sorry but this is a biased, misinformed
> position, unless you think people like Thomas
> Aquinas, Descartes, Goethe, Einstein, were
> scientific-illiterates. Superstitious perhaps
> but not necessarily more so than you and I.
You're correct to mention scientific-literates who promoted God. Einstein, however, I think is a bad example. He used the idea of God, but didn't believe in Him anywhere close to what most religions do. I don't very much of what the others you mentioned believed in. Isaac Newton wrote some defenses of religion.
I qualified my statement with "primarily". I'm not saying all promoters of religion are scientific-illiterates, just the vast majority of them. This isn't so surprising since the vast majority of the planet has always been scientifically-illiterate. More importantly I think, the originators of the major religious ideas were superstitious folk without the philosophical training of those you mentioned.