[chuck]Remember waaaaay back when we talked about having our April guests on the show? Well even though it’s May, they’re here!

I think this is our best podcast to date. Pete Rollins is a fascinating fellow and Adele Sakler as always provides a unique perspective on everything we discuss. And since I’m a genius, the odd man out was Leighton, who really didn’t contribute at all. But that’s pretty much par for the course. Give it a listen!

7 Responses to “Guest Podcast!”

  1. Wow, what an interesting podcast. It’s a tall task to try to respond to it because there was so much there, but allow me to give a candid opinion on a few things.

    1) First, let Adele talk more! πŸ™‚

    2) At times, I felt that Pete dove into meaningless doubletalk. He said, “The question is not ‘Does God exist,’ but ‘What does God say?'” If we’re trying to be intellectually responible, we can’t go down that road. God can’t speak if God doesn’t exist. He was even afraid to answer a question about Jesus’ historical existence, which has been confirmed through several extrabiblical sources.

    3) I don’t know much about your group, blog, or podcasts and how you choose who to have on, but if you’re going to talk about the Bible, for example, I think it would be good to seek out biblical scholars. Pete did a pretty good job talking about the Bible considering his background, but there were a few holes.

    4) I really connected with something Pete Rollins said near the end. He compared church to things like sitcoms where they laugh on your behalf, and he said that church “believes on your behalf.” This is not what church is supposed to be, but unfortunately, I fear that this is what it often is.

    5) The focus on “living” and “being” instead of “believing” is very good and I appreciate that. It is actually, as you may know, very old. As religious history scholar Karen Armstrong has pointed out, ancient eastern religions had this figured out long before the development of monotheism in the Transjordan.

  2. Leighton says:

    1) Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I was kind of quiet during the beginning section of the podcast; I was trying to make room for Adele to jump in. We all have to deal with Charley’s big mouth though. Just something we have to carry as our own personal burdens. Towards the end I could see where it was going and tossed my hands up in the air and joined in, however, to make it up we’ve done an entire interview with just Adele and will be airing that when a free moment arises.

    2) It’s interesting that you point out the intellectual duality of “What does god say” versus “Does he exist”. Where the problem of digging further into something if a guest chooses to derail the question is we only have an hour and there are dozens of other things to visit. We’ve decided to let our guests answer our questions in their own ways and then towards the end, if there is time remaining, you’ll actually catch us circling back around to certain portions of the conversation.

    3) Where our guests are concerned, we try to seek out believers with a strong understanding of the bible. I hate to say it, but the majority of the time we have people knocking down our door for their turn to be on and express their views. We’ve turned away a couple because they had no educational background, no literary works under their belts, etc., but we’re both very surprised at the type of welcome we’ve received among the believing community. And here all we are is a couple of troublemaking atheists. Please, if you have any suggestions for people we should be communicated with send them forward and I’ll get in touch with them.

    4) That comment concerning “believing on your behalf” was fascinatingly insightful. I had never considered it that way, but after he’d said it I realized how much truth was in that comment. It reminds me of my younger days when my parents got me into multilevel marketing for the one and only time. They kept dragging me to the “meetings” wherein I would sit for an hour listening to one success/encouraging story after another. The analogy was if you’re out chopping down trees throughout the week your ax is going to get dull and those meetings are a way of sharpening that ax because you surround yourself with the like-minded. I never realized it before, but it’s the same exact thing as a church provides for its members. Pete said it wonderfully.

    5) With a comment like this I must say I’m impressed with your knowledge of religious history. Your comments lead me to think you’re a believer yourself and it speaks well of you that you’ve educated yourself in what you believe. Charley and I have commented several times concerning the lack of curiosity where belief and the believer is concerned. The majority of believers believe without quite knowing where that belief comes from and I applaud you for taking that step.

    A pleasure to have you along, my friend.

  3. 1) What Leighton doesn’t understand is, no matter the problem, it always boils down to being his fault. If Leighton would have kept his trap shut, maybe Adele could have gotten a word in edgewise.

    2) I’ll back Pete up here. In mythology, belief in the myth itself is less important than understanding what the myth says. We’ve come a long way from that original conception — probably because of the Constantinian bottleneck in the fourth century when Orthodoxy gained hold and stamped out the rest of Christianity — and it sounds like Pete would like to get back to putting primary importance on the teeachings instead of the literal existence. Which, if I have him correctly, is why Pete also “short-circuited” my belief questions.

    As to extrabiblical sources for the existence of Jesus, it’s not as cut and dried as you’d think. Josephus’s histories mention Jesus twice — one of those even the Catholic Church admits is a forgery, and the other merely references a “brother of Jesus,” but Jesus was a common name in that era. Compare this to several paragraphs about John the Baptist. The only other extrabiblical sources we have are found in the second century, far removed from the events in question, and even these give us only what we already know, that there was a group of Christians actively professing their beliefs at that time.

    3) I’d love to have a biblical scholar on. My first choice would be Robert Price, but he’s proven hard to get a hold of.

    4 & 5) I wonder if “believing on your behalf” is not the primary purpose of a church. Certainly in Mormonism it acts as a place to strengthen belief and do away with doubts by conversing with others of like mind on a weekly basis. I’ve never heard a sacrament talk about “It’s okay to doubt, go ahead and look into all that troubling stuff about Mormon history that you’ve heard from your friends and neighbors.” I think that’s the main reason why your Temple Recommend status depends to a large degree on church attendance.

  4. Thanks for the responses, guys.

    I don’t want to bog the discussion down, but if I could, I wanted to follow-up again on Chuck’s response concerning the historical existence of Jesus and the extrabiblical sources.

    Chuck, I appreciate your response, but your information is not exactly right. The Josephus “forgery” that you are referring to (the “Testimonium Flavianum”) is not said by any scholar I know of to be a complete forgery, but only a partial forgery. There are sentences in the paragraph that are almost indisputably authentic to Josephus, you just have to get past the interpolations that were inserted by a sneaky Christian later on.

    One of the second century references is actually quite reliable on the historical scale of things. It is from Roman historian Tacticus (Annals, 15.44). He was a vehement critic of Christianity and places widespread Christian persecution as early as the Roman emperor Nero (37–68AD). But an undisputed paragraph from his Annals reads:

    “But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”

    You also have to keep in mind that the New Testament features a number of first-hand and second-hand accounts of Paul interacting with Jesus’ contemporaries, and we have no more reason for saying that Jesus didn’t exist than we do any other person mentioned in the Bible. The writers of that time often wrote propaganda and practiced pseudonymity, but they did not and could not fabricate the entire story just a few decades afterward.

    None of this matters tremendously to the conversation at hand, but I wanted to clarify and basically say that no serious scholar doubts the existence of a “Jesus of Nazareth” who caused trouble in Judea during the early 1st century C.E. and was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The other stuff (walking on water, born of a virgin, rising from the dead), is obviously up for serious debate. πŸ™‚

  5. There are good arguments for considering the Testimonium to be a complete forgery:

    1) There is no reference to it before the 4th century. Even Origen somehow misses that paragraph.

    2) The language seems more Eusebian than Josephan.

    3) Eusebius locates it in a different place than we find it now. We even find a copy of the Testimonium in its entirety inserted into the Jewish War. I know of no one who regards that passage as authentic in that manuscript.

    4) If the Testimonium is removed, the narrative flow of the passage is undisturbed.

    And so on. At best, it is a partial interpolation, but we may never know for certain.

    Note that Tacitus doesn’t say anything that wasn’t readily available to anyone of the second century, and even gets certain details wrong: Pilate was Prefect, not Procurator. Tacitus does not help the cause for a historical Jesus any more than Homer establishes a historical Achilles.

    What we need are primary sources, and we have none. Compare this to another wandering sage who attracted a group of followers but never wrote anything down himself, fully 4 centuries before Jesus: Socrates. We have contemporary verification of the existence of Socrates from no fewer than three sources: Aristophanes play “The Clouds,” Xenophon’s “Memorabilia” and other works, and of course the dialogues of Plato. These are primary sources, people who knew Socrates first-hand.

    The best evidence for Jesus comes from within the New Testament, from Paul, who wrote a full 20 years after the death of Jesus and who never met him. And this, in one of the most thoroughly-documented centuries we have on record. Even Josephus, who was perfectly poised to write all about Jesus, writes virtually nothing. Justus of Tiberias, contemporary of Josephus and fellow Galilean, wrote a history of his own, and somehow failed to mention Jesus altogether. Amazing for a historian born in Galilee in the generation directly following Jesus.

    I already named a serious scholar who doesn’t believe Jesus existed: Robert Price. But I’m thinking this entire subject is a good idea for a future podcast.

  6. No great truth or insight here, but I love the way you guys talk about religious matters quite honestly and even graciously with people who obviously are on a different side of the fence than you.

  7. on the subject of Myths, i have to back up chuck. The truthiness of myths in ancient times was less important than the meaning. Myths were meant to carry the social norms and convey the morals of a culture. At some point, I have to blame the christians here for their zealotry, a line was passed where they started to be taken seriously, and then came sunday school.
    The same goes for Jesus, the issue for christians should be less ‘did he exist?’ and more of follow the message. Well, the good stuff anyway. I guess taking up a sword and casting away your family could have it’s place, assuming your family are a bunch of dicks.