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Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality.

Yet, when a person of even moderate cleverness wishes to deceive you, this "strength" can be turned against you. Context is everything.

As Donald DeMarco asks in "Are Your Lights On?", WHO is it that is bringing me this problem?

...what if we all have some form of brain damage in common, so that none of us notice some simple and obvious fact?

Aren't things "obvious" by virtue of being noticed (or noticeABLE) by nearly everyone? Not trying to be difficult, but just trying to wrap my head around the idea that we could, all of us, be suffering such a severe cognitive malfunction. (I am thinking, here, of the liar's paradox.) And trying to wrap my head around the idea that now we could sit here in front of our computers and say anything worthwhile about it.

But for the sake of playing the game: "There are no coincidences."

The second sentence of this response is a non-defense of your thesis, and the rest of it does not help your case, much. I am open to evidence of your claim that "many" have become atheists. For the sake of argument, I would admit that >10% conversion rate would count as "many", as would, say, some absolute number such as 1,000 in the last 100 years.

Perhaps you can find some authority who has researched this question?

(Restricting myself to two quibbles, for the sake of time):

I believe your description of Docetism gives the wrong idea; Docetism (as I learned it) did not say that Jesus was not there at all, but rather merely asserted that his corporeality was an illusion. The Docetists did not think of Jesus as "only an idea", but as somebody who staged a form of divine theater, as it were. (Research "Christological Heresies" for more on Docetism and its cousins.)

Quibble #2: not all biblical scholarship is as bad as you say -- much of it is quite rigorous and would be right at home in a secular university anthropology department.

Thanks for the introduction and welcome. Upvoted.

According to classical philosophy (e.g. Aristotle), sense knowledge is knowledge, but knowledge of a kind which does not depend on a rational faculty. One could call that irrational, a-rational, non-rational, pre-rational, etc., depending on the how one has sliced up the phenomenology.

I reviewed your link--thanks, that was interesting.

Maybe we're in agreement. Let me try a more audacious assertion...

All I was saying was that practical demonstration or persuasion takes place within an unquestioned frame of reference. For purposes of the topic at hand, I would say, for example, that using the available evidence, I could convince 9 of 12 jurors under American rules of evidence and jury instructions applicable to civil trials, that Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh and blood historical figure. I think I could do this every week for a year and win 90% of the time. If we change the rules to "establish it beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 of 12 jurors", then my success rate goes way down, obviously.

(Of course, I am assuming that I make no intentional misrepresentations and call only expert witnesses with recognized technical qualifications and unimpeachable character. I.e., no "funny stuff".)

In other words, I am claiming to not be anywhere in the neighborhood of epsilon.

Winky-face noted and appreciated!

But seriously, by my accounting, every standard of evidence I know includes an element of faith. The only differences between them are (a) what is taken on faith and (b) how credulous that faith is.

Namely, I find faith elements in believing:

  • first/second/third-hand reports, even by trained, neutral observers

  • expert consensus

  • single expert opinion

  • by contradiction

  • the evidence standards of American civil and criminal trials (note the plural, "standardS". The standards are different between them.)

  • induction, including (perhaps) mathematical induction

  • "engineering quality" proof

  • "mathematician quality" proof

My professional practice as an aircraft mishap investigator is to identify and apply the highest feasible standard from the above list, based on what information is available. "Best practice" in this industry dictates that selection and application of a standard of evidence is a matter of prudential judgement, based on the consequences and probabilities of being wrong, the resources available (evidence, time and $), while being scrupulously open about ones methods.

On historical questions about events of 20 centuries ago, the quality of evidence is not very good. About pretty much everything. What we are left with is Bayesian stuff. Anybody who goes to 0% or 100% draws the raised eyebrow from me. :-)

Thank you. This is a concise representation of the general objection I was going to make. Finding evidence of ANYTHING in that era that meets modern standards is often very difficult, if not impossible. Nearly all history from that era can be, and is, challenged.

I have yet to see a statement from PhilosophyTutor justifying his choice for a standard of evidence on this question.

The Jesusmyththeory wiki article describes a number of significant rigorous, academic (and non-friendly) challenges to the accuracy of the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels. Every honest person acknowledges uncertainty, exaggeration, and literary license. The question (for me) is: disregarding the deluded and dishonest, how would the honest brokers vote? I don't claim to have the answer.

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