This article is part of an ongoing Blaze series called, “Ask an Atheist.” Millionaire secular activist Todd Stiefel answers readers’ most pressing questions about faith and non-belief. Part One of the series can be read here and Part Two can be found here. The third portion, which focuses upon the New Testament and Jesus Christ, is below:
Millionaire atheist activist Todd Stiefel has already answered Blaze readers’ questions about his personal path to secularism and his views on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. In the third installment of The Blaze’s “Ask an Atheist,” Stiefel delves deeper into the accuracy of the New Testament and shares his views about Jesus Christ.
To begin, considering the popularity of Christianity across the globe, readers wondered about Stiefel’s views on Jesus. Aside from asking who he believes Christ was (and is), the activist was asked how he explains the resurrection and Jesus’ supposedly-empty tomb. While Stiefel embraces the fact that Christ existed, he obviously rejects the notion that he was God’s son. Here’s what he had to say about the Christian savior:
Unfortunately, we know very little about the historic Jesus. What we do know comes from sources written at a minimum of forty years after he died, in a country where he did not live, by people who did not know him. All of the Gospels were written anonymously in Greek, a language Jesus did not even speak. The “according to” names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added later by editors, and the authors themselves do not claim these names.
We have none of Jesus’s writings, and for all we know, he was unable to write. Everything we know of him came from stories that had gone through at least four decades of the telephone game, plus translation errors. This explains why the Gospels are filled with contradictions. For example, in the genealogy of Jesus, was Joseph’s father Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Heli (Luke 3:23)? Plus, how can you trace the bloodline of Jesus through Joseph if Mary was a virgin?
Stiefel went on to call the New Testament “a completely unreliable source of information on the life of Jesus.” As far as the empty tomb goes, the atheist philanthropist says that there’s little evidence that the resurrection actually happened, claiming that there is no first-hand account and that the gospels tell different “tales of the resurrection.”
“For example, was the stone of the tomb open when they got there (Mark 16:4) or did an angel open it in their presence (Matthew 28:1-5),” Stiefel wonders [editor’s note: Matthew 28:1-5 doesn’t necessarily claim that those visiting the tomb saw the angel move the stone].
After tackling the Bible’s supposed inaccuracies, Stiefel delved deeper into his views on Jesus Christ as a deity. But rather than expounding at length, he asked a series of questions — curiosities that get to the heart of the issues that non-believers have with religion (and Christianity in particular). Notably, these are questions that believers and atheists, alike, have likely asked themselves before:
As to if Jesus was a deity, I will ask you a few questions that I have asked myself. Assume you are a member of an all-powerful, all-knowing Trinity, and you [are] willing to perform miracles to demonstrate your divinity so as to be sure you are listened to. Would you appear in the backwater of the Roman Empire, or would you appear in Rome itself where more people could hear your message and witness the turning of water into wine? Would you cure a leper, or would you cure leprosy? Would your write down your own story and lessons, making sure they survive the test of time, or would you leave it to people you have never met? Would you die so humans could be forgiven for their sins, or would you allow them to be forgiven without allowing yourself to be tortured?
Another reader asked Stiefel why so many people believe in and are martyred for Christianity if, indeed, it is a false doctrine. As for the reasons so many subscribe to the faith, Stiefel believes that there are many potential answers. He claims that it may ease individuals’ fear of dying and that some were were taught to believe by their parents and, thus, they continue to do so. The atheist activist continues:
The fact that billions believe it now does not make Christianity any more true than Islam, which billions of people also believe. The reality is that millions of people believe in Scientology, even though that religion includes a belief in Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy. Why do people believe that? Your guess is as a good as mine, but I think it is because the word “galactic” makes it sound cool.
In addition to discussing Christianity, Stiefel also weighed in on the notion that atheism is a religion, a charge that many people of faith wage when debating theism with secularists. A reader asked, “How do you respond when people claim that atheism is a faith system?” Naturally, Stiefel disagrees with such a sentiment.
By definition, faith requires a belief in something. Atheism is the exact opposite because it is based on a lack of belief in god or gods. Calling atheism a faith system is like calling peace a type of war.
I will concede that I can see how some people define faith so broadly as to include humanism (the philosophy of leading an ethical life without dogma or supernaturalism.) Personally, I consider secular humanism an alternative to religion, but I can understand how rational people would disagree. Even some humanists consider their beliefs to be religious.
Stay tuned for the fourth installment of “Ask an Atheist,” during which Stiefel will delve deeper into the fabric of atheist morality. Also, be sure to leave your questions in the comments section, below, so that we can include them in future editions of this ongoing question-and-answer series.