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The Die for a Lie Argument

For many young Christians, the belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus has become their primary justification for belief in the entire Christian system. One argument they use in particular is that they don’t believe that the apostles would have died for a lie.

These particular Christians often tell me how many of the apostles and early Christians were tortured for spreading the Christian belief and who in their right mind would die for a lie? Who indeed? Let’s look at this for a moment. First, aside from the Biblical account there is no evidence that any of the apostles actually did die for a lie. In fact, there is no real evidence that Jesus even existed. But that is another story for another day.

Let’s for the sake of argument grant that Jesus did exist and that the apostles actually did “die for a lie” even though there is no evidence to suggest this is actually true. Why would someone do such a thing? I can actually think of quite a few reasons and even some examples. For many people, there are some things more important than one’s own life. There are causes that we take up that we sometimes consider greater than ourselves. If one is in the military during a time of war for example, if captured by the enemy and tortured to reveal a hidden base a soldier might lie about it even sacrificing his or her own life to protect others or the cause.

A parent might lie under torture to save the life of a child or sometimes people might lie to save the life of others. In a social/political movement, people might lie under torture to protect the integrity of the movement. So if Jesus was real and was flipping over tables and telling everyone that the Hebrews had it all wrong and that no one should be following the Old Testament laws any more, this might be considered some kind of social, political, and religious movement. It would be a cause that some people might consider greater than themselves and if tortured might even die for a lie. In fact, if the charismatic leader of such a movement did die and the movement started to fall apart, it might be in the best interest of some of the new leaders to lie. They might tell their followers that the leader isn’t really dead and has in fact resurrected from the dead. They might even claim that the leader of the movement is so powerful that death itself couldn’t stop him from accomplishing the mission.

Now in the 21st Century, one might think such a lie would be laughable and certainly not believed, but the fact is that there are many current cults in the world with charismatic leaders that have their followers believe just these types of things. Back two thousand years ago before science and critical thinking really dominated society, even more people would be willing to believe in magical tales from charismatic leaders.

So even if Jesus was a real person and even if the apostles really were tortured, that still doesn’t prove that they must have told the truth while being tortured. It is extremely likely that they would have died for a lie.

Still, there is of course another possibility too. They might have actually believed the lie. They could have simply been bat-shit crazy. I know religious people are never crazy, right? Lol. I am sure it would be impossible to find any religious zealot so convinced by some obviously ridiculous story that they wouldn’t be willing to die confessing that it was true. I bet I could even find someone willing to die rather than denounce that Elvis is still alive. This would not be good evidence for Elvis’s immortality.

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  • http://www.skepacabra.wordpress.com Skepacabra

    I always find this argument so silly because people die because they believed a lie all the time. The 19 hijackers on 9/11 died for a lie. 900 inhabitants of Jonestown died for a lie. The members of Heaven’s Gate died for a lie. Hell, how many U.S. soldiers died because they believed Saddam Hussein contributed to 9/11 and had weapons of mass destruction. There is a long history of human beings dying because they believed a lie.