Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Would They Die for a Lie?

cult, christianity, death, proof, stupid, apologetics, witness, evangelism,

One of the most annoying arguments for Christianity is Why would Jesus' apostles have died for a lie? In other words, Christianity must be true because people have died for it.

First of all, I haven't seen any credible historical proof that the people named as apostles in the Bible actually existed, or wrote anything they are said to have written, when it was claimed to be written. We don't have any original writings and every bit of evidence I have seen tends to be self referential or lacking in backup documentation. For example, I can prove that George Washington existed because we have his original writings as well as the original writings of literally dozens of people who knew him. They all agree on the basic facts of George's existence. We can't say the same for Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. (Never mind why the other apostles' writings didn't make it into official canon.)

What we are left with, in this argument, is whether or not people are willing to die for lies. Yes, they are. This has been proven countless times. Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, the Solar Temple are all proof of this fact. So, if you are making the argument that "People have died for it, it must be true", you need to go find yourself some cyanide Koolaid and a comet, or risk eternal suffering.


  1. Joseph Smith too, he was martyred for the Mormons. From the Wikipedia on Joseph Smith:

    Smith and three other Mormon prisoners were held in Carthage Jail in an upstairs room without bars. Both Hyrum and Joseph Smith had pistols that had been smuggled in by friends.[222] On June 27, 1844, an armed group of men with blackened faces stormed the jail. As the mob broke into the room, Hyrum was shot in the face and killed. Smith pulled the trigger of his pepper-box six times, firing into the hall and wounding three men, but the mob continued to fire at Smith and the other Mormons. Smith prepared to jump from the second floor window, but was hit by a ball from the door, causing him to fall out the window. On the ground he stirred a bit; four men fired and killed him.

    Yes he fought back, but he still died for his beliefs that he himself made up. I still think Heaven's Gate is a better example though.

  2. Really, martyrdom is simply the ultimate in self-fulfilling "proof." The person basically says, "If I really believe in this I have to be willing to do ANYTHING. So I will die." Then other people say, "See, he died for this. It must be real!" And then they realize that if they want to show they really believe they must be willing to die for it, too. The next person down the line must then say, "Wow. I should show that kind of dedication..."

    It doesn't matter if it's religion, patriotism, or a really dedicated belief in the Chicago Bulls. Martyrdom proves absolutely nothing but it is self-reinforcing.

  3. Two remarks: First is important to note that many of the claims martydoms of the apostles also don't date until centuries later.

    Second, there's a slight minimal validity to this sort of argument if it used correctly. The argument can be used in the form "They were willing to die for these claims that they claim to have witnessed. Therefore they must have been telling the truth in their claim to have witnessed them" This still suffers from serious problems in that it isn't at all clear what the early Christians actually claimed (and certainly not at all clear that any of the apostles ever claimed a literal resurrection). So the argument fails but fails for slightly subtler reasons.

  4. i don't think the fact that someone died for something makes it true either. That would make qu'ran and radical islam true just b/c they strap bombs to themselves.
    i actually think most christians believe the bible teaching of "by their fruits ye shall know them." in other words, what type of life they live, their honesty or integrity, how much they helped the poor, etc. the validity of the bible isn't so important as long as one is trying to live a moral and virtuous life, which, even according to aristotle i think, will lead to the most happiness for the individual and society.

    I wonder what your views are on existing apocrypha as you want to discredit the bible so much...

  5. tracieh from the Atheist Experience did a massive post on this subject.

  6. Are Christians really making this argument? So I guess they all converted to Islam on 9/11, then....

  7. Dying for something doesn't make it true. It just means that the person willing to die for it truly believed in their cause.

  8. A better way of rephrasing this argument, as used by most Christians, would be "People don't die for something they KNOW is a lie". As stated above, the apostles would have been in a position to know whether or not Jesus died and rose from the dead. The Jewish historian, Josephus, actually records that James the brother of Jesus was stoned (Antiquities, book 20, chapter 9). This passage is generally considered to be authentic. So there is documentation outside the Bible for at least one of the apostles and his martyr, though it is true that a lot of the information concerning the apostles' martyrs comes from tradition.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at