Was Jesus Christ really the son of God? It's probably one of the most heated debates in all of history. On one side, the devout Christians believe strongly in the son of God, and on the other side, the staunch atheists say it's a made up tale and they'll tell you that evolution explains how we came about.
Joseph Atwill, a biblical scholar, is getting attention with his theory that he will present this weekend in London. He says Christianity was a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire, and was invented as a system of mind control to enslave the poor.
At the center of Atwill's theory is the similarities between the Bible and the 'War of the Jews' by Josephus -- the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea.
He says, "What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of Emperor Titus Flavius as described by Josephus."
While some people agree with Atwill, there are plenty of others who don't. Kyle Beshears wrote an article in the Christian Post outlining six reasons Atwill's theory is incorrect. Beshears says, "Atwill sees parallels where parallels don't exist. He gathers a small pile of questionable evidence and heralds it as a mountain of condemnation for Christianity."
Does anyone know with absolute certainty that Jesus was the son of the God, much less even existed? I attended a Lutheran Church regularly until I was 17 years old. I studied to be confirmed for three years. I've read dozens of books detailing all the major religions, interviewed hundreds of people on this subject, from the faithful to the new atheists. I've shared the stage with some of the biggest televangelists in the world, and for the past 24 months, I've watched hundreds of hours of video footage from some of the greatest minds in America discussing and debating whether or not God exists. From Christian apologetic Dr. William Lane Craig to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, I've read it all, including the Bible a number of times.
After investing all of this time and energy searching for an answer to whether or not God exists, here my conclusion: I don't know. I don't know if there's a God, but here's the thing: neither do you. And neither do William Lane Craig, Sam Harris, Billy Graham, or Richard Dawkins and Joseph Atwill. And neither does the Pope, who after you remove the robe and skull cap, is just a man. No one knows for sure what happens when you die, and if they tell you they do, hang on to your wallet because the pitch is coming.
The delusion of religion is not whether or not God exists, but in the absolute certainty of knowing the unknowable. The staunch atheist who claims to know God does not exist is as guilty as the far right fundamentalist. Both claim to possess information they don't have. Does God exist? No one knows, yet billions of otherwise intelligent people claim to know something they cannot prove.
Once a person is educated enough to explain the basic tenets of both evolution and creationism, he or she is capable of making an intelligent, emotion-free decision based on the evidence. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen anytime soon. To find the answer that you truly believe in, I would encourage you to do your research. Don't listen to what your family members or your friends say, and don't listen to what your pastor says, either. Pick up the bible, read it from cover to cover and take notes on key points that stand out to you.
If your own critical thinking tells you to believe in the Bible and follow Jesus Christ, then by all means do just that. But if your conclusions point to something very different, then follow your gut instinct and believe what you want to believe.
In the meantime, both Christians, atheists and everyone else will have their eyes on London this weekend. Whether you agree with Joseph Atwill or not, the man is entitled to his opinion and may provide some interesting insights to a debate that has no ending in sight.