Lee Strobel

Would the apostles have died for a lie?

Paraphrased from a talk by Lee Strobel: Jesus' apostles were put to death for proclaiming his resurrection. This is just like the 9/11 hijackers, who sacrificed themselves for what they fervently believed, right? Wrong. The apostles didn't just believe, they KNEW one way or the other for a fact. They were there. They saw, touched and talked to the resurrected Jesus. If they didn't, why would they knowingly die for a lie? I [Strobel] have searched through history and found no instance of this happening. Their sacrifice speaks to the truth of Christianity in a way in which the faithful actions of the suicide bombers do not speak to the truth of Islam.
Atheist Answer: 

Quoted from my own post on the richarddawkins.net forum:

Strobel didn't look very hard for others who've died for a known lie. Think of all the captured soldiers in wars throughout history who told false tales to their captors about their comrades' plans and whereabouts. Knowing that all their friends might be caught or killed if they told the truth, some brave men and women stuck to their lies even as they were tortured to death. Their armies might even have relied on the captors accepting the false information to set up raids, ambushes or escapes.

This is why one knowingly dies for a lie: it serves one's cause for others to believe it. In this case, the false idea that nobody would die for a lie is very helpful for the purpose.

It's simple to apply this to the resurrection.

Many modern Christians will tell you that believers are happier and more moral, and make the world a better place to live. In other words, they think it's better for someone to believe whether or not it's true (though they hasten to add that it is). Atheists meet this prejudice all the time. Even ignoring this, the apostles' friends and families were Christian and were in for a rough time if there weren't many more Christians very quickly.

For one reason or another, the apostles wanted people to be Christians. Whether or not they saw the resurrected Jesus, they wanted people to think they had. If they'd broken down under duress at the last moment and said it was all a hoax, all belief would fade (not counting victims of "true-believer syndrome") and it would all be for nothing. If it was a lie, to them it was a lie worth dying for.

I know the reliability of the New Testament is also a good basis for arguing against apologetic like this, but I find there's a greater impact if you can beat them on their own skewed terms.

- SmartLX

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