Sunday, January 20, 2008

NEWS FLASH: The Resurrection of L. Ron Hubbard!

I want to share some evidence with you today. I am a scientologist. And (like St Paul) I offer you this personal eye-witness testimony: that I saw L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the movement, with my own eyes, and spoke with him, recently (he died in 1986).

In addition, I can provide documents, written by scientologists (I don't know who they are exactly but let's call them Maurice, Mick, Louise and Jane) which report not only Ron's life, but also that he was seen and spoken to by many scientologists shortly after his death. And these documents agree perfectly.

I think you have to agree that this is pretty good evidence that L. Ron Hubbard was resurrected, right?

Of course, I guess you don't. But if you don't - if you think my evidence is something of a joke - yet you do consider the evidence for Jesus' resurrection provided by St Paul and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to be pretty good, can you explain why?

Of course there are important differences between this evidence and the evidence for Jesus's resurrection, e.g.:

(i) we have very solid, independent evidence that at least L. Ron Hubbard really existed and died in a certain way. That's debatable in the case of Jesus (we've got Josephus and Tacitus, who are perhaps only reporting what Christians told them - in which case their evidence is not "independent" at all).
(ii) the evidence is very recent, and presented in person, not by thousands of years old documents, as in the case of Jesus.
(iii) in the case of Jesus, we know many more gospels were written (if in at least some cases rather later) and that they tell rather different stories - so we know that gospel-writers at about that time could be, shall we say, "creative".
(iv) Koranic "scholars" similarly insist the Koran is reliable, and, er, the Koran says explicitly that Jesus was not crucified (so I guess a great many textual "scholars" must be wrong - um, which of these expert textual "scholars" should I listen to: the Christian ones or the Muslim ones?)

I don't want to make anything at all hang on these four points, however.

Biblical "scholars" often say: we have as much evidence for Jesus's existence, crucifixion and resurrection as we do for other historical figures and events that we readily accept were real.

The trouble is, as the great Carl Sagan puts it, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If I say I met L. Ron Hubbard before he died, hey, that's pretty good evidence that I did. If I say I met him after he died - well, my saying that I did is no longer nearly enough, is it? Indeed, anything else I claim about him is now immediately thrown into serious doubt.

Of course I am no Biblical scholar (but then I bet you lot casually chucking out my L. Ron Hubbard story aren't scholars of Scientology, are you?). No doubt I will now told by such scholars that the evidence for Jesus's resurrection provided by St. Paul and the four Gospels is much better than this evidence for Hubbard's resurrection. I look forward to that...

P.S. Incidentally, I was asked to do a debate with Gary Habermas (see preceding post) at Edinburgh University, but was told I had to restrict myself to the historicity of Jesus's resurrection (a topic to which Gary has apparently devoted much of his life). Of course, that entirely clipped my wings, so I declined (also, I am no historian).


N.B. Image is of Tom Cruise with L. Ron Hubbard.

POST SCRIPT: This post is partly in response to Chris bringing up historical evidence for Jesus's crucifixion [see comments on preceding post. Here is what Chris said:

There are many good reasons to believe that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.

Firstly, it is recorded in all four gospels, with remarkable agreement. The pericope appears to have been handed down in whole, and is as such more reliable.

Secondly, the crucifixion is mentioned by Tacitus, a Roman historian who is known to be greatly reliable.

Thirdly, crucifixion was considered a horrible death by people generally at the time. It is extremely unlikely that those who followed Jesus would invent such a horrific death for him.

Fourthly, for Jews, crucifixion showed Jesus to be cursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). As the Evangelists believed Jesus to be the Messiah, it is historically ridiculous to say that they invented a crucifixion story. It presented a barrier to belief in Jesus, so would not have been fabricated.

Fiftly, no competing death story exists. If the crucifixion were a legend, we would expect other conflicting legends.

For these reasons among others, New Testament scholarship is universally agreed that Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion.

32 comments:

Joe Otten said...

No competing death story?

What about nailed to a tree according to 1 Peter 2:24 and hanged on a tree according to Acts 5:30 and 10:39.

And that's without even touching any apocryphal scripture.

PS the Captcha string for this comment is jesuzucz. Spooky. :-O

Steve Chester said...

Tacitus didn't say Jesus was crucified; he said Jesus was put to death. That yields no information about the means by which it was done. Before one makes an argument to authority, one should be sure that the authority agrees with one's argument.

Dalia said...

That picture is not authentic; it is a collage!
And what's your point anyway??

Sam Norton said...

What would you accept as constituting 'extraordinary evidence'? Indeed, what would you accept as constituting 'independent evidence', assuming for a moment that there is such a thing?

Stephen Law said...

Hello Dalia - there's no point behind the picture - I just wanted a picture of Hubbard, and liked this one.

Steve - like Chris, Habermas also says that Tacitus confirms Jesus died due to crucifixion. I note however that in the bit Habermas quotes, that Tacitus mentions only the "extreme penalty".

Hi Sam. Well there is obviously plenty of independent evidence (i.e. not sourced from scientologists) about Hubbard's life, and indeed, death. "Independent" evidence for Jesus being a real person and being crucified would be non-Christian corroboration. Many Christians suppose Josephus and Tacitus provide this.

But of course *even if they did* - indeed, even if Josephus and Tacitus were as reliable as our broadsheet newspapers - that would still only bring us up to the level of independent evidence we have for Hubbard's existence. Which, of course, provides *no support at all* to the claims about Hubbard's resurrection. Ditto Jesus.

Stephen Law said...

Sam asks: "What would you accept as constituting 'extraordinary evidence'?"

Well, I might be more inclined, though still not very inclined, to believe the Hubbard story if he were to show up in person at a scientology-independent hospital where his DNA was matched with earlier samples taken from Hubbard by several independent sources, and moreover those who signed his death certificate were non-scientologists who had run similar checks on the identity of the corpse.

But even then, I think the probability of either this individual, or else the corpse, being a fake, or of subterfuge of some other kind being involved, would still be pretty high.

However, I would now be willing to take the story of Hubbard's resurrection slightly more seriously, rather than just laugh, as I would if presented with hypothetical "evidence" of the sort I describe.

carey said...

Those who look to the (almost) coherent story presented by the gospels, Tacitus, etc, have conveniently overlooked all the books rejected by the Nicene Council. To consolidate power, the early bishops destroyed any accounts they saw as conflicting with their positon.

Let me pose a question for those who believe in an inerrant bible: if the graves opened up after Jesus' death (matthew 27:50), and the dead saints rose from those graves and walked through the Holy City, why are there no secular accounts of what anyone would regard as a miracle? That is a critical problem in the standard account - we would certainly expect dozens of descriptions of such an event to have been sent back to Rome.
So the Christian accounts may have considerable internal coherence (to be expected, since the bishops burned a lot of books), but they still do not pass the smell test.

Badger3k said...

Don't forget that the Tacitus bit was years later than the supposed life and death of Jesus. He seems to have been reporting what the Christians believed, and that is not evidence that it happened - it merely states that they believed it happened. Big difference.

Also, look at what Paul wrote (going by those that were actually written by him, and which are earlier than the gospels) - I don't believe he ever mentions crucifixion or any real details of Jesus. If the earliest sources make no claims, why is this a reason to believe later sources are accurate?

I'd also seriously question this amazing similarity between the gospels (given the many discrepancies and contradictions, as well as the numerous historical and geographical inaccuracies). With all the problems that the gospels have, I can't see how we could use that as a primary historical source unless it has been confirmed by other sources, which has not happened (unless you are an apologist and will believe anything you think supports your beliefs).

For the interests of disclosure, I am tending more towards the mythicist position, although I need to do more reading and research before making any decision - I'd like to find information on some "Jesus" (or "Jesus-figure" who lived somewhere in the first/second century BCE, and who some say is the basis for Paul's Jesus.

Sam Norton said...

Hi Stephen,
So are you saying:
a) 'independent evidence' = evidence from non-Christians, and
b) 'extraordinary evidence' = scientifically robust evidence
?
(Accepting, even then, that you'd take a Humean position on the relative likelihoods of deceit etc)

Sam Norton said...

By the way, you might find this post mildly amusing.

Stephen Law said...

Yes, that's what I mean by "independent evidence".

"Extraordinary evidence" - well, very, very strong evidence, at least.

I don't rule out in principle the possibility that such evidence might exist.

But I bet even you'd still be pretty sceptical about my hypothetical Hubbard resurrection even if all the DNA evidence I mentioned existed, right? And yet that's immeasurably better than the evidence for Jesus' resurrection.

Chris said...

OK, I'll respond to some comments here but your post, Stephen, requires something a bit longer, and if it's ok with you I'd like a pastor friend of mine to just read through it before I email it your way. Hopefully by Thursday. :)

Firstly I'd like to apologise. It is indeed Josephus not Tacitus who says that Jesus was crucified (well, "condemned him to the cross"). Thank you Steve Chester.

Paul actually mentions several events from Jesus life in passing. Dr Bart Ehrman was particuarly interested in this when he appeared on the Infidel Guy, rather upsetting most of the listeners (who are primariliy mythiicsts). Ehrman is certainly no fundy apologist!

Back to Paul. Jesus was descended of David (Romans 1:3). Paul strongly alludes to the words of Jesus praying (Galatians 4:4 cf. Mark 14:36) Paul also refers to James as the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19). Paul knew that Jesus had initiated the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Paul talks about the crucifixion historially (1 Corinthians 2:8, 2 Corinthians 14:4) as well as theologically (just about everywhere in Paul) Jewish authorites were involved in Jesus's death (1 Thessolonians 2:15). Jesus was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4)

(Largely taken from here - http://www.bede.org.uk/jesusmyth.htm by a professional historian)

In addition, Paul talks extensively about the crucifixion in Philippians 2.

Paul wasn't attempting to write a theological biography of Jesus, as the gospel writers were, he was writing supportive letters and doctrinal treatises.

Even GAWells has abandoned the idea that Jesus never existed.

Competing Death Theory

Joe Otten said:

"No competing death story?

What about nailed to a tree according to 1 Peter 2:24 and hanged on a tree according to Acts 5:30 and 10:39."


Part of crucifixion includes being hung and nailed on a tree. A tree is in place and the subject only carries their crossbeam. The crossbeam is put up and your wrists are tied to the beam. A single nail is driven through both feet which were probably placed on a small ledge of sorts. A nail is driven through the wrist of each hand.

After a couple of minutes playing with Strong's Hebrew/Greek, it seems that the word used for "tree" in all three cases is "xulon" which is also the word used for "tree" in the LXX rendering of Deuteronomy 21:22. The NT uses the word to show that Jesus was under God's curse (cf. Galatians 3:13)


Grace and Peace.

jeremy said...

N.B. Image is of Tom Cruise with L. Ron Hubbard.

Hehe... for a moment there...

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Chris - look forward to reading your reponse later.....

Sam Norton said...

Thanks Stephen. A few things then:
- I think we need to distinguish between Jesus' life, death and resurrection, in terms of the historical evidence for each;
- I'm also unclear as to what you are arguing for - in the light of the previous post, are you saying that it is untrue that Jesus existed, or are you saying that no reasonable person could believe that Jesus existed, or it is reasonable to suppose that Jesus did not exist? They're quite different things;
- I was pushing you on what you counted as 'independent' because a strong case could be made (and is made by secular New Testament scholars) that there are independent strands of testimony included in the gospels and epistles and so on. However, they would all qualify as 'Christian' so you wouldn't count them as independent in a relevant sense;
- it's not clear to me why you think that standards of evidence and assessment that are appropriate to a claim about Ron Hubbard are rightly applied to a claim about events in first century Palestine. Is context irrelevant? That position seems to need defining and defending rather than assuming;
- going back to the point about truth/reasonable belief I think there are sufficient questions about absolute truth with regard to any historical questions that we can leave that to one side; the issue is about what might count as a reasonable belief, and on that score I would say that
a) belief that Jesus existed is reasonable, and it is not reasonable to believe that he did not exist;
b) belief that Jesus was crucified is reasonable, and it is not very reasonable to believe that he was not crucified;
c) belief that Jesus was resurrected is reasonable, but it is less reasonable than believing that he was not resurrected (principally on Humean grounds, and that flags up the nature of what it means to believe in the resurrection - I wrote a bit more about that here);
- underlying this is a sense that your insistence on 'independent' evidence is not itself a reasonable insistence. But this is a long enough comment for now.

Nick said...

Here's a good analysis of the problems with the Resurrection story:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/

Cassanders said...

@ Sam,
Re your post January 21, 10:07. Not being a scholar in religious diciplines, I would have to rely on other sources.
It is more than 30 years since I (out of religious curiosity) read about the efforts to unravel "the historical Jesus" (_Tempus fugit_).

I assume much more information has been gathered since then, and
I recently saw this: http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/11/explaining-why.html#comment-90154060
on David Thompson's blog.

Admittingly a lay-man, I find the points he is making fairly interesting, and they might potentially weaken your position quite a bit.

Cassanders
In Cod we trust

The Celtic Chimp said...

Rev Sam,

You said:

- it's not clear to me why you think that standards of evidence and assessment that are appropriate to a claim about Ron Hubbard are rightly applied to a claim about events in first century Palestine. Is context irrelevant? That position seems to need defining and defending rather than assuming;

A lack of evidence about any event, regardless of when or where it occured, is still a lack of evidence. Why would you believe that the incarnate son of God (and somehow God at the same time) died and came back from the dead when the evidence is scant to say the least. Returning from the dead is impossible. This is not gererallt a disputed fact. The point here is that if someone is claiming this is not the case, then they would require irrefutable evidence before any rational person would believe it. In light of the sheer number of religions, gods, divine or partly devine beings that have been held up throughout history, why believe this particular fantasy? It has no more basis in fact than any of the others. I think the point Stephen is making (correct me if I'm wrong here Stephen) is that you would not believe him, or at least be severely sceptical, about ole L. Ron coming back from the dead even if he had mountains of evidence in support of the claim. If this is so, why believe it about someone else when there is even less evidence to support it? Far less evidence.

Sam Norton said...

Nick, thanks for the link to Carrier's website, it seems very high quality.

anticant said...

This type of discussion strikes me as pointless, and a waste of time. It is not the factual truth or otherwise of a religious belief system that is the significant issue, but the practical consequences of religious beliefs in the real everyday mundane world.

Attempting to disprove or discredit such beliefs by rational argument is not going to shake the faith of devout believers in any religion. All that matters, therefore, is their behaviour and its outcomes for themselves and others. 'By their fruits you shall know them.'

See my recent posts 'Does reason matter?' and 'Does God's existence matter? at Anticant's arena:

www.antarena.blogspot.com

anticant said...

Sorry! correct link:

http://antarena.blogspot.com/

Billy said...

Josephus (born around 30CE) certainly was not a witness to the alledged events.
His passage on Jesus (the testimonium flavium) Is widely held to have been at leat tampered with, if not wholly made up. One major problem is that we know from his writings that he was a devout jew, but he calls jesus the christ. This would have been blasphmous - the exact crime Jesus was supposedly crucified for.

There are apparently other Death myths. There is even one that he is even buried in the karakoram(?) Believe it or not, it is irrelevant, as the claim that there are no other death myths is wrong

Cassanders said...

@ chris
You suggest that Jesus being nailed to a tree (which only implies the addition of a crossbeam) as a way to reconcile the diverging death stories.
Doesn't this conflict with the stories of Jesus carrying the cross? Is the entire Via Dolorosa tradition just a scam? :-)

Cassanders
In Cod we trust

Steven Carr said...

Suppose we found recent converts to Scientology who scoffed at the idea that corpses could get up and walk?

Would that count as evidence against Scientology's belief in a resurrected El Ron, as surely as the evidence of 1 Corinthians 15 that converts to Jesus-worship simply scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise corpses?

And suppose one of the main converts to Scientology was somebody like Paul, who claimed to have gone to Heaven?

Why do you need to be a historian to debate Habermas on the beliefs of early Christians?

Surely pschyiatry, not history, is the field which deals with people who seriously expected others to believe that angels appeared in dreams and told people to flee to Egypt?

Steven Carr said...

CHRIS
Paul strongly alludes to the words of Jesus praying.....

CARR
What lies Christians tell!

Why should we listen to people who lie to us?

Galatians 4:4 'And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.'

Nothing whatever in there about a Jesus on earth praying.

Paul is claiming that after his death, Jesus became a spirit who lives in the bodies of Christians.

The contradiction with the Gospels is blatant.

Steven Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Carr said...

'Fourthly, for Jews, crucifixion showed Jesus to be cursed of God'

CARR
Is this a joke?

Josephus talks about the Pharisees who were crucified.

Did he think they were cursed? Of course not. He thought they were heroes for their faith.



Some Masada rebels were crucified.

Do Jews regard them as cursed?

Or as heroes?

Why do Christians say such things which are blatant untruths?

Do they not know how easily such lies are exposed?

As for 1 Thessalonians 2, where Paul writes that the wrath of God has come on the Jews for killing Jesus, didn't Paul not know that Jesus forgave the people who killed him?

And didn't Paul not know that the Romans tried, sentenced and executed Jesus - not the Jews?

According to the Gospels, the Romans killed Jesus, not the Jews.

Paul claimed that Judaism had been removed from the curse of the law because Jesus had taken on the curse by being crucified (Paul is twisting scripture here, of course - Jews generally would not have considered crucified people to be cursed just because they had been crucified)

So if the crucifixion of Jesus removed Jews from the curse of the law, why would Paul write that the Jews were now under the wrath of God?

Very many Christian scholars accept that those verses are an interpolation, because they totally contradict Paul's theology.

Chris said...

Intelligent stuff Mr Carr, I'm just reading your site at the moment.

Stephen (Law), I won't be responding - Christianity deserves better than me and in context my comments were only trying to show that not all Christian apologetics on the Resurrection amounted to a series of appeals to authority.

Kim said...

Another obvious problem with the idea that "there are no competing death myths": what about the generally accepted belief that Jesus was alive after being crucified? Isn't that the ultimate alternative death myth?

I can't decide if the "pro-God" party have no good arguments, or simply if the "no-God" party are better at arguing :)

eternalimages311 said...

Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.
As quoted in the Los Angeles Times (27 August 1978).
He later founded the religion of Scientology.

The fact is we have more ancient manuscripts of books of the Bible than we do of the works of Plato, Aristotle and Homer (Illiad and Oddysey) put together. They range all the way from first century AD to present. The authors of all four Gospels of the Bible were put to death because they would not stop spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ. So ask yourself this, would you be willing to die for something you know is a lie? Now back to L ron hubbard.

Hubbard had become a well known science fiction writer in the 1930's. In fact, some of his ideas which are "common to Scientology first appeared in his 1938 manuscript titled Excalibur (Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin, p. 345). Dianetics came out in 1950 and the religion of Scientology was established by 1953. Wild claims have been made about Hubbard's earlier life by Scientology publications. For example, they have claimed that he, "graduated in civil engineering from George Washington University as a nuclear physicist, although the university records show that he attended for two short years, during the second of which he was on academic probation, and failed physics. Hubbard's Ph.D. was said to be from a Sequoia University in California, although there is no proof of the existence of any accredited institution in California by that name that grants doctorates" (Ibid.).

Gerry Armstrong, a devout Scientologist assigned by the Church to write an authorized biography of Hubbard, discovered other inconsistencies in Hubbard's history. Armstrong, who has now left Scientology, states: "Nor was Hubbard a World War II hero who miraculously cured himself of nearly fatal combat wounds, as he claimed. Hubbard never saw combat. After his discharge from the Navy in 1946, he was granted 40% disability pay for arthritis, bursitis and conjunctivitis. He continued to collect this pay long after he claimed to have discovered the secret of how to cure such ailments" (Another Gospel, Ruth Tucker, p. 301).

Sounds like Hubbard was a liar. Pretty bad thing for anybody to be but especially a man who's so called religion is supposed to make one more ethical. I highly doubt that such a man could rise from a physical death.

Mindi said...

Stephen, I have a very hard time understanding how you believe in something that was written by a SCIENCE FICTION WRITER. Furthermore, L. Ron Hubbard admitted to being an opium addict. In 1967 he resigned from "executive" and appointed himself "commodore" of a fleet of ships occupied by other scientologists and doped himself up with numerous drugs and alcohol. He surrounded himself with young teenage girls that he made dress him and catch the ashes from his cigarettes, had screaming fits and bound, blindfolded, and locked children and adults in dirty chain lockers and even threw some overboard as some sort of "punishment." There is even evidence that he skimmed MILLIONS of dollars from the church and put them in offshore accounts. When he died, the autopsy found the drug hydroxyzine in his system which is commonly known as Vistaril.
Now all of this comes from a man that scientologists think is worthy of praise? Doesn't the practice of scientology disagree with the use of mind-altering drugs that "damage a person physically, mentally, and spiritually?" Yet here he is, your so-called founder of truth, an opium addict taking numerous other drugs, consuming alcohol and mistreating other human beings. He created Scientology to make money. That is the real truth. And it continues to prey on insecure, hopeless individuals that don't feel they have another option.
I find relief in knowing that your day will come, Stephen. And it will be anything but luxurious.

Stephen Law said...

"I find relief in knowing that your day will come, Stephen. And it will be anything but luxurious."

You find relief in believing I'll burn in hell for eternity? Hmm.

Anyway did you think I was being serious? I wasn't. It's was a joke - but a joke with a point...