There are many excellent atheistic books available today. We have mega-selling books on the social issues, such as whether religion is good or bad for society (The God Delusion, The End of Faith). We have inspiring books by prominent atheists who have liberated themselves from religion (Godless, Why I Became an Atheist). We have books on specific issues, such as the traditional claims that are often at odds with science (A Universe from Nothing, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, Why Evolution Is True). There are books that expose some of the more horrifying aspects of the Bible (The Skeptic's Annotated Bible), there are books that question the truth of the Biblical sources (Forged), there are books that raise questions on methodology (The End of Biblical Studies), and there are books advocating a religious-but-not-religious way of life (The Good Book, Religion for Atheists). There are even books on the seemingly irrelevant issue of Jesus’ possible ahistoricity (Proving History, The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems, The Christ Conspiracy). So why would I, a scholar, throw one more into the mix, when traditionally, academics keep to themselves?
The simple answer is that I have identified a ‘hole’ in popular atheistic literature. Apologists today have become much more sophisticated, as I discuss in a recent article, where I dub them the ‘New Theologians’ (New Atheists and New Theologians). These New Theologians rehash and create philosophical arguments for God’s existence that many, sceptics included, find convincing. Despite the great danger this recent movement poses, there has not arisen in popular atheist literature, a significant rebuttal against their claims, such as the relatively comprehensive cumulative cases of William Lane Craig and Richard Swinburne. Until now. There are actually fantastic published works by top-class philosophers which refute such philosophical arguments (Arguing about Gods, Logic and Theism, God in the Age of Science?). However, these books are largely inaccessible to general audiences, due to their price, and their highly technical language. The less than 200-pages there was no Jesus, there is no God was written to address these issues, being written mostly in everyday language, containing some humour (philosophy can be very dry), and being priced almost as if to give the book away (the Kindle version is available for the price of a typical cup of coffee), whilst also being respectful.
Furthermore, the technical tomes of my fellow sceptical academics (one of which is my supervisor), are for the most part, irrelevant. No offence is intended to these fantastic atheistic philosophers, who do important work, and whose numbers pale in comparison with the amount of Christian scholars in the field of Philosophy of Religion. Indeed, their importance is further raised, when considering that the top atheistic authors tend not to be Philosophers of Religion or Biblical scholars. But as I explain in my recent book, the philosophical arguments themselves are largely irrelevant. Even popular apologist William Lane Craig admits that these arguments do not argue for any specific god. In there was no Jesus, there is no God, I raise further issues, such as their not even arguing for a monotheistic god – pantheism is ever a possibility (and the more plausible option, in my view), to the secret annoyance of New Theologians. Inevitably, the focus moves to the claims made about Jesus.
While I do reveal the inadequacy of the popular arguments for God’s existence (the topic of my PhD dissertation), at the low and high levels, I spend much more time on the only truly relevant issue: Jesus. By critically examining the methods and sources (including the non-existing sources that are so vital to apologists!), I soberly conclude that the existence of the Christ of Faith, or Biblical Jesus is nigh on impossible, and that even the existence of a Historical Jesus is uncertain. This is basically the conclusion of my Master’s thesis, which led Hector Avalos to indicate that I “may be among the first to have a thesis sympathetic to Jesus Mythicism approved by a world-class university”, and needed to be disseminated to the public at large.
But perhaps the most important reasons for writing this book are reasons that some atheists might find confusing and counter-intuitive, given that I – at odds with many of my peers – am very public and unashamedly vocal about my atheism. I am not on an anti-religious crusade. In fact, depending on how religion is defined (the public may find us Religious Studies scholars infuriating for this issue alone), I can easily be described as pro-religious, if not religious myself. And I’m pretty sure Sam Harris is a Buddhist… Back to my point, there was no Jesus, there is no God argues for uncertainty and scepticism. Though this seems ‘negative’, it should hopefully result in intellectual honesty, humility, religious tolerance, and the acceptance of religious pluralism. I naively hope for and work towards a better and more united world, with critical thinking and empiricism at its core. Why? Because as the great Richard Dawkins declared, “It works. Bitches.”
To find out more about Raphael Lataster and there was no Jesus, there is no God, please visit PantheismUnites.