Friday, January 20, 2006

The Luigi Cascioli Case - Proof for the Existence of Fools


John 21:25 (New International Version)

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

I came across a little piece of news a while ago. Enrico Righi, an Italian priest has been ordered to prove in court that Jesus actually existed. He must do so in answer to a criminal complaint filed by Luigi Cascioli, an atheist who claims:

“That Righi violated two Italian laws by making the assertion: so-called “abuse of popular belief” in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and “impersonation” in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone.”

What had Father Righi asserted? The good Father, as any good Christian would, asserted that Jesus of Nazareth actually did exist:

“Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.”

So, the question of the existence of Jesus is being litigated. What millions and millions of people, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, and atheist take for granted, Father Righi and his legal team now have to prove to the satisfaction of a court. Amazing!

Aren’t there enough crooks to prosecute in Italy these days? Apparently not.

The case reminds me of some of the silly cases that people have brought against God. I’ve read somewhere about a case filed claiming God was at fault for not acting on behalf of a plaintiff in a dispute with his enemies. What did the plaintiff want in the case? He wanted God to return his youth and guitar playing skills. God even gets blamed for all the bad stuff in the fine print of insurance policies. Every once in a while I read my homeowners policy for a bit of amusement. There are clauses in it that indemnify my insurer against “acts of God” that might do damage to my house. Included in those acts are pestilence, plague, hurricanes, meteorites falling from outer space, forest fires, and so forth. What’s amusing to me is that the acts of God are always framed in negative terms. For the insurer it means that they aren’t going to cover my loss if the Almighty does something mean to me.

The current case, though, has taken a creative turn. An adherent of Jesus is being prosecuted for simply claiming He exists.

I wonder how the lawyers are going to approach this. Are the prosecutors going to demand a birth certificate? I’m not sure there was one. Will they demand that Jesus’ body be exhumed? The tomb is empty!

I’m only a layman, but I do have some ideas about the matter. Years ago Nancy and I went to Paris. One of the day trips we took was to Les Invalides. There, entombed in splendor, lies Napoleon. I remember at the time comparing the glory of Napoleon’s tomb to the empty tomb in Jerusalem that could not hold Jesus in. But there was something else that I thought of that day. Above Napoleon’s tomb, carved on the highest part of the walls, was one of the great accomplishments in life – the Napoleonic Code. It’s been two hundred years or so since Napoleon lived, and I doubt that people know that Napoleon Bonaparte existed because they can see a birth certificate or the coffin in which he’s buried. People universally accept the fact that he existed because they can read about what he said and did and see the impact he had on the world. While Napoleon might be considered a great man, the impact he had on humanity pales in comparison to the impact Jesus had, and continues to have today. In those terms, there is far more evidence that Jesus existed than there is for the existence of Napoleon. It’s recorded in the Gospels, the epistles, and even in secular history. More importantly, it’s recorded in the hearts of millions and millions of Christians around the world.

I think about myself. I know I exist. I don’t need Descartes or a battery of lawyers to prove my case for me. But two thousand years from now there is going to be far less evidence that I ever passed this way than there is for Napoleon or Jesus. Two thousand years from now the words I’ve posted on this blog will have been deleted by some unknown archivist somewhere. My gravestone will have been eroded by time. My birth certificate will have been cast into some Massachusetts catacomb, never more to be seen. I will not be revered as either a great thinker or conqueror. I will not have left great ideas or great sermons like the Sermon on the Mount. But, I am confident that two thousand years from now, if the world as we know it still exists, Jesus will still be revered and worshipped. As far as I’m concerned that’s good enough.

The record of Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection, are not, as Holy Writ puts it, “cunningly devised fables.” The evidence for Jesus’ existence, life, teaching, and deeds is overwhelming.

Luigi Cascioli would do well to follow the lead of wise men who’ve tested the evidence and came to that sane conclusion. Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of Harvard Law School wasn’t sure about Jesus and sought to disprove the things written and believed about him using classic rules of legal evidence. The result of his search was “The Testimony of the Evangelists,” a classic work in apologetics. He began with doubts about the Christian claims:

“These are no ordinary claims; and it seems hardly possible for a rational being to regard them with even a subdued interest; much less treat them with mere indifference or contempt. If not true, they are little else than the pretensions of a bold imposture, which, not satisfied with having already enslaved millions of the human race, seeks to continue its encroachments upon human liberty, until all nations shall be subjugated under its iron rule. But if they are well-founded and just, they can be no less than the high requirements of heaven, addressed by the voice of God to the reason and understanding of man, concerning things deeply affecting his relations to his sovereign, and essential to the formation of his character and course to his destiny, both for this life and for the life to come.”

Greenleaf examined the evidence and concluded:

“The doctrines and precepts of Jesus are in strict accordance with the attributes of God, agreeably to the most exalted idea which we can form of them, either from reason or from revelation. They are strikingly adapted to the capacity of mankind, and yet are delivered with a simplicity and majesty wholly divine. He spake as never man spake. He spake with authority, yet addressed himself to the reason and understanding of men; and he spake with wisdom, which men could neither deny nor resist…He is represented in every variety of situation in life, from the height of worldly grandeur, amid the acclamations of an admiring multitude, to the deepest abyss of human degradation and woe, apparently deserted by God and man. Yet everywhere he is the same, displaying a character of unearthly perfection, symmetrical in all its proportions, and encircled with splendor more than human.”

I know I exist. I know that Luigi Cascioli and Father Enrico Righi exist. I know Napoleon existed. And, at the core of my life, I know that Jesus existed two thousand years ago and now sits enthroned in heaven. I’d be a fool to believe otherwise. Luigi Cascioli, the Italian atheist, would do well to follow my lead in this regard.

13 comments:

James Fletcher Baxter said...

As a Fifth Grade Teacher, over a period of 30 years, I never did my student's homework for them.

As father of four and grandpa to six, I never did their homework for them either. It was and is in their domain and personal responsibility.

One of the first things I taught my own young children was the date of each year.

Today, I would remind Luigi that it is now approximately two thousand and six years since Jesus walked the earth healing the sick and blind, raising the dead, dying, and rising from the dead, to the eyes of many many witnesses. We salute His life daily around the world every time we open a newspaper, write a check, or make an appointment.

Kings & queens, dictators and celebrities, the wise and the fools; they will never leave a more positive impact on human life and history than this young carpenter.

Neither will Luigi meet a personage more worthy of displacing his self-appetite Ego. Selah

Semper Fidelis

allan said...

I always think of the suffering and death those that knew Christ endured in his name.

They would have just walked away and renounced a fable.

You are right - Jesus lived.

And the great news is that he lives still.

Genevieve said...

That's why I stand by my words of

"With all the trouble in the world, it's funny how ppl are quick to blame a God they don't believe in"

because it's the fools that think they have a case against God that will see the true nature of God's judgement in the end.

prying1 said...

Wonderful post! Well stated and very little could any man add to it! What you have stated is founded in immutable TRUTH.

We also have the witness of millions. Some have crossed the river but left testimony. Some alive today, who have personally met Him, know Him and testify the validity of the statement, "He's still alive!"

Anonymous said...

Blind faith... For tens of thousands of years the world was taught to be flat. The amount of time that a lie can survive does not give it credibility. And in the case of "Jesus", the lie survived because of three reasons. Money, power and hatred of Jews. The first "Christians" had to be Jews, but the majority of the Jews did not buy into the BS taught, so they became hated because they did not convert. The apostiles thus went out to recruit pagans who in general were not what one would consider intellegent. This is the same mentality that Islam now uses, recruit and train those who can't read and have low IQ's, in order to try to fight against Christians. What you have in common is if someone won't buy into your lies, is you hate and try to wipe out all that think differently.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Anonymous

Come out from hiding. Let us know who you are.

I'll pray for you!

Anonymous said...

I had a dream God was having a conversation with the Angel Gabriel about the Day of Resurrection.
God said "I doubt many Christians, Muslims or Jews, all people of the Book, will make it into Heaven."
Gabriel asked "Why?"
God said "What part of thou shall not kill don't they understand? Don't they understand when they incite violence, hatred and killing in my name they are using my name in vain."
Gabriel said "What about the millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews that don't engage in such acts?"
God answered "Do they not understand when they sit by, idly and silently, when their brethren commit such acts and don't do everything within their power to prevent such acts they sin by omission. I know all their acts and omissions and all that is in their hearts and minds. Only those who are pure of heart, mind and deed will enter the gates of Heaven."
Well, I guess it was only a dream.

Bob Beattie said...

Your remarks about Italian atheist Luigi Cascioli have an attribute I always observe in arguments for Christianity or any religion -- they are totally one-sided and give not the slightest hint of any arguments in Cascioli's case. Likewise, your list of favorite books all fall entirely on one side.
As a balance to the Greenleaf quote allow me to offer one from a near-contemporary, Thomas Jefferson. He wrote, in a letter to John Adams about 1820, "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, with the supreme being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
This disbelief in the basic stories of Christianity was widespread among the American founding fathers. I don't imagine you would treat Jefferson to the same unreasoning ridicule as Cascioli, but maybe I'm wrong.
To the best of my knowledge, despite the claims of all the Christian churches about the date of the NT gospels (supposedly between 70 and 110 or so), there is actually not one shred of evidence for the existence of those texts within even 100 years of the supposed time of Jesus, which means that there is not a single instance of testimony about such a person that can be credibly dated to the first century.

Anonymous said...

You clearly have no understanding of the meaning of the word "evidence".

There are hundreds of extant contemporary sources discussing details of Napoleon's life. We haev clear historical evidence from many, many primary sources as to Napoleon's existence. The evidence for Jesus is far less convincing. You need faith to believe in him, remember?

The "effect upon history" that you ascribe to Jesus is actually the effect of christian worshippers; and you demean all their efforts to do good by ascribing their actions to Jesus.

James Baxter, it seems you don't even know the biblical version of history very well, since I have never heard any claim that Jesus was such a great prodigy that he was walking around before he was supposedly born. It's only a little more than 2005 years since Jesus' birth, if you accept the current calender as accurate on that point, which is rather unlikely. AD 1 is the year that Jesus was supposedly born, in December. Sheesh! At least get your own mythology right!

Harold Barnett said...

One thing that has been overlooked in the case against Jesus filed by the Italian atheist is that his claim is clearly bogus in one major way: the claim that Jesus was copied after a man named John of Gamala. There is no such person except in a fictional book written by GA Henty in 1888 titled "For the Temple." Cascioli claims in his book that this is the man used by the early apostles to form the Jesus "myth." Now, I ask you, how could the apostles have formed Jesus from someone who never existed? In reality, there was no John of Gamala living at any time, any where! This information is available on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Thank you.
Harold Barnett
Freeport, Florida

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue is being missed here. The burden of proof does not lay in the hands of the Italian gentleman. He merely presented enough evidence to convince a judge that a case against Jesus had merits. The burden of proof always lies in the hands of the alleger, which would be Christians, Catholics, and any other dolt who believes in this jesus fellow.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon.

No point arguing w/these fools. They don't want to believe in any other possibilities of what happened. Sure, there might have been some guy who died on a cross, but you know what: he most probably did NOT come back. That is where the Myth begins.

The bible is fiction based on fact. They take real events and historical evidence and then make up a story to fit their own beliefs into the fray.

Thats because history is made by the people in power. The catholic church was in power for a long time, so they changed the documentation of history to support themselves.

Anonymous said...

I can prove that GOD and Jesus did in fact Exist..and they are here today.

Just go to a window, or front door and look out. Every GOOD thing that you see, hear, taste, smell
or touch...that is the hand of GOD thru Jesus. That is GOD's trade mark...that is HIS fingerprint on the world, that is how you know THEY existed.

signed: the falconer