virus: Christian Apologetics

Jonathan Abbey (
Wed, 28 Feb 1996 18:38:51 -0600

Hi, I read through your outline on Christian Apologetics, at

I wasn't terribly impressed, in particular, with your chapter on whether
the new testament was truth or fiction.. you basically seemed to rest
the matter on whether or not the apostles could have given all they did
for a conscious lie. You posed the question 'what must we believe
for the new testament to be false?'.

With regard to people dying for a conscious lie, I believe that is
rather overstating the case, that they died 'for a conscious lie'.

Many, many people died at the Davidian compound in Waco, and in many
other cults during the 20th century and assuredly before. Humans
have a propensity for following a leader, and cults have practices
which encourage the adherents to adopt belief systems that enforce
their adherence to the group. They adopt their own language, their
own icons, their own virtues, all of which have as their primary
effect to separate the members of the cult from the outside society.
They become invested in the cult, and give up their own power of
rationality in service to the cult. As I have said, we have seen
many such cults in the 20th century. Why is it so astonishing that
such human behaviors could have occurred 2,000 years ago? If you
would agree with me that David Koresh was not the messiah, would
you claim that the people who died at Waco were all conscious liars?
Or merely persuaded in an unhealthy psychological environment?

The other question that you should have asked, but did not, was
'what must we believe for the new testament to be true?'. The
answers to this question are much more outlandish than the answers
to the first question. The answers to the second question mandate
a very detailed construction of reality, one which can not be
shown by any concrete evidence to have any basis in fact, one which
seems to postulate a world a creator created the heavens and earth
in seven days, knocked around in biblical times for awhile, then
stopped coming around altogether, with the exceptions of brief
excursions to visit the muslims, the mormons, and various other
cults that have invoked the diety of judaic mythology. A deity
that comes from no realm amenable to analysis or causality or

And this is meant to be more plausible than the occurence of certain
types of human behavior that we see over and over again in cult

If you haven't, you might be interested in looking into the theory
of memetics, which has to do with the notion that ideas flourish
or perish in human societies according to how well the ideas encourage
people to transmit, fight for, and maintain the ideas. It is an
idea directly analagous to biological evolution of things like viruses,
and the principles can explain many of the chacteristic tenets of
self-reinforcing belief systems like Christianity.

You can find a reference to a piece on memetics by Richard Dawkins
called 'Viruses of The Mind' at my home page

In friendly rationality,

Jonathan Abbey				    
Applied Research Laboratories                 The University of Texas at