GDay World 370 – Dr Greg Clarke on Australians and Jesus

My guest today is Dr Greg Clarke (PhD), Honorary Associate, Dept of Ancient History, Macquarie University
and Director of the Centre for Public Christianity.

We talk about the survey that the CPX has recently sponsored that finds that 55 per cent of Australians don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead but only 11 per cent doubt that Jesus was a real historical figure. As you know, I am one of those 11 per cent. So Greg and I also had a chat about the lack of evidence (as I see it) for the existence of Jesus. As Greg works in the Dept of Ancient History I thought he could confirm for me that my basic facts are correct. As you’ll hear, that was like drawing blood from a stone. 🙂

Here are the census stats for religion in Australia.

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If you want to listen to some of my other podcasts on the history of Jesus, see this page.

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If you want to keep TPN on the air, please show your support. If just the listeners of this show contributed $20 a month, I could fund TPN indefinitely! Is the information and entertainment you get from TPN worth a bottle of cheap wine?

12 thoughts on “GDay World 370 – Dr Greg Clarke on Australians and Jesus

  1. Though I tend to agree with you, for me the historical existence of Jesus is a non-issue. Even if we could prove beyond any doubt that the Jesus figure did not exist, believers would just find another “prophet” or “son of God” to pin their beliefs on. In my mind, it is better to attack the core of their erroneous belief system which is “faith” – accepting something (even something as improbable as God, or the immaculate conception) blindly without evidence.

    On a lighter note, it must be a long time since you were a poor student if you think a cheap bottle of wine is $20 =P

  2. Donald, I’m poor NOW! :0)

    I agree with you that many Christians would just find another way of justifying their belief – that’s certainly what they have done every time one of their other certainties, such as the Earth being the center of the Universe has been proven incorrect – but the reason I think this issue is important isn’t because it will change what the hardcore believers think. It’s because most people out there, the Christian Lite people as well as the atheists, all seem to think that Jesus categorically DID exist. I think it’s important that we help them understand that there is very little evidence to support that idea.

  3. Hey Cam, interesting episode. I hope there will be follow up shows on the same topic, but with a different Christian scholar / historian — one who will take you, your podcast, your 6 digit audience size, and themselves more seriously by bringing a level of passion, substance, and commitment of time to the show that at the very least matches what you bring to your side of the debate.

    I saw the following poll results today (Rasmussen polls are very highly regarded and thought of as non biased) and thought you might find the contrast between USA and Australia (viz the Aussie stats you quoted) regarding perspectives and perceptions of Jesus suitable for the basis of a future show (and maybe that approach would help you recruit a qualified American debate opponent).

    Poll results below. Cheers! ~David~

    As Christians Prepare to Celebrate Easter, 76% Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead
    Saturday, March 22, 2008
    A recent Rasmussen Reports survey found that 83% of American adults believe the person known to history as Jesus Christ actually walked the earth around two-thousand years ago. Just 7% do not while 10% are not sure. Seventy-seven percent (77%) believe that Jesus was who Christians say he is–the Son of God who came to earth to die for our sins. Seventy-six percent (76%) also think that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

    Among popular Easter traditions, 72% say they will have a family meal to celebrate the holiday, 56% say they will attend an Easter church service this year, and

    40% of the nation’s adults will participate in an Easter egg hunt.

    Forty-six percent (46%) consider Easter to be one of our nation’s most important holidays. That’s up nearly ten points from last year. Eleven percent (11%) say Easter is one of the least important holidays while 38% think it’s is somewhere in between. Overall, Christmas and the Fourth of July top the list of most important holidays.

    Church attendance has remained steady this year compared to last year. A little over a third (35%) of adults say they attend church at least once a week. Twenty-nine percent (29%) rarely or never go to church and 35% are somewhere in between. ******

  4. Hey cam thanks for the podcast it has taken a while to get to round to listening to. By the way I’m still trying not to regret having my first “conversation with an atheist” with you and recoded for the world to hear. I did get frustrated with Greg though. There seemed to be an underlying sentiment in his tone that if someone looked at all the evidence they would most likely concur with orthodox evangelical Christian ideas. I just don’t think Christians can say or imply that.

    We have some writings and a community that formed around an obscure figure. There are many possibilities of how these two things came to be. My Christian (of sorts) belief involves a leap of faith, I think I would be deluding myself to think otherwise. I think the Ockham’s Rrazor (what is most simplest) approach would lead the conclusion that Jesus was a charismatic, healer teacher who’s immediate followers built a resurrection narrative around his death and who’s later followers who added miracle stories. Personally I think one of the reasons the Jesus never existed option is more difficult (in my mind anyway) is because it needs a narrative to explain why the stories were written and why the community formed. None the less I still appreciate you pushing the envelope on this.

    Thanks again

  5. Cheers Chris. As to your “why the stories were written and the community formed” question, I don’t see why it’s any different from the Mithras stories and community or the Krishna stories/community or any other of the many, many god stories that are everywhere in ancient human cultures.

    If you look at the Jesus story alongside those and ask “how is it different”, the only difference I can come up with is that the Jesus story survived longer (although Krishna still has a pretty big following). And why did the Jesus story survive? The only factor I can point to is that they managed to get sponsorship by the Roman Emperor and with that came military might which they used to wipe out competing religions.

  6. I was disappointed by the good doctors performance. The only defensive he seemed able to come up with was you were too far out on a limb.

    I think you made better points at the end about the quality of data that Historians rely on.

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