Not a Name-Caller...
Uh, I'm not a name caller or anything, but, you know, I really don't know what else to say. You're a college professor.... I'm not a religious man, but you really are a loser.
(Anonymous phone message)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I've never published phone messages before, but I thought I should make an exception for this one. It was left on the office message machine sometime between 1:00 A.M., when I shut down the computer and went to bed, and 8:00 P.M., when I returned to the office the next morning. Since the message was left on this machine, I assume that the call was made by someone who is a subscriber to TSR, because I have never advertised this number locally, and it is listed in the directory under The Skeptical Review, rather than my own name. Probably, then, the call was made by a frustrated subscriber (who isn't a religious man, of course) wanting to make a sneak attack that he lacks both the courage and the knowledge to make in a direct confrontation. I'm used to anonymous messages like this, but they usually come by mail with the obligatory religious tract enclosed to describe the agonies of hell that I'm sure to endure someday. Each time I get them, I know there is a frustrated biblicist somewhere, steaming over his/her inability to confront me with logical argumentation. Those who send such messages may as well end them with a comment like this: "Well, you win. I can't refute your arguments with logic, but I can insult you in a cowardly anonymous way."
I'm a loser? If so, what would you call someone who is so cowardly that he leaves anonymous messages on a phone machine in the middle of the night when he is reasonably sure that no one will be around to take his call?
A Small World...
I first became acquainted with your writing in the Secular Humanist Bulletin. I was delighted to learn that you were the same Farrell Till who taught at Spoon River College. Your understanding of the believer's mind and dissection of Christianity are right on the mark.
[List of materials ordered and names submitted for gift subscriptions deleted.]
(Nathan Robertson, 4101 West 45th Avenue, Apt. 3314, Amarillo, TX 79109.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's a small world after all. When Nathan Robertson sent me his subscription request from Amarillo, Texas, I didn't associate him with the Nathan Robertson whom I had had as a student several years ago, but I remember him very well. Student essays on religious subjects are very common, but 99.9% of them are so shallow that they make religious tracts look downright profound. One day I read an essay that discussed the writer's reasons for not believing in God, and it took a logical approach to the subject that was like a gust of fresh air in a musty dungeon. Instead of platitudes and stale cliches, it actually contained ideas and thoughts that I considered unusually insightful for an 18- or 19-year-old college student. That essay was written by Nathan Robertson.
It also led to private discussions outside of the classroom that contributed to some significant changes in my life. Until that time, I had confined my activities on behalf of religious skepticism to a few letters-to-the-editor in the local newspaper, but for the most part I had bought the idea that it just wasn't nice to criticize people's religious beliefs. After all, someone might be offended by comments that suggest religion is illogical, and so I kept my thoughts to myself much more than I do today. One day Nathan showed me some copies of a publication that his brother subscribed to, and this was how I was introduced to Free Inquiry magazine. I liked what I saw (which was a more direct criticism of religious absurdities than its present editorial approach) and subscribed to it. In reading Free Inquiry, I found information about organized opposition to religion and soon became more directly involved in it myself. I don't know if this would have happened if I had not met Nathan Robertson, but I've always thought that the experience helped. Anyone who has ever been a professional teacher will tell you that teaching isn't just a one-way street. Teachers can also learn from their students as I did from Nathan Robertson.
As far as I am concerned, your articles on religion and the fallacies in the bible are pure prose! Your essays are well written and can be backed up. I am a 60-year-old business man here in Amarillo. My wife and friends are devout Catholics and my opinions, which coincide with yours, are not too well received. The older I get, the more I am convinced of the shortcomings of religion.
Please apply this $100 as far as it will go on my subscription to The Skeptical Review. If you are ever coming through Amarillo, please let me know ahead. I would be honored to meet you and visit with you. Keep up the good work.
(Joe H. Virden, P. O. Box 7160, 2821 Mays Street, Amarillo, TX 79109.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: When Nathan Robertson sent his subscription request, I believe he said that he sometimes thinks he is the only skeptic in Texas, so I am publishing Mr. Virden's letter along with his to show that skeptics are not as alone as they think. Besides Mr. Virden, there is another subscriber to TSR in Amarillo. He has a D.D. degree, and his correspondence very definitely shows that he rejects traditional claims about the Bible. I don't know how public he wants to be about this, so I will leave it to him to contact the other two birds of a feather in Amarillo.
I appreciate Mr. Virden's support, but I appreciate even more his optimism. I have extended his subscription for 16 more years, but... will an editor who is now 64 be around that long? I hope so.
If I ever pass through Amarillo, I will let him know. I would enjoy meeting him and seeing Nathan Robertson again.
Atheists Who Converted...
I await with interest every issue of the review, which I read with pleasure, especially the letters from readers and your replies to them.
However, in the May/June 1996 issue, I find two opinions from you which I cannot accept because I feel they are not accurate. Voltaire asked for pardon to God and to the Church when he felt next to death. He signed a statement, on March 2, 1778, in which he assured to have confessed (his sins) to "abbe" Gaultier, a Catholic priest, and his wish to die in the Saint Catholic Church in which he was born. Maybe I should mention that Voltaire was never an atheist, in spite of what many people think. Quite the contrary, Voltaire wrote: "Atheists, in their greatest part, are scholarly persons, daring and lost, who reason badly, and who, being unable to understand the creation, the origin of evil and many other difficulties, have come to the hypothesis of the eternity of things and to the hypothesis of their need." (By the way, I am astonished to learn that many American freethinkers and atheists consider Tom Paine their Patron Saint. Probably they are unaware of the fact that his book Age of Reason aimed, as he said, to keep France from atheism by proving that Newtonianism, showing the orderly design of nature and the cosmos, presupposed a Divine Designer, one God. In fact, Paine began the Age of Reason with this statement: "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.") I hope you will now change your opinion about Voltaire's repentance.
I can offer you several names of famous atheists who later changed to Christianism. Charles Foucault and Jacques Maritain (and his wife), both of them French philosophers, Andre Frossard, son of a former Secretary of the French Communist Party, Vittorio Messori, the interviewer and collaborator of John Paul II's Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Max Jacob, the Jewish poet and friend of Picasso, Evelyn Waugh. The latest case I have learnt is that of Sheldon Vanauken, a professor of history in Virginia, USA.
Last but not least, have you ever wondered why so many fundamentalists, like yourself or Dan Parker [Barker probably intended], later become atheists? Maybe it is a matter of attitude. Some people need affirming or denying faith categorically. In your words, they need to be right.
(Antonio Casao Ibanez, Apartado 882, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was delighted to hear from Mr. Ibanez. He has been a long-time subscriber to TSR. and if I am not mistaken, he was the first in Europe to subscribe. We now have subscribers in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iceland, and on every inhabited continent. Most of this interest from abroad has been the result of putting our articles on the WWW.
I had to check the May/June 1996 issue to see what statement Mr. Ibanez was referring to, and the best I can tell, he was responding to my note at the end of Mike Ulm's letter on page 13. This was where after commenting on the many claims of former atheism that we hear from apologists like Josh McDowell, I went on to say that I don't know of a single firmly committed atheist who converted to theism. I was not claiming that such had never happened; I was just stating that I couldn't think of any. Almost everywhere I go to debate, I am confronted by frustrated Christians who try to tell me that Darwin, Russell, Hume, Huxley, and such like renounced their atheism or skepticism on their deathbeds. Such tales as these are commonplace, even though most of them have been debunked by people who were present at the times of death, but to hear these people, one would think that it is practically impossible for an atheist to die without getting cold feet and frantically pleading for divine mercy with his last breath. I am reasonably sure that most stories like these are claims that were fabricated by insecure theists who are desperately hoping to give some kind of shot in the arm to their own anemic beliefs. At any rate, I would never claim that no atheist has ever renounced his atheism at the end of his life, because it has undoubtedly happened, just as there have undoubtedly been theists at the end of their lives who realized there was nothing to their god-belief and renounced it. Examples like these would really prove nothing at all, and I made the comment that Mr. Ibanez wrote about only to express my doubt that preconversion atheism in the ranks of Christian apologetics was as widespread as they claim.
I am a bit puzzled by Mr. Ibanez's citation of Voltaire as an example of an atheist who converted to theism. He referred to a confession of faith that Voltaire allegedly signed before his death (although Mr. Ibanez didn't document his source) but then immediately proceeded to claim that Voltaire was never an atheist. If he were never an atheist, then he couldn't very well be an example of an atheist who converted to theism before his death, could he?
I certainly know that Thomas Paine was not an atheist, and a major irritation with me is the uninformed theist who knows no better than to call Paine an atheist. Just recently I had a discussion with a person in the community who called Paine an atheist and then resisted all of my efforts to correct her wrong impression. Thomas Paine was a Deist, and I'm sure that most skeptics and atheists know this. It was the freethinking ability of the man, at a time when it was unpopular to swim against the current of Christianity, that we admire. Also, his refutation of the popular belief that the Bible is God's word remains a classic to this day, and no Christian apologist has ever successfully responded to it. Pain did indeed begin Age of Reason exactly as Mr. Ibanez quoted him, but after his profession of faith in God, he immediately went on to say, "But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them."
It was what Paine said, in the progress of this work, that he did not believe that has made him a permanent enemy of organized religions. Among other things, he said, "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church" (200th Anniversay Edition, p. 2). Later, he said in reference to the stories of murder and atrocity that abound in the Bible, "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel" (Ibid., p. 12). When we consider the times in which Paine made such statements as these, is it any wonder that he would be considered the "patron saint" of modern skepticism?
I certainly can't speak for Dan Barker or other fundamentalists who became skeptics and left the Christian ministry, but I will say that I do subscribe to what President Harry Truman allegedly said: "I would rather be right than president." I can't imagine why anyone would put religious or philosophical beliefs above the desire to be right, but obviously many people do. Was Mr. Ibanez suggesting that Barker and I should not feel the need to be right?
Anyone who is interested in a very reasonably priced paperback copy of Age of Reason should write to Stephen Van Eck. RR 1, Box 62, Rushville, PA 18839. He published the 200th Anniversary Edition and distributes it for only $5 per copy.
Another Opinion from Afar...
The other day I received the September/October 1996 issue of TSR, and as usual, I read it from cover to cover upon arriving home. As has been the case with the previous issues of TSR, all of the articles in this issue were rather thought provoking. Predictably, the inerrantists continue to grasp at straws, use weak logic and maintain double-standards. Your excellent article concerning Ezekiel's failed prophecy about the city of Tyre needs no further comment. The Bible seems to be screaming loud and clear that it's only of rather dubious human origins. It amazes me that the inerrantists just can't seem to hear. As they say, there is one miracle about the Bible--that there are actually people who believe that it's God's Word!
Additionally, I think Roger Hutchinson's article "How Many Women Went to the Tomb?" really proved the opposite of what he intended. Frankly, it stands out as another glaring example of how weak the inerrantist position really is. One of the things that really struck me is that he hardly even mentioned the (what-he-considers-to-be) "facts" from the Gospel of John. Besides saying that John only mentions that there was one visitor to the (allegedly) empty tomb, Mr. Hutchinson left out the other evidence from this gospel almost altogether. I think the reason for this is that some of the information in John would make Mr. Hutchinson's task increasingly difficult. That is assuming, of course, that something that is already impossible can be made more difficult. As usual, when trying to harmonize the gospel narratives, Christians have to leave out many "facts" that just refuse to fit in. The so-called "Resurrection Story" would not be believable even if we limit ourselves to the Synoptic Gospels, and throwing in John's account just makes matters worse.
In his article, Mr. Hutchinson emphasized that the women visited the tomb the morning after the Sabbath in order to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. However, on this point Mr. Hutchinson conveniently forgot to mention the fact that the Gospel of John says that the body had already been anointed on the day of the crucifixion (read "cruci- fiction")! According to John 19:38-42, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus "took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices" and then put it in a tomb. Also, John's account of Mary Magdalene's visit to the tomb early Sunday morning does not mention that she came there to anoint the body of Jesus. Well, at least this part of John's narrative is internally consistent, since according to him, the anointing had already been done. To make matters worse, however, John's gospel places Mary Magdalene at the tomb earlier than any of the other three gospels, i.e., "while it was still dark"--but the stone had already been removed! Matthew and Mark say that the women came to the tomb around the rising of the sun, but the tomb was still closed!!!
If "harmonizing the Gospel accounts" was really the purpose of Mr. Hutchinson's article, then we're still waiting. Actually, if I thought it were reasonably possible, I would suggest that you consider trying to verify the credentials and beliefs of the writers who submit rebuttal articles. As others before me have said, maybe they're really closet freethinkers just trying to make the inerrantist position look untenable! Thanks again for your great service. I'm anxiously await the next issue of TSR.
(Robert Squires, P.O. Box 23906, Safat 13100, Kuwait; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Roger Hutchinson will recognize Robert Squires as a former subscriber to the errancy list on the internet, who defended Islam as a religion superior to Christianity, so Roger may be inclined to view Squires' letter as merely the comments of a convert to Islam who wants to bash his former religion. However, in my private e-mail messages with Mr. Squires, I have learned that he is not a convert to Islam but a religious skeptic who was only using the errancy list to test Christian claims against what he has learned from living in an Islamic nation. His observations represent the flaws that he now sees in the religion he was indoctrinated in when he was growing up in this country. His comments deserve Hutchinson's serious consideration.
Are Inerrantists Really Sincere?...
Do inerrantists really believe the Bible is inerrant, or do they just maintain it for the sake of appearance? I wonder.
(E. E. Brennaman, 1601 Airline Road, Apt. 62, Corpus Christi, TX 78412-4434.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I am convinced that many inerrantists really know that the inerrancy doctrine is untenable but still adhere to it for emotional reasons. This may be an unfair accusation, but I am basing it on my own experience. Even when I knew beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bible just couldn't be "the inspired word of God," I couldn't bring myself to admit it. What will my friends and relatives think? How foolish will I look? How will I support my family? These were some of the emotional questions that I grappled with before I made my decision to do what I knew was the right thing and leave a profession that required me to be untrue to my conscience. I can't believe that I was unique, and neither can I believe that all fundamentalists who come to the same realization that I did always do what their consciences tell them to do. I also think that some preachers just enjoy being big fishes in little ponds, and they are willing to achieve this at the cost of their personal integrity.
The Values of Abraham & Sarah...
I thoroughly enjoyed and applauded your "Family Values" piece regarding the questionable ethical behavior and moral values demonstrated by Abraham and Sarah. However, over the years, whenever I have mentioned the despicable immorality of Old Testament characters, both Christians and Jews have promptly defended such behavior by pointing out that in those days people were living under very different laws and very different social traditions. They quickly point out that incestuous pregnancies and marriages were very common and were considered both legal and moral. Further, that servant women frequently filled the role of surrogate mates was again both socially and legally acceptable. Still further, they argue that it was considered appropriate for the patriarch to sell or trade his wife or children for livestock or other material gain, and they even argue that deliberate deceitfulness was perfectly moral and ethical under certain circumstances, such as for the purpose of surviving, tricking an enemy, fulfilling prophecy, and achieving the greatest good for the greatest number. As for their treatment of Ishmael and his mother, even that was considered acceptable for the prevailing standards and traditions of the time.
While I personally agree with you, fully, that Abraham and Sarah were a prime example of terrible "family values," I don't think we can properly or fairly judge the actions of ancient and primitive people by the moral and ethical standards of 20th-century America. You wrote that "in today's society, Abraham and Sarah would be called `swingers,'" but you are much too kind. By our contemporary standards, Abraham was nothing more than a pimp, a liar, an incestuous sex offender, an abusive cold-hearted bastard, and a deluded, greedy, passive-aggressive, cowardly, common, low-life, criminal scumbag. But can we judge him only by the laws and traditions of his time, his culture, and his religion?
Sir, if there is anything in the Bible to indicate that the actions of Abraham and Sarah were illegal, unethical, or immoral by the laws, standards, and traditions of that time, culture, and religion, then I would dearly love to know about it! Are the Christians and Jews correct or incorrect when they claim that Abraham was a very moral man by laws and standards applicable to him at that time?
(Grant H. Hendrick, A-131851, P. O. Box 5000, Carson City, MI 48811-5000.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I certainly agree that the morality of Abraham and Sarah was probably typical of the time they lived (if indeed they were actual historical persons). This was a time when, as Mr. Hendrick correctly pointed out, polygamy, incestuous relationships, slavery, barbarity, and other customs repugnant to modern civilizations were commonplace, but that is exactly the point that I wanted to make in the "family-values" articles currently running in TSR. How can the Christian Right advocate as openly as it does a return to biblical values in morality when they would soundly condemn the morality of biblical characters like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and his wives and concubines, etc. if it were practiced today? Furthermore, a fundamental claim of biblicists is that morality is absolute, but if morality is absolute, then moral principles must remain constant and never change. Consequently, what was moral in the time of Abraham and Sarah must be considered moral today, or else the entire structure of absolute morality collapses. So biblical moralists need to explain why they are pressing to impose on society a moral system that they don't really believe in themselves.
Nice job on The Skeptical Review. You are right on track all right. The Holy Bible and the entire Christian doctrine are nonsense. I also read The Skeptical Inquirer, Freethought Today, and other publications. All of them are good.
The human race has existed for roughly 3 million years. During this time, many millions of people have lived and died, yet Christianity has existed for less than 2 thousand years. So most humans lived before Jesus (if indeed he ever existed). What about the zillions of people who lived before Jesus? How are they judged? Even today, how are the millions judged who know nothing of the Christian doctrine? Do believers ever think about these questions? Surely not many. Keep up the good work.
(Doug Tracy, 5345 Rector Street, Toledo, OH 43615-2811.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Do believers ever think about these things? As Mr. Tracy said, "Surely not many." Those who do would probably say that people who lived and died before Christ will be judged by the moral standards of their eras, and perhaps some will know enough about the New Testament to quote the apostle Paul, "For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law" (Rom. 2:12), as if this would prove anything except that this was what Paul thought. As for those who have died in the Christian era without ever hearing of Christ, their fate will, of course, depend upon which Bible-believer you ask. Some will be calloused enough to say, "Tough bippy, they went to hell," but others will make the "sacrifice" of Jesus completely meaningless and say that those who die without hearing the gospel will be saved if they were moral people in the societies they lived in. That's the nice thing about Christianity. It's somewhat like a smorgasbord. Believers can look everything over and pick whatever appeals to them.
Mr. Tracy's reference to the age of the human race made me think about a comment that Christians often make about those who challenge the authenticity of the Bible. They delight in referring to skeptics of the past who predicted that belief in the Bible was doomed for extinction, and those who know a little bit about the scriptures may even quote Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Of course, they conveniently ignore--or, more likely, don't even know--that this statement was made in the context of a prediction that the second coming of Jesus would occur in the lifetimes of the generation he allegedly lived in (Matt. 24:29-34). At any rate, those who cite the age of Christianity as some kind of evidence of its divine origin show an incredible ignorance of the history of religion. Records of the past show that religions are born, thrive sometimes for centuries, but eventually wane and die. One would have to be very naive to think that Christianity will be any different.
From Agnostic to Atheist...
In the past year, since I started receiving The Skeptical Review, I have read all of your back issues, two of your debates, Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled, and a good portion of the Bible. I have also read works by Bertrand Russell, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Dan Barker, Robert Ingersoll, and Thomas Paine, all of whom directly confronted Christianity. To shore up my very weak knowledge of science, I have read books by Paul Davies, John Gribbin, Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, and Isaac Asimov. And, finally, to appease the wishes of my parents, I have read pro-Christian books by Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Donald Ford, and R. C. Sproul.
I used to be agnostic, and that was based mostly on my negative emotional response to fundamentalism. Thanks to the past year of intense study, I am happy to be more confident about my rejection of fundamentalist Christianity, but there's more. I am now confident enough to say that none of the world's religions could possibly be true and, therefore, I am an atheist.
I have become quite activist about the issue because I can now see just how much religion affects society. I have managed to convince my only brother and my best friend [names deleted] to start down the road that I've been on and receive your publication. My wife has also moved from an agnostic to atheist position. I have many fundamentalist friends and family who are no longer "safe" in my presence and can be assured that I will confront their idealism if the situation warrants. For the first time in my life, I feel utterly at peace regarding the "meaning" and "origin" of it all. Life is what matters, and I'm living it and enjoying it. Thanks for your part in enlightening me.
As a favor to me, for reading all the Christian books they have sent me, my parents have offered to receive and read your publication. [Names and address deleted.]
Also, for some reason, I have not yet received Volume 7 #2 and Volume 7 #5. Could you send me replacement copies? For some reason, I received all other copies for this year but not those two.
(Dave Friesen, 902 South Loop 499, Apt. 3-8, Harlingen, TX 78550.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Letters like this are always a joy to receive. As a preacher, I "converted" several people, but I can't remember those experiences being nearly as satisfying as knowing that I may have helped someone see the folly of religious superstition. I'm also glad to see that Mr. Friesen, as so many others have done in this forum, testified to the personal happiness that he found in facing reality rather than using the false security of religious belief as a crutch to help him hobble through life. Those who have traveled down both roads know that accepting reality brings more personal satisfaction. No "personal experience with Jesus" can compare to the pleasure of knowing that one has found the courage to look reality in the face, accept it, and live life accordingly. Theists who gamble the only thing they can ever be sure of, i. e., the life they now have, on wishful thinking will never know this kind of personal satisfaction.
Another Satisfied Reader...
I'm sending back payment for the issues already received. They are well worth it. The Skeptical Review is beyond any doubt the most informative publication on the idiocy of religion, not only the Christian religion but the general mentality of all believers in gods, devils, angels, hell, and you name it. Keep up the excellent work.
(Melvin Leui, 4900 South Sunnyside Drive, Rapid City, SD 57701.)
How Many Resurrections?...
Please send me any information concerning how many and who were supposed to have risen from the dead. I know there were stories of others prior to the Lazarus and Jesus characters.
(John Rye, 311481-A, P. O. Box 396, Hardwick, GA 31034.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Besides the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus, the Bible claims that Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath's son (1 Kings 17:8-24); that Elisha raised the Shunammite woman's son (2 Kings 4:17-37); that Jesus raised Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:22-43; Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7:11-16); that an earthquake shook open the tombs of "many saints," who were later resurrected and appeared to "many" in the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 27:51-54); that Peter raised Dorcas, who was also known as Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43); and that Paul raised Eutychus, who went to sleep during Paul's sermon, fell from a third story window, and killed himself (Acts 20:7-10). Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones could also be construed as a resurrection (Ezek. 37:1-10), as could also an incident where a band of Moabite marauders cast one of their dead into the cave where the prophet Elisha had been buried. When the man's body touched the bones of Elisha, "he revived and stood upon his feet" (2 Kings 13:20-21). In other words, claims of resurrection from the dead were not at all unusual in the Bible, a fact that should--but won't--make Christians wonder about their faith in a savior whose resurrection was recorded only in a book in which resurrections were fairly commonplace. Since resurrections from the dead are never witnessed today, how likely is it that all of the resurrections claimed in a collection of ancient documents, written in highly superstitious times, actually happened? How likely is it that any of them happened?