Christian damage control – preemptive strike on Tomb Documentary

February 27, 2007

I’m sure many of you have already heard the story about James Cameron producing a documentary where they investigate a tomb uncovered in 1980 which some suspect housed the body of Jesus and his family (including his mother Mary, wife Mary Magdalene, son Judah, and Mathew – there are apparently 5 other coffins in a neighboring tomb yet to be identified). According to the film-makers this is supposed to be a celebration of the life of a great man, however christians have already begun a public outry, declaring that the film-makers are attempting to undermine christianity.

To be fair, if Jesus didn’t resurrect the game is over, that’s the core tenant of the christian faith – it’s understandable they’d be upset… IF the documentary made a good point. But we don’t know yet what points it makes! Of course we only know very little about the documentary, but this hasn’t stopped christians and alleged bible scholars from attacking it head on.

Yes this is an old find (1980), and one which has been covered before 11 years ago with a BBC documentary which proved ill-researched and not particularly well founded in science, archeology, or anything of that nature. Yet allegedly there is new evidence and new arguments to be made on this site.

And this is the key point. They claim to have enough new evidence to propose that makes this tomb worth investigating again. By all accounts this won’t be a retread of the defeated BBC documentary, but something challenging and new. Cameron assures us, “It doesn’t get bigger than this. We’ve done our homework; we’ve made the case; and now it’s time for the debate to begin.”

Of course already christians are trying to combat this, before the documentary has come out or even been seen by them. If you are an intelligent individual this should raise some red flags for you. If they haven’t seen this documentary, then how can they know all the claims forwarded and effectively combat them?

The answer is simple: They can’t. They’re making this shit up in a preemptive manner to discredit the documentary any way they can. Or they’re relying on what they do know of the Tomb to try and (mistakenly?) predict what the arguments will be and discredit those.

Bold words to be sure, but very probably true – the church does have a long and illustrious history of smear campaigns, misinformation, distortion of evidence, and so on… They are exceedingly efficient at it, the complete lack of understanding for evolution and the perpetuating of misconceptions being just one glaring example.

I will say this: Reading a book by its cover is the province of fools and the ignorant. If going in with an open mind will challenge your faith, then you seriously need to re-evaluate your faith.

Forgive me if I sound harsh, but these people are essentially laying a verdict on a movie before it’s release (with no pre-screenings either) or trying to debunk an argument that’s not even yet been forwarded. It is, in concept, utterly absurd.

As I’ve said before, religion thrives on misconception. To repeat a quote of mine that became popular among my debate team, “christian churches are made of straw” – of course referring to the Straw Man Fallacy (also known as the “Fallacy of extension.” And this seems to be what many of these religious scholars are actively doing. Misconceptions are already abound, spreading like wildfire among those who are committing much the same fallacy and not realizing that their concerns are apparently going to be specifically addressed. These misconceptions are as follows:

1. Those were all common names at the time – so what? It’s probably coincidence.

From what little has been revealed, the answer lies in probability. It turns out that those names weren’t as common as expected and when you factor in the specific combination it becomes much less probable. Andrey Feuerverger (professor of statistics and mathematics) recently did a statistical analysis based on how often each name appears during that time period, its frequency, and to be conservative he allowed for the possibility of the name being more frequent than we know. Even then the odds of all five of those names being together is at least 600 to 1 against. That means the probability of this being the correct tomb and not sheer coincidence is a surprising 99.84%!

Let me repeat that, the statistical odds of this being more than coincidence are 99.84%. Something of course glossed over (or somehow missed?) by those attacking the film.

2. What are they going to do with DNA testing? There’s nothing to test!

They are using DNA testing to examine the family relationship and see who is directly related to who. We know that they’ve determined Jesus and the one thought to be Mary Magdalene are not related – which indicates they’re a couple if not spousal. It should go without saying that this alone really changes the odds of this being coincidence with all things considered. They are not using DNA tests to compare with living persons, the shroud of Turin or other such farcical things…

Now I am not staunchly defending the documentary, nor am I taking a particular stand in either direction at the moment. What I am suggesting and really advising is that people hold off until they see the damn documentary before they go making arguments.

Personally I don’t necessarily agree with the ideas being forwarded (I’m rather of the opinion that he never existed, not even as a mortal human), but I am willing to go in with an open mind and see the evidence presented and make assessments based on that.

I encourage others to similarly wait, see what the arguments and evidence are, and THEN make your decisions.

For more information, please refer to these (mostly) unbiased articles:

Discovery’s article on the subject:
James Cameron discusses the film:

Here’s an example as to how journalists are falling into the trap of letting their personal believes affect the way they write and portray the story, look at this (note the absence of documentary claims but focus on the counterarguments):

Yahoo News article:

Or if you really want to see the bad, look to Fox News.

Again the whole point is to not jump to conclusions and listen to the morons defending faith without even seeing the damn thing. It may be easily falsifiable, but wait and find out.

Yours in reason,

Mike

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