Monday, January 25, 2010

Societal consensus for morality

Never hurts to go over this kind of thing again.

marhaban said...

Torture is immoral according to the definition I know because it does not conform to the patterns of conduct USUALLY ACCEPTED or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics. Social consensus is required.

But, you don't agree with my definition so to show that it is immoral on your terms, I need to know how you align your moral compass. I am assuming that if it is considered bad in the Bible, then you also would consider it bad and immoral. Is this correct or are you using your atheist definition of morality for this discussion?


Your definition according to social consensus is completely insufficient when it comes to bigger questions than the ones we generally encounter in the sedate, peaceful West, in the modern pax americana.
Take a look at my scenario and I'd like to know your reaction to it given your measurement of morality.

And let me try to clarify my own position. The Bible is God's very self-revelation to humanity. He didn't tell us everything about Himself, but He told us an awful lot, and plenty to know what His law is and what is good and what is bad. Best of all, it's objective; good things are good no matter whether anyone believes they are good, b/c good is grounded in God's character, which does not change and is eternal. That which is bad is that which runs contrary to God's law. Thus raping little girls for fun is evil even if everyone in the entire world believes that raping little girls for fun is actually good. Similarly, refusing to worship Jesus is evil even if everyone in the entire world believes that worshiping Jesus is not good.

43 comments:

Damion said...

Between these two possibilities:

Morality_S = morals are rooted in societal consensus

Morality_G = morals are rooted in divine law, which may be found in modern translations of copies of copies of copies of a collection of ancient books, ostensibly tailored to the peculiar moral problems facing bronze age nomads

I'd humbly suggest that we find another solution altogether, especially since these two options look alot alike for a particular tribe at a particular point in history.

We have to ask why people ought to be moral. Is it because they want to live fulfilling lives, or is it because they have other desires to fulfill, such as the joy of submitting to authority and thus lifting the burden of moral freedom from one's own shoulders? Is it for some other reason?

NAL said...

Rho:

Similarly, refusing to worship Jesus is evil even if everyone in the entire world believes that raping little girls for fun is actually good.

Typo?

Rhology said...

Yes, it was a typo. Thank you for catching it.

And yes, I'd love to see the other solution. Societal consensus has always seemed to me like the least wrong of all the non-divine-based moral theories.

Lucian said...

I've already answered Your question: there's no such thing in reality: for the simple reason that human nature belongs (or is present in) all human beings. Therefore, morality is not artificial, it's natural.

Derrick said...

Societal consensus has always seemed to me like the least wrong of all the non-divine-based moral theories.

We are in agreement on this. I simply think that, by practical measures, it does better than biblical Christianity.

As far as the Christian god goes, my most significant objection essentially boils down to infinite punishment for finite crimes. Hitler committed a measurable number of evil deeds during his life, and caused the death of a finite number of people. How many trillion years would he be in hell for each? At what point has he paid in full for his crimes?

For that matter, it is at least theoretically possible that such sins would be instantly forgiven. I don't find either instance to be an example of justice.

I'm rather glad that such a God is so unlikely.

Damion said...

I'd love to see the other solution.

Of course there are loads of other solutions, and they are all a bit different, but they do have in common that they are trying to fill in the same blank:
“The moral action is the one which _______.”

An egoist would fill in the blank with “helps fulfill my highest desires.” Nothing remotely societal about that.

A consequentialist might fill in the blank with “maximizes human happiness” or “minimizes human suffering” or some combination of the two.

Followers of divine command theory might prefer to fill in the blank with “obeys divine law” or equivalently “accords with God’s desires.”

None of these theories rely on a social contract or consensus, but all three rely on the idea that some beings have minds which hold for them desires to be fulfilled. The differences lie primarily on how one draws the circle of moral concern. Is it drawn strictly around one mind (e.g. one’s object of worship or oneself) or is it drawn more broadly to include the desires of fellow humans, mammals, etc.

Of course it is possible to combine some seemingly disparate moral theories, as it seems Pascal did when counting on the egoistic self-interest of agnostics to drive them into ultimately choosing to obey divine commands.

Lucian said...

Derrick,

Hitler, like all human beings, is immortal by the grace of God, through the resurrection of Christ, who took human nature upon Himself, and redeemed it from under the snares of death and corruption. As such, he won't ever ceise to exist: only that the way in which he constructed his being in this life is a very ugly one. And he will have to live with that unexpurged ugliness ever-present within himself for all eternity: this is the "punishment" of all sinners who do not repent and cleanse themselves of evil while still in this life.

Derrick said...

I'm familiar with the doctrine. I'm just not seeing how that's just.

To say nothing of the notion that one could theoretically receive infinite torment for the mere thoughtcrime of disbelief.

marhaban said...

I will admit that the societal consensus morality definition isn't perfect.

It falls short of preventing injustice to minorities/women/children in many cultures.

Is this because they are seen as "outside the tribe" "foreign" "different"?

Derrick said...

It falls short of preventing injustice to minorities/women/children in many cultures.

Is this because they are seen as "outside the tribe" "foreign" "different"?


Usually it's because one holy book or another treats them as second class citizens. Isn't it odd.

Lucian said...

It is his own evil that will torment him: he chose to be that way, and he fulfilled his wish, and he will be like that forever. Too bad he won't be able to live with himself.

Damion said...

It is his own evil that will torment him: he chose to be that way, and he fulfilled his wish, and he will be like that forever.

From whence do you derive this doctrine? Is it from the Bible, or from Chesterton, or Lewis, or somewhere else?

Lucian said...

When we find ourselves doing evil deeds, or harbouring disgusting thoughts, or emanating inhuman feelings, ... don't we just feel like crap? Doesn't our conscience nag us like a restless worm, chewing on our flesh? (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48). When we fall prey to various addictions, doesn't depression overwhelm us? If this happens here on this earth, why should it cease in the life hereafter? Not only does it NOT cease, but it becomes stronger.

On the other hand, when we do a good deed, wish people well, and entertain pure and uplifting feelings, doesn't our heart feel light, and doesn't our soul feel like it has grown on wings? If it feels so good in this life, it will become even better in the next, when God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28), and all those who love Him and His ways will rejoice in Him and His rpesence with a joy that can neither be described, nor comprehended, nor contained, nor be ever taken away.

Evil is truly evil, and good is truly good (Isaiah 5:20). The rewards of heaven and the punishments of hell are not something artificial, because, as I said before, morality itself is not artificial: it's natural, it comes from God, it's everlasting.

marhaban said...

Usually it's because one holy book or another treats them as second class citizens. Isn't it odd.

Do you think people use religion to justify causing harm to others? That they would be doing it anyway, but now they are justified and can pressure others into also treating the outcasts like crap.

Or does being religious increase the likelihood of being intolerant of people who are different?

Damion said...

...does being religious increase the likelihood of being intolerant of people who are different?

Only if the religion in question has intolerant dicta inherent to its moral code, e.g. "Do not suffer a witch to live."

Rhology said...

marhaban,

Please note that Lucian/Lvka speaks only for his bizarre and off-kilter brand of Eastern Orthodoxy, not for Christianity or the Bible. I don't expect you to know that already; I'm just letting you know.

Do you think people use religion to justify causing harm to others?

Yes, they do. They also use science, money, desire for land, desire for power, desire for money, desire for sex, and tons of other things to justify causing harm to others.
Me, I'm interested in how we can know whether harming ppl is morally wrong.


Or does being religious increase the likelihood of being intolerant of people who are different?

There are so many diff religions in the world and so many worldview that act just like religion that they are indistinguishable therefrom (such as militant fundamentalist atheism like that of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Dick Dawk, PZ Myers, etc) that talking about "religion" is meaningless. I don't believe in "religion". I believe in Jesus. One religion is correct, and the others are wrong, and non-religious systems are also wrong.

Also, I hope you'll be sure to ask Damion here what problem he has with not suffering a witch to live. I hope you'll also be sure to ask him how much he understands the role and context of the Old Testament Law. I've explained this to him more than once but the lessons don't seem to take very well, b/c he just comes back repeating the same ol' same ol'. It's kind of disappointing.

Hope that helps.

marhaban said...

Me, I'm interested in how we can know whether harming ppl is morally wrong.

From a biblical perspective... It seems like just by looking at Christ's life, you would come to the conclusion that harming people is wrong.

I may be wrong, but didn't he spend a lot of time alleviating human suffering? Healing sick people, feeding hungry crowds, teaching blessed be the peacemaker...

Damion said...

 
I hope you'll be sure to ask Damion here what problem he has with not suffering a witch to live.
 
I happen to think it’s a bit unnecessarily cruel to kill people for victimless and fictitious crimes such as witchcraft or blasphemy or apostasy. 
 
I hope you'll also be sure to ask him how much he understands the role and context of the Old Testament Law.
 
You could have asked the disciple Peter the same thing, one day prior to his receiving a direct revelation about a heavenly picnic.  I do not recall seeing a witches’ brew on the picnic spread, though.  Nor do I recall you making a persuasive argument that it would be immoral (on your particular view of morality) for legislators to vote in favor of codifying any or all of the 613 mitzvot.  If these laws were a good idea for God’s chosen people, why not for those who modernly consider themselves chosen of God? 
 
I understand that some of these laws were explicitly overturned in the NT canon, but surely not all of them.  What then are your criteria for separating the wheat of timeless moral laws from the chaff of outdated ones? 
 
It seems like just by looking at Christ's life, you would come to the conclusion that harming people is wrong.
 
“If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

(Strictly for self-defense, no doubt.)

Rhology said...

Damion,

I happen to think it’s a bit unnecessarily cruel to kill people for victimless and fictitious crimes such as witchcraft or blasphemy or apostasy.

Have we not been over this ground numerous times? Do you not know what I'm going to say next?


Nor do I recall you making a persuasive argument that it would be immoral (on your particular view of morality) for legislators to vote in favor of codifying any or all of the 613 mitzvot.

Why would it be immoral? I can think of worse things to legislate than a group of laws straight from the lips of God.


What then are your criteria for separating the wheat of timeless moral laws from the chaff of outdated ones?

Not "chaff", and not "useless". Here.


It seems like just by looking at Christ's life, you would come to the conclusion that harming people is wrong.

“If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”


"Put your sword away, for those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." He wasn't saying what you say.

Rhology said...

It seems like just by looking at Christ's life, you would come to the conclusion that harming people is wrong.

Thing is, that's a Christian way of looking at things, as you said. There's no reason to follow Jesus if atheism is true.


didn't he spend a lot of time alleviating human suffering? Healing sick people, feeding hungry crowds, teaching blessed be the peacemaker...

Yes, He did do that, but He also left a lot of ppl unhealed, all over the place. He healed to fulfill prophecy and to confirm His message was from God; all thru the Gospels His enemies have no answer for the miracles and ppl are often amazed, saying "We've never seen or heard of anything like this! Even demons submit to this man!"
But of course, there were many millions of ppl He could have healed while He was on Earth, but that wasn't His mission. His mission was to "seek and save that which is lost" and "to give His life as a ransom for many".

Take a look at Luke 4: 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.

Rhology said...

As Matthew Henry said in his comments on this passage:
He came by the word of his gospel, to bring light to those that sat in the dark, and by the power of his grace, to give sight to those that were blind. And he preached the acceptable year of the Lord. Let sinners attend to the Saviour's invitation when liberty is thus proclaimed. Christ's name was Wonderful; in nothing was he more so than in the word of his grace, and the power that went along with it. We may well wonder that he should speak such words of grace to such graceless wretches as mankind. Some prejudice often furnishes an objection against the humbling doctrine of the cross; and while it is the word of God that stirs up men's enmity, they will blame the conduct or manner of the speaker. The doctrine of God's sovereignty, his right to do his will, provokes proud men. They will not seek his favour in his own way; and are angry when others have the favours they neglect. Still is Jesus rejected by multitudes who hear the same message from his words.


Thing is, these who were angry and wanted to kill Jesus were angry b/c He reminded them that God had elect people outside of the Jewish nation, and indeed many times God had ignored the 'needs' of Jews in the OT to bring favor to Gentiles, and that's God's prerogative. He challenged their assumptions, with Scripture, and they hated it. Happens all the time today, in all people groups.

Damion said...

I can think of worse things to legislate than a group of laws straight from the lips of God.

Me too. Specifically, it would be worse to legislate (along with those laws) the concomitant Biblical punishments, such as the death penalty for adultery, blasphemy, conjuring, deviant eroticism, fornication, godlessness, and a few other victimless crimes.

Lucian said...

Please note that Lucian/Lvka speaks only for his bizarre and off-kilter brand of Eastern Orthodoxy, not for Christianity or the Bible.


I did not come here to "pimp" for MyChurch®, Rho. Everything that I've said is known to each and any one of us by our own every-day human experience: if what I wrote there is "bizarre", then so's humanity, period, regardless of any ideological conviction or religious affiliation. The man wanted to know what terms like heaven or hell might mean, without metaphor or analogy, so I gave him a small glimpse.

Damion said...

Lucian speaks only for his bizarre and off-kilter brand of Eastern Orthodoxy
 
I didn’t think that the Orthodox allowed anyone to get very off-kilter.  From my visits to Eastern churches I seem to recall a focus on doctrinal purity and tradition bordering on obsessive compulsivity. 
 
That aside, this raises an interesting problem for the freethinker.  She must first determine which particular sort of theist that she is dealing with (Eastern, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) and then which particular invisible entities and ethical norms they are arguing for, before she can begin to raise any objections.  This can be tricky indeed, since different theists have very different ideas about which moral decrees were handed down from on high and which ones were specifically repealed or modified.  To this day, Abraham’s children remain split over key ethical issues such as what sort of punishment should be meted out to apostates, blasphemers, conjurers, deviants, etc.  Your really old-school types go with capital punishment, on the grounds that the Pentateuch represents unchanging divine law.  Others argue that Jesus implicitly repealed all capital punishments when he explicitly argued against stoning adulteresses.  Every position may be held, but we freethinkers cannot really argue with you guys about it because we see your attempt at formulating ethical principles as naught but competing exegeses from ancient books of dubious provenance.  This is illustrated nicely by Rho’s insistence (without supporting argument) that Lucian cannot dare speak for the Bible or Christianity.  From where I’m sitting, you all speak for Christianity, since the psychological/sociological phenomenon of Christianity is far larger than either Calvinism or Orthodoxy.
 

Lucian said...

... and Your right about John 8 changing the way Christians interpret the passages of the mosaic covenant concerning the death penalty ... as opposed to how the Jews saw them, and how the Muslims still do.

Rhology said...

This is illustrated nicely by Rho’s insistence (without supporting argument) that Lucian cannot dare speak for the Bible or Christianity.

I was trying to be helpful to you. I don't expect you to know all the nuances or ins and outs of Christian theology - why would you want to? You're not a Christian. This is not meant as a criticism, please understand.

Anyway, I'm more than happy to argue for it, and in fact have done so many times on this very blog. Just so happens that Lucian is the weirdest EO I've ever met and regularly says very bizarre things that other EOdox probably wouldn't say. Like I said, a public service announcement; you can lead an atheist to a PSA but you can't make him drink...

Damion said...

I don't expect you to know all the nuances or ins and outs of Christian theology - why would you want to?
 
Why do HIV researchers work so hard to understand how the viruses operates, sequencing RNA and trying to determine how exactly they invade, occupy, and ultimately destroy their hosts?  Presumably, they do this not because they find the viruses inherently appealing, but because they are hoping to find an effective treatment or vaccine for each strain.

Rhology said...

Of course, as we've seen over and over again, this is purely personal on your part. There is no objective telos, no purpose, by which you can know that inoculating ppl against Xtian thought is a good thing. You just happen to think it is.

Damion said...

Assuming the conventional philsophical distinction between subject and object, there is “no objective telos” anywhere in the universe, since purposes are properties of minds, that is, they are subjective. I have my purposes, you have yours. Whatever gods, spirits, ghosts, demons, and other such immaterial minds exist (if any do) each gave their own purposes and desires.

Rhology said...

And if there's an overarching universal eternal Mind...

Damion said...

...if there's an overarching universal eternal Mind

...then you'd be lucky to begin to even slightly apprehend its subjective desires and purposes. It is relatively easy to understand human desires, because we are human, existing as flesh with specific needs. I've no idea what an eternal mind might want, or why it would have any desires or purposes whatsoever, or why we should care if it did.

Rhology said...

And if said Mind communicated?

Damion said...

Supposing you are in communication with an immaterial and incredibly powerful cosmic mind, you could ask this mind to provide you with the 66-digit number which (as I mentioned earlier) I've stashed away in a safe place. If you can do that, I'll show up to whatever church you tell me to attend on Sunday, with my mind open to receive divine wisdom. I'll even bring the kids.

Damion said...

Caveat: Needs to be a church in OKC.

Rhology said...

Actually, I have every reason to think you wouldn't do that. Your arguments for atheism are terrible; that alone would drive an open mind to Jesus. Atheistic interactions with the resurrection of Jesus are terrible; that alone would drive an open mind to Jesus. Resurrecting from the dead is quite a bit more difficult than providing some secret number.
In short, you have plenty of evidence before you, but you don't care to follow it. Your problem is heart-based, not mind-based.

Lucian said...

Supposing you are in communication with an immaterial and incredibly powerful cosmic mind, you could ask this mind to provide you with the 66-digit number which (as I mentioned earlier) I've stashed away in a safe place. If you can do that, I'll show up to whatever church you tell me to attend on Sunday, with my mind open to receive divine wisdom. I'll even bring the kids.


Dam! That's a tough one to crack! -- Could I, by any chance, convince you to settle for something less impressive?... :-(

Damion said...

Your arguments for atheism are terrible; that alone would drive an open mind to Jesus.

That which can be asserted without argument may be dismissed without comment.

Atheistic interactions with the resurrection of Jesus are terrible; that alone would drive an open mind to Jesus.

I do not recall any atheists being on site to interact with the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, I do not recall anyone (even allegedly) witnessing the event of the resurrection itself. I do recall some ancient books detailing subsequent events, written by authors who neglected to provide their names or their sources, some decades after the alleged events.

Resurrecting from the dead is quite a bit more difficult than providing some secret number.

Right-o. If you resurrect from the dead, and I’m around to see it, I’ll definitely heed your spiritual advice thereafter. Until then, it seems that you are just recalling a bunch of fairly run-of-the-mill saviour myths from the ancient near east.

In short, you have plenty of evidence before you, but you don't care to follow it.

I have an entire shelf full of holy books, from all around the world, all of which read like man-made myths to me.

Your problem is heart-based, not mind-based.

Ad hominem is the last refuge of the man who does not care to make an argument.

Damion said...

I gave you guys (and anyone else) the chance to prove right off that you are in fact communicating with a powerful cosmic mind by simply naming a number. This really oughtn't be at all difficult if God answers your prayers.

Rather perform this one tiny miracle, Rho resorts to impugning my character for daring to ask that he step out on faith and ask his all-powerful God for such a tiny favor. I suppose we'll have to make dues with sifting through ancient texts instead.

Rhology said...

Argued plenty before.

I do not recall any atheists being on site to interact with the resurrection of Jesus.

That which can be asserted without argument may be dismissed without comment.


In fact, I do not recall anyone (even allegedly) witnessing the event of the resurrection itself.

I'd suggest reading the New Testament.


written by authors who neglected to provide their names or their source

I'm not aware of any mss copy that does NOT also have the name of the Gospel writers. Are you aware of some previously-unknown mss?


some decades after the alleged events.

My guess is you don't doubt textbooks that you like and agree with, and in most cases the studies cited were performed some years or even decades before. Your bias is showing, no surprise.


Ad hominem is the last refuge of the man who does not care to make an argument.

You are extraordinarily sensitive. But since the Bible uses that kind of language, I'm in good company.
I don't see you whining about how badly atheists around here treat ME.

Damion said...

I'd suggest reading the New Testament.

Been there, done that. Now who witnessed the resurrection, exactly? Not the empty tomb, not the post-resurrection appearances, but the actual resurrection itself. I think you’re going to have to go non-canonical to get there.

I'm not aware of any mss copy that does NOT also have the name of the Gospel writers.

Once again, my claim was that the authors themselves did not provide their names or their sources. Did they in fact say who they were or who their sources were? If so, please cite chapter and verse.

My guess is you don't doubt textbooks that you like…

Your guess is off by quite a bit.

since the Bible uses that kind of language, I'm in good company.

Since the Bible uses ad hom, that makes it questionable company at best. I'd expect more logical arguments from an omniscient and perfectly wise being.

zilch said...

Rho says:

I don't see you whining about how badly atheists around here treat ME.

I'll whine on your behalf, Rho: bad atheists! You be nice to poor defenseless Rho! He has a very delicate disposition and never insults anyone!

Was that good?

Oh, and hi, Lvka! Long time no read!

Nice work, Damion. But if Rho's God supplies him with your 66 digit number and he posts it here, I think it's only reasonable if you are willing to drive a little farther than just to OKC. Say Tulsa. Hell, if Rho comes up with the goods, I'll even chip in for gas.

cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

Now who witnessed the resurrection, exactly?

No one that I know of. I guess I'll have to concede that the only witnessed an empty tomb with the grave clothes discarded and then witnessed the previously-dead guy walking around and talking and made an inference therefrom.


Once again, my claim was that the authors themselves did not provide their names or their sources.

They very possibly did. Kata Ioan, Kata Mateo, Kata Marco, Kata Luca. AFAIK, all the mss copies we have of the Gospels have those "Kata"s on there. No reason to assume they weren't there from the beginning.
'Course, if they weren't, that doesn't mean their ID wasn't known.



Your guess is off by quite a bit.

I strongly doubt that. For one thing, how could you possibly know?

Damion said...

I guess I'll have to concede that they only witnessed an empty tomb with the grave clothes discarded and then witnessed the previously-dead guy walking around and talking and made an inference therefrom.
 
Assuming Markan priority (as I do) and assuming that the so-called ‘long ending’ of gMark was a later forgery appended on to the original mss (as I do) then what we have are a few grieving women who show up to a tomb, are given an oddly kerygmatic message by an unidentified stranger, and then flee the scene and say nothing of what transpired to anyone.  Later, this scene is recounted to someone else (presumably Peter) who in turn recounts it to someone else (presumably Mark) who then translates it into Greek and puts it to paper, without bothering to mention how he precisely came by this extraordinary narrative.  In the earliest and most reliable written source (1) no one witnessed the body rising, (2) no one actually met the risen Jesus, (3) no one mentioned the empty tomb to anyone else, and yet somehow all of these key facts are later inferred and put to paper by other authors. 
 
These three lacunae in the oldest resurrection narrative inevitably raise the crucial question of whether early Xn’s were willing to fabricate the biographical details of Jesus’ life out of whole cloth.   Consider the question of the witnesses to the bodily resurrection itself.  None of the canonical gospels claim that eyewitnesses were present, but we also have the non-canonical gospel of Peter.  In that book, Roman soldiers witness the heavens opening, two brightly shining men descending, the gravestone rolling away by itself, two men entering in and returning from within leading Jesus and (oddly enough) his cross out of the tomb.  Since none of us believe that any of these events took place, we must agree that at least some early Christians were willing to invent biographical details and fictitious witnesses to the resurrection itself, undoubtedly the crucially pivotal event in Christian history.  If such pious fictions were being passed around among believers, one has to wonder, what else might have been made up?  The long ending of Mark, perhaps?  The post-resurrection appearances of the other synoptics?  Perhaps the only historically authentic detail was that the grieving women came across an empty tomb and mistook it for the place where their rabbi had been lain.  Who knows?