Friday, June 12, 2009

Jesus The Hypnotist

This youtube video shows Tommy aka "Kabane the Christian" arguing with Matt Dillahunty of "The Atheist Experience" over the resurrection of Jesus.

Something Tommy said at about 3:20-3:30 of the video caught my attention: He mentioned that the testimony of alien encounters is invalid because they are usually caused by hypnotic suggestion, while the testimony of the resurrection stands up to scrutiny because there is no evidence that Jesus was a hypnotist.

However, I think there is some evidence. I am referring to "The Social Settings of Jesus and The Gospels" in particular page 104. There, J. J. Pilch explains how the best explanation for visions and paranormal experiences in the gospels is through altered states of consciousness (ASC). Shamans have their life and livelihood in the summoning of ASCs. In the Israelite setting, holy men/prophets/messiahs were the shamans. Furthermore, as Daniel Dennett explains on page 137 of "Breaking the Spell", some researchers now believe that shamanic performances and rituals actually have enough power to hypnotize (which about 15% of the population is vulnerable to).

So, here's my argument:

1. Jesus played the cultural equivalent of a shaman.
2. Shamans probably have some ability to hypnotize or provide powerful suggestion.
3. Therefore, Jesus probably had some ability to hypnotize his followers or provide very powerful mental suggestions.

And yet all of this only gets us so far. How could Jesus have caused his disciples to experience him after he was dead? There are two possibilities: One is that he predicted his own death, as the gospels say, and perhaps did something to cause them to believe he would return (and thus they came to believe that he had returned). A second possibility is that one of the disciples, perhaps one acting as "assistant shaman", stepped up after Jesus' death and used his shamanic performances/rituals to induce belief that Jesus had risen.

And yet it is funny that this isn't even the only possibility to explain the resurrection appearances, as I argue another (much stronger, in my opinion) point of view in my recent article on the subject. Those with further interest in the subject should download my book, "Atheism and Naturalism" which actually includes a calculation of the odds of supernatural resurrection versus naturalistic explanation of the facts.


George Peterson said...

Or, maybe Jesus never existed. After all, there is zero evidence that he did.

Anonymous said...

Both the article and George Peterson raise valid points.

Either works for me.