>” Alex, thanks for reading. I believe your question is perhaps sincere, but it’s classic logical fallacy because the way the question is phrased you’re baiting someone into only replying with one response where they effectively have to say, “well of course that would be a cult!” When we make hasty generalizations or black-or-white/false dichotomies, we miss the truth in the middle.”
That’s not what the word fallacy means. The reason that’s the natural answer to the question is because Christianity factually is descended from a cult. You not liking this does not make it a fallacious question.
>” So let me address where that presumption falls apart.”
It isn’t a presumption, and it does not fall apart. You do not accept it for the same reason Mormons, Muslims and Scientologists do not accept that their religions started out as cults. You’re only able to see that about their religions from the outside.
Mormons don’t recognize that about Mormonism. It’s designed to prevent them from realizing it. Likewise with Muslims and Islam, and with Scientologists and Scientology. You are in the same boat, but are psychologically prevented from realizing it in the same way they are.
>” There are secular, non-biblical accounts of Jesus and his supposed miracles.”
No, there aren’t. The only purported examples are known forgeries.
>” The Babylonian Talmud claims Jesus was killed for “practicing sorcery.””
The Talmud is a religious text. You seem to be confused as to what the word secular means. Religions often credulously assume the truth of supernatural claims, but malign them as being evil in some way. Examples include Christian allowance that the claims of Hindu Yogis may be true, but that they get their powers from Satan.
>” Historian Josephus claims he “wrought surprising feats” and that some people claimed he resurrected from the dead.”
The mentions of Jesus in Josephus’ writings are agreed by Historians to have been fraudulent later additions by Christians looking to fabricate support for their religion:
>”Christ doesn’t teach the world is ending, it’s the exact opposite. He teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and asks people to have a change of heart (the literal meaning of “repent”). His disciples are the ones who ask about the end of the world and what signs will occur. He only then answers their question.”
No, this is a lie you have told. It is Biblical canon, as described in Revelation, that a destructive cataclysm will destroy the old world before it is replaced with a perfect kingdom that Christ will rule over for the subsequent thousand years prior to the final destruction of Earth itself, at the conclusion of history.
Christ himself predicts repeatedly in scripture that this event is close at hand:
1 John 2:18
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
>”Christ teaches they way to life and freedom is through death to self. Buddhists and several other religions teach this as well. That doesn’t make them a cult.”
This is the in-religion rationale for those verses, which you accept at face value. But the fact of the matter is that scripture contains admonitions to rid yourself of worldly belongings if you wish to follow Christ. This is not a suggestion but a requirement, though it is no longer in effect today (because it is no longer necessary to retain converts, and made potent ammunition for critics):
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Please note that only Luke 18:22 and Matthew 19:21 concern the story of Jesus advising the wealthy young man about the difficulty of entering heaven.
These verses are included for completeness, and to acknowledge the existence of this story because the most common objection I receive to the claim that Jesus required followers to sell their belongings is that I *must* be talking about this particular story and misunderstanding the message it conveys.
However in Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33 Jesus is not speaking to that man but to a crowd following him, and in 14:33 he specifically says that those who do not give up everything they have **cannot** be his disciples. It is therefore not a recommendation but a requirement.
Anyways, scripture also contains admonitions to separate yourself from your family if they don’t approve of Christianity. This is factually something that cults do, because family members are the most likely to extricate new recruits. You undoubtedly have a rationalization for this, but it is what it is:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.”
“For I have come to turn a man against his father a daughter against her mother a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — -a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
>”Jesus also uses parables and intentional overstatements to get across his message and has some pretty outrageous statements at face value. Yet, at examination they are warnings about everything from the love of money to making your family an idol and how it can destroy you. Several other religions do this as well.”
Yes, and those religions are all descended from cults too. That’s why they all have these practices in common.
>”Remember that cult leaders are manipulative and power hungry.”
Not all of them lust for power. Many of them, like Marshall Applewhite, sincerely believe their own claims.
>”They desire control above all else. If there’s one thing that can be said of Christ it’s that he constantly gives up control and shriks any grabs at power. His followers believed him to be political messiah who would overthrow the Romans to which he consistently rebukes them for. He never once goes for power or manipulates anyone. In fact, it would appear to be the exact opposite as many people go away sad.”
According to the Bible, the only surviving account of what Jesus was like with any detail to it. According to Dianetics and all other Scientological writings about L. Ron Hubbard, he was a genius, a philanthropist and a war hero. According to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was a morally perfect human.
We only know Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were not as their respective holy books describe them because they lived recently enough that there are plentiful surviving accounts written by people outside of their religions about how they really behaved.
If they died thousands of years ago, it’s much more likely that the only accounts of what they were like that people bothered to preserve would be their holy texts. Then, the only information we’d have about them would say they were remarkable, benevolent, brilliant men.
>”There are over 14,000 early copies of the New Testament, in which secular papyrologist Carsten Peter Thiede said he can date certain fragments of the gospels back to AD 60. That means that’s a timeframe within 30 or 40 years after Jesus was actually walking the earth, while many of the eyewitnesses were still alive.”
Indeed, the timeframe within which Jesus himself predicted he would return:
>”Homer has 643 copies (which is the next largest number of copies compared to the New Testament). The earliest copies of Plato’s Republic are 1,300 years removed from the original. Aristotle’s work is 1,400 years removed from the original writings. We only have ten copies of Caesar’s work and the earliest copy is 950 years removed from the original. Tacitus — who I mentioned earlier — has only 20 copies and the earliest is about 1,000 years old from the original. If we were to apply the scrutiny we have towards New Testament reliability and eye witness accounts as we do to the Western Canon of Literature, we’d have to throw out Plato, Aristotle, and Julius Caesar.”
I’m confused. Do you believe I am arguing that Jesus never existed?
>” So while I understand the ist of your question, it falls apart under closer scrutiny.”
Christianity falls apart under closer scrutiny. Early Christianity, as described in scripture, has all of the qualities we today associate with apocalyptic cults. Jews recognize this, and it’s why they don’t believe Jesus was the messiah, among many other reasons.
Islam and Mormonism try to supercede Christianity in the same way Christianity did to Judaism. You look at those religions in the same way Jews look at Christianity. You can recognize things about Islam and Mormonism that are invisible to Muslims and Mormons.
No cult survives very long unless it includes teachings which prevent members from realizing they are in a cult. Otherwise they would realize it, and leave. If you allow that successful cults do this, and that it’s why people in cults don’t realize that’s what they’re in, what prevents you from being in that situation? How would you know? Are people in cults just dummies, and you’re too smart to be fooled like that?