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Virgin birth?

What are the atheist ideas toward the virgin birth? More precisely, what are the arguments against it?

Posted: November 29th 2011

George Locke

The basic argument is straightforward: humans are conceived from a sperm and an egg or they are not conceived at all. The biology is really that simple.

Whatever exceptions (e.g. here) there may be to this rule require a special set of circumstances. If you have evidence that Jesus represents such an exception, you are free to present it. In the absence of such evidence, the only rational conclusion is that Jesus was not born to a virgin (if he ever lived at all).

(The “evidence” I’ve seen for the virgin birth is quite poor. One tack is to show that Matthew and Luke are independent reporters, but they agree on the virgin birth, and independent reporters are unlikely to agree by pure chance. Of course, no other gospel reports virgin birth, so this argument is already on shaky ground, but really, if you’re trying to claim that natural laws are suspended, you’ll have to do better than two biased accounts that have been subject to extensive alteration after the fact. Most of the other arguments I’ve seen rely on the premise that Jesus was divine, and then claim that this isn’t possible without virgin birth. Needless to say, that premise must be demonstrated before the argument can be taken seriously.)

Posted: December 6th 2011

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Galen Rose www

The problem I have with virgin birth is that it requires a miracle, and no miracle has ever been proven, not one. Everything we have learned about science over the past few hundred years tells us that the laws of nature are NEVER violated anywhere or anytime. So when a miracle is suggested, I start looking for natural explanations. For example, did Mary have a virgin birth, or did a teenage girl get into trouble and lie about it? Well, no virgin birth has ever been recorded (in a human), but a teenage girl gets into trouble and lies about it every single day. Now which is more likely? Do I think this is what really happened to Mary? No, but it’s several orders of magnitude more likely than a virgin birth.

Until someone proves “miracle” is the only possible explanation for some event, any event, then I will continue to disqualify that explanation for any and all events.

Posted: December 5th 2011

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Eric_PK

I’m assuming you mean the virgin birth of Jesus.

The arguments against it are pretty obvious – human reproduction works by taking half of the chromosomes from the father and half from the mother. If you don’t have a father, you need to get those chromosomes from somewhere. If you get them from the mother, then you have a clone, which doesn’t work because Jesus is male.

So where did Jesus get his Y chromosome?

Posted: December 5th 2011

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SmartLX www

Parthenogenesis, independent conception by a female without genetic material from a male, does occasionally happen in the animal kingdom, for example in certain sharks. It’s impossible in humans, though, because sperm contains critical components for an embryo. Of course, no one’s trying to argue that it could have happened naturally to Mary. The whole point is that it was supposedly a miracle.

This aspect of the story of Jesus is as suspect as any other supernatural part of it, but the main argument against the virgin birth is that the claim itself is likely a mistranslation. The original Hebrew text referred to Mary as an almah, which means maiden or young woman, but this was translated into the Greek parthenos, which literally means virgin. The literal Hebrew word for virgin was betulah, and it was not written.

Therefore, if the Gospels hadn’t passed through the Greek language on their way to being translated into every other, there might be no scriptural basis for a virgin birth at all. You’d have to think the translations and the original texts are divinely inspired to be confident that Mary was a virgin mother.

Incidentally, the term “immaculate conception” is sometimes applied to Jesus but it actually refers to Mary, who according to Catholic dogma was born completely without sin, even the normally ubiquitous Original Sin.

Posted: December 4th 2011

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