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Do Atheists deny the existence of Socrates?

There is no physical evidence of Socrates and no evidence that he ever wrote anything if he did exist. Why then is there a predisposition to denying that some religious historical persons of significance existed, but not for non-religious historical persons?

Posted: April 26th 2012

EXSTEN

It’s widely accepted among scholars that both Socrates and Jesus (a man named Jesus) did exist. If you were asking about the ubiquity the Christ Myth hypothesis on the Internet, I don’t agree with those ideas, so I can’t comment.

The real question is whether Jesus was a divine being who did supernatural things and came back from the dead. There is a predisposition to deny that, because it’s a much stronger claim than that a man existed. Different types of evidence suffice to prove different types of claims.

Posted: January 4th 2013

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Eric_PK

It’s very simple.

That Socrates existed is not an extraordinary claim; he is said to have been an excellent teacher and philosopher.

That somebody named Jesus existed is not an extraordinary claim.

That he was the son of god, was raised from the dead, and performed miracles – not that is an extraordinary claim.

Or, to put it another way, if Socrates did not exist, it’s not a big deal to my worldview. But if Jesus did not exist – or was not a god – it’s a huge deal to the christian worldview.

So, to summarize:

Socrates: Ordinary claim, minimal effect on my worldview.

Jesus: Extraordinary claim, huge effect on the christian worldview.

That is why they are different.

Posted: June 30th 2012

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Galen Rose www

You are right that there is no physical evidence of Socrates and no evidence that he wrote anything. However, Plato wrote extensively and admiringly about the ideas of Socrates, ideas that he probably would have loved to claim were his own. No, this doesn’t prove Socrates existed, but it is pretty good evidence.

I assume you had in mind the question of the existence of Jesus as you wrote your question. So, let’s compare the above with the case for Jesus from the Gospels: the Gospels claim that Jesus was followed around by great multitudes, attracted the attention of many important Jewish and Roman officials, performed dozens of public miracles, and his death was attended by an earthquake, a three hour darkness, and saints leaving their graves and walking around town. Now notice that not one single historian of that period ever noticed even one of these wondrous things, as not one ever mentioned Jesus in his writings. That simple fact suggests very strongly that the NT is a work of fiction, a compilation of myth and legend.

It is possible that a small time preacher named Jesus did exist, but since no historian can verify any of the miraculous claims about him, it becomes very unlikely that he was divine or special in any significant way.

You see, it’s not just missing evidence in the case of Jesus, it’s that there is considerable evidence that he was not who the Gospels claimed he was.

Posted: May 2nd 2012

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Daniel Midgley www

It’s okay with me if Socrates never existed. But if he didn’t, someone had those ideas, and they’re pretty good ideas, no matter who had them. His ideas weren’t supernatural.

On the other hand, if Jesus didn’t exist, it would completely obliterate the supernatural claims made about the things he did.

It’s entirely correct to hold Jesus to a higher standard of evidence than Socrates because the claims surrounding Jesus are much more extraordinary. No one ever came to my house telling me that Socrates died for everyone’s sins, or that I need to pay lots of money to attend meetings every week praising Socrates.

Posted: May 2nd 2012

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brian thomson www

I tend towards “consequentialism”, in the sense that I judge propositions by their consequences, known or speculative. So, if I was to deny the existence of Socrates, what would be the consequences of that denial?

... crickets …

So why is this an issue at all? Because there are ideas that we associate with Socrates, writings and sayings. But even if a particular “Socrates” did not exist, we would still have the writings. For all I know, there was no single “Socrates”, and that was a pen-name used by various writers over generations. Does it matter?

I’ve said something similar when there have been questions here about the existence of “Jesus”. The mere existence of someone or something doesn’t mean anything on its own: people believe “Jesus” is important because of what he reportedly said and did. He was hardly the first to claim to be “son of God”, but Christians believe that he backed that his claims with actions.

I don’t actively deny the existence of a “Jesus”, and I don’t think many other atheists do. The question I have is: should I/we care whether someone with that name existed? What is the evidence to support the claims made by and for him? You’re asking the wrong questions; try imagining how it all looks to an atheist when Christians go on and on about how wonderful “Jesus” was, but without any more justification than feelings or “the Bible says so”.

Posted: May 2nd 2012

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