The Hero Savior Analogy by Richard Carrier

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  1. JMcFarland profile image85
    JMcFarlandposted 5 years ago

    "Suppose I told you there was a soldier in the Vietnam War named "Hero Savior" who miraculously calmed storms, healed wounds, conjured food and water out of thin air, and then was blown up by artillery, but appeared again whole and alive three days later, giving instructions to his buddies before flying up into outer space right before their very eyes. Would you believe me? Certainly not. You would ask me to prove it.

    So I would give you all the evidence I have. But all I have are some vague war letters by a guy who never really met Hero Savior in person, and a handful of stories written over thirty years later by some guys named Bill, Bob, Carl, and Joe. I don't know for sure who these guys are. I don't even know their last names. There are only unconfirmed rumors that they were or knew some of the war buddies of Hero Savior. They might have written earlier than we think, or later, but no one really knows. No one can find any earlier documentation to confirm their stories, either, or their service during the war, or even find these guys to interview them. So we don't know if they really are who others claim, and we're not even sure these are the guys who actually wrote the stories. You see, the undated pamphlets circulating under their names don't say "by Bill" or "by Bob," but "as told by Bill" and "as told by Bob." Besides all that, we also can't find any record of a Hero Savior serving in the war. He might have been a native guide whose name never made it into official records, but still, none of the historians of the war ever mention him, or his amazing deeds, or even the reports of them that surely would have spread far and wide.

    Besides the dubious evidence of these late, uncorroborated, unsourced, and suspicious stories, the best thing I can give you is that war correspondence I mentioned, some letters by an army sergeant actually from the war, who claims he was a skeptic who changed his mind. But he never met or saw Hero in life, and never mentions any of the miracles that Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe talk about. In fact, the only thing this sergeant ever mentions is "seeing" Hero after his death, though not "in flesh and blood," but in a "revelation." That's it.

    This sergeant also claims the spirit of Hero Savior now enables him and some others to "speak in tongues" and "prophecy" and heal some illnesses, but none of this has been confirmed or observed by anyone else on record, and none of it sounds any different than what thousands of other cults and gurus have claimed. So, too, for some unconfirmed reports that some of these believers, even this army sergeant, endured persecution or even died for believing they "saw Hero in a revelation"--a fact no more incredible than the Buddhists who set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War, certain they would be reincarnated, or the hundreds of people who voluntarily killed themselves at Jonestown, certain their leader was sent by God.

    Okay. I've given you all that evidence. Would you believe me then? Certainly not. No one trusts documents that come decades after the fact by unknown authors, and hardly anyone believes the hundreds of gurus today who claim to see and speak to the spirits of the dead, heal, and predict the future. Every reasonable person expects and requires extensive corroboration by contemporary documents and confirmed eyewitness accounts. Everyone would expect here at least as much evidence as I'd need to prove I owned a nuclear missile, yet the standard required is actually that of proving I own an interstellar spacecraft--for these are clearly very extraordinary claims, and as we saw above, such claims require extraordinary evidence, as much as would be needed, for example, to convince the United Nations that I had an interstellar spacecraft on my lawn. Yet what we have for this Hero Savior doesn't even count as ordinary evidence, much less the extraordinary evidence we really need.

    To complete the analogy, many other things would rightly bother us. Little is remarkable about the stories told of Hero Savior, for similar stories apparently have been told of numerous Vietnamese sorcerers and heroes throughout history--and no one believes them, so why should we make an exception for Hero? The documents we have from Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe have also been tampered with--we've found some cases of forgery and editing in each of their stories by parties unknown, and we aren't sure we've caught it all. Apparently, their stories were used by several different cults to support their causes, and these cults all squabble over the exact details of the right cause, and so tell different stories or interpret the stories differently to serve their own particular agenda. And the earliest version, the one told by Bob, which both Bill and Joe clearly copied, added to, and edited (which Carl might have done, too, perhaps by borrowing loosely from Joe), appears to have been almost entirely constructed out of passages from an ancient Vietnamese poem, arranged and altered to tell a story full of symbolic and moral meaning. These and many other problems plague the evidence, leaving it even more suspect than normal.

    This Hero Savior analogy entirely parallels the situation for Jesus.[7] Every reason we would have not to believe these Hero Savior stories applies to the stories of Jesus with all the same force. So if you agree there would be no good reason to believe these Hero Savior stories, you must also agree there is insufficient reason to believe the Jesus Christ stories. Hence I am not a Christian because the evidence is not good enough. For it is no better than the evidence proposed for Hero Savior, and that falls far short of the burden that would have to be met to confirm the very extraordinary claims surrounding him."  Richard Carrier in "Why I'm not a Christian"

    I'm interested to see what people think of this analogy - or how they would excuse it as unsound.

    1. profile image0
      Emile Rposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      You do realize that this is  not an analogy of Jesus? I assume you did read the Gospels?

      The correct analogy would not be of a sergeant in the army. Jesus was supposed to be a peasant in an occupied territory. More in line with the son of a guy that owned a rice paddy. No. That's wrong. He would be the son of a guy that worked in a rice paddy. There is no mention of his family owning anything. Most scholars now believe Joseph was a common laborer, not a carpenter.

      So, let's say China (while occupied by Japan) during WWII. Or, maybe the Jewish community in Nazi Germany. Here's a guy on the bottom of the economic ladder, not part of the controlling party, not even accepted as a citizen in that land...walking around and talking to people. And people don't know what he is talking about. The community has a legend of a warrior that will rise and save them from oppression.

      Now we have an unknown noncitizen at the bottom of the economic ladder. Those who hear him probably whisper what they have heard (or seen); because they fear that the Japanese, or the Nazis, will grab this guy before he finishes readying for his great military campaign. Even the few who walk around with him think this. Sometimes, they get an inkling of what is going on; but they have been oppressed for so long that in the back of their minds they still hope that their first idea was the best one.

      A few Nazis or Japanese get it. They ask him to help their soldiers or support staff and he does. He doesn't say "No, you are the enemy I will soon kill." He actually commends them for letting him help, Are they going to go to their superiors and alert them of the interaction? Probably not. That is consorting with the enemy. So, they thankfully go about their business.

      This non citizen doesn't broadcast the fact that he has done anything. Others begin to broadcast it. But, they have no idea why he is teaching. They have their own ideas for what the reasons for his presence are. And his popularity grows. Everyone starts saying "Oh, we are going to be saved from the oppression."

      Now, remember, there were no printing presses, publishers or agents back then. Most everything was word of mouth since this guy and those he was teaching were walking around and either camping out or staying as guests in other people's homes. And all of this was underground in an occupied territory.

      The guy gets turned in to the authorities by double agents. All is considered lost. All of those he wandered around with are now in fear for their lives and in hiding. He is summarily executed in a public manner, but.....what the hey?.....he shows back up. Hangs around for a while with his followers (just to make sure there is no doubt it is him); appearing here there and everywhere out of the blue. They know something amazing has happened; but they are still reeling from the fact that what they wanted to happen didn't. They needed time to digest the whole chain of events and come to an understanding of them. Mull over things he said over the course of a few years and piece the puzzle together so it makes sense to them. It takes a while because, they know, the story is unbelievable.

      After that, they pen their memoirs of the time spent with this noncitizen peasant. Still, in occupied territory. Full well knowing that their missives can get them killed.

      So, you have a scenario that is, understandably, somewhat muddled. No news coverage, a government that doesn't want the populace to hear anything about it; a government with tight control over all aspects of society. And yet, the story gets out.

      Not only does the story get out, but now others are claiming miracles happened in the name of this man. They have seen him, heard him or benefited from praying to him. Thousands of those who believe in him are now performing miracles and conversion rates are through the roof.

      The government cracks down, with no success. People are now willing to die for their beliefs. The government perceives a problem of such magnitude that after several hundred years of tyranny they acquiesce and make that religion their formal religion. Supplanting their historic beliefs with those of a culture whose members they have raped, sacked, murdered and fed to the lions.

      I get non belief today. We have no eye witness accounts of anything. Throughout our continuous recorded history we have no verifiable proof. But, to question the beginnings of the religion, the reasons for the time lapse, the discrepancies in eye witness accounts is a bit disingenuous. Or, it shows a complete lack of ability to put anything into the perspective of the time frame and social structure in which it occurred.

      Edit. I forgot to point out that as the son of a common laborer, with no formal education in the subject matter he is teaching about; even today he would have a difficult time being recognized by those in that particular line of study. He would be scoffed at, denied recognition and generally hated if his teaching was in direct contrast to theirs. There would be no record of anything he had to say in the documents they kept in reference to their field of study.

  2. Zelkiiro profile image93
    Zelkiiroposted 5 years ago

    I heard from some guy who knew a guy at the doughnut shop who heard from his wife that her friend told her that a major storm dissipated over Vietnam during the war!


  3. kess profile image59
    kessposted 5 years ago

    the difference is in the story tellers.

    one of them know they are lying....can you tell which?


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