Saturday, 10 September 2011

Patron saint of skepticism?

Do skeptics have a patron saint?

That sentence has a faintly ridiculous ring to it, but if we do have to have a patron saint then it is obvious at first glance that it should be the apostle Thomas.

I don't propose him because of his works for christianity, because he was the only one to witness the 'Assumption of Mary' or for his missionary zeal in India.  I admire him because he actually dared to ask questions of the ultimate (if fictional) authority figure, Jesus.  His questions were sensible and rational.  After all, it is not every day that someone gets tortured to death, buried and then rises again, unrecognised by their very closest friends, and then claims to be god.

Thomas wasn't being cynical and trying to undermine the myth of Jesus in any way.  He was just asking skeptical and sensible questions and in doing so he clearly strengthened the faith of the other apostles.

"Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" does not apply in any way to the remaining apostles.  They didn't have the opportunity for that honour, but you dear reader should find yourself more convinced by the story because of Thomas.

They may be laughed at his disbelief, but they were helped by the story that he did doubt that this could be Jesus, back from the dead, and that he wanted to see proof for himself.  When that proof was offered to Thomas and he was able to put his finger into the open wound, he was made to appear foolish.  But the proof was also observed by the rest of the assembly.  It is obvious that Thomas was used by the gospel writers primarily as a way of showing that there was more evidence than a mere verbal claim that this was the risen Jesus.  In their own minds they besmirched Thomas's good name in order to tell a good story.

In my mind they found a way to celebrate Thomas's rationality.

To me it always seems to be much more odd that the other apostles behaved in the way that they did - sheep-like and credulous - when they hadn't even recognised the man they had been following.  But of course this is seen as a good quality by the controlling forces of christianity.  It is much easier to herd sheep than cats.

Thomas was only a temporary anti-hero and he made up for it later.  I have always thought that the other anti-hero in the gang was treated rather shabbily too.  I will come back to Judas one day next week.

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