A few months ago, I started digging deep into 9/11 conspiracy theories. Once I started watching videos about them, it seemed like I couldn’t stop! Something about these videos drew me to near-obsession for a couple days.
As I was deep into watching them, I realized that consideration of 9/11 conspiracy theories can connect to something else that intrigues me – the life of Jesus Christ.
To explain the connection, I first need to define what a conspiracy is. A conspiracy is basically an event where multiple people come together and agree to do something wrong (i.e. immoral or unlawful). Usually an intent to deceive others is involved.
This definition could be applied to the two most common explanations of 9/11 – that it was carried out by Al-Qaeda, or it was carried out by the U.S. government. In both cases, people would have to come together and agree to do something wrong. But the U.S. government explanation is the one called a conspiracy because it involves an attempt to deceive (lying about who planned the attacks).
People who support either explanation generally agree on a few facts:
– Airplanes hit towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center
– Both towers collapsed
– World Trade Center building 7 also collapsed
– A section of the Pentagon was severely damaged
– All people on flight 93 were killed after the flight changed its course of direction
– Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack
– The U.S. identified 19 highjackers of the airplanes involved
Both the standard and conspiracy explanations need to take these facts into account. The main question in a search for the correct explanation is: which one best explains all of the facts on hand? In other words, which one has the most explanatory power?
In order to answer this question, we need to look at the big picture of both explanations. This big-picture outlook could provoke some questions. For example, does it make sense that Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks if the U.S. government actually did it? Wouldn’t the leaders of Al-Queda have greater motivation to call out the U.S. as liars if that were the case?
When it comes to the life of Jesus, we can go through a similar process. Like the 9/11 conspiracy, there are a few leading explanations for the events that were written about Jesus’ life. There’s the standard explanation – Jesus is God and rose from the dead as the writers claimed. There’s the conspiracy theory – Jesus’ early followers elevated him to the level of God in an attempt to deceive others. And there are other explanations – such as his followers were deceived themselves through something like a hallucination.
A few agreed-upon facts also need to be taken into account for these leading explanations:
– A man that people called Jesus Christ lived during the first century A.D.
– Jesus did things that people claimed to be miraculous
– Jesus made authoritative claims about himself (i.e. at or close to the same authority level as God)
– Jesus died of Roman crucifixion
– People who were closest to Jesus claimed that they saw him alive after his death.
– Early Christians considered Jesus to have the same status of God (i.e. someone to be worshipped)
Which explanation has the most explanatory power when using these facts? Again, we need to look at the big picture by asking some questions. For example, if it was a conspiracy, what motivation would the followers of Jesus have to deceive others? If the followers were deceived, could hallucinations have caused that deception? If Jesus actually rose from the dead, is it possible for a miracle like that one to occur?
When we ask these big-picture questions, we can start to understand which explanation best fits all the facts. In the case of 9/11, Al-Qaeda taking responsibility for the attacks and the unlikelihood of the large-scale collusion that would be necessary for the U.S. to deceive others tip the scale towards the standard explanation – that Al-Qaeda did it. In the case of Jesus, the losses that the early followers of Jesus experienced (loss of life in some cases, loss of acceptance from others) and the unlikelihood of hallucinations leading to the experiences that they had tip the scale towards the standard explanation – that Jesus is God.
Whatever we may conclude about these events, it’s incredible that the same principles can be used to evaluate events that happened 2,000 years apart from each other. There is power in looking at the big picture, asking relevant questions, and seeking the best explanation.