Why the war? Why today? Well, because today was when I finally had heard someone say "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible" one too many times.
I'm waging this war on behalf of intelligent atheists, of course. To try to prevent our being identified with those morons saying things like "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible." Also to try to help reasonably-intelligent people not be sucked in by such incredibly stupid memes. I realize that some stupid people, both atheists and believers, will think that I'm not an atheist, because I'm harshly criticizing people who happen to be atheists. At least with this standard disclaimer in place I can say to them, "Hey, Chuckles. Go back and read the 2nd paragraph again, assuming you read that far yr 1st time through. Read it 3 times through if you have to. Move yr lips while you read if you have to."
To say that a lot of half-educated people are weighing in on the subject of the historicity of Jesus would be an insult to the half-educated. Given the lack of evidence other than the New Testament, and unless and until we can find other evidence, the debate over Jesus' historicity is very little other than a debate over how much history we can extract from the New Testament. I disagree with the scholars who say it's certain that Jesus existed, but they're much more serious than those who reject the New Testament as relevant to the question in that they are examining the existing evidence.
Imagine if paeleontologists unearthed a fossilized bone which appeared to have belonged to a previously-unknown species of dinosaur. And imagine if they said, "Well, since this bone appears to be from a species for which we have no other evidence, we're going to have to completely disregard it. Instead of studying it, let's grind it up into dust instead, and see if we can manage to get an ingredient for half-decent fertilizer or concrete out of it." Hopefully you are appalled by the very thought of paeleontologists behaving in such a manner. Hopefully no one will have to explain to you why that's no damn way to run a railroad. And hopefully you can see the similarity between paeleontologists acting like that, and people saying "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible."
In this Wrong Monkey blog post I addressed the currently-popular mistaken notion that we possess the works of many historians who were in -- or anywhere near -- Jerusalem during the supposed time of Jesus. The morons who may challenge you: "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible" may go on from there to challenge you to go through the works of the fifty or so non-Biblical historians in which all mention of Jesus is suspiciously absent. Which you can't do because the number of such historians who said anything at all about Jerusalem at that time is not fifty but zero, which in turns of course tells you that the person challenging you to do your homework doesn't know his own ass from a Boing 757. It tells you how far they are from being able to find, and/or from taking the trouble to find, anyone else who has a clue about the history of that time or place before proceeding to tell you what's what about that time and place. There's no substitute for reading the ancient texts themselves, but someone who tells you, "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible," immediately before or after saying, "We possess the works of over fifty historians who were in or around Jerusalem during Jesus' lifetime" is not only obviously unfamiliar with those ancient texts, but also might have serious difficulty recognizing anyone else who is familiar with someone who is familiar with those texts. "Fifty historians," my Aunt Fanny! Just for fun, see if you can get them to name 10 historians who lived in the 1st century. Lived anywhere, be it Spain or China or the city of Rome. Very likely most of the writers they manage to name won't have lived in the 1st century AD, and will have written poetry or drama or philosophy or treatises on mathematics or rhetoric or medicine or architecture or military strategy, and not one word which they may or may not have written on any historical subject will have survived.
Know your sources. Including the people saying "Prove that Jesus existed. And don't use the Bible." Know them, and know the distance between them and, oh, for instance, me. And get it through your heads, whether you're trying to prove Jesus' existence or disprove it, or if, like me, you're simply curious about the question whatever the answer might turn out to be, that, barring some new discovery, almost all of the evidence for or against is in the New Testament.
And also, if you want people to think you've read the Bible -- read it. Endlessly referring to the same half-dozen verses having to do with shellfish and genocide and Lot's daughters is no longer maintaining the illusion. And while you're at it, you chuckleheads, read an entire book or two by Mark Twain.Your name is legion, and the endless repetition of a half-dozen lines from Twain has become every bit as tedious as the endless repetition of a half-dozen lines from the Bible.