This Non-Religious Life Episode 77: Jesus the Zealot

This Non-Religious Life Episode 77: Jesus the Zealot


If you haven’t been living under a rock this week you have undoubtedly seen the reactions to Dr. Reza Aslan’s interview on While Dr. Aslan might have been acting defensively, Bob, Jason and I all agree that he did have the right to do so. His new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth explores the not so new idea that if there was an historical Jesus, that he would have been a religious zealot. One who was crucified for treason due to the amount of rabble rousing he did. The theory is one of the more solid arguments concerning Jesus.

For example, in Mark 15:47 when Jesus is crucified, he is said to have been placed with two thieves. However, the translation is a poor one, and the Greek “lestos” actually means a bandit or a brigand. An anarchist in the eyes of Rome, and someone who would threaten the stability of the new Roman regime in this frontier province. Crucifixion was reserved for the most heinous of acts, and treason was one of them. Bob, Jason and I dig right in, to not only the arguments made by Dr. Aslan about his right to write a book on the subject but also, to the argument itself.

We also dig more into our listener Aaron’s discussion with us about Intelligent Design. We discuss the nature of analogies in explaining complicated ideas, how biology is more than a game of legos where one piece being added or taken away has to give a working function but rather how parts are both added while other parts are changed, and how ring species show definitive proof of speciation and thus one “kind” becoming another “kind.”

As always we want to know your thoughts! You can always contact us at [email protected], like us on Facebook / Google+ or call the ZPN hotline at (757) 337-2195. And don’t forget to subscribe to This Non-Religious Life on  iTunes or listen to us on Stitcher Radio.

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About author

Jason Bayless

Jason Bayless is a life-long activist and is currently working at The Pachamama Alliance. When he is not working he spends, working with Center for Farmworker Families and spending his time recording shows, writing blogs, collecting 3D movies, and playing VR games.

  • Aaron Kren1

    August 1, 2013

    Here are a few responses to the podcast.

    1.) Bob, you were arguing against the point that the disciples wouldn’t die for something that was a lie. Yes, people would die for something that is a lie. But, a more accurate wording of the argument is this: the disciples wouldn’t die for something they knew was a lie.

    2.) My comment that the monkeys could go extinct if they made too many mistakes was perhaps crammed into the analogy. However, I did mention my bigger issue with the analogy, that in real life, nature wouldn’t select for short sequences that were jibberish. In order for nature to save the 8 letter sequences, they would have to be advantageous in and of themselves – not just advantageous in reaching a grander ultimate goal.

    3.) In regard to the salamander ring species – this is hardly close to one “kind” becoming another “kind.” Most creationists equate kinds with Linnaeus’ family classification. From what I’ve read of the salamander ring, it is considered an example of incomplete speciation. Species is somewhat of a loose classification based primarily on whether or not two groups interbreed. In some cases they can’t interbreed (don’t have same sex organs or same number of chromosomes). In other cases they don’t interbreed (have developed different mating rituals or preferences). In the case of the salamanders, although there is some notable genetic differences, I would venture to say that even the groups at the opposite ends of the spectrum could interbreed if forcefully made to. Personally, I have no problem with speciation – nor do I think any ID supporter does. Observable speciation is typically marked by slight allele differences, not in the large scale differences at the family level. In the case of the salamanders, the most notable morphological difference was their skin coloring. This is hardly proof that one unique system can evolve into another unique system. Claiming that small changes eventually add up to these large changes is only supposition.

    4.) In regard to the paper I cited on gene duplication: you pointed out the author’s claim that the pigment gene could change its function with only two mutations. The author is massaging the data a bit. The paper he cites clearly states that 7 substitutions are necessary to change the function. It could be that 2 of the substitutions provide most of the functional change – but all 7 are needed to completely bridge the gap.

    5.) In regard to the eye as a potentially irreducibly complex organ: Behe never makes this claim. Behe’s focus is on the protein/chemical system of light sensitivity. The various types of eyes in nature is not relevant to this issue. From what I’ve read, I don’t see any attempts at explaining how all the proteins necessary for light sensitivity slowly evolved into a light sensitive system. Instead, most papers on the evolution of the eye start explaining what happened after the basic system was already in place. When it comes to explaining how the proteins evolved in the first place, one paper says “it can also be speculated that an ancestral gene that performed a particular function has diversified over the course of evolution and has brought new functionality to that organism.” This toothless explanation doesn’t come close to refuting Behe’s claim. Interestingly, this paper also mentions “It is surprising that colour vision, which would require more complex signal processing, evolved before the simpler chromatic vision.” (

    6.) In regard to the claim that there isn’t any ID research. Here are a couple ID papers that are relevant to our discussion. They examine evolution’s ability to change proteins. ( and (


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