Last month, we explored the intersection of False Memory and True Scripture. Can people manufacture false memories — memories of things that didn’t happen? Yes. Is that evidence against the apostolic witness? Far from it. Let’s consider another angle. Here is a lovely view over a German city called Bielefeld.* On the far left, you can see St. Jodokus Catholic Church. The city, overall, houses over 300,000 people.
Except that it doesn’t exist.
According to some, the city of Bielefield is part of a vast conspiracy to invent a place and convince the rest of the world of it. For what reason? No one knows. How long has the conspiracy go on? Since the mid-1990’s when the conspiracy was first mentioned on the Internet. All of this is, of course, a joke. There are many people from Bielefeld. There’s a university in Bielefeld. Maps reference it. Google Maps zooms in and shows you a street view. It’s a real place.
Or is it?
If I am convinced that the hoax — the joke — is true, then I can hand-wave away any piece of evidence you give to me. If I believe in the Bielefeld Conspiracy, then I can easily devise a reason to reject each piece of evidence. The people from Bielefeld are lying. The university website is made up. The map companies have fallenvictim to the conspiracy (or they’re in on it!). Google Maps is a part of the conspiracy, manufacturing street view photos from a sound stage and labeling them as “Bielefeld”. If you travel there and see it yourself, you’ve been fooled by a complex fabrication, like Main Street at the Magic Kingdom.
To most people, this becomes ridiculous quickly. If there is that much evidence that the town exists, then it probably exists. Further, if you can claim Bielefeld doesn’t exist despite all that evidence, you can claim anything doesn’t exist in the same way. I can just as easily claim that the founders of New Evangelizers, Greg and Jennifer Willits, don’t exist. The photo of them on their website? That’s a pair of actors. The voices on their podcast? Those are voice actors, of course. The people that have claimed to meet them? They’ve been fooled as well, or joined the conspiracy. What if I see them myself? What if I shakes hands with them? I can write it off as a hallucination, or a meeting with those same two actors, or being drugged by some conspirator. No amount of evidence will completely break down the conspiracy if I’m willing to explain away every piece of it, against all probability.
The evidence of Christianity is similarly hand-waved away, at times. Can there be serious scholarly discussion? Of course. But something so important deserves at least that serious discussion. Often, the evidence is simply brushed off. The Gospels — ancient biographies of Jesus — are written off as fabrications. Other biographies from ancient times are accepted, even if they were written further from their subject’s day than those of Christ. The Turin Shroud and the Eucharistic miracles are written off as hoaxes. The historical names and places of Scripture are brushed aside as invented or fictionalized, even as they start to show up in the archaeological record.
If one is committed to seeing a conspiracy or hoax, instead of fact, then no amount of evidence is enough, because none of it is real evidence. There is an explanation for everything. And that means there’s ultimately an explanation for nothing.
Of course, this entire article may be a part of the vast Bielefeld Conspiracy, making light of it to perpetuate it further. Truly, there is no end if you don’t want there to be.
Copyright 2016, Joe Wetterling
Image courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bielefeld_City.jpg
* Which doesn’t exist. **
** Or does it?