I need an answer for an atheist

(Edited) Such a simple question but I don’t have a good answer. If Jesus rose from the dead, why has no one else risen from the dead? I know that we believe we will rise at the end of time but is there something better I could tell an atheist? Why does everyone not immediately rise after they die?

Forgive me for posting this in multiple places. This is kind of urgent. Such a simple question but I don’t have a good answer. If Jesus rose from the dead, why has no one else risen from the dead? I know that we believe we will rise at the end of time but is there something better I could tell an atheist? Why does everyone not immediately rise after they die?

According to the gospel called Matthew, a lot of people rose from the dead back then.

“…and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (27:52).

And there were a few examples in the Old Testament, too. And Paul and Peter supposedly raised people from death.

And actually, I was reading in the newspaper the other day that a baby came back to life hours after she stopped breathing and was declared dead and was in the morgue.

Still, coming back to life after being dead wouldn’t be a reason to an Atheist to say that a God exists, fyi.


I’d say that the obvious example is Lazarus, who holds many important metaphorical and literal teachings for Christians.

But since your atheist friend will not be satisfied with Biblical examples (since he doesn’t recognize the authority of the Bible), simply put: Jesus raising from the dead in itself does not require others to be raised from the dead at this specific moment in time. He defeated death, which itself is the consequence of original sin. That’s the point, The point is not that other people are randomly raised from the dead, but rather that Christ overcame the world and its fallen nature.

It’s a simple instance of misunderstanding the Word on the part of your atheist friend, I think.

It is our belief that Jesus, being God, rose from the dead of his own volition. We humans would have to “be raised” by the power of God. Lazarus is a good example of this.
God has established that this will occur at the time of the general judgement.

Of course actually - for the Christian - the resurrection, while marvelous hope is (at least in my opinion) secondary. What happens to my mortal remains are of little interest to me. Jesus has stated that those who believe in Him and who do the Father’s Will will never die. So it matters little to me whether I have a material body or not.

Don’t know if this helps much…

One question I would maybe ask him is - - What significance does he places on this? Just curious.


Would he believe Jesus was the Son of God and follow Him if people suddenly rose from the dead?

His question, intellectually, is one that rests on a number of premises he does not understand or accept yet - first, that there is a God who operates outside of time and space. (And therefore, as Christ is God, He can conquer death, even if we do not see the immediate effects of His conquest.) Second, the Catholic understanding of the Resurrection - it is not merely re-animation, but glorification of the human body and soul to become “like God”. Third, the Catholic understanding of our purpose. God made us to be with Him, forever, in His Kingdom at the end of time. Therefore it would do no man any good to be resurrected, in the full sense, before then, even as a sign. Because it’s not meant to be a sign.

Finally, Christ has already given us signs that He has risen. He upped the ante to its utmost when He came to Earth. He claimed to be God Himself, and to do what God alone can do - forgive sins, change the liturgy, judge the souls of people, interpret the Word of God and even change how we understand it. (“You have heard it said (by God)… but I say to you…”) And He proved himself with miracles. Even if your friend does not accept the common miracles (healings, exorcisms, etc), what can he deny about the Resurrection? Can he deny that happened?

He can make up any number of excuses as to why the Resurrection is not enough. But all such excuses are nonsense. Has anyone risen from the dead before, or since? If it happened every day, could we not explain away the one Resurrection that really did happen? But it happened only once. And even that men would make such an outrageous claim, unlike ANY OTHER IN HISTORY, is a sign that something is different about this man, Jesus. For no other teacher, philosopher, or man in history has ever been considered “resurrected” as Christ has been.

At the resurrection is the judgment, where all our doings (and their results) are judged.
It is at the end of this world, rather than when we die, because the repercussions (and therefore the extent of our debt or reward) is not complete when we die. Thomas Aquinas is still doing a good work in me after being dead over 700 years, because I am his present student. Hitler has been dead almost 70 years, yet his genocide still hurts people and families and nations.
We (the world) judged Jesus (and still do when we deny him). His resurrection happened because his “being judged” happened and he was without fault. And the same was granted to Mary, the Queen Mother of the King.
You understand that this will be of no consequence to an atheist, since he does not believe in any resurrection, nor Jesus, nor God.

The bible says the dead are not conscious of anything while dead. (Ecclesiastes.)

Therefore, they will have no awareness of the passage of time between their death and their resurrection.
To them, it would seem like the last thing they remembered was the moment just before death then instantly they would be in a new (space/time) dimension - afterlife.

So “the dead” themselves wouldnt be affected by the eventual delayed timing of their own resurrection.

Therefore the atheist’s question seems to be about, and coming from, the perspective of those still living.

Why cant THEY experience for themself the reality of seeing someone come back from the dead immediately.
Why can’t THEY have the benefit (or otherwise) of being able to see someone else’s resurrection immediately rather than dying just like everyone else.

Do you begin to see why the (impatient) atheist/skeptic might have this sort of question in their mind? :thumbsup:
And often they will pose questions like these as a counter-apologetic device but underlying the question is a common atheist attitude.

First prove to me that God exists - and then I will decide whether or not to obey Him

Theologically speaking, why might God possibly have a problem with this sort of…‘show me the money’ attitude?

First of all, note that Jesus is God incarnate, both God and human. The rest of us are just humans. So something different happening with Jesus does not imply it should happen to us all.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is: We do die, and we won’t get our bodies back until the Final Judgement. Why it is that way, I cannot personally explain, but it probably has something to do with the effects of original sin. It really doesn’t matter why does it? Perhaps it is not for us to know. If the atheist is trying to imply that Christianity doesn’t make sense unless everyone rises from the dead immediately, I don’t see how that could be. There is nothing contradictory to our faith in that reality of death-without-immediate-resurrection. In fact, our faith has that reality fully integrated into it, especially in the doctrine of a particular judgement. How could there be a particular judgement if people’s souls basically stayed on earth the whole time until the Last Judgement?

I don’t see how all of this could be a relevant question to a debate over Christianity. Why is the atheist asking this? What point is he trying to make? Maybe the underlying point of his question could be answered better than the question itself.

namax91 as an atheist let me say I don’t know what the atheist you’re talking to is trying to get at. Nowhere in christianity does it say people are supposed to rise from the dead (at least bodily). Is he just asking out of curiosity or is he trying to make a point? It just seems like a strange thing – out of all the things that comprise christianity – to focus on.

Jesus is God-man. Only God can give life, and He said He would rise on the third day after His burial, death could not hold Him. That is not the case with humans. We are subjected to God’s laws, and He will resurrect the good and bad at the Last Judgement, and separate the good, from the bad. His resurrection from the dead in confirmation of His divinity. No one else has this power.

…errrm. :wink:

“…we will not be spirits without bodies”

“…just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

"…But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

“…The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,”

Uh… have you even read the New Testament?

Oldest letter in it, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, I quote:

“We would not, brethren, have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, lest you should grieve, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so with Him God will bring those also who have fallen asleep through Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:13-14, Confraternity Version).

The Resurrection of Jesus is centripetal to the Christian faith. And of the doctrines that cling to this one is the Resurrection on the last day.

Lion IRC and TarkanAttila, you are both absolutely right. I goofed! :blush:

I’m still trying to get an idea what this person who namax91 is talking to is trying to say (or at least imply). I had hoped to try and help translate the question being asked from a non-believer’s persepective.

This sounds very surprising to me. I think the Theology of the Body people may disagree with you. Do you think of your physical body as just a shell? Aren’t human beings created as a body and soul? Wouldn’t you feel incomplete? Angels are purely spiritual. Human beings were created spiritual and material.

I’m sorry friend but that’s not the correct way to look at our physical bodies. It is absolutely a central and fundamental dogma of the Christian faith that our bodies are holy and that we will be resurrected with the bodies we have now. That is shown in the lives of the saints, the fact that their relics are venerated by the Church, and most importantly by the fact that the Logos Himself became a human.

I merely stated my own opinion. Others are certainly free to contradict me.
No I don’t think of my body as “just a shell” but neither do I concern myself with questions over it’s ultimate fate. And no I would not feel “incomplete” so long as I was in the presence of my Lord who alone completes me.

I think that if you read my answer carefully you will find that I have not denied or contradicted any teaching of the Church. I simply stated that the resurrection of the body is (IMHO) a secondary matter. What is first in importance is that we be with our loving God. That is our aim and our goal.
To illustrate this point let me ask this question. If there were no teaching of a bodily resurrection, would you cease to be Catholic? If the answer is yes - then resurrection is of primary importance to you. If the answer is no, then resurrection is not of primary importance to you.

Part of the reason that I hold the view I do is that there are certain issues, certain questions, associated with the resurrection that are difficult to answer. For example, you say that we are to be resurrected with the body we have now. Does that mean the body we have at the point of death? Jesus rose still with the wounds of crucifixion so this seems to be the case. Yet what of those who are horribly mangled before death - do they rise in the mangled state? What of those who are"blown to smithereens" in an explosion - there is no body at all? Then there is the matter of the “new world” and the kingdom that has no end". Even given that we rise from the dead and live in a new earthly kingdom…the physical world will pass away. The sun will eventually burn out because that is how God designed it. So what then??
These are things that we cannot answer and so I do not try. I trust God to do what is right whatever it might ultimately be.

Please understand that I do not bring this up to be argumentative or to contradict Church teaching, but only to illustrate why I said what I did. I hope in the resurrection but that is secondary. I am not Catholic because of the promised resurrection. The primary goal and focus is to be with God in heaven in whatever form God has in store for us.

Hope this clears up any misunderstanding.


You’re approaching this from the wrong way. If there was no bodily resurrection, then there wouldn’t be any Catholics in the first place. If there was no resurrection, then we would be purely spiritual beings in Heaven. If we were purely spiritual beings, then we would be angels. If we were angels, then there would be no point in creating us with bodies. To say that the resurrection of the body is not of especial importance is to say that there is no purpose to humanity existing. The body is our primary point of distinction between us and the angels. If God chose to make this distinction, then we should assume He had a purpose in doing so.

Jesus wasn’t suffering from His wounds after the resurrection so no, His body was not as it was when He was on the point of death. We know that Thomas doubted Jesus’ identity until he saw and touched the wounds himself. It is reasonable to think that Jesus foresaw his doubts and so intentionally left scars or markings on His body in order to prove it was He who had been crucified. Lazarus did not revive in a state of mortal illness; the holy men and women who emerged from their tombs were not described as suffering from any physical aliments. In any case, it would make no sense to “triumph over death” if it meant one would revive to a body on the verge of dying for perpetuity.

Jesus did not triumph solely over biological death. He also overcame material decay; the decay of inanimate matter. This includes the physical universe. We can say that the universe as a whole is currently undergoing a slow death; this death too will be averted by the sacrifice of Jesus. We understand the New Kingdom to be a new reality; the entire universe will be transformed, reconfigured and reconciled to the spiritual world. The heavenly and spiritual Earth won’t be surrounded or threatened by whizzing asteroids, wandering black-holes, or our Sun going supernova; all of creation will once again be perfect. This obviously includes any “mangled” people “blown to smithereens”. We can also include fetuses and embryos; as a person’s sex and genetic code are set at conception, we know that God has the necessary information to give them the body they should have had if death had not disrupted the intended process.

I’m saying all this not to target you in particular, but to clarify to the OP and others viewing this thread why the Resurrection is so important, and the implications it has for the Christian worldview. I’m not sure if it’s possible or even advisable to convey all this information in a manner easily understood by an atheist, however. Perhaps it might be best to start by establishing whether the atheist believes that the world is corrupt or not. There’s not much point explaining that Jesus “fixed” creation if the other person doesn’t believe that anything needs to be restored.

J Reed.
Thanks for your excellent post. I agree that we need to be clear for anyone reading the thread. We don’t want to give the wrong impression.

Just remember that I am not disputing the fact of the promised resurrection…ore even the importance of it. I was simply expressing that, for me (and I assume for most Christians) the bodily resurrection is not the main reason that we are Christians.
If you were to ask 100 or 1000 or more Christians, “what is the most important reason you are Christian”, how many do you think would answer “bodily resurrection”?


Most people thinking of Heaven after they die think of “doing things” there. But what few stop and consider is that absolutely everything we do, we do with our bodies. Walking, talking, seeing, hearing, thinking. Yes, even thinking is a bodily activity, as the soul animates images, memories, words, imaginings, etc. You will not be able to actualize your understanding in words, nor actualize your will in actions in heaven.
It is only in the Resurrection that we will again, yet fully, say what we understand, ponder God with our thoughts, and do actions of love.

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