It has long been my contention that the resurrection story is little more than a religious urban legend run amok. While that legend birthed the most successful religious cult in human history, it appears to follow a pattern of particular social dynamics that can be commonly observed in most religions:
1. A human mind concocts a story
2. The story is presented as true
3. The story is believed and repeated
A few months ago I was accosted by a pentecostal friend who delights in making rather loud and obnoxious religious proclamations. During our one-sided conversation my friend mentioned a famous dead atheist whose name he could not recall whose home is currently being used as a Bible publishing house by an organization whose name he could not recall.
I aided my friend by advising him that the "atheist" he had in mind was Voltaire and that the organization was the American Bible Society. What I didn't bother telling my friend is that this well-worn rumor is simply not true. It serves as an example of mental concoctions and misinformation emerging as gospel truth.
The rumor states that Voltaire was an atheist who proclaimed in the 18th century that the Bible would be forgotten within a hundred years. However, 100 years after his arrogant proclamation, the very house where he wrote his prediction was occupied by a Bible publishing organization.
The truth is, Voltaire considered himself a deist, not an atheist. His residence in France, the Chateau de Cirey, is not occupied by the American Bible Society, Geneva Bible Society or British & Foreign Bible Society, but by is the private residence of the Count and Countess Hugues de Salignac Fénelon and is open to the public for tours. To my knowledge it has never been occupied by a religious organization. A history of the Chateau de Cirey can be found here.
Even with indisputable evidence to the contrary, the rumor persists. One can imagine how the resurrection story and other religious legends prevailed, not having the benefit of verifiable evidence.
— David Stone