Some atheists and Jesus-mythers claim that a book like the Bible and the miracles in it are not surprising because during that time such writings and legends were common, with even serious historians like Tacitus adding miraculous or bizarre things to their writings. They say it was very common in the Greco-Roman era. What do you say to this?
Religious people get accused of using religion as a psychological crutch to help them ease their walk through the tough reality. It can be argued that religions were developed in a way that caters to our psyche through stories, hence even if they’re fiction, people can find a lot of value in them. So, isn’t there a possibility that Christianity is perhaps a great philosophy that got a lot of things about the human nature right but isn’t completely true about the unknown factors like God, angels and the creation? Christianity expounds on our nature practically well since it shows how we’re all inherently selfish and a lot of morality is just out of legalism and showiness. That’s probably why even many people of other faiths revere Jesus.
On the first question, the claim is that such legends were common, but this ignores an important fact. Sure, there were mythical figures like Osiris, Krishna and Horus, and there were even semi-mythical people like Empedocles, but there is one thing which is absolutely unique about Jesus, making him utterly different from all these mythical miracle-workers. Jesus was a real person who really did miracles. We know the name of Jesus’ adoptive father and his mother, the names of three of his brothers, where and when he was born, as well as where and when he died. We know the names of dozens of his close friends, and we have hundreds of quotes from Jesus. Jesus is a real person. Osiris, Krishna, Horus and other god-man figures are literally mythical. They did not even live at all. And there are actual people such as Empedocles about whom we know almost nothing, and about whom we have only one source, hundreds of years after he lived. There is no comparison between what we know of the historical person Jesus and these god-man myths.
There is a vast amount of evidence for Jesus working miracles, such as his being mentioned as a miracle-worker by non-Christians such as Josephus. We know the names of dozens of actual living converts of Jesus, several of whom wrote down what they saw and recalling actual events, including his miracles. None of these other supposed god-man mythical figures have any of this going for them at all. They were not real people, or their stories are so vastly embellished so as to have almost no historical value. Jesus is the opposite of this. Jesus really did miracles, as Peter told a crowd in Jerusalem, just a few days after he had risen from the dead in Acts 2:22-24. That Jesus is a real person and that thousands who actually saw him believed he worked miracles, and that it was preached and believed that he had resurrected by his contemporaries is an historical fact. None of these other Graeco-Roman pretenders have any of this kind of evidence supporting belief in them as actual miracle-workers. Anyone who says that Jesus is like these others has to ignore all the facts in evidence.
Tacitus did not add miraculous and bizarre things to his histories. Neither did Josephus. You should apologize to him for this charge. However, Herodotus and other historians famously did. The difference between Herodotus and the biographers of Jesus is very obvious. That Herodotus made up the miraculous is well known, and anyone reading him can tell the difference. This simply is NOT the case with Jesus. Those who try to create a false parallel here are not being honest with the evidence. When we read Herodotus, we are well aware when he goes from documented history to speculative myth.
On your second question, the answer is not quite as obvious. It is not ridiculous to propose that Christianity is just one of many moralistic religions like Hinduism, Shinto, Buddhism, Sikkhism and Islam which meet human needs for purpose and meaning in life. This is not a crazy idea (unlike the blatantly false idea that Jesus is like the Graeco-Roman myths). Here is the bottom line. Either the claims of Christianity are true, or they are not. Either Jesus is God-in-the-flesh or he is not. Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not. Either Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament or he is not. This brings us to the evidence, and when we look at the evidence, there is plenty. In fact, what I said about the first question lends evidence to the reality of Jesus being God. It is a fact that he was resurrected from the dead (empty tomb, crucified, resurrection claimed in Jerusalem immediately after). It is a fact that he fulfilled multiple very specific prophecies about the Messiah (Ps 22:16-18, Zech 9:9, Daniel 9:24-25, Micah 5:3, all of Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9:1-6, Zechariah 11:12-13 and many, many more). The Bible has mountains of evidence for its inspiration, including historical accuracy, lack of contradiction, scientific wisdom and more. Sure, it is not unreasonable to propose, at least as a hypothesis, that Christianity is just a human-created religion which happens to meet a number of human spiritual needs, because it does meet those needs. It is a useful “crutch” for those who are suffering through a difficult life. But, the fact is that, not only does the Bible do these things, as, arguably, Islam and Buddhism do, but it has the additional point that the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God, which is confirmed by a vast array of facts. Therefore, I reject the second hypothesis.