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So I recently watched a documentary about a new age movement and felt a bit rattled by what I perceived to be some examples of peoples behaving in a way that undermines the common arguments for trusting the gospel accounts.

The video was about a new age movement called Breatharianism which basically claims that humans don't need to eat food but can instead subsist on the divine energy within them. While the gurus of this movement certainly did benefit financially and otherwise by promulgating their message which they had to have known was a lie, they also seemed to me at certain points to risk their lives for it. At multiple points, there was evidence that the gurus who claimed to have gone years without eating actually did eat regularly. So they knew what they were saying was a lie. Yet, they several times volunteered to undertake tests to prove this thing they knew was a lie. Even after knowing that some of their followers had died genuinely trying to follow the no eating rule.

For instance, the most prominent woman volunteered to be monitored by 60 minutes to ensure she didn't eat for an entire week. The experient was ended by 60 minutes and not by her when the doctor who was monitoring her told her she was in imminent danger of dying. Certainly, it worked out in her favor, she got more publicity for nothing, but it seems as though she was determined to do this thing that she knew very well could have killed her despite the fact she had to know what she believed was a lie.

Lots of people say, it's not plausible that the Apostles knowingly lied about seeing Jesus resurrected because of the persecution and eventual death they suffered because of it. It doesn't seem rational to die for a lie. And yet these breatharian people seem to be willing to do so. So what's the difference here?

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    It makes a big difference between suffering through your own action (under your own control) or suffering because of persecution (where you are not in control). For example, Jesus prophesied around 30 AD, recorded in John 21, that Peter would die against his will. Secondly, the apostles died a purposeful death after several decades of ministry bringing joy to others. Thirdly, they witnessed validation from God in the forms of miracles that they performed. – GratefulDisciple Nov 17 '20 at 6:06
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    Or maybe there isn't a big difference and the fact that there are martyrs, or miracles, doesn't relieve you of your responsibility to exercise faith and judge truth by prayer and the Holy Spirit. If anything, they are just one thing that adds credibility to the apostles. Joseph Smith was also a martyr but you don't have LDS missionaries going around saying you need to believe because he was martyred. – kutschkem Nov 17 '20 at 7:58
  • I think the best way forward for this question would be to ask if apologists who put forward the argument about the apostles' martyrdoms as evidence of the change the Gospel made in their lives have any response to cases such as those where it appears people were willing to die for their lies. – curiousdannii Nov 17 '20 at 11:15
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    Breathearianism is more like a dangerous pseudoscience than a new religion. There is no comparison between this cult and Christianity. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. – Lesley Nov 17 '20 at 15:41
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    Other fruitful angles for comparison: 1) learn how early church apologists like Tertullian responded to debunking / denigration attempts by critics, 2) compare examples of early church martyr-saints and their miracles, which validated their claims (see this article for intro/examples), 3) take seriously the warning that without God's help wannabe martyrs will not be able to succeed – GratefulDisciple Nov 17 '20 at 15:45
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I found the subtitle over at Snopes.com to be interesting:

Claims about "breatharians," people purportedly living on light alone, do not offer proof that they survive this way.

Now, let's compare that to one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament (emphasis mine):

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

People are willing to die for many reasons. Some good, some bad. One hopes that in most cases, they are willing to give their lives for something noble, useful, and true.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

What are the Breatharians dying for? I honestly don't know. The only benefit I can see to the practice of Breatharianism is saving a few dollars on food. Theoretically (I assume), if the practice were at all correct, subsistence on the energy of the universe wouldn't cause you to loose weight (at least not below a healthy weight, right?). In short, there's no purpose or value to the belief and no proof that it's valid.

Christianity, on the other hand, offers a way to prove its worth. And if that Old Testament verse wasn't good enough, let me leave you with something from the New Testament.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thes 5:21)

So, care to know more about Paul the Apostle's faith, belief, and the Savior he served and eventually died for? You can prove all things by sitting down with us and asking some questions. What you'll discover is the world is full of confused people who will do almost anything to save or earn a dollar — but the faith you're looking for is free.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isa 55:1)

Huh. Maybe what the Breatharians did was confuse a real life with a metaphor.

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Although the question starts out asking about religious movements that might differ from the Christian religion founded on the Apostles of Christ, it immediately delves into a New Age modern religion – Breatharianism. There is no connection whatsoever between Christianity and this New Age group. The fasting aspect is based on a form practiced by Tibetan monks. Yet you took the documentary you viewed to be about people “behaving in a way that undermines the common arguments for trusting the gospel accounts.” Could I suggest that the people in question have no connection with any of the claims of the Christian Apostles, and that there is a need to make a clear distinction between Christianity and people setting up religious movements that are based on Hindu and/or Buddhist religion?

To establish this fundamental difference, it only takes a brief examination of Breatharianism to see that it must be classified within the broad spectrum of Hindu/Buddhist faith, not Christianity. Here is the background to Breatharianism, as reported in two British newspapers when a lady who seemed to be following it was found dead on a remote Scottish lochside in September 1999. I have two newspaper articles here beside me, which I kept, and my information comes from them.

Verity Linn died near Elphin in Sutherland and had spent eight years at the New Age Findhorn Foundation in Forres, Morayshire. Two days after beginning a fast, she travelled by bus to the spot, walking the last three and a half miles, then setting up a tent. She kept a diary which showed her interest in a 21-day programme of ‘spiritual cleansing’. It recorded details of her ritual and the fast, noting that she was getting weaker as the days went by. Her naked body was found by a fisherman on 16th September 1999. (As reported in the Scottish Daily Mail, 22 September 1999.)

The apparent connection with Breatharianism was made in Scotland on Sunday, 26 September 1999. An article was headed, “Calls to ban cult guru who lives on air – New Age leader plans Scottish visit as her teachings are linked to deaths by starvation”. It described a woman called Ellen Greve, who became known as ‘Jasmuheen’, writing 10 books on how humans can become spiritually pure by surviving without food or drink, and coming to Britain to promote her latest one. After the death of Verity Linn, calls came to ban Jasmuheen from entering Britain, as two other deaths had been linked to her teachings. She protested, saying she doesn’t have disciples nor did she run a cult “but I can teach people how to discover their full potential, and part of that is discovering that you don’t need food to live.” She claimed to have lived without food and drink for two years and that some of her followers have not touched food or drink for six years. She founded the Movement of a Positive and Awakened Society after discovering the power of Pranic light, held by Eastern spiritualists to be a light from God that exists inside everyone. At one rally she held in Australia, 20,000 people attended.

Then came a report of a 75-year-old man called Buzia Wucher saying, “Two years without food and it’s great.” He said, “Before you can give up all food you must go through a high-intensity 21-day preparation routine. During the first seven days you feel a little bit heavy, your mouth is very dry and your tongue sticks to the top of your mouth. You don’t have any hunger pangs though – you’re beyond that.” This founder of the Bonn School for Self Meditation added, “During the first seven days you drink juice and water, then you reduce the amount of juice until finally you don’t drink anything. Now I drink perhaps two to three glasses of water a day and very occasionally I drink herbal tea… But after those [first] seven days, I felt a great surge of energy, which increased from day to day. Now I only need to sleep for two hours a night. I can do everything. I feel very close to God, who talks to me on a regular basis. I never intend to eat again.” He spoke in praise of Jasmuheen – “she is so close to the spirits”.

None of Jesus’ Apostles even hinted at any such practices. On the contrary, they all agreed that ‘spiritual cleansing’ is a work of the Holy Spirit in people who repent of their sins and place their faith in what Jesus Christ did to deal with their sins. They even condemned those who try to inflict dietary restrictions on Christians. Check out Colossians 2:16-23, 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4. I would suggest that Breatharianism fits the warnings given in the Bible there. But its practices fit in perfectly with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, in which this modern New Age cult has its roots.

It is your last paragraph that is important, and which is why I’m answering your question. The difference between Jesus’ followers dying due to belief in Jesus, and the possible deaths of followers of Breatharianism, is that the latter were following a religious system that promised elevated spiritual ‘cleansing’ and power; they felt they had to do something to achieve something. Christians, however, have to stop striving to earn or merit spiritual ‘cleansing’ or power because nothing they can do will give them that. Only after they have been saved by God’s unmerited grace can they experience a cleansed conscience and spiritual newness of life. They are called to live as normal - eating, drinking, marrying, proclaiming Christ by word and deed - and if they are killed because of that, it’s because others sought to kill them – not by them risking death due to stopping eating and drinking.

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A claim is a statement about something, which could, in theory, be supported with evidence. It is an assertion about the way things are, or were, or will be, or should be. Claims are, almost by definition, controversial, in the sense that not everyone agrees with them. That is why they require evidence.

Evidence is the concrete facts used to support a claim. Ideally, evidence is something everyone agrees on, or something that anyone could, with sufficient training and equipment, verify for themselves.

Don’t confuse evidence with citation. Evidence is the facts used to support the claim. Citation tells the reader where the writer got the facts. Just because a writer does not cite her or his sources, does not mean she or he has no evidence. Just because a writer cites sources or claims to have witnessed something, it is not necessarily to be considered evidence.

An important thing to consider evaluation claims & evidence is confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.

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