Obviously, because it proves that some people are willing to die for a mistake or a delusion. Ergo, martyrdom proves nothing about the truth of the martyr's beliefs.
the 500 witnesses that Paul cites
When someone says "there are 500 witnesses", that is a statement from one witness. Without first-hand statements from the 500 alleged witnesses, it has no more evidentiary value than a post stating "The lurkers support me in e-mail".
You can make the claim that others were willing to die for what they claimed was true. That helps you how, exactly?
Obviously, because it proves that some people are willing to die for a mistake or a delusion. Ergo, martyrdom proves nothing about the truth of the martyr’s beliefs.
the 500 witnesses that Paul cites
When someone says “there are 500 witnesses”, that is a statement from one witness. Without first-hand statements from the 500 alleged witnesses, it has no more evidentiary value than a post stating “The lurkers support me in e-mail”.
Your first statement is simply asinine. Let me get this straight: would you argue that a bad scientific experiment negates the validity of science? That’s what you’ve done here. You are saying that if you can find ONE example where a witness died for a mistake or delusion the entire testimony of martyrs beliefs are therefore rendered worthless. I don’t know how to be polite here. That is flat out stupid. Our entire system of justice is based on the testimony of witnesses. Does the fact that witnesses haven’t always been 100% correct mean that we’ve thrown out witness testimony? You are clearly revealed to be so determined in your ideology that you cannot and will not see straight when you say stuff like that.
What is important to understand is that a martyr - by his act of martyrdom - demonstrates that he clearly believes that what he is dying for is true. He could be mistaken, and he could be deluded. But he believes it with a commitment that goes as far as a commitment can go.
In the case of Mormonism, as I demonstrated, you end up with ONE guy, Joseph Smith, who meets the criterion of someone who claims to have witnessed a supernatural reality, and then dies at the hand of enemies.
But he isn’t exactly the best witness, either. He fled from criminal charges of fraud in New York State. And he further demonstrated that he wanted power, that he was using his role as “prophet” to advance himself politically. He ran for President in 1844, and was apparently “deluded” enough to believe he’d actually win. Contrast this with the testimony of the first followers of Christ. They weren’t men running away from criminal pasts; there is nothing to undermine their assumption of integrity. And they did not seek to advance their own power. They had the mission of spreading the message of Christ, and that was it. Furthermore, there were many of them, not just one guy, as in the case of Joseph Smith.
Further, his “martydom” was the result of a mob storming a jail where he was being held because of an arson charge. Let me contrast his death with the martydom of THOUSANDS of early Christians who lived during the time of Christ. During the reign of Nero, a Christian had merely to renounce Christianity and walk away. He had only to burn incense to the gods, and he or she was free to go. They literally CHOSE to die rather than give up their faith. Joseph Smith’s death was nothing like that.
For the first thousand years of Christianity, there was one and only one polemic used against the disciples. That they stole the body and invented a religion. But this is the weakest charge of all: their martyrdoms prove they sincerely believed what they claimed to have witnessed. They did not invent a story, suffer all kinds of hardships spreading the news of the story, travel to the ends of the known earth, and meet their deaths trying to spread a religion that they knew to be false. So if you’re going to attack Christianity, you can’t do it on the basis of fraud. Because the only fraud is the one making the claim.
You are also wrong about your claim of the 500 witnesses. The reason is simple: Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 56. He says, “Then He appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:6). The point is that they were still alive, and Paul was inviting anyone to go down and TALK to them. As Luke writes in his introduction to Luke and Acts: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everyting carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4)
Luke TALKED to the eyewitnesses. So the fact is you are wrong: it wasn’t about one guy inventing 500 more; it was about there being myriad witnesses to the testimony of Jesus and the first Christians. That is why the Jews opposing Christianity could only claim that the disciples stole the body; because ALL the OTHER facts were on the Christians’ side, and they had the testimony of witnesses to confirm it.