This is a reply too lengthy to include on a Soul Pancake forum so I thought I'd blog it instead and then it might be helpful for others too. It's responding to questions not included here but hopefully it should still make some sense to everyone who might be interested.
Ok, I've done some exploring, had a think and I think this will be a long one but I hope it's ok to make the effort and you've been doing the same so I hope you won't mind reading some more! :)
Thanks for the point about the lack of external links in my blog on the evidence for the reliability of the gospels. I don't want people to take my word for it. I must get around to adding some useful links to decent research that's been done. Thanks!
It's a good point you raise about the truth of the gospels. For this, the first thing I would look at is the intention of the authors. Were they trying to write literal history? As I mention in my blog, Luke is most clear about his intentions to get an accurate account of recent events and he mentions interviewing eye-witnesses too (Luke 1:1-4). The next thing I would consider is the dating of the gospels. All of them were written within living memory of Jesus (Wiki article on this) and so Luke's first readers would have been eye-witness and well-able and well-motivated to disprove what he wrote. The Roman authorities were especially keen to stop Christianity spreading. Christians were killed often. If their writings were clearly false and easy to disprove, they would not have been believed, died for or lasted credibly beyond that culture. These are the some of the things that convince me of the truth of the accounts. More on why I believe in God.
Responses to your questions/comments:
1. External evidence for Jesus
Having started looking into archaeological evidence for Jesus, I found this article. It seems the evidence is not conclusive (I wouldn't expect archaeological evidence alone to prove everything) but it is compelling for the people and events described in the gospels and for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. I certainly don't think it's true to say there's no archaeological evidence for Jesus. Have a look at the article. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it. :)
2. Hiding Jesus' body in the dessert
It sounds like a plausible point you make about the possibility of hiding the body in the dessert but there are a number of things that would also need explaining for that to be possible. People saw the 'stolen body' hoax coming a mile off and that's why a guard was posted (Matthew 27:62-66). And there's still hundreds of people who claim they saw him alive after he died. Over 500 at once on one occasion (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). If the accounts are reliable (and I'm convinced they are), this still needs explanation.
3. The far-fetched-ness (definitely should be a word) of the 'seeing things' and 'swoon' theories
These came about presumably because the evidence was hard to deny and people felt the need try and explain it in ways that meant Jesus didn't really rise from the dead. The 'swoon' theory seems to have got started in the 18th century without any actual evidence other than the presupposition that the resurrection was impossible and there must be alternative explanations for all the evidence pointing to it. The Wiki article on this is very useful.
4. People dying for stuff doesn't make it true
Absolutely right but the point I was making in my blog about this was that the first Christians surely wouldn't have died for something they knew to be a lie. I certainly wouldn't. So this isn't proof it's true but it does help rule out the idea that they were part of a deliberate conspiracy. It brought them no advantages whatsoever. So you're right. People do die for untruths but usually because they don't realise.
So I hope that's helpful. I'm aware that a lot of the above is my personal response but I hope it has value to you. And there are some external links to explore too so hopefully that's helpful. It's been a while since I read it but the book 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel was really helpful to me. It's an investigative journalist whose wife became a Christian and he set out to disprove it but ended up becoming a Christian himself and writing a book about all his findings. Have you read it?