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Jul 28 2014

Dawkins Takes a Positive Step

“Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.” — Richard Dawkins

This is part of a new statement Dawkins issued this weekend, on his own website and elsewhere [written jointly with Ophelia Benson], denouncing the horrible way many (usually anti-feminist) atheists have been behaving the last few years. Greta Christina for the full scoop.

This is a remarkably positive sign. Dawkins has up to now been insensitive and out-of-touch on the treatment of women inside the atheism movement (the worst example being now a named trope, Dear Muslima). So my opinion marker is being moved a little back to favorable by this.

For those who aren’t sure what this is all about, see coverage by Alex Gabriel, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, and Ophelia Benson.

Jul 28 2014

James Lindsay on the Historicity of Jesus

Philosopher James Lindsay (not to be confused with CFI Director Ron Lindsay), author of God Doesn’t; We Do has written an interesting piece about my book, On the Historicity of Jesus, but tangentially, i.e. he isn’t reviewing the book but responding to the way some people might use it. See Why I Really Don’t Care If Jesus Existed or Not.

Notably I have long agreed with his overall thesis: objectively, the historicity of Jesus is no more important than the historicity of Socrates, and is really only an interesting question in history. It’s not an earth-shattering thesis in counter-apologetics. It would be only if we had smoking-gun scale evidence against historicity, and we don’t, due to the paucity of evidence survival and its hugely compromised state (OHJ, chs. 7 § 7 and 8 § 3-4 and § 12; also chs. 4, Element 22, and 5, Element 44). For example, if Christianity were based on the belief that a flying saucer was found at Roswell and alien bodies recovered from it and autopsied by the government, the evidence against that even having happened would certainly be exhibit A in any refutation of Christianity. But we have in the Jesus case nothing like the survival of evidence we have in the Roswell case. Hence I’ve made the point before: Fincke Is Right: Arguing Jesus Didn’t Exist Should Not Be a Strategy.

My interest in it is because I’m a historian, whose specializations include ancient religions and the origins of Christianity, I was paid with a research grant to study the issue, and the way Christian dogma and faith beliefs have infected even secular study of the subject is a serious issue long overdue for a correction. Exactly as happened for the Patriarchs: Christian dogma and faith beliefs infected even secular study of that subject until a serious corrective effort was launched in the 1970s which has resulted in what is now a mainstream consensus among non-fundamentalist experts that the Old Testament Patriarchs are mythical persons who almost certainly never really existed. Christianity was not thereby overthrown. But the shift was nevertheless necessary to maintain the respectability of biblical history as an honest profession. The same is now true of the debate over the historicity of Jesus, as even historicity advocate Philip Davies has said.

The end result has been, I believe, a lot of increased clarity and discovery concerning many issues in the origins of Christianity, and not just the target issue of how certain we can be that Jesus was even a person. Readers of my book will notice that every chapter has wide utility for counter-apologetics without even having to mention much less affirm the non-existence of Jesus; you will recognize a lot of cherished Christian apologetical shibboleths being demolished there, and the citations of sources and scholarship extremely useful to anyone taking them on. But even apart from counter-apologetics, our understanding of ancient religion, ancient culture, ancient politics, and earliest Christianity, is significantly advanced and made more coherently clear by the effort. Which is as it should be. That’s a historian’s job.

So some corrections are still warranted to Lindsay’s analysis.

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Jul 25 2014

The Curious Case of Jaclyn Glenn

Screencap of Jaclyn Glenn speaking in her video warning atheists about extreme feminismI’ve been watching the foot-in-mouth implosion of Jaclyn Glenn of late, and some might want to know my take on it, because some people have asked, given that she kind of sort of but really doesn’t criticize Atheism+.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever

Atheism+ is just a name sometimes used (and rarely anymore) for the growing and ongoing movement to unite atheism, humanism, and skepticism. Hence the “+” in Atheism+ means simply “Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.” (See all my past writing on the subject, especially my American Atheists convention talk in 2013, a transcript of which I have just now made available, along with a non-animated edition of my slideshow. I have also just published an essay on it in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which you can now read online as Atheism…Plus What?)

There are generally only three kinds of people against Atheism+ (apart from people who don’t actually know anything about it): people who love and support the goals but hate the name (and I’m all for them…because as I’ve said from day one, I really don’t care what you call it); people who realize humanism entails feminism and hate feminism (and these are often in my experience either awful people or the cultish fans of awful people); and people who realize skepticism means skepticism of claims they like, and hate it when people tear apart their own cherished beliefs (and these are ironically usually the people comprising the SkepticTM community, yet they could take a lesson from the actual Rationality Community: if you aren’t questioning your own beliefs, you are just a dogpile of cognitive biases…like, pretty much every religious person ever).

There are also people who hate the Atheism+ forums, but since I’m not aware of any major Atheism+ advocate having anything to do with those anymore, I really can’t help you if they are eating your babies and skeet shooting kittens. They no longer have official ties to any of us, and are just doing their own thing. Which was, and for all I know still faithfully is, to create a safe space for discussion among advocates of A+ ideals…in other words, a space just for them…so if you are annoyed they won’t let you into their club, usually because you are breaking their rules and aren’t a support advocate, the only people the space was created for, then check your privilege and just accept the fact that you don’t get to disrupt other people’s meetings. If, on the other hand, you are annoyed they said something awful (so far every time someone has said this to me, it turned out not to be true, but whatever), just remember they aren’t me, or any other major advocate of Atheism+ or its goals. Some atheists are horrible people. That doesn’t mean atheism is horrible. As for atheism, so for Atheism+. See Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

Okay, end digression. Back to Jaclyn Glenn.

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Jul 15 2014

OHJ: The Ramos Review

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.Continuing my series on early reviews of my book On the Historicity of Jesus, today I am writing about the detailed review by F. Ramos. If you know of reviews I haven’t covered by now (or follow-up segments of reviews I did cover), please post them in comments (though please also remark on your own estimation of their merits).

-:-

This review is by a person of unknown interests and qualifications. It is an extraordinarily long Amazon review (well over 10,000 words altogether), by someone named F. Ramos (who even continued their review in comments on another customer review, but that I address there). Since Amazon reviews can be edited after the fact, I will be commenting on the version that existed originally (which I have saved for reference). I have no control over whether anything in it subsequently changes.

Ramos’s review is largely disingenuous and often makes false claims about the book, and covertly defends Christian fundamentalism throughout. For example, he often asks rhetorical questions as if I had no answer, without telling readers that those questions are answered in the very books he is referring to. He likewise often implies the book doesn’t address something, when in fact it does. And when he does that, he offers no response to what the book actually argues. Meanwhile the evidence throughout his review reveals he is a Christian fundamentalist who can’t abide the conclusion that Jesus didn’t exist and needs to rationalize his way out of it, in the face of an extremely tight argument against him. Indeed, he cannot even abide the notion that the Gospels aren’t true accounts of Jesus!

Let’s see what I mean…

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Jul 11 2014

On Bart Ehrman Being Pot Committed

I shall continue my series on early reviews of On the Historicity of Jesus next week. But for the weekend I’ll just post a little embarrassing bit about Bart Ehrman I’ve just not found a spot to fit it in until now. Bart Ehrman has so far been refusing to engage with my book or its argument, and instead just complains about being criticized, without ever responding to any of my more serious criticisms, in a most suspicious and conspicuous fashion. And since my last commentary on this, he has avoided ever responding to me, until this April…sort of.

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Jul 08 2014

Giving Christians Their Due–Which Even Christians Won’t Do

Last week I blogged about the embarrassment of American Christian nationalism on the recent refugee crisis (and immigration policy altogether), and why atheists ought to be able to do better, and be seen doing better. But I have to give props this week to the fact that not all American Christians are like that. And I don’t mean liberal Christians (e.g. Episcopalians) or Hispanic Christians (e.g. because duh), who of course have more compassionate attitudes on these things (and are just ignored, even by most Christians–being that in the U.S. most Christians are not really all that touched by these crises and think Episcopalians are in the service of the Devil). No, I mean, even the institutional leaders of the conservative wing of Christianity.

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Jul 07 2014

OHJ: The Covington Review (Part 2)

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.Last week I did a series on early reviews of my book On the Historicity of Jesus. If you know of reviews I haven’t covered, post them in comments (though please also remark on your own estimation of their merits).

-:-

One of those early reviews began a series by Nicholas Covington. Last week I commented on part 1. Here is my commentary on part 2, which deals with Paul’s reference to James. More to come. Here I’ll just comment item by item. But those who want to can skip all the commentary and go directly to my two-paragraph summary.

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Jul 05 2014

Not at Skepticon — So Looking for a Gig!

I won’t be on the roster for Skepticon this year. Which means I have nothing scheduled for November, and I’m looking for an event to do then. So are you in a group, maybe one a long way from Skepticon and thus whose members usually don’t get to go, who’d like to have me out as a speaker around that time? My requirements aren’t too demanding (details here), and if you coordinate with other groups for multiple events or a mini-tour, you can get a discount.

It occurs to me that not everyone might know my basic requirements for speaking (not everyone has read that last link), and I am looking for events in any month of this year or next (although most of this year is booked, I have a few openings here and there, besides all of November).

So here is an excerpt from my booking page:

… For any speaking engagement I require expenses, a $250 honorarium, and (usually) an opportunity to sell my books at your event. If you want to do a teleconference, I charge only $150 (per hour), and no expenses. But even for having me appear in person, normally the only expenses you have to cover are transportation and lodging.

The largest expense is always transportation. I live in California … The lowest expense is often lodging, as I actually prefer to stay as the guest of a local freethinker … all I need is a warm bed and a hot shower. …

Consider teaming up several organizations for a single joint event, or more. I am willing to stay several days for multiple events. You will have to board me for those extra nights, and I charge only $50 for each additional debate or speaking engagement, but informal events are free (e.g. dinner parties, meet-and-greets, etc.). Just feed me copious amounts of alcohol. To give you an idea, I once spoke at a university, the costs of which were split three ways by the campus freethought group and two different academic departments that were interested in the subject of my talk. On another occasion I spoke to two separate atheist community groups in cities near each other, a volunteer driving me between them, and the two groups split my honorarium and airfare. So feel free to be creative. My time is flexible.

Interested? Shoot me an email.

Jul 04 2014

The American Refugee Crisis: It’s Time for the Godless to Speak Up

Tens of thousands of refugee children are massing across the U.S. border. And we’re responding like the biggest assholes on the planet. It’s time to do something about it. At a minimum that means spreading the word, and speaking out. Getting more people to know that this is even happening (because the U.S. media is useless) is the first step toward effecting change. Writing your senators and congressmen (state and federal) is the second step. Tell them human decency and compassion and any sense of justice requires more, and that you approve adequate funding for a humane response to the refugee crisis, and are willing as a taxpayer to forfeit a couple bucks a year for it if need be.

If you want to cut to the chase, and just get started helping spread this message, read Hutchinson’s summary and petition. And sign that. And write all your legislators. But if you need some catching up first…

Here is a quick primer on what’s going on: Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 03 2014

OHJ: The Hallquist Review

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.This week I am doing a series on early reviews of my book On the Historicity of Jesus. If you know of reviews I don’t cover by the end of the first week of July, post them in comments (though please also remark on your own estimation of their merits).

-:-

One of those early reviews posted is by Chris Hallquist (at The Uncredible Hallq for Patheos), a notable atheist author who has a master’s in philosophy from Notre Dame. His review is billed as only “initial thoughts” and therefore might be revised or expanded in future posts. If so, I’ll blog those and add links at the bottom here (please let me know if he blogs again on the subject so I can do that). For now, here is my commentary on what he has posted so far.

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