Support Skepticon This Year!

Logo for Skepticon 8I’ll be attending Skepticon this November just as a regular Joe. But it’s a fantastic event that deserves your support. A thousand and more people benefit from getting to attend a free, well-run, kick-ass godless conference in the middle of the Bible Belt. There a number of different ways you can help. Some come with great perks! So click that link and see what you can do. And if you attend and can afford to pay any amount with your registration, throw some cash in when you register to go (and always please register, even if for free, so they know how many people to expect).

Sex & Sexism in Ancient Rome

Clipped photo of an actual ancient Roman silver dinner cup depicting in elegantly realistic relief a well built man lifting a boy lover up and having anal sex with him in the air. The cup shows all genitalia and the whole act, but because the internet is a prude, I have cut the image off just above that part.My talk for PolyColumbus last month has now made it to YouTube! It is age restricted due to its sexual content. A transcript is underway. I will add a link for that to this post (and announce it in comments, so if you want, subscribe to comments below to be alerted when that happens). But you can read the bullets (not quite a transcript), and for those who want to study further, I have provided my bibliography. Note also that this event was co-sponsored by the Humanist Community of Central Ohio and PolyColumbus, and a talk on this subject might never have happened but for them.

The full title of the talk is “Sex and Sexism in Ancient Rome: Crossroads of Sexual Freedom & State Oppression,” and the official talk description is:
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Did Muhammad Exist? (Why That Question Is Hard to Answer)

Cover of Robert Spencer's book Did Mohammad Exist? with subtitle An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins, black cover with antique looking painted flames in which resides an image of Mohammad, face erased. Yellow title. White subtitle and author credit. Also tagline for the author says New York Times bestselling author.I get asked this a lot. “Why not apply your methods and skills to the question of whether Muhammad actually existed or not?” My answer is always the same: I will not likely ever be able to do that, because it would require getting a whole second Ph.D. in Medieval Arabic Studies & Languages (and those languages include not just Medieval Arabic, but also Syriac at the very least). And I must emphasize, I would need not just a good command of the languages (as I do the Greek and Latin required for studying the origins of Christianity), but also “a strong grasp of the historical, cultural, political, social, economic, and religious context” of the origins of Islam (Proving History, p. 18), and that happens to include numerous relevant yet distinct cultural contexts (not just of the Middle East and North Africa, but Byzantine as well).

And I’m not going to do that. Because that period bores the shit out of me. If I ever get a second Ph.D., it will be in contemporary philosophy, to improve myself even further in that area, or a modern science. But Medieval Arabic Studies? Sorry. No. I have all these skills with respect to the origins of Christianity, so I am well qualified to produce peer reviewed studies of the historicity of Jesus (hence my book On the Historicity of Jesus, published by the University of Sheffield). But not so for Islam. We need someone to do that who has parallel skills in that field. I can competently communicate the findings of experts in the field. But on this topic, those findings are confusing and disputed at present.

Okay. So. Lacking my ability to test the question myself, or fully vet anyone else’s case as an expert, can I at least answer whether there is any plausibility to the claim that there was no Muhammad, that he was invented by early Arabic military leaders to give a name to a text they cobbled together to inspire their soldiers and build a new civilization on? In other words, that he was invented in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons as the militaristic Jews invented Moses?

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Typos List for On the Historicity of Jesus

I will update this page as I find more. But over the past year I and readers have caught dozens of typos in On the Historicity of Jesus that slipped through even our excessive editorial process (a common experience I find). Some of these may require corrections to the indexes as well (e.g. the scripture index). Please email me any you have caught that aren’t already listed here. Sorted here by page and then paragraph and/or line number (or note number):

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A Better Movie on the Jesus Myth

Movie poster for the film Batman & Jesus. Says: King's Tower Productions and Mythicist Milwaukee present, a documentary film by Jozef K. Richards, tag line Man or Myth? Logos for Mythicist Milwaukee and King's Tower Productions, closing line Coming Soon, and the URLs and, picture is a darkened cloudy sky with hint of sun in distance, behind a towering wooden cross with a shadowy splay of bat wings behind it.Mythicist Milwaukee & King’s Tower Productions are going to produce a well-researched film about the Jesus myth theory that deliberately eliminates the flaws of past films (like that awful Zeitgeist thing) and pays attention to the best scholarship on the issue, while also introducing a lot of entertaining features as well as educational ones.

They have a great plan. They have a great team. I and others will be vetting the end product. And now they have the funding! The working title is Batman & Jesus. Their theme is to compare the evolution of mythology for both characters and use that as a springboard to explain how demigods come to exist and what they represent.

They have a detailed four minute appeal video here. Well worth watching, to see what their plans are, what they need, and how well they have thought this out.

Update: A major donor has fully funded the film. They will not need further support at this time!

Appearing in Wichita!

I’ll be one of the featured speakers for the Skeptics of OZ Conference on Saturday October 17 (2015), in the CAC Theater at Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas). Details here. Lanyrd here.

I’ll be discussing my book Proving History, but in particular answering the general question of “How science and history can prove or disprove miracles, and how we could (in theory or in practice) establish supernatural things exist or happen,” if there really were such things. So I’ll be talking about my work in defining the supernatural as well as the logic and method of history and the foundations of historical knowledge.

Others speaking will include communications expert Jeffrey Jarman, ex-scientologist Chris Shelton, and Vyckie D. Garrison of No Longer Quivering.

And Now I Preach about Polyamory

Screencap from Ask a Polyamorous Person YouTube video by Buzzfeed tackling the question, shown in the screencap, Is It Always an Orgy?Heina Dadabhoy has written a good article about the Preachy Polyamorist trope: Why Are Those Polyamorists So Damn Preachy?, which is enhanced by some of their earlier observations in When the Monogamous Bait Poly Smugness. I recommend reading both. I pretty much agree. And their latest has inspired me to write my own thoughts down, which expand on theirs, but also at points diverge from theirs.

Before I proceed, though, a trigger warning: I’m going to get all preachy about polyamory. In fact, I’m going to be a counter-example to Dadabhoy’s otherwise valid generalization, and become one of those “rather smug-seeming polyamorous people” who might leave you “feeling judged.” If you want to stop your ears against that, depart now. You were warned.

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Sacramento Freethought Day: I’ll Be There! So Should You!

Banner for the 14th Annual Freethought Day celebration. Shows crowd of people having fun in background. Foreground has the basic info found in the post.This year the day’s fun spans Sunday October 11 (2015), 10:30am-6:30pm, at the Capitol, in Sacramento (California). Details here. (Including schedule, appearing guests, amenities, tabling opportunities, and more.) Special guests include Mandisa Thomas, Jason Torpy, Chris Johnson, Sunday Assembly, and more. Lyz Lidell (of the Secular Student Alliance) and Amanda Metskas (of Camp Quest) will be talking about the amazing things their orgs are doing. Greta Christina will be tabling. As will Brendan Powell Smith, creator of the brilliant Brick Bible. Atheist poets will be charming the crowds. And again more.

The always fun VIP reception will be the night before, 7-10pm (Saturday, October 10), so donate big to get in on that, too. It’s not just fun. VIP funding helps make the event possible.

I’ll be at both. Sunday I’ll make an appearance on the author’s panel, but I’ll also be tabling all day, selling and signing books and just chatting and answering questions. Come on down and check it all out! Have a good time! And help us celebrate and support the public image of freethought in the state capital!

My Online Course on the Bible Starts Next Week. Join in. Learn Cool Stuff!

How screwed up are the manuscripts of the New Testament? What aren’t Christian preachers and apologists telling the public? How can you know when they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes about what’s in the Bible…or if they even know they are reporting the facts correctly?

How can you tell which Bible translation is the most honest for any given passage?

How have books been transmitted to us from the ancient world two thousand years ago? Is their text reliable enough to trust? Why? Or why not?

Do the Gospels really disagree on when Jesus was born? Do modern Bibles really contain known forgeries? Has the Gospel of Mark been doctored after the fact?

Answers to those questions, and more, will be covered in this course.

But what questions do you have about the New Testament? Like about its formation and transmission, its survival and accuracy, how it’s translated, what Christians claim about what it says. Or any question in the subject of New Testament studies, or the study of Greco-Roman texts generally.

This is your chance to ask an expert and get as full a response as you want, with as much follow up as you want, within the month of February. So join this class and take advantage of it!

Only one course text is required (and you can get it on kindle): my anthology Hitler Homer Bible Christ.

See you there!

Appearing in Toronto!

I’ll be speaking on the historicity of Jesus in Toronto next month, on Friday, October 23 (2015), at 7:30pm, at the University of Toronto (252 Bloor Sreet West) in the OISE Auditorium (Ground Floor). Sponsored by CFI Canada. Details here. Tickets here. Non-members: $15. I may be around a few days before that for other things. Stay tuned!