On Skeptic Fence Live Tonight

Tonight at 9pm Eastern Time I’ll be a live guest on the Skeptic Fence web show. Promo and details here. The show will air here. It starts at 8. But they’ll be covering news items the first hour, then bringing me in for the second hour. We’ll be talking about Hitler Homer Bible Christ and the historicity of Jesus.


  1. Bill A. says

    I am awaiting the publishing of your planned book regarding mythicism. Having hoped for it in January, how much longer must I wait?

    • says

      It has all been up to the publisher. The book has been done for almost a year now (it completed peer review and revisions last July). The only delays have simply been in the production pipeline at Sheffield-Phoenix, which is not unusual for an academic press. They all tend to be understaffed and overworked, relative to commercial publishers. Sheffield tells me they will soon have a release date. But so far, I’ve been left guessing based on past publishing experiences, and it looks like I’ve been optimistic by several months (I estimated an average production timeline of six months back in July; it looks like it will be eight or nine). Fingers crossed for end of April. But it could be later. I literally have no control over what the release date will be.

  2. Giuseppe says

    Hi dr Carrier,
    I ask myself this question:

    If I assume a priori that in Mark ”Jesus” is principally the symbol of Israel that dies (in 70 CE) and rises (as Novus Israel) — then assuming freely that the facts of 70 CE were the very principal cause that moved Mark to write his deliberate allegory (and the key to understand entirely his allegory) — why to take as symbol of Israel (and explainable in this way only after 70) a ”man” that ”lived” only circa 40 years before? Not it will be that the only solution is that that man really existed?

    This question, if without replies, justifies still agnosticism (basing on only Mark) or proves alone historicity?

    Very thanks,

    • says

      There are several possible explanations. Indeed Christians disagreed on the when (some have Jesus die under Claudius, ten years before the war; others under Jannaeus, eighty years before Rome even governed Judea). But the Western creedal assignment to the decade of Pilate was either a projected assumption based on calculations from the 2nd century BC book Daniel (which everyone was trying to do the math from to calculate when the messiah would come and die, per Dan. 9; a typical Christian example is in Julius Africanus), or a retrodicted assumption based on standard spiritual math (forty years being a standard period of wandering and suffering before things change, per the Exodus narrative), or simply an origin myth based on when the cult began (the first visions of Jesus can be calculated from Paul’s letters to have occurred in the 30s or so), or all of the above. That Jesus was placed a hundred years earlier by at least one sect of Christians (or in the 50s for some other Christians) indicates that there were other ways of doing the spiritual math. The one in the canon was just that of the sect that won out.

  3. blbt5 says

    Just listened to your appearance on the Skeptic Fence. Unfortunately the hosts acted like a bunch of misogynist clods. Although I didn’t get to hear your current views on historicity of Jesus, your firm putdown of such backward attitudes was awesome!

  4. BobGo says

    Wow, the Skeptic Fence guys really stepped into it in the last half hour. Theirs was a perfect illustration of male insensitivity. I think I heard TJ say something to the effect that maybe Rebecca Watson isn’t as much of a woman as she thinks she is! You remained typically articulate and relatively cordial through it all. I don’t think you would have accepted their invitation if you had known it would go that way, but you made the best of it.

    • says

      Thank you. I appreciate the observation.

      But I would have gone on anyway (and would again, if we specifically talk about those issues), because they were respectful enough to let me speak, and interacted with me without using dirty tactics (like lying or namecalling), and most of them seemed willing at least to listen and consider what I was saying.

      As I remark in the last paragraph of my reply downthread, I had some advance warning that this might come up, which is why I’m glad it did. I prefer to engage with people hostile to my values only if they are willing to talk about that specifically (rather than skirt around it), and will do so in a productive and evidence-and-logic-respecting way, and for the most part that’s what happened (Joe’s brief flashes of hyperbole and paranoia aside).

  5. says

    Richard did an excellent job explaining the reasons that it’s most likely that a historical Jesus never existed. I’d like to add that Paul (ne Saul of Tarsus) and the other epistle writers didn’t write about any biographical details of Jesus’ life, or even the time of his earthly existence. If Jesus had existed, the authors would likely have been contemporaries and should have known and written about these details. As Richard noted, they referred to Jesus mainly as a celestial being – a sky god who existed in the spiritual past, not a flesh-and-blood human. Is it possible that the few references they supposedly made to Jesus as an earthly human were later redactions, after Christianity morphed into believing in an earthly Jesus?

    I also liked Richard’s explanations of the Hitler papers. Note that in many ways, it matters little whether Hitler himself was Christian; what matters most is that the Germans (who were mainly Lutherans and Catholics) thought that he was a good Christian leader. There are certainly many of his quotes that portray him as such.

    Richard also did a great job of explaining Atheism Plus and the reasons for it, while the three guys on the Skeptic Fence showed that men don’t have to be sociopaths to be jerks towards women and their concerns about bad treatment. Their coolness (with sunglasses, beer, and hyperskepticality) just came across as being crude and clueless.

    • says

      Is it possible that the few references they supposedly made to Jesus as an earthly human were later redactions, after Christianity morphed into believing in an earthly Jesus?

      Possible, but not inherently probable. The base rate of interpolation in NT texts is between 1 in 200 and 1 in 1000 per reference. Which does mean there are over twenty interpolations in the NT that we can’t identify (because the manuscript evidence begins too late). But it doesn’t follow that those are the very interpolations your theory happens to require. Thus we need specific evidence for interpolation in any given case (or else we need to accept the reduction in probability; although sometimes the evidence can be more than enough to survive that, as I explain in chapter 12 of On the Historicity of Jesus, due I hope before Summer).

      Case in point, the evidence confirming the reference in 1 Thess. 2 to be a later interpolation is sufficiently strong (see Pauline interpolations, which I include in Hitler Homer). But this is not the case for the “brothers of the Lord” passages or 1 Cor. 15:3-4 etc. Whereas Romans 1:3 is a middle case: scholars are actually divided on its authenticity; but I side in favor of its authenticity.

      And on the Atheism Plus thing, thank you for saying. I had a slight heads up on that (and I’m glad it came up), but I was actually quite surprised at how shrilly douchebro the host got (Joe, aka LiveLife8072; his compatriots TJ and Paul I think were more willing to listen). But note that though he was very hostile, paranoid, and bigoted about certain ideas, he was respectful toward me. I do appreciate that. He didn’t try to Thunderf00t me.

  6. douglasmcfarland says

    Damn the end of that was difficult to watch. Why would anyone be against condemning abhorrent speech? I pretty much live on the internet and I don’t see anything remotely approaching the kinds of comments women get for expressing their views directed at men. Especially by women. If I read women communicating the kind of shit men communicate in writing I would absolutely condemn it. But while it is commonplace to read comments directed at women by men deriding them pretty much for being women instead of for what they write I don’t see comments directed at men by women for being men. I do occasionally sense an us verses them vibe in feminist writing but nothing like the vitriol espoused in the comment sections of women writers/bloggers/vloggers.

    It’s weird how feminism upsets so many people. I think it says more about the people who get their pantaloons so knotted up over it than the women and men who express the ideas that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. What’s the big deal?

    • says

      I do occasionally sense an us verses them vibe in feminist writing but nothing like the vitriol espoused…

      Indeed, and one even has to remember that those vibes only exist in conversations at the end of years of taking shit, and thus represent perfectly valid accumulated exasperation and outrage. So getting all upset about it is much like the privilege blindness exhibited by JT Eberhard when he made the same mistake trying to tone troll black reactions to racism, which I parodied him for. If you walk into a conversation among feminists completely oblivious to what those feminists have been dealing with for the last ten plus years, you are not qualified to tone troll them. You should instead endeavor to get up to speed and understand what lies behind that tone: all the years of exasperation and outrage that has accumulated, often enough for perfectly legitimate reasons.

      (And I’m just saying this of mainstream feminism. There are genuinely radical feminists who are actually and openly misandrist and who say and advocate awful things. But they are as rare as flat earthers, and no more representative of feminism, or any prominent atheist woman, than Stalin is of atheism today, or indeed ever.)

      What’s the big deal?


      Note that Joe betrayed some tells in his fevered paranoid hyperbole near the end. I addressed what pertained to the moment. But in between those points were some important reveals, like his fear that we don’t want anyone to ever hit on women ever, or that he will get criticized for telling sexist jokes. This is much like Christians who think telling them they are awful people for wanting to discriminate against gays is “persecuting” them, and making rules that prevent them from treating gays unfairly in public is taking away their “freedom.” And notice how those Christians then invent wildly bizarre and paranoid beliefs about what the government is actually doing or will do (like force their churches to marry gays; as irrational a belief as thinking we want to prevent all hitting on women whatever).

      It’s the same mindset at work here: not wanting to admit to oneself that your beliefs and attitudes are to some genuine degree reprehensible or bigoted, and thus attacking anyone who even suggests you be criticized for it–or worse!–that people might no longer want to associate themselves with you or allow themselves to be represented by you, because of your repellant beliefs and attitudes. Until they actually realize that their beliefs and attitudes are wrong (and why), they will never understand why they are criticized for them or why people don’t want to associate themselves with them or allow themselves to be represented by them, and so they interpret those responses to them as divisive persecution, rather than what it actually is: the voicing of legitimate grievances, and a perfectly sensible disassociation from people who maintain anti-humanist attitudes and beliefs.

      They then create a mythology in their head to rationalize their false narrative of what is happening, just like those homophobic Christians do. And that mythology replaces reality. And then drives everything they think, say, and do. Thus, they don’t hear what Rebecca Watson actually said. They hear some mythical woman saying mythical things that verifies their narrative, and that becomes reality to them. Yet it bears no relation to reality at all.

      This is why people like Joe cannot understand why we ask questions like, “If you aren’t even willing to listen to women, how can you consider yourself a humanist?” They see that as an unjustified and divisive attack, rather than an entirely valid question.

  7. says

    I’m reminded to add what I said years ago on one of the many occasions the same false mythology about the elevator incident gets repeated (by people who are either liars or, more frequently, have been duped by liars, being bad skeptics and not actually checking their source and the actual evidence before forming an opinion):

    [M]en need to be more proactive in encouraging other men to think about and learn these things, and anyone interested in what Rebecca Watson actually said (and how in fact it provides all the information you actually need to know what the right way to approach a woman would have been in her circumstances) should just watch the original video (from minute 2:44 to 6:30, although if you keep listening there’s a funny joke at the end).

    Likewise I’d suggest now her very important followup post on her blog (The Privilege Delusion) and her comments (hers, not those of others) on the original video post, which I’ll reproduce here for convenience, with my own emphasis for the key details less considerate readers tend to miss or not understand:

    There is a small chance that this man meant nothing sexual in his comment, despite the fact that I had clearly indicated my wish to go to bed (alone) and the fact that the bar had coffee and therefore there was absolutely zero reason to go to anyone’s hotel room to have it. Sure. There’s a chance.

    But regardless, the point I was making was that people need to be aware of how their comments might make someone feel extraordinarily uncomfortable and even feel as though they are in danger. This person failed to recognize that even though I had been speaking about little else all day long.

    In [the alternative] situation [i.e., if he had hit on her in the bar at 2:00 AM, two hours before she left for bed, and not suggested going back to his room] it would have been merely pathetic as opposed to threatening. And before a bunch of sad sacks start whining that I’m saying it’s always pathetic when a man hits on a woman: no. It’s pathetic when someone hits on a person (who has been talking nonstop about how much she loathes the sexual advances she’s subjected to at conferences) by saying absolutely nothing to her before inviting her to his hotel room.

    I must also add, again contrary to the mythology that I have heard again and again, she never said this was sexual harassment, and this did not come up in any context relating to sexual harassment policies, at all. Nor did she accuse the guy of attempted rape. Or call him a misogynist. Or even disparage him in any way. All she did was say it made her feel uncomfortable, and why, and that men should be more considerate of those facts when approaching women.

    So if that is not what you were told happened, you need to re-examine the reliability of your sources of information. Just as I say to Christians duped by apologists. Why did they tell you what wasn’t true? And can you ever trust them to tell you the truth again?

  8. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    The other thing that was frustrating about the end segment was the continued emphasis by the hosts on whether or not atheists openly endorse rape threats…as if that is the only way a person can be a sexism/misogyny/bullying enabler. The real problem is that when numerous women voice concerns about the way they are treated in atheist spheres, a lot of (mostly) men are hand-waving away their concerns, telling them to STFU or claiming that they deserve what they get for bringing up the topic. The fact that these guys were seemingly unaware of the scale of the problem (when it has been documented by Rebecca, Ophelia, Greta, Jen McR., etc. etc.) just shows how deep their heads are buried in the dudebro sand.

    They also exemplified the have-it-both-ways belief that is so prominent among the enablers that: 1.) the rapey commenters are a trivial portion of the atheist movement and not representative of the group and thus not a substantial problem but 2.) any attempt to condemn their actions, ban them from comments sections or even just acknowledge the negative impact they have on the community is Hitler x Eleventy level Censorship!!1! I’d like, for once, to hear an explanation for what great things the slymers bring to the atheist table that justifies treating them with such kid gloves at the expense of driving away 50% of the population. If they are such a small minority, and everyone agrees that rape threats are bad, why not take measures to make them unwelcome?

  9. Latverian Diplomat says

    Hi Richard,

    I’m always impressed by your skill in Q&A. This was another fine example.

    I don’t seem to be able to accurately guess the spelling of the name of the Swiss scholar who is following up on your article on Hitler’s Table Talk Could you provide that?

    I’d like to keep an eye out for his book.


    • says

      Mikael Nilsson (Stockholm U). But don’t trouble him unless you have unique access to documents or family stories connected to the creation and publication of Hitler’s Table Talk. He’s a very busy guy and has enough correspondence to manage as it is. I’ll definitely blog about any research he publishes on this subject.

  10. Michael Olson says

    Just listened. Great job Richard. On both ends of the video. The end was hard to listen to but you did an admirable job dealing with their misconceptions and at least they were willing to have a discussion.

  11. karl says

    That was the first and last episode of Skeptic Fence I’ll be checking out. Certainly, the last segment was just dreadful with the hyperbole and selective hyperskepticism (which you handled admirably). But the primary host (Joe?) seemed completely disengaged from the interview.

    It seemed like he would wait for you to finish speaking, and then rejoin with an “awesome-sauce” to affirm whatever point you were making. It’s possible he was distracted by the technical considerations that go into hosting a show in the format, but the perception I came away with is that he didn’t care what you had to say, which is terribly unprofessional. And his attempt to find common ground on the topic of Jesus’ birthdate furthers this notion, as his seasonal example was several orders of magnitude different than the year discrepancy you were talking about.

    I think you’re being charitable upthread by suggesting the co-hosts were more open to being persuaded. The impression I got was they were just waiting for their chance to to spring a “got ya” question on you, if only they could get in a word when Joe took a breath. It looks like one of the co-hosts is in the Youtube comment thread defending the show’s position, and I think might have used the words “extreme feminism” when discussing either you or Rebecca (at work, can’t check). I’d be amused to learn what he thinks feminism is, and then what he thinks make you or Rebecca so extreme

    Still, I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there – especially knowing ahead of time the likelihood of the topic coming up. Good on ya!

    • says

      I don’t share your first criticism. I do think he was busy handling the tech and was rather new to the details of the subject (which is why he had me on in the first place), so he proposed some questions and then relied on his co-hosts for the rest. I didn’t consider any of that unprofessional. That was all fine.

      As to the second, only time will tell. It is of course a silly sexist trope to refer to ordinary feminism as extreme feminism, but without details I can’t evaluate that. But I have a lot of experience interacting with people on the sexism spectrum, and the knee-jerk reactions you describe (to try and “correct” me etc.) is a typical cognitive error you can find in anyone, on any subject they feel “confronted” on, so in the interview itself, I didn’t see anything sinister in that, it’s just how cognitive dissonance works. It was how they responded overall that looked more positive to me than Joe’s overall response (the difference you note).