I’ll Be at ReasonCon: North Carolina

Photo of the Crowne Plaza Hickory Hotel. Looks like a one-floor but fascinatingly modern structure, including a beautuful glass-enclosed arched walkway at front..Although it’s almost sold out already, I will be the keynote speaker at ReasonCon in Hickory, North Carolina, in early May. Details here (also tickets and wait-list options there). As I write, there are only VIP tickets left, and those include the VIP launch party Friday night (9pm, May 2, 2014). [Update: They got a bigger venue after I originally posted. As of 16 April, ninety new free tickets became available. Snatch those up while you can!]. Otherwise, the option exists to submit your name to a wait-list for a free spot at the one-day con on Saturday (9am-5pm, May 3, 2014, with an after-party that night for all, starting at 7pm).

If you still want to attend the conference, and can’t afford the VIP ticks or even they get sold out [and if you find the new free tickets are all gone, too], it can’t hurt to submit a wait-list request to tell them what the demand really was, so if they do this again next year they might be able to accommodate more people, or (less likely but a dim possibility) they might find a way to make room this year and let you know you can get in after all. They also might succeed in streaming it live or recording it for YouTube (that is still in development), but they could still benefit from hearing how many wanted to go but couldn’t. Otherwise, there is some VIP access still available. As I look this moment there are 26 of those left at $65 and 22 more at $100 (the latter comes with free booze, if you are of legal age to take advantage of that). I’ll be at the launch party if my flights meet no delays (although, all told, I will be arriving at the party almost exactly when it starts, after traveling the whole day, so I’ll be on my second wind!).

This event is being put on by the MythUnderstood Alliance, and is the brainchild of Atheists on Air with Cash and Love. It will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hickory (1385 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd SE).

What’s unusual about this event is that I am going to do a marathon Q&A on the historicity of Jesus (up to 90 minutes, unless the audience runs out of questions first), after another 90 minutes of presentation (or near to…don’t worry, there are some breaks in there). I shall be endeavoring to make the latter at least as engaging and entertaining as a bad movie. So it won’t just be dry lecture. I’ll be playing up as many of the funny bits of the bible and modern scholarship as I can. My focus won’t just be on the historicity question, but on the whole broader question of the origins of Christianity: its context, but also what it looks like really happened, what its founding Jews actually thought they were doing by inventing it, and what they invented it for.

And I’m just the keynote! Also speaking that day will be Tracie Harris (of Atheist Community of Austin, Atheist Experience TV show, and Godless Bitches podcast fame) and Ryan Bell (of A Year Without God fame) and teen cult escapee Phoebe Cahours (who has an amazing story of getting away from the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses–it seems her mother dragged her through several infamous Christian cults). Cash & Love will also have some things to say to the crowd. Overall it sounds like a very interesting and engaging day.


  1. Seth says

    This *almost* makes me wish I hadn’t emigrated to Canada from North Carolina. Do you have any plans to go to Calgary sometime after July, Richard?

  2. Giuseppe says

    Hi Richard,
    I have read this post from mythicist Jay Raskin. It’s a possible, even probable, his exegesis that Paul ”wanted to join the Church of God as quickly as possible”, instead to destroy it ?


    • says

      Doesn’t work in context. Paul elsewhere compares himself to a monster (an aborted fetus: 1 Cor. 15:8) because he persecuted the church and thus had no right to expect God to choose him to be an apostle (1 Cor. 15:9). That is pretty explicit that he means persecute and not pursue. And that’s equally clear from Galatians 1:22-24:

      And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ, but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc; and they glorified God in me.

      So clearly even in Galatians 1:11-16 he means wreak havoc on, not try to join. Even there he says he “tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13). To suggest this means “plunder” makes no sense in context (and context is everything). He clearly means that the churches were surprised that he was converted, not that he went from stealing their stuff to preaching their creed. No one who merely mooched off the church would be so famous for it as to be known as doing it across all the churches of Judea. It would also make no sense for him to be “pursuing” and “stealing from” the church without ever preaching its creed.

      Moreover, one cannot plunder a “faith” (pistis). One could conceivably plunder a “church” (ecclesia, as in Gal. 1:13), but since Paul says he means the faith (1:23), he clearly is not using the word “destroy” in its connotation of “loot” (and loot does not mean steal from: there were other words for the latter; the former means plunder as in utterly strip and ruin). And on top of all that, he elsewhere says he is like a monster and does not deserve to be called an apostle because he “persecuted” the church, he clearly does not mean because he zealously pursued the church (and he does not use there any word that could imply looting it).

      There just isn’t any plausible way to change what all this means. Paul himself clearly says he was a persecutor, who was then converted, not a moocher who then became a giver.

  3. Kurt Lewis Helf says

    OT but I wondered if you plan to review Ehrman’s new book “How Jesus Became God”? I heard a recent interview with him about it on “Fresh Air” and wondered how it would be received by other historians.

  4. ron says

    What do you make of apologist James White’s claims about textual criticism? I’d be interested in seeing a response or whatever thoughts you have on this guy.

  5. gwen says

    Have you written anything about the ‘Jesus’ wife’ papyrus that they are now dating to 200 CE? Everything I read misses the elephant in the room. It still does nothing to prove Jesus is anything more than a story.

    • says

      For those who are interested in that subject, you can see my comments on Facebook here. But in short, (a) all the real scholars studying this admit the text bears not at all on any true facts about a historical Jesus (e.g. no one but cranks uses this as evidence Jesus was actually married) and (b) none of the attempts so far to authenticate the document against the claim of forgery are capable of doing so (conspicuously, in fact; yet the evidence it’s a modern forgery is nearly conclusive, IMO). Just FYI.

  6. Giuseppe says

    Hi Richard,
    Dave Fitzgerald so writes.

    Personally, I don’t know for certain if Paul himself believed in a purely spiritual Christ (along the lines of the savior in the original Ascension of Isaiah, who descends through successive layers of heavens by dying and rising again in each one) as Earl Doherty argues convincingly; or if Paul thought Jesus was on earth in some unspecified time in the past as a covert messiah, who “made of himself no reputation” (Phillip.2:7) and was unwittingly crucified by demons.

    You admit, like Fitzgerald, at leat as mere possibility, that the crucifixion of Son, and only that, was believed to be happened on the terra firma as thinks Roger Parvus, too?

    In this way, if the archontic reame was the terra firma, the sarx for Paul had only a negative value, then were only later Christians to re-value the material world by inventing an historical Jesus.

    I know that you like argue for a minimal form of mythicism, but, even to the cost of committing the fallacia of possibiliter, you are opened to the possibility that the first Christians as Paul were only ”crucifixion-historicists” (i.e. they believed that the Son switched place with an anonymous condemned to the roman cross only for the few hours of his agony, and this fact was revealed to them only via revelation) and then only the later Christians became, after the Gospels, ”life & post-life” historicists? Parvus doesn’t think that the deat of anonymous had causal effect on the first vision, but instead the opposite: they knew that the Son was crucified on terra firma only per revelation. Before the celestial revelation, after their thinking of themselves as ”crucifixion-historicists”.

    So Parvus:

    Transformation and crucifixion, then, are almost exclusively the elements of the Lord’s visit to earth that can be found in the uncontroversial parts of the Pauline letters.

    And it is not just that there is no public ministry. As Earl Doherty pointed out in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, pretty much the rest of the passion narrative as found in the canonical gospels is missing too. No scourging or crowning with thorns, no betrayal by Judas, or denials by Peter, or abandonment by the disciples, or preference of Barabbas over Jesus. Besides the crucifixion, arguably the only other reference to a passion incident is the mention of “insults” in Rom. 15:3.

    The insults of Rom 15:3 obviously are taken from Psalm, but they can be clues of a presumed historical crucifixion (even if that crucifixion was not historical because known as such ony via revelation).

    I confess to be divided :) between your (and Doherty’s) view of a celestial crucifixion and the Parvus’view that I find very suggestive.

    What do you think about?
    Very thanks,

    • says

      Either way, there was no actual historical Jesus. So that’s not really an issue. If a mythical earth-death is at all plausible, it just increases the probability of non-historicity. Because the probability-space occupied by that option will be added to the probability-space occupied by the celestial-death theory.

      In my next book I have a note acknowledging the possibility. But there is no support for it in the background evidence, or indeed any evidence at all, as opposed to the celestial death theory, which has both (as I extensively document in my next book). It therefore is far more defensible. That doesn’t mean the earth-death theory is false. It just means it’s far easier to defend the celestial-death theory.