Appearing in Oregon

The Jefferson Center of Ashland, Oregon, is sponsoring a trip for me there in early May (2012). I’ll be in the area for over a week. The main event is my lecture on “How the First Christians Claimed to Know What They Know (and Why That Matters Now),” which will touch on both philosophy (epistemology) and ancient history. That is scheduled for Thursday May 10 from 7 to 9pm, which includes Q&A and selling and signing my books (including my new book Proving History), in the Meese Room (3rd floor) of Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University (campus address: 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, in Ashland, Oregon 97520). I believe it will be free to all. I will also be interviewed on an affiliated public radio show (The Jefferson Exchange on JPR) on Wednesday, May 9 (2012), from 9 to 10am, followed by a fundraiser luncheon (which I believe is already booked, but if you want in and you are keen on supporting the JeffC with a generous donation, it couldn’t hurt to contact them and at least ask about it). I might also be giving a special lecture for the philosophy department at OSU, but that hasn’t been confirmed, and won’t be open to the public. If you have any kind of godless meetup group in the area, feel free to contact me about the possibility of stopping by that week (if I can fit it into my schedule).


  1. furtivezoog says

    Just be caught up on your vaccines and be careful–Ashland is a notorious hotbed of anti-vaccinationism.

    You should come closer to Portland!

  2. says

    Richard, you said:

    “If you have any kind of godless meetup group in the area, feel free to contact me about the possibility of stopping by that week (if I can fit it into my schedule).”

    That’s speaks volumes about your agenda as a “historian.”

    • says

      A historian sets out to learn what happened and then make it known. Your goal, by contrast, is to encourage the faithless and discourage the faithful. It’s not a historian’s agenda.

    • says

      My goal as a historian is to learn what happened and then make it known. If it somehow “encourages the faithless and discourages the faithful” that’s not my problem. Nor my aim.

    • says

      I watched your debate with Mike Licona. He laid out a historical case. By contrast, you laid out no alternative case. Rather, time after time you countered with doubt about his case. You could have challenged his case with an alternative case or you could have challenged his case merely by sowing doubt about it. A historian would have chosen the former, you chose the latter. Repeatedly and consistently.

      You are making a name for yourself being defined by who you don’t believe existed and what you don’t believe happened. A historian makes a name for himself by who he does chronicle and what he does believe happened.

    • says

      Which debate are you talking about? And why is this relevant to this topic thread?

      (And I certainly did lay out an alternative case, in both debates; indeed, he and I spent considerable time debating my alternative case. I must assume then you didn’t actually watch either debate. Or perhaps you are confusing “I present several alternatives that are more probable than his” with “I present no alternatives to his,” which would suggest you are logic challenged and must have scored low on the English comprehension portion of the SAT.)

    • says

      You forgot to throw in that my mother wears army boots…but I get your drift nonetheless.

      I watched the debate on YouTube a month or so ago. I didn’t keep notes so I don’t know the date. Nor did I know that this one one of two debates that you had. I think the two of spoke from the podium initially but then spent most of the discussion sitting in armchairs across from each other in dialogue.

      You do offer alternatives to specific points, but only to undermine the point. What I don’t see you offer, and haven’t found on your web site, is a complete alternative case. And by “complete,” I don’t mean long. It should only take a paragraph. I simply mean a coherent and succinct statement of what happened such that a third of the world proclaims allegiance to someone who never existed.

      That is, if you believe Jesus is a myth, who are the perpetrators of that myth and who are the victims? What was the motive, means, and opportunity of those who foisted myth as history? When and why did they do it such that for centuries supporters and detractors alike have believed that Jesus really existed and now you and others have uncovered the truth?

    • says

      That would be our second debate. Our first was on my specific theory of the origins of Christianity; Licona wanted the second debate to be more general and conversational, getting at our exact differences. But even there I listed several alternative theories that are the most commonly proposed by mainstream scholars or that I have particular evidence for.

      You do not seem to understand how a debate works: the person speaking first affirms a proposition, and it is the responsibility of the opponent to rebut. This creates the structure you are referring to, but that is created by the debate format. The structure is not the same thing as the content. If you are asking what my positive beliefs are (my actual conclusions as a historian), you have to look at the content, not the structure. If you only look at the structure, then you are being misled by the format. The content consists of the facts I educated the audience on, which rebut the assertions of Licona, but nevertheless consist of positive statements about history and historical method.

      As to the answers to your specific questions, read Not the Impossible Faith and chapter 2 of The End of Christianity, which were designed for that purpose.

      This may reflect another failure to understand how a debate works: it is physically impossible to outline what one fully believes happened (and why you believe that) in a debate, because you are set against a clock. You have only very limited time. This forces you to only make absolutely essential points. Accordingly, it is not possible to learn what I teach about the origins of Christianity from a debate, since that requires a great deal more time than is available in a debate. That is precisely what my publications are for.

    • says

      Richard, you said:

      “Our first [debate] was on my specific theory of the origins of Christianity…”

      I listened to your opening statement in this video and you did not present the mythicist position at all. Rather you argued the theory that the apostles, disillusioned by Jesus’ crucifixion, searched the Scriptures and had “prophetic dreams and visions” which they then began to promulgate. Thus your singular theme seems to be against Christ, whether it be a historical one or a mythical one.

      “…I listed several alternative theories that are the most commonly proposed by mainstream scholars…”

      If you mean mainstream scholars arguing against the resurrection, perhaps. But as Ehrman is making clear, there are no mainstream scholars against the historicity of Jesus.

      “Accordingly, it is not possible to learn what I teach about the origins of Christianity from a debate, since that requires a great deal more time than is available in a debate.”

      If you can’t outline your theory of Christian origins as a myth in a 20-minute, or even 10-minute, opening debate session, then there’s something wrong with your logic. Sure, your argument in a nutshell would not contain all the nuance and substance, but if the core can’t be pulled out maybe there’s no core there.

      “That is precisely what my publications are for.”

      I hope you will recognize how self-serving this sounds. “I can’t explain it to you so you’ll have to buy my books.” I am willing to give serious thought to your theory, but if you aren’t willing to put that theory, at least in outline form, on your blog, don’t expect me to buy your books. I don’t have enough money or time to buy books in order to find out what someone is saying. I buy books when I know what someone is saying and want to know more.

      Richard, I don’t know how smart you are, but I know you are a lot smarter than I am. If you want me to give serious consideration to your claim of being a historian who wants to get history right you’ve got to do a better job of telling your story and not spend so much effort on trying to discredit someone else’s.

    • says

      I was not defending the mythicist position in that debate. I have never debated mythicism. I may do so later this year or next, but always I have maintained that it is a speculative hypothesis, and in debates on other subjects I maintain the common view that Jesus existed, and only that he was not actually resurrected from the dead etc. So you clearly are very confused.

      And it’s certainly not true that “if you can’t outline your theory of Christian origins as a myth in a 20-minute, or even 10-minute, opening debate session, then there’s something wrong with your logic,” not only because a debate does not consist only of an opening statement but a series of rebuttals and replies (and it is there that countless complexities arise too numerous to cover in so short a period), but also because to understand why a particular theory is credible, you need to be educated on all the relevant background evidence (e.g. the nature of savior religions before the first century, the history and science of schizotypal cults, the relevant theological background from pre-Christian Jewish literature, the political and literary context, e.g. the fact that ancient biographies were often fictional creations turning things said by the person into imagined stories about them; and so on and so forth). It is impossible to do that in 20 minutes.

      For example, my book Not the Impossible Faith (which doesn’t even argue for mythicism–I have yet to publish anything defending that thesis) would take 17 hours to read, and yet contains most of the background information you need to understand why an argument for mythicism has merit (for example, if I just said there were dying and rising gods predating Christianity, you or someone would doubt that, so I’d have to prove it; that alone would take at least 5-10 minutes at a podium; I devote a chapter to it in NIF; and that’s just one of a hundred premises you have to be persuaded of).

      Now, if your response is “I’m too lazy and disinterested to find out if you are correct” then why are you even bothering to communicate with me? If you don’t give a shit, go away. If you do give a shit, meet your epistemic obligation and read what I’ve written specifically to educate people. But don’t claim I’m not educating people on historical facts because you won’t read the books I write to educate them on historical facts. That would be a really stupid thing to say, don’t you agree?

    • says

      I’ll tell you what, Richard: You read my book and I’ll read yours. How about that?

      My book is “The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.” It’s available online and you don’t have to buy it or sign up for anything. Just as the title suggests, it describes how the Bible teaches that through Jesus Christ everyone is going to heaven when they die. In other words, evangelical Christianity has gotten it only half right. They’re right that Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead is a whopping big deal, but they’re wrong when they think that only they are going to heaven. Moreover, rank in heaven won’t have anything to do with whether one is a Christian or not. Rather, it will have to do with how morally we lived given the knowledge of God that we had.

      It’s about 55,000 words, which I’m guessing is shorter than yours.

      So, it seems like a good deal for you: you get to read the shorter book and you won’t even have to pay for it. What do you say?

    • says

      I don’t see how that book has anything whatever to do with what we were discussing.

      It makes no sense to say “You don’t do history, because I refuse to read any book where you do history, until you read my book that doesn’t.”

    • says


      That you are willing to concede the historical Jesus in order to argue against his resurrection and also willing to argue against the historical Jesus is demonstration enough that your main concern is not history.

    • says

      You obviously don’t know much about historical scholarship. Historians concede different possibilities and argue from them all the time. Particularly when we are dealing with untested hypotheses (as I believe the non-existence of Jesus is, since it has never yet been properly argued and debated). All responsible historians acknowledge and argue from any near-universal consensus view until they can prove that view incorrect. And that is precisely how I have behaved. Which actually demonstrates my main concern is history.

    • says

      No it’s not. If you are really interested in the state of historical evidence for the resurrection see chapter 11 of The Christian Delusion.

      Please keep your remarks from now on relevant to the topic of the blog. And respond to things I’ve actually said. Unsourced and unargued assertions that ignore everything I’ve already said on the subject are in violation of my comments policy.

  3. says


    You might not want to waste much time responding to Mike Gantt. The guy seems to be another hack. He wrote a hack piece on Thom Stark’s book *The Human Faces of God* and he seems to like an evil guy like James Holding. I personally do not wish to have anything to do with Mr. Gantt or anyone like him. He’s another excellent reason why I could never want to be a Christian; even if there was an eternity in heaven (with Christ) and he was going there, I can’t imagine spending it with the likes of creepy hacks like him.

  4. Kristen McBride says

    I believe that photo is from Oregon State University, not Southern Oregon University, my alma mater, as it turns out.

  5. Kristen says

    Huh. You’re right…..looks A LOT nicer than when I was searching for secluded corners….but that’s another story.

  6. Geoff says


    How about an appearance in Eugene, OR that week? I think I could come up with a sponsor for a discussion if you are interested…

    Geoff Barrett

    • says

      That’s three hours away (so would entail six hours in a car). Unfortunately I can’t swing that. But if any group there wants to fly me out some day in future, I’d certainly love to speak there.