Groovy Video Companion to A Better Life

Logo for Chris Johnson's A Better Life (video and book)I just watched Chris Johnson‘s new documentary, A Better Life. The book was already fantastic. Beautiful photography, great interview excerpts, of both famous and everyday atheists with remarkable stories. The video companion lives up to it. This is a must-have addition to anyone’s collection of films documenting atheist thought and experience. When Chris took interviews and photos for his wonderfully plush coffee table book, he also shot beautiful high quality video. And here he stitches the best bits of his interviews together as he explores how atheists find meaning in life without religion, and how and why they left their faiths. And let me tell you, his interview subjects are some awesome gets. From renowned philosopher Patricia Churchland (and her dogs!) to beloved writer and actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf, among a great deal else). And more (Cara Santa Maria, A.C. Grayling, Julia Sweeney, A.J. Johnson, Daniel Dennett, and beyond).

Some Good Stuff on Social Justice Responsibility

Thank you, David Wong and Miri Mogilevsky!

A girlfriend tipped me off to David Wong’s really amusing and spot-on 101 on why social justice (particularly regarding structural racism and sexism) is not about white guilt but about fixing what our ancestors broke. Check out 5 Helpful Answers to Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions to see what I mean (and yes, this is impressively educational and insightful for an article at Cracked!). That’s really elegantly written. Funny. Apt. And a much needed summary of what many of us take for granted but find hard to explain so well. Required reading for anyone who doesn’t already get it (but wants to), and rewarding reading for anyone who already does!

As it happens, just by chance, Miri Mogilevsky also published a really excellent article at DailyDot [Read more…]

New Course This June on the Historicity of Jesus!

I have updated my course on Questioning or Defending the Historicity of Jesus to account for the reception it’s had this past year. And now I’m offering it again over the course of June, which means this new class starts under two weeks from now (details and registration here).

Description: [Read more…]

41 Reasons We’re, Like, Totes Sure Jesus Existed!

Photo of James Bishop about town, young rugged man in a blue toque, white t-short and grey vest, hip beard.People often ask me about Christian apologist James Bishop’s “41 Reasons Why Scholars Know Jesus Really Existed.” Because it’s the highest number of reasons anyone has attempted to claim (apart from the 10/42 apologetic, which Matthew Ferguson thoroughly annihilated).

This piece doesn’t try that. Thank the Lords of Kobol! But it is still a travesty of being lost in the bubble of Christian distortion, of course. Bishop is in South Africa studying theology at college, and says enthusiastic things like, “I wish to exercise my faith in a powerful manner to reach as many people as possible.” Aww.

I’ll just be brief and explain where everything he says has already been refuted. So here we go… [Read more…]

Appearing in Boise, Idaho, This Wednesday — For National Day of Reason!

Poster for the Idaho National Day of Reason Event. Says more info at tvcor.org, music and refreshments, Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason, bring donations for Nepal to be taken by the Foundation Beyond Belief. Mentions time and place as in blog post. Says guest speakers include Richard Carrier, author and blogger, Dustin Williams, Atheist Nomads podcaster, and Susan Harrington, atheist civil rights activist, and says there will be more.Where? Idaho state capital steps (in Boise). When? Noon to 1:30pm, Thursday, May 7. Why? To make a public appeal for the separation of church and state, in honor of this year’s National Day of Reason (2015).

Sponsored by the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason. I’ll be speaking on the subject from the steps. So will Dustin Williams, Atheist Nomads podcaster, and Susan Harrington, noted atheist civil rights activist, and more. There will also be music and refreshments. Come on down and rally for the cause! Help show our numbers!

As the organizers put it:

This is a work/school day that you probably will want to take off. This is one of those days where every single body that shows up will make a difference.

Later in the day there will be a public dinner somewhere (announcements will be made at the event), where you can hang out with me and other speakers and attendees, and buy a signed copy of my latest book.

The Foundation Beyond Belief will also be there taking donations for Nepal disaster relief.

Check out the event Facebook page for details and updates.

The Josephus Testimonium: Let’s Just Admit It’s Fake Already

Stylized and modern iconographic drawing of a bust of Joephus, essentially imaginary.A new article just beats this dead horse deader still. Hat tip to Vridar and Peter Kirby. Honestly. The evidence that the Testimonium Flavianum (or TF) is entirely a late Christian forgery is now as overwhelming as such evidence could ever get. Short of uncovering a pre-Eusebian manuscript, which is not going to happen. All extant manuscripts derive from the single manuscript of Eusebius; evidently everything else was decisively lost.

The new article is by Paul Hopper, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University, “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63,” in Monika Fludernik and Daniel Jacob, eds., Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers,  (2014: de Gruyter), pp. 147-169 (available at academia.edu).

So in addition to all the evidence I and other scholars have amassed (summarized, with bibliography, in On the Historicity of Jesus, ch. 8.9), including the fact that what was once thought to be an Arabic testimony to a pre-Eusebian version of the text actually derives from Eusebius (as proved by Alice Whealey), and the peer reviewed article by G.J. Goldberg that proved the TF was, as a whole unit, based on the Gospel of Luke (and thus even if Josephan, not independent of the Gospels) and my own peer reviewed article (now reproduced in Hitler Homer Bible Christ, ch. 19) that added even more evidence, including proving the other brief mention of Jesus  in Josephus was also fake (an accidental insertion made centuries after Josephus wrote), and the literary evidence produced by Ken Olson that the TF is far closer to Eusebian style than Josephan style, now Paul Hopper shows that grammatical and structural analysis verifies all of this.

For those who want to understand how this new evidence from Hopper works to produce that conclusion, here is a quick summary: [Read more…]

Looking for a Date Middle of May

Close up photo of Richard Carrier in a suit and tie, wearing his characteristic glasses, speaking at an event before a screen showing text, gesturing as he makes a point, in front of a podium microphone almost out of view to the left..So, this is experimental. I’d like to go on a date in May. And for the first time, I’m going to try a bat signal: putting a call out on my blog. I don’t know anyone else who has tried doing that, so I have no precedent to work from as to etiquette or even arguments for or against doing it. So I’m just going to do it and see what happens and document and assess. If you know anyone who might have an interest in dating me, let them know. If you might have an interest, read on. [Read more…]

Katherine Cross on Tone Policing

Katherine Cross has written an excellent piece on distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate tone policing: Words for Cutting: Why We Need to Stop Abusing The Tone Argument. The article is a valuable read all through. Do not regard my summary here as its replacement. My aim is only to expand on it.

-:-

Cross makes two overarching points. One is that though intention is not magic, it does matter (as she says, it’s still data). And we should acknowledge that. I shall have nothing to say about that; it’s obviously correct (see Dan Fincke). The other is that while it is legitimate to denounce tone policing in many cases (and not only because it’s a fallacy), this should not become a non-circumstantial rule that applies to every instance, as if all tone policing were bad. It’s not.

Within that overarching point she makes the following supporting points:

  • Tone policing someone who is defending the oppressed or victimized is often illegitimate. Because when someone does that, “while they claim to be attacking tone, they are actually attacking the message, and often as not the very identity of the messenger.” This is thoroughly explained at GeekFeminismWiki. In these cases, tone isn’t really the issue. It’s just being used to silence someone or avoid addressing the point they are making. And that’s wrong. If you try to do that, you deserve to get called out on your shit. Own it. Then stop it. And do better in future. (I think this can also be done in ignorance—not just as a deliberate tactic, but out of not appreciating the context that evokes a particular tone, as I noted in the case of JT Eberhard’s attempt to tone-police Bria Crutchfield two years ago.)
  • Anger and other so-called negative emotions are important and have tremendous personal and social utility (without which, see Miranda). Anger is not irrational. Anger is data and motivation. You can be angry for irrational reasons. But not all reasons to be angry are irrational. Nevertheless, as Cross says, “like any emotion or tool, there are right and wrong ways to deploy it.” Thus, calling someone out for (let’s say) calling for sexists to be killed (even in jest) is not an illegitimate tone argument. That is a fully legitimate tone argument. If you are doing that, your tone is fucked. Sort that shit out.
  • Genuinely censurable tone can include threats, ill-wishing, calls for violence, ad hominems, or just plain abuse (see my article The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur for more on that last point).

In short, in Cross’s words:

To put it simply: sometimes someone is being too angry. Sometimes an activist’s rage is doing more harm than good. Sometimes there is no good being done by it whatsoever. Not every emotion we have is a great strike against oppressive forces. Sometimes you are just being too loud, abusing people verbally, triggering them, and so forth. Sometimes you are just being a jerk and your tone is a fairly reliable indicator of this.

Quite. There are some things I think that could be added, though… [Read more…]