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…]

Following Me on Facebook Might Be a Thing

I’ve realized that I often post things to my Facebook wall that I don’t mention on my blog. And then I realized some readers of my blog, might want to also read those things (always brief comments or announcements of places I’m hanging out—where you might even be able to join me—and things like that). If you are one of those people, you might want to follow me on Facebook. In fact my Facebook wall is basically my twitter feed. So if you wanted a Richard Carrier twitter feed, that’s the closest there is. (No, I have no plans to get on twitter, too much work to manage.)

But again that’s follow, not friend.

I am nearly out of slots for Facebook friends. They allow you only 5000, and I’m over 4000. And I receive several hundred requests a month. So, simple math entails I must decline nearly all. So don’t friend me, unless (a) we actually are friends (or colleagues), or (b) we’ve hung out before in substantial fashion, or (c) you have a professional reason (like if you are a board member or officer of an organization, even a small one, e.g. a campus group or community group; or you are a producer of media content, like podcasts or secular swag or blogs or books or movies or what have you; or you are a professor or professional thinktanker interested in my work; things like that), or (d) you are considering dating me. Or any combination of the above. I will accept requests for a variety of other reasons that I can’t articulate into words, usually something I love about a person’s profile or their aesthetic or their art. But there’s no easy way for you to know that in advance.

If you do want to friend me specifically, and not just follow me, and you meet one or more of the above criteria, also message me to tell me that. I might not be able to tell from your profile who you are or if we’ve met or anything. Most people don’t have their settings set to public enough for me to even vet their profile, or don’t put that information on it, and profile pics are often inadequate for me to recognize faces, and so on. So just tell me. Then I’ll know. All my Facebook settings are set to public, so anyone can message me.

That saves me a lot of time. Because, yes, I actually respond individually, and manually, to every Facebook friend request I get, explaining all this. That’s generally over a hundred a week. And I do try to figure out if each requester meets any of the criteria beforehand. So, that’s time. Indeed, not only is there is no automated capability on Facebook, in fact they stymie it by forcing you to pass a Find Waldo test for every message you send, when you message to non-friends as often as I have to do for this purpose. So, hundreds and hundreds of Find Waldo tests every month, just to send this quasi-automated message:

Greetings! Thank you for your friend request. I probably have to decline (as my friend count is approaching the Facebook maximum), but please read my note:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/richard-carrier/note-to-all-have-you-asked-to-be-my-fb-friend-and-not-heard-back/512364158839147

(You can “follow” me instead of friend me, or remind me of whether we’ve hung out before, or any other reason I should have you more than just follow my FB page. I won’t necessarily be able to tell who you are from your FB page or profile pic. I might also not recognize your name, even if we’ve worked together or communicated before, as I have to process a hundred of these requests a week. So do feel free to message me with a reminder if I’ve overlooked our connection. Thanks!)

The linked note then explains further.

Conversely, if we are already Facebook friends, feel free to unfriend me and then just follow me instead (if still interested). For example, if you want to clean up and pare down your own friends list. Since if you are following me, you don’t need to be my Facebook friend (unless our lives are more entangled in some way), since all my settings are on public anyway, so you don’t gain many features.

Either way, if it sounds like something you are interested in, follow me.

Defining the Supernatural vs. Logical Positivism

In working slowly through a gigantic backlog of blog comments, I met with one that goes back to an old school question, about my project to demarcate the natural and the supernatural. The comment by Enlightenment Liberal is here. He is asking questions about the conclusion I argued here and in print here (with a followup here). The first, Defining the Supernatural, supports the others, Defining Naturalism I and II. His perspective can be summarized as “If we grant your definitions of ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, I think that all hypotheses of the form ‘X is supernatural’ entail absolutely zero observable predictions about the world,” in particular because “I think that I have absolutely no basis to conclude that there is any relation or correlation at all between the fundamental nature of things and the observable nature of things,” in accordance with Logical Positivism.

So, is he right? Let’s explore… [Read more…]