FTB Now Hosting a Blogger in Iran

We are going to be onboarding some new bloggers in coming months, mostly after we launch a redesign of the site (coming soon), but one has joined us already:

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.

Kaveh’s blog here is On the Margin of Error. His subjects range widely (he has already posted dozens of entries on his new blog), and he brings a perspective you might not find anywhere else: someone living under a theocracy, who has to hide his identity to save his very life. Maybe start with his post explaining his pseudonym and blog’s title. Then explore from there!

On the Delay

So sorry I’ve left comments in the queue a whole week. Apart from all the stuff keeping me busy to the very wire (as I noted a day or two ago), I really, really wanted to get my review of Maurice Casey’s anti-mythicist’s book posted tonight. So I’ve been reading and annotating it nonstop every spare moment this week and most of today. And now I just realized the time. And alas this terrible book is driving me crazy. I can’t endure the tedious stream of consciousness awful of it any longer. I need to put it down and do other things for a bit. I have my weekend free so I’ll try to get it done by Monday or sooner. But I thought I’d throw this up to at least explain what’s going on. I’m going to try and clear the moderation queue tonight. So any good comments you’ve been waiting forever to see post, at long last they shall!

P.S. The last half of the proof for OHJ didn’t arrive as promised, so I’m hoping that will come early next week. Want. That. Done.

Secular Sobriety Program in Crisis: Lend a Hand

Do you like living in a world where there are definitely sobriety programs without god in them? Then help save pretty much the only one there is. Read this post buy Ophelia: Secular Organizations for Sobriety / Save Our Selves. That will give you the links and info to check them out, and to help donate so they can hit their target to stay funded (and it’s a steep target, so help is needed–please consider it).

Meanwhile, I’m in studio again this week to finish audio for Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and just completed two chapters for John Loftus’s final anthology in the trilogy (Christianity Is Not Great, which completes what we began with The Christian Delusion and The End of Christianity, both awesome volumes, and I have seen the content for this last one, and it’s even more awesome still).

And I just turned around the corrections for the first half of the proof of On the Historicity of Jesus, and Sheffield promises the second half is coming this week, so we’re on the final slalom on that project.

And I have a talk Thursday to a Christian youth group led by Josh McDowell’s son (no kidding) and a doctor’s appointment Friday (a follow-up–I’ve been sterilized!–so, have had and will have a sore crotch this week to supplement my still-healing innocuously broken toe, so I have that on top of all the tasks this week enumerated above).

And…drumroll…I am hoping to have my review of Maurice Casey’s anti-mythicism book done and up by this Friday evening. (I’ve already been impressed with the critiques at Vridar, which I’ll be citing.) I’ve had his book for over a week now, I just have been too busy to get to it!

And for all that, I’m sure I’m even forgetting something.

This is a hectic week for me.

Slowly Spinning up the FTL again…

I was on forced hiatus from my blog for over a week after FtBCon 2, due to a number of tech difficulties on the site and my being in studio all week recording (an exhausting and time consuming business). And then all the chores that were left undone (e.g. a major shop; business correspondence; taxes–which for us are pretty complex, a two-day operation) had to be done. And so on. So just this moment I finally got to and through my whole backlogged moderation queue for comments and finally cleared everything and replied where needed. So anyone who was waiting forever for their comment to post or to see what I or other people said (e.g. on my latest FtBCon 2 posts about the Philosophy panel and Bible Study), now you can go check that out.

I will be in studio again next week, but for fewer days. But also Valentines Day is coming. And I have a ton of other work to do. So although I have a lot of things I want to blog about, I’m going to have to put most of them on a to do list and slowly trickle them out. And some will seem already to be coming late (since they’ve been on the back burner for awhile).

Just FYI.

Hitler Homer Bible Christ: A Surprise New Book by Richard Carrier

While waiting for Sheffield to finish and release On the Historicity of Jesus (the book everyone is waiting for, presently projected for late March or early April), I decided to produce my own anthology of all my published papers on history. That volume, Hitler Homer Bible Christ: The Historical Papers of Richard Carrier 1995-2013, is now available, in print and kindle.

The publication description reads as follows (emphasis added):

Richard Carrier, Ph.D., philosopher, historian, blogger, has published a number of papers in the field of ancient history and biblical studies. He has also written several books and chapters on diverse subjects, and has been blogging and speaking since 2006. He is known the world over for all the above. But here, together for the first time, are all of Dr. Carrier’s peer reviewed academic journal articles in history through the year 2013, collected with his best magazine articles, research papers and blog posts on the same subjects. Many have been uniquely revised for this publication. Others are inaccessible except through libraries or paywalls. Twenty chapters include his seminal papers on the scandal of Hitler’s Table Talk, the Jerry Vardaman microletter farce, and the testimonies to Christ in Josephus, Tacitus, and Thallus, as well as Carrier’s journalistic foray into ancient pyramid quackery, his work on the historical & textual errancy of the bible, and more.

Cover of Hitler Homer Bible Christ. Olive or brown with dark greek falling leaves is the only graphic. The rest is just the title, subtitle at the top, and author at the bottom all in white lettering.The biggest attraction will be the fact that my peer reviewed paper showing that the reference to Christ in Tacitus is an interpolation, which is slated to appear in the academic journal Vigiliae Christianae later this year, is included in this volume, as well as my two other peer reviewed, academically published papers on the historicity question, the one on Thallus not having mentioned Jesus, and the other on the two references to Jesus in Josephus being interpolations (the one deliberate, the other accidental), published in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism and the Journal of Early Christian Studies, respectively.

Also included is my brief but now hard-to-find article for The History Teacher published years ago, and all the articles I published in The Skeptical Inquirer (on the FOX special promoting pyramidiocy, and the two articles on the Jerry Vardaman microletters debacle), and most interestingly for some, my game-changing, peer-reviewed article in the academic journal German Studies Review, exposing the dubious nature of the still-only English translation of Hitler’s Table Talk, largely bogus quotes from which make Hitler look more atheistic than he was. Of particular value to anyone who keeps seeing those quotes repeated and wants ready access to the definitive take-down. I have also included a new afterword on the impact that paper had on Hitler studies, and expanding the analysis to include all the passages you’ll find cited from the Table Talk (and even some quotations elsewhere) to argue Hitler was godless.

All of the above are hard to find or get. I only have the rights to publish them in an anthology of my own works. So I did.

I have also included several online articles, from my blog and elsewhere, many revised for this volume, to produce a handy collection of my best and most useful work in the field of history. The table of contents reads as follows:

– Doing History –

1 :: The Function of the Historian in Society

2 :: History Before 1950

3 :: Experimental History

4 :: B.C.A.D.C.E.B.C.E.

– History Done –

5 :: Heroic Values in Classical Literary Depictions of the Soul: Heroes and Ghosts in Virgil, Homer, and Tso Ch’iu-ming

6 :: Herod the Procurator and Christian Apologetics

7 :: Herod the Procurator: Was Herod the Great a Roman Governor of Syria?

8 :: On the Dual Office of Procurator and Prefect

– Debunking the Bogus –

9 :: Flash! Fox News Reports that Aliens May Have Built the Pyramids of Egypt!

10 :: Pseudohistory in Jerry Vardaman’s Magic Coins: The Nonsense of Micrographic Letters

11 :: More on Vardaman’s Microletters

12 :: Hitler’s Table Talk: Troubling Finds

– The Vexed Bible –

13 :: Ignatian Vexation

14 :: Pauline Interpolations

15 :: Luke vs. Matthew on the Year of Christ’s Birth

16 :: Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication

– The Troublesome Evidence for Jesus –

17 :: The Nazareth Inscription

18 :: Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death

19 :: Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200

20 :: The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44

In all, Hitler Homer clocks in at 395 pages.

I already have a contract to produce an audio version of Hitler Homer. Recording will likely begin in a month or so. The audiobook will thus be available probably mid-year. (Meanwhile, I spent most of last week in the studio finishing the recording of Proving History, which you can expect to be released on audio in just a few months. Sheffield wants to do an audio edition of On the Historicity of Jesus but so far hasn’t discussed arrangements with me, so alas, I have no idea when that will be available.)

Consider the Poor

Alex Gabriel has produced an excellent summary of “10 things atheist groups can do to take on class exclusion,” available at Alternet as “10 Ways to Make Sure the Atheist Movement Is Not Just for the Wealthy,” tagline, “Life without God shouldn’t have to be a luxury.”

Anyone involved in decision-making for any atheist group, local or national (even if just as a voting or outspoken member) should bookmark that article, read it, and discuss it with their group’s leadership. That link is an excellent thing to have on hand and pass on to future leadership, too. I think it should be part of any org’s permanent toolkit.

Alex discusses the reasoning behind it on his blog here at FTB: [Read more...]

On Illness and the Eternal Wheel of Law & Order

On Christmas I fell deathly ill and have been incapacitated (destroyed would be the better word) ever since. Only just today have I had the energy and wherewithal to go back on the internet since. Sadly my disease infected my dinner guests, too. (Sorry about that.) One of the only things my wife and I could do this whole week (so incapacitated we were by coughing, nausea, and fatigue) was watch TV and lie desperately still while experimenting with meds to get the coughing fits to stop (Benadryl eventually did it for me, i.e. diphenhydramine, but it leaves me dizzy, floaty, and dead inside, so it’s almost as bad as the disease…but dead inside at least works for sleeping).

Today is the first day since Christmas that I’ve had any energy or ability to get online again. So I’m clearing my much-delayed comments queue today, most without reply.

I rarely get ill. But when I do, it’s usually bad. It has literally been years since the last time I was so ill, though, that I couldn’t even do anything. Even for a day. Much less over a week. So this is the first time in years I discovered that you can watch episodes of Law & Order: This or That literally 24-7 if you have a large enough channel array on your cable service. An endless wheel of Law & Order. Anytime. Whether it’s Law & Order “Classic” or SVU or CI. When one marathon or syndication block ends, it’ll be starting up again on some other channel, rest assured.

Jen and I like the show so it was a tolerable thing to watch endlessly, especially as it’s mostly sad or serious and mostly not comedy (laughing is the worst thing when you are trying to suppress your horrible fits of coughing…as I found out when Jen and I started sharing jokes about the commercials and it didn’t go well for either of us, which became a joke between us all on its own…”oh no, don’t start that again…!”).

Though I did notice Sam Waterston’s character is apparently so beloved now that no one shows the eps before his tenure anymore, back when Michael Moriarty played the ADA. And yet I miss those. Channels kept shilling the Waterston eps in commercials as the “first” Law & Order and I felt that was kind of rude. As if the original series didn’t even exist. You know. Back when they had a black man as the assistant prosecutor? Golly, remember that? I liked Richard Brooks’s character. And does anyone even remember Chris Noth’s first partner was played by George Dzundza? Then Paul Sorvino? Before Orbach stepped in and became the mainstay wisecracking partner for ages and ages? (Far outlasting Noth.)

Not that there weren’t great characters and episodes all the way through L&O’s 20 season run, SVU’s (now) 15 seasons, and CI’s ten. But sometimes I get nostalgic for when it all began. And being stuck at home in the middle of a workday staring at a thousand channels and an endless wheel of Law & Order, it just seemed strange not to get a chance to see them again. As if they are now forgotten.

Support My Work with Your Christmas Shopping!

My FaceBook personal photo, me in glasses and shaggy hair and nice white collared short smiling while facing 30 degrees to the left of toward the viewer.Want to send me some dosh in appreciation for my independent scholarship and speaking and blogging, without actually spending any extra dosh at all? This is how…

When you do your Christmas or Solstice or other holiday shopping this season, you can buy gifts for people (friends, family…yourself!), or spend your own Amazon gift cards or credits after the holiday ends, by using the Richard Carrier Recommends Amazon Store. Not only can you buy stuff I’ve put in that store (lots of my own favorite or recommended stuff in several categories, from books to videos), but you’ll notice on the right margin you can buy other stuff as well (maybe from your own wishlist, if you’ve logged in to Amazon beforehand). The prices are all the same for you, but I get a small commission on every sale through there. So you basically end up getting Amazon to support my work, by using my recommendations to inspire you to give them your business.

You can also, of course, support me by just buying my books (that’s a special page just for them that includes audio and electronic editions), and now also any of my amusements or games (only one game for now, but another is on the way, though not in time for the holidays), and I get a cut equal to my share of pageviews out of all my fellow bloggers from what you pay to subscribe to FreethoughtBlogs (that subscription also lets you view our entire website without ads).

When I spoke to a few people at Skepticon this year they were often surprised to learn that I don’t make very much selling my books or blogging or speaking. Anyone who knows the industry, of course, knows no one makes any appreciable money blogging. My books, as obscure nonfiction, will never make Stephen King money (or even Richard Dawkins money). And I keep my speaking fees low as a way to help the movement, so more groups can afford to bring me in to speak or debate. When all my income is added up, and taxes and expenses are subtracted, I only take home about $15,000 a year. I could just barely live on that, with extreme “starving artist” frugality. But I live with an awesome woman who earns considerably more, so I’m not living like a starving artist. I gladly operate as her domestic manservant to earn my keep at home, in addition to my cash income paying our mortgage (and property taxes & insurance to boot).

But the more money I can bring in, the more it’s appreciated by both of us, and the more it keeps me going doing what I do. Because it shows I’m having an impact and my work is appreciated and valued. The advantage of being an independent scholar is that I do not have to fear the threat or meddling of any academic institution and don’t have to kowtow to their expectations or exhaust enormous amounts of time on endless committee work and other things they bury profs under. The disadvantage is that I have to cobble together my income from disparate sources. One of which is passing the hat to everyone who wants to show their appreciation for what I do, like any street busker would. You can of course just send me money (through PayPal at rcarrier@infidels.org) just to show me you value what I do.

But buying gifts for Christmas through my Amazon store is just one more way to do that that costs you nothing extra at all. So keep that in mind for this holiday season!

What Is Stellar War?

Snippet of the Stellar War sales page banner from GameCrafter, showing the title of Richard Carrier's game against a background of a NASA image of stars in a nebula. Some card faces are shown, including a Secret Agent card and a Fighter Attack card.Answer: a card game I invented in high school. (That’s back in the 1980s, for those who never noticed my birth year in Facebook.) I created it by hand with tape and cutouts and a photocopier using paper-card stock. My friends and family played it for years.

Why mention it now? Well, because now you can buy it. And it’s not just tape and cutouts and photocopied card-paper anymore. It’s an almost professional quality game set now, thanks to GameCrafter, essentially the “CreateSpace” of card and board game publishing (design-by-web-interface, publish-on-demand). If you want to check it out, then see the sales page for my now-resurrected childhood card game Stellar War.

Photo of hand-crafted pale wooden box containing Brother Sam's table game Superstructure, the Superstructure logo in red across the top.Why do this now? Well, because I was inspired by Brother Sam Singleton. Or as many know him, game designer (and jack of many other trades) Roger Scott Jackson (his pals call him RoSco). He designed a game back around the same time I did, called Superstructure, and he just recently resurrected it, with the help of his wife Cari. His IndieGogo funding campaign went off well (it even got a story in the Charleston Gazette). RoSco made a YouTube video about the project and now you can buy a hand-made reproduction of the complete game (at BestGameBuilt…note the amusing headline there).

This made me think, “Hmm. Technology has changed a lot since then. Maybe they have PODs for games now?” So I looked around and discovered GameCrafter, which I can now say (having completed one whole project with them) is a really excellent company as far as its online design and accounts interface. Its product is just a touch below professional corporate game manufacture (which is still far better than tape and cutouts and card-paper), and its pricing is high, but that’s unavoidable because this is one-off manufacturing (if you pay them to build just one box set for you, then you are going to have to pay a lot more than if you bought a thousand units at bulk wholesale price).

You can buy a Stellar War box-set set for fifty dollars. The price would be nearly half that (which is honestly more like what it’s worth) if I did a full production run of five hundred units and ran my own distribution network, but I’ll never sell enough of them to justify that, so I’ve made it available for die hard fans and table-game geeks like me who won’t mind dropping fifty bucks on a unique and entertaining bit of Richard Carrier’s creative past–and to enjoy a fun game your friends are unlikely to have even heard of!

A photo of Richard Carrier's card-game Stellar War in mid-play. Several decks of cards, a die, and cards upright on the table showing space frigates and dreadnaughts and missile attacks and lunar space stations and chain reactions and all manner of whatnot positioned around a table.Though I invented Stellar War in the 1980s, in 1998 I revised it slightly in order to pitch it to a major game company, which finally passed on the project because it did not fit the then-growing trend in tradeable card games. Other than that I’ve only had my hand-crafted mock-up set ever since the 80s (even a hand-made card-paper box–I built three or four complete sets for myself, friends, and family). With modern computer tech I redesigned all the cards and rulebook to look smart and professional. But I kept all my original hand-drawn graphic art. So as you play, you are staring at spaceships and commando helmets and lightning bolts that I drew by hand as a teenager…nearly thirty years ago.

You can learn all about the game, and see shots of the game in play, and, if you feel so inclined, buy one for yourself (or as a Christmas gift for a friend!) at GameCrafter.

I have another amusing game in the works at GameCrafter now–History or Hogswallop!?–which I invented just a few years ago to teach historical methods to kids and teens at Camp Quest West (it has consequently been very well playtested). So stay tuned for that!