Status Report

Two notes today, one to readers of my blog and another to the donors who funded Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus Christ:

(1) Today I shall begin recording in studio for the audiobook edition of Not the Impossible Faith. Two other books have already been done and are available on Audible now (Why I Am Not a Christian and Sense and Goodness without God), and NIF will be the last of my own books to be turned into audio (though we will try to get audio rights for Proving History, too). That project will occupy me most of this week, in fact, leaving me little time to manage my blog. Then, next week, is the American Atheists convention, for which preparation, travel and attendance will again keep me too busy to do much else. So my blog will likely be on hiatus and comment moderation greatly delayed over the next two weeks. Just so you know. (Although I have one post already completed that I might throw up at some point amidst all that, and if I do find time I might do more.)

(2) I have sent an email today to all the donors to my historicity project. If you are an official donor to that project and did not receive that email, please email me right away so I can update my contact information for you. Then I can also send you that same email, which offers an advance look at the current draft of On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (which will differ from the published text, since it will likely be revised on advice from peer reviewers and editors before publication, but it will likely not differ in any radical way).

To everyone else who may be interested, note that OHJC has now entered the stage of peer review and contract negotiation, after which will be the publisher’s official editing and production phase (which can itself take many months). I am hoping peer review can be completed by July, which will likely mean an October or November publication–depending on how much revision needs to be done; if very little, it’s possible the book will be out even sooner. My ultimate target is to have copies for sale at this year’s Skepticon. Donors of course will eventually receive free copies by post just as with Proving History (except any who opt out of that benefit).


I’m Back, Now Help Ed Brayton!

I know fans will want to hear my news, but I want you to give someone else a hand, it’s way more important, so please read on.

Yesterday I finished the principal draft of On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. Today I’m taking a trip to the library to double check some essentials, and that will continue for some weeks. But this book is twice as long as Proving History, so to jump start it in the pipeline, I’ll begin the peer review, submission, and production process next week. The book could go to press even in its current state (it’s a polished and complete manuscript). I just want to make sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed, so now I begin clearing through my “check this to be sure” pile of books and articles.

Picture of Ed Brayton and FTB bioI was so close to getting to that point that I have been doing nothing but writing, nosing the grindstone, for the last three weeks and neglecting the outside world, including my blog and email. When I swam back to the surface I found that (as many of you may already know; I’m way behind) Ed Brayton, one of the founders of the Freethought Blogs network and a great blogger on American law and politics from an atheist perspective that I read regularly here (Dispatches from the Culture Wars), had a severe emergency leading to open heart surgery.

Ed’s in good condition, but as we all know, medical insurance doesn’t really pay your medical bills (much less your lost wages), it just “softens the blow” so to speak. If you have anything to spare and want to help out someone who does good work informing the community and who was instrumental in creating and running this blog network, head on over and put something in his tip jar, or even just subscribe to his blog (the plan is to let you view it from then on without any annoying ads, but I don’t know if that’s been implemented yet or if it can be done; for now it’s just to show continuing support for a blogger you like).

See How You Can Help on how to help, and to read more about what happened see Ed’s Not So Excellent Adventure and Merry Christmas.

And welcome all to the new year! We all survived the collision with Nibiru, I think partly due to the galactic realignment canceling it out. Or it hit Jesus on his way to kill us. Two birds, you know. Anyway, whew. That was a close one.

The Goodacre Debate

One of the many things I did when I was in England was go on a radio show that then aired in London just this last weekend (Saturday, December 15th, 2012), called Unbelievable with Justin Brierley, for Premiere Christian Radio. There, I had a cordial and informal debate with professor Mark Goodacre on the merits of the theory that Jesus didn’t exist (but is instead as mythical as Hercules or King Arthur).

Photo of Justin Brierley Speaking at a Podium Justin was an excellent host, and we both mused over the irony of the fact that he had an American in England debating an Englishman in America. I had stopped by the studio in person while I was in London; Goodacre was kind enough to phone in from his office at Duke University, North Carolina, where he’s an Associate Professor of the New Testament. So we were both at a disadvantage, he by being on the phone (having been there myself, I can testify to how difficult it is to carry on a conversation that way), and me by having almost literally just landed after a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles, which had immediately followed a six hour drive by car, and after which we had just enough time to get our bags and drive to the city and drop me off at a tube station en route to Premiere. Fortunately, I’m pretty resistant to jet lag. But it definitely felt weird. I had that “wired” feeling one gets after being awake for far too long.

If you want to listen to the show, it’s available online (for just this week it’s the featured show but after that it will be in their archives; and if that link doesn’t work properly try this) and via iTunes. I will comment on the show here. So if you’re keen to hear my thoughts on it, read on.

[Read more…]

And Paul Fidalgo!

Somehow in last week’s post on our new bloggers I blanked on our fourth great addition! So I am remedying that right now. We have a quarto, not a trio, of new bloggers at FtB.

So please also welcome Paul Fidalgo at Near Earth Object, communications director for the Center for Inquiry with diverse skills and interests and skeptic cred. My favorite sample…

I don’t imagine that Bob-Fucking-Dole would feel that he had to wheel his ailing carcass to the floor of the Senate to plead with his own freaking party to back the treaty if he thought the obstacle to ratification was just how spooked Jim Inhofe might be about U.N. boogeymen. I bet you Dole knew that his real adversary was going to be the giant sacks of cash strewn about the halls of the Senate office buildings.

(from My Own Conspiracy Theory about the Disability Treaty)

He kinda might be right. Meanwhile, I’m so rocking the last chapter of my book that I’ve decided to put off further blogging again until next week. I so want to complete by end of week and I’m really close to doing that. In the meantime, go read some Paul Fidalgo!

The Latest New Bloggers at FtB!

We’ve recently recruited to our network some infamous folk of web renown. If you are curious, check them out! (Yes, I’m behind on current events…still haven’t caught up on things since my return from England and my birthday and sundry unexpected chores like replacing my streetside sewer lateral cleanout cap, which someone stole…who steals a three dollar sewer pipe cap? Anyway…)

The trio (no, quarto!) of the new includes the notorious Non Stamp Collector, of You Tube prominence, an Australian in Japan. Welcome to the 21st century global economy. My favorite sample…

What Christians bringing up this issue and this example [of the holocaust and moral relativism] fail to realise is that with a Christian view of objective morality, you are forced to do exactly the thing that you’re suggesting would make someone appear to be a brainwashed sicko at complete odds with civilised society. You can’t imagine living in a world in which genocide could be considered moral, and you make up an analogy pointing out how misguided excusing such a massive slaughter would be, yet in the next breath, you will excuse genocide carried out by an Old Testament hero (probably Joshua) who was simply Hitler with a different ideology and less effective weaponry!

(from What if Hitler Had Won?)

Did I mention the 21st century global economy? Because next up is Avicenna, a british ex-hindu atheist and medical student studying in India, whose blog A Million Gods is now hosted in our golden cradle. My favorite sample…

Just because something ends doesn’t mean that it has no meaning. Why do you have pets? Unless you are an avid tortoise hobbyist (I like to call them Cheloniaks) most of your pets will die before you. You may as well shoot them right now.

(from Doubts About Atheism? Fifteen Questions for Atheists Answered)

And almost last but not least is Miriam Mogilevsky, author of the activist blog Brute Reason. My favorite sample is actually in effect her description…

I’m a psychology student, a Russian Israeli immigrant, an ethnically Jewish atheist, a queer sex-positive feminist, a bleeding-heart but skeptical progressive, and a proud and unashamed survivor of a few mental illnesses. In other words, I’m pretty much everything your mom warned you about.

(from Hellooooo FtB!)

And actual last but not least (I somehow left him out of my original post!) is Paul Fidalgo, at Near Earth Object, communications director for the Center for Inquiry with diverse skills and interests and skeptic cred. My favorite sample…

I don’t imagine that Bob-Fucking-Dole would feel that he had to wheel his ailing carcass to the floor of the Senate to plead with his own freaking party to back the treaty if he thought the obstacle to ratification was just how spooked Jim Inhofe might be about U.N. boogeymen. I bet you Dole knew that his real adversary was going to be the giant sacks of cash strewn about the halls of the Senate office buildings.

(from My Own Conspiracy Theory about the Disability Treaty)

So there you go. More are to come, but these four are the latest!

Hopefully I’ll get back to blogging more serious deep thought stuff myself next week.

Blogging Slowdown

Just FYI to everyone, tomorrow I fly out for the Skepticon conference in Missouri which I am certain will consume me the whole weekend (it always does!), and then immediately after that I’m flying to the UK and spending ten days all over the south of England, so I am also unlikely to find time for much else but all the things I want to do when I’m there (since I normally don’t get to travel abroad much at all). And then immediately upon getting back it’s my birthday.

In consequence, you shouldn’t be surprised if my attendance to comment moderation and blog posting slows down beyond normal until December. Please be patient until I’m back.

P.S. Thank you Ohioans! You went for Obama and saved us all. Now I don’t have to worry about the Supreme Court becoming evil.

Help a Fellow Warrior Weather a Storm

Greta Christina with her lovely wife Ingrid.Greta Christina only a few months ago quit her day job to work for herself as a writer and speaker (both of which she’s really good at), and things were looking great, then bam, her dad gets badly ill and dies, causing her to lose work for about a month…and then she gets cancer. Not a terrible cancer, but still. Curable–but at a cost (thanks to our being the only first world country without national health care). It’s a double-hit for the self-employed, because you lose income while also paying the new medical bills (she has already had to cancel her Skepticon gig and might not be able to get back to work for several months, depending on how things go).

She really needs gap funding to keep her in biscuits until she can get back to work and get her medical bills behind her. In Bad News, Good News, Greta explains her situation and what you can do to help. So hop on over there, read her piece, and see what you can do. It really doesn’t require much–the cost of a nice birthday gift, say, only it’s cash rather than trinkets. A little will go a long way if lots of us help (so spread the news if you’re inclined). If you aren’t familiar with Greta’s work, she’s a superb writer, and an asset in communicating real life issues from an atheist perspective. I’ll soon be posting a review of her great new book (I’ve read it; it rocks) as soon as it finally hits Amazon (to help get her a boost in sales ranking there)–but you can already buy it elsewhere; see her blog for details. But if you want to test the waters first, you can explore her blog (see her “categories” index down the right margin and pick the one that intrigues you the most).

Historicity News: Thallus et Alius

I have a slew of things to report. I was thinking of doing some book reviews, for example, but I am not going to have the time. With my England trip coming up and my push to hunker down and finish On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, I will have much less time for blogging over the next two months. So I’m just going to summarize some things of late, including a new publication of mine, new books by others, and major events in the field, over the course of three posts.

First, my peer reviewed paper on Thallus has just been published (my paper on Josephus is soon to follow). The full citation is Richard Carrier, “Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011-2012): 185-91. [It was available online, as part of Volume 8, as a downloadable PDF, but only until it appeared in print]. The conclusion is that Thallus never mentioned Jesus in any capacity, and must therefore be removed from all lists of authors attesting to Jesus. In fact, we have what is certainly a direct quotation of what Thallus said in Eusebius: that in the year 32 “the sun was eclipsed, Bithynia was struck by an earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings fell.”

If anyone wants to update Wikipedia’s article on Thallus to quote and/or cite this peer reviewed article, please feel free. It currently quotes my very old online essay on the matter; whereas the new paper is not only peer reviewed, but contains additional arguments confirming the conclusion, improves various points, and skips over unnecessary digressions.

Second, in yesterday’s post “Understanding Bayesian History” I responded to a scientist’s critique of my book Proving History, and he posted a well written reply in comments there, which I much appreciated and to which I have responded in kind, and that exchange makes a lot of things clearer, especially as to my objectives in writing PH and how to improve upon it, and regarding what his concerns actually were. I consider this a model of constructive dialogue, so it’s worth looking at.

Next I’ll report on two new books I’ve read that relate to the question of historicity.

The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur

Throughout my blogging career I have occasionally been taken to task for using insults and ridicule on select occasions, and have in turn often discussed the ethics of insults and ridicule. And in The New Atheism+ I articulated some of those principles again, and then I went overboard in using the tactic in comments.

People rightly brought up issues with that, so I reexamined my actions there and what people had to say on the subject, and retracted and apologized for some of my actions there. In discussing the matter further I found I was wrong about a few other things, and realized this is an important issue that deserves an article of its own. Getting things like this right is what Atheism+ is all about, and debating and educating each other on these issues is valuable and ought to be welcome.

Because this article necessitates using offensive (in some cases extremely offensive) words in illustrative examples, a trigger warning is in order for anyone who might have a bad reaction to that. This is a clinical, philosophical post about proper and improper use of words, and should be approached as such. But if that is not possible, you should avoid it. [Read more…]

The New Atheism +

There is a new atheism brewing, and it’s the rift we need, to cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all (I mean people like these and these). I was already mulling a way to do this back in June when discussion in the comments on my post On Sexual Harassment generated an idea (inspired by Anne C. Hanna) to start a blog series building a system of shared values that separates the light side of the force from the dark side within the atheism movement, so we could start marginalizing the evil in our midst, and grooming the next generation more consistently and clearly into a system of more enlightened humanist values. Then I just got overwhelmed with work and kept putting it off on my calendar for when I had a good half a day or so to get started on that project.

Since then I blogged On Sexual Harassment Policies and Why I Am a Feminist (which smoked out a few of the dregs who attempted to defend their anti-humanist atheism), but closer to my growing thoughts on what separates us, and ought to separate us, within the movement was my post on (Not) Our Kind of People, which wasn’t really about any moral divide (since lots of people who aren’t my kind of people are nevertheless my people as far as basic values go, and I know they would agree; we just enjoy different company), but it paralleled my more private thinking about the evil among us. Then I read Lousy Canuck’s account of the whole abuse of Surly Amy at TAM and elsewhere, which enraged me (I had previously only known parts of that story). It shows the dregs will now publicly mock humanist values, and abusively disregard the happiness of their own people. Well, that starts drawing the battle lines pretty clearly then.

So I was chomping at the bit to find time to write something on this, but still not sure what to say or how to say it. It especially bugged me because I couldn’t get to it for lack of available time (which reminds me to mention, be warned, I am AFK most of this week and so comment moderation here will be unusually slow).

Then Jen McCreight said it for me, more eloquently and clearly than I could have. This weekend she wrote How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism, which was so well received (and quite rightly) that she wrote a brief follow-up: Atheism +. And Greta Christina and others have taken up the banner: Atheism Plus: The New Wave of Atheism. I am fully on board. I will provide any intellectual artillery they need to expand this cause and make it successful.

Its basic values (and the reason for its moniker) Jen stated thus: [Read more…]