Victor Stenger: 1935-2014

Studio photo of Victor Stenger in his later years.Some called him the Fifth Horseman of New Atheism. He wrote openly and prolifically in defense of atheism, and in promotion of sensible physics against Christian and woo abuses of it. And only a few days ago he died. I had the honor of hanging out with Victor Stenger several times in my life, and served as a consultant for him a few times (on philosophy and history of science). My wife liked him. She remembers him as a sweet old man. I also remember him as a forceful but soft spoken debater, and the number one physicist in the ranks of New Atheism bigwigs. Hemant Mehta has a nice memorial piece about him at Patheos. And there’s a brief but informative obit in Doubtful News. He’ll be missed.

Travel Fund Outcome

If you want Richard Carrier to visit your city, for any organization you are a member or officer of, check this out. Thanks to generous donors covering my losses from a burglary and exceeding that request by several thousand dollars, I have some money I will apply to the cost of visiting other cities to speak next year (mostly in reducing my honorarium, covering book procurement for resale, and some transportation costs). I promised I’d give these benefits to the cities the donations came from, by proportion. Although unfortunately, as I also noted, I can only do this for North American donors. I received generous support from such countries as Norway, Japan, Poland, England, Germany, and Australia, which I will just count toward recouped losses. Thank you so much, all of you. (But one island nation, which donated unusually generously, might prove an exception–private negotiations for a possible visit are underway; I can’t say more just yet.)

Many cities are receiving the benefits. I have some small discounts, and some large discounts. I’ll describe them in that order…

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And Now I Breathe Easier as I Venture on to Seattle

Thank you, everyone, for the amazing help and support that came through. Yesterday I was crestfallen at a $2000 loss. As of now, amazingly generous patrons, supporters, and fans have sent me a total of almost $5000. So I am well above what I needed for a financial recovery. I have updated my original post. Anyone who still wants to patronize my work like the old-school way of supporting artists and scholars certainly can. And you can always support me in the usual ways of commerce. But the loss has been recovered.

I am going to apply the difference (the additional $3000) to offset the cost of arranging speaking engagements (most likely early next year) in the cities donors asked for. So that means, everyone who helped, you will all have made those trips possible and saved local organizations some expenses–and helped them get a speaker they might not otherwise have afforded. (Or two! If they could have fully afforded to bring me out, now they can apply some of that budget to getting another, for some other occasion.)

Again, sincere thanks to everyone. This was far beyond what I expected. It quite caught me by surprise.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Seattle to visit old friends for a week and attend and engage in a formal debate at the Atheist Alliance of America convention. I will be away from the office (and most email) all that time, so I may be out of communication for more than a week. I’ll try to blog from my away location once or twice at least. I was going to be really down on this trip. But now I feel energized and supported. Still violated and annoyed (thefts do that). But breathing easier. And I have you all to thank for that.

So I’m good. As I said in my update to yesterday’s post…

Now go forth and battle the dragons of the world!

And Then a Burglary Sets Me Back $2000

Update: As of now, amazingly generous patrons have sent me a total of almost $5000. So I am well above what I needed for a financial recovery, and I am going to apply the difference to covering the cost of arranging speaking engagements in the cities donors asked for (so you will all have made those trips possible and saved local organizations some expenses!). Thank you so much, everyone. This was far beyond what I expected. It quite caught me by surprise. Now go forth and battle the dragons of the world!

I’m hoping to get some small financial help from fans and supporters to help me recover from a setback. My own income ranges between $15,000 and $25,000 a year. So losing $2000 in one burglary hurts. A lot. And that just happened this last weekend. I am fortunate that I combine my income with Jen’s, but she is moving to part time work and going back to school, so our combined income will get us by (tuition and all, plus she has to buy a second vehicle to manage her new schedule without conflicting with mine), but two grand is still a sore loss.

So I’m hoping some awesome folk out there who like my work might help me make up the loss. There’s a tiny perk for anyone who does. More on that shortly.

If you prefer to devote money to a more alarming charitable cause, I quite understand. The Foundation Beyond Belief is representing the atheist community in helping child refugees get legal representation (they have no right to an attorney, so the state is not providing them any…literally, these kids have to advocate for themselves in court). That’s an excellent example of what I had called for several weeks ago. It’s a huge crisis that needs a lot of help.

But at the same time we all have to make a living. And as an independent scholar, I depend on funding from supporters of my work. I sell books, collect small speaking fees, do some online teaching and contract work, earn tiny amounts from blogging and various other sources (to see a complete list of all the ways to support my work through commerce and beyond, see my official support page). But I also take fan-funded research grants. Any money sent in support helps keep me going, and keeps me hopeful that I’m making a difference that people appreciate. So anyone who does appreciate all I’ve done, and wants to see more, I would be so moved if you can reward me with your patronage this coming week.

(Of course you could give a little to both causes.)

If you want to help me make up my loss, or just show your appreciation and support, please send me any amount you want through PayPal (my account is [email protected]).

And when you do, when it lets you add a message to me, say what city you’d like me someday to speak in.

I’ll then rank the cities named by the amount of money backing them, and get to work trying to set up a speaking engagement at each one, starting at the top. I can’t promise to succeed, but I will contact all the organizations there that might be willing to pool together the expenses of bringing me out. Unfortunately this means probably just destinations in the U.S. and Canada will come through. You can certainly name overseas destinations. But the cost to fly me to them is prohibitive to most interested parties, so I’m unlikely to succeed at it. Advice on that is welcome, though, which you can include in your message (whom to contact, for example). But if I am inspired to get a gig in a city you name with your donation, that’s a tiny perk you can claim (“I set that in motion!”).

Meanwhile, here’s what happened, if you’re curious…

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Progress Report for My Project Donors

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.Six years ago I put out a call for benefactors to fund a research and writing project to help me cancel my student debt. I said I’d do whatever my donors asked for. You unanimously said: the historicity of Jesus. For that project I raised $20,000, with the generous help of Atheists United (which made it possible for each offer of support to be a deductible charitable donation). It led to the production of Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. And now the project has reached it’s completion, with the publication of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt (that link will be updated when it becomes available on Amazon).

To all my donors: Thank you so much for helping fund my research and writing of both books. This will finally bring to completion a years long project. And now, it’s done! The publisher has informed me that On the Historicity of Jesus has been printed and will begin shipping in a few weeks. It may appear on Amazon within a month. So if you don’t want to wait a month or two more, you can buy (pre-order) direct from the publisher and get your copy within a few weeks I expect (although see my caveats about that here), otherwise you can wait for it to become available on Amazon, to see if Amazon offers a better deal.

To all my donors who did not receive my email earlier this week: Many of you did not respond to my last progress report, in which I asked about relief from my final obligations owing to the high cost of stock from an academic publisher. If you donated at a level high enough to earn a promise of free copies, please email me right away and let me know if you still want to receive your free copies, and if you want only one or two (or more, if you were owed more), and what address I should send them to (and whether they should be signed). The less you ask for, of course, the less I suffer financially. Because, this being an academic press, the wholesale author price even for softcover (which is certainly all I can afford) is enormous ($24.50…that’s not the list price, that’s what I have to pay). So I would greatly appreciate a reduced request. Some donors were incredibly kind enough to waive their free copies altogether. That was a great help. Note that I will also only be receiving my own stock a month from now. So if you are claiming free copies, they might not arrive to your address until the end of August.

Whatever you decide, thank you again for all your support. These books would not have been written but for it. This is what private patronage can accomplish, in an age when academics is largely controlled by universities.

Brief Note on Pre-Ordering Historicity of Jesus

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.On the Historicity of Jesus is expected to be out by the end of June. I have not received a firm confirmation of that; it all depends on how much time the publisher takes to do a print run and distribute stock. I am reasonably sure it can’t be much later than that (I think worst case scenario would be end of July).

The publisher, Sheffield-Phoenix, located in the UK, is offering an opportunity to pre-order the book, in either hardcover or softcover (note the enormous price difference: $35 soft, $95 hard; this is typical now in academic publishing). You can do that at the publisher’s website, where you can also get a look at a description of the book and its extended table of contents.

But I must issue a word of caution. I was not going to blog the book’s availability until Amazon was offering a pre-order. This is because Amazon typically gives the best prices (although they in part do that by abusing and exploiting workers, something worth concern). Although you can pre-order from England now, direct from the publisher, not only does that mean you have to pay full list price (Amazon sometimes can undercut that; we’ll have to wait and see to find out if it does in this case), but also shipping (which you can often get waived for purchases through Amazon). And I can’t guarantee it will be faster. Amazon is vastly more efficient than most publishers, and though you’d think a publisher would fulfill its own pre-orders faster than it can deliver stock to Amazon and Amazon distribute its own pre-orders from it, one should hesitate to bet against Amazon. The only thing counting against it is that Sheffield distributes in North America through the Society of Biblical Literature, so that could produce enough of a delay in getting stock to Amazon US that Sheffield can beat its shipping and handling velocity, even crossing the sea.

Maybe none of this will matter. Pre-ordering through Sheffield might be the fastest way to get a copy in hand, even for people in the Americas. And it might not be significantly more expensive. I don’t know. So I just want my readers to be aware that I can’t promise either. And though sometimes sales direct through a publisher give an author a double royalty (this is the case for several of my other books), this is not the case here. So it won’t likely affect me either way.

Update: Amazon is now showing separate order pages for the hardcover and the softcover. Last I looked (and this can constantly change) they are offering a slight discount only on the former, but free shipping on both.

I Support the SSA, MRFF and MAAF. So Can You, So Easy to Do!

Today I renewed my support for the Secular Student Alliance as a Bronze Member. Just a mere $35. Many of us in the US can afford that per year for the things we value most. So everyone who can do even so little as that, and believes in what the SSA does for our future, please Bronze up! (Or even more, if you can.) If you aren’t already jumping to, please check out why I think the SSA is important and why everyone should be supporting them even if only modestly.

I give small amounts like this to a large number of organizations, because every little bit helps. Two others I support that often get overlooked are the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). I just gave each $35 as well. As I try to do every year. And I hope many of you can do something along the same lines. They also do extremely important and much needed work. As I’ve explained before (including why we need them both, because they do different things). If you want to join me in their support, you can donate here (MRFF) and here (MAAF). They request only $25 a year. I give a little more. But if you can only give the minimum, it helps.

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.