Lataster on the Historicity of Jesus Being a Debate Among Atheists

Cover of Raphael Lataster's book Jesus Did Not Exist, A Debate Among Atheists, with Richard Carrier. Shows an annular solar eclipse.Raphael Lataster, an Australian doctoral student in religious studies, has published a book recently, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists, examining the debate over the historicity of Jesus by focusing only on what atheist and agnostic experts are saying, and not Christian believers—regarding the latter as too biased to consider; since any good arguments they have should be as convincing to experts who aren’t believers anyway, so really we should only be looking at the debate among atheists.

It’s a good point. Unfortunately, atheist academic monographs defending historicity don’t exist. The only two so far written this century, by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey, were neither published by academic presses, nor underwent any formal peer review. But Lataster works with what the academy has given him. And so he surveys the merits of those two books anyway. And compares them with mine, On the Historicity of Jesus, which was published by an academic press and did pass formal academic peer review. His own result is historicity agnosticism. And a lot of serious criticism of how the academy has handled this debate, judging by the only two books it has produced so far in defense of what the academy often claims should be so well demonstrated as to be irrefutable.

I was commissioned to write a foreword and afterword to the book, and to read the manuscript and provide any advice I had towards its improvement or the correction of any obvious errors or omissions. Lataster operated independently. He did not necessarily heed all of my advice. Whatever remains in the book is now his responsibility to defend. But I will make some comments on the matter below. In particular, I discuss in his book’s afterword what I expected critics will attempt to do, like attack its tone rather than its content—or lie about its contents. That process has already begun… [Read more…]

Might Stellar War Be a Good Christmas Gift? (Hint Hint)

Oh, sorry, “Holiday Gift.” For those atheists who abhor the Christ in Christmas. Although we know everything distinctive of Christmas is pagan. And paganism is fun. So most of us atheists happily celebrate the pagan holiday under its now familiar moniker. Because it’s hilarious to call all this pagan shit Christ-mas. Besides, we can use Christian apologetics to prove Santa Claus exists and flies to other planets on a rocket. And we all know gods don’t exist anyway, so who cares what we call it. No one freaks out over Mighty Saturn’s Day, er, I mean, Saturday.

So, regardless. If you will be giving sinful filthy heathen gifts to people this coming Winter Solstice, you might consider my card game Stellar War. What the hell is that? It’s this. Which you can buy here. Have someone you’ll be gifting to who is a fan of my work or of fun but complicated tabletop games (the kind of games that freak out the squares), consider the game I invented in my childhood, Stellar War. I’ve even updated the box so the title is on the sides as well so you know where it is in your crazy giant stack of boxed games. There are other Christmas gift buying options besides the game, of course, which can help support my work in various ways. This article summarizes them. Although since then my average income has gone up ten grand, but I am now living on my own, and thus entirely supporting myself on a starving artist’s wage.

Below the fold are some spoilers, however. Spoilers that might make Stellar War more attractive as a gift idea. What spoilers? Pictures of the three cards I added to spice the game with some humor. They were included in the original release two years ago, intended to surprise players of the game. I’m now revealing the secret to everyone. Imagine drawing them randomly through the course of the game. A game that is about an interstellar war, the goal of which is to destroy as many ships and space stations of your enemies as possible.


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The Moral Bankruptcy of Divine Command Theory: Matthew Flannagan’s Failed Defense

Cover of Doctor Hector Avalos's book Bad Jesus: The Ethics of the New Testament, yellow background, with a frame including the key focus of a painting depicting Jesus whipping people in the temple square.Theology has no salvageable theory of morality. Theists complain atheists have no reason to be moral. But in fact theists have no reason to actually be moral, as in: to elevate compassion, honesty, and reasonableness above all authority, even the authority of their own gods. Unless they covertly adopt a naturalistic moral theory (and most do), they are not actually moral people. They are minions. Theists are essentially the unquestioning gestapo of whatever monster manufactured the universe. Or rather, whatever monster some men made up and duped them into thinking it made the universe. Which means, they are essentially the gestapo of whatever random ignorant madmen wrote their scriptures and now thumps their pulpits with sufficiently fiery claims of special divine communications at bedtime.

I’m sorry to say, but that’s the truth. Theism actually has no moral theory.

This is why.

Hannibal Lecter created the universe? He escaped from a future holodeck simulation and then used a stolen TARDIS to Make the Universe after evaporating God by discovering the Babel Fish? Oh crap. Well, I guess we better get down with murder and elegant cannibalism or else he’ll be angry with us and send us to hell. Because he is now eternal and the supreme being and made the universe. So we can’t deny, his will and character is now the ground of all morality. And, oh yeah. This all totally makes sense.

Is that any more sensible than…?

A cosmic Jewish zombie named Jesus who telekinetically fathered himself by a virgin and now resides in outer space, is possessed by the spirit of a supernal ghost that is in some sort of parallel-dimensioning identical with but distinct from himself and an ancient Canaanite storm god, and promises to make you live forever in an alternate dimension if you symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that has eternally tainted our mammalian flesh ever since a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. So you better do what he says.

And lest we forget, that’s the Jesus who has nothing to say against slavery or the subjugation and disenfranchisement of women or the execution of homosexuals, other than, at best, that you shouldn’t invite sluts and homos to legally murder the sluts and homos because that would be hypocritical (John 7:52-8:11, a forgery). Oh no, you are supposed to wait for Jesus to murder them (Matthew 3:12). This Jesus is actually a morally dubious person.

You can always invent any Jesus you want, of course. A Jesus who fought for abolition and women’s suffrage and the decriminalization of homosexuality—and, oh, let’s say, promoted democracy and human rights and universal education (also not things Jesus ever says one word for in the Bible). But that’s just a guy you are making up in your head. Because you don’t like the guy on paper. Except… That you have to invent a better Jesus than the one that’s in the Book, really says all that needs saying here.

Matthew Flannagan & My Article for Philo

Several years ago (though it entered print only a couple years ago) I published a paper in the philosophy journal Philo, responding to Christian fundamentalist Matthew Flannagan on behalf of noted atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, whom Flannagan had written an article against, defending William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory against Sinnott-Armstrong’s rather scathing destruction of it. Sinnott-Armstrong was probably bored at this point. I was recruited to write the rebuttal. The result is Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as We Know Them, Ethical Naturalism Is All There Is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan,” Philo 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2012), pp. 200-11, I think so far my favorite paper for a peer reviewed philosophy journal.

The abstract reads:

In responding to Matthew Flannagan’s rebuttal to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s argument that ethical naturalism is more plausible than William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory of moral obligation (DCT), this author finds Flannagan incorrect on almost every point. Any defense of DCT is fallaciously circular and empirically untestable, whereas neither is the case for ethical naturalism. Accordingly, all four of Armstrong’s objections stand against Flannagan’s attempts to rebut them, and Flannagan’s case is impotent against a properly-formed naturalist metaethic.

In this paper I found Sinnott-Armstrong indisputably correct on every point but one, and even on that one he was correct, he just didn’t adequately prove it. My other peer reviewed paper on normative ethics, the chapter “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)” in The End of Christianity (ed. by John Loftus: Prometheus, 2011: pp. 333-64, 420-29), is an example of proving the point he intended, which is that grounds for morality not only do, but necessarily must exist independently of any gods, because in no other way can moral claims be sufficiently motivating so as to be true.

Flannagan has since published replies to my critique of him on his website (“Richard Carrier and the Arbitrariness Objection,” 5 September 2014, and “Richard Carrier and the Abhorrent Commands Objection,” 5 October 2014, and “Ethical Supernaturalism Is Still More Plausible Than Naturalism: Carrier’s Preliminary Objections,” 20 August 2014). Below I will summarize my paper in Philo, which summary already refutes most of what Flannagan now says—since what he now says pretty much ignores what I said, so restating what I said is a more than adequate rebuttal. And then I’ll address the remainder of Flannagan’s new rebuttals. The end result is not any different from where we started…

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Typos List for On the Historicity of Jesus

I will update this page as I find more. But over the past year I and readers have caught dozens of typos in On the Historicity of Jesus that slipped through even our excessive editorial process (a common experience I find). Some of these may require corrections to the indexes as well (e.g. the scripture index). Please email me any you have caught that aren’t already listed here. Sorted here by page and then paragraph and/or line number (or note number):

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Looking for a Literary Agent

Cover image for Audible edition of On the Historicity of Jesus written and narrated by Richard Carrier.Anyone with connections, please do inquire:

I want to produce a mass market book summarizing the conclusions and findings of On the Historicity of Jesus, with a major publisher, one that works often with expanding into foreign language markets. I have been asked by fans throughout Spanish speaking countries especially. But it’s impossible to get a Spanish language publisher on board with something as enormous and footnotey as OHJ. A shorter, popular market book, however, would definitely appeal (I already have translators lined up). And if it meets with success in the English language market, then we can indeed push for a Spanish edition, and maybe others.

But major publishers will only field queries submitted by literary agents.

So if this is to happen, I need a literary agent.

Know any? Who’d be interested? Send them my way.

In case it needs to be said, I do quite well by myself, in my niche market. I have a decent bio and cv. I have published with a mainstream publishing company (one title of my own with Prometheus books, plus several anthologies; they distribute through Random House), another with a major academic publisher (at the University of Sheffield), and have also successfully sold over twenty thousand books entirely on my own (through AuthorHouse, Lulu, and CreateSpace). I have sold all my titles (six so far) successfully as well in Kindle format, and Audio format (through Pitchstone). I’m an accomplished and capable writer. I can produce a good, entertaining popular market abridgement of OHJ without difficulty. I just need a reason to.

OHJ itself, BTW, has already sold over 4000 copies in just a single year. And that’s a 700 page academic monstrosity dense with footnotes. Imagine the potential of a shorter, tighter, mass market edition!

If I can’t find an agent, this idea will simply remain shelved until I do, since I can’t justify the expense in time working on it without that step at least in the works. This is due to how the publishing industry works, sadly. I have other projects I’ll devote my time to instead. But this dream of mine I’ll keep alive until someone comes along who wants to take a chance on it.

Initial business inquiries should be made by email. This includes emailing me the contact info of literary agents whom you think might be interested in this, and thus to whom I could send a query letter. But it can’t just be random agents you picked out of a guide. There has to be noticeable reason they would take on an unusual project like this.

Rare Fine Bound Editions of My Books: Special Auction!

Photograph of the three fine bound volumes in dark brown artificial leather with gold lettering and decoration, standing on Dr. Carrier's desk..Yep. You might want. These are fabulous. And presently unique. But even if duplicated, they will remain extremely rare. I’m giddy at the craftsman’s work on them. They are an aesthetic achievement that harkens back to the old days of leather-bound books in private libraries. And I’m auctioning them off to help support my continuing enterprise as an independent scholar. So I have just two simple questions. Do you want an elegant fine bound hardcover edition of my most popular books? And at the same time to help support my continuing work, research, and activism? Then get in on this rare opportunity!

Summer is always slow for paying gigs. So I need to make up a $2000 shortfall in projected revenue for this quarter if I am to hit my target to get through the year. I have several special things in the works to do that. And this is the first: I have commissioned a local master craftsman and bookbinder to convert three of my books into what you see depicted. I have taken one copy each of Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Hitler Homer Bible Christ, and had them hand-bound in high quality artificial leather by an expert European craftsman, with gold lettering and styling, and stitched pages. Each will be inscribed personally, by me, in pen, to the auction-winner’s specifications (reasonable requests only, of course).

Any of these lovely books will adorn a library in prestigious fashion, old school, reminiscent of the days when monographs were elegantly crafted. It’s why I made them. Aesthetically, this is what books should always look like. But alas, few publishers produce books that look like this anymore.

Same as before, only the books are scattered and at different angles to see their binding and fronts.Four things to note: [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:

(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.

Why Atheism Needs Feminism

Info graphic showing Pat Robertson's face and displaying his ridiculous quote about feminism, which is included in my Ohio speech (so you can read it there).Over the last few months I’ve given a few public speeches on how things said by some of the top front men in our movement are divorced from reality. Including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Boghossian. One of those speeches I delivered last year as the keynote speech for the Humanist Community of Central Ohio’s Solstice Banquet. A resounding standing ovation at that was reassuring. They have since put a transcript of that speech online.

The points I made were well received. Not surprising, as self-identifying humanists tend to get it, in a way nihilistic atheists don’t. In Portland last month I extended the argument even beyond, pointing out that in fact feminism doesn’t just follow as a core value of humanism, but is essential to any kind of movement atheism that expects to grow and earn the world’s respect. As well as make the world a better place, of course. But I understand some atheists don’t give a shit about that. Yet even the heartless “I’ve got mine, fuck everyone else” Machiavellian will have to admit, if movement atheism never grows very much larger than it is, and simply reinforces all the stereotypes of atheists as amoral threats to human welfare, who treat women and minorities and gays and the trans community so poorly it just stays predominately a white man’s club, then it will have strangled itself with its own umbilical cord.

At Ohio I already explained how critical thinking plus compassion entails feminism. And fully justifies a lot of the criticism feminists have leveled at movement atheists lately. I don’t pretend all of it is justified (I haven’t even seen all of it), but enough of it is to warrant our attention. That speech was titled Oh No! Humanism Means Stuff! Why Compassion + Critical Thought = Feminism. I’m reproducing the whole transcript here with minor edits and more formatting and hyperlinks. Tomorrow I’ll post some additional material from my Portland speech, in which I examine Peter Boghossian’s remarks about gay pride and his hobnobbing with infamous misogynist Stefan Molyneux. But first, here is the Ohio speech… [Read more…]

On the Historicity of Jesus Now on Audio!

Cover image for Audible edition of On the Historicity of Jesus written and narrated by Richard Carrier.My book On the Historicity of Jesus is now available in audio format. As for all my other audiobooks, I voiced the text myself for Pitchstone Publishing. You can buy the audio edition of Historicity now through or and (eventually if not already) iTunes.

This did come out a week ago or so, but I had to delay my official announcement until I completed and uploaded the bibliography file for the visually impaired to use with text-to-speech software, as I have done with most of my other books before this, all of which you can find on audio as well. See bibliographies for the full list of these companion resources for those books. Or go direct to the OHJ PDF bibliography to get the companion file for Historicity.