A wild weekend of godlessness in Minneapolis!

It’s another weekend of travel for me. Tonight, I’m off to St Olaf, that fine Lutheran institute of higher learning, to rail against the corruption of science by religion. I’ll be speaking at 6 at the Lion’s Lair, Buntrock Commons, out there in Northfield, MN (wait…”lion’s lair”? Do they mean that literally?)

The really exciting news, though, is that the Minnesota Atheists are hosting a talk by Hector Avalos tomorrow afternoon. This is extremely convenient for me — drive in to give a talk, stay and get to listen to another — so yes, I’ll be there, too! It’s just fun, fun, fun for this lovely October weekend.

The Sunday, October 21 meeting of Minnesota Atheists will take place in a new location: Ridgedale Public Library, 12601 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55305 (see attached map).

The meeting will be 1:00-3:30 p.m.
1:00 – 1:30 p.m. – Social time.
1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Presentation.
2:30 – 2:50 p.m. – Book sales/signing.
3:00 – 3:30 p.m. – Business meeting.

It will be followed by dinner at 4:00 p.m. at Wanderer’s Garden, 13059 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55305 (Menu or $10.50 Buffet)

Our special guest, Hector Avalos, will speak on “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History”

Hector Avalos is professor of religious studies at Iowa State University and the author or editor of six books on Biblical studies and religion, including his recently published work, The End of Biblical Studies. Join us for a fascinating presentation detailing how the more we discover about the ancient world, the less reliable we find the Bible.

From the dust jacket of The End of Biblical Studies: Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion.

First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings.

Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

Copies of The End of Biblical Studies will be available for sale for $30 (price includes sales tax). After the presentation we will have book sales and signing. This will be followed by our business meeting. Finally, those who wish can join us for an early dinner at the Wanderer’s Garden, a Chinese restaurant.



  1. April says

    ^^^As many as we can find. Unfortunately the beefy guys in metal underwear cancelled on us, but I think the lions should suffice.

  2. CalGeorge says

    I’m looking forward to reading his book.

    Yes, the Bible ought to be studied – in classes devoted to absurdist literature.

  3. Scott1960 says

    Actually, since they use the facility for creationism lectures the actual name is ‘The Lyin’ Lair’. I’m sure a correction is forthcoming.

  4. caynazzo says

    A professor of religious studies calling for an end to religious studies? Wouldn’t that be the logical destination to arguing the Bible irrelevant?

  5. Nix says

    Well, if Avalos is right then the study of the Bible as a guide to history (as opposed to as a historical document) is largely dead: but you’d have to look long and hard to find any historians who’d disagree with that.

    I’m not sure what’s left. Perhaps we should partition religious studies between the literature and (abnormal mass) psychology departments?

  6. Janine says

    Will anybody be taping Hector Avalos’ presentation and if so, will that person put it online? It would be nice.

  7. Rieux says

    This Minneapolitan is sorry that he’s heading out of the country for a week and can’t be there to see PZ and Avalos. Give those Lutherans hell, PZ!

    Regarding Avalos, I read The End of Biblical Studies and Fighting Words back-to-back, and I think Avalos makes the point in both books that the only purposes remaining for Biblical/religious studies are (1) studying ways to wean humanity off religion and (2) helping us find better sources of inspiration than “holy” books. That’s not nothing, but it also isn’t all that religious or Biblical.

    FWIW, I thought Fighting Words was considerably better than End of Biblical Studies. So much of the latter book was devoted to heavily scholarly issues of biblical interpretation and theology; I found it a lot more abstruse than Fighting Words.

  8. Karen says

    C’mon, folks, those Lutherans tend to be a gentle lot. They don’t throw anyone to lions; they just make sure all their enemies eat lots of wonderful, rich, artery-clogging pastries.

  9. MartinM says

    My girlfriend was at St. Olaf’s briefly. She recommends the local Cold Stone Creamery, if you get the chance ;)

  10. CalGeorge says

    St. Olaf converted Norway to Christianity.


    Rename the place immediately.

  11. says

    OK, normally I wouldn’t do this, but the news about Dumbledore makes the temptation impossible to resist.

    What do you call the wizard’s spell which destroys the field of Biblical studies?

    That’s right. . . Avalos kedavros!

    Rieux said,

    FWIW, I thought Fighting Words was considerably better than End of Biblical Studies. So much of the latter book was devoted to heavily scholarly issues of biblical interpretation and theology; I found it a lot more abstruse than Fighting Words.

    I found that TEoBS was more carefully edited than Fighting Words. At least in the printing I read, the latter book had more glitches (quotation marks, footnote placement, a few cloudy word choices, that kind of thing) which a thorough copy-editing would have fixed.

    The chapter of TEoBS on Biblical archaeology was pretty heavy reading, but I found the rest fairly easy. Then again, I am a nut for some abstruse topics. Having argued on the Internet about stuff like the Comma Johanneum, I rather appreciated Avalos’ chapter on “Textual Criticism”. He quotes Alister McGrath as saying, concerning the variations among the Greek New Testaments used in the KJV,

    It must be made clear immediately that this does not call into question the general reliability of the King James Bible. The issue concerns minor textual variations. Not a single teaching of the Christian faith is affected by these variations, nor is any major historical aspect of the gospel narratives or early Christianity affected.

    [In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture (2001), p. 242.]

    McGrath has never met King James Only advocates on the Internet. (Come to think of it, he’s also making the judgment call that snake handlers and faith healers do not belong to “the Christian faith”, since Mark 16:18 is not included in the oldest manuscripts.) And of 1 John 5:7-8, the only explicit endorsement of Trinitarianism in the NT, Avalos writes the following.

    Today, this verse is almost universally rejected, and most modern translation no longer have it. The NSRV says: “In fact there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are in agreement.” Peter J. Thuesen, a historian of translations, has documented how often American ministers reviled these changes in the text. Thuesen quotes Homer Ritchie, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, as saying that the translators of the RSV “omitted the verse without so much as a footnote to acknowledge their crime.” If no doctrine is changed by such alternations, then it leaves unexplained why so many self-described fundamentalists are so outraged by its removal in modern versions.

    It’s not as grandiose as the bloodshed over Jerusalem, but for me, it strikes closer to home (“home” being Alabama and the Internet, in chronological order).

  12. Rieux says

    Blake Stacey (#13):

    It’s not as grandiose as the bloodshed over Jerusalem, but for me, it strikes closer to home….

    Fair ’nuff; I certainly liked the (several) instances in TEoBS in which Avalos lays bare the hypocrisy and special pleading of folks like McGrath. There was just an awful lot of thick scholarly stuff the reader has to get through in order to reach those moments. (Which is not to say that Avalos’ approach is poorly chosen; I suspect I’m just unaware of the academic counterarguments he’s heading off. It occurs to me that the tendency to cut out the abstruse stuff is exactly what makes fairyologists and Courtiers so infuriated about The God Delusion, so I guess it’s useful to have a critic who knows Bellini’s On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat all too well.)

    And I concur about the copy editing of Fighting Words.

  13. says


    Well said.

    Sometimes, I find a book which covers an important topic in careful, scholarly fashion, a book which people should read but which is not too accessible to the novice reader, precisely because it was written by a scholar mostly for other scholars. Books like TEoBS and Meera Nanda’s Prophets Facing Backward are good “second books” to read on a subject, but I’m not sure if the “first books” have been written yet.

    And just in case people think I have nothing but cultish praise for Hector Avalos, let me say right now that he has a much higher opinion of Baudrillard than I do. I had to read Simulations and Simulacra back in college, and man, that was a waste of trees.

    But there you go: I must be an unrepentant Sokalist.

  14. raindogzilla says

    Just make sure that, should you see a procession involving Shadrach, Meshach, and/or Abednego headed in one direction, go the other. It’ll be much cooler.

  15. Elf Eye says


    Re Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: They were supposedly tossed in a furnace for refusing to abandoned their faith, but Yahweh miraculously preserves them. One of those bronze age miracle stories.

  16. says

    On this topic, Blake posts at greater length (and with his usual charm) at his site here.

    Anyway, I’ll make the same observation here I made at his place:

    “TEOBS’s central premise reminds me of the old quip from the logical positivists that philosophy is the disease for which it ought to be cure. But, oddly enough, there is still no shortage of metaphysical scheming, from ruptured ceramics or otherwise. So I think Avalos’ case is overblown. The Bible will continue to be studied, whether every academic who does so purports to believe or not, and those of us who are ‘faithheads’ will still, at the end of the day, have to grapple with good scholarship that may not dovetail with our prior commitments.”