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The Thinking Atheist Interview: The Triumph of Christianity

On March 20, 2018 I was interviewed by Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist podcast about my book “The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World.”

Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist defines his media channel: “Religion often tells us that faith is a virtue. We think faith (believing something without evidence) is a poor method for determining what is true, especially in an era when science, reason and evidence continue to provide much more satisfying answers than faith ever has. This is a page that challenges the claims of religion and encourages all to reject faith, to be unfailingly curious, and to keep thinking.” http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/

Here’s the interview.  Enjoy!

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Blog Lunch in Houston Thursday April 19?
The Sixth Anniversary of the Blog!

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Comments

  1. godspell  April 10, 2018

    I have a hard time respecting the thinking processes of someone who doesn’t recognize the undeniable fact that all humans, without exception, believe in things that can’t be proven. Including him. “There is no God.” Can I see the data on that?

    This is precisely the kind of snotty presentation–made by somebody reacting against his own religious upbringing, who has no scientific training of any kind (who better to evaluate the value of science?)–that makes activist atheism so obnoxious. And so self-evidently an attempt to create a new sect, that would (as we’ve already seen over the 20th century) even more intolerant than what came before.

    I’ve run into so many atheists online who make even the worst theists seem rational by comparison (it was disturbing how many were racist Trump supporters), I just can’t take this seriously. It’s all about emotion. Negative emotion.

    I don’t care if you believe in God or not. That’s not telling me anything I need to know.

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    • talmoore
      talmoore  April 11, 2018

      As an atheist, I feel the need to defend our “snotty” presentations.

      If God does exist,
      A) He certainly has made it extremely difficult to find him.
      B) He has done an excellent job of creating a universe that operates seemingly by random chance, without a pre-determined plan and without any detectible over-arching rule of justice, fairness or morality.
      C) He must be a trickster god, for what else would explain the duckbill platypus?

      (And for the record, I’m pretty far from a Trump supporter. I thoroughly despise the man.)

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      • turbopro  April 12, 2018

        do you really need to defend against what seems to me little more than tilting at windmills?

        pour moi: “I just can’t take this seriously. It’s all about emotion. Negative emotion.”

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      • godspell  April 12, 2018

        These aren’t arguments. Invincible Skepticism is a logical fallacy. So, of course, is using texts written by people to prove the existence of anything other than people who can write. But to respond in kind–

        (A) How would a finite being ever be able to perceive an infinite one? Are there not, in fact, all kinds of things our scientists have posited the existence of, that they can’t actually see, or prove, only theorize about? In spite of all their advanced techniques. So that’s easily dispensed with. The God of Abraham certainly does like to show Himself, but it’s hopelessly ethnocentric to assume that if the God you were brought up to believe in doesn’t exist, that means there’s no God at all. And I have found activist atheists, by and large, to be extremely ethnocentric–not to mention overwhelmingly caucasian. “I know the truth and you don’t!” Well yes, that’s the very attitude that got us here to begin with.

        (B) Again, presuming that if God as defined by western society (with some help from the Mid-East) does not exist, no God does. Incidentally–where did this universe come from? And do all who study it scientifically agree, in fact, that it is totally random? How much science have you ever actually studied? If you’re going to believe in something, maybe you should know something about it? Snotty atheists, in my experience, never do. Or else, like Richard Dawkins, they know one little corner of it, and use that to pose as authorities on everything–to the point where they’d happily lecture Bart about his specialty, and tell him that all the scholars who claim Jesus was a real person are full of it.

        (C) The Platypus is explained by evolution. To date, nobody has explained the occurrence of life. I have never met any religious person who literally believes God went about making all living things, one by one. I know they’re out there, but if we’re going to say that every belief system is to be judged by its most ludicrous and/or evil adherents, might I mention the names Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? Atheists all. Mass murderers on a level that would make Torquemada blanch. Apparently not believing in God doesn’t fix all ills. (As if the ‘novels’ of Ayn Rand alone didn’t prove that.)

        I’m glad to hear we agree on Trump. But I assure you, I’ve spent hours arguing with Trump supporters who hate all religion, deny God, and think Jesus is pure myth. And the racist filth that came out of some of them–yeesh.

        FYI, it was Hitler’s intent to abolish all organized religion, which he regarded as a pesky rival authority system, polluted by the milksop ideas of that infernal Jew, Jesus. You don’t believe me, may I recommend Volker Ullrich’s excellent recent biography, “Hitler: Ascent.” Which I read coming up to the election, with growing horror. Personality, much more than belief systems, explains our behavior patterns.

        None of this means you have to believe anything. I am a very lapsed Catholic, who has abandoned most of the beliefs he was raised with.

        But that doesn’t change the fact that almost every worthwhile aspect of civilization came from religious people.

        And to date, atheists can point to–what? St. Christopher Hitchens. Who wrote an article claiming women were born without the ability to be funny. And supported the Iraq War.

        Clean your own house.

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        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2018

          A lot of comments are getting a bit too personal for my taste. Let’s keep up the respect!

          • talmoore
            talmoore  April 15, 2018

            Dr. Ehrman, I don’t mind if I’m attacked personally. I’ve been on the Interwebs long enough to be callous to its vitupertive comments.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 16, 2018

            Yeah me too. But still…

          • godspell  April 17, 2018

            Bart, respect has to be mutual. Obviously you lean towards the non-theist side, and that’s fine, but some here don’t. I try not to lean at all, but the fact is, aggressively proselytizing atheism does get on my nerves a bit.

            Respect has to be both ways. There never will come a day when we all believe the same things in the same way. For some people–many!–religion does still serve a purpose, and even those with no defined religious belief may still grow weary of pseudo-rationalist jibes, which seem to mainly be geared towards saying “I’m so much smarter than you!”

            Mainly, the’yre not. You know this. You’ve interacted with many brilliant scholars who are still devout. You’ve had to endlessly explain the basics of your discipline to atheists who just refuse to get it, and are just looking for a way to say “Hah, told you, Jesus is a myth!”

            Being religious doesn’t make you good.

            Being atheist doesn’t make you smart.

            I’d like to be both, and I’m good with a real discussion–where we can all respect each others’ POV’s. However, talmoore and others clearly feel no need to respect anyone who believes differently than them–to the point where they won’t even acknowledge their beliefs ARE beliefs. They’re just facts. This is how dogma gets into the act. And haven’t we had enough of that already?

            I was responded to, and I responded in kind. I have nothing to apologize for, but will happily let the matter drop.

            With the parting coment that if talmoore thinks my comments were ‘vituperative’, he must have led a pretty sheltered online life. He can dish it out, but he can’t take it. 😉

          • Bart
            Bart  April 17, 2018

            I’m sorry if you’ve found me disrespectful; I try not to make snide comments even in response to views that strike me as outlandish.

          • godspell  April 18, 2018

            My comments were not directed at you personally. However, there has been a sense here that attacks on Christian belief (as opposed to critiques, which is what we’re here for) are acceptable in the comments section.

            I can understand that people who feel wounded by certain forms of Christianity (and who are, in many cases, genuinely wounded by it) feel an emotional need to strike back.

            But this isn’t a group therapy session, and they have other places for that. We’re here to figure out what happened. Not how we all feel about it. We’ll never all feel the same way.

            I stopped being a practicing Christian because I changed my mind about certain things. I do not feel myself to have been harmed by my Catholic upbringing.

            I don’t hate my parents either, but can still see them as flawed people, same as me.

            It amounts to about the same thing.

    • Tony  April 12, 2018

      I’m with talmoore on this one – which should tell you that atheists are not some sort of monolithic sect.

      You seem to like your atheists to be nice and quiet, and focus your anger on “activist atheists”. Presumably, these are atheists who have the audacity to publicly speak up. I can think of Dawkins, Harris, the late Hitchens, Carrier and many others, who fall in this category. Only in the context of the American culture war are these atheists vilified.

      I wouldn’t surprise me that there are atheist among Trump supporters, but more disturbing is the Trump support by white American Christian evangelicals where 4 out of 5 white evangelicals voted for Trump. Proofing to me that I’ve grossly underestimated the gullibility and hypocrisy of these defenders of “family values”.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  April 15, 2018

        I have divided ultra-conservatives into three categories (what I call the Three Gs): Guns, God and Greed. The “Guns” group is made up of nationalists, racists and xenophobes — essentially crypto-Fascists. The God part is, of course, Christian Evangelicals. And the Greed part consists of cynical money-grubbers, such as the Wall Street crowd. Of those three groups of Trump supporters, the ones who tend to be godless tend to fall within the Gun and Greed group. Those are the people with whom Godspell are probably interacting.

      • godspell  April 17, 2018

        There are no monolithic sects–until they come up against another sect, and close ranks. Before that happens, they’re arguing amongst themselves, and they go right back to doing that afterwards. Hell, Bart’s been telling us all about how the early Christians disagreed with each other on numberless subjects, and they were oppressed to a degree no spoiled modern western atheist can imagine. Didn’t mean they weren’t determined to get all the Non-Christians to join up. To this day, theists fight with other theists much more than they do with atheists. I think you guys are so noisy because you know most of the time you’re being ignored. But you know, that could have something to do with your style of presentation. I’m just saying. 😉

        What kind of ‘audacity’ did it take for Dawkins and Hitchens and Carrier to speak up? What was going to happen to them? I’d say it took some audacity for Hitchens to never once admit he’d been wrong to endorse the Iraq War–or to claim women were born without the ability to be funny. If you won’t condemn your own when they stoop to bigotry and ignorance, who will?

        Atheism has committed genocide on a level no religion can claim. You will say “That’s not my atheism.” So you can distance yourself from evil committed in the name of No God, but anyone who believes in any God is responsible for all crimes committed in the name of theism? How’s that work?

        The American Culture War–sheesh–Hitchens was bloviating on Fox News! They were happy to have his support for the Iraq War.

        You’re building up one hell of a martyr complex for somebody who claims not to believe in martyrs. 😉

        • Foolmeonce  May 12, 2018

          Mass genocides have happened since the dawn of human civilization, the main impetus for them being territorial conquest and resource grabs. It’s safe to assume that these same folks with blood on their hands (including primitive warmongers and more recent soldiers in times of war) believed in some form of deity or supernatural force. I think your premise is flawed — atheism is certainly not responsible for the majority of murders that have occurred over the millennia. Nor are atheists any more likely to commit murder, under any circumstance, than a god-fearing person of whatever stripe. Moreover, it’s fallacious to assume we can accurately calculate the number of religion-inspired or otherwise causally related homicides — sure, there are rough estimates of the number who died during the Crusades and the Arab-Islam slave trade, but Homo sapien sapiens have been walking the earth for at least 200,000 years and alas, we’ve only started counting very recently.

  2. RonaldTaska  April 10, 2018

    Readers might also have an interest in the “Bible Geek” podcast entitled “Robert Price and Bart Ehrman on the Rise of Christianity.” I found a link on the patheos.com website.

  3. RonaldTaska  April 10, 2018

    P.S With regard to the article about your interview with Price, I wish they would refer to you as a “Historical Scholar of Early Christianity” rather than as an “atheist” because the “atheist” term turns off many immediately who might have a genuine interest in the scholarship. Moreover, you have also shown respect for the Christian viewpoint and have not been a crusader for atheism, but a crusader for knowledge. And truth matters. In fact, it matters a lot.

    • godspell  April 11, 2018

      The funny thing is, a lot of atheists assume anybody who doesn’t believe Jesus is a myth must therefore be defending religion.

      Truth matters, but sometimes we just need to concentrate on the facts, so at least our truths (that we all make for ourselves) won’t be based on nothing but wishful thinking.

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      • madi22  April 14, 2018

        There are many atheists who don’t believe in jesus being myth, i think Barts arguments about the evolution of Christs divinity are actually works more in favor of non believers then the myth argument.

        • godspell  April 17, 2018

          I agree–however, you must accept that some very fine people are theists, and some absolute a-holes are atheists. By their fruits shall ye know them. Don’t worry about who agrees with you. Worry about who’ll be there for you in the clutch.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  April 16, 2018

        The mythicist argument is active in online communities, but I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone in my everyday life who talks about such things. And even though it’s been popularized to a certain extent by Carrier and Price, I don’t see how it is sustainable as a career choice. How do they keep food on the table?

        • godspell  April 17, 2018

          I can’t honestly say I know more than one atheist in real life. A good friend of mine, but everybody who knows him kind of rolls their eyes at how intolerant he is of anybody disagreeing with him on ANY subject. We just avoid religion with him altogether. He’s not handing out any tracts, and I don’t think it’s ever occurred to him to question the existence of Jesus. I’m afraid to ask. 😉

        • Tony  April 17, 2018

          “I don’t see how it is sustainable as a career choice. How do they keep food on the table?”
          ————————————————————————————————————————
          Publishing books of course! Here one of my favorites:

          https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Mything-Complete-Heretics-Religion/dp/1542858887

          • godspell  April 19, 2018

            There are people who make a living trying to persuade everyone global warming is a hoax, Darwin was wrong, and Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare. Not sure if the flat earth thing is still a going concern.

            It’s not usually a road to massive wealth, but you can make a niche for yourself by appealing to the contrarian in all humans. Fact is, there is no opinion so widely shared that somebody won’t take a shot at it, just for the sake of doing so. The fact it’s so widely shared just makes it a more tempting target. Common wisdom is often wrong–but centuries of careful scholarship, not so often.

            Just being a contrarian for the fun of it is fine–like Groucho Marx in Horsefeathers–but when some kind of poltiical agenda gets involved–and when somebody is making money by appealing to the desire of some people to disbelieve the scholarly consensus–then there’s an entrenched interest involved. That will perpetuate itself, regardless of whether any real proof ever emerges. And it never does.

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  April 20, 2018

            I actually have that on my Amazon wish list for books to read.

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  April 20, 2018

            Actually, I take that back. The one on my list is Nailed, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it. Getting ready to read a work of scholarship by Bremmer for The Ascension of Isaiah. You should read it too!

  4. Mhamed Errifi  April 10, 2018

    hello Bart

    I just watched a lecture by Daniel Wallace under the title How Badly Has the Bible Been Corrupted? . He has mentioned you many times during the lecture and the last thing he said to end his lecture is that you were asked : why do you believe these core tenets of christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on scribal errors , . your reply was : essential christian beliefs are not affected by texual variants in the manuscript tradition . do you believe that he was distorting your saying or misusing you in order to make people believe that new testament is reliable

    many thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  April 11, 2018

      I haven’t heard his lecture, but this is an accurate quotatoin of my view. No belief is based on a single passage the alteration of which would force someone to abandon the belief. Beliefs aren’t made that way.

      • flcombs  April 12, 2018

        I don’t disagree with your bottom line on that but do have a twist. I think if you already believe A, B, C and some key verses are removed, that yes you could still believe in A, B, C and have some verses consistent with that. But what if you removed key verses and someone read the Bible with no preconceived views on A, B, C? without the more specific verses, isn’t it much easier to reach different conclusions or at least not be as certain about them? In other words, it might not “remove” doctrines or beliefs, but wouldn’t it make some of them much less likely to have been determined to start with or with as much certainty? Finding verses that appear consistent with what you believe is different than objectively determining a “truth” from verses given.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  April 11, 2018

      Funny you should say this, because I was just listening Glenn Beck’s radio show, and he was interviewing a “pastor,” and that pastor brought up the passage where Peter asks Jesus who he is. And Jesus responds, “Who do you think I am?” And Beck and his guest answer for Peter in unison, “You are God.”

      Wrong!

      Peter says, “You are the Christ.” And let’s assume the historical Peter actually said that. He wouldn’t have literally said “Christ,” because that’s that the Greek word. Peter would have said “Moshiach” — the proper Hebrew word for Messiah. And, of course, the notion that a Galilean Jew would have equated the Messiah with God would have been, well, totally absurd!

      So, this case is a perfect example of how Christians bring something to the text of scripture that the scripture itself is NOT saying.

      Anyway, this reminds of that time I took a translation class in college (in which I translated parts of the Hebrew Bible into English). I noticed when comparing my translation from other standard translations — such as the King James and NRSV — that the other translators always brought a little of their own baggage to their translations.

      For example, the very first word in the Hebrew Bible: בְּרֵאשִׁית
      This is usually translated into English as “in the beginning”. The problem with that English translation is that it is not really the true meaning of “b’reshit”. The Semitic root of the word is resh-aleph-shin, which in every Semitic language means “head” or “top”. So the meaning of the word is closer to something like “from the start”.

      Now, this meaning, of course, has theological implications that are clearly too complicated, so translators would rather stick with the traditional “in the beginning,” which implies a teleology that I’m sure the composer of Genesis 1:1 didn’t mean to express.

      Anyway, I guess my point is translators and copyist both bring whatever baggage they carry with them when they translate and copy, respectively.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  April 10, 2018

    Glad you finally did Seth Andrews’ podcast. Was a great discussion.

  6. fishician  April 10, 2018

    Good interview, and I really like Seth’s podcasts. Doesn’t he have a perfect radio/podcast voice? And a great demeanor for discussion, too.

  7. Telling
    Telling  April 10, 2018

    Great interview, Bart.

    My wife (who is Buddhist) sent me this clip from a speech by Robert Lanza, a respected biologist who says “the universe rises from life, not the other way around.” Maybe you’re familiar with him. It should change our take on the religious myths — a “material” explanation bordering on the absurd of actual truths the average men cannot grasp.

    https://youtu.be/zI_F4nOKDSM

  8. Wilusa  April 10, 2018

    Very enjoyable!

    You said it’s the most “liberal” forms of Christianity that are experiencing the least (or possibly no) growth. Do you think that’s because people who might, at an earlier date, have been attracted to “liberal” Christianity are instead opting out of *any* religion?

    I did see an article on the NBC News website a week or so ago, saying more young people are choosing to become Catholic priests and nuns. But they acknowledged that it was a small increase. Maybe just a return to the numbers who would have done that before all the negative publicity about pedophile priests? Now that the first outrage has worn off?

  9. john76  April 10, 2018

    I think the simpler explanation as to why Christianity went from a forbidden religion to the official religion of the Roman empire is that the Roman elite saw how devout the Christians remained under persecution, and figured that this kind of attitude would be wonderful for the general population to have. It’s analogous to the thinking of Numa Pompilius, Regarding Numa Pompilius, Livy wrote:

    “And fearing lest relief from anxiety on the score of foreign perils might lead men who had hitherto been held back by fear of their enemies and by military discipline into extravagance and idleness, he (Numa) thought the very first thing to do, as being the most efficacious with a populace which was ignorant and, in those early days, uncivilized, was to imbue them with the fear of Heaven. As he could not instil this into their hearts without inventing some marvellous story, he PRETENDED to have nocturnal meetings with the goddess Egeria, and that hers was the advice which guided him in the establishment of rites most approved by the gods, and in the appointment of special priests for the service of each.” (Livy 1 19).”

    Plutarch also suggests that Numa played on superstition to give himself an aura of awe and divine allure, in order to cultivate more gentle behaviours among the warlike early Romans, such as honoring the gods, abiding by law, behaving humanely to enemies, and living proper, respectable lives (see Plutarch, “The parallel lives, Numa Pompilius, §VIII”).

    • john76  April 10, 2018

      We also see the elites viewing religion as useful with Ptolemy I. Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was cleverly instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was strategically introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.

      The elites of the Roman empire may have phased in Christianity after seeing how devout the Christians remained under persecution, and thought this would be an excellent attitude/crutch for the masses to have. In fact, Paul may have converted when he made a similar realization when he was persecuting Christians.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 11, 2018

      Yes, I looked into that option and could find very little evidence of it — especially given the fact that Christian persecutions were few and far between. I talk about all this in my book of course.

    • flcombs  April 12, 2018

      I honestly don’t know about ancient times on this. But Christianity was used to control the masses through later times and even the last century. The verses about not rebelling against authority and leaders being there by the will of god, etc. were used to validate and justify kings and rulers. So perhaps that was a part of it too: a religion that directly helps control the masses is very useful and going with just one gives better control over the priesthood.

      • godspell  April 18, 2018

        Well of course Christianity was used to control masses–you don’t want everybody talking up in church at the same–oh. You meant those kinds of masses.

        Speaking of belief systems that began with good intentions but have committed horrible atrocities, and have largely become discredited in the present day……..

    • dankoh  April 16, 2018

      I think rather the opposite. First, as Bart points out below, there was very little persecution of Christians overall. With the exception of brief periods under Valerian (c. 250) and Diocletian (c. 303), persecutions were local and sporadic; while Christians read stories of martyrs as inspiration, there were actually very few. Also, when the Romans did attack Christians, it was for failure to do their civic duty of sacrificing to the state gods to ensure the welfare of the empire, so they were hardly likely to admire them for their refusal. Jews, for example, were tolerated (on the grounds of ethnic antiquity) for not making sacrifices to the local gods, but they were mocked for it (also, the Jews were often careful to show respect, even if they did not participate).

      It is much more likely that Constantine accepted Christianity as an official religion for political and military reasons; there were enough Christians in the empire that he could not afford to alienate.

  10. Stephen  April 10, 2018

    A fine interview. Perhaps the best one so far.

    One figure that you discuss in your book who I find tantalizing is Julian, the so-called “Apostate”. I didn’t hear about Julian’s career until I read Gore Vidal’s novel. One of the great “what ifs” of history. What if he had reigned 19 years instead of 19 months? What if he had instituted his social and political reforms? Named his own pagan successor as Emperor? Do you think Julian could have made a difference or would he have just succeeded in delaying the inevitable?

    Thanks, enjoyed your book very much.

  11. Tony  April 11, 2018

    Your responses on the subject of Mythicism did not appear all that convincing to the interviewer, who wisely moved on.
    Your point that Jesus’ existence should be evidence based on probability, and not possibility, is absolutely correct. Your comment that those who, based on that same evidence, come to different conclusion are driven by some “other” agenda is obviously intended to attack the legitimacy of an opposing viewpoint – by non-evidence based means.

    The opening salvo down this path was, “Did Jesus Exist”, (DJE). A carefully balanced probability analysis was not part of DJE. Instead, it was a trade book with an opinion.
    As to the, “quite obvious – Paul says Jesus has a brother”, comment – we’ve been over this many times. Makes me wonder if you have an agenda.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 11, 2018

      At least you can be assured that you don’t. 🙂

    • Jim Cherry  April 11, 2018

      Hi Tony, I found a Richard Carrier interview on You Tube (as I recall) where he surprisingly (to me) said he thought it was about 70-30 for him on the existence of the man, Jesus. 70% he did not exist, 30% that he did, minus the miracles of course. I admit to about 2-98, (2% that he did not exist).
      How do you feel? Any wiggle room? Thanks.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 12, 2018

        I wouldn’t put a percentage on it, but there’s not much wiggle room for me. Carrier does love his percentages though!

      • Tony  April 12, 2018

        Sure , lots of wiggle room. The numbers come from Carrier’s book “On the Historicity of Jesus”, his Opus Magnum of 696 pages. Carrier uses a semi-quantitative methodology used by historians to establish relative probabilities throughout his book – and comes in the end to the final conclusion you mentioned. His methodology makes the evidence, assumptions, calculations, and his conclusions visible and thereby subject to scrutiny by others. Carrier has invited all NT scholarship to do exactly that, but so far no takers.

        Carrier actually feels he’s been overly generous on Jesus historicity. I agree, but I won’t (can’t) put a number on it. Long before Carrier, I’d read “The Jesus Puzzle” by Earl Doherty. Afterwards, I re-read Paul’s letters, and concluded that Paul, in all likelihood, is not writing about the Jesus of Nazareth of the Gospels. I’ve concluded that a mythical Jesus provides a better fit for the available data/evidence as compared to an historical one.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2018

          Which historians use this methodology?

          • Tony  April 15, 2018

            You use all the time except you don’t often express it semi-quantitatively. Given two different explanations for an historical event you will search for additional related data. Based on what you find you will adjust the likelihood of the explanations one way or the other. Mostly we arrive at words such as possible, (more) probable, very unlikely, plausible, impossible etc. The theorem changes the words into semi-quantitative numbers and allow some cumulative calculations. It’s found use in archaeology – a history subset, and numerous other areas.

            There is NOTHING absolute about the process. Also, garbage in – garbage out, as in any other process.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 16, 2018

            I thought you were referring to his statistical analyses of probability. I don’t know of historians who do that, but I’m open to learn about them. My sense is that the historians at major universities who do history for a living would find the approach somewhere between humorous and ludicrous.

        • godspell  April 17, 2018

          Carrier makes his living questioning the existence of Jesus. Without that, he’s got nothing. So his percentages are basically him keeping the debate alive.

          Hey, he uses the “You’re just defending your job” argument on other scholars who say Jesus did exist. It actually works with him. Historical scholars have jobs whether Jesus existed or not. Carrier’s cult depends entirely on the argument of historicity. Nobody’s denying Christianity happened.

  12. rivercrowman  April 11, 2018

    Great interview as always. And Seth hadn’t quite finished your book yet!

  13. godspell  April 11, 2018

    You know, the two photos up top really freak me out. This guy looks like he’s intentionally set out to look like a younger version of Bart.

    It’s like “Single White Heathen.”

    Watch out, Bart.

    😉

  14. webo112
    webo112  April 12, 2018

    I finished ready Triumph….great read, I preferred the (increased) level of language, words and grammar over you previous publication (Jesus before the gospels) btw.
    It was a very historically educational book for me.
    There were a few very key and significant takeaways from Triumph, that I think should warrant further posts perhaps. (I will need to go back the book to find them)

    I have to start highlighting and bookmarking your books from now on, to go back to points for reference. (I’m not used to doing that to books)

  15. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  April 12, 2018

    I’ve been in so many discussions about mythicism I’ve lost count. It really sets certain people off when they hear that they should get their information from those who have credentials. I agree, but there’s a problem. Searching out the cosmology of the universe is 100x easier to do than searching out the historical Jesus. Any standard, public school teaches biology, physics, earth science, etc., and there’s scads of information about these things.

    There’s also gobs of information about Jesus, but how is an everyday person supposed to know where to go to find the *right* information. An average person probably isn’t even asking the right questions in the first place. They don’t know they need to read books by a Pauline scholar in order to understand his epistles. Suppose they do figure out they need a Pauline scholar, how are they supposed to find these people when everybody has PhD after their names? And even if they do find a Pauline scholar, how can they know it’s the *right* scholar? It’s very difficult to know who is a critical scholar and who is not. Not to mention the fact that most people don’t know what a critical biblical scholar is. That’s not including scholars who gradute with PhDs from secular universities and come out saying the virgin birth is a miracle!

    When a person has problems with religion for whatever reason or maybe has come to the conclusion that there’s no God, hears that they need to listen to those who have credentials, their eyes practically roll into the backs of their heads. It’s like trying to find ten needles in fifteen thousand haystacks. And the reality is, once a person comes out of religion, reading a book by a Christian, critical scholar or not, is the last thing some of them want to do.

    But I don’t believe mythicists should place the argument solely upon your shoulders either. That’s not fair or even reasonable to do so.

    • godspell  April 19, 2018

      All good points. But why insist Jesus didn’t exist in the first place? Because this or that version of Christianity damaged you in some way?

      Lots of people come out of Scientology, far more damaged than most Christians. You don’t see those people going around trying to prove L. Ron Hubbard was a myth. Well of course, there are videos. He’s a contemporary figure, or was recently. So what? A bad science fiction author gets the idea of founding his own religion–tells some of his colleagues that’s how you make the real money–he does it–millions of people join up–it goes on existing long after he’s dead–major movie stars are caught up in it–sounds like a myth to me!

      The L. Ron Hubbard Scientologists believe in is a myth, created by L. Ron Hubbard. Who really existed. Journalists and historians have the task of separating myth from fact, which is a lot easier to do for somebody who lived recently, and was rich and famous in his own lifetime. But there are still things people disagree about, grey areas, points of interpretation. There’s also a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

      If you don’t want to be a Christian, then don’t. But see, it’s not that easy. People feel intimidated by all the history behind Christianity–and, let’s be fair, its massive achievements, which matter just as much as its sins. So they’d like to just erase it.

      And that’s their problem. Those of us who try to live in reality can only be so patient with wacky fundamentalists. The theist kind or the atheist kind.

      Same difference.

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      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  April 20, 2018

        I don’t have the sense that mythicists are necessarily damaged by Christianity. It’s more like a trendy, social group for the new atheist crowd.

  16. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  April 13, 2018

    Today I received the Dutch translation of your book. Despite the rather strange translation of the title ‘The God from Galilee’ I’m very eager to start reading immediately. The subtitle ‘how a forbidden religion swept the world’ is correct though 🙂
    Very nice to have a Dutch copy of one of your books again! I can spread the word among my friends now 😉

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