Does Richard Carrier Exist?

atheism Humour Theology / Biblical Studies

I’m sick and tired of the way that extremist conservative claims about history – such that Abraham Lincoln actually existed – are taken seriously, but serious, well-thought-out, well evidenced and reasonable claims – like the claim that Richard Carrier does not exist – are demonised. This is manifestly unfair. As Tim McGrew has recently shown, pure Bayesian probability gives us excellent reasons to doubt this strong claim:

The initial odds that Richard Carrier exists are – let’s be generous – a hundred to one in favor of the proposition.

Part of the definition of Richard Carrier is that he is supposed to be a scholar with a Ph. D. in History. He is also supposed to be relatively young, which makes him one of, say, 3,000 or so History Ph. D.s to have been minted in the past five years. These factors will become important as we proceed.

Now we throw some of the other factors into the mix. Richard Carrier (if he exists) is a Jesus mythicist, someone who disbelieves in the existence of Jesus of Nazareth as a real person in space and time. Of the 3,000 or so History Ph.D.s minted in the last five years, and bracketing Carrier for the moment so as not to beg any questions, how many are mythicists? It’s a pretty safe bet that the number is close to zero. Let’s be generous, however, and suppose that there are 30, all of them devout mythicists (though in secret, for fear of damaging their careers). But – and this is the point we must dwell on – if the internet atheist community wanted to create a superhero who could defeat the Christians by his superior credentials, would we not expect them to invest him with a doctorate in History and, at the same time, have him endorse, nay, vindicate, the mythicist position? Surely this is not very improbable, say, even odds (for the mythicist position is very well represented online). And that the internet atheists should invent such a character, though it might seem a bit far-fetched, is not  really that unlikely, since all of history amply documents the human response to the felt need for superheroes. (Vide not only Egyptian and Greek mythology but also the Edda and The Avengers, due to be released in a couple of weeks.) Upon the whole, it seems safe to say that the probability of the invention of such a character is at least .1. At a conservative estimate, the likelihood ratio

P(Historian-myther-hero|Richard Carrier is not a real person)/P(Historian-myther-hero|Richard Carrier is a real person)

is therefore .1/(30/3,000), or 10 to 1.

But Richard Carrier is also supposed to be a “world renowned philosopher and historian” (according to the blurb on Why I am not a Christian). Problems now begin to crowd more thickly around the definition. How many History Ph. D.s are philosophers at all? Surely not very many. How many are world renowned philosophers, even though they have just obtained the Ph. D.? The percentages are vanishing; they probability cannot sensibly be estimated at greater than 0.0001. But this would be a very useful accomplishment to add to the credentials of a historian-myther-hero, if he were an invented character. Let us suppose the probability to be merely 0.1 (though it should probably be higher), and we get the likelihood ratio:

P(World-renowned philosopher|Richard Carrier is not a real person & Historian-myther-hero)/P(World-renowned philosopher|Richard Carrier is a real person & Historian-myther-hero)

= 0.1/0.0001, or 1000 to 1.

We can go further. This world-renowned philosopher-historian-myther-hero is also a mathematician. Given historians’ well-known disdain for mathematical methods, the probability of this if Carrier is a real person is low, though perhaps not so drastically low as it would be if our hero were not also a philosopher, since perhaps as many as ten percent of all philosophers can and do use mathematical methods from time to time. Call the conditional probability of this detail, given the reality of Carrier and all of the other factors considered thus far, 0.05. But the mythic Carrier would only be enhanced by adding mathematical abilities to his other powers; it is at least even money that, if he is entirely mythical, this additional qualification would be tacked onto his resume. However, so as not to overestimate the probability, let us reduce the estimate to:

P(Mathematician||Richard Carrier is not a real person & Historian-myther-hero & World-renowned philosopher)/P(Mathematician|Richard Carrier is a real person & Historian-myther-hero &  World-renowned philosopher)

= 0.2/0.05, or 4 to 1.

Putting these factors together, we have to weigh odds of 100 to 1 for Carrier’s reality against the combination of other factors, which tip the scales at 40,000 to 1 against. These considerations alone leave us with odds of 400 to 1 against, or a probability just a bit in excess of .9975 that Richard Carrier is not a real person.

We might go on in this vein for quite some time, noting further incongruities in the Carrier myth. How many trained historians would misread Plutarch’s “On Isis and Osiris” 19.358b as declaring Osiris’s physical resurrection from the dead here on earth? How many mathematicians would bungle basic probability calculations? How many philosophers, world-renowned or otherwise, would endorse the position that the laws of logic “obviously” derive from the laws of physics? Yet such blunders are what we might well expect to crop up as the community feigning Carrier’s existence attempted to demonstrate his expertise in one field after another.

So the calculation given above seriously underestimates the probabilities in the case. Almost certainly, by strict Bayesian reasoning, Richard Carrier does not exist.

And yet, I venture to predict that the vast majority of Carrier-believers will pay no attention whatsoever to Bayesian reasoning when it is applied rigorously to conclusions that they hold sacred.

Reflecting on this compelling expose, a number of commenters realised that the evidence had been staring them in the face the whole time. As Calum noted, perhaps Tim was being much too “generous” in his assessment of prior probability here:

There’s no way I use “Richard Carrier did it” as an explanation 1 time in every 100. I hardly ever use “Richard Carrier did it” as an explanation – in fact, I’m not convinced I’ve ever used it as an explanation. I therefore assign the prior probability of Richard Carrier’s existence the value of 0, because of this flawless and universally accepted rule for generating priors.

Reflecting on his experience – or lack thereof – with people who have met Carrier in person, David realised:

I have talked to people who claim to have met Carrier. But they are part of the atheist community, and their “faith testimonies” should therefore be discounted as cognitive dissonance arising from their expectation of meeting Carrier, and then being disappointed.

Another member of the rapidly growing Carrier-mythicist community, Sam quotes someone else in that community as an authoritative source, noting:

I think David [last name removed] has a good point. It explains why so many people talk about Richard Carrier as if he existed. Talking about him, and convincing other people of his existence, strengthens their faith. That’s how cognitive dissonance works. Such is their desire to convince others that they even write pseudonymous books in his name.

Dr McGrew agrees, and draws our attention to factors that Carrier-literalists seem never to have considered:

We may also be underestimating the percentage of them who are schizotypal and thus naturally prone to hallucination. Through the psychological phenomena of suggestion, anchoring, and memory contamination, any one of these conditions in one person could have precipitated experiences under the same or other conditions in anyone else similarly predisposed.

Of course, if a remarkable figure like “Richard Carrier,” expert in multiple fields and a world renown philosopher existed, we can be certain that world historians at the time when Carrier achieved world renown might have at least heard of him. And yet, as David notes, this is not the case:

I just looked through the indexes of five major historical works that cover modern times: Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Nicholas Riasanvosky’s A History of Russia, David Landes’ The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Note that Carrier, if so important and universal a polymath existed, would surely have been noticed by an competent historian, whatever else they happened to be writing about! And surely Carrier is part of “nearly everything,” so Bryson in particular could be counted on to write extensively about his early childhood, school classmates, pets, and his wise aphorisms and parables, and his wondrous works.

Yet remarkably, not a single one of these contemporary biographers so much as mention Richard Carrier! (Though two mention a “Jimmy Carter,” which apologists might seize on as a possible corruption of some sort, but I think we can rule that out.) I’m not one to casually abuse the Argument from Silence, but if every it were applicable, surely it is in this case.

But maybe none of this really counts as criticism after all. Maybe all of this really points to the true heart of Carrianity. Maybe it’s not about some guy who suddenly shot to super-stardom and world renown because of his obvious competence, devastating Christians with is powerful arguments that nobody has ever encountered before. Maybe Neil is right:

Guys, I think you’re missing the point. What really matters is the ‘Carrier of faith’ regardless of what we think about the ‘Carrier of history’.

Amen

P.S. Tim McGrew made me promise to tell the reader that his short article was written in a whimsical spirit for fun. But given the historian’s “principle of embarrassment,” this is just what you’d expect me to tell you as a supporter of the Carrier-myth thesis if it was really a serious one after all!

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{ 48 comments… add one }

  • Andrew April 29, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Very well done Glenn! very creative XD

  • Joel Gonzaga April 29, 2012, 4:18 pm

    Furthermore, ikons of Richard Carrier look vaguely like the Karate Kid, who was a popular mythic figure of Generation X children. Richard carrier alleged age is around that of Generation X. With such clear similarities, it is obvious that the Richard Carrier Myth began as a copy cat of the Karate Kidd.

    Miss your hair, Glenn.

  • Glenn April 29, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Andrew – Tim wrote it!

  • Jason April 29, 2012, 8:56 pm

    This reminds me of a discussion we had on one of Tim’s posts on Facebook.

    It was fun. :)

  • Glenn April 29, 2012, 9:25 pm

    There’s a reason for that, Jason!

    Actually it reminds me of “New Directions in Pooh Studies: Überlieferungs- und religionsgeschichtliche Studien zum Pu-Buch.” It’s a parody of the licence taken by critical Old Testament scholarship as applied to the stories about Pooh Bear (aka Winnie ther Pooh).

  • Jemima April 30, 2012, 2:14 am

    tektonics.orgYour mention of Pooh reminds me of this other great parody:

    “Was Winnie the Pooh a Good Muslim?”
    http://www.tektonics.org/guest/pooh.html

  • corey April 30, 2012, 1:37 pm

    lol, this would be a good argument if there was no record kept by anyone that ever personally met Abraham Lincoln, if his name was allegorical, like “Freedom Lincoln,” was said to possess supernatural powers, claimed to be the creator and judge of the universe (and himself?), and later rose from the dead. If the existence of the unphotographed, all mighty, supernatural being known as “Freedom Lincoln” was asserted only by the writing of people that neither met him nor met anyone that met him, it would be a valid comparison. As for Richard Carrier, we have video of him, writings by him, can go meet him, etc. Thus, it’s not a very good argument. As far as the silly misapplication of Bayes theorem as method, i’ll let Carrier himself rip that to shreds…

  • wbf April 30, 2012, 2:59 pm

    This article is absurd!

    Evidence for Carrier that we do NOT have for Jesus:

    1.) writings attributed to Carrier dateable to his lifetime
    2.) verifiable contemporary eyewitness reports
    3.) video & audio recordings of Carrier himself
    4.) lack of supernatural features in accounts of Carrier

    The above article is a misapplication of Carrier’s methods and should not be used to insinuate that they are not valid in their application to Jesus. Any method can be misused (even valid ones).

  • Tim April 30, 2012, 3:03 pm

    Corey,

    I suppose that’s what we could expect from the faithful. First, let’s get it straight about Lincoln’s name: “Ab”–a father; “Abram”–a great father; “Abraham”–a father of a great multitude; Lin (from Greek linon)–long, extended; Coln (from Greek kolos)–mutilated. So here we have, in his very name, the principal facts about his life: father of a great people, extended [either physically (very tall), or temporally (elected President twice), or in fame], and assassinated.

    As for Carrier’s name, “Rich” suggests an affinity for money, and rumor has it that this character charges for his writing by the word. (Nice work if you can get it!) “Carrier” resonates on multiple letters, as an obvious pun given his supposed tour of duty in the Coast Guard, or as a more subtle play on words for those familiar with the notion of a meme.

    Photographs are easily faked. As for those who have supposedly met Richard Carrier, we merely demand that his existence be established entirely on the testimony of those who disbelieve in his existence–a reasonable enough request, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Tim April 30, 2012, 3:20 pm

  • Glenn April 30, 2012, 5:23 pm

    wbf,

    1) The key word in your comment here (if indeed it was really you who wrote it) is “attributed.” In the history of myth it’s common for people to “attribute” things to the mythic hero-sage-saviour that they simply didn’t do, drawing on a whole host of similar figures in the thought world of the time.

    2) It’s easy to talk about eyewitness reports as verifiable. But clearly those who claim to have seen “Richard Carrier (pbuh) have a polemical interest in doing so. perhaps he is their mythic hero-warrior-god. Or maybe they are re-telling a creedal version of an account of divine warfare where they depict themselves as witnessing his defeat. Such things happen all the time in myth.

    3) When it comes to (alleged) recordings, we have to be very careful. Remember the principle that at most points in history there were no Richard Carriers, no amazing scholars who became world renown philosophers immediate on graduation who devastated their theological opponents. I think it’s wise to proceed as though “No Richard Carriers then implies none now.” Hence, any alternative explanation is intrinsically more probably than an *actual* Richard Carrier being the person on camera/audio.

    4) Indeed, this is a major conflict. For the powers that Carrier is alleged to possess are so wildly implausible that we would expect a “supernatural power” explanation. That we do not have one is a major conflict in the Carrier tradition.

  • Roy April 30, 2012, 6:22 pm

    That’s very clever – and insightful, Tim! (As a complete aside – I’m thoroughly enjoying your 6-part apologetics series posted by Apologetics315).

    The links in the ‘plot thickens’ blog post check out too.

  • Eugene April 30, 2012, 6:45 pm

    “Richard Carrier (pbuh)”!!! Move over Zen Sunnis and take your Orange Catholic Bible with you; the Carrierite Sunnis have arrived.

  • Chris May 1, 2012, 6:41 am

    I’m convinced – neither Richard Carrier nor Jesus have ever existed.

  • Bobmo May 1, 2012, 10:00 am

    Corey and Wbf,

    As we all know, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and, based on Tim McGrew’s analysis, the existence of Richard Carrier certainly qualifies as an extraordinary claim. Have you, then, verified that the video and written testimony attributed to Dr. Carrier actually meets this reasonably high standard?

    Until you meet him in person (and verify that the experience is not a group hallucination, which we all know is much more probable than his existence, since any explanation is more probable than his existence), isn’t it rational to hold to the default position, that of A-Carrierism?

    Glenn,

    I think you and Tim McGrew have gone well above the call of duty in providing positive evidence against the existence of Richard Carrier, since, as we all know, A-Carrierism isn’t actually a belief at all, and therefore requires no argument, much less evidence. It’s simply a lack of belief.

  • Tim May 1, 2012, 11:50 am

    Chris,

    As long as you’re consistent . . .

  • Roy May 1, 2012, 5:09 pm

    I know this is the wrong post to comment on … but this is where the action is happening. Glenn – I”m SO looking forward to the third part of your RC series! A physicalist’s response to a spiritual-only Resurrection!

  • Ben May 1, 2012, 6:53 pm

    Subscribing to comments.

  • Gabriel May 2, 2012, 1:05 am

    Dr Peoples,

    FYI, the criterion of embarrassment or dissimilarity is not used outside Biblical scholarship so the argument can’t be used to attest Dr Carrier’s earthly existence as he isn’t mentioned in any ancient Biblical document.

  • Glenn May 2, 2012, 7:50 am

    Gabriel, as these criteria are useful I see no reason not to apply them to the study of other purported historical persons such as Richard Carrier. Only the dyed-in-the-wool historical-Carrier fundy faithful would be motivated to not use them.

  • Andrew Vella May 2, 2012, 12:38 pm

    Two years ago I wondered if an article by Richard Carrier really existed: http://ravingsandranting.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/is-this-journal-article-by-richard.html

  • Andrew Vella May 2, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Oh sorry, I just realised that Tim already linked to that post I put up. Sorry for the spam. I’m happy if you delete the above comment (and this one)

  • Hugh May 3, 2012, 12:27 pm

    this is golden.

  • Ross May 3, 2012, 7:51 pm

    “As for those who have supposedly met Richard Carrier, we merely demand that his existence be established entirely on the testimony of those who disbelieve in his existence–a reasonable enough request, wouldn’t you agree?”

    I laughed at this one.

  • Mike D May 6, 2012, 11:01 pm

    So, you’re comparing someone who is alive and of whom we have ample photographic, video, genetic, and contemporaneous written accounts to Jesus.

    There are no contemporaneous records of Jesus’ existence at all. Zero. The gospels themselves – the primary ‘records’ – are dated decades after he purportedly existed, rife with supernatural claims you only accept because of generous helpings of special pleading (you would never accept such claims at face value from other religions), and what’s worse is that the only manuscripts we have of the gospels are copies of copies of copies, rife with internal contradictions, omitted or added information, historical blunders and copy errors. Quite human problems for a supposedly divinely gifted text, no?

    Consider further that today, despite all our scientific advances, people still believe in things like faith healing, psychic mediums, the “law of attraction”, homeopathy, etc. etc. And yet you presume that tribal people 2,000 years ago were immune to such biases when it comes to your personal religious beliefs.

    Nice attempt at being clever, but… FAIL

    By the by, I have no stance on whether a “historical Jesus” existed. That the Jesus as described in the gospels is a work of fiction is abundantly clear from the available evidence. Might he have been based on a real person, some Jesus Smith? Sure, that’s plausible, if unprovable. But who cares?

  • Geoff May 7, 2012, 10:04 am

    Mike D,

    So you are saying that unless we can prove Jesus` existence using modern methods of identification, he didnt exist?

    Surely we should accept the “modern methods of the day” – that is, today we use drivers licenses, facebook pages, etc. In Jesus day it was highly accurate oral traditions which were painstakingly passed on, and eventually recorded at great expense and accuracy.

    Nice attempt at being clever, but FAIL.

    If you had some comprehension of how letter writing was done in ancient times, and how histories were recorded, you’d be a little less smug.

  • Tristan Vick May 7, 2012, 11:18 am

    I was having coffee with Carrier the other day and stole his cup that he’d been drinking from while he was in the bathroom.

    Had his DNA sequenced.

    Slaps Carriers DNA sequence on diner window.

    How about dem’ apples?

    Walks away triumphantly.

    P.S.
    Carrier isn’t a figure from Antiquity. We have his birth certificate. Driver’s licence. Marriage certificate. School records. The dude files taxes. He’s published books under his own name. He’s published papers with colleagues who attest to his existence. The day Carrier shuffles off, we’ll have his death certificate to.

    Sorry, what was your point again?

  • Tristan Vick May 7, 2012, 11:19 am

    I was having coffee with Carrier the other day and stole his cup that he’d been drinking from while he was in the bathroom.

    Had his DNA sequenced.

    Slaps Carriers DNA sequence on diner window.

    How about dem’ apples?

    Walks away triumphantly.

    P.S.
    Carrier isn’t a figure from Antiquity. We have his birth certificate. Driver’s licence. Marriage certificate. School records. The dude files taxes. He’s published books under his own name. He’s published papers with colleagues who attest to his existence. The day Carrier shuffles off, we’ll have his death certificate too.

    Sorry, what was your point again?

  • Landon Hedrick May 7, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Richard Carrier not only exists, he’s got all sorts of magical powers as well. That’s what I heard, at least. And I believe it, because somebody said it was true. BOOM!

  • Glenn May 7, 2012, 5:03 pm

    “We have his birth certificate. Driver’s licence. Marriage certificate. School records. The dude files taxes.”

    Please find one person who would vouch for the authenticity of those documents and tax returns. And I mean one person who is NOT a believer in his existence (it would be biased to use a believer’s testimony).

  • Matthew Flannagan May 8, 2012, 4:42 pm

    P.S.
    Carrier isn’t a figure from Antiquity. We have his birth certificate. Driver’s licence. Marriage certificate. School records. The dude files taxes. He’s published books under his own name. He’s published papers with colleagues who attest to his existence. The day Carrier shuffles off, we’ll have his death certificate too.

    LOL, Carrier is not like Jesus because we have written documents recording his birth, schooling and teachings, and if he dies we will have a record of that.

  • Nick May 8, 2012, 4:50 pm

    Mike D.
    If Jesus is a fictional character then one would need to explain the ten non-Biblical historical accounts of Jesus and his church. These sources have no agenda when they record Jesus as a real historical figure. No doubt they would of taken their craft seriously as any writer. It would be reasonable they would wish their histories to be as accurate as possible. So investigation of the facts would be done. It would also be reasonable to think that they prized intellectual integrity just as we do. Yes? One other point is this, in the ancient world there are no satellites, radio signals etc. So, for Jesus to be recorded as he is, and the scope of his influence, the rapid dispersal of his message must of been a significant factor to attempt to disprove. The idea that Jesus never existed does not hold water there are documents persevered from the early church fathers, and those outside the church to verify his existence. It would also be probable that other historians who don’t take a radial position as Carrier’s would critique his claims. One final unrelated point is that if we are fair we all believe a lot of things which we accept as facts from testimony. 80 years ago radio news reports related information from other parts of the world. People believed these as factual without any further power to prove the claims. They also believed the reports decades latter even if the radio report was all they had. Were they wrong to do so?

  • Matthew Flannagan May 8, 2012, 4:57 pm

    So, you’re comparing someone who is alive and of whom we have ample photographic, video, genetic, and contemporaneous written accounts to Jesus.
    There are no contemporaneous records of Jesus’ existence at all. Zero. The gospels themselves – the primary ‘records’ – are dated decades after he purportedly existed, rife with supernatural claims and what’s worse is that the only manuscripts we have of the gospels are copies of copies of copies, rife with internal contradictions, omitted or added information, historical blunders and copy errors. Quite human problems for a supposedly divinely gifted text, no?

    Sorry are you referring to Alexander the Great or Jesus or the numerous other figures of antiquity which I could say exactly the same about which no sensible person doubts existed.
    Alexander’s companion Ptolemy wrote decades after his death, and the accounts we rely on today such as Plutarch and Arrian are from three hundred years later.
    The account of Alexander’s life contain supernatural claims that he was the son of Zeus. That his mother was impregnated by a snake, and so on.

    And seeing papyrus rots almost every document from the first century we have is a copy of a copy of a copy, and our ability to authenticate the original is much worse than it is with the New Testament.

    And of course no figure from Antiquity do we have photos of or there DNA sample.

    What was that about special pleading?

  • Andrew Britton May 9, 2012, 6:29 am

    Although slightly humorous, this blog posting seems like merely an example of a bad analogy.

    Comparing the existence of a modern person who has videos, photos, and makes public appearances and publishes a blog to a religious figure found in 2,000 year old documents is kind of silly.

    By this argument it would be ridiculous to question any figure in ancient writings, yet historians do.

    Who are we allowed to question? Pythagorus? Zeus? Zalmoxis?

    Should we never question the historicity of an ancient figure because it sounds funny misapplying similar criteria to a modern person?

    I have not been convinced by Carrier’s arguments so far, despite that I think this posting is a bad attempt to expose flaws in his argument. Maybe it was meant to be purely entertainment, but it is hard to tell.

  • Glenn May 9, 2012, 9:21 pm

    Andrew, check the category.

    Although on a more general note about the tests that Carrier applies to Jesus, I wouldn’t say “misapply.” If it really does seem weird to apply to same criteria to other people, the criteria probably need improvement. And they do.

  • Jo December 9, 2012, 2:12 am

    excellent post and LOL for Richard C

  • Papalinton May 31, 2013, 5:13 pm

    A three-day old dead putrescent corpse revivifies and levitates into the wide blue beyond to who knows where and sits on a throne? And you claim that as fact?

    I’ll stick with the reality of a Carrier any day thanks.

  • Glenn May 31, 2013, 7:40 pm

    “A three-day old dead putrescent corpse revivifies and levitates into the wide blue beyond to who knows where and sits on a throne? And you claim that as fact?”

    Nope. I don’t know of any Christians who do. Wanna have another swing, champ?

  • alan June 1, 2013, 5:29 am

    Yes. Now will somebody who isn’t lazy like me PLEASE do a source criticism study of the authors behind the many works variously attributed to Bart Ehrman?

  • Papalinton June 2, 2013, 1:50 am

    Glenn
    “Nope. I don’t know of any Christians who do. Wanna have another swing, champ?”

    Then what do christians claim and/or believe? Cough it up. What do you claim? Which is it? The historical real-live Jesus killed as a failed insurrectionist by the Romans and his body dumped, as was the usual practice for agitators against the State, or the biblically accreted Jesus that rose from the dead, ate and drank with disciples, and finally levitated in full body form into the blue beyond?

    You know it Glenn, as I know it, when you drill deep down into the story it is a truly preposterous claim, isn’t it? And claiming it an unsubstantiated miracle, which by its very definition can only be an unsubstantiated proposition, is an equally preposterous claim that simply compounds the inanity of the initial claim.

    If I were a reasonable betting man, I would have no option but to take the odds on Carrier than I would on a Jesus, bayesian or otherwise. Apart from the vast majority of biblical scholars who happen to also harbour a deep abiding and almost congenital desire for there to be a ‘real’ Jesus [commonly termed 'confirmation bias'] has it ever occurred to you that the matter has never been satisfactorily resolved one way or another, either beyond a reasonable doubt or on the balance of probabilities that a real-live Jesus existed?

    Indeed, recently retired Bishop and devout Christian John Shelby Spong has clearly and eruditely put Christianity on notice with his Twelve Points:
    “1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
    2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
    3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
    4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
    5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
    6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
    7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
    8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
    9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
    10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
    11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
    12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.”

    This man is reflecting the thoughts of many if not most commonsensical believers going forward.

  • Glenn June 2, 2013, 2:38 am

    “Then what do christians claim and/or believe? Cough it up.”

    That’s not how it works. If you want to come in with a specific objection to something Christians believe, you do so. Putrescent corpse… you just wandered in without a clue.

    “And claiming it an unsubstantiated miracle, which by its very definition can only be an unsubstantiated proposition”

    lol.

  • Papalinton June 2, 2013, 11:54 am

    So you are reluctant and perhaps too embarrassed to state your claim for fear of looking and sounding nonsensical. How does it work? Tell me.

    You equivocate, ‘If you want to come in with a specific objection to something Christians believe, you do so.” Do you know how hard it is to pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded?

    “Putrescent corpse… you just wandered in without a clue.” The single most important reason for rapid burial in the middle east, Jewish or Muslim, is because of the imperative of a hot desert climate. You need to get real here Glenn.

    Come on Glenn, you can do better than that. Man up and tell us about the resurrection and ascension in plain simple believable language without resort to magic. I understand the Jews have never subscribed to a transcendent Jesus/God from the very inception of its fabrication 2,000 years ago, 2,000 years of rejection of the central tenet of of the christian mythos.. And following 600 hundred years of retrospection even Muslims were never sucked in by or convinced of the Jesus-as-God claim. This is truly where the rubber of history hits the road of reality.

  • Glenn June 2, 2013, 2:18 pm

    Papalinton,

    If a drunk and rowdy stranger staggered into a meeting and started derided those present, apparently thinking that his snark was really a fantastic argument, but revealing that he simply didn’t know what those present really thought, he would be asked to leave or removed.

    If he then demanded that people take him seriously, “man up” and address him, this would not make his comments any more reasonable. You are that man (but I’m guessing you knew that :) )

    Your initial comments revealed that you do not know what Christians believe (and your follow-up demand that I “get real” does not suggest otherwise). Your arrogance, hostility and apparent demand to be heard alone is reason enough for me to simply ignore you, as is your ludicrous claim that a miracle, by definition (!!!) is unsubstantiated. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, and you make things worse by implying that my ignoring this little spectacle indicates that I am “embarrassed.”

    Papalinton, on a number of occasions here at the blog I have discussed the resurrection of Jesus – in spite of my obvious embarrassment. If you want to know what I think, have a look.

    If you want to take a deep breath and start afresh, that’s a good idea, but your comments up to this point do not commend you to me as a person to have a discussion on this subject with.

  • Papalinton June 4, 2013, 3:20 am

    Glenn
    “Your initial comments revealed that you do not know what Christians believe (and your follow-up demand that I “get real” does not suggest otherwise). Your arrogance, hostility and apparent demand to be heard alone is reason enough for me to simply ignore you, as is your ludicrous claim that a miracle, by definition (!!!) is unsubstantiated. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, and you make things worse by implying that my ignoring this little spectacle indicates that I am “embarrassed.””

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple? How abjectly wrong and misplaced your perceived revelations are about me gleaned from my initial comments. For the first 30+ years of my life I was a card-carrying dyed-in-the-wool bible-carrying believer. Baptised, Sunday School, confirmed, church choir, wedding banns read prior to the ceremony, the full marriage ceremony in church, my first two children baptised. All the rites of passage that a good, decent, honest and hard-working Christian would observe as an enduring commitment to the faith. And then I began reading wider and deeper than I had ever before.

    So please do not dismissively intone that I “have absolutely no idea what [I'm] talking about.” I think it fair that if you seek to ridicule Carrier in the pablum of this OP, the threat of banning this mischaracterized ‘drunk and rowdy stranger’ for doing the same or similar is simply an act of pious incivility.

    And thank you for referring your various previous OPs. They were insightful. And no doubt you will understand why it is that I see nothing in them on the resurrection that one would consider evidence in any normal and reasonable sense and understanding of the word. Even your
    ‘minimal facts approach’ is simply a euphemism for special pleading. A thoroughly disappointing exposé of apologetical contrivance all in all.

    Glenn, there are sources of knowledge, understanding and experience with exponentially greater explanatory power about the human condition than religious belief and praxis. One would do well to read and explore wider than the rather navel-gazing nature of interpretive exegeses of religious scholarship. That is what I would encourage.

  • Glenn June 4, 2013, 6:54 pm

    “So please do not dismissively intone that I “have absolutely no idea what [I'm] talking about.” ”

    Sorry, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. That you would even suggest that Christians claim that a putrid corpse rose from the dead int he case of Jesus confirms this. You don’t know what Christians believe about this.

    For example, the first Christians taught that Jesus did not see decay. They also didn’t claim that he sat on a throne (unless you’re making some sort of naive mistake about metaphors of authority in the Bible). So while you may well have been a Christian at some point, this is certainly not a guarantee that you know what you’re talking about – any more than you would assume the obligation to defer to what a former atheism says about atheism.

    So really, you do not, in fact, know what you’re talking about and you may as well either accept that and either stop talking abut the subject or else invest a bit of time learning before pontificating. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple?”

    I don’t know about wonderful, but it’s that simple. :)

    PS I almost asked whether or not this was Richard Carrier pretending to be somebody else, but given his non-existence, that’s impossible.

  • Ben Schuldt June 4, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Papalinton, you should try objecting to Glenn’s adjective usage to prove he doesn’t know anything about the supposed existence of one Richard Carrier.

  • Glenn June 4, 2013, 8:22 pm

    The two observations in my last post pale in comparison to the idea that the very “definition” of a miracle indicates that it can’t be substantiated. I mean really, if someone thinks that represents what Christians actually mean by that term, and then they turn around and protest that they actually know what they’re talking about, they may as well just be saying “ignore me, I’m just making this stuff up.”

    And Ben – the (rather obvious) difference here is that the comments about Richard Carrier are parody. Papalinton, on the other hand, actually thinks he’s being accurate.

  • Peter Smith May 17, 2014, 5:54 pm

    That is delightful.
    But I wouldn’t go quite so far. To use the language of radio technology, he is a only carrier signal. Carrier signals are in themselves empty of useful information, they need modulation. All attempts to modulate this carrier have failed, it remains empty. Thus Bayesian reasoning has reached the right conclusion, circuitously(another pun), the probability of extracting an intelligible modulated signal from this carrier is vanishingly small. All that remains is white noise and the information content of white noise is zero. It is well known that white noise has a comforting effect on those consumed by existential anxiety and this explains Carrier’s continuing popularity in atheist circles

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