Tackling Denialism With Painful Logic

Compared to historians and scholars dealing with Jesus mythicists, those who tackle other forms of denialism seem to have it somewhat easier – or would, if denialism could be combated with logic of the sort illustrated in this XKCD cartoon:

In related news, while I myself have used the comparison between the tactics used by Jesus-mythicists and Holocaust-deniers, I agree completely with Matthew Paul Turner that it is in bad taste to make the comparison as a response to visiting a Holocaust exhibit. It is not that the comparison does not make a valid point, but there is a moral atrocity in denying the reality of the Holocaust that simply is not matched in Jesus-mythicism.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    “…there is a moral atrocity in denying the reality of the Holocaust that simply is not matched in Jesus-mythicism.”

    Rather, it is exceeded.

    By awareness of the Holocaust, one is forewarned about the evil of which humanity is capable. By awareness of Jesus Christ, one is not only forewarned about human evil but it also empowered to resist it in all forms.

    Denial of the holocaust is denial of the destructive power of fire. Denial of Jesus Christ is denial not only of fire, but also of the efficacy of fire trucks and fire hydrants.

    • Tim Widowfield

      Let me get this straight.

      Some people are not persuaded by the historical Jesus thesis. Other people think he was a historical person, but they don’t think he was anything more than an itinerant Jewish wonder-worker who accidentally got himself crucified.

      If I understand you correctly, both of these kinds of people exceed the moral atrocity of those denying the reality of the Holocaust. If that isn’t what you meant, then please explain the sentence: “Rather it is exceeded.” What’s the “it”?

      Holocaust-deniers are vile people, hate-mongers, disgusting creatures, sociopaths. And that’s why I’ve never understood why anyone on the HJ side of the fence would blithely lump Jesus-deniers or Jesus-doubters in with them.

      Mike, do you seriously think denying “Jesus Christ” (not simply his historicity, but his power as a “fire truck”) is worse than denying the Holocaust?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Save your breath, Tim. You are dealing with the mind of a true believer. He is totally off this planet and thinks his fantasy world is the only reality there is. And I do blame, in large part, so-called liberal Christianity for contributing to a social respectability for such beliefs — liberal Christians likewise only make a show of rationality, and think they can validly keep one foot in the world of faith and the other in the world of naturalism. The disctinction between faith and reality needs to be made black and white, as Coyne and Myers and a few others are attempting to do.

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          Neil,

          Your reference to social respectability is telling. Affirmation of the Holocaust is socially acceptable in our day while affirmation of Jesus is not. Thus, in your quest for social respectability it frustrates you as a Jesus denier (the ultimate in non-affirmation of Jesus – to be compared in any way to someone who denies the Holocaust.

          One of the most admirable aspects of Jesus’ character is that He did not pursue social respectability. Rather, He sought truth even when it cost Him His social respectability. Getting crucified was the ultimate loss of social respectability in His day.

          I think you love truth, but I you also love social respectability. No man, however, can serve two masters. Only when you forsake pursuit of the latter will be able to find the former.

          • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

            1) If 75% of Americans believe in Jesus, then belief in Jesus is socially acceptable.
            2) Jesus sought social respectability, if he claimed to be the promised – and eminently respectable – Messiah or Christ. (Which he to be sure probably did not claim by the way).
            3) Getting crucified fitted one of the most respectable cliches of all time: dying for your country is not only respectable; it is considered heroic.
            4) If you love truth? Learn logic and science, and use them all the time.
            5) Until you do? You and the vast majority of Americans will remain captivated by a false Christ.

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              Like a true denialist, you are constantly turning reality on its head.

              • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                LIke any blind believer, you 1) project your own situation on everyone else; 2) issue raw judgements without justification. And are 3) immune to logic and reason.

                • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                  The famous psychologist Festinger therefore, would say that you are the one in classic Denial; the one that is completely turned around.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Tim,

        Awareness of the Holocaust is like awareness of polio, and awareness of Jesus Christ is like awareness of the vaccine for polio.

        • Tim Widowfield

          Comparing mythicists to Holocaust-deniers is like drinking the Kool-aid.

          Calling people who don’t agree with your beliefs worse than Holocaust-deniers is like snorting Kool-aid directly from the packet.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            I don’t know enough about Holocaust deniers to assess their character. And, as far as Jesus deniers are concerned, you and Neil seem like otherwise reasonable fellows to me. I was only taking exception to James’ politically correct deference to Holocaust defense as a more important moral stand than defense of Jesus Christ. Personally, I always hope both positions defended, but believe that it’s even more critical for the well-being of the human race to defend the latter than it is the former.

            • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

              MIke,

              Perhaps you should learn something more about Holocaust denial in order to avoid sticking your foot in your mouth. I recommend Denying the Holocaust by Deborah Lipstadt.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Vinny,

                I don’t need to read a 300-page book about Round Earth Denial to recognize the traits of denialism in the Flat Earth Society. Moreover, I’m not interested in a sociological pathology of deniers – whether they be denying the round earth, the Holocaust, the moon landing, 9/11, the president’s citizenship, or Jesus of Nazareth.

                What I am interested in attesting to is the reliability of the New Testament documents (and the Old as well) and that of Jesus Christ to whom they attest. He is alive…and it is to our everlasting benefit that He is.

                • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                  MIke,

                  Non sequitur and straw man.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    Vinny, if you don’t want to speak about Christ, everything I say will be to you a non sequitur and straw man.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      Quite correct. Since your positions are invariably dependent on your personal faith in Christ, any time a discussion concerns objective evidence, everything you say will be a non sequitur or a straw man.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      My faith in Christ rests on objective evidence and logic. Without the latter, I would not have the former.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      MIke,

                      I am convinced that logic and evidence support my belief that my wife loves me. Nevertheless, I cannot think of a single discussion on this blog in which I have participated where “My wife loves me” would have constituted a relevant response to any comment.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That is because your wife’s relationship with you is an exclusive one – and rightly so. Christ’s arms, however, are open to every human being. Not even Christians have an inside track.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      No MIke. It has nothing to do with exclusivity. The reason that it has never been a relevant response is because it has never had any bearing on any of the issues under discussion here. When it does have some bearing, as it does in another discussion in which I am currently participating, I can bring it up and it is in no way a non sequitur. If your faith based belief in Christ had some bearing on the point being made in a comment to which you were responding, they would not be non sequiturs either.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Vinny,

                      As I said, my faith in Christ is based on objective evidence and logic. The subject of the post was denial of that objective evidence and logic. I don’t see how my faith in Christ disqualifies me from participating in a discussion about the objective evidence and logic for the existence of that human being.

                      James McGrath may or may not share my faith in Christ, but at least he does not deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed. His stand against denialism is a worthy one.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      If that were so, then you could base your arguments on objective evidence and logic without constantly invoking your subjective spiritual experiences.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Leaving aside the fact that you throw around “objective” and “subjective” in pejorative rather than objective fashion, I will only say that my advocacy of Christ is simply a matter of being honest with others about my motives, as well as forthcoming about just how far I think the evidence leads. It indicates a degree of commitment to the evidence that should discourage anyone from thinking I speak glibly, or without having carefully examined the evidence.

                      When I hear that someone believes a controversial fact, I want to know why they believe it…and how strongly they believe it. That’s the kind of evidence I want for my decision-making process.

                      I do not believe something just because its proponent is willing to die for its veracity, but it does make me listen more closely than I would to a person whose opinion changes with the winds of public opinion.

                      If you don’t like my faith in Christ, then don’t like it. But it’s foolish for you to say it’s as irrelevant to this discussion as whether or not you are happily married.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      MIke,

                      It is precisely because so many (although not all) historical Jesus scholars consider their personal faith to be relevant to every point under discussion that mythicists and historical Jesus agnostics are so suspicious of appeals to the scholarly consensus.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      For your “because” statement to be true requires a broad definition of “faith” or a narrow definition of “many.” Nevertheless, I am no apologist for scholarly consensus. What I do think both mythicists and HJ agnostics should consider, however, is that the scholars we see who are most vocal about ascribing denialist tendencies to those positions are not known for their professions of faith. On the contrary, they are generally known for their skepticism. Hence, the criticism that they come to their conclusion because they are not being skeptical about the evidence is not something a reasonable person would say.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      What I do think both mythicists and HJ agnostics should consider, however, is that the scholars we see who are most vocal about ascribing denialist tendencies to those positions are not known for their professions of faith.

                      I don’t think that this is true at all. I find that scholars with confessional biases consistently deem anyone who questions the historicity of Jesus into the category of lunatic or crank regardless of their academic qualifications. Just contrast Crossan’s response to Price in The Historical Jesus: Five Views to the responses from Dunn and Bock. McGrath and Ehrman will at least extend some professional courtesy to men like Price and Carrier. It is true that Hoffman and Casey have been quite animated in their denunciation of mythicism recently, but I hardly think that they have been any more dismissive than conservative Christian scholars. Moreover, their need to resort to so much ad hominem invective, regardless of how entertaining it might be, hardly makes the evidence for their position look any more persuasive.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Conservative scholars would not see much practical difference between Crossan and Price. That is, the Jesus Crossan believes in does not consist of much more than the Jesus Price doesn’t believe in.

                      Similarly, conservatives would see Ehrman and Carrier as, effectively, in the same boat – denying Jesus any of the power He claimed, Ehrman’s failed apocalyptic preacher being no less an affront to their sensibilities than Carrier’s non-existent one.

                      While Ehrman and McGrath may be playing nicer than Hoffman and Casey, what all four have in common is their skepticism regarding the biblical Jesus. That is, the last thing any of them would do is take the New Testament documents and their testimony about Jesus at face value. The mythicist (or HJ agnostic) should therefore ask himself, “If these skeptics have limits to their skepticism, why am I comfortable with a limitless skepticism?” Stated another way, “Since these four scholars share my core value of skepticism, should I not give serious consideration to their challenge that I’ve moved beyond skepticism into denialism.”

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      Once again Mike, you could read the book I cited in order to see the difference between what they had to say about Price and Crossan, but I know that you don’t see the need to read things before you express an opinion.

                      I think I have given serious consideration to those scholars who seem to share my commitment to critical thinking, but I don’t find their arguments about denialism persuasive. For one thing, the fact that they spend so much time on the general subject of denialism itself suggests to me that their arguments are not as strong as they imagine. Biologists who respond to creationists and historians who respond to Holocaust deniers seem to focus much more on evidence specific to their opponents’ claims.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Vinny,

                      Perhaps you should broaden your reading list. When I characterize conservative scholars I don’t do so on the basis of any one book. Even if I had read the book you mentioned, I would have found the authors either fitting into the majority or minority of conservative scholars on the point and would not have allowed that one book to re-define the conservative side of the academy. (Moreover, Bock’s reputation as a conservative is solid, but Dunn’s is shaky, being considered by some conservatives as having one foot, or at least a toe, in the skeptical camp. Johnson even more so.)

                      As for your characterization of how biologists respond to creationists and how historians respond to Holocaust deniers, and how that characterization differs from skeptical biblical scholars responding to Jesus deniers, I just don’t share it. I find a mixture of argumentation and stigmatization in all three cases – this blog being a case in point.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      I am always interested in broadening my knowledge and I welcome specific suggestions from people who show themselves to be well read.

          • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

            Comparing mythicists to Holocaust-deniers is like drinking the Kool-aid.

            Why so Tim? If there is a comparison to be made between “mythicists” and Holocaust “revisionists” as examples of denial movements then why not make it? I agree that morality has little place in such a discussion, but there might be plenty to talk about in terms of the tactics used etc. And if people disagree with such comparison, then they’re free to explain why.

            In the same way, a comparison of leaderless resistance movements could involve anything from non-violent environmental groups to Islamic terrorist groups. Just because I find Islamic fundamentalism a lot more morally repugnant than the green movement does not mean that all comparisons are off limits.

            • Anon

              So in effect you see no problems in saying that Mythicists are like Nazis?

              • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                No anon, re-read my post: I have said no such thing.

                I’m saying that comparing different movements by their formal characteristics does not in any way necessitate that the two groups share an ideology or should be treated as morally equivalent.

                In fact, it’s perfectly possible to make a valid formal comparison between two groups that largely hold completely incompatible beliefs and values: For example, both creationist and JD views are held by an unqualified minority, who largely bypass academic channels and appeal directly to an ideologically interested lay audience. No doubt your average creationist and JDer would agree on virtually nothing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t rather more in common than either would care to acknowledge.

                • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                  So you are saying that mythicists are not EXACTLY like Nazis in ALL their beliefs. But just in much of their behavior? Where mythicists and Nazis have much “in common”?

                  • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                    ignoring for a second your conflation of HDers with members of the German National Socialist party – if you’re asking me whether I think that JDers behave like other denial movements in the way they present their ideas and arguments, then the answer is yes. If you’re asking me if I think that your average JDer is likely to breach the Versaille Treaty or invade Poland, then the answer is no.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                      So aside from particular details and specific application, HD’ers (who might well be logically seen as in effect, neo-Nazis, or new Nazi supporters) and JD’ers, are essentially the same?
                      Mythicists are quite like Nazis, in certain key respects, in your opinion. (And apparently in Dr. McGrath’s too; since he accused them earler of anti-semitism). But all this does not seem to be a logical argument; it seems like an obvious attempt to unjustly inflame the emotions of Christians, against a class of people, based on emotional, inflamatory and false accusations.
                      Your calling Mythicists “crazy Nazis” in effect, or saying they are like them in key ways, does not really seem deep down, to be an argument based on Reason or Logic, or history either.
                      In part since, among many other key differences, most Mythicists are ardent liberals … on the exact opposite end of the political spectrum, from National Socialism: liberals ardently support minorities and so forth, as the very core of their being.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      If you think that Holocaust denial is limited to Nazi supporters or neo-Nazis, you’re plain wrong. And again, to claim that I have called JDers “crazy nazis” once again demonstrates either in inability to follow an argument or deliberate trolling.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                      So how advanced are your criticisms deep down? Here you seem to clearly say that if those who question your beliefs are not 1) crazy, or 2) very much like Nazis, then in your opinion they are 3) trolls or 4) fools. But if so, then does your final level of criticism of Mythicism rise above simple namecalling?

                    • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                      Your main point seems to be that Mythicists are rather like Holocaust Deniers in at least one major way: they are in denial of obvious historical facts. But then, when accused of likening Mythicists to Nazis in effect, you insist that there is no such implication in your example; that Holocaust Deniers are, strictly speaking, not Nazis. And yet however, I’m not sure I find your own Denial here, entirely ingenuous. After all, 1) those who deny the importance or even existence of the Holocaust, might be said to in effect act as apologists for Nazis in a way. Since they are letting Nazis off the hook. While 2) indeed, the logical associations between Holocaust Denial and Nazi support, are so close, that in effect? I’d stretch a little, and suggest that you are at least saying that Mythicists are “like” Nazis in one crucial dimension. OR indeed finally, 3)deep down, in the gut, and in spite of your own constant disavowals of any such link or intent, your deeper emotional argument, is in effect, to a) link Jesus Denial to Holocaust Denial; then b) subtly, deniably link Holocaust Denial to Nazism. And thus to in effect, (by the way, deniably) end up implying that Deniers are Nazis. Which is a very, very, very common accusation on the net.
                      To be sure you constantly, consciously Deny any such intent, as calling Mythicists, “Nazis.” But I have always said of you in particular, that you often unconsciously reproduce many old emotional games, religious arguments, subconsciously; without quite acknowledging or knowing it. Suggesting that you yourself, are in Denial of your own still quite conservative/religious subtexts. In this case, your subtle, deniable, but perceptible allusion to an old religious or moralistic claim – that your opponents are “Nazis” – reconstitutes one of the most common and crudest forms of moral/religious accusation. In spite of your constant attempts to deny that deeper emotional agenda and heritage, your arguments constantly alude to them.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    The following is from Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things”:

    1. Holocaust deniers find errors in the scholarship of
    historians and then imply that therefore their conclusions are wrong, as if historians never make mistakes. Evolution deniers (a more appropriate term than creationists) find errors in science and imply that all of science is wrong, as if scientists never make mistakes.

    2. Holocaust deniers are fond of quoting, usually out of context,
    leading Nazis, Jews, and Holocaust scholars to make it sound like they are supporting Holocaust deniers’ claims. Evolution deniers are fond of quoting leading scientists like Stephen Jay Gould and Ernst Mayr out of context and implying that they are cagily denying the reality of evolution.

    3. Holocaust deniers contend that genuine and honest debate between
    Holocaust scholars means they themselves doubt the Holocaust or cannot get their stories straight. Evolution deniers argue that genuine and honest debate between scientists means even they doubt evolution or cannot get their science straight. (p. 132)

    Of course the only reason scholars with a vested interest in defending an ideological construct have so much a harder time than evolutionists and historians who can easily point to evidence to overturn the denialism of their counterparts is that the average lay person can see and understand the evidence placed before their eyes. But somehow when it comes to Jesus the public is told that they need to understand Aramaic or be especially trained in the theological intricacies and learn to “adapt” and “refine” logic and standard methods for the unique circumstances of the evidence for the HJ. In other words, these scholars are merely declaring they refuse to engage with mythicism except by way of ridicule, insult, etc etc etc. McGrath, for example, justified not even explaining what Doherty’s arguments were in his “reviews” of his book lest he lend them credibility. So no-one of course had any way of knowing that his “contradictions” were valid or not.

    Every one of these above points, from my observation, applies to scholars who are attempting to denigrate mythicism, but I have not seen mythicists like Doherty or Wells or Price or Zindler or Salm or Elgard or Thompson fall into any of these types of fallacious reasonings.

    How many times do we see scholars attacking mythicism by means of declaring the whole conclusion false because of a few errors in some of the arguments, quoting mythicists out of context and misleadingly, and contending that because mythicists disagree the whole thing must be wrong? — Yet each one of these grounds is applicable to the holocaust denier — whom several biblical scholars compare with mythicists –, so says Michael Shermer.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Many perfectly respectable mainstream scholars readily admit that the life of Jesus has been extensively and heavily mythologized. Mythicists entertain the possibility that it has been completely mythologized. I think that the gap between mythicists and perfectly respectable historicists is minuscule when compared to the gap between Holocaust deniers and legitimate historians.

    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

      It’s easy to minimise the differences between mainstream scholarship if you only focus on the conclusions they reach and frame those conclusions in a particular way. Actually, downplaying the differences when it suits them is a denialist. tactic.

      “Mainstream historians think that many Jews died during WWII, holocaust revisionists agree. They just aren’t convinced that there is enough evidence to suggest that the suffering of Jews was pre-planned or systematic”

      See what I did there?

      • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

        Yes. You made a statement that no one supports, based on no evidence, and that clearly is contradicted by countless facts. Something quite, quite different from Mythicism.
        You did this to make your favorite sensationalist, scurrilous, libelous, insulting, and false analogy.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          BG – below is a quote from a revisionist/HD website that I think shows that denialists do indeed attempt to minimise the differences between their own views and those of mainstream scholars, exactly as I said. I won’t post the link, but it should be easy enough to find the site should you wish for confirmation.

          Revisionists do not deny that there was much Jewish suffering during WW II, that there were many Jews who had property confiscated wrongfully, that many Jews died of disease or starvation in terrible conditions or were killed, that there were terrible brutalities and atrocities committed against Jews by Germans and others. None of this do Revisionists deny. Revisionists do diminish the impact of these facts by pointing out that WWII was the bloodiest, deadliest, most atrocity-ridden conflict in the history of man and that there was criminal behavior on all sides. One need merely mention Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the deadly carpet bombing of German and Japanese working class living areas, the Soviet rape of Germany in their 1945 advance, the treatment of German civilians and German POW’s after the war. One could go on almost ad infinitum in this recitation of atrocities. Fifty million – some say sixty million – died as a result of the war.

          Was there more criminal behavior on one side than the other? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Many revisionists would probably tend to say no, because:

          Contrary to Holocaust Mythology there was no attempt by Nazis, or anyone else, to exterminate the Jews. There was an attempt, largely successful in the areas controlled by the Axis, to expel the Jews from Europe. In the context of the 1990′s it was a terrible undertaking. In a different context, the context of European history over the last two millennia, the expulsion of the Jews from this region or that region was not uncommon.

          So as I said in reply to Vinny, it’s possible to frame the debate between mainstream scholarship and a denial movement in such a way that certain agreements of conclusions of facts are highlighted, which makes it (superficially) seem reasonable if there are also certain areas of dissent. If you want, I’m sure I could also find similar examples from creationist or AIDS denial websites.

          So, if you have something relevant to say to me about my view that Jesus Denial has certain affinities with other forms of denial then please say it and I’ll happily reply. As for your other comments aimed at me: I don’t know if you’re deliberately trolling or just demonstrating your ignorance, but I’ve got better things to do with my time than waste it responding.

          • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

            1) This site is not typical of revisionists, in the vein you consistently spoke of it.
            2) In any case, this or any other example of Holocaust Denial, is not entirely relevant. Since in any clear case of Holocaust Denial, we clearly are dealing with Denial of a very real reality, about which there is a great deal of evidence, and much agreement. In the case of the existence of Jesus however? We are talking about a) a far more controversial assertion, b) about an era so far back in history, that there isn’t one millionth as much evidence for it.
            You are therefore, comparing apples and oranges. There is no valid comparison here.

            • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

              1) OK how about this one?

              Revisionists agree with establishment historians that the German National Socialist State singled out the Jewish people for special and cruel treatment. In addition to viewing Jews in the framework of traditional anti-Semitism, the Nazis also saw them as being an influential force behind international Communism. During the Second World War, Jews were considered to be enemies of the State and a potential danger to the war effort, much like the Japanese were viewed in this country. Consequently, Jews were stripped of their rights, forced to live in ghettos, conscripted for labor, deprived of their property, deported from the country of their birth and otherwise mistreated. Many tragically perished in the maelstrom.

              Revisionists part company with establishment historians in that Revisionists deny that the German State had a policy to exterminate the Jewish people (or anyone else) by putting them to death in gas chambers or by killing them through abuse or neglect.

              2) I’ve made my comparison in terms of the techniques and tactics used by different types of deniers. I don’t think that evidence has no place in refuting the claims of JDers of course, but there are plenty of people better qualified to do that than me.

              I’m also not sure that I like the quality of the evidence being the way we rank the acceptability of denial movements, since it potentially gives a wiggle room to HDers who could try to compare the “soft” status of historical facts they deny with the “hard” facts of science that other types of denialists target.

              • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                Paul? You have just made a series of remarkable admissions.
                First, in other words, you 1) admit you concentrate on mythicists’ “techniques,” and refrain from presenting historical “evidence” as you say, for your anti-mythicist thesis.
                2) And you do not present historical evidence for your claims, you say, out of modesty? Out of a conviction that you are “not qualified” to present it correctly or well?
                And because 3) you feel it is better to focus on perhaps false “techniques and tactics” of historical-evidence-presentation by mythicists?
                But this means? That by your own admission you are not really presenting historical evidence for your ideas. While by your own admission – you are not as qualified as experts to do so. But you are concentrating on the (related) historiographic way or “techniques” they use to present such evidence. Which you however somehow feel you ARE qualified to do?
                And yet then 4) you say you are uncomfortable with hard, objective or “scientific” standards?
                And you therefore say you therefore 5) embrace “history,” particularly in its subjectivity, or where it fails to be scientifically objective?
                So you reject – or are by your own admission short of – hard facts? But embrace rampant subjectivity or weaker standards of History (which itself you confessed you did not know well) – and perhaps even pseduo-history? As your remedy for your lack of more solid scientific evidence?
                I greatly appreciate your stringent honesty here. But doesn’t this amount to a capitulation on your part?
                In particular, you seem to admit you are short of scientific evidence here.

                • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                  I certainly wouldn’t claim to have the expertise of Ehrman say, or Dr McG, or any other qualified NT scholar, but you can read plenty of posts where I’ve talked about the historical evidence. However, from what I’ve seen, discussing the historical evidence for Jesus with a JDer is as pointless as showing my fossil collection to a creationist – they’re just not looking at the evidence the same way.

                  As such, I think it’s interesting to step away from the historical evidence for a time, and talk about the way the debate is being framed, noting the similarities between JDers and other fringe or denial theories.

                  • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                    It seems clear to me that by impugning the motives of Mythicists, by saying in effect that they are crazy (in Denial), and “like Nazis” – to paraphrase you present arguments – you’re simply trying to hide the great problem for Historicists: that there is so far no good independent confirmation of 1st cent. Christianity.
                    1) There is a single problematic, disputed reference in a Jewish source, Josephus; who utters a remark that seems to repeat a belief about Jesus, but without verifying its truth. (While Josephus himself clearly did not fully believe; he remained a Hellenized, Romanized Jew, and did not convert to Christianity).
                    2) One or two later Pagan references, seem to repeat that some people believe in a “Chrestus” and so forth; but nothing better than this.
                    3) While as for the gospels themselves, as historical? They a) are constantly found even by conventional scholars to be full of a-historical invention. Further, b) they are not “independent,” as Goodacre rightly noted recently. Since they rely on common sources, mutual borrowings, etc..
                    4) While even Historicists acknowledge that much of Christianity today, was added on, after Jesus, by Paul and others. So that even Historicists often suggest that in effect, our “Jesus” is 3/4 myth.
                    5) And now? Mythicists are showing that the remaining 1/4 of allegedly “real” Jesus, is based on various “methodologies” like the “Criterion of Embarrassment”; which are now themselves found to be “embarrassing” in more ways than one.
                    6) So that? It’s increasingly clear to most of us that you are merely resorting to sensationalistic and inflamatory ad hominem attacks, to … disguise and obscure Historicism’s increasingly obvious lack of real scientific or historical foundation.
                    7) When people can’t win a logical, factual argument, they often resort to character assassination; that’s all you are doing with your present argument, that Mythicists are in effect, crazy (in “Denial”), or 8) “like Nazis.” As you now finally argue in effect.
                    9) Or in fact, if we look at real psychological data on Denial? We find that it is far, far more likely that it is our religious believers and Historical Jesus supporters, that are in classic, deep Denial. Since they are emotionally unable to accept the painful historical and scientific evidence … that Jesus never really existed at all as an Historical person; that essentially all the stories of him, are simply ancient myths.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      The evidence for Jesus is comparable or better than that for other similar figures. How much non-Buddhist evidence is there for the life of Gautama? Do you go on the blogs of professors of Buddhist Studies and abuse them for saying he existed? How about Muhammad or Confucius?

                      As I think I’ve mentioned before I recently re-read a series of short biographies on the founders of religions, including Jesus. Based on that, I’d say that the mythicist mantra that NT scholars and their methodology somehow differs from historians studying other comparable figures is simply untrue.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                      There are any number of practical reasons for limiting ourselves to questioning specifically, Historical Jesus. First, 1) It is the specific topic most of us agreed tacitly to address: it is the blog “prompt” in effect. Then too 2) many of us in the West know more about Christianity than other religions. And of course 3) many religions are not very tolerant of criticism. Or 4) many of us would not want to risk offending other religions, with ill-informed speculations.
                      5) And so, if you find a consistent, respectfully Historicist orientation in studies of many other religions, it is probably due to one or more of these factors.
                      6) Though for that matter, there are exceptions: today many scholars discuss say, Greek and Roman religion; belief in Zeus and Venus for example. And they typically assume or often even frankly say, that such figures are not historical.
                      (Incidentally? Beyond Zeus and Venus: “Romulus and Remus” are often cited here as historical Roman figures, that later became mythicised. But we might note that many scholars suggest that even Romulus was eponymous, and possibly entirely mythical. There are so MANY mythical elements in his story – being suckled by a wolf, for example – and so many self-serving concepts in his story – Rome therefore being founded on very tough people; like wolves – that many scholars assert that even Romulus was probably mythical. Or as a standard dictionary says, “legendary.” So that even here it may be that a legend of mythic figure, became thought of as real, rather than vice-versa).
                      7) No doubt many Christians today feel singled out for more criticism than other religions. And from countrymen, too. But for that matter, Christianity itself at times encouraged self-criticism, from within its own culture: Jesus told us to look for the “beam in your own eye,” before criticizing others. And so scholars in the West, often begin looking first of all, for the sins of their countrymen, their own Christian foundations. As Jesus, paradoxcially, commanded.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      I don’t think that’s the case BG. I’ve never heard Rama and Sita or Krishna being considered by mainstream scholars as historical figures, just because Hindus believe they were once incarnate on Earth. And thinking of the Buddha, scholars seem able to separate the jatakas from any treatment of the Buddha’s earthly life. So I don’t think that scholars are too worried about scaring the blushes of non-Christians.

                      I know that mythicists like to talk about figures that we nearly all think of as purely mythical, and compare Jesus to these, because it suits there case to do so. However, there are many other figures for whom the historical evidence may be sketchy but who are usually (though perhaps not universally) thought more likely than not to have existed historically – the Buddha, Confucius, Pythagoras, Hippocrates.

                      So can you approach the argument from another angle and set out an argument that says that the evidence for the existence of Jesus is significantly worse than for any of these figures?

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            So as I said in reply to Vinny, it’s possible to frame the debate
            between mainstream scholarship and a denial movement in such a way that
            certain agreements of conclusions of facts are highlighted, which makes
            it (superficially) seem reasonable if there are also certain areas of
            dissent.

            Paul,

            I fully agree that it is possible to do this. I think that is why distinguishing denialism from legitimate challenges to scholarly consensus requires a much more thorough examination of the evidence than is being done. Comparing the worst arguments that mythicists and Holocaust deniers make doesn’t take us very far.

            • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

              As I’ve said, I think the interesting comparisons are more about the way the debate takes place than specifically comparing the arguments of different types of deniers (actually I think it would be hard to do this). In any case, I don’t think that this sort of comparison precludes examining the evidence, I see it as more complimentary.

              PS: Following up on a question you asked me a while back on a figure other than Jesus who was regarded as creator of the Universe a relatively short time after his death – how about Haile Selassie? My understanding is that he was regarded as God incarnate by Rastafaris even while he was alive. Since the Rastafari faith is monotheistic, I think this must mean that in some way he is thought to have had a pre-incarnate existence and created the universe. I don’t know how far this has been worked out theologically – it took Christians a while.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Paul,

        On the other hand, it’s also easy to minimize the differences between Holocaust denial and mythicism if you only focus on particular tactics used by particular mythicists. Downplaying the differences between the quality of the evidence for the Holocaust and the evidence for the existence of Jesus is a tactic as well.

        I see what you did there, but I think that you are treading on dangerous ground. “They just aren’t convinced that there is enough evidence to suggest that the suffering of Jews was pre-planned or systematic” still sounds like Holocaust denial to me, but it is moving in the direction of the kinds of question that legitimate scholars might ask. There might be legitimate challenges to the consensus that could be raised regarding the degree or nature of the pre-planning and the systematization (although maybe there aren’t). If there are, accusations of “denialism” are just a tactic to silence legitimate debate.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          Vinny, my understanding is that there is a legitimate debate about the extent to which the holocaust was pre-planned and the extent to which it was a response to events as they unfolded. I think that denialism exploits such debate to
          overstate the extent to which there is reasonable grounds for debate and push an ideologically driven set of conclusions.

          I agree that for me there must be more evidence about the holocaust than there is for any individual who lived hundreds of years ago. But if you check out HD websites, it’s obvious that the evidence does not convince HDers. But does this say more about the quality of the evidence or the nature of denialism?

          • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

            Paul:
            The problem with your false analogy, is that many mythicists are a rather articulate lot, offering lots of hard evidence. But you yourself never successfully address the evidence, or arguments, in any detail.
            Your criticism of mythicists, never addresses the substantive evidence, or arguments offered by Mythicists at all; but only in effect attacks them “ad hominem.” You dismiss all mythicist arguments as inadequate or “unconvincing”; but you summarily dismiss them, with just simple opinionated judgements. Without ever offering any substantive, logical counterrargument of your own.
            Your method is to attack Mythicists personally in effect; by attacking their psychology. Essentially, questioning their motives and sanity. By way of your own flawed pop “psychology,” or sociology. But even your “psychology” is not really fully defensible, academically.
            You have long since failed to emerge from the great failing of religious believers: subjectivity. Indeed, your psychology is in reality, a personal attack, ad hominem; an argument attacks the man and his imagined motives, not the logic of his arguments. While relying too, on your own subjective summary opinions, moods, to be the final arbiter of all things. (As one might expect of a Religious Studies teacher, who for a living, occupies and exploits the field, with its ambiguity of criticising – or perhaps sustaining – religious belief).
            Your method seems hopelessly subjective. You ignore evidence and facts, or summarily dismiss them; which jumping immediately to emotions and motives and “psychology.” While for that matter, you seem completely ignorant of – and never respond to – the more classic studies in REAL psychology. Which clearly found the best examples of Denial not in unbelievers, but in those who defend religious beliefs, even over and above objective evidence. Like you, and your own (at least partial) defense of Jesus (as “historical”).
            You essentially do not address logic or evidence, but stoop immediately to felt/pop psychological ad hominem arguments. Even as you assert that all others too, are wholly motivated by emotion; and not simple evidence, and logic.
            Clearly, in spite of your semi-academic involvement in this field (teaching high schoolers?), you see the subject of religion, as many did c. 1975, as a subjective, emotive field. While ignoring material evidence against miracles; historical evidence against Jesus; logical evidence against the consistency of texts; etc..

            • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

              Paul:
              In spite of a certain superficial polish to your statements, in effect, your real appeal is a very, very low appeal. To perhaps the very most common, juvenile, hysterically emotional, incendiary, prejudicial argument that one finds on the web: you accuse your opponents of being (like) Nazis.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Paul,

            It certainly says something about the nature of Holocaust denial, but I haven’t seen enough peer reviewed research on the nature of denialism in general to be convinced that it deserves to be treated as a unified phenomenon.

    • GakuseiDon

      Vinny, the analogy isn’t about the strengths of the respective cases, but in the tactics used to de-legitimize the current consensus. I don’t think that respectable historians have reacted with “a fortress mentality and circling of the wagons” against Holocaust denier claims. But I’m sure Holocaust deniers believe that historians fear the strength of the HD case, and have done exactly that.

      Similarly, Neil Godfrey and Earl Doherty (and I’m sure other mythicists) believe academia have “a fortress mentality and circling of the wagons” against mythicism, as though modern scholars fear that mythicists might be right after all, and so try to keep them out in a desperate bid to deny the inevitable. But it is no more true than in the HD case.

      In both cases, dark forces try to keep the status quo, for their own selfish reasons. The
      brave fringe thinkers are fighting the good fight against those dark
      forces! So the analogy is in the conspiracy dimension, the sense of “they fear we are right, and so they intimidate and lie!”

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        GD,

        I’m sorry, but I don’t think that the analogy is just about the the tactics.

        In Did Jesus Exist? Ehrman claimed that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth was “certain beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt.” I routinely see historicists assert that the existence of Jesus is as knowable as any other fact of history. Many of the people who invoke the analogy are also invoking the strength of the evidence for Jesus’ existence.

        The analogy is also invoked with reference to the motives of the mythicists. It is suggested that they have some irrational bias or bitterness towards Christianity or religion. Use of the analogy implies that their motives are comparable to the anti-Semiticsm of the Holocaust deniers.

        The problem with all Nazi analogies is that the insights to be gained from the points of similarity tend to be overwhelmed by the unfairly prejudicial effect of invoking such loathsome phenomena as the Holocaust, Nazism, and Hitler. I don’t know whether you have read Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust, but if you did, I think you would understand how vile Holocaust deniers really are and why some people find the comparison so objectionable.

        Another thing you might notice in the book is the difference between the tactics used by the opponents of Holocaust deniers and the opponents of mythicists. It has been several yeas since I read Denying the Holocaust, but skimming through it now, I don’t see any appeals to the consensus of scholars and I don’t see any attempt to tie Holocaust denial into some broader phenomenon of “denialism.” What I see is a relentless and meticulous devotion to the facts and evidence that expose a very real evil.


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