Sandy Hook and Jesus Mythicisms

Most of us have watched in horror and dismay as a small handful of people have spun conspiracy theories around the tragic shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Andii Bowsher has noted the connection with another sort of denialism, that which one encounters in Biblical studies. Andii quotes an article from The Guardian which I think is worth quoting at even greater length:

The point is that when you freeze any moment of history, then analyse it in extreme detail, you’ll always find numerous things that “don’t add up”. Every moment in history is full of them; it’s just that most moments in history are mundane, and therefore go un-analysed. And “if you have any fact which you think is really sinister … hey, forget it, man,” Tink Thompson, a private detective who investigated the case, tells Morris. “Because you can never, on your own, think up all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations for that fact.”

In short: it’s not that the alleged Sandy Hook “discrepancies” are necessarily fabrications in need of debunking. It’s simply that any brief span of time, probed in sufficient detail, will be found to contain plenty of them: the changing witness reports and reports about the weapons involved; the quote in the newspaper, purportedly from the school principal who had, in fact, been killed; the seemingly strange lack of records concerning the recent life of Adam Lanza. And the overwhelming likelihood is that they signify nothing at all.

Sandy Hook trutherism is unforgivable, but the essential fallacy on which it rests – that facts we can’t account for must have a sinister explanation – is a widespread, human and dangerously seductive one. There’s much about last month’s tragedy in Connecticut that defies the search for meaning. Confronting that truth, even for those of us who are just onlookers, is hard. So it’s depressing, but not exactly surprising, that the Sandy Hook “truthers” can’t bring themselves to do so.

The parallels to other sorts of “trutherism” – including but not limited to Jesus mythicism – are strikingly obvious.

Of related interest, Jeff Carter has blogged about reading Meier’s A Marginal Jew.

  • steven

    I’ve met Andii Bowsher in person, and he was totally unable to defend the Jesus of the Gospels, and was reduced to claiming I was not qualified to speak because I did not have a degree in X, Y and Z (Only sceptics with degrees in every single subject related to Biblical studies are allowed to have an opinion….)

    Of course, that doesn’t detract from his quoting of the Guardian article , which is perfectly good.

    And, of course, in Biblical studies , there are no things that ‘don’t add up.

    Historicists claim they can explain every single thing that mythicists bring up. There is literally nothing unexplainable by historicists (who, naturally, can’t actually produce these explanations).

    But that does not stop them denying that there are ANY things which ‘don’t add up’.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Steven Carr, ladies and gentleman! Always quick to misrepresent mainstream scholarship and illustrate exactly what I attempt to highlight about mythicism!

      Unless one has only read conservative Christians writing on Biblical studies, rather than mainstream scholars, then no one who has read anything at all would ever honestly claim that scholars say that there is nothing that doesn’t add up. The things that don’t add up tend to be where we focus the attention of our research!

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

        Dr. McGrath,

        If you are going to smear anyone who questions the historicity of Jesus as equivalent to the most vile of tin-foil hat lunatics, I really don’t think you have any standing to bitch about Steven failing to drawn the fine lines between New Testament scholars that you would like to see drawn.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Vinny, you are I think being unfair to both the Sandy Hook “truthers” and the Jesus mythicists. It is one common mythicist argument that religious people are inherently irrational and prone just to invent people and events out of whole cloth. Barack Obama is a Christian, as are most people in Connecticut. Just dismissing a viewpoint is irrational. Surely the same sorts of religiosity that could lead people to invent Jesus could lead people to invent Adam Lanza. If you disagree, please tell me why.
          As I have often said the reason I find mythicism so troubling is not because it disputes a historical fact. It is because the same tactics, when considered acceptable, cam be used to deny other things in a manner that has much more serious ramifications.

          • arcseconds

            can and are.

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

            Dr. McGrath,

            I am not aware of any mythicists who have argued that “that religious people are inherently irrational and prone just to invent people and
            events out of whole cloth.” Perhaps you could cite a couple of examples since it is so common. Speaking for myself, I would think that the phenomenon is fairly rare. However, I do think that people in general tend towards credulity, gullibility, exaggeration, and wishful thinking. As a result, on those rare occasions when a religious person does invent something from whole cloth, it can come to be believed despite a lack of evidence, in part because invention from whole cloth is rare.

            On the other hand, I often see historicists argue that no one could have invented particular aspects of the Jesus tradition, e.g., a crucified messiah. I have always found this argument particularly unpersuasive, not based on a belief that religious people are particularly prone towards such invention, but because bizarre religious ideas are sometimes invented and believed, and because I am not aware of any criteria by which it can be determined that any particular idea is uninventable.

            I have always been slightly puzzled by the term “parallelomania,” but comparing the possible ahistoricity of Jesus of Nazareth to the possible ahistoricity of Adam Lanza gives me a clearer picture of what it might mean.

            • steven

              VINNY
              On the other hand, I often see historicists argue that no one could have invented particular aspects of the Jesus tradition, e.g., a crucified messiah.

              CARR
              In the immortal words of Andii Bowsher it ‘just doesn’t add up’ that anybody could invent a crucified Messiah.

              And if it ‘just doesn’t add up’, then it never happened. Ask any Sandy Lane denier….

              I guess they had to take an apocalyptic prophet and redesign him as a Messiah.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I am pretty sure that Steven would oblige if you want an example. He has happily responded to reasoned arguments of historians merely by pointing to Joseph Smith, cargo cults, and other instances of people believing the claims about religious matters made by others. Of course, the parallels offered are less than apt, but that is the whole point. Historians are not unaware of the penchant of human beings to invent things, and not only for religious reasons, and take that into account when examining sources.

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

                Dr. McGrath,

                Since you are the one who says that “[i]t is one common mythicist argument that religious people are inherently irrational and prone just to invent people and events out of whole cloth,” I think it is appropriate to ask you for the examples. What you describe Steven offering is not the argument that religious people are prone to invention, but the argument that religious people are prone to believing inventions, which is something that I have observed from time to time myself.

                My problem is not with historians’ lack of awareness of the penchant to invent, my problem is with the lack of justifiable criteria by which to determine that particular elements of the Jesus tradition were uninventable. If we start with the basic point that bizarre religious ideas can be invented and believed, I would think that it is up to the historicists to offers something beyond personal credulity (or incredulity) to support the claim that a particular story couldn’t have been invented.

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

                  If we start with the basic point that bizarre religious ideas can be invented and believed, I would think that it is up to the historicists
                  to offers something beyond personal credulity (or incredulity) to
                  support the claim that a particular story couldn’t have been invented

                  Vinny, I agree that almost anything could, in principle, have been invented. However, I fail to see why such a principle only applies to religious narratives – people also invent and believe tosh for personal, ideological, political, nationalistic, or financial reasons.

                  Given that, surely historians studying any topic would struggle to prove that any given historical fact could not have been invented?

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

                    Paul,

                    I would never claim that the principle only applied to religious narratives, but it might still be possible to assess the likelihood of invention as lower or higher if we know enough about the person reporting a fact, the type of fact being reported, and the context in which it is reported. For example,we might be justified in saying that a general’s report of the size of his own forces is unlikely to be invented if we have enough examples of such reports that can be corroborated. I think it would always be a question of what kind of data we have bearing on the likelihood of invention for any particular category of fact.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Vinny, I think we both know that both the mythicist claims and the Sandy Hook claims involve some small group engaging in deceit and a larger gullible mass of individuals.

                  But your comment seems to provide an illustration, and so no need to look further. The issue is not whether bizarre religious ideas can be invented. The question is whether, when it comes to even claims about actual events in the human realm in human history, it is ever impossible to poke holes in a story so as to make a case for a very different scenario. And if the answer is “no” or “rarely” then that was my point, and the point of the article I quoted. One can find ways of focusing in on stories about events in history and casting doubt upon them. We all seem to agree that sometimes when that is done it is reprehensible as well as irrational. My claim is that such an approach to knowledge is problematic in principle and not only in certain instances.

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

                    I think we both know that both the mythicist claims and the Sandy Hook claims involve some small group engaging in deceit and a larger gullible mass of individuals.

                    I think we also both know that one of the reason that so many people embrace denialism is because we have so many examples of small
                    groups seeking to intentionally deceive larger gullible masses whether it is weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Catholic bishops covering up for pedophile priests, the Gulf of Tonkin, tobacco companies funding bogus research, banks blaming the government for the subprime mortgage mess, or hundreds of other examples. To quote Lily Tomlin, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up.”

                    That’s why I think that general discussions of “denialist approaches” are so unhelpful. It is the specific facts and evidence of each case that matter.

                    In any case, with respect to Christian origins, I don’t think
                    many people are talking about a conspiracy to deceive. I’m not anyway.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You’re not talking about that when it comes to Christian origins, but that is probably why you are not a mythicist! :-)

                      It seems to me that there are ways that we can distinguish between claims about tobacco being harmful and the companies promoting the product trying to deny it, and claims in other parts of the world about Western vaccines being harmful, and the companies and aid workers trying to deny it. If not, then we really have a conundrum that extends far beyond the topic of the historical Jesus!

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

                      That’s why I think that general discussions of “denialist approaches” are so unhelpful. It is the specific facts and evidence of each case that matter.

                      But the facts don’t exist in a vacuum Vinny. Just as we have to remember the context in which the evidence was produced, we can’t be blind to the context in which the evidence is interpreted.

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

                      Paul,

                      We can if that context doesn’t tell us anything useful about the likelihood that that the mainstream experts are wrong.   Opponents of mainstream experts usually look like crackpots simply by virtue of their opposition to the mainstream experts.  This can be true even when the mainstream experts are wrong.  Therefore, the fact that many opponents of a particular bit of conventional wisdom sound like crackpots may mislead us as to the degree of confidence that bit of wisdom deserves and the better indicator may be the manner in which the mainstream experts respond to the crackpots.

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

                      Opponents of mainstream experts usually look like crackpots simply by virtue of their opposition to the mainstream experts.

                      Do they? A reasonable comparison I can think of in Biblical Studies is Goodacre trying to shift the scholarly consenus on the synoptic problem, but he looks nothing like a crackpot. Even if you disagree with him, you’d have to acknowledge that he has a relevant and advanced educational background, knowledge of the relevant languages, a long track record of publication in peer-reviewed journals, and no obvious ideological axe to grind.

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

                      Paul,

                      I didn’t say that opponents of mainstream consensus always sound like crackpots.  My point is that even when mainstream scholarship is wrong, it can have opponents that sound like crackpots.  I think I made that clear in the sentence after the one that you quoted.  My guess would be that most, if not all, mainstream scholarship has some opponents who sound like crackpots.  If I am correct about this, then comparing the crackpot deniers of one area of mainstream scholarship to the crackpot deniers of another may provide little or no relevant information about the relative reliability of the scholarship in the two areas.  If the deniers are crackpots, the best way to show it is with the evidence and arguments that support the scholarship.  
                       

                    • arcseconds

                      I don’t think anyone’s saying that crackpots tell us anything about the reliability of the area of scholarship they’re offering an alternative viewpoint on.   That would be an odd thing to say.

                      However, if denialists do in fact have common patterns of argument (and I think they do), and if those ways of arguing are flawed in similar ways, that certainly seems like something worth following up on.   It means you can deal with all of the denialists that  share those features at once.

                      This is basically the same strategy as the well-known practice of grouping some common patterns of poor argumentation together as ‘fallacies’.    

                      It also might be rhetorically effective, as if you can show someone who’s a climate change denier but who has little love for creationism that the patterns of denying climate change are similar to denying evolution, they may reconsider their position on climate change.

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

                      arcseconds,

                      And where in Dr. McGrath’s post do you find the follow up on the common patterns of argument?  All I see is a description of some very creepy people followed by the bombastic assertion that the parallels to mythicism are “strikingly obvious.”  How is that anything besides an ad hominem attack?  I will concede the possibility that a rigorous analysis of “denialism” might yield some useful insights into the socio-psychological phenomenon, but I don’t see any such analysis in these discussions.  

                      As part of any comparison of the different manifestations of “denialism,” one would need to compare the strength of the evidence for the mainstream consensus that is being denied in each case in order to put the tactics of the deniers into context.  This is precisely what historicists avoid, piously announcing instead that “Nobody’s saying that we can be as sure about matters of ancient history as we can about matters of science or modern history.”  Well then what are they saying?  If the strength of the evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus is not even vaguely comparable to the strength of the evidence for the Holocaust, evolution, the Sandy Hook massacre, or global warming, then questioning the existence of a historical Jesus is qualitatively different than questioning the consensus in those other areas even if many mythicists argue their positions as poorly, or even as dishonestly, as Holocaust deniers or creationists argue theirs.

                      When I was in law school, my evidence professor used to say that nothing bothered him more than courtroom scenes in movies or on TV where the lawyer jumps up and says, “I object.  That’s prejudicial!” He would say “Of course it’s prejudicial.  Why would any lawyer introduce any testimony that didn’t prejudice the jury in his client’s favor.”  The issue is the testimony’s propensity to unfairly prejudice the jury as weighed against its probative value.  I wouldn’t say that a discussion of “denialism” couldn’t shed some light on the question of historicity, just that I have yet to see one do so.

                    • arcseconds

                       

                      And where in Dr. McGrath’s post do you find the follow up on the common
                      patterns of argument?  All I see is a description of some very creepy
                      people followed by the bombastic assertion that the parallels to
                      mythicism are “strikingly obvious.”  How is that anything besides an ad hominem
                      attack?  I will concede the possibility that a rigorous analysis of
                      “denialism” might yield some useful insights into the
                      socio-psychological phenomenon, but I don’t see any such analysis in
                      these discussions.  

                      Why do you think I need to find such a thing?

                      I take it that the conversation in this particular thread stopped being about McGrath’s post specifically some time ago and is now a general discussion about denialism. 

                      e.g. I was responding to this:

                      f I am correct about this, then comparing the crackpot deniers of one
                      area of mainstream scholarship to the crackpot deniers of another may
                      provide little or no relevant information about the relative reliability
                      of the scholarship in the two areas.

                      Is this really supposed to be about McGrath’s comparison in this particular ‘blog post only?

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

                       arcseconds,

                      Fair enough.  I concede that your comment was not an explicit endorsement of the comparison that Dr. McGrath drew in his post although, that post is the example of comparative denialism studies that formed the backdrop for my comments. 

                    • arcseconds

                       Right, but what McGrath writes here already assumes the comparison.  He give no argument for why he thinks it is.  As you point out, he just says it’s ‘obvious’.  

                      McGrath’s post assumes that the reasoning is comparable, and points out that the same kind of reasoning in the Sandy Hook conspiracy case is objectionable to (hopefully) everyone, including mythicists, because it reaches an objectionable and obviously wrong conclusion.

                      If  McGrath is right and the reasoning really is the same kind of reasoning, then this is a perfectly fine argument (structurally speaking: it might still be impolitic or pragmatically bad or something).   If the same kind of reasoning leads to obviously wrong and odious results in one case, you should think again about the results it leads you to in other cases.

                      If he’s wrong and they’re not comparable, then he’s kind of unwittingly (as he honestly thinks they’re comparable) committing a kind of bad company fallacy.

                      But he doesn’t give the argument for why he thinks they’re comparable.  So this doesn’t serve as an explicit example of a bad comparison, at any rate.

                      Anyway, you don’t seem to be rejecting the notion that the arguments that conspiracy theorists make are comparable to mythicists, are you?  You just don’t like comparing them at all,  for some reason.

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

                      arecenter,

                      I haven’t actually read all that much mythicism, but my impression is that some of the arguments they make are very poor.   From what I have seen in the blogosphere, some of them suffer from the mistaken notion that attacking the historicists’ arguments constitutes a positive argument for mythicism.  I hold that if historicists’ arguments are weak, that is a reason to be agnostic about a historical Jesus, but not necessarily a reason to embrace mythicism.

                      My field of expertise is financial markets and I can tell you that some of the people who predicted the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 also made terrible arguments.  Some in fact been predicting such an event for twenty years or more.  However, they were eventually right.  So the fact that some people attack some bit of conventional wisdom with terrible arguments doesn’t provide all that much reason to think that the conventional wisdom is correct.  

                    • arcseconds

                       

                      So the fact that some people attack some bit of conventional wisdom with
                      terrible arguments doesn’t provide all that much reason to think that
                      the conventional wisdom is correct.  

                      Once again, I don’t believe anyone is making the claim that mythicists have terrible arguments, therefore there was a historical Jesus.

                    • arcseconds

                       Anyway, I’m not really here to defend McGrath.

                      I don’t really agree with this:

                      If the strength of the evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus
                      is not even vaguely comparable to the strength of the evidence for the
                      Holocaust, evolution, the Sandy Hook massacre, or global warming, then
                      questioning the existence of a historical Jesus is qualitatively
                      different than questioning the consensus in those other areas even if
                      many mythicists argue their positions as poorly, or even as dishonestly,
                      as Holocaust deniers or creationists argue theirs.

                      In some cases, I would agree, that the strength of the conclusion does make a difference as to how strong the counter-argument is.    If we find six things that have no explanation and on the face of it look pretty problematic about evolution, that doesn’t warrant throwing evolution out, given the huge number of things it does explain extremely well, but six things that have no explanation and are pretty problematic for the existence of a not all that well documented historical figure is much more serious.

                      But in general, I don’t agree with this at all.

                      If your argument proceeds by cherry-picking evidence, misunderstanding quotations,  belittling the intelligence of the proponents of the mainstream view alternating with suggesting they’re all involved in some ominous and shadowy conspiracy, then it doesn’t matter whether or not the thesis has strong support for it, this is still a terrible (in so many ways) way of promoting your thesis.

                      In fact, one could argue that it’s worse if you use such strategies to attack a shaky thesis.

                      No-one, I think, is saying that mythicism simply couldn’t possibly ever pass any kind of muster so we only need to look at the conclusions to know it’s lying bunk.  McGrath has always been careful to say we can’t assess Carrier’s master argument because he hasn’t given it yet.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Somehow, I get the feeling that *nobody* would be able to defend the Jesus of the Gospels to you. People with a vested interest in things not being true will deny whatever evidence anyone can put forth that their chosen target might actually be real.

      And I’m saying this as a hardcore Atheist. Don’t think I’m trying to preach at you.

      Also, it’s skeptic. “Sceptic” isn’t a word.

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

        OK folks, the one and likely only time I will stick up for Steve Carr: sceptic is the British spelling. And therefore the correct one ;-)

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        In America, which is not the world.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I don’t know whether the original Jesus should be seen more as a Ron Wyatt-type figure (the comparison is very loose, but valid in some respects) as the historicists claim or as a channeled figure as the ahistoricists claim, but to tar Jesus ahistoricists with comparisons to Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists is, in my opinion, simply despicable.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t think that we can address problems of denialism only by focusing on those which most people agree have despicable consequences. I think it very likely that those who posit a conspiracy involving the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are not formulating a conspiracy theory or engaging in denialism for the first time. Unless we consistently address the underlying approach involved in denying mainstream knowledge, then we are unlikely to be able to effectively prevent or tackle the most offensive and egregious examples of it.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        What constitutes “denying mainstream knowledge” as opposed to making a good case against its validity?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          That can differ from area to area, but pretty much all of them work through large numbers of people studying a topic and seeking to break new ground and find new ways of looking at things, and submitting their results to their peers for evaluation. I don’t think that one can make a good case against mainstream science, history, medicine, or anything from the sidelines. There are moments when old paradigms are overturned. But it happens by people who do the relevant research and painstakingly make their case so that the consensus shifts.

          • Susan Burns

            Denying mainstream knowledge such as the holocaust, 9/11, Obama birth certificate and now Sandy Hook massacre. Mythicists are not on the same level as these deniers.

  • Susan Burns

    Sandy Hook truthers are not at all like Mythicists. SH Truthers hate President Obama and think he wants to take away the guns of hoarders. IMHO, Mythicists probably do not hate President Obama and likely voted for him.

    • arcseconds

      Do you really think that this means they can’t be similar in the respects that James is talking about, which don’t really appear to have anything directly related to politics?

      Also, what about the mythicists who voted for David Cameron?

  • Rick Sumner

    This might be the single most offensive thing I’ve ever read in what is ostensibly learned discourse. Shame on you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t think that we can prevent the most despicable and offensive forms of denialism by pretending that it is perfectly OK to do that sort of thing, so long as it is a matter of history and thus indifferent. I am pretty sure that this is not the first conspiracy theory for many of those who think there was a conspiracy involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. If we do not address the underlying tactics of denialism, we will find it impossible to effectively prevent or address the examples of it that we happen to find particularly disgusting.

      Unreasonable Faith has a post on how Sandy Hook “trutherism” is affecting one person in particular: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2013/01/the-sandy-hook-truth-movement-has-found-a-victim/

      • Rick Sumner

        Surely you do not intend to suggest that you chose the analogy to elucidate rather than inflame. One can make offensive analogies without much effort. The mythicist could just as easily say that the fervor of your convictions compares to Stalin.

        It’s disgusting, and it contributes nothing. Its the refugee of the unimaginative zealot, and has no place in serious discussion.

        The fact that I’ve defended submissions of yours on this topic in the past embarrasses me in the light of this.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          If you think that I chose the analogy to inflame rather than to elucidate, then you clearly do not know me very well.

          A comparison to Sandy Hook trutherism is not any more disgusting than the comparison to Holocaust denial or the antivaccination movement. Indeed, given the number of lives lost and people harmed by the Holocaust in particular, that ought to be considered more inflammatory.

          And so this illustrates one of my points. Our outrage about particular kinds of denialism can be selective. And this is why some deny the Holocaust but accept evolution and some do the reverse. And it is precisely because denialism can be used and is regularly used for aims that I find atrocious, that I think it is important to take a stand with respect to denialism in general, and not only those instances that happen to offend us personally.

          • Rick Sumner

            Firstly, this only illustrates your point on the assumption that I have both read and failed to comment on your previous disgusting analogies. By happy circumstance, I have too many young children to keep up with every blog I otherwise would, and have thus not, in fact, read your other disgusting analogies.

            Secondly, that you would try and suggest that this is not deliberately inflammatory not only insults the intelligence of your readership, all of whom know perfectly well what you’re doing, but also can only generously be described as cowardice. Have the courage to own your actions, even if they aren’t flattering.

            The simple reality is that you and I both know you would never dream of submitting such rubbish to peer review, or discussing it at a seminar. It’s the type of tripe I might expect in a high school debate club, and would expect points deducted for its use. It is *below* even that standard.

            I’ve often accused mythicists of creating a caricature of “mainstream scholarship” in some of the more polemical rants. The irony is that it is no longer a caricature–you have made it real, and don’t even realize it. You should be embarassed.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Rick, you still have not said what makes the analogies disgusting. What I find disgusting is that people, having trained their way of thinking on relatively harmless forms of denialism like Jesus-mythicism or whichever other sort, then cause harm to suffering families by applying the same approach to a tragedy like the shooting in Newtown.

              What makes an analogy offensive is when it is not apt. People regularly protest at comparisons, but sometimes it is because it is slanderous and sometimes it is because it gets at the truth. What makes a comparison inappropriate, in my opinion, is when it is not one that reflects genuine similarities.

              In this case, I view denialism as a weapon that can be used to harm others, although there are those who will say that they use this approach to thinking in a manner that does not hurt anyone. I am trying to take the broader issue of the circulation and popularity of the weapon seriously, and not just waiting to deal in the aftermath with those instances when the harm caused by its use is severe.

              In my blog post, I offered a quote from an article. Can you kindly indicate what in the approach to events described therein is so different from Jesus mythicism as to justify your claimed outrage?

              Let me add that I find your attempt to distract from the substantive point I made with emotional and insulting language to be problematic, to say the least. And since I don’t know you other than from your blogging and comments, I can’t say what leads you to choose to write the things that you do. But some of what you wrote seems not to have been thought through. For instance, how many of my blog posts on any topic would I send for publication in a peer reviewed venue? Mythicists have not published their work in peer reviewed outlets, and until they do, scholars are not likely to do so either, since there is no reason to. This is a blog, and it addresses mythicism in the domain in which it flourishes, the internet, where the various other forms of denialism flourish. Would you recommend addressing Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists not in a quick public response but in peer-reviewed articles that will appear after some long delay? What was your point with that? Is all of this just an attempt to distract from the substantive points? I really don’t get why you’ve commented as you have, but I would much prefer to talk substance, if you are willing.

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                In my blog post, I offered a quote from an article. Can you kindly indicate what in the approach to events described therein is so different from Jesus mythicism as to justify your claimed outrage?

                -Sure. The idea Jesus was originally something like a channeled entity is not “a sinister explanation”.

                Mythicists have not published their work in peer reviewed outlets, and until they do, scholars are not likely to do so either, since there is no reason to.

                Does Richard Carrier exist?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Carrier has yet to publish his case for mythicism, if that is where you are going with this. What will happen when he does so remains to be seen.

                  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                    But he is a ‘mythicist’ and he has published in at least one peer-reviewed outlet.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I’m not sure what your point is. There are young-earth creationists who’ve published in peer-reviewed journals. Does that lend credibility to their young-earth creationism, if what they’ve published there was not a case for young-earth creationism?

      • Geoff Barrett

         Poisoning the well. You show no intellectual worth at all, “Dr.” McGrath. Willing to reach into your black bag of logical fallacies at any moment to make a point, aren’t you. Seriously, man. Someone gave you a PhD? I want to read your dissertation!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          If you would like to read my doctoral dissertation, be my guest – here is a link to information about the book that resulted from it, published by Cambridge University Press.

          All denialists take great offense when they are compared with other denialists. Holocaust deniers, 9/11 truthers, antivaccinationists, global warming denialists, young-earth creationists, and so on and so on. They all tend to be very proud of their critical thinking skills and certain that they are not like those other groups. It is unclear how, other than by highlighting the similarities between them, one can ever reach such people and help them to critically examine the claims that they have embraced.

  • pop matchett

    “Sandy Hook trutherism is unforgivable”.

    O ye of little faith. If you read the 1991 book “Behold a Pale Horse” (a phrase from Revelation, otehrwise known as The Apocalypse) by WIlliam Cooper, you would know he said that the CIA was leading mentally ill people to shoot up schools.

    Cooper was shot in late 2001, perhaps because he blew the whistle on 9/11.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      And a bunch of other crazy stuff. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Ian

    Well, you know where I stand on mythicism and scholarship. But I found this post offensive too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks Ian. I value your input. I apologize for the offense caused. I thought that I could make a comparison just around the points made in the quoted passage. But the shooting caused so much heartache, I ought to have realized that this would hurt some feelings and cause some offense. I apologize for not having had the foresight to realize in advance of posting, and for therefore having not had the good judgment to refrain from doing so.

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

    arcseconds,

    You wrote “If the same kind of reasoning leads to obviously wrong and odious results in one case, you should think again about the results it leads you to in other cases.”  On the other hand, you “don’t believe anyone is making the claim that mythicists have terrible arguments, therefore there was a historical Jesus,” indicating that poor reasoning doesn’t preclude the possibility of a correct result.
     


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