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Skeptical of Skeptics’ Skepticism | James McGrath

Skeptical of Skeptics’ Skepticism

Skeptical of Skeptics’ Skepticism December 28, 2017

Jonathan Bernier wrote in a comment on Facebook:

In my experience, when it comes to biblical studies, “skeptic” is frequently code for “credulous towards heterodox claims.”

That seemed like such an excellent succinct summary of the irony of so much self-proclaimed skepticism that it deserved to be shared with a wider audience, and so I am really happy that he gave me permission to do so.

This came up, not surprisingly, in a discussion of a mythicist meme that circulates widely among atheists despite having long been debunked.

I think it would be fair and safe to say that someone bearing the label “skeptic” is much like someone bearing the label “Christian.” Neither provides evidence in and of itself that the person who so describes themself has a particular worldview or values. And it is perhaps especially interesting, given the penchant for those wearing one or the other of these labels to define themselves over against the other, that they have this feature in common…

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  • John MacDonald

    I don’t think most skeptics would be able to defend a skeptic’s position, any more than your average, everyday Christian who believes Jesus existed would be able to defend the historicity of Jesus to a mythicist. I think, for most, skepticism about Jesus is a “general feeling” they have, like being skeptical about the existence of Zeus. Being “informed” about religious matters is like being “informed” about quantum physics, and requires a lot of specialized study to become competent in it.

    • Jfhsansei

      No. Skepticism in the face of a lack of evidence and evidence of your brand of faith showing similarities to other faiths that preceded it is quite natural. I don’t need to prove your god does not exist. That’s not my job. Your job is to prove it does exist. Anecdotal evidence like feeling or believing is not actual evidence. You need to show something verifiable. I can show you how gravity works, how the big bang functions, and how to make babies, but you, try as hard as you may, will never ever be able to prove god to me. I welcome you to try, but I seriously doubt you will be able to do so. As to being informed, skeptics generally show a greater understanding of religious texts than the actual believers, second only to Mormons.

      • Johannes Richter

        This isn’t even about God’s existence. Atheism/agnosticism can be a reasonable response se to valid problems in the way religion or beliefs are sometimes formulated. But like creationism or various forms of denialism, when the scepticism happens to be rooted in ideology or emotion it is rarely consistent. For instance, thinking that simply being non-religious gives anyone an edge in interpreting religious literature is totally indefensible.

      • John MacDonald

        What are you talking about? I am a secular agnostic, so I certainly do not believe in God or gods. What do you mean skeptics show a greater understanding of religious texts than believers – what checklist are you referring to / what does “understanding” mean?

      • Neko

        How presumptuous.

      • arcseconds

        I think you have completely misunderstood the discussion here. John is not a person of faith, and no-one is talking about god.

  • arcseconds

    You don’t think they are proposing a counter-argument to an established position in order to achieve epoché and through this ataraxia?

    • The Mouse Avenger

      Say what now? XD

  • Matt Cavanaugh

    The internet meme you link to — incorrectly listing several traits supposedly shared by Jesus with several mythical figures — is not even peripherally part of serious mythicist scholarship. It’s merely the sloppy condensation (not to mention the hideous typography and layout) of Murdoch’s crackpot theories, which themselves were just warmed-over servings of Massey’s nonsense. Any good skeptic would consider it drivel.

    In any case, showing Jesus’ divine attributes to be not unique is at best support for euhemerization (hardly a boon to the purist mythicist!) For serious discussion on the ostensibly historical elements of the gospel accounts, supernatural elements of Jesus’ bio are neither here nor there.

    • The Mouse Avenger

      As if your average Internet (militant, I hasten to emphasize) neo-atheist is an actual scholar, let alone a “mythicist scholar”.