‘You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind’

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(Fred Rogers mashup by John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep. Via Gryphen)

“Every one of us is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet.”

“Remember, on a daily basis, that everyone else has a story.”

“We’ve finally cut through the crap to identify what this debate is really about: power.”

“Friday’s rally was primarily about people who want to defeat President Obama’s health care policies and defeat Obama in the fall. A non-existent attack on religion was the bloody shirt.”

This is NOT a scene from the next Left Behind movie.

10 Reasons Why I Don’t Know What Century I’m In

“Here’s a run-down of the War on Women, in convenient digestible bits.”

“But none of that will ever, ever change my conviction that when one massively strong and rich entity faces a weaker, fragmented entity, the weaker will lose, again and again.”

“In the never-ending tug-of-war between ‘labor’ and ‘capital,’ there has rarely — if ever — been a time when ‘capital’ was so clearly winning.”

[Obama] says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?”

The plutocrats have another tool they know how to use — religion.”

“The historical Jesus theory seems to me to be a very parsimonious way of explaining the existence of the Jesus tradition.”

“The buck stops with the voters and at some point you just have to accept that more of them would rather cut their own throats then live in a state of peace and prosperity with people they despise.”

The wind industry supports more than 75,000 American-made jobs around the country, and is helping to lead the way toward America’s clean energy future.”

“I could see the barbed wire and the sentry tower from my school house window as I recited ‘with liberty and justice for all.’”

“When it comes to human rights abroad, the American government continues to make terrible, terrible decisions — regardless, it seems, of who happens to occupy the White House.”

“The War on Terror is basically complete. We should begin to treat it that way.”

Why is the Syrian Baath Party committing crimes against humanity? Because it has not succeeded in putting down the 14-month-old rebellion against one-party dictatorship by other means.”

When Romney says things like this, he’s obviously lying. There’s no gray area; it’s not a claim that’s partially true; it’s simply 100-percent false.”

Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity, Vol. XXI

Church Sign Epic Fails, Vol. XVII

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Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 82: 'yes I said yes I will Yes'
Billy Graham and the rise of the religious right
The sins of the fathers
Bowling with Jesus
  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    How do you tell when a Republican politician is lying?

    They’re doing any kind of communication at all via any medium.

  • Elusis

     Seems like it may be “the darkest timeline”… /Community

  • JonathanPelikan

    On “10 Reasons Why I Don’t Know What Century I’m In”: Mostly couldn’t agree more, except on two of her points; one where she was shocked, shocked to discover sexualized depictions of women on the internet,  and implied that these depictions ranked right up there about equally bad as stuff like the fact that she doesn’t have a guaranteed human right to fair pay for fair work.

    Honestly, one day I’d like to get to a point where we have over-sexualized content about every type and gender of person out there, and recently, we’ve been headed in that direction. My tumblr dash gets far more yaoi* and gay porn on it than stuff about women and I haven’t even really sought it out.

    Oh, and the one where she strongly implies that all BDSM is flat out Bad and no women would ever want to submit (reminding me strongly of the idea that no real woman wants to be a housewife and stuff). I was under the impression that freedom and respect were about making your own choices and all that stuff.

    —-

    “But none of that will ever, ever change my conviction that when one massively strong and rich entity faces a weaker, fragmented entity, the weaker will lose, again and again.” 

    “The buck stops with the voters and at some point you just have to accept that more of them would rather cut their own throats then live in a state of peace and prosperity with people they despise.” 

    Wisconsin in two sentences.

    —-

    *Yaoi basically does and also does-not mean ‘gay porn’ in Japanese; it’s used over there to mean the hardcore stuff, but in the West it’s any guy-guy works, fluffy or smutty.

  • Tonio

    I see the stance of the anti-BDSM feminists as wrong but understandable, since women are far more likely than men to be in non-consensual versions of those situations. It’s possible that it pushes a button with them where they really cannot imagine any woman freely consenting to BDSM.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    There is also a certain element of the mainstream media frequently latching onto the idea that sexual submissiveness is the human-default-normal for all women — that it’s not a specific kink that is an important and distinctive part of the sexual identity of some specific people, but “what all women really want, deep down”, and any woman who *isn’t* into that is deviant.

    The aggressive pushing of stuff like Fifty Shades as The Be-All And End All Of Pr0n For Women *isn’t* about “Consentual BDSM is a valid element that some people can have as part of their healthy sexuality” — it’s about “Submissiveness is the one true sexuality for women”

    (In much the same way as Twilight: that Bella is into That Sort Of Man is not nearly so bad as the implication that “It’s not just that Bella is into that sort of man; that sort of man is objectivelly the best sort of man, and every woman should want to be treated like that”)

  • Tonio

    Yes, that’s the old idea that women allegedly want to be dominated be strong men, sexually and otherwise. Would it be fair to say that women who push this myth are regarded as Aunt Tommis?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I can understand it, and most of them are probably well-meaning and would probably listen and stop being doofuses about this.

    Others, however, hear “I am a submissive straight woman” and immediately cover their ears and close their eyes and tell said submissive straight woman that she is a victim and her partner is raping her, if they bother to say anything at all to submissive straight women, which they normally don’t. It doesn’t matter what said submissive straight woman’s feminist credentials are, or how much she has bled for feminism — they will tell her she is a Bad Feminist because of her sex life. They will tell any women who have certain fantasies that they are brainwashed at best, and collaborators in oppression at worst, and that they need to stop having those fantasies RIGHT NOW. 

    These same people also usually say that all porn is bad and wrong and horrible and utterly ruins the sex lives of people who like it. They like to say certain sex acts are inherently bad for women and that only men like them, and men only like them because they like abusing women. They will blatantly lie to further their cause. I have had run-ins with these people. My patience with anyone who condemns people for their sexual fantasies and consensual sex lives, supposedly for the good of the people they’re condemning,  is rather thin at this point. 

    It reminds me of what happened to my maternal grandmother when she went to her first feminist meeting in the early 70s. She was so excited that she’d be talking with what she thought were like-minded women. Then they told her that she was a slave to her husband because she didn’t work outside the home, and that they felt sorry for her because she had been forced by him to have seven children, and that she should probably divorce him. She was the one who wanted the seven kids — my grandfather went along with it to make her happy.  But she could not persuade this group of that, or get them to at least stop assuming things about her in her presence. She left and didn’t come back until the 1990s.

  • Tonio

     We should emphasize that the feminists you’re talking about are an extreme minority. The people intent on preserving male privilege have been wrongly using such extremists as bogeywomen for at least a half-century.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Mm… not all that extreme a minority, at least among the people who are loudest. I once thought the same as you. I don’t want to go into exactly what changed my mind, because it would end up being more information than I’m willing to share here — but they’re not as much a minority as they should be, they get published in areas that laypeople see a lot more often than other feminists do, and they are a rather big problem within feminism. 

  • Tonio

     I’m suggesting that Andrea Dworkin was to feminism what Tony Perkins is to Christianity. While they have many followers, neither represents what their movements are about. Feminism is legal and social equality of the sexes. I’m using “extreme” not to denote the size of the minority, but the distance of their stances from the mainstream of the movements.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Yeah, I’d compare it to the whole ‘REAL women have curves’ thing, in that it’s a legitimate attempt to address a legitimate problem in our society, in the ‘curves’ case, rampant anti-fat, DEATHFATS, idolizing the stick figure body, etc, etc, and in the BDSM case, the ‘women are naturally slaves like in those Gor books’ beliefs. They’re also comparable in that they’re both wrong, too.

    ‘REAL women have curves’ outright says that all women that do not have curves, and I believe there are a few, aren’t REAL women, and is every bit as wrong and harmful as the ideas it is trying to combat.

    Likewise, saying ‘NO women should ever do this/be a housewife/enjoy submission/be submissive’ dadadada is every inch as counter to the principles of feminism as ‘all women MUST make me sandwiches and babies’.

    Of course, neither of these movements have the same power or influence or reach as the things they’re combating, there’s no doubt about that, (the same way Dworkin and ‘all sex is rape’ folks are never getting within solar-system distance of federal power but Rick gods-damned Santorum was the runner-up for Republican candidate for President of the United States) but still. Wrong is wrong.

    (Not saying any of this becuase I think you don’t know, Tonio; just spelling out my thought process or something.)

  • Lori

    Needless to say, I spent a month getting honked at, flipped off,
    and screamed at by complete strangers. But it’s not like I could make
    myself learn to drive that car any faster! 

    No, she could not make herself learn to dive that car any faster. She could however have learned to drive that car somewhere other than on busy streets in traffic. If you can’t reliably turn left without stalling or especially if you can’t reliably keep yourself from rolling back down a hill you probably shouldn’t be driving where there are other cars around. This is what large parking lots on Sunday afternoon and little-traveled country roads are for.

    Why yes, I am an Order Muppet. Why do you ask?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Yeah, my first car was a stick shift. I learned to drive it on parking lots first, and then on deserted country roads. Until I was perfect at it, I didn’t drive it anywhere else. Because doing so wouldn’t only have been embarrassing, it would have endangered people.

    Also, it took her a month? Um.. erm… yeah. I taught one of my friends to drive a stick shift in about one hour. Admittedly, this friend is great with stuff like that, but it only took me about a week to learn to drive stick, and I am not great with stuff like that. Maybe this woman’s car was particularly finicky?

  • Lori

     

    Also, it took her a month? Um.. erm… yeah.  

    I admit I wondered about that too. I’m not the most coordinated soul and it took me a bit to get the hang of driving stick, but it didn’t take me a month. I figured that part of the problem might have been that she was trying to learn while driving in traffic. Being tense and anxious and getting yelled at is not conducive to speedy learning. A $300 car probably also had some significant quirks.

  • P J Evans

     Better yet, large parking lots in the morning before the stores open.
    (Why, yes, I did learn to drive at the local shopping mall. In an outer lot. On weekend mornings. Slalom runs around light poles are one thing you can do, and you don’t have to be fast.)

  • Lori

    I learned to drive stick on weekday mornings in the parking lot of the very large church near our house. Other than the pastor and the church secretary, who parked right next to the door, there was never anyone there so I had plenty of room. I practiced stopping and starting on hills on the low traffic country road leading out to my best friend’s house.  Until I got confident, if there was a car behind me I’d pull over and let them pass before we got to the hill.

    As Lliira said, getting proficient before you go out in traffic isn’t just a matter of not inconveniencing people, it’s a matter of safety. The hill on the street leading into our neighborhood was steep and there was almost always traffic. If I had lost control and let it roll back on someone I would have done real damage.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Oh noes not female submission! How dare some women want to live and have sex in ways she doesn’t approve of! 

    I’ve stopped following a whole bunch of anti-BDSM feminists because of this. (Though I’ve found a whole lot of awesome ones to make up for it.) Anyone who tries to tell women they are bad bad bad for having certain fantasies and desires needs to seriously re-examine.

    I’m not thrilled that a poorly-written book is topping the bestseller list, but it’s hardly the first time that’s happened. 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    When my sister had to switch to driving standard she put a sign in her back window saying she was learning to drive standard.  She found that as soon as the sign went up, people were a lot more understanding.

    If you know there’s a good chance you’ll be inconveniencing people, and you can’t avoid doing it, the absolute minimum of human decency is to warn them ahead of time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Confession: I probably did take me a month to learn to use a stick shift… I mean, not the basics, that just took one session in the HS parking lot, but to reach the point where I didn’t have to think about what I was doing anymore, and rarely stalled or rolled at inopportune moments… that took longer.  But that’s because I didn’t get to practice that often, preciesly BECAUSE I didn’t drive it except in the neighborhood until I could do it without beginner’s mishaps.  (Basically, my Dad let me drive the car to the house of the friend I carpooled with, then I carpooled and he drove the car to work.)

    Of course, it’s easy for me to say that because I wasn’t reliant on the car for transportation, but still… I’m not going to claim I never, ever stall the car even now (and when I needed a clutch replacement* I managed to stall twice getting out of the parking lot) but if you’re rolling backwards down hills, that’s a parking hazard. 

    (Hint I learned from my Dad, which I rarely use but there are situations where it may be useful: if you’re on a steep slope and really, REALLY need to not roll back even a little bit when you start, you can use the emergency brake to cover the gap between the moment you take your foot off the brake and the moment the car starts moving.  I almost never find myself needing to do this, but I learned to drive in Colorado, and if you drive in the mountains every once in while you may find yourself in situations where rolling backward is a really, REALLY bad thing.)

    Thinking about the mechanics of a stick, I’m guessing there’s an inverse relationship between a driver’s tendency to roll and their tendency to stall.  I’ve never had much of a problem starting the car without rolling back, but it took me a while to stop stalling the engine when I started, and I still do it every once in a while.

    *In my defense, I drove my previous car over 100k miles and the clutch was good until the end, so I blame my current car’s previous owner for the fact the clutch wore out. :-P

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Different cars also roll back different amounts. My first car didn’t roll back much, but my second car, which was a pain in other ways too, rolled back like crazy. Though that means “six inches on a very steep slope” rather than down a whole hill or something. Except for the time my mom forgot to set the parking brake on the hill in front of the library and it started merrily rolling into downtown Lapeer…

  • P J Evans

    Driving in San Francisco, where way too many streets involve trying not to roll backwards…. (Most people who live around there won’t drive there. They’d rather walk, take a bus, or take a cab. Traffic is difficult.)

    Clutches wear out, frequently somewhere around 100k miles. It depends on the driver, too: someone who’s not really good at shifting might create more wear. (I drove stick for more than 20 years. It’s a habit that still gets me, even after 10 years with an automatic. It took several months to really get the feel for when to shift – you hear the engine, you feel how the car is moving, you know it’s time to shift now.)

    One thing: if you can drive stick, you can drive almost any vehicle. If you’ve only driven an automatic, you’ll have a hard time with anything that requires changing gears manually.

  • Albanaeon

    Hmm… Chaos muppet here.  Though I think many would mistake me for an Order.  Mainly because most don’t see the many COOKIE motivations that I have…

    As for Romney lies, I really wonder if he, and the GOP and a fair amount of Dems, really even recognize truth any more?  And if we don’t have a media that calls every single one of these lies out, every time, what’s really to stop them?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    As far as the historical Jesus goes, I was under the impression that historical-Jesus denial was a lot like climate-change denial — that is, very unusual among actual experts in the field.  Am I mistaken?

    I’m far from an expert in the field, but I have to say I have trouble imagining a scenario where “Jesus never existed” is even remotely plausible.  It would have taken a heck of a conspiracy, and one started within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, to boot.

  • WingedBeast

    There aren’t any contemporary references to Jesus despite Roman record keeping.

    No, it wouldn’t have taken a conspiracy within Jesus’ lifetime.  There were multiple mesianic figures at the time to choose from, there wasn’t the kind of strict reporting that would keep rumors from flying in a loose oral tradition.

    Combine that with the fact that you have to be generous to say that the earliest record of Jesus’s life was recorded 30 years after his alleged death, and parts hadn’t been written down for hundreds of years after.

    In a sense, from a historical perspective, it almost doesn’t make a difference whether Jesus really existed or not.  And, since it’s a contraversial subject, it’s difficult for any Historian to go out on that particular limb for a topic that has little to no impact on our understanding of history.

  • Robyrt

    Not a conspiracy within Jesus’ lifetime, but a conspiracy within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, which is still pretty bad. I can’t think of a reason to invent a messianic preacher out of whole cloth when there were so many close at hand, and even less of one to create the elaborate backstory behind the various letters when none of it even involves your brand new Jesus. That means a conspiracy would have to start pretty much immediately upon his supposed death, with no discernible motive to do so. That just doesn’t fit with how we see religions being formed: you have to start with a commanding personality and follow immediately with his writings/sayings. The only supporting detail that comes to mind is how reticent Jesus is to go on the record about anything, how he is always depicted as staying silent in front of Roman authorities, which is a good post hoc explanation for a lack of records. (Not that records of first century Palestine are ironclad, exactly.)

  • P J Evans

    Not that records of first century Palestine are ironclad, exactly.)
     A lot of records didn’t survive, so we can’t say they never existed. Even modern records are missing due to fires and floods and wars.
    It doesn’t even require a commanding personality to create a new religion: Scientology started with writings after a drunken bet.

  • WingedBeast

    No conspiracy required, Robyrt.  All it takes is a healthy dose of rumor, exaguration, merged figures, the mixing of different figures.

    Bare in mind, there were multiple mutually exclusive testaments of Jesus, none written within the lifetime of Jesus or within 3 decades (which, again, is the most generous side of the estimate).  Many of them were written up to 4 centuries after this alleged life.

    Nobody has to conspire to create a messianic figure.  The stories of Jesus, in many ways, match up to the stories of the Egyptian deity Horus.  The story was already there.  Messianic figures were already there.  The tendancy of people to simplify stories by reducing the number of characters or adapting pre-existing stories to current mythologies, already there.

    The creation of Christianity takes far less than you imagine.

    And, no, it’s not a good explanation for a lack of records.  For instance, if Jesus really did run into a temple and upset the shrines of other gods, that would have been recorded.

    One reason to create a backstory for Jesus is to create one that matches up with prophecy.  For instance, the messiah was prophecied to be a Nazzarite (not meaning born in Nazzareth, but that’s how the writers interpreted that).  So, they told a story of people having to return to the villiges of their birth in order for a census to be taken (no such census taken and no such requirement for censuses to be taken, by the way).  Virgin birth was also one part the fulfillment of prophecy (the actual prophecy was that he would be born to a young woman, not necessarily one who had not lain with a man) but also to make Jesus more enticing to Pagans, the Romans putting a lot of stock in virgin birth myths.  (Side note, Augustus Ceasar was, in his own lifetime, thought to be born of a virgin.)

    The idea that this requires a conscious conspiracy of lies in order to create a religion absent any purpose is… well you’re imagining more necessary than is already there.

  • Joshua


    Bare in mind, there were multiple mutually exclusive testaments of Jesus, none written within the lifetime of Jesus or within 3 decades (which, again, is the most generous side of the estimate).  Many of them were written up to 4 centuries after this alleged life. 

    Firstly, saying “mutually exclusive” implies that they are substantially contradictory. That’s just plainly incorrect. The canonical gospels only contradict each other in a few particulars, about as many as you would expect from a record of an oral tradition a few decades old.

    Secondly, no contemporary dating of the canonical gospels puts them remotely as late as four centuries after Jesus’ death – we have fragments of John’s Gospel from the early 2nd century, and even those late datings from the middle of last century held that John was likely to be the last. All except minor transmission errors or a few added verses are from the late 1st century.

    Unless you mean non-canonical gospels, which seems unlikely as few Christians would hold that they have any historical value anyway, very few if you exclude the Gospel of Thomas. In any case, they were still being written as late as 1000CE. I could write one tomorrow. With unicorns and fairies. So what?

    And, no, it’s not a good explanation for a lack of records.  For instance, if Jesus really did run into a temple and upset the shrines of other gods, that would have been recorded.

    OK, this is just plain silly. Who would record such a thing? Newspaper reporters? Seriously. Even if someone outside of Christianity did happen to be moved to write about it, do you know how much written material from then survives to now? A percent? Ten percent? No-one has the foggiest idea, but we know we’ve lost a huge amount.

    The most likely place for such a record, assuming a miracle occurred and someone wrote it down, would be in the Temple itself. Which was destroyed in 70CE, when all of it apart from one wall was reduced to rubble along with pretty much the rest of the city.

    The idea that absence of evidence is evidence of absence is a logical fallacy at the best of times, but in ancient history it’s completely laughable on the face of it.

  • aunursa

    Your arguments have been addressed by atheists many times.  Here you can find several in-depth essays from an atheist perspective on the question of whether Jesus existed.

    (I am neither Christian nor atheist, and it doesn’t matter to me either way whether or not Jesus existed.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Mix/100000574306150 Ed Mix

    Historical Jesus could probably learn to drive a stick in less than an hour.

  • Tonio

     In my experience, the people who argue against the historical existence of Jesus aren’t even historians, but anti-theists. The people who argue against anthropogenic climate change tend to fall into two groups:  self-described “maverick” scientists who are the pay of the fossil fuel companies, and religious fundamentalists. I suppose you could make a case that the anti-theists and the fundamentalists are really rejecting things on philosophical grounds. Since climate change involves humans having global power over the environment, the latter deniers might be misinterpreting the cause of the change as undermining the idea of deity. 

  • LouisDoench

     I don’t believe in an historical Jesus, I was persuaded mostly by Robert Price’s “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man”.  Of course I was already convinced that the Jesus of the gospel stories wasn’t historical because that character is described as being capable of performing  a number things (walking on water, loaves and fishes, healing lepers, raising the dead, rising from the dead etc.) that are quite literally impossible.  That’s one of the prerequisites of being an atheist…no miracles, sorry.  And once you get past that hurdle, the step to “no historical Jesus” is a fairly shallow one.

    Robert Price btw? Historian… darn good one.

  • Tonio

    And once you get past that hurdle, the step to “no historical Jesus” is a fairly shallow one.

    Not necessarily. Historians generally agree that underneath the King Arthur legends was a real ruler, likely a Brit0n chieftain leading resistance against Anglo-Saxon domination. It’s not unreasonable to suspect something similar with Jesus.

  • LouisDoench

     Oh it’s certainly not unreasonable or somehow beyond the realm of possibility.  It’s just that once you pare away the things that I feel can be safely discarded (miracles, contradictions, obvious allegory to previous legends etc.) then there’s simply not a great deal of Jesus  left to look for.  Sure, there might me a particular member of the wandering Jewish preacher class at the turn of the millennium that the author of say… Mark was  basing his work on. But in order to find that guy you have to peel away so much stuff that you end up with a fairly unremarkable guy.  And why base your religion on him? 

  • Tonio

    I had understood that no supernatural or miraculous events have been attributed to Buddha, but I may be mistaken. In any case, the quality of the moral and philosophical ideas that the figure espouses is what should matter in any religion. Jefferson was making a similar point when he drafted an edition of the Bible that didn’t include any miracles.

  • Tricksterson

    I remember reading that he was supposedly concieved/born under a sacred tree  (and that one of the Hindu gods, variously Brahma, Vishnu or Indra might be the father) and that he had a non-battle with Mara the demon of Illusion which consisted of Mara presenting various temptations and the Buddha ignoring them but nothing on the scale of walking on water or the loaves and fishes.  Anyone of more knowledge please feel free to enlighten me.

  • Joshua


    I had understood that no supernatural or miraculous events have been attributed to Buddha, but I may be mistaken. 

    I think you may be. All the early documents concerning the Buddha’s life I’ve read, or read about, do describe events that are hard to believe happened naturally. At minimum, the length of time he spent underneath the Bodhi tree without eating or drinking is miraculous, leaving aside interactions with various demons and spiritual creatures.

    And all written biographies were from at least three centuries after his life.

    Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that such a guy as Siddharta Gautama lived, and did and said most of the things Buddhism describes him as doing and saying. Contemporary documents about anyone who isn’t a king are just a very rare luxury in the ancient world, but that doesn’t mean that ancient history as a field is bunk.

  • alfgifu

    Historians generally agree that underneath the King Arthur legends was a real ruler, likely a Brit0n chieftain leading resistance against Anglo-Saxon domination.

    Popular culture is generally of the opinion that the King Arthur legends were built around a real figure, usually identified with the Ambrosius mentioned by Gildas in connection with a battle at Mons Badonicus.  Other early sources link Ambrosius to Merlin, so you sometimes see a composite Merlinus Ambrosius instead.  But really there is nothing to go on there: Gildas was writing a jeremiad against contemporary rulers, not a historical text.  He doesn’t spend much time on the battle at all, and it’s not mentioned anywhere else.  It seems to have been a decisive victory on the part of some Romano-Britons against some Anglo-Saxons – or possibly on the part of some Anglo-Saxon mercenaries allied with the Romano-Britons against other Anglo-Saxon mercenaries – anyway, there’s not much there, and it’s not definitely linked to Arthur.

    Even more difficult for those who want to see Arthur as a historical king in that time period is that there are place names referring to him that probably pre-date Roman Britain.  The Welsh legends of King Arthur represent what is likely to be the oldest tradition.  The written records are late, even for the Anglo-Saxon period, but are sourced from an oral tradition that could well reflect a folk hero predating the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons entirely.  They certainly contain a lot of clearly ahistorical material (e.g. Arthur striding from Ireland back to Wales in one step).

    Geoffrey of Monmouth, the man responsible for assembling the legends into the backbone of the story we all recognise, states that he drew information from Nennius and from another mysterious book.  Nobody has been able to work out whether the other book existed (he doesn’t specify author or origins), but it is odd that no trace of it remains anywhere else.  Nennius is, well, not the most reliable of sources either.

    A lot of historians would love to find a real King Arthur, but for the past forty years or so the consensus has been that we don’t have any solid evidence that he did exist.  Every reference or story gets less convincing the longer you look at it.

    Sorry for the wall of text!  But I think the King Arthur situation is more analogous to the Christ-Myth theory than to the historical Jesus supposition.

  • Tricksterson

    Believing that there was a historical jesus does not automatically believing that the Gospels were literal truth.  Myself I believe the was a man named Joshua/Yeshua, probably from Nazareth (Though probably not born in Bethlehem) that he bacame what would nowadays be called a street preacher and that he caused enough of a ruckus for the Temple authorities and the Romans to want him dead.  All else is conjecture.

  • AnnGMorrone
  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Hm, I would guess that I’m an Order Muppet.

    My eyebrows are kind of bushy, and I always identifed more with Bert than with Ernie.

    I don’t tend to “get the ladies,” though, and because I don’t have a partner, I can’t use that as a determining factor.  My ex-wife was definitely a Chaos Muppet, so I suppose there is that.

    Lately, however, I find myself more attracted to Order Muppets (including someone who is possibly the world’s most extreme Order Muppet; she would make Bert seem positively freewheeling in contrast), so…is there a Muppet version of Marvel’s In-Betweener?  Maybe Disney should get on that as part of developing synergy between its assorted intellectual properties.*

    *Though I never really watched the cartoon, shortly after Disney bought Marvel, someone put together a list of possible mash-ups, and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the idea “Kim Possible:  Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

  • Lori

     

    Though I never really watched the cartoon, shortly after Disney bought
    Marvel, someone put together a list of possible mash-ups, and I have to
    admit that I was intrigued by the idea “Kim Possible:  Agent of
    S.H.I.E.L.D.”  

    I would absolutely watch that show.

  • Tricksterson

    IIRC Kim’s universe has a version of SHIELD, complete with an eyepatch wearing female version of Nick Fury that tried to recruit her.

  • Tonio

    As much as I appreciate Evans’ condemnations of patriarchy, I’m concerned that debating what constitutes “God’s vision for the world” might actually be letting the patriarchists frame the terms of the debate. It’s possible that the patriarchists are right and that the Christian god does intend for men to rule over women. If that were the case, patriarchy would still be wrong. I guess I don’t see why it would be necessary to build a biblical case against patriarchy instead of simply saying that it’s wrong, full stop. 

  • Lori

     

    I guess I don’t see why it would be necessary to build a biblical case
    against patriarchy instead of simply saying that it’s wrong, full stop.   

    Because she’s a Christian talking to other Christians. People like you and I are incidental to the purpose of her writing.

  • Tonio

    Is Evans even talking to other Christians in the broad sense, or to the subset that would (in her view) require a biblical case against patriarchy? Something is wrong when their consciences don’t seem to grasp that gender inequality is wrong.

  • Beleester

     If you want to argue someone out of a position, you’ll have to find common ground, and approach it like you’re agreeing with them.  You don’t want people going “I don’t care, the Bible says this so you’re wrong no matter what you say.”  That’s not conducive to persuasion.

  • Rachel Jacobson

    Ohh good, I wasn’t the only one immediately turned off (pun semi-intentional?) at  Villarreal’s blanket condemnation of female submission. There is plenty to balk at about Fifty Shades (full disclosure: I say this having only read sporkings of it), and it may even be a legitimate complaint to say that it doesn’t paint the most healthy portrait of female submission, but condemning the desire to submit because it’s politically incorrect is belittling and quite rage-inducing.

    (The “30 things a woman should know/have by 30” list she linked to managed to piss me off even faster though, as item number one starts with, “One *boy*friend…”.  The updated list fails to remedy this.)

    (Okay, I think that’s all my internet raeg for the day. Ta!)

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    OT- I’m surprised there isn’t more coverage about the crisis in Tel Aviv. There is some really blatant racism going on there with the Sudanese refugees. The stuff on youtube is crazy. I know people are touchy about the Israel Palestine conflict and whatnot but it has nothing to do with that.

  • hapax

    I am inordinately amused that I just yelled up the stairs with zero explanation, “Hey, [hapaxdaughter], are you a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet?” and she immediately yelled back, “Order Muppet, of course, but you are Chaos!”

    But thank you, Fred Clark, for the mash-up video of the Other Fred, the Greatest Fred, the One Fred to heal them all, One Fred to defend them, One Fred to love them all and with gracefulness befriend them

    Yeah, I’m a Mr. Rogers fangirl, and I’m not ashamed to say it.

  • Tricksterson

    I’ve gone back and forth on Fred Rogers my entire life.  Loved him as a kid, decided he was lame in my teens and 20s then rrealized just how cool and wonderful a person he was as i got older.

    And definitely a Chaos Muppet here.

  • Mary Kaye

    I think that part of the problem is that people with no first-hand experience of the BDSM community imagine a lot of things about BDSM relationships that aren’t universally true, and many that aren’t even generally true. 

    For example, it never occurs to them that two people who both like the submissive role better than the dominant one might still enjoy having kinky sex with each other, and just take turns.  In other words, a dom/sub relationship doesn’t necessarily imply someone who gets off on dominance.

    There’s also a lot of unclarity about the difference between what you do in bed/in the dungeon and what you do the rest of the times; sexually submissive women can be in  egalitarian relationships, and quite often are.

    I do wonder if the fact that I’m wired the way I am reflects something unsavory in the society that produced me, but at this point the wiring is the way it is, and I feel strongly that people should not feel obliged to try to re-wire their sexuality unless it is actively harming someone. 

    I will also note that the first signs which, in retrospect, show I’m wired that way came when I was five.  I don’t know how much indoctrination about female sexual submission I’d really encountered when I was five, yet there it was, the very specific kink I’ve had ever since.  Maybe it’s innate, or just some kind of short in the wiring….?  I think I was exposed to some slightly risque images of that kink in media, but I was exposed to all sorts of things, and no telling why that one stuck. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Sexually submissive women are usually in egalitarian relationships. That means they explicitly consent to anything that happens, and safe words aren’t just for sex. If you’ve got a relationship in which one person is allowed to order the other into the bedroom, that is going to be important in every part of your life, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

    Really, it doesn’t matter whether it’s wiring or how we’re socialized or a combination, any more than it does for non-straight people. You are what you are, and there is no shame in it.

  • GDwarf

    If absolutely nothing else, the existence of male subs seems to indicate that there’s more to BDSM than just “women should submit”. 

    I think the big problem BDSM has is that so much of the fantasy/fiction is tied in to rape. Obviously being into it doesn’t mean you’re a rapist, but I think many people just have a gut reaction to it that’s influenced by how they think of rape.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira


    I think the big problem BDSM has is that so much of the fantasy/fiction is tied in to rape. 

    How much is “so much”? Most of BDSM fantasy and fiction is not rape fantasy and fiction. Also, consent is absolutely incredibly centrally important in BDSM, no matter what you’re doing, whether it’s ravishment play or whatever.

    I personally know a lot of women who were sexually abused by men, and more who were/are emotionally abused by men. I only know one submissive woman who was abused by a dominant man. Other people in the BDSM community helped her get out of that relationship. Not to say there isn’t abuse in BDSM relationships, of course there is, but no more than in vanilla relationships, and quite possibly less.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Lliira, here’s a shiny internet for being Awesome generally. You can redeem this internet at your nearest Pan-Con Club or GC branch office.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Something that frequently comes up on the LJ fanficrants comm is finding something labelled BDSM that’s not consensual at all, and when the author has that pointed out to them they refuse to change the label.

    This being a rant comm these aren’t representative samples, but any number of them are too many.

  • Tybult

    I did a Google search for “female writers” and found precisely none of those images she had. 

    Also, from some of the quotes I’ve seen from 50 Shades of Gray, it strikes me that people shouldn’t hate the book for its BDSM content. They should hate it for the atrocious writing.

    Also, the problem with the Supreme Court is not that it has too many Order Muppets, it’s that it has too many fascists and plutocrats.

  • Donalbain

    If you learn to drive in an automatic transmission car and passyour driving test in an automatic transmission car, don’t you then need to retake the test in a manual transmission car before you can drive that solo? That is how it works here. If you have a manual license, you can drive manual or automatic, but if you have an automatic license, you are not allowed to drive a manual. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Nope. In British Columbia, the class 5 licence you get is assumed to be good for both even if you roadtested on an auto only.

  • Lori

     

    If you learn to drive in an automatic transmission car and passyour
    driving test in an automatic transmission car, don’t you then need to
    retake the test in a manual transmission car before you can drive that
    solo?  

    Nope. AFAIK there are no states that have separate licensing for automatic and manual transmissions. The classes of licenses are for cars (any & all), motorcycles and large trucks. If you switch from automatic to manual you’re on you’re own recognizance when it comes to making sure that you’re properly trained and can handle the car safely.

  • WingedBeast

    Joshua, note, you explicitly stated “canonical gospels”.  But, you also have to note that the canonical gospels were collected by a council that had explitily stated, a-priori, what the correct Theology would be, and, therefore, edited out the gospels that didn’t fit.  Gnostic gospels, for instance, have Jesus joyful at the crucifixian.  And, they were, in fact, written on a similar timeframe to the ones that did not get edited out.

    After choosing which gospels would be made into canon, gospels with no certain authorship, a slipery timeline, and, again, great similarities to older stories, such as that of Horus, one of the first items of business by the new official church of Rome was to set about destroying all the other gospels.  That’s what the Dead Sea Scrolls were, gospels that were preserved from being burned and nearly edited out of existence.

    People talk as though this agreement just happened naturally.  It didn’t.  A lot of work went into that.

    As for who would record Jesus, in front of everybody there, running into a pagan temple and upsetting the shrines?  Law enforcement would.

    None of this, by the way, is to make the argument that a historical Jesus did or did not exist.  It is, however, to say that there isn’t any evidence that he did.  The closest one can come is to say that there isn’t explicit evidence that there wasn’t any historical Jesus, which, to be fair, is also what one can say about Socratese.  I bring in my argument because someone made the analogy of denying Jesus as historical fact as similar to denying global warming.  The evidence just isn’t there and the question, from purely the perspective of a Historian, is open at best.

  • hapax

    But, you also have to note that the canonical gospels were collected by a council that had explitily stated, a-priori, what the correct Theology would be, and, therefore, edited out the gospels that didn’t fit.

    Assuming that you are referring to the Council of Nicea (CE 325), wrong.  The NT canon was pretty much set by the early third century;  the four canonical gospels were widely accepted as the only authoritative ones by the second century.

    great similarities to older stories, such as that of Horus

    You know, you said that before, and it was a boggler the first time.  Of all the dying-and-resurrected  mythological figures popular in the classical world, Horus is about the LEAST similar to the Jesus story.  Heckopete, *Osiris* is a better parallel than Horus.

    That’s what the Dead Sea Scrolls were, gospels that were preserved from being burned and nearly edited out of existence.

    WhatwhatWHAT?  There is a lot of disagreement about who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and why, but only complete historical ignorance could claim that they had anyting to do with Christianity.  They are exlusively *Jewish* texts, mostly versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, some specifically sectarian Jewish (probably not the Essenes, but likely a similar group).  At any rate, almost all of the extent fragments pre-date the origins of the Jesus movement.

    I suppose I could give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are talking about the Nag Hammadi texts, which does contain some apocryphal Gospels.  However, with the possible exception of Thomas, these don’t contain anything that even pretends to be historical or biographical (as opposed to philosophical and mystical)

    As for who would record Jesus, in front of everybody there, running into a pagan temple and upsetting the shrines?  Law enforcement would

    Er, the Jerusalem Temple was very much not “pagan”.  And really… “law enforcement”?  I suppose that you are talking about the complete stash of well-preserved police blotters we have from every first century Roman outpost?

    Now you’re just being silly.

  • Joshua


    But, you also have to note that the canonical gospels were collected by a council that had explitily stated, a-priori, what the correct Theology would be, and, therefore, edited out the gospels that didn’t fit.  Gnostic gospels, for instance, have Jesus joyful at the crucifixian.  And, they were, in fact, written on a similar timeframe to the ones that did not get edited out. 

    Wrong and wrong. Go read wikipedia, you don’t need a degree to be able to get this straight. The four gospels were widely read in the early church well before the final list was made official in the 300’s. There are various earlier lists of canonical documents from earlier, and while they have variety, the four gospels are consistently at the head.

    The non-canonical gospels, Gnostic or otherwise, were not written in the 1st century, apart from a minority view among scholars of the dating of the gospel of Thomas. Most don’t make the slightest attempt to appear like historical documents, the authors had other priorities.

    The only non-canonical gospels that are based on an underlying layer of history are the ones based on the canonical ones.

    Look, it’s not like translations and dating are not available in a bunch of places on the internet.

    That’s what the Dead Sea Scrolls were, gospels that were preserved from being burned and nearly edited out of existence.

     The Dead Sea Scrolls are available to read online, including scans of the originals. They’re not secret. Go look them up. They contain no gospels, nor anything equivalent. Some were written before Jesus, none contain a mention of Jesus, and I very much doubt any of the people at Qumran at that time had ever heard of Jesus. For most of them, he hadn’t even been born yet.

    As for who would record Jesus, in front of everybody there, running into a pagan temple and upsetting the shrines?  Law enforcement would.

     

    So, in your dream pixie world, law enforcement were literate people in the habit of writing reports about everyday civic disturbances they investigated. That’s just as whackadoo as claiming that the Jewish temple was pagan.

    There were undoubtably literate priests in the temple, but even if they heard the ruckus outside, why would they write it down? It would be forgotten by the next day, except by people who believed they were seeing the actions of the Messiah.

    Anyway, as I said, the temple was destroyed along with the rest of the city a few years later.

  • eyelessgame

    I confess complete disinterest in whether there was a historical Jesus, but of course that is because I have no theological interest in the question. From my perspective, the following are obvious:

    – There were many radicals and rabble-rousers in the 1st century CE Middle East. Some claimed to be redeemers, rabbis, messiahs. Whether one of them was named “Jesus” seems less than crucial – and the political issues of the time seem to need enough translation to be relevant today that it’s a matter of quite limited and abstruse interest whether the political events in the Bible happened in those details to a single person.

    – The quotes and lessons and parables on philosophy in the Bible exist. Someone had to originate them. Whether that person was named “Jesus”, or whether they were originated by one teacher or several, is again not that interesting to me – the philosophy is.

    – The stories of walking on water, raising the dead, multiplying loaves and fishes, and so forth appear to me to be epistemologically unlikely in the extreme (I understand and respect those who disagree), and thus stories about a character doing these things appear likely to be fictional, so it’s very unlikely there was a historical person (whether or not they were named Jesus) who walked on water, raised the dead, and so on.

    So it is, I suppose, interesting whether one person came up with all the parables, or only some of them. And it might interest a historian somewhere whether it was that same philosopher who also spawned the political movement we associate with very early Christianity. But the question is, to me, not something to take a strong position on, because it doesn’t seem to matter that much.

  • hapax

    Oh, I agree that there are valid and interesting arguments to be made to back up the “Christ-myth” theory.  It’s certainly a foolish historian who takes the accounts of the canonical Gospels as primary historical documents.

    I also agree that they are pretty much of academic interest anyhow;  few Christians are likely to be convinced by them, and to non-Christians, the existence of a “historical Jesus” is pretty much irrelevant.

    My point to WingedBeast was, that if one is going to make those arguments, one ought to at least get the basic facts right.  A garbled Bill Maher-type screed that can easily be punctured by five minutes in Wikipedia will completely strip the theory of any credibility, which isn’t fair to either side.

  • WingedBeast

    And my point was not to argue that Jesus never existed, but merely to argue that the idea that such a theory would require a conspiracy specifically to create a faith from whole cloth would be fallacious in the first place.

    It doesn’t take as much denial of fact to believe that there’s a good chance that Jesus never really existed as it does to believe that there’s a good chance that global warming isn’t happening/manmade.

  • Joshua


    And my point was not to argue that Jesus never existed, but merely to argue that the idea that such a theory would require a conspiracy specifically to create a faith from whole cloth would be fallacious in the first place. 

    Whatever your point is, you are arguing it incredibly badly. Go read some of the relevant documents before you spout off about them. The Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, have some wonderfully interesting and well-preserved records of a religious community that we get nowhere else. They also give us some fantastic insight into the text of the Hebrew Bible from BCE times.

  • Tonio

     The question of whether Jesus as a person existed interests me only because I’m a history buff, and it’s likely that such a person existed. The miracles attributed to him are another matter, and I would think that any evidence that they happened should required a higher standard than those normally involved in historical research. The philosophies attributed to the person would have value whether or not he existed. We don’t know if Aesop existed but that doesn’t stop people from learning from the fables.

  • Isabel C.

    In re: BDSM:  I blame Gor. As I do for so many things.

    I admit to raising an eyebrow or two at people who do whatever their SO says outside the bedroom, but at the end of the day, it’s their business–until they start saying that it’s the way for all people to be, and particularly that all women really really want to be submissive, really, even if they don’t know it yet.

    John Norman: Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

    In re: cars: This is why many driving schools have signs on the top of their cars. Not that this helps where I learned to drive, but…Boston. I believe Dave Barry mentioned that the state DMV manual shows you how to give people the finger, and that’s not actually too far off. Does not help that our streets suck.

    In general, while I agree with the “learn to drive where you don’t endanger others” principle, there’s endangering others and then there’s…driving the speed limit, or five miles under, or failing to move at the exact section the light changes. Shut up, guy behind me: you’re in Somerville on a Saturday morning, and an extra ten seconds will not make that much difference.

    The 30-before-30 stuff: Lord. I’m torn, in that I agree with a lot of the commentary (…the kissing thing? What the fuck?), but I also think there are some nuggets of truth in there.

    Like:  if your first romantic relationship is at thirty, odds are decent, just going from what I’ve seen, that you’re going to annoy the fuck out of your friends.  (You may be one of the people who can deal with first-time love without the drama and the woe and the living in each others’ back pocket for six months, in which case go you. If not…well, most of us associate that shit with high school, and most of us don’t have a lot of patience with it ten years later.) Like: yeah, know how to solve your problems. Not all by yourself, but know how to get the help you need without collapsing all over the place.  I’m glad to be there for my friends and loved ones when there’s trouble, but I don’t want it to be a full-time job. And I don’t want them to have a full-time job being there for me.

    Like: Jesus Christ, do not trust other people with your email.  Learned that the hard way.

    Things like that. And yeah, it’s not always possible for everyone to have these, but some of them are pretty good goals. 

  • P J Evans

    Shut up, guy behind me: you’re in Somerville on a Saturday morning, and an extra ten seconds will not make that much difference.

    Some people really hate the idea of being five seconds late at the next red light.

  • Isabel C.

     Yeah, but they make pills for that these days.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    With due respect, this is why I asked what the general
    belief about the existence of a historical Jesus among EXPERTS who have studied
    the topic was – not whether there were intelligent people, theologians, or even
    historians whose area of expertise wasn’t Judiasm in that time and place or the
    early Christian movement who believed there was no historical Jesus.  (As an academic myself, I’m very much aware that it academics tend to be very specialized — certainly I am — and you don’t need to get very far from your primary study before you don’t know any more than any other intellegent person who’s considered the issue.)
    Certainly there are plenty of people arguing that Jesus didn’t exist and who have whole websites devoted to their arguments, and the arguments are often intellegent ones.  But you can say that about a lot of things, including (say) global warming.  That’s why I was curious about the scholarly concensus among people who study the topic — just as I like to know what climate scientists studying the topic think about global warming, as opposed to people more generally.

    Once upon a time, I was skeptical about whether there was a
    historical Jesus myself, but the more I learn about the topic, the more
    convinced I am that there *was* such a man. 
    Whether he did miracles or was the Son of God is a different question.  But that there was such a man that shortly
    after his death was BELIEVED to have performed miracles and been the Son of God?  That I think is almost certainly the case. 

    But as I said, I’m not an expert.  I was under the impression that this was the
    general consensus among people who WERE experts as well, but I could be
    wrong.  That’s why I asked – I was curious
    if anyone knew.

    As far as records of his life – I gather that the vast
    majority of people living in that area and time left no records of their life
    at all, Roman or non-Roman.  So the fact
    that Jesus has at least three records of his life widely believed to be
    independent of each other – Paul’s letters, the Synoptic gospels, and the
    gospel of John – puts him far ahead of most of his contemporaries in that
    regard.   Also note that few people in that time and
    place could read, fewer could write, and only a very few could write well.  

    As far as conflicting stories about Jesus – that certainly
    makes things interesting, but it’s also what lets scholars trace how various
    writings are related to each other, what the theological intention of the
    various authors was, etc.  And sometimes
    the conflicts themselves are informative. 
     

    For example, Matthew and Luke tell completely different
    stories about how Jesus was born in Bethlehem even though he was from Nazareth.  This suggests that:

    1)     
    It was very important to the authors of these
    gospels that Jesus be from Bethlehem (to bolster their argument that Jesus was
    the Messiah)

     

    2)     
    That Jesus probably WASN’T born in Bethlehem (if
    he had been, there would have been a true story to tell, and they would have
    been more likely to tell the same or similar story instead of totally different
    ones).

     

    3)     
    That Jesus probably WAS from Nazareth and there
    were enough people in the early Christian community who knew it that someone would
    call shenanigans if Matthew and Luke claimed otherwise (as it was clearly very inconvenient
    for them that Jesus was from Nazareth and not Bethlehem).

     

    I think that’s usually used as an argument
    that the historical Jesus did come from Nazareth, but it works just as well for
    his existence at all – if there was no Jesus and Luke and Mathew were operating
    under no constraints, why didn’t they just say he was from Bethlehem and call
    it done instead of making up the fact he was from Nazareth and then making up
    (different) elaborate stories to explain away the made-up fact he was from
    Nazareth?

      

    That’s just one argument – I’m not trying to
    rest the entire claim that there was a historical Jesus on this (or indeed make
    the argument here at all, I didn’t ask the original question to start a debate.
    :-) ) but this is the sort of thing I mean when I say that I think denying the
    historical existence of Jesus seems to leave a lot of complicated explanations
    in its wake.

  • Joshua


    With due respect, this is why I asked what the general belief about the existence of a historical Jesus among EXPERTS who have studied the topic was 

    With regard to the idea that there was no historical Jesus at all, I studied at a seminary that certainly would have given that point of view airtime, if there was a reputable school of thought behind it. I mean, other points of view that were given airtime included the idea that David and Solomon did not exist, that Jesus was not resurrected, that Paul was gay, that Jesus’ virgin conception did not happen and would have been rape if it did, that in fact Jesus’ infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke were made up pretty much out of whole cloth, and that the God described in the First Testament was originally a combination of several Hebrew or Canaanite deities smooched together as various people got conquered. Not all of these were held by the lecturers speaking about them, although some were. Good luck figuring out which is which.

    The idea that Jesus has no historical basis was not given airtime there.

    I’ve only ever seen the argument seriously advanced on the internet. Outside of Wikipedia, the people advancing the argument struck me as being very biased, but not very knowledgeable. Even including Wikipedia, I don’t think there is a strong argument at all.

    As for the rest of your post, yes, I agree.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    With regard to the idea that there was no historical Jesus at all, I studied at a seminary that certainly would have given that point of view airtime, if there was a reputable school of thought behind it. I mean, other points of view that were given airtime included the idea that David and Solomon did not exist, that Jesus was not resurrected, that Paul was gay, that Jesus’ virgin conception did not happen and would have been rape if it did, that in fact Jesus’ infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke were made up pretty much out of whole cloth, and that the God described in the First Testament was originally a combination of several Hebrew or Canaanite deities smooched together as various people got conquered. Not all of these were held by the lecturers speaking about them, although some were. Good luck figuring out which is which

    It’s a pretty standard view among biblical scholars that Moses wasn’t a real guy, right? Not among Bible believing Christians, obviously, but we heretical Catholics and our ilk.

  • Joshua


    It’s a pretty standard view among biblical scholars that Moses wasn’t a real guy, right?
     Not among Bible believing Christians, obviously, but we heretical Catholics and our ilk. 

    I have not seen anything I’d call a consensus. (Consensus among biblical scholars is frankly rare in my experience and tends to come with disclaimers just like yours.) I’d say there is definite consensus that (i) the Exodus narrative is at least heavily mythologised, and that (ii) the Torah is a combination of various written sources all of which were composed well after the fact, and that (iii) any historical Moses wrote none of them. That’s about as far as I’d say consensus goes.

    I remember in my studies being presented with a range of theories about the formation of Israel, but there really isn’t a lot of independent evidence to distinguish between them. My impression was that the lecturer felt that an escaped band of ethnically Semitic slaves from Egypt, perhaps led by someone called Moses, catalysed a revolution in Canaan where the hill folk came down and took the cities. So the Exodus story would be based in some kind of history, but the bulk of the population of the new Israel were not from Egypt.

    Ancient peoples almost always had glorious foundation myths. The king were descended from gods, and the city was founded by at least a demigod. I find the idea that the foundation myth of slavery and escape hiding in the wilderness for years to be singularly rare and unlikely. For that reason, I personally think that there’s a basis of historical truth in it.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    I heard an interesting point a while ago saying the notion of truth back then was different than now. They didn’t have the modern justice system and so forth.  Perhaps exagerating was part of the truth in a way. Jesus or someone was standing in contrast to the larger society which was wrapped up in stuff like torah interpretation, the Roman occupation, and when the end times were going to come.  Somehow the concept of looking beyond the dead end of the then current  discourse was devised by someone and it caught on of it’s own volition. The original Christians didn’t have it forced down their throats, quite the contrary.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I have read that generally oral traditions change quite a bit more as they pass from person to person than written ones do, and that people in oral cultures consider this a feature, not a bug: you change the story to emphasize the point you want to make at the time of telling.  I gather it’s generally thought that the gospels were based on oral tradition (or in the case of Matthew and Luke, based on other gospels based on oral traditions).  

    Now, I’m not an expert, merely repeating what I’ve read.

    There’s no eyewitness accounts of Christ’s ministry, which is unfortunate but not surprising: probably nobody involved could write.  (Luke claims Christ could read, but if true that would have been very unusual — and didn’t mean he could write.)  Paul does claim to know and speak with people who were witnesses, but he says very little about the life of Christ (but seems very convinced that Jesus existed, and had a brother who also existed and who Paul argued with, and had disciples some of whom Paul *also* argued with).

    So, yes, all of the gospels are based on oral traditions.  When looking for historical facts it would be silly to treat them as… well, gospel.

    But that doesn’t imply that Jesus the person never existed.  These aren’t oral traditions that began hundreds of years later, being told about a time in the distant past — the early Church was already well in gear when Paul was writing his letters, when most of the people who were involved in Christ’s ministry (real or hypothetical) were still alive.  Given that the church started among people who would have been Christ’s contemporaries, you’d think that if there were no person and no ministry behind the traditions, someone would have noticed?

  • Joshua

    I have read that generally oral traditions change quite a bit more as they pass from person to person than written ones do, and that people in oral cultures consider this a feature, not a bug: you change the story to emphasize the point you want to make at the time of telling.  I gather it’s generally thought that the gospels were based on oral tradition (or in the case of Matthew and Luke, based on other gospels based on oral traditions).
    Now, I’m not an expert, merely repeating what I’ve read.

    Yes indeedy. I’m no expert in the anthropology of oral cultures either, but 1st C Judaea was one, so it comes up when studying the gospels. Irrelevant details drop out, only the key points that fit the story’s form are preserved.

    In fact, I’ve often thought the only thing in our culture really like it is joke-telling. A good joke doesn’t get sidetracked or carry any extra weight: the only details that might be added are for atmosphere or timing, and are less consistent, depending on the joke teller. But any point that contributes to the punchline is preserved in retelling perfectly – if you muck it up, and the punchline makes no sense, then you’ve failed to tell the joke and later retellers don’t follow you.

    All the canonical gospels have these clear signs of an oral tradition. The format the stories fit to are not jokes, of course, but they have other equally constraining formats. For instance, a narrative preamble building to a moral pronouncement. Luke 6:1-5 has a story about Jesus’ disciples plucking and eating grain on the sabbath and getting dissed for it. Jesus defends them, and it builds to the pronouncement  that “The Son of Man [Jesus] is lord of the sabbath.”

    Other things being equal, I’d take passages that include extraneous details as being more original, written down more directly from a witnesses memory. There are some in the gospels, but not too often.

  • Tricksterson

    IIRC in the story of the adulterous woman (and why wasn’t anyone eager to stone the guy she was adulterating with anywho?  But I digress) IIRC Jesus started wrinting in the dirt so if one believes the Gosels then yes he could write.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    well lets say we had no art history written in the 20th century. That it all got destroyed somehow. We would have a difficult time saying jackson Pollock existed because none of us knew him personally (probably) and ones who did likely didn’t see him paiting his masterworks. Okay there is a famous photo series of him doing that but let’s say that didn’t exist).

    The point is: it would be logical to doubt the existence of jackson Pollock, but it would be impossible to deny the existence of abstract expressionism because it happened, the paintings are the evidence. So wether Jesus existed or not, what he is said to have brought did exist as is evidenced in the difference between Christianity and Judaism and the change in philosophy in general between BC and AD.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    As for who would record Jesus, in front of everybody there, running into a pagan temple and upsetting the shrines?  Law enforcement would.

    Okay.  Sure.  Too bad we don’t have all of Jerusalem’s law enforcement records.

    I had understood that no supernatural or miraculous events have been attributed to Buddha, but I may be mistaken.

    You are.  Massively.  In many cases, Bhudda and other Bhoddavistas (sp?) were pretty much ascribed with all the powers of dieties.  Basically, incorporating Chinese, Hindu, Shinto, etc. mythology, much as Christianity incorporated myths of local foreign gods into the deeds of its saints.  

    Though no supernatural or miraculous events are critical to Bhuddism.


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