Thank God for sensible atheists such as R. Joseph Hoffman. Here he eviserates the currently fashionable Jesus Mythicism of the New Atheists:
It is almost cruelty to begin picking on the methodological wowsers implied in the reasoning of the mythtics — the Jesus-deniers, who conflate God denying and Jesus denying as though they were on the same level of discussion and susceptible of the same kinds of proof.
Embarrassing — really — because these same folk who hold up the scientific method to religionists want to walk past the complex evidence of textual and linguistic studies as though it weren’t there. “Hermeneutics” for them is just a word theologians like to throw around to impress seminarians: how can it be useful in forming assumptions that lead to premises that force foregone conclusions? Like God-denying, Jesus-denying is tidy, simple and efficient.
In their own areas, it would be as though the supporters of flat earth theory and spontaneous generation were given equal time at the podium and a spotlight to scoff at astronomy and biology, but — the impoverished reasoning seems to run — this is Biblical studies — how serious do you have to be? “Atheist biblical studies” as it is represented by Carrier and company is nothing more than a conspiracy theory in search of respectability. Since that isn’t forthcoming through the normal channels of recognition — scholarship I mean — it has to rely on trivializing the settled or nearly-settled conclusions of modern scholarship itself, and if that doesn’t work, bashing the scholars.
For some very strange reason, they like to quote Schweitzer. But Schweitzer famously refused to give up the historical Jesus. Prove me wrong and divide an extra hundred dollars. The likelier result is that I can prove to you that the mythtics don’t read complete verses in the texts they quote from.
The free thought rabble have chosen Carrier as their standard bearer, without any reason to put their trust in his inane conclusions and methods — a man who has never published a significant piece of biblical scholarship, never been peer reviewed (peers?), never been vetted, and never held an academic position. His “reputation” depends on deflecting his mirror image of himself as a misunderstood, self-construed genius onto a few dozen equally maladroit followers.
This billboard for poor method, we are now asked to believe by freethought’s bad boy, P. Z. Myers, has cold-cocked a senior New Testament scholar for saying something as reasonable as “Jesus existed.” Only in the age of instant misinformation and net-attack is this kind of idiocy possible. Only in the atheist universe where the major premise – “religion is a lie so the study of religion is a study of lying”– infects everything is this kind of lunacy possible. Unfortunately, we have Richard Dawkins to thank for the original formulation of that premise.
Carrier is committed to making up methods as he goes along and pretending that he has found an evidence-based way of approaching the biblical books. He is about to re-publish (he had vanity published it already) his “research” on this subject with Prometheus Books, and scores wait with bated breath for his results, though from what I have seen of it so far, he could have saved us all the trouble by simply telling us what we already knew: that the Buddha, Jesus Christ, and King Arthur are all figments of the teenage imagination and never really existed. If they had, presumably, they would have studied grasshoppers.
In any case, Carrier has had plenty of time to build up the suspense of this little drama: he blogs about himself, frolics at other sites that tout the fact that he has a PhD in ancient history, and disses the work of any one who disagrees with him, which leaves him both a very lonely and a very busy man.
Well said. If you are interested in Jesus Mythicism — which has been called “the Creationism of the New Atheists” — read the entire article, it’s well worth your time.