Epistemic Rights Rear Their Ugly Head Again

Hambydammit
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Epistemic Rights Rear Their Ugly Head Again

 It is illustrative, I think, to sometimes recognize our own humanity as atheists.  By this, I mean that we don't have a lock on rationality, nor are we above emotionalism when we are attached to an idea, or when we are criticized in the spotlight.

I've spent a lot of time on this site demanding that people have the epistemic rights to their pronouncements.  I get aggravated with people who make pronouncements in their "professional" opionion about 9/11 conspiracies, free energy, thermodynamics, evolution, psychology, and a host of other subjects.  The fact is, as Deludedgod and I have said many, many times, a person has an epistemological obligation to portray his opinions as having only as much weight as they really have.  This is how real science is done.  We don't claim things we can't back up.

Well, the same goes for history.  Part of the reason Jesus mythicists have such a hard time is that everybody knows that there's overwhelming evidence that Jesus lived.  Everybody's always known it!

Only that's patently false.  I don't know whether there was a historical Jesus or not, but I do know that there is far, far from overwhelming evidence.  There is precious little.  The debate over a historical Jesus is one that involves tiny bits of text from tiny scraps of nearly decayed artifacts.  There are lots of books written about it, but there is no consensus -- not even remotely.

I'm disturbed when people in high places make unjustified pronouncements about Jesus existence.  Very disturbed.  This is a hotbed issue, and only in recent decades has it even been politically allowable to suggest that maybe Jesus didn't exist.  When someone adds to the already enormous bias, it makes the real historical work that much harder.

I have recently concluded an exchange with John Loftus, the former preacher turned atheist, and author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.  I'm sad to say the exchange ended with John calling me an idiot and censoring me from his blog.  In the interest of both having my say uncensored and impressing on the reader the value of recognizing one's own epistemological rights, I am reprinting the entire unedited conversation here.

Hambydammit wrote:
HAMBY'S POST:

   

John, I have some things I'd like you to think about. I don't know if you've noticed my comments about your discussion with a "blog site owner" but I come down on the side of that certain blog site owner, though not without some caveats. You really should read my comment on the blog in question, but I'll explain it here, too.

I've read your arguments rather thoroughly since my initial response to you (linked below) and I think you're making two very serious errors.

First, you've admitted that you are not well versed in mythicist arguments, and you display this lack of knowledge when you get into spats with mythicists. I'm not going to validate your exchange with a blog site owner by calling it an argument because that implies the logical exchange of ideas. No ideas were exchanged because you didn't address or refute any of his arguments. You just restated your opinions.

Please bear in mind that I'm saying this to you in a spirit of constructive criticism so that we can all get along and get on with the business of finding true answers to legitimate questions. I hate it when people have ego spats, and from where I sit, you threw the first stone in the fight you're talking about.

I don't know who's right in the question of Jesus mythicism, but I have a question for you and others who come down hard on either side. How much does it really matter?

Think about that before you jump to a conclusion. We're all atheists and skeptics here, right? Would the existence of a historical Jesus change our minds about God? Would the nonexistence of a historical Jesus change our minds?

Your second mistake, in my opinion, is a matter of broad perspective. The fact is, this is an issue dripping with angst and ego, and I can't for my life figure out why a bunch of atheists would get into such a huge snit about it. If there is or is not enough evidence for a historical Jesus, so be it, but everyone reading this knows that a Christian can be logically and philosophically whipped into a Self-Pwnd Frappe with or without even cracking a bible, much less mentioning Jesus.

John, if you want to get into academic history and make a case for a historical Jesus, please do. However, I have to ask you in all seriousness if you are prepared to stake your professional reputation on what amounts to your feelings about the interpretation of academic arguments. Do you really have the epistemic right to make the proclamation? Please remember when you were a Christian how hard it was to see logic when someone talked to you about the very emotionally charged issue of God. You weren't that way just because you were a Christian. That's human nature, and you're still subject to it.

John, you and the blog site owner had a temper tantrum playground fight. Both of you are at fault for letting your emotions get in the way of reason. However, he has reason on his side. You haven't dealt with (or apparently read) what he's said. I'm not saying his position is right. I'm saying you haven't done anything to prove it wrong. Please remember John that the most well meaning of people have spread opinion to the point that it became perceived as fact. Please, unless you're prepared to make an academic issue of it, don't muddy the waters of Jesus' historicity with less than scholarly analysis. Your voice is too loud. Do the right thing and just shrug your shoulders when someone asks what you think about it.

I offer you the following link (http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2008/11/thoughts-on-jesus-historicity.html )to my own thoughts on Jesus as a historical figure, and I invite you to consider them, particularly since they come from someone much like yourself -- a former Christian apologist who has devoted much of his life to study -- and more importantly, someone who knows when he has the epistemic rights to make a claim, and when "I don't know" is the only acceptable answer.

You'll notice that I've also addressed as many of your arguments as seemed relevant in a detailed post here: http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2008/12/response-to-john-loftus-historical.html

 

John Loftus wrote:
JOHN'S POST:

Hambydammit wrote:
NOTE: ******This is the post I submitted to his website.  He did not publish it, opting instead to quote mine it for things he wanted to answer. ******

John Loftus wrote:
******NOTE:  This is all that appeared on John's blog.  You can see that he has left out significant parts of my post and has not addressed the spirit of the argument******

Hambydammit, I didn't publish what you wrote because I had to cool off before responding and because I'm pretty much done with this topic for now. I do not like how you've treated me but I'll comment on a few of the things you wrote.

Ham said...I'm sure that you've read quite a few books by various historians, as have I, but does that qualify you to use your considerable influence to proclaim that your interpretation of the various arguments is the better one?

John:  Is that what this is about? That since I have "considerable influence" I should not make a case unless I'm qualified to speak? Thanks for saying I have such influence. I don't claim to. But even Einstein wrote a book of opinions and ideas. Would you say he shouldn't have done so?

Ham said...I'm sure you did study antiquities and literature in your theology degrees, but are you really qualified as a Jesus scholar?

John:  See above. Don't get so bent out of shape here. My views are well argued. They are the ones the overwhelming peer-reviewed scholars accept. I fear my friend Carrier could become marginalized as a scholar if he doesn't make a strong case. What's wrong with my concern for him? His scholarship is too good for that and for our cause. If he becomes marginalized people will write him off and his credibility will be in need or repair. I do care about that. YOU should care about it too. But apparently you want an actual scholar to quote from who defends what you believe regardless of what happens to him. In the minds of many other scholars he may be treated like a Holocaust denier, rightly or wrongly, and that's bad for atheism I think, since the historicity of Jesus is a non-issue to me. 

Ham said...I don't believe you are qualified to address them (mythicists). If this is the case, then you aren't prepared to make a substantive claim about Jesus' historicity because you don't know both sides.

John:  I deny this, although I have more to learn about the issue. You continue to claim I'm ignorant. That's what Christians claim too, you know. Why do they do so? Because they read a few paragraphs and disagree, that's why. Now I do back up what I say in my book, but until they read it they will think I'm ignorant, and they do. Now you come along and claim the same thing, but because I have not written a book on the topic to show you I'm not ignorant you can claim that I am. I cannot say all I know unless I wrote a book on a topic. And it's not true that someone who disagrees with someone else is ignorant anyway. Are the overwhelming number of scholars ignorant too? Is Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, Dom Crossan, Dale Allison, Bart Ehrman? Get a grip, okay?

Ham said...Are you prepared to defend your views against mythicist scholars, and if so, would you offer arguments or disagreement?

John:  I think I have done so. Do not think I'm ignorant on this topic and do not be so ignorant as to say I cannot write what I think about any topic I want to do so. I have and I will.

Ham said...I accuse you of having less than enough knowledge to have epistemic rights to your claim. There's a very, very big difference. You're clearly well read, and I believe you've done a great thing for atheism. I love your site, and I think you have an incredibly compelling story to tell theists.

John:  Thank you for the compliment, but I see no basis for you to tell me to basically shut up...none at all and I brittle and such a thing. 

Ham said...I just don't think you're qualified to weigh in on Jesus' historicity. Please, if I'm wrong prove me wrong, and I will recant, but I have yet to see you even address a mythicist position with anything other than a statement of disagreement. That's not scholarly rebuttal. That's seeing who gets the last word.

John:  Again, you sound just like the Christians who visit here. Yeah, that's right, I'm ignorant, I don't know what I'm talking about, I should just shut up until I write a book on a topic. Right.

Go away, idiot.

I have heard it said that insult is the last refuge of the defeated, and I think Mr. Loftus' last sentence says all that I need to hear.  I will leave this exchange feeling justified in my criticism and yet... sad.

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit
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 Geez.  After writing this

 Geez.  After writing this post, I found this little gem from another website:

John Loftus wrote:
I have stated my present understanding {of Jesus historicity} as best as I could without doing the research needed in writing one.

That, kids, is straight from the horse's mouth.  He does not have the epistemological chops to defend his position, yet he says it loudly from the pulpit, so to speak.  I find this to be detrimental to serious history, and I stand by my criticism.

 

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Quote:I have stated my

Quote:
I have stated my present understanding {of Jesus historicity} as best as I could without doing the research needed in writing one.

 

The fact that Christians spout out that kind of crap is just ridiculous.  After all the arguments, historical evidence, carbon dating, anthropology, etc., fuckers like this still are claiming Jesus existed and, further yet, they claim they can prove his existence without proving his existence.

"When the majority believes in what is false, the truth becomes a quest." - Me


Hambydammit
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 This guy's an atheist

 This guy's an atheist author.  Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with him claiming that Jesus existed.  I have a problem with him doing so without the requisite knowledge to do so.

He's written a book that's apparently pretty good at convincing Christians that their religion is a lie.  I commend him for that.

That doesn't make him a Jesus scholar, and I've tried to convince him to keep his claims within the bounds of his knowledge.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Oh, ok.  I thought he was a

Oh, ok.  I thought he was a theist.  In any case, yeah, if he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to sound like an informed person.  It's as if he's gotten so into trying to prove that religion sucks that he's resorted to tactics used by religion by offering little or no proof.

"When the majority believes in what is false, the truth becomes a quest." - Me


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 Just to put a solid cork

 Just to put a solid cork in this thing, it ended almost comically.  John went through his blog and edited out as many of his insults to me as he could.  Then he went back and edited his posts on my blog.  Then he deleted my posts on his blog.  Then he cried martyr.

Here are the gory details:

John Loftus wrote:
John W. Loftus said...

RE: The comment directly above mine:

What's the big deal? Have you wrote a book on this issue? You seem sure of yourself and you act as if you are informed. Can't make the needed distinctions here? Didn't think so.

[Lest you have written one then let me ask if you have any epistemic rights to make any claim at all on any subject that you have not done so].

In my opinion you are clearly expressing idiocy with regard to my right to speak even though I have not written a book on the topic. So why should I accept anything else you say?

I see you have lots and lots of visitors. Looks like you are just talking to yourself.

Followed by:

Hambydammit wrote:
What's the big deal? Have you wrote a book on this issue? 

 


HD: No. I don't intend to. Have you not read how many times I've said I know my own rights to claims? I am not a mythicist, John. We're not talking about whether I have a right to make the claim that Jesus did or did not exist. We're talking about whether or not you have that right. In your own words, you do not.

To be perfectly fair, I do state one thing firmly, and you can read my previous blogs to verify this. The Jesus of the Gospels is a mythological character. Whether or not there was a real life inspiration for the Gospel, I can't say, but if there was, he did not walk on water or heal the sick or curse fig trees. So I can say, just from my knowledge of logic and nothing else, that the Gospel Jesus did not exist. As to earthly inspirations, I have no firm position. I only make observations about which arguments seem valid and which do not. Validity is something I'm quite qualified to talk about.

John: You seem sure of yourself and you act as if you are informed. Can't make the needed distinctions here? Didn't think so.

HD: Why is this suddenly about me? I have asked you to please not make claims to knowledge you don't possess. You've stated, on Richard Carrier's blog, that you don't possess the knowledge to make the claim, and yet you make it.

John: [Lest you have written one then let me ask if you have any epistemic rights to make any claim at all on any subject that you have not done so].

HD: What is it with this? Am I required to be a Jesus scholar to recognize that you are not one? I am a student of knowledge, Mr. Loftus, and of critical thinking, and of epistemological rights. In this blog, I have pointed out errors in your thinking -- errors which have been pointed out by others, and which you have not refuted. You have simply restated your own opinion.

This is why I take issue with you. You want to play with the net up for mythicists and down for you. A properly defended position is one that has refuted competing claims, and I can find no evidence that you have ever produced a scholarly rebuttal to a mythicist claim. You have just disagreed with them. That's not history, John. It's just arguing.

John: In my opinion you are clearly expressing idiocy with regard to my right to speak even though I have not written a book on the topic. So why should I accept anything else you say?

HD:  Again, you are free with your opinion, but you have not refuted my accusation. Do you, or do you not have the requisite knowledge to write and defend a position of Jesus' historicity against qualified scholars, including scholarly refutation of their position?

If you do not, why do you make claims you cannot defend? Was it not you who wrote a book about how wrong it is for Christians to claim knowledge of God that they can't defend?

Net up for them, down for you?

John:  I see you have lots and lots of visitors. Looks like you are just talking to yourself.

HD:  I see you resort to insult again. Mr. Loftus, insult is the last resort of the defeated. If you'd like to have a constructive dialog, I'm more than happy, but I'd appreciate it if you stopped insulting me. I've been nothing but polite with you.

I apologize that I have not been blogging or writing as much as you. Is there anything you are trying to say here, or are you just trying to hurt my feelings?

Are you saying I'm wrong because I don't have a lot of visitors? You wouldn't be that foolish.

Are you saying I'm unpopular? You might be surprised. This blog is a new project for me, and I've done next to nothing to advertise it. It is not my only project.

So please, Mr. Loftus, tell me exactly what you're trying to accomplish by insulting me. I would like you to be honest. Trust me. I can take it.

Finally, he erased this post of mine completely:

Hambydammit wrote:
Hambydammit said:

Gee, John. Most people would look at the argument and weigh it critically using logic. Would you like to print the rest of that post? The one that's on my blog? Why don't you send me a few viewers so I don't have to feel so bad about myself?

Seriously, John. I don't care if you print this or not. I've gone out of my way to defend you and give you every benefit of the doubt. I've been polite and offered constructive criticism. You haven't addressed any of it. You've just insulted me.

John, surely you understand the difference between commenting on the coherency of an argument and espousing a full fledged proposition. I dunno... Maybe you don't. 

I will continue to support your book because I believe in a higher cause, and I don't really care if you like me or not. I hear your book is good, and I'd like to see more people become atheists from reading it. However, I'm not going to sugar coat the fact that you've been incredibly unreasonable here. You're overstepping your bounds. You're apparently a good anti-apologetics writer, and I commend you for that. That doesn't make you a Jesus scholar. Please consider backing off this little emotional thing of yours. I'm not asking you to be silent with regard to Jesus. I'm asking you to say only what you have the right to say.

And posted this beauty:

Quote:
Apparently no one took to heart what I said originally here:


What grates on me to no end is people who don't give a damn to do likewise with my arguments. These people, on both sides of the fence, get little more than my distain. I have been known to berate them, ridicule and taunt them. I probably shouldn't do this, but sometimes I cannot resist. That's just who I am. That's what I sometimes do with people who are intellectually dishonest with what I say.

The mythicists and those sympathetic to them that I have met on the web behave like some of the most fervent believers I know. They are not objective with the facts; they treat people who disagree as if they are ignorant; they fail to listen; they twist and turn the statements of those who disagree; and they act like a cult in that they personally attack someone who disagrees just because he disagrees.

If you who are mistreating me were in a forum that was representative of what scholars think you would all be laughed at. As it stands I alone must bear this treatment because this is not a representative forum. I'm sure there are many historical examples of a person who was on the right side of history who was ill treated for not bowing to pressure to conform. I think Carrier is probably going to hurt himself in the eyes of the scholarly community and that's too bad. He might forever be known as a freethinker, not a scholar. I alone seem to be concerned about this for I think a lot of him.

I'm content though to have my informed opinion on this issue, one which very few people criticizing me could dispassionately tell me what that is. It's a non-issue to me.


 

Right.  Dispassionate. 

Abuse... yeah... Right.

 

Just for the hell of it, pop over to my offsite blog and see the whole thing in its emotional glory.

http://allthingsstupidandreligious.blogspot.com/2009/01/alls-well-that-ends-angrily-mr-loftus.html

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Sage_Override
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Just leave this guy to his

Just leave this guy to his butt-hurt crap.  This fucker is way too sensitive when it comes to people who actually give a shit about history and facts; this guy is just out to piss off not just theists, but other atheists with his obviously bogus theories and claims.  Guys like this make everyone look bad and he should start realizing that. 

"When the majority believes in what is false, the truth becomes a quest." - Me


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The demands don't seem to apply to you guys

I read the exchange between you (Ham) and John and one thing you mentioned brought up an issue I asked before concerning the authors of this site.  It seems the very things you want to know about John are not required of "those that are biased or lean your way."  You wrote that you did not know if John was qualified to write what he had written.  You were not sure if he had studied or if he was specialized enough concerning the Jesus Myth.  And yet . . . when I asked about Rook Hawkins who claims that he is a "historian of classical civilization and the Bible" and an "Ancient Text Expert" (quotes from this site) about his credentials . . . I was told that I was wrong to ask for such a thing and that I should simply argue the content.  I was told there is no need for him to produce anything in regards to his credentials concerning these claims he makes about himself.  This  criticism was also from another author on this site. 

 

I do not know Rook, and he may be well educated.  If that is the case, simply state what education and from where.  I dropped this issue before because it was clear, no information would be coming, but if you want it or expect it from others, it seems that it should be required from those who claim to be historians and experts.  If it is wrong for other to ask the same from you guys, I am not sure you have the right to ask or expect anything from John.  If being well read is all it takes . . . then perhaps many people are experts on many things.   

It seems to me that there are 2 standards here - one for you guys and one for those who disagree with you.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


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 Quote:It seems to me that

 

Quote:
It seems to me that there are 2 standards here - one for you guys and one for those who disagree with you.

Then I'm sorry to say that you've missed the point entirely.  If you'll go through the exchange again, you'll see that I never demanded that John have a degree.  I demanded that he have the epistemological rights to his claims.  That is consistent with the message we've always had here.  As you should have seen, John admitted in as many words that he had not done the necessary research to make an authoritative statement on mythicism.

That's the end of the story.  Right there.  Until he's done the necessary research, he doesn't have the professional chops.  Look, there's no such thing (that I'm aware of) as a PhD in Researching the Historicity of First Century Palestinian Religious Figures.  Anybody with a degree is going to be applying a certain set of knowledge to a problem for which it wasn't specifically designed.  That's not the point.  John is pretending to knowledge that he doesn't have.  That's the point.

In Rook's case, I have personally seen his library and his work.  He is a meticulous student of the literature, and thoroughly documents his claims using proper methodology.  If John is willing to do the same for his claims, I will have no gripe with him.

 

 

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 And for the love of all

 And for the love of all that's holy, would you people stop assuming that I'm on the mythicist's side?  I'm not a freaking mythicist already!

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote: And for

Hambydammit wrote:

 And for the love of all that's holy, would you people stop assuming that I'm on the mythicist's side?  I'm not a freaking mythicist already!

So you're saying you're a mythicist? Huh.

Okay, okay - I'll stop.

I'm not sure I see a specific problem with the idea that the Jesus of the Bible was mythical. Personally, I'd say there's just as much evidence that four guys wrote about an actual person, except that he healed the sick and created matter (when multiplying loaves), so I can safely say that a good amount of what they attested to probably didn't happen. How much of it I would actually call "historical" is therefore already reduced to almost nil. That's the same way I feel about myths: there was probably an original story inspiring them, but they just became more fantastic over time. In the case of the new testament, the stories could only get so fantastic in the absence of an oral tradition.

Too bad, too, because then maybe we could have told the Jesus story with more unicorns.

 

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