2010-07-08

Joel Watts stoops to lies and slander — and doesn’t even care!

by Neil Godfrey

Since the original of this post I have added the last phrase to the title.

In response to my request for him to support his allegations of lying etc, Joel said quite bluntly that he doesn’t not have to bother being nice. — presumably “being nice” means little things like telling the truth about me. I have reproduced his comment in the comments section.


Joel Watts has published the following on his Church of Jesus Christ blog:

Dr. James McGrath, again, on the Resemblance Between Mythicism And Creationism

In responding to a rather juvenile post by Neil G., Dr. McGrath again steps into the water and wades out a little bit deeper. This is Neils bailiwick, in which he insults someone who he disagrees with, and then proceeds to spit out nothing by lies, misinformation, and logical fallacies about them and their positions along with the notion that Christ is nothing more than a myth. I would encourage you to read the posts in the series (click the tags at the bottom of this post, or the labels at Dr. McGrath’s site) for a better understanding of the issues and how it is academically handled.

I will return to the insult charge at the end of this post, though anyone who knows the history of James McGrath’s exchanges with me can well make up their own minds on that one.

Joel’s last sentence inviting readers to read my post implies it is linked at the bottom of his, but I did not see any links to it – only links to spread his own post on Facebook and Digg. But maybe I missed them.

Watts has blatantly accused me of “spitting out nothing but”

  1. lies about James McGrath and his arguments
  2. misinformation about James McGrath and his arguments
  3. logical fallacies in response to James McGrath’s arguments
  4. the notion that Christ is nothing more than a myth

He is referring to this post of mine.

Joel does not cite a single instance of a lie, a piece of misinformation or a single logical fallacy, and does not reference any part of my post arguing that Jesus is a myth. Given that he charges my post is “nothing but” a collation of these it should have been easy for him to have cited just one example of one of those.

What my post does is challenge the methodology of mainstream historical Jesus scholarship.

That I can get this sort of response to making that critique is most instructive.

I ask Watts — or anyone — to cite for me a single lie, a singe bit of misinformation, a single logical fallacy or sentence where that post contains an argument for mythicism.

So this is the level to which some mainstream Christian scholars are prepared to go when challenged on the logical validity of their methodologies.

(I should also add that a few weeks ago I put Joel Watts’ comments to this blog on Spam after a series of bullyboy mocking posts culminated in his sending one that began:

Guys, I am no fundie (takes one to know one, nanner nanner boo boo). I just don’t think you guys are worth a serious discussion. I mean, look at your subject matter? Hardly worth the free wordpress.com site it is pixelated on. I mean, I can come up with some silly stuff sometimes, but you guys….. If you guys were a TV show, you wouldn’t have made it past the pilot stage.

But seriously – wait, you guys don’t do serious. :)

Honestly, oh wait. You don’t do that either.

This is the level to which Watts resorts when commenting to posts on my blog and when posting about me on his own blog. (And Steph tells me that these scholars and gentlemen are so nice to each other and I need a reality check if I think they are not being reasonable with me, too!)

Watts shows his intellectual vacuity by concluding his post with the following “from a CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST no less!” (I mean a scientist who happens to be a faithful Christian.) Now that is sure gonna settle it!

And to note, a commentator there writes,

I am a scientist, and I also believe in Jesus as my savior. I do not see any conflict between my religion and my science. I think the main problem is that creationists take the bible as “word for word” literally. But then do they take even prophetic writing like the beasts in Revelation literally? The bible is not a science book. Would God try to explain to a rather limited scientific person like Moses basic physics, chemistry, or biology? I view Genesis as an allegory given to a “science-challenged” group of people. Maybe that is still true today. If God could use Babylonians and Romans as His instrument to carry out justice upon an unrighteous Israel (in 600 BC and again in 70 AD), He could certainly use evolution to carry out His plan for creation. To the people who take the bible “word for word” literally correct – could you please tell me about Leviticus 14. Does an animal’s blood on you right ear, right thumb, and right big toe, help you in your cleansing? Can I mention “priestly source” without being barbecued?

(I kinda had to throw that in)

If this is the level that Christian scholars resort to in response to challenges to their methods — note, not to arguments for mythicism, but challenges on the logical validity of their methods — then I guess it is no wonder they cry “Off with their heads!” (to extrapolate from my satirical post) and publish lying slander rather than bother to compose a reasoned and honest response.

I actually suspect that Joel did not even read my blog post. I suspect he felt confident enough (and contemptuous enough of me personally) to publish lies without bothering to read it. I suspect he drew his conclusions from James McGrath’s blogpost.

James also begins with an outright misinformation about me. He once again accuses me of making fun of his name when I modified it to “McGarth” – not in a mocking sense at all, but simply to create a second persona who stood in for him in an analogy I was making to illustrate an argument. (I can’t find where I made that reference now, but would welcome being given a link to it if anyone does know it.) James also brands my post as an argument for mythicism, which it is not. It is, as I said, a challenge on mainstream methodology. James also slanders me by innuendo when he associates one or two other peoples’ comments on my blog with my own words, one of which I did personally edit to remove something insulting when it came to my attention.

I am, I confess, a little surprised at the dishonest lengths respectable mainstream Christian scholars will go in order to deflect attention from the logical flaws at the heart of their historical methodology.

  • rey
    2010-07-08 13:08:10 UTC - 13:08 | Permalink

    Joel Watts? Isn’t this the same guy that Stephan Huller discovered was using some sort of Pakistani service to artificially increase his Alexa rating back in March? Why, yes it is!

    What Makes Joel Watts So Damn Popular in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

    Made in Pakistan?

    The Battle of Pakistan Has Officially Begun!

    I think Joel also uses the occasional post on Glenn Beck for this very purpose. Have you ever noticed how many times he mentions Glenn Beck over there?

    • 2010-07-08 15:03:34 UTC - 15:03 | Permalink

      I’m waiting to see if he will allow a comment of mine on his blogpost to go public. If not, I’ll post it here.

      (The reason for this comment itself is to publicly encourage him to let it pass his moderation.)

      • 2010-07-08 21:53:24 UTC - 21:53 | Permalink

        So Joel has let my comment go through on his blog, but he has yet to respond to my demand for him to justify his allegations that I lied, misrepresented, etc. So far he has backpeddled enough to say he has not seen “much” of such calumnies on my blog. I am still awaiting a full retraction and apology, or evidence in support of his accusations.

        I would also like Joel to respond to the Pakistani link to Alexa ratings. I am always interested in hearing both sides of an allegation. Should I hold my breath waiting on this one?

    • 2010-07-08 17:15:31 UTC - 17:15 | Permalink

      I don’t know about Glenn Beck apart from a Google search. Looks like he’s a US personality. But what you say would explain his ranking, that’s for sure. I used to wonder why so many were viewing his blog, and just assumed (mistakenly) that all the good Mormons were consulting it daily for prayer tips and spiritual nourishment.

      • rey
        2010-07-09 10:02:29 UTC - 10:02 | Permalink

        Glenn Beck is a popular fellow. Has a radio show and a show on Fox News. Liberals hate him and conservatives tend to love him, so you’ll get a lot of traffic if you throw his name around every now and then.

    • 2010-07-09 20:12:54 UTC - 20:12 | Permalink

      Interesting. Since having had first hand experience not only of his immaturity but now of his wilful dishonesty, I checked Alexa and see that he still has 4% of his blog audience in India. Not “quite” Pakistan, but it does look like an anomaly of some sort when one sees that the only other audiences of his are in US, Canada, UK and Australasia.

  • rey
    2010-07-08 13:28:18 UTC - 13:28 | Permalink

    “I am, I confess, a little surprised at the dishonest lengths respectable mainstream Christian scholars will go in order to deflect attention from the logical flaws at the heart of their historical methodology.”

    Shouldn’t be. Look at the lengths their predecessor Matthew went to, e.g. making Hosea 11:1 into a predictive prophecy, inventing the supposed prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt 2:23) out of thing air, making Jer 31′s Rachel weeping about Herod killing babies when contextually its about the Babylonian captivity, making the Micah 5 passage about Zorobabel defending Palestine against Assyrians about Jesus’ birth, and worst of all making Isaiah 7 about Jesus’ birth when the prophecy was clearly limited to Isaiah’s own lifetime since it is said in 7:16 of the child born of a virgin “before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (kings mentioned previously as contemporaries of Ahaz and Isaiah).

    If the founders of orthodox Christianity had to be that dishonest to get the thing started, is it any wonder that its apologists are compulsive liars?

  • 2010-07-09 13:56:53 UTC - 13:56 | Permalink

    Well what can I say? I posted the following on Joels’ blog:

    Nice to see your Christian and scholarly ethics at work, Joel. Perhaps you would be honest enough to actually cite one instance of any of the following in my post:

    • a lie
    • misinformation
    • a logical fallacy
    • an argument for Jesus mythicism

    As for the insult, I suggest your readers consult my response to this nonsense and read my original discussion in the post you address.

    And this was Joel’s initial response:

    Neil, I haven’t seen much on your posts that is a lie, misinformation, logical fallacy or otherwise. Further, you sent my comments to spam because I refused to take you seriously, ranking you somewhere between Curious George and Blue’s Clues.

    I wasn’t entirely happy with the innuendo here, so I posted again:

    “Much”? So you are saying you have seen SOME lies, misinformation, logical fallacies etc.? Do inform me of these instances so that I can take remedial action!

    I should add, as I recently did on McGrath’s blog, that I am serious in my request for you to alert me to any instances of misinformation etc on my blog. Thus when R. Joseph Hoffmann alerted me to where I had misrepresented a claim of his, I immediately corrected it prominently and publicly.

    And here is Joel’s response:

    blah blah blah.

    See, I don’t have a post-graduate degree, so I don’t have to waste time being nice.

    Pick a post, look at the comments section where either myself, irishanglican or Steph have attempted to interact with you and there is your answer.

    Here now we have even Joel Watts pretending to be a James McGrath and actually claiming that even HE has “attempted to interact with” me! Anyone who missed the intellectual depths of Joel’s interactions with me can catch up with them here.

    What sorts of people are these Christian scholars/bloggers? How on earth do they maintain any respect in the community? Joel is effectively saying he doesn’t have to waste time being honest or truthful when saying anything about me!

    Are these the sorts of guys who in another time and place would have freely and without conscience killed atheists or other critics of their faith?

  • 2010-07-10 07:56:19 UTC - 07:56 | Permalink

    Hi yes I ran into trouble with this guy because I published an email that a professor in England sent to one of our researchers acknowledging that there were problems with Stephen C Carlson’s methodology in the Gospel Hoax. It was one of the most ridiculous chapters in my life. I got an email from a woman who didn’t identify her relationship with said professor telling me to do this and that or else. When I told her to buzz off the next thing I know I get this hate post at the churchofjesusantichrist.us characterizing me as the equivalent of child molester.

    Yes, he has a large readership. Much larger than my blog or anyone else. But so what? One of the keys to his success is to vilify people who don’t belief in the ‘church of jesus christ’ HIS version of history.

    Its true. If you look at his site he basically recycles news items that he must get from a feed. He talks about ‘praying’ for this or that. But there is very little original or insightful opinion.

    There’s a bigger market for what he delivers everyday than new stuff no one ever heard of before.

    But I mean this man has no conscience because it’s one thing to have debate with someone on your blog. But he would not allow comments and then allow others to make arguments appear disjointed.

    I am told he is really overweight which is fine. I don’t have anything against eating per se (lol) but being as obese as he is usually the sign of some inner psychological turmoil. Evidence suggests that obesity has more than one cause: genetic, environmental, psychological and other factors may all play a part.

    I’d like to play the solemn hypocrite like he likes to pretend to be with his ‘flock’ and say ‘we should pray for him’ but his life is punishment enough for him.

    I mean he reads the fourth century Church Fathers – that’s his specialty. He knows that the ascetic ideal was everything to these people. Being some massive sarkic monster was always a clear sign of sinfulness. He knows that. The monks wore girdles for God sake to avoid becoming like Joel Watts.

    Again, I have no problem with people that might have a weight problem. But people who study and revere ascetic literature while eating Haagen Dazs bars and fried chicken are screwed in the head. It’s that simple. Like the albino monk in the Da Vinci Code for those playing along at home …

    Like I said we don’t need to pray for this psychopath. Let’s just find his home address and keep sending him food through Amazon Fresh. Maybe he will explode like that guy in the Monty Python movie.

    Oh I forgot they don’t have modern services like that in Charlston, West Virginia. They just getting used to running water and toilet paper right now.

    • 2010-07-10 10:24:36 UTC - 10:24 | Permalink

      Thanks for this. It helps to have something that can maybe help understand such a person. His puerile comments are one thing, but his lack of conscience evidenced in his happiness to knowingly lie pushes my head to the limit — it’s not normal. The only parallel I can even think of is the psychopathic personality with its inability to feel any conscience about doing harm to others.

      Maybe he has indicated his own nature when he has in the past written that I “possibly have a personality defect”.

  • 2010-07-10 11:52:09 UTC - 11:52 | Permalink

    Yep and it was that Steph too. Their behavior is the consequence of not having a creative outlet. “Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong” as Nietzsche once wrote.

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  • 2010-07-10 13:02:10 UTC - 13:02 | Permalink

    Joel’s latest pingback (above — twice! he must really want to link to this post about himself) to this post reinforces all we have been surmising here. His link to my blog (which he infers is the one that is full of lies — again!) is at the comma end of his “yellow journalism” link.

    He has no conscience and appears to be a compulsive liar when it comes to me or atheists or jesus mythicists in general.

  • 2010-07-10 13:35:53 UTC - 13:35 | Permalink

    Don’t bother responding to that FF. That’s what he wants. He wants you to come over to his blog and devour you like a Big Mac and fries.

    I have to admit whenever I think of you food always comes to mind. Hmmm. Sitting in Newton Circus (I know its gone now) having BBQ stingray or Char Kway Teow. Those were the days.

    I have to admit never acquired a taste for Durian fruit. That smell.

    • imarriedaxtian
      2010-07-10 22:34:34 UTC - 22:34 | Permalink

      Hey! Knock it off, Stephan. Newton Circus is still there, albeit renovated and slightly relocated. They marked up the food prices there now, though. The best BBQ stingray used to be at the Zion Road hawker centre. But that’s long gone. Yeah, those were the days. I wish I was still in Singapore so I can buy Neil a beer or six. :-)

      (Sorry about this off-topic comment Neil)

  • 2010-07-12 11:15:51 UTC - 11:15 | Permalink

    Neil, I just went over to the churchofjesusantichrist.us and found all wrapped up in one sentence the cause (or perhaps the consequence) of Joel Watts close-mindedness:

    “Tomorrow, I am going to apply for a passport, and to have it expedited.”

    http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2010/07/sunday-thoughts-711/

    He, like 95% of his countrymen HAS NEVER TRAVELED outside of the United States. Never! Well, maybe to Canada in the days when you didn’t need a passport to leave the country. But think about it. Imagine if your only frame of reference was … Charleston, West Virginia or maybe some other small town nearby.

    That’s it. Never been to Europe. Never been to the Middle East. Never been to Asia. Never had nasi lemak. Never, nowhere outside of the original frame of reference that he was born into the world with.

    I don’t even hate him any more. He’s just plain ignorant. He’s probably trying to do the best he can. He probably loves his wife and children, mom and dad and apple pie. It’s just he has no life experience. He has no frame of reference beyond HIS FRAME OF REFERENCE. That’s why he hates with such intensity people that don’t share his own presuppositions, groups that don’t come from a similar frame of reference.

    I think the best thing we could do is start a drive to buy him one of those round the world tickets. He should see how many ways there are to live, how many ways there are to be.

    It all makes sense now with his confession of a single sentence.

    He’s never had a passport before. That says it all.

    • 2010-07-12 18:29:40 UTC - 18:29 | Permalink

      We are all what we are, leopards and spots and all that. But I wonder if it’s fair to attribute some of the blame for such insular attitudes on closed religious systems, too.

      After I left my faith I acknowledged that I was leaving behind all the stability and moorings of my past life. When I noticed a series of TV programmes on anthropology I devoured every one of them. I knew next to nothing about anthropology, but it wasn’t the academic views that I was interested in quites so much as just observing and coming to acknowledge the vast diversity of human culture and experience.

      I imagine if I encountered such a programme while I was still religiously minded, I might well have merely dismissed many peoples as “degenerate” by bible-cum-western-middle-class standards.

      I had never travelled at that point. But coming out of a system of closed thinking and opening up my mind to the full range of human experience and nature was still a possibility with modern technology. But it was first necessary to jettison a closed system of thought.

  • 2010-07-12 17:24:47 UTC - 17:24 | Permalink

    Yeh, I think many nonAmericans have this stereotypical image of the insular American who scarcely knows other countries even exist, let alone what happens in them or how other people live there, and who also think of the only “good” foreigners are those who agree with them and all others are nondescript or enemies.

    Unfortunately, I’ve also seen people who travel yet never learn to appreciate or understand those they visit. When I visited one of the poorer/est third world countries (Cambodia) that is still recovering from Pol Pot and the Vietnam invasion and ruled by a corrupt government, I cringed in embarrassment when some (American, sorry) tourists loudly demanded to be given pensioner discounts on the tickets to visit a museum! Locals get in for free. Here were westerners wealthy enough to travel demanding loudly a few dollars off tickets to see their cultural heritage!

    They were visiting one of the poorest and most devastated of countries. Such a high ratio of young to old people (the old were killed off), so many orphanages, so many cripples and maimed (mostly war or mine injuries) living on charity, and some of the nicest and gentlest and loveliest people I’ve ever met.

    They represented those obscenely opulent hotels for tourists that stand opposite vacant allotments where some locals live under sheets of thick cardboard and discarded sheets of iron. Some tourists remind me of all the intolerance and arrogance that has been at the root of east-west relations for generations.

  • newtaste
    2010-08-22 22:59:31 UTC - 22:59 | Permalink

    After reading all these comments, all I can do is shake my head. You are very sad.

    Why do you write false posts like this: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/historical-proof-that-isis-healed-more-than-jesus/ when it is clear from passages such as Matthew 4:24-25, 15:29-31, that Jesus did in fact heal many many thousands of people.

    • newtaste
      2010-08-22 23:01:38 UTC - 23:01 | Permalink

      Excellent! Was hoping my picture of the front of the Hillsong building in Sydney would come up on here, and it did … and now it will again!

      • 2010-08-23 11:38:46 UTC - 11:38 | Permalink

        So what is the state of Hillsong now? They were big under Howard and Costello, but have been touched by a bits and pieces of scandal since, I heard.

    • 2010-08-23 02:04:57 UTC - 02:04 | Permalink

      No Newtaste, critical scholarship does not agree that Jesus healed ‘many many thousands of people.’ See for example E.P. Sanders, ‘The Historical Figure of Jesus’ pp.132 ff (chapter on miracles, including healing and magic in the ancient world) and especially the work of Justin Meggitt on the psycho-social context, healing, miracles, magic, Jesus and the ancient world. Another major work of Meggitt’s is forthcoming, ‘Christ and the Universe of Disease.’ For Meggitt’s bibliography,
      http://christianorigins.squarespace.com/publications/

      • 2010-08-23 04:40:56 UTC - 04:40 | Permalink

        Thanks, steph, for the link to Justin Meggit. His piece, “Magic, Healing, and Early Christianity: Consumption and Competition” (The Meanings of Magic, Berghahn Books, 2006) is worth reading. The piece just before it on curse tablets and binding spells looks intriguing, too.

        http://books.google.com/books?id=4wCKdDMFtpMC&printsec=frontcover

        It’s interesting (to me, at least) that in the Synoptics the miracles seem to occur as a matter of course. That is to say, Mark recounts the miracle stories as a way to let you know that Jesus is no ordinary man. He heals, reanimates corpses, multiplies foodstuffs, and tames nature. Mark shows by these events that Jesus must have been the Son of God, even if the dimwits about him don’t get it.

        But by the time we get to Gospel of John, we have a Jesus who isn’t simply healing as a feature of messiahship. He’s actually conscious of the fact that his “wonders” are a sign. Moreover, the primary purpose of the miracle is not the miracle itself, but the fact that it is a sign. John tells us about the blind man receiving sight “…that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

        When the disciples ask why the man is blind — did he or his parents sin? — Jesus says that neither sinned. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” In the Synoptics, it’s implied that sin, demons, and disease (or infirmities) are intertwined. But in this case (the blind man who had not sinned) at least, the focus is on the act of healing as a demonstration of God’s power channeled through Jesus.

        I think John’s community would have been a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus as “Wonder Worker” or “Great Physician.” True, he performed great wonders, but the defining characteristic of Jesus for them was that he was (is) “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

  • 2010-08-23 11:46:46 UTC - 11:46 | Permalink

    Is there any more reason to think Jesus performed miraculous cures (let’s say exorcisms, for example) than that the fictional Solomon did?

    Josephus the historian reliably informs us in Antiquities 8.2.5:


    Now the sagacity and wisdom which God had bestowed on Solomon was so great, that he exceeded the ancients; insomuch that he was no way inferior to the Egyptians, who are said to have been beyond all men in understanding; nay, indeed, it is evident that their sagacity was very much inferior to that of the king’s. He also excelled and distinguished himself in wisdom above those who were most eminent among the Hebrews at that time for shrewdness; those I mean were Ethan, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. He also composed books of odes and songs a thousand and five, of parables and similitudes three thousand; for he spake a parable upon every sort of tree, from the hyssop to the cedar; and in like manner also about beasts, about all sorts of living creatures, whether upon the earth, or in the seas, or in the air; for he was not unacquainted with any of their natures, nor omitted inquiries about them, but described them all like a philosopher, and demonstrated his exquisite knowledge of their several properties. God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return; and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a Foot of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon was shown very manifestly: for which reason it is, that all men may know the vastness of Solomon’s abilities, and how he was beloved of God, and that the extraordinary virtues of every kind with which this king was endowed may not be unknown to any people under the sun for this reason, I say, it is that we have proceeded to speak so largely of these matters.

    I mean, doesn’t the eye-witness testimony of Josephus here confirm that the name of Solomon was used in exorcism rites? And how else can one explain this historical fact apart from tradition going back to Solomon himself?

    Why would anyone make this up about Solomon?

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