2012-10-09

Falling out

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by Neil Godfrey

Recently anyone would think that I have come out and “attacked” and “abused” Acharya S / D. M. Murdock and others when all I have done is allow some discussion in which I insisted that the standard rules of evidence be foundational for conclusions and said that methods that do not follow such standard rules are unscientific.

I have over the years avoided addressing the works of Acharya S / D. M. Murdock for no reason other than that I have never spent much time reading any of them and have had no personal interest in her perspective on things. From time to time someone supporting her views has commented on this blog and I have never had a problem with that. (What I have objected to is when anyone repeatedly comments in a way that indicates they are regularly attempting to evangelize for some particular belief — mostly these are Christian fundamentalists or mystics of some sort. Once I realize what is going on I usually put a stop to their comments.)

D. M. Murdock herself has posted comments on this blog at least three times:

http://vridar.wordpress.com/2006/11/21/the-jesus-puzzle-did-christianity-begin-with-a-mythical-christ-early-doherty-canadian-humanists-1999-review/#comment-5037 — in response I purchased her book Fingerprints of Christ and have browsed through much of it a few times, but I have not seen anything in it to capture my interest enough to write about. I have no problems with its content. It is okay — nothing new from my perspective, I would not condemn it. There are many basic works on mythicism that have little interest for me mainly because I am so familiar with the sorts of things they say and I have moved on from such things. That’s not to say they would not be of interest to others, of course.

http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/earliest-manuscript-of-the-gospel-of-mark-validates-earl-doherty/#comment-23189
and
http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/did-they-really-think-like-this/#comment-30983

I have never banned Murdock’s comments. I have several times expressed my outrage over the abusive insults so many others have directed at Murdock/Acharya and have never indulged in such abuse against her myself. Tim has had the same approach — deploring the way many others have spoken of her with contempt. I have twice expressed my own discomfort with Richard Carrier’s insulting language directed not only at Acharya but others, too. I do not agree with his rationales for it and do not engage in his sort of personally insulting language here. I do not agree with some of Carrier’s efforts to shut down discussions through insult. It is important to provide rational and clear responses to irrational and muddled ideas.

I accepted Acharya’s Facebook invitation to be added as a Facebook friend — though I scarcely ever use Facebook at all for quite some time now. My blog posts, someone told me, are linked there, but that’s all. (She has since removed herself from that status.) I have recently a few times had occasion to speak critically of some of her approaches to things where I have felt it appropriate to do so — but that is not personal abuse.

I was recently prepared to engage Robert Tulip and others in discussion about astrotheology, and I was at some pains to reassure him that my initial scepticism had nothing to do with prejudice. For heaven’s sake, I have been through enough to not be embarrassed or prejudiced against about holding a minority viewpoint. But I have also been through enough to know just how easily I can be wrong about so much. So what is so very important to me is understanding how valid logic works, how we know what we do and how we justify the conclusions we draw from our information. I am never content to rely on secondary sources but always want to understand the primary material any knowledge is based upon before committing myself in discussions such as the ones I address here. I have mentioned in my biographical notes elsewhere the point at which I realized what it was going to mean to attempt as far as I could the path of intellectual honesty.

Now Murdock’s supporters are pointing to one period of my past life to paint me as an ongoing cultist in my thought patterns. They have obviously missed the rest of my biographical details in my “About Vridar” page and also in my recent post, “A Little Biographical Footnote“. It is because of lessons I have learned from my past experience in a cult that I can smell certain kinds of fallacious arguments a mile off.

So yes, method of argument is important to me. How we justify the conclusions we draw is important — more so or at least as important as the conclusions themselves.

I do not rely on secondary literature. I use secondary literature to gain access to new ways of understanding our sources, and that’s why my library and reading has become so vast. One book will often lead me to read half a dozen other books. And I will be studying the primary sources, too, and studies made about them. So when Murdock or others say a certain book is “the definitive” or “must read” answer to a question, I generally do not agree. I will read what others have to say about it — scholarly reviews — as well as read carefully what the author has to say, and I will usually find much more qualifications by the author than found among some over-enthusiastic readers.

So it is with disappointment that I find the following remarks now being spread about me on Acharya/Murdock’s discussion board:

http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1073&start=120

From Acharya herself:


Methodology or cult?

After years of ignoring, banning or making insulting remarks about my work, Neil Godfrey has referred to us here and commented: “They don’t seem to be very nice people over there.” . . . . Should we be “nice” people by simply enduring this derogation quietly for years on end?

The fallacious appeal to “methodology” is simply more of the same lazy excuses. And it also sounds like very cultic behavior, as if one cannot think for oneself. Some “method” must be followed in order for one to be programmed correctly, according to this cultic viewpoint. So many suspicions for our material, but none for the individual(s) trying to get you not to read our information, like a cult leader controlling your mind?

And on http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1073&start=105

I’m gathering that Neil is freaking out irrationally over the intelligent study of the meaning of the myths that we are detecting in the New Testament. . . . Does Neil not know anything about Robert Price’s work on astrotheology, wherein he recognizes several sun gods in Old Testament heroes, including Moses and Samson? Are we supposed to lash out at Bob Price and ignore his work? . . . will Neil freak out on Zindler and exclude him from the mythicist conversation because of his knowledge of ancient astrotheology?

Of course I am aware of the links of Biblical entities with astrological phenomena. But astrotheology is going way, way beyond those in its claims for Christian origins. There may be some link even with Christian origins, but my point is that we cannot discuss such speculations without linking evidence.

From Robert Tulip:

This hangup about explicit sources was the stumbling block that caused me to give up on Godfrey. Obviously, if there were clearer sources, we would not be having this debate now.

That’s Robert’s method. It is not abuse if I describe his approach as unscientific.

And from a “freethinkaluva”

It is YOU, Neil, who is “not listening or engaging with the point of anything.” – you are the one refusing to have a blog dedicated to these issues, REMEMBER? Rather than create a legit blog specifically on the mythicist position for open discussion you’d rather the conversation take place in an off-topic blog – that’s really odd in case you haven’t noticed. Neil, some of the first things you did was ‘poison the well’ many times with comments like von Daniken etc.

You have shown your true colours with your utter contempt and animosity for the science behind astrotheology, which is part of the case for mythicism – a subject that you CLAIM to have an interest in. Yet, you refuse to allow any intellectually honest or objective conversation about it and it most certainly appears that your knee-jerk reactions are possibly due to your own past, which has nothing to do with us or astrotheology.

and

Robert Tulip’s response:

Thanks for sharing this FTL. I had looked for information on Neil’s former cult without success, so it is very interesting to find he was a Plain Truther, a long term member of the Worldwide Church of God. It is obvious that any association with such a crazy organisation would be damaging psychologically, let alone years of membership. It helps to explain Neil’s irrational opposition to astrotheology.

The wikipedia page on Grace Communion International (new name for Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God) is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Comm … ernational

Leaving such a cult is traumatic. It involves recognition that many beliefs you once held as absolute are in fact false. In Neil’s case, it appears to also involve a strong emotional assumption that any claims that are outside current scientific consensus should also be rejected as false.

Precession has been part of scientific consensus since Copernicus defined it as the third apparent motion of the sun 500 years ago. But the idea that precession is central to the formation of religious myth enjoys no such consensus, and in fact is rejected by both science and religion due to its links to astrology. The emotion involved here is so strong that people are unwilling to see the difference between analysis of ancient beliefs and advocacy of baseless speculation.

Neil Godfrey assumes that analysis of precessional motifs in Christianity has the same epistemic status as his former cult. Against such an emotional backdrop, it is little wonder Neil erupts with such bizarre insults and incapacity to engage on facts.

On principle, I will no longer comment on threads where the discussion is off topic for the thread. It appears to be a psychological quirk on Neil’s part, probably associated with his damaging personal experience, that he sees astrotheology as so embarrassing that he wishes to hide it away in comments on unrelated topics. Nonetheless, he has a strange fascination for the topic, even if his interest is veiled in rejection.

Godfrey’s former cult. He’s obviously operating out of fear, rather than knowledge.

http://ironwolf.dangerousgames.com/exwcg/archives/4

And I just noticed this from Acharya addressed to me personally:

I’m sorry that Neil feels that way, but I have been patiently waiting for his hand in friendship for some years now, and he has not been very friendly at all. I appreciate him defending me against others insulting me, but his staunch refusal to entertain my work over the past several years, even with Doherty’s two thumbs up, appears to be a bigoted stance, as it certainly does not seem rational. I have many great articles and forum posts with fantastic information I’ve been digging up for decades in multiple languages, and I’m sure that Neil would appreciate reading them, but at this point I must wonder if irrational bigotry is at work here.

To Neil:

So, I’m sorry you feel insulted, Neil, but so do I, by the biased attitude you, Carrier and others have consistently displayed toward a huge body of work – and, yes, it most assuredly is some of the best, as I dig down to the primary sources in their original languages. This attitude itself has been frankly insulting.

If you don’t like the study of religious ideas and myths dating back millennia and centuries, that’s your prerogative, but we here DO like it – it’s my raison d’etre – so your constant dismissals and ‘tude that whatever mythicist work you are putting out there is so superior to our interests is unnecessarily antagonistic and hostile.

My views incorporate Doherty’s work, which I find to be terrific and which I have supported since 1999 or earlier. I have written a lengthy review of his latest book that received almost two hundred thumbs up on Amazon. I also incorporate the work of anyone else who presents a solid case. I have not found that same spirit of openness directed towards me – on the contrary, I have found bigotry and supremacism at practically every turn.

The haughtiness and snootiness I’ve encountered with this information are often based on irrational ignorance and mindless bigotry; hence, my response. You seem to have a block towards learning about the origins of the myths that you, Doherty, I and so many others are trying to expose. Again, that’s fine if you don’t want to know about these myths, but, once more, we DO want to know about them, and the snootiness and derogation really are not appropriate or constructive.

For example, this comment is a complete and utter lie, reflecting a truly bigoted and ignorant person with an agenda who does not know my work in the least: “she is not coming from the scientific approach to studies.” Such a comment is not only a repulsively disgusting attack on my integrity and credibility, but it is atrociously insulting to my professors and the many intelligent and educated people who HAVE read my work. SHAME ON YOU.

I would be glad to be on a different foot with this issue, but I’m frankly fed up with the years of this Carrier-type BIGOTRY against my work.

I had thought one day to try to address Murdoch’s/Acharya’s ideas after I had found the time to go through one of her books carefully, but I see on her discussion board the same level of intellectual rigour and personal attacks as I find on sites like ChristianCadre or ExplodingOurCakeMix. Maybe I still will keep a review of one of her books on my “to do” list — maybe it would be of some value to some.

18 Comments

  • Phlip Jordan
    2012-10-09 10:20:12 UTC - 10:20 | Permalink

    Here you see a prime example why I always thought that the label “mythicist” is such a useless category, as it combines several completely different positions that are not necessarily compatible with each other. Seeing Jesus as mythical person is not the same as trying to replace the biblical characters and stories with a different set of myths. The only thing that surprises me about this clash is that it has not happened any earlier.

  • 2012-10-09 13:47:48 UTC - 13:47 | Permalink

    Boy, oh, boy. I see “bigoted” is another word that is losing all meaning due to indiscriminate use. Not reading a book you’re sure to appreciate is bigotry? I guess I’m bigoted towards Melville then.

    If Murdock would like to know what is truly a repulsively disgusting attack on her integrity and credibility, I could educate her. Kidding.

  • RoHa
    2012-10-09 14:21:33 UTC - 14:21 | Permalink

    “It is obvious that any association with such a crazy organisation would be damaging psychologically, let alone years of membership.”

    So if you don’t agree, you’re nuts.

    Attributing disagreement to non-relevant and usually non-rational factors is a common tactic. It is a form of argumentum ad hominem.

    If you do not believe the official story offered by our trustworthy government, you are a crazy conspiracy theorist.
    If you criticise Israel, you are a bigotted anti-Semite.
    If you doubt the fashionable global warming story, you are a anti-scientific tool of Big Oil.
    If you are an atheist, it is because you want to live a life of unlimited sin.
    If you are a religious believer, it is because you are afarid of dying.
    Etc.

    And you probably have a medical condition, too.

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/04/21/the-medicalization-of-rebellion

    I would like to say the tactic is used mostly by those who cannot produce counter arguments, but that would be just a similar attribution of motives.

    It is much easier to toss these sort of aspersions around than actually argue the cases on the basis of fact and reason, and it is usually a waste of time trying to rebut them, so as far as I am concernend the thing to do is simply ignore it and keep arguing rationally.

  • 2012-10-09 14:56:07 UTC - 14:56 | Permalink

    It’s becoming quite a joke now that my past experience with a cult is thrown at me if I don’t believe Christianity originated with a paraphrase of the Gospel story and also thrown at me if I don’t believe Christianity began with some sort of astrotheology connection. How come no-one blames my years after the cult spent with mainstream churches like the Catholics, Anglicans and Baptists and others? Or that when a child I used to believe in Santa Claus?

    What astonished me most (I must be still very naive) was the equating of valid “method” of argument with “mind-programming” to reach a pre-determined conclusion!

    I have since had messages attempting to argue (again) for astrotheology on this thread but I have no interest in allowing them a platform of any kind if they openly reject the norms of valid argumentation and the fundamentals of how evidence works in historiography. They have declared themselves outside the room when it comes to scholarly discussion and debate.

    I always suspected that when I did eventually engage with anyone from the astrotheology camp that there would be little real discussion — and that it would come down to the fundamentals of what constitutes a valid argument. But the reaction indicated in the post goes way beyond anything I for a moment expected. I had trusted we would simply agree to disagree and go our separate ways.

    The crazy thing is that I have no idea if there is anything at all to their arguments. I simply ignore them because I cannot see any valid support for them. And asking for evidence that directly supports a hypothesis leads to the sort of hostile reaction I thought was the preserve of the apologists and theologian scholars. Crazy, crazy.

    • Jer
      2012-10-10 11:21:50 UTC - 11:21 | Permalink

      Or that when a child I used to believe in Santa Claus?

      Well if you like, I can start using that one. What do you mean used to believe, you Santa-hating jerk? How can we trust anything you write if you don’t understand that “Santa” is an astrotheological construct. Santa is of course the incarnate Moon, who tours the Earth in a single night raining blessings down on the world. Rudolph is obviously his partner the Sun, and the other 8 Reindeer are clearly the other 8 planetary bodies of our Solar System – “Dasher” is clearly Mercury, “Vixen” is clearly Venus, the rest are equally obvious – do I really need to spell this all out?

      And asking for evidence that directly supports a hypothesis leads to the sort of hostile reaction I thought was the preserve of the apologists and theologian scholars.

      That hostile reaction is common from pseudo-scientists and pseudo-historians. I’ve watched it in action on board dedicated to evolutionary biology discussions and climate change discussions. For added fun I’ve seen it in debates with flat-earthers and plate tectonics deniers and with Holocaust deniers. It’s always the same thing – they have no facts, so they pound the table. Most of the time it’s like you observe here – I’m open to the idea that they might be right, but first they have to show some evidence. They always skip that first step.

      It’s part of the reason I write most theological scholars and “biblical historians” off as crackpots really. They act like evolution deniers and use the same kind of arguments – half the time they sound less coherent than the TimeCube guy and the other half the time they show that they wouldn’t know a Modus Tolens if it bit them in the ear and think affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent are perfectly good inference rules.

      • 2012-10-10 11:54:08 UTC - 11:54 | Permalink

        As someone else recently pointed out to me, we are witnessing a classic case of confirmation bias at work.

        The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.

        So much from them has reminded me of cult-think.

        — They embrace a “besieged-believer” syndrome. They are the victims persecuted for their “righteousness”.

        — They are certainly assertive and clamorous, very dogmatic and declamatory in the rightness of their views.

        — They have superior understanding. I saw something by Acharya S speaking of the “treasures” they find and come to understand in a way others cannot experience. Almost religious. Someone rushes to the forum to report a new exciting find (maybe another reference in an out of print book to another fish symbol from ancient times) and others all say, “wow, yeh!”. One day their “scholarship” will be vindicated and they will put to shame all those today who reject them. They aspire to be recognized as the intellectual equals with the rest of mainstream scholarship. They really believe their beliefs are grounded in superior understanding hidden from the blinded outsiders.

        — There is no middle ground. If I withdraw or do not make their ideas the centre of attention through lack of interest I am seen as suppressing, blocking, attacking them. One is for them or against them.

        — (I know in one case that their other views are fundamentalist-extremist, too — but maybe that’s more a non-American’s perception.)

        These traits are taken from the 10 Characteristics of Religious Fundamentalism.

        PR is very important to them. There is significant attention given to how to present their belief system to overcome potential knee-jerk rejections. All this is how advertisers and cults work.

        I know that cult members have the potential to interpret even the mildest criticism from outsiders as “persecution” motivated by hatred or arrogance, certainly with a strong dash of ignorance. This is exactly what we are seeing from these people now. A couple of them, including their apparent cult-leader, has even told them to stop reading this blog. Now that’s cult-like.

  • 2012-10-09 15:24:26 UTC - 15:24 | Permalink

    Acharya S: “The fallacious appeal to “methodology” is simply more of the same lazy excuses.”

    F. Nietzsche: “The methods, one must say it ten times, are what is essential, also what is most difficult, also what is for the longest time opposed by habits and laziness.”

  • 2012-10-09 22:31:13 UTC - 22:31 | Permalink

    I don’t understand how appealing to methodology could ever be considered fallacious. That’s a real zinger; like when Christian apologists think that appealing to “logic” when discussing the existence of god is somehow fallacious.

    Something can’t be “fallacious” unless there is a methodology that it is deviating from…

  • brettongarcia
    2012-10-10 00:32:13 UTC - 00:32 | Permalink

    Just to make trouble, Dr. McGrath seems to have switched sides somewhat; and is now exhibiting evidence of astrological influence on at least Mandaean Judaism: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/the-sun-of-god.html

    • 2012-10-10 05:39:57 UTC - 05:39 | Permalink

      Mandaeans — not Judaism. This is the same mistake my astrotheology friends were making: just piling up mountains of indications of astrological references and roots in Bible stories — e.g. Samson, David, — and pointing to zodiacal artwork in synagogues — all of which are well-known — does nothing to support the claim that Christianity originated as some sort of astrotheology cult. For all I know it may have, but if so, we are unable to discuss it because we have no evidence to support the speculation. The evidence we do have does have explanatory power in its own right, however.

  • Mitch
    2012-10-10 01:31:22 UTC - 01:31 | Permalink

    Here’s what they’re saying:

    “The “Falling Out” blog at Vrider …

    “Yeah, far too late now Neil, for get it. I especially love how he calls it “Falling Out” when by his own admission there was never an “in” to be begin with since Neil Godfrey himself admitted that he’s never been able to make it through a single page of Acharya’s books. Plus, the fact that Neil was the one tossing derogatory comments at GA, Tat & Robert, such as “von Daniken” etc, and Neil would use assorted distraction fallacies to deny and dismiss responses to his comments or questions; he conveniently left out what he was responsible for in creating this mess, didn’t he.

    Everybody just stay away from vridar. wordpress. com; don’t even comment anymore. It has been a complete and utter waste of time – no sense beating a dead horse. Neil has shown his true colours. Now he’s created a disingenuous blog targeting Acharya and the rest of us here, which does NOT inform his readers of the mess Neil himself created. Acharya never posted over there in the Turton blog, nor did she ever even go over there to read it – she commented on what was quoted here at Freethought Nation.

    So, let me make sure I’ve got this straight, rather than have a legitimate blog discussing Acharya’s work in astrotheology and her mythicist position Neil decides to blog the trash instead? Genius! Do I have that correct or no?

    Yeah, it’s a major disappointment because I figured Neil Godfrey would’ve created an outstanding blog discussing the mythicist position and astrotheology along with great points and great questions and there would’ve been good comments too. I was under the impression he was interested in the FULL case for mythicism – guess not. What I saw instead was an endless stream of knee-jerk reactions, denial and dismissals, assorted fallacies and now a disingenuous blog targeting Acharya and the rest of us while he plays innocent. No need to waste any more of our time – Neil Godfrey has done nothing but ‘poison the well.’ ”

    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=26843#p26843

    ———————-

    Submitted on 2012/10/10 at 1:47 am

    … and here’s the latest:

    “Neil Godfrey is, once again, showing his true colours by taking Acharya’s comment about methodology out of context to ‘poison the well’ as much as he possibly can….

    “Neil, methodology is a good tool so long as it’s not abused, but, the first thing to go out to door on the subject of religion is often basic common sense. There are plenty of flaws in methodologies related to religion and you know that because you have several recent blogs discussing it. So, what we have here is another disingenuous comment.”

    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=26848#p26848

    • 2012-10-10 05:54:48 UTC - 05:54 | Permalink

      Now some are resorting to blatant falsehoods and crazy distortions of what I wrote. I had expected an “agree to disagree so let’s go our separate ways” but nothing as vicious as this. (Anyone can check and see my quotation of what Acharya said about method was not out of context, and they can also go back and see that she did indicate she did read at least one of my blog comments and was not always relying on what others told her.) One of their number has informed me that they are writing their bile on the understanding I will be reading it, so I have no intention of returning to read what they are saying anymore. And here we read a command to stay away from Vridar — and this from the people who have accused me of attempting to control what people read and think.

      I was responsible for creating this mess? I finally took a little time out to raise my concerns and objections to astrotheology. I was by no means abusive at any time, but endeavouring to be informative and reasonable and point out where I believed their hypothesis was logically flawed, attempting to direct their attention to those flaws. I had hoped at the very least for an agree-to-disagree parting. They have admitted their hypothesis is speculative and without “direct evidence” for Christian origins — at the same time turning on me personally like this. I have no time for them anymore. They are not very nice people over there. They are behaving no differently from some theologian and bible scholars I know.

    • terranceb@msn.com
      2013-03-27 06:45:18 UTC - 06:45 | Permalink

      the poster who states that Ms. Acharya never posted at specific websites, knows about this how?

      • terranceb@msn.com
        2013-03-27 06:48:30 UTC - 06:48 | Permalink

        “nor did she ever even go over there to read it” excuse me. how do you know where she’s gone to read and not read?

  • Josh Pantera
    2012-10-11 02:04:15 UTC - 02:04 | Permalink

    I’m trying to understand what religious beliefs these people are promoting? Is there a belief statement at Murdoch’s site because I’ve followed the links but haven’t found anything. I’m trying to understand the blog. Are these people Christians or astrologers or something?

    • 2012-10-11 06:53:23 UTC - 06:53 | Permalink

      Hi “tat tvan asi” — you asked this earlier in a comment I did not let through, but you tricked me this time by attaching a different name and email. The reason I did not think it worth responding to was because the question is nonsense, implying one of a number of false accusations about what I have supposedly said about our what comes across to me like a cult of astrotheology. The belief system promoted — almost religiously or cultishly — by this cult’s members is astrotheology. Confirmation bias is the modus operandi of those of faith seeking evidence to support their faith — the same modus operandi of you, Robert, Acharya and co.

  • terranceb@msn.com
    2013-03-27 06:28:09 UTC - 06:28 | Permalink

    she refers to herself as a scholar. she is not a scholar.

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