Category Archives: Uncategorized


2014-02-12

Vridar’s Second Resurrection

by Tim Widowfield
Resurrection Pinacoteka-3

Resurrection Pinacoteka-3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re back!

Did you miss us?

Our recent downtime was self-inflicted. (I know Watts you’re thinking.) But anyhow, we’re on a new server in the Netherlands now, and so far everything seems to be working fine.

 

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2014-02-06

Divine Placebo: A Request to Readers

by Neil Godfrey

Dr Patrik Lindenfors

Dr Patrik Lindenfors, an associate professor at the Stockholm University, has asked me if I would be willing to help him by advertising his crowdfunded research project on this blog. I am honoured to do so and have just sent a donation to help out as well. He’s asking for public assistance because it’s outside his normal area of research.

His university website lists his areas of research and publications. He also has a personal webpage.

His Facebook page contains summaries of the new project.

The following is extracted from his webpage dedicated to explaining the project and the campaign for public assistance.

I propose to review potential placebo effects of religion and how these may explain why religious beliefs and practices are so common across human populations.

In my regular work I am a researcher of cultural evolution at Stockholm University. I have previously authored the books God Probably Doesn’t Exist, which has been translated into seven languages, and “Samarbete“, a popular science book in Swedish about the biological and cultural evolution of cooperation, currently being translated into English.

Now, I want to explore a proposal that has circulated in books and on-line discussions for a while – if there are any placebo effects of religion and whether these may be a partial explanation of the spread of religious beliefs and practices across human societies. . . . . . 

You can read more and find out how to assist on the above links, in particular at the Divine Placebo webpage. Don’t delay though. He’s running out of time.

More from the site: read more »


2014-02-02

Vridar Maintenance: Downtime Ahead

by Tim Widowfield
Caution sign: constructionAreaAuthorized Perso...

Caution sign: constructionAreaAuthorized Personnel Only (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hi, everybody.  I doubt anyone is reading Vridar right now, but in case somebody is, please note that we’re going to be down for a bit.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll be back up soon from a new location.

Hope to see you again soon!


UPDATED at 7:19 UTC

Our attempt to transfer Vridar failed tonight. All changes are on hold. Stay tuned for future updates.


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2014-01-29

Ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:8) — ANNOTATED INDEX

by Neil Godfrey

I’ve added a new page in the side-bar:

IN DEPTH ARCHIVES, Annotated

This is the start of an attempt to gradually go over old Vridar posts and get them organized in some useful manner. We’ll see how it goes. It won’t be completed overnight, though. I’ll keep updating the “updated date” notice each time I add something new. The following post is now in the archives. read more »


2014-01-03

What R. Joseph Hoffmann Does Not Want (Anyone) To Believe About Me

by Neil Godfrey

R. Joseph Hoffmann on his blog The New Oxonian has been complaining about “the language and style” of “mythticists” — those he, Hoffmann, calls “disease carrying mosquitoes” and “buggers” — saying that they, the “mythticists”, lower the tone of the debate. In support of this assertion he has Tim O’Neill along calling mythicists’ arguments “conspiracist gibberish and pure bile”. I would love to ask Hoffmann to give examples of his own (and O’Neill’s) style of insulting language in any of Earl Doherty’s or Robert M. Price’s or Thomas Brodie’s books, but I don’t think he likes me very much and he is very selective about what comments of mine he allows to appear there.

For example, he begins his blog post by saying that this blog, Vridar, is some sort of rallying point for “a clutch of historical Jesus deniers” (deniers??) and that the reason for my role has something to do with my “conservative Christian background”. He was referring to my years in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) though much of the 1970s and 80s. He and his fellow “Jesus Prospect” participants — he once posted a long list of these but to my knowledge only two others have ever posted anything on his blog: Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher. I don’t know any of them personally but all three have psychoanalysed me and concluded I have been left as some sort of twisted mental and emotional cripple from my years in the WCG.

I at first thought this to be a perverse and tendentious reading of everything I have ever published on my experiences with the WCG and how I left that cult and how I managed my life and readjustment after it. So when Hoffmann re-posted the same article I tried to briefly point out to him and his readers that he was being very one-sided in his view of me.

Hoffmann and Casey have attacked my character and person viciously in recent years. That’s a pity, because Hoffmann once complimented a post of mine in which I discussed an article about the “history of Jesus” over the past two millennia. And there was much I liked in his thesis on Marcion. So there was once hope we could hit it off. But I spoiled it by pointing out his inexcusably false accusation of Earl Doherty in one of his print publications on Goguel. I do hate it and am always enraged when I see public intellectuals abusing their status by telling outright porkies. (Some scholars have interpreted this as meaning I am somehow “against all scholars”. Do some really think they are all liars by profession?)

Hoffmann has from time to time continued to go out of his way to direct some insult this way, but I decided this time to try to correct the record when he recycled his year old post. I wrote:

LOL. Oh Hoffy, you are hard up for material, aren’t you. Firstly, I was brought up in a very liberal Methodist church and was most happily in an even more liberal Anglican one before I decided to abandon faith altogether. So what is my theological agenda now that I have posted and support the views of Thomas Brodie who is one of several Catholic scholars who have acknowledged that Christianity can indeed survive without an historical Jesus? Sorry to disappoint you if I am not an angry atheist hell bent on attacking Christianity as you seem to need me to be doing.

Stephanie Fisher (she’s a doctoral student of Casey’s so we must presume she really does have fundamental reading comprehension ability when she tries) jumped in with this:

From minimal research into various Christian cults I would describe the WCG (Worldwide Church of God) as a particularly terrifying fundamentalist Christian cult and one which would take great strength and support to get out of, even leaving one quite bereft and possibly emotionally injured. I would not include ‘happy’ and ‘liberal’ if describing a devotee.

Er, yes, the WCG was certainly not liberal but what did Steph’s comment have to do with what I said?

My pre-atheist and pre-Vridar background

So I wrote the following to try to explain a few facts. Hoffmann deleted the comment. He did not allow facts to get in the way of a good kick-Neil session. I asked him again to post it but he declined: read more »


2014-01-01

NYE Best Wishes

by Neil Godfrey

Best wishes for 2014 for all from Tim and me.

We have had our fair share of blog difficulties this year. They were initiated by one of those Bible scholars we are told so often are such terribly very nice people. Thanks to Tim Vridar was moved to a new site where we are no longer at the mercy of server owners who are prepared to act precipitously on the whims of disgruntled members of the body of Christ. Tim has also been responsible for troubleshooting the difficulties we had since our move and regular readers would have noticed a steady improvement in the interface and loading times. Unfortunately we have learned that our new server does not offer the quality service it used to give — we were down for some hours earlier today — so Tim will be moving us once again soon to a new site with lots of promise governance-wise and technically.

So a special thanks to Tim as well as to all readers who have continued to appreciate some of our posts, critically and otherwise.


2013-12-28

Vridar Maintenance — Caution: Construction Zone

by Tim Widowfield

Watch your step

Loader in viaduct replacement construction zone

Loader in viaduct replacement construction zone (Photo credit: WSDOT)

Hey, everybody. I just wanted to warn you that at various points throughout the weekend, I’m going to be tinkering with the blog. We’ve been having quite a bit of trouble with WordPress performance, and it’s possible that the root cause is our antiquated “Rubric” theme.

So if you see Vridar with a new, strange skin, don’t panic. Don’t start thinking that some portly theology student has taken us down with another fraudulent DMCA claim.

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2013-12-26

Theology and the Historical Jesus

by Neil Godfrey

Peter Kirby has posted thoughts on the meaning of the question of the historical Jesus for Christian theology: see  Theology and the Historical Jesus. What he writes dovetails with recent posts here explaining why Thomas Brodie believes Christianity can and should thrive with a Jesus figure who stands beyond history. Peter shows Brodie is not alone in this view. He goes further, however, introducing readers to what the question means from different faith/theological perspectives.

 


2013-12-24

A Christmas Thought

by Neil Godfrey
abstinence_fullpic_artwork

http://www.snorgtees.com/t-shirts/abstinence-99-99-effective

From http://www.snorgtees.com/t-shirts/abstinence-99-99-effective


2013-12-22

Richard Dawkins – Appetite for Wonder

by Neil Godfrey

As if on cue — given some recent discussion and a significant point of my previous post . . . .

 

HT ICH . . . .

read more »


2013-11-13

The Late Invention of Polycarp’s Martyrdom

by Neil Godfrey

I’m currently reading The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, by Candida Moss. (See her Wikipedia entry for her credentials and links to several reviews of The Myth of Persecution.) One aspect of her discussion of Polycarp’s martyrdom struck me more than the details alerting us to the fictional elements of the account, and that was the evidence suggesting our account of his death was composed a hundred years later than commonly thought.

One piece of evidence is the sub-narrative about Quintus, a clear foil for the true martyr, Polycarp. Of Quintus we read:

Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily [for trial]. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up [to suffering], seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do.

Quintus was one who rushed to martyrdom. He believed Christians should actively seek out martyrdom. Yet his position is shown to be a complete sham once he confronts reality, and he departs the faith instead.

Candida Moss comments:

Some years after the death of Polycarp, around the turn of the third century, voluntary martyrdom became an issue in the early church. Clement of Alexandria, for instance, a Christian philosopher and teacher in Egypt, argued that those who rushed forward to martyrdom were not really Christians at all, but merely shared the name. (p. 101)

It may be significant, too, that Quintus is singled out as a Phyrgian. It was in Phrygia that the anarchic Montanist movement began from around 168 CE. The Montanists were notorious for their wild prophetic utterances and zealous seeking of martyrdom.

The problem of suicidal volunteering for martyrdom was a phenomenon of the late second and third centuries. Polycarp was supposed to have been martyred 155 CE. read more »


2013-11-01

The clergy are still fighting viciously to prevent the people from having . . . .

by Neil Godfrey

richardjeffersonA passing comment by Professor Richard Jefferson at an Open Access and Research Conference today struck me as very amusingly pertinent to today’s crop of theologians and other biblical scholars. Paraphrased, it was something like this:

The history of religion has had one constant: the clergy have fought viciously to prevent the people from having direct access to the answers.

And it continues today, though I doubt RJ was aware of what many readers of religion blogs have come to learn. But we know that even today the most venerable scholars of God and The Good Book frown severely down upon mere lay folk from daring to draw their own conclusions directly from their own readings of the sources and the scholarly pronouncements upon them. It is the lay person’s job to revere the opinions of the scholars — no matter that scholars are not agreed with one another or that they give contradictory reasons for believing or assuming what they all believe or assum

The people cannot be trusted to make tentative judgments or entertain honest questions about the fundamentals. Even the non-theological scholars of the Good Book warn the laity that they cannot handle the depths of necessary knowledge in ancient languages or sophisticated historical methodologies that require great finesse of intellectual tweaking in order to come to the “right conclusions”. read more »


2013-10-30

How would Jack Andraka ever be recognized if his interest were Biblical Studies?

by Neil Godfrey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Andraka

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Andraka

Imagine a sixteen year old high school boy relying entirely upon Google, Wikipedia and freely available online scholarly publications claiming to have found a new explanation for Christian origins that was radically different from anything proposed to date. I suspect he will be ignored. If he makes enough noise to attract some popular attention he will be dismissed as a crank.

How could it be any different? Biblical studies are fundamentally ideological.

It is different in the hard sciences where tests for correctness can be devised to give an objective result open to all to see and accept. In the field of cancer research it is quite possible for a sixteen year old high school boy relying entirely upon Google, Wikipedia and freely available online scholarly publications to devise “a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure.”

The result of his project was a new dipstick type diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer using a novel paper sensor, similar to that of the diabetic test strip. This strip tests for the level of mesothelin, a pancreatic cancer biomarker, in blood or urine, to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. The test is over 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin. According to Andraka, it is also 168 times faster, 1/26,000 as expensive (costing around three cents), over 400 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests, and only takes five minutes to run. He says the test is also effective for detecting ovarian and lung cancer, due to the same mesothelin biomarker they have in common. [Wikipedia article]

199 out of 200 scientists whom Jack Andraka approached asking for the assistance to conduct put his theory to the test rejected his idea. read more »


2013-10-27

Another Islamic study: John the Baptist, not Jesus, was Crucified

by Neil Godfrey

If anyone was upset at Reza Aslan’s book Zealot, a fairly tame view of Jesus by standards of orthodox biblical studies, they will self-destruct when they hear about another Muslim’s take on Jesus. . . .

Agron Belica has already written The Crucifixion: Mistaken Identity, John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. This work was preceded by a warm-up preface of sorts: Deliver a Messiah: Mistaken Identity. The book being advertized through Salem-News is The Passion of the Baptist, Not the Christ.

It’s interesting to look at the way the book is being promoted. I first was made aware of it through Gilad Atzmon’s regular newsletter. His blog post repeats what that contained. Atzmon finds it interesting just as Richard Dawkins was interested to hear Joseph Atwill’s thesis on the Roman invention of Christianity. It’s a harmless curiosity. I don’t believe either of these men will take either of these ideas and shout them from rooftops with conviction. They’ll simply take them as an interesting set of ideas to speculate about.

That won’t stop Fox interviewers or mainstream biblical scholars and theologians from going ballistic, however. If any of them take notice I can hear already their offended cries: But Agron Belica is not one of us! He is not trained in our schools! Therefore he is not qualified to write what he does and we think everyone should scoff at the book and insult its author and avoid reading it.

What is different about this work is that it is apparently based on a study of three pillars:

  • Gospels
  • Josephus
  • Quran and other Islamic texts read more »