Tag Archives: Acharya

Astrotheology, A Religious Belief System (as per D.M. Murdock/Acharya S)

TabulaThe more I have read of the works of Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock) and the more engagement I have had with those who fervently advocate her views the more I have suspected that some form of cult-like belief system lies beneath their surface appearances. Part of the reason for my suspicions has been the vitriolic reactions on their part against any attempt to honestly critique their views and engage them in argument that consistently follows the norms of scholarly or “scientific” reasoning. I have been portrayed in some very colorful terms by both Acharya and those I believe it is fair to say are her followers. In effect I have been lumped together with others as deliberately closed-minded, bigoted and out to lyingly slander them. My record of defending Acharya against some of the worst insults I have read on the web counts for nothing.

Finally one of Acharya’s fairly prominent online supporters, Robert Tulip, has “come out” and made it very clear that my suspicions were right all along. Astrotheology — the view they propagate — is a form of religious belief. They believe as strongly as any fundamentalist that they are right and anyone who does not agree with them after they explain it all is perverse or willfully blind. Expressions of disagreement are interpreted as expressions of hostility or even persecution.

And like religious cults, they curry good relations with prominent or respectable names that they believe will give their cause a benign public face. Anyone with public standing among those they seek to influence and who has had a positive word to say about Acharya’s books is promoted as a witness that they really are a genuinely scholarly (even scientific) group of truth-seekers. I have finally come to believe they are as scientific as Scientology; their efforts to claim to follow the scientific method are a falsehood. I doubt that people like Earl Doherty really do understand exactly what it is their names are being used to support when they insist that such people have made supportive comments about their publications.

My full awareness of all of this did not come quickly. I have hoped my suspicions were not true often enough. If I can be shown to be mistaken I would greatly welcome it and apologize for this post and withdraw it.

What finally led me to give up any remaining doubts I had about their religious or cult status was a series of posts on the EarlyWritings Forum. The most recent of these posts, under the title Loaves and Fishes, were prompted by pressure from a few of us for Robert to demonstrate the scientific or scholarly basis for his rejection of normal (“midrashic”/literary-critical) explanations for the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospels and his belief that this narrative was written as a code of some sort for “astrotheology” beliefs. The result is the epitome of parallelomania (as I have explained this through Sandmel’s definitions a couple of times recently); but the worst part comes at the end when it is made very clear that Robert himself takes his interpretation as a personal belief system along with the fundamentalist-like view that anyone who fails to share his enlightenment is willfully perverse.

Here is Robert Tulip’s explication of the Gospels’ Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. After reading this I finally realized I have been wasting my time taking many of his remarks testifying to an interest in the hypothetico-deductive method at face value. He — and I can only presume the same applies to Acharya S herself — are evidently not interested in scholarly approaches to Christian origins and really are about peddling a quasi-religious type of belief-system.

I have bolded the text that I consider to be the evidence that “astrotheology” as advocated here is indeed a genuine personal belief-system that shuts down any possibility of genuinely scholarly engagement and criticism.

At the end of the post I add a couple of scholarly reviews of David Ulansey’s argument that it was the ancient discovery of the precession of the equinoxes that prompted the rise of Mithraism and possibly even Christianity.

read more »

Book Review: Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth — Reviewing the review

Edited with a few additional remarks 4 hours after first posting.

BartEhrmanQuestHistoricalJesusThis post is a response to Book Review: Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. I read this review before I received my own (Kindle) copy of Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth, so I was dismayed when I began to read the book to find that I had been completely misled as to its character and content. Fear that that same review may influence many negatively towards the contributors of the book is what is compelling me to write this response now. (Apologists like McG are quite eager to lap it up uncritically.)

The review levels five charges against Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth:

  1. “resorting to a personal attack . . . nearly 600 pages of venom and rhetoric . . . full of venom and disgust”
  2. “The title of this volume bespeaks the purpose: it is a series of essays with the intent to character assassinate.”
  3. “And Price’s attempts to link the contributors of the volume, in all, and those who support the so-called ‘Christ Myth Theory’ with minimalism is a void one.”
  4. “Price also gives D.M. Murdock too much credit. He is guilty of inflating her credentials in many respects and, while they are friends, it is distracting. He writes, for example, that ‘her chief sin in Ehrman’s eyes would appear to be her lack of diplomas on the wall’, but that is an oversimplification of what Ehrman argues.”
  5. “Also there is a surprising amount of personal correspondence. Frank produces some 75 pages for his first contribution and more than half of it consists of various email exchanges between Ehrman and himself. This troubles me as I am not so sure that such a move is ethical. . . . In my humble opinion, it is wholly unwelcome that Zindler dedicated so much space to these emails and also formulated a polemical argument around them; it is quite unfortunate that this appears in this volume.”

I’ll address these in reverse order.

5. Unethical email disclosures?

I was shocked to read this and feared that Frank Zindler may have overstepped the mark when I read this accusation. So I was particularly keen to read carefully how Frank does introduce these email exchanges with Bart Ehrman. I was greatly relieved to learn that Tom Verenna’s aspersions were entirely misplaced. Here’s what I found. Frank attaches the following note at the point of publishing the first email response from Bart Ehrman:

I thank Professor Ehrman for graciously having granted me permission to reprint here his messages, provided only that I “acknowledge that they were emails, not written intended for publication.”

I do wonder, however, about the ethics of publishing an image of a personal message from Frank to the reviewer. Did T.V. seek F.Z’s permission for this?

4. Giving D. M. Murdock too much credit?

Robert M. Price, we are told, “inflates” the credentials of D.M. Murdock/Acharya S. read more »

“Christ Conspiracy” chapter 3: The Holy Forgery Mill

This continues my posts engaging with The Christ Conspiracy (CC) by Acharya S/D. M. Murdock. I have had quite a few responses from strong supporters of the astrotheology view argued in this book, all of them hostile, one even threatening legal action. These reactions have all reminded me vividly of my experiences in leaving a religious cult some years ago. The mentality is tribal, cultish, without any ability to accept any criticism or serious questioning of its fundamental belief-system whatsoever. They proclaim their sense of persecution and victimhood like true believing martyrs. Questions are fine if they are asked in a “good attitude”, which means being supportive and not rejecting anything one does not fully understand or completely agree with.

The chapter title The Holy Forgery Mill is subtexted with the quotation “J’accuse!” And that is what the chapter is — one long accusation. I have not read Bart Ehrman’s Forged, mainly because I had earlier read another work, Forgers and Critics by Anthony Grafton, that seemed to say it all anyway. I am sure Ehrman’s work would be similar to Grafton’s in that it would provide readers with facts, cases, evidence, explanations of motives, culture, and so forth. There is nothing like this in this CC chapter, however. read more »

Part 3: Review of Acharya S’s “The Christ Conspiracy”

I decided to review this book after encountering commenters on this blog strongly asserting that Christian origins must be found in “astrotheology”. I had to confess I had never read Acharya S’s or D. M. Murdock’s book arguing for this position, The Christ Conspiracy, completely from cover to cover. I did, however, attempt to point out where the comments presenting this case here were logically fallacious. Each time, however, or at least very often, I was assured that there was “much more” to the argument. So I thought it might be a good idea — at least for the benefit of curious bystanders — to have a closer look at the book that I understand propelled a renewed interest in the apparent astrotheological roots of Christianity.

Unfortunately, the responses of both those earlier commenters, Murdock herself and other of her supporters, have been uniformly maliciously hostile towards me personally. I was regularly chastised for even deciding to review this book at all since it was an “old” book and Murdock has written other things since 1999, in particular Christ in Egypt. But as far as I can see Christ in Egypt does not address, at least not directly, the arguments for astrotheology as the basis of Christian origins. Moreover, that recent book refers its readers more than once (pp, vi, 575, and it is referenced in the index 20 times) to The Christ Conspiracy without any sense of embarrassment. So I think it is fair to say CC still has relevance.

As for the accusations that my reviews are riddled with personal insult and abuse towards D. M. Murdock, I leave it up to disinterested readers to decide their validity. What comes across to me is that Murdock’s supporters and Murdock herself interpret any criticism of their arguments, or any point at all that they deem not to be wholeheartedly supportive, even lighthearted irony and humour, as psychologically deranged personal attacks. Their leader has apparently even called upon them to find all the dirt they can about me — beginning with my past association with the Boy Cubs, or was that my childhood fantasies about Santa Claus? — no, no, I remember now, it was my time spent in the Anglican and Uniting churches after I left a cult, or was it the time I spent in the cult itself, or was it that cult-exit support group I started up for a while afterwards? Anyway, they apparently have my tortured past and my supposedly twisted psychological makeup all sorted out among themselves as a result of these reviews. (I now routinely divert their comments to my spam bin.)

Chapter 2. The Quest for Jesus Christ

D. M. Murdock (she used the name Acharya S on the book) points out the way Jesus Christ has been interpreted and reinterpreted in different ways to meet changing cultural needs. She writes: “Burton Mack says in The Lost Gospel of Q” — the actual title is The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins — that before Constantine Jesus was mainly seen as a good shepherd yet after Constantine as a great victor. Murdock updates this with a wide range of popular images of Jesus today. I have posted on Dieter Georgi’s in-depth study of these changing images of Christ: see How Jesus has been re-imaged through the ages to fit different historical needs. read more »

Review – Part 2 – of Acharya S’s “The Christ Conspiracy”

Chapter one of The Christ Conspiracy [CC] is titled, reasonably, “Introduction”. In this chapter Murdock (known at the time as Acharya S) discusses history. Now my primary love as a student was history. I am still buying and reading books on history — ancient, medieval, modern, western, eastern, global, local. When I travel I often spend ages in a museum presenting the history of wherever I am. I have visited and lived among peoples of diverse races, languages and cultures. I also have a fascination for how the animal kingdom works. I love watching and learning about any number of other species. What I find so educational are the many similarities between us and other species. We are not alone when it comes to violence, savagery, love and sacrifice. Nor, I believe, can anyone isolate beliefs alone as a motivator of human behaviour. Beliefs, rather, may be used to rationalize or excuse behaviour, both good and bad.

Religious beliefs are, we have to face it, as much a “human universal” as are language, jokes, toilet training, tool-making and conflict itself.

So when anyone isolates and blames a single cultural factor, religion, for our crimes I just don’t buy it. Blaming religion alone, even primarily, as a cause of violence, is demonstrating a very shallow, one-dimensional view of human nature.

Sure there are times when religious belief is pernicious and destructive. I like to think we would all be better off without religion. But as Tamas Pataki reminded us, can we be sure that by killing off all the pests in our gardens won’t upset the entire ecosystem?

So when in chapter one of CC Acharya blames religion for the world’s violence and cruelty I cringe a little. Chapter one is nothing but a diatribe against the evils of religion and an identification of religion with evil. Religion is responsible for the inhumanity, the violence, the tortures, the deceptions of this world.

So in this chapter Murdock writes:

no ideology is more divisive than religion, which rends humanity in a number of ways through extreme racism, sexism and even speciesism.

In history classes as early as high school I learned the difference between “religion” and “ideology”, so this sentence confuses me. But she will go further and target Christianity in particular:

Few religions of any antiquity have escaped unscathed by innumerable bloodbaths, and, while Islam is currently the source of much fear in the world today, Christianity is far and away the bloodiest in history.

Murdock wont even let the Communists and Nazis escape the bile of religion. Lenin and Marx were “(religious) Jews”. Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Stalin an Eastern Orthodox. (She doesn’t tell us what Mao or Pol Pot were.) read more »

Review of Acharya S’s “The Christ Conspiracy” part 1

Recently I have been chastised by Acharya S (D. M. Murdock) and some of her followers for failing to give the attention and prominence (one of them wanted to do a guest post on my blog) to their views that they demand they deserve. This followed recent posts and comments of mine in which I tried to explain that I was not particularly interested in their approach to the question of Christian origins, but it also followed my trying to point out to them why I thought their approach to Christian origins was logically flawed and hence unscholarly or unscientific. Their thesis failed adequately to argue against alternative hypotheses and relied mostly upon the fallacy of seeing only what they believed could be used to support their views, and also because they failed to provide any direct or specific evidence to support their claims that ancient astrological or astrotheological views belief systems were responsible for the creation of Christianity.

Consequently I suddenly found myself accused of suppressing and banning astrotheology, of insulting Acharya personally, and of being under the influence of a cult mentality that pre-programmed me to adhere to certain conclusions and rendered me incapable of thinking for myself.

Thoroughly chastened, I have decided to go back and take the time to read more carefully The Christ Conspiracy than I did some years ago and to give it a full-scale chapter-by-chapter review.

Let’s start with the Preface. I take a little time on this because it introduces us to the author of the book and helps us get our bearings as we approach a work that stands outside the resources of mainstream scholarship.

Preface

The Preface is written by Kenn Thomas. I had no idea who Kenn was so I checked out a few sites where he explains himself, including one where he engages in a lengthy radio interview. Kenn Thomas is Mr Conspiracy Theorist Par Excellence and responsible for SteamshovelPress.Com – All Conspiracy – No Theory. Kennedy was assassinated because of what he was about to discover about UFOs. The Middle East riots are instigated by an FBI related plot. I also thought I heard something about “they” who are “trying to take away our enjoyment of life”, too. Most instructive was a moment in a radio interview when Kenn addressed those who reject such conspiracy theories: he could not remember or bring himself to spell out what their alternative explanations were and why they rejected the conspiracy option. read more »

The Facts of the Matter: Carrier 9, Ehrman 1 (my review, part 2)

Let’s sit down and look at the score sheet. Richard Carrier kicked 11 “errors of fact” at the net of Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?

Carrier says he could have kicked many more but that it was getting dark and the referee told him he had limited time.

Since beginning to write this post I have learned Richard Carrier has posted his own reply to Ehrman. But I have avoided reading his response so as to continue with my own thoughts for my own “review” of Ehrman’s book.

Here are the “errors of fact” Carrier kicked at Ehrman’s book, in order:

  1. The Priapus Bronze
  2. The Doherty Slander
  3. The Pliny Confusion
  4. The Pilate Error
  5. The “No Records” Debacle
  6. The Tacitus Question
  7. The “Other Jesus” Conundrum
  8. That Dying-and-Rising God Thing
  9. The Baptism Blunder
  10. The Dying Messiah Question
  11. The Matter of Qualifications

Here are the “errors of fact” Ehrman attempted to defend, in order:

  1. The Priapus Bronze, or Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”) (in a separate post)
  2. The Matter of Qualifications
  3. The Pilate Error
  4. The Tacitus Question
  5. The Dying and Rising God
  6. The “Other Jesus” Conundrum
  7. “No Roman Records”
  8. The Doherty “Slander”
  9. The Pliny Confusion

That means goalie Ehrman stood there texting on his mobile while two went through uncontested:

  1. The Baptism Blunder
  2. The Dying Messiah Question

Keep in mind that these “Errors of Fact” in Carrier’s critique of Ehrman’s book are not the only, nor even necessarily the most, serious faults in Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? But I cannot cover everything in one post so I deal with these before moving on in a future post to the even more significant errors and fallacies of Ehrman’s work. read more »