2011-03-09

Vridar Readers and Vridar Futures

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by Neil Godfrey

Well I can now more or less say that on the basis of a poll that contained a sample of over a 100 responses (I cannot affirm that there were 100 respondents) that I set up about a week ago that slightly fewer than 40% of the readership of Vridar identify themselves as “mythicists” in the sense of believing that Jesus was not historical in the sense of being a real person who acted out his career in first century Palestine.

Half the readers are either believers in the historicity of Jesus or undecided.

I find the results encouraging to the extent that such results would indicate I have at least some success in building this blog into (primarily) a means of publicly sharing and discussing a range of views and studies from the scholarly literature that I think have potential interest for anyone seeking to understand the issues, yet who has not had the opportunity to encounter some of the scholarly studies that do not make it so frequently to the wider public. Of if they do make it to the wider public (e.g. Spong), they can often be partly obscured by the consistently negative public pronouncements of more “mainstream” scholars. (I was about to say “conservative” scholars but got into trouble from a number of Americans the last time I used that adjective — it has connotations in the U.S. it seems that I am not fully aware of.)

Part of the evidence for that is that readers are not predominantly seeking to feed themselves on arguments that are anti-establishment or that fuel preconceived prejudices. A few readers (one quite recently) have even “complained”(?) that they feel some sense of incompleteness with my posts because I do not come always down decisively for or against a particular point of view.

I do recognize from my own exchanges with a few others that I do frustrate some of them by not often arguing in black and white. But I am an amateur and post as I explore. Though I have had the lucky opportunities to read a little more than many other lay people.

Being very conscious of how my own views have changed over the years, and how views I once held after being so sure I had investigated them so thoroughly yet that I later found to be baseless, I sometimes feel uncomfortable when someone does ask me for my view on this or that. My immediate thoughts are to think “What difference does my view make?” What counts is what people do with the evidence and how they can justify their arguments themselves. My views change as I learn more. I do not have the time to explore the arguments to the extent I would like.

I really do hate debates per se. I cannot see their point. The adversarial system is something that may be justifiable in a courtroom setting of some nations, but I prefer to explore ideas and understand issues in a cooperative and stimulating environment, always open to correction and advice, and always painfully aware of the tentativeness of any views held at any one time.One of my biggest objections to a number of mainstream scholarly approaches is their evident lack of humility, their arrogance and pig-headed refusal to admit even fundamental logical error. I am not accusing “mainstream scholarship” of being like this. Obviously not. Look at how many mainstream scholars I have discussed and referred to positively. Some I have discussed in depth over many posts, if not in total agreement, many times very favourably, and I don’t think any are “mythicists” at all.

So next time someone says that Vridar is just a blog for mythicist groupies or some similar rot I suppose I can point to this poll.

But my life circumstances are changing once again, and I am going to have to change the pace of posts to this blog. It has actually slowed down in the past few weeks already.

I have, with some help and valuable advice from people like Rich Griese (who I am sure I have frustrated by not being more quick to respond to all his suggestions) worked to get this blog to become a little noticed in the internet world.

But to do any more, to continue to “grow” it, would mean I would have to dilute it. I would have to continue to post several times a day, usually about ‘interesting’ things perhaps but things that are hardly meaningful. I see at least three blogs now have regular “depravity” type posts. I refuse point blank to follow the tactics of certain rag newspapers to boost readership. And it really does depress me to see my stats go through the roof whenever there is some altercation with James McGrath. Blood-sport spectators are not the ones I really want to feed.

I am currently looking at one or two different options for where I might steer this blog in the future now that I no longer have the time to produce in-depth posts as frequently as I used to. Will follow those up in the coming days and weeks.

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Neil Godfrey

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12 Comments

  • 2011-03-09 08:39:46 GMT+0000 - 08:39 | Permalink

    I should have pointed out in my post that within the last four weeks there have been over 50 different persons (about 55 different IP addresses and names) who have posted comments on this blog. Obviously some do more so than others, but the range of points of view is, I might almost say, catholic. This also says something about the nature of this blog, I think.

    I’m pleased others find this a place where so many can raise a diversity of viewpoints. (Sometimes till now I have found I have been unable to keep up with every comment, unfortunately.)

  • Bob Carlson
    2011-03-09 08:56:19 GMT+0000 - 08:56 | Permalink

    (I was about to say “conservative” scholars but got into trouble from a number of Americans the last time I used that adjective — it has connotations in the U.S. it seems that I am not fully aware of.)

    For conservative (i.e. Republican) American politicians who wish to run for the presidency, it is necessary to pander to the vast numbers of Evangelicals; they could not hope to win a presidential election without their support. This pandering has just begun in Iowa in preparation for the 2012 attempt to prevent re-election of President Obama, and those hoping to be contenders for the Republican nomination are professing their religiosity. Evangelicals aren’t scholarly sorts, which tends to make “conservative scholars” seem oxymoronic. Another contradiction is that while Evangelicals profess to be followers of Jesus, they tend to fail miserably in living up to the ideals that believers suppose Jesus to have professed, as is pointed out in a recent article titled Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.

    • 2011-03-09 09:14:52 GMT+0000 - 09:14 | Permalink

      Since my student days I have always associated “conservative” with Edmund Burke and accordingly seen the concept as essentially progressive. It’s about change with due acknowledgment of and accommodation to the past. Obviously it has a different meaning in U.S. public life.

      The influence of evangelicals is as scary as some of the stories we hear about politics in some nations that are not part of the modern industrialized world.

      But I also question how much of the “influence” of evangelicals should better be understood as “exploitation” of the evangelicals by less devout leaders who find opportunities to garner support for their agendas by turning up the volume of these voices in public life.

      • Bob Carlson
        2011-03-09 13:34:34 GMT+0000 - 13:34 | Permalink

        Article IV of the US Constitution has a paragraph stating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” but it is essentially ignored by politicians in both of our major parties. Unless and until that changes, someone like Australia’s current Prime Minister, who has admitted not believing in God, could never be elected President of the US. This is reinforced by the outmoded US Electoral College which requires presidential candidates to carry a majority of states rather than just the majority of all the votes in the country. That allows the the more sparsely populated and more politically conservative (i.e. more religiously fundamentalist) states to prevent the country from being as progressive as it otherwise would be.

        • 2011-03-10 18:36:14 GMT+0000 - 18:36 | Permalink

          Ah yes indeed, I have never forgotten my studies of the Federalist Papers and James Madison’s fear that democracy would threaten the rights of the minorities, meaning quite explicitly the minority of the rich. Hence the safeguards of the ‘republic’ that would ensure the bulk of the rulers would be elected from the “better” classes.

  • 2011-03-09 14:11:50 GMT+0000 - 14:11 | Permalink

    I can only speak for myself, but I would guess that most of us who read Vridar would prefer quality over quantity. For the longest time I’ve wondered how you manage to maintain the high quality and quantity.

    Whatever your decision for the future of Vridar, thanks for the excellent body of work, which I’m still catching up on.

    • 2011-03-10 18:52:44 GMT+0000 - 18:52 | Permalink

      Most of my stuff has been in my head for years and it’s only since the invention of the blog that I’ve had an opportunity to let it all out, or to apply those thoughts to a more recent publication. I could see I was never going to get a chance to do the reading required to get things clear enough to write a book, so why not spill it out on the fly here. I began serious study in the last decade of the last century, and owe a lot to the opportunities I had back then to contact authors of certain publications and ask them directly online (email, discussion groups) questions that their works raised in my mind. Whenever I have an opportunity to do a post it’s simply a matter of picking up one of my books or printouts and reviewing my notes on it. I have been a good customer to many second hand bookstores world wide via bookfinder.com.

  • 2011-03-09 10:28:49 GMT+0000 - 10:28 | Permalink

    Dear Neil,

    You do a great job. Your blog is in my top 5 to read regularly. I certainly enjoy your approach to the subject. And I also enjoy your posts that talk about your adventures with the religion industry in general.

    BTW, if you have not yet sen this site, it’s one you might enjoy. It is apparently Paul Kurtz latest project; …. humanismtoday.org/ [Link no longer active, 14th August 2015, Neil]

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

  • Matt Mc
    2011-03-10 22:21:23 GMT+0000 - 22:21 | Permalink

    As a semi-avid reader (life is busy), let me just say that Rich Griese is the one that got me to your site in the first place. Being a former Protestant (Catholicism was a four-letter word in my house), I started down my own path of honest research during high school but until I found Rich randomly in an IRC room, I doubt I would have learned what I had when I had. Nor would I have been thrust into the world of his own top 5 blogs. I find your work to be compelling, your research intense and necessary, and your commentary sincere and complimentary. I think more people out there should take the same candor you do of being interested for the sake of it and to not take their own opinions too seriously. Share your research and your thoughts on it and keep yourself away from the black and white. You’re a model of what I’m trying to become (which is hard being raised by people who thought they were right even though they keep being wrong). So, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do and know that you have a few fans from around the globe (Northeast US).

  • DadaLives
    2011-03-11 10:51:24 GMT+0000 - 10:51 | Permalink

    Neil,

    I’ve been following your blog for about 6 months now. I don’t comment, simply because I’d rather here what other people have to say and I don’t, quite honestly, have the background to add much to the discussion.

    I suppose that I am one of those that first came to your blog based on your debates with Mr. McGrath. Someone (I don’t remember who) posted a link to the discussion on FRDB. So, I am one that likes to follow a good debate. However that may be, I’ve stayed an avid reader of your blog not because of the occasional flare ups, but because of the very interesting content you post.

    You (and your commentators) have given me many fascinating things to ponder over…and I’m lovin’ it!

  • 2011-03-11 18:20:39 GMT+0000 - 18:20 | Permalink

    In response to comments 5 and 6 above — it is very encouraging to read such comments, particularly given that they are from hitheto unknowns. It’s good to read that there are people like yourselves among the impersonal statistics that are sent to me. Glad you both spoke. Will try to maintain the energy to keep this going a little longer yet.

  • John Keisar
    2011-03-11 20:34:14 GMT+0000 - 20:34 | Permalink

    I’ve been reading your blog for several years (but haven’t made any comments till now). I find your insights highly informative and eye-opening. I don’t say much because, well I’m really shy by nature and simply don’t know enough about the subject to put forward any meaningful ideas. Over the past few years I’ve bought just about every NT critical book out there and have only read about 3 out of 300. I’ll be browsing this site until the day you pass from old age. Keep up the good work Neil, you never cease to amaze me:)

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