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:
/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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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