What is the probability (think Bayesian if you like) that any scholar, any author, any person, has nothing to say that is worth an honest response or engagement? How likely is it, really, that a person who holds a view that you strongly disagree with is also a person of such a bad character that you can never imagine in them a single redeeming quality?
Can you really know that a person who is arguing something you find detestable is also insincere, a hypocrite, driven by some pernicious secret motivation?
When you see a person you don’t like react or act in an uncivil or unprofessional or even dishonest manner, does it follow that everything that person is on record as doing and writing is also dishonest?
There’s another side to this question, too, of course. Someone once said to me that “mythicists must stick together”. I disagree. We all must be honest with each other and with those who we disagree with or engage with in any way at all.
A little while ago I posted that the debate between Hurtado and Carrier had become unpleasant. The unpleasantness went well beyond Hurtado and Carrier themselves. Several other scholars posted very nasty accusations, outright dirty insults, against both Carrier and anyone who went along with his ideas.
I said there are two sides to this question, but right now the fault is primarily on the side of those opposing Carrier. I find it very difficult to read a critical comment on Carrier’s book that does not at some point declare that they believe Carrier to be a liar or a hypocrite when he says something that might be construed as a positive point in favour of his motivations and interest in the debate. No evidence is required for the motivation imputed except the fact that what he said is not what we believe or want to believe to be true.
If Carrier makes an argument for a point that we believe is going too far or is ill-informed then it seems to give us licence to ignore all the rest of his arguments or to bracket them all as equally fallacious.
No-one has to like Carrier as a person. But I am sure we don’t seriously believe that everyone we dislike is simply bad in all their ways and in every fibre of their being, a total arsehole in every imaginable way and situated beyond the ability of any decent society to accept them. Yet that is the impression that one begins to gain when one reads of criticisms of Carrier’s work. It’s all bad, all of it, nothing good in it at all, every argument is either absurd and/or fundamentally motivated by deception.
I think when we get to that point about anyone’s work we ought to be honest with ourselves and admit we are being unreasonably hostile, unreasonably biased, or simply unfair.
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31 thoughts on “Is there anything good to be said about Richard Carrier?”
I’ve been caught up in the “insult fever” that sometimes goes along with biblioblogging in the past. I feel really bad about that. I’ve tried to offer my sincerest apologies for behaving so immaturely and am trying to be a better person.
Agreed. But for what it’s worth, Carrier has better hair than Hurtado. Besides, what do we honestly expect from someone who has ‘Hurt’ in his name?
Don’t like the message?
Shoot at the messenger.
Carrier’s doing himself no favors.
When your first response to a negative review of your book is, ‘I only just got around to reading it, as I was too busy celebrating my birthday having group sex with my many girlfriends’, when you insult the intelligence of, and label a ”liar”, all who disagree with you, when you throw a hissy fit that people refuse to abide by your doctrines, you really don’t deserve much sympathy when your opponents get nasty back.
Regardless of whether one finds something of value in Carrier’s work, his combativeness, pettiness, and vindictiveness have made him a persona non grata. He’s an embarrassment to mythicism. His antics eat up limited bandwidth, and his unseemly behavior makes it hard to call out unseemliness in others.
At some point, a person’s anti-social behavior negates anything else they might bring to the table, and they should be cut loose. Richard Carrier is well beyond that point.
Matt, your comment is the kind of misinformed channeling or all the nonsense that the anti-Carrier forces want the public to think.
Nothing that you said justifies Gullotta’s incompetent essay on Carrier’s book or the malicious insults from Hurtado, McGrath, Bird, West and others.
Yes, Carrier makes himself look like a tosser in the eyes of probably many readers every time he posts something again about his sexual interests, activities and requests. But he at least has the good sense to not include any of that stuff in his book or when he debates mythicism.
Yes, Carrier sometimes calls a person a liar BUT I have not seen any evidence to justify the “lie” that he labels “all who disagree with” him as “liars”. That is simply so not true but it is the sort of lie that the Hurtados and McGraths like to maliciously spread. Nor have I seen any justification for characterizing him as “throwing a hissy fit” when “people refuse to abide by his doctrines”. Have you actually taken the time to read one of Carrier’s responses from start to finish?
Have you actually read the outright falsehoods and unprofessional treatment of the Hurtados, the Ehrmans, the MacGraths and co — can you honestly say they are somehow “getting nasty back” at Carrier? Of course not. They were unprofessional (to put it mildly) from the get-go. Carrier responded by zeroing in on their flaws, quite correctly. But he exposed himself to their return fire when he called them at times of being “liars”.
But not even Carrier goes around calling “all who disagree with him” liars. That is a blatant lie that serves the interests of the anti-Carrier forces who have expressed no hint of openness to a genuine discussion about mythicism at any time whatever. They are looking for excuses to bury Carrier and Carrier has been unwise enough to give them opportunities.
If you want to read combativeness, pettiness, vindictiveness, read Casey, McGrath, Hurtado…. And no, I don’t mean when they are responding to Carrier’s lack of civility, but when they are talking about his book.
One reviewer, Christina Patterson, had to acknowledge that Carrier was going to some pains to explain the reasons he had no vested interest in whether Jesus was a myth of not. How could anyone fault such claims? Easy! It’s Carrier. So just call him a lying hypocrite! That’s how the game is played by the anti-Carrier brigade.
I try not to use the term “liar” here on Vridar. Better to point out gross incompetence rather than accuse someone of outright malice.
I recall all the untrue things that Maurice Casey wrote about us in his last book. He wasn’t, I don’t think, “lying.” He was just a sad, lazy old man with very specific pockets of competence (his Aramaic hobby horse). When we pointed out how wrong he was, he lashed out incoherently.
That people still take that book seriously is a wonder. I don’t know what’s more shocking — that a “scholar” would write a hit piece on a couple of unknown amateurs or that he would do it so badly.
McGrath, too, is not so much a liar as a knee-jerk protector of the status quo. He, too, has extremely narrow abilities, and is easily stung when it’s pointed out to him. He could be more charitable, though. After all, he’s parlayed his marginal competence into a pretty good gig.
But as for Carrier, I would encourage him to react with mock pity rather than mock anger. These fools hate to be pitied. It feeds into the impostor syndrome they all wrestle with.
For Hurtado, Carrier was clear he didn’t think he was lying, just incompetent.
He’s too quick to call someone insane, but usually only calls someone a liar when they are making claims that are demonstrably untrue.
Wow, I just came across this due to following DB’s recent comment on this thread. My characterization of Carrier’s propensity to label his interlocutors as “liars” is not far from the truth:
William M. Briggs:
Stephen Unwin & Richard Swinburne:
To his own commenters:
This sampling just scratches the surface.
But carrier doesn’t just say “He’s a liar”, he shows why the person is wrong and why they should know. Many of the examples are people who claim things about him or his book that are not true. If someone says “Carrier failed to mention X”, but Carrier has several pages discussing “x” in great detail, liar is a perfectly accurate description.
There are many other examples where Carrier doesn’t call someone a liar. Generally when thy don’t misrepresent him or what he claims, and when they don’t make other false calims that are easily demonstrated to be false with a little effirt
It is one thing to call someone a liar in a private conversation but another thing to call them that publically before an audience who is undecided and/or already influenced by all sorts of innuendo and insults etc. Words need to be chosen carefully if one wishes to avoid only giving fuel to one’s opponents. Anti-Carrier scholars and lay people have already made it abundantly clear that Carrier has a reputation for intemperate language and accusing his gainsayers of being liars. So if Carrier wishes to turn the opinion of those who are open to being persuaded otherwise he does not want to dig in and justify his language (however justified his arguments are — he has already lost the support of the middle ground and given more ammunition to his critics) but he needs to respond to outrageous charges in a manner that is deemed appropriate in professional scholarly circles. Let his critics, by contrast, be seen to be behaving unprofessionally instead.
There are ways of avoiding the accusation “liar” and still making one’s point: some scholars have the gift of doing it with humour and making their critics look foolish for not having read what they think they criticize. We don’t all have that type of personality but we can still calmly and matter of factly point out the gross errors in a criticism in a calm and professional manner without resorting to character attacks.
Let the bystanders decide on the basis of what is said and how it is said who is at fault and, quite possibly, blindly biased or intellectually dishonest.
I know from experience how hard it can be. It’s worth the effort, though.
Carrier gave an interesting interview today here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w3ppNIm41U . My favorite part of the broadcast today was when Dr. Carrier talked about The Noble Lie Theory of Paul’s conversion story. This begins at 1:10:41 of the video and goes for about 5 minutes. Also, on his Twitter feed today Carrier commented that, regarding the general Noble Lie Theory of Christian origins: “I discuss it briefly as indistinguishable from the schizotypal cult hypothesis in Element 14 of On the Historicity of Jesus. It’s plausible but so is the schizotypal cult hypothesis. And it can be any combination, too (as some apostles claim visions for the social movement).” If anyone is interested in following up on the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins, I have an entire thorough blog post dedicated to the topic here: https://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html
Some odd characters had crept into your blog link. Have fixed it now.
I found two interesting quotes about Carrier. Ehrman humorously said that:
Tim O’Neil agreed with this characterization, saying:
Further evidence that neither Ehrman nor O’Neill are prepared to respond in a civil and scholarly manner to the very real and valid criticisms of their arguments, preferring instead to respond with ridicule and insult.
Yes, Carrier makes himself an easy target with his own inappropriate language. But as I have attempted several times now to point out, the appropriate response to that sort of language (whether by Carrier or his opponents) is to shift to the high ground and ignore it and zero in on the arguments alone. Scholars can and do this. One always enjoys a response to sarcasm that is worded in gentlemanly (or ladylike?) grace with humour and understatement.
The odd thing about Carrier is that if you watch video of his debates, he is the most civil, well mannered guy you could ever want. When he blogs he turns sour. Oh well, smart people are often some of the most eccentric.
“Whenever he blogs he turns sour”
Surely you mean “Whenever he blogs responses to people who have attacked or carelessly misrepresented him he turns sour.” A simple perusal of his blog posts will show he does not turn sour “whenever he blogs”. Let’s be fair.
In debates the discussion of his opponents is generally on target and not a character attack against Carrier.
(No, I am not justifying Carrier’s sour turns in response to malicious attacks. I fully understand them. I just wish he would respond with the moral high ground and not continue to make himself an easy target.)
This is kind of interesting. Carrier, apparently irritated with Ehrman’s refusal to debate him (because of Carrier’s childish behavior), has participated in a mock-debate with Ehrman, where a sound clip is played of Ehrman from the Ehrman/Price debate, and Carrier responds to Ehrman in place of Price. I was particularly interested in Round One where Carrier argued for the relationship of Mark’s Gospel with the idea of The Noble Lie in Plato’s Republic. The mock-debate is here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thewaterboyz/2018/10/06/richard-carrier-vs-bart-erhman-hypothetical-debate-did-jesus-historically-exist
“Richard Carrier Deconstructed In 4 Hours Or Less”. YouTube. HistoryNET. 10 February 2019.
Romulus, And His Misuse in Christ Mythicism by Christopher Hansen, University of Michigan-Flint @ “1_21_2019_Romulus.docx”. DocGo.Net.
Thanks for sharing that video. Four hours was a LONG time to watch, but I got a lot out of it.
I am glad that there is another effort to address Carrier’s claims rather than his ideas. That having been said, it is possible that the author misrepresented Carrier’s arguments, just as others have. If this has occurred, I trust that it will be pointed out.
I think that the focus should not be upon the sexless conception but upon the “man-god born from the union of a god and an unmarried woman”.
Carrier’s presentation featured by HistoryNET is: “Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind”. YouTube. UNCG SSA. 28 March 2013.
A possible winner?
“Atheist Awards 2020”. Anti-Theist International.
Maybe it is a case of “Parallelomania” when I see the parallels of Tim O’Neill and the Biblical History Skeptics’ criticism of Carrier’s OHJ, with the way “Beavis and Butt-Head” criticise “Music Videos”.
But the enjoyment of watching Carrier’s response is sublime 🙂 Kudos to Godless Engineer for doing such a great job in bringing it all together!
• “ABR #18 History with Tim O’Neill”. YouTube. Biblical History Skeptics. 6 April 2019.
• “Misquoting Mythicism: Syncretism and Dying/Rising God Parallels w/ Richard Carrier”. YouTube. Godless Engineer. 20 December 2019.
Carrier followed up on the above video with the following blog post:
• Carrier (22 December 2019). “Tim O’Neill & the Biblical History Skeptics on Mythicism”. Richard Carrier Blogs.
Chris Hansen responded with the following:
• Hansen, Chris (24 December 2019). “A Brief Note on Richard Carrier’s Inability to Read: Why Aging Unemployed Bloggers Need Bifocals (Guest Post by Chris H.)”. The Amateur Exegete.
Richard Carrier presents the following quote (@time 00:34:00 per the above 20 December 2019 video) in support of his position:
• Eliade, Mircea (1972) [1970 in French]. “Ch. 2 – Zalmoxis”. Zalmoxis the Vanishing God: Comparative Studies in the Religions and Folklore of Dacia and Eastern Europe tr. Willard R. Trask. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 21–75.
NB: “Ch. 2 – Zalmoxis” is reproduced @ Eliade, M., & Trask, W. (1972). “Zalmoxis”. History of Religions, 11(3), 257-302. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/i243663
Amusingly I found the following link cited on the “Dying-and-rising deity” Wikipedia article. However there are no citations of Richard carrier, even though his 2014 On the Historicity of Jesus is per Wikipedia policy the highest level of “Reliable source” i.e. peer reviewed and published by an academic press. The only possible question being the relevant field of expertise germane to the topic at hand i.e. classical studies, social anthropology, etc..
• Corrente, Paola; Castillo, Sidney (3 June 2019). “Philology and the Comparative Study of Myths”. The Religious Studies Project.
• Steve Mason c. 2017, does not actually make any statement against Carrier as he completely ignores him.
Mason, Steve. “Sources that Mention Jesus from Outside the Circles of Christ-Followers”. Jesus-Handbuch (ish). [Available at Academia.edu]
Cf. Carrier (17 May 2020). “Mason on Josephus on James”. Richard Carrier Blogs.
“Counting coup” against Carrier 🙂
• Hansen, Christopher M. “List of Qualified Academic Mythicists and Agnostics Since 1970” Academia.edu.
• Comment by Richard Carrier—1 August2020—per “Open Thread On the Historicity of Jesus”. Richard Carrier Blogs. 29 June 2020.
Kryvelev’s book can be downloaded here: http://unism.narod.ru/alb/lib/kre.pdf
Kryvelev’s book on the historicity of Jesus might be dated in some respects but it is by no means unscholarly. Nor is it “Soviet propaganda” as must be evident to anyone who reads it. It is evidently a product of the era of Glasnost under Gorbachev. On Carrier’s side, though, I don’t know what evidence exists to suggest that the work was peer-reviewed for its scholarly content. Perhaps Hansen has that evidence?