2017-12-22

Is there anything good to be said about Richard Carrier?

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by Neil Godfrey

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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28 thoughts on “Is there anything good to be said about Richard Carrier?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

      2. 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….

        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:

        Tim O’Neill:

        … I’ve already documented that the amateur rage blogger Tim O’Neill is a hack and a liar ….

        … So O’Neill isn’t just incompetent and a liar, he even lies about his competence ….

        … O’Neill grossly lied ….

        … O’Neill is a hack and a liar ….

        … spews his own lies and mistakes ….

        … O’Neill also goes on to lie, as he usually does ….

        …Tim O’Neill, a known liar ….

        … O’Neil is a documented liar ….

        … O’Neill, by the way, doesn’t just lie about my work. He lies about anything ….

        Larry Hurtado:

        … Hurtado is setting up a pattern of only reading un-peer-reviewed polemical blogs by established liars, rather than the actual professional peer reviewed literature of his own field ….

        … Hurtado lies about my not knowing this subject, not doing the research, and being unqualified to do it ….

        Bart Ehrman:

        … I am certain he did not really mean to lie.…

        … And yet one could easily mistake him for lying ….

        … So once again he is not telling his audience the truth. (He has lied about all of this before)….

        … makes major factual and logical errors, then lies about it)….

        James McGrath:

        … James McGrath, whose incompetence and dishonesty I have documented several times now ….

        … my peer reviewed case for the non-existence of Jesus (which McGrath has also lied about reading) ….

        … he is incompetent. And a liar ….

        … he is a liar who has no shame ….

        … McGrath, being a liar ….

        … McGrath effectively lies to you ….

        … So he has to lie and pretend I said something else ….

        … even McGrath’s entire thesis is a lie ….

        … I can no longer believe he is insane. He is a liar ….

        … McGrath cannot be this wildly insane. Therefore, he is a liar. There is no other possibility ….

        William M. Briggs:

        … Briggs’ entire piece is … a big bag of lies….

        … William Briggs is a liar. He told ten glaring lies in one short essay ….

        Thunderf00t:

        … my evidence that he is a liar and a likely sociopath ….

        … That makes him a liar ….

        … there is no response that doesn’t make him look even more like a fool or a liar ….

        … Because he’s a liar ….

        Joseph Atwill:

        … Atwill fabricated stories about me ….

        Stephen Unwin & Richard Swinburne:

        … liars or fools with Ph.D.s in their names ….

        Stephanie Fisher

        … lies about it; doesn’t understand math; probably insane ….

        … more delusional lies from her ….

        To his own commenters:

        … you have established yourself as a liar ….

        … Trying to claim that isn’t how our conversation proceeded is starting to make you look like a liar at this point ….

        This sampling just scratches the surface.

        1. 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

          1. 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.

  4. Carrier gave an interesting interview today here:

    . 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

  5. I found two interesting quotes about Carrier. Ehrman humorously said that:

    “Carrier wrote a very long and detailed response which was meant to show, as is his wont, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I have been asked several times by several people to respond to his response, but I know where that will go – it will take a response twice as long as his to show why his views are problematic, he will reply with a reply that is four times as long to show I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will respond with a response twice as long as that to show that I do, he will rejoin with ….”

    Tim O’Neil agreed with this characterization, saying:

    “All very true. That’s why people like Carrier tend to get the last word in disputes with real scholars and so claim “victory”. It’s not because the real scholar can’t answer the fringe contrarian/crackpot, it’s just that they have a decreasing incentive to do so in the face of the contrarian/crackpot’s boneheadedness and they also have much better things to do with their time. Whereas the contrarian/crackpot has a massive incentive to keep responding until doomsday and, like the unemployed Carrier, usually have plenty of free time.

    With the failure of his academic career before it even got off the ground and the his pariah status among many in the atheist community over his sexual harassment allegations and, shall we say, “dubious” reputation, Carrier has been forced to live on the charity of his Patreon sponsors – which makes for a meagre living. So he has to attack any and all critics as vigorously as he can, otherwise his dwindling reputation as an “expert” will decay with his small hardcore of supporters and his tiny income stream will shrink still further. This seems to be why his attacks on critics like me are becoming increasingly frenzied and weird.

    So in a recent interview when asked about me he did his usual “he’s a dishonest person” shtick and said “I swear he’s a crypto-Christian …. he’s actually posing as an atheist …. because the stuff he writes sounds way too fawning on Christianity …. and too much like Christian apologetics”. Painting all of his critics as dishonest, as “liars” and as secretly Christians or as “apologists” are his main ways of discrediting them for his followers. In his email to his patrons about the latest rant against me he declared grandly “I’ve dealt with the lies and slanders and tinfoil hat of the pseudo-atheist shill for Christian triumphalism Tim O’Neill before.” And then in the article in question he calls me he says I “lied” 14 times and calls me a “liar” no less than 7 times. That’s in addition to “asscrank”, “hack”, “tinfoil hatter”, “crank”, “stupid”, and “delusionally insane”. This is how an Ivy League scholar behaves, apparently.

    But all this is mainly bombastic theatre for his rusted-on supporters. The guy is basically a showman these days, though the audience is thinning out and the applause is faltering.

    1. 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.

      Compare: https://vridar.org/2018/07/11/analysis-of-the-mcgrath-and-carrier-debate-on-a-bayesian-approach-to-history/

      1. 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.

        1. “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.)

  6. 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

  7. “Richard Carrier Deconstructed In 4 Hours Or Less”. YouTube. HistoryNET. 10 February 2019.

    Google “richard carrier is a narcissist” and you’ll find all manner of reasons not to take this failed academic seriously…other than the already-obvious. Although the existence of Jesus is not beyond dispute (like 98% of ancient historical figures), it is beyond reasonable doubt. Yet mythicism persists – despite all evidence to the contrary – and nontheless needs to be addressed. We feel the exact same way sane people do when they address young-earth creationists and flat-earthers. It’s a well-settled issue in history, and Atheists with anti-Christian bias need to get over it.

    Romulus, And His Misuse in Christ Mythicism by Christopher Hansen, University of Michigan-Flint @ “1_21_2019_Romulus.docx”. DocGo.Net.

    Romulus was the legendary founder of Rome . . . Records of his mythos are most prevalently found in Plutarch and Livy, and the use of these two historians has recently been taken to be abused by certain scholars arguing for the fringe Christ Myth hypothesis. This study will analyze the use of Romulus by Dr. Richard Carrier and attempt to refute some of his more prominent claims. —(p. 1)
    […]
    Conclusions
    Using Carrier’s own sources, one will find that several of his central claims are without any foundation. None of them record a Romulus who was born of a virgin, or without sexual intercourse (as is the case in Jesus’ mythos ) and none of them record Romulus dying and rising from the dead. Instead, all of them recount him being either killed or ascending to Heaven, where he was then deified. In the case of those who thought he ascended, there is no way that his later appearance was a resurrection. In the cases of his death, there is also no clear indication of this, given that post-death apparitions, without resurrection, were indeed a belief in the ancient Roman and Greek societies, as previously noted. Carrier’s further attempts to harmonize stories with each other and merge accounts is problematic, especially when using Plutarch as his basis. His tactics simply do not hold up, and the scholarship is specious at best. It is astounding these glossary claims were ever published in an academic book, though one can question the knowledge of the peer reviewers who did not find it necessary to follow Carrier’s footnotes and prevent such nonsensical claims from being published. As noted with my Zalmoxis analysis, Carrier’s work is pro blematic. He, however, continues to use these poor examples in his lectures as samples of dying and rising gods, this is despite the fact that he has written a blog post even issuing comments that Romulus is not a good example of a dying and rising god several years previously. This indicates that he knows Romulus is not a good example of this, and yet continuously uses him anyways. As such, one can conclude from this that Carrier’s scholarship in this matter does not seem to care for accuracy as much as agenda, and that the peer reviewers were either unknowledgeable (in which case I must wonder if they were peers) or also fine with this shoddy reading of ancient writings, which can make one wonder the quality of the publishing house and its reviewers in general. —(p. 4)

    1. 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”.

  8. A possible winner?

    “Atheist Awards 2020”. Anti-Theist International.

    Jesus Mythicist of 2020
    As the lack of evidence for a ‘son of god’ gains traction in the public consciousness, authors and academics have boldly expressed the idea that maybe Jesus did not even exist.

    Some Jesus mythicists are
    • comfortable with the idea of a non-godly wandering prophet
    • while others proclaim that there’s not even any clues for the existence of such a man
    : they suggest the character was entirely made-up for the profession of street preaching – story-telling and passing a hat round.

    The catalogue of books and videos expressing these views is growing. If you think you, or someone you know, qualifies for the Award of Best Jesus Mythicist please complete the form below.

  9. 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.

    With us today, History enthusiast and blogger Tim O’Neill. Getting history right the first time, and correcting and doing away with bad arguments made by new atheists

    “Misquoting Mythicism: Syncretism and Dying/Rising God Parallels w/ Richard Carrier”. YouTube. Godless Engineer. 20 December 2019.

    Today we have Tim O’Neil misquoting mythicism along with The Bible History Skeptics Chris and Bryan. Richard Carrier joins me to discuss what Tim, Chris, and Bryan get wrong in their extended discussion on Mythicism and History in general. We start off with the Dying and Rising god claims of Tim and Company. They claim that Carrier doesn’t even use the mytheme in his “On the Historicity of Jesus” book. They complain about how Carrier’s book is priced when that’s not even the price. They claim that figures like Osiris can’t be precursors to Jesus because Jesus’ story isn’t an exact copy of Osiris’ story. They fail to understand the footnotes in the Dying / Rising god section, Element 31, by claiming that Rick was using a source that disagrees with him. He wasn’t but you’d have to actually read the book to know that.

    1. 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.

      [T]he “revelation” that he [sc. Zalmoxis] brings to the Getae is communicated through a well-known mythico-ritual scenario of “death” (occultation) and “return to earth” (epiphany) . . . [and features] the return of Zalmoxis in the flesh… —(p. 30)
      […]
      It is true that initiates are believed to go to Zalmoxis after their death, but this does not mean that the god is the Sovereign of the Dead. Zalmoxis’ disappearance, his “death,” is equivalent to a descensus ad inferos as a means of initiation (cf. above, p. 27). By imitating the divine model, the neophyte undergoes a ritual “death” precisely in order to obtain the non-death. the “immortality” which the sources emphasize. —(pp. 46–47)

      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

    2. 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.

      SC: . . . your doctoral thesis revolves around the concept of dying god, right? And the presence of gods with this feature in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations. Could you share with us some of your major findings?

      PC: Well, I think the most important is that the dying god does exist! Because, as you know, this category is very controversial. So now the position is that it was a wrong idea that the dying God does not exist – that it was a misunderstanding. And things like this. But studying, especially some texts – again, from Mesopotamia and from near Eastern tradition, and texts from Greece too, about Dionysus – so studying these texts and these myths I found out that the dying god exists, actually. And it is very curious that these three gods from Mesopotamia, Ugarit and Greece – or say from Mesopotamia, from Near East and from Greece – which are, like, the most certain examples of a god who dies and comes back, are ignored usually.

  10. • 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]

    [T]he Christ-myth side downplays the diversity of early Christ-following to imagine a group of believers fabricating the myth…
    […]
    My purpose in offering these preliminary thoughts is [to] say that the academic study of the historical Jesus has little to do with such debates about Jesus’ existence, and to explain in part why that is so. The implication of this for thinking about [the] following texts, which were not (except perhaps Mara’s letter) written by Christ-followers, is that they are of little relevance for historical-Jesus research. They are, simply, interesting texts that have survived, happily, which historians try to understand and then explain by whatever hypotheses will solve the problems being posed.

    Cf. Carrier (17 May 2020). “Mason on Josephus on James”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

  11. “Counting coup” against Carrier 🙂

    • Hansen, Christopher M. “List of Qualified Academic Mythicists and Agnostics Since 1970” Academia.edu.

    Iosif Kryvelev, worked at Ethnography Institute of the Soviet Academy of Science . . . Contra Carrier that no work in the last 50 years on mythicism has been peer-reviewed in a university press, Kryvelev demonstrates this false, being 27 years before Carrier. See Carrier’s claim “here”

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