2018-03-21

Discovering Why “Even Atheists” Deplore Jesus Mythicism. (Or, Thoughts on “Cult Atheism”)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

This is an exploratory essay, not much more than a diary of disorganized thoughts on my recent experience with an atheist discussion forum.

After much delay I finally enrolled as a member of the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) Forums to contribute to a discussion on the historicity of Jesus. I had been encouraged by the report that a growing number of members there appeared to be open to the view that Jesus possibly had no historical existence but I still should have done my own homework on the nature of the site and character of its members before submitting my first comment there. After thinking over my time there and doing some rather belated review of the forum (or congregation of forums) I believe that the best comparison I can make to that “atheist community” is that it is very like a religious cult. It is certainly a form of a religious or church substitute for the newly faithless or for the long-time faithless who have never managed to outgrow their childish level of thrill at discovering they can break rules and social norms (like, ooh, so very naughtily using offensive words as often as they feel like it) without the fear of hell hanging over them.

I also think I finally understand why so many atheists viciously attack the Christ Myth theory.

Before continuing let me list a little of the distant and immediate background to my thoughts. Firstly, I spent too many years in a religious cult in addition to a number of years doing a lot of reading of works by psychologists and others who explained the cult experience and provided assistance in recovery. (See the links in the side bar to Vridar profiles for a few details.) I know a little about cults and the cult experience. Secondly, I have recently read the following and these have no doubt more immediately helped crystallize certain thoughts on the AFA experience:

  • Do intelligent people realize that they are smarter than anyone else surrounding them?
  • Herwig, Holger H. 1987. “Clio Deceived: Patriotic Self-Censorship in Germany after the Great War.” International Security 12 (2): 5–44. https://doi.org/10.2307/2538811.
  • Benda, Julien. 2006. The Treason of the Intellectuals. Translated by Roger Kimball. New Brunswick, NJ: Routledge. (Originally published 1928 by William Morrow, NY.) 
    • —  I took up the Benda book in pursuing an argument made some time ago by Noam Chomsky. The Treason of the Intellectuals foreshadows Chomsky’s criticisms of today’s liberal intellegentsia. It was the Herwig article on German intellectuals that reminded me to finish reading Benda at last.

When I became an atheist I don’t recall ever having the slightest interest in searching for and associating with “an atheist community”. When I heard that such communities did exist I was perplexed. What could they possibly have in common? Atheism simply means not believing in the existence of supernatural powers. That’s hardly a basis for a club of any sort. Haven’t atheists been responsible for historic crimes against humanity? I am sure many atheists are as burdened with ugly prejudices and bigotries as anyone else. And one hardly needs to be a Stephen Hawking to come to the conclusion that “there is no god” so I squirmed in some pain when I read Richard Dawkins’ suggesting that atheists should call themselves “Brights”.

But look at the AFA Forums site. It’s like a church or cult website, a place where all the converted (or de-converted) can go to find “like-minded” people, others with presumably an accommodating perspective, to discuss any problem in life:

There is a place where you can introduce yourself and be welcomed; just like a church group where all new members are welcomed, or screened.

Then there is a “Getting Started” room for those “new to the [faith or lack thereof]” can find mutual assistance.

But I love the “conversion stories” page. “Coming Out Stories”, its called, and I am reminded of so many church gatherings where people stand up and share their stories about how they came to Christ.

Next we see a space where one can learn about an “atheists’ viewpoints on things . . . . to better understand the atheist worldview”! Do you see what is happening here? Atheism is being presented as a group identity that sets apart its members as different from others. How many atheists have really needed to consult a community or “nonspiritual” guides to learn the “atheist viewpoint or worldview” on things?

I should at this point backtrack to the site’s banner: AFA Forums is identified as “a celebration of reason”.

Ah yes, the place for the Brights. I will return to the irony of that banner’s logo.

And just like so many fundamentalist type churches we have community-run places where members can share and learn how to resolve

  • Family matters
  • Educational issues
  • Ethics and justice
  • Women’s issues
  • Sexuality issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Political issues . . .

How convenient. It sure helps to have a place to go to relieve one of the anxiety of having to think through such questions truly independently and with one’s own research and reflection. Safety, security, nurturing, … all in the group.

Again just as cults and evangelicals have literature and go-to persons for information on science questions (how do we answer this or that question, for example) AFA helpfully provides forums to share that sort of knowledge, too.

Of course there is also the obligatory magazine. Presumably this is in part meant to evangelize and in part meant to support existing members.

Nor, of course, is the enemy forgotten. There are places one can discuss the enemies of the Brights and the Free: places bearing signs such as

  • Religions
  • Belief Central
  • Anti-equality
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Pseudoscience and anti-science

So far it may look somewhat innocuous but anyone with experience of other innocuous looking clubs that cover not simply a narrow special interest (bushwalking, astronomy, cancer recovery, etc) but what surely looks like a whole way of life and thinking should be a little nervous by now.

Sure enough. There are rules. Not only rules, but gatekeepers to enforce the rules. They have power. A common punishment is the same one Christ permitted Peter to wield: excommunication.

So far it looks like a perfect substitute (online) church for anyone who has left a church and is looking for a substitute family to fill the void.

At this point we move on to my short-lived experience and my reflections on why atheists are among the most hostile critics of Jesus mythicism.

–o–

Recollect that logo, “a celebration of reason”. Just as other churches find ways to inject their own perverted definitions into common words (e.g. love means “keeping the commandments”; truth means “what the Bible says”, etc) I think the AFA Forums operate with their own peculiar understanding of their celebrated “reason”. Take the Forum’s instruction to posters not to report to the moderators

Material that you might find personally objectionable (e.g.: questionable humour), but would not be considered generally and seriously offensive. To help decide, ask: “Would a group of reasonable people, from a representative cross-section of the community, generally find this offensive, and why?”

Sounds reasonable enough. Especially the “help decide” scenario appealing to what “a group of reasonable people from a representative cross-section of the community” would find offensive.

But just as biblical rules are subject to gatekeeper and group interpretation so are AFA Forum rules. So it turns out that in the eyes of atheist cult members “a group of reasonable people from a representative cross-section of the community” would not find it offensive if another member shoved obscenities into the faces (yes, not only with text but with images, too) every time he entered a discussion. Now I’m no stranger to four letter words but I don’t believe I would be “celebrating reason” if I went on a fault-finding attack against anyone in a community forum who found their aggravated use offensive. That’s one way these cult members celebrate reason with the approval of moderators. The title of that thread is Exposition on Rule #3. The only rules list I can see lacks numbering but the third paragraph states:

AFA members especially have a duty to portray to the public a disciplined attitude in postings.

Rather, we see AFA members acting like little children snickering among themselves because they say naughty words out loud in each other’s company. Or the proverbial school pupils smoking behind the toilet block and thinking how cool and mature they are. (As I said, I regretted not doing my homework on this group-think cult before I signed up.)

Let’s move on to the AFA Forums “Did Jesus exist?” discussions. This is where I became personally involved and by rights I should link every observation I make to the incriminating comments. Perhaps I will add links at a future time if for any reason I come to think they will be helpful.

Here is where the “celebration of reason” slogan crashes against more “irony”. At this point I refer back to the Do Intelligent People Realize discussion I linked above.

I very soon began to sense a strong déjà vu feeling as the discussion progressed. It was just like being back in a discussion with mainstream biblical scholars, some of them outright apologists. This sensation was surely bizarre on an atheist forum! I could not understand it at first. Where are the free-thinkers? Where are the serious folk who celebrate reason? Every contrary argument was nothing but a repeat of what the authorities in the theology academies have published. When I attempted to critique such assertions I was met with either one of two responses:

  • simply ignore my criticisms along with my points on method and logic
  • repeat the assertions being criticized — in other words, “question begging”, with nothing stronger than “this is a more persuasive explanation” tagged on at the end

The main stalwart arguing against mythicism (going by the name of toejam) also posted a link to a long list of books he had read on Christian origins explicitly to demonstrate how much better informed he was than one of his interlocutors. Could not help but recalling someone else trying to win the day by boasting that his red button was bigger than someone else’s.

Meanwhile, contrary arguments were significantly ignored and at other times dismissed with the “not persuasive” line.

There was of course the regular ad hominem innuendo and indications that the contrary arguments had not even been read with any attentiveness.

All so tiresomely familiar. But why?

When Rene Salm’s works on Nazareth were introduced into the discussion a member chimed in declaring that Salm’s work had been “debunked” long ago. The poster could not recall details but promised to look up the name of the person who had debunked Salm’s Nazareth arguments.

Again, arguments to the contrary of the mainstream view were simply ignored or dismissed and all that was required to “make the case” against Salm was to name and quote “the authorities”. Salm’s work was not even read, it turned out, even though it was pointed out to all that it was at that time freely available via Amazon. (Rene also suffered considerable personal innuendo and outright abuse from the moment he appeared on the forum, all with moderator approval.)

So what is going on here? Why are we finding on a site supposedly celebrating reason nothing but quotations of authorities? With onlookers texting applause for the quotation of these authorities!

Where is the critical analysis of the arguments? Do they simply blindly accept what theologians say as if their word is a secure as a biologist’s pointing to another piece of evidence for evolution? Yes, they do. But why?

I lie. There was one other who declared he had indeed addressed my arguments (even calling me a troll for denying it.) But I double checked. Maybe he merely hastily skimmed and the very last point I added to my arguments (and even misread that) and in his memory believed he had addressed them. After all, “aren’t mythicists arguments merely rehashed bunk anyway? Others have debunked them — can’t recall precisely how they have done so but we’re sure they have even if it was with the infallible power of repeated question begging assertions — so who cares what they say.” It’s all so familiar. If the academy treats even their scholarly peer critics this way then any who dare question their reasons for believing in a historical Jesus are obviously going to take a great risk in speaking up.

I myself attempted a number of times to address the methodological flaws of the “biblical historians” and alert readers to what historians in the classics and ancient history departments had to say about historical methods, but all in vain. My posts were ignored. Except once: one person said that I was trying to argue for something he called “factual purity”! I think he was implying that we have to believe what we can’t know or find undisputed evidence for simply because that’s what “biblical historians” tell us to do.The worst and most explicit insulting abuse was, as usual, reserved for Richard Carrier even though he was not a part of the discussion. Carrier, it was further pointed out, did not “persuade” anyone but “duped” people. Curiously toejam actually warned people not to be “deceived” by Carrier. Shades of “beware the wiles of Satan”.

A “celebration of reason”? No, not at all. It was a community (and moderator supported) effort to isolate, denounce, excoriate, cast out the “conspiracy theorists”.

Just as if one were in a den of theologians and maximalists hungry to annihilate the minimalists and the mythicists. The weapons are not reason but abuse, misrepresentation, etc etc etc. The arguments left standing as the only ones worthy of attention are emphatically repeated and reasserted without any attention to the flaws in their assumptions and methods that others have attempted to spotlight.

So why?

Well, why do we even ask that question?

I think those of us who really are interested in understanding how our sausages are made, what the methods and logic behind the conclusions are, what the sources and other cited works really do say, assume others would also be interested in such questions. Sadly, as the above Quora article (Do Intelligent People Realize…) reminds us, that is not the case. It is too easy to assume others are like us with the result that we are left confused when confronted with the evidence that they are not.

But should not atheists of all people be focused on reason-based inquiry?

I think that logo reminds us that many atheists seem themselves as “intellectuals”, even if only a lowly lay stratum of that “class”. Intellectuals, it turns out, are no different from any of the rest of us when it comes to human foibles. Mostly it’s only their methods that differ in their ways of achieving the rewards they seek.

Many today find Noam Chomsky’s criticism of the “liberal intellectual elites” intolerable. I have found them to be enlightening. I was reminded of Chomsky’s analyses when I was reading Herwig’s article on how German intellectuals (from the elite professors down to the lowly school-teachers) reacted to the crises in Germany in the wake of her defeat in World War 1. Most of them could not handle embarrassing facts that put them (and their group identity as Germans) in a culpable light so evidence was outright discarded, destroyed if possible, and they all stepped in line to propagate the same point of view. (If facts so well-known to the rest of the world were embarrassing there was no attempt, as some biblical scholars say of gospel narrative details, to cope with or down-play those facts; rather, there was outright suppression and denial for generations afterwards into the post World War 2 era.) How could intellectuals as a whole come to discipline themselves to adopt such group-think? There was no central authority making them think that way although there did emerge influential centres throughout society that would publicly censure and even ruin reputations of any who stepped out of line.

So I turned to finish my reading of Julien Benda (whom Chomsky has cited). Some passages on group identity, read with a consciousness of how AFA fosters group identity distinct (and in a key way superior to) others in society:

Is it necessary to say that the passion of the individual is strengthened by feeling itself in proxi m ity to these thousands of similar passions? Let me add that the individual bestows a mystic personality on the association of which hef eels himself a member, and gives it a religious adoration, which is simply the deification of his own passion, and no small stimulus to its intensity. . . .

And do not those who are subject to these emotions now all tend to say the same thing? Political passions, as passions, seem to have attained the habit of discipline; they seem to obey a word of command even in the manner they are felt. It is easy to see what increase of strength they acquire thereby. . . .

These peoples have come to see that by feeling contempt for others they are not only obtaining the pleasure of a lofty attitude, but that when they are really expert in expressing contempt they harm what they despise, do it a real damage.

I was particularly intrigued by a quotation from Anatole France, La Vie Littéraire, tome ii, p. 274.

“Reproach not your ancestors with their ignorance, nor with the feebleness of their thought, nor even with the illusions of fear which sometimes rendered them cruel. As well reproach yourself for having been a child. Remember that they laboured, that they suffered, that they hoped for you, and that you owe everything to them!”

I suspect that the group identity of some atheists is a pernicious thing that cannot genuinely serve the progress of reason.

So why do these sorts of “intellectuals” turn on Jesus mythicists with the same invective as many theologians?

They identify themselves as “reasonable” people, as, well, “intellectual”. Reasonable people ridicule conspiracy theories, flat-earthers, moon-landing deniers, and gods and demons of all sorts. They defer to the reasonable classes of society, the academics of reputable institutions. They may not understand the details of evolution or the Big Bang but they do know that that level of understanding lodges in the reputable public places of higher learning. They identify themselves (even if only subconsciously) as “Brights” and that means being seen to approve of the mainstream academia.

Accordingly they become part of another group that they name-drop with pride. If they don’t understand all the arguments themselves, no matter, they know the authorities to quote. Besides, when it comes to biblical studies, are there not atheists and agnostics among those ranks? There you go. Some of “us” (our group) are among those theologian scholars.

Questioning the conventional wisdom, engaging critically with the methods, the sources, especially as mere outsiders, may be deemed a threat. The scholars must remove the threat by social exclusion, ridicule, abuse, even falsehoods if that’s all one has at hand. To question the assumptions (they are not really findings that are being questioned) of an entire academic discipline that includes “group members” is to risk undermining the reputation of group-atheism itself.

I recall one atheist, Tim O’Neill, complaining online how he feared being associated with conspiracy theories and flat earthers because he knew of some “fellow atheists” who were in league with such kooks. His identity and reputation were at stake. If biblical scholars attempted to smear Christ mythicists with conspiracy theorist kooks then that was enough for Tim to do the same. I did not fully understand why he should appear to feel so insecure within himself that he felt that way. I think my reflections after reading Herwig and Benda and relating their points to what I have seen and experienced on the AFA Forums has helped me understand his insecurity.

The group atheist may even be thought of as a cult atheist. I learned long ago that I’d prefer to stand on my own feet and think for myself. That doesn’t mean withdrawal into eccentric ideas. It means engagement with the mainstream but as a truly indepndent individual. I left the immaturity of cults and group-think behind long ago. Celebrating reason is not about being able to quote and memorize the authorities, nor is it about imitating their attitudes when assumptions and methods are questioned, nor is it even about tittering like a child who suddenly discovers no parent can hear her foul language.

–o–

Fun exercise:

How many ironies can you spot in the following post from AFA Forums. You should understand that the name in red, logic please, is a forum moderator whose job is to enforce AFA standards (such as “celebrating reason” and refraining from personal abuse):

( I have posted a clue to the most ironical of the ironies below.)

 

104 Comments

  • 2018-03-21 11:26:51 UTC - 11:26 | Permalink

    For some of us, some lessons are really hard to learn. I’ve belonged to at least three cults in my lifetime, leaving the last one when I was in my 50s.

  • Ross Cameron
    2018-03-21 12:17:33 UTC - 12:17 | Permalink

    Well, Neil, like most forums on the `net, you go there to read juvenile minds at play. AFA turned me off in the first few visits due to the low-level discussions. Egos to be stroked, fandom in full flight, newcomers to be shot down in flames for disagreeing with the hierachy. I was enjoying the interplay of EVC until management went on a purge. At least, we still have Vridar. And maybe Kirby`s.

  • Yam
    2018-03-21 12:28:29 UTC - 12:28 | Permalink

    I believe that you are (or I am) in a little confusion about the “atheist church”. The thing is that the Christian Church came to replace Ecclesia of ancient Athens. In fact the Greek word for Church is Ecclesia. With Church for example, there is no need to elect a magistrate, this is the work of the priests who knows the laws of their religious books. Church also replaced some roles of the Agora, too. For example, common knowledge of how to live, does not come from the talks in Agora but from the teachings in the Church.
    With that said one cannot be sure if those forums act as opportunists to create a “church” for the atheists or people who are trying to create a forum (Ecclisia) protected by the religious.
    But on the other hand when people are using the conclusions of the “authorities” without even knowing the argument, we have a faith system centralized around the protection of the “authorities”. And this is called religion and it is created by opportunists.

  • John Roth
    2018-03-21 14:19:06 UTC - 14:19 | Permalink

    One of the most neglected “rules” of online behavior is to always take a couple of weeks to evaluate a forum before beginning to participate. The forums I prefer all have civil behavior as a high value. Beyond that, they’re fairly diverse, ranging from Druidry to a specific SF fan organization. None of them tries, to paraphrase St. Paul, to be all things to all people.

  • Kelly Wellington
    2018-03-21 15:00:38 UTC - 15:00 | Permalink

    Heh….Yeah. I concur with much of your assessment.

    I’ve been active in several fora which promote themselves as ‘secular’ or ‘freethought’. Most have the presence of ‘authoritative’ figures who suppress any freethought by scoffing at any hypotheses which do not fit in to their comfortable universalist dogma and harassing the posters. Disagree with one of their tenants, even in a minor divergence, and you, and everything you tend to express support for, will be denigrated as the commentary of a loose cannon. Luckily, there have been, at times, places where open discussion has actually transpired…and continues to do so.

    Thanks for this discussion.

  • Gary
    2018-03-21 17:33:52 UTC - 17:33 | Permalink

    I have been amused by the similarities that my fellow atheists sometimes show to religious believers, right down to almost worshiping “saints” (Hitchens, Dawkins,etc). It is a common human failing to think that one’s personal knowledge is the the only “true” knowledge. I thought I knew the truth when I was a religious cult member (the same one as you, Neil, as it happens) and I am prone to think that I know the truth as an pro-science atheist. The reality is that no individual can know everything about everything. That applies even to the most brilliant scientist who by necessity must specialize in a particular field and be ignorant of much of the rest of the body of human knowledge. Humans are by nature social beings and we build are identities through relationships to others. If you give up your identity as a religious person and are separated from those relationships that gave you meaning, then you must find other relationships. Atheists do not lose those needs by virtue of stopping belief in gods. We seek to replace those relationships with others and in the Internet age, that may include forums based on our arbitrarily chosen identity label. Any arbitrary social grouping is liable to have members who exhibit many of the failings that humans are prone to. However, the solution isn’t to become like a Buddhist monk and live in a cave avoiding human relationships. I choose to not get too upset by the failings of others, realizing that I to have my own failings and limitations.

  • Ken Browning
    2018-03-21 18:16:17 UTC - 18:16 | Permalink

    Chomsky is probably the most influential thinker in my personal experience. I say probably because the changes I have gained through his writings were all “little” changes. They came over time and without much fanfare. There was no aha moment but his ideas, based in detailed and unrelenting methodology, took hold.

    I have the same experience here.

  • Marty Lewadny
    2018-03-21 18:58:38 UTC - 18:58 | Permalink

    Thanks Neil for this very thoughtful and wise post.

    Given my own change of my mind over many years of being involved in the world of Biblical and historical scholarship and trying to carefully weigh the data I am slowly coming to see the great amount of anxiety being produced by many sides of the atheist-agnostic-theist debates.

    The fear of discovering one is wrong about a lot of assumed truths feeds a lot of frustration and it turns to anger and even removal of one’s interest in contributing to the discussions and subject.

    It can get lonely for many when they realize that they are not really free to state their reasonings , etc. without getting clobbered by some who claim they are one of the real “bright” ones.

    If you claim you “know” some things, they tell you you are arrogant or the like, by family and friends. You can’t win for the most part.

    I have spent close to five decades in the field of Biblical studies and theology, etc. and I am only beginning NOW to try and keep myself from getting too discouraged or disheartened over what I have not known and now discovering, regardless of which side to take.

    I lean in certain directions obviously and try to stay open as much as I can. But even being agnostic about many things brings its own abuse by others. I find that both atheists and Christians and a whole gamut of other believers in lots of “other” entities, supernatural or “alien” or otherwise get upset with you if you say ” I don’t know about that. I will give it some thought. ”

    The quest for “certainty” is certainly built into us and I don’t know why in many ways, and it brings lots of troubles in mind and body.

    There is a part of me that simply wants to stay silent about all these matters and get on with my life and goals and simply wait for new pieces of significant evidence to become manifest to “end” this or that debate on something and remove all over-confidence about “gods” and a lot of other things.

    It would be really interesting to see what would happen if both atheists and religionists were found to be wrong for so many years. Something we have never seen before but becomes revealed. What would we do? W/L Craig would commit suicide and a lot more would simply go crazy. Who would be able to help us navigate such a revelation?

    I have always liked Derrida’s “parousia” tenet… openness to that which is coming in terms of knowledge and certainty.

    I have tried to live for a long time now the spirit of what Rainer Maria Rilke says in Letters to a Young Poet. There is more than a grain of truth in this:

    …”be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is , is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    Thanks again Neil for the post and the work you are doing. I have learned so much from your contributions.

    I don’t want what I think I know or even know to go down in total silence without getting it out there so to speak, but I have become more reluctant given the nastiness out there, whether by believers or non-believers. Many of these individuals can so upset you and even destroy your reputation! They can keep you from getting employment, acceptance, etc. Very sad indeed.

    In any case, take care all who blog out there and keep your wits about you.

    Marty Lewadny

  • Der Gottesverachter
    2018-03-21 19:00:58 UTC - 19:00 | Permalink

    “Haven’t atheists been responsible for historic crimes against humanity?”

    Yes, in the same sense as people wearing moustaches have been responsible for historic crimes against humanity.

  • 2018-03-21 19:13:46 UTC - 19:13 | Permalink

    I’ve been taking part in online atheist/secular forums since they began, and am presently an admin of the Secular Cafe, and also a moderator at Talk Freethought. The two forums are in the process of merging.

    I agree with many of Neil’s observations; I’ve often said that atheism is not a sufficiently large base to anchor any large social edifices. But the fact remains that atheists still require many of the social benefits churches provide- and our unbelief excludes us from most of them. Internet discussion boards are just one way we are seeking to deal with our social needs. So it should be no surprise that there are similarities between db’s and churches.

    I’ve been partial to the mythicist explanation for the origin of Christianity since reading Wells, back in the late eighties. So I too have had encounters with atheists who still insist there *must* have been a historical personage who was at least the seed crystal for Jesus Christ. In fact I also have crossed paths with Tim O’Neill; see https://secularcafe.org/showthread.php?p=245193&#post245193, and subsequent posts in that 2011 thread. I must say that Tim is the most… emphatic, to be polite… atheist arguing historicism that I’ve encountered; I’ve spoken to many others who are far more civil and reasonable (some of them in that linked thread). Over the years, I’ve known historicists who have changed their minds and now view mythicism as more likely. And though I make no claims to statistical rigor, from the many polls about the topic on atheist forums, the percentage of those who ascribe to mythicism seems to me to be increasing.

    Those of us who find the origins of Christianity a fascinating study, despite our unbelief, need to recall that most people (Christians and skeptics both) simply don’t share our interest in the subject. So it should be no surprise they tend to echo the shouted pronouncements of Christian theologians, who are of course far more numerous than are we mythicists.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2018-03-21 21:48:10 UTC - 21:48 | Permalink

    A kind of post script —

    I only came to think through the character of AFA Forums after I left them. Until then I had encountered a few members saying silly and ignorant things about “history” and “biblical studies” and my points, Carrier’s and Salm’s arguments, but unwilling to engage in serious discussion with the critical arguments (substituting merely repeated assertions of the conventional wisdom laced with innuendo or outright attacks on its critics).

    But when I left I gave as my reason my lack of confidence in the even-handedness of the moderators. That prompted a flurry of posts accusing me of all sorts of things. One of those things was that I had not reported any of the abusive comments that led me to my view of the bias of the moderators. I could not be bothered at the time to go back and single out the various guilty comments so instead I reported three of the personally insulting comments that had been posted about me in response to my leaving. I attached a note in each case identifying the abusive nature of each comment. The moderators did indeed act swiftly. They ‘excommunicated’ me for a time. How dare I find fault with the moderators — they, after all, could see nothing abusive about those hostile remarks directed at me.

    Oh yes, what deja vu all over again. When one dies one’s associates normally say all the nice things about one. But when one departs from a cult all one hears is about is one’s wrongs, one’s character flaws, one’s dishonesty, one’s slyness and chicanery. I was pronounced by church authorities to be in the bond of Satan when I left the cult; the moderators and compliant “group-think” members of AFA have let it be known that they have found in my past comments all sorts of hypocritical and dastardly incorrigible misdemeanors.

    –o–

    First hint on the Fun Exercise I tagged on to the end. Can you identify the bizarre logical fallacy in the main argument beginning with “If you can’t…”. — A logical fallacy approved by the moderator naming himself “logic please”!

  • 2018-03-21 21:55:47 UTC - 21:55 | Permalink

    Gday Neil and all 🙂

    I agree. I was there. Good work.
    I let them know about your post.

    Kapyong

    • Eustace Black
      2018-03-22 00:02:34 UTC - 00:02 | Permalink

      Kapyong was there, all right. Twice. (Once as “Quine”, an account using the same IP address – an account Kapyong saluted as if unknown to him.

      If that’s integrity, give me a community, no matter how Neil may describe them!

      • 2018-03-22 00:27:09 UTC - 00:27 | Permalink

        Yup,
        Kapyong got burned.
        I made a new account Quine just to keep an eye open there.
        So ?

        • Eustace Black
          2018-03-22 00:53:56 UTC - 00:53 | Permalink

          A deliberate infraction of the rules, Kapyong.

          Anybody can read the public areas, anyhow. As well as either failing to read the Terms and Conditions, or consciously choosing to disregard them, you seem to have a poor grasp of the way the forums work.

          • 2018-03-22 01:09:32 UTC - 01:09 | Permalink

            You, and others, literally ignored the Kapyong ID (not to mention Vridar and Rene Salm.)

            So posting as Quine didn’t get auto-ignored.

            Now that you’re here, would you like to respond and discuss ?

            • Eustace Black
              2018-03-22 02:06:20 UTC - 02:06 | Permalink

              Tu Quoque does not excuse your conduct.

              It was my opinion that your discourse had become boring to some degree (once JC is dismissed as non-divine, does much else about him matter?), and (irony alert) I did not think much of your manner.

              Setting up Quine, greeting your sockpuppet account, and all the other skulduggery, cannot be excused as an attempt to get the attention of those who had decided not to read your output.

              Comment as you will. I leave the rest to the readers, some of whom may display the cognitive bias I have detected in a few of the myther persuasion.

              Now the amusement is ended, I don’t think you have anything else to offer.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-03-22 02:43:28 UTC - 02:43 | Permalink

                Eustace, your persistent zeroing in on a peccadillo while ignoring the elephant and camel addressed in the post is only adding supporting evidence to everything I wrote.

                You are encouraged here to display a little celebration of reason. Firstly, I suggest you consult a dictionary to learn what “myther” means — or are you using it as a moniker to express personal insult? Surely not.

                Secondly, I invite you to explain why it is you were so troubled with the discussion of mythicism on AFA and again here even though you appear to indicate the topic has no interest for you and is irrelevant? Others discussing the question from a critical perspective obviously does distress you for some reason. You seem to enjoy posts that quote and repeat the assertions of authorities in the field so it does seem you are only troubled by critical challenges to the conventional wisdom. Why is that?

                (P.S. We have rules for comment here, too. So I trust you will consult those before replying. You have already broken our guidelines in your comments here but I have not accused you of hypocrisy or lacking integrity or anything else. I trust, though, you will lift your game.)

              • Tim Widowfield
                2018-03-22 03:47:12 UTC - 03:47 | Permalink

                Everyone has “cognitive bias.” Some stay wary and compensate for it. Others remain in perpetual denial and imperiously pass judgment.

                I regret that Eustace’s amusement has ended. So sad.

  • 2018-03-22 00:25:03 UTC - 00:25 | Permalink

    Gday all,
    Just read that Quora article about smart people, and many of the responses. Are there two types of persons ? Smart and not-smart ? (I think I’ll call THEM ‘brights’. 🙂

    I’ve been recently much confused and dismayed myself at some people’s irrational and negative behaviour e.g. the AFA experience. My studies of history and politics make me despair for humankind.

    How shall we make sense of all this ?

    How shall we describe and characterise those persons such as AFA members ? How can the smart guys describe and discuss this divide between groups ? Objectively and politely right in front of the ‘brights’ people – who will probably soon be here to express their views.

    They aren’t alien beings – but friends, colleagues and cousins. I’m sure we can do better than just dismiss them as ‘stupid’, right ? And obviously the last thing anyone wants is to judge them as inferior persons, as lesser human beings.

    Especially when our continuous self-examination reminds us of when we were younger and did many of those stupid and hurtful actions ourselves. That we learn many of our strongest lessons about what is right/wrong because we did it wrong ouselves. The internal suffering teaching us “damn ! I am never gunna do that again.”

    What is going on here ?

    The complaint seems to be something like this :
    * smarts champion evidence, fully and objectively evaluated,
    * smarts doubt, and check, and change their mind on new evidence,
    * smarts seek to apply intellect and eschew emotion,
    * smarts watch for personal bias, and beware of group-think.
    But the brights don’t seem to.

    I noticed two clues in Neil’s post :

    Immaturity.
    Sometimes a post has the tone and content of a high-schooler, but the poster can be of an older age. Or we recognise a post as being typical of early adulthood, but it’s from an old bloke. I observe friends / colleagues who might be in their 40s physically, but seem stuck in younger emotions and thought-patterns.

    Do humans get born with varying maturity expectancies ? Expectancies which may even decrease as they suffer life ? Like physical life expectancies ? Is the huge variation in humans the result of a spectrum of maturity expectancies ?

    Passion.
    They get angry and emotional. Like Benda said :
    “These peoples have come to see that by feeling contempt for others they are not only obtaining the pleasure of a lofty attitude, but that when they are really expert in expressing contempt they harm what they despise, do it a real damage.”

    Is that just the anger of immaturity ? Or something more ?
    I find it impossible to understand such a position, and I don’t recall being like that even when young and immature.

    I think we have a long way to go in understanding how humans beings feel, think, and act.

    What do you all think ?

    Kapyong
    (When the Kapyong ID got his Burn Notice at AFA, I made a new ID just to keep an eye in, and used that to inform them. I just got a ‘sock puppet’ infraction of course.)

    • Eustace Black
      2018-03-22 01:03:28 UTC - 01:03 | Permalink

      Anybody can read the public areas, Kapyong, even strangers and suspended members.

      Your action was unnecessary, futile, and probably devious.

      • 2018-03-22 01:15:48 UTC - 01:15 | Permalink

        Fair enough – a poor metaphor 🙂
        Shoulda said “to keep a toe in the water”.
        For cases like this.

        So now you’re here,
        I look forward to you engaging with the topic.

        Kapyong

      • 2018-03-22 01:44:42 UTC - 01:44 | Permalink

        Gday again 🙂

        I almost considered making yet another account there, just to double-check exactly what I signed up for, because –

        I did read the rules I signed up to (to check whether a non-atheist was allowed there) and don’t recall anything about multiple accounts.

        But memory is hardly 100%, so –
        if I did break the rules, I’m sorry, it was an accident, I will certainly never do it again.

        Pretty reasonable under the circumstances surely ? Kapyong was burned – widely ignored, and never to be used again.

        Sure I gave a friendly cross-hello – that wasn’t sock puppetry – just a funny little moment any Pierson’s Puppeteer would appreciate.

        Kapyong

        • Eustace Black
          2018-03-22 02:07:52 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

          A devious species, as Beowulf Sheffer would tell you.

          Goodbye.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-22 02:03:25 UTC - 02:03 | Permalink

      I think we are all modular. We relate differently to different experiences, information, sources and such. And we react differently to the same experiences, information, and such at different times in our lives in the wake of different situations and life experiences. I don’t suspect there is any difference in intelligence between those who get wrapped up in cults, those who see through the cult facade, or those who come to recognize what they are involved in and leave. It comes down to affections, identities, biases relating to these, and what we are willing to question and how far we are willing to push the questions.

      (But never forget that Dunning-Kruger thing lurking in the shadows.)

      • 2018-03-22 21:02:58 UTC - 21:02 | Permalink

        Modular Mankind eh ?
        Interesting idea, don’t think I’ve seen that word used in that context before.

        Is that something you’ve developed further ?
        Or intend to ?

        Kapyong

  • 2018-03-22 19:55:33 UTC - 19:55 | Permalink

    That’s it ?
    A Parthian shot of “devious” and he’s gone ?
    Underwhelming 🙁

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-22 20:48:01 UTC - 20:48 | Permalink

      If soon after my precipitous departure from the AFA Forum I had some regrets, I have since concluded that it was the best thing to do. What it did was to draw out to full exposure the attitudes of the various participants that had till then only been simmering scarcely beneath the surface with but an occasional burst of honesty. Sure there is no doubt a few lurkers there who are seriously interested in the subject but for good reason they stay lurking. They do see the signs that “mythers” are “entertained” only for the sport of bear-baiting.

      Eustace Black did not come here to engage with the post; he came here to continue his campaign of denigrating someone associated with a challenge to the respected conventional wisdom. This hostile pursuit of persons is called “celebration of reason” in the AFA Forum’s logo.

      Which reminds me: I must return to further posting on Dan Gullotta’s “review” of Carrier’s book. That, too, was another exercise (not at all unlike the way toejam believed he was “engaging with” my own posts) in subtle denigration of a person and painstaking avoidance of addressing the central arguments.

      • two dogs
        2018-03-22 22:52:53 UTC - 22:52 | Permalink

        For the record, the “a celebration of reason” graphic in the AFA Forum’s banner, is not part of the AFA’s logo. It is a link to the AFA’s YouTube channel, which has videos of various events staged by the AFA, including those of our 2010 and 2012 Conventions in Melbourne, Australia, which were attended by 2,000 and 4,000 people respectively. A “Celebration of Reason” was the theme for the 2012 Convention.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-03-22 23:44:22 UTC - 23:44 | Permalink

          It is reassuring to learn that AFA does not identify with a celebration of reason. That removes many of the ironies observable in its online discussions. (Pity a one-time conference theme did not result in serious change.)

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-04-20 07:43:56 UTC - 07:43 | Permalink

            Nope, I spoke too soon. I see the AFA site proudly displays the following on their homepage:

            • two dogs
              2018-04-20 08:00:54 UTC - 08:00 | Permalink

              That’s a “bus ad” from 2010, when they were the “in thing”. It was meant to be a nationwide campaign promoting atheism, but for God knows what reason, that slogan was rejected by advertisers in all but one of Australia’s states/territories.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 09:49:19 UTC - 09:49 | Permalink

                Yes I can see it is from 2010 as per the caption. And I presume readers can see it, too, just like you. But I did not dig it out of ten year old web archives. It is, presumably proudly, on display on the current home page of AFA. (By the way, it really truly is a bus ad. I don’t know why you thought it necessary to place the words in quotation marks.)

                Are you embarrassed to think that atheists would identify themselves with “reason”?

                Actually I quite like the bus ad and would love to see buses like that everywhere. So I’d be interested to hear your explanation for why you seem to be concerned about my comments/post/reasons for displaying the ad.

                (P.S. You might like to catch up with my postscript to the above post, by the way: https://vridar.org/2018/04/17/postscript-on-atheist-tribalism/)

              • two dogs
                2018-04-20 09:58:14 UTC - 09:58 | Permalink

                Neil, I really have no idea as to why you seemingly have such an obsession with the AFA’s past advertising slogans?

                Julian

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 10:10:13 UTC - 10:10 | Permalink

                Julian, it is you who has the obsession with the date of the slogan. If you bothered to read my post and follow up comments then you would immediately recognize the irony in the slogan. I am used to Americans not getting irony, but come on, you are an Aussie. You surely recognize irony when you see it. 🙂

                Just to be clear that the image is used to illustrate a current home page:

                Come on. Let’s laugh at ourselves once in a while. Sometimes even atheists are not true to reason.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 10:35:47 UTC - 10:35 | Permalink

                It may be too small to be seen from the image, but the definition of atheism below the image is pertinent. It says:

                Atheism is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.

                One could easily say the same about Jesus: that there is no factually reliable evidence for the existence of Jesus. So why the knee-jerk hostility to the very idea of someone challenging the mainstream view on that topic among many atheists? That’s the question that has left a number of us perplexed, and I am still thinking it through. To help try to figure it out I once again went over the recent AFA discussions on the topic and one thing stood out: there was no discussion. There was an appearance of one, but nothing like the sort of discussion one would find on the BC&H forum. Rather, there was hostility towards the persons of those presenting mythicist arguments; and the replies were in nearly every case logical fallacies or simply avoidance of addressing the challenges to the mainstream arguments. I don’t know if any reply was not much more than mere question begging and appeals to authority.

                What I find really bizarre is that while I was there my arguments went mostly untouched, certainly avoided, except for one or two phrases that were bizarrely distorted and straw-manned — but pointing out such fallacies fell on deaf ears. The tone was clearly hostile and it was inevitable that those being targeted would eventually react in a way that gave the moderators excuses to ban them.

                What was appreciated, however, was evidently an outline by someone who could reassuringly repeat the mainstream arguments without any distractions from critics of those arguments. I wonder if it is simply too embarrassing for some atheists, who like to measure their reasoning ability by what is considered reasonable by mainstream society, to doubt the existence of so central a cultural icon as Jesus. Jesus, after all, serves all sorts of convenient ideologies and causes regardless of any religious beliefs.

                It’s a shame. One would think that those most opposed to religion would be among the most enthusiastic to understand religion, to learn all they can about it, to study the scholarly research into it from a range of disciplines. But I mostly see people on that site simply laughing at or expressing loathing of the religious. There is a place for laughter and horror when it comes to religion but the people themselves involved are people. I would love to see more atheists more interested in understanding their fellow creatures and see how they can respond more positively to them.

                And also I’d love to see them not so diffident that they feel they ought not question the mainstream theological establishment about its assumptions, too.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 10:40:54 UTC - 10:40 | Permalink

                Just to be clear (and so to repeat my earlier point): I like the bus ad. I think it’s great. I would love to see more bus ads like that all over the place.

                But you seem worried by my reference to it. Does the bus ad embarrass you? Do you want me to remove the images? Would you like to ask AFA to remove the embarrassing ads from their home page? I like them, actually.

              • two dogs
                2018-04-20 10:20:59 UTC - 10:20 | Permalink

                For the record, at the tiime I responded to Neil’s post, all I saw was:

                Are you embarrassed to think that atheists would identify themselves with “reason”?

                Since then, Neil has apparently edited and fluffed up his post with extraneous bullshit.

              • two dogs
                2018-04-20 10:40:28 UTC - 10:40 | Permalink

                I’m sorry, but I have no idea as to how the dates circled in green have any relevance? One is for an upcoming event from one the AFA’s allies, and the other relates to the AFA’s submission to a state government body.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 10:44:09 UTC - 10:44 | Permalink

                Oh Julian. Temper, temper. Now tell me. Have you read my post? Do you know what my point is? Do you know what I said about the reference to “reason” in the slogan associated with the AFA website.

                (I did edit my comment immediately after posting it. You obviously caught my first draft but not my second. But what interests me is why you did not even respond to the question you did read in my initial draft. Why not?)

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 10:46:55 UTC - 10:46 | Permalink

                Julian — should I take your irrational and hostile tone in the comments as evidence that you are opposed to reason entering discussions and that’s why you are embarrassed to see a slogan associating atheists with reason?

              • two dogs
                2018-04-20 11:35:05 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

                Neil, please don’t posit that I have a temper, or that I’m being irrational, or hostile, without reason. Should you be able to back up your assertions, I’d be happy to apologise.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-20 21:00:29 UTC - 21:00 | Permalink

                What assertion, exactly, do you think I have not backed up?

                So you are being “irrational, or hostile” with a reason? What is your reason for your irrationality or hostility, exactly? Is it a rational reason? If it is a rational reason then why not respond reasonably? You know, “celebrate reason” in all your communications. I really do like the slogan. It’s good. And I like the bus ad. You just missed the irony of their context that I was pointing out.

                Your own comments indicate that you have not even read my comments: if you fail to see the point of my circling the dates on the second image then obviously you failed to read my preceding and accompanying comments where I explained the point quite clearly.

                Why come here with all your hostility, Julian? What is it that you don’t like about me or my post and comments that you find offensive? What have I said to upset you?

                You came half cocked about my motives and intentions when I posted the image of the bus ad. You missed the context and my explanations entirely. You just shot from the hip with some gratuitous — false — assumption about my reason for posting the image. You did not read my post or preceding comments with any care or you would not have flown off the handle the way you did. Just calm down and consider that you really do not know me or know what I am interested in addressing here. Try to clear your mind of the group-think and tribal attitudes you have absorbed from your AFA friends and start again.

                (You use an identifying avatar of two dogs copulating. Is that because you react as if on heat yourself? Why not use a logo that celebrates reason as a reminder to always strive for reason?)

              • two dogs
                2018-04-28 09:34:14 UTC - 09:34 | Permalink

                Dear Neil,

                The assertions that you have not backed up are that I have a temper, that I’m irrational, that I’m hostile, that I’m a bully, and that I act like a dog on heat (which is probably the lamest insult I’ve ever had).

                Rather, it seems to me that you exhibit all those characteristics yourself, should anyone question your opinions, let alone dare criticise them. In psychological terms, I think that’s called projection?

                You make it quite difficult for anyone to appear to provide a rational response, when you update your previous comments after people have responded.

                Julian

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-28 22:43:56 UTC - 22:43 | Permalink

                Your choice to address me as “Dear Neil” while spitting insults about me on AMA Forums speaks for itself. What sorts of people are you? Take a look around this blog. There is no place for puerile cyber-bullies like you here.

                I was in two minds about returning to make some comments on the AFA Forum but having just seen the pages of responses to those comments I am glad I did. Those AFA comments are on record now and nothing could underscore my point more trenchantly. Those comments tell me how deeply I underestimated the vile nature of the AFA contributors who set the tone of the forum. I can only stand by everything I wrote in my post.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-05-01 08:03:05 UTC - 08:03 | Permalink

                I have been reminded that my comment above was a revision of an earlier one in which I wrote:

                Your comment is what is called gaslighting, another informal fallacy. Disingenuous sums up your gaslighting here. Others may have stronger words for it that comment policy forbids them to post.

                I have backed up everything I have said in my post and your refusal to engage with my post and with your clear inability to follow the logic of the subsequent comment thread demonstrates my point. AMA Forums undertook for some reason to launch insults against me after I left and I responded in part to those in the post. You seem to ignore all of that.

                Your choice to disingenuously address me as “Dear Neil” while spitting insults about me on AMA Forums speaks for itself. What sorts of people are you? Take a lookaround this blog. There is no place for puerile cyber-bullies like you here.

                I do have a terrible habit of looking at a comment I have just written and then noticing something I wish I said differently etc etc etc so I will rewrite it, usually within seconds of certainly very few minutes of originally posting it.

                If I can see anyone else has commented in the same thread in the meantime, though, I will either withdraw my change or make an explicit statement to explain what has happened.

                Given that I have been informed that AFA members are using my change in the above comment as evidence that I cannot be trusted, that I try to change history, etc etc, I must make it clear that I stand by the content of everything I wrote in that original comment and that I have reproduced here.

                The probable reason I changed the original comment was that I realized it did not address the particular complaint that two-dogs was raising: that I did not offer evidence of his loss of temper, etc. Correct. I relied upon the conversation to stand as it is to make that point. I gave two-dogs too much credit for being more interested in the content of the post which he seems determined to avoid.

                Meanwhile, my re-edit of my comment was noted and seen as a nefarious sneaky attempt to “alter the records” thus “discrediting” me: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31245-Why-Jesus-probably-did-not-exist-(A-quot-historical-quot-argument)&p=616388#post616388 Hoo boy! 🙂

                P.S. I added that last paragraph after posting the comment — hence another revision.

                P.P.S. This comment is another revision in which I added the above P.S……

                P.P.S….. I have since learned courtesy of the helpful AFA folks that in this case there was exactly an hour and 7 minutes between my two drafts this time. I guess that proves I am devious and was really trying to deceive some people (who, I don’t know) about something (what, I don’t know either.)

  • Pattylt
    2018-03-22 22:46:45 UTC - 22:46 | Permalink

    Hello Neil! I have never been a Christian as I was raised Orthodox Jew. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I was open to the mythisist position more than exChristians? When I first heard of the theory of a mythical Jesus, I was able to see how, from a Jewish context, it could have happened that way. I’m still agnostic on it but I certainly do not rule it out. I tend to swing back and forth, settling on myth making more Sense of the epistles but still unconvinced of the explanation for Mark.

    That makes me wonder… is it possible that while some exChristians can realize there is no God or that Jesus wasn’t one, it is just too much for them to open to the idea that not only was their church wrong but ALL churches were wrong? Is it just one step too far? When I left religion I entered a quest for trying to discover why people believe what they believe. I have respect for their beliefs but often not for their justifications. Many believers have a really hard time accepting that their belief boils down to faith alone. It must have logic and reason with it and I understand that many of them think it does. I don’t but I admit I could be wrong. I’m not a philosopher and the philosophic God is just beyond my ability to gronk it(smile).

    I realize that Scholars are almost unanimous on accepting a historical Jesus. I think that has to be taken with a grain of salt or two. Until recently, they were all Christian and the atheist Scholars were taught by them and Scholarship can be wrong. If they are wrong, I think they will eventually be persuaded or they will start doing better scholarship that shifts and settles the issue one way or another. Perhaps it can’t be settled with the evidence as it now stands. Fine, admit it! One thing that will NOT settle it is a bunch of forum members condemning alternate views that have as much evidence on their side as the other. It’s an interpretation issue and I find it a fascinating one. And plausible. What I don’t see is an explicit implausibility that some atheists insist on. That’s why I wonder if coming from a Christian background has something to do with it.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-23 00:22:13 UTC - 00:22 | Permalink

      Hi Pattylt, Who knows. What you suggest may be right for many. On the other hand, I can only take people at their word and when some of them who share the same attitudes as many mainstream theologians insist that they have had no Christian background then I have to accept that claim.

      When I was questioning my own way out of firstly a cult and then out of mainstream Christianity I was somewhat surprised and disappointed to see others who likewise asked the same questions for some reason deciding to stop questioning at a certain point. Most, of course, did not go on to question God himself. Some friends who left the cult I left chose to join other cults instead. We all go our separate paths and have our preferred destinations.

      What I find interesting is the trust people who have a personal hostility to the very idea of seriously questioning the standard model of Christian origins will place complete trust in quotations from mainstream scholars. This is true not only for those who read a lot about the topic but just as true for those who know scarcely a thing about it. (Recall BL finding it completely satisfactory to merely recall that “someone somewhere” had “thoroughly debunked” Salm’s work on Nazareth. None of those attacking Salm had the slightest interest in reading Salm’s work, but they were all casting innuendo at his motives and character.)

      I have spent a fair amount of time in forums and in online discussions with biblical scholars; some are open and friendly; but others like McGrath and Hurtado and Keith are virulently hostile to mythicism and any suggestion that an outsider might dare question their assumptions, logic or methods. My experiences of discussions with the McGraths and co (in the presence of their adulating supporters) was precisely of a kind with my experience at AFA Forums. The only difference with the latter was that as soon as it was very obvious what was happening I got out, and so my stay with AFA was much shorter.

      What am I to conclude but that the person-focused abusers at AFA who demonstrate ignorance of the topic but who praise anyone who can cite or quote a mainstream view from the academy identify themselves with the wider society’s mainstream intelligentsia. That is where they aspire to see themselves — in that camp. Serious independent-minded engagement with the scholarship is not their game. It is a status and image or identity thing that preoccupies them, I suggest. Though no doubt our thoughts will continue to evolve over time.

  • Gene J.
    2018-03-23 01:07:09 UTC - 01:07 | Permalink

    My childhood was filled with absolute certainty. The Bible was the inerrant Word of God. Miracles ended on the day of Pentecost as described in the book of Acts. You must be baptized, immersed totally under the water, in the name of Jesus or you will not go to heaven. I was going to heaven because I was a Christian. My first grade teacher was going to hell because she smoked cigarettes.

    This absolute certainty gave me a sense of safety, security, belonging. It fed my ego and raised my self esteem. My brain was hardwired to produce good feelings when I was wallowing in absolute certainty. I NEED to be right and just as important, I NEED you to be wrong. (You mentioned an atheist by name toward the end of your article.)

    Today I have no religious beliefs. And yet my brain is still hardwired for rewarding me with good feelings if only I give in to that demon of absolute certainty. I can find her it in politics, sports, philosophy, history, and cooking recipes – anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately for me, I have come to understand the slogan, “Do you want to be happy or right?” By being right I am referring to the NEED to be right, along with the NEED for you to be wrong. It takes a lot of energy to be god. And there are so many opportunities to enjoy life that are missed. There never seems to be much joy and happiness being emoted by those claiming to be on the top of the pile.

    I wonder if some atheists who came from a similar religious background have similar demons? Why would someone take the time to research the relevant information on a topic when they are already getting what they want by ‘knowing’ that they are right, and condemning you for being wrong.

    Thanks for the topic.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-23 06:16:27 UTC - 06:16 | Permalink

      Why would someone take the time to research the relevant information on a topic when they are already getting what they want by ‘knowing’ that they are right, and condemning you for being wrong.

      This reminds me how while in a certain cult I spent so much of that time constantly studying for more arguments, more evidence, more ways to “prove” the “truth” of what I believed.

      • Tim Widowfield
        2018-03-24 17:49:40 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

        I recall memorizing factoids and verses. As if all the knowledge one would ever need could be carried in a deck of index cards. No method, no logic, none of that. Just pull out the right card at the right time, and “Boom!” You nailed it!

  • whoever
    2018-03-24 03:06:07 UTC - 03:06 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    There is only one rule at the AFA:
    1: Don’t tell other people what to think.

    The AFA is good for testing the reasonableness of any thought you may have.

    If you make a statement and they steer off criticizing the statement, you will know your statement to be probably true.
    If they do criticize your statement then it is probably false.

    So if you have a valid opinion that you think cannot be shot down, put it to them and see what happens.
    But if all you want to do is be a devils advocate, then it is they who will have fun with you.

    AFA members have created fake accounts at the AFA in the past and used them to criticize people they dislike, so don’t worry about making fake accounts and putting your opinions to the test.

  • 2018-03-24 06:54:48 UTC - 06:54 | Permalink

    Whoever, why are you posting anonymously?

    Have you read my contributions to the discussions about the historicity of Jesus at AFA. If so, can you explain to me how your comment has any relevance or connection with any of my addressing those arguments. What do sockpuppets have to do with anything about me or my arguments?

    I made several arguments that were not addressed by anyone. Are you telling me that those arguments were therefore “probably true”?

    Can you explain why others there make personal attacks on others instead of addressing their arguments?

  • BruceG
    2018-03-24 09:23:27 UTC - 09:23 | Permalink

    “I made several arguments that were not addressed by anyone.” That was endemic throughout your stay there Neil.
    Only one member, ToeJam, responded consistently to your points and the rest engaged very briefly or were lurking. Even TJ failed to answer several important questions, even when they were repeated to him.

    Quick test:

    Guess which offense he and several other members should be guilty of according to AFA’s own rules?

    Conversational: This category deals primarily with how we engage with each other.

    Conversational – Obvious trolling
    Conversational – Repeated misrepresentations
    Conversational – Repeated preaching / proselytising
    Conversational – Repeated refusal to accept burden of proof
    Conversational – Repeated refusal to acknowledge specific questions

    To make it worse, they hold up the convicted TJ as a person with great acumen and suggest that he would be a valuable member of their cult!

    They don’t get dismayed when they can’t find anything to ban you for though, they just ignore the icky “repeated” word. Just one click of the report button will get you an infraction under “Procedural – Repeated misuse of report button” or just once of any of the other rules. If they really, really want to shut you up, they just give you the Obvious Trolling card. Does this seem unreasonable? Do you think that you have been unjustly convicted? Don’t worry, just give all your best arguments against your convictions and the people who just convicted you will take it into “consideration”. Who decides the outcome? Them of course, and don’t complain. You will suffer a suspension, you unbearable Myther troll!

    It was like they were too intimidated to take you on. Now that you are gone, the daggers and insults come out in droves. Pretty gutless in my book, talking about you once you have gone. Why not take you and Rene on directly when they had every chance? It is very much a cultish group think tank with a huge swig of confirmation bias against all, even the best mythicist arguments. Without investing any time studying the arguments, they applaud even poor points in favour of the HJ and are silent on well thought out and convincing arguments that you and Rene presented.

    Now that they know that “Myther” is a disparaging term, they are using it much more often.

    They are continuing the abuse aimed at you with a new thread started by Mr Black (Eustace) here, like a bunch of school kids jeering an empty desk. http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?p=613885#post613885

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-24 12:55:59 UTC - 12:55 | Permalink

      I really am dumbfounded (sort of, not really surprised though I should be) that they are discussing me, personally, in my absence. I did return early and saw some nonsense someone was fabricating about me but I chose to ignore it. Their immaturity makes them an embarrassment. How could anyone want to have anything to do with types like that?

      How old are they? Do their parents know what they get up to online?

      I had thought of returning some time later to address the arguments that were raised after I left but really anyone honest can see that they are merely repeating as gospel the assertions that are under dispute.

      Toejam, I don’t believe, did address my arguments consistently. I had hoped he would but I don’t believe he could repeat any argument that criticizes something he has embraced from the mainstream literature.

      If toejam really had any confidence in taking on critics of his position he would appear in other forums doing just that instead of preening in front of others by displays of his ability to quote and repeat what the mainstream has written. He would do a course in logic 101, too.

      Speaking of identities and groups, the AFA Forums almost make me embarrassed to confess I am an atheist. They are the sorts of people who really do give atheism a bad name. Like cults make some Christians embarrassed to think others might associate all Christians with the weirdos.

    • two dogs
      2018-03-26 06:46:37 UTC - 06:46 | Permalink

      BruceG, if you’re concerned about facts, rather than jumping to unwarranted conclusions, you’d see that the thread you refer to in your last paragraph, titled “Vridar discusses AFA”, was not starred by Eustace Black, but rather by Quine, which was a sock puppet account of Kapyong, who has also been posting here.

  • whoever
    2018-03-24 10:33:51 UTC - 10:33 | Permalink

    I was assuming you are Quine and Kapyong.
    I didn’t read the whole thread(www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?s=af51d771c93c915983ca57fd5117b374&t=31390) just had a glance at it.

    Apologies.

    If your original postings were not criticized, they were probably sound, maybe true was the wrong word to use.

    Is this the thread?
    http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?s=af51d771c93c915983ca57fd5117b374&t=31172

    If so, I think toejam and SEG were taking you very seriously. But DarwinsBulldog was being a dick.
    If your arguments were questionable they all would have had a go at them and you, but they left your arguments alone, meaning they never ridiculed them, but I can’t say your arguments were sound/true in this case, I’ve read the Bible once and that’s it.

    If you have a link to a personal attack, I’ll read the the whole thread.

    There are lots of people who feel the same way you do about the AFA. I’ve watched such people come to the AFA over the years, watched them being childishly teased, bullied and finally they leave.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-24 12:36:23 UTC - 12:36 | Permalink

      The thread I contributed to was one with a title questioning Hitchens’ belief in the historical Jesus. When I started I think that thread was under the General Chit Chat About Atheism category so on advice from someone else in the discussion I attempted to start separate discussions in the Religions section that were more focused on distinct key questions:

      In one of these I attempted to set out exactly what I thought was the defensible a priori position to have, partly in order to address what I could see were some misconceptions about my own position. But I don’t think anyone responded to it:

      * Why Jesus probably did not exist. (A “historical” argument)

      I can’t recall details now but maybe before that I posted another to set out where I stood on specific points that SEG had asked me about:

      * Historicity of Jesus: four sticking points and a breakthrough

      Another subtopic I had hoped to discuss in some depth was

      * The Historicity of Jesus: Does “Brother of the Lord” settle the question?

      But in that case toejam simply bypassed my main arguments (earlier with SEG toejam had merely addressed a sub-point of my last point that I admitted was very “slight” in its weight — and even said I had introduced that point in order to weight the Bayes’ figures in my favour, thus demonstrating he had not read my original arguments at all: I was in fact doing the very opposite and that final detail he addressed made not the slightest difference to the overall case I presented. Nonetheless, toejam suggested I was trolling when I tried to point out he was ignoring my arguments. That’s when I realized with some certainty that I was involved in a game and the discussion was a mere pretence.)

      I also tried to draw attention to the methodology problem with

      * Circularity of the arguments for the historicity of Jesus

      And I finally contributed a handful of times (from what I recall) to Kapyong’s thread, partly to explain why I thought such a thread was often misused and that its real significance lay in something that was not being addressed:

      * Early Writers Who Could Have Mentioned Jesus

      As for my arguments, I began to realize I was talking way over the heads of some of the readers/contributors. They didn’t understand where I was coming from, or they had their minds made up without really taking note of what I was actually saying. All toejam was doing was showing how well he could remember the mainstream responses to this and that. He seemed to enjoy insulting Carrier especially without even demonstrating an understanding of his method of argument or where specific points stood in his argument. He continued to beg the question and I began to think he did not even understand what that particular fallacy was. He came across as not having a deep ability to think critically about what he was reading: hence one set of arguments were parroted as of that’s all that needed to be done, and the other set were misrepresented and their author attacked.

      What people have said here to date only confirms in my mind the analysis of the forum and its members that I posited in the above blog post.

      I entered the forum expecting a serious discussion but only found someone who appears to think a rebuttal is effective if it repeats the argument that is being challenged coupled with an ability to insult others with colourful language.

      Look around society and think about groups who do not bother to understand the views of others and even speak negatively about them — they are doing that because, very often I suggest, they want to defend or “prove” their identities and self-image to themselves. That’s what the AFA folk that I met seem to be doing.

      Am I wrong? Is there a better explanation?

  • whoever
    2018-03-24 23:19:12 UTC - 23:19 | Permalink

    While having a look around for the threads you mentioned I found this:
    http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?s=79f4faf0aad924f5863798686fa770ed&t=30800

    This shows SEG has sincere interest in your works, so it would be ok to assume he genuinely tries to respond. But if somebody doesn’t have the in-depth knowledge you have, it might not be possible to respond to every point you make, they may only be able to respond to points they have some knowledge in.

    Hitchens thread (I can’t read it all though, it’s too long)
    http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?s=79f4faf0aad924f5863798686fa770ed&t=30785
    Here again SEG shows he is genuinely interested in the historicity of Jesus.

    http://atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?s=79f4faf0aad924f5863798686fa770ed&t=30785&page=55
    post #544
    SEG agrees with you about the hypocrisy of some moderators at AFA.

    I can see where your frustration comes from. To understand any forum, it’s best to look at where all the conversations are happening. For the AFA the “Off Topic” section is most popular, with nothing serious ever being said. Followed by “Belief Central” where outsiders are just heavily criticized.

    I think you made a mistake in taking your historicity of Jesus arguments to an atheist website, it looks like you were looking for people who would agree with you, rather than looking for people who would have a critically dialogue with you.

    Muslims love to talk about Jesus, plus they are very polite and rarely rude or belittling (until insults are given) Maybe put your arguments to Muslims at a Muslim website, many have read the Bible multiple times, and if you have a point they can’t respond to, they will find somebody who can respond to it, in a polite manner.

    You are not alone in your dislike of the way the AFA treats people.

    Anyway, good luck.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-24 23:54:59 UTC - 23:54 | Permalink

      My own contributions to the Hitchens thread (now in the Religions section) began, I think, around page 20.

      I had no problems with SEG and I do not see him as part of the problem on AFA. (SEG had actually spoken about my arguments before I arrived and it was largely because of his interest that I joined for a time.) There was only one person there who seemed prepared to address my arguments in some detail and that was toejam. But as I tried to point out to him, most of his responses were on the one hand mere question begging (merely repeating the argument that was being questioned) and avoidance of the key arguments and insisting that addressing just one detail that even I had said was marginal was all he had to do.

      What led me to leave was not toejam, however, but the larger environment, the treatment of Rene Salm (and then Kapyong and SEG, too) and abuse of Carrier. Now I happened to disagree with certain points of all of their arguments, (as I disagree with much of Carrier, too) but it was the way others spoke of these, personally abusing them and imputing all sorts of innuendo, not even trying to address their actual arguments or else totally failing to grasp and blatantly misrepresenting those arguments.

      I was warned against trolling when I pointed out the fact that toejam was repeatedly failing to address the opposing arguments; I was warned against targeting a person when I threw back at someone his own comment about not having something better to do.

      Then there was my temporary ban when I alerted moderators to three instances of personally abusive posts.

      And then there is the apparently ongoing obsession with me for having left.

      I was initially expecting to find a forum where the topic would be discussed in a rational way. What depressed me was that toejam was obviously only trying to undermine the persons making opposing arguments and disingenuously claiming innocence and sincerity with me, and the ignorant comments from others on the sidelines applauding failures of logic and personal abuse and toejam’s ability to memorize and repeat the arguments that were being critiqued as if that was how to respond to criticism.

      I think the subsequent responses (according to SEG’s reports) demonstrate that it was never a place for serious discussion.

      I don’t care if people don’t agree with me. Most people don’t and besides, as I have said often enough, I change my mind over the years anyway, so why should I expect anyone to agree with me now? I usually get shy of responding when someone asks me my point of view as if they think it carries some sort of special authority. What I appreciate is honest discussion. That is not to be found at AFA on this topic.

      I find it interesting that you say I am not alone in the way AFA treats people. I can understand someone being there as a lurker not wanting to protest, but it would really be interesting, I think, if everyone who did not like their treatment of others to speak up. Perhaps they will find they have far fewer subscribers than they would like if they keep banning them and begin to notice that they are nothing but a small coterie of intellectual bullies.

  • BruceG
    2018-03-24 23:21:17 UTC - 23:21 | Permalink

    I see that their moderator “Logic Please” in the thread Vridar Discusses AFA #15 is downplaying the image that you captured with an avatar with C**t by referring to it and the associated vulgar swearing childishly as “Wrude Words (TM)” in the thread: Vridar discusses AFA

    “Here’s another irony for you – someone who blathers on endlessly about imagined personal abuse… then screencaps a comment that contains precisely none with a “ta-da” type verbal flourish that’s just embarrassing, frankly.

    Because of course, there’s no abuse directed at the person in that post. There’s Wrude Words (TM) and robust, direct speech. That’s it. And they are absolutely permitted here. Because it’s the content that really matters, isn’t it?

    The basic, repeated inability (I’m being generous in attributing it to this) to parse and comprehend properly, along with the utter failure to understand or follow clear rules, is sad but predictable. And, to put it bluntly… a blatant failure of basic scholarship.”

    The mug avatar and swearing described as “robust direct speech” would not be tolerated in most moderated online forums that I am aware of and certainly not in any workplaces for decades now. Aren’t they concerned with foul language and misogyny issues affecting their membership?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-24 23:33:43 UTC - 23:33 | Permalink

      Why on earth are they still discussing me? Are you serious or am I reading too much into your comments? The prompt that led me to leave was facetiously tossing back at someone a question asking him if he didn’t have something more important to do than check up on threads he had no interest in —being a response to his barb that we all should have had more important things to do than be discussing the historicity of Jesus. And now they really are obsessed with my leaving or presence or whatever? There is something very immature and questionable in other ways about their mentalities and interests if that is the case.

      I get the impression the forum is run by bunch of “intellectual hoons” who are totally deaf to their own mocking failures of “reason and logic”.

  • BruceG
    2018-03-24 23:42:05 UTC - 23:42 | Permalink

    To make it even worse for them, the above moderator rant was “Liked” with a thumbs up from Odd (another moderator) and even thanked by The Irreverent Mr Black.

    Like odd, The Irreverent Mr Black, 142857, Sendraks, Strato liked this post
    Thank The Irreverent Mr Black thanked this post

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-24 23:57:39 UTC - 23:57 | Permalink

      Perhaps “cult atheism” is the wrong image. Maybe “gang-atheism” is more appropriate.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-25 00:00:47 UTC - 00:00 | Permalink

      They are not worth the time of day, Bruce. They are not “intellectuals” at any level. They certainly are ignorant of the fundamentals of even the informal logical fallacies. Anyone genuinely interested can read my comments as they stand. I have no need or desire to bother defending anything I have written against the nonsense they have spewed in response. If people are swayed by their words without looking at my own posts then they are not the sorts of people who interest me.

  • BruceG
    2018-03-25 00:02:11 UTC - 00:02 | Permalink

    I think that you were treated very unfairly there as a new member. You argued very logically in a calm manner, even when there was pressure to do otherwise. Now they are uncomfortable at the spotlight being thrown back on their own hypocrisy and lack of impartial reasoning. To create and respond to a thread called “Vridar discusses AFA” publicly was a bad move if they didn’t want their dirty washing displayed on a popular, critical atheist public forum.

    I don’t know why now they are backstabbing you after you left, they had plenty of opportunity to confront you by answering your questions on the threads you created and with their issues while you were there. Maybe they WANT to show how reasonable they are to each other and how you habitually fly into “rants and rages” – but they are failing miserably.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-03-25 00:13:13 UTC - 00:13 | Permalink

      Perhaps my last comment: Reminding me as they do of Tim O’Neill I think it is fair to say they are intellectual cowards. Tim knows he is welcome to discuss questions with me but only on condition that he refrain from abusive and insulting language. That condition of mine is obviously too much for him. Without that sort of language the inadequacies of his arguments will be all too obvious for all to see. These guys at AFA are just the same.

      (I include toejam, too. The only difference with toejam is his self-indignant disingenuousness when caught out.)

  • Neil Godfrey
    2018-03-25 01:28:57 UTC - 01:28 | Permalink

    If anyone would like to send me each forum member’s comments (e.g. all the “bluelightning” comments about me from the different threads in one list, all those by “logic please” in another….) I will run each list through my Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program to see what it indicates about the character of each person’s engagement and post the results here. http://liwc.wpengine.com/how-it-works/

  • Sir Patrick Crocodile
    2018-04-01 01:33:48 UTC - 01:33 | Permalink

    Hello Vridar. If your god asked you to kill somebody then would you do it?

    Very simple question. Just like most questions that atheists would have if being bombarded by religion-peddlers. Feel free to ponder before answering the question, while I investigate this further.

    • Sir Patrick Crocodile
      2018-04-01 02:15:07 UTC - 02:15 | Permalink

      Before I continue investigating, I note the following so far.

      One thing to remember though is that it is a community. There are community forums set up for all manner of things these days, including specific models of motorcycles and cars.

      The “Coming Out”, “Mental Health Issues”, “Educational issues” etc forums were there because these are issues that are infected with religion. It is (or at least, was) a great starting point to find out exactly why the AFA was created in the first place.

      My initial findings suggest that, while I can appreciate your train of thought, it is important to remember that:

      – The AFA Forums are the public community arm of the AFA
      – The AFA Forums are the public face of the AFA itself, even though member’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of the AFA.
      – Atheists often get bombarded with religious nutters trying to peddle a religion as “science” and failing miserably.

      My question about killing-in-the-name-of-God was asked to many theists over the years, and many have turned into intellectual jelly as a result.

      • 2018-04-01 03:05:32 UTC - 03:05 | Permalink

        Gday Sir Patrick Crocodile 🙂

        The only theist around here is me AFAIK, but I am certainly no religion-peddler – I am a sceptic about the historical Jesus, and critical of religions.

        Neil is neither a theist nor a religion-peddler, nor is anyone else here.

        Did you assume that anyone who criticises atheists must be a theist and a religion-peddler ?

        BTW –
        no, I would certainly not kill anyone for any reason. My idea of God is nothing like the OT myths.

        Kapyong

        • Sir Patrick Crocodile
          2018-04-01 04:32:03 UTC - 04:32 | Permalink

          Thanks Kapyong,

          Most people who do criticise atheists/atheism are theists, from my experience.
          However there are also many atheists who criticise other atheists. I am one of them. I’ve criticised many atheists. Consider my comments to be an explanation of what often happens there. Other atheists have criticised me too, for various things. I don’t agree with every single atheist on everything because that would be impossible.

          At least atheists are willing to either discuss it instead of killing people and starting wars because of Not-My-Religion syndrome. I bet World War III will be a big fight on the Internet.

          Put it this way, there are “cultish” behaviours at Vridar too. I see a lot of focus on the bible, to the point where it is not immediately obvious from the content whether or not this is an atheist vlog.

          There are certain changes that were made in recent times that I am not too keen about that community as well (eg. Super Moderators who don’t fly, don’t have X-ray vision, don’t wear capes, etc [I could be wrong though], and a handful of other more serious tidbits) but every community has a good and bad. I bet even Vridar has them.

          Yet I do not see how publicly shaming a community just because of a few tidbits are going to really help, it’s probably worth moving on.
          (Having said that, those Super Moderators ought to get some capes on…)

          As for AFA members creating fake accounts; I can’t recall ever seeing this sort of thing, and to my knowledge, the moderator/admin teams are rather strict on that sort of thing. Occasionally the admin team have other accounts to test new features (an untested forum is a rubbish forum) but they rarely use these as a daily posting. However, if you do have evidence of this I’d love to hear about it!

          The AFA forum is just like any other forum – it has like minded people. Much like the Ford Mustang forum is full of Mustang owners, and you’ll rarely find owners of Honda HRVs there.

          I note a complaint about moderators “enforcing AFA standards” – remember that the forum is owned by the AFA and is the public face of the AFA. I will admit that it isn’t perfect, but ultimately it’s their standards.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-04-06 06:53:45 UTC - 06:53 | Permalink

            Hi Patrick. I would be interested in your definition or understanding of what is meant by “cultish behaviours” if, as you say, you see them here on this blog. Do you really mean that an interest in biblical and Christian origins is a sign of a cultish mentality?

            I disagree with the rest of your analysis of AFA forum and criticism of my post. I was not primarily interested in AFA per se but only for what the experience there helped me understand about a question that has bothered many of us for quite some time: why do some atheists attack mythicists with such venom? I think the answer ties in with the whole group-identity thing. Groups need features that define them and “superior rationality” appears to be one such feature the atheist group-mentality seems to like. The way these points play out was the message of my post.

            You surely don’t think that SEG, Rene, myself and Kapyong were treated with the same standards as others in the discussion of Jesus’ historicity, do you? All sorts of personal attacks and disingenuous and blatant innuendo were launched at us; but if at any time any of us pointed this out it was us who were penalized as the trouble makers. Meanwhile Toejam was praised for arguments grounded in sheer question begging and quote-mining and avoidance of counter-arguments and distortions of opposing points.

            The rules were not applied equally or fairly or even at all. They were applied capriciously, or rather with hostile intent against SEG, Rene, Kapyong and me. The Forum appears to me to be run by a clique of immature louts. They do not apply the standards that are set out in their own rules; they praise illogical arguments; they approve and join in ad hominem attacks against certain targets; they penalize people like myself for pointing out where they are inconsistent or unfair.

            • Sir Patrick Crocodile
              2018-04-08 12:55:19 UTC - 12:55 | Permalink

              Hi Neil,

              You’ve got some good points here. I’ve had a fair bit of time to think about this one.

              ” I would be interested in your definition or understanding of what is meant by “cultish behaviours” if, as you say, you see them here on this blog. Do you really mean that an interest in biblical and Christian origins is a sign of a cultish mentality?”

              Not so much the *interest*, but rather the *focus* on it. Basically to me it seems that this extensive focus on the bible and Christianity, like that’s all atheism is about, seems a little “cultish” to me, just like the behaviour you experienced on the AFA forums seems “cultish” to you.

              “I disagree with the rest of your analysis of AFA forum and criticism of my post. I was not primarily interested in AFA per se but only for what the experience there helped me understand about a question that has bothered many of us for quite some time: why do some atheists attack mythicists with such venom?”

              Interestingly this highlights an interesting point: what is a ‘mythicist” and why would atheists attack them? If a “mythicist” is what I suspect it is in this context, then it could be because other atheists see the whole exercise as a waste of time: remember many atheists were originally religious, and eventually come to the conclusion that religion is bollocks. So I would suggest that atheists in general see such detailed analyses about religion to be wasteful in resources and time. Personally I have better things to do than attack “mythicists” here.

              “I think the answer ties in with the whole group-identity thing. Groups need features that define them and “superior rationality” appears to be one such feature the atheist group-mentality seems to like. The way these points play out was the message of my post.”

              Could be. Ironically over the years, I notice many different atheist groups battle on the internet because of this kind of superiority complex: I suspect now a days the AFA isn’t very different. It’s animal nature really, and one cannot escape from it without being an alien from outer space.

              “You surely don’t think that SEG, Rene, myself and Kapyong were treated with the same standards as others in the discussion of Jesus’ historicity, do you? All sorts of personal attacks and disingenuous and blatant innuendo were launched at us; but if at any time any of us pointed this out it was us who were penalized as the trouble makers. Meanwhile Toejam was praised for arguments grounded in sheer question begging and quote-mining and avoidance of counter-arguments and distortions of opposing points.”

              I would have to do some digging up further into this.

              “The rules were not applied equally or fairly or even at all. They were applied capriciously, or rather with hostile intent against SEG, Rene, Kapyong and me. The Forum appears to me to be run by a clique of immature louts. They do not apply the standards that are set out in their own rules; they praise illogical arguments; they approve and join in ad hominem attacks against certain targets; they penalize people like myself for pointing out where they are inconsistent or unfair.”

              This is getting interesting. Care to post links to the offending threads in question?

              Based on what I can see, It does appear that “Quine” and “Kapyong” are sockpuppets of one another, based on what moderator postings mention. When I was around on that forum years ago, sockpuppetry would often result in an permaban. I can see only everything that you can, as a guest.

              • Kapyong
                2018-04-08 19:11:23 UTC - 19:11 | Permalink

                You failed to turn anyone to intellectual jelly.

                You were wrong about Vridar being a theist.

                Quine was not a sock-puppet, but a new account after the Kapyong ID was trashed.

                Another AFA member pointed out that sock-puppets were not uncommon on AFA.

                AFA turned out to be a villainous hive of childish bullshit and hypocritical abuse.

                You failed to address most of the serious problems that were pointed out.

                You ignored the several persons who pointed out the many grave problems with AFA.

                You failed to support your ridiculous criticisms of Vridar.

              • two dogs
                2018-04-08 22:18:45 UTC - 22:18 | Permalink

                Kapyong said:

                “Quine was not a sock-puppet, but a new account after the Kapyong ID was trashed.”

                Kapyong previously said:

                “Kapyong got burned. I made a new account Quine just to keep an eye open there.”

                and

                “When the Kapyong ID got his Burn Notice at AFA, I made a new ID just to keep an eye in, and used that to inform them. I just got a ‘sock puppet’ infraction of course.)”

                and

                “Kapyong was burned – widely ignored, and never to be used again.”

                The facts are that Kapyong joined the AFA forums on the 28th February. He created the Quine sockpuppet on 10th March. With his Kapyong account, he posted “Gday Quine. Welcome to the site.” in Quine’s introduction thread on the 13th March. The Quine account was banned as a sockpuppet on 22 March, when we realised that had been done. The Kapyong account was suspended, for only 3 days, on 22 March for creating a sockpuppet.

                The facts don’t match the continued assertions that the creation of Quine account was due to the Kapyong account being “burned”

              • Sir Patrick Crocodile
                2018-04-10 13:42:50 UTC - 13:42 | Permalink

                Hello Kapyong,

                Now it seems two dogs addressed a few of these points, so I’m not going to repeat the same stuff.

                “You failed to turn anyone to intellectual jelly.”
                I wasn’t actually trying to turn anyone into intellectual jelly.

                “You were wrong about Vridar being a theist.”
                I’ve been wrong about stuff before, so not the first time I suppose. Not a blunder to be proud of, but certainly it may be worth focusing on things other than the bible.

                “AFA turned out to be a villainous hive of childish bullshit and hypocritical abuse.
                You ignored the several persons who pointed out the many grave problems with AFA.”
                This is the core of my investigation as to what the AFA is like now, 5 years after I left the place. I have heard this accusation a number of times, and it is possible that it has some merit. Please don’t get me wrong, I am listening, however with every story there are two sides.

                “You failed to address most of the serious problems that were pointed out.”
                “You failed to support your ridiculous criticisms of Vridar.”
                For example? The last I recall mentioning about Vridar is that there appears to be an extensive focus on one particular religion: Christianity. Under the title, is written ‘Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science.’ I would advise you to consider my “ridiculous criticisms of Vridar” to be constructive.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-04-06 06:55:37 UTC - 06:55 | Permalink

      I have no idea what you are talking about — presuming you mean me when you address your comment to “vridar”. I have no god so your question makes no sense.

  • BruceG
    2018-04-01 09:45:38 UTC - 09:45 | Permalink

    Here’s a prime example of how one of their woefully inept moderators with the ironic name of “Logic Please” gets it wrong and paranoically thinks she/it is being targeted and has a justified legal complaint of harassment and copyright:

    “They’re still going over at the blog, as it happens – having moved from psycho-analysing sub-fora titles , to someone called “BruceG” feverishly c&p’ing my posts verbatim from here to there as if that proves… something or other. And “outing” people who like or thank them. We might get into relevant copyright and harassment issues later… but I digress.

    “BruceG” and Neil are currently opining inter alia that our creating and commenting in this very thread shows how very “obsessed” we are with them.

    Ummm except that… check who posted the thread, again? Oh yeah. Kapyong’s sockpuppet. One of them. Not us. With an explicit link and invitation to read the blog. But somehow that’s OUR fault too. And makes US “obsessed”. Not too crash hot on some key details, those two. :eyeroll:

    I won’t c&p or screencap, but please feel free to head over and see the comments for yourself. Unless they magically disappear lol.”

    “Logic Please”, when you say, “We might get into relevant copyright and harassment issues later” you are showing your complete ignorance of how copyright and harassment works in the real world. I will give a very good example of what could transpire from a complaint with your solicitor so you can learn from your own stupidity. See if you can learn anything from the example given;

    “Logic Please” employs a solicitor to address copyright issues that she/it has raised as a moderator on the public AFA forum regarding what has been copied and pasted from her/it posts on this blog. She/it complains that what she/it has written on a public forum has been copied and pasted on another public forum – Vridar’s blog. Her/its solicitor tells her that it is not a copyright nor harassment issue. He thinks that by she/it by complaining about it she is a TM “Wrude word” C*nt.

    She/it then rocks down to the local police station to complain about me, with online tag of “BruceG” is harassing her/it on a public online forum.

    They laugh her/it out of the station, calling her/it a TM “Wrude word” C*nt. Still think it’s funny?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-04-06 06:38:29 UTC - 06:38 | Permalink

      Do I hear echoes of Tim O’Neill’s style in the above quotation? If not Tim himself, certainly the same mind-set is spilling forth.

  • daVox
    2018-04-02 04:38:31 UTC - 04:38 | Permalink

    I believe the AFA has lost its focus, and people have started realizing this. The loss of focus on atheism and religion in favour of leftist extremist crap (feminism, “gender diversity” and other associated delusional crap) may explain why the Global Atheist Convention of 2018 was cancelled due to lack of interest.

    One of the guest speakers was Clementine Ford (the rabid feminist, not the actress). Here is a woman who publicly humiliated and shamed an autistic person for giving strangers High Fives, because this apparently constitutes “sexual harassment.”
    They take her words as seriously as a Christian takes the Gospel, and woe betide those who criticise her.

    No wonder people are losing interest in the AFA’s efforts.

    • daVox
      2018-04-29 08:10:09 UTC - 08:10 | Permalink

      Holy cow-pie!

      Exhibit A: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616227#post616227
      “You even stood by approvingly while comments replete with transphobia, dehumanisation, homophobia, and sexism were perpetrated in your blog comments, in the name of attacking your imagined foes. …”

      Exhibit B: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616242#post616242
      “I finally read through the whole comment section and i’m genuinly offended, you vrider let that transphobic drivel go but complain about being abused. Being constantly invalidated and scape goated is abuse, every aspect of our lives right down to our genitals is a political discussion and we get dragged into things we as a group have nothing to do with. Funny how everyone crying abuse just let the transphobia slide, almost as if your a bunch of hypocrits…….”

      There are no comments on this blog post that seem to match Exhibit A’s claims.
      Exhibit B sounds like a christian with a victim complex shoving its religion down everyone’s throat, subsequently claiming to be “persecuted for their beliefs” while they are ejected by those who are fed up with their behaviour.

      Except this time, the same sort of behaviour garnered sufficient approval, because ladyboy power. It is not “transphobia/dehumanisation/homophobia” to criticise the delusions of those who deliberately mutilate themselves and use bullying tactics to convince others they’re a member of the opposite sex.

      There is no (let alone questionable) evidence that the claims in Exhibit A and B are true, yet they garner approval from a community claiming to celebrate reason. In the rational thinking world this is known as a “double standard.”

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-04-29 09:41:16 UTC - 09:41 | Permalink

        I glanced over some of those comments and noticed some of what you have quoted here. Afterwards I was wondering what comments I had allowed that expressed transphobia, homophobia, sexism…. I would love to ask but it is evident that those people have not the slightest interest in engaging me in any rational discussion based on anything I have actually said. I can’t believe they have even bothered to read with any attention anything I have written at all, unless they have done so with hostile intent and can only see triggers play with.

        I really did underestimate just how pack-mentalitiy they really are. They are just like wild dogs tearing at their prey.

        And all of this started over my telling them that I found their moderators uneven over a trivial matter by comparison with all that we are seeing now. Interesting that they would censure me in what was supposed to be a discussion on the scholarly Jesus but allow me to say all sorts of things that give them opportunity vent bizarre hatred. If they were the only atheists I knew existed years ago I am sure I would never have become an atheist. They seem determined to prove everything the fundamentalists say about atheists — steeped in hatred, lies, inhumanity, — is true.

        • two dogs
          2018-04-30 08:48:49 UTC - 08:48 | Permalink

          Dear Neil,

          Apparently you also “glanced over” daVox ‘s blatantly transphobic rant in his comment? If it helps you to see it, it’s in his second last paragraph.

          Julian

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-04-30 09:35:24 UTC - 09:35 | Permalink

            Oh, I see. So there was an AFA forum complaint about transphobic comments in this thread and deVox responds to that complaint and his response is the evidence that this comment thread contained offensive transphobic comments????

            I am also waiting for you to admit you jumped the gun with nonsense presumptions over my reference to the bus ad.

            As I said, two dogs, logic and following simple steps of a conversation are not the strongest points among your ilk. I sometimes wonder if you and some of your friends are really drunk or high when you write. That would explain a lot. You obviously have no interest in reasoned discussion of the issues raised.

            I am still waiting for you to identify where I have failed to back up any of my assertions in my post — you seem to want to bury what was said in that post and make your own comments the centre of attention instead.

            I am also waiting for an explanation why a whole thread on AFA forums was opened up to attack me and deliver insult and abuse after insult and abuse before I wrote the above post. Care to explain that?

            Keep the comments coming, two dogs. You are adding more evidence and strength to everything I said with every one. The only area where my post was lacking was in how far I underestimated the hoodlum character and immaturity of you and your AFA friends.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2018-04-30 10:42:58 UTC - 10:42 | Permalink

            By the way, two-dogs . . . .

            Recall above how you jumped in assuming I was somehow finding fault with idea of an atheist bus ad and I had to tell you that nooo… I thought the ad was a good idea and I loved it. Oops. You went quiet for a while then but now you are coming back assuming I have some sort of phobia re transgender. Well, at the risk of embarrassing you again, I have to tell you that in Bangkok (I have family contacts there and visit every year) I always make a point of visiting a particular hairdresser salon in a major shopping centre for a haircut — because, well, I have to confess, my favourite hairdresser there is a ladyboy. We have great conversations. (But my wife has no reason to be jealous. It is just a happy friendship.)

            Sorry, but you won’t catch me supporting transphobic rants here. Maybe if you got yourself sober and tried to address the content of the post you would not keep falling in the ditches you dig for yourself here.

            • two dogs
              2018-04-30 10:49:52 UTC - 10:49 | Permalink

              So you don’t think that this statement, by daVox, is a transphobic rant?

              “It is not “transphobia/dehumanisation/homophobia” to criticise the delusions of those who deliberately mutilate themselves and use bullying tactics to convince others they’re a member of the opposite sex.”

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-30 11:01:47 UTC - 11:01 | Permalink

                You must be upset. You forgot to try to annoy me by introducing your comment with Dear Neil. You’re slipping there, two-dogs.

                I will parse the sentence for you at primary school level of comprehension and give you my own response to the words so even a spaced out brain can comprehend it when you tell me where all of the phobic rants of any kind are to be found in this thread and of which I was originally accused by your gang and to which deVox was responding.

                (Are you bored on AFA? Do your friends know you are spending so much time over here?)

              • daVox
                2018-04-30 23:13:46 UTC - 23:13 | Permalink

                “So you don’t think that this statement, by daVox, is a transphobic rant?”

                Why should I (or anybody else) care?
                If you read my statement again you will notice that I did not refer to ALL transgendered individuals.
                There are certainly a few in this world that I can appreciate and respect, and have actually made something out of themselves without resorting to cry-bully tactics. Same with Christians and Muslims and the like. So long as they don’t try to push a position by bullying, they have my respect. I may not agree with them but I respect their right to a differing opinion.

                Now when people criticise other peoples’ delusions, we rightfully laugh and fire back at claims of persecution and terms like “Islamophobia” and “anti-christian.”

                Now it seems you use the same cry-bully tactics the theists use, to the point of making lame attempts at guilting the Vridar owners into imposing censorship on a site that isn’t yours, just because someone criticises IDEAS, on the basis that it’s “transphobic/homophobic/dehumanizing” when I said nothing of the sort.

                Intellectual dishonesty at its finest if I say so myself, and ironically, a disservice to the more respectable transgendered individuals out there.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-04-30 23:32:38 UTC - 23:32 | Permalink

                I doubt Julian two dogs will be back here (why has he kept bothering?) but in an attempt to keep the comments on the points I want addressed I have put him on moderation (not banned him) with a view to only allowing a post from him that answers questions he has to date failed to address:

                1. evidence in the thread of any sort of “phobic” comments at the time of the accusations made on the AFA forum;

                2. specific arguments in the main post itself.

                What certain AFA persons have been doing is pretty much what I have come to expect from cults, tribal groups and even some biblical scholars — if someone criticizes fundamental positions then that someone becomes the target of all sorts of character smears; there is no moral flaw, no sin, that will be overlooked in an effort to blacken the name of said critic.

              • daVox
                2018-05-01 06:56:14 UTC - 06:56 | Permalink

                “What certain AFA persons have been doing is pretty much what I have come to expect from cults, tribal groups and even some biblical scholars — if someone criticizes fundamental positions then that someone becomes the target of all sorts of character smears; there is no moral flaw, no sin, that will be overlooked in an effort to blacken the name of said critic.”

                Oh I wouldn’t worry Neil. They’re too busy responding with personal attacks and name-calling to bother:

                http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616377#post616377
                “daVox appears to be an angry male rights activist, with a short memory, and Neil seems to have poor comprension skills!”

                http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616380#post616380
                “It’s a truly disgusting creature, ye Davox”

                http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616443#post616443
                “Yep. He’s an arse and transphobic apologist.”

                http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616467#post616467
                “For fuck’s sake, despite still not addressing daVox’s blatant transphobia, he’s now trying the old “I know someone who’s transgender” trick!

                He really is a fuckin’ turd.”

                http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?31390-Vridar-discusses-AFA&p=616473#post616473
                “The way he gets in bed with bigots and phobes has pretty well done it.

                He’s a vile one.”

                I’ll not stoop down to their level. I haven’t used any personal attacks against any AFA forum members during this entire charade, and it shall remain so.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-05-01 07:39:41 UTC - 07:39 | Permalink

                They display a prurient interest in what is said here. Bizarre. They must have such boring lives without critics to focus on. But I think it all serves to confirm the point of my post. They began their tirades against me personally before I wrote my post and I am still trying to fathom why beyond the theoretical speculative level.

                (I might just add that I did not know what you were referring to in your offending comment and assumed you had some specific situation/persons in mind; that’s why I did not interpret it as a generic attack. But I also thought it was treading dangerously close to something unsavoury and I would just like to make it clear that this blog deplores all bigoted and ignorant aspersions on any group of people.)

              • daVox
                2018-05-01 09:41:34 UTC - 09:41 | Permalink

                Assuming this is addressed to me:

                “I might just add that I did not know what you were referring to in your offending comment and assumed you had some specific situation/persons in mind; that’s why I did not interpret it as a generic attack.”

                And they think your comprehension was bad! You are right in your assumption. It is why my comment uses words like “deliberately” and “and” to specify the circumstances. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of those people who don’t want to get involved and are quite respectable, and I understand that not all people associated with a particular group will behave the same way the rest of them does.

                “But I also thought it was treading dangerously close to something unsavoury and I would just like to make it clear that this blog deplores all bigoted and ignorant aspersions on any group of people.”

                Life’s boring if you can’t live on the edge and look into the face of danger at least once in a while, but I also don’t take kindly to bigoted and ignorant aspersions on groups of people. Good luck explaining that policy to those who think I’m a vile, disgusting, angry male’s rights activist with a short memory.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-05-01 23:35:05 UTC - 23:35 | Permalink

                I appreciate your comments, daVox, but l would beg that we keep away from the edge. I have had further interaction with them on AFA and am beginning to see them as “lost souls” who somehow need a “tribe” to identify with. They come across as somehow insecure in their atheism, or certainly they express very little maturity or self-assurance in many of the comments. (Bullying and abuse are their substitutes for self-assurance.) I would like to try to avoid anything that might unnecessarily provoke them. There are other ways we can get messages across. There are, after all, surely, innocent bystanders also reading those exchanges. I’d like to appeal to them mainly.

              • daVox
                2018-05-02 09:13:10 UTC - 09:13 | Permalink

                I can appreciate this perspective and your request to keep away from the edge is noted.
                The “lost souls” explanation may explain the herd mentality.
                At the same time, they are promoting a very dangerous culture of political correctness, to the point where they may be accidentally provoked despite all good intentions, all while encouraging others to do the same. The edge seems quite blurred and hard to make out in this case.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-05-03 03:24:49 UTC - 03:24 | Permalink

              They are no doubt a prickly lot. No question. And I don’t like the tribalism there. Deplore it, actually. But I try to be good on my side of the fence as well.

  • BruceG
    2018-04-02 07:57:04 UTC - 07:57 | Permalink

    Yes Dafox, I agree. I belong to several overseas forums and none of their moderators are any where near as unfair and irrational as theirs. I would not recommend them to anyone wanting meaningful discussions on what interests us as atheists. Jesus myth theory conversations can get heated at times, but you need to bring in contentious issues every now and again, that’s why it’s a forum! Btw, I just found out something hilarious as a result of this post;

    Try searching for “Logic Please Australian atheist cult members” and Google places it on the first page for that search term. Now search for “Eustace Black Australian atheist cult members” and he gets recognised by Google giving him first place, lol! I think it is time to look for something new in Australia, more like the USA sites where quasi feminazi types don’t scream “As you were!” and don’t have buffoons cheering on irrational posts.

    Are there any other less bullying discussion boards that are worthwhile in Australia?

    • daVox
      2018-04-02 10:12:39 UTC - 10:12 | Permalink

      Hi BruceG,

      I am looking for such a board myself. An ideal such board in my view:

      – Focus on atheism and discussion about what people believe and why they believe it.
      – Focus on issues affecting atheists (churches being tax free, religion in schools, religion in news, religion-based oppression, etc)
      – An “off-topic” board for the occasional off-topic post.
      – Focus on rational thought and skepticism of bad ideas.
      – Staying away from becoming a pedestal for non-religion-specific irrational rubbish like feminazi/LGBTIZOMGLOLWTFBBQ99+ junk (unless criticising it briefly as per previous point).

      It is time that either (a) a new organisation takes over the AFA and becomes a proper voice of reason, or (b) the AFA steer itself back on course and clean the forum out of all this feminazi/LGBTIZOMGLOLWTFBBQ horseshit.

      The AFA certainly doesn’t seem to represent rationality, logic, reason, or challenging beliefs and bad ideas anymore. Case in point: the contents of the “Anti-equality” forum.

      I’m not trying to demonize the AFA or its forum here (and many people there are decent folk), but there are obviously things about that org that stick out like a sore thumb.

      • Pofarmer
        2018-04-10 14:32:03 UTC - 14:32 | Permalink

        Check out Patheos.com non-religious section. You might find something there to your liking.

  • BruceG
    2018-04-11 15:12:28 UTC - 15:12 | Permalink

    Have a look at an “excommunication” of a member that merely replied logically without emotional outbursts unravel on the Australian Atheist Forum. You are very correct when you liken their membership to being in a clan. Source: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?p=614527

    Apparently if you are silly enough to sign up as a member and disagree with the group think, you are not only vilified, but silenced with a suspension for an extended period with no trial or recourse. They are worse than a religious cult, at least most will give you an opportunity to defend yourself. Not so with the AFA. New members that don’t cut the mustard are mocked behind their backs and shunned if they don’t conform. Remind you of anything? We really, really need something better.

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