14th March 2019: New post covering the professional side of my life as a librarian: On Being a Librarian
Since I wrote the following spiel — in late February 2012 to be more precise — Tim Widowfield has joined me as a regular co-contributor to this blog. The closest piece to a little “bio” of himself I have been able to persuade Tim to produce is in his post How I Escaped Fundamentalism: 5 Myths About Ex-Fundies.
More recent still: Atheism, Vridar and Blogging Research in Religion, History, Politics, Science. . . . addresses the origin of the name Vridar and its relevance to the themes covered here.
Tim has let slip more of his personal background in a comment that I reproduce, in part, here:
I lost faith in God and left Fundamentalism when I was about 15 years old. I took my first university course in New Testament Studies three years later. It was in that class, which I enjoyed immensely (because I was still fascinated by the Bible and likely always will be), where I first learned about source criticism, form criticism, and the basic history of Christian theology.
When the professor first went over the Two-Source Hypothesis, it was an exhilarating experience. Eureka! I drank it all in and loved every drop.
From the age of 15 until my mid-40s, I accepted the “failed apocalyptic prophet” theory of the historical Jesus, and didn’t think very much about it. In fact, I didn’t know that mythicism was even an option until a few years ago. And I’m still not convinced by it.
For me, it’s similar to Marxism. Marx’s critique of capitalism is devastating. But Marx’s replacement leaves me unconvinced. In the same way, Price’s, Doherty’s, and Carrier’s critique of historical Jesus scholarship has revealed the naked emperor. But I still can’t justify moving from my agnostic position. . . . .
Finally, as Neil said, we’re just hobbyists here, but we take it seriously. I don’t have to worry about making friends or influencing people. I’m not jockeying for a better parking space in the faculty lot. I don’t worry about tenure. So I’m free to speak my mind. And you can damned well bet that I’ll continue to do so.
Vridar is my doppelganger. The name comes from Vardis Fisher’s fictionalized biographical two-part novel “The Orphans in Gethsemane” and is a near-anagram of the author’s own name. To read this novel, or even his 1939 Harper prize winning “Children of God”, is to read my life too. Everything from boyhood, religion, women, fatherhood, personal growth to atheism is there. For info on who Vardis Fisher is check out Vardis Fisher (American Atheists site), Vardis Fisher (VardisFisher.com) and Vardis Fisher (wikipedia article). But if you’re really wanting to know where I’m coming from it might be easier to simply read my own odyssey from heavenly thrones down to earth.
My background (chronologically) is in
- secondary school history teaching (ancient and modern history),
- postgraduate educational studies and information science,
- academic librarianship,
- being the metadata specialist with a project building regional university repositories in Australia and New Zealand,
- digital repository management,
- two years as a Principal Librarian and Bibliographic Consultant with National Library Board, Singapore,
- coordinating the digitisation, repository services and digital collections in Australian universities — University of Southern Queensland, RUBRIC Project, Murdoch University, Deakin University, . . . . The most exciting project I am involved with here is a national government funded project to digitize, collate and make available for preservation, research and cultural purposes aboriginal languages resource materials,
- and most recently — research data management.
Specifically, my formal educational qualifications are a BA and post graduate Bachelor of Educational Studies, both at the University of Queensland, and a post graduate Diploma in Arts (Library and Information Science) from Charles Sturt University near Canberra, Australia. I am an associate of the professional library and information services organization of Australia.
But “librarian” means little as a job label nowadays. I actually never see or deal with books at work. My business cards say things like “metadata specialist” and (currently) “digital collections coordinator”. I work with computer programmers, academics and research bodies as well as librarians. Job titles and labels are as fluid as my responsibilities. My job is to assist with applications of new technologies and metadata schema and ontologies to enhance the accessibility of cultural resources and research data online and to help coordinate systems that enhance the availability of academic research publications and datasets as well as coordinating the development of research data management across CDU. I am also on two national metadata advisory committees (RIF-CS and MACAR). Perhaps “information specialist” is a more accurate term for my profession than “librarian”.
For the benefit of those who are curious about internet claims that I am someone else I invite them to read the Synapse Newsletter volum3 2011, page 7.
My informal education is somewhat reflected in my personal library collection, LibraryThing.
So the biblical studies interest is a hobby, although a serious one. I do like to check out the foundations of significant beliefs as thoroughly as my real-life commitments will allow.
Since some people have wrongly imputed to me some sort of vitriolic anti-Christian vendetta, I have posted the reasons for my Vridar blog under Why I’m doing this, Vridar is not an anti-Christian blog (which includes a link or two to posts by fellow atheists expressing the most humane indulgence towards religious viewpoints!), and Hoo boy, I have a headache. A more recent “autobiographical” post is I left the cult and met the enemy. (I do criticize religion at times, but sometimes I also say nice things about it. But where there is damage done by certain aspects of Christianity then I sometimes think I am not being critical often enough and I should post more about that. But I know others do a good job of this anyway.)
My views on biblical studies are very much in line with those of “minimalists” such as Philip R. Davies, Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas L. Thompson. I have attempted to apply some of the relevant principles of scholars such as these to New Testament studies as well.
Most of my posts relate to New Testament studies, and my primary interest is in sharing new ideas, in particular those that explore the New Testament writings from the perspective of literary analysis. One will see many of the scholars whose works I have blogged about — with a view to sharing new ideas into biblical and Christian origins, or simply sharing certain scholarly ideas that would not otherwise be readily accessible to the wider public — in my Categories list under “Book reviews and comments”.
While my posts on mythicism sometimes attract more than average attention, I do not post on that topic very often at all. I have attempted a number of times to clarify that this blog is exactly what I have said it is: a sharing of the lesser known biblical scholarship with a wider audience and an exploration into Christian origins with a focus on the more liberal or radical interpretations emanating from biblical scholars. See, for example, my post Vridar is not a mythicist blog but a blog about Christian origins and evidence . . . . The topics that interest me the most are about scholarly insights into new understandings of biblical origins, writings, etc. Sometimes I will certainly draw conclusions from these that do not agree with the majority of scholars, but I always make my own views clearly distinct from others I am discussing.
I am also very interested in other topics (politics, human nature) but don’t post as often on those anymore, partly because I feel I have more “amateur expertise” in biblical studies and know others are doing an excellent job in those other areas.
One reason I believe some tend to brand this blog as a mythicist blog is the implications of my posts about methodology, in particular methodology in historical studies. Just as the so-called “minimalists” embraced normative historical methodology and applied it to the study of the Old Testament, and just as the conclusions of that methodological inquiry led to a re-evaluation of the historicity of many OT biblical persons, so I have attempted to apply the same methodology to NT studies. And yes, this method does indeed open the door to the possibility of Jesus never having been a historical person at all. But intellectual integrity means we must follow wherever the valid methods lead. On the other hand, much of what passes for NT historical studies is subjective and fallacious, and I take little pity on unscholarly remarks and even outright intellectual dishonesty where I see them — especially if I see evidence that such shoddy methods are from those who have a wide public influence. Public intellectuals have a public responsibility for how they lead society and I have little sympathy for them when they fail to promote intellectual integrity.
Another reason this is incorrectly seen as a mythicist blog is probably my record of challenging attacks on certain mythicist authors that are clearly ignorant of their arguments or grossly misrepresenting them. It should be obvious that one does not have to agree with all the arguments of everyone one defends in such situations.
I was quite surprised when I read others saying that my blog was for a mythicist audience so I set up a poll to ask where readers stand on this question, and I am very grateful to see that is clear that most are not mythicists.
Politically I am very much on the Left-ish and/or Green-ish (in some areas anarchistic “black-ish”) side of things. I see myself as a humanist-activist whenever given half a chance.
Since writing the above a number of critic have attempted to characterize me as “once a fundamentalist always a fundamentalist” on the strength of their awareness of my cult background. In response I wrote another post, A Little Biographical Footnote.
My other blog is Metalogger. [No longer active: 14/03/2019]
& my personal library collection is at LibraryThing.
Email: neilgodfrey1 [AT] gmail [DOT] com
Also contactable on Facebook (though not often — I am spending less and less time there all the time, now)
Temporarily defunct blog is Sweetreason (for real life, philosophical and activist issues) — simply could not keep up with so many blogs. Most sweetreason things fill up my time in real life anyway. Blogging seems superfluous. But add from time to time to my Vridar blog what would once have been a Sweetreason post.
15th May 2008, have just noticed that some users are copying posts of mine without attribution and also in contexts I am not comfortable with. That’s the internet I guess, but I’d prefer anyone wishing to copy to abide by the terms of the Creative Commons licence I have just taken out for this site:
Vridar by Neil Godfrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at vridar.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at /permissions/.