Category Archives: Vridar

So far this category is a catch-all for all posts relating to Vridar greetings to readers, to Vridar notices of rules, technical issues, and so forth. Is this category — or the current range of posts it includes — justified? Should Guest Posts be a child of this category?

Time to Return

Street Art — Pixabay

I took some leave from blogging, quite unplanned, but it was a compulsive digression. I have been reading, almost non-stop, book after book and article after article, trying to get a firmer handle on what has been happening to make the world (specifically, our “democracies” in the USA, Europe, Australia) what they are today. I knew something big was changing back in the 1980s and then through the 1990s but you know what it’s like, one is busy getting on with life and carries on like all the other frogs (cooking, washing, driving, working, watching tv) who are in the pot that is slowly coming to a boil.

It all started when someone here posted a video of an interview with Noam Chomsky. I had seen the video before but this time for some reason I took notice when Chomsky directed his interviewer to a study on the influence of corporate dollars on the political system. So I looked it up. It was a book published way back in 1995 by Thomas Ferguson, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.

The central argument of the book is that political parties are not primarily out there trying to win most votes. That’s a secondary exercise and one that falls into place after achieving their first priority: winning the financial backing of whoever can financially back them the most. In its simplest form the idea can be illustrated this way. (I use the issue of unionized labour because that was Ferguson’s illustration; I thought of changing it to the question of carbon emissions and global warming.)

Imagine 97% of the electorate want strong labour unions to ensure job security and fair compensation. These are the ordinary people with only the basic incomes to get by reasonably happy.

Now imagine 3% of the electorate oppose unionization of labour entirely. These are the rich factory owners who employ everyone else.

Election time comes. None of the 97% has the private means, the money, to stand for election. It costs money just to get around from venue to venue and more money to take care of basic income to support one’s family while doing that, etc etc. But one person hits on an idea of how to get money to do everything necessary to campaign for votes. The only people with the money are the 3%. So our would-be candidate asks them to fund the campaign. Some of that 3 % are willing to do so but only on the condition that the candidate promises not to support unionization, but even oppose the idea.

Another would-be candidate finds a few among the 3% who are willing to allow just a small amount of unionization, say for only 5% of the workforce.

Come election day, assuming the two candidates had equal advertizing and equal coverage of the electorate, that is, they each had the same amount of funding, the best that the 97% of the electorate would get out of the election is a representative who will support no more than the unionization of 5% of the workforce. They would not even be likely to get that candidate if he or she only got a fraction of the campaign contributions as their rival.

Obviously real life is more complex than that simplest of models but Ferguson and his colleagues who study the complexities of funding find the rule works essentially every time: to understand who rules look for who has the gold. That’s the golden rule.

Earlier I posted on what I believed to be an insightful article by Nancy Fraser, From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump — and Beyond. Thomas Ferguson’s work is coming from the same direction. But Golden Rule is old. Published 1995. So I looked for more recent work. And that’s where I’ve been the past several days, reading and following up more recent studies by Ferguson and by others he cites and others who appear to be working from the same datasets of evidence.

The most dramatic shifts have happened with the emergence of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, of course, and that’s where I have been trying to catch up with. What the hell is going on? It’s not completely alien to human experience, though. One recent study even sent me back to reading the 1973 edition of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (first published 1948). (That was to revisit other historical alliances of what Arendt calls “the alliance between mob and capital”.)

It’s been a fascinating, though troubling, journey, covering shifts and divisions in the corporate class, propaganda manipulations, and, I think, a deeper understanding of how this complex and confusing world works. Once again one finds scholarly research tackling questions that have traditionally been forbidden in their field and the need for those pioneers to branch out into interdisciplinary studies before eventually making significant inroads into the conventional wisdom.

I expect to be posting more along the lines of these sorts of studies.

Vridar Maintenance

You may have noticed that Vridar has been down from time to time recently. We have some technical issues that I’m going to try to address today. As a result, we may be offline for significant periods.

By the way, thanks to all the Vridarians who have donated to the cause. You have no idea how much it has helped. Thank you!

–Tim


Updated at 17:50 GMT

We have successfully upgraded our server. Thanks to your donations, we were able to add RAM. If we’re lucky, our MySQL instance will behave and stop crashing.

New Pages

In the right hand column I have added links to three new blog pages. They are under the Archives by Topic (Annotated) heading.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (or a Buck)?

Dear Vridarians,

Soon there will be a new button on the blog giving anyone so inclined to offer a small donation for the maintenance of this site. When we were on WordPress.com we learned that we were vulnerable to malicious DMCA complaints that could result in a third party shutting us down. Since then we have found our independence but at some cost.

In the grand scheme of things, the cost is not monumental but neither of us belongs to the affluent class, and the costs do add up. Just a couple of bucks here and there would help more than you know.

If by any chance we happen to collect a little more than we need, we might be able to use that excess to buy resources that we believe readers would be interested in reading about.

Best to all and thanks for reading Vridar,

Neil and Tim

P.S. We still refuse to take on advertisers, and we will never publish astroturf reviews.

Vridar Housekeeping

I’m making some sort of progress towards some consistency in the blog’s categories and tags (well into the categories right now having reduced them from around 50 million to a tenth of a million; but have yet to start seriously on eliminating overlaps in the tags). Here are some questions that are bugging me at the moment and maybe some readers may like to comment on them. (I’m too close to it all to think afresh at the moment, I think.)  . . . .

On the Ancient Literature category:

Original intention was to include here all non-Jewish works. Should this separation stand? What of Ezekiel the Tragedian or Artapanus of Alexandria and other similar Jewish authors in a “secular/Hellenistic” world? Is the subsequent breakdown into child categories justified?

read more »

A Blog is Not Ideal for Vridar Posts

Now that I am almost two-thirds of the way through the first round (of 3 to 4) of categorizing and tagging my 3700+ posts here it has become painfully apparent to me that a blog is not the appropriate storage area for many types of posts.

The blog allows for labelling content by categories and tags. Categories are broad conceptual terms while tags are for the many details. I have come to see that this classification system is designed to show readers what sorts of content is mostly found on a blog. That’s all very fine for some purposes, I am sure, but it is not what I want. My problem is that I have an “information science” background and I want to have a system that allows users to see fairly easily and quickly if there is a post here that might be of use to them. The categories and tagging system does not serve that purpose. It only (more or less) tells viewers the main biases of broad conceptual content that dominates a blog. Not the same thing by a long shot.

Categories and tags are fine for alerting web crawlers to what’s what when comparing or harvesting info from different sites, but they are not very useful for alerting viewers if there is something here that is of particular interest to them.

Some people have urged me in the past to separate my political content from my biblical posts so that I run two blogs. Ironically, it is the political side that lends itself more easily to the categories and tagging controls. A political blog focuses more on regular updates and is the sort of thing a blog is designed for. Though I also like to do background research posts on certain political issues and once again those sorts of posts are not ideally placed on a blog.

I am beginning to think that I ought to move, copy or somehow at least link the bulk of my and Tim’s posts to a static website instead — at least one which opens with a clear table of contents that narrows down to multiple indices.

I did have in mind a Topic Map (TAO) — I thought that would be ideal: it would, I thought, enable all sorts of cross-searching of terms, linking concepts, drawing out all sorts of answers along with related possible spin-off options. But I see that Topic Map technology has passed me by and is no longer a bee’s knees thing. I am out of touch and must catch up to see if there is a stable replacement yet available.

But that’s not going to happen before next week, maybe more than a year, even. My first task is to complete the first round of doing a “rough and ready” classification of posts with a crude category and tagging system. It will have many overlapping and grey areas but those will be refined in future iterations and refinements. Going on to 4000 posts is a lot for one person to sort through, but it has to be done, and no point putting it off any longer — as I have been doing for too long already.

 

 

Missing post content: Do any long-time readers have it?

I have lost images from a number of older posts, including this one, Merry Midrash from 2012: https://vridar.org/2012/12/25/merry-midrash/

We had problems with software I once used in connection with uploading images and too many images have simply disappeared altogether, it seems. With the post in above most of them are even missing from the Wayback Machine (archive.org) — which only captured the post once, in 2015, presumably after images were lost.

I know some blog readers have copied older posts. If anyone reading this happens to have a copy of https://vridar.org/2012/12/25/merry-midrash/ I’d very much welcome being sent the images again.

With thanks once again,

Neil

Plea for Patience

No doubt readers of Vridar are the most patient in the world but nonetheless I would like to say that I fully realize I am some quite few days behind catching up with comments and emails. Be sure I will do my best to respond before too long.

Looking for Communist Christ Mythicist Publications

One blogger is looking for old communist-era publications explaining Jesus as a mythical figure. I have had a similar interest in the sorts of things that were said about Jesus and Christian origins in the Soviet Union. I know Engels wrote something and that Drews impressed Lenin enough for him to propagate his views throughout the new Russia. See, for example, https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.slq.qld.gov.au/stable/309549

For some reason Kalthoff comes to mind but I can’t recall any specific link between his work and education in the Soviet Union.

If anyone knows specific works that directly answer this query please do leave a notice in the comments. (That is, I am only interested in links that identify titles/names that were published as arguments for the nonhistoricity of Jesus for readers/students in communist nations.)

My request is much the same as our blogger friend whose post, in translation, reads:

. . . . I pray for your help. . . . . During the time we lived in Romania, I visited the antiques as many times as I had the opportunity. Once (I think in Sibiu) I entered an antique shop that had some books on religion from the time of the communist period. I found them interesting but strange, presenting Jesus as a purely mythological person with traits and characteristics taken over from previous mythological people and gods. Then I did not foresee any occasion in which I would need communist propaganda like this and so I left the books on the shelf and did not buy them.

Now, I’m sorry for that decision.

Since then, between English speakers, this idea of ​​communist propaganda has become very popular in Internet communities. It would be the case for somebody (either I or others) to write a history of this idea that involves the crusade against Christianity during the Cold War.

I would start this project, but I encountered a problem. I do not have access to the necessary books because of the mistakes made many years ago in an antique shop in Romania.

I did not write this blog post just to advise you not to make the same mistake. I hope that some of my relatives and friends in Romania, or your friends and acquaintances, have some books like this, or to guess where I can find them either in a library or in an antique, in a personal collection.

That’s two of us now with the same request.

. . .

As a footnote, I am reminded here of the same blogger’s (somewhat amusing) response to my reference to Eric Hobsbawm’s point about historical methodology:

In no case can we infer the reality of any specific [hero, person] merely from the ‘myth’ that has grown up around him. In all cases we need independent evidence of his actions. 

In the context of our controversial topic those words by Hobsbawm sounded like the methodology of a communist propagandist to our friend:

You (and Hobsbawm) are free to adopt this approach, of course, but might Hobsbawm’s desire to rewrite the legacy of Communism suggest that his statement has more to do with ideology than mainstream historiography?

Interesting to compare another historian’s comment on the soundness of Hobsbawm’s methods as a historian.

Strange book packages

Sometimes a book is delivered in the post to me in packaging that is, well, curiuous.

I recently received a huge cardboard carton that felt very light and wondered what on earth it could be. I opened it to find at the bottom a very, very thin book that a publisher had sent to me for reviewing. (A task I have still to do.) Why? presumably it was oversize by height and/or width for normal packing so the next extreme step was the only alternative.

But yesterday was something else. This was one of those bags that you imagine is used for a sack of potatoes but it was marked “Swiss Post”. It was tied up in the middle with one of those plastic twist ties and delivery label and down at the bottom of the bag was the book you see beside it in the photo.

It’s a heavy book. Perhaps that had something to do with it. But strange. Very strange indeed.

 

 

To the Greeks, Vridar in a Greek publication

Today, still Saturday April 27th in Greece, the Documento newspaper releases “Airetika” (it’s the 8th book of the series “Airetika” – meaning Heretics), with many articles about mythicism, among them an article from Vridar: How Historians Study a Figure Like Jesus

It has already been translated and posted on Greek Mythicists as Η εξέταση του ιστορικού Απολλώνιου του Τυανέα (και ο παραλληλισμός του με τον Ιησού)

A related post from 2015: Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction by Minas Papageorgiou

Vridar Maintenance

This blog has grown in numbers of posts and topics like wild weeds all over the place and is long overdue for a some serious organization. The Categories and Tags have been unwieldy, untidy, inconsistent, and I hope to maintain the energy with Tim’s help to tidy everything up. So expect changes and probably in the short term (not too many months, hopefully) even more inconsistency and chaos as we try to restore weeds and desert into a Garden of Eden.

How Did It All Come to This?

From macrotourist.com

We loved one another when we met. I had left religion behind but still had an intellectual passion to understand the origins of the Bible and Christianity. I loved joining your company in online forums and you excited me a little each time you indicated some appreciation for any small contribution I could make. There was Mahlon Smith, Stevan Davies, Mark Goodacre. . . Even when James McGrath and I first met over his little volume The Burial of Jesus we expressed sincere appreciation for the opportunity to have had our thought-provoking exchanges. The main motivation for starting this blog was to share the fascinating things I was learning from specialist scholars. One of the first books I read and loved was John Shelby Spong’s Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. If only I had known years ago what I now knew after reading his book how much saner and less tortured my life could have been. I had the opportunity to meet Spong in the flesh one year and thank him for the doors he had opened for me. Then there was Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold. I loved the opportunity to share what I was learning from scholars about my past experiences, and my new understanding of the real nature of the Bible.

So what happened? Why, now, do we find ourselves being scorned and dismissed with contempt by the James McGraths, the Jim Wests, the Roger Pearses, the Larry Hurtados, the James Crossleys? Anthony Le Donne loved what he read on this blog until one of his colleagues tapped him on the shoulder and took him aside for a private talk. The list goes on. Fortunately there are also scholars, some in the field of biblical studies, who I have met and who continue to express appreciation for what Tim and I are doing here, and I sometimes think that without them as sanity checks I might have given up well before now. One well respected academic asked that I keep our correspondence confidential and I have respected that with all who have offered a supportive word. It really is too easy to arouse a hostile environment in some parts of the academy.

So what happened to bring this blog into . . . “controversy” seems too mild a word. It is clear that some of the most spiteful critics have never read or attempted to engage with the posts here. Maybe at best they skimmed (fast enough to avoid contamination) a few lines with hostile intent.

There surely was one turning point all would agree on. read more »

Comments +

I just noticed some queries about formatting in comments and have updated that page by adding the following: 

And for bullet points: 

 

(Tim, I trust the above codes are okay …. Nothing needs updating?)