Joel Watts Fails to Defend His DMCA Takedown Application Against Vridar

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by Neil Godfrey

Today I received notice from WordPress that I was free to restore to public access my blog post in which I exposed Joel Watts as an incompetent scholar and lazy fool with respect to his efforts to argue against mythicists and even against the generally accepted nature of history itself as understood among historians. He did not contest my counter-claim to the original takedown notice within the 14 days required.

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 8.39.06 PMBut after learning that Joel had clearly turned back his system clock to make it look like he had indeed sent me an email to try to arrange a one-to-one settlement to the dispute as required, and that he had subsequently removed the Creative Commons notice to the page that I had (rightfully) copied for critical review, I sent an amended counter-notice four days later. I asked about this and Automattic assured me that the amended counter-notice made no difference to the time schedule and that I am free to republish the post in question. Continue reading “Joel Watts Fails to Defend His DMCA Takedown Application Against Vridar”


Joel Watts Responds to Being Caught Out Liking a Mythicist’s Work

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by Neil Godfrey

Updated about 90 minutes after original posting. 

Joel Watts, I am very happy to say, has for the first time ever addressed me in a civil tone. His first words to me were two years ago and are on record for posterity here. It was downhill from that point on. Until today when he left a comment (no, two comments) on my blog. (Gee, I wonder why he didn’t leave a comment on my blog as DMCA required him to do when he believed I was “stealing” his mental property.)

Of course, unless Joel Watts issues a sworn statement to the contrary (and we all know since his DMCA foray to shut down one of my posts that embarrassed his knickers down to his socks that he is fond of establishing his credibility through sworn statements) we all know that Joel Watts would never have come within two flicks of a coin toss to reading anything by Thomas L. Brodie had he ever known in advance that Brodie was “a mythicist”.

But in sweet ignorance he fell for his arguments hook, line and sinker. Brodie was “a giant”, his work “a masterpiece”. Delicious irony, in the same book Joel Watts says the work of “mythicists” is only “pseudo-scholarship”! (p. 3). So Joel Watts is caught out reading “pseudo-scholarship” and discovering (in blissful ignorance of its provenance) that it is really “a masterpiece”!!!

So what must Joel do now to save any face? Why, he must declare ME the in the realm of “fandom” (inference of mindlessness, of course) of Brodie. That’s the implication of his new post, How do you solve a problem like… Brodie fandom…

Never let anyone fault Joel Watts with reading and learning the facts before he writes what he wills. As anyone who has read my posts on Brodie should know, I do have some reservations about some of Brodie’s “parallels”. I do believe there are stronger cases to be made for alternative explanations in some instances. Frankly, I am surprised any mainstream scholar would have embraced Brodie’s The Birthing of the New Testament as wholeheartedly as Joel has done. (I recently posted some reviews of Brodie’s work here to give readers a taste of how Brodie’s work has been received by the establishment: reviews in post 1; reviews in post 2).

Moreover, I was writing about Brodie’s work long before, like Joel, I ever knew he was “a mythicist”.

But if a “historicist” (e.g. Watts) likes Brodie, he does so presumably because of superior cranial and synapse functionings. If anyone Watts chooses to label “a mythicist” likes Brodie, he’s a mindless fan. Whatever does he think of the frail Thomas L. Brodie himself whose shoulders are still bearing up the weight of one who has all this time thought him to be a “giant”?

So it’s a bit late for Joel to learn that, like Richard Carrier, I do not believe Brodie’s arguments are necessarily the strongest case for a Christ Myth hypothesis, though his arguments definitely do lead to that inevitable conclusion. Or is Joel smarting because he can see now that I was right to have recognized from the outset the mythicist implications of Brodie’s arguments?

But I do believe in getting the facts out. And that’s why I am doing a series now on one of Brodie’s books, just as I have done many other series on other works of mythicists and “historicists” alike. Perhaps the Master of _arts should read those posts and learn something.

So what must Joel Watts now do to save face over being caught out praising a mythicist argument to the high heavens?

Why, he must needs find a way to yap and nip at any apparent “mythicist” who ever saw merit in Brodie’s arguments.

But I especially love this concluding paragraph from Time Lord Dr What:

Continue reading “Joel Watts Responds to Being Caught Out Liking a Mythicist’s Work”


Last Piece of the Vridar Takedown Puzzle

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by Neil Godfrey

Updated about 20 minutes after original post -- detail added to the "So why I did not find. . ." paragraph.

The only detail so far unexplained in the deactivation of the Vridar.wordpress blog is why I apparently did not receive a warning notice from WordPress itself.

The times below are in Australian Central Standard Time, my local time. (Some images may be over-size for iPad viewing but to reduce them further would make them difficult to read.)

  • 2:26 AM, Tuesday June 28th, WordPress/Automattic email me notice of their takedown of my post about Joel’s nonsense.


  • But being 2:26 AM I am, as usual for that time, asleep.
  • Around 3 AM I wake up (as I do from time to time) and check my iphone for current news and recent blog activity.
    • If I looked at my Gmail at that time (I don’t recall if I did, but if I did then I would have ignored anything that did not look interesting — I would have ignored anything from “WordPress” since it’s usually some notice of a new product, new theme, — I’m not interested) the subject header would have meant nothing to me (what’s “DMCA”?, looks technical, some outage time?) and I would have ignored it.
    • The only thing I know for certain is that I did not take any notice of my email at that hour.
  • But I did see something odd: my post on Joel’s history/science nonsense is in ‘private’ status. Maybe Tim is doing something with it. I decide to check with him later and go back to sleep.
  • Once awake I check the post in “private” status, see nothing wrong with it, so restore it to “public” status.


Joel Watts: Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?

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by Tim Widowfield

I have to thank Manoj Joseph for pointing out some date/time oddities in Joel’s testimony concerning exactly when he emailed Neil about the DMCA takedown. With all the work I had to do to bring Vridar back to life, I barely had time to skim a handful of the relevant posts around the web.

But now with the passage of couple of relatively peaceful days, I think it’s time to reflect on what happened. In particular, we should look more carefully at those screenshots that Joel so graciously provided. I just checked his site, and they’re still there, but just in case he catches on to his mistake, you will still be able to find them in various web caches.

Watts the story?

Joel says he warned Neil on the 26th. Explaining his actions, he begins by showing a screen capture of a comment by Neil. He writes: “I then sent an email to him, shortly there after [sic] . . .  Note the time difference. I know he’s in Australia.

Comment by Neil
Comment posted at 12:43 AM local to Joel’s blog.

That’s a curious little side note from Mr. Watts. The WordPress administrator tool in the screen capture shows a local time (EDT) of 12:43 AM. WordPress doesn’t show you the local time of the sender; that would be insane. No, this is Joel’s local time: Eastern Daylight Saving Time.

Joel's Sent Mail
Comparing the system time to the sent time

So what’s this business about a “time difference“? Joel wants to prepare us for a little con job that he’s about to foist on us. It reminds me of short-change artists who confuse you with their nonsensical patter just before they coax you to give them an extra 20-dollar bill.

Nothin’ up my sleeve

Next, Joel kindly shows us an image capture of his desktop. Looking at his Sent Items folder, we’re led to believe that he sent an email to Neil at 12:56 PM on the 26th. So, Neil posted shortly after midnight (EDT) on the 26th. Joel allegedly sent his mail “shortly there after [sic]” — I guess 12 hours is a “short time” in Joel’s mind. No matter.  It is, after all, the same calendar day.

But hang on.  Compare the wall clock time on Joel’s Macintosh to the time on the email. Remember: These are all local times of the sender. Outlook doesn’t show the local time of the recipient; that would be crazy.

Continue reading “Joel Watts: Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?”


Joel Watts, “Email Evidence” and Perjury: The Answers Are Beginning to Emerge

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by Neil Godfrey

Watch this space for a new post by Tim.

Meanwhile read Manoj Joseph’s recent comments.

On a related matter: Joel Watts has been writing quite a lot to portray WordPress.com through Automattic as diligently investigating the merit of his claim before posting a DMCA takedown notice. See Ugh – Once Again the DMCA and his various comments on James McGrath’s post, Vridar No Longer Available.

Well, if one reads the statement by Automattic that Joel has kindly posted for our benefit one can see that Automattic explained to Joel exactly what they checked. Read that second last one-sentence paragraph:


 That’s it. They explained to Joel that they had received his DMCA takedown notice and reviewed it for completeness.

It was the same when I submitted my counterclaim. I had to check off a whole lot of boxes confirming I had included everything in my statement that they required. They did not check my or Joel’s blog sites to see if my statement was true.

That is, Automattic at this stage does not investigate and confirm the validity of the claims. That is a later process and the responsibility of a court. Automattic’s job is to be sure that each party submits its sworn statements according to due process.

But there’s (much) more . . . . . Continue reading “Joel Watts, “Email Evidence” and Perjury: The Answers Are Beginning to Emerge”

The Prayer of Master Watts

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by Neil Godfrey

One reader has posted a classic cartoon of the recent events as explained by a certain M. Joel Watts, MA. . . .  For full details of the particular post by M. Watts that this cartoon depicts, as well as the original source photographs on which it is based (they are also classics!) you must visit the original post by pithom on his blog. It includes a little webliography of recent related posts, too.




What Happened to Vridar? (updated with more reflections on Joel’s role)

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by Neil Godfrey

ccOn 26th June I wrote a post exposing the incompetence and culpable ignorance of Joel Watts with respect to a particular point he was using in an attempt to lampoon mythicism.

That blog post contained a detailed, point by point criticism of Joel’s post. Whenever criticizing the works of others I habitually bend over backwards to be sure I am fair to the other side and let their own views be understood. And since Joel Watts had always had a Creative Commons license condition attached to all of his blog posts (I also have a Creative Commons license) I saw nothing amiss in quoting his blogpost in full — especially seeing it consisted of nothing but a list of 25 web links, a tweet from someone else, and no more than about half a dozen lines of typical Watts-like puerile insult. I made sure I linked to the original site, and that I identified the author, and that the views of the post did not reflect mine. After all, all of those conditions were in large measure the whole reason for my post.

Evidence for the cc licence on Joel’s page is at

https://www.dropbox.com/s/jd245jz4rwxon7u/unsettled.jpg (excerpt including address details) —

and (full page): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XkmNH86CWEE9ulHdSas5zwvfFZ7gt-7FA5F5sKyrAp8/edit?usp=sharing

This CC notice was removed from Joel’s blog only on the morning of 29th June 2013 Australian Central Time. It appears as if this was removed soon after this CC notice on Joel’s blog was publicly advertised: http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?p=7493335#post7493335

At no time before my blog was deactivated did I receive any notice from Joel Watts, the owner of the blog post I copied for critical discussion, or from WordPress warning me or asking me to remove or modify the post. My email account is Gmail and files can be verified and in the event of legal proceedings I would welcome such a check.

Indeed, when one began to read the comments by Joel Watts on James McGrath’s blog regarding the take-down of Vridar, he gave no indication that he had anything to do with what had happened. See, for example: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/06/vridar-no-longer-available.html#comment-945224032 As another has noticed, all Joel did until I posted that evidence was joke about his efforts to take down other blogs he did not like, joking that it was an impossible task.

If Joel really did send me a warning letter then one must wonder why he only confessed to his own involvement after I posted the evidence — did he not expect me to be able to that from the beginning?

It was only after I posted the evidence from WordPress that Joel suddenly changed his tack and began to accuse me of being responsible and even for effectively taking down my own blog!

Joel Watts did not follow the specified steps to contact me directly with a complaint about my blogpost. This was in contradiction to Automattic’s direction to complainants according to their directions at  http://automattic.com/dmca/ :

2. Contact the blogger directly. Go to the blog post in question and leave a comment with your complaint to see if the matter can be resolved directly between you and the blogger.

Joel Watts left no such comment on my blog. I received no email from him in my Gmail account and I have offered my gmail account for inspection by legal investigators. Continue reading “What Happened to Vridar? (updated with more reflections on Joel’s role)”


Scholar Joel Explains Nuance

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by Tim Widowfield

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Joel Watts’ response to my previous post on his HuffPo hot mess, by all means, go take a look. It’s the post with a color photo of the lovely Cecilia Bartoli near the top of the page and a black-and-white self-portrait of Joel farther down.

To the charge of reckless disregard for intelligible language, Joel pleads not guilty by reason of “nuance,” and deflects the criticism back at me, writing:

. . . in spite of not needing to answer imbeciles, I wante [sic] to speak to the use of several of these phrases — phrases that cannot be googled.

If Joel or anyone else did not understand me, I regret that I wasn’t clearer. When I read works by talented authors, and I encounter an odd turn of phrase, I endeavor to grasp the meaning. Consider the oft-misquoted line (and title!) from Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Many people will insist on turning the word “gentle” into an adverb. But the master poet used an adjective. Why did he do that? It’s worth digging into, but only because we know that Dylan Thomas was a great writer — an artist, not an oaf hiding behind the fig leaf of “nuance.”

Continue reading “Scholar Joel Explains Nuance”


What If Jesus Were Real?

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by Tim Widowfield

“What is the nature of the employment, Mr. Marriott?”

“I should prefer not to discuss it over the phone.”

“Can you give me some idea? Montemar Vista is quite a distance.”

“I shall be glad to pay your expenses, if we don’t agree. Are you particular about the nature of the employment?”

“Not as long as it’s legitimate.”

The voice grew icicles. “I should not have called you, if it were not.”

A Harvard boy. Nice use of the subjunctive mood. The end of my foot itched, but my bank account was still trying to crawl under a duck. I put honey into my voice and said: “Many thanks for calling me, Mr. Marriott. I’ll be there.”

Farewell, My Lovely (p. 42) — Raymond Chandler

In a recent Huffington Post article, noted “scholar, author, and blogger” (and non-Harvard boy), Joel Watts, asks: “What if [sic] Jesus Was [sic] Real?” (Note: I’m linking to Joel’s blog rather than directly to the HuffPo.)

English: A fresco from the Vardzia monastery d...
A fresco from the Vardzia monastery 
depicting Jesus Christ
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He begins:

That’s a difficult question for many to read. It could mean, possibly, this author believes Jesus was not real or at least has doubts as to the existence of a Jesus.

Since Joel did not employ the subjunctive, we may wonder whether he believes it is more likely that Jesus did exist, or whether he simply has problems with English grammar. Did he really mean to insert the indefinite article before Jesus, or is it a typo? By “difficult to read,” did he mean “hard to understand”? It is, indeed, always more difficult to comprehend prose written by an author who has a tenuous grasp of the mother tongue. For example, in broaching the subject of Jesus mythicism, he writes:

We see this almost constantly with the advent of new “ideas” such as Jesus was the King of Egypt, or Jesus was an alien, or worse — Jesus isn’t real, just a story told like other divine imaginations, to help out one person or another in achieving something of an ethical collusion, or mythicism(emphasis mine)

It is difficult to make sense of this concatenation of words, because although it looks at first like so much random lexical noise, I cannot shake the suspicion that Joel had intended to write something rather clever. As a last resort, I Googled the terms “divine imagination” and “ethical collusion,” but reached no satisfying conclusions. Of course, I am no scholar, so I’m at a disadvantage here.

Joel continues by dredging up the tired accusation that mythicists are just like creationists.

Continue reading “What If Jesus Were Real?”


Joel Watts stoops to lies and slander

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by Neil Godfrey

Since the original of this post I have added the last phrase to the title.

In response to my request for him to support his allegations of lying etc, Joel said quite bluntly that he doesn’t not have to bother being nice. — presumably “being nice” means little things like telling the truth about me. I have reproduced his comment in the comments section.

Joel Watts has published the following on his Church of Jesus Christ blog:

Dr. James McGrath, again, on the Resemblance Between Mythicism And Creationism

In responding to a rather juvenile post by Neil G., Dr. McGrath again steps into the water and wades out a little bit deeper. This is Neils bailiwick, in which he insults someone who he disagrees with, and then proceeds to spit out nothing by lies, misinformation, and logical fallacies about them and their positions along with the notion that Christ is nothing more than a myth. I would encourage you to read the posts in the series (click the tags at the bottom of this post, or the labels at Dr. McGrath’s site) for a better understanding of the issues and how it is academically handled.

I will return to the insult charge at the end of this post, though anyone who knows the history of James McGrath’s exchanges with me can well make up their own minds on that one.

Joel’s last sentence inviting readers to read my post implies it is linked at the bottom of his, but I did not see any links to it – only links to spread his own post on Facebook and Digg. But maybe I missed them.

Watts has blatantly accused me of “spitting out nothing but”

  1. lies about James McGrath and his arguments
  2. misinformation about James McGrath and his arguments
  3. logical fallacies in response to James McGrath’s arguments
  4. the notion that Christ is nothing more than a myth

He is referring to this post of mine.

Joel does not cite a single instance of a lie, a piece of misinformation or a single logical fallacy, and does not reference any part of my post arguing that Jesus is a myth. Given that he charges my post is “nothing but” a collation of these it should have been easy for him to have cited just one example of one of those.

What my post does is challenge the methodology of mainstream historical Jesus scholarship.

That I can get this sort of response to making that critique is most instructive. Continue reading “Joel Watts stoops to lies and slander”


Why might a study of the Bible benefit someone “not of the faith”?

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by Neil Godfrey

I think I am expected to write some sort of angry atheist or fundamentalist atheist type response to Jim West’s recent post (or should that be linked here?):

Well, so not to disappoint, here it is.

Jim’s post came to my attention through a pingback from Joel Watts’ blog with a link to my previous post titled Frederiksen’s Fallacy. (Joel calls me a “fundamentalist atheist” — I have no idea why or what that means even. So perhaps Joel or someone might like to explain to me what I am supposed to be. Which reminds me, Why did Joel retreat from all his recent posturing when it was pointed out to him that the evidence for historicity of other persons is tangible and real while Jesus really is the anomaly?)

Well, my first response on reading Jim’s post was “So what?”. What’s the fuss about? I have no problem with faithful Bible believers studying the Bible according to their agenda. I think seminaries or privately funded bible colleges are just the right place for it, too. As for Jim’s argument, it wasn’t so much an argument as a soapbox cry for attention. No evidence or justifications were supplied to buttress his many assertions. So why the serious responses?

One or two spoke of some who study the Bible with some sort of hostile intent. I don’t know who is guilty of that, and I can’t quite imagine how anyone could seriously “study” the Bible with “hostility”. That doesn’t make any sense to me. So I am confused about the responses to Jim’s post for a number of reasons.

But what astonished me was the number of responses from some of the most learned of scholars to this pastor’s complaint. I am still wondering what he said in his post that should elicit such apparently serious responses.

But to one of the points I think I am expected to respond —

To suggest that only “the faithful” might be the only one’s to benefit from a study of the Bible, or even to suggest that the Bible is uniquely the possession of “the faithful”, sounds like a bit of headline grabbing overstatement. Does anyone really think Jim truly believes this? Or maybe he does and I don’t know him well enough.

But for the sake of a response, that’s a bit like saying that no-one today can meaningfully study Homer’s epics because we don’t believe in the Olympian gods anymore.

Or if you don’t believe in the Ideas of Plato you shouldn’t study Plato.

Only Nazis can meaningfully study Hitler.

But I get the impression Jim is just writing to shit-stir.

But if he really is serious, and I have to concede the possibility, then I might go to the trouble of further spelling out that the reason the Bible is a worthwhile study is that it has such a central place in our culture. It is our history and has had a significant role in shaping our larger identities.

I certainly have no hostile interest in Bible study. Why would I bother? I gave my reasons for this blog and my interest a little while back. I love exploring clues as to how the Bible came to be put together, how its parts originated, and what it may have meant to its original audiences.

I find the study of the Bible rewarding for what I learn about the origins and makings of a significant part of our cultural heritage.

It is also good to understand it to help assess it’s rightful place in contemporary society and individual lives.

And if along the way I discover that a good deal of mainstream biblical studies should really be dismissed as pseudoscholarship, then yes, I do feel that is something that ought to be exposed. If I am mistaken, then I am sure the good scholars I address this way will be able to pinpoint concisely why I am in error and correct me. I am sure genuine scholars do not need to resort to insult and straw-man arguments.

And what’s wrong or meaningless with any of this?

And  where on earth does any “hostility against the Bible” appear even for a nanosecond?


Oh yes — one most remarkable comment I did see in one of the sites with Jim’s post: someone said that if all out thought processes can be explained naturally then we have no basis for morality or meaning of existence! Hoo boy! Is these people really products of the most advanced technological and scientific society in the history of the world? Such thinking must surely be more akin to something we would expect to find in the remote caves of northern Pakistan. The seminaries and private bible colleges are for this sort of thinking. Not public universities — how can even intelligentsia in public universities bother with this sort of thinking?


Aw, gee, thanks guys

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by Neil Godfrey

I have the honour of gaining a mention in two of the biggest biblioblogs in the whole wide internet now. Aw shucks, and they both really do such a thorough job of analyzing my work and studying my personal psychology. I hope I won’t get a bill for their services.

Between “Dr” Jim West and Joel Watts I find I am:

a genuine flinger

a genuine flicker

utterly unacquainted with Crossley’s work

accuse Crossley of playing favorites when it comes to historiographically centered methodological questions (wow, I’m not sure what that means but it sounds like I’ve done something serious or important)

utterly bereft of insight

ramble on about absolutely nothing with such aplomb (irishanglican would no doubt agree with this assessment)

have taken on a stern taskmaster belief system

possibly have a personality defect

appear to be comforting myself in my denial of Jesus’ historicity

absolutely hate my former self

‘need’ Jesus not to be real for my own personal comfort

create conspiracy theories

have refused to acknowledge scholarship that once denied my view of faith
(Baptists? Methodists?

and now deny the same scholars who deny my rejection of faith

forget how history is formed

am angry (part of an angry mob to be precise)

profoundly need there to be no god

leap any logical boundary to this end

but what’s really interesting is my motive in all of this — I know that hell and damnation await me if there is a god!

And all of this on the eve of me birthday too! Well, thanks guys, a good belly laugh is the best way to start a new year! 🙂

Belly Laugh
Image by Tojosan via Flickr