Thanks to Tim Mills of Harmonic Atheist
The Facebook page: Harmonic Atheist
Thank you for keeping Vridar on your reading list.
I’ve been too much out of touch with Vridar for some weeks now with a series of hospitalizing mishaps (ranging from illness to accidents (plural) to acts of the thunder god Zeus (yes, he does exist) blowing out various power and internet connections) and various family responsibilities (including assisting with help for my 93 year old mother some distance from where I normally live). Here’s hoping I have served as the scapegoat for Vridar readers so may none of these misfortunes fall upon any of you in 2020.
And thanks to Tim, too, for the tech work in putting the blog on a more reliable server to eliminate those outage times. And thanks, too, for those who have assisted financially to maintain a more reliable online presence.
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.
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
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. Continue reading “How Did It All Come to This?”
For those of us who like to examine questions of whether certain ancient persons really existed or not:
R. G. Price is already looking into questions beyond his book Deciphering Jesus:
And Vridar has another post now in Spanish
David Cáceres has expanded our posts’ horizons with his Spanish translations.
Now I’m having a hard time suggesting appropriate posts he might like to add. Readers who have suggestions of anything that might be appropriate for readers without some of the controversial background we are used to in English are welcome to add them here in comments.
I have reset the spreadsheet in my previous post to ensure the stats are fully visible. Meanwhile I was thinking of doing the same sort of analysis on Tim O’Neill’s recent post but the tone of that one does not even rise to the level of double digits and it is Tim once again exercising his unenviable talent for insult and slander. He’s about as low in the gutter as one can go but somehow I suspect a number of scholars opposed to mythicism will be thankful for his contribution. No thank you. Where is the memory of Philip Davies when we need him?
I am painfully aware of the number of series I have started on Vridar and that are still not complete. The most recent one is my series of posts examining the arguments for and against the term “rulers of this age” in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 meaning spiritual powers as opposed to earthly authorities (in particular Herod, Caiaphas, Pilate) or even the combination of earthly and demonic powers.
The reason for this waywardness is that as I go through an article or chapter point by point I always come across citations (or recollections in my own mind) that alert me to either an alternative explanation or a supportive collection of evidence. It is my habit, or is it a compulsion, to follow those citations, recollections, alternatives or contradictions, supportive or related information. And as I follow those side-tracks I often come across something that reminded me of a point I posted a while ago and that could be augmented further.
The additional information I want is often delayed in arriving because sometimes I can only access some sources by inter-library loan or an online purchase of a second hand book somewhere. Even if I can access a source sooner it still takes me time to read it and follow up further important-looking citations.
So do forgive me my out-of-control meandering through the many tributaries of information that deflect me from my original intention to finish a series within a handful of posts within a week or no more.
I do “promise” (fingers crossed behind my back) to finish at least the “rulers of this age” post this week. (Unless something I ordered online yesterday arrives sooner than I expected and opens up a whole new perspective that in itself needs further….. )
I should say to myself, No excuses. Just finish one job at a time as if I am a student with a deadline that has to be met or fail!
A reader of this blog kindly notified me of a little discussion on Reddit about Vridar:
The first thing that surprised me was that a Reddit discussion would even raise my name as a topic. I have no idea who the poster is but I would be interested to know his associations with anyone I have crossed swords with in the past.
He says Vridar fails to rely(?) ”
Further, Vridar is said to “evoke a scholarly feel” with “bombast language and numerous citations”. To my mind bombast language by definition cannot evoke any sort of scholarly feel. I used to provide very few citations but since partnering with Tim I have learned to lift my game in that respect.
But there is further criticism. Tim and I are said to “consistently downplay our armchair status”! Oh. Well, I don’t know how we could have made it any clearer that we are just a couple of amateurs as we have pointed out several times in our posts and as we make very clear in our “About Vridar/Author profile” sections. And as is surely clear from some of the commendations of this blog that we have posted.
And despite all the posts where we favourably cite scholarly arguments, because we do present reasons we believe other scholarly arguments are flawed, now that seems to be the real “no-no” and reason we are not to be trusted.
And from there the discussion proceeds.
I’d like to comment myself but don’t seem to be able to access that forum for some reason. Meanwhile, perhaps some sympathetic readers might like to add their own comments there.
By now 2018 has surely arrived for all of you. Thanks for your interest, both critical and positive. I’m looking forward to exploring new ideas and old ideas more deeply this coming year. No doubt Tim is, too.
Warning. I know many readers don’t like everything we write but I will but I do hope to be writing more posts again like the one I have begun recently on Olivier Roy’s Jihad and Death. Feel free to engage critically with the posts you don’t like. The name Vridar was taken from the main character in Vardis Fisher’s quasi-autobiographical novel, Orphans of Gethsemane. Vridar emerged out of a Mormon upbringing to find a new identity and exploratory understandings not only of religion but of humanity itself. At one point he opined
The human animal was a terrible thing, not only in its lack of capacity to change-itself, but in its contentedness with what it was.
The irony was that Vridar did demonstrate a capacity to change and to refuse to be contented with what he was, and that he made contact with many other Vridars along his journey. Here’s to whatever challenges and opportunities 2018 brings and hoping all goes well with you, too.
And for those of us on the wagon….
Seven years ago, Neil registered with WordPress.com and Vridar was born. Thanks, Neil!
With Vridar’s addition to the Top 30 Atheist Blogs it is apropos to discuss my position on atheism and religion.
The Feedspot site Top 30 Atheist Blogs And Websites Every Atheist Must Follow updates atheist blogs regularly. From the site:
The Best Atheist blogs from thousands of top Atheist blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week.These blogs are ranked based on following criteria
The name Vridar originated as a pseudonym for the American writer Vardis Fisher who explored his personal journey from Mormonism to atheism in the two part novel Orphans of Gethsemane. From Wikipedia:
This is a book about what has led us to be the way we are, and makes sense of our male-dominated, Judeo-Christian western society, its families, its values, and its wars. The book is semi-autobiographical. The work is divided into two parts – For Passion, For Heaven and The Great Confession. The first novel deals with the Western, pioneer influences and especially the sexual evolution (and psychological implications) for ‘Vridar’ (Vardis). His actual life was tragic with divorce and suicide. The second book describes an intellectual journey, in particular the research, reading and discussions undertaken before writing the Testament.
Since I identified with so many aspects of the life portrayed in the first part of that novel and then again with his intellectual journey in the second, I chose the author’s fictional name, Vridar, for a blog where I discuss my own intellectual journeys, including lessons drawn from a religious background. (Thanks to Earl Doherty for introducing me to Vardis Fisher’s work, especially his Testament of Man series.)
Like Vardis Fisher what interests me is an exploration into what the scholarly research seeks to uncover about the nature of religion itself and why people embrace religious ideas. Simply attacking religion in today’s world “because it is irrational and bad” does not strike me as a carefully thought-through plan. Rather than react viscerally to religion I am inclined to believe that a more productive exercise is to find out what we can “know of our enemy”. That means serious engagement with the specialist research. That’s why I find myself so often at odds with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and others: they demonstrate over and over that they have not done their homework and instead of contributing towards public enlightenment they are doing more to fan public ignorance and bigotry. But don’t get me wrong. There’s certainly a place for exposing the dangers of particular religious groups and arguing for a more enlightened world, but let’s do it with some genuine understanding of what we are talking about and the psychology involved.
For a brief while after leaving religion and still raw with the pain I had both experienced and observed I was feverishly hostile to the very idea of any religious faith. My bias was obvious to others and I could scarcely ignore it myself. A more productive path, I soon enough decided, was to try to understand why people embrace all kinds of religious ideas. It was not enough to simply say faith and beliefs in unseen powers are irrational and therefore stupid and dangerous. If religion is the opiate of the masses as Marx wrote then it is difficult to accept that every religious person is partaking of the same doses. Some are best described as being on mild aspirin, others on heavy narcotics. There is a range. Does a single explanation really cover it all?
As for the posts on the Bible, ditto. There’s nothing “anti-Christian” or hostile about any of those studies. Again, what does the research tell us about the origins of our Judea-Christian heritage? That’s what interests me.
Then we have politics, history, science — all from the same perspective of wanting to understand what’s going on. I have learned enough about history and the media to know that news reports very rarely provide an understanding of the issues. News reports tend to act more like buttons that switch on public prejudices. National identities are often grounded in myths, the exposure of which can have the potential to foster more civil societies. To understand what’s going on and how we got to where we are is the main preoccupation of this blog.
I’m looking forward to a personal change in circumstances soon that will enable me to devote more time to reading and blogging ideas that should not be confined to the limited readership of academia.