2016-09-15

About Vridar: On Politics, Religion and Propaganda

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by Neil Godfrey

If you are vain enough to think I am directing my posts about propaganda at you you are probably right. I am certainly revisiting my past and still preaching to myself.

Vridar was the fictional name Vardis Fisher use of the main character in his “autobiographical novel” The Orphans of Gethsemane. Vridar had been raised in a strict Mormon household and had to learn anew the fundamental lessons of life and love only after leaving that faith behind. I found myself identifying closely with Vridar in the novel.

Religion was only one part of what Vridar had to unlearn and come to understand. The same with me. My past experiences left me wondering how I could have been so completely wrong for so long about so many things in life.

As a significant part of my post graduate degree course in educational studies I found myself compelled (willingly) to investigate the difference between education and propaganda. The bizarre irony was that I remained true to my religious faith the entire time of my studies! How is such a double-bind possible? It makes no sense.

But it did happen and as I was breaking away in subsequent years from my faith I often thought back trying to identify how it happened.

I have also told before my disillusionment on leaving my faith cocoon only to find the same processes at work in others and the wider society that had, in concentrated form, led me into my “extremist” religion. The world was not immune. The same processes were all around me, everywhere. The difference being, fortunately, that in the wider world there is also more potential to exposure to opposing views, debate, and the processes that come together to radicalize some individuals are often (not always) in more diluted forms elsewhere.

Propaganda is a topic that is close to my own heart; it is a topic that opens one’s eyes to not only how the wider world works but also to how each of us works. I am no different from anyone else in that respect.

So let’s recap, and I am embracing here previous posts where I have set out a discussion of what Vridar is about:

Vridar is about attempting to understand religion, not simply bash and attack it.

It is about attempting to understand the origins of Christianity and other related faiths, especially the Bible, and is not on any crusade to undermine or attack them, either. Plenty of other sites do that quite effectively.

It is about trying to understand human nature, the way the world works, how our views are shaped, whether those views relate to religion, politics, human values.

It is about understanding anything else from time to time of special interest from history and science or wherever.

I am well aware many readers have left Vridar because of the non-religious topics, especially those relating to Islam and terrorism. That is sad, but inevitable. (Many mainstream religionists, both lay and scholar, have walked away, too.) I know that many people are not interested in exploring why the wider world “thinks” the way it does or how they have come to have the views they do. They are supremely confident that they understand all of these things very well. Just like I was confident that a post-graduate course exploring the nature of propaganda would not shake my faith, because I knew the sure grounds of my faith.

I have tried to make the most of the experiences that led to Vridar in the first place so that those earlier years could be somehow turned to something useful for anyone interested. I don’t claim to have definite answers, but I have learned some lessons and am very interested in learning and understanding, and sharing what I learn and come to understand here.

It is a shame that some readers are more interested in trolling, attacking, etc rather than discussing those things, but that’s how the world works.


2016-07-23

Organized but with a full in-tray

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by Neil Godfrey

Once I decide a fly in the house needs to get out or die everything stops till my crazed obsession is finally satisfied. Likewise once I started organizing my digital files with a very cool open source system everything stopped till the last pdf was in its proper place, complete with metadata for easy retrieval. Accordingly I now bask in the pleasure of worthwhile achievement. The way I feel now reminds me of how I felt when at the end of the day I used to look out over the lawn around my house that I had just spent some hours mowing.

Meanwhile I have been building up a lengthy to-do list in response to so many things that have been in the news lately, and in response to so many new resources and ideas that have been appearing through the networks, …. but I am sure I won’t have time to post about them all. I will make a start, though…..


2016-07-06

Meeting the Hispanic Atheist

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by Neil Godfrey

What an enjoyable read! I have caught up with Luciano Gonzalez’s latest response in our little exchange and found myself appreciating overall where he is coming from as an atheist and with his earlier comments. I am sure our different perspectives are primarily the product of our different cultures. I cannot say I would not embrace the same approach as Luciano were I living in a Latin American and/or Bible Belt culture. No doubt being an atheist in Australia is a strikingly different experience.

We may have different views relating to the psychology that is related to religious beliefs and ways of living, but that is a minor issue in the context of this exchange of views.

I confess I had assumed from the outset that Luciano was a “card-carrying” Atheist+’er because of his Freethought Blog (FtB) platform, but he has said he is not. So there we go. Never judge a post by its blogging platform. I also admit my interpretation of Luciano’s original post was coloured by recent exchanges I had here over my “no extras atheism” post as well as the flurry over developments in the FtB circle having to do with Richard Carrier. I loathe the way the knives come out publicly, the slander and character attacks, and especially the self-righteous justifications for the same. I am referring to both sides of that sort of issue, and to its history – the Carrier episode is not the first. (There are other more respectable ways to administer discipline in a group. The Atheist+ MO looks to me to be even worse than some of the ways the religious cults handle their wayward members.)

Anyway, this is just to say Hi again to Luciano, and to say I’m glad I’ve made your acquaintance. I strongly appreciate your perspective now that I understand more fully where you are coming from. I wish you a happy and fulfilling adventure as an atheist in your thickly religious environment.

.

Previous posts in this series:

What I “want” as an atheist — Luciano

What I want as an atheist a human — Me (Neil)

Vridar response — Luciano


2016-07-05

Vridar response . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

Luciano has written a new post — Vridar Response — responding to my response — What I want as an atheist a human — to his post — What I want as an atheist. (Should I explain that with a diagram?) It’s been a very busy day and I haven’t had a chance to read Luciano’s response yet, apart from his opening paragraph:

I enjoy being a morning bird. My writing isn’t extremely well-known, but I get the occasional response and sometimes I manage to be awake as they are published. Today is one such day. My post about what I as an atheist, “wanted” was seen by Neil Godfrey of Vridar, and got a response from him. I really liked his response but there are certain things that I think deserve a response. The ending is directly addressed towards Neil, but as usual I welcome any comments and or thoughts on the post and hopefully on a greater discussion about skepticism and atheism. I want to respond to individual bits and pieces before responding to the overall post (the last few paragraphs are where I respond to the overall post). So with that little bit of context, let’s get started!

I look forward to reading what he has to say, but till I get that chance some readers here might like to check out his comments and comment there, here, before I do.


2016-07-04

What I want as an atheist a human

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by Neil Godfrey

What I want as an atheist
What I want as an atheist

This post follows on from (a) the discussion that took place in the wake of my Atheism without the extras, please post and (b) as a direct response to another Atheist+ (Freethought Blog) post that has recently been published by Luciano Gonzalez: What I Want As an Atheist. I really hope before reading the following you read Luciano’s post (I have modeled my own post on his paragraph points) or even the earlier discussion on this blog. So here’s saying Hello to Luciano — thanks for your post, and I hope you can appreciate my response even if you don’t agree with it.

–o0o–

As an atheist who takes his atheism, like his right-handedness, for granted, I rarely get involved in discussions about my beliefs. If one were to ask me “What do you want as an atheist?” I would agree with Luciano that it is a silly question and probably reply, “to be free not to believe in any gods.”

I used to be something of an anti-theist. That was in my first flush of leaving my coffin of religion behind and when I was still struggling to come to terms with what had happened to me (and the pain I had caused others) in all those fantasy years. Religion was a baleful influence in the world and its purveyors needed to challenged or excluded from activities that they were using to promote their ‘good works’ propaganda to the public.

I lost that angry antagonism after I came to terms with myself and my own experience with my past destructive cult experience. A huge help in that direction (among a number of sources of assistance) was psychologist Marlene Winell’s book, Leaving the Fold. I not only came to understand why I had got mixed up with the outfit in the first place, but most importantly, I learned to forgive and accept myself. And from that position I found myself forgiving and accepting others, too. I understood where other religious people were coming from and even felt for their situations.

I was not interested in supporting groups dedicated to attacking religious cults. Such attacks only fueled the persecution syndrome of the cultists themselves. The harm done within cults is enough to prise out defections. What is important is that such members who begin to question their beliefs have support, and that’s what I was very keen to offer. (I have described some of my activities at this time several times before: for those not familiar with the story, it involves newspaper advertising, community group meetings, etc. – and eventually even this blog.)

What do I want? Continue reading “What I want as an atheist a human”


2015-09-28

Nazzeyes, Clavdivs, and the Pentatoik

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by Tim Widowfield

I grew up in a small city in eastern Ohio, right on the border with Pennsylvania, a tiny place called East Palestine. The story goes that back in the 19th century to escape higher taxes in their home states, a number of industrialists set up shop in the first town on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad (later called the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway). That’s how my little town became a base for the pottery industry from 1880 on into the 1960s. Border towns like Steubenville and East Liverpool also attracted the pottery manufacturers. Those cities used the Ohio River to move goods, while our little town relied on the Pennsylvania Railroad to take our wares to Chicago or Pittsburgh (and beyond).

A view to a kiln

A bottle kiln in Gladstone Pottery Museum, England
A bottle kiln in Gladstone Pottery Museum, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother worked in one of those potteries. Many women did. As I recall, my dad’s mother and at least one of his sisters worked there too. On that side of the family, they still called it the pott’ry, following their English forebears. My mother didn’t. She grew up on a farm, and all her folk called it the pottery.

Once when I was very young, I visited my mom at work, and watched her as she affixed handles to cups. They were still soft and pale gray. She would quickly wipe them down with a damp sponge to remove any excess clay and to smooth out the surface.

“I’m getting them ready for the kiln,” she said. She pronounced it KILL, and so I was taken aback. They were going to be killed? She noticed my confusion and explained that it was a huge oven that baked the clay. And even though we spell it “k-i-l-n,” everyone there pronounced it kill.

Not only did everyone in the pottery call it the kill, but they used it as a marker. Only an outsider would get it wrong. Everyone on the inside knew the “right” way to pronounce it.

I worked in The Building

Many years later, I had a similar experience while working in the intelligence field. In those days, we were reluctant even to utter the words “National Security Agency” or even the letters “NSA.” We’d sometimes refer to it in public as “No Such Agency.” When my wife and I lived on Ft. Meade, we’d often use the euphemism The Building, as in the sentence: “I’m headed over to The Building.” Continue reading “Nazzeyes, Clavdivs, and the Pentatoik”


2015-08-04

Miscellaneous and (a very few) updates

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by Neil Godfrey

Many who follow Richard Carrier’s blog will know by now that D.M. Murdock/Acharya S is facing a very serious cancer diagnosis and has appealed for help.

Ben Smith (a fellow amateur) has written a lengthy essay on gospel genre at the Biblical Criticism and History Forum. In off-line discussions a little while ago I got the impression we had similar ideas on the topic. I have sometimes wondered if there was a “Scripture genre” to which the Gospels sought to conform. Ben appears to have explored this question in depth. I look forward to reading his essay and responding.

Scholar Gary Habermas has made the electronic copy of his updated book open access. Evidence for the Historical Jesus can be downloaded on his site. Another work by Habermas (one written in conjunction with Michael Licona) sets out The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Only a few days ago I received my hard copy of Licona’s 700 page tome, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical ApproachThe reason I ordered it was because I was blown away by reviews informing me that Licona was on top of the standard historical methods used by mainsteream historians in history (non-biblical) departments and had applied these normative methods to argue that Jesus really was resurrected. I could not resist a peak at the introduction and opening chapter (I cannot afford to break my promise to myself to finish Pinker’s Better Angels before undertaking another major read.) Licona cites several works on historical method I have fortunately read and still have with me, so I was able to confirm that he seems at times to fall into a trap of semantic confusion — or maybe I will find out I was mistaken when I give it my full attention.

Speaking of Pinker’s book, I have almost completed it now and am intrigued by his point about the different relationships between highly abstract/more concrete thinking on moral reasoning. I am wondering if there is any applicability to the less nuanced understandings of some of the New Atheists (for example) of religion — and this returns us to Hector Avalos and his anticipation of a “second wave” of “new atheists” from the field of biblical studies. (Sure, biblical scholars are better placed to offer informed criticisms of the Bible but there is a real social divide over attitudes towards religion and faith more generally that transcends a need for literacy in any particular holy book.)

For those interested in the Creationist or Intelligent Design phenomenon and who love to read enjoyable prose you will not regret checking out the new post at Otagosh: Red in Claw and (von) Fange.

Tim has added a plugin to check for broken links on Vridar and I’ve been pretty horrified to see how bad the site has been in that respect. I’ve finally got the number of broken links in actual posts down to 40 — I think. Most of those are (only) images for illustration and links to the now moved Internet Infidels forum. Someone at the II forum is looking into the possibility of finding a solution for my old links. Their new site is http://talkfreethought.org/

But something weird is happening as I try to fix some of these links. At times it seems the entire post goes into “draft” mode or even the “trash”. When I retrieve it it gets sent out to Facebook and other sites as if it’s a new post when in fact it’s usually several years old!

 

More to follow.

 


2015-07-21

Miscellaneous News and Links Updates

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by Neil Godfrey

  • I’m not sure what the current status of the Kickstarter for a debate between Bart Ehrman and Robert M. Price is. I have been slow to post on this in part because I did not like the idea of paying Ehrman $5000 (even if he does give the money to charities — I’d rather he be assured by receipts others have already donated to charities of their own or better still just speak for no other motive than the public interest). My other part reason was that from what I have read by Ehrman on the subject and from what I have seen of his manner in some videos when addressing the topic, I really can’t see him making any genuine effort to bring due diligence or seriousness to the debate. I’d rather see a debate with a scholar who undertakes a more professional approach vis a vis the public interest.  Others may disagree, however. 
  • Tim Hendrix published on Scribd a review of Richard Carrier’s earlier book, Proving History, in which he questions Carrier’s use of Bayes’ theorem for historical argument. (I understand that Tim’s research field is Bayesian methods for machine learning.)
  • Jerrel Arkes, a 30 year old atheist from the Netherlands, has opened a new site,  www.science-vs-religion.com [link no longer works: Neil Godfrey, 24th July, 2019], on which people can vote (with social shares) for Science or Religion. The intent (as I understand it) is to start conversation through social media.

2015-07-12

What Is Vridar?

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by Tim Widowfield

When I started writing for Vridar, Neil pointed out that in one of my book references I had linked to a Google Books page. He said he preferred to use LibraryThing instead. I grumbled to myself, but dutifully created an account and complied with his request.

Vridar
Vridar — pronounced “VREE-dar”

Why are we here?

Eventually, I came to understand that he wasn’t making an arbitrary demand. Vridar doesn’t funnel people to Amazon hoping to collect a small fee. We don’t show ads — at least not deliberately. From LibraryThing, you can go to whichever online store you want. We don’t make that choice for you.

We’re not looking for Vridar generate income, even if it’s just to break even. Sometime back, when a certain fool nuked our blog and forced us to move to a different host, we deliberately chose a “dot-org” address to show that we mean business, or rather that we don’t mean business. We stand instead for the free and open flow of ideas.

But if that “free and open flow” means anything at all, then you need to know that we aren’t motivated by something else. You should know, for example, that we don’t take kickbacks for reviewing books or for linking to somebody else’s site. Nor will you ever see us block links to other biblioblogs, even when they routinely block us and assiduously pretend that we don’t exist. There are blogs out there whose moderators routinely delete or heavily edit Neil’s comments. We won’t do that here.

No adverts here

Recently, I received an email that was part of a PR campaign for celebrating 50th anniversary of the New International Version (NIV). This translation of the Bible began with a meeting of the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) back in 1965. The lady who wrote the form letter encouraged us to share certain stories with our readers to help or enlighten them. Obviously, the PR firm who got our email addresses hadn’t read the countless times in posts wherein we’ve slammed the NIV as one of the worst English translations available, if you care about what the text actually says. She wrote: Continue reading “What Is Vridar?”


2015-06-09

Vridar Housekeeping and Security Update

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by Tim Widowfield

For those of you who may have noticed a little glitch just before midnight (Central Daylight Time), with a “Server Unavailable” warning, that was me.  I updated our WordPress instance to the latest version, which is supposed to fix many security issues.

If anyone out there is still getting unwanted pop-ups, let us know, and please give us as much detail as you can.  I want to be sure we haven’t been seriously hacked.

Sorry for any problems you may encounter here, and thanks for reading Vridar.

–Tim

Note: If you have more information you’d like to pass on, like screenshots, please send them to us:

Tim: widowfield [at] gmail [dot] com

Neil: neilgodfrey1 [at] gmail [dot] com


2014-12-22

Some Christmas Holiday Reading

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by Neil Godfrey

A portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynold...
A portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a list of some of the posts I have read and starred for future reference over this past week or two.

From Valerie Tarico:

From Heather Hastie:

Repeated by Ophelia Benson, originally a comment by Dave Ricks:

From Steve Wiggins:

From Salon.com

I have not included here those relating to studies of early Christianity or the bible. Maybe in another post….

 


2014-12-07

A Pause – and What’s Been Happening on This Side

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by Neil Godfrey

The reason I’ve been slow to complete a new post lately is mainly because I’m buried in so much new reading. The major reading project that has taken most of my time is attempting to get on top of the relationships between the various Old Testament and Second Temple books as they address, in particular, the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12) and the Suffering Servant. The Suffering Servant — and his Messianic function — did have an impact on some Jewish sects before Christianity emerged on the scene. The difficulty is – and this is why I’ve been so involved in more reading than writing lately — that each book I read raises further citations that I am keen to track down and also read more fully.

Recently I read and wrote about Raglan’s hero classification scheme. That, and hearing that another scholar (another one who is primarily an ancient historian and not a theologian) had applied Propp’s work on folktales to the story of the Exodus, prompted me to read Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale. I have nearly completed this now and have been wondering if and how it might apply to the Gospels. Reading this has meant I’ve had to pause my study of Lévi-Strauss’s The Raw and the Cooked that takes another perspective on the way mythology is put together. I don’t know yet how much of all of this I’ll find applicable to the Gospels but I’m interested in working on that project once I’ve got a handle on both Propp and Lévi-Strauss.

And I’m also reading several articles (some quite lengthy ones) that a few readers have asked me to take a look at and comment on.

So it’s been a time of learning more than writing lately. (But the act of organizing thoughts for writing, and double-checking things, is also when I learn the most thoroughly.)

My writing outlet has come in sporadic comments on the earlywritings.com forum and the occasional comments on other blogs.  Continue reading “A Pause – and What’s Been Happening on This Side”


2014-03-09

Vridar Subscriptions and Email Notifications

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by Tim Widowfield

Hi, everybody.

Mr. ZIP
Mr. ZIP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently we had some trouble with the WordPress JetPack plugin and outgoing emails. I’ve moved us over to a different plugin called Subscribe2. You may have noticed a slight change in the sidebar over on the right.

Issues:

  • If you think you haven’t been getting mail from Vridar even though you used to, first check your spam or junk mail folder. If you don’t see any mail there, let me know. You can reach me here:  widowfield (at sign) gmail (dot) com.
  • If you would like to receive entire posts in your email messages from Vridar rather than just an excerpt, drop me a line. With Subscribe2, I think we can finally do that now.
  • If you would like to be removed from our subscriber list, let me know.
  • In the future, we may be able to send out weekly digests instead of an email notification for each post. I’d be curious if anyone is interested in that feature.

Thanks for reading Vridar!

–Tim


2014-02-12

Vridar’s Second Resurrection

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by Tim Widowfield

Resurrection Pinacoteka-3
Resurrection Pinacoteka-3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re back!

Did you miss us?

Our recent downtime was self-inflicted. (I know Watts you’re thinking.) But anyhow, we’re on a new server in the Netherlands now, and so far everything seems to be working fine.