Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving to FTB!

Today I am freezing my Blogger account and moving my blog to Freethought Blogs, a prominent all-atheist venture. This move will help me earn an income doing what I do, and give my work a higher profile so it will do more good. To make my life manageable I won't be posting here anymore, nor accepting any new comments on posts archived here, but I will keep this account open in order to keep its archives up for reference and posterity. (Transferring the archives to FTB proved too complicated.)

Everyone who is on my blogspot email list will still get announcements as always (you'll just be pointed to the new URL from here on out). But everyone who has been following me on feeds, will need to subscribe to a feed of my new blog at FTB. And as I am freezing all commenting here, if you want to pick up any discussion on any blog post I've made here, please comment on my inaugural post at FTB, which I will leave open as a catch-all, where anything I've blogged here can be discussed in perpetuity there.

Party on!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Goal Theory Update

Here is the latest update on my moral theory work, for those keen on following it in-depth. This post is deliberately long, so those not so keen can skip this one. It assembles notes I've been sitting on for a while for lack of time to get them up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back to Amazon

Just FYI to all my fans and friends and others curious to know: California blinked and acquiesced in letting Amazon pay no sales tax in the state. So just as I said I would back in July, I've gone back to the Amazon Storefront and links, because Amazon is thousands of times superior to Barnes & Noble in quality, service, and functionality.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Sacramento Today!

I'm off to sell and sign my books at the Sacramento Freethought Day festival today (click link for details). I'll be hanging out at a table with David Fitzgerald. Come say hi! Buy a book! Support a starving philosopher-historian!
 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Dying Messiah

This article has been superseded by a complete revision, The Dying Messiah Redux.  The following is retained for historical purposes only. Readers interested in its argument should proceed to the new version.

As a bonus for those who funded my research on or are anticipating the publication of my two volumes on the historicity of Jesus, I have decided to summarize one of the many things I have discovered and will include in that work, making it public early, particularly as it seems important to recent scholarly debate (in a sense making this a sequel to my earlier Ignatian Vexation). Indeed, I have heard one particular claim several times recently in conversations with Jesus scholars that simply isn't true.

It is frequently claimed, even by experts in the field, that no Jews expected their messiah to be killed, nor ever would, that all of them expected a militarily triumphant ├╝bermensch. And therefore Christianity went totally off-book when it came up with the idea that their "failed" messiah was the "real" messiah. But this is actually demonstrably false. Some Jews did expect a dying messiah, or would easily have done so. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

December Course

This December, due to popular demand, I will be repeating the September online course I am wrapping up this week at CFI's online campus, teaching once again their one-month intro course The Real Origins of Christianity. Anyone can attend and receive a certificate of completion (though only students at UB receive college credit). It is all online and all flextime (you can work at any time of day or week). We received so many registration requests for the September course that we exceeded the allowed limit, and to accommodate those who couldn't get in we're repeating the course.

Course description: This course examines the historical origins of the Christian religion from a secular and skeptical perspective. Course topics include the origins and composition of the New Testament; the sociological, cultural, and religious context and how they caused early Christian beliefs; discerning the historical, mythical and theological Jesus; and explaining early belief in his resurrection. It aims to give students a basic primer on the issue of early Christian origins and how to understand what happened without relying on dogma or the supernatural.

Students will be able to interact with me on a near-daily basis in professional-quality forum discussions of lectures and reading materials (or you can just listen in, although participation is required for a completion certificate). There are required readings but no grades, tests, or papers (we assess your level of participation and comprehension from your interactions with us each week). My book Not the Impossible Faith is the required course text (print, kindle, or PDF). Tuition is $60 ($50 for Friends of the Center, and only $10 for college students). To learn more, or register, visit the CFI course page: The Real Origins of Christianity (SCI 233).
 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Appearing in Tallahassee

I will be speaking at the Center for Inquiry conference on "Science for Everyone" next month in Tallahassee, Florida, along with several other great speakers. Reception is Friday evening, 14 October (2011), 7:30-9:30pm, and the conference itself is Saturday, 15 October, from 8:30am to 5pm. Registration is $50 ($35 for students with a valid student ID), and a lunch is included. The event is at the Aloft Hotel (200 North Monroe Street) where rooms are also available at conference rates (mention "Center for Inquiry").

Others speaking are a pretty cool lot. Sir Harry Kroto, professor of chemistry and Nobel laureate. Joe Nickel, the widely beloved P.I. with a Ph.D. in folklore and a flair for magic. Dr. John Shook, once professor of philosophy and now director of education at CFI, and author of the critically acclaimed The God Debates. And the beloved founder of Skepchick, Rebecca Watson, groovy wave feminist, unruly gadfly, podcaster, and she who, in exactly thirty two years time, with an aptly thrown shoe, will kill Suri Cruise and liberate us all from her horrid transglobal dominion.

My talk will be "How Do We Know Microwave Ovens Aren't Just Magic? (And Other Challenges to Scientific Certitude)." Critics of science have claimed science collapses under the strain of bizarre, insurmountable problems like underdetermination, the problem if induction, cartesian demons, or the inability to falsify "mind-over-matter constructivism" or other antirealist or supernatural points of view. And microwave ovens prove them wrong. So do bathtubs. I'll take you on a digital romp to see why. Q&A will follow and of course I'll be selling and signing some of my books throughout the event.

See the CFI Calendar Page for details, and to register online. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Atheists in Foxholes

As a veteran I was asked to join the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and I agreed wholeheartedly. This is an excellent outfit that anyone who is a nonbeliever and a veteran or in service should join, so the MAAF can have numbers to cite and a network of resources and eyes-on-the-ground to tap. They represent you, and your fellow godless servicemen and women, and with an increasingly evangelized military, they need your support. You can explore their website for more on why, and what they are doing, and how you can help.

I was also asked to join their roster of Atheists in Foxholes. Check that out. Of course, "literal" foxholes aren't meant, but any condition of hunkering down under conditions of real risk to life and limb. You know, those conditions under which we supposedly all secretly turn to God and whine to him to save us (even though his track record is worse on that than any of our mortal service mates). Though I didn't see combat, I did see conditions like that. And yet no one I saw in them ever bet on God. Anyway, the standard application for A in F went like this, and I have filled it out as follows:

Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Richard Carrier 
Dates of service: September 1990 to August 1992.
Decorations: (1) National Defense Service Medal, (2) USCG Marksman’s Ribbon.
Honors: Navy Letter of Commendation, Honorman Certificate for Scholastic Achievement and Proven Leadership, Duty Gunner’s Mate Certification, Flight Deck Fire Fighter Certification, Division Damage Control Petty Officer Certification, LAMPS Aviation Ordnance Team Qualification.
Tours of duty, with dates: Training Center Cape May (New Jersey), Security Clearances Division (1990); Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training Center Pacific (FLEASWTRACENPAC) San Diego (California) (1990-2991); USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720) Pacific Northwest Patrol (1991-1992).
Specialty: Sonar (operation, maintenance, and repair of all sonar and torpedo systems); Duty Gunner's Mate; Flight Deck Firefighter.
 
"Please also provide other comments relating to hazardous duty, what you believe about prayer in combat, and any experiences you have had relating to religious tolerance/discrimination in the military..."


Friday, August 19, 2011

Appearing in Fargo

I'm now confirmed as one of the featured speakers at the Fargo, North Dakota "Project 42 Conference" (click that link for all conceivable details), sponsored by the Red River Freethinkers, this September 23-25, with a Friday movie event, a Saturday series of talks (followed by a local debate and meetup that night), and a Sunday panel and activist seminar. I'll be joined by PZ Myers, Robert Price, Michael Shermer, and Richard Haynes (executive director of AtheistNexus and co-host of AtheistNews). I haven't chosen a topic yet, but it will be something fun (possibly a redux of my Rapture Day talk, since Camping's revised prediction of the end is again looming...just a month after Fargo!). I'll be joining the panel as well (an exchange and Q&A on how we got to the philosophical positions we now hold). And I hope to be selling and signing my books throughout

It's a real convention, so it costs to get in, but the prices are reasonable as conventions go. Students get a good rate. And a lunch is included. It's being held at the Ramada Suites and Convention Center in Fargo. It aims to provide a much-needed opportunity for upper midwesterners to meet their fellow godless (you know, folk in all those big empty states up in the middle there that everyone sadly forgets the name of).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Skepticon IV

For all you Midwes- tern godless out there, Skepticon IV is just months away. PZ and I are grandfathered in, so we'll definitely be speaking, along with many other awesome folk. Once again this irreverent ride is brought to you by the MSU Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and as always, in Springfield, Missouri.

The venue this time will be the Gillioz Theatre. Officially from Friday to Sun- day this November 18th to 20th (2011), but no events are yet planned for Friday (there is an excur- sion planned that day for the Strafford Creation Museum, but so far it will probably just be a mill-about-and-get-acquainted day, but something could still get on the schedule for Friday night). For everything you need to know (and to register) see their official website at Skepticon.org (which will be updated with more details over time as everything gets finalized).

It's free, but that  doesn't mean you're guaranteed to get a seat. Registration has already begun, and could fill up this year, so if you plan to go, register now rather than later! (Also, they need donations to keep this grand event free, and continuing into future years, so if you can spare anything and want to help out, visit the donation page on their website.)

For how amazing the event is, see my past blogs: Skepticon III, Skepticon II, and the original Skepticon. This year the speaker roster includes some new people and some folk from last year: 


No word yet on what everyone's topics will be, but mine will be on Bayes' Theorem. That's right, I'll be teaching you math, bitches! Don't worry, I promise it will be at least mildly fun.
 

Monday, August 08, 2011

September Course

This September (in just a few weeks) I will be visiting lecturer at CFI's online campus, teaching their one-month intro course The Real Origins of Christianity alongside Dr. John Shook (we co-taught the last course, on naturalism). Anyone can attend and receive a certificate of completion (though only students at UB receive college credit). It is all online and all flextime (you can work at any time of day or week).

Course description: This course examines the historical origins of the Christian religion from a secular and skeptical perspective. Course topics include the origins and composition of the New Testament; the sociological, cultural, and religious context and how they caused early Christian beliefs; discerning the historical, mythical and theological Jesus; and explaining early belief in his resurrection. It aims to give students a basic primer on the issue of early Christian origins and how to understand what happened without relying on dogma or the supernatural.

Students will be able to interact with both of us on a near-daily basis in professional-quality forum discussions of lectures and reading materials (or you can just listen in, although participation is required for a completion certificate). There are required readings but no grades, tests, or papers (we assess your level of participation and comprehension from your interactions with us each week). My book Not the Impossible Faith is the required course text (print, kindle, or PDF). Tuition is $60 ($50 for Friends of the Center, and only $10 for college students). To learn more, or register, visit the CFI course page: The Real Origins of Christianity (SCI 233).
 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The End of Christianity

Cover of The End of ChristianityThe End of Christianity (the long awaited sequel to The Christian Delusion) is now available in bookstores (and I'm assured will soon be available in kindle and other digital formats). Delusion was an awesome book. End is even better. Indeed, I think the two volumes together amount to a decisive refutation of Christianity. A bona fide litmus test. No rational person can read both volumes and not walk away a skeptic. That won't stop the irrational (just see The Infidel Delusion). But at least from here on out we'll be able to call a spade a spade.
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Atheist Film Festival

I'll be appearing at this year's Atheist Film Festival at the Roxy in San Francisco, California, to give a Q&A for the audience after the showing of the film Agora. The festival starts on Sunday, August 21 (2011) at 10am. There will be two screens with different things running concurrently. For more details (including directions, tickets, etc.) see the SF Atheist Film Festival website.

If you want to catch the showing of Agora and my Q&A afterward, you'll have to get there early. Sadly, it's the first up and starts at 10am, so Sunday insleepers might miss out. And it's running opposite Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God, which is also awesome, so sadly we can't watch both! As to Agora, which is a moving piece of quality historical fiction about the pagan philosopher Hypatia (and her murder by fanatical Christians), if you want to bone up before the event, you can check out my past blogs on the film, especially since I'll certainly be referring the audience to them anyway. Here they are, linked in reverse chrono: [1], [2], [3].

Other films that will be shown include The Nature of Existence in which I have an inconse-quential split-second appearance (I've blogged this movie several times before, here linked in order of worth bothering to read: [1], [2], [3], [4]). And there's lots more, from feature films to documentaries to runs of funny and interesting shorts. And in several cases the directors are on hand to chat after the show (including Roger Nygard for The Nature of Existence). Check out the schedule for more.

Sadly I want to watch everything but I can't be in two theaters at once! You'll surely find something between them worth watching, so I say buy a complete day pass and have at it.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Amazon Dumps Us

Now that California has signed into law a tax reform that counts internet business associations as establishing legal "nexus" for state taxes to apply, Amazon has dumped all of its California internet sales associates. That means I can no longer earn a commission on referring you to Amazon to buy my books, or other books that I think are worth reading (which I had been doing in my Richard Carrier Recommends Amazon store, with my top recommendations in history and philosophy, as well as my favorite films and novels). This isn't because it costs Amazon anything (sales taxes are paid by the customer, not Amazon), but solely because Amazon wants to maintain it's edge in price competition with other vendors (like Barnes & Noble, which, having brick-and-mortar stores in California, already had nexus and thus was already paying California sales taxes on its internet sales).


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Calling All Physicists

Over the years I have been mulling a problem in metaphysics: the ontological mysteries of Quantum Mechanics. I have been developing a theory in this regard (see, for example, The Ontology of Time and my unresolved alternatives in Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 98-99, III.4.1), and now, informed by some recent discoveries and publications in the sciences (and finally a stronger understanding of EPR experiments), I am able to write up a proposal intelligibly enough for an actual physicist to evaluate it.


Monday, June 06, 2011

New Podcast & Vids

I recently did an interview for the Think Atheist podcast, which is now available. We discuss historical method generally, how historians work and what makes their work logically valid, including discussion of Bayes' Theorem and the philosophy of history, and the completion schedule of my four books currently in progress (one of which is completed and now under contract at a publisher and in the stage of formal academic peer review).

Video of my St. Louis gigs has also gone online now: Carrier-McKay Debate (atheist vs. atheist: Goal Theory vs. Desire Utilitarianism); From Robots to the Moon (ancient science and technology; this was in a pub, so the video and audio quality is not fabulous); Ancient Christian Hostility to Science (how the church fathers of the first three centuries reacted to all that science and technology; this was also in conditions not conducive to producing quality a/v).


Still waiting for the Carrier-Holding debate video.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pauline Interpolations

In the New Testament, at least two passages have been interpolated into the letters of Paul: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Today I'll present the evidence for this conclusion that most experts have long known about, but most laymen never hear.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Sources of the Jesus Tradition

Several months ago the papers of the 2008 Amherst conference finally appeared in print. Sort of. I have a lot of problems with this, and the following is a review of the successes and failures of the new book Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (Prometheus Books 2010).


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mark 16:9-20

A good long while ago I completed a contract job to produce a thoroughly researched and argued case against the authenticity of the verses in Mark 16:9-20, which the mainstream consensus has long since rejected as an interpolation but fundamentalists keep trying to rescue. The final product has now finally been published at Errancy Wiki (which years ago also published a concise summary of my case for the historical contradiction regarding the date of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke: Luke vs. Matthew on the Year of Christ's Birth).

The new article is: Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication. Like the earlier article, which decisively proves the bible historically errant, this article decisively proves the bible textually errant. It's the most egregious and appalling case of doctoring the text of the New Testament on record. You may have often heard references to scholars having proved that the ending of Mark is an interpolation from manuscript and stylistic evidence. Well, if you are wondering exactly what that evidence is and how well it holds up, especially against any competent attempts to argue the contrary, this new article is for you. It is now the definitive treatment of the ending of Mark, being the most comprehensive summary of the evidence that I know. In fact when combined with the scholarship in its bibliography, it is the most complete treatment you'll ever find.

I discussed this issue of New Testament textual errancy in general (and the ending of Mark in particular) in a recent debate with J.P. Holding, a video of which the producers assure me will eventually become available online. I also plan to blog the case for two other interpolations (in the letters of Paul), which came up in that debate, adding even more material I chose not to present during the debate in order to open up time for other arguments. 
  

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lead Tablets of Jesus!

Many are asking about the mysterious new lead tablets (the Jordan Lead Codices) "suddenly" uncovered that supposedly are going to change the world, proving all sorts of weird things about the first generation of Christianity. I hear according to Glenn Beck, they are the mysterious coded books referred to in the book of Revelation! Holy Sheit!

Not. All the media stories misquote people, and then make wild inferences and represent them as facts (this is a really good example, BTW, of how little you can trust media reports about these sorts of things, so remember this the next time this happens). A noted scholar already proved these were forgeries a year ago. Now they are being bandied about by a couple of New Age loonies pretending to be Indiana Jones and Shortround acting out a Dan Brown novel. I say loonies, because IMO only a lunatic would try this now, given the ease with which they can be proven a forgery, and the fact that these guys knew this a year ago.

For the conclusive proof, see the analysis of "Peter Thonemann on the Lead Codices" (with corresponding "Thoughts" and "On the Lead Codices"). The evidence is so clear this has to be one of the lamest fakes ever attempted, which makes it astonishing that it was ever taken seriously by anyone. For a good full story and background on the guys who are Da Vinci coding this "find" all around town and riling up the knuckleheaded media, see Thomas Verenna's detailed summary and links in "Conspiracy Theorists, Legitimate Scholarship, and Lead Tablets" (and his further updates on this story in his "New Roundup") and his official article at The Bible and Interpretation: Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History. Rogue Classicist also has a good treatment of the media contradictions and dubious characters involved ("Lead Codices").

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Appearing in St. Louis

I'll be in St. Louis, Missouri the first week of May on a whirlwind tour of four events on three days. I'll be selling and signing my books at all three venues. And all do ask for small donations.

(1) First is a debate in the Responsible Public Debate series held by the Ethical Society of St. Louis (which I hear is the largest ethical society in the nation) on Tuesday, May 3, from 7pm to 9pm. I'll be debating "Is Happiness the Goal of Morality?" arguing in the affirmative against Mike McKay, president of the Skeptical Society of St. Louis. This will take place at the Ethical Society itself on 9001 Clayton Rd. (St. Louis, Missouri).

(2) Second is a reprise of my recent San Francisco talk for Skeptics in the Pub (sponsored again by the Skeptical Society of St. Louis), on Friday, May 6, from 7pm to 9pm, at Jack Patrick's Bar & Grill (downstairs), 1000 Olive St. (St. Louis, Missouri), on the corner of 10th and Olive. Topic: "From Robots to the Moon: Amazing Science and Technology of the Ancient World" (Same as last week: Dr. Richard Carrier, a specialist in ancient science and technology, surveys just a few examples of amazing achievements in scientific and technical knowledge among the Greeks and Romans, including computers, robots, automated factories, the invention of latitude and longitude, controlled medical experiments, and discovering the elliptical orbit of the moon).

(3) Third is an educational all-day event: two seminars, broken by lunch, which I'll be giving at the behest of the Rationalist Society of St. Louis (which also maintains a meetup site for event planning and information), on Saturday, May 7, at a venue still to be determined (possibly Hoops Hall on 1806 Allen Ave., St. Louis, MO, but check the dedicated meetup page the week before, because if they get more than twenty RSVPs they'll need a bigger place--so also be sure to RSVP if you plan to go). You can attend one or the other, or both (and make a day of it). The first will be run from 11am to 1pm, followed by an hour for lunch. The second will then be run from 2pm to 4pm. The two events are:

Mastering Logical Reasoning (11am-1pm): An interactive class covering how formal logic works, and why it's useful even if you only think and argue informally. Different modes of logic will be discussed, with entertaining examples. Learn about such weird, exotic animals as disjunctive syllogisms and Bayes' Theorem. And how to use them to think soundly, spot errors, and argue effectively. Everyone should bring one or more actual arguments (for god or against naturalism--or on any subject at all--from books or online) for us to break down and analyze. Print or jot down as much of the formal structure as you can and bring it on in.
 

Ancient Christian Hostility to Science (2pm-4pm): Learn with shock and horror what the first Christian intellectuals said about science and scientific values, and see how starkly it contrasted with the religious values expressed by pagans. Excellent companion piece to the previous night's talk for Skeptics in the Pub, which will have covered the achievements of ancient pagan scientists (and nothing else). So some of you might want to catch both, as the Pub talk will discuss the actual scientific knowledge and achievements of the ancients, while Saturday's talk will then discuss the Christian response to those achievements (and what the pagans thought about them, too).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Obama a War Criminal?

I'd like to post today some (hopefully) educational and philosophical thoughts on a major current event of considerable importance, on which every American should be well informed.

There has been much said of late (by both liberals and conservatives, even on the usually well-informed Daily Show) to the effect that Obama is a war criminal, because his aerial assault on Libya was unconstitutional and had no legal standing. Simply because he didn't get congressional permission first. This keeps getting repeated, by members of congress no less (who of all people ought to know better), even though it's obviously false to anyone actually aware of the law (much less its precedents: Reagan and Clinton both did exactly the same thing, multiple times, despite being icons of an "ideal president" for both the right and the left).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Appearing in Orange County

A day after my Riverside appearance I'll also be speaking to the Orange County Backyard Skeptics in Villa Park, California (at 7pm, Thursday, April 14). To attend (and get the venue address--it's held literally in a member's private but lovely backyard) you must be a member of their meetup group (which you can join here), or personally invited by a member. Suggested donation is $5 (or $10 if you'll be enjoying food provided during the event). I'll be selling and signing my books as usual. The topic will be "How Christianity Began Is Proof Enough It's Bunk," in which I'll discuss some of the essential features of how and when the Christian religion began and why it looks exactly like just another religious cult of its time and place, and not at all like the idea of a universal god.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Appearing in Wichita

That's right, I'll be speaking on Rapture Day! What's that, you ask? Here's the official announcement, from the event organizers (the Air Capital Skeptics and the Secular Student Alliance):
Rapture Day is going to be a day of great speakers giving presentations with a focus on religion and how it relates to various doomsday claims. The event will be held at the Wichita State University CAC theater on 21 May 2011. This is the date that Harold Camping, a Christian broadcaster, has claimed will be the day of the Rapture. We are putting this event on for two primary reasons. The first and most important is to have some fun and let other secular thinkers in the area know that they are definitely not alone. The second is to help educate people on the nature and history of these types of claims and help expose how this fatalistic thinking is a danger to our modern society.
Learn all about this event at its official website (RaptureDay.org). It will last all Saturday, 9am to 5pm (see the whole event schedule). The talks all sound like they'll be entertaining. The venue is located at the campus of Wichita State University on Isely Lane (off Perimeter road), near the corner of 17th and Yale (in Wichita, Kansas). I will of course be around and my books will be for sale all day. I'll be happy to sign anything you buy, anytime, as long as you don't interrupt the speakers when approaching me.

Speakers include myself ("You’re all Gonna Die! How the Jews Kept Failing to Predict Doomsday and Caused Christianity Instead"), Blair Scott of American Atheists ("The End Is Near! (Again)"), author and psychologist Darrell Ray ("Exposing the God Virus: Religion as a Mental Infection"), controversial author and activist David Fitzgerald ("The Ten Thousand Christs and the Evaporating Jesus"), the notorious and beloved rabble-rouser J.T. Eberhard ("Dear Christian"), and the always hilarious (but kidding on the square) Brother Sam Singleton ("Patriarchs and Penises").

If you plan to attend, please register so they can be sure to accommodate everyone! And if you want to help out, or even just ensure that more events like this will happen in the region, please donate to their cause. If enough donations come in for events like this, other groups will be encouraged to launch such efforts themselves, and hey, it's just a great way to show your support for organized atheism in the United States, giving it a public profile that shows the people and the politicians that we are not an unmotivated fringe group, but a major demographic that really believes in the cause of reason.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Am Not a Christian

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous has commissioned on my behalf a print publication of a slightly updated version of my 2006 essay "Why I Am Not a Christian." All proceeds will go to me. He just wanted it to exist so he could hand it out to door knocking evangelists, and make other handy uses of it in his own atheist evangelism. At the donor's request (and generous payment) I made several minor additions and some changes, to get its content up to date. It is available in print and kindle.

For those unfamiliar with the original, it explains the four reasons I do not accept the Christian religion, describing four facts of the world that, had they been different, I would believe. Those four reasons are God's silence, God's inaction, the lack of evidence, and the way the universe looks exactly like a godless universe would, and not at all like a Christian universe would, even down to its very structure. I address all the "usual" replies to these claims, in ways you might not have heard before, relying on my wide experience in debating and studying these issues all over the world for more than fifteen years.

In this version I am brief, clear, and down to earth, covering the whole topic in under ninety pages of easy-to-read explanation. My donor is right, it does make a perfect book to introduce yourself, or your friends, to why fewer educated people are embracing Christianity than ever before, and is ideal for handing out to door-to-door missionaries. I don't expect everyone will want one (it's content isn't new), but for the above uses it's handy and cheap, and makes for an easy read. I'll be selling copies at all my upcoming venues.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Moral Ontology

Ontology is the study of “being,” i.e. what it means for something to “be” or “exist.” I have discussed on other occasions the ontology of time and the ontology of logic and mathematics (among other things, in numerous places). A couple weeks ago for a Christian youth group (Stand to Reason) I was asked to discuss the ontology of moral facts, expanding on questions that remained after last year. A crucial section of my Sense and Goodness without God on all this is III.5 (pp. 119-34), esp. III.5.4-5 (pp. 124-34).

From the questions that I heard this year I can provide a new summary of my view on this subject, which I will support with formal, peer reviewed arguments and references to the leading scholarship in a chapter soon to appear in The End of Christianity, edited by John Loftus (the sequel to The Christian Delusion), which I'll blog about as soon as it is released. Of course much of the informal argument and bibliography already appears in my book Sense and Goodness without God (and I've blogged about this subject colloquially before: see the amusing Darla the She-Goat).

Moral realism is the view that there are moral statements that are meaningful and true, and true independent of your opinion or culture. I am a moral realist. That means I must be able to ontologically ground the existence of moral facts, and in things other than popular opinions or merely cultural facts. When I say they "exist" I have to explain what I mean by that: in what sense, and in what way, do they "exist," particularly as I am a first-order physicalist (I believe everything that exists is solely and entirely caused by physical things and events: see Defining the Supernatural), so I must be able to reduce moral facts to physical facts in some way.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Appearing in Riverside

I will be speaking in Riverside, California on Wednesday, April 13 (2011), for the Inland Empire Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, from 7pm to 9pm (doors open at 6pm), at the Universalist Unitarian Church on 3657 Lemon Street (see the meetup page for the event). Admission is $5 (but free to students and the unemployed). I will be selling and signing my books afterward.
 

Topic: Defending Naturalism as a Worldview: Why We Should Care. I will talk in plain terms how to win the culture war through greater attention to worldview theory. We should all study the philosophy of naturalism because every element is interrelated and stands in direct opposition to supernatural worldviews used to attack us and make our society dysfunctional, yet on every point naturalism is obviously correct. This is a weapon you need to know how to use in order to win the culture war. Otherwise you are going to be outgunned by the Christian elite and their mindless flock, who are aware of this weapon's importance and are already very good at using it. You should be too. Come see why--and how.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

San Francisco in March

I will be appearing in San Francisco next month, on Saturday 26 March (2011), for the San Francisco Atheists, at their usual venue (Schroeder's Restaurant, on 240 Front St., San Francisco, CA 94111), from 4:30-7pm. I'll be selling and signing books as usual.

Description: "From Robots to the Moon: Amazing Science and Technology of the Ancient World" : Dr. Richard Carrier, a specialist in ancient science and technology, surveys just a few examples of amazing achievements in scientific and technical knowledge among the Greeks and Romans, including computers, robots, automated factories, the invention of latitude and longitude, controlled medical experiments, and discovering the elliptical orbit of the moon.

And don't ask what I could possibly mean by "computers, robots, and automated factories." That would spoil the surprise! Come see and find out. I'll be repeating this talk in the St. Louis area later this year. Rest assured it's all based on established peer reviewed scholarship and actual concrete evidence.
 

Friday, February 18, 2011

March Course

This March (March 1 to 31) I will be visiting lecturer at CFI's online campus, co-teaching their one-month introductory course in the philosophy of naturalism, this year taught by Dr. John Shook (author of The God Debates) and myself. Anyone can attend and receive a certificate of completion (though only students at UB receive college credit). It is all online and all flextime (you can work at any time of day or week).

Course description: "Introduces the philosophy of naturalism by explaining its core ideas, examining what it is good for, and illustrating why it is a better view of reality than supernatural, mystical, or idealistic worldviews. Course topics include: (1) reasoning and the scientific method, (2) science's understanding of the universe and human beings, (3) how naturalism answers questions about morality, beauty, meaning, and society, and (4) making use of naturalism to better understand yourself and the world."

Students will be able to interact with both of us on a near-daily basis in professional-quality forum discussions of lectures and reading materials (or you can just listen in, although participation is required for a completion certificate). There are required readings but no grades, tests, or papers (we assess your level of participation and comprehension from your interactions with us each week). My book Sense and Goodness without God is the required course text. Tuition is $60 ($50 for Friends of the Center, and only $10 for college students). To learn more, or register, visit the CFI course page: Naturalism (SEC 224)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Vids and Podcast

Besides the major video release I mentioned yesterday, two other known videos of me came out around the same time, plus a new podcast. I'm blogging those three items today.

(1) Back in 2008 the guys of Give a Damn? came to my home and interviewed me for their film (which I've seen, and it's pretty awesome, hopefully it is near to a general release). I didn't make the final cut, so Rob Lehr, the atheist of the pair (Dan Parris is his Christian friend, and he's one of the cool Christians), put my whole original interview online. It's unedited so a bit random and rough (and they ran out of tape almost mid-sentence at the end), but actually it's really good, one of the best unedited interviews I've ever seen, and interesting for covering a lot of novel ground (since it is principally about whether we ought to "Give a Damn" about poverty in Africa). To watch it click here.

(2) Every year or so I speak to a Christian youth group called Stand to Reason. I've been doing this for years. But back in 2010 I spoke on metaethics and my lecture was recorded. It's now available online. It's a casual interactive lecture, not a formal talk, and it was mostly for the benefit of the students there, and only addresses a few specific questions, so it doesn't work that well as a video per se (much better for that is my Michigan talk on moral theory; and for more discussion and links on this topic see Darla the She-Goat and of course read Sense and Goodness without God). But if you are interested, click here.

(3) Finally, I did a Mindcore podcast: Interview with Richard Carrier. Mindcore is a rather low-production-value underground podcast for "elitist college dropouts" (as self-described). It's not an atheist podcast, it just happened to center around that issue this particular show. First half is a discussion between hosts Don Recuero (an atheist) and Diana (a kind of vaguely New Age theist). The interview then starts with me at minute 40:25. I'll briefly describe it from there.

Don begins with discussing the nature and history of the New Atheist movement and my role in it. We segue into politics of atheists. Note that I speak of naturalists of the kind I defend in my book, who accept empirical moderatism, but I mistakenly give the impression I'm speaking of all atheists, when certainly there are dogmatically ideological atheists (and across the entire political spectrum, too). Then we segue into moral theory and mataethics. I talk about the new book The End of Christianity (the now-completed sequel to The Christian Delusion that will be released this year, in which I have three chapters--I'll blog all about it when it's out). Then we close with a discussion of the Jesus myth debate specifically, and the development of the New Testament canon in general.

This was recorded way back in 2010, and the sound quality is not good, and we had delay issues that made it hard not to talk over each other, and I compensated by rambling too much. And not much new ground covered. So not the best show ever. But some may find it of interest.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skepticon III Video

Video of my presentation at Skepticon III last year is now available. I like this one. This is my best and most entertaining talk yet. Informative and fun. I definitely recommend it. To watch it on YouTube click here. Filmed and edited by Rob Lehr of Hambone Productions, I recall there was a loss of data at the event but he restored it best he could (so you'll see a fade at one point), and I'm pretty sure no significant content was lost. The accompanying slideshow is also available for private viewing here (warning: it's a large PDF file).

There is also a video of the panel I was on (on a different day), Confrontation vs. Accommodation. Me and P.Z. Myers on one side, Debbie Goddard, David Fitzgerald, and John Corvino on the other (although we were all pretty much on the same side when it came to the issue discussed), moderated by D.J. Grothe (who made a valiant effort at playing Devil's Advocate). The panel is interesting but some will consider it a bit dull and frustrating in many respects (not only because of audio problems). Often thoughts couldn't be completed or revisited as a viewer would want, e.g. at one point I briefly approve of politicians lying, though I meant in regard to the religious and diplomatic palliatives politicians must deploy to get things done, not, of course, breaking the law or perpetrating a major deception. I thought that was clear in context, but on reviewing it, it's not. And if that was true for me, you can expect it may have been for the other panelists as well. So it should be viewed charitably.