Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Richard Carrier's Grand Claims

I want to take some time here to draw attention to the comments that Richard Carrier has blogged about his own chapters in the recent anthology The End of Christianity. The book, as a whole, is a mixed bag. (I think the same is true of the previous anthology The Christian Delusion.) In my estimation, it's worth reading. But some chapters are more worth reading than others.

However, Richard Carrier thinks much more highly of the book. That's an understatement. He doesn't just think the book rocks, he seems to think that the book is absolutely phenomenal. In his review of the book, he boldly claims:
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.
Really? Anyone who reads the books and remains a Christian is irrational? My natural inclination upon hearing this is to point out that if a Christian apologist said the same thing about some Christian anthology, we wouldn't hesitate to roll our eyes. And rightfully so. One can just imagine some such apologist saying:
If you read this book and still don't believe Jesus is the Risen Lord, you need to get your head checked! There's no way for somebody who is sane and rational to read these arguments and not be convinced.
It would be bad enough to say this about any book. Worse still to say it about your own book, or a book where you're one of the main contributors. In fact, I wouldn't just think that the claim was absurd. I'd probably get a strong suspicion that the apologist isn't even worth taking seriously. (Yes, I think some apologists are worth taking seriously.) Of course, Carrier may truly believe that the case against Christianity contained in these books is so air-tight that one would indeed have to be irrational to remain a Christian after reading them. And I suppose he might even be right about that, though I doubt it. But I can't shake the feeling that this is just a paradigm case of overstating the value of one's own work.

But there's more. Regarding his own chapters, Carrier has a tendency to say that he has written "a tour de force" on the topic. In fact, he has explicitly said this about four of the five chapters he's written for the two anthologies--as for the other chapter, he just says that it "demonstrate[s], conclusively, that Christianity is very probably false" and that "rejecting its conclusion requires bold-faced irrationality." So he might as well have explicitly called that one a tour de force as well.

Here's the thing. His chapters are all good, in my opinion. Every one of them is worth reading. But who goes around claiming that their own work is a tour de force? I've occasionally seen people say this about another person's work, but I'm not sure I've ever seen somebody say this about his or her own work. And yet here's Richard Carrier saying this about several of his own papers.

Have a look at what he says about his metaethics paper in particular:
The last of these is "Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)," a formal, peer-reviewed philosophical defense of my moral theory in Sense and Goodness Without God. This shall be for a long time the go-to chapter for arguing and defending my theory of moral facts. It includes deductive syllogisms establishing every key point, and extensive argument and references. There is no room left for any rational objection. To those keen on that issue, I believe this chapter alone justifies the price of the book. As per my usual style, I aimed to make it a tour de force on the subject.
A tour de force in metaethics by Richard Carrier? (No offense intended!) A paper so well-argued that "there is no room left for any rational objection"? I imagine that few people in the field of philosophy would be able to pull off a feat so great. Fewer still would proclaim that those who object to the arguments must be irrational. Carrier must think pretty highly of himself.

My guess is that I could find other instances where Carrier has made grand claims like this. So I'll update this post with other such instances I find, or others that readers alert me to in the comments section.

Let me make it clear that my goal isn't really to castigate Carrier, or to convince other people not to read his work. In fact, I think people should read his chapters--all five of them, in the two anthologies. I'd love to see what philosophers who specialize in metaethics think of his chapter on the topic. So I encourage you to read it, and then to share your thoughts. My goal, therefore, isn't to silence Carrier's contribution to the conversation. Rather, it's to point out the obvious absurdity in speaking so highly of one's own work.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sense and Goodness Without God

Atheist historian Richard Carrier wrote the book Sense and Goodness Without God several years ago (published in 2005). The book's subtitle is "A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism," and it has been called a "worldview-in-a-box" kind of book. By all appearances, however, it hasn't gotten much attention from philosophers. Since it is largely a book about philosophy (though it also touches on science, history, and other subjects), and since there haven't been many philosophers who have read it and endorsed its contents, I'll be posting some comments on this blog.

In fact, some of the graduate students here in the philosophy department have decided to read the book and discuss it in a reading group. And some of them may be contributing some written comments for me to post here as well. Keep in mind that these are not meant to be comprehensive "reviews" of the various sections of the book. I personally don't have the time for anything like that, so my own comments will probably read more like the kinds of things I would say to Richard Carrier if he were in the room with me and we were going over the contents of his book.

In my next blog post about this, I'll talk a little bit about the philosophy of language section of the book. But right now, I just want to make some general comments about the book. It is, on the whole, necessarily superficial. (No, I don't mean that the book is superficial in every possible world... or do I?) Carrier is trying to say something about so many diverse topics that he's essentially spreading himself way too thin. That's not to say that a book like this can't still be good. There is, of course, a niche for books which offer a basic sketch of a bunch of different topics. And one which connects them all together into a single coherent worldview should definitely have its place at the table. But we need to recognize that kind of book for what it is. It's not the kind of book where any real headway is made in the particular debates it skims over. It's the kind of book which summarizes some stuff (and sometimes vastly oversimplifies it) for the reader. I can't imagine that Carrier's target audience for, say, the philosophy of language section consists of philosophers of language. But that section might help introduce the reader to some interesting and important philosophical issues. (And I hope such a reader would then go on to read the good work that philosophers have done on the topic--much of which is utterly neglected in Carrier's book.)

So there is a place for this kind of book, in my opinion. Let me make that clear. But it's not the kind of book that really engages much in the ongoing philosophical debate--at least not at the level that philosophers are expected to engage in that debate. There may be a couple of exceptions to this general observation. For example, it might be that Carrier's metaethical theory engages with the scholarly debate sufficiently (and on a sufficiently sophisticated level) to be targeted toward philosophers working in that area. (Note: Carrier also has a paper about this recently published in The End of Christianity.) I'll say more later about the strategy of participating in that debate by publishing your work in a self-published general worldview book and in an atheist anthology.

That said, since the book is not up to rigorous philosophical standards (and by all appearances it just wasn't intended to be), it's not the kind of book somebody should be referring back to as having settled the free will debate, for example. And it probably wouldn't be appropriate to cite Carrier's three-page rebuttal of Plantinga's epistemology as something Plantinga should take seriously and respond to in print. (If Carrier wants to take on Plantinga on epistemology, he should probably do so by submitting quality work to an academic philosophy journal.) Again, that's not to say that there aren't any good ideas in the book, or that it's just worthless. But some of it is just... superficial. That's the only way I can describe it. And I don't necessarily mean "superficial" in a bad way, either. Sometimes a summary is intended to be pretty superficial, since it is, after all, just a summary. But good philosophy rarely gets done by staying at that level of discourse. You have to dig a lot deeper than that.

One of the results of this is that Carrier sometimes ends up saying things that are probably false, and that he would probably agree are false if he were to delve into the already available literature on the topic. Well, that's my prediction, for what it's worth. I guess we'll see if my estimation changes once our reading group makes it through more of the book. I'll try to give some examples of this in my next blog post about the philosophy of language section.

Lastly, I should point out that a book like this, written by somebody who was at the time a graduate student in history, should be pretty modest. By that I mean that the author should probably acknowledge that the debates are deep and difficult (when they are), and that he or she cannot hope to settle any of those issues in this book, but rather merely sketch out which views he or she personally takes. I say this because, although there are some relevant reservations expressed by the author in the book, the overall feel of it might be overly-confident for some readers. I'll try to give some examples of where this worry might crop up as I work through the book.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mythicists Need Peer Review

I'm afraid I have to agree with those opponents of mythicism who tell proponents of the hypothesis that they need to publish their views in peer reviewed journals. Usually this is meant as a criticism: mythicists have either tried getting their views published by respectable journals or they haven't. If they have tried, but have failed, then that just shows that their arguments didn't pass peer review. In that case, it's not clear why anyone should take their self-published books seriously. If they haven't tried, then they're trying to bypass that (scholarly) route just like creationists are accused of doing by scientists.

That's how the criticism often goes, and I guess it's fair point. But as someone who has no personal animosity toward these people (e.g. Earl Doherty and Robert Price), and who doesn't find the ideas so implausible, I'd rather encourage them to work on getting some good scholarly publications under their belts. I don't care to accuse them of being like creationists, or to mock them for not having their arguments accepted in scholarly journals. Either way, though, they should work on pursuing these ideas through the proper academic channels.

Now, I don't think that they should start writing papers in defense of mythicism (presenting, for example, a summary of the overall case) for journal submissions. Doing that is bound to fail for the simple fact that you can't make much headway on that topic in a journal article. Consider the fact that Earl Doherty made his comprehensive case in an 800+ page book. A journal article on that broad topic would likely end up being pretty superficial and unconvincing. And besides that, Earl Doherty seems to think that the scholars in charge of peer review wouldn't accept a paper on this topic anyway. So that's not the route I'd recommend.

So my advice would instead be to write scholarly papers on narrow topics which will, if accepted, help support your overall case. All mythicists likely take particular stands on issues which are controversial, so convincing the rest of the scholars that you're right about those things will go a long way toward helping them to see that you're right about the big picture as well. Once they see the individual pieces of your case come together in a series of well-written scholarly papers, they'll be more likely to take mythicism more seriously. And that means they'll be more likely to read your books and interact with your arguments.

Mythicists have every reason to try publishing peer reviewed materials like this. The excuse that "the Establishment won't let anyone challenge the status quo in peer review" is just not convincing. If anything, using that excuse will help blur the line between mythicists and conspiracy theorists. (Unfortunately, this line was already blurred in Zeitgeist when one version of mythicism was presented immediately before the documentary delved into all sorts of wild conspiracies. But let's not throw all mythicists under the bus for that.) It's time to drop the excuses and get down to doing the hard scholarly work. If you're not interested in that, and you'd rather rest content with your self-published books, that's fine too. But then you're playing a different game, and you should recognize that fact.

Let me briefly note that mythicists are not, of course, just a bunch of self-publishing hacks. Well, that's my opinion at least. Robert Price has published some of his work with Prometheus, which is a pretty good publisher. And Richard Carrier, who does have some self-published books, is currently working on quite a bit of scholarly material that will go through peer review. (And, in any case, I have no room to call these guys hacks, as their expertise is generally even admitted by their opponents, who nonetheless think they are wrong.)

Other mythicists should follow suit. That, or they should at least help the project along by listing all of the controversial claims that, if true, would tend to support their theories. And they should also list the controversial claims that, if true, would tend to undermine their theories. This will differ from one mythicist to the next, but listing these things out will have two primary benefits that I can see. First, those who want to engage in the scholarly debate will know what all of the particular disputes are, which will help them (eventually) get to the bottom of things. And second, it will make it easier to see whether your conclusion really does follow from your premises with any significant probability. And while I'm on the topic, those who believe in an historical Jesus should probably do the same thing. List out the things that would support your theory, and the things which would undermine your theory. To everyone in the debate: If your argument depends crucially on the genre of the Gospels, or certain interpretations of a few verses in the authentic Pauline epistles, or the early/late dating of the New Testament materials, or the testimony of Josephus, or anything else like that, then say so.

For what it's worth, Richard Carrier agrees. In an email, he wrote:
Any conclusion that Jesus' historicity is doubtful follows from hundreds of what seem by themselves minor or even trivial hypotheses, such as that no one named Thallus ever mentioned Jesus or that Mark invented the bizarre fig tree narrative as symbolic commentary on the failure and replacement of the Temple cult (and was not, therefore, relying on any sort of actual oral history), or that many ancient cosmologies imagined heaven to be occupied with lands, trees, furniture, even graves. Many of these hypotheses have good arguments and evidence for them, yet have not been properly defended under peer review, yet easily could be, if competently written up as individual research papers. Get them all published that way, and then you can argue Jesus' historicity is doubtful by moving to that conclusion from premises every one of which is established under peer review, which argument could then be a peer reviewed research paper of its own (once all the rest has been done). No one person can possibly do this, the time required would be insurmountable. But numerous scholars working in parallel could. And of course it has to be done, no matter how many generations the project takes to complete, so those passionate about it ought to get started on it now. Every such paper that gets published adds credibility to the mythicist case, without any such paper having to advocate mythicism (and thus prejudices won't block their publication). So to all up-and-coming scholars in ancient history and biblical studies, get on this. Even if you are certain Jesus was historical, there is much you can contribute by pursuing these hypotheses and getting good work published on them.
Interested readers should also have a look at this blog post on the same general topic over at James McGrath's blog, as well as this one by Tom Verenna.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Not To Argue Against Mythicism

Regarding the historicity of Jesus, there's a common thing that many anti-mythicists resort to saying when they dismiss mythicism, and I've seen it so many times now that it merits a response. Generally the discussion takes place in an online forum or in the comments section of some blog post, since this debate hasn't gotten much attention among contemporary New Testament scholars and ancient historians (who are of the general opinion that there was an historical Jesus at the root of the Christian religious tradition). And quite often during the course of that discussion, somebody will argue as follows:
I'm an atheist, so I don't buy the Christian story. I don't think there's enough evidence to conclude that Jesus was resurrected or that he performed miracles, so Christianity just isn't a tenable view in my opinion. Nevertheless, I find that mythicists go too far in the other direction. There's simply no need to deny that Jesus ever existed at all in order to deny Christianity. Why not just accept that he was an ordinary (non-magical) person?
Now, as I said, this is a general kind of argument I have encountered multiple times. It's by no means intended to be a straw man. (To that end, I'll try to update this blog post with actual quoted examples whenever I come across them.)

While I think the person who says this sort of thing is certainly correct--you can deny the Christian story without denying the historicity of Jesus, as many scholars do (e.g. see Bart Ehrman)--this is just hopeless as a response to those who argue for mythicism. If the primary mythicist argument was that we know that Jesus didn't exist because we know that Christianity is false, and the only way for Christianity to be false is for Jesus to be entirely mythical, then this would suffice as an argument. And it would be a pretty decent argument, too. It quite accurately explains that even if there was an historical Jesus, Christianity could still be false. But, of course, that much is already obvious (which means that pretend argument for mythicism was obviously terrible to begin with). And that's why no respectable mythicist would ever argue for hi
s or her view on the mere grounds that Christianity is false.

The problem here is that mythicists offer other kinds of evidence for their view, and the above quoted passage does not suffice as a response to those historical arguments. Consider the case that Earl Doherty has made for mythicism, for example. He argues that the hypothesis that Jesus was never an historical person, but was rather a mythical figure who later got "historicized" by being placed in an historical context in religious writings, is the best explanation of all of the available evidence. The proper response to him is not to just reassure him that he can reject Christianity without being a mythicist. Rather, the proper response to him, if you're going to reject his argument, is to explain why his hypothesis isn't the best explanation of the evidence. To instead declare that he's just gone too far in the other direction doesn't count as a response at all, actually. It merely avoids the debate altogether.

So if you want to argue that mythicism is false, that's fine. But don't assume that it's probably false just because you don't need to accept that view to avoid Christianity.

Of course, people who say this sort of thing in these discussions might respond to what I've said by claiming that I'm misunderstanding their purpose in saying this. I imagine they might claim:
I wouldn't state any of that as a reason to reject mythicism. Instead, it just seems to me that a lot of these internet mythicists are primarily motivated by their anti-Christian sentiments, and they don't even attempt to rationally prove that Jesus never existed, they just seem to take that view because it's a view which rejects the very foundation of Christianity. And to them, I want to say that it's intellectually irresponsible to take such a radical view for those kinds of reasons.
Maybe this is indeed the purpose some people have when they use this kind of argument, but my guess is that in many cases this is not so. My general impression has been that people often use the argument to reject mythicism.


A commenter named "Mikail2" posted a comment on a blog post by James McGrath, writing:
I reject evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, for several reasons, which I believe are legitimate. There are several reasonable criticisms of Christianity, but rejecting or criticizing Christianity because Jesus never existed is a terrible reason for doing so, because the idea that he never existed is bogus. Christianity, especially evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, is vulnerable in so many places. With so many real weak spots in the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian faith, using mythicism only makes one look really bad.
John Loftus posted a comment on his own blog post, writing:
I'm trying to figure out why there's such a fuss, I really am. We all agree that the Jesus depicted in the Gospels who was born of a virgin, healed people blind from birth, raised Lazarus from the dead, and bodily arose from the dead never existed. For me that's good enough even if I do think there was a historical Jesus, as does McGrath and Baker...
To which Weston Bortner responded:
Because some atheists apparently feel threatened by the very notion that Jesus may have existed, so they feel better in denying it and saying that he didn't. But, as has been said, whether he existed or not doesn't really matter. It's the claim of divinity that matters.
And Tim responded:
I think the fuss is that some atheists think that if you admit Jesus is a historical person, you have to also admit that he was born of a virgin, etc. The problem is that the latter does not follow from the former: all because we say person X existed does not mean they had attributes A, B, and C.
And Weston Bortner later said:
Folks, look, we've already got a consensus of scholars saying that Jesus, though he existed, was wrong about the end of the world and many other things. What more do you want?
Those are just a few examples that I found from some quick searches of recent blog discussions of the topic. I have no doubt that more of the same would be discovered if I read back through older blog discussions. I'll update this post periodically when I find more examples.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Harold Camping

I don't know why I waited so long to post this on my blog. A few days before Harold Camping's prediction of the rapture failed to come true this May, I had a letter published in the St. Joseph News-Press. I'm going to re-post it here so that I have a record of it:

Come May 22, It's Time to Get Real

Imagine quitting your job, spending the entirety of your life savings, and alienating your family and friends, all while preparing for the imminent end of the world. If your imagination is vivid enough, what you're envisioning is the situation a number of Christians currently find themselves in. It has been predicted by none other than Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, that the Rapture of the (true) Christians will occur on May 21 of this year, followed this October by the end of the world. Camping predicted the same thing would happen back in 1994. This time, he's serious.

And so, like many Christians before them, Camping and his followers have pushed in all of their chips once again. There is no backup plan; there is no doubt. If you're a Christian who expects to be taken up in the Rapture, you might as well spend your savings now.

It's a wonder that anyone still falls for this stuff. Not only have people been making these predictions for hundreds of years, only to be proven wrong time and again, but this time the man whose "calculations" we are supposed to trust happens to be rather ignorant about the world. He has, for example, pinpointed the creation of the universe to be approximately 13.7 billion years after scientists say it occurred. He does this not on the basis of his own scientific investigations--he hasn't done any; he isn't a scientist. He does it on the basis of his own questionable reading of an ancient book (or, rather, a collection of ancient books). If he's this far off about the beginning of the universe, why should anybody trust him regarding the end of the universe? They shouldn't.

Mark my words: This Saturday, Harold Camping and his followers will not disappear from the Earth. There will be no Rapture. Their elaborate predictions will be falsified, and once again Camping will have to spin a nonsense story about how he had forgotten to factor this or that into his calculations. But Sunday morning, as his followers are reflecting on all of this, I hope that they begin to rethink their worldview. If you want to know about the world, a good rule of thumb is that you can't simply unreflectively trust a bunch of ancient documents (some written anonymously, some forged in others' names), and you can't simply trust a guy who has already adequately demonstrated that he doesn't know what he's talking about. To get to the truth, you're going to have to dig a lot deeper than that.

-Landon Hedrick
Lincoln, NE

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Rule

If you believe that Jesus walked on water, cast out demons, healed the sick, raised people from the dead, and was himself resurrected from the dead, then you don't get to dismiss the "Jesus never existed" theory as too silly or crazy to take seriously.

Historians and Biblical scholars are in general agreement that there was an historical Jesus--a man who began the religion of Christianity by garnering a following during his lifetime. Among professionals working in the field, very few, apparently, believe that there was no historical Jesus at all. But there are some scholars (professional and amateur) who give credence to this view, called "Jesus mythicism" or just "mythicism." Among the best known these days are Earl Doherty (Jesus: Neither God Nor Man), Robert M. Price (The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man and Deconstructing Jesus), and Richard Carrier (two forthcoming books). There are some other names that are sometimes mentioned as well. For example, Thomas L. Thompson (The Messiah Myth) is considered a key figure in this debate. And, of course, there's Acharya S, aka D.M. Murdock (The Christ Conspiracy), whose work has been criticized by Carrier and praised by Price. This view is in the minority, and some of the above mythicists I mentioned are dismissed as non-scholars by scholars in the field and by Christian apologists.

Mythicism is considered by many to be completely absurd, not even worth considering. In fact, I had a brief discussion with a Christian philosopher named Trent Dougherty a while back who made that very claim:
And the thesis that Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist lacks any shred of credibility. The thesis is so implausible it shouldn't even be discussed on a blog of this quality. It is ridiculous in the literal sense. It is not worth two minutes investigation. It's like the thesis that we didn't really land on the moon. It is not worthy of attention. People who advocate such a thesis utterly discredit themselves as capable of paying attention to serious, reasoned discussion.
It should be noted that Dougherty said this in the context of a blog discussion in which he was highly recommending a book by Richard Swinburne (a well-known Christian philosopher) which argues for the resurrection of Jesus. Translation: Mythicism is so crazy that it's not worth thinking about for two minutes, but the supernatural Jesus view has so much going for it that you should read entire books about it.

New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman will soon be writing a book against mythicism, so apparently he thinks it's worth considering the view for more than two minutes. Yet he, too, finds the view to be unbelievable.

I'm not arguing for mythicism here (I'm not a mythicist). That's not what I'm up to. Nor am I arguing against it. My point is rather simple: as unbelievable a view as it is, you have no room to dismiss it so casually on the basis of its being totally bonkers if you believe in a magic Jesus yourself.

I would have thought this was obvious, but Christian apologists are often the ones dismissing mythicism as crazy. When William Lane Craig debated Richard Carrier on the resurrection of Jesus two years ago, Craig was sure to emphasize in his opening statement that Carrier was a mythicist. He wrote: "Richard takes the extremist position that Jesus of Nazareth never even existed--that there was no such person in history. This is a position which is so extreme that to call it marginal would be an understatement; it doesn't even appear on the map of contemporary New Testament scholarship." This seemed to me an attempt to poison the well (to get the audience to think right away that Carrier wasn't at all credible) even though Craig and I had concluded in conversation before the debate that Carrier probably wouldn't even bring up mythicism, since he knows it isn't mainstream and since it's not necessary to appeal to the idea that Jesus never existed in order to argue against the resurrection. Perhaps Craig felt he had to throw that in to preempt the remote possibility that Carrier would appeal to mythicism. Yet for all of the lack of credibility on Carrier's part on the basis of being a mythicist (which is just crazy according to Christian apologists), I'm afraid that Craig has no room to speak here. He believes that after Jesus' death, he was resurrected in an immortal supernatural body, and he lives on to this day. That is no less crazy than the view that Jesus never existed, as far as I can tell.

So let's be clear. If you are arguing for a magic Jesus, you're in a weak position to ridicule mythicism.

I want to preempt two possible responses to what I've said here. First, the Christian apologists might claim: "We're not rejecting mythicism as absurd for no reason at all. It's absurd because there's ample evidence for an historical Jesus!" That point is fair enough. Yet mythicists think they can account for all of the actual data better with the hypothesis that there was no historical Jesus, and they do defend their views at some length in print. They, likewise, would say: "We're not rejecting the magic Jesus as absurd for no reason at all. It's absurd because there's ample evidence that no such supernatural person ever lived!"

Second, one might simply object to my description of the Christian apologist's view as "magic Jesus." Christian apologist David Marshall has made the point in the past that there is a distinction between miracles and magic, and that Jesus wasn't a magician. I don't care to argue about that. My use of the word was for rhetorical purposes.

(In time, I'll post examples below of Christians talking about how ridiculous mythicism is as updates to this blog entry.)

* * *

Christian Philosopher Glenn Peoples writes:
Among ancient historians, the thesis that there literally was no historical Jesus on which the early Christian movement was based is like belief in a flat earth. It's silly, not taken seriously, and there's really no need to so much as acknowledge the fact that such a theory even exists.

Christian pastor and Biblical Studies scholar Jim West writes:
The whole idea that Jesus was invented and the Christianity is laid upon an unhistorical foundation is just so absurd on the face of it that very few scholars have bothered with it.

Christian historian and apologist David Marshall writes:
I'd say evidence for Jesus' historical existence IS on the same plain as evidence for the moon's orbit of the planet earth.

* * *

I should note that Biblical Studies scholar Dr. Hector Avalos is a professed "agnostic" on the question of the historicity of Jesus. In an email (6/8/11), he claimed (contrary to Christian philosopher Trent Dougherty quoted above) that "exploring evidence for the mythicist view is just as legitimate as exploring evidence for the historical view of Jesus."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Religious Music: The Good and the Bad

One thing I like about Heartland Community Church, which is the church I used to attend in Overland Park, KS, is the great music. Even if you don't believe in God, you can still enjoy the music (and, for that matter, you can sometimes still enjoy and appreciate the sermon). I wish I could remember the songs that they used to play that I really liked. But one example of this kind of song that I (still) enjoy is "How Great is Our God". I wanted to post a version of that song next to an example of a not-so-good song about Jesus. Both are worth watching at least once, but for different reasons.

Bonus: Can you guess who my favorite person is in the second video?