Jesus of Nazareth: Man or Myth?

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I was on holidays for a week and didn’t have a chance to check back on AtheismTV‘s website until today, and BAM! There it was!

(I skipped ahead through the announcements. I trust that no one will mind.)

The sound quality and lighting are unfortunate, but that’s the price we paid for an affordable space that could seat the number of people who came (and we quite filled up – if I recall correctly, we had about 100 people turn out to a non-religious event about Jesus on a Saturday night, which is a miracle in itself!).

I’ve already posted my initial impressions of the event, and I haven’t had a chance to re-watch with the ability to pause and look up claims/references so I don’t have much to add now. If you have a chance to watch it, though, I’d be very interested in hearing your impressions of the debate.

This was a fantastic event, and I would like to thank CFI-Ottawa for supporting my odd little hobbies and for not backing away slowly with widened eyes when I propose these sorts of events. You guys are wonderful! And very very tolerant! While included under the organizational heading, I would also like to specially thank all the volunteers who worked like Clydesdales to make this happen. I know a lot of you are nervous about your names getting out in cyber-space, but you know who you are and you know how much I appreciate you.

And, of course, I must thank Richard Carrier and Zeba Crook for doing such a fantastic job and for putting on such a fabulous show. High fives all around!

Jesus of Nazareth: Man or Myth (First Thoughts)


I mentioned that I was helping to organize a debate between mythicist Richard Carrier and historicist Zeba Crook. Well, it finally happened!

Crook was delightful, as always. I hadn’t heard Carrier speak before, but he was quite good as well. A little snarky at times (though far less so than in his blog), but the material was interesting enough to get through that.

Jesus of Nazareth

One of my pet peeves in debates, generally, is that the person who machine-gun fires the most nonsense tends to come out looking like the winner. To get around that, we the speakers share their notes ahead of time. The result was absolutely perfect, exactly what I wanted to see! Even better, in fact! Both speakers seemed to work together to lay the groundwork for the subject, and then both were fully prepared (with slides!) to address their “opponent’s” arguments during the rebuttal section.

The chemistry between the two speakers was very friendly, very respectful. They both seemed to approach the question from the idea that there isn’t a whole lot of evidence to work with and that it’s a legitimate debate to have, simply differing on which data points to give more weight to and how to interpret their meaning. Coming out of it, I have a lot more respect for the mythicist position (Carrier’s form of it, anyway – even he admitted that the bulk of the position’s proponents are dogmatic to an extreme. I believe the word used was “crazy”).

Unfortunately, I was doing the time-keeping, so I wasn’t able to take notes. There was a lot of evidence presented, on both side, that I’d like to be able to evaluate when I have the sources (and time) at my disposable. Thankfully, the AtheismTV team was there to film the debate, and should be posting the footage to their YouTube channel within the next couple weeks. I’ll post it as soon as I see it.

It was all round a magnificent event. I had so much fun that it took eons to fall asleep when I got home, I just just too buzzed from all the excitement.


EDIT: The video is now online!

A conversation with Vyckie Garrison


Back in the halcyon days of 2011, my local atheist group tried to make a podcast. Of course, as is the way of such things, we only got a few episodes out before everyone lost interest and scattered, but we did manage to get a couple of cool interviews in. More specifically, I had the wonderful honour of interviewing Vyckie Garrison for our second episode.

Vyckie Garrison is the editor of No Longer Quivering, a mother of seven, and formerly a Quiverful believer. Don’t know what Quiverful is? Well, you’ll just have to listen to the interview!

Click here to listen to the full thing. The interview begins at around 26:30.

As a side note, Vyckie is an absolutely wonderful – and very clever – person. I had the pleasure of meeting her when she came to speak at the Eschaton2012 conference. We also managed to get her speech, so you can check it out on YouTube:

A discussion with Mormons

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I recently watched a very long but very interesting interview over on Mormon Stories. John and Brooke McLay were True Believers and highly involved in the LDS community, until they became disillusioned with the Church. There are four segments and each is about an hour and a half long, but it’s very much worth listening to.

I do read a bit about Mormonism, mostly fiction like The 19th Wife, and I’ll admit to the occasional conversation with missionaries on when I’m bored. But listening to John and Brooke speak casually with a sprinkling of Mormon jingo reminded me that the daily experience of being Mormon is still very alien to me.

mclaySince much of my interest is with the more fundamentalist sects of Mormonism, I was interested to hear John talk about his discovery of polygamy in the early Church (part 2). He believed, as I have heard from missionaries, that polygamy in the early Church was okay because it was about finding a way to provide for widows. But John realized the other side of polygamy – being married, yet still having sex with more than one woman. From there, he was horrified to learn that Joseph Smith was known even to take other men’s wives, such as when he sent the husbands on missionary trips. This knowledge, for John, was a major step in his disillusionment with the Church.

Other factors that John lists in the segment are the homophobia and racism that are part of the doctrinal foundation of the LDS Church, and the conflict between his faith and his understanding of evolution.

In part 3, Brooke talks very movingly about the isolation that religious beliefs can cause. As a Mormon, she felt that she had to exclude non-Mormons and gays from her life. So moving away from the Church was her way to let more people into their lives. But because ex-Mormons are treated with such disdain by the Church, the McLays lost many friends.

But Brooke was wary of becoming an atheist and therefore having “no moral authority.” It was a throwaway line, but it shows just how far she still has to go to shed the intolerance of her upbringing. The statement was especially meaningful given John’s apparent lack of belief (while he never identifies himself as an atheist, he was casually using a lot of jargon from the atheist community, in the same way that both he and Brooke used Mormon jargon).

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the interview is when John explains that anything critical of Mormonism or the LDS Church is branded as anti-Mormon, even if it comes from within the Mormon community. It was interesting to read the same complaint from Miriam Namazie in regards to Islam. It points to the way communities have of closing ranks and dividing the world into clearly delineated teams of supporters versus detractors, with an inability to see that criticism can be constructive and well meant.

(h/t: Friendly Atheist)