Cracking the Jesus Myth Phony Scholarship Code
This was posted on Atheistwach in Feb 09.The website is substantially different now then it was at that time. Several of the sections I talk about below are not there now. I admit that it may jump the gun in certain ways. I think nevertheless I do have a point here about the deceptive nature of Jesus myth "scholarship." I'm not saying it's a "conspiracy" on the order of Thrush or the JFK assassination, but it does look like a put up job in certain ways. I think we are vastly underestimating the extent of organization and power grab tactics being used by an organized atheist movement.
Richard Carrier has a couple of articles on his blog about a big conference for the Jesus Project
held at Amherst last December. It sounds very scholarly. It presents the image of a group of major scholars meeting to mull over the latest scientific findings that prove Jesus never existed. This creates the idea that there is a climate of opinion in the academic world to expose the lies about Jesus and show that he never existed.
But if you follow the trail to see where this lie originated, and the trail is clearly marked, one can see clearly that there's nothing scholarly about it. It's nothing more than a put up job, but it's no accident that the Jesus Myth stupidity though exposed time after time as bankrupt lives on and continues to draw in a group suckers who are hood winked into believing that they are on the cutting edge of scientific search for truth.
The tail begins with the first major clue, the website of an organization called "The Jesus Project." Carrier links to this site on his blog, http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/12/jesus-project.html. The site purports to be a focal point for cutting edge academic research which supposedly takes up where the Jesus Seminar left off:
The Jesus Seminar, founded in 1985 by the late Robert Funk of the University of Montana, was famous for all the wrong reasons—its voting method(marbles), the grandstanding of some of its members, the public style of its meetings, even its openly defiant stance against the claims of miracles in the Gospels—including the of Jesus. Except for the marbles, none of this was new. The use of additional sources, such as Gnostic and apocryphal gospels, to create a fuller picture of the Jesus-tradition and the focus on context as though it provided content were at least innovative. But the Jesus who emerged from these scholarly travails was so diminished that—as I wrote in a FREE INQUIRY article in 1993—he could not exist apart from his makers: “The Jesus of the [Jesus Seminar] is a talking doll with a questionable repertoire of thirty-one sayings. Pull a string and he blesses the poor.”
What the Seminar had tacitly acknowledged without acknowledging the corollary is that over 80 percent of “Jesus” had been fictionalized by the Gospel writers. That is to say that, if we are to judge a man’s life by his sayings, the greater portion of the literary artifacts known as the Gospels is fictional. If we are to judge by actions, then what actions survived historical criticism? Not the virgin birth, or the Transfiguration, or the healing of the sick, or the purely magical feats such as Cana, or the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The Resurrection had quietly been sent to the attic by theologians in the nineteenth century. The deeds—except, perhaps, the attack on the Temple (Mark 11:15–19)—had preceded the words to the dustbin years before, yet scholars insisted the historical figure was untouched. Only faith could explain this invulnerability to harm....
Of course buying into this assumes that the Jesus seminar did its work well, which almost no scholars outside of the Jesus Seminar agree with. The Jesus Project, of course, aims to do better. They are off to a smashing start with the selection of a highly original name! But I find some telling things in the recounting of their mission:
....On a pleasant day in January 2007, at the University of California, Davis, the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER) asked the question that had been looking for a serious answer for over a hundred years: Did Jesus exist? The CSER fellows, invited guests, present and former members of the Jesus Seminar, and a wide variety of interested and engaged attendees applauded roundly after three days of lectures and discussions on the subject—appropriately—“Scripture and Skepticism.” The Jesus Project, as CSER has named the new effort, is the first methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus’ historical existence. But we are not neutral, let alone willfully ambiguous, about the objectives of the project itself. We believe in assessing the quality of the evidence available for looking at this question before seeing what the evidence has to tell us. We do not believe the task is to produce a “plausible” portrait of Jesus prior to considering the motives and goals of the Gospel writers in telling his story. We think the history and culture of the times provide many significant clues about the character of figures similar to Jesus. We believe the mixing of theological motives and historical inquiry is impermissible. We regard previous attempts to rule the question out of court as vestiges of a time when the Church controlled the boundaries of permissible inquiry into its sacred books. More directly, we regard the question of the historical Jesus as a testable hypothesis, and we are committed to no prior conclusions about the outcome of our inquiry. This is a statement of our principles, and we intend to stick to them. __________________
Let's remember that now: it's inexcusable to mix theology with scholarship. We will find that mixing a contempt for religion with scholarship is quite fine.
This sounds like a fair and scholarly statement. But consider the words in blue. What that really says is "we support the Jesus myth theory." Which tells me that, aside from everything coming out of their work, see Carrier's blog linked above), is that they aim not to understand the Gospel writers as though that would be some kind of big error. Secondly, the line about "figures similar to Jesus": in other words, they are going to try to argue that they prove the dying/rising savior God bit. Mixing theology and history is inexcusable, but of course doing history as a cover for destruction of a religious belief they despise is fine and dandy. They are not biased they just have the answers before they ask the questions.
All of this is trivial, I'm getting to the point...
At the end of its lease, the Jesus Project will publish its findings. Those findings will not be construed as sensational or alarming; like all good history, the project is aiming at a probable reconstruction of the events that explain the beginning of Christianity—a man named Jesus from the province of Galilee whose life served as the basis for the beginning of a movement, or a sequence of events that led to the Jesus story being propagated throughout the Mediterranean. We find both conclusions worthy of contemplation, but as we live in the real world—of real causes and outcomes—only one can be true. Our aim, like Pilate’s (John 18:38), is to find the truth.
Who wants to bet his house against my assumption they will find that Jesus didn't exist and that the Bible is totally wrong? Anyone willing to bet his house on that? Of course to be what they call "probable" they would have to conclude that the bible is a lie and Jesus never existed, because they are totally hostile to religion and ideas connected with religion. One hint that this may be the case is who is publishing the results of the seminar:
In general the conference revealed some cutting edge stuff in the works. Later this year or the next, Prometheus Books will publish the conference papers (or rather, improved and lengthened versions of them, e.g. my chapter in that book will be rather different from my actual talk, which was largely off-the-cuff, but most of the content will be the same).
Prometheus books only does atheist books.
But none of this is the point. That just sets up a clear look at their true motives. They are not the least bit interested in scholarship. But what's really interesting is what it says at the top of the page on "introduction": Jesus Project, "a product of Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion"
So ‘Jesus Project’ is a project of this Committee. Who are these committee people? What is this organization? Trying to answer that question led me to another website:the CSER "Center for Inquiry".
Here's what they say about themselves:
The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER) is a research division of the Center for Inquiry. Since its 1983 founding in Washington, DC, the Committee has worked to encourage humanistic, critical and non-parochial approaches to the study of religious traditions and institutions and to develop programs that promote the public understanding of religion in an international context.
CSER is an international research and educational consultation comprised of members (appointed fellows) who are nominated by an executive board. The current chair of CSER is Dr. R. Joseph Hoffmann, who succeeded Dr. Gerald Larue in January 2004.
The Jesus Project is not the world of scholars who organized their project as a group of truth seeking academics doing scholarly research. They were recruited by an organization whose primary purpose and goal is to destroy Christianity. Their statement above says they just want to contribute to understanding of religion. But to understand it in what way? We already see they are not satisfied with the 2000 years of scholarship on Jesus because they consider that dominated by the church. Does that mean their "scholarship" will be free and unencumbered? Yet they were recruited as the special project of this organization, does that seem real open and fair? Let's look further and see who else is involved in this group.
The Headquarters of the group is in Amherst where the conference was held. So the conference is not related to the university, just held in the town. The same town where the organization that sponsors the project is.
P.O. Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226
This is under the tab on the website marked "advocacy." A group that does advocacy is not a scholarly group. They are not interested in truth, they are interested in selling their idea of the way things are, they want to dominate thinking. This is why they put up a big web of deception to create an impression of impartial scholarship and truth seeking when in reality what they have is a put up job the purpose of which is to destroy belief. How do I know this? Because look at the other wings of their organization. First of all this is their mission:
The Office of Public Policy (OPP) works on three levels:
- At the grassroots level, the OPP works with CFI Centers and Communities on policy within the state and at the state level on federal issues. The OPP trains Friends of the Center to influence state and local level legislation, take part in political campaigns, and run for office.
- At the federal level, the OPP lobbies the U.S. Congress and the Administration in three areas: science and reason; secularism, and humanist ethics. The OPP also cooperates with powerful coalitions to influence legislators through individual and group communications.
- At the international level, the OPP supports the work of CFI at the United Nations by lobbying Congress and the State Department on UN-related issues.
They are a lobby group. How many scholars are lobbyists? How scholarly is that?
Fringe science and extraordinary claims
Through its Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and other initiatives, CFI advocates responsible, evidence-based treatment of extraordinary claims and fringe science, such as psychic phenomena, intelligent design creationism, and conspiracy theories. Council for Media Integrity presses for fair representation of naturalistic outlook in mass media.
In other words they are out to destroy faith and the concept of miracles. That means they are not going to allow scholars in the Jesus Project who have any sort of religious belief. It’s going to be totally doubting, atheistic, unbelieving and out to disprove any notion that gives religion even a slight benefit of the facts. Another wing of their group is dealing mental and medical health. Now does that include findings that religious belief is mental illness?
Medical and mental health
In age of alternative and complimentary medicine and New Age therapies, CFI advocates evidence-based medicine and mental health through its Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health Practice (CSMMH), publisher of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, as well as in Skeptical Inquirer and its “Healthy Skeptic” online column.
Religion, ethics and society
CFI is a leader in the struggle for a more rational, secular world. CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) and Free Inquiry magazine promotes secular perspectives on contemporary issues; African Americans for Humanism assists humanist groups in America and Africa; the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion stimulates critical scholarship; and the Institute of the Secularization of Islamic Society stands up for the right to apostacy and blasphemy and the separation of mosque and state.
They are so concerned about the right to blaspheme, do they give a damn about the vast majority of humanity that thinks they are nuts and believes in God? This is just a another look group of tin pot dictators who are convinced they are special and they need to lead the ignorant masses, like Stalin, like Hitler, like Pol Pot. One example of their work is this:
Amicus Brief Submitted in Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries (U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit)
Question Presented: Whether a state-funded program that seeks to rehabilitate inmates through religious conversion violates the Establishment Clause and whether the organization that operates the program can be required to return to the state the funds that it has received.
So even though the most remarkable success in American history for prison rehab has been religious conversion (Quaker ran jails of the nineteenth century) they want to disallow it because it's somehow violating them even though they are not in prison and it does not effect them. But they can't stand the idea that others are being saved and led to God. Now would they force a voluntary program to shut? Are people being forced into prison ministry? I don't think so.
Here's their example of safe guarding religious liberty:
Safeguarding Religious Liberty in Charitable Choice and Faith-Based Initiatives
The Obama administration recently announced an expansion of government funding for so-called "faith-based initiatives," in which taxpayer dollars are doled out to sectarian religious organizations for the performance of social service programs. This government funding raises legal and constitutional concerns that the administration has yet to address directly. In February, the Center for Inquiry produced a position paper that called for an end to government funding of faith-based programs. Because government funding is scheduled to continue, the Center for Inquiry further recommended the adoption and vigorous enforcement of specific minimum safeguards to protect church-state separation and religious liberty.
CFI performed a detailed historical study of federal funding for faith-based programs, extending from the rise of "charitable choice" legislation during the Clinton administration through the explosion of taxpayer funding for religious programs under George W. Bush's Faith Based and Community Initiative. The position paper that resulted from this study expresses deep misgivings about government funding of sectarian religious programs. CFI cited concerns that these programs may use taxpayer dollars to support or favor religious activities and beliefs; that government may give preference to particular religious organizations in doling out funds; and that under current standards, recipients of taxpayer funding for faith-based programs are allowed to engage in employment discrimination on the basis of religion.
CFI's position paper recommends that government funding of faith-based programs be eliminated entirely. CFI's paper endorses a limited exception for truly secular social services programs, such as Catholic Charities, that have some affiliation with a religious institution but are provided by independent 501(c)(3) charities. CFI maintains that such charities must conduct social service programs without religious content or materials and without engaging in religious discrimination. (Catholic Charities is a non-profit corporation separate and distinct from the Catholic Church.)
Their example of safeguarding religious liberty is to close it down because it's somehow hurting them that religious groups are allowed to help people.
Oh but let's back up and look at the fringe science bit. The organization that put up the Jesus Project also sponsors Skeptical Inquirer magazine, as their special mission of "advocacy." It's clear what they are advocating is the destruction of Christianity. This means the secular web and all the major force of internet atheists are just their little army of brown shirts running around persecuting Christians.
It’s the crystal night.
I'm sure I'm being alarmist. I'm just building a conspiracy theory out of thin air. Do you really foresee the Jesus project not coming out with findings about Jesus not existing and the Bible being untrue? They will hoodwink people into thinking that this is a scholarly mission and that it's fair and honest scholarship when the results are predetermined because it's professional wrestling. This is the work of real scholarship like Firts Von Erich was really an athlete and not an entertainer.
Look at it honestly, the Jesus Project is sponsored by the same organization that runs the Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
So maybe I'm overdoing it on the aims of those humanist organizations but it's pretty clear they are pushing an agenda other than pure scholarship. They accuse the Church of being a heavy handed setup and power grab so can we imagine they will not use that as a justification for their own power grab?