Friday, March 23, 2012

I Accuse You, You Cowardly Closeted Academic Mythicists!

After writing a post yesterday in this blog responding to Bart Ehrman's emphatic expression of his lack of any doubt that Jesus existed, delivered with a healthy portion of disdain for all who do entertain such doubts, stating that their number currently includes not a single legitimate professor in a relevant field in the Western world, I was made aware that Richard Carrier had also responded to Ehrman's article. Carrier's response to Ehrman is much longer, more authoritative and detailed than mine, but we share a dislike of the way Ehrman attempts to declare the question closed of whether or not Jesus existed, and to discourage, and disparage, any further discussion of it. We both call Ehrman out for closed-mindedness.

Near the beginning of his blog post, Carrier makes the following remarkable statement:

I personally know a few professors who [...] feel this way: they do not touch this topic with a ten foot pole, precisely because they fear the kind of thing Ehrman is doing and threatening. They do not want to lose their jobs or career prospects and opportunities. They do not want to be ridiculed or marginalized.

So, Ehrman and Carrier are asserting two very different things: Ehrman says that no credible scholar believes that doubts of Jesus' existence are serious enough to be worth discussing, while Carrier maintains that such a discussion would be serious, but is squelched by professors' fears that they would hurt their careers by opening it.

They fear to be honest, because it might hurt their careers. If this is true, then in my opinion it ought to make very many people very angry. Generally speaking, in academia free and open discussion is supposedly prized. If a meteorologist or a geologist deliberately falsified their findings, or deliberately hindered open debate in their fields, or twisted their interpretation of data to give the appearance that they believed things which they did not believe, one thinks, it would much more likely be cause of damage to their careers than advancement. (Unless, of course, they were to leave academia altogether and work as shills for the petrochemical industry.) If what Carrier is saying is accurate, that in the faculties of New Testament studies and Christian theology one of the central questions, perhaps the most central question, is being systematically repressed, and that people's careers often depend on their consciously-dishonest complicity in that repression, yes, I think that ought to make people very angry indeed. What struck me most about Carrier's statement about professors willingly engaging in duplicity to cover their asses is how similar it is to statements made by Rudolf Augstein, founder and publisher of Der Spiegel for over half a century and its editor for almost that long, in his book Jesus Menschensohn and in interviews about that book: theologians and Biblical scholars, quite prominent ones, had told Augstein privately, so he said, that the party line of there being no doubt that Jesus was a real historical figure, as real as Julius Caesar or Otto von Bismarck, did not convince them. That they had doubts. Private doubts. But they kept their doubts private, and so the party line thrived, and dissenters continued to be relegated to outsider status and routinely mocked by the mainstream.

Well, it's Anno Domini MMXII. It's high time to end such medieval, Inquisition-style crap. It's time for these cowards to be outed. We trust them with the education of our young men and women. They're supposed to be role models. They're supposed to have more integrity than shills for the petrochemical industry. Biblical studies and theology continue to claim that they are fully modern academic disciplines and not medieval warrens of deceit. Richard Carrier, will you out these worms? Augstein died a decade ago, he can't do it, not unless something is found among his papers...

Of course, you cowardly little worms, this would all be so much more dignified if you would out yourselves. Think of Bruno Bauer. Think of Friedrich Nietzsche. Think of Karlheinz Deschner. Look at your own damned selves in your mirrors, if you can. Think of your children. Man and woman up. It's 2012, God damn it.

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