“Atheistically Speaking” Podcast on History for Atheists

“Atheistically Speaking” Podcast on History for Atheists

Last weekend I had a great time recording an interview on New Atheist Bad History with Thomas Smith for his “Atheistically Speaking” podcast.  You can hear the full interview HERE, with some bonus material if you become a patron of Thomas’ show.  The conversation covered some of the more common New Atheist pseudo historical myths, including Giordano Bruno, the Great Library of Alexandria, Hypatia and the old “Christianity caused the ‘Dark Ages'” nonsense.  Thomas seemed to be enjoying himself as much as I was and we didn’t even get around to the Jesus Myth thesis.  It’s very likely we’ll be doing another show on that sometime in the future.  Enjoy.

32 thoughts on ““Atheistically Speaking” Podcast on History for Atheists

  1. The bonus content was another 30 minutes of discussion, mainly about history that Christians get wrong. That's available only for those who are paying patrons of Thomas' podcast.




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  2. I suppose I could have done either of those, but instead I went over fundamentalist Christian distortions of history in their attempts at harmonising the contradictory infancy narratives in gMatt and gLuke.




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  3. The libraries [of Alexandria] were surely in decline under Christians who, following their triumph over pagans, Jews, and Neoplatonists, found the Hellenic riches of the libraries discomfiting. Their anger reached a fever pitch in the fourth century A.D.: Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, desired the site of the temple of Serapis [a huge temple/library and part of the libraries of Alexandria] for a church; he set loose a mob of Christians, who destroyed the pagan temple, and perhaps, the books of its library as well …

    The [rest of the] libraries of Alexandria probably shared a modest fate, moldering slowly through the centuries as people grew indifferent and even hostile to their contents. Ancient Greek, never a linguistic monolith in any case, became incomprehensible to Alexandrians of the Christian era with their mixture of Coptic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, and Koine, or demotic Greek. Ignored by the generations to whom they were indecipherable, the scrolls would have been damaged … stolen, lost, and yes, burned. They were replaced by writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the church and by the thinning literature of the declining Roman world.

    — Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003), p.24,32




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  4. I'm not sure who "Matthew Battles" is, but that's a nice piece of fiction he's written there. They were "surely in decline" because the Christians "found the Hellenic riches of the libraries discomfiting"? Really? I suppose someone forgot to tell Clement of Alexandria that he was supposed to find Greek learning "discomforting". That would be the Clement of Alexandria who said God had given the pagan Greeks a special gift for rational analysis and that their works were gifts from God:

    "We shall not err in alleging that all things necessary and profitable for life came to us from God, and that philosophy more especially was given to the Greeks, as a covenant peculiar to them — being, as it is, a stepping-stone to the philosophy which is according to Christ"(Stromata, VIII)

    And we have John Damascene saying exactly the same thing:

    I shall set forth the best contributions of the philosophers of the Greeks, because whatever there is of good has been given to men from above by God, since 'every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights' (Kephálaia philosophiká)

    And we have similar statements by Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil of Caesarea and Justin Martyr – all of them stating that true knowledge comes from God and so all wisdom should be embraced, even if it comes from "pagan" writer.

    How does "Matthew Battles" account for all this Christian praise of Greek learning? How does he account for the fact that if he can read any Greek learning at all he has a succession of Christian scribes to thank for it?

    And then he tells us that "Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, desired the site of the temple of Serapis ….for a church; he set loose a mob of Christians, who destroyed the pagan temple". Amazing. Please tell us which source "Matthew Battles" cites as his basis for the remarkable revelation that the whole business was simply over real estate. Because surely he didn't just make that up. So, enlighten us.




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  5. For the record, Bruno didn't recant any of his unorthodox opinions, nor have friends in such high places as Galileo did.

    Ever read the paper that the Inquisition wrote for Galileo to recite and sign, under threat of torture? He was also kept under house arrest for the rest of his life, forbidden to even visit his daughter at a nearby convent or visit his students in a nearby city.

    I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, arraigned personally before this tribunal, and kneeling before you, Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General against heretical depravity throughout the entire Christian commonwealth, having before my eyes and touching with my hands, the Holy Gospels, swear that I have always believed, do believe, and by God's help will in the future believe, all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But whereas — after an injunction had been judicially intimated to me by this Holy Office, to the effect that I must altogether abandon the false opinion that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the world, and moves, and that I must not hold, defend, or teach in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing, the said false doctrine, and after it had been notified to me that the said doctrine was contrary to Holy Scripture — I wrote and printed a book in which I discuss this new doctrine already condemned, and adduce arguments of great cogency in its favor, without presenting any solution of these, and for this reason I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves:

    Therefore, desiring to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of all faithful Christians, this vehement suspicion, justly conceived against me, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies, and generally every other error, heresy, and sect whatsoever contrary to the said Holy Church, and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert, verbally or in writing, anything that might furnish occasion for a similar suspicion regarding me; but that should I know any heretic, or person suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I may be. Further, I swear and promise to fulfill and observe in their integrity all penances that have been, or that shall be, imposed upon me by this Holy Office. And, in the event of my contravening, (which God forbid) any of these my promises and oaths, I submit myself to all the pains and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hands.

    I, the said Galileo Galilei, have abjured, sworn, promised, and bound myself as above; and in witness of the truth thereof I have with my own hand subscribed the present document of my abjuration, and recited it word for word at Rome, in the Convent of Minerva, this twenty-second day of June, 1633.

    I, Galileo Galilei, have abjured as above with my own hand. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/recantation.html




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  6. "For the record, Bruno didn't recant any of his unorthodox opinions, nor have friends in such high places as Galileo did. "

    I'm aware of that. Your point?

    "Ever read the paper that the Inquisition wrote for Galileo to recite and sign, under threat of torture?

    I'm very familiar with it, as I am with most of the other documents associated with the case. Again, your point?




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  7. Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed. The [Christian] emperorsʼ attacks had centered on the chief of them, Athens and Alexandria, in the late fourth century and were turned against them again toward the end of the fifth and in 529. [“529 A.D.” was the year that the School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian, the same Justinian who also outlawed sodomy, because, “It is well known that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited.”—E.T.B.]. As to the initiators of the persecution, the [Christian] emperors themselves, a steady decline in their level of cultivation has been noticed. Thus books and philosophy were bound to fade from sight.

    After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Platoʼs books, in Aristotleʼs, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings.

    Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world.

    Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leadersʼ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil.

    — Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries




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  8. Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed.

    That's simply wrong.

    529 A.D.” was the year that the School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian

    That would be the anti-Christian neo-Platonic academy of Porphyry. Roman emperors had a long track record of closing schools they considered subversive. But neither Justinian nor any other emperor closed any schools in Alexandria and they flourished elsewhere, including in Constantinople; all teaching Greek science and philosophy.

    Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Platoʼs books, in Aristotleʼs, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings.

    This is garbage. See the quotes from Clement of Alexandria, John Damascene, Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil of Caesarea, Justin Martyr and Augustine referenced above. They made what was called the "Gold of the Egyptians" argument – the idea that valuable pagan knowledge was given to them by God and so should be preserved and used, not abandoned.

    "[T]he logical tools developed within Greek philosophy proved indispensible. Furthermore, aspects of Platonic philosophy seemed to correlate nicely with, and therefore support Christian teaching. …. Thus in the second and third centuries we find a series of Christian apologists putting Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, to good use. (David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450, 1992, p. 150)

    He goes on:

    "[A] more typical attitude was that of Augustine …, another north African, who accepted Greek philosophy as a useful, if not perfectly reliable, instrument. Philosophy, in Augustine's influential view, was to be the handmaiden of religion – not to be stamped out, but to be cultivated, disciplined, put to use. …. And in his own works, including his theological works, Augustine displayed a sophisticated knowledge of Greek natural philosophy. (pp 150-151)

    Or try Edward Grant:

    "With the total triumph of Christianity at the end of the fourth century, the Church might have reacted against pagan learning in general, and Greek philosophy in particular, finding much in the latter that was unacceptable or perhaps even offensive. They might have launched a major effort to suppress pagan learning as a danger to the Church and its doctrines. But they did not." (The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, 1996, p. 4)

    You need to read more widely and understand what you read better. Taking off those blinkers might help as well.




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  9. I'm a listener to the podcast. Thanks for doing it. This episode was great. I really enjoyed it and learned new things. That said, there were two specific facts I have questions about. I'm not saying you are wrong. You know more than I do on these subjects! I'm saying I wonder how my interpretation of these facts could be misleading me.

    There are facts for both Galileo and Bruno that seem to go against the specific claims you made. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. You brought up one of these fact, but glossed over the other.

    Bruno

    I agree that Cosmos simplified the Bruno story. As a result, some things are wrong. And those things weren't important to the message! But, I think it's a simplification to say that Bruno wasn't killed because of his cosmological beliefs. You mentioned several charges against him. But missed this one: "claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity."

    Other charges were offending the church's beliefs in magic. Your position may be that those were enough to get him killed, so we should ignore this other charge. But the fact is that it was a charge brought against him.

    Otherwise, I learned a lot more about this. Maybe there is a good reason for why I'm confused about this. Maybe the source Wikipedia used is wrong.

    Galileo

    Likewise, on June 22 of 1611 the Inqusition found Galileo "vehemently suspect of heresy" for his belief that the solar system was sun centered. Even if it wasn't the 'science of the day.' Again, maybe that wouldn't have mattered if he didn't annoy the Catholics. But it was the actual charge the Catholic Church found him guilty of.

    More nuance?

    In both cases I understand you are arguing against a false narrative. The true narrative may be that these men pissed off the wrong people. Charges were laid over charges unnecessarily. And that those beliefs themselves wouldn't have resulted in death or arrest. But if that's the more accurate and nuanced position, I'd accept that. And that seems to be almost what you are saying. But it's not what you actually said.

    Hypatia

    In my own reading I've come to the conclusion that the Hypatia myth is wrong. But I was unclear what the truth was, or how it was wrong. I'm glad to have a great picture painted for me. I noticed this blog is actually fairly empty. (Only 5 posts.) I look forward to see these posts in the future.

    I've very open to hear your response to these questions. I also posted these questions on the Atheistically Speaking blog, for the readers there. You can respond there if you like.

    I enjoyed this episode. I learned a lot. I look forward to learning more. I think I have a better understanding of some of my misconceptions as well. I'm sure you can respond clearly to what I have said and set me straight.




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  10. Hello Shawn – glad you enjoyed my conversation with Thomas. To address your points:

    "But, I think it's a simplification to say that Bruno wasn't killed because of his cosmological beliefs. You mentioned several charges against him. But missed this one: "claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity."

    What you've linked to there is a Wikipedia article that references Luigi Firpo, claiming that he "lists [the] charges made against Bruno by the Roman Inquisition", with a footnote to Firpo's book Il processo di Giordano Bruno (1993). It took me a while to track down what this footnote refers to, since the Wiki article doesn't give a page reference, but in fact Firpo is not "listing the charges" at all. He couldn't be – the charges and other relevant documents no longer exist. So what Firpo does is list what the charges may have been based on what we do know Bruno was questioned about earlier on, when he was before the Venetian Inquisition. Bruno had a talent for getting himself hauled before these tribunals, though given his religious beliefs, that's probably not too surprising.

    The main problem with "claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds" being one of the charges is that this wasn't heretical. As I note in the podcast, this idea was one he had got from his "divine Cusanus", who was the Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa. It had been laid out and discussed in detail in his De docta ignorantia in 1440, a full 108 years before Bruno was born. It had been explored further by the esteemed French theologian William Vorilong, who had speculated further about the theological implications of aliens on distant worlds. Neither Cusanus, the Papal deputy, nor the esteemed Vorilong, regent master of theology in Lyon, had any trouble over these ideas. This is because, far from it being heretical to suppose there were multiple worlds, it had long been heretical to claim that there could not be, since this put limits on God's omnipotence. Cusanus and Vorilong's ideas were unusual, but nothing more than that.

    So there is no doubt that Bruno was questioned about how this plurality of worlds fitted in with his world view, but the idea that it was something he was condemned for doesn't make sense. What Firpo is referring to by "and their eternity" is hard to tell, though it seems the Venetian Inquisition did question him on his idea that the universe was infinite. But, again, this was simply repeating what Cusanus argued. And as I noted in the show, the common idea that he was condemned for accepting heliocentrism not only has no foundation but goes against the way the Roman Inquisition worked. Bruno was condemned for his grab bag of (literally) unorthodox religious beliefs – which may make him a martyr for theological freedom, but it sure as hell has nothing to do with science.
    (cont. below)




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  11. (cont.)
    "Likewise, on June 22 of 1611 the Inqusition found Galileo "vehemently suspect of heresy" for his belief that the solar system was sun centered. "

    He certainly was. And as I said on the show, it would have taken a lot more than ten minutes for me to put that in historical context and explain why this does not mean the Church was therefore anti-science. What it does mean is that they looked at this particular scientific theory and decided that, on the advice of scientists, that it was scientifically wrong. As they put it in the 1633 sentence you refer to, it was "philosophically equally absurd and false" – that meant "scientifically wrong and stupid". Since they believed that "the Book of Nature" and the Bible were always complimentary, this meant that the traditional interpretation of relevant passages in scripture about the earth being "fixed" etc should continue to be interpreted literally. Therefore they upheld the 1616 ruling that heliocentrism was also "formally heretical, for being explicitly contrary to Holy Scripture". But it was the scientific falsity that is put first because the heretical finding is contingent on it. As I noted in the show, once the consensus on the science began to change about a century later, the Church began to quietly and sheepishly dismantle their theological objection to heliocentrism. But, contrary to the myth, the original ruling was contingent on the consensus of science in the early 1600s – a consensus that was against Galileo. I will be writing a series of detailed posts on this in the future, so please accept this bald summary for now.

    "I noticed this blog is actually fairly empty. (Only 5 posts.) I look forward to see these posts in the future."

    I'll try to keep them coming regularly. I began this blog last year as a way of countering some of the myths while I'm researching what may become a book on this stuff. It languished for a few months there thanks to the demands of my job, my busy social life and time spent researching some other subjects, but I'm going to try to be more regular here from now on. Again, I'm glad you enjoyed the podcast and even more glad you're subjecting both your prior assumptions and my claims to critical analysis. That's exactly the behaviour I'm trying to encourage.




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  12. Thanks for setting me straight. That all makes a lot of sense.

    On Bruno, I think I have an old blog post to change. And maybe I'll edit Wikipedia. I may own some people an apology.

    On Galileo, I have severe concerns with how you presented it. It makes it easy to misread you. So we agree that Galileo was arrested because of his beliefs. But you try to make the argument that the Church was not against science too strongly when I'm trying to talk about why Galileo was arrested. It was because the Church stifled freedom of speech broadly. And this would discourage the propagation of ideas and the generation of new ideas. Despite the fact that it was done in a way that was not anti-science. I think that is the more nuanced and accurate way to put it. And the interview was easily misunderstandable.

    To be clear, I learned to be more correct by this. I appreciate that from you. But I find you zeal for making certain points detracts from the accessibility of that point. It's not entirely your fault it's easy to misunderstand. But given your stated objective, it should concern you that it was read that way.

    I'll be sure to read your previous entries. I haven't yet. I was disheartened to see you attack Richard Carrier. Not because I'm a mythicist. But because I respected him. Not a fan of the tone of what I've read. I felt similarly when I listened to you on the episode. When you were talking about history it was riveting. But when you were voicing your dissent against certain groups it was hard to listen to for reasons similar to those I mention above. I won't let that dissuade me. But anyway, I will read all your content. I'm very interested in history, use history in some arguments, and prefer being right. If you can help, then I like that.




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  13. "So we agree that Galileo was arrested because of his beliefs."

    If we're going to be accurate, he was not "arrested". He was asked to answer charges before the Inquisition and he came voluntarily. If he had refused to come, it would be likely the Duke of Tuscany would have been asked to arrest him on the Roman Inquisition's behalf and the Duke may (or may not) have done so. People have this idea that the Church was all-powerful and the Inquisition was some kind of Gestapo, but it was – as usual with real history – much more complicated than that.

    " But you try to make the argument that the Church was not against science too strongly when I'm trying to talk about why Galileo was arrested."

    I make the argument that the Church was not "against science" at all. They were against this mere "mathematicus" taking a theory that almost all scientists of the day agreed was wrong and then using it to re-interpret the Bible. But that is not being "against science". As I note, they were confident that they had "science" squarely on their side as they pursued a case against Galileo over the theological implications of his writings.

    "To be clear, I learned to be more correct by this. I appreciate that from you. But I find you zeal for making certain points detracts from the accessibility of that point. It's not entirely your fault it's easy to misunderstand. "

    We were covering a lot of ground in a very short space of time, so I was trying to compress a lot of information and argument into a brief interview.

    "I was disheartened to see you attack Richard Carrier. Not because I'm a mythicist. But because I respected him."

    Okay. I don't respect him at all. He warps history by presenting an ideologically-biased distorted view on several subjects and propagating ideas that pretty much every other historian in the relevant fields reject, presenting himself as the sole great genius who has recognised these amazing things. He's a slightly ridiculous figure.

    "Not a fan of the tone of what I've read. I felt similarly when I listened to you on the episode. When you were talking about history it was riveting. But when you were voicing your dissent against certain groups it was hard to listen to for reasons similar to those I mention above."

    Okay. I'm afraid I don't have to take people like Carrier as seriously as he takes himself and I'll take any tone I like thanks.




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  14. Pardon my american, but fucking fantastic show! History has always been so boring to me, but your enthusiasm and scholarship made it interesting. Would you recommend particular reading for a beginner?
    I can't believe this was your first atheist podcast. Thomas does a really good job of finding obscure guests with interesting ideas and pretty popular ones too (Sean Carrol, hello!).
    Looking forward to more posts, thanks!




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  15. Great stuff Tim! There's nothing wrong with your tone. I guess some people just don't like finding out that they've been carrying around nonsense in their heads for years (and more worryingly for them, building an entire edifice of ideas and behaviours based on those foundation fables). It can be unsettling. I wonder if the particularly intransigent holdouts began their journey to atheism based on these stories? Which might explain their emotional resistance to questioning them. You're not just attacking a particular aspect of their belief system in that case, but the first block in their entire philosophy. Hence the stonewall reaction (which I've seen you deal with in comments sections of Armarium).

    I get a kick out of knocking over out-moded ideas in my head, but some people make the mistake of fusing their selfhood into these belief systems…so an attack on the belief is an attack on the person. Idiotic, but I've seen this so many times now.

    I've been reading your blogs & posts on the bad history reddit for a while; just de-lurking to express gratitude; I found your blog through a link on a review of that godawful book 'Swerve', and went through your entire post history. Loved the takedown of the Hypatia/Alexandria myth/movies also.

    Having read (at your recommendation) several books by Grant, Lindberg & Hannam, it's been a huge eye-opener to see the gulf between popular history and the work of actual historians. Grant in particular reveals some amazing stuff about medieval scholastics. Multiplicity of worlds as DOGMA, for example (as far from being burned at the stake as one could imagine). If God wants to make 1,000,000,000,000…. worlds, he's omnipotent, he can do what he bloody well likes, etc….

    Like the history of Islam, the medieval Catholic period has become a dumping ground for the fears and projections of modern secular people. It's wearying.

    I get a kick now when I describe my own project (which covers some of this); I'll see the look of utter incomprehension when I tell people about the middle ages, or the preservation of classical knowledge/scientia by the Catholic Church (Toledo school of translators, Gerard of Cremona, etc). I'm a bit of a joker, so they're waiting for me to drop the anti-catholic punchline, and I don't, because the joke's on them/us.

    Hope to hear more from you. Was sorry to see your Armarium blog go silent. Glad to hear you're working on a book. If you need any cartoons for it, let me know.

    My site:
    http://www.angryanimator.com

    Cheers.




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  16. Glad you liked the interview and some of my material. I found that comment above about my "tone" very odd as well and there have been a couple expressions of puzzlement at my disdain for Richard Carrier. This just show how much of an echo chamber New Atheism can be – outside of that bubble Carrier is regarded as a bit of joke.

    I just had a look at your cartoons and I really like the way you are emphasising the continuity of these ideas across, yes, even the Middle Ages. Most popular treatments leap straight from the Hellenic Era to Galileo or Copernicus and so most people have never even heard of Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Bradwardine, Theodoric of Freiberg, Nichola Oresme, Jean Buridan or any number of other medieval scientists. I can't see how wilfully ignoring several centuries of remarkable intellectual work somehow benefits anyone's understanding of anything. Keep up the good work.




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  17. Are you claiming that Galileo was not under house arrest until his death?

    I fully understand your very important point that Galileo was not arrested because the church was opposed to science. The view that the Catholic Church was anti-science in this position is a view I heard until you did the interview with Thomas. Thanks for doing it.

    But you are so laser focused on that you are refusing to engage with my point. Which is that while the church wasn't anti-science, they opposed the free expression of ideas.

    I don't understand why you are trying to defend that the Church was not against science. I never said they were in this conversation. You have made that point clearly.

    Re: Richard Carrier

    I liked some things he said and some positions he has held on a number of topics. I was curious to see his defence on the mythicists position and am unsure of the value of it. In the same way that I tend to like his manner, I dislike yours. Has nothing to do with who is right.

    I think you are right. I just think I understand why some atheists who don't think much and don't try to be objective would not listen to what you say. That's all. I'm ready and willing to stop respecting Carrier. And I haven't heard much of his thoughts on mythicism or history. Just a few snippets here and there as he is quoted.

    Feel free to ignore my personal opinions. I just want you to be aware of them. I like to think feedback is always good. And I like to make things I like better via feedback.

    Here is the Hypatia take down that Dermot mentions? I'd love to more fully appreciate the wrongness of that myth.




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  18. "Are you claiming that Galileo was not under house arrest until his death?"

    No, though I seem to have misunderstood what you were referring to when you used the word "arrested". I can see now you're referring to his confinement in his villa as punishment.

    "But you are so laser focused on that you are refusing to engage with my point. Which is that while the church wasn't anti-science, they opposed the free expression of ideas"

    Yes, they were opposed to what we would call the "free expression of ideas". As was every other institution or authority in Europe and the rest of the world in the early 1600s. The idea that people are entitled to any idea they liked and that, so long as they aren't actually harming anyone, no state, religion or institution has the right to restrict that freedom is a much more recent one and unknown in Galileo's time.

    You said that I was arguing that they "were not against science too strongly". I responded by correcting this and re-stating that they were not against science at all. They were, however, against what they saw as Galileo's misuse of science by using what was at that stage an unproven theory to re-interpret the Bible. My "laser focus" is on accuracy and saying they "were not against science too strongly" is inaccurate in a critical respect.
    (cont. below)




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  19. (cont.)

    " In the same way that I tend to like his manner, I dislike yours. Has nothing to do with who is right."

    Okay. If you like the manner of a guy who doesn't just abuse leading scholars for daring to disagree with his fringe theories but also goes so far as to declare a number of them to actually be insane, then I suppose that's your business. He's also a guy who regularly makes grandiose statements about his own brilliance, has declared that one of his articles means that everyone in the whole field now has to adjust any mention of the topic from now on and has publicly declared a couple of pieces he's written to be not only a "tour de force" but the last word on those topics. So if you like that kind of thing then you and I have very different ideas about who we should be taking seriously.

    And that's even before I take into account the fact that he has called me an "asscrank" because I exposed some critical flaws in one of his articles and has taken every opportunity to publicly declare me a "liar" for the last six years over something that was actually a small mistake made by him. So you'll forgive me if I don't hold this very strange little man in the same high regard as you do.

    As for my manner, I make no apologies for approaching some of the historical errors I discuss here with a small degree of wry amusement and occasionally, for repeat offenders and those who should know better, mild scorn. I've certainly seen much more robust ridicule of Christians and Creationists by atheists, so I wonder if you are so prim and proper about that. If not, perhaps you need to question why. It seems you're being oddly oversensitive and perhaps maintaining an irrational double standard.

    "[w]Here is the Hypatia take down that Dermot mentions? I'd love to more fully appreciate the wrongness of that myth."

    That was in a series of articles I wrote about the 2009 movie Agora, its historical errors and its raturous and uncritical reception by many New Atheists:

    "Agora" and Hypatia – Hollywood Strikes Again

    Hypatia and "Agora" Redux

    and

    A Geologist tries History (or "Agora" and Hypatia Yet Again)




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  20. Tim O'Neil, your dedication is grand. I really look forward to reading those. I just finished your first response to Nailed and thought it was great. One area that blew my mind was about the forged entry in Josephus' work. I didn't realize new evidence was found and a better reconstruction was available. Only 40 years late! Thank you so much for that.

    Thanks for clearing up regarding Galileo. But you still misunderstand my criticism. You applied the term "too much" to what the Catholic Church was doing. But I was applying it to you. You do it too much. As in, when I want to talk about something related to that subject you keep talking about that subject. Like a dog with a bone. That caused confusion for me. And that was my original post all those characters, words and responses ago.

    But here's what I mean about how awful your manner is. You are criticising me for having like the writings and speaking of someone because you think it's bad in the field of history. I've heard presentation on non-history topics from Carrier, including social issues. And discussions of the reproduction crisis in science. I've seen him criticise other people. He has done it with civility.

    You seem to be criticizing me for something I didn't know about him. Something I'm happy to start to learn. But instead of being positive and saying that there are plenty of reason to disdain him, you seemed to attack me for liking someone who has done bad stuff.

    Why not just tell me the bad stuff?

    When you were on Thomas' podcast I knew nothing about you. Except that you like to criticize people in an inflammatory way. Rather than beating up your enemies with cold facts.

    But Tim, I love your facts. Please keep those coming. Thanks for linking me to your other blogs.




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  21. "Tim O'Neil, your dedication is grand. I really look forward to reading those. I just finished your first response to Nailed and thought it was great."

    Glad to help.

    But then we get back to the scolding …

    " But here's what I mean about how awful your manner is. "

    "Awful"?! Seriously?

    "You are criticising me for having like the writings and speaking of someone because you think it's bad in the field of history."

    No, I'm not "criticising" you – I'm simply making it very clear that you may not have all the relevant information. You seem to take everything very personally.

    " I've seen him criticise other people. He has done it with civility."

    He can do so with civility. My point is that he often chooses not to. So I brought some examples to your attention.

    "You seem to be criticizing me for something I didn't know about him. "

    I'm not "criticising" you at all.

    "you seemed to attack me for liking someone who has done bad stuff."

    Nor am I "attacking" you.

    "Why not just tell me the bad stuff?"

    I did. I just used some mildly ironic rhetoric to do so. We Aussies and Brits do that, and though I get that some (mostly Americans) are a bit tone deaf when it comes to irony, I've never had it misinterpreted in the weird way you're doing.

    "When you were on Thomas' podcast I knew nothing about you. Except that you like to criticize people in an inflammatory way. "

    If you find some mild wry commentary "inflammatory" then, again, I think you need to ask yourself why you're being so oversensitive.

    At the top of this blog is a note that says "The tone of this blog will tend to range from exasperation to scorn, though it will aim to go into sufficient technical detail, scholarly analysis and primary evidence to explain why the bad history in question is flawed." If I ever actually "attack" you, I can assure you that you'll know about it. But until then I'm not very interested in any further lectures on how I express my views. If it's not your style, fine. And if you really find it "awful" (which I find mystifying, but anyway) then there are plenty of other blogs out there, so go in peace. Further lectures on my tone from you probably won't make it to the blog. I think we're done on that subject thanks.




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  22. G'day Tim!

    Been a while, mate. You may remember me from back in the RDF days and the like. For some reason blogspot won't let me log in as Goldenmane.

    I was greatly pleased to see that you were on Atheistically Speaking, and I enjoyed the conversation. It reminded me of the endless arguments we engaged in against dogmatic stupidity from those nominally on our side, and I'm very happy to see you're still pushing back.

    I was surprised and a little saddened to hear that you've not been invited onto any atheist podcasts before, especially given you're a member of the AFA. The fact that we're a little haphazard on releasing podcasts probably doesn't help matters, but I'd be very interested to tee up a discussion for just that if you're amenable.

    -Geoff Rogers




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  23. G'day Geoff – nice to hear from you again. Yes, how well do I remember beating my head against some particularly boneheaded New Atheist Bad History on the old Richard Dawkins Foundation forum and then on its successor Rational Skepticism. It was only after years of going around in circles with the Jesus Mythers on the endless "thread that will never die" on RatSkep that I realised arguing with fanatics is pointless and my energies were better spent on people who may at least change their minds.

    I'd be happy to do a podcast for the Australian Atheist Foundation. Though the fact that I've been a member for years and didn't even realise the AFA *did* podcasts may tell you something! There's an e-mail button at the top left of this blog ("Seen Any Atheist Bad History? Report it here!") – send me an e-mail and let's get something organised.

    Tim




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  24. Good morning Tim!

    I've been reading your content at what feels like an absurd rate. At least, for how long your posts tend to be. I feel far more informed than before. Some of what I read has been you mythicism posts, including reviews of Carrier and Fitzgerald. Further, I read the Ehrman responses you linked to as well. Thank you so much for writing these.

    Recently, Robert M. Price (Not R. G. Price) was on Dogma Debate to support Trump. Seeing how irrational and anti-establishment he was there certainly made me reconsider thinking he could be an all around good scholar. He seems to have a bias that would lead him to go against the grain just to go against the grain. While there may be good reasons for supporting Trump (I cannot think of any) the reasons he gave are not them.

    I was seeing some criticism that I hadn't yet looked in to of Bart Ehrman's position. I wasn't sure what to make of it and was looking forward to the Ehrman vs Price debate. Though I certainly understood that we should assume the consensus of experts is right. (If we want to be less wrong.) I still am looking forward to the debate. But from a very different perspective.

    I was already on that path, but that's for making it more clear. And I love focusing on the minutia.

    Back to scolding?

    In a recent comment you said that you banged your head against the wall arguing with irrational atheists at the RDF message board. That you realized some people aren't worth engaging with. I agree.

    I didn't know that. But the fact that you have felt this personal frustration has really come out in both your episodes of Atheistically Speaking and in your writing. And I don't mean in a pleasant way. It all makes sense to me now. I was just trying to give you the feedback about how dismissive and angry you seem (but in a civil sort of way). I will not bring that up again. The only reason I do so know is because I had the frame work of your past to enlighten me.

    You say I'm wrong to see such things in you. But consider that I noticed them immediately without knowing your history. I picked up on truth. At least, that's how I see it.

    Feel free to ignore this criticism. It's more important to me that you continue your service to truth.

    RE: Carrier

    I claimed to have seen him intellectually disagree with others. I have now seen more of him that I cannot claim this to be true. Thanks for that.

    RE: Making it personal

    Why do I take things so personally? You aren't criticizing me?

    Quote: 'If you like the manner of a guy who… that's your business.'

    Yup. That's dispassionately not criticizing me and just dispassionately making me aware of other content.

    I will only say this. If I'm the only person to criticize you in this way, write me off. But if over the years you hear people say something similar, consider it's a legit way reading of not what you meant, but your manner of saying it.

    Anyway, I will no longer convey to you my feelings about what you write. I just thought you might like some criticism from people who you are targeting. Those who can change their minds and have the most to gain from you.

    Support!

    Please keep up your work. I look forward to reading it and supporting you.

    Is there a central hub of all your activities? Are all you blogs still running? If I click your profile I see this:

    The Books & Vino Appreciation Society
    Van Demonian
    Armarium Magnum
    History for Atheists

    Is that most of your online presence? If I want this content just subscribe to those feeds?




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