Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is Jesus a Rank-Raglan Myth-Hero? (Or is Carrier a Scholar-Legend?)

Is Jesus a myth?  Or is Richard Carrier a scholarly legend in his own mind (and just a legend elsewhere?)

Chapters four and five of Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason to Doubt, are dedicated to what Carrier describes as 48 "elements" of background information about Jesus and his times that he believes scholars need to come to grips with, to decide whether or not Jesus ever really lived. (Those of us who lack the imagination to conceive of that as a real issue, will nevertheless find all kinds of interesting materials in these chapters, some interesting for reasons Carrier himself fails to perceive, as we have already begun to see.)  This "elements" section is a huge part of the book, running almost 180 pages, with hundreds of footnotes.  Clearly, Richard Carrier thinks these supposed facts are vital to the case he is making.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Richard Carrier's Mystery Religion Unravels (Carrier Chronicles II)

In his much-anticipated (and I must admit, interesting) new book, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Richard Carrier offers a long list of 48 basic assumptions ("elements"), what he thinks are facts about early Christianity.  He justifies those elements he thinks are in dispute as he explains them.  One of the most crucial of these is Element 11: "The earliest definitely known form of Christianity was a Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion."  This point is echoed in subsequent "elements," and Carrier seems prepared, so far as I have read to date, to make much of it.  So let us analyze his argument for this point, and try to figure out what he means, and why he means it.  

The first mystery here is why Carrier defines the known (Christianity) by the unknown (something called "Judeo-Hellenistic mystery religion.")  Usually the procedure works the other way around: if I find a fruit tree on a distant planet, I tell my superiors at Mission Control, "It's shape and taste are like those of an apple, but is the color of a banana."  I do not tell them, "It may surprise you to learn that apples are actually the shape of a Malacandria hackabush, but taste a bit like an over-ripe Pelandrian obscumart."  

The point is that analogies from the unfamiliar to the familiar are more likely to confuse than enlighten.  We KNOW what early Christianity is, if we open our New Testaments.  That it is purported to belong to some larger class of which we only have a vague conception (Mithras?  Osiris?), and perhaps a mistaken one, may SOUND meaningful, but it may not be very enlightening, and may instead act to confusing the reader.   
As, indeed, Carrier's description turns out to do. 

Carrier argues that Christianity "conforms to four universal trends distinctive of Hellenistic mystery religions, and is therefore unmistakably a product of these same cultural trends:"

Before we analyze the four characteristics Carrier thinks Christianity has tellingly in common with "mystery religions," it seems to me the phrasing of this argument is also worth a little preliminary attention. 

If these "trends" are "distinctive of" Greek mystery religions, that means they distinguish them, set them apart either from other mystery religions, or from other religions in general.  So is Carrier claiming that no other religions bare any of these marks?  Or that no other religion bares all of them together?  And is he confining himself to the Greek, or at most the Greco-Roman, worlds?  Does that mean if some religion outside of those geographical spheres, say in India or China, also shares one or more of these traits, the "fact" that Christianity allegedly shares them would be at best only very weak evidence that Christianity derives in some sense from Greek mystery religions?  In other words, what would it take to falsify Carrier's claim that this alleged similarity gives evidence of influence? 

And what does Carrier mean here by "universal" trends?  If these trends occur only with Greek culture, how are they "universal?" 

Keeping such semantic "mysteries" in mind, we plunge into the characteristics of mystery religions themselves.  Here is how Carrier describes them:

"1. syncretism of a local or national system of religious ideas with distinctively Hellenistic ideas (and the ideas of other nations and localities whose diffusion was fascillitated by Hellenism);

"2. a monotheistic trend, with every mystery religion evolving from polytheism (many competing gods) to henotheism (one supreme god reigning over subordinate deities), marking a trajectory towards monotheism (only one god);

"3.  a shift to individualism, placing the religious focus on the eternal salvation of the individual rather than the welfare of the community as a whole;

"4. and cosmopolitanism, with membership being open and spanning all environments, provinces, races, and social classes (and often genders)."
Four characteristics is not many to define a class, still less to prove that a particular item belongs to that class.  But that depends in part on how common or "distinctive" those characteristics are, and how well the item really does share it.

Let us take these four, one by one. 

1. Syncretism, in the sense of joining ideas and customs from different sources into a new system (in Carrier's words, "the creative merging of religious ideas, borrowing and adapting elements from several religions to create something new"), is indeed universal, and therefore fails to distinguish of any theoretical framework in the world of religion (see James Thrower), philosophy, or even science.  Buddha was a syncretist: he joined the revolt against Vedic ritual, the mystical search of the forest assetics, the moral teachings of the Axial Revolution, and so on.  Confucius and Lao Zi were syncretists, as Carrier defines the word.  Plato was a syncretist.  So were Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, and Chairman Mao.  Richard Carrier is himself an intellectual syncretist in that sense, whether or not he is Greek, still less a member of an ancient Greek mystery religion.   

So the joining of disparate influences, even across cultures, into a new system does nothing to distinguish anyone.  We are down to at most three meaningful characteristics. 

2. If Christianity began among Jews, as it did, then how can it be described as participating in a "monotheistic trend?"  Carrier means that many Greeks focused their attention on one god, as Christians focused on one God.  Yes, of course they did.  Again, this seems rather universal among intense "cults," it is not restricted to the Greek world.  See, for instance, the Lotus Sutra's focus on Avalokitsvara.  But Jews, on Carrier's account, were heading in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION: from strict monotheism, to belief in satans, angels, and then a Triune God, in a few cases.

Well that just ruins Carrier's story.  He is pretending that movement in opposite directions is the same.  Christianity clearly does not fit the second plank in Carrier's definition.  There is no "monotheistic trend" visible in Christianity, because the first Christians already believed in God. 

Anyway, as the eminent sociologist of religion Rodney Stark shows, henotheism is the normal form that belief in God takes.  Theists HAVE to believe in an opposing spirit or spirits of some sort, to explain evil.  This was true in Judaism: indeed, most secular scholars would say that even the appearance of monotheism is a late development is Jewish religion.  Of course angels are not conceptually the same sort of thing as God at all: they are created beings, not the Creator of all.  Ontologically, they are closer to ling cod or fungus, in other words, than to the Creator.  So the word "god" for both sorts of beings is just confusing, and perhaps meant to confuse.

And we are down to two traits. 

3. In early Christianity, of course there is no contrast between "salvation of the invididual" and "welfare of the community."  No text takes more concern for loving others, and therefore for communal welfare (both among Christians, and also towards the world) than the earliest Christian documents.  Indeed, it is one of the very earliest, I Corinthians (which Carrier cites in this passage, wrongly, as we shall see) that the great Hymn to Love appears.  And Jesus is most obviously concerned for the social virtues, in a revolutionary way, in the Synoptic Gospels, which skeptics assume came first. 

The truth behind the third plank in Carrier's argument is that like the Greek mystery religions, Christianity was an unsponsored sect.  The government did not pay St. Paul to preach -- to put it mildly.  So unlike early established religions, which Stark describes in fascinating but rather depressing detail in Discovery of God, grassroots faiths were not just excuses for kings to prop up their power, or vehicles to appeal to the gods on the eve of battle or in the midst of a famine.  They were instead market religions, selling their intellectual wares as Carrier sells his, appealing to individuals.  Again, this is no proof of influence, but only demonstrates that the Greco-Roman world still retained a small, if suppressed (Stark again) market for competing religious beliefs.  The same, of course, is true wherever such markets develop, whether in Singapore or Seattle.  Kings are obsessed with state power, but ordinary citizens need not be.  Therefore sects not founded by politicians, are unlikely to be obsessed with politics.

And we are down to one potentially meaningful trait. 

4.  Cosmopolitanism is also, in part, a function of market, along with ideology.  If you're selling something, of course you generally want as large a market share as you can get, unless snob appeal is part of your sales pitch -- whether for automobiles, or faiths, or anti-faiths.  Indian religions were restricted by ideology from appealing beyond certain caste boundaries.  Some forms of the New Atheism tout their appeal to "brights," in contrast to "dims" who go to church.  But the Hebrew prophets promised that the Messiah would be for all peoples.  So it is no surprise that when the Messiah finally appeared, the earliest records indicate that he did, in fact, reach out to Gentiles as well as Jews, women as well as men (more than anyone else, Carrier's prior arguments aside), and sinners as well as saints. 

And in fact, Mithraism was for men, mostly army men, not for women. 

So Carrier's definition of an apple turns out to define an orangatang just as well.  Christianity found truth in other ideologies, because there IS some truth in other ideologies.  Christians worshiped God, and recognized other spirits, just as their Jewish neighbors, and much of the world, did.  Christianity cared for individual salvation, because it was not a totalitarian kiss-up cult for the emperor's personal piety and post-mortum benefit, but it also cared deeply for the community.  (Paul is emphatic about paying taxes, for instance, and praying for rulers.)  And existing in a cosmopolitan environment, to which kitty dozens of tribes had made intellectual contributions, as Clement of Alexandria details, and following the universal promises of the prophets, OF COURSE Jesus transcended boundaries of class, gender, caste, and tribe -- as had long since been promised. 
While four defining characteristics is pretty thin to begin with, in fact NONE of these traits both define Christianity, and place it in a single narrow class to which "Jewish-Hellenistic mystery cults" even somewhat exclusively belong.
So that's not much good. 

But Carrier does not rely solely on these four alleged commonalities to make his case.  He also points out that Paul sometimes speaks of "mysteries," as did Christians in later centuries.  And he also has some Pauline verses to throw at us, which allegedly strenthen his case.

 Oddly, though, Carrier lays a lot of stress on a few passages from Origen and Clement and other much later Christians to make his case.  He claims Clement, for example, described a four-stage ranking system for Christians, which he thinks reflects or even demonstrates influence from mystery religions of some sort. 

I'm not going to bother checking whether Carrier gets 2nd or 3rd Century Christians like Clement and Origen right.  He often misrepresents early Christians, as Tim McGrew and I show in True Reason.  And I don't think he gets Origen right on this, either: Origen is not arguing that one has to rise in the ranks before being given secret knowledge, he is probably just noting (as he does elsewhere) that not all Christians are intellectually capable or have the time to learn all the deeper details of Christian thought. 

Still, given the failure of his definitional argument, and given the fact that the issue here is FIRST CENTURY Christianity, there's not enough prima facia cause to bother chasing those quotes down, right now.  Arguing from writings 150 years later would commit the sin of anachronism.  But notice the "argument" that Carrier relegates to a remarkable footnote on page 113, to preempt this standard historian concern.  I highlight four points of particular interest:

"Though we do not have conclusive evidence that Clement's four-stage system was already in place under Paul, I believe  (1) it is not unreasonable to suspect (2) that it was, or something approaching it.  That is not necessary to my point (since we do have conclusive evidence of at least two stages in Paul's time and that's sufficient to establish this element as fact (3), but the existence from the very start of the system Clement describes should be seriously considered.  Not only because such systems might already have been employed in earlier Jewish sects (and thus simply been adapted to the new gospel), but also because this is how religions develop: their originators elaborate systems and hierarchies within a matter of years, not centuries.  Hence I should not have to respond to the objection that developed systems and hierarchies within Christianity didn't arise for another century. (4)   That assumption has always been implausible on its face . . . "

Here lie some amusing ironies. 

(1) Carrier's former editor, the atheist John Loftus, says he has no "beliefs."  He merely notes the probability of things, believing nothing.  Carrier, obviously, is not so squeemish: he cops to having beliefs.  But based on what?  Not on evidence, clearly. 

(2) A genuinely world-renowned atheist, George Orwell, railed against the "non-un" construction.  I think he had a point, here.  "It is not unreasonable to suspect."  Which means, it is reasonable to suspect?  I suspect not. 

(3) Carrier's "evidence" of two stages of secretiveness in early Christianity consists largely of repeating Paul's words about "milk" for immature Christians, and "meat" for mature Christians.  He seems to simply ignore Paul's own clear explanation that he is talking about spiritual growth, not some proto-Masonic hierarchy of ranks.  He claims "there were levels of teaching kept hidden from lower ranks of Christians."  This is based on I Corinthians 13:2, which actually says:

"13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Carrier's here is a prodigy of bizarre interpretation.  Love trumps “knowledge,” implies that there are many “mysteries,” and “only the most advanced knew them all?”  And therefore Christianity was one of a class of “Hellenic-Jewish mystery religions,” and therefore a natural product of religious evolution and readily deconstructed by internet atheists with doctorates in ancient science from Columbia?

No, there is nothing of the sort to be seen in this verse.  It is entirely imaginary.  On the contrary, Paul is speaking, as he often does, of SPIRITUAL GIFTS given by God to individual Christians, for the good of all.  He often makes it plain that people receive different gifts by God's good will, so that believers can act like organs in a body, each helping one another in unique ways.  These are not stages in the pilgrimage of a single Christian from peon-status to Grand Feeba status. 

Besides which, Paul makes it clear that LOVE trumps all the rest.  And love is a matter of kindness, patience, long-suffering, and so forth.  "By their fruits you will know them," as Jesus put it. 

Yet Carrier has the gaul to cite this verse, without quoting it's actual words, as if it somehow supported his doctrine.  

What this sort of interpretation really means, is one cannot  trust any of the thousands of footnotes in Carrier’s book.  One has to check them, one by one, and rely on none on trust.  (Not a new phenomena -- I noticed this pattern already the very first time I began reading Carrier, on the advice of one of his more kindly fans.  And as we shall see, there are more like this one where it came from.)  
But here comes the coup de chutzpah: 

(4). “Hence I should not have to respond to the objection that developed systems and hierarchies within Christianity didn't arise for another century.

Carrier seems to half recognize how weak his case for early Christianity as a mystery religion really is, in the end.  But who needs facts?  “Why should I have to bother with the objection that my scheme is anachronistic and lacking in evidence?”  Uh, because you’re writing as an historian? 
It is revealing that he relegated such audacious mendacity to a footnote.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Newsflash: John Loftus calls Peter Boghossian a "pseudo-intellectual" (sort of)

To give Peter. Boghossian credit, he managed to remain mostly polite with my friend Tim McGrew during their debate on the Unbelievable radio program, even while his arguments were being ripped to ribbons.

The central question they discussed was one we have often discussed here: "What do Christians mean by faith?"  Boghossian, as I have mentioned here before, was gung-ho for the Blind Faith Meme, the idea that Christian faith is unrelated to evidence by definition, implicit or explicit.  Tim cited the definition he and I worked out for a chapter in True Reason

One flaw in the argument on both sides, in my opinion, is that neither gave adequate evidence to back up their claims about what Christians mean by "faith."  This is, after all, an empirical question. 

Four kinds of evidence are relevant: (1) What the Bible says about faith and reason; (2) What leading Christian thinkers have said; (3) What ordinary Christians think or say; (4) How dictionaries define the word.  The fourth is, in my opinion, least important: in this particular situation, it is an Argument From Authority.  The first two sources are also authorities, but also themselves important primary sources in relation to the basic question -- what Christians think.  And the third, ordinary but mature (I would add) Christians, also constitute primary sources in relation to the question, "What do Christians think about faith and reason?" 

Tim did offer an Oxford definition of faith (4) during this debate.  As I recall, he also spoke to (1) and (2).  He and I also show that great Christian thinkers have generally agreed that faith demands evidence (2), in Chapter Eleven of True Reason.  (I have previously given additional supporting citations on this site.)  Separate chapters by Peter Grice and by myself in that book also show that faith and reason are intricately interwoven in the pages of the New Testament itself (1).  Furthermore, in the very first chapter of The Truth Behind the New Atheism, I seven years ago already, I showed (1), (2), AND (3), to a reasonable extent. 

So far as I know, NO atheist has overturned these three vital bodies of evidence with contrary evidence.  (Never mind personal attacks and other distractions.)

This is, of course, continuingly ironic.  The Apostles of Reason and Evidence make a major claim, that Christians don't demand evidence for their faith.  The Christians give fulsome evidence to back up their claim; the Apostles of Reason and Evidence never do.  As usual, fairly tested, the Gospel beats its critics at the very game they insist upon playing.  (Or upon pretending they are playing.)

Now  let's see how John Loftus (and James Lindsay, who also chimes in) deal with their pal's palpable failure to back up his faith position on faith positions:

John Loftus Rides In

There's a lot of blathering about Tim McGrew's so-called trashing of my friend and colleague Peter Boghossian. For the record, I view myself as Boghossian's bulldog . . . Randal Rauser's headline is this: Tim McGrew gives Peter Boghossian an unbelievable public drubbing. On the other side, James Lindsay carefully reviews their debate. You can listen to it on the program Unbelievable right here. I think he did well but McGrew threw him for a loop once or twice . . .  

More than that.  The problem with Boghossian's book is that it is based entirely on the conceit that Christians buy into the "Blind Faith Meme."  But he gives no evidence in that book, aside from a few personal anecdotes or extrapolations from his supposed experience, that we do.  He also gave no evidence in this debate.  He also has failed to interact with evidence, such as that published by myself or even by his opponent (writing with me), Tim McGrew, or hardly any other Christian scholar, refuting his core assumption that we Christians fail to offer evidence for our beliefs.  Therefore, his thesis hardly even requires refuting.

Furthermore, Loftus himself writes in an Amazon review of a book by Christian scholars:

"I consider a pseudo-intellectual someone who does not take on the strongest criticisms of the thesis being proposed, and the authors in this book do not do this."

Neither does Peter Boghossian.  He tries to persuade the ignorant, while ignoring Christian scholars as much as he can.  He is, then, by John Loftus' own definition, a "pseudo-intellectual."

Boghossian uses rhetoric to his advantage.

Considering that he got thrashed in the debate, I fail to see the advantage to him -- though we Christians certainly see a sort of advantage in being challenged by such weak opponents. 

I like it because I agree with him that Christianity is baseless. He’s writing to motivate those of us who agree with him. I like that too. The problem is that Christians don’t agree with us that Christianity is baseless. His book is not intended to convince Christians because they are not his target audience.

The issue is not whether Christianity is baseless (Boghossian doesn't even pretend to establish that), it is whether Christians understand faith as not requiring any basis.  To conflate these two issues, is to misunderstand the debate.  PB was debating a Christian, on a Christian radio station, and he talks endlessly about how to talk to Christians -- here was his chance to show how it's done.  So yes, Christians were obviously his "target audience" on the air.   

So all this blathering about definitional apologetics is just that, blathering. If Christians want to engage books that argue against their faith they exist. Until then, the ONLY valid criticism of the main point of Boghossian’s book is one that can successfully argue his proposals to change the religious landscape won’t work, or on second thought, that if they work it would be bad for the world. 

If when you actually engage Christians, using the principles PB advocates in his book, you get your head handed to you because you don't know what you're talking about, how is that going to work in your avowed goal of talking Christians out of the blind faith they deny holding? 

As for being "bad for the world," that is another worthwhile point, indeed.  John claimed he left Christianity in large part because it was bad for women.  I showed that in fact, the Gospel  has done more to elevate the status and living standards of women around the world, than anything else.  What have I heard back from John in response?  Crickets.  And just for the record, here again is my bibliography of about 130 texts that show how Christianity has blessed the world.

He did well. My advice to him is to not listen to the Christians. They wouldn't have liked what he had to say anyway.

Heck of a plan.  A professional philosopher writes a book telling atheists to preach "doxatic openness" and the principles of reason by interacting with believers the way Socrates did, asking questions.  Then when he tries to talk with an informed Christian, his assumptions about what Christians think are soundly disabused.  So John tells the  professional philosopher to crawl back into his cave, lick his wounds, and ignore what all those nasty Christians are saying. 

Doxatic openness.  Heck of a concept.  A little scary for some people, though. 

And not just for John Loftus, either.  

James Lindsay:

 I also won't comment about winners because I think the idea of winning a conversation is stupid to the point of being embarrassing for people that we make a sport of it. (Full disclosure: I think the debate was a draw because the substantive point of the matter could not be settled because the relevant data concerning how Christians and other religious believers use the word "faith" is not available.)

Well, that sounds like a comment about winners -- there wasn't one, says Lindsay. 

I agree that "the relevant data" about how Christians use the word faith is extremely important.  I actually gave some of that data already seven years ago, in The Truth Behind the New Atheism.  And I challenged Peter Boghossian to debate the meaning of faith before his book came out; he went out of his way to tell people he would not debate me.  So he knew who I was, and where to find opposing arguments on the subject. 

So the relevant data is available, and it is easy to find more where that came from.  But for all their talk about "doxatic openness," even the atheists who bother to read what they're cursing at, don't seem to read it very well, most of the time.  And that, let me suggest, is probably a self-defense mechanism.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Richard Carrier's bizarre preemptive personal attacks: my response

I am a Christian scholar who has tangled with Richard Carrier in the past, both on-line (search "Christ," "Tao," and his name), and in person (a debate last year at the University of Huntsville in Alabama).  Before and after our debate, Richard was civil, even friendly.   And even during the debate, aside from a few "Gee, normally I don't answer all my opponent's lame challenges so quickly, now what do I do?" moments of preening (justified by the glib certainty, but not the quality, of his rebuttals), he was mostly civil as well. 
In general, I am also treated by fellow scholars with respect.  My books have been warmly reviewed by eminent scholars at schools like Oxford, Yale, Marquette, Penn State, etc, while leading scholars in philosophy, history, scientist, sociology, and theology have worked with me on various projects. 
So when I began posting comments on the Amazon site for Richard Carrier's new book questioning the historicity of Jesus, I was taken aback by the nasty, even childish, tone of pre-emptive attacks:

(1) He tells his readers, actual or potential, not to read my comments, because I am an "apologist."

(2) And therefore dishonest by definition.

(3) He claims that, being a poor apologist, Marshall "repeatedly gets badly defeated in debates, and then claims to have decisively won, and goes around to places like this making such claims."

(4) Meanwhile Carrier himself crows crassly about how he allegedly beat me in that debate.  And why (the logic seems to go) should anyone pay attention to anything someone who (allegedly) lost his first public debate in an hour on stage ever has to say?   

This is all particularly bizarre because my comments there have so far not even been particularly critical of Richard.  I haven't received my copy of the book, yet.  I have asked about a few details, expressed tentative skepticism about a couple probably minor points.  But I also supported Richard's dismissal of Acharya S and made positive comments about the intelligence of ancient Greeks and Chinese, with which I doubt Richard strenuously disagrees. 

Let me first respond to Carrier's attacks, then guess at what might be behind them. 

(1) Am I an apologist?  Should apologists be ignored? 

Someone made up a list of the world's 100 leading apologists, and to my surprise, I found myself on it, so I can't much blame Carrier for calling me an apologist.  And I have written or edited six books that argue for the truth of Christianity, which is indeed apologetics.  My academic training lies in history and comparative religions.  I think of myself (as Carrier no doubt thinks of himself) primarily as a seeker after truth. 

Of course Carrier is also an apologist, in all these senses, for his own beliefs, and for the beliefs he shares with the skeptical community.  Furthermore, if you are looking for marks of intensity in belief, such as dogmatic claims and blanket dismissal of critics, vitriol or bombast, I think you will find much more of that sort of thing in the writings of Dr. Carrier than of myself. 

Should people who hold strong opinions be ignored?  I don't think so.  That's why I read Carrier, along with dozens of other antipathetic writers, from Reza Aslan to Howard Zinn, and often find elements of truth in their writings. 

Coming from someone so self-possessed and opinionated as Richard Carrier, this criticism is just weird. 

(2) Are Christian apologists dishonest by definition and therefore not worth listening to?

Of course not.  Who would that illiminate from the history of thought?  Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Descartes, Pascal, Locke, Boyle, Ricci, Legge, Chesterton, Lewis, Plantinga, and Collins among others, thinkers far more eminent than Carrier or me, who have contributed vastly to human thought and understanding, in many cases known for their balance, integrity, and probity -- each is a Christian apologist.
Richard Carrier has, in the past, complimented my honesty himself.  As he should.  I bend over backwards to be honest, even with writers with whom I disagree.  As I will be with Carrier's new book, whatever fits Carrier throws in the meanwhile.

(3) Do I really go around various websites claiming to "have decisively won" my debates?

I don't recall having made such a claim even once.  I have always been careful, for instance, to admit that Carrier's rebuttal arguments, while glib and deeply mistaken, were rhetorically effective.  ‍Also that I did not respond well to his positive argument from the Problem of Pain -- partly because it is also a problem for me, and partly because I left my notes on the table when I went to the lecturn!

Neither have I made such a crass claim about other debates -- even if I thought I did well, as I think I did with Duke, I would be embarrassed to speak in those terms.  In fact, I did not do well in the rebuttal portion of my debate with Zuckerman, either -- though I do believe my positive arguments were powerful, and went unanswered.  Zuckerman was also effective rhetorically at times, especially with his "Gish Gallop" at the end, which I could not respond to in five minutes, and also close my own argument. ‍ Unlike Carrier, however, he did not claim to have defeated my positive arguments.

So unless Carrier can back up his claim with some evidence (a link? direct quote?), one has to suppose this is yet another glib and false "shoot from the hip" historical claim from Dr. Carrier. 

(4) What about the logic, "I (allegedly) whipped this guy on stage, so just ignore anything he now says?"

Well the first premise is wrong.  Carrier dismissed my three main arguments, including my argument for the gospels, but never seriously came to grips with any of them.  For the latter, he offered ridiculous parallels, such as the Book of Tobit, Apollonius of Tyan, the Golden Ass, and Hercules.  I could not analyze these in debate in the detail they deserved -- the satire his claim that they are serious parallels to the gospels deserves -- though I had already analyzed Apollonius in detail, in Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus.  I later offered detailed analysis of these other books on my blog, Christ the Tao. 

The important point is, whether defeated on stage or not, Carrier's arguments fail utterly.  Carrier is not only wrong in claiming those works share "all" the characteristics of the gospels, in fact they share hardly any of them, as I show.  The very fact that someone as widely-read as Carrier can find no better parallels in the ancient world to the gospels, is itself tremendously revealing, as it the fact that he thinks these parallels are just fine. 

But the logic here is even worse.  I do not claim to be a trained or experienced debater.  I do claim to be a trained and experience writer. In my own element, I am confident of winning this or any other debate on select important topics.  On stage in a few minutes, I can make no such guarantees.  I am not William Lane Craig; but then, neither is he me.  Our differences do not bother me, nor should they bother him. 
And if (alleged) loss in debate means a scholar should be ignored, by Carrier's logic, we should now ignore all the eminent skeptical scholars whom Craig has defeated in debate.  (And also, in the eyes of most witnesses, Carrier himself.) 

That will simplify the debate considerably.  But Richard Carrier appears to be conflating scholarly debate with the hockey playoffs. 

II.  So why does Richard Carrier want us to ignore "apologists?" 

Reading Dr. Ramos' thorough review on Amazon, it is evident that I am not the only person Carrier tells his readers to dismiss because they argue for Christianity.  This appears to be his considered position.   Let us consider possible reasons he may take this position -- even while espousing a theory far more marginal than those of, say, NT Wright or Ben Witherington‍ -- or myself:

(1) Richard Carrier wants to marginalize most Christians, to make his own position more respectable.  Often the most effective way to join a group, is to point to someone else outside that group, and tell‍ the people in the group how much you oppose the despised outsiders.  So Carrier wants to depict the debate as one between "us serious scholars," some of whom believe Jesus lived but was just a man, some of whom think Jesus never lived at all.  Since many liberal scholars dislike "fundamentalists" anyone, he seems to think excluding them from the club is the best way to get himself included.

(2) Likely he knows his argument is highly vulnerable, and so doesn't wish it to get rid of some of his toughest critics a priori. 

(3) A special species of scoffing is Carrier's stock in trade, with the attitude of a village atheist, added to the prestige of a Columbia University PhD, distinguishing his brand from those of Acharya  S or Freke and Gandy.  "Dr.." Carrier is in that respect like Hector Avalos, only with a weaker academic pedigree: the small dog barks louder. 

(4) Maybe he also suspects we're going to have a fun with this book.  ‍(See, for precedent, my Christ the Tao transcript of the debate among ancient philosophers over whether Richard Carrier exists.)

In any case, "All truth is God's truth."  I still look forward to reading Carrier's new book, because despite -- even because of -- his extreme rhetoric, I am sure we "apologists" will find that book full of interesting truths, intended and perhaps unnoticed by Carrier himself.