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Old 01-21-2001, 04:07 PM   #21
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lpetrich:

Consider what Richard Carrier describes in _Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire_ (this site, Modern Library).</font>
I need to make a general comment here. I do hope that the atheists on this board are better read than simply taking some of the goofy things put forward by Mr. Carrier and parroting them back at us.

Carrier thinks that the people of that era were more credulous than our own. He uses charming phrases like "uneducated rabble". Well, personally I think bigotry makes for very poor scholarship, and if anyone can point to a similar instance of a single highly improbable religion taking over the greatest civilization in the world within what history considers a heartbeat, I would love to see it. Does this prove Christianity is true? No. Is it unique in all of history? Yes.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Alexander of Abonutichus was a fraud, pure and simple.</font>
Yup, and he and his religion are dead dead dead. In fact, dead within a couple generations je pense.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> And I'm sure that there are many more recent examples that some of you may be familiar with,</font>
I hope you have better ones than those you have offered here.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> such as Mormonism, Christian Science, and Scientology.</font>
Mormonism has not been persecuted in the United States except for an extremely brief period of time. They do not claim to be a radically new religion, but simply Christianity reborn. I can live with that personally, and if it brings some people to Christ, I think that is a good thing. In the meantime, they have taken over Utah. Christianity in about the same timeframe was on its way to taking over the Roman World.

As for Scientology and CS, let's see how long it lasts. They look like fads to me, and haven't even been around a century. You might as well say that some local philosophy major is the same as Aristotle because they are both philosophers.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I'm sure that Nomad might not enjoy being lumped in with that sort of company, but it must be said that in its early centuries, Christianity itself was sometimes considered a cult.</font>
Actually, Christianity was considered to be much more than a cult. It was viewed as seditious most of the time. That's why Romans kept persecuting Christians through its first 300 years of existence (and it is still persecuted more than any other faith in the world to this day).

I don't mind debating this topic. I just hope that if we are going to debate it, those interested in contributing will know something about their history.

Thanks,

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited January 21, 2001).]
 
Old 01-21-2001, 05:23 PM   #22
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[Nomad:]
I need to make a general comment here. I do hope that the atheists on this board are better read than simply taking some of the goofy things put forward by Mr. Carrier and parroting them back at us.

[Me:]
It turns out that Mr. Carrier was right about Alexander of Abonutichus; I found a translation of Lucian's account of him online after a quick search with www.google.com -- and yes, Alexander of Abonutichus had nothing but contempt for atheists, Christians, and Epicureans.

[Nomad:]
Carrier thinks that the people of that era were more credulous than our own.

[Me:]
I wonder what Nomad thinks the real story had been.

[Nomad:]
He uses charming phrases like "uneducated rabble". Well, personally I think bigotry makes for very poor scholarship,

[Me:]
That may be an excessively strong statement, but I wonder what Nomad thinks about literalist fundamentalists.

[Nomad:]
and if anyone can point to a similar instance of a single highly improbable religion taking over the greatest civilization in the world within what history considers a heartbeat, I would love to see it. Does this prove Christianity is true? No. Is it unique in all of history? Yes.

[Me:]
One could make a similar case for the rise of Communism. A century ago, who could have expected Communists to have taken over Russia and China? And also such a case for the rise of Islam.

And as to the Roman Empire, it had been fairly tolerant of religions other than the official one; they had no presumption of religious exclusivity. They only drew the line at failing to worship the official gods. Worshipping Jupiter did not preclude worshipping Isis, and vice versa. The Roman authorities even put up with such weird cults as that of Cybele, whose more zealous male followers were eunuchs who had made themselves eunuchs for the sake of this goddess. [I note in passing that Catholic priestly celibacy has long seemed to me to be something similar -- priests are supposed to live like eunuchs.]

[Nomad:]
Mormonism has not been persecuted in the United States except for an extremely brief period of time. They do not claim to be a radically new religion, but simply Christianity reborn. ...

[Me:]
So what? Christianity itself was originally a sect of Judaism. And Mormonism had been persecuted because Mormon men liked having lots of wives, something common among Old Testament monarchs, it must be said.

[Nomad:]
As for Scientology and CS, let's see how long it lasts. They look like fads to me, and haven't even been around a century.

[Me:]
Christian Science has been around from the late 19th cy., though it has been in decline in recent decades. Scientology dates from the 1950's, and is still going strong enough for its leadership to attempt to intimidate its critics. And the key lesson of these examples is that Mormonism, CS, and Scientology have successfully outlasted their founders.

[Nomad:]
Actually, Christianity was considered to be much more than a cult. It was viewed as seditious most of the time. That's why Romans kept persecuting Christians through its first 300 years of existence (and it is still persecuted more than any other faith in the world to this day).

[Me:]
Cry me a river. It was considered a cult that denied the official gods. And if we are to talk about persecution, the biggest persecutors of Christians have been other Christians.

[Nomad:]
I don't mind debating this topic. I just hope that if we are going to debate it, those interested in contributing will know something about their history.

[Me:]
Same to you.
 
Old 01-21-2001, 08:57 PM   #23
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lpetrich:

It turns out that Mr. Carrier was right about Alexander of Abonutichus; I found a translation of Lucian's account of him online after a quick search with www.google.com -- and yes, Alexander of Abonutichus had nothing but contempt for atheists, Christians, and Epicureans.</font>
I would have thought you noticed that I did not challenge Carrier's statment about Alexander. My comment concerning the goofiness of his claims centres around his obvious bigotry and the rather absurd statement that people were somehow more credulous in the past than they are today. I notice that those comments remain unrefuted by you.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">[Nomad:]
Carrier thinks that the people of that era were more credulous than our own.

[Me:]
I wonder what Nomad thinks the real story had been.</font>
Your rhetorical question makes absolutely no sense here. Please clarify.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: He uses charming phrases like "uneducated rabble". Well, personally I think bigotry makes for very poor scholarship,

[Me:]
That may be an excessively strong statement, but I wonder what Nomad thinks about literalist fundamentalists.</font>
Hmm... may have been excessive? Either it is or it isn't. So do you think Carrier was betraying his prejudices or not.

And as for literalist fundamentalists, I have stated before that I find them just as frustrating to debate as I do the most dogmatic atheists. Both demonstrate clear anti-intellectual biases, and highly selective readings of the Bible and history.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: and if anyone can point to a similar instance of a single highly improbable religion taking over the greatest civilization in the world within what history considers a heartbeat, I would love to see it. Does this prove Christianity is true? No. Is it unique in all of history? Yes.

[Me:]
One could make a similar case for the rise of Communism. A century ago, who could have expected Communists to have taken over Russia and China? And also such a case for the rise of Islam.</font>
History lesson. Communism is dead. Russia is still here. On the other hand, the Roman Empire (both East and West) have been dead for centuries yet Christianity is still here. And as for China, stay tuned. I will make a fearless forcast that the Communists (that took over in 1949, barely 50 years ago) will be gone shortly. The Communist ideology will definitely not outlive China.

And as for Islam, notice that everywhere they encountered an established pre-existing culture with any military power (i.e. Europe, India and China) they were stopped cold. Christianity in the Roman world, by your own admission had no military power in its early centuries, was never spread by conquest (as was Islam), and overpowered all other faiths in Europe within a very short period of time. Quite difference from your examples.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And as to the Roman Empire, it had been fairly tolerant of religions other than the official one; they had no presumption of religious exclusivity. They only drew the line at failing to worship the official gods.</font>
So? The Christians refused to sacrifice to the Emperor and were persecuted routinely for this. I hope you knew this already.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Worshipping Jupiter did not preclude worshipping Isis, and vice versa.</font>
Of course. They were polytheists. Christianity was monotheistic, and to the pagans, that often meant "atheist".

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The Roman authorities even put up with such weird cults as that of Cybele, whose more zealous male followers were eunuchs who had made themselves eunuchs for the sake of this goddess. [I note in passing that Catholic priestly celibacy has long seemed to me to be something similar -- priests are supposed to live like eunuchs.]</font>
I suspect that there was a point to this monologue, but I fail to see what it was.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Mormonism has not been persecuted in the United States except for an extremely brief period of time. They do not claim to be a radically new religion, but simply Christianity reborn. ...

[Me:]
So what? Christianity itself was originally a sect of Judaism. And Mormonism had been persecuted because Mormon men liked having lots of wives, something common among Old Testament monarchs, it must be said.</font>
If you can demonstrate that the official persecution of the Christians by the Roman authorities was in any qualitative way anywhere close to what we see in the United States with Mormons, I would love to hear it. Last time I checked, Mormonism was a widely respected religion in America. At this stage in the Roman Empire, on the other hand, the great persecutions of the Christians was only beginning.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: As for Scientology and CS, let's see how long it lasts. They look like fads to me, and haven't even been around a century.

[Me:]
Christian Science has been around from the late 19th cy., though it has been in decline in recent decades.</font>
Okay, barely a hundred years old. I stand corrected. But in decline could well mean it will be gone shortly. I would not be surprised, religions come and go after all. Christianity, on the other hand, like Judaism that birthed it, and Islam (which mimicked it) go on and on. Such an interesting coincidence no?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Scientology dates from the 1950's, and is still going strong enough for its leadership to attempt to intimidate its critics.</font>
Like I said. A fad. It isn't even 2 generations old.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> And the key lesson of these examples is that Mormonism, CS, and Scientology have successfully outlasted their founders.</font>
Umm... lots of things outlive their founders, then collapse shortly thereafter. History has a very long view, and none of your examples show much promise. Even witht he Mormons, Arianism had a much higher degree of success and longevity than has Mormonism to date. Needless to say, orhtodox Christianity marches on and on though.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Actually, Christianity was considered to be much more than a cult. It was viewed as seditious most of the time. That's why Romans kept persecuting Christians through its first 300 years of existence (and it is still persecuted more than any other faith in the world to this day).

[Me:]
Cry me a river.</font>
SingleDad? Is this your idea of open mindedness? Just curious.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It was considered a cult that denied the official gods. And if we are to talk about persecution, the biggest persecutors of Christians have been other Christians.</font>
Time for another history lesson. Prior to it becoming the state religion in 325, Christianity did not have the opportunity to persecute much of anything. And in this period thousands of Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith by the pagan authorities. I understand that because they were Christians that this means nothing to you of course. With luck there might even be a more open minded and thoughtful "freethinker" out there that might chastise your callousness. I certainly hope that there is.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I don't mind debating this topic. I just hope that if we are going to debate it, those interested in contributing will know something about their history.

[Me:]
Same to you.</font>
Fair enough. Present your evidence to support any assertion you have offered to date. We'll see how it stacks up. It's your case lpetrich. Make it. I'll be here.

Nomad
 
Old 01-21-2001, 09:28 PM   #24
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lpetrich:
[Metacrock:]
But for the early formation of the Jesus' story the argument holds that the eye-witnesses could have stomped it out if they weren't reflecting the facts.

[Me:]
An argument I consider totally bogus; that's why I brought up Alexander of Abonutichus, Mormonism, Christian Science, and Scientology, all of whom/which had aroused the attentions of skeptics early in their careers. I will now expound on them in more detail, because they present such strong counterexamples to Metacrock's argument.</font>


Meta =&gt; Skeptics are not the point. The point was the peopel around who say Jesus and heard him teach. Had he not really been curcified, or not really turned up with an empty tomb, not really had a tomb, and so foth, those in the community would have known it and said so. That is not applicable to Smith and so forth, because no one was around when he suppossedly got his golden tablets and he only showed them (suppossedly) to a handful of people.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Consider the case of A of A, who liked to show off a snake with a clay man's head attached, and claim that it was a god. Applying Metacrock's argument, A of A's followers would have quickly discovered that that "god" was a fake, and A of A's career would have quickly ended.</font>

Meta =&gt; That's not really the same thing.Becasue there's no guarontee that anyone would have found out it was a fake, Moreover, if no one ever found out than how do we know that it was a fake? That's the point you see, he did have such a sanke. Jesus did have a tomb. If A of A had no snake someone would know, that he had a stupid clay head on it did get known becasue we know it.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Or consider the case of Christian Science, which teaches that disease is essentially false belief, and that it can be cured by convincing oneself of the truth. However, its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, had been known to take laudanum (a painkiller), and Dr. Isaac Asimov had more recently discovered a Christian Science church to contain an air conditioner in active use. Ms. Eddy's lack of faith in her own teachings had not stopped her followers, who have sometimes demonstrated similar lack of faith; according to Metacrock's argument, when her followers discovered Ms. Eddy taking laudanum, they would have immediately rejected CS.</font>

Meta =&gt; That's still not the same thing. Becasue presumably she kept her dependence upon that drug a secret. The argument is that those in the community who saw the tomb and saw the risen Christ or heard the pre-crucified Christ teach, or whatever could have contradicted the Apostles had they made up the tomb or the cross or whatever. And surely they would have. That is not the same thing as keeping a drug habit a secret form people.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Mormonism has aroused no shortage of skepticism about its founder's "revelations", its "reconstruction" of North American prehistory, and a certain Egyptian papyrus which was claimed to be the "Book of Abraham", but which is more likely a funeral text. However, contrary to Metacrock's argument, such skepticism has clearly not stopped Mormonism.</font>

Meta =&gt; No that is not contrary to my argument. Because I never said that there wouldn't be some people who would believe despite this. But the fact is that no one would join a new group that was considered blasphemous and that required that it's followers take the radical step of believing that a man was the son of God in a mono-theistic cutlure and jelously guarded belief in its one God, had the whole city known there was no tomb and no sightings of the risen Christ. This is why even skeptical histoirians such as Genza Vermies have admitted "something happened, something dramatic and something amazing."


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Scientology started off as Dianetics, a "therapy" with a remarkable resemblance to Freudian psychoanalysis; a fetus could hear and misunderstand what was going around it, and these misunderstandings could produce many diseases later on in life. As Dianetics mutated into Scientology, those bad events were shifted to past lives. Dr. Isaac Asimov had learned of this theory from science-fiction-magazine editor Joseph Campbell, whose response to Dr. A's skepticism about it was that Dr. A has a "built-in doubter". Contrary to Metacrock's argument, he certainly did not stop believing in Dianetics. Eventually, JC moved on, but that was more likely because he and L. Ron Hubbard were competing Messiahs in this movement. And JC did not become significantly more skeptical; he would later show interest in the likes of the Hieronymus Machine.[/B]</font>
I know all about Dianetics, and the Thetons being frozen in anti-freeze that still doesn't apply. In all of your examples the crowd was not privi to the info you are speaking of. So it's not a matter of common knolwedge. You are speaking of hidden things that the crowd would not necessarily know about, I am speaking of public knowledge. The community of Jersusalem would have known if there never was a teacher who turned over tables in the temple, was crucified, had an empty tomb, and was claimed to have been seen alive again. These are matters of pubic knowledge not hidden things.


Some people will always believe, and cognative dissonance says that the truely committed will believe all the more even when their beliefs are disproven. Leon Festinger, cognative dissonance. Disproving it would cause the committed to be all the more committed. But who would become committed in the first place to something everyone knew didn't happen?
 
Old 01-22-2001, 02:00 AM   #25
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[Nomad:]
I would have thought you noticed that I did not challenge Carrier's statment about Alexander. My comment concerning the goofiness of his claims centres around his obvious bigotry and the rather absurd statement that people were somehow more credulous in the past than they are today. I notice that those comments remain unrefuted by you.
[Me:]
Mr. Carrier, however, provides actual *evidence*, such as what people would do to try to stop eclipses. And he notes that Alexander of Abonutichus had gotten away with his fake-head snake trick for a long time -- and also that early Christian theologians had believed that pagan miracles were real.

[Nomad:]
Carrier thinks that the people of that era were more credulous than our own.
[Me:]
I wonder what Nomad thinks the real story had been.
[Nomad:]
Your rhetorical question makes absolutely no sense here. Please clarify.
[Me:]
It has a simple meaning: how credulous does he think that people back then *really* had been?

[Nomad:] He uses charming phrases like "uneducated rabble". ...
[Me on how that may have been excessive...]
[Nomad:]
Hmm... may have been excessive? Either it is or it isn't. So do you think Carrier was betraying his prejudices or not.
And as for literalist fundamentalists, I have stated before that I find them just as frustrating to debate as I do the most dogmatic atheists. Both demonstrate clear anti-intellectual biases, and highly selective readings of the Bible and history.
[Me:]
Thus, Nomad thinks it OK to call fundamentalists something like "uneducated rabble".

[Nomad on the Christian takeover of the Roman Empire being something unusual...]
[Me:]
One could make a similar case for the rise of Communism. A century ago, who could have expected Communists to have taken over Russia and China? And also such a case for the rise of Islam.

[Nomad:]
History lesson. Communism is dead. ...

And as for Islam, notice that everywhere they encountered an established pre-existing culture with any military power (i.e. Europe, India and China) they were stopped cold. ...

[Me:]
However, Communism had made a spectacular rise earlier in the 20th cy., and often seemed unstoppable, by its enemies as well as its friends.

And although conquest can explain much of the spread of Islam, it cannot explain how the original conquerors had become Muslims.

Furthermore, there is another great religion that has been spread by conversion: Buddhism. And Buddhism has spread with much less violence than Christianity has; Buddhism has generally not been an exclusivist religion, and one can be a Buddhist and also practice other religions.

[Me:]
And as to the Roman Empire, it had been fairly tolerant of religions other than the official one; they had no presumption of religious exclusivity. They only drew the line at failing to worship the official gods.
[Nomad:]
So? The Christians refused to sacrifice to the Emperor and were persecuted routinely for this. I hope you knew this already.

[Me:]
Half-heartedly more like it. As Tertullian notes, many early Christians had been noted for successfully weaseling out of worshipping the official gods of the Empire.

Worshipping Jupiter did not preclude worshipping Isis, and vice versa.
[Nomad:]
Of course. They were polytheists. Christianity was monotheistic, and to the pagans, that often meant "atheist".

[Me:]
In effect, Christianity is a cult of the Only God, which makes Christianity essentially atheism to other religions.

The Roman authorities even put up with such weird cults as that of Cybele, whose more zealous male followers were eunuchs who had made themselves eunuchs for the sake of this goddess. [I note in passing that Catholic priestly celibacy has long seemed to me to be something similar -- priests are supposed to live like eunuchs.]
[Nomad:]
I suspect that there was a point to this monologue, but I fail to see what it was.

[Me:]
The extent of the Roman authorities' religious tolerance.

[Nomad:]
If you can demonstrate that the official persecution of the Christians by the Roman authorities was in any qualitative way anywhere close to what we see in the United States with Mormons, I would love to hear it. Last time I checked, Mormonism was a widely respected religion in America. At this stage in the Roman Empire, on the other hand, the great persecutions of the Christians was only beginning.

[Me:]
Utah was not allowed to join the US until the Mormons rejected polygamy. Mormonism may be respectable now, but it had been thought a kooky cult back in the 19th cy.

[Nomad:]
Christianity, on the other hand, like Judaism that birthed it, and Islam (which mimicked it) go on and on. Such an interesting coincidence no?

[Me:]
Islam mimicking Christianity? It may have followed a similar historical trajectory, but it was clearly an independent invention; the writers of the various Muslim scriptures (Koran, Hadiths, etc.) had had only limited contact with Christianity.

It was considered a cult that denied the official gods. And if we are to talk about persecution, the biggest persecutors of Christians have been other Christians.

[Nomad:]
Time for another history lesson. Prior to it becoming the state religion in 325, Christianity did not have the opportunity to persecute much of anything. And in this period thousands of Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith by the pagan authorities.

[Me:]
I'm sure that you have detailed documentation of that; everything I've seen on the subject suggests that the Roman authorities did not really care that much.
 
Old 01-22-2001, 02:54 AM   #26
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[Metacrock:]
But for the early formation of the Jesus' story the argument holds that the eye-witnesses could have stomped it out if they weren't reflecting the facts.
[Me:]
An argument I consider totally bogus ...
[Metacrock:]
Skeptics are not the point. The point was the peopel around who say Jesus and heard him teach. Had he not really been curcified, or not really turned up with an empty tomb, not really had a tomb, and so foth, those in the community would have known it and said so. That is not applicable to Smith and so forth, because no one was around when he suppossedly got his golden tablets and he only showed them (suppossedly) to a handful of people.

[Me:]
Why not study the growth of legends about famous people some time? Stuff like that does happen, as Richard Carrier and others have noted.

Consider the case of A of A, [with his snake with a fake head...]

[Metacrock:]
That's not really the same thing.Becasue there's no guarontee that anyone would have found out it was a fake, Moreover, if no one ever found out than how do we know that it was a fake? That's the point you see, he did have such a sanke. Jesus did have a tomb. If A of A had no snake someone would know, that he had a stupid clay head on it did get known becasue we know it.

[Me:]
The point is that although the snake was real, it had a fake head added on. And A of A's followers did not seem very willing to accept that that snake had a fake head; they preferred to believe that this was some avatar of the god Asklepios. As to that burial-in-a-tomb story, I smell a rat -- JC was not rich enough to afford one, and he had been executed for a serious crime. So his body would likely be thought worthy of the local garbage dump instead of a tomb.

Or consider the case of Christian Science, which teaches that disease is essentially false belief, and that it can be cured by convincing oneself of the truth. [on Mary Baker Eddy using materialist medicine such as laudanum...]

[Metacrock:]
That's still not the same thing. Becasue presumably she kept her dependence upon that drug a secret. The argument is that those in the community who saw the tomb and saw the risen Christ or heard the pre-crucified Christ teach, or whatever could have contradicted the Apostles had they made up the tomb or the cross or whatever. And surely they would have. That is not the same thing as keeping a drug habit a secret form people.

[Me:]
URL on MBE and laudanum(morphine): http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/Talks/cs.html

It is certainly the same sort of thing, because both cases are cases of counterevidence not affecting believers in some creed.

Mormonism has aroused no shortage of skepticism about its founder's "revelations" ...

[Metacrock:]
No that is not contrary to my argument. Because I never said that there wouldn't be some people who would believe despite this. But the fact is that no one would join a new group that was considered blasphemous and that required that it's followers take the radical step of believing that a man was the son of God in a mono-theistic cutlure and jelously guarded belief in its one God, had the whole city known there was no tomb and no sightings of the risen Christ. This is why even skeptical histoirians such as Genza Vermies have admitted "something happened, something dramatic and something amazing."

[Me:]
I'm still not impressed; this is not much more bizarre than a man deciding to castrate himself and dress like a woman for the sake of some deity.

Scientology started off as Dianetics, a "therapy" with a remarkable resemblance to Freudian psychoanalysis ...

[Metacrock:]
I know all about Dianetics, and the Thetons being frozen in anti-freeze that still doesn't apply. In all of your examples the crowd was not privi to the info you are speaking of. So it's not a matter of common knolwedge. You are speaking of hidden things that the crowd would not necessarily know about, I am speaking of public knowledge. The community of Jersusalem would have known if there never was a teacher who turned over tables in the temple, was crucified, had an empty tomb, and was claimed to have been seen alive again. These are matters of pubic knowledge not hidden things.

[Me:]
But such knowledge would not have affected early Christianity that much; that was the whole point of my examples. It never stopped Alexander of Abonutichus, Mormonism, Christian Sciencce, or Scientology.
 
Old 01-22-2001, 09:25 AM   #27
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by lpetrich:
[Me:]
Mr. Carrier, however, provides actual *evidence*, such as what people would do to try to stop eclipses.</font>
And so what? Does that make these people a bunch of kooky ignorant rabble? That is my whole point. The environment in which Christianity arose was identical to that within which every other religion of the time competed, and Christianity emerged triumphant within the entire Roman world, and the rest of Europe without the benefit of military conquest. This is historically unprecedented, and that has been my point all along.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> And he notes that Alexander of Abonutichus had gotten away with his fake-head snake trick for a long time</font>
I already told you two times already that I knew this. I have also told you that his cult vanished within a very short period of time from an historical point of view. We see pop-cults like this to this day (you even offered a couple of examples yourself). The difference with Christianity, of course, is that it outlived the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and every other empire and country that has risen and fallen in the last 2000 years. This too is historically unprecedented.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> -- and also that early Christian theologians had believed that pagan miracles were real.</font>
And yet another so what question. If miracles happen, then the supernatural exists, and God would not be the only source of such miracles.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Your rhetorical question makes absolutely no sense here. Please clarify.

[Me:]
It has a simple meaning: how credulous does he think that people back then *really* had been?</font>
No more credulous than people are today. Credulity is not a function of education alone. Highly educated people today still believe in things like luck and fate, and even mediums, ESP and alien abductions. Heck, I'm willing to bet that some people actually believe in an uncaused universe.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: He uses charming phrases like "uneducated rabble". ...

[Me on how that may have been excessive...]

[Nomad:]
Hmm... may have been excessive? Either it is or it isn't. So do you think Carrier was betraying his prejudices or not.
And as for literalist fundamentalists, I have stated before that I find them just as frustrating to debate as I do the most dogmatic atheists. Both demonstrate clear anti-intellectual biases, and highly selective readings of the Bible and history.

[Me:]
Thus, Nomad thinks it OK to call fundamentalists something like "uneducated rabble".</font>
So you haven't answered my question for a second time. Here is the question once again:

Do you think that Richard Carrier was betraying his prejudices by referring to the ancients as "uneducated rabble", "hicks", "peasants living in a cultural back water"?

As for what I think about fundamentalists and dogmatic atheists, I think that they are close minded and bigotted. Neither of themy are rabble, or hicks or any other derogatory term.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">[Nomad:]
History lesson. Communism is dead. ...

And as for Islam, notice that everywhere they encountered an established pre-existing culture with any military power (i.e. Europe, India and China) they were stopped cold. ...

[Me:]
However, Communism had made a spectacular rise earlier in the 20th cy., and often seemed unstoppable, by its enemies as well as its friends.</font>
HIstory lesson restated. Communism is dead. Christianity is not, 2000 years later. Communism died inside of a century of its creation. When you are looking for similarities between two things, please also consider their differences.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And although conquest can explain much of the spread of Islam, it cannot explain how the original conquerors had become Muslims.</font>
Since I think that Muslims worship the same God as I do, I think that they may well be receiving help from that same God.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Furthermore, there is another great religion that has been spread by conversion: Buddhism. And Buddhism has spread with much less violence than Christianity has; Buddhism has generally not been an exclusivist religion, and one can be a Buddhist and also practice other religions.</font>
Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion, and so far as I am aware, is perfectly at home with even atheists practicing it. Since it offers no challenges to its followers (beyond being a good person, and teaching them that nothing is real), it cannot provoke any kind of a hostile response against it.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: So? The Christians refused to sacrifice to the Emperor and were persecuted routinely for this. I hope you knew this already.

[Me:]
Half-heartedly more like it. As Tertullian notes, many early Christians had been noted for successfully weaseling out of worshipping the official gods of the Empire.</font>
I'm going to have to start a thread on this topic as well I see. When you say that the attempts at persecution by the Romans were half hearted, do you have any stats to back this up? Do you even know what periods in time we are talking about? When I produce my evidence that thousands died at the hands of the Romans for their Christian faith are you going to give me yet another unthinking and cold hearted "Cry me a river" response, or will you actually address the question?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Of course. They were polytheists. Christianity was monotheistic, and to the pagans, that often meant "atheist".

[Me:]
In effect, Christianity is a cult of the Only God, which makes Christianity essentially atheism to other religions.</font>
If you define "cult" as a religion that lasts 2000 years and outlives every culture within which it exists, then this sounds fine with me. On the other hand, we haven't seen that kind of achievement by any other cult you have offered us as a comparison. In fact, quite the opposite. It looks like the vast majority of them are quite dead.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I suspect that there was a point to this monologue, but I fail to see what it was.

[Me:]
The extent of the Roman authorities' religious tolerance.</font>
They were tolerant, except of Christianity. I agree that except for Christians, the Romans did not kill worshippers of strange "cults" by the thousands on a regular and persistent basis, but I hardly see how this helps your case.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: If you can demonstrate that the official persecution of the Christians by the Roman authorities was in any qualitative way anywhere close to what we see in the United States with Mormons, I would love to hear it. Last time I checked, Mormonism was a widely respected religion in America. At this stage in the Roman Empire, on the other hand, the great persecutions of the Christians was only beginning.

[Me:]
Utah was not allowed to join the US until the Mormons rejected polygamy. Mormonism may be respectable now, but it had been thought a kooky cult back in the 19th cy.</font>
And for its first 300 years Christianity was regularily persecuted, often with Christians being killed in the thousands just for their beliefs. The last great persecution took place under Julian in 362AD (well after Constantine's own conversion), so it looks like Mormonism has faired quite well by comparison.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Christianity, on the other hand, like Judaism that birthed it, and Islam (which mimicked it) go on and on. Such an interesting coincidence no?

[Me:]
Islam mimicking Christianity? It may have followed a similar historical trajectory, but it was clearly an independent invention; the writers of the various Muslim scriptures (Koran, Hadiths, etc.) had had only limited contact with Christianity.</font>
Islam teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin (their supporting stories are much stranger than Christianity's on this point BTW), and that He was one of the great prophets of God. They accept the Book of Genesis as being Scripture. They also accept that Jesus gave books that were Scriptural as well. I would recommend that you speak with Baalthazaq on these questions. He can help you a great deal.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Time for another history lesson. Prior to it becoming the state religion in 325, Christianity did not have the opportunity to persecute much of anything. And in this period thousands of Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith by the pagan authorities.

[Me:]
I'm sure that you have detailed documentation of that; everything I've seen on the subject suggests that the Roman authorities did not really care that much.</font>
Yeah, I'll post what I have on this tonight or tomorrow. My question for you is when I do, will you accept it, or will you simply dismiss it out of hand?

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited January 22, 2001).]
 
Old 01-22-2001, 11:54 AM   #28
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Nomad:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The environment in which Christianity arose was identical to that within which every other religion of the time competed, and Christianity emerged triumphant within the entire Roman world, and the rest of Europe without the benefit of military conquest. This is historically unprecedented, and that has been my point all along.</font>
A post hoc fallacy.

The rest of your post seems either unobjectionable or irrelevant. It makes no difference the degree to which Christianty was persecuted or precisely how credulous people were 2000 years ago (it seems reasonable to assume they were about as innately credulous as modern humans, and that's bad enough).
 
Old 01-22-2001, 12:35 PM   #29
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:

A post hoc fallacy.

The rest of your post seems either unobjectionable or irrelevant. It makes no difference the degree to which Christianty was persecuted or precisely how credulous people were 2000 years ago (it seems reasonable to assume they were about as innately credulous as modern humans, and that's bad enough).</font>
This is an interesting point SD, but directly counters the entire foundation of Carrier's argument which I have been refuting in this thread. If, as Carrier believes, the ancients were uniquely credulous, and therefore perfectly willing to believe any story told to them by a semi-credible and intelligent charlatan (like the apostles for example), then we should not be surprised that Christianity alone succeeded where all other religions and cults have failed.

On the other hand, if as you believe, there was nothing really that special about the time and circumstances of Christianity's first few centuries, then we are left to wonder why Christianity did succeed as rapidly as it did. The achievement of the Christian faith does not prove it is true, but it is an historical anomoly without equal, and we have to look long and hard to find such things in history from any time or place.

Just so you know, the entire reason Carrier wrote his essay was to offer some comfort to the sceptic who was bothered by this fact, that Christianity took over a great empire without the benefits of power, force, and against intense persecution, and achieved this remarkable feat within a very short period of time. As a trained classical historian Carrier certainly knows the problems this presents to the secularist, but by any measure, he did a very poor job of proving his case.

Nomad
 
Old 01-22-2001, 05:40 PM   #30
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So the question has come up as to whether or not Christianity faced persecution in its day (the first 3 centuries in particular), and who were the principle converts to the new religion, ignorant rabble from the hick back water as asserted by Mr. Carrier, or perhaps people of means, education and insight.

From A History of Rome by M. Cary and H.H. Scullard (The MacMillan Press Ltd. 1979)
M. Cary, D. Litt. Late Emeritus Professor of Ancient History in the University of London
H. H. Scullard, F.B.A. Emieritus Professor of Ancient History in the University of London

“The emperor (Nero), taking fright (from the fire in Rome, 64AD), cast about for a scapegoat, and Tigellinus helped him out by laying hands on the members of the newly formed Christian community in the capital. An unknown number of victims was condemned on a mere profession of faith, and burnt or otherwise tortured to death.
(pg. 359)

“Thereafter they (the Christians) were recognized as a sect apart (from the Jews), suspected of a general hatred of mankind and suspected of a general hatred of mankind and liable to persecution if the authorities so decided. The long war between the Roman State and the Christian Church had been declared, although its eruptions for a considerable time were only sporadic.”
(pg. 401)

“…in the first two centuries of their existence the Christian communities were constantly liable to attacks by infuriated mobs, like those which have been directed against the Jews in medieval and again recent times.”
(pg. 487)

“A more sustained campaign against the Jews, and more especially against the Christians, was kept up by men of letters, many of whom had been trained in philosophy or rhetoric and knew how to conduct their case… The attacks upon the Christians were delivered alike in Greek and in Latin, and the war of words continued to the end of the fourth Century."
(pg. 487)

“By the mid-second Century, however, Christian refusal to take part in the cult of the emperor or the pagan gods led to a widespread feeling that they were enemies of the community and threatened its security by endangering the pax deorum; they became scapegoats for all kinds of disasters such as famine and disease… Christians, rather than Jews, were becoming the main targets of mob violence."
(pg. 488)


However, in spite of these sporadic outbreaks of hostility, as well as being ostracized by the pagan and Jewish communities within which they lived, Christianity had emerged as "now taking its place among the chief religions of the Greco-Roman world, were comparatively unmolested under Commodus (180-192) and in most of the Severan period (222-235)."
(pg. 546)


In 250AD "the precarious safeguards of the Christians were swept away by the emperor Decius (249-251)... Decius expressly commanded all Christians to abjure their faith and to take part in the pagan worship of the Empire... First Decius arrested senior clergy and executed Pope Fabian... Those Christians that refused to conform (the confessores) were either killed or imprisoned... The number of those who suffered for their faith cannot be estimated, although Porphyry, an anti-Christian contemporary, states that thousands were put to death."
(pg. 546)


Valerian continued the persecutions in 257-8, and the most severe persecutions were to take place under Diocletian and Galerius from 303-11 with "the number of victims of the persecutions under Diocletian and Galerius undoubtedly exceeded all previous totals."
"Then in 311 Galerius made a death-bed repentance, stopped the persecution and granted Christians legal recognition... Galerius perhaps recognized that his cause was lost, thanks in part to the extent which Christianity had spread throughout the East in the countryside no less than the towns."
(pg. 547)


Thus we can see that the rise of Christianity to prominence was achieved through out the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, having achieved dominance in the East prior to Constantines famous "conversion" in 312.

Also of note, regarding the quality of the education of Christianity’s converts:

“…above all, they (Christians) had captured a high proportion of the more thoughtful inhabitants of the Empire. In the middle of the fourth Century the reluctant but honest emperor Julian, the last eminent champion of the old order of things, was constrained to admit that the ultimate victory of Christianity in the Roman world was assured.”
(pg. 549)


So, as we can see, Carrier, who as a scholar of ancient Roman history should have known, didn’t exactly present the facts as they have been known to us for a very long time. Far from being ignorant rabble from a backwater hick region of the Empire that appealed only to the credulous and uneducated masses, Christianity found itself at home both with the poor peasantry and wealthy aristocracy and educated elite’s alike.

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited January 22, 2001).]
 
 

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