Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not the Impossible Faith

I am still writing On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. But to save space there, I found I often needed to cite an online book I wrote some years ago, which is easier to do when there are page numbers. So I went ahead and produced a Lulu print edition. I just received sales stock today, so I will be selling it at my events in March after all, as I've hinted was possible. Though it is not yet posted for sale at Amazon, it will be in a few months (I'll update this blog when it appears there). I was going to wait for that, but since I'll be selling it at events next month, I decided to blog about it now so my fans are fully in-the-know.

The new book is Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed (2009). This is a special updated edition of Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (2006), which I was paid $6000 to research and write as a publicly available response to J.P. Holding's 'flagship' essay "The Impossible Faith: Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion," which he also reproduced as a printed book, The Impossible Faith (2007). In it he boasts that 'someone' was paid thousands of dollars to debunk his arguments, but he never names me or tells his readers anything about how to find that rebuttal (or even mentions or responds to anything I said in it). Amazon now allows product plugs in customer reviews, so you know what I'll be doing when Not the Impossible Faith finally appears on Amazon... :-)

Part of my original contract included the guarantee that my initial work would be available to the public for free. So Was Christianity? will remain on the Secular Web, free to all. The print edition, now titled Not the Impossible Faith (to rif on Holding's title), includes various changes, to the point that it certainly supercedes the online version (it's the edition I will cite and reference from now on), but nothing so significant that you "need" to buy the book if you're content with the online text. I didn't want to take any time away from my current project, so I just did the minimum necessary to produce a decent print copy (and there wasn't much room for improvement anyway--as a refutation, it's pretty conclusive).

What's new? Basically, I folded everything in the original Chapter 19 into the other 18 Chapters (where the various items in 19 belonged, each piece in a different place), folded many endnotes into the main text, wrote a new brief introduction (none too kind to Holding), rewrote some sections for clarity, made a slew of minor corrections and additions throughout, and smoothed readability in several places. Apart from all that, the main advantage of the book is that you can now cite it by page number (if you have a copy on hand), and carry it around and loan it around and write notes in the margins and highlight it and bookmark it and whatnot (I made sure it had proper 1" margins this time).

Personally, I just prefer reading physical books--lounging wherever I want, no eye strain, no battery or outlet issues, lighter to carry, easier page turning and flipping around and estimating reading time (I can see how much is left to read in a chapter or the rest of the book), I can stuff a bookmark where I left off, etc. For all these reasons, and especially if you want to start building a Richard Carrier collection on your bookshelf, it'll be worth buying the book. You can also buy a PDF version at Lulu for just $2.50, which will have to serve as a substitute for an index (since you can search that file for keywords, and still get the correct page number and see the text of the new edition, which is often different from the online version), since compiling a print index requires a solid week's work, and that was far too costly for me.

You can buy it now at Lulu (the PDF or the softback), but Amazon will give you free shipping (on the softback), so I recommend waiting for when it's available there (unless you just want the PDF). But the best option is to buy a copy from me in person (at a speaking event any time in the future), where you will get a much reduced price ($20). And of course I'll sign it if you want. Though I'll make more money on sales through Lulu than Amazon, it's already overpriced ($28 through any vendor), so I'm keen to advise fans to save where they can. Lulu passes all costs on to the customer (that means you), which means it cost me nothing to publish (which is why I bothered). Unlike most self-publishing firms, which charge at least a thousand dollars to launch a book, Lulu charges nothing (and you can do all the formatting and editing yourself online, which limits your options, but that's no matter if you don't need any). But it makes up for this in unit price. So in effect, buyers are subsidizing the publication of the print edition.

Though this means my book costs two to three times Holding's (which also just reproduces content already available for free online), mine is four times longer (454 pages to his 112) and (as you all well know) far better researched, argued, and referenced. Thus in terms of actual relative value-for-cost, the price isn't bad. My book actually contains a great deal of useful content and information, and citations of scholarship and sources, far beyond merely being a response to Holding (see the Lulu page for my full book description). It's a useful primer on the socio-intellectual context of the origins and spread of early Christianity. And of course it nails it hard to one of the most annoying apologetic windbags on the web.

22 comments:

AIGBusted said...

Just out of curiosity, how much work do you have left for "On the Historicity" ?

Steven Carr said...

Do you get money from downloads?

Kenneth said...

You can self-publish cheaper books if you use Lightning Source International which is the printer that all of the companies like Lulu uses. Read this site which is by the most popular self-publisher on the internet practically Aaron Shepard. He wrote a book called "Aiming at Amazon" which is very popular also.


http://www.newselfpublishing.com/books/AimingAmazon.html

Andrew said...

You were PAID 6000 dollars TO write a response or to investigate the book?

It makes a difference...for in the first case it means your conclusion was determined in advance.

And now you seriously expect us to believe that your investigation is in any sense objective?

I think you screwed up in making that that admission.

Mattie said...

Your book is 4 times longer than Holding's? Man, you really are a windbag.

Scott Ferguson said...

Andrew, Nice move! Straight to the ad hominem!

Mr Carrier's refutation stands or falls on its content. Using your logic, the Pope is only in it for the free hats.

AIGBusted said...

I see our Christian friends are tacitly admitting that Carrier whooped Bobby Turkel by the fact that they have nothing but ad hominems to spew at Carrier.

Come up with a rebuttal to Carrier's work or shut up and take your licks.

Andrew said...

Carrier is engaging in promoting his agenda; the pretense that he is engaging in any kind of objective historical investigation is ludicrous.

The Mythicist's have to engage in at least as much gerrymandering as any fundamentalist...and if he is going to make appeals to authority, I can just as well cite qualified researchers who are NOT mythicists and who are not Christians...Ehrman, Crossan the majority of members of the Jesus Seminar, even the atheist John Loftus.

And as for the Jesus Project, by the way, I hope you are not going to seriously...and with a straight face...maintain that the conclusions of that project are not already determined.

Don't like the ad hominems? Thats funny, I learned them all from your side! LOL!

So, who ya kiddin, sport?

Andrew said...

Carrier is engaging in promoting his agenda; the pretense that he is engaging in any kind of objective historical investigation is ludicrous.

The Mythicist's have to engage in at least as much gerrymandering as any fundamentalist...and if he is going to make appeals to authority, I can just as well cite qualified researchers who are NOT mythicists and who are not Christians...Ehrman, Crossan the majority of members of the Jesus Seminar, even the atheist John Loftus.

And as for the Jesus Project, by the way, I hope you are not going to seriously...and with a straight face...maintain that the conclusions of that project are not already determined.

Don't like the ad hominems? Thats funny, I learned them all from your side! LOL!

So, who ya kiddin, sport?

Andrew said...

Carrier is engaging in promoting his agenda; the pretense that he is engaging in any kind of objective historical investigation is ludicrous.

The Mythicist's have to engage in at least as much gerrymandering as any fundamentalist...and if he is going to make appeals to authority, I can just as well cite qualified researchers who are NOT mythicists and who are not Christians...Ehrman, Crossan the majority of members of the Jesus Seminar, even the atheist John Loftus.

And as for the Jesus Project, by the way, I hope you are not going to seriously...and with a straight face...maintain that the conclusions of that project are not already determined.

Don't like the ad hominems? Thats funny, I learned them all from your side! LOL!

So, who ya kiddin, sport?

AIGBusted said...

Hi Richard,

Have you seen Tim Callahan's article which debunks the Zeitgeist movie's attempt to link Jesus with earlier Sun Gods?

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-02-25.html#feature

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Um...maybe I'm just being a silly atheist, but isn't there an alternative hypothesis to the "predetermined conclusion" mantra we hear from Rick's less than intelligent critics way too often? Subtract Rick, and add in an author they favor in similar circumstances and I'll bet they'd mysteriously find that "other hypothesis" that says you can be paid to respond to something and still disagree with parts or even all of the "desired conclusion."

And if "both sides" are lost to ad hominem attacks...then what does that say about anyone who admits that and remains in the debate?

just sayin,
Ben

Richard Carrier said...

How much work do you have left for "On the Historicity"? Lots.

Do you get money from downloads? Yes.

You can self-publish cheaper books if you use Lightning Source International No, you can't. They don't work with authors (only publishers), and they charge front end fees (you have to pay them to print anything; I don't have to pay Lulu a dime).

Richard Carrier said...

Andrew: You were PAID 6000 dollars to write a response or to investigate the book? It makes a difference...for in the first case it means your conclusion was determined in advance.

In fact, the general conclusion was already arrived at before any offer of money was made: as an ancient historian I already knew Holding's work was disastrously wrong on multiple key points. All the money was for was to finance the work necessary to write up what I knew and double-check the sources and scholarship. The latter could in principle have uncovered some points where Holding was correct, and in fact it did, which I dutifully reported, refuting your thesis. My financier only wanted the truth, not propaganda. He did not object to my showing on what points Holding was correct. My funding for On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (currently $20,000) came with a similar no-strings agreement: I am not required to arrive at any conclusion, only to tell the well-researched truth.

And now you seriously expect us to believe that your investigation is in any sense objective? I think you screwed up in making that that admission.

The admission has long been public knowledge, announced by my financier, not me. I think you are a bit out of the loop. You also don't understand how research grants work. This is how all science gets done: people pay for the research to be done, regardless of outcome. It does not affect objectivity at all, unless your source will withhold future grants if you don't tell them what they want to hear. Since I never seek money from such sources, my objectivity is not in danger.

The Mythicist's have to engage in at least as much gerrymandering as any fundamentalist...

Mythicists? Not the Impossible Faith does not argue for any Jesus myth. Indeed, it presumes historicity throughout. Evidently you have no idea what you're even talking about.

...if he is going to make appeals to authority, I can just as well cite qualified researchers who are NOT mythicists and who are not Christians

Since I cite in Not the Impossible Faith all the same scholars Holding does (as well as nothing but mainstream scholarship all around), it's rather ironic seeing you try to claim I'm citing unreliable scholars. If I am, Holding is. Do you guys always eat your feet like this?

Mattie said... Your book is 4 times longer than Holding's? Man, you really are a windbag.

Since Holding's online version is as long as my book, then I assume you agree he's a windbag as well.

In actual fact, it always takes two-to-four times as much material to refute a claim as to make it. Because I tell you all the things Holding conspicuously doesn't tell you. He conceals and deceives. I reveal the truth. And the truth is not a soundbite. But it's also good reading. So enjoy.

Richard Carrier said...

Andrew said... And as for the Jesus Project, by the way, I hope you are not going to seriously...and with a straight face...maintain that the conclusions of that project are not already determined.

What conclusions are those? Do you even know what the Project's stated aims and goals are? Or who its fellows now include?

Richard Carrier said...

AIGBusted said... Have you seen Tim Callahan's article which debunks the Zeitgeist movie's attempt to link Jesus with earlier Sun Gods?

No, but I'm so glad he did. Thanks for the link. Until now I had to rely on fundamentalist rebuttals, which weren't terrible but not entirely recommendable. That crap movie has done more damage to serious Jesus myth scholarship than any fundamentalist treatise ever could. I'd like to kick the director in the crotch. That's right. Square in the crotch.

AIGBusted said...

Its funny watching Richard pwn the Christians commenting.

: )

Richard Carrier said...

Quine said... [in a separate post] You stated that it is important that the resurrection appearances are only mentioned, not described, in Paul's writing, which are our earliest written source mentioning them. Since Paul died around 65 A.D, and the resurrection appearances are described in detail in Luke (which was written around 75-80 A.D)...Actually, recent scholarship places our version of Luke around 95-125 A.D. Trobisch and Pervo especially. John dates later (several scholars agree he is riffing on Luke). Mark says nothing (although GPet 14 and GJn 21 might mutually derive from a lost Markan ending, and I am beginning to suspect the Emmaus narrative might as well, that still gives us little to go on as to what might have originally been described in Mark), and Matthew is too vague to be helpful (and in many respects dubious).

...is it your position that the "legend" of the physical appearances arose in this 10-15 year period, while, (presumably) contemporaries of Paul who were close to him were still alive to notice that Luke's account is vastly different than Paul's notion? Thanks.It would be a 30-50 year period (Mark was written 70-75, Luke most likely 95-125, I find the arguments for both adequately convincing, and in any case not capable of being ruled out). Yes, I believe the Luke-John version evolved in that period (obviously, IMO: it isn't present in the earlier, simpler stories of Paul, Mark, and Matthew, and as I show in The Empty Tomb, the Luke-John versions cannot have existed at all in Paul's time, i.e. before the early 60's A.D., and whenever we see a story getting wilder and more incredible over time, that usually indicates legendary development).

The earliest appearance narratives probably resembled Paul's in Acts (i.e. I mean the source used by Acts, not Acts itself), or the weird encounters in GJn 21:1-14 and Lk 24:13-34 (if those are based on something earlier than the versions we have), but the latter are eucharist-model fictions (which could date as early as Paul, though we have no evidence of this, and at that time they would probably have been understood as liturgical fictions and thus not relevant sources of historical data), and the former was probably a lot closer to what was actually experienced (yet in Acts still highly telescoped by Luke's imagination and literary aims).

I offer one possible sequence of development in The Empty Tomb (pp. 182-97), though even there I was trusting the Gospels even more than I now believe I should have.

Landon Hedrick said...

Richard, you might like to know that Dr. Field has given your book a highly positive review on Amazon. I'm looking forward to going through it in full this summer, when my academic obligations aren't suffocating me.

By the way, for some reason I was browsing J.P. Holding's website and I see that he's planning on writing a resurrection book (which is apparently going to be "the resurrection book to end all resurrection books" or something). He says he'll be giving a full response to the arguments in your book.

Richard Carrier said...

Do let me know when Holding's book comes out. I'm not going to waste any more time with his website. But a book in print I'll at least take a gander at.

Marcus A. said...

As someone who has recently begun an amateur study of both the apologetic arguments and the opposite (nonsupernatual) view, I was very pleased to find this work and the work at infidels.org. I have had vigorous but friendly arguments with my brother, who is a biblical scholar and a christian... I've purchased your book and look forward to adding it to my collection alongside Dawkins and Hitchens, et. al.

Richard Carrier said...

Cool.