Friday, April 04, 2008

Calling All Benefactors

I completed my dissertation defense, and passed with revisions, which I've just completed and delivered. Now it's only a wait for signatures and paperwork (with maybe tweaks to the revisions if the subcommittee desires). I'll blog on all that once I've deposited my dissertation (the last step in the process, probably in June). At that point I'll essentially be a Ph.D. (since nothing else has to happen after that), though the actual diploma will be dated several months later, and then it will be official. But in practical terms I'm already done.

Now I need a job. Even at best there won't be any academic positions available until Fall (and more realistically I might not find a position until 2009), but we've been stuck in debt for several years now and I'd like to clear it sooner rather than later. Our monthly expenses would drop immensely if we did, and this would substantially improve our situation. My wife would be very happy. And so would I. So I have an audacious proposal. It probably won't happen, especially in this present economy. But as Jack Burton said when he took a futile shot at the psychic eye monster in Lo Pan's underground lair, "Well, you never know until you try!"

Here's my proposal. In the past, generous private benefactors, on their own initiative, have paid me substantially to research and write various online works (such as Why I Am Not a Christian and Was Christianity Too Improbable to Be False). Could there be anyone else out there willing to fund my work? I'd like to find several benefactors, like those who've approached me before, with similar resources and interests, who would love to pool together to pay me to undertake a serious project over the next four months. That project can be anything, whatever this group most wants to see me complete this year. I'm open to suggestions (from those who really do have a mind to fund a project). But I'll use the following as a prominent example.

Many have asked me, often repeatedly, when I'll write a serious monograph on the question of the historicity of Jesus. The present answer is: not for many years. I have too many other projects I'm personally more interested in, and even those I will have little time for now as I begin my job search. (Since some have asked, yes, I am open to job offers outside academia but not specifically looking for them, so all leads or offers are always welcome, and okay, sure, if a billionaire wants to set up an endowment to employ me permanently as a researcher and writer on philosophy & religion, that would be super gosh darned nice). But if I could erase the remaining bulk of our debt burden (at least $20,000) I could justify devoting the next four months almost exclusively to completing a specific job.

In that time I would finish all the research I still have planned (but haven't already done), read every relevant book on both sides of the question (I already have a list), thoroughly research every item I find important, and write a book of professional quality for publication by an academic press. I had already planned such a book out last year, and just shelved it for the future. But I could dust it off and get it done if financed.

The book I propose would take the approach of arguing first and foremost for a logical historical method that all reasonable people could agree on, which would allow any objective investigator to ascertain whether Jesus probably did or didn't exist, simply by plugging in the facts known to them. Then my book would survey what I find to be the most important facts, and apply the presented method to them to demonstrate what my view now is and why, and how it could be changed (since new facts, or legitimate corrections to the facts I use, could change my conclusion, and this may happen even in the course of my final research for the book, but in any case the result will be my honest and well-informed expert opinion).

Such a book would considerably advance the debate in two important respects: First, as I am now (certainly by the time of completion) a qualified Ph.D. (in ancient history, the relevant field), and I will work to meet the standards required to get a serious academic publisher for the book (I'll approach my alma maters first, University of California Press and then Columbia University Press, but in any case something comparable), it will be the most academically rigorous discussion of the issue yet in print. Second, my approach will be to actually facilitate progress in the debate (toward either conclusion) by articulating a clear and defensible method for resolving it (and presenting a case for what further research is needed to do that). Both qualities will help bring this debate to the attention of academic experts so a more informed consensus can eventually develop among those most qualified to judge the issue.

I doubt I have any fans so gobsmacking rich they'd be able to fund this plan all by themselves, but a team of several could, contributing a few thousand each. I've met such folks before. Though in the past I've simply been paid directly as a private contractor, and I'll still work that way, if you have a local or national atheist or other nonprofit willing to agree to act as a granting agency for this particular project (and whose mission would justify it), you could give them an earmarked donation to pay me (while they keep, say, 5%, or 15% for any additional donors they then find on their own), and that would make the contribution a charitable deduction for you. Though you would have to work that out with them on your own. Or take any other approach you desire, direct or indirect (as long as it's legal!). If I can raise the $20,000 I need, I'll complete the project.

If this work is funded now, the book will be completed within four months, and will likely appear in print in 2009 (otherwise probably not for another five or ten years, if indeed ever). Donors will get the privilege of viewing the final draft before publication so they can make requests for revisions (and any that are valid will be heeded). I have an unpublished paper that in effect serves as a preliminary outline for this book, which I will provide only for the private review of serious donors. And I can prepare the same for any other project proposed.

Again, the above is only an example (one I think the expressed demand has been greatest for). Any other comparable project is possible (in ancient history or naturalist philosophy). A
lternatives even include a team of donors who want me to accomplish three or four smaller projects, as each donor desires, which collectively add up to the same amount. Why, to be debt free, I'll even dance on a hat and eat a bug. Not that anyone would pay for that.

I know Christian authors get well financed this way. Even J.P. Holding, I once heard, gets tens of thousands of dollars in donations every year. Can atheists support an author they like, at least as well? It would be a shame if not. But if you think I'm worth it, or you want to talk about it, please contact me directly by email (see my blogger profile for a link to my address if you don't already have it). Let me know how much you would be willing to pledge, and to what sort of project(s), just to see them happen
. No Atlas shrugging here. Let my skills and labor work for you. Or bring this blog entry to the attention of everyone you think would be interested (right-click the title above, to copy the URL and pass it on).

I look forward to hearing from anyone crazy enough to take me up on my plan!


B. Dewhirst said...

I'd imagine it would also be possible to fund Publicly Mandated Project X with many more donations at a lower level, though obviously the deal would be slightly different logistically speaking-- it is feasible to have ten donors each review a book for which they're donating 2000 dollars, but perhaps it isn't feasible to have 200 people who've each donated 100 dollars actively participate.

I'm interested in the historicity of Jesus, and while my funds are limited, I'd be willing to make a smaller donation towards that end.

Castaa said...

I'd donate to a fund if there were an easy way. Have you emailed PZ Myers? He might be willing to make a blog post about your idea? Good luck and keep us posted.

Castaa said...

Oh and congrats on your (almost certain) successful defense and Ph.D!! How exciting!

Richard Carrier said...

Already I have two donors who contacted me privately to pledge a thousand dollars each if others will join in to fill the gap (for the historicity book). So a pledge drive has begun!

B. Dewhirst: I am not opposed to allowing hundreds to view a draft and send comments (it would in that case have to be a PDF), I just don't think hundreds read my blog or will hear of this proposal or get involved.

But if you can bring in 200 $100 donors (or now 180 of them, maybe less if more large donors join in), I'll dedicate the book to you!

Jon: Have you emailed PZ Myers? I don't have his address immediately on hand. You are welcome to bring his attention to this yourself, though. And in fact to anyone you think may be interested, blogger or no, famous or not, online forum or email list.

It's better if the word spreads through channels you yourselves frequent already, as you'll know best how to make the case or find the right people already of like mind, rather than me barging in places I never otherwise go just to beg for funding.

Jon: I'd donate to a fund if there were an easy way. I don't want anyone giving money until it's certain the amount I need will be raised, as only then can I promise to complete the project being funded. But if you are willing to pledge an amount, do let me know. Small amounts are okay, they just aren't likely to reach my target. Unless somehow a very large number of people pitch in. And I don't see how I can make that likely to happen (at least by myself).

But in any case, ultimately money can be sent to me via my PayPal account (under my email address rcarrier at; and PayPal allows credit card payments and just about everything else) or mailed by personal check (to an address I'll provide privately). If there is some other way than these that you would prefer, please let me know.

Martin Freedman said...

I have emailed PZ Myers to request that he check this post.

Pikemann Urge said...

I've always wanted to be a philanthropist. That's the only reason I want to win the lottery! Well, everybody has to start small, right?

I'll pledge US$500 as long as there are at LEAST 39 other people who are willing to give a MINIMUM of $250 (which will cover at worst half your amount).

Actually, that scheme might not work for you. So collect your pledges and when you have enough, you'll have $500 from me.

I think there are worse things to spend $500 on than respectable scholarship. Come on folks, dig deep!

Richard, I'll e-mail you to confirm the pledge but I've got to get to work now. Cheers.

Nick said...


Great news about the dissertation! I have sent you an email with a proposal (you have my email address already).



Richard Carrier said...

The following repeats what I have posted to the Secular Web forum on this topic, here for the convenience of my blog readers:

1. My much-requested book on the Jesus myth question is not the only project I'm open to, but it seemed (and now even more seems) to be the only project that has a large demand. Everything that follows thus assumes now that this is the only project anyone is significantly interested in funding.

2. I'm asking fans and interested parties to fund a research project that they want to see happen. So this isn't a business deal. The only profit donors should be seeking here is the creation of a product that won't exist otherwise, which people want very much to exist now rather than a decade from now (or never). Long ago rich men would patronize research like this, not expecting any return but the book or art thus produced. I'm looking to see if the middle class can band together to do the same thing, for no other reason than that they want to.

3. It has been suggested that some sort of pre-sale sale be arranged to raise the money. Unfortunately that costs even more money, and can't be done without a publisher. But Catch-22: I can't get a publisher (or an advance on sales much less pre-sales) without a book, especially a controversial one like this, which a publisher will need to examine and peer review before accepting, and I can't justify the labor now for money I won't make for a year ($20,000 would also require a minimum of 5000 unit sales of a not-yet-existent book on an obscure subject by a relatively unknown author, which seems heartily unlikely). However, I will send two free copies of the printed book (once it does appear) to anyone who donates at least $250, and five free copies to anyone who donates at least $500 (all at my own expense, as long as you send me your mailing address).

4. I've never been optimistic that I could find the support I need (so in all probability I won't even be able to think about my book on the Jesus myth theory for many years, much less complete it). So far I have less than $3000 pledged and I just can't justify (especially to my wife) working full time on any book for the next four months without erasing about $20,000 of my debt. But if I can raise the money, I can finish the proposed book this year and have it published in 2009. Then (a) you'll get to read it, (b) others will get to read it, and (c) the debate will finally be advanced beyond where it now stands and it will gain some more serious scholarly recognition. Three goals you may think are well worth the expense. But even apart from that, I will be extremely encouraged by the interest and commitment of the community if I met my target. I see preachers roping in far more cash by offering far less product!

5. I have one person offering his own $500 if 40 others donate at least $250. Can I find that many fans and interested parties? Please spread the word beyond just here, and, if you are enthusiastic, I would be delighted if you could drum up support wherever you can (such as through you're own local atheist and freethought group meetings, or wherever you feel worthwhile). Anyone who is serious about donating that much or more, please contact me by email (rcarrier at If you first want to review my past work in a similar area, see my chapters in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (my proposed book will be more scholarly than any of my online work in this area, even the best example, Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?). I will also give an advance (private) look at the book proposal for anyone who requests it, and makes a sincere pledge, by email.

6. The reason I can complete this project in four months (working on it full time) is that I already have a lot of the research done, and copious notes on every element, and I don't intend the book to be a comprehensive end-all-be-all on the subject: I will only focus on what I believe to be the essential issues and most relevant facts. Hence I won't be attempting "to overthrow everything ever done in NT scholarship," but only proposing that such an overthrow is or is not likely (and how, methodologically, either result would be determined) unless some surprising new facts or analysis arrives on the scene. As Toto put it on the forums, I do "not intend to write a mythicist book that finally provides The Answer, more of a methodology book that advances the debate." Although it will argue for "an" answer, it won't claim to have proven it conclusively, and will rather offer the analysis I provide as only a challenge for scholars to meet (or advance further, if they end up agreeing with it).

7. Since I have been asked elsewhere, payments can come by snailmailed check (contact me by email for an address) or PayPal (under my email address, rcarrier at But I won't call in any pledges unless I get the full amount (or near) pledged. So if it doesn't happen, no one pays me. Which is likely. But you never know. I might be surprised.

Frank Zindler said...

Congratulations on completion of the doctorate! I know that whatever topics you investigate and whatever projects you take on, you will significantly advance our understanding of the world of unreason and the history of religion.

At this moment, American Atheists is not able to be of help in your project, but I shall see what might be done on your behalf in the future. I myself, however, will pledge $500 to the cause. As you might predict, I am most interested in seeing you carry out a methodological analysis of Jesus-Myth studies. However, I have great admiration for your professional judgment as well as for your scholarship, and so whatever project or topic you deem most important will be fine with me.

You mention the possibility that "some surprising new facts or analysis" might arrive on the scene. Unless I am woefully mistaken, American Atheist Press has just published such a thing. THE MYTH OF NAZARETH: THE INVENTED TOWN OF JESUS, by Rene Salm, reports an exhaustive reexamination of ALL ancient artifacts ever excavated at Nazareth and demonstrates beyond cavil (in my never-humble opinion) that the site was not inhabited when "Jesus of Nazareth" should have been living there.

I will be gratified to send you a copy of the book if you give me a snail-mail address to which to send it. Even if you don't agree with my high appraisal of the work, it will provide grist for at least one of your many mills. ;-)

Please keep me informed of your progress.

Frank R. Zindler, editor
American Atheist Press

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Richard, I have an even MORE AUDACIOUS proposal.

Why don't you get any job you can find in the meantime, like the rest of us students have to do?

B. Dewhirst said...

Andrew, that is exactly what he is doing.

Unknown said...

Do you have a paypal account? I don't have much money (I'm a student myself), but I'd be happy to paypal you a small contribution.

Loren said...

andrew, what sort of job do you want Richard Carrier to get?

For my part, if I had the money, I'd pledge a sizable sum for RC's efforts. But I don't, sad to say.

So I'll advertise RC's proposal in various online venues. I'm currently paraphrasing most of it out of copyright concerns; how much of it would it be OK to reproduce?

Unknown said...

Mr. Carrier, your next book project sounds like a no-brainer: A quickly-proposed and joyfully-written expository based on what you already know about the differences between the pseudo-scientific method employed by religious zealots and the actual methods required for delineating provable historical facts. Though the-historicity-of-Jesus may not interest you as much as other things, the quantity of money-backed interest in this book --make no mistake, FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE-- is unfathomably large. A single, well-designed book like this, with a forward from a best-selling author like Dawkins... (irrelevant that science is not your field, you can find a way to link him professionally)... just understand this could be your bread and butter for many years, allowing you pursue the serious details of your research career with little concern for reputation and finance. Do this book - Christian history vs. actual history, and Christians will make you famous just for mentioning their favorite subject. Just be sure your intentions are pure and clear to the critical reader and that your assertions are unassailable (so that the gratuitous attacks will be entirely defensive), and I'm telling you, men will demand the book. The crucial thing to be aware of is this: who has success in the literary world that will back your efforts in such a way as to lend you their purchasing power? Probably none more than Dawkins, but take your pick. The alternative is to slush through the research topics alone when you know you're a well-respected historian and myth-debunker in a time where such persons are celebrities. Know also, then, that the religious people are not going to stop their well-funded, concerted onslaught on our academics until people like you unravel their threats by unweaving their fraudulent rainbow.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Richard: Congratulations on your achievement. Sir, makes it easy to raise money for a specific purpose. Funds collected are transfered to Richard's paypal account. The Chipin interface can be added to one's facebook profile page or other website. Once Richard has a way to donate to the project, I'll chip in towards his expenses.

Best and Good

Robert Bumbalough

Richard Carrier said...

Thank you, Frank, and everyone else (here and in email).

Andrew said... I have an even MORE AUDACIOUS proposal. Why don't you get any job you can find in the meantime, like the rest of us students have to do?

That's actually, by definition, not an audacious proposal (maybe you should look that word up in a dictionary).

I turned my sarcasm meter off for a minute there.

Back to reality: that was kind of the point in my original post. My choice is indeed between getting some lame temp job...or doing this. Why do this instead of a lame temp job? Because it is more interesting, more fun, more useful, more within my skills set, and there is a small chance I can actually get paid just as well doing it, if I can find enough "employers" who want to see the work done. Which is an audacious proposal.

Stan said... Do you have a paypal account?

Yes. See the bottom of my comment above. But don't pledge anything unless you really can spare the money (and want to see the project done). And don't send any actual money until the whole amount has been pledged (since I'm not taking anything unless it happens). Just send me an email (at rcarrier at with a pledge amount, and I'll get back to you when I know the project is going to happen or not.

Petrich: You needn't worry about copyright issues here. You can quote me on this issue as long as you make it clear whom you are quoting and from where.

Badger: I don't think a foreword from Dawkins would be appropriate for a book on the historicity of Jesus. Someone actually in that field would suit (Ehrmann, for example, since he needn't be a mythicist himself to say that the book nevertheless deserves to be read and pondered over). And I doubt the book I will write will be such a best seller as you suggest. I don't know anyone who has actually made a living writing a book on whether Jesus existed. But I agree there is big money being spent on the other side to counter anything they don't like under a mountain of obfuscating rhetoric and disingenuous treatments of the facts. All the more reason for us to get serious, though, as you suggest, and develop a case so strong it forces them to use rhetoric so lame it will expose the lie.

Robert: I must be missing something. What use is when anyone can just go to directly themselves? I also don't want to do what chipin does, since I don't want anyone sending any actual money until I have already met my goal (in pledges). When I do, then I'll inform all pledgers of all the ways they can make a payment and how to go about it. But thanks for thinking outside the box for a minute.

Richard Carrier said...

BTW, as of today my pledge drive has reached $7000. But there are only 17 donors so far meeting Pikeman's Minimum 40 challenge.

Not bad, but still a long way off. I'll keep it going for a couple of weeks and see where we get, but so far it doesn't look like there is enough interest. Although word is still getting out, so who knows what will happen.

I'll reiterate for Pikeman's Minimum 40 challenge: I'm now offering free books to those who meet that challenge and thus join "The 40" (details in comments above, item 3).

Grégoire said...

I'd be glad to be *in* for 100 bucks. I spend more than that on parking every month. Just tell me where and when to send it.

I got here from here
so thank Spot for whatever my pittance means to ya.


Richard Carrier said...

Hit a milestone today...20 people meeting Pikeman's Minimum Challenge.

Grégoire: Have you also emailed me? I'll need to know how to contact you, at the very least, once I know whether the project's on or not.

Ben said...

I pledge $100.

The Flying Skeptic said...

I really want to help you out, but I guess I find this a bit complicated. Is there a way besides pay pal that I could just give a donation?

Richard Carrier said...

25 people meeting Pikeman's Minimum Challenge. Total pledged so far is nearly $14,000. That's better than I had pessimistically imagined. But can it get nearer $20,000?

I am closer to negotiating a possible charitable granting agency, which would make donations tax deductible, if it pans out.

Agnostics_R_Us said... I pledge $100.

Thanks! Please email your pledge to me if you haven't already.

Skeptic4u said... Is there a way besides pay pal that I could just give a donation?

Yes. When the time comes I'll notify all pledges of a postal address they can mail a personal check to. In the meantime, to pledge, just email me with your pledged amount, and I'll get back to you with details in a week or two.

Unknown said...


irstly, sincerest congratulations on your PhD. It's q milestone qchievement qnd I appreciate well the work involved in getting that far.

Now, the bad news. Any book that you would write under these circumstances would be almost fatally undermined by the actions you are taking here. The book would have the taint of being written-to-order in order to allow your contributors to have a source for the as-yet unconfirmed Jesus mythicist position. Indeed, you hqve left the question open by saying that there is further reading that you need to do. What happens if your reading makes the mythicist position less tenable? Will your donors get a refund? The donation thing rather undermines the result of a study which should really be undertaken free of any postulated finding announced in advance of the finalisation of your reseqrch - even if the vast amount that you have read to date points to that conclusion.

The cause of atheism needs good reseqrchers expert in the history of biblical times, and seen to be operating as independently as possible of any interested parties.

B. Dewhirst said...

Niall, we're paying for honest work. Should he find strong evidence that, for example, Chrestos is in fact Jesus, I'll shrug my shoulders and get on with things.

Carrier's starting position, and the reasons he holds it, have been laid out previously... that he -has- a position but -makes it clear- is what is important here.

I'm sure the forward will make it clear how he was supported while doing this work, and it doesn't really concern me. Should I mention the book, and were someone to mention how it was funded, I'd immediately respond by pointing out that a film like Expelled has far deeper pockets.

Really, until we've matched that ***ker John Templeton dime for dime, this is an argument against Theistic research.

Unknown said...

Please listen to me on this. I agree that too much research has been funded by interested parties to allow questions about its independence. For crying out loud, the tobacco lobby has produces stuff supporting the safety of smoking in the past. I am in no way equating Richard's plea to them, but you have to face up to the very simple fact that others will make that link.

Richard is directly equating the publication of a book with the finance that he needs in order to publish it and he is making some glaring errors in doing this. I'll lay them out, and please believe that I am doing this for his own good and for the purpose of maintaining his credibility:

* the publication of his research is being held to ransom against the money being raised to finance his debt. He has stated that. The debt is relatively minor, by the way, for someone coming this far through the system. His creditors would be entitled at this stage to see him turning their loans into repayments, but taking everything into account 20K is a very small level of debt for a PhD.

* The link between the desired conclusion of the mythicist Jesus versus a historical Jesus compromises the very field in which he is working. I will go flatly on the record that I would love to see the myhicist position become the default, but it ill-behoves any researcher to declare his results beore seeking funding.

* Every single xtian or literalist who wants to counter the book will immediately have exactly the same target as those of us who routinely challenge studies about stem-cell research or abortion - they will look to the funding. They will claim - with some justification - that the book was funded by people with an agenda.

Richard has various options for funding the book, but he most certainly should not link it to his debt situation at the moment. To do so is to prostitute his credibility right at the time when he needs it most.

Hell, if I offered 60K would he write a book confirming an historic Jesus? That question will be asked.

He doesn't need to sacrifice his integrity or a purely temporary gain. As I have said elsewhere, there may be no proof of the existence of Jesus, but I'd hate to see evidence of the continued bloodline of Judas. I'm not being over-dramatic when I say that, because others will say that same thing. Academic distinction carries a price and one of the prices is ignoring monetaru reward in order to pursue an agenda.

Richard needs to sit down and to evaluate his position. The only truly rigorous path for him is to follow the academic oneand to lay out the case for funding (and not by public appeal)n for a rigorous and dispassionate critique of his sources and to publish according to his findings. Anything less will undermine his book and will also undermine his credibility. It may be too late to rescue the latter, I fear.

B. Dewhirst said...

He hasn't declared his results, and if you'll re-read his post, you'll see that he explicitly states he may change his mind after further analysis.

Christians are going to lie about soon-to-be Doctor Carrier no matter what he does or says. His honest critics will be honest. *Shrug.*

They'll find something either way.

Additionally, he isn't 'holding his work hostage.' His doctoral research is going to get published either way. While he may have begun some work on this, we're paying him for further work... again, as is laid out in the original post.

Even if Mr. Carrier changes his mind, he'll still be writing a book -on what needs to be known to verify the mythicist position-. That is what he is being paid to do.

Will he be accused of bias? Sure. Will people use how he funded it against him? Sure. If he were in academia, would they have used it against both him and academia? Sure.

He isn't sacrificing his integrity any more than any celebrated historical scholar who had patrons-- which was just about all of them.

B. Dewhirst said...

Indeed, by suggesting he has already lost his credibility, you're doing quite a bit of damage all by yourself.

I'm not very sympathetic to the "shut up and sit in the corner where you won't cause a fuss" school of atheism.

DFB said...

Hey, niall. Non-sequitur much?

Richard, I'm in for $150.00. Now I have to figure out how to e-mail you. I'm not good at these worldwide intertubes.

B. Dewhirst said...


rcarrier at

(replace the 'at' with 'shift 2')

Unknown said...

Hey, say what you wish. I'm just speaking from the ppoint of view of someone who was reared in an academic household and for whom academic standards have been a daily thing.

It's been part of my life from the earliest stages and if you know better, then go ahead. I'm merely passing on the academic standards which my father and my college thought me and to which I have adhered.

Richard is in serius danger of devaluing his PhD at this very moment with this plea. That would be a tragedy, and I am bypassing the responses to my post to ask him to seriously reconsider this pitch for funds. It is unbecoming when it is tied so specifically to an identified project. Can you not see that? As an academic, he should have specific projects in mins and he shouldn't be holding those projevts to ransom in order to raise funds. It really is that simple.

He has the option of seeking research funding within the normal channles. Has he done that?

If he has nad if he has been rejected, then his presentation was not good enough. To resort to other sources for his funding demaeans the project from the outset.

B. Dewhirst said...

As an actual doctoral candidate, let me say you have a very curious notion as to how research is funded in scientific fields.

I do hope you'll reread his actual post, as I've suggested.

Unknown said...


Where precisely is the non sequitur in my post?

It's easy to accuse, but less easy to demonstrate.

Please show it to me.

Unknown said...

dewhirst, You say that I have a "... very curious notion as to how research is funded in scientific fields".

Firstly, the soon to be Dr Carrier is most certainly not operating in a scientific field of research.

Yet similar conditions apply. You siply cannot seek funding from sources which seek a specific outcome. I've been through this mill beore. Twice. Colleagues have been through funding many many times. To do it this way is highly highly irregular. The outcome is presupposed. If that's the way you got funding for your studies, then air play to you, but I will treat the outcome of this in the same way that I would treat a paid-for study coming from Answers in Genesis. It will not be worth the paper its written on.

Carrier needs to maintain his independence if he wishes to have an authoritative voice. It's really that simple.

B. Dewhirst said...

Outcomes are often presupposed, though Carrier has explicitly stated he is open to new evidence. The outcome is presupposed, not predetermined.

For example, I had a rough idea what the outcome of my Ph.D thesis was.

As for whether the modern scientific method is historical or not... I see you haven't read Carrier's book, which makes it very clear that there are methodological similarities. Jared Diamond, too, makes this comparison.

Authority comes from evidence, including an examination of counter-factual evidence.

Incidentally... you don't seem to think that the prejudices of grant-writing agencies have any impact at all on the outcomes of research. You ought to be re-examining that blindspot of your own. There -are- no sources of funding which have zero expectations on the researcher... however, research continues because these are acknowledged and because evidence reigns.

I had the unpleasant experience of writing a Masters thesis which contradicted the desired results of some of those who were funding it. I went in expecting to find one thing, examined the evidence, and found another.

AIGBusted said...

Perhaps you should run ads on your blog. That could help rake in some change as you get a lot of views.

DFB said...

Niall, some of the the non-sequiturs are:

1) RC is an atheist, therefore his readership is primarily atheist. This doesn't follow. It may be true, I guess, but it doesn't follow. Are there no Christians who would like to see this research? Are there no Christians who read this blog? Has Richard forbidden them from contributing?
2) Atheists don't worship Jesus, therefore they have some desire for him to be mythical. This also does not follow. I don't think I'll be bowing down before Him if Richard uncovers some long-lost autobiography, but it would be really fucking interesting, no?
3) Funding for a project came from atheists, therefore the researcher is inclined toward atheistic conclusions (as if there were an atheistic conclusion in the present case). This also does not follow. Even if it did, the only people from whom to get funding would be people who are not Christian and also not non-Christian. Everybody else has an agenda, according to you. I don't see too many of those around, do you?

Thanks for asking.

Ben said...

To anyone listening,

I opened up the invitation to anyone on my blog (infidel or not) who wanted to see the argument advanced. And I was also under the impression this was a "free will" offering regardless of the actual conclusion of the book. I trust that Carrier will not be selling out and in my mind, I'm paying for clarity of thought on the issue either way. I know Carrier will deliver that. Perhaps the academic community, regardless, will totally rip it a new one. It's called risk. Even killing the mythicist position completely would be a step forward and Richard can have my hundred dollars either way (I guess I don't speak for the more heavy weight contributers). Actually stomping the mythicist position into the ground would make my job easier since then I wouldn't have to keep an open door to a position that runs counter to the academic consensus. That's just pain in the arse PR.


Unknown said...


I am aware of Richard's audience; I'm an atheist myself.

My point is the basis for this book as expressed in the blog. It opens him to the accusation that the book is being written to order for that audience. The topic of the book is an important one, and a convincing advancement of the mythicist case is the sort of thing which becomes a career highlight. It would seem to me to be a shame i impatience produced a ook which is not as good as Richard's career or the subject itself deserves.

And, yes, the previous post indicates to me that he risks selling his academic neutrality. A few people have said that Richard is an atheist. Fine. The question is whether he is a historian who happens to be an atheist or the other way round. There's no conflict between the two positions of being a historian and an atheist; but a change of emphasis could undermine the solid achievments to date in his career.

I'd hate to see that happen.

Yewtree said...

I'd be willing to donate, in pursuit of truth.

Interestingly, a Unitarian called Bill darlison has written a book suggesting that Jesus didn't exist, and that the whole thing was an allegorical myth representing an initiatory experience centred on the Zodiac.

Yewtree said...

Have you seen PledgeBank?

Would be a good way to publicise this.

Yewtree said...

Regarding the debate about whether this method of funding makes the outcome of the book less reliably neutral, maybe all the contributors should state that they don't mind whether Jesus existed or not, because even if he did, they still don't believe he was God (this is logical, because they don't believe in God, and if you don't believe in God, then whether or not Jesus existed is theologically irrelevant, though historically interesting).

If Jesus existed, it sounds as if he was a great spiritual teacher (insofar as his ideas are in harmony with those of other great spiritual teachers) but that doesn't mean the doctrinal statements made by Christians about him are true.

Unknown said...

That sort of non-condition could easily be viewed as a type of pro forma thing, though.

Oh well, I've had my say qnd I hope that he thinks about it. It would be unseemly to continue to press a point which is already made. Maybe he should consult colleagues about whether there really is a possibility of risk to his name.

Ben said...

There are a number of well defended naturalistic explanations undermining Christianity out there (for example, in "The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave."). We don't really need this one necessarily, but if there's a good argument to be made for it, why not have at it? How many more probable alternatives to orthodox supernatural historicity do we need before "bias" really isn't that relevant?

Desperation and bias are in the eyes of the beholder:

"You better be a total hack, Carrier, or else we'll have to fall back on...on...on...half a dozen other perfectly viable naturalistic options!"

Well, if it really is some academic faux pa that I don't know about, so be it. I'll leave that to Carrier to decide for himself.


Abyss of Silence said...

Oh please, people.

I would love to see anyone try to sway Richard away from where the evidence points him.

Can't be done, now matter how much money you might throw at him.

My opinion may be biased but it's also the best informed on the subject of Richard's integrity.

Ben said...

Haha. Too bad his critics won't listen to his wife either.

Richard Carrier said...

Niall: If you come from a family of academics, you must come from a strange ivory tower world divorced from modern reality.

Contrary to your claims, most research, even in history, is funded by charities, grants, think-tanks, and universities. My taking a research grant to that end is not only typical, but is rather what ought to happen more often than it does, rather than letting good work go undone because we expect poor people to somehow act like rich people by supporting their own independent research on their own dime. If that's how you expect atheists to act, atheism is doomed. Because the Christians are outspending us hand over fist.

People are paying me for an honest, informed examination of the case, wherever it leads, because of my qualifications in the field and my proven balance and lack of bias in this issue (since it doesn't matter to me whether Jesus existed or not, it only matters to me what the truth is). This is what I did when I reviewed Doherty, with whom I still have as much disagreement as agreement, and such honest independence is what people expect from me.

But if anyone who is donating thinks they are buying a propaganda piece, I agree they should withdraw their pledges. But I don't think anyone who has pledged is expecting that. All of them want to see where the evidence leads, and want someone qualified and unbiased who can find out for them, no matter how it turns out, and lay the case out objectively. I have explicitly offered nothing else.

Indeed, since I am making no promises at all but that, the funding I am seeking is actually less implicative of bias than standard granting agencies, since my funding source can't control the result of the product by withdrawing funds. Though I will give all donors a chance to weigh in on a draft before publication, I have explicitly said I will only consider remarks that are valid. They will not get to rewrite the text.

Everyone pledging knows this. And anyone who "researches" the book's funding source will have to face the same facts: no money I was given will have had any effect at all on the specific contents or thesis of the book. So how can the funding source matter to the merits of what the book will argue? Anyone attempting to make such a connection will only make themselves look like an idiot.

As to how the book will be perceived, it will be "denounced" by anyone who doesn't like its conclusions anyway, no matter who wrote it or how it was funded, so the fact that it was funded by atheists is not going to matter. As long as I present the work competently and rigorously, and an academic press accepts it, the only legitimate response will be to address its facts and argument, not resort to lame genetic fallacies.

I do find it amusing, though, that you actually imply as a criticism of my financial abilities that my debt is so low for a Ph.D. student. Isn't that rather evidence of my competence and frugality? Most of my years were actually paid by fellowships (which is not exactly common), and those that weren't were paid by projects like this (yes, I've already been paid thousands of dollars to produce written works for the atheist community, as I said in my blog from the start, and no one but you seems to have had a problem with that), and loans. I'm quite lucky to have now so few of the latter, but we are nevertheless so poor that their monthly payment is a serious hurt.

I find it more amusing, though, that you think the immense labor of organizing and fact-checking and writing-up and publishing my research is somehow something I should do for free. While I all but starve. You call my refusal to do this "holding my work to ransom." What, are you a communist or something? Yet even Marx would expect the government to pay me. You want me to work for nothing. Sorry, I have to work. And if I can't make money doing this, my time will have to earn income doing something else instead. That's not holding my research to ransom. It's called earning a living.

But most amusing of all, you criticize me for admitting my completion research could change my mind (and thus, from the get go, I have not promised any particular result to donors but admitted it could go either way, although at this point in my research I find that unlikely), and then you criticize me for "declaring my results before seeking funding." You can't have it both ways. So which is it? And how can I win, if no matter which I do you will pooh pooh it? I'll not try the impossible. I'll just please my rational fans instead.

Contrary to your misreading of the situation (or deliberate misportrayal?), the funding I am asking is not for something I haven't already researched. It's for fact-checking to conclusion what I have already researched, and then organizing and presenting it as a book, in a fashion that will have scholarly merit and be of considerable use to both sides of the debate. And yet I am not assuming only one conclusion is possible. I may yet stumble on something that changes the picture (either somewhat or greatly). But only if there is such a something, and it's available for me to find. Either way, my donors will get the truth, and I'm certain that's all they are paying for.

Otherwise, if the religious want to avoid facing the evidence and argument by dismissing it all as atheist-funded propaganda, that only betrays their irrationality, not the value of my work.

BTW, DFB was actually right: some of the donors who have pledged money to my project are Christians (I won't and wouldn't ask of what persuasion).

Richard Carrier said...

Status of the Pledge Drive: I have arranged a charity who will broker the grant (so donors who want will be able to claim a tax deduction). I will inform all pledged donors of the details in a week or two.

Nearly 30 people have met Pikeman's challenge. Nearly 40 (in total) have pledged at least $100, though, so perhaps Pikeman will expand his pledge to include them?

Total pledges are around $15,000, so very close. Some have said they can double their pledges, and if so, that might get me there, especially if a few others join in.

I'll make a decision next week and let everyone know what's happening. Either way, I thank everyone for their support, and for taking the time to email me with their pledges, and I'm very impressed at how strong this support has been, and how far and wide--with pledges coming in from around the world.

Unknown said...

"Ivory tower"? C'mon, you're better than that, surely.

In any case, the "ivory tower" that I saw was filled with people making formal funding applications for projects. I'm sure that you know the routine.

Sadly, making such applications requires lots of work up front and plenty of detail regarding sources, methodology, materials needed, interpretation of potential outcomes etc. OK, the latter is more usual in scientific circles, but I've no doubt that there are similar requirments for historical research.

You seem to (deliberately?) misinterpret my points - not least the point about your existing level of debt. The reason that I have mentioned it is to emphasise that it *is* a low level of debt for so many years of study. It is, indeed, a tribute to your management of funds.

Regarding the work you wish to do, it remains my point that doing it the way you propose to do undermines it from birth.

BUt that's your choice. I hope that the book that emerges is as good as it deserves to be and that it stands the test of time.

Yewtree said...

Richard, you might be interested in this book, though its premise seems rather 'old hat' - I'm sure i heard that theory years ago....

Pikemann Urge said...

Richard, my pledge is valid as long as you hit close enough to the $20K mark, regardless of how many people meet the $250 challenge. :-)

Oh, and I'd like to know what typeface you're going to use if this work gets accepted for publication. I don't want to dictate it but I want my opinion counted as to whether it's suitable or not.

I'm currently reading D. M. Murdock's latest work, Who Was Jesus? and enjoying it, but her choice of typeface is appalling. And I expect a decent, full colour front cover, too!

Hell, some of us who have some kind of good judgement in this kind of thing can get together and design the cover for you if you like. Though I'd guess you would want to do that yourself.

Landon said...

Richard wrote: "I've already been paid thousands of dollars to produce written works for the atheist community, as I said in my blog from the start, and no one but you seems to have had a problem with that"

*Ahem* J.P. Holding seemed to make a big fuss about it, but I think that was because he was upset about you refuting his arguments :)

RantingAndRavingAngryPharmacist said...

I agree that there is nothing wrong with soliciting funds for a research project. How is this any different than drug companies sponsoring their own drug studies? Sure, in a perfect world, sponsors would have no agenda, but this ain't a perfect world.

I have no money to contribute, but I will buy your book if/when you do write it.

I'd like to see an up-to-date deep book on the topic. GA Wells did a interesting job with Did Jesus Exist.

David Empey said...

Hey, if sponsors get to make requests, I hereby request that you use footnotes, rather than annoying endnotes or even more annoying chapternotes.

Dave Empey

Richard Carrier said...

Niall: Thanks for the clarification. I'm sorry I mistook your meaning. I still do disagree, but as you seem to agree near the end, it will ultimately come down to the worth of the book on its own terms.

Yvonne: Thanks for the reference. A lot of people don't know that, unlike hack wanna-be historian James Cameron, director Paul Verhoeven actually knows biblical Greek and even some critics of his participation in the Jesus Seminar have remarked on the quality of his notes on select Gospel passages (although he has no degree in any relevant field--but he does have, also unusually for a Hollywood director, a Ph.D. in mathematics). However, the proposed book doesn't sound like anything worth the reading (however good or bad it may be).

Pikemann Urge said... Oh, and I'd like to know what typeface you're going to use if this work gets accepted for publication. I don't want to dictate it but I want my opinion counted as to whether it's suitable or not.

Since I'll be seeking an academic publisher, they will probably make that decision (along with other related formatting decisions), and it will undoubtedly be a good choice (I've yet to see an academic press product whose typeface I didn't like). I might not have any say in the matter, but if I do, email me with your concerns and I can do what I can to ensure they make a suitable choice (and with your email I can write you when the time comes with a sample title, something published and easily available whose typeface will be just like mine, assuming again that I have any choice and they tell me this information).

Like you, I just received Murdock's book, too, which I am surprised to see looks better (in terms of tone and scholarship) than her more infamous past work, but you needn't worry about mine emulating hers in typeface or cover quality: she self-published (in fact even more so than I did: she owns the publisher!). I'm unhappy with layout and other cosmetic issues with my book Sense and Goodness without God, too. But a major publisher will outshine both, so I'm not worried. All I have to do is produce a book good enough to merit their reception, which is something I know I can do.

As far as what to put on the cover of my book, I am in fact very interested in any ideas or help you or other donors and fans are willing to provide. It's a long way off, and the publisher will have more say ultimately in what goes on the cover and how, but it's worth thinking about, and suggestions will always be welcome. I have no ideas myself. I'm having a hard enough time figuring on a title (all the good ones are taken, e.g. Did Jesus Exist?, and I don't want something an Academic Press won't find respectably acceptable, e.g. Ain't No Jesus Some Dudes Say). Right now the working title is On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. Any better suggestions anyone has, send them my way.

Dave Empey said... Hey, if sponsors get to make requests, I hereby request that you use footnotes, rather than annoying endnotes or even more annoying chapternotes.

Yes, sponsors do get to make requests. No guarantee any will be heeded, but all will be considered, and I'm likely to fulfill many. I have a similar beef I think you may have, with endnotes in the back of a book sorted by chapter, which require you to keep wobbling around two bookmarks to read the damned thing, flipping back and forth all the time. It gets worse when they do this and use the CMS method of putting all full references in a bibliography and only including names and years in the notes (so then you need three book marks!).

I understand why publishers are increasingly insisting on this (and it is the publishers, not the authors, who are responsible for this trend), because they are kowtowing to their marketing departments who keep telling them books with footnotes don't sell (so put them in the back and pretend they don't exist and the stupid people will buy the book while the smart people can still look at the notes--albeit only by being inconvenienced in order to accommodate the stupid people who won't buy books with notes in them).

I'll do what I can to push for footnotes, but I'm not optimistic. The publisher (yes, even academic publishers of the most respectable kind) will very likely insist on endnotes.


For Everyone:

The drive is now at 40 pledged donors altogether (with pledges between $100 and $1000), for a total over $15,000. I will make one last request and see if I can get that up to at least $1750. If I can find employers willing to pay that much, I will consider it as meeting my goal well enough and take the donations and do the project (starting next week).

I have also procured a charity to broker the grant (details will be announced later), so donors will be able to deduct their donations on their American tax returns (which may inspire some to raise their pledge).

So we'll know which way things go by next week.

Richard Carrier said...

...that's "if I can get that up to at least $17,500," of course (typo!).

Richard Carrier said...

To all who have pledged to join in employing me to write a book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ:

Pledges are approaching $17,000, which is enough to justify undertaking the project. So I have decided to take on the project and will officially begin on May 15 (though I'm prepping my calendar and research notes and schedule now).

So all pledgers: please now donate (instructions below).

There are over 40 of you in all. I am very moved and thankful that so many came together to offer so much to support my work, and I will certainly work hard to produce something valuable that you can be proud of.

Atheists United has agreed to broker a charitable grant to fund my research and writing.

You may now donate to my project through them, and claim your donation as a charitable deduction on your income tax (AU is an IRS-recognized nonprofit). How to do this will be explained below. All donations should be sent this way, even if you (like me) earn too little to benefit from claiming charitable deductions, since it will still be more convenient for all if everything goes through one channel.

Basic Procedure:

1. Make your donation by one of the means explained below.

2. Then email me (at with:

(a) the details of when and how and how much you donated, so I can check records with what AU receives and ensure every donation gets properly flagged;

(b) whether you want to be thanked in the book as a funder of the project, and under what name;

(c) whether you can receive a large email attachment (a PDF under 3 Mb) and want to receive an advanced draft of the book near its completion so you can comment and make suggestions for the final draft (I make no promises whether I will heed any of these, but there is a good chance many will be helpful), and what email address I should send this to when the time comes;

(d) and finally, your regular postal address, if you donated at least $250 and want two free copies of the book when it is published (five free copies if you donated at least $500); note that if you want fewer just let me know and I'll mail the balance of books to whomever else whose address you provide, or to scholars I think may want to review the book in print; also, if you want any of your copies personally signed by me, please mention it.

How to Donate:

Send your donation along with a filled-out donation form (both electronic and paper methods are available) to Atheists United, by one of the many means they provide here:

You do not have to be a member or become a member of AU (and if you do, you have to submit membership dues separately from any other donations anyway). Follow the instructions and use the forms provided at the link above for any method of donating you prefer (including personal check), and do the following to ensure your donation gets properly earmarked for my research grant:

1. Add 16 cents to your pledged amount (so instead of $1000 make it $1000.16). This will flag all donations as intended for my project.

2. Also write "For Carrier Research Grant" in the donation form line labeled "If applying for family membership, please list your other family members' names" (I know that label has nothing to do, but AU staff know it will be used specially for this project), or in the "Comments" section if paying by PayPal.

3. If sending a personal check it may also be handy to write this also in the memo line of your check (both for your convenience and AU's).


Some donors have been having problems with the credit card system at AU, thought not everyone has, so I'm not sure what the problem is. If that happens, you can use PayPal instead (though I believe they take a cut), or just mail in your credit card donation the old fashioned way (just fill out and print the regular mail-in form, which has spaces for credit card info, signature, etc., and put that in the regular post just as if sending a check).

AU will send you a receipt, which you should keep with your tax records.

PayPal donors: Other methods are preferable since PayPal typically takes a percentage, but you may donate through AU by PayPal (as their website explains), in which case you should print the PayPal payment confirmation page and use that as a back-up receipt for your tax records. On the PayPal screen select "Donate" rather than "Join" and include "For Carrier Research Grant" in the "Comments" box.

Donors Outside the U.S. and others who may be interested: For those who are not registered at PayPal, please note that PayPal accounts are free and easy to register for (at, although (as noted above) PayPal should be a last choice method of sending money. But once you are registered, and logged in, all you need is the email address of another registered recipient and you can send money to anyone anywhere in the world, using any credit card, most bank cards, and many other methods (though with greater difficulty, as the PayPal site will explain). PayPal will do currency exchanges but you'll have to figure out how (since I've never used that feature).

Thank you all again for making this possible and keeping me employed!

B. Dewhirst said...

I've gotten the following error message wrt. your email address:

Technical details of temporary failure:
TEMP_FAILURE: Gmail tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. The error that the other server returned was: 452 452 4.4.5 Insufficient disk space; try again later. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. Thanks for your continued support. (state 13)

Unknown said...

Well, the very very best of luck with your research and with your book.

It's a seriously important firld (as I know you know), and I sincerely hope that your researh will withstand the most rigorous critical commentary. It would be a great boon to the field to have a very strong piece of academic research which supports the mythicist position.

I eagerly anticipate the outcome, but will wait until publication to fill your coffers (hey, you'll need money then as well!).

I just wish that it had a better genesis (!), but I won't bang that drum any more and I repeat my genuine hope that it will be a big contribution to the literature as well as being a financial success to boot.

Richard Carrier said...

B. Dewhirst: I'm sorry to hear about your email return. I would need the full headers of the returned email to diagnose the problem, since rcarrier goes through a reflecting server at Infidels, and then to a Comcast server, whereas rcc20 goes to a Columbia server, and I can't tell from what you quote which one bounced your email.

In any case, it has to be a server problem, but I download all my email daily without a hitch, and there is no apparent problem with available disk space at any of the servers that could be involved. So I can't guess what happened to your email.

B. Dewhirst said...

Whatever the problem was, it seems to have resolved itself-- I tried again, and you sent a confirmation.

-- Brian

Ben said...


I thought I'd bring it to your attention that Holding is saying that what you "heard" is "incorrect" and that in fact he gets by "on a shoestring all these years."

You believe him? Was your source credible or perhaps just some hearsay?

Richard Carrier said...

Agnostics_R_Us said... The link is gone, but I don't know what counts as a shoestring. If I only earned $25,000 a year in fan donations that would be a shoestring to me, and Holding once admitted he makes at least $16,000 that way (see How's Business) and is regularly shooting for 25k (since 2002). I suspect his fan income falls between those two values every year, if it isn't in fact more. Holding keeps editing or removing what he said whenever anyone notices such details. He does not have a reputation for being honest (peruse Tektonics Exposed for examples of what I mean), so I can't exactly trust his own account of things.

But his evident tendency is to downplay rather than exaggerate his donation-based income, so I don't doubt that he has made tens of thousands over the years. I also don't doubt that his standard of living is very modest. He may be a jerk and a hack, but he's not a con man, and I see nothing wrong in his seeking fan support for his livelihood, contrary to some of his critics (as linked above).

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... Can you give your readers a brief update as to where you are on the Jesus book?

Plugging away. I have twelve chapters (and that will be the final count, plus an appendix) with so many notes I'm actually having to decide what to cut. I'm double checking facts at this point and collecting references (I've even discovered a great deal I hadn't known before, which will all make the book much better).

When I've completed my note collections (and selected what to include) I'll write the chapters in fluid prose (which is actually the easy part). Then I have to reread what I've written and check everything for clarity and accuracy and completeness. Then I'll send drafts out to donors who wanted a chance to comment and advise.

I'll blog on the status of all this next month.

Running Writer said...

Hi Richard,
An update would be nice.
Jacob Aliet

Richard Carrier said...


Yes, donors will get a formal private update by email in a couple of weeks. For public updates, you need to watch my blog. I'll post them as new entries (e.g. Important News, item 4), not as comments here.

Unknown said...

Has this book been released yet? Where can I get it?

Unknown said...

Another question or two:

Has the book been published by and academic publisher? If not, why not?

Additionally, if it hasn't been published by an academic publisher where has the money gone? There was $17k at one stage.

Don't tell me that it was spent on a vanity publication on Lulu. Lulu is not an academic publisher.

Richard Carrier said...

Niall, the blog entry you are responding to already explains where the money went: it paid off my student loans (leaving only a few k left over, which I'm still paying down). And I know you know this, because you remarked upon it before, in this very thread. So why are you asking, as if you didn't know?

The original blog entry (above) also said I will seek an academic press. So why, again, are you asking a question you already know the answer to?

As to its status, I'll be blogging this soon, but in short, I'm doing it in two volumes and volume one is completed, in peer review, and I'm currently shopping for a publisher. I have a list of ten academic presses. I'll work my way down the list if the first doesn't accept (as is typically the case for all academic works, it may have to pass by several publishers before being accepted, since they all have limited budgets and changing plans for what subjects they intend to publish contributions to).