Friday, June 23, 2017

Incurious Apostates

This past week I issued an updated version of part of my past book on the so-called "Jesus Myth" (the thesis that Jesus did not exist, not even as a person on Earth). The focus of the update was references to Jesus in extra-biblical sources like Josephus and Tacitus. 

The update reminded me that one of my chief gauges for whether an atheist is worth any serious attention is their treatment of the reference to Jesus in Tacitus' Annals. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that my discussion of this reference is the most thorough out there from the perspective of debunking the Jesus Myth thesis. I pulled in works of multiple Tacitean scholars (Syme, Ash, Mendell, etc.) as well as Christian scholars, and I scoured atheist works for any and all arguments I could find. I also keep up on any new ones, if any pop up.

So, whenever I pick up a book by an atheist that I need to review, I immediately turn to the index (or use an online search method) to see what they have to say about Tacitus. That gives me an idea whether to expect a volume worthy of at least some respect, or something better suited for rolling on to a cardboard tube.

By way of example, John Loftus has been giving props to an atheist work by an author named David Chumney, titled Jesus Eclipsed. Now on first glance, this Chumney doesn't seem like your garden variety fundy atheist. Yes, he's an apostate minister, but he was a minister in the Presbyterian church for 30 years. So in that time, you'd think he'd have picked up some notion of how to do things the right way. Right?


 Here's a screenshot of his ENTIRE analysis of Tacitus' reference to Jesus, plus a list of the sources he uses. (It does not include background information Chumney provides, like the quote itself.)

To say this was a pathetic treatment of the issue would be too kind. The two arguments Chumney gives -- that Jesus is called "Christ" and not "Jesus," and that Tacitus based his report on what Christians said -- have been repeatedly debunked; France's assessment is NOT shared by anyone with any level of expertise on Tacitus; Tacitean scholars do NOT regard Tacitus as someone who would be that blase' about his sourcework. Chumney has no sources from Tacitean scholarship. This is a botch job of the worst order, but it is apparently the best Chumney can do on this subject.

So, why is that the case? Is Chumney lazy? Ignorant? Incompetent? A victim of confirmation bias? All of the above? I have no idea, but I do know that anyone who descends to this level of incompetence does not deserve serious attention. Chumney and other atheists/apostates grind out this sort of stuff like clockwork, and in turn it is vacuously promoted by the likes of Loftus. Why? Do they not know or care how this makes them look? Do they not realize that it makes them look as incurious and as uneducated as the Christians they so happily depict as 24/7 Homer Simpson headslap performers?

Maybe it doesn't matter to them as long as they can continue sell their books to each other and sit in their ever-growing circle of mutual high fivers.

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