|Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism
Carrier's complete philosophy of life, defended and explained. Includes extensive discussions of moral truth as well as the nature and origin of the universe and the human mind.
Now available at Amazon.
|Licona vs. Carrier:
On the Resurrection
of Jesus Christ
Recorded at UCLA before a crowd of half a thousand. Carrier defends his latest theories of how Christianity began, with slide shows and new evidence from the Bible.
Now available on DVD.
[ Author Bio ]
Table of Contents
A rebuttal to any form of Pascal's Wager, a rebuttal which requires theists to abandon several of their cherished beliefs about god and/or heaven if they are to escape its logic, demonstrating in the process that unbelief may be the safest bet after all.
In her critique of Richard Carrier's "The End of Pascal's Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven", Amy Sayers offers several objections to Carrier's conclusion that belief in God is not the best bet on any form of Pascal's wager. However, as Richard Carrier proceeds to show in this rebuttal, Sayers only demonstrates that she does not understand either the logic of Pascal's Wager or Carrier's actual argument.
From Taoist to Infidel (2001)
Richard Carrier describes his own spiritual journey, how he came from a background as a Taoist in a Christian country to become a fighter for secular humanism and metaphysical naturalism.
In this online debate between Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick, Carrier opens with a discussion of method followed by 5 arguments for naturalism and 2 arguments against theism, while Wanchick opens with 9 arguments for theism. In the first rebuttals, each debater criticizes the arguments offered by the other in the opening statements. In the second rebuttals, each debater defends their opening arguments against the criticisms of the other in the first rebuttals. Both closing statements focus on the purported deficiencies of the other debater's overall case.
Our Meaning in Life (2001)
Isn't life pointless? Why should the atheist bother? It's all just going to end anyway, right? How does the atheist's life have meaning? My answers lie here.
The most famous and controversial atheist and secular humanist in African history (if not the only one of any real renown) was the Nigerian nationalist Tai Solarin, who sadly passed away at the age of 72 in 1994. This is a story of his life, ideas, and accomplishments, which are a lesson to us all.
Quick and simple answers to common questions about atheism.
Why I Am Not a Christian (2006)
In this explanation of why he is not a Christian, Richard Carrier outlines the top four reasons why he rejects Christianity: God's silence, God's inactivity, lack of evidence, and the overt conflict between discovered reality and Christian theory. Though a lay exposition geared at a general audience, the essay appeals to a variety of atheistic arguments, including the argument from religious confusion, an evidential argument from evil, divine hiddenness, the argument from biological evolution, and the argument from physical minds. In an interesting twist on the argument from design, Carrier turns the fine-tuning argument on its head, noting that several features of our universe--features predicted by naturalism--are highly improbable if Christian theism is true.
Brunner's Gottkoenigs & the Nativity of Jesus: A Brief Communication (2004) (Off Site)
Discusses the relationship between the famous Luxor Inscription (from ancient Pharaonic Egypt) and the Nativity Story of the Gospels. Finds that there is no significant connection.
Comprehensive Bibliography on Skeptical Thought in the Ancient World (1998) [ Index ]
A huge bibliography of material pertaining to skeptical thought in the ancient Greek and Roman world. Also included are sections on modern scientific studies of belief and doubt, as well as some medieval and renaissance references, but the bulk of material relates to the ancient period.
The Date of the Nativity in Luke, 6th edition (2011)
It is indisputable that Luke dates the birth of Jesus to 6 A.D. It is also indisputable that Matthew dates the birth of Jesus before 4 B.C., perhaps around 6 B.C. This is an irreconcilable contradiction, thoroughly demonstrated here.
This is a critical review of "The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus," by Earl Doherty. (Canadian Humanist Publications: Ottawa, Canada; revised edition, 2000).
Surveys the history of the formation of the New Testament canon, summarizing the work of Bruce Metzger.
History of Ancient Epistemology (2000) [ Index ]
An ongoing project, of which only the first installment is now available, completing a summary of the rise and development of philosophy, and in particular epistemology (the theory of knowledge, the groundwork for a scientific method) from its beginnings to the end of the 4th century C.E.
Demonstrates from sources that in the time of Jesus the Jews had the full practice of their own laws, and that these laws required that Jesus be taken down Friday, that he be placed in a temporary tomb for the Sabbath, and that he be buried Saturday night in a special graveyard reserved for criminals. Therefore, Jesus could not have been in the tomb of Joseph Sunday morning. Also, a "third day" motif in Jewish law and exegesis is examined that may relate to early Christian resurrection belief.
Was the burial of Jesus a temporary one, because of time constraints? (October 3, 2002) by Glenn Miller (Off Site)
Miller rebuts the hypothesis that Jesus' body was only temporarily stored in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. [Note: Carrier's 2001 essay was updated in May 2002 to address Miller's significant points.]
Carrier explains some of the essential reasons to distrust the information in The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Kersey Graves.
Carrier argues that when we examine the background of the time and place in which the gospels were written, we discover that "these were times replete with kooks and quacks of all varieties, from sincere lunatics to ingenious frauds, and there was no end to the fools and loons who would follow and praise them."
Luke and Josephus (2000)
Summarizes Steve Mason's argument that Luke drew material from the works of Josephus.
Musonius Rufus was a 1st century Stoic philosopher, greatly admired by the pagan Romans and Greeks as one of the two best men in history (the other being Socrates). His story and philosophy do not get much attention because so little has survived of his teachings, and this essay attempts to correct that balance by giving him the notice he is due. I have often remarked how this man's wisdom and values were more humane and progressive than those put into the mouth of Jesus, and though he is not without flaw, he is a better man, and this should cause us to question how Jesus can be at all divine, if this mere mortal was his better.
In her critique of Richard Carrier's "On Musonius Rufus: A Brief Essay," Amy Sayers' misunderstands several of Carrier's actual points, such as those concerning the ambiguity of passages attributed to Jesus or the brutish nature of his parables. In this rebuttal, Richard Carrier clarifies his earlier comments, explaining various instances where Sayers misses the point of his original arguments that Musonius Rufus was a better person than the biblical Jesus.
The Nazareth Inscription (2000)
Several authors have advanced a particular inscription as early evidence of the empty tomb story in the Gospels. Upon close examination, however, it provides no evidence for Christianity or its claim of an empty tomb: it contains no new or unusual laws regarding grave robbing, the decree itself is not unique, it has no references or direct links to Christianity of any kind, it's date is most likely pre-Christian, its origin is not likely to be Nazareth, and its contents are not explainable even as a muddled imperial reaction to the theft of Jesus' body.
Osiris and Pagan Resurrection Myths: Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange (2002) (Off Site)
As a degreed expert on ancient history, Carrier assesses the ongoing debate between Mark McFall and Farrell Till regarding the influence of the pagan resurrection myths on Christianity and finds that both are right--and wrong.
Richard Carrier opens this debate by defending the proposition that the Apostle Paul, our earliest source for original Christian beliefs, believed that God supplied Jesus (as he will supply us) with a new body at his resurrection, rather than raising up the body that was buried (contrary to the evolved versions of Christianity we find today). To the contrary, Jake O'Connell argues that first-century Jewish sources always use the term "resurrection" to denote a "one-body" view of resurrection, and thus Paul is likely using it to mean the same. In the end, O'Connell concludes that there are a few instances in which Paul unambiguously affirms a one-body theory, while there are none in which he clearly affirms a two-body view. By contrast, Carrier ultimately concludes that much of scholarship, as well as Paul's own words (explicitly and implicitly), supports the notion that Paul held a two-body view of resurrection.
Carrier summarizes the debate over whether Isaiah in 7:14 meant 'virgin' in what is taken by Christians to be a prophecy of the messiah's birth. He concludes that whatever the case Isaiah probably did not mean a virgin would conceive in any supernatural sense.
Review of "In Defense of Miracles" (1999, 2005) [ Index ]
Review of the latest grand opus of contemporary apologists: a comprehensive case for Christian miracles with contributions from fourteen Christians and two skeptics. Well-composed, with material that all critics should read, but it suffers from major faults, especially that ubiquitous fault of almost all apologists: historical incompetence. Carrier critiques almost every chapter in detail, but also provides both short and long summary reviews of the entire book.
This is an incredible book that must be read by everyone with an interest in Christianity. Dennis MacDonald's shocking thesis is that the Gospel of Mark is a deliberate and conscious anti-epic, an inversion of the Greek "Bible" of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which in a sense "updates" and Judaizes the outdated heroic values presented by Homer, in the figure of a new hero, Jesus (whose name, of course, means "Savior"). His evidence is surprisingly solid and pervasive, and the implications for the historicity of Christ are profound.
In "Tacitus' Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the Christiani and the Nazoreans," Eric Laupot argues that a passage in Sulpicius Severus actually comes from the lost section of the Histories by Tacitus, and is therefore a very early testimony that the original "Christians" represented a major Jewish rebel movement that participated in the War of 66-70 A.D. and used the Temple as its base of operations. Carrier points out several flaws in Laupot's argument, noting that alternative explanations of the facts are far more probable than Laupot's account given current historical knowledge.
According to Eric Laupot, Richard Carrier's alleged "rebuttal" to his first Vigiliae Christianae article published in 2000 is extremely muddled, as Laupot never referred to the Christiani as Christians or implied that they were Christians. Instead, Laupot has always maintained that the Christiani were Jewish Zealots or anti-Roman guerrillas (as opposed to pacifistic Christians)—an opinion ironically shared by Carrier himself! Carrier and Laupot therefore arrive at similar conclusions by different routes, a circumstance of which Carrier appears to be entirely oblivious. Carrier thus does not appear to understand Laupot's work. Moreover, top Latinists since 1866 have agreed that, contra Carrier, Fragment 2 belongs to Tacitus.
Some Godless Comments on McFall's Review of On Jesus (2003) (Off Site)
Carrier remarks on five conceptual and historical issues raised by Mark McFall in his review of On Jesus by Douglas Groothuis. Claims discussed are: that Jesus should be reckoned a philosopher; that "Socrates and Jesus are on equal ground" in regards source reliability; that Jesus had "a strong concern for logic and argument"; that "at that time, only a handful of philosophers...stood on the threshold of reforming patriarchal society" in respect to women; and that "ultimately skeptical rejection of Jesus' resurrection hinges more on one's personal philosophical outlook than it does on evidential arguments of historical significance."
A Look at Carrier's Godless Comments in Review by Mark McFall (Off Site)
This is a rebuttal to Carrier's review of On Jesus. McFall argues that Jesus qualifies as a bona fide philosopher.
McFall's rebuttal seems to have largely misunderstood much of what I said, and relies on several fallacies or errors of fact. This essay responds in detail.
Thallus: An Analysis (1999)
A preliminary essay outlining important facts about Thallus (or Thallos), a pagan chronologer of unknown date who is occasionally mentioned in the works of Christian apologists, modern and ancient, as a 1st century pagan witness to the gospel tradition of a "darkness" at the death of Christ. Concludes that he either is not such a witness, or else wrote in the 2nd century.
"In response to remarks by Douglas Wilson in a debate with Ted Drange, I have composed two examples of how some Christians don't understand the importance of scholarship in truly understanding the New Testament, centering around 1 Timothy. The first concerns the abuse of ancient Greek. The second concerns ignorance of the usefulness of textual criticism."
Was Christianity Too Improbable to Be False? (2006) [ Index ]
Was the success of Christianity too improbable for Christianity to have been false? According to James Holding's "Impossible Faith," no one would have accepted early Christianity if it were not true. In particular, he offers seventeen hostile conditions, plus an additional critical assumption about the role of luck, that he claims would have made it impossible for Christianity to succeed--unless it was true. In this remarkably extensive chapter-by-chapter critique, Richard Carrier evaluates Holding's arguments in light of historical scholarship and identifies several troubling fallacies in Holding's reasoning.
Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story 6th ed. (2006) [ Index ]
There are many reasons that I am not a Christian. I am an atheist for reasons more fundamental than anything to do with particular religions, but the arguments in favor of the Christian creed as opposed to any other are ubiquitous and always center around the historical claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. As an historian with a good knowledge of Greek, I am now very qualified to make a professional judgement in the matter. This essay explains why I find the Resurrection to be an unconvincing argument for becoming Christian.
Julie's River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection (2005) by Robert Turkel (Off Site)
Turkel discusses an analogy used by some apologists to compare the resurrection of Jesus to the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar as well as skeptical critiques of that analogy, including Carrier's critique. Turkel contends that "the evidence for the Resurrection is as good as, or better than, that for Caesar crossing the Rubicon."
Against Carrier's argument in the Main Argument of Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story, James Holding claims (in "Julie's River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection") that we have as much evidence that Jesus rose from his grave as we have that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. There are numerous errors in Holding's argument. Carrier's rebuttal responds briefly to the most important issues. In the end, Carrier's claim remains unchallenged: we have more evidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon than we have that Jesus rose from the grave. Therefore, the claim that this resurrection is "as well attested" as the Rubicon crossing is still false.
In "No Miracles Today Implies None Then," a section of the "General Case for Insufficiency" of "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story," Richard Carrier develops an argument against the reliability of historical account of miracles. In response, Amy Sayers argues that negative analogies from the present to the past are logically invalid. But, as Carrier shows in this rebuttal, Sayers herself commits the fallacy of false generalization in arguing against negative analogies. Moreover, she incorrectly formulates Carrier's argument that the current absence of miracles implies none in the past--an argument which is deductively valid when formulated correctly.
This essay addresses William Lane Craig's argument to the effect that "tests" from Herodotus demonstrate that myths or legends (such as resurrection appearances or an empty tomb) cannot grow within a single generation. By misrepresenting a single source, Craig creates an empty argument out of whole cloth. Moreover, he never addresses (or else dismisses outright) rather basic questions about treating the Gospels as history.
Carrier offers his impressions of the Barker-Carrier vs. Corey-Rajabali team debate on the existence of God, assesses the technical merit of the debate, and sets the record straight with regard to some of the relevant facts.
Carrier registers his disappointment with both sides, concluding that nothing new or useful came out of this debate on the existence of God.
Carrier reviews the VHS tape of the debate between famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig and noted atheist activist Eddie Tabash. The subject was sweeping: Secular Humanism or Christianity - which is true? The conclusion was far from decisive. Lessons are to be learned from the mistakes made by both sides.
Carrier reviews a rare, formal, public debate involving a Muslim, molecular biologist Brother Hassanain Rajabali, a teacher at the Tawheed Institute, a Mulsim high school in Queens, New York, and his debate opponent, Dan Barker, a former evangelist, now Public Relations Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Subject of the debate: Does God Not Exist?"
Ethics and Values
Carrier refutes Moreland's claim that theism offers more and better reasons to live a moral life than atheism or secular humanism.
Is There A Secular Case Against Abortion? The Carrier-Roth Debate (2000) [ Index ]
Most arguments against abortion are based on religious belief. It is often assumed that pro-life advocates consider it immoral and campaign for its prohibition by law because of their commitment to religious doctrine. But is there a secular justification for the pro-life stance? Jennifer Roth argues yes. Richard Carrier argues no.
Also includes advice on how to treat theists in public online debate forums, added in 1999.
What an Atheist Ought to Stand For (1999, revised 2004)
"I enumerate the values that should be held by all atheists. If you want to know what my value system is based on, and what sort of moral standard I hold my life to, you should read this essay."
Faith and Reason
Award-winning essay examining the difference between faith in god and "faith" in reason.
"In C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (InterVarsity: 2003), Victor Reppert has contributed what is surely the most extensive defense of the so-called 'Argument from Reason' yet to appear in print. In this critique, I will point out what I believe are the most important conceptual flaws in his arguments, and explain in detail how his arguments are ineffective against my own personal worldview."
Text of a paper published in the Fall (1996) issue of Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines. Actually a reply to another author from a previous issue, this paper does explain many of Richard's views on spiritualism and the relationship of religion to reason.
Proving a Negative (1999)
The myth of "you can't prove a negative" circulates throughout the nontheist community, and it is good to dispell myths whenever we can. The real issue is the problem of induction, which is faced by both positive and negative claims. But there can still be a reasonable belief or unbelief even in what we can never know for certain.
Many Christians maintain that, in principle, atheists can never "prove the negative" that God does not exist. But atheists often regard this objection as a mere quibble, counterclaiming that the burden of proof rests solely upon the believer who has claimed knowledge of a supernatural being. In "Proving a Negative" Richard Carrier argues that proving the nonexistence of God is actually relatively easy, making passing appeals to the role of evidence in epistemology and the presumed incoherence of Christian theology. But in taking this position Carrier has assumed a substantial burden of proof, a burden that his arguments fail to meet.
In this response to Don McIntosh's "Transcending Proof," Richard Carrier explains how McIntosh does not actually address the logic or arguments that Carrier makes in his "Proving a Negative," and updates its logical structure to make the same point using Bayesian epistemology.
Science and Creationism
All too frequently we hear statistics being offered to "prove" that the odds against the origin of life are so great that we must posit a Creator to explain the event. This is a summary analysis of all known examples. Carrier writes, "Although I cover a wide range of sources, I am certain that I have not found all of them. If you ever encounter a statistic being cited from a source which is not discussed here, please let me know and I will investigate and expand this essay accordingly."
Lengthy critique of David Foster's creationist book The Philosophical Scientists. Many different sciences are discussed, especially physics, thermodynamics, biology, and evolution by natural selection. Slightly improved from 1998 edition of this same review.
Muslim Fundamentalists are fond of claiming that the Koran miraculously predicted the findings of modern science, and that all of its factual scientific claims are flawless. There are two important objections to this claim that I will make, one pointing to a general problem, the other a specific example of the failure of the claim.
This is a rebuttal of Rea's claim that naturalism "is without rational foundation." This essay shows that adopting the "research program" of basic empiricism is universally appealing, and since naturalism as a "worldview" follows from adopting basic empiricism and applying it to the facts of the world, naturalism has a rational foundation. Rea's conclusion that naturalism must abandon materialism and realism about material objects and other minds because naturalism cannot "discover" intrinsic modal properties is also disproved.
Entropy Explained (2003)
A survey of what entropy really is, and how it is often misunderstood or misused in theist literature.
This is a critical rebuttal to Mark Steiner's book The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem (1998). Steiner argues that naturalism appears to be false because nature is fundamentally mathematical. Carrier argues otherwise.
I Was a Big Bang Skeptic (2002)
Carrier explains his change of mind from doubting the Big Bang theory to believing that it is well supported and probably true. This has replaced his previous essay which was skeptical of Big Bang theory, "Was There a Big Bang? I Honestly Don't Know."
Yet another bogus claim about the Koran (this time, it predicted the speed of light!). The claim is analyzed and debunked.
Response to James Hannam's defense of the Fine Tuning Argument for a Creator. Lists and discusses several sweeping problems with even carefully-stated versions of the argument like Hannam's.
Response to a short series of exchanges on cosmological creationism which explains many of my views on the subject and exhibits what I see are paradigm examples of what is wrong with the thinking and methods of creationists. This essay is aimed at those creationists who are not beyond all reason, but who admit they may be wrong, and thus may yet notice their mistakes and learn from them, and who at any rate are genuinely open to honest debate.
In "Ten Things Wrong with Cosmological Creationism," Richard Carrier argues that if we try to explain the existence of the universe by positing God, we still leave the existence of God itself unexplained--invoking an additional, unnecessary entity without any explanatory benefit. But Paul Herrick resists this conclusion, arguing that theists have a reasonable reply to Carrier's argument. Moreover, this reply requires the existence of God, as it cannot be applied to any material object or collection of material objects. This, in turn, demonstrates that theism offers an explanatory advantage over scientific naturalism, collapsing a crucial premise of Carrier's argument.
This essay dispels many myths about the scientific mind, detailing what scientific methods really are, and how science really gets done, based on a scientific study revealing troubling levels of scientific illiteracy among college students and high school science teachers.
Antony Flew is one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century. He is now considering the possibility that there might be a God--sort of. What's going on? Carrier has had direct contact with Flew and tells us what's going on; it's certainly not, at least not yet, what some theists would like to think.
Exploration of the "myth" of the Columbine Martyr, along with apology.
A recent find, an ossuary (or bonebox) may well be evidence that Jesus existed. Carrier compares the facts and arguments, pro and con, and offers his expert opinion.
Bush Abandons the People (2000)
Bush campaigned on trusting the people, but after the Florida election results were contested he instead backed antiquated rules, Republican bureaucrats, and computer and mechanical error instead of defending the rights and interests of citizen voters, which does not bode well for his presidency. In the process I aim to show how rationalists should approach volatile political affairs like this, drawing conclusions from well-researched facts rather than hype, spin, and hearsay.
Defining Our Mission (2002)
After handing the reigns to Don Morgan, editor emeritus Richard Carrier composes a brief essay explaining the mission of the Internet Infidels, especially our focus on Metaphysical Naturalism.
I look at a prime example of the "genre" of medical literature that declares Jesus died, and find it hopelessly wanting, especially for their incompetent use of historical method.
Response to the World Trade Center disaster, posting pictures of the buildings as they once were, mourning the dead and calling for a blood drive as a symbolic gesture: in contrast with those criminals, we give blood rather than spill it.
"When Cupid's arrow strikes, is it mere molecules in motion or have we finally found our soul mate? Carrier explores nature's greatest mystery--amore!--as well as the notion of physical beauty, impulse, biology, and Hollywood's obsession with sex."
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"The Secular Web is the definitive resource for online atheists, humanists, agnostics and freethinkers. We've grown tremendously over the last five years as more and more people have come to see that metaphysical naturalism is a worldview that makes sense. In this interview, then Editor-in-chief Richard Carrier describes in plain language what metaphysical naturalism is, our general philosophy, as well as our goals and vision for the nonbelieving community in the 21st century!"
Michael Corey claimed in a recent debate that the Koran predicted the expanding universe. But did it? Only if you employ a liberal reading of the original text. Carrier uses the same interpretive methods on the poetry of Lucretius to show that Epicurus was a far more amazing prophet of modern science than Mohammed. Yet if Mohammed really had a pipeline to God, surely he would have done better than a mere mortal who used nothing more than human reason and observation.
The Real Ten Commandments (2000)
"What ever happened to Solon? An Ancient Greek that founded democracy and the concept of equality, Solon's work is the true inspiration behind America. His moral code far outshines Moses' Ten Commandments and would be a much more appropriate document to place within our public schools. It is time that the long forgotten Athenian be resurrected."
We don't seem to win much notice in the press, but when we do, its good press. Carrier surveys the few instances he could find. Some are quite interesting.
History was made recently when a group of archaeologists working in a dig at Mabell, Israel stumbled across an ancient stash of wooden tablets. Numbering over three hundred in all, the tablets are made of gopher wood onto which Hebrew characters were inscribed in ink. They appear to contain the personal diary of Moses.