This whole blog post was sparked by a conversation in Godfrey’s comments under this blog post (which I was alerted too through a hit on my stats counter) and I saw this little gem from a poster there:
Verenna’s latest piece of free advice to James McGrath on the finer points of rhetoric. Apparently saying “many mythicists, those who are determined to be denialists” is “accurate and erudite. And fair.” Thanks Tom for your erudite instruction, you must be pleased as punch at your own wise erudition about “denialism”. Does that accuracy and fairness mean that denying the Historical Jesus is akin to denying the Holocaust, or maybe just denying climate change or evolution? Seems Tom and McGrath are in furious agreement that denying the Historical Jesus is as bad as creationism. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Toady to apologists, lose any integrity. And Carr thinks the author of such craven self-puffery deserves apologies?
This blew me away; I almost fell out of my chair after read this. But then again this particular individual is a Acharya S
cult member sympathizer so it should already be clear that this person is probably more delusional than Godfrey. The post in question is entitled ‘James McGrath is Finally (Almost) Getting It‘, so I clearly don’t ‘furiously agree’ with him since I don’t think he has it quite right. And this commenter’s bizarre pronouncement that I somehow agree with the statement (actually, he is claiming that I somehow made this statement, which is far more deluded) that “denying the Historical Jesus is akin to denying the Holocaust” makes no sense since that isn’t something I would support. As I have stated on this very blog (but then again, you can’t expect these sorts of people to read anything you write), denying something isn’t ipso facto denialism, but denying something in spite of evidence is denialism, and Acharya S fanboys and fangirls are (in this regard) as denialist as it gets.
Indeed, I made it clear in my post (again, this person just doesn’t read things) through my altering of James McGrath’s otherwise hyperbolic absolutist statement to a more reasonable ‘most mythicists’. ‘Most’ isn’t ‘all’, and when it comes to denialists, you really have to be determined to remain in denial. And as I’ve said, with Acharya S/Zeitgeist supporters, you don’t get more deluded and self-righteous and denialist than that when it comes to types of mythicists. And since most mythicists fall into this category (at least by my dealings with mythicists), my statement is correct.
Now let me shift gears for a moment. I have genuinely tried to give Godfrey credit in the past, come to his defense, and I have tried to be fair to him. Sometimes I even like what he has to say (shockingly). But then I reread this comment on my blog from him a few days ago:
Oh my goodness! A sociopath like Tom (or whatever his name really is) has a lot to learn about how to apologize! “Tom” or whoever you are on your birth certificate, your “apology” sounds like one grandiose excuse for why you wrote like an arsehole. Re-read your first paragraph — it’s all “excuses, excuses, excuses”. Someone needed to teach you when you were 3 that introducing your “apology” with a string of excuses for your behaviour is NOT an apology. But maybe they did try to teach you and you were just too genetically wired to being a sociopath. Oh well . .. .
I’ll let that comment sink in, and then direct you to my reply here. But come back after you read the followup comments. Back? Good. It is clear that Godfrey is full of bile and anger–so much so that he can’t even do some simple research on basic things about my life (or he is as deluded as any supporter of Acharya S).
It is not a secret that at one time, years ago, I was an online radio show host and freethought activist. I used a pseudonym, like most radio show hosts do, and I stayed clear of using my real name–partly because I used to receive death threats and partly because I wanted to have a life outside of the radio show (that is to say, I wanted to be sure that I could still get a job outside of radio in the future–and I knew it would be difficult if an employer decided to Google my name and happened to be a fundamentalist who didn’t hire nonbelievers).
But a lot has changed since then. I got serious about my future–so my fake name went away (back in 2008! So Godfrey is really late to the party on this one). I enrolled in college, started critically thinking about a lot of my past decisions, changed my life around. A lot of people would say I’m heading on the right direction–and I’ve been on this “new” path for four years now. Godfrey, in all his “wisdom”, would have us believe that I’m just sock-puppeting names all over the place.
But this isn’t the best part. Godfrey then follows up this past post with this on on his blog:
Tom/Rook has jettisoned his atheism, no doubt sincerely, but at the same time this has happily removed him from Jim West’s hit list. He is young and regularly one observes pressure upon him to conform to the right values and right thoughts of the scholarly guild, most publicly from McGrath and Watts. He knows whom to publicly denounce as the “correct enemies” of scholarship to enhance his credibility with the guild.
His blatant use of ‘Rook’ demonstrates his general inability to tell what is real and what is not, as far as that goes. But let’s think about this comment for a second and let’s think about his rather incredible notion that ‘Tom Verenna’ isn’t my real name.
If a person is judged by those friends he keeps, then Godfrey is really being an idiot. Those scholars he admires most and cites often on his blog just happen to be friends of mine. You don’t make friends with very smart people by lying, creating sock-puppets, and being a bad person (in fact you’ll end up in jail like this guy by doing that). You don’t make friends with them by being fake, or by sucking up to them, or ‘going along with the mold’ as Godfrey would have you believer. Hopefully no one is going to buy into THAT conspiracy theory. Scholars like Goodacre, Crossley, Thompson, Davies, Lemche, Carrier–all have really good built-in bullshit detectors.
And who exactly does Godfrey think co-edited ‘Is This Not the Carpenter’ with Thomas Thompson? It certainly wasn’t Jesus. You don’t befriend a veteran scholar like Thomas Thompson and coedit a volume with him if you’re some cowling uncritical worm. There is a reason why scholars like Crossley and Lemche and Pfoh and Davies and Goodacre will work with me on various projects despite my contrary views on Jesus. It certainly is not because I just ‘follow the crowd’–apparently Godfrey doesn’t read things either because I have more than a share of blog posts written against Watts and Mcgrath and West here. All one has to do is a search (the button is on the top right corner). But that would involve a competence level that apparently is beyond anything Godfrey can muster.
To be fair, I’m not going to sit here and act as if the scholars I work with give me credibility–It doesn’t–but it does dim the lights on Godfrey’s ridiculous notions that I’m somehow a sociopath (a word that he apparently doesn’t know the meaning of nor how it is used by professionals, as demonstrated by a psychologist [Chris Smith] in the comments thread here) because I made some questionable career choices in the past (radio show) and enjoy the thrill of cordial (note the important word there?) discussions with others, even if we disagree (Watts, McGrath, West). And one would hope that sociopaths would have difficulty befriending any of these scholars.
The really sad, pathetic part about all of this is that these facts about me are all (unfortunately) documented on the interwebs. Here on my blog, I have made at least three or four posts about my shift in epistemological perspectives. Hell, if Godfrey wanted to really know if ‘Tom Verenna’ was my real name, he could have looked at my CV online and contacted me on my .edu email address (schools generally don’t give out emails to people with their fake names on them) and there would have been no need to claim that I’m somehow ‘not Thomas Verenna’. So not only is Godfrey acting like an idiot, he has shown he is also incompetent as a researcher (dare I say, even a critical thinker).
I imagine that most of my readers already agree with me on this one. If his recent comments on this blog and his own are any indication, he has only pulled himself further and further down into his delusions. His putrid diatribe, as venomous as it may be, will be his legacy–and it is a legacy of isolationism, of preaching to the choir, of denialism. If that is what he wants for himself, so be it. As I’ve said before, if he can’t even meet the basic principles of cordiality, then I can’t help him and I won’t waste my time troubling myself to treat him with any modicum of respect in turn.
But more to the point, these sorts of people plague the mythicist camp. People like Godfrey, like Tullip, are what give the movement its terrible, terrible stereotype. They have this ‘us or them’ mentality which disrupts conversations that are useful and contaminates the conversation. The more they make these sorts of claims, the more scholars are going to get negative impressions about mythicism or, worse, about any sort of agnosticism whatsoever. More and more will just consider it a useless gesture of pseudoscholars and arm-chair-archaeologists who have an agenda to brow beat the ‘ivory tower’ and end religion and destroy Christianity. The sad part is, since the loudest voices in mythicism stem from blogs like Godfrey’s and from message boards operated by Acharya S fans, they aren’t completely wrong. So when I work as hard as I do to demonstrate to scholars the validity of doubting historicity, I have to fight down all of their preconceived notions about it, which stem from moronic comments like these made by people like these, before I can even begin to make a case.