John Dickson on Big Errors in the New Atheists’ Arguments

from here, some excellent work by John Dickson of CPX pointing out some pretty big errors in several well-known New Atheist presentations. John has a point, if such horrendous errors are being made on simple issues, how much can you trust them on the detail?

 

7 comments on “John Dickson on Big Errors in the New Atheists’ Arguments

  1. The videos from Dickson (just like Dickson’s books and web site) are just full of misinformation (false witness?) about atheists. Why does he keep on doing these?

    – Dickson claims atheists misrepresent, but notice how he conveniently forgot to tell G. A. Wells more than ten books about early Christianity and has degree in philosophy.

    – Dickson does not know any mythisist in academia, but I sure he is aware of them as he reads atheist books. Nice try.

    His “Life of Jesus” series has many facts wrong about historicity of Jesus and atheism. For example he writes:
    “Historical records show that godless regimes … produce greater bloodshed and more intense and dreadful wars than did all the religious governments of the previous centuries added together”.
    I would really like Dickson the historian to do math on that…

  2. Peter, thanks for coming and commenting. I’m afraid, however, your comment leaves me confused. Specifically I wonder if you could help me understand:

    1. How exactly is Dickson’s video “full of misinformation [and lies] about atheists”? That’s a big claim to make and you provide no supporting evidence at all.

    2. I don’t understand your second claim, but I think you are saying that he has neglected to mention a certain G.A. Wells. I’m not sure why you think he should have mentioned him in this video. Can you explain?

    3. You claim that Dickson is ignorant of any “mythisist”[sic.] in academia. On what basis do you make this claim? Where would you expect him to raise the subject?

    4. Where in the “Life of Jesus” material does he write the sentence you quote? To which documented numbers are you pointing us that so clearly refute Dickson’s claim?

    I only ask because you wrote to me before with massive claims,but when we chased them up you had very little to say except for “I’m not convinced”. If, however, you’ve now decided that you’d actually like to engage with arguments being made (as opposed to simply stating “Dickson … is full of misinformation”) then that would be a helpful discussion.

  3. David,

    Thanks for responding.

    1. If you read his books Life of Jesus, Simply Christianity, watch his videos or read CPX website you’ll find whenever atheism pop up Dickson has his facts wrong or misrepresents atheists. But let’s look at these two videos and his latest book first. We can look at CPX web sites later.

    2. Leaving out the most relevant credentials of the person you try to refute does not sound like what I understand as an honest thing to do. Wells has published over last forty years about early Christianity! I have read couple of Wells’ books and couple of Dickson’s books. I can tell you Wells’ books are better researched. Have a quick look at the references lists on their books. Do you think Dickson present a honest description of Wells?

    3. Watch the second video from 1min:45s mark. Dickson begins “I know no professional…” his argument of ignorance. Simple Google search could find him mythicist biblical scholars if he would bother do it. How can you claim to know the field without ever coming across Robert M. Price for example? If you Google “mythicist biblical scholar” Price is mentioned in the first result. What do you think of Dickson research?

    4. The quote was from Dickson’s “Life of Jesus” book which came with his DVD series, page 47.
    To refute his claim we can use war/death stats, as it is fairly easy to calculate. I’m happy for you to nominate a credible / encyclopedia stats source. If you don’t have a preference may I suggest White’s meta study values. Google “Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Twentieth Century Hemoclysm” and click the first link. The site has pages and pages of information. What number of deaths was caused by godless regimes? 70M?

  4. David,

    2. You did not answer my question. Is it a honest Christian way to leave out the most relevant credentials of the person you try to refute? If Wells would come to your Church to talk about Christianity, would you introduce him as “professor of German literature” or would you also mention his books about early Christianity and other academic achievement related to early Christianity?

    3. Of course mythicist and skeptics are on the margin of the Christian mainstream as most of them leave their position once they lose their faith or get pushed out (Lüdemann case). However Price seems to fit the criteria high profile mythicist. At least Habermass, who CPX interviewed, takes him (and Carrier) seriously and included him in his resurrection stats. If Dickson would seriously address the mythicists he should address their claims, not staying ignorant of their existence. Academics using the argument of ignorance to lay people only are strange…

    4. I would classify as “religious governments”:
    – Sole rulers considered divine during their life time (Pharaohs, Roman Emperors, Emperors of Japan..)
    – Sole rulers who are also a head of his/her religion. Usually sworn in to be God’s right hand person (Popes, Prophets, King/Queens England etc, Moses, David)
    – Sole rulers who got their inspirations for wars/killings from a holy book or religion, or were known to be religious or rely on religious advice.
    – Integrated religious governments (pretty much all Muslims rulers)
    – Elected or non-elected governments consisting of people from a single religions (often state religion with clergy integrated in to the military force)

    – “godless regimes” would be godless/atheist sole rulers or governments only consisting of godless/atheist people.

    Deaths would be attributed to a government doing the killing or starting a war.

    Would you agree with this?

  5. Peter, let me address your points in turn.

    2. Yes, Wells has published for 40 years about Christianity, and I don’t hear Dickson denying that. The claim that Dickson makes is that Wells is not by any means an expert in the field of “historical Jesus studies”. He is, after all, a literature scholar. Dickson argues that the vast majority of those directly in the field of historical Jesus studies would not dream of making the claim that Wells makes; namely that there was no actual person “Jesus”. Are you suggesting that all those scholars in the direct field are wrong and a professor of German literature is correct? Fair enough if you are, but you have to recognise that you’re playing a difficult game. It would be like me teaching you Finnish grammar and ignoring your complaints, since I had (at least to my own mind) already taught many other people Finnish before. Publishing loads of books doesn’t make you an expert, especially when your conclusions end up directly contradicted by those widely recognised to be experts in the field (whether Christian or not).

    3. Dickson says (at c.1:45 in the 2nd video) “I know of no professional ancient historian or Biblical historian, in any university in the World, who think Jesus’ existence is still debatable”. Perhaps you think that Robert M Price fits into that category but I think you’ll find, much to your disappointment, that he doesn’t. Again, that you have to cite academics on the margin of the mainstream doesn’t really do your claim of academic integrity much good.
    Coleman Theological Seminary, where Price teaches, might charitably described as a institution set up to teach stuff that would get laughed out of many other mainstream seminaries.
    Which leads me to ask, why do you instinctively favour the position of an obscure academic in a small non-University seminary over and above a credentialed academic who works in what is widely recognised as one of the best Ancient History departments in Australia, if not the world? Of course, we know the answer – because you’re already decided you prefer Price’s conclusions, despite the fact they are extreme.

    4. I clicked the link. Lots and lots of numbers. Which of these are you claiming are specifically “religious governments”? I couldn’t spot a single one.

  6. Peter, talk about beating a dead horse.

    2. You have, in 3 comments now, not once referred to Dickson as “Doctor Dickson” (not that I actually expect you to) and yet you insist that he must refer to others in that way. Surely you’re aware that it’s simply not common usage in Australia to use such titles in regular speech? Or are you now going to start calling me “Reverend Ould”?

    I don’t think you are, nor have you in the past – yet you want to claim some sort of “Christian standard” that Dickson should live up to? It’s not “unchristian” to not use those titles – it’s just Australian. Really, you do come across as picking on an utterly ridiculous point.

    3. I fear you have not read what I actually wrote. I did not suggest that Price was simply at the margins of orthodox Christian scholarship but, actually, at the margins of all mainstream scholarship. So yes, others will engage with him but Dickson’s claim still stands – Price is not a “historian … in any University in the World”. He is, rather, a theologian in a small obscure seminary. Again, this is the argument I just made in 3. above. I find it somewhat surprising that I must repeat myself.

    4. Your description taken with some reservations, but I still don’t see how you’re adding up the numbers in the lists given. The major bulk of death came at the hands of the Soviet and Nazi governments, none of which fit your description. Would you like to revise your description in order to include them? Or, perhaps, shift the goalposts in another way? As yet you have made a claim but not actually laid out the precise argument to warrant that claim. If you want to argue the maths then, by all means, show us in detail on your own blog which governments you are referring to. Post up a link and we’ll go and discuss it.

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