Friday, September 15, 2017

Irma Postmortem

I appreciate the many concerned contacts and questions from those who ask how things went for us with Hurricane Irma. Here's the sum of it.

By the time Irma reached us, it had been significantly weakened by its trip over land and by an influx of dry air (in hurricane terms, cyanide) from the west. The south half of the storm virtually disappeared as a hurricane. The ragged remnants of the north eye wall went right over us, but by then much of its force had been spent.

Our home suffered no damage. The only sign on our property that the storm had passed was that several of our trees had lost many of their leaves, and one oleander in the back lost a limb.

Our power went out at 9:50 PM on Sunday night and was restored around 5 PM on Tuesday. I'm not sure why it was restored so quickly, but it may have to do with our proximity to two major east-west thoroughfares and a hospital.

Since I had no idea how long power might be out, I elected to find us a cheap but clean dog-friendly motel to stay in the next two nights. My thought had been that if we had to be away longer, I'd look for a place where I could set up shop and still do work. It proved unnecessary. Irma personally cost us maybe $200 in motel rates and food purchases in the end.

Orlando as a whole was not as seriously affected by the storm as locations you will see in the news like Naples and Fort Myers. There is no massive scale of suffering here. A few low-lying areas are flooded; none are near me. Lakes and ponds that had been nearly dry in May due to a drought are now full or near overflowing. Some 15-20% of my county (Orange) remained without power as of last night. Many gas stations are closed, but fuel is available if you don't mind waiting a few minutes behind 1-2 people. (Having a Prius is a good feeling at times like this.)

Grocery stores are short on a few necessities like bread and milk, but only the crowd addicted to caviar and crème fresh is "suffering" for this lack. A fair number of volunteers are stepping up to serve those in need. Ice is also hard to get; we helped one of Mrs. H's co-workers by freezing some water in gallon bags for them. Cocoa's favorite park for a walk was closed because of trees being down.

The sum of it is, Irma was an inconvenience here for us personally, not a disaster. I encourage you to give to help those in need in other areas.

I have some major news upcoming, and this blog will next be updated when I have that news ready. In the meantime, I will post on the Christian CADRE blog when I have something to write about.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Hurricane and the Trollstorm

I’m in the Cone of Doom for Hurricane Irma here in Central Florida; it’s probably about the 10th time in my life I’ve been in that range for a hurricane, and this is probably the 40th time in my life I’ve experienced the dance that goes with one of these. Such are the perils of Florida nativehood and residence. But today I want to mention another associated peril that isn’t life-threatening, although it rates as high on the Saffir-Simpson scale as Irma does. I’m talking about long-winded blowhard fundamentalist and fundamentalist-atheist trolls.

Every time we get a hurricane, you see members of this crowd show up in the comments section of news stories. On the fundamentalist side, you’ll get the loonies who say that we’re getting hit with this thing because we approved gay marriage, or because we voted for Donald Trump, or because we let the Seminole Indians open bingo parlors. On the fundy atheist side, you’ll get the crackpot troll who savages each and any expression of prayer by taking a few moments of his valuable time to copy and paste (mentally, if not actually) an extended rant about how your sky daddy isn’t going to save you from a Category 5.

These two pests are two sides of the same coin. They’re both immature trolls with a theology that wouldn’t pass muster in a pre-K setting. They also clearly need something better to do, because they’re spending too much time evangelizing for their cause, and they’re doing it in a way that’s not much different than the guy with the Chick tract whose initial friendly greeting to you is, “Hello, do you realize you’re going to hell?”

They also have this in common: They’re both too dense to see why they are trolls. The fundy thinks he’s helping save you from Satan. The fundy atheist thinks he’s helping save you from spiritual immaturity (and in some cases, from voting for Trump again in 2020). You have to ask yourself why they bother. The likely answer is that they are vultures who are far too concerned with inserting ideology into every discussion, no matter how inappropriate it may be in context. These are guys who would make tactless rats of themselves in a funeral parlor, to the point of slipping the latest Jack Chick or Dan Barker tract into the casket at the viewing, just in case.

Anyway, with the current forecast, I expect to be out of power for at least a day or two; so if you don’t hear from me next week, there’s a good reason for it.

I’m out hunting trolls.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tracking the Ten Year Turkel Trap

Yesterday, a milestone was reached. It has been more than 10 years since I legally changed my name to James Patrick Holding. And yesterday, a fundy atheist on TheologyWeb called me by my old name, Robert Turkel. After more than ten years.

I have a thread started on TheologyWeb about this. An original version of the thread was lost when TWeb crashed; but the idea was to keep track of fundy atheists and others who refused to acknowledge the change.

After the change in July 2007, I started a thread with a poll with this question and options:

How long will fundy atheists continue calling me by my old name?

One year

5 years

10 years

Farrell Till will still be calling me “Turkel” in hell

At the time, I figured the last two were a joke. Now it looks like the last option is as much reality TV as Live PD.

Why fundy atheists persist in this foolishness is anyone’s guess. One suggestion made on TWeb is this one:

I'm pretty sure the main reason they do it is because "Turkel" makes 10-year-olds giggle.

That’s probably true. I also expect that some of these people who can’t go of “Turkel” are mentally ill and can’t handle change; or, they keep using it because they think it bothers me. It’s all the more ironic because James Patrick Holding was actually my name at birth. It’s “Robert Turkel” who is the intruder, so to speak.

So then! In observation of this milestone, here’s an edited re-release of something I wrote back in July 2007 to celebrate the name change. It’s funny how much of it still applies today.


Warning: Heavily Sarcastic Content Ahead.

The loud thumps you hear at selected spots across the country are the sound of people like John Till, Brooks Trubee, Brian Holtz, and other cartoon-character Skeptics I have sliced and diced over the years, falling to the ground after having coronaries.
Why? Because they just lost their best (and in some cases, only) "argument" against myself and this ministry.

About a decade ago when I logged myself online as a writer with the Christian Apologetics Bookshelf, I decided that it would be a good idea, for the sake of personal safety (not from Skeptics, who are almost uniformly 98 pound wimps, but from released prison inmates I formerly worked with, to make use of a writing psuedonym. It didn't take long to decide what to use, because it was the name I was born with. 

Yes, the name I was born with. Not that it's anyone's business, especially not the business of gutter-sweeping atheists like the above who spell "scholarship" with a K, but that WAS the name I was given at birth, and I have the legal paperwork to prove it: The original Social Security card; a copy of the original birth certificate; the original, onionskin court order (dated 1969) changing my name from JPH to the other name as part of an inside-the-family adoption process. So for those whose minds are as bent as Acharya S and thought I was making it all up, choose your brand of mustard when you decide what foot you want to eat.

There are probably few who know or remember that it was John Till who first made an issue of this. He pretends that it was some great detective discovery he made; the fact is that I told him about the pseudonym issue myself, not knowing at the time that rather than being an honest person, he was in fact a pathetically self-righteous specimen still working out his frustrations over being laughed out of Catholic quarters of France…

But to the point of this item. Some time ago I proposed to make a legal change to my name, and that is now done. As of this morning (7/3/07) the paperwork is approved by a judge and filed away in my county clerk's office. The free ride for the pedantic, loser-for-life crowd is over now, and they're all going to have to pay the piper for their own prior pedantry in which they figured they could avoid some heavy reading and research by just using the pseudo-who-nanny-nanny-boo-boo as a substitute for substance. They'll either have to change all their articles (Till will likely go to his grave doing the editing, unless he burns his cortical motors off trying to figure out how to do a universal search and replace command), or else look bigger fools than they do now refusing to acknowledge it (which many may not mind anyway, being as insensate to their own foolishness as they are). Then they'll have to do some real arguing for a change, and which of those will be harder for that kiddie keptic crowd is hard to say.

My reasons for the change are partly professional, partly personal. There is the matter of that I am so well known as JPH that it makes good sense to make the legal change. On a more personal level, I have lately rediscovered some family heritage that has motivated the change as a way of honoring lost relations I never knew, but now wish I had discovered and known earlier. Suffice to say that I was not the first Holding to be interested in apologetics. (I also wasn't the first with an artistic bent, but that's another matter.).

But anyway, now that you guys have to abandon the name fetish, it's time to move on.

You heard me. Don't just sit there with your jaw hanging slack to the floor. Go.

Oh, there is one more thing....

I'm thinking of using the other name from now on as a writing pseudonym.

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Kingdom of the Trolls

For this post I’d like to talk about trolls and the death of expertise. No, I am not combining Tolkein with that excellent book by Tom Nichols. The trolls I speak of (and which Nichols refers to in his own way) are ignorant and foolish people who do things like post silly and stupid reviews on Amazon Books, or post silly and stupid comments on blogs, or write silly and stupid blog posts.

I have in mind in particular a troll on Amazon who goes by the moniker “DS”, but I’ll call him Stumpy. Stumpy has a long-term habit of posting silly and stupid reviews of my books on Amazon, as well as other books, none of which there is any evidence he has read. Not surprisingly, the “Verified Purchase” mark seldom if ever shows on his reviews. Here’s a couple of examples of his reviews, and yes, these are the entirety of what he posts:

J.P. Holding's writings, as usual, seem rather void of intelligence. I would not even give him one stale donut for this book.

No donuts for this book Holding, as you make the same apologetics mistakes you always do.

As you can see, Stumpy has an obsession with donuts. I suspect it’s because he needs to sugar rush in order to fire his brain up in the morning. Either that, or the hole in the middle reminds him of his IQ score.

You’ll also notice that he never explains any of these obviously substantive criticisms. He never gives examples of mistakes, or of how any item he reviews is “void of intelligence”. And I’m not the only author this Chihuahua lifts his leg this way on. Here’s his review of a book titled Resurrection Fact:

The Resurrection nonsense. If you build a case on unsubstantiated anecdotes in 2000 year old ancient mythic sounding tales, then you get a nice apologetics cream of crap.

Nor are scholars immune to Stumpy’s dead expertise. Take for example Stumpy’s entire review of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:

Apologetics nonsense. Plain and simple.

And here’s Stumpy’s entire review of Bill Arnold’s Introduction to the Old Testament:

Basically a well polished apologetics book trying to uphold the old testament as true. See instead: Michael Coogans Old Testament Intro.

There’s two pointers here about the way Stumpy’s mind doesn’t work. One is that he has this mental ossification which causes him to think that calling something “apologetics” is somehow debunking it or making some kind of worthwhile point. It never occurs to him that any work that presents information is by nature an “apologetic” for whatever point of view is in that work, or whatever facts that work presents or vouches for. His own review is an “apologetic” for a view that this book isn’t any good.

Second, by comparison, look at the endorsements this book has:

"Arnold has provided an introduction to the Old Testament for the twenty-first century unlike any other to date. Recognizing the influence of this collection on the three great monotheistic faiths of today, Arnold explores the significance of monotheism throughout Israel's Scriptures while also providing a thorough, balanced, and informed introduction to the texts themselves. Highly recommended!"  W. Dennis Tucker, Jr, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"This is one of the best resources I've seen in a long time. The clarity of writing makes this a perfect primer for those who are new to the Bible. The breadth of topics makes it a wonderful review for those who are well versed in the Scriptures. I will be recommending this work to students and colleagues alike!"  Roy L. Heller, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"In this volume, Bill T. Arnold adopts a literary approach to the Old Testament that also pays particular attention to monotheism: one of its signal contributions to religious history. The result is a truly interesting, highly engaging, and deeply relevant introduction. A further boon: Arnold's erudition, considered adjudication of contested matters, and pedagogical savvy are on display at every turn."
Brent A. Strawn, Emory University

So here’s what we have.  Three scholars say one thing. Stumpy says something else. 

I’ll bet he’s too stupid to even blink at that point.

I’m far from the only one who has noticed that Stumpy’s a little short on the details and brains department. One review went as follows:

this book sucks. its just typical apologetics. you want truth, here is truth, the gospel writers wrote of Jesus using Hellenistic mythic garb. check out David Litwa's book Iesus Deus and or Cartlidge and Dungan's Documents for the Study of the Gospels 2nd ed and or Charles Talbert's What is a Gospel.

Here are some comments on that review:

This is not a serious book review. It does not discuss the books contents, nor does it offer a mature critique. Its a personal attack and simply cites other books apparently for rebuttal. This book will touch a nerve for many--as it obviously has for the said "reviewer". No one would react as he/she has unless they saw it as a serious challenge to their "faith" (We all have faith in something, even if its against Jesus.) Any book that would rattle a person like that is well worth a look see. I've ordered my copy.

If you look at his rating of book, he rates all books that support belief in Jesus as 1 star and everything that does not as 5 stars. He seems unable to state good reasons why the author is wrong. I do not believe he read those books. If he didn't read them and wrote a review anyway then he would have benefited by Jesus teachings on being honest.

If you want anyone to take your opinion seriously, you need to give more explanation about how you arrived at your conclusions, including addressing specifics in the book itself.

I've read the book and the author gives solid arguments and evidence to back up his claims.

In the end, it’s a lot like what I said in this vid:

The amount of trust and uncritical acceptance some people place in things like Amazon reviews or blogs is pretty horrifying, especially when we know nothing about them at all, as is the case with Stumpy. For all we know, Stumpy, or any person writing a review, or an entry or comment on a blog, could be mentally ill, or they could have a personality disorder. Or they might be someone who has nothing more than a high school education, and has never worked as anything more than a day laborer or a truck driver. Or it might be someone who spends all day doing nothing but leaving troll comments on blogs, writing trolling blog entries on multiple blogs they have started, and writing troll reviews on Amazon or on other neutral websites. Tom Nichols has rightly bemoaned the death of expertise; Andrew Keen has correctly identified the cult of the amateur. Stumpy is a good example of a charter member of that cult.

Stumpy hasn’t completely gotten away with his nonsense, though he is also too thick to get the message of things like those comments, and things like “6 of 149 people found the following review helpful.” Let’s not cease shining sunlight on these trolls and turning them to stone.