Thursday, January 26, 2017

Captain Cassidy calls me a Sign of the Times.

Image result for wrong-way corriganA psychologist calling herself Captain Cassidy attacked me in her blog a year or so ago.  A hundred and a quarter comments followed, so apparently Captain Cassidy, while not as popular as Captain Kangaroo, neither is entirely unknown.  But she is new to me: after my recent debate with Richard Carrier on Unbelievable, someone linked to her critique.  

This seems the trend.  More and more, some atheist I've never heard of, and hundreds of his or her fans, are found playing pinata with some rough-hewn caricature of myself, made entirely of straw, and I hear about it a year or two later.  Or earlier if I have heard of the person (Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Hector Avalos, our dear friend Richard Carrier). I'm going to have to start making my own pinatas, and selling them in the drug stores.  

As usual, what a person with a sense of irony learns from these "attacks" is how often those who praise the "scientific method" the loudest in theory, turn out to rely for their information on distant rumors, wild conjectures, and woolly stereotypes in practice.  And therefore, get everything not just mistaken, but Wrong-Way-Corrigan (who flew to Ireland "accidentally" after filing a flight plan for Long Beach, California and getting "lost in the fog") wrong.

And also as usual, while we find the comedy amusing, we attempt to squeeze lemonade when the angels kindly grant us a plethora of lemons.

Expertise, Apologetics, and David Marshall.

Recently I ran into this debate between David Marshall and Richard Carrier regarding whether or not belief in Christianity is “reasonable.” It got me thinking about apologetics generally, and about this new name specifically because I’d never even heard of him till now.  Today I want to talk about how apologetics plays into right-wing Christians’ distrust of education and credentials, and what David Marshall’s brand of apologetics represents in the religion.

Ironic that, in warning against Christians who "distrust education and credentials," Captain Cassidy should pick on a credentialed teacher whose job is to help students obtain them as well.  "I think I see Southern California just behind that fog bank!"  

Experts Who Aren’t Expert.

A while ago I wrote about fundagelical Christianity’s weird relationship with experts. Such Christians hugely distrust education and professional training, yet ache and yearn for the stamp of legitimacy that both can provide to those who can reasonably claim them. (In the same way, they bad-mouth science and the scientific method constantly, but then get downright giddy when they think, almost always falsely, that one of their claims might maybe possibly pass muster with scientific standards.) They may hate the idea of education, training, and credentials,* but they’re well aware of the importance that non-Christians (and many Christians, to be fair) lay upon these qualifications. So the field of apologetics is rife with very expert-sounding authors and speakers who might or might not actually have any real expertise in whatever it is they’re discussing.

So fortunate that the skeptical community rallies behind such highly-credentialed Ivy League scholars as Douglas Adams, Greta Christina, Matt Dillahunty, David Fitzgerald, Christopher Hitchens, Hemant Mehta, Bill Nye, and Dusty Smith.  
I wish to draw a careful distinction here between old-school apologetics and the newfangled fundagelical variety. Ray Comfort has as much in common with, say, Thomas Aquinas as Iggy Pop does. Some of those classic apologetics works are intricate, well-considered, and reasonably robust when compared to the over-simplistic and belligerent works we find ourselves confronted with today–not that today’s fundagelicals will ever read any of those older authors past, perhaps, some C.S. Lewis. (Yes, I am totally telling modern apologetics to get offa my lawn.)

And you're doing this by randomly insulting one you don't know?  (Yes, I know where that title and long intro are heading.)  "Hey, you, walking along the sidewalk three blocks away!  Get offa my lawn!"

When I talk about “apologetics” in this post, I mean that second, modern kind, the kind that fundagelicals are most likely to read, thrust at non-believers, and parrot bumper-sticker “zingers” from.

Well that explains the popularity of the double-Phded Bill Craig, with his 200-odd scholarly papers, of Alvin Plantinga at Notre Dame, and of  NT Wright formerly at Oxford and Cambridge, with their "simplistic and belligerent" apologetic rants.  
Christians mistakenly think that apologetics has two goals:
To reinforce Christians’ faith by giving them good reasons to believe; and
To reach lost souls for Jesus.
… And here is the real reason why modern apologetics exists:
To sell stuff to overly-trusting Christians with more money than critical thinking skills.
Image result for elizabeth darcy
Off my bench, sir!  

See, this is what a real psychologist can do.   She can read the minds of people she hasn't met.  She understands, for instance, that when I quit my job and returned to the US to publish Jesus is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels, I knew I would get filthy, stinking rich, which is why my family inhabits its present monumental estates.  (Jives!  Bring in some caviar with that champagne!  Let Fifi the poodle out!  And shoo Darcy and Elizabeth off that bench!)
In that sense it is wildly successful.

Wild, anyway. 
But there’s a serious catch to the festivities. Generally speaking, apologetics is the attempt by Christians to explain why reality does not line up with their supernatural claims.  But real experts don’t generally agree with those claims, and their work doesn’t usually lead to the conclusions Christians want to hear. So Christians turn to false experts who are willing to say the correct things.

Oh, absolutely.  That is why I always quote Archie Bunker and Penny the blond from the Big Bang Theory in my books.   Why heck, I even cite Richard Dawkins, Hector Avalos, and Richard Carrier from time to time.  I have no use for experts.  
That’s why there is a huge market for bullshit in Christianity, especially in fundagelical branches of the religion, even in the face of repeated and humiliating debunks by critics. As long as Susie Cru and Johnny Homeschool are willing to plunk down their hard-earned cash in some Christian bookstore somewhere for apologetics works, someone else is going to be happy to shear these innocent sheep of that green fleece of theirs. Back when I was Christian, I was barely even aware of apologetics books or authors, but the field has exploded since I deconverted–and I suspect this growth is happening because of fundagelicals’ increasing distress over the challenges being posed to their overreach, claims, and demands.
Image result for william lane craig
Why does he keep embarrassing

And, can you believe it, Captain Cassidy references a debate with William Lane Craig to illustrate how Christian snake-oil salesmen are repeatedly humiliated by their upright atheist opponents.  Just while the cries of skeptical pilots who have some notion of which is a fog bank and which a mountain, are still ringing in my ears, "Will no one rid us of this giant who stalks the land, calling out our heroes one by one and ignominiously slaying them?" 
Sometimes an apologist will position his or her work as if it’s aimed at non-believers and is meant to persuade the skeptical.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Non-Christians do not generally buy apologetics or consume it for any reason other than to debunk it.

Wrong-Way Cassidy's psycho-babbles crash into one another here, a bit: her premise has to do with why non-Christians buy certain books, but her conclusion is why Christians sell them.  But the conclusion will only follow from the premise if Christian apologists (and Cassidy herself) can read the minds of all non-Christians, and know it is hopeless to appeal to them with facts and arguments in support of the Christian faith.  (Never mind all those people we keep running into who say they have in fact converted by hearing a strong case for the Gospel.)  So in effect, she is conceding super-powers to Christian apologists -- along, less controversially, with dishonesty.

We know that the arguments contained therein will be riddled with logical fallacies, distortions of fact, and sometimes outright falsehoods.  We know that their creators are almost always pseudoscientists and junk historians–and that these apologists falsely present themselves as more qualified than they are. We expect very little, and that’s exactly what we get.

Logical fallacies are easy to claim, and hard to disprove, as are distortions of facts.   Let us therefore see if Captain Cassidy can sustain the insinuation that I engage in "outright falsehoods" (at least sometimes) or "falsely present (myself) as more qualified than (I) am." 
(Cut, about one Shane Hays, whom I don't know, and a general warning against ad hominem arguments, etc.)  
However, saying that someone has no qualifications whatsoever in a field isn’t an ad hominem.  It’s relevant information.  It’s as reasonable for me to distrust apologists talking about Biblical history as it is for me to distrust a random stranger I met at a bar who wants to extract my wisdom teeth.  This disqualification isn’t happening because I personally dislike apologists or because they’re offending me in some way, but rather because I know that their conclusions and findings are going to be highly suspect compared to those I’d get from someone who’s done the hard work of gaining credentials in his or her field and who actually knows how to assess and analyze claims and information–especially if the apologist’s findings hugely contradict those of real experts.

Because, of course, we know that "apologist" and "biblical scholar" are mutually-contradictory categories -- even though skeptics often refer even to eminent NT scholars like Richard Bauckham as "apologists."  
(Cut, more introductory material -- Wrong Way Cassidy making sure the wings are in good working order and the tires inflated.)  
When I was Christian, I ran into a lot of people who presented themselves as experts in a lot of fields–history, science, astronomy, geology, biology, the occult, Biblical history, Classical history, you name it–but who weren’t actually experts in those fields. Eventually I learned to check the credentials of anybody claiming expertise. After I deconverted, I realized that as diligent as I thought I’d been, I hadn’t been anywhere near diligent enough.  I can’t imagine that Christians today are doing much better than I was back then.

And we know that imagination is what really counts when it comes to checking credentials -- that, and mind-reading.  

Now Let’s Meet David Marshall.

This should be fun.  

About ten years ago, David Marshall threw his hat into the apologetics ring.

Nope.  Thirty years ago.

Despite how relatively quickly the skept-o-sphere decoded his general playbook . . . 

Dr. (?) Cassidy cites a critical post by a guy named Robert on, whose expertise I am still waiting to learn of, and whom a child of six should be able to see through.

And even if his critique were devastating (heh), 20 years late would not be "swift" in the Internet Era.

he kept flailing away at his main interest, which appears to be persuading skeptics of the historicity of Jesus and the Gospels.

Cassidy clearly doesn't have the faintest idea who this Marshall is, or what he is interested in or written on-- yet self-confidently introduces her following to the phantom.

He presents himself as an expert in Biblical history and analysis.

No quotes?  
So what are his credentials?
That’s a damned fine question.

Translation: I'm publicly raising a question to which I don't know the answer, which somehow proves that Christian apologists are snake-oil salesmen and liars!  
If you go to his Amazon author page, you’ll find a lot of fluff there about his childhood years, his love for strawberries, and his Christian bona fides–including where and when he converted (or rather, affirmed his faith; he grew up Christian).  You will learn more about his favorite dog as a kid than you will about his qualifications for writing apologetics. Compare and contrast with the Amazon author page for William Lane Craig, which almost immediately sets out his qualifications, and with the one for Sam Harris, which follows the same lines.

Wait a minute.  I thought the point we were trying to prove was that modern Christian apologists pretend to qualifications they don't have.  Isn't Bill Craig a modern Christian apologist, whom Cassidy has already scoffed at?  And why is this Marshall kid talking about strawberries when he should be touting (phony) Oxford Press publications and Pulitzer Prizes and genius awards?

Examining the back of one of Mr. Marshall’s books, we discover nothing else about any actual qualifications this person has for writing about history or science.

Pretty shy, for a snake-oil salesman.  But maybe the qualifications appear on the covers of other of his books, just under the blurbs from the Oxford, Duke, Yale, etc, pseudo-historians and pseudo-scientists?

But he implies even in the comments of atheist blogs that he’s a historian (he’s comment 43). 

Well that can't be right.

Despite his grandiose claims and behavior . . . 
Image result for freud cartoon
"I'm an historian" is "grandiose?"  Then what about "I'm a psychologist?"  Or Richard Carrier's "I'm the One True Philosopher" shtick?  

I couldn’t find a single bit of information about where he got his education and training. Even his official blog is conspicuously and completely lacking this information.

Argument From Silence!  Well that proves everything.  Marshall implies that he is an historian, but doesn't explain his relevant credentials anywhere I have found, with my diligent search methods -- which proves both that he is bragging (passive-aggressively) and that he is lying when he brags.  And trying to get rich off of foolish Christian book-buyers with his phony credentials that I can't find, despite all his shamelessly shy lying!   
Matthew Ferguson, who writes an absolutely fantastic blog that I wish was updated more often, addressed one of David Marshall's downright bizarre attacks on him, and then–when Mr. Marshall made an equally ridiculous second attack on him–recently wrote a far more comprehensive takedown of the fellow’s work.  If Mr. Marshall doesn’t realize, after reading these posts, that his ass was well and truly handed to him, then he’s the only one who doesn’t; they’re hilarious.

Call him "Dr. Marshall," please. :- )

And Matthew Ferguson has read -- which of Marshall's books?  ("work?")

Wrong Way Cassidy does not, of course, bother to read Marshall's responses, nor attempt to justify Ferguson's far more "hilarious" argument that the gospels compare unfavorably to The Contest of Hesiod and Homer, a work written several centuries after the fact, which more or less admits to being fictional, and shares virtually none of the traits that make even skeptics like Robert Funk admit a large degree of historicity to the gospels.  (Here's my critique of that comparison.)

Oops!  I meant Archie Bunker.  Archie Bunker said that, not Robert Funk.     
If you want to see more, then here’s a link love-post on John Loftus’ blog and a critical look at David Marshall's shoddy analysis (sic) skill and his willfully ignorant, weirdly aggressive behavior, and of course the debate I mentioned at the start of the post, which we’ll discuss later.  It won’t take long for anyone to see why real historians seem kind of annoyed by David Marshall.

Wrong-Way Cassidy links here to articles by such "real historians" as Hector Avalos (still smarting from my Amazon reviews, which he tends not to mention) and Arizona Atheist.  (Who not being so weirdly aggressive as Marshall the Phony Historian, had merely posted some 70 attacks on this Marshall fellow last I checked a few years ago, along with windy "reviews" of Marshall's The Truth Behind the New Atheism on every surface of the planet that isn't covered by grass or asphalt.)

She's not talking about actually credentialed, and eminent, historians at Oxford, Penn State, or Washington who have read Marshall's actual work, and liked it.  What could they possibly recognize about Marshall's historical arguments that Arizona Atheist does not?  After all, Wrong Way Cassidy is an atheist, blasting Christians for citing phony scholars and bad scholarship, so her sources, however nutty they may appear, must be far more The Real Thing than any mere don who has haunted the halls of Oxford with his footsteps and lectures on the History of Science for 30 years.  

In Mr. Marshall’s blustering, in his anti-intellectualism (seriously, he called one of his books Why the Jesus Seminar Can’t Find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could: A Populist Defense of the Gospels),

Well the title of that book certainly (and finally) proves one of Wrong Way Cassidy's points!  Marshall thinks one school of scholars is wrong about the gospels, and a common-sense reading of those books by ordinary people gets at the genuine historical nature of First Century events much better!

Imagine that!  Next Marshall will be claiming that the clever academic theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare is wrong, and that Shakespeare was himself, as mundane passersby who spread out their cloths and watch The Comedy of Errors in the park assume!  How contemptuous of the life of the mind must a person who criticizes any group of scholars be!

A real historian would never, ever say that other scholars are wrong, or that the surface understanding of a text could, after all, the correct one.  Because Captain Cassidy has read Arizona Atheist, and scoffs at the very notion.  Historians always agree with one another, and throw their foolish grandmothers to the wolves!

and in his constant smug assertion of superior expertise that he simply does not possess, David Marshall speaks to the very hearts of fundagelicals today.

Three assertions that Wrong-Way Cassidy has yet to offer any evidence to support.  
He tells them, in essence, Forget all those meaniepie atheists. We know the real scoop and they don’t (the poor things!). You don’t need no book-larnin’ and edumacashun

Captain Wrong Way has captured EXACTLY how I talk and think.  This is why the world needs experts in psychoba -- I mean psychology.   No one has explained me correctly before this moment.   So sad that I did not read this earlier, and finally understand the intellectual rottenness of my innermost psyche.

That is exactly why I tell students, who come hoping to study at leading American universities, "Don't bother!"  And when I talk with admissions officials at Yale, Columbia, or Brown, I tell them, "I don't want no book-larnin or ejucashun fer me kids.  Begone, vile creatures of the night!"  

Never laugh at psychologists, folks.  They lay their fingers on the pulse of our truest thoughts and motives, with unfailing insight, almost magical powers.  

All you need is Jesus–and some iffy English translations and quote mining of outdated and poorly-written secondary sources. 

And Richard Carrier accuses this bloke Marshall of never citing the literature!  Here, see!  He does cite it, after all!  Though I am a little troubled by Wrong Way Cassidy's implication that all the tenured atheists Marshall quotes in his books are poor writers and / or outdated.  And we know Cassidy is reliable, because she cites the back cover of one of Marshall's books.

See?  You can outdo any historian who’s spent years learning this stuff, just like I have.  You’re right, they’re wrong, and they’ll learn this truth to their detriment one day if they don’t listen to us.

Glad you didn't forget the hell-fire and brimstone finale!  Marshall ALWAYS uses that in his books.  Boy, has she got him nailed!  
The real surprise is that he’s not way more popular with Christians than he is. There isn’t a lot of difference between him and David Barton, Ken Ham, or even Donald Trump.

Yeah, that surprises me, too.  Marshall is such a charmer -- why doesn't everyone love him?

Apologists like him are another symptom of what ails Christianity–and a sign that its time is winding down.

A sign of the times, that's me.

Modern fundagelical apologists show us that the tribe is drilling down even harder on enforced ignorance, that their eyes are looking backward toward what they think is some happy mythical past rather than forward, and that they still haven’t quite come to grips with their own looming loss of privilege.  Their favored type of apologetics reassures them that not only should they not worry about any of that, but that what they’re doing is perfect, reasonable, and divinely-mandated.

Wrong-Way Cassidy seems to have drilled down into more incoherence, here.  On the one hand, this Marshall is practically unknown -- I'd never heard of him before, anyway.  On the other, his popularity with Christians proves that Christianity is on its way out.

Nailed the divine mandate bit, though.   Me and Donald Trump.  Trump takes the White House, but says he doesn't want the pay.  I'll take the pay.  Have to keep Fluffy in deep sea tuna-fish, after all.  Don and me make the perfect team.   
Make no mistake: what we are seeing in modern apologetics is a circling of the wagons, not an offering of the olive branch, and that’s why it will continue to fail to persuade anybody with an ounce of critical thinking skills even while it grows more and more popular with its backward-looking audience.

Well, I certainly hope it grows more popular.   Man cannot live on laughs alone, after all.  Go directly to your nearest Christian bookstore, and tell them you want to help keep me in the style to which I have become accustomed -- me and Creflo Dollar.  
And that's all I have for today, my backwards-looking audience.  After all, if you are following the flight of Captain Cassidy across the skies, with her "critical thinking skills" fully on display in this piece, how else but looking bass ackwards could you follow her trajectory against the blue heavens?  Just remember, between draws on your corncob pipes and shuffling of your straw-covered feet: books are evil!  Reading makes you go blind!  If you have to read, quote-mine something really old, out-of-date, and poorly written.   Those are my mottos, and I live by them!  

Pity Wrong Way Cassidy didn't get around to demonstrating any "outright falsehoods" or quoting any false claims to credentials by this sneaky Marshall, though.  Nor to mentioning any other facts.  No doubt that skunk Marshall barely has a middle school education: how could an educated man love strawberries, after all?

Which reminds me: scones for breakfast!  
Image result for strawberry scone


bbrown said...

David, you're giving this guy too much attention IMO. Let him (or her) embarrass himself. He's doing a fine job of it.

David B Marshall said...

There are more important issues to talk about, for sure. But I thought her article was amusing.

bbrown said...

Agreed. It was certainly entertaining.

Great job on "Unbelievable". BTW.

Forest, VA

David B Marshall said...


Reconquista Initiative said...


Since, as per Captain Cassidy, we are psycho-analyzing, then here is a psychoanalytical explanation of the Captain's whole article: PROJECTION! Indeed, read everything that Cassidy wrote, then pause, and then realize that it applies ten times more to the New Atheists and their books / atheist-apologetics than it does to Christian apologists.

After all, the third law of New Atheists is: Atheists always project!

David B Marshall said...

That would certainly apply to what they say about (blind) faith.

Do I dare ask what the first two laws are?

Reconquista Initiative said...


Not only would it apply to what they say about blind faith, but it would also apply, in Cassidy's case, to numerous claims that she makes. For example, she says that the real purpose of apologetics is:

"To sell stuff to overly-trusting Christians with more money than critical thinking skills."

Now, apply the third law, and realize that this point is much more true of all the books by the New Atheists. After all, Richard Dawkins made a lot more money with The God Delusion than William Lane Craig ever has, and yet The God Delusion is philosophical garbage that no critical thinking person can take seriously but which overly-trusting atheists eat up.

And the projection thing applies to other areas as well:

1) The atheist says: "There is no evidence for God!". Apply law three and you realize that, in fact, there is no evidence for atheism, at least not as a total position. Granted, there are arguments against certain types of theism, but no arguments for atheism itself given the types of viable theisms that exist (such as, for example, Berkelian immaterialism).

2) The atheist says: "Religion is just wish-fulfillment!" Apply law three and you realize that atheism is just wish-fulfillment for the atheist: namely, the fulfillment of the wish that there is no God!

And so on.

Reconquista Initiative said...

Now, concerning the other two "laws", let me first give credit where credit is due given that these laws are inspired by Vox Day's three laws of SJWs. So, with that said, what are the other two laws?

The first law of atheists: Atheists always bullshit (in the philosophical Frankfurtian sense).

For example, the modern "lack-of-belief" atheism shtick. Or the atheists who will tell you that "they just want some evidence", and then admit that no evidence would convince them. Or the atheist's who demand 'God-of-the-gaps' type evidence, and then claim that god-of-the-gaps reasoning is invalid.

And the second law is: Atheists always select (in the sense of using selective hyper-skepticism when it suits them).

For example, Jesus rose from the dead! Hogwash! I need 100 witnesses, video evidence, etc. Life came from non-life naturalistically in a way that absolutely no one knows, no one saw, and is as "extraordinary" as a resurrection. Well of course it happened! Its as certain as gravity. No evidence required. Only a moron would deny it.

No doubt you get the idea, because no doubt you have seen it yourself a hundred times!

Oh, and the "always" is used for rhetorical effect. Obviously, it is not "always", but the point is to mix rhetoric with truth for a full effect on both an intellectual and an emotional level (again, this point is inspired by Vox Day).


Unknown said...

Sorry I couldn't have read this 2 years ago. I know nothing of the good Captain, but I just now read her review of Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer book. I've read the book and found it quite well done. Cassidy's review found it wanting. But as I continued to read the review it became clear to me that she had no quibble with the book. Her problem was with Christ and Christians. She gave me nothing of substance as to what was lacking,but her hate and vitriol took center stage. I'm sorry how she treated you,but truly she is the real victim. So much anger,so little comity. She needs our prayers not scorn.

David B Marshall said...

Unknown: Maybe my tone should have been less sarcastic. But when attacked on ludicrous grounds in public, if the attack seems to be widely read, I will correct the attacker's errors. One should "pray for those who despitefully use you," so you're right about that. But Jesus and Paul and the prophets tended to correct the errors of their enemies as well, often with a rhetorical edge. This is probably not the best of my replies to critics; one wishes sometimes that at least one skeptic would take the time to gather a few real facts before attacking.