January 05, 2016

#NewAge, meet #NewAtheism: Acharya S. proof that Jesus mythicism doesn't involve critical thinking

D.M. Murdock, aka Acharya S., was a leader of the modern revival of Jesus mythicism. More specifically, she was a leader of the nonsense revival of what started, 125 years ago, as somewhat more academically respectable speculation on the possible nonexistence not only of a historic Jesus, but also of a historic Buddha and a historic Zoroaster.

I have myself noted that I don't totally oppose a broader version of such mythicism as long as, if it doesn't have actual academic grounding, it's not peddling pseudoacademic nonsense. I've also long said that I oppose Jesus mythicism, which I also in this case call Jesus denialism, when it's a fringe idea entertained in support of broader New Atheist, or Gnu Atheist, issues.

That's wrong for multiple reasons.
  1. Potential academic issues should not be driven by such blatant bias;
  2. Atheism as a philosophical issue by no means stands or falls on the existence or nonexistence of Yeshua bar Yusuf;
  3. Belief that it does shows GnuAtheism to be:
  • Western-centric and thus culturally driven
  • Anti-theistic, not just atheistic
  • And, per Camus in "The Rebel," "needing" Christianity in some warped way.
That said, Acharya was an original peddler of this nonsense; I say it via Gnu Atheist thought leader P.Z. Myers favorably touting it. She has no bachelor's level degree in religion, let alone a graduate degree. As Murdock's Wiki page notes, she is 10 times more credulous a peddler of bad puns than was the Yahwist section author of the Torah.

Her listing of her academic background on her website seems precisely done to cover actual thinness. Take being a "trench master" on an archaeology dig. Nice, yes, but, unless at a major new dig, it's more grunt work than intellectual work. (As a kid, I watched my dad assist as a certified amateur archaeologist at a couple of Anazasi digs, so this observation isn't out of life.) Plus, note that this work is all at classical sites. No Biblical archaeology from you!

And, the wrongness about the Priapus statue is only the tip of the iceberg. Here's a laundry list of other howlers of hers.

Some denialists like to bash her, but Robert Price (himself teaching at a "New Thought" seminary, although appearing to be an atheist, but maybe he's not?) and Robert Eisenman are among those who give her touts on her website.

And, it's also not mean-spirited to call a cock-and-bull story a cock-and-bull story.

However, she's never struck me as a Gnu Atheist, and with a recent rebrowsing of information about her, doesn't strike me now as ANY type of atheist. Rather, with her now having just died, and ironically, on Jesus Day/Mithras Day, Dec. 25, 2015, by the types of sites that pay encomia to her, she and her astro-solarism Jesus myth, that Jesus was "stolen" from Egyptian solar beliefs and more, she seems at least quite congenial to certain types of New Ageism, if not a New Ager herself.

Her death from cancer reflects the tenuousness of the U.S. health care system, from what I've read about her passing. At the same time, from what I've parsed together, it reflects the fact that she, too, had no full-time position or job, and no regular, steady, income stream, because mythicism of the Denialist Four Horseman is so outside academia that nobody claiming to be an academic mythicist can actually get a regular job teaching it.

Ironically, for someone claiming to be rigorously academic, she went down the alternative treatments road for her cancer, too. And, then tried to blame medicine ("conventional medicine" is simply called "medicine" at my site, folks) for her liver failure rather than accepting a rapid metastasis of her breast cancer.

The first of those two links illustrates what I said in the paragraph above that about the health care system here, as far as costs she was facing. That said, this:
I immediately started what turns out to be a ketogenic, anti-cancer diet, supplemented with known cancer-fighting substances as curcumin and many others, including mushrooms and ginger
Is pure nonsense.

No wonder she got defensive:
Do NOT let anyone go about writing stupid blogs saying that “alternative medicine” killed me. That would be yet more inaccurate propaganda.
It maybe didn't hasten your death, but it didn't slow it down, of that I'm sure. 

Madam, you would have been better off coming to the point of "acceptance," much sooner, enrolling in hospice care, then finding a doctor ready to prescribe you a morphine overdose. Having taught a college class on death and dying issues as an adjunct instructor, I have some background in this, and if she had financial issues, I know that even Medicaid will pay for some hospice services. And, having taught that class in Michigan during Jack Kevorkian's first trial, I'm experienced at what doctors more ethical to patients, and more subtle than Kevorkian and his grandstanding, can and will do.

I halfway wonder if, between lack of reasonable health insurance from not having a job other than being self-employed as publisher at her personal vanity publishing house, and perhaps a bit of New Agey belief (or more than a bit), she didn't try to self-treat the cancer before going to a doctor in the first place.

Intuitively, she strikes me as one of those late-Victorian proto-New Agers who dabbled in things like Theosophy. And, this is why she deliberately veiled her past history as much as possible, I'm sure — trying to build a late-Victorian type romance around her life.

As noted above, many sites mourning her are NOT "freethought" or "Gnu Atheist" sites. They're New Agers to the max. And these tributes didn't happen overnight. It's modern Sethian gnosticism, or Aquarian Christianity, or something along those lines, these sites promote and that Murdcck was, at a minimum, sympatico with. It's funny, as well as sad, but it's totally unsurprising, since in addition to not being a critical thinker in general, I never got the indication she was an atheist of any sort.

It's also funny, and also sad in other ways, that Gnu Atheists would tout the ramblings of such a .... deluded and self-inflated person as alleged academic proof that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. But, that too is unsurprising.

As for friends of hers saying "speak no ill of the dead," I'll do that as soon as you stop speaking pablum of the dead. I blogged myself, with a link to Glenn Greenwald, about Chris Hitchens' death, noting how he'd turned into an anti-humanist, Islamophobe, warhawk.

Meanwhile, back to the strangeness of Gnu Atheists and Jesus denialists. Murdock's fellow denialist horseman Robert M. Price's teaching at a New Thought seminary, in the same vein, apparently isn't by accident either. Given that, per Wiki, he calls himself a "Christian atheist," let's just be honest and call him a New Ager. If atheism in a broader sense means "no metaphysical beliefs of any sort," then Gnu Atheists have latched on to him for strange reasons. Certainly for uncritical and unskeptical ones.

For more on the academic shortcomings of Murdock, Price, Richard Carrier and other denialists, go here, including my deconstruction of Carrier's false claims of scholarship, my thought on why Price is teaching at a New Age/New Thought seminary, and more.

2 comments:

Andrew T. said...


Robert M. Price is not a "New Ager" of any sort. You can (and I do) criticize his right-wing politics; that's fair game. But I defy you to listen to his "Bible Geek" podcast and come away with anything but respect for his scholarship.

Gadfly said...

Depending on how broad "New Ageism" is defined, his "Christian atheism" could indeed be called New Ageism. And, he's teaching at a New Thought school. So, I'll disagree with you, for the reasons just said, which are listed in more detail in the post.

That said, you've not even clicked through to the original piece of mine, where I also tackle his apparent racialism.