In this episode, we are doubting the historical existence of a man you may have heard about: Jesus of Nazareth. Ever since critical biblical scholarship began in the eighteenth century, largely a product of the Enlightenment, the consensus among mainstream historians and religious scholars has been that a man named Jesus did historically exist in Palestine and was crucified by the Romans in the first decades of the Common Era. Although these biblical critics did doubt and challenge the reality of the New Testament’s portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker and divinely appointed savior, they did think – or, more precisely, assume – that there was a real man named Jesus upon whom theological legends were later based. But there has always been another school of thought. The mythicists argued that not only was the Christ of faith a theological fantasy, but the Jesus of history was also a fiction. Jesus, said the mythicist scholars, never even existed historically.
About Nathan Dickey
I am a freelance writer and podcaster. I attended Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, where I majored in Journalism. My interests are many and diverse; they include investigative reporting, science, philosophy, history, and pop culture analysis. My motivation in writing and podcasting is to contribute what I can to the promotion of critical thinking among the public. My goal is to use my journalism training to be active in the secular humanist movement, helping more people come to an appreciation of philosophy and history, and analyzing dubious but popularly-believed claims involving the supernatural, the paranormal and religion.
Entries by Nathan Dickey
Eastern mysticism clashes with rural America in this episode, as we recount a tale of religious bigotry, government paranoia, bombings, wiretapping, poisonings, assassination attempts, and airplane chases. I am joined by my good friend and patron the show Chris Watson, host of The Podunk Polymath Podcast, to review and discuss the six-part Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country. The series chronicles the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, the once-thriving city established in 1981 in central Oregon by the Indian guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers.
In this episode, we explore the topic of fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) within the context of the moral panic and cultural stigmatization that surrounded games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. My special guest is Joseph Laycock, PhD, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University and the author of three books, including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds. He has also written a book about vampire mythology and the communities that form around them and several journal articles on subjects which include Otherkin, parody religions, and paranormal beliefs.
My guest for this episode is Carly Gelsinger, author, writing teacher, and freelance editor. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from William Jessup University and a master’s in journalism from Boston University. Her work has appeared in local, regional, and national publications. Her first book, which was released this month, is called Once You Go In: A Memoir of Radical Faith, a book about her life inside a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, where she was on fire for the Lord, as they say, until she found the courage to leave and forge her own path free of the toxicity and fear that fundamentalist religion so often breeds.
In this episode, there is plenty for us to doubt, because we’re talking about philosophy of mind with some moral and ethical philosophy thrown in like sprinkles on top. In what may well become a recurring theme on this podcast, we’re doing another philosophical deep-dive into a television series. This week, we’re analyzing HBO’s Westworld, a cerebral, high-concept series which explores the emergence of artificial consciousness in a theme park modeled after the American Old West and populated by highly sophisticated robots that look and act just like humans from that era.
In this episode, we are applying our doubts and critical thinking toward the myth of “alternative facts” and other lies and fictions of our day that has infected our democracy, ushered in a post-fact era and the digital misinformation age, and helped propel Donald Trump into the White House. My guest for this episode, Nathan Bomey, the author of a new book titled After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump. Nathan Bomey is an award-winning business reporter for USA Today, and previously a reporter for the Detroit Free Press.
In this episode I welcome David Madison as my special guest. He is a former Christian minister who is now an outspoken atheist, author of the 2016 book Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief. He earned a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University School of Theology in 1975 and for nearly a decade served as pastor for two liberal congregations in Massachusetts. His lifelong interest in the Bible was eventually overshadowed by the kind of skepticism that an impartial consideration of serious historical and textual scholarship tends to foster. David joins me to discuss his transition from devout Christian minister to the vocal atheist and formidable critic of Christianity he is today, as well as to discuss a handful of the most devastating problems Christianity has tried and failed to answer.
This week I am very excited to bring you an interview with Karen L. Garst, PhD. She writes for the Faithless Feminist blog and website and is the editor of the book Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion(published in 2016). She has also edited a new book which has just been published, titled Women v. Religion: The Case against Faith – and for Freedom. She joins me on this episode to talk about the intersection of atheism and women’s rights and to make the case that religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality.
My guest on this episode is Dr. Abby Hafer. She holds a doctorate in zoology from Oxford University and teaches human anatomy and physiology at Curry College. She is the author of the 2015 book The Not-So-Intelligent Designer—Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not.
Why has the belief in a single, all-powerful, and dominant male god been so widespread and pervasive throughout human history, and why does it continue to be so influential and intuitive to human beings today? In this episode, I interview Dr. Hector Garcia, a clinical psychologist and author of the 2015 book Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression, to tackle this question. Garcia traces monotheistic religious belief to our primate origins and points to religious differences and our evolved psychology as the common denominator underlying most of the world’s violent conflicts. We talk about religious violence and oppression within the context of Darwinian natural selection and about the ways in which religion is built upon and exploits the human obsession with dominance and submission dynamics and sex.