Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Nature of Existence

I'm going to be in another movie. Sort of.
I first became acquainted with Roger Nygard from his films Trekkies and Trekkies 2. Trekkies was superb--funny, informative, moving, yet with a real love of his subject. Trek fans only come off looking as silly as they actually are, and it's all humor in good fun (with an underlying message of humanism that's actually very Trekkie itself). Watching the first one inspired Jen and I to rent Trekkies 2, and we actually loved that one even more. It takes the same theme worldwide, looking at Star Trek fans in other countries. Which was actually the more amazing and moving. When you watch Bosnian Trek fans explaining why they love Star Trek's vision of a future golden age of peace and prosperity among all mankind, as a philosophy and vision for their own troubled times, it kind of means a lot more than when you hear it from some American suburbanite. I just can't recommend both films more. If you haven't seen them, you should.

Anyway, Nygard has turned his brilliant and funny eye from the life of Star Trek trivia to the biggest of big topics: the meaning of life. With his new film--many years in the making, spanning the globe--he brings you The Nature of Existence. Roger actually interviewed me for this (last year I think), and shot a lot of footage, but alas I'm told I get only one line in the film (though Roger assures me it's a good one, I don't really know). It's possible more of my interview will appear in something like web or DVD extras, but no guarantees, and anyway it's a long way from those formats yet. It's still a film in the can, and it premiers at the Cinequest Festival in San Jose, California in a couple of weeks (Sunday, March 8, 2009), "at the palatial California Theatre," where there will be a screening and closing night gala starting at 7:30 p.m.

Roger didn't want me to tell anyone he was making this movie until it was done, which is why I haven't said anything until now (besides a hint not too long ago). Since I haven't seen it, I don't know how good it is, but I think the probability is very high that it will not only be good, but almost certainly better than Religulous (which I had some issues with). Unfortunately I'll be in Southern California that day, so I can't make the premiere. I hope some fans will, and report back on it in comments here.

Follow the links above for more details, trailers, and so on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not the Impossible Faith

I am still writing On the Historicity of Jesus Christ. But to save space there, I found I often needed to cite an online book I wrote some years ago, which is easier to do when there are page numbers. So I went ahead and produced a Lulu print edition. I just received sales stock today, so I will be selling it at my events in March after all, as I've hinted was possible. Though it is not yet posted for sale at Amazon, it will be in a few months (I'll update this blog when it appears there). I was going to wait for that, but since I'll be selling it at events next month, I decided to blog about it now so my fans are fully in-the-know.

The new book is Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed (2009). This is a special updated edition of Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (2006), which I was paid $6000 to research and write as a publicly available response to J.P. Holding's 'flagship' essay "The Impossible Faith: Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion," which he also reproduced as a printed book, The Impossible Faith (2007). In it he boasts that 'someone' was paid thousands of dollars to debunk his arguments, but he never names me or tells his readers anything about how to find that rebuttal (or even mentions or responds to anything I said in it). Amazon now allows product plugs in customer reviews, so you know what I'll be doing when Not the Impossible Faith finally appears on Amazon... :-)

Part of my original contract included the guarantee that my initial work would be available to the public for free. So Was Christianity? will remain on the Secular Web, free to all. The print edition, now titled Not the Impossible Faith (to rif on Holding's title), includes various changes, to the point that it certainly supercedes the online version (it's the edition I will cite and reference from now on), but nothing so significant that you "need" to buy the book if you're content with the online text. I didn't want to take any time away from my current project, so I just did the minimum necessary to produce a decent print copy (and there wasn't much room for improvement anyway--as a refutation, it's pretty conclusive).

What's new? Basically, I folded everything in the original Chapter 19 into the other 18 Chapters (where the various items in 19 belonged, each piece in a different place), folded many endnotes into the main text, wrote a new brief introduction (none too kind to Holding), rewrote some sections for clarity, made a slew of minor corrections and additions throughout, and smoothed readability in several places. Apart from all that, the main advantage of the book is that you can now cite it by page number (if you have a copy on hand), and carry it around and loan it around and write notes in the margins and highlight it and bookmark it and whatnot (I made sure it had proper 1" margins this time).

Personally, I just prefer reading physical books--lounging wherever I want, no eye strain, no battery or outlet issues, lighter to carry, easier page turning and flipping around and estimating reading time (I can see how much is left to read in a chapter or the rest of the book), I can stuff a bookmark where I left off, etc. For all these reasons, and especially if you want to start building a Richard Carrier collection on your bookshelf, it'll be worth buying the book. You can also buy a PDF version at Lulu for just $2.50, which will have to serve as a substitute for an index (since you can search that file for keywords, and still get the correct page number and see the text of the new edition, which is often different from the online version), since compiling a print index requires a solid week's work, and that was far too costly for me.

You can buy it now at Lulu (the PDF or the softback), but Amazon will give you free shipping (on the softback), so I recommend waiting for when it's available there (unless you just want the PDF). But the best option is to buy a copy from me in person (at a speaking event any time in the future), where you will get a much reduced price ($20). And of course I'll sign it if you want. Though I'll make more money on sales through Lulu than Amazon, it's already overpriced ($28 through any vendor), so I'm keen to advise fans to save where they can. Lulu passes all costs on to the customer (that means you), which means it cost me nothing to publish (which is why I bothered). Unlike most self-publishing firms, which charge at least a thousand dollars to launch a book, Lulu charges nothing (and you can do all the formatting and editing yourself online, which limits your options, but that's no matter if you don't need any). But it makes up for this in unit price. So in effect, buyers are subsidizing the publication of the print edition.

Though this means my book costs two to three times Holding's (which also just reproduces content already available for free online), mine is four times longer (454 pages to his 112) and (as you all well know) far better researched, argued, and referenced. Thus in terms of actual relative value-for-cost, the price isn't bad. My book actually contains a great deal of useful content and information, and citations of scholarship and sources, far beyond merely being a response to Holding (see the Lulu page for my full book description). It's a useful primer on the socio-intellectual context of the origins and spread of early Christianity. And of course it nails it hard to one of the most annoying apologetic windbags on the web.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Appearing in Ventura

Atheists United, who is sponsoring my work On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (in progress), will be hosting a preview of my La Verne talk (Monday March 9) in Ventura, California, the previous day (Sunday March 8), followed by a cocktail fundraiser for Atheists United (at a different location). This will make my talk reachable by people too far from La Verne to make that trip, and it'll give my book's local supporters a précis of the book's argument (minus the rigorous mathematical details--maybe someday I'll give a tutorial on Bayes' Theorem, but a host group would have to ask...and convince me they won't find it too dull to stand :-).

Here are the details (more at AU):

Topic: "Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist"
Time: 4pm (until 5:30 or 6pm)
Date: Sunday March 8
Location: In
the Topping Room at the E.P. Foster Library (651 East Main Street, Ventura 93001)

This event will be free and open to the public. The following party (at a private location in Oxnard) will be more limited. At the very least I will expect attendees to donate something to AU.
Those interested should contact the organizers for more information about that, well in advance (email

The probability is increasing that I will have copies of my new book Not the Impossible Faith to sell at this event (at a discount, and well in advance of its appearance on Amazon in a month or two, when I'll blog in more detail about it). I will also have old back stock of Sense and Goodness without God that I'll be selling cheap (especially for those who want an extra copy they can loan out, give to friends or family, or trash up themselves with dog-earing and highlighting and scribbling and whatnot) as well as some copies of The Empty Tomb for those who don't already have one.