Richard Carrier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Richard Carrier
Born Richard Cevantis Carrier
(1969-12-01) December 1, 1969 (age 46)
Nationality American
Education B.A. (History), M.A. (Ancient history), M.Phil. (Ancient history), Ph.D. (Ancient history)[1]
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University[1]

Richard Cevantis Carrier (born December 1, 1969) is a historian, atheist activist, author, public speaker, and blogger. He has a doctorate in ancient history from Columbia University where his thesis was on the history of science in ancient antiquity. He is a leading proponent of the Christ myth theory.[2]

Richard Carrier originally gained prominence as an advocate of atheism and metaphysical naturalism, authoring many articles on The Secular Web, and later defending his basic position in his book Sense and Goodness Without God.

Initially he was not interested in the question of the historicity of Jesus,[3] Like many others his first thought was that it was a fringe conspiracy topic not worthy of academic inquiry, however many different people requested that he looked into the subject and raised money for him to do so which led to his authoring two books on the subject, Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus. The first of these books advances a methodology, based on Bayes' theorem, as the standard by which all methodology for any historical study must adhere to in order to be logically sound. The second applies this methodology to the question of the Historicity of Jesus, and reaches a conclusion of mythicism. He has also contributed chapters to three books of counter-apologetics edited by John W. Loftus entitled The End of Christianity, The Christian Delusion, and Christianity Is Not Great.

His blog appears on Freethought Blogs, and he has frequently been a featured speaker at various skeptic, secular humanist, freethought, and atheist conventions, such as the annual Freethought Festival in Madison, WI, the annual Skepticon convention in Springfield, MO, and conventions sponsored by American Atheists.

Carrier has frequently debated Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig and David Marshall both in person and online. The Craig debate was broadcast on Lee Strobel's television show Faith Under Fire.[4]


Carrier received a PhD in ancient history from Columbia University in 2008. His thesis was entitled "Attitudes Towards the Natural Philosopher in the Early Roman Empire (100 B.C. to 313 A.D.)."[5] He has published several articles and chapters in books on the subject of history and philosophy (see below). He was formerly the editor of and a substantial contributor to The Secular Web. His contributions there includes an autobiographical essay From Taoist to Infidel in which he discusses his upbringing in a benign Methodist church, his conversion to Taoism in early adulthood, his confrontation with Christian fundamentalists while in the U.S. Coast Guard, and his deeper study of religion, Christianity, and Western philosophy, which eventually led to his embrace of naturalism.[6] This was reprinted in his major work defending atheism and naturalism, Sense and Goodness without God.

Public debates[edit]

He has engaged in several formal debates, both online and in person, on a range of subjects including naturalism, natural explanations of early Christian resurrection accounts, the morality of abortion, and the general credibility of the Bible. He debated Michael R. Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus at UCLA on April 19, 2004.[7] Carrier debated atheist Jennifer Roth online on the morality of abortion.[8] He has defended naturalism in formal debates with Tom Wanchick and Hassanain Rajabali. He has debated David Marshall on the general credibility of the New Testament.[9]

The debate with William Lane Craig was broadcast on Lee Strobel's now defunct television show Faith Under Fire.[4]

On the origins of Christianity[edit]

In his contribution to The Empty Tomb, Carrier argues that the earliest Christians probably believed Jesus had received a new spiritual body in the resurrection, and that stories of his old body disappearing from its tomb were developed later.[10] He also argues it is less likely, but also possible, that the original body of Jesus was misplaced or stolen. This work was criticized by philosophy professor Stephen T. Davis in Philosophia Christi[11] and Christian apologist Norman Geisler.[12]

Though originally skeptical of the Christ myth theory, since late 2005 he has considered it "very probable Jesus never actually existed as a historical person."[13] He also said "though I foresee a rising challenge among qualified experts against the assumption of historicity [of Jesus], as I explained, that remains only a hypothesis that has yet to survive proper peer review."[14]

Carrier's first major book, Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, published in 2012 by Prometheus Books, describes the application of Bayes' theorem to historical inquiry in general and the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth in particular.[15]

In June 2014, Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt was published by Sheffield Phoenix Press.[16] He has claimed that it is "the first comprehensive pro-Jesus-myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review."[17]

Investigating Antony Flew's leaving atheism[edit]

When reports spread of Antony Flew's rejection of atheism in 2004, Carrier engaged in correspondence with Flew to find out what happened and published an extensive analysis of the situation on The Secular Web, finding among other things that Flew changed his belief into there being some sort of "minimal God," as in Deism. Carrier also came away with the opinion that Flew's changed ideas were not accurately represented in the book Flew co-authored, There is a God.[18][19][20] However, Flew released a statement through his publisher (without directly addressing Carrier's statements):

My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 percent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I’m 84 and that was Roy Varghese’s role. This is my book and it represents my thinking.[21]

Investigating Quotes Attributed to Adolf Hitler Regarding Christianity[edit]

Richard Carrier, in collaboration with Reinhold Mittschang, challenged several anti-Christian statements attributed to Adolf Hitler in his collection of monologues known as the Table Talk. Carrier's paper argues that the French and English translations are "entirely untrustworthy"[22] and suggests the possibility that Francois Genoud had doctored portions of the text to enhance Hitler's views.[23] Carrier put forward a new translation of twelve quotations based on Picker and Jochmann's German editions, as well as a fragment from the Bormann-Vermerke preserved at the Library of Congress, which challenge some of the quotations popularly used to demonstrate Hitler's hostility to Christianity. Carrier concludes that Hitler's views in the Table Talk, "resemble Kant's with regard to the primacy of science over theology in deciding the facts of the universe, while remaining personally committed to a more abstract theism."[24] Carrier also maintains that throughout the Table Talk Hitler takes a cynical view of Catholicism, "voicing many of the same criticisms one might hear from a candid (and bigoted) Protestant."[25]

In the new forward to the Table Talk, Gerhard Weinberg commented that "Carrier has shown the English text of the table-talk that originally appeared in 1953 and is reprinted here derives from Genoud's French edition and not from one of the German texts."[26] Derek Hastings cites Carrier's paper for "an attempt to undermine the reliability of the anti-Christian statements."[27] Carrier's thesis that the English translation should be entirely dispensed with is not accepted by Richard Steigmann-Gall, who despite referencing the controversies raised by Carrier,[28] "ultimately presume[d] its authenticity."[29] Citing Carrier's paper, historian Diethelm Prowe remarked that Trevor-Roper's "Table Talk, has been proven to be wholly unreliable as a source almost a decade ago."[30]

In news and media[edit]

Carrier appeared on national television in 2004, debating William Lane Craig on Lee Strobel's talk show Faith Under Fire on the PAX network (now ION Television), in a segment on the resurrection of Jesus.[31]

Richard Carrier was the keynote speaker for the Humanist Community of Central Ohio's annual Winter Solstice Banquet where he spoke on defending naturalism as a philosophy.[32]

He also appears in the documentary The Nature of Existence in which film-maker Roger Nygard interviews people of many different religious and secular philosophies about the meaning of life.[33]

Carrier is listed in Who's Who in Hell.[34]

Carrier was featured in the documentary film The God Who Wasn't There, where he was interviewed about his doubts on the historicity of Jesus.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Dr. Carrier announced in 2015 that he and his wife had ended their 20-year marriage. He also revealed that he is polyamorous.[36]


Selected articles[edit]

  • "Flash! Fox News Reports that Aliens May Have Built the Pyramids of Egypt!". Skeptical Inquirer 23.5 (September–October 1999).
  • "The Guarded Tomb of Jesus and Daniel in the Lion's Den: An Argument for the Plausibility of Theft". Journal of Higher Criticism 8.2 (Fall 2001).
  • "Pseudohistory in Jerry Vardaman's Magic Coins: The Nonsense of Micrographic Letters". Skeptical Inquirer 26.2 (March–April 2002) and 26.4 (July–August 2002).
  • "The Function of the Historian in Society". The History Teacher 35.4 (August 2002).
  • "Hitler's Table Talk: Troubling Finds". German Studies Review 26.3 (October 2003).
  • "The Argument from Biogenesis: Probabilities Against a Natural Origin of Life". Biology & Philosophy 19.5 (November 2004).
  • "Whence Christianity? A Meta-Theory for the Origins of Christianity". Journal of Higher Criticism 11.1 (Spring 2005).
  • "Fatal Flaws in Michael Almeida's Alleged 'Defeat' of Rowe's New Evidential Argument from Evil". Philo 10.1 (Spring-Summer 2007).
  • "On Defining Naturalism as a Worldview". Free Inquiry 30.3 (April/May 2010).
  • "Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death". Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011-2012).
  • "Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200". Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.4 (Winter 2012).
  • "The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44". Vigiliae Christianae 68 (2014).

Books and chapters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). October 7, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ Casey, Maurice (2014). Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?. Bloomsbury T&T Clark. pp. 14–16. ISBN 9780567447623. 
  3. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b Audio Archive of Debate
  5. ^ "Clio Holdings Information". Columbia University Libraries. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  6. ^ "From Taoist to Infidel". The Secular Web. 2001. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Licona vs. Carrier: On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ". April 19, 2004. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  8. ^ "On the Issue of Abortion". Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Marshall vs. Carrier: Richard's opening argument". Christ the Tao. March 25, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  10. ^ Carrier, Richard (2005). "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb". In Price, Robert M.; Lowder, Jeffery Jay. The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave. Prometheus Books. ISBN 9781591022862. 
  11. ^ Davis, Stephen T. (2006). "The Counterattack of the Resurrection Skeptics: A Review Article". Philosophia Christi 8 (1): 39–63. 
  12. ^ Geisler, Norman (Spring 2006). "A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave". Christian Apologetics Journal 5 (1): 45–106. 
  13. ^ Carrier, Richard. "Spiritual Body FAQ". Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  14. ^ Carrier, Richard (March 25, 2009). "Richard Carrier Blogs: Craig Debate Wrap". Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  15. ^ Carrier, Richard (2012). Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9781616145606. 
  16. ^ Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 9781909697355. 
  17. ^ Carrier, Richard (July 17, 2013). "Update on Historicity of Jesus". Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  18. ^ Carrier, Richard (October 10, 2004). "Antony Flew Considers God...Sort Of". The Secular Web. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Leading Atheist Philosopher Concludes God's Real". FOX News. Associated Press. December 9, 2004. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  20. ^ Oppenheimer, Mark (November 4, 2007). "The Turning of an Atheist". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  21. ^ Varghese, Roy Abraham (January 13, 2008). "'There Is a God'". New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  22. ^ "'Hitler's Table Talk': Troubling Finds." German Studies Review 26 (3): 561-576./ref>
  23. ^ Carrier (2003), p. 565.
  24. ^ Carrier (2003), p. 574.
  25. ^ Carrier (2003), p. 573.
  26. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard (2003). Foreword In Hugh Trevor-Roper, ed. 2003. Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. New York: Engima Books, p. xi
  27. ^ Hastings, Derek (2010). Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 251. 
  28. ^ Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 255–256.
  29. ^ Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2007). Christianity and the Nazi Movement. Journal of Contemporary History 42 (2): 208.
  30. ^ Prowe, Diethelm (2013). "Review Hitler by A. N. Wilson." Central European History 46 (02): 437
  31. ^ "The End of Faith" (Faith Under Fire episode 1, season 1, aired October 2, 2004). Reported by ("Faith Under Fire hits TV screens: PAX series looks at religion, spirituality, morality"), (Randall Murphree, "Is God Republican Or Democrat? New PAX Series with Lee Strobel Debates Issues"), and (Richard Carrier debates William Lane Craig on "Faith Under Fire").
  32. ^ "Speaker will defend godless worldview". The Columbus Dispatch. 2006-12-22. p. 03C – via LexisNexis. 
  33. ^ Imdb cast listing
  34. ^ Smith, Warren Allen (2000). Who's Who in Hell. Barricade Books. p. 186. ISBN 1-56980-158-4. 
  35. ^ Biederman, Patricia Ward (August 20, 2005). "Documentary Questions the Existence of Jesus". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  36. ^ Carrier, Richard (February 18, 2015). "Coming Out Poly + A Change of Life Venue". Richard Carrier Blogs. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 

External links[edit]