Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts

Dr. Hector Avalos Has Died. He was a one man demolition machine when it came to debunking Christianity!

My heart just broke at the news that Dr. Hector Avalos just died. He was a Harvard trained biblical scholar, my friend, and team member here at DC. He died after a battle with cancer. Here is his obituary He'll be missed greatly! I wept at the news. 
My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Cynthia and other loved ones and friends. I loved this man. I loved his scholarship. I loved him for his support of my work. I loved his demeanor and resolve. He was the greatest scholar I've ever personally met and known. He should go down in history as the greatest biblical scholar in our generation. You may disagree but that's my assessment. He made a huge difference. He will be greatly missed.
This pic of us together was taken in 2011 in South Bend, Indiana, when Hector was in my area giving a series of talks on religious violence. It was during a very short period of time when I had shaved off my goatee. His wife Cynthia took it.
Here's what I wrote about him in the dedication to my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith, as one of the scholarly friends who greatly influenced my thinking:
I dedicate this book to Hector Avalos who is expertly leading a second wave of atheist biblical scholars following the first wave of new atheists. His writings are multidisciplinary in scope (covering biblical, scientific, ethical and political issues) utilizing a variety of venues (scholarly books, journals, blog posts and newspapers), and cross-cultural in scope (in both English and Spanish). He is a one man demolition machine when it comes to debunking Christianity and its influence in today’s world. 
I first gained Hector's attention when I highly recommended his book The End of Biblical Studies. Then he joined the team of writers here at DC. Here are a few of his early postsHe was relentless in countering ignorance when he was maligned. He responded with scholarship, firmness and as a gentleman. I liked how he would almost always ask his opponent a few hard questions to answer at the end. 
We had a mutual admiration for each other. He came to my defense several times when I was under attack, for which I was thankful. Imagine having a biblical scholar defending you as a verbal pit bull!  
In honor of his legacy I'm asking people buy up his books. See the marquee of his books pictured at the header of this blog. Get his flagship book, The End of Biblical Studies, plus Slavery, Abolition, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship, then The Bad Jesus; The Ethics of New Testament Ethics, and also The Reality of Religious Violence.
To see how he supported my work, below is the Foreword Hector wrote for my book Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. I share it to let readers know what he thinks is important. He thinks my work is important. If you value his opinion perhaps you should too. 

The Bad Jesus Is On Full View in the Gospels

So why is there anybody left in church?

To keep up sales and profits, when you have a deeply flawed product, you have to be clever, cunning, shrewd—and determined. You have to work extra hard to disguise the flaws. The resurrection of Jesus comes to mind especially. Robert Conner, here on the Debunking Christianity Blog, 8 September 2017, wrote:


“The Evangelical Resurrection Industrial Complex (ERIC) has churned out scores of scholarly tomes, hundreds of erudite disquisitions in professional journals, dissertations and commentaries, as well as debates and conferences beyond numbering, and the tsunami of dishonest verbiage shows know sign of receding.”

The Obituary of Dr. Hector Avalos (10/8/1958 - 4/12/2021)

As mentioned before, Dr. Hector Avalos has died, a Harvard trained biblical scholar, my friend, and team member here at DC. He died after a battle with cancer. Here is his obituary He'll be missed greatly!
This pic of us together was taken in 2011 in South Bend, Indiana, when Hector was in my area giving a series of talks on religious violence. It was during a very short period of time when I had shaved off my goatee.

A Penis Bone in Genesis 2:21? Retrodiagnosis as a Methodological Problem in Scriptural Studies


Ziony Zevit is the Distinguished Professor in Bible and Northwest Semitic Languages in the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University. He has done widely respected work on the religion of ancient Israel (see Zevit 2001; 2013).

However, Zevit makes a claim that is difficult to accept or understand linguistically, exegetically, and medically. In so doing, he is engaging in “retrodiagnosis,” the practice of providing modern medical categories and descriptions for conditions unknown or of no interest to ancient writers (Arrizabalaga; Muramoto)Critiques of retrodiagnostic approaches are now numerous in scriptural studies, and these include those of Hector AvalosJoel S. Baden, and Candida R. Moss.

Typically, such approaches seek to diagnose a condition mentioned in the Bible in precise modern medical terms. Debra A. Chase attributed one condition mentioned in the Mesopotamian creation epic known as Atra-∆as•s to Kwashiorkor-Marasmus, which is associated with starvation. 

Malcolm Gladwell (13-14), a popular writer who is not a biblical scholar, believes that Goliath suffered from “acromegaly—a disease caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.” For Gladwell, this condition explains why Goliath has poor vision and so asks David to come to him in 1 Samuel 17:44. S. Levin attributes Isaac’s blindness in Genesis 27:1 to diabetes.

Is Murder Always Murder? A Response to Dr. Munson by Dr. Hector Avalos, Iowa State University


Prof. Henry Munson

Writing book reviews is no facile task.  A reviewer must be familiar with the subject matter, and also show some familiarity with the ancillary issues that a book might raise, especially those that are outside of one’s immediate field. That is why I am usually very grateful that someone even deigns to read one of my books. 

Dr. Henry Munson, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Maine, reviewed my latest book, The Reality of Religious Violence: From Biblical to Modern Times (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019) in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Religion 88, no. 3 (September, 2020): 900–902. 

"Atheism Was Not the Reason Hitler Killed So Many People" by Dr. Hector Avalos from The Christian Delusion

I've been thinking about posting whole chapters of my books. At Dr. Avalos's suggestion here's one of them from The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), pp. 368-95, used with permission. No reproduction of this chapter is permitted outside of this post under copyright laws. You may reasonably quote from it and link to it though.

This is an extended chapter of what you'll find in Avalos's book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. At the present time Avalos is doing a revision of that book, which will almost certainly update the chapter you're about to read, so look for it.

Avalos explains why atheism was not the cause of the Holocaust, especially dealing with the arguments of Dinesh D'Souza, and including other apologetic attempts to distance Christianity from the Holocaust. If you love this chapter as I do, there are many others in my anthology you'll love as well.

The Mindshift Interview about The Bad Jesus

I invite DC readers to check-out the Mindshift Podcast hosted by Dr. Clint Heacock, who completed his doctorate in biblical studies at the University of Chester (United Kingdom).
In this episode, Dr. Heacock interviews me about the Second Wave of the New Atheism, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (2015), and biblical literacy.  Dr. Heacock also speaks about his journey away from Fundamentalism.

Quote of the Day by Dr. Hector Avalos, Chiding Pop Christian Apologists For Pretending To Know Things They Don't Know

Don Camp has roosted here at DC, viewing himself as an apologist whose primary goal is not to learn from us but rather to dismantle our arguments against his faith. He's posted so often I limited his comments to ten per day. What Camp should tell us is why his god was so incompetent he enlisted apologists like him to set us all straight. Enter Dr. Hector Avalos. Camp had strewn together a lame response to a video Dr. Avalos made, so Hector responded here. Undeterred, Camp thought he could respond further. So Hector chided him in a letter below, which also serves as a warning to other pop Christian apologists and professional apologists as well.

Dr. Peter Boghossian has defined faith as "pretending to know things you don't know." It's a stipulative definition, one that's polemical in nature yet accurate from the perspective of atheists and skeptics. No, we emphatically do not have to use a word such as "faith" in the same way Christians use it, when the concept behind it is the debate itself. Although, if faith is trust, as they say, there is no reason to trust faith. Anyway, just like the sophists in the days of Socrates, who pretended to know things they didn't know, most all apologists for Christianity do likewise (otherwise they wouldn't be apologists). By contrast Boghossian wants us to practice the intellectual virtue of authenticity, whereby we admit we don't know something if we legitimately don't know it. No one can know everything. So apologists who are pretending are not authentic people. The question is why anyone would take seriously the pontifications of an inauthentic person? The lack of authenticity, all by itself, should tell us such a person is indoctrinated, brainwashed and delusional.

Clan or Thousand? A Response to Dr. Vincent Torley

Dr. Vincent Torley responded to my post on “The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists” in the comments section.
Torley’s response is fundamentally flawed and exhibits a lack of training in Hebrew and Semitic philology. He cites sources that he himself is either not evaluating critically or is unable to evaluate because of a lack of knowledge of Semitic and Hebrew linguistics. 
I will focus on this statement to illustrate my point: "In summary: some 600 families, or clans, left Egypt, consistent with the 70 that entered, the length of stay, and the births there."

The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists: A Response to Don Camp

Pharaoh Akhenaten, founder of Amarna
Don Camp, a blogger who often comments on DC, has written a critique of a video lecture, “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History,” that I presented in Minnetonka, Minnesota for the Minnesota Atheists on October 21, 2007. 

Camp objects principally to some of my statements about the lack of historical and archaeological evidence for the Exodus. Camp appeals to the famous Amarna letters, which date from the middle to late 1300s BCE, to refute some of the claims I make in the video lecture.
Camp purports to present a researched post with footnotes. In particular, Camp appeals to this website to document his claims about the Amarna letters.
For the sake of clarity and brevity, I will address the main points of Camp’s blog post with two principal questions:
I. Does archaeology support the large numbers of people mentioned in Exodus 12:37, which claims that 600,000 men on foot were part of the Exodus? (Approximately at 17:06 in my video lecture).
II. Does the Amarna correspondence, dated to the mid-late 1300s BCE, support the historical claims of the Bible concerning the conquest of Hazor and Shechem by the Israelites?       
I will explain why Camp not only misunderstands the Amarna correspondence, but also why he lacks a proper understanding of both the Bible and archaeology when he makes his case. On a broader level, this essay explains why we cannot use the Amarna correspondence to confirm the Exodus or Conquest narratives.

Biblical Scholars Denounce Trump's Executive Order

Alan Kurdi, a child in a refugee family, died on September 2, 2015
The Society of Biblical Literature is the largest organization of academic biblical scholars in the world. It consists of many “units” that address specific topics within biblical studies.  Many of those units have drafted statements opposed to President Donald J.Trump’s Executive Order of January 27. However, some of those units still use the Bible (with actual "prooftexts") as an authority to justify their opposition.  
Our group of biblical scholars, called the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship unit, is devoted to a secular approach to the study of Bible, and so we decided to draft a statement that specifically disavows the use of the Bible as an authority to endorse or oppose any government policy.  We focus on humanitarian and legal arguments. Below is our statement.

The Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship unit in the Society of Biblical Literature expresses its opposition to the Executive Order issued by President Donald J. Trump on January 27, 2017 that immediately suspends entry of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen into the United States.
We recognize that the Bible bears contradictory views about immigrants, and we do not utilize the Bible as an authority to set any government policy or to oppose any government policy.
Our opposition is firstly based on the detrimental effect that such an order has on the welfare of victims of oppression and violence that will now be trapped within the listed countries. The Order, in effect, is a death sentence for thousands of men, women, and children of many religious backgrounds who are trying to flee violence.
As members of a community of scholars, we also are concerned that the Executive Order adversely affects the ability of scholars from the listed countries to interact with those in the United States. Such interactions are a key component of expanding knowledge and building relationships across the globe.
The Executive Order, along with many related statements made by Mr. Trump, suggest that the basis for this action is partly based on religious discrimination. He declared his intent to ban all Muslims in December of 2015, and he has since stated that he wants priority given to Christian refugees, who are not the majority of those experiencing violence in the listed countries. 
Identifying a religious preference for entry, or for the denial of entry, into the United States is neither consistent with our Constitutional principles nor with the general principles of equality.
We, therefore, denounce in the strongest possible terms the premises and consequences that this Executive Order will have for our fellow human beings and for the entire academic enterprise that is global in scope.
Hector Avalos (Co-Chair), Iowa State University
Rebecca Raphael (Co-Chair), Texas State University
Krista Dalton, Columbia University
André Gagné, Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)
Ed Silver, Wellesley College
Stephen Young, Appalachian State University

Course at Marquette Discusses The End of Biblical Studies


The End of Biblical Studies continues to be taken seriously in graduate courses in biblical studies. One example is at Marquette University, a Catholic institution where Dr. Julian Hills, a highly respected New Testament scholar, is teaching a course on New Testament Method. Here is the course description:

“In 1973, a young Walter Wink wrote, ‘Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt’ (The Bible in Human Transformation, p. 1). More recently a new young firebrand, Hector Avalos, has published a book announcing The End of Biblical Studies (2007) as an academic discipline with any sort of integrity — suggesting that scholars employ ‘a variety of flawed and specious techniques that are aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today's world’ (cover blurb).

This course will be, I hope, a vigorous re-affirmation of the necessity and the rich fruit of appropriate method, or methods, in biblical studies. Of course, we shall want to hear what Wink and Avalos have to say; but not in a purely defensive posture. Instead, we shall examine a host of first-rate examples of biblical criticism well employed, and each student will write several exegetical papers that will correspond to the best canons of scholarly research and writing. In addition, we shall discuss the role of biblical studies in the academy (say, in a religious or secular university setting) and in the service of the Church.”

Dr. John Goldingay on the Bible and Slavery


Dr. John Goldingay of Fuller Theological Seminary is not a scholar that I would expect to agree with me on biblical ethics. He is a well-known evangelical biblical scholar and I am an openly atheist biblical scholar.
Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to read this passage on pages 42-43 of his book, Do We Still Need the New Testament?:
 “What difference did Jesus’ coming make to the world? It has been argued that ‘The Church has made more changes on earth for good than any other movements of force in history,’
including the growth of hospitals, universities, literacy and education, capitalism and free enterprise, representative government, separation of political powers, civil liberty, the abolition of slavery, modern science, the discovery of the Americas, the elevation of women, the civilizing of primitive cultures, and the setting of languages to writing.
It is easy to dispute this claim. The church resisted some of these developments just listed, some are not particularly Christian, and all were encouraged by humanistic forces and reflect Greek thinking as much as gospel thinking.
[Footnote 10]: On slavery in particular (even when one allows for overstatement) Hector Avalos, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011).”
Of course, Dr. Goldingay still thinks the Bible is generally a good set of books. But Dr. Goldingays comments show that even evangelical biblical scholars can acknowledge the powerful evidence that atheist biblical scholars have presented to refute the claim that biblical ethics led to abolition.

The Bad Jesus, Love, and the Parochialism of New Testament Ethics


I have published a new article at the Bible and Interpretation website that is based on my most recent book, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of new Testament Ethics (2015). Here is the abstract:
Many scholars of New Testament ethics claim that Jesus brought an innovative teaching when he urged his followers to love their enemies. Hector Avalos, author of The Bad Jesus (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), argues that such a claim is historically untrue, and reflects the parochialism of New Testament ethics, which often degrades the ethical accomplishments of pre-Christian Near Eastern cultures in order to enhance the ethical “advances” of the putative founder of Christianity. As such, New Testament ethics is still situated within an ecclesial-academic complex that is more engaged in apologetics than it is in historical-critical scholarship.

A Christian Scholar Reviews Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship

Dr. Herbert Marbury
Dr. Hebert Marbury, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University, has written a review of my book on Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (2011), which argues that biblical ethics were not responsible for the abolition of slavery in western civilization. On the contrary, reliance on the Bible spread and maintained slavery for about 1800 years in Christianity.
Dr. Marburys review shows that Christian biblical scholars can appreciate the work of atheist biblical scholars who are critical of biblical ethics.  I provide an extract of the review below for those who do not have access to the website of the Review of Biblical Literature:

Which Bible Do I Bring?

I have written a newspaper column about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s proclamation encouraging a Bible reading marathon at all 99 Iowa county courthouses. Most people who participate in these Bible readings are probably not even aware that religious groups don’t always agree on what “THE Bible” means for them. You can see the complete text of the Proclamation here.

Galileo, The Bible, and Science

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
I have published a newspaper column on "Galileo, the Bible, and Science." May 26 will mark the 400th anniversary of a "Certificate" issued to Galileo by Robert Cadinal Bellarmine, who warned him not to hold or defend the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo was tried in 1633 for violating that injunction. The fact that the Church thought that heliocentrism was wrong has been one of its greatest challenges in history. After all, if it was so wrong on something so basic about how our cosmos works, then why should it be trusted on anything it teaches?

Religious Freedom on Cruz Control


I have written a newspaper column about Ted Cruz’s proposal to patrol Muslim neighborhoods. I suggest that his logic should also lead us to patrol some Christian neighborhoods that might become radicalized because of their anti-abortion beliefs.