Defining Fundamentalism

The New Oxonian

“To be a fundamentalist, you have to have a book. And you have to forget the book has a history.”

A New Oxonian Oldie

I’ve been puzzling about this recently: whether there is anything that Christian and Muslim fundamentalists have in common. I’ll leave the Jews and the Sikhs and Hindus to one side for a minute. Just because I want to.

First of all, you have to have a book to be a fundamentalist. It’s no good trying to say you take your religion seriously if you don’t have a page to point at or a verse to recite.

Theoretically, various gurus can exert the same sort of control that a book can exert over the mind of a true believer. But usually gurus begin by pointing at books as well.

That’s what both Jim Jones of People’s Temple, Inc., and David Koresh of Branch Davidian fame did. They…

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Mythicism: Anything Goes?

The New Oxonian

The Jesus Process

1.  Plausibility and Possibility

In a few previous posts I’ve talked about the weight of “plausibility” in assessing arguments for the historicity of Jesus. A few commenters have correctly said that plausibility is not evidence. That’s true.  No one said it  was.

Plausibility is a precondition for managing the kinds of information that would be suitable for discussing a character like Jesus of Nazareth.  A plausible cabbage is a cabbage that is not being passed off as a cucumber.  Socrates–even without much evidence for his existence, outside dialogues attributed to him by a pupil whose dates and specifics are also sketchy–is typical of a range of fifth century Athenian philosophers.  He is thus plausible as Herakles is not. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Clark Kent were contemporaries in 1938; only one is plausible.

It is the minimal distinction between what is typical and what is unusual (or, strictly, incredible) that permits us to raise questions about plausibility. It’s true that a good writer can invent plausible figures, but…

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