I just posted this review of God Made Man by Barbara G. Walker on Amazon Reviews. I'll see her next Thursday and I'm anxious to hear what she thinks. I hope the Amazon editors don't think I came on too strong.



If I would have read this book 50 years ago it would have changed my life. Now that I'm retired, as I think back, only two books have had a life-changing effect on me: Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Now I have a third.


Here's why. When I went to Catholic high school I sat quietly and listened meekly to all the magical nonsense that was foisted on me on a daily basis. Believe what you want, was my attitude, just don't try to sell me any of this supernatural boogety-boo. Symbolic cannibalistic rituals were all right with me—just as long as I can sit in the back of the auditorium my comforting, teenage daydreams.


If I would have read Barbara's book back then, I would never have put up with it. “Hey, Brother, is it true the Church tortured and killed millions of people over five hundred years? After the Council of Nicea, Europe was awash in blood and learning was ground to a standstill. The Dark Ages were imminent. Books were burned, libraries destroyed and the peasantry kept illiterate. All I got from your religion classes was the Apostle's creed.”


How come you never mentioned the genocide caused by your religion? After the bloodbath had subsided in the 1800s, a century later Cardinal Angelo Sodano would apologize and call this insane, sadistic mayhem, “a sad episode in church history.” Is he crazy?


How can church officials live with themselves? How come there's no priests listed on the National Sex Offenders list? What's going on?


In short, I didn't become a militant atheist until 40 years later. I was always an atheist but I was close-mouthed about religion and tolerant of it. This very year there will be hundreds of people, mostly women and children, tortured and killed in Africa because of witchcraft, just as Barbara describes it. She even gives the line from the Gospels, Christ's own words, that centuries later the Inquisitioners would use to rationalize burning heretics at the stake by the millions. One town in Germany, states Ms. Walker with accurate annotation, burned as many as 1000 pathetic victims in one year. Outrageous—that's nearly three per day! Watching public immolation must have been a national pass-time, like going to the movies or the Friday-night fights.


Good job, Barbara, it's the scholarship and research that makes Man Made God so powerful. I hope your book goes down in history as one of the most important humanist statements of the modern age. All I can say to any Holy Ghost/heaven-hell/Eve-came-from-Adam's-rib/Noah's Ark believers is: read it and deal with it.


Richard Goscicki, author of Mirror Reversal, Peppertree Press, 2007



Views: 231

Tags: Barbara, Inquisition, Walker, endmeme

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Comment by Richard Goscicki on September 23, 2010 at 9:02pm
Mac, I just talked to Barbara at our weekly humanist meeting. About your comment on Jesus having probably never existed, right on. No historian even wrote about Christ. The mention in Flavius Josephus is questionable and might have been inserted centuries later.

Referring to Matt, she said he should read the Malleus Malefactorum, line by line as she did. (Paraphrased from an hour ago) "It was the scariest work I ever experienced, scarier than any horror movie because it was real."

She also said, referring to the number of immolations involved, "it's so well documented." She's one of the most knowledgeable people I know. (Check out her Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends). I'll email her your paragraph:


That said, it's certainly true that we know little definitely; that, by the way, goes for any scientific discipline, especially 'soft sciences' like history. But that doesn't mean there aren't right and wrong answers, and it certainly doesn't mean that all answers are equally good. If you say that the number of witches that got burned ranks in the millions, then that is - according to all the information we currently have (which is quite a lot, actually) - totally wrong. Simply saying "it's all speculation" doesn't get you off the hook.

I never said the numbers were speculation. I propounded the number as reality: eight million—mostly mostly women and children.

Here's the line from the Gospels that the Inquisitors used to rationalize immolating people.

Mathew 30:13 "Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn..."

The Lord liked to use parables and metaphors, ya know...
Comment by Mac Rex on September 23, 2010 at 7:34pm
@ Matt VDB and Rob van Senten
There is still no evidence that Jesus existed as a real person. If the Romans wrote at least something about him, that might change my belief, but the fact remains that there is not a single person of Jesus's generation who wrote about him. Everything that was written about him came after his last disciple died. For Mohammad, there is evidence that he actually existed, but there is no evidence for Jesus's birth, as the how and where make no archaeological or astrological sense, but do make mythical sense. And the Romans didn't care what gods or goddesses other people worshiped, as long as didn't denigh the supremacy of the Roman gods and goddesses, after all, the Roman pantheon was copied from the Greeks.

My questioning Matt if he is a troll is a valid, and important to me. Rob van Senten, if you wonder why, read Matt's comments in the discussions he's participated in from his page. Perhaps I am imagining a pattern that isn't really there, but it seem to me to be very similar to what I've seen from Christian trolls, both here and at Richard Dawkins web site. I stopped going to the Dawkins site over 2 years ago, and joined here, because they allowed Christians to troll the site. For me, there is no debating any religious person, because, as the title of Barbara's new book says "Man Made God", and there is no evidence to the contrary. Besides "if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish Him." - Mikhail Bakunin.
Comment by Matt VDB on September 23, 2010 at 4:52pm
Hi Richard,

"Matt, for someone who hasn't read the book, you certainly have a lot to say. The fact is, Barbara lists dozens of authorities on the subject of witchcraft and the early church."

Look, I've already said repeatedly that I haven't read the book and that I'm simply going off of what you are saying here. Nothing we're debating requires me to read her specific book. You were the one who brought her into the debate; all I can do to respond is read what she has to say in the responses.

"To say that Henry Charles Lea's contribution is ineffectual because it's over a hundred years old, seems a recalcitrant and hard-headed. You say he had "an axe to grind." Okay, can you support this statement. As far as the Church's destroying the evidence goes, neither of us can proof it either way; I choose to believe it."

As atheists we both know that the burden of proof doesn't work that way. If something has no corroborating evidence, then believing it usually isn't reasonable. Especially when it just happens to appeal to our biases and preconceptions about the subject.

"I think the scholars you named, who denied the numbers, were perhaps closet Christians defending their church and beliefs."

That's certainly an interesting way of dismissing everyone who disagrees with you. Holocaust deniers do the same thing when they say that all historians researching the subject are on the payroll of the Zionist world conspiracy. It's a very weak attempt at discrediting people who disagree with you.
As it happens, I'm actually not the one whose opinion is on the fringe. I know it certainly seems that way to you, but the thesis you are defending (which you seem to think is mainstream) even has a name: "The Conflict Thesis", a preconception which was very popular in the 20th Century (thus why older sources tend to be unreliable: they're written from this assumption) but is now thought to be discredited by most scholars. Peer-reviewed scholars.

"I went to a catholic high school and college, (Boston College for a year), and during several philosophy courses never did I have hear the name of David Hume, Baruch Spinoza or Bertrand Russel. Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo were the focus of the course. This neglect of opposing views is similar to destroying the evidence."

Uhmm yeah, similar maybe. Sort of. But far from the same thing. Neglecting opposing views is a characteristic of practically every group. Including, in many respects, the 'atheist group'.

"You gotta be kidding. After the murderous tyrant Constantine, Christianity was imposed on Europe."

Well yes, that tends to happen with the religion of the ruler. Constantine wasn't the one who imposed it though: that would be his successor Theodosius. Constantine only legalised Christianity in the Edict of Milan; it was Theodosius who made it the state religion seventy years later.

"The megalomaniac himself, never converted to Christianity until his deathbed so he could call for a priest and be forgiven."

Small off-topic digression (I just can't seem to resist): it's true that Constantine was baptised on his deathbed - a common practice at the time. It's not true (or at least: not corroborated by the evidence) that he only converted on his deathbed: his conversion (and subsequent sponsorship) happened earlier than that. Despite some theories to the contrary (which we've gone over several times on this forum) Constantine seems to have been a genuinely (if very, very unsophisticated) believing Christian.

"To me, the man did more damage to human progress than Hitler or Stalin."

Now that's quite a claim.

"Don't forget we're talking about the Dark Ages were knowledge and learning was considered evil. We know but little definitively. All is speculation. So when you say you "won't stand for any distortion" you're acting like you know it all."

If knowledge and learning were considered evil I sure am wondering where all those learned scientists and philosophers I mentioned came from...
That said, it's certainly true that we know little definitely; that, by the way, goes for any scientific discipline, especially 'soft sciences' like history. But that doesn't mean there aren't right and wrong answers, and it certainly doesn't mean that all answers are equally good. If you say that the number of witches that got burned ranks in the millions, then that is - according to all the information we currently have (which is quite a lot, actually) - totally wrong. Simply saying "it's all speculation" doesn't get you off the hook.

"More to come. I'm back on the pain killers again, so that slows me up a bit."

Take it easy. Your health is more important than a debate on the internet. I hope you're fine.

"I'll be OK tough and we'll continue this fun debate. Thanks Mac and Earthling for the support. Thanks Matt for the fodder that drives this controversy."

You are quite welcome. You can replace fodder with "mainstream historical ideas" though ;)

"Matt is a tough customer, but I think he's cruel. At least admit that the immolated witches existed. Let them be a statistic all least. To erase them from history is hard-hearted and brutal."

Richard, where on Earth have I said or even implied that witch-burnings never occurred? I simply haven't: all I'm objecting to is that you're vastly inflating the number (and using it in a context which is not consistent with what we are discussing).

"To me, a logical replacement for organized religion is humanism."

Same here.
Comment by Richard Goscicki on September 23, 2010 at 3:36pm
Mac, It is also an indisputable fact that under just about every church built in the "middle age", archaeologists have found the remains of pagan worship sites. Obviously, the Christians took over these sites in their effort to eradicate other beliefs.

Barbara, brings this out several times. After Constantine, there was a concerned effect to rid the world of pagan and gnostic beliefs.

It was a very minor "stretch of imagination." There are many many paintings and wood cuts of the atrocities. Just Goggle witchcraft images. I hope you get a chance to read the book. We can discuss it here. I guarantee you'll get as pissed off (at the Church, not Barbara) as I am. She calls the bishops at the Council of Nicaea "spin doctors." Stuff like that.
Comment by Richard Goscicki on September 23, 2010 at 2:56pm
Matt, for someone who hasn't read the book, you certainly have a lot to say. The fact is, Barbara lists dozens of authorities on the subject of witchcraft and the early church. To say that Henry Charles Lea's contribution is ineffectual because it's over a hundred years old, seems a recalcitrant and hard-headed. You say he had "an axe to grind." Okay, can you support this statement. As far as the Church's destroying the evidence goes, neither of us can proof it either way; I choose to believe it. I think the scholars you named, who denied the numbers, were perhaps closet Christians defending their church and beliefs.

I went to a catholic high school and college, (Boston College for a year), and during several philosophy courses never did I have hear the name of David Hume, Baruch Spinoza or Bertrand Russel. Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo were the focus of the course. This neglect of opposing views is similar to destroying the evidence.

Christianity was accepted as the state religion of both parts of the Roman Empire

You gotta be kidding. After the murderous tyrant Constantine, Christianity was imposed on Europe. The megalomaniac himself, never converted to Christianity until his deathbed so he could call for a priest and be forgiven. To me, the man did more damage to human progress than Hitler or Stalin.

I have to question this statement as well: When I point out that they are distorting history, that doesn't make me a Christian: it just makes me an atheist who won't stand for any distortion of history -

Don't forget we're talking about the Dark Ages were knowledge and learning was considered evil. We know but little definitively. All is speculation. So when you say you "won't stand for any distortion" you're acting like you know it all.

More to come. I'm back on the pain killers again, so that slows me up a bit. I'll be OK tough and we'll continue this fun debate. Thanks Mac and Earthling for the support. Thanks Matt for the fodder that drives this controversy.

Matt is a tough customer, but I think he's cruel. At least admit that the immolated witches existed. Let them be a statistic all least. To erase them from history is hard-hearted and brutal. To me, a logical replacement for organized religion is humanism.
Comment by moJoe on September 23, 2010 at 12:56pm
There have been several posts in this thread that violate the site policy against character defamation (see the site rules: http://www.atheistnexus.org/page/rules-guidelines for further details.) In the interest of civil discourse, please refrain from name-calling and ad hominem attacks.

Thanks!
Comment by Rob van Senten on September 23, 2010 at 10:23am
Mac Rex : "Matt VDB , having read through most of the comments you've made here, and in other discussions, you really come off as a troll."

Not according to my definition or the wiki entry on Troll. Can you please explain and provide links to Matt VDB's posts to support your claim?

"Why does your comments continuously support the Christian view of history?"

Why does it seem to you that Matt VDB is doing so, and where did he do so?

"As well, why do you, if you are really an atheist, claim that there really was a man named Jesus, to whom the NT is based on, when there is only anecdotal statements written long after his alleged death/resurrection?"

There is a difference between the "historical" Jesus, who almost certainly did exist and the mythological Jesus as described in the NT who seems to be a fictional character, loosely based perhaps on the historical figure as mentioned by some scholars.

This quotation from you implies that a "real atheist" can somehow not be convinced that a historical figure, called Jesus, existed. Are you serious?

I'm seriously pissed off that when a person doesn't seem to agree with the consensus he gets attacked and vilified for not having the same opinion. For crying out loud, the guy has always provided sources to support his claims and has not, as far as I know, made any post that somehow supports the "Christian view of history".

The strawman tactic of misrepresenting both the statements and the motivations of Matt VDB is a crying shame that in my opinion only shows to proof that the people making these claims have little to contribute in regards to content. It really is depressing that some people here are so ingrained with their ideology that it seems almost impossible for them to critically examine their opinions and convictions.

Can't we just disagree without resorting to baseless accusations about people's character and motivations?
Comment by Matt VDB on September 23, 2010 at 9:22am
"Matt VDB , having read through most of the comments you've made here, and in other discussions, you really come off as a troll."

I do? Why? In every discussion I've had on this forum, I've been engaging in discussion, carefully responding to counter-arguments, paying attention to what is being said, and referencing proper scholarly works. How does that make me a troll?

"Why does your comments continuously support the Christian view of history?"

That's simply your perception. My comments actually support the factual side of history. I debate Christians who try to distort history, and muslims or jews who try to distort history, or Serb nationalists, or Holocaust deniers, or 9/11 Truthers, or kooky New-Agers. But since those demographics are rather rare on this particular forum, here I usually find myself debating atheists who are distorting (or misunderstanding) history to fit with an anti-religious (usually anti-Christian) bias. When I point out that they are distorting history, that doesn't make me a Christian: it just makes me an atheist who won't stand for any distortion of history - whether it appeals to my biases or not. That means giving Christians credit where credit is due; in this case: not buying into discredited material about the Dark Ages and perhaps entertaining the thought that Christianity had a positive effect on the rise of early science, not a negative one.

You have to be careful what you assume, and be extra careful not to get too attached to your assumptions. You seem to have done both in very short order.

"As well, why do you, if you are really an atheist, claim that there really was a man named Jesus, to whom the NT is based on, when there is only anecdotal statements written long after his alleged death/resurrection?"

That statement makes just as much sense as: why do I, though I really am an atheist, claim that there really was a man named Muhammed? And a man named Caesar, even though I'm not a Roman? And the (obvious) answer is: because that's where the historical evidence points to. That doesn't mean I have to cluelessly accept everything that's written in the Qu'ran or the Bible; in fact if I'm doing proper history, it requires me not to.

What you should ask yourself instead is why you - I'm hoping a rationalist - jumped immediately from the conclusion that someone who thinks there was a historical Jesus, could not also be an atheist. Or probably isn't an atheist, or anything like that. Was that rational?

"Jstn Earthling is well known on this site, and is most definitely not a troll."

He'll have no problems explaining to the moderators why he's insulted me several times then.

What I find deeply odd and deeply disturbing on this forum is that you just aren't able to say "Hey guys, this or that church has done this right" or "Hey dude, your anti-religious bias is clouding your view of events and here's why" without some people immediately getting insecure and imagining that the only reason someone could possibly be saying such a thing is because they are some kind of crypto-Christian. That's very scary; please don't adopt that habit.
Comment by Mac Rex on September 23, 2010 at 8:44am
Matt VDB , having read through most of the comments you've made here, and in other discussions, you really come off as a troll. Why does your comments continuously support the Christian view of history? As well, why do you, if you are really an atheist, claim that there really was a man named Jesus, to whom the NT is based on, when there is only anecdotal statements written long after his alleged death/resurrection?
I mean, really, the bible in essence, with regards to the Christ, states that a supernatural being rapes a 12 girl, so she can give birth to his son, who is really himself, so that he can die, and then be re-born, to atone for the sins of all humanity, which he knew were going to happen long before he created them. What a prick! And what a load of crap. I've read all the translated "Dead Sea Scrolls" I could find in print, and in no way to the provide any evedence of your jewish zombie/god.
Like I said, you really come off as a troll. Jstn Earthling is well known on this site, and is most definitely not a troll.
Comment by Matt VDB on September 23, 2010 at 3:49am
"Matt says this and tells ME to stop the name calling (if you want to show off spell checker go ahead but I like name calling and you take the cake."

Yes, I did say that. I don't see me calling Richard any names or indeed throwing around any insults in this thread. You, on the other hand, have already called me an apologist (repeatedly), a troll, "fucking stupid", and other cheap slurs.

"Are you sure you're not a christian? I mean just read this drivel."

Interesting how you can decide that without producing the tiniest scrap of evidence to back it up.

"The funniest part of the whole thing is this idiot actually thinks he's on an intellectual par with Richard among the rest of the A/N crowd...."

And with that insult, you've been reported. I had patience with you for a while but if this bullshit is the best you can do, then I'm not putting up with you. Expect a visit from a moderator shortly.

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