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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unoriginal and repetitive ad nauseum, 1 Jan 2014
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This review is from: there was no Jesus, there is no God (Kindle Edition)
This book reads like it is a beefed up literature survey for a doctoral thesis. In fact, I suspect that is exactly what it is - the author makes reference to his `research project' several times. The book is highly repetitive on its key points (e.g. there are no primary sources for Jesus' life) so much so that it borders on being insulting to his readers' intelligence. This book could easily have been halved in length with no loss of content.

As with many literature reviews by doctoral students, it is heavy on the referencing of others' research but weak on original thought. He criticises other scholars widely, usually by returning to the premise that they have no primary source. The only author Lataster doesn't seem to lambast is Richard Carrier. In fact, the deference shown to Carrier verges on the obsequious and hagiographic - I can only assume Carrier is his supervisor or in line to be his examiner.

Lataster has what he calls a Bayesian interlude in the book. This is a complete joke - he obviously doesn't get it. He `parrot-phrase' repeats some of Carrier's arguments for the intellectual rigour that a Bayesian analysis demands in terms of testing arguments against both hypothesis and counter hypothesis. He then completely ignores them and triumphantly claims `... the revealed evidence, e, did not even need to be seriously considered in order to rationally dismiss the claim (h)'. Lataster doesn't even need Bayes' Theorem to get to this conclusion. If I were a pedant, I'd pick him up for saying P(~h|b) is very large - no! It's very close to unity.

I do think Lataster's book is sadly lacking in one key area and it is this. If there was no historical Jesus, what was the catalyst that, not only, created the Christian movement but was so powerful that the movement has lasted 2,000 years? Lataster treats all the biblical documents as pieces of evidence. He does not discuss the different strands of intellectual development that the different sources represent. Jesus appeared to promise a bodily resurrection - the fact that the first century CE wasn't awash with resurrected Christians must have been a huge embarrassment to the new movement. Up until the Nicene Council of 325CE Christian theologians were trying to come to terms of whether Jesus was a man, a demi-God or if he and God were of `equal substance'. Lataster relies heavily on the Pauline epistles as the oldest source, but there is every reason to believe that St. Augustine tampered with these. None of this is discussed in Lataster's book.

Finally, a word on the quality of the English used in the book. Lataster seems to revel in the opportunity to use colloquial English. This is fine in the right context but, here, it detracts even further from the thin veil of academic credibility that Lataster is trying to maintain. He also has the annoying tendency of putting prepositions at the end of sentences.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Jan 2014 01:01:25 GMT
The Amazon page for this is 'Look Inside'. Guess what? This is basically a popularisation of the author's Master's thesis. This took all of ten seconds to find out. If you are going to review a book, please do us and the author the courtesy of reading it.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2014 09:43:08 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jan 2014 16:53:25 GMT
Not sure which bit of my post suggested I hadn't read the book - obviously, not the four and half paragraphs that follow the first two sentences. I did, in fact, read it the whole book. I also read an academic paper published by Lataster in 'Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences'. I searched for his masters thesis on line, but it didn't seem to be available. My opening comment was that the book included only the literature survey element of his thesis. The author referred several times to his research without amplifying said research. It is only towards the end of his book that he refers to a second book he is planning to write. He would be better advised to produce one good book rather than multiple poor ones.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 04:49:52 GMT
Your demand for an explanation of why, if Jesus didn't exist, has Christianity grown and survived for 2000 years is fatuous. Ever heard of Islam? Hinduism? As a Christian, you can't possibly believe that these enormous and ancient religions are based on truth - what does that tell you? Try thinking.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 17:20:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Feb 2014 18:51:38 GMT
I'm not sure what gave you the impression that I'm a Christian - I hope you didn't jump to a conclusion because you saw the 1-star rating.

To expand on my comment, Atheists can deny the existence of God, the divinity and even the historicity of Jesus. What we cannot deny is the existence of Christianity. I think the JMT proponents have a duty to explain what was the catalyst or sequence of catalysts in the 1st century CE that lead to Christianity. The truth or otherwise of the major religions is not the point I was making.

For the best part of two millennia, Christianity has dominated Western thinking. Seeking to understand the origins of such a powerful force is in no way a capitulation to theism or evidence of lack of thought.

As George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Today we have an atheist movement that is predominantly based on belief in the scientific method - myself, included. However, you only have to read a newspaper to see that science is only truly understand by an elite few and the vast majority of the population mistrust it (whether its genetic crops, MMR vaccinations, nuclear power or shale gas). I posit that, in the 1st century CE, Greek rationalism and the Jewish observance of the law were viewed similarly. Was that the catalyst that gave rise to Christianity? If so, is there historical evidence to support that view? I don't think these are unreasonable questions. They may even point to a somewhat depressing fate for the scientific movement, some decades or centuries from now. There are still plenty of book-burners in the world; and, there always will be.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Mar 2014 18:21:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Mar 2014 18:25:36 GMT
Mr. Steven C. Watson does seem to go in for knee-jerk reactions to book reviews when they are written by anybody with whom he does not agree; he has written a similarly patronising response to my own review of Mr. Lataster's farrago of nonsense. Perhaps he might do us the courtesy of not jumping to conclusions as hastily as he seems ready to do.
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