CPX: Chinese toddler, John Dickson’s Humilitas and Josephus

I’m starting to find the output of the Centre for Public Christianity more god-awful than that of the Australian Christian Lobby.

CPX recently tried to exploit the sad story of the Chinese toddler Wang Yue, who died after being hit by a truck. 18 passers-by left it to someone else to deal with, which happened in seven minutes. It was a shocking and heartbreaking story, but apparently a one-off.

Meanwhile, right now, in the time it took you to read my post to this point, two or three children have died, probably of a poverty-related cause. I hope you weren’t standing by doing nothing.

Rather than put the awful, singular story of Wang Yue in perspective, of course, CPX was off trying to link it to atheism.

In many countries, what are called “Good Samaritan” laws protect from liability those who offer emergency assistance but aren’t professionally qualified to help. In some jurisdictions laws impose on bystanders the duty to care for others, and so penalise those who shirk this responsibility.

Such laws get their name, of course, from Jesus’s parable in which a Samaritan is the only person to stop to help a man left beaten beside the road. Though some would have us move beyond the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage, it’s difficult to entirely shrug it off – as witnessed in these laws that oblige us to care for each other.

The point of the parable of the ‘good Samaritan’, of course, is to demonstrate that religious piety and cultural heritage have got fuck-all to do with behaving like a decent human being. The one thing the good Samaritan wasn’t was christian. He was a fiction-within-a-fiction, a character who did the right thing without the curse of a ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’, because it was the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, CPX wants to define my heritage in terms of its own cult and then use it as a cover for harmful attitudes to gay marriage, assisted dying, abortion, sex education and medical research. So get stuffed, eh? Let’s have more ‘good Samaritans’ who do the right thing without religion as a factor, and fewer charlatans using good deeds as a cover for cult recruitment.

Yes, it is indeed very difficult to shrug you ghouls off. But, by golly, it’s about time we did.

John Dickson’s Humilitas

Next up, we have John Dickson’s new book ‘Humilitas’ covered on the ABC Religion (‘And Ethics LOL’) website. And they have a rather bizarre choice of reviewer… John Dickson.

The ABC Religon (‘And Ethics LOL’) portal is edited by a nutty christian, but if I were reviewing John’s book, here’s what I would have written:

John Dickson claims to be in a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. He’s written a book about humility, and put the title in Latin.

That would have been pithy, and mildly funny to a couple of my friends, to be sure. But for once, John Dickson outdoes me:

Perhaps surprisingly, explicit teaching about humility does not feature strongly in the record of Jesus’s sayings.

Perhaps surprisingly‘? Are we talking about the same Jesus?

As I write, I share this pearl of John Dickson’s wisdom with Jason, who asks: ‘does John Dickson even have the empathy to understand what other people see when they read his shit?’. Who knows?

John: humility is not a hallmark of the babblings of those who think they are god, as any serious historian or psychiatrist could tell you. And let’s not forget that anyone who claims that there is a record of  the sayings of ‘Jesus’ is lying.

I would typically remain unmoved by the rest of John’s unimpressive witterings (he’s the kind of serious historian who loves to keep reminding you of it), but for one little nugget…

John Dickson on Josephus

You see, a while ago, John Dickson was taking me robustly to task for my assessment (‘unproven’) of the historicity of Jesus, redeemer of all mankind. I noted that no-one wrote about Jesus during his life-death-lifetime. This despite the fact that he had supposedly been born of a virgin, performed genuinely impressive ‘miracles’ and had been resurrected from death to fight crime once more and stuff. John was aghast!

John Dickson on Josephus
John Dickson on Josephus

Me: Maybe your next SMH piece could list the contemporary accounts of Jesus from his lifetime?
John Dickson: ‘from his life time’? This shows a misunderstanding of history; this rules out Josephus, Philo, Herod, Varus, Quirinius, et al.

You will note, for you are not a moron, that John Dickson made no pretence about the fact that Jesus was so unremarkable that not a single person wrote about him while he was alive. But never mind that! I misunderstood something! What about Josephus? Well, he was born in 37 CE, and that’s some four years after Jesus supposedly died, right? Cool, I can cope with misunderstanding stuff. Maybe I rounded off too many decimal places. Or maybe I was being too literal with the whole ‘why did no-one mention this shit?’ thing.

Here’s John to school me:

John Dickson Josephus corroboration

John Dickson Josephus corroboration

Me: How could a man born four years after the supposed Jesus’s death have written about him during his life?

John Dickson: You misunderstand. Demanding corroboration during a figure’s lifetime would rule out existence of all those figures.

Oh, right! John wasn’t claiming Josephus lived at the same time as Jesus. John was claiming I shouldn’t swallow Jesus-corroborator Josephus’s existence because (presumably) there were no contemporary accounts of Josephus either!

Fine by me. Except John’s latest bit self-promoting puffery, uncritically published on ABC Religion (‘And Ethics LOL’) goes on to stress:

Take the famous autobiography of Josephus, a military commander, turncoat and chronicler of the Jewish people, who fortuitously predicted the ascension of Vespasian (from general to emperor) and then lived out his years in Rome under imperial patronage.

The opening words of the book (an auto-biography) will strike modern readers as bizarre, but they would not have raised an eyebrow in first-century Roman circles

Note that the emphasis in ‘auto-biography’ is all John’s. If John Dickson is honest, consistent and sane, then we now have a Josephus about whom no-one wrote during his lifetime, and whose autobiography is extant. And for that to be true, John would have to believe in, I dunno, zombies or something.

There are so many things I don’t understand. I am sure it’s possible John was talking about two different Josephuses. But if not, then I’m afraid John Dickson merely reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s famous trilemma: John’s either a lunatic or a liar.

(I ruled out ‘Lord’ because John literally wrote the book on humility).


  1. Posted October 31, 2011 at 23:30 | Permalink

    Awesome, awesome post

  2. Posted November 10, 2011 at 23:26 | Permalink

    “‘from his life time’? This shows a misunderstanding of history; this rules out Josephus, Philo, Herod, Varus, Quirinius, et al.”

    Nope, it just shows him not answering the question. Slap a [Citation needed] on that sucker.

  3. Posted November 10, 2011 at 23:33 | Permalink

    Exactly. I’m not the slightest bit interested in G.A. Wells’s day job, nor what continuity the majority of Jesus fanfic takes place in.

    I do take a great deal of interest in the fact that John Dickson can’t provide the slightest shred of evidence when asked for the historicity of the Jesus fairytales.

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  5. Posted April 10, 2016 at 05:30 | Permalink

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  6. Posted April 12, 2016 at 19:33 | Permalink

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