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Old 05-18-2011, 01:55 PM   #31
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I can't wait to see his writings on why the Koran and the Book of Mormon are full of lies. Oh wait...
Who wants to be Rushdied?
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:01 PM   #32
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well, the Book of Mormon pretty much is full of lies, right? magic glasses? i'd imagine we'd find craziness, tomfoolery, and, yes, fraud and deceit in all

anyway, i suppose the main point is that all of this is contested information (to put it mildly), and literal adherence to it is a way of actually not thinking, and probably a sign of the absence of faith (because it shows no trust in god, actually), so perhaps the best way to view all scripture (regardless of religion) is as a means of explaining the unexplainable and giving us points of human access to the unfathomable, from the vastness of the universe to the crushing realization of our own insignificance on a 4 billion year old planet where each day has been lived just like yesterday, over and over.

i remain an agnostic, but fully understand the pull of religion as it seems so intrinsic to human nature, and there's an undeniable power to the idea that there's something beyond this that we are all a part of, and we will go back to where we came from before we were born. maybe.

but it also seems like the last thing we should possibly be fighting over. i remember growing up and not really thinking all that much of religion, we were catholics, there were also protestants, a bunch of jews, and even a smattering of mormons around. it was utterly insignificant to me. i remember learning about anti-Semitism in school (something i'd never encountered) and being shocked ... how could people kill each other over something as insignificant as religion? land, resources, love-of-country -- all that i could at least process intellectually. but religion? the story i was told was better than the story you were told?

it still makes no sense to me.
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Old 05-18-2011, 03:25 PM   #33
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I can't wait to see his writings on why the Koran and the Book of Mormon are full of lies. Oh wait...

Do you believe the 'origin" stories and claims of authorship of those two 'books of scripture' to be true and accurate?
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Old 05-18-2011, 04:04 PM   #34
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i remember growing up and not really thinking all that much of religion, we were catholics, there were also protestants, a bunch of jews, and even a smattering of mormons around. it was utterly insignificant to me. i remember learning about anti-Semitism in school (something i'd never encountered) and being shocked ... how could people kill each other over something as insignificant as religion? land, resources, love-of-country -- all that i could at least process intellectually. but religion? the story i was told was better than the story you were told?
That's interesting to me, because my own parents always emphasized the idea that anti-Semitism is primarily xenophobic in nature (which is not to say there isn't a "story" or narrative to it). Obviously their own particular experiences influenced that, but it always seemed to me to fit with what little of it I experienced, too. When other kids called us 'Christ-killers,' I always heard in it something much closer to 'n-----' than to 'You people believe vile doctrines'--casual dehumanization rather than vehement disagreement, though neither analogy quite applies. It makes me livid when people cite the Holocaust as a purported example of an evil 'caused' by religion, in much the same way it does when their equally facile counterparts use it to attack Darwin. What kind of person lets our innate tendencies towards xenophobia, vengefulness and greed off the hook so easily? When my 7th grade history teacher talked about Northern Ireland as a 'religious' conflict--"Isn't it terrible class, people killing each other in the name of God"--which I think was the first time I heard someone describe a conflict that way, I remember being really bothered by it; to me it seemed like such an unjust banalization of what the Irish had been subjected to for 700 years, and such a phony mitigation of how baldly cynical the conquerors' motives were (not that literally killing in the name of God would've been 'better') to reduce it to that. Of course, she probably saw herself as appealing to her students' 'better' impulses, i.e. their warm-fuzzy-type associations with religion, all the better to stir their sense of injustice. I would agree, though, that having a strong and distinct religious identity--perhaps especially where the 'discriminating' religion largely defines itself against the 'discriminated' religion, doctrinally speaking?--tends to exacerbate existing malice, because it offers such a comfortingly familiar way to rationalize it. Collective identity matters a great deal to us, it inevitably gives rise to specific loyalties, and even though most all cultures at least nominally recognize some form of moral imperative to respect the dignity of all mankind not just one's tribe/nation/creed (probably no coincidence Christianity first flourished in an imperialist environment where the former two identities were heavily suppressed), it seems that recognition functions in our species more as a rational-strategic brake against self-destructively excessive aggression than as a hardwired primary impulse towards the stranger.

Well, that's all veering well off-course at this point--I was mostly just struck by the fact that it seems even from childhood we approach these kinds of questions quite differently, probably because of different associations we've been conditioned to make.

I largely agree with your philosophy of how to approach religious scripture as 'knowledge' source, though for similar reasons to the above, I would also emphasize its power to reify collective identities, which I find neither inherently good nor inherently bad.
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Old 05-18-2011, 05:09 PM   #35
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Well, that's all veering well off-course at this point--I was mostly just struck by the fact that it seems even from childhood we approach these kinds of questions quite differently, probably because of different associations we've been conditioned to make.

yes, absolutely. as i got older i certainly learned that anti-Semitism is really xenophobia, the scapegoat thing (i think i was much older when the "christ-killer" thing actually dawned on me ... it sometimes seemed like anti-Semitism was invented in 1930s Germany), but as a child, i could honestly see no difference at all between myself and my Jewish friends (including very close "family" friends who my parents used to vacation with before we were born and who had kids right around our age) other than the fact that we were different religions. race and even gender were salient differences, i knew that boys were boys and girls were girls, it was a very homogenous town but you could obviously notice that people could be of different races. even my friends who may have had a foreign born parent, well, they spoke with at least an accent so there was a signifier of difference. but being of different religions? other than the latkas (which i loved), it meant so little to me.

but, yes, now i am quite aware of history in a way i wasn't in 5th grade.
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Old 05-18-2011, 05:44 PM   #36
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Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness" and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
--1 Corinthians 3:18-20


A deeply anti-intellectual sentiment that would shackle a society to ignorance. It is contemptible.
You realize this is a thread on interpreting the Bible and not about science or mathematics... right?

Anyway, I expect your reflexive atheism to threadcrap at any mention of the Divine -- what I didn't expect was that you'd exhibit no understanding of the difference between intellect and wisdom. Look it up.
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Old 05-19-2011, 11:30 PM   #37
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To me if you look at Sumerian stories like Gilgamesh you'll see strong similarities to the Old Testament (Hello Noah!) and you could easily say: "They stole it!" and it totally ignores cultural influences that would have happened then. Inconsistencies and other cultural influences are nothing new for the Bible.
The Israelites were part of a hefty lineage of Semitic tribes, which included the Akkadians, Ugarites, Babylonians, Phoenicians, and Canaanites amongst others. As the Akkadians were the ones who conquered Sumer, with the powerful Babylonians succeeding them, it is very easy and logical to see how ancient Sumer's rich heritage and legacy found its way into the Bible.

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I'm with the camp that you have to think for yourself and if you are not a fundamentalist Christian it's still possible to think for yourself and still find good things in the Bible. Most Christians are picking and choosing what they like and ignoring what they don't like.
Fundamentalism is revisionist at best anyway. Early Christians would have seen the New Testament as a collection of their early theology with the understanding that theology evolves with the evolution of the Church. Of course, that vests authority into the church hierarchy instead to represent the will of God, which is the tradition that the Vatican continues today; but, rightfully so I'd say, people are suspicious of that kind of unquestioning power. Yet, fundamentalism exchanges one set of mindlessness in favour of another, and we still end up handing over the power of who determines what "the right interpretation" is to more hierarchy in the end. There's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking; and, at least in the Christian tradition of Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages, some of the most fascinating theology we take for granted today originated from great thinkers. It's a pity we struggle to continue that tradition today, because, as a civilisation, I think we strive for fairness, justice and equality in a way that theologians could never have imagined living in autocratic Imperial Europe.
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:10 AM   #38
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You realize this is a thread on interpreting the Bible and not about science or mathematics... right?

Anyway, I expect your reflexive atheism to threadcrap at any mention of the Divine -- what I didn't expect was that you'd exhibit no understanding of the difference between intellect and wisdom. Look it up.
Irvine posted a much wiser aphorism before. If the definition of wisdom is to accept the extraordinary on faith and acting on that then I think the worldly objection that it is foolish stands up quite well.
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Old 05-21-2011, 11:16 PM   #39
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A review from Amazon:


By
Mark bennett "Mark" (portland, OR)

This review is from: Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (Hardcover)
This a bomb-throwing book on religion by Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. Ehrman makes all sorts of sensationlist claims presumably to get media coverage and then generally fails to back them up. The title itself is an exercise in sensationialism. Using a word like "forged" in this context doesn't amount to much more than a provocation as does his headline-grabber that "75% of the New Testament is forged".

There is no original research to speak of in the book and Ehrman brings nothing new to the table that those involved in the subject did not know before. All he brings to the table is overheated words presumably designed to get himself media attention.

The process of how the bible came to be is well known to be complex and largely outside of any historical accounts we have. The process of bringing the text together, especially a religious text, does not make it "forged". Forged indicates made-up or dishonestly presented. And the material Ehrman amaturishly cribs from others is nowhere near strong enough to draw those sorts of conclusions from.

Ehrman often lapses into making arguments based on language style to make his case. But from a point of view of intellectual rigor, he lacks the evidence to make his claims. There is simply not enough material in the historical record to make anything like the conclusions he draws about language. The process of how the books were created is impossible to even document. We have no way to know how an oral accounting of events came to be a written record in terms of the process.

Ehrman is of course a contradiction. He is a self-described agnostic who at same time plays professor of religious studies. He has no faith to speak of other than in himself as a sort of philosopher-king whose opinions are facts. And his writings can somewhat be best understood in those terms. He dismisses the text of the bible as being irrelivant instead favoring the creation of elaborate explanations of what the text really means. As usual, such persons always start by questioning the text and end by writing their own bible. His "bible" is in the form of guesswork and theories about what happened during an era of christian history in which the avaialable facts are slim.

Ehrman would do well to think about a new career. There is no point in being a scholar of something that you have no respect for and there is no pride to be found in turning out sensationalist polemics.
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Old 05-23-2011, 08:34 PM   #40
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if something written in Scripture feels wrong, if it doesn't make sense to you, if you've grappled with it and you can't make sense of it, then guess what, you're probably right.
"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." - Romans 14:23

One of my favorite scriptures; really adds a whole dimension to the Christian faith when you attempt to unpack it.
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Old 05-27-2011, 08:11 PM   #41
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"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." - Romans 14:23

One of my favorite scriptures; really adds a whole dimension to the Christian faith when you attempt to unpack it.


Romans 14

Cultivating Good Relationships


Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

"As I live and breathe," God says,
"every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God."
So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.


~Romans 14 (The Message)
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Old 05-28-2011, 09:46 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by LemonMelon

"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." - Romans 14:23

One of my favorite scriptures; really adds a whole dimension to the Christian faith when you attempt to unpack it.
My issue with this kind of argument is that it conflates "questioning" with, essentially, "apostasy," as if Christianity was this unchanging, homogeneous monolith when history proves it was anything but. At its core, if Christianity was indeed a 2000 year old monolith, we'd largely resemble Judaism--rituals and all (as Paul was the first to break with orthodoxy)--probably coupled with a large dose of Greco-Roman "mystery religion" traditions. The fact that we don't resemble this at all is due to people asking questions and coming up with answers--in other words, the field of theology.
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