Open religious (or not) discussion thread

Pages

Here's an open thread for discussing issues pertaining to religion, atheism, etc - that's open to everyone. Please try to obey the golden rule, Wheaton's law, etc..

So, taken from a different thread, there was a discussion about biblical literalism in different sects. I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

Tanglebones wrote:
So, taken from a different thread, there was a discussion about biblical literalism in different sects. I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

Generally, and historically, the line has usually been drawn at the point where folks get pissed off enough to threaten your life, blow up your competing place of worship, vandalize your property, rape your friends and relatives, or exterminate you in the name of god(s).

Secular rule of law pretty much made many of those tactics difficult (though not at all impossible as evidenced by the vandalism my friend's car endured for having a Darwin fish on it). As a result, we've seen a veritable explosion of Christian sects in the last 200 some years.

Tanglebones wrote:
So, taken from a different thread, there was a discussion about biblical literalism in different sects. I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

a tl;dr article--even for me--on the topic:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/0449...

a somewhat more digestible one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_...

Tanglebones wrote:
So, taken from a different thread, there was a discussion about biblical literalism in different sects. I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

As far as I can tell:
Short answer: It's not up to us.
Long answer: Ask your superiors (Priest, Rabbi, Pope, or other head of your religious order.) They'll let you know which bits were important and which bits were merely suggestions.

Rezzy wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:
So, taken from a different thread, there was a discussion about biblical literalism in different sects. I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

As far as I can tell:
Short answer: It's not up to us.
Long answer: Ask your superiors (Priest, Rabbi, Pope, or other head of your religious order.) They'll let you know which bits were important and which bits were merely suggestions.

I think the modern answer is that you get the draw the line where you want to draw the line and as long as it works for you (i.e.: it doesn't validate your decision in life to be an asshole), you're welcome to it. This is part of what living in a secular society is about.

The traditional answer has more to do with might makes right since theological arguments generally don't amount to much more than arguing over the nature of imaginary friends. As a result, the argument from force tends to be the final and most convincing arbiter.

Rezzy wrote:
Long answer: Ask your superiors (Priest, Rabbi, Pope, or other head of your religious order.) They'll let you know which bits were important and which bits were merely suggestions.

That's the whole point. If you ask 10 different religious leaders, you'll get 10 different answers.

I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

kaostheory wrote:
Rezzy wrote:
Long answer: Ask your superiors (Priest, Rabbi, Pope, or other head of your religious order.) They'll let you know which bits were important and which bits were merely suggestions.

That's the whole point. If you ask 10 different religious leaders, you'll get 10 different answers.

I'm curious about where the line falls between determining when something can be taken literally, and when something can be interpreted liberally to be parable, metaphor, or otherwise non-literally?

The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Right, that's been my perspective, especially in the context of all of the conscious decisions made to cut or include material, scribal errors and whatnot. Still, if the mainline sects decide that there's no literalism at all, what's the point of it? If there's some literalism, but some interpretation, where's the line drawn, and is there ever a logic behind it, or is it just swayed by cultural context?

kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

That's sig-worthy. Well done.

As to the actual question this has been a big issue for me with the Bible and other texts. After getting introduced to the Book of Enoch via the hype around El Shaddai I'm really interested right now in non-canonical books that have been on the periphery of religions.

CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

The problem, of course, arises when one has to determine whether or not "gods" have inspired a competing religious ideology or not. This happened with predictable regularity in Christian history and the results were usually something along the lines of this.

edit: from whence we have the now famous phrase "Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (kill them all for God will know his own).

Paleocon wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

The problem, of course, arises when one has to determine whether or not "gods" have inspired a competing religious ideology or not. This happened with predictable regularity in Christian history and the results were usually something along the lines of this.

edit: from whence we have the now famous phrase "Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (kill them all for God will know his own).

True, but that's a problem when answering the question "what issues are involved with believing god inspires people?" not the "how can we trust translated works to be taken literally" question.

CheezePavilion wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

The problem, of course, arises when one has to determine whether or not "gods" have inspired a competing religious ideology or not. This happened with predictable regularity in Christian history and the results were usually something along the lines of this.

edit: from whence we have the now famous phrase "Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (kill them all for God will know his own).

True, but that's a problem when answering the question "what issues are involved with believing god inspires people?" not the "how can we trust translated works to be taken literally" question.

I'm not terribly convinced that there exists a meaningful distinction there since they both boil down to trusting gods to do the directing (either as original writers or as translators).

In the end, the final arbiter always seems to be who has the biggest, most vicious, and most committed army. Gods seem to favor them a lot.

Paleocon wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
The problem is, you're looking at works written between 2000 and 3500 years ago. Even if it was at one point divine, it's been translated and re-translated so many times, you can't shouldn't read any of it literally.

Well, part of the issue is that if you're going to believe god can inspire authors, it's not much of a stretch to believe god can inspire translators. It's not like a union thing or something.

The problem, of course, arises when one has to determine whether or not "gods" have inspired a competing religious ideology or not. This happened with predictable regularity in Christian history and the results were usually something along the lines of this.

edit: from whence we have the now famous phrase "Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (kill them all for God will know his own).

True, but that's a problem when answering the question "what issues are involved with believing god inspires people?" not the "how can we trust translated works to be taken literally" question.

I'm not terribly convinced that there exists a meaningful distinction there since they both boil down to trusting gods to do the directing (either as original writers or as translators).

The meaningful distinction arises when your audience is asking for the answer to the one question and not the other ; D

In the end it all comes down to faith. I have faith this book is divine. I have faith that these parts are literal and these parts are literary.

What you personally believe isn't really important, believe whatever makes you most happy. The problem comes when, as Paleo noted, people's faith causes an unwillingness to be understanding of others' faith (or lack thereof). When it comes to relaying that faith to others, either through teaching of your children, proselytizing, condemnation, and so on.

It's not about what's in your head, or even in your heart, it's about your actions and the actions of those who follow your teaching.

kaostheory wrote:
In the end it all comes down to faith. I have faith this book is divine. I have faith that these parts are literal and these parts are literary.

What you personally believe isn't really important, believe whatever makes you most happy. The problem comes when, as Paleo noted, people's faith causes an unwillingness to be understanding of others' faith (or lack thereof). When it comes to relaying that faith to others, either through teaching of your children, proselytizing, condemnation, and so on.

It's not about what's in your head, or even in your heart, it's about your actions and the actions of those who follow your teaching.

Wow. Spoken like a true Orthodox Jew.

Well, at least that is the way my rabbi would put it. She's always telling me that in Orthodox Judaism, one's belief or intention amount to Jack and feces (and Jack skipped town sometime during the early Middle Ages). The only thing that really matters is whether or not you obey the codes (i.e.: don't act like an ass).

kaostheory wrote:
In the end it all comes down to faith. I have faith this book is divine. I have faith that these parts are literal and these parts are literary.

I'm not sure that's true. It might all come down to faith, but that doesn't mean the division between 'literal' and 'literary' is faith. Maybe the division between 'scientific' and 'literary' does, but that's a different dichotomy.

This thread is great, because there was a thing in the Theist thread I wanted to comment on, but since I'm not a theist, I didn't think it was appropriate. If they have to spend all their time defending against my questioning their basic 'givens', they'll never get to the more interesting bits of their conversation.

I don't remember what it was, now, but I'll probably pull quotes out of there and bring them over here if I want to ask a question or make a comment.

Malor wrote:
This thread is great, because there was a thing in the Theist thread I wanted to comment on, but since I'm not a theist, I didn't think it was appropriate. If they have to spend all their time defending against my questioning their basic 'givens', they'll never get to the more interesting bits of their conversation.

I don't remember what it was, now, but I'll probably pull quotes out of there and bring them over here if I want to ask a question or make a comment.

Yeah, I felt the same way - I waded in a few times, but I didn't feel like it was appropriate for me to post in there, ultimately.

Paleocon:

It's my understanding that the Catholic stance is somewhat similar. Or not. I'm a little confused about the entire thing (because to me it just sounds like a whole lot of semantic nonsense). As far as I can remember, one of the points of difference between Catholics and Protestants was the entire faith thing. IIRC, Protestants say that your faith is all that's necessary for salvation, whereas Catholics aver that deeds and good works are necessary to substantiate your faith. Or vice versa. As I said, it all strikes me as semantic. If you really believed in the Word, it goes without saying that you would live your life according to its principles.


In the end, the final arbiter always seems to be who has the biggest, most vicious, and most committed army. Gods seem to favor them a lot.

"Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa."

(It is for God to have mercy; it's up to you to pull your own ass out of the frying pan.)

Seems like a good place for this. This is a good summary of issues atheists have with Christianity.

IMAGE(http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11236522/thebible.jpg)

Good stuff!

DSGamer wrote:
Seems like a good place for this. This is a good summary of issues atheists have with Christianity.

Not just atheists, mind you. The first two, in particular, are what moved me into more of a Deist philosophy. God is Love. God is Reason. God would not punish humanity for the transgressions of their ancient ancestors.

Posting "in before the lock" poisons threads and it's a great way to annoy me. Let them stand on their own, please.

CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
In the end it all comes down to faith. I have faith this book is divine. I have faith that these parts are literal and these parts are literary.

I'm not sure that's true. It might all come down to faith, but that doesn't mean the division between 'literal' and 'literary' is faith. Maybe the division between 'scientific' and 'literary' does, but that's a different dichotomy.

Religion/God is what you make of it. If you want it to be literal, it's literal. If you want it to be literary, it's literary. You're already using your faith to assert there is a god, why not just decide which parts to believe literally and which are just morality tales? If the holy spirit disagreed, you wouldn't be able to believe it, right?

kaostheory wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
kaostheory wrote:
In the end it all comes down to faith. I have faith this book is divine. I have faith that these parts are literal and these parts are literary.

I'm not sure that's true. It might all come down to faith, but that doesn't mean the division between 'literal' and 'literary' is faith. Maybe the division between 'scientific' and 'literary' does, but that's a different dichotomy.

Religion/God is what you make of it. If you want it to be literal, it's literal. If you want it to be literary, it's literary. You're already using your faith to assert there is a god, why not just decide which parts to believe literally and which are just morality tales? If the holy spirit disagreed, you wouldn't be able to believe it, right?

There's a difference between what someone *could* do, and what someone is *actually doing*.

LarryC wrote:
If you really believed in the Word, it goes without saying that you would live your life according to its principles.

I have to disagree with your view of human nature.

CheezePavilion:

On what score? It's self-evident, like programming. If a program contains code for blue, it will show the color blue. If it's not showing the color blue, then blue isn't in the code, or isn't being accessed correctly - there's a bug. It's either working correctly coding for blue, or it's not.

So, you either truly believe in the Word and act according to its principles, or you don't really believe in it (even when you say you do) and act otherwise. In what way could human nature be different?

LarryC wrote:
CheezePavilion:

On what score? It's self-evident, like programming. If a program contains code for blue, it will show the color blue. If it's not showing the color blue, then blue isn't in the code, or isn't being accessed correctly - there's a bug. It's either working correctly coding for blue, or it's not.

So, you either truly believe in the Word and act according to its principles, or you don't really believe in it (even when you say you do) and act otherwise. In what way could human nature be different?

Wouldn't believers who sin basically fall into a third category, Larry? If I read all of the principles of Christianity, for example, correctly, they all fall under one overarching mandate: Thou Shalt Not Sin. Can a sinner, who fails to follow the principles of Christianity, be logically called an unbeliever?

NSMike:

We are all sinners and we are all imperfect. It is not acting inconsistent with Christian belief to be imperfect. There is no Catholic who is without sin.

LarryC wrote:
CheezePavilion:

On what score? It's self-evident, like programming. If a program contains code for blue, it will show the color blue. If it's not showing the color blue, then blue isn't in the code, or isn't being accessed correctly - there's a bug. It's either working correctly coding for blue, or it's not.

So, you either truly believe in the Word and act according to its principles, or you don't really believe in it (even when you say you do) and act otherwise. In what way could human nature be different?

Off the top of my head, in that analogy "living your life" involves accessing the code correctly. Computers run on electricity, humans run on willpower. No one has an uninterruptible willpower supply.

NSMike wrote:
LarryC wrote:
CheezePavilion:

On what score? It's self-evident, like programming. If a program contains code for blue, it will show the color blue. If it's not showing the color blue, then blue isn't in the code, or isn't being accessed correctly - there's a bug. It's either working correctly coding for blue, or it's not.

So, you either truly believe in the Word and act according to its principles, or you don't really believe in it (even when you say you do) and act otherwise. In what way could human nature be different?

Wouldn't believers who sin basically fall into a third category, Larry? If I read all of the principles of Christianity, for example, correctly, they all fall under one overarching mandate: Thou Shalt Not Sin. Can a sinner, who fails to follow the principles of Christianity, be logically called an unbeliever?

This has always been a troubling aspect of Christianity to me. This idea that just believing in Jesus sets you free. So why have the Bible and Ten Commandments any longer?

LarryC wrote:
NSMike:

We are all sinners and we are all imperfect. It is not acting inconsistent with Christian belief to be imperfect. There is no Catholic who is without sin.

I thought you were agnostic. At least you were agnostic in the agnostic/atheist thread.

Pages