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View Diary: West Point cadet drops out to protest influence of fundamentalist Christianity (310 comments)

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  •  There's no way to make heads or tails (19+ / 0-)

    out of the bible when it comes to killing.  In some passages, you are supposed to kill your disobedient children or execute those who transgress against moral codes, and in others you aren't supposed to kill at all.  In many passages, genocide is heroic, in many more, hugely traumatized peoples grieve their losses and pray for justice.

    I'll grant that the overall message of the New Testament and more enlightened versions of the Old Testament is that killing human beings is not good.  "To save one life is to save the world" is a Talmudic teaching that is beautiful in its clarity. It's one of the most beautiful sentences there is. "Thou shalt not kill" is pretty direct too, though it lacks the same degree of poetry.

    That said, if there is morality to be found in this book, you have to look for it.  I never read it until I was an adult, and was blown away by the cruelty and the pornographic level of violence. If I had kids, I'm not sure I'd let them read it until they were teenagers and able to process the content.  

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:59:26 AM PST

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    •  That's because there's no such thing as (7+ / 0-)

      "the Bible" in the sense of a unified body of law.

      Or a unified body of anything: how does one explain two conflicting creation stories in the first two chapters of Genesis?

      •  Simple explanation: the Bible is defined as (5+ / 0-)

        a record of man's speculations towards God, rather than the word of God to man. That is why there are many contradictions: as mankind increases its body of knowledge & wisdom, we realize that many older received truths are actually wrong -- & some discredited opinions are actually correct.

        If that's a heretical opinion, I wouldn't be surprised; I tend to have many heretical opinions about Christianity. On the other hand, I suspect this is the opinion of modern liberal theologians; since I'm poorly read in modern theology, I can't be certain if that's true.

        •  The Bible is a highly selective (5+ / 0-)

          -- and selected -- record of particular peoples' speculations regarding gods.  The whole history of what constitutes the Bible is a sorry one, and it's instructive to note that to this day there are substantially different Bibles in the Christian tradition (the Protestant, Catholic, and Coptic canons are just different -- for starters).

          •  Also Jewish and Orthodox canons (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sfbob, blueoasis, ivorybill

            Jews and Christians don't agree on which books belong in Tanakh, and Christians are of course determined to insult Jews just by calling Tanakh the Old Testament, and pretending that all prophecies of the Messiah are about Jesus instead.

            To Jews, it is the Hebrew and Aramaic originals that count; to many Catholics, the Latin Vulgate; and to the Orthodox, the Greek Septuagint and New Testament. Some Protestants profess that it is only the Saint James [sic] Bible that is for real.

            Of course, if you want to start a serious argument about all of this, just mention the Muslim doctrine of the Peoples of the Book, which praises Biblical scripture and the Prophets Musa (Moses) and Issa (Jesus) to the skies while proclaiming that the actual texts in use are all lies, forgeries by the Jewish and Christian priesthoods to cover up the original revelations. And Jesus is not the Son of God, which would be blasphemy. But you should always show Jews and Christians the greatest respect, except when they are the enemies of all that is good, right, and true.

            Being out of these fights is just one of the things I like about being a Buddhist. We are often called an atheistic religion, but the reality is that we believe in all of the Gods, whether the actual number is many, one, or none. We don't mind. They are equally welcome to come and learn from the Buddha, as they do in a number of our scriptures, whether they exist or not. ^_^

            America—We built that!

            by Mokurai on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:21:03 PM PST

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      •  By assuming the redactors knew (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LSophia, ivorybill

        that they were putting two conflicting creation stories side by side, and looking at the stories, separately and together, and within the context of the Genesian protohistory (i.e., Genesis up to the start of the Abraham narrative), and seeing what the stories might have to say when put together that way.

        A remarkable number of people's objections to the inconsistencies in the Bible melt away when they accept the possibility that the community of faith who assembled the thing might have actually understood it, and might have done their work intentionally rather than just mashing a bunch of short stories into a sort of themed anthology.

        "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

        by pragmaticidealist on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 09:24:48 AM PST

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        •  That kind of assumes (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW, LSophia, KathleenM1, ivorybill

          that such redactors weren't biblical literalists.  That's quite a daring assumption.

          •  On the contrary (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LSophia, IreGyre, DrPlacebo, sfbob, ivorybill

            Biblical literalism is a modern phenomenon. The cultures of the ancient Middle East, and certainly that of the community that gave us the Bible, had a greatly different understanding of the relationship and relative importance of the concepts we call "fact", "fiction", and "truth", among others.

            We moderns have compartmentalized these things. History is facts and figures, dates and individuals. Yes, there are also trends and developments, but we see them in much the same light: facts, unchanging, cold. Or we see them as so much propoganda, the spoils of victory.

            The ancients did not compartmentalize. The Bible is (to us) a strange tossed salad of names and dates, myths, seemingly historical narrative, sermons, songs, and all manner of things. It's easy to look at this and think of it as just a collection of writings that fit a theme -- because that's how we moderns put together our literature. We look at an anthology and read each story or essay or poem as an entity whole and complete in and of itself. It is the rare editor, and the rarer still reader, who looks for an overarching storyline, an underlying Truth, in the assembly process itself.

            But that is exactly what the process of canonization was: an effort, generations-long, to identify the various stories (some factual, some not, but all in one way or another True) that were of lasting value to the community. To modify the tradition as needed, but with much thought and careful consideration and loving deference, to more fully fit both the needs of the evolving community and the shape of the growing meta-narrative.

            And, eventually, and in various stages, to develop an orderly presentation of the whole body that worked to allow each piece not simply to speak for itself but to lend new layers of meaning -- or to argue against certain possible misreadings -- to other pieces, and to the whole.

            You have to remember that for the ancient Hebrews, Israelites, Temple Judaism, early Rabbinic Judaism and incipient Christianity, there was no more important facet of life than faith, and it was not in any way separable from the rest of life. We compartmentalize religion away from philosophy and ethics and morality and, yes, law; they did not, because they understood their lives not as a set of different activities or roles but as what we would call a gestalt, a multifaceted but indivisible whole. Faith was what gave life meaning and purpose and order. They put their best and brightest in charge of it, and only the best of those (for the most part) wound up in a position to have any lasting impact on the shape of the canon.

            "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

            by pragmaticidealist on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:44:25 AM PST

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        •  Yeah, either it was a complicated... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW, Paul Rogers, blueoasis, ivorybill

          ....plan to plant all these inconsistencies as part of a clever scheme  to just SEEM like they were sloppy ...or they were just sloppy.  

          I'm gonna go with Occam on this one.  

          •  Common law has inconsistencies (1+ / 0-)
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            Is that because centuries of jurists were all just sloppy? Or because it's the (still evolving) product of a collaborative effort spanning generations aimed at making decisions useful at the time they're made and, over time, creating a body of learning that should help us make better, more just decisions than our predecessors?

            Or do you just assume that modern culture bloomed fully formed without millennia of slow progress and hard-learned lessons?

            "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

            by pragmaticidealist on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 11:21:10 AM PST

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        •  accepting faith = suspension of disbelief (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KathleenM1, blueoasis

          When reading any work of fiction, it is often essential to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story line.  Religious believers suspend disbelief so far that they accept their particular old fairy tales as reality*.  Bronze Age goat herders didn't have science, so they used myths.  That's why there are so many "versions", "translations", "explanations" and "interpretations" of the myths in holy texts, and why acceptance of contradictions and blind faith has to substitute for comprehending reality.  This has to be taught to children, because rational adults would look at all of the contradictions within and between hundreds of mutually contradictory religions all purporting to give the "one truth" and say it's all nonsense.

          (* As opposed to the other guy's fairy tales, which make no more sense, but the argument becomes a schism or an excuse for a holy war.)

          •  No, accepting faith = act of belief (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There's a difference between fiction and myth, and between fiction and history, and between fiction and tradition.

            Fairy tales aren't intended to explain the world; they're intended to guide people's actions in it. Bronze Age goat herders had myths, yes -- but so do modern American liberals. Myths are a collectively useful way of exploring both how things that aren't otherwise explicable work, and of considering questions of meaning and purpose that science isn't intended or suited to address.

            Just because you don't agree with something doesn't mean you have to denigrate it. Everyone, even the most rational of us, has a belief system. Faith traditions just try to pass the useful bits -- and cautionary tales about the price of mistakes -- on to other members of the community and future generations. That's not a bad thing.

            "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

            by pragmaticidealist on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 11:26:22 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe the creators of the book of Genesis were (0+ / 0-)

        doing just what conservatives claim they want science teachers to do by insisting that they teach creationism alongside with evolution--present two sides of the issue.

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