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For the last several months, I have been tutoring two kids, brothers, aged 11 and 14 in Bible.  They're homeschooled, but come from a non-religious family.  Although I am a theologian, I am not teaching it from a religious perspective.  I'm teaching it so they will have a better understanding of reference points in culture from Moby Dick to Arcade Fire's "Abraham's Daughter."

Today's lesson was particularly interesting, not in terms of the material we covered, but  in terms of getting at a few layers of the learning process and the role of the Bible in our society.

From day one, I've taught the contradictions of the Bible, with an eye to getting the kids to see the Bible as a collection of stories, laws, prophecies, myths, historical facts, etc. instead of as A BOOK.  

We started off reading Genesis 1 & 2, and working through the contradictions of the two creation stories, and got a little bit into the Documentary Hypothesis, and the different sources posited by Julius Wellhausen.  They enjoyed seeing the contradictions - and joked about how their grandparents would freak out about them.  I figured once they understood that there are two completely different stories in the Bible about how the world came to be, they'd get the basic point that the Bible is a compilation of competing voices.  Well, it turns out they did and they didn't.

We moved on to compare the Priestly version of creation in Genesis one to the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, which most, not all, biblical scholars take as the basis for the creation myth of Genesis 1, and we compared interpretations of Genesis 1:26-27 by Origen, Rashi, Martin Luther, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to get a sense that the Bible isn't something that's isolated from its predecessors, or something that you can just read and get the meaning from without looking at how you are reading it.  Not sure how well all that sank in.

I had them compare the issue of "problem/solution" in Genesis 3 and Micah 1.  The idea that God uses war as punishment for sin, which is prominent in Micah, disturbed and offended them to the point that they couldn't think about much else.  I tried to make connections between Micah's condemnation of defrauding people of their homes and Occupy protests against home foreclosures, but really once they read Micah 1, they were done with him.  They were able to make some contrasts between the dynamics of sin and punishment in Genesis and Micah, but Micah seems to have been the seed for a lot of the "the Bible is bullshit and God isn't real and these people were stupid, crazy, or on drugs" the younger kid is wont to bring to our discussions.  Christopher Hitchens would be very proud of him.

Later we compared the covenants God makes with Abraham in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17, again with an eye to where they contradict each other - in Genesis 15, God promises Abraham's descendants the land from the Nile to Euphrates, in Genesis 17, God promises Abraham just the land of Canaan.  I thought that was driving home the point, again, that there are conflicting points of view in the Bible.

We got to the story of Lot and his daughters, which really freaked them out.  I then had them read various stories about Moabites in the Bible, some of which clearly describe Moabites as enemies, had them look at the Mesha stele, an ancient Moabite document that may tell the story of 2 Kings 3 from the Moabite side, and finally had them read the book of Ruth, which ascribes King David's ancestry to a Moabite foremother.  After that, we returned to Genesis 19:36-38, to see how the story of Lot sleeping with his daughters isn't saying that it's a good thing, but how it's anti-Moabite propaganda.  Again, I thought I was hammering in the point that we're not dealing with a coherent text, but with a jumble of perspectives.  

After a while, I got bored with always hearing about the text we were dealing with from their presuppositions about the world, so to change the frame of reference we started working through Jorge Pixley's book Biblical Israel: A People's History.  Pixley is a Latin American liberation theologian, who provides a very readable history of the Bible using a Marxist analysis to uncover power and class struggles under the surface of the text.  At first, the kids were relieved to be reading something MODERN and not ANTIQUATED.  They've been liking it.  And, today we got to Pixley's commentary on Micah and Isaiah, as advocates of a violent revolution against monarchy on the one hand and a hope for an ethical monarchy on the other.  I thought we had gone over biblical contradictions and cacophonous voices enough that that wouldn't be a stumbling block.

Throughout our discussions of biblical contradictions, the kids seemed to run into confusions as their thought processes oscillated between trying to "get what the Bible says" from a kind of logic that takes the text as a coherent whole that has a message from one God and trying to figure out what two or more different writers are saying on a subject.  In today's homework, I ran across the confusions of that oscillation again, as there was confusion about why God is saying different things, why the prophets aren't agreeing with each other.

So, with a bit of a sense of failure, I backtracked.  "So, what does it mean that there's two contradictory prophecies?"  The younger kid replied, "It means that God isn't real and this is all bullshit."  The older kid replied, "God is bipolar." "OK, so there's a bunch of ways to read the Bible.  There's a religious way to read the Bible, and I haven't been teaching you that way.  We can ask what the text says about God, or we can ask what it tells us about history, and some of the questions about what it says about God are getting in the way of just reading it straightforwardly as history.  Now, what's weird to me is that you have these assumptions, even though you weren't raised in a religious home.  So where do you get your ideas about what the Bible is?"  

"Our grandparents, our friend (whose father is a pastor), the movies, and you."

So, we parsed it out.  When it came to what their friend thought about the Bible, there was just a big fog.  When it came to grandparents, it was THE BIBLE IS TRUE.  When it came to movies, they listed some movies that had religious content of some sort, and then when they came to me, it was THE BIBLE IS A COLLECTION OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF STORIES.

So, I asked them to follow through what it meant to say the Bible is a collection of different stories instead of a book.  And we went through several steps of logic, until suddenly I noticed that the assumptions had flipped back into THE BIBLE IS TRUE mode.  "Right there!"  I pointed at the page where I'd been writing down the steps of their logic - "do you see how you flipped back into THE BIBLE IS TRUE mode?"  I turned the paper over and drew a square on the left side and a bunch of dots on the right side.  "See, we were thinking about how things work on the right side of the page, but then you flipped the assumptions to the left side.  Even though you don't think THE BIBLE IS TRUE, it's a lot easier to think about one thing than it is to hold a bunch of different things together!  So, when it gets confusing, you revert back to the template of your grandparents.  But that's not what I'm asking you to do, I'm asking you to think about the stories as products of different times in history, to get a better sense of the different perspectives that got put together when they collated it into something that looks like a book."

I hope that finally got it to sink in at a fundamental - but not Fundamentalist - level.

Originally posted to dirkster42 on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets , Anglican Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (199+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckydog, mapamp, Urza, Renee, dansk47, bubbanomics, slouchsock, cfk, Pluto, NBBooks, Cassandra Waites, wayoutinthestix, Alice Venturi, pico, Dreaming of Better Days, commonmass, ljcrazyhistorian, paxpdx, Just Saying, slksfca, Unknown Quantity, Siri, Sharon Wraight, Kingsmeg, Texknight, RudiB, Egalitare, marykk, SoCaliana, Denise Oliver Velez, radarlady, ladybug53, swampyankee, tobendaro, Steven D, TheMeansAreTheEnd, SpamNunn, aravir, hlsmlane, kkmd, Matt Z, mamamorgaine, Tchrldy, Dem in the heart of Texas, angry marmot, ruleoflaw, Canis Aureus, gulfgal98, mithra666, matador, Margd, JayC, kathny, nominalize, Nowhere Man, texasmom, TheLizardKing, Leftcandid, Bruce The Moose, left rev, Cedwyn, quarkstomper, stormicats, gizmo59, psnyder, idbecrazyif, createpeace, antimony, fiddler crabby, OllieGarkey, puzzled, Dallasdoc, jeanette0605, GeorgeXVIII, George Hier, wishingwell, LynChi, Deep Texan, GRLionsFan, blue jersey mom, Kurt from CMH, US Blues, TomP, Thinking Fella, marleycat, redstella, luckylizard, BlackBandFedora, Azazello, Carol in San Antonio, middleagedhousewife, p gorden lippy, blue aardvark, KVoimakas, Getreal1246, Vicky, Catesby, Xapulin, ExStr8, Prof Haley, emilymac, 2thanks, Debby, bythesea, James Kroeger, OhioNatureMom, M Sullivan, myboo, RainDog2, jgilhousen, freeport beach PA, JDsg, lcrp, pixxer, HeyMikey, dmhlt 66, Satya1, CarbonFiberBoy, hazey, Catte Nappe, Involuntary Exile, bronxcharlie, bnasley, JKTownsend, kerflooey, kharma, zerelda, Oh Mary Oh, carolanne, science nerd, Evolution, FrY10cK, Chi, Simplify, greycat, Loudoun County Dem, CentralMass, DvCM, timewarp, old wobbly, reahti, Rogneid, revsue, ogre, Shockwave, KJG52, TiaRachel, JBL55, mkfarkus, Geek of all trades, MKinTN, krwada, Akonitum, dpwks, smrichmond, ScienceMom, patchmo13, FrankCornish, DBunn, FG, cotterperson, Tara the Antisocial Social Worker, afisher, McWaffle, Brooke In Seattle, Mary Mike, Sean Robertson, greengemini, qofdisks, linkage, Melanie in IA, Iron Spider, Mayfly, Nailbanger, a gilas girl, Gorette, Parthenia, davespicer, joedemocrat, hubcap, gfv6800, DannyX, MarciaJ720, lostboyjim, ramara, davis90, cany, lineatus, ladyjames, antirove, mythatsme, Othniel, Fiona West, ChocolateChris, Tennessee Dave, sideboth, kurt, indres, Aaa T Tudeattack

    If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

    by dirkster42 on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:55:30 PM PDT

  •  what a grand endeavor you've taken on! (50+ / 0-)

    too bad there aren't thirty kids in your class.

    I used to teach art in public schools, and I REALLY wanted to talk about the religious contexts and references. I couldn't possibly have tried that in public school, but it seemed like I was leaving out most of western art history.

  •  This is just fantastic. (36+ / 0-)

    I envy those kids.

    By the way, have you approached it from the idea of the guys who picked up a pen and wrote down these various stories -- across time? Who they were, why they wrote, what kinds of lives they might have lived, how many were involved, if they even knew each other, who their audience was, and how they earned a living, cause it certainly wasn't from royalties.

    Really fascinating, especially that final flip into the narrative that ties all the loose ends together -- like magic. The brain gets tired.


    According to the Tea Party, there are three kinds of Conservatives: "Those who can do math and those who can't."

    by Pluto on Thu May 24, 2012 at 10:01:42 PM PDT

  •  Republished to Anglican Kossaks. (24+ / 0-)

    You are the most wonderful theologian I know, Dirk.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Thu May 24, 2012 at 10:19:30 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, man! (13+ / 0-)

      That is certainly high praise.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Thu May 24, 2012 at 10:42:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A question for you... (8+ / 0-)

        I'm curious to know if you have identified---or have heard of anyone else identifying---THE central, glaring error of the New Testament: the prediction that the end of the world was coming 'soon.'

        Yes, the Apostles quoted Jesus as saying that all the end times predictions he was making would happen 'before this generation passes away.'  Now, whether or not Jesus actually used the precise words that M,M,L, & J quoted him as saying, it is abundantly clear that the Apostles believed that this was what he was saying.

        They believed that the end of the world was coming to an end in their lifetimes.  That much is abundantly obvious throughout Acts and even the other Epistles.  It was, in fact, the single most powerful message that they had to give to their audiences throughout their ministries, that The End was coming soon.

        Which leads us to this conclusion:  The Authors of the Gospels were wrong about one of the things that they believed Jesus was telling them.  That is an error in the Bible that no expert can deny.  

        The error is on the part of the authors of the New Testament.  If they were wrong about this, is it not possible that they might have been wrong about some of the other things that they thought they heard Jesus say (e.g., The Father and I are One)?

        It seems there are a couple of ways to evaluate this obvious error.  One is to say that Jesus was not wrong, which could only be possible if he did not actually say what the Apostles thought they heard him say, and that is what I believe is most likely.

        If one insists that the New Testament was 'divinely inspired', then it must necessarily be true that the Apostles were inspired to wrongly interpret what Jesus said (which further suggests that Jesus might have intentionally used language that was ambiguous so that they would misinterpret).

        But if that is true, then how do we know if there are not other 'misunderstandings' the Apostles were inspired to make that were also part of the divine inspiration?  Like the Trinitarian notion that Jesus is actually God, in spite of the fact that he repeatedly referred to 'his Father' as someone who is separate and distinct from himself?  

        (Why would he do that if both he and God the Father were one and the same?  Unless, of course, it was another misinterpretation that was divinely inspired?)

        By the way, I don't think that any of this actually forces us to conclude that it is all a bunch of hooey.  It may be that certain of these key misinterpretations were 'part of the plan' in order to spread the word optimally early on, but then to be later 'discovered' and corrected by rational deductions ((in the Twenty-First Century?)

        By the way, I often like to say that I believe "the Truth is in the Bible", even though I then point out that I don't believe that every word in the Bible is The Truth."

        •  For us catholic, trinitarian Christians, (4+ / 0-)

          Jesus is the logos, the "word", and existed with God the Father and the Holy Spirit before the universe existed. They have an inner life to which we are not privy. They are three, and they are one. A great mystery.

          When Genesis talks about the world as having been "created" in "days", well, what is a day to a deity that has existed forever and will exist forever? "In their lifetimes": Jesus time is not our time. What is great about Acts and all that escatological stuff is that times and lifetimes doesn't necessarily mean human lifetimes. Any man who is claimed to be both man and God flummoxes his followers when he talks about time. The poor Apostles were mere mortals. So, they wrote that way (they didn't write, their followers wrote, but that's a diary unto itself).

          Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

          by commonmass on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:22:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, I've heard this... (5+ / 0-)
            "In their lifetimes": Jesus time is not our time.
             It is often said that what Jesus might have meant by a 'generation' [assuming he actually used that word] was different from what the Apostles understood it to be.

            But it really doesn't matter what words Jesus used or what he meant by them...the Apostles believed that he meant 'in their lifetimes' and in this belief they were wrong.  

            (E.g., Paul suggesting to new Christians that marriage was not really the thing they wanted to do, if only they could wait for the end like he could, but that they should probably go ahead and get married if it was the only way they thought they could avoid the sin of fornication.)

            The thing is this: the Apostles were wrong about something they emphasized as Jesus' teaching, but they didn't know they were wrong at that time.  We only found out later.

            Why doesn't this establish the possibility that other of the things they believed about what they thought Jesus told them might also be wrong?

            What reason do we have to believe that their understanding of when Jesus might be returning is the only error they made?

            What this tells me is that we cannot rely purely on revelation but can justifiably turn to logic to try to assess whether or not some of the Church's earliest teachings actually made logical sense and which were probably an error or misperception.

            •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley, DvCM, democracy is coming
              What this tells me is that we cannot rely purely on revelation but can justifiably turn to logic to try to assess whether or not some of the Church's earliest teachings actually made logical sense
              Martin Luther said "Faith and Scripture alone".

              The Roman Church teaches "Scripture and Tradition"

              The Anglican Church teaches "Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

              That's why I am an Episcopalian.

              One of our great liberal Bishops, the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong (the first Bishop to ordain an openly gay Priest in the Episcopal Church) says "Belief in the historical existence of Christ is not necessary to the practice of Christianity". I am inclined to think he's right.

              Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

              by commonmass on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:55:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I don't do a whole lot of NT (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          old wobbly, DvCM, Prof Haley

          But "the failure of the parousia" is a phrase I've read a lot in reference to early church history.  Don't remember where exactly to point you, but yes the early church's first task was to figure out why Jesus hadn't come back quickly.  

          It may be that the story of the walk to Emmaus is an early attempt to deal with that uncomfortable fact.  

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:23:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Another unconfortable fact (0+ / 0-)

            that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention, is that Paul in particular mentions many disagreements over doctrine, that could easily be answered by a chain-of-custody argument tracing a given position back to a recently-deceased historical Jesus, yet Paul never makes such an argument, nor mentions anyone else making one.

            into the blue again, after the money's gone

            by Prof Haley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:40:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That could be because (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley, ladyjames

              Paul learned everything he knew about Jesus from visions, aka hallucinations.

              •  More specifically (0+ / 0-)

                Paul doesn't know, or know of, anybody who knew anything about Jesus any other way, yet Jesus supposedly died within one generation at most of living memory. Even though Paul visits Peter, he never mentions Peter saying anything like "here's what I personally heard Jesus really say."

                The absence of a historical Jesus in Paul's own writings is the main reason I have to conclude Jesus is himself entirely mythical [or legendary, or spiritual - take your pick]. But I also agree with Bishop Spong [upthread] that this condition does not make or break Christianity.

                into the blue again, after the money's gone

                by Prof Haley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:20:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Appeal to Authority (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Prof Haley

                  When Paul uses Appeal to Authority in his letters, that authority is usually Scriptures, rather than This Guy I Have a Really High Opinion Of.  Which is consistent, I think, with his religious background as a pharisee.

                  "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                  by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:58:46 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  An even stronger argument would be (0+ / 0-)

                    This Guy Who Heard It From [or Who Knew a Guy Who Heard It From] Jesus When He Was Alive. I find the absence of this argument significant. But that's me.

                    into the blue again, after the money's gone

                    by Prof Haley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:10:49 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Which is why Muslims developed the science of... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...hadith, in which the chain of narrators (called the isnad or sanad) is scrutinized to determine the strength of the hadith itself (the text or matn).

                      For the record I believe in an historical Jesus (pbuh), but a sunnah based on ahadith would have been very helpful for Christian scholars as the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is very helpful for Muslim scholars.

                      Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

                      by JDsg on Sat May 26, 2012 at 11:32:42 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  I do agree with you (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Prof Haley

                  That Jesus never existed. The quantity and quality of evidence of the existence of Jesus is about equal to Area 51.

        •  The kids had it right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sfcouple
          The Bible is bullshit
          Once people understand and accept this Truth, all of the errors and contradictions in the Bible make perfect sense.

          --- Keep Christian mythology out of science class!

          by cybersaur on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:49:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Apocalyptic (0+ / 0-)

          According to the so-called New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and John, the author of Revelation, believed the world as they knew it would very soon be destroyed and replaced by a New Jerusalem that would descend form heaven or what the gospels call the kingdom heaven or of God. It didn't happen.

        •  Depends on what you call the Kingdom (0+ / 0-)

          I was always taught as a kid that these verses meant that the Church would come before the people Jesus was talking to had died, and that Pentecost was the fulfilment of this prophecy.  We were told that people looking for the end of the physical world were misunderstanding the Bible.

          That was always one of the fallback responses to anything that contradicted or was obviously false in the Bible - we were "misunderstanding" it. This was one of the things that ultimately led to me deciding i did not believe it - what kind of deity would make his essential revelation so difficult to understand? A god who deliberately said things that were open to interpretation did not go along with a need for "knowing truth" in order to be saved.

  •  I think I may have told you this before, (57+ / 0-)

    but one of the very best exercises for kids learning about the Bible is the nativity test: you have them reread the two nativity scenes, then take a quiz with questions like "How many wise men were there?" and "In what kind of building was Jesus born?"  Then they go back and compare their answers to the texts, and it's always a surprise to see how the popular culture of the nativity is so strong that even when they reread the text just before taking the quiz, they still fill answers that aren't in what they just read.

    It helps us understand how hard it is to actually read what's on the page.  We project so much into it, even if we've never read the actual text itself.

    Anyway, great diary, and very good food for thought.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu May 24, 2012 at 10:34:55 PM PDT

  •  I loved reading this. (23+ / 0-)

    The way you wrote about the kid's reactions to what you are teaching them was a great counterpoint to your discussion of the material you are taking them through. Thanks for writing it!

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Thu May 24, 2012 at 11:36:33 PM PDT

    •  The kids are so very different - (15+ / 0-)

      and its more personality than age.

      The older one has always been fascinated by gods, and wanted to be one when he was very little.  He's perfectly fine with seeing God as a character in a story and running with it.

      The younger one, well his thing is food, but I'm not sure how he got so hard-core Christopher Hitchens on me.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Thu May 24, 2012 at 11:42:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He just wants a simple answer to spout (11+ / 0-)

        If it can't be "The Bible is true" then it must be "The Bible is crap." There's a certain component to our intellectual culture that parrots the idea "simple and short is better," which, being kids, they've no doubt decided gets them off the hook so they can go do something else they'd rather be doing. The idea may be based on a garbled version of Occham's Razor, only, it's hard to say, because at some point it's driven to advertising jingles (but I digress). Bless you for introducing them to the idea of the Bible as written down at different times by different authors. I read the KJV from cover to cover the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school and was exceptionally delighted to find all those passages my Fundie Church leaders absolutely refused to discuss. In college, I discovered Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong, etc. etc. and have learned much, much more from my adult reading that I know I wasn't supposed to understand.

        Have you gotten them to the story in 2 Kings 22 and 23 about King Josiah sending carpenters to refurb the Temple and their discovering the books of the Law stuffed away on a shelf (or the antiquarian equivalent)? That's proof, right there in black and white(so it passes the Grandparent test), that the Bible was written down at different times, and amended/edited as required. Perhaps then is will sink in that this is a compendium, not a novel or a movie.

        Radarlady

        •  We were talking about the story of (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radarlady, Renee, DvCM, kurt

          the finding of Deuteronomy in the Temple you mention yesterday as an example of the way we look at things and not having absolute certainty about historical facts.

          So, the question was did they find Deuteronomy or did they "find" (wink wink) Deuteronomy?  I said it's probably the latter, given that we know about other political reforms in the ancient Near East being instituted by people going into temples and "finding" writings.  But probably isn't the same as 100% proof.

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:27:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Re (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, Still Waters, slatsg
        The older one has always been fascinated by gods, and wanted to be one when he was very little.
        That's still my life ambition, and I'm in my early 30s.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:19:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Concrete thinking (4+ / 0-)

        and culture.

        You've got a kid who's at that stage, and the other isn't. And the culture insists that God is the source of moral behavior.

        Reading the Bible as a story, rather than a compilation of stories (by people), puts God on trial, rather than people's ideas and assertions on trial. If it's God's Book, then the story is of a raging psychopath who orders people to be moral--and isn't. And then orders people to violate the commanded morality, too. It makes for easy rejection, if one's not in a culture/subculture that forces one to compartmentalize and make all that beyond questioning and thinking. (Or, perhaps, you're one of the High RWAs described in Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians--who seem natively inclined to be comfortable with cognitive dissonance.)

        What a gift you're giving these kids, Dirk!

        "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

        by ogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:38:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hey guy! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ogre

          The kids are really appreciating it.  Even when the younger one gets fidgety, and I ask him if he wants to be excused, he chooses to stay and listen or discuss.

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:41:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fidgety... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dirkster42, kurt

            took me a long time to make peace with that. My younger son, particularly, is a kinesthetic learner. Fidgeted madly while I read stories to them... fidgeted learning math (and pranced in circles around the table while doing multiplication in his head). We've been taught to understand movement and activity as being distracted (and sometimes, it is... but often, it's as much a sign of actually paying attention!).

            "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

            by ogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:51:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I set out to read the Bible all the way through. (15+ / 0-)

    That's how I lost my religion. I've also heard anecdotal claims that anyone who sets out to read the Bible all the way through will either soon give up religion or go crazy.

    •  Meh. (8+ / 0-)

      I read it all the way through when I was 13. Leviticus bored me and scared me. I couldn't make heads or tails of Isaiah. I did not lose my religion or go crazy, but it was pretty obvious that prophets and law books were prophets and law books and not histories or poetry or instruction.

      Martin Luther thought that part of the priesthood of all believers was that each believer should read the Bible, but should have the pastor/priest there to help with learning. It's Calvin who thinks that it's just you and the Bible and inspiration, and it's that few that is peculiarly common in the U.S.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:10:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Alan Lomax Speaking About Sacred Harp... (6+ / 0-)

        ... strongly emphasizes the importance of the "Priesthood of the believer" to making the US what it is. He says of our ancestors' individual families, "They could carry the whole culture on their shoulders."

        But I thought the concept was much more strongly identified with Baptists than with Calvinists. If Calvin really believed that, how did he claim to theologically justify his draconian rule over Geneva? Wasn't he a theocratic dictator of sorts?

        best,

        john

        Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

        by jabney on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:47:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, now... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radarlady, jabney, Wee Mama, The Geogre, DvCM

          I have to admit that, though I'm more or less an atheist, I sing Sacred Harp.  It's my one spiritual practice.  It makes no sense for me to do this, but everything that the bearded gentleman at the beginning says, I could say also about this practice.

          As for Baptists, well, many of them are Calvinist (though not all).

          -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

          by gizmo59 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:25:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The 3 way battle, fought with bodies (7+ / 0-)

            The Southern Baptist Church is fighting inside itself, and viciously. I'm still trying to figure all this out, but this is how it seems to me from outside.
            SW Theological, in Dallas, takes the non-Calvinist, pro-church-in-politics view. Look where Liberty's people went to school.
            SE Theological takes the Calvinist but out-of-politics view (I think).
            There is another that takes the Calvinist & politics view.

            They are fighting. I mean really fighting. While the old Baptists swore "No creed, no crown!" These have a creed (statement of faith and message), and the one segment of the group losing the fight is the side that advocates staying out of politics. This is Fallwell's actual legacy: each group for political involvement becomes active, organizes, and votes in lock step, while the rest debate.

            Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

            by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:19:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Interesting. (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              myboo, jabney, DvCM, The Geogre, Alice Venturi

              I suppose I knew that there was some sort of turmoil in the SBC lately, but I haven't paid close attention, and I wasn't aware that the turmoil had a viciousness to it.

              My friend Katie, the American Baptist preacher (completely separate from the SBC), has said that the catchphrase of the Baptists was "No creed but the Bible."  This diary demonstrates the catchphrase to be extremely problematic, since it all depends on interpretation.  In colonial times Baptists had a very large tent, but that tent has gotten quite a bit smaller in the present.

              I have met some southern Primitive Baptists, Calvinists, Sacred Harp singers, who are wonderful people, politically conservative, but not terribly politically active in the sense of Jerry Falwell.  It's not clear to me that Primitive Baptists ministers would even go to a seminary, but if they did, presumably they would be of the philosophy of SE Theological.

              -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

              by gizmo59 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:34:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Southern Baptist Convention (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              The Geogre, dirkster42, gizmo59, jabney, kurt

              The SBC has been fighting since Patterson and Pressler fired the first shots in 1979 to set off the conservative resurgence. Up until the first half of the 1990s, they were fighting the moderate wing of the SBC. Once they'd managed to kick the moderates out, they thought everything would be just peachy. They were wrong. For a lot of reasons.

              The elder Francis Schaefer gave evangelicals spiritual permission to do what they had never done before: engage in overt politics and consciously erode the Church/State barrier. Couple this with the concurrent erosion of the one really big Baptist "distinctive," priesthood of the believer/soul competency, and you get an increasingly authoritarian SBC leadership who bullies the membership into voting Republican.

              The Calvinist thing is absolutely fascinating; I've been hearing SBC Baptists describing themselves as Calvinists since around 1996, on the old AOL Religion boards. It kinda floored me at the time; it was like someone had just claimed that 2 + 2 = 5. What they seem to be doing is picking and choosing bits of Calvinist doctrine that appeal to them, while rejecting most of the rest. The whole "wealth as a sign of election" thing seems to have a certain amount of popularity.

              I'm really surprised at the "stay out of politics" branch of the fight; it's almost like they're a throwback to the old SBC. But as long as the SBC big guns (Al Mohler, Richard Land, et al) support engaging the secular world through politics, I suspect that the no-politickers will find themselves not occupying many important committee positions.

              The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature. - Arthur D. Hlavaty

              by Alice Venturi on Fri May 25, 2012 at 01:36:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Bingo (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dirkster42, Alice Venturi, gizmo59, jabney

                Land, in particular, is pushing and purging, and Mohler does as much, and both are now going in front of microphones for national political causes. This is new.

                Before this, the SBC had left that sort of thing to their gauche brothers at Liberty. Not anymore.

                There is a Calvinist and old fashioned move that opposes the erosion of church and state. These folks are not insincere, or stupid, and they can read Jesus saying "give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," and they hear what other Protestant (and only those) churches say about social justice, and so the intellectuals of the seminaries do have a wing that never gets very far.

                This is all a replay. I read it described already in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. :-(

                Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

                by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:06:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Cool! (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jabney, dirkster42, DvCM, kurt

          Lomax is right, and it's one of the really essential facets of the U.S.

          The Established Church, where it existed in the colonies, had a problem: the US was vast stretches of land without roads and with bad accidents waiting to happen and low population density. Therefore, in the cities of Richmond, Savannah, Charleston, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, there were established churches -- Anglican (Episcopal, after the Revolution), Catholic, Lutheran (if there were German or Scandinavian immigrants), and the more established "dissenting" churches (churches that no nation adopted and that would never agree to be near politics... the way they defined politics).

          Why was the frontier Protestant? Well, the protestant churches all adapted methods of sending out preachers or allowing for small congregations, and the evangelical model that came along after Jonathan Edwards was beautifully suited to the vast space. No matter, though: every settler needed a Bible and the ability to read it.

          As for Calvin... It was a church of prophets. I left out how Calvin had exegesis validated: it was validated by the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit has made John a prophet, then John speaks for God as definitely as any Pope. If Thomas down the road says something else, he must be filled with the spirit of the devil.

          Richard Hooker talks about the early Geneva Church as one that could have passed up many "jarrs and disturbances" if they had only talked to one another.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:14:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  O RLY? (0+ / 0-)

        From the outside, it appears that the Southern Baptist Convention is trying to install a Pope in every pulpit.

        "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

        by Yamaneko2 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:32:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I thought I had, but "Micah" doesn't ring a bell. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      Personally, not having been raised in a fundamentalist tradition, there wasn't anything in the text that would really affect religious belief one way or the other, except to confirm the completely unsuprising idea  that what seemed complete adn true once upon a time is seen as bafflingly incomplete sixteen hundred years later.    

      Romney is campaigning to be President SuperBain; his cure is to cut wages, end pensions, let companies go bankrupt, and let the assets of production go dark or be sold to China. He really thinks thats the best of all possible Americas.

      by Inland on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:57:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Michah and Those Guys (5+ / 0-)

        Yeah, the Minor Prophets at the end of the Old Testament tend to all blur together.  Which is really a pity, because Amos has some interesting things to say about Social Justice.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:11:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Micah has some beautiful things in it (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, quarkstomper, kurt

        After working through bitter condemnation of the priestly class, the authorities, the judges and the rich, all of whome he blame for leading to Judah's vulnerability to invasion by the Assyrian kings, he finds the occasional ray of hope and insight into what is right.   Referring to the Priestly and wealthy classes he says:

        ‘With what shall I come before the Lord,
           and bow myself before God on high?
        Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
           with calves a year old?
        7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
           with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
        Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
           the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
        8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
           and what does the Lord require of you
        but to do justice, and to love kindness,
           and to walk humbly with your God?"

        Nice right?  But is it easy to read?  Not really.  And was it written by one author?  Hard to say.  

        From what I understand Micah is the only book in the bible expressly quoted in another (Isaiah).  He and the other minor prophets appear to have been very influential in their time.  

        In Matthew, Jesus quotes a similar passage about "mercy" in Hosea (Hosea 6:6), telling another that to understand the Torah, he must understand "Mercy"  

        The word "Hesed," which is translated as "mercy" in these passages is a really interesting word and I the the word "mercy" probably doesn't do it justice.  It is a word that God uses to describe himself in Deuteronomy.  

        Do you have to be a fundamentalist Christian to study this and to find it insightful in some way?  I don't think so.

        •  Quoting other writers... (0+ / 0-)

          The last chapter of Jeremiah is really similar to the last chapter of 2 Kings.  I'd need to drag out my Hebrew Bible to see if the differences here are a matter of translation:

          Jeremiah 52

          2 Kings 25

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:21:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You think Joseph Campbell went crazy? (0+ / 0-)

      Wow, man.  

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:05:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmm Campbell was certainly not (0+ / 0-)

        religious.  At least, not a believing Christian, which is the point of the above comment.

        •  Why does that make a difference? (0+ / 0-)

          Does a Christian go crazy reading the whole Bible, whereas a non-Christian does not?

          My point is that the original comment has a very narrow scope/absurd premise.

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:58:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was just noting that Campbell is a bad (0+ / 0-)

            case to cite as a counterargument, since he would clearly fall in the "not religious" crowd of people who read the Bible.  By citing him, you give the impression that Campbell was a believing Christian, and I'm just correcting that.  He certainly was not such.

            •  True, but my point is the assumption that only (0+ / 0-)

              believing Christians read the Bible is false, because it is not--as this diary explains--only a religious manual.  

              Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

              by Leftcandid on Sat May 26, 2012 at 06:56:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  The same thing happened to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, Prof Haley, Kalex, dirkster42

      Julia Sweeny.  In an effort to reenforce her faltering faith, she took Bible study classes, and it just got worse as it went along.  She made a movie about it called Letting Go of God.

      -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

      by gizmo59 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:15:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  3 chapt a day, 5 on weekends, done in 1 year (5+ / 0-)

      Thats what i did when i was 10. Lost my religion eventually but not immediately.

      Snarka snarka snarka!

      by Hunter Huxley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:22:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Read it though cover-to-cover (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, old wobbly

      twice in my mid-20's - and the New Testament seven times. Existential crisis stage.....  The Bible was the one "source" book I knew. One thing that surprised me at the time was how not-good the Bible-greats were. At the time it reinforced my faith. But that faith continued to grow -- in terms of James Fowler's work on stages of faith (which I didn't know about until years later).

      People ask me what I believe about God and I say something like I believe that god is godness godding. Then they walk away. HA!

      Love Campbell's work. Am "into" Ken Wilber's integral perspective. Took an online course in Integral Christianity that was very interesting. Have also participated in all kinds of religious/spiritual activities around the world.

      But still love the Bible. And appreciate the knowledge and understanding of history, literature, art, etc. that it allows.

  •  As fascinating as biblical text criticism can be, (29+ / 0-)

    I can't help thinking that it's an enormous waste of time for many if not most people. Devoting the same amount of intellectual energy and thought to careful study of, say, energy policy or the job market or local food/agriculture seems a lot more useful than spending a large fraction of our limited time on earth studying the error-encrusted recorded oral traditions of a culture 2,000-3,000 years in the past.

    To this skeptic, the Bible remains relevant only to the extent that millions of people still bizarrely regard it as an infallible guide to modern living, despite its virulent misogyny/paternalism, acceptance of slavery, and a host of other pathologies.

  •  I taught Sunday School (14+ / 0-)

    For many years. 4th and 5th grade.

    It was interesting to me that so many of these kids did not know their bible. By the time I was in 5th grade, back in the olden days.... We had done a lot of study of bible in Sunday school.

    The kids all were interested in the differences in stories, the actual words vs. the stories they had been taught. The questions ran--why was God so mean? Why does it say this? How could that happen?

    I think too many adults are afraid of the realities in the bible, so they teach kids honey-coated stories instead.

    Not sure if the kids' parents were really happy with me!

    Peace, Hope, Faith, Love

    by mapamp on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:00:39 AM PDT

    •  Honey-coated stories. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DvCM, Still Waters, mapamp

      It really is interesting how frightening the idea that grace shines through bad things is.

      The idea that God is a substitute for ambiguity is what so many people seem to want.  Either for the comfort of having something to turn to, or for the comfort of being able to feel superior to the deluded folk.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:45:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cognition is your enemy here (10+ / 0-)

    Irony and multivocal signification take age. Simply put, they require post-adolescence, at least. Only some college students get there, and genius (>2%) kids younger, although it isn't necessarily a matter of intelligence. This is a matter of development.

    Don Quixote is the Don insane, or do we go "Man of LaMancha?" Well, in high school, those are the choices. It takes age to hold the view that the hero is insane and the times are insane and we can like him and we can think he's a complete buffoon and think he is a symbol. This is why we keep running into folks talking about "negative capability" and the like as if it were a novelty.

    I don't agree with your approach, however, as it, too, is a flavor, a reading. In particular, you, too, are the product of your own historical moment and cultural bubble. We are after the moderns (I hate "post-modern"), and that is marked by a fascination with method, a fitful and fey paroxysm about lack of authority, and a love, deep and boundless, for indeterminacy and heteroglossia.

    That there can be contradictions is hardly surprising. Certainly, the Bible is many different genres. However, in the name of scholarship people are shockingly unscholarly and certain of what this or that group thought and meant, so long as it can result in a separate voice. (I.e. it's a reading. It's the reading that is our bubble in the foam of history.)

    Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

    by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:06:10 AM PDT

    •  OK, but every reading is a flavor; there is ONLY (6+ / 0-)

      interpretation.  What's your alternative?

      An awareness of one's own subjectivity is important, but that cannot erase it for any teacher.  In this case it can only help to enforce the subjectivities of the multitude of Biblical authors.

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:56:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm at a loss, too. (5+ / 0-)

        In a sense, I simply fulfill the impulse of the age to point out that our "critical awareness" is yet another excuse, that it is another limitation. On the other hand, when I read our efforts from the point of view of reception aesthetics, I wonder at our re-embrace of Hegelianism over Marxism.

        I can't condemn or endorse, quite, because I would have to be an expert to do that, but I can see how we dislike over certainty. The certain end up with guns in their hands. The certain throw bombs. The certain say they can rid the world of evil, and the certain are only certain by steamrolling over detail.

        However, when we try to avoid the Men with Certainty by being honestly complex, we have a choice: we can draw from complexity a conclusion that man is insufficient or that the object of enquiry is unattainable. The Marxists held to a positive basis for analysis: human economy rooted in Christian (really, not Jewish, in my view) moral paternalism, and Hegelianism decouples from the material to have systems of ideas in tension with only a rationalist direction.

        (I know: no one is overtly Hegelian, but if we scratch at Bakhtin, what do we get? If we scratch beyond the level of competing discourse, what do we get but ideological dialectics?)

        I would like to hold onto the transcendent, if possible, and recognize that the reason for the thing itself is this experience, no matter how frenetic and bizarre the readers can be.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:04:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Have you read Ken Wilber? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Geogre

          If so, what do you think?

          If not, you'd probably get a lot out of that.

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:55:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I haven't, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Leftcandid

            I recommend Odo Marquard. Then again, I always recommend him. He is a skeptic of our own skepticism and believes that the unresolved question of theodicy created the social sciences, which in turn needed methodological fixation to escape theodicy, which in turn left a sort of, "I give up" mood. He argues, himself, for polytheism.

            Then again, he's out to tweak noses. (His "polytheism" is not pagan, needless to say, but rather a fracturing of the moral authority as opposed to the devaluing of it.)

            Farewell to Matters of Principle should be in a decent U. library, but don't try to buy it. For some reason, OUP wants $100 for as many pages.

            Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

            by The Geogre on Fri May 25, 2012 at 01:02:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Ah, a worthy opponent! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DvCM, kurt

      I need more coffee and more time than I have to do your comments justice.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:49:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I want to take your class! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, myboo, dirkster42, jgilhousen

    Do an online version for pay.  I think it would roll along and be huge!

    And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

    by tobendaro on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:09:18 AM PDT

  •  I wish you had taught my CCD class. (8+ / 0-)

    I suspect that you and Sister Jane would have held a different view of my questioning, and that I would have better penmanship today.  

    The only way to beat the game is to rig it to guarantee that everyone wins something. That's not possible if there is a house.

    by SpamNunn on Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:21:01 AM PDT

  •  I used to attend Synagogue with my wife (17+ / 0-)

    At the end of the Torah reading, the rabbi or cantor would say something about the Torah being the way of peace and the congregation would repeat that. They conveniently cherry-picked the readings to avoid most of the archaic and bizarre laws in Leviticus about animal sacrifice and menstruation and the bellicose passages in Deuteronomy about making slaves of the vanquished after a righteous battle between the Chosen People and the infidels. I could not join the congregation when they proclaimed the Torah a book of peace. Every year at Simchat Tora, the entire scroll is unwound and the congregation touch their books to it and then kiss the books to show their love for it. That seemed like idol worship to me.
    My Christian fundamentalist friend believes every word of the Bible is true and that there is no contradiction in it, although he favors the New Testament. He makes an exception when favoring the creation myth and now believes we were brainwashed in school with Darwin's (and many other scientists') theories of evolution and that the earth is only as old as the Bible says it is, probably about 6,000 years old. The fossil record has gaps, he says, which he uses to discredit all scientific discovery about the history of the planet.
    I see the Book as a collection of stories, some of them useful in calibrating moral behavior and instructing kindness and mercy, too many of them used to justify hateful behavior by people looking for an indisputable reason for theirs.
    This is why I remain an agnostic.

    •  Havjng converted to Judaism so that we could (6+ / 0-)

      bring some sort of balanced view point regarding religion (we had just moved to Greenville land of Bob Jones University) to our young children, I was amazed to find that many of the members of this Reform congregation were either agnostic or slightly left of Spinoza.  Most had very uninformed attitudes of Christians and tended to lump them together into one probably at least somewhat anti-Semitic mass.  Most were in this very liberal congregation because it provided a place to share a sort of comfortable cultural identity.  As a child growing up in the Methodist church I found that my father, a well educated physicist, was in fact a "secret agnostic", who much the same as I would do as a father,  raise his family in the safe, proper, and socially except able womb of religious respectability.  Both children are now "successful" members of society.   One studied Philosophy, is an  atheist, got a law degree which allows him to participate in successful law suits of large pharmaceuticals, and be active in Progressive/Democratic politics.  The other finished a Doctorate in music, teaches and performs in the Boston area, is active in and raising her children in the local Reform Jewish congregation.  Meanwhile the grand father (me), now 73 years old, has in addition to his active participation in Progressive/Democratic politics,  is reading the history of philosophy, finding a genuine interest in the new agnostic Buddhism of the US, and making paintings.  A lot can be said for the view point expressed above of the enormous amount of effort expended on organized religion as opposed to the pressing problems that we face in an endangered world.  Religion in my view ends up being merely "crowd control" constantly in a state of upheaval generally caused by the inevitable reformer or trouble maker who is unwilling to go along with the crowd in which he has infiltrated and  to which he pays only qualified respect.    

      Maybe it is music that will save the world - Pablo Casals

      by Palmetto Progressive on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:24:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think the hardest part of this sort of thing is (13+ / 0-)

    reconciling that no one is actually required to have an opinion about the Bible, or hold to it. The only reason people think that they have to form an opinion about the Bible and cling to it is because so many other people in society do that by knee-jerk reaction-- probably because their grandparents told them it was true.  

    When I truly engaged in conversation with some excellent Rabbis in Israel, it finally dawned on me something I'd known intellectually but never truly internalized: this stuff is all metaphor. Taking it 100% literal and life-or-death seriously is a fool's errand. Point of view and contemporary events very much shaped the perceptions within it.

    Another interesting exercise would be to have them seriously look at Christianity's relationship to Judaism. After all, Christianity's whole basis for legitimacy is supposed to come from fulfillment of certain Hebrew prophesies-- prophesies which, when looked at, Jesus doesn't fulfill. Ask them, "If Jesus didn't actually fulfill the prophesies, what is the basis for legitimacy of Christianity as the continuation of Hebrew religion? Is it, therefore, illegitimate? Or is it simply a whole new philosophy that is actually unconnected to it's supposed parent religion? Does that matter? And what is it about Christianity that made it so appealing to some, while Jews largely ignored it?"

    Maybe it's just me, but I'm always fascinated by that relationship between the two; the original and the highly successful spin-off; why the original Jews rejected it but it went on to be massively popular with people for whom Hebrew prophesy meant nothing.

    •  The Bible is inherently political. (6+ / 0-)

      And what Jesus offered the people of the Roman Empire was a different political paradigm. The fact that he preached equality in a culture that embraced slavery I imagine held some attraction. And also promoting this idea of a posthumous reward as well.

      The Church's and later [Christianity's] attempt to rule as a power wrests entirely on the notion that Doctrinal Authority is based on something real and not basically, unverified, personal, paranormal experiences or anecdotes.

      To the true believers these events, no matter how strange or improbable, are unquestionable. To the rest of us, not so much.

      That is the major disconnect between believers and non-believers.

      Politicians are all too ready to opportunistically grasp this unquestioning loyalty. It has proven to be very useful.

    •  All metaphor (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, mithra666, DvCM, ladyjames

      and also nearly all propaganda.

      Every contributor is trying to persuade the reader to think a certain way about gods, or their neighbors, or about who history's bad guys are. To me, that means the only appropriate way to read it is with a skeptic's eye.

      Outstanding diary and discussion, btw.

      into the blue again, after the money's gone

      by Prof Haley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:35:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think that if more people were aware that (12+ / 0-)

    the Bible is more a readers digest of ancient theological thought than a guidebook for modern morality or a history book, we would all be better off.

    If I don't see you, for a long while, I'll try to find you, left of the dial.

    by mithra666 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:21:45 AM PDT

    •  And it's not just theological either; it's mostly (10+ / 0-)

      cultural & historical, within which the theology/wisdom tradition is inseparable.   The Bible is still quite relevant as a way of understanding the past, most specifically the development of the wisdom tradition underlying modern Judeo-Christo-Islam.

      What gets me is how secular progressives just buy into the social conservative THE BIBLE IS TRUE premise, instead of taking a moment to see the Bible for what it is.  People like my agnostic grandfather & Stanley Anne Dunham knew better.  

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:01:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think there is much history in (7+ / 0-)

        the bible at all, if by history you mean "This is exactly what happened". I'd rather define biblical history as something written in response to what actually happened, or as something that the authors wanted people to believe actually happened.

        If I don't see you, for a long while, I'll try to find you, left of the dial.

        by mithra666 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:14:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's mythologized/orally transmitted, but it is (5+ / 0-)

          still historical content--it's not free of history, nothing is.  Figuring out actual events is the work of scholarly interpretation, & drawing the lines between what is understood as verifiable history & the rest is an important part of that.

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:00:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  lol (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mithra666, dirkster42, DvCM

            This reminds me of an argument I had with a History major friend, who said that history was the oldest genre of study. To which I replied, "So, The Odyssey is history?"

            To which I got a lot of hemming and hawing about, well, if you take out all the gods and Cyclops and this and that, well there's some history in there someplace, maybe :)

            I could've used the Bible instead of Homer :D

            "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

            by ChurchofBruce on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:01:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I've heard that line of argument before (0+ / 0-)

        but it doesn't make any sense to me. Atheists are often accused of taking the bible too literally, but what does that mean?

        It seems to me that once you abandon all the mythology and miracle described by taking it metaphorically, you're left with a work of literature. But at that point, where's the "agnosticism" coming in? If we're just taking it as a book without any magic associated with it, how are we not in complete agreement?

        It seems that if you're going to play a "deeper metaphorical truth" card, you have to invest at least SOME mythological importance to the book. Otherwise, we might as well be talking about the deep spiritual truth revealed by the Epic of Gilgamesh or even by the tax records of imperial Rome (that is to say, any written work at all).

        So I guess, how literal is too literal? How literal is not literal enough?

        "I wish you luck on not hating your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person." --The frickin´ HP--

        by McWaffle on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:58:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fun diary, thanks... (7+ / 0-)

    I expect that you'll meet resistance here from individuals who would prefer, for various reasons, that the Biblical narrative be stripped from our culture altogether. As for myself? I'm a fan of teaching the Bible as literature. Whether we like it or not, these narratives form the backbone of much of Western culture and to avoid or dismiss teaching them is to lose the foundation on which art (visual, literary, music et cetera), ideology and power developed prior to Modernity, as well as many of the references (positive and negative) in modern and contemporary arts and politics. One doesn't have to believe the Biblical narratives, but one does need to appreciate their value as the seminal documents and reference-points for Western history.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:22:02 AM PDT

  •  I only got this far... (12+ / 0-)
    ... to see the Bible as a collection of stories, laws, prophecies, myths, historical facts, etc. instead of as A BOOK.  
    ... before I recc'ed.

    The Bible is a multicultural, multilingual anthology, not a coherent single volume.  That is the biggest and best lesson of all when you want to approach the thing with any sanity.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:22:52 AM PDT

  •  Dirkster, if you have the time (10+ / 0-)

    you should educate us here at DailyKos!

    A lot of times, right-wingers use their Biblical information asymmetry to run circles around liberals who think they're scoring points with apparent contradictions and inconsistencies.

    This doesn't work with me, since I was raised in a defensively Catholic parish, and I am well-versed in Catholic theology and well-trained in dealing with "questions" from fundamentalists trying to convert me.  

    But it works with people for whom religion has never been a part of their life.

    So it's good that liberals understand the Bible, from a non-religious perspective.  It not only helps in debates, and understanding Western culture, but it also helps us take a proper perspective when we try to figure out what makes the conservatives tick.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:29:50 AM PDT

    •  I'm all for education... (5+ / 0-)

      But, on average, non-believers already hold their own against fundamentalists, right?

      http://www.pewforum.org/...

      It seems that those who could use more Bible study are the casual believers.

      •  In the real world, perhaps... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DvCM, dirkster42

        but in the world of rhetoric, they always find some part of the Bible to fall back onto, or just make up interpretations, or just repeated previously proposed but thoroughly debunked interpretations, because they know that their interlocutor has nothing to say.

        Remember that conservatives' goal in a debate is to look smart.  When they can slip around your points, they maintain their façade.  When you can outduel them, turning their own Bible against them, you deprive them of this slipperiness, and it pisses them off.  That's when they lose their cool, and their façade slips.  Since all they have to persuade people is that façade, you do much more damage to them than just raising 'tough' questions.

        Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

        by nominalize on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:32:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  From the mouths of babes (9+ / 0-)
    "God is bipolar."

    George Tierney of Greenville South Carolina

    by BOHICA on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:50:57 AM PDT

  •  The Stories You Don't Hear... (18+ / 0-)

    For a while I've been working haphazardly on a project I call "Stories You Don't Hear in Sunday School."  

    Some Bible stories are better-known than others.  Even people without a strong religious background have probably heard of David and Goliath, or Jonah and the Whale, or the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  They’re part of our Western Cultural Heritage, like Cinderella or Snow White or Star Wars: The New Hope.

    But how many people have heard about Dinah and the Shechemites?  Or Abigail and her Really Stupid Husband?  Or the Parable of the Sleazy Embezzler?  

    There are some stories in the Bible that are not widely known. They don't often come up in Sunday School; sometimes because they are too violent, sometimes because they have sex in them; sometimes because they are disturbing and have no easy morals to apply; and sometimes they're just plain weird. Sometimes these stories present challenges to the Christian Faith because they seem to contradict what we want to believe.

    Whether difficult or disturbing, confusing or confounding, lewd or just plain ludicrous; all these stories are a part of our religious heritage.  Whether we like it or not

    My intent, if I ever stop wasting time on the Internet and finish this sucker, is to retell some of the obscure, oddball stories from the Bible.  Because I like stories; they interest me

    Personally, I come from a church tradition that teaches Inerrancy, and I lean that way myself.  But my own view is a nuanced one; (or "inconsistant", if you prefer).  My tellings would not try to "explain" the stories, but I would try to talk about different ways the stories have been approached.

    I have maybe a half-dozen written.  I need to do more.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:00:57 AM PDT

    •  Don't forget bald Elijah and the bears (6+ / 0-)

      kids made fun of the prophet so he had god send bears to rend them limb from limb.

      •  That's Elisha. nt (5+ / 0-)

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:36:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oops, I always confuse the two (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Oh Mary Oh, dirkster42

          Elijah was the wheel?

          •  Ezekiel. (4+ / 0-)

            Elijah was the one who preceded Elisha, thundered against Ahab and Jezebel, and got a revelation from a "still small voice" that everyone seems to think is representative of the "soft, friendly side of God," because they don't remember that it says, "have this guy kill these people, those people, and I really, really, really don't want anyone left alive."

            If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

            by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:19:55 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  right. Ezekial saw the wheel (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dirkster42, DvCM, Nailbanger

              way up in the middle of the air.  Ezekial saw the wheel ... way in the the middle of the air.

              Damn, now I'll have that song stuck in my head all day.

              didn't say this elsewhere, but liked your diary.

              So, one day during teen years my sister and I were reading the bible together and we were in Amos for some reason.  It ended up with us doubled over in laughter having come up with " and God set fire to Tyre because they wouldn't build their church spires higher"

              I'm not sure I even remember why that was so funny, but it killed at the time.

            •  Gonna Argue a Bit (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dirkster42, Prof Haley, DvCM, kurt

              Elijah's probably best known for the Constest on Mount Carmel, where he challenged the priests of Baal to see whose god was more powerful, and God sent Fire from Heaven to light Elijah's sacrifice.  And at the end of his carreer he was carried to Heaven by a Chariot of Fire, which is probably where the confusion with Ezekiel's wheel comes in.  ("They were both SPACE ALIENS, I tell you!!!!")

              But I'm going to disagree with you about the point of the "Still, Small Voice" story.  The message of the Voice wasn't, "I'm gonna kill a bunch of people and exterminate them all, but I'm saying it in this gentle voice to make it sound cute!"; at least that's not the main emphasis I get from it.

              Elijah, I'm sure you'll remember, is wallowing in depression and a bit of self-pity at this point.  He has just scored his amazing victory over the Priests of Baal at Carmel, and God has punctuated the success by ending a 7-year drought.  That shoulda changed everything, right?

              Except it didn't.  Ahab is still king, and now he's even more pissed off at Elijah than ever.  Elijah has to run for his life and winds up in the wilderness, curled up under a tree and ready to give up.

              The message God finally gives Elijah, (after leading him to the mountain and performing the business with the storm and the earthquake), is "It's not over; the bad guys aren't going to win.  Just because I'm not doing flashy miracles all over the place doesn't mean I've forgotten you.  You aren't alone, and ultimately your enemies will be destroyed."

              To which you might reasonably say, "Why does a message of hope and encouragement have to include the death of large numbers of people?"

              Don't have a good answer for that.  But the "Still, Small Voice" is definitely going in my "Stories You Won't Hear..."

              "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

              by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:44:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I wrote an MTS thesis (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                quarkstomper, Prof Haley, DvCM

                on Mendelssohn's oratorio on Elijah.  I remember reading the Elijah/Elisha cycle for a class in seminary and feeling physically ill at the level of violence in those stories.

                When I got to the Mesha stele, something kind of clicked about the nature of the society it came from, and how violent politics were at the time, which contextualized in a way that shifted my understanding a bit.

                If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

                by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:15:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Heh (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Prof Haley, dirkster42, DvCM

                  Yeah, I figured it was awfully pretentious of me to tell you what a Bible story means, but I felt your summary of it left a lot more to say.

                  I think a lot of the inconsistancies people find in the Bible arise from the writers interpreting God in terms they understand; and part of it comes from God speaking to Men in terms they can understand

                  "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                  by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:35:53 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  And for us Catholics: Tobit... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, quarkstomper, DvCM

        and the bird poop in his eyes.

        Actually, I am not a cradle Catholic, and the evangelical Protestant church of my childhood did expose me at an early age to many of the Biblical stories which have not made it into popular awareness.  Even as a small child, I could recognize the discomfort our Sunday School teachers experienced in fielding our questions about the bits which would now garner an "R" rating if presented on screen.

    •  And I want to read them! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quarkstomper, DvCM

      More for the stewpot of the mind.

      Well it's true - I'm intolerant of intolerance

      by redstella on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:08:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And Another Thing... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, mithra666, Prof Haley, DvCM

      ... I'm finding as I gnaw on this project that there are a lot of stories which should be familiar, which I think aren't.  One of the comments mentioned the Nativity story and all the deviations the popular retellings have added to the text.  Jonah and the Whale is another example; everyone knows that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but do they know what happened after he got spat out?

      So I find myself wrestling with the question of where to put the cut-off.  Can I write a piece about Cain's wife without going into detail about Cain and Abel?  Do I want to explain about the Daughters of Lot without the story of Sodom and Gommorah to lead up to it?

      My pastor suggested I do one on Balaam's Ass, which I hadn't really considered obscure; but on second thought, I realize maybe it is.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:51:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, mithra666, Prof Haley, DvCM
        everyone knows that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but do they know what happened after he got spat out?
        do they know that Jonah getting swallowed by a fish is probably the least significant detail of the book?

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:00:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Oh and the story of Balaam's Ass (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, mithra666, Prof Haley, DvCM

        is HILARIOUS.

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:00:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is. (5+ / 0-)

          And since one of the prophecies Balaam wound up uttering is considered a Messianic one and is recited at pretty much every Children's Christmas Service that I've ever been it, you'd think we'd do a better job at telling the backstory behind it.

          Of course the sequel, "Balaam's Revenge: Moabite Girls Gone Wild!" is definitely not Sunday School material.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:09:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Popular retelling. (5+ / 0-)

        Here is another: how much of the popular idea of hell comes from the Bible and how much from Dante? I'm guessing 25/75.

        "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

        by ChurchofBruce on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:09:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dante? Or returning Crusaders? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42

          By the time Dante was born the Seventh Crusade had already finished.  Many Crusaders had returned home to Europe and brought back various things and ideas from the Middle East (including, apparently, a knowledge of Shari'ah law upon which English common law is partially based).  A knowledge of Heaven and Hell as presented in the Qur'an is certainly one idea that could have been transmitted back into Europe from Crusaders.  (There are some other ideas that Christians have that are part of Islamic theology which I suspect came from Crusaders returning home.)

          Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

          by JDsg on Sat May 26, 2012 at 11:52:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  English law and Islamic law (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dirkster42

            Those legal scholars who argue that English common law has Shari'ah antecedants suggest that they came not from returning Crusaders, but from Sicily (which the Normans had conquered from Muslims in the same century in which they conquered England).

  •  I was raised Catholic, (11+ / 0-)

    and when I was given a Bible as my confirmation gift, I decided to read it.  The project boggled down somewhere in Exodus, and I never took it up again.  Eventually I became a scientist and walked away from religion entirely.

    Now I have always thought of myself as a careful reader, but I was very surprised when, a decade and a half ago, I read Stephen J. Gould's essay on the contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.  They're obvious, but yet it seems that we all miss them.  I certainly did.  We seem to have combined elements of the two tales into a coherent whole that ignores the inconsistencies.  And it perfectly explains the state of Fundamentalist Christianity in the US.  If one follows the fallacious combined-consistent creation myth logically, and include what has been found in the fossil record, you end up with Biblical characters riding dinosaurs.  If the Fundamentalists were actually rigorous about their Bible reading, they would dismiss this idea as fantasy, like the rest of us do.

    If there were ever a signal that the Bible is not to be taken literally, it's right there at the beginning.  Further, I would bet it was the intention of the authors to put that contradiction right at the beginning to warn us of precisely this fact.

    -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

    by gizmo59 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:04:12 AM PDT

  •  Awesome work you're doing. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, dirkster42, DvCM

    An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail.

    by OllieGarkey on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:11:51 AM PDT

  •  As usual, a pleasure to read. (8+ / 0-)

    I read Joseph Campbell in my early 20s, which really helped guide my understanding of not only my Catholicism but all religion.  Continuing reading helped me pull the core wisdom tradition up from the cultural webs of the Bible into better view.  Ken Wilber helped me understand that the past must be transcended but also included--it cannot be jettisoned; it is forever part of us as not only individuals, but the cultures in which we grow & live.  Thus in this country, the Bible is part of our shared cultural past regardless of our personal belief.  It's better to understand it in order to transcend it properly, rather than reject it out of hand in the mistaken belief that its lack of value is obvious.  

    All cultural knowledge, to paraphrase Noddy, is worth having.

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:14:21 AM PDT

    •  Americans like to jettison. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, DvCM, Leftcandid

      Call it consumer culture - use it once, upgrade to the new model.

      It's so antithetical to my basic orientation.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:45:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Relegated to the Nursery (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, mithra666, DvCM, Leftcandid

        Sort of like what J.R.R. Tolkien says happened to Fairy-Stories.  They grew unfashionable and so they were relegated to the nursery, just as old furniture which no one cares about gets moved to the playroom.

        I kind of wonder if Bible Literalism is a reaction to what is percieved as the Modernist Era's rejection of the Bible and of Religion.

        Whether we reject the whole text as a Body of Myths or elevate the Text to Super-Infallibility, we're still throwing out Baby Jesus with the bathwater.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:03:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think there's always been a strain of literalism (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladyjames, dirkster42

          but it is louder & more strident now because it is indeed recasting our situation as an All Or Nothing choice, which is completely ridiculous given the span of Biblical time & numerous authors included/edited/rejected.  But in an authoritarian, Obey-Do-Not--Question mindset, such a demand doesn't seem ludicrous on its face, but instead foundational.

          Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

          by Leftcandid on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:02:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  synchronicity (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, Wee Mama, mithra666, dirkster42

    I was just trying to put some thoughts together on this subject this morning.  I homeschooled my kids, and though I am not religious, we used a Christian umbrella school, and they were required to have Bible classes, including Old and New Testament history.  Luckily for me, the methodology and format of the classes were not prescribed.

    I taught some of what you are doing with these boys, but probably not as skilfully or in depth.   I did, however, manage to raise two kids who understand logic and critical thinking, so I count that as some modicum of success.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:17:00 AM PDT

    •  I do. And if you asked the fundies that's a miracl (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, puzzled, dirkster42

      how could we know right from wrong without stories written 300 years after something happened that all tell different versions?

      I know it's not right to hijack this thread. It must be because Jesus knew the Internet would come. . .

      But seriously my hat is off to anyone who can stand to read that let alone teach (especially from a non-religious perspective).

  •  My Conversations in Western Culture Class was not (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, mithra666, Prof Haley, dirkster42

    so challenging.

    I'd suggest using some history of Rome. That is where I learned the most about the bible.

    I remember at one point the professor asking some kid a question, the kid responding "because some people believe in something" contentiously. I wish I was who I am now because I would've said "Why are you going to NYU then".

    That was when I really got (from a Roman Historical Perspective) a lot (I never went to Church).

    Wonder if they can handle the God Delusion.

    Or even the Confessions by St. Augustine (right there you can show them why the Catholic church believes x, and y- because St. Augustine was a man-whore).

    I'd also suggest some Dionysus. I believe historians rank cultural figures on a Dionysus score. Jesus is like 14/16. Ie it is easy to sell Jesus as Dionysus. Just like why Easter is near passover, etc.

    •  Oh. I would also suggest Malcolm X Biog (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley, dirkster42

      That is literally one of the best books I have ever read. Or at least the excerpts where he challenges beliefs about Christ.

      Although the book as a whole is one of a pretty remarkable life, who knows who he would have become when he returned from Mecca and saw blue eyed Muslims side by side with him.

      (They would enjoy the beginning, drugs, thievery, jail, etc.)

  •  I enjoyed your diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    Thanks.

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:36:13 AM PDT

  •  You make me want to scream ME TOO ME TOO! (4+ / 0-)

    My copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Womens' Bible grew legs and walked off. I would really like to find that person and give them a piece of my mind.

    Thank you for a big smile this morning.

  •  I think a lot of people would benefit (7+ / 0-)

    if you'd write more diaries about what you are teaching these kids.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:49:03 AM PDT

    •  Amen (5+ / 0-)

      I did as I do not know much about.

      Perhaps it is genetic as 1/2 of my ancestry were the last European God-less Heathens. A tip for anyone who knows what Country that is (without Google).

      And you'd be surprised it was I believe in the 1300's (Officially), but the peasants (probably my Ancestors on my Father's side) were still worshipping the sun not the son until the 1700's.

      •  IIRC the Canterbury Tales speak of (4+ / 0-)

        the Knight waging war in Eastern Europe ... so I'll go with Finland or one of the Baltic states.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:53:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

          •  Christianiziation of Lithuania (4+ / 0-)

            Had much more to do with Politics and War than Original Sin:

            The Christianization of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos krikštas) – Christianization of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that took place in 1387, initiated by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila and his cousin Vytautas, that signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians, one of the last pagan nations in Europe. This event ended one of the most complicated and lengthiest processes of Christianization in European history.
            Has its own Wiki
            Ethnic Lithuanian nobles were the main converts to Catholicism, but paganism remained strong among the peasantry. Pagan customs prevailed for a long time among the common people of Lithuania and were covertly practiced. There had been no prosecution of priests and adherents of the old faith. However, by the 17th century, following the Counter-Reformation ( 1545-1648), the Roman Catholic faith had essentially taken precedence over earlier pagan beliefs.

            The conversion and its political implications had lasting repercussions for the history of Lithuania. As the majority of the population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania outside Lithuania proper was Orthodox and the elite gradually converted to Roman Catholicism, religious tensions increased. Some of the Orthodox Gediminids left Lithuania for Muscovy, where they gave rise to such families as the Galitzine and the Troubetzkoy. The Orthodox population of present-day Ukraine and eastern Belarus often sympathized with the rulers of Muscovy, who portrayed themselves as the champions of Orthodoxy. These feelings contributed to such reverses as the Battle of Vedrosha, which crippled the Grand Duchy and undermined its position as a dominant power in Eastern Europe.

            On the other hand, the conversion to the Roman Catholicism facilitated Lithuania's integration into the cultural sphere of Western Europe and paved the way to the political alliance of Lithuania and Poland, finalized as the Union of Lublin in 1569.

        •  Who knew Iambic Pentameter would get a tip :P (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue aardvark, Debby, dirkster42
          •  The advantages of being well-read (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ClevelandAttorney, dirkster42

            You can draw inferences from all sorts of sources.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:58:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You are so Right (5+ / 0-)

              Have you ever read "amusing ourselves to death"

              It basically talks about the fall off of intelligent (especially politcal discourse) due to Teevee and not reading.

              Most striking image I recall is how the author discusses the Lincoln debates and how people literally sat and listened for 8 hours. Now (the author believed we were in A Brave New World) can you imagine if the debates were even televised for 8 hours ("where's my family guy" etc.). The book was written I think prior to the Internet. I would have loved to hear a new take.

              But I believe the Author died. I went to NYU graduating in 2004. He taught there (the Author) and stopped in for one of his protege's and I think died soon after (he was a smoker).

              But back to your Point. You will never find a book My Mother has not read. She is a Poet. My Aunt is a novelist. Both teach at Colleges (one is the head of an English Dep't) don't want to say for anonymity.

              Talking with them I chide is like being with Frasier and Niles; when they are together, but it is incredible what they know.

              •  I'm going to get that book (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ClevelandAttorney, dirkster42

                It sounds like essential reading.  Here's the link in case others are interested:

                http://www.amazon.com/...

                I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

                by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:52:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm glad to hear that (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Satya1, dirkster42

                  I have read it several times. It is really skillfully written so you find yourself reading it in one sitting.

                •  Book Description For Others (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Satya1, dirkster42
                  Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining controlof our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.
                  From Satya's link
                  •  The first review at Amazon covers (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dirkster42

                    a lot of ground too.  I recommend checking that out.

                    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

                    by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:18:07 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You'll have to let me know what you think. (0+ / 0-)

                      I think it is eerily spot on. Especially for being written in the mid 80's.

                      I have read it maybe 3x but not in the last two years  or so. The first time it made me actually read Brave New World (had not since HS and only parts).

                      I think that it is actually a good enough book for a Co-Diary book review :=) or just a lot of recs and comments from me- it does shine some light (implicitly) on why the discourse here is probably a bit higher than some place discussing Jim Kramer's guide to wealth (his show not his questionable past-I have not had any caffeine yet).

                      Like I said, I read it (I think) last in a day or two, as it was full of very interesting thoughts, but I breezed through it (unlike security analysis- who uses the word 'plenitude' in discussing a common stock- lol- answer Warren Buffet's mentor Benjamin Graham- an absolute Genius, but I can only read 20 pgs a night after reading through case-law all day).

                      •  His Protege at NYU (0+ / 0-)

                        I don't know it was his protege. But, the man who's class I met him in and seemed very close was named (I think) Professor Kelleher. He was Irish and in NYU's journalism dep't (I was not a journalism major I just found sand-bagging their classes was an easy way to get A's). I only mention in case someone is near the village this fall and decide to stop in.

                        I cannot remember the class. He often had "celebrities" I remember another class he had the guy from MTV news talking about how he was a hack (himself). I just remember him drawing a bell curve on the board and saying "coolness" follows this. And trying to get beyond the fact no one in the room respected him. I actually felt bad, by the end I think everyone had  a good time. Can't remember his name. Not Kurt Loder. He was around 2000-2005'ish I'd guess. Had glasses with black rims. Like the fore-runing pseudo-intellectual look.

                        Anyways, Kelleher's class was great.

                        Although for those with little to do other than attend NYU classes I would find the Dante Scholar and sit in. It was remarkable how amazing that class was. Freccerro I believe.

              •  Your comment reminded me of this: (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dirkster42

                http://www.c-spanvideo.org/...

                A reenactment of the Lincoln-Douglas Senatorial debate. We truly have lost a great deal.

                Man is simply a monkey with an attitude.

                by rbutters on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:16:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  heh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        I knew it, because 1/4 of my ancestry is the same :)

        "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

        by ChurchofBruce on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:14:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Assign your students (4+ / 0-)

    The Bible Unearthed for further reading. It is an excellent book by a couple of Isreali Archeologists about what may have really happened during the period covered by the Old Testament.

    If I don't see you, for a long while, I'll try to find you, left of the dial.

    by mithra666 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:21:16 AM PDT

    •  What is their Thesis(theses)? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, dirkster42
      •  They insisted that the Jewish people (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        emmigrated to Palestine from East to West and not from Egypt and that a good portion of the  Old Testament was written during the reign of King Hosea around 720 BCE as a propaganda tool to consolidate Judea with Isreal in the north, who had just been defeated by the Assyrians.  They also claimed that the Exodus and the Joshua-led  conquest of the Holy Land never happened and that David and Solomon either never existed or were just small time tribal cheiftans in Judea.

        If I don't see you, for a long while, I'll try to find you, left of the dial.

        by mithra666 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:44:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The author also released a great DVD... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      ...in 2005 covering the same material that he writes about in the book.  It's called The Bible Unearthed: The Making of a Religion produced by First Run Features.  It's well done and geared towards a general audience.  Worth checking out.  (It's an instant watch rental on Amazon.com for $3.)  

      •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

        I will probably be assigning that!  I did like the book quite a bit.

        If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

        by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:12:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My dad, well-versed in the Bible, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ClevelandAttorney, dirkster42

    liked to say: "Things aren't true because they are in the Bible; they're in the Bible because they are true."

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:30:07 AM PDT

  •  I thoroughly enjoyed your diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, quarkstomper, mithra666

    but I'm puzzled.  I really get and applaud this:

    with an eye to getting the kids to see the Bible as a collection of stories, laws, prophecies, myths, historical facts, etc. instead of as A BOOK.
    But to me that brings up the question, "Why start with Genesis?".  Is it because we can't shake an impulse that it is a book and have to start at page one?  Or that we have to start with the creation myth?  In the comments also there seems to be a built-in assumption that when we first approach the Bible, we must start with page one.  And if we're talking about the Christian Bible, why do we assume we must start with the Old Testament.  Perhaps I missed it but I don't see any references to the New Testament in your diary.

    I'm not sure where I would start myself.  But I would pay close attention on the parts of the Bible seems to be more accessible for the student.  What can they relate to based on their current world view and knowledge?  I would also pay closer attention to the characters and themes of the bible stories in proportion.  Which character seems to be more important in the Bible?  Jesus or Lot?

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:47:59 AM PDT

    •  We haven't gotten to the NT yet. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, Prof Haley, Satya1

      Good question about "why start at the beginning?"  Getting into the two creation stories and their differences is a handy introduction, but I'll think about alternatives.

      Thanks!

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:52:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, it's because that's how the Redaktor (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, Prof Haley, Satya1, ladyjames

      organized it. I think he had his reasons and they were good reasons. Christ, if he existed, was a Jewish teacher, a labor organizer among the Galilean fisherman, who taught Jewish law with a few heresies added which got him rather in trouble with both the Romans and local religious leaders.

      It was a tumultuous time with thousands of crucified people. So to understand the Christian story, we have to understand the story of Israel because it's the same story. They really aren't two separate things.

      Too frequently, teachers and religious leaders want to pull out small chunks of scripture to serve their purposes, not to teach, as teaching has been understood for thousands of years.

      IMO, the excellence of the diarist's teaching lies in not basing his teaching on the, might I say, corrupted "current world view and knowledge" of our children. Though in a way he was, by challenging said world view and knowledge. Guess what, things may not be quite the way you thought they were!

      People wish to be settled, only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. - Emerson

      by CarbonFiberBoy on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:38:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I contend that Genesis is handy not only (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CarbonFiberBoy, dirkster42

        because there are some nice resources readily available on creation myths, but that most bible teachers are stuck in the same ways we were taught, serially, from Gen 1 until the end -  AS IF THE BIBLE WAS A BOOK.  I get the idea of showing the contradictions and that is excellent work dirkster is  doing there.  But I think if one really wants to show that the bible is a collection of stories and myths, then I think a clear demonstration of that would be to start somewhere in the NT (for example).

        Having gone through this with children recently I also find that it helps if I understand their current perceptions.  I can help correct them of the erroneous ones and it helps me choose material to present to them next.  I also try to keep flexible to different learning styles and personalities.

        It's fascinating what dirkster said about them flipping into THE BIBLE IS TRUE MODE.  My question is are they old enough NOT to do that?  It's part of human instinct to connect dots and look for big pieces of truth to live by.  It's stronger in some than others, whether one thinks of that as "poetic knowledge" or as the information processing aspect of personality.

        It isn't necessary to read the story about Lot before one can read the story of Jesus, especially with children.  Are earlier writings connected with the later ones?  Of course they are and those connections need to be filled in.

        Overemphasis on OT material is a problem common with the fundies.  That's an approach that doesn't make sense even on a purely literary study.  In fact I know many Hindus with a purely philosophical interest in the NT that understand that completely.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:13:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's a funny way to put it, though - (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel, Satya1, dirkster42, mbayrob
          Overemphasis on OT material is a problem common with the fundies.
          Some people think that the whole NT is completely unnecessary.

          People wish to be settled, only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. - Emerson

          by CarbonFiberBoy on Fri May 25, 2012 at 01:11:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That would be a class in christianity, though. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42, Satya1, ladyjames

          Back to the start of the diary:

          They're homeschooled, but come from a non-religious family.  Although I am a theologian, I am not teaching it from a religious perspective.  I'm teaching it so they will have a better understanding of reference points in culture..
          The "OT" is only less-relevant once you've already decided that the NT is the important part, rather than an epilogue that inspired some retroactive re-editing.

          Plus, of course, if you're interested in the culture/history of the protestant cultures of the past couple centuries, you've got to include their OT -- because it was important to them.

          •  I disagree with this: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dirkster42, TiaRachel
            That would be a class in christianity, though.
            Perhaps it boils down to what items dirkster has in mind for "reference points in culture".  Because the possibilities are overwhelming.  I took him to mean potentially all "reference points in culture" because at no time did he define a narrower scope.

            Yes, based on that working assumption I decided that with respect to study/teaching of the bible for literary or cultural purposes such as dirkster's the NT is more important.  I think there are several obvious "clues" as to why that shouldn't be controversial.

            One thing I did NOT say was that the OT should be left out.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 03:31:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Knowing the OT is incredibly important when (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dirkster42

              looking at protestant cultural history, which is most of what makes up US history. Of course, some of that depends on what it is you're looking at. But no, once you get past the superficial, I wouldn't agree that the NT is uncontroversially "more" important. In certain periods, every educated christian knew the OT as well as they did the NT, and those references show up in their writings.

              But if your proposed method isn't specifically teaching christianity, it's teaching from a specifically christian perspective -- that the story of Jesus is the important part, with everything else as backdrop/detail.

              If you're looking at "the bible" as a literary (or historical) work, it's important to remember that the OT existed first, and was written (if not compiled) well before the NT. The NT exists/was created in the shadow of the OT, even though christian thought works the other way round when interpreting it.

              I keep thinking about (slogging through) Kierkegaard -- the story of Isaac could read quite differently when read before (without reference to) the NT, or after. And when you teach a class, you have to expect that students will understand the things you teach later in the context of what you've already taught.

              •  This thread got started by my first comment (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dirkster42, TiaRachel

                in which I noticed a total absence of NT references and asked whether such a study required starting with the OT.  I'm not dissing the OT.  I'm emphasizing the NT.

                Yes, I am still saying that in a literary study of the Christian bible, the NT is more important than the OT for understanding the bible's cultural impact on the world.  As for the OT as "backdrop/detail", that's your phrasing only - never mine.

                I had some other thoughts but I don't have time to continue the thread.  I do not think that material such as this is best presented in a strict linear or chronological fashion.  We'll have to agree to disagree.

                I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

                by Satya1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:55:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Didn't mean to come across as attacking you, sorry (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dirkster42

                  I think the difference is: you're assuming that the (specifically) Christian bible is what's under consideration -- accent on the "Christian". I think that taking that approach limits an understanding of the work as it was written, turns it from an ancient (if re-translated and -edited) document that is part of what formed three major religions into a supporting work of only one of these (I'd add Qu'ran & a bit of mishnah/talmud into the mix, maybe some Ba'hai -- but that might be a bit much for now).

                  But yes, emphasizing the NT (by starting with it, setting up the framework of the class) of necessity de-emphasizes the OT. The students may get more deeply involved with the later-taught works, but they'll understand them in reference to what they first studied, which is what I meant by 'backdrop'. Instead of "here's a book, and here's a sequel someone else wrote later" -- two distinct texts -- they'll see only one. Rather than seeing everything in the first, they'll inevitably focus on that which is already familiar -- it'll set up a mental sieve whereby they'll take from the text what the christians who re-compiled those works to emphasize their own particular meaning intended.

                  •  Speaking of Old Testament/New Testament (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TiaRachel, JDsg, dirkster42, Satya1

                    A few weeks ago, I asked out pastor about why the Book of Matthew is placed first among the Gospels.  I know that most Biblical scholarship thinks that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke used it as a source, and since Mark is shorter than the others and since Matthew and Luke follow the same outline as Mark -- sometimes quoting passages verbatim -- that seems like a reasonable assumption.  But Church Tradition gives Matthew priority.  I asked our pastor if there was a reason for this.

                    The pastor puzzled a moment and admitted he couldn't remember if that question had been covered in his seminary classes.  If it had, he had forgotten.  But he did offer what seems to me a plausible guess.

                    The Book of Matthew, of the four Gospels, contains the most quotations from the Old Testament.  The author of Matthew liked to make connections between the events of the Gospel narrative and ancient prophecies.  The pastor suggested that it was because of these links to the Old Testament that the Church Fathers placed Matthew first in the New.

                    He admitted this was a guess; but it does make a certain amount of sense.

                    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                    by quarkstomper on Sat May 26, 2012 at 07:37:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating! Wish I could sit in! nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ClevelandAttorney, dirkster42

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:49:12 AM PDT

  •  can I be a kid and take a Bible class with you? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    It sounds great! :-)

    I'd also like to take one with an expert in the history, geography, politics, economics, etc. of the time, and with various perspectives on it.

    Thanks for posting.

    •  e.g. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      E.g., what the heck were the Nestorian Christians doing, in Jubail and Thaj, in what is now Saudi Arabia of all places, in the fourth to fifth century AD? :-) How were they seen, by others there (pre-Islam)?

      You're wonderful, both in your teaching and in your writing about it.

      •  I think this attitude... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42
        ...what the heck were the Nestorian Christians doing, in Jubail and Thaj, in what is now Saudi Arabia of all places...
        ...is a hangup many of us moderns have with respect to geography.  We have been so conditioned to looking at a map and understanding the basic layout of land and water from above and, perhaps more detrimentally, a rigid thinking about borders that we often don't grasp the borderlessness of land.  It might seem odd or perverse to us that people in ancient times would travel into a certain area, but there were no reasons not to go into another land as long as supplies or natural resources permitted (and the local inhabitants didn't mind intruders).  Certainly no border checkpoints to look over passports and visas. :)

        And so, at least according to Muslim belief, we find Ibrahim (pbuh) leaving behind Hajar and his son Isma'il (pbuh) in the valley of Bakkah (modern Makkah); later he returns (several times actually) to build the Kabah and almost completes the sacrifice of his first-born son, Isma'il (pbuh).  Much later, in the last days of Jahiliyyah (ignorance before the advent of Islam), there were both Christians and Jews living in the Arabian peninsula, north and south (as far as Yemen, which had ties to Christian Ethiopia).  For Muslims, at least, the idea of Christians and Jews living in Arabia prior to Islam is not a terribly surprising idea.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Sun May 27, 2012 at 12:31:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm in the Bay Area - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sharon Wraight

      I'm certainly open to more students!

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:49:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My wife and I once taught a 5th grade Sunday (4+ / 0-)

    School class. The sessions took place during normal mass hours at a Greek Orthodox church. While I am not an educator or theologian, I found the experience personally rewarding.  I was raised Roman Catholic, my wife Orthodox.
    Our own kids were in other grades. We had read them stories from a good children's bible and discussed them when they were young and that experience left them well prepared these classes.

    As we discussed biblical stories or looked at the previous weeks homework some of the students would ask questions like why do we need to this. I would try to relate the moral lessons in the stories to everyday life. As mechanism for them to look outside themselves and help define how they view and treat others and conduct themselves. As a means to help build that internal moral compass. It helped me to do the same.

    •  Why is it (I wondered as my father is dating a (0+ / 0-)

      religious Greek Orthodox woman so went later) do Greek Orthodox beliefs have Easter falling at a different time?

      •  Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian rather (0+ / 0-)

        then the Gregorian calendar.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/....

      •  Greek Orthodox and Catholic religions have some (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, ClevelandAttorney

        key commonalities.  Disclaimer: I am no theologian and not overly devote for that matter.

        They both have the seven sacraments. One key point of contention (not to the layman) seems to be the moment during the Eucharistic prayers where the wine and bread become the blood and body of Christ. The Catholics do it one way, the Orthodox the other.

        The configuration of the crosses differ and the manner that the two churches bless themselves are mirrored images. (You think they are blessing themselves backwards..

        The ceremonies  of the Greek Church seem to be less modernized and I say this as a positive. The wedding ceremony is actually beautiful. The bride and groom never utter a word and are adorned with crowns attached with a long ribbon.  Things happens in threes (the holy trinity). The crowns are switch three time, usually by the best man.

        There are tow types of priests. Monastic and Parish. Parish priests can marry and have families. They typically where white or light colored garment in church.
        They can not elevate in the church as cardinals, bishops etc.
        The Monastic priests must remain celibate and can become cardinals, bishops, etc.. They typically where black garments in church..

        •  Edited: Greek Orthodox and Catholic religions (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ClevelandAttorney, dirkster42

          have some key commonalities.

           Disclaimer: I am no theologian and not overly devote for that matter.

          They both have the seven sacraments. One key point of contention (not to the layman) seems to be the moment during the Eucharistic prayers where the wine and bread become the blood and body of Christ. The Catholics do it one way, the Orthodox the other.

          The configuration of the crosses differ and the manner that the two churches bless themselves are mirrored images. (You think that they are blessing themselves backwards)

          The ceremonies  of the Greek Church seem to be less modernized and I say this as a positive. The wedding ceremony is actually beautiful. The bride and groom never utter a word and are adorned with crowns attached with a long ribbon.  Things happens in threes (the holy trinity). The crowns are switched three time, usually by the best man.

          There are two types of priests. Monastic and Parish. Parish priests can marry and have families. They typically wear white or light colored garments in church.
          They can not elevate in the church as cardinals, bishops etc.

          The Monastic priests must remain celibate and can become cardinals, bishops, etc.. They typically wear black garments in church..

          Most of the mass and prayers are similar or the same.

  •  Hardly anyone gets it - (5+ / 0-)

    that the substance - the lesson - of the Bible as conceived by the redaktor is contradiction. That's the lesson. All one has to do is to put one's head up, look around, even read this blog, to see that contradiction is the essence of societal formation, which is the essence of the Bible.

    So why should people be shocked that that is the lesson of the Bible? Because the priestly classes have always tried to subvert this lesson so they can take our money. That's what they do, just like the investor class takes our money. The Bible teaches this very clearly.

    It's too bad that hardly anyone thinks anymore. Kids don't even know that they are supposed to think. Good for you for trying to stimulate them.

    People wish to be settled, only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. - Emerson

    by CarbonFiberBoy on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:08:44 AM PDT

  •  I hope this line of study... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    ... will include other religious texts: the Torah; Koran; Bhagavad Gita; Book of Mormon; Dianetics.

    •  Long time ago, (0+ / 0-)

      I gave them an animated version of the Ramayana, which they loved.  

      I don't know the text well enough to pick it apart in the same way, though.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:51:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  have you read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    "Asimov's guide to the bible"?  Definitely worth a look.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:20:24 AM PDT

  •  OK, now have them start reading the Qur'an... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, mithra666

    ...comparing that to the Bible, and watch their brains explode (particularly the younger one).

    My daughter is not anywhere close to the age where this type of discussion might take place. Having been raised Catholic I recognize the value of understanding the cultural and literary influences the Bible brings to world civilization. My wife, who is a born Muslim, comes to me when she wants to know particular religious details regarding Christianity and Judaism (especially as to how they may compare to Qur'anic/Islamic details), but I don't know if I would want my daughter to get to the same level of my understanding (cultural/literary and religious), at least until she becomes an adult. No offense, but I'd like to limit the amount of pollution she's exposed to. (Dirk's diary and some of the comments here would make for a good jumping off point to show Muslim kids the problems with Christian thinking.)

    Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

    by JDsg on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:25:04 AM PDT

    •  I've mentioned some (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mithra666, Prof Haley, JDsg

      parallels to the Qur'an.  Lot/Lut has a very different characterization in the two texts.  

      In the Bible, he's really not that wonderful a person, and the Jewish tradition has always had a generally low opinion of him, whereas in the Qur'an, he really is a very righteous fellow.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:54:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's a tough, tough read (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, JDsg

      I've tried reading the Qur'an,  but it's a very difficult text to approach for a non-believer.  I've read non-biblical religious texts (the Bhagavad Gita, for example, is surprisingly approachable),  and the Qur'an just isn't readable in Sura-order.

      BTW -- if any Muslim around here can recommend a translation with a scholarly commentary, much obliged.  I've been looking for one for years.

      Mitt Romney is a T-1000 sent back from the Future as a harbinger of the upcoming Robot Apocolypse.

      by mbayrob on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:25:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think you've told me your problem. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, mbayrob

        I suspect you want the Qur'an to be structured linearly.  You might want a relatively smooth progression through the text, perhaps like an historical narrative.  But, as you've noticed, the Qur'an isn't like that.  You will need to change your mindset.

        There is no set order to reading the Qur'an.  You can start at the end, you can start at the beginning, you can start anywhere in the middle.  The point of the Qur'an is to challenge, to teach moral lessons, and to provide a basis for correct living.  It does this through repetitive discussions using (frequently, but not always) the same examples (e.g., the various Prophets (pbut)), but also changing the moral lessons from one example to the next.

        Moreover, most of the longer surahs might cover a number of different topics within the same surah.  A good translation of the Qur'an will include these sections as it is normally one topic per section; I find this helpful because I often like to concentrate on reading one section at a time.

        As for commentaries, I don't know of any "scholarly" commentaries written by, say, Western non-Muslim academic scholars, and I doubt that I would trust such commentaries to begin with.  Among Muslim translators of the Qur'an who have included their own commentaries are Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad.  The former was an Indian civil servant who produced a decent translation; it was chosen by the Saudi government as the basis for their official translation.  Yusuf Ali's commentary is extensive, with over 6300 footnotes; the Saudis have revised a fairly small number of those footnotes (perhaps 100).  The translation is quite readable and is very popular among Muslims.

        Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss) was a Jew who became a prominent Muslim. He too provides his own translation and commentary, the latter of which is maybe about 1/3 the size of Yusuf Ali's work.  I'm not as fond of Asad; I don't always agree with his footnotes.  However, where he excels (IMO) is with respect to language analysis.  Asad had grown up learning Hebrew and that understanding of Semitic languages provides a window of understanding that most Muslim translators (e.g., Yusuf Ali, Pickthall) don't bring to their exegesis. A website that includes Asad's translation and footnotes can be found here.

        Personally, the exegesis I find most helpful is Ibn Kathir.  He was a Syrian Muslim scholar who lived about 700 years ago.  His tafsir is not the first, but it is one of the most famous exegesis of the Qur'an, and is very popular even today.  The tafsir can be found here.

        One other website that is helpful is the Qur'anic Arabic Corpus.  This is a concordance of the Qur'an produced at the University of Leeds.  

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Sat May 26, 2012 at 01:53:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Much obliged (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42

          I'm aware that "The Cow" (i.e., Sura 1) is not the easiest place to first encounter the Qur'an, but without some pointers as to where to start, it tends to get read first.  It being Sura 1 and all.  While the Torah isn't strictly in chronological order either (the Rabbis said that "there is no before and after in the Torah") it's more so than the Qur'an.

          So you're advice as to how to approach it is most welcome.

          Mitt Romney is a T-1000 sent back from the Future as a harbinger of the upcoming Robot Apocolypse.

          by mbayrob on Sun May 27, 2012 at 01:18:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're welcome. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dirkster42

            Actually, Surah al-Baqara (The Cow) is the second surah, after al-Fatihah, which is the first.  Al-Fatihah is the prayer in which mankind asks Allah (swt) for help and guidance, and al-Baqara is the beginning of that answer. :)

            I agree; al-Baqara is not the easiest place to begin with the Qur'an, and the very first time I began to read the Qur'an, I started at the very end and moved backwards. What makes things more difficult is that a lot of translations don't have commentary to make full sense of the text.  I struggled for four years without coming across Yusuf Ali or Asad to explain the contexts.  I don't know if that's good or bad.  On the one hand I think, well maybe I'd have reverted to Islam earlier; on the other hand I believe that all that struggle ultimately made for a much deeper and more thorough understanding of the Qur'an.  YMMV. :)

            Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

            by JDsg on Sun May 27, 2012 at 02:20:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I always like hearing from you, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg

      because I often don't agree but also don't not agree with what you're saying, and you often prod me in a direction that's a good counterbalance to some other large conversations I'm trying to have.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Sun May 27, 2012 at 10:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're also welcome. :) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        I'm glad I can be of some service. :) I know I "think differently" from the "normal" American Christian perspective, but this is partly due to my Qur'anic studies. For me, the Qur'an shifted my perspective in a different direction, one that is aligned with how other Muslims think but different (and sometimes very different) from how many non-Muslims think. Take the so-called "prosperity gospel," for example. The theological motivation for this idea (God will reward the faithful with riches) is almost diametrically opposed to Islamic beliefs. Not that Muslims are opposed to being rich per se, but that we view wealth as a test which may cause us to fail. (Sometimes it is better to be poor!) I know this may boggle some people's minds, but I often feel this perspective needs to be heard; few others will provide it in a public forum, even here.

        Muslims and tigers and bears, oh my!

        by JDsg on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:49:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Blech... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, cybersaur

    While I appreciate your thoughtful and scholarly undertaking, in my opinion the only use in studying the bible is to read the stories which are, as you pointed out, used as cultural references over and over throughout literature and art and film, etc.

    Trying to make any sense of it is an exercise in futility.

    It's a series of parables. It's a piece of history.

    That's it.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:34:43 AM PDT

    •  How these two statements (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Va1kyrie, coquiero, mithra666, pico
      Trying to make any sense of it is an exercise in futility.

      It's a series of parables. It's a piece of history.

      are supposed to negate each other is beyond me.

      Also, if you got to the end of the diary, you didn't absorb the main point.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 08:56:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I did get to the end (3+ / 0-)

        And I suppose if that's your idea of "making sense of it", than you are correct, the two statements are not mutually exclusive.

        But my explanation to my kids is, "It doesn't make sense.  A lot of different people wrote it.  It's a bunch of stories and myths to teach people the "right" way to live, except that different people had different ideas about what was right, as we do now.  Also, what they thought was "right" 2,000 years ago doesn't always apply now."

        But notice that my first statement is that it doesn't make sense.

        Like another commenter said, it's a useful lesson, but there's a whole lot of other literature and history lessons, civics and plain old discussions about morality that could take the place of studying the bible.

        Just my opinion.

        I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

        by coquiero on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:13:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  brave soul (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    ;-)

    Good work you're doing there dirkster!

    ((hugs))

    we are words not quickly spoken we're the deeper side of try we are dreamers in the making we are not afraid of why -Ferron

    by reahti on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:20:11 AM PDT

    •  Long time no see! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      reahti

      How's life?

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:21:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hasn't it been, though? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        I don't have much time for participation - was just browsing on my lunch break.

        It was a bit amusing to me to read what you're doing with these kids because I'm now working with adolescents in a state mental hospital....trying to have anything like the conversations and lessons you're having would be a pipe dream on almost ANY subject!

        we are words not quickly spoken we're the deeper side of try we are dreamers in the making we are not afraid of why -Ferron

        by reahti on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:25:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          reahti

          I'm not sure I have that skill set.  And, that reminds me that it really has been a long while!  

          (((reahti)))

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:30:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  indeed (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dirkster42

            I have gotten yet another master's degree and am a provisionally licensed social worker - I'm guessing to opportunity at Wake Forest didn't pan out?

            we are words not quickly spoken we're the deeper side of try we are dreamers in the making we are not afraid of why -Ferron

            by reahti on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:39:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  nice job (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, angry marmot

    there are many ways to read the bible and many ways to get something out of it.

    a basic understanding of the bible as literature is essential to understanding other classic literature and many other aspects of modern culture

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    DEMAND CREATES JOBS

    by TrueBlueMajority on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:22:59 AM PDT

  •  A Wonderful New Book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladyjames, dirkster42

    But not very religious! Dawkins' "The Magic Reality" has a truly multicultural group of myths and legends, and then for each moves to a wonderful and descriptive science lesson. I especially loved the Gilgamesh story of "the flood," the almost verbatim version in Genesis (The Flood and Noah) and then a great lesson on light, optics and rainbows.

    There are legends from Africa, pre-Columbian America and Asia. That's the fun part.

  •  I'd suggest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    spending a lot of time of studying the Teachings of Christ. After all, the religion is supposed to consist of followers of Christ.. Particular attention to Matthew and Luke, and time spent on the basic philosophy of Christ. It is my belief that a person cannot claim to be a Christian, yet refuse to do what Christ taught.

    This always seems to generate friction but I would include a little time on the Gospel of St. Thomas, its layout and why it is written that way, and a mention of other "gospels" that were left out of the Bible, and why.

    Finally, if you want to open some minds, I suggest a discussion of the dichotomy of "Salvation by Works', vs "Salvation by Faith", noting that most modern day Christian ago the easy route- the "by Faith" part. I.E. "I am still an asshole, but I believe in Jesus" And maybe a discussion of how the to seemingly opposing philosophies converge. That is- if a person does enough good works - follows the teachings of Christ- will he or she come to see the reason behind the choice to do "good works". Or, conversely, if a person has "faith" does that  lead to doing good works. (it does not).

    "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

    by azureblue on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:28:04 AM PDT

  •  My biblical "coming of age" as it were (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, dirkster42

    occurred when I read the entire bible cover to cover in 8th grade.  I decided then it was bullshit and have been an atheist ever since.

    My background was in a Lutheran Missouri Synod church, so you know they never go over the contradictory or confusing bits of the bible, just the parts they like.

    Atheism is a religion like Abstinence is a sexual position. - Bill Maher, 2/3/2012

    by sleipner on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:31:55 AM PDT

    •  Also LCMS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      I was also raised LC-MS, and my experience was different; but I can't honestly tell you whether it was because I had better teachers or because I was a weird kid who read everything.  Of course, my Dad was a Lutheran pastor and also a science fiction fan, so that did a good deal to warp my personality.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:45:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I broke away from the Catholic church in my teens (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      Over dogma and their then dismissal of the Theory of Evolution.  It involved a fist fight with a kid after I got in an argument with a priest during Confirmation catechism over Darwin.

      I started to drift.  I was then exposed to and reviled by theocrats for my agnosticism  at a service academy when chapel "formation" had not yet been ruled unconstitutional.

      This drove me eventually to atheism as a reaction to all these idiots.

      But I have stepped back from my "weak" atheism to something more like skeptical Gnosticism.

      The reason I say all this is because your reaction to the biblical "word of God" world view resonates with me.

      I hope your truth seeking journey continues.

      Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

      by Shockwave on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:55:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good old J, E, P, and D (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, Prof Haley, angry marmot

    I remember the basics of the "documentary hypothesis" from my freshman year in college.  It blew my mind, in a good way, and liberated me from having to force the stories to fit together in a preconcieved notion.

    The other things I will never forget from that class was reading 1-2 Samuel for the first time, and realizing, "King David actually was kind of a dick."  In other words, he wasn't a 2-dimensional hero, he was a complex character.  That liberated me to look at the Bible as a piece of literature as well as a historical document.

    Barack Obama is not a secret Marxist class warrior who wants to redistribute wealth in America. But I'll still vote for him, anyway.

    by looty on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:43:29 AM PDT

    •  The Documentary Hypothesis (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley, KJG52, looty, angry marmot

      has come under attack from various quarters of critical biblical research (for example, John van Seters thinks Deuteronomy is the oldest layer, and things weren't put together, but simply added and added and added), but I think it's still a good starting point.

      Yeah, and King David was an asshole, who was beloved by everyone in that unfortunate way assholes are sometimes beloved.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:58:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have come to doubt the hypothesis (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42

        in it's classical form.  I'm not familiar with van Seters but just based on my own reading and pondering, I think there must have been many more hands stirring the pot than just the four.  Layers and layers, accumulating over the years.

        Barack Obama is not a secret Marxist class warrior who wants to redistribute wealth in America. But I'll still vote for him, anyway.

        by looty on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:13:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  King David (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      looty, dirkster42, Prof Haley

      Our church's Bible Study group went through the career of David a year or two ago.  One thing that struck me was that although David forgave all his enemies, when he was on his deathbed, he made his son Solomon promise that none of those enemies would live to a ripe old age.  And in the first couple chapters of 1 Kings, we see Solomon doing just that.  Oh, he waits for them to give him a good excuse, but once he gets that excuse, they don't last too long.

      I've long thought that the purpose of Genesis was to dissuade the Jews from Ancestor Worship.  Abraham comes of particularly bad in a couple stories.

      But yes; these are not cardboard "Heroes of Faith"; they are complex, fallible human beings, jus like the rest of us.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:58:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  David, Uriah and "The Crooked Man" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      looty, dirkster42

      "That one clue would have told me everything, if I were the perfect reasoner you are so fond of portraying in your little chronicles." - Sherlock Holmes

      into the blue again, after the money's gone

      by Prof Haley on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:01:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I feel sorry for that "younger kid" you are (0+ / 0-)

    tutoring.  He gets it.  The reason for what you mislabel "confusion" is that he's taking what you're telling him to it's logical conclusion and you're belittling him for it.  I really hate it when people do that.  Yes, the bible has many authors who weren't even writing at the same time as each other.  Yes this makes the accounts all different.  Yes this means they're all taking a different sort of tack on topics.  Yes this means they're all telling you what they want you to think is going on with god and people.  

    But when someone puts this all together and says, "so you mean all these accounts of god allegedly telling people things were really coming from the author of that part of the bible putting words in god's mouth and therefore the idea that this book tells us a single damned thing about any sort of actual existing god is utter bullshit and it's really just people making it up?"  You go "oh noes we can't have someone thinking THAT!" and belittle the kid for coming to the CORRECT conclusion as if it is somehow shallow to do so.  Bullshit.

    •  The confusion (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, Prof Haley, angry marmot, pico

      isn't about whether the Bible is "true" or not.  

      The confusion I describe is the inability to sort out what is history and what is myth.  When the kid is reading a Marxist analysis of class structure in ancient Israel that gives him all the tools he needs to demythologize the text, and he is still screaming "it's all made up bullshit" simply because it's about the Bible instead of stopping to ask, "how can this help me do the debunking I want to do" (and it can, though it doesn't have to), he's confusing two approaches and cutting himself off from something that could actually strengthen his case.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:38:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's also lying about history too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Prof Haley

        The only use to studying the bible's works if you're concerted about them as historically important is to see about the influence they had after they were made, NOT to see about the "history" contained therein.  There's plenty of evidence to say you can't trust the bible's authors to tell the truth about history either.

        It should be studied in exactly the same way we study the ancient Greek myths - to get the cultural references that came afterward, and to understand the influence they had on history that came afterward.

        •  Rather than comparing the Bible only to myths (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Haley, pico, dirkster42

          It's important to compare the history in the Bible to the writings of Herodotus, for example.  

          Even when stories are told fancifully (with 300 Spartans against millions or one badass with a donkey's jawbone vs a thousand), the stories do tell us something about this history of that era.  

        •  Oh, (0+ / 0-)

          I have explained that archaeology has disproved MANY Bible stories - they GET that.  

          Anyway, you seem determined to hold a particular view of what it is I do, so whatever.

          If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

          by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:53:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  He may get "it", but 'it' isn't the point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42, pico
      therefore the idea that this book tells us a single damned thing about any sort of actual existing god is utter bullshit and it's really just people making it up?
      If the goal of the class is "consider what the bible says about god and whether you should care", then sure (or maybe if the goal is 'learn why the fundies are wrong:).

      But the point is to become familiar with this particular extremely historically influential document, and to look at what it actually is right there in front of you, not at what other people tell you it is.

      •  Then why is what he says wrong to say? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        McWaffle

        I don't understand then why it's portrayed as a bad thing that he comes to the correct conclusion then.

        It's correct that it's bullshit.  There is nothing wrong with responding by saying, "yes, it is bullshit, but there's reasons its important to learn about this particular bullshit because it influenced a lot of people", as opposed to acting like that's some horrible thing that should be the wrong thing to say that should end the lesson.

        •  Well, then you've said you know what truth is, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42

          and you're no different than a fundie. You may give yourself a different label, but once you say you can define truth, you're playing the same game. And if you're definition of truth is very narrow? Guess who you're still no different from?

        •  If that's all he's saying? Over & over again? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dirkster42

          And... is it any more bullshit than, say, shakespeare? Only if you go into it already having bought into the frame that THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH AND TELLS US HOW TO LIVE.  

          Reading it as literature/oral history/historical myth, the comment "it's bullshit" is  irrelevant, a non sequitor.

          Here are a couple origin myths, some (contradictory) stories about how the world began. "Bullshit" would be an appropriate response if the point of reading is to learn how the world actually came into being -- if the question asked afterward is "Is this the way the the world came into existence?"

          But what if the question is "Do you like this story?" Or "What do you think about the story? What does it make you think about?" "What did the person telling you this story want you to feel, what was important to him?"  Or maybe "Imagine what it would feel like to believe that this story is true"...

          If the intent on reading that particular set of stories is anything other than "Find out whether these stories are absolutely factually correct", then "bullshit" is completely beside the point. Gotcha. No Adam & Eve, and it's not turtles all the way down, either. Now what?

          (Though I particularly like 'the word breathed over the waters and the world came into existence' imagery. Says something about what it is to be human.)

          •  Your comments make it abundantly clear (0+ / 0-)

            that you are insisting that your pupils here describe what the literature has to say about the human condition.  If they're false stories presented as if they were true (which is exactly what they are) instead of false stores presented as if they were false (which they are not.  They are not presented in the same way great works of fiction are presented) then they also don't have nearly as much to say about the human condition as people seem to think.  Looked at purely as literature they're really poor quality.  They only enjoy such a lofty position because people have treated them as true for such a long time.

  •  It's not exactly 'bible' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    but the kids might benefit from an overview of how various religions/religious groups interpret the texts differently. Compare KJV to a modern tanakh translation, maybe (for maximum difference). & cover the various distinctions in dogma, the things that make anglicans different from catholics different from baptists. It might help break through the fundie 'it's all literally true' thing to see how priests/pastors/whatever have disagreed over time.

    The most useful history class I ever had was 8th grade Western Tradition, where (in my private episcopalian school) we got an overview of how religion tied into politics/history/culture. All those religious wars...

  •  To understand English literature, an understanding (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, zenox, dirkster42

    of the literary themes and historical frames of the Bible, especially the King James Version, is of inestimable value. The cultural impact of Christianity and its socio-economic influence on "Western" thought is knowledge that all people should have some familiarity with; however, most "Bible study" for both adults and children, in my opinion, does not explore the Bible as much as act as an apologia for a particular theological frame.

    The Bible is a text in tension, without some historical perspective, cultural anthropology, and sociological background the text is difficult to comprehend and its obvious contradictions become insurmountable out of context.

    Although a collection of stories that were directed at different audiences in different historical and cultural contexts about the "One God" and the relationship God has to history and its peoples, it is also an artifact of the attempt by ancient peoples to understand a world that is at best experienced as a series of random events that humans try to place an orderly frame upon. A frame with a beginning, middle and end that justifies, in some sense, a linear understanding of what is basically a random experience, living.

    After years of mentoring students in OT, NT, Church History and evolving theological and philosophical thought about Christianity, the only truth I have been able to distill from the experience is that each person's experience of Christian religion and the Bible is an intensely personal one and no matter what my views, the student will arrive at the conslusion that most fits with their upbringing, the culture they were raised in and their view of themselves.

    The frames of "Sole Scriptorum", "inerrant literalism", "reductionist analysis", "cultural predispositions" and "family systems" all play a much stronger role than most theological systems in the "understanding" of the Bible in my experience.

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:44:55 AM PDT

  •  Teaching the Bible as literature (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry marmot

    I had a variety of experiences teaching the Bible as literature to college students. My favorite reaction was that of a middle-aged Catholic woman, who said, "In my catechism classes, they left out most of the good stuff!"

  •  LOL! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, ladyjames
    The older kid replied, "God is bipolar."
    That's one smart kid....

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:39:11 AM PDT

  •  The flip side (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, dirkster42

    of the BIBLE IS TRUE perspective is the BIBLE IS FALSE perspective, which holds that if anything in the Bible isn't literal, that invalidates everything else in it.  it is, oddly, a perspective held by both Fundamentalist Christians and proselytizing atheists.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:43:30 AM PDT

  •  Sounds like a Graduate Level Curriculum (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42

    It all sounds very interesting, but wildly inappropriate as in introduction to Biblical studies for anyone, much less an 11 and 14 year old. I don't care how smart they are, you are starting at the end of the discussion instead of the beginning. You are loading children up with sophisticated concepts that require more knowledge and life experience then they possess. I also don't understand why you would teach them together as they are developmentally at very different stages.

    I would start with a straight up presentation of the accepted version of all the major Biblical story lines for both children. The 14 year old can have additional lessons in Biblical allusions and themes in Literature. And by the way I say this as an Atheist looking at the Bible as a cultural reference.

    •  I was starting to think... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dirkster42

      ... that I was the only one who was considering this.

      I don't know very many 11 year olds who possess enough cognitive development to handle this material.

      I'd love to take one of your classes, but I'm a well read 49 year old with a Master's degree, deep exposure to all three Abrahamic religions and life experience on five continents.

      I studied a similarly sophisticated curriculum in 12th grade. Although I was an eager and quick student, I wouldn't have been able to benefit much earlier.

      I've been teaching 7th graders through adults since 1991.  I generally rail against the dumbing down of the curriculum and support efforts like yours, but there are limits to pre-teens' capabilities.  

      Good luck.

      "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help." ~ Abraham Lincoln

      by harchickgirl1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:14:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My wife told my youngest two stories. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    McWaffle, dirkster42, linkage

    We're not religious, but we live in a town with an active religious community that for the most part is a very positive thing. In our very New England way, religion is not something you wear on your sleeve.  

    My youngest came home one day wondering about Christmas and Jesus.  The vast majority of kids at school are christian in some way and know the story very well.  My kids, however, did not.  Christmas for us is about family and being with the ones you love.

    My older daughter had been in a much more multi-cultural environment in her younger years and being 'non-religious' wasn't unusual.  Here, we felt my youngest needed to know the story in order to be able to a) talk with her friends about it b) not feel like an outcast.    

    So my wife told her the Christmas story as most popular versions are.  My youngest also connected it to many cartoons about Christmas she had seen.  But then she wanted to know about God.   Feeling that my youngest was still too young to get into the deep end on this, my wife decided to tell her two more stories.  Creation stories.

    The first was the biblical version with Adam and Eve (but not up to the apple and all that original sin stuff).  The second was the big bang version.   Afterwards, we asked her what she thought about them.  

    My youngest is quite smart and asked if she could think about it for a while.  Later that evening, she came to tell us that although the big bang story made more sense and is probably the right one, she preferred the Adam and Eve story because it was nice and she liked the characters.

    That, to me, is the essence of religion.  The stories we make up about life, whether from religion or otherwise, are a refuge or protection from how life really is.  Of course, learning more about the bible is very useful for a number of reasons, but most useful for me is to be armed with the knowledge to put those who would use it to divide or even harm others in their place.

    Would we be so happy to have a military that dwarfs all others combined if it was a line item deduction on our paychecks next to FICA."

    by Back In Blue on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:22:05 PM PDT

  •  As always .... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, Prof Haley

    Dirk I enjoyed your essay.  I wish I could of had you as a "Sunday School" teacher when I was a Kid.

    I think I was 7 or 8 years old when I rejected my parents Religion. But, to keep them happy I played along until about 16 or so.  Around then the church ask my parents to keep me home because I was asking to many questions.  I was becoming a stumbling block to the other kid's faith.

    I was so glad to be out of there.

    Best,

    Jonathan

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Fri May 25, 2012 at 01:05:45 PM PDT

    •  Hey guy! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley

      I always thought questions were good!  I never got why people are so worried about them.

      If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

      by dirkster42 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 01:26:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Properly read, the Bible is (0+ / 0-)

    ...the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

    Isaac Asimov

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:05:37 PM PDT

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