Archive for February, 2009

The Perfect Book?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Of course, the book I’m referring to is the Bible. I could also be referring to the Torah or Qur’an, but as the US is made mostly of Protestant Christians, I’m going to use the Bible for this discussion, which is to explore the reasoning behind why these books are taken so literally.

So I make the following three assumptions:

  • God is perfect
  • Man is imperfect
  • The Bible is the word of God and meant to enlighten the flock as well as bring non-believers into the light

If any of these predication aren’t true, please comment and tell me why.

So to examine why the Bible is taken so literally, we have to look into how it came to be. The first I was going to talk about was basically the idea that God wrote the Bible Himself, but I decided against it, as even the most devout Christians don’t believe that is the case. Anyone who does believe the Bible was written by God has no hope of seeing any other viewpoint, and so it would be a moot point. Besides, supposedly, God doesn’t directly interfere with the world, except for his wrath.

The generally accepted explanation is that the books of the Bible are written by people. This is vague, because depending on who you ask, you get a different response as to who the authors are. To religious scholars, the books are written (dictated) by Biblically significant authors, by the influence of God.� Because its believed these authors were touched by God, the words are taken to be intrinsically holy, and are so free from the burden of proof. And so I have to ask, if the words are holy, if they are the word of God, are they perfect? I don’t think its a stretch to say if someone believes the Bible is literal, then the words are perfect. If the words aren’t perfect, how can it be literally true? If the words are prefect, and we accept the truth of the Bible is/has been written/copied down the years by man, and man is imperfect, how does the Bible maintain its perfection? Does the act of writing/copying the Bible make man infallible during the process? If not, are the people who wrote/copy the Bible touched by God while doing so?

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Coun...

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All this is to question, why should you believe the Bible as a literal tale of the world? As a non-believer, if I started to copy the Bible, word for word, would I be granted this degree of holiness while writing it? If not, is it still holy? I realize this seems like a pointless endeavor, but my point is this. From where does the Bible gain its literal value? As with the questions before, man is fallible, and man copies the Bible. Prior to the printing press (and actual availability of the Bible to anyone besides clergy and the rich), the Bible was copied by man, by hand. It was the biggest game of telephone ever played. And I can tell you, when I play telephone with 20 people, we get all sorts of crazy results. Telephone over centuries?

Most secular historians believe that the Bible was written years after Biblically claimed. The Council of Nicaea picked and chose what books and gospels were appropriate for a uniform Bible. Granted, it wasn’t some simple vote, but it was a choice. If this is God’s word, how can mere men decide what belongs? I know someone will argue that they were also touched by God, but again I wonder this: how can the Bible hold any literal value? The Bible outlines slavery and the rules associated as early as Exodus 21. It calls for stoning for various offenses through the entire thing. It disallows any followers from eating shellfish. If the Bible is so literal, why do Christians not follow these edicts today?

At the end, I think the Bible holds a lot of value. I think it provides some great ideas, and professes some wonderful ethics. And the key there is some. The Bible is supposed to be your holy book. You can’t choose to believe some of it and not others by claiming “That’s the Old Testament” or “That was for that age”. Your God is supposed to be unchanging. He’s beyond time and space. Even if you’re Christian and think the Old Testament is for the followers for Judas, and that the words of Jesus are the path to salvation, that doesn’t negate that your God said those things in the Old Testament. If you want to believe the Bible is the word of God, but not literal, as lessons for life, good for you. If you think that some parts are meant to be transcendental and others are meant to be left behind, great. It won’t be the end of your world. You won’t lose your beloved “christian ethics” (which are a different story if you’re a hard-core, the Bible is the end all, Christian); ethics are generated by the integration of multiple societies and religions.

Society has grown and advanced by dropping ideas that no longer make sense, and moving to ideas that do. We’ve dropped customs that seem barbaric and immoral today, such as primae noctis, slavery, and gender roles (to some extent). Laws are added and dropped as they fit into the culture we define. And culture has changed as we’ve expanded our horizons beyond the local cultural and religious norm. You can claim that today’s scientific discoveries were already in the Bible, but you can’t simultaneously claim the Bible is meant to be taken literally. I’ll be able to take you much more seriously when you can accept that you should learn from history, but you shouldn’t live in the past.

As a quick edit of sorts, I was pointed to this YouTube video, which explains my points in a different way, maybe more nicely. The entire set is very interesting, and I would love to hear a Creationist’s or at least a Christian’s view on it.

Being Male is Chauvanist?

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while… honestly, I thought no one was reading this, and also, sometimes life sucks. But I notice people have been commenting, so I figured I’d get back at it, hopefully consistently.

Something I learned relatively quickly in college was this: apparently my Y chromosomes is apparently an offense to (some) women. Now, I’m not trying to paint a wide stroke here, but lets take some background. First, I was raised in a relatively religious household, and a large part of Jainism is the idea to treat everyone the same and to treat everyone kindly. Like most other old religions, Jainism does cast females in a lower light then males, but in all reality, I find females more religious then males, so specially in modern context, the history doesn’t matter. So for me as a kid, I didn’t see any point in differentiating the sexes, but the idea of chivalry seemed to fit right in with my Jain upbringing. I like to treat everyone with respect, even those who have done me wrong. I tend to be nice even to people who’ve hurt me. It doesn’t mean I’ve never been mean to those people too… I’m no saint. But the important part is how this developed my view on women. I’m that guy who’ll rush ahead a bit to open a door for a woman. I do it for anyone, but I might not rush for a guy. I pretty much always at least to try to pay for dinner when I go out with a female friend, specially if its someone I’m interested in. I don’t think they can’t pay, and if they really insist on it, I always give in. I might not have been the best boyfriend, but I don’t think either of the two girls I’ve been in a relationship with up to now can deny I tried to treat them right.

My alma mater used to consist of five main colleges, one of which was Douglass College, a prominent women’s-only college in the US. Over the last 3 years, there’s been a lot of restructuring at the University, merging the five colleges into one consolidated university. This was met with a lot of reluctance, specially from Douglass College. Now, all five of the colleges have a very rich heritage; Rutgers College was one of the first colleges in America. But of all five, Douglass students argued the loudest. Douglass College used to be a separate organization, but due to funding, ease, and I’m sure a hundred other reasons, it joined the State University of New Jersey, with the goals to lead and empower women, admirable goals for sure. But a group within the college, whom I can only describe as feminists, were completely against the idea of a consolidation. They insisted that if a consolidation was to take place, the other four colleges should merge, and Douglass remain independent. Now mind you, the role Douglass plays both for its goals and its politics was important to the University, and all attempts would be (and have be) made to preserve the history, goals, and programs provided. These girls just wouldn’t see it. I was all in support of their wanting to protect their school… had someone told me the School of Engineering would be merged (and in some cases, it seemed to come close), I would have been as fervent at it. I think popular feminism is as extreme as the religious right, but its a choice someone makes, and I was in support of their main goals, albeit being one of the students involved in the merger. My support vanished very quickly though when one day I was heading to support one of their rallies, and upon arriving, girls started shouting at me, with words like, “chauvinist”, “jerk”, and you can imagine they got worse. I pretty much decided there that I really didn’t find the cause worth supporting. In the next few months, I continued to push the merger, and the University continued to protect the goals and programs of Douglass, but it was merged in. I didn’t really care if they stayed separate anymore.

What’s the point of this long-winded story you ask? Just upset that some girls called me a “chauvinist”? Nah. In fact, I understand why they were upset. But here is my view on female rights, at least from what I’ve seen. And I fully expect to be chastised for some of this… girls I know have stopped talking to me over it. Males and females are definitely not equal in the US, let alone in the world, but I honestly think what holds them back now is not “the man” but themselves. Sure, I’m again talking about a lot of women who don’t fall into the category, but I see it just like different religions or cultures. You can’t have a small radical group you do nothing about then complain that they’re the ones who are at fault. It seems that feminists want to be proudly different but the same. Now note, I didn’t say “equal” because they don’t seem to paint a picture of equality. Equality implies to me that two groups are at the same level. Feminists feel so oppressed that simply my genetic structure is enough to offend them.

Take for example, the ongoing argument about women in the workplace. I’m far from being the ideal guy to talk about this; I have conflicting feelings about gender roles in situations like a marriage, work, etc. When I get married, I have no issue with my wife working, but I think if we have kids, one of us will have to leave our job. I’m a workaholic, so I can’t imagine leaving my job, but if my wife doesn’t really doesn’t want to, I’ll do it. The issue I have is women who will have a kid then head back to work in a few weeks, leaving kids to nanny’s, artificial milk, etc. No matter how equal men and women get, men and women will never be equal. Biologically, its impossible. No matter what you do, there are simple differences in genetics, biology, and hormones. Hormonally, women are better suited to be nurturing. Its not that guys don’t care, its not how we’re structured. Same way, males tend to be more aggressive then females. Now, someone could argue that this is all just excuses, and in a way it is. We are more then our animal instincts, but end of the day my point is this:

We’re not the same, get over it.

Use your differences for you. Dressing in masculine clothes doesn’t get you further in a job. Proving you can do anything a guy can do doesn’t make you equal. Using your differences, not flaunting them, pulls you ahead. I told my girlfriend this at one point, I’ll treat you like a princess or an equal. I can’t treat you special and treat you no differently then anyone else. As an Indian, I either get to be treated as a minority, or I get to be treated as an equal. Any time I’ve made it clear I’m separate, I’ve earned jeering looks and hostility from others. Fine, males and females aren’t equal yet. Most guys will agree, specially guys who wish it weren’t the case. But every time you try to step over us in the name of gender equality, I really don’t care how hard you get trampled.