Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Faith and Politics

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Sometimes when I watch some YouTube videos on religion, I just get depressed. Our most recent election brought religious fury to the foreground, bringing doubt of our political leader’s religion, for no other reason then to bring doubt to the politician himself. Now mind you, I have a lot to say about religious “arguments” on YouTube in general, but I really do wanna talk about faith, politics and public policy, and how they meet.

I’m gonna preface this by saying, to be clear, I am not an atheist. I don’t dislike religion. In fact, I believe in the power and use of religion. If there were ever to be a debate on whether religions should be discontinued or not, I would be on the site advocating for their continuation. What I can’t abide by are some of the uses of religion as an inconsistent moral compass, whether it can be taken apart and subjected to individual whim to fit the view you think (on purpose or not) as the most advantageous for yourself. Religion has its purposes; I don’t believe it has a direct role in public welfare.

I Stumble a lot. I don’t know what people did to find websites before Stumble. I guess viral was really the only way. Anyway, I happened to stumble across a YouTube video where then Senator Obama spoke about his views on religion mixing with public policy. I found this rather interesting, as the views were sort of in line with how I see faith and politics. More importantly, after watching it, I watched some of the related videos, including one by a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Christian (sorry, can’t pinpoint his accent) who first thanks a Muslim for bringing out the “truth” on Obama, then attacks passages from the Qaran, one where Dr. Dobson talks about how Obama is just distorting the Bible, and Ann Coulter “puts down” Obama on this particular speech.

I am deeply disturbed by the religious elements of this past election, namely the attacks on Obama. I have never seen attacks on a candidates religion like this before. Clearly a Christian, Obama was accused of being a Muslim (as if that in itself made him a threat), he was attacked for his pastor, he was attacked for his view points on Christianity. Even now as President elect, he seems to be portrayed as the most dangerous thing to ever happen to America. This from many of the same people who denounce anyone who speaks out against President Bush. A friend of mine made an interesting comment a little earlier: “It’s funny that the most prudish, moralistic people are also the ones most likely to breach basic ethics for the sake of their agenda.”

Any attack on Obama having possibly been Muslim at some point in his childhood is pointless. To say he’s “secretly” a Muslim while pretending to be a Christian is just insulting to anyone who can think on their own. Most Christian denominations pride themselves on the fact that once someone is “converted”, they are saved. Obama faithfully attended a church for at least 20 years, and for all accounts and purposes, has shown himself to be a true Christian, much more then many today. Graduating from a prestigious law school, instead of taking up a big salary job, he gave back to his community. He appears to be a faithful husband and father. He supports the unity of all mankind with minimum violence. Now given, this also sounds like what Islam teaches as well… but we’ll ignore that because apparently, Islam is “evil”. Anyway, these attacks are no more then the grown up versions of the childhood insults like “He’s gay!”, given when a bully doesn’t like one kid, with of course no evidence or even logical reasons. Dr. Dobsen even attacked Obama’s interpretation of the Bible. What makes Dobsen more correct then Obama? Does Dobsen know something about the Bible that the rest of the world doesn’t? Honestly, I think people like Dobsen are the ones with a distorted version of the Bible. I always wonder about this… the Bible is the word of God, who is perfect, but written by men, who are imperfect, yet the Bible maintains it’s holy level of perfection. Does this means that the people who transcribe the bible are infallible? Or that they are touched by God? If I choose to copy the bible, word for word, what would that mean for me?

The Codex Gigas from the 13th century, held at...

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In general, the attacks on his views on Christianity seem to only come from the super conservatives who think they and their followers are the only true Christians. Lets take a look at some of what Obama said. First and foremost, he advocates for the separation of religion and policy. He talks about the diversity of religion, and the diversity of Christianity itself. He talks about not taking the Bible literally, quoting lines from the Bible that no sensible person today would implement. He asks that religion be translated into universal reasoning in cases of public policy. He says he’ll use logic before religion. Most importantly, he makes the audacious claim that people want to use religion to bridge, not divide! (That’s me being sarcastic in case it’s not obvious).

Now, I’ve never been a big follower of people like Ann Coulter. I didn’t know much about her before this. I’m not sure how someone like her actually becomes popular. It scares me to think ideas like her are common-place enough to have multiple books authored. I don’t think every Christian out there was scared that Obama was Muslim (or Arab, as if those are connected), but I do know a lot were, as evident from one of McCain’s supporter’s misconceptions. It does scare me to think that people could be brought to such levels of fear by a religion that teaches the value of every human life. The truth is Obama has one of the best religious-political views I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t denounce religion, nor reduce his support of it, but he uses it as a guiding factor of morality. Anyone who can attack him for being moral without bringing religion directly into fray while spouting on and on about Christianity and the values of this great nation needs to reexamine both accounts and truly look within themselves. I’m no Christian, but I believe in the value of the good Book rather then select one of its hundreds of interpretations to cherry-pick my religious beliefs. I figure its better to believe in the whole of one religion rather then the pieces of a dozen.