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34566Re: Sacred Texts ? (Rabagas 34540)

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  • wings081
    Oct 2, 2007
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      Hi Rabagas.
      Your posts and those of Albi set me pondering on the causes of the
      entire disharmony in this world. I list them here but not necessarily
      in the order of precedence:
      Religion, territorial gains, Politics, Sex, Search for personal power
      over others.

      Religion: The majority of religions maintain there is a deity to whom
      the followers ust bow down to His will. He is given different names
      according to each belief,so why don't all followers agree there is
      one Supremo and if my brother/sister prefers to call him by another
      name that's OK by me.

      Territorial Gains: Man and a few women have always looked over the
      hedge and with avarice aforethought sought to claim another's
      territory. My neighbour has a better cave than mine, facing south, so
      if I bash him over the head with the thigh bone of a tyrannosaurus I
      can move house.

      Politics: I admit there is a need to have rules, by which people can
      be governed fairly,ut why all the mud slinging? Why can't a Solomon
      from the opposition party stand to his/her feet and declare: That was
      a good idea sir and we must congratulate you on your perspicacity.

      Sex: This is possibly the root cause of all domestic turmoil. A
      neighbour will willingly lend you his lawn mower but make a pass at
      his spouse and you risk the start of world war 4. Women use sex as a
      weapon of mass destruction whereas to men, it is an essential element
      of their very existence.

      Power over others: We can't all be `king of the castle'. There are
      those best suited to lead and others who make excellent serfs, happy
      to defer to a master's demands.
      Give two persons of equal intelligence ten thousand pounds each and
      one will become a multi-millionaire while the other will become a
      burden on his fellows and end in the gutter.

      Religion and politics is usually regarded as verboten on his site,
      but I had to have my little say in your discussion.

      As always


      --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas" <fratranquille@...>
      > From the issue dated September 21, 2007
      > Are Sacred Texts Sacred? the Challenge for Atheists
      > advertisement
      > Article tools By CARLIN ROMANO
      > In a Nation essay this year about the wave of successful books
      > vaunting atheism, critic Daniel Lazare wrote the following:
      > For a long time, religion had been doing quite nicely as a kind of
      > minor entertainment. Christmas and Easter were quite unthinkable
      > without it, not to mention Hanukkah and Passover. But then certain
      > enthusiasts took things too far by crashing airliners into office
      > towers in the name of Allah, launching a global crusade to rid the
      > world of evil, and declaring the jury still out on Darwinian
      > evolution. As a consequence, religion now looks nearly as bad as
      > royalism did in the late 18th century.
      > That might sound predictably snide coming from the wontedly secular
      > Nation, but listen to a middle-of-the-road piece of journalism, an
      > Associated Press article this May by religion writer Rachel Zoll.
      > the article, headlined "Angry Atheists Are Hot Authors," Zoll
      > describes the success of such books as "a sign of widespread
      > resentment among nonbelievers over the influence of religion in the
      > world."
      > She quotes from Christopher Hitchens, whose God Is Not Great: How
      > Religion Poisons Everything rocketed to No. 1 on the New York Times
      > best-seller list in its first week out of the block. "There is
      > something like a change in the zeitgeist," Hitchens told Zoll,
      > positing "a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are
      > fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless
      > Zoll writes that atheists like Hitchens are tired of
      > believers "using fairy tales posing as divine scripture to justify
      > their lust for power."
      > Atheism is on a roll, if not a holy roll, in the book world. Last
      > year philosopher Daniel Dennett published Breaking the Spell
      > (Viking), British scientist Richard Dawkins followed with The God
      > Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), and writer Sam Harris, described by
      > Zoll as "a little-known graduate student" until his successes, has
      > been grabbing middlebrow readers with his The End of Faith (Norton,
      > 2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006).
      > This fall's second wave comes at the culture under the banner of
      > secularism, even under the gentler light of irony. Canadian
      > philosopher Charles Taylor, in his massive A Secular Age (Harvard
      > University Press), seeks to understand what that title means for
      us —
      > he's so ecumenical and thoughtful in his struggle to understand
      > what he dubs "secularity" that you might not realize he's a
      > believing Catholic. Columbia University's Mark Lilla, in The
      > Stillborn God (Knopf), offers a rich intellectual etiology of how
      > religion and politics realigned themselves within "political
      > theology" to usher in our putatively secular modernity. From
      > Olivier Roy's Secularism Confronts Islam (Columbia University
      > acknowledges the hostility to Islam marked by its title, while
      > arguing against it.
      > Atheism now flourishes even in the form of the gift book, the kind
      > stackable by the register, as in Joan Konner's collection of
      > quotations, The Atheist's Bible (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007). Polls
      > show that 98 percent of Americans believe in God. But if atheism is
      > going mass in some small way, an easily portable gift text is just
      > as important as a sacred one.
      > For almost everyone involved in the believer/atheist debate,
      > consists in denying the existence of God, then philosophically
      > evaluating the consequences in the spirit (if not according to the
      > exact program) of a contemporary Nietzsche or Grand Inquisitor.
      > to a literary critic's eye, many of these books ignore, for the
      > part, a crucial question: What should the atheist's position be
      > on "sacred texts"?
      > Think of it as another "death of the author" problem.
      > The first difficulty for atheists is glaringly apparent. Unlike the
      > situation with God, atheists can't deny the existence of sacred
      > texts, at least as texts. There's indisputably something on hand to
      > deal with. They can only deny to such texts the quality of
      > sacredness. That behooves atheists, then, to have a clear
      > of the sacred — object of veneration, say, or "something related to
      > the holy," or "something set apart from the non-holy,"
      or "something
      > worthy of extreme respect" — and also a clear definition of text or
      > book. Many atheists who have a relatively clear idea of what they
      > mean by "God" when they reject His, Her, or Its existence, possess
      > little knowledge of the sacred texts that animate religions.
      > Jacques Berlinerblau, in his book The Secular Bible: Why
      > Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously (Cambridge University
      > Press, 2005), opens his study by declaring, "In all but exceptional
      > cases, today's secularists are biblically illiterate."
      > Exploring what these books are as texts, then — take the Old
      > Testament, New Testament, and Koran as representative — is the
      > step toward pondering the atheist's proper behavior in regard to
      > them. Happily, one can get help from non-sacred texts, since
      > critical scholarship on sacred texts, which includes what was once
      > widely known as biblical criticism, continues apace.
      > For instance, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible
      > (Harvard University Press, 2007), by Karel van der Toorn, president
      > of the University of Amsterdam, insists on the Bible as the product
      > of a professional, scribal elite, specifically the scribal workshop
      > of the Second Temple in the period 500-200 BC. Another recent
      > The Voice, the Word, the Books: The Sacred Scripture of the Jews,
      > Christians, and Muslims (Princeton University Press, 2007), by F.E.
      > Peters, professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York
      > University, similarly looks at what Peters calls the "human
      > fingerprints" all over these texts.
      > Van der Toorn is no sentimentalist. "Both the production and the
      > promotion of the Hebrew Bible were the work of the scribes," he
      > states. "Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets did not write the
      > books that the superscriptions attribute to them." Indeed, van der
      > Toorn's analysis of the data leads him to conclude that "the modern
      > concept of books is unsuited to describe the written production
      > the ancient Near East. ... To define the Bible as a collection of
      > books, as implied in the Greek designation biblia, is an
      > anachronism. The Bible is a repository of tradition." It is, he
      > states, "the result of a series of scribal interventions; previous
      > textual stages have not been preserved, with a few exceptions known
      > mainly through the discoveries of Qumran."
      > Peters, who examines three sacred texts in his book, describes a
      > long process at whose end "are now three books or, rather more
      > precisely, three collections of books or pieces. An impartial
      > observer, if such ever existed, might call them edited books, which
      > makes believers uneasy since the term 'edited' calls attention,
      > undue attention, it would seem, to the fact that if all these words
      > had a Divine Author, they also had some very human editors whose
      > errant thumbprints are all over Scripture."
      > Peters brings this disenchantment of the sacred even to what he
      > calls the "human fingerprints" on the Koran, which Muslims believe
      > is "totally and simultaneously true." Among the fingerprints are
      > traces of those "anonymous editors who, we are told by Muslim
      > tradition, collected the scattered records of Muhammad's
      > revelations, added the headings now prefaced to each sura, and then
      > arranged the suras in the order they now appear. Apart from an
      > opening sura which is a prayer, that order appears to be, to the
      > historians' considerable chagrin, roughly that of descending
      > As all concede, it is certainly not the order in which the
      > revelations were made public in Mecca or Medina."
      > Peters adds that "once the suras are reordered, even in the most
      > approximate chronological terms, immediately a new problem arises.
      > On the face of it, many, if not most, of the suras appear to be
      > composites — rhyme and assonance schemes are broken off; there are
      > syntactical anomalies and abrupt changes of style and subject; that
      > is, periscopes from different times and settings have been stitched
      > together to form a single and quite artificial sura unit."
      > Such lack of credence in the God-authored notion of sacred texts is
      > widespread not only among scholars, but even in casual book-
      > reviewing culture. Here, turning to the New Testament, consider the
      > beginning of a review on Powells.com of another recent book, titled
      > Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
      > (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), by Bart D. Ehrman.
      > "Those who call the King James Version of the Bible the unerring
      > word of God," writes reviewer Doug Brown, "have a slight problem.
      > The New Testament of the KJV (as the King James Version is usually
      > referred) was translated into English from a version of the Greek
      > New Testament that had been collected from 12th-century copies by
      > Erasmus. Where Erasmus couldn't find Greek manuscripts, he
      > translated to Greek from the Latin Vulgate (which itself had been
      > translated from Greek back in the fourth century). Here the problem
      > splits into two problems. First, Jesus spoke Aramaic — his actual
      > words, never recorded, were only rendered in Greek in the original
      > gospels. Thus, the KJV consists of Jesus's words twice refracted
      > through the prism of translation. Second, Erasmus's Greek New
      > Testament was based on handwritten copies of copies of copies of
      > copies, etc., going back over a millennium, and today is considered
      > one of the poorer Greek New Testaments."
      > Consider this just one example of a "sacred text" treated almost as
      > a farcical text in regard to its having a single, coherent,
      > intentional, shaping, authorial, divine mind behind it. Is the
      > Bible, in one counting, the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, the
      > books of the Roman Catholic Bible, or the 77 books of the Eastern
      > Orthodox Bible?
      > After a litany of examples of intercopy disagreements, scribal
      > clarifications, arbitrary decisions on what is canonical and what
      > apocryphal, and putative scribal addenda such as the controversial
      > last twelve verses of Mark (16:9-20) with their references to snake
      > handling and speaking in tongues, it is difficult to think of such
      > texts as sacred as opposed to much-handled — compilations over time
      > by committee. If you'd been told recently that the seventh and
      > volume of the Harry Potter series had gone through changes at the
      > hands of 10 copyists and editors, not to mention been translated
      > through several languages before reaching English, would you feel
      > confident it was J.K. Rowling's sacred conclusion to her tale?
      > Writes Brown, "In many respects, the Bible was the world's first
      > Wikipedia article."
      > Religious true believers naturally possess arguments against some
      > these considerations and against the overarching conclusion that so-
      > called sacred texts are not sacred. They might want to argue that
      > sacred texts are the handiwork of God; directly dictated, as in the
      > Koran; communicated more indirectly, as in the Old and New
      > Testaments; or, as one modern hermeneutic strategy holds,
      > inelegantly played out through generations of editors and copyists
      > in a messy process, like Darwinian evolution itself, but with God
      > the entity whose flick of a finger started the ball rolling. None
      > those conclusions, however, are the conclusions of an atheist. If
      > is the proper behavior of atheists in the face of sacred texts that
      > interests us, we must work from the conclusion that such texts are
      > not sacred in the sense of being "authorized" and fact-checked by
      > God.
      > The next question is thus whether sacred texts are sacred in any
      > other sense than that they're God's handiwork. I say they are.
      > Sacred means not only related to God, but also set apart in a
      > particular way, worthy of uncommon respect, not open to easy
      > violation. Here comes the twist on "Are Sacred Texts Sacred?" How
      > atheists react to sacred texts, I submit, properly belongs as much
      > to the history of etiquette as to that of philosophy or theology.
      > Let me explain.
      > Much of the believer/atheist debate, about God or sacred texts,
      > takes place on printed pages, not at marriage receptions or in
      > doctors' offices or during water-cooler conversations. We tend to
      > friction-averse in the latter settings. When we think, as
      > intellectuals, of how atheists and believers should behave, or do
      > behave, we often invoke the printed-page model of no-holds-barred
      > assertion of truth and belief, of argument and counterargument,
      > regardless of whether the heavens fall. But there's no obvious
      > reason why the punch-counterpunch paradigm of the page should
      > dominate our discussion of sacred texts.
      > Not all secularly inclined intellectuals agree. Berlinerblau, for
      > instance, says the goal of his book is "to outline a coherent
      > nontheological, nonapologetic paradigm for the study of ancient
      > Scriptures," while making plain that "the peculiar way in which the
      > Bible was composed in antiquity makes it far too contradictory and
      > incoherent a source for public-policy decisions in modernity."
      > He seems to feel that such a goal requires an enormously aggressive
      > critical spirit and focus on truth in sacred texts. He writes
      > that "the secular study of the Hebrew Bible (or any sacred text) is
      > animated by a spirit of critique. The motto of our enterprise might
      > just as well be 'criticize and be damned!' We are bound by honor to
      > cast aspersions on the integrity and historical reliability of holy
      > documents. A scholarly exegete reads such work in heckle mode. He
      > she cannot accept that the Bible is the infallible word of God as
      > mediated by mortals (as the secularly religious and most biblical
      > scholars often contend), nor the distortion of the word of God (as
      > some radical theologians have charged). The objective existence of
      > God — as opposed to the subjective perception of Him — is not a
      > legitimate variable in scholarly analysis. The Hebrew Bible/Old
      > Testament is a human product tout court."
      > This strikes me, the bravura virtues of Berlinerblau's style aside,
      > as machoism pretending to be scholarly integrity. Why can't
      > see sacred texts as sacred to them — to those believers over there —

      > and behave respectfully when not provoked? It is simply not true,
      > a normal, etiquette-infused vision of life, that we think truth
      > be stated at every time and in every context. We tell Grandma that
      > she's looking well when she's looking terrible. We tell Grandpa
      > he's going to be fine when we haven't the faintest idea how things
      > will turn out for him. We lie to people in small ways every day to
      > make interactions gentler and less tense, and to be kind to others.
      > Indeed, in a wonderful against-the-grain philosophical book some
      > years ago titled The Varnished Truth (University of Chicago Press,
      > 1993), philosopher David Nyberg argued that white lies are
      > the "glue" that hold the civilized world together. Why shouldn't a
      > similar gentleness and desire to avoid hurtful comments inform
      > atheists when they write about books that many hold sacred?
      > The most familiar rebuke to this rears its head regularly in the
      > most scathing, sarcastic, and popular of the atheist wave,
      > God Is Not Great. It is that believers in the God-given authority
      > sacred texts are "ultimately incapable" of leaving nonbelievers
      > alone. Religion, writes Hitchens, "does not, and in the long run
      > cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime
      > assurances. It must seek to interfere with the lives of
      > nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths. It may
      > speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this
      > one. This is only to be expected. It is, after all, wholly man-
      > The cosmopolitan atheist of today — the well-educated secularist
      > steeped in the histories of various faiths, as well as the carnage
      > they've produced back then and now — can't easily toss off
      > Hitchens's point. Polite respect ends when believers insist on
      > sacred texts as God's authorization of those believers to regulate,
      > suppress, or punish the behavior of nonbelievers. In such
      > situations, the atheist's politeness goes out the window because
      > believer has thrown his politeness out the window first. Is there
      > anything as impolite — a gentle word, to be sure — as forcing one's
      > moral rules on another because they supposedly come from a divine
      > being whose existence the other doesn't accept?
      > As a result, we get the predominant tones in which atheists have
      > assessed sacred texts over the centuries — anger, disrespect,
      > contempt, sarcasm, insult, dismissal, even pity. Consider three
      > examples.
      > "The Bible," sighed Voltaire. "That is what fools have written,
      > imbeciles command, what rogues teach, and young children are made
      > learn by heart."
      > "As to the book called the Bible," thundered Thomas Paine, "it is
      > blasphemy to call it the word of God. It is a book of lies and
      > contradictions, and a history of bad times and bad men. There are
      > but a few good characters in the whole book."
      > And, as nasty wrapper, there is A.A. Milne's point. "The Old
      > Testament," he claimed, "is responsible for more atheism,
      > agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever
      > written: It has emptied more churches than all the
      > counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle, and golf course."
      > Harsh stuff. Yet the very sophisticated understanding of history
      > society that often justifies the atheist's snappishness in such
      > remarks — the elegant scholarship, for example, of Taylor's and
      > Lilla's books — should also lead him or her not to stir conflicts
      > believer and unbeliever unnecessarily. Because sophistication
      > implies an equal grasp of etiquette and tolerance as a bulwark of
      > civilized, nonviolent life together on the part of believers and
      > nonbelievers. In that respect, Taylor, Lilla, and Roy's second wave
      > of books — books as thoughtful as those of Dennett and Dawkins, but
      > considerably less offensive — wisely pay little direct attention to
      > sacred texts, focusing more on how believers have behaved than on
      > their authorizing documents.
      > That's all to the good. In advanced, progressive, tolerant
      > societies, we also don't go up to strangers and tell them that
      > they're ugly, that their children are repulsive, that their clothes
      > don't match, that they need a bath, that the leisure activity
      > they're engaged in is stupid and a waste of time. In the same way,
      > atheists should not, unprovoked, go on and on about how sacred
      > lack God's imprimatur. And believers should not blithely go after
      > atheists. If this sounds like the credo of an American — an odd
      > creature of history who might be an atheist or believer — the plea
      > is guilty. One can, of course, line up the bolstering high-culture
      > quotations on this side too, against the belligerent atheists.
      > Schopenhauer's proviso that politeness is "a tacit agreement that
      > people's miserable defects, whether moral or intellectual, shall on
      > either side be ignored and not made the subject of reproach." Even
      > Eric Hoffer's lovely line that "rudeness is the weak man's
      > of strength."
      > The simple answer, then, to how atheists should respond to sacred
      > texts is: politely, if possible, employing all the wry ambiguity
      > book critics use when awkwardly trapped with the author or admirer
      > of a book about which they have reservations. "It's really quite
      > amazing," one might say, or, "You know, I was just reading it the
      > other day — it's as good as ever."
      > But when believers start to use sacred texts to oppress, the
      > must attack and reject the "divine" aspect of their books, out of
      > self-defense and because it interferes with the individual's
      > of conscience and behavior.
      > Some things, after all, are sacred.
      > Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle and literary
      > for The Philadelphia Inquirer, teaches philosophy and media theory
      > at the University of Pennsylvania.
      > --------------------------------------------------------------------
      > -----------
      > http://chronicle.com
      > Section: The Chronicle Review
      > Volume 54, Issue 4, Page B11
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