34567Re: Sacred Texts ? (Rabagas 34540)
- Oct 2, 2007Wings,
Oh, I wish your wisdom was more commonly found among our leaders and
the general populace.
Thanks for these observations.
I think as writers, besides entertaining our readers, we have an
obligation to slide these pearls of wisdom within our creations.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "wings081" <wings081@...> wrote:
> 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 email@example.com, "rabagas" <fratranquille@>
> > From the issue dated September 21, 2007
> > CRITIC AT LARGE
> > 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
> > 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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