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34575Re: Sacred Texts ? Nonspatial events ?

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  • rabagas
    Oct 3, 2007
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      It's definitely an interesting concept. And here's a new twist.
      My thin crust- pizza- loving, Offenbach- hating friend, who is a
      logician and philospher of science was telling me about a recent
      experiment in France that seems to throw everything cock-a-hoop.

      It seems that some atomic physicists sent photons simultaneously in
      different directions throw a cyclotron. At some point, they pulsed
      one of the photons which , as might be expected, exhibited a
      reaction. What was unexpected was that at the same instant the
      photon traveling in the opposite direction and distant from the
      first photon exhbited the identical reaction.

      So now they're talking about events in nospace or nonspatial events
      or that occur regardless of space.Events are " vectors" . It was one
      event, supposedly. My friend says that we're just changing the
      metaphor from a spatial one to a non-spatial one. Call me a Luddite,
      but I have trouble with this one. If there's one thing I'm convinced
      of, it's that when I'm here, I'm not there.And when I'm there, I'm
      not here.I'm willing to believe this occurred. But explaining the
      causality, the "ho"w this happens is not satisfied by simply
      saying "we're changing the metaphor." That, to me simply begs the
      question. It certainly makes stories about identical twins
      communicating more believeable, but offers no explanation of how it
      occurs. Shades of Dumas pere's Corsican Brothers.

      Rabagas




      In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@...> wrote:
      >
      > Frank,
      >
      > Synchronicity!
      >
      > Now there is a concept.
      >
      > Are such synchronous events a coincidence bound to happen in a
      > statistical universe? Or are they evidence of a rational system
      > acting in dimensions we do not presently understand or even
      perceive?
      >
      > Either way, such events are entertaining and tantalizing, aren't
      they?
      >
      > albi
      >
      > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas" <fratranquille@>
      wrote:
      > >
      > > Dear Albi,
      > >
      > > I agree with most of your points. The difference between science
      and
      > > religion is that while both make statements about reality,
      > > scientific statements are subject to being tested, verified, or
      > > refuted.. Religion insists that the statemnts it makes are
      > > irrefutable, and not subject to testing, and are to be taken on
      > > faith. It doesn't see its statements as metaphors or poetic
      truths,
      > > but insists that its statements are
      > > true period.
      > >
      > > Incidentally, my friend who I referred to as saying Offenbach
      was
      > > not true, was on the phone with me last night. I made no mention
      > > of the Offenbach remarks. Somehow we got talking about food, and
      > > Pizza in particular. He likes thin-crusted Pizza and not the
      thick
      > > Chicago style pizza. "It's not true pizza." So we had the same
      > > argument about Pizza that we had about Offenbach years before.
      And
      > > then I told him I'd referred to our Offenbach conversation in
      this
      > > email exchange earlier in the day.. How's that for
      synchronicity !!!
      > >
      > > Frank
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@>
      wrote:
      > > >
      > > > Rabagas,
      > > >
      > > > I agree that the domain of religion is often stretched to the
      > > point of
      > > > silly. I guess "ridiculous" is a better term, because it
      isn't
      > > very
      > > > "silly" when adherents blow up or murder by grizzly means
      those
      > > they
      > > > consider to be non-believers.
      > > >
      > > > In former times, this tendency of religion to answer large
      > > questions
      > > > stretched imaginations more than limited them. Also, it gave
      > > > structure to a seemingly inexplicable world.
      > > >
      > > > Now, I agree these aspects of religion can be vestigial at
      best and
      > > > retarding in progress at worst.
      > > >
      > > > However, science doesn't seem to know where to stop either.
      Look
      > > at
      > > > theories regarding hominid bones in the last five decades. The
      > > > absence of data wasn't enough to hinder the blind speculation
      that
      > > was
      > > > repackaged and sold as science, was it?
      > > >
      > > > Perhaps one day, we will drop our anger at expansive religion
      and
      > > look
      > > > at it as a necessary stage of human development, similar to
      the
      > > way we
      > > > consider the utilization of fire.
      > > >
      > > > I know that the tendency of monks to write things down is
      > > responsible
      > > > for the meager things we know of historical Celtic society.
      > > >
      > > > By the way, I didn't really know that a music could be "not
      > > true". I
      > > > don't know Offenbach, so I'll have to check out music by that
      > > > composer. But have you checked into the possibility that
      Offenbach
      > > > was reacting to the style of a formerly popular style of
      > > composition?
      > > > That principal alone can explain a lot about music and other
      > > popular
      > > > styles.
      > > >
      > > > albi
      > > >
      > > > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas"
      <fratranquille@>
      > > wrote:
      > > > >
      > > > > Dear Albi,
      > > > >
      > > > > By way of reply, let me tell you an anecdote which is not a
      > > fable.
      > > > > I like Offenbach, and I was discussing Offenbach with a
      friend
      > > of
      > > > > mine who loves music, and is by profession a Professor of
      Logic
      > > and
      > > > > philosophy at a Public Ivy up in Massachusetts. We've been
      > > friends
      > > > > since childhood and my friend is argumentative, but very
      bright.
      > > He
      > > > > doesn't like Offenbach, and ventured the opinion that the
      music
      > > was
      > > > > superficially pretty but "not true." My response was: Music
      is
      > > > > neither true nor false, it's pleasant or unpleasant,
      harmonious
      > > or
      > > > > inharmonious,interesting or uninteresting,aesthetically
      pleasing
      > > or
      > > > > unpleasing, etc. My friend replied: Uh-oh you are too
      bright to
      > > > > fall for that one. I've used it on people who should know
      better
      > > a
      > > > > number of times.(He loves to put people on. ) Truth, in a
      > > logical
      > > > > sense, has nothing to do with the way we experience music.We
      > > respond
      > > > > to rhythm, to tone, to harmony, etc. And that seems to be
      your
      > > take
      > > > > on religion. If that is your position (correct me if I'm
      wrong)
      > > I
      > > > > really don't disagree with you. But it doesn't correlate
      > > with "truth"
      > > > > in any logical or factual sense.Unfortunately, the religious
      > > make
      > > > > claims that they contend are both factually and logically
      > > true.And
      > > > > that is where I part company with them. If they tell me a
      > > Gregorian
      > > > > chant is beautiful, I'll agree. Or a Catholic mass, or a
      gothic
      > > > > cathedral, or The Sistine Chapel, I won't argue that. But if
      > > they
      > > > > tell me the world was made in 7 days, and that Eve came from
      > > Adam's
      > > > > rib, and that the whole universe is 6-10 thousand years old,
      > > sorry, I
      > > > > don't agree at all.
      > > > >
      > > > > Rabagas
      > > > >
      > > > >
      > > > >
      > > > >
      > > > > In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@>
      > > wrote:
      > > > > >
      > > > > > Rabagas,
      > > > > >
      > > > > > While an exploration of the world from the rational
      > > perspective is
      > > > > > powerful, will, no doubt, be responsible for a great deal
      of
      > > > > progress
      > > > > > in the world, and may go on for infinity given the
      apparent
      > > > > infinite
      > > > > > nature of the universe dimensionally and in an ever more
      micro
      > > > > scale,
      > > > > > the rational perspective is not the only system with which
      to
      > > enjoy
      > > > > > the universe and can be proven itself to be a house of
      cards.
      > > > > >
      > > > > > Rational thought does not create any of the wonderful
      theories
      > > that
      > > > > > it, itself, claims to have "proven". Rational thought
      only
      > > can be
      > > > > > used to reject theories which can be shown to produce one
      or
      > > more
      > > > > > seemingly irresolvable conflicts either within observable
      fact
      > > or
      > > > > > within other theories that have not yet been proven to have
      > > > > > irresolvable conflicts. Rational thought is dependent on
      > > recursive
      > > > > > comparison to itself or to observation.
      > > > > >
      > > > > > And observation, while western science likes to assume
      > > otherwise,
      > > > > is
      > > > > > never objective. Observation is always subjective.
      > > > > >
      > > > > > Now to circle this back to the topic of writing, most
      writers
      > > are
      > > > > > always trying to express the never before expressed. They
      find
      > > > > > similes, metaphors and allusions important tools to show
      > > > > similarity,
      > > > > > convergence, or just plain otherwise inexpressible
      thoughts
      > > and
      > > > > emotions.
      > > > > >
      > > > > > Take off your green eye shade. Put down your sharp
      pencil.
      > > Rub
      > > > > the
      > > > > > back of your neck, and take in the creative, magic, and
      > > emotively
      > > > > > based world for awhile, as this irrational world may
      satisfy
      > > parts
      > > > > of
      > > > > > your soul that have been looking for something.
      > > > > >
      > > > > > albi
      > > > > >
      > > > > > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas"
      > > <fratranquille@>
      > > > > wrote:
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Dear Albi,
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Thanks for the kind words, but the article is not mine,
      it's
      > > > > simply
      > > > > > > one I clipped while web surfing on the Arts and Letters
      > > Daily.
      > > > > If I
      > > > > > > find something interesting I clip it and post it in
      clubs I
      > > > > belong to
      > > > > > > in the hope of getting some discussion going. The
      > > professional
      > > > > > > quality of the grammar, etc. are not mine.
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Having said that, I think you raise some interesting
      points.
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Just briefly looking at your two points:
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Does the law of non-contradiction apply to sacred texts
      or
      > > at
      > > > > least
      > > > > > > throw their truth
      > > > > > > in question? We live in a world where rational logic
      (which
      > > is
      > > > > > > based on the law of non-contradiction) seems to apply.
      At
      > > least
      > > > > we
      > > > > > > like to think it does. So if we are suddenly confronted
      with
      > > a
      > > > > text
      > > > > > > that
      > > > > > > claims to be "true" we expect that it will not be
      > > contradictory,
      > > > > or
      > > > > > > if there is a contradiction, it's only apparent and can
      be
      > > > > explained
      > > > > > > away like some of the initial paradoxes in relativity
      > > theory.But
      > > > > if
      > > > > > > no amount of rationalization or puzzling will get rid of
      it,
      > > > > then we
      > > > > > > are unlikely to believe in its truth. That says
      something
      > > about
      > > > > us.
      > > > > > > Of course, there are people who like mystification who
      revel
      > > in
      > > > > > > contradictions and paradoxes without wanting to explain
      > > them. In
      > > > > > > fact they may see no need to explain them and
      essentially
      > > either
      > > > > > > discard reason, or in a more sinister way, use reason to
      > > defend
      > > > > the
      > > > > > > unreasonable.
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Your second point:Is reason an inherently biased
      approach
      > > > > against
      > > > > > > metaphorical expressions of truth ?
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Absolutely. Arguing by metaphor or analogy is a very
      > > insidious
      > > > > way
      > > > > > > of debate. A metaphor, to my mind, although it may be
      > > beautiful
      > > > > and
      > > > > > > poetic, and sometimes even convincing, basically is a
      way of
      > > > > begging
      > > > > > > the question.We are trying to talk about X, and a
      metaphor
      > > or
      > > > > > > analogy says, in effect: let's talk about Y. A metaphor
      is
      > > not
      > > > > > > subject to analysis, it is a conclusion or solution,
      offered
      > > > > instead
      > > > > > > of an argument. I have a friend who employs this method
      of
      > > > > argument
      > > > > > > constantly, and it's very maddening trying to argue with
      him
      > > > > because
      > > > > > > if you tear one apart, he'll retreat to another, ad
      > > > > infinitum.And
      > > > > > > while he's very clever and inventive at finding
      analogies,
      > > he
      > > > > > > manages to avoid subjecting his ideas to rational
      analysis
      > > which
      > > > > > > they would rarely (in my opinion) withstand. He just
      won't
      > > hold
      > > > > > > still long enough for the light of reason to shine in
      his
      > > murky
      > > > > > > mindset.
      > > > > > > I simply don't think there is any "truth" that cannot be
      > > > > expressed
      > > > > > > logically, and subjected to traditional logical forms.If
      it
      > > > > cannot
      > > > > > > be expressed logically, it simply isn't true. You
      cannot
      > > build
      > > > > a
      > > > > > > logical system or world view based on metaphors. They
      may be
      > > > > useful
      > > > > > > in filling gaps, but they are useful only when reason or
      > > science
      > > > > > > cannot offer a solution. Primitive peoples need to
      explain
      > > why
      > > > > the
      > > > > > > Sun comes up regularly, so they speak of Apollo in his
      > > chariot.
      > > > > But
      > > > > > > once they understand astronomy, Apollo in his chariot
      > > > > > > is no longer filling the gap in knowledge, he is, if
      taken
      > > > > > > literally, impeding it. There is no way of judging the
      truth
      > > of
      > > > > a
      > > > > > > metaphor.
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > But that pretty much sums up where religion is: It
      demands
      > > > > belief
      > > > > > > regardless of whether it is self contradictory or not,
      and
      > > tries
      > > > > to
      > > > > > > convince by means that are simply not logical, without
      > > openly
      > > > > > > admitting that it is illogical.
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > Rabagas
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > >
      > > > > > > In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse
      <no_reply@>
      > > > > wrote:
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > Rabagas,
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > I have almost always held off on commenting on your
      work
      > > > > because I
      > > > > > > > find everything you post here so smooth, logical, and
      > > > > > > comprehensive.
      > > > > > > > You must have an awesome editor, as well, because I
      can
      > > > > remember
      > > > > > > > finding nary an error of syntax, grammar, punctuation,
      > > etc.
      > > > > Not
      > > > > > > that
      > > > > > > > I'm well known for finding these contraventions of
      > > convention,
      > > > > > > however.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > But let me wade into the fray by suggesting some
      things
      > > you
      > > > > could
      > > > > > > add
      > > > > > > > to this piece. I hope this is your original work and
      not a
      > > > > > > > translation, so that potentially you could benefit
      from
      > > these
      > > > > > > suggestions.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > 1) Does contradiction really detract from the
      sacredness
      > > of
      > > > > > > texts?
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > Even today's rational ethicists have difficulty
      developing
      > > > > simple
      > > > > > > > precepts that build a system that is internally
      consistent
      > > or
      > > > > that
      > > > > > > > adheres to say the legal system or widespread majority
      > > > > opinions in
      > > > > > > > society.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > Then there is the question: is lack of contradiction a
      > > > > necessary
      > > > > > > and
      > > > > > > > sufficient characteristic of sacredness or an
      indication
      > > of
      > > > > > > whether a
      > > > > > > > text is the word of God? Atheists, at least the ones
      that
      > > > > write,
      > > > > > > tend
      > > > > > > > to be drawn to the camp of rationality, which is based
      on
      > > the
      > > > > > > precept
      > > > > > > > that contradiction is either wrong or the result of
      > > incomplete
      > > > > > > > analysis. But this does not make rationality correct
      or
      > > mean
      > > > > that
      > > > > > > it
      > > > > > > > is a good system by which to run one's life.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > If a person starts with the assumption that
      contradiction
      > > is
      > > > > > > something
      > > > > > > > to be avoided or is incorrect, is it any surprise that
      one
      > > > > rejects
      > > > > > > any
      > > > > > > > other system that accepts contradiction?
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > By the way, the practitioners of Zen believe
      > > simultaneously
      > > > > holding
      > > > > > > > contradictory thoughts is certainly a characteristic
      of a
      > > > > higher
      > > > > > > > consciousness, while these practitioners claim to be
      > > adherents
      > > > > of a
      > > > > > > > system that is not sacred or religious.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > 2) Are the literal words and directions given in
      sacred
      > > texts
      > > > > the
      > > > > > > > items to be judged, or is it the metaphors and
      allusions.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > When I read the new testament, I tend to focus on the
      > > parables
      > > > > of
      > > > > > > > Jesus. These parables purport to explain how God
      feels
      > > about
      > > > > > > humans,
      > > > > > > > how humans should feel about and approach God, and how
      > > humans
      > > > > > > should
      > > > > > > > treat other humans. The actual story in each parable
      has
      > > > > extremely
      > > > > > > > limited value or direct meaning. But the symbolism is
      far
      > > > > greater
      > > > > > > > than the sum of the parts.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > I find similar intangible impressions in other texts
      > > > > considered
      > > > > > > sacred
      > > > > > > > by adherents of other religions.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > Rationality is by definition poorly equipped to assess
      > > > > metaphors
      > > > > > > and
      > > > > > > > allusions.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > When I say to the woman I love, "I have thought of you
      > > more
      > > > > times
      > > > > > > than
      > > > > > > > there are grains of sand in the oceans." A
      rationalist
      > > would
      > > > > > > compute
      > > > > > > > a reasonable estimate of the range of the later number
      > > (using
      > > > > the
      > > > > > > > average depth of soil over bedrock, the planar area of
      the
      > > > > surface
      > > > > > > > water on the globe, the average size of sand grains,
      the
      > > > > average
      > > > > > > > density to which such grains settle, etc.), but would
      > > never
      > > > > > > understand
      > > > > > > > that this is an expression attempting to describe
      > > something
      > > > > for
      > > > > > > which
      > > > > > > > no mere definite words are adequate.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > So if atheists do not adopt rationality as a framework
      for
      > > > > > > evaluating
      > > > > > > > whether sacred texts are informed by God, then they
      have
      > > no
      > > > > basis
      > > > > > > to
      > > > > > > > accumulate evidence against the thesis that the texts
      are
      > > so
      > > > > > > informed.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > And if atheists adopt rationality as a framework for
      this
      > > > > > > evaluation,
      > > > > > > > then they by definition they have adopted a tool that
      is
      > > biased
      > > > > > > > against the metaphor and allusions that are felt my
      many
      > > > > religious
      > > > > > > > scholars to be the core message and proof of divinity
      > > within
      > > > > such
      > > > > > > texts.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > _______________________
      > > > > > > > Now let me say that I didn't post the above in order
      to
      > > get
      > > > > into a
      > > > > > > > huge, or any, debate on these message boards. I just
      > > thought
      > > > > you
      > > > > > > > might be able to add to future articles on this topic.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > Thank you for posting the thought provoking, carefully
      > > > > constructed
      > > > > > > and
      > > > > > > > well researched article.
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > albi
      > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas"
      > > > > <fratranquille@>
      > > > > > > wrote:
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > > 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. In
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > bullying."
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > France,
      > > > > > > > > Olivier Roy's Secularism Confronts Islam (Columbia
      > > > > University
      > > > > > > Press)
      > > > > > > > > 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,
      > > > > > > atheism
      > > > > > > > > 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.
      > > > > > > Yet,
      > > > > > > > > to a literary critic's eye, many of these books
      ignore,
      > > for
      > > > > the
      > > > > > > most
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > definition
      > > > > > > > > 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.
      > > > > > > Indeed,
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > first
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > study,
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > from
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > the
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > length.
      > > > > > > > > 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 73
      > > > > > > > > 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 is
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > final
      > > > > > > > > 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 of
      > > > > > > > > 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 of
      > > > > > > > > those conclusions, however, are the conclusions of
      an
      > > > > atheist.
      > > > > > > If it
      > > > > > > > > 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 be
      > > > > > > > > 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 or
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > atheists
      > > > > > > > > see sacred texts as sacred to them — to those
      believers
      > > over
      > > > > > > there —
      > > > > > > > > and behave respectfully when not provoked? It is
      simply
      > > not
      > > > > > > true, in
      > > > > > > > > a normal, etiquette-infused vision of life, that we
      > > think
      > > > > truth
      > > > > > > must
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > that
      > > > > > > > > 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,
      > > > > > > Hitchens'
      > > > > > > > > God Is Not Great. It is that believers in the God-
      given
      > > > > > > authority of
      > > > > > > > > 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-
      > > > > > > made."
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > the
      > > > > > > > > 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,
      > > > > > > what
      > > > > > > > > imbeciles command, what rogues teach, and young
      children
      > > are
      > > > > > > made to
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > and
      > > > > > > > > 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 of
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > texts
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > imitation
      > > > > > > > > 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
      > > > > > > atheist
      > > > > > > > > must attack and reject the "divine" aspect of their
      > > books,
      > > > > out
      > > > > > > of
      > > > > > > > > self-defense and because it interferes with the
      > > individual's
      > > > > > > freedom
      > > > > > > > > of conscience and behavior.
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > > Some things, after all, are sacred.
      > > > > > > > >
      > > > > > > > > Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle and
      > > > > literary
      > > > > > > critic
      > > > > > > > > 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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