Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Sacred Texts ?

Expand Messages
  • albiaicehouse
    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,
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 30 9:08 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      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
      > > >
      > >
      >
    • rabagas
      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
      Message 2 of 13 , Sep 30 5:18 PM
      • 0 Attachment
        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
        > > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • albiaicehouse
        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
        Message 3 of 13 , Oct 1, 2007
        • 0 Attachment
          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
          > > > > >
          > > > >
          > > >
          > >
          >
        • rabagas
          Dear Albi, I agree with most of your points. The difference between science and religion is that while both make statements about reality, scientific
          Message 4 of 13 , Oct 1, 2007
          • 0 Attachment
            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
            > > > > > >
            > > > > >
            > > > >
            > > >
            > >
            >
          • wings081
            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
            Message 5 of 13 , Oct 2, 2007
            • 0 Attachment
              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

              Wings




              --- 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
              >
            • albiaicehouse
              Wings, 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
              Message 6 of 13 , Oct 2, 2007
              • 0 Attachment
                Wings,

                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.

                albi

                --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "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
                >
                > Wings
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > --- 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
                > >
                >
              • albiaicehouse
                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
                Message 7 of 13 , Oct 2, 2007
                • 0 Attachment
                  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
                  > > > > > > >
                  > > > > > >
                  > > > > >
                  > > > >
                  > > >
                  > >
                  >
                • rabagas
                  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
                  Message 8 of 13 , Oct 3, 2007
                  • 0 Attachment
                    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
                    > > > > > > > >
                    > > > > > > >
                    > > > > > >
                    > > > > >
                    > > > >
                    > > >
                    > >
                    >
                  • albiaicehouse
                    Hmmmm. So the rational system of scientific analysis eventually produces results that conflict with the daily assumptions that have built up over
                    Message 9 of 13 , Oct 4, 2007
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Hmmmm.

                      So the rational system of scientific analysis eventually produces
                      results that conflict with the daily assumptions that have built up
                      over centuries...and the mind that is flexible and seemingly
                      anti-rational has the easiest time adjusting.

                      Mastering the unique views of aspects of the universe and adopting new
                      and sometimes unconventional theories should be a natural for writers.
                      That's what they explore every time they sit down to create and convey.

                      albi


                      --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas" <fratranquille@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > 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
                      > > > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > >
                      > > > > >
                      > > > >
                      > > >
                      > >
                      >
                    • rabagas
                      Hopefully, writers will step in to help these wackie scientists :) but until then, I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke s comment The universe is not only a
                      Message 10 of 13 , Oct 5, 2007
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Hopefully, writers will step in to help these wackie scientists :)
                        but until then, I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's comment
                        "The universe is not only a stranger place than man knows, it's a
                        stranger place than man can lnow." or words to that effect. And
                        Clarke was both a scientist and a sci-fi writer

                        Rabagas



                        In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, albiaicehouse <no_reply@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Hmmmm.
                        >
                        > So the rational system of scientific analysis eventually produces
                        > results that conflict with the daily assumptions that have built up
                        > over centuries...and the mind that is flexible and seemingly
                        > anti-rational has the easiest time adjusting.
                        >
                        > Mastering the unique views of aspects of the universe and adopting
                        new
                        > and sometimes unconventional theories should be a natural for
                        writers.
                        > That's what they explore every time they sit down to create and
                        convey.
                        >
                        > albi
                        >
                        >
                        > --- In ticket2write@yahoogroups.com, "rabagas" <fratranquille@>
                        wrote:
                        > >
                        > > 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
                        > > > > > > > > > >
                        > > > > > > > > >
                        > > > > > > > >
                        > > > > > > >
                        > > > > > >
                        > > > > >
                        > > > >
                        > > >
                        > >
                        >
                      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.