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Re: Sacred Texts ?

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  • 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 1 of 13 , Sep 30, 2007
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      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 2 of 13 , Oct 1, 2007
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        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 3 of 13 , Oct 1, 2007
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          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 4 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 5 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 6 of 13 , Oct 2, 2007
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                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 7 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 8 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 9 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
                      > > > > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > > >
                      > > > > > >
                      > > > > >
                      > > > >
                      > > >
                      > >
                      >
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