A hermeneutic walks into a bar …

The story is just stupid, OK?

First off, gorillas can’t talk. Duh. So, like, what? You actually believe in talking gorillas? That makes you a moron. You and everybody else who tells this story. And everybody who listens to it. You’re all morons.

Plus, do you realize how terrifying this would be? How dangerous? A gorilla could kill a room full of people by accident. Here you’ve got a huge, frightened, confused animal thrust into a strange situation it couldn’t possibly comprehend. It’s gonna be aggressive. It’s gonna be violent. It’s gonna go ape.

So do you really think the smart thing to do would be to approach the gorilla? To try to talk to it? That’s a great way to get yourself killed.

And that’s why this story isn’t just stupid, it’s also irresponsible. If anybody is stupid enough to take your stupid story seriously, they’ll get themselves killed.

And, frankly, I’d almost say they deserved it, if they’re also stupid enough to listen to stupid stories about talking gorillas. Almost, but not really, since unlike you people I don’t have an outlook shaped by cruel fantasies and ridiculous stories and I don’t really want to see anyone ripped limb-from-limb by a frantic silverback.

I mean, just, really. What are you people thinking? Hey, look, there’s a gorilla in the building — let’s go talk to it! I know — let’s give it some alcohol! What could possibly go wrong?

You people are just stupid and your stupid stories are stupid. And then you have the nerve, the arrogance, to tell me that I’m the one who doesn’t “get it”?

Yeah, well, gorillas still can’t talk. Until you “get” that, you and your stupid stories are just wasting my time.

(Walks away, muttering.)

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  • thatotherjean

    Ah, yes–literalism.  Hard to tell stories that way, even really important ones.  Snakes can’t talk, either.

  • jasonhammer

    Jackasses on the other hand…..

  • vsm

    The problem is that the most visible fans of the gorilla story swear it happened and are scouring bars trying to find samples of the animal’s fur and have elaborate theories on solving the speech question. Also, they think it was totally sweet when the gorilla killed all those people and are waiting for a repeat performance. After all that, lots of people find it difficult to approach it as anything other than a supposedly factual account.

    As for the allegorical meaning, I don’t find it all that suggestive or profound, though I’d love to be proven wrong. As far as I can tell, the message is just “play nice (or else…)”, a fairly common point in Bible stories. I can’t even really admire Noah’s devotion and goodness after that trouser snake business. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is similar, including the highly questionable ending, but I like it more because it’s less abstract about just what was so sinful about the sinners’ behavior and virtuous about Lot’s. The imagery in the Noah story is fantastic, though.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    After all that, lots of people find it difficult to approach it as anything other than a supposedly factual account.

    Sure, that makes sense.

    Some followup questions I try to ask myself in these moments:
    * Is it a difficult thing worth doing?
    * If so, how can I increase my chances of doing it successfully?
    * Am I doing those things?

  • aunursa

    If our side told it: It’s a joke.  It’s not to be taken literally.  What’s the matter … why are you guys so sensitive?

    If the other side told it: It’s outrageous! It reveals their [insert term denoting hatred of a demographic that supports our side here] !  It’s irresponsible statements like that that trigger violence!

  • Tonio

    Do any people who believe in the god of the Jewish or Christian bibles also believe that not only is the Flood an allegory and not literal history, but that also that their god would never do anything like that? That’s the stumbling block in Fred’s otherwise good satire of anti-theists. The god in the story is purported to exist in real life even though the events in the story probably never happened in real life.  Stories like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Jack 1939 only work as fiction if the title characters are consistent with the real-life ones.  The question is whether the god would have drowned the human race. Isn’t it a short step from saying that Noah and the Flood are merely allegorical constructs to saying that the god is merely one as well? And if not, then why?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Isn’t it a short step from saying that Noah and the Flood are merely allegorical constructs to saying that the god is merely one as well?

    It depends on one’s reasons for believing in the god, I suppose. But, sure… if I don’t have any reasons to believe in YHWH other than the literal truth of these Old Testament stories, and I reject the literal truth of these Old Testament stories, then I have no reason to believe in YHWH.

  • Tonio

    Well, my point has nothing to do with the reasons why some people believe in the god. Imagine I’m simply minding my own business and two strangers come up to me, one trying to convince me that a god exists and the other trying to convince me that no such being exists. The reasons they themselves hold those positions would be irrelevant, because the question there is why should I hold one position or the other.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    The reasons they themselves hold those positions would be irrelevant,
    because the question there is why should I hold one position or the
    other.

    It seems this is true only for interactions whose purpose is to convince me to hold some position. I’m not sure if you’re trying to suggest that this is the default or most common case, or merely asserting that this is the case we’re talking about.

    But either way, OK, accepting that constraint for the sake of amicability, I agree that the question is then why I should hold the position(s) in question.

    That said, when I am engaged in such interactions, “what convinced you?” is often a question I ask, and I often find it elicits accounts of evidence.

  • Tonio

    I suppose that in principle, any assertion should be treated as if one being asked to hold the position, even if that isn’t the intention of the person making the assertion. Or at a minimum, the burden of proof is on the assertion and not on anyone who questions it. Assuming Moses did indeed write the 
    Pentateuch and the named authors of the Gospels did indeed write those books, none of them are around to be asked what convinced them, so that’s different from asking someone who is making an assertion to me directly.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I suppose that in principle, any assertion should be treated as if one being asked to hold the position, even if that isn’t the intention of the person making the assertion. Or at a minimum, the burden of proof is on the assertion and not on anyone who questions it.

    I see no reason why I should treat all assertions as if
    I were being asked to hold the position, any more than I should treat all maps of an area as if I were being asked to move there.

    I agree that I’m under no obligation to hold a position if I’m not provided with compelling evidence. That doesn’t mean that other people are obligated to provide me with evidence, though.

    Unrelatedly, I agree that asking some absent third party (e.g., whoever wrote the Pentateuch or the Gospels) what convinced them of an assertion is different from asking the person in front of me what convinced them.

  • Tonio

    any more than I should treat all maps of an area as if I were being asked to move there.

    No, but a map does purport the existence of specific cities and roads and mountains, so the implicit message is that one is expected to hold that those features exist. Imagine giving Truman Burbank a completely false map of the world with continents countries that didn’t exist – he would have no way of knowing this and no reason to question the map’s accuracy.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Um… well, OK, accepting this general assertion for the sake of amicability, and leaving aside the counter-examples… what follows from this?

  • Tonio

    Yes, I should have explained what I was getting at. I’ve been told that “fact” applies only to things that can be scientifically proven, so I’ve been trying to avoid that word…

    There is either one god, many gods, or no gods, and whichever one is accurate would be the case even if there were no humans to hold beliefs about any of these.  “A single god exists” and “there are no gods” both deserve consideration as purported statements of what is, even if they’re offered as statements of belief. Questioning the statements does not mean questioning the beliefs and shouldn’t be taken that way, because the whole point is to determine what exists outside the realm of belief. What anyone might find convincing is not the same as what is, because of human biases, and this includes me as well. Something that is, may not be convincing to anyone, but that doesn’t change its existence. What someone might find convincing may not be even any of my business because that risks getting into the private realm of the person’s deepest held beliefs about himself or herself.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Thanks for the clarification.
    The only part of this I relevantly disagree with is “the whole point is to determine what exists.”
    That’s not my sole point in interacting with people.

  • Tonio

    That’s not my sole point in interacting with people.

    And I never said that it was my sole point or that it should be anyone’s. The reason to question the statements that I mentioned was in pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    OK, cool.

    So, going back to your original statement which I had trouble with:

    I suppose that in principle, any assertion should be treated as if one being asked to hold the position, even if that isn’t the intention of the person making the assertion. Or at a minimum, the burden of proof is on the assertion and not on anyone who questions it.

    If I understand that statement to implicitly be limited to contexts where what I and the person making the assertion are primarily interested in pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake… and, further, to be limited to contexts where that knowledge is about the topic of the assertion (rather than about one another)… and I further understand the statement to be consistent with the idea that outside that context no such obligation or burden of proof exists, and there’s nothing wrong with being outside of that context… then sure, I agree with this.

    I will merely add that often, when people talk to me about their religion, I understand them to be invoking a context where we are not primarily interested in pursuing knowledge about the true nature of God for knowledge’s sake, and where we therefore aren’t operating under the constraints you describe.

  • Tonio

    If I understand that statement to implicitly be limited to contexts where what I and the person making the assertion are primarily interested in pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake

    In such situations, I would be the one who seeks knowledge, and I can’t speak for the other person. Obviously people have different motives for talking to others about their religion, and often it’s not about recruitment. I’m still going to ask, even if it’s in my own head, how I would know whether or not gods exist.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    In such situations, I would be the one who seeks knowledge, and I can’t speak for the other person.

    Fair enough. I took your original statement as being about general principles of how people in general ought to approach such conversations, and responded  accordingly. If you meant it simply as a statement about how you approach such conversations, well, you are of course free to approach your conversations from whatever stance you choose, and people who don’t like it are free to avoid those conversations.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Do any people who believe in the god of the Jewish or Christian bibles also believe that not only is the Flood an allegory and not literal history, but that also that their god would never do anything like that?

    How long have you been here and you still need to ask that?

  • Tonio

    If the question was if many people here believe that, I wouldn’t have hesitated in saying yes. But this is a very unique group, and that’s no slight on Christians elsewhere.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    You asked “do any people…”

    Any includes us.

    BTW, the Christians who frequent (and write) this blog aren’t as unique as you seem. In my experience the politicised, right wing, fundamentalist, anti-intellectual Christians that people here talk about constantly are the abberant minority. The world is not the American bible belt.

  • Cor Aquilonis

    If only so many fans of the Gorilla Story weren’t insisting that the story is literally true and is also the ultimate moral guide for humanity, then I don’t think the scoffers would feel the need to scoff.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

     Right, I wouldn’t be upset unless the Gorilla Story fans weren’t trying to legislate, like, that schools teach children that the only animals that exist are gorillas & telling people if they didn’t think the Gorilla Story is the funniest joke ever than they will be tortured forever. 

    & then also deciding that the Gorilla Story meant that people who preferred cake to pie should be denied the right to eat dessert.  & that women shouldn’t be allowed to…have bodily autonomy?  Okay, I stretched the metaphor too far.

  • Makabit

    “If only so many fans of the Gorilla Story weren’t insisting that the story is literally true and is also the ultimate moral guide for humanity, then I don’t think the scoffers would feel the need to scoff.”

    And I would understand that, except that as a nonliteralist fan of the Gorilla Story–why do I have a feeling that we’re seeing the birth of a sort of religious ‘friend of Dorothy’ meme here?–I get tired of explaining that no, I am not the only Gorilla fan who takes it nonliterally, that I did not make this up, that my nonliteral interpretation is not the same as ‘knowing it’s not true’, and that there are many ancient traditions that do not take the Gorilla literally–and having them shrug and go back to ‘well, gorillas can’t talk, and besides, real fans of the Gorilla Story believe it’s literal”.

  • Cor Aquilonis

    I also think it’s interesting that the group mocked in the post is the group pointing out that the Gorilla Story is obviously not literally true, and ignores the most easily mock-able group – those that think the Gorilla Story is literally true when it’s clearly not that kind of story.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    ignores the most easily mock-able group – those that think the Gorilla
    Story is literally true when it’s clearly not that kind of story.

    Can you clarify what makes that the most easily mockable group?
    Also, are you suggesting that it would be preferable to mock them instead?

  • Tonio

    Fred and other Christian have a legitimate complaint about the assumption by many anti-theists that all Christians read the Eden and Flood and Revelation stories as history. Still, would Fred’s satire be the same if “gorillas can’t talk” with “undetectable beings with infinite power cannot exist”? Note that I’m not asserting the latter, merely suggesting that it’s reasonable to be just as skeptical of the existence of one type of being as the other.

  • Ben English

     At the risk of being dismissive, I think Fred’s made it pretty clear that regular old skeptical atheism isn’t the issue here. It’s just that some people, Internet Atheists, tend to react to Biblical narratives on the fundamentalist terms: purely literal and without any consideration of the culture in which they were composed. That’s fruitless for many reasons, but the biggest being that fundamentalism isn’t interested in a dialogue. They’re interested in a rant, a screed, or at best a soliloquy. Posting anti-fundamentalist rhetoric on the Progressive Christian channel is misguided at best and trolling at worst.

    If you want to engage with those guys, feel free. But if you want to engage with Fred Clark and other progressive Christians, then engage them on the common ground of approaching Biblical texts like rational adults.

  • Tonio

    No disagreement with most of your post. Elsewhere I’ve been called a religious apologist by such people for pointing out the existence of Christians like Fred. Was the “approaching Biblical texts like rational adults” directed at me personally, or at anyone who argues with those types of anti-theists? 

    If I understand Fred correctly from previous posts, when a story has a talking gorilla, this is an obvious tip-off that it’s a parable and not a literal history. Even with Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel where the lead character is a person who existed in real life, the vampire is the first clue that this is the historical equivalent of fan fiction. (I  mean in approach, not in quality.) But Fred doesn’t address the question whether a god in a story is a similar tip-off. Or even if we start from the assumption that a god exists in real life, the other question Fred doesn’t address is whether the god’s behavior in the story is typical of the god in real life. If true, this would mean the god hadn’t yet promised to never flood the world again, and is not just capable of killing off the entire human race but is willing to do it.

    Also, I suspect that most Americans, including most Christians, know little about the culture in which these stories were composed beyond what’s in the stories themselves. Probably many get their information about the era from DeMille’s The Ten Commandments like many in past decades got their information about the antebellum South from Gone With the Wind. Is that a fair suspicion?

  • j_anson

    Then you’ll probably really like the next post up!

  • Vermic

    I suppose one of my stumbling blocks with the Noah story is that it doesn’t feel much like a story.  The narrative starts with God declaring his intention to flood the world except for one guy and his family, and then he … does that.  And Noah isn’t a particularly interesting character, nor does he make any moral choices — most of his mentions take the form of “And then Noah did the thing that God told him to do.”  Like vsm said, the imagery is great — but the drama level is positively Jenkins-ian.

    My point is, I understand and approve of not reading Noah as a historical account, but when you take away that aspect, what’s left?  “Be righteous”?  “Do what God tells you” (which is apparently the same thing as the former)?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     So, I was going to reply to this giving the same answer I gave to a similar question on a different thread, but then I realized that you were the same user I replied to when you asked the same question there, so I don’t suppose there’s any point to repeating myself.

    What I’ll add is that if a story doesn’t speak to you, it doesn’t speak to you, and there’s not much more to be said.

    There are plenty of stories that don’t speak to me, that other people get a lot of value out of. I’ve even had some interesting conversations with people about those stories and what value they get out of them, but at the end of the day what was interesting about those conversations was what I learned about the people and what they value. The story itself continued to not speak to me.

    Which is perfectly OK.

  • Makabit

    “My point is, I understand and approve of not reading Noah as a historical account, but when you take away that aspect, what’s left? “Be righteous”? “Do what God tells you” (which is apparently the same thing as the former)?”

    How about “We’re all in the same boat?”

    ‘The fate of all that lives is in your hands?”

    “Living in a flood plain is dangerous business?”

  • http://theupsidedownworld.com/ Rebecca Trotter

    Love it!

  • Joe Bleau

    I love that joke! Don’t you? Aren’t gorilla jokes the best!

    What? You don’t find jokes about talking gorillas particularly humorous? Gee, that’s too bad. It must be just awful to be one of those poor humorless souls. Maybe you like jokes about, maybe, talking marmosets instead? No? Really? Huh. Wierd. Oh, well, to each his own, I guess.

    Hey, you over there, it’s mean to beat up that poor unfortunate soul just because they don’t particularly find talking gorilla jokes funny. It’s not their fault that they can’t tap into the spirit of the universal Justification of the Humor of Antropomorphicized Primates like we can! After all, do we blame a blind person because they can’t see? Maybe these poor people just don’t want to laugh. Yeah, I don’t get it either. But we should be tolerant, right?

    Yes, I know, they can read the famous book that explains just how funny these jokes are; but they just don’t get it — not like we do. It’s like they don’t even want to get it. The point is, don’t hate them for that. It’s more a cause for pity.

  • Joe Bleau

    Our Hermeneutic, who Art in Heaven (metaphorically speaking, anyway), Hallowed by Thy Name…

  • Magic_Cracker

    So this snake walks into a garden…

  • Wingedwyrm

    Just because a story is an alegory, doesn’t mean it’s morally acceptable.

    In terms of suspending disbelief, there is what I like to call a Clark Kent Point.  Something, usually small, where you’re not willing to suspend disbelief anymore, even though you’ve suspended it on so many bigger things.  Superman can fly?  Sure, but nobody recognizes Clark Kent because he’s not wearing glasses?

    Well, when it comes to alegories, particularly alegories that purport to represent some facet of a morally perfect or even just morally acceptable god, there is a moral Clark Kent Point to face.

    Even as an alegory of beginnings, sin, and a morally perfect God, the story of Adam and Eve is hobbled by the fact that God (unless you add things to the story that aren’t there expressly in the effort of correcting this) lied.  Even as an alegory of sibling rivaly and a morally perfect God, the story of Cain and Abel is hobbled by God’s arbitrary (again, unless you’re adding things to the story that aren’t there) preference of Abel’s offering and rejection of Cain’s.  Even as an alegory of the yearning for freedom and a morally perfect God, the story of the Isrealites’ escape from Egypt is hobbled by the fact that God submitted all of Egypt to 10 terrorist attacks even though only one Egyptian had any power, whatsoever, to do anything about the slavery.  And, yes, whatever the story of Noah and the Ark is an alegory for is hobbled when the morally perfect God kills an entire humanity worth of toddlers and infants.

  • Tonio

    Sure, but nobody recognizes Clark Kent because he’s not wearing glasses?

    I prefer to think of that as a challenge, not a problem, even while recognizing that Siegel and Schuster didn’t think through the implications of the disguise. A good writer can work with the Clark Kent point to preserve the suspension of disbelief. Jeph Loeb’s Supergirl story suggests that humans see Superman as so godlike that it wouldn’t occur to them to think that he walks among them pretending to be human. (Insert your favorite Christ allegory here.) Generally I detest the solution that most writers have used, which is Clark deliberately bumbling to throw Lois and others off the scent. But Christopher Reeve was able to make this convincing on screen. Smallville’s idea of Lois knowing Clark well before the disguise was a good one, since she was normally in the best position to see behind it, although that idea’s execution had its own flaws.

    How does this applies to your point about a morally perfect god? The Bible Story for kids claims that the god favored Abel because his lamb sacrifice shows that he understood why Jesus’ sacrifice in the future would be necessary. I don’t know if most Christian theologians agree with this, but it smells too much like a retcon to me. (Aside – as a teenager I wondered if Jewish families still sacrificed lambs in their backyards.)

  • Wingedwyrm

    You’re talking about what I put in parenthesis.  “Unless you add things to the story that aren’t there expressly for the effort of correcting [the morally problematic element]”

    Saying it’s not meant to be taken literally doesn’t eliminate the problem altogether.  So, an unspoken tradition takes place of rewriting the Bible.  The stories of the Bible are purported (yes, my word of the day) to be, in some way, shape, or form, true and representative of the actions of a morally perfect God.  But, they have to be rewritten so that they don’t accidentally tell the wrong truth…  It’s doublethink in action.

  • Tonio

    The stories of the Bible are purported (yes, my word of the day) to be, in some way, shape, or form, true and representative of the actions of a morally perfect God.

    One similarity between the Old Testament and the stories in the Greek myths is that both were very likely passed along orally by many different storytellers long before they were written down. So the versions that come down to us lack consistency. To my knowledge, the Greeks didn’t have a theology aimed at resolving the morally problematic elements, but then, they didn’t necessarily treat the Olympian gods as moral authorities. The later playwrights did criticize the Olympian gods according to ordinary standards of morality. I see the problem that you describe as really inherent in the idea of the Bible as authoritative. 

  • Wingedwyrm

    Authoritative or inherent in the idea that the Bible’s stories present an acceptable morality.

    Either way, saying that something isn’t meant to be taken literally doesn’t eliminate all the problems.  It doesn’t make God any less a liar to Adam and Eve, any less aribtrarily rejecting to Cain, any less a murderer of Egyptian children who weren’t the child of Phaeroe, etc etc etc.  Because, whatever those stories are supposed to be allegories, the allegory includes the lies, arbitrary rejections, and murders being enacted by an allegedly moreally perfect deity.  So, either the allegory has failed on the face of it or it depends upon a psychopathic sense of morality.

  • Tonio

    If one removes the assumption that such a deity does in fact exist, I think that might promote a degree of critical distance from the material. Not only to appreciate the allegorical value, but also to fairly judge the morality of the deity. The Superman of the 1950s and 1960s often treated Jimmy Olsen shabbily and even younger readers could tell that this was wrong – perhaps one reason Marvel found fans with its more human take on superpowered characters.

  • hidden_urchin

    I think it’s easier just to view God as amoral in the sense that an infinite being capable of creating the universe just isn’t going to have a human perspective or human morality.  A lot of the early stories show God as feeling threatened by people or having It’s mind changed by the arguments of people when It decides to do a little smiting which would suggest that, when it comes to people at least, It does not know everything.  It has to learn.  Learning would also explain the difference between the OT and NT gods.

    I think this interpretation is pretty much as charitable as I can get assuming there is a god and the stories in the Bible accurately point to the character of this god.  The other option is that It knows exactly what It is doing and acts anyway which makes It so reprehensible that I have to oppose It on principle.  Or assume all of the stories are wrong.

  • Tonio

    While your scenario is plausible, its flaw is that an infinite being would automatically know everything there is to know, even about humans, and wouldn’t need to learn. 

  • The_L1985

    Er, the idea of the Christian god being infinite is a new one. Remember, the early Hebrews were still henotheistic (our god is better than other people’s gods), not yet monotheistic.

  • Tonio

    Very true. My point was mostly about how Christian theology seems to retcon the Old Testament’s henotheistic elements. Hey, what if that book’s god originally existed alongside other gods and over time god had his competitors wiped out in a turf war, like the Corleones against the Tattaglias and Barzinis? 

  • The_L1985

    Darn, I misread that as “the Cardanos against Tartaglia.” I was picturing a 13th-century math turf war. “Ain’t nobody gonna solve cubic equations around here but me, capice?”

  • Tim Jewett

    It’s funny you should bring this up, Fred, as I was recently in an argument about the non-historical nature of the Bible- that it was largely a collection of pseudohistories and cultural tales, rather than an attempt to be a factual account of the history of the people and region. The distinction being I’m the atheist here and they were the christian. So there are plenty of folks insisting that the Gorilla DID talk, and he WAS in the bar, and that it’s a very serious story and we’ll be in trouble for ignoring it or treating it like some sort of humorous anecdote.

  • mud man

    I don’t know about Noah, his three sons, gopher bark, et all, exactly, but clearly in human history bad things have happened to good, or at least perfectly ordinary minding-their-own-business people, often in fearful bunches. Tsunamis, earthquakes, mudslides, wars, plagues, economic collapse, genocide. So any God that actually exists … I personally believe in one … is like that and best we had get used to the idea. The good news in the Noah story is that in the end he promised not to wipe out everybody all at once. Which if you think about it isn’t good news except for “everybody”. Are you them? Best get it together, people, just to be on the safe side. 

  • Tonio

    But the Flood story is not about bad things happening to good people, or about the apparent randomness of natural events, but about bad things happening because people disobey or displease a god. The tsunami or earthquake or mudslide is ultimately your fault individually and collectively. It seems very similar to living with a physically abusive or emotionally controlling person, especially one who is alcoholic.

  • mud man

    You totally missed my point. In many ways the world really does proceed as if it were controlled by an abusive alcoholic. In Christian terms, everyone is born subject to God’s wrath; only through grace is tolerable life possible. Even abusive alcoholics will be extravagantly generous at times, spending the rent money on somebody’s birthday present.

    If you’re not a theist today, then consider all the life that died because they weren’t lucky in their genome or their habitat. The point is still that we need to get it together to build a decent Kingdom. A new Earth, if you will excuse the phrase.

  • Tonio

    I don’t understand most of your post. I was interpreting “get it together, people” as “everyone has to obey the god or else.” And I have no clue what grace means in a Christian context, or what the point about luck is supposed to mean.

  • mud man

    “Get it together” means join hands with your neighbor … you know, feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, set the captives free.

    If you don’t understand Grace, you don’t get Christianity at all. It’s too big to go into here, but I would seriously suggest finding somebody you can talk to about it.

    “Luck” is what non-theists refer to as “random events”: what you have if you exclude God being in control. That is, all those non-selected primates didn’t die because they offended God, they just had “bad luck”. That’s a consistent attitude, but it doesn’t change the point that the best thing to do is “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Read about Prisoner’s Dilemma, Tragedy of the Commons, etc. 

  • Tonio

    Would you explain what you mean by your point about “non-selected primates”?  What I’ve been saying about the Flood story is that it seems to describe a god who humans must please at all costs if they wish to survive. One false move and they’re meat. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in a world like that. The story doesn’t mention anything about the New Testament’s laudable concept of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. The calamities you listed affect animals as well as humans, so if we accept your claim that the god of the Bible causes these as punishments on humans, there’s no good reason for animals innocent of wrongdoing to suffer and die from these as well. That’s too much like “You made me do it.” Creationists claim that meat-eating originated with sin, which just wrongly saddles humans with needless guilt whenever gazelles become lunch for hungry lions.

  • mud man

    OK. I emphatically do not claim that the God that Exists causes bad things to happen as punishments for offending him. The God of the Bible does say that, but I believe that was an interpretation made by human authors, which was a perfectly sensible thing to say at the time; and we don’t understand their situation very well, so I can’t say in detail what they were trying to get across. So let’s just put theism aside for a minute and just look at the world as it is.

    IN THE WORLD WE OBSERVE, it is just the truth that “one false move and you’re meat”. Right? Bad things DO happen to everybody? It isn’t PUNISHMENT, it’s more like CONSEQUENCES, and sometimes it’s consequences of things that you have no control over, like a bad gene or a drought year. The point about “non-selected primates” was my attempt to point out that evolution is a wasteful and cruel way of doing things. (Special Creation would be much nicer, but evidently and in my belief, that isn’t how it happened.) LOTS of primates died without issue so that you, Tonio, could have the well-oiled brain and efficient social instincts that you enjoy. Without all those deaths, without the wholesale slaughter of innocents, we wouldn’t be here doing what we do. HOWEVER sometimes consequences are about stuff people DO have control over like having wars (bad) or having doctors (good). People collectively, I mean, and what people should be doing is getting collective, not having stupid divisive arguments about shit, pardon my French.

    You are entirely right, the New Testament is not the Old Testament. That’s why people like me are Christians and not Jews. So why is the OT like that? I would say, Because, that’s the way that works. Those are the STORIES that helped the Israelites collectively stay on track. (Good stories don’t need to be “true history”.) God needed the Israelites to stay on track because that was the best way to get to Jesus. IMO, take it for what it’s worth to you. But facts on the ground, if there is a God that Exists, then he endorses/permits/tolerates that wholesale slaughter. Why? Good question that many people have addressed. My answer in short: that’s the way that gets him to where he wants to go. Wherever that is. Our job: deal with it.

    And seriously, find someone who can explain the idea of Grace to you. After that, you can decide whether you like Christianity or not. Not everybody goes for this Penal Substitutionary Atonement guff.

  • Tonio

    My argument isn’t about “bad things” that happen because of natural undirected processes. You’re right that such things are simply part of life and that generally one has no control over these. If the Flood in the Noah story were caused by a natural process, none of us would be having this conversation. 

    By attributing the Flood to a deity, the story becomes about the artificial consequences of not pleasing a powerful personality who is willing to murder when offended. Murder as opposed to death. Whether that god actually exists, no one should have to live under perpetual fear from constant surveillance and the constant threat of murder. I think it would be helpful for anyone to read the accounts of former victims of abuse to understand what it’s like to live in a home where everything centers on one individual’s emotional whims, or even see a movie like Misery.

  • mud man

    You’re right, nobody should have to live with abuse. Agree totally.

    First of all, you don’t have to suppose that the God that Exists actually did the Flood as described. It’s a story, and the people who first listened to the story were hearing about how people-like-them were saved through faith and obedience. They were no more interested in the others-that-died that a modern audience is interested in the havoc and destruction that gets wreaked in the Avengers movie. That’s a problem, both cases, because we shouldn’t sweep people getting abused under the rug, but the positive point is that despite horrific pain and violence, life can and does go on.  

     

    Joe Bleau is right in his twisted way that grace is what is offered to broken people. “We are supposed to be one way, but we are not in fact that way, and God is sad about that.” You don’t think people are supposed live in cycles of abuse, do you??? Sometimes atheists like to talk as if humans and human society were already perfected, or nearly perfect, just need a few little tweaks around the edges. As if abuse, injustice, murder hardly exist, a mere bag o’ shells. Ya think?

    People like to make stories about how things used to be swell, how people used to be “whole”. There never was such a time. Things in the Ancient Near East were tough, and they had tough stories. Things today are better, and we could have better stories, if we wanted them.

  • Tonio

    I prefer imperfect rather than broken for those reasons. Christian theology appears to start from the assumption that the broken or fallen state is our fault, even without a pseudo-literal reading of Genesis. Imperfection means that we can aspire to improve ourselves, a ideal to strive for even though we fall short. Broken implies something that you toss out because it cannot be fixed.

  • Joe Bleau

     

    It’s a story, and the people who first listened to the story were hearing about how people-like-them were saved through faith and obedience.

    Yes, but let’s be honest – it’s not just a story, is it?

    I mean, maybe for you (and certainly for me) it is, but if I’m going to identify myself as a “Christian” and have that term signify anything beyond what I myself have decided to believe completely irrespective of what anyone else who ever has called himself a Christian has ever believed – then it’s not merely a story, it’s part of a framework; at a bare minimum, it’s the plot of the play in which I find myself starring. It has to be more than just a story, because I can’t get what I really need from it if I don’t at least pretend for the sake of the story that it’s true. And while I’m doing that, I’m likely to be at loggerheads with people who are starring in a different play, and who maybe take theirs a little more seriously than I take mine.

    Sometimes atheists like to talk as if humans and human society were already perfected, or nearly
    perfect, just need a few little tweaks around the edges. As if abuse,
    injustice, murder hardly exist, a mere bag o’ shells. Ya think?

    I honestly don’t see this at all. What’s at issue is not how close we are to perfection, but whether or not such a concept even makes sense when applied to humanity, or whether it is a good or healthy way to apply such a concept to people. A perfect circle? Fine, I can define what that means and then measure it. A perfect ending to a perfect day? Sure, no one thinks that I’m really saying anything other than “I’m really happy right now”.  But a perfect human? The very idea is actually monstrous to pretty much every atheist that I’ve ever met. Speaking personally, it’s that very idea that turned me away from religion.

    Things today are better, and we could have better stories, if we wanted them.

    In this, I couldn’t possibly agree more.

  • Amaryllis

      if I’m going to identify myself as a “Christian” and have that term signify anything
    beyond what I myself have decided to believe completely irrespective of
    what anyone else who ever has called himself a Christian has ever
    believed – then it’s not merely a story, it’s part of a framework; at a bare minimum, it’s the plot of the play in which I find myself starring.

    And now I’m thinking of young Mr Mulliner talking to his landlady at the breadfast table: “Between an egg that is fried and an egg that is cremated there is a wide and substantial difference.”

    Between  the vast body of Christian  capital-T Tradition and the mean-spirited literalism of the Ken Ham types there is a wide and substantial difference.

  • AnonymousSam

    Not to willfully poke holes in your thinking, but if one accepts that evolution is what occurs over millions of years with no presiding force to hurry it along or skip hard steps for the sake of convenience, how is that more cruel and wasteful than a god who endorses/permits/tolerates wholesale slaughter because idunnoDEALWITHIT?

    It would seem more kind to your way of thinking to, instead, believe that God doesn’t endorse/permit/tolerate wholesale slaughter and these things are what occurs when humanity misinterprets the nature of God. It seemed like that was the track you were on in the first paragraph, and then you headed in the opposite direction. If you’re willing to accept God requiring the slaughter of people, I don’t see why you’d want to balk at random mischance not being the hand of God as well. That seems like an internal contradiction, and for what it’s worth, I get the sense that you’d rather have consistency in the form of a God who isn’t wanton and cruel for any purpose (whether it’s within our comprehension or not).

  • mud man

    I sure am having a hard time getting this point across. It isn’t more cruel and wasteful because it’s the same thing.  The nature of God in the end is Love, OK, but word there’s a lot of old bones in the ground.  Or, you’re right there’s a contradiction there. So Deal With It. Or not: choose a God of Pretend or a God that Exists. Special Creation plus occasional episodes of Wrath but Eschatological Assurance for All Who Believe, or a God who Created Evolution plus tried to reveal godself to a bunch of preliterate goat herders, and who is still trying to reveal godself today.

    @Joe Bleau: Yes, it’s just a story. That’s what I say, although there are people who think otherwise, and those people are part of a political problem we are having in this country at this moment in time. AS a story, it’s part of a framework, yes, so don’t ignore  how this part and all the other parts fit together. And don’t forget it’s not a PERFECT framework.

    You can go with “imperfect” as Tonio said if you like. I personally feel broken; been in a few too many fender benders on the freeway. I see a lot of stuff in me and around me that started out pretty nice but has gotten disfigured and disfunctional. Instead of focusing on “perfect” … I say that just a few tweaks around the edges aren’t going to get it, we need some pretty radical changes. Personally and socially.

    @christopher_young: I don’t know how “get it together” gets read as “throw up your hands and trust the Lord”. It means “get out there, form a community and, DEAL WITH STUFF.” 

  • AnonymousSam

    Whether or not you believe God had a hand in evolution or it was pure chance wasn’t quite my point. I was referring to this seeming contradiction within your post:

    I emphatically do not claim that the God that Exists causes bad things to happen as punishments for offending him. The God of the Bible does say that, but I believe that was an interpretation made by human authors

    But facts on the ground, if there is a God that Exists, then he endorses/permits/tolerates that wholesale slaughter.

    Assertion 1: God doesn’t just kill people  because he feels like it.
    Assertion 2: Sometimes God kills people because he feels like it.

    That appears to be a contradiction to me and not necessarily one which is required. If you’re willing to say that what’s in the Bible to explain people inexplicably dying was merely the limited understanding of BCE mankind, then why have it both ways and say that sometimes God demands that people suffer when you could just as easily say that mankind’s limited understanding of God is as such that sometimes people have been killed or suffered in the name of God whether that was his intention or not?

    You can have your cake and eat it too. You can say that there has been a presiding force watching over humanity without it having to have demanded cruel circumstances of us. I don’t think that’s requiring a decision between a pretend god or the real god, especially since you’re already straddling the line of “God intentionally causes cruelty” and “life is sometimes cruel with or without God” — just suggesting to pick one or the other, and it’s obvious which one I think is easier to bear.

  • mud man

    also @Tonio:

    I don’t believe God sometimes kills people “just for fun” and I don’t believe he does it as “punishment”. I believe he’s going somewhere with it and he’s doing what he has to do. In other words, “whether the deaths were unavoidable in the Entity’s best judgement” is actually the point, not that I would put it quite that way … I don’t thing avoiding stuff is what Christians are called to worry about. After all, the Father sent the Son to be scourged and crucified. I choose to believe that it is done FOR A PURPOSE and in the end, when I understand, I will agree that it is all worthwhile.

    IF you accept that there is a presiding force watching over humanity (which I do), then I say you MUST ACCEPT that that force acts (or fails to act) in ways that in human terms are cruel and capricious, or else deny the evidence of your senses and lots of science. Denying the evidence of your senses is in my mind putting your faith in a pretend God: craziness.

    I am also saying that TAKEN AS STORY, the STORY of the Flood has important similarities to the STORY of the Evolution of human societies. The difference being that the former is appropriate to ancient pastoralists, the latter to us scientifically literate moderns. 

    And in the end, I’m saying that SINCE we evidently can’t count on God to play nice, we had best do our best to play nice on our own. Whereas Fred’s pair of posts is a great short story about people NOT playing nice.

  • Tonio

    I would have no basis for assuming that a purpose exists or that it doesn’t. Note that I’m not equating your beliefs with assumptions. 

    If the sentient force exists as you describe, any cruelty that it chooses to cause would be needless if the force is omnipotent and omniscient, since it could easily accomplish the same goals without cruelty. It would be like a physician choosing to use a needle for a vaccination even if there was an oral version that was just as effective. That’s a big if, since many ideas about goes involve limits on their powers or perceptions. 

    Your post seems to imply that human definitions of cruelty or capriciousness are faulty and that humans should just simply trust the god to do what’s best for them. Trust is earned, not granted, and a competent adult shouldn’t have to put up with others deciding what’s best for his or her life. If I were to decide that your standards for what you consider cruelty to yourself were worthless, I would be giving myself license to treat or mistreat you however I damn well want with no regard for you as a person, and I can’t imagine you or anyone else putting up with that for long. 

    With the Flood story, the survivors would be justified in being skeptical of the god’s promises and being less than willing to trust it. If the god can’t be counted on to play nice, as you describe, then I see no basis for calling the god good. I would think that playing nice with each other is a good idea whether or not gods exist.

  • Joe Bleau

     

    IF you accept that there is a presiding force watching over humanity
    (which I do), then I say you MUST ACCEPT that that force acts (or fails
    to act) in ways that in human terms are cruel and capricious, or else
    deny the evidence of your senses and lots of science.

    It’s a pity that this thread is for all intents and purposes dead – it would have been really interesting to see if, since you have already declared yourself to be a member of Team God, your opinion of what a believer MUST ACCEPT would have drawn the same ire as my posts have…

  • Tonio

    Here’s the reason for the distinction with “cruel and wasteful” – if an event is caused by a sentient entity that is capable of moral choice, then the morality of the entity’s choice to cause the event is fair game for scrutiny. An event that results from undirected forces isn’t cruel or wasteful because those words depend on a context where other choices involve mercy or frugality, and an undirected force doesn’t have a consciousness that can make such choices. Deaths caused by undirected forces are not the same as deaths caused by sentient entities, because with the latter the entities could have made other choices. Whether the deaths were unavoidable in the entities’ best judgment is another subject.

  • Mark Z.

    What I’ve been saying about the Flood story is that it seems to describe a god who humans must please at all costs if they wish to survive.
    The Flood story really is not about obeying some divine code of behavior. God, in that story, really isn’t very concerned with how humans act. What he’s concerned about (because this is a Mesopotamian story) is the cosmic order: gods godding around above, and humans (who are “of the earth”) planting wheat and raising sheep and having sex and drinking beer down below. What makes God push the Big Red Button is that humans have been interbreeding with gods, i.e. the order has broken down.

    This is followed by the Babel story, which is the same problem, except that instead of escaping their natural earthly place by breeding demigods, they’re building a gigantic staircase, and God has renounced the Big Red Button as a solution, so he has to do something less bloody.

    After that, God’s way of relating to humanity completely changes. Following the mythic logic of the text, this makes some amount of sense: Babel makes humanity a different animal. Rather than one big family in one city with one story, there’s now a whole world of tribes and clans with their own stories. And so God can no longer relate to ‘adam as if it’s a single character–he has to get involved with specific human families. He doesn’t interbreed with them*, but it’s still a level of intimacy that I imagine would make the Flood/Babel God uncomfortable, with the appearing to Abraham and making of personal vows and such. That’s the level God operates on until somewhere around Jeremiah when he decides to throw Israel to the wolves.

    * yet

  • Wingedwyrm

    It’s worth noting that the interbreeding of angels and men is in one of the non-cannonical texts that was around but did not make it into the bible.  The timing on it is in question, it might have been written after the bible was actually compiled (which would make it evidence that fan-fiction is the chief force of a society’s literary evolution).  (By the way, I’m completely taking all this info from something I saw on The History Channel, so grains of salt freely offered.)

    But, the whole “social order” aspect does bring instead of a temper, a racist and/or classist sense to it.  It makes me think of Heaven being peopled with angels carrying signs and chanting hatefully to support laws banning the mixing of the angels and humans.

  • Mark Z.

    It’s also in the canonical text. Genesis 6:

    When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.

  • Wingedwyrm

    That was my mistake, then.

  • Tonio

    What makes God push the Big Red Button is that humans have been interbreeding with gods, i.e. the order has broken down.

    Huh? I don’t remember that at all. I just remember reading that humans had become irredeemably wicked… (consults NIV) It says nothing about such interbreeding, unless you’re talking about Genesis 6:4, which seems to be a standalone section…(consults Wikipedia) I think it’s a stretch to assume that Nephilim were gods. Demigods, maybe, but they could easily have just have been a tribe of humans. In any case, it doesn’t seem to be obvious from the Genesis text who the Nephilim were.

  • The_L1985

    Tradition and the Book of Enoch indicate that the Nephilim were a kind of angel.

  • Tonio

    Is that tradition Christian or Jewish? The book doesn’t appear in the bibles used by the vast majority of Christians and Jews in the US. That doesn’t render it invalid, but it does mean that that most casual readers of either religion’s bible won’t understand the Nephilim reference without having to look it up. Some of them might make my mistake and assume that it referred to another ethnic group in the region.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Casual readers of any religious work won’t understand a massive amount of it without having to look stuff up, at the very least. But the Nephilim being angels is one of those things that I’ve “known” forever without having a clue where I learned it. It’s like knowing a cherub is an angel.

  • Tonio

    That makes sense. I suppose the difference with the cherubs is that they’re commonly seen in religious art. 

  • Joe Bleau

     

    If you don’t understand Grace, you don’t get Christianity at all. It’s
    too big to go into here, but I would seriously suggest finding somebody
    you can talk to about it.

    Maybe I can get you started, at least. Grace is God’s way of forgiving you for
    the fact that He created you as a critter that was capable of Sin,
    after which you went ahead and chose to actualize that capability, you
    big dummy.

    Well, OK, not you, exactly, but a pair of really really distant
    relatives. But the fact that they did do that (maybe just
    metaphorically, I suppose) directly entails that present-day you is
    fundamentally a nasty and flawed bit of work that needs this
    Grace/forgiveness stuff to be made un-flawed or else, uh, well there are lots of views on this, but most entail that something
    really bad is gonna happen to you when you die, or at some point
    thereafter, and/or maybe here on earth as well. Although this also might just be a
    metaphor.

    At this point, opinions start to differ pretty drastically. Some believe
    that there’s nothing you yourself can do to achieve this Grace – God
    has already figured out who has it and who doesn’t, sucks to be you if
    you don’t. Others believe that God’s Grace is an offer that you can redeem by
    exercising your Free Will and affirming that God Exists and is totally
    in charge and completely awesome, and furthermore by allowing yourself
    to become awash in gratitude for the fact about 2000 or so years ago He
    sent down to earth a version of Himself (well, OK, it technically was
    not really a “version” of Himself exactly, but, uh, well let’s just say
    it’s complicated) so that he could get the word out about the New Rules and/or so that the Romans/Jews/Philistines could kick the
    ever-loving snot out of Him and snuff out this earthly incarnation of
    Himself for about 72 hours, give or take. Still others believe that the butt -whupping that He allowed Himself to endure was both necessary AND
    sufficient for Him to permit Himself to bestow His Grace upon you and forgive you
    for sullying His creation with your sorry existence. So it’s all good, even if you don’t believe or aren’t in fact a very nice person.

    Of course, this only scratches the surface of people’s views on Grace –
    as mud man insinuates, we couldn’t possibly treat them all, and it’s even possible that there are some on this board who have views
    somewhat different than I have represented them here.

    But there is one commonality in every single version or opinion about Christian Grace that I have ever heard, and that is that the whole shebang absolutely depends on this notion that you and I are, and have been from the very onset of our existence on this
    here Mortal Orb, inherently and fundamentally not just imperfect, not
    just flawed, but broken – we were/are supposed to be
    one way, but we are not in fact that way, and God is sad about that. Grace is the
    glue that allows Him to piece our souls back together again, to fix us, and to allow Him to consider us to be worthy of
    His Love.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    At this point, opinions start to differ pretty drastically.

    Actually, my opinion differs a bit earlier. Round about here:

    the fact that He created you as a critter that was capable of Sin, after which you went ahead and chose to actualize that capability, you big dummy.

    As mudman says, not everyone believes in Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    At this point, opinions start to differ pretty drastically.

    Actually, my opinion differs a bit earlier.

    Same here. Isn’t being told what you really believe fun?

  • Joe Bleau

     Don’t know if you are referring back to my post, but if you are, sorry, that’s crap.

    No one has told you in this thread what you or Dierd really believe. If you don’t fit in to my silly little (admittedly less than fully charitable) satire, then good on you, and I mean that. But I don’t presume to know anything about you in particular, and it’s not my problem if you saw yourself in my little story.

    In fact, I really don’t much care what anyone “believes” about God (well, to be totally accurate, I don’t believe that people really have “beliefs” at all, but rather tend to be more or less inclined to assert a given proposition at a given time – but that’s a diversion for another time). But it’s a stone cold fact that many, many people actually practice their Christianity in a way that is fully and utterly compatible with the concept of Grace that I wrote about above. You may have risen up far beyond such banalities as “Jesus died for your sins”, and John 3:16, but you have to know that that places you squarely in the minority of anyone who calls him- or herself a Christian.

  • Joshua

    You said “At this point opinions differ drastically”, after a bunch of text that made assertions. This implies that there is uniform agreement about the preceding bunch of text. It turns out there isn’t. I think that’s the problem here.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    You may have risen up far beyond such banalities as “Jesus died for your
    sins”, and John 3:16,

    Not so much. And I certainly wouldn’t classify it as “rising above” anything. I just don’t believe in a penal substitutionary atonement model of the crucifixion.

    And John 3:16 rocks.

    but you have to know that that places you squarely in the minority of anyone who calls him- or herself a Christian.

    Yeah… no. Not part of the popular notion of Christianity, maybe – but my beliefs are actually fairly common among certain strains of Protestantism. I’m not coming up with anything new.

    Just because a certain subset of Christianity is more vocal than the rest of us, doesn’t mean they’re the “majority”.

    But I don’t presume to know anything about you in particular, and it’s not my problem if you saw yourself in my little story.

    Mate, you said, and I quote, “At this point, opinions start to differ pretty drastically.” You said that after two paragraphs of supposed summary of Christian belief on grace.

    If your summary doesn’t actually fit what Christians believe about grace – but do, in fact, “differ pretty drastically” well before that point – then it’s pretty much your fault. You’re the one that’s summarising incorrectly.

  • Joe Bleau

    Mate, you said, and I quote, “At this point, opinions start to differ pretty drastically.

     
    O.K, fair point, that line is problematic. If I could edit the post, I would strike “At this point” and “start to” from the line, and re-write the beginning to remove the insinuation that it was a meant as a serious theological treatise. Actually, I thought that the whole thing was pretty obviously intended as satire, but hey, we can’t all be Jon Swift.

    OTOH, I did include the following paragraph:

    Of course, this only scratches the surface of people’s views on Grace – as
    mud man insinuates, we couldn’t possibly treat them all, and it’s even
    possible that there are some on this board who have views somewhat different than I have represented them here.

    So maybe I should have been even more obvious that I was not in fact trying represent a single unified Christian view of Grace, but rather (apparently inartfully) making a point about a very common (but not universal) Christian interpretation of the concept of Original Sin or Fallen Man. But there *were* clues…

    In all sincerity, I’d love to discuss your views w.r.t. John 3:16 and Christ as Redeemer and whether (or how) that fits with the notion of a fallen humanity that requires redemption, and thus divine grace. I’m certain that I would learn a ton, and you might even find out that I’m not quite as ignorant of modern liberal theology as you seem to take me to be. But it’s late, and that would totally derail this thread.

    Cheers.

  • EllieMurasaki

    that would totally derail this thread.

    You have no idea where you are, do you? Derail away, those of us who are interested will follow along and those who aren’t will talk around you.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Thanks for clarifying.

    And like Ellie says – feel free to derail as much as you like…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     As several others have pointed out, you have made several statements about the basics of Christianity, Christians believe X, etc. You have even made snide comments about Christians needing to believe these things if calling themselves Christians is to actually mean anything. You have done so in a condescending tone that is not conducive to a constructive conversation, only to an argument.

    Several people, Christian and non-Christian, including me, have pointed out that there are Christians to whom these sweeping statements do not apply.

    You don’t get to define what Christians do and do not believe, or whether someone qualifies as a “real Christian.”

    Ken Ham does not get to define what Christians do and do not believe, or whether someone qualifies as a “real Christian.”

    As for being squarely in the minority, I’m a Quaker, so you’re hardly telling me anything new.

  • Joe Bleau

     You are welcome, but I really must protest.

    You have even made snide comments about Christians needing to believe
    these things if calling themselves Christians is to actually mean
    anything. You have done so in a condescending tone that is not conducive
    to a constructive conversation, only to an argument.

    OK, even taking my posts as what it actually said, and not what I intended it to say, that is an exceedingly uncharitable reading of what I wrote.

    First, it is a gross mischaracterization of anything that I have written on this board to say that I have expressed or even implied an opinion as to “whether someone qualifies as a “real Christian.” ” Fact is, as I’ve expressed rather openly, few questions interest me less, and in this opinion I believe that I stand squarely in the majority of atheists, at least the ones who might just have ideas worth entertaining. As far as I’m concerned, you are a Christian if you are willing to call yourself a Christian.

    Secondly, perhaps you should check your eye for a beam, unless you think that the sarcasm in your little side conversation w. Sgt. Pepper is somehow inherently more rhetorically elevated than any mild satire that I have offered.

    More to the point, though – you are of course well within your rights to object to my tone and to characterize it as “snide” – but I think that you are flat out dead wrong if you are insinuating that the only means of discourse “conducive to a constructive conversation” is through deferential and hushed, well-mannered tones. You might prefer that type of discussion, but really it is an arbitrary provision that needs to be stipulated by all members of a discussion in order for true communication to happen.

    Why, you might ask, would anyone not prefer politeness to acrimony, sincerity to snark, kum-bay-ya to vitriol?

    Well, one might not prefer that if there were to exist a serious and abiding imbalance in what the dominant culture generally considers acceptable discourse, such that some ideas and notions are considered to be so sacrosanct and precious as to be utterly unassailable or unchallengeable, no matter how fanciful or flat-out nonsensical (or harmful) they are. For example, let’s say hypothetically that even mild and reasoned protestations about the practice of Christianity in America were to be frequently met with screams of “Angry Atheist does not appreciate Sophisticated Theology!”; in this case, then, I assume you can imagine that people holding contrary views might come to believe that the rules of genteel discourse are rather stacked against them, and try some other way to get their point across.

    Some of us don’t discount the possibility that an argument can in fact be a constructive conversation. Sometimes, in fact, that’s the only way to get there.

    In any event, I am in all sincerity willing to publicly stipulate that for now and for ever more, until such time as I am to become acquainted with the exact specifics of his beliefs and practices vis a vis Christianity, that any unkind, derogatory, or otherwise uncharitable utterance or insinuation that ever heretofore ushers forth from my lips or keyboard shall in no way be construed as referring or pertaining to Patrick McGraw and/or said his Christian beliefs.

    And I’m not even gonna ask for the same consideration in return.

    Deal?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    First, it is a gross mischaracterization of anything that I have written on this board to say that I have expressed or even implied an opinion as to “whether someone qualifies as a “real Christian.” ” Fact is, as I’ve expressed rather openly, few questions interest me less, and in this opinion I believe that I stand squarely in the majority of atheists, at least the ones who might just have ideas worth entertaining. As far as I’m concerned, you are a Christian if you are willing to call yourself a Christian.

    I was writing in reference to this:

    Yes, but let’s be honest – it’s not just a story, is it?

    I mean, maybe for you (and certainly for me) it is, but if I’m going to identify myself as a “Christian” and have that term signify anything beyond what I myself have decided to believe completely irrespective of what anyone else who ever has called himself a Christian has ever believed – then it’s not merely a story, it’s part of a framework; at a bare minimum, it’s the plot of the play in which I find myself starring. It has to be more than just a story, because I can’t get what I really need from it if I don’t at least pretend for the sake of the story that it’s true. And while I’m doing that, I’m likely to be at loggerheads with people
    who are starring in a different play, and who maybe take theirs a little more seriously than I take mine.

    Right there you’re stating a set of beliefs as being required for the term “Christian” to “signify anything beyond what I myself have decided to believe completely irrespective of what anyone else who ever has called himself a Christian has ever believed”, and guess what? What you’re describing up there? Does not describe what I believe at all.So yes, I took that as making a claim about whether I could legitimately call myself a Christian.

    Secondly, perhaps you should check your eye for a beam, unless you think
    that the sarcasm in your little side conversation w. Sgt. Pepper is
    somehow inherently more rhetorically elevated than any mild satire that I
    have offered.

    Did either of us say anything characterizing the negative behavior as being part-and-parcel of being an atheist? No, because that kind of behavior is exactly what we were sarcastically griping about.

    I think that you are flat out dead wrong if you are insinuating that the
    only means of discourse “conducive to a constructive conversation” is
    through deferential and hushed, well-mannered tones.

    I insinuated no such thing. I said that “a condescending tone” is not conductive to a constructive conversation. There’s a world of difference between not condescending to someone and using “deferential and hushed, well-mannered tones.”

    Condescension sends the clear message that you do not consider someone’s opinion worthy of consideration.

    In any event, I am in all sincerity willing to publicly stipulate
    that for now and for ever more, until such time as I am to become
    acquainted with the exact specifics of his beliefs and practices vis a vis
    Christianity, that any unkind, derogatory, or otherwise uncharitable
    utterance or insinuation that ever heretofore ushers forth from my lips
    or keyboard shall in no way be construed as referring or pertaining to
    Patrick McGraw and/or said his Christian beliefs.

    That’s just it. You aren’t acquainted with the exact specifics of my beliefs and practices vis a vis Christianity. Not those of my parents, or my local Meeting, or thousands of other Christians.

    So, in recognizing that, please avoid making statements like “Christians believe X,” because I can guarantee you that for any X you will find many Christians who instead believe Y, Z, or Q. Christians are in no way a monolithic group.

    We’re a lot like people in that way.

    And I’m not even gonna ask for the same consideration in return.

    You deserve the consideration of not having beliefs falsely ascribed to you because everyone deserves that consideration.

  • Joe Bleau

     Oh, for crying out loud, Patrick.

    Look, words do have meaning, and we have to start somewhere. So let’s back up.

    Let me ask you this: is there any import whatsoever to the term ‘Christian’ beyond the complete sum total individual “beliefs” of Every. Single. Person who has ever called him- or herself a Christian? If there isn’t, how can we even start the conversation? What sense does it even make to talk about a community of Christians?

    So, OK, fine, yeah, ya got me. I guess I do have at least one bedrock assumption about what it “means” to be a Christian, I mean beyond the fact that there really should be someone or something called “Christ” involved (please tell me you and I can at least see eye to eye on that!).

    So let’s get this out of the way, and flat-out assert what I directly and intentionally implied in what you quoted above. We’ll go with this, then, for starters, and see if it flies:

    Anyone who calls him- or herself a Christian who thinks that his/her entire spiritual framework is just a story (see, please go back and read what I wrote, ‘just’ is a really important word to understand in the specific context there that you seem to have somewhat glossed over) is using the term “Christian” in a rather perverse fashion. As a corollary, let’s go ahead and stipulate the rest of what I implied, that it’s similarly perverse to call oneself a Christian if one does not consider the framework or story of Christ to be in any way true for at least some sense of the word ‘true’ (and acknowledging that the term ‘true’ is potentially problematic and needs further elucidation).

    Does that describe you, Patrick? Do you feel that your spiritual framework, your conception of Christ, whatever that may be, is just a story? Do you really not care at all if it’s true? If so, then I sincerely apologize for offending you, but I guess if that’s the case than I do think that you are almost certainly using the term ‘Christian’ rather perversely to describe your views. If that sounds impolitic, then I’ll sincerely listen if you want to try to disabuse me of that notion.

    Beyond, that, there’s another phrase in there that you seem to have passed over in your zeal to find your name in the penumbra of what I wrote, namely:

    at a bare minimum , it’s the plot of the play in which I find myself starring

    See, I naiively thought that the phrase ‘bare minimum’ accurately conveyed the idea that I was not in fact trying to account for the sum total of all possible opinions of all possible Christians. But I was in indeed in fact implying that there is a threshold somewhere. Touche.

    So yep, again, you’re right, I did positively assert something somewhat controversial with that little riff on what mud man was saying. And you pretty much ignored all of it, didn’t even attempt to engage the content of what I wrote, and went straight into High Dudgeon mode: how DARE you tell me what it means to be a Christian!

    See what I mean about a communication disparity?

     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Let me ask you this: is there any import whatsoever to the term
    ‘Christian’ beyond the complete sum total individual “beliefs” of Every.
    Single. Person who has ever called him- or herself a Christian?

    The term “Christian” refers to anyone who identifies as such. To bring their beliefs into it will exclude some Christians.

    Anyone who calls him- or herself a Christian who thinks that his/her entire spiritual framework is just a story

    Okay, we can stop right there, because your earlier comment related to the book of Genesis, specifically the Noah narrative. And views of that book differ tremendously.

    If you’re going to talk about the “entire spiritual framework” of Christianity, then making any single claim about it is absurd.

    As a corollary, let’s go ahead and stipulate the rest of what I implied,
    that it’s similarly perverse to call oneself a Christian if one does
    not consider the framework or story of Christ to be in any way true
    for at least some sense of the word ‘true’ (and acknowledging that the
    term ‘true’ is potentially problematic and needs further elucidation).

    We’re not talking about one story, or even one book. There are those who insist that a Christian must treat every part of the Bible the same way, but that is not true of all Christians. See Fred’s post on genre and the Dewey Decimal System.

    I do not have the same view on the book of Genesis as I do on the
    Gospels. Heck, I don’t have the same view on the Gospel of Matthew as I
    do the Gospel of Mark. I don’t have the same view on some of Paul’s
    epistles as I do on others.

    Does that describe you, Patrick? Do you feel that your spiritual framework, your conception of Christ, whatever that may be, is just
    a story? Do you really not care at all if it’s true? If so, then I
    sincerely apologize for offending you, but I guess if that’s the case
    than I do think that you are almost certainly using the term ‘Christian’
    rather perversely to describe your views. If that sounds impolitic,
    then I’ll sincerely listen if you want to try to disabuse me of that
    notion.

    Given how insulting the tone is in the rest of this paragraph, I’m not inclined to believe your claim of sincerity.

    the content of what I wrote, and went straight into High Dudgeon mode: how DARE you tell me what it means to be a Christian!

    Repeating myself: You do not get to decide whether I can call myself a Christian or not. You do not get to declare that identifying myself as a Christian is “using the term ‘Christian’ rather perversely” any more than I get to declare that someone identifying as an atheist “hates God.”

    I don’t have to justify my religion to you, or to Ken Ham.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Same here. Isn’t being told what you really believe fun?

    Don’t complain, Patrick. Some Christians, particularly in America it seems, are politically powerful fundamentalists so you deserve everything that you get for belonging to the same nominal religion. How dare you be unhappy when there are other people who you vehemently oppose acting like arseholes?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Don’t complain, Patrick. Some Christians, particularly in America it seems, are politically powerful fundamentalists so you deserve everything that you get for belonging to the same nominal religion. How dare you be unhappy when there are other people who you vehemently oppose acting like arseholes?

    I know, you would think that I would have learned my lesson by now.

  • Makabit

    “But the Flood story is not about bad things happening to good people, or about the apparent randomness of natural events, but about bad things happening because people disobey or displease a god. The tsunami or earthquake or mudslide is ultimately your fault individually and collectively. It seems very similar to living with a physically abusive or emotionally controlling person, especially one who is alcoholic.”

    I see it as, in some ways, a story about God discovering an accountability to man. The pledge not to “curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood,” and never again to “destroy all living creatures, as I have done” is interesting. It’s not conditional, it’s a discovery of God’s own moral relationship to the creation, and it is also found in the parallel Gilgamesh story, where that speech is given to Ishtar.

    It becomes clear to God that things cannot be wiped clean and restarted, that humanity must follow its own path to its own morality. This isn’t a lesson permanently learned, it’s one that will be repeated in various ways through arguments with both Abraham and Moses, but it’s one that begins with a pledge not to wipe out and start again. The action of a deity coming to respect and learn from the creation. Maybe the act of a parent realizing that you can’t start over with new kids if the ones you have screw up.

  • Tonio

    The pledge not to “curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood,” 

    That pledge sounds to me like someone muttering “eat shit and die” after apologizing, or saying “I apologize if I did anything wrong.” Ultimately both the Flood and the Sacrifice of Isaac stories (a whole other topic) are about me. About how I would feel if I were living in a world controlled by someone willing to murder me if I displeased or disobeyed him. That would be worse than a world filled with indifferent mortal dangers. It’s not that the god’s pledge after the Flood is conditional, but that having to please anyone is inherently conditional. I know that the authors of these stories had far different messages in mind, and that theologies past and present also interpret them differently, but these have nothing to do with how I might react if I were in those situations. I would like to think that if I were Abraham, I would have defiantly said, “Murder me if you want, but it’s wrong for you to put me in this situation for any reason, where I have to choose between you and my son. And if I had been Noah, I might have been extremely skeptical at best about the god’s pledge.

  • Joe Bleau

     

    Best get it together, people, just to be on the safe side.

    A Pascal’s Wager sighting! Whoopie!

    I have an even better one – the Joe Bleau Gambit. See, I have it on really good authority that there is a team of elite Ninjas currently hiding out in your kitchen, right now, and they are just waiting for the right time to leap out and murder you the moment that you offend their sense of culinary righteousness. Now, you may think that this is silly, that you’ve never seen any real evidence of these Ninjas, but that’s just how Ninjas are. They’re crafty that way.

    So really, then; best not ever go back into your kitchen, just to be on the safe side.

  • mud man

    It’s a Reverse Pascal’s Wager. If you think the New Jerusalem is about to float down from the sky or the Democratic Party will win the election and fix everything, go right ahead and snark it up. OTOH the God we’ve got or none, if you look around and see what’s going on in the world, maybe it’s time to make friends with your neighbor.

  • christopher_young


    Best get it together, people, just to be on the safe side.

    May I present you with these 13 separate refutations of Pascal’s wager. Thank you.

  • Joe Bleau

    I prefer to think of that as a challenge, not a problem, even while
    recognizing that Siegel and Schuster didn’t think through the
    implications of the disguise.

    This is totally fair, but I think that the fairness rests on two pretty big assumptions:

    a) Superman is universally regarded as “mere” fiction (as opposed to supernaturally inspired literature), so it would seem perverse for anyone to take serious umbrage with your attempt to “fix” it (well, almost anyone; I’m sure that there are Superman back story originalists, but they are certainly on the fringe). They might argue with your conclusions, but not with enterprise itself.
    b) You acknowledge explicitly that the story might be fixable – that it is at least an open question as to whether or not the original authors just flat out got the part about the glasses wrong

    Seems to me that almost no modern proponent of the major Abrahamic religions really treats their texts that way. I raised in a very liberal Christian tradition (ELCA Lutheran, FWIW), and still it seems to me that the study of Biblical stories and passages was undertaken far more in the spirit of Getting It Right, and not Fixing It Up. Sure, we can’t really know the right answer, but there is no doubt that there is a right answer.

    Or to take it back to the topic of the OP, while it’s true that the liberal theist is somewhat ill-treated by grumpy atheists mumbling about the possibility of talking gorillas, there is another thread of that same critique that questions not just the possibility of talking gorillas, but the sanctity of the hermeneutic that insists that gorilla jokes are just inherently funny, of course they are, and anyone who thinks otherwise is really as far out of the mainstream as our theoretical Superman fanboi valliantly protecting the Superman back story against heretical attacks.

    As much as liberal Christians wish that atheists would directly engage “sophisticated” theology more, think that many atheists wish that liberal Christians would directly engage this critique.

  • Tonio

    it seems to me that the study of Biblical stories and passages was undertaken far more in the spirit of Getting It Right, and not Fixing It Up. Sure, we can’t really know the right answer, but there is no doubt that there is a right answer.

    Yes, that’s the core problem with treating the text as authoritative, because of the purported possible consequences of Getting It Wrong. If the need to Get It Right didn’t exist, would more people feel free to mine the stories for moral lessons instead of moral commands?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Meh, I’ll stop taking the stories literally when other people do, or when people give me a better way to distinguish the allegory from the not-allegory than their standard reason: because taking some stories literally makes people sad.

    The last line is interesting: “you and your stupid stories are just wasting my time.”. Well, yes, time is wasted when we have to deal with people who want to tell the stupid stories in public schools as Teh Absolute and Only Truth. But just talking about the stories–not really wasting my time. I think it’s interesting. So I guess it’s worth asking whose time really is being wasted. Answers vary.

    Then again, I suppose nobody ever went wrong by calling atheists arrogant and mean.

  • Hypocee

    Well, today I overslept and got nothing done, so I guess I’m unusually well-positioned to know that some days you just gotta graaaab that low-hanging fruit. Thank you for reminding us, Fred, that teenagers on the Internet can be full of themselves and aggressive in a way that makes liberal seminary graduates feel slighted.

    I’ll keep worrying about the middle-aged multimillionaires whose hundred-millionish followers politically struggle against, routinely abuse and periodically murder their children and fellow citizens because the man who can talk to the gorilla said to. And I’m confident tomorrow you will too.

    @hidden_urchin: That’s always a fun framing. I think I’ve seen good implementations from a couple of sci-fi authors, but can’t remember them. “The New Testament is basically about what happened when God got
    religion.” – Terry Pratchett

  • Morilore

    So I’m pretty sure what happened here is that Fred accidentally stumbled into reddit.com/r/atheism (there is no legitimate reason to ever click that link).  Which, if that’s true: he has my sincere condolences.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Actually, some of that seems to have stumbled onto Fred’s blog in the comments on his post about the Noah’s Ark movie.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This is an awesome post. One thing I love about it is that it can apply to all sorts of stories. Religious stories, fantasy stories (zomg don’t you know that dating a vampire is dangerous?!), romances (this is not a perfectly healthy relationship, how dare they have hot sex?!), crime stories (sitting all the suspects down in the drawing room is not proper practice!), whatever. I’ve seen people get tied in knots over how J. K. Rowling is terribly irresponsible because Hogwarts is not a safe place. 

    Stories are about people. Even stories about God are actually stories about people. Stories must be interesting, and people must be able to identify with the characters. Stories are not supposed to be a chorus of anvils. When the heroes in your story never do anything wrong, you don’t have a story, you have a sermon. 

  • Tonio

     Stories are not supposed to be a chorus of anvils.

    You mean where a high-school-aged Lois Lane says, “Give me a nerd with glasses any day”…sorry, wrong board.

  • PJ Evans

    Does the hermeneutic get bruised from waling into that bar?

  • http://www.bipolarlessons.com/ Mary

    Hmmm…I have been debating on whether I should jump into the Lion’s Den here (lol).

    Let me emphasize that my opinions are just that, opinions. I am not saying that I am right. I do however want to suggest a different way of looking at these stories.

    Here are some of my theories:

    1. Although I believe in God, I believe that the Bible stories say more about our natures than about God’s nature. (Let me make it clear right now that I do not believe in a specifically “Christian” God.) Yes the God of the O.T. is cruel, inconsistant and commands his followers to commit heinous acts against others. And yet he seems to “grow up” a bit by the time the N.T. was written. Why? Because the Bible is a record not of God’s evolution but of MANKIND’S evolution of our understanding of God and spirituallity. To put it simply: WE HAVE CREATED GOD IN OUR IMAGE not the other way around. (I am not yelling just using caps for emphasis). Essentially the Bible was written by flawed people who had a flawed understanding of God. Some of these people had good intentions, some did not. Many I believe used their misunderstanding of God to further their own selfish political objectives. Those who say that the Bible is God’s Word and perfect in every way ignore the fact that the Bible is not consistent in it’s theology and never was.

    2.As far as looking at many of these stories as allegories we still run into the problem of interpretation. As someone here pointed out, even though the flood story is not literally true it still doesn’t paint God in a good light. On the service it seems to just be a story intended to scare people into following God’s laws. It’s like telling children that Santa won’t bring them presents unless they tow the line. It defininately isn’t very theologically satisfying  especially considering the fact that at least with Santa the penalty isn’t eternal damnation. In fact if we treated our children like God did with his “children” then we would certainly be in prison for the rest of our lives!

    3. I propose a different theory that is based on the study of mythology. The term “myth” has gotten a bad rap as meaning that something is not true. The correct definition is that it is not true on the surface, but the story itself contains hidden truths. However in order to understand them you have to throw out ALL OF YOUR PREVIOUS CONCEPTIONS about it.

    What I have been reading here has simply been variations on the same theme. Rationalizations such as well the story may not be literally true but it still says the same thing about God as if it were true doesn’t make any more sense than if all of it were true.

    I am not schooled in the interpretation of mythology but I find the theories of  Carl Jung and Joseph Campell very intriging. What they say is that dreams and mythology spring from the unconscious mind and should be interpreted as a personal psychological process. Mythology is considered to be an extention of the collective unconscious of a society.

    This makes sense to me from the standpoint that no matter what creed you belong to, THE ONLY WAY TO EXPERIENCE GOD IS FROM WITHIN.

    I want to make clear that I welcome input but that I am well aware that I am not a scholar and so I may be wrong in some of what I have said. So please do not attack me because all I want is to spark some intellectual thought about this. 

  • guest

    Noah gets some help in the York Plays:

    Nooe, as I byd the, doo fulfill:

    A shippe I will haue wroght in hye;

    All-yf thou can litill skyll,

    Take it in hande, for helpe sall I.
     

  • The_L1985

     I’m guessing 15th-century English, there?

  • guest

    15th century YORKSHIRE :).

  • Joe Bleau

    Did either of us say anything characterizing the negative behavior as
    being part-and-parcel of being an atheist? No, because that kind of
    behavior is exactly what we were sarcastically griping about.

    I really don’t understand the relevance of this at all. The part-and-parcel thing seems to be your area of sensitivity, not mine (when someone tells me, say, that being and atheist means that I “hate God” or some such nonsense, I’m more likely to simply tell that person that neither I nor hardly any atheist actually believes this – why hate that which you don’t even believe?. It just doesn’t bother me all that much if someone’s conception of what atheism is or “means” doesn’t comport with mine).

    Subject matter aside, I really sounds to me like what you are saying here is sarcasm for me, but not for thee.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    I really don’t understand the relevance of this at all. The
    part-and-parcel thing seems to be your area of sensitivity, not mine
    (when someone tells me, say, that being and atheist means that I “hate
    God” or some such nonsense, I’m more likely to simply tell that person
    that neither I nor hardly any atheist actually believes this – why hate
    that which you don’t even believe?. It just doesn’t bother me all that
    much if someone’s conception of what atheism is or “means” doesn’t
    comport with mine).

    The fact that something does not bother you does not mean that no one else should be bothered by it, or find it hurtful. I am bloody sick of being lectured on my religious beliefs by others.

    Just as you do not get to decide what my religious beliefs are, you do not get to decide whether I am allowed to be hurt by people doing just that.

  • Mary Rogers

    I agree with you on this. I am not clear on exactly what you do believe (having never met a Quaker before) but I believe that no one can possibly define a person’s relationship with God. It isn’t based on dogma, it is based on the state of one’s heart. I tend to judge people more on their actions. Do they practice the love that Jesus taught? That is the only thing that truly matters.

    A lot of people seem to think that in order to be a Christian you have to agree 100 % with the Bible. The problem with that is that the Bible does not have a consistent ideology. It changes over time, plus it was written by many different authors over hundreds of years. And then the Catholic church finally decided which writings were “scripture” and which were not.

    Not even the self-proclaimed “fundamentalists” practice or believe everything in the Bible so in my book they are hypocrites to the extreme. They seem to be more interested in dividing the church rather than uniting it. Which is why we have thousands of different denonimations, each saying that they are the only ones that understand “The Truth.” Please, this is just human hubris at its worst. It has nothing to do with God at all.

    My church is in my soul, where it belongs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    I agree with you on this. I am not clear on exactly what you do believe
    (having never met a Quaker before)

    Quakers have no creed by deliberate choice, and about the only thing you can be sure any two Quakers agree on is that Jesus was really great. So I’m not very representative of the Religious Society of Friends any more than any other Quaker.

  • Joe Bleau

     Yes, we certainly are done. You seem like an intelligent person who writes reasonably well, but your posts keep veering farther and farther away from what I’m actually saying – I can only assume that you are either not a very careful reader, or that you are so infuriated by what you feel is an insulting tone and this particular subject matter that you are incapable of offering even a pretense of a thoughtful or charitable reading to anything with my ‘nymn on it.

    Not once have I lectured you about your religious beliefs, nor made any insinuation whatsoever about what your religious beliefs are or should be. Not once.

    Not once have I told you what you should find hurtful or not. Not once.

    All I have done is asserted my opinion that if the term ‘Christian’ has any meaning at all, there must be something to signify what that term denotes. Because that’s what meaning means.

    I would never dream of impinging on your right to call yourself a Christian. You can call yourself anything you like. Call yourself a turnip for all I care.

    And if you do, and if you yet steadfastly refuse to engage in a substantive conversation about what you mean by calling yourself a turnip, and instead declare the entire subject matter completely off limits and any angrily insist that any discussion at all of what it means to be a human/turnip is dreadfully insulting and utterly beyond to pale; then that’s too bad, because that sounds like an interesting conversation that could lead me to find a new appreciation for the idea of turnips qua humans.

    Good day, sir.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not once have I lectured you about your religious beliefs, nor made
    any insinuation whatsoever about what your religious beliefs are or
    should be. Not once.
    Not once have I told you what you should find hurtful or not. Not once.

    No, you just don’t think you have.

  • Joe Bleau

     Kindly cite your examples, please.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The bit where you took it upon yourself to explain what Christians think ‘grace’ means and several of our number pointed out that you’re wrong, for starters.

  • Joe Bleau

     As I have already pointed out, that was not at all intended to explain what *all* Christians think ‘grace’ means, merely *some* Christians. Patrick himself acknowledged this.

    Given this explanation, it is utterly uncharitable for anyone to continue to believe that it was intended to explain what *Patrick*  thinks Grace means.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, fair enough, I hadn’t seen Patrick’s edit to that effect, Disqus doesn’t seem to think people who subscribe to comment threads need to see edits. Or formatting.  For other examples, how about you go back and reread every one of Patrick’s comments since the one he put that edit in, as you seem to be missing his point.

  • Joe Bleau

     No, I’m not missing his point, I’m pretty sure that I understand exactly what he is saying, and what the nature of our disagreement is. Most of it boils down to these three points:

    1) He thinks that when I originally replied to mud man, I was referring specifically to the Genesis accounts of the Flood when I was talking about a putative Christian “framework”. This is false, and I think that a reasonably careful and/or charitable reading of what I have subsequently written ought to have made that pretty clear.

    2) He seems to think that when I told him that I’m not particularly bothered by people who try to tell me what atheism is, I was also saying that he should not be bothered by people telling his what Christianity is. This is false, and I think that a reasonably careful and/or charitable reading of what I actually was responding to there ought to have made that rather abundantly clear (it’s actually pretty rich – I had implied that his lecturing me on tone was a tad hypocritical since he himself had engaged in some sarcastic snark at my expense, and he fired back a post that for all the world seems to imply that sarcasm is AOK as long as it’s stuff that he is sensitive to. That’s the only reason that I responded that what bothers me isn’t necessarily what bothers him. Instead, he lectures me about not appreciating that not everyone is bothered by the same things!).

    3) He  hates the way that I write, and it causes him to ignore substantive points and reject expressions of conciliation that I mean in all sincerity. He will, of course, blame this on me,; he seems to have decided early on that I’m an asshole and not worth really engaging with. I, of course, find it frustrating and unacceptable that he seems to want to place entire important and substantial topics of discourse completely off-limits, and I suspect that he has several times used the manner in which I expressed something as an excuse to avoid engaging with the content of what I wrote.

    Now, back to the matter at hand:

    You flat-out accused me of either having “lectured [him] about [his] religious beliefs, [or] made any insinuation
    whatsoever about what [his] religious beliefs are or should be.”, and/or  “told [him] what [he] should find hurtful or not.” I asked you to cite examples.

    It’s pretty weak sauce to follow that up with “go back and read what he wrote”. In this case, it only seems fair that the burden of proof is on the accuser.

  • Mary

    @ Joe: If you can’t figure out that you have been saying offensive things then why should anybody HAVE to point it out to you! The truth is that people have been telling you but you choose to ignore them.

    I doubt I will get through but I will TRY to explain it to you as others have.

    Calling Patrick’s belief system “perverse” is insulting. Just because you don’t agree with his definition of what a Christian believes does not give you the right to be abusive.

    I will give you an example of what you sound like and compare it with what a fundamentalist sounds like:

    Fundamentalist: Unless you believe XY and Z you cannot call yourself a Christian.

    Joe The Athiest: Unless you believe XY and Z you cannot call yourself a Christian.

    The only difference I see between the two is that you do not believe in God whereas fundamentalists feel that they have a monopoly on God. Both your position and the fundamentalist positions represent a rigid intolerance to others.

    Now if you did not mean to convey such a negative position then that is your own fault for not making it clear to others.

  • Mary

    @Joe: I need to correct something I said. I implied that I have a problem with you being an atheist. What I meant to say was that I have some problems with your views on what constitutes a Christian position.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Okay, so can someone explain to me just exactly how much you can strip away from Christianity before calling oneself a Christian amounts to just slapping a belief-name on oneself with no substantive actual belief or backing?

    The boundary seems kind of fuzzy, but good grief, surely one basic component has to be belief that Jesus Christ was in some way kind of important, yes?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Okay,
    so can someone explain to me just exactly how much you can strip away
    from Christianity before calling oneself a Christian amounts to just
    slapping a belief-name on oneself with no substantive actual belief or
    backing?

    The boundary seems kind of fuzzy, but good grief, surely one basic
    component has to be belief that Jesus Christ was in some way kind of
    important, yes?

    It’s very problematic, because any definition beyond “self-identifies as a Christian” will exclude people who do. And I think that dictating to people how they can or cannot define themselves is a hateful, dehumanizing act. The fact that many people who identify as Christians do just that does not make it moral to do it back to them.

  • Mary

    @Neutrino: I think that most people who call themselves Christian do believe in Jesus. That is a given. I think the issue is HOW to interpret Jesus and his message.

  • PJ Evans

     Some of them say they believe in Jesus, but their actions and their other words say otherwise: they’re more interested in Mammon.

  • Mary

    I agree with that. The litmus test is “ye shall know them by their fruits.”


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