Reading without Interpreting?

Reading without Interpreting? July 12, 2015

Reading without interpreting

Via God of Evolution. It was shared in a post called “Two Memes About The Bible” and so you’ll need to click through it you want to find out what the second one was.

The point is an important one. If you have not “interpreted” a text, then you have not made sense of the ink on the page, or the relationship between the words. When fundamentalists claim that they don’t interpret the text, they just read it, they suggest that they haven’t thought about what it is they are doing. As usual, they pretend to respect the text, but looking closely at what they do with and to it shows otherwise.

Of course, you get more out of a text when you chew it over properly. The similarities to an apple are apparently more than one…

See also the earlier posts at God of Evolution which offer questions no young-earth creationist can answer, and on the relationship between Biblical prophecies and young-earth creationism.

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  • For me, reading the bible is a bit more like eating my grandmother’s fruitcake; there are some sweet bits, bits that get between my teeth, and the occasional unidentifiable stringy thing I have to pull out my mouth.

    • John MacDonald

      Since I’m and atheist, my grandmother looks over my shoulder and tells me what the bible means when I’m reading it – although she may be The Holy Spirit because I don’t believe in my grandmother.

      • ccws


    • Gary

      Perhaps Grandma’s string theory.

    • ccws

      Didn’t anyone ever tell you? Fruitcake isn’t a food; it’s a doorstop.

      • Oh my, the analogy with the bible just deepens …

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    You could consume an apple without chewing it if it was blended up for you first. That would just be relying on an outside source of interpretation though, without honing one’s own ability to understand things for himself.

  • I guess you can suck the water out of the apple without chewing it, but you won’t get many nutrients out of it.

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      hi e! I’ve noticed you lately around the blogs I follow. you seem to be grinding away at something. with respect I would like you to be more direct.

      • What the heck are you talking about? And can you spell better so that I can understand what you’re saying easier?

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          you are an atheist yes? with respect what motivates you to post on Christian blogs?

          • I got interested in what the Bible was about the time of the Great Recession and have learned a lot since then.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            that interests me. do you think that what the Bible is about has significance in regard to the Great Recession?

          • No, not particularly. It’s just roughly the time when I started to be interested in the Bible. I wrote Against Jebel al-Lawz throughout the course of 2010 and published it on my blog towards the end of that year. Editing it to its current state took two and a half years.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            do you have a history of contact with Christians?

          • Well, I live in the United States. Neither of my parents were Christians (though my grandmother was).

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            I’d be interested to know what your opinion of Christians is. also what blogs you like to follow on the evangelical the progressive Christian channels on patheos. to be honest I thought you were a troll. I confess I have black and white thinking regarding trolls. if you are a troll you’re a nice one! BTW I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore. i believe in Christ & have daily contacts with him. I am a survivor of alcoholism. I discovered Christ as my higher power in AA. as you may know or have heard, having a higher power is important to maintaining sobriety and serenity.

          • My opinion of Christians is that they are believers in a delusion, most of them being introduced to this delusion at birth. Religion as a whole is something clearly ridiculous, being largely (though not entirely) something which can only be introduced to a person successfully while s/he is young enough to believe in Santa Claus or in a society inundated in it, like the U.S.

            Today, Christians are not too different from atheists in their behavior, though its possible that Christianity might encourage social cooperation and coordinated volunteer work in the Second World. Many of them are leaving the Church and are eventually moving towards atheism, as church no longer provides the social structure it used to.

            An Implicit Association test (which measures cultural diffusion by testing errors one makes when reacting to images and words) I took at the Harvard site indicated mild antipathy to Buddhism, no antipathy to Judaism, clear, though not very strong, antipathy to Islam, and clear association of Christianity with good concepts. Of course, I didn’t make many errors.

            I used to follow Slacktivist, but I quit in August of 2013. I really didn’t have much in common with that crowd (I was neither a Progressive nor a Christian), so I stopped commenting on it and reading it. arcseconds can tell you the tale. I don’t think I follow any other Progressive Christian blogs on Patheos, though James told me to comment on other people’s articles when he links to them, not only here.

            As atheism correlates with intelligence both on inter-individual and international comparisons and with both income and social functionality on international comparisons, I don’t see why believing in a higher power is important for much of anything. The Soviet Union, China, Chinese immigrants, and Japan have all accomplished great feats without religion.

            I’m not usually very nice. I’m generally a happy person, though I’m rarely emotional. I tend to use reason instead of Arguments From Authority. I fear ideology as a mind-killer, though I am becoming more ideological in reaction to the continuous strides of the American and British Left. I firmly believe that those who could never contribute to society should not expect to receive its support. I think hunter-gatherer society is better than neolithic, modern Sub-Saharan African society is better than hunter-gatherer society, NE European Communism is better than modern Sub-Saharan African society, modern Russian society is better than NE European Communism, and modern First World society is better than modern Russian society.

            Alcoholism is one of the many bodily defects our genes have not yet adjusted for. I do not believe in free will. I have not had significant experience, either positive or negative, with alcohol or illegal drugs, or anyone who has abused them.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            Thanks so much for your contribution to this discussion. I would like to hear more what you think of liberals and why there so ‘bad’. I am not politically minded & haven’t a clue what you mean. ‘idealogical’ is not a term I use much nor is antipathy. ’empathy’ is a word I use a lot!
            I am disabled & getting older (just turned 64!) So some things you said were somewhat offputting. You may have noticed that quite a few contributors to these blogs have disabilities & are older. I wonder if the more frequent contributors may find comfort, entertainment, stimulation, education, as I do.

          • Liberals generally pretend the world we live in is a much more perfect version of the world we actually live in, and dealing with the discrepancies through very insensible ideas. I suspect pretty much everyone’s conception of Utopia is basically a liberal one. But there’s no way to get to Utopia. It’s not practical. Therefore, we must content ourselves with either modern Western capitalism, with all the inequality it entails, or the Strange Utopia:
            (Kind of like Soviet Communism, but with much more whining about inequality and a much, much greater degree of cultural “Marxism”).

            As my Government teacher used to say, there were two main struggles in American history: Order v. Freedom and Freedom v. Equality. I’d also add to that Order v. Equality. On Freedom v. Equality, I always choose Freedom. On Order v. Freedom I usually choose Freedom, but support some safety regulations and sporadic government intervention into infrastructure and other economic development. Also, some police and law enforcement work e.g., on child pornography. And I support eugenics, at least in principle, if not in practice. On Order v. Equality, I sometimes favor Order (e.g., on crime) but sometimes I favor equality (e.g., equitable government hiring, though I oppose going so far as Affirmative Blacktion).

            I very rarely use the word “empathy”, though I sometimes use Rawls’s Veil of Ignorance as a concept (e.g., to support eugenics).

            Being less than half your age, generally fit, and only suffering one serious leg injury as a small child (which I do not remember well), I find how you see things in your situation difficult to understand.

            On trolling, I only troll McGrath to the same or to a lesser extent as he trolls me (cf. “language of the unheard”, black-and-red scary messages, strange claims about Jesus non-historicists, liberal religion).

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            Thanks for your speedy reply! our encounter has put me through some changes. I value your opinions though I don’t quite understand how you arrived at them. I imagine that the same goes for you regarding my opinions. as they say in AA live and let live. I’m a
            uncomfortable when you talk about eugenics. is your ‘eugenics’ a kinder gentler version then the third reich’s? gotta do something about those ‘useless eaters’ Hey Hey Hey!

          • Kevin Osborne

            An interesting historical novel is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Also one of the best novels ever written, my experience.

          • What’s that about? I’ve never read it. And why is it relevant to my comment?

          • Kevin Osborne

            It is loosely about Huey Long, but takes the subject much further into how personal experience is integral to one’s life. If you read it I think you’ll see what I mean.

          • I still see that as only loosely relevant to my comment.

          • Kevin Osborne

            You comment attempts to simplify history into categories, IMO. History is intimately related to those who live it, and ATKM is one of those books that pulls one into the existence of the era, and identifies one with the questions and concerns that involved those who lived through it. If you want to understand history, identify as closely as you can with time place and event. That is what I mean.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            never read that book. I just looked it up on Wikipedia to try to get an overall idea what you’re talking about w regard to the comments & context of this discussion with E.
            I’m trying to get the big picture. e. seems like a lil’ bit of a pharaoh (one of the minor poets of the kings of Egypt) sad! )=
            I really hope he doesn’t reproduce himself!

          • Kevin Osborne

            If you read it you might feel differently. Or not.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Ah, I turn 64 this year. Thus the identification.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            not sure what you mean. like I outed myself by declaring that I’m 64?

          • Kevin Osborne

            That you identified with my posts. I had no idea of your age, I guess I think everyone is younger so am surprised at the seeming revelation.

          • Kevin Osborne

            “The Soviet Union, China, Chinese immigrants, and Japan have all accomplished great feats without religion.”

            I mean no offense, but history is not your strong subject.

          • Oh, yes it is. By Japan, I obviously mean Japan after WW II, since before this Japan was quite religious, and its feats were, economically, roughly the same as those of Italy, and, militarily, roughly the same as those of Germany. After WW II, its economic and social feats were far more significant.

          • Kevin Osborne

            My interpretation is “great feats” . The Soviet Union died a sad death 20 years ago, with most of its adherent Republics holding onto some sort of religion. The current Russia is a state owned by a confederation of the Mafia and a few billionaires where the general public is going downhill. China has suppressed relgion since 1949 but religion still has a tenacious grasp through much of the country. China’s “great feats”, meaning something other than economic growth due to an Industrial Revolution mirroring the 1800’s in England and the US, ignoring environmental issues and individual rights, are few and far between. Japan was rebuilt by the US after WW 2, grew into an economic power, and has dwindled in the past 20 years in an ongoing recession that they don’t seem to be able to solve. Whether organized religion is a good idea or not (I tend to think not) it’s presence is not predictive of good or bad conditions for the public IMO, nor of governmental equilibrium. It is just there.

          • The current Russia is a state owned by a confederation of the Mafia and a

            few billionaires where the general public is going downhill.
            -There was an oil-price fall-related recession which ended a couple months ago… oooh! That is the least scary incident of the general public going downhill in the history of Russia. In any case, before the oil-price-fall recession, Russia had a better recovery from the Great Recession than the United States and, during the World Boom, had experienced the fastest rise in living standards in the country’s history (other than maybe in the 1930s).

            “The Soviet Union died a sad death 20 years ago, with most of its adherent Republics holding onto some sort of religion.”

            -You do know how depressingly rare such advancement as the Soviet Union made is? Even though it was more than surpassed by Greece, Italy, Spain, Finland, and other comparable countries, it still made strong economic, military, and aerospace achievements in its short history. On the Soviet Union’s strong economic performance before the 1980s (when it clearly started to fall behind), see Robert Allen’s work on this.

            “China has suppressed relgion since 1949 but religion still has a tenacious grasp through much of the country.”
            -Dubious. Missionary accounts I’ve read of pre-Communist China say it was a superstitious, materialistic, and highly irreligious country.

            “China’s “great feats”, meaning something other than economic growth
            due to an Industrial Revolution mirroring the 1800’s in England and the
            -Again, do you realize just how rare this is? In only forty years, China had advanced from being poorer than India and North Korea to being richer than Tunisia, Peru, Ukraine, Indonesia, and (in a few years), Thailand. Which, between the 1970s and 1997 had been by far the fastest growing non-Four-Tiger country in Asia.

            Also, China has made leaps and bounds in its ability to innovate over the past fifteen years.

            “Japan was rebuilt by the US after WW 2, grew into an economic power, and
            has dwindled in the past 20 years in an ongoing recession that they
            don’t seem to be able to solve.”

            -No, Japan wasn’t rebuilt “by the US” (except institutionally), just like the Philippines wasn’t. It was rebuilt by the Japanese people. Yes, Japan suffered burnout and fell behind in the 1990s (though not as bad as Italy), largely owing to its aging population and continuing protectionism. But I don’t ignore great feats just because they aren’t great enough to you’re liking! There’s always something wrong with everything, as saith Cowen, and I’m the first to realize this.

            “it’s presence is not predictive of good or bad conditions for the public”
            -What do you mean by this?

    • ccws

      Heh. Don’t tell that to all those juicing fans out there… B-)

  • Andrew

    Certain types of snakes could probably swallow an apple whole…but then you’d be getting into too much Edenic symbolism.