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Tony Grist

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A Last Word On Hitchens [Jun. 19th, 2011|12:22 pm]
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I spent much of yesterday on Hitchens' website. I think he's doing important work. Someone needs to be knocking religion- and he's good at it. But only up to a point. The debate never gets much more sophisticated than "So where did Cain's wife come from, eh?"  He's a clever person of limited culture- with a layman's understanding of Victorian science- butting against positions that became untenable a hundred and fifty years ago. It's a weary old war and I withdrew from it a while ago, but I'm glad there are still people out there in the field, bashing away.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-20 09:58 pm (UTC)

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The accepted theological answer to this, in Catholicism, almost all branches of Judaism, and in almost all Protestant branches is "what kind of moron takes the stories as literal?"
[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2011-06-21 06:53 am (UTC)

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So the answer is that the bible must not take the bible literally. It is made up of STORIES.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 10:19 am (UTC)

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Correct. The stories are divinely inspired and have metaphysical truths, but are not supposed to tell stuff about the PHYSICAL world: that's what we have science for.
[User Picture]From: craftyailz
2011-06-21 11:05 am (UTC)

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the bible = fiction
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 05:22 pm (UTC)

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In a sense, yes. But no less important or worthwhile for that.
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-21 02:14 pm (UTC)

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That's not an argument anyone would have employed before the mid 19th century (or thereabouts.) It's a fall-back position. And if I want fables and fairy stories, why the Bible in particular, and not Aesop or Grimm? If the stories in the Bible are uniquely inspired, why are they so much less interesting and engaging than the Greek myths?
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 05:20 pm (UTC)

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It's been the official position of mainstream Judaism since the Greek Empire, and possibly before. Rabbi Akiva wrote extensively about it in the 1st century, as did Maimonedes in the Middle Ages.

And, for that matter, in Christianity, Thomas Aquinas.

I don't find them less interesting than the Greek myths: actually I find the Greek and Roman myths to tend to be a bit simplistic, but still worth learning from. But, obviously, that's a matter of taste, and I do know people who do draw their spirituality from the Greek/Roman, Celtic, or Germanic mythology.
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-21 09:37 am (UTC)

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But once you concede that the scripture on which your faith is based is not to be taken at face value you've pretty much sold the pass.

Cain's wife is only the start of it. The Bible is beset from beginning to end by problems of credibility, consistency, authenticity, historicity and authorship. Start doing textual analysis on it and it crumbles like meringue.

Liberal Christians (and Jews as well, I suppose) tie themselves into knots trying to explain to themselves why they should hold to a faith whose source documents are so deeply compromised.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 10:20 am (UTC)

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But once you concede that the scripture on which your faith is based is not to be taken at face value you've pretty much sold the pass.

Why?
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-21 02:04 pm (UTC)

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Once you admit doubt, it tends to grow. That's what I found anyway. You start with Cain's wife and you end up questioning everything.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 05:21 pm (UTC)

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Argument from ignorance, hunh?
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-21 06:57 pm (UTC)

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Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2011-06-21 07:13 pm (UTC)

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"I don't get how it works, therefore it doesn't."

More to the point, if you're unaware that the general religious and theological opinion is that "this stuff is CLEARLY meant to be metaphorical," then it's easy to say, "Oh, this isn't LITERAL, therefore it cannot have TRUTH in it, or any sort of reflection of a metaphysical truth."
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-21 07:36 pm (UTC)

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Oh, I'm well aware of that line of argument. It just doesn't convince me.