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Who was Abraham that religions get named after him?


Robittybob1
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@dimreapr: It seems that you are saying that the prophets of the various scriptures most likely were atheists and just claimed to speak with God etc., in order to pacify and spritualize the masses. That seems rather far-fetched to me, unless you are being flippant, which, either way, clarifies nothing.

 

For starters, we cannot assume that these prophets, etc. were actual people. I have been suggesting that the question as to whether or not they existed is not so important as the question as to whether they performed miracles (or heard the voice of a real God). Even if they existed, but did not perform miracles, then why di the various people who wrote about these prophets claim that they did (e.g., part the Red Sea, come out alive from a fire or a whale, bring a dead person back to life, etc.).

 

In any case, the important thing to remember is that even if Abraham actually existed and was not just a literary creation, we cannot assume that, therefore, it is true that God actually spoke to him or that he could actually perform miracles.

 

It seems unlikely that the people who actually wrote the Bible (e.g., Church Fathers) were atheists, and unlikely that they consciously made up the stories to discipline the masses, or to get them to obey the Church officials, or to justify taking over large areas of land from other people, or to get them to donate money to the church (e.g., via injunctions), etc., even if we assume that the the Church Fathers (monks, scribes, or whatever) knew that they were adding various miracles to stories that were in circulation at the time, e.g., they added the part about Abraham's dialogue with God to the story of an actual historical man named Abraham who almost sacrificed his son, but then decided against it.

 

How are you arriving at this conclusion? You concede that what was written may simple not be true and the characters fictional yet insist it is unlikely the people who wrote it were atheist. L Ron Hubbard started a religion; do you think he was an atheist? The motives to start a religion as a means of influence and control are very obvious and many have attempted it. I reference Scienctology because it is the newest religion on the block and history hasn't had time to rewrite it. Why should I assume any realigon that exists today was more sincerely created than Scienctology?

Edited by Ten oz
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Ten Oz:

No, I don't think that all or even most of them were literally and consciously atheists, per se, nor do I think, on the other hand, that all of them were devout theists who believed every word they wrote. I suspect that, for the most part, it was unthinkable for the vast majority of people in the Western world and the Levant before perhaps that latter part of the 19th c. that anyone could be an atheist without being insane or possessed. Indeed, Nietzsche is sometimes credited with being the first to even conceptualize and formalize the concept of atheism as a worldview.

Similarly, Jung, Campbell, and Comte, among others, I think would agree that prior to the Enlightenment, people thought more in terms of theology and metaphysics (including myth and superstition), so that a world or worldview that did not include demons, gods, ghosts, devils, sprites, and/or angels (etc.) was virtually unthinkable.

When we look at major monotheistic religions, we see oral and written stories passed down, collated, rewritten, amended, etc. Jewish scholars, for example, debated the fine points of scripture for centuries, so I think that exaggerations, such as miracles, evolve gradually in a rather institutionalized manner, much like a story gets distorted and exaggerated through gossip.

As for individual “upstarts, one must take it on a case by case basis: Did the heavens really open up to inspire Hiram Edson to inform him about the coming of the "High Priest"? Did Joseph Smith really have visions that he interpreted as being ones in which God and Jesus told him where he could find golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history? Did Jim Jones, master of control, really believe that he was the reincarnation of Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha and Lenin (and that it was somehow religiously necessary as a sign of loyalty, among other things, for over 900 people to commit suicide)? Who knows? But I tend to think that cult leaders are more likely to consciously lie or distort the truth, though even then, I suspect that they come to believe their own exaggerations and become victims of their own deception, much like a fisherman eventually believes his own tale that the fish that got away was three feet long.

Of course, many religious leaders and scriptural writers get benefits from preaching what they do, but that does not mean that they are all charlatans.

The courts system refuses to speculate too much about what people really think “given the mysteries, uncertainties, and doubts, in this regard,” and though it tends to lend more credulity to mainstream religions involving “Christians, Jews, and Muslims” than to lesser known cult figures, it must, in fairness, presume that all who claim to originate or embrace lesser known religious beliefs and practices are sincere, for, in the eyes of the law, the risk of condoning “charlatanism is a necessary price of religious freedom.”
pp 197, 198 of The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion, and the Constitution by Paul Horwitz.

So no, I don’t think that the majority of those who had a hand in writing the scriptures of the major monotheistic religions consciously and consistently told lies (for whatever reason), but rather they were a product of the religious fervor of their culture and times, igniting the raw material of time-honored stories with the spark of their imaginations, born of a universal desire to believe. Nevertheless, getting back to the Abrahamic tradition, the objective-minded anthropologist would do well to take such tales as Lot's wife being struck by the wrath of God for glancing back at 'sin city' with a grain of salt, even though, one can see to this very day a pillar of salt named "Lot's wife" located in Marsden Bay near the Dead Sea.

Edited by disarray
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Dimreepr:

On the one hand you seem to be saying that we have even more reason to think that "miracles" we read about are just examples of "exaggeration, misdirection or just plain dishonesty" as if you disapprove. Then, on the other hand, you seem to be irrelevantly suggesting that it is sometimes best to tell people things that aren't true in order to make them happier. Perhaps you could give me a few examples as to the value of the sort of "exaggeration, misdirection, or just plain dishonesty" that you claim makes people so happy. Are you referring to such claims as the following that various people have made and that directly or indirectly relate to the Abrahamic tradition:

  • People will go to hell and suffer everlasting pain or some other such discomfort if they don't believe in certain miraculous things
  • People don't deserve to live if they don't believe in the same miraculous things as another group and refuse to convert
  • Santa will miraculously bring you presents as he flies through the air in a sleigh drawn by reindeer if you behave
  • You should thrust a knife into your son if, by some miraculous twist of logic, your God miraculously tells you to
  • You should enter Canaan and slaughter people who have already settled there if your God miraculously says you are the chosen people to whom he gives this land
  • You should believe that you are born a sinner because your earliest ancestors ate from an apple that miraculously gave them knowledge of good and evil, etc.,

 

 

The word gay means two different things and fashioned a new word in less than a century, how many meanings and new words would it create in a century of centuries?

 

No two languages can be ‘perfectly’ translated because of cultural influence, making all language local, however small the influence; meaning the translator will guess.

 

Both language and culture evolve (in a non linear manner) a further barrier to understanding and since the details of history is in the words... Now do you see why the truth remains and the details lost?

Let me hammer that home; however unique we think we are, we are human, much like all dogs are different/unique but they still do it doggy style.

 

Ten Oz:

No, I don't think that all or even most of them were literally and consciously atheists, per se, nor do I think, on the other hand, that all of them were devout theists who believed every word they wrote. I suspect that, for the most part, it was unthinkable for the vast majority of people in the Western world and the Levant before perhaps that latter part of the 19th c. that anyone could be an atheist without being insane or possessed. Indeed, Nietzsche is sometimes credited with being the first to even conceptualize and formalize the concept of atheism as a worldview.

 

Similarly, Jung, Campbell, and Comte, among others, I think would agree that prior to the Enlightenment, people thought more in terms of theology and metaphysics (including myth and superstition), so that a world or worldview that did not include demons, gods, ghosts, devils, sprites, and/or angels (etc.) was virtually unthinkable.

 

When we look at major monotheistic religions, we see oral and written stories passed down, collated, rewritten, amended, etc. Jewish scholars, for example, debated the fine points of scripture for centuries, so I think that exaggerations, such as miracles, evolve gradually in a rather institutionalized manner, much like a story gets distorted and exaggerated through gossip.

 

As for individual “upstarts, one must take it on a case by case basis: Did the heavens really open up to inspire Hiram Edson to inform him about the coming of the "High Priest"? Did Joseph Smith really have visions that he interpreted as being ones in which God and Jesus told him where he could find golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history? Did Jim Jones, master of control, really believe that he was the reincarnation of Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha and Lenin (and that it was somehow religiously necessary as a sign of loyalty, among other things, for over 900 people to commit suicide)? Who knows? But I tend to think that cult leaders are more likely to consciously lie or distort the truth, though even then, I suspect that they come to believe their own exaggerations and become victims of their own deception, much like a fisherman eventually believes his own tale that the fish that got away was three feet long.

 

Of course, many religious leaders and scriptural writers get benefits from preaching what they do, but that does not mean that they are all charlatans.

 

The courts system refuses to speculate too much about what people really think “given the mysteries, uncertainties, and doubts, in this regard,” and though it tends to lend more credulity to mainstream religions involving “Christians, Jews, and Muslims” than to lesser known cult figures, it must, in fairness, presume that all who claim to originate or embrace lesser known religious beliefs and practices are sincere, for, in the eyes of the law, the risk of condoning “charlatanism is a necessary price of religious freedom.”

pp 197, 198 of The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion, and the Constitution by Paul Horwitz.

 

So no, I don’t think that the majority of those who had a hand in writing the scriptures of the major monotheistic religions consciously and consistently told lies (for whatever reason), but rather they were a product of the religious fervor of their culture and times, igniting the raw material of time-honored stories with the spark of their imaginations, born of a universal desire to believe. Nevertheless, getting back to the Abrahamic tradition, the objective-minded anthropologist would do well to take such tales as Lot's wife being struck by the wrath of God for glancing back at 'sin city' with a grain of salt, even though, one can see to this very day a pillar of salt named "Lot's wife" located in Marsden Bay near the Dead Sea.

 

 

 

 

Knowing all the words isn't a magic key that opens the door; understanding is the PhD of knowledge; you can't tell someone to understanding but you can lead them to it.

Edited by dimreepr
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...You should believe that you are born a sinner because your earliest ancestors ate from an apple that miraculously gave them knowledge of good and evil, etc.,

 

If i understand dimreepr correctly i agree with him.

 

Taking the example of original sin: the biblical story does not mention what type of fruit was eaten from the forbidden tree, but it has become the apple through the ages. The change in detail makes no real difference to the story. The important point is that some of our ancestors realised that it was knowledge that allowed humans to become moral beings (to know good and evil). Generalising further the actual 'facts' of the story make no difference. It doesn't matter if the story actually happened, it matters only that the story is a fundamental part of our culture. That cannot change (though it could be forgotten). The 'truth' of the story is something dynamic that each generation re-interprets.

 

Of course this isn't 'truth' in the way most people would define it - but the important point is that there is some core to the story our ancestors would recognise and through which we can relate to them.

 

In my opinion the real crime committed by most religions is in not allowing this process of reinterpretation thus stopping the possibility of the spiritual progression of humanity: so we are supposed to forever think it was a bad thing to possess knowledge of good and evil, whereas we could reinterpret the story in a positive light.

 

Then again, maybe i've just totally misunderstood what dimreepr was getting at.

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If i understand dimreepr correctly i agree with him.

 

Taking the example of original sin: the biblical story does not mention what type of fruit was eaten from the forbidden tree, but it has become the apple through the ages. The change in detail makes no real difference to the story. The important point is that some of our ancestors realised that it was knowledge that allowed humans to become moral beings (to know good and evil). Generalising further the actual 'facts' of the story make no difference. It doesn't matter if the story actually happened, it matters only that the story is a fundamental part of our culture. That cannot change (though it could be forgotten). The 'truth' of the story is something dynamic that each generation re-interprets.

 

Of course this isn't 'truth' in the way most people would define it - but the important point is that there is some core to the story our ancestors would recognise and through which we can relate to them.

 

In my opinion the real crime committed by most religions is in not allowing this process of reinterpretation thus stopping the possibility of the spiritual progression of humanity: so we are supposed to forever think it was a bad thing to possess knowledge of good and evil, whereas we could reinterpret the story in a positive light.

 

Then again, maybe i've just totally misunderstood what dimreepr was getting at.

 

 

 

Nicely nailed. +1

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Nicely nailed. +1

 

I'm glad i understood. I find it a really tricky concept to communicate: to a scientifically literate crowd you can end up sounding like a nutbag, and to a religious/spiritual crowd they can end up taking you way too literally.

 

 

 

 

 

In my opinion the real crime committed by most religions...

 

I should say, that is in addition to the actual crimes committed by religions (murder and rape and what not...).

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Religions didn't do it, people did.

 

True enough. But if we can accept institutions can be racist or sexist (and i don't think that's a contentious claim?), then we should acknowledge that religious institutions can have equally pernicious traits.

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True enough. But if we can accept institutions can be racist or sexist (and i don't think that's a contentious claim?), then we should acknowledge that religious institutions can have equally pernicious traits.

 

 

I think those traits are far more likely when knowledge pretends to understand.

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@ dissary, you say a cult leader is more likely to lie but what is the difference between a cult leader and a major religion founder other than how popular their movement becomes? Christianity didn't start to formalize until about 50yrs after Jesus was said to have been executed and was initially viewed as cultish. I don't see the delineation between L Ron Hubert, Joseph Smith, and Paul.

 

Of course people were more supertitious thousands of years ago. I think, ironically, many athiests are probably still a little superstitious today. People living in a world where ghosts, monsters, and etc were suspected to be real doesn't mean that those who founded various religions weren't bold face liars. Move over I would contend that most people who proclaim to have faith or are superstitious engaged in some self-delusion. For example people claim to believe in god, claim to believe it watches over everthing, claim to believe in an afterlife, and etc yet behavior tells a different story. If they (religious) believe god is literally watching why do the overwhelming majority still lie, cheat, steal, and etc? If they believe as claimed god has a plan why wear a seat belt, worry about security at airports, and etc? Supertition is a convoluted thing that is both believed and not believed at the sametime. A cleaer example are children; they may say there is a monster under the bed or in the closet but in truth if they ever actually saw a monster or even just a strange man under their bed they would be tramitized for life. Push comes to shove we all know the difference between what is real and what isn't.

 

I see no reason the assume Paul or any other narrator of any major religion were true believers or even partial believers. I know that what they claim are often contradictory, historically inaccurate, and fully of unsubstantiated claims. Why assume their motives benevolent?

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Why not?

 

 

Edit/ sorry 'Ten oz' force of habit... But still... a good question.

Why not; we don't have enough information to make an informed assumption about their motives. We often don't even know for sure how how much of the writings attributed to them was actually written by them. Determining a motive is a leap of faith. Determining a benevolent motive, considering the history of violence and oppression linked to religion, a blind leap of faith.

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Why not; we don't have enough information to make an informed assumption about their motives. We often don't even know for sure how how much of the writings attributed to them was actually written by them. Determining a motive is a leap of faith. Determining a benevolent motive, considering the history of violence and oppression linked to religion, a blind leap of faith.

Well it appears to have paid off for the descendents of Abraham for they can now claim ancestral ownership of that piece of dirt.

I'm trying to understand why more nations haven't done a similar thing?

It is also interesting that Haran is close to Gobekli Tepe. Googled Gobekli tepe and Haran:

 

Another piece of evidence that we uncovered—the once-fertile plain to the south of Göbekli Tepe is the site of the biblical Haran, a mere 25 miles away. This is where Abraham lived for several years during his family’s migration from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan. It is where Terah settled and died, and from whence Isaac and Jacob both obtained their wives.

Was there a connection?

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Well it appears to have paid off for the descendents of Abraham for they can now claim ancestral ownership of that piece of dirt.

I'm trying to understand why more nations haven't done a similar thing?

Some have tried in their own way. In my opinion life is for the living. I think we (society) spend way to much time concerning ourselves with the dead.

 

Abrahamic religions are competitive and cruel (in my opinion) compared to many other religions. So it makes sense they'd claim dominance over land, people, and the afterlife.

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Dimreepr: Obviously, there are going to be conflicting scriptural details between various religions, or details that get lost in the translation (as, I think, you unnecessarily point out). But you still have not clarified exactly what it is that you consider to be the nuggets of truth that we can all take away from all these scriptures.

 

Similarly your comment that “you can't tell someone to understanding but you can lead them to it” really has no content that I can reply to.

Even your clincher statement about dogs is impertinent and vague. I would suggest that you can’t nail a point home if you haven’t made it in the first place!

Indeed, when I read your last post, I am unable to determine just what point you were trying to make other than that you apparently disagreed with me.

 

Prometheus: Your most telling phrase in your last post was, “If I understand dimreepr correctly…” I too, can only guess. Well, at least you gave an example of what you meant so let me respond: I agree that, whether it is an apple or whatever doesn’t really matter and might be considered a detail, but even your going further and stating that the fruit represents knowledge of good and evil (as if that were a nugget) doesn’t tell me much either...it seems the details are just as controversial and open to interpretation as the alleged nuggets.

 

One religious site, for example, says that the knowledge of good and evil isn’t the issue so much as the idea that the fruit was a test to see if Adam and Eve were obedient to God. Another site says that eating the apple would make them as smart as the angels or even God and he wouldn’t like that. Another site says that the apple represents knowledge in general and that too much knowledge gives us the chance to do bad things….the example that was given in this site was that if we weren’t smart enough to make computers no one could watch porn, and if we didn’t know about nuclear energy there would be no nuclear weapons, etc.

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/blog/curious-christian/4-3-2012/what-tree-knowledge-good-and-evil

 

I find all of these interpretations of what you seem to think is an unadulterated takeaway nugget from the garden story to be somewhat ridiculous; but that aside, my point would still be that, just as there can be different interpretations of details such as what fruit we are talking about, so too can there be different interpretations of supposed nuggets such as the significance of having knowledge of good and evil. In general, I think that using words such as “detail” and “nugget” are so vague as to not be very useful.

 

The more important issue is, I think, whether or not to take details such as Eve coming from Adam’s rib literally or metaphorically, not to mention God’s creating the entire universe complete with full grown people in a handful of 24 hour days as many people believe. Whether we say we are taking the details or the nuggets as fact or fiction (take your pick) is no small matter: the conflict between Creationism and Evolutionism, for example, has caused an ongoing conceptual and legal battle for at last a century and a half now.

 

Again, as far as I am concerned, the really crucial passages in the Bible (be they considered details or nuggets), are those in which God speaks to a character and/or those in which miracles are performed. These are the sorts of passages that determine who God gave the land to (e.g., via Moses, Joshua, Abraham, etc.) and who can more easily achieve salvation (e.g., descendants of Isaac or Ishmael), what are the right morals (e.g., 10 commandments), and how they can be saved (e.g., Allah or Jesus/God/Holy Spirit) and just what God is like (angry Yahweh or forgiving Jesus, etc.).

 

As for the moral lessons in the Bible, again (be they considered details or nuggets) they are a mixed bag (of good and evil, perhaps), and I think many, e.g., Thomas Jefferson would consider the NT to be more morally uplifting than the OT. Indeed he wrote his own version of the NT that left out the miracles on the basis that they were not reasonable, but rather misleading superstitious 'non-sense'. My point is not that the Bible is good or bad, but rather that there are few if any unambiguous (moral, historical, eschatological, or epistemological) nuggets of information in the Abrahamic tradition, or even perhaps in what one might call the extended Abrahamic tradition from Adam/Eve through Abraham to Jesus.....and by "unambiguous," I mean that there are few if any passages (be they considered details or nuggets) that are not open to interpretation of one sort or another.

 

Ten Oz:

You state that "If they (religious) believe god is literally watching why do the overwhelming majority still lie, cheat, steal, and etc?"

I would suggest you read or reread Sigmund and Anna Freud's outline of the defense mechanisms, e.g., (moral) rationalization, denial, projection, etc. for starters.

 

You also state that,

 

"Push comes to shove we all know the difference between what is real and what isn't."

I think human psychology is far more complex and complicated than that. Only in the court systems are people put in a position of determining whether someone is morally/criminally insane or not. Nowadays, psychologists tend to see such things as sexuality, intent, neuroticism, introversion, culpability, etc. on a spectral scale, not in terms of black or white...Similarly, I would suggest that the majority of professionals don't commonly think of people as either being in touch with reality or not, or knowing what is right and what is not, not to mention the question of there being such a thing as a black/white reality or black/white absolute morals. Indeed, one of the things that makes a literal interpretation of 'holy scriptures' so attractive is that it paints a picture of a world of moral absolutes in which every word and deed is either right or wrong, good or bad, true or false....no unpleasant gray areas here.

Edited by disarray
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......

Again, as far as I am concerned, the really crucial passages in the Bible (be they considered details or nuggets), are those in which God speaks to a character and/or those in which miracles are performed. These are the sorts of passages that determine who God gave the land to (e.g., via Moses, Joshua, Abraham, etc.) and who can more easily achieve salvation (e.g., descendants of Isaac or Ishmael), what are the right morals (e.g., 10 commandments), and how they can be saved (e.g., Allah or Jesus/God/Holy Spirit) and just what God is like (angry Yahweh or forgiving Jesus, etc.).

 

.....

 

What have you gained from this focus?

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@RobbityBob1

Well, yes, it is a matter of clarifying what the focus is, e.g,, whether we agree that details (if we are going to use that word) refers to 1) those things in the Bible that change over time (as I guess Dimreepr is saying), or whether they refer to those things that are 2) symbolic and that don't reflect the "spirit" of the text (as I am guessing Ten Oz is stating), or, whether details refer to 3) those few passages which seem super-natural and miraculous (as I am trying to stress).

 

So we might ask what possible ramifications or gains might arise by focusing on any of these three approaches:

  1. Focusing on the idea that the events of the Bible might change over time (given changes in interpretation, translation losses,etc.) might encourage people to realize that we cannot or should not take various scriptures literally and that no one interpretation is divinely inspired and hence definitive. The result might be that Muslims, Christians, and Jews become less adamant and aggressive regarding such major issues as the ones I mentioned (who has right to land, who is saved, what are the right morals, etc.). Indeed, there are different "hermeneutical" guideliness for interpreting Biblical passages in an effort to glean the writer's general intentions, despite scriptural differences in various versions of the text, for example:

"It is usually a mistake to read any part of the Bible allegorically (where there is a moral lesson to the story). Don't read into parables too much. E.g. the parable of the Good Samaritan was famously interpreted by Augustine that the good Samaritan is Jesus, the robbers are the devil, we are the ones being robbed by the devil. This interpretation was arbitrary. There was nothing in the text to indicate this. Otherwise anyone could come up with any interpretation. In this particular case, you need to see why Jesus told this story in response to the lawyer (Lk 10:29)"

http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/3292/if-the-bible-is-open-to-interpretation-how-does-one-know-which-one-is-right

2. Focusing on the idea that many of the events of the Bible are metaphorical would also encourage people to be less literal in their own particular interpretation of the Bible, and perhaps to put more effort into determining just which interpretation they think best expresses the spirit of the text, e.g., the moral implications, and how passages might be understood in terms of today's understanding of the world. A good rant in this regard is found at http://www.rense.com/general66/hide.htm, which observes, among other things, that

 

"It is sad to watch how some religious institutions only teach the letter of the law or the literal meaning of the words. The great teachers of their time spoke in vocabulary and symbolism that could be more easily understood by the people of their time. For example, bad spirits were often portrayed as the cause of illness. Overcoming the bad spirits was the key to self -healing. Today we need no longer use these same symbols, as we now understand some medicine and science. We now know that constant negative states of mind and emotions can make us very ill." etc.

3. Focusing on the idea that the miracles, e.g., God's revelations (aka talks) to Moses, Abraham, etc. may have been interpolated by writers over the centuries to further a nation's economic prosperity, spiritual identity, personal and communal salvation, etc. (regardless of the degree to which writers thought that such miracles actually took place) would again discourage people from various religions and sects to be less militant about their supposed divine right to attack those who have different ideas about how to attain salvation, who owns what particular tracts of land in the eyes of God, etc.

A good example of such a unifiying (aka ecumenical) effort is that made by Constantine:

 

'According to Presbyter Theodoret, there were "more than two hundred" variant gospels in use in his time. In 313, groups of Presbyters violently clashed over the variations in their writings and ‘altar was set against altar’ in competing for an audience and territory.When Emperor Constantine conquered the East in 324, he sent letters to several Bishops exhorting them to make peace among their own. But the mission failed and Constantine then issued a decree commanding all Presbyters.. to travel to the city of Nicaea...Constantine saw in this developing system of belief the opportunity to make a combined state religion and protect it by law.'

The result was the unifying Nicaean creed which states the basic beliefs (e.g., God spoke to the prophets, Jesus became man in order to save us).

Ultimately, I think that all three of these approaches have merit and tend to have a unifying effect on different religions and sects. Pointing out that different people all have relied on their own interpretations of the Abrahamic narrative in an effort to define their own people's relationship with God within a cultural-historical context may help these different people (e.g., Muslims, Jews, Christians, and sects within these major religions) to 'put down their swords' and achieve some peace.

It seems as if literalism is a double edged sword: On the one hand it solidifies a particular nation's sense of identity as well as providing historical and moral guidance. On the other hand, such legitimization tends, I would suggest, to lead to the question as to which nation is superior to others (e.g., chosen, the favorite), and therefore has a right to claim lands as their own and to, if necessary, kill those nonbelievers (aka infidels) who don't accept their claims to land and who (because they don't accept their alleged, one true account of the Bible and therefore the one, true God who can grant them salvation) deserve to be killed.

This is only a small forum, but I think that any and all efforts to clarify the value that the Abrahamic tradition might have for all people (e.g., their common effort to find meaning by examining the events and myths recorded throughout the ages by those seeking to create some sort of dialogue with God), and not just for a few who claim to have the right interpretation of divinely inspired scriptural accounts, might help reduce inter-national conflict. For example, it might be stressed that the value of the scriptures is that Jesus is symbolic of the dual physical/spiritual nature of human beings, and that the lessons of the Abrahamic narrative (e.g., take care of the land, respect tradition and show obedience to God and/or good spiritual leaders) ultimately embraces all people, regardless of color, national origin, religious ritual, etc. so that it doesn't particularly matter whether we use the term God or Allah, or whether the symbolic story of Abraham involves the son Isaac or Ishmael, etc.

So, I guess all that I have gained is a sense that I have helped clarify such value, and hopefully helped others a little to clarify their own contributions towards finding common value in the Abrahamic narrative and tradition.

Edited by disarray
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@RobbityBob1

Well, yes, it is a matter of clarifying what the focus is, ....

This is only a small forum, but I think that any and all efforts to clarify the value that the Abrahamic tradition might have for all people (e.g., their common effort to find meaning by examining the events and myths recorded throughout the ages by those seeking to create some sort of dialogue with God), and not just for a few who claim to have the right interpretation of divinely inspired scriptural accounts, might help reduce inter-national conflict.

So, I guess all that I have gained is a sense that I have helped clarify such value, and hopefully helped others a little to clarify their own contributions towards finding common value in the Abrahamic narrative and tradition.

 

The topic is dear to your heart. "Blessed are the peacemakers". Do you have a solution for peace in Syria? If you care I think we should discuss it in another thread, http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/95631-do-you-have-a-solution-for-peace-in-syria/.

Edited by Robittybob1
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RobbityBob1

The question as to the extent to which we can gain from the wisdom of our ancestors way of looking at the world (e.g, as expressed in scriptural accounts of the Abrahamic tradition) while, at the same time, discarding the chaff of ignorance and superstition of the times is not an easy one. Personally, I am not a big fan of the sort of blind obedience to what one thinks is God's will or plan for you; however, this seems to be a big part of the Christian heritage. If we boil it down, I would suggest that what this really means is that we should try to be more open to what seems to be best for ones social and physical environment, and not just focused on ones own goals. Perhaps, transcendence really just involves making the effort to extend ones sense of identity beyond ones immediate concerns (as per Tajfel and Turner social identity theory) to include, for example, ever widening circles of humanity.

 

I think that the Abrahamic narrative, and in particular, literal fundamentalist/literal/elitist interpretations of this narrative, is essentially a militant view, given its ethos of blind obedience to higher authority, its claim that a particular group of people has a right to take over certain lands, putting the nation and its interpretation of God's will first over even love of family, its patriarch/patriarchal attitude, its insistence on the superiority of certain people, etc. Again, Freud had a lot to say about the insidious nature and dangers of ethnocentrism...In this sense, I think that Ten Oz has a good point that we look for the metaphors in the Bible (and perhaps update such metaphors in light of modern science, politics, economics, etc.).

 

The distinction between Shiite and Sunnis goes back, of course, to differences in interpretation as to such things as to whom is the spiritual successor of Muhammed. Again, it seems to be all about who is in line of descent, who has rights to land, who has rights to rule, etc. Personally, I think that the distinctions are trivial, so that again, people seem focused on the details rather than the spirit of religious doctrine.

 

But yes, I will have a look into that forum thread.

Edited by disarray
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RobbityBob1

The question as to the extent to which we can gain from the wisdom of our ancestors way of looking at the world (e.g, as expressed in scriptural accounts of the Abrahamic tradition) while, at the same time, discarding the chaff of ignorance and superstition of the times is not an easy one. Personally, I am not a big fan of the sort of blind obedience to what one thinks is God's will or plan for you; however, this seems to be a big part of the Christian heritage. If we boil it down, I would suggest that what this really means is that we should try to be more open to what seems to be best for ones social and physical environment, and not just focused on ones own goals. Perhaps, transcendence really just involves making the effort to extend ones sense of identity beyond ones immediate concerns (as per Tajfel and Turner social identity theory) to include, for example, ever widening circles of humanity.

 

I think that the Abrahamic narrative, and in particular, literal fundamentalist/literal/elitist interpretations of this narrative, is essentially a militant view, given its ethos of blind obedience to higher authority, its claim that a particular group of people has a right to take over certain lands, putting the nation and its interpretation of God's will first over even love of family, its patriarch/patriarchal attitude, its insistence on the superiority of certain people, etc. Again, Freud had a lot to say about the insidious nature and dangers of ethnocentrism...In this sense, I think that Ten Oz has a good point that we look for the metaphors in the Bible (and perhaps update such metaphors in light of modern science, politics, economics, etc.).

 

...

 

You certainly show a high level of research into the topic. Are you studying the topic or even teaching aspects of it? Care to share some of your background for it has been a very interesting discussion. Thanks.

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Ten Oz:

You state that "If they (religious) believe god is literally watching why do the overwhelming majority still lie, cheat, steal, and etc?"

I would suggest you read or reread Sigmund and Anna Freud's outline of the defense mechanisms, e.g., (moral) rationalization, denial, projection, etc. for starters.

 

You also state that,

 

"Push comes to shove we all know the difference between what is real and what isn't."

I think human psychology is far more complex and complicated than that. Only in the court systems are people put in a position of determining whether someone is morally/criminally insane or not. Nowadays, psychologists tend to see such things as sexuality, intent, neuroticism, introversion, culpability, etc. on a spectral scale, not in terms of black or white...Similarly, I would suggest that the majority of professionals don't commonly think of people as either being in touch with reality or not, or knowing what is right and what is not, not to mention the question of there being such a thing as a black/white reality or black/white absolute morals. Indeed, one of the things that makes a literal interpretation of 'holy scriptures' so attractive is that it paints a picture of a world of moral absolutes in which every word and deed is either right or wrong, good or bad, true or false....no unpleasant gray areas here.

 

"defense mechanisms, e.g., (moral) rationalization, denial, projection, etc. for starters." is not the context of my statement. Whe a person is being watched and knows they are being watched they behave differently than when they are not being watched. Nothing philosophical about about it. People cheat behind others backs, steal when no one is looking, and etc. When we (humans) know we are being watched we behave differently than when we are not. That is a simple truth. Despite religious people claiming to believe God is watching most don't clearly do not believe it; not enough for it to impact their behavior the way a camera would.

 

Of course we are very complicated. Psychology there are any number of reasons for what anyone says, does, and believes. I am not looking to determine right or wrong or understand the human mind broadly. I'm simply observing that people behave differently when they know they are being watched but being watched by God isn't legitimate/tangible enough to have that same impact. Now that isn't to say 100% people behave free from any concern for God. Obviously many people make efforts to behave in a manner that they feel God would approve of. However they fall short much more quickly and far more often than they would if something real was watching. The overwhelming majority of people would stay virgins till marriage if they knew their parents could see them at all times. God watching just doesn't carry the same weight.

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Dimreepr: Obviously, there are going to be conflicting scriptural details between various religions, or details that get lost in the translation (as, I think, you unnecessarily point out). But you still have not clarified exactly what it is that you consider to be the nuggets of truth that we can all take away from all these scriptures.

 

 

The “nuggets of truth” are the things that go towards helping a person achieve contentment; what makes a person content is the same now as it was two millennia ago, whatever the location or religion (the major ones).

 

 

 

Similarly your comment that “you can't tell someone to understanding but you can lead them to it” really has no content that I can reply to.

Even your clincher statement about dogs is impertinent and vague. I would suggest that you can’t nail a point home if you haven’t made it in the first place!

Indeed, when I read your last post, I am unable to determine just what point you were trying to make other than that you apparently disagreed with me.

 

 

 

You need to understand the point to see it.

Edited by dimreepr
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Prometheus: Your most telling phrase in your last post was, “If I understand dimreepr correctly…” I too, can only guess. Well, at least you gave an example of what you meant so let me respond: I agree that, whether it is an apple or whatever doesn’t really matter and might be considered a detail, but even your going further and stating that the fruit represents knowledge of good and evil (as if that were a nugget) doesn’t tell me much either...it seems the details are just as controversial and open to interpretation as the alleged nuggets.

 

One religious site, for example, says that the knowledge of good and evil isn’t the issue so much as the idea that the fruit was a test to see if Adam and Eve were obedient to God. Another site says that eating the apple would make them as smart as the angels or even God and he wouldn’t like that. Another site says that the apple represents knowledge in general and that too much knowledge gives us the chance to do bad things….the example that was given in this site was that if we weren’t smart enough to make computers no one could watch porn, and if we didn’t know about nuclear energy there would be no nuclear weapons, etc.

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/blog/curious-christian/4-3-2012/what-tree-knowledge-good-and-evil

 

I find all of these interpretations of what you seem to think is an unadulterated takeaway nugget from the garden story to be somewhat ridiculous; but that aside, my point would still be that, just as there can be different interpretations of details such as what fruit we are talking about, so too can there be different interpretations of supposed nuggets such as the significance of having knowledge of good and evil. In general, I think that using words such as “detail” and “nugget” are so vague as to not be very useful.

 

The more important issue is, I think, whether or not to take details such as Eve coming from Adam’s rib literally or metaphorically, not to mention God’s creating the entire universe complete with full grown people in a handful of 24 hour days as many people believe. Whether we say we are taking the details or the nuggets as fact or fiction (take your pick) is no small matter: the conflict between Creationism and Evolutionism, for example, has caused an ongoing conceptual and legal battle for at last a century and a half now.

 

Again, as far as I am concerned, the really crucial passages in the Bible (be they considered details or nuggets), are those in which God speaks to a character and/or those in which miracles are performed. These are the sorts of passages that determine who God gave the land to (e.g., via Moses, Joshua, Abraham, etc.) and who can more easily achieve salvation (e.g., descendants of Isaac or Ishmael), what are the right morals (e.g., 10 commandments), and how they can be saved (e.g., Allah or Jesus/God/Holy Spirit) and just what God is like (angry Yahweh or forgiving Jesus, etc.).

 

As for the moral lessons in the Bible, again (be they considered details or nuggets) they are a mixed bag (of good and evil, perhaps), and I think many, e.g., Thomas Jefferson would consider the NT to be more morally uplifting than the OT. Indeed he wrote his own version of the NT that left out the miracles on the basis that they were not reasonable, but rather misleading superstitious 'non-sense'. My point is not that the Bible is good or bad, but rather that there are few if any unambiguous (moral, historical, eschatological, or epistemological) nuggets of information in the Abrahamic tradition, or even perhaps in what one might call the extended Abrahamic tradition from Adam/Eve through Abraham to Jesus.....and by "unambiguous," I mean that there are few if any passages (be they considered details or nuggets) that are not open to interpretation of one sort or another.

 

 

'Unadulterated takeaway nugget', is a term you introduced but it was not the impression i was trying to convey. My point is a much more general one about the role of stories in civilisation. Aesop's fables, for instance, are simple stories that convey some sense of wisdom. Shakespeare's plays are much more elaborate and nuanced stories that explore different aspects of the human condition. Milton reinterpreted the story of the fall in Paradise Lost to reveal a Satan we could all recognise in ourselves. What is the 'nugget' in all of these? Nothing, except that they all resonate deeply within many humans - that is all. I agree that such a vaguely conceived idea can hardly be described as 'true' (and certainly not unadulterated takeaway nugget) except in the most literary sense: they take us outside ourselves so that we may see ourselves in a different light.

 

Biblical stories are similar to Aesop's and Shakespeare's stories (and all good stories) in that they tell us something about the human condition. What that 'something' is may well change with time and place. I guess i am talking of the philosophy of art more than religion in the normal sense - but i believe we can learn far more from religious stories when we regard them as ways our ancestors understood the world and their place in it.

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@dimreepr: Yes, there is no reason that we can’t read any version and just enjoy it as literature. But, most literature contains moral lessons of one sort of another, so I guess that is why those in social power (e.g., Vatican, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, conservative American leaders, etc.) make use of censorship. Even Shakespeare was, in effect partially banned: “In 1818, Bowdler published The Family Shakespeare, in Ten Volumes; in which nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.”

 

Indeed, the word “legend” by definition, suggests that the line between fact and fiction is often blurry, so that even if they take Abrahamic scriptures as just legendary stories, Jews will be still influenced to believe that the scriptures (e.g. Torah) suggest that they are the Chosen people entitled to certain lands, while Muslims will be influenced to believe that the scriptures (e.g., Koran) suggest that they are Chosen and entitled to virtually the same lands.

 

Finally, there is the issue as to whether all of the moral lessons of the skeleton (aka, some basic “nugget” version) of scriptures are desirable (aka stoning for adultery or whatever), though I acknowledge that the character of Abraham had many admirable qualities. That may not be directly related to the question of the thread, perhaps, but it is certainly relevant in terms of whether one is supposed to presume that the events really happened, and therefore, should be seen as having been approved by God, e.g., the laws of Leviticus or the numerous mass killings in the OT, not to mention killing a family member if told to do so by God.

 

So, I am not convinced that it is just a simple manner of reading about the basic Abrahamic tradition in the OT, Torah, or Koran and thinking that this will make one feel contented. (NT justice, for example, is more about retribution and stern obedience that it is about forgiveness and compassion that the OT).

 

@tenoz:

Judging from surveys, the belief/faith of a lot of churchgoers these days, as well as of clergy, is pretty shaky. Indeed, I suspect that many agnostics or even atheists go to church for side reasons such as looking like good citizens, seeing friends, joining in social activities, etc. However, I am not convinced that everyone would behave a great deal better if they did believe in, say, the promise of heaven (positive reinforcement) and the threat of hell (positive punishment).

 

Behaviorism claims that people do not respond very well to promises and threats that aren’t concrete and immediate. Religion tends to be rather abstract. As for imminence (i.e., immediate punishment), I would agree that adolescents and adults behave better if they know for sure that their parent are watching from the next room, and speeders slow down when they can see a highway patrol car complete with radar is just up ahead. But, in most cases, punishment is not so certain and not so imminent. Hell and heaven are as remote as our own death, and even those who actually believe that Santa or God is watching all the time don’t really start getting worried and start repenting and behaving until Christmas or until their own death is around the corner.

 

Even in those societies where belief is strong,promises are grand, and threats are strong, e.g., among English Victorians or American Puritans, good behavior is often either just a token or hypocritical effort (owing to the difference between the unrealistic and thus hard to internalize moral standards of conservative church dogma): See, for example: https://mises.org/library/coercing-morality-puritan-massachusetts

 

In general, I would suggest that, when it comes to human desires and needs, punishments, whether they be divine or earthly, often just serve to drive misbehavior underground, e.g., drinking (think of the prohibition era), abortion laws, abstinence only programs, and social disapproval of adultery. Indeed, in many cases, fear of punishment often just tends to add to the excitement of misbehavior and actually increases it. And even after I have read your clarification in your last post, I still thnk that such defense mechanisms as 'rationalization' (aka making excuses) and denial are relevant, in even people who actually believe in God, and who actually believe that he, like children who really believe in Santa, is always watching, and who actually believe in hell, will still find ways to suppress their fears and justify misbehavior in their own minds, or else just misbehave and live with the guilt, though somewhat comforted by the the rationalization that there misbehavior is not so bad because most other people are misbehaving as well.

 

So yes, I agree that a lot of churchgoers are and always have been hypocritical, either ostensibly in their behavior, or internally in their thoughts, and perhaps that fact has led you to be rather cynical. But I don’t agree that we can directly measure the sincerity of people’s religious belief by looking at their behavior, on the assumption that if they really believed in heaven and hell, or if they really loved and respected God, then they would automatically behave.

Edited by disarray
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