Logical Coherency & Religion

When we read any publication we have many expectations that we put upon an author and his or her editors. You would expect to find no glaring logical errors. Certainly the author or at least the editor of any important document would review it for logical consistency.

If you were reading any important document and you saw a glaring logical, you would probably say, “That’s not right” Why is that? Our contemporary American values are such that logical consistency equals right and logical inconsistency equals wrong. Is this true?

Are these universal values that all people follow? Have these values been with us for all time? Have all people in at times and places put a high priority on logical coherency? No. Logical coherency is not a value that everyone follows and it has not been valuable forever.

Lets imagine that you were given the job of editing the ancient holy book of Gan and you discovered an obvious contradiction between what was written in the chapter of Fred and what was written in the chapter of Barney. Could you just change one of them so it would mirror that other to create logical coherency? You could if that was your priority. But there are other values in religion, one of the most important being tradition. You could not just change one chapter or another. The value of tradition trumps the value of logical coherency.

Now this creates cognitive dissonance for us contemporary people of America because the value of logical coherency is strong. We all want to be logically coherent. The high value of logical coherency is so powerful that even those who accept their religion as genuine try to incorporate as much logical consistency as possible as a secondary value.

Now the tension we feel would be unknown to a person living in the past. For them logical consistency was not the highest priority. Tradition was more important than logical coherency, progress or innovation. You put your trust in traditions.

So criticizing a holy text for lacking logical coherency or having glaring logical errors is applying an alien value system to those works. Logical coherence would not have mattered to the authors, editors or protectors of any ancient holy text.

When did logical coherence change into a major priority? The Greeks did it. That the Greek invented this priority is the argument presented here:

The Origin of Philosophy: The Attributes of Mythic/Mythopoeic Thought

But when did this take place? Greek philosophy peaked centuries before the New Testament or the Koran. So is it fair to say that the Old Testament should not be criticized for logical inconsistency, but that the New Testament could be?

Very interesting.

xanderman wrote:

I agree with that you are saying here, but what does this have to do with today? Those people in their day were blind. Are you implying that those in the past simply didnt value the logic or they werent yet capable of applying it? Of course they went with tradition, because they were told that this was the truth. Just as we are today, but as a society we are encouraged to think more for ourselves, and to have our own mind which elicits the opportunities to question authority. Their values were different. I believe it possible that they probably did notice inconsistencies within the text, but they definitely wouldnt speak of them. They also wouldnt refer to the pointing out of inconsistencies as a fallacy of logic, but rather the fact that the words simply contradict themselves. But when you have been taught to believe a certain thing, and your not supposed to question it, in a time where values actually mattered, you wouldnt question it.

Xanderman’s post reminds me of the Russell and Meinong debate about square-circle. Whereas, Russell maintains that it is a logical contradiction, hence meaningless, Meinong says that it may be that the convention of logic does not allow things like square-circle. But outside logic, square-circle has a meaning----it is square and it is circle. Logic is just another constraint. But frankly, I might agree that ancient texts are great historical reference. And I think we should see them as they were written–to maintain tradition, etc. Logic has not always been this rigorous–it has a chronological history as well. That we discard what does not jibe with our views now is understandble.

Blind to what? Blind to what looks perfectly obvious to us? I wonder if the would consider us blind to what was perfectly obvious to them.

They would not have valued logic in the same we that we do. This difference in values means they saw the whole world differently than we do now. This could a moment to look at the limitations of our perspective. In a manner of speaking we are living in a Greek fantasy.

I wonder if they would have seen them as contradictions at all. If so then it would have been nothing like how we see them today. It would not have caused the same tension, the same desire to resolve those contradictions.


Is it just tradition or perhaps there is a subtle psychology involved?

For example, there is a Zen koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” How would you re-word it to make it logically coherent?

I suspect that they believed that there was something to the traditional wisdom. It is not merely tradition for the sake of traditional alone. At least hopefully.

There is a huge psychology to Zen Buddhism. Many of the Eastern religions frequently have overtly psychological elements. That is an attractive quality for me.

xanderman wrote:

Blind to what we refer to as common sense it seems. They probably would consider us blasphemous, but there is no denying the logic. Whether or not the logic is truth is where we fall short.

xanderman wrote:

To take our perspective and consider its flaws, one comes to the thought that maybe our our thinking is limited. But if so, those who came before us would be to blame. Naturally when reading your request to look at the limitations of our perspective, I was thinking that our perspective cant be wrong. It makes sense to me, again from my perspective, that we as humans have gotten more intelligent, either through the process of evolution or simply through the ability to learn more from more opportunity to do so. But then, seperating myself from my perspective, it could very well be possible that if those in the past were wrong, and the meems, and axioms of their time are passed on to us, then much of what we believe to be truth is wrong. It is possible that logic is wrong. Just as you said, “living in a Greek fantasy”.

Today, it may seem common-sensical to be critical of our beliefs, demanding that they be rationally justified rather than just allowing them to be strongly felt convictions. However, this self-critical way of being is intially very counter to common sense. Without an awareness of other cultures, or of ‘humbling’ scientific theories (such as Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection), one would have no reason to suspect that one’s own strongly felt convictions about truth or morality might be wrong. In such ignorance, questioning the validity of one’s (and one’s cultures) emotional framework for viewing the world would seem absurd.

Xanderman, If I understand correctly, you are asking or commenting on how or why we believe logic is any more valuable than any other value. That in fact, it could very well be that its a relative matter of preferance just like everything else, and there really is no standard to determine which value, logic, tradition, whatever, is the better one. Whichever is better for the individual, thats the one the individual will take, and they are right to do so, because theres no right answer here, its all relative? Is that what you are trying to say? If so, I would agree, but make a comment. Logic has a special power, which may be the key to the standard by which logic could realy be better than tradition or anything else. As far as I know, only logic has been consistently able to predict the future. Thats the big diffirence. Does this diffirence signify anything? I think my model of the universe explains this all and provides a standard by which logic is actually better and a reason why people still choose the worse of the values to value most. Some of you have heard my ideas, but Im more interested in your ideas right now. Do you think that predicting the future is something special, or just another relative thing?

What is logic if not another type of dogmatic tradition?



I appreciate the elegance of such a question. It creates the impression of a profound insight… but examined logically, that impression changes to one of irrelevance. Where one might find deep, resonating wisdom, another might find pretentiousness or platitudes.

And of course, for anyone who has ever seen the Simpsons, they would already know the answer.

In kind, consider: if a fly had no wings, would we call it a walk?