the age of reason

this is really a continuation of the postings between me and uccisore in the wiccan thread. Others can feel free to post what they feel about the subject.

I would be hard pressed to agree with that. Truly adherent tenets of faith, that are believing the inerrant truth of their books as the word of god, are going to “know” (through their faith) that they are leading a more “right life”.

if you want to seriously debate the “inerrantness” of one book versus another you need to do it with reason, not faith.

(I concede that people switch religions all the time, but they just go from believing the outrageous claims of one belief to the outrageous claims of another.)

I think the point I’m trying to make here (and the valid counter point you have) is that you can’t be using that much rational thought to look at the “bible” (or other holy book) objectively, if you find nothing wrong with the book.

maybe that’s my bias? maybe it’s based on research? really I’m in the same position you are. How do I prove to you, that I have researched the bible, read it, and have found it utterly flawed.

for the sake of argument, I think X would be hard pressed to prove Y is mistaken unless they pile on the rational reasons as to why.

You can be a rational upright person, and still turn that off for any belief you wish to be true. Look at the web programmers that followed the nutcase that founded heavens gate cult. Do you think they were irrational?

I’m saying that they had reason with faith.

UFO cults are going to be come more and more common.

Let’s say that you suddenly realize that christ didn’t exist. What would that change for you? You could still be the same person, helping the poor, feeding the hungry. The only thing that would change is your tenet of faith. You would no longer have faith in christ. Does that mean you need to replace it with another faith? With the way the human brain works, yes you do. Many ex-christians get involved in UFO cults.

All I’m arguing for is that we can be good people without believing in unjustified beliefs. And it’s not that as myths they would be so bad. It’s when they become truth to you, that your whole reality changes. You will suddenly find yourself with a very different outlook on life. 44% of americans believe christ will return within their lifetime. I’m betting that this same 44% doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens to the environment.

some light reading.

(thomas paine; age of reason)


What you're saying here reminds me of what some fundamentalists say about being 'saved'- if you are [i]really[/i] saved, you're saved for life. What about people who go on to become atheists? They, er, weren't 'really' saved.  It is an undeniable fact that a great many people change from one religion to another over the course of their lives. If you want to say that these people were not 'truly adherent' and therefore don't count, what can I say?

Again, since you see all religious claims as outrageous, then no doubt that’s how you see it. You’ve left yourself no room to see it any other way.

 Well, you're switching gears from a relativistic stance to an absolutist one, then. It is obvious to me that if you read around, you'll find many Christians who use a reasons, critical approach to their beliefs and to the Bible itself. Whether or not they are all wrong is besides the point. Perhaps all religious people are simply stupid (not trying to put words in your mouth, but it's an explanation we can go with). In that case, my point would be the same- these stupid people are doing the best they can to be rational, right-thinking individuals, and Islam (or Christianity or whatever) is the conclusion they have come to. Certainly that's possible- it seems clear that it really happens. Call these people stupid, factually incorrect, or whatever works for you. My only point is that people in such a position have no de facto reason to be skeptical towards their own beliefs, until an argument or evidence has been presented that throws them into doubt. 

I don’t know if I would replace it with something else or not. What I do know is that I would no longer be a Christian. I wouldn’t be a Christian with a relative stance, or a Christian who accepts the irrationality of Christianity. If I claimed either of those things, I would be confused.
Point of note with the UFO cult thing- In the United States, almost everybody who makes any change of religious views is going to be an ex-Christian.

It’s true! I don’t have any unjustified beliefs that I am aware of- which is my point. If I realize my beliefs are unjustified, I stop having them. I suspect that everyone is that way.

This is more of an edit than a new reply, but it came late so I want to make sure it was seen.

On page 20 of the book you referenced, Paine seems to illustrate the point I’ve been after here:

Thomas Paine said:

Emphasis mine.  Claiming to be a Christian, while claiming to accept that Christianity has no rational basis would be just the kind of infidelity he talked about- professing to believe what one does not believe.

Hi MB,

The problem people have with “inerrant truth” lies in the fact that the proof is in the pudding – you really have to demonstrate such truth by following the direction that your insight takes you. This is something that very many theologians (but not only them) would rather discuss than demonstrate. Unfortunately some neither discuss or demonstrate their faith.

As long as we are all caught up in systems of acceptance of doctrine as being true instead of living the truth we believe in, you will find that Christianity will have little attractiveness to people outside. This is why I have said in the past that there are reasons for not believing. I am currently experiencing this in my own parish at the moment because people are not using the cornerstone of their faith as measure, but the personal gain that can supposedly be made. Christians should act on faith, that is they should show their trust in what they are promoting by living it, instead of resulting to reason alone.

Which is exactly why it isn’t a case of one book or the other, but the demonstration of faith in the message. The days of “my God is better than your god” belong to the era of idolatry. With Christ we have reached the phase of mystical faith and obedience to the message by doing what we see God doing in Scripture. We are his hands and feet, we are the ones called to be redeemers in a world that is crying out for redemption. It is in us that God is incarnate, if at all.

The only way to demonstrate that Reason isn’t the only measure for humankind is to bear witness to the power of faith, showing how mountains can be moved and miracles performed on the basis of minimal faith. But that faith has to be lived, not just testified in speech.

If you use a cookery book to build a computer you would be right to say that it was garbage, and anyone arguing against you would belong in an asylum. But if you use the cookery book as it was intended, you would find it very sustaining.

Christ can return within my lifetime, if we are ready to live our lives as the “body of Christ” and follow the God of Prophecy – but it would be a very radical change and we would get into a lot of trouble. Many of the Christians you are talking about would never have had any problems in the Roman empire either – which shows that they differ greatly from the Christians of that age.

Hence Christ remains the lonely prophet who thought he was starting something off. Nobody has the faith to follow him – and you are right, they would rather occupy themselves with unjustified beliefs than roll their shirt sleeves up and get on with the work. The best example for this is the parable of the Sower and the Seed, only the good land seems to be scarce.


Scyth wrote:

If you didn’t find something wrong with it, then IMO, something would be wrong with it. This is because I value the Bible and especially the New Testament as a psychological and not historical work. From the psychological perspective, its value lies often in the contradictions which is absurd from the secular perspective concerned with defining rational right and wrong behavior.

What is the purpose in Buddhism of the Zen Koan? Why don’t people become annoyed that they often appear as a contradiction and without rational sense? If interested, here is a little on a Zen Koan.

The assumption is that the nature of reality which includes human purpose is more than what can be revealed through linear or associative reason. Christianity is based on this assumption. Is it surprising that the Bible is written with this ancient psychology in mind and even what remains of it still contains the power of personal psychological revelation in spite of the limiting tendencies of reason which is its aim?

This puts me into an interesting position. I believe the Bible as valuable and indicating the value of believing, but as a Zen Koan, its purpose is not to take sides in defining secular standards of good and bad behavior, but to open the mind to its contradictions revealing the psychological truths hidden within purposely placed so as to bypass the limitations of the literal mind. This will require more than my daily fiber. I need daily bread.

It might seem to be too little difference, but I find a distinction between that which is doubt and that which is skepticism. Ultimately our spirituality lies within, and not in religious expression. At some point, we develop the unique concept of that which is our truth. Doubt is simply appreciating the unknowable, and sincerity would require doubt. Skepticism implies only the known and the unknown, and leaves us suspended in constant questioning, for there is always more to know, no matter how many questions we answer. This is the legacy of science, which rejects or ignores the possibility of anything unknowable. How we act out our inner truth may be religious or secular, but if it is genuine, it is the “truth”.


mega post:


I agree.

I’m not asking you to be something you are not.

being truly adherent doesn’t mean forever or permanently.

not all religion claims are outrageous. Only those engrained in dogma. I’ve mentioned these and don’t feel like going over them again. The ones that are not outrageous should be questioned. well, that’s to say within doubt we find faith. Without faith we find doubt.

I can’t see the logic behind this statement… it’s almost in MY pov… are you reading a different book? How do you see a coherent clear spiritual message within these pages?

I would also say that spirituality like math and science have evolved, while the bible stopped being redacted and edited early in the 1st century CE.

there’s still some remnants of the elohist in the pentateuch. a great example of that is the two creation stories and the two flood myths. (these are but two examples of redacting and editing.)

NOW, this doesn’t invalidate the spirituality of the bible. We’ve lost myth though. The bible isn’t mythical it’s factual and that is my problem with it.

no I don’t believe that. They have transformed allegory into literal truth.

:slight_smile: true.

interesting POV.

As you’ve made your case though, if you did think it was unjustified you would no longer be “christian”.

as a closing note (to this part of the subject) What does it mean to be christian?

Some sects don’t believe in the trinity, some believe capitalism is holy, others socialism. Some believe christ was the son of god, some believe he is god.

if christianity isn’t set in stone, then can’t you change what it means to be “christian”?


The martyr who blows up the bus demonstrated his faith. And that is why as long as martyrdom is tied to paradise, they will not have a loss of volunteers.

Sure you can demonstrate what your faith generates as well. Yin/Yang. It’s important to remember that we are either yin or yang or in transition.

well the same could be said of any religion… it’s more attractive from the inside than from the outside. The christian scientist is going to think they’re view of god’s word is more correct than your own. But you have the opposite view, and see the danger of their belief.

why? well the point I’m trying to make is that we offer up more reason and critical examination of other faiths than our own. That’s fine… You’ll lose your belief if you examine it right?

Not necessarily. Who’s to say your belief won’t evolve?

I disagree with this statement. Christians should act on faith and reason. Reason with faith is sound. Faith without reason is flawed.

What if said christian believed that the rapture was going to happen within a week. He decides he doesn’t need to pay his bills or buy food for his family because “he’ll be raptured up”.

should he follow his faith?

reason alone doesn’t answer the questions I understand that.

unfortunately such days are still with us. If you talk to most christians they’ll think that other sects are askew on their view of god. especially the more conservative of the faith. Catholics certainly believe they would be the X of uccisore’s example. And that all other christian faiths are deviant.

Muslims believe that all other religions are deviant of god’s word. and they will until they believe in myth and not inerrant god’s word.

I think there are modern myths that are just as spiritually powerful. In fact I would say they are more powerful. While watching gladiator there are a couple of moments that connect you to the “anti-hero” and grieve for his loss, and grieve for his win that resulted in his own death, while allowing him to be with his family again.

Teachings like this, teach us to be empathetic of others, understand their situation. How devastating would it be to see your loved ones drawn up and tortured?


unless I’m mistaked… there aren’t a group of Zen Buddhists who believe the Koan is the literal word of the creator of the universe. The Koan at most is the same as you use the bible. A psychological perspective on why we are here. An idea of why we are here. Not an iron clad unchangeable belief.

without the meat of rational discourse, we cannot fully undertake the power of myths. We eat the bread like the hebrews ate manna. Partaking it but not understanding what it was. Not knowing god’s love.

without meat, your bread will be dry. of course you also need the mustard of humour in life.

(or is that pickles?)

It is unlocked by the external though, We give power over our spirit to the power of the “word of god”. on a sliding scale, you have those who believe the bible represents absolute truth, to those who think it’s allegorical.

The best explanation I saw of how the bible is written is that it’s like an onion. The core layer was written first, than as the belief evolved other layers were added. It’s clear that YHVH wasn’t always the hebrew god.

but… what does this matter?

How does it get us closer to the mystery? It’s just another word to us. To be? We’ve destroyed most of the mystery with science. Is that what god wanted? If not why grant us reason?

yes many truths are absolute. From your inner beliefs.

If your truly questioning, each answer opens 5 new questions.

While we now know that the world of the large is largely self containing (weather is a pretty good example.) the world of the small (sub atomic particles, irreducibly complex organisms.) opens itself to a whole brand of questioning. The only thing that can limit the answers is believing we already know.


Well, then that's a problem for both of us. We don't know who the 'truly adherent' people are until they die. Someone who seems to be diehard and close-minded could get a wake-up call and become a Jew or an Atheist tomorrow. These things happen. 
I think you would find that the claims you are calling 'engrained in dogma' are often those definitive to the faith- like that there was ever such a guy as Jesus, for example. Can you think of a religion, where if you did away with all the claims you would call 'engrained in dogma' would be left with anything other than a vague deism?
Also, in many matters related to Christianity at least, dogma and history are the same thing. What I mean is, suppose Jesus existed in exactly the way the New Testament says He did, miracles and all. Obviously, in the 2000 years since, empires have come and gone, the Church is the only consistant body, existant from then to now, which could have been in charge of preserving the historical record of these events. What, in the 21st Century, would be the difference between history and dogma at that point? Either way, it would be a series of spectacular claims made by a heirarchal organization, with very little or not evidence that can't be traced back to that organization itself.  In short, if you use 'dogma' as a pejoritive, what you really mean is a 'false history' when it comes to Christianity. 

Scythe, there’s no point in that. We could discuss the Bible for a month and not come to any agreement, you know that. What should be easily observable by both of us, though, is that there are plenty of people (professors, philosophers, scholars and so on) who are Christian, and who would be able to make fools of both of us in the ‘rationality’ department. That’s my only point- you say that no rational person could accept the Bible, I say that many apparently rational people do just that. I don’t mean to make an argument from authority for Christianity, either- I acknowledge that many apparently rational people accept Islam, atheism, and a host of other nonsense besides. :slight_smile:

I suspect that it's a mixture of both. If it turned out that a lot of the stuff in the Old Testament was a myth, it wouldn't affect my faith too much. I am open to the possibility that all that stuff happened, because I have no knee-jerk reaction against authority or against the possibility of miracles. 

Ah, yes. Let me clear that up. When I say that if I no longer believed the tenets of Christianity were rational, I would not longer be a Christian, I did not mean to imply that there was one set standard of beliefs a person has to have to be a Christian. I was refering to a more personal example- call the body of religious beliefs I have now “Christian”. If I thought they were irrational, I wouldn’t have them anymore, thus I wouldn’t be “Christian”. Obviously my beliefs would be replaced by some other ones. I may even call those other ones Christian beliefs as well. The point is, I can never ‘realize my beliefs are irrational’, unless it is in the instant before I abandon them. Again, I suspect that nobody else can either, and those that claim to are confusing themselves with language issues.


Something must be wrong since I agree with much of what you wrote. :slight_smile:

It seems to me that the reason Buddhists can be more open minded in respect to the purpose of a Koan than much of Christendom can be to the Bible is that Buddhism is more self reliant and doesn’t refer openly to the need for help from above. However Christendom has put a face on help from above IMO losing the quality of Christianity. This idolatry (face) for example is what caused Simone Weil to break from Judaism and the Catholic church.

Along with the bread and meat, don’t forget the wine. The whole idea of turning water into wine in the esoteric or inner sense is the transformation of living truth (water) into action and making it a part of ones being so that it enters into the external world through our actions. The Pharisees would only worry about the actions and forgot about the importance of the person’s "being that reflects it. How you described the Bible as an onion with layers of meaning is exactly as I’ve grown to understand it.

Its not that the Bible brings us closer to the mystery but our psychological change as a result of it, this additional perspective, allows us to become more open to its inner meaning or the core of the onion. We have to change, allow ourselves to become vulnerable in order to receive it. Science reveals other mysteries

Reason can be either conscious or mechanical. Mechanical reason is useful for life and a functioning society. Conscious reason is self awareness. Where mechanical reason compares phenomenon, conscious self awareness just verifies or “sees” mechanical nature. It is how one can “know thyself” It occurs normally during a person’s life in brief intervals and remains with us as vivid memories. It is my belief that this conscious self awareness is the beginning of what unites the conscious with the mechanical or heaven and earth and it is the development of the human soul from its seed within us that allows for the sustained connection between heaven and earth. It is no wonder than that the need is to sustain consciousness This quality of reason or conscious verification; the open unblocked experience of life’s influences untainted by our acquired subjectivity that sustains consciousness, is of no interest to the literal reason of science. It is psychology.

Hi MB,

Accepting your example, without condoning the deed, you are right. But look at what is clear: The suicide bomber shows what his belief leads him to and weakens (at least amongst those of us watching the carnage he has caused in TV) his cause. By the same merit, those acting upon faith in the mercy and compassion of God by creating and sustaining a fellowship of mercy and love would conceivably strengthen their cause. Therefore, although it is a negative example, you actually support my claim.

Reason comes into the equation when the results are examined, I agree. But it is faith that makes us set our first foot forward. Faith makes go down the path of trusting God and the result is awe. People who recognise the synergy effects of obeying the will of God as we read it are amazed at what things are possible, and at what „mountains“ have been moved along the way. Faith has to be lived and discussed less, otherwise we end up in ivory towers where there is no evidence of the power of faith, except in scripture.

Faith does develop and is able to face all issues of life, but it is never more than faith. That means that it doesn’t evolve. What you mean, I think, are certain “statements of faith“ that people think they have to believe. That isn’t the case, rather they are encouraged to “walk with Christ“ and experience the communion of the Holy Spirit. That way they experience the truth – even without being able to put it in words.

I assumed that we all act on reason, of course. But it is faith that is lacking and which can overrule reason, because when you finally take the first steps, you realise that reason is not a measure of certain things – eg. Love.

You are asking the wrong person here – I believe that Paul was describing a mystical view and that we should understand him as speaking figuratively. The answer is as above.

Which goes to show how damaging fundamentalism is. It robs believers of the spirituality that makes the difference. Abraham was mystically called away from idolatry to follow the invisible God, the one and only. He wasn’t following “another“ God (ie local dieties), but the Ineffable. Many people fail to understand that this transition makes God present in the believer, in his environment, in other people, in situations which give a deep insight into the nature of godly life. That is why the abrahamic legend is a good example of mystical faith.

The claim of inerrancy is a sign of immaturity and insecurity, since the claim begs proof – if only in the life of the believer. Knowing something is true is enough for the one who truly knows. Stating this begs confirmation in another way, either through argument (reason or paradox), example or experience.

I agree with you that modern stories transport important messages, but it just shows you that the attempt to differentiate between fact and fiction with regard to “truth“ doesn’t wear. There is truth in fact and fiction – if you allow your intuition to pick it up. However, much of what we can learn from such material latches on to archetypes – very much so in the case of the gladiator. The difference is only in the fact that scripture is written or collected to promote a particular idea and has passed the test of time.


three good posts to reply to today, When I have some free time (which hopefully I will today) I’ll reply.


or like I’ve been trying to point out, you could change the way that you are christian. Being christian doesn’t mean you have to be christian like the pope, or like bob (two completely diametrically opposed views.)

you could do away with the claims of christ being a god, or being resurrected, yet still believe in the christ-message of being “god-like”.

(just as an example. the earliest records didn’t have these things.)

well, which record? the synoptic record, which are obviously built upon each other (many sections are word for word the same) or the gospel of john, which has maybe one similiar miracle?

Or we could go to Paul’s writings which by all accounts were written well before any of the gospels and doesn’t talk about any of the miracles. (besides the resurrection)

well, we do have ALOT of evidence that the catholic church during (and before) the inquisition burned ALOT of books, that include:

Jewish texts that prove the bible has changed many many times.

Jewish texts that attest to Jesus being a Rabbi (some speculation some proof.)

if we can’t come to an agreement what does that say about the books inerrant qualities? If god really wrote the book wouldn’t it be obvious? it’s obvious there’s a divine hand in nature, take the perfect location of the earth. the exact right distance from the sun to have highly evolved life grow. The bible is clearly the work of MANY men, trying to do one or more of the following:

Explain the origins of life

Lay out some extensive societal rules

Control the populace

certainly, they are more rational about their daily lives than about the bible though. Unless they are an “open minded” christian and can clearly see the JEPD writers in the pentateuch. Being a scholar doesn’t automagically make you more rational.

Let me rephrase that.

No rational person could accept the bible as the inerrant word of god.

that I can agree with.

well certainly. I suspect that “moses” did exist, I doubt he talked to god on the mountain (COUGH Zeus). I also doubt he killed EXACTLY 1000 people. Maybe more like 230? I think there’s some truth buried in the myth… but, honestly what good does it do to look at it in a historical fashion versus a mythical fashion? There maybe some truth in the Paul Bunyan story. Does it do us any good to look at the historical truth in Paul Bunyan?

The historical truth will be told by the archeologists and the historians. The bible is mythological truth. Of men that climbed mountains and talked to god. Of men that were swallowed by whales and went on epic journeys. Of men born of god *(metaphorically like samson/hercules or “literally” (within the storyline) like jesus.) to save the land, then sacrifice themselves for their people.

Allegory swallowed fact in these stories.

I think we need to accept that the people of the old testament knew less about the world than we did. Look at their description of the world. The world was flat and surrounded by water ABOVE and below. Sheol was just below the ground. God lived in the sky (heavens).

It’s a very different view of the world, that we with our reason and science have to push back reason and science to accept. You know that god doesn’t control the weather. Volcanos? natural. When Hurricane Katrina struck was your first reaction like Rev. Phelps who blamed it on the homosexuals, and that god was punishing them?

The god of the bible is anthropromorphized and very similiar to the god of the greeks. The christian god is slightly different because the pagans at the time (that were infused into christianity) had a different LARGER view of the world. The god of the old testament was petty and jealous. Like the gods of the greeks, and the gods of mesopotamia.


Bob, I’ll try responding to your post later today.

only among those of us who do not share his belief. Those who share his belief (most muslims, even if they don’t condone the action) believe he has gone to paradise.

unfortunately there are all too many negative examples of the power of faith. A truly positive example would do the following:

  1. Not stipulate your faith on the person you are helping.

  2. be truly inclusive in your helpfulness and help those that are outside of your faith circle.

(I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here, just generalizing)

Would you take a blind ganter across a bridge that looks unstable? (creaky and over a great chasm). The bridge of faith without reason resembles (to me) a bridge that is under-engineered. A bridge that cannot even hold it’s own weight let alone the weight of it’s occupants.

Of course then you have the opposite effect of reason without faith. This creates an over-engineered bridge that the occupants even after running the numbers several thousand times still won’t cross because you can never be sure that something won’t happen during your crossing.

You should at least be sure of what you are getting into before you blindly plunge forward. In the very least. You should also be prepared for the “engineers” (reasonists) to examine your bridge and say that it is not worthy for travel. The pure reasonist (in this example an atheist) will never cross the bridge.

BUT, if the reasonist makes a good point, there’s no reason to not implement his “design changes” into your faith.

interesting counter argument. I think my counter argument to this will be, that faith moves far far smaller mountains today than it did in the days of jesus.

when that faith is developed into a belief. (that your faith is the truth) it also creates the greatest exclusivism in the world.

Now that doesn’t mean that I’m vouching for an equality of faiths or beliefs. There are clearly varying levels of truth in faiths.

And I’m not exclusively targetting the devout. I think the atheist gets hung up on the “there is no god” thing so much that it hurts any sort of “spirirtual” advancement.

hmm, I think you reasonably measure love. I think we underestimate love when we apply it to belief. It is possible for agape. But ironically we’d first have to drop the pretense of exclusive belief.

I think you can also measure how much you love someone. Often times we connect “love” with “sexual love”… there are obviously varying levels of love. At some level we all love humanity, than at a closer level we love our family, than an even closer level our spouse. Even these levels can vary day to day.

clearly you are a more “metaphysical” christian than most. (wasn’t it you who posted the “tao of christ a few months back?”)

interesting… The redaction makes more sense that way the way it mixes the creation myths and noahic myths that lead up to the myth of abraham.

Both the Noahic myth and the creation myth refer to god as “gods” (elohim) while also referring to the ineffable. The redactors tried to smooth out the mythology so that the connection to the abrahamic myth would make more sense to the reader of the day.

It’s interesting though during the moses myth god becomes visible again (either in the form of man, or a cloud) to moses on the top of the mountain.

well I think it goes beyond immaturity. It’s a product of how they were brought up. Some people get locked into their beliefs. (ok most people) and never have the urge to press beyond them. I think this speaks strongly for reincarnation, and that those of us who press beyond what we are taught and beyond our environment, know that such things are illusions. The myth brings us closer to the illusion but it’s still lacking that important ingredient.

The reason.

hmm, I think it’s passed the test of time for the believer. I think much of the scripture’s brutality towards other men should definately be taught the same way I think germany should teach it’s students the brutality of nazi germany. If you forget history you are doomed to repeat it. I think the succesion of bad ideas and man’s mistakes in the bible should at least teach us that. From joshua trying to conquer jericho, to the jews being conquered by the babylonians.

What seperated these people?

Their belief about the way the world was.

and the need to own land.

 Yes, no doubt that's true. My point is just that whereever a person settles in Christianity, they will not think that their views are subjective or relative. At best, they will think the ideas that they have [i]left behind [/i]are. If all positions are relative, a person may as well stay with the one they have. We need reference to an absolute (like rational consistancy) to be convinced that one idea is more preferable to another. 
 And what does 'god-like' mean? Is it just a sophisiticated way of saying 'cool' or 'neato', or does it literally mean that there is a God, and that Jesus showed how to be like Him?  If the latter, then I would agree that that would be at least something like Christianity, at least christian-inspired. If the former, it's just atheism with a pretty-wrapper, which is the biggest part of my problem with liberal theology in the first place- it just all seems to be spawned by people without the courage to admit they are atheists. 

You’re trying to start a conversation that isn’t going to happen, I’m sorry if that bothers you. My point should be clear without going that way- what is the difference between an institution preseving history, and promoting dogma?

 Which philosophers, theologians or scientists did you have in mind when you said this? Were you thinking of someone in particular, perhaps someone I have read from, who is very rational in their day to day lives, but not so rational when they discuss the Bible? If your point is that they [i]must[/i] be irrational just by virtue of the fact that they disagree with you and your favorite experts, then I think we've reached an impasse. 

what it seems to me that you’re saying is,

1 “Anyone who has view X of the Bible is irrational, because many scholars (and me) agree that X is obviously wrong.”
2 "Any expert who seems to have view X must be irrational, simply because they disagree with me and the scholars I favor.
3 Bare in mind, being a scholar does not mean one is more rational than anyone else.

So where's the argument here? You want to put forward a certain view as THE VIEW, agaist which anyone who disagrees must just be an irrational person, end of story.  How does that make you any different than all the irrational disagreers who would say the same thing about you?
  Nevertheless, apparently some do, unless you define 'rational' as 'one who agrees with everything scythekain says' or 'one who does not accept the bible as the inerrent word of god'. I find it peculiar that it has come upon [i]me[/i], to tell [i]you[/i], that rationality can lead to contrary opinions. 

I don’t know, scythe…I’m not the one that keeps bringing it up. :slight_smile:

No doubt that's true. But they did know that rivers don't turn into blood, or that bushes don't talk to you, or that people don't fall over dead in masses for no reason. What I'm saying is, as little as they knew, they were still qualified to distinguish the miraculous from the mundane. 
 Kind of. I think it's easy to find people who say "The things I believe are irrational" or "the things I believe probably aren't true".  But I also think that if you examine these people, they are either using key words like 'believe' in very strange ways, or else they really haven't thought out the implications of what they are claiming.  As [i]I [/i] understand the words 'belief' and 'rational', nobody ever has beliefs that they know to be irrational.

Hi MB,

No, I don’t think so. There are many Muslims in Europe who disagree. But what they agree with is the fact that a suicide bomber has been driven by injustice to such a deed. It isn’t the righteousness of the deed, but injustice that is the cause of such actions and sympathy amongst educated Muslims. I, as a Christian, disagree completely with the actions of such people, but when these people think that it is the Christians or Jews that cause their suffering (over hundreds of years), you have to go to great measures to convince them of the opposite.

Exactly, helping for helpings sake, for the people who need help, doesn’t require stipulation, even if you do feel that you have been called. I tend to say that those who want to thank me should rather thank God for calling people to service, but I try to play it down. Occasionally I am asked why I help or why I can disregard the fact that someone is an alcoholic or in some way responsible for their own condition, that is when I speak of Christ and God.

Christians have to some degree given this attitude up and their potential as redeemers of people who need redemption by compromising themselves with the system. Others, like you are indicating are only helping because they feel that to really help they need to convert people. But it is the spontaneous example of care that is encouraged in the Bible, against all reason. When Jesus is anointed with the expensive oil, the disciples are angry and say that it was so expensive that many poor people could have been fed with the money gained by selling the oil. Jesus says that the poor will be with them for ever, and that there will be enough chances to help them – perhaps indicating that they won’t anyway. He says that the woman had anointed him for his burial, a gift of compassion and thanks, which should be remembered for all time. Why? Because it is this spontaneous show of compassion that people need. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right has done? Maybe. But spontaneous compassion is the will of God and deliberated help is often waylaid and doesn’t have the same effect.

It depends upon the circumstances. If on the other side of this unstable bridge there is someone (perhaps a child) who is in dire need of help, then it may be that I feel myself called, against all reason, to risk my life – even if the outcome is uncertain. This is what real “witness” is and is a commitment to show that spontaneous compassion can cause me to lose my life, but inspire hundreds to do the same, thus changing the world a little.

There are continually situations when you can’t be sure (I have a feeling that such circumstances are increasing) and you can only plunge forward. I agree that where it is possible, you shouldn’t be foolish and adopt a behaviour that isn’t merited by the situation, but reason isn’t above all.

Alas, I believe you are quite right here. Perhaps we should follow the example of Jesus and go about looking for faith. I personally believe that this is the calling of Christians, to look for faith and show the blessing that God has for those who act on faith. I think that communities could achieve far more if they would break away from their “adherence to the word” and would follow the Spirit and embrace the poor.

This is curiously the same criticism that Jesus voiced against the pious of his time. In fact, I have been thinking about posting a thread on the subject, since a transliteration of his words into a modern context would reveal that this was the concern that the Gospels transport. The stories and miracles are often allegorical, but the message is clear. Jesus was the suffering servant preparing the path for the Meschiach, the Messiah, which is the body of believers who do the will of God and redeem the Nations.

Which is why I often speak of “self-actualisation” to people outside of religious traditions. It is surprising how many people use the Mystics for this process, especially in criticism of organised religion.

But this kind of love does have an “after-taste” and I know my wife would have a questioning look about her if I indicated that love was “measurable”. It is to some degree similar to what I wrote about deliberated help. Spontaneous compassion is far more effective.

I don’t know whether I started it off, but I definitely contribute to the thought. Mysticism has a broad scope and bring people of many creeds and philosophies together – Tao seems as neutral as you can get.

If you adopt the Semitic language then Elohim could be translated as the “the Unity in diversity” indicating that God emanates his creation and manifests himself in different forms – not least in human form – whilst being one. The Moses legend is largely symbolic and gives Moses a similar status to Jesus in the NT. His face “shines” after being confronted by God in the cloud, but it is said that God is only seen “from behind” - which could indicate the “hindsight” we sometimes have after experiencing something otherwise inexplicable.

That is why I have stressed the difference between faith and belief. The belief simply states that something is true, faith acts upon it. As long as people are told it is important to “believe” and the acts of faith are underplayed, nobody will feel urged to go beyond such beliefs – especially if it becomes doctrine that “belief” saves.

The Reason for faith is the realisation of hope and the grace of God that people experience when their faith becomes active. To know that acts of faith are rewarded, often not materially but spiritually, and to see the good you can bring about (which is a reward in itself) is by far reason enough. The promise of eternal life then just seems to be a cream topping.

On holiday I read Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”, which showed to me that Germany wasn’t so unique with regard to Nazis, and that under certain circumstances this could have happened anywhere. Although there are Neo-Nazis here, they are particularly organised in Holland, the land which had always been known for its liberalism, and America, where much of their Literature is printed. Germans today are further away from the Nazi ideals than most other countries.

Joshua overcame Jericho according to the Bible with the help of God, he didn’t just attempt to. Of course there are points in the Bible where the message sometimes seems to get caught up in occurrences that seem to contradict the main message. I think that these stories have a message that shouldn’t be over scrutinised. The Literalistics may get caught up in that, but we are not fundamentalists.


The same can be said of any viewpoint. Too Relative? There are some “belief” systems in there modern forms that are better than other belief systems. Christianity in it’s modern form is far less dangerous than Cults like, Al Qaeda (and similiar muslims), Heavens Gate, Waco, etc.

Luckily for you though, the viewpoint of christianity was heavily influenced by secular standards and by more open theologians. Today there are christians (like yourself) that can accept evolution. Today there are christians who would never dream of burning people alive for believing something else.

It’s important for all of us to remember that while we have the current golden standard in our minds, it’s not necessarily the best standard.

I disagree… Social Evolution dictates the evolution of morays. This is the #1 problem I have with using holy scripture as an absolute life guide. The books by todays standards are absolutely morally flawed.

There is a simple standard for the evolution of morals as well.

How does my action affect someone else?

Well it’s not even so much that we shouldn’t strive to be more “god-like” in by being more just and moral. But if you mean god-like, like the god that flooded the earth because he wasn’t happy with mankind. Or scattered mankind when they were all harmonious and working together? That’s a god of pettiness created by the “rabbi” of the day.

let’s face it… The god I just described is far more human, and very negative human emotions. From envy, to anger, to jealousy.

The polar opposite is love. Since we are both human, we both have felt all three of those negative emotions, as well as love. not the lustful type of love that leads to the negatives. The all encompassing love, that gives you empathy for others. (agape)

When you feel the negative emotions, your mind becomes very self centered. You’ll do whatever it takes to “get back”. Take vengeance. Avenge.

When you are in “agape”, your actions are centered towards helping others.

the difference is stigmata. The feeling that you have to perform the acts of dogma every week to gain access to heaven. That you have to be baptized to be born again. etc. Preserving history would be more like a museum. Giving us a window into how things used to be.

Would you agree with preserving the native american (particularly central american) religious rituals of virgin sacrifice? Some historical preservation is better done through observance and not ritualistic practice.

Certainly you wouldn’t want to enforce the dogmas of just 150 years ago when women were more oppressed, slavery was ok, and jews were oppressed with regularity.

You can surely see the benefit of letting some dogmas go. Eventually as time goes on, dogmas are lost, changed and or forgotten. The catholic church used to do full body baptisms. At some point they changed this practice.

well it’s within reason, that I said this. When it comes to matters of unjustified faith versus science… you have to turn off a certain amount of reason. Meister Eckhart himself never overcame the dualist nature of his belief stigmatas.

  1. Not even the faithful have the same viewpoint of X.
  1. In that particular part of his life… If you question someone’s belief… .no matter HOW rational and intelligent they are as soon as you cross the thresh hold of belief and faith, the person you are speaking to resorts to ir-rational colliquisms. (not you, some other people I’ve spoken with about their faith.) When you push on reason, they switch the modes in their mind… the dualist. dueling with his own reason.

not at all. It just means that you have a piece of paper on the wall that says you could attend school for 4+ years.

slipping into relativism? Differing mindsets and how to avoid relativism? I don’t have the answer to that, here’s some thoughts.

Each of has a unique view of the world. Some of us are taught from birth to view the world in a particular fashion. The muslim believes that mohamed was the final prophet from god, jesus isn’t god etc. The way of life is “subservance”.

The buddhist (depending on location) believes that buddha is “god-like”, “enlightened” and by following the “eight-fold path” you too can become like buddha. The way of life is “agape” aka golden rule. Buddhism is the one “religion” in this list that “sin” is brought by following the corrupt desires of the heart. And by only stilling those desires can you stop doing wrong.

The Jew is taught that they are special. “gods choice people”. This ethnocentric teaching has a very negative effect on their ego. They have a long list of rules to follow to be “sin-free” and blood sacrifices to remit their sins. Depending on the jew you could be taught the torah alone, or they could teach you some of the other jewish works as well.

The christian is taught that the “Holy bible” is the inerrant word of god. That only by believing in christ, will one be saved from sin. Christ was the ultimate blood sacrifice for sin. The goal of the christian is complicated. be like god, yet that’s impossible because he was able to perform so many miracles. Practice the golden rule. Pray for forgiveness even after you remit your sins to christ.

This is but a small sampling of the world religions. And the “generalized” ones at that.

How are we in the face of religious differences to claim one spectacular religious claim written in a book is greater than another?

Isn’t it best to approach the face of spirituality with a clean slate of reason?

hello Bob,
Back with another reply.

really? Why aren’t there jewish suicide bombers? Clearly they’ve had MASSIVE injustices done, throughout history. From the christian church, the nazi death camps, to the muslim suicide bombers attacking them.

Why aren’t there christian suicide bombers? Clearly they’ve suffered injustices from the beginning of the church.

Buddhist suicide bombers? It’d be only “rational” given the injustice viewpoint as buddhist teachers are slaughtered by muslim extremists.

If it was driven purely by injustice you’d see other attacks throughout all the faiths of the world. You only see such extreme acts of retaliation in modern “cults” (like waco, heavens gate, the japanese serin attack (forget their name)) and extremist muslims.

This in my mind says something… is there something in the religion that triggers people to be more susceptible into justifying such violence?

I believe I answered this above.

Interesting. I think it’s good that you help and only teach those truly interested. I am of the belief that there are many roads we all travel. Sometimes darkness entrenches our roads, and no amount of light is going to illuminate the path. Sometimes we intenionally close our eyes to envelope ourselves in darkness. We don’t want to know where we are going. Or rather, we know where we are going, see the cliff, but close our eyes so that we can keep plodding forward without having to go through the pain of changing.

I believe this is closer to “agape” than anything. To have empathy for the plight of humanity, yet they ability to still function and help yourself.

interesting analogy. it’s a good one. there are certain circumstancecs that would stretch our ability to act in certain ways. Certainly if your child or loved one was across the bridge in dire need of help you wouldn’t think of the consequences of crossing you would just cross. What if it was someone you didn’t know? how many of us would turn the other cheek and not cross because of concern for our own life?

It’s easy to say that you think bullying someone is wrong. It’s harder to be the lone person who stands up for the bullied.

If you captured someone that told you “I’ve planted a bomb in one of the schools in the city.”

Would you:

A) evacuate all of the schools to save all of the children.

B) torture this individual to give up the location of the bomb.

C) do nothing and call his bluff.

Your initial reaction will depend on if you’ve got “you’re own” involved. If one of your children are in the schools, you’d probably jump to torture. if you are a pacifist, you’d probably do nothing, and punish him after the fact.

I’m torn on this… I feel it’s dangerous to put “faith” and especially the “unjustified belief” that religion presents above reason. We can still use reason to justify our spirituality. can’t we?

Are we condemned to a dualist nature of belief vs reason?

I can agree with that. Above all else we should empower ourselves to end absolute poverty.

But… this can be done with reason. Limit the amount someone can make per year. There’s no reason anyone needs more than 10 million per year (including stock options). The CEO of Walmart with all of his options makes 28 million per year. if he just took 1% of that he could feed and house 40 - 50 families in the US, easily. When you apply that kind of money to poorer parts of the world his wealth (and others like him) becomes more disgusting.

interesting evolution of the faith.

often times mysticism is more appealing than religion, as it’s more open to following your own path in life. I think it also gives you the tools to find the path. Religion as presented constricts spiritual growth. In my opinion.

the banner of mysticism seems the most likely candidate to unite humanity.

Elohim is usually plural (as in gods) in the rest of the “fertile crescent”. For example, the first creation myth, uses the term “let us make man, male and female, in our image”. Is it possible that ancient judaism shared the polytheistic belief with the rest of the fertile crescent?

one redaction I found particularly interesting, where god is given two names:

italicized the redactors additional “god said” statement.

you run into problems here… you either believe that all of the book is parable, or believe it’s the literal “good news”.

If you believe that a majority of the OT is parable and that’s why there is contradictarory redaction (like whether or not joshua took jericho, who killed goliath, etc) than you run into Literal problems. If you think of them as Parables, then it’s just a different telling of the same story. Christ can’t exist as a literal savior if the OT is parable.

in closing, (I missed alot of stuff in your post due to time, don’t think that the quality was lacking).

Reason and faith can live side by side. We can escape the dualist nature.

Belief doesn’t have to be unjustified.

Hi MB,

I think you would find that there are ethical reasons, but all the same, there are radicals in every religion and the fact that one group turns to suicide bombings doesn’t exonerate the others because they don’t. You have to appreciate that there are not homogeneous groups called Muslims, Jews, Christians and Buddhists. There are the radicals and the moderate and the disinterested; the fundamentalists, the temperate and the spiritual in all religions – and in all schools of thought generally. Looking at the Israeli settlements that have now finally been given up, the injustice hasn’t only been done to the Jews, and there were other Holocausts too, like the Armenian one.

The common denominator here is “extremist” - which you will find everywhere. Remember though, it is about power or the lack of autonomy. At all times were there groups that were regarded as extremists who saw themselves fighting against overwhelming odds. If their side won, they were heroes – despite atrocities done in the name of ‘justice’. If their side lost, they were terrorists and scum of the earth. We human beings seem to be able to do that and it is all a part of militancy and warmongering. “Whosoever lives by the sword, will die by the sword” - not true on every count, but at the time it was spoken, very much indeed.

The first reaction must be to save life, so first of all A. I would certainly interrogate the person (no need for torture – which depicts a weak position).

No, we must adopt whatever is fitting. I believe that spirituality is justifiable and therefore when showing the fruits of spirituality I would be appealing to reason.

The problem is that this only works for as long as somebody is in office who cares for the poor and is willing to challenge the rich. Nobody has thereby achieved a substantial change.

That is also one of the problems that Jesus tried to overcome by showing that the Spirit was the root of religion, not laws. “Canned” religion tries to copy the ardour of spirituality but gets caught up in legalism and dogmatic “biblical” discussions (or is just dreary) and forgets that sentience is about life. It is all a bit “ivory towers” to me.

The creation myths are “borrowed”, like many other legends, and the scribes originally didn’t pay much attention to the plural. Later scribes had started to interpret the Hebrew rendering by the time it could have become an issue, one interpretation I have given you above.

Before Horeb, God was known as “El” as Beth-El means house of God. Afterwards, you notice the ancient use of “YHVH” as a venerated title, and the basis of many Hebrew-originated pronouns. YHVH is derived from the root Havah (there is, to be) prefixed with the letter Yod (The Letter of Action, Hand), which transforms it into the third person masculine singular. In other words, YHVH means “He who is”. The first part of the first of the Ten Commandments: “Anokhi Yod Heh Vav Heh Elohekha” (lit. I AM YHVH your God) can be used as a Torah mantra. In Judaism, the tetragrammaton is commonly referred to as “HaShem,” The Name.

No, it isn’t a case of one or the other. In every case we, just like people in the past, have to decide for ourselves what Scripture is telling us. The historicity is secondary, it is the message that is important. It is a question of whether I believe that message and consequently live my life according to that belief. It is just as irrelevant who wrote the text. Of course, a historian can’t accept this attitude, just as a fundamentalist cannot. Both are applying rationality and ignoring the mystical nature of the message.

Old Testament stories, legends and myths take you on a journey into ancient times full of archetypes. They help you fathom truth that is buried under the rubble of our failings, they dig deep into our soul and pull our real self into view. To read Scripture means to let the stories happen and bear the consequences. Once you have come to know Abraham as the Father of faith, Moses as the bearer of the holy Name, it isn’t far away from the Jesus as Saviour.