Fairy tales for adults

Richard Lightman richard at nezumi.plus.com
Fri Feb 14 12:28:57 PST 2003

* Steve Bougerolle <steveb at creek-and-cowley.com> [2003-02-14 16:51]:
> On Fri, 2003-02-14 at 21:26, Richard Lightman wrote:
> > * Steve Bougerolle <steveb at creek-and-cowley.com> [2003-02-14 10:06]:
> > > On Fri, 2003-02-14 at 00:09, Richard Lightman wrote:
> > > > A couple of nasty examples:
> > > > * Does the christian's god exist?
> > > Of course he exists.  What his NATURE is, is quite another story :)
> > How do you know the christian's god exists?
> That's a short but somewhat abstract way of saying that I am sure there
> is a higher power even though I am also sure I can not comprehend his
> mature.  It also implies that I believe what the Bible says.
I get different interpretations of the above paragraph when I make
the first 'That' apply to different quotes above it.

The impression I get is that you think the existance of a supreme
being is certain without any need to question such an assumption.
Is that correct?

> I would answer any ethical question much the same way, by weighing up
> different things that are said in different places in the bible.  You
> would probably reason with much the same effect because you have been
> raised in a culture that teaches Christian values even if not teaching
> belief in Christ.  
True enough but my source material would be more based on my own
experiences, my friends and modern books - I do not have enough
historical background to understand 200 year old motives let alone
2000 year old ones. I would include modern discussion about bible
stories, but I would be much more careful with the source material.
When I have tried to look into ancient peoples' lives, standards,
expectations and motives, I kept finding things that made them seem
so alien that I really did not understand these people at all. Perhaps
one day I will stop finding more supprises in ancient phillosophy,
then I would consider attempting to understand bible stories.

> It is particularly easy to read the bible from a Christian perspective
> because Christ consistently taught principles and not simple mechanical
> rules.  In almost any question of conflict between the old and new
> testaments it's not that hard to decide what is right if you remember
> the principles Christ taught.  In other words, you can see Christ's
> teaching as being a way of interpreting everything else.  (I'm hammering
> on the point about principles and Christian culture because I'm going to
> refer to it again farther down.)
This hammering may be causing another problem for me:

It looks like you are starting with a moral code that is approximately
modern christian, then interpreting the bible to match.

Do you think you could start with a really destructive moral code
with for example slavery, violence and revenge, and interpret the bible
to match?

Do you think you could start with a really destructive moral code
with for example slavery, violence and revenge, and extract something
like your current moral code from the bible?

I have been asked to 'read the bible with an open mind'. I have tried
this, and I am sure I see something very different from what someone
interpreting the bible with a set of vaguely christian preconceived
ideas would see. Perhaps this explains why I have difficulty with a
statement like 'what the bible has to say is clearly true'.

> > Why are answering the example questions instead of thinking about
> > how you would answer questions?
> Because it wasn't clear to me that they are just example questions.  I
> am often quite literal-minded, so if something is an example or a joke
> please do me a favour and say so directly.
I apologize and will try to be clearer in future.

> > I would judge a religion's validity by the method it uses to show that
> > it is true.
> Hm.  Ok then.  Christ said (paraphrased) "You will know a tree by its
> fruit".  His point, pretty clearly, was that you can judge his teaching
> or any teaching by its results. When people really follow Christ's
> commands (whether they accept him or not, or have even heard of him) it
> looks pretty clear to me that it makes life better for everyone.
This "good fruit" test has advantages over the "know in my heart" test.
You mentioned that predicting the results of an action is difficult.
I think judging the results of a previous action can also be
contraversial. I would like to avoid some terrible flame wars by not
giving examples. Do you consider the point made?

> But then what value would there be to a code of belief that was "easy"?
If it consistently produces good fruit, then I would be glad if it was
was "easy".

> > Why do you take exception to these things I have not been doing?
> Because your intentions are not easy for me to read, especially by
> e-mail.  Likewise, please don't overestimate the degree to which I "take
> exception".  There are one or two people around who have managed to
> irritate me with their sheer hammerheaded behaviour but you're not one
> of them.
I know what you mean - again I will try to be clearer.

> > Would you clarify 'the ultimate reason why we believe the bible is its simple
> > authority'. 'The book is true because is says it is true'? I am sure I have
> > misinterpreted you here. I thought you were using something more like the
> > "In my heart I know it is true" test.
> I think I've answered that above so I won't repeat here.  However, I
> will add that it is also easy to accept what Christ said because a good
> many non-Christians believe many of the same principles already, maybe
> learned from someone else (like Muhammad) or maybe learned indirectly
> from Christ without realizing it (as is true of most of us in the west,
> who have grown up in a culture heavily influenced by Christianity). 

> Even in places as far away and unrelated to us as China people still
> accept the golden rule and have done so for millenia.
'golden rule' ?

Your test for truth looks a bit like 'consistency with your own
(roughly christian) moral code'. Does that sound right?

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