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?

Richard
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