Monday, May 30, 2011

Anti-theist complaints: Literal Interpretations

When Lent started, I figured I would do a whole bunch of "Snarky Theology" blog posts, followed by "Evil Religion" blogs. And, while I was at it, I asked Matt, friend of this blog, artist, atheist, and a few other things, to generate a list of what he found to be problematic with religion. He gave me a few.

I promised him I would use it. And I keep my promises

This is the last week I'm doing what my friend Jason calls "high-intellectual" blog posts. They are time consuming, draining, a lot of work, and I'm not sure they are at all entertaining. They've garnered some response, much of it hate mail.

My replies are long-winded, so this may take a few posts.

If you find yourself here by accident, or have no interest in the topic, I invite you to look around. Our most popular blogs are in the sidebar, as are the short stories, what this book is about, and we have entries on why anyone can enjoy this book, any politics involved, spytech, and even a section for fans of Sherlock Holmes and science fiction. If we don't have something you like ... wait five minutes. :)

Anyway, onto the complaint ....

-The fostering of extremism through literal interpretations of religious texts

To start with, I have a problem with this argument. Consider for a moment that a small minority of any religion has extremists in it. However, in Islam, when 10% of the population isn't that large … there are about a billion Muslims on the planet, so that gets blown out of proportion. Also, see the article.

I can't paint everyone with this brush. In the Catholic church, literalism was a heresy that was stamped out within a few hundred years. By the time St. Augustine, one of the earliest Church Fathers, came on the scene, it was already dead. It got resurrected later on.

So, I should probably jettison it now and move on. The Vatican already did. But I never knew when to leave well enough alone.

I addressed radical Islam with this earlier in the series, and the Fundamentalist Christians – I'm happy to throw them under the bus. Though I find them more amusing than anything else. I especially want to ask them “So, if every last word is literal, what were Jesus' last words?”

However, if I'm going to be honest, I'm going to go back to the opening point. There are small numbers of people who use the texts for there own purposes.

And most of the people who call themselves fundamentalists, or literalists, are neither.

Why? Because if they were truly literal about how they interpret religious texts, there are a whole bunch of inconvenient phrases scattered all over the place.

“Love God with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your soul,” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” are easily looked at literally.

Yet they're usually skipped over by people who claim to have a “literal interpretation of religious texts.”

And in Islam, that's even more fun. Sura 81, “When the girl, buried alive, is asked what what crime she is slain … ” and it goes on for a very long while. Sura 81 is “the Cessations,” and deals with the punishment of the wicked on Judgment day … and it has nothing to do with Skynet.

I've read that particular verse (Sura 81: 8-9) interpreted by a mullah as being a matter of God will punish the murderer of children, for children have committed no crime. In Sura 5, “the Table”, that those who fight against God or his Apostle, thereby bringing disorder to the world should be exiled, or be crucified. Considering how many Islamofacist terrorists have butchered plenty of children, and their fellow coreligionists, if they were to be looking at the whole thing literally, Osama would have been nailed to a set of 2x4s by his own people.

There are some people who want to claim that the Phelps family are "True Christians" because they're following everything in the Bible, even the stuff that was plastered over later on, things that are cultural in nature, not religious -- and I mean Pre-Roman Empire Cultural.

However, if the Phelps family followed everything, and were really literal, there are two statments they should reread.

One starts "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

The second one starts "Remove the log from your own eye before you point out the speck in someone elses."

But, gee, the Phelps people don't follow those parts, do they?

So, if they're not literalists, or fundamentalists, what are they?

Well, I'm willing to grant that 10% of the world's population are morons and psychopaths who would latch on to anything in order to justify their world view, their cults, their government, their backwards culture ....

How about you?

Unfortunately, with six billion people on the planet, that's over half a billion people. So, there are a lot of morons out there. Unfortunately, they get a lot of the press...

And, don't worry, get rid of religion, people will just latch on to new and inventive ways of being stupid and psychotic. I hear Darwin used to be popular for that....

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