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Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST 
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Post Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Please discuss Chapter 7: THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST within this thread. ::121




Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:23 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Having completed the first section of chapter 7, in which Dawkins treats the Old Testament, I have to say it exhibits the same lack of concern for balanced assessment exhibited in other passages throughout this book. It consists primarily of a derisive, mocking rant concerning the immoralities frequently displayed by Old Testament figures and is directed at fundamentalist Christians who Dawkins apparently believes are to be found lurking behind every bush (burning or not) on the American continent. He even goes so far as to suggest that Pat Robertson is "typical of those who today hold power and influence in the United States."

His note 90 on page 237 references two books: The Unauthorized Version by Robin Lane Fox and The Secular Bible by Jacques Berlinerblau. He uses these references to support a point that the Bible is "a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries." The reference is somewhat less than effective because it doesn't list specific passages in either book, which taken together comprise more than 675 pages. (How do we spell slapdash?)

Dawkins's mention of these two books is particularly ironic to those who have any familiarity with them. Both are written by professed non-believers who demonstrate a reverence for and nuanced understanding of the Bible conspicuously lacking in the contemptuous and dismissive treatment meted out in The God Delusion.

Berlinerblau's The Secular Bible is a book-length lamentation for the lack of secular Biblical scholarship combined with an argument that atheists, agnostics, and religious believers can all benefit from a detailed and sophisticated understanding of its contents.

Robin Lane Fox describes himself as someone who "believes in the Bible but not in God." Compare the following passage from his book with Dawkins's treatment of the same topic.

Quote:
(p.400 ff.)In the Bible we recognize a human awareness in what scores of anonymous authors have written (including their human ideas of a god). This level of recognition is not at all the same as reverence for the Bible as a handbook for life, a role for which its detail is not well suited. The Gospels are not often specific on detailed points of conduct, and as a handbook they would be very patchy indeed. Those who want such details have to look back to the Hebrew books of law, but here, too, they face problems. If they are Christians, it is not obvious why details in these old books should continue to have such authority for them. Whether Christians or non-Christians, they have to pick and choose between the books' details or else appeal to broad principles in order to bend the texts to circumstances which they never envisaged, popular capitalism, perhaps, or even feminism. It is not only that the many different texts in scripture give conflicting points of view on anything from an after-life to polygamy or the value of riches. One and the same book of law can contain texts on charity for the poor, sanctions for the death penalty, public stoning, slavery or outright genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1 ff.; 20:16-18 ) . Many of these commands are no longer any sort of guide to decent living: how, then, can we pick out bits which are still tolerable to our moral sense and claim that they have an external authority because they are biblical, while denying that other biblical bits which stand beside them are to be taken as authoritative?

...When we recognize 'how it would have been', we are not, therefore, reading 'how it must be' for us now, as for people then: we can recognize something without approving it. Recognition is not a name for self-centred readings, tuned only to the comfortable views with which we begin. We set out with beliefs, but we can all imagine others which are different: we can also recognize what is not part of our own personalities or something which is, but is not what we often admit.


Fiske

Edited by: FiskeMiles at: 12/30/06 12:09 pm



Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:05 pm


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Quote:
the Bible is "a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries."



Richard Elliot Friedman, in his `Who Wrote the Bible?' does a good job of expressing this view, commonly called (for the OT) the `documentary hypothosis'. That view claims four primary authors for a substantial part of the OT plus two `redactors'. Friedman gave tenative identification to one of the authors (Jeremiah) and one of the redactors (Ezra).

As far as the NT goes, the author of virtually every one of those works save Paul (and then only some of the time) is unknown, usually the work of later tradition.




Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:48 am


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Dear Thinker:

Thanks for joining the discussion and adding this information. Are you reading The God Delusion?

Fiske




Tue Jan 02, 2007 7:04 am


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Quote:
Are you reading The God Delusion?



Only in a casual sense. I've picked it up at the library a few times and read through this or that part of it. It reminds me of some of the debates in the `General Apologetics' portion of the `Christian Forums' site. Every one of the theist arguments presented in Dawkins book, and his counter arguments, has appeared at some point there (and quite a few others).




Wed Jan 03, 2007 3:32 am


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Thinker:

Yes, arguments about the existence of God are philosophical in nature which doesn't stop a lot of people on either side of the issue from insisting on ultimate truth when they have no real proof to offer. One of the reasons I am not too happy about describing belief in God as a delusion. But, I'll be adding a topic on the subject shortly. :)

I wish you would check the book out from the library again and participate in our discussion. We can all benefit from a diversity of opinion, thought, and idea.

Fiske




Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:31 am


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Quote:
Both are written by professed non-believers who demonstrate a reverence for and nuanced understanding of the Bible conspicuously lacking in the contemptuous and dismissive treatment meted out in The God Delusion.


I wonder, Fiske, what portions you found contemptuous? I recall you made a post about Dawkins calling the Old Testament God vindictive and cruel, among other things, but as others have mentioned, this is hardly a statement of contempt, but one of bald truth. I also think that perhaps you are missing one of the main points Dawkins is trying to make in this book: that religion is afforded too much respect and that criticisms which would seem merely to be bald truth-telling in other contexts are made out to seem vile, contemptuous, and slanderous in religious contexts.

One need not respect something to critique it. If I were writing a book on Nazism, I hardly doubt anyone would call it "unscholarly" to view the atrocities committed by that group with contempt, or even to call those who ordered the atrocities "monsters" and other no-doubt cruel names. For more resources on why heated passion and scholarship are not mutually exclusive, see any number of Nietzche's aphorisms on the topic.




Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:07 am


Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Christians often have great difficulty facing up to some of the nastier logical aspects of their religion.

A question that gets asked of christians now and again on CF (usually referencing the slaughters ordered by God in the OT, and the near sacrifice of Issac):

`If God directly commanded you to do so, would you kill somebody in cold blood?'

Most christians respond to that one with evasions, along the lines of `we are supposed to test the spirits' (make sure it is really God) or `God is love and would never command me to do something so evil'.

The few that do answer the question directly almost always respond in the affirmative - for to say no is to `sin' by disobeying God.

Note that these tend to be `bible believing christians'.

Then there is the `hell' issue - another instance where many christians have great difficulty facing up to the logical consequences of their beliefs.

One of the items brought up fairly often (but apparently not covered by Dawkins) is the `religiously split' family: one or more members of the family is a born again saved christian - but their spouse or parent or offspring are not. Despite this they care for each other very much. The notion that their `unsaved' family members will by christian logic be subject to `hell' (of which there are several competing models, all backed by `scripture') is very deeply disturbing to the christians.

Another hell related bit pertains to what might be termed `personal helplessness': the christian finds the notion of hell for most unbelievers to be deeply disturbing, but God decreed it, so that is the way it is - you can't really rally against it without it costing you your salvation.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have some sorts who make Asana appear to be reasonable and flexible. These are the `reformed' - protestants of an extreme sort, along with hypercalvinists. Their creed is that God is a God of *vengance* first and foremost, and that Gods chosen followers will revel in the unending destruction God hands out to all unbelievers. (taking delight in divine torture, which to me seems rather sick). Even most of the other christian posters make the comment there is no real difference between this God and the Devil.

I think I've derailed things enough to get myself in trouble here so I'd better quit.




Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:36 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Fiske says:
Quote:
Yes, arguments about the existence of God are philosophical in nature which doesn't stop a lot of people on either side of the issue from insisting on ultimate truth when they have no real proof to offer.


No, the main point here and the problem that Dawkins, others and I like to point out is that god is a created concept. There IS no evidence for the existence of any god (and there is MUCH evidence that it is simply another myth created by humans) while a naturalistic POV has at least much good evidence that we have found through our available means. We can ponder anything we like, I grant that, but that does not give any sort of credibility or grant any verisimilitude to those ponderings.

I just finished this chapter and some of the bible quotes about fathers giving their daughters up for rape and then cutting up their bodies...or daughters getting their father drunk and fucking him to get pregnant (sorry if my choice of words offends...lol) are quite disgusting and vile. Maybe thats how things were back then, but in that case, maybe we should leave the bible back in those days as well.

But please...how am I lacking in biblical scholarship when I read these sentences? How am I missing the point of the value that the bible brings to our species? Please...someone explain this to me now. Because Dawkins is looking mighty right in my eyes about the need to leave this ancient fairy tale in the past...despite his failure to properly quote sources.

Mr. P.

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Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:15 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
The central point of this chapter is simply that the "good" book really isn't all that good. In fact, as a guide for human morality, it's pretty bad, especially so if one thinks it actually is the divinely authored or inspired word of the "One True God."

When the Bible is understood as a collection of stories and myths, then it has some utility and some value. These are our efforts to explain ourselves to ourselves



Tue Jan 16, 2007 9:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
garicker: When the Bible is understood as a collection of stories and myths, then it has some utility and some value. These are our efforts to explain ourselves to ourselves



Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:30 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
garicker: Unfortunately, most of the scholarship never quite seems to make it to the great mass of Christian believers, many of whom have no idea of how much of what they believe to be true about the biblical narrative is totally unsupported by that scholarship.

That's an absolutely valid criticism. On the whole, I would feel better about Christianity as an institution if the churches were more pro-active in providing material and instruction that disseminated this scholarship to their constituencies.

The understanding of the Bible that exists in academia, especially in the more advanced schools, is a far cry from the understanding of the Bible that exists in the world of the average believer in one of the Christian sects.

To be fair, that's true in any field. And religion is a field that is full of layman. Conversely, many of these laymen also profess that religion is a matter of transcendent concern, so you would think that more of them would be interested in applying themselves more directly to a deeper study of the field. For most Christians, unfortunately, that usually means a deeper immersion in the impressionistic form of "Bible study".

On the whole, Judaism seems to have inspired a more devout scholarly tradition.




Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Quote:
On the whole, I would feel better about Christianity as an institution if the churches were more pro-active in providing material and instruction that disseminated this scholarship to their constituencies.


Hmmm, not educating the flock...I wonder why?

I think that the lay Xtian and religionist would not be able to handle anything different from what has been bashed into them. I think it serves the variou traditions to keep the laity in the dark.

Quote:
profess that religion is a matter of transcendent concern, so you would think that more of them would be interested in applying themselves more directly to a deeper study of the field.


Actually, to 'profess' such a transcendence would also seem, to me, to negate any need to study any scholarship at all. I do not see how more thorough study would follow from this.

Mr. P.


I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

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Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
misterpessimistic: Hmmm, not educating the flock...I wonder why?

Why don't you ask some church administrators? Assuming that it's a conspiracy to keep the ignorant masses from thinking too hard about their religion is just intellectual laziness.

I think it serves the various traditions to keep the laity in the dark.

To some degree, that may be true. There are points of difference between different Christian denominations that the clergy and laymen of those traditions don't want to consider anew. A more in-depth, scholarly, considered understanding of the development of the Bible and of Christian tradition would complicate their reasons for adhering to one denomination or another, even if it didn't complicate their belief in Christianity in general.

And on the other hand, I'd say it's likely that some of these people would also claim that their denomination's tradition -- apart from the tradition of Christianity as a whole -- matters to them, and in some ways stands in stead of a fuller understanding of the Bible. Which is much the same as saying that a great many Christian denominations have two holy "texts", the Bible and their denomination's unique tradition.

Actually, to 'profess' such a transcendence would also seem, to me, to negate any need to study any scholarship at all. I do not see how more thorough study would follow from this.

That depends on whether you're talking about the individual's own transcendence or the transcendence of Christianity as a religion. If the person claims to be transcendent, then they probably won't see much reason to make a deeper study of the Bible. (They'll probably also get even their own tradition wrong, or start a new tradition -- they're running awful close to mysticism by claiming transcendence.) If, however, they claim that Christian religion is transcendent -- that is, it transcends human history, or culture, or society -- then it would make sense to learn more about it. And that latter claim is by far the more common within Christianity itself.




Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - THE 'GOOD' BOOK AND THE CHANGING MORAL ZEITGEIST
Quote:
If, however, they claim that Christian religion is transcendent -- that is, it transcends human history, or culture, or society -- then it would make sense to learn more about it.


But how can this claim even be entertained as serious? How can something born of human history, cutlure or society transcend the same? This is were I just choose to stay out of the conversation...because the terms and conditions start sounding too subjective for me. The whole subject becomes what one specific 'side' demands it becomes.

Christianity has propagated itself well, it must be admitted. But that does not show, to me at least, that it has transcended anything at all.

Mr. P.


I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Wed Apr 04, 2007 3:15 pm
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