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Author Topic: Why is religion taken literally?  (Read 6214 times)

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Online mannikTopic starter

Why is religion taken literally?
« on: November 12, 2008, 12:17:32 PM »
I have never been able to figure this out.

I can understand religion's purpose, which is to provide a uniting set of rules and moral values needed for any civilization to function. I can understand people finding comfort believing that a benevolent force guides and watches over them. There is no evidence that supports or refutes that, so I can not say there is no god, but I can argue that everyone is wrong about what exactly God is.

I can not for the life of me figure out why people believe that the bible, or other religious text, is a historical account. From what I have read and experienced, religion was never ment to be taken literally, but rather figuratively. The bible and the stories in it are all based on astronomy and the movement of the stars, as is EVERY religion...except scientology, but I highly doubt that holds any historical truth either.

Offline Mathim

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2008, 12:26:14 PM »
It's a mob mentality thing. When people don't understand something they get afraid and angry. But where do they put that anger? They make something up to be angry at even if it doesn't exist. Deities and sins, for instance; god-fearing, and 'love the sinner, hate the sin', perfect examples.

So when enough people start thinking that maybe the thing they fear and are angry with are the same thing, that's religion. That's undoubtedly where it all came from. Morals and whatnot are just designed to protect these mobs from their bad seeds and to further unite them against others of different beliefs. Hence all the religious conflict that has split the world since the dawn of man. Or at least, that's how a cynic growing up around religious hypocrites views it.

But you're bonkers if you think you can REALLY figure religion out or if you even want to TRY to. Accept religion for what it is; a man-made concept, poorly conceived and even more poorly practiced. My recommendation; avoid like the plague.


Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2008, 12:57:39 PM »
So you believe that religion IS ignorance.

I certanly agree that ignorance plays a large role in religion, like Zeus and his thunderbolts, and the men at the head of those religions certainly benifit from that ignorance, but I don't believe that was how religion initally started.

I think religion started based upon what people did know. Ancient man knew the sun that rose everyday provided warmth and light, and without it there would be no life as they knew it. After carefully observing it's movements and behaviors they anthropomorphised it in stories, giving it a human name simply to make those stories easier to follow.

I don't try to understand religion, but rather people's convition to it. Why is it so difficult for people to admit their own ignorance? How can they expect to learn anything if they believe that all the answers lie in a single book which doesn't even agree with itself?

Offline Mathim

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2008, 01:07:49 PM »
That's a retarded question. Who likes admitting they're wrong? I know many people don't believe in religion at all even though they go to church and claim to believe in it. Hell, my foster parents told me flat-out they didn't believe in god but they still went to church and sang in the choir. So even the people who do believe religion (or at least the deity of a religion) is bunk, might still just enjoy the traditions. It's just not okay for them to force that belief on others or hurt others for not believing (Spanish Inquisition, and our current Muslim radicals). So if you're asking why people believe in something when the world is in such a bad state, there are any number of answers, the most common probably being that, when there is no hope, you have to create hope out of nothing, and hence, religion.

If you're asking why people still believe in the face of evidence like evolution and dinosaurs and bacteria on Mars and stuff like that, well, that's a more difficult question. More often than not it's stubbornness and that goes along with not wanting to admit they could be wrong. It's different than being in an argument with one's significant other, for example. This is something they've believed in all their lives, so how dare someone threaten that belief? It's shaped who they are so even if they do know it's got a lot of holes in it, they still love that belief. It's just that more often than not, they DO use that as an excuse to have a superiority complex and/or force those beliefs on others.

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2008, 01:34:55 PM »
It sounds like your foster parents would agree with my theory of religion's initial purpose...unity. They didn't go to church to worship a diety, but rather to spend time with their friends and other people who otherwise wouldn't have a reason to speak to them. I can understand that.

Personally, I like being proved wrong. Because then I learn something.

It just gets me when people say things like, "evolution didn't happen because it's not in the bible.", or claim their is no God because evolution has been proven. One does not disprove the other.

Offline HairyHeretic

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2008, 01:53:48 PM »
There are also many more belief systems than christianity, and degrees of fundamentalist belief within all of them. I would suspect absolute fundamentalist belief in any holy writ belongs in a minority viewpoint, whatever the belief.

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2008, 02:04:35 PM »
that is true, but what good does that fundamental mentality bring? From what I have seen it brings nothing but conflict. Why would someone prefer to be at war over their own ignorance than simply admit it and see the world in a new light?

Offline Mathim

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2008, 02:05:10 PM »
There are also many more belief systems than christianity, and degrees of fundamentalist belief within all of them. I would suspect absolute fundamentalist belief in any holy writ belongs in a minority viewpoint, whatever the belief.

But any belief can turn absolutely fundamentalist and radical. Stick a bunch of people into the situation in the movie The Mist and that's exactly what'll happen.

The problem is, when someone has that kind of thing happen to them, where they're faced with Evolution being a proven fact and not a theory (only called a theory BECAUSE of those stubborn religious wankers) they don't think, "Hey, that's an interesting viewpoint, maybe I should study my own religion more and find the truth in it, and if there is no truth there, I'll seek another one with similar values and truth, or make one of my own." Instead, they think "You are a blasphemer and you'll burn in hell! And if god won't strike you down for your sacrilege, then I will for him!" Hence the difficulty. When people's faith is threatened they aren't all understanding and reasonable, they're defensive and aggressive. That's why I abandoned my faith before I hit puberty. I saw how destructive that kind of hypocrisy was.

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2008, 02:27:14 PM »
Blasphemy - Any display of gross irreverence towards any person or thing deemed worthy of exalted esteem.

It is possible to approach subjects such as evolution without blasphemy. I have done it plenty of times in the past. There is a valid scientific theory call the "theory of intelligent design" which basically states that evolution did indeed happen, but it wasn't necesarily just a random sequence of events.

It is indeed possible to guide the evolutionary process. Humans have done it with the modern breeds of cats and dogs. I do not wish to threaten anyone's beliefs.

Offline HairyHeretic

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2008, 02:39:52 PM »
The problem is, when someone has that kind of thing happen to them, where they're faced with Evolution being a proven fact and not a theory (only called a theory BECAUSE of those stubborn religious wankers)

Not quite. A Theory in scientific terminology has a slightly different meaning to the every day use of the word.

And it may be that evolution could some day be proven wrong. But at the moment, it is to the best of human knowledge, the best explanation we have for how things have happened. Maybe some day a new piece of evidence will come along that doesn't fit, and someone will adapt the current theory to something testible and verifiable that that piece of evidence does fit into, along with everything that has come before.

That's how a theory changes over time, and how progress is made.

More or less.

Offline Moondazed

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2008, 03:28:03 PM »
Personally, I think religion is the result of fear and the illusion of security.  For some reason humans struggle with not knowing what will happen once we die and need to feel secure in the fact that we won't just, well, end.  That's what I think is at the root of it, anyway :)

Offline Valerian

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2008, 03:49:19 PM »
That's a retarded question.
Careful, Mathim.  Keep things polite.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2008, 03:52:56 PM »
Why is anything taken literally? Couldn't this whole universe be based on nothing more than our literal interpretation of a belief that existence exists? Couldn't there ever be something that just causes something in existence to not be found true? It's all belief. Literal or not. I mean Einstein says gravity doesn't exist. There are merely objects large enough to hold things in place through distortions and warps in time and space. We all have our literal beliefs. It's what keeps us sane. /End the Twilight Zone.    

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2008, 04:10:45 PM »
Show me proof that I do not exist and I will agree with you.

When you talk about massive objects creating distortions and warps in time and space...that is gravity. Einstein merely explained what it was and why it does what it does, not disprove it.

The goal of science is not to disprove but to simply understand why.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2008, 04:15:00 PM »
That doesn't stop the universe from throwing you a curve ball. What stops anything from not being any longer? You believe you exist in some literal way. So why is religion any different?

Online Oniya

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2008, 04:16:50 PM »
Why is anything taken literally? Couldn't this whole universe be based on nothing more than our literal interpretation of a belief that existence exists?

In order for us to believe that existence exists, then there would have to be something there doing the believing.  That's the crux of Descartes' famous 'I think, therefore I am'.  One's own existence is the central grain of sand of what one doesn't need 'faith' to explain, but there are always going to be some things that we cannot prove based on our existing knowledge.

But did Descartes
Depart
With the thought
'Therefore, I'm not.'?


Oh, and Mannik?  You might be interested in a show called 'The Naked Archaeologist'.  It mostly covers Biblical topics, but from a perspective that even a 'blaspheming heathen' like myself can appreciate. (I was raised Roman Catholic, got fed up with certain aspects that aren't in the books, and rolled the rest into 'Wouldn't it be great if people could be nice to each other for a change?')

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2008, 04:24:09 PM »
Aristotle said, "To do is to be." I believe, and I'm more than inclined to believe him over Descartes. Because a lot of do without thinking and they would argue that they exist.
It's all a matter of what you believe. That's what I'm saying.

Online Oniya

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2008, 04:28:09 PM »
I think Descartes' definition of 'thinking' might have been a bit broader than the one you're using.  True, their thoughts might be limited to mere reactions, and their decisions might not be reasoned, but there is something there to react and decide, even if it's just whether to go for the Big Mac or the Whopper.

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2008, 04:30:09 PM »
Oh, and Mannik?  You might be interested in a show called 'The Naked Archaeologist'.  It mostly covers Biblical topics, but from a perspective that even a 'blaspheming heathen' like myself can appreciate. (I was raised Roman Catholic, got fed up with certain aspects that aren't in the books, and rolled the rest into 'Wouldn't it be great if people could be nice to each other for a change?')

I've never seen that show. I'm assuming it comes on history chanel.

And that last bit about people being nice to eachother is actually the reason I ask all these questions. If people would be willing to admit they don't know this stuff they wouldn't have anything to fight over...except oil, but that is a conflict I can at least understand.

Offline Ket

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2008, 04:53:09 PM »
If people would be willing to admit they don't know this stuff they wouldn't have anything to fight over...

People as a whole are not willing to be open-minded enough to accept that everyone will have a different view than themselves.  While I try to always see both sides of a story and be as open-minded as possible, I do at times catch myself pressing my opinions onto someone as fact.  And that's when I have to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.

Your reality is not the same as my reality.  Your existence is not the same as my existence.  Simply because we both view the world in different ways. 

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2008, 05:03:36 PM »
I think Descartes' definition of 'thinking' might have been a bit broader than the one you're using.  True, their thoughts might be limited to mere reactions, and their decisions might not be reasoned, but there is something there to react and decide, even if it's just whether to go for the Big Mac or the Whopper.
Well Descartes's little saying doesn't account for my computer of a wall. They obviously exist and don't think. By traditional connotations.

Quote
If people would be willing to admit they don't know this stuff they wouldn't have anything to fight over...except oil, but that is a conflict I can at least understand.

And women, men, grass, land, water, oh and that still doesn't really exclude beliefs. :D

Online Oniya

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2008, 05:15:24 PM »
I've never seen that show. I'm assuming it comes on history chanel.

And that last bit about people being nice to eachother is actually the reason I ask all these questions. If people would be willing to admit they don't know this stuff they wouldn't have anything to fight over...except oil, but that is a conflict I can at least understand.

It is on the History Channel - usually two little half-hour shows back to back, with things like tracing the path of Exodus using actual movement rates to attempt to locate which Mount Sinai was the one in the Bible, to forged relics, to the physiological and psychological effects of crucifixion.  (The host actually had himself tied to a cross in the more traditional means of the Romans.  Nails were for special occasions.  :P)

The last bit - well, I can't really take credit for it, as it comes paraphrased from Douglas Adams' 'So Long and Thanks for All the Fish'.  Most major religions, if you read the books (as opposed to listening to the diatribes) boil down to just about that.  Be good to each other while you're here, and look forward to a better place in the hereafter.  Although I'll admit I never read Dianetics, so I can't speak for that one. ;)

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2008, 10:04:58 PM »
And women, men, grass, land, water, oh and that still doesn't really exclude beliefs. :D

You are right, I used the wrong words...they would have less to fight over...however peoples beliefs about most things aren't nearly as strong as their religious beliefs. which is part of the reason I find their conviction so confusing. If they are able to get over religious difference, the other beliefs would be trivial at best.

The things you listed the only one that would warrent a sustained conflict would be land, and I argue that is included in the conflict for oil, because if you don't own the land the oil is under, how can you own the oil?

Online Oniya

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Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2008, 10:18:15 PM »
Well Descartes's little saying doesn't account for my computer of a wall. They obviously exist and don't think. By traditional connotations.

Except for the fact that Descartes started with the premise that anything detected by his senses could, in fact, be an illusion created by the mind.  Is the wall there, or have you just convinced yourself it's there, even to the extent of believing you feel it when you place your hand on it?  'I could be imprisoned in a nutshell and count myself master of infinite space, were it not for bad dreams,' to quote the Bard.

*goes to check a few things, returns with more for the Storehouse*  Ooh!  Apparently, Aristotle used a similar argument.

Quote
But if life itself is good and pleasant (...) and if one who sees is conscious that he sees, one who hears that he hears, one who walks that he walks and similarly for all the other human activities there is a faculty that is conscious of their exercise, so that whenever we perceive, we are conscious that we perceive, and whenever we think, we are conscious that we think, and to be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist... (Nicomachean Ethics, 1170a25 ff.)

Also, I did say that the Cogito argument was the first grain of sand in what you can accept without needing to rely on 'faith', not that it was the sum total of all things that can be accepted as existing.

Online mannikTopic starter

Re: Why is religion taken literally?
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2008, 10:25:47 AM »
Your reality is not the same as my reality.  Your existence is not the same as my existence.  Simply because we both view the world in different ways. 

I've actually had that conversation with my brother before. What is and is not real? if no one knew of my existence, would I be real? Not to them, but certainly to me I would be.

We concluded that reality and actuality are two separate things. Reality is everything as is perceived by an individual. Actuality is everything in existence regardless of perception.

If I was to bury something of value in a cave, then die before telling anybody about it. That treasure would no longer be perceived by anybody, thus would not be real to anybody. If it is not real, how can it be included in any reality? However it would actually be there, still in that cave. If someone, for some reason went to that cave and dug in the same spot, they would find it without any suggestion that it was ever there in the first place.

----

And to Onia and Inkidu, The great philosophers never intended to be taken literally either, and I think you know that already. Those sayings were meant to inspire thought about their meaning, that's what philosophy is. To try and applay a literal meaning defeats their purpose, and doesn't really work right.

Philosophy is not a science, it is the art of thought. Art is always figurative and open to interpretation, and science is always literal.