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Author Topic: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)  (Read 4393 times)

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Offline BrandonTopic starter

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #25 on: August 29, 2010, 03:37:28 AM »
I think your example misses the point. When you're trying to prove or disprove something about a culture the culture has to be judged on its merits and actions in the current form. By using the bible as the sole piece of evidence, or really any text that guides a culture, you're limiting that culture and your own view point. It would be like if I used the constitution of the united states to try and prove that American culture encourages arrogance

To put it another way, you have to look at the culture itself. Not the documents, scriptures, contracts, history, etc that it was formed from

Offline Noelle

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #26 on: August 29, 2010, 03:55:27 AM »
Culture comes from people. If religion plays a large role in the way a person tries to live their life (as most religions tend to do), then a culture is indirectly shaped by religion on some level. If the Bible is including things such as slavery and selling your daughter, then how did we, as a culture, decide that it's no longer relevant? My questions aren't merely rhetorical, I'm actually wondering why certain things are okay to disregard because the culture has deemed it so (and not the religion itself) and not others, and just what that does for actual relevancy. If one part of the Bible is irrelevant, it could conceivably be that the whole thing is irrelevant. It really starts to put into question the credibility of the book to begin with and, by proxy, the credibility of those who draw on it for certain things (note that I'm not saying everything). If sections of the Bible are no longer in use, then couldn't it say that so-called Christian morals are merely just trendy? If the book itself loses meaning, then where exactly is the religion deriving its messages? A person would think that the creator of everything ever might've had a little foresight as to making a lasting holy book. :P

Offline BrandonTopic starter

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #27 on: August 29, 2010, 04:34:04 AM »
Culture comes from people. If religion plays a large role in the way a person tries to live their life (as most religions tend to do), then a culture is indirectly shaped by religion on some level. If the Bible is including things such as slavery and selling your daughter, then how did we, as a culture, decide that it's no longer relevant?

I dont know, but Im sure there are a number of historians that could answer your questions. I surmize that the acceptance of slavery changed as the religion moved out of the middle east and toward Europe. As monarchy's were in control at the time and warred a lot, I think christianity's idea of if your a good person youll go to heaven and if youre a bad person youll go to hell was a view point that the citizens liked. If monarchs would tyrannize the people and tax people into starvation they would recieve a divine punishment despite their status.

That still asks the question, why did the transfer from the middle east to European countries change views on slavery? Well I really dont know

My questions aren't merely rhetorical, I'm actually wondering why certain things are okay to disregard because the culture has deemed it so (and not the religion itself) and not others, and just what that does for actual relevancy. If one part of the Bible is irrelevant, it could conceivably be that the whole thing is irrelevant. It really starts to put into question the credibility of the book to begin with and, by proxy, the credibility of those who draw on it for certain things (note that I'm not saying everything). If sections of the Bible are no longer in use, then couldn't it say that so-called Christian morals are merely just trendy? If the book itself loses meaning, then where exactly is the religion deriving its messages? A person would think that the creator of everything ever might've had a little foresight as to making a lasting holy book. :P

Let me ask you a counter question, because one of the amendments of the constitution was overturned and became irrelevant (Im talking about prohibition here) does that somehow make the entire constitution irrelevant? Does it harm its credibility or call the entire document into question?

Someone might argue its different being the constitution is a document that basicly is the law of the the United states. However I would argue that in that same context the Quran is the law of Islam, or the bible the law of christianity, or the Kama sutra (they have another sacred text but I dont remember the name of it) the law of Hinduism

Offline Silk

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #28 on: August 29, 2010, 06:05:49 AM »
That still asks the question, why did the transfer from the middle east to European countries change views on slavery? Well I really dont know

Someone might argue its different being the constitution is a document that basicly is the law of the the United states. However I would argue that in that same context the Quran is the law of Islam, or the bible the law of christianity, or the Kama sutra (they have another sacred text but I dont remember the name of it) the law of Hinduism

Because initially it was the push against the Greek cities that dispised the idea of becoming slaves and fought back against the persian empire. Then when they got pushed through, the barbarian tribes of Europe never really stayed still when enslaved and thanks to things such as spartacus. With the fall of the roman empire, slavery was removed from alot of the societies for a time until the Black Slave trade, which ultimately ended the practice.

And there is a law of Islam, its called Sharia law. Which involves rape victims being stoned to death in the more extreme circumstances.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #29 on: August 29, 2010, 06:59:28 AM »
Is there not a false here which is then expanded upon to create a false sense of insecurity.  The implied false assumption is that all things in a culture descend from what is written in that culture's scriptures.  It's been said that this is "on some level" but then then it is made to seem as if the effects of scripture are on every level.  Just as a child comes to life with his or her own innate characteristics which a good parent will cultivate (if they are beneficial) or curb (if they are not), so too will cultures have their own innate characteristics.  If scripture is then to mold that culture then it must, of necessity, discuss the issues within that culture.

Using the parent child analogy, if you are ever to develop a child's ability to think for himself, then you start of in an authoritarian mode with the basics and then work with what's there and engage with it.  While Abraham and his ilk held slaves, their descendents learned the horror of slavery themselves at the hands of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Romans.  Stories that tell of slaves escaping bondage, such as that in Exodus, are not en exhortation to hold slaves and are instead a message that slavery is to be abhorred.  Moreover, they hold a relevance to anyone oppressed by slavery, for they affirm the slave's right to be free and give hope that freedom can be won.  It is no wonder that when you look at the struggle of African Americans to move from slavery to equality, much of the imagery used to condemn slavery and to maintain hope in the rightness of the cause is Biblical.  Whichever way you cut it, it does show that those words, written in the time of the Pharoahs, are still relevant.  I would say that that would be a book that has lasted long enough for most people.

The fact that others have misused the Bible does not call the credibility of the Bible into question any more than the fact that science was used to create weapons that have killied billions discredits science.  As I said in an earlier post, the OT is there in the Bible to put the teaching of the NT in context.  Those that neglect to learn history are doomed to repeat it.  The temptation for Christians is to return to the security of rules and regulations rather than use their own critical faculties to interpret those two great commandments from Christ of which all the others are implications.  The meaning of those is not invalidated by the history and mythology that preceded them any more than Kepler's findings about the solar system is invalidated by his stubborn belief in perfect solids and that the planets should be bound by that doctrine. He had the courage to say, "Nice idea but the facts fit something else", much as Christ did not abolish the OT law but fulfill it when he decided that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  He took the greater commandment of love and saw that it superseded the pharasaical rigour with which the Sabbath was being kept.

I must admit, I had thought that the discussion is about whether the Bible encourages Christians to blindly follow rules.  While it might be interesting to consider the effects of the scriptures of different religions on the cultures where those religions predominate, it is hardly germane to the discussion at hand, especially if one is going to take extreme examples from cultures that seem not to have regressed in the last seven hundred years.

Offline Jude

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #30 on: August 29, 2010, 11:51:26 AM »
Comparisons between the Constitution and Religious Dogma fall flat when you realize the bible is supposed to be an account of truth and the Constitution is a set of legal principles formulated as an ends to a mean (more specifically, to create a just society).  Weand  can amend the constitution and not worry about having an impact on its purpose because we're coming closer to a more perfect union by recognizing the fault and correcting it.  The goal of the constitution is practical:  its objective is to create the best society possible.

The bible has no such goal, it's intended to be a record of fact.  Amending fact, or your interpretation of it, to create "better" fact is a thereby admitting the old truths were wrong.  Continuing to stick staunchly to a belief system and ignoring all doubt except in the areas you reject would be like hearing a scientific study that proves "a" and "b," you accept the premises as a result, then "b" gets disproven, but you still wholeheartedly cling to "a."  It's true that "a" is not necessarily false, but you have good reason to doubt it.

In the example of the Constitution, needing to pass an amendment could make you wonder about other provisions, and whether or not they too could use refinement.  For good reason, I think.  So I suppose the metaphor may be more apt than I realized, at least in that sense.  There's still a very large difference between the two:  one claims to be the divine inspired word of god and the other is an attempt at setting up a successful system of government.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #31 on: August 29, 2010, 12:35:41 PM »
Christian Anarchists are easy on this we have the Words of Christ and God with the Holy Spirit teaching us and guiding us, who needs any mortal man or woman over us telling us what God wants.

And God can add to our knowledge and understanding I don't feel tied to books written almost or over 2000 years ago, Jesus however is the Way to God and only His teachings matter.

So I would say I'm obediant to God, not men or women that place themselves between Him and myself.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #32 on: August 29, 2010, 01:46:43 PM »
It was said earlier that absolute certainty is dangerous.  I'm seeing a great deal of absolute certainty about what the Bible is, mainly in the form of: "The Bible is... ...therefore it's wrong."  This is not the approach employed by those who seek to understand or debate, it is rather that used by thoese who wish to ridicule or debunk.  To find such rigidity of thinking in avowed sceptics is frankly astonishing.  The first thing I learned was to be doutful of everything but above all to doubt most that which my heart cherishes, for such things are raely subjected to a true critical review. 

The pronouncements I've seen about the nature of Bible here do not seem to admit the possibility that they might be wrong, which speaks more of dogma than scepticism.  It has been repeated that the Bible is supposed to be truth or record of facts.  This is not the case.  Were it so, then there would be no place in the Bible for the poetry of the Psalms or the prophecies of Isaiah, Malachi, St John and so forth.  Neither poetry nor prophecy can be considered as recors of fact, unless you take it merely as a record of fact that someone said something like that once upon a time.

When I read Genesis, for example, I don't read it thinking that it's a historical account; to do so would require that I had given up my ability to reason.  However, I do read it as an account of what the Isrealites believed, because understanding the belief helps me understand the society to which Christ preached, which can only help me understand that teaching better. So yes, you can say the Bible is truth, but to do so, you need to emply a nuanced meaning of truth, one which I suspect you are not using.  The poetry, philosophy, mythology, teaching and transcribed oral histories presented in the Bible all have their truths.  However, the nature of truth for each one is different and I do not pretend to be that much of an expert to know beyond all doubt which is which.  Instead, I have to apply my reason to judge and determine how to interpret what I read in the Bible, which is, funnily enough, the same as I do with any other book.

It has been said that the aim if the writing of the Bible was not to create the best society possible.  Were that the case, then the book and its attached religion would be worthless.  The whole point of Christianity is salvation both in this life and the next.   Of course we've not got it right any more than any of the constitutions have done so.  To hearken back to an earlier post, how then might the divine word of God be require revision?  The answer is simple, the society to which that word was addressed changed (one would hope as a result of listening) and therefore the next words need to be different.  That neither invalidates the first words nor precludes the possibility of further refinements.

I think in the end, what's happening here is that in the end, the various people here are talking at cross purposes.  My initial intention was to address the title of the thread, to show that Christianity does not automatically mean blind obedience.  Since then, however, it seems that the thread has mutated into a discussion of the nature of the Bible, which is not strictly within the remit of this discussion.  I would note that the Bible's nature is evident to anyone who can read and the wit to reason.  Whether or not it is, in addition, divinely inspired is a blind ally which will only produce entrenched positions and frayed tempers and be ultimately counterproductive.

Offline Jude

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #33 on: August 29, 2010, 02:55:52 PM »
What you say is reasonable Neroon, but it's not accurate when it comes to mainstream Christian dogma.  In fact, the evolving interpretation of the bible you are describing is moral relativism, which the Pope (the leader of the biggest group of Christians Worldwide) believes is the greatest evil of the 21st century.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #34 on: August 29, 2010, 03:40:36 PM »
Please don't use an appeal to authority, Jude, to tell me what you think mainstream Christian doctrine is, especially when there are a signifiacant number of Catholics who disagree with the current Pope's opinions not to mention the beliefs of the Protestant and Orthodox churches, who don't accept his authority.

I'm not talking about the Bible needing to continue to evolve, for I have already said that it doesn't need to.  For having reached the point where Christ gave us guiding principle of loving God first and our neighbours as ourselves second, there is no further need for evolution. The fact that a significant number of Christians have the same mindset as I do means that Christianity does not necessarily require blind obedience to everything in the Bible, which is the point of the discussion is it not?

Edited to deal with crap typing
« Last Edit: August 29, 2010, 03:42:20 PM by Neroon »

Offline Jude

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #35 on: August 29, 2010, 04:20:41 PM »
It's not an appeal to authority.  Catholicism's official stance is determined by the Pope:  he's the earthly head of the religion.  You're saying his opinion doesn't determine Mainstream Dogma is outright false.  Papal religious opinions are infallible according to the rules of Catholicism, the edicts of the church made by him determine doctrine.  If Catholics disagree with him, that's nice, but by definition they are wrong as long as they remain Catholic.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #36 on: August 29, 2010, 04:24:39 PM »
Christian does not equal Catholic.  Catholicism is a subset of Christianity, and considering the number of Protestant sects, I doubt it's even a majority subset.

Offline Jude

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #37 on: August 29, 2010, 04:32:30 PM »
It's not the majority, but it's the largest subset.  There are over a billion Catholics worldwide; that's 1/7 of the earth's population.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #38 on: August 29, 2010, 04:41:04 PM »
Moral relativism believes that there is no right or wrong simply that all beliefs are valid and can be true.  There is no truth to be had.  Neroon is not making an argument in favor of that concept.  The argument he made is that the Bible operates as a continuum where the interpretation of the true meaning changes as people delve deeper into understanding the words.  The Truth exists but we must move forward in order to understand.  Neroon is wrong in believing that Jude is attempting to make an appeal to authority, instead he is attempting to falsely label an argument in order to force a contradiction with the Pope.  Neroon has outlined a beautiful interpretation of the Bible, one that will hopefully be mimicked by others.

The Protestant Reformation should be proof enough that Christians do not follow blindly.  An entire sect of Christianity was formed because people were displeased with their Church and the path they felt they were taking.  The many ideas, philosophies and writings that emerge from people with religious backgrounds should further uphold this point.  Among the Catholic Church alone are many Orders and Nunneries, each with their own stated missions and emphasis on what is valued.  There is a great diversity in thought and action among Catholics.  They are not to be easily pressed into a mold.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #39 on: August 29, 2010, 04:41:56 PM »
Ooh - this is interesting (found while looking up 'Papal Authority')

Quote from: Catholic Encyclopedia
infallibility is not attributed to every doctrinal act of the pope, but only to his ex cathedra teaching; and the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are mentioned in the Vatican decree:

    * The pontiff must teach in his public and official capacity as pastor and doctor of all Christians, not merely in his private capacity as a theologian, preacher or allocutionist, nor in his capacity as a temporal prince or as a mere ordinary of the Diocese of Rome. It must be clear that he speaks as spiritual head of the Church universal.
    * Then it is only when, in this capacity, he teaches some doctrine of faith or morals that he is infallible (see below, IV).
    * Further it must be sufficiently evident that he intends to teach with all the fullness and finality of his supreme Apostolic authority, in other words that he wishes to determine some point of doctrine in an absolutely final and irrevocable way, or to define it in the technical sense (see DEFINITION). These are well-recognized formulas by means of which the defining intention may be manifested.
    * Finally for an ex cathedra decision it must be clear that the pope intends to bind the whole Church. To demand internal assent from all the faithful to his teaching under pain of incurring spiritual shipwreck (naufragium fidei) according to the expression used by Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Theoretically, this intention might be made sufficiently clear in a papal decision which is addressed only to a particular Church; but in present day conditions, when it is so easy to communicate with the most distant parts of the earth and to secure a literally universal promulgation of papal acts, the presumption is that unless the pope formally addresses the whole Church in the recognized official way, he does not intend his doctrinal teaching to be held by all the faithful as ex cathedra and infallible.

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm  Emphasis mine.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #40 on: August 29, 2010, 04:56:06 PM »
Actually Jude, yes it is an apeal to authority.  You're saying that because the Pope believes differently, it's not mainstream.  So you are using the authority of the Pope to justify your opinion.  That's plain and simple.  You have a reputation for rigour and honesty that means I really didn't expect such a tactic nor you to attempt to wriggle out of by trying to perpetrate the myth that the Catholics speak for all Christians.

As Oniya said, Catholicism isn't the definition of the mainstream of Christianity.  If you look at it historically, Rome is one of the five Patriarchates of the original Church and split from the other four over a number of things, not least the Roman patriarch wanting to be supreme over the others and the introduction of a word into the Roman version of Nicene creed that could be implied as a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (I believe the word might be filioque but I digress).  Now those churches got into the whole which is the right one or not and ended up adopting the terms Orthodox (i.e correct) and Catholic (i.e. Universal) much as the different manufacturers of Swiss Army Knives have adopted the terms Original and Genuine.  Just as the neither one of the Swiss Army Knives can reliably claim that they really are original or genuine, the Cathilics cannot claim to be the universal church anymore than the Orthodox can claim to be the only right church.  When you add the whole gamut of Protestants to the mix, then the situation becomes even murkier as to what the mainstream of Christian thought is.

Generally, the mainstream would be that Christ died to save us all, if we but ask for it, the idea that this salvation by grace and not by good works and those two commandments that I have repeated in this thread enough times that those reading must be becoming sick of seeing them: to love God first and to love our neighbours as ourselves second.  More than that, there's discussion and argument: as I pointed out above, even the Creed is not common ground.  Just because one segment is larger than the others it does not make it the majority nor does it have the right to speak for the others.

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #41 on: August 29, 2010, 07:07:02 PM »
Don't forget that although a non-Christian now, I was educated by the Church and still remember both my scripture and catechism. Obedience to god is a major theme, and the primary virtue of both Abraham and the Virgin Mary.

Since Abraham is part of Jewish scriptures (which Christians later adopted), I thought I'd interject a Jewish viewpoint here.  ;)

To Jews, one of Abraham's greatest moments came when he argued with G-d, pleading for the people of Sodom. Abraham reminded G-d that the Judge of all the world must Himself be just.

And Jews are quite ambivilent to Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac. While some Jewish commentaries praise his faith and obedience to G-d's command, other Jewish commentaries take Abraham to task--why would he argue for the lives of strangers, yet fall silent when the life of his own son was at stake?

(For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn't matter if there's any historical accuracy to the story of Abraham. It works just fine as mythology.)

But Jews have a long history of arguing with G-d. Abraham did for the sake of Sodom, Moses did for the sake of the Jewish people. But it doesn't end there.

There's a famous rabbinic story about a group of rabbis arguing over whether a particular stove had been properly kashered--in other words, was it ok for cooking kosher food? One lone rabbi--Rabbi Elizer--insisted that it was, and called upon G-d's miracles to prove it. If he was right, G-d would make a tree uproot itself and a river flow backward and so forth. G-d performed all these miracles--and yet the other rabbis were still unimpressed.

Finally Rabbi Elizer called upon the Divine Voice to prove his point and, sure enough, a voice from heaven confirmed that Rabbi Elizer was right.

But the other rabbis still would not accept Rabbi Elizer's opinion. They called right back to the Divine Voice, saying, "The Torah is not in heaven!"

The meaning we take from this story is that the Torah is here with us now, down here on earth--it's our responsibility to read it and interpret it. It's our duty to argue with each other about our interpretations and to judge strictly on the merits of the argument--G-d doesn't get a vote. No Voice from Heaven can compel us to do something against our own best judgment.

That's not to say that obeying G-d has no place in Judaism--far from it. It's just that arguing with G-d, when our best judgment requires it, is important and admirable too.

So the upshot of this is that obedience to G-d was only one of Abraham's virtues (and, in the case of the near-sacrifice of Isaac, a much contested virtue). Arguing with G-d was a virtue of his as well. Remembering only the obedience is remembering only one part of the story.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2010, 09:16:17 PM by Shoshana »

Offline Jude

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #42 on: August 30, 2010, 12:04:07 AM »
Quote from: Pumpkin Seeds
Moral relativism believes that there is no right or wrong simply that all beliefs are valid and can be true.  There is no truth to be had.  Neroon is not making an argument in favor of that concept.  The argument he made is that the Bible operates as a continuum where the interpretation of the true meaning changes as people delve deeper into understanding the words.  The Truth exists but we must move forward in order to understand.  Neroon is wrong in believing that Jude is attempting to make an appeal to authority, instead he is attempting to falsely label an argument in order to force a contradiction with the Pope.  Neroon has outlined a beautiful interpretation of the Bible, one that will hopefully be mimicked by others.
What you describing above is not moral relativism.  Moral nihilism is the belief that claims there is no right or wrong, not moral relativism.  Moral relativism claims that morals exist within a particular time and place and that moral beliefs are determined largely by culture and setting.  This is exactly what Brandon was describing when he mentioned the bits about slavery, etc.
Quote from: Pumpkin Seeds
The Protestant Reformation should be proof enough that Christians do not follow blindly.  An entire sect of Christianity was formed because people were displeased with their Church and the path they felt they were taking.  The many ideas, philosophies and writings that emerge from people with religious backgrounds should further uphold this point.  Among the Catholic Church alone are many Orders and Nunneries, each with their own stated missions and emphasis on what is valued.  There is a great diversity in thought and action among Catholics.  They are not to be easily pressed into a mold.
The Pope's authority in the church is absolute.  I'm sure there are those who disagree with him, but he sets the agenda and official opinions for the entirety of the church.  Disagreement doesn't change doctrine or dogma.  I was never arguing about individual opinion.
Actually Jude, yes it is an apeal to authority.  You're saying that because the Pope believes differently, it's not mainstream.  So you are using the authority of the Pope to justify your opinion.  That's plain and simple.  You have a reputation for rigour and honesty that means I really didn't expect such a tactic nor you to attempt to wriggle out of by trying to perpetrate the myth that the Catholics speak for all Christians.
You seem to be glossing over a very important part of what I said, they key word here is dogma.  Dogma is not determined by the opinions of laypersons.  I was not making the argument that because the Pope believes x, the entire Catholic congregation believes x (I can recognize that's a fallacy), I was making the argument that because the Pope has stated x in an official capacity the dogma reflects it.  I'm not debating the opinions of the masses because I don't have the numbers to do so.
As Oniya said, Catholicism isn't the definition of the mainstream of Christianity.  If you look at it historically, Rome is one of the five Patriarchates of the original Church and split from the other four over a number of things, not least the Roman patriarch wanting to be supreme over the others and the introduction of a word into the Roman version of Nicene creed that could be implied as a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (I believe the word might be filioque but I digress).  Now those churches got into the whole which is the right one or not and ended up adopting the terms Orthodox (i.e correct) and Catholic (i.e. Universal) much as the different manufacturers of Swiss Army Knives have adopted the terms Original and Genuine.  Just as the neither one of the Swiss Army Knives can reliably claim that they really are original or genuine, the Cathilics cannot claim to be the universal church anymore than the Orthodox can claim to be the only right church.  When you add the whole gamut of Protestants to the mix, then the situation becomes even murkier as to what the mainstream of Christian thought is.
You're right, but there is no universal church.  Christianity represents an umbrella of religions which is split into pieces by denomination.  They all have one thing in common:  the bible.  However, each denomination uses different translations.  Furthermore, every single religious individual has their own interpretations on top of that.  Take Brandon for instance, he identifies as Catholic but he's against their policies on homosexuals.  It's kind of meaningless (and completely impossible) in my opinion to discuss the beliefs of individuals while ignoring the source of those beliefs:  the Church's dogma.
Generally, the mainstream would be that Christ died to save us all, if we but ask for it, the idea that this salvation by grace and not by good works and those two commandments that I have repeated in this thread enough times that those reading must be becoming sick of seeing them: to love God first and to love our neighbours as ourselves second.  More than that, there's discussion and argument: as I pointed out above, even the Creed is not common ground.  Just because one segment is larger than the others it does not make it the majority nor does it have the right to speak for the others.
If the largest segment of Christianity that composes 1/7 of the entire world has written in its dogma what I said, that's a pretty good indication that it's a mainstream doctrinal concept.  Also, when the Pope said what he did about "moral relativism" it was during mass:  it was given in an official capacity.

Don't get me wrong.  I agree with you guys that a good number of Christians don't believe in a literal interpretation of the bible (though I don't know how high the percentages are), but it seems very disingenuous to me to claim that "Christianity" doesn't, considering there is no universal Christianity and the concept is part of the text that defines many denominations of the church.  There are also numerous quotes throughout (to bring this back to the original point) that demand obedience.  However, this is an argument that I've had before on E, and last time we talked about whether or not Christianity encourages blind faith it devolved into a discussion that went no where.

The truth of the matter is, there are some sects of Christianity that don't encourage blind faith.  There are some that do.  Just as there are some groups which believe in biblical literalism and those that do not.  There are Christians who make the world a better place to live in and there are those who exist as a force of self-righteousness and negativity.  Trying to paint an entire group one way or the other is an exercise in futility, especially with something as nebulous and difficult to comprehend as someone's personal religion, which has everything to do with practice not theory.

There are a great number of Christians in the world who are deserving of not simply tolerance, but respect.  I'd include nearly every Christian I've argued with on E in that group, Brandon, Neroon, and everyone else, you guys are incredibly forward-thinking and progressive.  In Brandon's case, he's doing his best to change the Catholic Church from within:  that is incredibly admirable.  My issue is not with you, but with the institutions and individuals that support the more obtuse Christian concepts.

I have to admit that when the discussion first started I assumed that several people were supporting a literal interpretation because of the discussion going on.  I'm finding that's a dangerous road to take, even if it seems rational at the time.  Just because someone is giving the beginning of an argument that you think you know where it ends doesn't mean it's fair or correct to assume the ending.  I was wrong to do so, but please extend the same courtesy to me.  In religious discussions time and time again people assume I'm trying to convince people to walk away from their faith, that I am claiming their beliefs are false, etc., but I never actually have said any of that.  It isn't what I believe.

I'm a dedicated agnostic, I place emphasis on doubt and not knowing.  I don't much care what other people believe so long as it does hurt other people, but I'm finding that the more extreme religious ideologies that eschew doubt also tend to be the groups that are more likely to impress their beliefs on culture, society, and government.  Living in America where religious belief is mainstream and its incorporation into public life is becoming increasingly prevalent colors my arguments, perhaps unfairly when I deal with people like Neroon who couldn't be farther from that sentiment.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 12:10:42 AM by Jude »

Offline Noelle

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #43 on: August 30, 2010, 03:37:22 AM »
I feel like a question has largely gone unanswered, at least from me. What role does the Bible play in Christianity?

I guess I become confused at this part, so here's a breakdown of my thinking -- to my knowledge, the Bible is supposedly the word of God and the teachings of Christ. If parts of the Bible become irrelevant, what stops the whole book from becoming irrelevant? If there is something that prevents it from becoming irrelevant, then where are the lines drawn as to what is okay to ignore? If society deems which parts of it are no longer useful, then what does that say of society's power versus a holy book?

What's different between the Bible and the Constitution (among other things) is that when the Constitution is amended, the amendment made is made by men for a man-made doctrine. The Bible is never actually formally amended in a universally-accepted manner except to say X and Y groups don't agree with certain parts, not to mention the amendments are made by man/society for a document that is supposedly supposed to be divine or some such. It's a little bigger deal, it seems, when you're dealing with religion/God.

I don't actually know what I intend to prove on this point except to say I'm curious to know how Christians deal with these issues. Like Jude, I'm not here to axe anyone's beliefs, by all means believe as you'd like, but to me, these feel like rather confusing issues with no clear answer.

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #44 on: August 30, 2010, 05:08:00 AM »
Before I start, I would like to thank Shoshana for her excellent post.  It is always a wonderful experience to read  something that both illuminates one's personal knowledge and expands upon it greatly.  I learned a fair bit there and that's no bad thing.  Quite how this new knowledge will be assimilated into the mental construct that's my understanding of the world remains to be seen; I'll let you know, perhaps, in a month or so, after I've done some more reading.  In the meantime, I'll have to find a place to fit arguing with God into my perception of Judaism.

Right, onto the whole moral relativism pickle.  Firstly, I don't want words put into my mouth (or whatever the word processed version of the metaphor would be).  I have not, anywhere said that morality changes.  What I have said is that priorities in morality change and that to judge one's priorities, one must have some over-arching guiding principle, lest one be accused of making up morals to suit one's actions.  I further stated that for all Christians that should be the principle outlined in the two commandments which I keep repeating.  I'll quote them fully for once, using the version from in Mark 12:28-31 in my preferred translation, the RSV.  The same account also appears in Matthew and Luke also, which emphasises its importance.
Quote
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Now I'm sure that Shoshana could correct me if I'm wrong but these two first appear in the Old Testament in Dueteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 9:18 respectively.  Now, to my knowledge, Jewish teahing at the time limited the definition of neighbour to other Jews.  Where the variation came was that Christ expanded the definition of neighbour to include everyone, as exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was told when Christ was asked, "Who, then, is my neighbour?"

Now this is my very point: neither the morality nor the words have changed but our understanding has.  As I said, the OT is there to put the understanding of the NT in context, to show that continuous line of changing understanding and emphasis, the better that we may apply our own faculties to the moral problems which face us each and every day.  That is not moral relativism, its the illustration of the fact that we become better able to understand the underlying principles on which our various moral codes are based.  I believe I used the example of how I talk to my 2 year old son and my 16 year old daughter about electricity to illustrate this.  The message needs to be different for each because of their differing needs but, the underlying truth behind the words is the same.

I would hope that the above answers the question of what role the Bible plays in Christianity, if my previous posts have not done so adequately.  The Lord knows, I have tried to explain that point on several occasions; I must have not done a good job of it.  So here is another attempt, so that I've got all bases covered.  The Bible is the collection of the poetry, philosophy, mythology, transcribed oral histories and teaching that make up Christian belief.  It is divided into the Old Testament (provided to put the teaching of the New Testament into its right context) and the New Testament, which concerns the teaching of Christ and our understanding thereof.  A Christian would largely be concerned with the latter, obviously, though as I've noted the OT is necessary to properly understand the NT by showing the progression of our understanding up until the point where Christ gave us our new covenant with God.  The relevance of each part of the Bible depends on the context in which it is read.  When I answered about slavery, I described how the treatment of the Israelites in Egypt and how they dealt with it inspired many of the leaders of the civil rights movement.    This way in which relevance can be context dependant answers your question in an earlier post of how the creator of all things could create a book that could stand the test of time.

If, as a teacher, I change how I express concepts to suit the needs of my students, de-emphasising the maths when teaching force, mass and acceleration, does that make the children I teach in charge or does it mean that I am looking at them where they are and then addressing my teaching to that and not wasting my time with concepts they won't understand.  Hopefully, I will have moved them closer to eventually being able to understand those concepts.  Likewise, when I read the Bible, my understanding of what I read depends on my experience and knowledge to date.  That will, of course, be different than someone else's undeerstanding, even if that person is the same age and nationality and part of the same society as myself.

Anyway, today is a miracle.  It is an August Bank Holiday in which the sun is shining and the rain is not falling.  Such things occur all too rarely in Britain and so I shall go and make the best of it.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 05:09:33 AM by Neroon »

Offline Shoshana

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #45 on: August 30, 2010, 07:48:35 AM »
Quick response to Neroon from my blackberry--

I don't have a copy of my Tanakh with me--the Tanakh is what Christians refer to as 'the Old Testament'-- but yes, those mitzvot (commandments; the singular is mitzvah) come from the Torah, specifically from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. (The Torah is the first five books of the Tanakh, sometimes called the Books of Moses. Just to make things complicated, though, you can also use the word 'Torah' to refer to the totality of Jewish teaching.)

Anyway, when asked which mitzvah (traditionally there are 613, though most don't come into play in anyone's daily life) he thought was the most important, Jesus chose to start with the Sh'ma, the central proclamation of Judaism, which observant Jews recite three times a day;

Hear, O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is one.

(HaShem simply means 'the Name'--it's a common stand in for the actual name of G-d used in Hebrew, called the Yod Heh Vav Heh after the Hebrew letters that form it.)

The Sh'ma continues with the mitzvah to love HaShem our G-d   with all our hearts and strength, mind, etc--and it continues from there, but Jesus skips the rest (or he would have been there for a while) and jumps over to another mitzvah: love your neighbor as yourself.

Neighbor, in this context, specifically means fellow Jew. There is another parallel mitzvah in the Torah, however, that refers to gentiles; we are commanded to be kind to the stranger in our midst, remembering that we ourselves were strangers in Egypt.

Today, we regard the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself as referring both to fellow Jews and to any neighbor, again depending on context.There is a special familial bond among Jews--some Jews love it and some Jew hate it, finding it stifling--and that bond entails a certain responsibility toward each other.

But Judaism is never content to leave the matter there, because while it is very much concerned with the particular--with one people--it is also deeply concerned with the universal, with all creation and all humanity.

But there's an advantage I see to sometimes focusing just on the particular: Judaism does not hold that everyone should be Jewish. If you want to join this people, you're welcome to; there are plenty of Jews by choice. But we won't come knocking at your door with pamphlets. You don't have to be Jewish to be 'right with G-d.' No gentile is obligated to observe Shabbat (the Sabbath) or light Shabbat candles or keep kosher or say blessings over bread and wine, etc--well, not unless G-d commanded you to do so through your own religion.

But while Judaism doesn't think that everyone needs to be Jewish, we do think that all humanity has the same moral obligations. Religiously, be anything you like. Or be an atheist, even. (Heck, plenty of observant Jews are atheists or agnostics, and Judaism is fine with that.) But morally, let's all get on the same page: let's treat each other with dignity and respect.

Of course, we'll still argue about moral issues. Liberal Jews and Orthodox Jews argue about whether to perform gay marriages, for example. (The three liberal branches of Judaism do; the Orthodox so far don't--although, overall, homosexuality has never been the big deal in Judaism that it is in Christianity. That's a cultural thing: Christians are obsessed with sex, but Jews are obsessed with food, lol!)

Ok, now I'm far off topic. But you get the idea.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2010, 11:20:27 AM by Shoshana »

Offline Neroon

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Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #46 on: August 30, 2010, 09:15:00 AM »
Food is never off topic.

Thanks for another informative post.  Whether our religions agree or disagree, I'm really enjoying these.

Offline Will

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #47 on: August 30, 2010, 08:01:02 PM »
The Bible does equate loving God with following his commandments, though.  I think that's a pretty clear example of expecting obedience. 

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #48 on: August 30, 2010, 08:07:06 PM »
The Bible also speaks of forgiveness and knowing that followers are only human.  This speaks to knowing that people will not be obedient to the Commandments and that God will still love them.  The question is not whether obedience is expected, because any organization that has rules expects people to adhere to them, but whether obedience is considered a Christian virtue.

Offline Will

Re: Religion and Obedience (Re: So Wrong...)
« Reply #49 on: August 30, 2010, 08:13:55 PM »
Well, fair enough.  It's kind of hard to tell exactly what the discussion is about, since there's no OP in the usual sense, and the thread is kind of all over the place.