“History involves the ceaseless process of discovery, analysis, interpretation and re-interpretation.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
“Communities in South Africa, traumatised by relentless gang violence, rape, murder and general criminality, know that the so-called underworld exists in full view of the upperworld, as academic, researcher and author Mark Shaw has revealed in his new book Hitmen for Hire – Exposing South Africa’s Underworld. Shaw’s book attempts to unpack the dark nexus between organised crime, politics and law enforcement, a coalition of sociopaths that poses the biggest threat to South Africa’s democracy.” – By Marianne Thamm, The Daily Maverick, 11 Aug 2017
No, Atheist Friends, The Bible Isn’t Just “Fairy Tale.”
Reblogged from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey
“When interacting with (some) atheists online, it isn’t a shocker to stumble upon some who begin a discussion with an overwhelming arrogance as they prepare to rain down their intellectual and moral superiority on you.
I mean, let’s be honest: Every group has its hard-core Calvinists, right? (That’s a joke people. I don’t need more hate mail from Calvinists.)
The other day I wrote a post on some things I wish atheists would stop doing, and one of those things was I wish they’d stop with the conversation-stopping claim that our belief system/the Bible is just a bunch of “fairy tales.”
To my surprise, this was the one point that seemed to get the most push-back. In fact, many atheists doubled down on this point– including Hemant Mehta from Friendly Atheist, who responded, here. Strewn throughout the comment section I found atheist after atheist saying, “Yup, I’m still calling it all a fairy tale.”
This, of course, invites a few more questions: First, is the Bible a fairy tale?
And second, a worthy question posed by a reader in the comment section: Do some atheists have an unsophisticated approach to literature?
As the Irish Atheist pointed out in the comment section (because some atheists can be atheists without being a total %$@! about it), calling the Bible a fairy tale falls flat, because fairy tale is a very specific, modern, English genre of literature. This specific literary genre is typically short stories, written specifically for children, and is designed to be complete fantasy. What’s a fairy tale? Think Shrek.
This isn’t the literary genre of the Bible. One can think the Bible is complete junk, one can disagree every word of it, some of it can be historically inaccurate or even untrue– but if one thinks the literary genre of this literature is “fairy tale” than I do wonder if such a person actually does have a horribly unsophisticated view of literature in general.
The Bible is a collection of 66 individual books (protestant cannon) written over a large period of time by different people, in different cultures, and for different purposes. In fact, there is a multitude of genres found in the Bible, and not one of those genres is “fairy tale.”
For example, in the Hebrew scriptures we find a wide array of genres that all center around a theme: the birth and development of a people group that came to be known as ancient Israel. Most of it was written in hindsight (I believe most was written in the post-exilic period) as they looked back at where they had come from. From this literature we see how they viewed government, what bronze age nomads considered good laws, how they viewed the divine, which surrounding cultures they clearly hated, and which ones they were happy to borrow from as they grew in their individual identity.
Within that, do they also include some myths (sacred stories that aren’t literally true)? Some legends (popular stories that can’t be historically authenticated)? Yeah, of course. That’s the kind of stuff we expect to find in ancient literature like this.
As we move forward we find them writing about their wars, and see that just like those around them, they grossly exaggerated their victories (as I demonstrate in this 2 minute video of an artifact I stumbled upon in Amman, Jordan). We also see them write beautiful poetry and wisdom, two more literary genres found in the 66 book library. We find them talking about their national problems, their struggles with leadership and how establishing a monarchy backfired on them, and even have an entire book dedicated to things they complained about.
Then we move into another interesting genre– the prophets. No, these weren’t exactly future tellers, but more like the social justice advocates of their day. After the wars, their culture became like ours- the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer, so ancient “prophets” came along to tell them that such selfishness actually pisses God off. One of them even told people that God hates religious people who mistreat the poor and vulnerable, and that they make God want to vomit. (These guys often got killed, FWIW.)
And, of course, we have the Greek Scriptures, where some Jews started a new religion that became known as Christianity. In here we see fans of Jesus who wrote about his life and teachings, followed by a collection of letters written to different churches around the world– each one addressing different cultural struggles and issues they were having as they began to establish this new religion. The Bible even ends with a truly strange genre–Jewish apocalyptic literature– which was a specific genre that was geared towards giving people hope when struggling through rough times, but is notoriously complicated to interpret in modern times.
That’s a ridiculously truncated version of the literature found in the Bible, but here’s the point: none of it is fairy tale, even if parts of it include myths or legends that are scientifically impossible or historically false.
So, back to the question: Do atheists have an unsophisticated view of literature? Well, if one really believes the Bible can be classified as fairy tale, than yes– one would be holding to an almost laughable lack of sophistication when it comes to ancient literature. It would be like visiting Egypt, looking at all the carvings on the walls left for us by ancient Egyptians, and then saying, “What a bunch of losers and their stupid fairy tales.”
It’s true that the ancient Egyptians may have believed and practiced some crazy shit, but such an arrogant, dismissive attitude actually makes one less enlightened, not more.
It’s such a waste of perfectly good brain cells when bias leads us to dismissiveness and over-generalization, especially in the world of literature. But hey, people do this with Shakespeare too, because dismissiveness is easier than seeking understanding.
But here’s the deal: I don’t think the average atheist is actually that unsophisticated. Instead, I would invite a little more honesty:
When you call the Bible a “fairy tale” you’re not saying it because you believe it’s actually in the same literary genre as Shrek, you’re using the word as a pejorative for the simple purpose of being a %#@! about things.
And I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything morally or intellectually superior about that. It’s ignorant, close-minded, and completely dismissive of windows into ancient history.
In fact, such attitudes remind me of how easy it is for any of us (myself included) to so blindly become the very thing we claim to hate.”
Reblogged from Patheos | Benjamin L Corey | JULY 25, 2017
“Before I begin, if you’re an atheist coming here looking for a fight, I’m the wrong guy. Yes, I’m a Christian (okay, the Religious Right would take issue with that claim, but whatever), but I have the utmost respect for my atheist friends and colleagues– especially the fruitful dialogue we have, and the many areas of common ground that can be discovered when we take the time to listen to one another.
One of those colleagues I respect is Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist (and in further disclosure, Terry Firma at Friendly Atheist is one of my real-life best friends).
Hemant has given me some thoughtful and friendly push-back from time to time, and in this case, I need to do the same.
So here is the question I can’t figure out, and was reminded of when reading a piece Hemant wrote: Why do intelligent atheists often insist on reading the Bible like a fundamentalist– as if there’s only one way to understand and apply it to Christian living?
Case in point: Friendly Atheist today is poking a bit of fun at a Miss Teen USA contestant who happens to be a devout Christian. Their issue with her?
That she has a tattoo.
Hemant writes, “I just want to point out that, for all the comments about her “devout” faith and dedication to the Bible, she breaks a pretty famous biblical rule…” Furthermore, the title of the piece asserts that she “clearly hasn’t read the Bible.”
As a theological scholar and a Christian with a boatload of tattoos, I take real issue with Hemant’s hard-line take on this. It’s a classic case of when atheists insist on reading the Bible like fundamentalists. It is unenlightening and causes one to become judgmental of others, such as the judgment that she “clearly hasn’t read the Bible” or by putting “devout” in quotation marks as if her having a tattoo actually calls into question the sincerity of her faith.
It’s as if there’s only “one way” to read and interpret the Bible– and as the one they call Formerly Fundie, let’s just say I’ve seen this approach before.
So, let me break it down for you as to why this entire argument is deeply flawed– whether it’s a fundamentalist or an atheist making it:
First, this argument fails to take into account the historic context of these ancient Scriptures.
The area of Scripture in question is describing the birth and organization of a nation and people group that happened long, long ago. It is descriptive, instead of prescriptive. The Hebrew people arose as one culture among many others, and one of their cultural values was to live differently than the people groups around them. In the case of tattoos, the prohibition first discusses “cutting” your skin for the dead, and then lumps tattoos in with it– both were popular religious practices to honor the dead and to get the attention of the gods, particularly of the Canaanite people they were trying to distinguish themselves from.
Thus, when we see this prohibition of tattoos what we’re seeing is a description of an ancient people group establishing a new religion, and who wanted to make sure they lived and looked differently than the people groups around them. Had the Canaanites all worn funny yellow hats and 80’s style basketball shorts every Saturday, I’m sure they would have prohibited that, too. The only way the ancient Hebrew prohibition on tattoos (or on wearing mixed fibers) is relevant to the life of a modern Christian is only if one finds cultural anthropology interesting– that’s because it is descriptive of an ancient people, not prescriptive for Christians.
The second reason this argument fails, is that it operates on the assumption that in order to be a good Christian, one must follow ancient Jewish customs. Ironically, the Bible *actually* deals with this issue later (you have to read waaaaaay past Leviticus, though) when the Christian religion is born out of Judaism. In fact, the early Christians argued over this issue– but the position that won the day was that gentiles (that’s us) do not have to follow these ancient customs (shout-out to all the uncircumcised folks out there). In fact, there’s even a famous story in the New Testament where early Christians claim that God himself told St. Peter to no longer follow some of the ancient customs. Oh, and let’s not forget the inconvenient truth that the founder of Christianity (you-know-who) was actually executed, and that one of the reasons why the religious leaders colluded to see that happen was because he wouldn’t interpret the ancient customs the way that some Baptist churches, and now Friendly Atheist, say we should.
Long story short: the vast majority of Christians for the past 2,000 years have felt little compulsion to follow most of the ritualistic and cultural practices of our religious ancestors. Alyssa Williams is well in line with Christian tradition.
The Friendly Atheist article says that Alyssa Williams “clearly hasn’t read her Bible,” but the irony is this is a case of pointing one finger, only to have four pointing right back at you.
Because if you finish reading the Bible, it actually tells you that Christians are not under obligation to follow these ancient customs.
I love my atheist friends, and I respect my colleague Hemant. But as a Christian I’ll say this: we give you plenty of good and valid hypocritical reasons to make fun of us, but going after a teenager who seems like a good kid, simply because she’s a Christian with a tattoo, probably isn’t the most compelling argument you could make today.” – Benjamin L Corey
Aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: “impasse, difficulty of passing, lack of resources, puzzlement”) denotes in philosophy a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement; “a difficulty, impasse, or point of doubt and indecision”. “… a point of undecidability, which locates the site at which the text most obviously undermines its own rhetorical structure, dismantles, or deconstructs itself”. “Wolfreys in his essay “Trauma, Testimony, and Criticism” characterizes trauma as aporia, a wound with unending trail. Valiur Rahaman in his book Interpretations: Essays in Literary Theory (2011) explained aporia as a creative force in both the artist and his/her art. It is, for him/her, an edgeless edge of the text or a work of art. (Source & Citation: Wikipedia)
“No cause, no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents.”
“When I behold another, I am beholding a world of infinite possibilities, both painful, bound, and even malevolent, but also divine, unencumbered, and capable of great joy. I can listen to a story, and yet I can know that the story I hear is only one point of light that I happen to be standing directly in front of. However, the person I behold exudes multitudinous rays of light that I can barely fathom to see. And the same is true for me. I am aware that the possibilities I have within me are infinite, and that it becomes even more apparent to me when I am in relationship with someone who is just a few steps beyond my little skull and skin encapsulated world. When I attempt to hear something outside of myself and actually hear something new, my sense of self expands and my horizon is broadened. The relevance of this to the aforementioned freedom is that this kind of interaction not only illuminates the many wondrous aspects of self via reflection and absorption that can occur through relationship, it also builds bridges to roads that people may not even think they are capable of traveling: roads that lead to a becoming we cannot yet behold, but place our faith in. The benevolence of a present interaction with another person can help build that faith, for we are presenting that hopeful part of our self that another may not yet identify with. However, our persistence to believe in the potential of another may lay a solid foundation for the faith that is necessary, i.e. the “daily bread” that sustains us during our great adventure through life as we best know it.”