Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The essence of fundamentalism.

by Colman Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:14:14 AM EST

It today's breakfast thread there is a frank and forthright debate going on about the cartoons again. One of the issues that has come up a few times is the misunderstanding of fundamentalism.

Let me try and explain the phenomenon a bit.


Karen Armstrong has written a lot about fundamentalist religions and she seems fairly widely respected.

Her thesis is that fundamentalism is a new form of religion that is a reaction to the modern world. It is not, as it's sales people would have it, a return to some purer, earlier form. It is something new branched off older religions and depending on modes of thought only possible to modern people.

There was, in her opinion, a distinction made between two modes of thought; mythos and logos. Logos was the rational, reality and fact based way of thinking. Mythos was the symbolic, spiritual way of thought that need not have literal truth in this world. A person that makes the distinction does not expect that religious or spiritual texts will really apply to this world nor that religion can be explained scientifically. The idea is silly.

Her contention is that the modern world concentrates entirely on the objectively true and devalues mythos.

Fundamentalism arises when a religious believer takes the mythic events of their religion and applies modern thinking to it. Either it's false and "just a myth" or it must be objectively true. If they take the second approach then they form world views that are bizarre mixes of the objectively true and objectively false. Generally these strange alloys are formed under pressure: anti-Semitism and displacement for the Jews, the slow collapse of the Caliphate and the ascension of the barbarian West for the Muslims, the rise of secularism and democracy for the Christians.

The fundamentalist religions have in common: a belief in the literal truth of some very strange myths; a belief that they are under siege from evil, unjust forces which leads to anger, fear and defensiveness; sharply drawn lines between us and them; a total disregard for the history of their religions or their traditional teachings. They've also all been exploited for personal and political gain by some truly nasty people.

Display:
To grossly oversimplify of course. Go read her books.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:21:09 AM EST
Actually Ghandi's diary is relevant as empathy rather than knowledge.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:27:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good summary. I have The Battle for God right in front of me, as it happens. Agree with most of it.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:50:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't - it's the only one of her important ones I don't own.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:53:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A History of God is very good, too.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:44:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or course, we atheists tend to feed this tendency by asking dumb questions about the reality of religious tales. Which we can't avoid asking when they're presented as literal truth.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:22:54 AM EST
These "dumb questions" are irony in the Socratic sense. Remember what happened to Socrates.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:23:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By "we atheists", I presume you include yourself in that, and mean that you believe (or think? or know?)there is no God.

Just for the record, I put myself in "agnostic", as in "I don't know". All the signs (starting with the various competing versions of religion) point, to me, to God(s) being inventions of man (to offer a convenient distraction from the fear of death), but I don't know for sure that there isn't an afterlife or a supreme being or whatever.

I consider religious faith to be a personal thing. If it is brought into the public, via political activity and institutions, it becomes criticisable as anything social and political, and thus I don't see why it should not be mocked, criticised or lambasted. Indeed, as leaders of influential (and influencable) flocks, religious leaders wield a lot of power and should be especially targetted for criticism and oversight by the opinions of others.

Publicly stated religious views are no more and no less respectable that any other opinion on anything. Therefore religious people should expect me not to go and mock or criticise them in their churches or homes, but not to not discuss or mock or ignore their church when it starts opining on what is proper or not in society. A religious opinion on what constitute offensive speech is just as relevant or irrelevant as what the socialists or Kate Moss or the national rifle association have to say on the topic. They are free to say they are offended, of course, and, just like anyone else, to go to court if they think the limits of decency or hate speech have been breached, but that's it.

I will not take the pope or the imams more (nor less) seriously than the head of a trade union or of an NGO or than another blogger.

And again, with their capacity to unleash violence onto others in the name of their Gods, which their follwoers seem to take so seriously, religious leaders should be particularly careful with their words.

God is just an opinion. How's that for fundamentalism?


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:11:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See below for brief discussion of definitions of atheism and so on.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand a thing of what you're discussing below, so I cannot see where you are discussing atheism.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:21:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What? How is it so incomprehensible?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:22:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was here. Not that there was much of it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:24:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, found that bit now. That I think I can grasp and participate to...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:25:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm really curious about your reaction to the rest of it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My mind goes blank. Really.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:36:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:38:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if I knew, it would not be so blank!

To me, all questions religious are pointless, because religion doesn't work for me, and the whole thing is a waste of time. I am not interested in art, so the only thing that I can care about is the interaction of religion with politics, where I have a very simplistic reflex: keep religion out, as it deals in absolutes, and absolutes are really dangerous in politics (the ends justify the means / you're with us or against us kind of thing).

So take all of what I write on the topic with that large grain of salt in mind.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and it's too expensive...

"for a time I had a God."
"and you din't keep it?"
"oh no, you must be kidding"
"it was much too expensive to maintain"


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:52:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, thats fine, but the reality of the world is that many people DO take religion more seriously than you, and not just fundamentalists. As such, this attitude, to me, is just obtuse and a recipe for conflict.

I think part of your problem, Jerome, is that you don't have contact with people who are true believers. I'm not talking about nominal Christians who might go to mass several times a year. No, I"m talking about people who really and deeply believe in some form of religious teaching.

In the US, for better or worse, one is much more likely to encounter people - at least abstractly - who are true believers. Indeed, my fiancees family is full of them. I think actually knowing this fact really will change your attitude towards people of faith. Once you come into contact with the reality of religious belief, you can't be so intolerant of it. Indeed, if I were to be, or liberals were to be, we'd be in for some pretty long years in the wildnerness.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 01:21:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way that mythos combines with logos to return with a vengeance is the basic failure mode of rationalism. It is in this sense that the rise of fascism in the 1930's can be seen as a failure of 18th century enlightenment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:26:35 AM EST
I'm not convinced. I think fundamentalist religions exist for a lot longer.

I'd consider the Essenians in Judea two millennia ago, the Assassins one millennium ago, the various new 'heretic' sects that appeared in Medieval Europe 800 years ago, and even Luther and Calvin fundamentalists in a similar sense as those today. They, too, were not, as it's sales people would have it, a return to some purer, earlier form. They were something new branched off older religions, and did so in response to then current events and developments in society.

In particular, I would remind people of the reason Luther and other Protestants threw out some books from the Bible: contradictions, factual contradictions. This was before the Enlightement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:27:44 AM EST
Luther and Protestants were part of the enlightenment process surely?

Why do you class the Assassins as fundamentalists?

I'm not 100% convinced either. And I'm sure I could present the argument rather better.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:31:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reformation happened in the 16th century. It's part of the late Renaissance. The Enlightenment is conventionally identified with the 18th century.

What happened in the 17th century that made all the difference is religious war and Newton's Principia.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:38:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Luther and Protestants were part of the enlightenment process surely?

That is only a myth permeated presently in Protestant-majority, especially 'Anglo-Saxon' countries today. Luther was not an opponent of theocracy, nor of burning heretics and witches, nor of anti-semitism. Calvin established a kind of mini-Taleban in his city. The founders of settlements in what became the USA weren't persecuted who were hunted away but persecuters, sects who took religious judgement in their own hand, hunted away. But even bloody Cromwell was a religious fanatic.

Protestantism ended up as a(n involuntary) facilitator of the Enlightement only as a consequence of the Thirty Years War, and the Counter-Reformation in the areas given to Catholic rulers then.

BTW, not many know, Newton himself was a fundamentalist - one who rejected Athanasian Christianity (e.g. everything from the Nicean Creed), and who thought that his greates life achievement was not the theory of mechanics, not the theory of gravity, not his work on differential mathematics, but an almost forgotten book in which he attempted to reconcile the chronology of the Old Testament with that of then known ancient Middle Eastern royal lists (e.g. Egyptian, Assyrian, etc.).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:18:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Protestantism ended up as a(n involuntary) facilitator of the Enlightement only as a consequence of the Thirty Years War, and the Counter-Reformation in the areas given to Catholic rulers then.

More bloody reading to do. But that's sort of what I meant.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:20:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Protestantism ended up as a(n involuntary) facilitator of the Enlightement only as a consequence of the Thirty Years War, and the Counter-Reformation in the areas given to Catholic rulers then.

I have threatend before that I might do a history of Protestantism in Germany and its role in enlightenment that would quitely run against this thesis......

But I am scared (-:

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:12:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, do.  I'm confused now that I've read DoDo's comment.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:12:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A curse on him and his fundamentalistic dogmas. One day, when I've finally read enough about him, I'll need to write down why I think his machinations are part of the problems what we at ET are struggling against: Class wars, Glass Ceilings, Class Ceilings, the lot. Another example: My mentor at the University generally went hopping mad on Calvin when we discussed why there are to this day too few female scientists, certainly in the Netherlands. Interesting thoughts.

Then again, my mentor is a Catholic.....

by Nomad on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea of fundamentalism is a fairly new one (1920's). The traditional understanding of what seems to be described as fundamentalism here, is orthodoxy. But fundamentalism is first off all an inner theological attack - against other Christians, those of the historical critical persuasion. The word is only being used in a political context since the late 70's. Where it then has been used in a very muddled up way describing alsorts of people that are seen as anti-modernists.
In fact it is a label applied from the outside. At least in the beginning.

In a way it is almost like the term "politically correct". It bundles up different interests and different motivations and gives it a negative connotation.

Coming back to the difference between orthodoxy and fundamentalism - the need for literalism, which is at the heart of the original fundamentalist movement in the 20th - only came about as a rejection of modernist thought. Until Schleiermacher the literalism of the bible had never been an issue and was theologically irrelevant, this does exactly NOT mean that everybody before him was a literalist, quite the opposite.

Therefore, while orthodoxy goes back to the dogmatic decisions of faith, fundamentalism goes back to one aspect of religous tradition - reinterpreting religion and the religious teachings from that perspective.

Literalism/Fundamentalism is not an "orthodox" belief, it is a way of wanting to get access to history - and a way of interpreting expression of faith.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:50:19 AM EST
The traditional understanding of what seems to be described as fundamentalism here, is orthodoxy.

Then I've done a bad job of explaining it. It's not orthodoxy that this is getting at, it's the literalism and the reaction to modernism.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:57:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I was probably more reacting to DoDo I think. Every application of anything "fundamentalist" before the 1920 is very difficult and needs to go along with a clear definition of what fundamentalism is. Luther was had orthodox tendecies, but he is not a fundamentalist in the modern sense, if you equate fundamentalism with literalism.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:07:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Luther was had orthodox tendecies, but he is not a fundamentalist in the modern sense, if you equate fundamentalism with literalism.

You got me curious. Could you tell mre about how Luther was not literalist?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:21:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When you read an original Luther translation you know he was not a literalist. He changed the text to fit his theology in many places. Haven';t got a quote right at hand, but could probably find one.

His attitude towards the apocryptic writings, (his almost exclusion of the apocalypse from the bible as well as his successful exclusion of the Makkabaer, Tobit etc,) his re - counting of the 10 commandments. there are so many things, that modern literalists would never dare do to the bible, Luther never had any trouble with.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:39:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He changed the text to fit his theology in many places.

You mean, he translated his own interpretation? In my experience (from battling them for four years), that's exactly what modern creationists do, too - and bin Laden, too. For the former, fitting reality on the Bible and vice-versa, and to interpret the literally read Bible as coherent and without contradictions, involves very 'liberal' interpretations of certain words or sentences, it involves adding theories that aren't in the scripture, it involves a lot of out-of-context quoting. The latter also characterises Bin Laden, I'm told.

His attitude towards the apocryptic writings,

It's in the very word, 'apocryphic'. Luther rejected these by branding them apocryphic, claiming that the Church was corrupted when it decided to include them. (The two books of the Maccabees are integral part of the Catholic Bible.) I.e., in my interpretation he was not non-literalist, he rejected these writings precisely because he didn't saw them (wanted to see them) as holy scripture.

his re - counting of the 10 commandments

My memory is faint, but IIRC it was the original Latin translation that changed 11 commandments into 10.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"in my interpretation he was not non-literalist, he rejected these writings precisely because he didn't saw them (wanted to see them) as holy scripture."

So how can Luther make the decision that they are not holy scripture? He cannot make the decision as a literalist, since the canon has no inner unity, like the Qur'an f.e.

It is therefore a theological decision and not a decision based on the letters. It is based on his interpretation of the bible.

The bible as a book does not have an opinion in regard to exclusion or inclusion of individual books.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:06:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So how can Luther make the decision that they are not holy scripture?

I kind of covered that already, but to put it more clearly: (a) by blaming the decision to include them on earthy powers who stopped following God, and (b) identify/double-check the latter looking for self-contradictions and discarding text that has them. According to my rusty memory, both of these arguments were used explicitly (but I freely submit that I may have confused Luther with other Protestants).

But, for example, what theological reason could have been there behind taking out the books of the Maccabees?

A further point: there is Luther's famous line about women and booze. But more serious arguments behind that were again literalist: the rejection of these as not Bible-based, based on counter-examples within the Bible.

Finally, a meta-point: something everyone emphasized in the debate is that fundamentalists aren't really orthodox, but introduce something new under the appearance of turning back to orthodoxy. But the other side of this is that this new they bring can also develop into something progressive, as the movement grows older. I contend that that is the case with Luther's reforms - mother-language Bibles, less hierarchic church, booze and women, discussion rather than guidance ended up as the hallmarks of a much nicer form of Christianity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:45:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, for example, what theological reason could have been there behind taking out the books of the Maccabees?

That Book II suggests that praying for the dead can free them from purgatory?

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 04:50:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the other side of this is that this new they bring can also develop into something progressive, as the movement grows older.

this would certainly merrit a wider discussion.

However, I am not sure, where after 130 year of the "literal experiment" which brought us fundamentalism and an extreme pietism there is anything but restriction and limitation, that has been brought along. Give me one good example of literalism, in a progressive, modern, liberating understanding of the word "good".

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:21:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What was the excised commandment?

Thou shalt not make railway transport an item of worship?

or

Thou shalt not make extinct the flightless birds?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:12:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exodus 20 4
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth

quickly skipped by Luther....

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:28:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
here

aptly relevant...

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:29:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also relevant.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I wrote the comment about Newton in response to Colman before I saw this; but it seems highly relevant: Newton's attempt to beat out a clear chronology of 'real' history, accepting the Bible as correct and trying to fit the other evidence to it, seems to be just this devaluation of the mythos and application of the logos.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:24:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of it seems to be a dismissal of faith: the fundamentalist doesn't have faith, they have the objective truth.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:59:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
one more comment:

Fundamentalism arises when a religious believer takes the mythic events of their religion and applies modern thinking to it.

This might only be your summary, but this produces such a false dichotomy. I, f.e can very easily explain all miracles in the bible, without hurting any natural laws. Allegorically. There - no natural law has been hurt, but the religious relevance is still maintained. The need for eliminate all mythic events, because of scientific advances is missing that a myth bring an aspect to the story that a scientific explanation can never capture, since it does not have the words for it. It is the old WHY? How is fine, that's what science is for. But WHY? Random, sure, one possible answer. But the fundamental question of why is there something and not Nothing. Cannot be answered by science. Or at least I am not aware of an answer.

I am not saying that the religious answer is necessarily the right one (You can still believe in your atheism) it is however an experience that is being shared by billions of people for the last couple of hundred thousand years.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:02:15 AM EST
The anthropic principle is one such answer, but it is questionable whether it is a scientific answer.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:05:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I understand anthropic correctily it means we live in the best of all possible worlds. But that is not the contention. not, it is the best, but WHY is there a world and not nothing. But maybe I missunderstand anthropic.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:11:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no.

The weak anthropic principle says that given that there is a universe with varying physical conditions in different localities, and that we are alive in that universe it is not surprising (despite asrtonomical odd s to the contrary) that we find ourselves in a locality suited to life as we know it. This is almost tautological, but not quite. It is accepted as a way out of the "we are too rare to be true" argument, but it is not an explanation of WHY, just possible of HOW.

The strong anthropic principle says that the universe exists for the purpose of spawning inteeligent observers within it. It is teleological, and hence explains WHY, but most people don't consider it properly scientific.

(more) (even more)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:24:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometime I must find someone to explain this to me. I don't understand the problem that's being solved.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:25:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:56:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand why there would be a why at all.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:00:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What would we talk about otherwise?
If there was no why? gee all the politicians would get away with everything.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me not understand.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:14:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
slightly snarky comment.

I understood your question why there had to be a why in the first place to literal..... (-:

but since I gentically are unfunny I had to try and make a serious point in conjunction with a joke.

consequence... belly flop.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
my excuse, English is not my mothertounge....

I also might not have understood what exactly you were refering to

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just can't quite disentangle the joke and the serious point: I could read it as "without myth/religion there is no ethics" and then I'd have to get cranky.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:20:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, would not want to make you cranky...

Serious point was, Why? is a most important question. especially with politicians.

snarky point was you seem to imply that the question is futile. ->"What would we talk about otherwise"

~Sorry a bad joke/snarke, does not get better by having to explain it - I then cannot even hide behind the

eh, that's just a snark..

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:34:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Serious point was, Why? is a most important question. especially with politicians.

But maybe not with the universe.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:35:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I gathered that that might be your point, ok then I did understand correctly - and would indicated my difference in opinion.

It might not have everyday consequences with regard to our existance, it might even be completely inconsequencial. but it still is strange.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:49:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nature is stranger than anything human imagination can come up with, which is why, for shock value, science beats myth hands down.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely not with the universe.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:53:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a gentically unfunny person myself, your joke actually made me laugh.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:03:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
aaah, the voice of reason.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:08:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ugh, string theory. I have to find a different explanation of the problem.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:10:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope you don;t want to imply that there is equality between mythological stories and ID? ID is fake science, plenty of mythologicalistic science, but it is neither science nor myth. As it lacks fundamental requirements to be either.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
??

At issue was the anthropic principle in cosmology, no more or less.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:37:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry only read the introduction - decided that the article you linked to was way beyond me ....
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:23:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just take this abstract...
The Physical Review: The eighteen arbitrary parameters of the standard model in your everyday life (1996)
Contrary to popular conception, the purpose of particle physics is to understand the everyday world. The current theory of fundamental interactions among the quarks and leptons depends on eighteen parameters, which are a priori arbitrary. Were these parameters different, our world would be changed dramatically. By exploring the connection between these parameters and everyday phenomena we can better appreciate the challenges confronting contemporary particle physics. Until we can explain the origin of these parameters, we cannot say we truly understand why our everyday world is as it is.
The point is this: the standard model of particle physics depends on 18 arbitrary parameters (not counting the masses of the elementary particles, I believe), and then there are a couple of purely gravitational parameters important in cosmology. These 20 (or 30-something if you include the masses) parameters appear to need to be tuned to a very high accuracy in order to be compatible with the macroscopic world we live in. If each parameter is tuned to 10% accuracy, the likelyhood of all parameters being in the range required for life as we know it to be possible is one part in one billion billion, give or take a couple of zeros. If the parameters need to be tuned to 1% accuracy, the likelyhood drops to one part in a trillion trillion trillion, again give or take a couple of zeros.

So, how do you explain our incredible luck?

The weak anthropic principle is an attempt to "explain" this as an observation bias. That is, it is possible that many universes support life, but of very different kinds. In any one universe, living beings within it will reason that, for life as they know it to be possible, dozens of parameters need to be carefully tuned. But that does not mean that, for any kind of life to be possible the parameters need to be tuned. It only means that living things will look around and find the universe strangely suited to hosting them, all the more so if you thow in the insight that life evolves to adapt to its environment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:48:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For large values of questionable as far as I understand it. But that's a whole other diary.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:15:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm either doing a really bad job of writing today or you're reacting to someone else again. Probably the former.

What I meant was the believer accepts the modern devaluation of myth, applies it to their religion, says that myth is valueless, my religion is valuable, so my religion isn't myth - it's literally true.

Your point is exactly the one the fundamentalists miss.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:14:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the believer accepts the modern devaluation of myth, applies it to their religion, says that myth is valueless, my religion is valuable, so my religion isn't myth

This seems pristine clear to me Colman, and thoroughly reflects my position. Could not have put it in a better way even if I had tried.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:01:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you accept your religion and all it's texts as literal truth?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:03:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly the opposite. I accept that some of the myths may not be true, but I don't mind. Taking everything at face value would be foolish.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:07:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The believer takes the ancient myth and reckons their relevance to his modern belief/religion may be limited : that does not demean the belief.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:08:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is not what the fundamentalist does, of course.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:09:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Completely lost now : is that what fundamentalists really do ???

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:13:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, you're not accepting the first step, really. You're accepting that myths are ok.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:10:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
help someone ! :) It seems I cannot write proper English anymore. I do not agree on the fact that myths are necessary because some people (the weaker) cannot live without them, that was what Karl Mark meant when he talked about religion being like opium (to alleviate suffering and that stuff) whereas the stronger can do without religion. To me that is not only rubbish but paves the way to fundamentalism.

Being a believer or not is not about choice, trust me ...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:18:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are perhaps conflating Marx' and Nietzsche's critiques of religion? For the former, it's a matter of predicament; for the latter, of character strength.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]


When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:27:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been incredibly careful not to say that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't mind, really.
What I mind is having the fundamentalist label applied to me.

Fundamentalist Catholics do not acknowledge Vatican 2, for which they theoretically should be excommunicated if the religious dogma was strictly applied, which is not something I favour.
There is nothing in the New Testament stating that divorced people cannot attend the communion, still this has been the case for a long time, not to mention the fact that people who committed suicide were considered doomed, which is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures.
These are dogmas produced by the Church as a secular institution.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody applied that label to you.

I'm not sure that rejecting Vatican II qualifys you as fundamentalist, though there's a whole lot of batshit crazy stuff that the fundamentalist Catholics believe in. Including restoration of the European monarchies in some sections.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:38:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody applied that label to you.

here, here (I have lived in britain for too long....
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:44:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a pretty accurate decription of fundamentalist thinking. the assumption that myths are o.k and retain their pre-modern wholiness by ignoring reality
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:18:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I never said that myths were OK !!!!

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:22:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Urk. Right. Time to back off and try that again I think.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:23:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I'm responding to:

Exactly the opposite. I accept that some of the myths may not be true, but I don't mind. Taking everything at face value would be foolish.

The point is that the myths have value and religious significance even if they're not literally true. It doesn't matter that the book of Genesis is a myth: it has religious value anyway. It doesn't matter that the detail of Christ's life may or may not be true: it still has significance and value.

Remember I don't mean myth here as a pejorative.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:26:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree on that. I seem to find it difficult to discriminate between the various concepts used here. Sorry about the misunderstandings and the inconvenience caused.
What I stick to is that it is barbaric to stage wars in the name of God (any God), and in that I claim that religion should remain a private issue, not a tool to justify conquest and quest for power. This in an ideal world, of course.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:42:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought I had answered to Colman. Sorry if I missthreaded
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No pb. There are so many intersecting posts that even the parent link does not help much.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:44:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I meant was the believer accepts the modern devaluation of myth, applies it to their religion, says that myth is valueless, my religion is valuable, so my religion isn't myth - it's literally true.

modern devaluation of myth - check
applies to my religion - check
says that myth is valueless - no, rephrases, reapplies and attempting to regain the the myth to make it valuable again
my religion is valuable - check
my religion uses mythology - check
my religion isn't myth - check

it is literal - no it is not.
because the myth has been regained the outside support of literalism is not necessary.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:15:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can still believe in your atheism

How? It's a lack of belief, not a belief. I really wish we could call a convention that would make sense of the word for people who don't believe there is a God but don't have  a positive believe there isn't one.

Actually I want to call the people who have  positive belief in the non-existence of God anti-theists.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:18:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Atheism is a belief. Agnosticism is lack of belief.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:26:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't want to get into that here, but check the definitions in the OED.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:28:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Atheism is a belief. Agnosticism is lack of belief.

Nope. Atheism is lack of belief, Agnosticism is belief in the lack of knowability.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:30:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To expound on that, though many people assume so, atheism/theism and agnosticism aren't alternatives, they intersect. (I met some theists who were overjoyed when I explained this, as they already considered themselves that but believed there is no terminology for their views.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:32:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope again.

Atheism is belief (or opinion, that's where it gets tricky) that there is no god.

Agnosticism is knowledge that there is no proof either way.

Mild forms of agnosticism and atheism intersect.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:24:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a mess. And we can go around in circles arguing about it. There are not enough words to describe the beliefs.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:26:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope again. That is a simplistic classification that is neither clear on the terms nor encompasses the whole spectrum of opinions. (It also kind of aggressively attempts to define others' views for themselves.)

Atheism is lack of belief in gods. Some atheists will go as far as claim in some form that there are no gods, others won't. On atheist sites I frequented, the terms "strong atheist" and "weak atheist" were adopted for distinction when the philosophical battles raged.

Agnosticism is the opinion that the existence of gods is unknowable. There are differences regarding whether it is practically or theoretically unknowable, and what "to know" means. (The way you defined it, with "knowledge", implies a rather extreme form I rarely encountered.) Non-agnostics usually also reject agnosticism on the basis of one or another different concept of "to know" and "proof".

Theists, weak atheists, and strong atheists each can be either agnostic or non-agnostic. I met with ardent proponents of all six variants. But all six encompass a number of very different views. To just take non-agnostic strong atheists who'd seem a single strang to many: some think science disproves theism, others that the very definition of "god" is nonsensical, others are convinced of a general theory of the cultural genesis of religions, still others argue that a statement is false by default unless its maker presents proof (which in the case of gods didn't happen), yet again others make the Moral Argument (God is supposed to be moral + the world is immoral => God doesn't exist), still others argue with internal contradictions.

Myself, I am a non-agnostic weak atheist. (I won't detail my rejection of the various forms of strong atheism, as well as of agnosticism, but false dichotomies and special pleading to save what would be trivialisms would feature prominently.)

Actually, even the above classification doesn't encompass 'em all. Some atheists argue that belief is not the issue (the Sun is a god in some religions but we others still believe the Sun exists), worship is.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:25:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. I did not like your introducing the notion of "belief" for agnosticism in your earlier comment. I understand your classification, esxcept this one: how can you be a non-agnostic weak atheist??

Weak atheist: you don't believe in god, but don't say there isn't one
non-agnostic: it's possible to know whether god exists.

How can you both know and not know if god exists?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:33:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is possible that there could be positive proof of a god. There just isn't. Mind you, you need a good definition of god to come along.

I don't believe in unicorns, but I accept it's possible someone could produce one. I don't not believe in unicorns, not do I believe it's impossible to prove they exist.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not see how a positive proof of the existence of god could exist. Hence Pascal's bet.
That's the strength of religions : making you believe something that cannot be proved altogether.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:59:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He could drop by for coffee.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:01:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Possibly with his birth-cert.

I'm not being entirely frivolous here: there are possible positive proofs that something god-like could exist  - depending on your definition of god.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:03:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pascal's bet has two problems. One is that some gods require honesty in belief. Another is that it is a false dichotomy: if you believe in god A, that doesn't shield you from the wrath of god B should religion B have been correct.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:17:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, so, do I have this right?:

you don't believe in god, don't know if there is one of not, but are willing to be convinced either way if a good proof comes along.

That's me as well, then. What were we arguing about, exactly, throughout the day?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:59:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Were we arguing? I thought of it as clarifying.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:02:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree - we were looking at different definitions of fundamentalism and at the history of the term.

whistle, whistle,

has the teacher gone, Colman?

Here take that, and you DoDO, buh, argh, uff, autsch

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 01:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that Jérôme was even able to follow that part of the debate, which is sort of strange.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 01:15:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sigh I really am not funny, I thought I may make you smile, but then you are just keeping on the thread...

with regards to Jerome,

wouldn't know - don't feel competend to comment

...

hehe, another funny comment, as if that had ever stopped me...

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 01:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You made smile ; Jérôme is not available as far as I know...:)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:35:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry,
I forgot the most important word : ME.
You made ME smile.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:38:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See his remarks way upthread.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:36:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I saw them, but religion is a topic I am <s>fundamentally
 <s> unable to argue over with Jérôme. I am a fundamentalist tolerant.
OK, enough with this.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:40:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't believe there is a god. I could be wrong. That's all. I don't know if there is one - or many - but I have no reason to believe there are any. I'm just not claiming access to absolute truth.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:07:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sums up my view well.  I think it's a discussion that will go on for thousands of years and perhaps never be settled.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:50:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the ultimate hurdle you cannot avoid : faith is about something one can never hold for sure to be there and last. Like love, no matter how hard we try, we can never rest assured that love will not fade away.
Willing to be convinced is a scientific way of thinking, not a religious/sentimental one. They cannot coexist.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:09:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why the fundamentalists have such a problem with science.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:10:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the ultimate hurdle you cannot avoid : faith is about something one can never hold for sure to be there and last. Like love, no matter how hard we try, we can never rest assured that love will not fade away.
Willing to be convinced is a scientific way of thinking, not a religious/sentimental one. They cannot coexist.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:10:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops... Double post, sorry.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:11:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fixed already.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:12:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I killed one, so that's a triple post. I think.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:12:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lemme introduce a further consideration.

Making a decision.

I am a weak atheist who even has time for the religious gnostic argument, that you can know the truth of a religion by faith. Only: as all kinds of religions have believers who think faith was a route to Truth for them, which one to try first?

Similarly, as long as none of them seems more well-founded than a couple of others, you don't need to pose 'absolute' standards of proof for various gods and religions.

A further issue is whether you see the knowability of the existence of gods as a question different from say the knowability of the existence of Saturn or giant squids or fairies or toothbrushes (and that would lead to a whole discussion about the meaning of "to know").

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:29:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Plus, I hinted at false dichotomies. The question is not whether a god exists or not, but whether god A, god B, set of god Ci, god D. etc or noe of them exists. I din't have to disprove every god in one go. (I also note that philosophical agnostics themselves usually restrict their argument to a 'nontrivial' [<-their word] monotheistic God, quite freely discarding most gods.) But I don't want to be more detailed than that, we could debate this single issue for a week.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:00:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost like me :) I do believe in God, but I don't believe in the possibility of a positive proof of his existence. And I do not believe someone could produce a hard evidence.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:05:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, you're another agnostic theist :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:19:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonderful DoDo, thanks to you I eventually know who I am ! :)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 02:33:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, true faith!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:29:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did not like your introducing the notion of "belief" for agnosticism in your earlier comment.

Oh, sorry about that, I haven't even noticed (and put it better the second time without even realising I used a different word :-)) - it was sloppiness on my part. (On the other hand, in my experience, those emphasizing their agnosticism tend to call atheism a belief and vice versa - while some of both call their own views a knowledge which is an even stronger claim.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:33:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is the old WHY? How is fine, that's what science is for. But WHY? Random, sure, one possible answer. But the fundamental question of why is there something and not Nothing. Cannot be answered by science.

My trouble with this is that I don't find an answer in mythos either. I find mythos only gives a conforting anthropologism, which in truth pushes back the "why?" one step further - not explaining, in fact adding to what should be explained.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:28:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm comfortable with the fact that we don't know some stuff and may never know it.

But you're mistaking the function of mythos. It doesn't have to be explained: it provides comfortable furniture for the mind and soul rather than objective truth.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:34:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that's the context PeWi used it in.

In fact, if I understood him correctly, I agree: myth can be used to explain things allegorically, and asking whether the myth is true or false (and what the factual truth of the myth would imply) is not to the point. For example, there is the story of the last strike against the Egyptians. Read literally, that is a horrible and anti-ethical story. But if you know the historical context you will realise that it is about people in a small nation standing firm even as they have that giant empire as neighbour/overlord, ruled by a ruler with very real and visible superpowers as opposed to the invisible JHVH.

However, I don't see mythos serving such a purpose regarding the Big Question in question.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:43:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You probably need to be a bit more allegorical than that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:52:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo, I assume you mean the story of the Exodus from Egypt?
You know that the whole exodus story is a construct with only very limited historical fact in it. There was no "one" exodus. but that is beside the point.

I was infact talking about the creation of the world and the big question about why we are here and so on, so I do think, that Colman understood what I was trying to say.

I think one reason (hehe) for mythological stories is to provide structure and shelter from the nasty world outside. It offers explanation that is comforting in a situation that is cruel.

When a car drove over our cat. I told my wife, that it was a gang of local rabbits that had put money together to bribe a car driver to become the contract killer for our "lovely Siamese" cat. Of course that is a both a rubbish story and not really what happened. But now everytime the cat is mentioned, it was killed by a contract killer out of revenge for the baby-rabbits the cat had killed.

Now that's how myths come about. They serve only limited purpose, and they make light of a situation, give meaning and divert attention. Are they scientific, no, but they provide a cover.

I guess you know that, but I wanted to tell the myth about the cat...

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:57:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that myths are always benign.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:04:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, it takes an effort of will to squish my head around all of this.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which sounds like I'm looking for medal.

What I was trying to say is that if you're not wired or trained or whatever to use myth in that way it's quite hard to understand or empathise with those who do and possibly harder to retain sufficient humility to not feel superior to those who rely on such crutches.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair point about the superiority feeling. I think that that is one of the crucial point of the failure of modernists.

The question I would always ask, what role does the narrative, the myth, plays in that persons life and in which context is it being told.

Consolation in grief - use any myth you like (even if I could vomit, when I hear some sWEEEEEEET one's)

political motivation - I would be very cautious, where the myth comes from, and what is behind it - conduct a proper deconstruction.

origin myths - again it is the question of why and not how. "how" myths are open invitation to riddicule.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:28:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They serve only limited purpose, and they make light of a situation, give meaning and divert attention.
If you consider the whole corpus of traditions and stories that belong to humankind's cultural background, like the exodus from Egypt, I agree with you that these are myths (and founding myths), and as such, are not to be taken for face value.

However, I am not along the same line when you say giving meaning is a limited purpose. I can fully understand the contention that those abiding by a religion or a faith may seem better sheltered against the evil that happens to us all at some point in our life, but things are far more complicated.
Those using religious beliefs as a convenient shelter cannot be representative of all religious people. Everyone with a little bit of common sense cannot satisfy themselves with the prospect of a peaceful eternity making up for the grief they experience here and now. This if you were meaning that the existence of God is a myth, which I may have misunderstood.
 

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo, I assume you mean the story of the Exodus from Egypt?

Yes, specifically the last strike against Egypt. In more detail: A literalist has a hard time getting a moral out of the story that God "hardens" the Pharaoh's heart explicitly so that he can use the Pharaoh's lack of action as excuse for a further demonstration of power, which involves a painful punishment of children for something a tyrann ruling their parents did. (In fact, I saw literalists attempting that, and the result is either very disgusting or interprets words and sentences in rather strange ways.) But if you know that none of this happened, and furthermore that when this was written, Egypt was a giant empire that - led by a god-king - used to threaten and ultimately pillage and conquer small Judea, you will see that this story is really about giving self-respect and determination to Judeans (and others in a similar position) - by way of "my God is more powerful than this mighty god-king".

I think one reason (hehe) for mythological stories is to provide structure and shelter from the nasty world outside. It offers explanation that is comforting in a situation that is cruel.

Ah! PeWi, then I took you more seriously than yourself :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:13:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exegesis of the hardening of Pharoah's heart -- I've heard it done and no problems. We should realize this is something God can do in certain circumstances where He knows what's best. He may glorify Himself by any means He sees fit.

As applied to individual conduct, we should be aware that we may reach a stage in our wayward refusal of God's will where He decides to push us further into folly and punish us. This acts as a warning to others and re-states the principle that punishment for sin may occur during our life on earth, not just after it.

I could go on, but I won't. Disgusting? Depends how brainwashed you are.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was this a snarky reply or serious?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:36:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The exegesis is dead serious per se, my final comment is snarky.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:39:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but where did you hear that exegesis? Dobson? Every story can be interpreted into unrecognizablility.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 03:47:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Childhood.

And "literalists" do interpret everything into unrecognizability.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 02:37:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just jumping in right now so apologies in advance for irrelevancies or repeating things already said.

Under which category does stating God does not exist fall? It cannot be atheism, nor agnosticism.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:45:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, it's athesim, by definition, but see the debate elsewhere in the thread.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:46:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am more in agreement with the anti-theist label.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If, going on the easy definition of DoDo above, atheism is a lack of belief in God(s), doesn't make that them automatically anti-theist? Rephrased: are atheists diametrically opposed to theists?

Hang on, let's do this right. So, what's a theist? Is that similar to your definition of faith?

Fascinating thread, BTW.

by Nomad on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what a french humorist (cannot remember who though) meant when he wrote : "God created mankind after his own image, and men returned the favour back".

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:58:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey guys, did you have Intel processors implanted in your brains ?  I can hardly keep up with the reading, and you write !...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:09:41 AM EST
On my Mac - don;t acctually know whats in here. knock, knock.

and we are disproving the MYTH about multitasking.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which MYTH : that men cannot do MULTITASK ? It is not only a myth, it is a gross mis-perception.
Come clear with it guys, how many of you are ETribing form the office right now ? :)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's somewhere else to Eurotrib from?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:28:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One more comment on fundamentalism.

IN the other thread, of which this is the off shoot, surprise had been expressed about the term secular fundamentalism - one comment.

In the early 80is in Germany the green movement was being described as fundamentalist by the conservative newspapers like the FAZ. This destinction was kept almost to today, where the two main fractions inside the Greens, the Fundi's and the Realo's are being described by this.

A shortend interepretation of fundamentalism, could therefore be Anti-modernists.

so you can be a fundamentalist secularist, if you are anit-modernist at the same time...

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:33:11 AM EST
I think there is some of that. Enlightenment values are becoming a thing of the past in this post-modern era.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:42:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, I never liked the term post-modernism - it is so 80ties, can we not come up with something better.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The fault with that is with historiographers who, in a bout of hubris, started calling historical periods "modern" and "contemporary".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understood what it was all about for a few minutes once. It refuses to stay in my head.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:55:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It isn't supposed to. Only a Grand Fal/logo-Centric Meta-narrative would stay in your head. ;-)

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:00:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From a viewpoint that's not at all dissimilar with Karen Armstrong's, as described above, the late Eqbal Ahmad published in  1999 a series of very insightful articles on the religious right world-wide, in Pakistan's Dawn. The three articles were: Roots of the Religious Right, Religion and Politics and Profile of the Religious Right. It dwells a bit more on the Islamic side but it is quite general in its analysis. From the second of those I quote:

Religious scholars, artists, poets and novelists, including Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, have suffered persecution and assault at the hands of self-appointed champions of Islam. Complexity and pluralism threaten most - hopefully not all - contemporary Islamists, because they seek an Islamic order reduced to a penal code, stripped of its humanism, aesthetics, intellectual quests, and spiritual devotion. Their agenda is simple, therefore very reassuring to the men and women who are stranded in the middle of the ford, between the deep waters of tradition and modernity.

Neither Muslims nor Jews nor Hindus are unique in this respect. All variants of contemporary 'fundamentalism' reduce complex religious systems and civilizations to one or another version of modern fascism. They are concerned with power not with the soul, with the mobilization of people for political purposes rather than with sharing or alleviating their sufferings and aspirations. Theirs is a very limited and time bound political agenda.



The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:17:28 AM EST
The Battle for God covers all three branches of the monotheistic religion: Judaism and its offshoots.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 09:19:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I cannot agree with you that Christianism is nothing but a Judaïst offshot.
When your read the scriptures, you see that the image of God Judaïsm conveys is different from the one the Evangiles convey.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Colman was speaking "historically" rather than "religiously." (The presence of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible is maybe reasonable evidence that Christianity has historical roots in Judaism.)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:46:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I was talking from the outside. Judaism doesn't even portray the same god now it used to.

If you're not Muslim you tend to group all the sects together, if you're not Jewish you look at them as one. If you're not Christian you group them together. If you're none of the above they all look quite similar. Same foundational books and prophets, same basic beliefs, same debates over history.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:51:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about I just shut up... ;-)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:54:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
same debates over history.

By which I mean that they have gone through very similar intellectual developments at different times in history.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:56:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Christianity (catholic church at least) is ,as far as by fellows antrhopologists symbolic friends tell me a mixture of three traditions:

  • Judaism : In Prophets and one unique god
  • Of roman and greek traditions of muliple gods.. transfered in to the huge lists of saints that most of the Christians have.
  • The animic mother Earth virgin with the use of a Virgin Maria as the Earth-fertility mother....of course in the virgin version, this is, fertility trough the opposite of fertility (or the extreme point since having kids without sex is... remarkable).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude
by kcurie on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 01:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but that still does not explain two things which remain puzzling about Christianity.

1) It is the religion of the underclass (unlike any other ancient religion, it needed 200 years to become "established" - it was not a religion of the ruling upper class) - this has dogmatic consequences till today - it is not a state religion like Islam, or Judaism, Buddism or Hinduism which all originated within the ruling classes of the society they came from.

2)As much as sacrificial traditions are common in other religions, however twisted you think the death and resurrection story is, it is unique in its interpretation as death for others, so they don;t have to die. (at least as far as I know)

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 03:44:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. It may have started out as a religion of the underclass, but the modern Christianity (Council of Nicea etc.) is very much the product of appropriation by the ruling classes. (Notable representatives include Emperor Constantine and a host of medieval popes.)

  2. Maybe it all depends on the phrasing. I've heard a different expression in some Christian circles: "he died that we might live."

From that perspective we can see parallels with sacrifices in other religions, where a god(dess) dies to end winter, allowing humans to survive...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 04:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ad one - of course you have Nicea et all. but none of the texts were written at at time of superiority, or military success, or ruling. OT yes (although mainly through out the redaction process), but not NT.

Therefore there remains an uneasy tension between the ruling classes and Christianity, due to this background.

I am not making a value judgement here - i am simply pointing out a difference that is often overlooked, by equating Christians with the ruling class.

It has major consequences for example for the question of separation of Church and State - or living in a society that has different set of laws.

Ad two - I have to look into soteriology again - it is so long ago...

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is any doubt that at least Catholicism is not the religion of the underclass, just consider the ferocity with which Wojtila and Ratzinger fought liberation theology, and the prospects for another conservative papacy to follow (this time with a young pope, to rule for decades).

No wonder evangelical groups are having a field day proselitizing in Latin America. Catholicism has failed the downtrodden masses.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:16:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How can you tell, I am neither a catholic, nor come from that tradition....
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:28:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I did guess you're a German Lutheran... But still, I don't see Lutheranism as the religion of the underdog either...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:50:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I am United. Heh, have you ever come across one of those?
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:26:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know about Unitarian Universalists in the US. You see, religion in Europe in invisible, but in the US it is pervasive. So I know more about US religious denominations than about European ones.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:33:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even if you were from Germany and a member of a United Church, you probably wouldn't know....

in 1817 the then Prussian King was a Calvinist who wanted to have Eucharist with his Lutheran wife(or the other way round), but could not - their churches did not allow that, so he drafted a confessional and set up the Prussian Union. a not very successful amalgamation of Lutheranism and reform traditions.

Basic democratically all the churches in Prussia had to vote in their synods to introduce the mainly liturgical changes in their churches which took a couple of decades, but at least the king could have his Eucharist. So all the churches that are on the territory of the former Prussia are nominally United. But some are still more Lutheran.

The only "important" United Theologians are Schleimacher and Juengle in this century

(Not until the Leuenberger Concordie in 1973 did Reformed, and Lutherans share Eucharist)

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also I am not disputing that after Nicea, Christianity has had a very successful story of unholy alliances, of which the rejection of liberation theology is only of of the more recent victims. But liberation theology WAS possible, which proves my point about the inherent tension within Christianity.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:30:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The tension I am concerned about is between religion and church. Damn all gurus. True spiritual leaders would tell their would-be followers that they don't need spiritual leaders.

In this respect Luther was a true spiritual leader, as he advocated that the faithful actually read the Bible (so it should be translated) and that services be carried out in the vernacular.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:55:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I don't see how this is unique to Christianity, which is what you earlier claimed?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I drafted something here, but since I am still developing this thought, you will have to be more patient with me - I hope that is alright.
by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:40:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel a little bit uncomfortable with putting Wojtyla and Ratzinger on the same level. We do not know what Ratzinger will accomplish, we know what John Paul the 2nd did.
I do not question that he took quite a conservative stance on some topics, but on the other hand, his contribution to the fall of the iron curtain cannot be denied. Leaving religion aside, he was a great Statesman, ie he did a very good job as a representative of the Catholic Church, which is a secular institution.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:26:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ratzinger was Wojtila's right-hand man for over 20 years. He was appointed to chair the "Congragation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (aka the Inquisition). Ratzinger is one of the most important theologians alive, and he was the most important theologian in the Vatican under JPII.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:28:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I was saying is not that Ratzinger has no track record within the Vatican, my point is that he still lacks political track record as a statesman. As to whether he is a hard liner, there is no doubt about that.
On the other hand, one could argue that hard liners were bound to take the lead within the Catholic Church if only to be credible towards Muslim assertiveness.
This is not something I approve of, but once again, Churches (or whatever you name them) are secular institutions in charge of ensuring that the religion they claim to represent does not extinct. That's all this is about, not about faith.  

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clamping down on liberation theology (and on other liberal theologians such as Hans Kueng) was not a state issue but a theological issue, and in that area Ratzinger is not free of responsibility in what Wojtila did or did not do. That was my point.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:40:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I fully agree with you.
Seem to have improved my "understanding-what-the others-mean" skills lately, even if a lot of work remains to be done :)
Starting from scratch, an exponential learning curve is all but impressive though.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:44:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I am misunderstanding.

Maybe you could give an example of what you mean by "an uneasy tension between the ruling classes and Christianity?"

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The aforementioned Liberation Theology.

Is the easiest answer.

Quakerism, Amish . probably more but have to think about it.

by PeWi on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 06:58:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...is that they can always hijack the faith of the under classes and transform it to their advantage. Case in point: see Migeru's example.

We're back to Class Wars...

by Nomad on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:54:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To clarify, I don't think he meant "offshoot" to imply that Christianity is "nothing but an sect/faction" just that this is the main monotheistic family in the modern world, and the roots of both Christianity and Islam can be traced into the Judaic tradition. By contrast, other religions are not related in the same way to Judaism (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism) but may be to each other.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:51:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's more or less what I meant. I was just being slightly meaner about it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:55:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree. And please don't shut up.
Write suggestions for my next Gone with the windmill instalment.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:15:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Berlusconi caretaker government has fired Calderoli over his T-shirt according to a ANSA dispatch about an hour ago. Calderoli declared that he was told to submit his resignation this evening.

Calderoli was the so-called minister for reforms, well-known for his racist positions against Muslims and Africans. He often evokes the creation of a mythic State called Padania.

If fundamentalist mobs attack Italian interests in the predominantly Muslim nations, we'll know who to thank.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 04:23:10 PM EST
Some quotes from The Battle for God.

... a large number of people ... want to be religious and have tried to evolve new forms of faith.  Fundamentalism is just on of the modern religious experiments and ... it has enjoyed a certain success in putting religion squarely back on the international agenda, but it has often lost sight of some of the most sacred values of the confessional faiths.  Fundamentalists have turned the mythos of their religion into logos, either by insisting that their dogmas are scientifically true, or by transforming their complex mythology into a streamlined ideology.  [page 366]

Some definitions:

Logos - a mode of knowledge, and discourse, based on rational and logical; key epistemological stance: Objectivity; "Science".

Mythos - a mode of knowledge, and discourse, based on intutitive insight giving meaning to life; key epistemological stance: Subjectivity; "Art"

Myth - this word has two meanings in English.  One is - to put it blunty - (1)a cute or strange story meaning nothing; the other is (2) an explanatory upon which a culture is based.

One must realize neither of these two are found in their unalloyed form.  Logos has an underlying mythic component as one must value Objectivity before embarking on an intellectual venture to achieve, however tenuous, Objectivity.  Mythos has an underlaying logosic component if one is going to communicate.  Classification into these two modes is based on the relative weight, preponderence of, movement towards the pure modes.

Due to the high value placed on Logos in Western Culture and the general acceptance of definition Myth(1) Fundamentalists have drifted into the intellectual bind of Prof. Armstrong's analysis as given in the quote.  And further:

[Fundamentalists] have ... conflated two complementary sources and styles of knowledge which the people in the premodern world had usually decided it was wise to keep separate. [page 366]

[Note: I disagree with her here but that's another post.]  

By insisting that the truths of Christianity are factual and scientifically demonstratable, American Protetant frundamentalists have created a caricature of both religion and science.  Those Jews and Muslims who have present their faith in a reasoned, systematic way to comptete with other secular ideologies have also distorted their tradition, narrowing it down to a single point by a process of ruthless selection.  As a result, all have neglected the more tolerant, inclusive, and compassionate teaching and have cultivated theologies of rage, resentment, and revenge.  On occasion, this has even led a small minority to prevert religion by using it to sanction murder.  Even the vast majority of fundamentalists, who are opposed to such acts of terror, tend to be exlusive and condemnatory of those who do not share their views.  [page 366]

Prof. Armstrong does not let Modernism off the hook either.  

Despite the cult of rationality, modern history has been punctuated by withc-hunts and world wars which have been explosions of unreason.  Without the ability to approach the deeper regions of the psyche ... it seemed that reason sometimes lost its mind in our brave new world.  Without the constraints of a "higher" mythical truth, reason can on occasion become demonic and commit crimes that are as great as, if not greater than, any of the atrocitites perpetrated by fundamentalists. [page 367]

The murderous rampages of Forced Collectivizations perpetrated by Stalin and Mao are excellent examples of outbreaks of explosions of logosian unreason or, put another way, humans have an incredible ability to take things to their logical perversion -- no matter how much, or how many, it hurts.

End of Part I

This is a good place to break for comments before moving on to Part II.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:41:17 PM EST
... a good place to give you a four. Have it.
by Nomad on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 05:55:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Part I can be found upthread, somewhere.)

This is being written before comments (if any) were received on Part I.  No synopsis of Part I will be given.

Taking the previous Part "As Given" it becomes possible to state Fundamentalists at the most basic level do not fully grasp Logos because they do not grasp the Mythos of Logos.  ;-)  They can, and do, attempt to use the techniques, style, or Form of Logos for argumentative and instructive purposes but the weltanschuung eludes them.  Thus, when they do deploy Logos it is a superficial gloss over an essentially Mythically derived intellectual position.  The absurd "theory" of Intelligent Design is one example. Their assertion Science-is-a-Faith is another.  

As they neither value nor 'get' Logos they are neither convinced nor moved by Logos.  There is a well-stocked library worth of literature refutating ID to no avail.  The same, tired, worthless, justifications for ID are trotted out as if they meant something.  Fundamentalists aren't completely bonkers, however.  While they argue against Evolution and for an Intelligent Designer (i.e., God) they will accept pi = 3.14159 and not pi = 3, as the Bible says.  (See the description of the "brazen sea" that stood in front of Solomon's Temple.)  But neither do they accept mathematics as Valid and True argumentative Form:

The good Christian should beware of methematicians and all those who make empty prophecies.  The danger already [Note: in the 4th Century!] exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.  [Attributed to Augustine, no cite.  Mathematics for the Nonmathematician Kline, Morris.  pg 1]

And you can toss Logic, both Formal and Informal as well.

Prof. Armstrong puts it succiently:

Fundamentalist faith was [is] rooted in deep fear and and anxiety that could [can] not be assuaged by a purely rational argument.  [page 178]

Fundamentalists have, over the decades, managed to successfully reject modern intellectual life and to seal themselves into a sub-society wherein they do not have to interact with Modernism -- in all its varied forms.  Fundamentalists have their own schools, media, businesses, social, and political life.  They live in a self-reinforcing environment where criticism of deeply held beliefs is highly unlikely and should they, somehow, encounter criticism they react with fear based anger and even violence.  An unfortunate corollary of living in this tight environment is the subsidary development of strong cultural normatives to which even a minor threat is treated with fear, anger, and - yes - violence.

It is worth noting not all Fundamentalists are batshit crazy and the violent are a small pecentage within the Fundamentalist movements.  

So, what can be done?  (I'm an American.  I have to be practical -- 'tis writ in my jeans. :-)

Some suggestions:

  1.  Value Argument - Fundamentalists will accept a Value Argument and everyone in a society have some values in common.  We need to find and use them.

  2.  Economic Betterment - I'm not an Economic Determinist but, I submit, the Fundamentalists do meet a need when they establish desperately needed social, cultural, and economic services.  Also a decent, unthreatened, Standard of Living goes a long way to defuse societial conflict.

  3.  Time - It's going to take decades to address the situation.  Patience is a virtue.  

  4.  Persistence - It's going to take decades of effort to address the situation.  Patience is a virtue.

  5.  Wisdom - "Know when to hold 'em.  Know when to throw 'em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run."  (Kenny Rogers, Famous American Philosopher & Country-Western Singer.)


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 07:47:10 PM EST
Some excellent comments here, AT -- at least to me, in my experience of Xtian (Protestant) fundamentalists.

In particular, I'd agree they have "managed to successfully reject modern intellectual life and to seal themselves into a sub-society wherein they do not have to interact with Modernism", though I'd add that they maintain for themselves a self-comforting image of modernity through economic success and its trappings. Shades of Weber and the Protestant Work Ethic, they know how to interact with capitalism (just as they know the value of pi). So they are particularly strongly convinced that they are not locked into an archaic mindset.

Your suggestions are good too. I'd put the last first. Anyone (however strong) who has anything to do with fundamentalists needs to learn that Kenny Rogers line by heart, and be able to apply it.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 03:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it is true that Fundamentalists throughout the decades have rejected "Modernism," if we can name it this way. Because,it seems to me, that the term Modernism , all of us refer to, is basically the norms and principles that democratic societies live by. Having  in mind that the majority of the world lives by those standards, it is reasonable to assume that if some ideology should be considered irrational and labelled as some kind of movement, this must be Fundamentalism.
Here is how the dictionary defines Fundamentalism: "a movement advocating return to traditional principles: a religious or political movement based on a literal interpretation of and strict adherence to doctrine, especially as a return to former principles." So far, nothing bad, huh? It sounds nice and it implies that some people, you see, just want to preserve their roots and heritage. Well, in reality, it is much more worse. There is no harm, if one wants to go back to his or her traditional principles, and as far as the movement is peaceful, everything is fine. However, when our children and parents start to die because a bunch of people strives to preserve their traditional principles, it is no longer acceptable. Let it alone, the "global terrorism" thing. Watch the videos with the twin towers and the bombing of London and Madrid, and think again if the violent are a small percentage.

Fundamentalism is fundamentally wrong, in particular, the so called Islamic Fundamentalism. I respect religious belonging and I am not a racist, but when it comes to violence, I am little bit pessimistic. It is just hard for me to believe that any religion could proclaim violence as an adequate way of demonstrating one's faith.  

So, what can be done?

  1. Time? How many decades should we wait? How many innocent people should die? Patience is a virtue, yes, I agree. The question is, should we be virtuous towards people who kill our close ones?Should we be patient?

  2. Persistence? Persistence on what? I say, eradication.

  3. I do not have a solution, and I am pretty sure neither of you does. What I know is that being patient would not help, and that throughout the last 30 years, since the rise of the Islamic Fundamentalism, there are countless victims of terrorist attacks.

So, what do you propose?

verchenceto
by verchenceto (veronique@mail.bg) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 10:07:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the norms and principles that democratic societies live by. Having  in mind that the majority of the world lives by those standards,
Are you sure of that?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 10:14:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure of what?

Am I sure that the majority of the countries in the world are democratic states? Yes, I am sure.
Today most of the states had embraced the principles of democracy with just a few exceptions. And this is a fact that everybody should be aware of.

There is still a debate going in, however, as to how efficient a democratic polity is. In any case, this is the best form of government, historically speaking, that political and social think tanks have come up with. And this is the way it is.

by verchenceto (veronique@mail.bg) on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 05:33:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but I don't think you can make much headway while the religion angle seems to be important.

My take on it is that:

  1. Religion is a subset of ideology. Every mental process you can find in religion you can also find in other ideologies - with the exception of direct personalisation of a deity. And that's really just a fancy form of ideological window dressing that's included because it seems to have narrative and persuasive power.  

  2. Ideology is a way of persuading people to do what you want by making up stories about the world. The stories are mostly nonsense but as long they have some sense of narrative logic - which is a lot looser than formal or scientific logic - people will still believe them. (I have a theory about why this process works as well as it does, but that's for another time.)

  3. Fundamentalism is fundamentally not about ideology or dogma. Fundamentalism is about power plays. Religion and ideology have traditionally been a way for otherwise mediocre people to gain personal, financial and often also sexual power. This is what really drives the phenomenon. The leaders gain direct power. The followers gain indirect power by identifying with the leaders, and - in a religious ideology - by using the implicit power of the god-image as a stick with which to beat dissenters. In a theocracy, this is used to justify physical violence. In a secular ideology the violence has less of an ideological flavour and becomes more overt. In a Smith-ite economic ideology, the violence is economic violence. Through an ideological sleight of hand this isn't considered real violence, although of course it is. And physical violence can also be used too at times.

  4. All fundamentalisms have a sneaky mass of moral and ritual nonsense backing them up. This looks ridiculous to outsiders, but it's there for a reason - it confuses the followers, making it harder for them to ask rational questions. More importantly it also makes the ideology more memorable. Every time you do Some Ritual Thing - whether it's bowing to Mecca, crossing yourself or reading the stock prices - you get another jolt of ideological reinforcement.

  5. The more extreme the ideology the more detached from reality it is and the more extreme its threats and promises become. Hence in Christianity God won't just be annoyed, but if he's annoyed enough you'll spend eternity burning in hell. Similarly with those famous Islamic virgins for people who do as they're told.

  6. Sacred texts aren't supposed to make sense. What they're supposed to do is provide a regular ritual dose of psychological reinforcement for the believer.

The key point out of all of this is that these are thinly disguised power plays supported by fairly simple and crude psychological reinforcement. There's really not a whole lot else going on. This is why the details and ideology of the dogma or belief system don't matter. As far as the believers and especially the leaders are concerned, the pay-off - power over other people - is the only real motivation.

As for dealing with ideology - it's probably not possible to avoid it altogether. So you might as well pick a flavour that matches your own ethical sense and support that. Beyond that, probably the only thing that can prevent fundies from harming themselves and others is physical restraint and psychological deprogramming. Some people seem to drop out of the fundie mindset if exposed to enough diversity, but you'll never reach the leaders like that because they have too much to lose.

In the longer term, the more permissive a culture, in the sense of the easier it is for individuals (without pathologies) to achieve what they want, the less likely they are to need or want an ideology. It seems to be only the pathological types, those who feel powerless and disenfranchised, and those who have already indoctrinated and programmed, who buy into fundie ideologies.

This has been way too long...

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 08:03:44 PM EST
The rise of fundamentalism can be attributed to a lot of factors, but I think the more important question is: how to deal with it? Interestingly enough, in the 21st century we still face conflicts that have been generated by fundamentalist.And sadly enough, we still do not know how to act.Fundamentalist religions emphasize the role of myths and mythical heroes, as Colman mentions. The more people believe in and love their mythical characters( as in the case with Muslims and their prophet Muhammad, the more they are willing to defend them. Since the life of Muslims is interconnected with their belief in Muhammad, we cannot expect that they will just neglect negative and humiliating comments or pictures of everything they treasure (the recent case with the cartoon controversy). I do not particularly encourage fundamentalism, I do not approve it either. But what I am trying to say is that fundamentalism has solid foundations. Some people live abiding by myths. Thus, we should not try to uproot their belief, we should not try to deny their right to follow Muhammad's teachings. Because the harder we try to uproot fundamentalism, the stronger it becomes!
by hitchhiker on Sat Feb 18th, 2006 at 10:05:52 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries