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October 19, 2008 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Christian Nymphos: Not an exploitation site but an apparently sincere, sex-positive celebration of faithful sex. Reclaiming the word Nympho, no less. (NSFW)

Previously suggested by fourcheesemac, it turns out, but deep in an election thread where many would miss it.
posted by msalt (272 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Makes perfect sense, really. If you believe in a creator, and that that creator doesn't make mistakes, then he made sex feel good for a reason. I always found it baffling, this point of view that God made the whole body - except for these bits here, which are dirty, dirty, dirty! The clitoris is not the work of Satan.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Seen this site before. Yey sex-positive christians!
posted by leotrotsky at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2008


Christian Black Bisexual Transgendered Jews - rejoice!
posted by stbalbach at 2:02 PM on October 19, 2008


This strikes me as wanting to have your cake and eat it too. The Bible is clear on the matter: It's best not to marry, and to remain a virgin. If you must have sex, get married. But it's best not to have sex in the first place.
The clitoris is not the work of Satan.
Given the misogyny -- sometimes extreme -- filling much of the Bible, I suspect that its lack of such a denunciation is merely due to its authors not being familiar with the existence of the clitoris.
posted by Flunkie at 2:02 PM on October 19, 2008 [16 favorites]


some other religions, just for the hell heck of it:
Sex and Sexuality in Islam
Judaism 101: Kosher Sex
Buddhism and sex
...and Hindus do the do, too.
posted by not_on_display at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2008


WWJF?
posted by flotson at 2:09 PM on October 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


This is clitorally the best post evah!
posted by jamstigator at 2:10 PM on October 19, 2008


Is anal and oral sex high on the list of fun things for Christian sex in marriage?
posted by Postroad at 2:11 PM on October 19, 2008


The Bible is clear on the matter: It's best not to marry, and to remain a virgin.

No, I really don't think that's how it works. Otherwise, Christianity would die out quickly, no?

Christians believe that marriage is a perfectly fine thing to do, we just don't think sex outside of marriage is right. At least that's what I believe.

Agree with the person who said that the website makes sense.
posted by DMan at 2:13 PM on October 19, 2008


Is anal and oral sex high on the list of fun things for Christian sex in marriage?

In fact, they are! (oral, anal, and free bonus -- sex toys) When I saw the name, I feared (hoped?) it would be twisted in all sorts of ways, but it actually seems to be very helpful and informative.
posted by msalt at 2:17 PM on October 19, 2008


If you work for a church, is it really NSFW?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:26 PM on October 19, 2008


I just had the disturbing image of the folksinging nun from my childhood church saying "bomp-chicka-wow-wow."
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:29 PM on October 19, 2008


If you believe in a creator, and that that creator doesn't make mistakes, then he made sex feel good for a reason. I always found it baffling, this point of view that God made the whole body - except for these bits here, which are dirty, dirty, dirty!

This argument would be fine if the theology in question were, say, Deism. Christians (traditional Pauline/Augustinian ones, anyway) have Original Sin etc to worry about--i.e., God made sex both fun and sin-free, but then Adam & especially Eve ruined it for everyone by eating that damn apple (or grape, or fig, or pomegranate, or wheat). This is not some recondite bit of scholastic sophistry; it's a bedrock tenet of almost every flavor of Christianity.

Christians believe that marriage is a perfectly fine thing to do, we just don't think sex outside of marriage is right.

Well, sorta: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. [...] To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Cor. 7:2, 8-9).

In other words, total lifelong abstinence is the best option, but if you absolutely must fuck someone, be sure to get married first. Or you could always follow Jesus' advice and self-castrate ("And if your eye causes you to sin...").
posted by DaDaDaDave at 2:31 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]




Christians (traditional Pauline/Augustinian ones, anyway) have Original Sin etc to worry about--i.e., God made sex both fun and sin-free, but then Adam & especially Eve ruined it for everyone by eating that damn apple (or grape, or fig, or pomegranate, or wheat).

Original Sin had more to do with disobedience to God - Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, after all, in direct opposition to God's command. That's when they learned they were naked, and became ashamed of their bodies - God did not intend them to be ashamed, nor want them to be, but banished them from the Garden because they disobeyed his command.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:40 PM on October 19, 2008


No, I really don't think that's how it works.

Paul is pretty clear that you're wrong.

Otherwise, Christianity would die out quickly, no?

It's pretty clear that the characters in the Bible- Christ included- believe that Christ's return and the end of the world are coming within the next few decades at the most; Christ even says that some of the people alive at that time would still be living when he returned. There's a lot of dodges intended to get around it, but it's pretty clear that for the early Christians, the long run was measured in years instead of centuries.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:44 PM on October 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


This is clitorally the best post evah!

Man, it bugs me when people say clitorally when they actually mean hymenthetically.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:44 PM on October 19, 2008 [27 favorites]


No, I really don't think that's how it works. Otherwise, Christianity would die out quickly, no?
Regardless of whether you think that's how it works, that's how the Bible says it should work. Read 1 Corinthians 7 if you continue to doubt me.
posted by Flunkie at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


We are women with excessive sexual desire for our husbands! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Check the dictionary again - 'excessive'.
posted by Phanx at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2008


total lifelong abstinence is the best option

IF you accept the words of Paul as God's revelation, the same as Jesus'. As far as I know though, Paul never met Jesus and the only basis of his authority is his own claim that God chose him (and the fact that he took over the Christian church.) A lot of the worst stuff (wives submitting, etc.) seem to be found only in Paul's letters.

Which makes me wonder; are there any sizable Christian churches that reject Paul's words as a gloss?
posted by msalt at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2008


As far as I know though, Paul never met Jesus and the only basis of his authority is his own claim that God chose him

Which is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from Christ claiming to be God.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:48 PM on October 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


"The possibilities of role-playing are endless! The only thing that I would caution you about is fantasizing about sinful situations or acts."
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:49 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Okay, I'll pretend that I'm someone else, and you'll pretend to be that person's husband, okay?"

"Ohhh yeah. Hot."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:53 PM on October 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


IF you accept the words of Paul as God's revelation
Yes, if you ignore the repulsive parts of the Bible, the Bible is not repulsive.
posted by Flunkie at 2:53 PM on October 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yes, if you ignore the repulsive parts of the Bible, the Bible is not repulsive.

To be fair, there is something to be said for sticking just with the things Jesus was said to have preached.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:58 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nothing terribly complimentary, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:03 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


So can we use this as an example of the scourge of Christianity leading to nymphomania? Should we take away their children and give them to good homosexual atheist homes?
posted by doctor_negative at 3:05 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Regardless of whether you think that's how it works, that's how the Bible says it should work. Read 1 Corinthians 7 if you continue to doubt me.

What are you talking about? That's clearly not what it says in any English translation I checked.

It does say that it's "good" not to marry (I didn't see "best" in any translation I looked at, which is what you said in your original post). It then goes on basically to concede that this is unrealistic, and it instructs people to marry to avoid sin.

The passage quite explicitly tells people to marry. The passage certainly gives the sense that Paul's personal preference is for people to remain chaste and single, but he's saying that marriage (and sex within marriage) is a legitimate option.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:08 PM on October 19, 2008


Well, this is off to a great start. A self-identified Christian group tries to inch the faith forward progressively an eensy bit, and they're mocked for not falling in line with Paul? I'd think that evolving your faith would be viewed positively. But no, if they don't act like cartoonish Talibaptists then we get this "no true Scotsman" routine. I get that it's fun to mock religion and all, but isn't contradictory to criticize a religion as being reactionary, and then laugh at people trying to evolve the faith a smidge as being untrue to the reactionary aspects?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:09 PM on October 19, 2008 [27 favorites]


Not reading the link (at work) but while I think there's a halfway plausible Christian case to be made for sex-before-marriage (even 1C7 is ambiguous on precisely what immorality Paul's on about) I think it's v hard to make a Christian case for nymphomania, or anything in excess, frankly.
posted by bonaldi at 3:12 PM on October 19, 2008


The problem is that religion is founded upon faith- taking something and saying "despite evidence, despite reason, I believe this." The instant that you begin to substitute your own reason and ideas for those of your deity, you're basically eliminating faith and elevating yourself to a position of primacy. While Satanism (LaVey-style) is chill with elevating yourself above all others, I'm unaware of any theistic faiths that elevate individual reason over divine decree.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:14 PM on October 19, 2008


Or in other words, once you say "Well, I don't believe that" about anything in a sacred book, you lose the ability to say "I believe [x] because it is in this book." You can't disbelieve in one passage of the Bible and then believe an other thing because it is in the Bible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:15 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


The instant that you begin to substitute your own reason and ideas for those of your deity, you're basically eliminating faith and elevating yourself to a position of primacy.

Yes. And that is exactly what Paul did.
posted by msalt at 3:16 PM on October 19, 2008


I'm unaware of any theistic faiths that elevate individual reason over divine decree.
Modern Judaism rocks at exactly this, in my experience. Being told by a rabbi that "people interpret things in many ways; so we use our wisdom" knocked the socks off of one subjected to years of "it means this" in Sunday school.
posted by bonaldi at 3:18 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's v hard to make a Christian case for nymphomania, or anything in excess, frankly.

I thought the that the moderation bit was a basically Aristotelian idea that got grafted on through a particular reading of Philippians 4:5 and a couple other passages, but I could easily be wrong.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:18 PM on October 19, 2008


What are you talking about? That's clearly not what it says in any English translation I checked.

It does say that it's "good" not to marry (I didn't see "best" in any translation I looked at, which is what you said in your original post). It then goes on basically to concede that this is unrealistic, and it instructs people to marry to avoid sin.

The passage quite explicitly tells people to marry. The passage certainly gives the sense that Paul's personal preference is for people to remain chaste and single, but he's saying that marriage (and sex within marriage) is a legitimate option.
First of all, I'm guessing that you didn't read very far into 1 Corinthians 7. Specifically, I'm guessing that you gave up at around verse 9.

Second of all, I never said what you seem to be objecting to me saying - that the Bible says not to marry, or that marriage is not "a legitimate option". I said that the Bible says that it's best not to marry; if you must have sex, marry, but it's better not to.
posted by Flunkie at 3:21 PM on October 19, 2008


God bless those wonderful christian nymphos!
posted by illuminatus at 3:25 PM on October 19, 2008


Modern Judaism rocks at exactly this, in my experience. Being told by a rabbi that "people interpret things in many ways; so we use our wisdom" knocked the socks off of one subjected to years of "it means this" in Sunday school.

There's a difference between "Scripture says this, which I interpret this way" and "Scripture says this, but I prefer to believe that."
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:27 PM on October 19, 2008


Are you guys seriously arguing the verses from a 5000 year old book?

Do you know how absurd that is?

Here. Let me show you:

"I'm telling you Kirk's wall safe combination in episode 37 has 5 number keys."

"Thats impossible. The future will all have base 12 math!"
posted by tkchrist at 3:29 PM on October 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think it's v hard to make a Christian case for nymphomania, or anything in excess, frankly.

If you read their manifesto on the home page, it's clear that they are reclaiming the word nympho and using "excessive" ironically, or at least in relation to conventional (sexually lackluster) marriages:

As far as the second definition ("nympho") goes, we each do have some good friends who have called us abnormal because of how happy we are in our marriage beds. Their attitude is that a wife should just put up with sex once a month or so to keep the husband happy. So for them to hear us praising our husbands and talking about how much we enjoy being with him, they do think we are “against the norm” so to speak. The secular world would probably find us abnormal as well.
posted by msalt at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2008


Hurm.

Would a Vulcan nerve pinch work on Jesus Christ? What about a mindmeld?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on October 19, 2008


Yes, if you ignore the repulsive parts of the Bible, the Bible is not repulsive.

I think I'm missing something here. Are you saying the Bible is repulsive because you don't like some parts of it? It's not possible that some parts in it make a lot of sense, and could be prescribed as guiding principles? My whole family is religious, and while I happen to think that book is nonsense, what they've taken from the Bible has led them to be good, principled people who believe in a lot of the same things I do. I wouldn't go calling Beatles albums repulsive because of George Harrison's weird sitar songs.

You can't disbelieve in one passage of the Bible and then believe an other thing because it is in the Bible

Why not? Look, a lot of what is in there is close enough, harmless, and encourages good behaviour and action. I don't think you have to necessarily go and burn down villages and slaughter people at the will of Yahweh to consider yourself Christian.
posted by Hoopo at 3:33 PM on October 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


First of all, I'm guessing that you didn't read very far into 1 Corinthians 7. Specifically, I'm guessing that you gave up at around verse 9.

No, I read through.

I said that the Bible says that it's best not to marry; if you must have sex, marry, but it's better not to.

I'm not seeing it. Look at the hedge in verse 7, and then look how he clarifies in verse 10 when he's speaking for god. Plus, he only ever says it's "good" not to marry, not that it's best.

I read him as saying that he thinks remaining single is what he should be doing, and it may be what others should be doing, but people shouldn't try it unless they can be sure they won't give in and fornicate.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:35 PM on October 19, 2008


Are you guys seriously arguing the verses from a 5000 year old book?

What's the cut off point? How old of a text can we discuss the meaning off before it gets absurd?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:37 PM on October 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


I posted this site in a thread a while back (I think it was in the first Great Big Palin Thread) . . . and at the time there was a guide to fisting on it. I'm not going back to look again. But it gives "WWJF" a whole new spin.

Poor Christians.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:37 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my exes would love this group. She once spent about a half-hour on the phone with me recounting our [cough] escapades, then asked me in a grave voice if I owned any Black Sabbath records. When I said I had a few, she told me that was 'a way for Satan to sneak into your mind when your not looking.' I told her I'd keep that in mind.
posted by jonmc at 3:39 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The word Nympho has a negative connotation for some. It doesn’t have to stay this way. Why can’t we take something “of the world” and make it into something good?

Right, and kleptomaniacs are good Christians too because they're just so thrifty. Fuck you posers. This isn't actual nymphomania, is it? No. It's sexual expressiveness couched in insensitive, juvenile prattle. Congratulations on finally figuring out how to fuck, can you please NOT make a mockery of the suffering of others in the process? You can't just appropriate any sensational terminology to suit your purposes. Manipulating the truth to make Christian morality sexy and appealing is no better than changing money in the temple.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:41 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


A self-identified Christian group tries to inch the faith forward progressively an eensy bit...

It's really hard for me to see how this is progressive at all; but it seems more like a sense of entitlement for those in their little club. True progressiveness would be teaching a modicum of tolerance and acceptance for those outside of the club.
posted by malocchio at 3:43 PM on October 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why not? Look, a lot of what is in there is close enough, harmless, and encourages good behaviour and action. I don't think you have to necessarily go and burn down villages and slaughter people at the will of Yahweh to consider yourself Christian.

You cannot disbelieve something which is in a book and then use the presence of another thing in that book as your justification for believing in that other thing. Clear enough?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:44 PM on October 19, 2008


You cannot disbelieve something which is in a book and then use the presence of another thing in that book as your justification for believing in that other thing. Clear enough?

Sure you can, but you should have the good sense to edit the book and republish it with the parts you like.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:46 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think I'm missing something here. Are you saying the Bible is repulsive because you don't like some parts of it?
No; I'm saying the Bible is repulsive because it says some repulsive things while claiming to be the word of the creator of the universe.
It's not possible that some parts in it make a lot of sense, and could be prescribed as guiding principles?
First of all, I'm not sure how you think that follows from what I said. Ignoring that, though:

(1) There are plenty of good principles in the Bible. I'm not denying that, nor have I ever.

(2) Such principles are not even remotely unique to the Bible. It's misleading to claim that your family was led to be good by the Bible when the fundamentally good parts of the Bible are basic to human nature.

(3) When a book claims to be the word of the creator of the universe, I tend to think that it should be held to a higher standard than "Hey, there's a part that says to love thy neighbor, so let's ignore everything that's bad about it".
I wouldn't go calling Beatles albums repulsive because of George Harrison's weird sitar songs.
Sheesh, talk about false equivalence. Something purporting to be the word of the creator of the universe saying that gays deserve to be killed or that women should remain silent is equivalent to there being a song that you don't like on an album?
posted by Flunkie at 3:46 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's also hard for me to see how telling a woman with low sexual desire that "Satan usually is the culprit behind things such as these" is particularly good or helpful advice.
posted by malocchio at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I said that the Bible says that it's best not to marry

No, Paul said that in one of his letters. I don't even believe any of this foolishness and I can see how absurd your argument is.

Paul believed that Christ would return in his lifetime and the lifetime of the people he was addressing. He thought the world was going to end. So there was no point in anything but prepartion for Christ's return. Except that Jesus didn't return, and we are told not to try and guess when that will happen. So, unlike Paul, we should not do things like refrain from procreation because Jesus might show up before we die anyway.

Like I said, this is all such obvious claptrap that it shocks me otherwise intelligent seeming people buy into it, but your argument is specious. Taken as a whole, the Bible clearly comes down on the side of "be fruitful and multiply".
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing it. Look at the hedge in verse 7, and then look how he clarifies in verse 10 when he's speaking for god. Plus, he only ever says it's "good" not to marry, not that it's best.
Come on, you're acting as if I was directly quoting the word "best".

The chapter directly and explicitly says that someone who doesn't marry and keeps his betrothed a virgin has done "better" - and that is a direct quote - than someone who marries his betrothed and has sex with her.

What's another word for the better of two options?
posted by Flunkie at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2008


Postroad writes "Is anal and oral sex high on the list of fun things for Christian sex in marriage?"

It's pretty well YMMV, same as everywhere else.

Another sex positive sex in marriage site is The Marriage Bed.
posted by Mitheral at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2008


I said that the Bible says that it's best not to marry
No, Paul said that in one of his letters.
I'm sorry, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you. Are you claiming that these letters of Paul's are not part of the Bible?
Paul believed that Christ would return in his lifetime and the lifetime of the people he was addressing.
Yes, I'm well aware that Paul believed a lot of inane things.
posted by Flunkie at 3:54 PM on October 19, 2008


Come to think of it, my oft-mentioned lesbian ex-girlfriend had a born-again ex too. He was baptized out in Long Island Sound and everything. He said she was lost because she'd been baptized as a child. Didn't stop him from dating her. Odd that dissolute types like us were so attractive to these people.
posted by jonmc at 3:55 PM on October 19, 2008


Are you guys seriously arguing the verses from a 5000 year old book?

it's worse than that - they're arguing the verses from a 5000 year old book they don't like or believe in

but then, tk, you don't seem to know that the sections they're arguing about are only about 2000 years old
posted by pyramid termite at 3:55 PM on October 19, 2008


Or in other words, once you say "Well, I don't believe that" about anything in a sacred book, you lose the ability to say "I believe [x] because it is in this book." You can't disbelieve in one passage of the Bible and then believe an other thing because it is in the Bible.

Interestingly, only hardcore fundamentalists seem to think this is the case. Historically, faiths evolve over time. They adapt to cultural mores and historic shifts. Interprettations change, and that includes the view that some parts of the scripture are "outdated" or were written for hygenic reasons, for example. This is why there are separate denominations of Christianity, but I wouldn't say one denomination is more "Christian" than the other if it takes one, unchanging interprettation of every single word in the Bible.

Also, I agree that "nymphomania" isn't the right word for what these people are talking about. They're all married, and talking about enjoying sex with your spouse. Groundbreaking stuff! I can't think off the top of my head what verse in the Bible says spouses aren't supposed to enjoy having sex with each other, but still there's a persistent belief that fine, upstanding Christians aren't supposed to have fun whilst engaging in pleasures of the flesh with their wedded partner. If they're trying to change that, I think it's commendable even if it isn't exactly doctrinal revolution.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


In terms of the continuing argument, I think verse 38 in 1 Corinthians 7 is really the clincher: "So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better." The Greek there for "better" is κρεῖσσον, which is a comparative. So, not the word "best," no, but I think it's definitely clear that in Paul's head:

a) as a general rule remaining single is preferable to getting married
b) but getting married is acceptable.
posted by dd42 at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2008


No; I'm saying the Bible is repulsive because it says some repulsive things while claiming to be the word of the creator of the universe.

You know, there is a middle ground here, between believing the bible to be the literal word of God and your approach of saying, well, if it's the literal word of God and there are repulsive parts, then it is entirely repulsive and needs to be rejected vociferously.

That middle ground can mean taking the bible as a document that has been filtered through many, many imperfect humans, and understanding it as both a historical and a religious text. I mean, right at the very beginning you have two different and somewhat contradictory creation stories, just in the first two or three pages, and the contradictions and difficulties simply continue from there.

So the social gospel is firmly rooted in specific the sections of the New Testament (mostly the ones that quote Jesus directly), and there are other sections (Paul especially, as has been noted) for those looking for anti-homo and anti-woman quotations. It's a big document, and even those who claim to be literalists have to pick and choose because of the internal contradictions.

And the literalists don't have a monopoly on the document, or on Christianity. Pointing out those contradictions is fun when arguing with a fundamentalist (though I think they are usually trained in how to deal with those kinds of arguments) but doesn't have a lot of relevance if you are talking with someone who says "Yes, there are some odd contradictions in there, aren't there?" and who isn't flummoxed by the idea that there can be both good ("love thy neighbor") and bad (instructions for slave owners) in the same document.
posted by Forktine at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


This is clitorally the best post evah!

That may be true. But I'd like to be a contender for best G-spot post, evah, with female ejaculation techniques.
posted by nickyskye at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2008


Or, what Flunkie said.
posted by dd42 at 4:02 PM on October 19, 2008


Here's a money shot for you: "Satan usually is the culprit behind things such as these" on refusal of sex.

Is this progressive, or a desperate search for relevance in a world where adults might not be completely shunned by their peers for reading select bits and muttering to themselves, "That ... that's some bull pucky right there"?

Is it sex-positive, or another, more subtle way to get these guys laid ... just a little less "lie back and think of England."

Given the long history of Christianity's exploits, I think I'm entitled to be a little cynical regarding the motives of any push, no matter how small, generated by such. Fortunately for them, I guess, I'm so far from the target audience that I can't even see them with a telescope.
posted by adipocere at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


You cannot disbelieve something which is in a book and then use the presence of another thing in that book as your justification for believing in that other thing. Clear enough?

Sure you can, but you should have the good sense to edit the book and republish it with the parts you like.


Now's a good time to point out that a) there is no one Bible, there are many Bibles; b) Bibles are collections of texts written by different people at different times in history; c) Bibles don't "claim" anything for themselves - beliefs about what the Bible is, how it was written, and how it is to be compiled vary from denomination to denomination, and that d) it is in fact, in some religions, perfectly fine to believe some of what's in your Bible and not others (in mine, for instance). The idea that two people might read the same text and come to different conclusions found an important expression in the Protestant Reformation.

I agree that if you are a Biblical literalist using a particular version of the Bible, it's logically limiting because you must assert that everything within your Bible is the divine Word of God. But there are many Christian denominations that do not take a literalist approach to the Bible.

And I agree that if you believe some of what your text says, but not everything, then you can't point to the very fact of inclusion in the text as evidence for truth or goodness.

But the idea that the Bible is a monolith gets problematic. It is, in fact, kind of a historical chaos of a collection of texts from among many possible and sometime texts, included or exluded for reasons often as political as theological (and sometimes those two realms of reasoning were inseperable).
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2008 [12 favorites]


Christian nymphos give divine head.
posted by jonmc at 4:05 PM on October 19, 2008


Or what forktine said a lot better.
posted by Miko at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2008


Paul believed that Christ would return in his lifetime and the lifetime of the people he was addressing.

So did Christ.

Interestingly, only hardcore fundamentalists seem to think this is the case.

Hardcore fundamentalists and anybody who is even the least bit interested in logic or reason.

Historically, faiths evolve over time.

This is an argument against religion, not for it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2008


I'm sorry, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you. Are you claiming that these letters of Paul's are not part of the Bible?

Have you not read Elaine Pagels or similar authors? There isn't one long text -- the perfect and authoritative bible, with the table of contents dictated by the Holy Ghost to the guy typesetting at the printing press. There are a bunch of texts, and different people have disagreed over time about which are canonical and which are not. Nor does everyone agree about this now, and the canon continues to be disputed. The Wikipedia page on this is pretty good, actually.
posted by Forktine at 4:09 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, perhaps I'm misunderstanding you. Are you claiming that these letters of Paul's are not part of the Bible?

I'm saying that presenting what Paul says in one of his letters as "what the Bible says" when the Bible says the exact opposite in other parts is misleading. Especially when you take into account that Paul was operating under the false assumption that Jesus was in the green room and about to re-appear.

Yes, I'm well aware that Paul believed a lot of inane things.

Then it is probably best not to privilege his bits of the Bible over the other bits that disagree with him.

Personally, while I still wouldn't believe any of it, I think Christianity would be much more of a force for good than it is if all of Paul's repressive, crazy letters were just tossed out and ignored as the ravings of a guy who fell off a horse and hit his head. I regard Paul as one of the main reasons Christianity went wrong.
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on October 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'd just like to pop my head in to remind you that, as an atheist, it is my duty to mock any discussion of religions at all, because you all might as well discuss how unicorns prance.

I'll be back later, if there is any additional discussion of religion, to remind you all of what idiots you are.

For now, I need to take a few moments to try and figure out why people think I'm an obnoxious prick. I suspect they may be the ones with the problem, but I have to think on it for a while.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2008 [27 favorites]


Man, the liberal theological position is great. You can believe whatever you want and just handwave any contradictions that might arrive. Only skeptics and fundamentalists would worry about one's views being internally consistent or logical!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hardcore fundamentalists and anybody who is even the least bit interested in logic or reason.

It's illogical and irrational to accept that your spiritual code should change as we learn more about the world and ourselves?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:12 PM on October 19, 2008


No, I have not read Elaine Pagels. I'm well aware that there is not a single authoritative Bible. I'm unaware, though, of a significant sect of modern Christians who does not consider 1 Corinthians part of the Bible.

Can you name one? What percentage of the 2 billion or so Christians do they represent?
posted by Flunkie at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2008


First of all, I'm not sure how you think that follows from what I said

I'm not trying to start a flame-war here, Flunkie, but that comment of yours wasn't exactly a well-formed argument. It sounds like you were saying that due to logical inconsistencies and some nasty bits you and I disagree with, the Bible is repulsive through and through. All apologies if that's not what you meant.

No; I'm saying the Bible is repulsive because it says some repulsive things while claiming to be the word of the creator of the universe.

That's not what you said, but fair enough. I disagree with that too. Frankly, I don't care if other people think that the Bible is literally the word of a Supreme Being. I don't particularly care if the writers thought God was talking to them or if the Bible is a big fictional frame story. I don't think I've ever encountered anyone holding actual fundamentalist, literalist interpretations of the Bible (not denying that they may exist). I see nothing wrong with taking meaning and guidance from a book like the Bible, or Aesop's Fables, or any other story or myth if that's what you need, so long as no one is hurt in the process.

The Beatles thing was a joke, BTW, but not a false equivalence: someone once said the Beatles are bigger than Jesus...even BIGGER than the creator of the universe, who is his own virgin-born son.
posted by Hoopo at 4:23 PM on October 19, 2008


someone once said the Beatles are bigger than Jesus...even BIGGER

cynthia plaster caster?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:28 PM on October 19, 2008


That's not what you said, but fair enough.
Really. What did I say?
posted by Flunkie at 4:29 PM on October 19, 2008


Does anyone else think using nymphos is sexist as a site name for this topic? Isn't nymphos some 50's psuedo psychological, derogatory term for women who like multiple sex partners, supposedly "Excessive sexual desire in and behavior by a female"?
posted by nickyskye at 4:31 PM on October 19, 2008


Oh, Mmm...Oh My GOD!! Yes!!
posted by applemeat at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2008


Really. What did I say?

You can scroll upthread as well as I can, Flunkie, but I'll quote you directly if it helps:

"IF you accept the words of Paul as God's revelation
Yes, if you ignore the repulsive parts of the Bible, the Bible is not repulsive."

Apologies if I broke rules here. I'll leave the thread now.
posted by Hoopo at 4:34 PM on October 19, 2008


Right, and that contradicts my further statements how?
posted by Flunkie at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2008


You can believe whatever you want and just handwave any contradictions that might arrive.

But that's not the "liberal theological" position - that's fundamentalism. The majority of Christians disregard Biblical contradictions, because religious traditions are more than texts.
posted by Miko at 4:46 PM on October 19, 2008


It's illogical and irrational to accept that your spiritual code should change as we learn more about the world and ourselves?

No, it's illogical and irrational to simultaneously use the presence of something in a particular book as your reason to believe it while disbelieving other things from that book. If the book is not absolutely authoritative, then you cannot point to it as a justification for believing in something in its contents.

To be honest, I think the liberal theological position is essentially "I believe what I want to believe, but acknowledging myself as the author of my beliefs is scary, so I cling to whatever religion I'm on my way out of in order to avoid fully embracing the implications of deciding for myself." It's a cowardly position which tries to combine reason and religion and ultimate slanders and insults both.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:53 PM on October 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


This site recommends and sells good Christian crotchless pantaloons. Sex-positive? On the whole, not so sure. Kinky? You betcha!
posted by infinitewindow at 4:59 PM on October 19, 2008


f the book is not absolutely authoritative, then you cannot point to it as a justification for believing in something in its contents.

You can't? Does that undermine other books that are not absolutely authoritative, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or math texts? When you read a book, do you decide whether it is "absolutely authoritative," and, if not, believe nothing in the book? That would make higher education a worthless pursuit. I don't think there are many works of literature of any kind that can be considered "absolutely authoritative," and yet there are many things I find in books which I do believe, because they accord with my experience, are supported by a confluence of opinion from other writers and other texts, or simply because believing them is a part of my culture. I agree that the justification cannot be found within the book - but authority of any kind (scientific, aesthetic, religious) arises through complex interactions of people, facts, and interpretation of which texts form a part.

To be honest, I think the liberal theological position is essentially "I believe what I want to believe, but acknowledging myself as the author of my beliefs is scary, so I cling to whatever religion I'm on my way out of in order to avoid fully embracing the implications of deciding for myself." It's a cowardly position which tries to combine reason and religion and ultimate slanders and insults both.


Well, you might want to rethink this, particularly the assumption that "acknowledging myself as the author of my beliefs is scary." I'm a Quaker, and in that faith we are the authors of our beliefs, originating with the part of ourselves we regard as divine. Beliefs developed through a lifelong quest are believed to supercede those found in any text. I think that's scarier to those who wish for authority, because it is in essence independent thought - at least, it was scary to the authorities in 1600s England, who enjoyed jailing and burning people who asserted this sort of opinion.

so I cling to whatever religion I'm on my way out of


Again, religion is a lot more than a set of beliefs, and until that's recognized the attack that "it's illogical" doesn't do any damage. Religions include cultural heritage, belief systems, behaviors, habits, traditions, communities, and ways of understanding the ineffable, very little of which can be found in the central texts of any religion. The diversity of religious practice around the world even within a single faith tradition (Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, you name it) is evidence enough that religion does not begin and end with historical texts - it's a human construction and a complex one.

Making sure that you yourself are the arbiter of the worth and meaning of your religious texts doesn't mean you're "on your way out of" a religion. You might be on your way deeper into it (which is why so many religions prize a life of study and prayer in solitude as a path for spiritual development).

There's nothing irreligious about interpretation and questioning and re-evaluation of religious texts. That's kind of what religion is made of.

The only people who handwave away the undeniable contradictions in religious texts are those who want to identify a set of beliefs and then seek justification within the texts for those beliefs. It's very hard to do, and that kind of argument usually fails, but that kind of argument has to stick closely to the text itself - something only fundamentalist literalists generally try to do.
posted by Miko at 5:05 PM on October 19, 2008 [15 favorites]


In trying to feel more tolerant of others' belief systems, when I found out about the Gospel of the Apostle Thomas, I was very intrigued by how he expressed Jesus' teaching, especially when I found out he traveled to India in AD 52, lived there the rest of his life and set up a Christian community that has existed in South India since that time.

Perhaps it was in a Joseph Campbell show, I can't remember, but it was pointed out that, before Jesus came along, the deities worshiped in the Middle East and the West were most frequently bloodthirsty, requiring blood sacrifices or terrifying impulsive. It was a new idea *at that time* to feel spiritual respect for a helpless infant, who was not only non-violent and defenseless but in the arms of his mother, Mary. This helped to shift the belief system focus from just an eye-for-an-eye, materialistic way of thinking to a more compassionate, open-hearted way of living with others, such as turning the other cheek, lilies of the field, meek etc. Of course, I'm not saying this was followed but it helped make a shift from sacrificing goats (or children) to Ba'al.

Naturally, as all organized religions do, there were agendas by politicians and administrators to control people through fear, a wrathful God etc. But, historically speaking, I can see the meaning of valuing the symbol of an infant and gentle adult Jesus, who sacrificed lovingly for others. However, putting a focus on innocence and purity has not made the subject of sex comfortable for Christians, as it is generally perceived by them (and pretty much all organized religion except for Hinduism) as shameful, defiling, particularly as Mary, mother of Jesus, was not perceived as a sexual being and Mary Magdalene was only respected as a prostitute reformed by Jesus.

Any attempt to take this shame away, to discuss having mutually satisfying sex within a marriage, Christian or otherwise, is, imo, a worthy endeavor.
posted by nickyskye at 5:16 PM on October 19, 2008


nickyskye writes "Does anyone else think using nymphos is sexist as a site name for this topic?"

They're taking it back like queer and porch-monkey[YT].
posted by Mitheral at 5:19 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


In high school, the most Christian girls were always the most available, as long as their technical virginity remained intact. I still don't understand why, other than some vague notion of mental illness.

Or maybe it's just human nature, the best cookies on the highest shelf.
posted by rokusan at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2008


Does that undermine other books that are not absolutely authoritative, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or math texts?

Things in textbooks aren't just arbitrarily there. There are there because there is evidence to support them. You don't believe that 5 divided by 2 is 2.5 merely because the textbook says so. The contents of sacred texts are, on the other hand, essentially arbitrary. God could as easily prize selfishness as altruism.

I'm a Quaker, and in that faith we are the authors of our beliefs, originating with the part of ourselves we regard as divine.

Throw away your Bible or hold it equal with the Quar'an, Talmud, Vedas, et al, else be exposed for a liar.

Again, religion is a lot more than a set of beliefs, and until that's recognized the attack that "it's illogical" doesn't do any damage. Religions include cultural heritage, belief systems, behaviors, habits, traditions, communities, and ways of understanding the ineffable, very little of which can be found in the central texts of any religion.

Which is irrelevant to my point that liberal religion is what happens when people get enough going on to start to think for themselves but not enough to admit it.

There's nothing irreligious about interpretation and questioning and re-evaluation of religious texts. That's kind of what religion is made of.

Bullshit. That's what religion has slowly started to become ever since the Enlightenment. The history of religion is the history of canons and the condemnation of heresy; the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation, from a historical perspective, formed as a reaction to those who challenged the madness of religious structures.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or maybe it's just human nature, the best cookies on the highest shelf.

On second thought, there's probably a better metaphor but I can't quite remember how it goes. Something about an apple.
posted by rokusan at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


You don't believe that 5 divided by 2 is 2.5 merely because the textbook says so.

Of course not. I counted on my fingers. Cutting my pinky in half was very painful, you know.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2008


Oh, and thanks for the shout out msalt.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:38 PM on October 19, 2008


It's times like this I'm really happy to be a UU.
posted by rikschell at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2008


The chapter directly and explicitly says that someone who doesn't marry and keeps his betrothed a virgin has done "better" - and that is a direct quote - than someone who marries his betrothed and has sex with her.

Yes, I see that. Given the surrounding context, I'm just not seeing your reading. It seems clear to me that Paul is saying two things: 1) that he thinks remaining unmarried is best for him, and for some other people, and 2) that unmarried people have fewer distractions with respect to serving god.

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. I really can't find anything in the chapter that suggests Paul thinks it would be best if no one got married, and I really can't find anything in the chapter suggesting that Paul thinks god's will is that it's best if no one gets married.

I don't think the word "better" there is functioning the way you're reading it. The introduction in version 32-34 seems critical to me to understanding what remaining single is better for.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:52 PM on October 19, 2008


Bullshit. That's what religion has slowly started to become ever since the Enlightenment. The history of religion is the history of canons and the condemnation of heresy; the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation, from a historical perspective, formed as a reaction to those who challenged the madness of religious structures

The Talmud is an excellent example of "new interpretations and re-evaluation of scripture" being "compatible with valid religiosity", and it is a little older than the Enlightenment.
posted by dubold at 5:56 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Talmud is an excellent example of "new interpretations and re-evaluation of scripture" being "compatible with valid religiosity", and it is a little older than the Enlightenment.

I'm not sure what you mean by this - I suppose you and I see it as a "new interpretation and re-evaluation" of existing scriptures, but the text holds itself to be the revealed word of God.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:08 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let Jesus Fuck You! takes on a whole new meaning here
posted by The Whelk at 6:12 PM on October 19, 2008


You cannot disbelieve something which is in a book and then use the presence of another thing in that book as your justification for believing in that other thing. Clear enough?

I disagree - that way likes creationism and madness.
Let's go with the scholars at the Vatican and substitute the word "disbelieve" with "interpretation based on the strongest evidence". They don't believe that the earth is flat or that it has four corners, but they do use the presence of other things in the book as justifications. Some sections are not interpreted literally.

You probably need something backing up an interpretation that has more substance than "Well I'd kinda prefer to ignore this bit", but such grounds often exist - often within different passages of the Bible itself.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:24 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


>>You cannot disbelieve something which is in a book and then use the presence of another thing in that book as your justification for believing in that other thing.

Sure you can, but you should have the good sense to edit the book and republish it with the parts you like.


Thomas Jefferson did that.
posted by msalt at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2008


The history of religion is the history of canons and the condemnation of heresy;

even pre-christian, pagan religion?

the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation, from a historical perspective

st augustine and st thomas aquinas don't count? to mention just a couple
posted by pyramid termite at 6:51 PM on October 19, 2008


Does anyone else think using nymphos is sexist as a site name for this topic?
...
Is it sex-positive, or another, more subtle way to get these guys laid?

You both seem to be assuming the site was written by men. It's pretty clearly written by women, though. Either that, or by men who are unusually familiar with the taste of sperm, female masturbation, etc. and write very convincingly in womens' voices.
posted by msalt at 6:57 PM on October 19, 2008


st augustine and st thomas aquinas don't count? to mention just a couple

You don't believe that 5 divided by 2 is 2.5 merely because the textbook says so. The contents of sacred texts are, on the other hand, essentially arbitrary.


Last time I looked, number systems were also arbitrary and culturally developed.

Throw away your Bible or hold it equal with the Quar'an, Talmud, Vedas, et al, else be exposed for a liar

Um, yeah, Quakers kind of do that. Thanks for the challenge, but we've managed this for 400+ years.

liberal religion is what happens when people get enough going on to start to think for themselves but not enough to admit it.


Who's not admitting it?

The history of religion is the history of canons and the condemnation of heresy; the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation,

You're absolutely wrong about this, and even a 100-level Comparitive Religion class or a basic, decent book on the subject will demonstrate that.

The history of religion isthe history of dissent, argument, investigation, challenge, schism, and independent thought. That is how we arrived at today's religious world of multiplicity. It hardly matters to me what you consider "valid religiosity," nor, I imagine, does it matter to the millions of religious people worldwide who live, believe, and practice in their own ways. I am totally into seeking to understand that, but not so much into condemning it or suggesting that only one type of religion is valid.

Can you not see the fundamentalism active in your own suggestion that that is the case?
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on October 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


WJHI?
posted by Minus215Cee at 7:08 PM on October 19, 2008


From way up top: Original Sin had more to do with disobedience to God - Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, after all, in direct opposition to God's command. That's when they learned they were naked, and became ashamed of their bodies - God did not intend them to be ashamed, nor want them to be, but banished them from the Garden because they disobeyed his command.

This is a common misconception; read Genesis 3 more closely. God cursed Adam and Eve because they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but he banished them from the Garden because he could no longer trust them not to eat from the tree of life and become immortal. God wasn't just angry; God was scared.
posted by nicwolff at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Corinthians 7 illustrated in Lego....

That should clear things up.
posted by 445supermag at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Things in textbooks aren't just arbitrarily there. There are there because there is evidence to support them.

And you've never found evidence in your own life to support a simple idea like "love thy neighbor"? It sounds like you are trying to refute your own personal interpretation of Christianity. Doesn't that make your head hurt?
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 7:41 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


@ not_on_display: You realize your link for "Sex and Sexuality in Islam" leads to islam-watch.org, right? You know: a site that purports to tell the "truth" about Islam and has a nice "WTC mid-explosion on 9/11" logo on the upper right hand corner? Not exactly a thoughtful companion site to the one in the OP.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:54 PM on October 19, 2008


PLus, in some cases, the Bible is the evidence, from a historical perspective. There were not many entities or motivations, aside from religious ones, to record the oral traditions of the Hebrews or the genealogy of the House of David or the wars of the tribes on the plains of Chaldea, etc., etc. etc. There were not courthouses or census records or, you know, family Bibles. Even the Nativity story is notable because the idea of taking a census of everyone in the land was radically new, and a power move on the part of a political leader. The early historical texts of the ancient lands of the Bible include the texts of the Bible, because the Bible was the remembered history of a people and its legends, only gradually evolving into a religious text intended to be referred to through all time. And it underwent a lot of major revisions - particularly in the first few centuries AD.

There are other corroborating texts, which are about as good as any the ancient world leaves us.

I'm definitely not suggesting it's accurate in a literal way to today's standards, but historians work with records worse than Biblical writings all the time.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on October 19, 2008


~ but he banished them from the Garden because he could no longer trust them not to eat from the tree of life and become immortal. God wasn't just angry; God was scared.

One reading of that I have heard espoused is that if Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Life and couldn't die, then sending Jesus to wash away the blemish of Original Sin would be impossible, and so banishment from the Garden was a divine mercy.

Personally, I find that very to be overly apologetic and to read far, far too much into a text that had to have had meaning for millennia before Yeshua bin Yosef was even on the scene, but I did find it to be an interesting take on things.

Personally, I read the Genesis 2- God as a stern-but-loving father figure. The exile from the Garden is something along the lines of "well I told you that you couldn't break this rule, and you did, so I have to punish you, or else my word won't mean dick. But here, I invented fur coats, take a few with you while you go."
posted by paisley henosis at 8:15 PM on October 19, 2008


I disagree - that way likes creationism and madness.

So what you're saying is that requiring consistency in one's arguments is the path to creationism and madness? Wow, here and I was worried that maybe my criticism of religion's deleterious effects upon its adherents' reasoning and logical capacities was too harsh.

even pre-christian, pagan religion?

Do you suppose that pagans cheerfully reinterpreted their gods and their dogmas and happily let others do the same?

st augustine and st thomas aquinas don't count? to mention just a couple

Do you really not see a difference between the sort of refinement and theology aquinas and augustine engaged in and the "well, this text claims to communicate the word of god, but hell, I'm just gonna take the parts that I like and heelllll, let's check out this other book that makes the same claim and do the same." One's the study of theology followed by extrapolating principles from the text (not that I endorse this as a worthwhile use of anyone's time or mind), and the other is just self-satisfied buffet theology.

Last time I looked, number systems were also arbitrary and culturally developed.

Okay, we're done.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:26 PM on October 19, 2008


Okay, we're done.


Do you really dispute that point? If so, I guess we really are done, because it is fairly widely agreed.

But the thing is, if you want to launch categorial critiques of religion, you could stand to learn a little more about it. Your conception of religious beliefs is really narrow.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on October 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


Number systems
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


When you read a book, do you decide whether it is "absolutely authoritative," and, if not, believe nothing in the book?

I read all sorts of things that aren't absolutely authoritative and keep an open mind.

But the Bible is full of "whoppers" - things that can't possibility have happened - as well as "horrors" - moral or ethical advice that's abhorrent to any modern person. And it's also claimed to be absolutely authoritative, even with these obvious holes.

So a rational person concludes that everything written in the Bible is deeply suspect.

Now, there are parts in the Bible I really value. Ecclesiastes is a particular favorite of mine, as it's so very subversive, so similar in flavour to Heraclitus.

But statistically, it's a pack of lies. The sun didn't stop for a day. Women weren't created out of a man's ribs. Eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics or having homosex aren't grounds for killing people. Pi isn't three.

Last time I looked, number systems were also arbitrary and culturally developed.

Not so. The choice of which number system to select is cultural and arbitrary; the systems themselves inevitable and universal. If I met an intelligent alien, I might never understand a word of his language but I'll bet we could talk binary numbers together.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:54 PM on October 19, 2008


Miko writes: The only people who handwave away the undeniable contradictions in religious texts are those who want to identify a set of beliefs and then seek justification within the texts for those beliefs.

Speaking from experience, this is something that I find the outwardly pious tend to do.

You and Pope Guilty, I think, are a little bit more similar than either of you realize. If I may project for a moment, I think that you guys have both reacted to mainstream religion's advertisement of itself as a concrete set of beliefs that can be understood and followed with a minimum of introspection, but you have reacted in different ways.

PG's reaction is best characterized as a general disgust for hypocrisy and contradiction in something that, in his mind, does not come "as advertised" (i.e. religious texts are not clear or concrete, and churches have been imperfect actors). This disgust translates to a rejection of religion and all that which cannot be proven or shown empirically. Moreover, I think that there is frustration over what is done in the name of religion, which to him is just another word for "irrational wishful thinking" that has hurt far more than it has helped. I can recognize the value in this view. It's completely self-consistent.

Miko sees the same hypocrisy, but she sees a difference between religion and spirituality. I think that she can, in some sense, accept unapologetically the contradiction inherent in faith as part of a condition of the journey to satisfy the human yearning for self-knowledge. This journey extends beyond the empirical and rational because human desire and emotion reach out to the occult and irrational. Therefore, a composite approach to spirituality, embracing contradictory ideas but using one's intellectual capacities and wisdom to sort them out, is ultimately the only way to feel as if one is satisfactorily making progress to greater understanding, if only on a personal level, without eschewing notions of spirituality (and, with it, the desire to understand deeper questions) altogether.

I think that both of you make excellent points about your respective beliefs, and I hope that you can continue discussing them in a civilized manner.

I apologize to Miko and PG for putting words into their respective mouths and thoughts into their respective heads, but I found their arguments to be very useful archetypes to discuss the differing approaches to the "question" of God and religion in general.
posted by anifinder at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2008


But the Bible is full of "whoppers" - things that can't possibility have happened - as well as "horrors" - moral or ethical advice that's abhorrent to any modern person. .

Yeah, I agree with you. But these are only problems if you read the Bible literally - which not everyone does, and not everyone has done even since the early centuries AD. We don't expect Grimm's folk tales to be "authoritative," we just see them as meaningful cultural artifacts with lasting value.

And it's also claimed to be absolutely authoritative, even with these obvious holes

Who's doing the claiming? Because this is the point I am disputing. Some minority of Bible users consider the Bible to be "absolutely authoritative." But they are, I will venture, actually not in the majority. They are literalist fundamentalists and they aren't the majority of Christians or Jews.

So a rational person concludes that everything written in the Bible is deeply suspect.

Only if you're somehow approaching it with the expectation that it's going to be literally true. If it were presented to you as a 100% factual, consistent, accurate history of real beings and events, of course it's deeply suspect. But not everyone approaches it or presents it that way.

But statistically, it's a pack of lies.


Metaphors, myths, legends, imperfect understandings, memories, relics, holdovers, half-remembers sermons, family tales, wishful thinking.

The choice of which number system to select is cultural and arbitrary; the systems themselves inevitable and universal. If I met an intelligent alien, I might never understand a word of his language but I'll bet we could talk binary numbers together.

No. You can argue that there is an essence of number itself, an abstract ideal concept of number, which is beyond culture. One is one, two is two. That can be argued as a sort of Platonic ideal.

But explore the links above - number systems are not universal. Number systems - how to manipulate numbers, what they signify, what can be imagined about them, what is considered a base unit (few cultures historically have used 10) whether there are concepts of multiplication or division - those are cultural constructs, the work of humans. And then, you will even encounter cultures in which one is not one and two is not two - one is sometimes one, and sometimes two if you share one cake or one bed, and sometimes less than one if it can't be shared.

I might never understand a word of his language but I'll bet we could talk binary numbers together.

First you'd have to teach him your binary system. Culture = that which must be taught.
posted by Miko at 9:06 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bullshit. That's what religion has slowly started to become ever since the Enlightenment. The history of religion is the history of canons and the condemnation of heresy; the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation, from a historical perspective, formed as a reaction to those who challenged the madness of religious structures


Really? I wonder if there was any interpreting and reevaluation going on during the council of Nicaea, council of Ephesus or Chalcedon.
And since we're on the subject of proper religiosity and taking the Bible as a whole, should one lead his life according to Joel or Matthew? Seems kinda pointless to beat plowshaers into swords only to turn the other cheek...
posted by c13 at 9:15 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Minus215Cee writes "WJHI?"

Judges? Does that count?
posted by Mitheral at 9:19 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Really? I wonder if there was any interpreting and reevaluation going on during the council of Nicaea, council of Ephesus or Chalcedon.

I don't see how this point rebuts what PG said - the purpose of the council of Nicaea was to figure out what Christianity was and what everyone had to believe to be a Christian - yes, that endeavor includes the concepts of "interpreting" and "reevaluating"... but the comment you responded to made the point that "new" interpretations haven't historically been considered "valid" religiosity. The Nicene Creed was the new validity - no opposition allowed!

Your other two examples I had to look up (thus learning two new things today) but it's more of the same - one arose out of prosecution for heresy and a contemplated excommunication - and the other lead to a schism!

This is a great thread and I'm fascinated by a lot of the contributions - but I think what PG was saying is that the idea that religiosity is a matter of personal interpretation and conscience is a relatively modern one.... I'm not sure how that's a matter for debate. The clergy engaged in the above cited councils were not coming together for bull sessions about their own engagement with accumulated folk wisdom.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:38 PM on October 19, 2008


Well, moxiedoll, here's the thing: the Bible is a hodgepoge of things written by different people with different agendas, beliefs and opinions at different times. Again, compare Joel and Matthew for an example. It came to be only after some dudes got together and decided, after a fairly long argument, which writings to include and which to leave out, for whatever reason. An example would be a gospel of Thomas, Phillip or Mary. At any rate, the point is that assembling the Bible was a great act of interpreting and reevaluating, as you agree. But Christianity existed long before that happened and, more importantly, the word of god presumably did as well. So the reason PG is not making any sense is because he's saying that in order to be considered "properly religious", one has to unthinkingly accept *everything*, (even diametrically opposite things) in the book, who's chapters were cherrypicked by people with specific agenda.
But I'm not religious, so maybe that's a kind of thing that makes sense only if you're saved.

This thread is pretty good, unfortunately no one is paying any attention to poor horny christian nymphos. Shame shame..
posted by c13 at 10:02 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


So the reason PG is not making any sense is because he's saying that in order to be considered "properly religious", one has to unthinkingly accept *everything*, (even diametrically opposite things) in the book, who's chapters were cherrypicked by people with specific agenda.

You're conflating two things that I'm saying. The first is that, historically, the idea that you would pick and choose your religious beliefs, rather than simply accepting what the holy scripture or oral teachings or whatever tells you, is incredibly new and dates to around the Enlightenment or so. The second is that you cannot pick and choose what you believe from a book while at the same time having an idea's presence in the book being your core justification for believing in that idea. The instant that you decide that something in a book is false, or that you don't believe it, you can no longer say "Well, I believe it because it's in this book" about any idea in the book and remain consistent. While appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, you can be fallacious and yet try to be consistent; this would be, to my understanding, the fundamentalist position. To me, the theologically liberal position is both fallacious and inconsistent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:13 PM on October 19, 2008


Christian nymphos give divine head.

Godhead, you might say.
posted by msalt at 10:15 PM on October 19, 2008


The first is that, historically, the idea that you would pick and choose your religious beliefs, rather than simply accepting what the holy scripture or oral teachings or whatever tells you, is incredibly new and dates to around the Enlightenment or so.

But this is precisely the statement that I don't agree with. And I'm using the council of Nicaea as an example. The very creation of the Bible is an example of picking and choosing scriptures and oral teachings!

The instant that you decide that something in a book is false, or that you don't believe it, you can no longer say "Well, I believe it because it's in this book" about any idea in the book and remain consistent.
Even if the book says opposite things within a few tens of pages? How do you do that?
posted by c13 at 10:22 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a spoof site, right?
posted by mecran01 at 10:27 PM on October 19, 2008


I understand precisely what Pope Guilty is saying, without any mental gymnastics. It's really not a very hard argument to follow if you don't allow your personal belief system to get in the way.

Miko, I have some respect, and even some interest, in the Quakers, but surely you realize you belong to a rather small segment of what constitutes "Christians", and that the vast majority do not have such open and accommodating views.

I also think your religious community has also put you out of touch with "mainstream" Christianity. Witness Sarah Palin and the throngs that consider her some sort of Second Coming, which is fundamentally disturbing on many levels.

On election day, you're going to have 30-40% of the electorate voting specifically for her.

Many Christians consider the Bible to be the inspired, unerring word of God.

If you believe this, then yes, that requires that you either believe ALL of it, or none of it. Taking something totally on faith, and then only believing part of it, makes for a bastardized religion indeed.

Believing none of it is not an option, so your modern Christian often says they believe some of it... with conditions.

For Evangelicals, they take a total piecemeal approach to the Old Testament. With no rhyme or reason, they accept some parts and totally discard others. This is usually waved away with discussion of the New Covenant, which does not explain why some of the Old Testament is still valued, but let's not get into such trivialities.

For the New Testament, they generally take that complete and without question.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said "God only wrote one Bible, the King James Version". That's what you're up against.

As for this other noise about Paul and his writings, I'm with (I think it was) Flunkie, you're not going to find any major Christian religions in the Western world that do not consider I Corinthians as part of the Bible.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:27 PM on October 19, 2008


But this is precisely the statement that I don't agree with. And I'm using the council of Nicaea as an example. The very creation of the Bible is an example of picking and choosing scriptures and oral teachings!

As has already been pointed out, this was not an example of liberal theology but of canonization.

Even if the book says opposite things within a few tens of pages? How do you do that?

I dunno, maybe you could stop believing that sacred scriptures are useful for learning about reality.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:28 PM on October 19, 2008


Do you suppose that pagans cheerfully reinterpreted their gods and their dogmas and happily let others do the same?

i don't suppose, i know - if you had studied roman history, for example, you would know, too

Do you really not see a difference between the sort of refinement and theology aquinas and augustine engaged in and the "well, this text claims to communicate the word of god, but hell, I'm just gonna take the parts that I like and heelllll, let's check out this other book that makes the same claim and do the same."

changing your story?

the idea that new interpretations and re-evaluation of scriptures is compatible with valid religiosity is an extremely novel innovation, from a historical perspective

don't use semantics to hide your ignorance, it's not working
posted by pyramid termite at 10:28 PM on October 19, 2008


As has already been pointed out, this was not an example of liberal theology but of canonization.

Right, whatever... A canon appears from nowhere..


I dunno, maybe you could stop believing that sacred scriptures are useful for learning about reality.

I never started. But there is a whole lot of people who has. What I'm interested in is how they do it without being overcome with vertigo.
posted by c13 at 10:37 PM on October 19, 2008


Ahem.. a whole lot of people who HAVE.

Stupid English..
posted by c13 at 10:38 PM on October 19, 2008


i don't suppose, i know - if you had studied roman history, for example, you would know, too

Ah, that would be why wars over religion didn't ever happe... oh.

don't use semantics to hide your ignorance, it's not working

Coming from a religious apologist this is hysterical.

Right, whatever... A canon appears from nowhere..

You really don't see the selection of specific texts to create a canon which will be established as the official version of the text- what everybody must believe or be considered heretical- and the blending of scripture and individual reason that comprises liberal theology? Really?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 PM on October 19, 2008


Good thing I'm in a punching mood today, 'cause the line up's getting long!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:49 PM on October 19, 2008


Ah, that would be why wars over religion didn't ever happe... oh.

are you claiming that the romans went to war over religion? - how do you explain the fact that they tolerated the gods of the societies they conquered and even adopted some of them?

oh, that's right, it couldn't have happened because it doesn't match with your brand of fundamentalism

Coming from a religious apologist this is hysterical.

translation - "i can't make a rational argument, so i'll just indulge in ad hominems and therefore further the cause of the enlightenment and logic and ... um ... why isn't this working?"

what a pathetic performance you've shown here - come back when you've learned something about religious history that isn't cribbed from the worst of alt.atheism
posted by pyramid termite at 10:57 PM on October 19, 2008


PG sez: 1. the idea that you would pick and choose your religious beliefs ... is incredibly new.

I disagree. Authoritarian churches that forbade individual choice wrote decrees to that effect; people who didn't accept rules of belief are less well documented, by definition. That doesn't mean they didn't exist. I don't see anywhere in the books of the Bible where it says "This is true, you have to believe it." Later religious leaders imposed that authority upon a book that is clearly a hodgepodge of oral histories and classical hagriography, and that's what historians can easily see.

2. you cannot pick and choose what you believe from a book while at the same time having an idea's presence in the book being your core justification for believing in that idea.

True, of course. But very few Christians believe an idea is true only because it's in "the" Bible. Catholics and Protestants disagree on which books "count", and many modern Christians consider apocryphal books of value and some canonical books questionable. I went to Catholic HS and my religion teacher (a priest) ridiculed the idea that the Bible is literally true. Others have noted similar open-mindedness in Judaism and Talmudic scholarship.

I can't shake the notion that PG and some others prefer Christianity to be monolithic and idiotic. The reality is, it's highly fragmented and diverse. Some Christians are clearly ignorant and authoritarian; others are very impressive. The fact that Quakers are relatively few in number doesn't make them unimportant (or undersexed).
posted by msalt at 11:01 PM on October 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


ou really don't see the selection of specific texts to create a canon which will be established as the official version of the text- what everybody must believe or be considered heretical- and the blending of scripture and individual reason that comprises liberal theology? Really?

What I see is you trying to tell me that selection of specific texts (during which people involved must have exercised "individual reason" in order to what is it, "blend scriptures", no?) is somehow different from an individual further selecting from the resultant compilation. To me, the only difference between an individual doing the selecting now and the dudes that made the canon is that the latter ones were wearing funny hats. And that they could burn you at the stake after ripping your guts out if you argued with them too much.
What I'm trying to tell you is that a canon is just something that has been put together by people using their "individual reasons". The reason you shouldn't reinterpret it is not that you'll be unfaithful, but that you'll get your ass literally handed to you by the people that are trying to keep this canon a canon. Rather it used to be that way..
Furthermore, and much more importantly, I presume that if you believe in god, you believe that there exists a certain set of words that is "of god", and whether it is a part of some canon is completely irrelevant.
posted by c13 at 11:14 PM on October 19, 2008


You know what is also just a big pack of lies?

The fucking fiction section in the library. What sort of idiots read that shit?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know what is also just a big pack of lies?

The fucking fiction section in the library. What sort of idiots read that shit?


Probably not the same ones that start wars, torture and kill people and generally get into their business.
posted by c13 at 11:22 PM on October 19, 2008


I dunno, maybe you could stop believing that sacred scriptures are useful for learning about reality.

Just because a portion of the population believes a contradictory text to be the infallible work of a supernatural entity doesn't invalidate it. It can still be instructive and provide comfort to its readers using metaphor to illuminate or elaborate upon reality. That's how literature works.

Is a theist's acceptance of the text's shortcomings heretical or a sign that their faith is lacking? Only if one subscribes to the dogmatism of the literalists - but for many Christians, their primary relationship is with God, not his self-appointed middlemen. The Bible, in all its versions and varieties, is a tool in that relationship, not a participant.

To claim that acknowledging the scriptures' inconsistencies without rejecting them deligitimizes a Christian's faith is naive and over-simplistic - it's asinine either/or dogmatic nonsense regardless of whether it's coming from the mouth of an evangelical fundamentalist looking for an excuse to lord it over 'the unsaved' or from a non-believer who needs to tar all Christians with the same scary fundie boogeyman brush.

>The fucking fiction section in the library. What sort of idiots read that shit?
Probably not the same ones that start wars, torture and kill people and generally get into their business.


Non-fiction: The choice of warmongering busybody murdering torturers.
Put that way, I can't tell if the original comment was supposed to be a zing against the Biblical literalists or not.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:40 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Number systems - how to manipulate numbers, what they signify, what can be imagined about them, what is considered a base unit (few cultures historically have used 10) whether there are concepts of multiplication or division - those are cultural constructs, the work of humans. And then, you will even encounter cultures in which one is not one and two is not two - one is sometimes one, and sometimes two if you share one cake or one bed, and sometimes less than one if it can't be shared.


Miko, being a mathhead, I have to jump in here. You're talking past the point. The point was that in the decimal system of notation and counting, the integer number of items designated by the symbol '5' divided by the number designated by '2' ends up to be '2.5' in that same notation, not because some book says so, but because by first principles it can be reliable derived following the rules of logic. It is also objective demonstrable. Try it at home. No one can dispute that societies have used many ways of denoting numerical quantities, and some have even been held back by using suboptimal notational systems or bases (see, e.g., Roman numerals vs. Arabic numerals and the lack of a designator for zero in the former). I think the constancy and provability of the concept of 5/2 = 2.5 was what was meant, not the primacy of that particular notational system. [I hold aside the metaphorical uses of counting and arithmetic systems you allude to as not really being relevant to the argument being made either, but rather the alternative use of mathematics as literary device: "Marriage is so beautiful, because 1 + 1 = 1!"] Mathermatical "truth" is, in fact, opposed to the relativity of moral, ethical, and theological statements which contain no such hard and fast relationships.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:46 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Sherlock Holmes was real, then so was Scotland Yard. Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character, therefore Scotland Yard must also be fictional.

If god does not show himself, then there is no god. God has not shown himself, therefore there is no god.

Being a fundamentalist Christian, you are consistent while believing an inconsistent record of events. Being a liberal Christian you are inconsistent because you pick and choose which of those you most likely believe are true (no matter how consistent you may be in the way you choose what to believe and what not to believe). Therefore, consistency is ultimately inconsistent and inconsistency is always inconsistent because you can be consistent in choosing your inconsistency but being consistent is inconsistent as per the first conclusion of this sentence. That in turn makes inconsistency consistent because the act of always being something is a form of consistency even if it's inconsistency.

Fallacies are fun. Please, carry on.
posted by robtf3 at 11:53 PM on October 19, 2008


um, so this was a harmless post about sex-loving christians right? oh well... I've lurked on a few religion discussions on mefi before and always wondered (okay maybe not always, but occasionally) if they wouldn't be better served by switching the topic to philosophy of law. i know it's not a perfect analogy, but at least in my country (USA) there are enough similarities to make it fruitful (i.e. flawed founding document as predominate authority that leads to contradictory interpretations and sometimes contradictory law, but that ultimately guides practice). The liberal versus the conservative view of the Constitution mirrors the liberal versus conservative view of the Bible and since presumably everyone buys in at least a little to the general validity of law there might be less inclination to dismiss the whole thing as silly. For example, Pope Guilty, if you subscribe to the liberal view of the Constitution (as a very important document that must nevertheless be interpreted and applied in light of current conditions) then you might be a little more like those dreaded cherry-picking liberal christians than you think. of course for my luck you're probably a Scalia conservative....or British
posted by nangua at 11:56 PM on October 19, 2008


Just because a portion of the population believes a contradictory text to be the infallible work of a supernatural entity doesn't invalidate it.

Amm, no. What makes a contradictory text invalid is the fact that it is contradictory. But only if it is considered a single text rather than a collection of different texts that it is.

um, so this was a harmless post about sex-loving christians right?

Yeah, we're such cockblockers..
posted by c13 at 11:59 PM on October 19, 2008


Visualising Moore's Law.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:30 AM on October 20, 2008


Does Sarah Palin own a vibrator?
posted by bardic at 3:19 AM on October 20, 2008


For example, Pope Guilty, if you subscribe to the liberal view of the Constitution (as a very important document that must nevertheless be interpreted and applied in light of current conditions) then you might be a little more like those dreaded cherry-picking liberal christians than you think.

I'm a libertarian socialist. The Constitution means very little to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:37 AM on October 20, 2008


mecran01 writes "This is a spoof site, right?"

What makes you think that?
posted by Mitheral at 7:35 AM on October 20, 2008


These people are paedophiles.

I'm reclaiming the word to mean 'people who love kids in a Godly kind of a way'.
posted by Phanx at 8:03 AM on October 20, 2008


These people are paedophiles.

I'm guessing you haven't looked at the site.
posted by msalt at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2008


authority of any kind (scientific, aesthetic, religious) arises through complex interactions of people, facts, and interpretation of which texts form a part

In what way is this a position of faith? Where does God enter into the picture? Where's the value added by assuming his existence?

if you subscribe to the liberal view of the Constitution (as a very important document that must nevertheless be interpreted and applied in light of current conditions) then you might be a little more like those dreaded cherry-picking liberal christians than you think

Who thinks of the Constitution as having directly divine underpinnings?

A lot of the problem seems to stem from the identification by some (in whose number I am often counted) of rationalization of cognitive dissonance with intellectual cowardice, but I think of the former as a largely unconscious process and the latter as a more or less conscious one. Miko by implication represents herself and her own views as being representative of religion as a whole (though I suspect she will deny this), but as Ynoxas pointed out this is so far outside of the experience of most of us with religious people (both directly and by proxy) as to be unrecognizable.

The unbridgeable gap seems to me to lie here: once we have accepted the relative arbitrariness of religious texts, traditions, etc., why bother including God? Astro Zombie appears to be representing the Vichy Atheist position in this thread of mocking those who question religion on grounds of logic and consistency, but he (perhaps inadvertently) makes a good point: if the Bible(s) can't be trusted as repositories of wisdom any farther than your average selection from the fiction shelves, of what value is religion specifically compared to any other human way of arriving at consensus? Why not bow to Occam's Razor and cut God out of it? What does he bring to the table?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:48 AM on October 20, 2008


"You can't disbelieve in one passage of the Bible and then believe an other thing because it is in the Bible"

Dude, you may have heard of this guy named Jesus… He actually believed some things in the Torah, but argued others were not the true way to God!

Or, once again, the atheist squad here hasn't bothered to do their due diligence regarding biblical scholarship. You can start here.

Or read these quotes from the ever-facile Wikipedia: "Conrad Hyers, professor of comparative religion at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, criticized this as "a mentality [that] manifests itself [not] only in conservative churches, private-school enclaves, television programs of the evangelical right, and a considerable amount of Christian bookstore material; one often finds a literalist understanding of Bible and faith being assumed by those who have no religious inclinations, or who are avowedly antireligious in sentiment. Even in educated circles the possibility of more sophisticated theologies... is easily obscured by burning straw effigies of biblical literalism."

"Steve Falkenberg, professor of religious psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, says, "I've never met anyone who actually believes the Bible is literally true. I know a bunch of people who say they believe the Bible is literally true but nobody is actually a literalist. Taken literally, the Bible says the earth is flat and setting on pillars and cannot move (Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6). It says that great sea monsters are set to guard the edge of the sea (Job 41, Ps 104:26)...""

The Council of Jerusalem, which is even mentioned in Acts, discusses interpretation of religious law within the context of a community. Thomas Aquinas held that only the moral law of the Bible, which comes from natural law (and is a logical extension of a creator) is eternal—both the ritual law and the judicial law are mutable and should change with societies. That's pretty far pre-Enlightenment.

Further, claims of Biblical inerrancy aren't doctrine for Catholics, the oldest Christian denomination. They go with Biblical infallibility, which holds that the Bible is only perfectly accurate on matters of faith, but not on history or science. And they've held this belief for millenia. The idea that the Scriptures mean exactly what they say and don't require a tradition of interpretation to glean the meaning is what led to the Reformation, which is your "enlightenment" ideas.

So stop being so goddamned stupid about Christianity, PG.
posted by klangklangston at 9:01 AM on October 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Who thinks of the Constitution as having directly divine underpinnings?"

Uh… The framers of the Constitution, preceded by Locke and Rousseau, who argued from a position (moreso Locke) of "Natural Law." Under Locke, all of our rights proceed from the fact that we were created with intentionality by God, e.g. we have a right to life because God made us alive, ergo a clear intention for us to live. The Natural Rights conception, which has a very strong affinity for Catholicism (in fact, most of their more onerous conflicts with progressives can be traced to this tradition) has been largely discarded in discussions of rights theory because it is predicated upon an outside actor, but it's incredibly apparent all throughout the founding documents of this country. The Declaration of Independence is a great place to start.

Miko by implication represents herself and her own views as being representative of religion as a whole (though I suspect she will deny this), but as Ynoxas pointed out this is so far outside of the experience of most of us with religious people (both directly and by proxy) as to be unrecognizable.

And there you're wrong—don't judge Christians by the loudest ones, and don't presume on numbers. Catholics are still the largest Christian religion, and even moving away from that, it's only the avowedly conservative churches that ascribe to inerrancy—and even that's not literalism.

Why not bow to Occam's Razor and cut God out of it? What does he bring to the table?

Any rational case for the belief in God undercuts faith. Fear and Trembling might serve you well.

But trying to make folks here make a case for conversion is silly and totally removed from the question of Biblical texts and hermeneutics.
posted by klangklangston at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2008


Uh… The framers of the Constitution

You're right and I misspoke. What I meant to say was, does anyone think that the Constitution was divinely inspired in the way the Bible is supposed to be, i.e. that God wrote it through the Framers? If this is (or even was) a commonly held position, then I withdraw my statement in bafflement.

Catholics are still the largest Christian religion

I'm not sure what the implication of this is for you. Can you elaborate? To clarify my own statement, Catholics are by far the denomination I have had the most contact with. I was even raised as one.

Any rational case for the belief in God undercuts faith.

Shouldn't all of these discussions end with, "We believe because we believe and for no other reason," then?

But trying to make folks here make a case for conversion is silly and totally removed from the question of Biblical texts and hermeneutics.

Can you elaborate on this, too? I wasn't trying to make anyone make a "case for conversion," and I don't think Pope Guilty was, either.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2008


Pope Guilty, the problem I have is that your understanding of the development of texts that some consider "authoritative" seems to assume that they really are divinely inspired and thus cannot be interpreted or used in any way other than to believe they are a literal and true accounting of facts. My point is that religious texts are the work of, and derive their power from, religious authorities who engaged in prior interpretive acts. As Alvy Ampersand ably pointed out, the primary relationship most believers have is with their deity, and the text is a tool. The very fact that the history of the Christian Bible, to take one religion, is a history of dispute about the inclusion, relative importance, and merit of dozens of specific texts among parties who saw it differently, a dispute that goes on still. Christianity began to splinter as soon as it was created. The necessity for councils and the promulgation of creeds throughout history is evidence for the existence of divergent thought. Religion is a human endeavor (whatever you believe its origin, folly or divine inspiration, it transpires on earth in a human context), and changes with human thought and action, and it has always been so.

It seems to me that the people who get drawn along the path of discussing whether one "believes" the iIble are often not that familiar with the Bible or with Biblical use and history, and think that religion is nothing but credulous individuals pointing to a book of instructions as the source of their belief and rejecting all other sources of knowledge. That's a huge oversimplification of what religion is, and an unsophisticated understanding of how texts are used.

You really don't see the selection of specific texts to create a canon which will be established as the official version of the text- what everybody must believe or be considered heretical- and the blending of scripture and individual reason that comprises liberal theology? Really?


No, I suppose that I do, but I see a hypocrisy emerging when an official canon is declared by human beings who then declare that further manipulation and interpretation are incorrect or sinful. When you accept that it is human religious authorities who are saying "Here, now, is the definitive text we have arrived at," It's hard for me to understand how you can consider the text to have an a priori existence outside of human interpretation or determine that anyone who rejects the authority does not practice a valid religion. You have to accept the authority itself in order to assert that people who reject the authority have an invalid point of view. The idea of validity is a function of the authority.

I have difficulty undertanding why PG would accept the authority of some unspecified body whose version of a text you deem "valid" (though you yourself reject it) as the arbiter of what valid religion is. The argument tries to have it both ways - suggesting that all religious authority is invalid and to be rejected, while insisting that those who reject a specific authority are irreligious. Which of today's Christian religions would you say are the "valid" ones, and why? What theological disagreements, if any, are allowable?

I dunno, maybe you could stop believing that sacred scriptures are useful for learning about reality.

I'm not sure why. They are, in fact, useful tools for learning about reality. As I noted, particularly with the Old Testament, they are useful as historical documents (as useful as any from that period). Even the more recent books are useful - useful as keys to culture, useful as portraits of human fallibility, useful as story, allegory and metaphor. The Bible is a collection of stories and poems and historical documents. The stories have formed a large part of our cultural fabric (the roots of many holidays observed across the culture can be found there, figures like Jesus, Mary Magdalene, David and Goliath are part of our shared cultural pool of content). They are also useful as teaching texts - certainly it's possible to read "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" or "The Lottery" or "Huckleberry Finn" and draw some useful moral discussion from those texts without being required by some abstract and arbitrarily designated authority to believe in their literal truth. Useful moral discussion and the consideration of stories are "useful tools for learning about reality."

One thing people seem to be hung up on is this idea of "believing" the Bible. Understand that "believing" that everything in the Bible is literally true is not a necessary condition for finding value in the Bible as a religious, cultural, or historical document, and I'm not alone among Christians in saying that. The Bible is not a list of instructions, and the idea of "believing" in Paul's ruminations doesn't make that much sense to me. This is one guy's set of arguments written in letters to people he was trying to convert. Do I believe he wrote the letters? Sure, could be, I haven't looked into the sources for the books of Paul but it's not out ofthe question. Do I believe that his letter-writing was divinely inspired and that everything he wrote in them was "true?" No, I personally don't, any more than I believe that Abigail Adams' letters to her husband are "true." They're real, they refer to events other documentarists refer to, and they're interesting and enlightening and there's a lot there to learn from, but they're works of opinion and persuasion and are interpretations of events.

Someone suggested that I'm out of touch with mainstream Christianity. Far from it. I'm a convinced Quaker, from a home with a Catholic mother and a father raised as a fundamentalist Christian. Some formerly Catholic members of the family split off and became Baptist and Lutheran and Evangelical. I grew up in a region in which Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and Hindu kids mingled and argued and went to one another's services. My exposure to a diversity of belief systems, and a youth immersed in religious debate and argument over Biblical issues and religious authority, has given me a pretty good sense for the ways in which believers relate to their texts. I find religion interesting and complex. As Alvy Ampersand said again, most contemporary Christians who are non-evangelical reject the idea of the Bible as a literally true document. Asserting that it is is still extreme among mainstream Christianity. Asserting that it is divinely inspired and divinely sanctioned but complex and in need of contextual study is more common.

But the upshot is that religious activities on earth are nothing other than the discussions of humans about the purpose and meaning of life, and those discussions have gone on since the dawn of time, in pre-monotheistic religions as well, sometimes employing texts, and they continue today. Picking one set of texts from one moment in time and saying that they're the religious authority from which all dissent is "invalid religiosity" is arbitrary and ahistorical.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Taken literally, the Bible says the earth is flat and setting on pillars and cannot move (Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6). It says that great sea monsters are set to guard the edge of the sea (Job 41, Ps 104:26)...

I'm not sure PG's got to that part yet. But then again, since this is from a translation (interpretation) of the original, I doubt he ever will..
posted by c13 at 9:52 AM on October 20, 2008


Miko wrote "Even the Nativity story is notable because the idea of taking a census of everyone in the land was radically new, and a power move on the part of a political leader."

I know its tangential to the discussion, but I must point out that what you just wrote is not only false, but it is self evidently false. The "census" described in Luke never took place, and could never have taken place.

Let's take it apart:

1) The idea of taking census was hardly novel. Its been done by pretty much every government that has ever existed because its the only way to have a clue about what your tax base is, and collecting taxes is pretty important to a government. Likewise the ability to even attempt long term planning requires you to know what's going on WRT what your population is, what their average productivity is, etc. The first records we have of census being taken are from nearly 4,000 years before the fictional census mentioned in the Bible. China, Egypt, Babylon, all took census for millenia. Rome took census practically since its founding, hundreds of years before Luke.

2) The method for census taking described in Luke is on the top ten list of most breathtakingly obvious and blatant fictions found in the Bible. No government on the face of the planet has ever, in all recorded history, taken a "census" by ordering people back to the cities their ancestors lived in. That fiction was invented by the authors of Luke purely to claim that two mutually contradictory prophecies were fulfilled. As might be expected, there are no Roman records of a "census" of that type ever being taken.

Even today with modern communication, transportation infrastructure, food infrastructure, etc everyone simultaneously taking a vacation back to the lands of their ancestors [1] would wreak economic havoc. And that's in a modern world where the total interruption time would only be on the order of a week or so. Imagine the chaos in a time when simply traveling a few hundred miles took months. Why don't we have records of the great Roman economic collapse following this census? Because it never happened, certainly not the way Luke described.

3) For a Roman emperor ruining the Roman economy by issuing the impossible to obey order that everyone return to the lands of their forefathers would not have been a power move, it would have been the first step in being murdered by his advisers and quickly replaced by someone not quite so visibly insane.

Even the most casual examination of the story in Luke shows that it is not merely false but stupidly false. A five year old might think it sounded like a plausible story, I'm continually stunned that mature and otherwise intelligent adults believe such a patient lie.

[1] And how far back do we go? I was born in Indiana, my father was born in Illinois, but his father was born in Missouri, and his father was born in Virginia. The male branch of my family got around, but I'm hardly unique.
posted by sotonohito at 9:53 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't see this posted anywhere above.
posted by 999 at 9:56 AM on October 20, 2008


"You're right and I misspoke. What I meant to say was, does anyone think that the Constitution was divinely inspired in the way the Bible is supposed to be, i.e. that God wrote it through the Framers? If this is (or even was) a commonly held position, then I withdraw my statement in bafflement."

Believe that directly? Not as far as I'm aware, to be honest, though Manifest Destiny was understood at least fairly literally (enough to be preached from the pulpit). But I'm not an expert on biblical hermeneutics in the New World (nor really an expert on biblical hermeneutics).

"I'm not sure what the implication of this is for you. Can you elaborate? To clarify my own statement, Catholics are by far the denomination I have had the most contact with. I was even raised as one."

Catholics don't believe in biblical inerrancy; they believe in biblical infallibility (along with a Church hermeneutics tradition and Papal infallibility regarding such). So, the majority of Christians don't believe in inerrancy and certainly don't believe in literalism. In fact, I'd bet that not even a majority of those who claim to believe in biblical literalism actually do.

More to the point, I brought it up because Miko's experiences are pretty much in line with mainstream Christianity. Folks whose doctrine holds all of the Bible as literal are a vocal, but very small, minority.

"Shouldn't all of these discussions end with, "We believe because we believe and for no other reason," then?"

Only if you want to ignore all of Christian scholarship.

Look, why do you believe that you're not a brain in a vat having a simulated experience? Despite Descartes, there's no a priori answer to solipsism. So, given the assumptions that are necessary to function (existence, agency, etc.), we argue from there. If you take the existence of God as an assumption, you can then argue based on what that assumption means—what the conception of God is, where that leaves morality and human activity, etc. Can you argue that faith is an unfounded assumption, or unnecessary? Yes, but not with someone who has faith. It's just as meaningless as arguing that we're not having this conversation because only you exist and everything else is the result of hallucination.

You don't have to even have faith to argue about the implications of faith, you just have to respect that faith does exist.

"Can you elaborate on this, too? I wasn't trying to make anyone make a "case for conversion," and I don't think Pope Guilty was, either."

Sure. The position both of you were taking is that faith must be justified, especially in order to be convincing. If it were convincing, you'd have no choice but to convert. If faith were justified, it wouldn't be faith.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


And they've held this belief for millenia.

No, they haven't (cf., Galileo Galilei).
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:10 AM on October 20, 2008


How is this NSFW? I was expecting spicy photos. :(
posted by thbt at 10:12 AM on October 20, 2008


I'm happy to agree that I don't know much about the history of censii(?), but the mentions of a census in Matthew and Luke talk about (who place it two different times in history) are a historical document, which was my point - that the Bible is a historical document like other historical documents, creating evidence, but requiring interpretation and comparison with other sources With regard to the census in question,Luke says it's this one, and I particularly like the Wikipedia entry's phrasing, which gives one tiny window into the reality of BIblical self-contradiction and the difficulty of asserting literal truth:
This passage has long been considered problematic by Biblical scholars, since it appears to place the birth of Jesus around the time of the census in AD 6, whereas the Gospel of Matthew indicates a birth during or just after the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, ten years earlier.[14] In addition, no other sources mention a world-wide (accurately, "the world under the authority of Roman"[15]) census which would cover the population as a whole; those of Augustus covered Roman citizens only;[16] and it was not the practice in Roman censuses to require people to return to their ancestral homes.[17]

Most modern scholars explain the disparity as an error on the part of the author of the Gospel, concluding that he was more concerned with creating a symbolic narrative than a historical account,[18] and was either unaware of, or indifferent to,[19] the chronological difficulty. Many also suggest that the Gospel of Matthew account is invented.[20]

Others, especially in the past when Biblical inerrancy was more or less taken for granted by scholars, have attempted to reconcile the accounts. For the most part this has involved the suggestion of an earlier census carried out, or begun, during the reign of King Herod. It may have been in response to this problem that Tertullian, writing around AD 200, stated that the census had been taken by Gnaeus Sentius Saturninus (legate of Syria, 9-6 BC) rather than Quirinius.[21]
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on October 20, 2008


I'd bet that not even a majority of those who claim to believe in biblical literalism actually do.

I'm often amazed to find that evangelicals don't do a whole lot of reading of Biblical texts. If they do, it usually takes the form of a short selection presented in a "Bible Study class" context with a discussion leader or discussion guide. Selections also appear in sermons, but form only a jumping-off place for a preacher's rhetorical glosses. Much of my experience with evangelicals indicates that many are unfamiliar with the Bible, and get weirded out when you start discussing it at depth.
posted by Miko at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2008


"No, they haven't (cf., Galileo Galilei)."

Yes, they have. (cf. Thomas Aquinas). Also note philosopher of science Feyerabend's verdict: "The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism."
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2008


How is this NSFW? I was expecting spicy photos. :(

Sorry, words only. I meant, for the kind of work where instructions on anal sex and how to swallow might get you in trouble.

Many Christians consider the Bible to be the inspired, unerring word of God. If you believe this, then that requires that you either believe ALL of it, or none of it.

Doesn't prove the Bible is without value, any more than the existence of dumb stoners who call weed "the sacrament" proves that marijuana is medically worthless.
posted by msalt at 11:22 AM on October 20, 2008


Astro Zombie appears to be representing the Vichy Atheist position in this thread of mocking those who question religion on grounds of logic and consistency, but he (perhaps inadvertently) makes a good point: if the Bible(s) can't be trusted as repositories of wisdom any farther than your average selection from the fiction shelves, of what value is religion specifically compared to any other human way of arriving at consensus?

I am an atheist. And, frankly, I think my fellow atheist are freakingly astoundingly ignorant about religion and only breach the topic only to crow about what they see as their wonderful ability to reject superstition. It's rude and uneducated and does not forward a conversation or a broader understanding in any way, especially when you reject out of hand a nuanced or sophisticated interpretation of scripture, insisting, for some reason, that the only legitimate undertanding of the Bible is the most literal, this despite the fact that religious people have been reading the texts non-literally for most of the history of religion.

I suppose it just makes it easier to make your case that the religious are idiots, which is a damned mean-spirited and wrongheaded case to be making.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


I am an atheist. And, frankly, I think my fellow atheist are freakingly astoundingly ignorant about religion

Ugh, nice. thanks. Can't beat 'em, beat your own? Great. Heaven forfend we make such generalizations about people of faith, but go ahead and paint atheists with any brush, even if you claim to be one of them... I expect better, more nuanced discourse, AZ.

a damned mean-spirited and wrongheaded case to be making.

Yeah, exactly.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


My bad. I should have said some atheists.

Too many, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on October 20, 2008


Yeah, I gotcha, just wanted to make the point that in evangelizing learning and reason, there's no point in bashing your audience, and no point in espousing your own ilk's hopeless ignorance either. Athiests, with our uneasy public image, can use the productive, reasoned fellowship of one another. That's a lesson we should glean from Christianity.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:53 PM on October 20, 2008


Well, part of developing fellowship is not being afraid to call out our own misbehavior.

In my case, I think a live and let live approach is generally useful; there are a lot of religious liberals, and, until the moment that their beliefs adversely impact me, I see no reason to relentlessly attempt to disabuse them of their faith, any more than it is my task in life to let people know that Ziggy cartoons are unfunny and American chocolate tastes like wax.

When religion gets to the point where it is adversely affecting me, or society, as with abortion issues or gay marriage, I'm happy to speak up. But if Christians want to give each other advice on how to fellate each other, I say more power to them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:01 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I give up. There's really no arguing against the Courtier's Reply.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2008


I read PZ Meyers, you sir, are no PZ Meyers.
posted by TungstenChef at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2008


And, frankly, I think my fellow atheist are freakingly astoundingly ignorant about religion and only breach the topic only to crow about what they see as their wonderful ability to reject superstition. It's rude and uneducated and does not forward a conversation or a broader understanding in any way,

Well, why should they be? Why do you expect them to spend years studying an obtuse, self-contradictory anthology of fables if they don't believe in any of that or are incapable (or simply not willing) of performing the mental gymnastics necessary to take any of it half-way seriously?
Must one be able to discuss in depth any episode of Star Trek in Klingon in order to be able to tell a bunch of overgrown geeks that they should get a life?

What I don't get about atheists is their insistence of using reason in argument with someone who they know beforehand (because the opponent tells them so in no uncertain terms) rejects reason in favor of faith.
posted by c13 at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2008


I give up. There's really no arguing against the Courtier's Reply.

Ah, yes. Dawkin's claim that one doesn't need to know anything about religion to declare it to be a farce, and anyone who does know anything about religion (and arguing from said knowledge, of course) should be declared a batshitinsane loony. Such brilliant, airtight logic could be applied to such diverse topics as:

Evolution: "I don't need to hear them egghead intellectuals talk about how we came from monkeys!"

Racial Relations: "True, I've never actually been near a black person, but they're still a bunch of lazy shiftless niggers!"

Foreign Policy: "Of course there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! How dare you provide hard evidence proving otherwise!"

Gravity: "You silly scientists! Clearly, God's love is holding us down to the earth, not *snicker* gravity!"

Yes, that's the Courtier's Reply fallacy: "Knowing what the hell you're talking about is for crazy people."
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 2:08 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


You forgot the HyperCube guy.
posted by c13 at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2008


Well, why should they be? Why do you expect them to spend years studying an obtuse, self-contradictory anthology of fables if they don't believe in any of that or are incapable (or simply not willing) of performing the mental gymnastics necessary to take any of it half-way seriously?

Hm, let's see.

Oh yeah. Because it's one of the fundamental mythological systems of the west, because many of the people who follow it don't read it literally, and because, if you care to have a discussion with someone, rather than simply urinate all over them, it behooves you to actually know what you're talking about.

You know, some people spend years studying things like, oh, Greek and Roman myths. I doubt they believe them, but it gives a magnificent insight into how the ancient people viewed themselves, and some of the myths that informed such things as Western literature and democracy. But, oh snap, it's all just a bunch of bullshit that even a retarded manchild can see is a series of lies, so I guess our only responsibility in this world is to burst into the classics department of our local college and make fun of them for being thunderously stupid.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Must one be able to discuss in depth any episode of Star Trek in Klingon in order to be able to tell a bunch of overgrown geeks that they should get a life?

Yes.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2008


Must one be able to discuss in depth any episode of Star Trek in Klingon in order to be able to tell a bunch of overgrown geeks that they should get a life?

Your analogy is apt, because in both cases it's trying to convince someone their beliefs are wrong with ridicule and contempt. I would assume the militant atheists are aware that this almost never works, so it makes me wonder what they're trying to accomplish by being so obnoxious?
posted by TungstenChef at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2008


Must one be able to discuss in depth any episode of Star Trek in Klingon in order to be able to tell a bunch of overgrown geeks that they should get a life?

You know what's even less likeable than nerds?

The bullies who enjoy reminding them what losers they are.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2008


I doubt they believe them

Therein lies a significant difference.

I completely understand and agree with what you say, AZ, re: don't be a dick, but I don't think of pointing out logical inconsistency as being a dick, and that's all Pope Guilty was doing with his initial comment, and doing so in a way directly relevant to the topic at hand.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:38 PM on October 20, 2008


You forgot the HyperCube guy.

Indeed I -- TimeCube, by the way -- Indeed I did! In fact, he illustrates the precise point behind the Courtier's Reply: "You've been educated stupid, therefore I'm right! Ha Ha!"
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2008


You know, some people spend years studying things like, oh, Greek and Roman myths. I doubt they believe them, but it gives a magnificent insight into how the ancient people viewed themselves, and some of the myths that informed such things as Western literature and democracy.

Well, I'm sure they are all the better for that. The thing is, OTHER people spend years studying things like, oh, Biology or Medicine or Chemistry. Or aerospace engineering. They can't devote as much time to studying a book of myths as a preacher. Because aside form willingness, they simply don't have time. However, that does not make their opinions any less valid or worthy of defense.
As I've mentioned above, if you care to study up on Hypercube (TimeCube, whatever) guy's theories before deciding that he's a psycho, may the force be with you. But I'm pretty sure you'll just waste time before reaching the same conclusion you could have after reading his crap for 5 minutes.

Oh, and before we start bitching about bullies and militant atheists who dare to question the wisdom of trying to use reason on someone who rejects the very idea of reason; let's remind ourselves how many of them we see standing on street corners bothering passersby, harrassing women trying to get to the clinic, knocking on people's doors on weekend mornings and some such.

Get off your high horse, AZ, the Trekkies are perfectly safe. I used them just as an example and never would even dream of carrying out any conversation on the topic with them -- simply not worth the time. But you knew that...
posted by c13 at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2008


Yes, they have. (cf. Thomas Aquinas).

Not sure whether you misunderstand the word "millennia" or don't undestand the difference between "profess" and "believe."
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2008


You people are confusing things. It is one thing to argue about something that actually exists. You have to know something about aerodynamics before you can argue about what makes planes fly, for example. Because if you don't know shit, and you try to pilot one, you're gonna get hurt -- something that will be obvious to everybody. But it's quiet another thing to argue about something that simply a figment of imagination taken on blind faith. You by definition cannot prove or disprove faith, knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with it.
posted by c13 at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2008


let's remind ourselves how many of them we see standing on street corners bothering passersby, harrassing women trying to get to the clinic, knocking on people's doors on weekend mornings and some such.

How, exactly, is lumping all Christians in with the crazies any less offensive than using the word Muslim as shorthand for terrorist?
posted by TungstenChef at 2:54 PM on October 20, 2008


Get off your high horse, AZ, the Trekkies are perfectly safe. I used them just as an example and never would even dream of carrying out any conversation on the topic with them -- simply not worth the time. But you knew that...

Oh, thank god the Trekkies are safe, and were simply being used as an example of something we can all comfortably mock; I hadn't realized that they are in fact beneath mocking. I shall put away my high horse, as he clearly was not called for here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:56 PM on October 20, 2008


But it's quiet another thing to argue about something that simply a figment of imagination taken on blind faith. You by definition cannot prove or disprove faith, knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with it.

I don't know if this is true in any other religion, but it is possible to be a Jew and not believe a single thing. It's not so much a religion of faith but of deeds, which is why many branches of Judaism interpret religious texts, to some extent (or, in some cases, entirely) as useful myths. Although, to be fair, there is some history buried in the Bible, and there is merit in trying to suss out the parts that relate to actual historic events.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:01 PM on October 20, 2008


What the fuck are you talking about, TungstenChef? Point exactly to the part where I lump anyone with anyone else? Having problems with reading comprehension?

You're the one brining up "obnoxious militant atheists". Where the hell are they? I've yet to see one around these parts and I've lived here 18 years.
posted by c13 at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2008


You haven't seen many mirrors lately, have you c13? You may not be aware of the tone you're taking with people, but it is sometimes quite sharp, mocking, and dismissive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:09 PM on October 20, 2008


Oh, thank god the Trekkies are safe, and were simply being used as an example of something we can all comfortably mock; I hadn't realized that they are in fact beneath mocking.

Oh, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, AZ. The badge looks absolutely stunning on you.

I don't know if this is true in any other religion, but it is possible to be a Jew and not believe a single thing.

And that's just splendid. Now if you could only make a post where this would be in any way relevant.

I was arguing with PG about impossibility of reading the Bible without interpretation or taking it as anything but a compilation of useful myths. You're saying basically the same thing. Yet you accuse me of basically being a dick. WTF? I don't think what I'm trying to say is all that complicated, so when someone is being obtuse, or trying to twist my words into something that suits their needs, I do tend to become, as you say, sharp.
posted by c13 at 3:21 PM on October 20, 2008


Having problems with reading comprehension?

You're the one brining up "obnoxious militant atheists". Where the hell are they?


Well I'll give you one thing, your unintentionally ironic fightiness has made my day.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:30 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


And that's just splendid. Now if you could only make a post where this would be in any way relevant.

Jeez. You're right. No obnoxious militant atheists here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:37 PM on October 20, 2008


Why do you expect them to spend years studying an obtuse, self-contradictory anthology of fables if they don't believe in any of that?

Don't believe in any of what? You don't believe in oral traditions? The history of the Middle East? Jewish culture? That there was an historical person named Jesus? That he made certain philosophical statements? That these statements may have meaning in modern life? That, even if meaningless to you, these stories and sayings have profound influence in American and British culture?

I think what is rubbing some of us wrong here is the insistence that there is one precise, sharply defined religion THING that rational people can't possibly accept or believe in, and anyone who disagrees is a Christian zombie who can't be reasoned with.

Personally, I'm a Taoist and think the whole issue of divinity is pointless. We are all/none divine, including Christ and Chuang Tzu. To me, all holy books are attempts by fallible humans to communicate something beyond words, bad maps that might get you close enough to figure out the rest on your own. So, it's kind of cool to be respectful and a bit humble about it.
posted by msalt at 4:05 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think what is rubbing some of us wrong here is the insistence that there is one precise, sharply defined religion THING that rational people can't possibly accept or believe in, and anyone who disagrees is a Christian zombie who can't be reasoned with.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. Is there a comma between "religion" and "THING"? Or is it "religious THING"? I will assume it's the latter. (?) I don't think I claimed anywhere that there is a SINGLE thing. I don't even think it matters. I also haven't used the term "Christian zombie" anywhere in this thread. I did, however, state that they cannot be reasoned with. Not just me, others in the beginning of the thread said the same thing. FAITH is a belief in things unseen (says so in the Bible!). You can't question it or reason about it or prove/disprove it. It's like a superposition state, the moment you try and analyze it, it ceases to exist. I don't understand why this sounds offensive to people. The Bible itself says you shouldn't question or doubt.
I also never said that Christianity is irrelevant, either as a historic force or individual worldview. I just said that it's silly to expect someone who does not believe that the Bible is the word of god and the most important book one will ever read to spend years reading it. Just to be considered able to argue their point of view. I've read the Bible, a lot more thoroughly than other atheists and I dare say a lot of people that call themselves Christian. I think it's a pretty crappy book (yes yes, it does have good life lessons in it, but so do graduation speeches) and I'm definitely not a christian, but I know something about it. I don't think I can or would want to learn any more unless I convert somehow. Is it really that weird?
Oral traditions are important. So is the history of the Middle East. Jewish culture, to some degree. But first of all, the Bible is not the only source of them, there are much better books out there. And secondly, not everyone is interested in these topics.

To me, all holy books are attempts by fallible humans to communicate something beyond words, bad maps that might get you close enough to figure out the rest on your own.

Bad maps usually get to into a world of trouble. Just like bad thinking. History of Christianity serves as a great example of these statements.
posted by c13 at 4:47 PM on October 20, 2008


History of Christianity serves as a great example of these statements.

It's interesting when atheists claim religious people can't cherrypick the aspect of religion that are good and ignore the bad, and then some atheists come out with a statement like this. You do realize that it was Christians who fought for the end of slavery and Christians who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement? That Christians stood up against Vietnam and unsafe nukes? And I'm not talking about individual Christians, I'm talking about organized groups of Christians, motivated by theology.

I think one of the failings of a lot of atheists is their claiming that religion is somehow responsible for much of the evil in the world, as though, had the Bible not been written, or Jesus not died on the cross, or whatever, all manner of bad behavior would never have happened. I don't buy it. If history has shown us anything, it's that if people want to do evil, they will find the justification, whether in religion, or in nationalism, or in economic theory, or in pseudoscience. A vast majority of the Bible, including the entirety of the books of judges, are calls to ethical action. Some people ignore that and find the verses that give license to mischief or harm. Without those verses, I fully expect they could find equal justification in Freud or Marx.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:08 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's interesting when atheists claim religious people can't cherrypick the aspect of religion that are good and ignore the bad,

I
HAVE
NEVER
SAID
THAT.

You do realize that it was Christians who fought for the end of slavery and Christians who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement? That Christians stood up against Vietnam and unsafe nukes?

Really? And who were the slave owners? Buddhist? Who made lynching postcards? National Guard was sent to protect black school kids from people of what religion? Were Kennedy and LBJ muslims? Was Nixon? We don't have organized groups of Christians abusing gays or women that think their bodies belong to them? (Yeah yeah, those are just cooks, not real Christians. They say the same thing about everyone else).
Were the Crusades fought by atheists? Was the Inquisition pagan?
Quite a lot of people interpreted "Thou shall not kill" and "turn the other cheek" rather liberally, don't you think?
Look, read my response to msalt. I don't think I can make my point any clearer. Religion exists. It's important to many people. No, we should not go kill all the Christians. No, christianity is not the best thing that happened to this world. Yes, it's irrational. Because it defines itself so.
posted by c13 at 5:28 PM on October 20, 2008


I didn't say you said that. And it's becoming increasingly obvious that this is not, in fact, some intellectual exercise based in a rejection of nonsense on your part, but a completely different sort of nonsense -- a deeply held and carefully nurtured antipathy for one entire group of people who you have lumped together as a force of evil. Yes, Christianity irrational. I'm not convinced, however, that you're rational either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:38 PM on October 20, 2008


Yet another promising thread ends with Nimrod firing arrows into the heavens. Ah well.

Returning somewhat to the original topic: somebody upthread added some sex links from other religions. Unfortunately, the "Sex and Islam" link is a fairly rancid hatchet job. Might I suggest instead: The Perfumed Garden, a 16th century pillow book from Tunisia.
posted by BinGregory at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whew. I'm glad we've finally hammered out what God meant in the Bible.

Now. What about those dwarf songs in LOR? We have to work this out. We cannot risk yet another bloody Gróin vs. Óin war.
posted by tkchrist at 6:43 PM on October 20, 2008


I didn't say you said that. And it's becoming increasingly obvious that this is not, in fact, some intellectual exercise based in a rejection of nonsense on your part, but a completely different sort of nonsense -- a deeply held and carefully nurtured antipathy for one entire group of people who you have lumped together as a force of evil.

Heh... now you're just funny.
posted by c13 at 6:45 PM on October 20, 2008


What's the cut off point? How old of a text can we discuss the meaning off before it gets absurd?

0.

The Answer is zero old.

If the author is an invisible omnipotent being that is.

And I don't think "discussion" means what you think it means.
posted by tkchrist at 6:48 PM on October 20, 2008


Heh... now you're just funny.

Not really. Look at your list of the sins of Christianity. It's just a vomited up inventory of the evils of the past several thousand years, but, with the exception of the Inquisition and the Crusades, and, nowadays, fundamentalist homophobia (which is hardly omnipresent in Christianity) nothing on your list is particularly Christian. I mean, honestly, the National Guard was protecting black kids from Christians? What religion do you think those black kids were?

Now, in fairness to you, there were preachers arguing for segregation from the pulpit, just as there were preachers arguing against it (one Dr. King comes quickly to mind). But slavery, and racism, were not created by Christianity, and there is no religious injunction to own slaves, or to hate blacks. As I said, when these people did evil, they might have been justifying it using scripture, but those justifications often weren't indigenous to scripture. Nobody was lynched because the Bible recommended it -- they were lynched because a common extralegal practice in America had been transformed into a tool of racism, and racism was economically and poltically useful.

In the meanwhile, the Abolitionist movement was founded by Quakers, and was, in fact, based in their interpretation of scripture -- they viewed slavery as immoral, and engaged in antislavery activism for almost a hundred years.

So you are, in fact, picking your way through history, ignoring the legitimate good deeds done by people of faith and foisting onto religion, as a whole, a whole inventory of misdeeds that often could better be blamed on economics, or nationalism, or racism, or any series of irrational beliefs. Not to say religion hasn't committed its evils, but it would help to actually know what those are.

And you would know this, and could have reasoned, moderate, rational discussions about religion and atheism had you bothered to do any research at all. But instead, you seem to think, like some other atheists, that simply thinking something is stupid is valid enough reason to start complaining.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:14 PM on October 20, 2008


If the author is an invisible omnipotent being that is.

There is quite a lot of scholarship into the authorship of the Bible that doesn't begin with the assumption that a superhero in the sky wrote it. I presume you know that and are just being silly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:16 PM on October 20, 2008


There is quite a lot of scholarship into the authorship of the Bible that doesn't begin with the assumption that a superhero in the sky wrote it.

INFIDEL!
posted by tkchrist at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2008


INFIDEL 4 LIFE!
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2008


You know in Family Circus when PJ breaks a vase and then when Bill asks him who broke it he says "Not Me!" and Bill Keane draws this transparent ghost (with NOTME on it's chest) breaking the vase?

That's how about, and this is a rough guess, 75% of believers think their holy texts were written.

Side Note:
Scholars schmolars. When I was in Sunday School and I was asked about what happened to Lots wife, Zoar, if I'd have quoted an ACTUAL bible scholar? I would have beaten raw. And not in the fun way.
posted by tkchrist at 7:29 PM on October 20, 2008


That's how about, and this is a rough guess, 75% of believers think their holy texts were written.

I would love to see you back that up with an actual link or some sort of evidence. Otherwise, you're arguing your point from ignorance and prejudice, as I have suspected, and that's not exactly the pillar of rationality from which you get to argue against the irrational.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2008


However, it is a pillar of salt.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2008


How old of a text can we discuss the meaning of before it gets absurd?

I don't think books or ideas have an expiration date. Books by Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tzu etc. are still going strong. None of them require faith, or demonstrate the the irrationality of people who still like them. If anything, a book that old that retains vitality is clearly beyond the scope of fads and fashion, more likely to be based in timeless truth.
posted by msalt at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bad maps usually get to into a world of trouble.

Sometimes bad maps are all you have to find a treasure. And if you keep in mind that they have mistakes, they can get you close enough to figure out the rest.
posted by msalt at 8:28 PM on October 20, 2008


Otherwise, you're arguing your point from ignorance and prejudice, as I have suspected

OMG! Busted! I'm so ignorunt!

Oh. I bet I could waste a shit load of time and find some sort of link to come clost to back up that number. But why? Would it change your mind? No. You have YOUR prejudice and ignorance.
I do have 45 years of my own experience that has convinced me that... scholarship schmolarship where the "average" believer is concerned.

So don't go front'n it's all based on some sort of rational survey of Religious Plain Folk you are secretly privy too.

I don't give two shits about convincing you. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

If you want to "believe" that believers are so discriminatory and open as to fully embrace the rational revelations of cutting edge religious scholarship into their beliefs, well... then have at it bro. I guess that's what your doing here in your attempt to be worlds nicest aethist. Or should I trot out the "self hating" card in this so-called "argument?" Are we there in this script, yet?

If you wanna play the even tempered sanctimonious Cosby dad of atheists (which I am not one of, by the fucking way - Atheist, that is) I cede the field to you, sir.
posted by tkchrist at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2008


It's just a vomited up inventory of the evils of the past several thousand years, but, with the exception of the Inquisition and the Crusades, and, nowadays, fundamentalist homophobia (which is hardly omnipresent in Christianity) nothing on your list is particularly Christian.

WTF? Am I expected to write a dissertation with a hundred pages of citations supporting my point for someone I'm arguing with on an internet forum between eating dinner and reading economic news in a different window?
Especially someone that is being deliberately obtuse?
You've stated: "You do realize that it was Christians who fought for the end of slavery and Christians who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement?"
To which I replied that the slaveowners were also Christian. And that people that were fighting AGAINST the Civil Rights were also Christians. You don't have to take my word for it, just look up demographic data for states like Alabama, Tennessee or Georgia. And I'm not talking about the preachers that said that Jesus hated negroes. I'm talking about the guys and gals that went out to hang themselves a negro and then took pictures next to the corpse. Now then, I'm not saying that Christianity made them do that. I'm saying that Christianity has failed to stop them from doing that, as well as all the other nasty shit people that call themselves Christian did over the years. Therefore, it is much less of a force of good than you would like to give it credit for. In case of segregation, it was not Jesus Christ that came down and convinced his followers that it's ok if a black man drinks out of the same water fountain as they. Neither it were christian preachers or indeed christian conscience. What convinced them was National Guard and the prospect of a premature meeting with their Lord Saviour.
posted by c13 at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2008


Sometimes bad maps are all you have to find a treasure. And if you keep in mind that they have mistakes, they can get you close enough to figure out the rest.

Perhaps. Especially if all you've got is a bad map.
I'm not saying "destroy the bad map". Or "you must never use a bad map".
All I'm saying that the map is indeed bad.
posted by c13 at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2008


Sometimes bad maps are all you have to find a treasure.

Ooooh. Oooh. Is this where I bring up how pirates often killed each other over the map! I love pirate analogies! Or is this more of Nicholas Cage "National Treasure" type analogy deal.
posted by tkchrist at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2008


"Recent Activity" doesn't make me wish to go back and review this thread. It's not one of our better discussions. We should've stuck to the nymphos.
posted by Miko at 9:12 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how this thread got twisted into people arguing whether most if not all Christians are irrational idiots.

The post is about a group of sincere Christian women calling bullshit on the repressive sexuality of much of modern conservative Christianity. It seems like a pretty positive development to me, whether you find value in modern Christianity or not. What is there to dislike here?
posted by msalt at 9:13 PM on October 20, 2008


What is there to dislike here?

THERE ARE NO PICTURES!
posted by c13 at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2008


Especially someone that is being deliberately obtuse?

Yes. How do you argue with someone who is making points rooted in the actual history of religion, rather than vague, hostile, mocking insinuations based in the historical coincidence of someone's religion (OMG! Slaveowners were Christian! It must somehow be Christianity's fault). Must be frustrating, I know.

And, tkchrist, I suppose I do expect something more than pissy personal observation from someone who has decided to characterize an entire segment of humanity as witless morons. You've only made the case that you keep bad company.

I mean, honestly, you guys are alienating other atheists. Bravo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2008


msalt, um, my first remark would be an answer to that question, and I was checking back here often for any responses to it, amid the wreckage of the smoking, bloody derail.

I guess we would rather work through our culture's relationship with the bible AGAIN, instead of the shakier topic of its sexual norms. Metafilter: come for the naughty lady party, stay for the bible study!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:00 PM on October 20, 2008


I'm saying that Christianity has failed to stop them from doing that, as well as all the other nasty shit people that call themselves Christian did over the years.

Christianity didn't stop some from doing it, but I am sure you will find Christians who did not participate, spoke out against it, prosecuted those that lynched, and worked against racism. But I guess it only matters when someone who is religious does something wrong, not when they do something right.

It's a very puzzling argument you're making. Democracy also didn't stop them, neither did their gender, or their their schooling, or any of the many things that are supposed to encourage good behavior. By your argument, law is inherently unjust, because even though all these people knew the law, it didn't stop them from breaking it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:07 PM on October 20, 2008


"However, that does not make their opinions any less valid or worthy of defense. "

Yes, actually, it does. I mean, that's kind of why uninformed opinions are worthless, and why my scathing take on your dumb haircut is ultimately unaffecting.

But yeah, like Miko said, this is a shitty thread. Sorry for my part.
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 PM on October 20, 2008


The Armchair is a good position.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 PM on October 20, 2008


Ambrosia voyeur: my first remark would be an answer to that question [what's not to like?]
You mean your comment where you said: Fuck you posers. This isn't actual nymphomania, is it? No. It's sexual expressiveness couched in insensitive, juvenile prattle.

Seems like a lot of anger directed at women who publicly defied religious leaders (against tremendous social pressure) in defense of healthy sexuality.
I see the courage and the value of their stance; what are you trying to accomplish with yours?
posted by msalt at 10:45 PM on October 20, 2008


Clearly, many people here need to have more sex and less obtuse arguments.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:46 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that Christianity has failed to stop them from doing that, as well as all the other nasty shit people that call themselves Christian did over the years.

Christianity didn't stop some from doing it, but I am sure you will find Christians who did not participate, spoke out against it, prosecuted those that lynched, and worked against racism. But I guess it only matters when someone who is religious does something wrong, not when they do something right.

It's a very puzzling argument you're making. Democracy also didn't stop them, neither did their gender, or their their schooling, or any of the many things that are supposed to encourage good behavior. By your argument, law is inherently unjust, because even though all these people knew the law, it didn't stop them from breaking it.


And the very next sentence I wrote said this: Therefore, it is much less of a force of good than you would like to give it credit for. I put it in bold, so you don't miss it.

Look, it's obvious that you either refuse or can't understand what I'm trying to say. So let's just end this conversation. You get all the gold stars for tolerance and inclusiveness.
Everyone is super awesome. Including the Trekkies.

Now, about the Christian Nymphos. I would much, much rather have one of them as a partner than many other types of girls. Because they seem to be actually trying to make their marriage fun and spicy, rather than trying to prove to themselves how cool and liberal and emancipated they are. And like msalt said, they are swimming against a pretty fast flow. Not something you see often..
posted by c13 at 11:03 PM on October 20, 2008


Dammit! I thought this thread was so long because it was filled with sex talk.
posted by Locative at 11:04 PM on October 20, 2008


I see the courage and the value of their stance; what are you trying to accomplish with yours?

Sorry if I can't grasp why doing what comes naturally and is mandated by the culture at large is so courageous, maybe it's because my conservative Christian parents are literally always at it, tooth and nail, dog and pony and jiggly dildo. Maybe I'm traumatized. Somehow I managed to grow up and not be a Christian at all, am I a hero???

As to what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to keep people from eclipsing the nuanced reality of sexual difference, keep them from "reclaiming" an outdated term for hypersexuality in a way that obliterates a discussion of whether such a thing exists. They are lackadaisically treading on people who fall well outside contemporary sexual norms by playfully claiming to be of them, just because their faith has historically repressed them toward the other side of the sexual bell curve. It's a minstrelsy me-too version of a serious source of social ostracism, which I would argue effects women especially, adding a cruel, intra-gender twist, and it's only done to promote and reinforce their ministry. I find that disgusting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:13 PM on October 20, 2008


Look, it's obvious that you either refuse or can't understand what I'm trying to say. So let's just end this conversation. You get all the gold stars for tolerance and inclusiveness.

Jesus. Seriously, man, what the fuck is the matter with you? Do you hear the tone you take with other people? The Web is not a winner-take-all sport, and behaving with contempt towards others is a terrible way to make your points. I have argued fairly and clearly, and rooted my responses in history and in the actual facts of religion, and have asked that my fellow atheists give religious folks at least the common courtesy of listening to what they have to say, and recognizing that religion has often been a source of good in this world, even if the belief in God is irrational. Sorry if that seems like such an agonizing demand that you have to dismissively treat it as though I am begging for gold stars for tolerance.

I don't know. I guess I was raised thinking tolerance was, in general, something to aspire to, and that the best conversations are those rooted in facts.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:16 PM on October 20, 2008


And the very next sentence I wrote said this: Therefore, it is much less of a force of good than you would like to give it credit for. I put it in bold, so you don't miss it.

Just out of curiosity, though, why do you think that sentence negates any of my responses? And why do you think bolding it makes it any less of a logical fallacy?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:23 PM on October 20, 2008


I mean, honestly, you guys are alienating other atheists. Bravo.

Waitaminute? Did you or did you not start this entire crap fest off by making some broad insulting generalization about atheists?

Oh yeah: I think my fellow atheist are freakingly astoundingly ignorant about religion and only breach the topic only to crow about what they see as their wonderful ability to reject superstition.

So. Yeah. My bad. I should said a "rough estimate of 50% of believers think thier particular god wrote their holy texts in some magical manor - directly or indirectly."

And again. I'm not a god damned atheist. And you should know this since you have elected yourself King of The Atheists.
posted by tkchrist at 11:48 PM on October 20, 2008


Jesus. Seriously, man, what the fuck is the matter with you? Do you hear the tone you take with other people?

And. Again. Do you not hear yourself? you have spent most your involvement in this thread calling people "Ignorant and Prejudiced."

What kind of tone is that? Seriously, man.
posted by tkchrist at 11:51 PM on October 20, 2008


But yeah, like Miko said, this is a shitty thread. Sorry for my part.

You're sorry? Hell, I regret my comments and their (admittedly unintentional) fanning the flames of c13's madness.

On the subject of the post: I honestly think this is an attempt at getting the teens all excited over marital sex. A really, really blunt way of getting them excited, but a way nonetheless.
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 11:55 PM on October 20, 2008


I suppose I do expect something more than pissy personal observation from someone who has decided to characterize an entire segment of humanity as witless morons.

Hey. You made a pissy personal observation. But I can't?

And I'm only characterizing the witless moron segment of humanity as witless morons. But I'm sure they are also very nice people. Though I'm not sure I characterized anybody exactly as a witless moron. But Hey. Let's go with it. It's got a nice ring.
posted by tkchrist at 12:01 AM on October 21, 2008


And, BTW, my first point was that arguing over scripture—which is mostly fiction— is ultimately absurd. And I think that stands as obvious.
posted by tkchrist at 12:07 AM on October 21, 2008


Ok, one more time: Therefore, it is much less of a force of good than you would like to give it credit for.
It's a very puzzling argument you're making. Democracy also didn't stop them, neither did their gender, or their their schooling, or any of the many things that are supposed to encourage good behavior. By your argument, law is inherently unjust, because even though all these people knew the law, it didn't stop them from breaking it.

It's not all that puzzling. Like democracy, gender, schooling or "the many other things", Christianity is but one of the many forces that affects people only partially. In some parts of the world it is almost completely substituted by some other irrationality. People do good things, people do bad things. What I'm saying is that Christianity does not shift the equilibrium to the good side nearly as much as you appear to be claiming.

and have asked that my fellow atheists give religious folks at least the common courtesy of listening to what they have to say,

No. I've heard what they said a long time ago, and since then they haven't said anything new, or something that would disprove the fact that they are delusional. Sorry, I just don't have the patience.
posted by c13 at 12:13 AM on October 21, 2008


Ziggy cartoons are unfunny

You go too far, sir.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:13 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The main thing (unfortunately) that I take away from this thread is that some of the most vocal participants on MeFi come here to pee rather than to have a conversation. Seeing this again and again certainly makes it hard for me to remain civil, but I'm trying. Maybe if we just ignore them they'll get bored and go somewhere else.

A Partial List of Posts to be Ignored

Those that are:

1) dismissive
2) mean

or in any other way signal an intention other than constructive dialogue.

There. I'm sure we'll have no trouble from now on.

Returning to the topic, AV, you raised a real and relevant critique that I don't think has been fully understood or discussed (due to your comment's tone, maybe?).

If I understand correctly, you feel that the appropriation of "nymphomania" belittles/obscures real suffering. I'm sympathetic to this point of view, however, the word has evolved a common, non-clinical meaning. It's not really fair to take the website to task for this--they aren't responsible for creating this context. And I think you'd have much more success in making this point if you were less inflammatory.

Your second point, as I understand it, is that you object to the view that a sex-positive Christian website is worthy of praise. I'm not sure that I understand your reasons why. Because people shouldn't be praised for things they should be doing anyway? Because the harm of (as you see it) Christian sexual repression completely overshadows this effort? Again, I'm sympathetic to your anger at sexually repressive institutions, but I think it's the cumulative effect of things like this website that lead to the larger cultural changes that we both desire.

*

One item in the "value and meaning of religion", er, debate, in particular interests me. Do fundamentalist Christians represent a majority of Christians/religious believers in the world? I did a bit of research, and it looks like about a third of the world is Christian. So, no, on that score. I found a chart of the distribution of Christian denominations in the U.S. but don't know enough to determine which ones should be counted as fundamentalist. (I believe this exercise will reveal that fundamentalists are not a majority. The political analysis I've read says that the fundamentalists are just highly visible and well-organized.)
posted by flotson at 9:25 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And, BTW, my first point was that arguing over scripture—which is mostly fiction— is ultimately absurd. And I think that stands as obvious.

You don't think scholars can argue seriously over fiction? I've a LOTR mailing list for ya.
posted by bonaldi at 9:34 AM on October 21, 2008


On the subject of the post: I honestly think this is an attempt at getting the teens all excited over marital sex.

I hear you, and I think Sarah Palin is probably doing something like that, as described in this essay on the sexy puritan which is where I heard about this website.

However, that writer thinks the nymphs are doing something different and I agree. As a mid-40s divorced guy and comedian, I can tell you there are GOBS of people (atheist, agnostic or religious) for whom marriage = the death of sex. Crowds totally respond to that theme, and I think that's really what these folks are fighting against. If this IS an attempt at sexy puritanism, it's going to backfire miserably because it's just too explicit and sex-positive. Can't put that genie back in the bottle.
posted by msalt at 9:36 AM on October 21, 2008


AV, you raised a real and relevant critique that I don't think has been fully understood or discussed (due to your comment's tone, maybe?).

Heh. Well, maybe, but I'm not very impressed with the fortitude of this readership if they got freaked out by a little "fuck those guys," especially in the context of a discussion of making room for more passionate expression of feeling by women.

the word has evolved a common, non-clinical meaning.

Well yeah, one that is divisive and offensive, and yet unadequately challenged or deconstructed in a meaningful way by this website. "God wants you to be a nympho for your husband," they say, but that's not really what they mean.

In their recuperation of the term, and their attendant advice, they are actually very reductive, normalizing and toward the actual subject and its voices that they claim to be activists for, converting a whole possible discussion of the role of women's sexuality into trite, mediocre sermons and by-the-numbers sex tips like "tickle the underside with your tongue" and "try a wacky new position."

But the real problem I have with the approach they take is not that they are amateurish and not sufficiently versed in deep kink to effectively act as a sexual confidante and advisor for me personally, nor that the overlay of ministerial lingo with would-be dirtygirl frankness is grinding, cheap, hackneyed and plain creepy... see sermons “Tasting His Fruit” and "Drinking Him Down." My problem is that their advice is based on the self-hate producing premises that God wants you to be a certain kind of wife, and you can become her through prayer.

Take for example, one email they respond to from the opposite end of the sexuality spectrum (spectrum my eye, btw, it's some kind of three-dimensional plasmic structure, and it's after us! Aaah! jk.) Low Drive... Can You Help Me? The question asks

I’ve been married for just over 3 years now. I cannot orgasm during intercourse which causes me to be very indifferent to sex altogether. Oral is fun sometimes but I just don’t care much for it either. I am definitely a low drive kind of person. My problem is that I desperately want to have more of a drive, not for myself, but for my husband. I’m finding that I lack motivation, and more then anything I’m frustrated with the constant reminders from my husband that I need to check out sites like these and get to be more “normal”. Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated!!!

and the answer reads:

Satan usually is the culprit behind things such as these. A lot of people like to blame God. “If God wanted me to enjoy sex, I would be enjoying it.” ” If God intended for me to be a truly sexual and orgasmic being, he would have created me that way”…. the list goes on. It makes me wonder why God still loves us so much when we blame him for everything. Satan gets such glee when he can get us to do this.
(...)
Do you have anything that is hidden so deep that you may not even consciously be aware of that Satan could have his talons gripped on?
(...)
I would come home after a day of work trying to get as much time in with my son as I could, that I would be worn out from it all and have no energy for my husband at all. His needs were even behind my own needs. I know now that I hurt him very badly during that time. In my heart, I knew it was wrong. The Holy Spirit was trying to tell me this, but Satan kept convincing me otherwise.
(...)
God doesn’t make any junk. He creates special unique men and women in his image, so there is nothing abnormal about you. Nothing. That is the lies of Satan right there to tell anyone that they are not normal. Right now, you are where you are in your life as part of God’s plan. You might be in the building phase for something new and beautiful. Ever watch a house go up? Not really pretty when it is just a slab of a foundation or a skeleton of the walls. But little by little, master craftsmen make it into a beautiful home. Think of this experience as something that you are building to. Reach out to your creator and ask him to reveal some of his master plan to you. Search out the God of all Creation, and ask him to help you to see yourself in a new light. He can help you to see who you really are and he will show you what your husband sees in you. When his work in you is complete, you will not see or experience anything more beautiful.

Start by praying. Ask God to make you into the wife he intended for your husband....


What a horrible tack to take! The commenters add some better advice, but how archaic is THAT? I have a low sex drive - - Oh you should pray about it and try harder, because if you think you're not normal, that's the DEVIL in you? I mean pardon my incredulity, but if these women encountered a real hypersexual or sex-addicted person, (not that I am one, but it has been alleged...) I am dubious that they would celebrate their unique gifts from God, and I find that fundamentally lacking in Christ-like understanding.

But hey, maybe that's all just complaint from a person who doesn't understand the power of faith, because obviously there are huge cultural barriers between whoever is the imagined addressee of this site and me, the atheist living in sin and unabashedly sexual. Maybe I'm holding this site to a higher standard than is required by their limited milieu. But I think in this case, mixing sex and religion is not a successful project. I think Christian women would be better served by non-denominational sexual guides, like, oh, say... Google, Dan Savage and a leafing-through of the ol' Blowfish annual. Once you learn the tenets of Christ, you aren't supposed to suround yourself with trappings of specifically Christian culture, you're supposed to stride out into the wider world, strong in the lord! So get out there and find your own bliss.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2008


Ok, you're very sexual. We get it.
posted by c13 at 11:58 AM on October 21, 2008


What's the matter, c13 - was it tl;dr for you? Or should a thoughtful, nuanced take on sexuality not be presented in a thread about OMG sexee laydeez for Christ?
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2008


AV, I'm not sure I follow your critique. Are you saying that nymphomania is a serious problem that is trivialized by the attempt by these women to reclaim the word?
posted by msalt at 1:01 PM on October 21, 2008


AV, I read that much more sympathetically than you do (though I can totally see how you are finding it problematic). I'm reading it as a reframing of a lot of the kind of commonsensical (and sex-positive) advice that one might see on AskMe, into language and phrasing that a conservative christian woman might be more readily able to hear.

Using your pull-quotes:

Do you have anything that is hidden so deep that you may not even consciously be aware of that Satan could have his talons gripped on?
(...)
I would come home after a day of work trying to get as much time in with my son as I could, that I would be worn out from it all and have no energy for my husband at all. His needs were even behind my own needs. I know now that I hurt him very badly during that time. In my heart, I knew it was wrong. The Holy Spirit was trying to tell me this, but Satan kept convincing me otherwise.
(...)
God doesn’t make any junk. He creates special unique men and women in his image, so there is nothing abnormal about you. Nothing.


That's just "Is there abuse or other unhappiness in your past?" and "When you ignore your partner's needs, it can be hurtful to the relationship" and "Don't judge yourself against your image of other people's sex drives" in different language.

Like you, it's not the right language for me, and I'm not quite convinced it is necessarily the right language for the presumed readers of the blog. But to read it as a dismissal of the concerns into "just pray about it" is not catching what is really going on there, I think. For advice to work, it has to meet people where they are, not where you think they should be. I don't think that the person asking that question is, at this moment, in a place where they are ready to filter the useful advice out from between the fisting/having a baby with my boyfriend/DTMFA chaff in Dan Savage's column, for example; nor, if her concern is mismatched sexdrives, is the ever-fun Blowfish catalog the obvious starting point.
posted by Forktine at 1:05 PM on October 21, 2008


What's the matter, c13 - was it tl;dr for you? Or should a thoughtful, nuanced take on sexuality not be presented in a thread about OMG sexee laydeez for Christ?

No, it's just that it was mentioned at least 3 times. I mean, sure, these laydeez are just cheap pozers and can't even imagine the liberated, grandiose super-hyper-mega-matha-fucka sex machine such is AV, but still...
posted by c13 at 1:12 PM on October 21, 2008


c13, you're just being offensive now.

You're absolutely trying to put me down for the way I spoke openly about my own sexuality, which is in and of itself unkind, but also a bizarrely out of place and ironic behavior to bring up in light of this topic. We are talking about women making an effort to proudly assert sexuality DESPITE PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

I'm not trying to brag or make myself seem like some magic fuck. I'm saying that this website, which you haven't really talked about at all, doesn't come near dealing with the actual difficulties people with sexual difference, like hypersexuality, encounter, and therefore strikes me as farcical int hat respect. I'm just trying to see what might be happening for those people at the extremes from my vantage point somewhere near the middle of the bell-curve, and to protect them from being spoken for inapproporiately.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


You don't think scholars can argue seriously over fiction?

Sigh. I believe I already covered that. Yeah. They can argue. It's just fucking boring.
posted by tkchrist at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2008


Forktine, I get what it means to reach people where they are, and what fighting Satan within means, from a Christian perspective. I have plenty of (I would say) moderate Christian experience, myself. My pullquotes are from one example where I think the coating of ministerial rhetoric is a bit too thick and hard to get through, and could be too off-putting to many readers. My opinion as a writer, not an atheist.

But again, my central complaint: they do not seem to acknowledge the fact of sexual difference, or describe its place in God's plan. Maybe that's not doable from their Christian perspective, but come on. In the case of something as theologically simple as low sex drive, you would think they would have more to say than "try harder." I think some validation is in order. Maybe God DID make people with less hormonal output, did they never think of that? I don't know, they deny it!

And I know that a person in that emailer's position shouldn't be addressing their issue by jumping into Dan Savage, I didn't mean to imply that, but assert that, as a toolset, this website is incomplete and contains some actually harmful pieces. I think sexual health would be better attained by a broader, secular approach, augmented, not entirely framed by, lessons from Christ.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2008


I'm not trying to put you down in any way. It's just seemed kinda strange to me. This being a post about a specific website (and all the other irrelevant crap). This being a particular example: if these women encountered a real hypersexual or sex-addicted person, (not that I am one, but it has been alleged...) I am dubious that they would celebrate their unique gifts from God

I've stated my opinion about these women not that many posts ago. The website does not even pretend to deal with real hypersexuality. I don't see why you would assume they use the word "nympho" literally. The last sentence of yours does not even make sense. What leads you to believe that someone is being attacked or needs (or wants) your protection. What makes you thing you're actually capable of offering this protection? And how exactly are you protecting them here, on a completely different website?
posted by c13 at 1:37 PM on October 21, 2008


msalt, yes, basically I am saying that. It is definitely somewhere in academic quibblesville, but not compared to the rest of this thread, l'ol.

And sorry, Forktine, I should have said "Thank you," in there somewhere, for being an ally in the sense-making war. High five.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:39 PM on October 21, 2008


I don't see why you would assume they use the word "nympho" literally.

Because using it as a de-facto epithet is offensive and using it as hyperbole is divisive, even before it can undergo "reclaiming." To use it disingenuously is, I am arguing, disrespectful to a silent minority of people, who are psychologically addicted to sex, or nearly to that point. Among these, I do not claim membership, even though I have had the epithetical usage deployed against me, in that grand old tradition of slandering and silencing women who show sexual agency. So, in name, they are fighting to reclaim a slur I am a little familiar with. They don't really do it, though, and they do nothing to acknowledge the plight of those people whose images are the effigies when stones are thrown at just-kinda-forward gals.

how exactly are you protecting them here, on a completely different website?

By allowing for the fact that they exist, and denouncing their continuing inadequate representation.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:59 PM on October 21, 2008


Sigh. I believe I already covered that. Yeah. They can argue. It's just fucking boring.
I appear to have missed it under the barrage of invective. Either way, "fucking boring" is different from "obviously absurd". I find plenty of things fucking boring, but I'm usually glad somebody cares about them.
posted by bonaldi at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2008


To use it disingenuously is, I am arguing, disrespectful to a silent minority of people, who are psychologically addicted to sex, or nearly to that point.

Have you actually shown this site to any and determined that they are indeed offended? Or is it just more of a panorama from the top of the Bell curve? From my vantage point I see windmills..

As far as slandering and silencing, the only instances where the word "nympho" was employed, it was used for a directly opposite purpose. But that's just me.

By allowing for the fact that they exist, and denouncing their continuing inadequate representation.

Perhaps you would be more successful by, oh, I don't know, maybe letting them know your thoughts directly?
posted by c13 at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2008


Because shedding a little light on these considerations in a public forum like this one can make a small impact on the future of community-based norms. You seem to suggest that the only valuable modes of activism are direct research or volunteering with the affected. This simply isn't true. What would you have me do, waltz into a sex addicts anonymous meeting and say "You know what, you fuckers are alright with me?" Poll closeted sex addicts on whether this kind if erasure is keeping them from coming out?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:10 PM on October 21, 2008


I wouldn't have you do anything at all. I just don't think there is a problem. You just seem to be vicariously offended. These women are trying to assert their sexuality. Neither I, nor anyone else here, to my knowledge, is trying to suppress it. Here on MeFi, as well as any other community I've been in, nymphomania does not appear to be a raging problem. In fact, it's probably welcomed. I don't know, maybe it's different in Ventura. If so, I bet disseminating this information would help with real estate prices...
posted by c13 at 3:35 PM on October 21, 2008


You don't think scholars can argue seriously over fiction?

Sigh. I believe I already covered that. Yeah. They can argue. It's just fucking boring.


I'll let the book club know you won't be coming. A pity. They were really looking forward to what you had to say about Catch 22.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:59 PM on October 21, 2008


I'll let the book club know you won't be coming. A pity. They were really looking forward to what you had to say about Catch 22.

You argue over what the author meant at your book club?

No please. Let's keep confusing 5000 year old religious scripture with book clubs and the intent of flesh and blood artists. Because they are exactly the same. I mean we all know how many wars there fought over what Heller meant by naming a charachter Major Major. Fuck. I think Shakespear was reponsible for Crimean War. Book club discussions over Literary fiction. It's like the same thing as schisms over religious scripture!
posted by tkchrist at 4:28 PM on October 21, 2008


Either way, "fucking boring" is different from "obviously absurd".

Are you on goof balls or something?

I personally find two "scholars" arguing over the minutiae and intended meaning of Dwarf songs endlessly boring.

And it obviously absurd when people aregue over the meaning and interpretations of ancient scripture.

But you know. They are two separate things. One: Boring, in my opinion. The other absurdly fruitless and futile - and cursory observation of history could bear that out.

But that just might be my take on history since I'm not high on goofballs.

And then there is this conflation with two yahoos sniping over scripture on Metafilter and scholarship. Well. Hey. When the scholars show up let me know. Or are they all at AZ book club?

If y'all wanna conflate them for reasons of continuing your idiotic arguments have at it bros. Let me know how many elves can dance on the head of a pin.
posted by tkchrist at 4:39 PM on October 21, 2008


I just don't think there is a problem.

Well peace out to you, but that's pretty much a cookie-cutter example of how to, in a brief statement, show self-absorbed arrogance and insensitivity. As long as there are people going to sex-addiction meetings, I think we owe them the benefit of the doubt that there is a problem.

nymphomania does not appear to be a raging problem. In fact, it's probably welcomed.

All sorts of non-normative sexualities, from bi, to gay, to trans, to intersexed, asexual and hypersexual, should be respected options for identification under the big Queer umbrella. And while they don't need to be viewed as "raging problems," they also don't need to be co-opted by the culture's dominant voices for sensationalizing purposes or treated as though they don't exist.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:49 PM on October 21, 2008


Book club discussions over Literary fiction. It's like the same thing as schisms over religious scripture! ... They are two separate things.
So, wait, it wasn't you that kicked this off by equating discussing 5000-year-old texts with arguments over Star Trek trivia? Our bad. They're no longer analogous. Got it.

The other absurdly fruitless and futile - and cursory observation of history could bear that out.
Could ... but doesn't. If you don't think that any productive things in secular thinking have their roots in religious scholarship your definition of "cursory observation" doesn't stretch much past "wishing makes it so".

But that just might be my take on history since I'm not high on goofballs.
You're gonna want to check on that. Obviously.
posted by bonaldi at 4:55 PM on October 21, 2008


All sorts of non-normative sexualities, from bi, to gay, to trans, to intersexed, asexual and hypersexual, should be respected options for identification under the big Queer umbrella.

Amm.. yes. Yes they should.

Well peace out to you, but that's pretty much a cookie-cutter example of how to, in a brief statement, show self-absorbed arrogance and insensitivity. As long as there are people going to sex-addiction meetings, I think we owe them the benefit of the doubt that there is a problem.


Well, your sensitivity schlong is definitely bigger than mine. I just hope you're not going to defend every potential subset of deviancy against every possible threat, no matter how probable. There isn't enough internet for that.
Now if you excuse me, I'm gonna go out for a few beers. I promise I'll pour one for my oppressed nympho sistas.
posted by c13 at 6:20 PM on October 21, 2008


So, wait, it wasn't you that kicked this off by equating discussing 5000-year-old texts with arguments over Star Trek trivia? Our bad. They're no longer analogous. Got it.

Golly. I was attempting a little bit of humor. Forgive me. And truly that little joke absolutely equates contemporary fiction with scripture EXACTLY. Yes. That is precisely what I meant.

You just might want look up the difference between an illustrative analogy and an equivalence. It does get confused here often. I'm not claiming it was good analogy but I was attempting to reach the peeps here who tend to like The Trek.

To be clear for the cheap seats: I was attempting to illustrate the effect the discussion of something as entirely subjective as religious belief and scripture interpretation has on the discussion forum (and bystanders) by relating it to two nerds caught up in arguing minutia of trivial material. It was an illustration. Not an equivalence. But I suspect you actually know that. And my point is: It nearly ALWAYS ends badly and at the very least is boring. You don't have to agree but at least quit distorting the god damned point. It is beneath you.

If you don't think that any productive things in secular thinking have their roots in religious scholarship

What the fuck. Nice straw man. Did I say nothing in secular thinking has it's roots in religious scholarship? Please point to that? Please point to where I even infer that. you obviously have the time.

Here's some words you have yet to put in my mouth "Religion is all evil and every religious person should be killed." and "I hate kittens!"

First The King of The Atheists deputizes me as an ignorant prejudiced "Atheist" now you come along and tell me I skipped my humanities and religious studies classes and have said shit I never said.

And BTW. Where are the biblical scholars in this thread? Like I said when they show up I'll be riveted. Seriously. When a DICUSSION about religious scholarship emerges from this thread about dipshit Christian Nymphos I will be enthralled.

This discussion about Christian Nymphos and the roots they have, or don't have, in biblical scripture as argued by contentious nerds in Metafilter is about as far from any kind of scholarship as I can imagine. Or are you telling me Dr Steve Elvis is a biblical scholar? OMFG. He is sooo the MAN!

You really think that arguing the various interpretation of controversial biblical scripture by amateurs on the Metafilter is fruitful? Really. We have lots of examples of how AWESOME that turns out, don't we.

Metafilter can't even rationally debate what a charachter on the Simpsons meant when he dreamt he was a viking for fuck sake.

Again. Ancient religious scripture not the same as Contemporary Fiction. For most of us, anyway. Carry on.
posted by tkchrist at 6:37 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


What the fuck. Nice straw man. Did I say nothing in secular thinking has it's roots in religious scholarship? Please point to that? Please point to where I even infer that. you obviously have the time.

Sure. You said:
my first point was that arguing over scripture—which is mostly fiction— is ultimately absurd. And I think that stands as obvious.
I took you to mean absurd as in wholly pointless, valueless, ridiculous. And not only do I disagree that the point is obvious, I also disagree that arguing over scripture is absurd, as that would rule out the many good things that have come from it, or at least more sober considered versions of it.

Sure, I'm not saying this thread reaches the level of deep theological scholarship, but there's a spectrum on these things. Many MeFi threads don't reach the pinnacle of the profession they're about, but it doesn't make them without value, and it doesn't make posting in them absurd.

As for things that are beneath people, your whole argument in this thread is beneath you. It feels like you wandered in and got the urge to shout at everyone that any discussion of books written by skymen would be manifest nonsense. Then you got called on it and had to try and make it stand up.

Really, it's an indefensible point. You can argue that it's boring, sure. Or that nothing is likely to be solved here. But the interpretation of religious texts has had some very serious consequences for the lives of even the most secular people today, and a dismissal of arguments over and about them as "absurd" not only misses the point, it's foolish.
posted by bonaldi at 7:09 PM on October 21, 2008


But the interpretation of religious texts has had some very serious consequences for the lives of even the most secular people today, and a dismissal of arguments over and about them as "absurd" not only misses the point, it's foolish.

There you go again. Strawman after strawman.

I never said that the interpretation of religious texts has not had "very serious consequences for the lives of even the most secular people today."

IN FACT I "inferred" the exact opposite. In fact I did infer that conflicts over said interpretations led to wars. Jesus. Anything else you want completely pull out of your ass here?

What's absurd is arguing over the utterly subjective interpretations of ancient scripture by two stubborn lay people on Metafilter.

But sure I can expand that: Yes arguing over the subjective interpretations of scripture, in general, by lay people who are devout believers most often leads absolutely nowhere productive. you can sink you teeth into that as I'm actually SAYING it.

Example: You ever got in a scripture quoting argument over gay rights or evolution with a Fundie? How'd that go? I have. Or. How about closer to home. You want me to did up every frigg'n scripture quoting thread with Konolia on Metafilter? How'd that go?

Anyway. I'm done.
posted by tkchrist at 7:43 PM on October 21, 2008


You ever got in a scripture quoting argument over gay rights or evolution with a Fundie? How'd that go?
Yeah, I have. It was gruelling and at times unpleasant. It took eight hours. And you know what? At the end of it, the "Fundie" had softened position, and later changed it. She switched her church as a consequence, too.

You can qualify it with "in generals" or "most oftens", but no matter how you dress it up, arguing over things that matter will never be absurd. You don't want to be part of it, take it to MeTa. But don't shit in people's threads or snark at them for caring about things, even if they just seem like stubborn asses to you. That's MeFi.
posted by bonaldi at 8:02 PM on October 21, 2008


Yay, team! Way to show 'em how much more rational liberal Internet geeks are than Christians!
posted by msalt at 9:30 PM on October 21, 2008


Metafilter can't even rationally debate what a charachter on the Simpsons meant when he dreamt he was a viking for fuck sake.

IT'S A METAPHOR FOR HOW GOOD HE IS AT SLEEPING YOU INFIDEL!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:43 PM on October 21, 2008


Well, gee whiz. Is there a script or something that will let me block comments by specific users? Some people here are just self-satisfied jerks. And that's my nice way of putting it. Seriously, this is the thread that got to me. I now feel as if conversation on metafilter is futile, because at any moment some asshole can come in and beat the shit out of his/her drum and all discussion will be drowned out.

A lot of words and very little communication here. A lot of narcissistic entertainment.

I applaud the efforts of those who tried. I give up on those who didn't. You don't accept the basic premise of communication, so engaging you is pointless.
posted by flotson at 12:36 AM on October 22, 2008


flotson While I was not really a participant in this discussion I'm going to guess that I'd likely be on your ignore list. However, never let it be said that I wouldn't help when I can.

There is a Firefox plugin called GreaseMonkey which has all sorts of nifty tools to change how MetaFilter, and other sites, are displayed. An ignore user option is one of them. Basically it sits on your connection and edits the incoming HTML from MetaFilter according to your desires.

You are right that the discussion was futile. You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. I really do despair when I consider the impact religionists have on the future.
posted by sotonohito at 5:48 AM on October 22, 2008


Thanks for the tip.

The problem is not, IMO, that there is a conflict between faith and reason. It is entirely possible to have a civil, and by virtue of that (civil=respectful language, actual respect, sincere intentions, effort to empathize) constructive conversation.

I also am angry and frightened by the Religious Right in this country.

At the same time, I have been a student of religion, and recognize its value. Specifically, with regards to progressive social change, Christianity was instrumental in shaping the views of leaders of the Civil Rights movement and Liberation Theology has led to a lot of potent activism in Central and South American. To give a couple of examples. I could also cite many examples of the contributions of Jews, Quakers and Buddhists to progressive causes. I am also aware of the value of religion in the lives of friends and family members.

The Religious Right constitute a subset of Christians in the United States, who in turn constitute a subset of religious individuals in the country, in turn a subset of all the religious folk in the world. I say this not to diminish their harm but to point out that to view all religious practitioners as equivalent to this subgroup is neither true or reasonable.

But my main point is that mockery, contempt, and other forms of antagonism contribute nothing of value, here on Metafilter, or out in the world that we profess to care about. Some of the behavior I have seen in this thread is offensive and out of line. I'm sick to death of this--it's the same sort of venom I see on FOX. Those of use who are actually trying to have a discussion--who actually VALUE dialoge--should fight against this.
posted by flotson at 9:01 AM on October 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is there a script or something that will let me block comments by specific users?

The WELL had a tool like that back in the day, the Bozofilter. It was problematic though because usually someone would reply, so it looked like they were arguing with voices in their head and the ideas would get in anyway. It pretty much only worked for the worst offenders, when a large percentage of readers collectively bozofiltered.

Generally, just banning someone (or emailing to cool them off by administrators) works better. However, the problem here seemed to me to be more about 2 or 3 people getting into a very personal pissing match; I imagine each might be fairly reasonable in other threads, when their adrenaline isn't up.
posted by msalt at 11:14 AM on October 22, 2008


There is no difference between the Bible and Star Trek. None. You worship your "God," and I'll be over here worshiping James T. motherfucking Kirk, ok? I'll keep my Romulan ale out of your church, you keep your mass out of my green chicks.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:58 PM on October 22, 2008


msalt--

Yes, bozofiltering won't really solve the problem, though it might make me feel better, especially if I could trigger it with a big button.

I suppose the admins and MeTa are designed to handle this sort of thing. But I'd also love it if we could raise the community standard so that this kind of behavior would be less tolerated. From Fox News, too.

And yes, there were harsh words all around. But it appeared to me that at least one individual was actively trolling, and others were close. Some were pissed but, it appeared to me, sincerely trying to communicate--I cut them more slack.

ads--

I regretfully inform you that my mass is way up in your green chicks. All night long, baby! Because that's what God and Kirk want. At least we can agree on that.
posted by flotson at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2008


adamdschneider writes "There is no difference between the Bible and Star Trek. None."

Ya, after all both Jesus and Bill while homeless travelled the desertNE USA with disciplesa dog, both of whom gave them prespective, preachingacting to the masses.
posted by Mitheral at 3:17 PM on October 22, 2008


flotson -- agreed. I had great hopes for this thread going deep, and hated to see it turn into a cage match with cudgels.

The ideal solution I think is a social -- a combination of ignoring trolls, subtle but brutal put-downs of people who are posing and taking stances, and maybe the occasion "chill" comment or email. Easier said than done though.
posted by msalt at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2008


Amanojaku: @ not_on_display: You realize your link for "Sex and Sexuality in Islam" leads to islam-watch.org, right? You know: a site that purports to tell the "truth" about Islam and has a nice "WTC mid-explosion on 9/11" logo on the upper right hand corner? Not exactly a thoughtful companion site to the one in the OP.

YES YES, OH YES, YEAH YEAH! YES! Actually, no, I wasn't aware of that. (reading) OK, ex-muslims and moderate muslims, it claims, write for it. I couldn't tell if the logos were ironic or up-yrs-USA in nature. I am still confused. Anyway, thanks for the clue.
posted by not_on_display at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2008


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