Author Topic: Even though the claims may be nonsense, are the religious stories valuable?  (Read 355 times)

bluehillside Retd.

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Moving on from the question of whether we’re done here in terms of anyone making a logically coherent argument for his religious beliefs of objective fact (god, soul, a resurrection etc) being objectively true, even if though it seems that we are done with that nonetheless is it the case that the stories themselves still have value? 

The question is prompted by watching a couple of interesting YouTube videos recently of Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris debating in Vancouver last year. The links are below, but be aware if you want to look at them they’re each 2rs plus.

Unsurprisingly in that amount of time there are lots of ideas and ideas spawned from those ideas but one them is that the difference between actual fact and metaphorical fact – that even if you conclude that the factual claims of religious texts have nothing to validate them nonetheless the overall stories themselves have value as metaphorical truths. That is, the stories may be fictions but they’re still useful fictions. To put it another way, while the scientific method may reign supreme in the world of facts it can’t tell us about values, so is it possible that religious stories can?

It’s a complex question that spawns all sorts of arguments but it seems to me to be a much more interesting one than the (frankly dull) broken reasoning of those here who would argue for their faith beliefs as factually true.

Any takers?   

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jey_CzIOfYE

2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEf6X-FueMo
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 02:37:54 PM by bluehillside Retd. »
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jeremyp

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even if you conclude that the factual claims of religious texts have nothing to validate them nonetheless the overall stories themselves have value as metaphorical truths. That is, the stories may be fictions but they’re still useful fictions.

Religious stories are a subset of the set of all stories. I don't think that anybody would claim that stories can't convey useful metaphorical truths even when fictional. I see no reason why the intersection between religious stories and metaphorically true stories should be the empty set.

Shakespeare's plays are almost entirely fictional, even the histories and yet people bang on all the time about their unparalleled analysis of the human condition. I don't see why religious stories can't be similar.

The only problem is that nobody claims that Shakespeare's plays convey metaphorical truths because they were written by Shakespeare. The text stands or falls on its own merits. Religionists, on the other hand, claim their stories convey metaphorical truth because they were allegedly written - or inspired by - their own gods.

Edit: fixed a typo that reversed the sense of the second sentence.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2019, 02:57:52 PM by jeremyp »
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bluehillside Retd.

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jeremyp,

Quote
Religious stories are a subset of the set of all stories. I don't think that anybody would claim that stories can convey useful metaphorical truths even when fictional. I see no reason why the intersection between religious stories and metaphorically true stories should be the empty set.

Shakespeare's plays are almost entirely fictional, even the histories and yet people bang on all the time about their unparalleled analysis of the human condition. I don't see why religious stories can't be similar.

The only problem is that nobody claims that Shakespeare's plays convey metaphorical truths because they were written by Shakespeare. The text stands or falls on its own merits. Religionists, on the other hand, claim their stories convey metaphorical truth because they were allegedly written - or inspired by - their own gods.

Yes quite, that's one of Sam Harris's points - even if the story contains a profound truth about the human condition, attaching "faith" to it and the associated baggage of "a god wrote it, therefore it's inerrantly and unchangeably true and I will behave accordingly" is problematic. Peterson however argues that we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water if we just dismiss them because they're religious.

You'd like the videos I think by the way.     
"To understand via the heart is not to understand."

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SusanDoris

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jeremyp,

Yes quite, that's one of Sam Harris's points - even if the story contains a profound truth about the human condition, attaching "faith" to it and the associated baggage of "a god wrote it, therefore it's inerrantly and unchangeably true and I will behave accordingly" is problematic. Peterson however argues that we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water if we just dismiss them because they're religious.

You'd like the videos I think by the way.   
The ability to tell any kind of story is evidently an essential survival trait and has a powerful effect on all lives. I have mentioned occasionally the book 'Nation' by Sir Terry Pratchett, where the heroine of the story finally gives up trying to make the storyteller stick to the facts and concedes that the only way the people will remember the story and its lessons of truths are via the elaborated story woven by the storyteller!  So, yes, there would be a definite danger of throwing the baby out  with the bath water. After hundreds of thousansd of years, though, it is certainly about time that more people realised the fiction of gods etc spoken of in the stories and gave all the credit where it is due, i.e. to the human brain and its imagination. I wonder, however,  how many could cope with the knowledge of the reality of death and the responsibilities inherent in that acceptance?

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Dicky Underpants

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. Religionists, on the other hand, claim their stories convey metaphorical truth because they were allegedly written - or inspired by - their own gods.


That is indeed the bugbear, but I think that blue - referring to the doctrine of 'inerrancy' -  makes things seem blacker than is the case. 'Inerrancy' tends to be hobby-horse of the extreme fundamentalists (and maybe the Islamic fundamentalists are even worse than the Christian kind in this regard). Liberal protestants tend, naturally enough, to be more flexible, though no doubt many of them think that the 'spirit of God' was working through the writers - and no doubt is supposed to work through the sincere believers when they try to interpret the texts. The Catholic Church may not insist on the inerrancy of scripture, but no doubt will assert the inerrancy of the Church Fathers, the Magisterium, and of course the Pope in interpreting what is written (I'm willing to stand corrected on this).
The only honest approach, as far as I can see, is that these are all "words about God" - the attempts by sincere believers to set down what they thought the Deity required them to write (and the impressions differ enormously). Then again, when you come to the Old Testament, there are those texts which don't have much to say about the deity at all - such as Esther (zilch), Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon etc. Some of these are still a source of valuable insights, or are simply beautiful writing.
Even those books where the writer's sense of the deity is all too present from the first - such as the Book of Job - give valuable insights into how the  people of those times were grappling with the problem of evil and pain, and trying to come up with a solution.
At the very least, the OT is a collection of good (and often gruesome) stories. Sometimes you even come across a particularly vivid understanding of the nature of the male sexual impulse, particularly that of young and stupid males - such as the story of the rape of Tamar*....

in 2 Samuel 13
« Last Edit: January 29, 2019, 05:48:41 PM by Dicky Underpants »

bluehillside Retd.

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Hi Dicky,

Quote
That is indeed the bugbear, but I think that blue - referring to the doctrine of 'inerrancy' -  makes things seem blacker than is the case. 'Inerrancy' tends to be hobby-horse of the extreme fundamentalists (and maybe the Islamic fundamentalists are even worse than the Christian kind in this regard). Liberal protestants tend, naturally enough, to be more flexible, though no doubt many of them think that the 'spirit of God' was working through the writers - and no doubt is supposed to work through the sincere believers when they try to interpret the texts. The Catholic Church may not insist on the inerrancy of scripture, but no doubt will assert the inerrancy of the Church Fathers, the Magisterium, and of course the Pope in interpreting what is written (I'm willing to stand corrected on this).
The only honest approach, as far as I can see, is that these are all "words about God" - the attempts by sincere believers to set down what they thought the Deity required them to write (and the impressions differ enormously). Then again, when you come to the Old Testament, there are those texts which don't have much to say about the deity at all - such as Esther (zilch), Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon etc. Some of these are still a source of valuable insights, or are simply beautiful writing.
Even those books where the writer's sense of the deity is all too present from the first - such as the Book of Job - give valuable insights into how the  people of those times were grappling with the problem of evil and pain, and trying to come up with a solution.
At the very least, the OT is a collection of good (and often gruesome) stories. Sometimes you even come across a particularly vivid understanding of the nature of the male sexual impulse, particularly that of young and stupid males - such as the story of the rape of Tamar*....

in 2 Samuel 13

Nice post, as thoughtful as ever. Perhaps I do make thigs seems blacker than they are, but my issue is with certainty as a phenomenon rather than with the certainty claimed for some of the stories. The great strength it seems to me of reason-based thinking is that nothing is certain – no matter how likely, there’s always room for being wrong. This it seems to me leads necessarily to circumspection – people who don’t accept certainty even in a generalised sense will be less likely to act irrevocably than those who think they cannot be wrong.

That incidentally is one of the curiosities of religious inerrancy: ”We’re sure our interpretation of the text is inerrant, but if we reinterpret it to mean something else then we’ll be inerrant about that instead”. One obvious example is limbo – think of the 800 years of torment countless parents went through because their babies died without being baptised only for Benedict XVI to decide that unbaptised souls could got to Heaven after all. How many priests I wonder during those 800 years told the grieving parents, “of course we could be wrong about this limbo stuff”? 
« Last Edit: January 30, 2019, 12:28:13 PM by bluehillside Retd. »
"To understand via the heart is not to understand."

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Dicky Underpants

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Hi Dicky,

Nice post, as thoughtful as ever. Perhaps I do make thigs seems blacker than they are, but my issue is with certainty as a phenomenon rather than with the certainty claimed for some of the stories. The great strength it seems to me of reason-based thinking is that nothing is certain – no matter how likely, there’s always room for being wrong. This it seems to me leads necessarily to circumspection – people who don’t accept certainty even in a generalised sense will be less likely to act irrevocably than those who think they cannot be wrong.

That incidentally is one of the curiosities of religious inerrancy: ”We’re sure our interpretation of the text is inerrant, but if we reinterpret it to mean something else then we’ll be inerrant about that instead”. One obvious example is limbo – think of the 800 years of torment countless parents went through because their babies died without being baptised only for Benedict XVI to decide that unbaptised souls could got to Heaven after all. How many priests I wonder during those 800 years told the grieving parents, “of course we could be wrong about this limbo stuff”?

Hi blue

Of course the danger of circumspection is that people who don't accept certainty may be paralysed into taking no action whatever - "The good lack all conviction, whilst the worst are full of passionate intensity".

The question of the inerrancy of Catholic doctrine is in a class of its own. The head-banging reinterpretations of fundamentalism have nothing on it. The capacity for Jesuitical double-think and obfuscation is at first mildly amusing, and ultimately horrifying. It probably tends to boil down to "Oh, we never considered it to be infallible teaching in the first place" - blithely ignoring the fact that for centuries the matter was taught as if it were infallible.
Similarly the teaching on contraception - which is taught as if it were 'infallible' - and taken to be so - but in the years ahead it may turn out to be just a bit fallible after all.

Sassy

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Moving on from the question of whether we’re done here in terms of anyone making a logically coherent argument for his religious beliefs of objective fact (god, soul, a resurrection etc) being objectively true, even if though it seems that we are done with that nonetheless is it the case that the stories themselves still have value? 


  Why do you prolong the agony of asking such questions for which you will never find a satisfactory answer to appease yourself?

We know we have to work together to abolish war and terrorism to create a compassionate  world in which Justice and peace prevail. Love ;D   Einstein
 "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."