Author Topic: Even though the claims may be nonsense, are the religious stories valuable?  (Read 932 times)


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 997
  • geology rocks
"I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling" - Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

I think there some things to separate out here. (hello btw. Yes, I still float by now and then)

I think we all agree that it is undeniable that story-telling (and I would expand that to all artistic practice) is about communication of ideas. Sometimes those ideas are facts, other times they are feelings, perceptions etc. etc. Whatever it is about, a good story can be a phenomenally effective method of communication.

Crucially though, it must be understood that stories are always told with intent - to entertain, to move, frighten, to inform, to unite or divide. Stories are never neutral.

So what is the intent of religious stories? Individually they are very varied on that score, and some are now irrelevent just as with others it is hard to imagine they will ever loose their relevance. However, they all contribute to a coherent purpose which I think is characterised by an intent to describe, in detail, a particular cultural identity. Religious stories explore the rules and restrictions that form the bounds of that identity, their origins, justifications and beneftis, and of the course the consequences of straying away from them. Perhaps some religious stories happen to also communicate something universal about basic humanity - we can hardly expect them not to... we are not actually that different from each other beyond our cultrually constructed differences. Such universality arguably occurs by accident in pursuit of the true goal of developing the identity of the group.

So, for me, its not the right question when we ask 'are religious stories valuable'. Its too open. Really, the quesiton should be 'what role to religious stories play today?'

Because the wonderful thing about stories is that they are living things that can be picked up and re-told with a new intent. Sometimes this can be a very sinister intent, but it can be a simple evolution or adaptation of an inherited story to maintain its relevence.

For example, we could relate the christian story as a way to explain our cultural heritage to a migrant from a non-christian country. Does that religious story have value? of course it does.

We could tell the story of genesis in order to communicate something about the peple who wrote it. Does that have value, of course it does.

What value do the stories about the norse gods have today? They can be bloody entertaining, in my opinion, and interesting as a means to understand a cultural practice almost entirely consigned to the past and that yet echoes into the modern world.

When it comes to the stories from living religions, if nothing else they are an imensiely valuable window into the identity of the people who practice that religion. Whether thay have any additional value outside of their own context, their own original intent... that is entirely up to people who care to listen to them, take them and re-tell them with fresh purpose.

Do religious stories have value? they do if we say so. And like all stories, great care should be taken over how we use them.

A lot of people don't believe that the loch ness monster exists. Now, I don't know anything about zooology, biology, geology, herpetology, evolutionary theory, evolutionary biology, marine biology, cryptozoology, palaeontology or archaeology... but I think... what if a dinosaur got into the lake?