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A Christian would probably say I'm an atheist, and an atheist would say I am religious. I read the new testament, and much of the old-testament. I also translated a few old-testament books from Hebrew to English.

I find Bible literalism repugnant. God doesn't ask you to lie about physics, biology, or history, nor about the textual history of the Biblical texts.

I like Christian theology because I think it is the most progressive of all the old-world religious systems. I am very impressed with the way that Christians can denounce bad past practices, while keeping the core message alive.


Feb
17
comment Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
@Narnian: I believe they are already manifest to you. I don't think for a second you believe that any of the miracles of the Bible happened as written. But you feel ethically obligated to claim that they did, because you believe in God, and you believe that God tells you to tell lies to other people, for their own good. So you believe that the end justifies the means. Perhaps this was so in the past, but no longer. There is no reason to spread God's word with lies, when the truth works just as well.
Feb
17
comment Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
@hammar: Your reasoning is correct, and it allows you to dismiss the entity "GOD-model-1" which is that magical entity which smites people with lightning. The problem is that the concept of God is subtle, it is a collective entity. Imagine two of my liver cells are talking A: "But where is the proof of the existence of Ron?" B: "I believe there is a Ron, I will be a good liver cell" A: "I don't believe in Ron, I will become cancer!" Then I go to the doctor and the doctor cuts out liver cell A. Then cell B says, as the tumor is cut B: "I told you there is a Ron!" But A only sees the scalpel.
Feb
17
comment Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
@hammar: God is different from Leprechauns and Unicorns and Fairies, it isn't a magical beast. There is a real actual thing that people are talking about when they talk about God, although the supernatural stuff they tack on makes it difficult to see this. A god, like Zeus, is a symbol of a collective mind, like what Jung noticed, something made out of individuals the same way a brain is made of Neurons. The monotheistic God is just a God of Gods, a convergent collective mind made of collective minds, which sits on top of the hierarchy. The whole thing is real, but not supernatural.
Feb
17
comment What evidence is there to support the position that the Bible is truly the Word of God to mankind?
@Affable Geek: Not exactly descriptive, because they tell you what you are allowed to do with slaves. You are allowed to beat them, forcibly marry them, and pawn them to the priesthood if you feel like it. These are arguably better laws than the more vicious codes they replaced, but they are still abhorrent. I think it is impossible to believe in God and believe in Biblical inerrancy at the same time, considering that God is revealed so much more now than at the time the Bible was written.
Feb
17
comment Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
@Narnian: It is trivial to demonstrate to your own personal satisfaction that God does exist, but it is also trivial to see that God is not a supernatural entity, and that the laws of nature are never violated. It is so obvious that the requirement of suspending your belief in the laws of nature makes religion a no-go for most people of any sense. This is a pity, because the basic idea of God can be captured in the mathematical notion of the Church-Kleene ordinal, and this object does not require you to believe that the Earth stopped turning because Joshua wanted it to.
Feb
17
revised Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
copyedit
Feb
17
answered Is “the ends justify the means” compatible with Christianity?
Feb
17
comment What evidence is there to support the position that the Bible is truly the Word of God to mankind?
-1: The bible claims the Earth is flat, and covered by a sky-dome (or firmament). It claims scientific nonsense, like the idea that copulating in front of a poplar talisman can make sheep come out spotted and striped, that the soul is located in the blood, and various obviously absurd etymologies for place-names like Beersheva. Further, it is often ethically abhorrent, in that it explicitly condones slavery and genocide. While I do believe it is partially the word of God, more so are the works of William Shakespeare and James Joyce. The argument from scientific inerrancy you present is absurd.
Feb
12
comment Was Onan really struck dead by God for masturbating?
@warren: You can check it against other translations. Aside from preserving style better, meaningwise it is mostly identical.
Feb
12
comment Who wrote the book of Genesis?
@Jon Ericson: This only advantage of this answer is that it is correct, as anyone who reads the relevant cited passages can verify. I do not like to cite here, and I won't do it, because you can read the bible yourself, and verify the different documentary sources for yourself. It is important to spread the word of the Documentary Hypothesis to the deluded ones who live in the state of sin associated with the single-authorship idea.
Jan
24
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
This is the only statement I can extract from religion that is not either unobservable metaphysics or obvious falsehoods. It is telling you that there is a right and wrong in ethics, determined from outside our limited minds, and that the long struggles of history manifest this right and wrong over time, imperfectly. In the monotheistic tradition, God's eventual overcoming of earthly foes is why the Roman traditions fell to Christianity. It is a strong positive prediction that seems to be correct when reviewing history. It obviously didn't end 2000 years ago, it is still going on.
Jan
24
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
@Chelonian: I just mean this--- ignore the metaphysics of religion. Forget about the unobservable stuff, like angels, or devils, or Heaven, or Hell, and forget about the reported miracles. What does religious thinking predict about the world that can be verified by observation? The one thing I can extract for sure from the Bible is that it predicts that in the struggles of history, there will be a winning side, and this side is the right side, in terms of ethics. This tells you that if the Nazis had won WWII, there would have been struggle for centuries, that would have toppled their rule.
Jan
23
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
@Chelonian: I agree that the list is not exclusive to montheistic religon, it reflects a convergence of ethical thinking. But within the old testament, this convergence is mandated by the idea that God's way wins out over all other ways, through twists and turns. This is the only point I see in the montheistic idea--- that social evolution is winner-takes-all, that not all ways are valid, and some will not survive, Within Christianity, the way that survives is not fixed by a rigid law, but is allowed to change with time, as the congregation is guided by the Holy Spirit.
Jan
20
comment What scholarship exists behind the WikiSource translation of the Bible?
@nickecarlo: In Exodus 1:19, the midwives tell pharoah that the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian woman "ci chayoth hen" (but they are animals), which is mistranslated everywhere to "because they are lively", reinterpreting "chayoth" in an excruciatingly strained meaning as "full of life", as opposed to "animals". This interpretation misses the boat, the midwives are telling an obvious lie to pharoah, that the Jews drop their babies like animals, not needing a midwife, playing into his Egyptian supremacy ideas. Genesis 15:1 is often misinterpreted as making Yahweh Abraham's reward.
Jan
20
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
@Kaz Dragon: It does not include not murdering infants, which seems to be a universal pre-monotheistic tradition in the middle east, or owning slaves, or condemning drug abuse, which is recent, or monogamy, or respecting private property, or progressive taxation, or the right to unionize, or universal education, or marriage by choice (as opposed to arrangement), or freedom of speech, or the right to elections, or a thousand other things that everyone agrees on now but were controversial in recent history.
Jan
18
answered Do Old Testament individual, family and social laws and guidance apply to Christians or did Jesus come to discard OT laws and guidance?
Jan
18
comment How can we trust the Bible after it has been translated to another language?
I would like to add that modern Hebrew is close enough to ancient Hebrew in syntax and vocabulary to make the Bible as easy to read (in the earlier parts) as easy Shakespeare plays, and the harder parts as harder Shakespeare plays. There is no chance of gross misunderstanding, because you read it fluently. It is not a guessing game of word by word translation.
Jan
17
comment What scholarship exists behind the WikiSource translation of the Bible?
@Affable Geek: It wasn't all consuming effort, I did a chapter a day in a few hours, it took a few weeks per book. The focus is as you say, on preserving the extraordinary literary achievement that the Bible represents, which had not been the focus of other translations. Of course I tried to take into account the ancient semantic nuances, but it really helps to be fluent. For examples, I will point to two of the surprisingly rare mistranslations in KJ, Genesis 15:1, and Exodus 1:19. Exodus's mistraslation is particularly egregious and particularly obvious to the native speaker.
Jan
17
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
In particular, the notion of a single lawgiver, or an almighty God, the single God of the monotheistic tradition, is essentially claiming that one God will beat out all the others over time. This is the major lesson of the Biblical stories, and of the Christianization of the Roman empire. If you look at the practices of the winning faith, the ethics is (slightly) better than what came before (in modern terms), so that the convergence of ethics seems to be the core positive prediction of the monotheist. I find that I can agree on this point, while the metaphysics, I don't care about that.
Jan
17
comment Christianity certainty and other religions certainty
@Marc Gravell: I am coming from a logical positivist perspective, the philosophy of the physical scientists. Many in these sciences reject monotheistic religion, because it is not formulated in logical positivist terms: it makes metaphysical claims about realms which are not directly subject to observation. But the metaphysics is largely supefluous. If you focus on the practical teaching, you can extract the positive core, and understand fully the perspective of the religious doctrines, and why it is important, despite the metaphysics being unobservable.