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Aenimal
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0 posted 01-18-2005 09:44 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

just what seperates mythology from religion?
Huan Yi
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1 posted 01-18-2005 09:55 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi


Quick definitions (Mythology)

noun:   myths collectively; the body of stories associated with a culture or institution or person

Quick definitions (Myth)

noun:   a traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people

Quick definitions (Religion)

noun:   a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny
Aenimal
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2 posted 01-18-2005 10:02 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

i know the definitions Huan,

that doesnt answer the question. the greeks had "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny". temples were built, priests/priestesses and acolytes devoted themselves to them, and yet we now look at it as greek mythology, not greek religion. where was/is the line drawn?
Alicat
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3 posted 01-18-2005 10:40 PM       View Profile for Alicat   Email Alicat   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alicat

I guess when the cultural dominance of the Greeks went into serious decline, when their own temples weren't safe from native builders.  Much like Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and the Roman Empire.
Krawdad
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4 posted 01-18-2005 11:08 PM       View Profile for Krawdad   Email Krawdad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Krawdad

"just what seperates mythology from religion?"

That's easy, Raph.
Disdain and sanctimony.
Aenimal
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5 posted 01-18-2005 11:19 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

oh i understand that ali, perhaps i should rephrase the question.

what seperates mythological tale from sacred word?

what makes the sumerian account of the flood, mythology, and the biblical version of the flood sacred fact?
Aenimal
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6 posted 01-18-2005 11:21 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

grins Ed..
Stephanos
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7 posted 01-19-2005 12:41 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Raph,


Though revelation plays a major role, I would have to say that a literal history (over against mere fanciful story telling) is an equally important part of the difference.


That's at least what I believe sets the Christian faith apart from the older paganism.  I think the Gospel narratives are not easily dismissed like the Greek stories of their "gods".  In fact it's a whole different style of writing.  Consider what C.S. Lewis wrote, concerning this difference, in an essay entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism":

quote:
... Whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics.  They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading.  It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives.  But that might be just trouble.  A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people's studies of them, whose literary experiences of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious things about them.  If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his plalate is trained in detecting them by the flavour;  not how many years he has spent on that Gospel.


and


...  I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life.  I know what they are like.  I know that not one of them is like this.  Of this text (referring to the gospel of John) there are only two possible views.  Either this is reportage- though it may no doubt contain errors- pretty close up to the facts;  nearly as close as Boswell.  Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.  If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind.



However, that amazing possibility of a "myth" being written during that time, in the guise of historical narrative, is still a possibility.  Therefore the questions surrounding the veracity of it's history are still to be asked.  It's just that the alternative theories (the reconstructions which would deny the Biblical historicity), don't hold as much weight as the text as they stand, taken at their word.  The reconstructions seem more "mythical" in the sense of creating more historical problems than they solve.


But I do admit, there is also a similarity to "myth" that the Christian faith has which is undeniable.  Lewis himself was drawn to J.R.R. Tolkien's explanation of Christianity as "The myth which also happened to be true".  Both greatly influenced by the beauty and ability of myth to resonate with "truths" in the human heart,  they were drawn to Christian faith not merely because of it's literal and prosaic truth, but because of it's poetic truth.  It seemed for them to ring equally strong in both spheres.  Only in the ancient paganisms, it was always one sphere or the other.


Pardon me for one more quote from "Jack" ... I really don't mean to quote Lewis to death (though I know I quote him more than anyone else), but I just happened to read these things just today about his views on myth, before even seeing your thread.  So I wanted to at least share the main idea of what I read, so well fitted for this thread (at least in my estimation) ...


quote:
Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be a myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens--at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from Balder and Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.


(from the essay "Myth Became Fact")



So some find it is the hardest to believe because it IS so similar to the "ever after" kind of stories they've always wanted to believe, but couldn't.  So similar, in fact, that the marked difference may be missed or skeptically denied.  Oh, but if it really could somehow be true, then there was, after all, some reason we all loved the fairy tales.  There was, after all, a spiritual and soulish reason that we all rejoiced when the hero, having saved the fair kingdom and left the dragon's carcass smouldering in the valley, was crowned with glory and honor.  


Stephen
Alicat
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8 posted 01-19-2005 09:48 AM       View Profile for Alicat   Email Alicat   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alicat

There is another book which touches on this issue, though it's fiction.  "Small Gods" by Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite fantasy authors.  Though it's part of the Discworld series, it can stand on its own (it doesn't have characters from prior books in the series).

Every culture has or has had deities.  Some, like Greek, Norse, myriad Native American, and Middle Eastern have gods, deities, and heros who are just like the people worshiping them, with the exception that they are a bit 'more'.   Stronger, faster, emotional, vengeful, passionate.  More more and more.  And in due time, they become larger than life, like Jason, Achilles, Hercules, Gilgamesh.  Then there were cultures where again the gods and dieties were more, but they looked different, as in the Egyptian and Hindu cultures, where animalistic qualities were applied, usually as heads on human/humanoid bodies.  Then there were Asian dieties, which (and I could be way off here), started off for the most part as normal people, who rose through the ranks by storytelling and became local and regional deities and gods.

When a religion is tied to a culture, and mimics that culture, and said culture is either amalgamated into another or utterly destroyed, that religion fades from the minds of men.  I recall reading as a child thick tomes on Norse, Grecian, and Celtic mythology, and later Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Southeast Asian mythology in World Lit in college.  Many of those religions had faded into mythology by the 1600, being resurrected briefly by the Enlightenment.  Even Christianity and Judahism have their mythic beings: Saints and Prophets.
Susan Caldwell
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9 posted 01-19-2005 10:30 AM       View Profile for Susan Caldwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Susan Caldwell

Raph,

Do you want me to assume, when answering this, that one/the other/or both is non-fiction?

"cast me gently into the morning, for the night has been unkind"
~Sarah McLachlan~

Aenimal
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10 posted 01-19-2005 12:30 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Stephanos, first let me say i'm glad to see you here as i always enjoy our conversations.

In speaking of literal history, I'll concede you have a point when it comes to Christianity, though, I'd argue you're view that "the alternative theories (the reconstructions which would deny the Biblical historicity), don't hold as much weight as the text as they stand, taken at their word."

But before delving into Christianity, does the argument for literal history apply to the Old Testament? Are these stories to be read as legends/parables or are they fact to the faithful?

If they are to be read as fact, what seperates the Sumerian myth of the Flood, or of creation, from their Biblical counterparts? Why is one myth and one sacred fact despite their similarities?
Aenimal
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11 posted 01-19-2005 12:36 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Yes Susan, you know my thoughts already. I view it all as fiction, but I'm am genuinely curious how or what seperates fiction from non-fiction in the eyes of believers.

As Stephanos mentioned, literal history at least applies, in part, to christianity. But even then the lines are blurred between historical Jesus and sacred Jesus.
serenity blaze
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12 posted 01-19-2005 01:54 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

a suspension of disbelief

Aenimal
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13 posted 01-19-2005 02:11 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

wrong smilie you
that's the one

grins.
LeeJ
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14 posted 01-19-2005 02:53 PM       View Profile for LeeJ   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for LeeJ

Perhaps true believers do not have to ask these questions, they just believe...

We as a society tend to be pesimistic...maybe you could ask the same question about love?

Its difficult to define...and yet, you know...and one thing for certain...someone/something had to create all this beauty?  

But then, I suppose, I'm naturally agnostic...whew, looking back, have my beliefs changed.  

I suppose it's all about believing in something, if we didn't what in the world would we have?  

Huan Yi
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15 posted 01-19-2005 07:44 PM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi



Pascal’s Wager
Aenimal
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16 posted 01-19-2005 08:53 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

LeeJ, i think you have to ask yourself these questions, whether you're a true believer or a non-believer. how do you truly know what you believe in without questioning or challenging it. It's why, while i don't necessarily agree with them, i do greatly respect believers like Stephanos.

Huan Pascal's Wager is a rather vague, it doesn't concern itself with any specifics. Believe in God just in case there is one, isn't exactly an argument for or against specific choices which is what i'm seeking here.
Essorant
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17 posted 01-19-2005 11:22 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Whereever you go back into "mythology" you find hints of the daughter "religion" whereever you go forward to "religion" you find hints of the mother "mythology".  That is because mother and daughter are always part of each other and part of a special bond.  The distances or difference between them in space and time, I therefore don't see as "separtion" but rather new ways thro which they always keep in touch.  
Ron
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18 posted 01-19-2005 11:29 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Somewhere around 1665 or 1666, a young man watched an apple fall from a tree and theorized that the force that governed the motion of the apple might be the same force that governed the motion of the moon. He calculated what it would take to hold the moon in its orbit as compared with the force pulling an object to the ground, and found some marked similarities. It was some twenty years later, in 1687, that Newton published the three-volume Principia Mathematica, establishing the hypothesis that would eventually be known as classical mechanics.

Classical mechanics reigned supreme for some two hundred years. Every application of Newton's Laws of Motion proved adequate to man's needs. Eventually, however, problems began to surface. There were anomalies, for example, in Mercury's orbit that could not be predicted or explained by Newton's classical mechanics. Then, in 1887, two guys named Michelson and Morley turned classical mechanics upside-down. Newton was clearly wrong. A few years later, a young patent clerk came along and set things right again, and the relative mechanics of Einstein superseded those of Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton's theories weren't wrong so much as they weren't quite right. Turns out Einstein wasn't entirely right either, and his Relativity is still fighting battles with quantum mechanics, the new kid on the block. Such is the path to truth.

Just as science tries to explain the physical world, religion tries to explain our spiritual one. When it works, enriching our lives and making them better, we embrace it. When it doesn't work, we look for something new. It's the same path to truth followed by Newton, Einstein, and Heisenberg.

Myths, I think, are theories that worked for a while. Like Newton, I suspect most of today's myths were founded on truth. It just wasn't the whole truth, and just as with Newton, people eventually began questioning why their beliefs were starting to fail them. When faith no longer provides an adequate answer to man's questions, it fades into myth.

Religion is an hypothesis that still works.

Aenimal
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19 posted 01-20-2005 12:06 AM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Ron that's what I'm after. For believers, what seperates the working hypothesis from the failed? Or why, do they chose one hypothesis over the other. I'm not out to disprove their beliefs, only to understand what drives them.

Thank you Essorant as well, an excellent response.
RSWells
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20 posted 01-20-2005 01:32 AM       View Profile for RSWells   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for RSWells

"just what seperates mythology from religion?"

The question is when may humans be seperated from all this nonsense?

I'll concede a higher power. Something started all that is. I feel we are too puny to dare imagine this supreme being let alone name it with a primative grunt of a word. It surely takes no human form (the guile to suggest it so, the audacity to tint it to our liking!) and we have no reason to believe it is concerned with us in any specific way as is taught.

One definition of myth is "a fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology." One synonym is "delusion."

All religions are therein described and these all consuming faiths of today will be the myths of future peoples (providing these death embracing religions allow a future).

Jung's "collective subconscious" which suggests a shared psyche running like a thread through all living things becomes easier to embrace in the light of recent archeological and DNA discoveries; The "hobbit people," recent North American discoveries of human bones at least 50,000 years old, new results of DNA testing on chickens that show they share 60% of human DNA, another "missing link" unearthed etc.

I believe that when it's all said and done it will be proven that we all started from the same slimy beginnings and that the earth that we abuse and neglect has more right to claim maternity than any paternal fantasy invented by controlling men.

We rose and evolved. We stood upright and somewhere a simple reasoning developed, a conscious awareness. It is here where our bipedal predecessor started to stumble, mostly out of fear. When our brains grew and we had to face the stiff, cold loved one we looked to the intangible, the sky, and both pleaded and demanded answers.

The journey from ourselves started here and climate, geography, food sources and other environmental factors changed our appearences. These eons spent apart created the races and added to our suicidal adherence to tribalism.

The earliest beliefs were those of a female god. Since it is from where we hail and lacking any answer as to where we go this makes sense. Why wouldn't early man worship the source?

A handful of men invented religion in order to soothe the unsophisticated concerns of the hoi polloi, to dismount the female and to control power (control will always be the key word when discussing religion or for that matter, men).

The tales that, first the jew then the catholic and muslim spun, had to include that essential ingredient of a mystic secret that only a select few "holy men" were capable or worthy of grasping. In order to make this sale the long held and tangible beliefs of the "pagan," the "nonbeliever" had to be included.

It is here that religious holy days (holidays) were wrapped around seasons and solstices, in order to wean the "primitive" from worshiping common sense things like the sun, moon, rain and all that he knew with certainty was needed to live and that should be honored. More "sophisticated" civilizations would include wine and emotions such as love and vengeance as gods.

The truths claimed by the jew was upset by the christian and then by the muslim but all the while the power remain in the hands of males. To read the phantasmic stories in talmud, bible or koran and live in 2005 should prompt a pitying, shaking head instead of unsupportable, feverish faith.

I laugh now at my own forefathers and their belief that they were superior to those natives that they claimed to both conquer and reform. What have we replaced the respect for the land and all its life with?

To think that even now hapless urban dwellers would look down on the rural tucked in a quiet valley, raising and canning his/her own food as beneath them. How do they plan to feed themselves in the days when there is no electricity or WalMarts? After the self fulfilling "end times" or the outraged planet shakes us off as fleas?

We've electroniked ourselves into sterile environments by plundering an earth to make water filters for a cleaner water, air filters for a cleaner air while fouling its source in the very production of such vanity. We pollute, level and strip an earth as though some distant, feral nuisance and create the very climatic hazards that occasionally send us to our knees (where these new gods seem to prefer us) and will ultimately send us to our graves within her.

The reason this persists is the tribalism that keeps us apart from each other and the truth of our shared beginnings. Skin pigmentation is a glaring example of immediate differences but eventually the truth of evolution would erase that.....would were it not for religions.

Far more wars have been fought, more human beings tortured and murdered in the name of the major religions and their godlier god than otherwise. It continues to this minute. And what god would endorse such?

How can one not be tired of the hypocrisy in those espousing the peaceful words of man made texts while fomenting death to all who disagree with their version? These impious adherents who would bludgeon us with both "fearful" and "loving" gods while quoting passages as ambiguous as a psychic-fraud's probing questions seek to profit in confusion.

The greatest threat man faces has always been man. Soon an overcrowded earth promises to tire of us. To rectify this would take time and a patience we don't possess. The answer in the meantime will be provided by religions who will war as a way to keep a few in power by overwhelming the meek with a moral authority they never had.

Most worrisome is this "end times" nonsense. It's a major industry and the single most dangerous fairy tale in the man made beliefs of all the major religions. Death is longed for in order to be saved (please say that aloud) and if pressed into an ignorant palm long enough is relegated to the category of unquestioned blind faith. The trouble here is that it will be self-fulfilling and doesn't exclude we sane.

The same madness and greed for control that eliminated those who would question power and Inquisitioned heretics, drowned witches, dismissed Darwin still exists. You are expected to believe that man started with Adam 5,000 or so years ago (and Eve his rib) in light of the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary and that if you hold your mouth a certain way you may be delivered after death to a heaven no one has ever seen.

There is no heaven or hell. This is it folks. We feed the earth, our mother, like so much fertilizer as all is sucked down into its furnace and rise again in its lava unless a tree decides to seed in our ribs. No proof whatsoever exists that any of these modern myths are true and we are well past the time to move on and accept our fragile time as one where we here and now make our own heaven or hell.

I didn't always feel this way. It was a liberating epiphany of sorts after this last farce of an election that allowed me to see too clearly the true evil in the world. Those I'd too automatically granted a vague moral high ground revealed themselves as liars and murderers and dare to hold the symbols of their outdated beliefs high as proof of the right to control us and defy any who didn't share their archaic myths.

If the beliefs are quiet and nearly as peaceful as is claimed it wouldn't have mattered to me if one worshipped a souvenir catcher's mitt/key chain from Cooperstown. But I'm roused by the hateful clatter and sickened at the prospects of rampant hypocrisy cloaked in the soft robes of the bless'd. No wonder that great man Jesus hung out with prostitutes, beggars and the disenfranchised. There is closer to truth.

"just what seperates mythology from religion?"

A calendar and sanity.        

Poets against the war is redundant

Ron
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21 posted 01-20-2005 04:42 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
For believers, what seperates the working hypothesis from the failed? Or why, do they chose one hypothesis over the other. I'm not out to disprove their beliefs, only to understand what drives them.

In my opinion, Raph, religion isn't just about life after death, because that would make it an untestable hypothesis. Religion has to be about life BEFORE death if it's to have any value. And on that basis, I think, religion is testable.

Does it work?

If your belief system makes you angry, bitter, hateful, and generally all-around miserable much of the time, as appears to be the case with many systems, then I'm going to hazard a guess that something is inherently wrong. It might be the way you're practicing that belief system, either due to lack of understanding (again, as appears to be the case with many) or lack of commitment, and certainly those possibilities should be examined. But if you can honestly say you are following the precepts of your faith, and are miserable because of it, in my opinion it's time to reject that hypothesis and look for another.

At this point, of course, I can only speak for myself. I have found that if I try to live my life as I believe Jesus would have lived it, things tend to go pretty well for me. I'm not only more successful outwardly, but I'm invariably (though certainly not continuously) more content inwardly as well. I can still blow it with the best of them, reacting out of anger or malice, but those instances only seem to contrast what I've learned, 'cause those times always lead to far less satisfactory results. When I follow the recipe, it works.

Does that mean I'm going to heaven?

In the Bible, one of the criteria for being a prophet is 100 percent accuracy. Even one teeny-tiny mistake blows the deal, because those who speak for God can't ever be wrong. Seems to me, that's a pretty good test. I can't know that I'm going to heaven, I can't know if anything the New Testament says about death is valid, but I can and have tested much of what the Book says about living. If even one thing it tells me about living is wrong, everything is called into doubt, including what it tells me about death and what is to follow death. Even one mistake makes it just a good philosophy, but not a religion and way of life. There's room for nothing but perfection.

So far, after nearly 55 years, all the mistakes have been mine.  
Huan Yi
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22 posted 01-20-2005 07:38 AM       View Profile for Huan Yi   Email Huan Yi   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Huan Yi

Aenimal,

“I'm not out to disprove their beliefs, only to understand what drives them.”

"If after the manner of men I have fought
with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?
let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.”

Corinthians 15:32

Ron,

“In the Bible, one of the criteria for being a prophet is 100 percent accuracy. Even one teeny-tiny mistake blows the deal, because those who speak for God can't ever be wrong.”

Bible or Qur'an?
I don’t think the Bible is considered wholly the word of God,
(directly or indirectly), whereas the Qur'an is.
Aenimal
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23 posted 01-20-2005 03:58 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

quote:
I believe that when it's all said and done it will be proven that we all started from the same slimy beginnings and that the earth that we abuse and neglect has more right to claim maternity than any paternal fantasy invented by controlling men.


RSWells, l@ved, absolutely l#ved that response.


quote:
In my opinion, Raph, religion isn't just about life after death, because that would make it an untestable hypothesis. Religion has to be about life BEFORE death if it's to have any value. And on that basis, I think, religion is testable


Ron, i think effectiveness of spirituality is testable but not necessarily the dogma(is that a negative word?). argh. I'm having trouble wording this correctly. With regards to the 'words' themselves, do they stand up as fact or are they simply parables? Divinely dictated history, or mythology?

quote:
At this point, of course, I can only speak for myself. I have found that if I try to live my life as I believe Jesus would have lived it,


Ron when you say you live as you believe Jesus would have lived it, do you mean as the Bible depicts Jesus, or do you have your own ideal or opinion of what Jesus was?
I'm still curious regarding opinions of the Old Testament. ?
Stephanos
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24 posted 01-20-2005 04:13 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
Stephanos, first let me say i'm glad to see you here as i always enjoy our conversations.



Thanks.    

quote:
In speaking of literal history, I'll concede you have a point when it comes to Christianity, though, I'd argue you're view that "the alternative theories (the reconstructions which would deny the Biblical historicity), don't hold as much weight as the text as they stand, taken at their word."



That would be a great thread, if you ever wanted to start one.  They were either lying, or suffered for delusional hallucinations about the ressurrection of Jesus.  It's my opinion that those theories have been pretty much dismantled, but I would like to hear your views on them ... and allow me to ask questions.  

Oh yeah, there's the "texts were probably changed from the originals which related the much less miraculous historical Jesus" argument as well.  We could talk about that one too.


quote:
But before delving into Christianity, does the argument for literal history apply to the Old Testament? Are these stories to be read as legends/parables or are they fact to the faithful?



To a large degree it does ... and yet it doesn't in some places.  Admittedly a text describing events that happened before mankind was even created (even before the Earth was created) is more like divinely revealed truth, in allegorical/ mythical form.  It's certainly not "History".  However, that doesn't mean that it's unhistorical, so to speak. Others may indeed be historically based, with much literary embellishment that happens with legend.  Job is probably a good example of this.  That doesn't mean he didn't exist as a historical person.  It just means that whoever wrote it, wrote it as a homiletic story with theological lessons attached ... something fit for passing down by written or oral tradition, to teach the faithful in an entertaining and therefore memorable way.


I think literary determination of whether a text was meant to be legendary or factual is a legitimate quest.  


The difference between that and the "quest for the historical Jesus" embodied in the "Jesus seminar", is that the main of scholars looking at the gospels, were using a shaky criteria for determining whether or not certain portions were authentic.  They were all influenced heavily by enlightenment philosophy, where miracles were declared to be impossible, a priori.  So when they were cruising along in their examination of the gospels, and encountered a description of a miracle, they automatically concluded that it couldn't be a true historical statement.  Why?  Becuase miracles can't happen, of course.  The question is begged, but they didn't tell the public their criteria.  Philosophy determined the slant of historical/ textual criticism.


If you want to read a historian who didn't limit the inquiry by the enlightenment assumption of "prima facie no miracles allowed", I'd suggest N.T. Wright or Gary Habermas.


Stephen.    
 
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