Whatcha reading?

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FrankChurch
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:51 am

Could I get you not to read the Meacham book? That dude is a major hack.

Hitchens wrote it to lob attacks against easy targets. He steers clear of the fact that most Christians do not read the bible literally.

He also had an intense hate of Islam that made him really irrational. If he was right hundreds of suicide attacks would be under way every day. Most Muslims are peaceful.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:48 am

FrankChurch wrote:Could I get you not to read the Meacham book? That dude is a major hack.


No. I disagree with your assessment. I've heard him speak and I've perused his Jefferson bio. I gather he says things in American Gospel that bother you. I can't wait to read it now,


Hitchens wrote it to lob attacks against easy targets. He steers clear of the fact that most Christians do not read the bible literally.

He also had an intense hate of Islam that made him really irrational. If he was right hundreds of suicide attacks would be under way every day. Most Muslims are peaceful.


They're easy targets because so many of them are so willing to provide examples.

I know most Muslims are peaceful. That's no excuse for the ones who aren't who still utilize the same ideological base to justify what they do. My problem is that the blanket acceptance of irrationality sets the stage for extremes of irrationality that seem then to take everyone by surprise. If more people said "Well, look, what you're basing this on its a crack-brained idea" we might see some headway against the various kinds of crap done in the name of religion. People bend over backward to defend the faith while condemning those who act upon their particular interpretation of it, but somehow fail to see that, really, the "peaceful ones" are using other standards to modify their religious beliefs and not the other way around. When taken as face value, religion is profoundly constricting, judgmental, and easily the most dictatorial of ideologies.

But before we go on, Frank, did you read God Is Not Great or are you basing your judgment on what you already believe is in it? Because the suicide bombings thus far are the least of his criticisms about Islam and he has good things to say about it. (This latter actually surprised me.) I'm a third of the way in and my sense is that his major thesis is that most people are just too fucking stupid to be trusted with this kind of belief system. They don't understand irony, they don't know how to deal with allegory, and they're too willing to trust authority figures. The net result being that for many religion is at best a source of confusion and at worst a guidebook for neurotic reactivity.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:49 am

Shit, I hate this thing sometimes. Would someone kindly delete the first post where I clearly screwed up the quote function?

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Moderator » Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:08 pm

Hope that was the right one, Mark.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:16 pm

Barber wrote:Hope that was the right one, Mark.



Yes, thank you.

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FrankChurch
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:39 pm

Mark, don't forget that Hitchens voted for Bush.

People aren't stupid, they are ignorant, much different. If you look at polls most Americans tend to get what is going on more than our elites.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:52 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Mark, don't forget that Hitchens voted for Bush.

People aren't stupid, they are ignorant, much different. If you look at polls most Americans tend to get what is going on more than our elites.


People aren't stupid in everything. I've noticed that people have certain areas in which stupidity is the reigning paradigm, and often religion is it.

My parents voted for Bush and I still talk to them.

Once again, you didn't answer my question. Did you read the whole book or are you just going by impressions?

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:27 pm

Did you read the whole book or are you just going by impressions?

Since Frank is apparently not going to answer your question, Mark, I will tell you that my impression from reading his posts is that Frank has never actually read anything that Hitchens ever wrote. (Or Harris or Dawkins for that matter.) My impression is based on the fact that Frank continuously misrepresents the opinions of these writers. (Of course Frank could be deliberately misrepresenting Hitchens like Chris Hedges does but I don't think so. Frank doesn't strike me as dishonest. He just hasn't read Hitchens but only what somebody else he trusts wrote about Hitchens.)


Hitchens wrote it to lob attacks against easy targets. He steers clear of the fact that most Christians do not read the bible literally.

This is demonstrably false. Most Christians don't read the Bible at all. Of the subset of Christians who do read the Bible the vast majority take it at face value. Only a micro set read the Bible with any sort of sophistication and they largely fool themselves because they have no real knowledge of the field of Biblical studies. For example how many of these folks can read koine or even know what it is? If they can't and they don't then they've never actually read the Bible, only someone else's version of it. What language did Jesus speak? (Not Hebrew. Not Greek.) So even if the sayings attributed to J are accurate (and they all can't be because they contradict each other), we are reading a translation of a translation of a translation. The idea that the average person without any training or access to commentaries can just take a Bible off the shelf and get anything useful from it is delusional*.

But I'm preaching, sorry. This is the reading thread sooo...

The best book I've ever read about the actual historical Jesus is Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Prof Bart Ehrman. The reason I champion Ehrman is that he is a textual scholar and Biblical historian actively involved in current scholarship. He's also a wonderful writer who can explain the scholarship to a non-specialist audience. Anyway if anybody is interested be certain to add this one to your list.


*There are good translations though that do make use of current scholarship and have notes explaining the parts that we really don't have a clue what it means. If someone really wants to have a go at it (and I encourage everyone to do so) get the NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION. Harper/Collins has an excellent study edition. This is the translation they give you in school if you study the Bible.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:21 am

Ezra,

The only bit I'd question is this: Of the subset of Christians who do read the Bible the vast majority take it at face value.

Not sure how you'd prove that. The ones who open their mouths about it are clearly of this stripe, but the rest never get any attention at all and many, I would bet, so modify their views after a thorough read that self-identifying as "christian" is probably more a social function than a religious conviction.

I've read the Bible (twice in different translations) and have dipped back in enough from time to time to possibly claim a third complete read-through. After the first one, I stopped believing in any organized religion. After the second, I stopped believing, period.

My grandmother, however, read her King James edition all the way through 13 times and none of it ever stuck. She didn't read it to find out what was there, she read it as mantra. We had one long conversation about it and I kept bringing up things in it that she utterly rejected. "It doesn't say that!" I'd show her the passage, there would be a pause filled with dismay and confusion, and then you could almost see her overwriting what she'd just read and forgetting it. I would suspect that those are a goodly chunk of the ones who read it all the way through. They aren't paying attention to the meaning in the words, they are exercising their convictions that this is The Good Book. We see a similar process at work with people who refuse to believe true but uncomfortable things about the Founding Fathers and what they actually wrote and said.

I'm 2/3 through Hitch's tome now and I detect a severe disappointment. I think, like many others, he sort of wanted something to be true in all this mess, but just can't find anything but carnival acts and power games.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:01 am

BTW, Ezra, my favorite translation to date is the New Jerusalem Bible. Not very poetic, but pretty straightforward and unvarnished.

I have a repeated (not so much in the last few years since I stopped goading him) encounter with my oldest friend, who is a rock solid True Christian (insert Trademark symbol) and has also taken the trouble to get a degree in divinity, who repeatedly has insisted that the Bible is inerrant. I take delight in showing him where the contradictions are, which he then conveniently forgets about till the next time. The one that I thought would melt his cerebral cortex to blood-soaked ooze that would stream from his eyesockets was the contradictory genealogies of Jesus, the first in Matthew, the other in Luke. They both start from David but then take completely different pathways until, if taken together at face value, one must conclude that Joseph had two fathers. He stared at these long and hard, saying nothing. A vein throbbed in his temple. Then I asked the bomb question.

"Doesn't make any difference to me," I said, "but I find it curious, if Jesus was the son of god, how come both these name Joseph as his dad? What, Yahweh didn't want to take credit?"

I've seen that particular shade of red a few times.

Rather than risk him suffering an embolism or me getting my ass kicked into next month (he's bigger and stronger than I am) ((or risk having to really hurt him in order to preserve life and limb, which I could but he doesn't know how)), we don't talk about it anymore.

I glean from this two salient facts: the much insisted upon literalness of the Bible does not really matter to such as he, even though he insists on it. What he's insisting on is that no one should notice, that it is somehow blasphemy to see the flaws; and two, that kind of faith isn't based on the text to begin with. It defies logic and reason and utterly hates to be challenged.

As Hitch points out in his book, there was a time when religious authority had the ability to kill people like me, and didn't have to worry about such things as reconciling fact and truth and dealing with bullshit. That time is past, at least here, and now they have to cope with the fact that they have no facts.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:46 pm

The only bit I'd question is this: Of the subset of Christians who do read the Bible the vast majority take it at face value.
Not sure how you'd prove that.


Well I haven't taken a personal survey of course but even taking into consideration the possibility of hyperbole (moi?) I think we can extrapolate from the results of several formal polls that fairly consistently show that around 46% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Now assuming all these folks read the Bible instead of just repeat what their ministers say, they are reading Genesis literally. As straightforward reportage. What are the chances that the other half of Americans are reading the Bible as metaphor or myth? Or even think about it at all? Just from my own experience I am of the opinion that this is the half that doesn't ever read the Bible at all. Of course I would be delighted to be proven wrong. Actually reading the Bible with sophistication is one of the strongest recruitment tools skeptics have. (Polls also show that generally atheists and skeptics know more about the Bible than most believers. Sounds wacky until you remember that most atheists and skeptics started out as believers. And then read the Bible!)

...the contradictory genealogies of Jesus, the first in Matthew, the other in Luke. They both start from David but then take completely different pathways until, if taken together at face value, one must conclude that Joseph had two fathers. He stared at these long and hard, saying nothing. A vein throbbed in his temple. Then I asked the bomb question.

"Doesn't make any difference to me," I said, "but I find it curious, if Jesus was the son of god, how come both these name Joseph as his dad? What, Yahweh didn't want to take credit?"


An interesting development amongst New Testament textual scholars (non-fundamentalist of course) in recent years is the growing consensus that the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke were not part of the original gospels but were added later as Jesus' status as a divine figure grew. (Jesus' earliest followers did NOT believe he was god. But please please please nobody better take my word for it!) If you look at the third chapter of Luke for example it looks suspiciously like the original beginning of the book. The style, word usage, vocabulary etc are different in the Nativity sections than in the rest of both books. Also the difference in the attitudes of Jesus' family towards him is different. If an angel appeared to Mary and told her the child was divine then why is she and the rest of J's family convinced he's crazy later in the book when he's an adult?

You'll probably never hear any of this from the pulpit. And this is a recurring argument I have with my minister friend. Doesn't he have a reponsibility to point these things out to his congregation? Isn't it a distortion or misleading to take these stories at face value in a sermon or homily? Hell yeah it's a can of worms! Whose fault is that?
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:53 am

Ezra,

That 46%...yeah. Based on an equally nonscientific and totally personal study, I seriously doubt most of them read much at all. Tracts, if anything. They may read in the Bible, but I doubt anywhere near that many people have ever read The Bible in sufficient depth to encounter the internal problems. (I once had a short, violent argument with someone who was boycotting The Last Temptation of Christ who, when I asked him if he had seen the movie, declared "Absolutely not!" "Then how do yo know what they say is in it is in it?" A moment of confusion went by, and he said "You don't have to see everything to know it exists!" To which I said, "No, but it's hard to know something doesn't exist if you don't see for yourself." "Like what?" "Well...god?" At which point, etc etc...)

I refer you back to my grandmother. She "read" the Bible, but never actually, you know, read it.

I also don't think most reasonable christians have read it, either. But they have a firmer grasp of, you know, reality?

But the debate is more on the order of one group saying "We don't like purple!" and blowing it all up into a debate over the purity of a personal aversion.

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FrankChurch
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby FrankChurch » Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:55 am

We are becoming more secular. I don't know if this is good or bad. All the talk about a post-Christian society is a bit much. And, yes, I have read Hitchens.

I did mention that atheists are more bible literate than many believers.

Lookie:

“We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.”

Conclusive evidence? I'm less selfish, less mean and less stupid. I know many others.

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:03 am

FrankChurch wrote:
Conclusive evidence? I'm less selfish, less mean and less stupid. I know many others.


Because of religion or were you headed that way anyway? My take on it would be, if you're basically decent, religion won't do you any harm and might even add a dollop of philosophical causation to being good. If you're already fucked up, the odds are even up that you'll just find a special way to channel it and find a good cover for hiding your crap from other eyes. If you're sitting on a fence and can't decide what's right or what's wrong, I think the substance of religion is a seriously poor resource to try to find answers.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Postby diane bartels » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:28 pm

I am reading Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. Cromwell was as nasty as I had always heard. Interesting books.


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