Archived blog post

The word of God . . . perhaps

Posted by Tim on Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Permalink

I don't normally post here, preferring to concentrate on other areas of the site (well, that's the idea anyway) but I'd like some opinions on something.

Fundamentalists are strange creatures, not realising that the term "sacred text" is self-contradictory and that all writings are open to interpretation. Watching their attempts to explain away the problems in their holy books can be both amusing and frustrating. But are the fundamentalists the genuine believers and the less scary, more liberal believers frauds?

Is the term "Moderate Muslim" an oxymoron?

What about Christianity - in the last UK census over 70% of people claimed to be Christians, yet only a small proportion of those people actually take part in any form of active worship (such as attending regular church services). My guess is that most of the 70% have a vague belief in a creator and involve themselves in certain Christian ceremonies out of a sense of tradition - and ticking the box marked "Christian" was the nearest thing to that (they may also have wished to disassociate themselves from the other religions on offer). Should these people really be classed as Christians?

How far away from fundamentalism can a believer stray from a particular religion and still be considered a part of that religion?

Comments [ hide comments ]
This is in some ways a ridiculous post.

If you look at any area of belief you will find a range and some apparent contradictions.

If one looks at people who vote Labour - does it mean they support every para of the Labour Party manifesto and every clause of the Labour Party constitution? Of course not. And then there are debates to be had about people like Tony Blair. Is he really a Labour Party person or is he actually a conservative who has infiltrated the Labour movement as many Labour activists believe.

If you are looking for absolute answers you aren't going to get any because religions are about humans not God.

Personally I would say that the only sensible way to look at a religion is to analyse (a) its core beliefs an texts and (b) its cultural history.

If we took say Scientology, we will see that there are core beliefs set out in books like Dianetics but also a much more complex cultural history which has seen it move from a sort of "secret state" enterprise into a "multi national corporation" mode of operation.

For Islam the core beliefs and texts are much more defined and established than for Xtianity. This is because Islam in its origins was essentially a one person enterprise, whereas Xtianity has much more complex origins.

I think one can say that someone who claims to be a Christian but actually contradicts the core beliefs significantly or
moves well outside the cultural tradition can be said to be not a Christian whatever the claims. So I think that Christian Nazis who argue that race is important in relatino to God have clearly moved outside the core and the culture. Same with ultra- liberal Muslims who claim that they don't wish to see Sharia law imposed. They have moved beyond the core and the culture. They may be creating a new tradition, but it is distinct from the old, jsut as perhaps Tony Blair may eventually be shown to have created a new sort of cultural tradition.
field, 26.05.2006, 1:25am #
Field, I was only after some opinions for something I'm studying, not trying to make a particular point.
Tim, 26.05.2006, 11:03am #
Although a point I could make is that if people didn't classify themselves in such ways the religious leaders would not be deluded into thinking that they are speaking for a suporting majority.
Tim, 26.05.2006, 11:16am #
Here's how I look at it: If a person believes that the bible is the literal and true word of God, then he must believe every word of it, and live his life accordingly. In this way, fundamentalist christians, though I find them abhorrent, may very well be the truest of theory. In practice, however, few if any seem to follow all of the bible's precepts word for word. I'm not aware of fundamentalists who sacrifice animals in the prescribed ways, or refrain from associating with women during their periods as the bible instructs, to name just two of many examples.

As for "liberal" christians who claim to believe that the bible is the "inspired" rather than the literal word of god, I find that position untenable. Saying something is inspired opens everything up to multiple interpretations way too much. It's an invitation for believers to pick and choose the parts of the bible that match up with their kinder, gentler image of god. It's kind of dishonest in a way. While both fundamentalists and liberal/moderates are guilty of playing down or ignoring much of what the bible commands, it is my opinion that the *concept* of fundamentalism is truer to the spirit of true belief.
shade51, 26.05.2006, 11:24pm #
Pentecostalism is almost as old as Catholics and one of the first denominations of Christianity long before Luther. Most consider Pentecostals as fundamentalists.

I can't answer who a true Christian is because I'm not a Christian at all. If you go by true basics of Jesus' ministry then I haven't seen many people who are willing to give up everything and follow him. Perhaps Amish and Mennonites are the real true Christians.

The holy book of Christians are from multiple authors so finding contradictions is easy, when a holy book comes from a single author without outside reference then it is more difficult to find a contradiction. What makes the Bible so laughable is that it is a multi-volume/multi-authored book with a single "inspirational" source which makes it full of errors from book to book. The teachings of one man are easier to follow than the teachings of many.
JGJ, 27.05.2006, 3:27pm #
There is no such thing as ONE fundamental Christianity since even those who take the original texts seriously are all in disagreement with each other.

You can only talk of a fundamentalist approach to religion in showing more respect for original texts and uncompromising living out of the faith, rather than simply being part of a successive tradition.
field, 27.05.2006, 8:43pm #
Who said anything about One fundamental Christianity?
JGJ, 28.05.2006, 5:27pm #

Shade didn't say there was only one, but he implied it somewhat by saying that fundamental christians should be thought of as the "truest" christians, possibly implying that there is a single standard of truth and so a single fundamentalism.

If I have misconstrued his point, then apologies are due.

My point was that
fundamentalism is more about style than substance. Some fundamentalists in the past have in actual fact had a much more liberal interpretation of christianity than the mainstream e.g. Quakers, Swedenborgians, vairous protestant sects.

That's not so true now perhaps.

I was careful not to say fundamentalists are literalists. Many are in many respects but equally nearly all of them rely to some degree on metaphorical interpretations.
field, 29.05.2006, 9:16pm #
I thought the whole point of fundamentalism was the literal translation of the Bible from Creation to Armageddon. If fundamentalists are not literalists then they are just pseudo-liberal Christians. Pentacostalism is more about style than substance, just walk in the door on a Wednesday night and you'll see more style there than in a 70's disco.
JGJ, 01.06.2006, 1:49am #

You have to distrinugish between people's claims and their actual behaviour.

Few fundamentalists are literalists as far as I can see although the claim of literalism and some literalist interpretation does very often come into their approach.
field, 03.06.2006, 1:43pm #
I'm guessing you are you just going by what you have observed from the internet or do you know enough fundamentalists to make such a judgement? Certainly, I find it hard to believe that anyone could take that book literally but if no one does or so few do, then it makes the word fundamentalists rather useless since it is definition is literalism. But then I also realize that everyone tends to go by their own definitions regardless of the accepted one.

A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

1. Fundamentalism
An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.

2. Adherence to the theology of this movement.

What you call fundamentalist is apparently pseudo-liberal Christiandom which picks what they want as liberal or literal. I think you are also confusing the fundamentalist movement and the hypocritical actions of its followers saying that those who call themselves fundamentalists cannot live up to their own claims of literalism when pressed, which I agree if that is the case.
JGJ, 03.06.2006, 4:38pm #
I've read stuff on the internet, read books and known a few fundamentalists. My point is really rather simple - that a literalist interpretation is impossible because (a) it is literally contradcitory and (b) because so many of things it requires are beyond human ability - or the ability of all but a very small minority.
field, 03.06.2006, 5:28pm #
I'm curious! have any of you studied theology? because you all "seem" to believe yourselves to have "complete"knowledge of the bible from creation to armegeddon" or are you spewing out OTHER peoples retoric? gleaned from the internet etc...
aj, 03.06.2006, 11:30pm #
I studied religion (Christian Ministries) at a Methodist college in Ky which included New Testament, Old Testament, World Religion, and started a dormitory Bible Study group which I understand is still in existence today (about 20 years running). Geesh, didn't think I would need to give my educational credentials for a blog. Probably the biggest pain in the ass of it all was that we were required to write a summary of every chapter of the Bible in two semesters.
JGJ, 04.06.2006, 12:46am #
Oh, and I dated a Pentacostal at the time, does that count? And I went to her church once....ONCE! I was christianed a Methodist, saved as a Southern Baptist, been to a monastary, and attended Catholic Mass as well.
JGJ, 04.06.2006, 12:48am #
You're a believer, aren't you, aj. The way you breezed in here, up to your neck in arrogance, and got totally pw3nd is a big giveaway.
pinchbeck, 04.06.2006, 11:09am #

I think your analysis is correct Pinchbeck. You get a lot of stuff like that from Muslims who tell you:

1. The Koran is a clear and concise guide to how we behave.

2. You can't udnerstand the Koran if you're an unbeliever.

3. OK, you can read the Koran in English but that's not the same as knowing it in classical Arabic.

4. OK, even if you can udnerstand classical Arabic, you're not a scholar...

The Bible is hardly teh most difficult work to understand. Most of it is pretty straightforward. It's certainly not Einstein's Theory of Relativity or the philosophy of Heidegger.

I suspect we'll never hear from aj again.
field, 05.06.2006, 8:58am #
Sounds like what you get from Christians as well.

1. Your faith isn't strong enough.

2. You were never really saved.

3. God has a plan for you, but no one but God knows it.

4. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

5. He is testing your faith.

6. He has a plan (or needed) for your lost loved one.

7.It is God's will.

8. It is not part of God's plan.

Hopefully people like aj will realize that their God does not answer prayers, he is insane, he is not all-loving and not as all-powerfull as they would like to believe. Faith in this God does not perform as advertised in the Holy Babble and that he only works through coincidence and the real faith has to be in that God is the cause.

Philosophy is a lot like religion. There are those who take the absence of evidence as truth for any belief they wish and use paradoxical logic as justification.

Science can be just as perplexing. Taking the limits of what we know and can reproduce in controlled testing environments theorizing that it will occur in any given circumstance and yet situations do occur in science where it can be proven inaccurate. Almost any theory or fact can be proven flawed if looked into close enough. Go back far enough and you can find a flawed assumption in which a theory rests upon.

Personnally, I don't need all the answers to life and living. I don't need a reason to be good to my fellow man, to love, or to live other than my own desire to prosper and succeed in the things that I want to do with my life. I know bullshit when I smell it and that's good enough for me. I don't have to prove that God exists or not because I'm not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I put up my thoughts and comments for all to see and open them to criticism so that I may use it as a learning experience. Those who have the same opinions all their life have not learned anything. Those who do not learn anything are deaf, blind, and empty. They are a waste of space.
JGJ, 05.06.2006, 11:57pm #

First of all, I drink to all of the above.

Second, you've got to start a blog about president bush's most recent act of madness (championing a bill for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage).

I know it's way off subject for this post but as I heterosexual male I'm very pissed off that fundamentalists have claimed that they're protecting the sanctity of marriage. Why aren't they trying to protect the sanctity of the separation between church and state. It's yet another sneaky attempt at turning religious beliefs into legislation. If this becomes law, it is not unreasonable that we could amend the constitution to ban interracial marriage in order to protect the sanctity of racial diversity. Am I alone in this? Why isn't the ACLU devouring the republican party?

Everyone here owes it to themselves to check out and the website for "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State." Even religious folk ought to see the problems this country is facing. I don't want to live in a theocracy. Aside from my country's policy of arbitrary regime change, It's the major reason why the middle east is still experiencing the cultural/political dark ages that the western world has clawed its way out of.
theAntiBush, 06.06.2006, 11:04pm #
To me, the entire subject of religion (any religion) is like a bad fairytale. How can someone make an argument with only one resource? If you can take a single book out of an argument with it still making sense, then that's a good one. Religion is for people who can't accept science and reality. I pray to the unicorns myself. Well, I don't but I may as well... It makes as much sense to!
Intergalactic Hussy, 14.06.2006, 12:43am #
in the last UK census over 70% of people claimed to be Christians, yet only a small proportion of those people actually take part in any form of active worship (such as attending regular church services). My guess is that most of the 70% have a vague belief in a creator and involve themselves in certain Christian ceremonies out of a sense of tradition - and ticking the box marked "Christian" was the nearest thing to that (they may also have wished to disassociate themselves from the other religions on offer).

Pavlov's god, perhaps...?
pinchbeck, 16.06.2006, 11:37am #
Religion can be a great thing if you are a smoker. In the UK smoking is banned in the workplace etc. in a lot of places, and as a smoker you have no rights. However if you are someone who must smoke as part of your religion, your right to pray/smoke is protected in law. See
Pete, 22.06.2006, 10:20pm #
[edit: pazuzu, take note of the comments policy please. That last comment was pretty lengthy so I've got it saved if you want to re-post it on an open thread.]
pazuzu, 10.07.2006, 5:58pm #

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