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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bigoted Metaphorlovingpseudoagnosticatheism redux

Mark Kleiman correctly notes that P.Z. Myers misunderstood his earlier critique of Myers (I noted this too in comments to Myers reply).

On one crucial point he misreads my argument. I didn't say that most believers are self-aware of the metaphorical/mystical nature of the beliefs embodied in the traditions they follow; I haven't done the appropriate study, and it would be a hard study to do.

But the fact (if it is a fact in this case) that most of the people who believe some idea believe a trivial or vicious version of it doesn't show that the idea, properly understood, is false, let alone that it is stupid and worthless.

The key point is that Kleiman wrote only about "adult" understanding of religion and declared most people to be non "adult". Thus he certainly shares Myers' contempt for most Americans, an odd position to take in a post accusing someone else of bigotry.

I think Kleiman is partly responsible for the misreading as he is deliberately vague about his religious beliefs (which I think most people would consider to be non existent just like mine and Myers'). He does it again (in spades) in his reply

No one even professes to believe any more that there's a perpetual party on Olympus, with Zeus presiding over a dysfunctional family, but Hermes and Athena represent real forces in the world, and there is much to be learned from the myths about them and their modern re-tellings. (Cf. Cryptonomicon.)

OK so clearly he doesn't believe in Zeus but does he believe in "an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being "without form, parts, or passions:"" I think he gets around to saying that he doesn't, but he is much more eager to say that he doesn't believe in Zeus and that he doesn't think that the image of God in the Sistine chapel is photographically accurate.

Oh and to extend the quote, the "tradition" which Kleiman cites is dishonest. The full quote "a religious tradition that says that God is an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being "without form, parts, or passions:" That religious tradition also declares immense respect for The Book, whether The Book be the Torah, the Bible or the Koran, yet it introduces concepts that aren't in The Book at all. I haven't studied any of The Books (ok I haven't even read one cover to cover) but I challenge Kleiman to come up with any passage which contradicts the literal interpretation of the assertion that God made man in his image. In contrast, that is not the only passage in the Torah that clearly asserts that God has passions
"Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses".

a form and parts

"Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, [b] clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank."

And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.

I wonder how Prof. Kleiman interprets the metaphorical meaning of mooning Moses.

Is The Book to be read like a novel ? Like a human effort at understanding the meaning of life which is imperfect or is it The Book ? I much prefer a tradition which claims to have something to do with Judaism but which interprets the book as metaphor to the tradition which takes it literally, but the first is completely illogical while the second is coherently genocidal. Fortunately I don't think even the dread Waldman takes The Book seriously nor did Kahane and thank the metaphor of God for that.

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