Ezra Lb. wrote:Good discussion Carstonio.
According to the toll of hits as of a minute ago 85 people had read this thread but only you and I (with Frank's delightful contribution) seem interested enough to post. Perhaps they are astonished and intimidated by our verbal acrobatics? Yeah right.
Count me in as following this thread, too. I don't consider myself religious--12 years of Cathlic school will do that to a person--but I do hold the possibility that some beliefs have value even if I don't immediately see them myself, so it's all an interesting debate.
Ezra wrote:Contrast this with the blind dogmas of the Church which get handed down generation to generation, never questioned.
I see where you are going with this, but take a look at another perspective: dogma, and by using the word "Church" I'll assume you mean Christian dogma, has undergone quite a bit of change over the last 2000 years. Hell, it's changed even to some degree over the last century and change. Look at Mormonism(nominally a Christian belief system) dropping the multiple marriage and anti-black stuff, and I can think of some changes even in Catholic dogma that I was taught as a kid in the 1960s. IIRC even the Wahhabi and Hassidic variants dates back only to the late 18th century. Not some of the core stuff, I agree, but an awful lot of other things. The change is glacially slow, but it does occur even when the result is a splinter into a new line of understanding or belief. Granted, a lot of time the splinter ends up being reactionary or especially obnoxious.
In brief, the Bible describes a God that is like an emotionally and physically abusive parent.
Not to mention a genocidal psychotic.
That's one way to look at it, but I can also look at almost any verifiable "true" history and say the same things about everything from daily life--mean, nasty, and short-- up and through the greatest events of the human story, a narrative littered with abuses, stupidities, and horrible tragedies both accidental and deliberate. There's a very real set of problems in applying a 21st century North American social and political perspective as the standards in interpreting events in the past and it is also a problem in looking at social/religious texts with our contemporary standards.
The sort of perspective that's needed to examine past things in context isn't easy for us, whether it's looking at Sumerian theology or colonial era "captive" narratives or even classic biblical stories... hell, even popular TV from the 1950s.
I was never raised with the biblical infallibility argument, so it's easier for me, and I think many raised Catholic, for example, to see the Old Testament as man of that time hearing Jahweh speaking to them in a language they could understand. As our collective language and knowledge grows, the way a God might speak to us will change as well, but you wouldn't expect a God to be held to human standards of behavior, much less act in a way that is entirely understandable.
Ezra wrote:Well in a real sense the thoughtful religionists have been forced to do this already by the findings of science. My own question would be, if religion has nothing to say about the "mechanics of life" then how could it have anything to say about "meaning and purpose"?
Good point, and in many ways the crux of the current debate. Science is a result of "rational" thought ( I have some problems with using just that one word to describe a very big paradigm shift it but it's a good one for general use). Arguably it's been the biggest advance in human life in the last 500 years or so.
But I can see religion evolving over maybe a hundred thousand years for two reasons, at least; one is to explain the way the world works, the "how", and then also as a way to prescribe the "why", the why are we here and why we need to do certain things. The how is slowly being supplanted by science changing "how", the way we look at the universe, but I don't know if it is enough to do the "why" part, at least yet.
Religion is really a tradition, an accumulation of learned lessons, shared history, and wisdom, for lack of a better word, about how to conduct life, and it was necessary for a very long time. No question it's been a device for political and social control, and it can be a bad thing, but it's a consistent fixture in so much of human history it had to have been there for a reason. I don't think it's a "rational" need, but it was there, FWIW.
Ezra wrote:My opinion is that the religious way of thinking and the scientific way of thinking are so mutually contradictory that the differences cannot be rationalized. To put it crudely, it would be like trying to graft wings on a pig.
Tradition is, I agree, not completely compatible with "science", or modernist thought, but it may have value in the human sphere that is not immediately apparent. There was an interesting discussion here a while back around the idea of how do you form morals and ethics, and it's an ongoing debate that also informs the whole idea of infusing one's life with "meaning", I think. Knowing the atomic weight of lead or finding a new planet, whatever, by itself is of great value but in and of itself doesn't make you a better person. Or does it?
My guess? Religion evolved along with the human brain to provide some sort of rules and shortcuts to help understand and survive in a very hostile universe, one that we are not capable of mastering at all without help, and it worked--we see evidence of spiritual beliefs from the oldest cave paintings and burials onwards.
We--and I mean we privileged few in the modern world-- are maybe among the first few generations that won't have that sort of survival worry, thanks to science, so some of the questions we ask of ourselves and our fellows are starting to change even as some of the old ones remain. That sort of spiritual belief, something that is truly a belief as iti can't be proved rationally
any more than I can prove something is beautiful or wonderful, may
be something that is needed in a world that will never yield all of its secrets until we can see the back of our own heads, so to speak. Maybe.