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View Poll Results: How important is the historical accuracy of religious stories to you?

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  • Not at all Important

    2 50.00%
  • A little Important

    0 0%
  • Somewhat Important

    0 0%
  • Very Important

    2 50.00%
  • It is the foundation of my faith

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  1. #1

    Default Historicity and Faith

    This has come up in more than one thread that touches on religion.

    For some people, religion is a metaphorical, allegorical set of beliefs that illustrate principles of right action (or at least makes one think about these things on a regular basis). To others, there is some requirement that the religious stories be historically accurate in some sense.

    How important is historicity to you, and why does it (not) matter to you as much as it does?

    I'll post my own views about this (though I am sure many can already infer) in my next post.

    Oh, and I'll just post a poll because they're fun.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2

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    The historical accuracy of religious stories don't matter to me because I regularly deal with people of strong faiths who follow spiritual leaders who are alive and well today.

    The evidence given by Luke the physician or Josephus the historian about someone living over 2000 years ago is moot if I am not going to believe the direct, first hand, testimony of my uncle the physician, or the professor I am a teach assistant for about a person living presently and purportedly performing miracles in the present.

    Consider the example of Amma (and this is just one example of a currently living miracle worker). Amma's teachings do a lot a good among her disciples. A great many people feel called by her, and very well educated people (doctors, engineers, scientists, business people, some that I know personally, and trust about most things) have attested to being healed in some way by her.

    There are allegations of foul play, but her disciples claim that this is a way that people aim to discredit her, and that they experienced her gentle power directly. Her disciples have started hospitals and schools where they were sorely needed. She is widely regarded as a good and wise person.

    Does any of this sound familiar to those who want to claim the absolute historicity of everything that happened regarding figures who lived long, long ago? How can one claim to simultaneously reject the miracles of these present day folks, and accept those that happened millennia ago?

    I realize in some cases, if you accept one set of miraculous claims and the beliefs that come with it, then all miracles not associated with this belief system are deemed "false" or "from the devil". But consider someone who wasn't brought up to believe these things. What "rational" reason does someone have to believe the miracles of 2000+ years ago and deny the ones happening today?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  3. #3
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    It matters a lot to me because religious people who claim historicity disingenuously harm the development of many children and I wish they would die.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  4. #4
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    GIGO

    The search for the historical Jesus is only a recent phenomenon in christianity. And it was when we became literate and literal minded that we even thought to look for the historical Jesus.

    So the question reveals a naive bias towards literacy and an unconscious bias against spoken culture.

    So if we apply logic to these two bias, we get garbage in, garbage out (GIGO).

  5. #5
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    If we're talking about stories of miracles and the miracles are seen as a 'sign' or justification of the deity and the whole belief system hinges on it, then yes it had better be right.

    It's different if it's just parables that give some useful nugget of wisdom, or accuracy is irrelevant, such as Laozi writing the Tao Te Ching and being deified - we don't even know if the man actually existed - it doesn't matter who wrote it because that isn't relevant to the content.

  6. #6
    it's a nuclear device antireconciler's Avatar
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    I can appreciate it. If you start with a perfect example or something to live by being in the past, then absolutely historical accuracy is important because this JUST IS fidelity to that which is to be learned. "Bible" as we use the word just means something like a first reference you can stand on. If the principles of that reference cannot be disentangled from historical detail or the mind of the writers--and as a text in human language it cannot be--then there must be historical accuracy, and the writers must be accurate to the inspiration.

    On the one hand I feel that there is enough of a "bible" all around us, in each other, in the works of any number of great minds, and first and foremost, in our own mind, that the Christian Bible isn't important to me and I don't really care what Jesus said or didn't. On the other hand, I sympathize with the draw of HAVING a single reference text in which to tune your thinking, as I have one myself, somewhat despite myself, so I know the feeling of wondering about how the editing process might have altered it, how language use has changed, and other things that might disrupt my ability to receive that same inspiration from which the work was derived.

    If one finds an exceptional teacher, it is not a long stretch for a student to give credibility and acceptance to what the teacher says simply because the teacher has said it, with faith that the teacher has suitably derived what he is saying. In some sense you have recruited the teachers mind as an inaccessible provider of your own knowledge and it is understandable to critique a person for not thinking for themselves by adopting and defending things they do not presently have the wherewithal to satisfactorily derive themselves. Yet often just as valuable as the process of coming to know for yourself is simply having the results of what you could come to know to start with and growing into being able to make the connections yourself whereby you could derive them. Insofar as you may make an analogy of the development of human minds out of the industrialization of countries, you can compare the benefits of the following methods: spending 200 years growing your own indigenous industrial revolution without any guidance or influence from those who have gone before you, or you can capitalize on the products of the industrialization of other countries and use them to build your own capacity to back-derive the capacity to now build them yourself in a measly 10 to 20 years. As social beings we will certainly tacitly accept the products of those we think have gone before us. We will quite naturally emulate each other, taking for granted a bit that we ARE authorities on things until our judgment gives us reason to doubt it due to conflicting evidence. One wants a good teacher as a very simple matter of minimizing effort to achieve maximum gain. Spiritual advancement (or just advancement however conceived) of human psychologies seems to come so slowly and with so many wandering paths, anyone would have considerable self-interest in being led well.
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  7. #7
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by antireconciler View Post
    If you start with a perfect example or something to live by
    I am getting a bit tired of this 'perfect example', for we only have to read the New Testament to see that Jesus said not one word against institutional slavery, yet he was surrounded by institutional slavery all his life.

    We only have to compare Jesus with Spartacus who opposed and fought institutional slavery to see that Jesus chose to remain silent in the face of one of the worst evils of history.

    And silence means complicity.

    The other perfect example we are told to live by is Mohammed who led 65 five successful battles to spread Islam, and slaughtered Jews with his own hand.

    We are told on one hand to imitate the 'perfect example' of Mohammed and spread Islam, and we are told on the other hand that Islam is a religion of peace.

    So both of these 'perfect examples' have feet of clay, and they keep tracking dirt into our homes.

  8. #8
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    I'm no bible scholar, but I think Jesus covered that in his other teachings, and in his basic Love They Neighbor clause. His word is sparse in the Bible, yet powerful. It's unlikely, in that context, that he would/could address every issue confronting man.
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  9. #9
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AphroditeGoneAwry View Post
    I'm no bible scholar, but I think Jesus covered that in his other teachings, and in his basic Love They Neighbor clause. His word is sparse in the Bible, yet powerful. It's unlikely, in that context, that he would/could address every issue confronting man.
    Institutional slavery was first abolished in human history by the House of Commons in 1833.

    The abolition of institutional slavey is the foundation issue of liberal democracy which led to the emancipation of women and the prosecution of child sexual abuse.

    So the silence of Jesus extended not only to institutional slavery but to women as chattels and to the sexual abuse of children.

  10. #10
    it's a nuclear device antireconciler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    I am getting a bit tired of this 'perfect example',
    "If", Victor, in the sense of a hypothetical. Besides, different people will read the text differently, emphasizing some bits and deemphasizing others according to their psychologies. I don't blame anyone who glosses over the parts you object to ... their constitution is different. There are other things they are there for. They are in a different place. Different messages are more relevant for them, object all you want if you will.
    ~ a n t i r e c o n c i l e r
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