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  1. #1
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Scripture: History or Fantasy?

    Is it the belief that scripture is the recounting of historical fact that distinguishes it from fantasy? Is it tradition and education? Is the belief in the possiblility of miracles and the manifestion of counter-intuitive behaviour in our world compatible with anything else we count on from day to day? What is it that allows us to believe in the theorhetically impossible when it comes to the bible and simply fantasize about it when it comes to all else?

  2. #2
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Uh - who is "us"? I don't believe in the theoretically impossible just because it's in the Bible.

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    Witch of the Woods Miriamele's Avatar
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    I think the majority of Christians believe that the Bible is indeed a recounting of historical fact, and as such is not fantasy no matter how fantastic are the stories it contains. In any other book a talking donkey, a woman turning to a pillar of salt, or a voice eminating from a burning bush would be fantasy, but since these things are in the Bible they really happened. (In some people's opinions, not mine.) I know people in my family who firmly believe that every event told of in the Bible is indisputable fact, that it happened exactly as described.

    But, if an unbeliever were to read the Bible, many of the stories would seem like very imaginitive fantasy! When I was young I read the entire Bible, and let me tell you there's some crazy stuff in there. Entertaining stuff, if you view it in that light. Howbout the story where Moses is battling with Pharoh's magician who turns his staff into a snake, then Moses turns his staff into a bigger snake which swallows the other one! Or the turning of the Nile into blood...actually there's some great sources of inspiration there for a fantasy writer, like I said if you wish to view it that way.

    What is it that allows people to believe in the theoretically impossible when it comes to the Bible? Faith. A lot of people have it, just not me.

  4. #4
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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    People need something to believe in. What better way then to take small children, dump them into Church, read them stories to scare the begeesus out of them, and then tell them God is an alright guy? Children are empty vessels waiting for us to give them truth.

    Myself, I'm amazed that more people haven't given up on religion. Too many people have given up on the quest for God and just assume that they're saved. I also read the bible, at no point did it say "You're saved just because you sit in church and sing some songs". You've got to actually believe and live as if God was real.

    I read a great book "The Finger Prints of the Gods". This book dips into EVERY religion and digs up all the dirt about the 'Gods'. It gives accounts in the bible that point to 'possible' alien intervention. Things that we take for granted today that, in the days of old, could have been seen as 'God's work'. But beyond that it also shows all the stories in the bible that have popped up in earlier religions and were taken by the Jewish people and put into the bible (Noah's story is the biggest and most blatant rip off).

    Then you can dig into such lines as 'In those days there were giants'. WHAT! Why has no one EVER questioned that line? Giants? Really? Where'd they come from? It didn't mention on the eighth day God created giants. If you look at the most recent version of the bible this line has been omitted. Odd, I didn't think 'man' was supposed to edit God's word.

    My take, this is just a bunch of nice stories that give you a means to lead a 'good' life. That's my opinion.

  5. #5
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Isn't scripture inherently both? It's older than both history (in its modern form) and fantasy (in its modern form). There is a variety of attitudes possible to scripture. Simple binaries like "that happened"/"that didn't happen" won't work, I think. Through rhetorical devices such as symbol and metaphor, scripture is kept flexible enough to keep up with life; and through ritual, game and song we tie scripture into our everyday life (e.g. Baby Jesus at Xmas).

    The distinction between fantasy and history speaks of a literalmindedness that's unfair to scripture, to fantasy and - to a lesser extent - even to history.

    Should be interesting to compare scripture to oral traditions.

  6. #6
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    What is it though about this particular 'fantasy' that has allowed it to endure for so long? Why have faith when it comes to this book? I wonder if it's possible for something to supplant it any longer and if so, what would it take for that to occur?

    I am not saying that there isn't a lot one could learn from reading scripture. You don't need to agree with the POv to learn from it in all cases. I found many of the Old Testament stories very interesting as a child. But even as I child, I never believed that they were meant to be real accounts of things as they happened. It seemed to me always that if any of these things were really possilbe, than anything at all was possible. And I was not prepared to suspend my belief in cause and effect and natural law even then. As a tool to teach ethics, or as a means of keeping a violent society more in line, or even as a codification of the limits of proper behavior I could understand it, though I might not agree with all of the propositions and dictums. But as a depiction of history, I find it amazing that mankind actually still believes it.

    Miriamele: Those whom you know who do believe that everything depicted in the bible actually occurred, do they believe in magic? Do they see the similarities? Do you think that they honestly fear that the devil can manifest himself among us and that possession is possible? How do they reconcile these things in their minds? Do they truly believe that anything is possible all the time?
    Last edited by Gary Wassner; April 4th, 2005 at 07:44 AM.

  7. #7
    Witch of the Woods Miriamele's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    What is it though about this particular 'fantasy' that has allowed it to endure for so long? Why have faith when it comes to this book?
    I think in a perverted sort of way a lot of faith comes from fear. The Bible says "fear is of the Devil" and yet throughout the history of Christianity people have been taught to fear God's damnation. To fear the terrible things that will happen to them in this life and especially in the next if they don't believe. Doubt has usually been looked at as a grave sin, so people forced themselves to believe.

    But in modern society, probably the biggest source of faith is simply the desire for these stories to be true. It's almost like a child wanting to believe in Santa Claus. My father, who is extremely religious, often comes to me with a passage he's been reading in the Bible and says "Look, isn't this cool!" The stories in the Bible bring him great joy because he believes it's all real. Personally I would be more disturbed than comforted to think all the happenings of the Bible are real, because God punishes as much as he blesses, and sets down an awful lot of rules. But, to each his own.

    Miriamele: Those whom you know who do believe that everything depicted in the bible actually occurred, do they believe in magic? Do they see the similarities? Do you think that they honestly fear that the devil can manifest himself among us and that possession is possible? How do they reconcile these things in their minds? Do they truly believe that anything is possible all the time?
    Yes, Gary, they do believe in magic, and can see the similarities. But they believe that "magic" comes straight from the devil and is to be avoided at the cost of your mortal soul--as opposed to "miracles," which are a manifestation of God's power and greatly to be desired. (Interestingly, the people I know who believe this way have never witnessed either miracle or magic.) And yes, they honestly fear the devil's power. Very much so. Possession is absolutely possible. I saw a book my father purchased a while back, called "How to Cast Out Demons." I kid you not. He uses demon possession to explain many things in people, such as mental illness and self-destructive behaviour.

    Do these people truly believe that anything is possible all the time? Yes, because in the Bible it says "with God all things are possible." They live their lives waiting for the miracle that will surely occur if they pray enough and have enough faith.

    Personally, I would rather rely on myself to improve my life and blame myself when I fail, rather than putting God and the Devil in these positions of responsibility.

  8. #8
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    In many respects then you believe, as I do, that superstition rules. And superstition is based upon fear and guilt often. I just cannot understand how people could survive thinking that anything could happen at anytime. I couldn't sleep at night believing that supernatural forces could infiltrate my dreams and affect my life. It really involves a relinquishing of responsibility.

    I too would prefer to rely upon myself and my actions in this world. But it amazes me more and more how similar faith and superstition are. And it frightens me more and more.

  9. #9
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    Just think of the last time you heard anyone say the following:

    My country is the worse than most countries.
    We are damned and you all are chosen.
    I'm pretty much the worst driver on the road.
    Your views are so much more true than mine.

    The list goes on and on. The fact is we're hardwired to confuse our hopes with facts. All of us do it all the time. Add to that the sheer plasticity of human belief, our allergy to uncertainty, our yen for flattery and simplicity, and I think the pertinent question becomes, how are some able to not believe in religion.

    Self-deception is the bane of human history. The fact that we still, after all this time, not taught anything about it in our education systems, is a testament to the power it wields over us. In general people just want to have and impose their beliefs, not truly defend them. In my more pessemistic moments, I think this is pretty much what religion boils down to: certainty without clarity.

  10. #10
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    In my less pessimistic moments I tend to feel that way. In my more pessimistic ones, well, I probably shouldn't speak of that here...

    It is hard not to deceive oneself when the effort to understand our own emotions is such a perilous one. The entire premise of psychotherapy sometimes eludes me. Do we really want to know what motivates us at all times? And could we ever know? Self preservation and self deception often go hand in hand.

    I also wonder if we can ever truly distinguish between hope and fact, other than in minor, unimportant situations. Language is vague at best and often it is our inability to convey ourselves properly that leads to misleading statements. But we just don't have words for feelings. They are two different breeds of things. So what should we expect?

    But to suspend reason and accept certain things as fact that are preposterous when discussed outside of a religious context, seems so paradoxical. If scripture is truth, then anything is possible and we should truly be in a state of panic all of the time.

  11. #11
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    I think it can be both and wouldn't the combination of the two become mythology? An event that has some germ of 'truth' at the time but over time is rewritten to express what individuals believe was the actual purpose rather than as a retelling of events. Could not scripture be the best game ever of chinese whispers We use the phrase 'History is written by the winners' and despite the obvious supposed humble beginnings of christianity lets not forget it has survived almost untouched to present day, whereas the Roman empire, amongst others, is dust.

    That I think speaks volumes of the single overriding question we all face and that religion speaks to, what is death? In the face of complete uncertainty and the total and seemingly irrevocable change in our form of existence, something so alien to ourselves as to be beyond comprehension, many chose to face uncertainty with certainty even if as Scott says there is no clarity. When there is no path we create one, in order to do all the other things we want and need to do. I remember a Stephen King line that went something like 'The finite mind cannot grasp the infinite' but if we could then I think we'd all be gibbering wrecks, unable to function on any level, so deep down we either avoid the question or when we do ask, we end up coming to a choice that so many have taken before, for comfort and for hope. Because I do think that we are afraid of our own judgement and thus create beings, angels and demons - god and the devil, to make these judgements for us rather than accept we will never know until we get there. I mean whats worse than the end to your entire existence?

  12. #12
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    We could adopt a philosophy that embraces life in response, instead of one that looks forward to a hereafter.

    Fear and depression definitely lead to God. Contemplation of the infinite provides solace. But why? We feel helpless, and in many respects we are helpless. I suppose that the thought of a higher being guiding us along gives many comfort. But it is just so irrational. And for me to even say that must infuriate many people because my POV in this case would threaten their stability. Hence, faith leads to intolerance, when it, in concept, should do just the opposite! What a tangled web we weave when first.....

  13. #13
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    We could adopt a philosophy that embraces life in response, instead of one that looks forward to a hereafter.
    We could but it doesn't 'solve' the problem, which ludicrous or not is what people are looking for. Besides simply enjoying life is far too easy a solution for some people, their fear is too high.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    Fear and depression definitely lead to God. Contemplation of the infinite provides solace. But why? We feel helpless, and in many respects we are helpless. I suppose that the thought of a higher being guiding us along gives many comfort. But it is just so irrational. And for me to even say that must infuriate many people because my POV in this case would threaten their stability. Hence, faith leads to intolerance, when it, in concept, should do just the opposite! What a tangled web we weave when first.....
    I think that's a large part of the issue and once you choose religion it becomes habitual, a habit to offset the fear of everafter. Go to church on Sundays, listen to the sermon and a few hymns later your one step closer to a nice cushy cloud in heaven. Highly cynical and not entirely accurate (if accuracy is an issue in such a topic) perhaps but it does seem like a quick fix. As for the infinite providing solace, I think that's hardwired into our atavistic core, we all look for a protector who is 'bigger' 'stronger' and can make all the bad things go away, in the case of an omnipotent, omnipresent being we have the ultimate protector. It's a win-win situation and there is an argument for it, if you got to church and there is nothing after life then you haven't lost anything, but if there is a heaven and a hell well you should be quids in.

    I also think tribalism plays a part in some aspects, we are always looking to be a part of a group, to share a common identity, power-in-numbers and always when people define themselves as different there is persecution. This forms a stronger form of identity, a greater faith or belief that leads to narrow-mindedness and a 'if-your-not-with-us your-against-us' attitude that festers resentment and even conflict. It is to me entirely divisional and because truth has no real part in it, then we're stuck in an ever-decreasing circle of repetitive, pointless debate.

  14. #14
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I't's not a coincidence that you mentioned a protector, bigger and stronger who will take care of you. Surprise, we call ecclesiastical figures 'father'. That further emphasizes he dependency and the role.

  15. #15
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    For me, the absent father stuff in Christianity (Freud talks about it, as I remember) is more about establishing patriarchal structures of authority in secular society than anything else; hence the strong misogynist subtext in so many of the texts. Why did they slaughter all the Gnostics? What happened to the Sophia, the feminine principle of Wisdom? I must say that these things make me think of religion in these crude terms as a means of crowd control.

    That's a bit unfair on the more sophisticated Christian thinkers, though, of which there are more than a few. Faith and doubt are, in their more interesting forms, deeply related and constantly in tension, and honest religious thinkers confront the question of uncertainty as central. I may have mentioned Kierkegaard...

    But to take the Bible literally (you must remember I was brought up as an Anglican, and I live in a secular society) seems to me to miss the point by several miles. The meanings of stories - even the sacred meanings - do not depend on their being literally true.

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