The one theology book all atheists really should read

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Musika, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'd say 'yes'.

    Why? Because most 'scripture' was written thousands of years ago in foreign languages. So there are going to be translation issues from the beginning. What's more, just about any passage from these sort of writings exists in a context and needs to be understood in that context. (If one was to take a more scholarly approach to an ancient author like Homer, then one would obviously have to consider similar issues. The difference being that the English translations of the Illiad or the Odyssey read as story, as narrative, so they are more immediately approachable.)

    The'scripture' that I've put most effort into studying is Theravada Buddhism's Pali canon. I don't think that it's possible to read through it 'cover to cover' since it consists of a whole bookcase full of modern-style bound texts containing thousands of what are believed to be the Buddha's discourses. (Or at least what early monastic tradition preserved as being his discourses.) So there are going to be historical issues as well, questions of what is original teaching and what are later accretions to the doctrine. There are scholarly controversies about that.

    What's more, it isn't organized chronologically as a narrative or topically according to subject. It's organized into three 'baskets' (hence the name 'Tripitaka'). The first is the basket of vinaya, the rules for monastics. These have great doctrinal and historical value as well, since they typically include the circumstances in which the rule was originally promulgated and why. The second basket/pitaka is the sutta pitaka. This is a rather disorganized collection of thousands of the Buddha's discourses, on a wide variety of subjects, to a wide variety of audiences. It's typically organized by length of the discourses or mnemonically by how many items of doctrine they contain. (It was an oral tradition for several hundred years until it was put to writing.) And lastly there's the abhidhamma pitaka, a collection of later more scholastic texts that try to work the Buddhism of the suttas into a phenomenological analysis of all experience.āli_Canon

    There's little chance that somebody can seriously work their way through all this without a guide and a roadmap. So commentaries are essential. The most traditional one is the Visuddhimagga written almost a thousand years after the Buddha by someone known as Buddhaghosa. (The Buddha lived around the time of classical Greece. Buddhaghosa was contemporary with late antiquity and the collapse of the western Roman empire.) This text has shaped mainstream Theravada down to the present, hence Buddhaghosa's name, "voice of the Buddha".

    I personally use the commentary being laboriously produced today by Piya Tan in Singapore. (It's his life's work.) This one has the advantage of taking cognizance of all of the academic scholarship that's taken place since Buddhaghosa's time.

    For example a philosophical essay on the early Buddhist view of 'ditthi' ('view'):
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
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  3. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I don't think it's outlandish to peer review anything. That's my whole point. I think your scriptures should get the same treatment as any other literature. I'm asking you if you agree but you seem to be avoiding the question.
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  5. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    What a shock!

    sideshowbob likes this.
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  7. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    So you are disturbed that dilbert has not undergone any peer reviewing?

    Or is that simply reserved for scripture?
  8. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    All the more reason to scrutinize it more closely.
  9. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I'm saying that it wouldn't be outlandish.

    And I'm still asking the question: Do you think your scriptures should be treated differently from other literature?
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That was to include comic strips (the things you see in papers that are a few panels long) comic websites (about the same length, often not in strip format) comic books etc.

    As with any form of art/literature, most are dumb, some are intellectual, a few are good.
  11. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Then you are a fool.
    Comic strips are not peer reviewed.
    To suggest they should be is outlandish.
  12. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I didn't say they should be. I said it wouldn't be outlandish if they were.

    And I'm still waiting for an answer to my question: Do you think your scriptures should be treated differently from other literature? And if so, why?
  13. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    I don't think teaching theology was the goal, rather teaching comparative religion, there's a huge difference. One is illegal to teach in public school, the other would be a good idea if our schools weren't already starved for resources.
  14. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    In fact, they are. In some form, all literary output, down to the most trivial, is reviewed and evaluated by authors of the same genre (peers). If the average consumer doesn't seek out those reviews, it's because he evaluates the product for himself when he decides whether to buy it or not.
    Ancient texts were very likely reviewed at the time of first publication by the authors' contemporary scholars (peers). Subsequently, they've been adopted or suppressed by generations of clergy and evaluated by more generations of scholars.
    The average consumer of religion can only express his evaluation by attending or avoiding services, living according to or contrary to its teachings.
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Not neutral to commentary, but devoid, entirely free of, untainted by commentary. The genuine article, not hearsay.
    Oddly enough, most prophets seem to have been addressing ordinary congregations. Certainly, JC is reputed to have given all but one of his sermons to random crowds gathered outdoors. The only reason anyone makes scriptures unavailable to people is to monopolize its interpretation. Axe to grind.
  16. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Then I guess you would have to provide a suggestion on the methodology for peer reviewing the Dilbert comic strip (sciforums is unique in that it provides a forum for discussing these sorts of ideas ...). At the moment, it sounds batshit crazy.
  17. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Well sure, you can take the form of "peer reviewing" and pare it down to the form of "every idea attracting a body of opinion". In that case, nothing is not "peer reviewed", including religion (so Bob's original gripe is moot). Of course if one wants to say that, they had better prepare themself for the impending buffalo stampede of criticism for dumbing down peer reviewing to such a level.
  18. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    As I said, that is simply an imagination unique to atheists and, as mentioned in another thread, ultra conservative theists (who go out of their way to put the sola into sola scriptura ... or the like).

    When an elevated personality appears, and we approach them through books, we take "the philosophy" for granted. In the aftermath of such an appearance, there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes a precept and what constitutes a detail. Such confusion is metered out through the medium of interpretation, and that process never really comes to an end. Without adaption, a society will shrink and eventually wink out. And without preservation, they get absorbed completely in to whatever they are adapting to. Interpretation, or adapting detail to preserve the precept, is what ensures continuity.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
  19. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Sure, but things like the works of plato, and the route it took to being preserved and adapted in a religious environment, provide more fuel for the cultural truck to "keep on truckin" than cuneiform grain stock takes, even though the original or seminal forms of such things may be housed in the same type of building.
  20. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    No, I can't and haven't. I said that works of literature are literally reviewed by literal literary peers.
    Only, it wasn't about religion. It was about a book. Like The Gospel According to Dilbert or The Tao of Piglet.
    Since when do bison write book reviews? See, with the big hooves, it's really hard to type. Unless they've got, like, humungous keyboards. And spellcheck.
    Nobody ever set criteria - and if they had, they couldn't enforce it - for literary criticism. Sometimes elegant and insightful as Edward Said; sometimes clumsy and biased as a Goodreads buddy.
    It's all a question of who the author's peers are. The lower the standard of prose, the wider and shallower its circle of admirers.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
  21. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    I tried to parse this long-delayed reaction. Difficult far beyond its freight-value.
    I'd recommend Strunk and White , but Cliffs Notes may be more your speed.
  22. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Well once again, it depends on what one is viewing as the means of justification.

    The bible is not my forte, but there are a stack of prescriptive things one could unpack as instructive to the task of understanding God (and the living entity, and this phenomenal world, etc).

    So are you saying there are no guidelines, discussions or commentaries regarding what it takes to be a recipient of revelation?
    That seems to me to be the number 1. topic under discussion regarding religious commentary.

    At the same time, it doesn't limit Him to those roles. IOW even after you come to the end of understanding God's role in natural theology, you are still left with an incomplete picture.

    Similarly we dont go to a gallery museum to marvel at the chemical combination of 200 year old oil paint on canvas.

    He is not actually "my" journalist. Understanding the identity politics that is rife with such a sensitive topic, he went to express limits to explain how to cut natural theology off at the pass.

    What do we have to discuss or what do we have to justify (evidence) with?

    If it's the former, then you can bring atheists to the table and discuss a range of ideas from teleology, (the relationship between God, the living entity and the phenomenal world), to theodicy, to a stack of other things (including why the latter is the latter) that atheists repeatedly bring forth.

    If it's the latter, then there is a certain ceiling since atheists, by definition, don't apply themselves in that manner. I discussed this at some length with JamesR some time ago. The conversation involved Andaman Islanders. I will try and dig it up and post a link later.

    Edit: found it

    The diversity of answers reflects a diversity of approaches (which, more often than not, reveal a teleological bias. IOW because I believe the world exists in a certain way in relation to myself, the (apparent) path to understanding God is revealed accordingly).
    Kind of like some people want to work it out for themselves and are constantly pacing the room saying "Don't tell me! Don't tell me!". Another is use the issue to build and improve themselves in other fields, so that their secondary interests become primary. Another obeys the golden rule of success in all affairs : complain to someone who can actually help you.

    I am not reading anything that suggests a transcendent God could also be immanent. IOW if both the realm of divine and profance emanate from the same source, there is no effective duality to bind them. For instance heat and cold are by nature dualistic, but both can be powered from the same source, namely electricity.

    Being the recourse to being the cause of it, it is more than "synonymous", hence the "unique" aspect if you want to discuss things in terms of immanence. IOW everything else exists in a relationship of contingency with Him.

    ..... cont
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
  23. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

    Yazata cont .....

    The move to pantheism simply arises from a love of "simple" mathematics when confronted with the sandbox. I explained this in detail un a response to Tiassa

    Once again, only to the degree we insist on using our own limited "selfhood"to determine the limits of it as a category. Sure, there are plenty of arguments to explain how we cannot possibly occupy such a metsphysical position. It just so happens those are also the same arguments to explain why we are not God. So then it becomes a question on why we would call upon such arguments in the first place. Sure, by definition, selfhood is limited to the self. But if God represents a unique category of self, of what use are arguments based on our own limited experience of it?

    To get back on message, it once again comes back to this problem of trying to muscle a metaphysical argument in to "more familiar territory".

    That is a huuuuuggggeee link. If you are trying to draw a necessary duality between the notion of transcendence and immanence, that is not the link you want.
    It gets back to what was said earlier about no easy answer being obviously apparent, and you have to approach the question by school or at least some teleological framework, if you want yo start categorizing variables (eg : purpose/nature of God , purpose/nature of this world, purpose/nature of relationship of God with this world, etc etc).

    It gets back to a question of whether someone acts in a certain role, whether that effectively limits them. If an employer is stern and formal with their employees, does that mean they cannot be gentle and informal with their grandchildren? If got adopts an immanent form (avatar?). Does that mean they cannot now be transcendent?.
    You could even talk about whether these words immanent and transcendent are but language of the road map and not the terrain.

    Well we are trying. At the moment you seem to be thinking of it as a sort of subbranch of pantheism, which naturally negates personhood.
    I'm trying to explain how that is not the case.
    Its to a particular "kind" of theology but a particular "category", so there is a natural broadness if you want to jump from the definition of the category (which is singular) to the justifications for it (which are numerous).

    Its not so much making the problems of justification go away. Its about providing atheists with the necessary tools to introduce such problems

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