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Interpretations of Christianity
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Interpretations of Christianity:

The Religious Right has twisted the message of Christ and the Bible beyond recognition. From justifying intense, uncalled for nationalism via "American exceptionalism" and the supposed status of America as the "God-favored" nation to attacking LGBT people and using the government as their own plaything to dominate others without justification, they are a mockery of everything a good Christian movement should stand for, and if Americans had any conceptualization of what Christ actually stood for, the Religious Right would be nothing more than a footnote in history.
- Derelict Vessel

I may not be fond of religion in general, but points like these are quite refreshing to hear. On the other hand, it seems like religion is more often than not driven by tradition and conformity, so when I come across religious perspectives that are anything but traditional or conforming, my reaction is a little mixed.

Homosexuality is an obvious example of it; the most homophobic verses are in the old testament, the milder ones in the new, and even then the translation is disputed. But if the notion is that the bible might have been mistranslated, doesn't that then cast the translation of the rest of the bible into uncertainty as well?

Even people who agree on a translation might disagree on how to interpret it. For example, the parts about helping the poor are often cited in discussions of contrast between Christian and conservative ideas and the like, but even helping the poor doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with public healthcare or government welfare being the means by which one goes about it, as is often implied in some of these discussions.

Nationalism was also mentioned in the above quotation, and I am not sure what the religious justification for it is there, but again, I think it, like religion, is often (albeit not always) driven by tradition and conformity.

Again, these interpretations of Christianity are refreshing, but they kind of leave me wondering why someone would support a religion that, in practice, hasn't really been all that effective at promoting what they expect it to promote. Why not just move on from it?
"I even like the idea of a nice man who sees me when I'm sleeping and knows when I'm awake. And that man is Barack Obama." - Bill Maher
 2 Hilarity Ensues, Tue, 22nd May '12 9:12:34 AM from Standing between Sho'Nuff and total supremacy.
Well, religious leaders seem to be for government welfare. Therein lies the problem with politicians. They are perfectly happy to use religion when it suits them, but they'll tell religious people to piss off when it doesn't work that well for them. These people aren't religious, they're jackasses who see religion as nothing more than yet another tool to gain public support with. You don't have to support Christianity to realize this.

As for the excessive nationalism, I think that has more to do with the fact that people place far too much emphasis on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers rather than any specific religious principle. That and the way that people interpret America as some sort of superhero in the context of history. It's not so much a worship of God that drives this sentiment as it is the worship of the past. I can see the similarity between religion and nationalism, but I think there are more significant factors at work, personally.

edited 22nd May '12 9:13:08 AM by HilarityEnsues

 3 De Marquis, Tue, 22nd May '12 11:57:34 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
"...Again, these interpretations of Christianity are refreshing, but they kind of leave me wondering why someone would support a religion that, in practice, hasn't really been all that effective at promoting what they expect it to promote. Why not just move on from it?"

Move on to what? I don't hold religious beliefs because of the social policies it may or may not promote, but because it satisfies certain internal personal needs of mine. I do concern myself with social policies, of course, and I strongly trend toward the (American) liberal end of the political spectrum, but that has little to do with anything I read in the Bible.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
NCC - 1701
[up] & [up][up] Couldn't've said it better myself.
It was an honor
[up][up][up] But if these politicians see something to gain from it in the first place, doesn't that suggest that they are pandering to the more popular interpretation among the voting public?

Also, to me, the distinction between what it was supposed to be and what it is used for, while something worth thinking about, is beside the point as far as "how effective it is" goes.

[up][up] I said "supporter, " not "adherent." One can be the former without necessarily being the latter. (I'm not sure which one Vessel is.)
"I even like the idea of a nice man who sees me when I'm sleeping and knows when I'm awake. And that man is Barack Obama." - Bill Maher
Flying Dutchman
I may not be fond of religion in general, but points like these are quite refreshing to hear. On the other hand, it seems like religion is more often than not driven by tradition and conformity, so when I come across religious perspectives that are anything but traditional or conforming, my reaction is a little mixed.

I will begin by saying that I am flatted that you thought enough of my words to create a thread about them.

Moving on, religion as an institution (so-called "organized religion") is often foolishly conservative and tradition/conformity-minded, often to the point of undermining its own message. I can certainly say that I believe Christ would be dissatisfied with the modern Church, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or otherwise. Far from the poor and loving community he envisioned, the Catholic Church, at the very least, has become a massive, bloated, money-hungry institution more worried about oppressing homosexuals and fretting over abortion than things Christ actually talked about, such as helping the poor, opposing violence, and loving all the members of creation. While I think the Church has a marginally more valid set of reasoning to come after abortion over homosexuals, I still think that their whole overall set of priorities is skewed and ineffective. After all, they have no good reason at all to say that women cannot be good priests, and their reasoning for why priests should not be married and share in the same love for others that is granted to us by Christ is severely lacking. The Protestants, as far as the ones that are visible in modern American culture, spend all their time coming after homosexuals and abortion as well, and care little for the message of Christ; I am not, however, familiar with the Orthodox Church.

Edit: In fact, it is bitterly ironic that organized religion centering on Christianity is so conservative and reactionary, as Jesus Himself came to fight the conservative, reactionary, and corrupt institutions surrounding Judaism. To end up with a similar set of institutions centered around a strong liberal activist is simply sad, in a way.

But if the notion is that the bible might have been mistranslated, doesn't that then cast the translation of the rest of the bible into uncertainty as well?

It certainly should. After all, the Bible was written by men many centuries or decades after the events being described. While it's theoretically plausible that the Gospel writers were still alive to write or at least dictate the Gospel, it is not that those who wrote the Old Testament were the same as those who experienced the stories in it. Couple that with the fact that many of the Old Testament stories are absurd and read like Greeco-Roman myths rather than the low-key and reasonably limited stories of Christ, and I am inclined, to use a vulgar phrase, to call bullshit. Most of the Old Testament, as far as Christians can lend the document credence at all, should be read allegorically, and within the contexts of both the societies that wrote it and the word of Jesus Himself, which is more important overall.

Even people who agree on a translation might disagree on how to interpret it. For example, the parts about helping the poor are often cited in discussions of contrast between Christian and conservative ideas and the like, but even helping the poor doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with public healthcare or government welfare being the means by which one goes about it, as is often implied in some of these discussions.

You are correct in that "believing in helping the poor" does not automatically translate to advocating public healthcare or government welfare systems.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I dislike welfare. I prefer market socialism as a means to rid ourselves of poverty; welfare would serve as an acceptable short-term solution, however).

Such modern concepts as public healthcare fall into the realm of economics debates, framed by one's moral values. That is to say, while "Good Christian =/= proponent of public healthcare, " being a Good Christian should mean that one favors making sure everyone is taken care of, healthcare-wise, regardless of who or what they are. If one is not using pseudoscience or bad economics, this would thus logically lead one to support good public healthcare systems.

Nationalism was also mentioned in the above quotation, and I am not sure what the religious justification for it is there, but again, I think it, like religion, is often (albeit not always) driven by tradition and conformity.

American exceptionalism and its older, more overt grandfather, Manifest Destiny, were and are both distinctly religious concepts that were pushed by conservative reactionaries. American exceptionalism, the more modern phenomenon, is rooted in the idea that the United States is somehow God's new "chosen people, " replacing the Israelites as we have entered a new covenant with God. It is then used to justify American imperialistic ventures and outright contempt and disregard for other nations, other peoples, other cultures, other religions, and the achievements of any non-Americans. It is a disgustingly self-centered and self-justifying philosophy that pervades the thoughts of many American conservatives and independents, and is the ultimate expression of cynical twisting of religions to promote one's own selfish wants.

Again, these interpretations of Christianity are refreshing, but they kind of leave me wondering why someone would support a religion that, in practice, hasn't really been all that effective at promoting what they expect it to promote. Why not just move on from it?

I would say that my religious beliefs have influenced my politics, which have in turn influenced my religious beliefs. However, I would argue that what the various churches preaching in the name of Christ and God do, whether it's something horrible or something good, should not be allowed to reflect on the actual word of Christ. If the word of Christ is not worth following, morally, then it is not a religion worth having. But if the actions of its followers aren't following, then it isn't worth subscribing to the organized religion associated with the religion, and not necessarily blaming the religion itself. I, however, prefer attempting to reform the Catholic Church, rather than simply casting it aside.

As for the excessive nationalism, I think that has more to do with the fact that people place far too much emphasis on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers rather than any specific religious principle.

I always laugh at the "Christian nation" paradigm of historical study, because it's so blatantly contradictory in its intentions. If the Founding Fathers really, truly established the United States on such "Christian" principles as imperialism, capitalism, and oppression (hint: they did, but they aren't Christian principles), then the Founding Fathers aren't worth listening to. Then again, I'm not an originalist, and if given the chance I wouldn't have a problem with rewriting the Constitution. However, if one simply means "the Founding Fathers didn't intend separation of church and state, " then not only is that person wrong, because they did, but that would also mean that the Founding Fathers themselves were un-Christian, as Christ Himself argued for separation of church and state.

edited 22nd May '12 3:50:41 PM by DerelictVessel

"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

 7 Hilarity Ensues, Tue, 22nd May '12 4:51:22 PM from Standing between Sho'Nuff and total supremacy.
As for why religious pandering works so often, even when it's used to justify things that Christianity simply doesn't support... the only honest answer I can give is that a significant portion of the electorate is, quite bluntly, very ignorant and easy to manipulate. It might sound dismissive and arrogant, but it's very difficult to come to any other conclusion when so much of political rhetoric is so blatantly ridiculous. Conservative pundits will talk about gays or immigrants or Muslims or some other marginalized group is the cause of society's ills, and try to convince working class people to support economic plans that throw them under the bus in favor of the rich. I can't think of another word to call people who actually fall for this stuff. These are the kind of people who politicians thrive off of.

Now, I get where you're coming from when you say that religion's proper ideals are irrelevant if they are not followed correctly. I guess all I'm really saying is that I maintain an indifferent attitude towards religion in general rather than outright opposing it (I should probably make it clear that I'm not religious, if that wasn't apparent). The main reason is just that I know that many concepts/ideas that aren't inherently bad get treated the same way religion does. The one that sticks out the most to me is freedom. It's a great concept, but anytime it's brought up in politics, what it really means is decreasing the powers of the government solely in ways that give corporations more power over people (economic "freedom"), or waging imperialistic wars ("fighting for freedom"). Kind of an odd analogy, but yeah.

Moar and Moar and Moar
We've been going over this a lot lately, so for those who haven't read what I said, I'll give the Cliffs' Notes version (and for those who have, I apologize)

Background: I'm an atheist and an anti-theist. I'll explain more on that in a second. However, I am NOT anti-religion. I understand that religion can fill certain needs in our society, and I really don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater (but that bathwater needs a-changin).

I am against the idea, the belief in a materialistic interventionistic deity. That is, a deity that is willing and able to intervene in our world. To me, that's my definition of theism, and as such it's why I identify myself as an anti-theist. However, I don't believe that all people who claim a believe in God actually believe in this. They are closer to Deistic or Pantheistic thought (and although I think they're wrong, I really see these belief structures as harmless flights of fancy, no offense intended)

As such, the big problem with Christianity, although it probably equally applies to Islam as well, is this divide. I do think that generally speaking there's a large percentage (I split it at about 50/50 to be charitable, although I suspect it's about 65/35 to the bad) that believes that raw theism, that is, the worship and glorification of a materialistic, interventionistic deity, is more important than the teachings of Jesus Christ (which while not 100% perfect, are pretty damn amazing considering the day and age). And their belief in this is getting stronger. Much stronger.

Those two things, are intractably in direct conflict. They are entirely different messages (one of strict social ordering and the other of breaking down the regimented social order), and are moving in entirely opposite directions. Now people are not all on one side or the other, of course. They tend to take a position in between the two poles, more or less. But generally speaking they do tend to choose a "primary" side when things go in conflict (and let's be honest. They're ALWAYS in conflict).

This isn't a Protestant vs. Catholic thing (in fact, I knew that things were well and truly fucked when I started to notice this line of thinking becoming more and more common in the top ranks of the Catholic hierarchy...this stuff is next to blasphemy), it's something that divides all sects, all denominations in one way shape or form.

My theory is that this increase in Strong Theism is a reaction to an increasingly connected and secular world, for what it's worth. It's not like we could have done anything differently to stop that, however...it is what it is.

The basic formula is this: Strong Theism + The Problem of Evil + The Just World Fallacy==Bad Bad stuff. All that nationalistic and jingoistic stuff stems from this. Basically, the way that adds up is that..well..bad stuff happens in this world, God could have prevented it if he wanted to, therefore he wants that bad stuff to happen to people. The powerful are powerful for a reason, and should be actively rewarded, the weak are weak for a reason...and should be actively punished.

Yikes.

This used to be called Neo-Calvinism, and it has strong Calvinistic roots, but it's not accurate enough for my tastes. It's been building since the late 80's, more or less, and I've been following its rise for the last decade and a half. I kinda know what I'm talking about here.

The Tea Party movement was a political coming out party for Neo-Calvinistic belief.

So, the TL;DR version, is that "Christianity" is split up into two, more or less, the people who follow the words of Jesus Christ, and the "Goddists", who follow the power and the glory of God. These two things are basically incompatible, and we need to revoke the privilege given to the Goddists, but that's probably going to mean revoking ALL religious moral and ethical privilege.

edited 22nd May '12 5:21:35 PM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
Flying Dutchman
These two things are basically incompatible, and we need to revoke the privilege given to the Goddists, but that's probably going to mean revoking ALL religious moral and ethical privilege.

Would you be willing to elaborate further on this statement?
"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

Moar and Moar and Moar
Sure. In our society, we often set the religious point of view as the moral or ethical baseline, and look at deviation from that as having the burden of guilt. In short, we give religious points of view a sort of home court advantage when it comes to moral and ethical issues. We tend to use religious terms to discus ethics and morality as well.

It makes it more difficult to argue and debate down immoral and unethical religious points of view. Especially when they start claiming that we need to respect those religious views, where respect means bow down to them.
Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
Flying Dutchman
Then I did understand, broadly, what you are arguing for; that's good, because I was afraid I would misrepresent your argument.

As to said argument, I believe I agree, but I'm still not sure what you specifically mean by "religious terms" and how they are what we discuss morality and ethics in. I do not, however, believe that non-religious ethics and morality are in any way inherently inferior to religious morality and ethics, though I do believe that, divorced of religion and therefore some objective authority, that in secular ethics everything will inevitably come back to the relativity argument. This is... problematic, though entertaining, in my personal opinion.
"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

Moar and Moar and Moar
The funny thing about this is that I am, more or less an objective moralist. (In fact, before I got involved in atheist/skeptic circles, I generally focused on moral/moralism-based issues..not that there's no overlap there). I think that there are objectively correct answers to questions of right or wrong...it's just that it's difficult to impossible to find them at times, and as such it's always a journey towards better answers.

The basic formula is (yes there's a formula) is that moral value==effect of our actions on others modified by intentions and difficulty. Now, sometimes we're talking about butterflies and tornadoes, where what we do has such a small impact on others that it's not worth mentioning.

Now, this is still "relative" as well, as we're saying that some things are not as bad as others...but to be honest this should be bloody obvious to everybody, and a lack of understanding of moral scale, I believe doesn't raise the bar for morality. It actually ends up lowering it.

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
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