Soeren just found an article at the Times about some Bishops releasing a clarification on how to read the Bible, or, as the paper put it, which parts of the Bible are "true" and which "untrue". Now, before the religion-snipers get too happy about this, let me relativise some parts of this story a little:
While I'm talking about Catholicism: One of my favorite songs is Monty Python's "Every Sperm is Sacred", which takes a comedic view on Catholicism (vs. the Anglican Church) and child baptism. I like it, I even sing the song under the shower, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to explain to those who don't get it that child baptism isn't imperialism on the Catholic side, but rather merely an attempt by parents to protect their children. Since Catholics have the sacrament of confirmation ("Firmung") that you can choose or not choose to take part in, you still have the choice of not being a Christian. After all, confirmation is the Catholic equivalent to adulthood, and gives you numerous rights.
- Not "The Catholic Church" released this piece of writing, but rather the Catholic Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales. As such, while it seems to overlap pretty well with the Pope's edicts, it's not dogma, yet. Not everything a single priest or bishop says (not even everything the Pope says, because he explicitly has to declare something to be dogma) is the church's opinion, because just like any other congregation of people, there are different people and differing opinions. That's why we have both Donum Vitae and Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle.
- It's been known for quite a while (at least among the Christians and Muslims I've been around) that the Bible was a book written as a religious book. That's its first and foremost goal, and anyone who has read even a few pages in there will notice that it's full of paraboles and allegories, that it explains a lot of things using imagery. So, why anyone is still surprised that some parts of it may not have been intended as 100% accurate history, but instead were meant to explain the thoughts and concepts God works in to us humans, is beyond me. Critical thinking works both ways, you know?
- Even though I'm a science person, I still want to point out it pays to not replace religion with science. Science makes a 180 degree turn every couple of years. Just ask your parents and grandparents how they were told to correctly brush their teeth, or anyone overweight or with diabetes what they were told to eat/not eat. Chances are that they've had several things which they were told they could do, then they were told not to do them at all costs, and then told to do them because they improved health/cleanliness etc. Science is made of theories, and what we are told are simply the current theories. A theory is called thus because it hasn't been scientifically proven yet. Some theories are very plausible, like evolution, but even though they look true to all of us (including me myself), that doesn't change that they haven't been scientifically proven yet. Neither science nor religion are a replacement for using your brain.
- The Times' choice to polarise their readership by using the words "true" and "untrue" is not a good one. I'm pretty sure that's not what was in the original text, but I've yet to dig it out.
Update: Slashdot just found a Cardinal's statement on another portion of the bible that isn't to be taken literally. And while I'm at it, an example of science making a 180 degree turn to go with it.
"A Christian charity is sending a film about the Christmas story to every primary school in Britain after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph had named their baby after a swear word." :-o
... And his mother answered "Son, you will be named after a swearword too, soon, and now, eat up your vegetables, Chrissake!" ;-)
Because people were told (often by people out to make money) to believe in unproven scientific theories, we shouldn't replace unproven religious theories with science?
|Uli Kusterer replies: ★|
Yes, you shouldn't replace them without realising that you merely traded one theory for the other. Too many people just take current scientific theories at face value, thus turning science into yet another religion and becoming religious bigots. There are always some basic assumptions which you can't prove behind any science or religion, simply because there are no absolutes in this world (at least as far as scientists have been able to prove). Many religions choose to believe that there must be something behind all this, and they usually call it a "God" (or pantheon of Gods). In scientific terms, religions just define God as a necessary precondition, while scientists define negative numbers instead. Have you ever actually experienced a negative number in real life?
Once one gets beyond that silly idea of St. Peter guarding a physical heaven's gate and God as a white-clad bearded guy like they're portrayed in the jokes we all enjoy so much, or the silly idea of heaven just being bored do-gooders playing the harp, it's actually a valid theory. Even by scientists' terms. And there are many scientists who, through their understanding of science, came to their own personal conclusion that all of this couldn't have just accidentally grown, that there must be a design behind it all.
I leave it to others which theory (i.e. which science or which God) they want to believe in, but expect them to show the same courtesy to me. And I also expect them not to libel or label me to serve their interests, like the Times, which titled their article "Catholic Church no longer swears by Truth of Bible", which is simply wrong (but sells papers, I admit).
It's like saying "Apple endorses Windows" just because the head of the iPod division mentions Windows in an interview.
No, we don't call those things theories, we call them "hypotheses". Scientists reserve the word "theory" for something that is supported by facts. Unfortunately not everyone agrees with this definition, so we get people saying "X is *only* a theory" when a theory is the highest level that a hypothesis can achieve.