Fear and Failures of Interpretation

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80 Responses

  1. MFarmer says:

    After all this time, with so many disagreements, doesn’t this speak more to the validity of religion than the misunderstanding, ignorance or fear of those looking in.

    If Christianity and Islam can’t agree on what they believe or even on the sources of the religious beliefs, then why wouldn’t the average person, unattached to any religion, believe they’re probably making it up as they go along to maintain that mysterious edge and avoid Reason’s tough questions?

    Is it fear of the religion, per se, or legitimate concerns regarding irrational confusion that can only lead to trouble? If they can’t agree on what they believe in, why should we bother trying to understand it?Report

    • Kyle Cupp in reply to MFarmer says:

      There’s just as much disagreement and division within the history of philosophy as there is within the history of religion, but should this confusing storm of conflict serve as a reason for those unacquainted with philosophy to avoid the plunge?Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

        Uh, if you didn’t receive the notice, philosophy died with Heidegger, or soon after.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

        Just because there are disagreements inside Islam, that doesn’t mean they disagree on everything. The end result is to say nothing meaningful can be said about Islam, which is a certain epistemological nihilism.

        Neither does Islam necessarily be treated only as a religion; it shows certain cultural manifestations as well.

        The fact is—and one must look to Europe here—Islam does and is making demands on its pluralistic host societies that would make a Puritan blush. I see no need to chronicle them here: just type “Muslim” into Google News.Report

    • Kyle Cupp in reply to MFarmer says:

      As for avoiding “Reason’s tough questions,” we can no doubt find religious believers who will side with faith over and against the discoveries of reason, but not all religions privilege religious interpretation over the exercise of right reason. Catholicism, to its credit, has changed (albeit sometimes slowly, painfully and with much kicking and screaming) some of its religious teachings in light of scientific evidence. Anyhow, I firmly believe that the claims of religious truth should hold up to the challenges of philosophy, science, morality and the other exercises of reason.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

        Just because Catholicism has made adjustments doesn’t answer the concern about religions in general being confused regarding interpretation and appearing to shift when convenient to avoid Reason’s tough questions, unless you are suggesting Catholicism is doing it right while the rest aren’t.Report

        • Kyle Cupp in reply to MFarmer says:

          Well, I’m much more familiar with Catholicism than I am with other faith traditions, so I used it as an example. Other religions may well be developing in response to reason, and for all I know may even be doing so better than Catholicism is.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

            If by ‘other religions’, you mean Islam, no it’s not really happening.

            I’m not a member of any of the Abrahamic faiths, but it seems to me that the logical way to get around this conflict between religion and reason is to say that they all have scriptures that were “revealed” by God to men, right? So the Word might be true, but details in the books might be false- because men get things wrong, or God doesn’t tell them everything, or there’s a fair amount of metaphorical or symbolic language in there that can’t be interpreted straightforwardly. Tell all the truth but tell it slant, as Emily Dickinson put it.

            Now there are literalists. So, when you get to a question like, “Why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible?” literalists can’t answer that question honestly because they see every word as literal truth. But people from more “reformed” traditions can acknowledge that not every word in there is literal truth. This is why Israel doesn’t stone people, for example.

            Judaism and Christianity have been “reformed” in that sense- they both have traditions of reading the book in a non-literal way that can serve as poles of resistance against the fundamentalist strain. Islam has that tradition as well, but it’s lost all strength in the last few centuries. Plenty of individual muslims read the Koran and hadith as non-literal (in fact, the Koran actually says that many of its passages are not to be taken literally!), but there’s no official “school” of Islamic interpretation that claims not to read every word as literal truth. And, frankly, nobody’s willing to found that school and risk being killed over it.

            What this means, really, is that Islam desperately needs to have a reformation in order to survive in the modern, secular world. When the Old Testament says to stone an adultress to death, we understand that Jews don’t really believe that any more. But there’s no ‘rereading’ of the Koran going on that has that sort of strength in the public sphere. You’ll notice that the stoning countries tend to be muslim. So Islam desperately needs a Martin Luther. But this also means that the west’s adversarial stance against “Islam”-as-such is stupid and counterproductive. It discourages those poles of non-literalism from ever forming, and it works against the security aims it claims to further- the former isn’t such a problem, but the latter is.Report

        • Kyle Cupp in reply to MFarmer says:

          Furthermore, I just don’t see why the fundamental disagreements and divisions within the history of religion causes a problem for the truth or legitimacy of religion. Disagreement about the truth comes with being human, with pursuing truth from different places and in different times and from different angles, in different languages and different cultures. We don’t even agree on what we mean by “truth.”Report

    • James K in reply to MFarmer says:

      At the very least it raises questions about the value of revelation as a source of evidence. After all, at least 80% of humanity is wrong about the nature of any god or gods and that’s if the Catholics are right. If it’s a smaller group then the proportion could be much higher.Report

      • Kyle Cupp in reply to James K says:

        I’m not sure how there could be any way around this. Even if a divine revelation was given to all people equally, there would still be differences between the recipients about what God actually meant and whether God was actually responsible for the revelation.Report

  2. Robert Cheeks says:

    Now, you fellas be careful you’re going to hurt yourselves here.

    Kyle re: your final statement, (“Anyhow, I firmly believe that the claims of religious truth should hold up to the challenges of philosophy, science, morality and the other exercises of reason.”)
    How does one go about doing a postivistic or empirical analysis or differentiation of the Holy Ghost? Never-the-less, I’ve enjoyed the blog and please continue with this line of inquiry.Report

    • I don’t mean to say that all religious truth claims can be reached or tested by reason. Some of them reside beyond the boundaries of reason’s inquiries. Reason can neither confirm nor deny that God is three Persons in one Nature, for example. On the other hand, many claims made by religions do fall within the domains of reason, and, in my not-so-humble opinion, religious believers ought to be open to testing these claims against that which we know through the exercise of reason.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      How does one go about doing a postivistic or empirical analysis or differentiation of the Holy Ghost?

      By designing and performing an experiment whose result will determine once and for all whether He proceeds from the Father and the Son or from the Father alone. It’s best to raise private funds to purchase any necessary apparatus, as an NSF grant application could be tied up in the courts indefinitely.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The problem is that you can do this to absurdity.

    On the one hand, you can “interpret” to the point where the only people who are *TRULY* partaking of the Water of Life are the folks who go to the First Southern Babtist Church of The Holy Ghost in Johnson, Tennessee. On the other end of the spectrum, you get to the whole “facet of the celestial diamond” universal salvation bullshit that the pot-smoking post-unitarians get into (and that’s not even getting into the Bishop John Shelby Spongs). (And that’s not even not even getting into the whole fact that you can do this to Communism and explain away Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim, Castro and so on while explaining that, no, Denmark is what Marx was talking about.)

    The biggest part of the problem is that, in America, if you are immersed in the culture you are as likely to stumble across Michael Newdow as Ted Haggard… and if you are outside the culture? I don’t know. How much influence does Focus have outside of the culture? How much influence does the Pope have? I’m willing to say that Spong has close to zilch… but, outside of the culture, how much does, say, Tony Campolo have? Billy Graham? (And those guys are the most extreme ones that I went to that I thought might have any influence outside of the border…. anybody have better examples for me to use? Should I broaden the definition to the point where George Bush and Barack Obama qualify as Christian Leaders?)

    Let’s now flip around to Islam.

    I’m pretty sure that there are a handful of pot-smoking post-Sufi “facet of the celestial diamond” bullshit imams out there. How much influence do they have outside of the culture? It’s pretty easy to come up with examples of more extreme Muslims who have influence outside of the culture. Why, it’d be downright inflammatory to point them out.

    Would it be fair to say that this is part of the problem?Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

      You have both groups speaking loudly in any faith, although I’d have to say that the pot-smoking sufi interpretation isn’t spoken very loudly today, and certainly not in certain countries. Some say it’s not known more widely because the media isn’t interested; others blame the fact that believers in the more hardline interpretation often threaten to kill believers of the “universal diamond” version- I tend to think the latter is more of a problem than the former.

      But, of course, another larger group you have in any religion are those people who keep quiet- maybe claim that, sure, they believe every word in there is true, yes sir, while simply ignoring the passages just that aren’t workable in the modern world. In fact, if you listen to the angry fundamentalists, those casual believers (backsliders) are in the overwheling majority. This seems clear in the case of Judaism and Christianity, and it’s much harder to tell with Islam.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

        This is the problem of not being immersed in the culture, of course.

        I mean, *I* know about Bishop Spong… but I’m pretty sure that 99% of non-American Muslims have *NEVER* heard of the guy. Indeed, I’d be surprised if half of *OUR* readers were familiar with him. (Of course, I live and breathe this crap.)

        Maybe there are Bishop Spongs over there that never, ever, get airplay outside of a few Sufi outposts.

        I wish that they had webpages in English.Report

    • Kyle Cupp in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, I doubt very much that the world’s religious (and non-religious) will come to any kind of consensus about the boundaries of legitimate interpretation.Report

    • Lyle in reply to Jaybird says:

      Actually if you take the old double predestination of the Puritan and the universalist, and compare the real question is how many folks did god decide to save. Other than that the two groups agree that one can do nothing to influence ones status with god. Now of course the Puritans have decided that the elect need to show others that they are elect, and that is the source of their hangups. (Or is to show themselves??).
      Another point I often make if some different generals had been in charge of who became emperor in the late 4th century Christianity might well have become an Arian faith.
      The diversity in early christianity was squelched when it made its bargain with Ceasar after 315. Constantine decided the clergy needed tax exemptions, but then had to define who was Orthodox, beginning the downfall of Christianity.Report

  4. Alien Shore says:

    “Catholics, furthermore, hold as sacred and divinely-inspired a number of texts outside the Bible, obviously in conflict with Protestant proponents of sola scriptura.”

    I know this quote is an illustration towards your main point and not the subject of the post itself, but it does stand in need of clarification. I think I know what you intend, but the terminology says otherwise. The Catholic Church does not hold that any other texts outside Scripture are divinely inspired. Divine inspiration (literally God breathed) is reserved for Scripture alone. Other texts (e.g. certain papal prounouncements, those of ecumenical councils, etc.) are held to be, under certain conditions, free from error, but not inspired. God guides the author and the process of the text coming to be so as to insure its freedom from error–i.e. that it does not contradict the deposit of faith. But it is still not the deposit of faith, it can only explain or clarify it more deeply. Hence, even though the Scripture had human authors, the Catholic Church says that the Holy Spirit (the breath of God) is the primary author. Whereas other texts may be held as authoritative, they do not have God as their author. Only a divinely guided human author. And what is authoritative is not the text itself, but the function of the magisterial office that pens it.

    So the Protestant/Catholic divide over sola scriptura is not due to Catholics holding other books on the same level as the Bible (which I know isn’t what you meant, but that is what your terminology would suggest), but because Catholicism is not as the Catechism says “a religion of the Book” but also holds the unwritten apostolic tradition to be a “mode of transmission” of the deposit of faith and not solely Scripture.

    If we wanted to wax Ricoeurian over apostolic tradition we would say it is a form of discourse (albeit one held to be divinely inspired) and Scripture is discourse fixed by writing–i.e. a text. But when texts are written about the discourse ( the apostolic tradition), the texts themselves do not fix that discourse by writing but are themselves other discourses (fixed by writing) concerning the first unwritten discourse. Had to toss some Ricoeur in there…Report

  5. This post speaks to a much saner and wiser world that that world actually existing. While I agree that in an ideal world we should stop lumping the mysterious other into an oversimplified mass, it’s probably not going to happen. Even our own government, relying on the strategic recommendations of our best and brightest, responds to the actions of a handful of people with the whole scale destruction of some nation-state arbitrarily constructed by retreating, bankrupt European colonials a hundred years ago. I think its far more likely that there is something about our psychology in combination with overstandardized media and direct democracy that repeatedly compels the same absurd “solution”.Report

  6. Scott says:

    I suppose that if folks want to ignore the threat you can but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Take for example the Muslim Somali born teen that wanted to blow up the x-mass celebration in Portland. When will Americans wake up to the threat?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

      Threat? Threat?


      We will be able to neuter Islam within months of actually getting up and frigging doing it.

      Footloose 2: Kevin Bacon takes on an Imam and teaches a town the joys of dancing.

      Carrie 2 (or Carrie 3 or whatever since I’m pretty sure they already made one): A psychic Muslim girl with a crazy Muslim mother kills fucking everybody.

      The Name of the Rose 2: An odd couple of Imams investigate a murder at a whatever the hell they call a Monastary where it turns out there is an unexpurgated copy of the Koran… AND THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS ARE COVERING IT UP, MAN!!!!

      And I haven’t even talked about Matt and Trey.

      We’re holding back, dude. Yes. That’s because Islam is even more fragile than Christianity and we’ve gotten better and better at destroying stupid religions since the 80’s.

      We could damage Islam with a Music Video and critically wound it with a Musical.

      If we turned our eyes upon it fully? It wouldn’t stand a chance.Report

      • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

        How many thousands killed will it take for you and other to see the threat?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

          You don’t know how to fight Islam, Scott.

          You can’t even fight Iraq or Afghanistan.

          Why in the hell do you think that what you are prone to do in response to many thousands more dead will win even a single battle, let alone a war?

          How many thousand dead/wounded/PTSD American soldiers will it take for you to realize that you’re using a sledgehammer to deal with an issue best attacked by a scalpel?Report

          • Mark Boggs in reply to Jaybird says:

            What you said. Just finished watching a documentary called “War Torn” that deals with the issues of PTSD among soldiers all the way back to the Civil War. Kind of scary. And certainly not the kind of collateral damage that makes perpetual war worthwhile.Report

          • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

            What are you talking about? According to our dear leader Obama, there is no more fighting in Iraq. As for Afghanistan, we are starting our pull out next year.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

              “According to our dear leader Obama, there is no more fighting in Iraq.”

              As much as I love people who trust the government implicitly, it always breaks my heart when I have to point out the following to them:

              The President is lying to you.

              “As for Afghanistan, we are starting our pull out next year.”

              Yeah, I always promised to pull out early too. Guess what? I was lying.

              Again: The President is lying to you.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

                I know Obama was lying, I am surprised by all of the sheeple that believed him and now have buyer’s remorse. I’m just glad that Obama isn’t going to give up like we were the French. I guess he has a better grasp on the threat then you do.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

                So you’re an Obama supporter now?

                Friggin’ Neocons.

                In any case, what Obama is doing will not work. If Islam is the threat, fighting “Afghanistan” WILL NOT HELP.

                If Islam is the threat, fighting “Iraq” WILL NOT HELP.

                If Islam is the threat, we need to fight an idea. A meme, if you will. Using bullets is *USELESS* against a meme.

                You and Obama have no idea what you’re doing.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

                We should kill as many of the religious zealots as is necessary to make them think twice about attacking us. As the Romans said, I don’t care if they hate us , as long as they fear us. So neither Obama or I know what we are doing but you do? I appreciate you delivering your pearls of knowledge to us half literate gnats.Report

              • Barrett Brown in reply to Scott says:

                I agree with you that the Romans had a very admirable policy in dealing with the religious zealots of the Abrahamic religions.Report

              • Scott in reply to Scott says:


                The Romans were equal opportunity killers if you opposed them, so I’m not sure why you choose to single out their actions against the Jews.Report

              • Barrett Brown in reply to Scott says:

                I was kidding. The joke is that the Romans killed Christians and Jews on occasions when the latter were seen, rightfully or wrongfully, as opposing the Roman state. Thus you seem to have accidentally endorsed their policy against Christians and Jews, whom I presume you consider to be the perpetual good guys.Report

              • Mark Boggs in reply to Scott says:

                Can I assume you think we’d still be better served had we stayed in Vietnam fighting that -ism, too? We might still be there today, chasing the elusive light at the end of the tunnel with our blood and treasure, but at least no one would call us the French. Of course, had we paid attention to the French venture in SE asia, we might have saved ourselves some trouble.Report

              • Scott in reply to Mark Boggs says:


                Vietnam is a bad example as the American military was forced to fight with one arm tied behind their backs. I hope we leaned from that failure. Not to mention that this enemy brought the fight to our shores and seems intent on killing civilians.Report

              • Barrett Brown in reply to Scott says:

                If only we had bombed Hanoi with more explosive power than we had deployed at Dresden and expanded the bombing into neighboring countries, we might have won.Report

              • Scott in reply to Scott says:


                Since US forces weren’t allowed to bomb Hanoi on a regular basis I guess they had to bomb as much as they could on those few occasions.Report

              • mark boggs in reply to Scott says:

                Yeah, ’cause we’re fighting with the throttle wide open over in the middle east now, aren’t we? No concern about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, right? Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out.Report

              • Scott in reply to Scott says:


                No actually, we have not always been “fighting with the throttle wide open.” One of the most controversial things Gen McChrystal did while he was in command was limit the force that American forces could use to kill the enemy. The end result was some insurgents got away and there were more American casualties. Sounds like Vietnam doesn’t it? I’m glad he is gone and Petraus lifted that order.Report

              • Mark Boggs in reply to Scott says:


                Not sure you understood my sarcasm about fighting with the throttle wide open.

                BTW, we’ve now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets and I’m betting they didn’t have nearly the qualms about fighting with the throttle wide open, yet they still were forced to acheive “peace with honor.”Report

              • Scott in reply to Scott says:


                You should re-check your history. The Soviets were on the verge of winning until the US supplied the Afghans with modern weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. Also don’t forget that while we were in Afghanistan first, it was treated as a lower priority than Iraq for several years and therefore didn’t get the resources necessary to win the fight. Sounds like Vietnam doesn’t it?Report

              • Mark Boggs in reply to Scott says:

                So the Soviets fought a bunch of villagers, with the might the Soviets could bring militarily, unopposed for 8 years and were on the verge of winning, after 8 years fighting villagers I’ll remind you, and it was just in the last year of the conflict, the 9th I believe, that we managed to tip the scales against them? Has nothing at all to do with a people determined to keep their land for themsleves and their right to self-determination to themselves, regardless of whether we agree with what they’re determined to become? You are correct though in the respect that it sounds just like Vietnam.Report

              • Scott in reply to Scott says:


                You really need to re-check your history. The US gave the Afghans minimal small arms shortly after the Soviets invaded, which only meant the Afghans were going to lose more slowly (trade in your Lee-Enfield for an AK). It wasn’t until 1985 when we decided that our policy was to arm the Afghan to win that we gave them the good stuff, like the Stingers. After that the whole ball game changed at the Soviets didn’t own the sky and their Hind gunships became the hunted. No matter how heroic, the Afghans would not have won without our help.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

              our dear leader Obama

              I don’t get this. Obama is the one who didn’t inherit the presidency from this father.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Who has? As much as you obviously hate Bush, presidencies aren’t inherited. This is not a country with Papa Docs and Baby Docs. Doubt you’re referring to John Adams and John Quincy Adams.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Jaybird says:

        Not to mention Jon Stewart, SNL and Stephen Colbert. This triple threat could topple Islam in a show or two. Throw in Conan and Leno and it’s over for a 1000 years.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to MFarmer says:

          Jon Stewart is toothless. He made excuses for Viacom.

          SNL is, well… SNL.

          Colbert, while razor sharp, is a hair advanced. We’ll need to break them in before we can expect them to get Colbert. That said, I’d probably get cable all over again to watch Imam (the last ‘m’ is silent!) Colbert.Report

    • 62across in reply to Scott says:

      Considering that the Feds had this quack in a sting for months and that he is now arrested, doesn’t this episode make you a little embarrassed for all your existential threat talk?Report

  7. Jon Rowe says:

    This has been a big piece of our study of “Christian Nation” over at the American Creation blog.

    Bottom line, is whatever the differences of the different sects, one can construct a case, as CS Lewis did (and he wasn’t the first to do so; I have quotes of theologians in the 18th & 19th Cen. doing something similar) of historic Nicene orthodoxy, even drawing an LCD among what texts the RCs, Anglicans, evangelicals, etc. find inspired.

    Here’s a ten point LCD of late 18th Cen. American Christianity that my friend Dr. Gregg Frazer of The Master’s College constructed for his PhD thesis from Claremont Graduate University:


    But if THIS is what defines “Christianity” then America’s Founding cannot be said to have been “Christian” because the key Founders (the first 4 Presidents, Ben Franklin and others) believed in one maybe two of these points.

    If on the other hand “Christian heresies” like Arianism, Socinianism, universal salvationism, denial of the infallibility of the biblical canon, are included then America’s Founding becomes more authentically “Christian.”Report

    • Lyle in reply to Jon Rowe says:

      Lets at least add Gnosticism and universalism to the list.
      In many respects the Nicene orthodoxy was a product of government interference in religion in the 4th century.Report

  8. Heidegger says:

    Jaybird, you certainly can do this to absurdity—as a matter of fact, you could even pull out the Koran and find that it’s perfectly alright and proper to set off a weapon of mass destruction at a …..CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY in Portland Oregon!! Yes, the lil’ darlings are at it again. Must be the beginning of their “charm” offensive. Great name–Mohamad O. Mohamud–he thought he was detonating a van packed with explosives but it turned out, they were FBI duds. And, almost needless to say, he was screaming, “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.!!” I give this story two hours until somehow it’s Bush’s fault. In the meantime, Allah Akbar! And this IS the religion of peace, regardless of a few bad apples whose dyslexic reading of the Koran leads them to believe this “sacred” text commands them to blow up synagogues, planes, all-girls schools, hospitals, subway stations, hotels, and yes, even Christmas trees!Report

  9. MFarmer says:

    My point is that the confusion within religion, the different interpretations, the beliefs which don’t square with empirical knowledge, the badgering of society to understand the nuances and have tolerance toward the irrationality, is only going to push religion further into obscurity and irrelevance. It’s not incumbent on the average person not attached to a religion to figure all this out and break their backs bending over in tolerance — it’s just as valid a reaction to say “Fuck this craziness! Get a grip and join the modern world.”Report

    • Heidegger in reply to MFarmer says:

      “…it’s just as valid a reaction to say “Fuck this craziness! Get a grip and join the modern world.”

      Yes, agreed, and wearing those god-awful ugly medieval costumes doesn’t help.Report

  10. Heidegger says:

    Can we just refer to the latest up and coming martyr, as MOM? (Mohamad Osman Mohamud) Oddly enough, mothers of suicidal jihadists are frequently proud and supportive of their ill-begotten progeny. One less mouth to feed, I guess. But more importantly, one less Infidel to slay.Report

  11. Heidegger says:

    Make that “would-be” martyr. Just a bit short of his goal. But of course, if you don’t succeed, try, try, again. 1993 WTC—2001 WTC.Report

  12. ktward says:

    You Catholics are The Best. (!)

    I would like to think that Christians even semi-literate about their own divergent faith traditions would be inclined to recognize such fundamental diversity in the religions of others …

    You make a perfectly reasonable point: ‘semi-literate’ Christians, at least, must have copped a clue by now, right?*

    I’ll offer a converse argument.

    Having been raised a Christian fundamentalist, I can attest that such is largely intolerant — if not scathingly damning — of any scriptural interpretation deemed divergent. Among such a myopic religious collective, it stands to reason that they would be even more reflexively suspicious and fearful of diversity within other religions about which they are utterly ignorant. (Enter, all this ridiculous melodrama over Sharia law.)

    Christian and Islamic fundamentalists are, interestingly, fear-mongering mirror images. Sure, their tactics might vary on occasion — cultural and socio-economic influences playing no small part — but their core imperative of ‘salvation’ is identical: it’s our way or the highway.

    *I’m not at all surprised that you, Mr. Cupp, were born and bred Catholic– most of whom, in my experience, default to Reason. For whatever reasons. (As an aside, I was an admittedly odd admirer of John Paul II who, despite the inherent limitations of his Papal hat, was a remarkably active Humanitarian.)

    Myself, I was born and bred a fundamentalist. (As an adult, I’m a long active UU.) I can attest that Reason has never influenced fundie worldview. Perhaps fundies will, eventually, accept that the earth is older than 6000 years– much as Catholicism was forced, eventually, to accept that the earth revolves around the sun.

    In the end, I’m not overtly concerned with organized religion, per se — do whatever you gotta do. ‘Tis the nature of liberty, no? But I am long concerned with fundie influence (aka Religious Right) on legislation and public/foreign policy. (Perhaps JPII dulled my radar, but I’m not all that concerned with the provincial likes of K-Lo.)Report

  13. ktward says:

    Fair enough.
    See you on the tarmac.Report

  14. ktward says:

    Gah! My above comment was intended as reply to MFarmer 5:00 pm.

    (E.D: Perhaps I’m the only dunce that screws this up, but if you might incorporate a modify/edit-comment function, commenters like myself will wreak less havoc. Just saying.)Report

  15. Will says:

    This has been on my “to blog” list for ages, Kyle, but I’m glad you’ve taken up the baton. Great post.Report

  16. anon says:

    “(in fact, the Koran actually says that many of its passages are not to be taken literally!),” –comment by Rufus—–This is correct (and I am a Muslim).
    Most interpretations of the Quran take this into account. Firstly–all translations are considerd “interpretations” because the biases of the translator colors the work. Secondly—An “interpretation”/Comentary of the Quran is called Tafsir—NOT Sharia. Sharia are a set of rules—there are two types of rules—one is the rules for rituals, prayer, dietary laws etc…the other is Jurisprudence (Fiqh). Jurisprudence(Law) has evolved and changed over time—-and will continue to change as Islam co-exists with modernity.
    The original Arabic Quran is exactly the same—word for word, letter for letter, irrespective of sects such as Sunni, Shia, or Sufi. All Muslims follow the five pillars. These things may give rise to the mistaken idea that Islam is monolithic—it is in fact diverse. First—As “Sharia” developed, there were differences of opinion on the level of importance of the Quran (all Muslims agree on the importance of the Quran—however, the Quran mostly offers general guidance (in terms of Law) and only occassionally specific Guidance) So, 4 schools of Sharia developed each having a different emphasis on the importance of various sources—including the Quran. This would be in-line with the Quran which is adamantly against oppression—therefore this diversity promotes the freedom of choice. In Islam, there is Unity within diversity. Therefore, though Islam is not a monolith, yet its diversity is contained within a frameowrk of Unity.Report