The unexamined religion…

20 Sep

… is not worth believing?

You will find relevant tags and categories in the side bar, and I also refer you to On the awkwardness (and fatuity?) of discussing religion, a post from January 2007, and to the relevant part of the Links Page here. All that is hedging around what may be a can of worms, if you will forgive the mixed metaphor.

I was drawn to this topic by Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists, a thoughtful post from a few days back on Runtu’s Rincón. This is a newish blog from “the heart of Zion in Provo, Utah.”

When I was an “apologist” (read: rationalizer) for Mormonism, I used to talk about the “shelf.” You know, there were things that we couldn’t quite explain, so we put them on a shelf, figuring that eventually God would sort it all out, and we’d see how everything fit together.

Somewhere along the line, the shelf collapsed, and I’m happy to say I don’t have a shelf anymore. Once you acknowledge that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, there is nothing about the religion and its claims that is so difficult to explain that it must go on the shelf until God explains it. But for the apologists, holy crap, what a shelf…

I don’t see this as a bitter post, and you really should read it. Mormons, for whom as people I have respect, do have a problem compared with other fundamentalists in the Abrahamic tradition. It is impossible for a Mormon to engage in any kind of real scholarship on their additional holy book, as there is no trail to follow. All they have is a translation, allegedly, of texts which can no longer be examined. I don’t envy Mormon apologists either. My own feeling, I’m afraid, is that The Book of Mormon belongs to the canon of 19th century American fiction, or pastiche. At least the many texts which make up the Bible, not to mention the ticklish question of the Quran, have a provenance in some cases even firmer than that of some of the Greek and Roman classics. Critical study of that provenance does not deliver what fundamentalists desire, however, as it shows an evolving set of human texts rather than the much desired infallible word of God. While there are many questions of detail to be settled — room for scholarship of the best kind — there is, it seems to me, no doubting that conclusion. Those who resist this scholarship, it seems to me, delude themselves and others.

All of this is in my view consistent — and do note this insistent qualification — with a humble theism. It’s terribly undramatic, I’m afraid, but there you go, and there I am.

As I said, explore what I have said before, and check the links. This is a work in progress, and certainty is not the goal. In fact, I rather see certainty as something of a problem, indeed as a very great danger. Some people are so certain they are willing to kill others who are less certain, or whose certainty does not match that of the homicidal zealot.

We could all do with being more rather than less postmodern in such matters.

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Posted by on September 20, 2008 in Bible, challenge, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, humanity, interfaith, Islam, pluralism, Pomo, religion


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