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Obey No1kinobe

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Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt?

Is it time to accept literal religious belief systems are intellectually bankrupt given our current scientific understanding of the universe?

For thousands of years different religious belief systems have explained how the universe came into existence and appears the way it is, why we are here, how we should live, and what happens when we die.

Often these beliefs are enshrined in religious texts, from prophets, revelations, or interpreted by a priestly class. In addition to creation myths, there are laws and tribal history/mythologies, miraculous claims etc.

Today we have the benefit of being more aware of the variety of religious beliefs and science to show us that life and the universe is far more complex than most religious traditions give credit. The older religions are so often clearly products of their time and place in terms of explaining the world, what is acceptable, how we should live.

In asking this question I note at best only one of the many religious views could be literally correct and likely none are. While other foreign beliefs seem alien, strange and far fetched, if we are examine the traditions we are familiar with they too are strange. Religions are like clothes and language - artifacts of culture.

Today we laugh at the idea the world is flat, or the centre or the universe, that the sun and the moon are gods. We understand atoms and bacteria, plate tectonics and are starting to grasp the age and size of the universe, evolution and the diversity of life, the quantum.

Science better explains the universe, human behaviour. While never complete, perhaps science gives us a better basis for a rationale debate on the meaning and wonder of life and how best to live.

Do different religions support tribalism, or at least make it worse?
Are fundamental religious views holding back science and social development?
Are Deism or beliefs related to a non interventionist intelligence or creator still valid hypotheses and less damaging?

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Closing Statement from Obey No1kinobe

There was an article in the paper yesterday discussing the US Republican candidates. It mentioned that over 40% of US Americans believe in the genesis stories. In the only country to put humans on the moon and holding the most powerful and technologically advanced military in human history, nearly half the population believes the universe was created in 6 days, Eden, the tree of knowledge, god walking in the garden, Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, people living 900+ years etc.

I note many religious folk commented below that that they believe these scriptures are not meant to be taken literally.

Perhaps some literal beliefs are easy to discount. If you believe the Earth is a flat disc sitting on the back of a giant turtle flying through space, or gods routinely walking the earth, I suggest we can file these away as myth.

Key considerations for the other literal beliefs may include (1) whether humans were created as is or evolved and (2) whether the universe is about 6,000 years old or about 13 billion years old. (3) Are the other super normal/natural claims believable?

A god could have created the universe to look much older than it is. Our genetic similarity with other living creatures may just be the way we were created. But what a tenuous connection to reality this is. I suggest this is getting as close to being intellectually unsustainable as possible if not already over the line.

A literalist believes all the other interpretations are false. I suggest they are just one away from a more intellectually sustainable position. There is no proof for even a non interventionist creator.

A big question is how these seemingly nonsense stories, some with roots in the Bronze Age, are still believed today. Perhaps a topic for another conversation?

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments.

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    Mar 6 2012: The bible says; Prove all things, and religious people don't think they have to. Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders of his time for blind faith, and yet most religious people think they are saved by blind faith.

    Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within you, and the church says; no, no, he was referring to himself as God among the people. Paul says know ye not the ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth within you. And they still don't get it.

    The church says follow our lead and we will get you to heaven when you die, and Jesus says that God is God of the living and not of the dead.

    It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted.
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      Mar 6 2012: "It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted"

      BINGO !!

      You paraphrased Romans 12:2 "....be transformed by making your 'MIND' over, that you may....PROVE TO YOURSELVES the good and acceptable and perfect will of God"

      And in verse one Paul states "I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with.......... YOUR POWER OF REASON"

      I have used these two scriptures before to bring out that faith has 20/20 vision......it is not blind.
      We are exhorted IN THE VERY SCRIPTURES to use our reasoning powers. God does not want
      robots or fanatics.

      If you personally live by blind faith, well how terrible is that?

      You then cannot defend the scriptural truths that appear in the Bible.

      You know Mr. Bourque, today, because we have so much abundant knowledge, and so many go to schools of higher learning, some have come to the conclusion that scriptures are old-fashioned and have no value.

      Imagine meditating on life and coming up with pearls of wisdom, but then having to humbly admit that this is scriptural truth and having to cite a text from the Bible. Not many men can humbly do this. We, for the most part, want to be wise in our own eyes, not defer to sixty six books written by over 40 men written hundreds of years ago.

      I am a nobody. But I do have faith.............not credulity, faith. It grows each day, and so does my spirituality.

      Your comment is right on the money.

      Scriptures are definitely worth studying.

      Alot of valuable lessons can be gleaned from them, and there are principles in scripture that not only help us, but help our fellow humans.

      Thank you for opening this topic of conversation.
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        Mar 6 2012: Hello Mary,

        People often deny scripture without knowing what is there. Let me give an example;

        In the book of Exodus, Moses enters pharaoh's court and throws down his staff and it becomes a serpent. Pharaoh's magicians all do the same with the same result. Then all of Pharaoh's serpents are swallowed up into Moses' serpent. It makes for great hollywood drama, but there is something there that most people don't see. The nature gods of the ancient world were personifications of the forces of nature. These forces were presented as serpents as part of their symbolism. The serpent was chosen because of its attributes. It was shown as swallowing its tail, forming a circle and representing the cycles of nature. It has a double phallus and forked tongue, representing duality (as Joseph Campbell points out in his description of mandalas, the center is dark, the abysmal dark out of which all things come and back to to which they go. And when appearances emerge, they break into pairs of opposites). It sheds its skin, representing regeneration. It crawls on it belly, representing humility. Yet it is quite agile, representing resourcefulness. When you understand all this, and realize that the God of Moses is a monotheistic God, you see a mythological representation of reductionism (the basis of the unified field theory of physics) from a right brain perspective. The fact that this story was written over three thousand years ago caught my attention. It 's like looking at a three-D poster. Once you get your focus right, the story takes on a whole new dimension.

        There is much wisdom in the bible if you are willing to see beyond the words. The literalists render it superficial. And the opponents would rather just throw it away. It remains in my mind as a book where secrets are still held.
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          Mar 6 2012: And also, did you know that the plagues Jehovah sent to the Egyptians were specifically aimed at humiliating their gods?

          About the only thing most people know of the plagues is what appears in the movie the Ten Commandments.

          There is more to the Bible than meets the eye.

          People used to sit and talk about the Bible all the time in the old days, now you'd think you were speaking in tongues if you started to talk to someone about God's word.

          What a terrible shame.
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          Mar 7 2012: Hi Roy, Mary, I started this conversation with the idea that literal interpretations are just not a fit with the current scientific view of the world. A deity beyond our comprehension or any human specific interpretation is harder to argue against.

          Obviously even literalist can interpretate things a bit different as to meaning.

          This and some other threads open the world of symbolic interpretations. I suggest scripture can be interpreted in even more ways if looking for a symbolic interpretation.

          I suggest good on anyone for reading the bible and getting whatever meaning that enriches their life. Just don't believe you have a universal truth. People are getting similar insights from other texts. Why assume the bible is the best source for these insights. Why not Buddhist suhtras, or Aboridgine dreamtime stories, or greek mythology etc.

          Humans are meaning creating animals. This is a reflection of our minds enormous capability compared to other species and led to us dominating this world. Yet this world is just one speck in a galaxy of 100 billion stars, in a known universe with billions of galaxies.

          Suggest we can get human insights from many different sources. Even modern books like stillness speaks etc. C Sarrin, suggest that the bible was the main cultural religious text in the past. Now we have better access to science and other religions. But perhaps as a society we may not be as reflective as in the recent past. Still some people have explored these themes deeper than perhaps most battling to survive in the past.
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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Adriaan, my understanding is Peter believes there was a biblical flood and 6 day creation.
          I'm aware there are other interpretations among people with beliefs associated with Christianity.

          I would not be surprised if there had been a severe flood at some stage in the general region that had ended up in various local religions. Or it all could have been concocted.

          Some think of the days as ages. Some assume there was a long time frame before Adam and Eve. Some think it meant symbolically. Others literally.

          What do you think?
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        Mar 9 2012: Mary: "It isn't the religious writings that I have a problem with, it is how they are being interpreted"
        I agree interpretation is a big issue. Interpretation will always be an issue.
        Its part of being human.

        I would also suggest that there is also an issue related to many believing religious texts are the word of god. This gives them a special power and authority. Religious interpretations can be twisted to support dreadful acts. Sometimes, they don't even need to be twisted because they clearly state laws or make judgements that reflect medieval or earlier sentiments.

        How many times in the bible does god kill people or say people should be killed.
        Remember god killed nearly everyone in the flood.
        Was silent on slavery unless it was jewish slaves.
        Thank god we have freedom of religion in some countries now.
        The god of the bible is against freedom of religion for its chosen people.
        It was an exclusive bloody club for centuries and still is if you decline to believe Jesus was the messiah

        The end of times Armageddon beliefs scare me the most

        Thank god for the enlightenment constitutions and values.

        Who really wants to give up freedom of speech, religion, the separation of church and state, due process in law, rights for children, equality for women even telling you what to eat and to cut the genitals of your children etc.

        Who wants part with a god that had a chosen people, or flooded the world, destroyed cities.

        If taken literally, the god of the bible is sometimes a murderous dictator. At other times its love thy neighbour etc. Seems so human. We are capable for great acts of love and compassion, and also heinous acts. Does not surprise me if you assume religion is the work of man and the texts have no divine providence.

        If god was a human or a king today = badguy

        I believe the world would be a better place if we figured out for ourselves what society and laws that maximise happy lives and not have these religious texts with love and hate weighing us down
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          Mar 9 2012: Would you have difficulty believing there never was a physical flood of water? Just as there never was a creation of this world in six days?
    • Mar 7 2012: This is an interesting thread. Could one or more please interpret Exodus 32:18-35 for me. It was mentioned on the radio this week and I'm wondering what you make of a passage like this. Also it is not quite clear to me if you are saying that the Bible itself is a valuable book or if there are parts of it that you esteem. Are there other non- Judeo-Christian scriptures that you value as well? If so, what would they be? Thank you to anyone who takes time to answer.
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        Mar 7 2012: Hi Karen.
        I guess I'm a literalist, I don't see why God would write a book that didn't have an obvious message. Having said that, there are hidden depths that only become apparent upon further study, or revelation. The plain literal meanings however give us a benchmark. Any interpretations which go counter to plain meaning can normally be discarded. So to the passage in Exodus :-
        Moses had been meeting with God, the people became restless & started to party. They constructed a false god of gold. When Moses saw this he was miffed, he broke the stone tablets God had given him. He asked who was on the Lord's side. The Levites came forward, he armed them,& told them to kill the rest, which they duly did. 3000 of them.
        Moses went back up to God to ask forgiveness for his people. God told him that sin must be punished, & sent a plague on them.
        That is the plain meaning. You can make many parallels & preach many sermons on a passage like this , because it is typical of the Israeiite's behaviour, & also our behaviour today. You just have to look around you & ask " Who is on the Lord's side today ?" I'll leave it there as admin. doesn't appreciate too much bible.

        :-)
        • Mar 8 2012: Peter, I think most people don't want to dig too deep to find meaning in a text so, before trying to make sense out of something more obscure, it seems right to look at the obvious meaning and ask why this story was used to illustrate either an obvious or symbolic message. On the surface this seems to say that the "soldiers of God" a doing well to kill men, women and children en mass who are "not on the Lord's side." Do you think that is the message? It seems to be a message that some Muslims find in their own scripture inspired by, if I'm correct, the same historical God, and those Muslims (the literalists) take it quite seriously as we all know.
          So please, go on. What do you make of this as it applies to our lives today?
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          Mar 8 2012: Karen, just my view but the Old Testament god is not particularly moral from today's perspective.
          Barbaric and cruel. Reflecting the people of the times.

          This is the god that sends plagues, destroys cities, and ultimately flooded the entire world killing everyone and every animal except a few on Noah's boat. Killed everyone.
          Kill naughty children.
          Kill adulterers.
          Kill homosexuals.
          Kill witches.

          Even jewish literalists are selective in the way they apply gods laws because a civil society does not accept these disgusting laws.

          Christians have a tradition of somehow connecting the old testament god with the teachings of Jesus, and many saying they are the same person. A true feat of mental and intellectual manipulation I'm in awe of.

          Jesus, if the gospels have any resemblance to the truth, even without the claimed miracles, taught an approach much closer to modern humanist ethics.

          My view is it would have been better if Jesus teachings became a philosophical approach more like Buddhism or a stream of Judaism rather than claiming he was god, the same god as the old testament.

          Perhaps the next conversation should be whether the Abrahamic religious traditions/scriptures ethically bankrupt. Maybe no need. It is so obvious.

          I know we aren't supposed to judge god from modern human values. The explanations put forward to rationalise the acts of a god with roots in the bronze age are well meaning but sadly pathetic. Pre Enlightenment values. No thanks.

          Really, some of our societies have moved on to more civil values thanks to the Enlightenment values. The old testament reflects the society at the time it was written. We have moved on from that, but these old books still hold us back from a better society because of religious believers seeing their gods will in them.

          People don't need religion to do bad things. But having people believe in gods rooted in the values and barbarism of the past certainly helps.
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        Mar 8 2012: Hi Karen.
        The Koran is very much centred on the Old Testament, & I agree that these sort of passages probably get used to justify murder. In a war, everyone claims God's on their side. As a Christian, I have done a bit of heart searching over these passages.
        Firstly the passage says nothing of women & children. We should resist assumptions, but women & children may have been included.
        Imagine these people had a terrible disease which was extremely painfully & fatal, & they insisted in coming to your town by force. Would you let them come, or would you kill them ?
        If you did nothing they would infect you & yours & no-one would survive.
        This was the type of situation, but the disease was debauchery, probably child sacrifice, compulsory rape, etc. This sort of thing kills nations, we just don't have the sense to cry 'enough'. Witness Germany, Russia, Cambodia, Uganda, Syria; you get the picture. We regularly bomb civilians to save our civilisations.
        Perspective. If eternity exists; & God thinks it does; then this life is at best like mist, very temporary. my dad used to think it unfair that god drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea, & let the Israelites through. Well the Israelites were all dead as well within a hundred years or so. so's my dad, & I'm hard on his heels.
        Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
        “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” [37] Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [40] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
        Jesus here gives us 2 new commandments. If we obey them, we have fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Testament. Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us. There is still suffering in the world because humankind is at war with God. As individuals, all we have to do is say 'sorry', but we're too proud.

        :-)
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          Mar 9 2012: Hi Peter,

          I guess in the end I believe the universe is billions of years old.
          I believe humans and animals evolved.
          That dinosaurs and humans were not concurrent species.

          We are looking at the verses from very different paradigms. Maybe we both see what we want to see. I see something entirely consistent for the time it was written. Not something that consistently shows the old texts had some amazing insight into the nature of the universe as we now know it.

          I'm familiar with most these verses.
          "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing."
          I really don't know what to infer from this. Are you implying the text is referring to the vacuum of space?

          "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,"
          My guess is this is just mixing 2 metaphors implying the subject will have many many descendants. I doubt this is meant to imply that there are as many stars as pieces of sand.
          Taken literally, I expect there are far more pieces of sand than Jewish descendants.
          And far more jews than visible stars. And far less than actual stars in the universe.

          Again, the red shift connection is very tenuous. My recall is this is used to say that when god made the universe he did in a way that gave makes it look older than the 6000 years. This seems the most tenuous connection.

          Taken literally the water verse state god is actively managing the water cycle.

          Do all streams run to the ocean. I thought some went to inland lakes or seas.

          Some of this is observation based. Some is inspiring verse.

          My view is this is clutching at straws. A lot of reverse engineering to try and fit what we now know with a literal interpretation.

          Still I believe in freedom of religion as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others, not like the god of the old testament. I'm also human like the authors.
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        Mar 8 2012: Ps. The Christian God & Muslim God are not the same, regardless of what church leaders may say.

        :-)

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