[ExI] Are literalists the only consistent members of a faith?

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Thu Jun 11 16:42:58 UTC 2009

On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 6:10 PM, Dan<dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Well, therein lies the rub: you're assuming being a Christian or a Jew means you have to accept their respective Bibles as literally the "Word of God" and, further, that this is, for them, not open to interpretation.

No, this is not what I am saying. Interpretation, by the way, is in
any even unavoidable, as you study when you take your philosophy of
law exam.

What I am saying is that you cannot at the same time claim that the
Scriptures are Holy *and* orient your interpretation on the basis of
the compatibility of the results thereof with parameters and factors
which have nothing to do with the reconstruction of the "intentions of
God" (i.e., adopt a an objective/evolutive criterium rather than a

> Okay, though this seems different than your statement that started this thread on literalism:
>> "My guess is that those who *really* adhere to monotheist tenets usually practise >>"doublethink", especially when they do not have any other choice..."
> Here you seemed to be saying they [monotheist Christians and Jews] were being inconsistent with their "monotheist tenets" if they weren't Biblical literalists.  I think this can be summed up as there being two possibilities:

As I say, it is not a matter of being literalists, simply of being
"honest", that is being absolutely unconcerned by the inconvenience of
a given meaning when assessing its plausibility, and interested in
discovering the meaning the message had for its origin, not what use
can be made of it for its recipients (as some school of thought
suggest it should be done with "human" statutes) .

> I'm not sure, in this case, that there's a problem.

The problem is: if you are a jurist, you could not care less about
what Justian or Jefferson meant when they drafted a legal maxim, you
are just concerned of what you can make of it here and now. If you are
a historian or a philologist, for you this is simply a falsification
of the meaning of the same maxim, because what you are interested is
being as faithful as possible to the intention of the speaker as made
clear by the words employed, its semantic universe and other available
information concerning the context.

Now, the Christian, Jews or Muslims tradition (not perhaps my
neighbour's dog, but he is not generally credited to be a great
theologian...) claim that the Scriptures are Holy, meaning that they
have an authoritative nature owing to their Source.  If what matters
is the Source, and not simply their being a text useful for making
Hollywood movies which can be more or less faithful depending on the
production requirements, it would seem obvious that the only
admissible approach is the former.

In other words: you cannot say "Who cares what God intended, it is
more useful for me to give it another meaning" without contradict your
claims as to the Holiness of the Scriptures and their intrinsic and
final Truth.

> But the wider issue here -- rather than getting further into the quagmire of literalism -- is can someone take specific passages from a given religious movement's sacred text* -- e.g., the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, or the Koran -- to draw the conclusion that all or most members of that movement will follow a literal (and often violent) interpretation of that text?

Most denominational contemporary of those religions members ignore
commands concerning "love", worship, faith, rituals, sins, sex, anger,
gluttony, etc. Little surprise that they may ignore as well commands
concerning holy violence, which are often even more inconvenient for
their private interest and sake.

Stefano Vaj

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list