Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Group 3: On Becoming a Heretic

In his essay, Edwin Curley, breaks down some pretty generic, and widely accepted tenants of Christianity. i know, i know.....you're all going to say that all people don't HAVE to believe the same things and people interpret scripture differently....blah, blah, blah. However; the themes that he breaks down are :original sin, the need for personal salvation, the problem of evil and free will, and eternal reward or eternal punishment. i think anyone that is not trying to confuse the issue would agree that these are widely accepted pillars in moderate christian theology across the board. he touches on predestination but this is not as big a hit these days. Curley believes that the Christians who hold the scripture as having unchallenged authority have more squares to circle, but also have more real estate atop the moral high ground. If there is no way to validate what parts of scripture is binding and which are not, then the good hearted cherry picked morality of thoughtful believers cant be supported with the same veracity as the fundamentalist whack jobs can. I totally agree. Either God occasionally writes books.....or he doesn't. Do thoughtful Christians have an equal claim to call themselves Christians as the fundamentalists do when they consciously reject, or at the very least neglect, the portions that don't suit their innate sense of fairness, justice, and decency?
Fact Q: In Dostoevsky's novel, The Brothers Karamazov, what is Ivan's maxim?
A: If there is no god, then anything is permitted.


  1. "If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral; everything would be lawful, even cannibalism."


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. i should clarrify my question a bit. when a believer rejects portions of scripture (the words of an infalible creator), and common traditions (begun by the founding members of the faith, religioius scholars, as well as thoughtful religious philosophers), in order to make the religion fit their own moral intuitions; are they not already good without god? they are patchworking a moral code unique to them personally. they are using the guidline of scripture and tradition, but ommiting as they see fit. This represents the removal of devine authority where morality is concerned even among the religous. At any rate it rases doubts about god's clame to devine omniscience.....or devine common sence.

    1. Yes. This very phenomena is a direct indictment of divine authority.

      Further, even if there were a divine moral authority, Dostoevsky's argument still doesn't hold. "If there is no god, everything is permitted." That's not true because we, as a civilized society, won't permit everything.

      What's to keep society from making laws and precepts concerning proper social behavior even if there is a god commanding believers to kill non-believers. Nothing. Same as it is now--nothing. We're already doing that now in spite of religion.

      Rather than deferring to "God says it" we just say "a reasonable and just society says it." All that missing is the eternal damnation, thought crime and 10% of your paycheck.

    2. I think 15% is only for really bad thought crime--pay to play, if you will. ;)

  4. "Do thoughtful Christians have an equal claim to call themselves Christians as the fundamentalists do when they consciously reject, or at the very least neglect, the portions that don't suit their innate sense of fairness, justice, and decency?"

    I would basically argue yes. My research into the philosophical/linguistic thought around this hermeneutic issue has led to what I think is a cogent argument that the "fundamentalists" and "cherry-pickin' liberals" are BOTH taking part in the same unavoidable process of self-filtering the texts, the liberals are just doing so with self-awareness.

  5. And more power to them. I hope they (and you) enjoy immense success in making religion a more thoughtful and self-aware proposition.

  6. I once, when waiting tables in Mississippi had a large party of Pentacostals come in on a Sunday night. Still fevered from the fire and brimstone, I guess, they were loudly discussing the day's sermons or hairstyles or the latest in jean skirt fashions, I presume.

    Point of the story; which I was reminded by the tithing confusion, is that we, as a restaurant, had a policy of adding an automatic 15 percent gratuity to larger parties. This was a group of about 14 people, so it qualified. When I went to give the check to the gentleman at the table, he looked at it, and told me he could not abide the gratuity. I asked, "Well, was everything ok? Was there a problem with the service? Because 15 percent is merely etiquette." His response was, "I only give God 10 percent."

    I've been waiting tables, bartending, and/or managing bars and restaurants since I was 15 years old, and I will NEVER forget this little morsel. The strangest thing was that a lady from that same group scolded me for working on a Sunday?! I don't remember our exact exchange, as they were leaving when she said it, and I was livid that I had stayed an hour longer than I should have for a 8 dollar tip on a 200 dollar bill, but it was something to the effect of keeping the Sabbath holy.

    Holy? Coming into Chesterfield's and ordering waters and salads for 14 people, making a huge mess, and stiffing the waiter.... That was unholy.

    Just a little religious anecdote from the archives of my jaded mind. Finally got my browser issues fixed (knock on plastic).