RE: MD quality religion (Christianity)

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 18 2004 - 02:42:40 BST

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    Sam said to Mark:
    ...In other words, as a result of your prejudice (Christians lack the
    capacity for sceptical and independent thought) you place my views into a
    particular box marked 'low Quality intellectual endeavour' and then attack
    the box. You fail to engage with my arguments as they stand.

    dmb says:
    I feel compelled to but in here because I have tried to engage with your
    arguments, but you have not yet addressed my concerns. Now that Mark has
    goaded you into some answers, I'll try again.... I wouldn't say that
    Christians lack the capacity for independent thought. Its not a matter of
    ability. The problem is a kind of ideological conflict of interest. Take the
    soldier, for example. In order to function properly as a soldier, one has to
    internalize certain views and perspectives upon which his role is based.
    This is accomplished quite deliberately as a part of a soldier's training.
    Indeed, it is the main purpose of that training. Sure, they have to be
    physically fit and learn to fire a gun, but none of that will do any good
    unless he has been psychologically prepared to follow orders whether or not
    he agrees with them, understands them and even if it means he will die. This
    is not a problem in and of itself. This is just what it takes to build a
    soldier. But when a person so prepared is then asked to evaluate the foriegn
    policies of the nation he serves, don't expect a fair or unbiased answer.
    His ability to do so would undermine his ability to preform his duties
    without question, which he has sworm an oath to do. This is not to say that
    soldiers lack the capacity to think critically about the cause they fight
    for. Its just that it would be foolish and self-destructive to do so. It
    would be a conflict of interest. The priesthood is not exactly the same, of
    course, but it requires some ideological commitments along the same lines. A
    priest's ability to function as a priest depends upon keeping certain
    promises and holding certain beliefs. Then there are the larger cultural

    Sam continued:
    The point at issue is whether in fact it is true that Christians can be
    identified with the social pattern of value that they accept, in other
    words, whether it is true that to be a Christian means that you cannot
    function intellectually. again imply that my disagreement is based on
    'blind' faith, rather than a reasoned perception. As such this is simply a
    further example of your prejudice.

    dmb says:
    Again, its not about functional ability. (There are some rather interesting
    correlations we could explore, but have found it only makes the stupid
    people angry. ;-) But serioisly, I wouldn't go so far as to say that
    Christianity is strictly a social level thing or that Christians are
    dominated strictly by social level values. But as a generalization I think
    its safe to say that for the vast, vast majority of believers in the West,
    religion has taken sides in the war between social and intellectual values
    and today represents a regressive and reactionary force. But it entirely
    depends what kind of Christianity we're talking about. Christian mysticism
    is not a reactionary force, but fundamentalism is. And there is a whole
    spectrum in between.

    Sam said to Mark:
    Your secondary argument simply displayed your prejudice again, viz that
    accepting those elements (belief that Jesus was the son of God, that
    performed miracles, and was resurrected) disqualifies a person from
    intellectual debate.

    dmb says:
    Prejudice, prejudice, prejudice. That's three times you accused him of
    bigotry, but I think this is a legitimate issue. The myth says he came back
    from the dead. Science, experience and common sense says that's impossible.
    In MOQ terms, if one asserts myth in such a way that it trumps or defies
    intellect, one has asserted a lower level of morality over a higher one and
    has thereby engaged in a minor form of evil, an act of decadent corruption.
    As I said before, "I never figured you for a literalist". Please say it
    ain't so.

    Sam wrote:
    There are embedded assumptions in your question about the nature of faith,
    viz that it is a cognitive endeavour analagous to scientific enterprise,
    through which the Truth about the world is discerned and given propositional
    form. I don't share those assumptions, so I see no contradiction in
    asserting that Christianity is built around a mythology and that
    Christianity is true.

    dmb says:
    I don't understand what you mean by the word "faith". Consequently, I still
    don't know what you think of miracles like the ressurection. In what sense
    is it "true"? Are you saying you accept it as something that literally
    happened, an historical occurance or not? You may recall that I understand
    this story as a metaphor for a spiritual truth, that we all must die and
    begin a new life, but I still don't know what you think of that sense of its
    truth either. I don't mean to be cruel, but I have yet to hear an
    explanation of the meaning of faith that doesn't come across as an evasion.
    And I'm not just talking about you or comments in this thread. I'm saying
    never in my life have I heard an explanation that sounded like anything
    other than a cowardly retreat into non-sense and paradox. So, please restore
    my faith. Please offer something that a non-theologian can appreciate. In
    what sense in the myth true? I know its not "scientifically" true, but how
    about literally, historically, actually?

    Sam asked:
    I am explicitly proposing a change - a variant type of MoQ,... I see that as
    a legitimate endeavour, especially within this forum. Do you consider it
    illegitimate? If so, are we only allowed exegesis of the sacred text or are
    we permitted to explore variations to Scripture?"

    dmb says:
    In principle it is perfectly legitimate, even desirable, to hope for a
    better idea. The question is whether or not your specific proposal is
    legitimate. Or to put it less dramatically, the question is whether or not
    your MOQ represents a better idea. I think not and would be happy to say
    exactly why. I can only guess at your motives, but I get the distinct
    impression that you do not seek to improve the MOQ so much as re-shape it to
    make it conform with some particular sectarian beliefs. I see that
    previously mentioned 'ideological conflict of interest' at work in your
    proposal. In the broader view, having read your other posts of this week,
    (congrats, dad!) I have detected confusion between the social and
    intellectual levels, confusion about static and dynamic, distortions of
    mysticism and have otherwise discovered that you differ with Pirsig on
    nearly everthing. In spite of your protests to the contrary, I think your
    MOQ is radically different than Pirsig's. And I have to say that your wish
    to explore variations in "the sacred text" seems quite ironic considering
    that you seem to be butchering Pirsig's work for sectarian reasons. I know
    you were not talking to me, but c'mon Sam. You can't dismiss these concerns
    with accusations of bigotry and dogmatism. I mean, if we dare to hope for a
    better idea, I think we also have to consider the possibility that we'll end
    up with a worse idea or nothing at all. And as I said to Wim, I find such
    boasts to be over-the-top embarrassing. I think people with genuinely
    creative intellects are extremely rare and they define the word 'genius'. To
    thoroughly grasp these ideas is no small accomplishment. To actually improve
    them usually requires enormous talent and discipline. It can take a lifetime
    of devotion and heaps of good luck. Yes, we can hope for a better idea, but
    please consider what that means before making such claims.

    Sam asked:
    "Is it the 'meddling' that's the problem, or the fact that I do it from a
    Christian perspective?"

    dmb says:
    From a Christian perspective? I really must insist that you be more
    specific. Which Christian perspective? There are a great many of them, no?
    In any case, I think I've shown that I'm extremely sceptical about
    "meddling" of any sort. I honestly can't think of a meddler that I haven't
    criticized, scolded or otherwise disagreed with, Christian or otherwise. In
    fact, as I mentioned before, I think mystical Christianity is the only good
    kind and is the only kind that is compatible with the MOQ. Even further, the
    MOQ only clarifies mysiticism, Christian or otherwise. By contrast, you seem
    to interpet mysticism so that you end up missing the point of both the MOQ
    and of Christianity. In that sense, yes, the problem is that you are
    meddling from a perpsective that is basically hostile to the MOQ.

    If you like, I'll try to flesh out this criticism by replying to some of
    your other posts. This problaly feels like a personal attack, especially on
    the heels of Mark's recent cruelties. My criticism is based on an evaluation
    of the proposal itself. I don't care who said it. I really don't. The
    proposal is not in dispute because the proposer is flawed. (And it gives me
    no pleasure to tell a priest that he's missed the point of Christianity. Its
    depressing as hell.) No. Its nothing personal, really. The criticism is
    harsh simply because I think making such changes is a very, very bad idea. I
    think the proposal is based on a fundamenatal misunderstanding of the MOQ's
    main ideas and is motivated by the extremely dubious wish to preserve
    certain sectarian religious beliefs, certain interpetations of certain
    myths, that have little or nothing to do with the MOQ as Pirsig wrote it.


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