MD True in what sense?

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 25 2004 - 01:44:24 BST

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    Hey all MOQers, especially those following the religion threads:

    Sam had asserted that Christianity is 'true'. I asked, "In what sense is it
    true?" Although Sam left the forum about that same time, I persisted
    privately and in reply he sent a relevant post from the past, as well as
    these opening comments...

    Sam said:
    Briefly, 'truth' is a high quality static pattern. As I view mythologies and
    language as social level phenomena, the question is, which is the highest
    quality social level pattern available - and I say Christianity has higher
    quality than secular atheism. That is the sense in which it is 'true'.

    dmb says:
    Its true because its better than secular humanism? Because it seems like the
    best to Sam? That hardly seems to meet the critera for 'truth' by anyone's
    definition of the word. And to the extent that Christianity is social and
    secular humanism is intellectual, they can't rightly be compared. To assert
    the former over the latter would violate the moral codes of the MOQ. And
    finally, I think the idea that one can choose the best mythology that
    informs one's life is iffy at best. Its not as far fetched as believing that
    one can choose their gender, height or hair color, but almost. Each of us is
    utterly immerse in a vast background of cultural material over which none of
    us has any conscious control. As Wilber puts it, "I do not fashion this
    meaning, this meaning fashions me."

    Sam said;
    I don't see 'truth' as depending on propositional reference to some
    essentialist externality. I do think there are historical truths, though,
    and I think that (for example) the resurrection is a historical truth. What
    the resurrection actually was is highly debatable, but that something
    happened to turn a demoralised rabble into a world-conquering church seems
    indubitable to me.

    dmb says:
    Very clever. See what he did there? He used postmodern contextualism to deny
    the need for evidence or outside referent, then proceeded to assert the
    historical truth of a scientifically impossible myth. Yes, very clever and
    it is an argument that can't hold a single drop of water.

    Sam said:
    Think of Aesop's fables, the story of the tortoise and the hare. This story
    has a point, a moral. It is using a story to convey a wise teaching..In
    doing so it is conveying a teaching about how to live. If you take account
    of the story, then you will be able to live in a more fulfilled way. ...For
    a great many reasons, it is important to be aware that our understanding is
    founded upon our imagination and empathy as much as on our rational
    intellect (that is, in traditional terms, the heart is more important than
    the head). To believe otherwise is a modern mistake, which has only come
    about in the last couple of hundred years, and is now widely accepted as
    false in the academic world. ...Now, religious language operates in a
    similar way. It uses a story to convey a truth about life.
    dmb says:
    To assert that myths come before intellect is only to echo Pirsig and most
    pomo linguists. Sam's complaint applies to most specifially to the
    representational paradigm that pomo has dismantled. The problem with Sam's
    particular take remains the same here. Mythology certainly contains moral
    codes, but there is so much more to them than that. There are some rather
    profound psychological truths to be discovered there. We live by them
    whether we know it or not. They're in our dreams and motivate us by day in
    unseen ways. Sam has reduced myth and religion to a mere morality tale.

    Sam said:
    Religious language is concerned with teaching us how to live, and it does
    that by telling stories. ...the way in which religious meaning is conveyed
    is primarily through stories. Stories are more fundamental than statements
    of doctrine (propositions). They govern the way we approach our lives.
    ..Consider, for example, the major decisions that we face in life. When to
    get married, and who to get married to. What sort of job/career to pursue.
    Whether to have children, and if so, how to raise them. These questions are
    not going to be finally resolved by logical reasoning, athough logical
    reasoning can do a lot to clarify the choices that we face. ...Whatever the
    answer is, it reveals the things that we place most value on.

    dmb says;
    Marriage, kids and career? This is pure social level stuff. Not that there's
    anything wrong woth that. People have had these concerns for many thousands
    of years, but I'd also point out that there is nothing particularly
    spiritual about it either. I mean, isn't religious language supposed to
    suppose to convey a truth about spiritual matters, not practical matters? I
    think mom and dad are supposed to teach us how to make those choices, not
    religion. These are fleshy concerns, the concerns of social level moral
    codes, not genuine spirituality.

    Sam said:
    So, instead of saying 'Jesus died to save you from your sins' it would be a
    faithful reinterpretation to say 'Jesus shows you how to sort your life out'

    What Christianity is. A brief recap: religious language is based on
    particular stories which teach us how to live. Those stories get integrated
    into systems of belief, which shape our choices and how we understand the
    world. Christianity is, in large part, a practical means of developing those
    required virtues.

    dmb says:
    Jesus shows you how to sort out your life?! Christianity is a practical
    means of developing virtues?! Holy clap trap, Batman! Sam, the diabolical
    anti-mystic, has turned one of the world's great religions into a Victorian
    self-improvement program from hell! It misreads the myths, defies the
    intellect, ignores the mystical and otherwise wrecks havoc and destruction.
    Back to the bat cave! (Sorry, my son just turned four and so I'm up to my
    eyeballs in superheroes.)

    Sam said:
    I happen to think that Christianity is true - in other words, that we really
    are people, we are fundamentally constituted as human beings, who can only
    find satisfaction and happiness through looking after each other. We can
    only find ourselves through human fellowship. And that is what the Eucharist
    is all about - a symbolic reenactment of the teaching of the person who
    shows us the way.

    dmb says:
    People who need people are the luckiest people.. yea, its a fine sentiment,
    but I hardly think it qualifies as a reason to think Christianity is true.
    This argument is devoid of any actual content. Human fellowship, looking
    after each other. There is nothing to knock in that. Its a widely held
    sentiment, but again the concerns here are social, not spiritual. If the
    churches are to function as a mean of social cohesion as they did in
    premodern times, that's fine with me. But as I understand the terms
    "religion" and "Christianity", their primary function is SUPPOSED to be

    I think the MOQ's moral codes are very helpful in sorting things out and
    otherwise appreciate the power it has as an idea. But its not just an
    academic exercise either. Since it is so fresh in your mind, dear reader,
    let's take Sam's argument as an example. When I read Sam's reinterpretation
    of the salvation of Christ, I actually recoiled in horror. It felt very
    wrong. Not just logically flawed or otherwise incorrect, but dark and evil.
    It felt a little like one might feel upon seeing some beautiful little thing
    crushed by some drunken clod.

    In what sense is Christianity true? I don't think Sam knows. Anyone else
    care to take a crack at it? As mentioned, I think there is a certain kind of
    truth to it and since its the central religion in Western culture - well, it
    might be worth exploring - especially for you atheists and agnostics. The
    MOQ and mysticism help to explain each other and are clearly quite
    compatible. I don't see why Christian mysticism would be an exception.


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