....Not about MULTIPLEX. August 3, 2009 6:47 PM   Subscribe

The FPP about the Webcomic "Multiplex has spawned two tangents -- it seemed time to split the discussions off so they don't derail talk about the strip itself (which I kinda like, so I wanted to save the topic from derails, if I could...).

Tantent the first: "Kids who work at movie theaters are incompetent!" Seems largely settled, but just in case anyone wants to weigh in.

2. Tangent the second: How can [that character] claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?"

The "what is and is not a Christian" topic seems to have done once before on the blue, so it seems to be a topic with lots of legs.

...And I'll start, in the comments.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to MetaFilter-Related at 6:47 PM (121 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

That thread is a trainwreck.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2009


Okay. Over in the blue,, PontifexPrimus, you say this:

in this strip she claims to be a rational, almost secular Christian when earlier on she said that she saved herself for marriage, remaining a virgin out of religious conviction.

....And what's your point? That sounds pretty consistent to me -- she is stating that the Bible is NOT a science book, and most mainstream Christians agree on this. On the other hand, she is stating that it IS a guidebook for her personal morality, and most mainstream Christians also agree on this.

What is it about someone saying "it wasn't ever supposed to be about science, it was supposed to be about personal conduct" is a disconnect for you? You don't also expect people to think that Emily Post is also about particle physics, do you? Of course not -- you don't look up the Third Law of Thermodynamics in Emily Post, because that's not what it's FOR. It's for looking up where to put the salad fork.

Most Christians are intelligent enough to know the difference between Emily Post and Griffiths' Introduction to Elementary Particles. So why does it surprise you to find a Christian who says she regards the Bible as a book on morality, but not science?

....Or do you NOT think Christians are thus intelligent?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2009


The Bible also has a lot to say about circumcision and declawing! I feel we should address those subjects as well.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like how something as simple as
Multiplex is a webcomic about life at a movie theater.
can start this kind of rambling, intense discussion.

I love you, internet.
posted by Askiba at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


How can anyone claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?

That's pretty much how we got more than one religion and multiple denominations in the first place. It's evolution, baby. See Papal decrees, Protestantism, etc.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:06 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Three Wolf Moon t-shirt is now "Exclusive to Urban Outfitters", and this is what you people are talking about?
posted by gman at 7:08 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The weirdest thing about that series of anti-Sky-God comments is that the author pretty much stays out of commenting on the philosophical choices of his characters; it's not like either the Christian or the atheist is shown to be clearly right in the end. So the basic complaint seems to be "I can't believe the author acknowledged that some people live according to different principles than I do." That's... wacky.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:14 PM on August 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, I thought we were talking about this, nevermind.
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:15 PM on August 3, 2009


I liked those comics of Greg Nog's that somebody linked to in that thread.
posted by not that girl at 7:34 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


How can anyone claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?

Well, for example, there was this guy named Martin Luther, who way back when ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:47 PM on August 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'd just like to complain that my post on the same day was about genocide, academia and mainstream media AND IT GOT 7 COMMENTS! Yet lunit's post about a webcomic got ten times as many.

There was even a bonus link to an obit post in my post to get people extra riled up and noone bit...

I'm joking, I'm joking. I have to say that I really like minimal posts like lunit's Multiplex post. I'm not very good at making them, which is why I appreciate them even more.
posted by Kattullus at 7:53 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ever play peggle? You know how sometimes you'll do this random shot that hits all of the right pegs, as if God himself was pushing that little ball around the screen, and the combo just never ends until it lands in the "free ball" bucket?

I do believe lunit has accomplished something similar, I think he gets a score multiplier for having 2 tangent threads going on at once. Plus a free ball, for generating a meta thread.
posted by hellojed at 8:00 PM on August 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well this is silly.
posted by lunit at 8:04 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was making a post about the Combat Poster Project today, but discovered at the last minute a post had already been made about it.

Damn you, Metafilter, damn you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 PM on August 3, 2009


hellojed: I do believe lunit has accomplished something similar, I think he gets a score multiplier for having 2 tangent threads going on at once.

Ahem! It would be remiss of me not to point out that lunit is female.
posted by Kattullus at 8:16 PM on August 3, 2009


"Kids who work at movie theaters are incompetent!" Seems largely settled, but just in case anyone wants to weigh in.

Let me check my list!

Professions I Have Spouted Off About And/Or Expressed Derision Towards On MeFi:
☑ Doofy barristas
☑ Surly busdriver
☑ Snotty bartenders
☑ Indifferent librarians
☑ Posturing bouncers
☐ Callow theatre employees

Brb!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:21 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ahem! It would be remiss of me not to point out that lunit is female.

Oh, sorry! Lunit does have a feminine ring to it....now that I think about it.
posted by hellojed at 8:48 PM on August 3, 2009


we all read lunit's thread together at the meetup tonight.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:19 PM on August 3, 2009


Ahem! It would be remiss of me not to point out that lunit is female.

So the 2x multiplier, the free ball, and a Girdle of Gender Reversal?
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:59 PM on August 3, 2009


Let's just say, three free balls.
posted by fleacircus at 11:55 PM on August 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Having slept on it I think I will try to restate my points. Sorry if this might be a long-ish post.

I kind of identified, as has been mentioned, with the male, atheist character, although I'd rather consider myself agnostic (in the sense that "there might be a higher being out there, but if so, he hasn't given definite proof of its existence" rather than outright denying the existence of a god). It's clear that we, as the readers of the comic strip have access to more information than the characters acting in it, but for the sake of the argument I'll assume that Jason knows about as much about Angie as we do. So we have this scene where the two have a heart-to-heart talk, and she makes her case. The parts we get to read don't make much logical sense to me - she basically says "That's what I believe, I don't have to justify it, and I'm not willing to discuss it". And this is portrayed as an acceptable choice.

I'm not trying to rag on religion, honestly, nor on religious people - if you feel the need to believe in a Higher Being and to worship him with certain rituals and rites, by all means do (as long as you harm no one else in the process). What gets me is that Angie doesn't really seem to be clear what it is she believes, and yet she defends it reflexively. She seems to have gone about half-way to a rational world-view and stopped there. She uses some concepts from the Bible, yet refuses others. She claims to have faith in... something, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? She say she is not stupid, that she trusts science, but that she still chooses to follow some of the 2000-year-old precepts.
I do believe that if you build your life around something so central, so important, you should have some reasons for that and be able to explain them. If you use the Bible as a source of morals, how do you decide which parts to follow and which to ignore (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to be funny here) and how do you justify making those decisions?

I know I'm overthinking this - this is just a handful of comic panels and not a serious discussion of personal ethics, but it still bothers me. Again, not so much the fact that Angie has religion, but that it seems to be a patchwork affair, not really consistent in itself, and that the author of the comic gives her a pass on that. Granted, what we hear of her beliefs is mainstream-compatible, but what if she held the belief that homosexuals are damned to eternal hell (http://www.godhatesfags.com/, not gonna link there) or that black people are inferior to white people? Should she be able to play the "my beliefs, sorry, can't argue with them" card then, too?
Again, I'm not trying to say that religious people are racist or homophobic, just that many religions seem to have a wide range of what is considered "sinful" or "evil", and most of it quite arbitrary to an outside observer. Why would you still consider yourself a member of a religion if you can simply choose what to accept and what not? And why would you use those choices as a measure of what you would consider acceptable as a partner?

Oh, and I'm sorry for kind of strangling the on-topic conversation in the other thread; it's just that was kind of disappointed at having such a fascinating topic given short shrift by the comic's author. Ok, not every webcomic can afford metaphysical discussion like, say, One Over Zero did, but still...
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:28 AM on August 4, 2009


I do believe that if you build your life around something so central, so important, you should have some reasons for that and be able to explain them.

Consider the breadth of the human condition, realize this statement is false, and work backwards from there.
posted by fleacircus at 3:08 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Binary logic kills your soul.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:45 AM on August 4, 2009


I like how something as simple as
Multiplex is a webcomic about life at a movie theater.
can start this kind of rambling, intense discussion.


Especially such an intensely terrible webcomic. The only thing it gets right is to have the humor and art of comparable quality.
posted by DU at 4:19 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


She uses some concepts from the Bible, yet refuses others. She claims to have faith in... something, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? She say she is not stupid, that she trusts science, but that she still chooses to follow some of the 2000-year-old precepts.

Because all Christians have to decide what they believe from the whole of the good book - God as portrayed in the Bible is a schizophrenic God at best - loving everyone and killing everyone - to make sense of the biblical narrative is tough.

The morality of the book is inconsistent with the tolerance that is taken as a real moral truth in our era, specifically in race, gender, and class issues. Even fundamentalist "Word of God" Christians have to cede ground on slavery - the writers of the New and Old Testament alike did not condemn slavery as an institution.

So as a Christian, what to do? You choose. You listen to yourself and the truths around you, alot of times the things that are real to you are backed with stories from the Bible, but often it's a personal thing that is built by yourself, day by day, as your relationship with the divine progresses. Sprituality is at it's heart experiential and experimental, so to ignore some parts of the good book, is probably a good thing.
posted by bigmusic at 4:30 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


What gets me is that Angie doesn't really seem to be clear what it is she believes, and yet she defends it reflexively. She seems to have gone about half-way to a rational world-view and stopped there. She uses some concepts from the Bible, yet refuses others. She claims to have faith in... something, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? She say she is not stupid, that she trusts science, but that she still chooses to follow some of the 2000-year-old precepts.
I do believe that if you build your life around something so central, so important, you should have some reasons for that and be able to explain them. If you use the Bible as a source of morals, how do you decide which parts to follow and which to ignore (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to be funny here) and how do you justify making those decisions?


Well, firstly, it's hard to fit such a lengthy treatise into a comic book panel.

Secondly: I'm honestly not seeing how she DID give it short shrift. You say you can't figure out how she decides what she does decide to believe and what she doesn't -- and I actually thought she stated it quite simply by saying that "the Bible isn't a science book, and was never meant to be." That sounds pretty straightforward to me -- the concepts she decides to set aside from the Bible are the ones that have been overruled by contemporary scientific discovery. Why does she do this? Because the Bible isn't a science book. QED.

My church youth group leader told us once that "when it came to Genesis, the people writing it just put down what they knew at the time, and they knew that's what they were doing. If they were writing the Bible from scratch today, the Bible would begin: 'In the Beginning there was the Word, and the Word Was God. God said "Let there be a Big Bang," and the atoms flew apart...'"

I'm harping on the science, because it seems like that is your disconnect -- that you don't understand why she can on the one hand disbelieve Creationism, but on the other hand choose to stay a virgin "because the Bible says so". And the reason is, Creationism is a matter which science addresses, but one's own virginity is not. And science says other things about the origin of the world. Moreover, science has absolutely zero to say about "should I stay a virgin until marriage?" But the Bible does, and that is who she's chosen to agree with.

Incidentally, I'm also a bit uncomfortable that it seems like the biggest reason that you say "she seems halfway to a rational world view but then stops" is largely because she says "I'm staying a virgin before marriage because my religion says so." To me, that sounds like you would dismiss anyone who doesn't have sex before marriage as "irrational." And that doesn't really seem fair to those who do choose to stay virgins, no matter WHAT the reason.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah I do find it funny (not the comic, goodness no, the religion thing). People - both for and against - always claim that their religion is an ethical framework from which they )and frequently everyone else should) operate.

In reality, they cobble together whatever ethical framework that suits them - usually based on a range of non-religious demographical aspects, and then either cherry-pick from their religious texts or shoe-horn them into the system they've already chosen, hence why some christian just can't get enough of teh gayzz, and others want them to burn burn burn. Same bible peeps. Same bible that prohibits shellfish...

Doesn't mean said religion - or ethics - are bad, just that neither justify or excuse the other.
posted by smoke at 5:04 AM on August 4, 2009


I think lunit deserves some sort of medal she can wear to meetups for her service to the Blue.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:47 AM on August 4, 2009


Angie's statements don't sound weird to me at all - a lot of religious folks (not just Christians, either) take a little here and a little there from their particular sect or denomination. You never heard of Catholics who use birth control? And the staying a virgin thing just sounds like a young woman who doesn't want to have sex and wants to make it clear that she isn't interested in being persuaded otherwise. (I haven't read the whole comic yet so I don't know if she eventually gets persuaded or not. This would also not be inconsistent or strange, since studies reveal that self-proclaimed Christian kids who sign those "gonna stay a virgin till I get married" pledges only delay sex by about 6 months compared to kids who don't sign.)
posted by rtha at 6:01 AM on August 4, 2009


Think of it like a cafeteria. I like cherry pie. I always get cherry pie. I don't like tapioca. I never get it.

I'm an atheist, too but I totally agree with the ideas of the Golden Rule, helping the sick, poor and hungry and doing your best to not do bad things and be a good person. I don't reject these ideas just because they are contained in a book that is otherwise filled with, to me, a lot of nonsense.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:10 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


In reality, they cobble together whatever ethical framework that suits them - usually based on a range of non-religious demographical aspects, and then either cherry-pick from their religious texts or shoe-horn them into the system they've already chosen, hence why some christian just can't get enough of teh gayzz, and others want them to burn burn burn. Same bible peeps. Same bible that prohibits shellfish...

Okay -- it's THIS thinking that cheeses me off, and I'm not even Christian. This sort of dismissive, sneering, "oh, you're just dabbling, you're just a dilettante, you don't REEEEEEEALLY believe in this" thinking. It's the No True Scotsman fallacy, and I don't like it when Christians do it any more than I like it when non-Christians do.

Because it implies that the person you're talking about is lazy and hasn't really given any thought to things -- when in truth, the person you're talking about has more often than not given a LOT of thought to it. What looks to you like just "picking and choosing" is more likely the result of both individual study and personal reflection designed to work out for one's self how to balance one's religious conviction with a modern society.

Case in point: the Islamic "jihad." In truth, the word "jihad" simply means "struggle." Muslim fundamentalists do interpret the passages about jihad to mean a struggle against outside forces -- but Muslim moderates, who believe that a literal interpretation brings about discord that runs counter to the central message of Islam, choose to interpret that struggle as a struggle with one's own self -- a struggle to overcome one's baser nature, a struggle to live as a moral person. So they may not be doing battle against non-Muslims, but they are still participating in a jihad.

It's not about picking and choosing, it's about telling the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Christians tried living by the letter of the law during the Middle Ages, and that didn't work very well in certain areas. And I'm sure you wouldn't like it if all modern Christians reverted to this letter-of-the-law interpretation of scripture either. So modern Christians today choose where they are going to hew to the letter of the law, and where they are going to balance the letter of the law with the spirit of the law -- but they are criticized for "picking and choosing" when they do. It just makes me wonder what some people's objections to religion REALLY are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on August 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


And the staying a virgin thing just sounds like a young woman who doesn't want to have sex and wants to make it clear that she isn't interested in being persuaded otherwise. (I haven't read the whole comic yet so I don't know if she eventually gets persuaded or not. This would also not be inconsistent or strange, since studies reveal that self-proclaimed Christian kids who sign those "gonna stay a virgin till I get married" pledges only delay sex by about 6 months compared to kids who don't sign.)

Actually, for the record, she ends up breaking up with the atheist boyfriend because he can't stop needling her for her faith. They stay friends, but as she puts it, "I don't need YOU to believe in Christianity -- but I need my BOYFRIEND to."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on August 4, 2009


Well this is silly.

Agreed.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:37 AM on August 4, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: What is it about someone saying "it wasn't ever supposed to be about science, it was supposed to be about personal conduct" is a disconnect for you? You don't also expect people to think that Emily Post is also about particle physics, do you? Of course not -- you don't look up the Third Law of Thermodynamics in Emily Post, because that's not what it's FOR. It's for looking up where to put the salad fork…Most Christians are intelligent enough to know the difference between Emily Post and Griffiths' Introduction to Elementary Particles. So why does it surprise you to find a Christian who says she regards the Bible as a book on morality, but not science?…Or do you NOT think Christians are thus intelligent?

PontifexPrimus: What gets me is that Angie doesn't really seem to be clear what it is she believes, and yet she defends it reflexively. She seems to have gone about half-way to a rational world-view and stopped there. She uses some concepts from the Bible, yet refuses others. She claims to have faith in…something, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? She say she is not stupid, that she trusts science, but that she still chooses to follow some of the 2000-year-old precepts…I do believe that if you build your life around something so central, so important, you should have some reasons for that and be able to explain them. If you use the Bible as a source of morals, how do you decide which parts to follow and which to ignore (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to be funny here) and how do you justify making those decisions?

That's a very good question—one that's consumed thousands of years of contemplation within all three branches of western monotheism. I can't say a whole lot at this very moment, given that I'm on my way out the door to work, but I will mention the person I always mention in these discussion, Maimonides, who states in the epistle dedicatory of The Guide Of The Perplexed that it's a simple fact that the Torah contradicts itself, and any intelligent person has to make sense of that.

I know I'm overthinking this - this is just a handful of comic panels and not a serious discussion of personal ethics, but it still bothers me. Again, not so much the fact that Angie has religion, but that it seems to be a patchwork affair, not really consistent in itself, and that the author of the comic gives her a pass on that. Granted, what we hear of her beliefs is mainstream-compatible, but what if she held the belief that homosexuals are damned to eternal hell (http://www.godhatesfags.com/, not gonna link there) or that black people are inferior to white people? Should she be able to play the "my beliefs, sorry, can't argue with them" card then, too?…

(1) The Bible says neither that homosexuals are damned to hell nor that black people are inferior to white people. But I don't think you were saying that—I hope we can avoid that unfortunate discussion, anyhow.

(2) I think you're mistaken about what Christian Faith is supposed to mean. I know that there's a lot of hand-waving going on nowadays, and Christianity is more, erm, theologically diverse than at any time in the past.

However, it should be pointed out that the standard, orthodox Church position is and has always been that science and faith do not come in conflict. You may think this is incorrect, but it's the standard church position; and even though at certain times church leaders have unfortunately been very confused on this point (Galileo's trial comes to mind) it's been laid out very carefully time and time again by the thinkers and teachers who guard the Church's teachings.

I think the person who most thoroughly examined this particular subject must have been St Thomas Aquinas; I don't have time to dig up the reference right now, but I recently looked over his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius, and I remember distinctly a very good statement of his teaching: that, if a proposition is even potentially a subject of science—if it is at all testable in any way, practically or even theoretically—then that proposition cannot possibly be an article of faith; it is only subject to opinion and hypothesis. As such, there is, to Thomas, no trouble in believing wholly in the the Bible and also believing wholly that it is most definitively not a teaching about testable material reality. Again, I underline the fact that the impulse to avoid seeing any statement about material reality or “history” or anything like that in the Bible is not the hand-wavey, lapsed-Catholic, wishy-washy Christian view; it would appear to be the classic Catholic (and Orthodox, too, though I can't provide a reference at the moment) view of the Bible, in fact the Christian view par excellence, insofar as St Thomas Aquinas can be seen as an acme of Catholic and Christian doctrine.
posted by koeselitz at 7:06 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why would you still consider yourself a member of a religion if you can simply choose what to accept and what not?

The one thing atheists and fundamentalists agree on is that if you aren't reading the Bible as literal history, you're doing it wrong.

Christianity is not the Bible. The Bible is not Christianity. The Bible is one resource for faith, but there are others--religious tradition and one's own intellect and experience are two of the big ones. It is not a rejection of Christianity to refuse fundamentalist readings--most of which have a very recent origin, historically speaking.

I don't have time to go into more detail. If you're interested, I got my own blog.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:34 AM on August 4, 2009 [18 favorites]


In truth, the word "jihad" simply means "struggle."

Umm, no. In Arabic, the literal word means "struggle." It has several different religious interpretations, many of which have significant meanings. For example, in the Shia faith, it is one of the seven pillars, and part of that, the "lesser struggle," specifically refers to the "struggle with enemies of the faith."

Saying "jihad simply means struggle" is like saying "A Christian is simply someone that thinks Jesus was kinda nifty."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2009


If you use the Bible as a source of morals, how do you decide which parts to follow and which to ignore (this is a serious question, I'm not trying to be funny here) and how do you justify making those decisions?

Priority is key, I think.

Religious sects disagree on various issues. Religious experts within sects disagree on them, too. My understanding is that for the vast majority of Christians, the Bible is subject to interpretations which are given authority and priority by their respective Churches.

Jews have taken this concept and run with it. :)

I apologize in advance -- what follows is highly simplified.....

With regard to Judaism, all three of the mainstream US sects of my religion (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox,) have evolved and adapted to modern times in multiple ways. Some more than others. For example, the Reform and Conservative movements have (for the most part,) wholeheartedly embraced gender equality. By contrast, the Orthodox movement is divided into its own sects (Modern and Traditional,) which divide male and female societal roles onto more traditional paths.

But what truly divides the sects is their focus (or lack thereof,) on Jewish rituals. All three sects have their own ruling bodies, which establish direction and purpose, determining the importance of each traditional activity.

The Reform movement was founded in the late 1800's by German Jews who felt that adherence to rituals (such as keeping kosher, attending temple services, wearing a headcovering,) did not make someone a "better" Jew. What was important to them was a belief in monotheism, and a personal adherence to Jewish moral values. To a Reform Jew, it is more important to be an actual pillar of society than a symbolic one.

The Conservative movement was founded a few years later, and it attempted to find a happy medium between the Orthodox fundamentalist traditionalism and the Reform movement. Conservatives (like myself,) embrace modernity and shun religious hypocrisy while maintaining that some rituals are important in that we've been commanded to follow them by G-d and (for those that weren't,) they allow us to maintain a thread of Jewish identity. Some rites are important. Some less so.

The Orthodox are the traditionalists. To them, the act of performing a holy rite is never symbolic. They follow a far stricter interpretation of what is and is not important in Jewish life. Many find the very existence of the other sects abhorrent, and claim that followers of the Reform and Conservative movements are not truly Jewish.

Take any jewish ritual.... say, keeping kosher:

The Reform movement says it's nice if you want to do it, but has no bearing on whether you are a good Jew, or an ethical person. Some Reform rabbis even discourage their followers from doing so, out of concern that a meaningless, archaic ritual will be used to symbolize piety.

The Conservative movement says keeping kosher is important for a variety of reasons, (including that you are not supposed to eat animals which died due to, or caused the death of other animals through, cruelty,) but primarily because we were commanded to by G-d. Conservatives are expected to keep kosher, however, doing so is in fact less important than other observances.

The Orthodox are required to keep kosher. G-d said so.

The topic is in fact incredibly complex, but this simplistic snapshot should provide you with some perspective.

My point is that the reasons behind any person's religious beliefs or observance are rarely immediately obvious or easily simplified. Your assumption here seems lazy and uninformed.
posted by zarq at 8:02 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Greg Nog makes comics?

*disappears to go read said comics, leaving a sleevener-shaped cloud of smoke hovering briefly in place*
posted by sleevener at 8:13 AM on August 4, 2009


> In truth, the word "jihad" simply means "struggle."

Umm, no. In Arabic, the literal word means "struggle."


what
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Saying "jihad simply means struggle" is like saying "A Christian is simply someone that thinks Jesus was kinda nifty."

Well, in a sense, that IS all a Christian is.

The core belief of Christianity is nothing more than a belief that Jesus was both Human and Divine, was God Incarnate, that Jesus died and was resurrected, and that following Jesus' path is the way to eternal life.

....That's it.

There's plenty of other dogma, yes, but if you look closely, it's dogma about HOW to follow Jesus' path, not WHETHER you should. Or, it's about HOW Jesus became God Incarnate, not WHETHER He was. And that is why there is such a staggering range of opinion ABOUT that dogma, and different denominations have different beliefs.

It's like the recipe for fried clams. Fried clams are clam meat, fried. Just like it says on the tin. The basic recipe would thus be "take some clams. Fry them. You're done."

But - if you gather ACTUAL recipes for fried clams, you will see a huge array of techniques -- different kinds of breading, different kinds of seasoning, different kinds of clams, different kinds of meat FROM the clams (the whole clam, or just "clam strips"?), different kinds of oil, whether to soak the clams first, whether to NOT soak them, what kind of flour to use in the breading, WHETHER to use flour in the breading, whether to use breading at all, etc., etc., etc., etc. But -- the core in all of these recipes for fried clams is still nothing more than "take some clams. Fry them. You're done."

To continue this metaphor, then, the Bible would be like The Big History O' Fried Clam Recipes, talking about how first you had someone take some clams and fry them. Then it would feature one recipe, discussing how someone tried cornflour breading first. Then would come a second recipe, in which someone added a given seasoning. Then would come a section on "whole clams vs. strips". Then would come commentary on whether mussels counted as "clams" or not. Then a treatise on wheat vs. white flour. Then another set of recipes, featuring different types of clams, and then a chapter on "Is Using Old Bay Seasoning Just Cheating." And alongside this Big History O'Fried Clam Recipes, you have other books, one with a bunch of culinary opinons on whether Using Old Bay Seasoning Was Just Cheating, and one saying that the only reason that the Big History O' Fried Clam Recipes mentioned Stickleback Steamer Clams was because that was the only kind of clam that was available to the first guy who made fried clams, and that he only said that to differentiate it FROM mussles in the first place, so essentially "Stickleback Steamer Clams" could just be used interchangeably with "clams". Of course, then you also have the purists who say "no, he MEANT Stickleback Steamers, using quahogs is totally different", but that's alongside the guys who say "but the whole POINT of even frying clams is because he wanted us to use readily-available food rather than trying to spend through the nose for lobster, so since Quahogs are more available to us than Stickleback Steamers, we are using readily-available food like we're supposed to," and...

....But still, the central recipe for fried clams is still, as ever, "take some clams. Fry them. You're done."

Similarly, the central message of Christianity is nothing more than Jesus was both Human and Divine, was God Incarnate, was Someone who died and rose again, and that following Jesus' path is the way to eternal life. Or, in short, "A Christian is someone that thinks Jesus was nifty."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on August 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Jihad" is indeed a loaded term, and meaning depends of context, naturally. It should be noted in case people don't already know, in Islam there is the concept of "Jihad al Akbar" (greater jihad) which is also called the "Jihad an Nafs" (struggle against the self/ego). The lesser jihad is actual armed combat. So, the idea is that it's much easier to go out and fight external enemies, but the real struggle is against the baser self-interests and coarse desires within.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:28 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Jesus is nifty and I'm not a Christian. Allahu Akbar!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think Jesus is nifty and I'm not a Christian. Allahu Akbar!

*nods* Fair point. Sorry if my trying to be flip muddied the waters.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:32 AM on August 4, 2009


I think Luke Skywalker is nifty and I'm not a Jedi. Admiral Akbar!
posted by Viomeda at 8:37 AM on August 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


Jesus is a fried clam?
posted by CKmtl at 8:37 AM on August 4, 2009


To continue this metaphor, then, the Christian Bible would be like The Big History O' Fried Clam Recipes,

FTFY. Treif metaphor... you know. ;D
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on August 4, 2009


Jesus is a fried clam?

Sure, Why Not?
posted by zarq at 8:46 AM on August 4, 2009


FTFY. Treif metaphor... you know. ;D

....I plead a Catholic upbringing and a New England ancestry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on August 4, 2009


While all this religious discussion is what got me addicted to the internet in the first place, I'm just always perplexed by the way some folks react to the actions and beliefs of fictional characters.

So, this one character doesn't believe in some of the things often associated with Christianity--a literal interpretation of Genesis, for instance--but still considers herself a Christian. OK, I wouldn't do that, maybe you wouldn't do that, maybe it's arguable that it's wrong or stupid or hypocritical to do that. So? One character in a strip believing something doesn't mean that the strip itself is putting forth that belief as truth. Then, another character decides to respect that about her. Maybe you think he shouldn't, that it's not something to respect. Well? Sometimes characters are wrong, sometimes they're right, and sometimes they just are, and different people will have different opinions about how right or wrong they are. I don't need to agree with fictional characters to enjoy a story.

I remember on Six Feet Under one time, when Claire is really drunk/high/upset and yells at a grieving family of a former soldier who'd killed himself, about how wrong the war is. And someone on a forum was really mad about it. Like the show itself was so anti-war that it had actually yelled at a grieving family.

I will say, though, regardless of whether one is obliged respect others' religious beliefs, the guy character IS obliged to respect the fact that the girl character is ending the relationship, whatever her reasons.
posted by lampoil at 8:55 AM on August 4, 2009


MetaFilter: Your assumption here seems lazy and uninformed.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2009


Moreover, science has absolutely zero to say about "should I stay a virgin until marriage?" But the Bible does, and that is who she's chosen to agree with.


I have to disagree. Science has a lot to say about premarital sexual behavior and physical, mental, and marital health.
posted by kathrineg at 9:12 AM on August 4, 2009


Should she be able to play the "my beliefs, sorry, can't argue with them" card then, too?

this feels silly, arguing on behalf of a fictional character, but whatever. do you really think she's playing some kind of cheap get out of jail free card, here? I mean, she's breaking up with the dude. the point isn't that she's right and he's wrong. the point is that she doesn't want to date him anymore, because he doesn't believe in something that's important to her. what more is there to say, really? do you honestly believe the character should have been taken to task, as though her belief system - having resulted in a breakup - were now under scrutiny? what she believes isn't the point. the point is that they have different belief systems and she's no longer okay with that. you make it sound as though the guy should have handed her a copy of The God Delusion with a red sharpie subtitle added on saying "Or: Why You Shouldn't Break Up With Me."
posted by shmegegge at 9:25 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Science has a lot to say about premarital sexual behavior and physical, mental, and marital health.

"Premarital sex" =/= "early age of first sex". A non-married person who has their first sex at 40 falls into the former category, but not the latter. Conversely, a person who gets married at 13.

Also, you're search terms include sex workers, for Fried Calm's Sake. Many confounding variables there.
posted by CKmtl at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2009


*your. Dammit.
posted by CKmtl at 9:27 AM on August 4, 2009


I have to disagree. Science has a lot to say about premarital sexual behavior and physical, mental, and marital health.

Not in the "if X, then Y" sense, so far as I can ascertain from your links. (I also notice that you've Googled for age of first sex, primarily, as opposed to pre vs. post marriage. The two aren't ALWAYS related.)

But that's largely because sex inside vs. outside marriage is a highly nuanced thing, and a highly individual choice, and all science can tell us on the matter is "well, if you do X, then Y COULD happen -- but it also might not", and "oh, if you want to prevent Y, then you can do Z as well", but ultimately there comes a point at which science has to throw up its hands and go "ultimately it's up to you what you want to do, at least now you know some potential factors."

That's something of a different issue from the origins of the universe, where science's statement is "First X happened, then Y happened, then..." That's different from "if you do X, then Y COULD happen".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2009


Also, you're search terms include sex workers, for Fried Calm's Sake. Many confounding variables there.

You'll note that I specifically exclude them, primarily to avoid this particular nitpick.
posted by kathrineg at 9:33 AM on August 4, 2009


Well, yes, science is not personally guiding the youth to take their pants off (now there's a mental picture), but it does have a lot to say about premarital sex. There is a lot more work to be done in that area, but it is not a solely spiritual or even ethical realm into which science may not intrude.

Assuming a very western-centric point of view, the age you are when you have sex and the likelihood that you are unmarried are related, if not identical, due to marriage laws and traditions.
posted by kathrineg at 9:38 AM on August 4, 2009


Well, yes, science is not personally guiding the youth to take their pants off (now there's a mental picture), but it does have a lot to say about premarital sex. There is a lot more work to be done in that area, but it is not a solely spiritual or even ethical realm into which science may not intrude.

Then I simply plead poor word choice. My point was more that a science book was the better source than the Bible when it came to factual information about "what/how/when" questions about laws of physics and biology and the like, whereas the question "should I stay a virgin until marriage" was a much more nuanced and individual one, from which the asker could collect opinions on a wide variety of sources and ultimately decides based on a synthesis of many of these sources.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on August 4, 2009


You'll note that I specifically exclude them

Oh, heh. Didn't notice the tiny minus. Nit unpicked.
posted by CKmtl at 9:45 AM on August 4, 2009


Ah, I see, then we understand each other.

*scampers off to defend the behavioral sciences elsewhere*
posted by kathrineg at 9:48 AM on August 4, 2009


I wish they would leave The Big History O' Fried Clam Recipes in hotel rooms. I'd be more inclined to read that.
posted by desjardins at 10:04 AM on August 4, 2009


....I plead a Catholic upbringing and a New England ancestry.

Heh. No worries. The Big History O' Matzah Recipes wouldn't have had quite the same impact. :D
posted by zarq at 10:15 AM on August 4, 2009


Well, yes, science is not personally guiding the youth to take their pants off...

Obviously we've been conducting the wrong studies.
posted by zarq at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2009


I think fried clams are nifty. Excellent cocktail sauce delivery systems. Does this make me a Christian?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:30 AM on August 4, 2009


Heathen Gastropodists.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: Moreover, science has absolutely zero to say about "should I stay a virgin until marriage?" But the Bible does, and that is who she's chosen to agree with.

kathrineg: I have to disagree. Science has a lot to say about premarital sexual behavior and physical, mental, and marital health.

Ah, that subtle little word “should.”

They are meant in wholly different ways by Christianity and science; it is possible to maintain non-contradiction in all this because the two remain separate. Science can say: “if you wish to keep from getting an STD” or “if you wish to avoid pregnancy” or “if you seek x, y, or z [materially verifiable ends of actions], then you should take such and such a course of action with regard to sexual behavior.” It cannot say: “if you wish to please God, or if you wish to do good, or if you wish to be a just human being, or if you wish to act in accordance with the eternal divine law or some such, then you should take such and such a course of action.” None of those ‘shoulds’ are verifiable, testable, or subject to scientific inquiry in any way.

The Talmudic Rabbis sought an easy way to make intuitive this very problem when they instructed Jews that, when they are challenged by Gentiles regarding the Halakhic law and the things which they do to remain kosher, they must state emphatically that they do so not for any tangible end or any pleasure but rather solely in obedience to God; and that, if anyone should ask, for example, why a Jew doesn't like cheeseburgers, he should reply: “I'm sure I would love cheeseburgers; in fact, I'll bet I could make cheeseburgers that were very healthy for me, too. Eating cheeseburgers is in itself desireable to me in every way. However, I do not, and this is solely because I've been commanded not to by God, and not because I don't like cheeseburgers.”

That may seem odd; but otherwise, if Jews try to claim that they're circumcising their kids, for example, just to be healthy, since circumcision prevents disease, then they're very quickly wrapped up into contentious arguments (which I'm sure you can at least imagine) regarding whether it's actually true that circumcision is healthy.
posted by koeselitz at 11:15 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think fried clams are nifty. Excellent cocktail sauce delivery systems. Does this make me a Christian?

I like dipping them in ranch dressing, a dairy-based condiment, which makes me even less kosher!

REAL OG GOYIM 4 LYFE
posted by Greg Nog at 11:18 AM on August 4, 2009


How can anyone claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?

Well, for example, there was this guy named Martin Luther, who way back when ...


Not to mention a certain precocious first-century Torah scholar.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:19 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think fried clams are nifty.

Can we please not turn this discussion into a bitter back-and-forth re: shirking the anti-drug doctrines of Scientology?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 PM on August 4, 2009


>How can anyone claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?

... [there was] a certain precocious first-century Torah scholar.


*grins broadly* Yeah, I think I know the one you mean -- didn't he say something about how "blessed were the peacemakers", something like that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on August 4, 2009


REAL OG GOYIM 4 LYFE

If bacon cheeseburgers are treyf, then I guess I ... oh hey wait, I can still be Jewish!! <3
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on August 4, 2009


Fact: the casual street Jew's response to confining Orthodox stricture is "man, reform that noise" while snapping in the shape of a gimel.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:33 PM on August 4, 2009


Similarly, the central message of Christianity is nothing more than Jesus was both Human and Divine, was God Incarnate

In fact, there are both ancient and modern Christians (as most people would label them) who would not even agree on that. Granted, the ancient ones were generally considered heretics, but merely by being labelled "heretics" they are placed within Christianity. After all, Christians generally do not call Muslims or Buddhsts or atheists heretics. I would define Christian more broadly, to mean "anyone for whom Jesus Christ is the central figure of their religion."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:00 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to everyone contributing to this discussion, and a special thanks for keeping it civil on a topic that is - I'm sure - very important and close to the heart of many people here!

I'd like to pick up some points from different posts and comment on them separately:

@EmpressCallipygos: "Incidentally, I'm also a bit uncomfortable that it seems like the biggest reason that you say "she seems halfway to a rational world view but then stops" is largely because she says "I'm staying a virgin before marriage because my religion says so." To me, that sounds like you would dismiss anyone who doesn't have sex before marriage as "irrational." And that doesn't really seem fair to those who do choose to stay virgins, no matter WHAT the reason.

I really don't know; I acccept the fact that it is a big sacrifice for them to make, and that it is surely no small thing. But it seems to me that someone who decides to forgo deeply intimate human contact in favor some abstract idea loses out on a lot. I would say that something like this was "irrational" only if, well, there was no rational reasoning behind it. If someone makes a conscious decision to do that I can respect that. If someone just blindly follows dogma then I would have to classify it as irrational, wouldn't I?

@koeselitz: Arrgh, now I'll have to drag out my copy of Summa Theologica again...

@Pater Aletheias: Christianity is not the Bible. The Bible is not Christianity. The Bible is one resource for faith, but there are others--religious tradition and one's own intellect and experience are two of the big ones. It is not a rejection of Christianity to refuse fundamentalist readings--most of which have a very recent origin, historically speaking.

I'm aware of that last point; yet I have to admit that this way of looking at things is quite unfamiliar to me. I've been brought up Roman Catholic, and I've had lots of contact with Protestants here in Germany, and they were very emphatic on their insistence of sola scriptura, using the Bible as the end-all of all religious discussion. I was under the impression that this kind of reliance on the Bible as the ultimate source was even more widespread in the other non-Catholic Christian denominations.

@zarq: That's a very interesting summary, and I thank you for trying to break down a complex issue with a detailed example. However:
My point is that the reasons behind any person's religious beliefs or observance are rarely immediately obvious or easily simplified. Your assumption here seems lazy and uninformed.
I'm sorry if I gave that impression; I was not trying to belittle people who actually put a lot of thought into their religious observances. In this particular case I was wondering about the particular choices made, and the fact that they did not, IMHO, fit together very well.

Overall I'd like to say that I've been given a lot of food for thought. One of the notions I'll have to re-think is that organized religions require a lot of group mentality; I've heard several examples in this thread of people who think that it is perfectly ok to follow some strictures and ignore others, yet still identify as a member of the religion in question. I was under the impression that such deviance from a monolithic whole would always be regarded as a Bad Thing™. I'm not saying that I thought that everyone belonging to a certain religion is automatically only one of a herd of sheeple, with groupthink replacing rational thought in all aspects; but I was rather surprised to hear that the idea of choosing your own path, so to speak, is not only an individual phenomenon but rather pervasive, at least for the religions covered in this discussion.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:01 PM on August 4, 2009


I acccept the fact that it is a big sacrifice for them to make, and that it is surely no small thing. But it seems to me that someone who decides to forgo deeply intimate human contact in favor some abstract idea loses out on a lot. I would say that something like this was "irrational" only if, well, there was no rational reasoning behind it. If someone makes a conscious decision to do that I can respect that. If someone just blindly follows dogma then I would have to classify it as irrational, wouldn't I?

Okay, but do you understand that you are saying this from the perspective of someone who's made your own decision on sexuality based on your own personal libido/moral code/a ton of other factors, and that other people have different opinions about this?

"Of COURSE I do!" I'm sure you're going to protest. But before you do, lemme ask: who says that virgins ARE forgoing "deeply intimate human contact"?

"What do you mean by THAT, EC?" Well, think about it -- what does "intimate contact" mean? Who said that "intimate contact" strictly means intercourse? You define it thusly, clearly -- but who said that that is the one definition everyone uses? Isn't emotional intimacy pretty damn powerful too? How about more "innocent" physical contact like cuddling? Those options are both open to virgins still -- so who says they're not getting intimate contact? It may be a different kind, but it's still an intimate human connection, right?

And even if you do ascribe to the "deeply intimate contact = sexystuff" definition, what about the argument that, "well, if this IS such a deeply intimate thing, should I want to preserve that for the one person I choose above all to be my partner for life"?

It's not just "shunning it for an abstract idea" for everyone. Sex is a really, really personal thing, for all of us, and we all take many, many things into account when we map out that part of our lives. Some don't always tread carefully, and some do. Some backtrack. Some make moves without thinking. But I think very, very few AVOID getting involved in sex solely "because of some abstract idea." There is usually a WHOLE HELL of a lot of thought behind it when someone waits -- thought which, if you call them on it, may get summed up by "well, this is what my religion teaches" but that summation is more because if they're just getting to know you, maybe they don't want to get into all that stuff because "dude, that's way personal and I barely know you...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2009


Many find the very existence of the other sects abhorrent, and claim that followers of the Reform and Conservative movements are not truly Jewish.

I know this is a side point, but I don't think this is right. A Jew is defined by ancestry, according to Orthodox belief, so nothing he does or doesn't do, or believes or doesn't believe, can change that.
posted by palliser at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that such deviance from a monolithic whole would always be regarded as a Bad Thing™.

There's no monolithic whole, either. If you're a Lutheran, your denomination is going to emphasize different parts of scripture than Episcopalians do - in fact, your particular church may emphasize different parts of scripture from some other Lutheran church. And yet, they all count as Christian.

You were raised Roman Catholic, you say. But surely you've known or do do Catholics who don't follow Catholic doctrine to the letter, but still count themselves as Catholic - and more importantly, perhaps, are still counted by their parish as Catholic. I don't think it's as weird as you think it is. But you have to stop hanging out with literalist fundamentalists, is what it sounds like.
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


do know, that is, not "do do." Sigh.
posted by rtha at 2:50 PM on August 4, 2009


I know this is a side point, but I don't think this is right. A Jew is defined by ancestry, according to Orthodox belief, so nothing he does or doesn't do, or believes or doesn't believe, can change that.

I was simplifying to make a point. Yes, the vast majority of Jews agree that Jewish identity isn't tied solely to one's beliefs. I should have said that the Orthodox believe that Reform and Conservative Jews are not following Judaism.
posted by zarq at 2:57 PM on August 4, 2009


PontifexPrimus: How can anyone claim to be a member of any religion and then proceed to throw some of its foundations overboard?

Cool Papa Bell: Well, for example, there was this guy named Martin Luther, who way back when ...

Sys Rq: Not to mention a certain precocious first-century Torah scholar.

EmpressCallipygos: *grins broadly* Yeah, I think I know the one you mean -- didn't he say something about how "blessed were the peacemakers", something like that?

Oh, I remember that guy. Came up with the golden rule, “do unto others,’ and said that that was the whole of the law? Said “be ye…lovers of peace, and peacemakers”? Gave his people bread and meat to eat in a miraculous new form when they were hungry?

You guys must be thiking of Rabbi Hillel.
posted by koeselitz at 3:16 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


rtha: do know, that is, not "do do." Sigh.

No! Doo doo not!

Know—or know not. There is no doo doo.
posted by koeselitz at 3:19 PM on August 4, 2009


PontifexPrimus: One of the notions I'll have to re-think is that organized religions require a lot of group mentality; I've heard several examples in this thread of people who think that it is perfectly ok to follow some strictures and ignore others, yet still identify as a member of the religion in question. I was under the impression that such deviance from a monolithic whole would always be regarded as a Bad Thing™. I'm not saying that I thought that everyone belonging to a certain religion is automatically only one of a herd of sheeple, with groupthink replacing rational thought in all aspects; but I was rather surprised to hear that the idea of choosing your own path, so to speak, is not only an individual phenomenon but rather pervasive, at least for the religions covered in this discussion.

People often imagine nowadays a sort of closed-circuit loop that brains can go into, a feedback created by so-called ‘organized religion.’ But it isn't really that way; people have always questioned things like religion, even if it wasn't printed in the newspaper or written on walls. That's a natural human impulse. Tradition doesn't seek to erase that natural impulse; it seeks to give it a context, a common ground on which to work it out. That's actually the very model of what is supposed to happen in Judaism: a tradition of Rabbinical studies is passed down to us all the way from Moses, and yet our generation, like every generation, must receive that teaching and interpret it for ourselves. I believe similar arguments could be made in the context of Islam and even Christianity. The tradition isn't there to tell us all precisely what we can and cannot believe; it's to provide a backdrop for life.

Plato's Socrates indicated that the lifeblood of human society is opinion, insofar as society is made up of agreements and accepted principles which we obviously have not proven yet. Now, since society is always made up of a conglomeration of shared opinions—‘we all think democracy is cool,’ ‘we all think terrorism is lame,’ ‘we all think that Michael Jackson might've lived longer if only he hadn't gotten so much plastic surgery and taken so many medications.’ He seemed to indicate that society would always be this way; and I can't see how it could be different. But he also pointed out that, since society loves its opinions, it is inherently threatened by anyone who understands or seeks to understand the truth, since the truth is a threat to its opinions. ‘Whatever, I don't need to hear whatever noise you're gonna tell me, I already know that MJ shouldn't have gotten that nose job.’ (Okay, stupid example.)

I think that religious traditions, like all great social projects, are about trying to build a system for the healthy coexistence of seekers of the truth and people who are content with their opinions. Religion aims to make those truth-seekers seem holy or sacred; and, in turn, it demands of those truth-seekers that they maintain the peoples' opinions, making sure they are good and just, and attending to them enough to keep their minds as open as possible.
posted by koeselitz at 3:39 PM on August 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I came to this thread not believing in pie, and I still don't.
posted by fleacircus at 4:18 PM on August 4, 2009


I can't help but think about Anne at the end of the 2nd season of Arrested Development when reading this discussion.

In my defense, I've only watched Arrested Development for the first time very recently, so it's fresh in my mind.
posted by Caduceus at 5:36 PM on August 4, 2009


fleacircus: I came to this thread not believing in pie, and I still don't.

Then I don't think there's anything anybody can do for you.
posted by koeselitz at 6:50 PM on August 4, 2009


I was simplifying to make a point. Yes, the vast majority of Jews agree that Jewish identity isn't tied solely to one's beliefs. I should have said that the Orthodox believe that Reform and Conservative Jews are not following Judaism.

Sorry for being pedantic -- it's just that when I think about Orthodox Judaism, I frequently have the thought that it's almost more irritating to be told "you're a Jew" and "you don't know how to be a Jew" at the same time. So it's a distinction I personally think about, even though probably no one else cares.
posted by palliser at 8:14 PM on August 4, 2009


Ah, that subtle little word “should.”

I just wanted to throw out there that I think what koeselitz and EmpressCalipygos are getting at is the is-ought problem.

The Talmudic Rabbis sought an easy way to make intuitive this very problem when they instructed Jews that, when they are challenged by Gentiles regarding the Halakhic law and the things which they do to remain kosher, they must state emphatically that they do so not for any tangible end or any pleasure but rather solely in obedience to God


But doesn't this lead to the problem originally pointed out in this thread? Which is, if you follow a commandment solely in obedience to God (i.e. "because my religion says so"), you should follow all of God's commandments. Because how could you choose which commandments to follow and which to ignore? Well, like everyone already said, you use your judgment, or you consult other resources, or what have you. And that seems reasonable. But if you do those things, it isn't honest to say that you follow a commandment solely in obedience to God, is it? You follow it out of obedience to God and also because of your own judgment.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:17 PM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


How 'bout creating a post about the topic you want to see discussed....or should we all just begin using MetaTalk to continue tangent discussions and derails?
posted by Atreides at 5:34 AM on August 5, 2009


Isn't meTa, in part, explicitly for tangents and derails? So that they don't tangent and derail the original post?
posted by rtha at 6:36 AM on August 5, 2009


How 'bout creating a post about the topic you want to see discussed....or should we all just begin using MetaTalk to continue tangent discussions and derails?
posted by Atreides

Isn't meTa, in part, explicitly for tangents and derails? So that they don't tangent and derail the original post?
posted by rtha


I, too, thought as rtha does, that if it looks like a tangent is taking over a topic, this is one way to stop it. And people DO indeed post copious posts on religion and theology to the blue, but somehow it still ends up bleeding out into other posts. So unless we start an entire section of MeFi devoted to theological arguments, I don't know what else we can do BUT to start MeTa posts when Theology Creep sets in on FPP's.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on August 5, 2009


Yeah, using Metatalk as a relocation mechanism for pernicious/overwhelming derails is a long tradition, and there's nothing particularly objectionable about it 90% of the time. And I'd say this falls into that 90%, though as far as that goes and with the facility for 20/20 hindsight it probably would have accomplished more if it had happened earlier, since as it is the bulk of the thread is non-Multiplex stuff anyway and there hasn't been much chatter after the fact.

Generally speaking, there's a certain amount of topic-wander that can happen in any metafilter thread, and sometimes that wander is extensive, and to be very clear here that's not necessarily a problem or anything that merits a metatalk post on it's own. I used the phrase "pernicious/overwhelming derails" because it's specifically when something is kind of tearing a thread up as a derail that this sort of thing make sense; if the conversation just sort of shifts without any weird antagonism or bad feelings, that's just the conversation doing its thing and doesn't really need addressing.

To put it another way, topicality is mostly an issue of serendipity; threads don't come with an On-Topic Guarantee of any sort, so topic-drift itself is not a community problem. It's when there's something destructive to the otherwise worthwhile or amenable procession of a post that making an effort to redirect makes the most sense.

How 'bout creating a post about the topic you want to see discussed....or should we all just begin using MetaTalk to continue tangent discussions and derails?

Atreides, in theory the idea is not bad, and I've seen a few cases where what started as an (interesting, non-fighty) derail in one thread lead to someone making an excellent post on the secondary topic later on, but generally if someone is making a new post to the blue just to perpetuate a heated side conversation from an existing thread, it goes really badly, and we tend to delete those. I really like the discussion on mefi, but posts are not intended to be just wholly transparent excuses to Chat About X.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:43 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's when there's something destructive to the otherwise worthwhile or amenable procession of a post that making an effort to redirect makes the most sense.

To further this, sometimes a thread on one topic turns into "two people arguing about another topic" Sometimes the thread has sort of run its course and so that's not a big deal but sometimes those two people pretty much need to Get A Room and sometimes that room is MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:50 AM on August 5, 2009


Your words, they make sense. I guess my perspective in posting earlier was simply that rather than extend a derail, just bring it to a close within the thread. For example, put the creature down, rather than place it on life support elsewhere. At least, as Empress points out (prevalence), in the case of theological discussions, which have a wonderful tendency to be rehashed again and again and again.

In any case, pardon my objection, and I shall go seek to terrorize a cat or something of equivalent fur quantity and size.
posted by Atreides at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2009


I guess my perspective in posting earlier was simply that rather than extend a derail, just bring it to a close within the thread.

I thought that was pretty much what had happened to both topics in the original thread when Empress posted to MeTa. After a bit of back and forth, autodidact was asked to refrain from "shitbombing" the thread by cortex, and PontifexPrimus's questions also seemed to be winding down.

Compared to previous thread trainwrecks / shouting matches, I actually thought that one was pretty civil, with barely any personal attacks.

I didn't really see much of a need for a MeTa post at the time. I am glad Empress posted this, though. The subsequent conversation has been interesting.
posted by zarq at 8:56 AM on August 5, 2009


Because how could you choose which commandments to follow and which to ignore?

They aren't all given the same weight. Some commandments are more important than others. Priority doesn't always parse logically. So, in Judaism, we have hundreds of years worth of rabbinic interpretations and rulings of our source materials to help us navigate.

Here's a great example for you: Jews are told by the Torah that observing the Sabbath is the most important thing one can do as a Jew. Breaking the Sabbath in the Torah is a sin punishable by death. However, we are also told that saving a life takes precedence over everything. You can and should break the Sabbath to save a life.

Take it further:

Jews are supposed to return their bodies to G-d in the same condition in which is was given. We are not allowed to get tattoos or piercings. If we lose a limb it is supposed to be preserved and buried with our bodies when we die.

So what about organ donation? Doesn't saving a life takes precedence over everything?

The various Jewish sects' ruling councils have had to address the topic recently, (within the last 10 years, in fact.) You see, organ donation didn't exist when the Torah was written. Neither did blood donation. Technology forced the rules to change: organ donations are now allowed under most circumstances.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't really see much of a need for a MeTa post at the time.

To be perfectly honest, the reason I opened this was because I could feel myself gearing up for an all-out debate on the topic, and I wasn't so sure Pontifex was done -- or that others were commenting on his observations -- but I knew that it didn't belong on the original post .

If I'd been the only one to comment on the derail, and everyone else had come in and said "well, this was pointless," then fair enough, I'd have taken my lumps. But religious discussions have a way of drawing themselves out -- and, a couple people seem to get drawn to them, and adding to their perpetuation - and I wanted to dodge that if possible.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2009


Sorry for being pedantic -- it's just that when I think about Orthodox Judaism, I frequently have the thought that it's almost more irritating to be told "you're a Jew" and "you don't know how to be a Jew" at the same time. So it's a distinction I personally think about, even though probably no one else cares.

No, it's a truly valid point and I'm glad you pointed it out.

It could be worse. Last summer I was at a barbecue and told by a friend's ultra-orthodox cousin that I was "not really Jewish" because I "randomly pick and choose" what to follow. He dismissed both the Conservative and Reform movements as "non-Jews who have been worse for Judaism than the Holocaust."

I'm thankful that his beliefs are far more fringe than mainstream.
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on August 5, 2009


Caduceus: I can't help but think about Anne at the end of the 2nd season of Arrested Development when reading this discussion.

Who?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:52 AM on August 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


To be perfectly honest, the reason I opened this was because I could feel myself gearing up for an all-out debate on the topic, and I wasn't so sure Pontifex was done -- or that others were commenting on his observations -- but I knew that it didn't belong on the original post.

That's totally fair and reasonable. And I do agree that it was a smart decision. :)
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2009


They aren't all given the same weight. Some commandments are more important than others. Priority doesn't always parse logically. So, in Judaism, we have hundreds of years worth of rabbinic interpretations and rulings of our source materials to help us navigate.

It was a rhetorical question; I understand how people pick which commandments to follow. I'm not talking about how commandments are interpreted in light of new technology, or which take precedence over others; I'm talking about people who follow some commandments and don't follow others, which I think is quite common among religious folks. My point was that when they do so, they aren't following commandments solely out of obedience to God.

So it's not "because my religion says so," it's "because my religion says so and I agree based on X, Y, and Z." The former is at best an incomplete answer and at worst a dishonest one. It shuts down conversation and removes responsibility from the person saying it -- they're not saying that they thought about it and weighed the consequences, or consulted scholarly interpretations, or what have you -- they're saying they do it because they were told.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2009


So it's not "because my religion says so," it's "because my religion says so and I agree based on X, Y, and Z." The former is at best an incomplete answer and at worst a dishonest one. It shuts down conversation and removes responsibility from the person saying it -- they're not saying that they thought about it and weighed the consequences, or consulted scholarly interpretations, or what have you -- they're saying they do it because they were told.

It is also possible that "because my religion says so" is shorthand for, "well, I COULD get into the whole huge theological whys and wherefores about it with you, but something tells me that it'd take way too long because it's REALLY complex, and I suspect that while you're interested, you're probably not interested to the point at which I should launch into this, because if you were you would have already enrolled in a Rabbinical studies program by now anyway."

And some people feel that their own spirituality is intensely personal. I have a friend who's a devout Catholic, and was very nearly a Jesuit priest; we've had a LOT of theological debates (he's still devout, and I lapsed years ago); so it was a surprise when in the middle of one of these exchanges he suddenly thanked me and revealed that he didn't usually talk about his religious thoughts in such detail with people, because he considered them to be a very private thing. (I think I only was thus favored because I had a Catholic background, so there were some things I knew about already, and because we both kind of dig a really intense intellectual challenge.) For some people, the exact nuts and bolts of their own private cosmology are very, very intimate details, and trying to explain them to others makes them uncomfortable; so "my religion teaches me to do that" is an attempt to just sum everything up; kind of like the conversational equivalent of "it's a LONG story".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2009


It is also possible that "because my religion says so" is shorthand for, "well, I COULD get into the whole huge theological whys and wherefores about it with you, but something tells me that it'd take way too long because it's REALLY complex, and I suspect that while you're interested, you're probably not interested to the point at which I should launch into this, because if you were you would have already enrolled in a Rabbinical studies program by now anyway."

In that case it's not very good shorthand. If you don't want to have a conversation about your beliefs, you can just as easily leave it at "because that's what I believe," or "because that's what I think is right," or whatever. It would avoid the hypocrisy and shunning of responsibility while still leaving open the possibility of a conversation about why you believe as you do, unlike "because my religion says so."

If all you care about is ending the conversation, say whatever you want. But I think answering "because my religion says so" comes off as a bit self-righteous, and also invites the "do you do everything your religion tells you to?" retort, so I think there are better alternatives for most situations.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2009


If all you care about is ending the conversation, say whatever you want. But I think answering "because my religion says so" comes off as a bit self-righteous, and also invites the "do you do everything your religion tells you to?" retort, so I think there are better alternatives for most situations.

Or, they could just be expecting that the person to whom they're talking would be a decent enough person to respect religious differences rather than challenging them on those differences. I mean, that is the courteous thing to do, I was always taught....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on August 5, 2009


Or, they could just be expecting that the person to whom they're talking would be a decent enough person to respect religious differences rather than challenging them on those differences.

Well yes, if you're never going to have a conversation about your beliefs you won't need to have an explanation prepared. Or you can give whatever made-up reason comes to mind and expect your interlocutor to accept it out of courtesy. But putting it that way sort of obviates this whole thread, doesn't it?

No one is going to force anyone to explain what they believe or why. But you were saying that you didn't see what was wrong with supplying "because my religion says so" as an explanation for one's belief, so I've tried to explain why in many cases that explanation rings false and can come across as glib.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2009


So it's not "because my religion says so," it's "because my religion says so and I agree based on X, Y, and Z." The former is at best an incomplete answer and at worst a dishonest one. It shuts down conversation and removes responsibility from the person saying it -- they're not saying that they thought about it and weighed the consequences, or consulted scholarly interpretations, or what have you -- they're saying they do it because they were told.

You seem to be assuming that someone owes the questioner a thorough answer, even when the conversation strays into topics the subject would prefer remained private. Am I misinterpreting you?

...and also invites the "do you do everything your religion tells you to?" retort...

A disrespectful retort wouldn't be "invited." Nor is it a reasonable response.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on August 5, 2009


Well yes, if you're never going to have a conversation about your beliefs you won't need to have an explanation prepared. Or you can give whatever made-up reason comes to mind and expect your interlocutor to accept it out of courtesy. But putting it that way sort of obviates this whole thread, doesn't it?

I'm afraid you've lost me.

No one is going to force anyone to explain what they believe or why. But you were saying that you didn't see what was wrong with supplying "because my religion says so" as an explanation for one's belief, so I've tried to explain why in many cases that explanation rings false and can come across as glib.

Actually, I didn't say "i don't see what's wrong with saying 'because my religion says so'." I in fact offered many reasons WHY someone would default to that rather than going into an explanation, to wit:

1. Some people believe discussing religion with a stranger is too personal,

2. Some people believe that it would just take far too long and bore the stranger, and finally:

3. Most people believe that a stranger is well-bred enough to ACCEPT "my religion teaches this" AS a sufficient answer, and wouldn't be so uncouth as to press them on it. Because to you, that explanation sounds glib, but to me, that QUESTION sounds not unlike, "well, THAT'S a stupid reason, what sense does that make?" Because most people, when you explain that "my religion prevents me from doing thus-and-such," actually do accept that as a sufficient explanation. "I don't believe it, but hey, they do, so I'll respect that." Challenging them on it just....is disrespectful.

And most people assume that the stranger to whom they're talking is indeed good at heart -- well-bred, and respectful -- and don't assume that they're going to be so disrespectful as to dismiss their religious beliefs out of hand as being "glib".

So my point was that the problem isn't that the answer "because my religion teaches this" is "glib" -- it's because the very question "why does your religion teach that anyway", unless you're speaking in a very specific context, is actually pretty rude anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:21 PM on August 5, 2009


I used to work with a woman who's Muslim. Her religious practices pretty much never came up at work (nor do anyone else's), because - well, why would they, right?

Except once in a while, there'd be birthday cake or something like that. She would ask if it was made with alcohol (including vanilla extract) and if the answer was "yes" or "Hmm, I dunno," then she'd decline a piece. I overheard someone urge her to have a piece of cake - it was really extraordinarily good cake - and she said no, thank you very much, but it's got alcohol in it, and I'm Muslim.*

And that was it. No one felt the need to challenge her on her beliefs, or why she followed that belief, this particular religion, etc. She didn't owe us any explanation at all, and didn't owe us further explanation (or defense) of the one she did give us.

*What's funny is that she wore a head covering and dressed in a traditional long-sleeved shirt/full-length skirt outfit, but one quickly got used to that, the way you get used to someone else in his dark slacks/blue button-down outfit, or whatever - it stopped being a specific cultural or religious marker, and became simply what she wore, so it was entirely possible to "forget" she was Muslim.
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


While living in Singapore, I overheard one of my father's business associates relate the story of how he was taking a muslim out to dinner, and rather than admit he had made a mistake in ordering something the muslim couldn't eat, instead tried to convince the guy that ham wasn't pork. It always struck me as incredibly short-sighted. The muslim guy was likely to eventually learn enough english to realize he'd been duped.

1. Some people believe discussing religion with a stranger is too personal,

Why would they be posting in a thread about religion then?
posted by nomisxid at 2:32 PM on August 5, 2009


You seem to be assuming that someone owes the questioner a thorough answer, even when the conversation strays into topics the subject would prefer remained private. Am I misinterpreting you?

I think I explicitly said the opposite. No one is owed an answer. But if someone is going to answer a question about their belief, I think it would be better to give a true answer (which is not the same as a thorough answer) rather than simply a dismissive and possibly hypocritical one, although of course that's the answerer's prerogative.

And I think this meta-discussion about whether or not it's rude to discuss religion is beside the point and kind of strange. This thread started out as a conversation about belief, and how people justify or rationalize their beliefs. Empress, you quoted Pontifex and asked "And what's your point?" I'm not trying to speak for him, but I'm expounding on what I think was part of his point. If you don't think it's appropriate to discuss religion, I'm not sure why you started this thread.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:11 PM on August 5, 2009


Once upon a time I worked with someone who was always having to reference Jesus every 10 sec of conversation. I and other coworkers found it obnoxious, but then we also found the dude who had to talk about football every day (even out of season, but then, it really was his religion) annoying in the same kind of way, and we just shrug'd and went on with our lives. However, most of us were also Christian, and extremely quiet about it in the sense that it was part of our private lives that we didn't feel the need to share with our work colleagues. Now if you didn't know this, you might have thought that the Overly Verbal Christian was the only Christian among the entire group, as she was the only one who was talking about it.

I mention this here because I've had other Overly Verbal Christians try and "save" me multiple times in my life without ever asking to see if I already was Christian. (They did the ol "she doesn't look saved" routine, which I never have understood, but then my denomination never has gone for the whole "saved" evangel jargon.) Some of us feel that religion is a private thing that we don't need to wear on our shirt - or worse in everyone else's face. And we feel that respecting others' beliefs is of vital importance, even if what they believe may even seem counter to our own. I was brought up to believe that respecting others was one of the more important things you could do - partly as a Christian, partly as a "good host/good guest/politeness" southern thing. (I don't know that it's such a big deal anymore - but I can remember boys being chewed out for not opening the door for an older woman with as much vitriol as if they'd been teaching curse words to preschoolers.)

I've known a lot of people of many different Christian denominations - and can say that almost all of them had quibbles with some of the tenets of the belief system - so that's always seemed normal to me. I've also found that when people are discussing belief systems - especially when they're dating - they tend to be more understanding and willing to give the other person leeway in explaining their beliefs. It takes a certain amount of trust for some of us to open up about that sort of thing at all. I don't mind discussing it in vague terms in a thread like this one, but if I really want to pick things apart (and I question my beliefs constantly, as I've always felt that was healthy) this is not the place I'd come. I save discussions like that for real life.

Also I'm married to an atheist, whose beliefs and background I respect greatly, and I have no ulterior motives to change him in any way. (I do however let my parents think that he tends more towards agnostic so they won't pester me/him, and we are all a bit happier that way.)
posted by batgrlHG at 4:23 PM on August 5, 2009


I think I explicitly said the opposite. No one is owed an answer. But if someone is going to answer a question about their belief, I think it would be better to give a true answer (which is not the same as a thorough answer) rather than simply a dismissive and possibly hypocritical one, although of course that's the answerer's prerogative.


Not everyone answers a question because they're trying to educate you, though -- maybe the only reason they say anything at all is because you've come across as so belligerent that they're afraid that you'll pester them even more if they said "I'd rather not talk about it."

And many times, the questions people have asked in here ARE coming across as belligerent -- the "why would religious people do THAT" tone is coming across as if you've already decided they're wrong. So why should they bother? They'll give a fuller answer to someone who actually sounds genuinely curious.

If you don't think it's appropriate to discuss religion, I'm not sure why you started this thread.

I don't think it's inappropriate to DISCUSS religion. But you're not asking them to DISCUSS they're religion, you're expecting them to JUSTIFY IT TO YOU, which is entirely different.

You asked "why would people participate in a religious thread if they don't want to talk about it?" But we're not talking about online discussions. I started this whole thread because Pontifex said he couldn't accept why someone would say "my religion teaches me this" IN REAL LIFE, in a conversation about something that is NOT about religion. And in REAL LIFE, in a conversation that is NOT about religion, no one owes you ANY of the background explanation for their religious beliefs if they don't want to offer it, and it is churlish of people to expect one. THAT is my point.

In real life, if the two of you agree you're going to get into a specific, "you know, I've always wondered exactly WHY Muslim's don't have alcohol -- would you mind explaining? Is that okay?" That's one thing. But in the situations above -- a Muslim person telling you they don't have alcohol or don't eat pork when you're at a dinner party -- the only explanation they owe you in that situation is "sorry, my religion says I can't." Period. If you think they're dodging the question, well, bully for you -- the poor guy's just there to get some food, he isn't there to be your Interfaith Outreach Counselor. And YOU'RE not there to be the Aribter Of What is A Logical Spritual Path. Get into a conversation with them later if you want, if they WANT to, but suprising someone with a sudden attack of 'what? You're not having the bacon just because your RELIGION says not to? You don't have a better explanation than that?" is pretty damn rude.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 PM on August 5, 2009


I farted about 12 times today.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:04 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Empress, we've all agreed that no one has to answer anything they don't want to answer or talk about anything they don't want to talk about. No one has said that anyone should be forced to justify their beliefs. I have no interest in arguing about the etiquette of discussing religion at dinner parties, and that is not where this thread started out. It was about professing belief in a faith without believing in all aspects of that faith, and how people justify their beliefs, and whether certain religious worldviews are internally consistent. This derail about rudeness just popped up about 10 comments ago. There are any number of reasons a person might choose not give an honest answer about what they believe -- maybe they are offended by the question, or they are having a bad day and don't want to talk to anyone, or they think the questioner smells bad and want to get away. We could come up with these all day, but it's all tangential to what they believe and why, which is where this conversation began.

Although I will add that I think it's easy to say "it's a personal issue and it's rude to question" if we're talking about, for instance, the religious conviction not to drink alcohol. But I wonder, like Pontifex did way upthread, if everyone feels the same way about the religious conviction that gays are sinners, or that women shouldn't be allowed to drive, for example.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:02 PM on August 5, 2009


No one has said that anyone should be forced to justify their beliefs.

Well, then, can you explain what you meant by this?

But if someone is going to answer a question about their belief, I think it would be better to give a true answer (which is not the same as a thorough answer) rather than simply a dismissive and possibly hypocritical one, although of course that's the answerer's prerogative.

It's the "dismissive and hypocritical" part I'm responding to, because that sounds rather a bit harsh. Just as Pontifex's statement that "I do believe that if you build your life around something so central, so important, you should have some reasons for that and be able to explain them" is what I was responding to.

To me, it just sounds like these statements are coming from an expectation that the religious should be able to Convincingly Justify Their Faith At A Moment's Notice, and that is a lot to ask of anyone about anything (and in Pontifex's case, there is also a declaration of writing off the thinking of those who choose not to do so). On the one hand, you SAY that "we've all agreed that no one has to answer anything they don't want to answer or talk about anything they don't want to talk about", but on the other hand you add that if they don't, you find them to be "dismissive and hypocritical" -- and that's the part I think is unfair.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:36 PM on August 5, 2009


Well, like I argued above, I think someone who supplies "because my religion says so" as a justification for a belief or behavior and yet doesn't believe in everything their religion says is behaving hypocritically. I don't think you can have it both ways -- claim to be motivated purely by religious faith but also claiming to apply your own reason and intellect to the practice of your religion. And I think it can be a way of avoiding responsibility, e.g. "I don't have anything against gays personally, but my religion says they're bad." Obviously when we're talking about something like abstaining from alcohol the consequences aren't pernicious, but the thinking seems equally problematic.

So while someone certainly doesn't have to justify a belief to anyone who asks, I think everyone ought to be able to honestly justify/explain/reconcile their beliefs, especially the ones that have consequences for others, to themselves. I didn't say anything about being able to do so on a moment's notice, but yes I think people, religious and non-, should think about what they believe and why.

And so if we're talking about someone who is rational and intelligent and puts a lot of thought into their beliefs and doesn't believe in everything that scripture/dogma dictates, like the Christians you were describing earlier, I don't think there's a way to fit "because my religion says so" into that. Which is what I thought Pontifex was getting at before, and which I jumped in to agree with.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:19 PM on August 5, 2009


But as I explained above, saying "because my religion says so" is not always meant as "I put thought into these other things and adapted accordingly, but this one part here I didn't want to think about, tra la la." More often than not, it means "my religion says so, and you know, I thought about it, and I agree with it, but that thought process is none of your business because it's really personal and I don't trust you enough to get into all that right now, thanks."

So while someone certainly doesn't have to justify a belief to anyone who asks, I think everyone ought to be able to honestly justify/explain/reconcile their beliefs, especially the ones that have consequences for others, to themselves.

But there's no reason to assume that they haven't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on August 6, 2009


And so if we're talking about someone who is rational and intelligent and puts a lot of thought into their beliefs and doesn't believe in everything that scripture/dogma dictates, like the Christians you were describing earlier, I don't think there's a way to fit "because my religion says so" into that.

Sure there is.

How about "I'd rather follow the tenets of my belief system than violate them." We do this all the time in all kinds of contexts. The belief system may or may not be religious and it may or may not be rational or logical.
posted by rtha at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


ludwig_van: Well, like I argued above, I think someone who supplies "because my religion says so" as a justification for a belief or behavior and yet doesn't believe in everything their religion says is behaving hypocritically. I don't think you can have it both ways -- claim to be motivated purely by religious faith but also claiming to apply your own reason and intellect to the practice of your religion. And I think it can be a way of avoiding responsibility, e.g. "I don't have anything against gays personally, but my religion says they're bad." Obviously when we're talking about something like abstaining from alcohol the consequences aren't pernicious, but the thinking seems equally problematic.

So while someone certainly doesn't have to justify a belief to anyone who asks, I think everyone ought to be able to honestly justify/explain/reconcile their beliefs, especially the ones that have consequences for others, to themselves. I didn't say anything about being able to do so on a moment's notice, but yes I think people, religious and non-, should think about what they believe and why.

And so if we're talking about someone who is rational and intelligent and puts a lot of thought into their beliefs and doesn't believe in everything that scripture/dogma dictates, like the Christians you were describing earlier, I don't think there's a way to fit "because my religion says so" into that. Which is what I thought Pontifex was getting at before, and which I jumped in to agree with.


I'd forgotten about this discussion for a few days, but I'm glad I dipped in here again today to check it. I'd had a few things I wanted to mention, especially in response to your last few comments, ludwig_van, which have (as is typical for you) been very interesting.

In fact, I think what you're arguing has some distinctly Thomistic roots. I think that in the end I agree completely with you, but you make offhand implications which indicate to me that we're coming from diametrically opposed points of view; and I should say that those offhand implications are probably what certain people have almost implied were offensive (although I don't think anybody could really say that they were.)

You say:

ludwig_van: Well, like I argued above, I think someone who supplies "because my religion says so" as a justification for a belief or behavior and yet doesn't believe in everything their religion says is behaving hypocritically. I don't think you can have it both ways -- claim to be motivated purely by religious faith but also claiming to apply your own reason and intellect to the practice of your religion…And so if we're talking about someone who is rational and intelligent and puts a lot of thought into their beliefs and doesn't believe in everything that scripture/dogma dictates, like the Christians you were describing earlier, I don't think there's a way to fit "because my religion says so" into that. Which is what I thought Pontifex was getting at before, and which I jumped in to agree with.

This is the bit I agree with—at least on the surface and in the most direct way. And, I should add, St Thomas would agree, too; in fact (perhaps surprisingly for some) St Thomas would probably argue that anyone who says “I believe x because my religion says so and because I have certain rational reasons to believe that it is true” does not actually have faith. In fact, there's a fundamental misunderstanding about faith that is constantly perpetuated today; I'll try to explain what I mean:

The scriptures speak of faith as being about “things unseen.” From the beginning of the patristic tradition, these words have been taken to mean that no object of sensory experience and therefore no object of scientific inquiry can be the object of faith. You can't technically have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow, or that human beings weren't descended from monkeys, or that hydrogen atoms contain one proton and no neutrons. It gets trickier; you can't even really have faith in propositions like ‘Jesus was a human being who existed in the first century’ or ‘Moses was a historical personage who led the Jews out of Egypt’ or ‘Christianity preceded Gnosticism in popularity and vigor in the Middle East.’ None of these things are things which anyone can have true faith about. St Thomas would say that these are things which we can have opinions about, opinions which might be more or less informed or educated, and opinions which to a certain degree we may examine and test.

We can have faith about a proposition like: ‘Jesus was the Son of God.’ This is a proposition which no one could test; there is no way to run an experiment on someone, even if they were sitting in front of you, to see whether they are the Son of God. Miracles are nice, but science assumes—indeed, must assume—that miracles are merely as-yet-misunderstood phenomena with perfectly reasonable explanations. This does not make faith easy, simple, or uncontroversial; in many ways, it makes it even more difficult, but it makes it more rational.

I believe that Thomas would indeed say that people who believe that they have ‘faith’ in propositions which can be rationally or scientifically tested are being actually foolish and unwise; and that, if it seems to us that a certain question has a real answer which we might lay our hands on, we should get out there and get the answer. And that, furthermore, we should withhold judgement until we do; a really faithful and wise Christian is, in other words, a person who claims that she has no idea whether abortion is murder or not, that she has no idea whether the Bible is an historical document as it hasn't really been proven through archaeological evidence, that can't say whether we came from monkeys, although she'd really like to find out—and who says that she has faith that Christ was the Son of God, that he really and truly became humanity and died, that the dead will be resurrected on the last day, and all the rest.

What people often seem unwilling or unable to comprehend is that there are all sorts of totally non-trivial propositions which are neither testable nor self-evident; propositions, for example, like ‘it is best to live a life of service to the community rather than service to the self.’ There is no scientific basis for determining the ‘best.’ That's really the trouble with almost all of the propositions of the kind I'm talking about, propositions like: ‘it is best not to have sex with other people if they have similar genitals;’ ‘it is best to be tolerant of people who enjoy sex with others who have similar genitals;’ ‘we should not allow certain vulgarities to be spoken in public;’ et cetera. You know what I'm driving at—the is/ought question you mentioned before—and it's pretty essential that science is limited to one side of the equation.

Again, however, you're dead-on in this: people who claim to be religious and yet reject certain tenets which they themselves admit are or have been central to their religion are being either disingenuous or they are misled; they do not really have faith, but a (somewhat silly, since religions are hardly testable) opinion that it seems reasonable that what their faith says is usually true. St. Thomas, I think, would say to these people that they would be much better off giving it up and being agnostics; for, he would say, if they really think it's possible to find reasons or justifications for believing that Jesus is the son of God (or other applicable beliefs), why the hell are they just giving up and thinking it? Why aren't they out there looking for more reasons and withholding judgement until they find them?
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 AM on August 7, 2009


ludwig_van: Although I will add that I think it's easy to say "it's a personal issue and it's rude to question" if we're talking about, for instance, the religious conviction not to drink alcohol. But I wonder, like Pontifex did way upthread, if everyone feels the same way about the religious conviction that gays are sinners, or that women shouldn't be allowed to drive, for example.

Here is an indication of those implications I mentioned which show (I think) that you and I disagree fundamentally on certain things.

Specifically, I think you're completely missing something which zarq brought up very well up above: the fact that religious convictions can be less an end of reasoning or searching and more a beginning, a backdrop in front of which we can consider them.

In other words: I wholly accept your point that anyone who picks up the book and says, “well, these bits of this religion are sound, so I agree with them; but these other bits are not sound, so I disagree with them”—I agree that such a person is not being reasonable or faithful. If there is some accessible standard by which to judge religion, then why waste any time whatsoever on religion itself? If anybody is in possession of such a standard, they should be developing that, not reading Torah or going to Church or praying toward Mecca. If there is an external reasoning by which to judge religion, then religion itself is something of a waste of time, at least from the points of view of reason and faith.

However, I think what you're missing from what zarq brought up is the possibility that religion itself offers a standard by which to judge it, or that it provides a space for evaluating and justifying it. Again, I am reminded of St Thomas (I'm really becoming obsessive) whose entire life project seems to have been to indicate to Christians that faith is not an end but rather a set of principles which provide the foundation for very necessary rational thought. St Thomas wanted to teach people that faith is something that interrogates, that asks questions and reasons with itself; and it is finally perfected by wisdom and the desire to reason out the truth. St Thomas strove to wake people up from the slumber which easy ‘faith’ can sometimes introduce by insisting that they weren't being faithful if they didn't ask questions. As one of my finest teachers once put it: faith is the contemplation of apparent paradox.

In a more practical sense, I mean to say that, in answer to your question about the more difficult “religious convictions,” the religious answer has always been: religion intends not to give a simple answer filled with simple guidelines to follow in any given situation; the meaning of faith is rather that it gives us a way to discover the truth or a method for understanding our particular moral difficulties. You know well, I hope, that neither of the examples you give are really and truly the standard, widely-taught religious convictions associated with any of the three western faiths, not one of which claims simply that “gays are sinners” and (so far as I can tell) none of which has yet weighed in on whether women can drive. Any cleric, any minister, any rabbi would listen to these convictions as you've worded them and say that they are more complex really than that; they would take out the Torah or the Qu'ran or the Bible and consider chapter and verse, and they would think on it and tell you what they believed God intended. That's the way faith is supposed to work: it is not an end, a final “well, that's it, it's decided,’ but rather the beginning of a whole new line of inquiry.
posted by koeselitz at 2:02 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Again, however, you're dead-on in this: people who claim to be religious and yet reject certain tenets which they themselves admit are or have been central to their religion are being either disingenuous or they are misled; they do not really have faith, but a (somewhat silly, since religions are hardly testable) opinion that it seems reasonable that what their faith says is usually true. St. Thomas, I think, would say to these people that they would be much better off giving it up and being agnostics; for, he would say, if they really think it's possible to find reasons or justifications for believing that Jesus is the son of God (or other applicable beliefs), why the hell are they just giving up and thinking it? Why aren't they out there looking for more reasons and withholding judgement until they find them?

Both your comments were very good food for thought, koeselitz, and thanks for them.

In that spirit, I think I need to clarify what has been at the core of my own arguments all this time -- I tried to do so a couple comments above, but I think I need to elaborate a bit more, because I think I'm coming from a slightly different place than everyone realizes.

I'm reacting more to what I perceive as the assumption on many people's part that Christianity is a Monolithic Entity -- that everyone who says they are Christian thinks exactly the same about everything across the board. However, usually, the people who believe "All Christians Think Alike" base their model of "What Christians Think" on the way only a small, extremist wing of Christians think. They think ALL Christians believe "gays are evil" and "women should submit to men" and "evolution is wrong". Further, when confronted with the fact that some Christians DON'T do that -- that Christianity is instead a big tent, and there are a staggering range of interpretations for each point of scripture, and a staggering range of individual opinions about each of those scriptures as well -- they either deny that the people who believe counter to their own perception of "what Christians believe" aren't "really Christians", or are dilletantes who are "picking and choosing what to believe". It seems that the idea of Christianity as a living, adaptable philosophy -- or of Christians as being flexible -- is anathema to them, which I believe is unfair to most Christians themselves.

And speaking of the idea of individual interpretation, the bit about a person diverging from "what the Bible says" in some areas but not others which raised my hackles was the default assumption that anyone who says "I do thus and such because my religion teaches it" was indeed copping out. But the best way I can explain my position there is with an analogy:

Assume you have two young women, both of whom profess to Christianity. One is indeed one of those people other commenters are frowning on -- she doesn't really think too much about the whys and the wherefores of what she believes; she's definitely a "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of thinker. Ask her why she's going to stay a virgin until marriage, and she's probably going to say "because my religion says I should."

The other, however, is using the teachings of the Bible as a jumping-off point for her own reflection, much as koeselitz is describing above. She puts a good deal of thought into the teachings against premarital sex -- she spends a lot of time in self-reflection about her own emotional sense of herself, the different mental, physical, and emotional ramifications of sexual involvement with anyone -- and mind you, these are things which I believe one should be evaluating before one enters a sexual relationship with ANYONE, even if you're NOT a virgin any more -- and what she believes a committed, lifelong relationship should be. She also reflects on the path she wants to set for her life, and her own sexuality's place in that path. She considers all of this against what the Bible says, yes, but she also considers it against what a number of other sources say; and only after all of that long and very intimate self-examination does she decide that she agrees with the Christian teaching of remaining a virgin until marriage. But, because that all IS such intimate detail, if you asked her why she was staying a virgin, she'd probably also say "because my religion says so", because she doesn't want to lay bare all of the intimate thought she put into it.

Now, if I were to meet both of these women, I would hear them both say "because my religion says so" and I would assume BOTH of them had put that intense self-reflection into it. I would extend the respect enough to assume that they had both searched their souls and knew best what was best for her own self. But it sounds like others would take the opposite approach -- that they would automatically assume that they BOTH were dilettantes. THAT'S the part I believe is disrespectful to them -- I understand that you're saying that you don't expect them to lay it all out and defend their decisions to you, but you're not even assuming they've been able to do that for THEMSELVES. And, I AM assuming they've been able to do that for themselves.

It is THAT difference -- I trust that they know what they're doing, so I take "my religion says so" as a shorthand for "I thought about it and agree with what my relgion, and I'd rather not get into the gory details," but other people seem to say that they're taking "my religion says so" as "and I'd rather not think about it any more than that, so there". That latter attitude starts with the premise that the person you're talking to is too dim to even know what's best for themselves, which I think is an unfair thing to think about them -- no matter what it is they're talking about.

So THAT'S what I'm trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on August 7, 2009


In the spirit of full disclosure -- my OWN personal model for "how Christians think" is based on a liberal-ish approach to Catholicism. Yes, there are some points in which Catholicism can be very conservative -- I'm personally very disappointed that the Vatican STILL hasn't thought up some loophole in the "no contraception" teaching that will allow for condom use to prevent AIDS (see, I think all they'd have to say is "um....well....using contraception isn't cricket, but God ALSO wants us to protect ourselves against disease so....yeah, um, if you're STRICTLY looking to protect yourself against disease, then TECHNICALLY you're not trying to become pregnant, so....um, yeah, that'd work").

But there are other points in which the Catholic church is rather liberal -- in 1950, Pope Pius released a Papal statement on the theory of evolution which, in essence, said, "....well, we don't know for sure whether we buy it yet, but we do see that there's certainly room to explore how it could fit in with Christian teaching, so we're going to examine that." And then in the 1990s', Pope John Paul II followed that up with an official Papal Statement that, in essence, said, "Oh, please, it's obvious the theory of evolution is scientifically sound -- and further, nothing about evolution says that God DIDN'T have anything to do with it. Hey, maybe evolution was HOW God did it. So -- we're cool with it."

I've also had a lot of arguments online with hardcore fundamentalists who are arguing that Catholics aren't Christian, and...uh, speaking from personal experience, yes they are. The people who believe Catholics aren't Christian are also themselves speaking from a very narrow definition of "What Christians Believe," and from a garbled and incorrect definition of what they think Catholics believe. So the whole idea of there being only one strict definition for what Christians believe -- outside of the basic "Jesus was both Human and Divine, was died and rose again, and belief in Him and following His path is good" -- is something that sets my teeth on edge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on August 7, 2009


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