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  Topic: Hypothetical Question, regarding religion:< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,07:16   

Let's assume a Catholic monk goes out to his hermitage, decides that God is a metaphor, and proceeds to contemplate the nature of life through the parables of Jesus. He does this because he wants to. He feels driven to do it by the same forces that drive people to be musicians or writers or researchers or farmers or whatever.

After 20 years of studying Jesus' teaching as recorded in the bible, he suddenly gets an insight. He puts himself in all the positions and situations Jesus reportedly encountered and he considers Jesus' reactions and words to those situations. He suddenly feels like he understands something monumental. He "gets it" he thinks. The underlying approach to life that Jesus taught is something of a revelation to this anonymous monk. He realizes it at a level that he thinks profound.

Now that he gets it, whatever it is, he trudges on back to town to rejoin society with his newfound perspective. He discovers the unwashed masses and recognizes their desire and need for ritual in the transitions of life: birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage, childbirth, old age and death. He decides that the weak-minded and fearful among the masses are not prepared to grasp what he has learned because it wasn't easy for him in single minded pursuit so he decides that those without the time, resources or inclination are simply not going to fully understand what he now believes he understands.

He goes to work at the church. He marries people, buries people and carries people when they're born. He sees the church for what it is, corrupt, superstitious, political and etc. but decides that he can't think of a solution to the problem since the people insist on superstitious ignorance, the church is willing to provide it and the bases of the insight our monk picked up are a part (or maybe hidden within) the foundational elements of the church. So he goes about his work, trying to live by example, trying to teach what he learned to those who want to learn, not bothering with those who don't.

He is happy, serene and compassionate for the rest of his life. He dies without regrets.

3 things.

1. Was there any knowledge gained by our monk?
If not, why not?

2. If so, did the religion offer the path to this knowledge or did the personal study of the documents available offer him the path?

3. Is faith a useful term for what our monk did?
Was he rational or irrational?

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Lou FCD



Posts: 5402
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,08:01   

Pre-coffee, bear that in mind as I spew my first blush thoughts.

1.  Yes.  If nothing else, he learned how to be happy, serene, and compassionate.  That in itself is knowledge worth having.

2.  Only in the most oblique of ways.  He didn't perform any mystical rituals or incantations, the story from which he learned his "great truth" could have as easily been Beowulf or The Three Billy Goats Gruff or The Five Chinese Brothers.

3.  No, faith as it is usually applied is not a useful term here.  In what was his faith placed?  He took a story the veracity of which is irrelevant here, walked himself through it (experiment anyone?), and gained an insight into his own humanity.  Seems pretty rational in this hypothetical context.

Now, his remaining within the church to teach his "great truth" is a trickier problem upon which I think I'll chew a while.

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Lou FCD is still in school, so we should only count him as a baby biologist. -carlsonjok -deprecated
I think I might love you. Don't tell Deadman -Wolfhound

Work-friendly photography
NSFW photography

   
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,08:16   

BTW, I ask those questions in all seriousness. I'm working on  those ideas in something I'm writing.

So, Thanks.

And, yeah, the staying in the church part is a bit of a twist but I think it's still consistent.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Ra-Úl



Posts: 93
Joined: June 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,13:26   

Miguel de Unamuno:

"San Manuel Bueno, mártir" (Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr) (1930) — a brief novella that synthesizes virtually all of Unamuno's thought. The novella centres on a heroic priest who has lost his faith in immortality, yet says nothing of his doubts to his parishioners, not wanting to disturb their faith, which he recognizes is a necessary support for their lives.
(Wikipedia)

Headmaster/ Boy's Dean at my school in Bogota used to preach sermons on that text.


Ra-Ul

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Beauty is that which makes us desperate. - P Valery

  
Amadan



Posts: 1332
Joined: Jan. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,14:32   

Forgive me serving up reheated electrons, but this is a retelling of an old tale that I recently posted at my blog. It seemed germane (and just a little frenche).

Father Jerome's Miracle

Father Jerome grew up in the city. In school, he would explore the realms of perfection revealed by music and mathematics. He preferred the lives of the saints to the earthy exploits of his classmates on the sports grounds. He was a solitary boy but content in his world of ideas and abstraction. In the seminary he excelled in philosophy and theology, and a career as an academic, or maybe even the Curia, seemed to await him.

No one's surprise could have been greater than Father Jerome's when he was posted to a lonely parish in the wind-swept hills. Where was Aquinas when Father Jerome heaved one muddy boot after another to visit a sick shepherd in his hovel? What chance had Palestrina among jostling, mischievous choirboys who could scarcely read their schoolbooks, let alone music? But Father Jerome found strength in the faith that his great learning told him was true. The months became seasons, the seasons years, and Father Jerome grew to love his simple people just as they loved him. He smiled when they ploughed carefully around a patch in a field so as not to disturb the fairies who lived there. He blessed their lambs against the evil eye. He knew the Lord was a man who worked with His hands, who came from people like this, and He would understand. Even if the country folks' heads were full of magical creatures, their hearts remained open to God's love.

Father Jerome was walking to a dying woman's house when he first heard the voice. “I can see you, Father Jerome, but you can't see me”. Father Jerome was no stranger to pranks. How often had he left the school and found that a toad had taken up residence in his hat? He would join in the laughter and solemnly name the toad after the conspiracy's ringleader. But this was different. The speech seemed to come from everywhere but nowhere. It whispered with an aetherial hollowness as if it was the voice of the mist itself. His duties and the darkness precluded investigation, so Father Jerome continued down the winding track, a puzzled frown creasing his brow.

The old woman's struggle ended late in the night, and it was nearly dawn when Father Jerome returned home. When she arrived for burial two days hence, he would place her rosary beads around her rough cold fingers and pretend not to notice the three stones and a feather secreted in her mouth. Weariness overcame him and he sat down to doze before first Mass. But then that same voice: “I can see you, Father Jerome, but you can't see me”. Father Jerome sat up startled. No, nobody but he was in that still and austere house. Had he been dreaming?

As Father Jerome went through his day's work and devotions, the voice followed him. Anxiety seeped into his usually placid being. Was he ill? Why did nobody else seem to hear it? Was God taunting him, mocking some part of Father Jerome's mind that disdained the humble faith of his flock? Prayer brought no answer or respite, and Father Jerome began to despair at the thought of his torment continuing.

That evening, exhausted, he merely poked at his frugal supper and retired early. Despite his weariness, sleep eluded him as he waited, dreading the return of that voice. And return it did. Father Jerome closed his eyes, tried to turn his thoughts to the glories of high reason and not admit defeat to mere superstition. But the dark hours of the night can be Gethsemane for a soul thrown into doubt. Before he knew he was doing it, Father Jerome found himself speaking to something that all his learning told him could not be there.

“Who are you? Why are you tormenting me?”

A long silence filled the small bedroom. And then an answer:

“I have forgotten who I am. But you can help me be myself again”.

“I minister to the living and dying of this place” the priest cried, “How can I help one such as you?”

The chill and empty voice replied: “A soul can lose its body just as a body can lose its soul, holy man. Will you not help me to walk the earth as a body and soul again?”

Father Jerome sat bolt upright. “I am a priest, not a witch! You ask too much of me, spirit!”

“Then can you not ask Him who is almighty to do what you cannot?”

The sharp answer in Father Jerome's throat stopped short as he thought on what the voice asked. Surely God would never object to prayer? If it put to rest the spirit, or at least silenced it, well and good. And if it did not, what harm? So Father Jerome knelt down on the cold stone floor and began to pray.

As the long night wore on, Father Jerome pounded Heaven with prayer. He beseeched the Lord to hear his plea for the spirit who had visited him. He begged the Lord to forgive his arrogance and pride. He cast aside reliance on learning and books, and abandoned his very being to hope in his creator's unfathomable mercy.

As the grey tinge of the emerging day began to dispel the night, a euphoric calm settled Father Jerome's troubled breast. A profound, unshakeable reassurance touched his being, as if a strong gentle hand had caressed him. Was it a dream, or did he hear a deep voice that knew every fibre of his being say “Well done my son, your faith is precious to me”? And prostrate on the stone floor, Father Jerome fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

The insistent knocking of the village woman who cooked and cleaned for him woke Father Jerome. Startled, he stood up to answer the door, the night's events a confused collage of memories. But a sound made him turn around. Looking at the bed, not daring to credit what his eyes saw, he pulled back the thin blanket. And there, curled up in the golden light of the rising sun, was the perfect form of a boy, no more than twelve years old.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that concludes the case for the defence.

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"People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutations" - Densye  4-4-2011
JoeG BTW dumbass- some variations help ensure reproductive fitness so they cannot be random wrt it.

   
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,15:04   

Sumbitch. Well, I wrote it myself over at Dawkins site a while back asking a question of someone. I am currently working through the implications for something I'm writing currently so, if you all might ignore the fact that it's the most fucking common story in the world, I only want to use the ideas in the questions.

My apologies to the many iterations of the tale.

:)

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4265
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,15:10   

Although not directly responsive to your questions, I notice that your parable is quite ambivalent regarding the townspeople, and therefore the monk's judgment that they would be unable to consume the insight he has attained. On one hand, his insight was very hard won, requiring 20 years of study and imagined empathy with Jesus - and probably therefore truly out of the reach of the townsfolk, who are too concerned with the hard-scrabble realities of survival (I imagine) and perhaps lacking the talent required to engage in similar study. On the other, he regards them as weak-minded and fearful, and insistent upon being provided the superstitious ignorance supplied by the church, and his solution reads as a decision to collude with this demand for ignorance in the interest of another good.

That said, my thoughts about your questions:

1) I think it is certainly possible that he attained genuine insight, and that can be characterized as knowledge. But your story itself equivocates on this.

2) Both. It think it fair to say that religion constructed and valued the role of acetic monk freed from the demands of survival and devoted to study, as well as the traditional documents that were the sine qua non for his personal study of and reflection upon those documents.

3) Faith? I think something like faith would be required to sustain the 19 years of reflection that preceded his fundamental insight in the 20th. Your parable does not specify what sort of faith, however. I think his decision to provide comfort and assistance to the townsfolk was quite rational, particularly if you construe the obstacle between them and his insight in the arduousness and impracticality of the required study, rather than as resulting from a craving for ignorance and superstition.

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Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
HypatiasGirl



Posts: 10
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2008,15:28   

1. If we're using the philosopher's definition of knowledge (justified true belief (plus something else that we just can't define right now, damn you Gettier)) - I don't think your hermit had knowledge until he attempted to use his insight, viz., apply it to the world, in a worldly situation and receive some sort of verification, or end from that which would lend justification for his belief.

2. Is this a total cop-out answer, but maybe?  How do you define religion, is the pageantry et al. required, a notion of communing with a deity, no.  However the insight your hermit found was within a philosophical framework which was crafted by his religion, so yes.  I can read all the Russell you want me to, but I ain't gonna get an insight from him.  (Now give me some Arendt) It seems that there must be some sort of emotional investment for it to be based on religion (nothing to back this claim up with, sorry), in which case, I refer back to my maybe yes maybe no, it depends.

3. I think faith is a worthwhile term, IF the hermit relied on his insight in some way or another.  But again, just knee jerk response.  Rational/irrational is going to depend on how well this insight lined up with his day-to-day beliefs.  Irrationality, it seems to be, is the placement of faith in a belief or set of beliefs which are obviously contradicted by either your own experiences, or by experiences and knowledge which it is reasonable to expect that you have obtained.  Is the child who believes in Santa irrational?  Is the adult?

of course, not that Santa isn't real and all.

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We are taught we are an absence, and mistake this for a longing to be found. (Why We Have a Body, Claire Chafee)

   
Lou FCD



Posts: 5402
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 06 2008,12:20   



Quote
but I know what I like, by mondoagogo


--------------
Lou FCD is still in school, so we should only count him as a baby biologist. -carlsonjok -deprecated
I think I might love you. Don't tell Deadman -Wolfhound

Work-friendly photography
NSFW photography

   
fusilier



Posts: 239
Joined: Feb. 2003

(Permalink) Posted: May 07 2008,07:48   

The fundies mis-represent Faith.

Faith is doing in spite of all the doubts.

It's about my sig.

fusilier
James 2:24

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fusilier
James 2:24

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 09 2008,07:55   

Quote (fusilier @ May 07 2008,07:48)
The fundies mis-represent Faith.

Faith is doing in spite of all the doubts.

It's about my sig.

fusilier
James 2:24

Hey, thanks everyone for replying. Of course every time I start a thread it seems like I don't manage to log on for a week or so. (Thanks to zero too although I don't know what you meant.)

Fusilier, my working definition of faith at the moment is almost exactly that, it's hope that the things that need to happen to complete a goal but are out of your control will work out.

HypatiasGirl,

That too is right in line with my working definition. Knowledge informs action.

I'm going to make a few more posts replying because it's getting hard to use this little window.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 13 2008,13:09   

Quote (BWE @ May 02 2008,15:04)
Sumbitch. Well, I wrote it myself over at Dawkins site a while back asking a question of someone. I am currently working through the implications for something I'm writing currently so, if you all might ignore the fact that it's the most fucking common story in the world, I only want to use the ideas in the questions.

My apologies to the many iterations of the tale.

:)

Amadan, I totally misread your post. Sorry. That, BTW, is a cool story.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
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